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Quantenna promises 10Gb/s Wi-Fi in 2015

Quantenna promises 10Gb/s Wi-Fi in 2015

Quantenna’s existing MU-MIMO chipset can be found in Asus’ newest router, but its success next year promises up to 10Gb/s of bandwidth via 802.11ac’s MU-MIMO technology.


Wireless communications specialist Quantenna has announced the development of a Wi-Fi chipset capable of ten gigabit per second (10Gb/s) throughput, with plans to release it commercially next year.

Perhaps the biggest complaint regarding Wi-Fi – aside from alleged health implications, disproved by scientific rigour – is that its performance can lag behind that of a wired connection. Even if you’re right next to an access point, the actual throughput of a 1.3Gb/s 802.11n Wi-Fi link is usually well below that of a 1Gb/s wired Ethernet connection – and the further away you travel from the access point, the slower it gets. Said bandwidth is also shared between all users; if you’re on a heavily-congested access point, you can expect the performance of your connection to drop significantly.

Quantenna is hoping to resolve this problem by giving wireless connections significantly more headroom, starting with a 10Gb/s chipset based on the 802.11ac standard which improves support for Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) connectivity. Extending the existing MIMO technology, which uses multiple antennas to isolate signals and reject noise, MU-MIMO allows for multiple connections to individual client devices which are no longer competing for the same bandwidth. The result: significantly improved performance and reliability.

Quantenna’s 8×8 architecture with adaptive beamforming demonstrates that the ‘massive MIMO’ promise of significantly higher throughput, robustness, and reduced interference can be realised in practice,‘ claimed Andrea Goldsmith, Stephen Harris Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, in support of the company’s work. ‘This architecture will also significantly enhance the capabilities of MU-MIMO, allowing it to support interference-free transmission to many more devices simultaneously. These technology advances will transform the landscape of applications and devices that Wi-Fi can support.

Quantenna’s MU-MIMO chipset is already used in Asus’ latest Wi-Fi router, but the version due for release in 2015 will be considerably improved. ‘Wi-Fi is no longer a convenience,‘ claimed Quantenna chief executive Sam Heidari at the announcement. ‘People expect it to ‘just work’ even with demanding applications like HD video streaming. With Quantenna’s 10G Wi-Fi, they’ll always get the performance they expect—even as their expectations continue to rise.

The company’s existing chipset, which supports 4×4 MU-MIMO antenna configurations, will be extended in 2015 to support 8×8 MU-MIMO setups offering a total aggregate throughput of 10Gb/s. How much such a feature will add on to the cost of commercially available routers and access points that choose to implement it, however, has not been announced.

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Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is receiving a spiritual successor in the form of sci-fi-themed Civilization: Beyond Earth, launching this year on Windows, OS X and Linux.


A spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s intergalactic classic Alpha Centauri has been officially announced, and it brings the promise of treats for PC gamers including support for AMD’s low-level Mantle application programming interface (API) and cross-platform gaming on Windows, OS X and Linux – the latter to include Valve’s SteamOS.

Released in 1999, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a spin-off from the Civilization franchise, acting as a follow-on of sorts for anyone who had completed a space victory in the game. The player was given the task of colonising Chiron in the eponymous star system, and later the option of playing as one of two non-human races – previously limited to non-playable characters in the game.

The game was critically acclaimed, but a poor seller; following its release, the Civilization franchise would again return to historical rather than futuristic settings and never again venture beyond our solar system – until now. Firaxis has announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, the first space-based title to carry the official Civ branding – and a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

Announced at PAX East this weekend, the game promises to revamp the Civilization experience with a new web-like technology tree, a more open-ended progression system no longer tied to real-world history, and many of the developers who worked on the original Alpha Centauri. For PC gamers, the news gets better still with Firaxis announcing that the game will launch later this year on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms – the latter to include support for Valve’s SteamOS Linux distribution. The company has also promised support for AMD’s Mantle API at launch, giving hope that the game’s performance will be acceptable even on lower-end hardware.

If all that has whetted your appetite the company has offered a teaser trailer for the title, reproduced below.

