Maximum PC latest stories, 01 Sep 2015 16:41:57 +0000yesLenovo Expands Business Lineup with New ThinkPad E Laptops has some new laptops and all-in-one desktop solutions for the business crowd.Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:41:57 +0000 <h3>Getting down to business</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lenovo E560"></p><p> Business users in need of cheap thrills may be interested in Lenovo's latest offerings. Chief among them is the ThinkPad E Series consisting of 14-inch and 15.6-inch laptops for small and medium businesses (SMBs).</p><p> Lenovo's a little <a href="" target="_blank">light on the fine grain details</a>, though the world's top supplier of PCs did say that its new ThinkPad E models sport the latest generation Intel and AMD processors for up to 10 percent better raw performance and up to 34 percent superior integrated graphics performance over the previous offerings.</p><p> Some of the options include discrete graphics, up to 16GB of memory, solid state storage, fingerprint security, and an Intel RealSense 3D camera (specific to the ThinkPad E560). As for non-optional features, the laptops feature three USB 3.0 ports, HDMi output, and GbE LAN connectivity.</p><p> The new ThinkPad E Series will start at $449 and will be available in November.</p><p> Lenovo also announced S Series all-in-one PCs and two tower desktop systems, the S200 and S500. Again, details are light at the moment, but we know the AIOs will include 19.5-inch, 21.5-inch, and 23-inch Full HD display options with optional touch support.</p><p> Like the new laptops, the updated AIO and tower desktops will use the latest AMD and Intel processors. They'll also come with SSDs and discrete graphics, and will feature built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.</p><p> Lenovo didn't say how much its AIO and tower desktops will cost, adding only that they'll be available in the fourth quarter in select markets.</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> Benchmarked: Ashes of the Singularity’s game will be one of the first DX12 titles, potentiallymaking it a sneak peak of what’s to comeTue, 01 Sep 2015 07:00:00 +0000 Games <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity Logo2"></p><h3>The Politics of DX12</h3><p> Last week, Oxide gave press early access to their pre-beta version of<em> Ashes of the Singularity</em>. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, here’s why this is important. So far, the only DX12 benchmarks anyone has been able to run have been synthetic in nature&mdash;the 3DMark API Overhead test pounds the GPU with draw calls until the GPU hits its limit, and gives a score; the earlier Star Swarm benchmark (formerly of AMD Mantle fame) was sort of in the same situation, except Star Swarm was a lot closer to being an actual game. And that game will be <em>Ashes of the Singularity</em>.</p><p> Now, the first thing to get out of the way is that <em>Ashes of the Singularity</em> sports an AMD Gaming Evolved logo, meaning they’re actively receiving help and promotion from AMD. This is nothing new, as we’ve had plenty of Nvidia The Way It’s Meant To Be Played (TWIMTBP) titles over the years, including <em>Batman: Arkham Knight</em> (and all the other <em>Arkham</em> games), The <em>Witcher 3</em>, <em>Assassin’s Creed: Unity</em>, <em>Far Cry 4</em>, the <em>Borderlands</em> series, and the <em>Metro</em> series, to name a few. On the AMD side, we have plenty of options as well: <em>Tomb Raider</em>, <em>Civilization: Beyond Earth</em>, <em>Hitman: Absolution</em> and its upcoming sequel, the recent and upcoming <em>Deus Ex</em> titles, <em>Dragon Age: Inquisition</em>, and most of the<em> DiRT</em> series. We list these merely to show that there are many games that are promoted by AMD or Nvidia, but usually not both; you’ll also note that we’re pretty evenly split on the games we’re currently benchmarking for GPU reviews. But the short summary is that titles with an Nvidia logo are often better optimized&mdash;particularly near launch&mdash;for Nvidia GPUs, and likewise AMD titles are often better optimized for AMD GPUs. Capiche?</p><p> This discussion of AMD backing also becomes pertinent when we get to looking at performance. Nvidia contacted the press after the <em>Ashes of the Singularity</em> benchmark went out to point out that anti-aliasing was running sub-optimally on the DX12 path with Nvidia GPUs, and they recommended we test with AA disabled. Developer Oxide responded with a blog post titled <a target="_blank" href="">The Birth of a New API</a>, saying that the DX11 and DX12 MSAA is “essentially unchanged.” And here’s where things get a bit sticky. Potentially, AMD has some hardware features that would enable a developer writing DX12 code to have better MSAA performance compared to DX11 code; Nvidia GPUs may or may not be able to do the same thing. (Just search for "DX12 Async Compute" if you're curious.)</p><p> Getting even deeper into the fundamentals of DX11 vs. DX12 programming, under DX11 there were a lot of things that could be done in the GPU drivers to try to optimize performance. With DX12 being a low-level API, most of the driver tweaks are not possible; instead, it’s up to the software developers to write optimized code to extract maximum performance from the various GPUs. In a sense, it’s like giving game developers the ability to write assembly language for the GPU rather than programming in C++, though it should be noted that DX12 is still a higher-level language. Regardless, if a developer is going to extract maximum performance from a GPU, they’ll need to optimize their code for that GPU&mdash;and code optimized for one GPU’s architecture may not run optimally on a different architecture! In a worst-case scenario, a developer might need to have different code paths for AMD Fiji, Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, etc., and Nvidia Maxwell 2.0, Maxwell 1.0, Kepler, Fermi, etc., architectures.</p><p> All of this is further compounded by the fact that <em>Ashes of the Singularity</em> is currently “pre-beta,” though the official beta should be starting very soon. The beta stage is often where a lot of performance optimizations and fine tuning takes place, so looking at performance right now is, at best, a preview of what may or may not come to pass.</p><p> We can argue about whether Oxide and Nvidia are being fully transparent, but that’s sort of beside the point. The reality is that DX12 is supposed to be a low-level API that will allow the game developers to extract more performance from the hardware, which means better graphics and hopefully better gameplay will be possible. Or put another way, at the very least, DX12 performance should never be lower than DX11 performance; if it is, something is wrong with the code and the developer should look to fix things. The rumor is that Nvidia put a lot of effort into their DX11 drivers for <em>Ashes</em>, and didn’t do much to help with DX12 optimizations for their hardware, but that’s mostly speculation. What we do know is that DX12 with MSAA enabled does in fact tend to run slower on Nvidia GPUs than the DX11 code, and that’s a clear problem. Ultimately, we opted to run all testing without MSAA enabled; when the game officially launches, we can revisit the subject.</p><p> But who cares about all the political stuff going on behind the scenes?! We’re still looking forward to DX12 games and we want to know as much as the next guy what DX12 can do for performance, graphics quality, etc. All the above caveats aside, how does the current pre-beta release of <em>Ashes&nbsp;</em>run on the various GPUs? That’s what we attempted to find out, which entailed running the benchmark many, <em>many</em> times.</p><p> Let me tell you, there’s no better way to make someone hate a game than to have them watch the same sequence over and over again! Over three minutes per test gets to be quite lengthy, and we tested no fewer than three resolutions, three quality settings, two CPU clock speeds, four thread settings, and two graphics cards, plus looking at DX11 and DX12.&nbsp;(If you want the math: 3 * 3 * 2 * 4 * 2 *2 = 288.) That’s 14.4 hours (minimum!) of running the same three minute sequence. Thank goodness for scripting&hellip;. [If you want to view all of the raw data, including Normal, Medium, Heavy batch FPS along with the average FPS and 97 percentile results we're showing, you can&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">view all of our&nbsp;results on Drive</a>.]</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Strix R9 Fury"><br> <em>Team Red: ASUS Strix R9 Fury</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Evga Gtx 980 Ti"><br> <em>Team Green: EVGA GTX 980 Ti ACX 2.0</em></p><p> In the interest of keeping the number of charts to a minimum (inasmuch as sixteen charts is a “minimum”), we’re only showing the Low and High quality presets, again with AA disabled on the High preset. Medium quality, as you’d expect, ends up falling between the two and is thus not really necessary, but if anyone wants those charts as well, let us know. We’ve grouped the charts according to the test GPU, with differing numbers of threads, resolution, and DX11/DX12 on each GPU. At the time of testing, we were somewhat limited in terms of what GPUs we had available, so we tested with an EVGA GTX 980 Ti (factory overclocked) and the <a target="_blank" href="">Asus Strix R9 Fury</a>. Note that&nbsp;this <em>isn’t</em> an AMD vs. Nvidia performance test, but rather a look at how each vendor scales&mdash;or doesn’t scale!&mdash;with the various settings/features.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity Heavy"><br> <em>Heavy batch of draw calls incoming!</em></p><h3>You Take the High Road&hellip;</h3><p> Starting with the high-quality setting, we’re looking at the full average FPS for the entire benchmark. Oxide actually breaks things up into Normal, Medium, and Heavy batches, as the number of draw calls for the test scenes can vary quite a bit, but if we wanted to report those figures we’d need to do another 48 charts. And as much as we like charts, that’s overkill, so no thanks. Anyway, the average FPS correlates pretty well with the Medium batch results, and that makes sense: Normal has fewer calls, Heavy has more, and the overall average is close to Medium. We’ll also look at the <a target="_blank" href="">97 Percentile FPS</a>, which is a good indication of whether a game stutters at times.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 GPU Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-5930K</a><br> @4.2GHz Overclock <br> @2.1GHz Underclock </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044420&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Gigabyte+GA-X99-UD4">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD4</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPUs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti ACX2.0</a><br> <a target="_blank" href="">Asus Strix R9 Fury</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044436&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Samsung+850+Evo+250GB">2x Samsung 850 EVO 250GB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>HDD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044452&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Seagate+Barracuda+3TB+7200RPM">Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200RPM</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044466&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=EVGA+SuperNOVA+1300+G2">EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=G.Skill+Ripjaws+16GB+DDR4-2666">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB DDR4-2666</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044501&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+Nepton+280L">Cooler Master Nepton 280L</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044514&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+CM+Storm+Trooper">Cooler Master CM Storm Trooper</a> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> Our test system is the same as we normally use for GPU tests, except we ran it overclocked at 4.2GHz as well as underclocked at 2.1GHz. For the multi-threaded testing, we used a command-line parameter for <em>Ashes </em>rather than actually disabling/enabling cores in the motherboard BIOS; unfortunately, that only seems to have partially worked, as the two-thread and four-thread results don’t seem to change much. Given the preliminary nature of the testing, we’ll go with what we have for now, but most likely we would see better scaling if we had physically turned off two cores and disabled Hyper-Threading rather than just telling <em>Ashes </em>to run with four threads.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity High Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity High Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity High 97 Percentile"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity High 97 Percentile"></p><p> Starting with the AMD results, right away we find some interesting stuff going on. Using DX12 with a 4.2GHz processor is enough to basically max out the R9 Fury. It doesn’t matter if we use two, four, six, or 12 threads: performance is nearly identical. Alternately, having six or 12 threads with a 2.1GHz processor also delivers nearly the same level of performance. Here’s where DX12 is going to do AMD a ton of favors, at least in the CPU/APU arena, as it looks like four physical cores at a moderate clock (3GHz) should make the GPU the primary bottleneck (though multi-GPU configurations might still want more CPU power). Performance on the 2.1GHz processor improves by over 25 percent going from two to 12 threads (granted, no one is likely to be running a 12-thread 2.1GHz CPU). Perhaps more telling is that at 2.1GHz, DX12 is able to improve AMD’s performance by 35–65 percent over DX11; even at 4.2GHz, DX12 still boasts a 15–35 percent improvement.</p><p> Of course, part of the reason for the above improvements is due to the poor DX11 results. We’ve heard Nvidia put a lot of effort into their DX11 performance, but by contrast it looks like AMD has made virtually no effort to deliver good DX11 performance with <em>Ashes</em>. Threads don’t matter under DX11 either, as there’s little difference in performance under DX11, regardless of the number of threads, even at 2.1GHz. The 4.2GHz processor shows at most a five percent increase going from two threads to 12 threads, while the 2.1GHz processor shows at most a 10 percent improvement. The change in clock speeds does help, of course: the 4.2GHz CPU is up to 30 percent faster than the 2.1GHz CPU, though at higher resolutions the margin of victory narrows.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity High Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity High Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity High 97 Percentile"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity High 97 Percentile"></p><p> Flipping over to the Nvidia side of things, it’s a completely different story. DX12 helps performance&hellip; sometimes; other times, it’s worse than DX11. This is without MSAA, which apparently further exacerbates the situation. Remember what we said earlier about software optimizations vs. driver optimizations? It looks like Nvidia’s 980 Ti is currently running DX12 code tuned for AMD hardware, which in many instances is unable to match Nvidia’s highly tuned DX11 driver performance. We might even go so far as to say that Nvidia set the DX11 bar really high, and Oxide failed to clear it&mdash;at least right now.</p><p> Digging into the details, what’s interesting is that unlike AMD, Nvidia shows clear performance scaling with more threads with the lower clocked CPU. DX11 performance improves by 20–30 percent (depending on resolution) going from two to 12 threads, and DX12 performance improves by up to 40 percent. However, 4K performance is actually lower under DX12 than under DX11. Crank up the CPU clocks to 4.2GHz and threads become less of a factor; at best we see a 10 percent increase at 1080p under DX11, but at higher resolutions the 980 Ti becomes the bottleneck.</p><p> If you’re wondering why Nvidia may have a bone to pick with Oxide, at 4.2GHz their DX11 mode outperforms DX12 mode across all resolutions and thread counts. Oops. Again, since DX12 is a low-level API, it’s up to the software developers to optimize their code for different hardware. Oxide notes in their blog post, “Some optimizations that the drivers are doing in DX11 just aren’t working in DX12 yet. Oxide believes it has identified some of the issues with MSAA and is working to implement workarounds on our code.” In other words, Nvidia’s optimized DX11 drivers are doing a better job at certain things right now than Oxide’s DX12 code&mdash;but Oxide is working to fix that.</p><p> We haven’t said much about the 97 percentile results yet, but the story there is much the same. Nvidia with the 4.2GHz CPU delivers similar minimum FPS, regardless of DX11/DX12 or the number of CPU threads. At 2.1GHz, however, DX12 does make a sometimes sizable difference&mdash;the 1080p results with 12 threads are nearly 50 percent higher than the DX11 results. For AMD, DX11 minimums are horrific: well under 20fps. There’s no scaling with CPU threads on DX11, but DX12 in turn delivers a great showing: the 12-thread 1080p DX12 performance is up to 2.5X higher than the DX11 performance on a 2.1GHz CPU. Having a 4.2GHz CPU helps some, but DX12 still shows nearly a doubling of minimum FPS at 1080p, a 75 percent boost at 1440p, and a still-hefty 50 percent increase at 4K.</p><p> So far, we’ve avoided making direct comparisons between the two GPUs, as they’re not in the same price bracket. However, if we take it as a given that the EVGA GTX 980 Ti is roughly 20 percent faster than Asus R9 Fury (that’s what <a target="_blank" href="">our earlier testing</a> showed), it looks like AMD’s Fury X may hold a slight performance advantage over 980 Ti in DX12 mode. But we need to balance that against how badly AMD does in DX11. The R9 Fury in DX11 mode is pretty clearly running into CPU bottlenecks, even at 4.2GHz, but these bottlenecks are far lower than on Nvidia’s hardware. Ergo, AMD’s DX11 drivers are not nearly as efficient as Nvidia’s DX11 drivers&mdash;this is something many people have noticed over the past several generations of hardware.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity Medium"><br> <em>Keep those draw calls in moderation, soldier!</em></p><h3>I’ll Take the Low Road</h3><p> That takes care of performance at the High settings, but what if we drop the quality? We’ll skip over most of the analysis, as the story doesn’t change too much from the above&mdash;and most people owning a 980 Ti or R9 Fury aren’t going to be running low-quality settings in the first place! Here’s a repeat of the above charts, only now we’ve dropped the rendering quality.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity Low Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity Low Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity Low 97 Percentile"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amd R9 Fury 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity Low 97 Percentile"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity Low Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity Low Avg"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 4.2ghz Ashes Singularity Low 97 Percentile"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Gtx 980ti 2.1ghz Ashes Singularity Low 97 Percentile"></p><p> Not surprisingly, the reduction in graphics fidelity has made <em>Ashes </em>more CPU bottlenecked. The biggest change is that frame rates are higher, naturally, but even at low quality we still see a decent amount of scaling on AMD hardware going from DX11 to DX12. In fact, the improvement is even greater this time, with up to 90 percent improvements at 2.1GHz and 60 percent at 4.2GHz. Nvidia also shows better performance across all settings with the 2.1GHz CPU, but 4K with the 4.2GHz processor still shows a performance drop of up to 10 percent.</p><p> As for 97 percentile frame rates, again we have to look at Nvidia and AMD separately. For Nvidia, there appears to be a wall at around 30fps at 2.1GHz in DX11 mode, and DX12 helps to lift that bottleneck to more than 50fps. With the 4.2GHz CPU, the wall is at 45fps, and DX12 increases that to nearly 70fps. Interestingly, AMD shows similar results under DX12: 50fps with 2.1GHz, 60fps at 4.2GHz. But that darn DX11 performance; 16fps at 2.1GHz and 23fps at 4.2GHz is horrible; there’s no other way to put it.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity Normal"><br> <em>It's quiet... too quiet!</em></p><h3>Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust</h3><p> As the first of what will likely be many DX12-enabled titles coming sometime between now and 2016, <em>Ashes of the Singularity</em> is at best a taste of what’s to come. And that taste is&hellip; perplexing. Anyone hoping DX12 will mean the end of the GPU vendor wars is sure to be disappointed; if anything, DX12 looks to make the rivalry even more brutal.</p><p>We’ve seen a few people hailing AMD as the decisive winner of DX12 performance (for their&nbsp;DX12 Async Compute support), the problem being that we’re looking at an AMD-promoted title. They <em>should</em> offer better performance than Nvidia on a title they’re promoting, especially at a pre-launch stage...except they don't, at least not by any meaningful margin. What we have is, at best, a close match in DX12 performance, with poor DX11 performance from AMD. Whether this will reflect&nbsp;future DX12 titles remains to be seen. Unreal Engine, Unity, Frostbite, and a host of other engines will more likely than not differ from <em>Ashes</em>.</p><p> Frankly, this testing is really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We ran two GPUs at a whole bunch of settings to find out how they performed, and this is in a single game. Does Fury X claim the crown from 980 Ti in this one title? We could answer that question with some additional testing, but that's sort of missing the point. Right now, we can see that DX12 definitely makes a difference in performance, giving the game developers a lot more power. But with great power comes great responsibility, and some developers may not be able to handle DX12, at least not without more time and effort.</p><p> The next fight is shaping up to be Lionhead’s <em>Fable Legends</em>, and that will perhaps be a more neutral battleground as it’s neither an AMD nor an Nvidia title. In fact, it appears Microsoft (who owns Lionhead) is determined to put forth a message that DX12 is unified. Microsoft doesn’t want DX12 to appear as a fractured landscape, one where AMD or Nvidia rules, a place where processor graphics gets left in the dust. In that sense, <em>Fable </em>should be the most likely vendor-agnostic approach to DX12 we’re going to see in the near term. We’re certainly looking forward to testing it, though it may be a few months.</p><p> Ultimately, no matter what AMD, Microsoft, or Nvidia might say, there’s another important fact to consider. DX11 (and DX10/DX9) are not going away; the big developers have the resources to do low-level programming with DX12 to improve performance. Independent developers and smaller outfits are not going to be as enamored with putting in more work on the engine if it just takes time away from making a great game. And at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Games like <em>StarCraft II</em>, <em>Fallout 3</em>, and the<em> Mass Effect</em> series have all received rave reviews, with nary a DX11 piece of code in sight. And until DX11 is well and truly put to rest (maybe around the time Dream Machine 2020 rolls out?), things like drivers and CPU performance are still going to be important.</p><p> Let's end with some questions. What games are you most looking forward to for the coming year? And will DX12 support&mdash;or a lack thereof&mdash;affect your buying decisions? Let us know what other games you’re most interested in seeing benchmarked!</p><p> <em>Follow Jarred on <a target="_blank" href="">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Samsung P3 1TB Portable HDD, LG 24-Inch Monitor, and More! never hurts to have backups of your data in multiple places. The cloud is one option, and so is a secondary drive and/or NAS box. But why stop there?Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:27:45 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung P3"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>It never hurts to have backups of your data in multiple places. The cloud is one option, and so is a secondary drive and/or NAS box. But why stop there? A portable drive offers yet another layer of protection against the unforeseen, plus it's a convenient way to transfer large amounts of files from one system to another. Don't want to spend a fortune on one? 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Assuming you're rocking the latest Windows 10 updates, you should now be able to flip the switch under "Update apps automatically" from On to Off, should you want to.</p><p> Don't confuse this newfound capability with Microsoft's mandatory Windows OS updates. Windows 10 Home users are still forced to install security updates, and as we saw recently when a bad update resulted in some users being stuck in an <a href="">endless reboot loop</a>, the policy can have unintended negative consequences.</p><p> Windows 10 Pro users can delay security updates for up to eight months. Might that option one day be available to Home users? The answer probably depends on how well automatic updates work in the future and how much pressure Microsoft receives from the public.</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> White House May Hit China with Sanctions for Cyber Hacking Obama Administration has drafted sanctions against for its alleged involvement in cyber attacks against the U.S.Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:38:50 +0000 <h3>Tough decision</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="White House"></p><p> U.S. officials are debating whether or not to issue economic sanctions against China for its alleged involvement in various cyber crimes. According to a <a href="" target="_blank">report in <em>The Washington Post</em></a>, the Obama Administration is fed up with China's cyber shenanigans and has drafted a set of "unprecedented" sanctions in retaliation for Chinese companies and individuals benefiting from cybertheft of U.S. trade secrets.</p><p> The U.S. has never issued economic sanctions against overseas entities and individuals on the basis of cyber espionage, and it still might not happen. While a draft of the proposed sanctions exist, it's not yet been decided whether to issue them. A final decision could come by the second week of September.</p><p> Hackers in China are believed to be responsible for several separate cyber attacks against the U.S. with various information having been stolen, including nuclear power plant designs and search engine source code, to name just two examples.</p><p> While some in the White House are eager to push ahead with sanctions against China, others fear that they will do little to curb China's behavior. Some also warn that China may retaliate by freezing U.S. companies out of contracts or markets, though other officials argue that's already the case.</p><p> President Xi Jinping of China is scheduled to make his first visit to Washington next month where there will be a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn.</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> New Mirrativ App Streams Your Phone's Screen app will stream whatever is on your smartphone screen.Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:35:09 +0000 <p>There’s no question that streaming has become the “next big thing” on the Internet, with surfers making video calls to friends and family, Xbox One gamers streaming their favorite titles to Twitch and Windows 10, and so on. It’s taken quite a while for technology to offer this type of real-time coverage, and now that the tech is finally here, we seem to be streaming everything that has a screen attached to it.</p><p>What about smartphones? There’s an app for that and it’s called <a href=";hl=en" target="_blank">Mirrativ</a>. The app is made by DeNA Co, which is the same company that struck a deal with Nintendo to create apps and games on smartphones (finally!) based on Nintendo’s popular IPs. DeNA Co is also behind a number of mobile apps such as <em>Marvel: War of Heroes, Star Wars: Galactic Defense, Transformers: Age of Extinction</em>, and more.</p><p>“I think this is the first app that allows users to broadcast everything happening on their smartphone device through the Internet,” Mirrativ creator Junichi Akagawa <a href="" target="_blank">told the Wall Street Journal</a>.</p><p>Indeed, Mirrativ will supposedly stream whatever is on the screen, whether the user is playing a mobile game, a movie or just browsing on the Web. The app can also take control of the microphone and front-mounted camera so that the streamer can add audio and video commentary in a small picture-in-picture box on-screen. </p><p>The Wall Street Journal points out that <a href=";hl=en" target="_blank">Periscope</a> and <a href=";hl=en" target="_blank">Meerkat</a> are similar apps, allowing users to stream video from their phone to social networks. What makes Mirrativ different is that it provides a “more personal” setting because the streams stay within the app and don’t show up on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. </p><p>So if Mirrativ captures everything on the smartphone’s screen, what happens when the user is watching a movie? Akagawa didn’t say how the company will deal with copyrighted media, but&nbsp;he did say that DeNA will have a customer support team of 400 employees that will keep an eye on the app and handle any problems that may arise.</p><p>Mirrativ is currently in beta on Android and in development for Apple’s iOS devices. Users can begin livestreaming with their phone with just a couple of taps. They can even interact with their audience, which will leave comments and send stickers to the broadcaster. Users can also launch a private broadcast that can be accessed only&nbsp;by using a specific URL.</p><p>Oh boy. This should get interesting.</p> Nvidia GeForce WHQL 355.82 Drivers Now Available to Download WHQL drivers from Nvidia fix a "drastic tearing" issue that users running a SLI with a 4K monitor with Windows 10.Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:28:08 +0000 <h3>Ready, set, download!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Titan X"></p><p> Nvidia is kicking off the work week with a new GeForce Game Ready Driver, release 355.82 in WHQL form. According to Nvidia, these latest drivers provide the best possible gaming experience for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Mad Max.</p><p> The newest driver release from Nvidia also fixes several issues in Windows 10. They include the following:</p><ul> <li> [Oculus Direct VR] Oculus screen stays blank with directmode.exe -present_test is run.</li> <li>[GTX 980 SLI, 1x3 Surround] Wrong refresh rates are listed in the Nvidia Control Panel.</li> <li>[G-Sync, SLI] Drastic tearing observed on 4K monitors when SLI is enabled.</li> <li>[SLI] Enable P2P in Intel Z170 platform.</li> <li>[GTX 980 Ti, 1x2 Surround] Surround resolutions and their order are incorrect.</li></ul><p> The first two issues and the P2P bug were also fixed in Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista with the new driver.</p><p> No 3D Vision profiles were added this time around, though Nvidia did add or update several SLI profiles for eight titles, including Batman: Arkham Knight, Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition, FIFA 16, Gu Jian Qi Tan Online, Mad Max, Maple Store y, Rocket League, and World of Tanks.</p><p> You can download the <a href="" target="_blank">new driver here</a> and read the <a href="" target="_blank">release notes here (PDF)</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> Dream Machine 2015 boldly go where no Dream Machine has gone beforeMon, 31 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 Machine 2015maximum pcnasaTitan X <h3>To boldly go where no Dream Machine has gone before</h3><p> Last year, we said we would need to build this year’s Dream Machine in space to beat our&nbsp;<a href="">2014 über-desk PC</a>. That’s why this year’s Dream Machine is upping the ante by going out-of-this-world with a NASA motif. Specifically, we’re modeling our Dream Machine after&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">NASA’s iconic 1960s Titan II Gemini Launch Vehicle</a>, which was powered by Titan II missiles. Dream Machine 2015,&nbsp;coincidentally, is powered by Titan rockets of its own; specifically, four supercharged Titan X GPUs.&nbsp;<img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dream Machine 2015 space" style="font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;"></p><p> We mainly went with this theme, though, because we think NASA and its space programs are cool. Really, who doesn’t? Historically, NASA has been known for giving mankind a cutting-edge glimpse of the future of technology and innovation&mdash;topics that Dream Machine tries to evoke each and every year. The space program also embodies the spirit of what it means to dream big. It’s the perfect theme for this year’s Dream Machine.&nbsp;</p><p> Unlike the computers that powered the Titan II GLV, however, our Dream Machine is orders of magnitudes more powerful than all the command centers on Earth back in the ’60s, as you will no doubt discover in the following pages.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="620" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p> So, strap yourself in and prepare to be jettisoned into the final frontier of computing!</p><h4>Stellar components</h4><p> If money were no object, what would the best PC look like? That’s a question that Dream Machine has always tried to answer, and this year’s build is no different. We’ve filled every PCI-e, RAM, and SATA slot we could with the highest-grade components that we could find. Make no mistake, this PC has enough horsepower to reach relativistic speeds.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dream Machine 2015 guts"></p><p> <strong>1) GPUs: </strong>We grabbed the single fastest graphics card on Earth, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X, and then we grabbed three more and put them into SLI. Oh, did we mention that they are all liquid cooled and heavily overclocked?</p><p> <strong>2) Water cooling:</strong> Allowing our rockets to run at full capacity is our liquid-fueled custom dual-loop system from EKWB. This will ensure that our engine and rockets don’t overheat when we break the sound barrier.</p><p> <strong>3) Storage:</strong> You want hard drives? We’ve got four 6TBs of them mounted on the other side of the case. There’s enough storage here to last us years in outer space. They are perhaps only eclipsed by our four 1TB Samsung 850 Pro SSDs that we’ve put in hyper drive RAID 0.</p><p> <strong>4) Case:</strong> CaseLab’s Magnum SMA8 is an astronomical chassis that is equipped to carry all the cargo we need to send our Dream Machine into outer orbit and back. It’s also got a super sexy paint job from&nbsp;<a href="">Smooth Creations</a>.</p><p> <strong>5) CPU:</strong> The central processing unit behind our rocket is Intel’s Core i7-5960X, which is the most advanced CPU money can buy as of this writing. It’s got eight core engines, which we’ve boosted to Mach 4.5GHz speeds.</p><p> <strong>Ingredients</strong></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong> Part</strong> </td> <td> </td> <td><strong> Price</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> Intel Core i7-5960X </td> <td> $1,050 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Mobo </td> <td> Asus Rampage V Extreme </td> <td> $470 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> 64GB DDR4 Corsair Dominator </td> <td> $1,495 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> GPU </td> <td> 4x EVGA GeForce Titan X Hydro Copper </td> <td> $5,200 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> SSD </td> <td> 4x Samsung 850 PRO 1TB </td> <td> $2,560 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> HDD </td> <td> 4x WD Black 6TB </td> <td> $1,200 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Cooling </td> <td> EKWB custom loop cooling </td> <td> $450 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Case </td> <td> CaseLabs Magnum SMA8 </td> <td> $520 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Paint </td> <td> Smooth Creations </td> <td> $800 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> OS </td> <td> Windows 8.1 </td> <td> $100 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Monitor </td> <td> Dell UltraSharp UP2715K </td> <td> $2,500 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Mouse </td> <td> Logitech Daedalus Apex </td> <td> $70 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Keyboard </td> <td> Razer BlackWidow Chroma </td> <td> $170 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Headset </td> <td> Kingston Hyper X Cloud II </td> <td> $100 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Speakers </td> <td> Adam Audio 5.1-powered system </td> <td> $3,700 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Sound system </td> <td> Sound Blaster X7 </td> <td> $400 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> LED strips </td> <td> Logisys RGB LED </td> <td> $90 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> PSU </td> <td> EVGA SuperNOVA 1600 </td> <td> $450 </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong> TOTAL</strong> </td> <td> </td> <td> <strong>$21,325</strong> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p><strong>Click the next page to read about the individual components.</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel 5960x" style="width: 668px; background-color: initial;"></p><h4>CPU: Intel Core i7 5960X </h4><p><strong>The brains behind the operation</strong> </p><p>Engineered by Intel, the central processing unit inside our rocket is the high-end eight-core&nbsp;<a href="">i7-5960X</a>. Based on the 22nm process and clocked at 3GHz, the CPU turbos up to 3.5GHz. For DM2015, we can use all the power we can muster, so we boosted our engines up to mach 4.5GHz speeds. The CPU also has 16 threads, a 140-watt TDP, and 20MB of L3 Cache. For all-around computing and gaming needs, there is no better CPU out there at the moment. The 5960X is almost tailor-made to allow us to break the benchmark (and sound) barrier.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Mobo" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Mobo: Asus Rampage V Extreme </h4><p><strong>The mothership </strong></p><p>Asus has always been a staple in the community for cutting-edge features and high quality manufacturing. So it was a no-brainer when we picked the company’s new highest-end Rampage V Extreme motherboard for our mothership. The Rampage V Extreme comes packed with all the features you’d expect from a flagship mobo: enough PCIe slots for a ridiculous 4-way SLI setup, eight RAM slots, and overclocking features up the wazoo. Taking a page from its previous X79 flagship, the Rampage IV Extreme Black Edition, the new V comes with Asus’s external overclocking and monitoring module. The Rampage V Extreme also comes with an obscene amount of overclocking options, which may be too overwhelming for most, but gives us enough headroom to go intergalactic.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Titan Xs" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>GPU: 4x EVGA GeForce GTX Titan Hydro Copper in SLI </h4><p><strong>Turbo-injected rockets</strong> </p><p>One&nbsp;<a href="">Titan X</a> will run you about 1,000 bucks. One water-cooled Hydro Copper Titan X from EVGA will cost you $1,300. Because this is Dream Machine, we, of course, set our sights on four of the Hydro Copper editions and put them in SLI. Normal Titan Xs carry GPU base clocks of 1,000MHz and boost clocks of 1,075MHz, but these Hydro Copper editions carry a base overclock of 1,152MHz and boost clocks of 1,241Mhz. We overclocked them some more, leaving us with final clocks of 1,207MHz base and 7.7GHz on the GDDR5. When you also factor in the 12GB of VRAM and 3072 CUDA cores, you’ll see that we’ve got enough turbo-injected rocket power here to take us to the moon and back. A few times.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dell 5k" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Monitor: Dell UP2715K 27-Inch 5K </h4><p><strong>We’ve got visuals </strong></p><p>With all that rocket fuel, you can pretty much go anywhere you want. So we decided to shoot for the stars and go with a 5K monitor. Yep, that’s right, because 4K is so 2014. With&nbsp;<a href="">Dell’s 27-inch UP2715K</a>, we’re rockin’ a 5120x2880 Ultra HD resolution. That means we’re pushing over 14 million pixels here, folks. In case you were wondering, that’s roughly as sharp as seven 1080p panels; that’s a lot of polygons we’re pushing! It might even be sharp enough to cut our retinas, if we weren’t wearing our space helmets. If you’re thinking this is a TN panel, think again. Dell employs an IPS display here and it is glorious. Seriously, the viewing angles and color reproduction are just stellar.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dominator Ram" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>RAM: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum </h4><p><strong>Ramming speed</strong></p><p>Ensuring that we’re all packed up for the long haul, we used every RAM slot that we could. This meant plugging in all eight of our DIMM slots for a total of 64GBs of RAM. And the Dream Machine doesn’t pack any old cheap-o RAM, mind you. No. We’ve outfitted our rocket ship with 64GB of premium-grade Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 RAM clocked at 2,800MHz. This ensures that way have enough high-speed memory to engage ramming speed! The RAM also features Corsair’s DHX cooling system, to help our system stay cool when it blasts out of orbit.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ek Water Cooler" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Cooling: EKWB Dual-Loop Cooling </h4><p><strong>Rocket fuel </strong></p><p>The thing about rockets is that they get hot. Really hot. For a rocket as stellar as ours, we needed an ultra-dependable cooling solution, so we went with EKWB. EKWB makes what we think are the best custom liquid-cooling solutions on the market, and it shows. For Dream Machine, we decided to separate cooling into two discrete systems: one for the 5960X central processing unit and one for the four liquid-cooled Hydro Copper Titan Xs. Because our Titan X rockets will run the hottest, we equipped dual reservoirs to provide ample coolant circulation and paired the loop with a double-thick radiator in a push-pull configuration. Both loops have their own radiators and pumps, but we didn’t stop there. The entire cooling system is powered by a separate power supply that ensures our rocket has enough energy in case we ever get lost in space.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 850 Pro Ssd" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>SSDs: 4x Samsung 850 Pro 1TB </h4><p><strong>Warp drives </strong></p><p>While M.2 PCIe SSDs are faster than standard SATA drives, one issue that prevented us from going the NVMe route was our four graphics cards. With four graphics cards, PCIe lanes come at a premium. Regardless, we were able to greatly mitigate this issue by going with four of&nbsp;<a href="">Samsung’s 1TB 850 Pro</a> SSDs, some of the fastest SATA SSDs around. We call these bad boys warp drives. We also combined them into a super fast RAID0 set&mdash;think of it as having four main thrusters instead of just one. With over 2GB/s peak transfer rates and 4TB storage, there’s plenty of room for the OS, applications, your entire Steam library, and a healthy chunk of videos and images that will keep us occupied as we drift our way through the solar system. We’re beaming ourselves into a time when SSDs finally surpass HDDs in capacities as well as performance.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.feat 1a" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>HDDs: 4x WD Black 6TB</h4><p><strong>Cargo bays</strong></p><p>If the SSDs are the main thrusters of our rocket, the hard drives are the cargo bays. In terms of bang for the buck, HDDs still reign when it comes to price-per-GB. Where the 1TB Samsung SSDs cost over $600 each, Western Digital’s 6TB Black drives only cost $300&mdash;half the price! The drives are again using RAID0, providing a massive 24TB of storage, which can be divvied up into multiple smaller partitions or a single 24TB GPT block. It’s enough space for 1,200 hours of 48Mbps Blu-ray content, or about 7,000 hours of good-quality 8Mbps video. Think of it: using H.265, we could easily set up a full year of non-repeat 4K video! This is enough storage to get you to infinity and beyond!</p><p>Click on to the next page to read more about the case and peripherals.&nbsp;</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.feat 1b" style="width: 668px; background-color: initial;"></p><h4>Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X7 Limited Edition</h4><p><strong>Sound control to Major Tom</strong></p><p>On any mission, making sure you can hear what’s going on, loudly and clearly, is essential. This triangular block with Battlestar-Galactica-like corners fits the bill and offers lots of options. This external sound card features a maximum output of 100W (50W + 50W) and headphone amp impedance of 1 ohm. Despite the&nbsp;<a href="">X7</a>’s impressive power output, we went with powered speakers. There’s also a built-in mic, so you don’t need a gaming headset to talk to Houston.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Atom Audio" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Speakers: Adam Audio ARTist Series 5.1 Speaker System</h4><p><strong>Pardon our noise; it’s the sound of awesome</strong></p><p>Nothing blows your hair back like the divine roar of rocket engines during a launch, or the soaring vocals of Diva Plavalaguna. We got four supersonic models for our mission from Adam Audio. The big boys in the set&mdash;the ARTist 5’s&mdash;have a range of 50Hz to 50KHz. The ARTist Sub fills in the bass, reaching from 150Hz down to 32Hz to let you feel the earth rumble as the main engines ignite. We used ARTist 3s as satellites and an ARTist 6H for the center, with ranges of 60Hz to 50KHz and 55Hz to 50KHz, respectively. The speakers all feature carbon fiber cones, Kevlar tweeters, more inputs than you can shake a space pen at, and individual crossover controls. If our rockets don’t blow you away, these speakers will.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Headset" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Headset: Kingston HyperX Cloud II</h4><p><strong>Beaming your ears to cloud nine</strong></p><p>Considering we gave Kingston’s HyperX Cloud II a 9 Kick Ass back in June, we didn’t have to look far for a headset that would allow us to play our favorite Nep-tunes. This headset has aluminum construction with a stitched vinyl-covered memory foam headband, and detachable mic. It also comes with both vinyl- and fabric-covered ear cups, making them comfy enough for crew and mission controllers to wear for hours on end. They offer fantastic sound isolation, so you can focus on the mission at hand. When you’re not in space, these cans also make good street headphones if you disconnect the mic and 3.5mm jack from the USB connector. Virtual 7.1 mode kept us ducking in our dogfights, and had us spacewalking when we made a stereo connection to the mothership.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="magnum SMA8" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Case: Magnum SMA8</h4><p><strong>A hull lot of love</strong></p><p>All the most expensive plutonium and premium liquid-fueled rockets mean nothing to a space ship if it doesn’t have a premium-grade hull to protect it. A cheap chassis may suffer from hull degradation upon lift off, or... you know, when you bang it against a table. That’s why we went to the brilliant engineers at CaseLabs. Interesting bit of trivia, CaseLabs founder Robert Keating was a chief weld engineer and helped create and develop rockets for NASA in the ’60s. He actually played an integral part in the Apollo missions, including Apollo 11, which famously took us to the moon. So, when it came time to choose a chassis for our Dream Machine, we went with the obvious choice. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that rocket scientists do good work. While CaseLabs still does sheet metal fabrication for a variety of jobs, it has evolved with the personal computing era and, as a result, is known today for its extremely modular and premium PC chassis. With the company’s cosmically large&nbsp;<a href="">Magnum SMA8</a> case, which measures 11.2x26x25.7 inches, we had enough room and flexibility to build the rocket of our dreams.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Magnum SMA8 2" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>We could fit in four full-sized GPUs, custom liquid cooling, two massive radiators, and eight storage drives with ease. The all-aluminum construction also has sturdy blast shields, but the hull is also light enough so that our rocket can easily make lift off. Finally, not only can we open up the pod bay doors without the help of HAL 9000, but the side doors can easily come straight off the case, which is great for routine maintenance checks. Arguably, the real supergiant star of the show is the amazing paintjob by Smooth Creations. We’ve used the company before to decorate our Dream Machines, but the paintjob this time is smoother than the Milky Way. It’s black, white, and silver pattern perfectly encapsulates the look of the Titan II GLV and it has a super killer, pristine finish. The NASA etching on the window is also out of this world.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Psu" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA 1600 T2</h4><p><strong>Rocket power</strong></p><p>Ensuring that our rocket has enough power to go supernova is EVGA’s aptly named&nbsp;<a href="">SuperNOVA power supply</a>. It’s a 1,600-watt modular PSU that is composed of 100 percent high-quality grade Japanese Nippon Chemi-con solid state capacitors, which ensure this rocket will have ample power and be able to withstand the harshest conditions. We needed all the energy we could muster, too, and pushed our system to over 1,500 watts! Talk about a lifesaver! In keeping with the Titan theme, the SuperNOVA PSU also carries an 80 PLUS Titanium power efficiency rating, which is the highest standard there is. Because Platinum-rated PSUs are for the Soviets.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Keyboard" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Chroma</h4><p><strong>Mission Control gets fabulous</strong></p><p>When you’re entering commands before, during, and after launch, you want to make sure that they’re quick and accurate whether you’re in a capsule in Cape Canaveral or sitting behind a console in Houston. For this, we turned to Razer and the BlackWidow Chroma keyboard. Besides just having lots of shiny customizable lights to signal aliens with, this keyboard has a simple and uncluttered layout. There’s no elaborate specialized function keys, and only five macro keys that sit to the left of the main key bank. The keys themselves feature Razer’s green switches, which have slightly less actuation distance–1.9mm as opposed to a more typical 2.2mm. That may not matter much, but when you need faster response, that little bit of distance can mean the difference between burning up or bouncing off the atmosphere like a rock skipping across a pond.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mouse" style="width: 668px;"></p><h4>Mouse: Logitech G303 Daedalus Apex</h4><p><strong>Orbital control in the palm of your hand</strong></p><p>This spacey mouse is simple, as gaming mice go, and we think that’s a good thing. You won’t find crazy button layouts here. This lightweight, compact mouse has a simple and accessible layout, perfect for crewmembers who need precise response without complexity. Visually, the&nbsp;<a href="">G303</a> keeps it elegant and simple, with RGB lighting that is projected through gratings on either side of the mouse, producing ovals on your desk. The mouse sports up to 12,000dpi for players who prefer twitchy movements of the hand and wrist. Finally, the G303’s design makes it usable (even if not ideal) for lefties. The two thumb buttons are accessible with the ring finger, and there’s no thumb molding to make the mouse awkward.</p><p><strong>Click the next page for a brief NASA history lesson and the conclusion.</strong></p><h3>Propelled by Titans</h3><p><strong>What the Gemini program meant for NASA and space computing</strong></p><p><strong></strong>When people think of the American space program, most think about manned spaceflight programs. More specifically, they think about the Apollo moon missions or the Space Transportation System (space shuttle) program. But what happened before Apollo?</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC116.feat 1b.geminicomputer" style="width: 668px;"></p><p><strong>The Gemini II computer is currently housed at the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Germany. (Image courtesy of Jan Braun/Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum).</strong></p><p>The Gemini program is where astronauts like Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins cut their teeth in the art of flying spaceships. Gemini saw the beginnings of advanced guidance computing in manned spaceflight.</p><p>We were interested in learning more about the program, so we reached out to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. We got in contact with National Air and Space Museum public affairs specialist Alison Mitchell, who connected us with two curators, Paul Ceruzzi and Michael Neufield.</p><p>Neufield told us the Gemini Launch Vehicle was the Martin Aircraft Titan II, a converted US Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile from the 1950s.</p><p>“Gemini’s purpose was to test critical operations and technology needed for Apollo,” Neufield said. Gemini had three major objectives; first was to perfect the docking maneuvers that would later be necessary for mating a command module with a lunar excursion module (LEM), or moon lander. Gemini was also used to see if humans could survive two weeks in space, and to help train astronauts for extra-vehicular activity (also known as an EVA or spacewalk). The Gemini program also “demonstrated US space capability in the Cold War,” Neufield said. In the end, it helped the United States catch up with and ultimately pass the Soviet Union in the Space Race.</p><p>Besides the social and vehicular impacts of Gemini, the program also marked the first time Americans had used digital computers in space. “The Gemini computer was the first digital computer in an orbiting, manned spacecraft,” said Ceruzzi. “It was built by IBM Federal Systems in Owego, New York, using discrete components. It did not use integrated circuits, although the transistors were made of silicon not germanium, which was an innovation at the time.”</p><p>Remember, this was 1965, when computers would take up entire rooms. In comparison, the Gemini computer was compact and light. “It was in a box approx.19x15x13 inches, and weighed 59 pounds,” Ceruzzi told us. “One addition time took 140 milliseconds. It used ferrite core memory, containing 4,096, 39-bit words (equivalent to about 20K, although the comparison is not a good one as it had a complicated word structure). Gemini VIII and later missions also had a magnetic tape auxiliary memory, of about 150K.”</p><p>The Gemini computer was used for guidance and docking, Ceruzzi said. Before Gemini, ground radar and radio stations would track and beam up commands to the vehicle, but proved too slow and imprecise for docking. Instead, NASA put a computer onboard to do the arithmetic needed for successful docking applications. The onboard computer was also capable of taking over control of the Titan II launch vehicle if needed.</p><p>And by the way, the black-and-white paint schemes for the Gemini and Apollo rockets and vehicles had a real-world purpose: cooling. This means the Gemini project was cooler in more ways than one.</p><h3>Faster Than Light</h3><p><strong>All systems go</strong></p><p>When it came time for Dream Machine 2015 to perform, our rocket was able to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. With all eight of our CPU engines blasting at 4.5GHz, it outperformed our desktop zero-point by 11–32 percent, which is crazy considering that our ZP also uses a 5960X. You can attribute these gains to our amazing custom-cooling system from EK, which not only performed stellarly, but stayed stealthily quiet under load as well.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dream Machine 2015 Conclusion" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>Perhaps the real neutron star of our Dream Machine, however, were our four water-cooled Titan X GPUs. With our spacious case, robust cooling setup, and airtight Titanium-rated 1600-watt PSU, we were able to crank the power target on these GPUs to 110%, boost the voltage by 112mV, overdrive each core clock by 205MHz and dial up the memory clock 734MHz. This allowed us to shatter speed records. Kidding aside, at the time of this writing, if you don’t count liquid nitrogen setups that traverse the galaxy through unsustainable black holes, Dream Machine 2015 is among the top five fastest PCs in both the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra and 3DMark 11 Extreme benchmarks. How’s that for an astronomical accomplishment? We’re pretty sure we’ve inadvertently set off the beacon indicating to higher life forms that our technology has evolved enough now to be accepted within their advanced inner circle.