Maximum PC latest stories, 09 Oct 2015 16:48:41 +0000yesNewegg Daily Deals: Asus Core i7 Gaming Laptop, Corsair 600W PSU, and More! the road comes-a-calling. Maybe it's a business trip, a vacation, or you just need to run away for a spell. Whatever the case may be, it's handy to bring a laptop, so why not get one that's capable of playing games? They're often pricey, but if you go for something a bit more modest and not cutting edge, you won't have to murder your wallet or purse.Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:48:41 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Gaming Laptop"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Sometimes the road comes-a-calling. Maybe it's a business trip, a vacation, or you just need to run away for a spell. Whatever the case may be, it's handy to bring a laptop, so why not get one that's capable of playing games? They're often pricey, but if you go for something a bit more modest and not cutting edge, you won't have to murder your wallet or purse. Case in point is today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-LaptopHD-N82E16834232357-_-1009&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Gaming Laptop w/ an Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU</a> for <strong>$680</strong> with free shipping (normally $923). It has 8GB of RAM, 750GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 845M graphics, and Windows 8.1 64-bit, which you can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147359-_-1009&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro 2.5-inch 128GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAX22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817139048-_-1009&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair CX600M 600W SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 Plus Bronze Certified Power Supply</a> for <strong>$65</strong> with free shipping (normally $80; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117372-_-1009&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i5-4690K Devil's Canyon Quad-Core 3.5 GHz LGA 1150 Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 4600</a> for <strong>$230</strong> with free shipping (normally $240 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAX24</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121855-_-1009&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GTX750TI-OC-2GD5 GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB 128-Bit Video Card</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $125 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAX32</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p> Elon Musk Calls Apple's Electric Car Team a 'Tesla Graveyard' of Ex-Employees founder Elon Musk had some harsh words about Apple and its electric car efforts.Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:06:33 +0000 muskNewsTesla <h3>Oh snap!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Elon Musk"></p><p> Tesla founder Elon Musk doesn't have the same outspoken reputation as, say, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, the latter of which loves to rile up Sprint through social media. However, Musk isn't afraid to talk some smack, especially when it comes to Apple and its rumored efforts to build an electric car.</p><p> Apple's electric car initiative is one of the worst kept secrets in Silicon Valley. There's evidence all over the place of Apple's automobile efforts, including the hiring of former Tesla employees. Do you think Musk feels threatened by that?</p><p> "They have hired people we've fired," Musk told <em>Handelsblatt</em>, a German newspaper, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Engadget</a>.</p><p> Musk indicated that he and his auto industry colleagues refer to Apple as the Tesla Graveyard. In a non-joking manner, he said that "if you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple."</p><p> Shots fired!</p><p> That wasn't all Musk had to say about Apple and its electric car efforts. He's fine with Apple branching out from devices like the Apple Watch, but noted that "cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches. You can't just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say, 'Build me a car'."&nbsp;</p><p> Musk also offered up some snarky criticism about Apple's ability (or inability) innovate.</p><p> "For Apple, the car is the next logical thing to finally offer a significant innovation. A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough," Musk said.</p><p> If it's any consolation to Tim Cook and the gang, Apple wasn't the only one that drew criticism from Musk. He was more than willing to talk about German automakers and what they're doing wrong, along with the industry having reached the end of the limit of what's possible with gasoline.</p><p> "You see what's happened with the current diesel scandal at Volkswagen. In order to make progress, they apparently had to cheat," Musk said.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> This Is What You'll Need to Run Fallout 4 has released the PCsystem requirements for Fallout 4Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:27:40 +0000 4GamingNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4"></p><p>Back in June 2015, Bethesda announced the next installment in its popular first-person shooter/RPG <em>Fallout</em> series, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Fallout 4</em></a>, just months before the game would actually hit store shelves. The studio hesitated in announcing the game earlier because, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Bethesda PR head Pete Hines</a>, game director Todd Howard is a perfectionist and doesn’t like to reveal his works of art before they’re complete. Now there's just over a month until the game lands in our hands, and <em>Fallout</em> fans who want to play it on their PCs can use this short window of time to upgrade their rigs, if necessary.&nbsp;</p><p>On Thursday, Bethesda revealed the system requirements, providing both minimum and recommended hardware. The studio also revealed in a short FAQ that <em>Fallout 4</em> will support Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers, pleasing those who detest the old-school mouse and keyboard setup (for shame!). <em>Fallout 4</em> will also support Steam achievements, the FAQ says, and there will be a Pip-Boy app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices.</p><p>“Digitally the game will become available on November 10, 2015, at 12:01 am (local time) in all territories (In North America, the unlock time will be 12:01 am EST), except Asia (available at 12 am on Wednesday, November 11th) and Japan (available at 12 am on Thursday, December 17th),” Bethesda states in its latest blog.</p><p>So, what are the system specs for PC gamers? Here are the <strong>minimum requirements</strong>:</p><ul><li>Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required)</li><li>Intel Core i5-2300 2.8 GHz/AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz or equivalent</li><li>8GB RAM</li><li>30GB drive space</li><li>Nvidia GTX 550 Ti 2GB/AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB or equivalent</li></ul><p>And here are the <strong>recommended requirements</strong>:</p><ul><li>Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required)</li><li>Intel Core i7 4790 3.6 GHz/AMD FX-9590 4.7 GHz or equivalent</li><li>8 GB RAM</li><li>30 GB free HDD space</li><li>Nvidia GTX 780 3GB/AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB or equivalent</li></ul><p>Those who insist on playing <em>Fallout 4</em> on a console will need 28GB to 35GB of drive space to store the game files. The size depends on the supported language and territory. For a list of supported languages, <a href="" target="_blank">head here</a>.</p> Built It: Rocket Science Machine 2015 was pitched at the Moon; this rig aims for low-Earth orbitFri, 09 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 itdream machineFeatures <p><em>This article was published in the October 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3></h3><h3>Dream Machine 2015 was pitched at the Moon; this rig aims for low-Earth orbit</h3><p><em>Length of Time: 1-3 Hours | Level of Difficulty: Medium to Challenging</em></p><h5>The Flight Plan</h5><p>When we build the Dream Machine every year, we don’t hold back. We get the best parts, regardless of the price. If a part is a tier higher in price, but only renders a performance increase of 5 percent, we go for it. And this year, we really, really went for a Moonshot.</p><p>But not everyone can afford a $22,000 Dream Machine for their home. So, in the spirit of our NASA-inspired theme, we decided to go a little smaller. It’s pretty much a miniature Dream Machine, with a price point that’s a little more down to earth.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd"></p><p>We gathered up parts that didn’t make it into the Dream Machine for some reason, or that would be a little more sensible in terms of price. Make no mistake: This machine still soars and climbs for excellence. An out-of-this-world PC is still within reach for many enthusiasts who save up their credits. It’s not cheap, but no respectable space program is.</p><p>Since this is the Dream Machine’s little brother, we felt the need to do a little overclocking as well. We weren’t able to be as aggressive with our overclocks as the EK custom loop allowed us to be in its big brother, but we still got respectable and stable overclocks. Giving this PC enough extra thrust to leave the atmosphere.</p><h5>Vehicle Assembly</h5><p>We based this on a case that was meant for the Dream Machine, but ended up being too small for the custom water loops we used. The case was a prototype of Antec’s S10 that we had custom painted by Smooth Creations to replicate a Titan II Gemini Launch Vehicle on a launchpad. We went with a Core i75930X CPU. It’s two cores lighter than the Dream Machine’s 5960X, but friendlier to overclocks and your wallet. The 5960X is nearly $500 more, meaning you’re paying $250 per extra core. We got a nice stable overclock with our 5930K, bumping it to 4.5GHz from the stock 3.5GHz with the help of 1.31 volts. We kept the main engine cool with an NZXT Kraken X61.</p><p>The GPUs are a pair of EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked ACXs in SLI. We overclocked these already factory-overclocked rockets further, adding 150MHz to the core clocks and 300MHz to the memory clocks using EVGA’s PrecisionX software. We powered the overclock with an overvolt of 31mV. We used 16GB of 2,800MHz DDR4 memory in a kit of four 4GB modules. We ran into problems at 2,800MHz, so underclocked to 2,666MHz for stability.</p><p>For storage, we halved what we had in the Dream Machine. We put the 1TB SSDs in RAID 0 for the OS, and kept the 6TB spinning drives in reserve. We mounted all of these goodies onto Gigabyte’s X99 SOC Champion mobo, which has more overclocking options than we knew what to do with. We powered our ship with an 80 Plus Gold certified Enermax 1,350W Maxrevo modular PSU.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Ingredients</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Part</td><td></td><td>Price</td></tr><tr><td>Case</td><td>Antec S10 Prototype Custom</td><td>$500</td></tr><tr><td>Motherboard</td><td>Gigabyte GA-X99-SOC Champion</td><td>$270</td></tr><tr><td>CPU</td><td>Intel Core i7-5930K</td><td>$580</td></tr><tr><td>Memory</td><td>G.Skill Ripjaws 4 Series 16GB 2800 DDR4</td><td>$140</td></tr><tr><td>GPU</td><td>2x EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SC ACX 2.0</td><td>$1,340</td></tr><tr><td>PSU</td><td>Enermax Maxrevo 1,350W</td><td>$320</td></tr><tr><td>HDD</td><td>2x Western Digital Black 6TB</td><td>$700</td></tr><tr><td>SSD</td><td>2x Samsung Pro 1TB</td><td>$1,000</td></tr><tr><td>CPU</td><td>Cooler NZXT Kraken X61</td><td>$140</td></tr><tr><td>Fans</td><td>3x EK Vardar F4 120mm 2,200rpm fans</td><td>$54</td></tr><tr><td>Total</td><td></td><td>$5,044</td></tr></tbody></table><h5>1. Booster Ignition</h5><p>The pair of 980 Ti’S that we used really push this machine into the ionosphere. The main thing to keep in mind is that they’re air cooled. Maintaining good airflow was a top priority when we went into the realms of overclocking. Luckily, the SOC Champion’s PCIe x16 slots are numbered (from top to bottom) 1, 4, 2, 3. That means that for the best performance, we had to put the second GPU in the third slot from the top. This gave us a nice gap where air could flow freely, in comparison to the 2–5mm it would have if the cards were in adjacent slots.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd buildit.980tis"></p><p>We also upped the fan speeds in PrecisionX to 90–100 percent when we were searching for a stable overclock. To be sure, there was a lot of air flowing around these two cards. If you look closely, you’ll see that spacing these cards farther apart means that you can add an M.2 SSD if you prefer storage speed over a potential third GPU.</p><h5>2. Cramped Quarters</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd buildit.tightfit"></p><p>Spaceships aren't exactly roomy. Engineers cram the most equipment into the tiniest space available to save on weight and profile. This machine was no different. When we attached the Kraken to the top mounting bracket, we had to really push the bracket into place, smashing the CPU power cables a bit. It’s secured by two thumbscrews, and lining up those screw holes was a test of mettle and patience. We could then place intake fans to the front of the case’s main compartment to pull in lots of air for our GPUs. The X61 kept our CPU at a cool 25 degrees Celsius at idle, and at 57 degrees while under a 90 percent load, running our Premiere Pro CS6 benchmark.</p><h5>3. Auxiliary Thrusters</h5><p>Attaching our X61 allowed us to mount three fans up front to draw in air. We chose a trio of EK’s Vardar static pressure fans, 120mm versions of what’s in the Dream Machine. These babies spin at 2,200rpm and push 77 cubic feet per minute (131 cubic meters per hour). We hooked up the top fan to the CPU PWM fan connector (our X61 is hooked into CPU_OPT), and the bottom two to the two spare connectors on the X61. It’s worth noting that the retail S10 has a PWM fan hub on the back of the motherboard tray, so doing things this way wouldn’t be required.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd"></p><p>For benchmarking, we cranked up the power to get air flowing over the 980 Ti’s. Boy, did that air flow. The S10 also features a removable filter on the outside of the main compartments in front of the fans. A tab near the base of the S10 releases the filter for removal.</p><h5>4. Manual Ignition</h5><p>When we were first trying to get Dream Machine parts to fit into this case, we accidentally pulled the frontpanel wires loose of the panel buttons and LEDs. Whoops. Luckily, this mobo came with a power button on the board itself. Many modern mobos feature a power button, and they come in handy for things beside compensating for screwups, for example, if you’re building on a test bed or want to test a particular feature without connecting the frontpanel buttons.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd buildit.power"></p><p>There are also buttons to reset the BIOS to defaults, and a toggle that switches to the backup BIOS as well. That sounds trivial, but when you’re using all the overclocking features this mobo has to offer, messing up is very possible. Having an easy way to switch to an alternate BIOS or reset to defaults is a good move for tinkerers and overclockers who want to push limits.</p><h5>5. Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL</h5><p>One of the things that will first catch your eye is the S10’s separate tower for hard drives. It seems excessive, but it has a realworld purpose: keeping the ambient temperature of the main compartment low. The tower’s doors swing open in the front and rear of the case, making installation easy. The slots for the toolless brackets are rubberized, so drive vibration is absorbed, resulting in longer drive life and less sound from platters spinning at 7,200 RPM.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd buildit.harddrivetower"></p><p>Our pair of 6TB drives were happy, kept plenty cool by a dedicated fan. The fan draws air from under the tower and pushes it up, across the surfaces of the vertically mounted drives. We hooked this fan to the SYS_FAN3 PWM fan header on our mobo, and set the speed to maximum. It stayed quiet at that speed.</p><h5>6. Control Conduits</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.rd buildit.wiring"></p><p>We don't often show cable management in our builds. It’s not always pretty. But there’s good reason to this time. The first thing to notice is how SATA power and data cables get into the hard drive tower. A tab at the bottom of the case can be released. But this tab covers the cable passthrough, where all your SATA cables must go. We positioned the WD drives on the bottom row to stay within our cables’ reach. Also note that if you want a clean case, the rest of the system’s power must snake through a fairly small cutout, requiring long PSU cables. In our build, only the ATX cable was long enough to get where it needed to go. For the CPU power, we had to route through the fl oor grommet into the main compartment, back out the grommet under the mobo, and then back in through the grommet above the mobo.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gut"></p><ol> <li>This red LED-lit fan came with our power supply. While it uses a typical PWM fan connector, it also has a manual dial for fan speed and a switch to turn the lights on and off.</li><li>The 1,350W Maxrevo power supply gives us much more power than we need for this build. On the upside, it leaves more than enough headroom for overclocking and adding in more videocards.</li><li>The 2.5-inch drive cage in the PSU compartment sits right next to a fan, which helps keep SSDs (or 2.5-inch HDDs) cool.</li><li>The custom paint job by Smooth Creations really made this case a star. The retail case comes with tinted glass doors instead.</li></ol><h3>Reentry and splashdown</h3><p>At $5,044, this lower-orbit version of the Dream Machine is still plenty pricey, but delivers dreamy performance at less than 25 percent of the cost of our DM’s internal parts. This ship is essentially a tier above what we’re able to achieve in our Turbo builds.</p><p>We had a lot of fun building into this case, which was a prototype that needed a refinement here or there. Even with minor shortcomings, the case presents well, has good airflow in all of the parts that matter, and even had room for our beefy Kraken X61, though it meant a little pushing and shoving to get everything to align. Many of the issues we had have been addressed and fixed in the production case.</p><p>When we ran our benchmarks, we really saw the kind of performance the GTX 980 Ti offers with its 6GB of VRAM. The fact that we used factory-overclocked models that we then overclocked some more paid dividends in the frame rate department.</p><p>The triple GTX 980 SLI setup in our zero point was outgunned by the higher VRAM the GTX 980 Ti’s were packing. Given that a trio of reference GTX 980s cost $1,620 (at $540 each), the pair of GTX 980 Ti’s, at $1,340 ($670 each), provides the greater value. Sometimes two really is greater than three.</p><p>That performance comes at the cost of power though: Reference GTX 980 Ti’s draw 100 watts more than the plain old 980 reference cards do. That’s still less power than the 375 watts the Radeon Fury X draws, and two 980 Ti’s will put you just 125 watts over the Fury X’s power demand.</p><p>The i75930K served us well. A hearty overclocker, it got us to the same clock speed we had in the Dream Machine, but was just short two cores. Two cores are a big deal, but with such a huge price difference, the 5930K really delivers bang for your buck.</p><p>We could have saved a lot of coin on the hard drives, if that was a motivation, since the lower-capacity WD Black drives are far more affordable than their 6TB brethren. Likewise, builders pay a premium for a 1TB SSD. Opting for 250GB or 500GB models could save hundreds, which could go toward a third 980 Ti, a third SSD for a three-drive RAID array, or a bunch of games on Steam.</p><p>All in all, we’re very happy with this build, and had a great time assembling this rocket. While still priced at a premium, we feel this mini–Dream Machine reaches for the stars, while remaining a little more attainable.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Benchmarks</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td></td><td>Zero Point</td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td><td>806</td><td>558</td></tr><tr><td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td><td>1,472</td><td>1,163</td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td><td>33.8</td><td>28.5 (15.7%)</td></tr><tr><td>Batman: Arkham City 1440p (fps)<br></td><td>204</td><td>238</td></tr><tr><td>Tomb Raider 2160p (fps)</td><td>87.5</td><td>101.3</td></tr><tr><td>Shadow of Mordor 2160p (fps)</td><td>70.1</td><td>105.4</td></tr><tr><td>3DMark Fire Strike Ultra</td><td>8,016</td><td>8,378</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Our desktop zero-point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GB of RAM. </em>Arkham City<em> tested at 2560x1440 Max settings with PhysX off. </em>Tomb Raider<em> at Ultimate settings. </em>Shadow of Mordor <em>at Max settings.</em></p> TP-Link's New Wireless AC Router Does 1733Mbps's has a new AC2600 class router.Thu, 08 Oct 2015 23:45:14 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TP-Link Archer C2600"></p><p>Consumers looking for the latest Wireless AC router that can handle multiple devices without a drop in wireless quality may want to check out TP-Link’s new <a href="" target="_blank">Archer C2600</a>. This new networking device boasts 4-stream and multi-user MIMO technologies that optimizes speed and connection performance. This router also offers one of the fastest speeds on the market, providing up to 1733Mbps on the 5GHz band.</p><p>“The Archer C2600 is an extremely powerful router with an elegant, streamlined design,” said Lewis Wu, executive vice president of TP-LINK USA. “Coupled with multi-user MIMO and 4-Stream technology, the Archer C2600 is designed to handle the increasing bandwidth demands of today’s modern homes that are filled with multiple users’ different devices that are all accessing the network simultaneously.”</p><p>According to the company, many routers on the market send data to one device at a time. However, with MU-MIMO technology, the router can “serve” several devices simultaneously, meaning your devices won’t have to wait in line to send and receive data. This technology is backed by a dual-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz that can support multiple users. Ultimately you get better streaming and gaming thanks to this new router.</p><p>In addition to the 1733Mbps speeds on the 5GHz band, the Archer C2600 provides speeds of up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, significantly higher than many Wireless AC routers on the market today. These speeds are complimented by four gigabit LAN ports, a gigabit WAN port and two USB 3.0 ports, which can be used to share a printer or external drive.</p><p>“Archer C2600 routers provide faster, more efficient Wi-Fi connectivity for the growing number of smart devices on a network,” the company adds. “Four high-performance external antennas and high-powered amplifiers help Archer C2600 routers maximize coverage area and stability within the home, while beamforming technology further improves the Wi-Fi coverage by helping it locate wireless devices to form stronger, more reliable connections, even when mobile devices move from room to room.”</p><p>Customers eager to get their hands on this networking speed demon can grab it from <a href=";Tpk=33-704-261" target="_blank">Newegg</a> for a meaty price of $250. The company says that the router will be made available on <a href="" target="_blank">TP-Link’s store</a> and other offline and online retailers later this month.</p> MSI GT72 with GTX 980 Gallery what the man dragged in!Thu, 08 Oct 2015 22:40:51 +0000 dominator proGTX 980intelmsiNewsnvidiaskylakeunboxing Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB’s Predator SSD has an optional HHHL PCIe adapter that allows systems without M.2 slots to use the drive.Thu, 08 Oct 2015 21:38:57 +0000 <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">At a Glance</h5> <p> <strong>(+) Great Find:</strong> Faster than SATA; high endurance; HHHL adapter for older systems. </p> <p> <strong style="background-color: initial;">(-) NeVer Mind-e:</strong> Not as fast as other PCIe&nbsp;offerings; expensive; short warranty; no NVMe support. </p> </div> <h3>Fly Like an Eagle</h3> <p> With all the hullabaloo about M.2 PCIe SSDs and NVMe, users of older systems might feel left out. Enter the Kingston HyperX Predator, with an optional half-height, half-length (HHHL) adapter card that allows anyone with a spare PCI Express slot to use an M.2 drive. There’s nothing revolutionary about the adapter card, as it just converts up to four Gen3 PCIe lanes into an M.2 connector, but it opens the M.2 doors to virtually any recent desktop. The question of course is whether or not you'd actually want to use an M.2 drive via an adapter instead of just grabbing a native PCIe SSD like the Intel SSD 750, but whether or not you have a motherboard with an M.2 slot, it's a viable option. </p> <p> Unlike the Intel SSD 750 and the Samsung NVMe drives, the current Predator uses the established AHCI protocol. That means you can&nbsp;use it as a boot device, where using&nbsp;an NVMe SSD as your OS/boot drive requires that&nbsp;your motherboard BIOS supports NVMe. This makes the Predator more compatible with a variety of systems, but it also makes it potentially slower. Kingston is working on an NVMe version of the drive as well, though it's not ready for release yet. </p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="3"> <strong>Kingston HyperX Predator Specifications</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Interface</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> M.2 PCIe x4 Gen3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Form Factor</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> M.2 2280 <br> <em>Optional HHHL PCIx x4 adapter</em> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Capacity</strong> </td> <td> 480GB </td> <td> 240GB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Controller</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> Marvell 88SS9293 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Type</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> Toshiba A19 Toggle NAND </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Max Transfer Read/Write<br> (Compressible Data)</strong> </td> <td> 1400/1000 MB/s </td> <td> 1400/600 MB/s </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Max Transfer Read/Write<br> (Incompressible Data)</strong> </td> <td> 1100/910 MB/s </td> <td> 1290/600 MB/s </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Max IOPS Read/Write</strong> </td> <td> 130,000/118,000 </td> <td> 160,000/119,000 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Endurance</strong> </td> <td> 882TB / 1.7 DWPD </td> <td> 415TB / 1.6 DWPD </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Power Use</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> 1.38W Idle, 1.4W Avg., 1.99W/8.25W Max Read/Write </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Warranty</strong> </td> <td> Three years / 882TB </td> <td> Three years / 415TB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Pricing</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1444245870&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=kingston+predator+480gb">$440 without adapter</a> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1444245905&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=kingston+predator+240gb">$205 with adapter</a> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p> Checking out the specifications, one impressive statistic on the Predator is the endurance rating. Kingston specs the 480GB model we’re testing at a whopping 882TB total bytes written, which equates to 1.7 drive writes per day (DWPD). Even the heaviest of home users is unlikely to be writing 800GB of data on a daily basis, so it’s highly unlikely anyone will be burning through all the NAND cycles. We have to temper the high endurance rating with a less impressive three year warranty, however; many other SSDs carry a five year warranty&mdash;not that the warranty will do you any good if your drive fails and you lose data, so make sure you keep a good backup strategy in place! </p> <p> The remaining specifications are decent but nowhere near class leading. Of note is the high power use, which may make the Predator less than ideal for notebooks even if they have the requisite M.2 PCIe slot. The IOPS ratings look promising, though it’s interesting that the smaller 240GB drive sports higher values, indicating perhaps that the Marvell controller isn’t tuned for larger drive sizes. Finally, the maximum throughput is only about twice that of a good SATA drive, and clearly behind the current market leaders (<a target="_blank" href="">Intel SSD 750</a> and <a target="_blank" href="">Samsung SM951 NVMe</a>). </p> <p> Where things really get dicey is the pricing. The Predator initially launched with MSRP well above $1 per GB ($746/$364 for the 480GB/240GB drives, not including the adapter card), but that was thanks in part&nbsp;to its early-adopter M.2 PCIe&nbsp;status. With more competition available, prices have dropped to under $1 per GB now, and interestingly you can actually get the 240GB drive with the adapter for less than the price of the 240GB M.2 card alone. The problem is that Samsung’s SM951 (NVMe or AHCI)&nbsp;sports much faster specs, and while the <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1444246147&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+sm951+nvme">256GB model</a> is more expensive than the 240GB Predator, the <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1444246147&amp;sr=8-5&amp;keywords=samsung+sm951+nvme">512GB model costs</a> substantially less than the 480GB Kingston drive&mdash;and you get 32GB of additional storage capacity as an added bonus. </p><h5>Take this Broken Wing</h5><p> As noted in our <a target="_blank" href="">revamped SSD test suite article</a>, we’ve updated to a new test bed for storage, running a <a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a> processor in a Z170 motherboard. Here are the details of our test system, followed by the benchmarks. Details on how we test SSDs&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">are available here</a>.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4–4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">ASUS Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Intel HD Graphics 530 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 1.2TB PCIe x4</a><br> <a href=";qid=1444419554&amp;sr=8-1-fkmr0&amp;keywords=%E2%80%8BKingston+HyperX+Predator+480GB" target="_blank">Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868461&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+1tb">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID0<br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443468203&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=sm951">Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB M.2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p>With the SATA bottleneck out of the picture, M.2 SSDs can stretch their wings and fly&hellip;&nbsp;at least to the limit of their abilities. This is where the Predator runs into problems, ultimately falling prey to the substantially faster NVMe drives. While the Predator numbers look good compared to any SATA drive, it falls <em style="background-color: initial;">far</em> short of the Intel SSD 750 and the Samsung SM951 NVMe.</p><p>We measured 109K 4K read IOPS, which is close to Kingston’s rated throughput, but only 60K write IOPS&mdash;well off the 118K rated value. In general, the Predator ends up delivering roughly half the maximum performance of the SM951 and SSD 750, which really hurts when coupled with the lower price point of the 512GB SM951.</p><p>Another comparison point is the two Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA SSDs in RAID 0. These run neck and neck with the single Predator, often beating it in random IO workloads. The mixed random IOmeter results are particularly bad, with the Predator falling well behind even single SATA SSDs. In our real-world file copy test, it still manages to claim a third place finish, and PCMark 8 illustrates yet again that for everyday tasks there’s only so far a fast SSD can take you. But if you’re paying top dollar for an SSD, chances are you’d also want a top performing SSD.</p><h5>Learn to Fly Again</h5><p> This just goes to show that using the latest technology&nbsp;as a basis for your next buying decision can often lead to disappointment. The Predator has actually been out for a while now, and it was one of the first M.2 PCIe&nbsp;SSDs to hit the market. Unfortunately, while it’s generally faster than any individual SATA drive, the Predator falls well short of the potential that M.2 PCIe&nbsp;offers. The Intel SSD 750 and Samsung SM951 NVMe easily surpass the performance of the Predator, and they do so without carrying a substantial price premium. Or if you don't need or want NVMe, the existing Samsung SM951 also delivers better performance.</p><p> With the Samsung 950 Pro set to launch next week at even lower prices than the SM951, the writing is on the wall: Kingston needs to cut prices on this drive to keep it relevant. That’s the good news, though: With the only real difference between the Predator and other SSDs coming in the form of the controller and interface&mdash;items which shouldn’t dramatically affect the cost of producing the drive&mdash;there should be plenty of room to lower the price. We’re giving the Predator a 65 based on the performance and current pricing, but if it should drop to just above SATA price levels&mdash;say, $0.50 per GB&mdash;we would be less critical.</p><p> <em>Follow Jarred on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Asus Intel Core-i5 Desktop, HP Intel Core-i3 Laptop, and More! don't need to wait for the influx of official Steam Machines to enjoy PC gaming in your living room. There are several existing console-sized PCs just itching to take residence in your living room.Thu, 08 Oct 2015 19:34:25 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Desktop"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>You don't need to wait for the influx of official Steam Machines to enjoy PC gaming in your living room. There are several existing console-sized PCs just itching to take residence in your living room, including today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DESKTOP-N82E16883221109-_-1008&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Destkop Computer with an Intel Core i5-5200U CPU</a> for $600 with $7 shipping (normally $800). This thing also rocks 8GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, 1TB HDD, GeForce GTX 960M graphics, and Windows 8.1 (upgradeable to Windows 10 for free).</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-Combo2530250-_-1008&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">SuperCombo Storage Pack: 3X HGST Touro Mobile 1TB USB 3.0 2.5-inch Portable Hard Drive</a> for $120 with free shipping (normally $165)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-LaptopHD-N82E16834261577-_-1008&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HP Laptop 250 G4 Intel Core i3 (1.7 GHz) 4 GB Memory 500 GB HDD Intel HD Graphics 4400 15.6-inch Windows 7</a> for <strong>$340</strong> with free shipping (normally $410)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824112027-_-1008&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Sceptre 20-inch 5ms LED Backlight LCD Monitor 180 cd/m2 DCR 5,000,000:1 (1000:1) Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $86)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820148945-_-1008&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair 760W 80 Plus Platinum Power Supply</a> for <strong>$130</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAT42</strong>]; additional $30 Mail-in rebate)</p> Razer Redesigns BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard, Extends Warranty 2016 model BlackWidow Ultimate mechanical plank from Razer features improved backlighting and a few other upgrades.Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:54:52 +0000 <h3>A flashy keyboard</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Razer BlackWidow 2016"></p><p> Razer on Thursday announced a new mechanical keyboard, the <a href="" target="_blank">BlackWidow Ultimate 2016</a>. At a glance, it looks similar to last year's model, though Razer says it's been redesigned from the ground up with an all-new set of features.</p><p> Chief among them is fancy per-key backlighting. Each green glowing key has its own LED and can be individually customized through Razer's Synapse software to display a range of fun and funky lighting effects. It comes with several presets, including Wave, Ripple, Reactive, Starlight, and others.</p><p> Here's a look at some of them in action:</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p> Razer also made improvements to the smudge-free top cover, combined the audio and microphone jacks, added a USB pass-through port for easy cable management, and installed an enhanced indicator panel on the top-right corner of the keyboard. Finally, the 2016 model boasts a smaller footprint than last year's version.</p><p> "There isn’t a gaming keyboard out there that offers better value," says Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and CEO. "From the customizable backlit keys to the fact that our Razer Mechanical Switches are the only ones designed especially for gaming, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 is the perfect keyboard for any gamer looking to upgrade to mechanical keyboards."</p><p> What remains unchanged are Razer's custom mechanical switches. They're "Razer Green" switches that are somewhat similar to Cherry MX Blues. Razer says they're built specifically for gaming with an actuation point of 1.9mm. You can read more about them <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p> Razer says that starting with this new model, all keyboards featuring Razer Mechanical Switches will have an extended warranty of two years.</p><p> The new plank is available now for $110.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Vizio's 120-Inch Reference Series 4K TV Will Only Set You Back $130,000 laid out pricing for its new Reference Series 4K TVs, though you probably can't afford the 120-inch model.Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:07:45 +0000 <h3>You won't find this in Walmart</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vizio Reference TV"></p><p> Vizio announced pricing for its new <a href="" target="_blank">Reference Series televisions</a> with Dolby Vision, and yes, they're expensive. Crazy expensive, even -- Vizio's aksing $6,000 for the 65-inch model and a jaw-dropping $130,000 for the 120-inch version.</p><p> No, our zero-key isn't sticking, Vizio's price tag of more than a $1,000 per inch of screen real estate is correct. And the craziest thing isn't the price alone, but that somebody out there is going to buy this thing. Probably multiple somebodies.</p><p> More power to them. What they'll get in return is a cutting edge television with a 4K resolution and the first to support Dolby Vision, a proprietary High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging playback technology that's supposed to splash your eyeballs with incredible colors, contrast, and brightness.</p><p> "Vizio and Dolby have worked tirelessly together to make true High Dynamic Range a reality for consumers. The picture quality achieved with Dolby Vision on the Vizio Reference Series is literally jaw-dropping and establishes a new level of excellence for the industry," said Matt McRae, Chief Technology Officer, Vizio. "High Dynamic Range and Ultra Color Spectrum is enabled through proprietary, custom panel technologies creating a television that pushes the limits of contrast ratios and color gamut while redefining the level of picture quality available at home."</p><p> Yes, a $130,000 4K TV falls a bit outside of <em>Maximum PC's</em> usual coverage, but with Steam Machines and other PC consoles invading the living room and the monitor market innovating again (remember when a 30-inch 2560x1600 monitor was the best there was?), we couldn't pass up an opportunity to talk about Vizio's Reference Series.</p><p> It will also be interesting to see if Vizio or any other company brings this kind of technology to the computer monitor space. What's unique about these TVs is their ability to render colors closer to the range a human eye can see. Vizio says the effect is further enhanced by a full array 800-nit LED backlight with an unprecedented 348 active LED zones for a much wider range of luminance and precise color control.</p><p> Netflix is on board with what Vizio has done here and has committed to remastering content in Dolby Vision, starting with season one of Marco Polo.</p><p> Both the 65-inch and 120-inch models are special order items on Vizio's website. If you have the requisite funds and are interested, you'll have to fill out a form indicating interest.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Fast Forward: Are We Living in Sim City? our universe an immense computer simulation? Thu, 08 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p><em>This article was published in the November 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><p>Is our universe an immense computer simulation? Is everything we perceive an illusion rendered in super-resolution pixels? Are we mere pixels, too? Lately, I’ve seen these questions debated more often in Internet forums, and often by reputable scientists. It’s not just another crackpot conspiracy theory.</p><p>Usually, I’m far too busy to waste attention on trending Internet debates, which can seem as pointless as medieval arguments over the number of angels that could fit on the head of a pin. But the “universe simulation hypothesis” intersects my knowledge of computers. And one thing often missing from the debate is a realistic forecast of future computing power.</p><p>Many (though not all) simulation proponents assume, essentially, that Moore’s Law is forever. They take for granted that computers will keep getting more powerful on a steep curve and will eventually be capable of simulating a universe as complex as ours appears to be. Whoa, I say.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC117.qs halfhill.simcitysocia"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>The view from Maximum PC’s window is definitely real.</strong></em></p><p>In past columns, I’ve described the fallacies that sprout like weeds around Moore’s Law. To recap, Moore’s Law is not a scientific law; it’s an astute observation of semiconductor progress that was first made in 1965 and modified in 1975.</p><p>I’ve charted its course using all three common variations (doubling component density every 12 months, 18 months, or 24 months). Analyzing it by any measure, we’re already falling behind the predicted curve.</p><p>Similar curves are common in science. It took only 44 years for airplanes to advance from the Wright brother’s wood-and-canvas contraption to the first supersonic flight. At that rate, airliners should be hypersonic by now, but the curve has flattened since the 1960s.</p><p>Yes, future breakthroughs (carbon nanotubes, quantum computing, whatever) could breathe new life into Moore’s Law, or even surpass it. Computers will keep getting more powerful for a long time. However, that doesn’t guarantee they will eventually grow powerful enough to simulate our entire universe.</p><p>Consider that to simulate a single atom in all its marvelous complexity requires simulating its subatomic particles (such as protons, electrons, neutrons) and the even-smaller quarks within them. Simulating a particle requires computer memory to store its properties, plus computing elements (such as transistors) to express its behavior and its interactions with other particles.</p><p>Even tiny amounts of matter would demand enormous computer resources. To simulate an entire universe on this scale would require a computer that’s larger and more complex than the simulation.</p><p>Therefore, I reject a fully detailed simulated universe. However, we could be living in a partial simulation. Just as today’s computer games simulate only one or a few main characters in some detail and fake the rest, it’s possible our universe works the same way. Maybe the simulation creates a local instance of subatomic-level detail only when a scientist peers through an electron microscope or operates a particle accelerator.</p><p>Or maybe, only one person is a fully detailed simulation for which everything else is either faked or created on the fly. A fully simulated Paris wouldn’t exist until this person goes there, and it’s faked again when they leave. Maybe that person is me. Maybe it’s you. But if our universe is as vast and complex as it appears, the physical limits on computer power tell me it must be real.</p><hr> <p><em>Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior editor for </em>Byte<em> magazine and is now an analyst for </em>Microprocessor Report.</p> HP Dishes Out Custom Star Wars Laptop laptop will be powered not by The Force, but an Intel Core processor and Nvidia graphics.Wed, 07 Oct 2015 23:46:30 +0000 wars <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Star Wars Special Edition laptop"></p><p>Just weeks before <em style="background-color: initial;">Star Wars Episode VII</em> awakens the sleepy franchise with a new film, Hewlett Packard (HP) introduces <a href="" target="_blank">a special edition notebook</a> that should make all <em style="background-color: initial;">Star Wars</em> nerds with at least $700 somewhat giddy. This Windows 10 notebook is not only packed with impressive hardware that should make R2-D2 a little jealous, but exclusive <em style="background-color: initial;">Star Wars</em> goodies like a special exterior, screen savers, rare wallpapers, concept art, and more.</p><p>Although HP doesn’t provide a specific list of hardware, the upcoming laptop’s options will include sixth generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, up to 12GB of memory and up to 2TB of hard drive space. Customers will also have an option to choose Intel’s HD Graphics 520 GPU or spend a little more on a Nvidia GeForce GTX 940M chip. The laptop also sports a 15.6-inch display with optional touch capabilities and a red backlit keyboard.</p><p>“Inspired by the Galactic Empire, the <em>Star Wars</em> Special Edition notebook has a ‘battle-worn’ distressed design with ‘Galactic Empire’ written in the unique <em>Star Wars</em> Aurebesh font on the hinge and iconic Stormtroopers on the keyboard deck,” HP describes. “The touchpad design mirrors the X-Wing Star Fighter Guidance System and the red backlit keyboard completes the dark-side design.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Star Wars Special Edition Laptop"></p><p>The laptop also includes a battery promising up to seven hours of life on as single charge, an optional DVD burner for watching the first six movies (not included) on disc, and dual speakers “tuned” by B&amp;O Play, promising a full surround sound experience. Other options include a custom <em>Star Wars</em> Special Edition Sleeve ($40) and a <em>Star Wars </em>Special Edition Mouse ($40).</p><p>In addition to the screensavers, photos and images, the notebook's desktop will also be packed with additional media including “the first Marvel <em>Star Wars</em> comic in the series,” a usable Aurebesh font that’s installed in the system’s font library, a Death Star-styled Recycle Bin, <em>Star Wars</em> movie trailers, and portions from select <em>Star Wars</em> e-books (which are unlikely from The Expanded Universe). There’s also a free one-year membership to Fandor. </p><p>HP’s <em>Star Wars</em> Special Edition notebook is slated to arrive on November 8 via “select” retailers and HP’s own online shop. Eager <em>Star Wars</em> fans wanting to secure their fully armed and operational <em>Star Wars</em>-themed laptop can make a pre-purchase starting Thursday, October 8. The mouse and sleeve will be made available soon, the company says.</p><p>The starting price for the laptop is $700.&nbsp;</p> Newegg Daily Deals: MSI GeForce GTX 970, Samsung 850 Pro 2TB SSD, and More!, we'd all love to stuff multiple GeForce Titan X graphics cards inside our rigs, but barring the ability to pick the correct Powerball numbers, such gaming goodness is cost prohibitive for most. The good news is, you don't need that level of investment to play high end titles.Wed, 07 Oct 2015 20:16:27 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MSI GeForce GTX 970"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Hey, we'd all love to stuff multiple GeForce Titan X graphics cards inside our rigs, but barring the ability to pick the correct Powerball numbers, such gaming goodness is cost prohibitive for most. The good news is, you don't need that level of investment to play high end titles. If you're looking for something a bit more affordable, check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814127832-_-1007&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming Graphics Card</a> for <strong>$320</strong> with free shipping (normally $350; additional $20 mail-in-rebate; Free Rainbow Six Siege or Assassin's Creed Syndicate, limited offer). It's a fast card with a custom cooler, and you get a free game to boot!</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SOFTWARE-N82E16832484090-_-1007&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">McAfee Internet Security 2015 - 3 PCs</a> for <strong>$45</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $60 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAV24</strong>]; additional $45 Mail-in rebate; USD $5 promotional gift card w/ purchase, limited offer)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147440-_-1007&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro 2.5-inch 2TB SATA III 3-D SSD</a> for <strong>$820</strong> with free shipping (normally $950 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAV23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822149382-_-1007&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Toshiba 1TB 32MB Cache SATA 3 (6.0 Gb/S) 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$40</strong> with free shipping (normally $53 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCKAAV22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824009421-_-1007&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Acer G6 Series Black 23-inch 5ms Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor 200 cd/m2 ACM 100,000,000:1 (600:1)</a> for <strong>$100</strong> with free shipping (normally $119)</p> HP Refreshes Stunning Spectre X360 with Skylake, Improved Audio announced a limited edition Spectre X360 that will be available next month. Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:49:54 +0000 x360 <h3>A better looking 2-in-1</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Spectre X360"></p><p> One of the better looking 2-in-1 devices out there is <a href=";langId=-1&amp;catalogId=10051&amp;eSpotName=spectre-new" target="_blank">HP's Spectre X360</a>. In celebration of Bang &amp; Olufsen's 90th anniversary, a limited edition version of that hybrid tablet/laptop will add even more sex appeal to the design with an ash silver color and copper accents.</p><p> What does the color treatment have to do with B&amp;O? Well, nothing really. However, HP is offering premium sound with audio tuned by the Danish audio outfit on several of its new and refreshed models, including the Spectre X360.</p><p> Looks aside, HP updated the Spectre X360 with 6th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processor options, which are Skylake parts. HP says the hardware upgrade will give users the horsepower and responsiveness they need to drive the Quad HD display, while at the same time promising battery life of up to 12 hours.</p><p> The Spectre X360 has both full-size HDMI and mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports for displaying content across multiple screens. For connecting external devices like flash drives and the such, there are three USB 3.0 ports with Sleep and Charge support.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Spectre X360 Laptop Mode"></p><p> As its name implies, the Spectre X360 is designed so that the display can fold all the way back onto itself so that you can use it like a tablet. You can also use the Spectre X360 in stand mode (watching movies), tent mode (playing games), and notebook mode.</p><p> HP says the limited edition Spectre X360 will be available on its website and in Best Buy stores beginning November 8. Pricing will start at $900.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Nvidia Releases GeForce 358.50 WHQL Game Ready Driver for Battlefront to participate in the Star Wars: Battlefront beta? Nvidia has new GPU drivers you might want to check out (if you own an Nvidia graphics card).Wed, 07 Oct 2015 17:30:13 +0000 Wars: Battlefront <h3>These <em>are</em> the drivers you're looking for</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Battlefront"></p><p> If you're planning to participate in the Star Wars: Battlefront beta that kicks off tomorrow (October 8) and are running Nvidia brand graphics, there's a new driver you might want to check out.</p><p> According to Nvidia, it's newly released GeForce 358.50 WHQL certified driver will deliver "the best possible gaming experience" in Battlefront. In addition, it also brings support for the latest OpenGL ARB extensions, as well as OpenGL ES 3.2.</p><p> Want more? Nvidia also says the 358.50 driver includes updated features and functionality for the GameWorks VR software development kit (SDK), so there's that too.</p><p> There are some oddball limitations associated with this new driver. For example, surround gaming&nbsp; is not supported on a 3-way SLI system using GeForce GTX 200 series GPUs, and the Graph tab on the Adjust Desktop Color Settings page is no longer available. Nvidia also discontinued support for Hybrid Power, a Hybrid SLI technology.</p><p> You can read more in the <a href="" target="_blank">release notes (PDF)</a>. The driver is available to download from <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p> As a reminder, if you're rocking an AMD graphics card, there's a beta driver (<a href="">Catalyst 15.9.1</a>) available that's been optimized for Battlefront. It also addresses a memory leak with Catalyst 15.9. You can grab that <a href="" target="_blank">driver here</a>.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> HP Tries Earning Street Cred with Pavilion Gaming Laptop's new Pavilion Gaming laptop boasts an Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M GPU.Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:43:04 +0000 <h3>Affordable gaming on the go</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Pavilion Gaming"></p><p> You probably don't associate HP's Pavilion PC line with gaming. In fact, outside of the HP Omen, HP doesn't dabble all that much in the gaming sector, though it's looking to change that with the introduction of a new Pavilion laptop built specifically for gamers.</p><p> The <a href=";langId=-1&amp;catalogId=10051&amp;eSpotName=Pav-gaming&amp;jumpid=va_21ejh7rmvd" target="_blank">HP Pavilion Gaming</a> is a 15.6-inch notebook that swims in Skylake. Customers can choose from 6th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processor options, which get paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M GPU for graphics and up to 16GB of system memory.</p><p> Granted, the GTX 950M isn't going to light up the benchmark charts or provide the muscle necessary to crank up the eye candy on demanding titles, but with a starting price of $900, it's not a bad value proposition for gamers on a budget. Also helping the matter is that the GPU only has to push pixels around a Full HD 1080p display (IPS, by the way).</p><p> HP says you can opt for up to 2TB of hard drive space, up to 1TB of hybrid hard drive space, or a dual storage configuration with up to a 2TB HDD and a 128GB solid state drive. It's not clear what storage allotment the base configuration comes with, though it's almost a given it will be a regular hard drive and not a hybrid drive or SSD.</p><p> For connecting external devices, there are two USB 3.0 ports, one of which is a Sleep and Charge port, and one USB 2.0 port. There's also an HDMI port, GbE LAN port, and SD card reader.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Pavilion Gaming Keyboard Backlight"></p><p> The backlit keyboard glows bright green with a "fierce reptilian pattern" on the keyboard's deck for added flair. Other notable features include optional touch support on the display and Intel RealSense support, which is another optional add-on.</p><p> Finally, the system has an optical drive (we're guessing a DVD burner) and dual speakers pumping out audio tuned by Bang &amp; Olufsen.</p><p> Look for the HP Pavilion Gaming laptop to be available starting November 8, 2015.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Technolust: 5K Graphics, an Elevating Desk, and Receiver things we want, but can't get (or can't afford) yetWed, 07 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 UltraSharpFeaturesKick-AssNextDesk Air ProUP2715Kwishlist <h3>Technolust: Things we really want</h3><p> In the world of tech, new products are always being introduced. As entrenched as we are in the gadget-sphere, there's a never ending chase of the next greatest thing.&nbsp;</p><p>Introducing Technolust, a weekly column where the staff tells you, on a personal level, what they're currently coveting. It could be as simple as a set of tools, or a new graphics card and four new SSDs in RAID 0. Heck, throw in a&nbsp;new 4K projector for good measure.&nbsp;</p><p>We invite you to share yours too! It could point the direction in things we should be covering.&nbsp;So, of all the things I want, here are my first&nbsp;three nerdalicious picks.</p><h3>A feast for these eyes</h3><p> Behold&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">Dell's UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K display</a>. Considered to be&nbsp;the pinnacle of image fidelity, Dell's UP2715K was actually featured in&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">this year's Dream Machine build</a>. I've long been a fan of Dell's UltraSharp line of displays for their image quality, build quality, and Dell's pretty darned good support for displays.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dell 5k"></p><p> When Dell's 3007 WFP came out, I was all over that beast. Unfortunately, the unit I got came with some discoloration on one of the corners. It was ever so slight, but I noticed it and couldn't stop looking at it. Dell was happy enough to overnight me a replacement with a return label packed in the box for me ship back my wonky unit.&nbsp;</p><p> For me, the UP2715K has it all: pristine sharpness thanks to its&nbsp;5120x2880 resolution, and&nbsp;Dell's PremierColor for out-of-the-box color accuracy that's actually very good even without professional calibration. Plus, it's well built and doesn't feel like it was clobbered together using cheap plastic.&nbsp;If you do a lot of twitchy gaming, the UltraSharps may not be suitable for you since you'll likely demand higher refresh rates. In terms of image quality though, the UP2715K sets the standard.</p><p>What do I use now? I have a Dell UltraSharp U3011, which I have to admit has served me really well and is still pretty darned good as far as high-quality displays go. But if you've ever worked with high-pixel-density displays, the UP2715K really is a substantial improvement in image quality. Right now, I'm just waiting to see if Dell will release a 5K display at 30-inches or greater. That would be ideal.</p><h5>So what would the Dell UltraSharp UP2715K provide me that I'm not getting now?</h5><p>Not much really, just a more tack-sharp image which I suppose is quite substantial in its own right. I'd lose 3 inches off the screen, but with the right resolution scaling I would gain more actual usable real-estate. And as a minor nitpick, I actually prefer the more industrial look of the U3011 to the designer lines of the UP2715K.</p><h3>The table of my dreams</h3><p> As for what I actually have at home to do my computing on? I use a dinner table that I picked up from IKEA several years ago. I have an office but until now, haven't found a suitable computing desk large enough for my needs. I use multiple displays and have a bunch of other devices on the table that I like to keep around me when I work. My current state of table affairs, though, is pretty terrible. It's a dinner table, so a tad too tall, and my chair can't slide under it without the arm rests smacking into a side support&nbsp;beam.</p><p> I've done research into standing desks, and although they're great for your back and promoting healthy body circulatory activities, they don't offer much space. So the best kind of desk for me is one that looks like a normal big desk, but can be elevated to standing heights.</p><p> Enter the&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">Air Pro desk</a>. This is the big daddy of elevating desks. Made by NextDesk, which is known for making exceptional work desks that are height adjustable, the Air Pro is essentially the company's flagship. It costs a whopping $3,378 without any of the fancy options and in standard jet-black gloss finish. If you want a matte black finish, the price increases to $3,975. NextDesk learns from the&nbsp;best in&nbsp;the automotive options industry.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nextdesk Air Pro"></p><p> The Air Pro can sit as low as 24 inches off the ground or stand as high as 50.5 inches. Its quad motors can raise or lower the desk at 1.7 inches per second using the side controller. Even with motorized legs on all for corners, the Air Pro is strong: able to very comfortably support 630 pounds of weight. The entire desk is made of aluminum with a glass top.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nextdesk Air Controller"></p><p> Of course the Air Pro is on the excessive side, but hey, why not? NextDesk offers other models, including the more tame Encore, which starts at a much more palatable $1,097&mdash;still substantial as far as computer desks go.</p><p> If you're interested in configuring one&mdash;yes, they're completely configurable with heaps of options&mdash;you can truly make one your own with attachments, different finishes, cable management features, and other options. L-shaped models are also available for space gluttons, and NextDesk will even custom-design one for you.</p><h5>So what would the NextDesk Air Pro provide me that I'm not getting now?</h5><p>Height adjustment features. I can sit or stand whenever I'd please without sacrificing desk space. Do I really need the fanciness of the Air Pro? Probably not. But if it's going to be in my personal space for a long time, it might as well look good. I'd also be able to roll my chair in a bit more and sit closer to the desk.</p><h3>Where all gadgets meet</h3><p> My PC and my home theater are tightly integrated. Everything is networked, even the home theater receiver. All my sources: PS, Xbox, Wii U, NUC, and spare gaming PC are plugged into a receiver. My current unit is a Pioneer Elite VSX-94TXH, which is a very good receiver in its own right, but it's a few generations old now in the Pioneer lineup. Yes, there are great options from Denon, Marantz, and others that climb up into the price&nbsp;stratosphere, but I'd be&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">happy just to pick up Pioneer's new Elite SC-99</a>.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pioneer Sc99"></p><p> It's got all the latest audio decoding features, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS-X, as well as&nbsp;the usual, such as DTS-HD, Dolby Digital TrueHD, and supports both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections. But the real kicker for me is the class D3 amplifiers that deliver high power output really efficiently. The receiver stays cool and &nbsp;doesn't buck under stress. For audiophiles, the SC-99 is equipped with dual SABRE32 DACs from ESS Technology, which support a 192k/32bit format&mdash;yes, 32 bit!</p><p>A little known factoid: The Intel HD Audio specification calls for 32 bit sampling rates, but few if any manufacturers implement the full spec.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pioneer Sc99 Back"></p><p> Connections are a nonissue with the SC-99. The unit has a whopping eight HDMI inputs, enough for every device I can think of, along with two HDMI outputs. Another nice feature is a USB input that allows you to connect a PC and let the receiver act as a USB sound device just like an external sound card.</p><p> I've been a fan of Pioneer's products since the days of the Kuro Elite TVs, which sadly are no longer available. During that time, and maybe even still today, the Kuro plasmas set the standard for black-level performance. The Kuro line was Pioneer's statement in just how good image quality can be; those who are serious about image performance will attest to the Kuro's reputation.</p><h5>So what would the Pioneer Elite SC-99&nbsp;provide me that I'm not getting now?</h5><p>Extra HDMI inputs, Spotify streaming without a PC, Dolby Atmos (although I'd have to upgrade my speakers), and better components. I'm not interested in the WiFi stuff as much since my house is wired for Ethernet in every room, and I prefer wired connections anyway. Having direct USB-DAC input is really nice. You can use the SC-99 as a sound device and attain higher resolution and sampling rates than you could if you only used SPDIF.</p><p>Once I get my grubby hands on these things I'll be a happy camper. Maybe.&nbsp;</p> Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Versus Apple MacBook Pro the new Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:26:22 +0000 promicrosoftSurface Pro 4 <h3>Clash of the 13-inch titans</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Surface Pro 4"></p><p> It's been interesting to watch the evolution of Microsoft's Surface line. Just over two years ago, Microsoft took a massive <a href="">$900 million charge</a> on unsold Surface RT inventory, and for a moment, it seemed like Acer might have been right when it <a href="">warned the Redmond outfit</a> against competing in the hardware sector. Doing so would be like "hard rice," which is "not so easy to eat." Yes, Acer actually said that.</p><p> Well, Microsoft stuck to its guns, and while it may have been like trying to eat hard rice in the beginning, selling consumers on the Surface is proving to be easy as pie these days. That's because Microsoft is no longer selling a device without a true identity, but as the company likes to say, it's now a tablet that can replace your laptop.</p><p> That's truer than ever with the introduction of the Surface Pro 4, which will be available later this month (pre-orders are taking place now). One thing that's interesting about the current state of the Surface Pro line is that it's almost in a class of its own. Sure, you can compare it to a MacBook Air, and in the past, Microsoft has done that. But with the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft says the two devices are no longer in the same class.</p><p> You can argue the merits of that statement, but in the meantime, we chose to compare the Surface Pro's spec sheet with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro. Why? They're similar in size, they both wield compelling hardware, and comparing the Surface Pro 4 to the iPad Pro would be like putting a young Mike Tyson in the ring with Glass Joe.</p><p> Let's begin.</p><h3>Form Factor and Dimensions</h3><p> The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet. It's also a laptop if you add a keyboard, though you'll pay extra for the privilege. Perhaps it's for these reasons that Microsoft says the Surface Pro 4 <em>can</em> replace your laptop, not that it necessarily <em>does</em>.</p><p> Anyway, it measures 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches (292 x 201 x 8.4 millimeters) and 1.73 pounds (786 grams). It has a nice kickstand for sitting upright at an angle, and if you add a Type Cover, you gain the ability to use it like a full fledged laptop.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro Keyboard"></p><p> If you've typed on a Type Cover before, you might have lamented the mushy key action. Keyboard planks are generally inferior to dedicated keyboards, especially mechanical keyboards, but the keys on the Type Cover could definitely be better.</p><p> Now they are, according to Microsoft. The newest Type Cover is thinner and lighter than before, but also more sturdy. More importantly, Microsoft made an effort to improve the typing experience. The key switches now have 1.3mm of travel and more spacing in between (19mm), and it supposedly feels soft when you type. Microsoft also enlarged the trackpad by 40 percent, in case you felt the previous one was too small.</p><p> Still, it's an optional (and detached) keyboard, whereas the MacBook Pro's plank is permanently affixed. Overall, it's a nice keyboard, and the "Force Touch" trackpad is nifty too -- it has "force" sensors that detect the amount of pressure you apply, which in turn can affect how you interact with objects on the display.</p><p> We've yet to type on the new Type Cover, but given our past experience, we're skeptical that it will beat the MacBook Pro's.&nbsp;The other thing to keep in mind is that it's a bit awkward trying to balance a Surface Pro on your lap, with or without a keyboard.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MacBook Pro"></p><p> As for the dimensions, the MacBook Pro measures 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71 inches (313.7 x 218.9 x 18 millimeters) and weighs 3.48 pounds (1,578.5 grams). In other words, it's bulkier and heavier than the Surface Pro 4.</p><p> Which is better than the other? That all depends on whether you want a hybrid tablet/laptop or a traditional notebook.</p><p> <strong>Winner: Draw</strong></p><h3>Processor</h3><p> The latest generation MacBook Pro laptops run fifth generation Broadwell processors from Intel. These run the gamut from a 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-5287U to a 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-5557U, both dual-core parts. These chips are paired with 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR3-1866 RAM.</p><p> Microsoft hasn't detailed the specific processors it's using in Surface Pro 4, other than to say they're based on Intel's newest Skylake architecture. There are three options -- Intel Core m, Intel Core i5, and Intel Core i7, which can be paired with 4GB to 16GB of RAM.</p><p> Both Broadwell and Skylake are built on 14nm manufacturing processes, though Skylake is a newer part with various architectural improvements that make it more efficient. In theory, the Surface Pro 4 should win this round, though without knowing what specific processors Microsoft is using and running some benchmarks, it wouldn't be fair to make that determination.</p><p> <strong>Winner: TDB</strong></p><h3>Storage</h3><p> This category is a little easier to gauge. Surface Pro 4 shoppers will be able to choose from 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options, all of which are of the solid state variety. Certain storage options are only available with select configurations -- an Intel Core i5 with 4GB of RAM is stuck with 128GB of storage, but if you bump up to 8GB or 16GB of RAM, you can choose between 256GB or 512GB. The 1TB option is exclusive to Intel Core i7 configurations.</p><p> The MacBook Pro has two storage options -- 512GB or 1TB, the latter of which adds $500 to the build. Ouch! Storage upgrades aren't exactly cheap for the Surface Pro 4 either, but you're not forced to pay more for a larger SSD than what you might need.</p><p> <strong>Winner: Surface Pro 4</strong></p><h3>Display</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pixel Sense"></p><p> Microsoft is hyping up the Surface Pro 4's 12.3-inch "PixelSense" touchscreen display. It's only 4 microns (0.4mm), the thinnest yet in the Surface Pro family, and the only tablet to use Gorilla Glass 4.</p><p> "It's the best technology on the planet on a screen right now," Microsoft's Panos Panay said when introducing the Surface Pro 4 on stage. "It's the thinnest optical stack-up that anyone can ship."</p><p> Cutting through hype, the Surface Pro 4's display features a 2763x1824 resolution with a 267ppi pixel density, 3:2 aspect ratio, and 10-point multi-touch.</p><p> The MacBook Pro? It's rocking a bright and vibrant 13.3-inch display with a 2560x1600 resolution, so it's bigger with a bit more real estate. However, the pixels aren't packed quite as tight at 227ppi, and of course you can tap the display all day long to no effect, other than potentially ruining the screen. Plus there's no stylus support.</p><p> Given that the resolutions between the two are similar, the Surface Pro 4 takes the edge by virtue of touch support.</p><p> <strong>Winner: Surface Pro 4</strong></p><h3>Price</h3><p> The Surface Pro 4 starts at $899, though you need to add $130 for a Type Cover if you want the laptop experience (at least as Microsoft intended it -- you could also plug in a $10 plank from KMart). That brings the true cost of entry to $1,029, which again only applies if you want a full fledged laptop experience.</p><p> On the high end, you could shell out as much as $2,699, or $2,829 with Type Cover, for a configuration that includes an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. That's pretty expensive for a tablet-turned-laptop.</p><p> The 13-inch MacBook ranges in price from $1,299 on the low end to $2,699 on top end, which includes an Intel dual-core Core i7 processor clocked at 3.1GHz, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, plus a keyboard.</p><p> Not taking into account value (both subjective and objective), the Surface Pro 4 wins at the low end with a lower cost of entry, while the MacBook Pro wins at high end with a slightly cheaper price tag for a decked out model.</p><p> This is sure to stir up controversy, but we're still giving the win to the Surface Pro 4. Why? Simply put, the price difference at the top end ($2,829 versus $2,699) is less meaningful than it is when evaluating the cost of entry, as some buyers may find the MacBook's starting price of $1,299 cost prohibitive.</p><p> <strong>Winner: Surface Pro 4 (by a hair)</strong></p><p>On paper, the Surface Pro 4 stacks up nicely against the MacBook Pro, provided you want a hybrid tablet/laptop form factor. However, there are still several unknowns, such as how it will actually perform, what typing on the Type Cover will feel like, and what battery life will be. We assume these will all be an improvement over (or at least on par with) the Surface Pro 3, but we won't know for sure until we get a chance to test one out.</p><p>Based on what you know so far, what's your opinion on the Surface Pro 4 and/or the Surface line in general? Are you sold on Microsoft's hybrid strategy, or do you prefer a traditional laptop, MacBook or otherwise?<br><strong></strong></p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Maximum PC and PC Gamer Chat About Oculus Campbell and Wes Fenlon chat about Oculus ConnectTue, 06 Oct 2015 20:18:32 +0000 riftoculus touchvirtual reality <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe><p> In September,&nbsp;Maximum PC's Alex Campbell and PC Gamer's Wes Fenlon went down to Los Angeles to attend&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Oculus Connect 2</a>. They got to try a bunch of demos and chat with developers at the event, which is mainly geared toward developers.</p><p> Alex and Wes tried out the Samsung&nbsp;Gear VR and Oculus Touch while at the event. In this video, they discuss what they got from the event, as well as what they thought of Medium, Oculus's "paint program for VR."&nbsp;</p><p> The Gear VR, while not as sharp as the Rift, is still an impressive device. It will retail for $100 and be available in November. You'll need a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, or Note 5 to use the Gear VR. There's no official date for the Rift release yet, but it's slated to go on sale sometime in the the first quarter of 2016. Oculus Touch will follow in the second quarter.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Three Mushkin Enhanced Eco2 120GB SSDs, Dell 23.8-Inch Monitor, and More!'s only a crowd if you don't know how to configure storage devices in RAID, otherwise the more the merrier! And if that's what you're looking to do, then check out today's top deal.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:07:19 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mushkin Enhanced Eco2 120GB SSDs"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Three's only a crowd if you don't know how to configure storage devices in RAID, otherwise the more the merrier! And if that's what you're looking to do, then check out today's top deal for not one, but <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-Combo2507852-_-1006&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">THREE Mushkin Enhanced Eco2 120GB Solid State Drives</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $150). These drives are rated to read data at up 550MB/s and write data at up to 530MB/s. Outside of RAID, this is a cheap way to upgrade the storage on&nbsp; three machines that are still lugging around mechanical hard drives.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-HEADSET-N82E16879459034-_-1006&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Turtle Beach Ear Force PX4 Gaming Headset for PlayStation 4</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAT92</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260149-_-1006&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell 23.8-inch 8ms (GTG) Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS 250 cd/m2 1,000:1</a> for <strong>$180</strong> with free shipping (normally $216)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16874103512-_-1006&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Microsoft Xbox One Covert Forces Controller - 3.5mm Stereo Headset</a> for <strong>$45</strong> with $4 shipping (normally $65 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAT88</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16868110174-_-1006&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">PlayStation 4 Console - Destiny: The Taken King Limited Edition Bundle</a> for <strong>$400</strong> with $8 shipping (normally $450; Get FF Type-0 w/ purchase, limited offer)</p> Here's What You'll Need to Run Star Wars: Battlefront Arts and Dice release the minimum and recommended system requirements for Battlefront.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:51:37 +0000 <h3>Prepare your PC</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Star Wars Battlefront"></p><p> The beta period for Star Wars: Battlefront is about ready to get underway. In just two days, Electronic Arts will launch the title in beta form, and in anticipation of that, the <a href="" target="_blank">publisher revealed</a> what the game's minimum and recommended system requirements are.</p><p> Here's a look at the bare minimum you'll need to play Battlefront:</p><ul> <li>OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or later</li> <li>Processor (Intel): Intel i3 6300T or equivalent</li> <li>Memory: 8GB RAM</li> <li>Hard Drive: At least 40 GB of free space</li> <li>Graphics card (Nvidia): Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB</li> <li>Graphics card (ATI): AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB</li> <li>DirectX: 11.0 Compatible video card or equivalent</li> <li>Online Connection Requirements: 512 KBPS or faster Internet connection</li></ul><p> For a smoother game play experience and/or for enough headroom to crank up some of the visual quality settings, here's what EA recommends:</p><ul> <li>OS: 64-bit Windows 10 or later</li> <li>Processor (Intel): Intel i5 6600 or equivalent</li> <li>Memory: 16GB RAM</li> <li>Hard Drive: At least 40 GB of free space</li> <li>Graphics card (NVIDIA): Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB</li> <li>Graphics card (AMD): AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB</li> <li>DirectX: 11.1 Compatible video card or equivalent</li> <li>Online Connection Requirements: 512 KBPS or faster Internet connection</li></ul><p> The beta will include three playable modes spread across three planets. They include Walker Assault on Hoth, Drop Zone on Sullust, and Survival Mission on Tatooine.</p><p> DICE is capping level progression to level five. Once you reach the level cap, you'll no longer to able to reach higher levels, however you'll still be able to unlock items. Unfortunately, any stats you build up during the beta period will not be transferred to the final game.</p><p> Battlefront will exit beta and release in final form on November 17, 2015.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Announces Lumia 950 Phones That Work Like a PC, Band 2 Wearable addition to a new Surface Pro tablet and laptop, and Microsoft unveiled two Lumia handsets an a second generation fitness band today.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:28:42 +0000 <h3>A better Windows Phone</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lumia Continuum"></p><p> Little by little, we're seeing Microsoft flesh out its Windows 10 strategy. A key component of that is executing on mobile, and from what we've seen of Microsoft's newly announced Lumia 950 and 950 XL devices, the company is on the right track.</p><p> The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are the first Lumia devices to run Windows 10. They're also the newest premium handsets from Microsoft -- as previously rumored, these are flagship phones.</p><p> Microsoft equipped the Lumia 950 with a hexa-core processor while the Lumia 950 XL features an octa-core chip, both provided by Qualcomm (Snapdragon 808 and 810, respectively). Both phones also have 32GB of built-in storage and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity,&nbsp;</p><p> The smaller of the two has a 5.2-inch Quad HD (2560x1440) AMOLED display, while the bigger handset wields a 5.7-inch screen with the same resolution. Both also have a 20MP rear camera with ZEISS optics and a triple LED flash that Microsoft says will help capture natural tones. Selfies and video conferencing chores are handled by a 5MP shooter.</p><p> Specs aside, it was the Display Dock and Windows Continuum feature that was exciting to watch. With a Lumia device connected to the dock and the dock connected to a monitor, Microsoft demonstrated how a user can get desktop-like productivity from their smartphone.</p><p> Whether it was typing in Word or transferring photos to a PowerPoint presentation in the making, everything worked smoothly. What's also neat about Continuum is that you can continue to use the Lumia handset as a regular smartphone while maintaining a Windows 10-like desktop interface on the monitor. With Continuum, the phones aren't running a full version of Windows 10, but universal Windows Store apps.</p><p> The dock has three USB ports, including a USB Type-C port, along with HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity.</p><p> Microsoft will release the Lumia 950 ($549) and Lumia 950 XL ($649) in November. There was also a brief mention of a Lumia 550 ($139), a cheap handset with a 4.7-inch 720p display, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, and LTE support. It won't support Continuum.</p><h3>Microsoft Band 2</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Band 2"></p><p> Microsoft also announced a second generation fitness wearable, the Microsoft Band 2. It has the same sensors as the original plus the addition of a barometer for tracking elevation (think: stair climbing).</p><p> Gone is the flat display of the original replaced by a curved screen with Gorilla Glass 3. The new Band is also flexible, as Microsoft put an increased focus on comfort this time around.</p><p> Another new feature to the Band 2 is Cortana integration. Using Cortana, you can reply to texts or set reminders (among other things) with the touch of a button.</p><p> Coinciding with the second generation Band is Microsoft Health, which is available as a universal Windows app, dedicated app for iOS and Android devices, and as a web dashboard. Using the app, Band 2 owners can set various health and wellness goals and receive actionable insights, Microsoft says.</p><p> The Microsoft Band 2 will be available to pre-order today for $249 and ship on October 30.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Laptop Highlight Microsoft's Hardware Event unveiled a new Surface Pro model and its first true laptop.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:37:00 +0000 <h3>Choose your weapon, mobile road warriors</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro 4"></p><p> Microsoft has long pitched its Surface Pro as a tablet that can replace your laptop and that's still the case with its Surface Pro 4 introduced today. At the same time, for users interested in strictly a notebook form factor, Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Book, its first laptop.</p><p> Starting with the Surface Pro 4,it's the thinnest and lightest Surface to date at just 8.4mm thin. It also boasts a 12.3-inch PixelSense display with 6th Generation Intel Core m, Core i5, an Core i7 processor options. Despite the slight increase in screen size, the Surface Pro 4 still features the same overall footprint as the Surface Pro 3 so it's compatible with existing keyboard accessories.</p><p> From a performance standpoint, Microsoft says the Surface Pro 4 is 30 percent faster than its predecessor. If you want to compare it to Apple's MacBook Air, which Microsoft's Panos Panay was careful not to disparage, the Surface Pro 4 is supposedly 50 percent faster.</p><p> Surface Pro 4 will offer up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage space. It will be available to pre-order today starting at $899.</p><h3>Surface Book</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Surface Book"></p><p> The biggest surprise of Microsoft's hardware event was the introduction of the Surface Book. Pegged as a Surface device in a laptop form factor, the Surface Book is Microsoft's first true laptop built in-house.</p><p> It's a little bigger than the Surface Pro 4 with a 13.5-inch optically bonded display with a pixel density of 276ppi. Inside the Surface Book is an Intel Skylake processor, a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GPU with GDDR5 memory, and solid state storage that connects through the PCI Express bus. That's a potent foundation and the reason why Microsoft claims the Surface Book is the "fastest 13-inch laptop anywhere on the planet."</p><p> Just as the Surface Pro is a tablet that can replace your laptop, the opposite is true of the Surface Book -- it's a laptop that can replace your tablet (Microsoft isn't pitching it as such). To that end, it sports a detachable keyboard. The Nvidia GPU is actually inside the keyboard dock, so when you detach the display, the Surface Book switches to Intel's integrated graphics.</p><p> What if you want the power of a discrete GPU in tablet form? You can keep the keyboard attached and bend the display backwards. Using a "dynamic fulcrum hinge," the Surface Book is able to bend at different points, allowing users to push the screen back 360 degrees.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p> Some of the of the other features Microsoft mentioned include keyboard backlighting, 5-point multitouch glass trackpad, two USB 3.0 ports, SD card slot, and 12 hours of battery life.</p><p> The Surface Book will be available to pre-order today starting at $1,499 and will ship on October 26.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Ten Free Security Options for Windows 10 a look at 10 security suites you can use with your new Windows 10 OSTue, 06 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p>10 security software options for Windows 10</p><p>Now that Windows 10 is available to download and install, how are you going to protect your system from viruses and malware? Don’t rely on Windows 10 to keep all the nasties off your hard drive, even though it boasts superior security over previous versions. Instead, you might want to take a look at third-party antivirus and anti-malware solutions.</p><p>But they’re expensive, you say. Sure, but what will make your wallet cry even more is when your computer rejects anything you type on the keyboard because some hacker has managed to take possession of your desktop or laptop from afar. That would certainly suck.</p><p>Perhaps the best road to happiness is to download free antivirus and anti-malware software, as we’ve listed below, and give them a test run. If you like what you see, then you can consider keeping the free installation, or making an upgrade to premium versions. Again, what will cost more, the software or getting your identity back?</p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ad Aware Free"></p><p>Developed by Lavasoft, this free security suite includes antivirus and anti-malware protection that detects and neutralizes threats in real time, not when you perform a manual scan. This suite also provides download protection, safe browsing, and a game mode, the latter of which will allow the software to remain active but stay silent while you're playing a game. Some of the features available in premium offerings and not in the free model include external storage scan, parental controls, real-time email protection, a file shredder, and more.</p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Avast Free Antivirus</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Avast"></p><p>Avast boasts that its free antivirus product is the best solution worldwide, with more than 230 million consumers using the software. The big selling point is that Avast’s software protects the devices on the home network as well, including wireless devices and routers. According to a comparison of Avast’s three products, the free edition will scan the network for “weak spots” and rid the user’s browser of annoying add-ons. Features that are only offered in the premium versions include anti-spam protection, a silent firewall, and automatic patching of security holes.</p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">AVG AntiVirus Free</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AVG Free"></p><p>The big selling point for AVG’s free antivirus suite is that users can get protection on Widows-based, Mac, and Android devices. In addition to antivirus and anti-spyware protection, the free AVG software allows the user to see all devices on a single dashboard, aka AVG Zen. There’s also remote protection, meaning users can scan and remove viruses on a PC from a mobile device, email protection and link protection. Some of the features found only in the “Pro” offering is an enhanced firewall, anti-spam, protecting private files, downloaded file scanning, and priority updates.</p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Avira Free Antivirus</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Avira"></p><p>Avira claims that its antivirus solution is the best in town. The list of features include an antivirus scanner and real-time protection and blocking harmful files from disrupting the operating system before they become a damaging threat. The software also blocks malicious applications hidden within legitimate software, blocks harmful websites before they even load in the browser, and prevents ad networks from seeing what you actually do online. In addition to the free software, Avira also provides a “Pro” version that includes technical support, secure online shopping, email scanning, and safer downloading. The company also has an Internet Security suite and the Ultimate Protection Suite, which is jammed packed with more features and tools.</p><h5><a href="" style="font-weight: bold;" target="_blank">Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition</a></h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Bitdefender"></p><p>This software is difficult to find on the Bitdefender website, located at the very bottom of the main page as a link listed under “Tools &amp; Resources.” The company states that the antivirus tool is the best solution for gamers, as it pauses system scans until you exit out of a PC game. The software is also for both “rookies and techies,” as it’s easy to install and supposedly maintenance-free. Features include HTTP scanning, a real-time “shield,” and a rootkit scanner. There’s also a “B-Have” tool that will quarantine anything that looks suspicious before it’s loaded by the user. In other words, the software scans programs before they can be launched. “Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition uses an intelligent mechanism that can automatically take the optimum decisions to provide ironclad security without slowing down your computer,” the website promises.</p><h5><strong><strong><a href=";key5sk1=89075363b76e3f14861046814ba6040ff1e2f165&amp;key5sk0=6625" target="_blank">Comodo Free Antivirus, Internet Security</a></strong></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Comodo"></p><p>Comodo actually provides two free software solutions: Internet Security Premium and Antivirus 2015. The difference between the two is that the Internet Security Premium software includes a firewall while the other Antivirus 2015 program does not. Otherwise, you’ll find your standard features in both solutions such as antivirus protection and anti-spyware protection. They also have what Comodo calls cloud-aware security, as they provide an instant cloud behavior analysis, instant cloud scanning, and instant cloud whitelist checking. As for infection defense, the list is long and includes crash resistance protection, malware bypass protection, buffer overflow protection, and loads more. Comodo’s premium software includes unlimited live expert virus cleaning, unlimited live expert virus scanning, and a virus-free guarantee. </p><h5><strong style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="" target="_blank">Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Malwarebytes"></p><p>The free offering from Malwarebytes claims to find what an antivirus solution will miss. This solution, which can be used along with antivirus products, will also remove rootkits and repair the damaged files. Malwarebytes also boasts advanced malware removal, stating that the company “employs industry-leading technology to completely remove malware code.” Of course, if you need more than what the free software has to offer, the company also provides a Premium version that’s feature-packed. For example, the software can block malicious websites, provide real-time protection, and uses a special driver so that malware can’t terminate the program or “modify its processes.” The Premium software also has a “hyper” scan mode, a scan/database update scheduler, and more. This Premium version costs $25 and has a 14-day free trial. </p><h5><strong style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="" target="_blank">Panda Free Antivirus 2016</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Panda Antivirus"></p><p>The big “selling point” for Panda’s latest free antivirus product is that it’s extremely light. According to the company, users won’t even notice that the software is running in the background. Even more, all the work is done in the cloud, the company insists, adding that the its latest release is the company’s best solution to date. That said, the software provides antivirus protection for the Windows platform and comes with standard customer support. Naturally, you really don’t see a lot of features until you compare it to the Pro, Internet Security 2016, and Global Protection 2016 versions. For instance, the $44 Pro release adds Wi-Fi protection on its features list as well as an iPhone location service, antivirus for Android, antitheft for Android, device optimization, standard technical support, and multi-device coverage. Of course, the Internet Security 2016 version has even more features for $55, while the Global Protection 2016 has everything Panda has to offer for $77.</p><h5><strong style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="" target="_blank">Spybot – Search &amp; Destroy</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Spybot Search &amp; Destroy"></p><p>This malware-detection solution has been around since 2000, originally developed by German software engineer Patrick Michael Kolla and later picked up by Safer Networking Ltd. The free version scans for malware, spyware, and adware, and removes the menacing software free of charge. Spybot also provides startup tools, blocks known malicious websites, and protects the user from unlisted malicious websites and cookies by providing a proxy. The Home and Professional editions have more features under the hood, including full antivirus protection, live protection, a protected repair environment, support for multi-core processors, and even multiple updates per day. Honestly, Spybot should be added to any system whether they have antivirus protection or not, as Spybot is great for revealing obscure cookies, malware, and more.</p><h5><strong style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="" target="_blank">ZoneAlarm Free Firewall</a></strong><br> </h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Zonealarm"></p><p>For people who are looking to replace Windows Firewall on their system and don’t have any worries about viruses and malware, ZoneAlarm’s free firewall should be an ideal solution. Designed for home users, the free version is “basic protection for when you’re in a hurry.” However, Zone Labs doesn’t provide any details regarding the free software, but instead focuses on the revenue-generating premium versions. ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus &amp; Firewall includes not only the base firewall, but an antivirus and anti-malware engine, real-time antivirus protection, browser protection, and identity protection, for $45 per year. The Extreme Security model adds even more features, such as anti-keylogging, anti-spam, parental controls, PC tune-up, threat emulation, and the means to find a lost laptop. The cost for the Extreme Security version is $70 per year.</p><p>Again, we’re not trying to cram software down your throat, but to provide a glimpse of what’s available to protect your desktop, laptop and mobile devices. Some of the solutions listed here are expensive, but the cost may be worth the pain in the wallet. Naturally, there are bigger dogs out there like Symantec and Norton that provides excellent antivirus software, but we instead focused on the freebies first and their premium offerings second.</p> Dell's Oculus-Certified PCs Will Have Radeon GPUs Radeon GPUs will be inside Dell-based "Oculus-Ready" PCs.Tue, 06 Oct 2015 00:52:33 +0000 riftoculus vr <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Graphics"></p><p>Head over Oculus VR’s “<a href="" target="_blank">Oculus-Ready PCs</a>” page and you’ll see three manufacturers listed at the bottom: Alienware, Asus and Dell. Asus will have the cheapest starting price of the trio, costing $949 while the other two will have starting prices of $999. Asus also provides additional information as does Alienware while Dell says more information will be “coming soon.”</p><p>However, thanks to an announcement by AMD, we now have a hint of what’s to come from Dell. Basically the chip company said that it has partnered with Oculus and Dell to equip the PC maker’s Oculus Ready line with Radeon GPUs. The VR experience will be backed by AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture and <a href="" target="_blank">LiquidVR technology</a>, which was introduced back in March. </p><p>"It's an exciting time to be at the heart of all things Virtual Reality," said Roy Taylor, corporate vice president, Alliances and Content, AMD. "I'm confident that with Dell and Alienware, we can enable a wide audience of PC users with extraordinary VR capabilities powered by AMD Radeon GPUs."</p><p>As we’ve already seen on the Oculus Ready PCs page, the recommended system requirements reveal that in order to have the optimal experience with the Oculus Rift headset, the GPU will need to be an AMD Radeon 290 or better, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or better, or an equivalent GPU. The ideal PC will also need 8GB or RAM or more, an Intel Core i5-4590 equivalent or better, HDMI 1.3 video output, two USB 3.0 ports and Windows 7 SP1 or newer.</p><p>As for AMD’s LiquidVR technology, <a href="" target="_blank">the company revealed this software</a> at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. LiquidVR is actually a “set” of technologies including Async Shaders and the latest data latch mechanism for smooth head tracking, direct-to-display tech for “intuitively” attaching VR headsets, and multi-GPU support for scalable rendering. </p><p>With LiquidVR, AMD is pushing to reduce motion-to-photon latency so that users have more of a believable presence within the virtual world. Reducing this latency also makes the user feel more comfortable and lowers the motion sickness that can occur when “moving” around in a virtual environment.</p><p>“Reducing latency involves the entire processing pipeline, from the GPU, to the application, to the display technology in the headset,” AMD explains. “AMD GPU software and hardware subsystems are a major part of improving that latency equation, and with LiquidVR, AMD is helping to solve the challenge by bringing smooth, liquid-like motion and responsiveness to developers and content creators for life-like presence in VR environments powered by AMD hardware.” </p><p>Slated to arrive in Q1 2016, the Oculus Rift is expected to cost more than $350 for the consumer version. That’s a bit more than what the developers paid for the first two SDKs. Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey said that the added cost is due to the extra technology the consumer version has compared to the older DK1 and DK2 kits.</p><p>“The Rift is a lot of custom hardware,” <a href="" target="_blank">he told Road to VR</a>. “It’s using lenses that are some of the hardest to manufacture lenses in any consumer product you can go out and buy. It’s using custom displays we worked on with Samsung that are optimized for virtual reality.”</p><p>That said, consumers wanting the ideal VR experience may end up shelling out $1400 or more if they haven’t purchased a compatible PC already.&nbsp;</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Asus Core i5 Laptop, Acer 27-Inch Monitor, and More! to pick up a low cost notebook that doesn't suck? Good news, you have options, and they don't involve putting the words "Chrome" and "book" together. Not that we're hating on Chromebooks -- they're fine for their intended purpose. However, even the best Chromebook models won't be able to keep up with today's top deal.Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:41:54 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Laptop"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Looking to pick up a low cost notebook that doesn't suck? Good news, you have options, and they don't involve putting the words "Chrome" and "book" together. Not that we're hating on Chromebooks -- they're fine for their intended purpose. However, even the best Chromebook models won't be able to keep up with today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-LaptopHD-N82E16834232794-_-1005&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">15.6-inch Asus Core i5-5200U Laptop</a> for $385 with free shipping (normally $500). This Broadwell-based laptop features 4GB of RAM, 500GB of HDD storage, a DVD burner, and Windows 10 Home 64-bit.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-ssd-N82E16820147362-_-1005&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro 2.5-inch 1TB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$410</strong> with free shipping (normally $470 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAS26</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822152424-_-1005&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung D3 Station 6TB USB 3.0 3.5-inch Desktop External Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$185</strong> with free shipping (normally $195)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824009735-_-1005&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Acer G277HL Black 27-inch 4ms HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS 250 cd/m2 ACM 100,000,000:1 (1000:1)</a> for <strong>$170</strong> with free shipping (normally $180 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAS29</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236625-_-1005&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Black Series 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5 inch Internal Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$65</strong> with free shipping (normally $70 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCKAAS24</strong>])</p> GameStop Stores to Carry Steam Machines in Dedicated Steam Sections, GAME UK, and EB Games (Canada) will all carry Steam Machines and related hardware in dedicated sections.Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:16:08 +0000 machinesValve <h3>Invading the retail space</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gamestop"></p><p> It seems like we've talking about Steam Machines for 100 years or so (it's actually been closer to 2 years, which in all fairness is roughly the equivalent of 100 in technology years), and come next month, official Steam hardware devices will finally launch. This is really happening, and it won't be exclusive to online sales.</p><p> GameStop locations in the U.S. along with GAME UK and EB Games in Canada will all have dedicated sections in their brick-and-mortar stores, Valve announced today. These section will feature official Steam Machines, Steam Controllers, Steam Link devices, and a variety of prepaid Steam cards.</p><p> "GameStop, GAME UK, and EB Games are leading retail destinations for core gamers and early adopters," said Gabe Newell of Valve. "Creating a 'store within a store' across North America and the UK is a significant win for getting the first generation of Steam Hardware products into gamers' hands."</p><p> The aforementioned stores will serve as the exclusive non-digital retailers of Steam hardware through the holiday season. It's not clear if Valve will allow other retailers like Best Buy and Walmart to carry Steam hardware once the holiday season is in the rear view mirror.</p><p> There's been a lot of demand for official Steam Machines and other console-like PCs. First announced in 2013, Valve ended up delaying the launch of official Steam Machines so that it could tweak the controller and fine tune its Linux-based Steam OS. That decision caused OEMs to release console-sized PCs running Windows, some of which have proved popular.</p><p> More recently, Valve and its hardware partners began <a href="">taking pre-orders</a> for select Steam Machines starting at $449, along with related hardware. Valve's $100 Steam Link accessory is particularly intriguing because it allows gamers to stream their libraries of Steam games from their PC to their TV.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Watch Microsoft Unveil Surface Pro 4 and Other Hardware on Tuesday will live stream its hardware event tomorrow.Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:49:27 +0000 <h3>Swimming in a live-stream</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Live Stream"></p><p> Microsoft is planning to unveil new hardware during a <a href="">special press event</a> tomorrow in New York City, though you won't have to attend in person to see it go down. Instead, you can sit at home in your skivvies and watch the announcements through a live-stream.</p><p> The event kicks off at 10 AM Eastern. You can <a href="" target="_blank">bookmark this link</a> to watch it and see what "exciting news" Microsoft has "to share about Windows 10 devices." Rumor has it Microsoft will unveil a <a href="">Surface Pro 4 tablet</a>, new flagship Lumia handsets, and a second generation fitness wearable (Microsoft Band 2).</p><p> Microsoft's next Surface device will see a new field of contenders that include Apple with its recently announced <a href="">12.9-inch iPad Pro</a> and Google with its 10.1-inch Pixel C. All three should be available to purchase in time for the holiday shopping season.</p><p> As for the second generation fitness wearable, <a href="">leaked images</a> purporting to be press renderings show a redesigned Band with a curved display, metal accents, and physical buttons on the side. The current Band features a flat display on top with no metal accents and can be found on sale for just $100.</p><p> If you don't care about having the latest and greatest hardware, now is a good time to shop. In addition to half-price Microsoft Bands, the Surface Pro 3 family is on sale in the Microsoft Store, presumably to clear out old inventory and make room for the new.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Patriot Chases Speed Junkies with Viper 4 DDR4-3600 Memory Kit's new Viper 4 3600MHz dual-channel DDR4 memory kit is 200MHz faster than the 3400MHz kit it unveiled a month ago.Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:52:51 +0000 <h3>Breaking the speed limit</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Patriot Viper 4 DDR4"></p><p> At the beginning of September, Patriot Memory announced a dual-channel Viper 4 memory kit rated to run at 3400MHz. At the time it was the fastest speed Patriot offered, though that was before the launch of its new 3600MHz RAM.</p><p> Patriot's new dual-channel kit is also part of the DDR4 Viper 4 series intended for Intel Skylake builds.&nbsp;The 200MHz speed increase comes with only slightly looser timings at 17-18-18-36 versus 16-18-18-36 for the 3400MHz kit, which is partially the result of Patriot's binning process.</p><p> "Our Viper 4 Line continues to reach new heights with our latest launch of the new 3600MHz kit paired with the new Intel Skylake Platform." Said Les Henry, VP of Engineering at Patriot. "We will continue to prescreen each IC prior to building the modules to ensure stability and provide unsurpassed performance to our customers."</p><p> At present there's only one 3600MHz kit in the Viper 4 series, that being an <a href="" target="_blank">8GB kit</a> consisting of two 4GB modules (there are 16GB and 8GB kits of 3400MHz available). Like the other Viper 4 memory kits, these modules are hand tested and backed by a lifetime warranty.</p><p> Patriot didn't say when the 3600MHz Viper 4 kit will be available or for how much, though as a point of reference, the 8GB 3400MHz kit streets for around $120.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Hard Drive vs. SSD Performance know hard drives are slow at random accesses, but here’s what a relatively modern drive looks like in our SSD test suiteMon, 05 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <h3> HDD performance in a nutshell</h3><p> Last week, we posted our <a target="_blank" href="">new SSD test suite</a> with some initial results. We included a few references to hard drive performance, and at the time that seemed sufficient, but let’s really put the hard drive vs. solid state performance debate to rest. We all know SSDs are faster, particularly at random accesses; hard drives, in contrast, offer massive amounts of storage at bottom-basement prices. For archiving large files and backups, hard drives can be great, and they’ve been around so long that they’re a proven technology. That doesn’t mean they don’t fail on occasion, but recovering data from a HDD (via a recovery service) tends to be about half to one-fourth the cost of recovering data from a failed SSD. You’ve all got a backup strategy in place, right? Good. Moving on&hellip;.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Seagate 3TB HDD (1) - Final"><br> <strong> <em>The venerable hard disk drive, or HDD, in 3TB capacity, circa 2012.</em></strong></p><p> Even the worst of modern SSDs tend to smoke HDDs when it comes to performance metrics. And over time, HDDs are still prone to file fragmentation, which is why that well-worn copy of Windows 7 running off an HDD can take several minutes to boot up after a few years of use. Many people still use HDDs, however, probably in large part because they simply don’t know any better. So here's your chance: The next time someone asks you why they need to pay more money to get an SSD, point them at this article.</p><p> For the tests today, we’ve got the same collection of SSDs used in our <a target="_blank" href="">OCZ Trion 100 480GB review</a>. The Trion costs just $0.33 per GB&mdash;and <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443806062&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+trion+960gb">the 960GB model</a> goes even lower at less than $0.32 per GB&mdash;but neither one can hope to match the price of HDD storage. Our Seagate 3TB drive, for example, costs just $0.03 per GB. Yes, that’s a full order of magnitude more expensive (per GB).</p><p> Now, we don’t like to beat dead horses, but as we noted in the review, the Trion 100 just isn’t worth the asking price, considering faster SSDs can be had for roughly the same price. But this does bring up an interesting point: If the Trion 100 is the slowest “modern” SSD we’ve tested, how does it fare against a decent HDD? To settle the matter, we ran our storage suite on a <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443806169&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=seagate+3tb">Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB</a> drive. Let’s not mince words: Some of the tests are painfully slow to run. It was so bad that on the random IO testing with AS SSD, we dropped back to a 1GB test instead of 10GB, and it still took over ten times as long to finish the test. There’s that order of magnitude business again; it’s likely to be a common refrain.</p><p> Our storage test bed consists of a modern <a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a> processor in a Z170 motherboard. It doesn’t really affect performance with a hard drive, but we’re keeping things consistent. Here’s our test bed, and then we’ll get to the results of our testing.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4–4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">ASUS Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Intel HD Graphics 530 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564735&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=corsair+neutron+xt+480gb">Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443724200&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Intel+SSD+520+240GB+SATA">Intel SSD 520 240GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 1.2TB NVMe PCIe x4</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564714&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+trion+100+480gb">OCZ Trion 100 480GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564621&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+vector+180+960gb">OCZ Vector 180 960GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID0 <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868461&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+1tb">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443468203&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=sm951">Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB M.2</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443208170&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Seagate+ST3000DM001">Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA HDD</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><h4>Orders of magnitude, in charts</h4><p> Our benchmarks include a mix of real-world and synthetic testing. We normally run each test multiple times, though we admit that on the HDD we just took the results of a single run for the lengthier tests. Here are the results, with the HDD highlighted in all the charts.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="1 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD Seq Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="2 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD Seq Write"></p><p> The AS SSD Sequential testing gives us the best-case pure transfer performance. This is as good as it gets for both hard drives and solid state drives. Note also that the hard drive (and SSDs) is basically empty at the time of testing; if it were full of fragmented files, performance on the HDD could be substantially lower. The same is only partially true for SSDs; some can get in a degraded performance state after lots of use, but TRIM and other features will keep a modern SSD much closer to “like new” performance. (Note that the SSDs have at least had a full drive’s worth of writes, however, so we’re not showing absolute best-case SSD performance.)</p><p> If you look at the sequential transfer rates, hard drives don’t look so bad. Sure, a slow SSD is typically twice as fast, but you could live with that, right? Meanwhile, a modern NVMe drive boasts a 10X performance increase, but we’re talking about a $90 3TB HDD vs. a $1050 1.2TB SSD&mdash;$0.03 per GB vs. $0.87 per GB means it’s also 30X as expensive. Interestingly, the Intel SSD 750 “only” costs 3X as much per GB as the OCZ Trion 100 and other inexpensive SSDs, so if you do lots of sequential transfers you don’t even get diminishing returns. It’s also worth pointing out that write performance on the Trion 100 tends to start high, at over 350MB/s, but over the length of the test sequence the transfer rate steadily declines. For bursty workloads, the Trion actually fares much better; it’s just sustained writes where it starts to struggle.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="3 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="4 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Write"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="5 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD QD64 Random Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="6 HDD vs SSD Performance - AS SSD QD64 Random Write"></p><p> Moving over to AS SSD’s Random testing, suddenly the problem with HDDs becomes strikingly obvious. The slowest SSD in our charts is over 40x as fast as the HDD in read performance, and over 60x faster in write performance&hellip; and that’s at a queue depth of one. SSDs shine when they have more stuff going on, and at QD64 the SSDs are 250x to 1,150x (that’s over <em style="background-color: initial;">three</em> orders of magnitude!) faster at reads, and 125x to 1,150x faster at writes. Suddenly, that 30x advantage in price per GB that the HDD holds doesn’t look quite so compelling, does it?</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="8 HDD vs SSD Performance - IOmeter Mixed Sequential"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="9 HDD vs SSD Performance - IOmeter Mixed Random"></p><p> We use IOmeter as a second test of theoretical read/write performance for sequential and random workloads, the difference being that we mix the reads and writes and take the geometric mean of the five mixes. The mixing of reads and writes has a clear impact on all the drives, though it’s most pronounced on the HDD and less on the SSDs. Sequential read/write speeds are pretty similar to the pure write speeds shown in AS SSD on several of the drives, though the OCZ Trion and Intel SSD 750 both perform better in the IOmeter write testing.</p><p> The mixed random read/write, on the other hand, continues to separate the contenders from the pretenders, and the HDD can only look on in wonder. If you’re still running a hard drive for your OS, this is a great illustration of why a system with an SSD can boot the OS in under 15 seconds, while you might end up waiting several minutes for a hard drive to become fully ready for use. Windows will load all sorts of drivers and kernel files, and the access pattern ends up looking more random than sequential in many cases. The differences become a bit less pronounced once things settle down&mdash;assuming that you have sufficient system RAM, of course&mdash;but even mediocre SSDs will easily beat the fastest HDDs.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="7 HDD vs SSD Performance - File Copy 20GB"></p><p> We’ve covered mostly theoretical testing so far, but what does this mean in the “real world”? We’ll start with a file copy test, creating a clone of just shy of 20GB of data (the contents of our Steam <em style="background-color: initial;">Batman: Arkham Origins</em> folder). This provides a split workload of 50/50 reads/writes, though the use of PowerShell tends to deliver results closer to sequential performance than random IO. (Interestingly, doing the file copy within Windows Explorer tends to be about 10–15 percent slower than using PowerShell.) We’re back to the slower SSDs only being twice as fast as a clean hard drive, while the fastest NVMe drives are nearly an order of magnitude faster; a moderately fragmented HDD would only make matters worse.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="10 HDD vs SSD Performance - PCMark8 Storage Score"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="11 HDD vs SSD Performance - PCMark8 Storage Bandwidth"></p><p> Last up is PCMark 8’s Storage test. The overall score shows less than a 2x difference between HDDs and SSDs, which makes sense: Over the course of a day using your computer, having an SSD won’t usually make you twice as efficient. Certain tasks will go <em style="background-color: initial;">much</em> faster with the SSD, but for office work, most of the time the PC is waiting on you&mdash;with or without an SSD. In contrast, the Bandwidth result focuses on the times when you’re waiting on the computer, specifically when you’re waiting for storage. It illustrates why systems with SSDs <em style="background-color: initial;">feel</em> so much faster: Those times where you’re waiting impatiently for the PC to boot your OS or load an application are what you notice the most.</p><h4>Stick a fork in the HDD</h4><p> There’s a saying: “Once you go SSD, you’ll never go back.” It’s absolutely true. Personally, I was fine with my HDD storage (on an old <a target="_blank" href="">Bloomfield system</a>, if you must know). I didn’t usually shut down the system at night (power bills be damned!), so it was right where I left it in the morning. About the most painful aspect was when I would occasionally need to restart Chrome, complete with my 20 or so active tabs&mdash;it might take 15–20 seconds before all of the tabs were finished loading. Basically, I didn’t really think I needed an SSD enough to warrant the expense. And then I got a decent-sized 120GB SandForce drive and suddenly I needed <em>lots</em> more SSD capacity. 240/256GB is typically enough, at least for my purposes, but 480/512GB is the sweet spot where you mostly stop worrying about how much free space is still available.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Seagate 3TB HDD (2) - Fork in HDD"></p><p> Several years later, prices on SSDs have fallen to the point where most enthusiasts won’t even touch a new PC without one. And as someone who routinely ends up troubleshooting computer problems for my family and friends, doing malware scans on hard drive–based PCs is pure torture. Scan. Reboot. Scan some more. Reboot some more. And speaking of malware, running an active anti-virus utility can often make a huge difference in how fast a PC feels, particularly if you’re using a hard drive; all those extra disk accesses to check for malicious files and such quickly add up. Switching to an SSD, again, provides a healthy improvement to the <em>feel</em> of any PC, even systems that go as far back as the Core 2 Duo days!</p><p> With the talk of <a target="_blank" href="">Intel and Micron’s XPoint Technology</a>, which claims 1,000x increases in endurance and performance, along with a 10x increase in capacity, we’re rapidly approaching the point where hard drives may finally stop showing up in most new systems. Similarly, Samsung’s increasingly dense V-NAND chips (and other vendor’s 3D NAND technology) promise better performance and data densities with reduced pricing. There will still be people that want/need several terabytes of storage (or more), and for archival/backup purposes HDDs are still great. But the days of the spinning disk are numbered. Considering the largest HDDs are currently sitting at 6GB, SSDs have already surpassed that limit and continue to grow&mdash;albeit with stratospheric pricing. Samsung, for example, showed off a <a target="_blank" href="">16TB 2.5-inch SSD</a> at the recent Flash Memory Summit.</p><p> We’re now at the point where a decent 250GB-class SSD can be had for well under $100. Sure, <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443213647&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=crucial+bx100+250gb">Crucial’s BX100</a> isn’t the fastest kid on the block, but it’s better than the Trion and priced to move. For those that don’t need more than 100–200GB of storage&mdash;and trust me, I’ve serviced <em>a lot</em> of PCs over the years where the HDD only had 50–100GB of data&mdash;such a drive should be a no-brainer. When we get to the point where a 500GB SSD costs around $80, only the pinchiest of penny-pinchers will continue to shun SSDs for their OS and applications. As far as we’re concerned, that day can’t come fast enough. Here’s hoping that 2016 proves to be the year that we cross the tipping point and start seeing SSDs on any new PC priced above $400.</p><p><em>Follow Jarred on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Netgear Expands ReadyNAS 200 Series has launched two new NAS units.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 21:03:45 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ReadyNAS 212 214"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Netgear on Thursday</a> expanded its ReadyNAS 200 Series of Network Attached Storage (NAS) products with the launch of two new units: the ReadyNAS 212 (<a href="" target="_blank">RN212</a>) and the ReadyNAS 214 (<a href="" target="_blank">RN214</a>). Both are ideal for the home and home office, packed with a quad-core ARM Cortex A15-based processor clocked at 1.4GHz and real-time 1080p high-definition video streaming and transcoding. Both are available to purchase now from online outlets such as Amazon, Fry’s and Newegg.</p><p>Sold with or without the hard drives installed, the 212 model provides two bays and supports up to 12TB of storage whereas the 214 model features four drive bays supporting up to 24TB of storage. Both units include 2GB of RAM, three USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA port, and built-in virus scanning. They also include two gigabit Ethernet ports that&nbsp;<a href="">support Link Aggregation</a>, meaning the two ports can work in parallel to offer more throughput.</p><p>According to the company, the two NAS units provide read speeds of up to 200MBps and write speeds of up to 160MBps when using a RAID mode. Additional features include a “professional-grade” BTRFS file system, media server capabilities with support for DLNA, iTunes and Plex, and “five levels of data protection” consisting of bit rot protection, snapshot technology, automatic backup, and more. There’s even Time Machine backup support for Mac customers and free mobile apps for accessing the NAS units from a smartphone or tablet.</p><p>One of the big selling points is the NAS units’ ReadyCLOUD service, which allows users to retrieve data from the storage unit no matter where they are and from nearly any device. “ReadyCLOUD for ReadyNAS 212 and 214 is the only personal cloud that embeds a VPN tunnel with zero-configuration setup while offering access, sharing and synchronization capabilities. You can easily sync folders between your ReadyNAS and PCs, and also benefit from Time Machine backup support for all the Macs in your home,” the company adds.</p><p>Is a NAS device right for your home or office? That’s a good question. Many consumers may be just fine using a single external drive to back up their data or share media with devices connected to the local network. However, NAS devices are ideal for those who wish to not only store large amounts of data (pictures, audio, video, etc), but to easily serve up this data in and out of the home or office.</p><p>Naturally, the larger the capacity the larger the hit will be to the wallet. NAS devices are great investments for long-time data storage, but they can get expensive. Netgear’s ReadyNAS 212 model without hard drives costs $330 whereas the ReadyNAS 214 model without drives costs $500. Apparently, the company will eventually sell these NAS units with hard drives installed, as the company lists configurations and “buy now” buttons that are currently grayed out.</p> Skype Translator Finally Out Of Beta Translator is now rolling out to Windows desktop users.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 21:00:22 +0000 desktop appsmicrosoftNewsSkype <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skype Translator"></p><p>Microsoft’s Skype team <a href="" target="_blank">stated on Thursday</a> that Skype Translator has come out of beta and is now rolling out to the Skype for Windows desktop app. Skype Translator aims to break down the walls of communication starting with six voice languages – English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, and Spanish – and 50 messaging languages.</p><p>“Since December 2014, when we released the Skype Translator preview app, hundreds of thousands of people have used the app and have given us instrumental feedback,” the team said in a blog on Thursday. “Thank you to everyone for this amazing input!”</p><p>The blog states that Skype Translator is powered by machine learning technology. The more it’s used, the smarter the technology becomes. The team said it saw big improvements in the language conversion as the beta testers used the app each day and will likely see loads of refinement as Skype Translator is dished out to a “broader” audience.</p><p>Microsoft provides a few examples in its report, stating&nbsp;that a PhD student enlisted in the beta “enhanced” his thesis research with the help of experts located in other countries. The company also says that a world traveler based out of Australia managed to find his way across a number of continents using the beta and translated “key phrases.” A shop owner uses Translator to purchase goods through Skype’s instant message service. </p><p>“It has been a long-time dream at Skype to break down language barriers and bring everyone across the globe closer together,” the Skype team adds. “Researchers, engineers, and many others across Microsoft have been working hard to make this dream a reality and we are looking forward to bringing this preview technology to more devices.”</p><p>Skype customers using the Windows desktop app will see the new feature within the next few weeks. They’ll know Translator is up and running when they see the associated icons located under the current Video Call and Call buttons. To see how Skype Translator is set up and used, check out the video below!</p><iframe width="500" height="281" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> Viewsonic VX2475 Smhl-4K Review’s a few inches between friends?Fri, 02 Oct 2015 20:58:35 +0000 monitorReviewReviewsviewsonic <div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">at a glance</h5><p><strong>(+) 4K</strong><br>Great panel; decent price; HDMI 2.0.</p><p><strong>(-) No Way</strong><br>Screen size too small for 4K; plasticky chassis; limited adjustment.</p></div><p><em>This article was published in the November 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories, <a target="_blank" href="">subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3>What’s a few inches between friends?</h3><p>This whole 4K thing is all about compromises right now. Forgetting the fact that running games at the mighty 3840x2160 native resolution of 4K monitors is incredibly demanding on your graphics hardware, just trying to find the right monitor in the first place can be incredibly tough.</p><p>The first 4K panel we checked out was a frighteningly expensive Asus 32-inch IGZO panel; great-looking but wallet-destroying. From there it was either weaker panel tech in TN trim for the larger screen sizes, or too-expensive IPS technology. Or you could compromise and go for a smaller screen space paired with a finer panel. This is the route Viewsonic has taken with its latest 4K monitor.</p><p>Matching Samsung’s PLS panel technology (IPS by any other name would smell as sweet&hellip;) with a 24-inch screen size means Viewsonic can offer lovelylooking image fidelity for around $400. In 4K terms, that’s a bit of a bargain.</p><p>Pretty much any other 4K panel you’d care to mention at that price will be resolutely TN. Not that today’s twisted nematic tech is as bad as the old days&mdash;both the color reproduction and viewing angles are much improved&mdash;but it’s still nowhere near the image quality you’ll get from a bona fide IPS screen. And the oh-so-similar PLS technology in this Viewsonic panel is top-end 8-bit style, so it’s rocking 16.7 million colors and full sRGB color depth.</p><p>The white reproduction on this screen then is pretty much immaculate, and the contrast levels typically excellent. As is the way with this sort of panel tech, however, the black levels aren’t quite up there with the depth you’d get from an MVA screen like the lovely and large Philips BDM4065UC. But when you’re talking about color reproduction and viewing angles, the Viewsonic’s got it. So, all is rosy then, right?</p><h5>The Scaling Situation</h5><p>If this monitor was just a little bit bigger&mdash;say, 27-inch&mdash;we’d be all over it. With a quality display, we’d say 27-inch is about the minimum screen size you can really get away with for a 4K monitor. And even that is pushing it. You don’t really get the same stunning effect that the extra pixel count has on image depth with a 27-inch panel that you do with something like that 40-inch Philips, let alone a 24-inch screen such as this Viewsonic.</p><p>At that size, you’re simply not getting the most out of the 4K resolution when we’re talking gaming. The incredible demands that native resolution makes upon your graphics card are only worth the GPU effort when you’re really getting to see the full benefit from the extra texture detail. And on the desktop, the native font on a 24-inch display is eyestraining, to say the least.</p><p>Windows 10 has of course improved its scaling efforts, but you’ll inevitably come across older software that simply doesn’t work with the new UI scaling boost. We use FRAPS in hardware testing almost constantly, and if you ever try running that classic app on a scaled desktop, you’ll see what we’re talking about.</p><p>With a $400 price tag, we can forgive it the flimsy, plasticky chassis. There’s no height adjustment or twisting here, this is a basic setup. Until you get to the inputs that is. Incongruously, this is the first panel we’ve had in the lab that rocks the new HDMI 2.0 interface, which will support the 4K resolution over HDMI at 60Hz for the first time, providing you’ve got a compatible GPU.</p><p>With just a few extra inches across the diagonal, we’d have a seriously impressive 4K package. Unfortunately, at 24 inches, the screen size is too small. It’s just too big a compromise.</p><p>$400, <a target="_blank" href=""></a></p><table><tbody><tr><td>Specifications</td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Screen Size</td><td>24-inch</td></tr><tr><td>Native Resolution</td><td>3840x2160</td></tr><tr><td>Panel Technology</td><td>PLS</td></tr><tr><td>Response Rate</td><td>2ms (GtG)</td></tr><tr><td>Connections</td><td>HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2a, MHL 2.0</td></tr></tbody></table> How To: Make IE 11 Your Default Browser, and More's how to make Internet Explorer your default Web browserFri, 02 Oct 2015 20:54:23 +0000 explorer 11microsoftNews <p>So, you want to use Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 10, but you’re not sure how to set it as the&nbsp;default browser. The first trick is to actually <em>find</em> the desktop program, which you can do by simply typing “Internet Explorer” in Cortana’s search field. After that, here are instructions on how to make it the default in Windows 10, how to clear the history, and how to clear the cache.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><h5><strong>Make Internet Explorer 11 your default browser:</strong></h5><p>1. Hit the gear icon sitting between the star and smiley icons to bring up the Tools menu, as shown above.<br>2. Choose “Internet Options.”<br>3. Click the “Programs” tab.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><p>4. Click the “Make Internet Explorer the default browser” link.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><p>5. Locate Internet Explorer in the list and click “Set this program as default.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><h5><strong>Clear the browser history:</strong></h5><p>1. Click the gear icon to bring up the Tools menu.<br>2. Choose "Internet Options."<br>3. On the General tab, locate the "Browsing history" section.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><p>4. Click the Delete button to choose what Internet Explorer can delete.<br>5. Note: You can click “Delete browsing history on exit” to clear your history when closing Internet Explorer.</p><h5><strong>Clear the browser cache:</strong></h5><p>1. Click the gear icon to bring up the Tools menu.<br>2. Choose "Internet Options."<br>3. On the General tab, locate the "Browsing history" section.<br>4. Like the browser history, you can delete the cache here, too.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Internet Explorer 11"></p><p>5. Note: To change the location of the cache, change its size, or to view its contents, hit the “Settings” button, as shown above.</p> How To: Make Chrome Your Default Browser, and More are a few simple steps to set the default browser, and clear its cache and historyFri, 02 Oct 2015 20:49:19 +0000 chromeNews <p>Are you a Google Chrome user and want to make it the default application for surfing the Internet? We show you how to make that change in several easy steps, along with how to clear the browser cache and history.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Chrome"></p><h5><strong>Make Google Chrome your default browser:</strong></h5><p>1.&nbsp;Click the button to the right side of the address bar that features three lines. This button will read “customize and control Google Chrome.”<br>2.&nbsp;Click the “Settings” option in the drop-down menu.<br>3.&nbsp;A new chrome/settings tab will open within the browser. Scroll down to the “Default browser” setting.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Chrome"></p><p>4.&nbsp;Click the “Make Google Chrome the default browser” button.<br>5.&nbsp;The Windows 10 System app will open. Scroll down to the Web browser setting.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Chrome"></p><p>6.&nbsp;Click the current browser and choose Google Chrome in the list, as shown above.</p><h5><strong>Clear the browser history:<br></strong></h5><p>1. Click the button to the right side of the address bar that features three lines.<br>2. Click the “Settings” option.<br>3. On the new chrome/settings page, locate and click the “Show advanced settings” link.<br>4. Under “Privacy,” click the "Clear browsing data" button.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Chrome"></p><p>5. In the new popup window, check the “Browsing history,” “download history” and if needed, “Cookies and other site and plugin data.”<br>6. Click the ”Clear browsing data” button.</p><h5><strong>Clear the browser cache:<br></strong></h5><p>1. Click the button residing to the right of the address bar that features three lines.<br>2. Click the “Settings” option.<br>3. On the new chrome/settings page, locate and click the “Show advanced settings” link.<br>4. Under “Privacy,” click the "Clear browsing data" button.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Chrome"></p><p>5. In the new popup window, check the “Cached images and files” option.”<br>6. Click the “Clear browsing data” button.</p> How To: Make Firefox Your Default Browser, and More take a look at how to make Mozilla Firefox the default browser, and more.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 20:42:31 +0000 FirefoxNewssettings <p>Want to make Mozilla’s Firefox browser your default gateway to the Internet? Want to cover your tracks and delete your browsing history? You’ve come to the right place, as we lay out instructions on how to make Firefox your default browser, how to clear the history, and how to get rid of the cached files. In the end, you’ll come out with more hard drive space and peace of mind that no one knows your browsing habits.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mozilla Firefox"></p><h5><strong>Make Mozilla Firefox your default browser:<br></strong></h5><p>1.&nbsp;Click the Menu button on the far right that features three lines.<br>2.&nbsp;Click the “Options” link.<br>3.&nbsp;After the "about:preferences" page loads, locate “Startup” under the “General” category.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mozilla Firefox"></p><p>4.&nbsp;Click the "Make Default" button.<br>5.&nbsp;When the Settings app loads, click the current default browser under “Web Browser.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mozilla Firefox"></p><p>6.&nbsp;Choose Mozilla Firefox in the “Choose an app” menu.</p><h5><strong>Clear the browser history:<br></strong></h5><p>1.&nbsp;Click the Menu button on the far right that features three lines.<br>2.&nbsp;Click the “Options” link.<br>3.&nbsp;Click the “Privacy” category and locate “History.”<br>4.&nbsp;Click the “Clear your recent history” link.<br>5.&nbsp;In the pop-up window, select the time range to clear.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mozilla Firefox"></p><p>6.&nbsp;In&nbsp;the “Details” drop-down menu, make sure both “History” options are checked.</p><h5><strong>Clear the browser cache:<br></strong></h5><p>1.&nbsp;Click the Menu button on the far right that features three lines.<br>2.&nbsp;Click the “Options” link.<br>3.&nbsp;Click the “Privacy” category and locate “History.”<br>4.&nbsp;Click the “Clear your recent history” link.<br>5.&nbsp;In the pop-up window, select the time range to clear.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mozilla Firefox"></p><p>6.&nbsp;In the “Details” drop-down menu, make sure the “Cache” option is checked.</p> AMD Fixes Memory Leak with Catalyst 15.9.1 Beta Driver Update AMD just released a Catalyt driver update to address reports of a memory leak introduced with Catalyst 15.9 Beta.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 20:16:20 +0000 <h3>Let's try this again</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Radeon Graphics"></p><p> AMD recently <a href="">released a new Catalyst driver</a> in beta form, version 15.9, which contained "performance and quality" optimizations for the Star Wars: Battlefront beta and DirectX 12 optimizations for the Fable Legends: Benchmark. Good stuff, except it also introduced a memory leak.</p><p> "We are aware that some users are experiencing an issue in AMD CAtalyst 15.9 Beta that causes all available video memory to be used whilst resizing active browser windows," AMD stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">support document</a>. "Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention and being patient whilst we continue to investigate. We're working on getting it resolved as soon as possible."</p><p> At the time, AMD advised Radeon graphics users to roll back to Catalyst 15.7.1, though that's no longer necessary.</p><p> AMD has a new Catalyst driver available, Catalyst 15.9.1 Beta. It offers all the same performance benefits and fixes as the previous beta, but without the memory leak issue.</p><p> You can download the <a href="" target="_blank">driver here</a>.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> What I Learned about VR at Oculus Connect Oculus developers conference offered insights into what's coming in the world of VRFri, 02 Oct 2015 19:48:33 +0000 riftoculus vrvirtual reality <h3>Insights into what's coming in the world of VR from Oculus Connect</h3><p> The thing about virtual reality is that it’s hard to describe to people who have never experienced it. Imagine something awesome that you’ve never experienced, and is wholly subjective. It’s similar to trying to describe the effects of drugs or alcohol to people who have never tried them. Sure, you can describe the effects in a technical and medical manner: dizziness, possible nausea, euphoria&mdash;but you can’t tell them about what life’s like after two and a half&nbsp;whiskey sours. That part is subjective. In much the same way, you really have to experience VR to get it. That experience is up to the wearer.</p><p> My first VR experience was with the humble little Google Cardboard, just a little over a year ago. I was surprised that a simple Android phone could create an immersive experience that vivid. When I tried the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both products blew my hair back in terms of image quality. The Samsung Gear VR, while really not much more than a really, really fancy Cardboard headset, offers better interface controls and optics than&nbsp;Google’s corrugated paper solution. That’s not to say it’s not breathtaking, but the Gear VR is notably less awesome than its bigger brother, the Rift. However, at $100, the Gear VR will offer a very good VR experience with a relatively low barrier to entry (assuming you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S6).</p> <div> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Alex Gear VR" style="background-color: initial;"> </div><div> <p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>The Samsung Gear VR offers a surprisingly good VR experience at a fraction of the cost of the Oculus Rift.</strong> </p> <p> <strong></strong>When I drove up to the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, I didn't quite know what to expect from Oculus Connect. After all, what could be announced that would be groundbreaking? The Rift release window? We already know it'll be Q1 2016. The Oculus Touch controllers? Q2. There were a few partnerships to be announced, as well as the pricing for the Gear VR ($100) and the release date (November). </p> <p> What this conference was really about was content. When we're talking content, we're not just talking about games, though games are the easy low-hanging fruit that you'd expect in VR. The fact is, while gamers may rush to pick up VR headsets, the big money sits outside of gaming. John Carmack&mdash;Oculus' chief technology officer and the guy who birthed the first-person shooter when he wrote the code for <em style="background-color: initial;">Wolfenstein 3D</em> and <em style="background-color: initial;">Doom</em>&mdash;gave a dense, stream-of-thought keynote at Connect that had nerds everywhere listening. When even Carmack is talking about content and video, not just game engines and lighting polygons, you know something is up. </p> <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Carmack Connect" style="background-color: initial;"> </p> </div><div> <p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>John Carmack, Oculus's chief technology officer.</strong> </p> </div><p> The big money&mdash;and this is where Oculus is apparently&nbsp;trying to makes its mark&mdash;is in the kind of content my mom would consume. That means Netflix and other things that won't necessarily require a whole lot of iteration. Oculus's deal with Netflix (along with the <em style="background-color: initial;">Minecraft</em> deal with Majang) was the biggest business news at Connect, by far. Combined with Twitch, Facebook just got distribution deals with some of the biggest video content players on the Internet.</p><p> While the deals with Twitch and Netflix are huge, those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to non-game content. The two big streaming services, as awesome as they are, still focus on delivering 2D video, within a virtual living room. To some, that may seem like a bit of VR hubris gone too far: Most people can already watch Netflix in their living room. That doesn't mean that Facebook isn't banking on VR being a big thing.</p><h4>VR Streaming</h4><p> One of the talks in the first round of sessions at the TCL Chinese Theater was all about streaming VR video. With a hundred or more developers and content makers packed into the movie theater for the talk, it was readily apparent that there are plenty of people who could be working on creating content to stream to VR users. VR streaming seems easy enough on its face, but in reality, streaming VR presents a set of challenges that regular video streaming just doesn't have to deal with.</p><p> David Pio, a video streaming engineer at Facebook gave the talk, and explained the methodology Facebook was using for 360-degree VR video streaming.</p><h5>More:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">MAXIMUM PC AND PC GAMER CHAT ABOUT OCULUS CONNECT 2</a></h5><p> First off, it really helps to imagine what a VR video would look like as a geometric object. From the viewer's perspective, the VR experience should be a sphere, since you can look in any conceivable direction. But since when did cameras capture video in spheres?</p><p> They don't.</p><p> Instead, software has to stitch together all of these rectangles into a cube, and do a little logical magic to make the video appear as spherical as possible. But that cube has way too much data for the average 5Mb/s Wi-Fi connection, as Facebook put it. To get down to 5Mb/s, Facebook has to compress that video and discard most of that cube.</p><p> Pio said Facebook first approached it by lowering the quality of the video out of the user's field of vision and using blurs in the peripheral field of view of the user. They also had to rethink how they buffer video: Instead of buffering 10 or more seconds of video like YouTube does, they buffer one second. That second is looking in one direction, with the other directions reduced in quality. If the headset moves, the video is still visible, but either blurry or at noticeably lower quality. Pio said that this blurry or low-quality video was preferable to having a blank screen when you move your head rapidly.</p><p> Luckily, as the headset moves, the movement data is sent back up to the server, which then sends down another second of video, this time looking in the new direction. With the constant polling of headset direction, buffering more than a second of video becomes a monumental waste of time and resources.</p><p> Even with the polling and reduced quality cube, there's still too much data flowing down the pipe. Facebook chose to address this by reducing the cube to a pyramid, with the base as the primary, in-focus viewing area. Using a pyramidal shape rids the compression of having to do anything with the "back" wall that the user can't see, and allows some more aggressive compression of the other walls as they are reduced to triangles.</p> <div> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="VR pyramid" style="background-color: initial;"> </div><div> <div> <p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>The&nbsp;VR streaming&nbsp;video&nbsp;</strong><strong>pyramid.</strong> </p> </div><p> When the server calculates this pyramid, it unfolds the pyramid and streams the video as a rectangle. The decoder on the client side then re-folds this video into the pyramid and outputs the video to the VR headset. A single frame in the second that is streamed contains the directional data and tells the client how the pyramid was unfolded. The geometry and video polygon location within the streamed frames can change based on head movement, and compression efficiency&nbsp;for a given region of video. </p><p> Voilà. VR streaming video that's much closer to the 5Mb/s threshold. </p><p> While logically reducing to other geometric shapes&mdash;like a cone&mdash;has been considered, Pio said that the pyramid had yielded the best performance and overall quality. </p><p> While the technical parts of VR video streaming is interesting itself, the implications are numerous. By making VR video "cheap" enough&mdash;in terms of resources and bandwidth&mdash;it opens the doors for mass adoption of the medium. Imagine live, streaming video where you can be court-side&mdash;right next to Jack Nicholson&mdash;at the Lakers game, from a hotel room in Boston. Imagine diving on the Great Barrier Reef with researchers from your living room. Those are the types of experiences that become possible with this technology. </p></div><h4>The New Cinema</h4><p><span style="font-weight: normal;">While Oculus Connect is primarily a developer's convention, there were plenty of content creators and creative types in attendance, too. And for the second talk on the first day, people crammed into the theater where Facebook's David Pio had just given a talk on streaming to see Rob Bredow talk about how Lucasfilm and Industrial Light &amp; Magic are using VR to design experiences as well as plan shots.