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Oct 24, 2011

Abee Intros ATX-Ready AS Enclosure DX3

Japanese company Abee may not be the best known of PC makers, but it definitely hasn't been keeping a low profile recently, its latest announcement dealing with, among other things, a model called AS Enclosure DX3. 

AS Enclosure DX3 is not the most visually-embellished of PC enclosures, nor the largest or most sophisticated. 

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it can still say that it will keep everything in it running optimally, without having to get the hardware all cramped together. 

The whole compactness aspect was already covered by the Acubic M50 HTPC unit after all (read about it here). 

The newcomer measures 411 x 219 x 333 mm (16.18 x 8.62 x 13.11 inches) and is a steel-wrought chassis with either black or silver-colored aluminum panels. 

The weight of 6.1 kilograms isn't the smallest in the world, but it isn't the highest either and, either way, this isn't something people will end up moving much anyway. 

A pair of 5.25-inch bays are present, along with tow 3.5-inch bays and one 2.5-inch bay, the latter mostly intended for solid state drives. 

Other specifications include a front-placed pair of USB 3.0 ports and all the cooling anyone except the more enthusiastic and overclocking-concerned of owners, could want. 

For people who want more specifics, there are four fans on the inside of the Abee AS Enclosure DX3. 

One of them is at the back, one of them is on top and the other two are on the side, side by side in fact. 

All of them have a diameter o 120mm and a rotary speed of 1,000 RPM (rotations per minute). 

The two spinners on the side are actually placed at the level where the video card usually ends up sitting, so there is a bonus to video board stability as well. 

European stores should start listing the Abee AS Enclosure DX3 soon, if they haven't already, for the price of 289.90 Euro, which is about the same as $401.7, based on exchange rates.

FastRa1n 5.0 Promoted as 'Untethered' iOS 5 Jailbreak

FastUnlockiPhone.com, a company that markets and sells alleged iOS jailbreak and unlock solutions, is at it again with a new announcement that their FastRa1n 5.0 can provide an ‘untethered’ jailbreak for those who are rocking the latest iOS from Apple.

There is some reason to regard FastUnlockiPhones offerings with an ounce of skepticism.

First of all, proven jailbreak and unlock solutions are always free. Whether it’s the iPhone Dev Team that developed them, or the code savvy people at Chronic Dev, the tools are NEVER commercialware.

FastUnlockiPhone, on the other hand, sells its jailbreak solution. FastRa1n is also potentially nothing more than a repackaged version of one of the aforementioned free tools.

I reported on their business (and many others’) in the past with the same level of skepticism. One commenter (whose story I cannot vow for, of course), said:

“You are correct. In addition this will NOT jailbreak iOS5, it only works in iOS 4.3.3. I have opened a case with PayPal. I suggest everone [sic] else does the same. The are using PayPal to SCAM people.”

Now, I’m not saying steer clear of FastRa1n, since I haven’t tried it myself. All I’m suggesting is to exercise caution. There have been reports in the past that similar companies, that advertised similar products, were conducting scams.

Coincidentally (or not), a new package appeared in Cydia yesterday called “SemiTether.”

You download it on your already jailbroken device, install it, and it lets you reboot your iPhone without having to hook it up to a computer.

And need I mention that jaikbreaking itself is not the most appreciated of practices at Apple?

If you get an iPhone, jailbreak it, mess something up and take it back to Apple to fix under warranty, chances are you might get turned down if their tech guys find ‘traces’ of a jailbreak on your device.

Simply put jailbreaking is not recommended, let alone using questionable software to get there.

Intel Lowers Prices of Three Sandy Bridge CPUs

Intel has today published an updated price list for its Sandy Bridge processors and, apart from the introduction of the new Core i7-2700K, this also announced lower prices for three of the company's current CPUs.

The chips in question are the Pentium G630, Pentium G850, and Core i3-2120 models, all with two processing cores and a 65 Watt TDP.

