Attempts to create truly small gaming desktops usually involve at least some kind of performance hit. Even HP’s category-bending Firebird, one of the few stand-out examples, had to use toned-down graphics to succeed in a tiny enclosure. Digital Storm might have broken the trend towards sacrifice with its new Bolt desktop: although it’s just 3.6 inches wide and 14 inches tall, the Bolt can cram in as much as a GeForce GTX 680 and will even let gamers upgrade the graphics like they would in a full-size PC. The seemingly logic-defying (if also finger-defying) case still allows room for as much as an overclocked 4.6GHz Core i7, 16GB of RAM and storage options that meld a spinning hard drive with up to two SSDs and a DVD burner. Digital Storm isn’t even setting an absurd base price, but it’s in the cost that we finally see the catch to the miniaturization tricks. The $999 entry-level Bolt carries a modest 3.1GHz Core i3, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and GeForce GTX 650 Ti, while it takes a staggering $1,949 to get a fully decked-out Core i7 system with a GTX 680. Those prices might be worthwhile for anyone who has ever strained while lugging a traditional tower to a game tourney.
Who said Apple’s event was all about the little things? Apple just unveiled its first redesign to its iMac desktop in three years. The new all-in-one makes the widely expected leap to Intel’s Ivy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 processors, but also represents a much leaner and meaner replacement for the 2009-era template — its edges are just 5mm thick, and it’s constructed with “friction stir welding” as well as a gapless, less reflective display that’s laminated together with the glass. Screen sizes remain the same and include both a 21.5-inch, 1080p model and a 27-inch, 2,560 x 1,400 model — sorry, no Retina displays this year. They share 720p-capable front cameras with dual mics as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce 600-era graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and a panoply of storage options that peak at 3TB of spinning storage, a 768GB SSD or what Apple calls a Fusion Drive that mixes both 128GB of flash with 1TB or 3TB of conventional storage (a hybrid drive, for those of us who’ve seen it before). There’s no optical drive unless you plug in a USB option.
The 21.5-inch model ships in November, and will set you back $1,299 for a 2.7GHz Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive; pony up for the 27-inch model at $1,799 and you’ll get a 2.9GHz Core i5 as well as the same memory and storage. Apple’s larger iMac doesn’t ship until December, however, which will give some impulse buyers at least a brief respite.
The arrival of Windows 8 is a good excuse for the PC industry to flood the market with so much hardware, consumers will be blinded by so much choice. Acer’s jabbing its digits into your eyes with its new lineup of low-end desktops for the casual user. The ME micro towers will take an Intel Core i5 or I7, 2TB HDDs and up to 16GB of RAM. If you don’t have anywhere else to stash your smartphone, the chassis comes with a recess desk on top with a USB port for easy charging. Those looking for something a little less demanding can pick up an XC desktop, a space-saving unit that will take an Intel Core i3, a 1TB HDD and up to 6GB of RAM. Prices for the ME begin at $700, while the cheaper XCs will set you back a much more modest $400.
ASUS TAICHI 21 and VivoBook X202 go up for US pre-orders, spoil the party a bit early (update: VivoTab RT, too)
Just because ASUS has planned a grand October 23rd event to outline its US Windows 8 lineup doesn’t mean we can’t get an advance peek. Pre-orders have officially kicked off for at least two touchscreen PCs that also give us a very good feeling for the hardware we’ll see at our doors. The dual-screened TAICHI 21 is naturally the star of the show, but it will cost you: a base version of the 11.6-inch hybrid with a 1.7GHz Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $1,300, while an uprated model with a 1.9GHz Core i7 and a 256GB SSD will set early adopters back by $1,600. We’d say the VivoBook X202 is more likely to get some purchases sight-unseen at $600 for an entry laptop with an 11.6-inch touchscreen, a 1.8GHz Core i3, 4GB of RAM and a conventional 500GB hard drive. Both of the systems should arrive in tandem with Windows 8′s October 26th launch and compound the traffic jams for couriers and retailers on what could be a very busy day.
