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In the Zone

5 awesome tech gifts for the holidays

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by Kevin Jacoby on 12/08/2017
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The holidays area coming, and that means gifts. What to buy for your discerning tech lover?

Here are my recommendations for 5 cool gadgets the techies on your list will love.

 

1. Amazon Key

> Perfect for: The online shopaholic

> Price: $249 and up

Amazon Key

 

Not only is big brother watching, he’s got a key to your house. But don’t worry, it’s just so the delivery person can put your Amazon boxes inside the foyer. No more soggy cardboard.

 

If your giftee is an eligible early adopter -- you can check their status on this Amazon page -- then Amazon will send someone to install his or her keyless entry and monitoring system for free. Once the system is set up, users can dial into their smartphones to get a live video feed of the front door.

 

The included app runs on both iOS and Android. Start it up, and it will notify you when your package is close by, ask permission to let the delivery person in — and show you the whole thing in real time.

 

2. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear Wireless with Active Noise Cancellation

> Perfect for: The city-dwelling music enthusiast

> Price: $399 

 

Sennheiser Mementum 2.0

Professional musicians have been using Sennheiser audio gear for years — it’s one of the best names in the business. But regular consumers might not understand what all the fuss is about. That is, until they hear it.

 

Yes, the price could be described as “reassuringly expensive.” But the sound you get for the money is amazing.

 

What’s also amazing is the sound you don’t get. Like Bose, its more consumer-focused competitor, Sennheiser has been working for years to perfect its noise-cancelling tech.

 

These Momentum ear-goggles also look cool — more than you can say for similar gear from Bose.

 

3. Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition

> Perfect for: A 40-something with a powerful sense of nostalgia

> Price: $230

Nintendo NES Classic Edition

Sure, the computing power inside the original NES — first-in-class though it was at the time — was little more than an abacus compared to the super-computing smartphone in your pocket today. But can your iPhone adequately sate the nostalgia you feel at the site of that ubiquitous, grey box from Japan?

 

If the answer is a resounding “no,” then Nintendo has just the thing for you. Compared with the original, the NES Classic Edition is tiny. But it still manages to pack in 30 classic games, including Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man and The Legend Of Zelda.

 

And unlike it’s ancient ancestor, this little piece of gaming history has an HDMI output. You know, so you can hook it up to a TV made after 1995.

 

4. Spark Camera Drone

> Perfect for: The aspiring auteur

> Price: $399

Spark Camera Drone

George Lucas wishes he had one of these when he was in film school. Spark really does tick all the boxes. It flies, shoots hi-res video, recognizes your face, and responds to your hand gestures.

 

To launch Spark, just look it in the “eye.” Facial-recognition unlocks the unit and initiates takeoff.

 

You can control Spark with your smartphone. But it’s way cooler to take advantage of Spark’s deep-learning hand-gesture recognition. Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and Spark will take off, hover, land, and shoot selfies as long as the battery holds out.

 

Spark can also recognize objects and track them through space. So, if your giftee is, say, a skateboarder, the drone will zig and zag along in front of him or her, catching the action like a well-paid X-Games camera person.

 

5. BOXX Electric AWD Scooter

> Perfect for: The person who has (almost) everything

> Price: $3,797

BOXX Electric AWD Scooter

The word “scooter” doesn’t quite cover it. This is a two-wheeled electric commuting vehicle. BOXX has no fluid and no exhaust. So you can keep in your apartment if you don’t have a garage.

 

The BOXX scooter can accommodate any rider from 5 to 6.5 feet tall. Those living in San Francisco will be happy to know that BOXX’s electric motor — weighing just under 10 pounds itself — will easily carry 300 pounds up any hill.

 

No, it’s not cheap. But it is small, comfortable, and looks like it just fell off a Sci-Fi movie poster. It’s also good for the environment, great for city living, and stupendous for the thrill-seeker who has everything. They sure don’t have one of these!

 

 

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In the Zone

Help customers move off HDD with new Intel SSD drives

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by Kevin Jacoby on 11/20/2017
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Intel’s new SSDs could have your customers rethinking their data-center architectures in a big way.

These solid-state drives offer a brand-new form factor for the first time in years. They also pack updated non-volatile memory and a SATA solution for legacy hardware. Get ready for a whole new ballgame.

SATA, introduced back in 2000, quickly became the gold standard for computer bus interfacing. Though the world is now moving on to newer solutions — especially the PCIe/NVMe protocol — many data centers still rely on this turn-of-the-century mainstay.