Thanks to the price cuts operated by Intel, the Pentium G630 has now went to the level of the Pentium G620 as it retails for $64 (about 46 Euros), down $11 from its previous $75 (54 Euros) MSRP, while the Pentium G850 has went to the level of its smaller sibling, the G840, since is now priced at $75 US.

As far as the Core i3-2120 is concerned, Intel has opted to drop its price down from $138 to $117 (99.5 vs. 84 Euros) which makes it just as expensive as the Core i3-2100, reports CPU-World.

More powerful processors were not affected by these price cuts as Intel has no reason for changing them considering the week performance of AMD's FX-Series processors based on the Bulldozer architecture.

In fact, it appears that retailers have even increased the prices of some Sandy Bridge processors that go head to head with AMD's FX-8150 processor, as we reported just the last week.

The list of CPUs affected by these price hikes includes the Core i5-2400, i5-2500K and i7-2600K, the latter going up almost 9% since the introduction of Bulldozer.

This change cannot be explained by the fluctuations in the USD vs. EUR exchange rate, since these would have caused the chips to be cheaper by a few percent.

Furthermore, Intel will apparently keep this trend in the near future as the recently launched Core i7-2700K is priced higher than the Core i7-2600K is meant to replace. 

Intel has rarely taken this sort of decision as usually the new high-end parts come at the same MSRP as the chips they are meant to take the place of in the company's CPU lineup.

AMD FX-6100 and FX-4100 Bulldozer CPUs Arrive in Europe and AMD Develops New Platforms for Ultrabook-Like Laptops

AMD FX-6100 and FX-4100 Bulldozer CPUs Arrive in Europe

Almost two weeks after the introduction of AMD's first FX-Series processors based on the Bulldozer architecture, the FX-6100 and FX-4100 CPUs have now started to make their appearance into stock at various retailers across Europe.

Even though officially launched, the chips have been missing from the stores shelves as the Sunnyvale-based chip maker has concentrated its efforts on making available the eight-core FX-8150 and X-8120 processors.

This situation will however soon change as SweClockers reports the first batch of FX-6100 and FX-4100 CPUs made its way into German stores, while in Sweden these will arrive sometime later this week.

The FX-6100 and FX-4100 pack six and four computing cores respectively, come with support for AMD's Turbo Core technology, have an unlocked multiplier and both chips feature a of 95W TDP.

The six cores included in the FX-6100 are clocked at 3.3GHz and these can reach 3.6GHz when all are in use or a maximum of 3.9GHz when only three cores are active, while the FX-4100 is clocked at 3.6GHz and features a 3.8GHz maximum Turbo speed.

In order to be able to compete with Intel, AMD also dropped the price of the FX-8150, which since its introduction lost about 14% from its initial MSRP.

AMD launched the first FX-Series processors based on the Bulldozer architecture on October 12, but despite being eagerly awaited by many PC enthusiasts the performance of the chips has disappointed.

In most tests that were run by reviewers, AMD's FX-8150, lagged behind the Intel's Core i5-2500K, while a few tests showed it coming behind even a last-gen Phenom II X6 1100T processor.

In order to fix some of these performance issues, AMD is apparently working on developing a B3 stepping of the Bulldozer architecture that should get launched later this year.

AMD Develops New Platforms for Ultrabook-Like Laptops

While Intel most certainly gets all the credit for coming up with the Ultrabook concept and marketing it in the notebook market, AMD is by no means going to overlook this sector and in 2012 and 2013 will introduce a series of APUs that are destined to power its own Ultrabook-like laptops.

AMD hopes that in this way it will be able to improve its position in the notebook market, where it currently holds about a 10% share.

According to DigiTimes, the Sunnyvale-based chip maker plans to introduce two platforms for this type of ultra-thin products, the first coming in June of 2012 and going by the name of Deccan, while the latter will be released in 2013 and is known under the code-name of Kerala.

