Hardware

Last year's fly-by over North Carolina's Maker Faire featured 3D printing company Fusion3 Designs, and it looks like the 3D printing crowd has returned again for 2014's Faire. The NC Maker Faire is an extension of the "Maker Faire" franchise, which hosts its largest event annually in the Bay area. Mythbuster Adam Savage is often sighted at the Bay event, usually speaking in front of panel audiences or providing key notes.

maker-faire-1I don't know what it is, but it has lots of red wires and is driving straight at me...

The NC Maker Faire is, understandably, much smaller than what's offered in the Bay area -- but it is growing. This year's NC Maker Faire saw expansion into a larger exhibition space at the NC Fairgrounds, with the event reportedly surpassing previous attendance in presales alone.

The Steam Machine delay into 2015 imposed a set-back for hardware manufacturers hoping to license Valve's official branding and software, but hasn't stopped the release of systems under new names. With to-be Steam Machines like Gigabyte's Brix, Alienware's now-renamed Alpha, and Zotac's now-renamed mini-PC, hardware vendors have already invested resources heavily into HTPC platforms for gaming. The companies were originally expecting a holiday 2014 release, but recent delays by Valve pushed that into 2015; with resources tied-up in platform development, a few of these vendors have decided to release ahead of time with new names and Windows.

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Alienware, a subsidiary of Dell, announced the "Alpha Console" at $550 starting, with various configuration and upgrade options for purchasers.

With Computex now over, we’ve had a full look at what all the major hardware manufacturers have had up their sleeves. One of the more electrically complex items released by EVGA, Corsair, and Be Quiet! are their newest power supplies.

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Rounding-up all the newest power supplies from Computex reveals a cluster of 1600W PSUs, a 600W SFX PSU that we’ve covered before, and a renewed focus on power efficiency.

With A fair amount of the new Z97 motherboards being shown already, fans of Intel's X99 enthusiast chipset may feel a bit cheated being left with nothing interesting to look at. As of Computex 2014, that's finally changed. ASrock recently showed their latest X99 board to press at Taipei's electronics and hardware tradeshow.

asrock-extreme-x99ASRock Extreme6 (Left) & Extreme4 (Right) X99 motherboards. Image source: VR-Zone.

FreeSync was first announced as a variable refresh rate technology at CES 2014, legitimately taking nVidia by surprise on the show floor. Immediately after the technology was unveiled, we happened to be scheduled for a meeting with nVidia's Tom Peterson and Vijay Sharma to discuss G-Sync. I'd slipped in a question about the technology, announced an hour beforehand, and Peterson told us: "I don't know. We just heard about that today. I haven't read about it yet - ask me after the show."

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"Hicookie" isn't an easily-forgotten name. The RAM overclocker last made a major appearance using G.Skill's TridentX RAM, which he pushed to nearly 4GHz. Just a couple of days ago, Gigabyte and Kingston recruited the memory overclocker to break the world record.

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Since 2006, when Asetek released their more affordable closed-loop coolers (or CLCs), enthusiasts have experimented with using them in creative implementations. One of the more interesting mods was using zip ties to mount CLCs to GPUs. This led to much better cooling compared to stock air coolers, although nVidia's new turbofan looks promising. NZXT recently came out with their G10 bracket which allows users to mount a CLC to their GPU without needing to mod anything. The NZXT G10 includes a VRM fan, backplate, CLC bracket, and screws. Overall, it was a simple implementation of a creative idea.

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Case, power, and cooling manufacturer NZXT announced new products in their liquid cooling (CLC) lineup today at Computex. The company debuted the Kraken X41 and Kraken X61 to members of the media at the Taipei-based computer electronics convention, alongside a new "GRID+" fan controller hub.

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The closed-loop liquid coolers are follow-up products to the Kraken X40 and Kraken X60 that we reviewed last year. The X41 and X61 have kept the same 140mm / 280mm CLC design, but make additions in the form of variable pump speed control and increased radiator thickness. 

Nvidia is well-known for their high-quality, relatively quiet, and well-performing Titan reference cooler that, frankly, looks fantastic. This is in contrast to AMD’s most recent stock coolers, which employ a plastic shroud and sound like vacuums fighting. And while for some other components we try to avoid stock cooling, people using small, restrictive airflow cases, or using multiple GPUs (without watercooling) often can get better results by using stock cooling due to how it pushes air out the back instead of dumping it in the case simply to be recirculated.

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In late January, nVidia filed a patent for their “TubroFan” design, a new fan concept to be used on GPUs that certainly looks promising.

Intel entered the SSD market in late 2008 with the X25 and has continued to release quality SSDs such as the most recent Intel 530 series. Intel is set to release their newest SSDs at Computex on June 4th. As I mentioned in my Z97 motherboard roundup, SATA III has become a bottleneck for SSDs; due to this bottleneck, interfaces like M.2, SATA express (otherwise called SATAe), and PCI-e are being implemented specifically for high-performance SSDs. Intel’s newest SSDs will be using NVM express (NVMe), a specification for SSDs attached through the PCIe bus. NVMe will allow for much higher queue depth, lower latency, and a host of other improvements that could considerably increase performance.

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Next Wednesday--June 4th at 2AM--Intel has an announcement from its Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. This is the same time as Intel's Computex keynote, so in my opinion, it’s very likely that this will be Intel’s next big SSD announcement. It has already been spoiled that Intel will bring NVMe-based drives to that field this year, and Computex would be just the event to launch them.

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