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Jun 3, 2012

AMD Announces the Official 900 MHZ Edition of Radeon HD 7750

In an effort to be prepared for Nvidia’s GeForce GT 640 approaching launch, AMD has decided to officially design and announce a faster version of the company’s Radeon 7750 video card.

The new version will have exactly the same configuration as the “old” Radeon HD 7750, but the “Cape Verde” GPU will be clocked at a high 900 MHz. The card will reportedly join the rest of AMD’s GCN lineup without receiving a different or special name scheme. It will simply be called AMD Radeon HD 7750. Initially, AMD’s Radeon 7750 was designed to perfectly fit the 75 watt power consumption envelope and the GPU has, up until now, been clocked at 800 MHz.

Now the company has just relaxed the card’s power constraints and we have the 900 MHz version. The two versions of the cards will unfortunately coexist. This is likely because AMD needs one version to counter attack Nvidia’s GeForce GT 640 launch and another that will keep boosting the low power consumption so that it will better fit the power constraints of different OEMs. Pricing will also remain unchanged.

IO Data Launches Innovative Autonomous Wireless HDD

Japanese company IO Data has just announced the new WNHD-U500 portable hard drive, on its official website. The novelty with this device is the fact that it is completely autonomous.

Did you even wanted to bring your library of documents, photos, movies and music with you on your trip? The problem was that coupling an external HDD to more portable devices at once was quite the hassle. All the wires, all the access policies, having to keep one laptop on to have it share the external HDD and a separate power source to feed the storage device were quite annoying. What if you’d have an external HDD that had its own battery and an integrated WiFi adapter? You’d just put it in your car and every phone, tablet or laptop could get whatever is needed with no wires. This is exactly what IO Data’s new external HDD has to offer. The WNHD-U500 consists of an external enclosure containing a 2.5” HDD, a 1950 mAh battery and a WiFi adapter.

The device mostly targets users of mobile devices. Interestingly, the built-in battery can also supply power not only to the HDD, but can also be used to charge other mobile devices. The overall dimensions of the drive are 126 by 86 by 22 millimeters with a weight of just 260 grams. In imperial that is 4.96” by 3.38” by 0.86” while being 0.57 pounds heavy.

We still couldn’t find any information on how much the battery would last and we would really welcome the opportunity to review one sample just to see how it will handle two or three devices playing a movie or just music directly of it. The IO Data little wonder will be on sale in mid-June at a price around 275 USD. That’s about 220 EUR for the European buyers.

Buffalo Presents a Thin Wireless Keyboard

Japanese company Buffalo has just introduced a new wireless keyboard that works with just two AAA batteries, on its official website. The new product is called SRKB05BK and is a keyboard with 103 keys laid out in the usual QWERTY standard.

Buffalo’s SRKB05BK keyboard might not be the athinnest wireless keyboard, but the company is claiming that the device is very efficient and can last for 6 whole month of usual office use with just two AAA cells. The device weighs 526 grams and that’s about 1.15 pounds.

Priced at 90 USD, the Buffalo SRKB05BK is not what we’d all cheap. That’s about 73 EUR for the European buyers, but the usual high quality Japan built is probably worth it.

ASUS Android Plus Windows Teaser at Computex 2012

The maker of the Transformer tablets, computer expert ASUS has just released a teaser video at this year’s Computex teasing a new product featuring two very different features. Many are speculating that this is all about a tablet device that will have a dual boot with Microsoft’s latest operating system, the Windows 8 and Google’s Android ICS.

Taiwanese mainboard manufacturer has managed to secure a strong foothold into the tablet market although it’s facing real giants like Samsung and Apple. The company has done this by being on the fore front of technological development and functional innovation.

ASUS’s Transformer was the first Android tablet to feature a docking keyboard with additional functionality such as more connectivity options and a battery that doubles the system’s autonomy. Like in many other scenarios, ASUS is likely preparing us for another first. Therefore if any of you have some more insight on this, feel free to comment on the story.

Offline Google Drive, Née Docs, Coming at Google I/O, Finally

Google's head of Chrome, Sundar Pichai, who also leads Google Drive efforts said that an offline version of the service is coming very soon, in five weeks' time. That may either sound great or confusing, depending on who you ask.

