LG Gram 2018 Laptops Unveiled: Quad-Core i5/i7, TB3, ~2.2 Lbs, 22 Hrs

LG on Thursday formally announced its next-generation LG gram ultra-thin notebooks. The new laptops will be as sleek as their predecessors, but will get a more durable chassis, Intel’s latest quad-core 8th generation Core i5/i7 processors, optional Thundebolt 3 connectivity and a higher-capacity accumulator that enables 19 – 22.5 hours battery life.

The new LG gram 2018 notebooks will continue to be offered with 13.3”, 14”, and 15.6” display panels with optional touch support. LG does not disclose resolution, but it looks like it is going to remain at 1920×1080 pixels, unchanged from the current-generation LG gram and standard for laptops with an ultra-long battery life. The upcoming LG gram PCs will come in a new Carbon Magnesium alloy chassis that visually resembles the current-gen LG gram notebooks, but has one important difference. LG moved the webcam along with a light sensor and microphones from the bottom of the display bezel to its top (where they should be). The display hinge remains the same, just like the overall look of the chassis: smooth rounded edges and no sharp corners. Meanwhile, LG used a new alloy for the chassis and also redesigned internals of its gram laptops to make them more rugged and durable to survive improper handling and unfriendly environments. The manufacturer says that its 2018 LG gram notebooks have passed U.S. military MIL-STD 810G durability tests for resistance to impact, pressure and temperature, but does not elaborate. Back in the past LG’s Gram PCs were criticized for being too fragile, so the new systems apparently address this drawback.

LG does not share all technical specifications of its next-gen gram laptops, but only says they are based on Intel’s 8th generation Core i5/i7 processors that have four cores and therefore offer better performance than predecessors in applications that can take advantage of additional parallelism. Beyond CPU specs, we know almost nothing. It is logical to expect that some variants of the systems will feature 8 GB of memory, others will be outfitted with 16 GB, but larger options remain to be seen. When it comes to storage, the new systems will come equipped with SSDs of regular capacities you expect from modern notebooks (256 GB – 512 GB), but will also feature an additional M.2 slot for an extra drive. As for connectivity, the notebooks will also feature an 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT module, two USB 3.0 Type-A headers, a USB Type-C connector that can serve either as a Thunderbolt 3 port, or a USB 3.0 port (depending on the SKU), an HDMI output and a mini-jack for headphones.

Another key improvement of the next-gen LG gram laptops over predecessors will be a new battery featuring 72 Wh capacity that enables 19 – 22.5 hours of battery life (based on MobileMark 2014 criteria) depending on the model. It is unknown whether LG tailored its systems to run longer by using more energy efficient components (e.g., LPDRR3 instead of DDR4, etc.) and tweaking settings, but this is something we are going to learn in the future. In any case, the new LG gram laptops might be not only one of the most compact mobile PCs around, but also among the longest-lasting ones.

The LG Gram 2018 Brief Specifications



Screen Resolution 1920×1080?
Touch Support Optional, LG’s IPS In-Cell Touch technology
CPU Family 8th generation Core i5/i7 processors
Model Core i5-8250U – 4C/8T, 1.6 – 3.4 GHz, 6 MB cache, HD Graphics 620 at 1.1 GHz, 15 W
Core i5-8350U – 4C/8T, 1.7 – 3.6 GHz, 6 MB cache, HD Graphics 620 at 1.1 GHz, 15 W
Core i7-8550U – 4C/8T, 1.8 – 4.0 GHz, 8 MB cache, HD Graphics 620 at 1.15 GHz, 15 W
Core i7-8650U – 4C/8T, 1.9 – 4.2 GHz, 8 MB cache, HD Graphics 620 at 1.15 GHz, 15 W
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620

16 GB
Storage 256 GB SSD

512 GB SSD

1 TB SSD (?)

+ 1 extra M.2 slot for SSD
Wi-Fi 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi with BT
USB 2 × USB 3.0 Type-A

1 × USB 3.0 Type-C or Thunderbolt 3
Thunderbolt 3 Optional
Fingerprint Sensor Optional
Audio Microphone, 1.5 W stereo speakers with DTS Headphone: X enhancement
Other I/O MicroSDXC card reader
Battery 72 Wh
Battery Life 22.5 hours 21.5 hours 19 hours
Thickness Thin
Weight 965 grams

2.12 lbs
995 grams

2.19 lbs
1095 grams

2.41 lbs

LG plans to start selling its 2018 gram laptops sometimes next month in the U.S. Pricing is not announced at this time.

Related Reading:

Source: AnandTech – LG Gram 2018 Laptops Unveiled: Quad-Core i5/i7, TB3, ~2.2 Lbs, 22 Hrs

DeepCool Releases QuadStellar Four-lobed Chassis: 'Smart' Case, Unique Shape

DeepCool recently started selling the QuadStellar four-lobed chassis on the market nearly a year after it made its debut at CES 2017 in January. The QuadStellar design follows its predecessor, the TriStellar, with its lobed design looking more like a high-tech black drone than a traditional PC case. The lobes each hold a different heat producing component – for example Storage, Power, and Video cards while the central hub houses the motherboard. The QuadStellar integrates a tasteful RGB LED design on the front of the case; a line between the lobes which connect to a hub of other LEDs. Deep Cool is marketing the Quadstellar as the world’s first smart PC case as the RGB lighting, as well as fans/thermals, are controlled by the QuadStellar App. It is a unique looking case with what looks like plenty of internal design flexibility as well as a unique exterior.

The chassis is crafted using cast aluminum to ensure rigidity and quality while trying to keep the weight down. The exterior uses a combination of aluminum and the magnet mounted tempered glass. Also, magnet-mounted dust filter at the front panel to keep the making those easier to remove and clean. The front of the chassis contains the front panel IO consisting of two USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, as well as the power and reset buttons. Meanwhile, the back panels have triangular vents for air to flow through in a front to back configuration.  

Inside the main chassis, there is room for up to sized E-ATX motherboards with a maximum length of 330mm down the ladder to Micro-ITX. The QaudStellar supports two radiators; the front mount up to 3x120mm and up to 2x120mm on the bottom. If air cooling is the method of choice, the maximum cooler height is 110mm which will eliminate a few of the larger choices available on the market. The expansive sections do yield a lot of freedom in motherboard choices as well as options for air, custom water cooling, or AIO/CLCs. Unique to the QuadStellar is a proprietary cable tie design in order to keep the cables well hidden. They are routed through a choice of several holes, most of which have grommets, to route the cables out of the way.  

The GPU lobe is able to hold up to three full-sized cards to 380mm length maximum for SLI or Crossfire setups. If housed in the lobe, they are connected to the motherboard via riser cards. Otherwise, up to Quad-SLI/Crossfire can fit in the main section. The storage compartment is equipped with eight 3.5-inch and two 2.5-inch drive bays with an additional three 2.5-inch bays inside the case. Many will run out of motherboard SATA ports before the drive bays are all occupied. The power supply is also housed in an independent lobe and is able to fit longer ATX power supplies, up to 300mm in length. Being in its own lobe also gives the benefit of seeing fewer wires in the main chamber. For cooling, the QuadStellar includes five pre-installed 120mm fans, four located on the front and one at the back, for cooling all the parts inside. There are additional spaces for two more fans on the front (totaling six), and two on the sides. The fans all plug into an included hub mounted on the back of the motherboard panel and can be controlled through the App. 

DeepCool stated the MSRP price in the US will be $399 and will launch globally at the end of December.  

DeepCool QuadStellar
Model QuadStellar
Case Type E-ATX Full Tower
Dimensions (L)538 x (W)483 x (H)493mm (21.18 x 19.01 x 19.4-inches)
Color Black
Body Material SPCC, Aluminum, Tempered Glass
Net Weight 14.5kg(33.95lbs)
External Drive Bays None
HDD/SSD Bays 8 x 3.5″ and 2 x 2.5″ (Storage Compartment)

and 3 x 2.5″ (Bays in the Case)
Expansion Slots 8+6
Motherboard Type Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX, E-ATX (to 330mm)
System Fan Front: 6 x 120mm (4 x included)

Rear: 1 x 120mm or 2 x 80mm (1 x 120mm included)

Side: 2 x 120mm
I/O Ports 2 x USB3.0

3.5″ HD Audio/Mic
VGA Card Support 380mm
CPU Cooling Support 110mm
PSU Support ATX (to 300mm)
Radiator Support Front: 120/240/360mm

Bottom: 120/240mm

Related Reading:

Source: AnandTech – DeepCool Releases QuadStellar Four-lobed Chassis: ‘Smart’ Case, Unique Shape

Baidu Announces An EPYC Deployment: Single Socket Scorpio Systems

As part of the end-of-year news melee, Baidu and AMD have announced the next phase of EPYC in the cloud, with a large scale deployment of single socket servers as part of Baidu’s ABC next-generation strategy. The lynchpin in the deployment will be AMD EPYC CPUs, which will be available to Baidu’s customers with ‘immediate availability’.

Baidu, the largest search engine in China, announced back at the June 20th EPYC launch that it was currently investigating the capability of EPYC within its infrastructure, and the recent announcement represents the culmination and results of that investigation. What makes the deployment of EPYC within Baidu’s infrastructure different to previous announcements around the new processors is the target: not only are these systems being used for storage and IO, but compute is a large vector of the announcement. From our discussions with AMD, it is clear that they see the deployment of EPYC for a wide range of workloads, including Baidu’s compute strategy, as a validation of its initial performance claims made back at launch.

