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In the Zone

Mini PCs: gaining power, losing pounds

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by Kevin Jacoby on 08/30/2018
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The latest crop of mini-PCs are smaller, faster and more flexible than ever. So much so, that one day soon they may obviate traditional desktop computers altogether.

Until that day comes, however, the competition continues. And may the smallest computer win.

When talking with your customers about mini-PCs, it will be helpful to divide the market into 2 categories: ready-to-use and barebones. Both offer varying degrees of utility, versatility and cost savings.

Out of the box, right to work

If your customers want to get right down to it, then a ready-to-use mini like the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny Desktop could be the perfect solution.

The M710 Tiny isn’t the most powerful mini-PC around. But what the device lacks in brawn, it more than makes up for in smart design and ease-of-use.

The Tiny starts with a tiny price. Your customer can put a Lenovo on their desk for around $450. And that includes Windows 10 Pro.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny Desktop

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710: one tiny step for mankind

At that price, of course, the specs are tiny, too. A Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB conventional hard drive (HDD) is not much power to speak of. But if the name of the game is Microsoft Office and a half-dozen browser tabs, then it’ll do fine.

But if your customer’s budget can stretch, so can the M710 Tiny. Putting around $730 on the corporate credit card will push the specs up to a 7th Gen Intel Core i5, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. That’s enough power to complete just about any project that begins and ends in a cubicle farm.

Off-brand, but on point

It’s entirely possible that you and your customers have never heard of ASRock. If so, that’s too bad. Because if you’re looking for a pint-sized powerhouse with room to grow, ASRock is a brand you should know.

ASRock’s DeskMini GTX/RX can honestly be called a gaming machine. But that doesn’t mean it’s built for dilettantes.

This little box has horsepower enough to tackle pro-level multimedia jobs. These include graphics and video editing, multi-stream video conferencing, and the kind of big data crunching you might think requires a big desktop computer.

ASRock DeskMini

ASRock DeskMini GTX/RX: a brand to know better

The most notable difference between the barebones DeskMini and more business-focused mini-PCs is its discrete GPU. The ASRock not only includes a GPU, but also offers a few choices, culminating with the impressive NVIDIA GTX 1080.

As is typical with a barebones PC, the DeskMini’s $800 price tag is more about purchasing potential than performance. But it’s the potential that really shines through.

Crack open the chassis, and you’ll see room for discrete graphics, up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, 3 solid state drives (SSDs) and an 8th Gen Intel Core processor. Nice.

NUC for the win

Intel may not have invented the mini-PC, but the company’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) has done more than most to popularize the format. So it makes sense that reports surrounding their upcoming “Crimson Canyon” NUC are making waves.

Intel now offers NUCs in both barebones versions as well as in thoughtfully designed, ready-to-use iterations preloaded with Windows 10. Like many things about Intel’s fast little box, this gives it an edge over the competition.

Intel is reportedly gearing up for a big NUC announcement in September. Whenever the new systems show up, it seems the NUC’s new ace in the hole will be its undisputed title as the only mini-PC in the world with a 10nm processor.

Intel Crimson Canyon NUC

Is this the upcoming Crimson Canyon NUC from Intel?

As if that wasn’t enough, Crimson Canyon will reportedly also offer a choice between integrated and discrete graphics. The latter will come courtesy of an AMD Radeon 540.

No word yet on pricing, but other tech bloggers expect the price to come in around $550. This makes sense based on current and previous NUC price bands.

Earlier this month, Intel also kept the NUC fires burning with new NUC kits. The 5 kits, previously codenamed Bean Canyon, are based on Intel’s 8th Gen Core i7, i5 and i3 processors and Iris graphics.

System builders will need to customize the Intel NUC kits with their choice of storage, memory and OS. Prices for the new kits range from about $300 to $500, depending on CPU and other options.

What’s the right mini-PC for your customers? A short conversation about tiny computers could bring you some big revenue.


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In the Zone

How smart appliances could be your next smart business

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by Kevin Jacoby on 08/28/2018
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What’s Google doing in your customers’ kitchens? Why is Alexa sitting next to their coffee makers? And how does Cortana know their favorite ice-cream flavors?

Perhaps the answer can be found in a recent Allied Market Research report. It predicts that the global market for kitchen appliances will grow by more than 6% a year through 2020, reaching $253.4 billion — higher than the GDP of Finland!

