The ASRock AB350 Gaming K4 Motherboard Review: Dual M.2 at $90

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A low-cost alternative for Ryzen systems to the high-calibre but higher-cost motherboards is the B350 range. Today we are testing the ASRock AB350 Gaming K4 motherboard, coming in under the radar just below $100. It offers almost everything its bigger cousins provide such as SLI, but single GPU users can find a home with a motherboard like this one. Our aim today is to ascertain whether the ASRock AB350 Gaming K4 can be a top value proposition with the B350 chipset in play.

ASUS ROG Spring System Updates: Gaming Big and Small

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With this week’s major launch of the rest of the 8th Generation Core lineup, virtually every last major OEM is issuing significant updates to large parts of their product lines to incorporate the new CPUs and chipsets. To that end we’re on day 3 of our recap of OEM spring product refreshes, this time taking a look at all of the updated gaming desktops and laptops due this quarter from ASUS under their Republic of Gamers Brand.

The Western Digital WD Black 3D NAND SSD Review: EVO Meets Its Match

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The all-new WD Black NVMe SSD and its alter ego SanDisk Extreme PRO finally bring a true high-end NVMe SSD to Western Digital’s consumer product lines. Western Digital has developed their own NVMe SSD controller to pair with their 64-layer 3D NAND, and the new vertical integration strategy is off to a great start with a highly competitive SSD.

Dell’s Spring Range: New 8th Gen Alienware, Laptops, and Monitors

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On the back of Intel’s announcement today for the next stage of its 8th Generation Core processor roll-out, covering both desktop and notebook processors, all of its major OEM partners are set with their products to hit the prime-time. Dell is one of those – the only thing is that when a big company like Dell has so many business units, the slow trickle of news turns into a torrent. Today Dell is announcing a wide range of products from its various business units, such as new Alienware desktops and devices, new Inspiron laptops, new All-in-One units, and just for good measure, a few new monitors as well.

Intel Expands 8th Gen Core: Core i9 on Mobile, Iris Plus, Desktop, Chipsets, and vPro

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The march from Intel for everything to be under the ‘8th Gen Intel Core’ branding is now at its climax: today is the official launch of several new 8th Gen products spread across four of five new categories. The headline is that Intel’s mobile platform will now get Core i9 and Core i7 products with six cores at 45W, along with some 28W U-series mobile chips with Iris Plus graphics. Desktop also gets some extra chips, filling out the Coffee Lake stack for desktop users, and vPro is littered around both mobile and desktop. Also on the plate is new branding for 8th Gen Core products being used with Intel’s Optane drives, new mobile and desktop chipsets which include wireless capabilities and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, and Intel’s new ‘Thermal Velocity Boost’ which promises more frequency in devices that can handle the thermal stress.

The Intel NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon) Review: Kaby Lake-G Benchmarked

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Intel has enjoyed great success with its NUC line of ultra-compact and small form-factor (UCFF & SFF) PCs. While the UCFF form-factor managed to provide enough horsepower for office tasks and other similar use-cases, the gaming market was not addressed. With the emergence of PC gaming as a growth driver, Intel took steps to expand the capabilities of the NUC lineup by creating the NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon) with a slightly larger form factor. It came with a high-end integrated GPU that provided consumers with a bit more gaming leeway compared to other NUCs. Back at the 2018 CES, Intel launched its successors – the NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK (Hades Canyon). They are the the first desktop PCs to make use of Kaby Lake-G with a Radeon GPU and HBM2 memory in the same package as the processor. Intel provided us with a sample of the high-end Hades Canyon NUC to put through our rigorous benchmarking and evaluation routines. Read on to get an idea of the performance of the PC and the market segments that it can fit in.

Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080 Compact Gaming PC Review

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Gaming systems and small form-factor (SFF) PCs have turned out to be growth segments in a desktop PC market that has been subject to severe challenges recently. Many vendors have tried to combine the two, but space constraints and power concerns have ended up as performance-limiting factors. Zotac, in particular, has been very active in this space with their ZBOX MAGNUS series. Starting with the EN980 (Intel Core i5-6400 / GTX 980), they have been on a regular release cadence – the EN1080 with an updated Pascal GPU came in mid-2016, while the CPU upgrade to Kaby Lake in the EN1080K came to the market in Q3 2017. All these systems carried a premium due to the integrated liquid cooling system. In order to hit a lower price point, Zotac has now started experimenting with fully air-cooled systems in the same form-factor. Today’s review takes a look at the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUX EK71080 with a Core i7-7700HQ and a NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU add-in card. Read on to find out how the unit performs in our rigorous benchmarking and evaluation process.