If your customers fall into that category, they’ll be happy to know that Intel now offers the SSD DC S4500 and S4600 Series. These SATA-connected solid state drives feature a newly developed SATA controller and firmware.

Intel SSD DC S4500 drive

Intel’s 2.5-inch SSD DC S4500 stores up to 3.8TB

Intel’s design also enables data centers to make a smooth transition from older, slower HDDs (hard disk drives) to the latest generation of SSD technology featuring 32-layer 3D NAND memory.

These Intel SSD DC Series drives are currently available with storage capacities of 240GB (under $150) to 3.8TB (just over $2,000).

One SSD to ruler them all

It’s been a long time since someone tried to change the form factor of ubiquitous internal-storage devices. The 3.5-inch desktop drives we use today date back to the late 1980s. That form factor was itself an iteration of earlier floppy drives.

Smaller 2.5-inch drives appeared in the early 2000s, a case of innovation-by-miniaturization. While this form factor enabled OEMs to create a new generation of laptops, there was a tradeoff: The smaller drives offered less performance and storage space for more money — hardly a winning proposition.

Intel’s new form-factor SSD P4500 drive, announced in August, is being referred to as a “ruler” because of its long, thin shape. This dramatically reduced the footprint, enabling users to pack more drives into each server. Plus, each drive has both a higher capacity and a lower power drain and thermal signature than previous drives.

Intel SSD DC P4500 "ruler" drive

Intel’s “ruler” P4500 drive will store up to 1 petabyte

Intel says its new ruler form factor enables up to 1 petabyte (equal to 1,000 TB) of storage in a single 1U server. If you happen to work in the IT department at Netflix, the salient detail here is that 1PB is enough storage space for 300,000 HD movies, or about 70 years of nonstop playback. And on just a single 1U server.

In fact, before Netflix switched to Amazon Web Service, the company reportedly ran more than 4,600 servers. It’s easy to imagine the inherent value of replacing all that with smaller, faster, higher-capacity drives.

2 big impacts

So far, Intel has offered no clue as to the ruler’s pricing or release date other than to say the drive will be available “in the near future.” But it stills bears mentioning that this solution could have a big impact on your customer’s bottom line, and for 2 equally big reasons:

> Packing more data onto fewer drives means a lower price per GB (or TB or PB) of data. It also means fewer physical servers to purchase and maintain.

> Intel says its ruler SSDs will set a new standard in terms of low cooling and power needs. That should also lower costs for data-center utilities and maintenance.

There are times when a brand-new technology must be engineered to breathe life into older technology. Such is the case with Intel’s new SATA SSDs. 

 

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In the Zone

Voice-controlled smart-home tech: it’s time to listen

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by Kevin Jacoby on 11/09/2017
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Voice-command technology is advancing quickly. So is consumer demand.

Smart-home systems including Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s upcoming HomePod are locked in an intense battle for a new kind of user space.

A big part of these devices’ appeal is the way they let users issue commands while speaking naturally. The goal: a frictionless experience in which users can issue myriad commands that are seamlessly understood, parsed and carried out quickly and efficiently.

Amazon Apple and Google smart-home devices

From left: Google Home, Apple HomePod, Amazon Alexa

But from a designer’s perspective, creating these easy and intuitive user experiences is a real challenge. “Star Trek” makes it look easy. It isn’t. Inside these new smart-home digital assistants is a tightly woven fabric of complex technologies.

Audio connection

For the user, it all starts with a keyword or phrase, such as “Alexa” or “Hey, Siri.” Developers call this Keyword Spotting (KWS). Since a voice command can come at any time, the device needs to keep itself on a constant vigil, listening for the wake word(s) directly preceding its next command.

However, microphone technology makes that especially challenging. We humans hear in 360 degrees, and we’re used to being heard even when the listener’s back is turned. By contrast, mics are designed to pick up sound signatures in a far tighter radius.

To overcome this issue, most designers now place a series of microphones in a circular array. This array of mics, in turn, gets connected to a sophisticated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) system.

Voice-command processing

Intel’s smart-home team is at the forefront of designing what’s being called Far-Field Voice Algorithms. To improve the way smart-home devices listen, process and respond to voice commands, Intel engineers are using the latest in AI, machine learning and natural language processing.