Most of you are already accustomed with Deccan as we detailed this platform in series of previous reports, but I will still go through a quick refresher for those of you that aren't all that familiar with the subject. 

Deccan is comprised out of the Wichita-based APUs and of the Yuca FCH, and the former will include up to four processing cores, a built-in graphics core as well as some of the I/O functionality usually found in the FCH controller.

As far as the 2013 Kerala platform is concerned, information is scarce at this point in time, but it will most probably use a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, just as is the case with Wichita.

We also know from previous leaks to reached the Web that the Kabini APU used for this platform will be based on the AMD Jaguar CPU core architecture with support for DDR3 memory.

Both of these platforms will have to go ahead against some strong opposition as it seems that March 2012 will mark the introduction of Intel's Ivy Bridge processors, while in 2013 AMD will have to compete with Haswell.

The two Intel processor architectures will bring an impressive series of improvements to the table, including much lower power consumption, so AMD will really have to step up its game if it wants to make it in the Ultrabook space.

Thermaltake Readies the Frio Advanced High-End Cooler

Continuing with the tradition, so to speak, of supporting as many CPUs as possible, Thermaltake has created the Frio Advanced, a high-end cooler which, alas, was neither priced nor dated. 

Owners of most any contemporary, strong CPU might find use for the new cooler that Thermaltake created. 

The company actually issued a whole press release just to announce its impending arrival, even if it didn't give all the specifics. 

Indeed, though it is assumed to be soon, the launch date of the Thermaltake Frio Advanced is unknown for now. The same goes for the price. 

On the flip side, the company did pretty much describe all the assets of the newcomer in full, from the size and weight to the individual components. 

Five 6mm direct touch copper heatpipes draw the heat out of the CPU and lead it to a heatsink which gets help from a full pair of fans. 

Said spinners measure 130mm each and work at a speed of 800 to 2,000 RPM (rotations per minute). 

Of course, this also means that the noise generation is not always the same, as it actually ranges from a fairly inaudible 21 dBA to 44 dBA. 

Considering that gamers often have headsets on, even the maximum shouldn't be too much of a distraction. 

On that note, multimedia players will never really push the CPU much, so there won't be any need for high fan speeds and, thus, there is no danger of CPU fan noise affecting enjoyment of movies either. 

Chips with a TDP (thermal design power) of up to 240W can be kept at decent temperatures by this newcomer. 

Finally, the item measures 130.6 (L) X 122 (W) x 159.2 (H) mm (5.11 x 4.80 x 6.26 inches), weighs 954 grams and works on AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) and FMI CPUs, as well as LGA 755/1156/1155/1366/2011 chips from Intel.

Windows 8 Screen Rotation Design Goals

Because it’s built with next generation form factors in mind, Windows 8 also needs to seamlessly adapt to the way users hold such devices, including tablets / slates. 

Microsoft found that testers running Windows 8 would opt to use their next generation device in a way that would best tailor the content to the screen orientation. 

As such, the Redmond company optimized the transition mechanism which allowed users to swap landscape and portrait screens. 

David Washington, from the Windows user experience team revealed the goals of the landscape and portrait screen orientation:
  • “You can easily rotate your tablet to best suit your task or ergonomic posture.
  • Rotation in Windows is fast and fluid.
  • Windows rotates predictably across the system and apps – keeping the user in control.
  • Developers can easily build high quality and intentional landscape and portrait layouts, depending on the experiences they want to enable.”

Dell Makes Official the XPS 14z Ultra-Thin Laptop

We first got acquainted with Dell's ultra-thin XPS 14z at the IFA 2011 fair in Berlin earlier this year, but now the company has finally announced this new notebook that will start shipping in the US on November 1st .

The XPS 14z is actually the second laptop to be released by Dell in its new series of ultra-thin notebooks after the introduction of the XPS 15z.

Dell has built this new product range to continue from where Adamo has left off, so it includes a series of design choices meant to make these laptops a lot more compact than their competitors.

