AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, RX Vega 64 GPUs, and Threadripper 1900X Announced

AMD has formally announced a return to the enthusiast-class gaming space with new graphics cards based on its next-generation Vega architecture. The new AMD Radeon RX Vega series takes on Nvidia’s higher-end GeForce GTX 10-series cards, targeting gamers who want 4K quality and variable refresh rates. The new cards will be positioned above the existing Radeon RX 500 series.

There are two primary models, the Radeon RX Vega 56 and Radeon RX Vega 64. As their names suggest, they have 56 or 64 of AMD’s next-gen Vega compute units, for a total of 4,096 or 3,584 execution blocks called “stream processors”. This makes these cards capable of delivering 10.5 Teraflops and 12.66 Teraflops of compute power respectively. Both GPUs have 8GB of HBM2 memory on a 2048-bit bus. Memory bandwidth is 410GBps for the Vega 56 and 483.8GBps for the Vega 64.

There is also a Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid Cooled Edition which has an integrated closed-loop liquid cooler with a 120mm radiator, but is otherwise no different from its namesake. It can push out 13.7 Teraflops because of its clock speed can reach 1677MHz as opposed to 1546MHz for the is the regular Vega 64 and 1471MHz for the Vega 56. Its power consumption is also rated at a massive 345W, rather than 295W and 210W for the two air-cooled cards.

AMD’s own cards use blower-style coolers similar to the ones used on previous reference designs, but third-party manufacturers will be launching their own cards with the same GPUs. Reference cards will have three DisplayPorts and one HDMI output, plus hardware switches to control the colour of the LED accents.

The Vega 56 is priced at $399 (approximately Rs. 25,625) while the standard Vega 64 costs $499 (approximately Rs. 32,045) and its liquid-cooled counterpart costs $699 (approximately Rs. 44,890). They will all go on sale in the US on August 14. Pricing and availability in India are not yet known. The company also teased a small-form-factor Radeon RX Vega Nano card, though no information about its specifications or capabilities is yet known, as well as Project 47, a server product that packs 1 Petaflop of processing power in a single rack.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, RX Vega 64 GPUs, and Threadripper 1900X AnnouncedBecause of the likelihood that these cards will be snapped up by cryptocurrency miners just like the Radeon RX 500 series, prices could be driven up and gamers could end up frustrated. AMD is trying to even the playing field by selling a number of each card as part of what it is calling “Radeon Packs”, at least in the US. These cost $100 extra but give users a $200 discount on Samsung’s CF791 34-inch Freesync-enabled curved monitor, a $100 discount on a Ryzen 7 CPU and motherboard bundle, and coupons for Wolfenstein II and Prey, adding up to another $120. AMD hopes that the extra cost will dissuade miners and be helpful to gamers building a new PC.

AMD also confirmed the existence of a third member of its upcoming Ryzen Threadripper enthusiast CPU lineup. The Ryzen Threadripper 1900X will have 8 cores and 16 threads, joining the 12-core and 16-core Threadripper 1920X and 1950X. It has a base clock speed of 3.8GHz, a boost clock of 4.0GHz and an XFR limit of 4.2GHz. It will have a $549 price tag and use the same X399 platform as its bigger siblings, which sets it apart from the octa-core Ryzen 7 family because it will be able to work with the full complement of 64 PCIe lanes, and has a 180W thermal ceiling for overclocking.

This appears to be a response to Intel’s Core-X family, which includes mainstream Kaby Lake-X CPUs with fewer cores and PCIe lanes. The Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X will be on store shelves in the US on August 10, while the 1900X will launch on August 31.

Windows 10 Gets ‘Eye Control’ Feature, Command Prompt Console Gets Colour Overhaul

To empower physically-challenged people to operate an on-screen mouse and keyboard, Microsoft has announced beta version of ‘Eye Control’ feature for Windows 10 that lets users control much of the interface with just eye movements. The ‘Eye Control’ feature is now rolling out in the Windows Insider Preview Build 16257 for PC. Separately, Microsoft is also revamping its Microsoft Console aka command prompt with more colours for the first time in more than 20 years.

Microsoft has mentioned in its blog post that the Eye Control feature requires a compatible eye tracker, like the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C. When users turn on Eye Control, a launchpad appears that allows then reads eye movements and gives access to mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech tool. Users will also be able to reposition the UI to the opposite side of the screen.” There is also an Eye Control interaction model to interact with the Windows UI, where looking at the UI will activate it along with voice guidance. Eye Control only works with the US English language keyboard support initially, with plans to add more keyboard layouts later.