For an example of how this works, consider the humble dance party. Let’s say you’re using Apple’s HomePod, which focuses on providing a great audio experience. However, at some point in the evening, you might want something other than loud music. Here’s where Intel’s latest technology comes in.

Intel knows that, even if Lady Gaga is playing at top volume, you might want to interrupt the music to order some Kung Pao chicken, dim the lights, change the song, or unlock the door. To ensure that your device is always ready, willing and able, the system uses “beamforming” — a kind of concentrated and directed WiFi — to first identify your location, then channel the mic input accordingly.

But beamforming and keyword spotting are pointless if your device can’t hear you in the first place. So the latest batch of smart-home controllers now also include something called Auto-Echo Cancellation. AEC uses the speaker’s signal as a reference. It can artfully instruct the microphones to disregard “Born This Way” and instead keep an ear out for your next command.

This year, more than 35 million Americans will have used a voice-activated system at least once a month, according to research firm eMarketer. That’s a nearly 130% increase over last year. It’s also a clear sign that the market for voice-controlled smart-home functionality is real and growing fast.

Are your customers ready? If not, it's time to raise your voice!

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In the Zone

Why Lenovo’s new meeting-room system is the talk of the town

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by Kevin Jacoby on 10/19/2017
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Welcome to the wide world of meeting-room systems. Videoconferencing is hot, and the world’s most powerful hardware makers are all vying for a piece (or more) of your customer’s tech budgets.

In return, these hardware suppliers offer varying degrees of connectivity, ease of use, and purpose-built hardware. All promise to virtually connect users no matter where they are on the planet.

Innovation is coming quickly. In fact, when it comes to virtual conference systems, it seems there’s always another must-have device on the horizon. Always.

Hot number

The one everyone’s been talking about lately is the Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500, introduced late last month. Does this system deserve all the hype? To find out, we’ll have to wait until the first quarter of 2018 — that’s when shipments are set to begin. But judging by the device’s specs (and more on that below), the answer looks like a resounding Yes.

Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500

Lenovo’s ThinkSmart Hub 500 meeting room system

Today, there are basically 2 kinds of conference systems on the market:

> Those built on a platform that tries to be everything to everyone. These include conference-room systems built around the Intel NUC mini-PC. While they often achieve good results, they also often require a fair bit of tinkering, searching for the right cables, etc.

> Those designed for a single purpose. These purpose-built systems offer the user varying degrees of plug-and-play usability. This can be invaluable to those who simply want to get down to business.

Lenovo’s ThinkSmart Hub 500 is decidedly in the latter category. Lenovo has also included a few smart design elements in the interest of getting down to business faster and more efficiently.

Perhaps ThinkSmart Hub’s most notable innovation isn’t really an innovation at all. This time Lenovo wisely created their new device as a standalone client for Microsoft’s venerable Skype Room Systems software.

By pinning its fate to this well-developed communications platform — Skype has some 74 million users worldwide — Lenovo has removed one of the most reviled aspects common to meeting room systems: poorly developed software.

Hardware that just works

As for the hardware itself, Lenovo seems to have pulled out all the stops for this one. The industrial design is equal parts gee-whiz and business chic. It looks like it belongs in a Fortune 500 conference room. And it runs on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise.

Pricing for the ThinkSmart Hub 500 hasn’t been announced yet. But the whole system is controlled via an 11.6-inch high-res touchscreen that swivels 360 degrees. There’s also a sophisticated, 360-degree microphone array. Speakers fed by a Dolby Audio Premium sound card. And secure cable management. This system should look and sound great.

If your customers need a meeting-room system, they probably want ease-of-use, too. That’s what Lenovo is really selling here: an all-in-one hardware solution that simply works.

 

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In the Zone

FPGA: coming soon to a server near you

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by Kevin Jacoby on 10/12/2017
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Are your customers shopping for the latest, greatest server technology? If so, they need to know about Intel’s new offering, the Intel Programmable Acceleration Card with Arria 10 GX FPGA.

That’s a long name for a small and powerful PCIe card that promises to change modern server architecture forever.

Intel's new Programmable Acceleration Card

Intel’s new Programmable Acceleration Card with FPGA

FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Array, which refers to the fact that OEMs can re-purpose and re-task these cards on the fly. That capability alone adds a whole new dimension of usability. For your data-center customers, it can also lower their total cost of ownership (TCO).

This innovative hardware/software solution is sampling now, and Intel says broad availability will come in the first half of next year.