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: normal;"></span>I think most of the people came to the talk because, you know, <em>Star Wars</em>. That wasn't far off, since Bredow showed lots of video of how Lucasfilm and ILM was using VR technology to tell stories within Lucas's far, far away galaxy.</p><p>One of the first tools that Bredow showed off was the use of VR to scout locations, using an in-house tool called V-Scout. The scouting tool allows directors to plop down digital assets on a landscape and move around within it to find the best angles and determine movement of action. The tool, he said, can mimic various Panavision lenses, to give the user an idea of how the scene will actually look when shot.&nbsp;Scouting locations is an expensive part of filmmaking, and being able to do it remotely using topographical data and VR imagery could cut costs for film production, Bredow said.</p><p>The other really impressive tool that ILM showed off was the live rendering process they developed. The live rendering can capture human actors in a motion capture suit, and plop those actions into a digital scene. This isn't too unlike what games already do: dynamically render 3D scenes as they are played out. But Bredow was quick to point out that this tech was quite different, and didn't focus on viewer interaction.</p><p>In one demonstration, Bredow showed a scene that had been scripted using this technology. A squad of stormtroopers patrol a desert village, looking for Rebel droids, of course. R2-D2 and C-3PO emerge from a shadowy house, requesting a pickup from a Rebel ship captain. In the distance, a ship holds off an approaching AT-AT. As the droids turn to find an alternate route, they are confronted by none other than Boba Fett, and the scene ends.</p><p>While the video looked good and near film-quality as it was, Bredow backed up to show what made this so cool: With VR, you can see any part of the scene you like, and aren't tied to what the "camera" shows you. After he restarts the demo, he pauses the "video" and moves the camera perspective around different sides of the stormtroopers. From there, he looks around to the house where the droids are hiding. After moving the perspective to include the droids, he pushes play, and we see and hear Princess Leia giving instructions to the droids before they emerge. Jumping around, we see what Boba Fett was doing (blasting some folks) before he runs into the droids.</p><p>Bredow says that this technology is great for telling shorts where users can examine multiple storylines that happen at the same time. The Boba Fett or droid scenes normally would have "been left on the cutting room floor," Bredow says. But with VR and dynamic rendering, viewers can explore these hidden plot points to get a better understanding of the story.</p><p>While ILM was showing off its in-house tools, Oculus was busy giving stuff away to filmmakers. During the keynote, Oculus announced that it would be basically open-sourcing the assets used to create it's VR experience <em>Henry</em>. While the story of Henry&mdash;a cute melancholy hedgehog who just wants a friend to be able to hug him without fear of being impaled by his spines&mdash;wasn't particularly deep, the experience itself was a great proof of concept. It was pretty much like being inside a Pixar short.</p><div><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Henry"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Henry, the hedgehog. (Oculus)</strong></p></div><p>Offering up the experience as a boilerplate for other creators to learn how to create VR experiences, while sounding very open, is somewhat analogous to giving away code examples to programmers. By seeing how an entire application works, a developer can use some of the same methodologies or tools to solve their particular problem. Creators who are interested in VR production will be able to use Henry in much the same way.</p><p>I got a chance to talk to Eugene Chung, founder of Penrose Studios at the conference at the developer lounge. He was the only VR film developer in the room, which was dominated by game developers. I wanted to pick his brain about what he thought about VR as an artist.</p><p>Chung showed me a short called <em style="background-color: initial;">The Rose and I</em>&nbsp;that Penrose had produced, based on the classic story of <em style="background-color: initial;">Le Petit Prince</em> (<em style="background-color: initial;">The Little Prince</em>). Much like <em>Henry</em>, it was more of a film than a game, though it was rendered dynamically and you could move around in the environment and look in all directions.</p><p>From what I can tell, what we call passive VR “films” is still up in the air. “VR experience” seems to be a popular term, but “VR film” has been used here and there, too.</p><p>“It truly is a new art form,” Chung told me. He likened using VR to the emergence of film. “I can tell you that just as cinema is its own language, VR is its own language.” VR as a medium, Chung said, was just as different from film as film was from theater. The storytelling remains quite the same, but how you visually represent stories is quite different.</p><p>That doesn’t mean that VR will kill the movies. People still go to plays, after all. The VR experience is wildly different from seeing a film on the big screen. As it is now, there’s no real replacement for hugging your significant other or laughing with your friends while watching a film together.</p><h4>Creative tools</h4><p>ILM's programs weren't the only creative tools that were highlighted at Connect. If there was one non-game that stole the show at Connect, it was Medium. The program serves as Oculus's "paint program for VR."</p><p>I got to play with Medium, and I thought is was actually the best use of Oculus Touch that I experienced (to be fair to other devs, there are only so many demos you can try in a given time). While I played in Medium with an Oculus software engineer who works on the project, I felt a childlike joy as I discovered the tools needed to create a (admittedly&nbsp;poor) sculpture. As much as I love the <em>Eve: Valkyrie</em> demo for its fulfillment of a childhood fantasy of being a starfighter pilot, Medium touched me on another level.</p><div><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Wes Medium" style="background-color: initial;"></div><div><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Wes Fenlon&nbsp;from PC Gamer tries out Medium at Oculus Connect.&nbsp;</strong></p></div><p>It seems straightforward enough: You’re in a room, and you can create 3D objects with a palette of tools found on your off-hand. Once your tool and color is set, you can add material to the 3D space. It just floats there, defying gravity, which should make creating virtual pottery much easier than the real thing. When you’re done, <em>Medium</em> allows you to save the object to an .obj file, or other 3D object files. You can then send that file to a 3D printer, plop it into a game, or use it as a 3D asset in filmmaking.</p><p>The engineer had admin control of the experience, and at one point she revoked my use of the tools to demonstrate a different tool&mdash;the symmetry plane. As useful as the plane is for creating objects that won’t look lop-sided, I was more taken aback by the admin abilities of the program. I instantly thought of a teacher showing sculpting or digital art students how to create a specific shape, without fear of the students altering the object before she was ready.</p><p>While great for artists, Medium in its current state is limited for designers. It’s really tough to get straight lines or exact curves like you can get in Maya or AutoCAD. Oculus software engineer Lydia Choy said that straight-edge tools and the like are in development.</p><p>Even with its limitations, thoughts wandered to people with disabilities. I have a friend who gets severe pain in his hands, which precludes him from doing basic things like typing for long periods. This friend is an artist too, and the loss of his hands as useful tools had been particularly hard on him. Medium with Oculus Touch offers a solution where a person can create 3D art with very little physical effort. Besides the fact you don’t have to hold up a heavy object to carve it, the Touch controllers are easy to actuate and are light enough to use for a long enough time to be useful.</p><p>Other creative applications like Medium could have far-reaching implications, especially if developers integrate a social element to it. Working on an object by yourself is cool, but it’s way better if you can do it with someone else. Having a spare set of eyes and other ideas could help engineers, artists, and even doctors.</p><h4>Gamification of Training</h4><p>I talked to a pair of game developers from Bossa Studios, Sylvain Cornillon and Henrique Olifers, about creating games for VR.</p><p>Bossa Studios makes the VR game <em style="background-color: initial;">Surgeon Simulator</em>, where the player is tasked with slicing and dicing patients. As with many games, this allows people without a medical license to do thing they’d otherwise never get to experience.</p><p>Like many VR games for Oculus, <em style="background-color: initial;">Surgeon Simulator </em>is “tabletop” style, meaning that you play on a virtual surface, looking down at the objects you interact with. This play style is popular since the Rift doesn’t lend itself to moving around very much.</p> <div><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surgeon Simulator"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>Surgeon Simulator</em> lets you chop up humans and aliens in search of squishy organs.</strong></p></div><p>Both Olifers and Cornillion said that keeping the player in one place, while a limitation on its face, allows for a lot of creativity.</p><p>“The level of detail for objects must be high,” Cornillion said. The two men noted that in many FPS games, players often sprint right past small objects like bottles or barrels that an artist had to work on. In VR, the player spends a lot more time looking at those objects, so they have to be higher in detail, and artists can justify putting a lot of sweat equity into creating the objects.</p><p>“You can have a lot of fun in one space,” Olifers said.</p><p>Getting off the gaming subject, I asked Cornillion and Olifers if they thought <em>Surgeon Simulator</em> could be used in a training environment for EMT, military, or medical students. They said it was entirely possible, though not with the game in its current form.</p><p>This isn’t surprising. Pilots have been using simulators and VR to train for decades. It would make sense that as the technology improves, training in VR for surgeons or other people who use their hands could be a cost-effective supplement to”real” hands-on training. After all, electrons are cheaper than cadavers. At least, I hope they are.</p><h4>What’s in it for us</h4><p>With all the tools becoming available to developers and content creators, the clear winner is the end user. As it was with graphics technology, gaming will likely drive the bleeding edge of VR development. However, the big money will be in content, and likely the passive type.</p><p>What we’re witnessing with VR headsets like the Gear VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift is the creation of a new medium. Oculus, and by extension Facebook, is clamoring to make sure that there will be plenty of content for this its platform as VR is unveiled to the wider public over the next six months. What this means for media consumption is really anyone’s guess, but the new&nbsp;medium has clear advantages and pitfalls.</p><p>On the upswing, VR allows us to be more social over distance. Sure, people are “social” via text and photography on Facebook or Twitter, but there’s something more intimate about watching a match on Twitch in a virtual room or working on a virtual sculpture together. Seeing someone’s avatar does fool you into thinking there is someone else physically there. The simple act of waving at the engineer in <em>Medium</em> was enough to convince me that she was actually there, in the room with me.</p><p>Even the use of VR video or VR experiences has the potential to entice our sense of empathy. While sitting on the train to catch my flight to Los Angeles, I listened to a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">TED Radio Hour episode</a> about screens. The podcast&nbsp;mentioned a program where the UN shot a spherical video in a Syrian refugee camp. Watching the video in VR and seeing the children wave at the cameras had some diplomats who watched the video in tears.</p><p>Say what you want about the subject matter, but the ability to feel presence in VR creates more empathy for others. The sense of presence is more connective than seeing things through a rectangular portal. As one presenter noted at Connect, in VR, you can’t look away. That itself may have an immense power to connect us as we tell stories, play games, or create.&nbsp;Facebook has good reason to be bullish on its investment in VR; its working hard to be the dominant force in the space with Oculus.&nbsp;</p><p>That doesn't mean&nbsp;other VR vendors won't have&nbsp;plenty of room to create that sense of presence and magic. They will face a battle that mirrors that of gaming consoles: As long as the hardware is up to snuff, the&nbsp;array of titles and content available will the primary factor that makes or breaks a particular&nbsp;platform.&nbsp;</p><p>On the flip side, VR is very isolating. It’s the most anti-social piece of technology I’ve experienced, if we’re talking about the physical room I’m sitting in.</p><p>When our press group headed upstairs for the Gear VR demo, the room was set up to resemble some classy, futuristic lounge. But instead of people crowding around tables having drinks and talking, people lounged in chairs, alone in their VR experience. This seemed like a nightmarish dystopian cyberpunk scene, where people got their doses of digital Soma.</p> <div><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gear VR Lounge"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Cyberpunk utopia or digital dystopian&nbsp;nightmare in the making?</strong></p></div><p>I had a mixed feeling of "Wow, this is awesome" and "Holy crap, is this where we're headed?" as I looked around the room. The Gear VR lounge arrangement was wildly different than the sectioned-off rooms that Rift demos usually take place in. The whole experience was slightly unsettling, like watching the Matrix slowly come into reality.</p><p>Setting any techno-fear aside, there are some serious drawbacks about some of the experiences themselves.&nbsp;I can’t experience Netflix in VR the same way I can on the couch with my fiancee. I imagine that if I sat through two episodes of <em style="background-color: initial;">Narcos</em> in VR, she’s be pretty unhappy with me. With the Twitch demo, it only really has utility when used socially. Watching Twitch in VR by myself for hours isn't something I think I'd like to do.</p><p>Stepping into VR is like stepping out of this reality for a bit. You’re here but there at the same time. This creates an enormous opportunity for immersive experiences unlike any other medium we’ve had in the past.</p><p>We know what it’s like to see things on a rectangle. We’ve been doing it for 100 years. Those rectangles have changed the way the world works. Depending on its adoption and how content creators approach it, VR may follow a similar course.</p><p>This is the Wild West period for VR. Companies are staking their claims and developers have a brand-new world open to them. In the rush to populate the new medium with content, one has to wonder if&nbsp;the technology will&nbsp;bring us closer together or push us yet further apart.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Crucial 500GB SSD, Acer Core i3 Desktop, and More! you know someone suffering for slow load syndrome? It's a serious affliction with all sorts of unwanted symptoms. Luckily for them, there's a cure. Just point them to today's top deal.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 17:29:55 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Crucial MX200"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Do you know someone suffering for slow load syndrome? It's a serious affliction with all sorts of unwanted symptoms. Luckily for them, there's a cure. Just point them to today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820148949-_-1002&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Crucial MX200 500GB SSD</a> for <strong>$160</strong> with free shipping (normally $174). All they have to do is swap out their pokey mechanical hard drive for one (or two!) of these and they'll be cured with read and write times of up to 555MB/s and 500MB/s, respectively.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121928-_-1002&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 960 4GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 SLI Support Video Card</a> for <strong>$220</strong> with free shipping (normally $239 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAK27</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate; FREE Heroes of the Storm w/ Purchase!)</p><p>Acer Desktop Intel Core i3 4160 (3.60 GHz) 4 GB DDR3 1 TB HDD Win7 Professional 64-bit for <strong>$465</strong> with free shipping (normally $500)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236622-_-1002&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Black 4TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$190</strong> with free shipping (normally $198 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCKAAK29</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231795-_-1002&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws 4 Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$190</strong> with free shipping (normally $195 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAK37</strong>])</p> Batman: Arkham Knight Returns to PC End of October of Batman: Arkham Knight will resume in late October, WB Games announced.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:34:54 +0000 Arkham KnightgamesNews <h3>Brace yourself, Batman is coming (again)</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Batman"></p><p> The developers at Rocksteady Studios are still working frantically to fix lingering issues in the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight, but by the end of the month, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment expects that sales will resume, the company <a href="" target="_blank">announced on Steam</a>.</p><p> Batman has seen better days, at least on the PC. Just two days after launching in June, <a href="">WB halted sales</a> of the PC version on Steam and pulled copies from store shelves due to some serious performance issues.</p><p> "We take these issues very seriously and have therefore decided to suspend future game sales of the PC version while we work to address these issues to satisfy our quality standards. We greatly value our customers and know that while there are a significant amount of players who are enjoying the game on PC, we want to do whatever we can to make the experience better for PC players overall," WB said at the time.</p><p> It took until early September for WB to release an <a href="">interim patch</a> to existing owners. The response to the patch was mostly positive -- it fixed a number of issues, including low resolution texture bugs and hitches when running the game on mechanical hard drives, and improved performance on all GPUs.</p><p> Nevertheless, there were still some bugs that needed stomped out, and it appears the developers have made significant headway since then.</p><p> "While there were significant performance improvements made to the game, the teams are continuing to work on the additional updates that were outlined in our previous post. We expect these updates to be ready at the end of October, at which time the PC version will be made available for purchase," WB said.</p><p> When it re-releases to PC, it will also include support for all DLC that has been released to consoles so far.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Router Virus Seemingly Fights the Good Fight firm Symantec says a newly discovered router virus appears to be protecting users, not harming them.Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:06:40 +0000 <h3>Good news, you have a virus!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hacker Shirt"></p><p> Cyber criminals are beginning to take an increased interest in home routers and the Internet of Things (IoT) market as a whole. It's not that there's a lot of personal data sitting on such devices, but the allure of controlling all these Internet-connected gadgets is what's of interest, especially when plotting a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. However, a newly discovered virus that's taken residence on thousands of routers may have your best interest in mind.</p><p> Security firm <a href="" target="_blank">Symantec is calling</a> the virus Linux.Wifatch (just Wifatch from here on out). It <a href="" target="_blank">first came to light in 2014</a> when a security researcher noticed some unusual activity on his home router. After doing some digging, he discover a rather sophisticated piece of code that turned his router into a zombie connected to a P2P network of infected devices.</p><p> Symantec did some digging of its own and found that much of Wifacth's code is written in Perl. It targets several architectures and ships its own static Perl interpreter to each one. Once a device is infected, it connects to a P2P network that distributes threat updates.</p><p> "The further we dug into Wifatch’s code the more we had the feeling that there was something unusual about this threat. For all intents and purposes, it appeared like the author was trying to secure infected devices instead of using them for malicious activities," Symantec explains.</p><p> Symantec hasn't found a shred of evidence to suggest Wifatch is shipping payloads used for malicious purposes, like DDoS attacks. Just the opposite, it appears that Wifatch is making routers more secure, both by blocking outside hacks and attempting to remove any existing malware it finds.</p><p> So it appears there's a vigilante hacker out there, a geek version of Batman, if you will. However, Symantec notes that even though Wifatch appears to be making routers more secure, it's still being installed without consent. It also contains several backdoors that the author could use for malicious purposes, if desired.</p><p> "Whether the author’s intentions were to use their creation for the good of other IoT users&mdash;vigilante style&mdash;or whether their intentions were more malicious remains to be seen," Symantec says.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Fast Forward: Wireless Charging = Wireless Waste charging still falls far short of our sci-fi fantasys of oldFri, 02 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 charger <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.qs halfhill"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With 65 percent of energy wasted, wireless charging has a way to go.</strong></p><p>Imagine huge transcontinental airliners powered by wireless energy, cruising the skies unburdened by bulky fossil-fuel tanks. Such a future was imagined for 1985 in the science-fiction novel <em>Haunted Airways</em>, published in 1937. Instead, 1985 brought us Cherry Coke and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”</p><p>Thirty years later, we still don’t have those fabulous, wireless-powered airliners. But we’re getting Wi-Fi in coach class, so at least there’s some progress. My point is that wireless energy has been a futuristic dream for a long time&mdash;in fact, since the days of Tesla (Nikola, not Musk). The latest manifestation is wireless charging for our battery-powered gadgets.</p><p>This technology began appearing at least 10 years ago. Although much has happened since then, I’m still a skeptic. Oh, sure, it works. Some mobile phones have built-in power receivers that communicate with wireless charging pads or cradles. You can just plop your phone on the pad and let it recharge overnight, without ever fumbling with a USB cable.</p><p>Two problems. First, even after 10 years, the industry still can’t agree on a universal standard that enables any phone to work with any wireless charger. In fact, more variations keep coming. And some are radically different, so they aren’t easily merged. The second problem is that wireless charging wastes energy and probably always will. Air is simply a less efficient conductor than copper. (It’s a blessing. Otherwise, life would be electrifying.)</p><p>One of the latest wireless-charging systems is a big departure from the conventional inductive systems now vying for adoption. An Israeli startup, Wi-Charge, is using mirror-guided infrared lasers to transmit power at distances up to 30 feet. The transmitter focuses the laser on a receiver that has a concentrated photovoltaic cell, which converts the beam’s photons into electrons. Basically, it’s like shining a flashlight on a solar panel. Light goes in, electricity comes out.</p><p>Of course, even the wildest Greenpeace hippie wouldn’t propose generating electricity this way. The flashlight batteries would consume far more energy than the solar panel would generate. But practicality is no obstacle when consumer convenience is the goal. Wi-Charge says its laser system is 35 percent efficient, which means it’s 65 percent inefficient. Two thirds of the energy input disappears into the ether. And unlike the sun’s energy, it isn’t free.</p><p>To me, that inefficiency is a high price to pay for replacing a cable. A million users here, a million users there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real megawatts. </p><p>Let’s be fair to Wi-Charge. Its laser system is a clever invention for some applications. For example, fire alarms, surveillance cameras, and wireless speakers are often located in hard-to-reach places where AC power isn’t readily available. And the company appears to be taking the necessary safety precautions by using low-power Class 1 infrared lasers that won’t accidentally burn holes in objects or people who pass through the beam. (The transmitter and receiver require a clear line of sight.)</p><p>I’m less enthusiastic about charging mobile phones this way, though. Are we really too lazy to plug in a cable? Even with a wireless charger, the phone is immobilized while it’s charging, so tethering isn’t a severe hardship. The only arguable advantage is there’s no cable to misplace. That’s progress, I suppose. But it probably wouldn’t inspire a 1930s science-fiction writer.</p><p><em>Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior editor for </em>Byte<em> magazine and is now an analyst for Microprocessor Report.</em></p> Humble Bundle Announces Monthly Bundle a new curated bundle of games every month, cancel whenever, but keep the games.Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:13:20 +0000 bundleNewssubscription <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Humble Monthly"></p><p> Humble Bundle has been around for a while now, and they’ve served up millions of dollars to charities over the years. Now they’re getting into the subscription game, because people love monthly bills apparently. Aptly names the <a target="blank" href="">Humble Monthly</a>, the twist is that you can subscribe&mdash;or cancel your subscription&mdash;any time you want, but all games you receive under the subscription are yours to keep, forever. And as usual, money is being donated to charities: 5 percent of the Humble Monthly proceeds (less taxes and other fees) will go to the PayPal Giving Fund, which is then given direction to pass those funds on to the charity chosen by Humble for that month.</p><p> The monthly subscription rate is $12, and if you subscribe now, you immediately unlock Legend of Grimrock 2. The first batch of games won’t arrive until the first Friday of each month, starting on November 6. That means you have time to decide, but ultimately you will be taking whatever hides behind door number one with no knowledge of the games beforehand, and potentially no option to buy them through Humble after the fact. It’s part of the fun, or suspense if you prefer.</p><p> Looking at the initial freebie, <a target="blank" href="">Legend of Grimrock II</a> currently sits at a Metacritic score of 85, which coincidentally matches up nicely with <a target="blank" href="">PC Gamer’s score of 85</a>. Launched one year ago, the second installment in this dungeon crawling series has a current online price of <a target="blank" href="">$24 via Steam</a>, which means at the very least you’re getting one good game at half price.</p><p> We’ve seen many bundles over the years, some good, some not so good. If you’re the type who likes to collect and try out new and upcoming indie games, the Humble Monthly could be just what the doctor ordered. There’s also the potential to get recent releases as well, along with some “classics” and everything in between. The games will all run on Windows via Steam&mdash;sometimes they’ll run on other platforms as well, but Steam on Windows is the only guarantee. So if you’re a Linux or OS X user, this probably isn’t for you.</p><p> Just remember: it’s for the charities. Or at least five percent of it is.</p> OCZ Trion 100 480GB Review’s Trion 100 is their first new SSD after the Toshiba buyout SSD, but is it any good?Thu, 01 Oct 2015 21:33:03 +0000 100 <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">At a Glance</h5> <p> <strong>(+) Bang for the Buck:</strong> Low price per GB; faster than HDD; decent endurance. </p> <p> <strong style="background-color: initial;">(-) Cheapskate:</strong> Questionable performance; not much cheaper than faster drives; 3-year warranty. </p> </div><h3>If at first you don’t succeed&hellip;</h3><p> Recently, we’ve launched a <a target="_blank" href="">new SSD test suite</a>, reviewed our second NVMe drive in the <a target="_blank" href="">Samsung SM951</a>, and we’re going through a backlog of recent SSDs and reviewing those we’ve missed. Some of these are new NVMe drives, others are high-end SATA offerings, and still others are value propositions. The OCZ Trion 100 falls squarely into the latter category, and it’s priced accordingly. We received <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443548389&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+trion+100+480gb">the 480GB model</a> for review, and we’ve run it through our test suite and used it for the past month or so. As the first new SSD from OCZ post-Toshiba buyout, the drive is important in that it can help OCZ to regain some of their lost stature. Not to spoil the party, but that’s not going to happen.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="OCZ vs Corsair Phison S10 (3)"><br> <em>OCZ Trion 100 on the left, Corsair Neutron XT on the right.</em></p><p> The controller for the Trion 100 is officially a new controller from Toshiba, but given the similarity to other SSDs on the market, it looks like the controller is actually a Phison S10, potentially running Toshiba-customized firmware. We have a Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SSD, shown above, which uses the Phison S10; similarities in appearance pretty much confirm that these are fraternal twins at the very least. What’s different is that the OCZ Trion 100 uses TLC NAND whereas Corsair's Neutron XT uses MLC NAND. That’s why there are more NAND packages on the Crucial drive despite it having the same capacity.</p><p> Lest there be any confusion, let’s be clear: TLC is not actually better than MLC; in fact, it’s generally worse. The advantages of TLC are almost solely related to cost savings on the part of device manufacturers, and hopefully those savings are passed along to the end user. Where SLC (Single-Level Cell) NAND stores one bit per cell, giving it only two states to track (0 and 1), MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND stores two bits per cell and has four states to track (00, 01, 10, and 11). TLC (Triple-Level Cell) NAND takes things a step further and stores three bits per cell, which requires tracking eight states (000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, and 111). The difficulty with TLC is that NAND deteriorates over time, making it harder to differentiate between the various stored charge states in a NAND cell. This usually requires additional error checking functionality and improved controllers, but TLC NAND will always wear out faster than MLC NAND, which in turn will wear out faster than SLC NAND (all other factors being equal).</p><p> The first consumer-level SSD to use TLC NAND was Samsung’s 840 EVO line, and that was followed by Samsung’s 850 EVO (with TLC V-NAND). As a manufacturer of both NAND and the SSD controllers, Samsung is in a great position to leverage their manufacturing prowess to gain an advantage over their competition, and they’ve done precisely that. Even today, there are only a handful of TLC SSDs compared to numerous MLC SSDs&hellip;but the transition is underway, with most manufacturers planning to introduce TLC drives this year or sometime in 2016. With Phison’s S10 controller now supporting TLC, OCZ is basically the first of what will likely be many companies to use this combination.</p><p> The primary benefit of TLC drives is going to be price per GB, and right away we see some impressive showings from OCZ’s new drives. The <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443559894&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+trion+100+480gb&amp;tag=dosk-20">Trion 100 480GB model</a> we’re looking at today currently costs $159, which is about as low a price you’ll see for a 500GB class SSD. That gives us a price per GB of $0.331&mdash;not bad at all! But the reigning champion of budget SSDs is <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443561072&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+evo+500gb">Samsung’s 850 EVO 500GB</a>, currently priced at just $173 and sporting 20GB of extra capacity; the result is a very close $0.346 per GB. Or there’s the <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443577875&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=crucial+bx100+500gb">Crucial BX100 500GB</a>, also with 20GB of extra storage, but priced at $160: That’s the winner for the lowest price per GB of modern SSDs, at $0.32 per GB.</p><p> Unfortunately, we don’t have a <em>single </em>Samsung 850 EVO in our test results (yet!), but we know roughly where it stands by looking at our RAID 0 850 EVO configuration; maximum throughput would be lower, but random write speeds will be pretty close as RAID 0 doesn’t help much there. Alternatively, the 850 EVO tends to be slower on write speeds compared to the 850 Pro, but with good read performance. Anyway, we’ll be testing a larger 850 EVO without RAID in the near future and will add that to these charts; we’re also working on getting the Crucial BX100 500GB in for testing, which will be the best competition on the budget end of the spectrum.</p><p> In the meantime, we dug out an old SandForce SF-2281 based SSD, the Intel SSD 520 240GB, and added that to the charts; this was a drive <a target="_blank" href="">released in early 2012</a>, and the controller was super popular for a couple of years&mdash;you couldn’t swing a cat <em>[Ed:&nbsp;no offense to cat lovers!]</em> without hitting a SandForce SSD. In fact, the SF-2200 series of SSDs first <a target="_blank" href="">showed up nearly five years ago</a> and was one of the first SATA 6Gbps controllers to hit the market. Considering most SF-2281 drives perform similarly, we can at least answer the question of how the Trion 100 compares to four year old SSD technology. Here’s our SSD test system and benchmarks:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4.0-4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">ASUS Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Intel HD Graphics 530 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564735&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=corsair+neutron+xt+480gb">Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 1.2TB NVMe PCIe x4</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443724200&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Intel+SSD+520+240GB+SATA">Intel SSD 520 240GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564714&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+trion+100+480gb">OCZ Trion 100 480GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443564621&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ocz+vector+180+960gb">OCZ Vector 180 960GB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868461&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+1tb">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA</a> <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID0 <br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443468203&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=sm951">Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB M.2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> The sequential read speed is basically right there with the rest of the SATA SSDs, but that’s as good as things get. Sequential writes speeds are well behind, thanks in part to the Phison controller, plus some help from TLC NAND. Random read/write speeds also fail to impress, and mixed read/write performance in IOmeter shows that the drive is clearly not geared towards heavier workloads. The real world file copy test confirms these results, with throughput that’s basically half of what you’d get from a better SATA SSD.</p><p> But if you’re just going to be doing light computing, does any of the above actually matter? PCMark 8 once again gives us an overall score that’s very close to the other SSDs, and even the fastest NVMe drives only score five percent higher than the Trion 100. Which means the usefulness of the Trion 100 really comes down to what you’re doing and how low the price falls. Loading up games, applications, or booting Windows off the Trion 100 isn’t substantially slower than doing those same tasks on the Samsung 850 Pro or even the Intel SSD 750. There’s a huge jump in going from a hard drive to a decent SSD, but the jump from a moderate SSD like the Trion 100 to the best SSDs is much smaller.</p><p> This is not to say the Trion 100 is a great SSD by any stretch. Looking at our eleven charts, the Trion 100 places dead last in eight of the benchmarks. Just about any SSD made in the last two years will at least match it on performance, and many of them will beat it. Head-to-head, even the SF-2281 tends to be a faster drive overall. Ouch. If the primary difference between the Neutron XT and the Trion 100 is the use of MLC vs. TLC NAND, we can also see that the TLC memory used by OCZ is part of the problem, as the Neutron XT wins 10 of the 11 matchups.</p><p> Of course, the OCZ drive is priced as a budget offering, which might be enough. There are less expensive SSDs in the 480-512GB range, but many of them use more power, so they’re not a good fit for laptop users. Then again, the Samsung 850 EVO isn’t much more, and it should easily surpass the Trion 100. If all you’re interested in finding is an SSD that’s “fast enough,” the Trion 100 is still a healthy bump in performance from a hard drive, but in the greater market it ends up looking pretty weak. It’s not even the least expensive 500GB class SSD, as other drives with the Phison S10 can be had <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443726770&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=phison+s10+480gb">for as little as $140</a>. The endurance is okay, at 120TB (110GB per day for three years), but the 3-year warranty is on the stingy side (the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO for example is a 5-year/150TB written warranty).</p><h3>&hellip;Trion try again</h3><p> It’s difficult to make a living selling budget computer hardware, as there’s a certain minimum cost involved with producing and marketing a product, and the competition can be very cutthroat. OCZ is lucky to be part of the Toshiba family now, which means they should have lower costs when it comes to NAND, but even with those advantages there’s not a lot going for the Trion 100. If you want to make the least expensive 500GB class SSD possible, we understand corners will have to be cut. What happens when you cut those corners and still end up being more expensive than other options? You have a product that has failed to hit its niche.</p><p> At this point, Toshiba and OCZ have limited options: they can either improve performance with a firmware upgrade (unlikely), lower the price, or just carry on as though nothing is amiss. The latter is the most likely to occur, as there’s a good chance the hardware in the Trion 100 is already being sold to laptop OEMs by Toshiba at lower prices. Making a retail drive doesn’t really hurt anyone, other than OCZ’s already tarnished reputation, and anyone going after a budget SSD will still end up with better than hard drive performance, and better than hybrid drive performance as well. By that token, the Trion 100 is okay; it’s just that you can do better for the same price.</p><p> <em>$159, </em><a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> <em>Follow Jarred on <a target="_blank" href="">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Intel Core i7-4790K, Corsair 750W PSU, and More! though Skylake is here, an argument could be made for building a system around Haswell. That's especially true if you tend to overhaul your motherboard and CPU at the same time every few years.Thu, 01 Oct 2015 19:40:17 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Core i7-4790K"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Even though Skylake is here, an argument could be made for building a system around Haswell. That's especially true if you tend to overhaul your motherboard and CPU at the same time every few years. Even more compelling is today's top deal -- it's for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117369-_-1001&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-4790K Processor</a> for <strong>$325</strong> with free shipping (normally $340 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAK22</strong>]). This is a Devil's Canyon part with four cores, 4GHz clockspeed, and an unlocked multiplier.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822148840-_-1001&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$45</strong> with free shipping (normally $51 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCKAAK23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231615-_-1001&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model</a> for <strong>$70</strong> with free shipping (normally $75 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAK24</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817139051-_-1001&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair CX750M 750W 80 Plus Bronze Power Supply New 4th Gen CPU Certified</a> for <strong>$75</strong> with free shipping (normally $80 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCKAAK25</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813130779-_-1001&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Z97 PC Mate LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$85</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $91; additional $10 Mail-in rebate)</p> Windows 10 Growth Slows Down, Still May Catch Windows 8.1 by End of Year Windows 10 continues to add to its ranks, though not at the same clip as it a did during its first month of availablity.Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:51:49 +0000 10 <h3>Tracking Windows 10</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 laptop"></p><p> During its first month of availability, Windows 10's share of the desktop market raced to 5.21 percent, according to data tracking firm NetApplications. Windows 10 wasn't able to keep that same pace of growth during its second month of market, though it's <a href=";qpcustomb=0&amp;qpsp=177&amp;qpnp=24&amp;qptimeframe=M" target="_blank">still on the rise</a>.</p><p> Specifically, Windows 10 added another 1.42 percentage points in September to claim a 6.63 percent share of the desktop market. That kind of drop off in growth may seem troubling at first, but it's worth noting that both Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 declined in the same period. Here's a look:</p><ul> <li>Windows 8.1: 10.72 percent, down from 11.39 percent</li> <li>Windows 7: 56.53 percent, down from 57.67 percent</li></ul><p> What about Windows XP? The legacy OS actually managed a small bit of growth, going from 12.14 percent in August to 12.21 percent in September. That's the second lowest it's been in a long, long time, but nevertheless, it's the OS that refuses go peacefully in the night.</p><p> Whatever, Windows XP isn't making a comeback, but will Windows 8.1? It's very doubtful, though it will be interesting to see how long it takes Windows 10 to overtake it. That will depend on a combination of factors, such as new PC sales, how many people downgrade to Windows 8.1 or 7 after giving Windows 10 a whirl, and what level of interest there is in Windows 10 going forward.</p><p> It's not surprising that Windows 10 didn't experience the same rate of growth in September as it did in August. Most of those who were eligible for a free upgrade and planned on doing so probably made the jump at the first opportunity, which helped Windows 10 get off to a fast start.&nbsp;</p><p> Going forward, we'll see how it does now that most new Windows 10 users are coming from new system purchases and paid licenses.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> That's Not a Suitcase, It's Lian Li's PC-TU300 Case and TC-01 Trolley a handle and optional trolley accessory, you can lug Lian Li's PC-TU300 case like a suitcase.Thu, 01 Oct 2015 17:27:29 +0000 LiNews <h3>Can your carry-on luggage play Crysis?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lian Li PC-TU300"></p><p> You have to hand it to Lian Li, the company isn't afraid to take risks with funky new designs on occasions. To date we've seen Lian Li offer a snail shaped case (<a href="">PC-777 Memorial Edition</a>), a PC chassis that <a href="">doubles as a desk</a>, and an <a href="">enclosure for train enthusiasts</a>. Now you can add to the growing list a case that can double as your carry on luggage.</p><p> Lian Li's latest creation is the <a href="" target="_blank">PC-TU300</a>, a rugged and portable ATX case with a built in handle. That alone makes it portable, but if you pair it with Lian Li's optional TC-01 Trolley Cart accessory, you suddenly have a system that you can pull through the airport (or wherever) in the same manner as your suitcase. And yes, Lian Li says it's small enough to qualify as carry-on luggage.</p><p> The case weighs 3.8kg (about 8.38 pounds) and measures 218 x 398 x 440 millimeters (8.58 x 15.67 x 17.32 inches), so it's fairly light and portable to begin with. It will get heavier as you add components, which can include multiple graphics cards, but that's where the trolley comes into play.</p><p> "The TU line is famous for its luggage-like durability and reliability and the TC-01 takes these qualities a step further. The Trolly Cart has two anchor brackets which are screwed into the side panel of the case. The trolly itself can then be attached to provide smooth rolling on flat surfaces, and easily removed when not in use," Lian Li explains. "The PC-TU300 is good choice for the traveler, whether for a local LAN or an international trip."</p><p> In other words, leave your laptop at home and bring your desktop instead. Of course, that means tracking down a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, but if you've always dreamed of traveling with your desktop, Lian Li makes a strong case (pun intended) for its latest offering.</p><p> You can stuff a pair of 3.5-inch drives and a single 2.5-inch SDD inside the PC-TU300. It also supports graphics cards up to 300mm (11.81 inches), CPU coolers up to 160mm (6.3 inches) in height, and PSU's up to 160mm in length.</p><p> The PC-TU300 will be available later this month in two variants -- PC-TU300A for $230 and PC-TU300X for $250. Lian Li didn't say what the differences are between those two configurations or how much the optional TC-01 accessory will cost.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Cougar's 700M eSports Mouse Aims to Pamper Gamers 700M eSports from Cougar sports an adjustable weight system and swappable palm rest.Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:57:33 +0000 <h3>Gaming comfortably</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cougar 700M eSports"></p><p> Cougar expanded its line of gaming mice today by launching an eSports version of its 700M. It includes most of the 700M's features but adds a "radically different look" along with a new coating to set it apart in appearance and tactile feel.</p><p> The 700M eSports consists of a folded aluminum chassis with an arched frame that's supposed to offer ergonomic support for gamer's palms. The frame is adjustable to accommodate different grip styles,&nbsp;and also interchangeable -- users can swap the palm rest module with an included "Sport Mode" version that's a little narrower. No tools are required to change the palm rest.</p><p> You can also adjust the weight to your liking. A weight cartridge containing four 4.5 gram metal weights slides into the mouse's belly in case you want to add some heft to what's an otherwise lightweight rodent.</p><p> Cougar claims there's an aerodynamic design to the 700M eSports that allows your palm to breathe. It sounds like marketing hype to us, though if you tend towards sweaty palms during the heat of battle, we suppose the passive airflow scheme could be of some benefit.