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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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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 desktopagainst 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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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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Antec ISK600 Review

Antec ISK600 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed): £53.98 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $64.99 {ex TAX)
Preferred Partner Price: 53.98 (inc VAT)

Although Antec is one of the bigger household names of the case market, it’s presence in the mini-ITX segment is fairly small. Looking to change that, the company has recently released the ISK600. Even for a mini-ITX chassis it’s on the small side, but as you’ll see you can still cram quite a lot of hardware inside, and at £55 it’s also very affordable, though not quite as much as the £40 Cooler Master Elite 130.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
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While the Cooler Master case is cheaper and has a similar size and shape, it lacks something that we think many here will appreciate about the ISK600: aluminium. The core ISK600 chassis is built from steel, but the entire n-shaped lid is hewn from this premium case material, which helps explain the small price premium. The brushed effect is very pleasing to the eye, though it does pick up marks easily, so you’ll want to give it a wipe once you’ve finished your build. The aluminium also has the advantage of retaining the case’s great build quality while keeping it light – it tips the scales at less than 3kg.

Cooling comes courtesy of a single 120mm rear exhaust fan, and this is all that there’s room for without modification. This isn’t a lot of airflow by any means, but the case’s small volume means that you don’t need a lot to be effective. The fan will create a negative air pressure inside the chassis, which will draw air in through the small slits in the front panel as well as the larger mesh sections on the sides of the lid (which serve the GPU and front-mounted PSU). This is an effect to which internal CPU and GPU coolers will also contribute, though bare in mind there are no dust filters on this case.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
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The plastic front panel is generally well built, though the power and reset buttons do feel cheap and tacky. Besides these are the standard audio jacks, as well as a USB 3 and USB 2 port, though there’s no external fan control. In the interests of space, Antec has opted for a slimline optical drive mount rather than a full 5.25-inch one.

Above the I/O connections is also a thin strip, which is actually a molex powered light that glows blue when the system is on. Thankfully, the glow is subtle and pleasant rather than blindingly bright, and you can easily disconnect it if you find it to be a distraction. The final thing of note on the case’s exterior is the set of rubber feet, which mean the ISK600 stays firmly planted despite weighing so little.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 260 x 369 x 195 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium, steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 2.95kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 1 x external slimline optical, 3 x internal 3.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
  • Cooling 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 170mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 315mm
  • Extras Illuminated front panel, internal dual-speed fan control

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Intel announces Bay Trail MinnowBoard Max

Intel announces Bay Trail MinnowBoard Max

Intel’s MinnowBoard Max is a worthy successor to the original, boasting a far more powerful 64-bit chip and an entry price half that of its predecessor.


Intel has announced new entries in its MinnowBoard family of hobbyist-oriented development boards, adding a range of more powerful 64-bit processors with the promise of still more to come.

Intel’s MinnowBoard, the company’s precursor to the far more affordable Arduino-compatible Galileo, was announced as a response to the growing popularity of the ARM-based Raspberry Pi and AMD’s overtures into the market with the APU-powered Gizmo. A high price and a relatively underpowered 32-bit Atom processor meant it was not, however, a particular success for the company – despite an open hardware design which left hobbyists free to peruse the firmware and board design to their hearts content.

The MinnowBoard Max, a direct successor to the original MinnowBoard, is Intel’s attempt to learn from the past. The 32-bit Atom chip has been replaced by a 64-bit Atom E38xx Bay Trail Series system-on-chip processor, with Atom E3815 and E3825 single-core and dual-core models confirmed for launch and hints of a quad-core variant in the works. Users have access to 1GB or 2GB of DDR3 memory respectively, depending on model chosen.

Designed as a development platform rather than a general-use computer, the new MinnowBoard Max features micro-HDMI video output, single USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a SATA 3.0Gb/s connector, and a gigabit Ethernet port, along with the promise of general-purpose input-output (GPIO) capability that shines: as well as eight buffered pins for easy experimentation, the MinnowBoard Max includes a low-speed expansion port offering SPI, I2C, I2S, UART, eight more GPIO pins, and power, and a high-speed port offering a PCI Express Gen. 2 lane, a further SATA 3.0Gb/s channel, a USB 2.0 port, I2C, JTAG debugging support and yet more GPIO pins.

All these features come in a cut-down footprint of 99mm x 74mm, but it’s the trimming Intel’s done elsewhere that is really eye-catching: the MinnowBoard Max is to launch in the US at $99 for the single-core or $129 for the dual-core variants (around £59 and £77 respectively, excluding taxes), meaning a starting price of around half that demanded by the original MinnowBoard.

Sadly for those salivating over the potential of the board, the MinnowBoard Max isn’t quite ready for release with Intel expecting to have the first models on shop shelves by June.

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Microsoft unveils Kinect for Windows v2

Microsoft unveils Kinect for Windows v2

Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows v2 hardware is slightly more understated than its Xbox One equivalent, but requires two external boxes – a data hub and a dedicated power supply – to operate.


