Windows 10 UPDATE – Microsoft planning BIG new patch full of great features

Windows 10 users will get a new Creators Update, available to download in September
Testing has begun for the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, ahead of a planned September 2017 release date for the big patch.

Fast Ring Insider testers received the update to download in the past few days and have been trying out the new features of Microsoft’s flagship OS.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update brings with it changes to the Action Centre notification area, which now has a separate section for apps.

The Windows Phone keyboard will also be coming to PCs, with enhanced text prediction to the touch keyboard in Windows 10.

Windows 10 users will get a new Creators Update

There will also be a new touch keyboard layout, similar to the phone keyboard, for one handed use and Windows 10 users will be able to use dictation to input English or Chinese text on the desktop with the microphone button.

Voice commands can also be used for basic editing and punctuation as part of the new experience.

Users of the Edge browser are getting a brand new Full Screen Option (by hitting F11) and will be able to pin websites to the Taskbar.

While Microsoft have also added in new Cortana features, such as giving you reminders of upcoming events if you’ve taken a picture of the event’s poster and the voice assistant gets a new Lasso tool to circle relevant information on screen using a pen that supports Press and Hold.

Microsoft will also be adding in a brand new Emoji Panel to Windows 10.

By pressing the Windows and the full stop buttons, it will bring up the Emoji panel and you can quickly scroll through and pic the emoji you want.

The latest Windows 10 update, due out in a few months time, follows on from the most recent Creators Update in April.

It brought with major improvements to 3D modelling, virtual reality support and a new Game Mode for Windows 10 PCs that prioritised resources for games.

Windows 10 Creators Update is FINALLY here

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet and are wishing you had signed up during the official free upgrade period, you may still be in luck.

Express.co.uk recently revealed that despite the Windows 10 free upgrade offer ending last year, you could STILL download it for free.

The official end for the free upgrade was July 29 2016.

However, if you are currently running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, you may still be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for nothing by following a few simple steps.

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Action Center will get a new look with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will let you pin websites to the taskbar from Microsoft Edge

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will also feature a new Emoji panel

Users need to go to the Download Windows 10 webpage and click the ‘Download tool now’ button.

After that has downloaded, people need to run the Media Creation Tool.

You can then choose ‘Upgrade this PC now’ if you have downloaded the Media Creation Tool onto the PC you want to upgrade and if you’re only upgrading one machine.

Windows 10 S review: faster, simpler … and incredibly painful to use

Windows 10 S is the latest version of Microsoft’s new and improved operating system, which is about to launch with the new Surface Laptop and a series of machines from third-party manufactures.

It joins Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro as the three versions of Windows aimed at consumers. However, confusingly it is not an upgrade to either, but a class of Windows in and of itself.

No tradition Windows apps means the desktop isn’t littered with program icons unless you actively choose to put files and shortcuts there. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Strictly speaking Windows 10 S is Windows 10 Pro but with some limitations that are designed to, in Microsoft’s words, “be streamlined for simplicity, security and speed”. In other words Windows 10 S is meant to be more secure, faster and have longer battery life, like-for-like on the same computer.

The biggest limitation is that it is restricted to using only apps downloaded from the Windows Store, of which there are about 700,000 available. The quantity is not the issue, but the quality is: the Windows Store is full of dross, from outdated and abandoned apps, to clones and useless junk – but the situation is improving almost monthly.

How do I get it?

You can’t buy Windows 10 S without a machine: it will only come on new computers – primarily those aimed at the lower-end or the education market, aside from the Surface Laptop.

If I don’t like it can I change it?

Users can upgrade from 10 S to Windows 10 Pro with a few button presses, as Windows 10 S is built on Windows 10 Pro. For many the upgrade will be free for a limited amount of time. Surface Laptop users can upgrade to 10 Pro for free until the end of 2017 – or face a fee of around £50 after.

What’s it like to use?

The Windows Store is full of the dregs of the app world. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Windows 10 S is the fastest version of Windows I have ever used – from switching and loading apps to booting up, it’s noticeably quicker than either Windows 10 Home or 10 Pro running on similar hardware.

If you only use the built-in Windows apps, such as Mail and Calendar, People, Skype, Edge and Office, Windows 10 S won’t seem any different – expect the speed. It behaves just like any other version of Windows 10. It has the normal Start menu and of course the same mix of new-looking Windows 10 interface hiding the ancient Windows XP-era Control Panel, if you dig deep enough.

It’s not restricted in any noticeable day-to-day way (you can even mess with drivers, disks and group policy, just not the registry), apart from where you can install apps.

I found Windows Store restriction to be more bothersome than I expected. About half the apps I use on Windows come from the Store, which is great and makes setting up machines easier and faster. But the other half I find it very difficult to live without. For instance, I haven’t found a good simple text editor in the Windows Store – although there are many – and as I do not use Adobe I struggle to find an image-editing program that will do what I need.

Photoshop Elements 14 is available via the Windows Store, so if you were to stick with Windows 10 S that would be your best bet – but it’s no full Photoshop. Photoshop isn’t available on the Windows Store, and neither are excellent image editors such as Affinity Photo and the free Gimp.

I’m also a Spotify user, and as the desktop app isn’t available in the Windows Store, I was confined to the Flash-based Spotify Web player in Edge, which was a terrible experience (I quit after it failed to play more than two songs sequentially before falling over). I also missed the WhatsApp Windows 10 app, the Signal Chrome extension and Steam and all the games I have.

