Computex keeps it real
One of the last major tech expos of the year just took place in Taiwan, and with it came a flood of major PC news as manufacturers rush to prepare for Windows 10 and the crucial holiday shopping season.
Intel provided more Skylake details and introduced Broadwell-H chips, Microsoft dropped a Windows 10 release date, AMD revealed a new processor of its own, and crazy peripherals and gaming gear were everywhere. (How does a 128GB flash drive the size of a dime and Decepticon-like laser-projected mice sound?) Here's all the most interesting and momentous news from Computex, compiled in one handy-dandy spot in no particular order.
Windows 10 gets a release date
Just in time for the Computex hardware rush, Microsoft announced Windows 10 would be available for download on July 29. That announcement kicked off a rash of discussions from PC makers about their plans for Windows 10.
Dell plans to ship Windows 10 PCs right out of the gate on July 29, while Lenovo is bringing Windows 10 to ThinkPad 10 tablets in August. Acer plans to release Windows 10 PCs soon after July 29. HP says all of the PCs it sells throughout 2015 will be Windows 10-compatible, even if they're sold with Windows 7 or 8 installed.
AMD Carrizo APUs
The new chips are all about longer battery life, especially for notebooks in the $400-$700 range. Carrizo takes four “Excavator” CPU cores and slaps them together with eight Radeon graphics cores based on the GCN architecture. The chip also has a dedicated hardware decoder for high efficiency video coding (HEVC). AMD is partnering with Asus, Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba to bring Carrizo-powered notebooks to store shelves before June is out.
Corsair's feisty, silent Bulldog living room PC
Consoles? Pfah. Anyone looking for an ultra-quiet living room powerhouse PC will want to check out Corsair’s Bulldog PC kit. This DIY machine includes a chassis, motherboard, liquid CPU cooler, and 600-watt power supply for $400.
The rest of what you throw in there is up to you, but the machine will support Intel’s forthcoming Skylake processors and DDR4 RAM. On top of that you’ll also want to grab whatever GPU meets your fancy—right up to the mighty GeForce GTX 980 Ti—to put that power supply and cooler to work. That's right: Corsair's bulldog can bring quiet, console-sized 4K gaming to your living room.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 TI wrestles with Titans
Wait, what's a GTX 980 Ti? Don't be shocked if you haven't heard of it. Nvidia unveiled its new heavy hitter mere days ago at Computex.
While the $500 GTX 980 was already plenty formidable, Nvidia upped the ante in the $650 GTX 980 Ti by swapping out the GTX 980's GM204 GPU for the Titan X’s far more powerful GM200 chip, complete with 6GB of memory and roughly 750 more CUDA cores than the Ti's vanilla namesake. The end result: A beast of a graphics card that can game like a champ at 4K resolutions (or virtual reality) and goes toe-to-toe with the $1000 Titan X... for $350 less. Check out our GeForce GTX 980 Ti review.
AMD also made noises about its upcoming Radeon flagship with cutting-edge high-bandwidth memory, but won't reveal the graphics card until E3 kicks off June 16.
Nvidia G-Sync laptops
Beyond graphics cards, Nvidia focused on bringing G-Sync, its buttery-smooth variable refresh rate display technology, to six different laptops during Computex. You can expect to see G-Sync-enabled laptops from Asus, Clevo, MSI, and Gigabyte’s Aorus brand.
But the G-Sync announcements weren't limited to notebooks alone! Nvidia also announced seven new G-Sync monitors from both Acer and Asus, and you can now run G-Sync when you're gaming in windowed mode. Thanks to a quirk in the way Windows renders the desktop, G-Sync previously only worked when gaming full-screen.
AMD, meanwhile, showed a version of its competing FreeSync technology running over HDMI rather than DisplayPort. It sounds simple, but really, it could be a pretty big deal.
The mouse-less mouse
No, that's not a Decepticon casting an evil gaze across the land. Taiwan-based Serafim Technologies introduced what it says is the world’s first laser projection mouse during Computex.
ODiN is a tabletop projector that connects to a PC USB port and displays a virtual trackpad on any hard surface, such as a desk or table. To use it, just move your hand around the projected area as you would with a physical device. You can use ODiN for multi-finger gestures, trackpad pinches, and regular trackpad clicks.
