Patrick Stone

Patrick Stone

For the first time in about 30 years, the mechanical switch market has a substantially new piece of technology instead of a modification on an old one. Cherry announced a high-precision switch targeted at notebooks and low-profile desktop keyboards. The switch uses a shallow design while maintaining the well-known characteristics of the standard MX Red switch. After meeting with Cherry, we learned that the company's R&D department had invested over 5 years to achieve the 11.9 mm design that does, after some simple side-by-side comparison, feel a lot like Cherry’s other MX linear switches, the black and red. The MX Low Profile RGB Red is about 35% shallower than the standard MX switches, which measure 18.5 mm. We also learned that the company was originally shooting for a 50-60% size reduction, but found that to be impossible if the standard Cherry MX characteristics were to be maintained. The switch was fully developed and built in Germany, which to der8auer’s approval, means that it fits the “German Engineered Perfection” mantra that we’ve seen in the industry.

Although the actuation characteristics remain about the same, the travel has been reduced from 4.0 to 3.2 mm. This leads to a shorter bounce time (typically 1ms) which results in higher switching frequencies for quick response gaming. Gold-Crosspoint technology is still in use to prevent corrosion or dust build up on the contacts, and the switch is rated for over 50 million keystrokes with no loss of quality. Contrary to what we were told during the meeting, one of the switch specifications is not what we originally thought. The IP rating is IP40, meaning it has no liquid resistance. This was likely just a miscommunication here due to the fact that the Cherry engineer we met with spoke German as his primary language.

Intel’s latest memory technology has big aspirations. It has the ability to one day unify the DRAM and non-volatile memory structure, but we’re not there yet. Today, we get the Data Center Optane SSD (the DC P4800X) as a responsive, high-endurance drive specifically targeted at big data users. This is not a consumer product, but the architecture will not change in any significant ways as Optane & 3D Xpoint move to consumer devices. This information is applicable across the user space.

Upon initial release, the DC P4800X drive will be a 375GB PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe HHHL device costing $1520 without Intel’s software, and $1951 with the Intel Memory Drive Technology software package. Later in the lifecycle, we should see 750GB and 1.5TB versions. The Optane SSD is one of three Optane technologies that Intel is marketing: Optane DIMM (fits into a DDR4 slot), Optane SSD (fits into a PCIe 3.0 x4 slot or U.2 connector), and Optane Memory (fits into an M.2 slot).

At CES 2016, Razer introduced what they touted as the long-awaited solution for laptop users that wanted desktop power gaming: the Razer Blade Stealth and the Razer Core. Razer promised UltraBook lightweight portability combined with PNP conversion to desktop GPU performance; however, like many products at CES, only part of the solution was ready. The UltraBook and external GPU enclosure combination was demonstrated at that CES and, to Razer’s credit, PNP worked … mostly.

While on the show floor, we were permitted to disconnect and reconnect the Core from the Stealth multiple times to watch the PNP in action. During the process, the engineers that we worked with explained the many difficulties involved with making real-time driver switching across Thunderbolt 3 (brand new, at that point) work. Asking a Microsoft OS to disconnect and reconnect display drivers from 3 different vendors (AMD, Intel, nVidia) was challenging. So, as we watched Windows change the display drivers in real time through Device Manager, we were impressed to see it working even if it wasn’t the fully polished end product. Soon after the show, Razer began delivering Stealths with 6th generation Core i7 CPUs, 2560x1440 QHD or 4K touch screens, 8GB of DDR3 DRAM, and up to 512GB PCIe based SSDs. The only slightly disappointing specification was the 45 WHr battery which provided around 9 hours of use.

Deepcool has made their mark on the PC hardware industry by including liquid cooling solutions in their cases. Deepcool’s Genome cases had a helical reservoir built into the front of the case. At CES 2017, Deepcool unveiled three new liquid-cooled cases, a show case, and two similar RGB fan sets.

The MF120 and MF120GT are the two new fans. The MF120GT uses a traditional housing design with the LEDs in an “X” pattern across the middle. The MF120 housing implements a frameless design with the RGB LEDs running nearly parallel through the middle. Both models share several properties: the housings are aluminum, the blades have a unique design meant to improve air pressure, they rotate on FDBs, and the fans are PWM adjustable between 500 and 2200 RPM. The plan is to sell 3 fans and a controller for $100 USD, and the system will be controlled through an Android or Apple mobile app. Unfortunately, there are no plans for a Windows desktop control app at the moment.

deepcool-ces-fan-1

Optane is Intel’s latest memory technology. The long-term goal for Optane is for it to be used as a supplemental system memory, caching storage, and primary storage inside PCs. Intel claims that Optane is faster than Flash NAND, only slightly slower than DRAM, has higher endurance than NAND, and, due to its density, will be about half the cost of DRAM. The catch with all of these claims is that Intel has yet to release any concrete data on the product.

What we do know is that Lenovo announced that they will be using a 16GB M.2 Optane drive for caching in a couple of their new laptops during Q1 2017. Intel also announced that another 32GB caching drive should be available later in the year, something we’ve been looking into following CES 2017. This article will look into what Intel Optane actually is, how we think it works, and whether it's actually a viable device for the enthusiast market.

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