While I can get by with alternatives most of the time, one of the biggest issues I had with Windows 10 S was the limited browser selection – you’ve got Edge and that’s pretty much it unless you want to deal with Internet Explorer 11. You can’t install Chrome, Firefox, Opera or any other browser; they’re not available in the Windows Store and are highly unlikely to be – though given that Apple’s iTunes is coming to the Windows Store, never say never.

Edge

Windows 10 S review
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Microsoft’s Edge browser is the worst thing about Windows 10 S. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Microsoft’s Edge is an interesting problem. Some will like it – a more stripped-down experience of the web that you can draw all over. It has some nice features, but I found that it just wasn’t up to scratch as the only browser you have access to.

It’s faster than Chrome, Safari and all the rest – according to Microsoft – but I didn’t find it to be. It choked on some of the more mundane sites, requiring a couple of reloads to get it to render them correctly, and it wasn’t anything to do with plugins or Flash.

It failed to load Microsoft’s Office install subscription page, meaning I had to switch to another computer using Chrome to deactivate an older install of Office to activate it on another one. Not even being able to render your own site fully is a bit embarrassing.

Edge will struggle with anything built with Chrome or Firefox in mind. Trying to use the Guardian’s editorial tools was a nightmare of jumping text cursors, copy and paste garbage and straight-up broken features, all of which work perfectly fine in Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

The Wire browser messaging app didn’t work properly, missing certain characters from pasted text. Not even tech site Engadget’s galleries worked as they’re meant to.

Should all these sites and web apps work in Edge? Probably, but unless Windows 10 S becomes a storming success and grabs Edge a greater slice of the worldwide browser market share (it’s currently claiming just 1.73% compared to Chrome’s 54.14% according to data from StatCounter) then it’s unlikely everything will become compliant.

Observations

  • If you’re setting it up in anywhere quiet, plug in headphones before you start it up the first time as Cortana shouts at you
  • Most peripherals work fine, but if you need a particular utility to run your printer or scanner or any other peripheral, you can forget it
  • It comes with BitLocker to encrypt your hard drive
  • If you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro there’s no going back
  • I couldn’t find a way to paste plain text or to keep formatting in Edge
  • Edge was incredibly vexing

Verdict

Windows 10 S review
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Windows 10 S running on a Microsoft Surface Laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Windows 10 S is a nice attempt by Microsoft to create an easier to manage, faster Windows 10 experience. It feels like it is intended to become Microsoft’s default operating system – a step below Windows 10 Home – and that might be what happens unless consumers rebel.

It lives up to most of Microsoft’s promises. It is faster. It is more secure in that at least it won’t run anything that’s not downloaded from the Windows Store, and it is simpler. The underlying Windows 10 experience is great, so if all the normal applications people install were available through the Windows Store, it would be brilliant.

But they aren’t, and Edge simply isn’t ready to be your only browser – it is holding the whole of Windows 10 S back. The app situation may change, particularly if Windows 10 S becomes popular enough to be a draw for developers to get their programs into the Windows Store.

For now by all means try Windows 10 S, but be prepared to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro almost immediately.

What is Microsoft's Windows 10 S and should I upgrade to Pro?

Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system designed to improve performance by limiting the programs it can run.

The software can only run apps downloaded from Windows’ Store, making it Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrombook.

Announced in May, the company has called the software a “walled” version of Windows 10 that will help computers “run as well as they do on day one as they do on day 1,000”. One reason laptops slow down is invasive software, Microsoft says, so the new system will be welcome to many users.

However, the operating system restricts what apps users can download, meaning some users may want to stick to a more traditional program. For them, there is an option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for a $49 (£38) fee.

What is Windows 10 S?

Similar in many ways to Microsoft’s current operating system Windows 10 Pro, the new software has the same task bars, multi-tasking and hot keys as the current system, as well as the same look. The operating system has been showcased on Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, released on June 15.

So what has changed? Apps installed on Windows 10 S are “contained” to prevent them from making changes to the operating system, which should mean the laptop performs better over its lifetime. Microsoft says the system should boot 15 seconds faster on average than a similar machine running Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft Surface Laptops with Windows 10 S

It also helps to secure the system by limiting the device to apps that are verified and downloaded through the Windows Store, which prevents malicious and unwanted software from slowing the system down.

The operating system is also designed to lock down and secure devices for use as education tools, tapping into the market that has been dominated by Google’s ChromeOS.

Chrome and Firefox will not be available

One issue that may cause some people to change their operating system from Windows 10 S is the limitation of popular apps. The operating system limits users to Microsoft’s Edge web browser and makes Bing the default search engine.

The restrictions mean users cannot set Google as their default search engine or download the Chrome app. Other search engines like Firefox aren’t available either, while popular systems such as gaming platform Steam and Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite cannot be downloaded.

More apps are coming to the Windows Store, however, with Spotify and iTunes some of the latest additions. Any user attempting to install an app that is not approved by the Windows store will be met with the following pop up.

Windows 10 S pop up
Windows 10 S pop up CREDIT: MICROSOFT

Should I upgrade to Windows 10 Pro?

If you really want to use apps that can’t be accessed on the Windows Store you have the option of upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, Microsoft’s current software.

The quickest way to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is by attempting to download an app from outside of the Windows Store, which triggers a pop-up offering the upgrade.

Windows 10 Pro install
Windows 10 Pro install CREDIT: MICROSOFT

The download will be free to users on the Microsoft Surface Laptop until December 31, after which users will incur a fee. The software upgrade cannot be reversed, meaning once you switch to Windows 10 Pro you cannot easily return to 10 S.