</p><p>Seriously, though, this year’s Dream Machine blasted our desktop zero-point system out of the sky by 53–117 percent in our graphics benchmarks, which is beyond impressive considering that our ZP is also heavily armed with three GeForce GTX 980 missiles of its own. In real-world terms, Dream Machine was able to play GTAV, a super graphically demanding game, maxed out on Dell’s incredibly sharp 5K-resolution monitor with average framerates between 70–90fps. Sure, those figures are with anti-aliasing disabled, but at 5120x2880 resolution, you’d need to bust out a telescope to spot any jaggies.</p><p>Even in the storage department, our Samsung 850 Pro warp drives in RAID 0 were able to hit light speed, with sequential reads and writes measuring 1,654MB/s and 1,290MB/s, respectively. That’s among the fastest read and write speeds we’ve ever seen in our Labs. Dream Machine 2015 is not only the fastest computer we’ve ever built, but it’s the fastest computer we’ve ever tested. Ladies and gentlemen, we have done it, we have won the space race!</p><h4>Benchmarks</h4><table><tbody><tr><td><br></td><td>Zero Point<br></td><td>Dream Machine 2015</td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td><td>806</td><td><strong>677</strong></td></tr><tr><td>Proshow Producer 5 (sec)</td><td>1,472</td><td><strong>1,112</strong></td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0 (higher is better)</td><td>33.8</td><td><strong>37.3</strong></td></tr><tr><td>Batman Arkham City GOTY (fps)</td><td>204</td><td><strong>313</strong></td></tr><tr><td>Tomb Raider (fps)</td><td>87.5</td><td><strong>185</strong></td></tr><tr><td>3DMark Fire Strike (higher is better)</td><td>8,016</td><td><strong>15,493</strong></td></tr><tr><td>Shadow of Mordor (fps)</td><td>70.1</td><td><strong>152.7</strong></td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Our desktop zero-point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GB of RAM. Arkham City tested at 2560x1440 max settings with PhysX off, Tomb Raider at Ultimate settings, and Shadow of Mordor at Max settings.</em></p> Intel Pledges Support for FreeSync, Where Does That Leave G-Sync? chips from Intel will support Adaptive-Synce, better known as FreeSync.Sat, 29 Aug 2015 01:20:46 +0000 <h3>Whose ship will sync?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Monitor"></p><p> Looking for something to ponder over the weekend? Try this on for size: With Intel vowing support for the VESA-backed Adaptive-Sync standard, which is what AMD's FreeSync technology utilizes, where does that leave Nvidia's competing (and proprietary) G-Sync technology?</p><p> Before you answer that question, let's back up a moment. Intel Fellow and Chief Graphics Software Architect <a href="" target="_blank">David Blythe told <em>TechReport</em></a> last week that Intel plans to add Adaptive-Sync technology to future processors with integrated graphics. What that essentially means is that, in time, Intel CPUs with integrated graphics will play nice with displays that support AMD's FreeSync technology.</p><p> In an article titled "Intel May Have Just Killed Nvidia's G-Sync," Timothy Green of <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Motley Fool</em></a> called this a "big win for FreeSync" and wrote that "G-Sync technology may be a lost cause." (Note that Green owns stock in Nvidia and <em>The Motley Fool</em> "owns and recommends Intel").</p><p> Green supports his argument by pointing out that even though Nvidia owns the biggest share of the discrete graphics card market, Intel's integrated graphics account for 75 percent of the graphics market as a whole.</p><p> "G-Sync certainly isn't dead yet, but a scenario where both G-Sync and FreeSync are widely used now that Intel has backed FreeSync is difficult to imagine," Green writes.</p><p> Not so fast. What's missing from a cursory glance at the graphics market share breakdown is how many people are using integrated graphics. Both my primary laptop and desktop are equipped with Intel CPUs with integrated graphics, but both are running Nvidia GPUs -- incidentally, my laptop (Asus ROG G751JY-DB72) is one of a handful of models that support G-Sync.</p><p> It's likely the number of integrated graphics users is still higher -- mainstream users tend to outnumber enthusiasts -- but I doubt it's as lopsided as the market share breakdown suggests. That's point number one.</p><p> Point number two is that gamers and enthusiasts who turn their noses up at integrated graphics solutions are the ones more likely to be interested in FreeSync and G-Sync technologies. Speaking for myself, I don't care if the graphics in my CPU supports either technology because I play games with a dedicated GPU (or two).</p><p> That said, it's an interesting development on a number levels. For one, Intel and AMD are rivals in the chip business, so for Intel to back a standard that AMD uses and actively promotes (under its own FreeSync branding) is no small thing.</p><p> Secondly, you can bet that once integrated graphics solutions are in place that support FreeSync, AMD will go nuts touting its technology. AMD will talk up the affordability of FreeSync, since unlike G-Sync, it's not proprietary and doesn't require any licensing fees or special hardware modules -- that's a bonus for monitor makers and consumers alike.</p><p> Finally, even though integrated graphics solutions are weak alternatives to dedicated graphics, they're getting faster with each new generation. Gaming on integrated graphics is actually feasible, depending on which solution we're talking about, and that's only going to improve with time. Should the day come when integrated graphics truly rival discrete solutions, it would been a boon for FreeSync.</p><p> What do you think about all this -- should Nvidia be worried that Intel threw its weight behind Adaptive-Sync/FreeSync, or is this only a minor victory for AMD?</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> Chrome to Kill Automatic Flash Playback'sChrome will begin to pause all Flash playback next month.Sat, 29 Aug 2015 00:31:18 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Flash Plug-in Now Integrated with Chrome"></p><p>Earlier this year, <a href="" target="_blank">Google added a setting</a> in Chrome that allowed users to switch off specific plugin content, such as Flash-based ads, to help speed up page loads and reduce power consumption. Chrome users could access this setting by clicking the menu button, choosing “Settings,” “Show Advanced Settings,” and then the “Content Settings” button within the “Privacy” section. Users could elect Chrome to run all plugin content, let the user choose what content can run freely on web pages, or allow Chrome to detect and run “important” plugin content.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Back in June</a>, Google offered advertisers three methods for getting ads to the eyes of Chrome users without using Flash: letting Google’s AdWords to automatically convert Flash to HTML5, create an ad from scratch using <a href="" target="_blank">HTML5 tools supplied by Google</a>, or upload their own HTML5 ads that were produced without Google-supplied tools.</p><p>Now Google is reporting that Flash ads will be paused by default starting September 1. According to Google AdWords, the company’s online ad network, “most” Flash ads will be converted to HTML5 by default, however, if they’re not, advertisers need to identify the Flash ads that can’t be altered and <a href="" target="_blank">begin converting those ads to HTML5</a> using third-party tools.</p><p>“If you already have Flash ads uploaded to AdWords, we highly recommend that you create new image ads instead,” Google states. “Eligible Flash campaigns are automatically converted to HTML5 when you upload them in AdWords, AdWords Editor, and many third-party tools.”</p><p>Many websites use Flash to “wow” potential customers and at times require the visitor to wait a short duration until the full Flash-laden site is loaded on the screen. While this method is truly annoying, what’s worse is that many advertisers use audio in Flash ads that can be hard to locate in open tabs. To remedy that, Google added an icon to Chrome that shows up whenever a tab is playing unwanted audio.</p><p>Web surfers may agree that the use of Flash has become a bit dated and out-of-hand. Over the years, hackers have taken advantage of the security flaws found in Flash, allowing them to steal identities and install malware, hence the need to move away from Adobe’s cash cow and use the supposedly safer HTML5 technology instead.</p><p>With that all said, is Google canning the use of all Flash media altogether? Not yet. Chrome will “pause” all minor Flash files, allowing the visitor to click and play the Flash elements if desired. Again, the change will begin to roll out next week.</p> NVIDIA Shield Set-Top Box on Google Play can now purchase Nvidia's Android TV box on Google Play.Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:43:05 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Shield Stand"></p><p>Nvidia’s Chris Daniel <a href="" target="_blank">updated the company’s blog</a> with news that the Shield Android TV set-top-box can now be <a href="" target="_blank">purchased on Google Play</a> in North America. The device is one of three Shield gadgets that Nvidia has released over the years, starting with the Shield handheld (2013) followed by the Shield tablet (2014) and the Shield set-top-box (2015). The other two devices are not for sale on Google’s storefront.</p><p>The specifications show that the Shield set-top-box sports a Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC, 3 GB of RAM, a 256-core GPU, 16 GB of storage (500 GB for the “Pro” model), dual-band Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1/BLE connectivity, and Android 5.1 “Lollipop.” There’s also Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card slot, a microUSB 2.0 port and an IR receiver.</p><p>With this device, Nvidia is shooting to support 4K Ultra HD playback at 60 frames per second when connected to a compatible Ultra HD TV. The specs also show that the box supports Dolby 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound via&nbsp;pass through over HDMI. Playback audio is up to 24-bit/192 kHz over HDMI and USB, the specs reveal.</p><p>Despite the box’s movie “theater” roots, Nvidia’s set-top-box also aims to bring HD Android gaming to the living room. Packed with a Nvidia Shield controller, owners can play high-definition games that can’t be played on other Android devices such as <em>Doom 3 BFG Edition, War Thunder</em>, and <em>Brawl</em>.</p><p>However, like the other two Shield gadgets, the set-top-box can stream specific PC games from your “Kepler” or better PC gaming rig. Nvidia also serves up over 50 PC games that can be streamed via Nvidia Grid. <a href="" target="_blank">These games</a> include <em>Batman: Arkham Origins, Ultra Street Fighter IV, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Borderlands, Dead Island</em>, and tons more.</p><p>“More than 135 high-quality games are available in our curated SHIELD Hub app, and another 300+ on Google Play. More arrive all the time,” Daniel says.</p><p>The Shield set-top-box comes with one controller and 16 GB of storage for a meager $199.99. Want the massive 500 GB version instead? Be prepared to cough up $299.99.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: LG 34UB67-B UltraWide Monitor, PNY 128GB Micro SDXC Card, and More! generations will look back and giggle at the multi-monitor setups of yesteryear. They'll listen as old folks tell about bezels and messes of cables that came with running two or three monitors at a time, but they'll never know the struggle.Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:53:25 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LG Ultrawide"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Future generations will look back and giggle at the multi-monitor setups of yesteryear. They'll listen as old folks tell about bezels and messes of cables that came with running two or three monitors at a time, but they'll never know the struggle. That's because they'll be rocking a monitor akin to today's top a deal, an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025138-_-0728&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG 34UB67-B 34-Inch UltraWide</a> for <strong>$450</strong> with free shipping (normally $500 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCANW72</strong>]; additional $50 mail-in-rebate). That's 34 inches of 21:9 bliss, and yes, it's an IPS panel too!</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260174-_-0728&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell U2414H Black 23.8-inch 8ms HDMI Widescreen IPS Monitor</a> for <strong>$210</strong> with free shipping (normally $240 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNW23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025232-_-0728&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG 27MP36HQ-B Black 27-inch 5ms HDMI Widescreen IPS Monitor</a> for <strong>$200</strong> with free shipping (normally $230 ; Free 128GB solid state drive w/ purchase, limited offer)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147359-_-0728&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro Series MZ-7KE128BW 2.5-inch 128GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$82</strong> with free shipping (normally $95 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNW37</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16820178782-_-0728&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">PNY High Performance 128GB microSDXC Flash Card</a> for <strong>$50</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $80 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNW47</strong>])</p> Asus Rolls Out TUF Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 Motherboard new TUF Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 motherboard from Asus is built to last.Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:41:54 +0000 <h3>One TUF cookie</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus TUF Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1"></p><p> If Mad Max were to build a system around Skylake, we have no doubt he'd opt for the new <a href="" target="_blank">Asus TUF Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1</a>. True to its name, this "TUF" board is littered with features designed for durability, such as port-protecting Dust Defenders, military-grade components, ESD guards, and so forth.</p><p> Let's start with the basics. This is a socket LGA1151 motherboard built around Intel's Z170 Express chipset. It has four DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, three PCI-Express x16 slots, three PCI-Express x1 slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, two SATA Express ports, six USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port, 8-channel audio, and GbE LAN.</p><p> The board boasts an 8+4 power phase design and has armor all over the place, both to keep things cool and for rigidity. There's also a reinforced backplate, a dozen fan connectors, and an onboard processor that monitors temp sensors and fan speeds.</p><p> With the introduction of this model, Asus now offers a dozen Z170 Express chipset motherboards. This is likely to be one of the more expensive ones, though Asus hasn't yet revealed pricing or said when it will 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> Don't Expect to See Chrome Notifications in Windows 10's Action Center Chrome notifications in Windows 10 Action Center for you!Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:44:56 +0000 10 <h3>Valid explanation or bogus excuse?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Chrome"></p><p> You would think that adding support in Chrome for notifications to appear in the Action Center for Windows 10 would be an easy "Yes" for Google, but you'd also be wrong. As it turns out, Google has no intention of using the Action Center, at least not anytime soon.</p><p> The revelation came in <a href="" target="_blank">response to a feature request</a> on Google's Chromium support forum.</p><p> "Thanks for the input and ideas! We've discussed this quite a bit and decided not to integrate with the system level notification at this time," a Chromium forum moderator posted. "It would create a weird state where Chrome behaves differently on Win 10 than on Win 7/8 and developers of extensions/websites wouldn't know what they design for. Maybe we can revisit it in a few years when most users are on Win 10."</p><p> A smiley face was added to the end of the post for good measure, though it didn't prevent users from frowning on Google's decision.</p><p> "What kind of a stupid reason is that? Developers of extensions/websites do NOT NEED to know what they design for. Notifications are notifications. Where they show up on the host OS is not a concern for the extensions/websites developers," one of the forum users posted in response.</p><p> Several others chimed in with contempt and confusion at Google's "weird decision" to not use the Action Center in Windows 10.</p><p> "You're basically electing to clutter the user's interface by using a separate notification system for Chrome, where you could be unifying it with the system. Wasn't the whole point of the Chrome running in the background thing unifying it with the system?," another user posted.</p><p> The reaction to Google's decision prompted a <a href="" target="_blank">followup response</a> by the moderator speaking on Google's behalf. The shortened version is that "on Win 10, using the native notification system would mean that all notification could show briefly before disappearing but they could also not show, depending on a user setting. All notifications would show as coming from Chrome. They would not be actionable, and so on."</p><p> Former <em>Maximum PC </em>contributing writer and current <em>PCWorld </em>senior editor <a href="" target="_blank">Brad Chacos thinks</a> the decision has more to do with an ongoing feud between Google and Microsoft, and less to do with technical reasons. Chacos points out that Google and Microsoft have a contentious history when it comes to feature support, such as the time Microsoft's native Calendar app removed Google Calendar support in Windows 8.1, or when Microsoft released its own version of YouTube for Windows Phone to counter Google's refusal to release apps for its servers on the competing platform.</p><p> What do you think -- does Google have a valid reason for not supporting Chrome notifications in Windows 10's Action Center, or are users once again getting caught in the crosshairs of a feud between two tech titans?</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> Valve and HTC's Vive VR Headset to See "Limited" Launch in 2015 Valve and HTC's Vive VR headset will technically launch this year as previously promised, widepsread availability won't come until 2016.Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:15:52 +0000 viveNewsValvevr <h3>Drats!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HTC Vive"></p><p> Swap out your mechanical keyboard for a crappy membrane plank before reading any further. It's just a precaution, should you decide to Hulk-smash your keyboard in frustration at what we're about to tell you.</p><p> Remember the Vive VR system being developed by Valve and HTC we told you about earlier this year? It's the one that <a href="" target="_blank">impressed our own Jimmy Thang</a>, who had a chance to demo early versions on two separate occasions (lucky dog!) and called it "the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment."</p><p> High praise, and rather than take his word for it, you were supposed to be able to buy one in time for the holiday shopping season. That will still be true for some of you, though by and large, most early VR adopters will have to wait until 2016 to experience the Vive. That's because Valve revealed HTC will only make available a "limited quantity" of Vive VR headsets for its 2015 launch.</p><p> "Later this year, HTC will offer the first commercial Vive units via a limited quantity of community and developer systems, with larger quantities shipping in calendar Q1 2016," Valve said at PAX Prime, <a href="" target="_blank">according to</a>.</p><p> We know, it's a first world problem and all that jazz. It's also disappointing because we've seen first hand how awesome and promising the Vive VR is. While Valve didn't say exactly how limited the initial launch will be, it appears the focus has now shifted to next year.</p><p> That's also a bummer for Valve and HTC, as the delay negates the head start it would have had over the first consumer version of Oculus Rift, which is also supposed to ship in the first quarter of next year.</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> Memory Myths: How Much RAM Is Enough?’s tempting to always get the biggest and fastest memory kit, but how much RAM do you actually need?Fri, 28 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 games <p><em>This article was published in the September 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3></h3><h3>It’s tempting to always get the biggest and fastest memory kit, but how much RAM do you actually need?</h3><p>Component lifespans are usually pretty easy to track. Processors get higher clock speeds, more cores, and smaller silicon; graphics cards get better clocks, more transistors, and bigger heatsinks; and storage gets bigger and cheaper.</p><p>Memory is another component that’s constantly evolving: faster speeds, bigger quantities, more channels. Conventional wisdom suggests that adding faster and larger amounts of memory will allow games and applications to run faster, but that’s not always the case, which is why we’ve examined this murky situation.</p><h5>The Memory Landscape</h5><p>Computer memory is currently&nbsp;divided into two main types: DDR3 and DDR4. The former is older, having debuted back in 2007, while the latter only hit the mainstream recently, with Intel’s X99 platform in 2014, and more recently with Skylake's Z170 platform.</p><p>They both work using the same principle: DRAM chips store data that the computer needs immediately, but it’s lost when it’s no longer useful or the PC is turned off. It’s governed by several common attributes: Larger amounts mean more data can be stored, and higher MHz ratings mean the memory runs at a faster speed, so data moves in and out more rapidly.</p><p>The newer standard, DDR4, has several advantages over DDR3. It runs at a higher frequency, so it’s able to process tasks at a faster rate: DDR3 is generally clocked between 1,333MHz and 2,400MHz, while DDR4 ranges from 2,400MHz to 3,200MHz and beyond. It’s possible to blur these lines with overclocking, but, for the most part, DDR4 is faster. It balances those better speeds with more efficient power consumption, and its chips have double the internal memory banks, faster burst access, and higher data transfer rates.</p><p>DDR3 and DDR4 memory work with different motherboards and chipsets. DDR3 memory is compatible with nearly every motherboard and socket type you’re able to buy right now, while&nbsp;DDR4 memory is only compatible with boards that use Intel’s X99 chipset and LGA2011 processor socket, or the new Z170 boards with DDR4 sockets. (Note that some Z170 boards will support DDR3 instead of DDR4.)</p><p>DDR4, however, does have one downside. That’s increased latency. Newer DDR4 2,133MHz memory has a latency rating of CL15, which means it’ll take 14.06ns to perform a read, while DDR3 1,600MHz memory reads at 13.75ns. That’s a tiny margin, and DDR4 negates this disadvantage with its generally higher clock speeds. Nevertheless, if you’d like to keep an eye out, look for CAS ratings. This indicates latency, and lower is better.</p><p>No matter which memory you buy, you’ll have to deal with channels. Dual- and quad-channel setups are the most popular and improve performance by allowing motherboards to use multiple channels to send and receive data simultaneously, thereby improving bandwidth. It’s possible to run memory in single-channel mode, but there’ll be a performance decrease if you run a single stick of memory rather than two or four.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF275.w rev6.kingston hyperbeast ram"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Different locations of the key notch (on the insertion edge of each DIMM) prevents a DDR3 or DDR4 stick from being installed into an incompatible board or platform.</strong></em></p><h5></h5><h5>The Changing PC Landscape</h5><p>The variety of different specifications means that prices vary wildly. The cheapest 16GB DDR3 kits made from two 8GB sticks&nbsp;<a href=";rh=n%3A172282%2Cn%3A!493964%2Cn%3A541966%2Cn%3A193870011%2Cn%3A172500%2Cp_n_feature_five_browse-bin%3A677429011%2Cp_n_feature_four_browse-bin%3A2253866011%2Cp_n_feature_twenty_browse-bin%3A9729700011&amp;qid=1438707211&amp;bbn=172500&amp;sort=price-asc-rank">currently cost about $90</a>, but the most expensive can cost more than $300. It’s a&nbsp;<a href=";rh=n%3A172282%2Cn%3A%21493964%2Cn%3A541966%2Cn%3A193870011%2Cn%3A172500%2Cp_n_feature_five_browse-bin%3A677429011%2Cp_n_feature_four_browse-bin%3A10656894011&amp;bbn=172500&amp;sort=price-asc-rank&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1438707275">similar story with DDR4</a>, where dual-&nbsp;and quad-channel kits also vary by huge amounts when it comes to price. But these will generally&nbsp;be more expensive than their DDR3 equivalents.</p><p>Manufacturers claim that the increased speeds and better features provided by pricier memory will make a dramatic difference to performance, but we’re not so sure, so we’ve set up some test rigs to find out just how much memory you really need. Both of the test rigs we've set up use MSI motherboards. One uses Intel’s Z97 chipset with a Core i7-4770K processor, while the other is an X99 rig with a Core i7-5820K chip. Both use operating systems installed on a Samsung 850 Evo SSD, and both use an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics card.</p><p>We’ve already mentioned the different processors and chipsets that work with DDR3 and DDR4, but there’s more to choosing components than just making sure your new gear is compatible on paper. Intel’s Haswell architecture is behind the bulk of its current desktop processors, and it supports&nbsp;up to 32GB of&nbsp;dual-channel memory. It’s used for chips that range from cheap Celerons and Pentiums to more&nbsp;expensive Core i5s and i7s, and these desktop Haswell chips all plug in to the LGA1150 socket. Most Haswell-based processors are deployed with mobos that have Intel’s H87, Z97, and Z87 chipsets. When it comes to memory support, they’re all impressive. They handle four slots that accommodate two sets of dual-channel memory, and most full-size ATX boards also support 32GB or 64GB of memory at high&nbsp;speeds.</p><p>Intel has further developed its architecture with Haswell-E. Chips that use this system also use the LGA2011 socket and X99 chipset, which means that support for DDR4 is included. That in turn&nbsp;means support for faster memory speeds&nbsp;when compared to DDR3, and the X99 platform is&nbsp;quad-channel.</p><p>AMD’s processors and APUs, meanwhile, use the Piledriver architecture. Its own memory controller was given a speed boost over the previous generation of AMD hardware, but memory support ultimately still isn’t as good on this side of the fence. All of AMD’s current chips support DDR3 memory, however, some of them are restricted to 1,600MHz or 1,866MHz memory, while only a handful officially top out at 2,133MHz (though some enthusiast mobos allow you to overclock the RAM to higher speeds). Like Intel mainstream platforms (LGA1150/1151), these boards support dual-channel memory.</p><h5>Don't Forget Your Mother</h5><p>Processors and chipsets aren’t the only bits of your PC that need to be checked before shelling out for new memory&mdash;motherboards are also vital. You’ll need to make sure a board has the right number of slots, and also check what amount and speed of memory it can accept: It’s no good dropping a few hundred bucks on a 32GB 3,000MHz kit if your motherboard taps out at 16GB and 2,666MHz.</p><p>There are nuances to be examined, then, but for the most part, the memory landscape is heartening. No matter what processor, chipset, or motherboard you use, you’ll be able to equip a rig with plenty of high-end memory at decent speeds. That’s good for PC building, but it’s not necessarily great news for companies that rely on flogging expensive, high-end kits.</p><p>Future developments from Intel and AMD will only improve the situation. Intel’s newly launched&nbsp;architecture, Skylake, supports DDR4 across all of its full-fat desktop chips, but it’ll also be backward-compatible with DDR3, which adds a huge amount of versatility. (Again, pay attention to the number and type of memory slots, as you cannot use DDR3 sticks in a DDR4 slot of vice versa.)&nbsp;We also expect to see improvements to the memory controller and support for larger amounts of memory running at faster speeds.</p><p>AMD isn’t standing still, either. Its next proper desktop architecture is called Zen, and it’ll offer full DDR4 support to bring the company’s chips alongside Intel.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC104.feat haswell e.x99blockdiagram"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>The X99 chipset introduced DDR4 to the high-end consumer&nbsp;market, bringing with it faster clock speeds and better power efficiency, but with increased latency.</strong></em></p><h5>DDR3 Memory</h5><p>The first set of DDR3 benchmarks we locked and loaded were PCMark 8’s Home, Creative, and Work tests&mdash;a trio of suites that simulate the kind of low-intensity tasks that take place on many systems, from web browsing and video chatting to word processing and spreadsheets.</p><p>Our first tests deployed the bare minimum of sluggish DDR3: 8GB of RAM clocked at&nbsp;1,333MHz. With this RAM, the rig returned scores of 5,170, 6,794, and 5,234 points, in the Home, Creative, and Work tests, respectively. However, with 8GB of 1,600MHz memory deployed, the scores barely improved, with the Creative run only jumping to 6,852.</p><p>There wasn’t even much of a difference in these tests when we installed 16GB of 1,866MHz memory: In those three benchmarks, the machine scored 5,270, 6,961, and 5,225. The biggest leap came in the Creative test, which suggests more memory helps with photo editing and other trickier tasks, but it’s hardly a game-changing jump in performance.</p><p>We saw similarly modest gains in other photo-related applications. GigaPan Stitch knits together a group of high-resolution photos, and our test image took four minutes and 12 seconds to complete in a rig with 8GB of 1,333MHz memory. That only improved by 11 seconds when we doubled the RAM and upped its speed to 1,866MHz.</p><p>Other application benchmarks saw similarly modest impacts. A Cinebench R15 CPU test with two 4GB, 1,600MHz sticks returned a result of 703; doubling the memory and improving its speed to 1,866MHz only improved that figure to 751.</p><p>We only saw big improvements in a few benchmarks when running DDR3 tests. In PCMark Vantage, our 8GB 1,600MHz rig scored 18,313 points, but doubling the memory and running it at 1,866MHz saw that result jump by almost 3,000 points&mdash;a significant increase.</p><p>Indeed, our theoretical tests indicate that improving memory amounts and speeds does make a difference, but that these gains don’t generally translate to real-world tests.</p><p>In SiSoft Sandra’s multithreaded bandwidth test, our 2x 4GB 1,333MHz setup scored 16.57GB/s, but doubling the memory and improving its speed to 1,866MHz saw that result jump to 23.33GB/s. There was a decent jump in single-threaded bandwidth, and cache bandwidth also improved significantly when faster memory was added in larger amounts.</p><p>The leap from two to four memory sticks&nbsp;doesn’t often have much of an impact on our application tests, either. In Cinebench R15’s OpenGL test, a machine with two 4GB 1,600MHz sticks scored 111 frames per second, with this score only jumping to 117fps with four 4GB 1,600MHz sticks installed.</p><p>When running applications using DDR3, then, the differences between slow and fast memory often aren’t huge&mdash;and, as long as you’ve got 8GB of memory installed, then you’re going to have enough to get most stuff done in real-world situations.</p><p>There was a noticeable performance difference between our rig with 1,333MHz and 1,600MHz memory installed, but, once beyond that 1,600MHz speed, the gaps between different memory speeds narrowed rapidly. We ran GeekBench single-core benchmark on 1,600MHz memory, and then again at 2,800MHz memory, but its result only improved by around 100 points.</p><p>The benchmarks demonstrate that there are performance gains to be had by installing more memory at faster speeds, but those gains are only noticeable in high-end applications. For most of us, 8GB or 16GB of 1,866MHz memory will be more than enough.</p><h5>DDR3 and Gaming</h5><p>We tested a variety of games using our DDR3 rig, but only found sporadic improvements. In Metro: Last Light, a machine with two 4GB 1,333MHz sticks averaged 126fps, but improving to a pair of 8GB 1,866MHz DIMMs saw that result jump to 144fps.&nbsp;In both Bioshock Infinite and Batman: Arkham Origins, though, the improvements were far less impressive&mdash;a few frames better in the minimum frame rate benchmark, and only a gain of 2fps to the average rate.</p><p>There also wasn’t much of a difference in any of our Unigine Heaven 4.0 tests. In all of our DDR3 tests&mdash;ranging from a system with two 4GB 1,333MHz sticks to a machine with four 8GB 1,600MHz DIMMs&mdash;the benchmark’s average frame rate hovered between 63.4fps and 66.8fps. Those configurations didn’t differ much in 3DMark’s Fire Strike test either: in the same range of memory setups, our results only jumped between 11,607 points and 11,635 points, well within the margin of error.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt=" 1.grab13"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Whether you’ve got DDR3 or DDR4, upping the size or speed of your memory makes little difference to Bioshock Infinite. Crucial’s Ballistix sticks, left, look good, but also come with handy extras, such as integrated thermal sensors.</strong></em></p><h5>The DDR4 Difference</h5><p>Newer DDR4 memory operates with faster speeds, better channel support, and Intel’s latest enthusiast&nbsp;chipset and controller, so we expected our tests to reveal bigger performance disparities.&nbsp;Our initial tests, though, appeared to follow the blueprint already set out by the older DDR3 sticks.</p><p>In the Cinebench R15 CPU test, a machine with two 4GB 2,400MHz sticks scored 1,143 points. Doubling the memory and increasing its speed to 3,000MHz, however, only saw that result jump to 1,190.&nbsp;The X264 video encoding test led to similar patterns. Our more modest rig ran through its two tests at 205 frames per second and 68 frames per second, but increasing the memory’s speed to 3,300MHz saw those results only inch forward to 211fps and 73fps&mdash;hardly a jump that’ll make a big real-world difference.</p><p>GigaPan Stitch’s photo-editing tool only saw a couple of seconds’ worth of improvement with its memory sped up, while Geekbench exhibited similarly small gains: Our first DDR4 rig scored 22,165 points, but doubling the memory to 8GB, running at 2,666MHz, only saw the score jump to 22,849.</p><p>It’s a shame because, as with DDR3, theoretical tests illustrated that improving speeds and amounts did make a difference. When we had two 4GB 2,400MHz sticks installed, our test rig delivered 15GB/s and 28.58GB/s of single- and multi-threaded &nbsp;bandwidth, with those numbers jumping to 17GB/s and 32GB/s with those same sticks&nbsp;clocked to 3,300MHz.</p><p>Those same benchmarks illustrated how DDR4 copes with quad-channel and larger amounts of memory: Our machine with two 8GB sticks may have delivered 32GB/s of multi-threaded bandwidth, but doubling the memory (and channels)&nbsp;saw that figure leap to 45GB/s. Quad-channel delivered impressive numbers throughout our benchmarks, then, but those figures weren’t always translated to real-world tests. So, we’d say that it’s not a vital addition to your PC, unless you’re keen on buying a Haswell-E system to run intensive work applications or the most demanding games.</p><h5>DDR4 and Gaming</h5><p> We saw a big jump in just one of our gaming benchmarks, Metro: Last Light, while testing with DDR3. However, updated DDR4 memory proved even less dramatic. Improving the amount and speed of memory saw our Metro: Last Light results jump by a mere couple of frames, and our biggest improvements in Bioshock Infinite and Batman also only saw increases of a frame or two, no matter the amount or speed of DDR4.</p><p> We’ll let Unigine Heaven have the last word. Our rig averaged 62.7fps with two 4GB 2,400MHz sticks installed, but this only improved to 64.2fps once we installed four 8GB 2,666MHz DIMMs.</p><p> There’s no doubt about the pure, naked speed of DDR4, but it looks like we’re at the point, for gaming especially, where any 8GB dual- or quad-channel configuration will be ample. Memory simply isn’t the bottleneck in gaming. Processors and graphics cards are the components that are more likely to be holding back your frame rates.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="7" style="text-align: center;"><strong> Benchmarks </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td colspan="4" style="text-align: center;"><strong> DDR3 </strong></td> <td colspan="2" style="text-align: center;"><strong> DDR4</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <br> </td> <td> 8GB (2x 4GB) 1,600MHz AMD AE34G1609U2<br> </td> <td> 8GB (2x 4GB) 1,333MHz Corsair CMV8GX3 M2A1333C9<br> </td> <td> 16GB (2x 8GB) 1,600MHz CML16GX3 M2A1600C9<br> </td> <td> 16GB (2x 8GB) 1,866MHz Crucial Ballistix Sport XT </td> <td> 8GB (2x 4GB) 2,400MHz Kingston HX424 C15FBK4/32<br> </td> <td> 16GB (2x 8GB) 2,666MHz Ballistix BLE2C8 G4D26AFEA </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Cinebench R15 (index)<br> </td> <td> 703<br> </td> <td> 738<br> </td> <td><strong> 751</strong><br> </td> <td> 721<br> </td> <td> 740<br> </td> <td> 747<br> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> PC Mark 8 (index)<br> </td> <td> 5,161<br> </td> <td> 5,170<br> </td> <td> 5,228 </td> <td> 5,270<br> </td> <td> 5,320<br> </td> <td><strong> 5,364 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> PC Mark Vantage (index) <br> </td> <td> 18,313<br> </td> <td> 19,718<br> </td> <td> 20,944<br> </td> <td> 20,427<br> </td> <td> 26,541<br> </td> <td><strong> 28,088 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> 3DMark Firestrike (index)<br> </td> <td> 11,624<br> </td> <td> 11,607<br> </td> <td> 11,608<br> </td> <td> 11,635<br> </td> <td> 11,820<br> </td> <td><strong> 11,920 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> X264 v4.0 (fps)<br> </td> <td> 66.6<br> </td> <td> 66.1<br> </td> <td> 69.3<br> </td> <td> 69.4<br> </td> <td> 68.6<br> </td> <td><strong> 72.6 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> SiSoftware Sandra Memory bandwidth (GB/s)<br> </td> <td> 21.1<br> </td> <td> 16.6<br> </td> <td> 20.6<br> </td> <td> 23.3<br> </td> <td> 28.6<br> </td> <td><strong> 31.8 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> Gigapan Stitch (secs) <br> </td> <td> 248<br> </td> <td> 254<br> </td> <td> 242<br> </td> <td><strong> 241 </strong></td> <td> 245<br> </td> <td> 244 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bioshock Infinite (min/avg fps)<br> </td> <td> 11 / 109<br> </td> <td> 11 / 115.9<br> </td> <td> 11.6 / 115.3<br> </td> <td> 13.2 / 117.6<br> </td> <td> 33.2 / 122.6<br> </td> <td><strong> 44.5 / 124.7 </strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td> Batman: Arkham Origins (min/avg fps)<br> </td> <td> 100 / 135<br> </td> <td> 99 / 137<br> </td> <td> 103 / 137<br> </td> <td><strong> 106 / 139<br> </strong></td> <td> 104 / 136<br> </td> <td> 104 / 133 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Unigine heaven min/avg (fps) <br> </td> <td><strong> 26.5 / 64.1<br> </strong></td> <td> 25.2 / 63.4<br> </td> <td> 26.8 / 63.6 <br> </td> <td> 26.2 / 63.6<br> </td> <td> 28.6 / 62.7<br> </td> <td> 27.8 / 62.7 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> <em>Best scores are bolded.</em></p><h5>What Memory Do You Really Need?</h5><p> It’s tempting to buy the fastest and largest memory kit you can afford when putting together a new build, but, as many of our benchmarks illustrate, aiming for the top of the tech tree is actually an unnecessary extravagance when it comes to memory.</p><p> The story is the same whether you’re creating a PC using DDR3 or DDR4. A decent amount like 8GB or 16GB running at a reasonable speed will be enough to handle most tasks you throw its way, whether it’s for work or gaming. You’ll still see occasional benefits if you buy larger and faster kits, sure, but they’ll be less significant&mdash;so, it’s only worth looking toward these kits if you’re a true enthusiast who wants the best parts available, or if you’re running unusually demanding software and need to wring every last bit of performance from your PC.</p><p> Quad-channel kits, meanwhile, are great if you’re using applications that’ll truly take advantage of DDR4’s improved architecture, such as encoding or rendering, but most people won’t feel the benefit. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s only available with expensive X99-based CPUs (as well as the earlier X79-based platforms, which used quad-channel DDR3).</p><p> The majority of PC users, even enthusiasts, just don’t need to cough up for the priciest kits around, and that’s definitely no bad thing. Memory, processor, and chipset developments have leveled the playing field, which means it’s one less component to worry about when putting together a new PC.</p><h5>The Aesthetics of Memory</h5><p> Memory manufacturers try to sell expensive kits on the basis of their size or speed, but that’s not the only advantage that comes from spending big on a high-end set of DIMMs&mdash;many of them are also designed to look better than their cheaper, plain-looking alternatives.</p><p> Corsair’s Dominator Platinum range sits at the top of the firm’s product stack, and some of its key benefits are about the visuals. Corsair boasts of its industrial design and LED lighting&mdash;the top metal bar can be upgraded with different attachments, the LEDs can be changed, and the box has a good-looking fan kit that can sit on top of the sticks to provide extra cooling.</p><p> Expensive memory kits like this don’t just have aesthetic advantages&mdash;Corsair’s Dominator Platinum chips are hand-sorted, have improved monitoring hardware, and better heatsinks. But there’s no denying the visuals play a key&nbsp;part when it comes to high-end memory.</p><p> Other firms offer similarly high-end extras. Crucial’s Ballistix memory sticks have attractive aluminum heatsinks alongside practical extras like integrated thermal sensors, while Kingston’s HyperX Predator and Beast products have good-looking exteriors, but are chosen specifically to provide the best performance.</p><p> Kits like this bring practical and visual improvements to the table, then, but they’re not always necessary. If you’re building a midrange rig, or want to put together a machine without a window in its case panel, they’re simply overkill.</p><h5>Pentiums, Celerons, and APUs: Buying Memory for a Budget PC</h5><p> Our tests have examined the effect of different memory on high-end machines, but if you’re building a budget rig, then different considerations should come to the fore at checkout time.</p><p> For starters, don’t splash out on an expensive, fast memory kit if you’re going to be constructing a PC built around one of Intel’s Haswell-based Celeron or Pentium chips, as most of these only support DDR3 that runs at 1,333MHz. That’s slow enough to cause a performance hit in many tests, but on a low-end rig, it’s unlikely you’ll be running the sort of applications that’ll suffer with lesser speeds.</p><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF297.feat2.haswell opener"></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <em><strong>Don’t bother with high-end memory if you’re running an A10-7850K or Pentium K.</strong></em></p><p> AMD’s APUs are more accepting to faster memory, but you’ll still need to pay attention to speeds. A couple of its cheapest parts only handle 1,333MHz or 1,600MHz DDR3, but most can support 1,866MHz sticks. It’s the same on the CPU side, with FX chips mostly supporting 1,866MHz parts.</p><p> There’s one other main consideration when putting together a budget machine: the motherboard. Budget boards don’t often support the extreme speeds offered by pricier components, and many&mdash;especially at smaller form factors&mdash;only have two slots, rather than four. That’s fine if you’re building a system you don’t intend to upgrade, but it can prove restrictive if you want to add more memory later.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Samsung 850 Evo 500GB SSD, WIndows 10 Home 64-bit OEM, and More! don't let friends drive mechanical HDDs for their primary storage.Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:28:36 +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>Friends don't let friends drive mechanical HDDs for their primary storage. Do you know someone who's suffering in the slow lane because of a hard drive? Even worse, do they complain of occasion grinding noises? 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The keyboard, which bears the unfortunate name of "Rolly," folds up along its four rows into a stick that's supposed to easily fit in a pocket, purse, or briefcase.</p><p> The is a tenkeyless (TKL) plank, meaning it doesn't feature a dedicated number pad. It has high contrast keys, a mobile device stand (two arms fold out to support smartphones and tablets), and is made of impact-resistant polycarbonate and ABS plastic.</p><p> According to LG, the Rolly offers typists satisfying tactile feedback not found on flexible silicone keyboards. To put some numbers to LG's claim, the Rolly boasts a 17mm key pitch versus the 18mm keyboard found on many desktop keyboards.</p><p> Though it's intended for mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets, it connects via Bluetooth 3.0, so you could use it with a laptop or 2-in-1 PC if you wanted to. You can pair the Rolly with up to two different devices at the same time and switch between them with a key press.</p><p> LG says a single AAA battery provides enough juice to power the keyboard for up to three months of "average use."</p><p> The Rolly will launch in the U.S. in September, followed by releases in Europe, Latin America, and Asia in the fourth quarter. No word yet on price.</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> Dell Upgrades Alienware X51 with Skylake and Liquid Cooling Option Alienware X51 receives a few interesting upgrades.Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:48:25 +0000 x51dellNewsskylake <h3>Abducting Skylake</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Alienware X51"></p><p> It was three years ago to the day that we <a href="">posted our review</a> of Dell's Alienware X51 PC game console to the website, which we called "impressively powerful for its size." That was true at the time, though in the fast moving world of technology, the system's Core i5-2320 CPU paired with a GeForce GTX 555 graphics card is nothing to get excited over today.</p><p> Of course, there have been updates to the Alienware X51 since then, and as of right now, you can configure one with a Skylake processor inside. It's one of a handful of upgrades Dell announced today.</p><p> Along with Skylake comes DDR4 memory options. You also have access to new M.2 PCI-E SSDs, two USB 3.1 ports (paired with two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports), and of course Windows 10, which launched to the public on July 29.</p><p> In addition to unlocked 6th Generation Core i5 and Core i7 processor options and an upgraded foundation, you can opt for a custom liquid solution for lower noise and potentially better overclocking performance, Dell says.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dell Alienware X51 Graph"></p><p> There's also support for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, which might be the most intriguing upgrade option of the bunch. Likely due to its size and thermal restrictions, the Alienware X51's pre-installed graphics card options are rather sparse and uninspiring, topping out at with a GeForce GTX 960. But with the Alienware Graphics Amplifier plugged into the X51, you can use a higher end graphics card like the Titan X, which Dell says will more than double the performance over the highest end X51 configuration.</p><p> The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is really intended for laptops, though in this case, the pitch from Dell is that you can use it to open the door to 4K gaming.</p><p> Dell's retooled Alienware X51 is available 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> AMD R9 Nano Revealed’s Fiji goes small in size but big on specs with R9 Nano.Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:00 +0000 FuryFeaturesFijigpusR9 Nano <h3><strong style="background-color: initial;">AMD R9 Nano: Small but Powerful</strong></h3><p> The initial launch of AMD’s Fiji architecture has been a bit rough: The R9 Fury X failed to claim the performance crown from GTX 980 Ti, though it puts up a good fight. Stepping down a notch is the R9 Fury, an air-cooled take on Fiji with eight of the Compute Units (CUs) disabled, but priced $100 lower. When AMD first demonstrated Fury X cards, they also talked about a “Fury Nano,” which has now been officially christened the R9 Nano. We always knew the Nano would use the Fiji core and that it would target a lower-power envelope, which led to rampant speculation on how it would be configured and where it would be priced. It turns out the R9 Nano is both better and worse than we expected. This is best illustrated by jumping straight into the specs table comparing AMD’s current high-end GPUs:</p> <div> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="5"> <strong>AMD High-End GPU Specs</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Card</strong> </td> <td> <strong>R9 Fury X</strong> </td> <td> <strong>R9 Nano</strong> </td> <td> <strong>R9 Fury</strong> </td> <td> <strong>R9 390X</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> Fiji </td> <td> Fiji </td> <td> Fiji </td> <td> Hawaii <br> (Grenada) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GCN / DX Version</strong> </td> <td> 1.2 </td> <td> 1.2 </td> <td> 1.2 </td> <td> 1.1 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Lithography</strong> </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Transistor Count (Billions)</strong> </td> <td> 8.9 </td> <td> 8.9 </td> <td> 8.9 </td> <td> 6.2 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Compute Units</strong> </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 56 </td> <td> 44 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Shaders</strong> </td> <td> 4,096 </td> <td> 4,096 </td> <td> 3,584 </td> <td> 2,816 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Texture Units</strong> </td> <td> 256 </td> <td> 256 </td> <td> 224 </td> <td> 176 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>ROPs</strong> </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 64 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Core Clock (MHz)</strong> </td> <td> 1,050 </td> <td> Up to 1,000 </td> <td> 1,000 </td> <td> 1,050 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Capacity</strong> </td> <td> 4GB </td> <td> 4GB </td> <td> 4GB </td> <td> 8GB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Clock (MHz)</strong> </td> <td> 1,000 </td> <td> 1,000 </td> <td> 1,000 </td> <td> 1,500 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Bus Width (bits)</strong> </td> <td> 4,096 </td> <td> 4,096 </td> <td> 4,096 </td> <td> 512 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)</strong> </td> <td> 512 </td> <td> 512 </td> <td> 512 </td> <td> 384 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>TDP (Watts)</strong> </td> <td> 275 </td> <td> 175 </td> <td> 275 </td> <td> 275 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Price</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";IsNodeId=1&amp;N=100007709%20600566292%20600566291">$649</a><u><br> </u> </td> <td> $649 </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440623478&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=r9+fury">$549</a><u></u> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440623633&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=r9+390x">$429</a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div><p> Surprised? Yeah, so are we! It turns out that the R9 Nano is a fully enabled Fiji GPU, just like the Fury X. It has the same 64 CUs, 4,096 shaders, 256 texture units, and 64 ROPs. The only differences are in the core clock and TDP, along with the cooling solution. Here’s where things get a bit muddy: AMD is listing the GPU clock as “up to 1,000MHz,” but with the 175W TDP it should be fully expected that the card will have to run at lower clocks for certain workloads. It sounds as though demanding workloads (e.g., Furmark) may push the clocks as low as 600MHz, while most games will run at 850–950MHz.</p><p> Overall, AMD is claiming a 30 percent improvement in performance over the R9 290X, which is interesting as our own testing of Fury X averaged 34 percent faster than 290X. Best case, at 4K our testing has Fury X outperforming 290X by 40 percent. In other words, with a moderate 50–200MHz drop in GPU clocks, AMD has been able to reduce TDP by over 35 percent. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, as the <a target="_blank" href="">Asus Strix R9 Fury</a> already took a similar tactic by going with a 216W TDP.</p><p> It’s also worth noting that it will be possible to overclock the R9 Nano and increase the power target in order to improve performance. AMD has thermal protection on the Nano that kicks in at 85C, but otherwise the card will modify clocks based on the power use. AMD informed us the clock speeds are&nbsp;updated at a microsecond level, so the tuning of performance will happen very quickly and seamlessly to the end user. Here are some of the slides from the presentation.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slide 02"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slide 11"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slide 16"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slide 17"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slide 20"></p><p> What will likely surprise a lot of people is the target price. Instead of being a “lesser” Fiji implementation with a lower price point, AMD is going for power efficiency and a price point equal to the Fury X. Basically, these are the same chip and even the same card, with only the cooling really having changed; it’s just that Nano will be tuned for lower TDP while Fury X is pushing maximum performance. AMD is big on comparisons with 290X, showing a 40 percent reduction in board length, (up to) 30 percent higher performance, a 20C drop in target operating temperature (75C vs. 95C), 30 percent lower power requirements, and a 16dB drop in noise levels (vs. the reference blower 290X, which definitely wasn’t a quiet card). As you would expect, much of this is made possible by the use of HBM.</p><p> So, what does AMD want users to do with all of this compact goodness? One target market is high-performance mini-ITX systems. While there are certainly mITX cases that have used high-performance graphics cards in the past (Falcon Northwest’s Tiki comes to mind), there’s a minimum size requirement in order house the 10.5-inch graphics card. R9 Nano provides the ability to go with a smaller chassis, or you could have a similar size chassis with more space for storage. We’ve seen small GPUs like the GTX 960 and GTX 970 already, so this isn’t inherently a huge change, but the Nano should deliver a healthy improvement in frame rates over a GTX 970&hellip; at roughly twice the cost.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Project Quantum"></p><p> It’s an interesting tactic, and we’ll have to see how well it succeeds. AMD showed off a prototype system at E3 called Project Quantum, which consisted of a Fury X GPU and a mini-ITX motherboard in a sexy-looking custom chassis. Supposedly, some of these had dual Fury X GPUs, except now it’s looking like&nbsp;they were more likely dual Nano GPUs. Only twelve Project Quantum systems were created, but AMD is still looking for someone to take the design and turn it into a retail product.&nbsp;And that’s basically where the R9 Nano should succeed: custom builds where being able to cram a lot of performance into the smallest space possible is the primary concern. If you’re just after raw performance, a larger desktop is easier to build and service, and likely cheaper at the end of the day, but it’s not nearly as eye catching.</p><p> Unfortunately, even if you really want to buy an R9 Nano, you can’t do so just yet. Officially, the R9 Nano will go on sale “the week of September 7.” That could mean as early as September 7 or as late as September 11, so we’re about two weeks out from the retail launch. Meanwhile, R9 Fury X is still a bit difficult to find in stock, though <a target="_blank" href=";IsNodeId=1&amp;N=100007709%20600566292%20600566291">Newegg lists at least one model</a> at $670. If things go as planned, R9 Nano should launch with a decent inventory, but based on Fury X, it may not stay in stock for the first several weeks. We’ll have our full review on the official launch date in a couple of weeks.