“This is a validation of the single socket applicability in Cloud across a wide variety of compute and other workloads” said Scott Aylor, CVP and GM of AMD’s Enterprise Solutions division.

The other angle to this is that Baidu is only implementing single socket systems based on the Scorpio form factor (and no, nothing to do with consoles). Scorpio is similar to the Open Compute Project/OCP form factor implementations. As part of the EPYC launch, AMD emphasized that a single EPYC CPU could replace a number of 2S systems targeting the bottom to the middle of the market, specifically Intel’s E5-2650 and below or the current Xeon Gold, Silver and Bronze equivalents. As part of Baidu’s ABC strategy (AI, Big Data, Cloud), AMD has stated that Baidu’s compute workloads have be profiled on EPYC – when asked if they were profiled as part of the Zen core design, AMD refused to comment, but did state that they have been working closely with Baidu on this strategy for 18-24 months already, and this did include studies of Baidu’s algorithmic workload. It was stated that while standard IO on a system was important, such as connectivity, core density and memory bandwidth ended up being fundamental factors in deployment.

Baidu is technically offering ‘immediate availability’ of EPYC systems to their major customers, although isn’t announcing a specific instance type, like Microsoft Azure did a few days ago. With the implementation of the systems being single socket, we would expect the high-core count P series processors to be used, although that information was not available when going to press. There is no word on the ODM/OEM system partner working with Baidu, although we were told that several major players were involved.

We asked about the relationship between Baidu and AMD (to AMD), and were able to ascertain that this relationship is certainly good through 2018. AMD did not want to comment on whether it would be a multi-generational relationship, however one would expect that to be the case. No word was provided on the size of Baidu’s deployment however. Baidu has already announced that it will collaborate with AMD to create GPU compute and AI instances with AMD hardware, although the time scale for this has yet to be announced.

This is the second major cloud partner to announce EPYC systems to be made available in its ecosystem after validation testing, along with Microsoft Azure a few days previously. The other four (plus one) are likely still in the process of validation, although it is not known how those relationships will progress until announcements are made. We are not expecting any news at CES in a couple of weeks, but ISSCC is the next major enterprise conference which would provide a prominent platform.

Source: AnandTech – Baidu Announces An EPYC Deployment: Single Socket Scorpio Systems

Spotted: 960 GB & 1.5 TB Intel Optane SSD 900P

Intel’s Optane SSD 900P featuring 3D XPoint memory have an edge over SSDs based on NAND flash when it comes to performance and promise to excel them in endurance. Meanwhile the Optane SSD 900P lineup is criticized for relatively low capacities — only 240 GB and 480 GB models are available now, which is not enough for hosting large virtual machines. Apparently, Intel has disclosed that there are 960 GB and 1.5 TB models up its sleeve.

Intel on Thursday issued a product change notification informing its customers about the Optane SSD 900P regulatory and other label changes. Among other things, the document lists Intel Optane 900P 960 GB and 1.5 TB drives. The SSDs are mentioned in context with their voltage and current, which may indicate that we are dealing with products that already have their specs, at least when it comes to power consumption. Meanwhile, Intel does not list part numbers of the higher-capacity 960 GB and 1.5 TB Optane drives, so it is unclear whether the SKUs are meant for general availability, or for select customers only.

Intel intends to start shipments of Optane SSD 900P products with new labels on 27 December, but it is unknown when we are going to see the 900P with enlarged capacities. Intel officially positions the Optane SSD 900P for workstations and high-end desktops, which is why two out of three available models come in HHHL form-factor. Therefore, a potential launch of the 900P 960 GB/1.5 TB models in U.2 form-factor may indicate expansion of 3D XPoint to servers that store massive amounts of data. In the meantime, Intel has already confirmed plans to expand capacity of its Optane SSD DC P4800X for datacenters to 1.5 TB, so Optane capacity increases are in the table for Intel.

We have reached out to Intel for comments and will update the news story once we get more information.

Related Reading:

Source: Intel (via ServeTheHome)

Source: AnandTech – Spotted: 960 GB & 1.5 TB Intel Optane SSD 900P

Samsung Announces New Notebook 9 Pen and Three New Notebook 9 (2018) Laptops

Just in time for, or before CES 2018, Samsung unveiled three new laptops in their Notebook 9 family, starting with the Notebook 9 Pen. The Pen is a 13.3-inch 2-in-1 notebook with a 360-degree convertible hinge, includes the built-in S-Pen for mixed laptop/tablet functionality. The other new laptops are updates of its Notebook 9 devices, the 13.3 and 15-inch models. They, like the Pen, will include 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processors and enhanced graphics capabilities as well as a larger battery for extended use while mobile. The new Notebook 9 models have exterior changes as well and are built out of a magnesium-aluminum alloy which Samsung calls “Metal12” which should give the laptops a more premium look and feel fitting for the updated internals inside.

A Microsoft Surface rival, the Notebook 9 Pen and its full metal alloy chassis provide a durable and lightweight shell with the unit weighing in at a mere 2.2 pounds. The convertible 360-degree hinge gives users the flexibility to convert from a tablet to a laptop by simply rotating the keyboard behind the screen. The Notebook 9 Pen, as its namesake surely implies, includes a built-in S-Pen for digitizing doodles, writing, sketching, and more. The S Pen is a battery-free device with a 0.7mm tip and able to recognize 4096 levels of pressure for a smooth writing/drawing experience. When the pen is removed from the notebook (its home is a hole in the front), the Air Command software will launch providing S Pen shortcuts for Samsung Notes and Autodesk Sketchbook to create immediately.

Hardware wise, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen, will use a quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 Processor with up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Storage options are listed up to a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD. Graphics duties are handled by Intel HD Graphics. The integrated GPU sends the pixels to a 13.3” Samsung RealViewTouch FHD (1920×1080) monitor able to display 95% of sRGB with a maximum brightness of 450 nits. This is the only screen option; no 4K UHD is available.

The 2-in-1 also includes integrated 720p and IR cameras supporting Windows Hello and facial recognition, two 1.5W speakers, as well as a fingerprint sensor for access security. Keeping the device powered on is a 39Wh battery and a 45W adapter. Last, external connectivity on the 9 Pen includes a USB 3.0 Type-C and Type-A port, HDMI for video, an SD Card reader, as well as a microphone. The Metal12 shell comes in one color, dubbed Light Titan which appears to be a lighter silver/white.

The Notebook 9 variants are updates from the previous version and include upgrades to 8th Generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processors and a much larger 75Wh Hexacell battery (up from 39Wh). It supports always-on power and fast charging for quick power ons and shorter charging times (no details given). The 13.3” models (900X3T & 900X3U) use the integrated Intel HD Graphics from the CPU to drive the RealViewDisplay monitor. The panel is able to display 95% sRGB coverage with a maximum brightness of 500 nits.

The ultrabook is 15.4mm thick making it one the thinnest notebook devices in its class. It also has a thin bezel measuring a small 6.2mm on the sides. The 15” models (900X5T, 900X5U, Discrete Graphics 900X5T) ups the ante for graphics and has an optional NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (GDDR5  2GB) for increased performance. The Notebook 9’s external connectivity will vary by model. The 13.3-inch has USB 3.0 Type-C and 2x Type-A ports, an HDMI port for video, a universal SD card reader, and audio ports. The 15-inch model adds Thunderbolt 3 support through the Type-C port. Exterior color options on the Notebook 9 (2018) are Titan Silver or Crush White.

The Notebook 9 and Notebook 9 Pen will be available in select countries starting in Dec 2017 in Korea, with the U.S availability during the 1Q 2018. Pricing was not listed. The new devices will be displayed at CES 2018. 

Samsung Notebook 9 and Notebook 9 Pen
  Notebook 9 (2018) 13.3″ Notebook 9 (2018) 15″ Notebook 9 Pen 13″
Warranty Period 1 Year Warranty
Product Page N/A
Price ($US) N/A
Type Ultrabook 2-in-1
Processor Family 8th Generation Intel Core i7
Processors N/A
Memory Up to 16GB DDR4
Network Connectivity Wireless Only
Internal Storage Up to 1TB SSD (NVMe PCIe) Up to 512GB  (NVMe PCIe)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics / 

NVIDIA Geforce MX150 (2GB GDDR5)
Intel HD Graphics
Display 13.3″ or 15″ RealViewDisplay, FHD (1920×1080) 13.3: RealViewTouch, FHD (1920×1080)
Camera 720p IR camera, 720p
Battery 75Wh 39Wh
Speakers 2x 1.5W
Ports and Connectors 1 x USB Type-C

2 x USB 3.0

1 x HDMI

1 x Univiseral SD Card Reader

1 x HP/Mic

1 x DC-in
Thunderbolt 3 or  USB Type-C
2 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Univiseral SD Card Reader
1 x HP/Mic
1 x DC-in
1 x USB Type-C
2 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Univiseral SD Card Reader
1 x HP/Mic
1 x DC-in
Dimensions / Weight 309.4 x 208 x 14.9mm / 995g (2.19 lbs) 347.9 x 229.4 x 15.4mm / 1250 – 1290g (2.75 – 2.84 lbs) 310.5 x 206.6 x 14.6-16.5mm / 995g (2.19 lbs)

Related Reading:

Source: AnandTech – Samsung Announces New Notebook 9 Pen and Three New Notebook 9 (2018) Laptops

Western Digital to Use RISC-V for Controllers, Processors, Purpose-Built Platforms

Western Digital recently announced plans to use the RISC-V ISA across its existing product stack as well as for future products that will combine processing and storage. The company plans to develop RISC-V cores internally and license them from third parties to use in its own controllers and SoCs, along with using third-party RISC-V based controllers. To develop the RISC-V ecosystem, Western Digital has already engaged in partnerships and investments in various companies working on RISC-V projects. For example, recently Western Digital invested in Esperanto Technologies, a company led by experienced CPU designers.