The update also won’t be free on cheaper Windows devices, with those under $700 (£550) incurring a $49 (£39) fee for upgrading. Microsoft has not yet confirmed UK pricing.

What devices will run Windows 10 S?

The flagship device for Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s new £979 Surface Laptop. It will also come on a range of new devices from Acer, Dell, HP Acer, Asus and Samsung. These devices will largely be cheaper than the Surface Laptop, although few are available in the UK at the moment.

Raspberry Pi Foundation Announces Merger With Coding School, CoderDojo

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Raspberry Pi Foundation’s CEO Phillip Colligan announced merger
  • CoderDojo will continue to be a separate entity post merger
  • The merger is subject to approval by Irish regulators

Raspberry Pi Foundation, the company behind the nifty credit-card sized single-board computers, on Friday announced that they are joining hands with CoderDojo Foundation, an organisation helping kids learn coding, to form an entity that will be aimed at providing many more young people across the world with new ways to find new coding opportunities.

For the uninitiated, Raspberry Pi Foundation started a technological revolution with the introduction of inexpensive miniature computers fixed on a single chipboard. Many tech enthusiasts and coders have endlessly used them to make DIY computers, in addition to support from major companies like Google. It also runs a network of coding clubs for kids aged between 9 to 13, which is attended by over 150,000 kids per week.

Raspberry Pi Foundation Announces Merger With Coding School, CoderDojo

Coming to CoderDojo, it is an Ireland-based organisation that teaches schoolchildren coding skills. It also promotes volunteer-run programming clubs for kids aged between 7 to 17 years. The company says it has over 1,250 CoderDojos covering 35,000 youngsters in at least 69 countries. Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Phillip Colligan said his goal is to reach a number of 5,000 CoderDojos by the end of 2020.

 

Post the merger of Raspberry Pi Foundation and CoderDojo, the latter will still continue to remain an individual entity without any ethos or brand change. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will form the entity with CoderDojo of which the former will be the shareholder, and Colligan to join its board of members. However, the merger is subject to an approval by Irish regulators.

“Bringing together Raspberry Pi, Code Club, and CoderDojo will create the largest global effort to get young people involved in computing and digital making,” notes Phillip Colligan, CEO of Raspberry Pi Foundation in a company’s blog post. “The two organisations will work together to advance our shared goals, using our respective assets and capabilities to get many more adults and young people involved in the CoderDojo movement. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will also provide practical, financial, and back-office support to the CoderDojo Foundation,” he added.

Kingston A400 SSD Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The A400 is currently one of the lowest priced SSD lines in India
  • It is available in 120Gb, 240GB, and 480GB capacities
  • Kingston also offers higher performing models at the same price level

If you aren’t using an SSD in your laptop or desktop PC in 2017, you’re definitely missing out. There’s very little reason not to insist on one, even if your budget is absolutely rock bottom. At the lower end of the market, 120 or 240GB of storage space is enough for casual users, and the speed benefits of an SSD outweigh the capacity advantage of a spinning hard drive. Your PC will boot and go to sleep quickly, programs launch without making you wait, and better responsiveness makes you more productive overall.

Kingston is one of several companies that offer reasonably capacious SSDs at the lowest possible prices. It competes with WD, Adata, Samsung, Zotac and Transcend in the Indian market, but interestingly, has a two-pronged strategy. There’s the A400 series and the UV400 series, both of which have very similar specifications and cost pretty much the same, but do have some differences that we will get to later.

Kingston A400 SSD Review

Today, we’re going to test the Kingston A400 240GB model to see if it delivers on its promise, and what you can realistically expect from it.

kingston a400 front ndtv kingstona400

Kingston A400 specifications and features

The Kingston A400 is a standard 2.5-inch SATA SSD, but you can tell it’s aimed at the commodity market just by looking at it. For starters, it comes in the simplest packaging we’ve ever seen; a thin cardboard-and-plastic bubble pack. There’s no padding, though to be fair SSDs are not very susceptible to damage while shipping. You don’t get anything else with it – no SATA cable, no screws, and no adhesive shim. This is a little surprising because drives like this are usually aimed at the upgrade market, and a shim helps 7mm thick SSDs fit into spaces designed for 9.5mm thick hard drives, such as older laptops.

The drive itself is just a plastic box with Kingston’s logo etched onto the surface itself. A small sticker on the back has the mandatory regulatory information. Of course looks don’t matter for an internal SSD, but we’re left with the impression that Kingston has cut every possible corner in order to force the price down.

You can buy an A400 in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities. In terms of performance, all three are rated at 500MBps for sequential reads, but have different write speeds: 320MBps, 350MBps and 450MBps respectively. As expected, it uses planar TLC flash. The formatted capacity of our 250GB unit was 223.44GB.

TBW (Terabytes written) gives buyers an idea of the useful life they can expect from their purchase, and the figures are 40TB, 80TB, and 120TB respectively for the three capacities. Kingston also specifies 1 million hours as the MTBF (mean time between failures), which is way more than adequate for a consumer drive. You’ll get a three year warranty with each drive.

One of the things that contributes to the A400’s low price is that Kingston does not specify the exact controller it uses, and this is something that might change with future revisions. All that the spec sheet says is that a “2ch controller” is being used. This is the key difference between the A400 and UV400 – Kingston does specify that the latter uses a four-channel Marvell 88SS1074 controller here. The UV400 is also available in a 960GB capacity, with all capacities rated for slightly higher speed and TBW ratings than their A400 equivalents.

kingston a400 side ndtv kingstona400

Kingston A400 performance

As usual, we used CrystalDiskMark to test the performance of this SSD. Sequential read and write speeds came in at 555.9Mbps and 507.2Mbps respectively when using a queue depth of 32, which saturates the SSD’s controller to get the most efficiency out of it. These scores are higher than Kingston’s published ratings, but are more indicative of best-case scenario performance. Random read and write speeds came in at 321.9Mbps and 310.2Mbps respectively.

