ECS LIVA One Skylake mini-PC Review

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The desktop PC market has been subject to many challenges over the last few years. However, the miniaturization trend (including the introduction of the ultra-compact form factor – UCFF – NUCs) has provided some bright spots. The recent introduction of the mSTX (5×5) form factor has provided yet another option between the NUC and the mITX form factor for PC builders. Companies like ASRock and Zotac have been marketing mini-PCs based on mSTX-like custom boards for a few years now. ECS joined the fray in early 2016 with the launch of the LIVA One based on a Skylake platform. Read on for our review of the pre-configured version of the ECS LIVA One.

The Apple iPad Pro Review

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At this point it probably isn’t a secret that tablet sales have leveled off, and in some cases they have declined. Pretty much anywhere you care to look you’ll see evidence that the tablet market just isn’t as strong as it once was. It’s undeniable that touch-only tablets have utility, but it seems that the broader market has been rather lukewarm about tablets. I suspect at least part of the problem here is that the rise of the phablet has supplanted small tablets. Large tablets are nice to have, but almost feel like a luxury good when they’re about as portable as an ultrabook. While a compact laptop can’t easily be used while standing, or any number of other situations where a tablet is going to be better, a compact laptop can do pretty much anything a touch-only tablet can. A laptop is also going to be clearly superior for a significant number of cases, such as typing or precise pointing.

This brings us to the iPad Pro. This is probably the first time Apple has seriously deviated from traditional iPad launches, putting together a tablet built for (limited) productivity and content creation rather than just simple content consumption, creating what’s arguably the iPad answer to the Surface Pro. To accomplish this, Apple has increased the display size to something closer to that of a laptop, and we see the addition of a stylus and a keyboard cover for additional precision inputs. Of course, under the hood there have been a lot of changes as well. Read on for the full review of the Apple iPad Pro.

The Intel Compute Stick (Cherry Trail) Review

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The success of ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs have made vendors realize that small and power-efficient computing platforms are here to stay. ARM SoC manufacturers, finding that the tablet market had reached practical saturation, kick-started a new product category in the form of ‘HDMI sticks’. As a computing platform, they were smaller than the ultra-compact form factor PCs and looked like an oversized USB key. Intel joined the game in CES 2015 with the Bay Trail Compute Stick. The first iteration was, to put it kindly, a bit underwhelming. However, Intel showed its commitment to the form factor by announcing three new Compute Stick models at CES 2016. They included one Cherry Trail (Atom) and two Core M models, all aiming in that 2-4.5 watt SoC space. The Intel Compute Stick we are reviewing today is the Cherry Trail model that comes with Windows 10 Home (32-bit) pre-installed, making it ready to roll right out of the box. Read on for a performance review and our thoughts on the product.

HP Z27q Monitor Review: Aiming For More Pixels

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Almost a year ago, we reviewed the HP Z27x monitor, which was a 27-inch display capable of covering a very wide gamut. It had a reasonable 2560×1440 resolution, which was pretty common for this size of display. But at CES 2015, HP announced the HP Z27q monitor, which takes a step back on gamut and manageability, but takes two steps forward with resolution. The HP Z27q is a ‘5K’ display, which means it has an impressive 5120×2880 resolution. This easily passes the UHD or ‘4K’ levels which are becoming more popular. The HP Z27q is one of a handful of 5K displays on the market now, and HP came in with a pretty low launch price of $1300. When I say pretty low, it’s of course relative to the other 5K displays in the market, but it undercuts the Dell UP2715K by several hundred dollars, even today.

Sony Digital Paper System DPT-S1 Review

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The e-reader market has lost some of its initial appeal due to the rapid rise in popularity of tablets and other similar mobile devices. However, ‘tablets’ with E-Ink screens continue to offer the best experience in terms of battery life as well as reducing eye strain. E-Ink screens have not scaled well in size, with the 6" screen size being the most popular and economical choice. Products with bigger screen sizes such as the Kindle DX (9.7") have not enjoyed market success due to pricing issues. Sony’s Digital Paper System (DPT-S1) targets business users with a 13.3" E-Ink Mobius screen. It comes with a stylus / pen for taking notes and annotating PDFs. Is the Sony DPT-S1 right for you? How is the user experience with the digital paper system? This review will provide some answers.

The Huawei Mate S Review

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Huawei has been a company which over the past few years has visibly increased its presence in western markets. The Chinese vendor has in particular executed a big push into European markets over the last year as devices have become increasingly available in the usual electronics shops. Following the high-key introduction of the Mate 7 last year, Huawei seems to have settled on a Samsung-like release cadence where we see the smaller P-series introduced in spring and the Mate phablet series in autumn.

This year Huawei launched the Mate S – not a direct sucessor to the Mate 7, but still clearly a device that continues the design language of the Mate lineup. First up, let’s go over the specifications and see what the new hardware provides in terms of upgrades.