</p><p> <em>Follow Jarred on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a></em>.</p> Logitech Announces G633 and G933 Artemis Spectrum Gaming Headsets two new headsets look to surpass the audio and build quality of the G930Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:34:58 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Artemis Spectrum"></p><p>Just a day before the start of PAX Prime in Seattle, peripheral maker Logitech unveiled the company's latest entry into the gaming audio arena. At Logitech's audio lab in Camas, Washington, we got a hands-on with the two units that are billed as the successors to the G930 headset.</p><p>Like the G930 before them, both the G633 and G933 (which we've heard have gone by the code names Ripley and Newt, though we don't know which is which) feature 7.1 Dolby surround. Additionally, these headphones support DTS' Heaphone:X 7.1 surround that promises highly accurate surround in games and movies. Users can hot-switch between Dolby and DTS surround using the Logitech Gaming Software configuration tool.</p><p>The G633 uses either a wired USB or 3.5mm connection, while the G933 uses a 2.4GHz wireless USB mix adapter. If the user prefers, the G933 can use a wired connection as well. The G933's wireless range is advertised at 15 meters. We were told by some Logitech employees that they may reach up to 24 meters in perfect conditions, but the headset is rated at 15 to preserve quality in most conditions. Like other Logitech Gaming headsets, the boom mic swings up and out of the way when the user doesn't need to issue voice commands to teammates. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="G633 connections"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The G633 features both USB and 3.5mm connections and can use both at once.</strong></p><p>In addition to Windows PCs, the G633 and G933 is compatible with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Users can connect two different audio sources with the G633's USB and 3.5mm connections. The G933 allows mixing of up to three sources when using the wireless mix adapter.</p><p>Each model features the programmable buttons on the left ear cup, right next to a volume wheel, mic toggle and input switch. Both headsets also feature programmable RGB lighting that can be controlled with Logitech Gaming Software.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="G633 buttons"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The G633's G-keys and controls</strong>.</p><p>During our visit to Logitech's lab, senior acoustical systems engineer Tracy Wick showed off the Pro-G driver that Logitech developed as the heart of the headset. Logitech says the drivers deliver accurate highs and deep lows that are meant to compete with high-end consumer headsets. The driver uses a proprietary textile mesh membrane that offers audiophile-level sound, Logitech said.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Pro-G driver and membrane material."></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Pro-G driver and membrane material.</strong></p><p>With our first hands-on, we found the cans to be of moderate weight and of good construction. We were also impressed by the DTS surround demo in Logitech's reference theater room. While we liked what we heard with the hands-on demos, demos usually show off best-case scenarios. We got a G633 headset for review, so expect a more in-depth look soon. </p><p>The G633 will retail for $149, while the G933 will go for a cool $199. The G633 will be available in September, while the G933 will be available in October. </p> Fast Forward: Coming Down to Earth From the Cloud you never know the agony of losing vital data filesThu, 27 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 storageColumns <p><em>This article was published in the August 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h5>May you never know the agony of losing vital data files</h5><p>Some people have been driven nearly to suicide when their only working copy of an unpublished novel, dissertation, business plan, or photo archive has been lost.</p><p>It may have been corrupted by a failing hard drive, maliciously encrypted by ransomware, or destroyed by a fire or natural disaster. For some victims, hard-drive recovery services are the last resort, no matter the high cost.</p><p>With so many cloud-storage providers these days, it’s tempting to think we’ve entered a heavenly age in which we no longer need to maintain local backups. Just upload the stuff to a remote server and rely on the data-center angels to keep it safe. Unfortunately, the cloud’s lining isn’t always silver.</p><p>One problem is that cloud providers occasionally evaporate. A few years ago, some professional photographers lost their life’s work when a cloud service went bankrupt so suddenly that there wasn’t time to save the thousands of high-resolution files. That danger can be avoided by using the cloud storage now offered by large, stable companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.</p><p>Another strategy is to store your files in multiple clouds. It’s more trouble, but most providers offer a few gigabytes for free, so it’s cost effective if your archive is relatively small. Nevertheless, local backups are still desirable. Some archives are so large that the initial upload would monopolize even a fast Internet connection for weeks. My largest archive contains thousands of scanned family photos and documents dating to the 1830s, and my personal photo archive is nearly as large and it’s growing fast. Even the incremental updates can get unwieldy, especially after a busy day of scanning or photographing.</p><p>Another problem is that many cloud services automatically synchronize all your files across all your connected devices. It’s supposed to be a trendy feature, but it’s a drag. I use different computers for my work and personal pursuits, and I don’t want my business files and personal files shared on both. Nor do I want everything shared with a notebook, tablet, or smartphone that has less local storage and is more prone to loss or theft. Then too, automatic file sharing can clog a home Internet connection. Usually there are workarounds&mdash;Google Drive won’t replicate files in subfolders&mdash;but some services are mysterious about defeating such features.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.qs halfhill.clouds"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>The cloud shouldn’t be the one Chosen One when backing up.</strong></em></p><p>For these reasons, cloud storage is no substitute for local backups. The catch is you’ve got to be smart. Remember, it’s not really a backup unless it’s stored offsite. If your backup is a second hard drive in your PC, it’s susceptible to all the same hazards that endanger the main drive, including power surges, spilled coffee, and ransomware. A disconnected portable hard drive stored in a desk drawer is slightly safer but is still subject to fires, floods, burglaries, or anything else that endangers your home.</p><p>My strategy is to rotate portable hard drives between my home office and safe-deposit box. Even this precaution may not save you from a major disaster like a flood, earthquake, hurricane, or whatever act of God afflicts your region. Periodically stashing a drive at a relative’s or friend’s house will preserve most of your valuable files. Of course, cloud storage is the ideal insurance against big calamities, but it shouldn’t be your only backup.</p><hr> <p>Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior editor for <em>Byte</em> magazine and is now an analyst for <em>Microprocessor Report</em>.</p> Facebook Working on Virtual Assistant Called 'M' is jumping onto the virtual assistant bandwagonWed, 26 Aug 2015 21:26:53 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Facebook M"></p><p> David Marcus, Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook, revealed on Wednesday that America’s number-one social network is currently developing a genderless&nbsp;virtual personal assistant called “M.” This new AI will be located within Messenger, the company’s stand-alone chat client. So far there’s no indication when&mdash;or if&mdash;this virtual assistant will be released to the Facebook masses.</p><p> What will make this AI different from Google Now, Siri, and Cortana is that M will actually complete tasks. “It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments, and way more,” <a href="" target="_blank">Marcus said in a blog</a>.</p><p> Unfortunately, Marcus doesn’t go into great detail regarding M, pointing out that the virtual assistant is in its early stages. However, he provided several screenshots revealing that M can help order flowers for the user’s mother, locate a “dog friendly” beach nearby, suggest shoes for a newborn baby, suggest a good burger joint for a trip that will be taken next week, and so on.</p><p> Marcus says that M is powered by “artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people.” <a href="" target="_blank">He goes on to tell Wired</a> that M is a hybrid personal assistant: it has an AI as well as a human team located at Facebook. These “M Trainers” will make sure that all requests made by users will be answered, whether it’s by the AI or the human team. Users will have no idea if their question was answered by the AI or a human.</p><p> According to Wired, M does not pull information for Facebook’s huge stash of social data. Thus, if a human asks M about what type of gift to give Mom, the service will make a suggestion based on answers to additional questions and previous conversations. The best part about Facebook’s virtual assistant is that it will be completely free to Facebook users.</p><p> If that’s the case, how will Facebook make money from M? “We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do,” Marcus says. “Intent often leads to buying something, or to a transaction, and that’s an opportunity for us to [make money] over time.”</p><p> Naturally, Facebook will potentially make loads of money if and when the user base increases. An increase in revenue means more investment into the project, which in turn will generate more revenue for the social network. One notable drawback to M is that users will have to open Messenger on their mobile device in order to access it. Perhaps the virtual assistant will be a stand-alone app in the future.</p><p> The report states that M has been in use by a group of Facebook employees over the last several weeks. One Facebook employee even had M call the cable company and wait for a service representative. The wait was presumably a long (long) time and was actually endured by a Facebook employee instead of the AI.</p><p> Currently, over 700 million Facebook members are using the Messenger app. Now, imagine the number of questions M and its human team could receive once the service goes public. Hopefully, Facebook will have plenty of M Trainers on hand.</p> Amazon Launches 'Underground,' Nukes Free App of the Day can still download free Android apps from AmazonWed, 26 Aug 2015 20:40:18 +0000 <h3>Free Apps from Amazon</h3><p> For a long time, Amazon offered the Free App of the Day promotion for Android tablets and smartphones. The catch was that customers needed to sideload Amazon’s Appstore onto their device to take advantage of the daily promotion. Those days are gone, replaced by <a href=";docId=1003016361&amp;tag=aftvn-20" target="_blank">a new Amazon service called Underground</a>.</p><p> Like the Appstore, Amazon customers are required to sideload Underground on their Android device. The good news here is that customers can still download free apps&mdash;over $10,000 worth according to the company. Amazon says that it’s making this giveaway&nbsp;possible by using a new business model with app and game developers.</p><p> “Many apps and games that are marked as ‘free’ turn out not to be completely free. They use in-app payments to charge you for special items or to unlock features or levels,” the company states. “In Underground, you will find 100 percent free versions of popular premium titles like OfficeSuite Professional 8, <em>Goat Simulator</em>, and PhotoSuite 4.”</p><p> The business model that allows an app to be totally free consists of a per-minute played scheme that pays developers for time played, allowing them to nuke in-app fees. Amazon said it will pay these developers “a certain amount,” and that it’s picking up the charges so that the app is totally free to users.</p><p> According to Amazon, the Underground app will automatically be installed on Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets. To download the free apps and games, customers merely log into Underground with their Amazon account credentials and locate apps that have the “Actually Free” banner in the app’s icon.</p><p> So, how long will this promotion last? Amazon says the program will be “long-term” and that the company will continue to “invent and add more benefits” to the Underground app over time. To kick things off, Amazon Underground is offering a number of apps for free, including <em>Inside Out Thought Bubbles</em>, <em>Cars: Fast as Lightning</em>, <em>Looney Tunes Dash!</em>, OfficeSuite Professional 8, <em>Duck Tales: Remastered, Toca Kitchen, Cut the Rope 2, Goat Simulator, </em>and more.</p><p> To get the Amazon Underground app, <a href=";docId=1003016361&amp;tag=aftvn-20" target="_blank">simply head here</a> and provide your email address. You can find the free apps by clicking the “Actually Free Apps and Games” banner when you first load up the app. You can also purchase these apps, if the whole per-minute scheme is just too weird for you.</p> IDC Sour on Near Term PC and Tablet Outlook, Eyes Recovery in 2017 the release of Windows 10, IDC sees the PC market decling nearly 9 percent in 2015.Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:07:24 +0000 <h3>Windows 10 to the rescue?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 PCs"></p><p> When it comes to the PC market, analysts tend to err on the side of gloom and doom. We wondered if that would still be the case once Windows 10 released to the public, and though it's been installed on <a href="">75 million devices</a> to date, at least one market research firm is predicting an ongoing decline in PC shipments.</p><p> International Data Corporation (IDC) is forecasting that worldwide PC shipments will slip in the neighborhood of 8.7 percent in 2015, and if true, that would make five consecutive years of declining growth.</p><p> Why the negative outlook? <a href="" target="_blank">IDC points</a> out that even though vendors have been preparing for Windows 10 systems in the second half of the year, the shrinkage is related to a "stubbornly large inventory of notebooks from prior quarters and severe constraints posed by the decline of major currencies relative to the U.S. dollar."</p><p> Even so, IDC predicts a combined 281.6 million portable and desktop PC shipments in 2015. In other words, don't read too much into the accompanying rhetoric -- the PC market is by no means dead or dying.</p><p> Looking ahead, IDC believes growth will resume in 2017 led by the commercial market, albeit not by leaps and bounds -- the research firms forecasts 282.1 million in 2019, up half a million from the end of this year.</p><p> In years past, any decline in PC shipments was typically blamed on the market's infatuation with tablets. That's no longer the case. IDC sees the tablet market declining 8 percent in 2015. IDC clumps 2-in-1 devices in with tablets, though notes that detachables are are "starting to gain traction.</p><p> "While the 2-in-1 form factor is not new, OEMs are getting more serious about this market and as a result IDC expects the 2-in-1 segment to grow 86.5 percent year over year in 2015 with 14.7 million units shipped," <a href="" target="_blank">IDC said</a>.</p><p> It's worth noting that IDC doesn't include 2-in-1 devices with detachable keyboards in the portable PC category. That includes the Surface Pro, which Microsoft pitches as a tablet that can replace a laptop.</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> Four Weeks Later, Windows 10 is Installed on 75 Million Devices's free upgrade offer to Windows 10 has helped the OS reach tens of millions of installs in a short period of time.Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:51:32 +0000 10 <h3>Can't beat free</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Windows 10 Laptop"></p><p> It's been a month since Microsoft released <a href="">Windows 10</a> to the public and during that time the OS has found its way onto 75 million devices. That's according to Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, who <a href="" target="_blank">posted the figure on Twitter</a> today.</p><p> "More than 75 million devices running Windows 10 -- and growing every day," Mehdi tweeted.</p><p> He then tweeted out nine more tidbits related to Windows 10, such as revealing that the "Windows Store for Windows 10 has seen 6X more app downloads per device than Windows 8" and that "more than 122 years of gameplay have streamed from Xbox One to Windows 10 devices" so far.</p><p> This is exactly the kind of start Microsoft needed for Windows 10, which rushed to 14 million installs within 24 hours of release. Of course, Microsoft virtually ensured that Windows 10 would see inflated figures by giving away free upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, but as long most of those users stay on Windows 10, it's a win for Microsoft.</p><p> Unlike Windows 8, Microsoft isn't forcing a tablet-friendly interface on users in Windows 10. The Metro UI is nowhere to be seen on desktops, and at long last, the Start menu (not just the Start button) is back.</p><p> There's a lot to like in Windows 10, though it's hasn't been without controversy. Some are concerned that Microsoft is overstepping its bounds with regards to privacy, while others have taken issue with the OS's <a href="">mandatory updates</a> for Windows 10 Home users, the latter of which received negative attention when a faulty update resulted in some users being stuck in a <a href="">reboot loop</a> that required editing the registry to fix.</p><p>If Microsoft sticks to its stated plan, Windows 10 will be the last monolithic release of Windows as it switches to a Windows-as-a-Service (WaaS) model. In place of major new Windows releases, Microsoft is (in part) banking on subscription services like OneDrive and Office 365 being big money makers.</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> QNAP TurboNAS TS-451 Review take a look at QNAP's TurboNAS TS-451 storage solutionWed, 26 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 TurboNAS TS-451Reviews <div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">At A Glance</h5><p>(+) Tasty: Great UI;<br>packed with features;<br>accessible from anywhere.</p><p>(-) Not so tasty: A little expensive, weird app design.</p></div><h3>Big features, small footprint</h3><h3></h3><p>Over the last several weeks, we’ve taken a good look at a couple of network attached storage (NAS) solutions including the beastly <a href="" target="_blank">Synology Diskstation DS2515+ NAS</a> and the smaller eight-bay <a href="" target="_blank">QNAP TVS-871 NAS</a>. Now we’re taking a hard look at the four-bay QNAP TurboNAS TS-451, which isn’t as large as the former two we reviewed, but still packs a punch in regard to features and performance. </p><p>We’re not going to beat around the bush here: This QNAP NAS is simply awesome. The device is perfect for the home and could be used as a theater PC despite some of the hardware shortcomings. That’s because this NAS supports not only HDMI output to a monitor or HDTV, but you can plug a mouse and keyboard into the built-in USB ports for a full “desktop” experience. You can’t play games on the device, but you can certainly surf the web using Chrome or Firefox, both of which are apps that can be installed.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="QNAP TurboNAS TS-451"></p><p>Its squarish form factor measures 6.97(H) x 7.09(W) x 9.25(D) inches, and includes an Intel Celeron dual-core processor (2.41GHz, 2.58GHz Burst), 1GB of DDR3L RAM (expandable up to 8GB), 512MB of internal storage, four drive bays, two gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports (one front, one rear), and two USB 2.0 ports (both on the rear). The USB ports can support a USB printer, pen drive, a USB UPS, and more.</p><p>On the front of the NAS are LED indicators for Status, LAN, and the four hard drives. There are also an IR receiver, the power button, and a one-touch copy button. On the back are a single large fan keeping the innards cool, a password and network settings reset button, the power connector, and a Kensington security lock. So, despite the small form factor, there’s a lot going on in the TS-451.</p><p>The TS-451 provides two interfaces powered by QNAP’s QTS operating system. There’s the back end, which is accessible through any web browser, and a front end that presents a number of services through the HDMI port. For the front end, there’s a link to the QTS platform that basically loads up the back end interface without having to access a browser.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap TS-451 Control Panel"></p><p>There are a number of apps that come preinstalled, including the Photo Station, the Music Station, the Video Station, the&nbsp;File Station, and more. Customers can get additional apps on QNAP’s built-in App Center, which plays host to a large number of apps that are compatible with this particular NAS. While the App Center is nowhere as large as Apple’s or Google Play's offerings, the QTS operating system provides three screens (or pages) for apps, just like a tablet or smartphone.</p><p>Some of the installed apps should speak for themselves, such as the Music Station and Photo Station. The files we uploaded were through the File Station, to keep everything neat and organized via folders. By default, media files are crammed into the Multimedia file folder; other folders include Download, Public, Recordings, and Web. The QTS platform recognizes the file extensions and will provide access to these files accordingly, such as JPGs can be viewed in the Photo Station, MOV files can be played in the Video Station, and so on.</p><p>The QTS back end also provides a neat and tidy Control Panel that's broken down into four sections: System settings, Privilege settings, Network services, and Applications. The System settings portion provides access to the general settings, storage manager, the network settings, notifications, and so on. The Privilege Settings provides access to user accounts, shared folders, domain security, and more.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="QNAP QTS Storage App" style="width: 534.656px;"></p><p>The Network settings within the Control Panel app provides a number of features including FTP, Telnet / SSH, SNMP and Service Discovery. Meanwhile, users can access the Applications section to manage the iTunes server, the DLNA Media Server, the SQL server, the Web server, Antivirus, and loads more. As we previously stated, there is a lot of bang for the buck with this NAS.</p><p>One of the great aspects of the TS-451 is that you can access the stored files from anywhere, as long as myQNAPcloud is registered and activated. To connect to the device, users can simply open a browser and type “<a href="”">”</a> where the “yournasname” is the name for the NAS taht you provided during setup. By having remote access, users can upload pictures and other files to the device on the fly, whether they’re on vacation or at the mall.</p><p>For more savvy users, you can setup the TS-451 to a DynDNS service and configure your router to allow remote access that way.</p><p>The TS-451 also provides QSync, an app that synchronizes files on a device with files stored on the NAS. There’s also the interesting Notes Station, which allows users to edit documents, spreadsheets, and slides that were created in Microsoft Office. There’s even the ability to stream media to a smartphone or tablet, a built-in antivirus service, and a surveillance station for customers with cameras installed in their home or office.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap QTS HyperDesk App" style="width: 534.656px;"></p><p>The front end of the TS-451 is “controlled” by the HybridDesk Station. Here, users can install applications that will only be accessible through the front end, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Facebook, LibreOffice, Plex Home Theater, Skype, Spotify, TuneInRadio, and a few others. Also available on the front end are QNAP’s native applications, such as File Station, Music Station, Photo Station, and Video Station.</p><p>Although we believe that the TS-451 is an awesome machine, the main QTS apps are a little weird to use. As we previously said, files were uploaded to the NAS via the Files Station app in order to keep all files organized whether they’re pictures or music. You can upload pictures into a specific folder and access them without much trouble, and you can also convert these folders into albums. Want to share them on a social network? Just right-click and choose either Picasa, Flickr, or Weibo.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap QTS Photo Station 5" style="width: 534.656px;"></p><p>So, what's weird about the native QTS apps? Let’s take Photo Station as an example. The left-hand menu provides the following: Shared Photos, Folder, Private Collection, Qsync, Album, Smart Album, Shared Center, Recent, and Trash Can. Having both a folder <em>and</em> an album is a little confusing, which is why we took the File Station route. Albums can be shared with other NAS users and the “public,” which seems to mean only those that can access the login screen can see the album. Folders can also be converted into albums.</p><p>For this review, we were provided with four Seagate (ST4000VN000-1H4168 SC46) hard drives with 3.64TB of usable space each, offering around 10.82 TB of overall storage. Users can keep track of each hard drive by going into the Control Panel app and clicking the Storage Manager icon. Here, you can receive data regarding each drive, cache acceleration, iSCSI, and Virtual Disk settings.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap QTS Dashboard" style="width: 534.656px;"></p><p>There’s also a handy dashboard that you can access by clicking the speedometer icon in the top-right corner of the main screen. You can get a quick shot of the overall system health, various info about the hardware (system temp, fan RPM), the resource monitor, hard disk health, and the amount of storage that’s available. QNAP even pulls in its news feed, such as firmware and utility launches.</p><p><a href="">According to QNAP</a>, the TS-451 has a write speed of up to 82MB/s and a read speed of up to 126MB/s (AES-256 volume encryption throughput). These speeds were measured on a client machine consisting of Windows 8.1 Pro, an Intel Core i7-4790, and 16GB of DDR3 1,600Hz memory. We tested the RAID 5 write speeds using a rig with 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7-4790K clocked at 4GHz, Windows 10 Pro, and a 500GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD. We didn’t perform additional speed tests because the NAS and test rig are on a 1Gbit network. The result, according to robocopy, was write speeds of around 107MB/sec. Read was the same.</p><p>The performance numbers highlights the ceiling for 1Gbit/sec Ethernet speeds, which by most accounts is more than enough for the purpose of the TS-451.</p><h5>Wrap-up</h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Qnap QTS App Center" style="width: 534.656px;"></p><p>All in all, QNAP’s TS-451 is a great solution for homes and small offices that need more than just a disk backup. The device works well as a home media server, a backup center, a tool for file sharing, and so on. QNAP also has a number of apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store that expand the experience to phones and tablets. These include Qfile for managing files, Qmanager for controlling the NAS from a remote location, Qvideo for watching stored videos, Qmusic for streaming music, and so on.</p><p>One thing that we wish QNAP had done was to make the native app usage a little more clear out of the box, as it may be a bit confusing for those who are just now buying into the need for a NAS (present company included). Even though the specs guarantee that <em>Crysis</em> will absolutely not run on this system, you could still use it as a small media PC for watching movies and TV shows and surfing the internet.</p><p>There’s definitely a lot of bang for the buck here, enough so that there are still many aspects about the box that this review didn’t tap. The only real downside to this box of goodies is that it doesn’t come cheap: It's right around $450 without the installed hard drives. Still, there are a lot of services under the hood that we think make it worth the outlay.</p> Microsoft Prototype Keyboard Has E-Ink Panel is working on a new keyboard with an E-ink screenTue, 25 Aug 2015 19:41:17 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="DisplayCover Prototype"></p><p> Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group <a href="" target="_blank">recently published news</a> of a new prototype keyboard the company is working on called DisplayCover. The peripheral is designed for tablets and provides a “thin film” E-ink display with a resolution of 1280x305 pixels. Given this device is merely a prototype, there’s no telling when we’ll see the peripheral actually&nbsp;on the market.</p><p> This isn’t Microsoft’s first keyboard with a touch-sensitive display. <a href="" target="_blank">Back in 2009</a>, the Applied Sciences Group revealed the Microsoft Adaptive Keyboard, which featured a touch-sensitive display at the top of the peripheral and extended down underneath the keys. According to the company, users could display command icons and change the character set to a different language.</p><p> Now it’s 2015, and the company’s DisplayCover sets out to serve as a peripheral cover for touch-enabled tablets like Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 2. The company says the new E-ink “strip” extends the overall tablet display by up to eight percent&mdash;not a huge number in our book but the tech is neat nonetheless. The company chose E-ink technology because it doesn’t suck up battery juice quite like a full-color version.</p><p> “DisplayCover supports dynamic UI manipulation, concurrent access to multiple applications, stylus annotation, gestures and trackpad interactions on the horizontal plane,” the company says.</p><p> Microsoft’s blog demonstrates how the E-ink strip is used, including pulling two&nbsp;fingers in different directions to zoom in, using two fingers to move a window, and using one finger to hold a window while the other is pulled to the edge, allowing the user to rotate the screen. The panel can also be manipulated using a stylus, or serve as a trackpad, the latter of which emulates a notebook keyboard.</p><p> “DisplayCover extends the available screen real estate of tablet computers while mitigating occlusion issues associated with direct pen and touch input,” the blog adds.</p><p> To see this prototype tablet keyboard in action, check out the video below.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe> Newegg Daily Deals: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 FTW, Asus GeForce GTX 750 Ti, and More! you live in one of the desert states, you can feel summer packing up its bags so that autumn can move in. There's a chill in the air that wasn't there before, and rather than go outside to enjoy the sunshine, you may find yourself preferring to stay inside to play some video games, including the ones you stocked up on during Steam's summer sale.Tue, 25 Aug 2015 19:14:20 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Evga Gtx 980 Ftw"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Unless you live in one of the desert states, you can feel summer packing up its bags so that autumn can move in. There's a chill in the air that wasn't there before, and rather than go outside to enjoy the sunshine, you may find yourself preferring to stay inside to play some video games, including the ones you stocked up on during Steam's summer sale. That's a fine idea, though if you find your graphics card screams out in pain when dialing up the eye candy, consider a GPU upgrade. One option is today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814487089-_-0725&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">EVGA GeForce GTX 980 FTW Video Card</a> for <strong>$477</strong> with free shipping (normally $530 - use coupon code: [<strong>EXLAWNS29</strong>]; additional $30 mail-in-rebate; free Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain game w/ purchase, limited offer). That's a lot of value, and EVGA ups the ante with its ACX 2.0 cooling solution that promises lower temps and quieter operation.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236313-_-0725&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VG248QE Black 24-inch 144Hz 1ms 3D Monitor w/ Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$235</strong> with free shipping (normally $250 - use coupon code: [<strong>EXLAWNS26</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260218-_-0725&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell S2715H Black 27-inch IPS LCD Monitor w/ Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$215</strong> with free shipping (normally $250 - use coupon code: [<strong>EXLAWNS27</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121855-_-0725&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB Video Card</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $125 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNS36</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824009437-_-0725&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Acer G6 Series G226HQLBbd Black 21.5-inch Monitor</a> for <strong>$90</strong> with free shipping (normally $110 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNS55</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p> Parents of Sick Student Blame School's Upgraded Wi-Fi Setup private school in Southboro faces a lawsuit over its Wi-Fi signal.Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:23:41 +0000 <h3>Wi-Fi woes</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Wi Fi"></p><p> The parents of a 12-year-old student attending a private elementary school in Southboro, Massachusetts believe the school's recently upgraded Wi-Fi setup is making their son sick, the <em><a href="" target="_blank">Telegram reports</a></em>. In a lawsuit related to the claim, the parents have asked for an injunction that would force the school to either switch to Ethernet or turn down the wireless signal. They're also seeking $250,000 in damages.</p><p> According to the suit, the elementary student, referred to as "G," suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrom (EHS), a diagnosis that was issued after he began suffering from frequent headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, and other symptoms that the parents claim resulted from the school upgrading its Internet system to have a more powerful wireless signal in 2013.</p><p> So far, the school has been unwilling to accommodate the parents' requests. However, the school did hire a company called Isotrope, LLC to perform an analysis of its wireless setup in January.</p><p> “Isotrope found that the combined levels of access point emissions, broadcast radio and television signals, and other RFE emissions on campus ‘were substantially less than one ten-thousandth (1/10,000th) of the applicable (FCC) safety limits'," the school said in a statement.</p><p> The school also requested that G visit with another physician. According to the lawsuit, the parents agreed, but were miffed that the physician came to the conclusion that "there was not enough study yet done to link Wi-Fi emissions to symptoms such as those G is experiencing" after speaking with the boy for just 10 minutes.</p><p> “This doctor stated in essence that he does not believe in EHS,” the lawsuit says. “Yet he made no alternate diagnosis.”</p><p> There is some debate in the medical community whether EHS is a real thing.</p><p> "The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals," the <a href="" target="_blank">World Health Organization says</a>. "Well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure. It has been suggested that symptoms experienced by some EHS individuals might arise from environmental factors unrelated to EMF."</p><p> WHO also contends that EHS is not a medical diagnosis and that any perceived symptoms "may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions" and/or stress associated with worrying about the effects of EMF.</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> Razer Outs Custom NZXT S340 PC Case and NZXT have teamed up once again to offer a unique chassisTue, 25 Aug 2015 18:17:38 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nzxt S340"></p><p> During E3 2014, Razer introduced its first custom chassis as part of the company’s new “<a href=";utm_medium=CJ" target="_blank">Designed by Razer</a>” licensing program. The H440 was manufactured by NZXT and went on sale the following month for $149.99. Now the two companies are revealing another custom-designed PC case, the NZXT S340, at a lower price point.</p><p> “’Designed by Razer’ candidates are subject to vetting by the award-winning Razer design and engineering team prior to approval. Once greenlit, the joint enterprise mobilizes Razer's design expertise and product engineering sensibilities,” the company <a href="" target="_blank">said in a press release</a>.</p><p> The product page shows that the new S340 is a compact midtower, measuring 200x445x432mm. The case has an all-steel design: a steel frame with steel panels, steel-plated audio jacks, an integrated power supply shroud, and capacitive thumb screws. There’s even a grommet-less steel cable-management bar.</p><p> The specs show space on the front for two 140mm or two 120mm fans. Included, however, are a 120mm FN V2 fan on the back and a 120mm FN V2 fan on the top. Also included are filters for the front fans and a filter for the back fan.</p><p> Want to install a radiator? Support includes one 280mm or two 120mm fans on the front and one 140mm or 120mm fan on the back. If installing a rad, the front clearance is 58mm and the rear clearance is 75mm. The specs also show that the case has a GPU clearance of 364mm, a GPU clearance with a radiator of 334mm, and a CPU cooler clearance of 161mm.</p><p> As for other features, the case supports mini-ITX, microATX, and ATX motherboards. There are seven expansion slots, one audio jack, one microphone jack, an I/O panel with an LED on/off switch, and two “signature green” USB 3.0 ports on the top of the case. Other lighting options include the power-on switch, the Razer logo mounted on the front, and two light bars mounted underneath the case, which spills a nice “signature green” blanket on a desk’s surface.</p><p> “We had great success with our first collaboration with NZXT and the H440 – Designed by Razer PC case," says Min-Liang Tan, Razer cofounder and CEO. "Our team couldn't wait to get started on the next project that brings premium NZXT PC cases with the iconic Razer design to PC gamers everywhere."</p><p> The new NZXT S340 can be pre-ordered for <a href="" target="_blank">a cheap $99.99 here</a>. The estimated ship date is September 18.</p> Seagate Adds 750GB Model to Ultra Portable Hard Drive Line's STDZ750100 offers 750GB of storage space in a 7mm form factor.Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:25:44 +0000 DriveNewsseagate <h3>Portable storage without the bulk</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Seagate Seven 750GB"></p><p> Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Seagate was able to expand its ultra-portable "<a href="" target="_blank">Seven</a>" line of hard drives to 750GB (STDZ750100), which offers 50 percent more unformatted storage capacity than its existing 500GB (STDZ500400) model.</p><p> The additional storage space doesn't come at the expense of size or weight -- like its 500GB sibling, the 750GB measures a scant 7mm thick and weighs just 178 grams (less than 0.4 pounds). Seagate was able to accomplish a super thin profile by sandwiching a 5mm hard drive inside&nbsp;a 100 percent stainless steel enclosure consisting of two slabs of metal for the top and bottom. These are held in place by side braces.</p><p> This also gives the Seven series a premium look, which Seagate supplements with an included braided USB 3.0 cable 45.72cm (18 inches) in length. Speaking of which, the drive is bus powered, meaning it draws power directly from the USB port -- no external power supply is required.</p><p> We haven't tested either Seven drive ourselves, though according to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Softpedia</em></a>, the 500GB model posts reads and writes of around 101.2MB/s and 102.3Mb/s, respectively, which is about half the performance it saw from Seagate's Backup Plus Fast drive.</p><p> That's not very fast, though if you're looking for lots of storage in a portable and attractive form factor, the 500GB and 750GB Seven drives are viable options.</p><p> The new 750GB model streets for around $130, which is about 36 percent more than the street price of the 500GB model ($97).</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> Infidelity Website Ashley Madison Faces Second Class-Action Lawsuit Madison and parent company Avid Life Media, Inc. are being accused of negligence stemming from a recent security breachTue, 25 Aug 2015 16:45:10 +0000 <h3>Cheaters never prosper?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gavel"></p><p> An unnamed individual living in the United States has filed a federal lawsuit against Ashely Madison, a website that facilitates affairs among married men and women, and parent firm Avid Life Media, Inc., which is based in Toronto, Canada. The suit alleges negligence, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress.</p><p> Avid Life Media, Inc. was already hit with a class-action lawsuit in Canada last week that's seeking around $760 million in damages. The US-based lawsuit also seeks class-action status, with unspecified damages.</p><p> Both lawsuits are the result of a recent security breach in which a hacking group known as the Impact Team stole and ultimately published "highly sensitive personal, financial, and identifying information of the website's some 37 million users," according to court documents.</p><p> After stealing the data, the Impact Team <a target="_blank" href="">threatened to disclose</a> the information it obtained if Avid Life Media, Inc. failed to shut down Ashley Madison. At the time, it appeared that the Impact Team was equally perturbed with Ashley Madison's $19 fee that purports to erase all details about a customer, which the hacking group claimed was misleading, and the fact that the site encourages extramarital affairs.</p><p> "Too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn't deliver. We've got the complete set of profiles in our DB dumps, and we'll release them soon if Ashley Madison stays online," the hackers said at the time.</p><p> The hackers made good on their threat last week when they dumped nearly 10GB of data for all the web to see. In a note accompanying the data dump, the Impact Team said "the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles."</p><p> According to <em><a href="" target="_blank">Reuters</a></em>, the collection of data included email addresses and other information belonging to government officials and high-level executives at European and North American corporations.</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> Augmented Reality: State of the Art augmented reality technology is more than just virtual reality’s kid brotherTue, 25 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 realityFeaturesHololenskinectmicrosoftsonyValvevirtual realityvive <p><em>This article was published in the July 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3></h3><h3>Why augmented reality technology is more than just virtual reality’s kid brother</h3><p>Read the tech and games press, and the buzz is all about virtual reality. Valve revealed its long-hidden VR product Vive, built with HTC, in March. Oculus Rift, meanwhile, has been bought for a cool $2 billion by Facebook, with Facebook’s owner Mark Zuckerberg calling it “the dream of science fiction” that will “unlock new worlds for us all.”</p><p>Yet, quietly, people are whispering that the real story is augmented reality (AR). Influential data firms such as Juniper Research have even put figures on it. Juniper’s "Augmented Reality 2015–2019" report predicts revenues of $4.1 billion for AR apps in 2019, with 1.3 billion apps in use. By contrast, Digi-Capital is advising that AR could be worth $120 billion by 2020, with VR valued at a mere $30 billion. That reflects fundamental differences in both the underlying experience, and the progress made, in each field. We’ll explore why that is, and whether virtual reality has any chance of catching up.</p><p>We’ll delve into the way big media corporations&mdash;including Microsoft, Valve, Google, Apple, and Sony&mdash;are looking at this space. Several have already invested billions&mdash;such as Google with Magic Leap, and Microsoft with HoloLens&mdash;while others have already walked away, such as Valve, with its deliberate pivot toward VR.</p><p>That also means examining how AR tech is currently working, and where the next steps will be. After all, low-grade AR has become commonplace in several types of mobile application and is looking to become more widespread. Digi-Capital’s prediction is based on AR capturing a large chunk of the cell phone market&mdash;with over a billion smartphones already shipped, you could say $120 billion is a conservative estimate.</p><p>But then it’s only talking about five years away. It took 20 years for cells to move from the Nokia Ringo, which could merely call people, to today’s all-singing, all-dancing smartphones. Will AR move faster? For the lowdown, read on.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.ingress"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Google's Ingress certainly has good press shots, but the AR game looks nothing like this.</strong></em></p><p>The core difference between virtual reality and augmented reality technology is the worlds they move us into. One replaces, the other improves. Virtual reality creates a new world for you. It may be a world identical to the one you’re in now, or it may be a world built entirely from bones and elves, but it’s a world that’s fundamentally separate from the world we inhabit. No perception that you see through virtual reality is what’s outside of that headset. You’re totally immersed. It’s therefore a tech for totally immersive experiences&mdash;escapism like movies or games.</p><p>Augmented reality, by contrast, focuses on the real world as the base, and builds on top of it. AR generates virtual items in this world by either using a whole mess of sensors to ensure they’re correctly placed on its surfaces, or ignoring them completely and placing it on a much nearer plane. Though this sounds easier, as you don’t have to generate an entire world, there are technical challenges that make versions of it just as tricky to do as VR.</p><p>AR’s not so good for immersion, because the real world is always there in the background. But that makes it an excellent tool to use to add virtual things to the real world. Voice calls, advertising, mapping, social networks&hellip; or even what Tim Merel of Digi-Capital calls “a-commerce.” Yes, we're talking about augmented shopping.</p><p>There are degrees of augmentation, of course. Device-led AR, where the AR is imposed on a screen that’s distant from the viewer, is a mediated reality that allows developers to more simply judge the environment. At its simplest, this acts as a head-up display (HUD) that sits over the scene like a 3D movie title sits on its background. This basic tech is at the level that firms such as advertising innovators Blippar or Aireal use. It simply uses your existing device and an app, and then imposes a new image on an existing scene, for example by putting an animation of a football player near his promotional merchandise.</p><p>At a slightly more advanced level, this tech can detect a surface or shape in the environment, and use that as a marker to estimate relative depths in the scene. You’ll have AR apps that use special "fiduciary marker" cards to anchor their sim, and allow the app to scale and rotate a virtual simulation to fit the environment.</p><p>The more VR-like AR requires a lot of extra tech. You need to be able to track the position of the viewer’s head and eyes, and judge relative distances, to make the illusion of something virtual be convincing. Most of these AR devices use a headmounted display (HMD), which is a headset supporting a display device (or two) in front of the user’s eyes. The sort of HMD we’re interested in also tracks head position along six degrees of freedom&mdash;a phrase that means three components of translation (up-down, forward-backward, left-right), and three components of rotation along those axes.</p><p>There are more extreme techs in the works as well. Two different sets of contact lenses are in development, one academic, one military. The military ones are called iOptik and function much like bifocal lenses, with the twist that they’re designed to work only with AR goggles. These contact lenses will allow humans to focus both on the background scene and the HUD on the goggles at the same time. Though they’re being developed for the US Department of Defense, the company behind them hopes it can sell them as consumer products soon.</p><p>The more interesting academic tech comes from the University of Washington, and is a set of "bionic" contact lenses powered by radio waves and with LED displays built in. (The microfabrication process that means they self-assemble their circuitry using osmotic pressure is fascinating and totally irrelevant). At the moment, the lenses have only been tested on rabbits, so it’s still at an early stage, and there are questions about the quality of the images it produces. Still, it’s an impressive glimpse of the future.</p><p>Of course, this is all minor stuff, mostly built in the hope that the big technology firms will buy out the company behind it. What’s of greatest interest right now is what those firms are focusing on, and what they think they can do with it.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.angry birds"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Blippar and Aireal want to push ads in your AR experience.</strong></em></p><h3>Valve's Blown Out</h3><p>What’s most interesting about Valve’s AR offering is that it’s no longer Valve’s AR offering. After a Night of the Long Nerds in 2013, Valve released 25 people, including its entire AR team, to focus, we presume, on VR. The two AR project leads were given Valve’s permission to do whatever they liked with the tech that they’d made, which they’ve called CastAR. They’ve created a company called Technical Illusions to finish it off. CastAR is a bit different from other AR. It consists of a pair of polarized glasses with built-in projectors and cameras, and a separate retro-reflective surface studded with infrared LEDs. The camera uses the LEDs to track your head movement, so it can adjust the images that the projectors cast onto the surface. This means each polarized lens gets a different, but coherent, image. Low latency lets you do things like look around an object. In other words, it projects a self-contained virtual reality into the real world.</p><p>As a result, it’s used for static purposes rather than something more mobile, like the existing Samsung Gear VR and Nintendo 3DS. CastAR’s pitch video focuses on a variety of ways that it can be used: preview 3D architectural blueprints, play 3D board games remotely on unexpected surfaces, create 3D presentations, and just for use as a 3D desktop computer. As long as you put that retroflective material all over your house.</p><h3>Microsoft Does Everything</h3><p>You’ve almost certainly heard of Microsoft’s contribution to the AR party&mdash;its HoloLens system for Windows 10, and possibly Xbox One. It seems revolutionary, but its use of the word "holographic" might be suspect (and mainly due to affection for Star Trek’s Holodeck). Kinect seemed revolutionary in the hermetic demonstration settings you get at big tech trade shows.</p><p>HoloLens definitely looks impressive from the screenshots scattered around these pages. It’s a futuristic headset that superimposes 3D creations into the world and allows you to interact with them. The impressive element here is how high-quality the images it produces are&mdash;from the videos and reports, it’s utterly compelling, if nowhere near as immersive as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.</p><p>The actual headset is a lot bulkier than a comparative AR headset&mdash;Google Glass, say&mdash;but then, this has the power of a true virtual reality headset because it’s not doing a simple 2D overlay. It reportedly weighs around 400g, is adjustable to all head sizes, and is totally wireless. It consists of holographic lenses, depth cameras, and three separate processing units&mdash;one central, one graphics, and one holographic.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.hololens2"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>HoloLens is intended more for business functions than entertainment.</strong></em></p><p>The depth cameras are built from the same tech as Kinect, but are lower power, have a wider viewing angle, and are placed around the front and sides of the headset. They track both the user’s head and hands, as HoloLens is controlled entirely by gesture and voice, Minority Report–style. This lets you interact with the 3D virtual models of the apps, from building blocks in Minecraft, to sculpting the bodywork of a motorcycle. MS is working on "pinning," which will let you stick these models in place in the environment, so you can move around them, and "holding," so you can pick them up and manipulate them.</p><p>The apps are really what wowed us when HoloLens was announced. Microsoft recently bought Minecraft for $2.5 billion, and it’s already made a version of it that runs on HoloLens. Similarly, NASA has an app that lets you explore Mars, and there’s a version of Skype that runs on it so that a builder can explain to you why you should have spent more time in carpentry classes at school. Though the reports are mostly positive, the tech was in an early stage, and there were concerns over whether the hardware could fit into a consumer unit, and the regularity with which the illusion was broken.</p><p>That’s not all, however, as Microsoft also has several other AR and VR projects underway. It definitely has an AR headset ready to go&mdash;Microsoft bought the smart glasses firm Osterhout Design Group in March 2014. And another project called RoomAlive was shown off in October 2014, consisting of a set of projectors that transformed the walls of an entire room into an interactive environment.</p><p>Digressing for a moment, there are also persistent rumors about a VR headset for Microsoft’s Xbox One console. After all, the Wall Street Journal said back in March 2014 that the company already had 3D virtual reality tech ready to go. HoloLens has reduced the chances of that coming to market, but we assume Microsoft has it ready as a backup.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.hololens5"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Microsoft has bought Minecraft and intends to use it on its HoloLens platform.</strong></em></p><h3>Google Does It Better</h3><p>Google Glass was Google’s high-profile effort in the field of augmented reality, and you might argue that it was the company's first high-profile failure, given that Glass has currently been removed from sale ahead of a redesign and a new model. The device is a set of (quite pretentious-looking) plastic and metal glasses, with a HUD projected onto it and a smartphone-like processor behind it all, which was on sale for $1,500.</p><p>Glass did everything you thought it should, like understand natural voice commands, record video, take photos, and all the update elements of your phone. It had a small touchpad on the side of the device, which let you browse a timeline of recent events. The screen was a liquid crystal on silicon device with an LED-illuminated display that used polarization and reflectors to bounce the image into your eye. It had a wide range of supported Google apps, including Now, Gmail, Maps, and Google+. All good then? The fact that it's on a forced hiatus says otherwise.</p><p>That’s not all of Google’s AR efforts though. It’s also making simple augmented reality games for its Android phones, such as Ingress, a massively multiplayer location-based game built on Google Maps. And it has Project Tango in the wings. This is a standard tech for mobile devices that allows them to navigate the physical world in the same way we inefficient meat-bags do. It uses advanced computer vision, image processing, and special image sensors to make an end-to-end navigation technology that understands its own 3D motion in the world, can perceive depth, and use visual cues about areas or objects they know to constantly self-correct. At the moment, it’s only available to core developers, but we assume it’ll be integrated into next-generation Android hardware.