28.01.15 | ISSUE 27
After the spike in sales in the run up to Christmas the tech industry switches to a completely different gear in January, gathering at the CES show to show off the hot new products scheduled for release in the year to come. As with the last few years, there were hundreds of smart TVs, smartphones and tablets on show, but there was also plenty of cool new PC tech on display too. Read on to find out more.
1. The best new tech of CES 2015
At the beginning of this month the tech industry gathered in Las Vegas for the world’s biggest technology expo, the Consumer Electronic Show. With thousands of companies demonstrating new products, many for the very first time, here is my selection of some of the most exciting new tech.
NVIDIA kicked off CES by unveiling a new mobile processor, the Tegra X1. Based on the same awesome Maxwell architecture as the best-selling GTX 970 and 980, the X1 has 256 GPU cores plus and an 8-core 64-bit ARM CPU and so is significantly faster than the existing K1 processor which has 192 GPU cores and a quad-core ARM CPU. Rather than putting all that power into a tablet, the Tegra X1 is most likely to be seen in car PCs first. These will take two forms, the Drive CX, a digital cockpit computer and the Drive PX, an auto-pilot. Drive PX is being developed with Audi and features two Tegra X1 chips to enable it handle 12 cameras and promises to be able to park and drive your car without user interaction.
Wearable tech was one of the major buzzwords of 2013 and 2014 but it’s only now that actual products are beginning to trickle into the market. A good example of this is the Intel Curie, a low-power computer the size of a coat button, as you can see pictured in the hands of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich above. Based on the Quark system-on-a-chip architecture, the Curie has a 32-bit processor plus Bluetooth Low Energy radio and motion sensors and is intended for use in clothing and jewellery.
Intel also unveiled its Compute Stick, a tiny USB-sized computer that plugs into the HDMI port of any monitor or TV. With an Atom CPU inside, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage the Computer Stick is ideal for basic office and home applications. Windows and Linux versions are planned for release later this year.
Intel also used CES to expand its range of fifth generation Core processors. Codenamed Broadwell U, you’ll soon be able to find these new super low power CPUs in a variety of laptops, tablets and NUCs. While application performance is barely any better than Haswell, with a mere 4% speed bump, a new integrated GPU is claimed to deliver a substantial 22% performance increase in 3D applications. More importantly still these Broadwell U chips should extend the battery life of laptops and tablets by an extra hour and a half. Intel also teased at CES that the first NUC with a Core i7 processor is coming soon, unlocking lots more performance in Intel’s tiny small form factor range.
Finally, AMD and NVIDIA both used CES to demonstrate the latest gaming monitors. AMD partnered up with BenQ, LG, Samsung and Viewsonic for the first demos of its tearing and stuttering killing technology FreeSync. You can expect to see a wide range of FreeSync monitors hitting the shelves later this year though as yet there’s no word on UK pricing.
In addition, NVIDIA added some more G-Sync monitors to its already large range. The 27" Acer XB270HU is special because it’s the first G-Sync monitor with an IPS panel, meaning you can enjoy tearing and stutter free gaming on a brighter more accurate display than ever before. Asus also announced its first G-Sync monitor with an IPS panel, the 27" PG27AQ, which is due for release in the second half of the year.
Finally, Acer also announced two 34" super wide monitors, the Predator XR and FR. The XR will have a 3K res and the FR a 2K res, while both monitors should have a VA panel that supports G-Sync and Freesync. Even more interestingly, both monitors feature curved panels, giving a greater sense of surround vision than a standard flat panel.
2. Microsoft unlocks the future with HoloLens headset
Microsoft looks like it deliberately waited until CES was over to unveil HoloLens, quite possibly the most exciting new announcement of 2015. While die-hard Trekkies will be disappointed to hear that HoloLens isn’t a full holodeck, what it promises, via an augmented reality headset may well offer a whole new way of interacting with our PCs.
The HoloLens works by using sensors on the headset to detect where in the room you’re looking and what objects are around you. This information is then combined with the software you’re running to project holographic images on a series of lenses that your eyes are tricked into thinking are actually there in the real physical world
For instance, you could call up the 3D model of a piece of furniture and walk around it to see how well it blended in with your existing room. Other examples given by Microsoft included manipulating 3D models away from the constraints of your monitor and interactive learning, such as a lesson on how to install a U-bend pipe under a sink.
HoloLens is still at an early stage of development, with Microsoft hinting that it’ll be released during the lifetime of Windows 10, but it offers such an interesting new way to interact with our PCs that I’m very keen to see how it shapes up over the next few years.
3. NVIDIA unveils two new mid-range gaming GPUs
CES may be over for another year but that hasn’t stopped NVIDIA launching two more GPUs in the last few days, the GeForce GTX 960 and GTX 965M.