One of the most important of these is the inclusion of an LG's Shuriken display, which narrows the bezel to the point that the XPS 14z fits inside a chassis the same dimension as that used by 13.3-inch notebooks. 

The compact aluminum chassis used by Dell was also designed to be extra thin and I would say that the company managed pretty well to turn this into a reality as the XPS 14z measures no more than 0.9 inches (about 22.8mm) in thickness.

Despite the thin chassis, Dell managed to install some pretty high-end hardware in its latest creation as users have the choice of opting from various Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors, seconded by as much as 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 520M 1GB graphics card with support for the Optimus technology and a slot-loading DVD burner.

Storage is provided by 7200RPM hard drives with up to 750GB of storage space, or SSD with a maximum capacity of 256GB, while the 8-cell battery can provide up to six hours and 49 minutes of runtime.

“When Dell looks at innovation and product development, we start with the customer. For us, it’s about delivering the right feature-set and design to provide the best user experience for our customers,” said Sam Burd, vice president of Dell’s Consumer and Small/Medium Business product group. 

“With the XPS 14z, our challenge was to build a laptop that provided customers the performance and portability that they need, with the design and finish they desire,” concluded the company's rep.

The XPS 14z will be available in US and Canada starting November 1st with a base price of $999, about 712 Euros, while worldwide availability is scheduled for November 15.

Leadtek Outs Custom Cooled GeForce GTX 560 Ti Hurricane

Leadtek has been pretty quiet in the last couple of months, but now the Taiwanese company has gone out of its hiding and announced a new graphics card based on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 Ti design.

The card is known as the WinFast GTX 560 Ti Hurricane and it was built in order to feature a high-end custom cooler that was developed in-house by Leadtek.

This is designed so that it features a large copper base for the GPU connected to a pair of 8mm cooper heat-pipes which conduct heat to a massive aluminum heatsink.

The heatsink spans most of the card and is topped by a pair of 90mm fans specially tweaked to lower the noise emissions of the Hurricane.

According to Leadtek, its custom cooler generates only 21dB of noise when running in idle and 43dB when the GPU is fully loaded, which is a significant improvement over the cooling solution used in the reference GTX 560 Ti design.

Despite the redesigned cooler installed in the WinFast GTX 560 Ti Hurricane, Leadtek chose not to increase the operating clocks of its creations over those recommended by Nvidia, so the GPU works at 822MHz, while the 1GB of GDDR5 memory at 1002Mhz (4008MHz data rate).

The rest of the specs are pretty much identical with those of other GTX 560 Ti solution on the market, the Hurricane featuring two DVI-I connectors and one mini-HDMI video output as well as an SLI connector. Power is supplied through a pair of 6-pin PCI-Express power connectors.

Sadly, Leadtek hasn't provided us with any information regarding the release date or the availability of the WinFast GTX 560 Ti Hurricane graphics card.

The company did however mention that is preparing to release a few other solution in the Hurricane series, all of these using a similar dual-fan custom cooler.

Blizzard DOTA Finally Gets Full Details, Screenshots, Video

Blizzard finally revealed to its fans at the BlizzCon event during the weekend the full details on its upcoming Blizzard DOTA release, which aims at bringing together some of the most impressive heroes from Blizzard’s own properties, like Warcraft, Starcraft or Diablo, and throwing them one at another in combat.

The MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre, kicked off with the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, has certainly gotten crowded these days, with lots of titles like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth fighting for supremacy, while big companies like Valve or Blizzard are getting ready to debut their own DOTA releases.

After hearing that Valve's own Dota 2 will enter open beta testing soon, Blizzard has also revealed the first concrete details about its own DOTA edition, which is shaping up to be a huge release for any fan of the popular studio.

Basically, Blizzard DOTA is a custom game scenario based on StarCraft II, that sees heroes from across the variety of games made by the company fight it out in battle arenas, in the traditional style of the genre, but bears a strong tongue-in-cheek attitude while simplifiyng a lot of the mechanics.