</p><p> The 700M eSports uses an 8,200 DPI laser gaming sensor. It also boasts eight programmable buttons, Omron gaming switches, 12,000 FPS frame rate, 150 IPS maximum tracking speed, 30G maximum acceleration, 1,000Hz/1ms polling rate, and adjustable lighting,</p><p> You can purchase the 700M eSports now in black or silver for $60</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Key-ping It Hot: The 10 Best Hotkeys for Windows 10 out the best way to get around Windows 10 using your keyboardThu, 01 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 10 Newegg Daily Deals: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit, WD Red NAS 3TB HDD, and More! you look it's Windows 10 this and Windows 10 that. Hey, we get the excitement -- the desktop experience is back! It's also a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8/8.1 owners, though if you're building a new system and need a brand new license, you'll need to pony up for one. Nevertheless, there's no need to pay full price.Wed, 30 Sep 2015 19:59:41 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 7"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Everywhere you look it's Windows 10 this and Windows 10 that. Hey, we get the excitement -- the desktop experience is back! It's also a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8/8.1 owners, though if you're building a new system and need a brand new license, you'll need to pony up for one. Nevertheless, there's no need to pay full price. Just check out today's top deal for <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SOFTWARE-N82E16832416806-_-0930&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit (OEM)</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $100 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXPA24</strong>]). Maybe you prefer Windows 7 to Windows 10, in which case enjoy! And if not, this is your upgrade ticket to Windows 10 without paying the full asking price.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><strong></strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147372-_-0930&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Evo 2.5-inch 250GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive</a> for <strong>$78</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXPA27</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236344-_-0930&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive 3TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch NAS Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$105</strong> with free shipping (normally $112 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCAXPA22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822178340-_-0930&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Hybrid Drives 1TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s NCQ 2.5-inch Laptop SSHD -Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$70</strong> with free shipping (normally $77)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121978-_-0930&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Radeon R9 380 GAMING 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express GAMING Video Card</a> for <strong>$210</strong> with free shipping (normally $247)</p><p><strong></strong></p> Thinking Inside Boxx: Why Overclocking Workstations Makes Sense system builder Boxx talks about its new Apexx workstation and how overclocking fits in.Wed, 30 Sep 2015 19:48:01 +0000 <h3>Big things in a little package</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Apexx"></p><p>Boutique builders come in different sizes and specialties. There are the ones primarily focused on gaming, like Maingear and Digital Storm, and a select few that deal with professional builds. The latter is the category Boxx fits into, though don't mistake the outfit for a cookie cutter operation.</p><p> There's an enthusiast edge to Boxx, hence today's introduction of what the company claims is the "world's smallest overclocked workstation," the Apexx 1. That's if you go with the Core i7 option, otherwise you can configure an Apexx 1 with a standard Xeon E5 processor, up to an 18-core Xeon E5 -2699 v3. Essentially your choice boils down to clockspeed or core count (that's an oversimplification, but you get the gist), both of which are liquid cooled.</p><p> The Apexx 1 is a compact machine measuring 4.7 (W) x 8.5 (H) x 9 (D) inches, yet it can pack some serious hardware. We're talking up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 memory, two 2.5-inch drives bays with up to 1.2TB SSD options, M.2 SATA support that can be fitted with either a 256GB or 512GB SSD, and a PCI-E 3.x x16 low profile slot with Nvidia Quadro or AMD FirePro graphics. It also has four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 Type A ports, eSATA, dual GbE LAN, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. 7.1 channel audio, and a few other odds and ends.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Apexx Open"></p><h3>To Overclock or Not to Overclock?</h3><p> It may not seem obvious to overclock a workstation. These systems tend to work with more mission critical applications than a typical gaming rig, but that hasn't scared off the folks buying systems like the Apexx 1.</p><p> "We have a steady demand for overclocked workstations. Once we educate our customers on the benefits of overclocking and how it can benefit their workflow, they're on board," Boxx Senior Product Marketing Manger Chris Morley told <em>Maximum PC</em>.&nbsp;</p><p> And what are those benefits? It starts with faster performance and trickles down from there.&nbsp;</p><p> "Overclocking may net more frame rates for gamers, but it makes money for creative professionals," Morley added. "Professionals can get more work done, faster, with an overclocked workstation" and in turn "get home to their families."</p><p> That's all fine and dandy but it all goes right out the window if a system is blue screening at every turn. Morley says that's not the case. In fact, he tells us "there's almost no difference in failure rates in the field" where there are thousands of overclocked Boxx systems currently in use.</p><p> Nevertheless, we wondered if customers tended to shy away from overclocked workstations. Surprisingly, they're not. Boxx's overclocked machines are finding homes all over the place -- virtual effects houses, defense contractors, major architectural firms, and so forth.</p><p> Boxx's approach to overclocking is somewhat unique in that it guarantees the specific speed of a system during the warranty period, which could be three years. What that means is if an overclock proves unstable, Boxx won't dial it back 100MHz or whatever the case may be, it will replace the part that's having trouble keeping up.</p><p>"We also have universal BIOS settings for each model.That means an Apexx 2 Model 2401 @ 4.5GHz will have the same OC settings whether you buy 2 or 200," Morley says.</p><p>It's an interesting proposition, particularly for a compact box like the Apexx 1, which is 70 percent smaller than the aforementioned Apexx 2.</p><p><a href="">Pricing starts</a> at $3,895 for a Xeon-based Apexs and $4,710 for a Core i7-5960X Extreme Apexx. </p> Microsoft to Open Five-Story Flagship Store in New York Next Month will open two flagship stores next month, one in New York City and the other in Westfield Syndney.Wed, 30 Sep 2015 18:26:50 +0000 <h3>Raising a new flagship</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="New York Microsoft"></p><p> Microsoft is getting ready to open two new flagship retail locations, one in New York and the other in Sydney, Australia. Both locations have been six years in the making and will be Microsoft's largest stores to date.</p><p> The store in New York will be Microsoft's first full size store in Manhattan (it has a kiosk in Columbus Circle in Manhattan). It's a five-story, 22,696 square foot facility located at 677 Fifth Avenue, the old address for Fendi. The store's staff will be a diverse makeup coming from five boroughs and surrounding areas, with more than 19 languages spoken.</p><p> Microsoft's store in Sydney won't be quite as big -- it's over 6,000 square feet and spans two floors. It will have a retail sales space and an interactive area to serve local customers and businesses, with staff coming from over 11 countries and speaking more than 21 languages, Microsoft says.</p><p> "When we architected our retail plans, we committed to providing exceptional choice, value and service, and making a positive impact on the communities in which we operate. These flagship stores will deliver on these commitments, offering premier shopping destinations," Microsoft said in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> To celebrate the opening of two new flagship locations, Microsoft said it will donate more than $5 million in software and technology grants to select local organizations. Those organizations will be highlighted during the grand opening events.</p><p> As with past grand opening events, you can expect there to be prizes, special guests, and probably musical entertainment.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> GeForce Now Service Streams Games to Nvidia Devices for $8 Per Month will offer an $8/month streaming game service called GeForce Now.Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:42:28 +0000 <h3>Netflix of games</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GeForce Now"></p><p> Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify have proven there's a vast market for streaming services., and it looks like Nvidia will help itself to a slice of the pie. The way it will do that is through GeForce Now, a $7.99 per month on-demand gaming service for Shield devices (namely the Shield Android TV, Shield Portable, and Shield tablet).</p><p> This is sort of the end-game for Nvidia's GRID service, which has been operating in beta for the past couple of years. When GeForce Now goes live on October 1 in North America, GRID will go dark, though Nvidia insists that GeForce Now is more than just a renaming of GRID. Nvidia says it's "an entire new platform and architecture," one that's "faster, better, more reliable, and more robust," <a href="" target="_blank">according to<em> PCWorld</em></a>.</p><p> GeForce Now will still stream games at 1080p and 60 frames per second, the first non-beta cloud-gaming service to do so. It will launch with over 50 titles. Most of them are slightly older games such as Batman: Arkham Origins, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, to name just a few.</p><p> Nvidia will also offer newer "Buy and Play Instantly" titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ($60) and Saints Row IV ($20). In other words, some games will be available for sale</p><p> "GeForce NOW is all about instant gratification. But it took us a decade to invent the technology behind the service that streams GeForce GTX-quality graphics to SHIELD devices," Nvidia stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> Up in the air? GeForce Now will kick off with a free three month trial when it launches next month.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> How PC Power Supplies Work look at the gritty details of what gives your rig its juiceWed, 30 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <h3>A look at the gritty details of what gives your rig its juice</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="00 PSU opener"></p><p>The power supply unit (PSU) is one of the PC components that we tend to take for granted. It sits in the case with a bunch of wires sticking out of it, and maybe once in a while we blow some air blown into it to get rid of dust bunnies. But it’s arguably the most important piece of hardware in the PC because it does one thing: feeds the rest of the machine the electricity it needs.</p><p>Unfortunately, electricity as it comes out of the wall socket just isn’t the right kind. Electronic devices are designed to use DC electricity, while what’s coming out of the wall is AC. Plus, the electricity from the wall is way too powerful. This means the primary role of the PSU is to convert AC electricity into DC electricity at a safe level. </p><p>We’ll take a look into how a PSU does this, and the actual hardware inside it that makes this possible. As a visual aid, we’ll be cracking one open to expose its innards. </p><h5>Quick Primer: types of power supplies</h5><p>Power supplies come in two main flavors: linear and switched mode. </p><p>Linear power supplies are simpler, requiring only a few steps to convert AC electricity into DC electricity. They expend energy constantly and normally dump excess energy as heat and will require larger components for high power delivery. This limits them mostly to smaller power applications. Where they really shine is that their output has little noise to worry about, and laboratory-grade bench supplies will often be linear for this reason.</p><p>A switched mode power supply, on the other hand, has an internal switch that controls the flow of electricity going into the rest of the power supply. While this adds complexity, it has a couple of benefits. The first is that the power supply uses less electricity than a linear power supply. The second is that the switching action generates high-frequency AC electricity, which in turn allows some components, such as inductors and transformers, to be smaller. The downside is that the switching creates a lot of noise that needs to be filtered in the output and possibly shielded to prevent leakage.</p><h5>From AC to DC: steps in a power supply’s process</h5><p>As mentioned, the primary job of the power supply is to convert AC to DC. Once the DC electricity is made, it turns this into the appropriate voltages for the components to use. It gets a bit complicated once other features are taken into account, so here’s a block diagram breaking it down:</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="01 Psu_block_diagram"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Block diagram of a PC power supply. Red lines are AC, green lines are DC.</strong></p><p>Here’s a picture of the PSU we’re examining with the parts that do all of those steps highlighted. In case you’re wondering about the white goop and plastic sheets, the goop is to minimize vibrations while the plastic sheets are to isolate components from touching either each other or the chassis, which has the ground wire connected to it.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="02-psu Layout"></p><h4>Step 1 – Filtering the AC input</h4><p>Electricity coming out of the wall is very noisy, for a number of reasons. The first step is to filter out as much of the noise as possible, using a combination of capacitors (known as X and Y capacitors) and inductors. In addition, there may be some protection circuitry similar to that found in surge protectors to guard against sudden in-rushes of current.</p><p>If the power supply has a physical voltage switch, the input either goes into a voltage doubler circuit or continues on. The voltage doubler is used when the input is 115V, so that the rest of the power supply only has to work with 230V regardless of the actual input. If there’s active power factor correction, then it takes care of this step. Thus if the power supply takes 115V–230V with no physical switch, there’s a good chance it has active power factor correction.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="03-ac Filter And Recitfier"></p><p>This picture shows the bulk of the AC filtering and parts of rectifying the AC electricity described in step 2. The screws in the middle of the heatsink attach a diode for power factor correction (described in step 3) and a couple of switching MOSFETs (responsible for switching described in step 4).</p><h4>Step 2 – Rectify and filter</h4><p>Electricity coming from the wall is alternating back and forth between positive and negative voltages. This causes current to flow back and forth throughout the wires, producing no real work over time. Rectifiers convert the alternating current into a purely positive current as seen in the picture below:</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="04 Rectifier_circuit_with_graph"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>AC input to a full-wave rectified output (from </strong><strong><a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong><a href="" target="_blank">Falstad’s Circuit Simulator</a><strong>).</strong></p><p>A reservoir capacitor is used to capture energy from the still alternating flow to turn it into a more flat and stable one.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="05 Filter_cap_and_ripple"></p><p>Notice that on the output, there’s a sort of saw-tooth pattern. This is because the capacitor can only be charged up when the voltage of the rectified output reaches a certain point to the peak voltage. Otherwise it’s discharging. The lowest and highest points in the saw-tooth form what is known as ripple. The amount of ripple depends on the quality, capacity, and type of capacitor. High-quality power supplies will keep ripple to a minimum. </p><p>As an aside, the ATX specification calls for no more than five percent ripple on the 3.3V, 5V, 5V_SB, and 12V lines.</p><h4>Step 3 – Power Factor Correction (PFC)</h4><p>Power factor is a phenomena that happens with AC circuitry. There are two types of power in AC circuits: active and reactive power. Active power is power that’s being used on resistive loads, like turning a motor. Reactive power is power that works on components such as capacitors and inductors to charge them up, with no work done on the actual load.</p><p>Power factor is the ratio between the sum of the active and reactive power (called apparent power) and the active power itself, and is always lower than 1. Power factor correction aims to get this ratio as close to 1 as possible. While this sounds similar to efficiency, efficiency is an inherit component of electronics that cannot use all of the electricity to do useful work and dumps what it can’t use as heat. </p><p>There are two types of power factor correction: passive and active. Passive PFC uses inductors, a <em>passive</em> electric component. Active PFC uses control circuitry and transistors, or <em>active</em> electric components.</p><h4>Step 4 – Switching</h4><p>Switching clumps a few actions together to achieve the same effect: allow electricity to flow through to the rest of the power supply. Other functions of switching include:</p><ul> <li>Protection circuitry, such as overvoltage, overcurrent, overpower, and short circuit protections.</li><li>Provide basic feedback to the computer, the most important one being the power good signal, which tells the motherboard that the PSU is good to go.</li><li>Create a high-frequency (in the tens of kilohertz range) AC output. The reason is that this allows the transformers used in the next step to be small.</li></ul><p>Switching requires feedback from the output in order to work properly. This is done by tapping into the output voltages that feed into the computer. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="06-control Circuitry"></p><p>This is the control circuitry for handling switching.</p><h4>Step 5 – Transform</h4><p>Transformers are used to step down the voltage to a primary 12V line and a secondary 5V line. The main 12V line is then stepped down further using DC-to-DC converters to 5V and 3.3V for the PC to use. A secondary 5V line is used to supply the 5V standby power circuitry so that the computer can turn on from the front power switch.</p><h4>Step 6 – Rectify output and filter</h4><p>After transforming the input into a safe voltage level output, it’s time to rectify and filter once more, because what’s coming out of the transformer is AC electricity. It’s basically a repeat of step 2.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="07-output Rectifier"></p><p>The picture shows the rectifier on the right, which for this model is the half-wave type. This means only half of the AC wave is used. This is most likely a cost-saving measure to avoid needing a more complex transformer. To the left of the rectifier are the capacitors used for filtering.</p><p>The output is tapped back into the switching circuit. For safety reasons, the output circuitry is not directly connected to the input circuitry. That is, there’s no PCB trace or wire connecting the two. To get around this, this power supply uses an isolating transformer. In other power supplies, they may use what is called an optocoupler. (<strong></strong>)</p><h4>Step 7 – Convert and regulate</h4><p>Since only 12V is created from the main transformer, DC-to-DC converters are used to create the 5V and 3.3V. Regulators help keep voltages as stable as possible. The following images show the output of these lines. The output wires are very thick because they have to support a lot of current.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="08-12v And 3v Outputs"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The 12V and 3.3V lines come out here.</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="09-5v And 3v Outputs"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The 5V line comes out here.</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="10-main Output"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>All of those wires lead into the main distributor PCB. Nothing fancy going on here.</strong></p><p>You may have noticed there were two 12V lines coming out of the output (noted by the label “12V2” on the PCB). This would imply that this particular power supply has two 12V rails, most likely distributed between the main 24-pin connector and EPS12V connector for one rail with the peripherals, including the PCI Express connector, for the other. </p><h4>Putting it all together: It takes a lot to convert electricity</h4><p>For the seemingly simple task of converting electricity, the power supply goes through more than a few steps to ensure the safe, correct electricity plugs into your components. While this article scratches the surface of its inner workings, we hope the information gives a better appreciation of an often overlooked part.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Asus GeForce GTX 970, Samsung 850 Evo 120GB SSD, and More! are many ways to relieve stress. If we were to list them out, gaming would be No. 2 on our list (we'll let your mind run wild with what No. 1 is). Of course, without a dedicated graphics card, trying to game would only increase our stress level, so why mess around with integrated graphics? We wouldn't, and if you don't plan to either, then check out today's top deal.Tue, 29 Sep 2015 19:03:22 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus GeFor-ce GTX 970"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>There are many ways to relieve stress. If we were to list them out, gaming would be No. 2 on our list (we'll let your mind run wild with what No. 1 is). Of course, without a dedicated graphics card, trying to game would only increase our stress level, so why mess around with integrated graphics? 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According to AMD, its latest beta driver contains "performance and quality" optimizations for Battlefront, along with the DirectX 12 optimizations for the Fable Legends: Benchmark.</p><p> In addition to performance tweaks, Catalyst 15.9 resolves several issues. They include:</p><ul> <li>[59474] Diablo 3 crashes in the Act 2 Desolate Sands area of the game</li> <li>[59081] The AMD Catalyst Control Center 'update' option fails to download the latest driver</li> <li>[58800] Dragon Age: Inquisition may crash if launched in Mantle mode</li> <li>[58781] The DirectX Diagnostic tool does not report DirectX12 available on supported products</li> <li>[58677] World of Warships may crash on some AMD Radeon HD5000 and HD6000 series products</li> <li>[58646] Assassin's Creed®Unity may experience minor frame stutter when AMD CrossFire mode is enabled</li> <li>[58485] Anti Aliasing settings not being retained after changes are applied</li> <li>[58450] Some Benq 144Hz Freesync monitors may lose the signal while uninstalling the driver</li> <li>[58495] DiRT Rally crashes during gameplay and benchmarking when launched in DirectX11 mode on some Benq 144HZ Freesync monitors</li></ul><p> There are also a bunch of known issues, such as GTA V crashing on some Radeon R9 390X GPUs and flickering in the Battlefront beta if Crossfire is enabled. You can read the full list of issues in the <a href="" target="_blank">release notes</a>.</p><p> If and when you're ready to download the driver, go <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> (32-bit) or <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> (64-bit).</p><p>As for Battlefront, it releases in beta form on October 8. EA is considering it a "technical test" to give fans a small taste of what to expect. There will be three modes spread across three planets, including Walker Assault on Hoth (40-player battle with Rebels trying to destroy the Empire's onslaught of AT-ATs), Drop Zone on Sullust (8v8 matches as you fight for control of escape pods), and Survival Mission (play alone or with a friend to hold off waves of Imperial forces). </p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Attempts to Soothe Privacy Concerns Over Windows 10 promises to respect your data while still mining it in Windows 10.Tue, 29 Sep 2015 17:43:41 +0000 10 <h3>Can privacy and Windows 10 go hand-in-hand?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Sign"></p><p> Since launching two months ago, Windows 10 has been simultaneously praised for bringing the focus back to the desktop, and soundly criticized for potentially stepping over privacy bounds at every turn. Speaking to the latter, Microsoft's Terry Myerson says that from the very outset, WIndows 10 was designed with two straightforward privacy principles in mind.</p><p> The first is that "Windows 10 collects information so the product will work better for you", and the second is that&nbsp;"you are in control with the ability to determine what information" Microsoft collects.&nbsp;Those statements alone aren't likely to be sufficient to appease Windows 10 users who are concerned about privacy, so Myerson goes on to explain things in a little more detail.</p><p> "We collect a limited amount of information to help us provide a secure and reliable experience. This includes data like an anonymous device ID, device type, and application crash data, which Microsoft and our developer partners use to continuously improve application reliability," <a href="" target="_blank">Myerson states</a>. "This doesn’t include any of your content or files, and we take several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you, such as your name, email address, or account ID."</p><p> Microsoft's attempting to walk a fine line here. On one hand, Myerson acknowledges that Windows 10 shares information about you with Microsoft, but on the other hand, he's saying it's largely anonymous and for the benefit of certain features.</p><p> What about Cortana?&nbsp;"Note that with new features like Cortana, which require more personal information to deliver the full experience, you are asked if you want to turn them on and are given additional privacy customization options," Myserson explains.</p><p> Myerson also took a subtle shot at Google by saying that "unlike some other platforms," Windows 10 doesn't scan the contents of email or other forms of communication to deliver targeted ads.</p><p> The blog post isn't likely to sway users who believe Windows 10 is little more than a mass spying platform for Microsoft. However, it does at least open a dialog and confirm that Microsoft is aware&nbsp;of the negative privacy perception surrounding its OS.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Logitech Adds G410 Atlas Spectrum to Mechanical Keyboard Arsenal G140 Atlast from Logitech is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard with custom switches.Tue, 29 Sep 2015 16:19:49 +0000 <h3>Compact and colorful</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="G410 Atlas Spectrum"></p><p> Logitech today announced its new <a href="" target="_blank">G410 Atlas Spectrum</a>, a tenkeyless (no dedicated number pad) keyboard with mechanical switches. Unlike many of the mechanical planks out there, the G410 Atlas Spectrum doesn't use Cherry-brand key switches.</p><p> Instead, Logitech designed its own "Romer-G" switches and tasked Omron with building them. If the name Omron looks familiar, it's probably because they make button switches from several high-end gaming mice.</p><p> As for the G-Romer switches in the G410, Logitech says they offer 25 percent faster actuation than standard competing switches with an actuation point of 1.5mm. The pitch is that they receive commands faster, which in turn will give gamers an edge in competitive matches.</p><p> The G410 uses center-illuminated RGB backlighting for gaming in the dark. You can customize the backlighting and synchronize various effects to in-game situations, such as having them turn red when your health reaches a critical low.</p><p> Logitech didn't include a built-in LCD in the construction of the G410, but the keyboard does come with an Arx Control dock that you can position wherever you like. It's essentially a stand for your smartphone or tablet. Using Logitech's Arx Control app for Android or iOS, you can use your mobile device to display in-game information, system stats, and more.</p><p> "We worked closely with gamers of all ages and our eSports teams to create this ultra-light keyboard that is durable and comfortable," <a href="" target="_blank">said Ujesh Desai</a>, vice president and general manager of gaming at Logitech. "The result is something that we think meets the needs of eSports athletes, but is also great for younger gamers looking to buy their first gaming keyboard."</p><p> The G410 Atlas Spectrum will be available in October for $130 MSRP.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB Review’s first M.2 NVMe offers impressive performance in a compact size.Tue, 29 Sep 2015 14:52:10 +0000 <div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">At a Glance</h5><p><strong>(+)&nbsp;Speed Freaks:</strong> Fast; compact; great for laptops.</p><p><strong style="background-color: initial;">(-)&nbsp;Speed Limits:</strong> High price per GB; limited capacities; BIOS support for booting;&nbsp;OEM-only.</p></div><h3>Compact, fast, and built for OEMs</h3><p> Last week, we posted <a target="_blank" href="">our new SSD test suite</a> and set our baseline expectations. Our baseline SSDs consist of one of the fastest SATA drives, two good SATA SSDs in RAID 0, and Intel’s SSD 750 PCIe NVMe drive. The Intel drive is a force to be reckoned with, easily beating the other SSDs in most of our tests, but it’s also the first NVMe drive we’ve tested. Today, we’re reviewing Samsung’s first NVMe offering, the SM951 NVMe M.2 256GB. A quick overview of storage interfaces is in order before we continue.</p><p> NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a new standard designed specifically around the needs of SSDs, where previous SSDs used the AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) command set that was built for SATA drives&mdash;which initially consisted solely of hard drives and other slow storage options. NVMe connects to storage via a PCI Express interface, opting to use the existing standard rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. The core differences between NVMe and AHCI are that NVMe has significantly more queues and supports more commands per queue (65536 queues and commands per queue, compared to one queue with up to 32 commands), it has more interrupt options, and there’s significantly improved parallelism for the interface and devices. If you’re just interested in what this means to the end user, NVMe has much higher bandwidth and some optimizations to reduce latency and improve throughput.</p><p> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel’s SSD 750 is awesome</a>, but there are a few limitations. The biggest issue is price: The smallest version is 400GB and <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443467710&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+400gb&amp;refinements=p_85%3A2470955011">costs just under $400</a>, while the larger <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443467755&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+800gb">800GB</a> and <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443467782&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">1.2TB models</a> double and triple the capacity and price. There are other potential concerns, though, like the need for an x4 PCIe 3.0 slot to realize maximum performance, and a motherboard that has BIOS support for NVMe. Intel offers the drive in a 2.5-inch form factor as well, though it requires relatively rare SFF-8643 (Serial Attached SCSI) connector. Basically, very few people are going to have a board with SFF-8643, so there’s not much demand for those drives.</p><p> That brings us back to the Samsung SM951 NVMe M.2 256GB. This aims to take all the NVMe goodness and stuff it into a convenient M.2 PCIe form factor, naturally&mdash;we love names that tell you pretty much everything you want to know! Just to clarify a few things, it’s important to note that the <a target="_blank" href="">SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD</a> was already available a while ago, but the earlier release uses the AHCI command set. The SM951 NVMe is essentially the same core device but with some minor tweaks to switch from AHCI to NVMe; going forward in this article, when we say “SM951” we’re specifically talking about the NVMe model. There’s also one major problem with the SM951: It’s intended for OEMs, typically going into laptops, so it’s not widely available, though you can still find it <a target="_blank" href=";field-keywords=sm951">for sale on</a> and <a target="blank" href=";N=100008118&amp;IsNodeId=1&amp;Description=sm951&amp;name=Internal%20SSDs&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;isdeptsrh=1"></a>.</p><h5>Hail to the King</h5><p> One thing to note before we get into the results is that Samsung elected to send us their 256GB model for testing. This will have an impact on certain performance metrics as the larger SSDs often have better parallelism, particularly for write operations. Samsung specifies the 256GB model with read speeds of up to 2,150MB/s and write speeds of up to 1,260MB/s, while the 512GB model has slightly higher peak write performance of 1,550MB/s.</p><p> So, how does the Samsung SM951 perform, and can it hope to dethrone the Intel SSD 750? As we noted in our <a target="_blank" href="">revamped SSD test suite article</a>, we’ve updated to a new test bed for storage, running a <a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a> processor in a Z170 motherboard. We had initially planned on using our X99 GPU test system, but the M.2 slot unfortunately only runs at x2 PCIe Gen2. Which makes for an interesting comparison point, so we’ve added it to our graphs to show what happens if you run the Samsung drive on a narrower bus.</p><p> Here’s our test system (except for the PCIe Gen2 results), followed by the benchmarks.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4–4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">ASUS Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Intel HD Graphics 530 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 1.2TB PCIe x4</a><br><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868461&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+1tb">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA</a><br><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID 0<br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443468203&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=sm951">Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB M.2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p>Considering the relatively low capacity, the SM951 does well in our sequential and random transfer results. The Intel 1.2TB drive is faster, but if we had the 400GB Intel vs. the 512GB Samsung, things would likely be much closer&mdash;and you’d get 112GB of additional storage from Samsung. The QD64 AS SSD Random Write results are the one area where Intel still holds a significant advantage, but that’s a pretty unlikely use case for consumers.</p><p>As we continue through the benchmarks, IOmeter confirms the AS SSD results, but an interesting thing happens when we get to the “real world”: Samsung wins out in both the file copy test and PCMark 8 Storage. The PCMark 8 Storage Score, of course, reflects system-wide performance, so the SSD has less of an impact and most of the drives are “tied,” but Samsung is clearly delivering better bandwidth. The same is true of file copying, where Samsung enjoys a moderate lead. Somewhat interesting is that even on an x2 Gen2 PCIe connection, the SM951 is still generally faster than SATA SSDs, including RAID 0 SATA drives, but there’s clearly a bottleneck.</p><p>Here’s what the charts won’t tell you: The Intel SSD 750 is basically useless for laptops and notebooks. This is the intended market for the SM951, and not only does it offer great performance, but it does it in an M.2 form factor that you can find in most modern laptops. The catch is that you still need a laptop BIOS that supports booting from an NVMe drive; otherwise, the SM951 will only work as secondary storage. That sort of defeats the purpose of buying an NVMe M.2 device, which is probably why Samsung is positioning the drive as an OEM-only product.</p><h5>Coming Soon: Samsung 950 Pro</h5><p> There’s a lot to like with the Samsung SM951, but even with great performance, it may not be the M.2 drive to get. Samsung just briefed us on their <a target="_blank" href="">upcoming 950 Pro SSD</a>, which will be a retail product with full NVMe support. Hopefully, that should mean better prices and wider availability, though we don’t have internal performance numbers just yet. Interestingly, Samsung <em>didn’t</em> compare performance of the 950 Pro with the SM951, but on paper there’s a bit of give and take going on. The SM951 uses planar NAND while the 950 Pro will use V-NAND, so 950 Pro should have better endurance and require less power. The peak read speeds are slightly higher on the 950 Pro as well, but peak write performance may be down slightly.</p><p> In other words, while the SM951 is speedy, this review is really setting us up for the Samsung 950 Pro launch in October. There likely won’t be a huge difference between the two drives in overall performance, but the retail 950 Pro should be more easily available for purchase.</p><p> If you don’t care about the M.2 form factor, e.g., for desktop use, the Intel SSD 750 1.2TB is still the drive to beat when it comes to pure performance; it also wins out for capacity, as the SM951 tops out at 512GB. If you don’t need the additional space and you want an M.2 NVMe drive today, the SM951 is still a great drive and definitely worth a look. Frankly, there aren’t many other options out there, and of those that we’ve tested (more SSD reviews coming soon!) the SM951 comes out well ahead of the competition. But that price will still make you think twice, and you still have to deal with system requirements. There’s also the fact that as an OEM-only product, you won’t get any warranty from Samsung. <em>Caveat emptor</em>.</p><p> Here’s some more food for thought. Samsung’s SM951 may be over twice as fast as a good SATA drive in many of our benchmarks, but for less demanding users, it’s hard to go wrong with the <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1443470136&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+500gb">Samsung 850 EVO 500GB</a>. Not coincidentally, you get more than twice the storage capacity of the 256GB SM951 for less money as an added benefit. It may not be the new hotness, but SATA is still more than fast enough for most users. That’s likely to be a recurring theme with high-performance SSDs for the coming year, but someone has to blaze trails and eventually the price discrepancy between SATA and M.2 drive should fade away. And by the time that happens, we should also see a wider installed base of motherboards and laptops with NVMe support.</p><p> Samsung’s SM951 ends up being an awesome little drive with a few disclaimers. For those who fall into the target demographic, it’s easily the best of its class, but in the fast-changing world of SSDs that title may not last long. Swing by next month and we’ll see where things stand.</p><p> <em>Follow Jarred on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> How To: Future-Proof Your Home Network gigabit Ethernet in your home in about two hoursTue, 29 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 tonetwork <h3>10 gigabit Ethernet in your home in about two hours</h3><p> Chances are high that if you’ve ever tried moving a file larger than 1GB from one device to another over your Wi-Fi network, you’ve noticed that you have just enough time to floss your teeth, clip your nails, and stare at that old pencil mark on your desk for a solid minute before that file makes it to its destination. As you sat there waiting you probably thought to yourself, “There’s gotta be a better way!”</p><p> There is! It’s called a “wired network” and it has been around since Intel was a pup. While not as easy or as buzzword-laden as Wi-Fi, you can’t beat a wired network for serious, intense throughput. And we’re going to show you that it’s not as tough to install in a home as you might think. C’mon, let’s get dirty!</p><p> <strong><em>WARNING: Check your local regulations on permits and cabling in your area!</em><br> </strong></p><p> Tools you’ll need:</p><ul> <li>A wooden framed house with an attic and sheetrock walls</li> <li>Length of&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1443715470&amp;sr=8-5&amp;keywords=cat+6a+cable" target="_blank">Cat6 Ethernet Cable</a> sufficient to cover the distance ($150 for 1000 feet)</li> <li>Bag of&nbsp;<a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443715616&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=Cat6+LAN+connector+ends" target="_blank">Cat6 LAN connector ends</a> ($67 for 100)</li> <li><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443538566&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Ethernet+crimping+tool" target="_blank">Ethernet crimping tool</a> ($13)</li> <li>Set of wall glow sticks or an old fishing rod minus the eyelets ($20 or free)</li> <li><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1444007629&amp;sr=1-3&amp;keywords=1%2F2+fish+bit+48" target="_blank">48-inch fish drill bit</a> ($47)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443538737&amp;sr=8-3&amp;keywords=Punch-down+tool" target="_blank">Punch-down tool</a> or small screwdriver ($8)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443538791&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Ethernet+tester" target="_blank">Ethernet tester</a> ($10)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443722822&amp;keywords=RJ45+cat6+wall+plate&amp;psc=1" target="_blank">RJ45 Cat6&nbsp;wall plate</a> (10 for&nbsp;$10)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443722822&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=RJ45+cat6+wall+plate" target="_blank">RJ45 Cat6 wall jack</a> (10 for&nbsp;$14)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443538875&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=Single+gang+1.406-inch+hole+device+receptacle+wall+plate" target="_blank">Single gang 1.406-inch hole device</a> receptacle wall plate ($1)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539012&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=single+gang+wall+bracket" target="_blank">2 single gang wall brackets</a> ($6)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539043&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Intellinet+24-port+1U+Cat6+patch+panel" target="_blank">Intellinet 24-port 1U Cat6 patch panel</a> model 520959 ($40)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539077&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=1U+19-Inch+hinged+wall+mount+bracket" target="_blank">1U 19-Inch hinged wall mount bracket</a> for patch panels ($16)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539118&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Stanley+FatMax+six-inch+Jab+Saw" target="_blank">Wall saw</a> ($12)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539169&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=stanley+Stud+finder" target="_blank">Stud finder</a> ($15-$25)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539218&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=Safety+glasses" target="_blank">Safety glasses</a> ($5)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1443539239&amp;sr=8-7&amp;keywords=Measuring+tape" target="_blank">Measuring tape</a> ($5)</li> <li><a href=";field-keywords=zip+ties" target="_blank">Set of zip ties</a> ($4)</li> <li><a href=";field-keywords=Electrical+tape&amp;rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AElectrical+tape" target="_blank">Electrical tape</a> ($1)</li> <li><a href=";qid=1444011267&amp;sr=8-3&amp;keywords=joint+compound+dust" target="_blank">Wall mud</a> ($16)</li> <li>Putty knife (free with mud)</li> <li><a href=";field-keywords=Cordless+drill&amp;rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3ACordless+drill" target="_blank">Cordless drill</a> (varies by quality/brand)</li> <li>Vacuum for cleanup</li> <li>About two hours of time (priceless)</li></ul><p> Sure, we could have gone with plain old Cat5e cable rated for gigabit Ethernet transfer speeds, but this isn’t “Average PC” is it? No, we want future-proofing and room for 10-gigabit Ethernet, son! Arr! We’re also using a patch panel that handles 24 ports to allow room for later expansion. Note that we're assuming you already have a&nbsp; <a href=";field-keywords=gigabit+switch&amp;rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Agigabit+switch" target="_blank">Gigabit router/switch</a> available (which would include&nbsp;<a href=";keywords=gigabit+802.11ac+router&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1443550904" target="_blank">802.11ac Wireless routers</a>);&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1443550817&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=10gbe+switch" target="_blank">10GbE switches</a> are still very expensive, but they'll drop in price as sure as you can say "gravity," and when they do you'll be ready.</p><p> To start, you should measure your wall height and the approximate run of your cable from your source to the area you’d like to install your new wall jack. You want the jack on an interior wall to avoid dealing with insulation, and at least one stud away from an electrical outlet to lessen the chances that you’ll nip a live wire and black out the neighborhood. You also want it centered between wall studs to make the drilling portion easier. Wall studs are about 16 inches apart, but some are 24 inches; you’ll need to use your stud finder to see what standard your home uses. Use a pencil to lightly mark the studs on each side of your work area.</p><h4><strong>Find Your Supports<br> </strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong> </strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image001"></strong><br> <em>A stud finder shows you where boards are in your wall.</em></p><p> Once your new outlet spot is chosen, measure 12 inches upward from the baseboard. Mark this point as the bottom of your jack. The idea here is to make the hole of your new wall jack the same height as existing electrical and phone plugs for continuity. Use a pencil and draw a square using your single gang bracket as a template. Now, look at the spot you just drew. Really look at it, because in about a minute we’ll be making that hole permanent.</p><h4>Use the Single Gang as a Template</h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image002"><br> <em>Templates make art class so much easier.</em></p><p> Happy with your placement? Let’s get down to business.</p><p> For safety you should walk to your breaker box or fuse box and turn off the electricity to the room you’re working in and the one on the opposite side of the wall. You may not run into a wire, but we want you safe. All good? OK, get your wall saw. We prefer the Stanley FatMax six-inch Jab Saw for rigidity and easy sawing in sheetrock. You do not want a flimsy, flexible saw for this procedure. Starting at the bottom-right corner of your receptacle drawing, push the saw into the wall, and begin sawing horizontally along the bottom. You may need to use a hammer to lightly tap the saw into the wall to start.</p><p> At the first corner, pull out the saw and start again, this time cutting your line vertically (upward). This allows you to turn your cut if you run into a stud that you missed with your studfinder. Complete your cut the same way on the remaining two sides, then pull the cutout out of the wall and set it aside. It may fall into the wall. This is fine unless we have to mud up the hole due to wires or other issues.</p><h4>Remove the Cutout</h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image003"><br> <em>Your jack location exposed.</em></p><p> Take your single gang bracket and test your work by fitting it in the hole. The goal is to make for a tight fit. Now, let’s do some drilling. To keep fire from moving easily from room to room, our homes now have a horizontal board between some studs called a fireblock.</p><h4>Fireblock</h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image004"><br> <em>Fire safety first!</em></p><p> Use your stud finder and slowly move upward from the hole you sawed. Assuming a standard home, you’ll hit your fireblock within 3 feet of your receptacle. If your studfinder doesn’t signal a stud running horizontally in your wallspace, you are in an open wall, you have an older home, or you simply missed it; try again. If you found one, mark it with a pencil.</p><h4>Going Fishing</h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image005"><br> <em>A fish bit eats through fireblocks for breakfast!</em></p><p> Get your fish drill bit and push it into the hole and upward at an angle away from any electrical outlets in the same wall. The goal is to work it to the fireblock into one corner where it meets up with a stud. Running the drill in reverse can help the drill bit “walk” up the wall stud easier to reach the fireblock. To be sure you’re hitting wood pull the bit out about 4 inches then poke it back up to the fireblock hard enough to make a noise. It should sound like wood. Anything else is danger. Stop now and call a licensed electrician. If you choose to stop, use wall mud and the cutout piece of sheetrock to fill the hole you made. Let it dry for 24 hours and paint over it.</p><p> If you hit wood, connect your drill bit to a cordless drill and start your hole. Once finished, take your wall saw and cut another, identical hole about four feet from your ceiling, but this time there are two differences: First, use a pumpkin cut. A pumpkin cut is a side-slanted cut to form a bevel, like you make on a pumpkin’s lid. And second, don’t make the cut across the top. Leave that part attached so the lid will flip up and down easily, but not fall off of the wall.</p><h4>Pumpkin Cut</h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image006"><br> <em>Cut with the blade at an angle to allow the plug to reseal easily.</em></p><p> Put the drill back into the wall in your pumpkin cut. Feel the resistance of the bit as you drill upward through the ceiling cap boards toward the attic. It should give resistance for about four inches, then break free into the attic. If you find yourself drilling more than four and a half inches or past your taped mark on the shaft, you may be in a rafter of the attic and you’ll need to move your drill bit to the opposite corner of the ceiling and the fireblock then try again from the beginning. Thankfully, we’re working on an inside wall and this is very unlikely.</p><p> At this point you can pull out the bit and use your glow rods to push up through the wall. For our home, we needed three sections of glow rod to make it from the jack into the attic space. At the end, connect about three inches of your cat6 cable to the glow rod with electrical tape. Use more tape to cover any bumps in the connection to prevent snags.