After all, isn't there an offline version of Google Drive already? They're called "files" and guess what, they can be viewed "offline." Google Drive is a cloud storage and file sync service at heart. It keeps a cloud copy of the files you place in a folder on your computer and also makes them available on the other devices you sync. Disconnect from your WiFi connection and you've still got all of your files right there on your computer. But there is an offline version of Google Drive coming, but the "Drive" Pichai refers to is actually Docs. And Google has been working on offline Google Docs that it's not even called Google Docs anymore.

Quite a while back, Google introduced a revamped and re-engineered version of Docs. It was a top-to-bottom redesign of the apps and it was a huge improvement. But it came with one big drawback, it didn't work offline. The previous Docs editors were able to use Google Gears for offline mode. But Google believed in HTML5 and deprecated Gears. HTML5 is well and fine, but offline Docs still isn't there. It seems that Google grossly underestimated just how hard it would be to create a version of Docs that worked locally using just HTML5 and associated technologies. And it's not just once, Google has been saying that offline Docs was just around the corner for so long that it had to come up with a crippled version just to shut people up. The current offline version allows people to view the files, but not edit them, making it useless in most cases.

But it seems that the full-blown version is finally here, launching at Chrome's I/O developer conference next month.

ECS Previews GTX 680 Black Series Graphics Card

Since we covered the Club 3D Radeon HD 7870 Eyefinity 6 just a short while ago, we may as well write about an NVIDIA high-end card as well.

The company getting ready to launch a Kepler-powered video adapter is ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems). The product in question bears the name of ECS GTX680 Black Series and, though it doesn't push the memory any faster than normal, it does drive the GPU a bit beyond the reference parameters. What we mean by that is that the GK104 chip is clocked at 1040 MHz instead of 1006 MHz, even as the 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM stick to the stock 6008 MHz. Since we're on the subject, we may as well specify the other relevant specs: a memory interface of 256 bits, 4-display support (dual-link DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs), PhysX, DirectX 11, Shader Model 5.0, OpenGL 4.2, CUDA, Adaptive VSync, GPU Boost, etc.

Even more important, by virtue of being unusual and new, is the specifically-designed cooler, made up of five heatpipes, a large heatsink and two fans. The aluminum upper cover is even plated with gold, for extra heat dissipation and, of course, aesthetic value. Not only that, but ECS even tossed in the ECS Nonstop Certification, which implies that the video board is built with high-quality component and shielding. It also means that the card has passed through various military-level tests that checked critical components.

For those in need of details, the crash course involved 72-hour-long stress tests at temperatures of up to 50º C (122º F). The GTX 680 Black Series breezed through them, thanks to Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Protection circuitry and solid capacitors. Unfortunately, since this is still a preview, ECS did not say what price the board would have or when sales will start. It did provide a photo, though (the final product will have a normal PCI connection instead of the long, split one).

Club 3D’s Radeon HD 7870 Eyefinity 6 Graphics Adapter

NVIDIA may have finally enabled its graphics cards to handle more than 2 monitors at a time, but AMD still has the advantage of experience in the field of multi-display setups. Club 3D's newest video card shows that well enough.

Club 3D has officially introduced a video card called Radeon HD 7870 Eyefinity 6 and equipped with the CoolStream High Performance Cooling Technology. The company claims this is the first Radeon HD 7000 series board to feature 6 mini DisplayPort connectors. This isn't any Eyefinity technology we're talking about either, but Eyefinity 2.0, the one with Stereo 3D support, universal bezel compensation and new display configurations. That's right, with the Club 3D Radeon HD 7870 Eyefinity 6, owners will be able to spread the display area across six panels, even if they aren't of the same type. The maximum resolution is Ultra HD 4096p (4,096 x 2,160 over DisplayPort, 4,096 x 3,112 over HDMI 1.4a, via dongle).

Of course, it is just as easy to hook up multiple panels to the card and use each for something specific. Playing a game on one or three screens while the others show a web browser, e-mails or whatever else is possible. As for performance, the graphics board operates on the PCI Express 3.0 interface and runs the Pitcairn graphics processing unit (GPU) at 1 GHz. On the same note, the VRAM (2 GB of GDDR5 memory) has a clock speed of 4,800 MHz and an interface of 256 bits. Finally, overclockers will be pleased to know that it is perfectly possible to force the GPU to 1.1 GHz or higher.