Microsoft has formally unveiled the Kinect for Windows v2 hardware, based on the updated Kinect depth-sensing camera system developed for the Xbox One console.

Like its predecessor, the Kinect for Windows v2 will officially only support Microsoft’s own operating system – although it didn’t take long for hackers and tinkerers to get its predecessor running on rival platforms – and come complete with a software development kit for coders who want to add support for the tracking technology to their own products.

The design of the Kinect hardware has changed little from its Xbox One incarnation, aside from Microsoft replacing the Xbox logo from the top-left of the panel with a more platform-neutral Kinect version. The power indicator, previously a glowing-green X shape, has also been revised a subtle single LED.

The Kinect for Windows v2 isn’t purely plug-and-play, however: while the Xbox One version works with but a single cable, its Windows variant needs a couple of extra boxes which come bundled. The first is a power supply, suitable for international use and accepting a laptop-style figure-eight cable; the second is a separate hub box, which takes power from the PSU and accepts a USB 3.0 connection to the host PC. A single cable combining both data and power then leads to the sensor unit itself.

The Windows port of Kinect v2 is expected to include all the functionality of its Xbox One cousin, including the ability to track a user’s heartbeat by looking for micro-fluctuations in skin tone caused by the pumping of blood. Its specifications suggest, however, that it will require a USB 3.0 port to operate – an indication of the increased data traffic caused by the higher-resolution sensors.

Microsoft has not yet provided a release date or pricing information for Kinect for Windows v2.

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Corsair Graphite Series 760T Review

Corsair Graphite Series 760T Review

Manufacturer: Corsair
UK price (as reviewed):
£144.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $179.99 (ex Tax)
Preferred Partner Price: £146.52 (inc VAT)

It was only a couple of days ago that we looked at Corsair’s sub-£100 Obsidian 450D. We found that it was a solid all rounder but there’s no denying that its aesthetics are rather plain. Combating this is the Graphite series of chassis, for which Corsair reserves bolder and racier designs, with the bright orange 230T being the most recent example. Today marks the launch of the 760T and 730T, two new additions to the Graphite range. We’re looking at the bigger of the two, the 760T. Our white edition will set you back a hefty £145, with the black one currently a little less at £138. Samples are expected in the channel in early April.

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Naturally, assessing a case’s looks is a subjective process, but even so it would be difficult to describe the 760T as plain. In fact, we’d say it looks rather stunning. The protruding front section is neat, but the side panels are the stars of the show. The left one in particular really stands out, as it’s made almost entirely from high gloss polycarbonate, which is translucent and thus essentially acts as a giant window, giving you a clear view of whatever tasty hardware you happen to stash inside.

Both panels are devoid of fan mounts but are wonderfully easy to use. Each one features a sizeable handle near the front, and pulling this allows you to swing the panels wide open as they are hinged at the back. You can also easily lift them off their hinges should you need. The one downside to this design is that the panels are very unsteady and wobbly when they’re open. That said, this simply isn’t an issue when you close them up again, as the handles keep them securely in place and flush with the rest of the chassis.

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The case is certainly a large one. Round the back you’ll find nine expansion slots, as it’s actually large enough to accommodate both E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards. The large, wide feet (which come with rubber pads for additional grip), boost the case’s height even more, and also give it plenty of clearance, which is useful both for the PSU (guarded by a slide out dust filter), and for the bottom 120mm fan mount, should you choose to use it.

While the base fan mount is empty, the 760T does ship with three 140mm fans. You’ll find two white LED models behind the front mesh and dust filter section and a third one in the rear exhaust position. There is also a trio of 120mm fan mounts, complete with rubberised mounting holes, in the roof, though can install a pair of 140mm fans instead too. These roof mounts are shielded by a magnetic plastic cover so as to protect your system against dust and spills. However, even if you choose to only use one roof mount, you’ll need to expose the entire section of fan mounts, which will leave your hardware open to the elements since no dust filter for this area is provided. Also, the cover itself is a little flimsy and prone to picking up marks, at least on our white version.

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The final things of note on the outside are the three optical drive bays, the top one of which has a stealth cover to preserve the case’s aesthetic, and the I/O panel, which is found along the top. It’s well connected, featuring two USB 2 and two USB 3 ports as well as the usual audio jacks, power and reset switches and a dual speed fan control button too.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 246 x 564 x 568 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black, white
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 3 x external 5.25in, 6 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 4 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) XL-ATX, E-ATX, ATX, micro-ATX
  • Cooling 2 x 140/120mm front fan mounts (2 x 140mm fans included), 1 x 140/120mm rear fan mount (140mm fan included), 3 x 120mm or 2 x 140mm roof fan mounts, 1 x 120mm bottom fan mount (fans not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 180mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 460mm
  • Extras Removable dust filters, dual speed fan control

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