Solid-state drives are good for everything that hard disk drives do, as long as buyers don’t mind trading capacity for performance, but there are several sub-types of SSDs, separated by size, capacity and speed.
The ones that Mushkin released a very short time ago aren’t the regular sort (2.5-inch), nor are they thin versions of them.
Instead, they use the 1.8-inch form factor, whose price/performance/capacity ratio makes them viable choices only for mission-critical computer products.
Granted, people could go out of their way to get one for their laptop, if they happen to have one that uses such small drives.
Nevertheless, the newcomers are primarily aimed at enterprise and professional customers that run 24×7 environments (servers, data centers).
Obviously, the connectivity interface employed by the Mushkin Chronos GO, as the new units are called, is SATA III (SATA 6.0 Gbps).
“Mushkin continues to push the envelope with higher performance, higher capacity and higher reliability products, and the new line of 1.8-inch Chronos(TM) GO SATA III (6Gbps) SSDs is just one example,” said Nicolas Villalobos, director of global marketing at Mushkin Inc.
“With these improvements, the new drives are very well-suited for professionals and for solution providers in demanding environments like digital signage, healthcare and point-of-sale.”
Originally, Chronos GO were normal enterprise-class drives, but they were adapted and re-engineered to, in Mushkin’s own words, “deliver the highest possible storage capacity in a drive that is optimized for high-performance and ultimate reliability, even in the most demanding 24×7 environments.”
Sadly, the company completely avoided specifying transfer speeds, or what controller was used, so we can’t know if these are 500+ MB/s SandForce-powered drives or some other sort. The prices aren’t known either.
As a followup to its flagship Opteron 6300 launch last month, AMD has just released several more Piledriver-based processors meant for the server room. One eight-core and two quad-core models are part of the Opteron 3300 series, while the Opteron 4300 series gets six new CPUs: one quad-core, three six-core and two eight-core designs. With all this new silicon, IT pros may have concerns about compatibility issues — but fear not, for all of AMD’s new gear has sockets that fit in with the 3200 and 4200 series to make upgrading a painless process. Designed for small-to-medium sized businesses and web host servers, the chips are relatively inexpensive with prices ranging from $174 to $501, a far cry from the the $575 to $1,392 price of the higher-end 6300.
Despite the low cost, AMD claims the CPUs have a 24 percent performance per watt increase and 15 percent less power usage than their predecessors. The chip maker will likely still face an uphill battle against Intel’s mighty Xeon, but businesses looking to save a little cash might be the Opteron’s saving grace. There’s more detailed specs on the newly announced processors at the source, and you can get a peek at the pricing table after the break.
If you get the impression that AMD is diverting its energy away from traditional CPUs and towards APUs and fresher PC form factors such as all-in-ones, then you’re certainly right — but you’re also slightly ahead of the game. The company promises there’s a still a good few years of life left in its CPU-only chips and the AM3+ socket, and it’s putting today’s announcement forward as evidence. As of now, last year’s eight-core FX-8150 has been superseded on retailers’ shelves by the FX-8350, which notches the stock clock speed up to 4GHz, or 4.2GHz on turbo (alas with no obvious sign of that resonant mesh we once heard about). The full stack (codenamed ‘Vishera’) includes eight-, six- and four-core options, all based on the new Piledriver architecture which — when combined with these higher clock speeds — promises an overall performance uplift of around 15 percent versus the old Bulldozer cores. To be fair though, those Bulldozers weren’t so snappy to begin with, and besides, the most significant performance claims with this upgrade relate to multi-threaded applications and a few gaming titles like Skyrim and Civ 5. Judging from the slide deck below, gains in other areas of performance may be lower — perhaps in the region of seven percent — so as usual we’re going to roundup a bunch of reviews later today before we jump to any conclusions.
