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Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 Comes To The Windows Store

Fri, 2016-11-25 15:45

The Windows Store is Microsoft’s big bet, combining software purchases, updates, and installs into a single place. Although it continues to grow, it still doesn’t offer anywhere near the number of big name apps as iOS or Android. Windows still has a massive library of applications, or course, but they are bought, installed, and updated outside of the store.

Clearly one of the ideas is that Microsoft will take a cut on any app sales in the store, so there is motivation for them to make this succeed, but for the end users, it’s been well proven that a solid Store model works for ease of use, and especially updates.

Recently (and possibly today) Adobe Photoshop Elements came to the Windows Store, as pointed out by Paul Thurrott and Windows Central. This is an important app for the Windows Store, where previously only a much lighter version called Adobe Photoshop Express was available. Elements is not the crown jewels of Adobe’s suite, but it’s still an app that many people use.

Although we don’t have official confirmation of this, Adobe Photoshop Elements is almost certainly using Microsoft’s Desktop App Bridge, codenamed Project Centennial. This bridge allows developers to bring older Win32 apps to the Windows Store, and if they so choose, begin to convert them to the Universal Windows Platform. Although Centennial was announced quite a while ago, it wasn’t until the Windows Anniversary Update that Windows had all of the frameworks required. Photoshop Elements certainly isn’t the first Desktop Bridge app to make it to the store, but it’s surely one of the biggest.

By offering this through the Store, end users get the benefits of the store. The app is automatically updated through the store, so you won’t need any Adobe update services running on your PC, and best of all it can be installed on up to ten devices, rather than the two activations that you would get if you purchased this as a traditional software download.

Centennial also packages the app into a container, so the install process is incredibly quick. Elements doesn’t need to install for thirty minutes as it writes files all over your PC, and in your registry. Everything is kept in the container, which also makes uninstall very simple and much cleaner. I just installed Elements, and after the download was complete, it installed in just a few seconds.

With the launch, the software is also on sale for a limited time.

If the Windows Store is going to take off in a meaningful way, apps like these are going to be an important first step. With Windows 10 on over 400,000,000 devices now, there is an incentive for developers to leverage tools like the Desktop App Bridge to utilize the store. For me, the Store model has enough benefits that I would prefer to purchase an app like this through it. It’s worked before on the PC with stores like Steam and Origin as well, and by bringing big name Win32 apps to the store, Microsoft has an important tool to bring existing devs into their new platform.

Source: Windows Central,

Samsung Acquires Quantum Dot Tech Company QD Vision

Wed, 2016-11-23 21:05

Earlier this week Samsung confirmed that they have acquired QD Vision, the US-based provider of quantum dot technology for consumer displays. According to sources cited by SamMobile, the deal was confirmed ahead of its official announcement next week by Jung Chil-hee, the head of Samsung's Advanced Institute of Technology.

No details about the price of the acquisition are available yet, but from an observer's point of view it makes sense that Samsung would want to acquire companies working in the field of quantum dots. Samsung has been heavily pushing quantum dots in their newest televisions in order to increase their color gamut without having to make use of backlights with multi-color LEDs. With Ultra HD content being mastered in the DCI-P3 or Rec. 2020 color spaces, this has become a necessary feature in high end televisions and monitors for content creation.

QD Vision's technology works in a different manner from the technology Samsung currently uses in their televisions. In order to support HDR, televisions need to use full array backlighting so regions can be dimmed locally, and employing quantum dots in this situation requires a film layer between the backlight and the LCD array, which can be quite costly for larger displays. QD Vision's technology works with edge-lit displays and places tubes of quantum dots between the LEDs and the guide plate that distributes light across the display. I took a look at a monitor that uses QD Vision's technology earlier this year. It's not clear where Samsung plans to utilize QD Vision's technology, but the technology could play a big role in bringing wide color gamuts to lower cost displays, and QD Vision's technology and patents related to quantum dots would also have value to Samsung for further development of the technology in general.

MSI Adds Low-Profile GeForce GTX 1050 Ti to Lineup

Tue, 2016-11-22 20:00

MSI has quietly added a new low-profile graphics card into their lineup. The adapter is based on NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU featuring the latest Pascal architecture and carries 4 GB of GDDR5 memory. The card will replace those powered by NVIDIA’s first-generation Maxwell graphics processors in MSI's lineup and will be among the most affordable gaming-grade graphics boards on the market. The card does not require auxiliary power and is compatible with a wide range of PCs. The drive is still dual slot width, however.

The MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GT LP is based on the GP107 GPU (768 stream processors, 48 texture units, 32 raster operations pipelines, 128-bit memory bus) clocked at 1.29/1.39 GHz (base/boost) and carries 4 GB of GDDR5 memory at 7 Gbps. The board has DL-DVI, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 outputs with HDCP 2.2 support, which is required for Ultra HD Blu-ray playback. Tthe card comes with a dual-slot cooling system featuring two fans.