Without the advantage of the queue depth, sequential read and write speeds were 502.1Mbps and 490.6Mbps, whereas random speeds were 25.38Mbps and 86.67Mbps respectively. These are still great scores, and performance is way snappier than it would be with a spinning hard drive. SiSoft SANDRA’s physical disk and file system tests gave us comparable results.

Overall, the scores are a bit lower than those we saw with the 250GB WD Blue SSD we tested a short while ago.

kingston a400 box ndtv kingstona400

Verdict
We haven’t tested Kingston’s UV400 against the A400, but clearly there’s meant to be a hierarchy here, even if the differences between the two are extremely minor. The interesting thing though is that street prices and the forces of supply and demand fluctuate so much that we can see UV400 drives selling for slightly less than their A400 counterparts at several online stores. If you’re out shopping, it certainly pays to do a little homework.

Beyond Kingston’s own lineup, there are some excellent choices from Samsung and WD to consider as well. The WD Blue 250GB performed better in standard benchmarks and gives you a higher formatted capacity, plus a neat software tool that shows drive health and lets you perform diagnostic checks. There’s no equivalent to that with the Kingston drives.

In terms of pricing, the 240GB Kingston A400 has an MRP of Rs. 9,000 but sells for around Rs. 6,000. It’s excellent value if you’re trying to spend as little as possible, but if your budget can stretch just a few hundred rupees, do consider the 250GB WD Blue.

Price (MRP): Rs. 9,000 (240GB)

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Very low street price

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive drives offer better performance
  • No accessories

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for Money: 4.5
  • Overall: 3.5

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Radeon RX 580 is AMD’s latest GPU for mid-range gamers
  • Asus has overclocked it and used an enormous cooler with RGB LEDs
  • The Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review is priced at Rs. 25,500

When we see a new generation in a company’s numbering scheme, we expect that there’s at least some justification behind it, but that isn’t always the case. There are many reasons for companies to just slap a new label on an old product and ship it out – the publicity that surrounds a new launch, the illusion that buyers are getting something bigger or better, and the chance to steal a competitor’s thunder at an opportune time.

It hasn’t even been a full year since we reviewed the Radeon RX 480 GPU, as well as the RX 470 and RX 460 which followed it, but they have now been replaced by the Radeon RX 500 series. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the new Radeon RX 500 series is just a mild refresh of the RX 400 series. It seems that AMD felt it was time to move up a generation – in terms of marketing, if not the actual underlying technology.

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review

Radeon RX 480 GPU, as well as the RX 470 and RX 460 which followed it, but they have now been replaced by the Radeon RX 500 series. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the new Radeon RX 500 series is just a mild refresh of the RX 400 series. It seems that AMD felt it was time to move up a generation – in terms of marketing, if not the actual underlying technology.

The Radeon RX 400 series was important for AMD because it was the first to debut a significantly new architecture, called Polaris, which was long overdue after a string of minor refreshes of old products. In the face of multiple successful Nvidia GPUs, AMD had only been able to release the lukewarm Radeon RX 300 models that were just rebadged 200s, many of which themselves weren’t much different from the previous Radeon HD 7xxx series. Now, it seems that the company has gone back to old habits.

We have with us Asus’ ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC, which sells for Rs. 25,500. We’re eager to see how the Radeon RX 580 GPU stacks up against last year’s Radeon RX 480, and what exactly Asus’s implementation adds to the mix.

asus radeon 580 logo ndtv asus radeon RX 580

The Radeon RX 580 GPU
We’ve established that there isn’t anything different about the GPU’s underlying architecture, but there have been some improvements to the manufacturing process over time that allow AMD to extract slightly more performance per chip than when the RX 480 first went into production. The company simply calls this its “latest generation” 14nm process.

There are still 2,304 programmable cores that AMD calls “stream processors” organised into 36 clusters for a total of 5.7 billion transistors. AMD has set a base frequency of 1257MHz and a boost ceiling of 1340MHz, up from 1120MHz and 1266MHz respectively on the RX 480. Of course, board partners such as Asus are free to tweak those speeds if they can compensate with adequate cooling.

The memory bus is also still 256 bits wide but the memory speed has gone up to 8Gbps for an effective bandwidth of 256GBps. Radeon RX 580 cards will be available with either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. What is very interesting is that the GPU’s power draw has increased from 150W to 185W – a considerable amount, which doesn’t really mesh with AMD’s claim that improved power efficiency is the reason for the higher clock speeds.

asus radeon 580 topbottom ndtv asus radeon RX 580

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC
There is no RX 580 reference design like there was for the RX 480. AMD’s partners are only selling cards with their own custom-designed coolers. Asus of course has a variety of models out, and the most elaborate of them is the ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC. As its name suggests, this card has 8GB of RAM and higher clock speeds – a base of 1360MHz, with a miniscule bump up to 1380MHz in “OC mode”.

This card is absolutely massive. It’s much taller, wider and thicker than it needs to be, and the main reason for that seems to be that some people just like hardware that they can show off. Flagship-class graphics cards are almost always 10.5 inches long and occupy two motherboard slots, but this card is nearly 12 inches long and thick enough to block three. You’ll need to make sure that your PC case can handle such a beast.