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Users can control the mouse by simply selecting the mouse from the launchpad, position their eyes on the screen where they want the cursor to be placed. Users can select the keyboard from the launchpad and ‘dwell’ on the characters they want to type. However, the new tool faces challenges in direct sunlight and, therefore, the company said the device might require new calibration when moving to a location with different lighting conditions. Also, the launchpad partially blocks the Tobii UI during device calibration, which can worked around by turning the Eye Control off and turning it back again after calibration is done. The Eye Control feature currently supports only with selected eye trackers of Tobii hardware, however Microsoft plans to bring more devices in future.

Moving to the Microsoft Console aka command prompt that has now been overhauled to include a new colour scheme for the first time in more than 20 years. The same Windows 10 Insider Preview Build (v16257) now brings support for additional default colours on the command prompt, giving users a dramatic change to Windows Console’s legacy blue to improve its legibility. “The default colour values have been changed to improve legibility of darker colours on modern screens, and to give the Console a more modern look & feel,” notes the blog.

Windows 10 testers will only be able to see new colours as the default Console scheme only if they clean-install the build 16257. However, upgrading Windows to this new build will brings new colours but without the new defaults. Microsoft will also be soon releasing a tool that will help testers apply this new colour scheme and a selection of alternative colour schemes to the Windows Console.

Intel ‘Coffee Lake’ 8th Gen Core CPUs to Launch on August 21; Core i9 Specifications Revealed

Intel has announced that it will launch its 8th generation Core processors, codenamed ‘Coffee Lake’, at 8:00am PDT (8:30pm IST) on August 21. The launch will be streamed to the public using Facebook Live, and has been timed to precede the much-talked-about total solar eclipse which will occur the same morning. No specifics are known yet, such as the number of models that will be launched and which market segments Intel is targeting first.

Intel’s teaser claims that the 8th generation Core processors will be “blazing fast”, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The company has previously stated that Coffee Lake will improve upon the 7th generation Kaby Lake by 30 percent. Coffee Lake will be the fourth generation to use the 14nm manufacturing process, breaking the three-year Process-Architecture-Optimisation cycle that Intel tried to introduce only last year. Prior to Coffee Lake and Kaby Lake, Intel’s ‘tick-tock’ strategy dictated that the manufacturing process would shrink every alternate year.

Intel was supposed to have launched its first 10nm generation, codenamed Cannonlake, last year, but this was deferred, with Kaby Lake and now Coffee Lake filling in. Intel could move to a “fluid” model using both 14nm and 10nm processes for Coffee Lake processors in different segments. Rumors also point to Intel introducing six-core mainstream desktop processors with this generation, either thanks to thermal and power design improvements, or because of strong competition from rival AMD after years with the highly rated Ryzen CPU line. It is also therefore likely that Coffee Lake will break compatibility with Intel’s current motherboard socket and platform controllers which are common to Kaby Lake and Skylake.

Intel ‘Coffee Lake’ 8th Gen Core CPUs to Launch on August 21; Core i9 Specifications RevealedIntel has stated that the launch event on August 21 will include demos of VR and “immersive experiences” that show the power of upcoming 8th generation Core processors. PC manufacturers are expected to demonstrate desktops, laptops and 2-in-1 systems based on these CPUs. Intel is also keen to grab the attention of anyone looking to buy a new PC this holiday season, indicating that products will become available in retail shortly after the launch event.

Intel has also released the full specifications and launch dates of its top-end Core i9 X-series desktop processors, which offer up to 18 cores. The 12-core/ 24-thread Core i9-7920X will become available on August 28, with a base speed of 2.9GHz, a boost speed of 4.3Ghz on all cores, and 16.5MB of cache memory. The 14-core i9-7940X, 16-core i9-7960X and flagship 18-core i9-7980XE will all become available on September 25. Base/boost speeds are 2.9/4.3GHz, 3.1/4.3GHz, 2.8/4.2GHz, and 2.6/4.2GHz respectively, and the cache amounts come in at 19.25MB, 22MB and 24.75MB respectively.

