SCANZONE

23.05.14 | ISSUE 19

Hello and welcome to the May issue of ScanZone, the monthly newsletter from Scan Computers where we try and keep you informed about some of the cool goings on at Scan and the computer industry as a whole.

This month the biggest news is the launch of the new Intel Z97 chipset. This is newsworthy because it introduces two new buses to enable SSDs to communicate faster with the rest of the PC. If you’re not an overclocker then you’ll also be interested to hear that Intel has also rolled out some higher clocked CPUs too.

On the mobile front NVIDIA has also been busy too, releasing a whole new range of GeForce 800M series GPUs based on the new Maxwell architecture. Scan is very excited about this launch and has developed a whole new range of gaming laptops including a super-thin 17" model. We’ve also slashed the price on the older GeForce 700M series laptops if you fancy a bargain.

Read on to find out more.

Intel Z97

1. Intel launches Z97 chipset and faster CPUs

If you were awake and reading the web at 8am on Sunday 11th May then you may already know that Intel launched two new chipsets and a slew of new CPUs.

The new chipsets, Z97 and H97 are in many ways straightforward replacements for the existing Z87 and H87 chipsets that we’ve been familiar with for the last 11 months. I say straightforward because Z97 and H97 are backwards compatible with current Haswell CPUs so you don’t need to change CPU to get one of these new motherboards. And there are three good reasons why you might be interested in getting a Z97 or H97 motherboard. Before I delve into the new features though it’s worth clarifying what the difference is between Z97 and H97. In short, Z97 is for enthusiasts so supports overclocking with K-series CPUs and multiple graphics cards while H97 doesn’t and so is a little cheaper.

Whichever new chipset you choose, both Z97 and H97 introduce two new ways to connect an SSD to your PC: PCI-E M.2 and SATA Express. As it name suggests M.2 uses two PCI-E lanes to directly connect the SSD to the chipset potentially giving 1GB/sec of bandwidth on tap, a huge increase over the 600MB/sec of traditional SATA 6Gbps. Physically M.2 slots look a little bit like the mSATA/mini PCI-E slot found on laptop and NUC motherboards with the SSDs themselves being rectangular and typically 22mm wide and between 30 and 110mm long. You can see one of these M.2 slots on the new Asus Maximus VII Hero motherboard in the photo below.

Maximus Hero VII M2

In addition Z97 and H97 also introduce support for SATA Express. This new standard also uses two PCI-E lanes to connect the SSD to the chipset, giving the same 1GB/sec bandwidth as PCI-E M.2. At this stage the only real difference between the two standards is physical, with SATA Express using two standard SATA ports plus a third new port. The advantage of this design is that if you don’t connect a SATA Express SSD you can still use the two SATA ports for standard SATA 6Gbps drives. You can see how SATA Express is implemented on the Asus Z97-A motherboard in the photo below.

Asus Z97-A

Unfortunately I’ve been unable to put any PCI-E M.2 or SATA Express SSDs through their paces yet, but now that Z97 and H97 motherboards have been launched hopefully SSD manufacturers will start to embrace the new standards quickly and announce new SSDs.

The second big reason to consider a Z97 motherboard is that they unlock support for a very exciting new range of CPUs, codename Devils Canyon, which are due to be released shortly. Unfortunately due to our NDA with Intel I can’t go into specifics on Devils Canyon although the press has already leaked some details on these super-fast chips.

The third and final reason to consider Z97 or H97 over Z87 or H87 is a new feature called Boot Guard which acts at a hardware level to try and prevent malware from executing at the boot level. At this stage it’s impossible to say how effective Boot Guard is, but any level of added protection against malware is welcome.

As with any new tech there is small price premium for Z97 or H97 boards, with most motherboards costing between £10 and £20 more than an equivalent Z87 or H87 motherboard. However, given the two new super-fast SSD interfaces and support for Devils Canyon CPUs I don’t really see why you would now buy a Z87 or H87 board. You can view a huge range of Z97 and H97 motherboards at Scan from all major manufacturers in ATX, micro-ATX and mini-ATX form factors.

Although you’ll have to wait a little longer for the exciting new Devil’s Canyon CPUs, Intel also took the opportunity to release a slew of new Pentium, Core i3, and non- overclockable i5 and i7 CPUs this month. The new CPUs are simply speed bumps of existing models, but given that most of the new chips are extremely close in price to the chips they are replacing you’d be mad to not buy the new chips. For example, the i7 4790 that replaces the i7 4770 is 200MHz faster and only £2 more expensive. Similarly, the i5 4460 is 300MHz faster than the i5 4440 yet only £2 more expensive.