The Microsoft Band 2 Review

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At the end of October in 2014, Microsoft surprisingly released a late night press release about a new device they were launching. It was the Microsoft Band, which is a fitness wearable that was a key component of their Microsoft Health service. It was their first real wearable, and it was packed with sensors to track everything from your heart rate to your sleep quality. At the Microsoft devices event in NYC on October 6th, Microsoft announced an updated version of the Band, known as Band 2. Its goal is to provide even more health insights, while being more comfortable and stylish than the original Band.

AMD’s Radeon Software Crimson Driver Released: New Features & A New Look

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At the tail-end of 2014 AMD launched their Catalyst 14.12 driver set, better known as the Omega driver set. With Omega, AMD shifted their development process for the Catalyst driver set, focusing on delivering feature updates in fewer, larger updates while interim driver releases would focus on bug fixes, performance improvements, and adding new cards. The Omega release in turn was the first of these major releases, delivering a number of new features for Catalyst such as Virtual Super Resolution, preliminary support for FreeSync, and of course a number of performance improvements.

When briefing the press on Omega, one of AMD’s points was that if it was successful they were intending to make it a yearly release – in essence putting major feature updates on a yearly cadence – and after the reaction to Omega AMD has gone ahead and done just that. So launching today and serving as the cornerstone of AMD’s video driver plans for 2016 is this year’s major update, Radeon Software Crimson Edition.

The iPad Pro Preview: Taking Notes With iPad Pro

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For the past week, I’ve been working on a review of the iPad Pro. For better or worse it has been a very quick week and I’ve been working on the review right up to the embargo time. Rather than rushing out our review of Apple’s first large-format tablet in an incomplete state, I’m going to hold it back so that we can get it right and produce the kind of high-quality article that we’re known for.

Instead for today’s embargo I want to take a more personal look at one segment of the iPad Pro’s new features as a preview of things to come. The iPad Pro is a tablet of several firsts for Apple – their first large-format tablet, their first tablet with Apple’s A9X SoC, and their first tablet clearly geared towards productivity as opposed to content consumption – and as a result one area that’s worth discussing in depth is whether or not the iPad Pro is useful to people that might not have wanted or needed an iPad before.

The Google Nexus 5X Review

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Google’s first hardware collaboration with LG brought us the Nexus 4. Like the Nexus 7, the Nexus 4 followed a philosophy of bringing as much power and quality as possible to a reasonably affordable price point. The Nexus 4 definitely wasn’t a perfect phone, but it was certainly good relative to its price, and it showed that a phone can still be good even if it doesn’t cost $600. About one year later Google and LG collaborated again to bring us the Nexus 5, a device which I and many other users fondly remember as an affordable phone that actually brought many of the specifications you would expect to see in a device that costed significantly more.

While I’m sure many hoped that 2014 would bring the next iteration of an LG Nexus device, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead we got the Nexus 6 made by Motorola, which didn’t really follow the pricing philosophy of the LG Nexus devices, and wasn’t very competitive with devices like the Galaxy Note 4 despite its equivalent cost. At that point the future of affordable Nexus devices was unclear, and I wasn’t even sure if we’d see a true successor to the Nexus 5. Fortunately, this year is the year that LG returns to bring us the next iteration of their Nexus phones, with the new device appropriately being named the Nexus 5X. Read on for the full review, and find out if the Nexus 5X is a worthy successor to the Nexus 5.

The Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus Review

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To be perfectly honest, this past year has been remarkably boring in the mobile segment. For whatever reason, phones have either stood still or regressed when it comes to overall quality. There are a few stand-outs that have been worth talking about like the Galaxy S6 lineup and the Galaxy Note5 lineup, but for the most part every phone I’ve reviewed this year has been disappointing in some way. I carry an iPhone 6 to make sure I stay current on changes in iOS, but my primary phone continues to be an HTC One M7. I was hoping to get a new Android phone this year, but so far nothing has really piqued my interest.

Part of the problem this year is that performance and battery life haven’t been the most impressive in a lot of cases. By this point, it’s really not a surprise that Snapdragon 810 doesn’t deliver as much performance as it needs to for the amount of power that it draws. However, even independent of SoC it seems a lot of OEMs haven’t really pushed the bar in design or attention to detail. Some phones have cameras with almost unacceptable post-processing quality, others continue to have poorly calibrated displays, and the ones that have none of those have problems with software experience or something else. In general, no Android phone I’ve seen this year really delivers everything that I’d want in a single package. There are phones that are clearly better than others, but nothing that rises to the level that I’d want before putting down a few hundred dollars.

