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Jun 11, 2012

Kingmax Releases World's First Transparent Flash Drive

Kingmax figured it may as well use this year's edition of Computex (Computex 2012) to show off something it can honestly say no one else has tried to market so far.

We are, naturally, speaking about the world's first transparent flash drive, although the term is utilized in a somewhat misleading fashion, all things considered. We say this because the product is not actually see-through. Not exactly. Instead, the case is made in such a way that the internal flash chip and wire-bonding can be seen through a clear glass “window.” Kingmax UI-05, as the newcomer is called, has a streamlined look, a metal housing (with the aforementioned glass section on the top side) and a LED light (blue).

Whether or not this makes the device ”cool” enough, and befitting of the performance and storage capacity, will be left to customers to decide. Speaking of which, the flash drive has 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB of storage space, plus USB  support, of course (3.0, we assume). All versions come in COB packaging (Chip-on-Board) and have full compliance with CE, FCC and BSMI requirements, as well as RoHS guidelines (Restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment).

Unfortunately, we don't know where this product is up for sale, or at what price. All Kingmax said in its press release was that “all products are backed up with warranty and global customer service to guarantee most satisfactory user experiences.” Which, truth be told, is no different from the promises of all other IT companies out there. We are not saying it is wrong for such statements to be made, but we would have preferred it if the hardware maker actually said how much money people were expected to cough up for the UI-05 and how long the warranty lasted.

TRENDnet's Three New PoE+ Internet Switches

Normal Ethernet switches usually have a bunch of Ethernet ports and a power input, where the special adapter goes, but TRENDnet released three switches bereft of the latter.

Pretty much everything runs on electricity, this being the reason why even the smallest gizmos need to be plugged in wall sockets once in a while. Ethernet switches normally have to stay plugged in all the time, since they don't have batteries like phones, tablets, laptops, etc. There is a certain standard that removes that dependence though: PoE, short for Power Over Ethernet. TRENDnet recently put it into practice. What it did was launch three switches that get all the energy they need via the LAN cable.

PoE is based on the IEEE 802.11af specification and delivers up to 15.4 Watts per switch port. The PoE+ standard, based on the IEEE 802.11at specification, doubles the power. That means that outdoor access points, pan / tilt / zoom / IP cameras and other high-power devices can survive without a wall socket nearby.  TRENDnet used PoE+ in the making of the TPE-TG44g, PE-TG80g and TPE-T88g. The first one, made of metal, has 8 ports, four of which support PoE+ and four non-PoE ports. The switching capacity is 16 Gbps and the GREENnet technology saves up to 75% energy. Sales will start in August, for $149.99 / 118 Euro.

The second switch, PE-TG80g, has PoE+ support on all eight ports but otherwise identical specs to the ones above. The price will be $279.99 in August (221 Euro). Finally, the TPE-T88g is a 10/100 Mbps PoE+ switch, instead of Gigabit Ethernet like its two siblings. It offers PoE+ on eight out of sixteen ports, but GREENnet only saves 40% energy. The price is $279.99 / 221 Euro and the shape is that of a metal rack (the others have a desktop shape).

SmartKey TV: Another Android 4.0 Dongle

Not so long after covered the InfiniTek Pocket TV, another small device shows up, claiming to be able to grant normal TVs all the abilities of a Smart TV.

Of course, “normal” is used loosely here. For the SmartKey TV, as it is called, to work, the TV still needs an HDMI input. Once that condition is met though, LiquidTv, the Italian company behind the product, promises that Android 4.0 will be at owners' disposal.

Hardware-wise, SmartKey TV relies on a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPU and the Mali 400 graphics. 512 MB of RAM are present too, along with 4 GB of NAND Flash storage, an USB host port, Wi-Fi radio and a microSDHC card slot. July is when sales start, for 99 Euro / $124, or 119 Euro / $150 for one with a bundled remote control (motion control and/or QWERTY keyboard built-in).

Retina MacBook Pros Confirmed

The well-placed sources leaking tidbit after tidbit to the folks at 9to5 have confirmed the Retina-enabled MacBook Pros. They won’t be cheap, and the specs go up to 16GB of RAM with 768GB SSDs.

That’s right, you’ll be shelling out as much as $4,000 (3,200 EUR) for these babies, the sources say. Here are the configurations, complete with verifiable part numbers:
MC975LL/A – MBP 15.4/2.3/8GB/256GB FLASH-USA
MC976LL/A – MBP 15.4/2.6/8GB/512GB FLASH-USA
MD831LL/A – MBP 15.4/2.7/16GB/768GB FLASH-USA

Apple is also said to be upgrading the existing range of MacBook Pros with double the RAM and platter-based storage, as well as speedier CPUs. Tim Cook will have the full details on these computers in less than two hours from now.