A 128GB flash drive the size of a penny
Anyone who has a hard time keeping track of their USB flash drives is going to hate this one. SanDisk has come out with a new 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive as part of its Ultra Fit line—you know, the drives that are shorter than a dime and narrower than a penny?
Typically mini drives like this top out at half the storage SanDisk’s has and the new drive is speedy enough at 100Mbps. All that storage at a small price won’t come cheap, however. SanDisk says the suggested price for the drive is $120.
Intel visits Skylake
Intel has a snazzy new chip architecture dubbed Skylake waiting in the wings to succeed the Broadwell line. The company used Computex to show off a powerhouse of a concept tablet using the new architecture.
The slate had a 4K display at 3840-by-1260 resolution and measured just around .30 of an inch thick. Intel says Skylake mobile devices can support wireless charging and, in some cases, Thunderbolt 3.0. The company expects to see Skylake-powered tablets hit store shelves before the holidays.
PC makers visit Skylake, too
Speaking of Skylake, PC makers talked up a bunch of Skylake-powered PCs during Computex.
An upcoming new AIO series dubbed Zen is expected to come packing Skylake chips and an iMac-like style sensibility. There’s also a new gaming tower—the ROG G11CB—that comes with a Skylake processor, GTX 980 GPU, USB 3.1, DDR4 RAM, and an SSD. A second Skylake tower is also coming dubbed the ROG G20CB. Asus was also showing off two mini-desktops packed with Skylake that could be powerful enough to replace a workhorse desktop, IDGNS reports.
Corsair's Bulldog living room PC will also be Skylake compatible.
Broadwell, with an "H"
Now for the awkward part, since Skylake isn't actually scheduled to launch until later this year.
Intel also used Computex to introduce Broadwell-H socketed chips for desktops and laptops. Most of the new processors are packing the Iris Pro graphics 6200 core, and the line will include 10 new higher-end processors designated by i7- or i5-5XXX. Most folks will probably just wait for Skylake's debut, though, no matter how nice the Broadwell-H processors are.
Thunder rolls into... USB Type-C
As if Intel didn’t have enough news at Computex, it also took the wraps off Thunderbolt 3, which is quickly becoming a one-size fits all solution for PC connection protocols. The big news is that Thunderbolt 3 will be compatible with USB-C and use the same connector as the emerging standard.
On top of that Thunderbolt 3 can carry DisplayPort, PCI-E, and even Ethernet signals—just like the previous versions. Intel says Thunderbolt 3 can blast out data at a blisteringly fast 40Gbps and will have no trouble powering a 4K display. Thunderbolt 3-enabled gear could be available before 2015 is out, but no guarantees yet.
In Win's audacious PC case: More than meets the eye
No, that’s not a car engine—it’s In Win’s insane ROG-certified PC case.
This over-the-top invention looks like a typical black gaming tower with colored accents, but flip a button and the case falls away to reveal the inner chassis that moves up and tilts at an angle to get at all the components. Words don’t really do it justice, so check out this video on YouTube.
Quanta's Compute Plug
On the flip side of the coin, there's Quanta's Compute Plug, a Windows 10 PC that mimics a wall wart you plug into an electronic socket and leans heavily on Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant for controls.
No, this isn't a prank.
Replace your SSD and RAM with a series of tubes
Forget HDDs, SSDs, and even DRAM: The next great revolution in storage and memory technology will be based on carbon nanotubes, or so says Nantero. The company introduced NRAM (nonvolatile RAM) during Computex, which uses cylinders made out of carbon atoms with a diameter between one and two nanometers. Nantero says NRAM can bring more storage to a range of devices—including mobile and wearables—and that it's also far more energy efficient than flash storage or DRAM, meaning battery life could be extended too.
Nantero plans to license the technology to manufacturers, but it’s not clear when we might see NRAM hit store shelves. If it does roll out, it won’t be the only tech vying to replace storage and memory technology. Other solutions include resistive RAM (RRAM) and magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM).
Another major tech company is getting into the Chromebook game: chip maker MediaTek.
The company didn’t show any working models at Computex, but it did say Chromebooks powered by the company's processors would be coming very soon. One non-working model the company had at the show was packed with a MediaTek quad-core processor and a USB Type-C port. Pricing was not announced, alas.