</p><p><a href="">Magic Leap</a> is yet another Google-funded project, coming in at $542 million, and a direct challenge to HoloLens. It's being built by a team of tech and games industry veterans, including the author Neal Stephenson and the 3D team at WETA (who made the Lord of the Rings special effects). Reports have it as more believable and solid than HoloLens. It works using a virtual retinal display, that is, a display projected straight onto the retina itself.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.magicleap3"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Magic Leap's stated aim is to reintroduce magic into our lives.</strong></em></p><p>Similar to HoloLens, the simulation looked utterly convincing. The animated 3D creatures it portrayed looked detailed and sharp, and sat well in the surrounding world. And similar to HoloLens again, it ran on a huge piece of hardware (essentially a PC) sitting nearby, rather than in the headset itself. It’s worth looking at the promo video to see what it’s capable of. Magic Leap hasn’t really been announced or promoted yet, but we’re expecting it to launch in 2016 or 2017.</p><h3>Sony's "Me Too" Mentality</h3><p>The Japanese giant always seems to want to get involved in any new tech, but recently it hasn’t been leading the market here. Its<br>Project Morpheus feels like a "me too" VR solution, but it’ll surely work well on Playstation 4 and might actually sell well (see “What About VR,” opposite). Plus, it’s already experimented with AR in the form of The Wonderbook for the Playstation 3 (see “Try AR Today”, on page 50).</p><p>However, SmartEyeGlass is its main foray into AR. The currently available SmartEyeGlass SED-E1 Developer Edition is very similar to Google Glass, though much cheaper at just $840. It uses “holographic waveguide technology” in 3mm AR lenses, which produces something very similar to Glass, with overlaid green text and diagrams operating at 15fps. It also has a 3MP camera that can take pictures or video.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF305.feat3.sonysmarteyeglass"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>Sony's SmartEyeGlass has a low battery life and a cheap look.</em></strong></p><p>It connects to compatible Android phones by Bluetooth, and is controlled by a small, ugly-looking puck that sits on the user’s lapel, which also doubles as microphone, speaker, NFC, and battery (which comes in at only 150 minutes). At the moment, we’d stay well away from this device. It’s ugly as sin, with a poor battery life, and not many apps. Version two could well be worth looking out for, though.</p><h3>Apple of the Eye</h3><p>There haven’t been any official reveals of Apple’s research into VR, but then Apple is more tight-lipped than a close-mouthed clam ahead of any announcement. Apple does have several patents for AR tech&mdash;there’s a very interesting one for a "transparent electronic device" that sounds very much like a piece of augmented reality tech. Examples in the patent include using the device to overlay information about a museum exhibit. Interestingly, the device would be able to make itself opaque, and only display selected elements of the background world, otherwise being a normal opaque LDC or OLED display.</p><p>That said, an analyst from investment bank Piper Jaffray (annoyingly, but understandably, investment bankers get a lot more access to tech firms than journalists do) published a report in March saying he believes Apple has a small team experimenting with the AR space, but that they think consumer AR is still 10 years off. We’ll see from Microsoft and Google efforts whether they’re wrong, but they might be on the money when it comes to mass-market success.</p><h3>The State of the Art</h3><p>As that $120 billion valuation by Digi-Capital might indicate, there’s a lot of hype around AR and VR at the moment. Hundreds of firms are trying out strange new tech to augment the senses. UK firm Ultrahaptics, for example, uses targeted ultrasound vibrations on a user’s skin to form tangible shapes and textures from thin air, so the users can feel them without the need for worn equipment. That, combined with the hand-detecting Leap Motion device, makes for delicately convincing sims, like brushing your hands over ghosts. For VR, we’ve seen every type of treadmill under the sun&mdash;giant balls, resistant pads, harnesses around the waist&mdash;anything to convince you that you’re in the virtual world.</p><p>On balance, the hype is justified. It’s not like the first tablets, when Microsoft launched them stillborn into the market. Too many big companies are competing here for this to not be a success for one of them. But challenges remain, and they’re not insubstantial. The biggest are in shrinking the tech down to a headset, or headset-and-pack model; in maintaining persistent simulations while doing that; and in preventing object placement errors. It’s likely that, after all this experimentation, smartphones will be the first devices that give us a real taste of this. As always in that field, Apple will be the company to watch. That said, Google’s Magic Leap investment is considerable enough and the tech advanced enough that we’d cautiously predict it’ll be first to market, albeit in a reduced form.</p><p>One prediction we’re happy to make is that in 20 years time we’ll be looking back at this tech the way we now look back at the first cell phones. These innvoations are going to revolutionize many things&mdash;anything that requires 3D knowledge, such as architecture or warehouse management; anything that requires management of large data sets, such as programming; and anything that simply wants to look pretty, like art or video games. Now we just have to wait for the hardware to catch up.</p><h3>Try AR Today</h3><p>There are many ways to try augmented reality today. As it’s a more mature technology, there are some basic devices that take advantage of it already, as well as many cell phone applications to try. The Carl Zeiss VR One headset, for example, supports AR features and will work with any iOS or Android headset between 4.7 and 5.2 inches. Google Glass V1.0 may have been canceled, but that’s out there too.</p><p>There’s a huge array of AR apps for smartphones. One of our favorites is GoSkyWatch Planetarium for iPhone and iPad. This is one of many stargazing apps that use the device’s accelerometer and GPS to orient your device, so wherever you’re pointing, it shows constellations, stars, and nebulae. See also Anatomy 4D, Google Goggles (which can translate text on the fly), Field Trip (which lets you know about nearby attractions), and iOnRoad Augmented Driving, which gives speeding alerts, crash warnings, and driving analytics.</p><p>The Playstation Vita has AR features, and comes with a package of free AR games, such as Table Ice Hockey and PulzAR. Similarly, the Nintendo 3DS comes ready-loaded with AR Games and six AR cards. Every game is superimposed on the real world, but has no interaction with it. It’s more of a gimmick, really.</p><p>If you’ve got a PS3, you could pick up a copy of Wonderbook. It was a Harry Potter–inspired AR tome with blank pages that only filled when viewed on your TV through the Playstation Eye camera. Similarly, the PS4 has Playroom, a much smoother AR sandbox where you can play with small robots that are running around your living room. Kids love it.</p><p>You can also try the Kinect system, on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Though it never got the backing it deserved from developers, it has a uniquely detailed depth camera that means it can track your entire body shape&mdash;or several, in the Xbox One’s case&mdash;on-screen. It’s probably the most advanced consumer AR tech available on the market today.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="PCF303.feat1.kinect"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Microsoft's Kinect was surprisingly under-used.</strong></em></p><h3>What about VR?</h3><p>We’ve covered VR in the past, but it’s worth giving you a quick status update as to where the tech is today. There are three projects that are nearing release. Sony’s Project Morpheus, Valve and HTC’s Vive, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift.</p><p>Of these, Oculus Rift is the oldest, and several developer iterations have been released. A mightily cut-down version of it made to work with Samsung smartphones, the Samsung Gear VR, has already been released. It works by slotting a Samsung Note 4 or Galaxy S6 into a viewing device, and runs with 1280x1440 on each eye, and a 96-degree viewing angle.</p><p>Despite that, there’s still no sign of the Oculus Rift consumer model. The most up-to-date version, the Crescent Bay prototype, has a positional tracking camera for your head, low-persistence OLED display (to eliminate blur), and runs two screens at 960x1080 on each eye, at 90Hz, and a 110-degree viewing angle. No release date has been announced, but late 2015 seems likely.</p><p>Sony’s Project Morpheus is the quickest-developed of the three. Like its AR solution, Sony seems more concerned with getting a working version of its tech to consumers than with making it the cutting edge. The version we tried in July last year was much lower resolution and fidelity than the Oculus Rift versions we’d tried up to that point, but both companies have since substantially improved their hardware. It has a similar OLED screen running at 960x1080 on each eye, a 100-degree viewing angle, and a 120Hz refresh rate. It was very comfortable, presumably because much of the hardware was sitting in a set-top box, not on our heads. It tracked our heads using the Playstation camera, and it had true 3D audio. It’s due out in early 2016 for PS4, which already has motion-sensitive controllers.</p><p>Valve and HTC’s Vive headset is the most impressive. It recognizes that some of the joy of VR is in interacting with those virtual worlds, so it does two things. First, it has a pair of bespoke controllers for you to hold, allowing limited interaction. Second, it has a set of cameras that sit in the corner of your room, detect your location and any obstacles, and track your movement, as well as setting the virtual world’s limit at your real world limit.</p><p>Vive has two 1080x1200 screens running at 90Hz. As the screens are narrower, you’ll have a wider vertical field, and it should be lighter, as your PC will do all the processing work. Its big selling point is its pair of motion-tracking cameras, which are infrared and wireless, and are used to follow the headset’s 37 sensors. This enables you to roam freely in your room and the virtual world. It works with multiple players and should be out this year.</p><p>If you want to try VR today, you can get a casing for your smartphone, like the free Google Cardboard, or a cheap third-party headset like the $45 Immerse from Firebox.</p><h3>The AR Hardware</h3><p>Not all AR devices share the same hardware and software, but there are some basic technology aspects they all need. First off, you need a processor to work everything out, then a transparent display to show the world and the projections, a light power source, and a variety of sensors and input devices.</p><p>The sensors can take several forms, but are mostly included as standard in smartphones. An accelerometer lets you measure impetus, a GPS measures global location, and a magnetometer or solid-state compass measures the device’s orientation against Earth’s gravitational field&mdash;that is, the ground. Luckily, modern smartphones contain all of those things.</p><p>For AR technologies that aren’t based on cell phones, if you want all these elements, they have to be built in, which can increase the size and cost of the device substantially. If you choose to go without them, you’ll lose a huge amount of functionality. It’s notable that Sony’s AR glasses system has a relatively large external box clipped to the user’s lapel, while both HoloLens and Magic Leap have been demoed with large tabletop external units that were actually running the tech. Input systems are another challenge.</p><p>Unlike with virtual reality, the user can see their hands, so a keyboard is an option. But also unlike VR, augmented reality encourages users to be mobile. You want to look around the object and touch it, so you want your hands to be either free or holding interactive objects (like Valve’s twin pointers). That means the device has to be wireless and the interface has to be voice, gaze, or mediated touch.</p> QNAP Claims 'World's First' With Thunderbolt 2 NAS launches a new NAS with Thunderbolt 2 technologyMon, 24 Aug 2015 19:54:17 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="QNAP Turbo vNAS TVS-871T"></p><h3>QNAP launches a NAS with Thunderbolt 2 technology</h3><p> QNAP Systems is claiming “world’s first” with the launch of its <a href="" target="_blank">Turbo vNAS TVS-871T</a>. The NAS unit comes packed with an Intel Haswell processor, eight drive bays, and Thunderbolt 2 technology, providing customers with both loads of performance and storage capacity. The company also introduced two storage expansion enclosures that are compatible with QNAP’s new NAS, the <a href="" target="_blank">eight-bay TX-800P</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">five-bay TX-500P</a>.</p><p> The specs show that the TVS-871T-i7-16G is powered by an Intel Core i7-4790S quad-core processor clocked at 3.2GHz, and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The TVS-871T-i5-16G includes an Intel Core i5-4590S quad-core processor clocked at 3GHz, and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. Other ingredients include two Thunderbolt 2 ports, three USB 3.0 ports, two 10 gigabit Ethernet ports, four 1 gigabit Ethernet port, and one HDMI port for connecting the NAS to a monitor or HDTV.</p><p> The new NAS device features QNAP’s QTS 4.2 operating system, which allows the customer to connect a keyboard and mouse for a (somewhat) full desktop experience. The user interface is similar to Apple’s iOS in presentation, providing apps with rounded icons that can be added across several “pages.” Users can get additional apps by way of QNAP’s built-in App Center, but there are already a number of apps preinstalled such as Photo Station, Music Station, Video Station, and more.</p><p> With Thunderbolt 2, users will experience 20Gb/s bandwidth, twice the speed of first-generation Thunderbolt solutions. This connectivity is ideal for handling lightning-quick 4K video transfers, as are the two built-in 10GbE ports. And while eight drive bays should be plenty for the media artist or CAD operator, the compatibility with TX-800P and the TX-500P means users can add up to six QNAP expansion enclosures that produce up to an extra 448TB.</p><p> “Most current Thunderbolt DAS users are frustrated with being unable to share large amount of files quickly to increase productivity. The TVS-871T Thunderbolt 2 Turbo vNAS perfectly integrates the high-speed storage of Thunderbolt DAS and flexible file sharing of 10GbE networks, completely solving the obstacles faced by conventional Thunderbolt DAS users,” says David Tsao, product manager of QNAP.</p><p> Customers wanting to get their hands on one of these new QNAP Turbo vNAS TVS-871T units&mdash;as well as the TX-800P and TX-500P expansion enclosures&mdash;can do so at ASI Partners, D&amp;H Distributing, Ingram Micro, MA Labs, and Synnex here in the States. QNAP did not provide pricing.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Asus Mini PC, WD Purple 2TB Hard Drive, and More! still love putting together hulking towers filled to the brim with high-end hardware, but we're also willing to concede there are scenarios in which a much smaller (and less expensive) configuration is appropriate. It's for that reason that today's top deal falls on the other other end of the spectrum.Mon, 24 Aug 2015 19:22:22 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Mini PC"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>We still love putting together hulking towers filled to the brim with high-end hardware, but we're also willing to concede there are scenarios in which a much smaller (and less expensive) configuration is appropriate. It's for that reason that today's top deal falls on the other other end of the spectrum -- it's for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16883221023-_-0824&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Mini PC</a> for <strong>$210</strong> with free shipping (normally $220 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK69</strong>]; additional $20 mail-in-rebate). This pint-sized PC packs an Intel Celeron 2957U CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 500GB HDD, and Windows 8.1. It also comes with a USB mouse and keyboard. No, it won't run Crysis, but it should handle general purpose computing tasks just fine.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820148544-_-0824&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555">Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2x4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$40</strong> with free shipping (normally $45 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK65</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236661-_-0824&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Purple 2TB SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $85 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCAWNK75</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16820211939-_-0824&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Adata UC340 32GB USB Flash Drive</a> for <strong>$10</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $13 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK43</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16817131088-_-0824&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">TDK 4.7GB 16X DVD-R 100 Packs Spindle Disc</a> for <strong>$15</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $25 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK46</strong>])</p><p><strong></strong></p> Microsoft Announces Public Beta of Cortana for Android for Android is one step closer to gold.Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:27:17 +0000 <h3>Cortana comes to Android</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cortana Android"></p><p> Microsoft isn't content to let Cortana exist solely on Windows devices, it wants to see its personal digital assistant spread its wings to Android and iOS, too. With that in mind, Microsoft today opened up beta access to Cortana for Android to the general public.</p><p> There are several changes since the closed beta, one of which is the ability to configure Cortana to load in place of Google Now when long-pressing the home button in Android. However, you still can't wake Cortana up in Android by saying, "Hey Cortana," a feature that's still only available in Windows (for now), nor can it open apps for you. Those things require deeper hooks into Android.</p><p> Otherwise, Cortana on Android isn't all that different than on Windows. You can use Cortana to perform web searches, set alarms and reminders, look up local restaurants, and so forth.</p><p> If you want to kick Cortana's tires on Android, you first have to sign up for the public beta -- don't worry, it's a painless process that consists of clicking a button (<a href="" target="_blank">go here</a>). Once you've done that, you can <a href=";ah=MHsxdiCtvV3wHs_moW3xW-uHDrY" target="_blank">download Cortana</a> for Android from Google Play. It may take a few minutes to show up in Google Play after signing up for the beta, so keep trying if you get an error message.</p><p> Note that the beta is only available to users in the U.S. at the moment. If you do decide to give it a try, let us know what you think of it in the comments section.</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> Windows 10 Face Detection Passes Identical Twins Test on recent testing, it appears that Windows Hello isn't easily thwarted by lookalikes.Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:43:57 +0000 10 <h3>Not so identical after all</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows Hello"></p><p>Bad news for evil twins -- it doesn't look like you'll be able to use your face to bypass your twin's security in Windows 10, provided he or she is taking advantage of Windows Hello, a biometric authentication scheme that provides instant access to Windows 10 devices.</p><p> For systems that support it, Windows Hello takes the place of punching in passwords, allowing you to use your mug (or fingerprint) to log into Windows and authenticate applications, enterprise content, and even some online experiences. Systems equipped with an Intel RealSense 3D camera (F200) can use the facial unlock feature, and based on some recent testing, it does a good job even at discerning between identical twins.</p><p> To test the feature, <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Australian</a></em> rounded up half a dozen sets of identical twins and had them use Windows Hello on a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. The laptop has an Intel RealSense camera embedded above the display, which contains an infra-red lens, a regular lens, and a 3D lens.</p><p> While the sample size is small, in each case, Windows Hello was successful in keeping non-account holders from logging in. It didn't matter if the non-account holder wore his or her hair the same way as their twin, Windows Hello wouldn't let them in.</p><p> The limited testing bodes well for Intel and Microsoft, though the technology isn't perfect. One of the twins initially had trouble getting Windows Hello configured, and in another instance, it failed to work altogether. In other cases, it would sometimes take a bit of time to identify a twin, though it never let a non-account holder gain access to the laptop.</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="620"> </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> Acer Upgrades Aspire Z3-710 Series All-in-One PCs to Windows 10's slim Aspire Z3-710 AIOs feature 10-point capacitive multi-touch and a Full HD 1080p display starting at $750.Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:18:38 +0000 10 <h3>Joining the Windows 10 party</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Acer Aspire Z3-710"></p><p> Acer on Monday announced that its 23.8-inch Aspire Z3-710 Series of all-in-one desktop PCs are now shipping with Windows 10, saving you the trouble of performing a free upgrade (from Windows 8.1).</p><p> There are two models that ship with Windows 10 -- the Z3-710-UR55 ($750) and Z3-710-UR54 ($900). The less expensive model comes with an Intel Core i3-4170T dual-core processor clocked at 3.2GHz with 3MB of cache, 6GB of DDR3L RAM, 1TB hard drive, DVD writer, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE, 1080p webcam, three USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, GbE LAN, and stereo speakers.</p><p> Acer's higher end configuration ups the ante with a Core i5-4590T quad-core processor clocked at 2GHz with 6MB of cache and 8GB of RAM. Assuming general purpose computing chores, it might not worth the $150 premium. You only get get 2GB of additional RAM, and even though the processor is an upgrade in cores and cache, it's a downgrade in clockspeed.</p><p> Both systems come wrapped in a slim 1.4-inch chassis with a display that you can tilt from 5 to 25 degrees using just two fingers, Acer says.</p><p> Alternately, Acer still offers the Z3-710-UR59, a Windows 8.1 model for $700 with an Intel Pentium G3260T dual-core processor clocked at 2.9GHz, 4GB of RAM, and 1TB HDD.</p><p> All models are <a href="" target="_blank">available now</a> in the U.S.</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> Text Editors Roundup are lots of excellent, free text editors to choose from for all your coding needsMon, 24 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <h3>Text Editors for Code Monkeys</h3><p> If you’re getting into programming or coding of any sort, you’ll want to find a text editor that you like working with. A text editor is as blasé as it sounds: It’s software that you use to read and write files whose sole content is plain ol’ text. All coding language source files must be saved as plain text; another program takes that text file and turns it into something else. This also means that text editors can open and edit any text file.</p><p> This is in contrast to a word processor, which saves files in a binary file to store formatting data. A word processor must support the format the file uses. So, while any text editor can read a regular text file, such as an HTML file, not every word processor can read a Microsoft Word docx file.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.1.docx file in a text editor"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong> This is what happens if you open a Microsoft Word docx file in a text editor.</strong></p><p> One of the main reasons to invest in a text editor beyond a basic one like Notepad is to be able enhance the readability of the files and navigate through them more efficiently.</p><h4>Common features of text editors</h4><h5>Basic text-formatting options</h5><p> Text editors offer few formatting options that can be set by the user. Any option set will be applied to the text file as a whole, as well. Generally, the most formatting that can be done is which font to use, text size, tab type (actual tabs or just spaces) and spacing, and word wrapping.</p><h5>Search and replace</h5><p> A search function is, of course, a very useful thing. All text editors include at least a basic search feature. More feature-rich editors will allow you to search not only the file you’re editing, but also files within a directory. Some editors will also all you to search by regular expressions, which is a kind of search language that is very powerful once you get the hang of it, allowing you to find text based on rules. For example, you can use a regular expression to find words that begin and end with a vowel.</p><p> Closely related to the search feature is the replace feature, used if you need to change instances of a search match. This can be within the file itself or across the matches found in a directory.</p><h5>Syntax Highlighting</h5><p> While very basic text editors usually lack this, others will have a feature that stylizes text files based on the coding language of the source file. Syntax highlighting is very useful to get a visual idea of what something is in a source file, and helps differentiate aspects of the code to help keep it from just looking like a blob of text. This is what stylizes the text, and while text editors have different ways of styling, they’re usually consistent about what gets stylized.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.2.c before syntax highlighting"></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>A C source file before syntax highlighting&hellip;</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.3.c after syntax highlighting"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong> &hellip; and after highlighting.</strong></p><p> An example of where this comes in handy is specific types of variables used in the coding language, e.g., a string of text surrounded by quotes will often be stylized. If you happen to misplace a quote, then code that shouldn’t be considered in that string of text will be highlighted, visually indicating something is wrong.</p><h5>Programmer-friendly features</h5><p> Text editors geared toward programmers will often have these features:</p><ul> <li>Line numbers: As mundane as this option sounds, having line numbers shown is very handy when tracking down bugs and errors in source code. This feature is most helpful when it’s shown along with the text rather than in a status bar.</li> <li>Auto-indent: Every time you create a new line, it will indent the cursor up to the last line’s indentation.</li> <li>Auto-complete: It’s similar to predictive text on touchscreen keyboards. If the text editor knows which coding language you’re using, it will give suggestions when typing out words. You then choose the predicted text to complete the word.</li> <li>Brace matching: When highlighting a brace, which is usually a parenthesis, square bracket, or curly brace, it will highlight where the other one is. If you have a bunch of nesting, it’s useful for figuring out which level of nesting a particular brace is in.</li> <li>Text folding: If the text editor finds a block of text that’s within a logical group, like a programming function, the user can fold up the text so it doesn’t take up room in the editor. </li></ul><h4>Recommended Text Editors</h4><p> There are plenty of text editors out there, but here are some that we recommend. Unless noted otherwise, these are multiplatform and free.</p><h5><a href="" target="_blank">Notepad++</a></h5><p style="text-align: center;"> </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.4.notepad++"></p><p style="text-align: center;"></p><p> Notepad++ is a feature-rich text-editor with many features out of the box and it certainly lives up to its name as being an “incremental” improvement over Notepad. One advantage it has over other text editors is that its syntax highlighting can be changed on the fly, regardless of what type of source file it is. Other text editors normally require the file to be saved, as syntax highlighting is based on the file’s extension (Notepad++ will do this too).</p><p> Notepad++ also includes a <a href="">plugin system</a> ( to enhance features already there. These plugins are easily installed and removed with its built-in plugin manager.</p><p> The only downside is it’s only available on Windows.</p><h5><a href="" target="_blank">Atom</a></h5><p style="text-align: center;"> </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.5.atom editor"></p><p style="text-align: center;"></p><p> Atom is one of the new kids on the text-editor block. It’s built with web-app development in mind, but it supports other programming languages as well. Like Notepad++, it has support for plug-in packages ( screenshot featuring one) to enhance the feature set. It’s also hackable, as its settings are stored in configuration files that you can edit.</p><p> One of its defining aspects is its integration support with GitHub, a source control service. If you make changes to the project, it will show up in the project explorer. Its main drawback is that, due to being built on top of Chromium (upon which Google Chrome is based), it’s resource intensive. The install alone is 60MB and each file opens up a new tab, which, like Chrome, creates a new instance of itself in Task Manager.</p><h5> <a href="" target="_blank">GNU Emacs</a> </h5><p style="text-align: center;"> </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.6.emacs"></p><p style="text-align: center;"></p><p> GNU Emacs is a longstanding text editor with a large following of users. It’s a feature-rich editor that can handle a variety of coding languages, create scripts to change the behavior of the program or appearance, and record macros. While you can skirt by using Emacs similarly as you would any text editor, its strength, if you could call it that, is that many commands are mapped to a keyboard command involving CTRL, ALT, and/or “Super” (usually the Windows key). This allows for efficient editing since it allows you to keep your hands on the keyboard (though you will have to memorize those commands before you become a seasoned pro).</p><h5><a href="" target="_blank">Vim </a></h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.7.vim"></p><p> Vim is a clone of another longstanding text editor, vi. Like Emacs, it has a large following of users and the two user bases often butt heads with each other over which is better. Vim was developed for programmers and is quite hackable, with editable configuration files. Its commands, unlike Emacs’s however, are command line–driven rather than keyboard shortcut–based. This, unfortunately, makes Vim a bit daunting for newcomers, but once you’ve got the basics down, you can be quite efficient with it.</p><p> Vim is expandable by way of plugins as well, and there are plenty out there to choose from. Also, Vim or vi is on many Linux distributions, so you’re usually not without it.</p><h4>Text editors worth mentioning</h4><h5><a href="" target="_blank">GNU nano</a></h5><p style="text-align: center;"><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.8.nano"></p><p> GNU nano is something like the Notepad of Linux: a very basic text editor. As it’s part of the GNU project, it’s often included in Linux distributions. Like Emacs, commands are keyboard shortcut–based, but unlike Emacs, they’re a lot easier to get a handle on. The bottom two rows display the commands and everything is CTRL-based.</p><h5><a href="" target="_blank">Sublime Text</a></h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.9.sumblime text"></p><p> Sublime Text bills itself as “The text editor you’ll fall in love with,” and a lot of people swear by it. It’s feature-rich like the other recommended editors, is hackable, with plugin support, and with plenty of options and features some other text editors don’t have by default. However, its $70 price tag is a tough pill to swallow when other free text editors have plenty of features and provide a pleasant coding experience.</p><h5><a href="" target="_blank">Gedit </a></h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TE.10.gedit"></p><p> If Notepad is like Paint and Sublime Text is like Photoshop, gedit is kind of like Paint.NET. It’s not quite feature-rich, but it’s a lightweight text editor with enough features (in particular, syntax highlighting for some languages) to get into coding. It’s the default text editor of any Linux distribution using the GNOME desktop environment, but it’s cross-platform as well.</p> No BS Podcast 240: GTX 950, Windows 10 Privacy Issues, and More crew also talks IDF, Surface Pro 4, and answers reader questionsFri, 21 Aug 2015 22:39:21 +0000 BS PodcastPodcast Newegg Daily Deals: iBuyPower Phantom Desktop, BenQ 24-Inch Monitor, and More! can all agree that the PC is the superior platform for gaming, and anyone who disagrees, well, we thumb our noses at that person! The question is, should you build or buy pre-built? We're obviously big proponents of rolling your own rig, but if you can't for whatever reason, there are some nice options out there.Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:12:59 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="iBuyPower Desktop"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>We can all agree that the PC is the superior platform for gaming, and anyone who disagrees, well, we thumb our noses at that person! The question is, should you build or buy pre-built? We're obviously big proponents of rolling your own rig, but if you can't for whatever reason, there are some nice options out there. One of them is today's top deal -- an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DESKTOP-N82E16883227623-_-0821&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">iBuyPower Phantom Series Desktop</a> for <strong>$900</strong> with free shipping (normally $950 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK37</strong>]). This little beauty sports an Intel Core i5 6600K processor (Skylake), 8GB of DDR4 memory, 1TB HDD, GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, and Windows 10 Home 64-bit.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16820211743-_-0821&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Adata Premier 32GB microSDHC w/ Adapter</a> for <strong>$9</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $16 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK29</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822152425-_-0821&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung D3 Station 5TB 3.5-inch Desktop External Hard Drive Black</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $125 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK32</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824014377-_-0821&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">BenQ GL2460HM Black 24-inch Monitor TN Panel w/ Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$130</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK34</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260149-_-0821&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell P2414H Black 23.8-inch 8ms (GTG) Widescreen LED IPS Monitor</a> for <strong>$190</strong> with free shipping (normally $210 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNK68</strong>])</p> WB Begins First Interim PC Patch for Batman: Arkham Knight Brothers provided an update on the progress that's being made with the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight.Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:03:04 +0000 Arkham KnightNews <h3>Can't keep a superhero down</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Batman"></p><p> It looks like Batman: Arkham Knight is on track to return to the PC sometime this fall, as was <a href="">promised</a> when Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment <a href="">yanked the game</a> from Steam and store shelves in July.</p><p> In a <a href="" target="_blank">letter posted to fans</a> on Thursday, WB said the first interim patch for Arkham Knight is now being tested. If all goes well, the patch will roll out "in the next few weeks," which puts the game's return in the early to mid September time frame.</p><p> Here are some of the major fixes and improvements included in the new patch:</p><ul> <li>Reduced frame rate hitches</li> <li>Optimized system memory and VRAM usage</li> <li>Improved performance on all GPUs (requires the latest drivers)<br> o Min Spec AMD GPU is once again the Radeon HD 7870 2GB</li></ul><ul> <li>More Robust In-Game Settings, including:<br> o Added the ability to change settings for Max FPS to 30/60/90<br> o Added toggles for Motion Blur, Chromatic Aberration, and Film Grain<br> o Added a “High” Texture Resolution value<br> o Added Texture Filtering option<br> o Added an Adaptive V-Sync option (NVIDIA only)<br> o Added VRAM Usage Meter<br> o Added Mouse Sensitivity Slider &amp; Mouse Smoothing Option</li></ul><ul> <li>Fixed low resolution texture bugs</li> <li>Fixed hitches when running on mechanical hard drives (HDD)</li></ul><p> Those issues are taking priority over other bugs, though WB says that developers are also working to correct an issue that skips the boot up splash screens, along with DLC and Season Pass content, and additional updates such as Photo Mode.</p><p> After a lot of hype leading up to its release, the PC version of Arkham Knight proved buggy and in need of some major TLC. The release was plagued by performance issues, even when running the title on a well-equipped PC.</p><p> WB said it will offer another update on the situation within the next two weeks.</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> Valve’s VR Is the Closest Thing to the HoloDeck We Have just walked out of Valve’s SteamVR demo and can say that it is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment.Fri, 21 Aug 2015 18:08:06 +0000 2015htcNewsReviewsteamvrValvevirtual realityvivevr <br />Update: We go hands-on with the new wireless controller and play Valve’s new Dota 2 VR demo<br />While you might have been able to read my hands-on impressions with Valve/HTC’s Vive VR system back at GDC 2015 in March, it’s really hard to get a sense of how awesome the experience is without trying it yourself. And VR doesn’t exactly present the most accurate impression via a Youtube video either. As a result, HTC decided to take some big-ass trailers to tour the Vive around the world. This past weekend, I got to try the latest version of the Vive when the tour stopped by in San Francisco. The wireless controllers were the biggest addition to the experience (the controllers I initially tried at GDC were wired). To go along with the new controllers, I also got to try out Valve’s new Shopkeeper demo, which takes you inside Dota 2’s secret shop.Besides being wireless, the controllers themselves are pretty much how they were at GDC (which is a good thing). They are both Wii-mote-like sticks that have a circular touchpad on top of them. These touchpads are similar to what Valve uses on its Steam controllers, in case you were wondering. One concern that I had coming into this experience is that I worried the wireless controllers would add latency; latency can really break immersion in VR experiences. While I only got to play around with this updated Vive setup for 10 minutes or so, I didn’t notice any lag or unwanted acceleration. Whatever lag these wireless controllers added is a non-factor, at least for me. These controllers here still&nbsp;provide a 1:1 experience.&nbsp;Another new thing that I noticed about these controllers, and perhaps I missed it the first time around, is a slight sense of haptic feedback. The controllers would jolt ever so slightly when I would reach out and swing at an object. The vibration is very subtle and mimics the slight haptic feedback that&nbsp;Oculus’ Touch controllers offer.&nbsp;Getting into the Dota 2 demo, the scene starts you off in the secret shop. It is worth mentioning, for those that don’t play Dota 2, that you never actually get to explore the inside of the secret shop when you’re playing Dota 2, as the game is a top-down MOBA, so you’re getting a new perspective on the environment here. Dota 2 trailerThe real physical room I was in was roughly a 16x10-foot trailer, but the in-game shop probably measures 20x20 feet. Once the demo begins, the shopkeeper greets you and extends his arm out to hand you a fireball. Once you reach out to touch the fireball, your in-game controller lights up and it looks like you’re wielding a lit-up wand. The shopkeeper then leaves through the front door and you’re left to explore his shop on your own. Inside the room, you’ll notice a bunch of props from the world of Dota. As I am not a huge Dota 2 player, I’m sure a lot of these Easter eggs went over my head. The first thing I noticed was a little green lizard guy to my right. I’m pretty sure it was&nbsp;Osky the Ottragon.&nbsp;He was staring right up at me, and as I waved my wand in his face, he started to get pestered and backed up a little. In front of me was a large table with some scrolls on top of them. One of the scrolls was a large glowing weird-symbol&nbsp;glyph thing and I was told by the HTC rep in the room that there are a total of five glyphs in the shop that I had to track down. So I blasted my wand at this first glyph and it shrinks me down to the size of an ant on the table. Then, all of a sudden, I see what appears to be a giant spider creep up from underneath the table. It heads towards me and gets uncomfortably close before ultimately walking away. I then unshrink myself to try and find the other hidden glyphs throughout the room. In the shop, I can see a bunch of fantasy-like trinkets that include swords, potions, lanterns, and the like. I noticed that there’s a little frog on one side of the room that looks like&nbsp;Skip the Delivery Frog.&nbsp;So I walk closer to the frog and notice that there’s a glyph next to him. So I once again blast my wand at the glyph and shrink down onto the countertop near the frog. Here, Skip now looks like a giant frog and he shoots his long tongue straight at me, which causes me to flinch. It’s kind of a cheap 3D trick, like the ones you see in 3D movies, but it works. I unshrink myself and find another glyph by a book shelf. After blasting my wand there, I shrink on to the book case and notice a big hole behind the books. And very briefly, I see a big eyeball peek into this hole before quickly moving on. After walking through the environment and finding all the hidden glyphs, a cinematic event happens where I hear a giant beast huffing and puffing off in the distance. The roaring thumps get louder and closer, and all of a sudden the giant beast rips a big chunk of the ceiling off and angrily pokes his head in. It is none other than Roshan, Dota 2’s ultimate monster baddie. He sticks his head into the room, looks at me, and begins to scream. It’s super unnerving, but in a super cool way.I think my biggest gripe with the demo is that it wish it featured a more sensitive Chaperon system. The&nbsp;Chaperon system is Valve's way of letting you know when you're getting close to a wall. What happens is that a faint blue holographic wall will appear inside the demo indicating to you that you are getting close to a wall. The Chaperon system in itself is a great idea, but it seems like it only tracks the distance of your headset (aka head) to the nearby walls. I wish it would track your controllers, so that you can stick your arms out in front of you to protect you from running into anything. Either that, or adjust the Chaperon system to show the blue holographic walls earlier. As it is right now, it seems that the virtual walls don't appear until your head gets within two feet&nbsp;or so of the real walls around you, which could be problematic if you're running around/jumping in the room and can't quickly stop on a dime.&nbsp;&nbsp;All in all, however, the Dota 2 demo here provides a fun, new way of looking at the Dota 2 universe and the production values of the demo rival that of Valve’s Portal VR demo. I’m excited to see what else Valve has up its VR sleeve. The original GDC 2015 article (published March 19, 2015) is as follows:<br /> I just walked out of Valve’s SteamVR demo and can say that it is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, &nbsp;including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment.<br /> Built in partnership with HTC, and named the "Vive," the head-mounted display (HMD) here uses two 1080x1200-resolution displays, one for each eye. The display uses a low-persistence, global display solution that turns the display on and off at the same time.<br /> We couldn't take any pictures of our VR experience but here's what the headset looks like.<br /> <br /> One Valve rep tells me the FOV is around 100 degrees, while another tells me its 110, I'm more inclined to believe the former. While I could still see pixels and there is, of course, room for improvement, it’s hardly distracting and is definitely sharp enough for consumer release and, dare I say, slightly sharper or roughly on par with Oculus’s Crescent Bay prototype.<br /> Like the Oculus Rift HMD, the Vive will be a wired experience, and like Crescent Bay, it supports a 90Hz refresh rate. Beyond that however, there are are some key differences that set the two HMDs apart. Instead of relying on a single external camera for head tracking, Valve set up two “lighthouses” on two pillars and placed them on opposite ends of the room I was in (the room measured roughly 25x25 feet). The lighthouses simply need to be powered (they don’t need to be plugged into your PC) and they emit red lasers that assist the Vive in mapping out your room so you can get 360-degree room scale tracking, which allows you to map out your walkable space when you're in VR. The lighthouses also help to identify where Valve’s new VR controllers are.<br /> The controllers are very similar to the Razer Hydra controllers, except will be wireless (the prototype unit we tested used a wired solution, but we hear there are working wireless ones out there in the wild). The controllers have sensors that work in conjunction with the lighthouses to allow the HMD to detect where they are in your virtual reality experience. Assuming you're holding these sticks, this essentially means you can see your hands in the game. The controllers have a circular touchpad on the front that is roughly one inch in diameter, &nbsp;a trigger button on the back that essentially allows you to grab things (a la crab hands), and long buttons on the side of the stick that you can squeeze (think stress ball). The controls were nearly 1:1 and are definitely the best VR controllers out there, even better than Sixense’s similar Stem VR system. There are also a bunch of little cameras on the front of the headset that leverage the position of the lighthouses to provide positional tracking, which not only lets you lean into objects but to walk around as well. One big problem with VR pertains to response time; I tried shaking my head as fast as I could to see if I could experience any judder and am glad to report that I experienced no such lag. It felt completely smooth and natural.<br /> This is more or less how our VR room was set up.<br /> <br /> While the headset that I used didn't have integrated audio, Valve told me that the consumer version will come with an integrated solution that users will be able to detach, in case they want to user their own high-end audio headset.<br /> Now, on to the really fun part: the demos! I tried roughly half a dozen demos during my session with Valve. The first placed me into a white room with a bunch of virtual posters of the demos I was about to experience. What was immediately pretty weird was that I saw the controllers in VR floating my way. It was the Valve rep handing the controllers to me. As soon as I held both controllers in my hand, I immediately felt at home. I quickly came to the realization that the pinpoint precision and accuracy of being able to move my hands on a 1:1 basis was the big piece of the VR puzzle that I had been missing this whole time. I began the demo by using my left hand to press down on the "play" button in front of me. After I did that, I started to see a bunch of little white pillars appearing all around me. These pillars would shift up and down, and there were hundreds of them surrounding me. While it’s a very simple demo, it felt extremely polished and certainly gave me a sense of presence.<br /> The next demo was called Blue and it took me to the bottom of the ocean atop an old sunken ship. The point of this demo is to show off three-dimensional depth. I should mention that I'm nearsighted and wear glasses, and prior to starting this demo was prepared to take them off, but was advised that the HMD “renders to infinity” (I assume this means it renders as far as the human eye can see) and that I could and should leave them on. With my prescription glasses on underneath the HMD, I looked straight up and it seemed like I was half a mile away from the surface. Faintly in the distance above, I could see the sun’s rays piercing the top of the ocean. I really felt submerged (and this is coming from a licensed scuba diver). Another interesting element of this demo is that barriers of my real physical space were taken into account within the game. Essentially, the walkable area on the deck of the ship represented the walkable area of space within the room. Valve says these experiences will dynamically shift depending on one’s real space constraints, though our rep didn’t elaborate on how. Considering that all the VR experiences I’ve tried so far have been designed for the seated experience, I still couldn't help but not trust these markers. Valve says some games will draw boundary lines on the ground or even render virtual walls once you get close to the bounds of the walkable area. Even with these walls in place, however, I just felt safer taking a small step here and there. In this demo, I saw a bunch of fish and manta rays swim around me and it felt extremely polished and immersive. This felt much more real than the Ocean Rift demo on the DK2. But the real kicker came when a giant blue whale swam by the ship and looked at me. I felt like I was on an alien planet, and basically just kept on smiling and nodding my head as if to suggest to myself, “Yep, you guys have done it.”<br /> The next demo took me to a virtual kitchen and presented me with some ingredients on a virtual counter top and placed recipe instructions on a wall. It asked me to pick up tomatoes from the table in front of me and then walk over to the right to place them in a pot. I then had to find a mushroom, but didn’t see it on the table, so I walked over to the fridge on my left and opened it. The missing mushroom was in there, so I picked it up and walked across the kitchen to place it in the pot. From there, I dinged the bell sitting atop a table to signal that dinner was ready. It was a cartoony demo in the style of Surgeon Simulator and the graphics weren’t very intensive, but it just felt like a complete joy. Ringing the bell, picking up the various objects, opening the fridge... it all felt incredibly natural and instinctive. It didn't feel like I was experiencing a demo, but instead accomplishing real work.<br /> The next experience was called Tilt Brush. It leveraged the full range of motion that Valve’s VR controller provided and allowed me to use my hands to paint floating 3D art in the air. The way it works is that your right hand presents options for you to change your brush type and brush color. You can then use your left hand to point and select what sort of brush you want. You’re not relegated to just paint, but can paint with fire, stars, ice particles, and more. So there I was, painting fiery three-dimensional Christmas trees. From here, I could walk around my floating artwork and admire it from all angles. I suggested that Valve should allow users to 3D print their works of art, similar to what Microsoft is doing with its HoloLens and HoloStudio software suite.<br /> I interview CloudHead Games and discuss their upcoming VR game The Gallery: Six Elements<br /> <br /> The next demo I tried was called The Gallery: Six Elements, which is a full-fledged game being designed by Canadian developer CloudHead Games (check out my in-depth interview with the developers in the video above). This demo started me off in an ancient fantasy-style elevator in dark mines, think the Mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings. I could walk around this elevator and pick up Skyrim-like helmets and nuts and bolts. Off in the distance was a giant rock monster, like something you’d see in God of War. The rock monster talked and seemed friendly enough. Me? I was mainly focused on pulling levers, using my hands to swat at dangling cables, and picking up little bolts throughout the room and inspecting them with a childlike wonderment. The rock monster continued rambling on, so I decided to see if I could chuck a bolt at him, and it worked! Throwing objects felt extremely natural. Eventually, the elevator started falling apart, and walls started falling down all around me. The elevator eventually took me to the top, where I could see an expansive fantasy-like vista with a bridge just in front of me. The rock monster asked me to follow him, and that’s where the demo ended. I wanted more of it, and suffice it to say, I'm eagerly awaiting the game's release.<br /> Here's a short video snippet of Valve's Portal VR demo.<br /> <br /> The last demo was a pleasant surprise and was developed by Valve itself. It took me to a laboratory within Aperture Labs where I was greeted with narration provided by the opening narrator from the original Portal. The narrator asked me to perform various tasks in the lab, which included opening drawers along a wall. I encountered a bug, however, where I couldn’t pull out one of the drawers and the demo had to be reset (a downside to showing off pre-release hardware and software, I’m afraid.) Once the demo booted up again, I was able to pull the drawers out. One of the drawers contained a piece of rotted cake (the cake is real and I have seen it!). Another drawer contained a bunch of little cartoon stick figures working inside a tiny office. The narrator said that because I had looked at them, I was now their god. The drawer then closed and the narrator jokingly suggested that the tiny little community inside would be incinerated. It wouldn’t be Portal without a little Valve humor. Eventually the narrator asked me to walk to the other end of the lab and hold down a latch. Doing so opened up a garage-like door and out came Atlas, one of the robots from Portal 2. He came stumbling out and looked really sick. The narrator asked me to pull Atlas's face off, and out popped his robotic guts right in front of me. The narrator then said I needed to fix the robot and quickly jabbered a bunch of nonsensical technical instructions and gave me a quick destruction timer. Eventually, Atlas pulled himself together and the walls started collapsing, revealing more of the underbelly of Aperture Labs. Atlas then falls out of the room and after he falls, none other than a giant Glados comes rolling around. She started spouting off about me as she looked at me, and the demo ended.<br /> Compared to other VR solutions, Valve is at the top of the heap. Its headset is sharp, offers a great sense of depth, has excellent tracking, allows you to walk around, didn't make me motion sick, and comes with an excellent VR controller that works well. In addition, all of the demos looked excellent and polished. Valve says a dev kit should be released by the fall, and the consumer release should be coming at the end of the year. If I do have one concern about the Valve/HTC solution, however, it pertains to price. All of this sounds expensive, but I might just sell my own legs for this if it meant I could get virtual ones. HP Remains Confident in PCs Following Tough Quarter was down for the fourth consecutive quarter for HP, the world's second largest supplier of PCs.Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:26:29 +0000 <h3>Down but not out</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hp"></p><p>Hewlett-Packard, the world's second largest supplier of PCs behind Lenovo, <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> $25.3 billion in revenue for its fiscal 2015 third quarter ended July 21, 2015, down 8 percent from $27.6 billion in the same quarter a year ago. It was the fourth consecutive quarter that HP's seen a decline.</p><p> Only the company's Enterprise Group saw a rise in revenue, which was up 2 percent year-over-year. HP's Personal Systems revenue declined 13 percent, while its printing business saw a 9 percent drop. Similar declines were noted across the board.</p><p> With regards to computer sales, HP boss Meg Whitman remains confident in the category.