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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.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
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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MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI looks set to continue its support for mini-ITX when Intel’s Z97 chipset arrives


Following a leak that showed images of future products, MSI has released a few previously locked-down images of its new range of motherboards.

We’re assuming they sport Intel’s anticipated Z97 chipset, which still uses LGA1150 CPUs, and is set for launch this summer.

As we reported here, there will be several ‘Gaming-series’ motherboards, but the images show Gaming 3, Gaming 5, Gaming 7 and Gaming 9 name titles in addition to a mini-ITX board.

Many of the boards feature 802.11ac WiFi adaptors, with the mini-ITX board sporting what appears to be a custom, integrated adaptor on the I/O panel, rather than a standard slot on the PCB.

The Gaming 9 model looks like quite a beast, with an imposing red and black colour scheme and we also spotted an M.2 expansion slot between the two lower 16x PCI-E slots along with voltage measuring points near the on-board power button.

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
The Gaming 3, Gaming 5 and Gaming 7 also offer the M.2 expansion slot, which suggests this will be a familiar feature on Z97 boards, although it appears to be absent from the funky-looking mini-ITX model.

What do you make of MSI’s new line-up? Let us know in the forum.

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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
Click to enlarge
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
Click to enlarge
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
Click to enlarge
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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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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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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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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Raspberry Pi Compute Module announced

Raspberry Pi Compute Module announced

The new Raspberry Pi Compute Module, seen docked into the open hardware IO board, packs the power of a Model B into a SODIMM form factor.


The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the impending launch of a new computer-on-module (CoM) version of its popular low-cost microcomputer, offering all the functionality of the full-sized models in a SODIMM form factor.

Taking the same 67.6mm x 30mm footprint as a laptop memory module, and borrowing the same connector for ease of manufacture, the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module features the same BCM2835 system-on-chip processor and 512MB of RAM as its full-sized equivalent. 4GB of on-board storage is also included, a first for the Pi family.

The Pi’s various connectors, however, are spread onto a motherboard which includes full access to the processor’s various features. While lacking the network connectivity of the full-size Model B, which requires the use of a USB-connected hub and Ethernet chip external to the BCM2835, the IO board includes access to all the chip’s on-board facilities – including its general-purpose input-output (GPIO) capabilities.

Unlike the full-size Pi, the IO board – but not the Compute Module itself – will be released as open hardware, the Foundation has confirmed. This will allow manufacturers to customise the boards for their own requirements, adding in features such as the missing Ethernet connector or building entirely new layouts such as blade-style multi-core boards with multiple Compute Modules. It will also make it easer for manufacturers to consider building commercial products around the Compute module, integrating the more compact design into their boards without the need to find the credit-card footprint needed by the original Pi design.

Here, however, the Pi enters a relatively crowded market. SODIMM-sized computer-on-module boards are nothing new, and the Pi’s underpowered ARM processor – a sacrifice made by Broadcom in exchange for surprisingly powerful multimedia capabilities, a feature likely lost on the industrial market – will likely mean an uphill struggle for market share. The Foundation has indicated that it intends to compete on price, and while there are no official figures for the kit which bundles a single module with the IO board it has indicated a unit price of around $30 per unit in trays of 100 for the Compute Module itself.

More details are available on the Raspberry Pi website.

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Intel’s 2014 line-up: It’s looking good for enthusiasts

As we reported here, Intel has announced the rest of its 2014 line-up. However, I for one am extremely excited by what the future holds for LGA1150.

With Broadwell being delayed and Haswell seemingly focusing more on power efficiency than giving anything significantly new to the enthusiast and performance user, I was pretty amazed when I read the finer details of Intel’s latest roadmap that was announced on 19th March.

In the press release, the company has announced its intentions to better-support the enthusiast and overclocking communities and has detailed a couple of very interesting products.

The first is a new Pentium that will feature an unlocked multiplier to celebrate 20 years of the brand. Could this be the first cheap overclockable CPU since the likes of the Pentium G9650, all the way back on LGA1156? If so, it could prove a huge boon to those looking to overclock on a budget and give a massive boost to overclocking and the enthusiast market.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
At the moment we’re forced to buy comparatively expensive K-series CPUs, and there have only been two to choose from for each of the last several generations too. It never used to be this way and certainly for the majority of my overclocking life, it wasn’t a case of if you could overclock a CPU, it was a question of which one out of an entire range of CPUs was the best at it.

If the Pentium retails for current Pentium prices – ie around £80-100, but you can add 500-1000MHz to the clock speed, this could potentially match the performance of a Core i5, at least in software that isn’t massively multi-threaded, and give AMD’s cheap FX-series CPUs some competition too.

The new Pentium will be supported by current 8-series chipsets and also forthcoming 9-series chipsets, presumably Z97, although we’ll have to wait and see whether it will need a BIOS update to run in current boards.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
Another gleeful bit of information is that Intel will also be launching its first 8-core desktop CPU. The monster will likely feature hyper-threading, for 16 threads in total, will also support DDR4 and will be supported by the new X99 chipset.

Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs meanwhile have suffered from hot-running chips, especially when you’ve overclocked them. It’s fairly common for people to de-lid their CPUs – having done so with my Core i5-3570K, I can honestly say it made a huge difference. However, Intel appears to have admitted the issue as it will be introducing ‘Improved thermal interface material’ to the expected Haswell refresh CPUs, codenamed Devil’s Canyon, due out this summer.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
As well as the expected performance boost that comes with every refresh, this could mean better overclocking too. The new CPUs are slated to be supported by a new Intel 9-series chipset, although it’s likely Z87-based boards will support them via a BIOS update too.