Newport Media Claims to Have Made the Smallest and Lowest-Power WiFi Chip Ever

A gadget can only be as small as its components allow, so Newport Media's invention might garner quite a bit of interest.

The fabless communications semiconductor company created the NMC1000, a 40-pin Wi-Fi SoC that measures 5 x 5 mm (0.19 x 0.19 inches). As if that wasn't enough, the company also offers 2.5 x 2.5 mm packages (0.09 x 0.09 inches). This small package needs the smallest external BOM (Bill of Materials) among WiFi chips. The NMC1000 combines all RF and Baseband circuitry required for IEEE 802.11b, g, n-compliant operation. That includes power amplifiers and switches.

Volume production won't begin until the fourth quarter of 2012, but engineering samples will start shipping next month (July, 2012). “As smartphones replace feature phones as the norm in wireless markets throughout the globe, there will be great demand for connectivity solutions that provide dramatically lower bill of material costs without compromises in performance,” said Mohy Abdelgany, president and chief executive officer for Newport Media.

Debian Wheezy Modified for Raspberry Pi Available for Testing

After Raspberry Pi's troublesome launch and given the fact that developers still can't satisfy the demand, users will be happy to hear that a testing version of Debian is now available for the mini-pc.

According to a blog post on The Raspberry Pi Foundation website, a Debian Wheezy version for Raspberry Pi mini PC can be downloaded and tested by the users (previous distributions were based on Squeeze). The modified Linux distribution comes with some interesting features out of the box such as Scratch, Python, the Midori internet browser, a configuration tool for common initial setup tasks, USB drives auto mount, omxplayer, and much more.

Raspberry Pi relies on an ARM processor with a clock speed of 700 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, an SD card slot and a 5V Micro USB connector that supplies the power. It also features RCA and HDMI ports. More details about the distribution can be found in the official announcement.
Note: Keep in mind that the provided OS is just for testing and most likely will not be upgradeable to a stable version.

Time of Arrival Uncovered for AMD's Dual-GPU Graphics Card

Even though there were several Radeon HD 7970 X2 graphics card sightings or rumors floating around Computex 2012, AMD's Radeon HD 7990 didn't actually come up in any conversation or report.

At this point, if we are reading right what 3DCenter.org posted, the dual-GPU HD 7990 might not appear at all, not in that form anyhow. AMD probably doesn't have a problem coming up with a board design, but it might not manage to make a product capable of matching, or besting, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 690 in terms of performance-per-watt. Not in good time at any rate.

As such, it might leave the matter in the hands of OEMs that have already exposed HD 7970 X2 (HIS, PowerColor, etc.) And here is the one problem left: the ETA is August (2012), which could be a bit too late, especially after the delays so far suffered by the project.

Facebook's World Domination Map Only Has a Couple of Big Holes, Russia and China

Facebook is closing in on one billion monthly active users. It's already the biggest website in the world in many places and by several metrics, page views, unique visitors and so on. Facebook dominates the space, social networking, even more than Google dominates search.

Still, there are some holdouts and topping them is going to be hard or impossible in some cases, for example, where the site is blocked in the country. The big places where Facebook still isn't market leader remain the same, China and Russia. Facebook is blocked in China, so local sites dominate, QZone is the biggest there, followed by Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo, the latter two being similar to Twitter.

In Russia, the local players rule, VKontakte is the top player, followed by Odnoklassniki. But Facebook is already in third place, an improvement over previous years.

Sapphire’s Vapor-X HD 7970 6 GB Monster

We already know that AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is a very capable GPU and that it currently holds the world record for single-GPU video cards in FutureMark’s 3D Mark 11 Extreme score and Performance score, as we documented here and here.

The thing is that Nvidia’s Kepler is quite a lot more efficient than AMD’s Tahiti architecture and, despite it having 19% less transistors and a 33% narrower memory BUS, it is able to overtake AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 reference edition. On the other hand, it is well known that AMD’s first generation of GCN GPU is quite able to handle overclocking and has achieved very high frequencies. It’s no wonder that Tahiti is the “overclocker’s best friend,” but even AIB partners have released a heap of pre-overclocked Radeon HD 7970 video cards. Sapphire probably has the most impressive version of AMD’s Radeon HD 7970, as its frequencies surpass even the AMD Radeon 7970 GHz Edition we reported about here.

