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Noctua NH-U12S Review

Noctua NH-U12S Review

Manufacturer: Noctua
UK price (as reviewed):
£47.99
US price (as reviewed): $69.99

When all-in-one coolers started hitting the cooling scene a few years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the end of the road for premium air coolers. Noctua is one of the most established and recognised brands out there in the enthusiast scene, but even we have to admit that value hasn’t always been one of the company’s strong points. In the face of a growing number of super-cheap and capable coolers such as Deepcool’s GAMMAXX S40, you might think paying more than £30 for a CPU cooler isn’t worth it considering how well the latter performs for just £20.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
At £47.99, the NH-U12S isn’t even a humongous air cooler and you get a much smaller bit of kit than it’s larger sibling, the NH-D14, which retails for just £10 more. However, the NH-U12S isn’t about raw cooling. With a maximum rated noise of just over 22db(A) and even less using the included low noise adaptor, this is a cooler for those where noise reduction is just as important as a chilly CPU.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Part of the reason for the NF-F12′s high price is the NF-F12 PWM Focused Flow 120mm fan included in the box. This retails for £17 on its own – one of the most expensive fans on the market. There’s a whole raft of technical blurb in this fan’s specifications but the long and short of it boils down to Noctua claiming it produces a better quality noise by utilising many of these swanky features such as a focused flow frame, varying angular distance and vortec-control notches, plus better airflow and cooling.

The heatsink itself is up to Noctua’s usual standards, however, if you haven’t seen one of the Austria-designed cooler’s in person before, that’s essentially the same as saying build quality is epic. Crammed into this diminutive cooler, which measures just 158mm tall and 125mm wide, are five heatpipes built into a compact array of aluminium fins, plus a copper contact plate that sports a nickel plating.

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Even the packing is a labour of love, with everything packed into premium-feeling cardboard boxes that are all exactly the right size to take up precisely 100 per cent of the outer box. It’s not often we feel compelled to make this sort of comment but it’s totally justified here. As such, with everything labelled for each socket, despite the above average amount of mounting components, installation is fairly painless.

The fan clips are second only to SilverStone’s latest coolers such as the AR01 , in terms of ease of use – no spindly, awkward things here, which is just as well as you need to fit the single 120mm fan after you’ve mounted the cooler to the motherboard.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Also included are all the fittings needed to mount a second fan, including the brown antivibration corner pads plus a low noise adaptor that can drop the maximum rpm from 1,500 to 1,200, slotting in between the 3-pin power feed and the standard PWM fan cable. Everything you need is included in the box, including an extra-long screwdriver to reach the mounting screws.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775 and LGA1366 (with optional NM-I3 kit) LGA115x, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Size (with fan) (mm) 125 x 71 x 158 (W x D x H)
  • Fan(s) 1 x 120mm, 300-1,500RPM
  • Stated Noisemax 22.4dB(A)

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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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CM Storm QuickFire XT Review

CM Storm QuickFire XT Review

Manufacturer: CM Storm
UK price (as reviewed):
£64.82 (inc VAT)
UK price (as reviewed): $89.99 (ex Tax)