"Blizzard DOTA is a new official custom game for StarCraft II, inspired by the Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) custom map for Warcraft III. Much like other DOTA-style games, Blizzard DOTA is a team-based competitive game in which each player controls a powerful hero with unique abilities, and works with his or her team to invade and destroy the enemy team's base. We're taking a fun approach to Blizzard DOTA and hope that players enjoy battling each other with heroes from across the various Blizzard universes."

As you'll see in the video and screenshots below, characters range from Warcraft's Arthas, to Starcraft's Zeratul or Queen of Blades, not to mention Diablo's Witch Doctor. The fighters are grouped into four categories, Tank, Support, DPS (Damage per Second), and Siege, while the game focuses and rewards teamwork, sharing experience points with everyone on the battlefield, not just those who take out actual enemies heroes or units.

Blizzard simplified a lot of things for its DOTA title, grouping stats into Damage, Health, and Mastery, and items into Stat Boosts, Consumables, Items, and Artifacts, in order to make jumping in and out of matches a simple affair.

There's still a pretty consistent 'metagame' in Blizzard DOTA, as the studio emphasis that you can also engage in a variety of other things, except battling with enemies, like:
  • Territory control and merc camps -- Find and control map locations to gain merc support and send them out to strengthen your creep waves and push lanes.
  • More exciting map bonuses like the new Stone Zealot -- Conquer this behemoth and he’ll join you in destroying all that gets in its path.
  • Multiple maps -- It’s not the same old map anymore; things are changing and so will the map choices with a change in terrain and new ways to approach the enemy. The possibilities are endless.
Blizzard DOTA is expected to see a beta test be held soon, and its release will happen, according to the company, around the launch of the new StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

Until then, check out the massive amount of screenshots, artwork and the trailer for Blizzard DOTA below.

ECS Shows Off the X79R-AX Black Extreme LGA 2011 Motherboard

Now that we are just three weeks away from the launch of Intel's Sandy Bridge-E processors, motherboard makers are starting to showcase more and more LGA 2011 solutions , the latest to make its appearance being the ECS X79R-AX Black Extreme.

The motherboard features the characteristic ECS look and it sport four DIMM slots that are placed around the LGA 2011 socket.

These work in a quad-channel mode and support DDR3 speeds of up to 2400MHz, depending on the number of DIMM sockets populated (2400MHz is only supported in dual-channel mode).

To the left of the memory sockets, ECS has placed four PCI Express x16 slots, which are driven by the 40 lane PCIe controller integrated inside Sandy Bridge-E processors.

Judging from the color coding of the PCI Express x16 slots, only two of these appear to work in x16 mode, while the other have only 8 PCIe lanes routed to them. The motherboard is, however, compatible with both SLI and CrossFireX 4-way GPU setups (the PCIe slots drop to x8 when all are populated).

Other expansion options include a pair of PCI-E x1 slots, eight SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps ports. 

ECS is one of the few manufacturers that have decided to retain the high number of SATA ports after Intel castrated its X79 PCH, so this could give the X79R-AX Black Extreme an advantage when compared to other LGA 2011 motherboards. 

An on-board USB 3.0 pin-header is available on the board's PCB, and more USB 3.0 ports were installed on the rear I/O panel, where ECS has also installed a Bluetooth radio transmitter, the board's 7.1 channel audio connectors and a Clear CMOS switch.

Two additional Power and reset switches are placed on the board's PCB near a BIOS debug display.

CPU power is delivered by what seems to be a 14-phase PWM, which is cooled by a low-profile heatsink.

No information regarding pricing was made available by ECS, but this should be unveiled on November 14 when Intel's Sandy Bridge-E CPUs get launched.

Refreshed MacBook Pro Lineup Leaked and iPad 3 with Redesigned Dock Connector Slated

Refreshed MacBook Pro Lineup Leaked

The rumored MacBook Pro refresh is just around the corner, with a proven reliable source now revealing the configurations slated for release as early as this week.