Sapphire’s Vapor-X reportedly comes with double the amount of reference memory, and that is a huge 6 GB of GDDR5. Being a factory overclocked design, the card comes with default frequencies of 1100 MHz for the GPU and 1500 MHz for the memory. That’s 6000 MHz effective memory frequency. Normally, the card stays clocked at 1000 MHz for the GPU and 1450 MHz for the memory, but when a special overclocking switch is pressed, the GPU frequency will be upped automatically at 1100 MHz and the memory will run at 1500 MHz.

In 2D or standby mode, the frequencies will be reduced to 300/150MHz and the core voltage will be 0.875V, while the fan speed will stay at 1150RPM generating almost no noise. We have no word on the pricing, but we expect this to be worth around $500.

EVGA's Quad-Slot 2WIN Gemini Dual-GTX 680

Going by its Computex 2012 exhibition, EVGA is one of the companies that will launch a super-powered version of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics adapter.

We have to say that this 2WIN Gemini video card took us by surprise, and not because of its actual performance parameters. In fact, beyond the existence of 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM memory and two GK104 chips, the card's specs were left, for the most part, shrouded in mystery. This is not so different from how ASUS showed off the dual-GPU Mars III monster, but neglected to mention what speeds the GK104 GPUs sported.  EVGA's 2WIN Gemini is even more of a dual-chip monster. You can tell just by looking at it though. After all, it's not every day that people get to see a quad-slot video board. That's right, EVGA's video board will take up more space than the ASUS 8 GB Mars III itself (three slots).

Strangely, the 2WIN Gemini needs so much room even though it has half the memory of the Mars III (4 GB GDDR5 VRAM instead of 8). That said, EVGA implemented a 16-phase PWM with 8+8+8 power section design and clock speeds higher than those of the GTX 690. For those who don't remember, the 690 has a 915 MHz base speed and a GPU Boost frequency of 1,019 MHz, while the 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM operate at 6 GHz. We don't know by how much EVGA will outclass these parameters.

At any rate, when the product does appear on sale, it will doubtlessly bear a price tag far above the $999 / 900 Euro mark of NVIDIA's reference adapter. Keep your bank accounts ready and brace yourselves for the fact. You might also want to check out the various dual-GPU Radeon HD 7970 X2 that AMD's partners have been introducing.

AMD's Awaited Desktop Trinity APUs Detailed Fully

Advanced Micro Devices may have launched the Trinity series of A-Series accelerated processing units back in May, but the product lineup was not complete by any means.

What we mean by that is that only mobile APUs were released, for laptops (with Lightning Bolt technology, of all things) and tablets. Desktop units, however, were withheld, either because they weren't ready yet or due to unripe marketing conditions. Probably both. Speaking of desktop Trinity chips, the most recent word on the matter, albeit unofficial, is that they have been delayed. Previously, they were expected to appear in August, but now it's in September or October when they are most likely to show. Whether or not this is true, we don't know yet. What we do know is that Advanced Micro Devices has updated its website to include the specs of four A8- and A10-series units.

You can view the four chips there, but we are going to provide the details here as well, for your convenience. Two of the four quad-core chips are A8-Series, which leaves just as many in the A10-Series. First off, we have the A8-5500, with a base clock speed of 3.2 GHz and a Turbo Core rating of 3.7 GHz. The Integrated GPU is Radeon HD 7560D, with 256 shader units and 760 MHz speed. The APU's L2 cache memory is 4 MB and the TDP (thermal design power) is 65W. The second processor is called A8-5600K and, as the name suggests, it is a stronger version of the A8-500, with an unlocked multiplier to boot. The CPU cores work at 3.6 GHz / 3.9 GHz and the TDP is 100W.

The A10-5700 runs at 3.4 GHz/ 4 GHz, has the same 4 MB cache as above, runs on 65W and boasts the Radeon HD 7660D GPU (384 cores, 760 MHz). Finally, the unlocked A10-5800K is a 3.8 GHz / 4.2 GHz part with a 100W TDP, 4 MB cache and the HD 7660D at 800 MHz.

ASUS Rep Confirms Rumored Google Nexus Tablet

Google and ASUS have been long rumored to be getting ready for the release of a tablet PC in the popular Nexus lineup of devices, and some confirmation on the matter has just emerged.