The last keyboard we saw from Cooler Master’s gaming-focussed offshoot, CM Storm, was the QuickFire TK Stealth. It was an unusual keyboard in that it used a non-standard layout and stealth keys, where the symbols are found on the front rather than the top of the keys. Despite a good few weeks of use, we struggled to get to grips with it, and found ourselves yearning for a regular key layout. It did spark a healthy debate on the subject in our forums, highlighting if anything just how subjective an experience keyboards provide, and that there will never be a perfect keyboard for everyone.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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With us today is another in CM Storm’s QuickFire range, the QuickFire XT, and unlike the TK Stealth it uses a standard layout, so UK users get a full 105 keys, and the keycaps are also the regular variety, with laser etched symbols on the top face. This lends it the benefit of being instantly familiar, though it’s not as small as tenkeyless or TK layout boards. That said, it is about as small as it could be, thanks to a very thin bezel – there’s no excess plastic above, below or to the sides of the keys, but if the 440mm width is still too much you’ll need to consider layouts that use less keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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Despite costing just £65, which is very good considering it uses 105 Cherry MX switches, build quality hasn’t been sacrificed. It’s not particularly exciting to look at, but the QuickFire XT is sturdy and feels very durable, and it tips the scales at over 1kg. The outer plastic shell is solid and thick, and the keyboard is reinforced by a steel plate too, so there’s little bend to it even when you apply excessive pressure. The keys are embedded within the chassis, so it won’t be as easy to clean as Corsair’s K70, for example, which uses raised keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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The braided USB cable with gold plasted connectors is detachable, but there are no cable channels beneath the board. A PS/2 adaptor is supplied, and in this mode the QuickFire XT supports full n-key rollover. No driver or software is required (nor available), but the board runs natively at a 1,000Hz polling rate. Through a combination of the FN key and the keys on the top row of the numpad, this polling rate can switched between four levels (1,000Hz being the maximum), again when using it PS/2 mode.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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As you might expect at £65, the QuickFire XT is thin on additional features; there’s no extra connectivity, macro keys or wrist rest. However, the F5-F12 keys each have secondary functions courtesy of the FN key. There are seven media functions, with the F9 key reserved for the locking out the Windows keys, and there’s also an LED indicator for when this is activated. Finally, CM Storm also provides a key removal tool along with four red WASD keys and two keys with the Cooler Master/CM Storm logos on, which can be used to replace the two Windows keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review *CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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When using the QuickFire XT, the four rubber pads on the base along with the keyboard’s hefty weight mean it stays firmly planted on your desk, even during frantic gaming sessions. Sadly, however, the two fold out legs on at the back of the keyboard have no grip, and when using them there is more of a risk of keyboard movement. This is something we’ve seen overlooked before, but even so it’s a shame given how easy it is to fix. Nevertheless, the keyboard slopes naturally upwards at a nice angle, and we found typing and gaming to be more comfortable with the legs down.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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Cherry MX blue switches aren’t our favourites – the click tends to irritate us and we still find it occasionally difficult to double tap with them, which is particularly noticeable in games. Typing does tend to be quick and smooth, however, thanks to the relatively light actuation force and tactile feedback. Thankfully, CM Storm offers the QuickFire TK with red, brown, black and even green switches, so there’s a good chance your preference is catered for. The rounded shape, smooth surface and slick action of the keys themselves also left us with little to complain about in that regard.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
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There’s no backlight on the QuickFire TK, but the bright white etching does make the symbols stand out well and it’s not going to fade over time. Therefore, unless you’ll frequently be using it in almost total darkness it’s unlikely to be too much of a hindrance (it never was for us), though we know this very much comes down to personal preference.

Conclusion

With no extra features of software there’s little else left to say about the QuickFire TK. It’s well built, handles nicely and is as small as it realistically could be with 105 keys. The option to choose between five switch types is excellent too, and the standard key sizes mean they can all be easily replaced and customised. The design and feature set are hardly jaw dropping, but equally the QuickFire TK does little wrong – the main criticism we have is the lack of grip on the legs, for example. If you need USB 3 ports, audio jacks, backlighting or macro keys, you’ll want to look elsewhere, but equally you’d already know that by now. If, on the other hand, you’re after a basic and robust mechanical keyboard, the QuickFire TK could be perfect.

!–

Score

Overall 79%

Approved Award

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Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review

Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review

Manufacturer: Corsair
UK price (as reviewed):
£37.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $54.99 (ex Tax)

Budget enclosures are rarely the most exciting, but they’re a necessary and crucial part of the market due to the sheer volume of cases sold at lower price points, especially in developing economies around the world. Thankfully, such products have come a long way in recent years, so even if you’re not paying top dollar you don’t need to settle for sacrificing basic features and build quality.

Corsair, one of the most well known chassis manufacturers, is now setting its sights on the high volume budget market with three cases launching today under the Carbide Series Spec brand. The Spec-01, which we’re looking at here, is the cheapest of the bunch at just £38, and also Corsair’s cheapest enclosure to date. Its previous budget Carbide case, the 200R, had lots of features and build quality but was lacking in the cooling department, so hopefully the Spec-01 will improve on this.

*Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review **NDA 11/04 2pm** Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review *Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review **NDA 11/04 2pm** Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review
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Externally, the Spec-01 is no dull black box, but as ever its styling won’t be to everyone’s taste. The thick vertical grilles at the front guard the case’s red LED 120mm intake fan. Meanwhile, both side panels are extruded, with the left one also housing a large square window.

Build quality is very respectable on the outside. The front panel may be plastic, but it’s thick and rigid and doesn’t bend or creak, and though the case is fairly light its steel panels have only a little flex when pressure is applied. Our one small gripe is that the plastic feet have no rubber soles, so there’s little grip on smooth surfaces.

*Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review **NDA 11/04 2pm** Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review
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Below the front 120mm fan is a second 120mm mount. There are also two empty 120mm mounts on the roof and a further one at the rear, for a total of five. Even at £38, we were a little disappointed to find that the front intake is the case’s only fan. We’ve seen similarly priced cases such as the NZXT Source 210 and Antec One ship with two fans. Also, even when limited to one fan we’d pick a rear or roof exhaust position over a front intake, as this is typically more effective at cooling. The empty mounts do mean that the CPU area is at least well ventilated, so there are openings through which heat can rise, but without fans to exhaust air faster overclocked systems may find the CPU and VRM areas rapidly getting hot when the system is under load.

*Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review **NDA 11/04 2pm** Corsair Carbide Series Spec-01 Review
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One thing that’s good to see in so cheap a case is dust filtering material, which is fitted to the rear of the front grilles. It’s not independently removable but the front panel itself is easy to pop off for cleaning. There’s also a slide out filter beneath the PSU, though like many such designs it can be difficult to replace properly without lifting the case up slightly. One overlooked area is the roof, where the empty fan mounts are unshielded from dust, though it’s rare to see filters in this location at this end of the market.

The I/O panel includes a single USB 3 port with an internal header, alongside the usual audio jacks and a USB 2 port. It’s a shame that both USB ports aren’t USB 3 ones, but one is still better than none. There’s no built in fan control, but the power and reset buttons are solid and satisfying to press. Beneath the I/O panel are the two 5.25-inch drive bay covers.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 200 x 413 x 467 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Front panel Power, reset, USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 4 x internal 3.5in/2.5in
  • Form factor(s) ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 2 x 140/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 120mm fan included), 1 x 120mm rear fan mount 2 x 120mm roof fan mounts (fans not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 165mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 420mm
  • Extras Removable dust filters

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Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?

After a couple of years of mediocre progress, we’re seeing some genuine innovation with cases that are leaning ever more towards water cooling. Pretty much every medium to large case that’s released these days – even smaller mini-ITX ones on occasion – sports double, triple or even quadruple fan mounts, and though these of course boost air cooling potential too, they also allow for larger radiators to be installed.

Manufacturers such as Corsair and NZXT are now in the habit of listing radiator compatibility in their case instruction manuals too – they’re clearly taking it seriously and rightly so. Water cooling is one area of the PC industry that has certainly been growing over the last few years with all-in-one liquid coolers and full-on custom water cooling topping cooler graphs and featuring in many eye candy-filled systems – both modding projects and standard builds alike.

However, there is one small issue with many cases – specifically their radiator mounts. They’re usually designed only for half-height radiators, which lack surface area and thus cooling potential compared to their full-height siblings, and many cases also seem to be listing radiator and water cooling compatibility as little more than tick-box features.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
My point here is that when you try to install a water cooling system in one, there’s so little space that tube kinks become a real issue and there’s also little thought as to where to put pumps and reservoirs. One big factor here is that case manufacturers aren’t actually that concerned with custom water cooling loops (as in separate components connected together at home) and rather more with all-in-one systems such as a Corsair H80i.

It’s not just Corsair and NZXT, who incidentally make some of the best all-in-one liquid coolers out there, that are doing this. After all, you can forgive them for promoting a combination of their own case and cooler, but plenty of other manufacturers are doing it too.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
For instance, I’ve recently borrowed the Lian Li PC-V360 we looked at recently to see how well it can cope with a water cooling system, seeing as it has a dedicated dual 120mm-fan radiator mount in the side panel and is too slim to fit large air coolers.