Asus justifies the card’s size and premium pricing by saying that there’s 40 percent more heatsink surface area than usual, resulting in better cooling. It has also used premium components all around, including the power regulators and a super-smooth precision-machined contact point that apparently helps pull heat away from the GPU.

Asus has gone with a grey colour for the fan shroud, with lots of sharply angled surfaces and claw-like cutouts for RGB LEDs. We’ve seen this design before, and it does look rather imposing. The LEDs light up in red by default though you can change this using Asus’s Aura software, and sync patterns with an Asus Aura motherboard and peripherals. There’s an illuminated “Republic of Gamers” label on the top of the shroud as well as an ROG logo on the backplate just in case another reminder was needed.

Three fans is probably overkill, but clearly Asus wasn’t going for subtlety here. According to the company, the patented fan blade design delivers lower noise, better airflow, and increased lifespan. The fans don’t spin unless they need to. Asus also provides headers so that you can have additional case fans triggered when the GPU temperature rises.

On the rear of the card, you’ll find one DVI-D port, two DisplayPorts, and two HDMI 2.0 outputs. This arrangement was chosen specifically so that you can use a VR headset and an HDMI monitor at the same time without adapters or having to swap plugs. Despite this card’s heavy-duty appearance, only one 8-pin PCIe power connector is required.

asus radeon 580 ports ndtv asus radeon RX 580

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC setup and performance
Installing the card in our open-air test bench was no trouble, but you might struggle if you have a normal-sized ATX PC cabinet. There’s a plastic sheet over the backplate that needs to be removed before installation, but no obvious warning label or instructions. Asus provides plastic dust blockers for all ports, which we always appreciate. There are no display or power adapters in the box, but you aren’t likely to need any. Asus does throw in two Velcro cable ties, which could come in handy.

It became clear fairly quickly that Asus’s claims that this card runs nearly silent aren’t exactly accurate. You might not have to deal with the thrum of fans or blasts of air being pushed out through a narrow vent, but the card pretty much constantly made an audible high-pitched electronic whine. Whenever activity picked up and the fans started spinning, it started making buzzing, grating noises and the occasional loud chirp. Of course, this might have been a quirk of our review unit, and future firmware updates might help, but our early impressions of the card weren’t that great.

If this issue has to do with the components used or the overall design of the Strix cooler rather than a one-off defect with our one unit, your level of annoyance will depend on the type and positioning of your PC cabinet. On the bright side, our card didn’t get too hot at any point, and even ran for quite a long time before the fans needed to spin up.

 

The Aura lighting app worked just as expected, allowing us to choose a static colour or breathing, strobing and colour cycling effects. You don’t get multiple zones, but you can set the lights to pulse to your music or change with the card’s temperature.

Component
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
Motherboard MSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium
RAM 2×8 GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000
SSD Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB
CPU cooler Noctua NH-U12S SE -AM4
PSU Corsair RM650
Monitor Asus PB287Q
OS Windows 10
We started testing the ROG Strix Radeon RX580’s performance with 3DMark, and got scores of 11,823, 5,884 and 3,132 in the Fire Strike Standard, Extreme, and Unlimited tests. For the sake of comparison, we redid the same tests with an older XFX Radeon R9 380X DD BLK OC 4GB card on the same rig, and got scores of 8,438, 4,176, and 2,221 respectively. The newer 3DMark Time Spy test returned 4,492 and 3,092 points respectively. You can check out test results for the Radeon RX 480 as well as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 GPUs here, though they were tested with a different set of components.

Unigine Valley gave us 53.9fps running at 1920×1080 using the Ultra preset, while Star Swarm gave us 40.22fps with the Radeon RX 580 versus 35.7fps and 53.9fps respectively with the Radeon R9 380X. We ran Metro: Last Light Redux’s built-in benchmark at 2560×1440 with the High quality preset and got 76.38fps with the Radeon RX 580 and 54.31fps with the Radeon R9 380X.

Ashes of the Singularity uses the newer DirectX 12 API. We tested it at 2560×1440 using the Standard, High, and Extreme quality presets. Scores for the Radeon RX 580 were 61.9fps, 57.4fps, and 44.2fps respectively. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gave us 28.9fps running at 2560×1440 using its High preset. Then, we moved on to real-world gameplay in a variety of games.

DOOM ran beautifully, as expected. Using the Ultra quality preset and Vulkan renderer, we played through the Foundry level and saw around 90-110fps on average at 2560×1440. We tried pushing the resolution up to 4K and saw that the average framerate dropped to 45-60. That isn’t too bad, but the experience is smoother at the lower resolution which means that this GPU really shouldn’t be pushed too hard in the latest games.

We ran through a bit of Rise of the Tomb Raider at 2560×1440 using the High preset. Frame rates stayed very consistent, with an average of 54fps and frame times averaging 18.6ms. We weren’t bothered by any tearing or skipping. This is a pretty comfortable combination of resolution and quality for the RX 580 to stay at. 4K is not really possible without compromising the frame times, which is about right considering AMD’s positioning.

Asus Radeon 580 rottr ndtv asus radeon 580

Next up, we ran through some forests and got into a few scuffles in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The resolution was set to 2560×1440, and both graphics and postprocessing were using their High presets. We did see a few glitches, but they were very slight. The 47fps average framerate doesn’t show smoothness, but a look at the frame time graph illustrates that there were quite a few erratic frames. Quality stayed above 30fps for the most part, but there were few noticeable tears. Most people should be fine with this level of performance considering how demanding this game is.

