HW News - CaseLabs Resurrected, Linux Gaming Grows, Valve Steam Deck Updates

By Eric Hamilton & Steve Burke Published October 02, 2021 at 11:37 pm

This week, we have news spanning both hardware and technology. First off, a GN exclusive: CaseLabs is coming back from the dead. The remnants of the company have been purchased by a new owner and will be put back into action.

 

01:07 - GN Modmats Are Back in Stock

This one is in the video!

02:48 - CaseLabs Comes Back to Life

We received an email in early September about the purchase of CaseLabs by a new owner, Emil Rytterstedt. The CaseLabs trademark, designs, website, social media accounts, and graphics were all purchased by a new owner, with whom GN spoke directly to discuss the acquisition.

If you don’t remember, CaseLabs tragically filed for bankruptcy and closed operations after losing a major client previously. CaseLabs was a boutique case manufacturing brand run by a team of skilled machinists, and made most of its parts in the US and on its own CNC or machining equipment. We somewhat recently revisited the SMA-8 monster case from CaseLabs, and the brand was generally regarded for extreme quality matched with equally extreme, but maybe fair, prices.

GN has read court documents pertaining to the transaction and can confirm its legitimacy.

We spoke with the new owner about CaseLabs to ask about his plans. The owner told us:

“The immediate plan is to bring the original line-up back into production, which will not be an easy task. The parts will be in a flat, unfolded, state and there is no instructions for how to fold the parts so me and my manufacturers [...] will have to work out how to fold each individual part.”

This relates back to how cases are made, where specific machines are used in each step to cut, stamp, and/or fold steel and aluminum sheets to create the paneling. We have plenty of factory footage and tours showing how this is done.

The new owner told us the following: “The most important thing to me is that the spirit of CaseLabs is maintained no matter what new products I release. I want to keep the same level of quality and craftmanship and, where it is possible, modularity as before  CaseLabs went bankrupt. I'm a firm believer in the right to repair and keeping it simple for the end user. Existing and future products from CaseLabs shall reflect that.”

Source: Direct to GN

06:23 - NZXT H510 Flow Case, PSUs, & Coolers

NZXT recently announced its H510 Flow case. The case makes claims of being airflow-focused, although oddly, the H500-series cases already had reasonable thermals thanks to the negative pressure configuration -- adding fans to the front of a case with a uniquely successful negative pressure setup might not be the best move, but we’ll see how it goes.

GamersNexus was not informed of the H510 Flow ahead of launch nor was it provided one by NZXT for embargo lift, despite having had calls with NZXT product managers about improving the H500 series in the past, so we don’t yet have thoughts on the case. We have one on the way from BPS Customs. You should check out his YouTube channel for some of his awesome work and to show him thanks for enabling us to secure this case ahead of public availability.

The Flow punches holes in the front panel and goes to steel rather than glass. From what we can tell so far, it resembles an H510 Elite with a different front panel. This has been available in the mod community in some capacity over the years, but this is the first time NZXT has formally launched an airflow-focused case in the series. Previously, NZXT told us “that’s not gonna happen” when we asked what its plans for an airflow case were.

Source: https://nzxt.com/product/h510-flow

09:47 - EU to Standardize Charging Cables to USB-C

The European Commision, which serves as the executive branch of the European Union, has officially announced Europe’s intention to mandate a universal charging standard in USB-C for mobile devices, and has put forward legislation that will work towards codifying such a mandate into law.

Assuming the proposal clears the European Parliament, the legislation will take the form of a revised Radio Equipment Directive (RED)

The Radio Equipment Directive already contains a section outlining Europe’s intentions for a common charger, going back as far as 2009, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, in which certain mobile phone makers agreed to harmonize charging solutions for devices entering the market beginning in 2011. Europe has also had a number of other voluntary measures in place in an attempt to work with vendors on developing a common charging solution, even encouraging manufacturers to develop a solution amongst themselves.

However, citing the lack of a solution, Europe has opted to take a legislative approach: “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger.”

The proposed legislation would include: A harmonised charging port for electronic devices (USB-C); Harmonised fast charging technology; Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device; Improved information for consumers. The revised Radio Equipment Directive would further Europe’s goal of addressing sustainability in products and mitigating the growing e-waste problem, the latter of which unused and disposed of chargers accounts for some 11,000 tonnes of e-waste every year. 

It’s also important to understand that the legislation is only applicable to devices using wired -- and not wireless -- charging. That’s to say, should vendors opt to fully embrace inductive charging with a portless phone, there’d be no legal mandate to add a USB-C port. Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector is the obvious casualty of Europe’s proposed legislation, as the Cupertino-based company has long been an outlier as it relates to uniting under the USB-C banner. There have been rumors of a portless iPhone going back as far as 2019, and some rumors have even claimed that Apple would trot out portless iPhones this year (that didn’t happen). 

