Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

Report: Microsoft still planning a low-cost, streaming-focused Xbox

July 3rd, 2019

At this year's E3, Microsoft had a lot to say about its high-end Xbox One successor (code-named "Project Scarlett") and about its previously announced (and newly demoed) Project Xcloud streaming gaming service. But the company was less forthcoming about long-standing reports of low-cost, streaming-focused Microsoft hardware that would bring Xcloud games to the TV easily.

In a new video, Thurrott's Brad Sams (who has a strong track record when it comes to reporting insider information from Microsoft) says that the streaming box is "still being actively developed" inside Microsoft despite the continued public silence from the company itself. "I'm hearing this project has not been killed and is being actively worked on."

According to Sams, Microsoft's streaming hardware would "make the [streaming] gaming experience just a little bit better than if it was playing from a TV or something like that." That's because the low-end hardware would itself have a "marginal amount of compute [power]" that would allow it to handle basic gameplay elements like movement and collision detection locally, with minimal latency. "Everything else would just be streamed from Xcloud," as Sams put it.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hardware, microsoft, streaming, XBox, xcloud | Comments (0)

Lenovo shows off a folding-screen laptop, coming some time in 2020

May 13th, 2019

It doesn't have a name (but it'll be in the ThinkPad X1 family), it doesn't have a spec (but it's using an Intel processor), it doesn't have an operating system ("Windows" but, not specifically "Windows 10"), it doesn't have a release date more specific than "2020," and of course it doesn't have a price. But these are I suppose minor details. The big picture: Lenovo has built a laptop with a folding 13.3-inch OLED 1920×1440 screen made by LG. The screen occupies both halves of the laptop's interior space, including where the keyboard would normally go, and the machine can be folded open to turn it into a flat 13-inch screen that you'd frankly never guess could fold.

Things we do know: Lenovo has been working on this thing for three years already. The company sees it as being a full-fledged PC that can take the place of your laptop, specifically not a mere secondary or companion device. Both halves have batteries, so it's not top-heavy, and it has a proper laptop-style stiff hinge to hold the screen at pretty much any angle up to 180 degrees. The screen supports a Wacom pen, and drawing on the screen feels great. When opened up, there's a barely perceptible dip when drawing across the hinged part. But if you weren't looking for it, you'd be hard-pressed to spot it. The unnamed machine has an IR camera for facial-recognition authentication along with two USB Type-C ports.

As we've seen on other devices with folding screens (such as Samsung's ill-fated Galaxy Fold and Huawei's fabulous-looking Mate X), the folded screen doesn't have a tight crease where it bends. Instead, it curves when closed, though Lenovo won't let us show you that curve. Similarly, when the screen is fully opened, one might imagine that it would be useful if there were some way of supporting it upright so that you can use it to watch movies and so on. There's a way to do this, but Lenovo won't let us show you how. We can say that there will be a keyboard accessory that uses Bluetooth, and while you're free to imagine just how such an accessory might be placed on a clamshell type machine, the company didn't want us to mention any specifics.

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Posted in folding screen, hardware, laptop, Lenovo, oled, Tech, windows lite | Comments (0)

Lenovo bumps X1 Extreme to i9, GTX 1650, introduces new mainstream ThinkBooks

May 13th, 2019

Lenovo is having its annual conference for its business partners and customers, and with that comes a spate of new hardware announcements.

Let's start simple: the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, the 15-inch counterpart to the regular X1, has been updated to a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU MaxQ, further enhancing its powerhouse specs, while continuing to weigh under 4 pounds. There's also a new 4K OLED touchscreen option that looks fab. Maximum storage has been doubled to 4TB. Pricing starts at $1,499.99, with availability in July.

Lenovo currently has two main laptop brands: the mass-market IdeaPad, and the high-end/corporate ThinkPad line, with the latter honoring the IBM ThinkPad legacy with their black cases and red TrackPoint mice. To these, the company is adding a third range: ThinkBook. These are intended for small and medium business customers, and they arguably split the difference between the IdeaPad and ThinkPad lines. They have business-friendly features: Windows 10 Pro, a good amount of field serviceability and commercial support options, and buttons for Skype calls. They lack the ThinkPad's TrackPoint and aren't quite as thin or light as comparable ThinkPad machines.

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Posted in augmented reality, hardware, headset, Laptops, Lenovo, PCs, Tech, ThinkPad, wearables | Comments (0)

HoloLens 2 dev kits: $3,500, or $99/month, with Azure credits, Unity trials

May 2nd, 2019
Promotional image of augmented reality goggles.

Enlarge / Microsoft HoloLens 2. (credit: Microsoft)

The second-generation HoloLens 2 was announced back in February. At the time, Microsoft only disclosed commercial pricing for the greatly improved augmented reality headset: $3,500. This is $1,500 less than the commercial edition of the first edition but $500 more than the developer edition.

Today, the company revealed the developer pricing. It'll be that same $3,500, or $99 per month. Whichever payment option is chosen, the development edition will come with a few extras that the commercial edition does not: $500 of credit for Azure services as well as three months of Unity Pro and the PIXYZ CAD plugin. The developer headset will also be limited to one per person and won't be licensed for commercial usage, though as best we can tell, the hardware will be literally identical.