In short, it wasn’t easy at all and I had to use anti-kinking springs on the tubing for everything to fit inside – and that’s using the skinniest radiator I could find. Also, this turned out to be only just capable of cooling my overclocked Core i5-3570K and GeForce 660 Ti with the fans on full blast, which for me half defeats the point of water cooling, which is noise reduction.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
Even with an all-in-one liquid cooler things would be tricky, but as we speak I’m in the process of dismantling the system to go back to my trusted BitFenix Prodigy, which is much more water cooling friendly. Of course, that’s my point; some cases do work well with water cooling, the Prodigy being one of them. It’s also far from being a large case – the PC-V360 is taller and deeper but can’t quite decide whether to jump off the fence on the air cooling side or water cooling side.

A lot of the issues, then, revolve around radiator depth, and at the moment, many case manufacturers are content to leave their cases with the bare minimum. You probably can’t blame them to some extent as the vast majority of all-in-one liquid coolers use skinny radiators – one reason why a custom kit with a full-height double or triple 120mm-fan radiator will likely perform much better and quieter with an overclocked CPU.

So, what would I like to see? Better consideration for water cooling enthusiasts for one, but this could just as easily be brought about by all-in-one liquid cooler manufacturers beefing up their radiators too, especially where double fan radiators are concerned. That way, we don’t only get better cooling from their own coolers, but you won’t have to opt for enormous cases or go through the hassle of having to use multiple radiators too. It wouldn’t require massive changes either – a few small modifications to existing case designs could make a world of difference.

How do you think current cases could be improved for water cooling purposes? Let us know in the forum.

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Google invests in Savioke, another robotics specialist

Google invests in Savioke, another robotics specialist

Google has invested in a $2 million seed fund round for robotics start-up Savioke, pictured, who are planning customer trials of personal service robots later this year.


Advertising giant Google is continuing to show an interest in the field of robotics, announcing its part in a $2 million (around £1.2 million) finance round by specialist Savioke.

Established in 2013, Savioke – “savvy oak,” if you were wondering about pronunciation – specialises in autonomous robots for the services industry, developing technology to power everything from robot waiters to medical staff. Based in Sunnyvale, California, the company has raised its funding from a group comprised of AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Venture Partners and Google Ventures. While the advertising giant hasn’t confirmed how much of the pot it is responsible for, previous moves by the company into robotics suggest it may be a major investor.

Although best known for its search engine technology, Google makes its profits from advertising. The company has recently been branching out into the hardware realm, however, investing in wearable computing – including its own Google Glass wearable computing platform and soon-to-launch Android Wear smartwatch ranges – and self-driving vehicles. This latter interest has spread into general robotics, with the company’s venture capital arm investing in or outright acquiring more than eight robotics companies in the last twelve months.

As the lines continue to blur between industrial and personal robotics industries, Google Ventures is thrilled to be working with an exceptional group of people at Savioke,‘ claimed Google Ventures general partner Andy Wheeler of the investment. ‘Steve [Cousins, Savioke chief executive] and his team already have had a lot to do with moving the robotics industry forward. The next act promises to be even more revolutionary.

We are passionate about delivering easy-to-use yet sophisticated robots that can help people,‘ claimed Cousins, who previously acted as president and chief executive of robotics firm Willow Garage. ‘Our goal is to improve the lives of people by developing and deploying robotic technology in service environments.

Trials of Savioke’s service robots are due to begin later this year.

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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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Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review

Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review

Manufacturer: Synology
UK Price (as reviewed): £119.98 (inc VAT)
US Price as reviewed): $154.99 (ex Tax)

If you want an out-of-the-box solution for some enhanced network storage with a sprinkling of things such as cloud storage, file streaming and iTunes servers, then a NAS box is likely to appeal to you. There are other options, most notably HP’s Microserver and FreeNAS, both of which can be cheaper but have the downside of a relatively steep learning curve and not quite as much finesse as a high-end NAS box.

The downside for NAS boxes, then, is their price, at least as far as some of the better examples from QNAP and Synology are concerned. Basic models usually start at around £160 for the popular J-series Synology models, but the good thing is that while they were usually a bit slower than their professional-based siblings, they cost half the price and offered all the same software features.

Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review
These are extensive too, so we were more than a little surprised to hear from Synology who had seen our recent TRENDnet TN-200 review and said they had something that was much cheaper than their usual offerings but still offered the bulging feature set that most competitors, the TN-200 included, lack.

Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review
The DS214SE retails for just £120 – that’s cheaper than we’ve seen the DS213j in sales and a good £40 less than we normally expect to see one of the company’s budget models hit the shelves at. So what’s it lacking to come in at such a low price? It features a similar specification to the DS213j, with an 800MHz Marvell Armada 370 single-core CPU and 256MB DDR3 – both a step down from the DS213j, which has double the RAM and a slightly faster CPU.

Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review Synology DS214SE NAS Box Review
The rest of the specification is identical, though, with Synology’s trademark 92mm fan, two USB 2 ports (you still have to opt for one of the premium models to get USB 3), plus a fairly no-frills chassis with a slide-off case revealing the two 3.5in bays. The DS214SE also supports 5TB individual hard disks, bringing the total capacity to 10TB depending on your array configuration.

Specifications

  • Local connections Front: None, Rear: 2 x USB 2, LAN
  • Network connections 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Storage Up to 2 x 5TB hard disk (not included)
  • Cables 1.5m Cat 5 Ethernet,
  • Cooling1 x 92mm fan
  • Features FTP server, webserver, photo server, music server, independent download (via HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent), iTunes and UPnP media sever, DLNA, print server, storage server for external USB hard disks, surveillance server
  • Dimensions (W x D x H) 100mm x 165mm x 225mm
  • Accessories None

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AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review

AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB Review

Manufacturer: AMD
UK price (as reviewed):
Approx. £1,050 – £1,100 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP $1,499 (ex Tax)

At launch, the R9 290X attracted criticism for running too hot and loud, although recent custom cooled cards have shown that it was as much to do with a poorly designed, cheap and inadequate stock cooler as much as it was to do with an inherently inefficient GPU. Even so, the idea of putting two of these toasty chips onto a single card would have seemed ludicrous to most. Recent rumours and teasers, however, began to indicate that AMD was planning exactly that. Today, we can reveal what AMD has been up to: meet the Radeon R9 295X2, appropriately codenamed Vesuvius.

*AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review **NDA 08/04 1PM** AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review *AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review **NDA 08/04 1PM** AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review
Click to enlarge
As you can see, it’s the first reference card to be water-cooled. It uses a sealed loop cooler from Asetek, with a similar design to that seen on the Asus Ares II. Like that card, it also comes in a padded flight case. Everything about it, from packaging to construction, is premium, which is no surprise – it’s launching at $1500, with our sources indicating that its price will approach the £1,100 mark this side of the Atlantic. It’s due to have retailer availability in the week of April 21st. Without doubt, at this price, it’s reserved for a lucky few, but as enthusiasts, we still jump at the chance to look at something as gloriously over the top as this.

We’ll start with the core hardware. Effectively, the R9 295X2 comprises two fully functional Hawaii GPUs with 44 Compute Units a piece and each with a full offering of 4GB GDDR5 (for the full lowdown on Hawaii see here). Of course, this means it will be marketed as having 5,632 cores and 8GB VRAM, but the correct way to think of it is 2 x 2,816 cores and 2 x 4GB VRAM, as the two GPUs are still functionally separate. Either way, it’s obvious that there is a serious amount of firepower here. These specs also makes this card the fastest single consumer graphics card in the world, though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan Z is set to challenge that. As you’d expect, both TrueAudio and Mantle are fully supported.

Unusually for a dual GPU card, clock speeds aren’t any less than the single card variants – in fact, they’ve actually been given a marginal bump. The maximum GPU clock speed is 1,018MHz compared to 1,000MHz before, while the memory runs at the same 5GHz effective. AMD claims that this, along with improved cooling (which allows the GPUs to run at maximum frequency more often) and hard work from its driver team, means it will actually be faster than two stock speed R9 290X cards running in CrossFire. AMD also claims that the best scaling will be at 4K resolutions, and freely admits that this card is overkill for 1080p and even 1440p.

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