The low-profile GeForce GTX 1050 Ti consumes up to 75 W of power, and as a result it does not require any auxiliary power connectors -  something important when upgrading low-end PCs from large OEM brands that sometimes do not have any spare connectors left. The lack of power connectors will allow the video card to replace the GeForce GTX 750-series and the GeForce GTX 950 75W series adapters with similar power consumption.

Nowadays it is not easy to find a low-profile graphics card with reasonable performance and a good feature-set. NVIDIA’s GP107 GPU is based on the company’s latest Pascal architecture and thus supports DirectX 12 and Vulkan APIs as well as has an advanced media playback engine that supports hardware-accelerated decoding and encoding of H.265 (HEVC) video. Therefore, MSI’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GT LP graphics card is an interesting product compatible with slim and outdated desktops and HTPCs. As an added bonus, MSI claims that it uses MIL-STD-810G certified components to ensure a long lifespan for the board.

MSI did not announce the price of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GT LP, but it is unlikely that it is going to cost significantly higher than $139 recommended by NVIDIA.

Gallery: MSI Adds Low-Profile GeForce GTX 1050 Ti to Lineup

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Game Bundles: Get Civilization VI, Doom, Watch_Dogs 2 for Free with AMD, NVIDIA and Samsung Hardware

Tue, 2016-11-22 17:30

From time to time companies bundle the latest games with their hardware in a bid to attract attention of gamers and to make their products more competitive. Such promotions are mutually beneficial: for gamers, it is a good way to upgrade and save some money on titles, while for companies it is an efficient way to increase sales. Recently AMD and Samsung have launched campaigns that add a free digital copy of various digital games with their products, including Civilization VI, Doom and Watch_Dogs 2.

Update 11/22: NVIDIA has launched its own promotion, which will add Watch_Dogs 2 to select GeForce GTX 1070/1080 graphics cards and notebooks featuring these GPUs.

AMD: Get Civilization VI and Doom for Free

Running from October 27 to January 27 (or when AMD runs out of Doom codes), the chipmaker working with the usual etailers (Amazon, Newegg, etc) to include a voucher for Doom as a motherboard bundle. This bundle covers most AM3+ motherboards, but it also covers top-to-bottom AMD systems that use an AM3+ motherboard, AMD FX CPU, and an AMD Radeon graphics card. AMD has not published the exact list of AM3+ motherboards that come with a free digital copy of Doom, but more information can be obtained from AMD’s Rewards web-site.

Meanwhile it is noteworthy that this week AMD also initiated its new Civilization VI promotion for Radeon graphics cards. To get a free copy of the latest in the just-one-more-turn-before-bed gaming series, you will need to buy an AMD Radeon RX 480 (or a PC with such a board inside) from an eligible retailer. Right now, the campaign is already live in some countries, and will eventually spread to other regions as well.

AMD's Civilization IV and Doom Campaigns Hardware Game Campaign End Date AM3+ Motherboard Doom January 27, 2017 AMD Radeon RX 480 Civilization VI January 15, 2017   Samsung: Watch_Dogs 2 for Free

In the recent years Samsung has made inroads into gaming PCs with its high-performance SSDs based on its 3D V-NAND memory. At times, Samsung bundled popular titles with its drives, and its new Watch_Dogs 2 campaign expands to curved displays as well.

On the SSD side of matters, Samsung latest bundle covers most of their V-NAND SSDs, including the recently launched 960 PRO & EVO, and their 850 SATA counterparts. Also covered in this bundle is the company’s Portable SSD, the T3. Meanwhile on the monitor side of matters, the bundle covers Samsung’s CFG70 or CF791 curved monitors. The bundle will be available in North America at select retailers only until December 31, 2016, or while coupons last.

Samsung's Watch_Dogs 2 Promo Campaign SSDs Model Form-Factor Capacity Notes 960 PRO M.2 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB 48-layer MLC V-NAND 960 EVO M.2 500 GB, 1 TB 48-layer TLC V-NAND 850 PRO 2.5" 512 GB, 1 TB 32-layer MLC V-NAND 850 EVO M.2, mSATA 500 GB, 1 TB TLC V-NAND Portable SSD T3 USB 3.1 Type-C 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB 32-layer TLC V-NAND Curved Displays Model Diagonal Resolution Notes CFG70 24" 1920×1080 Features quantum dot technology, 1800R Curvature CFG70 27" unknown CF791 34" 3440×1440 1500R curvature

It is noteworthy that Samsung is promoting its curved displays with and without quantum dot technology among gamers using a free game bundle campaign. While curved monitors are available from all major display suppliers, they are not very popular. Meanwhile, Samsung seems to see potential of such monitors for this market segment, which is why it will add a free copy of Watch_Dogs 2 to its CFG70 and CF791 displays until the end of this year.