Huawei P20 and P20 Pro Hands-On: Embrace the Notch

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It’s time to have a serious discussion about the Notch. Love it or hate it, the Notch is going to be a defining element of major smartphones this year. The latest adherent to the Notch philosophy is the Huawei P20 family, being announced in Paris today. Using the Notch allows the handset to maximise the front-facing screen size compared to the size of the phone, and if used in the right way is designed not to be a distraction. We had some hands on time with the device, the P20 Pro triple camera setup, the new color schemes, and the new 960 fps mode.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Review: Exynos and Snapdragon at 960fps

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With much anticipation we dwell deep into the new Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. In this review we look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and Samsung Exynos 9810 SoCs, and the architectures therein, where we’ll find a stark contrast in real-world performance and battery life between the two variants. In an extensive comparison, we evaluate the new Galaxy S9’s camera against its predecessors as well as the nearest flagship competition from Apple, Google, LG and Huawei. The goal here is to see what makes the Galaxy S9 tick, and if it’s a worthy upgrade to currents devices in play.

The MSI X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC Motherboard Review

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There are only a few options in the microATX market if you want all the Intel cores but want to remain small and compact. The challenger today is MSI’s X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC, which leverages the ‘Carbon’ branding from MSI to offer a cleaner look, although there are LEDs on board just in case. Due to the size there are some considerations to feature support that are worth examining.

The Plextor M8V SATA SSD Review: Toshiba 3D TLC In a Mainstream Drive

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Today we’re taking a look at Plextor’s M8V SSD. This is their latest entry-level SATA SSD and the first SATA drive from Plextor to use 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory. Based around Silicon Motion’s mainstream SM2258 controller and paired with Toshiba’s 64L 3D TLC, this is our first look at Toshiba’s newest NAND when paired with a more powerful controller. And, as we’ll see in our test results, while the M8V may officially be an entry-level drive, in practice it’s plenty cable of punching well above its weight, making it a surprising contendor versus current top-tier SATA drives.

Xilinx Announces Project Everest: The 7nm FPGA SoC Hybrid

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This week Xilinx is making public its latest internal project for the next era of specialized computing. The new product line, called Project Everest in the interim, is based around what Xilinx is calling an ACAP – an Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform. The idea here is that for both compute and acceleration, particularly in the data center, the hardware has to be as agile as the software. Project Everest will combine Xilinx’s highest performing next-generation programmable logic along with application processors, real-time processors, programmable engines, RF, high-speed SerDes, programmable IO, HBM, and a custom network-on-chip. The idea is that space typically devoted to hard blocks in FPGAs (such as memory controllers) are now optimized on chip, leaving more programmable silicon for the compute and adaptability. Project Everest is one of the Three Big Trends as identified by Xilinx’s new CEO, Victor Peng.

Analyzing Threadripper Thermals: Big Base Cooling Wins

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AMD’s Threadripper processors step quite far outside typical CPU designs in several ways, one of which is their relatively massive physical size. The CPU’s surface area is much greater than that of all consumer CPUs before them, including Intel’s LGA 20xx sockets. This sizable design choice is not because AMD couldn’t squeeze the CPU dies physically closer, but because Threadripper’s size is the minimum size that their engineers calculated to be effective for both the mechanical strength of the package and for sufficient heat dissipation. When Threadripper was announced, nearly all cooler manufacturers rushed to provide adapters for their products to be mounted on Threadripper processors. AMD themselves include an adapter for Asetek-based liquid coolers inside the package of the Threadripper processors. User experiences with such adapters, including our own, were less that ideal. So today we’re going to take a look at why AMD’s thermal requirements are so exaggerated and showcase why adapters are not effective.