Assuming the legislation passes, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, given the broad support it's garnered, device makers will have two years to become compliant with the law. Should companies like Apple wish to continue avoiding USB-C, they’ll likely be doing it with portless phones.     

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_4613

11:57 - Alder Lake-S LGA1700 Socket Image Surfaces

As spotted over on the Bilibili forums, Intel’s new LGA1700 socket has been pictured for the first time. As we’ve detailed before, this new socket will be home to Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake-S, and is notably different in a few ways. Alder Lake-S will be a more rectangular and oblong shape compared to Intel’s past designs, so as expected, the new socket reflects that, especially when compared to older sockets, like Intel’s LGA1200.

Intel seems to have added a bit of height to the socket beyond what’s being used now, aligning with etchings on the socket reading "LGA-17XX/LGA-18XX" and suggesting that the socket will indeed survive beyond Alder Lake. This tracks with reports that Intel’s Raptor Lake would also drop into the LGA 17xx/18xx socket, and would also require extra pins. 

Additionally, the LGA1700 socket is reported to have a lower z-height than that of past sockets, which is one reason for the CPU cooler manufacturers pushing out updated mounting kits for Intel CPUs. We’ve had our ears to the ground, and as far as we know, Alder Lake-S is still pegged for a partial launch this November, with enthusiast SKUs (K and KF) coming out first.  

Source: https://t.bilibili.com/563298073409182264?tab=2

https://hothardware.com/news/alder-lake-lga-1700-cpu-socket-pictured-ahead-october-launch

13:47 - Epic Games Adds Linux Anti-Cheat Support

Epic Games recently posted to its devblog to announce that Epic Online Services will now support Linux and Mac with its Easy Anti-Cheat solution, previously only available to Windows developers.

Although this news sounds somewhat mundane on the surface, it’s a big deal for the upcoming Steam Deck; in fact, Epic directly names the Steam Deck on its supported platforms list. Valve’s Steam Deck push may be driving more Linux adoption or minimally showing peers in the industry that the world is ready to try again for a mainstream Linux environment.

Epic noted that Wine and Proton compatibility layers will both be supported, and that developers can activate anti-cheat support as of the latest SDK update.

Source: https://dev.epicgames.com/en-US/news/epic-online-services-launches-anti-cheat-support-for-linux-mac-and-steam-deck

15:01 - New Steam Deck Information from Valve

Some of the news this week included added support for anti-cheat software in Linux. Although not necessarily a result of Valve’s Steam Deck efforts, it’s feasible that the newfound Linux push is related to Valve’s Linux-based Steam Deck.

From the FAQ, the most interesting points were as follows:

  • Multiple Steam accounts can be used on a single Steam Deck, with account data and game settings isolated
  • Non-Steam games can be run through the Proton compatibility layer
  • Valve confirmed earlier suspicions from us and others that the Steam Deck UI will replace Big Picture
  • Valve said this of offline mode: “Just like a PC, you'll need to be online to download games and play online multiplayer games. Once a game is installed on disk, you can play while Steam Deck is offline unless the game requires an internet connection.” Valve’s existing offline mode leaves a lot to be desired, but at least we know it’ll basically work the same way.
  • MicroSD cards will use ext4 with casefolding for the file format
  • Valve confirmed that dogged or active charging performance does not change
  • Dual-boot or multi-boot is supported. BIOS will be accessible.

In essence, Valve’s current ethos seems to treat the Steam Deck like a true computer.

Source: https://www.steamdeck.com/en/faq

17:32 - AMD’s Lisa Su: Shortage to Improve in 2022

AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su recently spoke at the Code Conference about AMD’s business and manufacturing shortages affecting nearly all industries. Most interestingly, Su stated that the industry has always oscillated between oversupply and undersupply, but she was quick to point-out that “this time, it’s different.”

Su spoke of the active fabrication plant construction projects all around the world right now, like TSMC’s expansion and GlobalFoundries’ new push (and, although not explicitly mentioned, this would also include Intel’s build-out). She mentioned that 18 to 24 months time to activate a new plant is expected, and that it may take longer in some cases. Su indicated that companies began planning for this last year, and so expansion, as long as there isn’t too much backlogged demand, will provide manufacturing relief as early as 2022.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/27/amd-ceo-lisa-su-says-chip-shortage-likely-to-end-next-year.html

Sony Launches M.2 SSD Aimed at PS5s

Having only recently opened up M.2 SSD support via a PlayStation 5 software update, Sony is now offering its own M.2 SSD through its Nextorage subsidiary. The choice to release the SSD through the rather obscure Nextorage brand seems an odd one, and Sony will also be competing with SSDs from well known third-parties like TeamGroup and Seagate, that have also released SSDs built specifically for the console. 

