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Sep 10, 2012

EVGA GTX 660 SuperClocked Uses GTX 680 Cooling

Nvidia’s GTX 660 and GTX 650 video cards will be launching next week, right after the Apple iPhone 5 launch. EVGA is ready with its own cards and the SuperClocked version of the GTX 660 is using an impressive cooling system.

It’s not that the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 SuperClocked video card has an innovative cooling system, but the sheer size of the thing makes us wonder about the clock frequency that the company will set for its GK106-based card.

The cooling system is just the same as the one used on the company’s GTX 680 video cards, although the GK106 GPU itself is supposed to be half as hot. The card will be 2-way SLI capable and will pack 2 GB of fast GDDR5 memory.

EVGA GeForce GTX 650 SuperCloked video card
Image credits to Egypt Hardware

More Notifications on Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen

One of the appealing features that Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has been launched with was the presence of app notifications on the lock screen. There, users could quickly make an idea of whether they had missed calls, unread emails or SMS messages, and the like.

With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft might have enhanced the feature a bit, with more such notifications being displayed on the lock screen. Although details haven’t been provided, official press photos with Lumia 920 showed five notification icons on the phone’s lock screen, one of which is a Windows Phone logo, WMPoweruser found out.

There is also a notification icon for Skype, which is said to be integrated in WP8, present on said screen along with two email and one news icons. Rumor has it that Microsoft might have packed the new OS with some sort of a Notification Center, so as to keep users better informed on what’s happening in areas they are interested in.

Windows Phone 8 lock screen
Image credits to WMPowerUser

Nokia Lumia 920 Video Demo (New)

Nokia’s first Windows Phone 8 device, the Lumia 920, is already seen by many as being a great device, regardless of the issues the company has had with the publishing of a misleading ad for it.

In fact, many suggest that it could prove to be the best Windows Phone 8 handset of the year, based on its hardware specs and on the various capabilities it has been already packed with. Among these, there’s the 8-megapixel PureView camera on the back, which actually created a lot of fuss last week, complemented by the Lenses apps that Microsoft themselves have demoed last Wednesday in New York City.

A new video demo with the smartphone, available courtesy of a Microsoft employee (via Nokia Innovation) and embedded above, offers some more details on what the new device is capable of delivering to its users. If you find the handset appealing and you’re looking to get one, you can already preorder one in some European countries.

We have another video starring the Nokia Lumia 920.  You will see a demo of the new lens app and get a highlight of the features of the recently announced Lumia 920.
Video Credits to NokiaInnovationLLC

Oppo Preparing Find5, 5’’ Smartphone with a 1080p Screen

Chinese mobile phone maker Oppo is apparently gearing up for the launch of its first smartphone to feature a full HD touchscreen display.

The handset, supposedly called Oppo Find5, is said to sport a 5-inch screen that would boast the 1080p resolution and 441ppi, higher than any other smartphone on the market today. The company has already managed to impress the world with the launch of Oppo Finder, the smallest Android handset in the world, and it seems set to do that once again.

The Oppo Find5 smartphone will run Android too, only that it will be powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and it is said to pack a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 processor inside, fit for its large screen. No specific info on when the device is set to arrive on shelves has been provided as of yet, but info should emerge soon, so stay tuned.

Oppo Finder
Image credits to Oppo

Alleged Oppo Find5
Image credits to CNMO.com

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 WindForce 2X OC 1,098 MHz Graphics Card

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 graphics card, and many custom-designed versions, will be released in three days (September 13), but at least one retailer has jumped the gun, from Malaysia.

What we have in that picture up there is none other than the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 OC, equipped with the WindForce 2X cooler. This time around, we at least know two clock speed numbers. While we would not have minded to find all three (GPU base, GPU Boost and memory), we will make do with what we assume to be the GPU Boost maximum (1,098 MHz) and the memory speed (6,008 MHz). Speaking of which, the GPU, for those who haven't been keeping up with NVIDIA's latest activities, is powered by the GK106 chip. This graphics processing unit features 960 cores, 80 TMUs and 24 ROPs. Backing the GPU are 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM, which communicate with the main chip over an interface of 192 bits. Furthermore, the display output panel includes two DVI connectors, an HDMI port and, of course, a DisplayPort. Since NVIDIA's video boards can now handle up to four monitors at once, it would not do to lack sufficient interfacing capabilities.