Monthly pricing is available for the commercial edition, too: for $125/month, you get a HoloLens 2, along with one license for Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

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Posted in augmented reality, hardware, hololens, microsoft, mixed reality, Tech, virtual reality, wearables, Windows | Comments (0)

AMD to launch new 7nm Navi GPU, Rome CPU in 3rd quarter

May 1st, 2019
AMD CEO Lisa Su, holding a Rome processor. The large chip in the middle is the 14nm I/O chip; around it are pairs of 7nm chiplets containing the CPU cores.

Enlarge / AMD CEO Lisa Su, holding a Rome processor. The large chip in the middle is the 14nm I/O chip; around it are pairs of 7nm chiplets containing the CPU cores. (credit: AMD)

In its earnings call, AMD offered a little more detail about the launch of its next-generation processors, built using the Zen 2 architecture and TSMC's 7nm manufacturing process, and new GPU architecture, Navi, again built on 7nm. Server-oriented EPYC-branded chips (codenamed Rome) should be shipping to customers in the third quarter of this year, and so too will Navi-based video cards.

In November last year, AMD outlined the details of the Zen 2 design. It makes a number of architectural improvements to shore up some of Zen's weaker areas (for example, it now has native 256-bit floating point units to handle AVX2 instructions; the original Zen only had 128-bit units, so it had to split AVX2 workloads up into pieces). But perhaps more significant is the new approach to building the processors. Zen used modules of four cores (handling eight threads), with two such modules per chip. Mainstream Ryzen processors used one chip; the enthusiast Threadripper range used two chips (first generation) or four chips (second generation), and the server-oriented Epyc range used four chips. Each die is a full processor, containing the cores, cache, memory controllers, PCIe and Infinity Fabric connections for I/O, integrated SATA and USB controllers, and so on and so forth.

Zen 2 will continue to use multiple chips, but this time the chips will be more specialized. There will be 7nm chiplets, each containing CPU cores, cache, and Infinity Fabric links, and a 14nm I/O die, containing memory controllers, Infinity Fabric connections, and SATA and USB controllers. The 7nm parts should be able to achieve higher clock speeds and lower power consumption than their 14nm predecessors. The parts on the I/O die, however, generally don't benefit from higher clock speeds. In fact, they can't—PCIe, USB, SATA, and even memory, all need to run at predetermined speeds, because their performance is governed by the bus specification. The extra performance headroom that 7nm would offer is wasted. By keeping these parts on 14nm, AMD is likely able to cut costs (because well-established 14nm manufacturing should be cheaper than the newer, more advanced 7nm).

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Posted in 7nm, AMD, CPU, epyc, GPU, graphics, hardware, processors, Rome, Tech, zen 2 | Comments (0)

Systems with small disks won’t be able to install Windows 10 May 2019 update

April 26th, 2019
Systems with small disks won’t be able to install Windows 10 May 2019 update

Enlarge (credit: Alpha Six)

Traditionally, Microsoft would use the release of a new operating system to bump the minimum hardware requirements that the software needs. With Windows 10 being the "last" version of Windows, Microsoft is using the major updates to bump specs. The May 2019 update, version 1903, takes the opportunity to do just this.

Previously, 32-bit Windows had a minimum storage requirement of 16GB, and 64-bit Windows needed 20GB. Both of these were extremely tight, leaving little breathing room for actual software, but technically this was enough space for everything to work. That minimum has now been bumped up: it's 32GB for both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows.

Part of this growth may be due to a new behavior that Microsoft is introducing with version 1903. To ensure that future updates install without difficulty, 7GB of disk space are permanently reserved for the install process. While this will avoid out-of-disk errors when updating, it represents a substantial reduction in usable space on these low-storage systems.

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Posted in hardware, microsoft, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

You can now buy Intel’s priceless, power-hungry i9-9990XE

April 11th, 2019
Extreme close-up photograph of computer chip against a black background.

Enlarge / This is a 10-core Skylake-X processor. It uses the low core count (LCC) version of the Skylake-SP die. (credit: Fritzchens Fritz / Flickr)

We learned in January that Intel was planning a new top-end Core i9 Extreme Edition processor: the i9-9990XE. Though it would have fewer cores than the previous top—14 cores and 28 threads compared to the i9-9980XE's 18 cores and 36 threads—it would make up for this in clock speed. The i9-9990XE is clocked at 4.0 to 5.0GHz, compared to 3.0 to 4.5GHz. Power consumption has increased as well, to 255W, 95W more than the 160W i9-9980XE. The price of the new chip? Undetermined. Instead of selling them to end users, Intel's plan was to auction them to high-end system builders, such that the chips would only be sold in complete systems.

But now we have a price. Anandtech reports that one of those high-end system builders, CaseKing.de, has decided to sell the bare chip anyway. The price of this monster? €2,999 (about $3,400).