Back in March, Maingear entered the world of the all-in-one PC with the utilitarian Solo 21. Even though the unit is now only five months old, it’s being replaced with a model that’s more attractive, more functional and that carries a lower price. We’re most excited that the redesigned Solo 21 is now fully upgradable — and yes, this includes the Mini-ITX motherboard itself. Available from $899 on up, the baseline configuration includes a 3.3GHz Intel Core i3 2125 CPU (Ivy Bridge), 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage, a DVD burner, Bluetooth, WiFi and Windows 7 Home Premium. The Solo 21 also supports mSATA SSD storage and can also be outfitted with Blu-ray in place of the standard DVD configuration. You’ll also find it supports the VESA mount, should you decide to throw the PC on your wall. If you’d like to become a bit better acquainted with Maingear’s latest refresh, you’ll find the full PR after the break.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z77X gives audiophiles 7.1-channel analog sound, overpriced cables thankfully optional
There haven’t been many choices in PC motherboards for audiophiles — the ‘real’ kind that might see even a good dedicated sound card as slumming it. Biostar wants to fill that untapped niche with the Hi-Fi Z77X. Along with run-of-the-mill expansion for an Ivy Bridge- or Sandy Bridge-based desktop, the board’s built-in 7.1-channel audio flaunts six 3.5mm analog jacks, an amp and the kind of exotic-sounding language that leads audio addicts to buy $2,000 cables they don’t need. We’re talking “metal-oxide film resistors” and “non-polarized electrolysis electric audio capacitors,” here. Whether or not the changes have an appreciable impact on sound quality, listeners are ironically left out of S/PDIF audio, which exists only as a header on the board unless buyers spend a little more on parts. That said, if we assume the as yet unknown price isn’t stereotypically high — and that audiophiles don’t mind a big, potentially noisy desktop as a home theater PC — the Hi-Fi Z77x could be a treat for those who want to wring every nuance out of music and movie soundtracks.
LG has unveiled the V720, a new series of all-in-one PCs, featuring 27-inch IPS HD panels and an Intel Ivy Bridge processor option. The line consists of a high-end model with Intel’s 3rd generation Core i5 and an IPS 1,920 x 1,080 3D panel, and a lesser model with a 2nd generation Core i3 and the same display sans 3D. Other specs include 750GB SATA3 hybrid or standard drives, up to 8GB DDR3 RAM, USB 3.0 and NVIDA’s GT640M 1GB graphics. Photos show a white and silver looker with well concealed computer guts, but don’t count on being able to pick up one of the minimalist units in the US — LG normally keeps its PC offerings exclusively in Asia.
Good things come in pairs, right? Earlier this year Samsung revamped its high-end Series 9 line with two new Ultrabooks: an impressively thin 15-inch model, along with a more portable 13-inch machine. So far this year, we’ve gotten a chance to review the larger version which remains one of our favorite ultraportables ever, thanks to its minimal design, fast performance, lovely display and long battery life.
“So what?” you’re thinking. “Why bother revisiting the miniature version?” For one, friends, Samsung only recently refreshed the Series 9 with third-generation Intel Core processors, and we were eager to make note of any performance gains. More importantly, though, the 13-inch Series 9 faces stiffer competition than its big brother. There truly isn’t another big-screen notebook quite as thin or as light as the 15-inch Series 9; if those are the attributes that matter most, that’s the laptop you’re best off getting. But the smaller Series 9 finds itself fighting for space on retail shelves amidst high-end ultraportables like the MacBook Air, ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A, the HP Envy Spectre XT and, well, you get the idea. So how does this $1,300 system fare against such worthy opponents? Read on to find out.
Vizio recently announced that its first PCs — the ones we glimpsed at CES back in January — will ship in June. From our previous hands-on time, we already knew that the company’s 24- and 27-inch all-in-ones sport 1080p screens and include HDMI passthrough for using them as HDTVs even with the PC portion turned off. And the company clearly drew on its TV know-how to turn out desktops with nice and thin profiles: the power supply is integrated into the subwoofer, and the pivoting neck is a single piece of aluminum connected to an invisible hinge.
At the company’s press event in NYC today, the all-in-ones got extra official — as in, we have complete specs and pricing info. Both the 24- and 27-inch models feature Intel Ivy Bridge processors, NVIDIA Kepler GeForce GPUs (the base configurations ship with Intel HD Graphics 4000), 1920 x 1080 displays and 2.1 surround sound audio with SRS Premium Sound HD. Storage options start at 500GB of space (for the smaller model) and top out at a 1TB hard drive paired with a 32GB SSD. The PCs include dual HDMI inputs and ship with a remote control (hence Vizio’s TV background). The 24-inch model will start at $898, while the 27-incher goes for $1,098 and up.
Product categories come and go, grow and wither, revolutionize the world and then slowly fade into a state of cold, quiet, everlasting obsolescence. It happens all the time, sometimes over the course of just a year or two (see: netbooks) and, while companies have made billions by establishing truly new categories, rarely has anybody rocked the world by splitting the difference between two very closely aligned ones.