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Antec Kühler H2O 950 Review

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed):
£65.94
US price (as reviewed): $84.99

Of all the companies that have jumped on the all-in-one liquid cooler band wagon in the last few years, Corsair and Antec have usually been the ones to beat. Antec has ruled the roost for a while with its great software suite and awesome cooling and the Kühler H2O 920 held the top spot until Corsair’s Hydro H80i and SilverStone’s Tundra TD03 turned up.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
With the Kühler H20 920 now going end of life, its replacement, the Kühler H20 950 looks to fill its shoes. Like its predecessor, the Kühler H20 950 is a dual fan-wielding beast with a 50mm-thick radiator. However, where the Kühler H20 950 differs from pretty much any all-in-one that’s gone before it is the location of the pump. Instead of sitting on top of the waterblock, Antec has chosen to place the pump on top of the front fan bearing.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
It’s a slightly bizarre decision as the radiator is usually the one thing that you’ll have issues installing seeing as the waterblocks on all-in-one liquid coolers are usually so small. However, it shouldn’t make much difference to cooling seeing as the coolant temperature tends to equalise fairly quickly in most liquid cooling loops anyway. That said, there’s an awful lot of extra engineering that has to go into creating a radiator with two additional ports and four tubes so we’re glad to see the price remains competitive. In fact, the Kühler H20 950 is £5-10 cheaper than Corsair’s similar H80i.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
The front fan sports directional blades at the rear (a lot like those on SilverStone’s Air Penetrator fans), which Antec claims focus air through the radiator. The radiator itself has moderately dense fin packing and is clearly designed to work best with two fans in a push-pull setup. The rear fan is a standard 120mm type but if you’re partial to removing the stock fans and using your own premium models, this won’t be possible with the Kühler H20 950 as the front fan and pump are essentially a single-piece design.

With no pump in tow, the waterblock is exceptionally thin. However, this didn’t mean it was particularly easy to fit. Antec employs a rather fiddly mounting bracket to deal with both AMD and Intel sockets with a variety of sprung pins being used to secure it to the motherboard. However, securing these was easier said than done; we’re not usually inclined to deduct too many points here for the simple reason that you only fit your cooler once even in a span of several years. Needless to say, if you struggle for patience, Corsair’s current coolers are less inclined to have you in fits of rage.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
The centre of the waterblock illuminates depending on how toasty your CPU is. As with the Kühler H20 920, there’s a bundled application that allows you to set a user-defined, extreme or silent fan profile. Out of the box, we doubt anyone with a modern system won’t be able to use the Kühler H20 950 as its compatible with everything from LGA775 upwards on Intel motherboards plus AMD Socket AM2 upwards as well, including Socket FM2.

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775, LGA115x, LGA1366, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Radiator size (mm) 120 x 159 x 50 (W x D x H)
  • Water block size (mm) approx. 70 x 70 x 26 (W x D x H)
  • Tubing length approx. 300mm
  • Fan(s) 2 x 120mm, 600-2,400RPM
  • Stated NoiseNot stated

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AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD’s Kabini desktop parts represent its first ever socketed system-on-chip (SoC) designs, offering upgradability for the entry-level market.


AMD has officially launched its desktop Kabini products, in the form of AM1 Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) designed for the entry-level market and bearing the Sempron and Athlon brands.

Designed to compete with Intel’s Bay Trail, the Kabini desktop parts have been created to reflect what AMD claims is the changing face of every-day computing: an increase in the number of applications, like office suites and web browsers, that can make use of GPU acceleration to improve performance. That’s something that an APU can do well, of course, but Kabini is more than just a slightly faster version of what has gone before.

The new AM1 platform, as Kabini will be known at retail, represents the company’s first-ever socket-based system-on-chip (SoC) design, which AMD has dubbed ‘System in a Socket.’ The Kabini SoC design will be provided as a PGA-based, user-replaceable processor which fits into the new FS1b socket type. Unlike Intel’s lower-wattage Bay Trail, which is BGA and soldered to the motherboard at the factory, AM1 owners will have the option of after-market upgrades.