It’s not yet clear what percentage of that revenue will represent smart appliances. But we do know that worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) is forecast by market watcher IDC to hit a massive $1.4 trillion in 2021. That’s nearly double what it was last year.

We also know that top-tier appliance makers — including Whirlpool, Bosch and Samsung — are relentlessly adding smart appliances to their catalogs. They’re determined to stave off market erosion from Silicon Valley usurpers. Because, make no mistake, this is war.

Smart, smarter, smartest appliances

If you’re looking for the exemplar of the modern smart appliance, look no further than Samsung’s Family Hub. This new uber-fridge retails for up to $5,200, and it does way more than just keep the milk from spoiling.

Samsung Family Hub smart refrigerator

Samsung Family Hub: everything for everyone, at least in the kitchen

A giant touchscreen on the Family Hub’s door provides a virtual gateway to all the internet has to offer. While snacking between meals, users can do a million or so things that may or may not have anything to do with food. For instance, they can:

> Stream music, videos and podcasts

> Download recipes

> Set food-expiration dates

> Make and send grocery lists

> Update family calendars

> Display photos

> Doodle (virtually)

> Play music and videos on nearby speakers and TVs

> Order more snacks

> Remotely check what’s inside the fridge, via your smartphone

> Video chat with faraway friends who are also snacking between meals

> Use voice commands for all of the above

Oh yeah, the Samsung Family Hub also keeps your food cold. Welcome to the 21st century!

Where tech providers come in

Only some of that aforementioned $1.4 trillion of IoT revenue can come from $5K smart refrigerators. And a good portion of it could come to channel partners and tech providers — if they offer customers added value.

That value might come in the form of service contracts for maintaining, upgrading, and replacing smart appliances. There’s also added value in customized hardware for, say, upmarket hotel chains eager to offer guests the latest amenities.

Your customers may also need application-specific software overlays. After all, how long could it possibly take for Amazon-owned Whole Foods to see that millions can be made — and saved — by employing smart refrigerators in the dairy isle?

Remember that smart appliances, dumb though they may seem on the outside, contain processors, memory, storage, graphics and sensors. As these devices grow ever smarter, the line between your customer’s appliances and their desktop PCs will grow increasingly blurry.

In the end, the key to prosperity might have a great deal to do with helping your customers navigate the murky and ever-changing waters of this new technology. Just as you’ve always done. Just as you always will.


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In the Zone

What’s coming next in GPUs?

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by Kevin Jacoby on 07/17/2018
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A tidal wave of graphics processing is on the horizon. The question is what will hit the market, and when.

One thing we know for sure is that NVIDIA and AMD are battling for dominance, with no end in sight. The winner? That would be you and your graphics-hungry customers.

NVIDIA: Not what, but when

One of the most widely anticipated GPU updates may come far sooner than we originally thought. It was little more than a month ago at Computex that NVIDIA’s CEO, Jensen Huang, told reporters that the next generation of GTX graphics would arrive “a long time from now.” This comment came after 2 long years of nothing new — an eternity in the tech biz.

But now it appears that the new generation may not be so far off, after all. Press reports say NVIDIA’s much-anticipated GTX 1180 could arrive as soon as next month. And with an impressive tech upgrade that will have pro gamers salivating like underfed dogs.


Is this the upcoming GTX 1180?

Many tech watchers agree the 1180 will be manufactured using a new 12nm process. And that it will be the first to employ GDDR6 VRAM. How much VRAM? Early reports put it at 16GB — or double that of its predecessor.

As if that’s not enough, the new card is also expected to carry 3,584 CUDA cores, up dramatically from the 2,560 cores in the current GTX 1080.

AMD: Not when, but what

The folks over at AMD don’t seem to have quite as much of a timing issue. Sure, it took the company more than 2 years to move from Fury X to the current Vega platform. But that was only a year ago, and already some tech sites are talking about a speed bump and/or a new low-wattage product.

If said reports are to be believed, AMD could be shooting for a 15% performance increase over its current top-of-the-line Ryzen cards. This would theoretically come courtesy of a platform called Polaris. Like NVIDIA’s new card, AMD Polaris would be a 12nm part and offer GDDR6 VRAM.

AMD Vega platform

AMD’s Vega platform: goodbye already?

At the other end of the GPU spectrum are whispers about a low-wattage chip called Navi. These whispers say Navi will begin its life as part of Sony’s much-anticipated Play Station 5.