With so many Intel product launches this month our 3XS system build team has also been busy designing a new range of PCs to take advantage of the new Z97 chipset and new CPUs. You can view the new systems on our 3XS systems website.

3XS Gaming Laptops

2. Introducing the new range of Scan 3XS gaming laptops with GeForce 800M GPUs

Whether you’re a road warrior, a student on the move or simply don’t want the bulk of a desktop PC you’ll be pleased to hear that Scan has just launched a new range of 3XS gaming laptops.

The new Graphite series laptops are the first to feature the latest NVIDIA GeForce 800M GPUs. The 800M uses the new Maxwell architecture so are very power efficient. This means that these new laptops are not only faster than the previous models with GeForce 700M GPUs but are quieter, run cooler and the battery lasts longer when gaming.

The extensive range starts off with an entry-level 15.6" model with a GeForce GT 840M for just over £600 before moving onto a 15.6" and 17.3" mid-range model with a more powerful GeForce GTX 860M graphics card for under £800. There are also high-end 15.6" and 17.3" models with a choice of GeForce GTX 870M or 880M GPUs starting at £1072. Finally for hardcore gamers out there we’ve also got a new 17.3" SLI laptop with either a pair of GeForce GTX 860Ms or 880Ms starting at £1306.

Scan has also negotiated with NVIDIA to give buyers of laptops with a GeForce GTX GPU a free copy of the upcoming game Watch_Dogs. This offer is exclusive to Scan in the UK so make sure to check out the new range of GeForce GTX laptops.

Bargain hunters should also keep an eye on the 3XS laptop website as we’ve slashed the price on GeForce 700M laptops with savings of up to £180.

3XS Enterprise

3. Accelerate your business with 3XS Enterprise

Scan’s 3XS system integration division has always provided servers and workstations but this month we’ve launched a new dedicated website for business customers. Known as 3XS Enterprise, this special website has been designed to enable customers to identify and configure the correct solution for their business IT.

3XS Enterprise offers a wide range of products suitable for business of all sizes. This includes traditional rack and tower servers with a range of Intel Atom and Intel Xeon processors and High Performance Computing clusters with NVIDIA Tesla accelerators. There’s also a range of professional graphics workstations with NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards and Intel Xeon processors. 3XS Enterprise will continue to grow over the coming months too, adding in networking and storage products.

3XS Enterprise is also backed by a dedicated sales team that specialises in business IT. You can find out more at 3XS Enterprise, by calling 0871 4724747 or emailing [email protected]

G-Sync

4. The war against tearing and stuttering heats up

Scan teamed up with Asus last year to launch the world’s first G-Sync monitor, the VG248QE, exclusively in Europe. G-Sync is very effective technology from NVIDIA that eliminates the tearing and stuttering you see in games when the refresh rate of your monitor is different to the frames per second output of your graphics card, something that has been annoying the hell out of gamers, including yours truly, for the last few decades.

The war against tearing and stuttering is hotting up this month again with AOC announcing that its first G-Sync monitor should be in-stock at Scan in early July. The g2460Pg is a 24in 1920 x 1080 monitor with a TN panel and 144Hz refresh rate. Unlike the VG248QE, AOC’s G-Sync monitor will have several display modes including G-Sync, NVIDIA 3D (in case you fancy a headache in the couple of games that support this) and ULMB, otherwise known as ultra-low motion blur. What’s more, my source at AOC reckons that it’ll retail for around £359 inc VAT, a whopping £80 less than the VG248QE. Fingers crossed I’ll be getting my hands on a sample soon so I can tell you more. On a related note, Scan will also have stock of the AOC’s potentially bargaintastic 28in 4K monitor, the U2868PQU in mid-June.

VESA, the industry organisation that comes up with graphics standards has also weighed into the war on tearing and stuttering this month. Rather than embracing G-Sync which is a proprietary NVIDIA technology, VESA has incorporated a similar feature into a revised version of DisplayPort known as 1.2a. Known as Adaptive-Sync, it works in the same way as G-Sync, synchronising the refresh rate on your monitor with the output of your graphics card. This is great news for gamers, though it’s unlikely that we’ll see graphics cards or monitors supporting DisplayPort 1.2a for at least a year.

Either way, I’m still waiting for a 4K monitor with G-Sync or Adaptive-Sync before I retire my gorgeous Dell U2711.

Panasonic 4K

5. The best 4K camera in the world?

Adding to the illustrious line up of 4K cameras available at SCAN Pro-Video, we are very excited to bring you the latest Hybrid camera from Panasonic. It’s a 4K professional video camera in the guise of a stills camera. The stunning footage this mirrorless camera and interface unit is capable of producing is causing a mighty stir amongst both the DoP and photographic communities, so we thought we’d take a closer look at this affordable filmmaker’s tool. We tested the GH4 on location last week and the GH4 has exceeded all expectations.