The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Gaming Headset Lineup: GameDAC Or Wireless

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SteelSeries is a well-known manufacturer in the PC accessory space, and have been in the gaming headset market for some time. Today they are launching two new products at the top of their Arctis lineup, and both of them offer some interesting new features. The first is the Arctis Pro + GameDAC, which is the first Hi-Res Certified gaming headset on the market. The second is the Arctis Pro Wireless headset, which takes many of the features of the wired model, and adds wireless to the mix. We see a lot of accessory announcements, but when SteelSeries briefed us on these two new headset models, there was a lot of interesting technology they were bringing to the table, which is always something to get excited about.

The Ulefone T2 Pro Hands-On: A 6.7-inch Stunner Smartphone

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Every trade show has a few gems. This year at MWC, one of the most impressive was from Ulefone, with its new T2 Pro smartphone. The device, due to be released in July, was an unexpected delight of the show.

What makes the phone interesting, compared to other devices on the show floor, is the design. Ulefone list it as a 6.7-inch device, with a 2160×1080 (19:9) display, but by using a combination of an edge-to-edge display, a notch for the front facing camera, and a fingerprint sensor under the screen, the device is a similar size to other Pro flagships. Ultimately what we are looking at is the future, moving to near 100% displays on the front facing real estate. We are clearly going above 90% with a device like this.

I’m going to be bold and say this is what almost all smartphone vendors will do, and soon. The notch extends the screen right to the top of the device, and keeps the camera in the same place (unlike the Mi MIX). Having the fingerprint sensor in the display (or the rear) removes almost all the bottom bezel. Until the camera can also be put into the display, this is how phones are going to go. The Ulefone T2 Pro is the second device we now know of with an in-screen fingerprint sensor, alongside a device made by Vivo, and we confirmed that the Synaptics sensor is being used.

The device has a specific ‘first’, in that it was showcased as the first implementation of MediaTek’s P70 processor. Mediatek has only just announced the P60 at Mobile World Congress, so this device is essentially preannouncing the SoC. We were not able to get specific details about it, but expect it to be a 4×4 Arm Cortex A73/A53 implementation, with Mali G72 in some form, perhaps on TSMC’s 12FFC process. We are awaiting information from Ulefone. We tried to benchmark it, but the software was very early.

Despite being such a big screen, as someone who uses ~6-inch display devices day to day, it really did not feel that different. The demo units had plastic curved rears, but we were told that the final units will be curved glass. The software on the units was super buggy and barely booted, crashing in chrome, showing just how early in the cycle these devices are. We were told that there will be some software adjustments to take account of the notch, as the OS was clearly just ignoring it at this point. The rounded corners also cause some overlap for the display, which will have to be optimized for.

So despite the device rear being broken (apparently some journalists earlier in the week dropped it on purpose?) the device felt premium. Along with the display, it we were told it will ship with 8 GB of memory, 128 GB storage, and a 5000 mAh battery. This last one I am a bit skeptical of, as the phone was very light – lighter than expected for 5000 mAh. It could be that the demo unit had a smaller battery in, but if that was representative of a final device, then it comes across as a very nice design.

This is the point that I tell you that it might be impossible to get one. Ulefone mainly operates in China as one of the secondary smartphone brands, but we were told that they are branching out to Europe at least, through retailers. We were told that the estimated price for the unit is expected to be $380, though that might be confused with the wholesale price and doesn’t include tax. Assuming the P70 is a nice and highly optimized SoC, then the T2 Pro could easily be a really nice smartphone to use. 

We don’t give awards at these shows, but this would be something close to an unexpected surprise. I hope that Ulefone can deliver.

Related Reading

The MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK Motherboard Review: Light up the Night

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What happens when a vendor adds 802.11ac to Killer networking? You get an ACK – specifically, the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK. This motherboard includes 3-way SLI and Crossfire support, dual M.2 slots with a unique heatsink design attached to the chipset, both front and rear USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) ports, dual Realtek audio chips, Killer based networking, and plenty of RGB LEDs to light up the case. 

The HAVIT KB395L RGB Mechanical Keyboard Review: Marvelous Mechanical Minimalism

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In today’s review we are taking a look at the KB395L, a mechanical keyboard from HAVIT, a Chinese manufacturer of advanced PC peripherals. Emphasizing a minimalistic design that’s only as big as it needs to be, the KB395L sports RGB backlighting, a programmable layout, and is using Kailh’s new PG1350 blue low-profile tactile switches. And, most importantly, it may just be among the finest professional mechanical keyboards we’ve reviewed to this day.

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