</p><p> "That business, depending on what happens with Windows 10, we think, is actually going to come back over the long term," <a href="" target="_blank">Whitman told <em>CNBC</em></a>.</p><p> Windows 10 launched to the public on July 29, just one week after HP's fiscal third quarter. Whitman noted "there was definitely a consumer pause waiting for Windows 10" and expects "some difficult quarters ahead," but overall, she's confident the PC business will bounce back.</p><p> This was the last quarter before HP splits its PC and printer business into a separate entity, which will be known as HP Inc. in November. Whitman will be chair of HP Inc. and CEO of HP Enterprise.</p><p> "I'll be a holder of both stocks. And I'm excited about both companies," she told <em>CNBC</em>.</p><p> While Whitman remains optimistic, more layoffs are coming. Citing HP CFO Cathie Lesjak, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Business Insider</em></a> says HP plans to slash an additional 5 percent of its workforce over the already scheduled 55,000 job cuts.</p><p> The additional cuts are intended to offset costs associated with HP hiring new talent following the split.</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 May Launch an 18.4-Inch Android Tablet all that physical screen space, Samsung's forthcoming 18.4-inch tablet will reportedly feature a 1920x1080 resolution.Fri, 21 Aug 2015 15:57:24 +0000 <h3>Does size matter?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung"></p><p> It seems that Samsung is getting ready to gamble on there being a market for giant sized Android tablets. And by giant, we mean a display size of 18.4 inches diagonally, albeit with a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) resolution.</p><p> News of the forthcoming tablet comes from <a href="" target="_blank"><em>SamMobile</em></a>, which says that Samsung is calling it "Tahoe" (codename). If the information is accurate, it will sport a 64-bit octa-core Exynos 7580 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage expandable via microSD, 2-megapixel front camera, 8-megapixel rear camera, and Android 5.1 Lollipop.</p><p> Tahoe will measure 17.8 by 10.8 by 0.46 inches (WxDxH) /&nbsp;451.8 by 276.8 by 11.9 millimeters and have a 5,700 mAh battery. That's similar in size to Dell's XPS 18 Portable All-in-One (18.25 by 11.17 by 0.7 inches), a system I've spent some hands on time with and recommended to my parents.</p><p> What I like about the Dell XPS 18 is that it's technically portable. No, it's not something that most people are likely to tote around like a smartphone, but it could be used to watch Netflix in bed after a long work day or something like that.</p><p> I'm not sure Tahoe will have the same appeal. While you can also use Tahoe to watch Netflix in bed, you can't use it to run Windows applications. I don't know that there's a big demand for a one-trick pony of this size, though that's something the market will ultimate decide.</p><p> What are your thoughts on an 18.4-inch Android tablet? Is that too big, or could you see yourself owning one?</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> Build It - Virtually Prepared: Getting Ready For Oculus Rift to the Wild West of VRFri, 21 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 a pcBuild a PCoculus riftvr <p><em>This article was published in the September 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3></h3><h3>Welcome to the Wild West of VR</h3><p><em>Length of Time: 1-3 Hours | Difficulty: Medium</em></p><h5>The Mission</h5><p>Virtual reality is a hot topic for PCs right now, and everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s a Wild West free-for-all as different hardware and platforms are announced, so putting together a gaming rig that can handle the demands of the upcoming VR setups is a real concern. Oculus VR has recently helped clear the air by publishing the recommended specs for its Rift platform. Depending on your current system, the recommended hardware either looks moderately tame or outlandishly extravagant. The core components consist of the CPU, GPU, and RAM: Core i5-4590, GTX 970 or R9 290, and at least 8GB.</p><p>If you want to minimize on costs, you could easily build a complete Oculus-ready system for around $800, including the OS, but we view these recommendations as more of a minimum rather than a long-term solution. No one likes to be caught unprepared when the inevitable next round of updates shows up, so we set about building a rig that has some room for upgrades down the road. Our baseline rig meets the Oculus recommendations, and when Oculus 2.0 doubles down in a year or two, you’ll be ready. Trusty screwdriver in hand, let’s get busy building.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd"></p><h5>Saddle Up</h5><p>In theory, all you need to get started with building a VR-capable rig is any computer case to house your components, but a poor choice can leave your rig pushing up daisies in short order. If you want to be going strong for several years, you’ll need something more capable. We’ve opted for a larger case that offers plenty of room for expansion; we also chose a slightly faster processor, a motherboard that can support a second GPU, and included an SSD, which ought to be required for any new PC in 2015.</p><p>The case is Antec’s shiny-new P380, an understated yet attractive design with plenty of room that doesn’t make a lot of noise. Our graphics card is the diminutive Asus GTX 970 DirectCU Mini, packing a lot of power into a small package while using much less power than the AMD R9 290. The CPU is Intel’s i7-4790K, cooled by the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, though the i5-4690K could save you $100 without hurting gaming performance. ASRock’s Z97 Extreme6 mobo is good value, and if you want wireless AC integrated into the board, check out its similarly priced Extreme6/ac. Either one makes adding a second GPU simple. Powering the system is the Corsair CX500, a compact but non-modular PSU. We used some generic DDR3-1600 memory, as RAM typically has little impact on real-world performance. Wrapping things up, we went with a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD and a 2TB Hitachi HDD.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Ingredients</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Part<br></td><td></td><td>Price</td></tr><tr><td>Case<br></td><td>Antec P380</td><td style="text-align: right;">$180</td></tr><tr><td>PSU<br></td><td>Corsair CX500</td><td style="text-align: right;">$55</td></tr><tr><td>Mobo<br></td><td>ASRock Extreme6 Z97</td><td style="text-align: right;">$165</td></tr><tr><td>CPU<br></td><td>Intel Core i7-4790K</td><td style="text-align: right;">$340</td></tr><tr><td>Cooler<br></td><td>Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo</td><td style="text-align: right;">$35</td></tr><tr><td>GPU<br></td><td>Asus GTX 970 DirectCU Mini OC</td><td style="text-align: right;">$345</td></tr><tr><td>RAM<br></td><td>2x 4GB DDR3-1600</td><td style="text-align: right;">$50</td></tr><tr><td>SSD<br></td><td>Samsung EVO 850 250GB<br></td><td style="text-align: right;">$100</td></tr><tr><td>HDD<br></td><td>Hitachi Ultrastar A7K2000 2TB</td><td style="text-align: right;">$60</td></tr><tr><td>OS<br></td><td>Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM</td><td style="text-align: right;">$100</td></tr><tr><td>Total<br></td><td></td><td style="text-align: right;">$1,430</td></tr></tbody></table><h5>1. True Grit</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.1"></p><p>As we go to print, Intel has just announced its desktop Broadwell parts, and they should be available by the time you read this. The good news is that the i5-5675C should work fine in the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 mobo we’ve selected; the bad news is that the Iris Pro 6200 graphics and reduced CPU clock speeds aren’t really an upgrade for those using a discrete GPU.</p><p>Further out is Skylake, with leaks showing a Core i5-6600K for the new LGA 1151 platform. It ought to provide improved performance, but it will also require a new motherboard and memory. Bottom line: We have to build with parts that are currently shipping, so we stuck with Haswell. The past several generations of CPUs from Intel haven’t radically altered CPU performance, and Broadwell doesn’t change that, so the Core i7-4790K should keep you happily gaming for years to come.</p><h5>2. Young Guns</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.2"></p><p>If you're new to building PCs, it’s often necessary to mount your cooler prior to installing the motherboard into the case. The P380 has a cutout on the back, so you could do it either way, but larger air coolers like the Hyper 212 Evo can be a bit finicky to install, so it’s best taken care of first.</p><p>We could’ve also skipped the aftermarket cooling altogether, as we’re running stock CPU clocks. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but the larger fan on the EVO makes less noise and will keep the CPU frosty. It’s also not so large that it will interfere with the DIMMs, but the side-facing fan likewise isn’t going to provide a lot of airflow to the RAM or mobo heatsinks.</p><h5>3. Hang 'Em High</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.3"></p><p>The P380 comes with three fans&mdash;two 140mm at the top and one 120mm at the back&mdash;each with a speed selector. All three fans come pre-installed near the top-left of the case, venting hot air. That means Antec is using negative pressure cooling by default, which often has the undesirable side effect of pulling dust in through every crack and seam over time. We didn’t add any intake fans for this build, but there’s room for a couple of 140mm (or three 120mm) fans on the front panel.</p><p>If you want to use liquid cooling, there’s also room at the top and back for radiators. The P380 has an integrated fan power hub on the back, but it’s there purely for providing power. It would have been nice if Antec had included external fan-speed switches, but cooling worked well enough even with all three fans set to low speed.</p><h5>4. Take It Easy</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.4"></p><p>There are two main philosophies when it comes to wiring your case. Some want a pristine-looking wiring job, and others just tuck everything out of the way and call it good. The drawback of cleaning up the wiring too much is that if you then need to add another component, you’re often stuck undoing your earlier work and then tidying up again.</p><p>For frequent upgrades, it’s easier to not spend too much effort on the “hidden” wires&mdash;it’s not like anyone looks at the back of your motherboard. Also notice that the 8-pin EPS12V cable for the CPU has to reach quite far, and the 26-inch cable on the CX500 makes this easy. A PSU with a 22-inch CPU cable likely wouldn’t be able to route behind the motherboard.</p><h5>5. The Lone Ranger</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.5"></p><p>Our single GTX 970 is so small in this cavernous case that it looks a bit lonely. Smaller cases might require that you remove one of the hard-drive cages to fit longer GPUs, but not the P380. If you want to add a second GPU, or even go with a couple of significantly larger GPUs, such as AMD’s R9 295X2, there’s room to spare. The case will also support E-ATX mobos, if you’re looking to install something larger.</p><p>Oculus VR may only recommend a single R9 290 or GTX 970, but the other VR options may end up pushing the envelope further. If you’re looking to add a second GPU in the future, however, we’d recommend stepping up to a 700W–800W modular PSU.</p><h5>6. Fistful of Dollars</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.rd buildit.6"></p><p>Say what you will for other aspects of the case, but the P380 is a real looker. Antec uses 4mm-thick aluminum front and back panels, giving the case a distinctive look, but also jacking up the price. We think the clean front fascia with no external drive bays looks awesome, but what if you still want an optical drive? Antec includes a slim optical drive mount that sits behind the front cover. It’s frankly a bit of a pain to deal with, so if you really want an optical drive you might want to look at a different case.</p><p>It’s possible to swap around the USB and audio ports on the top, allowing them to face right or left (the default is left). You can also remove all the front drive cages and mount a second 240mm radiator, if you’re so inclined, but that limits storage options.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gut"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">1. You can fit up to a 360mm radiator, but sometimes a simple air cooler is all you need.<br>2. The Asus GTX 970 uses a single 8-pin PCIe power cable, helping reduce connectors and clutter.<br>3. The tiny 500W Corsair PSU has long cables, a must for a case this large.<br>4. Eight 3.5/2.5-inch trays allow for ample storage, with two 5.25-inch slots up top (but with no external access).</p><h5>Hi-Yo, Silver!</h5><p>For something as demanding as rendering two stereoscopic images for VR, the recommended specs from Oculus aren’t actually that crazy. In fact, our midrange Blueprints going back as far as October 2014 have all been sufficient, and only the shift to Nvidia’s Maxwell 2.0 architecture rules out older builds. That’s simple enough to fix, of course, as swapping graphics cards is one of the easiest upgrades you’re likely to make. From the perspective of many Maximum PC readers, then, Oculus is already within reach.</p><p>What will be interesting to see is how game developers leverage the available hardware, and that’s always been a sticking point in the console versus PC debate. By defining a relatively high recommended system, Oculus opens the doors for full DX12 support and advanced rendering features. But developers often want to increase the available installation base, so they create lower-quality rendering paths. Considering the Oculus Rift shipping hardware is likely to cost well over $300, however, it’s not too much to expect gamers to have commensurate hardware elsewhere.</p><p>The final Rift hardware is now shaping up, and it will include an Xbox One controller. Oculus has also revealed an Oculus Touch controller, but that will ship after the initial hardware. We have the Oculus Rift DevKit 2 (DK2), and setting it up can be frustrating&mdash;getting the head tracking to work, in particular, was more difficult than it should be. The final hardware now includes a desk-mounted sensor that we’re hoping will be easier, not to mention a single cable to the headset for audio, video, data, and power. The combination should help reduce the space requirements, but for a standing-up experience, you’ll need a decent amount of room.</p><p>While there’s a lot of potential in VR, it’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Developers need hardware in the hands of more consumers to make money creating games. Consumers, however, want compelling software before they buy expensive hardware. And everyone wants the entire experience to be as hasslefree as possible. We’re not there yet, which is why Oculus Rift isn’t expected until Q1 ’16.</p><p>When we consider the competing hardware and platforms, such as SteamVR, HoloLens, Project Morpheus, OSVR, and Gear VR, it becomes far less clear who’ll win this shootout. Oculus kick started&mdash;or Kickstarted&mdash;the current VR craze a few years back, but it isn’t the only game in town. It remains to be seen whether we’ll have multiple complementary platforms or a single winner-take-all solution. As exciting as VR is, no one wants to get stuck owning a virtual Betamax setup.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Benchmarks</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td><br></td><td>Zero-Point</td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)<br></td><td>2,000</td><td>1,141 ( 43%)</td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)<br></td><td>831</td><td>753 (10%)</td></tr><tr><td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)<br></td><td>1,446</td><td>911 ( 37%)</td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)<br></td><td>21.1</td><td>18.4 (-13%)</td></tr><tr><td>Batman: Arkham City (fps)<br></td><td>76)</td><td>64 (-15.8%</td></tr><tr><td>3DMark 11 Extreme</td><td>5,847</td><td>4,616 (-21.1%)</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Our current zero-point consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></p> ASUS's New Gaming Display Goes FreeSync hasrevealed another FreeSync monitor.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:22:59 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ASUS MG278Q"></p><p>AMD gamers shopping for a new monitor should look no further than the ASUS MG278Q that’s slated for a North American release in early September. The panel supports AMD’s FreeSync technology and provides a 144 Hz refresh rate, two features that eliminate annoying screen tearing. Unfortunately, ASUS didn’t provide pricing in its product announcement but typically panels like this one don’t come cheap.</p><p>The specifications show that the upcoming 27-inch monitor will have a 2560 x 1440 resolution at up to 144Hz (DPI.2 and HDMI-1) and a 1920 x 1080 resolution at up to 120Hz (HDMI-2). The panel will also have viewing angles of 170 degrees (H) and 160 degrees (V), a 1ms response time (gray-to-gray), a brightness level of 350 cd/m2,&nbsp;a 100,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and two 2-watt speakers. The panel itself is TN and not IPS, so people who also do graphics work might want to steer away. Gamers only here.</p><p>The new panel also provides gamers with a number of ports including DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI ports, Dual-Link DVI, an earphone jack, two “fast charging” USB 3.0 ports, and a third USB 3.0 port (upstream). The monitor’s cable-management design keeps all the ugly cables gathered neatly behind the display. </p><p>“ASUS MG278Q is specially-designed for marathon gaming sessions. It features ASUS Ultra-Low Blue Light technology reduces blue light emission by up to 70%, and has four different blue light filter settings that are easily accessed through a new onscreen display (OSD) menu. Flicker-Free technology also helps reduce onscreen flicker for a more comfortable gaming experience,” <a href="" target="_blank">the company says</a>.</p><p>The panel comes packed with an overlay that’s activated by an exclusive GamePlus hotkey. This overlay provides a frames per second counter, timer functions, and four separate crosshair options that gamers can cycle through. The timer can be positioned in the bottom left corner and keeps track of how longer the gamer has been playing.</p><p>In addition to the overlay, the upcoming panel will also come with six preset display modes: Scenery, Racing, Cinema, RTS/RPG, FPS, and sRGB. Accessible through the OSD settings menu or the hotkey, this feature essentially allows the gamer to pick pre-generated settings for a specific type of game so they’re not having to manually adjust individual settings.</p><p>Obviously the big news here is that AMD scored another FreeSync win with ASUS. This technology allows the panel to refresh the screen in sync&nbsp;with the frame output of an AMD APU or GPU. This prevents screen tearing, ghosting and stuttering and provides a more immersive experience. Obviously this is essential in shooters and racing games that feature a lot of fast action.</p><p>Again, the panel will be available to purchase in September. The exact date and price is unknown at this point, as is the actual ship date. That said, keep checking back with ASUS if this panel is the right solution for your PC gaming setup. However, as a point of reference, <a href="" target="_blank">the ASUS MG279Q</a>, which is another FreeSync gaming monitor from ASUS, costs around $579.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: DDR4 RAM FTW Edition! items are reserved for the one-percenters. They're the ballers, the shot callers, and for them, it's all about excess. But even those who can afford to spend an obscene sum on a PC can appreciate saving a bit of coin, as they would with today's top deal.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:42:26 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Corsair Dominator"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Some items are reserved for the one-percenters. They're the ballers, the shot callers, and for them, it's all about excess. But even those who can afford to spend an obscene sum on a PC can appreciate saving a bit of coin, as they would with today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820233692-_-0820&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">128GB kit of Corsair Dominator DDR4-2666 Memory</a> for <strong>$1,665</strong> with free shipping (normally $1,850 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNA23</strong>]). We apologize if you just spit coffee all over you monitor, and you should probably apologize to any coworkers who were within earshot when you blurted out an obscenity just a few moments ago. But hey, if you need 128GB of RAM, this kit will deliver it with timings set at 15-17-17-35. And for everyone else, here's a look at some more pedestrian memory deals.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820104528-_-0820&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HyperX 16GB (4x4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 3000 (PC4-24000) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$189</strong> with free shipping (normally $210 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNA23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820233692-_-0820&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB (4x4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 2666 (PC4-21300) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$243</strong> with free shipping (normally $270 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNA23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820313497-_-0820&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Team Elite 4GB 288-Pin DDR4 2133 (PC4-17000) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$27</strong> with free shipping (normally $30 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNA23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820148982-_-0820&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 4GB 288-Pin DDR4 2400 (PC4-19200) Memory</a> for <strong>$32</strong> with free shipping (normally $35 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWNA23</strong>])</p><p><strong></strong></p> GeForce Experience Getting Co-Op Feature new set of tools will be added to GeForce Experience next month.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:26:45 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GeForce Experience 1.8 Brings Adjustable Optimal Settings, ShadowPlay Updates"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Nvidia reports</a> that an upcoming version of its GeForce Experience tool will feature <a href="" target="_blank">the Share early access beta</a>, which will provide new tools including an in-game overlay and GameStream Co-op with built-in voice chat support. Access to the beta will be provided sometime in September along with the system requirements.</p><p>The big news here is GameStream Co-op, which allows a Nvidia customer to stream games to friends. These friends can either sit back and watch the show, play alongside the “streamer” in games that support multiple controllers, or take control of the game using mirrored controls if the streamer is having a difficult time. The friend doesn’t even have to own the game to play or observe.</p><p>“GameStream Co-Op uses the Internet, the performance of GeForce GTX PCs, and the low-latency, low-overhead streaming components of GeForce GTX Kepler and Maxwell GPUs to solve the problem, enabling you to invite friends into your game over the Internet,” Nvidia states.</p><p>The other big news is the upcoming in-game overlay, which users will be able to access by typing in ALT+Z. This brings up the Share menu, which includes Instant Replay, Record, Stream, and Broadcast functions. The overlay also includes icons for turning on/off the webcam and/or microphone.</p><p>In addition to those features, the overlay also provides a Gallery icon for accessing video clips. Users can upload these clips to YouTube without having to exit the game, which can also be edited before uploading.</p><p>“In-game, or on the Windows desktop, you can customize each feature with ease, setting recording lengths, recording resolutions, recording frame rates, and streaming quality,” Nvidia adds. </p><p>According to Nvidia, the Instant Replay feature allows the gamer to record five to twenty minutes of gameplay at up to 3840 x 2160 and up to 60 frames per second. Users can also broadcast their gameplay straight to Twitch by hitting the “Broadcast” button on the overlay. Users can even incorporate their camera and microphone into the stream.</p><p>Launched several years ago, Nvidia’s <a href="" target="_blank">GeForce Experience</a> allows the PC gamer to optimize installed games with a simple click of a button. Nvidia’s tool also alerts the user when a new set of drivers is available, and allows them to&nbsp;stream games to the company’s line of Shield devices. There’s also ShadowPlay for recording and sharing gameplay clips.</p> Windows 10 Preview Build 10525 Breaks 64-Bit Chrome Browser's working on a fix for an issue that causes Chrome (64-bit) to crash in the newest preview build of Windows 10.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:21:56 +0000 10 <h3>Google to the rescue</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Chrome Cracked"></p><p> Google is working on a fix for an issue that prevents the 64-bit version of its Chrome browser from running correctly in the newest <a href="">Windows 10 Preview Build (10525)</a>. In the absence of a fix, Chrome users are complaining of various annoyances, such as webpages not loading at all and tabs crashing.</p><p> The issue doesn't seem to affect the 32-bit version of Chrome, just the 64-bit build.</p><p> "We have the problem confirmed and someone is working on it, so additional 'me to' comments are a distraction at this point," a <a href="" target="_blank">Chrome developer said</a>. "Please just star the issue if you want to convey that you are affected, and if we have any questions or need additional feedback we'll post a comment.</p><p> Also, please remember that this kind of temporary breakage is expected for users on the Windows 10 fast ring. So, we definitely appreciate your assistance in tracking down these problems, but if you're not comfortable dealing with disruptions and workarounds, then the fast ring might not be for you."</p><p> Build 10525 is the first preview version of Windows 10 since Microsoft launched the OS to the public in late July. Microsoft switched to a Windows-as-a-Service (WaaS) model with Windows 10, which means there will be more frequent feature and security upgrades on an ongoing basis rather than monolithic upgrades every couple of years.</p><p> While more Preview Builds are imminent, Microsoft said it's "evaluating the Windows Insider rings, and considering whether we should make changes there." Its decision will be based in part on the feedback of Windows Insiders.</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 to Launch Surface Pro 4 and Band 2 in October hardware is coming from Microsoft in just a couple of months.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:36:41 +0000 <h3>Upgrades in sight</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro 3"></p><p> Remember that <a href="">Surface Pro 3 sale</a> a couple of days ago, the one in which Microsoft marked down the Core i5/128GB model to $799 (compared to its $999 MSRP)? It was a one-day thing, though expect more sales and maybe even an permanent price cut as the Surface Pro 4 comes into view.</p><p> Apparently Microsoft is planning a big hardware event in October. It was first reported by Chinese-language website <em><a href="" target="_blank">WPDang</a></em>, with <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Verge</a></em> following up and confirming details with multiple "sources familiar with Microsoft's plans."</p><p> According to the reports, Microsoft will use the event to announce not only the Surface Pro 4 line, but also a pair of new Lumia smartphones and a second generation Band wearable (Microsoft Band 2).</p><p> Having just released Windows 10 last month, it makes sense that a new Surface would follow. However, it's unlikely we'll see major changes. The form factor will probably stay the same, though it will be interesting to see if Microsoft opts for a bigger size display -- the Surface Pro 3 sports a 12-inch touchscreen panel with a 2160x1440 resolution.</p><p> It's wishful thinking, but we'd like to see a Type Cover or some kind of keyboard included with Surface. As it stands, a Type Cover adds an additional $129 to the cost of a Surface Pro 3.</p><p> What would you like to see from a new Surface release (or any other product on tap from Microsoft)?</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 GTX 950 Review newcomer aims to take over the $150-$160 GPU crown.Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:00:00 +0000 950maxwellnvidiaReviews <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">At a Glance</h5> <p> <strong style="background-color: initial;">(+) Maxwell:</strong> Affordable; 1080p gaming ready; energy efficient; quiet. </p> <p> <strong style="background-color: initial;">(-) Farewell:</strong> Still needs 6-pin power; not much cheaper than GTX 960. </p> </div><h3><strong>Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 950: Maxwell 2.0 on the Cheap</strong></h3><p> If there’s one thing we love more than fast GPUs, it’s affordable and fast GPUs. The best-selling graphics cards of all time have generally come from the $150–$200 sweet spot, and for those users looking to balance price and performance, skipping a couple of generations between upgrades is generally the way to go. You’ll miss out on some features and performance, but even moderate hardware from a few years back can still run most games at 1080p with settings that look decent. Nvidia is attempting to go after these infrequent, mainstream upgraders with its latest Maxwell 2.0 graphics card, the GTX 950.</p><p> With graphics cards having stalled at 28nm for so long, we’re now into our third-generation 28nm parts. Nvidia has worked around the problem by focusing on efficiency, spearheaded by its Maxwell architecture. Its first Maxwell GPU was the GTX 750 Ti, which offered extremely impressive performance in a 60W part. From there, we jumped to the Maxwell 2.0 parts, but these have so far targeted enthusiasts, with the least expensive part being the <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440037218&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=gtx+960&amp;tag=dosk-20">$200 GTX 960</a> (which you can now find starting at $185). The 960 is a great card for 1080p gaming, but what if you’re willing to settle for lower performance if it means saving some cash? Enter the GTX 950.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="5"> <strong>Nvidia Mainstream GPUs</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Card</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 960</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 950</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 750 Ti</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 650</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> GM206 </td> <td> GM206 </td> <td> GM107 </td> <td> GK107 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Lithography</strong> </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> <td> 28nm </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Transistor Count (Billions)</strong> </td> <td> 2.9 </td> <td> 2.9 </td> <td> 1.9 </td> <td> 1.3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SMM/SMX</strong> </td> <td> 8 </td> <td> 6 </td> <td> 5 </td> <td> 2 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Shaders</strong> </td> <td> 1024</td> <td> 768 </td> <td> 640 </td> <td> 384 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Texture Units</strong> </td> <td> 64 </td> <td> 48 </td> <td> 40 </td> <td> 32 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>ROPs</strong> </td> <td> 32 </td> <td> 32 </td> <td> 16 </td> <td> 16 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Core Clock (MHz)</strong> </td> <td> 1,127 </td> <td> 1,024 </td> <td> 1,020 </td> <td> 1,058 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Capacity</strong> </td> <td> 4GB/2GB </td> <td> 2GB </td> <td> 2GB/1GB </td> <td> 2GB/1GB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Clock (GT/s)</strong> </td> <td> 7,010 </td> <td> 6,600 </td> <td> 5,400 </td> <td> 5,000 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Bus Width (bits)</strong> </td> <td> 128 </td> <td> 128 </td> <td> 128 </td> <td> 128 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)</strong> </td> <td> 112 </td> <td> 106 </td> <td> 86.4 </td> <td> 80 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>TDP (Watts)</strong> </td> <td> 120 </td> <td> 90 </td> <td> 60 </td> <td> 64 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Launch Price</strong> </td> <td> $199 </td> <td> $159 </td> <td> $149 </td> <td> $110 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Current Price</strong> </td> <td> <u><a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044212&amp;sr=1-41&amp;keywords=GTX+960">$185</a></u> </td> <td> <u><a target="_blank" href=";rh=n%3A172282%2Cn%3A541966%2Cn%3A284822%2Ck%3AGTX+950&amp;keywords=GTX+950&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044335&amp;rnid=493964">$159</a></u> </td> <td> <u><a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440037810&amp;sr=1-38&amp;keywords=GTX+750+Ti">$119</a></u> </td> <td> <u><a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044309&amp;sr=1-27&amp;keywords=GTX+650">$85</a></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> The $150 price point has been ruled by the <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440037810&amp;sr=1-38&amp;keywords=GTX+750+Ti">GTX 750 Ti</a> since its launch, but even though it’s around 75 percent faster than GTX 650, plenty of people held off upgrading. According to the <a target="_blank" href="">July 2015 Steam hardware survey</a>, the GTX 650 is still the fifth most popular dedicated GPU, just ahead of the GTX 750 Ti. The most popular discrete GPU right now is the GTX 970, but with <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440043766&amp;sr=1-85&amp;keywords=GTX+970">prices starting at $310</a>, it remains out of reach for many.</p><h5>Performance Showdown</h5><p> Now GTX 950 takes over the $150 market, and unlike the first-generation 750 Ti, it has all the Maxwell 2.0 features like MFAA, VXGI, and third-generation delta color compression. Note that the GTX 950 does require a 6-pin PEG connector, thanks to its 90W TDP, though that should also give it plenty of overclocking headroom. Compared to the older GTX 650, we’re seeing twice the number of cores, more memory, and more bandwidth. Here’s our test system:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 GPU Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044391&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Core+i7-5930K">Intel Core i7-5930K (4.2GHz Overclock)</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044420&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Gigabyte+GA-X99-UD4">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD4</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPUs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044212&amp;sr=1-41&amp;keywords=GTX+960">EVGA GeForce GTX 960 2GB ACX2.0</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";rh=n%3A172282%2Cn%3A541966%2Cn%3A284822%2Ck%3AGTX+950&amp;keywords=GTX+950&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044335&amp;rnid=493964">EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2GB ACX2.0 </a><br><a target="_blank" href=";rh=n%3A172282%2Cn%3A541966%2Cn%3A284822%2Ck%3AGTX+950&amp;keywords=GTX+950&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044335&amp;rnid=493964">Asus GTX 950 Strix 2GB (for SLI)</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440044309&amp;sr=1-27&amp;keywords=GTX+650">MSI GTX 650 1GB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044436&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Samsung+850+Evo+250GB">2x Samsung 850 EVO 250GB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>HDD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044452&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Seagate+Barracuda+3TB+7200RPM">Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7,200RPM</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044466&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=EVGA+SuperNOVA+1300+G2">EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=G.Skill+Ripjaws+16GB+DDR4-2666">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB DDR4-2666</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044501&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+Nepton+280L">Cooler Master Nepton 280L</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044514&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+CM+Storm+Trooper">Cooler Master CM Storm Trooper</a> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> So, what can you expect from the GTX 950? Nvidia is claiming up to 3X the performance of GTX 650, with 2X the performance per watt. We ran our own tests, and while we don’t expect many would consider pairing the GTX 950&mdash;even in SLI form&mdash;with an i7-5930K, we’ve done just that in order to keep our test system consistent. Here’s how things shake down, with the GTX 960, 950, and 650. (No GTX 750 Ti was on hand, but we’re still looking and will update the charts if we can scrounge one up.) We tested at 1080p, with High as well as our Ultra settings that we’ve used in recent high-end GPU reviews.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="4"> <strong>Average Frame Rates - 1920x1080 High Quality</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Game</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 960</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 950</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 650</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Batman: Arkham Origins</strong> </td> <td> <strong>129.1</strong> </td> <td> 108.4 </td> <td> 44.5 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Grand Theft Auto V</strong> </td> <td> <strong>106.4</strong> </td> <td> 92.1 </td> <td> 32.8 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Hitman: Absolution</strong> </td> <td> <strong>82.5</strong> </td> <td> 74.3 </td> <td> 29 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Metro: Last Light</strong> </td> <td> <strong>69.4</strong> </td> <td> 59.1 </td> <td> 20.9 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor</strong> </td> <td> <strong>68.9</strong> </td> <td> 60.1 </td> <td> 23 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Tomb Raider</strong> </td> <td> <strong>121.4</strong> </td> <td> 105.7 </td> <td> 42.1 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>The Witcher 3</strong> </td> <td> <strong>46.5</strong> </td> <td> 39 </td> <td> 11.3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Seven Game Average</strong> </td> <td> <strong>89.2</strong> </td> <td> 77 </td> <td> 29.1 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="4"> <strong>97 Percentile Average Frame Rates - 1920x1080 High Quality</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Game</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 960</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 950</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 650</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Batman: Arkham Origins</strong> </td> <td> <strong>88.6</strong> </td> <td> 79.8 </td> <td> 30.1 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Grand Theft Auto V</strong> </td> <td> <strong>76.9</strong> </td> <td> 71.4 </td> <td> 24.4 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Hitman: Absolution</strong> </td> <td> <strong>66</strong> </td> <td> 59.2 </td> <td> 24.4 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Metro: Last Light</strong> </td> <td> <strong>46.2</strong> </td> <td> 39.8 </td> <td> 13.2 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor</strong> </td> <td> <strong>49.1</strong> </td> <td> 47 </td> <td> 16.4 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Tomb Raider</strong> </td> <td> <strong>121.4</strong> </td> <td> 87.4 </td> <td> 34.9 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>The Witcher 3</strong> </td> <td> <strong>38.7</strong> </td> <td> 29.5 </td> <td> 9.6 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Seven Game Average</strong> </td> <td> <strong>69.6</strong> </td> <td> 59.2 </td> <td> 21.9 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> We’ve come a long way since the GTX 650 launched in September 2012, to the point where it’s unable to handle running most games at 1080p with high quality settings&mdash;medium should be playable, but certain titles really struggle. The GTX 950, meanwhile, comes pretty close to delivering on Nvidia’s 3X the performance target: we measured a 140–245 percent performance improvement over GTX 650, with a 170 percent average improvement. Nice! And just to drive the point home, here’s what happens if you try to run ultra quality, with 4xMSAA in several of the titles.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="4"> <strong>Average Frame Rates - 1920x1080 Ultra Quality</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Game</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 960</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 950</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 650</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Batman: Arkham Origins</strong> </td> <td> <strong>76</strong> </td> <td> 74.9 </td> <td> 32.4 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Grand Theft Auto V</strong> </td> <td> <strong>40</strong> </td> <td> 33.6 </td> <td> 10.1 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Hitman: Absolution</strong> </td> <td> <strong>40.3</strong> </td> <td> 36.3 </td> <td> 15.9 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Metro: Last Light</strong> </td> <td> <strong>57.9</strong> </td> <td> 49 </td> <td> 16.6 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor</strong> </td> <td> <strong>40.4</strong> </td> <td> 39.3 </td> <td> 14.9 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Tomb Raider</strong> </td> <td> <strong>63</strong> </td> <td> 52.4 </td> <td> 17.3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>The Witcher 3</strong> </td> <td> <strong>32.7</strong> </td> <td> 26.1 </td> <td> 5.6 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Seven Game Average</strong> </td> <td> <strong>50.0</strong> </td> <td> 44.5 </td> <td> 16.1 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="4"> <strong>97 Percentile Average Frame Rates - 1920x1080 Ultra Quality</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Game</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 960</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 950</strong> </td> <td> <strong>GTX 650</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Batman: Arkham Origins</strong> </td> <td> <strong>59.1</strong> </td> <td> 55 </td> <td> 23.7 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Grand Theft Auto V</strong> </td> <td> <strong>29.4</strong> </td> <td> 25 </td> <td> 7.6 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Hitman: Absolution</strong> </td> <td> <strong>30.8</strong> </td> <td> 27.2 </td> <td> 13.2 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Metro: Last Light</strong> </td> <td> <strong>39.6</strong> </td> <td> 32.5 </td> <td> 10.8 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor</strong> </td> <td> <strong>28.6</strong> </td> <td> 27.2 </td> <td> 10.3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Tomb Raider</strong> </td> <td> <strong>47</strong> </td> <td> 38.4 </td> <td> 13.1 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>The Witcher 3</strong> </td> <td> <strong>25.7</strong> </td> <td> 20.6 </td> <td> 4.5 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Seven Game Average</strong> </td> <td> <strong>36.0</strong> </td> <td> 32.3 </td> <td> 11.9 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> The improvements over GTX 650 are even higher this time, averaging nearly a 200 percent improvement. Or put another way, the GTX 650 only breaks 30fps in one of the seven games we tested, while the GTX 950 only fails to break 30fps in one of the seven titles. Our 97 percentile frame rates back this up as well, with a few memory requirements proving to be far too great for a 1GB graphics card.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Low Latency MOBA Optimizations" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p> <strong>Friends with Benefits</strong></p><p> Nvidia has also been working on GeForce Experience, and one of the new features is low-latency optimizations for MOBA games like <em>LoL</em>, <em>Dota 2</em>, and <em>Heroes of the Storm</em>. For competitive gamers looking for every possible advantage, Nvidia used a high-speed camera to show that its low-latency optimizations were able to reduce the latency from 80ms on a GTX 650 to 45ms on a GTX 950&mdash;even with the GTX 950 running higher-quality settings. The tweaks could be done without GFE, but it’s becoming a one-stop center for tweaking graphics settings on Nvidia hardware.</p><p> Another feature Nvidia demoed&mdash;but something that we won’t be seeing until the September time frame&mdash;is called GameStream. Using some of the same technology that goes into ShadowPlay and Twitch streaming, Nvidia has created a new feature that could just about sound the death knell for discrete graphics cards in laptops. GameStream will allow you to remotely connect to another person’s PC (including your own desktop) to watch another person play. No big deal so far; it’s just something like a private video stream from a friend.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GameStream Invite"></p><p> Kicking it up a notch, however, GameStream will allow you to grant the remote viewer control of the game, so for example, if you were stuck, they could show you how to advance further in the game. (Nvidia used <em>Trine 3</em> as a demo of GameStream.) The remote controls were very low latency, and while there was a loss in quality due to the 720p video stream, it was still acceptable. But that wasn’t the end of the demo. As a final coup de grace, GameStream also allowed co-op play with the remote player. This is the point where we broke the demo by trapping the other player behind a grate&mdash;sorry, Nvidia!</p><p> GameStream isn’t quite ready for public release, but assuming it works with any and all full-screen games, which is what Nvidia seemed to indicate would happen, this could be a killer app. All you need is a Chrome browser plugin on the receiving end and a GTX GPU on the source system, and you should be able to play games on any relatively modern Windows system. Got an Ultrabook with a weak HD 4000 GPU? No problem! Think of it like the streaming for SHIELD devices, except now SHIELD isn’t required. We’re definitely excited to test out GameStream more and see how it works with a variety of systems, as well as what sort of Internet connection will be required.</p><p> Getting back to features and reasons to upgrade, Maxwell 2.0 has some useful additions, probably the most beneficial being MFAA&mdash;Multi-Frame Anti-Aliasing. Using some special sauce, MFAA is able to provide 4xMSAA quality with the performance hit of 2xMSAA. Depending on the game, the benefit is a 10–30 percent increase in frame rates. The catch is that MFAA is still more demanding than no AA at all, and with hardware like the GTX 950, there are going to be cases where you’ll want to disable all AA in order to improve performance.</p><p> <strong>End of Line</strong></p><p> Interestingly, the arrival of GTX 950 does not mark the end of the GTX 750 Ti, thanks to the higher TDP. With online prices now <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1440037810&amp;sr=1-38&amp;keywords=GTX+750+Ti">hovering around $120</a>, the 750 Ti remains as Nvidia’s fastest sub-75W GPU for those that don’t have a 6-pin PEG connection or a PSU capable of handling higher-performance devices. The GTX 950 also looks to be slightly faster than AMD’s competing offering, the similarly priced R9 370, and it has a 20W lower TDP, but we’ll have to wait to run some additional tests.</p><p> If there’s one problem with the GTX 950, it’s the target launch price of $159 and the close proximity to faster GPUs. In theory, the GTX 960 is a $199 part, but while plenty of 960 cards fall into the $200-and-up range, there are also 960 cards priced as low as $185. We have both Asus and EVGA GTX 950 cards that come factory overclocked, and pricing is likely to be $10–$20 higher than the base model GTX 950 cards&hellip; which puts them within $5 of the least-expensive GTX 960. The GTX 960 tends to be around 15 percent faster than GTX 950, and given that most GM206 GPUs are capable of a decent amount of overclocking, most of that margin should remain. Which means you’ll have to decide between paying a bit more for bigger gains in performance, or you can save your pennies.</p><p> Either way, until we finally start seeing 16nm FinFET GPUs next year, GTX 950 is likely to hold the $150 gaming crown. And if you’re still hanging onto a GTX 650, we feel for you; give yourself a treat and upgrade to a faster card as soon as you can. As a final thought, the GTX 950 is basically greater than or&nbsp;equal to the PlayStation 4 GPU in terms of graphics performance. So if you have any moderate PC and you’re debating between buying a console and a “gaming PC,” just grab a GTX 950. You can thank us later.</p><p><em>Follow Jarred on </em><a href=""><em>Twitter</em></a>.</p> How To: Set Up And Use A Plex Server up a streaming solution for your old moviesThu, 20 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <h3>Set up a streaming solution for your old movies</h3><p>So, you've watched all the good movies on Netflix. You know that there's a big box of DVDs buried somewhere in your closet, but it would be too much trouble to rummage through all of your junk for just one movie night. The good news is, if you can manage to unearth that box, you can digitize your entire collection. No longer will you need to shuffle boxes and scrounge around for that movie you swear you bought a while back. All you need is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Plex</a>, a capable computer, and some free time. After that, your DVDs can go back where they belong&mdash;the bottom of your closet.</p><h5>The Service</h5><p>Plex allows you to store, organize, and access your entire movie catalog from anywhere. It even supports music and photos. It's free if you only want to use it on PCs in your home network. To take full advantage of Plex, you will need to upgrade to Plex Pass. <del>With that upgrade, you will get the ability to access your library from anywhere</del>, download and watch your movies offline on phones and tablets, get access to free apps on PS4, Xbox One, Android, Roku, Windows 8.1, and Windows phone, and have increased control over account management. The only app that you will have to pay for is the iOS app, which is currently $4.99. If you do decide to upgrade to Plex Pass, there are three payment options: $4.99 a month, $39.99 a year, or a one-time payment of $149.99 for a lifetime subscription. So, those are the free and paid versions. Let's take a look at how to use it.</p><p><em>[No, you do not need a Plex Pass to watch your media from anywhere. But you do need it if you want to sync your media from device to device.--Ed]</em></p><h5>The Server</h5><p>Plex functions by dedicating one device as a Plex media server. This server can be either a PC or a NAS. If you decide to go with a NAS, you will need to make sure that it has a decent CPU. While streaming a movie to another device, your server will&nbsp;need to transcode the media. In order for it to do that at a reasonable pace, it will need a decent CPU; Plex recommends a 2.4GHz&nbsp;Intel Core 2 Duo processor&nbsp;or better. We recommend going with a PC for your server. Any decent gaming PC with an i3 or up should serve nicely. Unless you have a beefy processor in your NAS, we would recommend relegating it to storage duties.</p><p>Speaking of storage, depending on the size of your physical library, you will want to allocate a large amount of space for your movies. Blu-rays generally take about 8GB of space while DVDs take about 2GB. Those numbers can add up quickly, so it's best to guess high when purchasing storage.</p><p>To get your server ready, you will first want to create your folder structures. Having your media well organized from the beginning will save you time and trouble in the future. Designate one folder for your Plex library (for example, ours is called Plex Movies), and another for your ripped media (Movies). Within the folder for your ripped movies, you will want to create separate folders for each movie. Later on, when you start creating .mkv files, they will not have usable titles. This will cause problems when you attempt to encode that file later. Placing your .mkv files in designated folders makes finding them later on much easier.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex2"></p><p>Once you have created your folders, you will want to go ahead and <a href="" target="_blank">download Plex</a> media server. You’ll be able to choose between Computer or NAS. Plex is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and FreeBSD. Choose your OS and run the installation. Once your installation is complete, it’s time to configure.</p><h5>Setting up Plex</h5><p>Now that you've got the media server installed on a suitable device, you'll need to <a href="" target="_blank">create an account</a>. As we mentioned earlier, you have the option between a free or paid account.</p><p>When you've set up your account, <a href="" target="_blank">sign in on the Plex homepage</a><a href=""></a>, and click the Launch button. You should be prompted to create a library during the new user welcome. Select what type of media this library will be used for and give it a name. We just went with “Movies.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex3"></p><p>Next, you will need to point your new library to the folder where you will be storing your movies. For us, it was the “Plex Movies” folder.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex4"></p><p>Click “Add Library” and your new library will be created. You can now start adding movies to your new library.</p><h5>Ripping Movies</h5><p>Now it's time to start ripping your movies. To do this, you're going to want to use two applications: <a href="" target="_blank">MakeMKV</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Handbrake</a>. There is good reason to use two separate applications for this process. MakeMKV is the fastest and most efficient movie-ripping software we have found. The only downside to it is that most of the Plex apps don’t support .mkv files. The one file type that is supported across all apps is .mp4, and this is where Handbrake comes in. It encodes the .mkv files into .mp4 files, so that you’ll be able to view the media across all of the Plex apps. This is the easiest method we’ve found for adding movies to your Plex library.</p><h5>MakeMKV</h5><p>Install and open MakeMKV. When you insert a movie you want to rip, it will automatically detect it in your optical drive. Click on the large picture of the drive.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex5"></p><p>MakeMKV will prompt you with a 30-day warning before you’ll need to pay for the software&mdash;a one-time payment of $50. If you plan on using Plex a lot, it's worth it.</p><p>Dismiss the window and MakeMKV will open the disc and provide you with a list of its contents. At this point, you will be able to open the file structures and select the content you want. The movie itself is always the largest file. The rest of the content is usually the special features.</p><p>Once you've made your selections, be sure to specify where you want to create the .mkv file. You can click the folder button next to the “Make MKV” button to specify which folder you want to use. If you followed our folder-creation advice, choose the movie-specific folder within the main folder you created for ripped movies.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex6"></p><p>Once you've done that, click the “Make MKV” button and wait. Blu-rays take noticeably longer to rip than DVDs. Ultimately, the speed will depend on how powerful your machine is.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex7"></p><p>Once the .mkv file has been created, you can move over to Handbrake.</p><h5>Handbrake</h5><p>Install and open Handbrake. Click the Source button and select the File option. Drill down and choose the new .mkv file you just created.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex8"></p><p>Now, under Destination, select Browse. You'll want to point it to the same folder that your Plex library is pointed to. Before you hit Start, be sure to select the “High Profile” option under the presets to the right. This should give you the best quality.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex9"></p><p>Click Start and wait for Handbrake to do its magic. If you haven't noticed yet, you'll be doing a quite a bit of waiting during this process. Go make yourself a sandwich. After Handbrake has finished, you can move back over to Plex in your web browser and hit the Sync button on the homepage. It will detect the new file, automatically pull metadata for it, and you’ll be ready to go.