But the size, power and cooling requirements for such a GPU suggest that Navi could end up in laptops and other portable devices before too long.

If not now, when?

Specs and release dates aside, it’s safe to say that these cards — or something like them — are coming soon. So if you have customers who work with games, graphics and video, the time to start a GPU-related conversation with them is now.


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In the Zone

Why SSDs are taking over in storage

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by Kevin Jacoby on 07/06/2018
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Who ever thought Amazon Prime Day would be the harbinger of a great storage-device revolution?
On July 16 Seagate will offer its new BarraCuda SSD (solid state drive) exclusively on Amazon. The price might cause you and your customers to do a double take. 
Users with the need for speed will only need to shell out $120 for a 500GB SSD on Amazon, and only $230 for the 1TB drive. Both offer a write speed of 520 MB/sec.
No, that’s the not the fastest SSD available by far. Nor is it the highest capacity. But at just $0.24/GB, the drive's price/performance is quite compelling. 
Seagate is also offering a 250GB BarraCuda SSD on Amazon for $75. At $0.30/GB it may not be as compelling an offer. But the price itself is hard to argue with.
A good omen
SSD sales have been rising for years. But we’ve never been as close as we are now to the tipping point where SSD sales surpass those of conventional hard-disk drives (HDDs). 
According to research from Statista, that tipping point is tentatively coming in 2021: 
SSD shipments chart
Shipments of hard and solid state disk (HDD/SSD) drives worldwide from 2015 to 2021 (in millions)
As you might expect, the rise in SSD sales is often seen as a direct correlation with the decrease in their price/gigabyte. In other words, as SSD prices drop, their sales rise. 
This, in turn, pumps more money into R&D, producing higher performance and greater economies of scale. The resulting virtuous cycle spins and spins until one day your customer’s grandchildren are looking at a conventional hard drive under glass in the Smithsonian. 
How low can you go?
Today the average price/gigabyte on an SSD hovers around $0.25 per GB. That’s down dramatically from 2014, when the average SSD price was $0.84/GB. 
As you can see in the chart below, Gartner Research predicts the SSD price (shown as blue bars) falling even further, dropping to just $0.10/GB on an SSD by 2021: 
SSD vs HDD price-erosion chart
As the Gartner chart shows, the price/performance of HDDs (shown as green bars) is also falling, albeit at a slower rate. 
Still, many industry analysts agree that price alone will not be enough to save these aging storage devices. That’s because SSDs will offer a package of greater value — including reliability, manageability and speed — that far outweighs the HDDs’ lower price/GB.
It looks like that time might be here soon. Are you ready?

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In the Zone

Go the distance with far-field audio

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by Kevin Jacoby on 06/19/2018
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There’s no doubt that speech recognition has become big business. Siri lives inside our iPhones, Alexa is on our coffee tables, and Cortana lurks just behind the screens of our laptops.

If you have customers who are already in the voice-recognition game — or would like to be — make sure they know about the latest speech-tech innovation: far-field audio processing.

Alexa, can you hear me?

It’s easy for Amazon’s Alexa to hear when you’re sitting right next to your Amazon Echo. But what happens when you’re across the room? What if you’re in a crowded space amid “emphatic” voices? What if Bachman-Turner Overdrive is blaring from the stereo?

Don’t worry, Alexa’s got your back — and your customer’s back, too.

Virtual assistants can now understand and react to your verbal instructions, even if you’re 12 feet away. Even if there are other voices in the room. And, yes, even if you’re rockin’ out to BTO at a less-than-polite volume.

How? By combining multidirectional microphone arrays with emerging digital signal processors (DSP) like Intel’s Smart Sound Technology.

Listen to this

Take, for instance, the latest Amazon Echo Plus. It’s got a far-field array consisting of 7 mics: 6 around the perimeter and 1 on top.

Amazon Echo's 7-mic far-field

Amazon Echo’s 7-microphone far-field array

When a user asks Alexa about the weather, the sound of his or her voice hits each mic at a slightly different time. In a microsecond, the DSP analyzes the acoustic signal to determine the delay between each mic. It then boosts the mic closest to the user’s voice and uses the other mics to create noise- and echo-cancellation.

The result is called “beamforming.” It’s way more “Alexa, what’s the weather like?” and way less “B-b-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

A voice from the future

The latest far-field audio is just the beginning. As microphone and DSP tech advances, virtual assistants will get smarter and more adept. There could come a time in the not too distant future when we use our voices way more than our fingers.

