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Jan 10, 2012

CES 2012: Asus Challenges EVGA with a Dual-Socket LGA 2011 Board of Its Own

Asus has done nothing to challenge EVGA’s dual-socket SR-2 motherboard in the LGA 1366 days. But now that Sandy Bridge-E has arrived, the Taiwanese company won’t do the same mistake again and it started preparing a dual-CPU solution of its own, dubbed the Z9PE-D8 WS.

A preproduction sample of this board was present at the company’s CES 2012 booth, and while we can’t tell you anything about its performance at this point in time, it certainly looks like it will be a great competitor for the EVGA SR-X.

As with EVGA’s creation, its most distinctive feature is the inclusion of the dual LGA 2011 sockets which are paired with four DIMM slots each, in order to enable the motherboard to hold up to 256GB of RAM.

Seven PCI Express x16 slots are also available, driven by the 80 PCIe lanes available in the Xeon E5-series processors that are going to be paired with the Z9PE-D8 WS.

Of course, such a high-end setup has forced Asus to go with a larger form factor than usual, so this upcoming creation will use the SSI CEB standard, which is usually reserved for servers.

On the storage side, Asus has placed 10 SATA ports, of which six appear to be 6Gbps capable, while two additional USB 3.0 ports placed in the back of the board round up the Z9PE-D8 WS’ expansion capabilities.

Dual Ethernet ports are also present, but only one of these is actually a Gigabit network jack as the other is linked to an ASPEED AST2300 2D VGA controller that also brings remote management capabilities to the Asus board.

No info regarding pricing and availability has been provided so far, but VR-Zone actually has a couple of pictures showing the Z9PE-D8 WS motherboard running dual Xeon E5 CPUs and 4-way SLI, so its launch should be near.

Official: Tizen Source Code Preview Now Available for Download

The open-source project developed by Samsung, Intel and other MeeGo devs is now one step closer to official release.

The development team has just announced that a preview of the operating system’s source code (SDK) is now available for download here. It appears that this is an early preview and is not recommended for those who plan to use it to create production apps.

Aside from the Tizen source code, this build includes middleware, basic UI and menu interface. It is only intended for developers who want to test its capabilities and provide feedback on Tizen.

In the same news, rumor has it that the first device to run Tizen OS will be announced next month at the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona. There’s a high chance that this device is a mysterious Samsung I9500.

Nokia Lumia 900 Hands-On Video Available

Nokia’s long rumored Lumia 900 smartphone is now official and should arrive on shelves in the United States in the coming months. 

After formally introducing it at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia also published the phone’s specifications list, and made available a hands-on video, embedded above.

Coming from the guys over at Nokia Conversations, the video brings to the spotlight some of the main features of the new handset and of the Windows Phone Mango platform that is loaded on it. 

Nokia Lumia 900 is the first LTE-capable smartphone from the Finnish vendor. It packs a large 4.3-inch screen, along with a 1.4GHz application processor, an 8-megapixel photo snapper on the back, and around 14.5GB of mass storage. 

In addition to LTE, it also supports 3G networks and packs WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a built-in GPS receiver.

CES 2012: Asus Eee Pad MeMO 7-Inch Tablet Runs Android 4.0

Outside of the updated Transformer Prime TF700T and the 7.7-inch quad-core ME370T tablet, Asus’ CES lineup includes another Android 4.0 running slate which is called the Eee Pad MeMO (ME171) and packs a 7-inch screen as the ME370T.

As some of you may remember, the tablet was actually leaked a couple of months ago, but this time we have a complete specs list and an approximate release date to accompany its pictures.

Thanks to this we know that the 7-inch screen is actually using an IPS panel with support for a capacitive stylus.

Right underneath this, the Asus MeMO tablet hides a dual-core Qualcomm 8260 SoC that runs at 1.2GHz and which is paired with 1GB of RAM.

Storage is set at either 16GB or 32GB, depending on the model chosen, but Asus will also allow its users to install an additional microSD card to extend data storage capacity of the Eee Pad MeMO.

All these are packed inside a case that weights 402g (0.88 pounds) and that measures 7.8- x 4.6- x 0.50-inches.

As far as software is concerned, the stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS is paired together with a couple of specific Asus applications, including MyPainter, MyNet, MyCloud, and Asus Sync.

Eee Pad’s MeMO configuration list is rounded up by 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity, a 1.2MP front and 5MP rear camera, the latter with 1080p video recording capabilities, an A-GPS sensor, gyroscope, proximity sensor and a micro-USB port.

All of these are powered by a 4,400mAh Li-polymer battery, Asus saying this it can deliver up to 8.5 hours of video playback, which definitely sounds good to us.

Sadly, the Taiwanese company hasn’t provided us with any info regarding the price of the Eee Pad MeMO (ME171), but it did reveal that the tablet would arrive in North America sometime in Q2 2012.

Microsoft Brings Windows 8 at CES 2012

Among the products that were showcased at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last night during Steve Ballmer’s keynote, we can count the Windows 8 operating system. 

The platform, made official in September last year, during the BUILD conference, is expected to become commercially available sometime in the second half of the year. 

Until that happens, however, we should see it move from the Developer Preview state in which Microsoft has it available for the masses at the moment. 

At CES, Tami Reller, chief marketing officer, Windows, took the stage to provide a demonstration of the most important features that Windows 8 sports. 

The support for touchscreens was one of them. The platform is meant to be loaded on tablet PCs when released, and this is the first Windows client to sport the feature. 

Windows 8 will bring along support for both ARM and x86 (Intel and AMD) architectures and will deliver a similar experience on all devices; at least this is what Microsoft wants us to believe. 

At CES 2012, the platform was demoed both on ARM, using a prototype device running a NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip, and on x86, using the same Samsung device that was showcased at BUILD. 