If it turns out that stock performance alone isn’t enough to sell these chips, then potential buyers still ought to check out FX’s pricing relative to Intel — not least because, as is typical, AMD sells overclockable chips at no extra charge. The top-end FX-8350 will hit the market at $195, which is not only cheaper than some earlier leaks suggested, but also $40 cheaper than an unlocked Core i5-3570K that has a lower clock speed and a smaller L3 cache — although the relative performance of these two chips remains to be independently tested. Meanwhile, the entry-level quad-core FX-4300 will virtually match the price of a locked i3-2120 at $122, but can be readily overclocked to 5GHz with water-cooling. AMD is also making a few claims based on the cost of multiple components in a rig: for example, that you can spend $372 on an FX-8350 and Radeon HD 7850 combo that delivers a 25 to 70 percent gaming advantage over a similarly priced Core i5 3570K with a GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Again, stay tuned for our roundup and we’ll figure out just how compelling this really is.
Japanese electronics giant Toshiba has just introduced two new hybrid hard drives (HHD) that feature SLC NAND memory and come in a modest 2.5” format. The new drives feature disappointing technical specifications and likely won’t offer impressive performance.
Toshiba’s new drives feature only a 8 GB SLC NAND buffer and, while SLC flash memory is much more reliable and durable than MLC or TLC NAND, the quantity is abysmal when compared with what a HDD should deliver proper performance.
Intel and Western Digital got separately to the same conclusion, namely that, for a decent performance increase, the ratio between magnetic storage capacity and the flash NAND buffer should be a maximum of 20 to 1.
Therefore, a 1 TB HHD should have at least 52 GB of NAND, while a 750 GB model should integrate at least 38 GB of flash memory.
Unfortunately, Toshiba’s new HHDs only come with 8 GB of SLC NAND, no matter what capacity the drive has.
The first model is officially called Toshiba MQ01ABD075H and comes with a 750 GB storage capacity, while the second is called Toshiba MQ01ABD100H and features a 1 TB storage capacity.
To further deepen our disappointment, Toshiba has apparently decided that a 5400 RPM spindle speed is enough for today’s performance requirements, but we’d beg to differ.
On the other hand, the drives are also very fat, literally. Both models are 9.5mm thick and this is quite surprising in a period where most companies launch 7mm or even 5mm hard disk drives.
We would have thought that a HHD with a modest 1 TB capacity can surely be slimmer than a 2 TB HDD in the same 2.5” form factor.
The top three performing CPUs are replacing the Core i7-3720QM, i7-3820QM and i7-3920XM Extreme models that have been just launched in April of this year.
The new models are reportedly called Core i7-3740QM, i7-3840QM and Core i7-3940XM Extreme and come with higher working frequencies and different prices.
On the low end, Intel comes with two “new” Sandy Bridge based Celerons, but you can find all the necessary information in the table below.
After gaining a lot of traction in the mobile space, Qualcomm is taking a big leap forward.
The company has created its own branded tablet, with an aim targeted directly at the iPad, but geared more toward the developer community. With its 10.1-inch display and a quad-core processor, the Qualcomm tablet is certainly not vying for the audience that the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are trying to attract.
It is the first tablet based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor. It runs on the APQ8064 chip with asynchronous Quad CPU cores, each running at 1.5 GHz.
There’s an Adreno 320 GPU, and the display has a WXGA multitouch panel.
It also runs on version 4.0 of Android, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, so even at the steep price point users don’t get to jump onto the latest version of Android.
But given how nascent Jelly Bean is at this stage, it would stand to reason that an update for Qualcomm’s device is only a matter of time.
In addition to the tablet itself, consumers receive a docking station in the box, along with the requisite cables and adapters.
Again, this device is geared specifically toward developers in the hopes of getting more people on board when it comes to creating tablet-optimized Android apps, of which there is a notable shortage right now.
If successful, it will mount pressure against the iPad which has until now enjoyed significant power in the 10-inch tablet market.
Even at this early stage, I really like The New Microsoft Office, but it’s important to point out that this suite of productivity apps is not free. So I wouldn’t blame you for asking why a business would pay for it when it could get a comparable set of office tools from Google Docs for a lot less or even free. But after using The New Microsoft Office (that’s the official name of the entire suite) for a few days, I can tell you that there are plenty of reasons for trading up.