That’s exactly what Apple is trying to do here. The company’s MacBook Pro line is one of the most respected in the industry for those who need an ostensibly professional laptop. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air is among the best (if not conclusively the best) thin-and-light laptops on the market. Now, a new player enters the fray: the MacBook Pro with Retina display. It cleanly slides in between these two top-shelf products, while trying to be simultaneously serious and fast, yet slim and light. Is this, then, a laptop that’s all things to all people, the “best Mac ever” as it was called repeatedly in the keynote? Or, is it more of a compromised, misguided attempt at demanding too much from one product? Let’s find out.
No, we didn’t get the Retina Macbook Air many of us may have been hoping for, but the Apple ultra-portable did get a significant Ivy Bridge boost, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports. There’s also an option to double the flash storage capacity with a 512GB SSD, along with adding up to 8 gigs of 1600MHz DDR3L RAM and Apple’s new MagSafe 2 connector on the 13-inch Air. Base model pricing remains the same for the 11-incher, at $999 for the bare-bones configuration, while the larger Air will be available starting at $1199 — a $100 drop over its predecessor. All of the new Airs will ship beginning today, but that doesn’t mean it’s upgrade time for you. Click on past the break for our side-by-side comparison and a closer look at what’s new.
Want to have your mobo cake now and eat the Thunderbolt later? Asus is there for you with its new Thunderbolt EX Upgrade card — as long as you buy, or have bought, certain of its 7-series motherboards. The supported models have a “unique system link connector” to cable to the upgrade card, which will gobble up one of your PCIe x4 slots and use a DisplayPort to serve up the ‘bolt. So if you don’t feel like laying the cash down now and don’t mind giving up ports later, pass-through the break to see which models will work.
HP has been very eager to take the Envy line in an Ultrabook direction, leaving performance hounds a bit wanting. Much to their (and our) relief, the full-fat Envy 15, Envy 17, and Envy 17 3D have all made the leap to Intel’s latest round of Ivy Bridge processors. Along with the 2.3GHz to 2.7GHz quad Core i7 chips we all know and love, the Envy 15 and regular 17 can get a dual 2.5GHz Core i5 to keep the price slightly closer to Earth. All of them ship with an equally upgraded AMD Radeon HD 7850M to give games that extra jolt of energy, and you won’t find one with less than 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive. Should you like the Envy’s current formula and just wish it had that much more oomph, you can pay a post-discount $1,100, $1,250 or $1,530 to bring one to your door.
Sony is using its latest product announcement to trim the fat off of its line-up, and one of the casualties will be its multimedia-centric VAIO F Series. Of course, the company won’t be ditching entertainment laptops altogether — it’s just consolidating the VAIO F line into the VAIO S Series, specifically the VAIO S 15. To further confuse the switch-up, the VAIO SE (that’s E for entertainment) is also being folded into the new S 15. Identity confusion aside, what you get here is a 15.5-inch, 1080p IPS display, NVIDIA graphics with up to 2GB of VRAM and various Ivy Bridge processor options (up to a quad-core Core i7 CPU). The 15-inch S Series will start at $1,000 and will be available in black and silver. Sony says it’s good for light gaming, and especially media streaming and programs like AutoCAD. Like the other new VAIO systems, the S 15 will be available this month. Check out the gallery and press info below.
Sony refreshes VAIO Z series with Ivy Bridge, price now starts at $1,600 without the docking station
In case you didn’t notice, Sony completely revamped its laptop lineup this morning. Unlike some of the other models on offer, the high-end Z series didn’t get a redesign, but Sony at least took the opportunity to refresh it with new Ivy Bridge processors. Oh, and lower the starting price. The Z will no longer be bundled with the Power Media Dock, that external hub housing both a discrete GPU and optical drive. As such, the laptop will now start at $1,600, down from $2,000, while the dock will retail for an additional $400. Spec-wise, the Z still weighs a scant 2.6 pounds, but it’s now constructed from carbon fiber and will be offered with a glossy finish. It will also be available with quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs, though the starting model’s processor is dual-core. Otherwise, it offers nearly the same specs as the model we reviewed last year, including a 1080p display and solid-state RAID drives. Look for the refresh sometime this month, and in the meantime we’ve included pics below to jog your memory on what this guy looks like.