Given the diverse portfolio of products that Western Digital has today as well as its longer-term intention to move compute closer to data (by embracing in-storage computing, for example), it is evident that Western Digital is going to need a diverse portfolio of compute cores with significantly different performance and feature set. In fact, Western Digital will need two groups of cores, one for storage devices, and another for processing data. Western Digital says that it does not want to develop all the silicon it needs in house, but it will likely have to increase its chip investments in the future.

“We intend to develop some processor cores internally, we also expect to use many other companies’ processor cores to complement our own and are currently evaluating several technologies,” a statement by Western Digital reads.

Since the RISC-V ecosystem is early stages of development, the transition to new cores is not going to happen overnight, but will likely be slow, gradual and will span for many years, if not decades. The first products from Western Digital with RISC-V cores will ship in late 2019, or early 2020, says Western Digital without going into details.

ZetaBytes and PetaFLOPS

As the world generates more data, new storage devices need to store zetabytes of information. HDDs and SSDs have been evolving rather rapidly in the recent years, but their evolution requires not only relentlessly increasing areal density for magnetic media and higher bit density for NAND flash (or other types of memory), but also more processing horsepower. Modern HDD and SSD use controllers that contain multiple processing cores for management, signal processing, contemporary ECC algorithms and other operations.

For example, for today’s TLC/3D TLC NAND memory, SSD controllers already use LDPC with 120bits/1KB recovery in order to correct read errors that occur with the latest types of NAND and thus maximize endurance rating of modern flash memory. Going forward, SSD controllers will need to use stronger algorithms as the industry moves to higher bit densities with TLC and then QLC architectures. As a result, SSD controllers will have to use better cores with higher performance.

Hard drives for their part do not require as vast compute resources as SSDs do, but their processing requirements are also growing because of new magnetic recording technologies, increasing areal densities and more sophisticated functionality (e.g., NAND flash-based caching, health management, QoS enhancements, etc.). Western Digital says that its current products consume about a billion of compute cores per year and the consumption is rising. Given the current SSD/HDD trends, going forward Western Digital is going to consume more cores in general and at least some of those cores will have to be more powerful than the ones the company uses today. Considering the fact that at present there are almost no commercial products based on RISC-V, Western Digital’s plan essentially involves bringing development of a substantial amount of SoCs, controllers, microcontrollers and other chips in-house (more on this later).

Earlier this year IDC and Seagate published a paper, which claims that 16.1 ZB (ZetaBytes) of data was generated worldwide in 2016 and predicts that the global datasphere would grow by an order of magnitude to 163 ZB by 2025. If the prediction turns out to be correct, demand for high-end storage products by Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung, Micron, Toshiba and others will only grow going forward. This is an important factor for existing business of these companies, but there is another aspect that is not discussed often.

The amount of data that requires real-time processing and low latency is growing and there are cases when Endpoint devices (smartphones, cameras, wearables, cars, PCs, etc.) cannot process it locally, which is why the data has to be sent to more powerful computers. Since processing has to be done as soon as possible, the data is sent to the nearest servers featuring appropriate horsepower. Such machines belong to the Edge category and include server rooms, servers in the field, and smaller datacenters located regionally (as IDC puts it). Since the amounts of generated data is going to grow, Edge servers and Core servers (located in large datacenters) will naturally require more compute horsepower. In the end, the more ZetaBytes stored, the more PetaFLOPS (or even ExaFLOPS) needed to process it.

Meanwhile, Western Digital believes that traditional server architectures will not be efficient for Big Data and Fast Data applications in the future. The company believes that processing has to be brought closer to data to minimize data movement at the Edge and within Core datacentres. Apparently, this is where Western Digital sees an opportunity for solutions that not only store data, but also process it. This is actually the second part of Western Digital’s plans concerning the RISC-V architecture: use processing cores (and SoCs) that are powerful enough for Big Data and Fast Data processing.

Western Digital Accelerates Chip Development Efforts

As mentioned above, Western Digital nowadays uses a variety of controllers for its HDDs, SSDs, NAS, DAS and various storage platforms tailored for particular needs (such as HGST’s Active Archive System and SanDisk’s/Fusion-io’s InfiniFlash). Over the years, Western Digital and SanDisk have acquired numerous developers of enterprise-class SSDs and flash storage solutions that developed their own controllers and other hardware. By now, all of these assets have been integrated into various product families, some have been discontinued. Meanwhile, all controllers for Western Digital’s products (it does not matter where they were developed) use compute cores based on ARM, ARC and MIPS architectures.

At present, there are no proven RISC-V-based controllers for storage devices, so transitioning to the architecture essentially means that Western Digital will have to develop some controllers itself and encourage other designers to use RISC-V cores. Western Digital confirms that it plans to develop some of the RISC-V cores itself and license other cores from third parties. It is unknown whether companies like Marvell (which supplies select controllers to Western Digital) has any plans concerning RISC-V, but it is safe to say that Western Digital expects at least some of controller developers to adopt the architecture. In fact, the company is eager to help other companies to start using RISC-V for relevant projects.

“We are committing to help lead the advancement of and transition to data-centric, open compute architectures through the work of the RISC-V Foundation,” said Western Digital in a statement. “[We are] committed to advancing RISC-V and is engaged in active partnerships and investments in RISC-V ecosystem partners.”

As Western Digital will transit to controllers featuring RISC-V cores, it will gradually reduce and eventually cease purchasing third-party controllers based on different architectures. For developers of controllers as well as CPU architecture licensees (Arm, Tallwood MIPS, and Synopsys) this means lost revenues. For Western Digital, it means lower royalty payments, increased development costs, and ability to differentiate its storage products from those using off-the-shelf controllers. It does not seem that Western Digital wants to move development of all controllers it uses in-house, but some of the things it buys from others today will have to be developed internally tomorrow. In fact, further vertical integration of Western Digital is unavoidable as the company moves beyond NAND flash in the coming years. We do know that the company has big plans for ReRAM storage class memory and at least initially controllers for SCM-based storage solutions will have to be developed in-house.

It is interesting to note that apart from HDD/SSD controllers, Western Digital uses Intel’s x86 CPUs for NAS and some other devices. Such chips offer significant performance, so replacing them is impossible and this is why WD will continue working with Intel. Nonetheless, it looks like the storage company expects RISC-V-based SoCs to catch up with its NAS requirements in the future.

“As we transform from a data storage company to a data technology company, in general, we expect to continue our existing, highly valued partnerships, while building new relationships with companies and organizations that share a vision for enabling the data-centric world,” said Western Digital.

Moving Computing Closer to Data

Besides using RISC-V-based compute cores for SSD, HDD, NAS, DAS and other controllers, the company plans to advance “RISC-V technology for use in mission-critical applications so that it can be deployed in its products”. In particular, Western Digital wants to create purpose-built architectures for tomorrow’s workloads of Big Data and Fast Data applications. Here is how Western Digital describes data-centric compute architectures that it plans to develop, or at least help develop:

“Data-centric compute architectures will need the ability to scale resources independent of one another,” explained Western Digital. “The architectures for tomorrow will need to enable purpose-built solutions with data-optimized levels of OS processing, specialty processing, memory, storage and interconnect. The extreme data and compute workloads for analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and smart systems demand purpose-built architectures.”

It is noteworthy that throughout its RISC-V-related press release, the company avoided using the term “in storage computing”. There are dozens of companies experimenting with ISC and early results look quite promising: offloading select tasks from CPU to SSDs can reduce latencies by a factor of 2-3 while also decreasing power consumption. The key purpose of ISC is to reduce (or even avoid) “expensive” data transfers from a storage device to a processor by performing computing operations on the former. Latency reductions will be crucial in the looming 5G era, especially for edge computing environments.

Western Digital yet has to share details concerning its RISC-V-related ISC projects, but the company did reveal its common vision of data centric compute architectures back at FMS 2016 (albeit, with some bias towards SCM, which is okay because SCM is a good fit for ISC). In general, the company seems to bet on small/inexpensive purpose-built CPU cores, but their actual performance or capabilities are not disclosed at the moment.

Meanwhile, since no actual roadmap has been shown, it does not make a lot of sense to speculate what exactly the company plans to do and when.

Strategic Investment in Esperanto Technologies

Besides announcing its RISC-V plans, Western Digital also disclosed that it had made a strategic investment in Esperanto Technologies, a developer of RISC-V-based SoCs. The company was founded by Dave Ditzel, who co-founded Transmeta in the 1995 and more recently worked at Intel developing HPC products. A strategic investment is a recognition of Esperanto’s potential, but it does not automatically mean that Western Digital intends to use cores developed by this company.

In the meantime, Esperanto’s ongoing projects demonstrate the potential of the RISC-V ISA in general. So far, Esperanto has developed the ET-Maxion core with maximized single-thread performance as well as the ET-Minion energy-efficient core with a vector FPU. These cores will be used for an upcoming 7 nm SoC for AI and machine learning workloads. In adddition, these are the cores that Esperanto will license to other companies.

