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Fractal Design Arc XL Review

Fractal Design Arc XL Review

Manufacturer: Fractal Design
UK price (as reviewed):
£101.41 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $129.99 (ex Tax)

The Arc line of Fractal Design cases fall into its performance category. As such, having plenty of airflow is key, as is the ability to install lots of high-end components and water-cooling gear. We’ve been thoroughly impressed by the latest cases in the range, the midi-tower Arc Midi R2 and the micro-ATX Arc Mini R2. With the Arc XL, Fractal has now also seen fit to make an Arc case suitable for those with larger motherboards and components, something it has also done previously with the low-noise Define range of cases.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review *Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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The chassis certainly lives up to the XL in its name. At over 570mm tall it’s capable of housing both E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards, and is of a similar size to the Corsair Obsidian 750D. As expected, it sports the classic Fractal black and white colour scheme, with white PCI brackets and fan blades. It’s also very much an Arc chassis, with the hefty mesh sections on the roof and front panel along with the large, tinted side panel window ensuring aesthetic uniformity throughout the range. Build quality is of the usual high standards – there’s a little bend to the side panels but that’s just a result of them being so large, and elsewhere the plastic and steel exterior is solid and sturdy.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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The front mesh section clips on and off with ease thanks to a pair of push pins, and as usual it’s backed by dust filtering material too. Removing it reveals a duo of 140mm/120mm fan mounts, with a single 140mm Silent Series R2 fan mounted in the top one. The design allows you to install fans here without popping off the entire front panel, which is handy. However, above this section are the four covers for the optical drive bays, which do require front panel removal to access.

The I/O panel is located on the roof, and comprises four USB ports (two being USB 3), dual audio jacks, power and reset buttons and a fan control switch, which has 5V, 7V and 12V settings and can control up to three fans. The action of the power button is fine, but the reset one is too small to use your fingers with – this could become annoying in troubleshooting situations but it does mean you’ll never accidentally press it when fumbling for a USB port or the like.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review *Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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Practically the entire roof is formed from another mesh and dust filter combination. Unlike the front one this cannot be clipped in and out of place, but Fractal recommends simply cleaning it with a hoover while it’s still attached. Beneath it there is room for three 120mm or 140mm fans, with another 140mm Silent Series R2 fan included in the furthest back mount. This is complemented by the case’s third and final fan (the same model), which is fitted as a rear exhaust.

Moving to the bottom of the Arc XL, we find a set of feet that lift the case some way of the ground, and which are fitted with rubber rings to give it excellent grip on all surfaces. A slide out dust filter is fitted here, and it protects both the PSU and the last of the case’s fan mounts, a 140mm/120mm one on the case floor. Unlike many cases, the filter here is relatively easy to replace without having to tilt the case on its side.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 232 x 552 x 572 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 13.8kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone, fan controller
  • Drive bays 4 x external 5.25in, 8 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 2 x 140mm/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm rear fan mount (140mm fan included), 3 x 140mm/120mm or 1 x 180mm and 1 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm bottom fan mount (fan not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 180mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 330mm (480mm without HDD cage)
  • Extras Removable dust filters, triple speed fan controller

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HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

The Banana Pi pictured, and HummingBoard SBCs offer pin-compatibility with Raspberry Pi accessories but significantly improved features and performance.


The success of the Raspberry Pi project has kick-started interest in low-cost Linux-powered single-board computers, but it has been surprisingly free of clone designs – until now.

Unlike rival development platforms such as the Olimex OLinuXino family or the popular Arduino microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi is not open hardware. Its design is locked-down and proprietary, and its principle components – namely the Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip (SoC) processor – not available in small quantities or without signing restrictive non-disclosure agreements. This may have contributed to a lack of compatible clones appearing on the market since its launch more than two years ago – until now, with two companies announcing Pi-compatible creations featuring considerably improved specifications: the HummingBoard and the Banana Pi.