Don’t just take our word for it though, as according to RedShark News ‘Expanded Focus, focus peaking and zebra zones may be normal to video camera users, but are a very welcome addition to monitoring on the GH4, but it’s the quality of the 2,359,000 dot OLED viewfinder and 1,036,000 rear touch screen that will really impress here.’ You can read the in-depth review online at RedShark News

The GH4 will record and output full 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p as well as UHD (3840 x 2160). With no hacking required, the GH4 can record 1080 50p and 1080 25p at 200Mb/sec iFrame. In 100Mb/sec mode it can record a variety of frame rates up to 96fps for super-smooth slow motion that you can review straight from the camera. The GH4’s 4K records onto fast SD cards such as the SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB card or PNY Elite Performance 32GB Memory Card, and with the additional YAGH interface provides balanced XLR inputs with phantom power, audio level controls and LED level meters, plus Quad 1.5G SDI Output, or 3G, both at 10 bit 4:2:2. Recording to a Blackmagic Design Hyperdeck Studio Pro via SDI gives you unprecedented quality for expanded Post manipulation.

If you need any more incentive to investigate this fantastic hybrid camera system, buying the combined kit of GH4 & YAGH will save you £500.

The Scan Pro Video team is waiting to help and advise you on NLE & grading systems, rig upgrades, I/O, fast media, storage solutions and production gear. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook drop in or drop us a line at [email protected]

Velocity

6. Register now for your last chance to win big with Velocity 2014

Have you heard? Scan and Intel are running a competition for UK musicians, filmmakers, photographers and motion graphics artists. What do you mean you haven’t signed up yet? Luckily for you there’s still time to enter. It’s simple and free to enter; all you need to do is submit your film, music video, tracks, HDR photos or mograph/vfx content for a chance to win over £35K of pro kit, get your creative work seen and heard by some of the industry’s leading names, plus experiences that money-can’t-buy.

You’ve missed some fantastic opportunities already. We met up with Hollywood actor and Producer Carlos Gallardo (the man behind films such as El Mariachi and Desperado directed by Robert Rodriguez) for a totally inspiring Micro-budget Filmmaking Masterclass. His advice is simple. GET ON WITH IT!

But if you follow Scan Pro Video on the Twitter the Facebook or the Blog you’ll get to hear about the next round of career boosting masterclass content: an interview with the head of NUKE at Framestore, Blackmagic Design 4K Workflow and a DoP Lighting Masterclass.

Throughout the competition we’ve been sharing tips, tools and workflow good practice amongst the Velocity community, plus special offers and news from our competition sponsors such as Tascam & RODE Other sponsor news we think you’ll find interesting comes from our Aussie mates at Atomos. Check out the Atomos Blog for details of how their new warrior line up rocked NAB. The video plug-ins people over at Toolfarm are having a sale. You can check out the latest GPU accelerated plug-ins such as NewBlueFX Titler Pro 3.

What’s more, if you sign up to Redgiant UNIVERSE you’ll get free access to a GPU-accelerated library of tools. Whatever your weapon of choice; Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Motion & After Effects (Mac and Windows), you can start exploring the expanding Redgiant UNIVERSE now.

Sign up to Velocity 2014 and join the fastest growing creative community.

Samsung SSD

7. Win a free 250GB Samsung SSD

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Samsung’s range of SSDs; they’re incredibly fast, have great firmware support and are very competitively priced. It’s not just me either; Samsung SSDs are consistently on Scan’s Hot Seller list with the 250GB 840 Evo once again appearing at number 10 this month. You’ll be pleased to hear then that you could be in with a chance of winning a free Samsung SSD. All you have to do is point your web browser to the Samsung SSD Facebook page and play The Fastest Game on Earth. It’s a simple but fun browser game and each time you win you earn a chance to win a free SSD. What are you waiting for, get clicking now.

NUC

8. Fully Configured NUC's now ready for next-day delivery

Last month I told you about our exciting new range of pre-configured F-Series PCs. The launch has been such a success that we’ve decided to expand the range, adding in three miniature PCs based around the Intel NUC form factor. These PCs are so small they practically fit in the palm of your hand, yet still offer great performance. These tiny PCs are designed for running office applications such as word processing and spreadsheets plus everyday tasks such as web browsing, home accounts and email. Scan NUC PCs are also ideal for running a home theatre or media centre in your living room. As with all the other F-Series system these NUC PCs are pre-built so are ready for next-day delivery, getting you computing sooner.