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plex10"></p><h5>Rip, Encode, Repeat</h5><p>Now that you know the process, it's just a matter of repeating it until you've got all the movies you want into your Plex library. Once that's done, you'll be able to connect Plex across multiple devices and apps. Each time you set up the app on a new device, you'll be required to register the device with your account by inputting a code provided by the app at a designated web address. It takes all of about five seconds. Once that's done, you can sit back and start watching all those movies you bought and forgot about. Happy streaming!</p> Open Source: Why No Linux Boxes? wasn't mentally prepared for E3... not as a journalist, and not as a Linux userThu, 20 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 <p> <em>This article was published in the September 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3>I wasn't mentally prepared for E3&mdash;not as a journalist, and not as a Linux user</h3><h3></h3><p>When the doors admitting the unwashed masses to E3 opened at noon, the floor was filled with the multitudinous denizens of the video game industry. About half of the tech journalists filled the floor, while the other half crowded the media lounge for a chance to sink their teeth into the provided box lunches.</p><p> This was a good move on E3’s part; it could’ve been a bloodbath had they turned on one another instead.</p><p> I immediately noticed the unstoppable force that is the console market. The Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation booths were unrivaled in the LA Convention Center. The big three consoles call the shots at E3, and they make it blaringly obvious. It felt dirty. It made me want to cower naked in a cold shower, sobbing uncontrollably while rubbing videocards on my body. Seeking the comfort of a keyboard, I set out to find a Linux machine at E3. In three days of searching, I saw exactly zero.</p><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC115.qs alexcolumn.nintendo"></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <em><strong>Nintendo’s white and pastel-lit booth was the least garish of the consoles.</strong></em></p><p> Did I see PCs? Sure. Oculus had PCs running Rift demos, and there were even PCs set up at the Bethesda booth. My hopes were renewed when I discovered Alienware had brought a Steam Machine, but it was tucked away in a meeting room.</p><p> At E3, you’d think there would be more Steam Machines on display&mdash;they’re supposed to be such a big deal this fall. Yeah, not so much. That’s a problem I see with Linux: It’s not visible, and is thus disregarded by developers. Steam even states that Linux is Valve’s preferred OS, but you’d never know it given the disparity between the major titles available for Windows versus Linux. Every store I go into has laptops with Windows 8. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a laptop in BestBuy preloaded with Ubuntu.</p><p> But these makers exist. Firms such as Zareason and System 76 have been building Linux machines for years. Purism’s Librem 13 looks as handsome as my Yoga 2 Pro, but without the compatibility issues. Hell, even Dell released a “Developer Edition” of the XPS 13 that’s sporting Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.</p><p> These products, despite providing a chance to avoid the Windows tax, remain hidden from most consumers. Dell’s Ubuntu version of the XPS 13, for example, isn’t on the model’s main landing page, but on a page for businesses. And, as good as the machines might be, System 76 and Purism aren’t household names like Lenovo or Toshiba.</p><p> Most consumers don’t want to have to wipe a drive and start from scratch. They want to turn on a machine and have it work right away. After all, that’s what consoles do. (Oh, God, I need another shower.) Desktop Linux needs hardware partners. It needs companies like Dell to advertise its Linux options alongside its Windows options. It needs to stop being treated like a second-class citizen, only being allowed to enter through the back and eat with other open-source kernels.</p><p> After all, choice is good for the consumer. When users are shown they can have freedom, and avoid the $100 Windows surcharge, many (but by no means all) will choose freedom.</p><p> That’s why I was a little upset not to see any Steam Machines at E3. Or maybe it’s because when I said, “I write about Linux,” to a young woman at a Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 promo booth, she looked at me like I was explaining orbital mechanics. I don’t blame her, I blame the hardware market. At least I got some free T-shirts.</p><hr> <p><em> Alex Campbell is a Linux geek who enjoys learning about computer security.</em></p> SanDisk Offers to Soothe Your SSD Upgrade Fears for $40 $40, SanDisk will help you upgrade your laptop's storage to an SSD.Wed, 19 Aug 2015 21:57:37 +0000 State Drives <h3>A helping hand</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SanDisk Concierge"></p><p> Most of you reading this would have no trouble swapping out a pokey 5400 RPM mechanical hard drive for a blazing fast solid state drive, and doing so could reinvigorate an aging laptop. But for those who are inexperienced at such things, SanDisk is offering a $40 SSD "Concierge Service" that aims to give users the support and tools they need to complete the task from from start to finish.</p><p> The $40 support kit comes with a quick start guide, magnetic screwdriver, a USB-to-SATA cable to clone your hard drive, and contact information to get live help. What the user needs to bring to the table is a laptop in need of an upgrade, a smartphone (for video chat), and a SanDisk SSD.</p><p> Once a user has copied over the data from the drive being replaced to the SanDisk SSD, he or she can schedule a live video chat with SanDisk (SanDisk's support team is available Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 7 PM Pacific). This is where a smartphone comes into play.</p><p> SanDisk says it uses Cisco's WebEx Meeting Center and that process should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes.</p><p> "Many customers understand the benefits an SSD can bring to an aging laptop but they also feel anxious about performing an upgrade by themselves," said Philippe Willams, director of product marketing, SanDisk. "The SanDisk SSD Concierge Service’s step-by-step live support will give consumers the confidence to install an SSD and enjoy the benefits of speed, performance and reliability."</p><p> SanDisk is offering its $40 service for SanDisk SSD Plus drives (120GB to 240GB), SanDisk Ultra II SSDs (120GB to 960GB), and SanDisk Extreme Pro SSDs (240GB to 960GB).</p><p> The concierge service is available from <a href="" target="_blank">Amazon</a> and TigerDirect.</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: HP 128GB USB 3.0 Drive, Asus 23-Inch Monitor, and More! never hurts to have a bit of storage in your pocket, but if you're still carrying around a paltry 8GB or 16GB flash drive, it's high time you upgraded, don't you think?Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:54:55 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hp 128gb"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>It never hurts to have a bit of storage in your pocket, but if you're still carrying around a paltry 8GB or 16GB flash drive, it's high time you upgraded, don't you think? Don't worry, big size flash drives don't cost and arm and a leg like they used to -- just check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16820178819-_-0819&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HP x755w 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive</a> for <strong>$27</strong> with $1 shipping (use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW57</strong>]). This drive has an integrated slider (no more lost caps!) and lots of storage space.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813130843-_-0819&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Z97A Gaming 7 LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $180 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW35</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236327-_-0819&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VX238H-W White 23-inch 1ms LCD Monitor w/ Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$140</strong> with free shipping (normally $160 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW47</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819113280-_-0819&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">AMD A10-5800K Trinity Quad-Core 3.8GHz FM2 100W Desktop APU/CPU</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW32</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824009513-_-0819&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Acer S241HLbmid Black 24-inch 5ms Monitor w/ Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW39</strong>])</p> Microsoft Keeps the Windows 10 Preview Builds Coming 10 build 10525 is now available to Windows Insiders.Wed, 19 Aug 2015 17:26:36 +0000 10 <h3>Colorful update</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10"></p><p> Even though Microsoft released&nbsp;Windows 10 to the public on July 29, more features and changes are expected. That's how it goes with the new Windows-as-a-Service (Waas) model, and to ensure that Windows 10 remains an experience that people will enjoy, Microsoft is continuing to dole out preview builds to Windows Insiders.</p><p> "Feedback from Windows Insiders not only helps us build Windows 10 – it also helps us shape how we run the program. For example, Windows Insiders have asked us to improve the flighting cadence and to keep the Windows Feedback app in the product – which we have done. We’re also evaluating the Windows Insider rings, and considering whether we should make changes there," Microsoft stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> Microsoft said it received a lot of feedback on the default color for Start, Action Center, Taskbar, and Title bars, so that's something it addressed in the first new preview build (10525) since Windows 10 launched. To play with the new color options, you need to go to Settings &gt; Personalization &gt; Colors.</p><p> Build 10525 also includes Memory Manager improvements. One of those improvements is a new concept called a compression store, which is an in-memory collection of compressed pages. This allows the Memory Manager to compress unused pages instead of writing them to disk when the need arises. According to Microsoft, this will result in better responsiveness across all of Windows 10.</p><p> Being a preview build, there are some known issues. Mobile hotspot doesn't work, and an update to the Movies &amp; TV app from the Windows Store will need to be applied to fix an issue with video playback. Microsoft also said that optional language packs won't be available until later this week.</p><p> Windows Insiders who have been running preview builds will receive the update automatically. If you want to join the fray, you can opt into the program by going to the Settings app &gt; Update &amp; Security &gt; Advanced options under "Get Insider Builds."</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> Vaio Brand Books Return Trip to U.S. as 12.2-Inch Laptop Vaio Z Canvas PC iscoming to the U.S. this fall.Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:36:57 +0000 <h3>Vaio makes a comeback</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vaio Canvas Z"></p><p> We thought the Vaio brand would disappear forever from the U.S. market when <a href="">Sony sold off</a> its PC business to a Japanese investment firm last year so that it could focus on mobile. Well, we were wrong.</p><p> Vaio will return to the U.S. this fall as the <a href="" target="_blank">Vaio Z Canvas</a>, a Surface-like 12.2-inch laptop with a detachable display. A photo of the Vaio Z Canvas is posted on a teaser page in which you can enter your email address to receive future updates, otherwise there's not a lot of info being provided directly to the public.</p><p> However, Vaio boss Yoshimi Ota did reveal to <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a> </em>that it's planning to sell laptops in Microsoft's retail stores in the U.S. He also noted that the Canvas Z will be a premium product, as his strategy is to target high-end niches rather than mainstream users like Sony did.</p><p> The new Vaio is building a reputation as being pricey. Vaio machines start at about $1,600 in Japan, while the Canvas Z will debut at $2,199 in the U.S. That's gaming laptop territory and could be a tough sell for a system that resembles a Surface Pro 3.</p><p> Interestingly, Vaio is going after graphic designers, photographers, and other users entrenched in Apple's camp. The way Mr. Ota sees things, there aren't any decent Windows-based alternatives to Apple's higher-end Macs.</p><p> Beyond PCs, Mr. Ota also wants to get into Vaio-branded robots, which can be "humanoid or dog-shaped" or whatever, along with wearables, communication devices, and factory-automation machines with artificial intelligence.</p><p> Sounds ambitious to us, and perhaps even overly ambitious.</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 and Asus ROG Tag Team PC-Q17 Mini ITX Case small form factor case designed especially for Asus ROG's Maximum Impact line of mini ITX motherboards, though any mini ITX board should work.Wed, 19 Aug 2015 15:53:33 +0000 LiNews <h3>Wonder twin powers, activate!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lian Li PC-Q17"></p><p> Lian Li and Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) have joined forces to create a small form factor (SFF) case designed for mini-ITX motherboards, the <a href="" target="_blank">PC-Q17</a>. Naturally, the duo are pitching the ROG Maximum Impact line of premium mini-ITX motherboards as perfect fits for the PC-Q17, though any brand mini-ITX board should work just fine.</p><p> From the pictures we've seen, the PC-Q17 blends Lian Li's brushed aluminum aesthetic with Asus ROG's aggressive styling, resulting in a sloped brushed aluminum front panel and a trapezoid side profile.</p><p> There's a large window on the side panel to show off your build and cable management skills, the latter of which will likely be put to the test. A glowing ROG logo on the drive/PSU cage adds a bit of extra bling.</p><p> The case can fit up to three 3.5-inch and five 2.5-inch drives, plus a slim optical drive (or an additional 2.5-inch/3.5-inch drive).</p><p> Cooing is handled by a 140mm fan on top. You also have the option of adding a 120mm fan up top along with two more 120mm fans in the base of the case. Alternately, you can liquid cool with support for up to a 240mm radiator.</p><p> Graphic card selection is a bit limited in the PC-Q17 -- it supports graphics cards up to 27cm (the GTX 980 Strix is 28cm and the GTX 980 Ti STrix is 30.5cm long). CPU coolers can be up to 14cm in size, and PSU can be up to 15cm.</p><p> Lian Li didn't say when the PC-Q17 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> How To Make Windows 10 Faster's a list of tips for increasing the performance of Windows 10Wed, 19 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 10 <h3>Squeezing out that extra bit of performance</h3><p>Now that Windows 10 has gone public and is making its way to consumers, we thought it would be a good time to provide some tips that will help speed up your Windows 10 experience. Some of these are new and some are already well known. So, whether you're new to Windows 10 or an old hat already, you can keep these tweaks (listed here with instructions on how to access them in Windows 10) handy. More tips will be added as they're discovered.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Transparency"></p><p><strong>Disable Transparency Effects</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Transparency effects can often add unnecessary effects to things just for the sake of special effects. If you want that classic solid look, turn off the transparency effects, and get a decent increase in responsiveness.</p><p> 1. Right-click the desktop and choose Personalize<br> 2. Choose Colors<br> 3. Turn off “Make Start, taskbar, and action center transparent”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Startup"></p><p><strong>Disable Programs at Startup</strong></p><p>Startup is a great place to poke around to see what kind of programs have wedged themselves in there, slowing boot-to-desktop times and loading up unnecessary CPU cycles. You'll often find things you don't actually want automatically turned on. Programs should launch when we ask them to, not because they think they're privileged!</p><p>1. Right-click the Start button<br> 2. Click Task Manager<br> 3. Click Startup<br> 4. Highlight a program and click Disable</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Services"></p><p><strong>Disable Unnecessary Services</strong></p><p>Services are very much like programs in Startup, except they can be much more crucial to the overall operation of Windows. There are lots of Microsoft-specific features that are enabled, but there are some that most people don't need. Have a look through the Services tab and read the description of each one. You can stop a service to see if it impacts anything, and reenable it if necessary. You can also permanently disable a service from starting at all.</p><p>1. Right-click the Start button<br> 2. Click Task Manager<br> 3. Click Services<br> 4. Right-click a specific service and choose “Stop”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Animations"></p><p><strong>Shut off Shadows, Animations</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Again, special effects can be largely useless. Animations can slow down your system. Shadows can be a nice touch, but all these things add up to CPU cycles, which by today's standards aren't really a big deal. But still, when you want everything to be swift, disable the fluff.</p><p>1. Right-click the Start button<br> 2. Choose System<br> 3. Click “Advanced system settings” on the left<br> 4. Click the Advanced tab<br> 5. Click the Settings button under Performance<br> 6. Click “Adjust for best performance” or manually disable each effect<br> 7. Note: there’s also a switch in Settings / Ease of Access / Other Options that turn off animations</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fast Startup"></p><p><strong>Enable Fast Startup</strong><br> 1. Right-click the Start button<br> 2. Choose Control Panel<br> 3. Click System and Security<br> 4. Click Power Options<br> 5. On the left, click “choose what the power buttons do”<br> 6. At the bottom, click “Turn on fast startup” under Shutdown settings<br> 7. Click “Save changes”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Uninstall"></p><p><strong>Uninstall Unused Programs</strong></p><p><strong></strong>This one is self explanatory! Remove stuff you don't use!</p><p>1. Right-click the Start button<br> 2. Click Programs and Features<br> 3. Select the unwanted software and click “Uninstall/Change”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Defrag"></p><p><strong>Defragment Your C: Drive</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Defragmenting C: drive is more applicable if you're still booting off a spinning disk&nbsp;hard&nbsp;drive and not a SSD. SSDs don't need defragmentation, and unless you're using a more advanced file system format like EXT4, you're going to need to do some defragmentation.</p><p>1. Click the Start button, then click the File Explorer link<br> 2. Right-click Local Disk C: and choose Properties<br> 3. Click the Tools tab<br> 4. Click “Optimize and Defragment Drive”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cleanup"></p><p><strong>Perform Disk Cleanup</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The built-in Disk Cleanup tool in Windows actually does a decent job of removing unnecessary files. If you want to go further though, like finding duplicates, you'll need a third-party tool.</p><p>1. Click the Start button, thenclick the File Explorer link<br> 2. Right-click Local Disk C: and choose Properties<br> 3. Under the General tab, click the Disk Cleanup button<br> 4. Click "unnecessary files (temporary internet files, etc.)," then click OK<br> 5. Note there’s a “Clean up system files” button for advanced users</p> IDF 2015 San Francisco: Skylake Deep Dive you wanted to know about Skylake's architecture but were afraid to ask.Wed, 19 Aug 2015 01:26:01 +0000 <h3>Diving Deep into Skylake</h3><p> The launch of&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a> has been a bit of a change from Intel; previously, Intel typically has talked about the underlying architecture prior to the chips actually ending up in the reviewers’ hands. This time, all we got was a chip with some performance expectations, with no real knowledge of what has changed. This is particularly problematic as Skylake is a “tock”: a new architecture on a mature process.&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">Broadwell</a> is mostly the same underlying architecture as Haswell, only moved to 14nm, but Skylake is 14nm with new design elements.</p><p> That all changes today, as Intel has taken off the wraps and shed some light on what exactly Skylake is doing under the hood that makes it a better processor. We still don’t have all of the details we’d like, but we do know at least some of the core changes.</p><p> There’s a separate topic to also quickly mention: our initial Skylake numbers were somewhat lower than expected, either due to our initial choice of motherboard, RAM, and/or early firmware. We’ve retested with a different motherboard and memory, and performance on average is up 10 percent compared to our earlier results. We’re reworking the Skylake review and will post a followup later, but the short summary is that Skylake is quite a bit better than our initial experience led us to believe. Welcome to life on the bleeding edge.</p><p> Moving on to the Skylake architecture, you can download the full PDFs via <a target="_blank" href="">Intel’s IDF 2015 SF site</a>, but we’ll summarize some of&nbsp;the major highlights.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skylake Architecture (19)"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skylake Architecture (20)"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skylake Architecture (21)"></p><p> The above three slides summarize the major changes. Skylake has a larger Out-of-order window, more in-flight stores, more scheduler entries, and a slightly larger allocation queue. The branch prediction has seen further improvements, there’s a wider front-end, there are more execution units, and other additions. The details are a bit lacking in some areas, but one item we specifically asked about was the wider front end.</p><p> From the original Core 2 through Haswell/Broadwell, Intel has used a four-wide front-end for fetching instructions. Skylake is the first change to this aspect in roughly a decade, with the ability to now fetch&nbsp;up to six micro-ops per cycle. Intel doesn’t indicate how many execution units are available in Skylake’s back-end, but we know everything from Core 2 through Sandy Bridge had six execution units while Haswell has eight execution ports. We can assume Skylake is now more than eight, and likely the ability to dispatch more micro-ops as well, but Intel didn’t provide any specifics.</p><p> There are plenty of other changes as well, including some new instructions, e.g., Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) can be used to improve software security, but those don’t generally affect performance. On the other side of the processor equation, there have also been a lot of power and efficiency improvements. That might seem a bit odd, considering Skylake is sporting a 91W TDP compared to Haswell’’s 84W TDP, but TDP isn’t the same as typical power use.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skylake Architecture (5)"></p><p> Intel pointed out that the process of designing Skylake began around five years ago, and at the time their goals were pretty traditional. They were looking at a 3X TDP scale (e.g., 40-120W), a 2X range of form factors, and a classic IO set for PCs. Between the start and now, the market experienced a shift and tablets and smartphones became a huge market. The result is that Skylake will have a 20X TDP scale (so around 4.5W-91W), a 4X form factor scale, and reductions in power and changes to IO that make Skylake a viable product for both PCs as well as tablets. This is the sort of responsiveness that has been enabled by Intel's tick-tock strategy, and the results have been impressive.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skylake Gen9 GPU (7)"></p><p> The other area where Skylake has the potential to dramatically improve performance is in processor graphics. Going back to 2010 and the original HD Graphics (Lynnfield/Arrandale, aka Iron Lake), Intel has been putting increasingly heavy emphasis on their graphics solutions. Their first solutions had up to 10 Executions Units (EUs) supporting the DX10 feature set, with Skylake pushing as far as 72 EU configurations on their top SKUs. Note that the currently available i5-6600K and i7-6700K are using the GT2 (24 EUs) chips, but we expect 48 EU GT3 chips to show up in the near future.</p><p> More importantly, there’s now a GT4 configuration coming, which has the potential to be up to 50% faster than the existing Iris Pro 6200 Graphics. Compared to Broadwell’s Iris Pro (GT3) solution, the Skylake GT4 graphics will be 1.5X larger, and based on what we’ve seen from Broadwell-DT we would expect performance to be in the 30+ FPS range at 1080p medium to high quality. Of course we probably won’t see GT4 outside of mobile chips, at least initially, and discrete GPUs will still offer superior performance.</p><h5>Wrap Up</h5><p>We're really only scratching the surface here, as summarizing all of the intricate details of hundreds of slides would require a lot more time and space. If you're interested in learning more about what Intel did with Skylake, again, check out the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">various IDF presentations</a> (just search that page for "Skylake"). The problem is that now all of the low hanging fruit has been picked, and further improvements to IPC (instructions per cycle) are becoming very difficult. Clock speed scaling has mostly been tapped out at sub-5GHz, and the result is more modest generational gains. That may not seem all that impressive, but even 10 percent per year starts to add up after several years.</p><p>The only real question is whether you even need more processing power. As we showed earlier,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Bloomfield can still hold its own</a> in many areas of performance, and there are a lot of users that are happy with a laptop or Ultrabook. If you're one of those users, Skylake isn't likely to draw you back into the desktop world. On the other hand, power users are likely already running Haswell-E with six or eight cores. Skylake is still impressive for what it does, but unless you're unhappy with your current desktop's performance and you don't want to move to LGA2011-3, it's mostly of interest to people looking to buy a new mainstream desktop.</p><p><em>Follow Jarred on </em><a href=""><em>Twitter</em></a>.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: MSI Z97A Gaming 7 Motherboard, Asus GeForce GTX 980, and More!, there's no shame in building a Haswell rig, even with Skylake now in view. Pick up a Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon, re-use your existing DDR3 memory, plop them both in a new motherboard, and you'd have yourself a fine setup for a long while to come.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 21:39:38 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MSI Z97a"></p><p>Top Deal:<strong></strong></p><p>Look, there's no shame in building a Haswell rig, even with Skylake now in view. Pick up a Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon, re-use your existing DDR3 memory, plop them both in a new motherboard, and you'd have yourself a fine setup for a long while to come. If that's the route you're thinking about going, check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813130843-_-0818&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555">MSI Z97A Gaming 7 Motherboard</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with $2 shipping (normally $180 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW35</strong>]). This feature-rich board supports USB 3.1 (the Gen 2 variety), an isolated audio PCB, Killer E2200 game networking, and much more.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820148945-_-0818&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Crucial BX100 CT250BX100SSD1 2.5-inch 250GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $85 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820233536-_-0818&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB (2x8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1866 Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$85</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121905-_-0818&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Card</a> for <strong>$490</strong> with free shipping (normally $510 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW25</strong>]; additional $30 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CASE-N82E16811133191-_-0818&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Thermaltake Chaser Series Chaser MK-I Black SECC ATX Full Tower Computer Case</a> for <strong>$127</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKW84</strong>]; additional $30 Mail-in rebate)</p> WD Launches 6TB Black, Red Pro Hard Drives Digital has added 5TB and 6TB capacities to the Black and Red Pro families.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:58:04 +0000 Digital <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Western Digital Announces 48 Percent Increase in Revenues"></p><p>Western Digital (WD) is having a busy Tuesday, as the company is reporting that it has added 6TB models to its <a href="" target="_blank">WD Black</a> <em>and</em> <a href="" target="_blank">WD Red Pro</a> lines of mechanical hard drives. The Black model is best suited for gamers and professionals craving high-performance while the Red Pro drive is ideal for network attached storage (NAS) devices. WD also indicated that both lines are getting a 5 TB model as well.</p><p>“The WD Black 6TB is up to 29 percent faster than the previous WD Black 4TB version in maximum data rate throughput and 10 percent faster in PCMark Vantage,” the company boasts.</p><p>Unfortunately, the WD Black specifications don’t reveal much in regards to hardware details, but instead shows that the 3,5-inch hard drive has a 7200 RPM and SATA 3 (6 Gbps) connectivity. The drive also sports a dual-core processor, 128MB of cache and StableTrac technology, which stabilizes the drive’s motor shaft and protects the platters from “system-induced” vibrations.</p><p>“The Dynamic Cache Technology improves caching algorithms in real time to allocate and optimize cache between reads and writes,” the company adds. “This movement of cache for read data helps to reduce congestion and increase overall performance.”</p><p>The new 6TB WD Black model (WD6001FZWX) is available now for $294 and the 5TB model (WD5001FZWX) is selling for $264. On a whole, the WD Black line provide capacities between 500GB to the new 6TB and offers a 5-year warranty.</p><p>As for the WD Red Pro drives, these are NAS-focused and include a multi-axis shock sensor that, according to WD, will detect shock events and adjust each read-write function accordingly. The drives also include exclusive NASware 3.0 firmware and hardware vibration compensation technology, which corrects rotational and linear vibrations “in real time.”</p><p>Built for medium to large-sized businesses, the WD RED Pro specifications show that the drives are designed for NAS solutions with up to 16 bays. They also have SATA 3 (6 Gbps) connectivity and 128MB of cache. Capacities on a whole range from 2TB to the new 5TB and 6TB models.</p><p>“With the capacity expansion, there is now a path for customers to increase the storage density of their systems while knowing their data is protected with the most trusted and valued brand on the market,” says Cindi Grace, senior vice president of WD storage technology group.</p><p>The new WD Red Pro 5TB model (WD5001FFWX) is available now and costs $269 whereas the 6TB model (WD6001FFWX) costs a meatier $299. These drives also come with a 5-year warranty.</p> Google Launches Its Own Wi-Fi Router and TP-Link have banded together to create a Wireless AC router.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:55:53 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Onhub Blog"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Google revealed on Tuesday</a> that it’s working with networking expert TP-Link to create “a different kind of” Wi-Fi router called <a href="" target="_blank">OnHub</a>. This device is designed for the home and admittedly looks rather stylish, sporting a tall cylinder form factor. Customers can pre-order the device now for $199 <a href="" target="_blank">at various online locations</a> in the United States including and Amazon. Brick-and-mortar stores will have the device on sale in a matter of weeks.</p><p>So what’s the big deal about this router? Google points to the form factor, saying that it sheds the typical cords and flashing LED lights with “useful” lighting and internal antennas. In essence, the companies have created a device that’s visually appealing, something the customer can be proud of and display out in the open.</p><p>“During setup, OnHub searches the airwaves and selects the best channel for the fastest connection,” says Google product manager Trond Wuellner. “A unique antenna design and smart software keep working in the background, automatically adjusting OnHub to avoid interference and keep your network at peak performance. You can even prioritize a device, so that your most important activity &mdash; like streaming your favorite show &mdash; gets the fastest speed.”</p><p>The specifications show that OnHub includes six 2.4 GHz antennas, six 5 GHz antennas, and a congestion-sensing antenna that are arranged in a circular pattern. On a whole, the device promises Wireless AC speeds of up to 1900 Mbps. That means the 5 GHz band provides speeds of up to 1300 Mbps and 2.4 GHz band speeds of up to 600 Mbps&hellip; the best coverage you can get for now.</p><p>The specifications also show that the new router is based on a dual-core IPQ8064 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, 4 GB of internal storage, 1 GB of DDR3L RAM, one USB 3.0 port, and a 3-watt speaker. The device is also ZigBee and Thread compatible, meaning the router will fit right into a “smart” home outfitted with ZigBee or Thread-based devices. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a WAN gigabit port, and one LAN gigabit port.</p><p>“OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, without interrupting your connection,” Wuellner says. “In the future, OnHub can support smart devices that you bring into your home, whether they use Bluetooth® Smart Ready, Weave, or 802.15.4.”</p><p> The blog indicates that Google wanted a router that simply works out-of-the-box and doesn’t slow down to a crawl when someone is streaming Netflix. To help maintain the device, Google has developed the Google On app for Android and iOS. With this app, users can run a network check, see how much bandwidth a device is using, get help if something goes wrong with the network, and more. </p><p>Wuellner also hints in Tuesday's blog&nbsp;that Google is working with Asus to create another OnHub, which will be revealed later this year.</p> Microsoft Updates Xbox App with 1080p/60fps Streaming has updated the Xbox app for Windows 10Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:08:59 +0000 10xbox <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 Xbox App"></p><h3>Higher-quality streaming, and more</h3><p>Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb <a href="" target="_blank">updated Xbox Wire</a> on Tuesday with news that the Xbox app for Windows 10 received an update that allows gamers to stream from an Xbox One to a Windows 10 device in 1080p and 60 frames per second. The new feature isn’t that surprising, as last week a Windows 10 gamer discovered a “Very High” setting that could be enabled by modifying one of the Xbox app’s files.</p><p>To stream in the “Very High” setting now offered in the updated app, simply connect to the Xbox One, then go into Settings and Game Streaming. Here users should see the “Very High” setting parked to the left of the three other settings. If the new setting isn’t there, make sure you’ve upgraded to v8.8.15003.00000 or later.</p><p>“The team also updated the Xbox app on Windows 10 to address some issues around sign-in, localization and game streaming reported by a subset of Windows 10 users,” Hryb reports. “The Xbox app on Windows 10 should automatically update to the new version when it becomes available in the Windows Store.”</p><p>Also new to the Xbox app is the ability to right-click on a friend and either invite him/her to a party or send a message. Notifications also received an update, as they can now be disabled or enabled when the user is invited to a multiplayer game or party. Simply go into the Party &amp; Games/Invitations setting found in the General settings.</p><p>The updated app now allows you to manually add games to your collection that have a link in the Start Menu. You also now have the ability to compare your achievement status with a friend who is playing the same game. The “My Games” section has been updated with a new grid view that sorts the games alphabetically. The list of games that have been automatically discovered has also been updated.</p><p>“Now you will see an animated display alternately showing you how many friends have played each game along with the four most recent players,” Hryb reports. “The display will then switch to show a second tile with your last played date, Gamerscore and Achievements percentage complete. If you click on the game, it will take you to the Game Hub, where you can see a list of all of your friends who have played the game sorted by most recently played along with their online status.”</p><p>The Xbox app made its public debut weeks ago as part of the Windows 10 rollout. It reminded us of Facebook a bit, only this service plays host to Windows 10 and Xbox gamers. Like Facebook, users can update their status and “like” whatever shows up in the news feed. The app’s biggest feature, however, is streaming games from the Xbox One to the Xbox app. Thankfully, that service is free.</p><p>Xbox One gamers can <a href="">leave feedback here</a> and Windows 10 Technical Preview participants <a href="">can head here</a> to voice their opinion.</p> Razer and Intel Collaborate on RealSense 3D Camera for Gaming's tapping into Intel's RealSense technology to power a new camera for VR and game streaming chores.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 19:53:38 +0000 <h3>Making something real with RealSense</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Razer Intel RealSense"></p><p> Razer has partnered up with Intel to incorporate the chip maker's RealSense technology into a 3D-sensing camera designed for consumer-based VR and gaming desktops.</p><p> The two companies brought a prototype of the new camera to the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) that's taking place in San Francisco. One of the key features is automatic background removal. This will allow game streamers and video conferencing users to remove or even replace backgrounds as they see fit.</p><p> As for the camera itself, Razer says the image you see above is a concept design. The final design is subject to change, though Intel seems to like the current prototype that's being shown off at IDF.</p><p> "This is a great opportunity to make Intel RealSense technology easily accessible to the gaming and VR communities. We are proud of the beautiful design of Razer's Intel RealSense Camera peripheral and we look forward to enabling innovation in the gaming world together," <a href="" target="_blank">said Dr. Achin Bhowmik</a>, General Manager of Perceptual Computing at Intel.</p><p> Details are few and far between at the moment, though <a href="" target="_blank">according to <em>Engadget</em></a>, the device will be able to track a user's movement in games, both when they're sitting in front of a desktop or wearing a VR helmet. If it works well, it would open up a whole new world of gaming possibilities -- imaging playing a boxing sim and dodging blows by ducking or moving your head from side to side.</p><p> Razer didn't say when a final version might make its way to retail or how much it would cost.</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> Save $200 on Specific Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Model only, you can pick up a Surface Pro 3 (Core i5, 128GB) for $799.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:54:51 +0000 pro 3 <h3>One day sale</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro 3"></p><p> Microsoft has taken $200 off the price of its Surface Pro 3 model with a Core i5 4300U processor and 128GB of built-in storage. That brings the price down from $999 to $799, though if you're interested in that particular SKU, you have to act fast -- the discount is good for today (August 18, 2015) only.</p><p> Unfortunately, Microsoft still isn't bundling a keyboard with its Surface tablets, though the discount more than offsets the cost of a Type Cover ($130). Having a keyboard of some sort, be it a Type Cover or whatever, is really a necessity if you want to use the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop.</p><p> There's certainly a serviceable level of hardware to use the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop. In addition to the aforementioned CPU and solid state storage, the Surface Pro 3 also sports a 12-inch multi-touch display with a 2160x1440 resolution, 4GB of RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 1080p front camera, 5MP rear camera, full size USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, headphone jack, mini DisplayPort, stereo speakers, and Windows 10 Pro.</p><p> It's not unusual for Microsoft to slash a hundred or so dollars off the cost of its Surface Pro 3 line. In fact, only the base model is full price right now. Here's a look:</p><ul> <li>Surface Pro 3 w/ Core i3 4020Y, 4GB RAM, 64GB: $799 (full price)</li> <li>Surface Pro 3 w/ Core i5 4300U, 4GB RAM, 128GB: $799 (down from $999)</li> <li>Surface Pro 3 w/ Core i5 4300U, 8GB RAM, 256GB: $1,149 (down from $1,299)</li> <li>Surface Pro 3 w/ Core i7 4650U, 8GB RAM, 256GB: $1,399 (down from $1,549)</li> <li>Surface Pro 3 w/ Core i7 4650U, 8GB RAM, 512GB: $1,799 (down from $1,949)</li></ul><p> All of the above models come with a Surface Pen. The prices reflected are those found in the <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft Store</a>, though you can also shop for the Surface Pro 3 on Amazon at the same price points.</p><p> Note that the sale price on <a href="" target="_blank">Amazon</a> is also good for today only. If you're considering a Surface Pro 3 as a <a href="">back to school purchase</a>, this is one of the better deals you'll find.</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> It's Official: Android M is Marshmallow the sweet naming scheme alive, Android 6.0 will be referred to as Marshmallow.Tue, 18 Aug 2015 16:01:57 +0000 <h3>Ready for s'more Android?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Android Marshmallow"></p><p> Google has chosen "Marshmallow" as the name for its next Android release, which by the way will be Android 6.0, not Android 5.2. After teasing several possibilities in a Twitter post and accompanying YouTube video, Google on Monday confirmed its decision while noting in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>, "who doesn't like marshmallows?"</p><p> The decision is a blow to M&amp;M fans who were hoping that Google would do a promotional tie-in with the popular candy like it did with KitKat. So far, however, that's been a one-off deal -- after KitKat came Lollipop.</p><p> Coinciding with the announcement is the introduction of the official Android 6.0 SDK. With the final Android 6.0 SDK, developers have access to the final Android APIs and the latest build tools to API 23.</p><p> There's also a preview image of Marshmallow available for Nexus devices (Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player).</p><p> "The preview images are near final but they are not intended for consumer use," Google said. "Remember that when Android 6.0 Marshmallow launches to the public later this fall, you'll need to manually re-flash your device to a factory image to continue to receive consumer OTA updates for your Nexus device."</p><p> Android 6.0 Marshmallow will introduce several new features and updates to the open source OS, including better app permissions, custom Chrome tabs, an app linking system, fingerprint support, Android play, and a smart power managing feature called Doze.</p><p> Finally, the introduction of Marshmallow means a new statue for Google's lawn. You can see what it looks like above, courtesy of Dave Burke, Android's VP of engineering.</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> 25 Totally Awesome Back-to-School Gifts for Geeks back to school season is the perfect time to update your collection of tech. Here are the items that make the gradeTue, 18 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 shieldrazer No BS Podcast 239: Skylake, Windows 10, and Jarred's Intro a long hiatus, the crew comes back with a bunch of hot topicsMon, 17 Aug 2015 22:02:24 +0000 BS PodcastPodcast Digital Storm Bolt 3 Review bold and the beautifulMon, 17 Aug 2015 20:11:04 +0000 storm bolt 3maximumpcReviews <h3>The bold and the beautiful</h3><p> Mini-ITX machines are the hotness right now, and have been for a while. And why wouldn’t they be? We think that it’s super sexy to be able to stuff loads of power into a small form factor box. Digital Storm, no stranger to SFF builds, is trying to up the ante even further with its latest Mini-ITX offering: the Bolt 3.</p><p> Measuring 18.3x15.1x5.8 inches, the Bolt 3 also ups the ante in size with a new case designed by Lian Li. It’s roughly 25 percent larger than the&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Falcon Northwest Tiki</a> we reviewed last month. While the box isn’t huge, and is smaller than mid-tower cases, it does feel a little too beefy to act as a console replacement next to your TV. Luckily, though, the Bolt 3 is a sexy beast, and it’s got a clear acrylic window to show off its innards. We think that if you’ve got a window, it had better be super clean on the inside. The Bolt 3’s interiors are damned near immaculate.&nbsp;</p><p> Inside, the Bolt 3 features a custom-loop cooler for the CPU, with a slick LED-backlit Digital Storm logo on the water block. Our configuration’s liquid came with yellow liquid and yellow ribbon cables. Truth be told, the yellow may not be for everyone, as there were mixed opinions about it in our Lab. Fortunately, the Bolt 3 has the option of red dye variants, too. The case sports LEDs along the bottom and back, which really make the inside pop; you can change the color of these lights and the LED logo on the front of the case to your heart’s content using Digital Storm’s pre-installed software. The software also allows you to change fan speeds and monitor temps.</p><p> In case you want to access the inside of the chassis, both the glass panel and the panel on the opposite can be removed via four thumb screws. Once you’re inside, you’ll notice a unique placement for the 600-watt SFX power supply. Normally, PSUs are tucked into the corners of a case, but here, it’s just about smack-dab in the middle, and has slick Digital Storm branding on its top side. Tucked behind it is the slim slot-loading Blu-ray player. At the top of the case is a 240mm radiator, and there are also two Corsair static pressure fans to go along with it. All of this is wrapped up in a chassis with a black brushed-aluminum finish. On the front of the case, you’ve got headphone and mic input, two USB 3.0 ports, and the power button. And in case you were wondering, the Bolt 3 can be used standing up or laid flat on its side.&nbsp;</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Digital Storm Bolt 3"></p><p> While Digital Storm allows you to customize your rig, the company sent us a configuration with a 4790K CPU overclocked to 4.6GHz, 16GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RAM clocked at 1,866MHz, and a GeForce GTX 980 Ti from EVGA that was overclocked by 200MHz across the board. All of this is sitting atop an Asus Maximus VII Impact mobo. For storage, we’ve got a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive from Seagate. For a little bit more future-proofing, we would have liked a 2TB HDD, considering our configuration costs over three grand.&nbsp;</p><p> Performance-wise, the Bolt 3’s overclocked Devil’s Canyon part was actually able to give our zero-point’s 5960X CPU a run for its money, besting it by 14–24 percent in our single-threaded benchmarks. Of course, the octo-core CPU gave the quad-core a proper 40 percent thrashing in our thread-heavy X264 benchmark. And in the GPU benchmarks, it’s not really a fair comparison comparing our ZP’s three 980s versus the Bolt’s single 980 Ti, where it got beat by roughly 30–40 percent. Just know that you will be able to play games at 4K with a single 980 Ti, but expect to have to turn down a few settings or run under 60fps.&nbsp;</p><p> You could certainly build something similar to the Bolt 3 yourself for several hundreds of dollars less (without Digital Storm’s service and warranty), and yes, it is bigger than we would like, but the system still has a lot going for it. It’s a beautifully put together rig, and it's got excellent cable management across the board. Digital Storm has got an eye for detail, and it shows. It also runs extremely quiet, which is a huge plus for a SFF machine. We wouldn’t bolt out and get one right away, but it’s definitely worth your consideration. &nbsp;</p><p> $3,070, <a href=""></a></p><p> <strong>Benchmarks</strong></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> &nbsp; </td> <td> &nbsp; </td> <td> 0-point </td> <td> Digital Storm<br> Bolt 3 </td> <td> Percent<br> Difference </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lower is Better </td> <td> Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) </td> <td> 806.0 </td> <td> 706 </td> <td> 14.2% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lower is Better </td> <td> Proshow Producer 5 (sec) </td> <td> 1,472.0 </td> <td> 1,184 </td> <td> 24.3% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Higher is Better </td> <td> x264 HD 5.0 </td> <td> 33.8 </td> <td> 20.1 </td> <td> -40.5% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Higher is Better </td> <td> Batman Arkham City GOTY (fps) </td> <td> 204.0 </td> <td> 126 </td> <td> -38.2% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Higher is Better </td> <td> Tomb Raider (fps) </td> <td> 87.5 </td> <td> 52.5 </td> <td> -40.3% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Higher is Better </td> <td> 3DMark Firestrike </td> <td> 8,016.0 </td> <td> 4602 </td> <td> -42.6% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Higher is Better </td> <td> Shadow of Mordor </td> <td> 70.1 </td> <td> 47.4 </td> <td> -32.4% </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> <em>Our desktop zero-point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GBs of RAM. Arkham City tested at 2560x1440 max settings with PhysX off. Tomb Raider at Ultimate settings. Shadow of Mordor at Max settings.</em></p><p> <strong>Specifications</strong></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> Processor </td> <td> Intel Core i7-4790K </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Mobo </td> <td> Asus Maximus Vii Impact </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> 16GB of DDR3/1866MHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Graphics </td> <td> GeForce GTX 980 Ti </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Storage </td> <td> 250GB Samsung 850 EVO/1TB Seagate HDD </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Optical </td> <td> Slot-loading Blu-ray player </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Case/PSU </td> <td> Lian Li PC-05S/Silverstone SX600 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> Newegg Daily Deals: Intel 750 Series 400GB SSD, Asus GeForce GTX 970, and More! isn't a question of whether or not to equip your PC with a solid state drive, it's just a matter of which one. Your choices grow by the day, including one of the more recent options and today's top deal.Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:56:44 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel 750"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>It isn't a question of whether or not to equip your PC with a solid state drive, it's just a matter of which one. Your choices grow by the day, including one of the more recent options and today's top deal, an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820167300-_-0817&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel 750 Series 400GB PICe Internal SSD</a> for <strong>$340</strong> with free shipping (normally $390 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR87</strong>]). No ordinary SSD, this model is rated to deliver sequential read and write performance of up to 2,200MB/s and 900MB/s, respectively. That's what happens when you move away from AHCI and into the <a href="">land of NVMe</a>.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-AUDIO-N82E16826106571-_-0817&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Sennheiser HD439 Over-Ear Headphones</a> for <strong>$35</strong> with $2 shipping (normally $60 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR27</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231615-_-0817&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121926-_-0817&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 970 4GB Video Card</a> for <strong>$309</strong> with free shipping (normally $325 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR33</strong>]; Free Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain game w/ purchase, limited offer)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231544-_-0817&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$43</strong> with free shipping (normally $48 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR43</strong>])</p> Rambus is Transitioning to Fabless Chip Production Rambus? It's moving away from IP litigation and getting into the fabless chip business.Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:27:31 +0000 <h3>Going in a different direction</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rambus RAM"></p><p>Rambus is a name we haven't heard in some time, though it's one we certainly remember. The company has made numerous headlines over the years, many of which were related to litigation over IP disputes. That's because the Rambus of old built a business around licensing DRAM technology and accusing firms of patent infringement.</p><p> The Rambus of new is going in a different direction. For the first time in the company's 25-year history, Rambus is going to design and sell its own brand chips, starting with a new DDR4 server memory chipset, the RB26. It's the introductory offering of the company's new family of R+ chips.</p><p> "At Rambus, we have a rich history of innovation and expertise in high-speed memory interface design – the introduction of this chipset is a natural progression that enables us to deliver maximum value to the industry," <a href="" target="_blank">said Dr. Ron Black,</a> president and chief executive officer at Rambus. "Expanding our offer beyond IP into chips with standards-based offerings that feature leading-edge performance and advanced functionality amplifies our growth strategy and furthers our engagement with the market."</p><p> The RB26 is JEDEC DDR4 compliant. It will consist of Registered DIMMs (RDIMMS) and Load Reduced DIMMS (LRDIMMS) for servers and will include a DDR4 <a href="" target="_blank">Register Clock Driver (RCD)</a>. Rambus will also produce <a href="" target="_blank">data buffer chips</a> for LRDIMMs.</p><p> As a fabless player, Rambus won't manufacture its chips. Given the high costs associated with producing chips, that's not an usual move. Nvidia, for example, is fabless, and so is AMD, which joined the fabless fray when it spun off its chip manufacturing business in 2009 (Globalfoundries).</p><p> Rambus said it's currently sampling RB26 to potential customers and will demonstrate its server DIMM chipset at IDF later this week.</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="620"> </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> Mozilla's Working Towards Real Private Browsing in Firefox versions of Firefox include new privacy features.Mon, 17 Aug 2015 15:53:43 +0000 <h3>Stop following me!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Firefox Developer"></p><p> All the major browsers come with a private browsing mode of some sort so that you can, ahem, shop for birthday gifts and, uh, plan surprise parties without leaving any trace of what you've been up to. Or, more realistically, to visit seedier sides without leaving a potentially embarrassing trail.</p><p> Whatever the use case scenario, these private browsing modes are mostly designed for local peace of mind. They erase your history and take other steps to hide where you've been from anyone else who might use the same PC, though Mozilla wants to take things further.