For starters it’s available wherever you are, on whatever device you’re using at the time, and with full touch-screen support, the entire suite has been reinvented to work with Windows 8-driven tablets, regular keyboard-and-mouse desktop setups, and even smartphones. Along with a completely reinvented interface, all of these things come together to make it the best Office yet.
C is for convenience
Like most recent versions of Office, the suite comes in many versions with tiered packages from the cloud-supported Office 365 to the desktop standalone Office 2013. Whether you choose to pay for Office 2013 or sign up for a subscription to Office 365, the bigger challenge for Microsoft will be how it markets the suite to both businesses and individual consumers to show why they need to make the switch at all.
So how could Microsoft do it? In a word: convenience. I’m not just talking about the convenience of continuing to use what you’ve used before — I’m talking about the suite itself. What Microsoft has done in this latest version is make Office useable on a tablet running Windows 8 and, in converting the myriad productivity tools to support touch screens, the company had to make most actions only one click (or tap) away. So while it has streamlined the suite out of necessity, it’s now easier to use than ever before.
Office also offers an enormous number of templates across the suite (with even more available online) to fulfill almost any business need. Almost all have a polished and professional look so you’ll waste almost no time creating documents from scratch. In my testing, the suite of apps worked seamlessly together — and with Microsoft’s services — making collaboration, sharing, and internal communication much easier.
The new interface across the entire suite of applications has been reinvented, mostly for the better. First off, the Ribbon, which disappointed many users when it first appeared in Office 2007, remains part of the new Office. But before you start grumbling, consider that Microsoft has made it optional this time around. So now you can show or hide the exhaustive collections of tools across every tab, and decide how much or how little you want to use them. In my review of Office 2010 I liked the Ribbon, but I’ve heard enough from users who disagree to know that Microsoft has made a wise change.
Aside from the Ribbon, the interface is similar but much simpler than it was in Office 2010 and earlier. Flat buttons and plenty of white space make the interface look less crowded. Newly added start pages for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel help you get to recent documents and new templates immediately upon launch. Other interface tweaks are tablet-focused such as the radial menus in OneNote that show options (like sharing, search, and zoom tools) in a circle around the area you pressed. The general feel of the suite is more streamlined and more cloud-integrated, and it seems like it will be useful to those looking at the same documents on several devices.
The main core apps of the suite have all been updated with the new look and several new features that can be used with touch-screen tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones.
Microsoft says it is trying to make a smoother experience all around, which is shown not just in the interface, but with tweaks to the apps that will make getting things done easier. As an example, a new Read Mode in Microsoft Word lets you flip through documents like a book (on a tablet) and offers only the features that help you with common reading actions such as controls for defining words, translations, and searching the Web. But flashier additions in the new version of Word also let you view video right within documents (with an online connection). There are also other time-savers like the option to collapse sections of a document to get them out of the way, and a navigation pane that lets you know at a glance where you are in the document. Some of these options probably just seem like common sense, but what Microsoft has done has made many complex actions in earlier versions of the suite only require a couple of clicks.
The major theme remains that the most useful features are only a click (or tap) away. In Excel, for example, you have the Quick Analysis Lens that lets you click a small tab to view several recommended ways of visualizing your data. From here it only takes one more click to apply formatting, create a Sparkline, or add a chart or table to make your data clearer. In PowerPoint, you may have been working on a presentation in one theme, but want to give it a new look. With only a couple of clicks, you can change themes (and flip through variants of themes) and your content will move to fit the new style. Outlook has time-savers as well, with a new feature called Peeks that lets you peek at your schedule or a specific appointment without the interruption of leaving a message window. All of these quick features add convenience and cut out steps you would have had to perform in earlier versions of the suite.