Nonetheless, the Nextorage NEM-PA series seems to tick all the right boxes for an M.2 SSD that operates over the PCIe 4.0 interface. The NEM-PA series comes in either a 1TB or 2TB configuration, and also uses an integrated heatsink -- which Sony touts as a requirement for PS5-compatible SSDs. For the 2TB NEM-PA SSD, Nextorage claims sequential read/write speeds of 7,300 / 6,900 MB/s, respectively. Additionally, the 2TB SSD also has random read/write speeds of 1,000,000 / 1,000,000 IOPS, and an endurance rating of 1,400 TBW. 

As is usually the case, the 1TB NEM-PA SSD has numbers that are a little diminished in comparison. The 1TB model offers sequential read/write speeds of 7,300 / 6,000 MB/s and random read/write speeds of 750,000 / 1,000,000 IOPS, with a much lower endurance rating of 700 TBW. 

There’s no word on pricing or availability, but as drop in support for M.2 SSDs is now out of beta and ready to go, we expect we’ll know more soon.    

Source: https://www.nextorage.net/articles/210906/ (Japanese)

https://www.nextorage.net/nem-pa/  (Japanese)

https://www.tomshardware.com/news/sony-releases-aftermarket-ps5-ssd-under-the-nextorage-brand

21:00 - After More Funding, Discord Valued at $15 Billion

Discord just closed a round of funding that drew in $500M, with the new capital bringing Discord an estimated value of $15 billion. At a $15B valuation, that’s twice what the company was worth last year. As Bloomberg reports, the funding round was led by Dragoneer Investment Group. Baillie Gifford & Co., Coatue Management, Fidelity Management & Research Co. and Franklin Templeton, among others. According to Bloomberg, Discord will use the funding to “invest in new features and tools,” as well as expand the workforce. 

Discord’s trajectory over the last couple of years has been interesting. The Discord user base has ballooned to include 150M monthly users, and there have been nonstop reports of companies knocking on Discord’s door with reported acquisition interest. Such interested parties have included Amazon, Epic Games, and most recently, Microsoft. Discord’s popularity has grown so much that even Sony has struck a deal to bring Discord integration into its PlayStation consoles, which have always been something of a walled garden. 

Discord has also eschewed its overt gamer aesthetic, and has moved to position itself as more of a general purpose chat application, or as Discord puts it, “Your place to talk.” Indeed, Discord has come a long way since its beta days back in 2015, when it looked like a gamer inspired Slack meant to compete with TeamSpeak. These days, entire forums, subreddits, and communities have been replaced by Discord servers. 

PC Gamer recently ran an interesting Op-ed, imploring users to “Please enjoy Discord while it's still good.” The article raises some interesting questions on Discord’s future, some of which likely aren’t far from the truth.     

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-15/chat-app-discord-is-worth-15-billion-after-new-funding

23:01 - Computing Pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair Passes Away

Home computing pioneer and visionary, Sir Clive Sinclair, has unfortunately passed away, aged 81. After a stint in electronics journalism, Sinclair went on to found the companies Sinclair Radionics and Sinclair Research. Through these companies, Sinclair not only developed a line of home computers, but the world’s first pocket calculator. 

Throughout his time, Sinclair dabbled in a number of projects, some of which have arguably influenced some of today’s consumer electronics. Sinclair’s claim to fame, however, was in his line of ZX home computers. Starting with the ZX80 that launched in 1980, Sinclair helped kick off the home computing boom in Europe. The ZX80 was also notable for being extremely affordable, as it was the first home computer in the UK that was priced under GB£100. 

Sinclair would go on to produce successors such as the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum -- the latter being notable for several reasons. The ZX Spectrum was among the first home computers that was capable of real-time graphics, and was one of the first home computers at the time to have a color display. The ZX Spectrum would go on to become Britain’s best selling home computer, and would compete with another venerable home computer of the time -- the Commodore 64. In fact, Rare Limited (Rareware, Rare, etc.) would get its start as a company by the name of Ultimate Play The Game, which developed games for the ZX Spectrum.

As The Guardian notes, Sinclair would become a household name after the popularity of the ZX models, and he was awarded knighthood in 1983 for his contributions to the home computing industry. Sinclair’s daughter, Belinda Sinclair, said that “It was the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting. He’d come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.’” 

Here’s a great homage to Sinclair Computers, should you want to learn more, or just take a trip down memory lane.  

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/16/home-computing-pioneer-sir-clive-sinclair-dies-aged-81

Writer: Eric Hamilton
Writer, Host: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick

Last modified on October 03, 2021 at 11:37 pm

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