Some of the features that were highlighted included the Lock screen, Picture password, Start screen, Charms, the Windows Store, and Metro-style apps. They will make it in all Windows 8 tablet PCs, and some of them will make it to desktop PCs as well. 

Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc notes in a recent blog post that Windows 8 has a lot more to offer than what was already showcased, and that we’ll simply have to wait for it to reach new milestones to learn more on the matter. 

Windows 8 is on the path to reach Beta status in late February, and more info on what the final release will be able should emerge at that time. 

In the meantime, you can have a look at the Windows 8 presentation that Tami Reller delivered at CES 2012 via the video embedded below. She is introduced at the 01:32:00 mark.

Full Nokia Lumia 900 Specifications Available

Yesterday, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia announced the release of a new flagship Windows Phone, none other than the long-rumored Nokia Lumia 900. The handset is set to arrive on shelves in the United States soon, with support for AT&T’s LTE network. 

This is the first smartphone from Nokia to be announced with support for 4G networks, and will be delivered to the United States in the coming months exclusively on the airwaves of wireless carrier AT&T. 

Following the official announcement at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia published the full hardware specifications list for the new device.

For those who missed the official announcement, we should note that the Nokia Lumia 900 would arrive on shelves with a 1.4 GHz single-core application processor inside, as well as with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display with Corning Gorilla Glass, capable of delivering an 800 x 480 pixels resolution. 

Nokia packed the new device with an 8-megapixel photo snapper on the back, with the ability to record 720p videos, as well as with a 1-megapixel camera on the front for video calling.

The Nokia Lumia 900 will hit shelves with 512 MB of RAM to complement the Qualcomm APQ8055 + MDM9200 (WCDMA) CPU, as well as with 14.5 GB of mass memory that cannot be expanded using MicroSD memory cards. However, users will benefit from access to SkyDrive cloud storage. 

In addition to offering support for LTE Band 17 (700), and LTE Band 4 (1700/2100), the new smartphone also arrives on shelves with WCDMA Band I, II, V and VIII connectivity, as well as with GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz) capabilities. 

WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth capabilities were packed inside the new device as well, along with a BP-6EW 1830mAh battery that can deliver up to 7 hours of talk time, 6.5 hours of playback time, or up to 300 hours of standby time. 

Nokia’s Lumia 900 is being launched with Micro USB port, 3.5mm AHJ Connector, Gyroscope, Proximity sensor, Magnetometer Sensor, Ambient light sensor, and 3D Accelerometer. It also sports a built-in GPS receiver to offer access to navigation services. 

The new Nokia handset is powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Commercial Release 2 platform, and comes loaded with applications and software such as Bing Maps, AT&T Navigator, Tango Video Calls, Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, ESPN Sports Hub, Xbox Live, and more. 

What we know at the moment on the new device is when it will arrive on the market. AT&T said that it should be released in the next few months, so stay tuned for more.

CES 2012: MSI Presents Intel Z77 Ivy Bridge Motherboards with Thunderbolt Support

With Ivy Bridge on track for an early Q2 release, motherboard makers have already started presenting their upcoming solutions for these processors, and MSI is one of the first to do so with the Z77A-GD80 and the Z77-GD65 Panther Point boards.

As it becomes apparent from the names of these two motherboards, they are both based on the Intel Z77 chipset, which means that they feature native USB 3.0 support.

Four such ports are available from the PCH, two of these being routed to the back of the MSI boards while the other two are available via an USB 3.0 header angled at 90 degrees to improve cable routing.

This feature is present in both of the motherboards presented by MSI, but the Z77A-GD80 does come with one important addition that isn’t available in its smaller brother, namely Thunderbolt support.

The controller hasn’t been placed on the motherboard yet, nor is the required port, but MSI has told AnandTech that the design is almost complete and that this features will come standard in the retail version of the Z77A-GD80.

Intel’s Thunderbolt interconnect is said to add between $20 and $30 on average to the final price of any design implementing it.

The rest of the Z77A-GD80 and Z77A-GD65 motherboard specs list include three PCI Express x16 Gen 3.0 slots (we don’t know how these are actually wired), four PCIe x1 slots, four SATA 6Gbps and quad SATA 3Gbps connectors and support for DDR3-2667 memory in OC mode.

A series of MSI specific features such as the OC Genie on-board button and a V-Check header are also present on both of these Intel Z77 motherboards.

Right now, no official details regarding the launch of the two boards are available, but some recent rumors have suggested that Intel will release its first Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, so this is when we expect the two Z77-based solutions to arrive in retail.

A Modded Driver to Enable X-Fi Features on Your Realtek Onboard Card

Here's one rather interesting modded driver which promises to make X-Fi capabilities available for all those people who own an onboard Realtek audio card. 

First of all, this driver is unsigned and is provided as is. Since there is no signature, you might get some Windows warnings or even some positives (false or not) from your anti-virus software. Users around the Internet who have installed and run this driver haven't reported virus infections, though, and recommend disabling anti-virus systems when downloading/ installing.

The "X-Fi-er" works with Realtek driver version 2.67 only, and just under Windows 7 x64. It looks like it will install all the applications that normally come with a Creative X-Fi card. Nevertheless, don't let yourselves fooled by the THX badges. 

The THX technology needs more than some pretty GUIs in order to work well and deliver the expected, professional-grade results. From all the THX-certified hardware which is needed to the acoustic treatment of your room, there is more to getting THX-class results, than a mere driver.

Users also report they are able to access EAX4 functions, with EAX5 still not working. Depending on the quality of the rest of the audio gear, some users have reported improvements in sound, while others claimed the opposite. 

In the end, judging the quality of this driver is up to each of you, but if you're looking to test something different for your Realtek onboard audio card, you might just give this one a try. Just download on this link.

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