In light of this lack of competition in the market, it’s arguable that Apple is facing less competition than before. The iPhone 6s would continue to sell quite strongly even if this year’s refresh was relatively minor as they would still end up quite strong competitively as they would be able to capitalize on momentum from previous years. If you were unfamiliar with the iPhone 6s and Apple’s iPhone launch cycle, at first you might be convinced that Apple has done exactly that. However, in general the iPhone release cycle is such that industrial design is constant for two years at a time, so every other year sees a design refresh. When the design isn’t refreshed, the phone often carries significant internal changes. In the past, the iPhone 3GS brought a better SoC, a faster modem, and a better camera. The iPhone 4S brought a new SoC, camera, and Siri. The iPhone 5s brought a new SoC, camera, and TouchID. In general, we can see a pretty clear pattern of evolution but it seems that with the 5s the refresh launches have generally brought new features as it has become insufficient to simply ship a faster SoC and possibly a modem and camera refresh to justify a new smartphone. To find out whether the iPhone 6s is justified, read on for the full review.

The Apple iPad Mini 4 Review

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For a while now Apple has been holding two launch events toward the end of each year. The first event in September is used to launch new iPhones, and new products and services like the Apple Watch and Apple Pay. In October Apple then has an event where the main focus is on new iPads, along with some other announcements such as new Macs or accessories. This year Apple appears to have switched up the formula, as they rolled both the iPhone and iPad announcements into a single September event. With October essentially over it looks like we won’t be seeing any more Apple launch events this year, and new products like the iMac with 4K Retina display have had quieter soft launches.

Since Apple combined their iPhone and iPad events into one, we actually have a new iPad shipping earlier than they’re usually even announced. The iPad Pro won’t go on sale until November, and the iPad Air 2 didn’t see an update, but the iPad Mini line got a significant overhaul in the form of the iPad Mini 4, and it has been available for well over a month at this point. Read on for the AnandTech review of Apple’s iPad Mini 4.

The Samsung 950 Pro PCIe SSD Review (256GB and 512GB)

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Samsung’s new flagship consumer SSD is here to wrap up all the latest technology from Samsung in a small package, with the goal of raising the bar beyond the reach of any SATA drive. The 950 Pro uses Samsung’s latest 128Gb MLC 3D NAND, a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and the NVMe protocol to deliver peak performance several times faster than the fastest SATA drives.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Review

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The first Android tablet I ever used was the original Galaxy Tab. It was a 7" Android tablet running Android Froyo, and it seemed a lot like a large version of my Galaxy S. In hindsight, it wasn’t a very good tablet, but Samsung was one of the first Android vendors to enter the market and they were working with a version of Android that had never been designed with tablets in mind. As Android moved to Gingerbread and then to the tablet exclusive release of Android Honeycomb, Samsung was always among the group of manufacturers producing Android tablets. While some vendors like LG and HTC have left and returned to the tablet market, Samsung has continually producing new Galaxy Tab tablets, and those tablets constitute a very large portion of the Android tablets that are sold each year. Read on for the AnandTech review of Samsung’s newest tablet, the Galaxy Tab S2.

The Acer Aspire S7-393 Review: Broadwell Comes To Acer’s Ultrabook

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The last time we got a chance to try out the Acer Aspire S7, it was back in 2013. At the time it was a big step up from Acer, and the Ivy Bridge based S7 came with one of the slimmest and lightest bodies of that era. That was 2013. In 2015, the competition in the Ultrabook space has not sat idly by. One thing is for certain in the technology sector. No matter what kind of lead you have, if you stand still, you will be passed. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ Review

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The Galaxy Note line has long been one of Samsung’s greatest assets in the mobile market. While other Android OEMs have made phablets before, Samsung was pretty much the first OEM to ship a high-end device in this segment. Although other Android OEMs have made phablets in the time since, Samsung continues to have a strong hold on this market.

For Samsung, unlike previous iterations of the Note family, the Galaxy Note5/S6 edge+ represents a significant change in design compared to previous generations, integrating many of the design aspects of the Galaxy S6 across the whole family. In many ways, the Galaxy Note5 resembles the Galaxy S6 in a different size. Meanwhile the Note5’s companion device, the Galaxy S6 edge+, is effectively a second take on the Galaxy Note5, aiming for a design closer to a large format phone than a phablet as originially envisioned by Samsung. In this case the Galaxy S6 edge+ uses many of the design accents of the Galaxy S6 edge such as the curved display, all the while getting rid of the stylus.

To see how these phablets perform, read on for the full review.

The Corsair RM1000x and RM1000i 1000W Power Supply Review

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Just over a year and a half ago we had our first encounter with Corsair’s RM PSU series. The company upgraded their highly successful quiet PSU series and split it into two sub-series, the RMi and the RMx. Today we are having a look at the 1kW versions of the upgraded series, the RM1000i and the RM1000x, investigating their upgrades, performance and differences.

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