The Kabini chips that form AM1 all have a similar feature set: an SoC design featuring up to four Jaguar CPU cores and Graphics Core Next (GCN)-based Radeon graphics with DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 support – no word yet on Microsoft’s as-yet unreleased DirectX 12 – and support for two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two SATA 6Gb/s ports, all without the need for an external chipset. Manufacturers who need more are, of course, welcome to add extra chips as required.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
The bottom of the Kabini desktop brand will be the AMD Sempron 2650: two 1.45GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 4000MHz, 1MB of cache and support for 1,333MHz memory. Moving up the ladder is the Sempron 3850: four 1.3GHz Jaguar cores, the same 128 Radeon cores but running at 450MHz, 2MB cache and support for 1,600MHz memory.

The higher-end Athlon range starts with the Athlon 5150: four 1.6GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 600MHz, 2MB cache and the same 1,600MHz memory support. The range tops out with the Athlon 5350, with four 2.05GHz Jaguar cores and the same cache, graphics and memory support. All four Kabini chips will, interestingly, come in at identical 25W thermal design profiles (TDPs) – higher, unfortunately, than Intel’s BGA-only Bay Trail designs.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
AMD looks to be pushing Kabini on the desktop against Bay Trail on three fronts: wider software support for older 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems; higher overall compute performance; and price. The latter is perhaps the most surprising: the bottom-end Sempron 2650 will cost just $31 per unit in trays of a thousand, with the Sempron 3850 stretching to $36; the Athlon 5150 will cost $45 per unit in the same volume, with the top-end Athlon 5350 fetching $55. FS1b motherboards will cost around $25-$35, the company has confirmed, a price point reached by the Kabini SoC taking over tasks that would have previously required an external chipset.

AMD has named ASrock, Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI and ECS Elitegroup as hardware partners on Kabini, each of whom plans to launch low-cost FS1b motherboards in micro-ATX and the compact mini-ITX formats. Formal retail pricing has not been provided as yet.

According to AMD’s own internal testing, the new Jaguar cores – the same architecture found in the Xbox One and PS4 games consoles – offer considerable advantages over their predecessors. As well as boosts to low-power operation, the company is claiming a 17 per cent boost in instructions per cycle (IPC) over the E1-1500 Bobcat equivalent. Under PCMark 7, the company claims, that translates to a jump for the Sempron 2650 from the E1-1500′s 1125 points to over 1300.

Higher up the rankings, the Athlon 5350 doubles the Cinebench R15 single-core benchmark compared to the AMD E-350, while its extra CPU cores mean a quadrupling in the multi-core tests. How these will compare to the same benchmark on Intel’s latest low-power chips remains to be seen.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
A particularly interesting aspect of AMD’s Kabini design comes from its dynamic power management. During GPU-heavy activity, the less-loaded CPU cores act as a heatsink to draw heat away from the GPU; when the CPU is heavily loaded, the GPU is used in a similar manner. When both are loaded, of course, there’ll likely be some down-clocking – but it’s a system which should allow CPU- or GPU-bound applications to run at a higher speed than would otherwise be possible.

UPDATE
The first UK retailers have gone live with AM1 parts, offering the Athlon 5350 for £39.99, the Athlon 5150 for £37.99, the Sempron 3850 for £29.99 and the Sempron 2650 for £25.99. Motherboards range in price from £26 up to £38.

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Antec Kühler H20 950 Review

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed):
£65.94
US price (as reviewed): $84.99