Finally, there was scant information on Broadwell – Intel’s 5th gen Core processor range. However, it did confirm the new CPUs would be based on a 14nm manufacturing process, will feature unlocked CPUs, and for the first time, offer its Iris Pro Graphics to socketed unlocked processors too, which could give AMD some competition in the APU department.

It looks like we could have some exciting new products just around the corner. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Intel’s Sharks Cove board, teased in this low-resolution preview, has been developed to Microsoft’s exacting specifications, allowing developers a standardised platform for writing Windows drivers for SoC hardware.


Microsoft has pledged to help support Windows developers with an officially-certified line of development boards, starting later this year with Intel’s Sharks Cove platform.

Not to be confused with Intel’s open hardware projects Galileo and MinnowBoard, the latter in cooperation with BeagleBoard and BeagleBone creator CircuitCo, the new development boards are built to Microsoft’s specifications to create an off-the-shelf development environment for creating Windows software optimised for system-on-chip (SoC) platforms.

Hardware engineers have traditionally faced challenges in creating Windows drivers for SoC platforms,‘ admitted Microsoft in a statement regarding the upcoming programme. ‘Unlike PCs, which have PCI slots and USB ports, SoC systems like tablets and clamshells use low-power internal buses that lack standard connectors, Plug and Play support, and discovery mechanisms. Often these devices are protected by secure boot and cannot be used to develop or test third-party drivers. That will soon change. Hardware engineers will be able to buy off-the-shelf boards that are designed to work with specific SoC environments.

Intel’s Sharks Cove will be one of the first, the company confirmed. A single-board computer (SoC) design, the Sharks Cove board breaks out all the functionality of Intel’s Atom system-on-chip (SoC) platform; even portions which are rarely used, such as general-purpose input-output (GPIO) connectivity, will be readily accessible using expansion connectors. The aim, Microsoft claimed, is to make the development of Windows drivers for SoCs as easy as possible.

Sharks Cove won’t be the last board, either: Microsoft has promised that several boards will be available later this year, with a number of ARM-based boards – for Windows RT development – likely to launch alongside Intel’s offering. Pricing has not been confirmed, but these are not Raspberry Pi competitors; with a professional feature set and formal Microsoft certification, these engineering boards will be priced for corporate purchases only.

Intel has not yet confirmed the specifications of Sharks Cove, with more information expected later this year ahead of a planned 2H 2014 launch.

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Intel’s 2014 line-up is looking great for enthusiasts

As we reported here, Intel has announced the rest of its 2014 line-up. However, I for one am extremely excited by what the future holds for LGA1150.

With Broadwell being delayed and Haswell seemingly focusing more on power efficiency than giving anything significantly new to the enthusiast and performance user, I was pretty amazed when I read the finer details of Intel’s latest roadmap that was announced on 19th March.

In the press release, the company has announced its intentions to better-support the enthusiast and overclocking communities and has detailed a couple of very interesting products.

The first is a new Pentium that will feature an unlocked multiplier to celebrate 20 years of the brand. Could this be the first cheap overclockable CPU since the likes of the Pentium G9650, all the way back on LGA1156? If so, it could prove a huge boon to those looking to overclock on a budget and give a massive boost to overclocking and the enthusiast market.

Intel's 2014 line-up is looking great for enthusiasts
At the moment we’re forced to buy comparatively expensive K-series CPUs, and there have only been two to choose from for each of the last several generations too. It never used to be this way and certainly for the majority of my overclocking life, it wasn’t a case of if you could overclock a CPU, it was a question of which one out of an entire range of CPUs was the best at it.

If the Pentium retails for current Pentium prices – ie around £80-100, but you can add 500-1000MHz to the clock speed, this could potentially match the performance of a Core i5, at least in software that isn’t massively multi-threaded, and give AMD’s cheap FX-series CPUs some competition too.

The new Pentium will be supported by current 8-series chipsets and also forthcoming 9-series chipsets, presumably Z97, although we’ll have to wait and see whether it will need a BIOS update to run in current boards.

Intel's 2014 line-up is looking great for enthusiasts
Another gleeful bit of information is that Intel will also be launching its first 8-core desktop CPU. The monster will likely feature hyper-threading, for 16 threads in total, will also support DDR4 and will be supported by the new X99 chipset.

Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs meanwhile have suffered from hot-running chips, especially when you’ve overclocked them. It’s fairly common for people to de-lid their CPUs – having done so with my Core i5-3570K, I can honestly say it made a huge difference. However, Intel appears to have admitted the issue as it will be introducing ‘Improved thermal interface material’ to the expected Haswell refresh CPUs, codenamed Devil’s Canyon, due out this summer.

Intel's 2014 line-up is looking great for enthusiasts
As well as the expected performance boost that comes with every refresh, this could mean better overclocking too. The new CPUs are slated to be supported by a new Intel 9-series chipset, although it’s likely Z87-based boards will support them via a BIOS update too.

Finally, there was scant information on Broadwell – Intel’s 5th gen Core processor range. However, it did confirm the new CPUs would be based on a 14nm manufacturing process, will feature unlocked CPUs, and for the first time, offer its Iris Pro Graphics to socketed unlocked processors too, which could give AMD some competition in the APU department.

It looks like we could have some exciting new products just around the corner. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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