In the more business-oriented apps, the theme is the same: cutting out steps to streamline your work flow. For example, Microsoft’s diagramming app, Visio, helps you create diagrams more easily with more options to collaborate with others in fewer steps. Like the one-click changes already mentioned in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, Visio offers quick customizations so you can diagram shapes and themes in only a couple of clicks. The software is tightly integrated with the other apps in the suite as well, letting you easily link diagram shapes from common data sources including Excel, SQL Server, SQL Azure, and SharePoint External Lists. What you’re getting with the new Microsoft Office is a suite that plays together nicely and that will likely mean you can complete projects in less time.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)
Microsoft’s enterprise services, including Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, are the glue that holds the whole enterprise suite together and a number of improvements make communication between the moving parts of an organization more streamlined and secure in the new suite. In Exchange, new Data Loss Prevention features help you monitor and protect sensitive data, and a new Exchange eDiscovery Center lets you monitor and analyze SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange data from a single interface. SharePoint has been improved as well to help you share ideas and get instant feedback on projects using improved customizable team sites where you can stay in sync with coworkers. Lync offers a unified client for voice and video calls along with instant messaging for a consistent experience across all devices, from your Web browser to your smartphone. All of the services attempt to make collaboration easier and Microsoft has succeeded in streamlining every service so diving in is not as daunting as it was in earlier versions of suite.
The new Microsoft Office tries to cover all the bases for productivity, and in my early tests, it does an admirable job. With the focus on making the suite available on Windows 8 tablets, the company made many actions easier across the suite out of necessity, making it easier to learn how to use by both businesses and individual consumers regardless of the device they are working on.
With that said, one of my biggest early challenges in testing the software was learning how to navigate Windows 8 before I could even get to the Office apps. This is important because if you’re going to follow Microsoft into the world of the touch-screen OS, you may run into the same challenges I did. After a couple of days of testing I was able to navigate the OS quickly, but I think it’s worth noting that there is an additional learning curve with Windows 8 before you take the leap.
The question (much like with Windows 8) is how people will receive the new interface, and whether users will embrace the touch-screen technology. Are we going to see a surge in Windows 8 tablets purchased as a result, or will people ignore the new tech and stick with their desktops?
Another question I have is whether businesses will opt for the cheaper Google Docs experience, and if consumers will continue to use Google Docs for free. Office may be a better overall experience, but it’s no secret money can be the deciding factor for many people. In the end, we won’t know for sure until early next year when The New Microsoft Office is released, but from what I’ve seen, this version could be the must-have office suite, if Microsoft can convince businesses and users to discard the free-to-play options for a more polished, integrated, and streamlined experience.
The potential of 3D printing to transform the way we get things – the market is predicted to hit $3.1 billion in the next four years - gets a lot of press. But not much of that attention has focused on the unique role of open source hardware in enabling 3D printing to realize its promise.
Open source software has been a key player in all kinds of disruptive technologies – from the Web to big data. Now the nascent and growing open source hardware movement is helping to power its own disruptive revolution.
What Is Open Source Hardware?
Open source hardware is a component or device that has been licensed to allow anyone to examine, duplicate and modify the hardware as they wish. The openness affects the intellectual property of the device. You can either download the specs and build the device or component yourself, or buy the hardware for a small assembly fee from a vendor. As with open source software, sharing is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.
Open source hardware doesn’t get much attention outside of geek circles, but it is starting to have a real-world impact.
According to industry analyst Terry Wohlers, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is forecast to have an “industry-wide growth [of] $3.1 billion by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020.” And in the midst of this revolution is a small, Italian-made open source microcontroller known to many in this new community of things: Arduino.
What Is Arduino?
Arduino is the brainchild of an international team of five engineers: Massimo Banzi and Gianluca Martino of Italy; David Cuartielles of Spain; and David Mellis and Tom Igoe of the U.S. According to Banzi, who recently made a presentation at TEDGlobal 2012, Arduino has developed the Interactive Design Institute Ivrea (IDII) to help students there actually build prototype objects that could react to their inputs. Using a foam model of a prototype cell phone, for instance, simply would not make sense.
But there was another catch: “They don’t have five years to learn electrical engineering. We only have one month.” This constraint meant that Banzi and his team had to put together something easy to build upon and as open as possible.
And they aren’t kidding about the open aspect: Arduino’s hardware is completely open sourced (under Creative Commons), with design files and specs available, as well as control software (under the GPL) and documentation (also under Creative Commons). The only thing non-free about Arduino is the trademarked name – and that’s just to keep standards in place.