NVIDIA: Hackers Wanted

NVIDIA on Tuesday (11/22) launched its new free game campaign, which will last for a month. This time the GPU designer will bundle Watch_Dogs 2 with select GeForce GTX 1070/1080 video cards and laptops carrying mobile versions of the graphics processors.

The game uses a number of NVIDIA’s technologies supported by its GameWorks package, including HBAO+ global lighting, TXAA antialiasing as well as HFTS and PCSS techniques for improved shadows.

NVIDIA's Hackers Wanted Campaign Hardware Game Campaign End Date NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070/1080 Watch_Dogs 2 December 19, 2016 Laptop Featuring GeForce GTX 1070/1080

The campaign will last till December 19 and if you have no plans to upgrade your display or SSD, but intend to get a new GPU, this will be your chance to get a free copy of Watch_Dogs 2 as well.

Related Reading:

Sources: AMD, Samsung.

Plextor Launches EX1 USB-C External SSD: Up to 550 MBps, 512 GB and LDPC

Tue, 2016-11-22 16:40

Plextor this week formally launched its first external SSD which it demonstrated back in early June at Computex. The Plextor EX1 combines low weight, high capacity, a high quoted performance with a USB 3.1 Type-C interface. Moreover, the manufacturer promises increased endurance as well as reliability due to an advanced SSD controller and even offers the drive with a five-year warranty.

As reported initially, the Plextor EX1 SSDs will be available in 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB configurations. The drives will use USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C interface with up to 10 Gb/s transfer rate and thus will be compatible with both currently available (via USB-C to USB-A adapter) and upcoming PCs. Since the EX1 is a fully-fledged SSD, not a flash drive, the compatibility with future systems was a requirement in the product design. Moreover, to emphasize that this is not a USB stick, the EX1 has a USB-C receptacle rather than a connector, which means that owners will have to use a cable to plug the drive into their systems (not very comfortable, but ensures that nothing accidentally breaks down as a result of careless usages).

Plextor does not reveal a lot of details about the product, but claims that it uses a Marvell controller that supports LDPC error correction technology as well as PlexNitro feature (both technologies are used by Plextor in their TLC NAND-based drives), a VIA Labs VL716 USB 3.1-to-SATA bridge as well as Toshiba’s TLC NAND made using a 15 nm process. Since Plextor already has a working SSD platform featuring the Marvell 88SS1074B1 controller and Toshiba’s 15 nm TLC NAND (used in its M7V drives), it is highly likely that this platform served as the base for the EX1 as well. On the other hand, the EX1 has a longer warranty, but the same 1.5 million hours MTBF rating and similar general performance specs.

Speaking of performance, Plextor claims that the EX1 is capable of up to 550 MB/s read speed as well as up to 500 MB/s write speed (obviously, when pseudo-SLC caching is used), which is in line with performance of the M7V SSDs and is faster than declared transfer rate of the Samsung Portable T3 SSD (yet, this one has considerably higher capacity). Nonetheless, keep in mind that the real-world performance of SSDs is typically lower than that specified.

Plextor M7V and M6V SSD Specifications Size 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB Controller Marvell 88SS1074B1 (?) NAND Toshiba 15 nm Toggle TLC DRAM Cache 256 MB (?) 512 MB (?) 1 GB (?) Sequential Read 550 MB/s Sequential Write 500 MB/s Interface Physical USB Type-C receptacle Logical USB 3.1 Gen 2 Transfer Rate 10 Gbps Compatibility Backwards compatible with previous-gen USB standards
and connectors using adapters Command Set TRIM, S.M.A.R.T., NCQ, ATA/ATAPI-8 OS Compatibility Apple macOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows, Linux Security Fnet encryption software Dimensions 101.2 × 31.6 × 8.7 mm
3.98 × 1.24 × 0.34 inches Weight 30 grams Apparance Silver color and Gold color enclosure made of anodized aluminum Accessories USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-A cable
Flannel Bag Warranty 5 years

When it comes to features, the Plextor EX1 looks just like a typical SSD drive for desktop computers: it supports TRIM, NCQ, SMART features and relies on the ATA/ATAPI-8 protocol. The drive is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Google Android, Apple macOS and Linux, but with certain limitations imposed by different file systems. For example, Android only supports exFAT and FAT32, but not NTFS, whereas FAT32 does not support files larger than 4 GB. Meanwhile, exFAT is not supported by Linux.

The Plextor EX1 drives come in gold and silver colored enclosures made of anodized aluminum, their weight is around 30 grams. The drives are not too small: their length is a little over 10 centimeters (~4 inches) and their thickness is approximately 8.7 mm (0.34 inches).

Plextor plans to start selling the Plextor EX1 SSDs this month. Exact price points are unknown, but Plextor will also offer Fnet encryption software with the drives.