</p><h4><strong>Become the Tape&nbsp;Master</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image007"><br> <em>Tape the cable to the glow rods.</em></p><p> Then push the rods up through the wall along the same route you took with the fish bit. It should slide into place easily.</p><h4><strong>Up with the Rods</strong><strong></strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Up with the rods - corrected"><br> <i style="text-align: center; background-color: initial;">Once more into the breach!</i></p><p> Grab a strong, reliable flashlight and head up into the attic. WARNING: Attics are scary, dangerous places. Only step on the wooden crossbeams while in the attic unless you want a visit to a hospital and do some tricky ceiling mudwork. Avoid the overhead nails and any metal ductwork you see. Also, most insulation is fiberglass or rock wool, which is very itchy. Don’t touch it more than you have to. Always wash hands or shower afterward to avoid itching. Finally, if your home was built between 1930 and 1950, you may have asbestos insulation. Asbestos has been shown to cause cancer when inhaled. Have your insulation tested if you're unsure.</p><h4><strong>Typical Attic Route</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image009"><br> <em>Easiest route in a standard attic. Go forward, then cut across to target area.</em></p><h4><strong>Watch Your Step!</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image010"><br> <em>Step only on the crossbeams.</em></p><h4><strong>Duck Your Head</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image011"><br> <em>Watch for overhead spikes.</em></p><h4><strong>Silver Is Soft</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image012 Side"><br> <em>Don’t lean or walk on ductwork, you’ll fall!</em></p><p> Work your way over to the area of the attic you believe to be above your wall. You should see the glow rod sticking out of the insulation like a beacon.</p><h4><strong>Finding the Glow Rod </strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Finding the glow rods"><br> <i style="text-align: center; background-color: initial;">A shining beacon from below.</i></p><p> Once you reach the glow rod, slowly but firmly pull the cable up through the wall. Again, snags can and do happen all the time. If you hit a snag, just push the rod down and pull it back up again. Keep firm upward pressure on the glow rod and it should pull through. You may need to disconnect some lengths of the glow rod as you pull it up to keep from hitting the ceiling. Once the glow rods pull through completely, keep pulling until you have a enough cable in hand to reach across the attic and down the wall to your router. The cable should pull freely through the wall. If you feel a snag, head back downstairs and untangle the wires from your spool. You don’t want a kink in this cable. If you bought an industrial-size box of cable (500–1000 feet), it will feed through the wall easily by design. Do not disconnect the cable from the glow rod. We’ll use it to feed down to the router later.</p><p> Now, work your way carefully across the attic to the general area of the router, stringing the cable along behind you and laying it across the insulation but away from your walking area. You don’t want to step on a cable and break a wire inside. You may have to use cable tacks to affix your cables to the crossbeams if your local regulations require. They're available at your local hardware store. Coil the cable, set it down, and head back downstairs.</p><h4><strong>Laying track</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image014"><br> <em>Lay the cable on the insulation out of the main walkway to prevent stepping on it.</em></p><h4><strong>Tack It Down</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tack it down"><br> <i style="text-align: center; background-color: initial;">Cable tacks hold the cable in place and tidy up the look.</i></p><p> We repeat the process on the wall by our router. Leave the drill bit in the hole poking up into the attic. Now, crawl into the attic and view the drill bit to get an idea of the location. Clear insulation from around the hole.</p><h4><strong>We Struck Oil!</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image016"><br> <em>Locating the drill can be easy if it's high enough.</em></p><p> After removing the drill bit, start feeding your glow rod down through the hole you just drilled and into wall until it stops. Take a moment here to replace any insulation you moved as best as you can. Holes leak heat and heat costs money.</p><p> Head back downstairs and fish the glow rod from the cutout in the wall using a coat hanger or a hook. Once through the hole, pull the glow rod down until you see the end and cable emerge. Disconnect the cable from the glow rod and pull enough cable through the hole to reach your patch panel location.</p><p> The rest of our cabling happens inside. Get your new crimping tool and use the cutting blade to cut the cable entering the wall at your destination point if there is excess or if you used a cable box.</p><p> Affix your wall brackets to the wall using the screws provided in the pack. Don’t overtighten these screws or you’ll pull the braces through the wall. You just want it immobile, not bending the fabric of time.</p><p> <strong>Install the brackets</strong><br> <strong></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image017"><br> <em>Tighten just snug.</em></p><p> Now, use the sheath-stripping part of the crimping tool to remove the sheath from your cable ends. Ideally, you’ll want no more than one inch of wire unsheathed to protect bandwidth. Any more than that and you chance line interference.</p><h4><strong>Strip It Off</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image018"><br> <em>Remove one inch of sheathing from the cable.</em></p><p> The next step depends on the type of jack connectors you bought.</p><p> <em>*Tip: The standard pinout order for cable 568A is white/green, green, white/orange, blue, white/blue, orange, white/brown, and brown. 568B is white/orange, orange, white/green, blue, white/blue, green, white/brown, and brown. </em></p><p> Single-piece wall plates are more commonly used for phone jacks than Ethernet cable, but they are much easier to install for a newbie or those with big hands. The main drawback is to single-piece plates is the length of exposed, untwisted wire. This makes them more prone to interference, which can slow a full 10 gigabit connection, though this generally isn’t a concern on an inside wall away from electrical outlets. You will need to strip the sheathing back about three inches to have sufficient wire to stretch to the screw mounts.</p><h4><strong>Stripping Crazy!</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image019"><br> <em>Strip the sheathing farther on single piece wall plates.</em></p><p> Starting with the bottom-left corner, wire them in order for your chosen standard, either 568A or 568B. For ours wired with 568A, we went with white/green to blue, green to orange, white/orange to black, and blue to red up the left side.</p><h4><strong>Wiring on the Left</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image020"><br> <em>Wire the left side as shown.</em></p><p> On the right side we connected brown to blue, brown/white to brown, orange to yellow, and blue/white to green.</p><h4><strong>Wiring on the Right</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image021"><br> <em>Wire the right side as shown.</em></p><p> Once the jack is wired up, you can screw it into the mounting bracket. Take care to screw it down just snug, as the faceplate will crack if you apply too much pressure.</p><h4><strong>Button It Up</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image022"><br> <em>Screw your new jack to the wall.</em></p><p> Stick with us here, we’re almost finished!</p><p> On the router wall again, you can now mount your mounting bracket in the opening on your wall exactly as before. Then add your hole-style wall plate and secure it with the provided screws. If you’re not using a patch panel, you can simply put another jack on this wall too, then plug it into the router and you’re off and running. However, using the patch panel and a hole-style receptacle wall plate allows for expansion for running cable to your new TiVo, your refrigerator, security cameras, or anything else that connects to the “Internet of Things” in the future. It’s something to think about.</p><p> You should now mount your patch panel bracket in a place that is easily accessible to plug new devices into your router. If mounting to a sheetrock wall, mount only on the studs at least one stud from any electrical outlet. You’ll need to use the stud finder again to find them through the wall. Some use brackets that allow for the panel to swing outward in one direction or another to make mounting new cable easier. Be sure to allow for the swing if yours does this. The mount we chose is a simple vertical mount that we’ll be affixing to the bottom of a built-in desk for easy access.</p><h4><strong>“Jerk Screws”</strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image023"><br> <em>GRK fasteners drill their own pilot holes and provide strong holding power.</em></p><p> To affix our bracket, we chose what we affectionately refer to as “jerk screws.” These self-tapping, hex head screws made by GRK Fasteners are corrosion resistant and strong enough to back out multiple times if necessary. And when you’re finished you can build a house with the leftovers.</p><p> Hold your bracket up and mark the mounting holes with a pencil. Then run the screws in about a quarter inch to create a guide hole at each pencil mark. Finally, mount your bracket using the holes.</p><p> To create a smooth-looking patch panel, we started mounting our wires on the side that faced the wall that our wires entered the room. This prevents a big curve in the bulk of cable running from the panel. That meant for us the first cable punched down was number twenty-four. Afterward, simply zip-tie the cables in bundles of two or three as you go down the patch panel for a clean, streamlined look. Then zip-tie the cables every six inches until you reach the wall receptacle.</p><h4><strong>Punch Down the Cable</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image024"><br> <em>Start filling your panel on the side the cable enters for easy expansion.</em></p><p> After connecting your cables, test them all with a cable tester. If problems happen they are likely at the patch panel because of misaligned wires or wires that were too short to make contact. Once you correct any problems, mount your panel to your bracket.&nbsp;</p><p> Now, pat yourself on the back. You did it! Want to take it a small step further? Take a sharpie to your new jack and mark it with a small number corresponding to the number on your patch panel. This would be 1–24 on our panel. Next, label your panel with a sticker or a bit of tape. This will make tracking down connection issues much easier.</p><h4><strong>Label Your Jacks</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image025"><br> <em>Human-friendly sticker labels are easy to identify without tracking down numbers.</em></p><p> Let’s clean up. Get that tub of wall mud.</p><h4><strong>Wall Mud</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image026"><br> <em>We prefer the low-dust variety in case we have to do some sanding.</em></p><p> A word about texturing: In our example home, the walls are textured in the popular style where the mud is simply drawn in big sweeping paths going in different directions. This makes for easy repair. For flat walls, simply sand down the dry mud after 24 hours to a consistent height. For the style that looks similar to worm trails in the wall, you can use wall mud on a moistened automotive sponge, dabbing the sponge in the mud, then on the wall with straight, short jabs to retexture. We promise it is not as hard as it sounds.</p><p> Start with opening the pumpkin cut. Lift up the swinging part of the wall and smear a good ½ inch of mud into the mating surfaces of the cut. This will serve as “glue” to hold the cut back together.</p><h4>Mud the Pumpkin<br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image027"><br> <em>Any excess will be scraped off the front and help fortify the back.</em></p><p> Once you have all three surfaces of the pumpkin cut mudded properly, you can fold the top down and press gently until it is seated. Don’t press too hard. Use your putty knife to smooth out the surface portion of the hole. If your walls are like ours, simply spread the mud to texture now. While you’re at it, you may as well mud up those old nail holes.</p><h4><strong>Texture and Wait</strong><br> <strong></strong></h4><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Image028"><br> <em>Cover the wall-wrecking evidence!</em></p><p> <strong></strong>Now, the waiting begins. You should wait 24 hours to paint or you may end up with cracks in your wall, forcing you to start over again. While you wait, run the vacuum to remove all the dust and chunks of wall left behind. You can take any painted chunks to your local hardware store to get your paint color matched for free.&nbsp;</p><p> That’s it! You’re done! Enjoy your new blazing-fast speeds. The future is now.</p><p> <em>If you were brave enough to follow our tutorial on running cables in a standard home, send us pics of your project to We’d love to see how it turned out. </em><strong></strong></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD (Refurb), MSI GE72 Laptop, and More! everything you save is mission critical. You know the stuff we're talking about -- all those selfies, food pics, and anything else that wouldn't shatter your world if you lost it. Nevertheless, if you store such things, they take up space and can fill up a hard drive in a hurry. The solution? More storage!Mon, 28 Sep 2015 19:08:17 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Seagate Barracuda 1TB"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Not everything you save is mission critical. You know the stuff we're talking about -- all those selfies, food pics, and anything else that wouldn't shatter your world if you lost it. 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This is a 7,200 RPM drive with 32MB of cache and a SATA 3Gbps interface.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16834152817-_-0928&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI GE Series GE72 Apache Pro-077 Gaming Laptop Windows 8.1 64-Bit</a> for <strong>$1279</strong> with free shipping (normally $1500)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025068-_-0928&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG Black 19.5-inch 5ms Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$75</strong> with free shipping (normally $100)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DESKTOP-N82E16883798396-_-0928&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Lenovo Desktop Intel Core i7 (2.80 GHz) 4 GB 250 GB HDD Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit (Refurbished)</a> for <strong>$340</strong> with free shipping (normally $500; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817182351-_-0928&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Rosewill 750W Power Supply with LED Indicator, 80 Plus Platinum Certified</a> for <strong>$100</strong> with free shipping (normally $130; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p> Move Over MacBook Air, LG's Lighter Gram Laptop Arrives in US's new Gram laptop looks like a MacBook Air but runs Windows 10.Mon, 28 Sep 2015 18:52:45 +0000 <h3>Lighter than a MacBook Air</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LG Gram"></p><p> Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air weighs 2.38 pounds while the 13-inch model weighs 2.96 pounds. Both are incredibly light for a laptop, though not as light as LG's new Gram notebook.</p><p> Despite having the biggest screen of the bunch at 14 inches (there's also a 13-inch model), the Gram barely budges the scale at just 2.16 pounds. That has the current generation MacBook Air models beat, and lest there be any doubt, those are the systems LG is declaring war against (LG specifically mentions the MacBook Air in its press release).</p><p> However, the MacBook Air is a little bit skinnier at its most narrow point -- the 13-inch model measures 12.8 (W) x 0.11-0.68 (H) x 8.94 (D) inches, versus the LG Gram's 12.8 (W) x 0.5 (H) x 8.9 (D) profile. Measurements aside, they look similar in a side-by-side comparison, as you can see in photo <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Verge</a> </em>took of the two laptops.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LG Gram Angled"></p><p> The Gram's body is made of carbon-lithium and carbon-magnesium, the same materials found in spacecraft and race cars. According to LG, this allows the Gram to be both lightweight and "exceptionally strong."&nbsp;</p><p> Interestingly, LG opted to build its Gram line around Intel's Broadwell architecture, not Skylake. There are three models at present, the least expensive of which is the <a href="" target="_blank">LG Gram 13</a>. It runs $900 and features a 13.3-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS display, Intel Core i5-5200U processor, 8GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM, 128GB SSD, 1.3MP webcam, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN, two USB 3.0 ports, microSD card slot, HDMI output, and Windows 10.</p><p> There are also two LG Gram 14 models, one that runs <a href="" target="_blank">$1,000</a> (same specs but with a physically larger display) and another that <a href="" target="_blank">costs $1,400</a> (Intel Core i7-5500U processor and 256GB SSD).</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> CyberPower PC's Fangbook 4 Xtreme Sinks Teeth into Skylake and G-Sync new Fangbook 4 Xtreme line from CyberPower PC sports 6th Gen Intel Core processor options and Nvidia G-Sync technology.Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:34:38 +0000 pcfangbookg-syncNewsskylake <h3>Aggressive name, aggressive specs</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CyberPower PC Fangbook 4 Xtreme Front"></p><p> Boutique builder CyberPower PC today announced its new Fangbook 4 Xtreme line of gaming laptops with Intel Skylake hardware inside, DDR4 memory, and display panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync technology.</p><p> The Fangbook 4 Xtreme is essentially a desktop replacement. While CyberPower PC didn't mention weight or dimensions in its announcement, a look at the press photos erase any hopes of a thin and lightweight design.</p><p> In lieu of that, the Fangbook 4 Xtreme brings some serious hardware to the mobile world. There are two baseline configurations, the first of which <a href="" target="_blank">starts at $1,749</a> and includes a 15.6-inch 4K (3840x2160) panel with G-Sync support, Intel Core i5-6600K processor, 8GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 memory, 250GB Samsung M.2 SATA SSD, 1TB HDD, Killer Gigabit LAN, programmable full-color backlit keyboard, two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, HD webcam, 6-cell battery, and WIndows 10 Home 64-bit.</p><p> <a href="" target="_blank">For $2,155</a>, CyberPower PC bumps the processor up to an Intel Core i7-6700K, doubles the RAM to 16GB, upgrades the graphics to a GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and swaps the solid state storage for a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo M.2 SSD.</p><p> This is a configurable laptop that you can customize to your liking and budget, though the latter setup is nearly as all-out as CyberPower PC allows on this one. You can add more storage, but there are no options for increasing the RAM or adding a second GPU.</p><p> The Fangbook 4 Xtreme is available to configure now.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Google Readies Launch of Ad-Free YouTube Subscription Service ad-free version of YouTube may launch to the public next month.Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:10:35 +0000 <h3>Get rid of ads (for a fee)</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="YouTube"></p><p> YouTube, the most popular free video streaming service on the web, is about to offer a subscription option for viewers who'd rather pay a monthly fee than sit through ads.</p><p> It's an idea Google and YouTube have been kicking around for a long time now, and come next month, it could finally become a reality. We say "could" because there's no official announcement or confirmation of an October launch from Google, though it sure sounds that way in an email blast to content owners.</p><p> "To give fans more choice we will be launching a new ads-free version of YouTube, available to fans for a monthly fee," Google states in its email.</p><p> Google goes on to explain that it wants to ensure that fans who pay for an ad-free experience will be able to watch all the same videos that are currently supported by ads.</p><p> "That's why we're asking you to update your agreement to reflect the updated terms for the ads-free service... by October 22nd," Google continues.</p><p> Google's email seems to suggest a late October launch. The question is, at what price? <a href="" target="_blank">According to <em>Recode</em></a>, "industry sources" peg the monthly subscription price being $10, which would also include access to YouTube Music Key, an extension of Google Music that includes music videos. The problem with that price point is that it's no higher than a Google Music subscription, which is included with YouTube Music Key, so it's tough to imagine Google generating enough revenue to offset ads.</p><p> The way around this is to not include Google Music in the mix. By going that route, $10/month might be enough to pay royalties to music artists and offset ads in YouTube videos, though it still seems like a stretch.</p><p> Yet another solution is to charge more than $10/month, though we suspect even that amount will prove too high for many YouTube fans.</p><p>In any event, that's Google's problem to solve. Our job is to hang tight and see what develops next month.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Five Reasons to Own a NAS good reasons to splurge on a NAS unitMon, 28 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology DiskStationb"></p><p>Over the last several weeks, we’ve taken a close look at several network attached storage (NAS) units from QNAP and Synology, including the <a href="" target="_blank">Synology DiskStation DS2415+</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">QNAP TurboNAS TS-451</a>. NAS storage solutions typically play host to more than one hard drive and have access to the local network. They resemble small, boxy PCs, complete with one or more fans to keep them cool. And depending on the model you purchase, they can act like small PCs as well.</p><p>Naturally, all NAS offerings have their pluses and minuses as far as features are concerned, but one thing is perfectly&nbsp;clear: having a NAS in the home or office can be an excellent investment. The drawback is that multi-disk NAS units are not cheap, costing hundreds of dollars <em>before</em> stuffing them with hard drives. However, which is worse: the cost of purchasing a NAS or the cost of losing all of your data? </p><p>As a matter of fact, you can also build your own NAS. If you have a spare PC (or if you can just build a new one) and have a few HDDs. There are plenty of free options available, and one of the most popular is FreeNAS -- which we'll cover in a separate article. But for the scope of this one, it's for those who want an all inclusive solution.</p><h5><strong>Backup</strong><br> </h5><p>This feature should be pretty obvious. While, as stated previously, NAS solutions don’t come cheap, we can't recommend one-disk solutions. What’s ideal is to have more than one hard drive storing the backup files. If one begins to fail, the other drives will still have your information. That said, if you’re only using one disk, such as an external hard drive connected via USB, chances are that disk will eventually fail and your data will be lost.</p><p>Backing up a Windows-based machine is simple. For example, you can load up File Explorer in Windows 10 and find your NAS unit by clicking the Network link, and then the actual NAS unit listed within the "Computer" window. In the same way as any other networked PC, the NAS unit will reveal its folders, allowing you to create a new folder into which Windows can dump the backup files. After that, simply point Windows in the right direction and voilà! You've backed up your operating system.</p><p>Of course, NAS units aren’t just for backing up Windows: they’re an ideal solution for backing up anything that’s stored on your desktop or laptop, such as documents, pictures, video, and more. As with backing up Windows, you can locate the NAS in File Explorer and either create a folder, or just use the folders created by the NAS’s operating system. </p><h5><strong>Cloud</strong></h5><p> That leads us to our next reason why you need a NAS: to create a personal cloud. Sure, there are solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive on the cloud market, and they’re pretty reliable in regard to uptime and keeping your digital goods out of the hands of hackers and government officials. But if you’re like us (and Mulder and Scully from <em>The X-Files</em>), you likely don’t trust <em>anyone </em>with your data. </p><p>One great aspect of most NAS solutions is that they embrace the cloud in several ways. As we highlighted earlier, NAS units are designed to be accessed by anyone on the local network. They can also be accessed outside the network if the user has the correct login information. Yes, that means NAS units can be accessed remotely on any device, including iOS- and Android-based units. All you need is an app and the login info to upload and/or download approved files.</p><p>For instance, Synology provides a number of apps for iOS and Android that cater to one specific type of media such as DS Video, DS Photo, and DS Audio. There’s also a DS File app for accessing all files stored on the NAS and DS Download for specially accessing the download folder. Thus, users can back up their Android and iOS devices by using these applications wherever they may be.</p><h5><strong>Media Server</strong><br> </h5><p>Another reason to consider a NAS purchase: its media server capabilities. Not only can you store music, videos, and photos, but they can be played on devices connected to the local network. For instance, if you have an Xbox One, you can load up the Media Player app and it will show the available NAS units. Click a NAS shortcut and your media folders will appear, whether it’s Music, Video, Photo, or a combined folder labeled as Multimedia.</p><p>Because of this feature, you won’t need to burn Blu-ray discs, DVDs, or CDs to play your favorite media&nbsp;within the home. And the media is accessible from any device on the network, including your smart HDTV, game consoles, desktops, and mobile devices. Media can also be downloaded and played locally on a device, or played when you’re out and about and away from the local network.</p><p>That leads us to our next reason to get a NAS: accessing the Internet.</p><h5><strong>Internet Access</strong><br> </h5><p>As we’ve seen in recent reviews, NAS units can serve as makeshift home theater PCs that are dressed up with apps that can access the Internet. For example, the QNAP TurboNAS TS-451 we recently reviewed provides apps for Chrome, Firefox, Facebook, LibreOffice, Plex Home Theater, Skype, and more. These NAS units also typically have HDMI output so that you can connect them to an HDTV and USB ports for connecting a mouse and keyboard. </p><p>That said, having a NAS that acts like a PC keeps customers from having to purchase a separate PC to dish out content for the living room. But as we stressed earlier in this article, a NAS can get quite expensive as the storage capacities get larger. Remember, a NAS is typically purchased without the hard drives, so the cost could skyrocket if you want a lot of storage capacity.</p><p>Nevertheless, what we're suggesting here is that consumers should consider a NAS and expect a premium pricetag for a solution that not only stores data but pumps it all to an HDTV and other devices. Keep in mind that there are NAS devices that don’t provide support for video output and peripheral input, which will likely have less of an impact on your wallet. </p><h5><strong>Apps, Apps, and More Apps</strong></h5><p>Finally, the NAS units we reviewed recently came with their own app stores. This is another feature that makes NAS units so cool: They can be customized by way of the apps installed on the device. Each NAS comes with apps pre-installed for music, video, and photos. But there are tons more served up in Synology’s “Package Center,” which provides just over 70 apps ranging from backup to multimedia to business to security to utilities. The QNAP App Center provides over 140 apps.</p><p>That said, let’s say your QNAP NAS is all about business. You can install nearly 15 apps on the device such as OpenCart, OpenERP, OrangeHRM, osCommerce, FrontAccounting, and more. Want the NAS to focus on entertainment? You can install Plex Media Server, a port of Super Mario Bros, Podcast Generator, Video Station Lite, and so on. There are also apps for content management, developer tools, surveillance tools, education, and even home automation apps. See? NAS devices are somewhat like PCs.</p><h5><strong>A Compelling Purchase?</strong><br> </h5><p>We hope we’ve made our point about the benefits of owning a NAS unit. With a NAS, you’re in control of what the device does and what it contains, not some third-party cloud service with servers located who knows where. Also with a NAS, you’re in control of how the data is consumed, allowing access to approved devices and people. Even more, your NAS is usually out of the public limelight, making is less likely to be hacked.</p><p>As we’ve stated a few times, however, NAS solutions can be rather pricey once you start cramming in hard drives. Still, once you’ve backed up Windows, your documents, music, videos, and photos, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your precious data is safe. Sure, you can purchase a single external drive to back up everything, but with a NAS, disk failure doesn’t mean your data will be lost forever.</p> Oculus Connect Keynote: What We Learned Ready PC program and Software offerings dominate major announcementsFri, 25 Sep 2015 20:34:25 +0000 VRoculus riftoculus touch <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Brendan Iribe, CEO at Oculus - #2"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Brendan Iribe</strong></p><p>Just a few blocks away from the Hollywood Bowl at the Dolby Theater (the same theater that hosted the 2014 Academy Awards) in Hollywood, California, developers and journalists poured into their seats for a keynote address hosted by Oculus CEO Bredan Iribe.</p><p>Most of the first half of the keynote was dedicated to the $100 Samsung Gear VR headset set to launch in November. If you're not up to speed, the Gear VR uses a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6+, S6 Edge, or Note 5 smartphone as the display, and doesn't require a PC. At that price point, it makes VR more affordable for the everyday user. That is, if they have a recent Samsung smart phone. Nexus, iPhone, and OnePlus users are out of luck. Developer models <a href="" target="_blank">are availble now for $200</a>.</p><p>On the bright side, the Gear VR will have Netflix and Twitch streaming. It may be easy to scoff at, but that's a lot of content that the platform is getting as of today.</p><p>When it came to the Rift, there wasn't as much groundbreaking information to blow your hair back. We already know that the Rift will ship Q1, and that Oculus Touch will ship Q2. We already know the Rift's recommended specs, and <a href="" target="_blank">we built a rig around them</a>.</p><p>The main consumer-facing news for the Rift is the "Oculus Ready PC" program. PCs that meet or exceed the Rift's recommended specs will be deemed Oculus Ready, and the company has already partnered with Intel and Nvidia to certify systems. Don't worry, Team Red fans, Oculus said it's talking to AMD, too.</p><p>The first prebuilt Oculus Ready systems will be offered next year by Asus, Dell, and Alienware (Dell again), Oculus said. Each of the PC offerings will have Intel CPUs paired with Nvidia graphics and will be priced under $1,000.</p><p>While there's a lot of good content being developed for the Rift&mdash;like the awesome <em>Eve: Valkyrie</em>&mdash;the Rift had been lacking a huge title that would draw millions. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, came on stage clad in t-shirt, jeans, and sandals. He announced, enthusiastically, that <em>Minecraft</em> would be coming to Rift.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Palmer Luckey Minecraft"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong></strong><strong>Oculus founder Palmer Luckey announces <em>Minecraft</em> for Oculus.</strong></p><p>Eight new games were announced for Oculus Touch as well: <em>Final Approach</em> by Phaser Lock Interactive, <em>Moon Strike</em> by Big Dorks, <em>Pulsar Arena</em> by ZeroTransformation, <em>Job Simulato</em>r by Owlchemy Labs, <em>I Expect You To Die</em> by Schell Games, <em>Nimbus Nights</em> by Otherworld Interactive,<em> Dead &amp; Buried</em> by Oculus Studios Team, and <em>Surgeon Simulator</em> by Bossa Studios.</p><p>The keynote also nodded to creatives, by releasing two key features. Oculus made the assets used for the demo VR short film <em>Henry</em> available to developers, so those interested in telling stories in VR could see how it can be done. Additionally, Oculus announced Medium, touted as it's "paint program for VR." Medium allows users to sculpt three dimensional objects using Rift Touch. Those objects can then be exported to .obj files for 3D printing or to be used as game or film assets. Medium is slated to be released in Q2 along with the Oculus Touch.</p><p>There was a lot more news on the developers side, since Connect is a developer's conference after all. Oculus touted the release of the 0.7&nbsp;SDK, which will offer direct driver mode to Nvidia and AMD hardware for lower-latency commands. Oculus said that it is aiming to have version 1.0 of the SDK out by December.</p><p>For the last half hour of the keynote, Iribe ceded the stage to Michael Abrash, Oculus's chief scientist. Abrash's talk centered around the challenges in using VR to fool most of your senses (he said he'd happily leave taste to some future developer) into thinking the virtual environment is real. Abrash didn't give any new product news, but instead his talk was&nbsp;aimed squarely at the developers in the room.</p><p>"We are VR pioneers," he said to the developers in the theater, invoking names like Steve Wozniak. "These are the good old days."</p> Oculus, System Builders to Promote VR-Ready PCs Starting Under $1,000 system builders will offer "Oculus Ready" machines when the Oculus Rift debuts next year.Fri, 25 Sep 2015 19:52:22 +0000 rift <h3>VR hype train picks up steam</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Oculus Rift"></p><p> Nearly threes year after it debuted on Kickstarter, Oculus Rift, now a Facebook project, is almost ready for prime time. It has the potential to flip PC gaming on its head (in a good way), and despite the long journey from concept to retail product, hype remains high. To ensure things stay that way, Oculus has partnered with select system builders to promote "Oculus Ready" machines.</p><p> <a href="" target="_blank">Oculus says</a> "these systems will start at a variety of price points under $1,000," thereby making VR gaming accessible to the masses. There will also be a variety of hardware configurations represented by Nvidia, AMD, and Intel.</p><p> Asus has already come out of the gate with two Oculus Ready desktops, the <a href="" target="_blank">G11CD</a> and the ROG G20CB, both powered by processors based on Intel's Skylake architecture and Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics.</p><p> The G11CD is an "aggressively-designed" mid-tower chassis with a central LED array on its front panel and "Mayan-inspired markings." Gamers can customize the lighting effects with 8 million color options. Beyond the physical design, Asus isn't yet ready to share too many details about the hardware, other than to say it will house DDR4 memory and USB 3.1 ports.</p><p> For the small form factor crowd, the ROG G20 trades a mid-tower case for a 9.5-liter chassis. It also sports an aggressive profile and Mayan-inspired markings.</p><p> With either system, users just need to connect their PC to the Oculus Rift and download the required drivers.</p><p> Beyond Asus, Oculus says Dell and its Alienware brand are on board with the Oculus Ready movement. It's a short list, though only for now -- Oculus plans to announce more Oculus Ready PC partners by the end of the year.</p><p> That said, the recommended hardware for the "full Rift" experience is an Intel Core i5-4590 or higher processor, GeForce GTX 970 / AMD 290 or higher graphics card, and 8GB+ of RAM. Required specs include Windows 7 SP1 or newer, two USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI 1.3 output.</p><p>Oculus Rift is scheduled to release in the first quarter of 2016.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: EVGA GeForce GTX 960, Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD, and More! are three keys to living a long and happy life: Eat healthy, exercise, and play video games. To be honest, we're only sure about two of those things, but why risk it by leaving one out? That would be crazy!Fri, 25 Sep 2015 17:06:58 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="EVGA GeForce GTX 960"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>There are three keys to living a long and happy life: Eat healthy, exercise, and play video games. To be honest, we're only sure about two of those things, but why risk it by leaving one out? That would be crazy! So, here's what you do. Stock up on fruits and veggies, join a gym, and say goodbye to integrated graphics. That third one can be tricky, though one option is to take advantage of today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_--N82E16814487128-_-0925&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">EVGA GeForce GTX 960 4GB Graphics Card</a> for <strong>$230</strong> with free shipping (normally $250; additional $20 mail-in-rebate; Free Heroes of the Storm Kaijo Diablo Bundle w/ purchase, limited offer). It's a capable card that doesn't cost a fortune, and it comes with some sweet digital content.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_--Combo2507846-_-0925&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">SuperCombo Storage Pack: 4X Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive WD30EFRX 3TB</a> for <strong>$380</strong> with free shipping (normally $440)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_--N82E16820147360-_-0925&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro 2.5-inch 256GB SATA III (SSD) MZ-7KE256BW</a> for <strong>$125</strong> with free shipping (normally $140 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNS22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_--N82E16822236339-_-0925&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1TB 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$48</strong> with free shipping (normally $70 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCAXNS25</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_--N82E16820231568-_-0925&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB (2 x 8GB) 2 Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$75</strong> with free shipping (normally $88)</p> Microsoft Squashes SafeDisc DRM in Windows Vista, 7, and 8 rolled out a Windows Update that disables support for SafeDisc in older versions of Windows.Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:54:07 +0000 <h3>Say goodbye to SafeDisc</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Eliminate DRM"></p><p> With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft effectively dropped the ban hammer on SafeDisc, one of the most hated forms of digital rights management (DRM). That same courtesy has now been extended to Windows Vista (SP2), Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8, and Windows 8.1.</p><p> "This security bulletin addresses a defense-in-depth update for the secdrv.sys driver, a third-party driver. The update turns off the service for the secdrv.sys driver," Microsoft explains.</p><p> At the same time, getting rid of SafeDisc DRM "may affect the ability to run some older games." That's an unfortunate side effect, though <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft provided instructions</a> on how to get those older titles running again.</p><p> To run an older game that requires SafeDisc, you'll need to fire up an elevated Command Prompt and manually start the driver's service. Here are the steps to do that:</p><ol> <li>Click the Start button and search for Command Prompt. When it appears, right-click and select Run as administrator.</li> <li>Type "<strong>sc start secdrv" </strong>(no quotes) and hit enter.</li> <li>When you're finished playing your game, go back into the Command Prompt and type <strong>"sc stop secdrv"</strong> to disable SafeDisc.</li></ol><p> Another way to restore SafeDisc is through the registry. The steps are as follows:</p><ol> <li>Click Start &gt; Run and type regedit in the Open box. Click OK.</li> <li>Navigate to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\secdrv</li> <li>Right-click Start and then click Modify</li> <li>In the Value data box, do one of the following:<br> <p> *Type 4 to disable the driver's service, and then click OK.<br> *Type 5 to set the driver's service to manual, and then click OK.<br> *Type 2 to set the driver's service to automatic, and then click OK. </p></li></ol><p> As always, be careful when mucking around in the registry. Also be advised that by enabling SafeDisc, you leave your PC vulnerable to malicious attacks.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Lian Li Shows Off PC-Q10WX Case with Acrylic Side Panel Li's PC-Q10WX is the first Q series case to feature an acyrlic side wall.Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:01:18 +0000 LiNews <h3>Have a look inside</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lian Li PC-Q10"></p><p>Most cases that give you a glimpse of its guts have a window built into the side panel, but with Lian Li's new <a href="" target="_blank">PC-Q10</a>, the acrylic window <em>is</em> the side panel. By going this route, onlookers get a clear view of the entire build (better practice those cable routing skills).</p><p> The PC-Q10 is another small form factor (SFF) case -- Lian Li's been cranking out quite a few lately -- designed for mini ITX motherboards (not to be confused with the slightly larger micro ATX, or mATX standard). It's a compact chassis weighing 2.3kg and measuring 207mm x 277mm x 335mm.</p><p> Despite its small stature, the PC-Q10WX has a big enough belly for a graphics card up to 270mm (~10.6 inches), which is just enough to accommodate a GeForce GTX Titan X. It can also fit CPU coolers up to 140mm tall and PSU's up to 150mm long.</p><p> This isn't a case for massive storage duties -- it supports up to two 3.5-inch drives or three 2.5-inch drives. That's enough to install a solid state drive for the OS and a more capacious HDD for general purpose storage, but beyond that, your options are limited.</p><p> On the cooling side, there's space for a 240mm radiator on the top panel, albeit externally, and a 120mm rad on the back panel. If going all out with air cooling, you can install up to five fans inside the PC-Q10, one of which is included (rear 120mm fan).</p><p> Lian Li says the PC-Q10 will be available in the U.S. this month for $119.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Broken Windows: The Ugly Side of Microsoft’s OS DirectX 12 really worth your privacy and freedom?Fri, 25 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC117.qs alexcolumn"></p><h3>Is DirectX 12 really worth your privacy and freedom?</h3><p>One of the biggest problems with proprietary software isn’t the “black box” nature of its inner workings, but the nature of the agreements users give their consent to.</p><p>When you begin using a new piece of software or an online service, how often have you actually read the terms of use and privacy policy? If you’re like me, you’ve all too often scrolled to the bottom in clicked “I agree,” without giving it a second thought. “Give me my software experience! Here, have my firstborn child; I need to be able to do this one thing!” We’ve all done it, and few of us are proud of it.</p><p>For all of the outrage surrounding services that have wronged users, most of it was hidden within the dark depths of an unread end user license agreement, user agreement, or privacy policy. As the saying goes, if you want to do something evil, hide it in something boring.</p><p>After reading Microsoft’s user and license agreements for Windows 10, that hinted evil is very boring.</p><p>Most of the Microsoft Software License Terms document for Windows 10 basically sets all kinds of legal restrictions on your use of the software. The restrictions are draconian by many counts, and actually look like the polar opposite of rights granted in free software licenses.</p><p>The real concerning details are in the Microsoft Privacy Statement (<a href=""></a>). The standard set of data collection applies here: If you use Microsoft’s services, they have to collect any data you supply in order to deliver them to the recipients, make them searchable by Cortana, and provide alerts and smart searches.</p><p>The problem with this is that Microsoft says it shares that data “with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on our behalf; when required by law or to respond to legal process; to protect our customers; to protect lives; to maintain the security of our services; and to protect the rights or property of Microsoft.”</p><p>So, if you let Cortana see your emails, an FBI subpoena can get them, too. Sounds great. My favorite part is that if Microsoft has to protect its property and rights, it will happily share your data. Tell me more, oh electronic scroll of impending doom.</p><p>I opened up the Windows heading to look at what the OS itself had in store. Sure, Bing and collect your stuff, but I wanted to know what the OS itself did. What I found in the device-encryption paragraph under the Security and Safety Features subheader made the previous statement about information-sharing chilling:</p><blockquote>Device encryption helps protect the data stored on your device by encrypting it using BitLocker Drive Encryption technology. When device encryption is on, Windows automatically encrypts the drive Windows is installed on and generates a recovery key. The BitLocker recovery key for your device is automatically backed up online in your Microsoft OneDrive account.</blockquote><p>You read that right: Microsoft stores a backup copy of your encryption key on your OneDrive account that they can give to the FBI or anyone else they deem worthy if it is in Microsoft’s interests. What’s not to love?</p><p>Needless to say, this flies in the face of the very purpose of encryption. Why lock your house if you store a spare key (along with your name, address, shopping habits, and late-night browsing preferences) in some shopkeeper’s locked box for him to do with as he pleases?</p><p>There is hope: Although TrueCrypt was abandoned by its original authors, the code has been audited and deemed good, without back doors. I for one won’t be considering Windows 10 or BitLocker secure.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: AMD A10-5800K System, WD Black 4TB HDD, and More! is officially over, folks. The back-to-school season is in full effect, and that means less time to do the things you like to do. It also means you might not have time to build a budget box for Aunt Mabel, who says she wants a machine for surfing the web and posting to Facebook. No time? No worries, just check out today's top deal.Thu, 24 Sep 2015 19:16:39 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD System"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Summer is officially over, folks. The back-to-school season is in full effect, and that means less time to do the things you like to do. It also means you might not have time to build a budget box for Aunt Mabel, who says she wants a machine for surfing the web and posting to Facebook. No time? No worries, just check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-Combo2507728-_-0924&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">AMD A10-5800K Trinity System</a> for $250 with free shipping (normally $308; additional $5 mail-in-rebate). This system comes with an AMD A10-5800K quad-core APU clocked at 3.8GHz with Radeon HD 7660D graphics, MSI A68 motherboard, 8GB of Kingston HyperX Fury RAM, 256GB SanDisk Z400s SSD, and a Logisys CS136BK case w/ 480W PSU.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-Combo2503573-_-0924&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">2x Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with free shipping (normally $180)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236624-_-0924&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Black Series WD2003FZEX 2TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$110</strong> with free shipping (normally $119 - use coupon code: [<strong>BTEWD1522</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236623-_-0924&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Black Series WD3003FZEX 3TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$145</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>BTEWD1523</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236622-_-0924&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Black WD4003FZEX 4TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$190</strong> with free shipping (normally $196 - use coupon code: [<strong>BTEWD1524</strong>])</p> Turtle Beach Targets Gamers of Every Platform with Recon 50 Series Beach's new Recond 50 PC gaming headset is available to pre-order for $40.Thu, 24 Sep 2015 17:21:18 +0000 beach <h3>Low frills, low price headset</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50"></p><p> The iPhone 6s isn't the only piece of tech gear coming out tomorrow (September 25, 2015), so is Turtle Beach's new Ear Force Recon 50 series, which is a new line of headsets for PC (Recon 50), Xbox One (Recon 50X), and PlayStation 4 (Recon 50P).</p><p> Turtle Beach didn't go all out with its new Recon 50 line. Instead, this is a budget headset line with a $40 (MSRP) price tag and lightweight design -- according to Turtle Beach, the over-the-ear Recon 50 weighs just seven ounces.