First, the HummingBoard. Created by Solid-Run, the company behind the ultra-compact CuBox product line, the HummingBoard boasts the same features, design and layout as the Raspberry Pi – right down to the 26-pin general-purpose input-output (GPIO) header at the top-left of the board, which is pin-compatible with existing Pi accessories. Unlike the underpowered single-core 700MHz ARMv6 processor of the Pi, the HummingBoard boasts a quad-core 1GHz Freescale i.MX6 chip, 2GB of RAM – four times that of the Pi – and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Additional enhancements over the Pi include an upgrade to gigabit Ethernet, an on-board real-time clock module, and an infra-red receiver.

The Banana Pi goes a step further. Created by OSSUG Company, The Banana Pi again duplicates the layout and footprint of the Raspberry Pi and includes both the 26-pin GPIO header and the smaller P5 header of its established rival. Although its 1GB of RAM and dual-core AllWinner A20 processor can’t match the performance of the HummingBoard, the Banana Pi boasts an on-board SATA connector with 5V power output for mass storage. The board also includes gigabit Ethernet, an infra-red receiver, three on-board buttons and, interestingly, a microphone.

Thus far, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been slow to offer an upgraded version of its award-winning single-board computer. The initial Raspberry Pi Model B was succeeded by a Revision 2 design which added the P5 connector and doubled the memory to 512MB but retained the slow single-core ARMv6 processor, while the Model A is a cut-down version which drops to a single USB port and loses the Ethernet networking chip. Its most recent product, the Compute Module, still uses the outdated BCM2835 chip – leaving the market open for Pi-compatible devices like the Banana Pi and HummingBoard that can offer buyers higher performance and more features.

Pricing for the HummingBoard has yet to be confirmed, with the Banana Pi available on import from Chinese resellers for $59 (around £35, a mere £7 more than a Raspberry Pi Model B.)

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NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT has only announced the white Phantom 240, but more colours are expected.


NZXT has taken the wraps off of a new chassis, the Phantom 240, and it’s the least expensive of the Phantom range.

With a mid-tower ATX design, the Phantom 240 maintains the range’s signature asymmetrical shape that has divided opinion since launch and sports curved front and roof panels. The case also features a large side panel window and while NZXT has only officially announced the classic white version, it’s hinted that further colours will be coming, so it’s possible we’ll see black, grey and even red editions too.

It ships with two 120mm fans out of the box – a front intake and a rear exhaust. These are NZXT’s FN V2 models, which were recently redesigned to provide better cooling and produce less noise.

In total, the case can house six 120mm fans – two in the front, one in the rear, one in the bottom and two in the roof (where 140mm fans are also supported). Water-cooling support hasn’t been confirmed, but we’d be surprised if double radiator all-in-one coolers were not supported, given that NZXT itself produces a range of them.

Inside, there’s also room for three 5.25-inch drives and six internal 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives, and both optical drives and hard drives can be mounted tool-free, judging by the released photos. We also see that the case has a number of cable routing holes (without grommets), a large CPU cooler cutout on the motherboard tray and reusable PCI brackets. Other features include external USB 3 ports and dual audio jacks as well as a removable HDD cage.

The suggested retail price of the NZXT Phantom 240 is $69.99. We’ve enquired about UK pricing and will update if and when we receive and official response, but our estimates (based on a conversion with tax added) puts the case at or around £55.

Does the Phantom 240 look like it could take the budget case market by storm (trooper), or is it more likely to wind up in bargain bins? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt slide claims 40Gb/s performance

Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt slide claims 40Gb/s performance

Intel’s next-generation Thunderbolt chipset, Alpine Ridge, has been apparently leaked in a slide claiming half the power draw and 40Gb/s of peak throughput.


A leaked slide purporting to offer a glimpse of Intel’s upcoming Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt controller promises a significant speed boost over current-generation implementations, offering 40Gb/s throughput for connected devices.

Developed in partnership with Apple and featured as standard on the company’s computers, Intel’s Thunderbolt technology aims to offer a single cable type for all peripheral devices. In addition to high-bandwidth data connections, Thunderbolt offers PCI Express lanes and DisplayPort connectivity as well as carrying power to recharge portable devices.

