This round-up is packed with news, although our leading two stories are based on rumors. After talking about Navi's potential reference or engineering design PCB and Intel's alleged Comet Lake plans, we'll dive into Super Micro's move away from China-based manufacturing, a global downtrend in chip sales, Ryzen and Epyc sales growth, Amazon EWS expansion to use more AMD instances, and more.
Show notes are below the embedded video, as always.
Razer is pulling the curtains on a pair of high-end gaming mice: the wireless Razer Lancehead and the wired Razer Lancehead Tournament Edition. Razer touts the new mice as being “tournament-grade” in terms of accuracy, performance, and reliability. The two variants of the Razer Lancehead share many features: the sensor and Razer’s proprietary “Adaptive Frequency Technology” are the chief modifiers.
The wireless Razer Lancehead—much like the refreshed Diamondback and high-end Mamba series—uses a 5G laser sensor with up to 50g acceleration and 16,000 DPI/210 inches per second tracking. The refreshed Diamondback and Mamba/Mamba TE all used a Philips Twin Eye sensor. It is unclear if that is the case with the Razer Lancehead, but given the specs, it’s plausible.
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.
Once a leading force in the industry with the Antec 900, the company has been mostly quiet for the last few years. Antec's newest endeavor is in partnership with Razer, similar to what NZXT did with the H440 (“By Razer”) and S340 (“By Razer”) cases. We're not completely sure of how much design involvement Razer had with Antec on the case, but previous partnerships were largely logo licensing/branding and green/black color schemes that were not otherwise available.
The case was at PAX West 2016 for the first time, where we got a few moments of unsupervised hands-on with the case (see video below) for the basic specs. Since shooting that video, we've also retrieved a specs table from Antec (also below) with the hard information.
We've covered virtual reality headsets in the past -- notably, we sat down at length with engineers of the Valve/HTC Vive at PAX Prime -- but the folks at Razer have recently thrown their futuristic VR hats into the ring as well. The "Open-Source Virtual Reality ecosystem," or OSVR, has been nearing the end of its development cycle over the past few months. Razer's just announced the $300 "Hacker Development Kit," with which developers can program for VR technology in general. Although the idea of an OSVR "ecosystem" seems to promise that Razer will develop additional VR products, the dev kit (which includes a headset and software) is the only product being offered right now; it is not a dev kit for an existing Razer product, and it's not intended to develop software specifically for Razer products.
With the popular release of the NZXT H440, Razer and NZXT previously teamed-up to ship an H440 case with Razer’s color, style, and logo. This was a bit of surprise as Razer really hadn’t had designs partners like this before. As of yesterday, it appears that NZXT and Razer will continue to release NZXT cases with slightly altered designs and styles.
The latest case that Razer and NZXT collaborated on is the “S340 - Designed by Razer.” Yes, that is its name; not exactly very catchy, if you ask me, but no one did. Regardless of name, the new S340 (which we will call the Razer S340) is the same as the NZXT S340, but with some color and logo tweaks. The design is almost exactly the same – it is a good design after all – so our review of the NZXT S340 is perfectly relevant for the Razer S340. To recap that review, the NZXT S340 is a minimalist, (almost) entirely metal ATX case, without any front 5.25” bays. It includes a PSU shroud and cable management bar that allow for cable management without the use of grommets. The S340 has good watercooling support, with a 280mm radiator being mountable in the front. It also includes dust filters for the fan intakes.
The annual Game Developers Conference is this week, with PAX East overlapping the tail-end of the event. We’ll be at both GDC and PAX, followed by the GPU Technology Conference about two weeks later.
We called NZXT's H440 enclosure an "innovator" and "the reason we review cases" after benchmarking the product. The H440 ships with a built-in PSU shroud, a side window that obscures the drive bays, and a complete lack of 5.25" external optical drive bays; along with these risks taken by the company, the enclosure uses sound-damping foam and locking thumb screws to mitigate noise and streamline installation.
The company has now partnered with Razer, in a somewhat shocking turn of events, who are now offering their own "NZXT H440 Designed by Razer." The core specs of the case remain the same, but changes to the aesthetic have been made by Razer.
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