Unfortunately, the press release and official website entry page don't say how much money buyers will be expected to pay for the card, whenever it happens to reach stores. The product page did, however, say that Club 3D Radeon HD 7870 Eyefinity 6 will not sell with an HDMI dongle. To get the aforementioned resolution, one will have to be acquired separately.

NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 Graphics Card Almost Here

The entry-level GeForce 600 series cards are just rebranded 500 series models, but this may change when NVIDIA finally brings out the GeForce GT 640.

According to CPU World, the Santa Clara, California-based company will bring out the GT 640 during Computex 2012 (June 06-09). Of course, it would be more accurate to use the plural, since there will be six versions of the GT 640 for some reason. But here is where things get a bit confusing, as each card has its own clock speeds, CUDA core number, memory capacity and VRAM interface. If we were to guess, some GeForce GT 640 cards will indeed rely on the GK107 GPU, but some will be powered by rebranded Fermi.

The GT 640 “series” has two entry-level versions, two mid-range models and two top-shelf iterations. Each pair is made up of a retail product and an OEM-exclusive card. The top shelf ones have the Kepler GK107 GPU with 384 CUDA cores and a clock speed of 950 MHz. 1 GB or 2 GB of memory will back it up (128-bit interface). The mid-range boards are a curious bunch. The report says they have the same 192-bit interface, 1 / 3 GB VRAM and 720 MHz GPU clock speed, but it says that the OEM card has Fermi (144 cores) and the other Kepler (unknown CUDA core number). We think this might be a mistake, and that both have Fermi chips, but we might as well be wrong.

Finally, the entry-level GT 640 cards are Kepler-powered. The OEM version features 384 CUDA cores, 1 / 2 GB VRAM, 128-bit interface and 797 MHz GPU clock. The retail one has an unspecified CUDA count but otherwise identical specs. NVIDIA's GT 640 cards will be most popular among HTPC builders, due to their low profile (not all of them are half-sized though) and length of 5.7 inches (144 mm).

Wireless Charging Reference Designs Announced

Having electronics devices recharge their own batteries is the sort of Sci Fi dream that few would be opposed to, so Freescale decided to contribute to making it reality.

The step currently being taken by the industry is the one where wireless charging is implemented. That is, having batteries somehow recover their energy by interacting with Wi-Fi or other electromagnetic waves. It's not exactly the same as independent energy recovery, but close enough. At any rate, Freeescale has introduced reference designs for the wireless charging of tablets, smartphones and multi-cell battery packs. The tablet platform should work for portable healthcare devices too. It consists of a transmitter mat and a receiver embedded inside the back cover of the tablet.

Freescale’s Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) platform works in tandem with the i.MX53 applications processor in enabling the receiver to interface with the input power of the tablet's power management sub-system. The company claims that, once an intelligent software-based charging system is added to the mix, charging efficiencies “match conventional technologies.” “Wireless charging frequently tops the lists of ‘hot’ features for future smart phones,” said Geoff Lees, vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Industrial & Multi-Market MCU business.

“Our three new reference designs offer wireless charging solutions for a range of battery-powered devices. Once wireless charging is broadly deployed in the public infrastructure, charging could become an afterthought for users.”  The second wireless charging reference design is meant to serve smartphones and uses a combination between a Qi-based transmitter and an embedded coil array. The third design is intended for multi-cell battery packs. By means of a transmitter mat and a receiver embedded into the battery packs, it can charge four Li-Ion battery packs at once, for a total of 120W of power. Interested product developers can go here for more.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Reboot Officially Coming from Criterion

After plenty of rumors and leaks, Electronic Arts has officially confirmed that a new Need for Speed title is coming from developer Criterion Games, in the form of Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

The NFS series has been around for quite some time and, even if it came out in 2005, Most Wanted represents one of the high points of the series. For this year's iteration, EA tasked Criterion, the studio behind the Burnout series and 2010's NFS: Hot Pursuit, with creating a new version of the classic game titled simply Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

As of right now, EA only confirmed the game and released the first image that you can admire above. More details are set to be revealed next week, on June 4, at 1PM PST when EA is set to hold its traditional E3 press conference.