</p><p> Inside the earcups are 40mm Neodymium speaker drivers. Turtle Beach says they deliver "sizzling highs and thunderous lows," while the synthetic leather-wrapped earcups provide improved bass and noise isolation. At $40 retail, we're a bit skeptical of Turtle Beach's claims here.</p><p> The Recon 50 also has an adjustable, high-sensitivity boom mic (non-removable), along with in-line controls with Mic Mute and Master Volume buttons.</p><p> Though it's pitched at PC gamers, the Recon 50 can plug into any system with a 3.5mm audio jack, be it a tablet, smartphone, and so forth.</p><p> If this is something you're interested in and you absolutely can't wait until tomorrow, <a href="" target="_blank">Turtle Beach is accepting pre-orders</a> for the Ear Force Recon 50 on its website.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Mozilla Wants You to Test Tracking Protection in Firefox 42 Beta 42 goes beyond deleting your browser history to keep your online activities private.Thu, 24 Sep 2015 16:50:30 +0000 <h3>One step closer to being invisible on the web</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Firefox Tracking Protection"></p><p> There are certain websites you might not want others to know you visit. Whether it's shopping for a surprise gift, signing up for Justin Bieber's fan club, or (more realistically) surfing porn sites, what you do on the web is your business, except that websites try to make it their business, too.</p><p> That's where private browsing modes come into play. Taking it a step further, Firefox 42 Beta adds "Tracking Protection" to the mix, one of several experimental features it wants you to try out.</p><p> Mozilla's theory is that "users have a greater expectation of privacy when using Private Browsing" in Firefox. It says users have provided feedback to support this notion, and so it created a feature in Firefox's Private Browsing mode that blocks certain page elements.</p><p> "Most websites rely on many different 'third-parties' &mdash; companies that are separate from the site you’re visiting &mdash; to provide analytics, social network buttons and display advertising. These third-parties sometimes include page elements that could record your browsing activity to create profiles about you across multiple sites and Private Browsing with Tracking Protection in Firefox Beta blocks some of these page elements," <a href="" target="_blank">Mozilla explains</a>.</p><p> According to Mozilla, Firefox 42 Beta is the only mainstream browser that protects users from website tracking in such a manner.</p><p> If you want to give it a go, install the beta, click the menu button, and click the New Private Window icon to launch a Private Browsing session. A Control Center screen should appear that confirms Tracking Protection is on -- just surf the web as you normally would at this point.</p><p> To disable it on a specific website, click the Shield icon on the left side of the URL bar. This brings up the aforementioned Control Center where you can choose Disable protection for this session.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Makes Baidu Default Search for Edge Browser in China hopes to facilitates millions of upgrades to Windows 10 by replacing Bing with Baidu as the default search for its Edge browser in China.Thu, 24 Sep 2015 15:22:24 +0000 10 <h3>Giving Bing the boot</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Baidu"></p><p> Forget about the search engine wars, Microsoft decided that getting as many people possible on Windows 10 is more important than increasing Bing's market share, at least in China. With that mindset in place, Microsoft partnered with Baidu to have the company's search engine take the place of Bing as the default search and homepage in its own Edge browser.</p><p> In reality, it's not much of a concession for Microsoft. Bing isn't very popular in China to begin with, but with "hundreds of millions of PCs" operating Windows in China, there's a big opportunity to expand Windows 10's reach by appeasing the local crowd.</p><p> "With over 600 million active users, Baidu is one of the most frequently used Internet gateways in China," Microsoft stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>. "Together, we will make it easy for Baidu customers to upgrade to Windows 10 and we will deliver a custom experience for customers in China, providing local browsing and search experiences. will become the default homepage and search for the Microsoft Edge browser in Windows 10."</p><p> The deal also gives Microsoft access to Baidu's new Windows 10 distribution channel called Baidu Windows 10 Express, which will make it easy for Chinese Internet users to download and upgrade to an official version of Windows 10. There are already around 10 million users running Windows 10 in China, though hundreds of millions more are using previous versions, including pirated copies.</p><p> Microsoft also inked a deal with Xaomi, the leading smartphone maker in China. to adopt Windows Azure as its cloud services provider for its Mi Cloud.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> How To Set Up NIC Teaming (Link Aggregation) more from your network using link aggregationThu, 24 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 aggregationnetwork bondingnic teaming <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt=""></p><p> There are times when having a bit more performance is better. Actually, who are we kidding? Having more performance is <em>always</em> better. In the case of networking, this is especially true. You can never have enough bandwidth. There will be some, though, who argue that <em>x</em> number of megabits or gigabits per second is "more than enough." We refer to this as the "640KB mentality."</p><p> All of today's motherboards ship with at least one gigabit Ethernet port. Some premium boards come with two. Of course, you can always add more by installing add-in NICs, and there are motherboards with more than two, but for the sake of this article we're referring to consumer motherboards.</p><p> So, what exactly is link&nbsp;aggregation? In a nutshell, link&nbsp;aggregation (or trunking), is the fine, delicate art of combining two or more physical Ethernet links into a single logical link. So if two 1Gb/s ports were aggregated, you would get a total aggregated bandwidth of 2Gb/s. Note that we use the phrase "aggregated bandwidth."</p><p> Think of link aggregation in terms of network link resiliency rather than total available throughput. In that sense, if one physical part of the logical link fails, traffic will failover to the remaining active links. Where you will see increased bandwidth is when you have multiple origin-destination IOs. For example, if you're transferring a file from one PC to another over a 2Gb aggregated link, you'll find that the total maximum transfer rate will top out at 1Gb/s. Start two file transfers, however, and you'll see the benefits of aggregated bandwidth. In simple terms, link aggregation increases the number of lanes on a highway but it doesn't increase the speed limit.</p><p> What this equates to is if you want true higher throughput, moving to a fatter pipe&mdash;like 10GbE&mdash;is the only way to go.</p><p> For the majority of home networks, setting up link aggregation serves little to no advantages. However, if you're employing a NAS that has multiple Ethernet ports, it may support link aggregation and you'll have some benefits there. So, how do you do it in a network?</p><p> First, you're going to need a switch/router that supports link&nbsp;aggregation (LACP, 802.1ax/ad, etc.). Unfortunately, most consumer-level switches and routers do not support link&nbsp;aggregation, so you'll have to link into business-level products, which will carry a premium.</p><p> Second, your PC needs to have two Ethernet ports, and whatever device you want to connect to needs to have at least the same. Assuming you have the hardware requirements covered, you'll need an operating system that supports it. Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 for consumers don't have link aggregation features baked into them. Microsoft requires that you use Windows Server instead, or you'll have to use vendor-supplied drivers that have link aggregation features (such as Intel PROSet tools). Linux and OS X have built-in link aggregation features.</p><p> After you've satisfied all the prerequisites, here's how to do it.</p><p> We used the following setup:</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Test bed </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> Motherboard </td> <td> <a href=";cm_re=asus_rampage_black_edition-_-13-132-053-_-Product">ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> <a href=";cm_re=3970x-_-19-116-877-_-Product">Intel Core i7-3970X</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> Samsung "Green" DDR3 32GB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> SSD </td> <td> <a href=";cm_re=samsung_850_pro_1tb-_-20-147-362-_-Product">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB</a> x4 (RAID 0) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> OS </td> <td> Windows Server 2012&nbsp;R2 <br> OS X 10.10.5 <br> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Switch </td> <td> <a href=";qid=1439368588&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Netgear+ProSAFE+XS708E+10GbE">Netgear ProSAFE XS708E 10GbE</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> NIC </td> <td> <a href="">Small-Tree Dual Port 10GBASE-T P2E10G-2-T</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Cable </td> <td> CAT7 (7ft </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><h5>Configuring the network</h5><p> First, our NIC is a 10GbE Ethernet adapter from Small Tree that's fully compatible with Windows, OS X, and Linux. You can get a 10GbE adapter with SFP+ connections, but for the sake of network compatibility, Small Tree sent a 10GBASE-T (RJ45) version.&nbsp;</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Smalltree P2e10g-2-T"></p><p> If you're going for the ultimate in performance though, we recommend going with SFP+ connections, as 10GbE pushes the limits of CAT6 and RJ45 connectors. Small Tree also has SFP+ adapters available if you want that kind of setup. Keep in mind that SFP+ switches are even more expensive than RJ45 switches.</p><p> Next up: setting up the switch. You'll need a switch that supports link aggregation, whereby there's management capabilities that will allow you to bond individual ports. The Netgear ProSAFE XS708E comes with a utility that allows you to bond specific ports.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Netgear XS708E"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Netgear XS708E"></p><p> Depending on your switch, you'll have something similar for teaming up ports like what you see in the image above. The above switch isn't a managed switch, so the tool to set this up comes separately as a standalone application. Your switch may have a web interface.</p><h5>Windows Server 2012 R2</h5><p> Unfortunately, NIC teaming isn't natively available in consumer versions of Windows, so we'll have to use Windows Server and in this case, it's Server 2012 R2. To do this in Windows Server, open the Server Manager. From there, click "Local Server" and you'll see an option called &nbsp;"NIC Teaming."</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 01"></p><p> Click the option that says "Disabled" and you'll be presented with the teaming configurator:</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 02"></p><p> You'll see both of your NIC interfaces listed under Adapters and Interfaces. Now, select both interfaces, right click, and select "New Team." In the window that pops up, you'll be given a field to name the new logical interface, as well as to select additional properties related to protocol. The protocol you choose depends on the type of switch you have. Give it a name and click OK.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 03"></p><p> For maximum compatibility, select "Switch Independent" under Teaming Mode. Once that's done, you'll end up back in the main NIC Teaming window where you'll see your newly named logical interface comprising your two physical interfaces. Easy!</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 04"></p><p> If all goes correctly, both your physical connections will indicate an active state, and you can see the transmission details below, although there's no stat for packets lost.</p><h5>OS X</h5><p> In OS X, setting up an aggregated link is a bit more straightforward, and doesn't require special tools or third-party drivers&mdash;the feature is baked into the default Network preferences. To set it up, open System Preferences and go into the Network options.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 05"></p><p> You may have to click the padlock icon to make the options available. Click the small gear icon and select "Manage Virtual Interfaces..."</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 06"></p><p> A drop-down menu will appear. Click the + button and select New Link Aggregate. You'll be presented with a list of your physical interfaces, where you can select the ones you want to bond. Tick the boxes for the interfaces you want to combine, and select Create. Don't forget to give it a name.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 07"></p><p> If all goes well, the two or more physical interfaces you bonded will disappear from the Network interfaces list, and instead be replaced with the logical bond you just created. It's especially good if the light turns green.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 08"></p><p> To see how your connection is doing, select the logical interface and click Advanced. You'll be able to see its status as well as configure other options such as IP address, DNS, etc.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nic Teaming 09"></p><p> To remove the aggregated bond, simply select it in the main Network interfaces window and click the minus (-) button. You'll then need to re-add the individual physical interfaces.</p><h5>Linux</h5><p> One could say that the Linux environment is the most straightforward of all OSes in which to create a logical bond. Open a terminal window (and of course, the same commands apply if you're not using a GUI), and type in the following:</p> <pre>modprobe bonding&lt;br&gt;ip addr add brd + dev bond0&lt;br&gt;ip link set dev bond0 up&lt;br&gt;ifenslave bond0 eth1 eth2 </pre><p> Here's a breakdown of what that command means:</p><p> modprobe bonding: this loads the bonding driver. <br> bond0: the name we gave the logical interface. <br> The third line tells the system to turn on (up) the logical interface. <br> ifenslave: this tells the bonding interface to aggregate interfaces eth1 and eth2.</p><p> If you want to configure how the bonding actually operates, you'll want to modify the /etc/modprobe.conf file to include the bond you want to create and define its properties. Open the .conf file and add the following lines:</p> <pre>alias bond0 bonding&lt;br&gt;options bonding max_bonds=2 mode=4 miimon=1000 </pre><p> max_bonds: defines the number of bond interfaces to create. <br> mode: defines bonding policies such as round-robin, etc. <br> miimon: defines the frequency in milliseconds that link monitoring will occur for high availability failover.</p><p> To see how your bond is operating, issue the following command:</p> <pre>cat /proc/net/bond0/info </pre><p> And you should get the following output:</p> <pre>Bonding Mode: load balancing (round-robin)&lt;br&gt;MII Status: up&lt;br&gt;MII Polling Interval (ms): 0&lt;br&gt;Up Delay (ms): 0&lt;br&gt;Down Delay (ms): 0&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;Slave Interface: eth1&lt;br&gt;MII Status: up&lt;br&gt;Link Failure Count: 0&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;Slave Interface: eth2&lt;br&gt;MII Status: up&lt;br&gt;Link Failure Count: 0 </pre> Newegg Daily Deals: 2 x WD Red 6TB HDDs, Asus 23.8-Inch Monitor, and More!, you recognized the importance of backing up your data and picked up a NAS box! It sure is pretty, isn't it? Look at it sitting there, just dutifully waiting to do the one thing it was born to do, which is archive your data. There's only one small problem -- it can't get to work until you fill it with storage drives.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 21:38:42 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="WD Red"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Congratulations, you recognized the importance of backing up your data and picked up a NAS box! It sure is pretty, isn't it? Look at it sitting there, just dutifully waiting to do the one thing it was born to do, which is archive your data. There's only one small problem -- it can't get to work until you fill it with storage drives. The solution? Today's top deal for not one, but <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-Combo2503037-_-0923&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">TWO WD Red WD60EFRX 6TB 3.5-Inch Hard Drives</a> for $470 with free shipping (normally $498). That's a total of 12TB. Each drive boasts 64MB of cache, a SATA 6Gbps interface, and NAS optimized technology for added reliability.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SOFTWARE-N82E16832588593-_-0923&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 Product Key Card - 1 PC</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with free shipping (normally $150)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236335-_-0923&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VN248H-P Black 23.8-inch 5ms Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with free shipping (normally $170 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN24</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147374-_-0923&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Evo 2.5-inch 1TB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$330</strong> with free shipping (normally $370 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN25</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814487076-_-0923&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 Superclocked Video Card</a> for <strong>$320</strong> with free shipping (normally $320; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p> Intel's Blazing Fast DC P3608 Series SSDs Read Data at 5GB/s's fastest SSD yet is its new DC P3608 Series for data centers.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 18:50:48 +0000 State Drivesssd <h3>Intel's most powerful SSD line yet</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel DC P3608 SSD"></p><p>The key to offering increasingly fast solid state drive options has been tapping into the power of the NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) interface. Samsung did it with its gum-stick sized <a href="">950 Pro SSDs</a> announced yesterday, and Intel continues to do it, this time with its new DC P3608 Series.</p><p> These drives are intended for data centers. They're also the fastest SSDs Intel has released to date -- when paired with multi-core Xeon processors, Intel says the unique NVMe dual controller architecture on this line allows them to evenly distribute I/O across the PCI-Express 3.0 x8 link to obtain real-world transfers topping 5,000MB per second, along with up to 850,000 random read IOPS.</p><p> Write speeds aren't quite as fast, though at up to 2,600MB/s, they're nothing to scoff at. Here's a look at how performance breaks down for each of the 1.6TB, 3.2TB, and 4TB drive options:</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel DC P3608 Chart"></p><p> Since the new drives are intended for data centers, they're only available in the half-height, half-length, low-profile add-in card form factor, which is common in the industry. And at these capacities, it also allows Intel to offer twice the storage in the same physical volume versus its DC P3600 Series.</p><p> Intel envisions its new SSDs finding a home in some of the world's largest supercomputers where they can provide real-time analytics and High Performance Computing (HPC) chores. In terms of the latter, Intel says a single node can achieve up to 6GB/s of burst write performance when using two DC P3608 Series SSDs.</p><p> The buzzkill for home consumers is that these drives aren't destined for gaming machines. However, they do show where the market is headed, which is pretty exciting -- we've come a long way since complaining about storage being the bottleneck of system performance.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Nvidia GeForce WHQL 355.98 Driver Now Available's latest WHQL drivers purportedly offer the best performance for Killing Floor 2.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 16:52:48 +0000 <h3>Best gaming experience for Killing Floor 2</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia"></p><p> Nvidia has a new WHQL-certified driver available for users running GeForce brand graphics, version 355.98. According to Nvidia, this is the driver you want if you plan to play Killing Floor 2.</p><p> "This new GeForce Game Ready driver ensures you'll have the best possible gaming experience in Killing Floor 2. This driver is also aligned with the new flagship gaming GPU for notebooks, the GeForce GTX 980. In addition, this Game Ready driver also includes updated features and functionality for the GameWorks VR software development kit (SDK)," Nvidia states in the <a href="" target="_blank">release notes (PDF)</a>.</p><p> Nvidia didn't add any SLI or 3D profiles this time around, though it did manage to fix a few issues across Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, and Vista. Some of the more notable issues fixed include:</p><ul> <li> Memory clock reported as 0 MHz if P-state is P0. At times, same report with P2 P-state.</li> <li>Thunderbird mail client is choppy when G-Sync windowed mode is enabled.</li> <li>[SLI, Stereo] Batman: Arkham Origins crashes when launched from task bar following an Alt+Tab (Windows 10 only).</li> <li>[Star Wars: Battlefront SLI Profile] Reflection envmaps flicker (Windows 8.1/8/7 and Vista only).</li></ul><p> There are several open issues that the latest driver doesn't fix, such as tearing and corruption when playing VR content while changing display resolutions on a non-VR display or after opening several VR applications in succession.</p><p> You can download the <a href="" target="_blank">new driver here</a>.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> G.Skill Launches Ripjaws MX780 RGB Gaming Mouse's Ripjaws MX780 wired RGB laser gaming mouse is now available for $60.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 16:34:14 +0000 <h3>A colorful rodent</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GSkill MX780 RGB Mouse"></p><p> If you followed our <a href="">coverage</a> from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, then you might recall <a href="" target="_blank">G.Skill's MX780 RGB gaming mouse</a>. G.Skill showed it off alongside several other gaming gear and we just received word today that it's now available to purchase.</p><p> The MX780 RGB has a cyborg look to it and an ambidextrous design so both left- and right-handed gamers can use it. Interchangeable side grips are supposed to add comfort points to the rodent.</p><p> Though it's ambidextrous in design,&nbsp; G.Skill doesn't expect its newest mouse to feel the same for every gamer. With that in mind, it built in a height adjustable palm rest to support different grip styles.</p><p> You can also adjust the weight. The mouse is constructed on a solid aluminum base and comes with additional 4.5-gram weights, which optionally install inside the side grip on each side.</p><p> The MX780 RGB has eight programmable buttons, Omron switches rated for 20 million clicks, 8,200 DPI Avago laser sensor, 512KB of onboard memory to store up to five profiles, and four-zone RGB lighting.</p><p> You can find the <a href="" target="_blank">Ripjaws MX780 RGB on Newegg</a> for $60.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Asetek Wins Another Round of Litigation Against Cooler Master court has increased the damages award owed to Asetek by Cooler Master.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 15:43:18 +0000 <h3>Keeping your cool in court</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asetek Headquarters"></p><p> Asetek, a CPU and GPU cooling company, has <a href=",c9834927" target="_blank">won another legal victory</a> against Cooler Master's CMI subsidiary. It's the second win for Asetek in less than two years.</p><p> A bit of background information is in order. Back in January 2013, Asetek filed a lawsuit against CMI USA, a subsidiary of Cooler Master, claiming that the company infringed on two of its patents. Asetek sought a cease and desist order on the sale of Cooler Master's Seidon 120M, 120XL ,and 240M liquid cooling systems on the basis that the pumps were too similar to its own design.</p><p> In late 2014, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with Asetek and <a href="">awarded the company $404,841</a>, which amounted to a 14.5 percent royalty rate for infringing sales dating back to 2012. The cease and desist request was to be determined at a later date.</p><p> Fast forward to today and Asetek is once again on the winning side of this legal dispute. In a post trial motion, CMI demanded a judgement as a matter of law, which is a motion claiming the opposing party lacks sufficient evidence to reasonably support its case, and requested a new trial.</p><p> The court denied CMI's demands and instead issued the injunction that Asetek wanted. CMI and Cooler Master are now barred from selling "certain infringing products into the United States," which presumably include the aforementioned coolers.</p><p> In addition, a judge increased Asetek's damages award by raising the royalty rate to 25.375 percent. The enhanced royalty applies to CMI's revenues for sales of infringing products made since January 1, 2015.</p><p> This is good news for Asetek, though the legal battle might not be over -- Asetek's notes that the case can be appealed.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Toshiba Refreshes Chromebook 2 with Broadwell and Backlit Keyboard new version of Toshiba's Chromebook 2 launches to retail next month.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 13:00:00 +0000 2Newstoshiba <h3>Don't call it Chromebook 3</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Chromebook 2"></p><p> Toshiba is adding new hardware to its <a href="" target="_blank">Chromebook 2 laptop</a>, though not so much that it would warrant calling it Chromebook 3. More specifically, the Chromebook 2 is getting 5th Generation Intel Core i3 and Celeron processor options, otherwise known as Broadwell, and an all-new LED backlit keyboard.</p><p> The Chromebook 2 wields a 13.3-inch Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) IPS display that Toshiba squeezed into a 12-inch chassis for added portability points. Towards that end, it checks in at just 2.9 pounds and can last up to 8.5 hours on a single charge, according to Toshiba.</p><p> Chromebook 2 models will come with up to 4GB of RAM (not user upgradeable), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 and 2.0 connectivity (one each), HDMI output, a SD card slot, and a security lock slot. Customers will also receive 100GB of Google Drive storage, 90 days of unlimited music streaming on Google Play, 12 in-air passes for Gogo Internet, and other goodies yet to be announced.</p><p> It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to new Chromebook models now that Windows-based laptops have come down in price. Chromebooks have never been able to penetrate the general home consumer market and instead have found some success in education. The emergence of sub $300 and $200 Windows laptops could steal back some of that market share.</p><p> Toshiba's refreshed Chromebook 2 models will be available in October priced at $330 for the Celeron system and $430 for the Core i3 version.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Releases Office 2016 with Co-Authoring Capability 2016 is here, and along with it Microsoft promises more frequent updates for Office 365 subscribers.Wed, 23 Sep 2015 12:00:00 +0000 2016 <h3>Getting acclimated to a new Office</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Office 2016"></p><p> In what could be the most important update ever to Microsoft's popular productivity suite, Office 2016 for Windows is now available, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.</p><p> The new Office suite puts a much bigger emphasis on collaboration than ever before. One of the key ways it does that is through real-time co-authoring, which is now built directly into Microsoft's native apps (real-time co-authoring has been available in Microsoft's web apps since 2013). Now when another project participant makes an update in Word, you'll see what's being written as it happens.</p><p> To go along with co-authoring support, Skype for Business is now available in the client apps. This allows you to IM, screen share, talk, or video chat right within your docs. You can also start a real-time co-authoring session from any conversation or meeting.</p><p> Another feature geared towards collaboration is Office 365 Groups. It's available as part of Outlook 2015 and in a new Outlook Groups app on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Each group includes a shared inbox, calendar, cloud storage, and a shared OneNote notebook.</p><p> These are just some of the many new features included in Microsoft's standalone productivity suite. Some of them are specific to the enterprise segment, including built-in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Multifactor Authentication.</p><p> On a related note, Microsoft also released Office 2016 for Mac as a standalone release. Previously this was only available to Office 365 customers.</p><p> Finally, Microsoft is promising ongoing value for Office 365 subscribers.&nbsp;</p><p> "Going forward, Office 365 customers will now enjoy new features and capabilities delivered continuously in the Office desktop applications as part of their subscription. It’s a new day for our desktop apps," Microsoft said.</p><p> A one-time purchase of <a href="" target="_blank">Office Home and Student 2016 runs $150</a>. If you're an Office 365 Home ($10/month) or Personal ($7/month) subscriber, you can install Office 2016 apps at no additional cost.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> SSD Performance: Resetting the Benchmarks out about ournew SSD test platform and benchmark methodologyWed, 23 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Collection"></p><h3>Just how fast is that SSD?</h3><p> Every now and again, resetting the benchmark charts is necessary. Now is such a time, for several reasons. First, we have a new testbed (<a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a>) that enables potentially higher performance, particularly for M.2 PCIe drives. Second, some of the benchmarks we were using have gotten a bit long in the tooth and needed an update. We want to have a good selection of both drives and benchmarks for use in future reviews, so we’ve wiped the slates clean and will have several&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">SSD reviews</a> over the coming weeks. First things first, let’s talk about our SSD test bed.</p><p> Initially, we had intended to use the same LGA2011-3 test bed that we use for <a target="_blank" href="">graphics cards reviews</a>, but then we ran into a problem. The Gigabyte X99-UDH4 motherboard has NVMe support and an M.2 slot, but the M.2 slot only gets x2 PCIe 2.0 lanes and bandwidth. That puts the brakes on faster M.2 drives, capping throughput at less than 1000MB/s. What’s the point in splurging on a high-end M.2 NVMe drive if you can’t even utilize its potential? With Skylake having recently launched, we had a second option: move to a Z170 motherboard. The ASUS Z170-A is more of a mainstream offering, but it does support an M.2 slot with x4 PCIe 3.0 connectivity, which is enough for current SSDs. With that in mind, here’s our new SSD test system:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4–4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">ASUS Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Intel HD Graphics 530 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 1.2TB PCIe x4</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868461&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+1tb">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID 0 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel SSD 750 1.2TB"></p><p> One of the key goals is to provide a selection of reference points. To that end, we’ve selected three of the top performing options. Setting the high water mark, the Intel SSD 750 1.2TB is one of the first NVMe enabled drives you can buy. There’s a drawback in that you have to use a PCIe slot (x4 PCIe 3.0 for maximum performance), but if you have the space, it will provide all the performance you need from your storage subsystem.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 850 EVO 1TB"></p><p> The reality, of course, is that most users are still on SATA, and many are running RAID 0 as a way of improving throughput and/or capacity&nbsp;while keeping costs down. The 2x250GB Samsung 850 EVO provides a great reference point as a “bang for the buck” solution, with a price currently sitting south of $200. That’s a far cry from the $439 you’ll pay for the 1TB Samsung 850 Pro, which is arguably the fastest SATA drive you can currently buy, though it’s also half the capacity. Note also that a <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868673&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+500gb">single 500GB 850 EVO</a> only costs $162, so you’re paying a bit extra for RAID 0&mdash;though two 500GB drives actually cost less than a <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868703&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+1tb">single 1TB drive</a>.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 850 Pro 1TB"></p><p> For those that want a single high-capacity SSD, our final baseline SSD reference point is the Samsung 850 Pro 1TB. Sporting Samsung’s V-NAND and with a high-performance controller, the 850 Pro remains the fastest SATA drive across a broad range of benchmarks. It also has a high endurance rating, roughly 6,000 Program/Erase cycles, which is far more than the TLC drives that are becoming increasingly common.</p><p> The rest of the system is more than enough to ensure there are no other bottlenecks for storage, though in some cases they’re obviously overkill. (Hello, Mr. 850W PSU!) The be quiet! case, CPU cooler, and power supply keep noise levels down, and we use the same system for other testing at times, so having the option of running a GPU or two is important.</p><h3>Meet the Benchmarks</h3><p> Our benchmarks include a mix of real-world and synthetic testing. Each test is run multiple times, ensuring we have repeatable results. In many instances, the first run may show higher (or lower) performance, but subsequent testing will usually show results within a narrow range. Here’s what we’re using along with the settings for each:</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AS SSD Screenshot"></p><p> The latest version of AS SSD (1.8.5636.37293) provides theoretical sequential and random transfer rates, and typically&nbsp;represents the best-case and worst-case&nbsp;performance you’ll see from an SSD. We use 10GB of data for the sequential and 4K-64 thread results and 1GB for the 4K-single thread results. We looked at several other similar pieces of software, specifically ATTO 3.05 and CrystalDiskMark 4.1.0, but the data provided was largely redundant with AS SSD.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="IOmeter Screenshot"></p><p> IOmeter is our second theoretical benchmark, again looking at&nbsp;sequential and random transfer rates. We run 10 tests of mixed read/write performance, from 100 percent read/0 percent write to 0 percent read/100 percent write in 25 percent increments. We do this for both 100 percent sequential and 100 percent random IO; we then average (technically, we use the geometric mean so that all results are given equal weight)&nbsp;the five test runs for sequential and random performance to give an aggregate value. The big difference with IOmeter is that each test is run for five minutes, which means the SSDs get a bigger workout than the usual 10–30 second load that you’ll see from AS SSD and similar utilities (25 minutes of total testing per average score). Some drives are able to maintain a high transfer rate for shorter periods of time, and this should stress the hardware enough to give a realistic measurement of sustained performance.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PowerShell File Copy Test"></p><p> For the “real world”, we have a file copy test. This test copies just shy of 20GB of data (the contents of our Steam <em>Batman: Arkham Origins</em> folder) from one folder on the drive to another folder, so the workload is split 50/50 between reads and writes. Since this test uses core Windows functionality, the results are likely to differ from the theoretical testing the other benchmarks provide. We use Windows PowerShell to perform the copy and time how long it takes for the copy to complete; we then calculate the MB/s based on the amount of data copied.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCMark 8 Storage"></p><p> Finally, we have PCMark 8’s Storage test, with two metrics: the overall Storage score, as well as the Storage Bandwidth score. Rather than a pure test of storage performance, PCMark 8 uses traces of real-world applications and runs these on the test drive. What’s interesting to note with PCMark 8 Storage is that even substantially faster drives tend to deliver diminishing returns. We’ll see this as significantly higher bandwidth results but only marginally higher overall scores.</p><p> For most users, PCMark 8 Storage is a good representation of the sort of performance you will actually get from your device. Rarely are desktop users maxing out transfer rates on an SSD for one minute, let alone several minutes; instead, most applications will hit the storage hard for a few seconds and then wait on the user. For example, consider a game where loading a level takes 5–15 seconds, followed by the user playing that level for long periods of time; a fast SSD might load a few seconds quicker than a slow drive, but after the initial work, the SSD goes on siesta. If AS SSD is a best-case result, the PCMark 8 score is more of a worst-case result. What’s interesting is that the bandwidth result of PCMark 8 Storage matches up pretty well with our other tests, again illustrating how faster storage only gets you so far (unless you’re doing a lot of file copying).</p><h3>Setting the Stage</h3><p> With the benchmarks and hardware established, here’s what our initial testing results look like. This is a starting point, and while the three drive configurations listed here will remain, we will include additional drives as we go forward with testing and reviews. We’ve gone ahead and highlighted the Intel SSD 750 NVMe drive in our charts; it should come as little surprise that this is the drive to beat right now when it comes to flat-out smoking storage performance. Our reviews of newer SSDs will generally fall into one of four categories: contending with the SSD 750, somewhere between the 850 Pro and the SSD 750, somewhat close to the 850 Pro, or significantly slower than the 850 Pro. There’s plenty of information to cover, so let’s quickly run through each benchmark and discuss what the results mean.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Sequential Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Sequential Write"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Write"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Read QD64"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - AS SSD Random Write QD64"></p><p> First off, the AS SSD sequential throughput is generally the best-case result; accessing large files will generally correlate with these figures. Sequential read speeds are quite a bit higher than sequential write speeds, as writing data to NAND is a more involved process. The next two results are for purely random file accesses, but in this case AS SSD is only using a queue depth of one (a single thread); it’s about as bad as it can get, and the throughput reflects this. Even the mighty SSD 750 only musters 36MB/s, and it’s effectively tied with the EVO 850 RAID 0 for read speeds; write speeds, on the other hand, still heavily favor the robust controller in the Intel drive. Last up for AS SSD, we have random IO again, but this time with a queue depth of 64 (64 threads). This gives the drives <em style="background-color: initial;">lots</em> of data to deal with and the controllers can usually find parallel accesses that allow them&nbsp;to optimize performance. Better controllers and faster NAND help here, and RAID 0 can also boost throughput. It's worth pointing out, however, that most consumer workloads will <em>never </em>come anywhere near a&nbsp;queue depth of&nbsp;64; in fact, even a queue depth of 5-10 is uncommon except for short bursts.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - IOmeter Sequential"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - IOmeter Random" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Next up, IOmeter shows some similar results to AS SSD, but throughput drops off quite a bit due to the amount of data that’s accessed over the length of the test. Consider that the 850 Pro 1TB averages over 500MB/s reads and writes for 25 minutes; that’s about 750GB of data being accessed, and roughly 375GB of writes. Hard drives can actually generate some decent numbers in the sequential tests, and&nbsp;we measured 94MB/s write on a Seagate 3TD drive. It's the&nbsp;random access patterns where SSDs are often a couple of orders of magnitude (100x) faster than hard drives; the same Seagate drive scored a dismal 0.50MB/s in our random testing.</p><p>If you’re worried about burning through all of an SSD’s program/erase cycles, don't be. The 850 Pro 1TB is rated for roughly 6000TB of writes. Even with 5X write amplification (which is normally under 2X in client workloads), you could still write over 500GB of data per day for five years without having the drive go kaput. In a more realistic scenario, you could write 1.5TB of data every day for five years without running into problems, or if you’re like a typical client user and you’re pushing less than 100GB of writes per day, it would take 82 years to burn through the P/E cycles on the NAND. Needless to say, it’s far more likely some other element on the SSD would give out first, and in 10 years the 850 Pro will be a dinosaur even if it’s still running.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - File Copy"></p><p> With all of the massive throughput results so far, you might think copying files on an SSD would show similar results. We’re dealing with nearly 9000 files totaling 20GB, however, and many of these are smaller files. This leads to a real-world scenario where performance falls somewhere between the pure sequential and pure random performance. Intel’s NVMe drive still wins out by a large margin, followed by the RAID 0 850 EVO, then the solo 850 Pro. Don’t jump to conclusions about the 850 Pro being outclassed, however&mdash;we’re looking at three of the fastest SSD storage options currently available; there are plenty of SSDs that don’t do very well in these tests. If you want a fun comparison, running this same file copy test on a 3TB Seagate&nbsp;hard drive resulted in throughput of 67MB/s; it’s still a mostly sequential IO test, so the HDD isn’t absolutely terrible, but it definitely feels slow compared to a good SSD.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - PCMark8 Storage Score"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SSD Performance - PCMark8 Storage Bandwidth"></p><p> Last but not least, PCMark 8 Storage shows two very conflicting views. In terms of pure bandwidth (throughput), the numbers are similar to our file copy test. This is what happens when the bottleneck is your storage subsystem. But if you’re doing lots of other things, which is how most people use their PCs, the overall PCMark 8 Storage score reflects this. The SSD 750 delivers 80 percent higher throughput compared to a single 850 Pro, but in the overall Score&nbsp;metric it’s only 1.6 percent faster. This is why, for many users, going out and spending a lot of money on the fastest SSDs isn’t really necessary. If you’re just surfing the Internet, playing some games, and doing everyday Microsoft Office work, an SSD will still feel a lot snappier than a hard drive&hellip; but even a slow SSD will feel about the same as the fastest SSD.</p><h3>Storage Matters</h3><p>With the stage now set, we’re ready to start posting new SSD reviews. Ideally, we love the performance offered by NVMe drives, and we’re certainly looking forward to Intel and Micron’s XPoint Technology. They’ve told us that we should see consumer and enterprise class SSDs using XPoint in 2016, which is awesome&hellip; but we’ll believe it when we see it. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of users, the cost of current NVMe drives is very high, plus you need a compatible motherboard. That means SATA is still a&nbsp;viable option, and in many cases it may simply be&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the best solution</a>.</p><p>Do you want a 1.2TB Intel SSD 750 taking up a PCIe slot, or would you rather save $600 and give up a bit of capacity and a moderate amount of real-world performance by going with a 1TB 850 Pro? Or save an additional $100 and move to the 1TB 850 EVO? Our benchmarks also show that sticking two SSDs together in RAID 0 can definitely improve performance over a single drive, so if you’re not space constrained that’s a compelling alternative to expensive hardware.</p><p>As we go forward with SSD reviews, these drives are the heavyweights that you need to beat. If you make an NVMe drive that costs as much as the Intel SSD 750, it needs to at least equal it on performance and features. Alternatively, less expensive NVMe offerings that clearly beat SATA drives but may not reach the top of the charts are worth considering. On the SATA side of things, the Samsung 850 Pro and 850 EVO deliver great performance, with the EVO priced extremely competitively. Drives either need to beat Samsung on price, features, and/or performance to stand a chance.</p><p>Given the newness of NVMe and M.2 drives, along with their associated cost and hardware requirements, there’s still a big market for SATA drives. Perhaps by the time Cannonlake rolls out, we’ll see pricing on NVMe drives reach the point where they’re no longer out of reach of mainstream users. And if we’re lucky, we’ll also have an interface to our storage devices with enough bandwidth to run multiple NVMe drives at full performance. With 3D-NAND, XPoint, and other new technologies, the next couple of years in the SSD arena are sure to prove exciting.</p><p><em>Follow Jarred on <a href="">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Samsung 850 Evo 1TB SSD, Intel Compute Stick, and More! is a great time to build a PC. Just ask Mr. Foley. He lives in a van down by the river, which was the best he could do after spending his retirement on a 1TB solid state drive before NAND flash memory pricing plummeted to pedestrian levels.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 18:28:11 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung Brings 3D NAND to Mainstream with 850 Evo SSD Line"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Now is a great time to build a PC. Just ask Mr. Foley. He lives in a van down by the river, which was the best he could do after spending his retirement on a 1TB solid state drive before NAND flash memory pricing plummeted to pedestrian levels. Mr. Foley should have waited. Had he done so, he could have taken advantage of today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147374-_-0922&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Evo 2.5-inch 1TB SSD</a> for <strong>$330</strong> with free shipping (normally $370 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN25</strong>]). That works out to $0.33 per gigabyte, and more importantly, it means not having to live in a van down by the river.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236335-_-0922&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VN248H-P Black 23.8-inch 5ms IPS Monitor w/ Speakers</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with free shipping (normally $170 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN24</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16883800004-_-0922&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Boxed Intel Compute Stick, Atom, Win 8.1, 32GB</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN28</strong>] ; Free 32GB flash drive w/ purchase, limited offer)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820148946-_-0922&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Crucial BX100 2.5-inch 500GB SATA Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$155</strong> with free shipping (normally $165 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN29</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813130841-_-0922&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI X99A SLI PLUS LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$200</strong> with $4 shipping (normally $230 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXNN35</strong>])</p> Asus Adds Two Low Cost 2-in-1 Devices to Transformer Book Line new Transformer Book T100HA and TP200SA will be available later this month for $299 and $349, respectively.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 16:37:36 +0000 <h3>Affordable hybrids</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus T100HA"></p><p> Asus has a couple of new Transformer Book devices that might appeal to users who are interested in a cheaper Surface. Specifically, Asus today announced the <a href="" target="_blank">Transformer Book T100HA</a> and Flip <a href="" target="_blank">TP200SA</a>, both of which offer a laptop and tablet experience in a single device.</p><p> The T100HA sports an Intel Atom x5 Z8500 processor (Cherry Trail) clocked at up to 2.24GHz with 2MB of L2 cache. It also boasts a 10.1-inch WXGA (1280x800) IPS display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, micro USB port, micro HDMI output, microSD card slot, headphone/mic combo jack, USB 3.1 Type-C connector (Gen1, meaning it operates at USB 3.0 speeds), and Windows 10. There's also a USB 2.0 port on the keyboard dock, which connects to the display using neodymium magnets.</p><p> According to Asus, the T100HA offers all-day battery life of up to 12 hours on a single charge. It can charge to 80 percent capacity in just two hours, resulting in 9.5 hours of battery life, Asus claims.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus TP200SA"></p><p> As for the Flip TP200SA, it features a 360-degree flip design that allows the display to fold back onto the keyboard (it's not detachable, in other words). It's a little bigger at 11.6 inches and sports a 1366x768 resolution.