All four upcoming Core i9 parts can raise their speeds up as far as 4.4GHz on one or two cores if the workload demands it, and official RAM support goes up to quad-channel DDR4-2666 for each. They also share the same 165W TDP, and all have 44 PCIe lanes. Prices range from $1199 (approximately Rs. 76,362) for the i9-7920X to a whopping $1999 (approximately Rs. 1,27,313) for the i9-7980XE.

To see how these new processors stack up against the rest of the Core-X series, check out our complete guide to Intel’s Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs, Motherboards, and Coolers.

Acer Launches Chromebook 11 C771 Laptop With Rugged Body and Sixth-Gen Intel Processors

Acer on Wednesday launched its Chromebook 11 C771 laptop with sixth-gen Intel Core and Celeron processors that should deliver improved performance in comparison to some of the other Chromebooks available on the market. Notably, the new Chromebook 11 C771 laptop comes with a rugged body that has been tested for durability.

The Chromebook 11 C771 laptop comes with an 11.6-inch HD (768×1366 pixels) IPS display with both a touchscreen and non-touchscreen variant. The company claims that the Chromebook 11 C771 is capable of delivering an impressive battery life of up to 13 hours.

The connectivity options offered by the new portable include USB 3.1 Type C port, two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a built-in microSD card reader. The Chromebook 11 C771 also supports fast dual-band 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac/a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. The laptop is 21mm thick and weighs just 1.35Kg.

Acer Launches Chromebook 11 C771 Laptop With Rugged Body and Sixth-Gen Intel ProcessorsTalking about the device’s durability, the company said in its release, “The Chromebook is compliant with the stringent Military Standard US MIL-STD 810G that validates its ruggedness, durability and quality. In addition, the corner-shield structure and rubber bumpers surrounding the display and keyboard further protect the Chromebook, so it can tolerate drops from heights up to 48 inches (122cm).”

Starting this month itself, the company will make the Chromebook 11 C771 with Celeron processors, 4GB RAM, and 32GB built-in storage available in the US with both touchscreen and non-touchscreen variants. The touchscreen variant of the laptop has been priced by the company at $329.99 (roughly Rs. 21,100) while the non-touchscreen variant will be made available for purchase at $279.99 (roughly Rs. 17,900).

The variants with Intel Core i3 and Core i5 will be made available for purchase in the country starting September, as per the company’s release.

Microsoft Surface Devices Fail on Reliability, Finds Consumer Reports Survey

The breakage rate for Microsoft’s Surface devices is significantly worse than for other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft Surface Devices Fail on Reliability, Finds Consumer Reports SurveyMicrosoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

The Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

“The reality is that Microsoft has very little experience in some of the newer categories it’s entering very rapidly, which may expose it to more risk of problems in manufacturing,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

Consumer Reports has conducted its annual reliability study since 1952, starting with cars. The study is also used to determine the reliability of products like refrigerators, lawn mowers, televisions and more. In more recent years, the organization has added laptops and tablets.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations Unveiled by Microsoft, Available This Fall

Microsoft on Thursday announced a new edition of Windows 10 Pro targeted at power users with high-end hardware. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will be available to power users as part of Fall Creators Update, which will be available this fall.

For those unaware, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is a high-end edition of Windows 10 Pro which comes with support for server grade PC hardware and has been designed to meet critical and compute intensive workloads.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations Unveiled by Microsoft, Available This FallMicrosoft says that Windows 10 Pro for Workstations has been optimised to increase performance and reliability with features like ReFS (Resilient File System) which provides cloud-grade resiliency for data on fault-tolerant storage spaces and manages very large volumes with ease, and faster file sharing with a feature called SMB Direct which supports the use of network adapters that have Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capability. It also promises persistent memory that provides the most demanding apps and data with the performance they require with non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) hardware. This ensures read and write of files with the “fastest speed possible, the speed of the computer’s main memory,” claims Microsoft.

“Users will now be able to run Windows 10 Pro for Workstations on devices with high performance configurations including server grade Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, with up to 4 CPUs (which is today limited to 2 CPUs) and add massive memory up to 6TB (today limited to 2TB),” Microsoft’s Klaus Diaconu, Partner Group Program Manager, Windows and Devices Group wrote in an announcement blog post.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Enthusiasts CPUs Go on Sale in India Starting at Rs. 55,999

AMD has already announced pretty much everything there is to know about its high-performance Threadripper CPU line, and now the products have finally been launched. The 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1920X is priced at Rs. 55,999 excluding GST in India, while the flagship 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1950X will cost Rs. 69,999 excluding GST. The 8-core, 16-thread Threadripper 1900X which was added to the lineup after the former two, will become available on August 31 and its India price will be announced at that time.