The bespoke, high-end computer market is a slightly strange one. These systems, often water cooled and factory overclocked, typically have all the trappings of a gamer system, including windowed cases and multicolored lights. Wealthy gamers and streamers are certainly part of their audience. However, another significant market is much less interested in the lights and colors—the systems are sold to high-frequency traders and others within the finance world. These groups put a high premium on single-threaded performance and large caches, and they will spend large sums to be slightly faster than their competitors.

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Posted in Core, hardware, i9, Intel, processor, Tech | Comments (0)

Intel’s new assault on the data center: 56-core Xeons, 10nm FPGAs, 100gig Ethernet

April 2nd, 2019
Left-to-right: Cascade Lake Xeon AP, Cascade Lake Xeon SP, Broadwell Xeon D-1600, and up front Optane DC Persistent Memory.

Enlarge / Left-to-right: Cascade Lake Xeon AP, Cascade Lake Xeon SP, Broadwell Xeon D-1600, and up front Optane DC Persistent Memory. (credit: Intel)

Intel today launched a barrage of new products for the data center, tackling almost every enterprise workload out there. The company's diverse range of products highlights how today's data center is more than just processors, with network controllers, customizable FPGAs, and edge device processors all part of the offering.

The star of the show is the new Cascade Lake Xeons. These were first announced last November, and at the time a dual-die chip with 48 cores, 96 threads, and 12 DDR4 2933 memory channels was going to be the top spec part. But Intel has gone even further than initially planned with the new Xeon Platinum 9200 range: the top-spec part, the Platinum 9282, pairs two 28 core dies for a total of 56 cores and 112 threads. It has a base frequency of 2.6GHz, a 3.8GHz turbo, 77MB of level 3 cache, 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0 expansion, and a 400W power draw.

The new dual-die chips are dubbed "Advanced Performance" (AP) and slot in above the Xeon SP ("Scalable Processor") range. They'll be supported in two socket configurations for a total of 4 dies, 24 memory channels, and 112 cores/224 threads. Intel does not plan to sell these as bare chips; instead, the company is going to sell motherboard-plus-processor packages to OEMs. The OEMs are then responsible for adding liquid or air cooling, deciding how densely they want to pack the motherboards, and so on. As such, there's no price for these chips, though we imagine it'll be somewhere north of "expensive."

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Posted in 100gigE, CPU, datacenter, enterprise, fpga, hardware, Intel, processors, Tech, Xeon | Comments (0)

Surface Book 2 line-up refreshed with new mid-range option

April 1st, 2019
The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2.

Enlarge / The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2. (credit: Microsoft)

Over the weekend, Microsoft refreshed the Surface Book 2 lineup, adding a new mid-range processor option for the 13.5-inch model (via The Verge).

At launch, the Surface Book 2 could be equipped with either a 7th generation dual-core i7-7300U processor with two cores and four threads, or an 8th generation i7-8650U with four cores and eight threads, with prices starting at $1,499 for the 7th generation part. That dual-core system now starts at $1,149 (with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage), with the $1,499 slot taken by a new i5-8350U model. This too is a four core/eight thread chip, with clock speeds of 1.7-3.6GHz and 6MB cache, in contrast to the 1.9-4.2GHz and 8MB cache of the top-end i7.

That $1,499 system is available exclusively with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Other prices seem unaffected; the 8th generation i7 processor, which also includes a discrete Nvidia 1050 GTX GPU with 2GB dedicated memory, carries a $500 price premium over the new model today, rising to $2,999 for 16GB RAM and 1TB storage.

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Posted in hardware, Laptops, microsoft, Surface, surface book 2, Tech | Comments (0)

Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

March 19th, 2019
Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

Enlarge (credit: HP)

HP was one of the many companies that built a VR headset for the Windows Mixed Reality platform which launched back in 2017. Microsoft provided a SteamVR-compatible software platform, controller design, and inside-out, six-axis, positional-tracking technology; hardware companies like HP provided the rest, greatly reducing the price of PC-attached virtual reality.

Today, HP is launching the Reverb Virtual Reality Headset Professional Edition. As the name might imply, the audience for this isn't the consumer space; it's the commercial space. The headset will have a near-identical consumer version, but HP's focus is very much on the pro unit, because that's where the company has seen the most solid uptake of VR tech. The big VR win isn't gaming or any other consumer applications: it's visualization, for fields such as engineering, architecture, and education, and entertainment, combining VR headsets with motion-actuated seating to build virtual rides. The company has also found that novelty items such as its VR backpack have also found a role in the corporate space, with companies using them to allow free movement around virtual worlds and objects.

Accordingly, HP's second-gen headset is built for these enterprise customers in mind. Their demands were pretty uniform, and in many ways consistent with consumer demands too, with the big ones being more resolution and more comfort. To that end, it now has a resolution of 2160×2160 per eye, using an LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate. The optics have also been improved through the use of aspherical lenses, for a 114-degree (diagonal) field of view. AMOLED screens are common in this space, but HP said that it preferred LCD because LCD panels use full red, green, and blue subpixels, rather than the pentile arrangement that remains common for AMOLED.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hardware, headset, HP, mixed reality, Tech, VR, wearables, Windows | Comments (0)