Who knows? Maybe one day, all those dawn-of-computing peripherals will disappear altogether.

Consider: Market watcher ResearchAndMarkets predicts the global voice-recognition market will enjoy a 14.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2026.

Pssst. Pass it on!


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In the Zone

How remote management can help you cut the cost of PC support

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by Kevin Jacoby on 06/08/2018
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Supporting a fleet of PCs is neither easy nor cheap. Intel is here to help you and your customers reduce their IT-support burden, making it easier and less costly.

Intel’s solution is called Active Management Technology (AMT). It’s a remote-control system built into Intel vPro processor-enabled devices.

Intel AMT gives your customer the option to remotely access an employee’s device, no matter where in the world the employee (and their device) may be. Once an AMT connection is established, the support staffer can operate the device as if it were sitting on their own desk.

Even a turned-off PC can be accessed with AMT, as long as the device is connected to a power source and the internet.

AMT supports a variety of PC form factors, too. These include good old desktops, notebooks and workstations, but also mini-PCs, compute sticks, 2-in-1s, and all-in-ones.

Updates from far away

Sometimes the simplest solution is best. For instance, keeping a device up to date with the latest software can prevent costly service interruptions. Regular software updates often include patches, security enhancements, bug fixes and new features.

The trouble is, users don’t always update as often as they should. That can leave your customers’ PCs vulnerable to software conflicts, performance issues and the ever-present threat of malicious attack.

With Intel AMT, they can instead access connected devices from anywhere in the world. They can activate them remotely after work hours, push the latest updates, and shut them down again in a few short steps.

Then, when the worker comes back, all he or she needs to do is turn on their PC. Then they can get right back to work.

Tossing desk-side by the wayside

You and your customers might be surprised by just how costly PC support can be. Consider these factoids recently published by Intel:

> Companies spend an average of 42 hours servicing older PCs — those at least 4 years old.

> On average, 80% of a PC’s total cost of ownership (TCO) is attributed to aftermarket expenses such as tech support and labor costs.

> Remote tech support is cheaper than desk-side support by an average of $127 per device.

The value proposition is simple: To save money on tech support, don’t work harder, work smarter — that is, remotely.

Many devices, one solution

So how much do your customers pay now for tech support? To calculate, consider another factoid from Intel: Each employee uses an average of 3.5 devices in the course of his or her work.

To make sense of that 3.5, multiply it by the number of employees in your customer’s business. Then multiply the sum by the cost of supporting each device. (For a ballpark figure, Intel says the average for desk-side support is $187 per device.)

Do the math, and 2 things become clear: First, hardware tech support can easily become one of your customer’s biggest expenses. And second, a unified support solution that can be controlled from a single location could translate into game-changing savings.

Do you have customers interested in saving money while also increasing efficiency? If so, then it’s time to talk with them about remote support.


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In the Zone

Why 802.11ax is the new gold standard for Wi-Fi

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by Kevin Jacoby on 05/21/2018
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More than 20 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020, which is just 2 years away, predicts Gartner. Many of these devices will be ravenous for high-bandwidth gaming, video and augmented reality (AR) content.

The big question: How in the world are we going to move enough data to all those devices?

According to major networking-industry players that include Broadcom and Intel, the answer to that question has everything to do with the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard.

Asus RT-AX88U router

ASUS’s RT-AX88U router: 802.11ax-compatible — and T3-worthy

Make no mistake, 802.11ax is going to be quick. At 14 gigabits per second (Gbps), it will be up to 4 times faster than the current standard, 802.11ac.

But these new chips will offer something way more important than just another speed bump. Namely, they’ll be able to simultaneously and efficiently deliver multiple data streams to many devices.

Wide: the new fast

That’s important. Because the average 4-person household will soon use as many as 50 bandwidth-gobbling devices, estimates the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

To be sure, some of these devices — for instance, smart appliances and medical monitors — may sip only small amounts of data here and there.

But that won’t be the case for the coming generations of gaming systems, home-theater components and VR headsets. They’re going to demand simultaneous high-bandwidth streams like never before.

New tech

To help serve up all those super-wide streams, 802.11ax will employ some brand-new tech.

For instance, the new chips will include Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO), designed to increase channel capacity for multiple devices.

They’ll also feature Uplink and Downlink Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). That’s a complex name for a new tech that helps maintain capacity and efficiency for multiple, simultaneous data streams.