Asus Radeon 580 witcher3 ndtv asus radeon 580

Far Cry 4 also ran fairly well at 2560×1440 using its Very High preset. We got a fairly high average of 75fps, and the frame time graph shows that quite a lot of the action held steady at over 60fps. However, the game did stutter in places. We were tempted to push the resolution up to 4K, but found that 1440p was better overall in terms of smoothness.

Asus Radeon 580 fc4 ndtv asus radeon 580

Verdict
To cut a long story short, there is absolutely no reason for you to buy a new graphics card based on a Radeon RX 580 GPU if you’re already using a top-end model bought within the past two years, but it should be a worthy upgrade if you’re using an RX 200 series card or something from lower down the product stack. It’s more than enough for high-quality 1080p gaming, and does reasonably well at 1440p too. If you are determined to buy a high-end Radeon right now, make sure you’re getting an RX 580 and not the RX 480, since street prices are hovering at around the same level.

AMD should unveil its next-generation Vega architecture soon, but GPUs based on it will target much higher performance, and graphics cards will consequently be much more expensive. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 is also still a very strong competitor, and while it won’t beat an RX 580 comprehensively like it beat the RX 480 last year, lower street prices give the green team an advantage.

As for the Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC in particular, it’s clear that this card isn’t the most sensible option for mainstream users. It costs more than most other RX 580 8GB cards, and isn’t likely to deliver that much of a marginal performance improvement over a more conventional dual-fan cooler. We’re also wary of the electrical whine. If you need a graphics card to show off and aren’t willing to spend on a flagship-class GPU, the Strix Radeon RX 580 will satisfy you. If it’s going to stay hidden away in a windowless cabinet, save a bit of money and go with a less flashy model.

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC
Price: Rs. 25,500

Pros
Looks like a more expensive graphics card
Good performance at 1080p and 1440p
RGB LED lighting effects

Cons
Oversized
Constant whine

Ratings (Out of 5)
Performance: 4
Value for Money: 3.5
Overall: 4

Why Any Modular Gadget Should Be Taken With a Pinch of Salt

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Companies have tried making modular gadgets for decades
  • Google’s Project Ara might just be the biggest failed modular attempt
  • There’s nothing to suggest modular devices can really work

The common complaint heard these days with gadgets – and smartphones in particular – is that there’s a lack of any true innovation. Phones today look more similar than ever before, monoliths carved out of glass and aluminium. Because of tightly-packed hardware that allows them to be thinner and lighter, many phones have lost even basic features, such as a replaceable battery, and even the 3.5mm headphone jack in recent times.

What if, like the good old desktop computer, other gadgets too were made up of easily pluggable components, that could be replaced individually, instead of replacing the entire product every few years? That’s the premise behind modular hardware, but although people keep trying to make it happen, there’s little reason to believe it actually will.

Why Any Modular Gadget Should Be Taken With a Pinch of Salt

The idea isn’t new, but has certainly evolved with time. Back in 1999, Handspring made Personal Digital Assistants that had a Springboard Expansion Slot, used to attach modules that added features like GPS, a camera, RFID, or barcode scanner. Sony Ericsson’s phones from 2002 such as the T68i and T300 too were compatible with an attachable accessory that added a camera to these phones.

Next came Modu, a mobile phone released in 2007 that brought the idea of easily swappable ‘jackets’, which would either change the appearance of the phone or add additional functionality, or both. For instance, there was a ‘Boom Box’ jacket that added stereo speakers, a ‘Storage Jacket’ that added added a male USB port to directly attach to a computer.

Modu Phone full Modu Phone

Modu Express Jacket

It even partnered with Micromax to bring the modular phone to India in 2010, which had a ‘camera jacket’.

But all these additional features quickly got integrated into smartphones, as features like cameras, GPS, stereo speakers, etc gained importance over time. By 2011 Modu had shut operations and sold its patents to Google.

In 2013, the idea of modular hardware again caught eyeballs, as a concept called Phonebloks went viral, with many rallying up towards a modular phone future. The then-Google-owned Motorola even acknowledged the concept as it unveiled Project Ara, finally giving modular phone fans their brightest ray of hope.

Project Ara was basically a real-life version of Phonebloks, where endoskeletal frames called ‘endos’ held together everything from the display module, to the ones containing the battery, chipset, camera, and more. The endos came in three sizes – mini, medium and large. Apart from being able to upgrade the phone’s basic hardware at any point of time, there was also talk of specialised modules like medical devices, pico projectors, night vision sensors, game controllers, etc.

After years of iterations and a failed first bootup in 2014, Project Ara by 2016 changed vastly, with many of the core components like the battery, display, and system-on-chip becoming non-replaceable. Ultimately, the project was killed by the end of that year.

project ara full 2 Project Ara

Project Ara

Around the same time as Project Ara, there were two other projects that took a slightly different approach to modularity. Instead of swapping out every component for a new one to add functionality, the pitch was easy repairability and creating a positive social change.

Amsterdam-based Fairphone started its work in 2013 and produced two phones, the newest of which (Fairphone 2) scored a 10/10 repairability score by iFixit, with the spare parts being easily available for purchase on its website. As of today, the Fairphone 2 sports an ancient, 2014-made Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, which was released the same year as the chipset. It can be preordered today for 529 euros (roughly Rs. 37,000), though it doesn’t sound like a good purchase, to say the least.

Another Finland-based company, called PuzzlePhone, in 2014 made a product with three easily-replaceable parts – dubbed the Brain, Spine, and Heart. The brain consisted of essentials such as the CPU, RAM, internal storage and cameras; the spine had the display; and the heart contained the battery. On its blog post, the company shared that due to financial troubles, it couldn’t ship the phones in 2016, though it’s still trying to ship this year.