Arduino’s openness means that the micro-controller board can be found in the heart of a lot of open source hardware devices today, including 3D printers, toys and thousands of projects within the maker community. Commercial vendors and do-it-yourselfers alike are picking up Arduino boards and customizing them for their projects with the eventual launch of some compelling devices.
How Open Source Hardware Is Driving 3D Printing
While this kind of technology is obviously a boon to the DIY communities that have formed around the Instructables and Thingiverse communities, they are starting to pick up commercial steam, too. Matternet takes former military drone technology and with modifications based on Arduino hardware, uses these cheaply made unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver vital goods across developing nations’ territories via a “roadless network.”
Arduino’s openness is also starting to fuel vendors’ innovation to make devices and launch them at a fraction of the normal costs associated with prototyping and general manufacturing. Search for “Arduino” and “Kickstarter,” and you will get a small taste of vendor dependence on Arduino.
Making it easier, faster and cheaper to produce physical objects could fundamentally shift the manufacturing paradigm. As 3D printing, powered by Arduino and other open source technologies, becomes more prevalent, economies of scale become much less of a problem. A 3D printer can print a few devices – or thousands – without significant retooling, pushing upfront costs to near-zero.
This is what The Economist calls the “Third Industrial Revolution,” where devices and things can be made in smaller, cleaner factories with far less overhead and – significantly – less labor.
Moving Manufacturing Back to the U.S.?
“The revolution will affect not only how things are made, but where. Factories used to move to low-wage countries to curb labour costs. But labour costs are growing less and less important: a $499 first-generation iPad included only about $33 of manufacturing labour, of which the final assembly in China accounted for just $8,” the Economist stated. “Offshore production is increasingly moving back to rich countries not because Chinese wages are rising, but because companies now want to be closer to their customers so that they can respond more quickly to changes in demand.”
Not everyone agrees with the disruptive power of this kind of digital manufacturing, but given the open source nature at the heart of much of this technology, innovation in this area will be upon us fast, and it will bring changes – expected or otherwise – to the way we get things.
One little blue-and-white microcontroller may not be the fulcrum to move the world, but open source hardware is definitely making the lever longer and easier to push.
When it comes to storage, you definitely don’t want to risk getting stuck with a lemon. That’s because, unlike other commodities like a car or a TV, when a storage device breaks down, chances are you lose a lot more than just the drive itself. It’s a painful experience to see your invaluable data vanish. Take my word for it on this.
But you likely don’t want to spend too much, either, and want your storage device to be easily accessible, especially on the go since there’s not much use for your data if it always has to stay at home.
Bearing that in mind, compact and portable external hard drives are arguably the most popular form of storage. They have room to hold lots of data, often more than your laptop or ultrabook can, without being big or heavy. Following is the list of the top five portable USB 3.0-based drives that are the best among their peers, offering great performance, large storage space, compact design, and sometimes even the kind of toughness that will withstand drops and submersion in water. Most importantly, you can easily find them for less than $100. Have more to spend? You can get larger capacities that cost more.
Note that these drives also work with USB 2.0 (MacBook Air owners, you’re included here) and they are all bus-powered, so you don’t need a separate power adapter to use them.
Seagate Backup Plus (500GB version)
The Backup Plus is the latest family of portable hard drives from Seagate. These replace the company’s popular GoFlex line that was first introduced back in 2001 and is known for being superflexible. Though the name has changed, the new family retains the flexibility of the previous design; in fact, new Backup Plus drives work with the old GoFlex adapters, and now also offer a new easy backup approach, not just for local storage but also for your social-media personal data.
The new Backup Plus drives also come in many colors to fit your tastes. In fact, the color of the interface on the backup software actually changes based on the color of the drive. This is isn’t a huge deal, but it’s definitely fun and helps you know which drives you’re working with. The Seagate Backup Plus comes in three capacities from 500GB to 1TB, with the 500GB costing just around $90. Read the full review of the Seagate Backup Plus.