Esperanto’s Upcoming AI-Focused SoC
High-Performance Cores 16 “ET-Maxion” 64-bit RISC-V cores for highest single thread performance
Energy-Efficient Cores 4096 “ET-Minion” energy-efficient RISC-V cores with vector FPUs
Lithography 7 nm

Long Road Ahead

Western Digital has supported the RISC-V Foundation for years and therefore it understands how well can it scale for its short-term and long-term needs. The disclosure that it had officially become an adopter of the RISC-V architecture probably means that it already has a roadmap concerning cores, controllers and, perhaps, even products on their base. Meanwhile, the transition is going to take quite a while as Western Digital claims that when it is completed, it expects to be shipping two billion RISC-V cores annually. The number of cores to be consumed indicates a significant growth of product unit shipments that does not happen overnight.

Related Reading:

Sources: Western Digital, Esperanto Technologies, IDC/Seagate

Source: AnandTech – Western Digital to Use RISC-V for Controllers, Processors, Purpose-Built Platforms

Toshiba Launches MN06ACA 10 TB HDD for NAS: 7 Platters, Up to 249 MB/s

Toshiba continues to apply its seven-platter HDD platform to new applications and market segments, increasing hard drive capacity to 10 TB and slightly improving performance. Recently the company introduced its 10 TB HDD for SOHO and SMB NAS appliances that is designed to operate for 24/7 in vibrating multi-drive environments. The drive promises to be faster than competitors of the same class (and even some higher-end rivals), at a cost of a higher power consumption.

Toshiba’s MN06ACA 10 TB hard drive for NAS is based on the company’s HDD platform that leverages seven 1.43 TB PMR platters along with a 7200 RPM spindle speed, a 256 MB cache buffer and a SATA 6 Gbps interface. The 10TB HDD for NAS is well prepared to work in vibrating multi-bay environments — it features top and bottom attached motors, rotational vibration (RV) sensors that detect and compensate for transient vibrations, second-generation dual-stage actuators, and some other enhancements.

To a large degree, the MG06ACA resembles Toshiba’s recently announced MG06ACA HDDs for enterprise/cloud datacentres and MD06ACA-V HDDs for video surveillance that use the same platform, but come with different firmware and components. The MN06ACA10T HDD supports 512e technology (4K physical sectors on the platter with 512-byte logical configuration reported to the host) to maintain compatibility with legacy applications, but is also compatible with modern NAS appliances. Meanwhile, unlike the enterprise-class MG06, the MN06 does not support persistent write cache with power loss protection technology. As for reliability, Toshiba rates the MN06ACA HDDs for 180 TB annual workload as well as for one million hours MTBF rating.

Brief Specifications of Toshiba’s MN06ACA HDD
Capacity 10 TB
P/N 512e MN06ACA10T
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps
DRAM Cache 256 MB
Sustained Transfer Rate 249 MB/s
MTBF 1 million
Rated Annual Workload 180 TB
Acoustics (Seek) 34 dBA (?)
Power Consumption Operating 9.2 W
Idle 7.2 W
Warranty 3 Years

Since Toshiba’s new 10 TB HDD is based on the company’s seven-platter platform, its performance is rather high — up to 249 MB/s sustained transfer rate, which is significantly faster when compared to other 10 TB hard drives for SOHO/SMB NAS (which feature a 5400 RPM spindle speed) and which even outperforms higher-end models for big business/enterprise NAS. Meanwhile, not everything is rosy with power consumption of the MN06ACA10T. The HDD consumes 9.2 W in operating mode and 7.2 W in active idle mode, which is 61% and 157% higher (respectively) when compared to the latest generation helium-filled WD Red/WD Red Pro drives.

If you run a four-bay NAS at home or in an office of a small company and the HDDs sleep most of the time, power consumption may not be an issue worth talking about. But if you run a fully populated 8-bay NAS that is accessed 24/7 and spends 50% time in active idle (I am omitting cases when they actually perform read and write operations, but they naturally don’t play in Toshiba’s favour here), then the difference in power consumption between Toshiba’s MN06 10 TB and WD’s Red Pro 10 TB over three to five years will be rather noticeable ($48 in three years and $80 in five years, see the table below for details), but not critical, if Toshiba prices its drives right. Obviously, the relatively high power consumption is a payback for not adopting helium for the seven-platter drives, but avoiding helium lowers costs, so Toshiba gets more flexible in terms of pricing.

Brief Comparison of 10 TB HDDs for NAS Appliances
  Spindle Speed Sustained

Transfer Rate
Active Idle Power Consumption Power Consumption

50% Active Idle
Electricity Costs*

50% Active Idle
4-bay NAS

1 Year
8-bay NAS

1 Year
4-bay NAS

1 Year
8-bay NAS

1 Year
Toshiba MN06 7200 RPM 249 MB/s 7.2 W 126 kWh 252 kWh $13 $26
Seagate IronWolf 5400 RPM 210 MB/s 5 W 88 kWh 175 kWh $9 $18
Seagate IronWolf Pro 7200 RPM 214 MB/s
WD Red 5400 RPM 210 MB/s 2.8 W 49 kWh 98 kWh $5 $10
WD Red Pro 7200 RPM 240 MB/s
*According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, average retail price of a kWh was $0.1041 as of January, 2017. In the states of Alaska, California, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont electricity costs sigifnicantly more, at $0.14 – $0.17, so the HDD electricity costs will be different.

Note: All numbers are rounded.

Toshiba understands that power consumption is not a strong side of the MN06ACA10T HDD and officially positions the drive for SOHO and SMB NAS appliances as well as for archive and data backup applications, where it is not going to be a significant problem (archives and backups are rarely accessed and spend most of the time sleeping). Moreover, since formally the MN06 is positioned to compete against Seagate’s IronWolf and WD’s Red drives, it has an edge over rivals when it comes to performance.

Toshiba says that its 10 TB HDDs for NAS are already available to interested parties. The company does not disclose pricing because it is subject to negotiations, as well as planned retail availability timeframe.

Related Reading:

Source: AnandTech – Toshiba Launches MN06ACA 10 TB HDD for NAS: 7 Platters, Up to 249 MB/s

Synaptics Unveils Clear ID In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for 18:9, 20:9 Smartphones

Synaptics this week introduced its first Clear ID FS9500 in-display optical sensor that can be installed under the surface of an OLED screen. The fingerprint reader works faster than facial recognition and can be used in any environments, including dark rooms and sunny beaches, Synaptics says. The first smartphones featuring the technology are due in Q1 2018.

Biometric authentication has become a mandated feature of every smartphone in the recent years, but integrating fingerprint sensor has become a challenge as screen-to-body ratio is growing and many front panels have no space for the reader. Some smartphone makers install fingerprint sensor on the back panels of their devices, other, like Apple, introduce facial recognition technologies that require IR and RGB sensors accompanied by appropriate processing resources. Synaptics argues that fingerprint sensors on the back are uncomfortable to use, whereas facial recognition technologies are relatively slow and can be fooled. By contrast, Synaptics’ latest Clear ID FS9500 sensor is hidden under the screen on the front and it works as fast as users come to expect from similar devices in the recent years.

The Synaptics Clear ID FS9500 fingerprint sensor is a tiny CMOS device that sits below the AMOLED display assemly and captures the reflected fingerprint between and through the OLED pixels. Synaptics said that the captured fingerprint has a very high resolution, but naturally does not quantify this claim. To make a fingerprint reflect, a part of the screen has to be lit-up, so while the device itself only uses 80 mA, the screen consumes some additional power too (Synaptics does not disclose the lowest brightness level of the display required for scanning as it depends on many factors). Meanwhile, Synaptics uses accelerometers and other sensors inside the phone to activate the sensor and turn on an appropriate area on the screen. The activation happens instantly, then it takes 0.7 seconds to scan the fingerprint, match it and grant or deny access. By contrast, Synaptics says, it takes modern smartphones about 1.4 seconds to scan a face.

The SF9500 does not support Match-In-Sensor technology, so the matching is performed by host using Synaptics’ Quantum Matcher software. It is noteworthy that the software Synaptics supplies with its sensors is quite complex. Apart from matching, the software is responsible for activating the reader and the screen whenever the phone is touched and for other things (like taking into account outside conditions that may affect minutiae). The new fingerprint sensor from Synaptics connects to host using the SPI bus. Depending on application and requirements, device manufacturer may choose to use an AES-encrypted SecureLink interface (e.g., if the SF9500 is installed into a bezel-less tablet, or a laptop display) if required.

The Clear ID FS9500 is “smart” enough to detect fingerprints in sunlight and bright conditions, take into account wet and/or cold fingers, detect spoofed fingerprints and so on. It remains to be seen how the sensor behaves when individual light-emitting pixels burn-in over time, but since Synaptics has a robust program stack supplied with its sensors, it can tweak them using software to compensate for screen degradation.

According to Synaptics, the Clear ID SF9500 sensor itself is only 0.69 mm thick and its integration does not make smartphones significantly thicker. The sensor integration process has to be performed by the screen manufacturer at a fab where display assemblies are made and Synaptics is working with appropriate makers. The process is not very complex, so it does not make final devices considerably more expensive, says the developer.

Synaptics initiated mass production of its Clear ID FS9500 sensors this month and will start their commercial shipments in the coming weeks. The company says that the first smartphone that uses the in-display fingerprint reader will be available in early 2018. Synaptics naturally does not disclose the manufacturer of the device, but only says that it is one of the Top 5 smartphone suppliers. Meanwhile, since the FS9500 sensor only works with OLED screens, this big producer of the smartphones has to have access to the AMOLED technology. Synaptics plans to showcase the handset at CES, but it is unclear whether the device will have been announced by that time, or Synaptics will show it camouflaged. Anyway, the first smartphone featuring the FS9500 is incoming and it will be available soon.