While attempts like Project Ara were closer to the true modular phone dream, there were some subtler attempts made by LG and Motorola in 2016, with the LG G5 and Moto Z respectively. The LG G5 had a removable battery module, which could be replaced with attachments called ‘LG Friends’. These included a pro-camera module and a DAC made by Bang and Olufsen. The Moto Z had magnetically latching ‘Moto Mods’, which ranged from camera-centric accessories made by Hasselblad, to speakers and battery packs.

As of today, LG is said to be removing modular functionality from the successor to the G5. Motorola’s next phone might also drop mods, though at least the Moto Z is supposed to continue supporting mods in next year’s model.

Modular isn’t restricted to the smartphone category too – a company called Blocks started its Kickstarter campaign in October 2015 to make a smartwatch with modules that could be coupled together as part of the wrist strap. Last we heard, the shipments of the product had been delayed more than once, finally pushed to December 2016. We’re in January 2017 already and there appears to be no word on the progress.

blocks smartwatch full Blocks Smartwatch

Blocks Modular Smartwatch

The interest in modular devices was also evident at this year’s CES 2017 – where Intel announced the Compute Card, a credit-card sized standard for plug-and-play computing hardware, which can be easily replaced in appliances like smart refrigerators, smart kiosks, security camera setups, and so on.

Similarly, Xiaomi said its Mi TV 4’s computing hardware (presumably, the system on chip) would be upgradeable after it becomes obsolete after a few years, without having to change the entire TV.

These ideas sound interesting, but even a cursory reading of the history of modular attempts is enough to make you cynical. If you’ve read all the documented attempts at making modular gadgets, you will want to take anything in the future that has the words ‘modular’ in it with a pinch of salt.

No matter how much fans want a world where their gadgets are easily upgradeable like desktop computers, there are physical, technological, and economical limitations that have kept this from becoming mainstream.

For example, can the individual modules be small and strong enough that the overall size of a modular smartphone is comparable to the dimensions and durability of today’s typical smartphone? As of now, that’s not the case. And what happens when users are given the freedom to upgrade individual components that may not play nicely with the rest of the setup? What if a hypothetical 4K display module or a dual camera setup was put on a phone whose processing power is not up to the task? You would have to upgrade some other modules to support the display. At which point, wouldn’t it not be a cheaper proposition to buy a new phone instead?

Next is also the question of compatibility – remember how when you put a new graphics card in a computer, you have to install drivers given by the manufacturer? Will modular component makers support all the fragmented versions of Android in use by making their components compatible with all of them?

Then comes question of economics – will manufacturing, selling and supporting these modules be a profitable business? Can the modules be cheap enough to be affordable for most consumers? You can buy a good smartphone for well under Rs. 10,000 today – can these modular components offer competitive pricing?

Lastly, comes the question of interoperability. None of the examples above had modules that were interoperable with other manufacturers. In a desktop computer, a graphics card made by Zotac works with a motherboard made by Asus, because the PCIe slot is standardised. Unfortunately the same isn’t the case with modular gadgets (at least until now) because one standard isn’t implemented by multiple makers.

Manufacturers have spent many decades trying to answer these questions. Clearly (and unfortunately), they haven’t been able to make any meaningful impact yet, and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be one anytime soon.

Box Drive Will Let You 'Stream' Files From the Cloud to Your PC

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The app is already available for download
  • Users can work on files in the cloud without storing everything locally
  • Box Drive is natively integrated into Windows Explorer and Mac Finder

While Google is planning to expand the backup service offered by its Drive desktop app, another cloud service, Box, has now launched its own Box Drive desktop app. As you might expect, the desktop app, available for Windows and macOS, essentially allows users to get access to their cloud files locally from their computers. The Box Drive desktop app is already available and can be downloaded from the company’s official website.

Box Drive Will Let You 'Stream' Files From the Cloud to Your PC

Importantly, users will be able to download the files from the cloud service on demand through Box Drive app and will not be required to keep a copy of files in the local storage, as in the case of other services like Google Drive and Dropbox. This feature will work quite similarly to the OneDrive on Demand feature announced recently. Dropbox offers ‘Smart Sync’ to its Business customers that provides similar functionality.

“Your content is streamed from the cloud to your desktop, taking up very little hard drive space as you access, share and work with all your files. And since Box Drive is natively integrated into Windows Explorer and Mac Finder, it’s built right into the way you already work,” the company says on its website.

 

While the new feature will work for end-users and business customers alike, Box is clearly positioning it as a feature for the latter.

“Box Drive is the only unlimited cloud drive built for the enterprise, giving you infinite access to all of your files in Box, by streaming them directly to your desktop. That way, you have access to ALL of your content – even tens of millions of files – right at your fingertips, without putting the hurt on your hard drive,” the company said in a blog post. It further highlights the enterprise-grade features of its service.

“With Box Drive, you have the same enterprise-grade security and compliance capabilities you do with Box, just on the desktop: HIPAA, FINRA, and FedRAMP compliance, Binding Corporate Rules, data retention policies, and more. And because files are no longer stored on users’ hard drives by default, lost or stolen devices have a much lower risk of data loss,” Box added.