Of all the companies that have jumped on the all-in-one liquid cooler band wagon in the last few years, Corsair and Antec have usually been the ones to beat. Antec has ruled the roost for a while with its great software suite and awesome cooling and the Kühler H2O 920 held the top spot until Corsair’s Hydro H80i and SilverStone’s Tundra TD03 turned up.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
With the Kühler H20 920 now going end of life, its replacement, the Kühler H20 950 looks to fill its shoes. Like its predecessor, the Kühler H20 950 is a dual fan-wielding beast with a 50mm-thick radiator. However, where the Kühler H20 950 differs from pretty much any all-in-one that’s gone before it is the location of the pump. Instead of sitting on top of the waterblock, Antec has chosen to place the pump on top of the front fan bearing.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
It’s a slightly bizarre decision as the radiator is usually the one thing that you’ll have issues installing seeing as the waterblocks on all-in-one liquid coolers are usually so small. However, it shouldn’t make much difference to cooling seeing as the coolant temperature tends to equalise fairly quickly in most liquid cooling loops anyway. That said, there’s an awful lot of extra engineering that has to go into creating a radiator with two additional ports and four tubes so we’re glad to see the price remains competitive. In fact, the Kühler H20 950 is £5-10 cheaper than Corsair’s similar H80i.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
The front fan sports directional blades at the rear (a lot like those on SilverStone’s Air Penetrator fans), which Antec claims focus air through the radiator. The radiator itself has moderately dense fin packing and is clearly designed to work best with two fans in a push-pull setup. The rear fan is a standard 120mm type but if you’re partial to removing the stock fans and using your own premium models, this won’t be possible with the Kühler H20 950 as the front fan and pump are essentially a single-piece design.

With no pump in tow, the waterblock is exceptionally thin. However, this didn’t mean it was particularly easy to fit. Antec employs a rather fiddly mounting bracket to deal with both AMD and Intel sockets with a variety of sprung pins being used to secure it to the motherboard. However, securing these was easier said than done; we’re not usually inclined to deduct too many points here for the simple reason that you only fit your cooler once even in a span of several years. Needless to say, if you struggle for patience, Corsair’s current coolers are less inclined to have you in fits of rage.

Antec Kühler H20 950 Review Antec Kühler H20 950 Review
The centre of the waterblock illuminates depending on how toasty your CPU is. As with the Kühler H20 920, there’s a bundled application that allows you to set a user-defined, extreme or silent fan profile. Out of the box, we doubt anyone with a modern system won’t be able to use the Kühler H20 950 as its compatible with everything from LGA775 upwards on Intel motherboards plus AMD Socket AM2 upwards as well, including Socket FM2.

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775, LGA115x, LGA1366, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Radiator size (mm) 120 x 159 x 50 (W x D x H)
  • Water block size (mm) approx. 70 x 70 x 26 (W x D x H)
  • Tubing length approx. 300mm
  • Fan(s) 2 x 120mm, 600-2,400RPM
  • Stated NoiseNot stated

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Microsoft Build 2014 keynote: the highlights

Microsoft Build 2014 keynote: the highlights

Microsoft’s Build keynote this year included plenty of surprises, from universal apps that can run on Windows devices as well as the Xbox One to the impending return of the Start Menu.


Attendees at Microsoft’s annual Build summit last night were treated to a three-hour keynote speech in which the company announced some dramatic diversions from the norm – including free copies of Windows for phones and tablets, the return of the Start Menu, and Windows apps on the Xbox One.

It’s usual for Microsoft to queue up announcements for the Build event, which is the biggest in its calendar; it’s not usual, however, for it to have quite so many announcements to make as during its keynote session at last night’s opening. Some of the changes, in particular the release of free copies of Windows for mobile devices, will likely have a heavy impact on the future of the company – and it’s not hard to see new chief executive Satya Nadella, a man who has already bemoaned the company’s delayed entry into the mobile market, as the driving force behind much of what occurred last night.

Windows 8.1 Update 1
Microsoft announced the impending launch of Windows 8.1 Update 1, the first major overhaul for what was previously known as Windows Blue. Much of the changes are user experience oriented, rather than under-the-hood overhauls, and many will be welcomed by users: the Desktop and Modern UIs are to be more closely linked, with Modern UI apps being accessible in windowed form from the Desktop interface – allowing a mixing of old and new which was previously verboten.

The new update will also include faster access to the Windows Store – more on which later – by pre-pinning it to the taskbar, and the ability to power off or restart your PC, perform searches and access settings are now available on the main Start Screen instead of hidden off to the side. The update, Microsoft has confirmed, will launch on the 8th of April – the same date, coincidentally, that Windows XP enters official end of life (EOL) status.