</p><p> Mozilla rolled out a few experimental enhancements to its Private Browsing feature that are currently available in pre-beta versions of Firefox, including Firefox Developer Edition on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and Firefox Aurora on Android. These enhancements are designed to actively block website elements that might be recording your activities or otherwise collecting data about your online activities without your knowledge.</p><p> The enhanced protection can sometimes come at a cost -- specifically, some websites might appear broken when Firefox blocks elements that track your behavior. However, you have the option of unblocking finicky elements to view a website normally.</p><p> Mozilla's new Tracking Protection mechanism also blocks some websites and domains outright.</p><p> "Tracking Protection allows you to take control of your privacy online. While Firefox has a Do Not Track<a href=""></a> feature that tells websites not to monitor your behavior, companies are not required to honor it. Firefox's Tracking Protection feature puts the control back in your hands by actively blocking domains and sites that are known to track users," Mozilla explains.</p><p> If you want to test out the Firefox Developer build for yourself, you can <a href="" target="_blank">download it here</a> and run it alongside your regular Firefox browser (it creates a separate profile).</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 Deal: Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD, LG 23-Inch Monitor, and More! sure, we'd love to own one of Samsung's newly unveiled 16TB solid state drives. And while we're filling out a wish list, we'll take an island and a treasure chest full of gold, too. Yes, it's nice to dream, lest you want to spend an actual treasure chest full of gold, a 16TB SSD will have to wait.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 18:23:45 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 850 Pro"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Oh sure, we'd love to own one of <a href="">Samsung's newly unveiled 16TB solid state drives</a>. And while we're filling out a wish list, we'll take an island and a treasure chest full of gold, too. Yes, it's nice to dream, lest you want to spend an actual treasure chest full of gold, a 16TB SSD will have to wait. If you're looking for a less expensive option, check out today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD-N82E16820147361-_-0814&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD</a> for <strong>$210</strong> with free shipping (normally $240 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR25</strong>]). Armed with 3D V-NAND flash memory, this drive boasts sequential read and write performance of up to 550MB/s and 520MB/s, respectively.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236335-_-0814&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VN248H-P 23.8-inch 5ms Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with free shipping (normally $170 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR24</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822152406-_-0814&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung P3 1TB USB 3.0 2.5-inch Portable External Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$50</strong> with free shipping (normally $55 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR26</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SSD- N82E16820148950-_-0814&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Crucial MX200 2.5-inch 1TB SATA 6Gbps (SATA III) Micron 16nm MLC NAND Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)</a> for <strong>$350</strong> with free shipping (normally $365 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR37</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025094-_-0814&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG 23MP47HQ Black 23-inch 5ms IPS LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKR54</strong>])</p> Windows 10 May Punt You From Playing Pirated Games's EULA for Windows 10 warns that the OS can seek out and block access to counterfeit games and other illegal software.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 18:00:48 +0000 10 <h3>Respect Windows 10's authoritah!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pirate Flag"></p><p> Have you read through the <a href="" target="_blank">End User License Agreement</a> (EULA) for Windows 10? If not, you might be in for a surprise if Microsoft decides to follow through terms outlined in Section 7b, which warns that Windows 10 can automatically check for and block access to illegal software, including counterfeit games, and unauthorized hardware.</p><p> Have a look:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <em>Sometimes you’ll need software updates to keep using the Services. We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices. You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services. Such updates are subject to these Terms unless other terms accompany the updates, in which case, those other terms apply. Microsoft isn’t obligated to make any updates available and we don’t guarantee that we will support the version of the system for which you licensed the software.</em></p><p> These terms don't just apply to Windows 10, they also cover other <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft services and software</a>, such as Skype, Office 365, Xbox Live, and several more.</p><p> As pointed out by <del><em><a href="" target="_blank">Alphr</a></em></del> <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Myce</em></a>, which first noticed the above section in the updated EULA, the wording is not entirely clear. Obviously Microsoft is taking a stand against software piracy, and specifically games (it's not known how Windows 10 might handle cracked versions of programs like Photoshop), but the bit about "unauthorized hardware peripheral devices" is wide open. It could refer to modified or third-party Xbox One controllers, as well several other possibilities.</p><p> What happens if Windows 10 detects a peripheral it doesn't want you using? That's not clear, either. Maybe a warning sign pops up, or perhaps it can be blocked like illegal software.</p><p> There are a lot of "what ifs" here, and if/when we receive clarification from Microsoft, we'll provide an update.</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> Dell and Google See Market for Premium Chromebook 13 Chromebook 13 by Dell is a $400 machine with premium features.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 16:08:32 +0000 <h3>Not your average Chromebook</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dell Chromebook 13"></p><p> Chromebooks are most popular in the education segment. That's because they're cheap, connected devices that haven't really drawn the attention of malware makers, and they're fairly capable if you're willing to dive into Google's ecosystem. For around $150, these machines allow students to hop on the web, research topics, hammer out book reports and other homework, and so forth.</p><p> Or you could spend $399 (or more) on Dell's forthcoming Chromebook 13, a "premium professional" Chromebook designed in collaboration with Google. Dell and Google are reaching for a different audience with this "business-class" Chromebook, though it remains to be seen if business users and professionals in general have any interest in Chrome OS.</p><p> What the Chromebook 13 offers is a 13.3-inch Full HD 1080p IPS display, up to 5th generation Core i5 processor options, up to 8GB of memory, a 720p HD webcam with dual array microphones, and a backlit keyboard wrapped in a premium chassis constructed of a carbon fiber weave cover and an aluminum base. There's also a magnesium alloy palm wrest.</p><p> Outside of a premium collection of hardware, there are some business friendly features, such as Dell KACE (inventory management and service desk support), SonicWALL Mobile Connect (a VPN application), Wyse vWorkspace (desktop virtualization software), and so on.</p><p>"Our latest Chromebook offering is designed for the mobile professional, and provides customers with an unrivaled Chrome experience which mixes the cost and simplicity benefits of Google’s chrome portfolio with Dell’s commitment to design," <a href="" target="_blank">said Kirk Schell</a>, vice president and general manager, commercial client solutions, Dell. "Not only does the solution offer customers a superior mobile working experience, but with the availability of Dell’s leading security, management and ProSupport Plus service, it is also easy to integrate into wider device ecosystems."</p><p> The Chromebook 13 will start at $399 for a Celeron-based configuration and will be available beginning September 17.</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 Renders Your SSD Puny with 16TB Model just unveiled a 16TB SSD that qualifies as the world's largest storage drive.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 15:31:12 +0000 state drivestorage <h3>Raising the storage ceiling</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung NAND"></p><p> I didn't attend the 2015 Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California, but in my head, Samsung trotted out to the show floor and announced to attendees, "Ladies and gentlemen, we present you the PM1633a, a 16 terabyte solid state drive in a 2.5-inch form factor." What I imagine happened next is that the representative who announced the drive turned the mic sideways, dropped it, and walked away.</p><p> I'm sure it didn't go down that way, though Samsung would have been justified in taking that approach. After all, the PM1633a is the world's highest capacity drive of any kind, not just in the realm of SSDs. Suddenly my 960GB SSD array feels pedestrian by comparison.</p><p> According to <a href="" target="_blank"><em></em></a>, the drive actually boasts 15.36TB of storage, which Samsung elected to round up to 16TB. Whatever, it's still the most capacious single drive around.</p><p> Getting to that capacity in a single 2.5-inch drive was made possible by using Samsung's new 256Gbit TLC flash memory. This is the third generation of 3D V-NAND and it consists of 48 layers of 3-bits per cell on a single die.</p><p> Not only is this more capacious than solutions based on second generation V-NAND consisting of 32 layers of 3-bits per cell, but according to Samsung, it sports improved read and write performance, along with better power efficiency.</p><p> As for the price? Samsung didn't say, though I suspect it's in the neighborhood of an arm and a leg.</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> Apple Boot Camp 6 Now Supports Windows 10 can now run Windows 10 on a MacBook Pro, more.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 08:09:21 +0000 10 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Apple 12q2 Macbook Pro Ret Angleopen Lg"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">There’s an Apple support page</a> revealing that Boot Camp 6&nbsp;for Mac is compatible with Windows 10. What’s that mean to you? The ability to use Microsoft’s new platform on a supported OS X “Yosemite” Mac machine. Unfortunately, Boot Camp only supports the 64-bit version of Windows 10.</p><p>According to the Support page, Boot Camp users can install Windows 10 in two ways: perform a new install or perform an upgrade install. Both will require the Windows 10 ISO provided by Microsoft, which can be used to create a DVD or a bootable USB flash drive. Microsoft’s ISO <a href="" target="_blank">can be downloaded here</a>.</p><p>A list of features that Windows 10 will support include USB 3.0, USB-C, Thunderbolt, an Apple keyboard, trackpad, and mouse, Apple SuperDrive (USB or built-in), and built-in SD and SDXC card slots. A list of compatible Mac products <a href="" target="_blank">can be found here</a>, which include models in the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac families.</p><p>“You can install Windows 10 on an internal drive in your Mac,” Apple states. “Boot Camp Assistant helps you create a partition on your drive that's compatible with Windows. When you install Windows on a Mac that includes a Fusion Drive, the Windows partition is created on the mechanical hard drive part of the Fusion Drive (not the SSD).”</p><p>Apple customers wanting to install Windows 10 need to make sure they have the latest version of OS X and Boot Camp Assistant. The Mac firmware also must be up-to-date in order to play host to Microsoft’s operating system.</p><p>Microsoft launched Windows 10 two weeks ago and the customer reaction seems to be highly positive. Not only does the new platform bring back the Start Menu, but adds great features to the Windows “service” such as Cortana, DirectX 12, the Edge browser, and more. Windows 10 is currently a free upgrade for customers running Windows 7 SP! And Windows 8.1.</p><p>Apple says that once customers install Windows 10, they can install iTunes for Windows to listen to their music and watch their videos. However, first customers need to make sure that the Windows 10 platform is authorized to play those files.</p> TP-Link Unleashes Mega Fast Tri-band Router router provides three bands instead of the typical two.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 07:55:30 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="TP-Link Archer C3200"></p><p>TP-Link launched on Thursday a great networking solution that’s ideal for small businesses and homes that are pushing 4K video streaming to multiple devices. Called <a href="" target="_blank">the Archer C3200</a>, this router provides three Wi-Fi bands instead of two, coughing up a combined speed of 3.2 Gbps.</p><p>The new Archer C3200 features one 2.4 GHz band providing speeds of up to 600 Mbps and two 5 GHz bands promising speeds of up to 1300 Mbps apiece. These bands are backed by six high-performance antennas, a 1 GHz dual-core CPU, and three co-processors. Other notable features include beamforming and Smart Connect, the latter of&nbsp;which will assign a device to one of the bands that cranks out the best possible connection.</p><p>So why provide three bands? Because two aren’t enough, especially if a household streams a lot of content, such as Hulu Plus and Netflix. Or take the new Xbox One / Windows 10 connectivity as an example, which likely consumes a lot of bandwidth. Customers surfing the Internet could do so on the 2.4 GHz band while the Xbox One connects to one of the 5 GHz bands and the Netflix consumer streams video on the other 5 GHz band. </p><p>“Archer C3200 Wireless Tri-Band Gigabit Routers greatly increases the Wi-Fi coverage throughout a large home,” the company says. “The routers utilize beamforming technology in order to easily locate wireless devices and form stronger, more reliable connections.”</p><p>In addition to performance, the new TP-Link router provides one gigabit WAN port for the incoming Internet, four gigabit LAN ports for wired devices like desktops, consoles, and HDTVs, a USB 2.0 port, and a USB 3.0 port. The latter USB 3.0 port could be used for sharing files across the network while the slower USB 2.0 port could be used for sharing a printer.</p><p>Naturally to get those high speeds on the 5 GHz band, customers will need a device with built-in Wireless AC technology, or a Wireless AC adapter. For instance, <a href="" target="_blank">the Archer T9E</a> PCI Express adapter will provide 5 GHz speeds of up to 1300 Mbps and 2.4 GHz speeds of up to 600 Mbps. For a cheaper price, consumers should also consider <a href="" target="_blank">the Archer T8E</a>, which provides 5 GHz speeds of up to 1300 Mbps and speeds of up to 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band.</p><p>Unfortunately, TP-Link’s new router doesn’t come cheap, setting customers back $259.99. Customers can purchase the router today from <a href="" target="_blank">TP-Link</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Fry’s</a>, and from additional online and brick-and-mortar retailers soon.</p> EKWB Reveals Its First AIO Liquid Cooler's a new line of liquid cooling products from EK Water Blocks.Fri, 14 Aug 2015 07:53:47 +0000 cooling systemNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="EK-Predator 240"></p><p>Slovenia-based <a href="" target="_blank">EK Water Blocks has unveiled</a> a new line of all-in-one liquid cooling solutions, the EK-Predator family. The company says that these new products are “the next big thing” that will shake things up in the liquid cooling market. That’s probably because they are geared for the mainstream market but use enthusiast-based components, providing a lot of bang for the buck.</p><p>According to the company, the EK-Predator units include EK-Vardar high static pressure fans and PWM controls. Arriving in 240mm and 360mm sizes, the units are also pre-filled and pre-assembled. Other ingredients include 10/16 mm Zero Maintenance rubber tubing (EK-ZMT), G1/4 threaded ports, and integrated Quick Disconnects (QDC), the latter of which allows the builder to expand the liquid cooling system without having to drain the reservoir.</p><p>Some of the highlights the company provided on Thursday include the Vardar fans that were developed specifically for water cooling. There’s also an integrated fan splitter hub, and a 6W liquid cooling “DDC” pump providing up to a 3x higher flow rate than competing models. Specially designed radiator dampeners eliminates the transfer of pump vibrations, providing noise-free and vibration-free operation.</p><p>“Supremacy MX CPU water block, top performer in Enthusiast segment, is specifically designed for Intel CPUs and offers great hydraulic and thermal performance,” the company says. “Carefully machined copper base is made from purest copper available and is further polished to absolute mirror finish. This alone greatly improves the cooling performance of the block.”</p><p>As for the actual dimensions, which include the integrated pump and reservoir, the smaller Predator 240 measures 295mm x 133mm x 68mm while the larger Predator 360 measures 415mm x 133mm x 68mm. The company says the smaller offering will fit most “modern” computer cases. The larger model, however, will be compatible with a number of cases that EK Water Blocks will reveal at a later date.</p><p>Unfortunately, AMD customers won’t get their hands on these new liquid cooling solutions until 2016. Right now the company is focusing on Intel CPU sockets, which includes the EK-Predator 240 that launches on September 23 ($199) and the EK-Predator 360 on October 19 ($239). </p><p>Customers interested in purchasing these liquid cooling solutions can <a href="" target="_blank">pre-order them now from the company</a> starting August 23. Those who pre-order will receive free Express Worldwide shipping.</p> Build It: Little PC on the Prairie ultra-budget gaming PC for the shallowest of pocketsFri, 14 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 fx-6300budget pcBuild a PCgeforce gtx 960 <p><em>This article was published in the August 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories,<a href=""> subscribe here</a>.</em></p><h3>An ultra-budget gaming PC for the shallowest of pockets</h3><p><em>Length of Time: 1-3 Hours | Level of Difficulty: Medium</em></p><h5>The Mission</h5><p>One letter came in from retired army sergeant first class Harley Roam, who wrote in from Texas. (Texas?! Only steers and&hellip; ahem... came from Texas. Right, Sergeant Cowboy?)</p><p>Harley expressed that he’s not one with deep pockets. Our typical builds tend to be in the $800 range or more, but Harley was wondering if we could build a PC for $300 to $500.</p><p>Challenge accepted, we thought. Couldn’t be all that hard, now, could it? So, we set out scouring the web for parts on behalf of Harley. We found out that you can indeed build a PC that’s sluggish and cheap, but we don’t want that for Harley. We wanted to make sure he could actually play games on his rig. We also wanted to build a system that would have room for upgrades that aren’t too expensive. The build we ended up with was just shy of $600, so we came out close-ish to our goal.</p><p>We did the best we could to make sure Harley could build a good rig for as little scratch as we could bear. After all, we’ve all been in a spot where we weren’t exactly flush with cash. So, pay attention, Harley, this build’s for you!</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd"></p><h5>Rally the Troops</h5><p>Setting a budget of $500 puts severe restrictions on our choices of hardware, and ultimately, we weren’t able to make it. There are some things we just weren’t willing to compromise, namely 1080p gaming with at least 30fps with settings cranked up. This led us to pick the GeForce GTX 960 for the GPU. We went with an Asus STRIX because we found it for about $200. While that’s a big chunk of budget, it will give a solid gaming experience in many games you’re likely to encounter. Going with team green also means you’ll have a better experience in Linux gaming, should you choose to go with the free OS. After all, including Windows 8 in a build means saying bye-bye to a Benjamin. If you’re building an ultra-budget machine, it’s unlikely you have too many of them to spare.</p><p>For a processor, we went with an AMD FX-6300, which was $100. Between the GPU and CPU, we thought this would give Harvey a good base to build upon. We dropped the CPU and GPU onto a Gigabyte GA-970A-DS3P, which was about $60. We also dropped the idea of having an SSD or optical drive. The power supply is a little beefier than our needs called for, but we wanted to make sure the system could take an upgrade or two without hitting the upper limit of the PSU. The Enermax case we put everything into was surprisingly roomy for the build, and gave enough options for cable management and upgrades that meant we weren’t left wanting.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Ingredients</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Part<br></td><td></td><td>Price</td></tr><tr><td>Case<br></td><td>Enermax Coenus</td><td>$60</td></tr><tr><td>Mobo<br></td><td>Gigabyte 970A-DS3P<br></td><td>$68</td></tr><tr><td>CPU<br></td><td>AMD FX-6300</td><td> $100</td></tr><tr><td>Memory<br></td><td>G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1866 DDR3<br></td><td>$65</td></tr><tr><td>GPU<br></td><td>Asus STRIX GTX 960<br></td><td>$200</td></tr><tr><td>PSU<br></td><td>Corsair CX500</td><td> $55</td></tr><tr><td>HDD<br></td><td>Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD<br></td><td>$51</td></tr><tr><td>Total<br></td><td></td><td>$599</td></tr></tbody></table><h5>1. Using Less Texas Tea</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.1"></p><p>Corsair's CX500 isn’t as sexy as its modular siblings, but it gets the job done for a reasonable price. Normally, a non-modular power supply means a rat’s nest of unused cables. We kept things tidy with the help of the case’s beveled side panel behind the mobo. A few zip and twisty ties kept the unused power cables out of the way.</p><p>The CX500’s meager (to us) output means it’s small compared with the 1KW monsters you’ll find in bigger systems. That’s acceptable because our CPU and GPU aren’t super demanding. The PSU is 80 Plus Bronze certified, which is a bare minimum when it comes to efficiency. If you do eventually upgrade to a bigger PSU, we prefer modular units to help keep things neat. Power cables are the largest cables in the case, and more of them makes maintaining good airflow and closing the right side panel a pain.</p><h5>2. Take It at a Mosey Place</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.2"></p><p>Nothing fancy to see here, folks&mdash;move along, move along. Our limited budget prohibited us from going crazy on cooling, so the stock heatsink and fan had to suffice. It wasn’t so bad though; the FX-6300 stayed fairly cool with the stock parts. Even under load, it didn’t feel like the processor was heating up the room. We didn’t plan on overclocking the CPU, so excessive cooling wasn’t warranted here. Using the stock heatsink and fan also saves you a bit of build time.</p><p>Of course, should you want to OC, we’d recommend grabbing an aftermarket cooler. For air cooling, Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo is only $35.</p><h5>3. A Simple Kind of Mobo</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.3"></p><p>Gigabyte's 970A-DS3P is a $65 motherboard that has all the basics you need. That said, our choice of mobo was a compromise due to our budget constraints. One thing we noticed about this particular board is that the right side didn’t extend all the way to the forward column of brass standoffs. This meant that plugging in the ATX power connector was a little more hairy, as the board flexed a bit under the pressure. That was easily overcome by pushing the underside of the board with the other hand, though. Still, it was a bit of a gotcha you should keep in mind if you go with this board.</p><p>The motherboard is one of the parts that we consider “good enough for now,” knowing that a user would probably want to upgrade it in the future. It’s got all the basics, USB 3.0, and other standards like onboard FakeRAID. You can find good AMD 970 chipset boards for around $100, and 990 boards for a little more.</p><h5>4. Take It Easy</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.4"></p><p>One great thing about going with a stock heatsink and fan is that memory is a breeze to install. Click-click, bam! Done! For this build, we went with 1,866MHz G.Skill Ripjaws, which the motherboard took without need to overclock. We had to set the memory speed in the BIOS, but that’s a relatively painless process. Eight gigabytes of memory is plenty for this build. Again, we weren’t trying to go crazy. To stay within the ultrabudget range, we don’t recommend going much higher in capacity or frequency.</p><p>The G.Skill Ripjaws aren’t the cheapest DIMMs you can find, but they are relatively inexpensive, have decent timings, and will serve you well even if the CPU, motherboard, or other components are upgraded. While 1,600MHz memory is slightly cheaper, the 970 chipset and CPU support 1,866MHz without overclocking, so we figured: why not? If you have to squeeze every penny though, 1,600MHz memory is just dandy.</p><h5>5. The Lone Hard Drive</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.5"></p><p>This is a budget bill, so we had to omit use of an SSD in favor of a single spinning drive. The 1TB Seagate Barracuda looks kind of lonely all by itself, but that also means the drive will have plenty of room to dissipate any heat.</p><p>Building systems with spinning hard drives as the system drive is a bit antiquated. Compared with SSDs, waiting on big file transfers feels like going back to the stone ages. Unfortunately&mdash;or fortunately, depending on how you look at it&mdash;prices for spinning hard drives don’t scale at the same rate capacity does. Where a 500GB SSD might cost the same as two 250GB models, a 1TB HDD is usually less expensive than two 500GB units. That price difference precluded us from using RAID as a strategy to obtain higher transfer rates. For that reason, we recommend upgrading to an SSD as soon as there’s spare money to burn.</p><h5>6. See the Sights</h5><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC114.rd buildit.6"></p><p>The videocard we chose is modest by many counts. Nevertheless, the GTX 960 can still produce playable frame rates at 1080p for a wide array of games. Don’t think you’ll be playing Grand Theft Auto V maxed out, but you can still get good-looking visuals for a pretty reasonable $200.</p><p>The Asus STRIX implementation of the GTX 960 is quite the compact card. The STRIX’s size would pay off a lot more in a smaller, tighter system like an HTPC. But in the Enermax case, the card has plenty of room, making for a simple installation and power connection. The card is also inexpensive enough that buying another one down the road and using the two in SLI is a perfectly viable upgrade.</p><p>You’ll have an easy time getting the card to work in Linux, as Nvidia’s proprietary drivers are still the best performers on the open-source OS. So you’ll be able to play BioShock: Infinite on Linux, should you go the way of the penguin.</p><p><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gut"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">1. It’s rare that we leave a CPU with nothing more than a stock heatsink and fan, but we can get away with it since we’re not overclocking.<br>2. The lack of an optical drive is not a crime. You can find Linux install media on USB drives, and if you need a DVD drive for Windows 8, they run about $20.<br>3. The 2.5-inch drive cage positioned above the 3.5-inch cage gives extra room for long graphics cards that otherwise wouldn’t fit.<br>4. The CX500 isn’t modular, so you have to stuff the extra cables somewhere. The case’s beveled side panels make this easier for rookies.</p><h5>Wide-Open Spaces with Room to Grow</h5><p>Low-balling on price isn’t something we normally do here. We love our big $100 cases and $300 CPUs, but we get it that not everyone can afford to build in the $1,500 range.</p><p>At the same time, if we’re going to compromise in the name of budget, there are some things we just aren’t willing to skimp on. Even with a relatively modest $100 CPU, gaming relies heavily on GPU performance. Investing that $200 in a GPU will pay off in the long run, as other components are upgraded.</p><p>Building PCs is more than just performance, it’s a hobby and passion for us. If money is tight, it’s sometimes better to get a modest base and improve it all the time. That will make a story out of the continual work. Just as a project car can go from rust-bucket to show material, a computer can go from a budget build to a face-melting machine that bends space-time given enough time, blood, sweat, tears, and disposable income.</p><p>We wanted to create a solid base to build on. The case offers plenty of opportunities for expansion, and the GPU and CPU combo will get the system started in the right direction. While the build drags its ass for a number of reasons&mdash;namely, the modest CPU and a spinning hard drive for the OS&mdash;the six cores of the FX-6300 combine to get work done in multithreaded applications. Also, you should be able to play quite a few games at 1080p at modest settings with the GTX 960.</p><p>Transforming this build from modest to mighty can take any number of approaches with incremental improvements. An SSD will level-up your data-transfer speeds significantly, and is the best way to enhance the build. The boost in storage speed should be followed by a more robust motherboard with features like M.2 support. A mobo upgrade will present the choice to stay with the AM3+ socket or to switch over to an Intel board.</p><p>If you choose to stay with AM3+ and go with a better AMD CPU or overclock the FX-6300, investing in a closed-loop water cooler is ideal. Packing in more case fans will make life easier for overclockers, as well. With this case, there’s plenty of room for a small cooler and extra fans. Going with Intel will cost you some extra coin, but will allow for a less aggressive cooling solution.</p><p>We enjoyed this challenge, even if we couldn’t quite get it down to $500. Sorry about that, Harley, but we wanted to make sure you’d have a better base machine for gaming and video. Prices do fluctuate, and we saw a few rebates that brought the build down by $40–$50. By the time you read this, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to take advantage of a couple of deals and get started. Happy trails!</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Benchmarks</td><td></td><td></td></tr><tr><td></td><td>Zero-Point</td><td></td></tr><tr><td>Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)<br></td><td>2,000<br></td><td>2,194 (-8.8%)</td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)<br></td><td>831<br></td><td>1,685 (-50.7%)</td></tr><tr><td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)<br></td><td>1,446<br></td><td>1,717 (-15.8%)</td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)<br></td><td>21.1<br></td><td>9.9 (-53.1%)</td></tr><tr><td>Batman: Arkham City (fps)<br></td><td>76<br></td><td>39 (-48.7%)</td></tr><tr><td>3DMark 11 Extreme<br></td><td>5,847<br></td><td>3,294 (-43.7%)</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Our current zero-point consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K (turbo 3.8GHz), 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Samsung 28-Inch 4K Monitor, Intel Core i7-5930K, and More! get it, you didn't splurge on your smoking fast gaming PC with dual graphics cards, loads of SSD storage, and a burly CPU just so you could game at 1080p. That'd be like buying a Lamborghini for grocery store runs.Thu, 13 Aug 2015 20:41:30 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 4K Monitor"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>We get it, you didn't splurge on your smoking fast gaming PC with dual graphics cards, loads of SSD storage, and a burly CPU just so you could game at 1080p. That'd be like buying a Lamborghini for grocery store runs. You could go with a 30-inch 2560x1600 panel for some added gaming goodness, or even better, check out today's top deal for a Samsung U28E590D 28-Inch 4K Ultra HD Monitor for <strong>$480</strong> with free shipping (use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKP23</strong>]). Running at 3840x2160 will keep your monster configuration from yawning, and when it comes time to be productive, you'll have tons of screen real estate to utilize.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><strong></strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117403-_-0813&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-5930K Haswell-E 6-Core 3.5GHz Desktop Processor</a> for <strong>$551</strong> with free shipping (normally $580 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKP22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824236153-_-0813&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus VS248H-P Black 24-inch 2ms LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$140</strong> with free shipping (normally $160 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKP26</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824014370-_-0813&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">BenQ XL2420Z 24-inch 1 (GTG) LED Backlight 3D Gaming LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$290</strong> with free shipping (normally $300 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKP28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231560-_-0813&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ares Series 16GB (2x8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1866 Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$78</strong> with free shipping (normally $88 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKP35</strong>])</p> Padlock Your Dropbox with USB Two Factor Authentication now supports Universial 2nd Factor (U2F) security keys.Thu, 13 Aug 2015 19:46:43 +0000 authentication <h3>Beef up your security</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dropbox"></p><p> Dropbox is making it more difficult for the bad guys to infiltrate your online storage account, provided you take advantage of the service's new support for USB-based two-factor authentication.</p><p> Effective immediately, Dropbox supports Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) security keys as an additional method for two-step verification, albeit only if you're using Google's Chrome browser. This allows you to use a USB key to help prove your identity.</p><p> If you're not signing in from a Chrome browser, you can still use Dropbox's two-step verfication via text message sent to your phone or an authenticator app, support for which was added to the cloud service back in 2012. However, if you're to take advantage of U2F support, Dropbox says you'll be better off.</p><p> "Security keys provide stronger defense against credential theft attacks like phishing. Even if you’re using two-step verification with your phone, some sophisticated attackers can still use fake Dropbox websites to lure you into entering your password and verification code. They can then use this information to access your account," Dropbox explained in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> To use U2F, you'll need a security key that follows the FIDO U2F standard from the <a href="" target="_blank">FIDO Alliance</a>. Once you have that, select the Security tab in your Dropbox account and click Add next to Security keys.</p><p> From then on, when logging into your Dropbox account, you'll type in your password as normal, followed by plugging your key into a USB port on your PC.</p><p> <strong>More than Peace of Mind?</strong></p><p> This is a nice move by Dropbox, but since it's only supported in Chrome, it's also of limited value. Keep in mind that two-factor authentication still works when you don't have your USB key handy, and that's true of hackers, too. So, what's the use?</p><p> As Dropbox points out, using U2F rather than punching in a code sent to your phone can protect you from sophisticated phishing attempts. And that's really the main benefit here -- with U2F, you can be sure that you're unlocking the correct the door.</p><p> That said, Dropbox isn't without its weaknesses. While your data is encrypted, it's not client side end-to-end encryption. In other words, Dropbox owns the keys to decrypt your data, which leaves it susceptible to disgruntled employees, government seizures, and hackers.</p><p> None of this makes Dropbox a bad service, just understand that even if you use U2F, there are still ways for your private data to be exposed.</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 Changes Rules for Windows 10 Activation (for the Better) you've activated Windows 10 for the first time, you can perform subsequent clean installs and not have to punch in your product key each time.Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:32:16 +0000 10 <h3>No more searching for keys</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10"></p><p> Microsoft hasn't done away with Windows activation in Windows 10, though it did make things easier for users who perform clean installs on occasion. Once you upgrade and activate Windows for the first time, you can perform subsequent clean installs without having to track down your product key.</p><p> In fact, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Ian Paul at <em>PCWorld</em></a>, you can't even find your product key in Windows 10 after upgrading. Instead, utilities like Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder and Belarc Advisor return a generic key -- if you're running Windows 10 Pro, you'll see VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T, the same key that's used for build 10240.</p><p> The reason for this is because Microsoft is moving to "digital entitlements." The way Microsoft explains it, once you upgrade to Windows 10, the activation state from your previous version of Windows is carried over.</p><p> "Once activated, a digital entitlement for your PC's hardware is created in the Windows 10 activation service, This entitlement can be used by the same PC again for re-activation of the same Edition of Windows 10 in the future," Microsoft explains.</p><p> In Windows 10, your PC's activation status is stored in the cloud, so once you've activated Windows 10 for the first time, you won't have to worry about it ever again. If you perform a clean install afterwards -- maybe you were hit by a virus or want to zero-fill your drive -- your system will activate on its own without you having to hunt down and enter in a product key.</p><p> What happens if you upgrade your hardware and perform a clean install? <a href="" target="_blank">According to <em>ZDNet</em></a>, swapping out your graphics card or storage drive shouldn't trigger a reactivation. If it does, you'll need to call Microsoft's activation hotline.</p><p> The bigger issue is motherboard replacement. As before, Microsoft recognizes a new motherboard as a new PC, which means your digital entitlement will likely go right out the Window, prompting the need to call in for reactivation.</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> PC Giant Lenovo Chants ‘We’re Number One!’ While Slashing 3,200 Jobs retains its spot as the world's top supplier of PCs, though plans to reduce it workforce by 5 percent due to sagging sales.Thu, 13 Aug 2015 16:01:18 +0000 <h3>Rough quarter</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lenovo Motorola"></p><p> Lenovo said it's planning to reduce its workforce by around 5 percent, which works out to 3,200 job cuts. It's a cost cutting measure that Lenovo anticipates will reduce expenses by about $650 million in the second half of this year, and $1.35 billion annually.</p><p> News of the staff reduction came as Lenovo reported financial results for its first fiscal quarter ended June 30, 2015. Quarterly revenue came to $10.7 billion, an impressive figure on its own, but down three percent year-over-year. More troubling for Lenovo is that its net income fell 51 percent year-over-year to $105 million.</p><p> Lenovo blamed the disappointing figures on "significant declines in the global PC and tablet markets," along with slowed growth and increasing competition, particularly in China, in its smartphone business.</p><p> Looking to expand its portfolio and become a bigger player in mobile, <a href="">Lenovo acquired Motorola</a> from Google for $2.91 billion less than a year ago. That gamble hasn't paid off just yet, and even worse, Lenovo said it plans to write off $300 million in unsold smartphone devices, plus spend $600 restructuring its mobile business.</p><p> As for PC sales, Lenovo is still the biggest player around in terms of shipments and market share, having now been in the top spot for nine consecutive quarters. This is despite facing "perhaps the toughest market environment in recent years."</p><p> Lenovo collected $7.3 billion in quarterly sales from its PC Group, which includes PCs and Windows tablets. That's an 8 percent decline annually, though that's a reflection of the market, not Lenovo's ability to sell computers -- the OEM reached a record high 20.6 percent global market share on 13.5 million PC sales during the quarter, and widened its lead over Hewlett-Packard in the process.</p><p> "We will reduce costs in our PC business and increase efficiency in order to leverage industry consolidation increase share and improve profitability. We will come through these efforts as a faster, stronger and better aligned global company," said Yuanqing Yang, Chairman and CEO of Lenovo.</p><p> Even though Lenovo still leads the PC market, it has to be careful not to scare off customers. Fresh off the <a href="">Superfish scandal</a>, in which it was found that pre-loaded software on some Lenovo systems posed a security threat, it was <a href="">recently discovered</a> that Lenovo was using a BIOS firmware feature to download its software onto PCs even if a user wipes his/her storage device and performs a clean installation of Windows.</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> Synology DiskStation DS2415+ NAS Review the NAS world, bigger is definitely betterThu, 13 Aug 2015 07:30:00 +0000 DiskStation <h3>In the NAS world, bigger is definitely better</h3><p>NASes are becoming more common, not just in the office space, but at home. As faster Internet connection speeds become more common, it's likely that more storage space will be required. But what if you stored everything on your PC? While we suspect a lot of people take this approach, the better approach would be to store media and archival files on a NAS, making the files accessible to any client PC, regardless of whether a "main" PC is down.</p><p>Last time, we took a look at <a target="_blank" href="">QNAP's beastly TVS-871 NAS</a>; this time, we look at an equally compelling option from another big name in the NAS business: Synology.</p><p>Before we continue, we'd like to point out that the vast number of home/casual users wouldn't need the product in this review. However, for business users and home users with a serious need for data capacity,&nbsp;redundancy, and availability, extra consumer-oriented features such as HDMI output aren't necessary.</p><p>Enter the Synology DiskStation DS2415+, a 12-bay NAS that focuses on several key features: high availability, total storage capacity, and expansion. Here are the specs:</p><table><thead><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>Synology DiskStation 2415+ Specifications</td></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>Storage Management</td><td>Single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, hot spare<br>RAID migration: 1 to 5, 5 to 6, basic to 1, basic to 5<br>Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)<br>High availability (not available when using SHR)<br>Online volume expansion<br>Online RAID capacity expansion<br>Online RAID level migration<br>Global hot spare<br>Storage expansion via DX1215 x 1<br>Bad block scan and hard drive S.M.A.R.T.<br>Bad block recovery<br>RAID recovery<br></td></tr><tr><td>CPU</td><td>Intel Atom C2538 Quad-core 2.4GHz</td></tr><tr><td>Memory</td><td>6GB DDR3 (expandable from 2GB default)</td></tr><tr><td>SSD Cache</td><td>None configured</td></tr><tr><td>HDD</td><td>12 bays (8&nbsp;TB drive support), total capacity of 96&nbsp;TB</td></tr><tr><td>Video</td><td>Not supported</td></tr><tr><td>Network</td><td>4x 1Gb Ethernet</td></tr><tr><td>USB</td><td>4x USB 3.0<br>Supports USB printer, drive, USB hub, UPS, Wi-Fi dongle</td></tr><tr><td>Cooling</td><td>2x 120mm rear exhaust</td></tr><tr><td>Power</td><td>500W</td></tr><tr><td>Expansion</td><td>1x Expansion ports</td></tr><tr><td>Dimensions</td><td>270 (H) x 300 (W) x 340 (D) mm<br></td></tr><tr><td>Weight</td><td>9.24 kg / 20.37 lbs (without drives)</td></tr><tr><td>OS</td><td>DSM 5.2 embedded Linux</td></tr><tr><td>Extras</td><td>2x CAT6 Ethernet cables</td></tr></tbody></table><p>For the detailed list of specifications, check out <a href="" target="_blank">Synology's page on the DS2415+</a>. It's necessary to note that the DS2415+ doesn't offer 10GbE expansion, so you're limited to 1Gbit infrastructures. If you want higher throughput on the DS2415+, you'll need to enabled link aggregation and have a network switch that supports 802.3ad.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology Diskstation Ds2415 001" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>The front's design is simple. Drives are removed by pushing in the lock side side of each cage. For those who might be relocating, we recommend removing all drive cages before transporting the NAS, as the unit is very heavy when fully loaded. Even with drive cages locked, it's possible to have a cage come loose with enough force.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology Diskstation Ds2415 002"></p><p>The rear of the&nbsp;DS2415+ is equipped with four USB 3.0 ports, four 1Gbit Ethernet ports, a console port, and one DiskStation expansion port. There are&nbsp;dual "smart"&nbsp;120mm exhaust fans on the rear that operate in high speed mode one the system detects that one fan has failed.&nbsp;You can of course, replace the fans if you wish, and as long as they're PWM fans, the failover feature will stay intact.</p><p> On the rear of the DS2415+ you'll find four 1Gbit Ethernet ports that can operate individually or bonded under 802.3ad link aggregation. This means that you can technically bond all four ports for a total maximum throughput of 4Gbit/sec, but under link aggregation, you'll need multiple IO transactions to take advantage of the extra bandwidth. With a single file transfer, you won't go above the bandwidth of one single link. You'll also need a managed switch that supports link aggregation.&nbsp;For the best throughput, it's still best to have a fatter pipe. The DS2415+ does not have 10GbE expansion capabilities. Synology claims a maximum aggregated throughput of 451MB/s reads and 415MB/s writes when all four Ethernet ports are bonded.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Netgear ProSAFE XS708E"></p><p> In our previous review, we used an ASUS RT-AC87U AC2400 router for our network tests, but have since moved to a&nbsp;<a href="">Netgear ProSAFE XS708E 10GbE switch</a>. This will allow us to test NASes without a low bandwidth ceiling, since the XS708E supports link aggregation as well as a full 10Gbit/sec of performance on all 8 ports.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Netgear ProSAFE XS708E"></p><p> For our aggregation tests, we bonded ports 1 and 2, and 3 and 4 on the XS708E.</p><h5>DS2415+&nbsp;features</h5><p> The DiskStation DS2415+ is packed full of features such as: OpenERP, web hosting, Plex Media Server, WordPress, VPN Server, and a host of others that are all available as appliance downloads through Synology's Package Center. Other more advanced features such as VMware vSphere and Windows Server 2012 virtualization are supported as well as lightweight application appliances. The Intel Atom CPU inside the DS2415+ isn't intended for heavy-duty purposes, but the DS2415+ isn't positioned as an all-in-one server&mdash;it's primarily targeted as a storage device.</p><p> Synology's application repository isn't as expansive as QNAP's, but it has most of what you'll likely be using the DS2415+ for. One interesting feature is Synology's CMS, which is a central management application used to manage multiple Synology NASes through one NAS.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology DiskStation DS2415+"></p><p> Above, you can see the DS2415+ managing an eight-bay&nbsp;Synology DS1815+. Through CMS, you can manage all aspects of the other NASes, including installing and removing appliances, volumes, etc. If you have multiple Synology NASes, CMS is a ultra convenient utility to have. With CMS enabled, two-factor authentication must be disabled, which reduces security. Hopefully, Synology will find a way to support two-factor authentication. You can use Google Authenticator with any Synology NAS running a recent&nbsp;version of DSM.</p><p> The DS2415+ also comes with what Synology calls High-Availability, which runs a heartbeat daemon that syncs and failover between two Synology NASes. HA is available as part of the DS2415+ and so there's no added cost for the feature.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology DiskStation DS2415+"></p><p> For high-availability to work, you will be required to use two Ethernet ports per NAS and one will act as a passive server, only kicking in if the first one succumbs to a severe failure. We suspect business users will find this solution useful for mission critical data integrity.</p><h5>Configuration</h5><p> We configured our DS2415+ with 12 (yes, all 12 bays) <a target="_blank" href=";cm_re=seagate_enterprise_nas_5tb-_-22-178-664-_-Product">Seagate Enterprise NAS 5TB drives</a>, giving us a total raw capacity of 60TB. Seagate offers its Enterprise NAS drive in capacities up to 6TB.</p><p> We previously used desktop-level NAS drives, but for a NAS with 12 drive bays, we highly recommend going to enterprise-level drives from your favorite vendor. With 12 drive bays, there's increased vibration through the NAS chassis, although the DS2415+ does a good job of keeping vibrations to a minimum. Enterprise NAS drives have several key difference that make them more reliable, such as spindle motors that are mounted and fixed on both ends. Desktop drives, on the other hand, have the motor mounted to the drive body only at the motor's base.</p><p> Synology supports SSD caching in the DS2415+ for faster read/write performance, but you'll be required to use two identical SSDs. The DS2415+ will automatically create a mirrored cache between the two SSDs. We did not test with SSD caching.</p><h5>Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)</h5><p> We used RAID 6 in our configuration since we're using a set of identical drives. However,&nbsp;Synology offers what it calls Hybrid-RAID, which allows users to mix and match different hard drive capacities to expand a RAID volume. For situations where obtaining a full set of identical drives isn't economical, Synology Hybrid RAID elevates traditional RAID volume drawbacks, such as having to destroy and recreate an array when upgrading.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology Hybrid RAID SHR"></p><p> SHR is offered in single- and dual-disk failure formats (similar to RAID 5 and RAID 6, respectively). However, Synology admits that there's a slight performance hit to using SHR versus a classic RAID setup. The benefit, of course, is the support of drives of varying capacities as well as space optimization. To increase the capacity of a classic RAID setup, all drives in the volume must be upgraded. With SHR, you can upgrade any drive at any given time.</p><p> An interesting scenario one might consider is a full volume upgrade. Take our DS2415+ with 12 Seagate Enterprise NAS 5TB drives as an example. With SHR enabled, we can technically upgrade the entire array to 6TB drives by removing one drive at a time and replacing it with a larger-capacity drive. In single-drive failure SHR, we would let the array rebuild and then repeat the procedure with the next drive. Granted, this isn't a very fast way to upgrade a volume, but it does make it possible to do a capacity upgrade while hot.</p><p> If you plan to go down this path, we recommend using SHR with two-drive failure support instead of one-drive, so you don't put your array in a risky degraded mode during the upgrade procedure.&nbsp;</p><h3>Tests</h3><p>We tested several features of the DS2415+, including RAID fail, rebuild, and throughput. We also tested dual link-aggregation mode from NAS to NAS.</p><p>Tests were done with the following hardware:</p><table><thead><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>Test bed</td></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>Motherboard</td><td><a target="_blank" 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 target="_blank" 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 target="_blank" href=";cm_re=samsung_850_pro_1tb-_-20-147-362-_-Product">Samsung 850 Pro 1TB</a> x 2 (RAID 0)</td></tr><tr><td>OS</td><td>Windows 10 Professional</td></tr><tr><td>Switch</td><td><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1439368588&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Netgear+ProSAFE+XS708E+10GbE">Netgear ProSAFE XS708E 10GbE</a><br></td></tr><tr><td>Cable</td><td>CAT7 7ft</td></tr></tbody></table><p>Note: <a href="">Thanks to CyberPower PC</a> for supplying the Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SSDs!</p><h5>THE BENCHMARKS:</h5><table><thead><tr><td>Test</td><td>Score</td></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>File Copy Write (CIFS)</td><td>114.2 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Read (CIFS)</td><td>117.1 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Write RAID 5</td><td>103 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Read RAID 5</td><td>103.6 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Write RAID 6</td><td>101.1 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Read RAID 6</td><td>107 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Write RAID 10</td><td>116.8 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Read RAID 10</td><td>115 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>Single Drive 1TB Active Rebuild (hh:mm:ss)</td><td>01:49:02</td></tr><tr><td>Single Drive 1TB Non-Active Rebuild (hh:mm:ss) </td><td>01:38:41</td></tr></tbody></table><h5>Aggregation tests (dual port @ 2Gbit/sec negotiated link):</h5><table><thead><tr><td>Test</td><td>Score</td></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>Dual 6GB&nbsp;File Copy Write (NAS to NAS)</td><td>222.2 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>Dual 6GB&nbsp;File Copy Read (NAS to NAS)</td><td>231.8 MB/sec</td></tr></tbody></table><p>Clearly there's performance gains to be had in link aggregation mode, which is where you can see substantial throughput gains. Strictly speaking though, link aggregation performance depends more on&nbsp;simultaneous I/O threads and doesn't at all help single threaded operations, such as copying one file at a time. Mixed file size copy operations of a 1TB folder performed at a more modest 97MB/sec, which is still excellent for 1Gbit networks.</p><h5>iSCSI target tests:</h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows iSCSI Initiator"></p><p>If you're using Windows as a client OS, iSCSI support is built in. You can launch the iSCSI initiator and simply enter the IP of the NAS. Once added, you'll need to go into Disk Management and initiate/format the iSCSI LUN as you would a normal disk, giving it a drive letter for access.</p><table><thead><tr><td>Test</td><td>Score</td></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>File Copy Write (iSCSI)</td><td>103.2 MB/sec</td></tr><tr><td>File Copy Read (iSCSI)</td><td>107 MB/sec</td></tr></tbody></table><p>Performance is similar to file-sharing protocols such as SMB and AFP, with the major difference being that iSCSI is a block-level protocol. You can format an iSCSI target to any file system you desire, such as NTFS or HFS. However, because the iSCSI target behaves like a real mounted drive, the LUN is locked to a single client (you can create multiple iSCSI LUNs on the DS2415+). Also, keep in mind that you won't be able to use link aggregation in conjunction with iSCSI. Lastly, you'll have to be mindful about properly&nbsp;connecting and disconnecting an iSCSI LUN.</p><h3>Serious storage for serious customers</h3><p>Synology's DiskStation&nbsp;DS2415+ packs in a lot of features for small-to-medium size businesses, and we can imagine plenty of verticals where a 12-bay NAS makes a lot of sense. There's plenty of room for storage expansion, and if you run out of space, the DS2415+ supports an additional 12 bays via&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">Synology's DX1215 expansion&nbsp;unit</a>.