Related Reading:

Source: AnandTech – Synaptics Unveils Clear ID In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for 18:9, 20:9 Smartphones

PowerColor Announces Gaming Box: The Devil Box’s Spawn, TB3 eGFX Enclosure

PowerColor recently announced its second eGFX enclosure named, Gaming Station. The Gaming Station, like the Devil Box preceding it, is an accessory which enables gamers to connect desktop level video cards to laptops, AIOs, or SFF PCs using the Thunderbolt 3 interface. The Gaming Box is slightly smaller and moved away from the angular look of the Devil Box to a more traditional black, rectangular, almost UPS-like, appearance. It supports select NVIDIA and AMD GPUs through AMD’s XConnect technology and comes with a 550W power supply able to easily power the compatible video cards. The Gaming Box joins an increasing number of  TB3-based external enclosures with the ability to run desktop level video cards. 

On the outside, the PowerColor Gaming Box is matte black with the Gaming Station and PowerColor name, as well as two USB 3.0 ports, on the front panel. All sides of the enclosure are closed off except for the left side which has small circle vents taking up most of that side to allow fresh air to enter and cool the video card inside. Surprisingly, we do not see any (RGB) LEDs on the enclosure. The dimensions are smaller coming in at 343.2 x 163 x 245mm (13.5” x 6.4” x 9.6”) versus 400 x 172 x 242mm on the Devil Box so portability has increased, if only by a small amount, via size. 

The device uses a single Thunderbolt 3 port on the back panel able to offer 40 Gbps bandwidth. Internally, this translates to the installed graphics card able to access PCIe 3.0 x4 lanes. Both the TB and I/O cards are the same ones found in the Devil Box according to PowerColor. As time goes on and other options hit the market, we are seeing now dual TB3 connectivity for increased bandwidth and flexibility.PowerColor did not mention when or if this will be included in future iterations. In addition to the Thunderbolt 3 port, there are three more USB 3.0 ports as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port to enable high-speed wired internet on ultra-thin laptops or other devices that do not feature GbE.

Internally, the Gaming Box supports GPUs up to 310 x 157 x 46mm (12.2” x 6.2” x 1.8”), enough to support a double-wide video card, through a full-length PCIe slot running in PCIe 3.0 x4 mode. The Power Supply is also different now using an SFX format and rated at 550W 80 Plus Gold; an upgrade from the Devil Box at 500W. Unlike the Devil Box, the Gaming Box does away with 2.5” HDD/SSD support. If storage expansion is a goal through an eGFX enclosure, users will need to select the Devil Box instead.

PowerColor Gaming Box Specifications
Max Video Card Size Double-Wide, 12.2″ Long

(310 × 157 × 46 mm)
Max Video Card Power 375 W
Connectivity 1 × Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps) port to connect to host PCs and charge them

5 × USB 3.0 Type-A (2x Front Panel, 3x Back Panel)

1 × Gigabit Ethernet
Chassis Size 6.4 × 13.5 × 9.6 inches

(163 × 343 × 245 mm)
Internal PSU 550 W
System Requirements Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Certified PC

Thunderbolt 3 w/Active Cable (included – 50cm)

Windows 10 64bit Only
Shipping Date 1Q 2018
Price $379 / €419

For GPU compatibility, the Gaming Box lists AMD Radeon R9 285/290/290x/300 series, R9 Nano/Fury, and the RX400 and RX 500 series. On the NVIDIA side support ranges from the Kepler based 750/750Ti the 900 series, 1060/1070/1080/1080Ti, the Titan X/Xp, as well as select Quadro chipsets.

PowerColor Gaming Box Video Card Compatibility List
Radeon RX 500 Series GeForce GTX 1080 / 1080 Ti
Radeon RX 400 Series GeForce GTX 1070
Radeon R9 Fury GeForce GTX 1060
Radeon R9 Nano GeForce GTX Titan X / Titan Xp
Radeon R9 300 Series GeForce GTX 980 Ti
Radeon R9 290X GeForce GTX 980
Radeon R9 290 GeForce GTX 970
Radeon R9 285 GeForce GTX 960
  GeForce GTX 950
  GeForce GTX 750/750 Ti
  NVIDIA Quadro P4000 / 5000 / 6000 / GP100

The Gaming Station will be available 12/15 with an MSRP of $329. This is priced less than the Devil Box’s MSRP upon release ($399). 

Related Reading: 

Source: AnandTech – PowerColor Announces Gaming Box: The Devil Box’s Spawn, TB3 eGFX Enclosure

The DeepCool Captain 240 EX RGB AIO Cooler Review: Pump it Up, Without the Noise

Today we are taking a look at the latest AIO liquid cooler from DEEPCOOL, the Captain EX 240 RGB. As its name hints, one of the major features of the cooler is RGB lighting. Its design and stock fans suggest a product designed for low-noise operation, trying to combine the fanciness of RGB lighting with good everyday performance.  

Source: AnandTech – The DeepCool Captain 240 EX RGB AIO Cooler Review: Pump it Up, Without the Noise

MediaTek Launches Sensio MT6381 Biosensor

In a change of pace from the normal SoC related MediaTek news, today we see the announcement of a new discrete biosensor from the Taiwanese chip manufacturer. The new Sensio MT6381 is a health monitoring solution which integrates six key measurements data points into an all-in-one package which can be integrated into smartphones.

While the Helio series includes the popular SoC lineup of MediaTek, the Sensio branding is a new marketing effort by the company to give more exposure to its new and future sensor business, of which the new biosensor is the first announced product.

The industry leader in biosensor solutions is currently Maxim Integrated who also are the component suppliers of the heart-rate monitor module integrated into Samsung Galaxy smartphones, undoubtedly the smartphone line-up which popularized and became the trend-setters in regards to integrating health monitoring solutions into mobile phones.

While the wearable market has seen more widespread adoption of biosensor integration, outside of Samsung Galaxy phones there’s been sparse to close to no adoption of such solutions (Please correct me if a device comes to mind!), which considering that Samsung first introduced the sensor in the Galaxy S5 close to 4 years ago is quite a bit odd.

As such, MediaTek sees opportunity and demand from its OEM partners to enter this market. The MT6381 doesn’t just try to be a follower in terms of functionality but tries to one-up rival component offering by claiming to be the first 6-in-1 biosensor solution. The six data points that the sensor package is able to collect are as follows:

  • Heart-rate – heart bets per minute
  • Heart-rate variability – variation in time between heartbeats
  • Blood pressure trends – measured range of data over time
  • Peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2) – measurement of blood oxygen levels
  • Electrocardiography (ECG) – electrical activity of the heart over a period of time
  • Photoplethysmography (PPG) – measurement of blood volume changes

The first four features can be found in today’s Galaxy phones and existing biosensor solutions but it’s the integration of ECG and PPG that stands out as additional features exclusive to MediaTek’s new offerings. The sensor is actually a discrete pre-assembled integrated package consisting of package housing, substrate, the actual front-end IC and sensor assembly, protected by a glass cover. Red and infra-red LEDs serve as the illumination sources for the light sensitive sensors which measure the light absorption by a user’s fingertips and with help of some processing convert that input data into heart-rate and blood pressure and oxygen measurements.

The ECG and PPG functions which we haven’t seen so far seen integrated into smartphones are also handled by the package with help of two additional simple electrodes that the OEM has to implement into a device’s housing. When the user then touches both electrodes with a finger on each hand this creates a closed loop between the device and the heart to enable ECG measurements.

The MT6381 is marketed as a complete solution and with that also comes the software support. As such MediaTek offers all related software as well as an in-house and 3rd party application for health monitoring, which should ease adoption for low-cost OEMs.

All in all while maybe not as exciting as a new SoC, MediaTek’s new biosensor does open up the possibility of wider market adoption of integrated health sensors into smartphones. MediaTek also explains that the target application device for the MT6381 is indeed smartphones as opposed to wearables, a decision linked to simple market opportunity and demand for a integrated solution in this segment. The new Sensio sensor will be made available to MediaTek partners in early 2018.

Source: AnandTech – MediaTek Launches Sensio MT6381 Biosensor

Apple Starts iMac Pro Sales on Dec. 14: 8/10-Core Models At Launch, 14/18-Core Models Due in 2018

Apple has announced that sales of its previously announced iMac Pro all-in-one workstations will start on Thursday, December 14. On that day, the company is expected to make its new systems available at least in some retail locations as well as through its website. Initially, Apple is expected to release iMac Pro workstations with eight- and ten-core processors, whereas the higher-end models featuring CPUs with up to 18 cores will hit the market in early 2018.

Apple’s iMac Pro AIO workstations are aimed at professional users with demanding workloads, such as video editing, 3D animation, scientific research, software development, and other. To a large degree, the iMac Pro addresses the same crowd as the Mac Pro introduced four years ago (and never updated since then) and offers them to buy a 27” AIO featuring modern multi-core CPUs, up-to-date GPUs, loads of RAM, plenty of solid-state storage and advanced connectivity that includes four Thunderbolt 3 ports and one 10 GbE header. The company is still working on an all new desktop computer that will replace the Mac Pro sometimes in 2018, but for a while the new iMac Pro will be Apple’s most powerful PCs.