The biggest change, however, will have to wait for a future update: the reintroduction of the Start Menu, the absence of which is many users’ biggest bugbear surrounding Windows 8 and newer. Based heavily on the Windows 7 Start Menu, the new version will integrated selected functionality – like Live Tiles – from the Start Screen in an attempt to create a hybrid that will appeal to all. No formal date has been offered for its availability, however.

Mobile Push
A large portion of the keynote was dedicated to Microsoft’s increasingly heavy push to mobile users, where is software is in a distinct minority. As well as new Windows Phone 8.1 devices from Nokia and Samsung, the company confirmed that the new release – a free upgrade to all Nokia Windows Phone 8 handsets – will include an Action Centre which appears to riff on the similar functionality available in Google’s rival Android platform.

The company also announced Cortana, its answer to the popularity of voice-activated assistants Google Now and Siri. Based on the artificial intelligence from the Halo series – which, as a major plot point, went crazy, so that’s an interesting marketing angle to take – Cortana will be a standard feature of Windows Phone 8.1.

Finally, Microsoft made what could possibly be the only announcement that could give it real impetus in the fight against Google: Windows will now be licensable at zero cost on all smartphones and tablet devices with a screen size of less than nine inches. Although Google’s basic Android OS is also free – and, in fact, largely open-source – the company has charged for access to the Google Play app store and other Google-specific functionality, while Microsoft’s impressive portfolio of patents has been used to ‘encourage’ Android licensees – including big names like Samsung – to pay Microsoft a fee for every handset shipped.

To put it bluntly: Microsoft’s free Windows for mobiles is cheaper than Google’s free Android – no mean feat.

Universal Apps
The final surprise of the event was confirmation of a long-held rumour that Microsoft’s Xbox One console will be able to run Windows applications. Using a new cross-platform runtime environment, Microsoft explained, developers will be able to build apps that can run on Windows, Windows RT, Windows Phone and Xbox One – and buyers can pay once to run the app on any of the aforementioned devices.

The move doesn’t exactly open up the Xbox ecosystem – apps available on the Xbox One will be even more heavily curated than those available on Windows Phone, with developers needing to seek Microsoft’s approval – but with promises that DirectX 12 will lead to similar cross-platform functionality for games, it’s hard to see it as bad news.

If the above summary isn’t enough for your appetite, the full keynote session featuring speakers David Treadwell, Joe Belfiore, Stephen Elop, Terry Myerson and new leader Satya Nadella is available for your three-hour viewing pleasure.

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Researchers unveil polymer-based TIM

Researchers unveil polymer-based TIM

A thermal interface material created from aligned nanofibres of polymer could be the future of chip cooling, offering impressive performance in a layer just three microns thick.


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have announced what they claim is a novel way of improving the transfer of heat from computer chips to heatsinks: a polymer-based thermal interface material (TIM) which can be applied in a layer just three microns thick.

Polymers may not be the obvious choice when it comes to conducting heat or electricity, but the team has developed a method which aligns the polymer chains themselves in nanofibres – avoiding problems with the previous technique of forming aligned crystalline structures which are too brittle to be of use. Using polythiophene, the team has been able to modify the polymer’s structure in such a way to boost the thermal conductivity 20-fold and yet have the new material operate reliably at temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius.

Thermal management schemes can get more complicated as devices get smaller,‘ explained Baratunde Cola, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. ‘A material like this, which could also offer higher reliability, could be attractive for addressing thermal management issues. This material could ultimately allow us to design electronic systems in different ways.

The team’s initial target market is high-temperature devices which can’t use solder as the thermal interface material. Commonly used to connect large heatspreaders to the far smaller die on processors, solder proves problematical when the temperature of the device begins to approach that required to turn the solder molten once more. ‘Polymers aren’t typically thought of for these applications because they normally degrade at such a low temperature,‘ Cola explained. ‘But these conjugated polymers are already used in solar cells and electronic devices, and can also work as thermal materials. We are taking advantage of the fact that they have a higher thermal stability because the bonding is stronger than in typical polymers.