Gallery: Plextor Launches EX1 USB-C SSD: Up to 550 MB/s, 512 GB and LDPC

Related Reading:

The Intel SSD 600p (512GB) Review

Tue, 2016-11-22 14:30

Intel's SSD 600p was the first PCIe SSD using TLC NAND to hit the consumer market. It is Intel's first consumer SSD with 3D NAND and it is by far the most affordable NVMe SSD: current pricing is on par with mid-range SATA SSDs. While most other consumer PCIe SSDs have been enthusiast-oriented products aiming to deliver the highest performance possible, the Intel 600p merely attempts to break the speed limits of SATA without breaking the bank.

Best CPUs: Holiday 2016

Tue, 2016-11-22 11:00

In our series of Buyer Guides, here’s the latest update to our recommended CPUs list. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing as of (11/22). Numbers in graphs reflect launch MSRP.

As we near into the holiday season, enthusiasts will be looking into what hardware they might purchase during deal season or with holiday bonuses. Ultimately on the deal side, a deal is limited time and with limited scope, but can offer great discounts. Recommending a certain deal is almost futile, as they quickly come and go. However, for people wanting to buy a system as a gift, here are the processors we recommend that hit the right price points for the style of system a user might need. For anyone looking to after the holiday season to buy, we have some interesting hardware coming up. 

In our CPU Guides, we consider certain environments and budgets and give you our pick of some of the best processors available, supplying data from our Benchmark Database where possible.

E-SPORTS / Budget  - Intel Pentium G3258 ($67) (Review)
 - AMD Athlon X4 845 ($66) (Review)
 - AMD A10-7860K ($95) (Bench)

The popularity of highly competitive gaming circles around a number of titles that are not graphically intensive. Depending on the region, League of Legends, DOTA2, Hearthstone, Counter Strike Global Offensive and Rocket League are big titles that can run on some basic hardware. There will always be monster rigs, designed to hit the 240-Hz that monitors like the ZOWIE model that was just announced, however these games can be played at good frame rates on CPUs under $100 with a discrete card, or reasonably well on integrated graphics with APUs nearer $100-$120. 

Rocket League

Buy AMD Athlon X4 845 on Buy Intel Core i5-5675C on

The AMD A10-7860K is the APU we've selected, which combines low cost with 512SPs and comes bundled with one of AMD's new coolers, saving money in the design. For pure CPU power, we suggest the AMD Athlon X4 845 at $70 MSRP which uses the latest micro-architecture from AMD for their best single core per clock performance (also with an updated cooler) or Intel's overclockable Pentium G3258 which gives two hyperthreaded cores and with a third part cooler can push well beyond the 3.2 GHz it offers out of the box. 

BUDGET Gaming  - AMD FX-8300 ($105)
 - Intel Core i3-6100 ($105) (Review)

While eSports titles can be fun, there's more than just basic gaming to go around. While the top tier games can be demanding, there is a law of diminishing returns for performance - if you want to hit the price/performance curve just right, there are some poignant options available. Ultimately this recommendation is ever changing and often highly title dependent: the advent of DirectX 12 and other lower level APIs being able to multithread the individual cores and draw calls effectively means that over time we are moving to a more multi-core gaming environment. But again, this is title dependent.

Buy AMD FX-8300 on Buy Intel Core i3-6100 on

First on our list is the AMD FX-8300. This isn't a new CPU by any means, using the older Piledriver microarchitecture, but it features eight threads at up to 4.2 GHz and has now moved from an OEM-only part to an on-the-shelf part for $110. We're still waiting to hear what sort of cooler this will come with, but given AMD's recent tendency to re-release CPUs with the updated cooler set I wouldn't be surprised if the FX-8300 will soon come with the new 95W near-silent cooler.

Also on this list is the Intel i3-6100, which by contrast is a newer Skylake processor with a higher instruction throughput, but runs two cores with hyperthreading for a $117 MSRP. The i3-6100 has enough base performance to offer a good gaming experience, although the FX-8300 will score higher on multi-threaded environments.

Virtual Reality

With the big buzzwords of 2016 being Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, we have seen one of the GPU manufacturers specifically aim at democratizing the cost of high-end VR into lower-cost gaming machines. So while a VR headset or head-mounted display (HMD) might still run in the region of $700, some of these manufacturers are promoting VR capable systems for as little as $500. While these systems are 'capable', there's still room to push and so we are tackling choosing a CPU for VR at three different price points.

$700 VR  - AMD A10-7860K ($95) (Bench)
 - Intel Core i3-6320 ($160) (Review)

When building a $700 machine to handle VR, the budget is still rather tight but there needs to be some room to grow. One of the issues with VR is that all the parts need to be of a base minimum specification and there could be a single bottleneck which breaks the experience. So along with the RX 480 GPU or GTX 1050 Ti GPU there needs to be storage, memory, enough ports, and a CPU. For this instance, we're putting into this guide the AMD A10-7860K and Intel Core i3-6320.

Buy AMD A10-7860K on Buy Intel Core i3-6320 on

The A10, as we mentioned before, is an AMD APU that balances price and performance for AMD, but also comes with 512 SPs on the graphics which may become relevant for future VR titles. The Core i3-6320 is a faster variant of the i3-6100 in the previous recommendation, with a slightly larger L3 cache to allow for instructions to flow better at lower latency. VR is all about frame rate and latency, and these two CPUs can get you there on a budget.