WD My Passport (500GB version)
Western Digital’s new My Passport is the world’s first portable drive that offers up to 2TB of storage space. If you want the top amount of storage space, you’ll have to spend about $200. However, it also comes with a 500GB version that costs around just $80 or 750GB for $90. All of the drives’ capacities offer the same features, including fast USB 3.0 speed, sturdy design, and useful, simple backup software. Read the full review of the WD 2TB My Passport.
Lexar JumpDrive Triton (32GB version)
As far as I know, the Lexar JumpDrive Triton has a lot of firsts. It’s the first thumbdrive that supports USB 3.0, the fastest USB 3.0-based portable storage device, and also the first among a lot of computer and electronic devices I’ve seen that bears a “Product of USA” label. It doesn’t mean it was made in the States entirely, but hey, at least it wasn’t made in China, like the majority of thumbdrives. For those who like pretty things (and who doesn’t?) the drive is really good-looking with a shiny, full-metal-alloy base and an equally shiny hardened plastic top. It also comes with a great retractable USB head design.
The Triton’s top capacity is 64GB, which costs around $140; it’s a little too expensive, but its 32GB version costs just about $70, making it a good choice for those who travel with a portable computer and don’t need to carry a lot of data. It’s worth noting that 32GB is still a lot of storage space, considering how tiny the Triton is. There’s also a 16GB version that costs around $50. Read the full review of the Lexar JumpDrive Triton thumbdrive.
Silicon Power Armor A80 (500GB version)
The Silicon Power Armor A80 is a special 2.5-inch-based portable drive that offers up to 1TB of storage. It’s the first USB 3.0 drive that comes with an A-female USB port (similar to the ones found on computers). This means you can’t use standard USB cables with it. To make up for this minor inconvenience, the drive comes with two A-male-to-A-male USB cables of its own, one of which is hidden on the drive itself. This cable-carry design makes the drive even more portable, but it is not the only selling point of the drive. Housed in a rugged chassis, the A80 is waterproof down to a depth of 3 feet and is rugged enough to handle shocks and drops from around 4 feet, while moving. The drive also showed great performance in my testing.
The Silicon Power Armor A80 comes in four capacities: 500GB, 640GB, 750GB, and 1TB. On a good day, you can find the 500GB online for just around $80. At this price, for those who work in rough environments and are looking to expand their laptop’s storage, the A80 is definitely worth every penny. Read the full review of the Silicon Power Armor A80.
Seagate GoFlex Slim (500GB version)
The GoFlex Slim is the only drive in the GoFlex family that’s not supposed to be replaced by the Backup Plus family. This is because the drive is a type of its own. It’s the first, and currently still the only, portable hard drive on the market that’s ultraslim; at just 0.35 inch, it’s actually thinner than a regular 2.5-inch hard drive, which is about 0.4 inch thick. The drive itself is just about the size of an iPhone.
Despite the ultraslim design, the drive spins at 7,200rpm, has fast USB 3.0 data rates, and shares the same flexibility — and adapters — as the rest of drives in Seagate’s GoFlex and Backup Plus families.
Initially, the Slim was available only in the 320GB capacity. The 500GB version was just added earlier this month, together with the Backup Plus family. The good news is the new 500GB version currently costs less than $100, while the 320GB version is about $80. Read the full review of the Seagate GoFlex Slim.
The browser market is evolving, at its own pace, but only two browsers are really moving, Chrome and IE, one up the other down. Judging by StatCounter numbers, Chrome is set overtake Chrome within months.
In fact, it’s already bigger than IE, if only for a day or two at a time. Chrome first overtook IE on a Sunday a little over a month ago. Since then, the weekends have belonged to it. It wasn’t the number one browser in all the weekends since them but at the very least it was tied with IE.
It’s an interesting behavior one that affects Firefox, Safari or Opera very little. But it’s not that easy to interpret as it may seem. At first glance, it does look like as soon as they leave work people flock to Chrome, indicating that they prefer the Google browser at home.
But traffic generally drops during the weekends so the StatCounter numbers don’t necessarily show that people switch to Chrome as soon as they have the chance, just that they don’t use IE as much.
Google Search :)
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