The current Falcon Ridge Thunderbolt chipset offers 20Gb/s of throughput, double the 10Gb/s of first-generation parts and twice that of USB 3.0. A slide published to Chinese technology site VR-Zone claims that Alpine Ridge will result in another doubling of throughput, offering 40Gb/s of throughput and support for the PCI Express Generation 3 standard.

As well as doubling the peak throughput, the Alpine Ridge controller is claimed to run at half the power of its predecessor. The new chipset will also come with a new connector standard, reducing its height by 3mm to ensure compatibility with future ultra-thin portable devices. The new connector will support power transfer of up to 100W for rapid charging, the slide claims, while adapters will be available for backwards compatibility with existing Thunderbolt devices. Two Alpine Ridge SKUs are claimed for launch: a 4C version, which offers two ports and support for daisy-chaining of client devices; and the LP version, which offers just a single port and no daisy-chaining support.

Intel, as is usual for the company, has not commented on the slide to confirm or deny its authenticity, nor is it willing to discuss unannounced products.

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Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review

Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review

Manufacturer: Nanoxia
UK price (as reviewed):
£64.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): Currently unavailable

As the name suggests, the top priority of Nanoxia’s Deep Silence range of cases is noise reduction. While a bespoke water-cooling system can do wonders for your system’s noise output, cases designed specifically to contain noise are an easier and more financially realistic option for most people. The noise (or rather the lack thereof) of the Deep Silence 1 and Deep Silence 2 chassis certainly impresses, but cooling performance also takes a hit – a classic trade-off. We’re now looking at the Deep Silence 4 (Deep Silence 3 having apparently been skipped), which brings the now familiar design to the micro-ATX form factor for an attractive £65.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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The Deep Silence 4 is available in three different colours, and each one has a nice brushed metal effect on the plastic front section. Elsewhere, there’s little visual fanfare, but like the Fractal Design Define series the case is modest looking and refined. Build quality on the outside is good all round, and the feet have large rubber pads to contain vibrations, and they also provide the case with plenty of grip and clearance.

The Deep Silence 4 features a case door that occupies the top third of the front panel. Opening it up reveals the reset button and the two optical drive covers, which can easily be clipped in and out of place. You’ll also find an impressively powerful set of fan controllers for so small and cheap a case. Each of the two variable speed sliders can be used to control the speed of up to three fans each.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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While we can’t complain about the ability to control six fans, it’s a little odd given that you can sadly install just three to the chassis itself, including the two that are bundled with it. These 120mm Deep Silence models, which have green blades, are fitted in the front intake and rear exhaust positions. The third and final fan mount, which can take both 120mm and 140mm models, is found in the roof, as the two side panels and the floor of the case are devoid of any extra ones. While we understand that the Deep Silence 4 is designed for low noise, having such a limited ability to expand upon the default cooling is nonetheless disappointing.

The front intake pulls air in through small vents on the sides of the front panel, as well as a single larger one beneath it. It’s blocked off entirely at the front, however, so airflow from this fan is unlikely to be that high, even at full speed.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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Thick, spongy material designed to suppress noise lines the inside of the front door. Sadly, the bottom section of the front has no door, but it too is backed by noise dampening material, as are both side panels and the roof. The roof even includes a foam-backed blanking plate for the single fan mount, which is excellent to see – your case will be quieter and protected from dust when you’re not using this mount. A slide out dust filter is also provided for the PSU, while the front fan has its own one too (though you’ll need to pop the front panel off to access it), meaning the Deep Silence 4 is fully shielded against dust.

The final thing of note on the case’s exterior is the front panel connections. There’s nothing special here, though with two USB 3 ports alongside a USB 2 one and the usual audio jacks, there’s easily enough for a £65 case.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 200 x 480 x 380 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black, anthracite (reviewed), white
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 6 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 1 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 1 x 120mm front fan mount (fan included), 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mount (fan not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 160mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 265mm (395mm without HDD cage)
  • Extras Dual channel variable speed fan control, removable dust filters

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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.

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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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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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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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