$1000 VR  - Intel Core i5-6400 ($182)
 - Intel Core i5-6500 ($192)
 - Intel Core i5-6600 ($220) (Bench)
 - Intel Core i5-6600K ($220) (Review)

VR experiences range from static to action, from breathtaking to cute or retro. For some more oomph and with a bit more budget, we are putting Intel's latest Core i5 line into this segment. This is primarily the i5-6400 and i5-6500, with four physical cores and a high instruction rate at around the $200 mark, or variants such as the T models (lower power) or the i5-6600K which is overclockable with a good CPU cooler to push that instruction rate higher.

Buy Intel Core i5-6600 on

Grand Theft Auto V

Having physically more cores means that in a scenario with dense threading, the Core i5 series is better matched to deal with it than Core i3, keeping a user in the experience longer - or allowing for a more detailed environment. As always, it still requires a good GPU as a backbone.

$1500 VR  - Intel Core i5 (as above)
 - Intel Core i7-6700 ($290) (Bench)
 - Intel Core i7-6700K ($300) (Review)

Going to a high-end VR experience and using a GTX 1070/1080 GPU requires a substantial system to be built around it. The GPU itself will take up to half of that budget, with the rest to spend on a good system underneath. Depending on which way the user is leaning, either towards more storage, more memory, aesthetics or CPU power, the options of the Core i5 or Core i7 mainstream parts are good here. The i5-6600/K parts have great legs for performance if the user wants to spend the budget elsewhere, however for those instances where hyperthreading may play a part (or simply because you want the best mainstream chip available), then the i7-6700/K are the best choices.

Buy Intel Core i7-6700K on

For those versed in overclocking and are planning on upgrading the CPU cooler, the extra expense of the K to achieve a 4.4-4.6 GHz stable part will be seen in instances where single thread performance is vital. If you want to go for a slightly cheaper system but still want a Core i7, looking back on the Devil's Canyon i7-4790K will be a good option given that the Z97 motherboards needed are slowly moving to end-of-life, meaning it might be possible to pick one up in a sale.

SFF All Arounder  - Intel Core i5-6400T ($160)

One often talked about segment when building a system is 'big or small'? Having it big means room to upgrade, but having it small keeps it sleek and often more aesthetically pleasing (or out of sight). As such the trend for small form factor systems is certainly a vocal talking point online, especially with cases, power supplies, motherboards and so on. Ultimately an SFF system can be governed on if it has a discrete GPU or not, as without one it can get to very small indeed. For this segment, for users looking at mini-ITX or even mini-STX dimensions, for an all-around performance machine this guide is suggesting the i5-6400T.

Buy Intel Core i5-6400T on

This is a low power part (it has T in the name), with a thermal design power of only 35W compared to 53W, 65W or 91W of the bigger family members. There's a slight premium with a low power part - either in the wallet or it hits in the base frequency, but this quad-core chip still has a 2.8 GHz turbo or 2.5 GHz when all the cores are loaded.

Money No Object  - Intel Core i7-6950X ($1580) (Review)

Money No Object is a somewhat silly proposition. If you really want a severe blow-out on a self-build, charging after multiple Titan X(P) cards and the best system money can buy, you don't really need a guide to select the most expensive thing on the menu. Without moving into the server space, the money-no-object CPU you can buy is the 10-core high-end desktop Core i7-6950X, which will run you north of $1700.

Buy Intel Core i7-6950X on

Intel promotes this multi-core CPU as an essential part for 'mega-tasking': users who want to transcode 4K video, upload, manage, game, stream and create all on the same system at the same time. Bearing in mind that the 8-core variant is 40% cheaper for only 20% less performance, this part hits the wrong side of the price/performance curve. But for something multithreaded will perform better if you can justify the expense.

The Smart Move  - Intel Core i7-5960X ($1011) (Review)
 - Intel Core i7-6900K ($1050) (Review)

For high-end desktop users that have to manage at least some budget, the i7-5960X is the smarter option over the i7-6950X (ultimately, unless you can justify the cost) or even the i7-6900K. The processor for this part of the guide is from the last generation, so it may be found cheaper than the 6900K, and works in any X99 motherboard you can find. When Intel released the update to this part, the i7-6900K, despite the generational improvement (<5%), the MSRP also rose from $999 to $1089, but at retailers at launch sold the i7-6900K for more than that. Ultimately choosing between these two 8-core parts will depend on what is available and what is at the right price, but as an HEDT investment it is a good place to lay down an impressive system.