The Apple iMac Pro comes in aluminum space gray chassis and is outfitted with a 27” display panel with a 5120×2880 resolution, up to 500 nits brightness that supports the DCI-P3 color gamut and 10-bit spatial and temporal dithering (no word on HDR10 support though). Since many professional workloads require more than one monitors, Apple proposes to use two out of four Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect two additional 5K displays (such as LG’s UltraFine 5K launched a year ago).

Inside, the iMac Pro more resembles a high-end desktop rather than a AIO machine. The system is based on Intel’s Xeon W processors with eight, ten, 14 or 18 cores and up to 42 MB of L2+L3 cache. The 14-core iMac Pro was not a part of Apple’s original announcement, but a blogger was told by Apple that the fourth iMac Pro SKU would be available as well. Apple does not disclose exact CPU models that it intends to use with the iMac Pro, but it looks like we are dealing with off-the-shelf Xeon W CPUs with up to 140 W TDP.

By default, an entry-level iMac Pro is to be equipped with 32 GB of DDR4-2666 ECC memory, but it is expandable to 64 GB or even 128 GB, if needed. As for storage, 1 TB SSD is the default option, but the iMac Pro can be equipped with 2 TB or 4 TB SSDs as well. All the drives use the NVMe protocol, a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and up to 3 GB/s peak sequential read speed. While it looks like Apple is going to use standard memory modules, the iMac Pro does not seem to be user-upgradeable, unlike regular iMacs.

For graphics, Apple picked up AMD’s latest Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8 GB of HBM2 for prêt-à-porter SKUs and the Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16 GB of HBM2 for build-to-order configurations and, perhaps, for machines that feature an 18-core CPU and 128 GB of RAM. Both Radeon Pro graphics adapters will not come as cards, but will be soldered to iMac Pro’s motherboard, based on one picture supplied by Apple. The company does not disclose frequencies of the bespoke Radeon Pro Vega GPUs it uses, but says that their maximum FP32 compute performance is 11 TFLOPS (which points to around 1340 MHz clock-rate for the Vega 64) and their peak memory bandwidth is 400 GB/s (indicating about 1600 MT/s memory speed), which is slower when compared to the Radeon RX Vega cards for desktops. The main reasons why Apple downlocks its GPUs are of course power consumption and heat dissipation. The company says that Mac Pro’s cooling system can cope with up to 500 W of heat, so it cannot use a 140 W CPU and a 295 W GPU in order to avoid overheating.

Moving on to connectivity. The iMac Pro will feature an 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.2 module (there is no word on the 802.11ac wave2 support, so it could be the same Broadcom controller used inside the latest MacBook Pro laptops), a 10 GbE connector (no word on the controller or its developer), four USB 3.0 Type-A headers, one SDXC card slot, a 3.5-mm audio jack and four Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect additional displays, RAID storage and other peripherals that demand high bandwidth. The Mac Pro also has integrated 1080p webcam, stereo speakers, an array of microphones and so on. Some rumours say that the iMac Pro will feature voice-activated “Siri” assistant and for this reason integrate a recent A-series SoC, but Apple yet has to confirm this.

Apple iMac Pro Brief Specifications
  iMac Pro 27″
Display 27″ with 5120 × 2880 resolution

500 cd/m² brightness

DCI-P3 support

10-bit spatial and temporal dithering
CPU Intel Xeon W-2145


3.7/4.5 GHz

8 MB L2

11 MB L3

140 W
Intel Xeon W-2155


3.7/4.5 GHz

10 MB L2

13.75 MB L3

140 W
Intel Xeon W-2175


2.5/4.3 GHz

14 MB L2

19.25 MB L3

140 W
Intel Xeon W-2195


2.4/4.3 GHz

18 MB L2

24.75 MB L3

140 W
PCH C422
Graphics AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8 GB HMB2 or Radeon Pro 64 with 16 GB HBM2
Memory 32 GB DDR4-2666 with ECC

Configurable to 64 GB or 128 GB DDR4-2666 with ECC
Storage 1 TB SSD (NVMe, PCIe 3.0 x4)

Configurable to 2 TB SSD or 4 TB SSD
Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.2
Ethernet 10 GbE
Display Outputs 4 × Thunderbolt 3
Audio Stereo speakers

Integrated microphones

1 × audio out
USB 4 × USB 3.0 Type-A (5 Gbps)

4 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C (via TB3)
Other I/O FHD webcam

SDXC card reader
Dimensions Width 65 cm | 25.6″
Height 51.6 cm | 20.3″
Depth 20.3 cm | 8″
PSU ~ 500 W (to be confirmed)
OS Apple MacOS High Sierra

The iMac Pro will ship with space grey wireless Magic Keyboard with a numeric keypad as well a choice between the Magic Mouse 2 or Magic Trackpad 2. We do not know the official price just yet or details about support and warranty, but there are unofficial indications that the cheapest iMac Pro will sell for $4999.

Related Reading:

Sources: Apple, MacRumours, Marques Brownlee

Source: AnandTech – Apple Starts iMac Pro Sales on Dec. 14: 8/10-Core Models At Launch, 14/18-Core Models Due in 2018

AMD Releases Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition 17.12.1: Adrenalin and ProRender Updates

Alongside the much more expansive Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition, today AMD has released Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition. As implied by the name, 17.12.1 Pro includes Radeon Pro ReLive, Radeon Pro Overlay, and a Pro-oriented ‘Connect Tab,’ with the same functionality covered in our primary Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition article. Supporting Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and Mixed Reality, today’s release also brings a good number of ProRender updates, rounding out AMD’s professional driver take on Adrenalin.

Additionally, AMD is announcing a change to the release schedule of Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Drivers. For 2018, release dates will fall on the 2nd Wednesday of the 2nd month of the quarter, instead of the 4th Thursday of the quarter. Subsequently, the first enterprise driver of 2018 will release on February 14th instead of January 25th.

17.12.1 Pro continues to offer the optional Driver Options feature, which allows single Radeon Pro WX or Radeon Vega Frontier Edition cards on Windows 10 to utilize Radeon Software gaming drivers. A specialized “Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition for Radeon Pro” driver is available for this purpose, and is downloadable from within Radeon Pro settings.

Radeon ProRender has also been enhanced with several new features and updated plugins. The renderer now has interactive viewport denoising, which can speed-up 3D render times, and GL Transmission Format (glTF) support, a Khronos Group specification that compacts 3D asset size while reducing the processing time needed to unpack said assets. In turn, this assists exporting assets to other applications while preserving materials.

Autodesk 3ds Max 2018 and Autodesk Maya 2018 are now supported by ProRender plugins, and AMD also pre-announced macOS support for Autodesk Maya and Blender. And ProRender now has ‘Game Engine Importer’ for importing Solidworks geometry and materials to Unreal Engine for CAD visualization in a VR environment.

And touching on virtualization, AMD announced their new Guest Interface Manager (GIM) open source KVM host OS driver, and stated that it was available on GitHub.

In terms of fixed issues, 17.12.1 Pro resolves the following:

  • Corruption may be observed when applying poly extrude face on selected plan for Maya 2017
  • Uninstaller may not remove amdssg64.sys during Radeon Pro SSG uninstall
  • On Vega based hardware, unexpected behavior running 3dMark Fire Strike on a six 4K display configuration

As listed earlier in 17.Q4, 17.12.1 Pro carries the same ISV certification notes in regards to Autodesk Maya 2017/2018 issue #41945 and Arnold to Maya issue #3142. ISV applications, certified drivers, and product compatibility are all listed on AMD’s ISV Application Certified Drivers page.

The amdgpu-pro + amdgpu-all-open Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition 17.12.1 for Linux also makes its mark today, and more information can be found on its release notes.

The updated drivers for AMD’s professional workstation GPUs are available online at the AMD’s professional graphics driver download page. More information on this update and further issues can be found in the Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition 17.12.1 release notes.

Source: AnandTech – AMD Releases Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition 17.12.1: Adrenalin and ProRender Updates

Western Digital, Toshiba And Bain Capital Settle Disputes Over Sale Of Toshiba Memory

Western Digital announced in a press conference this afternoon that they have reached a settlement agreement with Toshiba over Western Digital’s objections to the sale of Toshiba’s stake in their NAND flash memory joint ventures to a consortium led by Bain Capital.


Toshiba’s financial troubles came to a head a year ago with the acknowledgement of severe losses from Toshiba’s nuclear power subsidiary. To maintain solvency, Toshiba was forced to offer up a share of its NAND flash memory business, by far the most lucrative portion of Toshiba’s conglomerate. Over the course of several months as the severity of Toshiba’s financial situation became clearer, their plans shifted to a complete sale of the memory business, valued around $18 billion. 


Western Digital acquired SanDisk in May 2016 and with it, SanDisk’s half of the Toshiba-SanDisk partnerships to develop and manufacture NAND flash memory. Citing rights stemming from these partnerships, Western Digital claimed that Toshiba needed their consent before Toshiba could spin off and sell their side of the partnerships. Western Digital had been unable to keep pace in the bidding war for the spun-off Toshiba Memory Corporation (TMC) and sought to use whatever leverage they had to strengthen their position as one of the few major NAND manufacturers. 


Western Digital initiated arbitration proceedings against Toshiba in May 2017. Toshiba responded with a lawsuit in Japanese courts alleging unfair competition and mishandling of Toshiba trade secrets by Western Digital. As the disputes escalated, they also became more acrimonious, with Western Digital accusing Toshiba of cutting off some Western Digital employees from accessing shared databases and facilities. Toshiba also shut Western Digital out of the initial round of investment into a new fab. 