As for the cooler, the WindForce 2X is not that different from the WindForce 2X used on other performance-level and high-end adapters. The large aluminum heatsink / fin array dissipates the heat brought over to it from the GPU by the four copper heatpipes. We will learn the full range of specs on September 13. We are particularly interested in the number of PCI Express power connectors. Factory overclocking would suggest two 6-pin, but the Zotac AMP! model only has one, even though it, too, is supposed to have tweaked frequencies. The price of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 WindForce 2X OC graphics card shouldn't be much higher than $229 - $249 / 229-250 Euro.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 WindForce 2X OC
Image credits to Gigabyte

HP ENVY 20 and 23 TouchSmart AiO PCs

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is finally bringing the touch revolution to the PC world and HP is one of the leaders. Today the company is presenting two new all-in-one (AIO) systems that feature the much-needed touch interface for Microsoft’s Metro UI.

Unlike the HP Pavilion 20 AIO that we discussed here, the HP ENVY 20 and ENVY 23 AIO systems are coming with the complete package that’s needed to enjoy Windows 8 properly. The systems are powered by Intel’s powerful 3rd-generation Core processors based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, while the Pavilion 20 AIO will only feature Sandy Bridge CPUs or AMD APUs. We’re quite disappointed HP is not preparing an AMD A10-powered ENVY TouchSmart system, but we’re hoping it will eventually offer such a configuration so that users can really enjoy the much-needed 3D performance.

HP’s ENVY 20 and ENVY 23 AIO systems feature Beats Audio sound and HP TrueVision webcam technology as well as lots of other HP bonus software. The systems are slated for an October 2012 launch, probably right after the Microsoft Windows 8 launch event. Pricing is set at $1100 (860 EUR) for the ENVY TouchSmart 23 and $850 (665 EUR) for the ENVY TouchSmart 20 AIO. The new systems also come with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but we’re happy to see that the HP ENVY TouchSmart 23 also has a slot-in optical disc drive (ODD) unit that is much sleeker and has increased durability when compared with tray loading ODDs.

On the other hand, on the HP ENVY TouchSmart 20 AIO, the company quickly went for the lower cost of integrating an ordinary slim ODD that’s prone to usage damage, dust and other mishaps. 

HP ENVY 20 and ENVY 23 TouchSmart AIO Systems
Images credits to HP

EK Supremacy Elite CPU Waterblocks

Water cooling specialist EK has formally launched four waterblocks, which are supposedly already in such high demand that they may show up as out of stock.

The four newcomers are called EK Supremacy Elite 115x (sockets LGA1155, LGA1156), EK Supremacy Elite 1366 (socket LGA1366), EK Supremacy Elite 2011 (socket LGA2011) and EK Supremacy Elite AMD (sockets AM3+, FM1, AM3, AM2+, AM2). They are successors to the EK-Supreme HF line launched in 2010 and have better hydraulics (improved design for up to 20% higher flow) and, of course, better cooling effectiveness (up to 2 degrees Celsius lower CPU temperatures). Design-wise, EK chose to construct the EK Supremacy Elite waterblocks with a circle pattern on the top and tool-less mounting systems. The press release uses the words “universal mounting mechanism that offers error-preventing, tool-less installation,” but this only makes it curious that there are four models, specific to socket types, instead of a single one compatible with them all.

Most noticeable is that the AMD-compatible waterblock has a significantly more different shape than the Intel ones, with a rectangular mounting pad, rather than x-like “feet.” Inconsistencies aside, at least there is one true universal advantage: the EK-TIM Indigo Xtreme thermal interface, a self-contained and sealed structure that substitutes for thermal greases, liquid metal alloys and metallic thermal interface pads. It deploys “a Phase Change Metallic Alloy (PCMA) which reflows and fills surface asperities on the CPU lid and heat sink.” All the new waterblocks sell for 104.95 Euro, except for the EK Supremacy Elite - Intel 2011, which ships for 107.95 Euro. That's $134 and $138, respectively, according to exchange rates, but it is more likely that the cooling products will sell for $104-105 and $107-108 Instead.

As we said above, EK may list one or more of the waterblocks as out of stock, due to high demand that supposedly exhausts availably supply even though new batches are manufactured every day.

EK Supremacy Elite
Images credits to EK

HP Pavilion 20 AiO PC with Intel CPUs or AMD APUs Options

In the light of the following Microsoft Windows 8 launch, HP is announcing a plethora of touch-based systems, but the company is not forgetting the budget users that might want an all-in-one (AIO) system.

HP is launching the Pavilion 20 AiO PC today and this system joins the HP Pavilion 23 AiO PC released some time ago, but unlike its big brother, the Pavilion 20 is likely missing the touch screen. This is certainly a move to reduce the cost of the device as HP is touting a starting price of just $500 (390 EUR) for the new budget systems.