New Hardware Coming in Q1

At the top of this guide, I mentioned that there's something new on the horizon. Some users may point out that this is always true: if you wait long enough, something better is always going to come long for hardware. However we already know that what is coming is coming soon: Kaby Lake and Summit Ridge (Zen). Both Intel and AMD has stated that their next generation parts for desktops are due to be released in Q1. The first week of Q1 is the annual CES show in Vegas where we expect to see some of this, or perhaps a full launch of one or both. Intel's Kaby Lake platform is aiming for the mainstream (there are already some hints towards the i7-7700K and similar parts online) while AMD's Summit Ridge is more for the high-end, featuring eight Zen cores in new motherboards. Ultimately we don't know yet when these will be announced or the pricing, or even if we will see it in volume.

However for users who want the latest and greatest, and are willing to wait until February/March timeframe when we come out with our Q1 guide, there will most likely be new options on the table. But chances are it won't be as cheap as the holiday sales. Happy CPU hunting everyone.

Suggested Reading

Intel Broadwell-E Review (i7-6950X, i7-6900K, i7-6850K, i7-6800K)
Intel Haswell-E Review (i7-5960X, i7-5930K, i7-5820K)
Intel Skylake K Review (i7-6700K, i5-6600K)
Intel Skylake i3 Review (i3-6320, i3-6300, i3-6200)

AMD Carrizo Review (Athlon X4 845)
AMD Kaveri Review (A10-7870K)

ADATA Launches the SD700 External SSD: Dust, Water and Shock Resistant (with 3D NAND)

Mon, 2016-11-21 18:00

ADATA last week introduced its third SSD featuring 3D NAND memory. The new SD700 is a dust, water and shockproof drive that has up to 1 TB of capacity as well as a weight of only 100 grams. The SSD uses the USB 3.0 interface and is compatible with the majority of modern PCs.

The ADATA SD700 comes in a metal enclosure with rubber inlays/pads to ensure hermetic sealing and shock resistance. The company plans to offer three configurations of the drive with 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB capacities, all featuring up to 440 MB/s read speed (as conditioned by the maximum real-world transfer rate of USB 3.0 interface due to overhead incurred by 8b/10b encoding). The claimed transfer rates of the SD700 are the same as those of the Samsung Portable SSD T3 (which also used 3D NAND), but the real-world performance of the novelty is yet to be discovered. From a compatibility point of view, the external drives are also similar: they can work with Microsoft Windows, Google Android and Apple macOS.

The SD700 from ADATA is based on 384 Gb 3D TLC NAND flash chips made by IMFT and while the SSD maker does not reveal specifics, it is highly likely that the drive uses Silicon Motion’s SM2258 controller (just like other 3D NAND-powered products by ADATA) accompanied by a USB-to-SATA bridge.

ADATA designed and tested its SD700 drive to IEC IP68 standard to ensure that it dust-tight and can operate for 60 minutes while submerged in 1.5 meters of water. In addition, the maker also tested its new external SSD to the U.S. Army MIL-STD-810G516.6 shock and drop resistance standard. The SD700 will join ADATA’s family of external SSDs and will be among the first 3D NAND-based external drives that meet the IP68 and the MIL-STD-810G516.6 requirements.

ADATA SD700 Specifications   256 GB 512 GB 1 TB Speed Up to 440 MB/s Interface USB 3.0 Dimensions 83.5 × 83.5 × 13.9 mm
3.3 × 3.3 × 0.5 inches Model Number ASD700-256GU3
-CBK (black)
-CYL (yellow) ASD700-512GU3
-CBK (black)
-CYL (yellow) ASD700-1TU3
-CBK (black)
-CYL (yellow)

The endurance of 3D NAND, as well as the rugged design, will make the ADATA SD700 a good choice for users that who transfer large amounts of data often and would like to ensure that their information will not be corrupted either as a result of degradation of non-volatile memory or because of a physical damage. For additional piece of mind, ADATA offers a three-year limited warranty with its SD700 drives.

The ADATA SD700 external SSDs will be available in all-black as well as black and yellow color schemes shortly at Amazon and Newegg. The 256 GB version will cost $109.99, whereas the 512 GB version will be priced at $189.99. At least from a pricing standpoint, the new SSDs from ADATA look very competitive because they are roughly two times cheaper than LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt + USB 3.0 SSDs of the same capacity.

Gallery: ADATA Launches SD700: Dust, Water and Shock Resistant External SSD with 3D NAND

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MSI Releases the 'VR One': A Backpack PC For VR From $1999

Mon, 2016-11-21 14:30

MSI has started to sell its VR One backpack PC designed for virtual reality enthusiasts. The MSI VR One system is now available in the US, and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060/1070. The backpack promises to pack a lot of performance and can even be overclocked. However, the combination of high FPS and a relative freedom of movement is going to cost: the system starts at $1999.