Via 9to5mac comes word that Apple is indeed upgrading its Pro line of notebooks. Don’t expect any major overhaul, though.

According to the source leaking Apple’s new MacBook Pro configurations, the new 13-inch models will boast slightly higher clocked CPUs at 2.4 GHz dual-core, 4 GB of RAM, and a 500 GB hard drive.

A slightly more powerful version will ship with a 2.8 GHz dual-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 750 GB hard drive.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro boasts a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB hard drive for an entry-level configuration, and 2.4 GHz quad-core CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 750 GB hard drive for a higher-end version.

At the other end of the spectrum, the all-mighty 17-inch MacBook Pro gets a 2.4 GHz quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, 750 GB hard drive, and Express Card slot (in addition to the SD card slot which comes standard with all MacBook Pros).

Built-to-order configurations include: 15-inch: 2.5 GHz, 4 GB of RAM, 750 GB hard drive (faster 7200 RPM); and 17-inch: 2.5 GHz, 4 GB of RAM, 750 GB hard drive (faster 7200 RPM).

Pricing will also remain in place, according to the source.

As always, I’ll be on the lookout for the yellow sticky sign this week to let you in on when Apple launches these new MacBook Pros.

A press release is likely to accompany the upgrade, but I don't expect Apple to replace the main apple.com advertisements currently showcasing the iPhone 4S.

At the most, Cupertino will likely use its smaller spaces at the bottom of the page to market the new Macs and, of course, the Apple online store.

iPad 3 with Redesigned Dock Connector Slated for March 2012 - Rumor

An alleged iPad 3 part leaked to an Asian source may indicate that Apple is planning to do away with the standard 30-pin dock connector found on all of its iDevices today.

Allegedly scheduled for an early 2012 launch, Apple’s next iPad will have the same screen size as the current generation of tablet computers, but it is unclear whether the display will be Retina (2048x1536 pixels).

What the sources do believe is that we will see a redesign of the dock connector. Their findings indicate that Apple will be adopting a smaller design, creating incompatibility problems with the rest of the iDevice lineup.

Apple has been rumored in the past to ditch the standard Dock connector used by its iPhone and iPod touch players. This new iPad is said to be slated for March 2012 at the earliest.

Intel Officially Launches Core i7-2700K CPU

Intel kept no secret of the fact that it plans to update its processor portfolio with a new flagship Sandy Bridge part, the Core i7-2700K, and this CPU has now been added to the company's official price list as it began shipping to Intel's partners.

Compared to the current top of the line Core i7-2600K, the new Sandy Bridge CPU has a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, which is 100MHz higher than its predecessor.

The maximum Turbo Core frequency has also received a small bump as Intel has decided to raise this to 3.9GHz, compared to the 3.8GHz of the 2600K.

The rest of the CPU specifications were left unchanged, and the chip includes 8MB of Level 3 cache, Intel HD 3000 graphics with 850/1350MHz clock speeds and a dual-channel DDR3-1333 memory controller, all packed inside a 95W TDP.

Just like all the other K-series processors launched by Intel until now, the Core i7-2700K also features an unlocked multiplier which means overclockers will be able to push the operating frequencies of the CPU further than Intel's specifications.

In fact, we have seen an engineering sample of the i7-2700K hit 5GHz using air cooling alone, which seems to suggest that the retail version of the CPU should also be able to reach such frequencies without to much of a fuss.

As far as pricing is concerned, Hardcore Hardware reports that Intel is shipping the Core i7-2700K for $332 in 1K quantities, making it $15 more expensive than the i7-2600K. 

This is quite unusual for Intel as its newly introduced CPUs usually have the same price as the chips they replace in the company's lineup, but it now seems like the chip maker is trying to profit from AMD's inability to provide a strong enough competitor for its Sandy Bridge processors.

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