Designed to deliver a smooth 60fps in games at 1920 x 1080, the GTX 960 is a mid-range GPU that sits between the high-end GTX 970 and entry-level GTX 750 Ti. Like the other 900-series GPUs the GTX 960 is based on the Maxwell architecture. This means it consumes far less power than its predecessors. For example, in our own testing we found that the GTX 960 drew just 153W from the wall compared to 223W for a GTX 760.
In terms of specs, the GTX 960 packs in 1,024 cores running at 1,126MHz, 64 texture units, 32 ROPs and 2GB of RAM running at 7,0012MHz. In contrast the older GTX 760 has 1,152 cores running at 980MHz, 96 texture units, 32 ROPs and 2GB of RAM clocked at 6,008MHz. As a result the GTX 960 is only a little faster than the GTX 760, with most games running about 3-5fps smoother. That’s not a great deal, but the GTX 960 is really aimed at owners of older cards such as the GTX 660 and GTX 560. If your own of these, then the GTX 960 will be a significant upgrade, running games around 20fps faster while consuming less power and making less noise.
GeForce GTX 960 cards start from £159 inc VAT and are also available in a wide range of ready-to-ship and customisable 3XS gaming PCs now.
NVIDIA’s second GPU launch this month is the GeForce GTX 965M (pictured above), a mobile GPU designed for mid-range gaming laptops. Like the GTX 960, the GTX 965M is a based on the Maxwell architecture and has 1,024 cores running at 944MHz, supported by 2GB of RAM running at 5,000MHz. In comparison the high-end GTX 970M has 1,280 cores running at 924MHz with 3GB of RAM running at 5,000MHz while the mid-range GTX 860M has 640 cores running at 1,029MHz with 2GB of RAM running at 5,000MHz.
The danger for the GTX 965M is that it performs pretty much mid-way between the GTX 970M and GTX 860M, but is much closer in price to the former. So far, MSI is the only manufacturer to start selling GTX 965M laptops in the UK with a 15.6" and 17.3" model already in stock at Scan.
4. Playing Dying Light for free with select gaming laptops
If you’re in the market for a new gaming laptop then you’ll be pleased to hear that laptops with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M, 970M or 980M graphics card now include a free copy Dying Light. This zombie survival game has been developed by Techland, the makers of the Dead Island series and supports lots of new wizzy bang graphics effects such as HBAO+, Bokeh DOF, and Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR).
5. Windows 10 will be a free upgrade
PC enthusiasts have been able to try out a preview build of Windows 10 for a couple of months now, with the new OS shaping up very nicely to replace Windows 7 and 8 later this year. As already revealed in issue 24 of ScanZone, Windows 10 sees the return of the Start Menu plus some excellent new features such as two more levels of Snap and Linux-style virtual desktops. This month Microsoft has updated the preview build again, adding Cortana powered search to the Taskbar, new photo and map apps plus a new look for the Windows Store. You can check out the latest preview build for yourself here.
Although we still don’t have a confirmed release date yet, Microsoft did announce that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for owners of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 for the first year after launch. This is the first time the company has offered free upgrades to users and has led to speculation that Windows 10 won’t actually have an upfront cost but instead will be funded by an ongoing monthly subscription instead.
6. Be creative on the go with a 3XS workstation laptop
Scan sells hundreds of its 3XS gaming laptops every month, but many of you may not know that we also stock a range of workstation laptops optimised for creative professionals. Recently we’ve expanded this range to include a 17” laptop with a Thunderbolt port for creatives working in the audio and video industry who need access to high-speed external storage. Video producers may also want to check out the MVW-20, a 15.6” laptop with 4K screen, ideal for editing 4K at native resolution. Finally we’ve also added two new graphics workstation laptops, the MGW-11 and MGW-16. The former is optimised for high-end 2D CAD applications with NVIDIA Quadro K1100M graphics and the latter for 3D applications with NVIDIA Quadro K3100M graphics.
7. Design a film poster with Scan Pro Video
Scan Pro Video is delighted to join Filmdoo in sponsoring a major new competition. Working as bespoke system builders to the creative industries gives us special insight into the importance of supporting the development of filmmakers and digital creatives. Many on the Scan Pro Video steam started as 2D artists, which is why this competition has special resonance.
All you have to do is create a film-inspired piece of art or film poster and submit it via the Filmdoo website before 30th April to be in with a chance of winning. The lucky winner will get the opportunity to design the artwork for a film release in 2015 while runner up prizes include a £1,000 voucher from Scan and a NVIDIA Quadro graphics card.
Remember, proactivity always wins, maybe not in the way you thought, but it will always pay off somehow, somewhere. Good luck to you all.
8. Get them while you can
At the end of this month AMD will be ending it Never Settle Space promotion which gives free games to buyers of certain AMD components. This includes the Ruby Rewards bundle which gives a choice of four free games when you buy a 3XS Gaming PC with an AMD Radeon R9 graphics card. Also ending is the Never Settle Space bundle which gives a choice of up to three free games when you buy an AMD Radeon R7 or R9 graphics card. Make sure you take advantage of this great bundles as they’ll be ending very soon.