Another advantage of the new material is that it can be applied in a layer just three microns thick while still maintaining its performance, compared with the usual 50 to 75 micron layer required of traditional thermal interface materials. The thinner the layer, the closer the heatsink can be positioned to the chip being cooled – and the more efficient the heat transfer. Stresses normally associated with thermal cycling – constant heating and cooling cycles, common to semiconductors as they are loaded and unloaded – are also avoided, Cola claims.

While Cola has already applied for a patent on the technique and formed a start-up company, Carbice Nanotechnologies, for its commercialisation, it could be a while before it’s product-ready: Cola admits that the theoretical processes behind the manufacturing are not yet fully understood, and the technique itself requires further development to improve yields.

The team’s work is published in the latest Nature journal, under the title ‘High thermal conductivity of chain-oriented amorphous polythiophene.’

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HTC One M8 officially unveiled

HTC One M8 officially unveiled

The HTC One M8


HTC has officially unveiled its latest flagship smartphone the HTC One M8, which replaces last year’s HTC One.

The new phone sports a very similar design to its predecessor but includes plenty of tweaks throughout.

Firstly, the new phone has a new look. Although still largely similar to before, with the premium allure of metal leading the charge, the edges of this phone have been rounded off a little while the touch buttons underneath the screen of the HTC One have been removed.

The finish of the metal back is also new, at least on one of the available colours, with a brushed pattern adorning the darker ‘metal grey’ colour. More conventional anodised silver and gold versions will also be available.

The key new features of this phone are its dual camera and the addition of a microSD slot.

The new camera uses a secondary lens to pick up depth information, which can then be used by the phone to automatically pick out objects in the picture for applying effects. The most obvious application of this will be to create a false bokeh (blurred background) effect for better bringing out the subject of a photo, though other effects such as making the rest of the image black and white will also be available.

The main camera sensor is the same 4-megapixel ‘Ultrapixel’ camera of the HTC One. The rational for this relatively low resolution is that the larger pixels it allows for (2.0 microns compared to 1.1 for most smartphone cameras) allows for better colour accuracy and dynamic range, particuarly in low light conditions.

Its benefits were debatable in last year’s phone – it was slightly better in low light but was outclassed in most other scenarios – so it’s surprising to see HTC stick to such a low resolution when the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are nearing 20-megapixels.

As for the addition of a microSD card, this will provide a way of quickly and easily transporting data to and from the phone as well as a low cost way to boost its overall storage. The onboard storage is variable but is likely to be 16GB in most shops.

Elsewhere the HTC One M8 is a steady step up from last year’s model with a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU and 2GB RAM. That CPU is a quad core model running at a hefty 2.3GHz.

The display has also increased very slightly in size, from 4.7in to 5in, but its resolution remains at 1080p. It’s an SLCD model so won’t have quite the black level performance of the AMOLEDs used by Samsung but should be better in brighter conditions.

HTC Sense makes a return on the software side of things, though HTC has further reduced its impact on the overall experience. BlinkFeed is now less obtrusive while the Gallery and Camera apps are now kept separate from the main system, which should make for fewer delays in the release of system updates.

The final main improvemnt of the HTC One M8 over the HTC One is a larger battery, with it increasing from 2,300mAh to 2,600mAh. This still trails the Galaxy S5, at 2,800mAh, and Sony Xperia Z2, at 3,000mAh, though.

The HTC One M8 release date and price are yet to be confirmed but expect it to arrive soon and be pricey.

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Mozilla’s new CEO causes a stir

Mozilla's new CEO causes a stir

Mozilla’s Brendan Eich has been appointed chief executive, but his support for anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 has led to at least one developer boycotting the non-profit organisation.


The not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation, the group behind the development of open-source applications including the Firefox browser and its new HTML5-powered Firefox OS offshoot, has a new chief executive officer – and his appointment has ruffled a few feathers.

The Foundation announced late last night that chief technology officer Brendan Eich, a co-founder of the Mozilla Foundation, is to immediately take on the role of chief executive. The news comes amid a number of executive-level shake-ups, including the appointment of Li Gong as chief operating officer with a newly expanded reporting group. Jay Sullivan, the Foundation’s acting CEO up to this point, is to leave the Foundation altogether ‘to pursue new opportunities.’