MSI’s VR One backpack PCs rely on the company’s expertise in mobile computing and high-end notebooks. The VR One systems are based on the Intel Core i7-6820HK (4C/8T, 2.7/3.6 GHz, 8 MB LLC, 45 W) processor with an unlocked multiplier as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB (VR One 6RD) or GeForce GTX 1070 8 GB (VR One 6RE) GPUs. The key components of the backpack are cooled down using an MSI proprietary cooling system featuring nine heatpipes and two blowers that ensure that the CPU and GPU never overheat even if overclocked (the HM170 chipset supports CPU overclocking). In fact, MSI even supplies its special Shift application that allows the user to boost both the compute and the cooling performance with just a few clicks.

The system comes equipped with a 256 or a 512 GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4/NVMe SSD with up to 2.2 GB/s read performance and have another M.2/SATA slot for an additional drive to install more gaming titles. No spinning HDD is equipped by default for obvious reasons.

MSI VR One Specifications     VR One 6RD VR One 6RE CPU Intel Core i7-6820HK
4 cores/8 threads
2.7 GHz/3.6 GHz
45 W PCH Intel HM170 Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
1280 stream processors
80 texture units
48 ROPs
192-bit memory interface
6 GB of GDDR5 8 GT/s memory NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
2048 stream processors
128 texture units
64 ROPs
256-bit memory interface
8 GB of GDDR5 8 GT/s memory Memory Two SO-DIMM slots
16 GB DDR4-2133 installed
compatible with up to 32 GB of DDR4-2133 Storage 256 GB M.2/PCIe SSD
(up to 2.2 GB/s)
+ one extra M.2/SATA slot 512 GB M.2/PCIe SSD
(up to 2.2 GB/s)
+one extra M.2/SATA slot Wi-Fi Rivet Networks Killer 1535 802.11ac + BT 4.1 Ethernet None Display Outputs 1 × HDMI 2.0
1 × mDP 1.2 Audio 3.5 mm audio in and 3.5 mm audio out USB 4 × USB 3.0 Type-A (5 Gbps)
1 × Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps)/USB 3.1 Type-C (10 Gbps) Other I/O DC12V-out for HTC Vive Dimensions 409 mm × 292 mm × 54 mm
16.1 × 11.49 × 2.12 inches Weight 3.6 kg PSU External Batteries 91 Wh OS Windows 10 Pro

One of the key things about VR gaming backpack PCs is connectivity. The VR One features all the ports needed to connect a VR headset like the HTC Vive with the ports right on top. To simplify connection of the Vive, MSI even supplies a special 3-in-1 cable with HDMI, USB 3.0 and power wires. Moreover, the system packs the Rivet Networks Killer 1535 Wi-Fi 802.11 ac + Bluetooth controller as well as Intel’s Alpine Ridge controller to enable one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

The whole design of VR One’s motherboard resembles the design of MSI's gaming laptops, which helps to make the PC relatively thin (54 mm) and relatively light (3.6 kilograms). Meanwhile, two hot-swappable batteries enable MSI’s VR One to work completely autonomously for about 1.5 hours each. In fact, the whole outside design of the MSI VR One is optimized primarily for backpack, not desktop operation (unlike ZOTAC’s VR Go). While the VR One can be put on a desk, it will have to lie down, making its ports less accessible. So, the VR One is a system made primarily for virtual reality gaming, not for general-purpose computing.

Right now MSI offers the VR One 6RD with the GeForce GTX 1060 and a 256 GB SSD for $1999 in the U.S. The more advanced VR One 6RE with the GeForce GTX 1070 and a 512 GB SSD will be available a little later for $2299.

Gallery: MSI Begins to Sell VR One Backpack PC: Core i7, GeForce GTX, TB3, Starts at $1999

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Best SSDs: Holiday 2016

Mon, 2016-11-21 13:15

A lot has changed in the SSD market since last year's Holiday SSD Buyer's Guide. This past summer and fall, Intel and Micron's 3D TLC NAND hit the market and the range of PCIe SSD options expanded greatly. A few market segments are stagnant, but most of our recommendations are relativly new. The most significant shift is that low-end PCIe SSDs have taken the place of high-end SATA SSDs as the middle ground between value SSDs and top of the line PCIe SSDs.

The SSD industry is currently suffering through a NAND shortage that has kept prices from dropping much in recent months, and has delayed the availability of Samsung's latest generation of PCIe SSDs. Prices now range from around 23¢/GB for a mainstream SATA drive to 64¢/GB to pre-order Samsung's top of the line 960 Pro M.2 PCIe SSD.

As always, the prices shown are merely a snapshot at the time of writing. We make no attempt to predict when or where the best discounts will be. Instead, this guide should be treated as a baseline against which deals can be compared. All of the drives recommended here are models we have tested in at least one capacity or form factor, but in many cases we have not tested every capacity and form factor. For drives not mentioned in this guide, our SSD Bench database can provide performance information and comparisons.

Premium SATA drives: Samsung 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme Pro

The Samsung 850 Pro is still unchallenged as the top SATA SSD. This isn't much of a claim to fame any more, since there are now cheaper and faster PCIe SSDs. What continues to make the Samsung 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme Pro stand out are the unmatched ten year warranties in a market where three or five years is standard. However, the write endurance ratings are not unusually high compared to other consumer SSDs.