F is for ‘Faster’

If you’re unfamiliar with FPGA technology, a good place to start is the bottom line: more speed for specific tasks. Think of it as the server-class equivalent to the hot-rod GPUs installed by hardcore gamers to increase the performance of their first-person shooters. Only, this hardware accelerator is designed to hasten tasks like genome sequencing, data analytics and storage.

How does an FPGA do all that? First, by offloading specific tasks from the server’s primary processor. Then, by completing those tasks faster and more efficiently than a standard Xeon processor can.

Sure, Xeon is a heavy-duty workhorse. But it’s designed mainly for standard server management processing.

By contrast, Intel’s new programmable acceleration card (PAC) can be programmed to complete specific, highly resource-intensive tasks. That leaves the core processing system to conduct business as usual. It also increases efficiency, reduces power consumption and delivers a whole new level of versatility.

Ecosystem

To make the new FPGA solution a success, Intel plans to lean hard on its OEM ecosystem. For starters, the company has announced that Dell EMC will be a marquee launch partner for its first-generation PAC.

This means Dell will offer the Intel PAC card with FPGA in its Intel Xeon-powered servers. This makes sense for a number of reasons — not the least of which is the flood of vital feedback that will undoubtedly flow from Dell’s engineering team back to Intel.

Given Dell’s enviable market share, it also should ensure that a great many FPGA cards end up in servers around the world. This, in turn, should result in more use cases, leading to a marked increase in Intel-authored acceleration stacks providing industry-standard frameworks, interfaces and optimized libraries.

You could consider Intel’s new technology just another cog in the machine. But the world’s data centers are a lot more important than that. They connect people who are working to cure diseases, reduce polluting emissions and fulfill other vital tasks. So this is really a major step forward for a technology that serves humanity.

Learn more:

Product page: Intel Programmable Acceleration Card with Arria 10 GX FPGA

Intel video: Supercharge Your Data Center

Intel FPGA acceleration hub

 

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In the Zone

Virtual assistants: the platform race is on!

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by Kevin Jacoby on 09/19/2017
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The world of virtual assistants is about to get even more interesting. Voice-recognition and voice-processing technologies are advancing quickly, bringing Star Trek-worthy functionality.

Voice-controlled virtual assistants can now be found in myriad devices, including mobile phones, PCs, automobiles, even refrigerators. The race is on to create the perfect virtual-assistant platform, one that can appear in, and communicate with, as many devices as possible.

Top-tier competitors including Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are at the front of the pack. It’s obvious that this particular race is an important one.

To be fair, virtual assistants are nothing new: iPhone users have been able to say, “Hey, Siri…” since October 2011, when a disembodied female voice first appeared on the iPhone 4s. (The “s” in the product name stood for Siri.)

But what’s different now is dramatically heightened competition. The major players are trying to grab as many users as they can, then lock them into monogamous relationships with Siri, Alexa, Cortana or …Google.

Alexa everywhere?

Apple’s Siri may have been first to market, but it looks as though Amazon’s Alexa could be first to achieve a state of ubiquity. That’s because Amazon has opened the doors to third-party integration about as wide as they can go.

Consumers can now find Alexa integration in a wide range of third-party software, mobile devices (including Amazon’s own hardware), home-theater equipment, and popular IoT products such as Philips’ Hue smart-lighting systems. LG has already promised an array of home appliances featuring Alexa integration, starting with its latest smart refrigerator.

These kinds of deals could be a game-changer for Amazon, especially in light of its recent $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. Amazon knows that the more Alexa-enabled devices a consumer owns, the more likely they are to buy even more Alexa-enabled devices.

Apple's approach

While Amazon is trying to be all things to all people, Apple is concentrating on being one great thing to a select group of people. This has been Apple’s modus operandi all along, and it has made the company an awful lot of money.

Apple iPhone with Siri

Apple users have been able to say, “Hey, Siri…” since late 2011.

Apple prides itself on cultivating a closed ecosystem. Siri is available only on Apple-manufactured devices, including the company’s computers, smartphones, tablets and IoT devices such as the new HomePod.

Also, Siri integration can be achieved only through Apple’s HomeKit — a notoriously difficult hoop to jump though. This lets Apple maintain tight quality control.

It also lets Apple cultivate a particularly high-end user experience. Siri may not offer the most options, but what she does, she does very well.