While Toshiba and Western Digital did manage to re-open negotiations, Toshiba eventually decided to sell TMC to a consortium led by Bain Capital and including US companies like Apple, Seagate and Dell as investors, as well as competing NAND manufacturer SK Hynix. That deal was signed in September and approved by the Toshiba board and shareholders a month later.


With today’s settlement and cessation of all hostilities, it appears at first glance to be a loss for Western Digital, who is not going to be acquiring a larger share of the joint ventures. However, several of the agreements have been extended through 2027 and 2029 (one had already been extended to 2029), and the terms have been updated to strengthen the protections for the joint venture intellectual property: While Western Digital competitors like SK Hynix and Seagate are investors in the purchase of TMC, they will not gain access to any of the IP. Western Digital has also secured the right to match Toshiba’s future investments in the new Fab 6 at Toshiba’s Yokkaichi operations and in a new wafer fabrication project in Iwate. This is crucial to Western Digital’s long-term competitiveness because they would not be able to begin manufacturing NAND flash outside of the joint ventures without essentially starting from scratch.


Updated Outlook

Western Digital also provided an update on their outlook for the current second quarter of fiscal year 2018, and for 2018 overall. They expect to finish calendar year 2017 with over 65% of their NAND flash bit output having transitioned to 3D NAND, and over 90% of their 3D NAND output is on their current 64L BiCS3 process. Their 96L BiCS4 process will debut in a retail product due to ship this week (!), but no further details on that are available at this time. Longer term, Western Digital expects to continue reducing NAND costs at a faster pace than the 2D to 3D transition has allowed for, but evolving 3D NAND is expected to be slower than the progression of process shrinks was for 2D NAND. Modest price declines for NAND are expected as the industry-wide shortage relaxes, though one factor delaying this is the fact that some competitors have chosen to migrate some 2D NAND fabs to DRAM manufacturing instead of 3D NAND, in order to address the shortage of DRAM that also exists.

Source: AnandTech – Western Digital, Toshiba And Bain Capital Settle Disputes Over Sale Of Toshiba Memory

Colorful’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan Hits the Market: 1.8 GHz GPU, Hybrid Cooling, 4 Fans

Colorful has started to sell its highest-performing video card to date, the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan. The graphics adapter features a large three-wide hybrid cooling system with four fans in total and the manufacturer guarantees that the GPU will hit nearly 1.8 GHz in boost mode once a factory overclocked setting is activated.

The Colorful iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan is the company’s flagship card based on NVIDIA’s GP102 GPU and thus is the highest-performing one in its product lineup. The graphics adapter is based on a custom PCB with an advanced VRM to ensure sufficient amount of “clean” power delivered to the GPU and memory that are supposed to work at frequencies beyond their nominal. Colorful says that the VRM uses its IPP (iGame Pure-Power Inductance) feature and silver-plated elements to reduce electric resistance, but does not elaborate. Out of the box, the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan comes with NVIDIA’s reference clock rates, but once a switch on its bracket is toggled, the card loads “Turbo” BIOS mode and sets GPU frequencies to 1657 MHz/1784 MHz (base/boost), among the highest factory-overclock settings for the GP102 in the industry. In fact, at nearly 1.8 GHz, the GPU on the GTX 1080 Ti Kudan card produces more TFLOPS than the GPU on NVIDIA’s Titan Xp (it does not mean that Colorful’s card will be faster than the Titan Xp in all cases though).

To guarantee that the graphics adapter can work at its frequencies reliably and to provide a further overclocking headroom, the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan is equipped with a rather unique hybrid cooling system. The cooler on the card is comprised of a large heatsink featuring heatpipes, an integrated waterblock for the GPU, a connectivity hub for liquid cooling and is outfitted with three 92-mm fans. The pre-installed three-wide cooler is enough to run the video card even in overclocked mode, but those who want to hit even higher frequencies can connect a 120-mm radiator with water pump and enjoy the benefits of liquid cooling. Since the heatsink on the card is rather large, it likely cools down not only the GPU and memory, but also the cards’ multi-phase VRM, which gets very hot on contempoerary graphics cards. This is a major advantage of the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan over the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Neptune W, which cools its GPU using liquid, but which VRM is only cooled down passively using cold plates.

Unlike EVGA with its GeForce GTX 1080 Ti K|NGP|N Edition (KPE), Colorful does not give any guarantees when it comes to GPU overclocking, but the cooling system used by the GTX 1080 Ti Kudan gives a feeling of confidence that the card can run at higher frequencies than those set by the manufacturer for its “Turbo” mode. To monitor the card without any software utilities, the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan is equipped with a special LCD on top that displays clocks, temperature and fan speed.

As for connectivity, the card has two DisplayPort 1.4 headers, two HDMI 2.0b ports, and a DL DVI-D output. The board requires two 8-pin auxiliary GPU power connectors due to ensure overclocking potential and stability.

Images by Akiba PC Hotline

Kudan is the ninth-degree black belt in Japanese martial arts, the second highest rank after Judan (tenth-degree dan, the absolute top in modern martial arts). Only fifteen people in the worlds were ever promoted to Judan in Japan and there are only three living 10th dan holders, so Colorful did not use the word to brand its mass market product. Instead, it used Kudan, which represents a rare top-grade master in martial arts that stands well above 99% of black belt holders. Indeed, the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan is designed to outperform all the other GP102-based adapters on the market and for this reason is pretty heavily armed when it comes to cooling. Due to dimensions, the GTX 1080 Ti Kudan will not fit into all desktops, which somewhat further proves its unique positioning and purpose.

High-Emnd NVIDIA GPU Specification Comparison
  NVIDIA Titan Xp GTX 1080 Ti Colorful iGame

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan
EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti KPE
CUDA Cores 3840 3584
Texture Units 240 224
ROPs 96 88
Core Clock 1481 MHz (?) 1481 MHz 1657 MHz 1582MHz
Boost Clock 1582 MHz 1582 MHz 1784 MHz 1695 MHz

2025 MHz*
TFLOPs (FMA) 12.1 TFLOPs 11.3 TFLOPs 12.8 TFLOPs 12.14 TFLOPS

Memory Clock 11.4 Gbps GDDR5X 11 Gbps GDDR5X
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 352-bit
Power Connectors 6-pin + 8-pin 2×8-pin
TDP 250W 250W high 280 W
Launch Date 04/06/2017 03/10/2017 Q4 2017 Q3 2017
Launch Price $1200 $699 $1400 in Japan $999
* Overclocking level guaranteed by EVGA

The Colorful iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan is now available in select stores in Japan for ¥158,890 (or $1399). Graphics cards traditionally carry a high premium in Japan, so the high price of the new unit is not surprising. Colorful graphics cards are not officially available in the USA, so it is unclear how much the iGame GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan might cost on this side of the Pacific Ocean, but virtually all grey market imports are very expensive.

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Source: AnandTech – Colorful’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Kudan Hits the Market: 1.8 GHz GPU, Hybrid Cooling, 4 Fans

Shuttle Unveils SZ270R9 SFF PC with ‘Turbo’ Button: Core i7, Long GPU, 6 Drives & More

Shuttle has introduced its new high-end PC barebones designed for gamers and enthusiast who are not afraid of overclocking. The new XPC SZ270R9 features the R9 chassis that can accommodate a modern desktop graphics card, several 3.5” hard drives and even has a programmable RGB lighting. One of the important features of the newcomer is the “Turbo” button on the front panel that loads overclocking configuration when users need it.

The Shuttle XPC SZ270R9 is based on a custom motherboard featuring Intel’s Z270 PCH and compatible with Intel’s 6th and 7th generation Core i3/i5/i7 processors (Skylake, Kaby Lake). The mainboard has four DDR4 DIMM slots and supports up to 64 GB of DDR4-2133/2400 memory, a PCIe x16 slot for video cards, a PCIe x4 slot for other add-in-boards (for example, an ultra-high-end SSD, or a 10 GbE NIC), two M.2-2280 PCIe slots for NVMe SSDs as well as one M.2-2230 slot for an optional 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth module. The motherboard also carries two Intel i211 GbE controllers, Realtek’s ALC662 5.1-channel audio codec with appropriate headers, four SATA connectors, USB 2.0/3.0 Type-A ports, an HDMI and two DisplayPort outputs for iGPU.

The R9 chassis was architected with enthusiasts in mind: it is relatively small, but it can house rather powerful hardware. First off, it features a proprietary ICE 2 cooling system with four heat pipes that takes away heat from the processor to a rather huge heatsink. The system supports overclocking of CPUs with unlocked multiplier, but judging by the press release, it makes no sense to expect the SZ270R9 to offer sophisticated overclocking capabilities found on premium motherboards that can help to squeeze every last bit of performance out of a CPU. What is important is that the SZ270R9 has a special ‘Turbo’ button that loads overclocking settings when they are needed, thus reducing strain on system components that “permanent” overclocking might cause. Next up is expandability. The R9 chassis can house graphics cards that are up to 280 mm long (and based on a picture by Shuttle, they can be rather tall too) as well as four 3.5” storage devices (there are 3.5” to 2×2.5” brackets included in some regions). With two high-end M.2 SSDs and four contemporary 3.5″ hard drives, the SZ270R9 can easily store 50 TB of data, assuming that two 1 TB SSDs and four 12 TB HDDs are used. Meanwhile, since the system is based on the Z270 PCH, the Core i7-7700 K CPU will be the highest-performing processor supported by the SZ270R9. Another constraint is the lack of any USB Type-C headers on the system, which might become a problem several years down the road.