These drives are both premium products for users with demanding workloads. There are much cheaper SATA SSDs that offer peak performance that is close to what these drives deliver, and the growing segment of low-end PCIe SSDs offers far better performance for the money.

Buy Samsung 850 Pro (512GB) on   240/256GB 480/512GB 960/1024GB 2TB Samsung 850 Pro $119.99 (47¢/GB) $213.62 (42¢/GB) $413.45 (40¢/GB) $818.98 (40¢/GB) SanDisk Extreme Pro $139.29 (58¢/GB) $204.98 (43¢/GB) $373.00 (39¢/GB)     Value & Mainstream SATA: Crucial MX300, Mushkin Reactor 1TB

The value segment of the SSD market is where drives trade-off performance and endurance to reach the lowest possible prices. Since SSD prices have tended to drop across the entire market, it is almost always possible to spend just a little more money to get a significant performance boost. The mid-range segment is a battleground between TLC drives with high enough performance, and any MLC drives that can get the price down without sacrificing their inherent performance advantage over TLC.

The Crucial MX300 has almost completely taken over this category. It is now one of the cheapest SATA SSDs on the market, and it is faster and far more power efficient than any SSD with planar TLC NAND. MLC SSDs and the Samsung 850 EVO still perform much better under heavy sustained workloads, but the MX300 is good enough for most ordinary use.

Buy Crucial MX300 750GB on   240-275GB 480-525GB 960-1050GB 2TB Mushkin Reactor $89.99 (36¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB) $233.92 (23¢/GB)   Samsung 850 EVO $94.99 (38¢/GB) $164.99 (33¢/GB) $314.90 (32¢/GB) $624.99 (31¢/GB) Crucial MX300
  $69.99 (26¢/GB) $123.09 (23¢/GB) $244.99 (23¢/GB) $480.00 (23¢/GB)   $169.99 (23¢/GB) (750GB)     PCIe NVMe: Plextor M8Pe and Samsung 960 Pro

The PCIe SSD market is where most of the action is. The big brands are almost all now shipping a PCIe SSD model and they've been on the market long enough for prices to settle a bit. Samsung's 960 Pro and 960 EVO will help Samsung stay on top, but at the moment Samsung is experiencing supply problems that are likely to continue through the holiday season. Some users may want to wait for the 960 Pro to ship in order to get the absolute fastest consumer SSD or the highest capacity M.2, but the 960 EVO isn't worth waiting for.

The Pextor M8Pe is close in performance to the 960 EVO and is faster than the Phison PS5007-E7 based SSDs that several brands are selling. The version of the M8Pe with no heatsink is not only substantially cheaper than the Samsung 960 EVO, it is even a bit cheaper than the Samsung 850 Pro.

The one PCIe SSD that doesn't fit in is the Intel 600p. Its price falls in the middle of the SATA SSD market, below the Samsung 850 EVO. On light workloads, it outperforms any SATA SSD, but its sustained performance under a heavy workload is no better than a budget SATA SSD. It is also power hungry even by the standards of PCIe M.2 SSDs, and its efficiency compared to good SATA SSDs is very bad. There are scenarios where the Intel 600p is a great value, but consumers should exercise caution and know their workload before buying the 600p.

Buy Plextor M8Pe 512GB on Newegg   128GB 250-256GB 400-512GB 1TB 2TB Samsung 960 EVO (MSRP)   $129.88 (52¢/GB) $249.99 (50¢/GB) $479.99 (48¢/GB)   Samsung 960 Pro (MSRP)     $329.99 (64¢/GB) $629.99 (62¢/GB) $1299.99 (63¢/GB) Intel SSD 600p $63.99 (50¢/GB) $79.99 (31¢/GB) $164.53 (32¢/GB) $302.99 (30¢/GB)   Plextor M8Pe $74.99 (59¢/GB) $114.99 (45¢/GB) $189.99 (37¢/GB) $414.99 (41¢/GB)     M.2 SATA: Samsung 850 EVO and Crucial MX300

M.2 has replaced mSATA as the small form factor of choice, and new product lines are no longer including mSATA variants. Selection of M.2 SATA SSDs is far more limited than 2.5" drives, but there are enouch options to cover a reasonable range of prices and performance levels. The Samsung 850 EVO is the high-performance M.2 SATA drive of choice, and anyone wanting more performance should look to M.2 PCIe SSDs. The Crucial MX300 covers the low end of the market and carries only a slight premium over its 2.5" counterpart.

Buy Crucial MX300 275GB M.2 on   250-275GB 500-525GB 1TB Samsung 850 EVO M.2 $99.99 (40¢/GB) $158.66 (32¢/GB) $313.97 (31¢/GB) Crucial MX300 M.2 $66.50 (24¢/GB) $128.99 (25¢/GB) $249.99 (24¢/GB)