In the coming months, Amazon, Google and Microsoft may discover once again that ubiquity can come at a high cost. By offering an open API that enables nearly any manufacturer to connect to their hard-won voice-activated technology, they’ve found a great way to increase market share.

Unfortunately, ubiquity can also be a powerful way to dilute quality, alienate customers and erode consumer confidence. That’s a price that Apple, with its closed policy, won’t have to pay.

Watch (and listen to) this space — the best is yet to come.

 

Also check out:

The new 8th Gen Intel Core PCs are here

Hear that? It’s the sound of the ‘listening’ workplace

What the new $1K smartphones mean for solution providers

 

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In the Zone

Intel Core X + Optane memory = high-end gaming

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by Kevin Jacoby on 09/12/2017
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If your enthusiast gaming customers are hungry for the ultimate performance, Intel’s new Core i9 X-series processors could be just what they’re looking for.

Intel has been in the process of rolling out its Core X-Series processors since the beginning of the summer. The most powerful of these — an 18-core behemoth called Core i9-7980XE (Extreme Edition) — should be available for purchase on Sept. 25 for just under $2,000.

Need even more? Try adding Intel Optane memory to the mix. It can alleviate SATA storage bottlenecks that plague AAA games just when the action is heating up.

However, if your customers want to take advantage of X-series features without spending a ton, you can also offer them Core i5 and Core i7 options. These start at a less-apoplexy-inducing $240.

How Extreme is X-Series?

Extremely extreme! Core i9 takes over where Broadwell-E left off as the top of Intel’s high-performance desktop processor offering. When it’s finally released, the Core i9-7980XE will blow everything else away with 18 cores and 36 threads running at 2.6GHz with a 4.4GHz maximum burst.

Intel X-Series Core processor

Although the Core i9 X-series’ 10-, 12-, 14-, 16-, and 18-core counts are certainly newsworthy, they’re not the only extreme features in Intel’s top-of-the-line silicon. Of particular note is the processor’s ability to address 4 channels of DDR4-2666 memory and more than 13MB of L3 cache.

For those customers in search of a truly great visual experience, changing up to an X-series processor and X299 chipset will enable 44 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. These are designed to handle an array of high-performance GPUs feeding multiple 4K UHD (ultra-high-definition) displays.

Faster Still with Optane

To be sure, hybrid drive technology is nothing new. For years, hard-drive manufacturers have been using flash storage technology to give conventional hard drives faster short-term memory. But what’s new with Optane is that it takes the concept one step further.

Optane does this by essentially abstracting and reengineering solid state drive (SSD) technology, giving it direct access to both the processor and the drive. The result: a storage system that’s not just faster, but also smarter.

Intel Optane memory card

Optane does this by watching system activity and adjusting accordingly. It intelligently decides which files to store in its 16GB or 32GB of NAND flash memory.

The more times a file is accessed, the more likely it is to end up on the Optane chip. This is particularly useful for quickly opening memory-intensive AAA games and reducing next-level load times.

Sure, this super-high end is not for every customer. But it does illustrate Intel’s point: “Mega-Tasking” is available if you want it. And can afford it!

 

Also don’t miss:

Intel’s Myriad X processor: bringing AI to an edge near you

Will new 8th Gen Intel Core CPUs help you refresh older PCs?

Cool new gaming systems debut from ASUS and Dell

 

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In the Zone

Will the new 8th Gen Intel Core CPUs help you refresh older PCs?

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by Kevin Jacoby on 08/28/2017
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Last week Intel officially launched its 8th Generation Core processor family, codenamed Coffee Lake, from Oregon, just hours before the solar eclipse. First to hit the market will be a quartet of mobile chips.

Looking for help refreshing your customers’ older systems? Intel says its new 8th Gen Core processors can provide a performance improvement of up to 40%, delivering a 2x performance boost over PCs built 5 years ago.

But this latest release may also prove controversial. That’s because Coffee Lake forces system builders to redesign their product architecture based on the new 300-series chipset.

More speed, more cores

But make no mistake: The 8th Gen Intel Cores will indeed be faster. In part because Intel has doubled the number of physical cores and virtual threads.

The new 8th generation parts — they’ll occupy the same price bands as their predecessors — now offer 4 cores (up from 2 in 7th Gen) and 8 threads. The extra cores account for 25% of the performance increase.

The remainder of the speed bump can be attributed to 2 other factors: manufacturing improvements resulting in higher clock speeds, and design refinements like the switch to 14nm+ lithography.