The HP Pavilion 20 AiO PC will be powered by Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs or AMD’s APUs and we’re glad that HP is supporting the competition and it is offering alternatives with decent graphics performance. The press release makes no mention of a touch interface so, as disappointing as this may be, we believe the Pavilion 20 AiO will not benefit from such an interface.

HP Pavilion 20 AIO PC
Images credits to HP

Intel Manufacturing Lead Will Make ARM CPUs Obsolete

Intel’s Medfield low-power CPU can surely be considered a success as this is Intel’s first foray into the smartphone market and despite the legacy overhead, the platform actually managed to keep up with last year’s competition.

All that aside, Medfield has the manufacturing process advantage, being produced in the company’s own 32nm process while the other ARM chips in the competition are made in 40nm technology at TSMC. Despite the manufacturing advantage, Medfield didn't excel in performance nor in power consumption. The thing is that the complexity of having to deal with the x86 overhead, the increased power consumption (greater than 40nm chips) and the lack of a clear performance lead made Medfield unappealing to smartphone makers. Most ARM performance leaders have now been moved to 28nm technology while the architecture itself has been greatly improved.

ARM’s Cortex A15 core is a very good example of improvement as the single-core performance has almost doubled in some cases and most industry insiders know that Intel’s Atom will not be able to achieve something similar in the following couple of years. Merrill Lynch’s analyst, Mr. Vivek Arya believes that Intel’s technological manufacturing lead over TSMC and Samsung will suddenly transform its Atom CPUs into performance and power efficiency super starts, XbitLabs reports. "Next-gen chip manufacturing has become a 3-horse race between Intel, TSMC and Samsung, with Intel holding a 1 to 4 year lead, in our view. As we saw in 1H12, foundries were unable to ramp 28nm capacity, leading to product delays. Rising costs/ complexity (tri-gate) could further widen this gap. We believe this could enable Intel to gain a foothold (vs. zero today) in mobile over the next 2 years, as smartphone/tablet vendors look to Intel as a second or even primary source," said Mr. Arya.

We’d beg to differ. Moving to 22nm and adding a PowerVR SGX 544MP2 dual-core iGPU will certainly make the next-generation Intel smartphone chip have a much bigger die than a simple 22nm Medfield. Intel will get some performance improvements and maybe some power consumption reduction too, but would that make it better than Qualcomm’s APQ8064 or Nvidia’s Tegra 4? We have serious doubts that smartphone makers will suddenly give up ARM CPUs and see Intel as their primary source of mobile processors. In our opinion, Intel's 22nm mobile chips will have decent performance and power consumption, but they will keep being inferior to ARM's performance leaders and this will definitely not make them a "primary source" of mobile processors for the device manufacturers.

Intel Atom Marketing Shot
Image credits to Intel

AMD-Based Biostar A68I-350 Deluxe Mini-ITX Motherboard

The new product from Biostar Microtech is not nearly as small as a certain product that VIA released recently (VIA EPIA-P910), but it isn't much larger either, belonging to the form factor class immediately above it.

By form factor, we mean to say that A68I-350 DELUXE, as Biostar's motherboard is called, has the mini-ITX form factor (VIA's small board is a Pico-ITX). Thus, it is suited to home-theater personal computers (HTPCs) and the like, not embedded and industrial applications. For those who want to know the specific measurements, the piece of hardware is square, with a side length of 17 cm / 6.69 inches. Even in such a small package, though, A68I-350 DELUXE has all the features that a media-centric system could possibly need. The AMD Brazos 2.0 processing platform is the core of the matter, as the AMD A68 chipset is paired with an E-350D dual-core APU (accelerated processing unit). This chip runs at 1.6 GHz for the x86 cores and integrated the Radeon HD 6310 graphics (up to 512 MB shared memory). Three SATA 6.0 Gbps ports make sure that a large storage capacity can be included in whatever HTPC the motherboard ends up servicing. Even with an ODD (optical disk drive), there should be more than enough HDD and/or SSD capacity to hold one's video, music and picture collections.

As for better graphics (the integrated chip is good for media but may not be enough for some), an add-in card will be possible to install on the PCI Express x16 slot (x4 electrical). Needless to say, the mainboard gets a decent level of DRAM support as well: two DDR3-1600 memory slots. As for the rest, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a D-Sub output and an HDMI connector complete the ensemble. Biostar is already selling the A68I-350 DELUXE, so check your local retailers to see if they have it. The price should be of 66 Euro / $66-84.

Biostar A68I-350 DELUXE motherboard
Image credits to Biostar

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