Last week at the COMPUTEX show in Taipei, an ASUS representative spilled the beans on the upcoming device, but requested anonymity. According to Android Authority, said rep confirmed that the device would be unveiled before the end of the month, and it also said that “it will be awesome.” That does not give us much, indeed, but it does confirm that the device is real, and that Google will make it official soon, most probably at the Google I/O conference slated for San Francisco at the end of the month. Previous rumors on this tablet PC suggested that it would sport a 7-inch touchscreen display, and that it would feature an Nvidia Tegra 3 application processor inside.

Made by ASUS, the device should be capable of great performance capabilities, yet its price tag is said to remain low. In fact, the tablet, said to be called Nexus 7, is expected to be priced in the $200 - $250 (€160 - €200) range, which would make it a good option for a wide range of users. Cheap tablet PCs running under Android are already available on shelves, including some coming from Google’s rivals, and it makes sense for the Internet giant to aim at releasing its own such device.

Some of the previous rumors on this Nexus tablet also suggested that it might be powered by the next flavor of Android. According to some, that would be Android 4.1, though initial reports suggested that Android 5.0 Jelly Bean would be in the books as well. Now that Google’s Nexus tablet PC has been confirmed, all the necessary details on it should become available before the end of the month, so stay tuned.

First AMD Radeon HD7970 GHZ Edition Benchmark Results

AMD’s plan to release a 1 GHz edition of the company’s top performing GPU seems to have paid off.  The Tahiti architecture appears to be well-equipped to handle Nvidia’s Kepler offensive without requiring much effort on AMD’s part.

Here are the first benchmark results that have surfaced the internet. AMD’s Tahiti is not as efficient as Nvidia’s Kepler architecture. It is true that it was launched earlier and has a greater number of transistors but this and the 385-bit versus 256-bit memory interface allows it to achieve much better results in general computing. The Graphics Core Next architecture seems to have much better performance when scientific and GPU computing is involved. The company’s Tahiti GPU implementation seems to be very capable in terms of overclocking. Despite the fact that it has 23% more transistors than Kepler in the GTX 680 implementation and a more complex memory architecture, the frequencies of the Tahiti GPUs are simply amazing. AMD’s GPUs currently hold the 3D Mark 11 record for the single GPU card in both versions of the famous testing suite.

We wrote here about the 3D Mark 11 E score record (Extreme Preset) and here about the 3D Mark 11 P score record (Performance Preset). Today’s benchmark results show that AMD did very little effort to achieve performance parity with Nvidia’s GTX 680 and that the card is able to stay within a 300 watts TDP. The benchmarking experts have managed to measure a 310 TDP, but it seems that the result is particular to their test sample. The games in which AMD’s Radeon 7970 GH Edition has demonstrated clear performance superiority are Call of Duty, Crysis 2 and Metro 2033 with performance deltas of 8.6%, 16.1% and 9.5%, respectively.

Those are the results in 2560 by 1600 pixel resolution, as in FullHD, the GHz Edition is 2% slower overall when compared with Nvidia’s GTX 680. There is no information of pricing or availability.

EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Classified Graphics Card

NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 was the ruler of the single-GPU add-in-board market for a while, but the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and custom-made versions have hurled the title of strongest graphics card into uncertainty.

At this point, there is no clear-cut winner, regardless of what both sides say. As such, prospective customers will have to more closely, and individually, examine each company's inventions. The product we are going to look at today is the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Classified. According to AnandTech, it was brought to Computex 2012, the trade show that took place in Taipei, Taiwan last week. It is implied to be EVGA's best GTX 680 graphics adapter to date, with a non-reference PCB, tough cooling and, of course, the fastest clock speeds among its kind. Unfortunately, we can neither confirm nor dismiss the last of these claims, due to the distinct lack of frequency mentions.

The reference card drives the Kepler GK104 GPU to 1,006 MHz (base speed) and 1,058 MHz (GPU Boost), while the 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM work at 6 GHz. Since the Classified will be EVGA's fastest, we suspect it will aim to match, or maybe even surpass, the likes of Point of View GTX 680 UltraCharged (1,176 MHz / 1,228 MHz GPU Boost). EVGA's model does not have as large and strong a cooler as the UltraCharged, but the report did say there would be a water block option in addition to the air one. Not only that, but the card brought to Computex was just a prototype, so there might be a different fansink on the final version.

As for the rest of the specs, the custom PCB bears a 14-phase power design and a pair of custom headers at the top, one for direct access to voltage readings and a second one for the EVBot tool (grants direct control over voltages).

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