Battery life also gets a big upgrade in the Coffee Lake mobile processors. For example, Intel says the new Core i5 and i7 U-series processors can stream 4K ultra-high-definition (UHD) video on a single charge for up to 10 hours.

Intel 8th Gen Core boxes

Mandatory motherboards

As mentioned above, Intel has already ruffled a few feathers with this update. It all started with a tweet from motherboard manufacturer ASRock, confirming that Coffee Lake chips would not be compatible with the current crop of 200-series motherboards.

The tweet — which was later deleted — set off a tirade of complaints from systems builders. They worried about the added cost and complexity of a chipset switch so soon after the recent upgrade to Z270-based motherboards.

Erik Stromquist, chief operating officer of system builder CTL, summed up the issue in a recent interview with CRN: “For the channel, redesigning systems again will mean incurring additional costs. But that is nothing compared to potential loss of customers from a motherboard change.”

Future releases

Meanwhile, Intel, during its August 21 Facebook Live video, confirmed that the next release in the 8th Gen family will be desktop processors. They’ll be followed first by corporate/enterprise-focused chips (likely including new vPro features), and then by a set of enthusiast mobile processors aimed at gamers, VR enthusiasts and content creators.

Intel has not yet announced a release date for the 8th Gen Core desktop line. However, some industry watchers believe Intel will go to market as soon as this fall.

These market watchers also expect Intel to release three new 6-core, 12-thread mainstream CPUs based on an updated 14nm+ manufacturing process. Some 10nm parts are expected, too, though it’s not yet clear what form they’ll take.

Big names, fast systems

Several top-line suppliers — including Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo — plan to offer Coffee Lake-powered, Windows 10-running laptops, 2-in-1 convertibles, and ultra-thin notebooks as soon as next month.

For example, Dell today announced that its award-winning XPS 13 laptop will be available with an 8th Gen Intel Core CPU starting Sept. 12. But be aware that your customers will have to pay for the privilege.

Retail prices for Dell’s XPS 13 with the previous 7th Gen Intel Core processor starts at about $800. Add the new 8th Gen CPU, and the same 13.3-inch system’s starting price rockets up to nearly $1,400.

Intel believes users are so eager for PCs with more performance, they’ll be willing to pay the price. How about you? Will you advise your customers to upgrade?

 

You may also enjoy:

8th Generation Intel Core Processor Family Debuts: Intel video replay

New 8th Gen Intel Core Processors: Simplifying Today, Opening the Door for What’s Next: blog post by Gregory Bryant, Intel’s GM of client computing

Intel pushes Optane memory for PC gaming systems

 

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In the Zone

Intel’s NUC mini-PC gets specific

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by Kevin Jacoby on 08/23/2017
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Intel is on a roll, expertly capitalizing on the success of its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) platform. Seven generations after the NUC’s initial introduction in 2012, the current Kaby Lake-U version is smaller, more powerful and more purpose-built than ever.

 

 

Intel originally cast a wide net with NUC, selling it as the do-anything mini-PC of the near future. Five years later, the NUC mythology is decidedly more focused. Intel’s marketing message has taken on an air of specificity that shows off the diminutive computer’s purposefully engineered skill set.

Security and Surveillance

The NUC’s small form factor makes it the perfect companion for self-contained surveillance systems. One example is the TEKVOX ViewVault. It’s a ceiling-mounted A/V recording system developed specifically for classrooms required to comply with Texas’ S.B. 507, which protects special-needs children in public schools. Prices for this specialized system — including built-in mics, cameras and accessories — start at $3,000 per room.

TechVox ViewVault

Under the hood of the TEKVOX ViewVault: an Intel NUC mini-PC.

To build its system, TEKVOX used a version of Intel’s NUC equipped with triple-screen display capability, gigabit LAN, RAID support, and Intel vPro remote-management technology. This configuration gives ViewVault administrators the option to store up to 1,667 hours of footage — enough for 6 months, the company says — which they can then access either directly or remotely via a secure connection.

Home Theater

Intel has always sold NUC primarily as a PC kit — just add a hard drive and some RAM. But the recent release of standalone NUC Kaby Lake-U motherboards means we’ll see this technology show up inside more and more home-theater appliances (think Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc.).

Intel’s NUC boards are available with high-definition audio/video output, connectivity for solid-state (SSD) and conventional RAID storage, and fast network access so users can stream content on demand from both local and remote servers. 