Indian retailers PrimeABGB and MD Computers are already listing the two high-end CPUs, with identical MRPs of Rs. 65,488 for the Threadripper 1920X and Rs. 82,008 for the Threadripper 1950X at both stores. Judging by its US dollar price of $549, our calculations estimate that the Threadripper 1900X should come in at around Rs. 38,499 before GST and Rs. 45,500 MRP.

Threadripper is AMD’s answer to Intel’s Core-X series, more commonly known as Extreme Edition processors. AMD is hoping to upset Intel’s dominance by offering more cores per dollar, just like it has done with its Ryzen 7 (Review), Ryzen 5 (Review) and Ryzen 3 CPUs so far this year. The launch of the Threadripper models completes AMD’s top-to-bottom desktop CPU lineup – though more variants within each family could still be launched.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Enthusiasts CPUs Go on Sale in India Starting at Rs. 55,999AMD is aiming Threadripper at content creators, gamers and overclockers who want the best performance without spending too much. These CPUs are physically much larger than mainstream ones, and use a different socket called TR4. They support quad-channel DDR4 RAM and feature 64 lanes of PCIe bandwidth for high-speed components such as graphics cards and SSD arrays. They have a much higher 180W TDP rating and need specific coolers. Because the Zen architecture is common between Ryzen product families, Threadripper CPUs are based on the same Infinity Fabric interconnect between internal clusters called Core Complexes, and have the same benefits including XFR which boosts speed beyond the rated limits when thermal conditions allow it, and SenseMI which adjusts operating parameters dynamically using hundreds of embedded sensors.

Threadripper-compatible X399 motherboards are available from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and ASRock. They will also show up in pre-built systems from a number of boutique builders. Dell is the exclusive big-brand OEM at launch time, and has already announced several Alienware Area-51 Threadripper Edition models.

It has been a busy year for AMD, which hasn’t had a competitive CPU lineup in nearly a decade. The company has so far launched the entire Ryzen desktop CPU line as well as Ryzen Pro variants for businesses, Epyc server processors, and the Radeon RX 500 (Review) series of graphics cards. High-end Radeon RX Vega graphics cards are set to launch over the next few weeks, and Ryzen Mobile and APU products with integrated graphics are in the pipeline as well.

Microsoft Memo Shows High Return Rates for Surface Book: Report

Microsoft’s Surface products came under the scanner when Consumer Reports released a survey report claiming that the laptops and tablets in this series were not reliable. The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” While Microsoft dismissed these claims at first, it didn’t provide any clarity or detail to counter the findings. Now, an internal company memo has been leaked, and it seems to dive deep into the study and the possible reasons why these incorrect conclusions were derived by Consumer Reports.

According to the leaked internal memo, obtained by Paul Thurrott, high Surface Pro 4 and Surface Bookreturn rates could have influenced the findings of the Consumer Reports study heavily. The memo shared a chart that showed return rates for the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3.

The Surface Book, notably, has suffered the most, with return rates reaching to 17 percent at launch. It remained above 10 percent for six months, and is reported to have the highest return rates than any other Surface product in two years of its life cycle. Surface Pro 4 had 16 percent return rates at launch, but dropped below 10 percent in one month. Lastly, Surface Pro 3 also saw 11 percent return rates, but that also dropped to 10 percent soon after.

Microsoft Memo Shows High Return Rates for Surface Book: ReportIn the memo, Surface products lead Panos Panay writes, “It’s important for us to always learn more from our customers and how they view their ownership journey with our products. Feedback like this [from Consumer Reports] stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers.”

Panay also writes that Microsoft has worked tirelessly to fix all the issues, and the return rates have reduced a lot over the past 12 months; however that does not reflect Consumer Reports’ findings, and the study is heavily reliant of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book users only. He claims that subsequent devices have been launched in far more reliable states, and that Microsoft is adamant on letting its users know that.

“[We] have put together a comprehensive set of data that reflects the strength of our quality and our customer sentiment, and will be working with partner organizations, including marketing, retail, and sales, to share that information broadly,” Panay writes in the memo.