Shuttle XPC SZ270R9 Specifcations
Model SZ270R9
CPU Skylake or Kaby Lake CPU with up to 95 W TDP

Up to Intel Core i7-7700K
dGPU Dual-slot graphics card up to 280 mm in length
DRAM Four DDR4 DIMM slots

Up to 64 GB of DDR4-2400 in dual-channel mode
Motherboard Custom
Storage SSD 2 × M.2-2280 (PCIe 3.0 x4)
HDD 4 × 3.5″

8 × 2.5″ using PHD3 adapter and an extra SATA controller
Wireless Optional M.2-2230 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 module
Ethernet 2 × 1 GbE port (Intel i211)
USB 6 × USB 3.0 Type-A

4 × USB 2.0 Type-A
Display Outputs 1 × HDMI

2 × DisplayPort
Audio 5×3.5mm audio jacks (ALC662 controller)
Extras 1 × PCIe 3.0 x4 slot
PSU Internal 500 W 80+ Silver PSU
Warranty Typical, varies by country
Dimensions Length 332 mm | 13.07″
Width 216 mm | 8.5″
Height 198 mm | 7.8″
MSRP >$450+, but has to be confirmed

Shuttle Computer may be considered the father of today’s small form-factor gaming PCs as the company pioneered them in the early 2000s, when gaming desktops were bulky and barely had any style. This decade, the company faced rather tough competition and had to refocus on specialized PCs and barebones. For several years Shuttle was nearly absent from the market of PC barebones for gamers, but this year it is making a comeback. So far, the company released two ultra-compact SFF gaming systems (1, 2) and the XPC SZ270R8, which is a close relative of the SZ270R9. The launch of the XPC SZ270R9 with RGB and one-touch overclocking is a move towards a higher end market segment. What remains to be seen is whether Shuttle goes for the ultra-high-end with something based on the Intel X299.

Shuttle has not disclosed MSRP or ETA of its XPC SZ270R9. Since the new PC barebones is based on a proven platform and are already demonstrated in Japan, it is safe to say that the new unit will be released in several weeks, not months, from now. As for pricing, the SZ270R8 is now available for $449.99 from major retailers in the U.S., so expect the SZ270R9 that adds ‘on demand’ overclocking and programmable RGB lighting to be priced in the same ballpark.

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Source: AnandTech – Shuttle Unveils SZ270R9 SFF PC with ‘Turbo’ Button: Core i7, Long GPU, 6 Drives & More

Intel Launches New Pentium Silver and Celeron Atom Processors: Gemini Lake is Here

Intel on Monday introduced its next-generation Pentium Silver and Celeron platform and processors. These processors are under the codename ‘Gemini Lake’ and are focused on low-power platforms for inexpensive desktops and mobile computers.

The new Gemini Like SoCs feature improved CPU cores over the previous generation, an enhanced media decoding/encoding engine, and a new display pipeline. Intel promises to offer higher performance than predecessors while consuming about 6 W or 10 W, depending on the application. The higher-end Gemini Lake SKUs will be sold under the Pentium Silver brand, whereas the entry-level models will carry the Celeron name.

Source: AnandTech – Intel Launches New Pentium Silver and Celeron Atom Processors: Gemini Lake is Here

AMD Releases Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition: Overlay, App & More for 2017

Today, AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition is finally upon us. Succeeding Crimson and Crimson ReLive, Adrenalin continues AMD’s yearly cadence of driver software features, again pushing the user experience (UX) angle. For the headliners, Adrenalin introduces the new Radeon Overlay and the AMD Link mobile app. Beyond that, this update is quite reminiscent of Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.7.2, bringing a number of widespread improvements and expanded support for current features. Among the other highlights is Enhanced Sync ‘E-Sync’ for all GCN GPUs, a generic Radeon Chill profile, WattMan profile saving/loading, a number of new ReLive streamer features, and streamer-oriented social media integration.

Source: AnandTech – AMD Releases Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition: Overlay, App & More for 2017

ZOTAC Launches MEK1 Upgradeable PCs: Up to Core i7-7700, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, RGB LEDs

ZOTAC this past week formally introduced its first family of upgradeable small form-factor desktops for gamers. The ZOTAC MEK1 systems will come in two configurations, each featuring Intel’s Kaby Lake CPUs as well as NVIDIA’s Pascal GPUs. The MEK1 systems use off-the-shelf components and therefore can be easily upgraded by end users when they need to.

The ZOTAC MEK1 Gaming PCs will come in Black and White chassis themed after “future robotics and mechanical anatomy”. Both systems are based on the same Mini-ITX motherboard featuring Intel’s B250 PCH, they are equipped with 16 GB of dual-channel DDR4-2400 memory, a 240 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD, as well as a 1 TB 2.5” HDD. Meanwhile, the MEK1 Black model is equipped with Intel’s Core i7-7700 processor as well as ZOTAC’s GeForce GTX 1070 Ti graphics card, whereas the MEK1 White is powered by the Core i5-7400 and the GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB. ZOTAC’s MEK1 systems rely on air cooling and take advantage of carefully managed airflows inside the case. The graphics card is installed above the compartment with the CPU and M.2 SSD, so its heat does not affect said devices.



When it comes to connectivity, the MEK1 Black and the MEK1 White systems are identical: they have an 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 module, two GbE controllers, six USB-A 3.0 ports, two USB-A 2.0 connectors, one PS/2 input, one HDMI 2.0b output, a DL DVI-D header, three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs, analog and S/PDIF audio connectors and so on. For some reason, ZOTAC decided not to equip its MEK1 desktops with USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connectors that are present on a number of its other products (1, 2). Some might say that there are not a lot of USB-C peripherals just now, but when you design a PC, you have to think about user experience throughout its lifetime of at least three years. If customers do not enjoy it at the end of its lifespan, they may not come back to ZOTAC for a new one. Meanwhile, USB-C will be widespread three years down the road.

Following the latest trends, both MEK1 PCs feature ZOTAC’s Spectra RGB LED lighting that can be customized using a special utility. To complement the design, MEK1 desktops will come a mechanical keyboard and an optical mouse that match their colors and feature built-in lighting.

ZOTAC Mek1 Desktops
    Mek1 White


CPU Intel Core i5-7400


3 GHz/3.3 GHz


65 W
Intel Core i7-7700


3.6 GHz/4.2 GHz


65 W
PCH Intel B250
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060

1280 stream processors

80 texture units

48 ROPs

192-bit memory interface

6 GB of GDDR5 9 GT/s memory
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti

2432 stream processors

152 texture units

64 ROPs

256-bit memory interface

8 GB of GDDR5 8 GT/s memory
Memory 16 GB of DDR4-2400
Storage 240 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD

1 TB 2.5″ SATA HDD
Wi-Fi 802.11ac + BT 4.2
Ethernet Two Gigabit Ethernet with RJ45 connector
Display Outputs 1 × DVI-D DL

3 × DisplayPort 1.4

1 × HDMI 2.0
Audio 7.1-channel audio with mini-jack and S/PDIF connector
USB 2 × USB 3.0 Type-A (Front)

4 × USB 3.0 Type-A (Back)

2 × USB 2.0 Type-A (Back)

Other I/O PS/2
RGB Lighting ZOTAC Spectra
Dimensions Height 393.7 mm | 15.5″
Depth 414.02 mm | 16.3″
Width 118.11 mm | 4.65″
PSU 450 W SFX 80+ Bronze
OS Windows 10 Home 64-bit

Originally a maker of video cards, today ZOTAC is well known for its compact gaming and office systems. The company’s lineup of PCs is very broad and includes models featuring Intel’s Core i7 CPUs and NVIDIA’s high-end mobile graphics solutions that deliver performance comparable to that of desktop GPUs, but at a lower TDP. Unfortunately, such systems are hard to upgrade because NVIDIA does not allow partners to sell MXM modules to end-users. Therefore, to address people who might want an upgrade path for their PCs, ZOTAC developed its MEK1 systems trying to bring together performance, upgradeability and compact sizes while keeping the price in check. Obviously, some compromises had to be made.

To keep the system sleek, ZOTAC had to use processors with up to 65 W TDP and avoid Intel’s unlocked models that generate up to 95 W of heat or more. Since Intel is gradually increasing performance of its CPUs, TDP constraint is not a problem per se. Since the company uses a motherboard based on Intel’s B250 PCH, the MEK1 systems cannot support Intel’s six-cores Coffee Lake process, eliminating any upgrade options for the Black model and limiting them for the White SKU. One of the reasons why ZOTAC had to choose the Kaby Lake/B250 combination was timing — the desktops have been in development for quite a while. Another reason is availability constraints of Intel’s latest CPUs. ZOTAC’s parent company PC Partner can develop an Intel Z370-based motherboard relatively fast, but if it does not have enough CPUs, ZOTAC cannot sell product, so the safe bet is to go with the Kaby Lake.

The GPU upgrade path is of course considerably simpler — graphics processors to be released in the coming years will be compatible with a PCIe 3.0 x16 interface. Obviously, the MEK1 can accommodate only compact video cards, but they are not rare this days and the system’s 450 W PSU should be enough even for products like the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (assuming that it can fit in). As for DRAM, M.2 SSD and HDD, their upgrade is as simple as installing new components into an appropriate slot or bay.

ZOTAC plans to start selling its MEK1 systems in the coming weeks. The company did not disclose pricing, but we have reached out ZOTAC and will update the story when we get the information.

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Source: AnandTech – ZOTAC Launches MEK1 Upgradeable PCs: Up to Core i7-7700, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, RGB LEDs