Intel NUC board

Intel NUC boards measure just 4x4 inches.

These 4x4-inch boards include a choice of 3 soldered-on processors. The most cost-effective is equipped with an Atom E3815, and prices start at around $110. If your customers seek the ultimate hi-def experience, however, they’ll need to spend $500+ for a Core i5 NUC board that can handle multiple data streams and high-speed decoding without glitches or skips.

Shopping with NUC

Today, the average shopping experience is becoming more technologically advanced — and more demanding. Retailers, no longer satisfied with simple end-caps and weekly circulars, are increasingly engaging customers with sophisticated smart shelves, point-of-sale (POS) systems, beacon marketing and audience analytics.

Shoppers, whether they know it or not, are regularly engaging with NUCs, too. These systems send out push-coupons and provide increased context via smart shelf and end-cap displays.

To work properly, the technology that powers these sales tools must be cheap, fast and easy to update. Intel knows this very well, which is why the latest NUC is available in an array of low-power kits that sell for as little as $130 and are engineered for easy expansion.

Subsequent generations of NUC will likely get smaller and more powerful. And while Intel may continue to tout specific use-cases, the real charm of this little box will always be its limitless potential.

Intel NUC mini-PCs

 

And don’t miss:

Why you need 2-in-1s in your product mix

HP’s revamped All-in-Ones look worthy for business

VR-ready PCs are coming, but at a high price

 

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In the Zone

Dell, LG offer cool curved monitors for customers with deep pockets

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by Kevin Jacoby on 07/19/2017
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Ultra High Definition (UHD) computer monitors are getting wider, sharper and curvier.

 

 

Top-tier OEMs including Dell, LG and Samsung are competing for your customers’ dollars. And let’s be clear: When it comes to this new breed of high-res, curved glass, we’re talking about way more dollars than usual.

 

 

 

Dell’s latest curved display, the UltraSharp 38 (U3818DW), goes on sale this coming Sunday, July 23. At $1,499, the new Dell is a lot more expensive than a standard flat-screen display. Yet it might be priced just right.

 

 

 

That’s because professional multitaskers in verticals such as finance, engineering, and multimedia production are used to paying more for better-than-average specs.

Dell UltraSharp 38 curved monitor

Dell says its UltraSharp 38 curved monitor delivers 25% more screen content than a 34-incher.

Dell’s UltraSharp 38 — which actually measures 37.5 inches on the diagonal — is clearly designed to compete with similar high-end displays such as LG’s 38UC99 curved monitor.

 

 

 

Dell vs. LG

The LG monitor has a suggested retail price of $1,699, or $200 higher than Dell’s new unit. Yet when LG’s curved behemoth hit the market, it made a big splash in the gaming community. Hard-core gamers love the monitor’s unusually high 75Hz refresh rate, which is accessible when using a compatible AMD graphics processor.

 

 

 

 

 LG 38-inch curved monitor

 

LG’s 38-inch curved monitor features Bluetooth speakers, a USB-C port and 3840x1600 resolution.

Dell customers, on the other hand, may prefer the UltraSharp 38’s business-minded focus on usability and unique features.

For instance, Dell wisely incorporated a KVM switch that lets users control two PCs with the same screen, keyboard and mouse. The feed from both computers can sit side-by-side on the expansive screen. That offers simultaneous access to, say, a high-performance desktop for computer-aided design (CAD) and a standard business machine for communication.

Similar specs

Both the LG and Dell monitors make good use of integrated screen layout controls, too. Proprietary interfaces on both displays allow the user to customize layouts using a combination of Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture features.

When it comes to standard specs, Dell’s UltraSharp 38 and the slightly more expensive LG are very close. Both offer a native resolution of 3840 x 1600 with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

Both monitors can also deliver a response time as low as 5 ms. And they both come out of the box with 99 percent sRGB factory calibration that delivers the kind of high-level color accuracy that visual pros count on.

As for USB connectivity, both the Dell and LG include the increasingly popular USB-C variant, which carries audio, video and 100W of power to and from external devices.

Of course, no display would be complete without the standard compliment of DisplayPort and HDMI connectors, and industry-standard VESA mount compatibility. Both the Dell and LG monitors have these.

So if your customers include deep-pocketed multitaskers in verticals such as finance, engineering and multimedia production, these new curved monitors may be a welcome sight.

 

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