Hurry up and wait

Though most OEMs already have a toe in the 802.11ax swimming pool, to dive into the deep end, we’ll have to wait until 2019.

That’s because the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group in charge of standards for new Wi-Fi versions, won’t begin its certification process until next year. Once 802.11ax is certified, mass adoption is likely to follow, though it may be slow at first.

The next big move will be backwards compatibility and multi-device interoperability. With those confirmed, you’ll be able to safely offer customers a flashy new router such as the ASUS RT-AX88U. It will be one of the fastest connections available, and as an added bonus, it looks like a prop from “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

There’s no word yet on how much these new routers will cost, when they’ll arrive, or if Arnold Schwarzenegger will personally hand deliver them to every customer. But we can hope! 


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Desktop sales drooping? Enthusiast PCs to the rescue!

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by Kevin Jacoby on 05/10/2018
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“The desktop is dead!” tech journalists cry. And to be sure, sales of traditional desktops have been declining year after year as users switch from bulky boxes to svelte handsets. After all, no one needs a traditional PC to check email or whip up a spreadsheet. We have smartphones, tablets and laptops for that.

So is the desktop PC really a thing of the past? Not quite.

While the desktop market droops, the enthusiast PC market has been quietly making serious gains. Research firm GFK reports a 55% year-over-year increase in gaming PC sales in the first half of 2017 alone.

So while the desktop PC may indeed be dying, it’s been reborn as a souped-up, fire-breathing supercomputer. And as far as enthusiast users are concerned, no portable computing platform on earth can replace it.

High-flying prices

Need an example? Consider 8Pack, a UK-based designer of gaming computers. The folks at 8Pack have created a digital monster called OrionX. The system won the admiration of Forbes magazine for both its unprecedented power and stratospheric price tag.

OrionX gaming system

OrionX: an enthusiast gaming box retailing for (gulp) $30K

How stratospheric? OrionX costs around $30,000 — and still has room for more drives, graphics and RAM.

Whoa. So is the desktop dead? Thirty grand says it ain’t.

ASP to the rescue

This issue turns out to be one of those good-news/bad-news things. The bad news is that OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo can hardly give their desktops away, let alone sell them for a big profit.

The good news is that a select cadre of OEMs and system builders are not only selling more enthusiast desktops, but selling them at a higher average sale price (ASP) than ever before.

As computing technology moves inexorably forward, we ask more from our computers. Software engineers — especially those who create popular AAA games like “Fortnight” and “Resident Evil” — write code that requires unprecedented graphics and processing power.

This, in turn, creates demand for multi-GPU arrays; 8- and 10-core processors; high-capacity, super-speed solid state drives (SSD); and other upper-echelon components. And these components have become increasingly expensive of late.

Economies of a lesser scale

But doesn’t the price of a given component usually fall as it proliferates? Yes, usually. But not in this case.

That’s because no matter how many diehard gamers are clamoring for triple-SLI Nvidia GeForce Titan X Pascal graphics cards, the actual number of units sold is still far lower than previous industry norms. Lower run-rates lead to lesser economies of scale. And that leads to higher ASPs.

So are you suffering anemic margins and lost revenue due to failing desktop sales? If so, then start thinking about enthusiast gaming boxes. They’re anything but dead.


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In the Zone

Hades Canyon NUCs: new mini-PCs you’ll find exciting

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by Kevin Jacoby on 04/19/2018
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If you and your customers think the NUC is the boring Honda Civic of mini-PCs, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Intel recently released two new versions of its popular NUC mini-PC. And far from being a snooze, this new version is more like a Mini Cooper custom-fitted with the engine from a Lamborghini.

Intel Hades Canyon NUC mini-PC

Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC chassis, with optional LED skull graphic

Designed for gaming, virtual reality and high-def multimedia, both of the new Hades Canyon NUCs are powered by 8th Generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processors rated at 3.1 GHz and, with Turbo Boost, up to 4.2 GHz.

The more powerful of the two is also unlocked for overclocking. Don’t worry, the stock cooling system can handle it.

Also, both slabs of silicon pack a surprisingly powerful graphics punch courtesy of — wait for it — AMD! Yes, Intel wanted so much to show how serious it was about the NUC’s gaming and VR cred, it partnered with the archenemy.

This unlikely Intel-AMD union adds a major dose of Radeon RX Vega graphics — 24 cores, to be exact. The result is a relatively tiny, air-cooled machine capable of pwning gaming rigs 10 times its size.