It’s far from official, but from the looks of things, an update to Dell’s Latitude line may be incoming. According to Dutch site Tweakers.net, the outfit’s 14-inch refresh, bearing model number 6430u, will purportedly sport a 1366 x 768 display, dual-core i3, i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge processor and measure in at a slightly chunky 20.9mm thick. For the business-minded types that it’s being aimed at, this enterprise-ready Ultrabook will also run Intel’s vPro platform, giving IT departments worldwide easy access for data management and remote wipes, in addition to supporting a smartcard reader and an optional fingerprint scanner. As for its SSD innards, the unit should be available in configurations up to 256GB with a maximum of 8GB RAM allotted. Since this fella exists in a grey zone for now, there’s no official pricing or release date to speak of, though rumors do point to a June bow. Check out the source below for a translated take on this pre-release kit.
It was only a matter of time before ASUS refreshed its line of Ultrabooks with Intel’s new Ivy Bridge chips, but the truth is, the company needed to improve a little more than just the CPU model number. If you recall, the Zenbook UX31 ushered in a modern metal design and unbeatable speed, but our enthusiasm waned after spending a week with the flat keyboard and temperamental touchpad.
Well, friends, it looks like Chairman Jonney Shih and co. were listening: the outfit is about to bring four of its leaked Zenbook Prime laptops to the US. These include the 11-inch UX21A, which you see up there, along with the 13-inch UX31A, UX32A and the UX32VD — essentially, the UX31A with discrete graphics. Though different configurations are bound to vary, they all bring retooled, backlit keyboards, refined trackpads and, of course, Intel’s third-generation Core processors. And while the lower-end UX32A is stuck with 1366 x 768 resolution, every other model — yes, even the tiny UX21A — will be offered with a 1080p IPS display.
First the rumor mill revealed ASUS had plans to refresh Ultrabooks with Ivy Bridge and 1080p IPS displays. Then the company confirmed the news itself when it brought some new Zenbook Prime laptops out for a demo and promised they’d go on sale in ASUS’ native Taiwan. Now we’ve got some splendid news for our readers here in the US: those fresh ultraportables are making their way stateside too… eventually. ASUS just confirmed it’s bringing four models to the states: the 11-inch UX21A, the 13-inch UX31A / UX32A and the UX32VD. What’s the difference between the UX31A and the UX32A, you ask? It all comes down to storage: the UX32A uses hybrid hard drives, while the UX31A packs an SSD. Meanwhile, the UX32VD is nearly identical to the UX31A except that it packs an NVIDIA GT 620M GPU.
As rumored, the lineup includes Core i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge processors, with 1920 x 1080 IPS displays offered even on the 11-incher. (If you don’t need that kind of pixel density, 1366 x 768 displays will be available as well.) Another thing they all have in common: ASUS has tweaked the touchpad and re-tooled the keyboard, making the pitch 12 percent deeper. Also, the keys are now backlit, for what that’s worth.
Thunderbolt’s 10-gigabit interface is only just making its way to Windows after spending more than a year as a Mac-only feature, so it’s not surprising that a lot of questions surround how well the Apple- and Intel-developed connection works for those of a Microsoft persuasion. A thorough test at AnandTech of one of the first motherboards to support the spec on Windows PCs, an Ivy Bridge-ready board from MSI, has shown some positive signs along with a few flies in the high-speed ointment. The good news? Most general storage devices will work as expected with a minimum of fuss, and you can even get some features of Apple’s Thunderbolt Display working if you’re willing to accept a lack of pre-supplied software brightness controls and USB support. The bad news comes mostly in the absence of true hot-plugging like on the Mac: if a device isn’t plugged into the Thunderbolt port on boot, Windows won’t see it. Professionals who need everything to be just perfect will want to wait, then, but bandwidth lovers will still find something to like if they’re willing to build Thunderbolt-equipped PCs themselves.
Just in case you thought NEC was done with its PC updates this week, the Japanese PC builder has thrown its hat into the Ultrabook ring with a unique contribution of its own. The LaVie Z has a 13.3-inch screen like your garden variety ultralight, but it weighs just 2.2 pounds through a new lithium-magnesium alloy shell about half the weight of the aluminum that some companies love to use. Unfortunately, that weight and the slim frame are about all we know so far: NEC isn’t providing any internal specifications, possibly because it’s waiting on Ultrabook-ready Ivy Bridge chips. Even so, if you’re hanging around Japan and want the lightest possible laptop you can get at a 13-inch screen size, the wait until the planned summer release will feel like an eternity.