Windows 8 RTM Confirmed for Late July, Final Flavor in October

Microsoft made available for download the Release Preview of its Windows 8 operating system, which is the final pre-release flavor of the operating system.

We already had a look at some of the main enhancements included in this release, but we should wait for more of them in the upcoming development milestones. Apparently, we won’t have to wait too long for them to arrive. Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky mentioned in a blog post on Building Windows 8 that the RTM version of Windows 8 will arrive in two months’ time, which means that late July is the timeframe to look for. As soon as the platform is released to manufacturing, hardware partners will start applying the final touches to their Windows 8 devices, and should have them ready sometime in October.

Various reports on the matter have already emerged, and Steven Sinofsky’s statement appears to confirm them. Microsoft released the final version of Windows 7 too three months after the RTM flavor.

World’s First AMD Trinity Motherboard Announced by ECS

Well-known Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer ECS has just announced the company’s first AMD FM2-compatible motherboard. This is most likely the first AMD desktop Trinity motherboard announced.

ECS’ new baby is baptized A85F2-A Deluxe and is built around AMD’s A85 FCH chipset. We’re used to call the mainboard’s control processor “chipset.” This comes from back in the day, when all mainboards had two controllers each. One was the NorthBridge that was controlling the link between the CPU, RAM and video card and the other was the SouthBridge that took care of the expansion slots, the USB, and HDD controllers etc. Nowadays, motherboards come with a single chip controller. AMD’s FCH denomination is short for “Fusion Controller Hub.”

The ECS A85F2-A Deluxe mainboard is built in the standard desktop ATX format and offers lots of features to complement AMD’s impressive Trinity architecture. The VRM uses 4 + 1 phases to feed the Trinity APUs and these phases utilize ECS’ Super Alloy chokes that we reported. The CPU is fueled from an 8-pin EPS connector and it works with four DDR3 DIMM slots that can hold up to 64 GB or DDR3 memory working at a maximum frequency of 1866 MHz, but it also has overclocking options to get it up to 2300 MHz. Expansion-wise, the ECS A85F2-A Deluxe mainboard comes with two PCI-Express x16 slots, two normal 32-bit PCI slots and three PCI-Express x1 connectors that belong to the second-generation of PCIe.

The ECS A85F2-A Deluxe mainboard supports AMD’s CrossFireX and Hybrid CrossFire. On the storage side, the new FM2 comes with 7 SATA3 ports and one eSATA port located on the back of the mainboard. It comes with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 support. The back panel I/O is populated with 1x DVI, 1x D-Sub, 1x HDMI, and 1x DisplayPort, along with four USB 3.0 connectors and the eSATA port we’ve mentioned earlier. The ECS A85F2-A Deluxe mainboard has HD audio, thanks to a VIA-made CODEC and Gigabit LAN. There are extra headers on the mainboard for another two USB 3.0 ports and eight USB 2.0 ports.

The mainboard is ECS “NonStop” certified and that’s a welcomed addition as we reported here. Also the A85F2-A Deluxe is bundled with lots of more or less useful software like Norton AntiVirus, Muzee, Cyberlink Media Suite, and the ECS iEZ utility, which includes the eBLU BIOS Live Update Utility, the eDLU Drivers Live Update Utility and the eSF Smart Fan Utility. ECS prices the ECS A85F2-A Deluxe mainboard at $150 and while we agree that feature- and certification-wise it is a good mainboard, we’d like to see it closer to the $100 mark.

Behold the Teaser for MSI's Big Bang ZPower

Micro-Star International hasn't released its first Intel Z77 Express chipset-based motherboard yet, but it is getting close to the time when the curtains are parted.

The name of the mainboard will be Big Bang ZPower, or at least that's what the folks at TechPowerUp think. Speaking of which, they are the ones who somehow got a hold of two teaser photos. Said pictures reveal the existence of an intricate heatsink design, a PCB similar to the Z77A-GD65 and three PCI Express slots. Owners will have Pericom PCIe lane switches to select between single-slot x16 mode, x8/x8 mode or x8/x4/x4.

Needless to say, overclockers and people who want 3-way multi-GPU setups will be the primary targets of this piece of hardware. The UEFI-BIOS will have many overclocker-friendly features after all, and MSI will give the Big Bang a strong VRM to boot.

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