A panoply of ports

But souped-up graphics horsepower isn’t just for gaming. It also comes in handy when you want to run, say, six 4K screens at once. That’s why Intel equipped the new NUCs with two Mini DisplayPort connectors, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and two HDMI ports.

Ports on Intel Hades Canyon NUC

Hi-speed ports on the NUC’s front (top) and rear

Of course, the Thunderbolt 3 ports are meant for way more than just video. But your customers might be pleased to know they have the option.

Rounding out the impressive selection of ports is a quartet of 10-Gbps USB 3.1 Gen2 ports on the back, one more on the front, and an always-on type-A USB port for charging devices.

The front also features a conveniently located media-card reader and an IR (infrared) receiver — the latter being essential when using NUC as a home-theater component.

(For more technical specifications, see this Intel NUC spec sheet PDF.)

Yes, there’s a catch

There are a few things your customers should know about the Hades Canyon NUCs before they buy.

First, like all previous iterations of NUC, this is a kit designed for enthusiasts and system builders. As such, it does not include RAM, hard drives or an OS.

That means that the price, which starts at just under $800, can easily reach $1,600 or more if your customers plan to max it out with 16GB of DDR4 memory and a couple of SSDs.

Then there’s the power supply. There’s no putting this mildly; the box is huge and heavy. So while the NUC itself weighs just 3 pounds and is a breeze to transport, you’ll want to warn your customers about this extra baggage.

Intel NUC and power brick

Don’t forget the power brick!

Despite a small cadre of shortcomings, Intel’s new Hades Canyon NUC is a computing marvel. It’s definitely one more nail in the coffin of behemoth desktop PCs. And it offers far more power than you might expect from a computer the size of Forest Gump’s box of chocolates.

Try it and you’ll see.


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Time to upgrade with the Intel 300 Series Chipset

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by Kevin Jacoby on 04/10/2018
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In all the excitement last week over Intel’s hot, new 6-core mobile processor, you might have missed another of Intel’s new products. It was the decidedly less sexy — but equally important — Intel 300 Series Chipset.

As you might expect, this latest chipset design set off an avalanche of new motherboards by OEMs including ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI.

They’re available now in a variety of iterations ranging from the budget-minded H310 (around $60) to the well-equipped Q370, which can cost nearly $300 with all the features. (Check out the Intel 300 Series product names and specs on this Intel product specification page.)

MSI 370 motherboard with Intel 300 Series Chipset

MSI H370 motherboard featuring Intel’s new 300 Series Chipset

Speaking of features, here are 3 of the new 300 Series Chipset’s features that your customers should know about:

1. The fastest Wi-Fi — ever

One of the most notable additions to the new chipset is the ability to address Gigabit Wi-Fi. The inclusion of a wireless-AC 2x2 160MHz module means users can achieve speeds up to 1,733 Mbps.

But remember, it takes two to tango. Doubling the speed of the chip gets you only halfway there. The other half must come from a router that supports the new protocol. Unfortunately, there aren’t many around right now — and those that are available don’t come cheap.

That’s sure to change in the near future, as this technology finds its way into the mainstream.

2. “Alexa, tell me about the 300 Series Chipset”

Voice-activated digital assistants are popping up in myriad devices these days. So it makes sense that Intel would pay special attention to voice-recognition technology in its new designs.

That’s why the H-, B-, and Q- variants of the new 300 Series Chipset include new audio DSP functionality. So they can support up to 5 simultaneous voice-activated apps — even in low-power mode.

These same boards also include enhanced support for Windows 10 Modern Standby. Connect those dots, and it’s plain to see that your customer’s next laptop could very well sleep for a week, wake up when its name is called, and then soldier on for hours, all on a single charge.

3. Z means “doesn’t have featurzzz”

If your customers are of the gaming variety, they’ll want to know about the Z370 motherboard. It’s the only one in the new 300 Series that offers the ability to overclock Intel’s hot, new Core i9 processor.

But let the buyer beware: There’s a price to be paid for that overclocking ability. In this case, the price is giving up the aforementioned Gigabit Wi-Fi, the new voice-recognition audio DSPs and the integrated USB 3.1.

Once Intel publishes the specs on a new chipset, it’s up the OEMs to put out motherboards that address a variety of market segments. So, chances are, the right board for your customers is out there now. Time to upgrade!



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