</p><p>We have just a few minor complaints about the DS2415+. First, there's no support for RAID 50 or 60, but we reckon this could be added via new firmware. Second, at larger-capacity configurations, 10GbE support would have been nice. While quad-port link aggregation is good, having a fatter pipe is better. Synology also needs to fix the two-step verification caveat with CMS.</p><p>The ideal scenario for the DS2415+ is that of volume, lots of it. While the DS2415+ supports features that consumers may find useful or entertaining, it performs best as a gargantuan storage repository. At this point in time, it supports 8TB drives, giving a total raw capacity of 192GB if you add in the DX1215. If you're running a substantial image/video heavy operation, you'll find the combo highly attractive.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Intel Core i7-4790K, Intel Core i5-4690K, and More! know that euphoric sensation you get when you build a new PC? It's a wonderful feeling, and if you're due for an upgrade, then get to it before the summer months are in the rear view mirror. You can even bring along your DDR3 memory, provided you're willing to dance with Devil's Canyon (the same goes for Skylake, though DDR3-based Skylake boards aren't out yet).Wed, 12 Aug 2015 20:23:33 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Core i7-4790K"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>You know that euphoric sensation you get when you build a new PC? It's a wonderful feeling, and if you're due for an upgrade, then get to it before the summer months are in the rear view mirror. You can even bring along your DDR3 memory, provided you're willing to dance with Devil's Canyon (the same goes for Skylake, though DDR3-based Skylake boards aren't out yet). If so, then check out today's top deal for an <a href=";DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=PPSSGQRMPMRELF&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117369-_-0812&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon Desktop Processor</a> for <strong>$330</strong> with $2 shipping (normally $340 - use coupon code: [<strong>INTELBTS03</strong>]). This quad-core Haswell part has plenty of speed, with four cores (and eight threads) racing at 4GHz to 4.4GHz.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=PPSSGQRMPMRELF&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117372-_-0812&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i5-4690K Devil's Canyon 3.5GHz LGA 1150 Desktop Processor</a> for <strong>$231</strong> with $2 shipping (normally $240 - use coupon code: [<strong>INTELBTS42</strong>])</p><p><a href=";DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=PPSSGQRMPMRELF&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117543-_-0812&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i3-4170 Haswell 3.7GHz LGA 1150 Desktop Processor Intel</a> for <strong>$115</strong> with free shipping (normally $125 - use coupon code: [<strong>INTELBTS43</strong>])</p><p><a href=";DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=PPSSGQRMPMRELF&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117404-_-0812&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell-E 3.0GHz LGA 2011-v3 Desktop Processor</a> for <strong>$997</strong> with free shipping (normally $1050 - use coupon code: [<strong>INTELBTS50</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GAME-N82E16879262118-_-0812&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster - PlayStation 4</a> for <strong>$35</strong> with free shipping (normally $50 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK99</strong>])</p> Asus Lays Claim to First USB 3.1 Gen 2 Certified Motherboard Asus TUF Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2/USB 3.1 is supposedly the first motherboard in the world to receive official certifiction for USB 3.1 Gen 2.Wed, 12 Aug 2015 20:09:50 +0000 3.1 <h3>Gen 2 is the real deal</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Sabertooth Z97"></p><p> Asus is in full brag mode over the claim that its <a href="" target="_blank">TUF Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2/USB 3.1</a> is the world's first motherboard to achieve SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps certification for USB 3.1 Gen 2 data transfer speeds.</p><p> According to Asus, its Z97 Sabertooth board had to pass a series of tests set forth by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). It's not just a raw speed thing -- the certification process also includes signal quality checks, stress tests, and sustained transmission capabilities.</p><p> "USB-IF certification is a proven testing and evaluation process that is absolutely necessary for product interoperability and reliability," said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF President and COO. "As the next generation of USB technology hits the market, we strongly encourage consumers to look for USB-IF-certified products, such as the ASUS TUF Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2/USB 3.1 motherboard, to ensure the best possible user experience."</p><p> <strong>It's a Generational thing</strong></p><p> When shopping a motherboard or system with USB 3.1 listed on the spec sheet, be sure that it's a Gen 2 spec if you want the fastest speed available. It's an important distinction, and somewhat confusing, as USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 are basically the same thing. Or in <a href="" target="_blank">USB-IF's words (PDF)</a>, "USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.0 terms are synonymous" -- both top out at 5Gbps. That's still a huge gain over USB 2.0 (480Mbps), but only half of USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps), which is what many people think of when they see USB 3.1.</p><ul> <li>USB 2.0: 480Mbps (60MB/s)</li> <li>USB 3.0: 5Gbps (625MB/s)</li> <li>USB 3.1 Gen 1: 5Gbps (625MB/s)</li> <li>USB 3.1 Gen 2: 10Gbps (1,250MB/s)</li></ul><p> A real world example of this is Apple's Retina Macbook, the one with a single USB 3.1 Type-C connector and no other ports. Even though it sports a fancy Type-C connector and is labeled as USB 3.1, it's a Gen 1 spec, so really it's USB 3.0 in a pretty dress or spiffy suit.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="USB Table"></p><p> <strong>Asus TUF Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2/USB 3.1</strong></p><p> USB shenanigans aside, the Sabertooth Z97 is a "military grade" motherboard for socket LGA 1150 processors. It has four DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR3-1866 memory, two PCI-E 3.1 x16 slots, a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, three PCI-E x1 slots, half a dozen SATA 6Gbps ports, two rear USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, two rear USB 3.0 ports, four rear USB 2.0 ports, and a host of other features.</p><p> The board is available now for $175.</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> Some Lenovo PCs Download Software Even After Clean Installing Windows used a feature in its BIOS firmware to download software even after a user performs a clean Windows installation.Wed, 12 Aug 2015 17:25:58 +0000 <h3>Poor timing, Lenovo</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lenovo Flex 2 Pro 15"></p><p> Lenovo's reputation took a hit when it was discovered earlier this year that it was pre-installing an adware program called <a href="">Superfish</a> that ended up being a security risk, and now if faces even more criticism for what some consider a sketchy BIOS feature.</p><p> Here's the deal -- some Lenovo laptops are configured to download the company's software and utilities even after wiping the storage drive and performing a clean Windows installation. How so?</p><p> As a user on <em><a href=";sid=ddf3e32512932172454de515091db014#p29497693" target="_blank">ArsTecnica's forums discovered</a></em>, it's a so-called BIOS feature called Lenovo Service Engine (LSE). The way it works is when a user installs Windows, the BIOS checks for a filed called autochk.exe located in C:\Windows\system32 to determine if it came from Microsoft or is signed by Lenovo. It's then overwritten with a custom version that, upon booting up, creates two more files, LenovoUpdate.exe and LenovoCheck.exe, which initiate a service to download Lenovo's software when there's an Internet connection.</p><p> That's not all. <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Next Web</a> </em>points out that it also sends "system data to a Lenovo server to help us understand how customers use our products." Supposedly that information doesn't include personally identifiable information, though these types of hidden or otherwise little known tricks don't instill a lot of trust.</p><p> It's also worth mentioning that the feature Lenovo took advantage of is a Microsoft sanctioned mechanism called the Windows Platform Binary Table. It was introduced in 2011 and received its first update last month, but until now, there weren't many mentions of it online.</p><p> There's a <a href="" target="_blank">document</a> that outlines the method, which Microsoft modified to make clear that it's it's intended for "critical software," including things like "anti-theft software." The wording seems to be in response to how Lenovo was using the feature.</p><p> To Lenovo's credit, it released a <a href="" target="_blank">disabler tool</a> sometime between April and May of this year, though it's not automatically downloaded to affected systems. Users must both know about the tool's existence and manually download/run it.</p><p> According to Lenovo, the feature is not present in the BIOS firmware included on all PCs shipped since June. Prior to that, several laptops, 2-in-1 systems, and desktop PCs were affected, a full list of which (along with Lenovo's statement on the matter) can be found <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p> Since this was a Microsoft sanctioned feature that Lenovo was using, it's possible that other OEMs and system builders were using it as well.</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> Verizon Tests Ultra-Fast 10Gbps FiOS Internet Service 1Gbps fiber Internet, Verizon is working on something much faster.Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:26:05 +0000 <h3>Leaving Google Fiber in the dust</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Verizon Network Equipment"></p><p> I'd be thrilled if Google announced that its Fiber Internet service was coming to my area. It's not that I'm discontent with Charter and the 60Mbps service I currently subscribe to, but to have access to 1Gbps Internet service (downloads <em> and</em> uploads) for $70 per month? Yes, please!</p><p> Ever thought of what comes next? Verizon has, and while most of us aren't seeing speeds anywhere near 1Gbps, Big Red just finished testing a next-generation fiber-optic technology that allows for a 10Gbps data transfer rate, the company <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a>.</p><p> That's not to say that 10Gbps is coming to your residential neighborhood anytime soon, though the potential technology for such a thing is there and being tested. Specifically, it's called NG-PON2, or "next-generation passive optical network."</p><p> Verizon's even looking beyond 10Gbps with claims that NG-PON2 has the legs to reach 80Gbps, which is 80 times faster than Google Fiber.</p><p> The neat thing about NG-PON2 is that it isn't just a theoretical technology, nor is it limited to tests in a lab. Not an inside, lab, anyway. Verizon tested NG-PON2 with a business customer and also with a residential home located three miles away from the company's central office in Framingham, Massachusetts.</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="620"> </iframe><p> "The advantage of our FiOS network is that it can be upgraded easily by adding electronics onto the fiber network that is already in place. Deploying this exciting new technology sets a new standard for the broadband industry and further validates our strategic choice of fiber-to-the-premises," said Lee Hicks, vice president of network technology for Verizon.</p><p> Verizon said it will request proposals later this year for the purchase of hardware and software for its new NG-PON2 platform. Businesses will likely be the first customers, though with the adoption of 4K video content and an estimated 25 billion Internet connected devices expected by 2020, consumers might not be all that far behind.</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 every PC builder should know about RAID Levels you've ever wondered what the difference between RAID 0 and RAID 10, read on!Wed, 12 Aug 2015 07:30:00 +0000 <h3>Conquering the&nbsp;RAID levels</h3><p> When it comes to building PCs, for enthusiasts, it's all about performance. Everyone loves to brag about CPU speed or GPU power. We get it, because we do, too. All too often though, storage gets left behind in the conversation. Many may be led to think "Hey, I've got an SSD and HDD. What more could I want?"</p><p> As it turns out, you may not know what you're missing.</p><p> A redundant array of independent (or inexpensive) disks&mdash;RAID for short&mdash;is one way to skirt around the limitations of SATA throughput. What RAID does is pretty much the opposite of partitioning. RAID combines many physical (or logical) storage devices into a single logical storage device. Partitioning, on the other hand, splits a physical or logical device into many logical devices that can be formatted, encrypted, or backed up separately.</p><p> When we build systems here at Maximum PC, we find that two is very often better than one. We see this all the time with video cards. Two GTX 980s offer better performance than a single Titan X, for instance. But unlike video cards, the performance gains of RAID can stack much more drastically, depending on the level.</p><h5>Hold on, what are RAID levels?</h5><p> When we talk about RAID, a level is referring to the type of array. There are many RAID levels out there. Some are more common, like RAID 0 and RAID 1, while levels like RAID 60 are considered more exotic. Most motherboards only support the more common levels, but don't get upset quite yet. For most use cases outside of a server room, the common levels are plenty good enough.</p><p> Also, don't think that the higher the RAID level, the faster or "better" the array. Actually, it's quite the opposite: RAID 0 is considered the most lightning-fast (and most risky) RAID level out there.</p><p> Before we continue about RAID levels, we have to understand the concept of parity. Simply put, parity is when a copy of a block of data exists somewhere else on the array. When a device fails for some reason, the data can be recovered from the parity block.</p><p> It's important to know that data parity is not the same as a backup. The parity block in RAID is written at the same time the primary data block is. That means when you save an image file, RAID makes calculates an XOR of the data blocks that make up the file and save that to a block on another drive. When you delete the file, it is also deleted from the parity block. If a virus corrupts the data in the file, you can bet that the data in the parity blocks contain corrupted or infected data as well. In this sense, it is best to think of RAID parity data as a hedge against physical failure of a device, not a backup solution. Heed this warning, young Padawan.</p><h5>RAID 0: The speed demon</h5><p> Ah, RAID 0. How we all love thee. RAID 0 is the Evil Knievel of RAID levels. It takes chances, and gets lots of performance in trade.</p><p> To understand why, we have to revisit the idea of parity. RAID 0 doesn't use parity. Instead, it takes chunks of data (called chunks or stripes) and "stripes" them across all of the devices in the array. Say there's a file that's 64KB in size, and the RAID is set up across two drives using 16KB stripes. When writing a file, the first 16K and third 16KB would be written to the first drive in sequence, while the second and fourth 16KB blocks would go to the second drive. This doesn't sound all that impressive on its face.</p><p> <strong>MORE:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank">How to set up RAID in Windows and Linux</a></p><p> What's impressive about RAID 0 is that these two streams are written at the same time, which theoretically halves the time of writing the data to a single drive. The same holds true for reading data. In practice, there is some overhead to using RAID (and this varies based on implementation), so don't expect data rates to be exactly double.</p><p> There's a downside to all of this speed: When something fails, it fails hard.</p><p style="text-align: center;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" style="max-width: 100%" class="giphy-embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="321" width="480"> </iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>RAID 0 drive failure: Yeah, it's kind of like that.</strong></p><p> Like we said, RAID 0 doesn't have any data parity. That means when one drive fails, there is no backup of the data anywhere. Since the data for each file is striped across two or more drives, a single drive failure means that a significant portion of each file is gone. That results in a failure for the whole array.</p><p> Taken to its obvious conclusion, this means that RAID 0 multiplies the chances of failure across all of the drives in the array. One bad drive can ruin the whole thing. That's why builders should never use old drives in a RAID 0 array; it's the equivalent to strapping a brand-new rocket motor to a rusty mountain bike from 1997. Bad things will happen, it's just a matter of when.</p><p> If you really crave the speed, go with new, identical drives and make regular backups.</p><h5>RAID 1: The savior</h5><p> If RAID 0 is all speed and glory, then RAID 1 is the cautious type. When you have an array in RAID 1, you're choosing data safety. It drives in the slow lane while wearing a reflective vest and water wings.</p><p> <strong>MORE:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank">How to set up RAID 1 in Windows and Linux</a></p><p> The way RAID 1 works is pretty darned straightforward: When you write a file to RAID 1, every device in the array gets a copy. That means that an array in RAID 1 is incredibly robust when it comes to drive failure protection. As long as there's one or more dives still working, all you have to do is swap out the dead drive and keep on rockin'.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" style="max-width: 100%" class="giphy-embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" width="480"> </iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>When one drive fails, the others keep on going in RAID 1.</strong></p><p> Just as RAID 0, however, there's a penalty&mdash;but with RAID 1, the penalty is speed.&nbsp;No matter how many drives you have in RAID 1, the performance will resemble that of a single drive. There are many exceptions, though.&nbsp;There are some implementations where hardware or software RAID 1 implementations will treat RAID 1 as RAID 0 during reads. There is no inherent requirement for implementations to read from more than one disk in RAID 1.&nbsp;Intel RST, for example, only gives you reads speeds of a single drive.&nbsp;Unless you really know your implementation,&nbsp;make the assumption that RAID 1 reads and writes will be only as fast as the drives and interfaces used.</p><h5> RAID 5: The great compromise</h5><p> RAID 5 is special in that it fits somewhere between RAID 0 and 1. It offers parity and striping for a mix of protection and speed. This RAID level provides what is called "distributed parity." To perform this act of trickery, RAID 5 needs a minimum of three drives to work.</p><p> <strong>MORE:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank">How to set up RAID 5 in Windows and Linux</a></p><p> When a file is written to an array in RAID 5, the first two pieces of data are striped across two drives, just like in RAID 0. The third drive gets a full parity block, as if the two pieces were written on RAID 1. The next two pieces are written to the first and third drives, while the parity block is written to the second drive, and so on.</p><p> Here's how the data is arranged using this method:</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Drive 1 </td> <td> Drive 2 </td> <td> Drive 3 </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;"> A </td> <td style="text-align: center;"> B </td> <td style="text-align: center;"> AB (parity) </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;"> C </td> <td style="text-align: center;"> CD (parity)</td> <td style="text-align: center;">D</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;"> EF (parity) </td> <td style="text-align: center;">E</td> <td style="text-align: center;">F</td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> As you can see, if any one drive fails, the entirety of the data (A-F) can be recovered somewhere else in the array. This makes RAID 5 pretty robust in most circumstances, but the array can only sustain one failure. If a drive fails, it needs to be replaced immediately, and the data on that drive needs to be rebuilt. The calculations for rebuilding a RAID 5 array is expensive (in terms of compute time, not dollars)&nbsp;and takes some time, but the array will still be usable while it is being rebuilt.</p><p> A "healthy" RAID 5 array has all of its data intact, and can provide read performance of a RAID 0 setup of one less drive (n-1). When an array is missing data or had a failed drive, it is considered&nbsp; "degraded." A degraded array is slower, and can be considered as risky as RAID 0.</p><p style="text-align: center;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" style="max-width: 100%" class="giphy-embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" width="480"> </iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>With RAID 5, a degraded array can still work, but it can't afford a second blow.</strong></p><p> A degrade array is a liability for servers, and failed drives in RAID 5 should be replaced immediately. It is for this reason that the Linux RAID software, mdadm, has the email software Postfix as a dependency. The software can be set up to automatically send emails when there is a failure that requires attention.</p><p> Write speeds in RAID 5 are about as fast as RAID 1 or a single drive, since the parity information has to go down a single SATA pipe.</p><p> It is also important to note that RAID 5 should not be used with SSDs. (We used SSDs for the sake of testing only.) RAID 5 is bad for SSDs because it keeps TRIM (the set of commands that keeps the SSD cells healthy and cleared) from working properly. This means that with continued normal use full of writes and deletes, the SSD will degrade faster. Use with caution.</p><h5>RAID 10: The best of both worlds</h5><p> When we get into the double digits with RAID, the levels cease to be unique flavors of their own. Instead, they become a mixture of levels that deliver the best both have to offer. RAID 10 is the simplest of these mixes.</p><p> RAID 10 (or RAID 1+0) requires a minimum of four drives to work. In a four-drive RAID 10, the first two drives are combined in RAID 1. The other two drives are combined in their own RAID 1 pair. The two pairs, treated like logical drives, are then striped in RAID 0.</p><p> <strong>MORE:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank">How to set up RAID 10 in Windows and Linux</a></p><p> The advantage to RAID 10 is that you get the speed of RAID 0, but the array acts as if there is only half the number of drives present. This coupled with the minimum requirement of four drives makes RAID 10 the most financially taxing of the common RAID levels.</p><p style="text-align: center;"> <iframe src="//" style="max-width: 100%" class="giphy-embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="206" width="480"> </iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>You'll need to save up if you want to have a RAID 10 setup with high-capacity SSDs.</strong></p><p> On the upside, RAID 10 offers the robust data protection of RAID 1 paired with RAID 0's speed. Many consider RAID 10 to be the best option for this reason. On the downside, many motherboards only support RAID up to four SATA ports. (RAID that is implemented in the OS can overcome this limitation.)</p><p> There is a flipped version of RAID 10 called RAID 0+1. RAID 0+1 is just like RAID 1, but reversed. RAID 0 arrays are combined in RAID 1. Each "drive" in the RAID 1 layer is made up of an array in RAID 0, so the speed is about the same as RAID 10. Both RAID 10 and RAID 0+1 offer the same performance and protection, so RAID 0+1 is less common in order to keep things simple.</p><h5>The Exotics</h5><p> Other more "exotic" RAID levels include other variations on RAID 10, like RAID 50 or 60. These types of arrays are even more costly to set up. (RAID 50 requires at least six drives.) The computations are also more expensive for the CPU, so many of these levels render better performance with dedicated RAID hardware.</p><p> The other single-digit RAID levels are variations of RAID 5, but handle the parity in different ways. RAID 6 offers "double parity," so an array can sustain more than one drive failure. RAID 4 stripes data like RAID 5 but keeps all of the parity blocks on a single drive with a method called "dedicated parity."</p><p> In the next article in this series, we'll take a look at how the different RAID levels perform compared to a single drive.</p><p><em><strong>This article has been updated</strong> to better reflect how RAID 5 parity looks, and to explain that RAID 1 can be as fast as RAID 0 with reads, though that depends on implementation and is not universally true. Big thanks to our readers for pointing out errors.</em></p> Best Backup Software solutions battle it out for supremacyWed, 12 Aug 2015 07:00:00 +0000 True ImagebackupclouddropboxFeaturesgoogle driveonedrive <h3>Backup solutions battle it out for supremacy</h3><p> Computing is filled with bothersome chores that take away from all the things we’d really like to be doing on our personal rigs&mdash;like: gaming, benchmarking, overclocking, and web browsing. One of the most troublesome tasks is maintaining backups of all your important documents, media, and files. It’s something we all have to do, but none of us really enjoy doing. Backing up files and folders can take hours with the less-than-stellar upload speeds provided by local ISPs.</p><p> In an effort to make regular backups less of a chore, we’ve decided to sort through the massive assortment of backup software to find the ultimate solution. We’re looking for something that’s easy to use, reasonably priced, and works quietly in the background. Fortunately, with all the competition out there, most of the applications on our list have achieved a sort of basic competency that makes them all viable options.&nbsp;</p><p> We’ve also included dedicated backup software to address the need to back up partitions on hard drives and to do things like&nbsp;cloning Windows installs. Most users don’t need these advanced features, but they’re super helpful when a crucial system encounters a fatal error or something like a driver install goes wrong.</p><h5>Dropbox</h5><p style="text-align: center;"> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dropbox"></p><p> There’s no way we can talk about backing up files without mentioning the elephant in the room: <a href="" target="_blank">Dropbox</a>. It’s the first big hit we can remember and it’s established itself as a juggernaut in the world of cloud-based backup solutions. Unfortunately, its free plan offers just 2GB of storage. That’s a meager amount in the context of the ever-expanding file sizes of even mobile photos. While 2GB should be fine for most document backups, if you expect to store any amount of music, video, or photos, you’ll need to step up to a paid plan&mdash;or a competing product. DropBox offers a 1TB plan for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.</p><p> The great thing about Dropbox is that it’s just about the most feature-packed online software on our list. It supports nearly every modern device&mdash;iOS, Android, OS X, and Windows, just to name a few&mdash;and has a usable web interface for impromptu access. Even more than that, it supports files of all types and lives inside of a single folder on your computer. Right-click files to get shareable Dropbox links and even control which files and folders within the main folder are synced with other devices and online. What’s particularly useful about Dropbox and the other cloud-based solutions on our list is that you don’t need separate external backups. Because Dropbox syncs across multiple devices and the main Dropbox server, you already have redundancy and don’t need to manually backup files.</p><h5>Google Drive</h5><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google Drive" class=""></p><p> As with Dropbox, <a href="" target="_blank">Google Drive</a> is cloud-based software with dedicated apps for most of the major operating systems. It also has a full-featured website that’s existed in numerous iterations since its start as Google Docs. Where it begins to separate itself from Dropbox is the 15GB allotted to every single Google Drive. That’s over seven times the storage offered by the free Dropbox plan and that doesn’t even include the unlimited photo storage provided by Google through Google Photos. Drive offers quite a few paid storage plans that range from 100GB to 30TB. The former is $1.99 a month and the latter costs a whopping $299.99 a month. It’s great that Google allows you to tailor your monthly cost to your personal needs. Plus you still get the initial 15GB of free storage allotted to all accounts.</p><p> As far as the feature set and interface are concerned, Dropbox and Drive are neck-and-neck. The tiebreaker is simply the dramatically larger free storage space granted to Drive users and the various tiers of paid storage. It’s hard to beat 15 gigs of document, music, and video storage as well as unlimited photo storage. Drive pulls out ahead if you’re a heavy user of Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. The web interface has easy access to Google’s other online apps and Google Docs will be stored locally in the form of Google Document files. Install a Chrome Extension and you can get offline access to your documents, too. Just like Dropbox, right-click sharing is a cinch and the online portal also offers revision control.</p><h5>Microsoft OneDrive</h5><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="OneDrive"></p><p> <a href="" target="_blank">OneDrive</a> is Microsoft’s offering, and it matches Google in providing 15GB for free users. Anything stored in the OneDrive folder syncs with Microsoft’s servers and OneDrive folders on all of your other devices. The biggest drawback to OneDrive is that it seems half-baked in comparison to the more polished offerings from Google and Dropbox. The online interface is a bit of a&nbsp;mess and the local feature set is pretty much zilch aside from the OneDrive-connected folder. There’s no revision control of files, and aside from some simple Skype chat integration, there’s not much here that isn’t already available on Drive and Dropbox in a more user-friendly package. The paid plans start at $1.99 a month for 100GB and goes up to $6.99 a month for 1TB with Office 365 bundled in.</p><p> OneDrive’s ace-in-the-hole is its integration with Microsoft Office and Office 365. If you’re heavily embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem for things like email and document editing, it might be a good idea to use OneDrive as your go-to backup for documents. Microsoft’s first-party applications like Word will actively connect to the OneDrive server to fetch the latest documents and files instead of relying on potentially unsynced local folders.</p><h5>CrashPlan</h5><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CrashPlan"></p><p> <a href="" target="_blank">CrashPlan</a> sits in a weird spot between web-based and local backup solutions. Install the application and you’ll get free backups of all of the files on your system to a local folder&mdash;e.g., an external hard drive&mdash;or another computer. Pay the $5.99 monthly cost or $59.99 for an entire year and you’ll get unlimited storage space for your backups on CrashPlan’s servers.</p><p> It’s hard to recommend CrashPlan over some of the other options in this roundup because of its dated interface and lack of standout features like the stellar online access provided by Dropbox and Google Drive. To make matters worse, it even&nbsp;lacks the ability to clone partitions and system installations, despite being a standalone application. The main draws are the unlimited storage plan, the ability to schedule backups, and direct control over the CPU usage of the backup utility while the “User is away” or when the “User is present.”</p><h5>Acronis True Image 2015</h5><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Acronis True Image 2015"></p><p> Some users require complete backups of their entire PC and <a href="" target="_blank">Acronis True Image 2015</a> promises just that. It’s regularly available for $49.99 and sports a fashionably modern interface that fits right in with Windows. Although the price tag doesn’t include a cloud storage subscription, True Image 2015 still offers a boatload of features that will appeal to power users looking for fine control over their backups. Pick the frequency of backups and schedule them down to the minute. True Image offers useful options like “Run the backup only when the computer is idle” and even offers email notifications about the backup process. Unlike web-based solutions, True Image allows users to back up their entire PC as well as individual disks, partitions, folders, and files. Spring for the $99.99-a-year Acronis True Image Unlimited and you’ll get the application along with unlimited cloud backup.</p><p> At the same time, True Image also offers a folder-syncing option that mimics the synced-folder functionality of Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. Pick a folder on your system and you can sync it with the cloud and across supported devices. There’s also a Clone Disk utility, an option to create rescue media, and even an option to adapt system backups for restoration to computers with “dissimilar hardware.” The major downside of the local, software-based True Image is that there’s no easy access to backed up files online. You can look at synced folders with a mobile application, but you don’t have the near-instantaneous access afforded by the web clients of competing services like Drive and Dropbox.</p><h5>EaseUS Todo Backup</h5><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="EaseUS Todo Backup"></p><p> Get past&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">EaseUS Todo Backup</a>’s weird name and it’s competitive with Acronis True Image 2015. It has most of the features you’d expect from a backup software and is available for just $29.99. What’s even more surprising is that a free version is available with support for scheduled backups, disk and partition cloning, as well as the ability to create bootable media. The paid version adds extra features like technical support, email notifications, backup to FTP servers, and the ability to exclude files from your backups.</p><p> Again, as with True Image 2015, the main draw of EaseUS Todo Backup is its ability to create images that can completely restore your PC. Instead of saving just your important files, Todo Backup will maintain all of your applications, files, and settings through a complete restore of your Windows installation. The main difference between this and True Image is a slightly cheaper cost that’s a result of a pared-down feature set. The biggest exclusion is the lack of a cloud-backup option and no parity in terms of syncing individual folders for easy, remote access. If Todo Backup can do everything you need, it’s a great way to augment the on-the-fly access and easy folder backups afforded by free, cloud-based systems. Use Drive or Dropbox in their free configurations alongside Todo Backup for the best of both worlds.</p><h5>The Winner</h5><p> It’s hard to pick just one winner because no one software is the best at everything. Truly effortless backup is best served by Google Drive, especially if you can pack everything into the free 15GB plan offered by Google. On the other hand, if you need to backup system drives or individual partitions, Drive isn’t enough. You’ll need something like Acronis True Image 2015 to clone drives and backup files locally.</p><p> So we’ve decided to pick two winners; one web-based solution and one full-fledged application. Google Drive is our pick for anyone looking to back up and easily access individual files&mdash;if only because of its storage-size advantage and web interface. If you need anything more, Acronis True Image 2015 probably has what you’re looking for. That said, we’re big fans of augmenting Google Drive (and its 15GB free storage) with EaseUS Todo Backup Free&mdash;easily the best of both worlds for a total cost of $0.</p> ZeniMax's Lawsuit With Oculus VR Goes to Trial dispute between ZeniMax and Oculus VR will have a jury trial next year.Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:07:29 +0000 riftZeniMax <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Oculus Rift Crescent Bay1"></p><p>The federal judge handling the case of ZeniMax Media versus Oculus VR has ruled that the dispute will move forward to a jury trial set for August 1, 2016. Judge Jorge A. Solis, whose seat is in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas, has also thrown out lawsuit dismissal requests made by Facebook, Oculus VR and co-founder Palmer Luckey.</p><p>Zenimax Media sued Oculus VR and Palmer Luckey last year after Facebook purchased the Oculus Rift developer for $2 billion USD. The games publisher alleges that Oculus VR’s current CTO, John Carmack, was working for ZeniMax Media’s id Software subsidiary when he allegedly provided Palmer Luckey with trade secrets, code and “technical know-how” regarding the development of virtual reality headsets.</p><p>“ZeniMax provided this valuable intellectual property to defendants under a binding Non-Disclosure Agreement that specifies such intellectual property is owned exclusively by ZeniMax and cannot be used, disclosed, or transferred to third parties without ZeniMax's approval,” <a href="" target="_blank">the company said in 2014</a>. “ZeniMax's intellectual property has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception.”</p><p>ZeniMax Media claimed that Oculus VR and Luckey refused to provide ZeniMax with compensation and is using the technology without permission. The company went on to say that its attempts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful. Naturally, Oculus VR has a different story to share, indicating that ZeniMax Media wanted to take advantage of the financial transaction between Facebook and Oculus VR.</p><p>“There is not a line of ZeniMax code or any of its technology in any Oculus VR product,” stated <a href="" target="_blank">Oculus VR’s response</a> to ZeniMAx Media’s claims. “Indeed, ZeniMax had never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology in any Oculus VR product, although ZeniMax had the full source code for the Oculus VR software for over a year and a half (having received it directly from Oculus VR well before it was even released publicly), and could have analyzed it online anytime (at”</p><p>“Until the Facebook deal, and the perceived chance for a quick payout, ZeniMax never raised any claim of infringement against Oculus VR, undoubtedly because ZeniMax never has contributed any intellectual property or technology to Oculus VR,” Oculus VR added.</p><p>With the jury trial not taking place until next August, both sides of the dispute seemingly have plenty of time to get their facts straight. Meanwhile, Oculus VR is currently hammering out the consumer version of its virtual reality headset, which is slated to arrive in Q1 2016. However, we expect to hear more about the dispute when the Oculus Rift finally hits store shelves next year.</p> Nvidia Shield Review (2015) Android TV than game consoleTue, 11 Aug 2015 21:13:17 +0000 tvconsoleNvidia shield <h3>More Android TV than game console</h3><p>The 2015 Nvidia Shield marks the third entry into the company’s Shield lineup. Confusingly, Nvidia is once again simply calling this iteration “Nvidia Shield.” Because of its new form factor, many are referring to it as the Nvidia Shield gaming console, but in our opinion, it’s actually more of a set-top box than a gaming machine. The brains behind the operation is Nvidia’s new Tegra X1 SOC, but it’s Google’s Android TV UI that’s really at the heart of the device. The Shield’s main purpose here is for watching movies/TV shows, and gaming. This means that there is no full web browser and no email client. As a matter of fact, many of the Google Play apps are walled off, and only curated Android TV apps are downloadable from the Google Play store on the device. </p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Shield Take 2"></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Shield comes with a gamepad.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Measuring 8.3x5.1x1 inches, the Shield is smaller than it leads one to expect in pictures. The little device is running Android Lollipop and has two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet port. Unlike the two previous Shield devices, there is no battery here, and this Shield is meant to sip juice from a wall socket. Our $200 unit came with 16GB of internal storage, which isn’t much, but considering most Android games and apps are quite small, coupled with the fact that it does have a MicroSD card slot, it isn’t the end of the world. In case that doesn’t do it for you, however, there is a $300 model that offers 500GB of storage out of the box. </p><p>Setting up the unit is pretty easy. You simply log in to your Gmail account with the included wireless Shield controller, which is essentially the same controller that Nvidia packaged with its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Shield tablet</a> last year. The Shield controller is very similar to the Xbox controller, with the main differences being that it has a touchpad, volume buttons, a headset port, and a built-in mic. You’ll be using the controller’s mic a lot, as Android TV is largely designed around voice commands. Want to launch Netflix? Simply tap on the Nvidia button on the controller and say, “launch Netflix.” Want to view pictures of cats? Simply say, “pictures of cats.” In case you don't want to use voice commands, there is an onscreen keyboard as well. There is also an optional $50 wireless remote control, which has a circular d-pad, back button, home button, volume slider, and mic. You can also plug an analog headset into the remote, which is greatly appreciated if you want to be able to crank up the TV’s volume without disturbing the roomies. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Shield Remote"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>For an extra $50, you can get an wireless remote.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>As a strict movie/video-watching machine, the Shield is the best set-top box out there. The Shield supports Hulu, Netflix, Plex, Kodi, Google Play Movies &amp; TV, YouTube, and more. The device also acts as a Chromecast, and you have access to music streaming apps like Pandora and Google Play Music. To top it off, the box supports 4K video at 60fps over HDMI 2.0. It’s not perfect, however. While HBO support was announced, it’s not here yet, and there is no Amazon Instant Video access. The YouTube app, while usable, is also a little too simple for our liking.<img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Shield Stand" style="font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There's also a $40 stand for the Shield, if you're dying to see it standing up.</strong></p><p>When it comes to gaming, the Shield is largely a mixed bag. When we reviewed the original<a href="" target="_blank"> Shield portable</a> back in 2013, we complained that AAA Android games were few and far between. The situation hasn’t improved much in the past two years. Sure, there are some decent Android titles, but most of them are casual games or are ports of existing console/PC games. Also, while the Shield supports multiple controllers, there really aren’t that many Android titles that support local co-op. Even the Dreamcast port of fighting game Soul Calibur, which purports to support local multiplayer, didn’t actually support it on the Shield. Oddly enough, there are even some titles that worked well on the original Shield, such as GTA: San Andreas, that aren’t officially supported on the new Shield. To mitigate the dearth of deep Android games, Nvidia is pushing its Grid game streaming service. Right now, there are about 60 streamable PC games, which you can view&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.&nbsp;You’ll need a good Internet connection, however, and we recommend a 5GHz router. We tried playing at 2.4GHz, but the lag and compression made for a frustrating experience. The Shield also lets you stream from your gaming PC, as long as you’re on the same network. Oddly, however, this doesn’t work as well as Valve’s own&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">In-Home Streaming service</a>, as it only officially supports a couple of titles. We tried streaming Lethal League, a multiplayer fighting game on Steam, but the controls didn’t work. </p><p>The Shield’s X1 chip is a quad-core 64-bit SOC based on a 20nm process. In conjunction with its SOC is 3GB of RAM. Unfortunately, the Shield’s closed-off Android TV ecosystem doesn’t support that many benchmarks, so we only had a handful of comparisons to go by. In GFX openGL, an openGL graphics benchmark, the Shield garnered 43fps in the “Manhattan” test. In this test, there is a futuristic rendering of Manhattan at night as helicopters fly through the city and fight a giant robot. We used our Shield Tablet as our zero-point, and Nvidia’s 2014 tablet’s 2.2GHz K1 processor only managed 29fps, which is roughly 50 percent slower and is unplayable. For a compute benchmark, we used CompuRS to calculate megapixels per second picture rendering. The Shield garnered a score of 4.7Mpixels/s, beating the Shield tablet by 104 percent with its 2.3Mpixel/s score. Synthetic tests out of the way, we fired up Tainted Keep, an Android hack-and-slash game with a built-in benchmark. Here, the Shield scored an average 57.9fps in the extreme benchmark, whereas the Shield tablet, again, got roughly half that framerate, only being able to muster an average 28.8fps. While the Shield is able to handle most games well, it’s still a mobile chip and does have its limitations. We fired up The Talos Principle, which is a port of the PC first-person puzzle game, and even at its default 1080p settings the game struggled to run with a smooth framerate and was downright choppy at times. </p><p>The Shield may not be our first choice for a gaming system, though you can certainly have tons of fun with it. Its real power lies in its strength as a media player; it’s the most impressive set-top box we’ve seen to date.</p><p><strong>Specifications&nbsp;</strong></p><table><tbody><tr><td>SOC</td><td>Nvidia Tegra X1 with 3GB of RAM</td></tr><tr><td>Size</td><td>8.3x5.1x1 inches</td></tr><tr><td>Weight</td><td>23 ounces</td></tr><tr><td>Storage</td><td>16GB</td></tr><tr><td>Ports</td><td>Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, two USB 3.0, Micro USB 2.0, MicroSD slot</td></tr></tbody></table><p><strong>Benchmarks</strong></p><table><tbody><tr><td><br></td><td>Nvidia Shield Tablet</td><td>Nvidia Shield</td><td>percent difference</td></tr><tr><td>GFX OpenGL</td><td>29&nbsp;fps</td><td>43&nbsp;fps</td><td>48.3%</td></tr><tr><td>CompuRS</td><td>2.3M/pixels/s</td><td>4.7M/pixels/s</td><td>104.3%</td></tr><tr><td>Tainted Keep</td><td>28.8&nbsp;fps</td><td>57.9&nbsp;fps</td><td>101%</td></tr></tbody></table> Nvidia Extends Free Streaming Games Service to September Shield owners have another month of streaming Grid games for free.Tue, 11 Aug 2015 20:35:26 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia Announces Android 5.0 Lollipop Coming to Shield Tablet, Valve Bundle, and GRID Streaming"></p><h3>Another free month for Shield owners</h3><p>Here’s a bit of good news for Shield owners who have enjoyed Nvidia’s Grid game streaming service since it was launched back in 2013: <a href="" target="_blank">Nvidia has quietly extended</a> the cutoff date to September. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t give an exact date for when the subscription model will begin, but we’re betting it will be around September 30.</p><p>Previously the Shield-based service was due to kick in the subscription model on June 30, but the official launch date was pushed forward to July 31, giving Shield owners an extra month of free play. <a href="" target="_blank">The company said</a> at the time that the first extension was due to the launch of Nvidia’s Shield set-top box.</p><p>“This extension is valid for our entire family of Shield devices,” Nvidia said in June. “So if you own a Shield portable, tablet, or Android TV you may continue to enjoy unlimited streaming access to Grid’s library of more than 50 PC games.”</p><p>The Grid gaming service’s roster includes huge hits like <em>Batman: Arkham Origins, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Borderlands, Dead Island: Riptide, Saints Row 3,</em> and more. There are even family-friendly titles such as <em>LEGO Batman, LEGO Hobbit</em>, and <em>LEGO Movie: The Videogame</em>.</p><p>Nvidia’s Grid gaming service will presumably work like Netflix: pay a monthly fee and have access to a growing bank of PC games. <em>Trine 2</em> and <em>Strike Suit Zero</em> are scheduled to be taken off the roster on August 14, and will likely be replaced by two new additions, just like Netflix. The company will also offer games to purchase and stream, similar to what OnLive was doing before it closed down.</p><p>Currently, the Grid gaming service only works on <a href="" target="_blank">the Shield Portable</a>, the <a href="" target="_blank">Shield Tablet</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">the Shield Android TV</a> set-top-box. The Shield Portable is in the shape of a controller and sells for $199 (16 GB) whereas the Shield Tablet sells for $299 (16 GB, Wi-Fi) or $399 (32 GB, LTE). The Shield Android TV device costs $200 (16 GB, controller) or $300 (500 GB, Controller).</p><p>Once the subscription model kicks in, will Shield owners bite? Nvidia may be placing its bets on the Grid service as an incentive for customers to purchase Shield hardware. There may be bundles offered, providing a discount on both the hardware and game subscription. We'll find out when the subscription model officially launches in the near future.</p> Amped Wireless Outs New Touch-Based Router Wireless has a new router with a touchscreenTue, 11 Aug 2015 20:24:01 +0000 wirelessNewsRouter <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amped Wireless"></p><p>On Tuesday, Amped Wireless introduced a new addition to its family of touch-based Wi-Fi routers, <a href="" target="_blank">the TAP-R3</a>. This Wireless AC router features a 4-inch touch screen and promises whole-home coverage. The device will be made available to purchase from Amped Wireless next week for $199.99 followed by brick-and-mortar and online shops in the coming weeks.</p><p>The router’s specs show that customers will see speeds of up to 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. This speed is backed by three 2.4 GHz amplifiers, three 5 GHz amplifiers, and six low noise amplifiers. There’s also one detachable high gain dual band antenna and two internal high gain antennas.</p><p>In addition to the antennas, the new TAP-R3 provides one gigabit WAN port and four gigabit LAN ports for wired devices like desktops and game consoles. There’s also one USB 2.0 port for sharing files or streaming media across the network. Got an Xbox One? Connect it to the router via Ethernet and stream your games to a wireless Windows 10 device nearly lag-free.</p><p>“The TAP-R3 is effortlessly sleek and doesn’t take up much space, but it can outperform some of the biggest routers on the market and is built with an incredibly simple setup process,” the company says. “With its high power components, the TAP-R3 can send a Wi-Fi signal to areas like upstairs rooms, out to the yard, or to the far den.”</p><p>One of the big selling points is the device’s 4-inch touch screen, which is backed by a Qualcomm processor. The company says that customers can setup the router with just a few taps of a finger or stylus. The screen is also the gateway to a number of features including creating a guest network, parental controls, Quality of Service and more. </p><p>A good compliment to the new router would be <a href="" target="_blank">the USB-based ACA1 adapter</a> for Mac and Windows PC. You won’t hit the router’s maximum speed, but the adapter provides 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. There’s also <a href="" target="_blank">the PCI20E</a> PCIe-based adapter that’s capable of 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz band.</p><p>Consumers looking to establish a Wireless AC network should be good to go with the new Amped Wireless TAP-R3. The price tag may seem a little steep, but customers seem to be getting a lot of bang for the buck with this router.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Nero 2015, MSI Z97 Gaming 5 Motherboard, and More!'s mobile devices have made it all to easy to accumulate home videos, but what do you with all those clips? You can view them as-is, or get to editing them, which you can do by taking advantage of today's top deal.Tue, 11 Aug 2015 19:24:54 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nero 2015 Classic"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Today's mobile devices have made it all to easy to accumulate home videos, but what do you with all those clips? You can view them as-is, or get to editing them, which you can do by taking advantage of today's top deal for <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-SOFTWARE-N82E16832111048-_-0811&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Nero 2015</a> for <strong>$25</strong> with free shipping (normally $80 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK92</strong>]). Not only can you create and edit videos with Nero, you can also rip DVDs, convert videos and audio to just about any format, stream to iOS and Android devices, and more.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MOBO-N82E16813130770-_-0811&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Z97 Gaming 5 LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$125</strong> with $4 shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK77</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-OTHER-N82E16868181036-_-0811&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Hyperkin RetroN 5 Gaming Console</a> for <strong>$119</strong> with free shipping (normally $140 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK97</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-AUDIO-N82E16879459034-_-0811&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Turtle Beach Ear Force PX4 Gaming Headset for PlayStation 4</a> for <strong>$100</strong> with free shipping (normally $150 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK98</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121898-_-0811&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Radeon R7 260X 2GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card</a> for <strong>$110</strong> with free shipping (normally $115 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCAWKK79</strong>]; additional $30 Mail-in rebate)</p> Nvidia Launches Quadro M5000 and M4000 Graphics Cards graphics card options for professionals.Tue, 11 Aug 2015 19:12:19 +0000 cardNewsnvidiaquadro <h3>More Maxwell GPUs</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Quadro Cards"></p><p> Nvidia today added a couple of new professional level graphics cards to its Quadro family, the Quadro M4000 and M5000. Both cards are based on Nvidia's Maxwell 2 architecture, the same as found in its flagship Quadro M6000 card along with consumer desktop solutions like the GeForce GTX 980.</p><p> The Maxwell 2-based <a href="" target="_blank">M4000 (PDF)</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">M5000 (PDF)</a> replace Nvidia's previous generation Quadro K4200 and K5200, both of which are Kepler cards. While the new parts aren't as powerful as the M6000, they tote the same architectural upgrades over the Kepler-based Quadro cards.</p><p> Starting with the higher end of the two, the double-slot M5000 sports 2,048 CUDA cores and 8GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus for 211GB/s of memory bandwidth. It has a boost clockspeed of around 1,050MHz while the memory runs at 6,600MHz. NVIDIA rates FP32 performance at 4.3 TFLOPs. Finally, it has a 150W TDP.</p><p> The M4000 is a single-slot solution with 1,664 CUDA cores. It also has 8GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus, but it's clocked a 6,000MHz for 192GB/s of memory bandwidth. It has a boost clockspeed of around 780MHz and 120W TDP. FP32 performance is listed at 2.6 TFLOPs.</p><p> There's software-based error correction code (ECC) for the memory on the M5000 model for added reliability. Both cards have four DisplayPort 1.2 connectors and can support up to four 4K displays (the M5000 also adds a DVI-I connector to the mix).</p><p> Nvidia didn't say how much the cards 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>