I would first like to thank Jay Sullivan for his contributions to Mozilla and to the Web. He has been a passionate force at Mozilla whose leadership, especially during the last year, has been important to our success, in particular with Firefox OS,‘ Eich claimed upon taking on the mantle of CEO. ‘I am honoured to have the role of leading Mozilla, as we look forward to our audacious goals across all of our products and the project as a whole.

Although Eich has the support of the board, for some the appointment doesn’t sit well thanks to Eich’s political beliefs. Eich is reported to have donated $1,000 in support of the US Proposition 8, a proposed law which would have banned gay marriage outright. Although a droplet in the overall finances of the battle – the LA Times, in documenting Eich’s donation, shows $39 million having been donated overall in support of the ban compared to $44.1 million donated against – it’s enough for those who would have been severely affected by the ban to question his suitability for the leading role at a supposedly inclusive and meritocratic open source institution.

Rarebit, a start-up company founded by a married gay couple who had protested against Proposition 8, has become the first to announce a formal boycott of Mozilla under Eich’s rule. ‘Effective today, we’re removing Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace and stopping work on all of our Firefox-related applications, notably the about-to-launch Firefox version of the popular Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android,‘ chief executive Hampton Catlin explained. ‘We will continue our boycott until Brendan Eich is completely removed from any day to day activities at Mozilla, which we believe is extremely unlikely after all he’s survived and the continued support he has received from Mozilla.

Neither Eich nor Mozilla have commented on Rarebit’s boycott, nor on Eich’s personal donation to the pro-Proposition 8 cause.

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Microsoft announces DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Microsoft announces DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Microsoft’s DirectX 12 has been formally announced, and rumours suggesting that it will offer CPU performance enhancements similar to AMD’s Mantle have proven true.


True to its word, Microsoft has used the Game Developers Conference to formally announce DirectX 12 with the promise of significant performance improvements thanks to an approach that allows programmers to get closer to the bare-metal hardware.

Introduced back in 1995 as the Windows Games SDK, DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to abstract themselves away from the hardware in a system. By far its most famous component is Direct3D, added to DirectX in 1996, which allows for high-performance 3D acceleration across any Direct3D-certified graphics processor – first introduced as a lightweight consumer-grade alternative to the Khronos Group’s OpenGL API, which was at the time focused on professional use on workstation-grade hardware.

Now, Microsoft’s Direct3D – and, by extension, the DirectX bundle – has grown into the dominant standard in the PC gaming industry, and even extends to consoles since the launch of the Xbox family. In its latest incarnation, Microsoft claims DirectX significantly reduces CPU overhead for gaming using techniques similar to AMD’s hardware-specific Mantle technology to allow programmers lower-level access to the graphics hardware.

First and foremost, [Direct3D 12] provides a lower level of hardware abstraction than ever before, allowing games to significantly improve multithread scaling and CPU utilisation,‘ claimed Microsoft’s Matt Sandy of the new release. ‘In addition, games will benefit from reduced GPU overhead via features such as descriptor tables and concise pipeline state objects. And that’s not all – Direct3D 12 also introduces a set of new rendering pipeline features that will dramatically improve the efficiency of algorithms such as order-independent transparency, collision detection, and geometry culling.

To back up his claims, Sandy offered a demonstration of 3DMark running on Direct3D 11 compared to Direct3D 12 which halved the CPU time required to render a scene while also helping to spread the load more evenly across multiple processor cores – something from which the eight-core Xbox One will draw considerable benefit.

Microsoft has promised that DirectX 12 will be supported by current-generation hardware, with AMD claiming that all Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPUs and Nvidia that all Fermi, Kepler and Maxwell GPUs will be updated in future drivers to include DirectX 12 support. What the company has so far been silent on, however, is operating system support: while Microsoft has promised that DirectX 12 will be launched across Windows desktops, laptops, tablets and mobiles as well as the Xbox One, the company hasn’t yet confirmed whether it will be available on anything but its latest Windows revisions.

Although Microsoft has shown off working Direct3D 12 implementations – including the application and driver layers – it has not yet suggested a launch date for the bundle. It has, however, posted some technical details over on the MSDN Blog.

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