</p><p> Other features include a quad-core Intel Celeron N3050 (Braswell) CPU clocked at up to 2.16GHz with 2MB of L2 cache, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, micro HDMi outpout, microSD card slot, headphone/mic combo jack, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports (one each), USB 3.1 Type-C (also Gen1), VGA front-facing camera, and Windows 10.</p><p> Neither of these systems are power houses, but for a general purpose machine and/or for back-to-school chores, there should be sufficient horsepower. At the very least, these are relatively low cost systems -- the T100HA and TP200SA will be available later this month for $299 and $349, respectively.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Edward Snowden Says Encryption Kills Any Chance of Finding Aliens may be out there, but due to encryption, we won't be able to distinguish their communication from cosmic background radiation.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 16:15:16 +0000 snowdenencryptionNews <h3>We may have already made contact</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Edward Snowden"></p><p> The only way E.T. could have phoned home is he didn't use encryption. Otherwise, any communication would have been indistinguishable from cosmic background radiation, assuming the encryption was done right.</p><p> That's essentially the theory posed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the press that detailed the extent of the U.S.government's surveillance efforts, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em> reports</a>.</p><p> Appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk podcast, Snowden talked about joining the U.S. army after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Later during the conversation, the topic turned to encryption and how it might make it nearly impossible to recognize alien communication.</p><p> "If you look at encrypted communication, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted," Snowden said. "You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication from random behavior."</p><p> According to Snowden, the situation is compounded as civilizations become increasingly sophisticated. The way he sees it, there's a very short window for communication to happen, and that's when the development of a society is sending out messages "via the most primitive and most unprotected means."</p><p> Once that window has passed, messages would be so well encrypted that the recipient -- be it humans or aliens -- wouldn't be able to distinguish them from cosmic microwave background radiation.</p><p> What a buzzkill!</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Nvidia Readies Desktop Class GTX 980 GPUs for Gaming Laptops [VIDEO] talks about implement desktop GeForce GTX 980 GPUs into gaming notebooks.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 13:40:58 +0000 <h3>Desktop graphics in a laptop form factor</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia 980 Laptop"></p><p> Big things are happening in the gaming laptop market. We're starting to see notebooks with panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync technology, faster storage options (M.2 SATA, for example), and coming soon, true desktop class GPUs.</p><p> As it stands right now, the fastest mobile GPU available from Nvidia is the GeForce GTX 980M. Though it's called 980M, it's not the same as the desktop GeForce GTX 980. Here's a look at how they compare:</p><ul> <li>GTX 980M: 1,536 CUDA cores, 96 texture units, 64 ROPs, 1,038MHz base, 1,127MHz boost, 4GB GDDR5 memory clocked at 1,253MHz on a 256-bit bus</li> <li>GTX 980: 2,048 CUDA cores, 128 texture units, 64 ROPs, 1,126MHz base, 1,216 MHz boost, up to 8GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1,753MHz on a 256-bit bus</li></ul><p> That's about to change. Our own Jimmy Thang met with Nvidia to talk about its plans to shoehorn a desktop class GeForce GTX 980 into gaming laptops. According to Nvidia's figures, these systems are about 35 percent faster than laptops running its mobile GTX 980M GPU.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GeForce GTX 980 Laptops"></p><p> Of course, there's a reason Nvidia separates its desktop and mobile GPUs. Laptops have a limited capacity for cooling. So to deal with that, Nvidia is cherry-picking GTX 980 GPUs for use in laptops, selecting only the ones that are best suited for the application.</p><p> Nvidia also had to overcome engineering challenges that would allow it to offer a desktop class GTX 980 in a size that's friendly for laptops. The company didn't go into detail on how it pulled it off, though did say that it's using only high-end components and anywhere from four to eight power phases, up from three phases found in today's high-end gaming notebooks. This allows for more power to be supplied to the GPU, which is also more efficient. Compared to regular desktop GTX 980 GPUs, there's only about a five percent performance delta, we're told.</p><p> Check out these videos for more info:</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p> From surround gaming to the world's first virtual reality laptops, we're pretty excited about what Nvidia is doing here. So are several manufacturers&mdash;Aorus, Asus, Clevo, and MSI all have plans to build notebooks around Nvidia's GTX 980. MSI will even offer an 18.4-inch laptop with two GTX 980 GPUs running in SLI. Exciting times.</p><p> <em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Digital Storm's Drool-Worthy Aventum 3 Gaming PC Is Now Available Aventum 3 is Digital Storm's "most advanced PC to date," the company says.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 13:33:26 +0000 3Digital StormNews <h3>A showpiece system</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Aventum 3"></p><p> Digital Storm <a href="" target="_blank">gave us a glimpse</a> of its liquid-cooled Aventum 3 PC back at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. It was then we knew the company had something special on its hands, and now eight months later, it's finally available to purchase.</p><p> The Aventum 3 isn't just another liquid-cooled system, of which there are many out there. What makes this one different is how it's configured. Digital Storm went out of its way to ensure that buyers can service the machine with little fuss, should they ever need to.</p><p> To do that, the Aventum 3 uses fixed inlet and outlet ports located on the motherboard. This gives users the the ability to quickly and easily disconnect liquid-cooled hardware without having to tear down the entire cooling system, which is especially helpful for people who aren't experienced with liquid cooling and/or system building in general.</p><p> There's also a distribution block that routes fluid throughout the system. No modifications are necessary when swapping out and upgrading the liquid-cooled hardware.</p><p> Rounding out the liquid-cooling scheme is a custom proprietary water block designed by Digital Storm's engineering team and produced by EKWB.</p><p> Digital Storm also made it easy to upgrade the graphics hardware without having to rewire things each time. That's because of a modular power panel integrated into the chassis itself with plug-and-play power connectors.</p><p> It looks like an excellent design, though it's not cheap&mdash;you can <a href="" target="_blank">configure and purchase an Aventum 3</a> today starting at $4,930. For that price, you get an Intel Core i7 6700K CPU, 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card with 6GB of GDDR5 memory, 1TB Samsung 850 Pro SSD, 2TB HDD (7,200 RPM), 850W EVGA SuperNova PSU, and Windows 10.</p><p> That's the "Level 1 - Good" base configuration. There are three more levels to start from (Better, Best, and Ultimate) ranging in price from $5,996 to $10,496. At the top end, a baseline Level 4 - Ultimate setup consists of an Intel Core i7 5960X processor, 32GB of DDR-2666 RAM, three Nvidia Titan X graphics cards (12GB) configured in SLI, 1TB Samsung 850 Evo SSD, 2TB HDD (7,200 RPM), 1,200W Corsair AX PSU, and Windows 10.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p> <em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> QNAP Intros Industry's First Hybrid NAS with Dual Thunderbolt 2 Ports's latest NAS box boasts two Thunderbolt 2 ports.Tue, 22 Sep 2015 10:00:00 +0000 BoxNewsqnapstorage <h3>One of the best just got better</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap Tvs-871t"></p><p> We had a chance to put QNAP's TVS-871 NAS box through its paces a couple of months ago (<a href="">see our review</a>) and came away impressed with its overall feature-set and performance. We also knew there was an <a href="">update coming</a> in the form of the TVS-871T, supposedly the industry's first hybrid NAS/DAS/iSCSI IP-SAN solution with dual Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, which we're told is now shipping.</p><p> To recap, the TVS-871T is an eight-bay NAS box that supports up to 64 terabytes of hot-swappable storage with transfers speeds of up to 20Gb/s. If that's not enough storage for your backup needs, you can expand the TVS-871T with QNAP's TX expansion unit series for a total of up to 448TB of raw storage.</p><p> The potential for large amounts of storage backup isn't the only thing that's beastly about this NAS box, so are the hardware specs. There are two models available -- the TVS-871T-i7-16G with an Intel Core i7-4790S quad-core processor and the TVS-871T-i5-16G with an Intel Core i5-4590S quad-core CPU. Both models also boast 16GB of DDR3 RAM, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and 10GbE ports.</p><p> There's a large divide between a NAS box like the TVS-871T and budget NAS units built around Intel's Atom hardware. However, it's not all about the CPU, RAM, and storage capacity -- QNAP is really pushing the built-in Thunderbolt connectivity and and the all-around functionality for content creators.</p><p> QNAP's pitch to photographers and video professionals working with 4K Ultra HD video streams is that the TVS-871T is a single storage device capable of handling the entire storage job, not just part of it.</p><p> "Today 4K video editors must ingest the raw video on high-performance direct-attached RAID storage and edit there, then export edited content out to a NAS or other storage with cloud access for client sharing, and then yet another device for archiving once the project is completed," QNAP says.</p><p> All of those tasks (and more) can be performed on the TVS-871T. It also comes with a dedicated private cloud for easy remote access, file sharing, and advanced virtualization features so you can use the NAS box as a standalone PC.</p><p> "The TVS-871T is really a ground-breaking innovation for video professionals," said Erick Oliveros, Marketing Manager for QNAP. "We’ve made it possible for video professionals to simplify their workflow, cut costs by eliminating redundant storage, and collaborate like never before. The TVS-871T delivers unparalleled performance, connectivity, flexibility and is going to be absolutely delightful for the video production industry."</p><p> QNAP's QTS 4.2 management software comes pre-installed on the TVS-871T, as do several accompanying apps.</p><p> The TVS-871T is now shipping in the U.S. and Canada, though you'll have to contact QNAP (or its reseller partners) or a price quote.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Samsung Announces 950 Pro NVMe M.2 SSDs next month in 256GB and 512GB flavorsTue, 22 Sep 2015 09:32:15 +0000 950 prossd <h3>Coming next month in 256GB and 512GB flavors</h3><p> Samsung is joining the NVMe M.2 solid-state drive movement, with its newly announced 950 Pro PCIe SSD. The Korean tech giant made the announcement at its annual SSD Summit in Seoul earlier this morning. The 950 Pro will launch in October in 256GB and 512GB variants.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05822"></p><p> In addition to the 950 Pro announcement, Samsung also revealed that it will release 4TB traditional SATA SSDs in "early"&nbsp;2016. This is impressive considering the company only released its 2TB 850 Pro SSDs a few weeks ago.</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="620"></iframe><p> Samsung also continues its use of&nbsp;3D Nand technology&mdash;the process by which it stacks cells above cells to get higher density&mdash;which the company calls&nbsp;V-Nand.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05813"></p><p> For the uninitiated, non-volatile memory express (NVMe) replaces the AHCI storage protocol. AHCI was never optimized for storage performance, and is ultimately the performance bottleneck for storage today. Samsung believes that with modern CPUs, motherboard BIOSs, and Windows 10, that now is the ideal time for the company to break into the NVMe storage space.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05825"></p><p> The Samsung 950 Pro will work over the PCIe 3.0 interface, feature the company’s UBX controller, use the company’s second generation MLC V-Nand 32-layer 128Gb die, and low power DDR3 DRAM. The company went with the M.2 form factor because it believes that it will continue to be more widely adopted across motherboards and will allow for easy integration into thin form factors, such as notebooks.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05828"></p><p> While enthusiasts may scoff at the storage capacity of the 950 Pro, Samsung did reveal that a 1TB NVMe solution will make its way to market in early 2016, when the company transitions over to a 48-layer V-Nand die.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05830"></p><p> In terms of comparative performance, NVMe can handle 64,000 queues as compared to AHCI’s single queue. Samsung says the 950 Pro will be able to reach read speeds up to 2,500MB/s and write speeds up to 1,500MB/s. So that’s roughly a 4.5x and 2.8x improvement over a 850 Pro SSD, respectively. Samsung says that the 950 Pro will be able to read up to 300K IOPs and write up to 110K IOPs. In a synthetic benchmark, Samsung cited roughly double performance over an 850 Pro in PCMark 7 and nearly triple the performance in PCMark Vantage.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05854"></p><p> When the 950 Pro launches next month, it will come with Samsung’s five-year warranty. In terms of longevity, Samsung is guaranteeing 200TB life out of the 256GB drive and 400TB out of the 512GB drive. The drives will retail for $200 and $350, respectively. Expect a full review from us in the near future. In the meantime, check out some of Samsung's own internal benchmarks below!<img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05832" style="font-family: &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif;"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05834"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05838"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dsc05839"></p> Ten Programs You Should Install on Windows 10 take a look at ten programs that are ideal for Windows 10Tue, 22 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 softwarewindows 10 <h3>Ten ideal programs for your new Windows 10 install</h3><p>Now that Windows 10 is out and about, eating away at Windows 7’s market share like a tasty pizza pie, what do you want to do with the new OS? Why, install new software, of course! We’re not talking about games, but rather&nbsp;tools that you’ll likely need to get the best performance out of your freshly installed OS. This list of tools is ideal for those who formatted and installed Windows 10 from scratch, and for those who elected to take the upgrade route. Additionally, everything listed here is free, so there’s no financial risks to take.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Chrome Logo 0"></p><h5><strong>BROWSER</strong></h5><p>The first item you should probably download and install is a web browser you know and trust. We're not saying that you should avoid using Microsoft’s new, built-in browser (Edge). However, browsing solutions like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have been around for quite a while and chances are that you have loads of bookmarks.</p><p>Because of this, you're highly&nbsp;familiar with these browsers and you know their capabilities. You've also likely connected your desktop browser to a mobile version so that your bookmarks are accessible from any device. That said, install your favorite browser while you get to know Microsoft Edge, although you won't get the multi-device experience given that Edge is only offered on Windows 10 and soon the Xbox One.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Daemon Tools"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">DAEMON TOOLS</a></strong></h5><p>Don’t have an optical drive installed in your rig or laptop? No problem. That’s where Daemon Tools comes into play. Simply put, this software creates a virtual drive and also&nbsp;allows the user to “mount” image files such as an ISO or MDS. There are a number of versions listed on the Daemon Tools website, including Daemon Tools Lite 10, which is free to use.</p><p>“You can choose a free app to create, store, mount images, and pay for additional pro features you really need or get a Full Pack of tools at half price,” the developer says.</p><p>Users of the “Lite” tool can create or mount an image file. The latest version, 10.1.0, supports Windows XP, includes minor UI improvements, supports additional languages, and USB sharing via iSCSI Initiator.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ccleaner"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">CCLEANER</a></strong></h5><p>This PC optimization tool, developed by Piriform, has been around for quite a while. There’s a free version, a $25 “Professional” version (tagged as Most Popular) and a $40 “Professional Plus” version (tagged as Best Value).</p><p>The free version promises to speed up your computer while it keeps your privacy on the Internet in check. If you choose the Professional version, you’ll get premium technical support, automatic updates, and real-time monitoring. The Professional Plus adds a disk fragmentation tool and file recovery.</p><p>No matter which version you choose, CCleaner is designed to clean your PC by getting rid of temporary Internet files, deleting invalid entries in the Windows Registry, removing unwanted programs from Startup, and more.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt=""></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">APACHE OPENOFFICE</a></strong></h5><p>This is an open-source office suite that’s provided free of charge under the Apache 2.0 License. Apache states that OpenOffice stores all data in an international open standard format and is capable of saving and reading files in formats used by competing office suites.</p><p>This office-focused bundle includes Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet editor), Impress (slideshow creator), Draw (artwork creator), Base (database editor), and Math (an equation editor). That said, this suite is jam-packed with features and the result of “over twenty years of software engineering.”</p><p>If you don’t want to spend hard-earned bucks on Microsoft’s latest Office suite, OpenOffice is a terrific alternative that’s competitive and extremely easy to use. The latest version, as of this article, is OpenOffice 4.1.1, which was released to fix “critical issues.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skype In Browser"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">SKYPE</a></strong></h5><p>This communications tool was launched back in 2003, believe it or not, combining VoIP calling with instant messaging. The big selling point is that Skype users can call other Skype users for free, and it’s great if a team scattered across the United States needs to come together and bash out great ideas without everyone needing to meet at the office.</p><p>Microsoft acquired Skype back in 2011 for a crazy $8.5 billion, and now we see the service seemingly popping up everywhere, including the Xbox One console and Customers who subscribe to Office 365 get 60 minutes of Skype calling, meaning users can call non-Skype members on mobile and landlines. Skype users can even share files, share their screen, and more.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GIMP"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">GIMP</a></strong></h5><p>Need an image-editing tool that doesn't require you sell organs or take out a bank loan? The GNU Image Manipulation Program, aka GIMP, is the ideal solution for Windows 10. It's a free tool that allows users to create layered artwork, fix photos, change the format of an image, and so on. It's a powerful package that rivals Photoshop and is even built to accept extensions and plugins.</p><p>According to the GIMP website, the software also includes a scripting interface that “allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.” GIMP includes a full suite of painting tools, animation editing tools, and tons more that should tickle the fancy of any digital artist, photographer, or general consumer.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Spybot Professional Edition"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">SPYBOT – SEARCH &amp; DESTROY</a></strong></h5><p>This malware detection solution has been around since 2000, originally <a href="">developed by German software engineer Patrick Michael Kolla</a> and later picked up by Safer Networking, Ltd. There are three variants up for grabs: a free version, a $14 Home version, and a $26 Professional version.</p><p>The free version scans for malware and nasty rootkits, and removes the menacing software. Spybot also provides startup tools, blocks known malicious websites, and protects the user from unlisted malicious websites and cookies by providing a proxy.</p><p>The Home version is a bit more feature-packed, adding full anti-virus protection, live protection, and more. The Professional edition offers everything Safer Networking can offer, such as scanning iPhone apps, registry repair, a secure file shredder, and so on. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="File Shredder"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">FILE SHREDDER</a></strong></h5><p>Want to get rid of files on your hard drive without the possibility of recovery? File Shredder may be the solution you’re looking for, a free tool that’s offered under the GNU/GPL General Public License. According to the developer, this software will “erase” files by writing a “random series of binary data” multiple times in a single spot so that the original file is no longer accessible.</p><p>Users can choose between five different shredding algorithms, which vary in strength. There’s also a Disk Wiper feature that will scrub unused disk space and an option to toggle on Windows Shell integration. File Shredder is a very small program that works on Windows 10 and older.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="7-Zip"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">7-ZIP</a></strong></h5><p>Don’t want to spend the money on software that opens ZIP and RAR files? Take a look at 7-zip, a free open-source archive tool that mostly falls under the GNU LGPL license (unRAR code is supported under a mixed license, the webpage says).</p><p>According to the developer, 7-Zip provides a Zip/GZIP compression ratio that’s better than WinZip, a premium archive handler that has a starting price of $30. 7-Zip also integrates into Windows Shell, has “strong” AES-256 encryption (ZIP and 7z formats), provides a file manager, and is even offered in numerous languages. Unpacking formats include RAR, FAT, ISO, CAB, TAR, GZIP, and loads more.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vlc"></p><h5><strong><a href="" target="_blank">VLC MEDIA PLAYER</a></strong></h5><p>As the name states, VLC is a media player that’s offered for free on a number of platforms including Windows, Mac OS X, various Linux builds, and mobile&nbsp;platforms&nbsp;such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The developer says that VLC will play just about anything you can throw at it without having to install a codec, including MP3, DivX, MPEG-2, H.264, and more. The software also plays media on DVDs, VCDs, audio CDs, and supports many streaming protocols.</p><p>The latest version for the Windows platform is v2.2.1 and weighs in at a mere 28MB.&nbsp;</p> Asus ROG's New Flagship Z170 Motherboard is the Maximus VIII Extreme Maximum VIII Extreme from Asus ROG is aimed at overclockers and gamers.Mon, 21 Sep 2015 18:18:40 +0000 <h3>Big and bad (in a good way)</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Maximus Extreme III"></p><p> There's been a lot of talk and movement in the pint sized PC category as of late, including the release of <a href="">mini ITX and micro ATX motherboards</a> and graphics cards like the <a href="">Radeon R9 Nano</a>. If there's an antithesis to that small form factor way of thinking, it's the new Maximus VIII Extreme from Asus ROG.</p><p> The Maximus VIII Extreme is a giant sized Extended ATX (E-ATX) motherboard measuring 12 inches by 10.7 inches. This isn't a board you can slap into an ordinary ATX chassis, let alone a SFF case.</p><p> Instead, this is a motherboard for the "go big or go home" crowd, which tend to be overclockers and gamers, both which Asus is catering to with the Maximus VIII Extreme based on Intel's Z170 Express chipset.</p><p> According to Asus, its newest flagship is built to handle "extreme overclocking." To help with that, it includes the company's OC Panel II with a 2.6-inch display for system monitoring and tweaking. The OC Panel II occupies a 5.25-inch drive bay and provides real-time monitoring of various vitals, such as CPU temperature, ratios, clockspeeds, and fan speeds. There's also an OC button.</p><p> You can also use the OC Panel II as an external console for more extreme overclocking goals. When doing so, you'll have access to features like Subzeor Sense, VGA Hotwire, Slow Mode, and a Pause switch.</p><p> There are a ton of amenities and features on this board. A look at the spec sheet reveals four DIMM slots with support for up 64GB of DDR4-3866 RAM, four PCI-E 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity, two SATA Express ports, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, M.2 and U.2 (one each), GbE LAN, four USB 3.1 ports (three of the Type-A variety and a single Type-C port), eight USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), 8-channel audio, and various other odds and ends.</p><p> Asus didn't say when the Maximus VIII Extreme will be available or for how much.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Leaked Microsoft Band 2 Image Shows a Curved Display images of what could be the Microsoft Band 2 suggest a more stylish design.Mon, 21 Sep 2015 17:43:25 +0000 bandNews <h3>A better looking fitness band</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Band 2 Renders"></p><p> Microsoft is getting ready to launch new hardware devices during a <a href="">press event</a> scheduled for October 6 (two Tuesdays from now). One of the things it's likely to reveal is a second generation fitness band (Microsoft Band 2), and based on some leaked images making the rounds, it appears Microsoft made an effort to make its Band a bit more stylish.</p><p> If the leaked images originating from Spanish-language website <a href="" target="_blank"><em></em></a> turn out to be accurate -- and they certainly look like official press renders, but you never know with these things -- then the Microsoft Band 2 (codenamed Envoy) will sport a curved display with metallic accents on the front panel and physical buttons on the side.</p><p> This is in contrast to the current Microsoft Band, which features a flat display on top with no metal accents. The design is a common criticism of what's otherwise a well received wearable.</p><p> Microsoft's second generation fitness band will also come with more sensors than the original, according to <em></em>. One of them is said to be an altimeter for detecting altitude (can be used to track going up and down stairs).</p><p> While nothing is yet confirmed, Microsoft is also expected to debut a Surface Pro 4 tablet and at least two high end Lumia smartphones during its event next month in New York City. </p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Pesky Skype Bug Disrupts Service in Multiple Ways trouble with Skype today? You're not alone.Mon, 21 Sep 2015 15:45:56 +0000 <h3>Skype service coughs up a hairball</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skype"></p><p> Don't bother troubleshooting your Skype installation if you're experiencing trouble today, chances are it has nothing to do with you. The voice and app messaging service acknowledged that there's "an issue that is affecting Skype in a number of ways," including an inability to sign into the service.</p><p> For those who were already signed in when the bug hit, their contacts would show as offline, making it so they couldn't place calls. In addition, Microsoft noted that a "small number of messages to group chats are not being delivered," though otherwise messaging was still working.</p><p> "We are working to fix an issue which is preventing some users from logging in and using Skype. We apologize for any inconvenience," Skype stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter post</a>.</p><p> So what's going on? Skype didn't say, though in a followup post this morning, the service <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> that it has "identified the network issue" preventing users from logging in. It's also "focused on restoring full service."</p><p> Skype isn't the only service having issues today. As reported by <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Next Web</a></em>, Amazon Web Services is experiencing a <a href="" target="_blank">server issue</a> in Virginia&nbsp;that's disrupting products and services including Netflix, Product Hunt, Medium, SocialFlow, Buffer, GroupMe, Pocket, Viber Amazon Echo, and others.</p><p> I haven't tested any services linked to AWS, though I did experience the Skype glitches first hand this morning. Having already been signed in, it showed I was offline along with all of my contacts. After signing out, I was unable to sign back in. That's still true as of this writing.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Review: MSI GT80 Titan first gaming laptop with an integrated mechanical keyboardMon, 21 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 laptopmsiReviewReviews <p> We’ve been asked a more than a few times why there aren’t any gaming laptops with mechanical keyboards, and up until now our response has always been, “Because that would be stupid.” MSI has thrown traditional laptop conventions out of the window by introducing its GT80 Titan, the world’s first gaming laptop with an integrated mechanical keyboard, and slap us on our butts and call us Sally if it doesn’t work in its own little, or shall we say, big, way.</p><p> Specifically, the GT80 Titan uses a tenkeyless keyboard designed by SteelSeries, outfitted with Cherry MX Brown switches. The keyboard also supports red LED backlighting. Overall, it looks and feels surprisingly great. The Brown switches offer a nice sense of tactility without being too noisy. While it is a tenkeyless keyboard, MSI has also interestingly integrated its trackpad on the right side, sort of like what Razer did with its Razer Blade 17-inch laptop. The placement of the trackpad is a little awkward, but you’ll get used to it eventually. And by holding pressing the num lock key, the track pad doubles as a numpad, which is kind of neat.</p><p> The keyboard and trackpad aren’t the only unique features of the laptop. The GT80 Titan also features two GeForce GTX 980Ms. These two mobile GPUs easily beat a desktop 980, and interestingly enough, a single 980M has 8GB of VRAM vs. the desktop equivalent’s 4GB. The 980Ms here feature core clocks of 1,030MHz, memory clocks of 1,253MHz, and boost clocks of 1,127MHz. The laptop also features a Haswell i7-4720HQ CPU that’s clocked at 2.6GHz (with a boost clock of 3.6GHz). To go along with the quad-core/eight-thread CPU is 16GB of DDR3 RAM. Storage side, the laptop rocks 256GBs of SSD storage in RAID 0, and it has a 1TB HDD, too.</p><p> All of this is housed in the large bay above the keyboard. While laptops generally aren’t too modular, the GT80 Titan allows you to access this bay to swap out its storage drives, RAM, and even its MXM GPUs. In regard to the chassis itself, the GT80 Titan features a plethora of features and ports. There’s basically everything you need here to act as your desktop replacement.</p><p>While its panel isn’t likely to be as big as your favorite standalone monitor, its 18.4 inch screen is big for a laptop. It has great colors and fantastic viewing angles. There is no touchscreen, however, which definitely would have been nice to have. Our biggest gripe with the monitor, however, is that it still uses a 1080p panel. With all that firepower, you’d think MSI would include either a 3K or 4K display. Hell, a 2560x1440 panel would have made much more sense. The problem of course is that no other manufacturers are shipping higher resolution 18.4 inch displays, leaving us in a chicken vs. egg situation.</p><p>For acoustics, the GT80 sounds really good. The speakers are by Dynaudio and the laptop even has a subwoofer on the bottom; you’ll get plenty of volume. The laptop also has two unique buttons: one that allows you to switch between integrated and discrete graphics, and one to enable “cooler boost,” which basically pushes the fans to a really loud 100 percent RPM.</p><p> Luckily, the graphics cards perform like champs without enabling tornado mode to keep things cool. Seriously, the GT80 Titan obliterated our Alienware’s 765M GPU by a performance delta of 260–360 percent. With its 1080p panel, you can max out every single game out now with silky smooth frame rates. It’s actually way overkill for 1080p. CPU performance wasn’t nearly as killer&mdash;its processor performed about as well as any modern gaming laptop’s i7 would. We saw a 4 percent improvement boost in our x264 benchmark compared to our ZP, where the GT80 Titan’s extra 200MHz headroom allowed it to eke out a win.</p><p> Somehow, MSI was able to judo the laptop’s weaknesses into its greatest strengths. Sure, the mechanical keyboard bloats up the chassis, but you’re getting some larger-than-life power out of this bad boy as a result. Overall, the design is kind of brilliant as a desktop replacement. For $3,300, it is expensive as hell, but it also packs one hell of a punch.</p><h5>Benchmarks</h5> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> <br></td><td> Zero-point </td> <td> MSI GT80 Titan </td> <td> Percent difference </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) </td> <td> 962 </td><td> 970 </td> <td> -0.8% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Proshow Producer 5 (sec) </td><td> 1,629 </td> <td> 1,623 </td> <td> 0.4% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> x264 HD 5.0 </td> <td> 13.5 </td><td> 14.1 </td> <td> 4.4% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bioshock Infinite (fps) </td> <td> 36.1 </td><td> 166.8 </td> <td> 362% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Metro Last Light (fps) </td> <td> 30.4 </td><td> 109 </td> <td> 258.6% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> 3DMark 11 Perf </td> <td> 4,170 </td><td> 15,672 </td> <td> 275.8% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Battery Life (min) </td> <td> 234 </td> <td> 126 </td> <td> -46.1% </td></tr> </tbody> </table><h5>Specifications</h5> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> Intel 2.6GHz Core i7-4720HQ </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> 16GB DDR3/1600MHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Chipset </td> <td> Intel HM87 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> GPU </td> <td> 2x Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Display </td> <td> 18.4-inch, 1920x1080 (matte) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Storage </td> <td> 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Connectivity </td> <td> 5x USB 3.0, optical port, headset and mic port, SD card reader, optical drive, two Mini DisplayPorts, HDMI port, Ethernet port </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lap/Carry </td> <td> 10 lbs, 11.6 oz /13 lbs, 12.8 oz </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> $3,300, <a href=""></a></p> Star Wars Battlefront Beta Will Be Open To All upcoming beta will be open for everyone with an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PCFri, 18 Sep 2015 21:51:34 +0000 ArtsGamingNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Star Wars Battlefront"></p><p><em style="background-color: initial;">Star Wars Battlefront</em> community manager Mathew Everett&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">posted an update</a> on the game’s website, reporting that the upcoming beta will be made available to everyone owning a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC (via Origin). The beta will consist of two multiplayer modes and a single mission that will be playable in co-op mode.</p><p>“Get ready hit the battlefront on Hoth via Walker Assault and check out our newly revealed mode, <a href="" target="_blank">Drop Zone</a> on Sullust,” Everett says. “Now, I have to state my excitement here as this is by far my favorite mode and I can't wait for you to check it out for yourself. Is online Multiplayer with more than two players just not your thing? We have you covered.”</p><p>Earlier this month, Electronic Arts said that the Drop Zone mode is similar to King of the Hill. Drop pods will be dumped on the planet surface, and two teams of eight each will fight to control or capture these pods. To win, the team must capture all five pods. However, if the teams can’t manage to capture all the pods within the 10-minute limit, the team who controls the majority of them will win the match.</p><p>Everett goes on to describe the beta’s mission, stating that gamers can play solo, with an online friend, or locally with a friend sitting on the same couch. This mission, based on Tatooine, will introduce players to the beta Survival Mission mode. Everett also points out that for the beta, this mission will require an Internet connection. Once the full game is released, missions will be playable offline.</p><p>The news update also mentions the Deluxe version of the upcoming game. In addition to the base game, players will receive an Ion Grenade, an Ion Torpedo, and a DL-44 blaster pistol. Players will also receive Ion Shock and Victory emotes. Unsurprisingly, this bundle will be served up to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners only.</p><p>In addition to the news, Everett answered a few questions submitted by the community. One question focused on upgrading vehicles, which will not be possible, as they need to stay authentic within the <em>Star Wars</em> universe. Bots will also be provided in the game, but only within the Fighter Squadron mode, which will include ten AI units on each side.</p><p>“Our team is working hard to continue to gather the proper details around features, modes, weapons, vehicles, and more,” Everett says. “We know a lot of the community is eager to get every specific detail around the game, and our team is looking forward to revealing it.”</p><p><em>Star Wars Battlefront</em> is slated to arrive on November 17, 2015.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Gobs of Gigabyte Motherboards! you know, Skylake is here, and that means there are a lot of anxious builders ready to take the plunge. However, a case could be made for building a last generation system, especially now that prices on previous high-end parts have fallen.Fri, 18 Sep 2015 18:01:51 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3P"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>As you know, Skylake is here, and that means there are a lot of anxious builders ready to take the plunge. However, a case could be made for building a last generation system, especially now that prices on previous high-end parts have fallen. Case in point, today's top deal is for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813128772-_-0918&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3P Motherboard</a> for <strong>$153</strong> with $4 shipping (normally $180 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXKW28</strong>]). This is a socket LGA 2011-v3 for Haswell-E. It has plenty of bells and whistles, like dual M.2 slots, SATA Express, four-way graphics support, and so forth, but it's priced like a mid-range part. Not sold? See if any the other mobo deals suit your fancy.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813128829-_-0918&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-X99-SLI LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$212.50</strong> with $4 shipping (normally $250 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXKW28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813128715-_-0918&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-Z97-HD3 LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$85</strong> with free shipping (normally $100 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXKW28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813128817-_-0918&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5 R5AM3+ AMD 990FX 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors ATX AMD Motherboard</a> for <strong>$127.50</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXKW28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813128709-_-0918&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-Gaming 5 (rev. 1.0) LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$113.05</strong> with free shipping (normally $133 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAXKW28</strong>])</p> Win Your Dream Setup in the UltraWide Festival! $10,000 to build your dream rig as part of the UltraWide Festival 2015.Fri, 18 Sep 2015 17:28:00 +0000 tiles <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="DreamSetup"></p><p> <strong>What's Your Dream Setup?</strong></p><p> More inches. More speed. More eardrum-blasting bass.</p><p> We're talking, of course, about the things we want in our dream PC setup&mdash;the ultimate combo of monitors, headphones, hardware, and all those brilliant tech goodies that we want on our desk 24/7.</p><p> <a href="" rel="nofollow">The UltraWide Festival</a> is hosting an awesome competition right now, to let you build your own dream setup with their money ($10k to each winner!), and keep it forever and ever. Even if you don't win of the 3 Finalist prizes, they're also giving out 30 of LG's incredible new Curved UltraWide monitors, guaranteed to make even the most tech-casual noob drool instantly.</p><p> All you have to do to enter the competition is make a video showing your current PC setup, explain how you would upgrade it if you won the $10 thousand dollars, and <a href="" rel="nofollow">fill out a super fast form over on their website</a>. It's fast, it's easy, and it gives you a chance to show off your awesome video-making skills. (Pro tip: make it funny!)</p><p> When we heard about this competition, we started thinking... what sorts of things would we want our dream setup to do if someone else was paying for it and we had no budget limit?</p><p> Hopefully our ideas help spark some of your own that you can use in your video for the <a href="" rel="nofollow">UltraWide Festival Dream Setup competition</a>.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dso"></p><p> <strong>The Hardware</strong></p><p> Any respectable gamer starts in the guts of the PC when dreaming big. It doesn't matter how pretty it all looks if it doesn't run like a jackrabbit on ritalin. But let's not get bogged down in the details here and end up bickering about AMD vs. Nvidia for the next 10 pages. We're dreaming&mdash;so let's just focus on what we want it to do.</p><p> We want double video cards working hand-in... umm, robo-hand with each other to show us aliens, nazis, and zombies on our screens for us to shoot. Powering alongside those duel gods of pixel magic, we want a futuristic CPU with more cores than an apple tree, RAM for every slot, and nothing less than a pile of the finest multi TB SSDs. <a href="" rel="nofollow">Someone else is paying for your dream setup if you win the competition</a>, so I'm dreaming big!</p><p> I guess we also better toss in a rock-solid PSU, a water cooling system with the coolest neon lights you've ever seen, and a motherboard that fits all that stuff into just the right places that makes it easy to work with.</p><p> Oh, a case that looks like a freakin' mechwarrior. With real rocket launchers and a flamethrower that'll toast our grilled cheese. Let us dream!</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LG Ultrawide prize-img1"></p><p> <strong>The Monitor</strong></p><p>I thought I was actually pretty happy with my monitor before I saw <a href="" rel="nofollow">the website for this competition</a>. They're giving away a bunch of the LG Curved UltraWide monitors, and they look incredible. I mean, that one in the image above has so much screen real estate on its 34-freakin-inch display that the dude is doing like ten things at once. And here I was, like a chump, being happy that I could just play Hearthstone and watch Netflix at the same time on my current screen.</p><p> Nope. Monitor envy is a real thing, folks. And I now have it. Thanks, LG. Now every time I boot up Hearthstone, I'll be reminded that I don't have a curved monitor with bleeding edge specs that's editing some cool space battle footage from a game I probably can't even afford.</p><p> Oh, man, reality is too painful. Let's go back to dreaming about our dream setup!</p><p> We want that tiny PC-deity box we described on the previous page to feed into the fattest monitors that have ever existed. Wait&mdash;cancel that. We want that feeding into THREE of the fattest monitors that have ever existed, just like Lewis of Unbox Therapy was showing off in <a href=";v=4Dw9_P54k40" rel="nofollow">his video about this competition</a>.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Audio"></p><p> <strong>Audio/Video</strong></p><p> You better believe that if we won this <a href="" rel="nofollow">UltraWide Festival competition</a> and got to build our dream PC setup, we'd be livestreaming 24/7 to show it off to the world.</p><p> Even though the LG UltraWide monitor has great speakers built-in, we'd still want some slick 7.1 surround sound headsets that make us look like esports pros on stream. Bonus points if that headset has an unobtrusive mic attached, so we can personally thank everyone that donates $100 or more in our Twitch chat&mdash;which totally happens every five minutes in my dream.</p><p> But sometimes we don't want to use the headset, so we'll need a crazy surround sound setup with speakers and a comfy subwoofer we can rest our feet on when it's not busy shaking the house's walls around us. And I guess we need a webcam so the world can see our glorious faces on the stream.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ThumbsUp"></p><p> <strong>Everything Else</strong></p><p> Phew, all this dreaming is tiring. But we're not done yet! True geeks need all sorts of cool stuff on their desk.</p><p> Of course, the gaming mouse with like 20 buttons on it and a wired cable. Of course, the gaming keyboard with mechanical keys and glowing back-lit letters. Of course, the three core gamepad controllers so we can be snobby about which gamepad works best for each individual game we play.</p><p> But we also need an amazing chair that magically fixes our posture, a USB flash drive that can store our entire Steam library on it, a real Pip-Boy, a wearable mouse, <a href="" rel="nofollow">a thumbs up bottle opener</a>, a <a href="" rel="nofollow">USB PICKLE LIGHT</a>!</p><p> Uh... okay. I think we've finally dreamed too big. We should've stopped at the Pip-Boy. But I think we're finally ready for <a href="" rel="nofollow">the competition</a>.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="FestivalSummary"></p><p> <strong>Win Your Own Dream Setup</strong></p><p>Don't let our way-too-big-and-very-fun-until-it-got-a-little-bit-weird-at-the-end-there-with-the-pickle dream overshadow your own dreams, though! Head on over to the <a href="" rel="nofollow">UltraWide Festival Dream Setup website</a> and share your own story.</p><p> All you have to do to enter the competition is make a short video showing off your current PC setup and talking about how you want to make it better. You have until September 25 (next Friday) to <a href="" rel="nofollow">enter the competition</a>,&nbsp;so take your time and dream big!</p><p>The 3 Finalists will get $10,000 to upgrade their current rigs to their dream setup, and 30 Semi-Finalists will get the beautiful Curved UltraWide monitor (34UC87C). It's incredible for gaming, but we won't judge if you want to also use it to edit videos, make art, or any of that other awesome creative stuff. Just make sure to frag sometimes too.</p><p>Good luck, and dream big!</p> MSI Raids Skylake with B150M Night Elf and Z170I Gaming Pro Motherboards announces a pair of small form factor motherboards for Intel's Skylake CPUs.Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:48:42 +0000 <h3>Two small form factor motherboard options</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MSI B150M Night Elf"></p><p> We're seeing more and more small form factor case options for tiny builds, and of course there's AMD's Radeon R9 Nano, a six-inch graphics card that packs a much bigger punch than its size suggests. Building a potent SFF PC is certainly possible. It all starts with the motherboard, and MSI has two new options specific to the SFF category.</p><p> The first is the <a href="" target="_blank">B150M Night Elf</a>. We'll go ahead an award MSI 500 geek points right off the bat for giving its board a name that's more memorable than a string of numbers and letters (we're looking at you, Gigabyte).</p><p> MSI's B150M Night Elf is a micro ATX (mATX) motherboard aimed at gamers. In case there's any doubt as to the target audience, MSI imprinted "NO. 1 IN GAMING" along the side of the board and lit it up with a red LED.</p><p> As its name suggests, the board is based on Intel's B150 chipset for Skylake (LGA1151). It has four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of DDR4-2133 memory, two PCI-E x16 3.0 slots, two PCI-E x1 3.0 slots, a GbE LAN port, USB 3.1 and 2.0 connectivity, half a dozen SATA 6Gbps ports, SATA Express, onboard audio with dual headphone amplifiers, and various other amenities.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC"></p><p> If you're looking to go even small, MSI's other SFF board is the <a href="" target="_blank">Z170I Gaming Pro AC</a>. It's a mini ITX motherboard based on Intel's Z170 chipset. The board only has two DDR4 DIMM slots, though it can handle frequencies up to 3200MHz.</p><p> Other features include a single PCI-E x16 3.0 slot, four SATA 6Gbps ports, M.2 port, SATA Express, USB 3.1 and 2.0 connectivity, and onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi.</p><p> MSI didn't say how much the boards will cost or when they'll be available.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p>