WD Blue 3D, SanDisk Ultra 3D SSDs With New 64-Layer 3D NAND Technology Launched

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The drives offer 250GB to 2TB storage options
  • Both the SSDs sport 64-layer 3D NAND technology
  • The prices of the SSDs start at $99.99

Western Digital and its subsidiary SanDisk have launched two new solid state drives that boast of 3D NAND technology that essentially allows the company to offer more storage space at less cost. The two SSDs are called WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD, and the SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD, and are the first to boast 64-layer 3D NAND technology. The prices of both the SSDs start at $99.99 (roughly Rs. 6,500), and they come with a three year warranty as well.

Other existing 3D NAND SSDs include the Samsung 850 Pro, Samsung 850 Evo, and Crucial MX300, but they all use 32-layer 3D NAND, and not 64-layer. WD claims that its new SSDs are the first to be built with a 64-layer 3D NAND that allows it to reduce costs even further. To elaborate, 3D NAND technology stacks up flash memory cells in multiple layers to allow more cells in the same number of wafer bits. This density increase allows for more storage space at a reduced cost. Both the SSDs sport identical storage spaces and speeds.

The WD Blue 3D and SanDisk Ultra 3D SSDs are offered in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB storage denominations. Both the drives are rated to deliver up to 560MBps of sequential read speeds, and 530MBps of sequential write speeds respectively.

WD Blue 3D, SanDisk Ultra 3D SSDs With New 64-Layer 3D NAND Technology Launched

The only difference between the two drives is that the WD Blue is designed for system builders and general computing, while the SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD is meant for gamers and creative professionals. While there is no tangible timeline announced, WD says to expect the shipping to begin sometime in the third quarter.

“Delivering 64-layer 3D NAND-based SSDs into the PC segment marks a critical step in our ongoing conversion to this new technology, as well as offers long-term benefits for our customers,” said MIke Cordano, president and chief operating officer, Western Digital. “Between our two, strong brands in SanDisk and WD, and their respective loyal customer bases and distribution channels, these advanced SSDs will appeal to a very broad footprint of the computing population that are seeking the benefits of today’s newest technologies.”

Intel Core-X Series Desktop CPUs Unveiled, Including New Core i9 Chips

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X will be based on the new Basin Falls platform
  • Sklylake-X series will eventually have a 18 core variant in the future
  • Intel X299 chipset will use a new LGA 2066 socket

At the ongoing Computex 2017 trade show in Taipei, Intel has introduced a brand new Core-X series of high-end desktop CPUs along with a brand new X299 chipset to go along with it. Of note, is the new Intel Core i9 series, and the 18-core Core i9 Extreme Edition. Typically, Intel’s high-end desktop CPUs have always been a generation behind their mainstream counterparts. For instance, Broadwell-E was launched at a time when Skylake was mainstream but this time, Intel has brought its high-end SKUs on par with today’s mainstream architectures with Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs. Availability and exact pricing for India should be known in the coming months.

Intel Core-X Series Desktop CPUs Unveiled, Including New Core i9 Chips

We begin with Kaby Lake-X, which will initially launch with two SKUs – a Core i7-7740X and a Core i5-7640X. The Core i7-7740X is a quad-core CPU running at 4.3GHz and a boost clock of 4.5GHz, supports HyperThreading, 8MB of L3 cache and supports 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes. The Core i5 variant will run at a slightly lower 4GHz with a boost clock of 4.2GHz and does not support HyperThreading. The L3 cache is also a bit lower at 6MB but it does support the same number of PCIe lanes. Both CPUs will support dual channel DDR4 memory at up to 2666MHz and have the same TDP of 112W. Kaby Lake-X CPUs won’t support Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology.

Skylake-X CPUs will support Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology (except for the Core i7-7800X) along with higher core counts (up to 18 cores), more than double the PCIe lanes and support for quad-channel DDR4 memory. Intel has so far announced three SKUs for the Skylake-X CPUs, starting with the Core i7-7800X. This CPU runs at 3.5GHz with boost clock set to 4GHz and features six cores with HyperThreading. The slightly faster Core i7-7820X CPU runs at slightly higher clock speed but also packs in eight cores with 11MB of L3 cache and 28 PCIe lanes.

Intel Corei9 story intel core i9

In order to differentiate the extreme edition SKUs, Intel has introduced a brand new Core i9 series and right now, we only have details about the Core i9-7900X. The base and boost clock speeds are lower compared to the other Core-i7 models in the line up but this CPU has 10 cores with HyperThreading, 13.75MB of L3 cache and a massive 44 PCIe lanes. Intel has listed the names of future Core i9 CPUs but haven’t revealed finer details of clock speeds, cache, etc, yet. This includes the 12-core Core i9-7920X; 14-core Core i9-7940X; 16-core Core i9-7960X and the insane 18-core Core i9-7980XE.

All CPUs from the Core-X family will be using Intel’s new X299 chipset, which uses a new LGA 2066 socket. The new chipset introduced features like DMI 3.0 link which should help improve throughput times and support for Intel Optane memory. It also brings I/O capabilities like support for up to 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes, up to eight SATA 3.0 ports and up to 10 USB 3.0 ports. We can expect to see new motherboards from Intel’s board partners showing up in the months to come.

Speaking on the launch, Gregory Bryant, Corporate Vice President and General Manager Client Computing Group said in a blog post, “The Intel Core X-series processor family introduces a series of firsts that reflect the extreme performance we are delivering. This family includes Intel’s first teraflop desktop CPUs, a prime example of just how much raw compute these processors can handle. We’re also introducing the entirely new Intel Core i9 processor, representing the highest performance for advanced gaming, VR and content creation. At the top of the lineup is the new Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition processor – the first consumer desktop CPU with 18 cores and 36 threads.”