However, this memo proves that the Consumer Reports findings’ has put a dent in the Surface series’ armour, and Microsoft is doing everything it can to retain popularity and do damage control.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Gaming Laptop With GeForce GTX 1080 Launched in India: Price, Specifications

Earlier this year, Asus launched its Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) Zephyrus gaming laptop and described it as the “world’s slimmest gaming laptop with [an] Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080.” Now, the company has finally launched the laptop in India and priced it at Rs. 2,99,999 for the country. Notably, the laptop comes with seventh-generation Intel Core i7 (Kaby Lake) processor and as mentioned earlier, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics.

Before moving on to the specifications, it is necessary that we clarify that Asus ROG Zephyrus is aimed at gaming enthusiasts and not meant for casual gamers by any means. Moving now to the specifications, the Asus ROG Zephyrus comes with a 15.6-inch full-HD (1920×1080 pixels) display that has a frequency of 120Hz. The display supports Nvidia’s G-Sync technology that enables smoother gameplay as well. The gaming laptop runs Windows 10, which now includes Windows Game Mode with the latest Creators Update.

The Asus Aura RGB lighting further allows users with “dynamic and customisable lighting effects” over the entire keyboard. Notably, there are separately highlighted customizable effects for the WASD and QWER key groups, the company said in its release.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus supports up to 24GB of DDR4 RAM and offers 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB of M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage options. The ports on the new gaming laptop include a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C, four USB 3.1 Type-A, HDMI 2.0 (for VR), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Gaming Laptop With GeForce GTX 1080 Launched in India: Price, SpecificationsThe new gaming laptop from Asus marks the debut of Nvidia’s Max-Q design technology that has been designed to provide a thinner frame for laptops without compromising on the performance.

“ROG Zephyrus is cooled by an exclusive Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) that runs cooler and quieter without sacrificing performance. AAS incorporates unique AeroAccelerator (AA) technology that increases the speed and efficiency of airflow through the laptop,” Asus said in its release. The company says that the fan’s 3D-curved surface cover and accelerator guides enhance airflow and moves the heat away from the components in a more effective way.

“When Zephyrus is opened, a portion of the bottom of the chassis flexes to increase the airflow volume by 20 percent and further increase air circulation. AAS maximizes system stability as well as gaming and thermal performance, and it allows full utilization of the CPU and GPU, so gamers can engage in marathon sessions without fear of interruption,” the company said.

With Asus ROG Zephyrus, Nvidia has also introduced its silent Nvidia WhisperMode technology, which is said to make laptops run much quieter while gaming. The new technology essentially paces the game’s frame rate while simultaneously configuring the graphics settings for optimal power efficiency, as per the company.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop Launched in India Starting Rs. 1,29,999

After first unveiling it at an event in New York earlier this year, Acer has now launched the Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop in India. The laptop is priced starting at Rs. 1,29,999 and is now available to buy exclusively on Flipkart.

Announced first during the Next@Acer global press conference in New York, the laptop features the company’s new AeroBlade 3D metal blade fans which is said to increase airflow by 35 percent without taking too much space. In the US, it is priced at $1,299 (approximately Rs. 88,300).

The Predator Helios 300 is made available in a 15.6-inch full-HD form factor. Specifications include a choice of a seventh generation Intel Core i5 (7300HQ) or Core i7 (7700HQ), an overclockable Nvidia GTX 1050Ti GPU with 4GB GDDR5, 8GB DDR4 RAM upgradeable to 32GB, a 128GB SSD, and a regular 1TB hard drive for storage. Acer has also fitted a compartment underneath the chassis to make it easy for the user to upgrade memory and storage components. The laptop also has Dolby Audio Premium for better quality audio.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop Launched in India Starting Rs. 1,29,999Ports on the Acer Predator Helios 300 include a Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.1 Type-C port, a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a 2-in-1 card reader, and an HDMI 2.0 port as well. There’s also the wireless 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO technology to give you up to two times faster wireless speeds than 1×1 solutions and up to five times faster than traditional 802.11n 1×1 solution.

Commenting on the launch, Chandrahas Panigrahi, CMO and Consumer Business Head, Acer India said in a statement, “We are thrilled to bring in the new generation of Predator series to India. Predator Helios 300 combines innovative design and unbeatable features that are sure to delight the gaming enthusiasts. Predator will be a brand to beat in the Indian gaming market.”

The Core i7 processor variant is priced at Rs. 1,49,999 on Flipkart. Both the laptop variants are listedwith an exchange offer of up to Rs. 15,000, and an extra 5 percent off on Axis Bank Buzz credit cards as well.