Microsoft on Xbox Elite Controller Series 2: 'We Built it From the Ground Up'

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2. Credit: Tom's HardwareXbox Elite Controller Series 2. Credit: Tom’s Hardware

At an event here at E3, discussing the future of Xbox and PC gaming, the company also discussed the new Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 and answered questions about its durability.

When I asked an Xbox spokesperson about gamers who have frequently complained that rubber would peel off of the controller or break in other ways.

“We built it from the ground up,” the spokesperson said. It’s a complete redesign, not a simple 2.0 iteration, I was told. Microsoft heard the feedback and claims to have kept it in mind with this new design.

The new rubberized grip wraps all the way around the handles, and I’m told those grips were part of the focus on durability.

The new design has some other upgrades, including Bluetooth support, an internal rechargeable battery, adjustable tension thumb sticks with new shapes (classic, wide dome) and a USB Type-C port. There are also three customizable on-board profiles with indicator lights. It will sell for $179.99 on November 4, though Microsoft is taking pre-orders now.

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2. Credit: Tom's HardwareXbox Elite Controller Series 2. Credit: Tom’s Hardware

I also got to spend some hands-on time with the new controller, and it does feel solid. The rubber grips were comfortable, and I was able to try the hair triggers in a demo game Xbox had set up (which was suspiciously like junior Fortnite, but just for teaching people the controller’s features), and they felt great for rapid firing.

Is it really tougher than the previous version? We’ll find out for sure when the controller launches this fall and gamers get their sweaty palms all over it.

Khadas Introduces VIM3 Raspberry Pi Competitor Line With Two Launch Configurations

If you’re the type to dabble with Raspberry Pi, but wish there were alternatives to muck about with, you may be in luck. A new alternative to the diminutive computer is available via Khadas: the VIM3, which comes in both Basic and Pro versions priced at $99 and $139 respectively. Khadas, which manufactures single-board computers (SBCs) similar to that of the Raspberry Pi itself, has both models of its VIM3 lineup of SBCs available for purchase now, with shipping scheduled for mid-August. 


Initially, Khadas is offering the boards in two configurations, with additional options and more powerful versions coming at a later date. The Khadas VIM3 Basic comes rocking 16FB eMMC Flash and 2GB LPDDR4 RAM, and it’s $99. The Khadas VIM3 Pro doubles the storage and RAM on board for just $139.99. 

The VIM3 uses an Amlogic S992X system on a chip. It’s the very same, in fact, as the one the Odroid-N2 uses, which includes four Cortex-A73 performance cores, a Mali-G52 Mp4 GPU, and two Cortex-A53 efficiency cores. You can use your VIM3 to code 4K 10bit video at 75 fps, if you so choose. Khadas will let you utilize Android Pie, LibreElec, and Ubuntu XFCE 18.04 in terms of available OS options you can use. 

Keep in mind that neither will come with a USB-C adapter or cable and you may have to pick up additional accessories depending on which model you choose. But if you’re looking to go down a different DIY avenue in terms of experimenting, Raspberry Pi-style, these Khadas SBCs look like an interesting starting point. 

Why would you want one of these over a Raspberry Pi? Well, the Khadas VIM3 includes USB 3.0 support, the aforementioned 4K output, and a few other features that the Pi models prior to the new Raspberry Pi 4, have not. However, a Pi (including the new Raspberry Pi 4, if you can find it), is cheaper, so there’s your trade-off. 

If you’re interested in picking them up, lock in your pre-order now, as these prices have gone up from the initial production batch’s pricing of $69.99 and $99.99 and it’s possible they could raise further in the future.

WD Releases 1TB Gaming Drive Accelerated SSD for Xbox One

Photo Source: Western DigitalPhoto Source: Western Digital

Microsoft already sells Xbox One models with up to 1TB of storage. For people who need even more storage for their digital games, ComputerBase found Western Digital’s aptly named Gaming Drive Accelerated for Xbox One, which is available in 500GB and 1TB capacities.

The WD Gaming Drive Accelerated is compatible with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X alike. The 1TB model is purportedly able to accommodate up to 25 games, based on the average download size of an Xbox title, and both models rely on USB 3.0 connections.

Western Digital claimed that, based on its 400 MB/s read speed and “internal testing,” the Gaming Drive Accelerated could offer up to 50% faster load times. 50% faster than what? Well, we don’t know, but we assume the company is comparing the drive to its predecessor.

The Gaming Drive Accelerated measures in at 4 inches wide, 1.3 inches deep, and 5 inches tall with a weight of roughly 0.24 pounds. Combine that with a “rubber-bumper framing” and a three-year warranty and it’s easy to see the device’s appeal as a portable game library.

Both the 500GB and 1TB capacities of the WD Gaming Drive Accelerated for Xbox One are out of stock via the WD online store. ComputerBase said the drives cost $120 and $220, respectively, in the U.S. Western Digital hasn’t revealed availability in other markets.

Intel Preps Quartz Canyon NUC With Xeon E Chips

An Intel product brochure, hosted at IT provider Softline’s Russian website, seemingly reveals the chipmaker’s upcoming Quartz Canyon NUC (next unit of computing) that targets workstation users, content creators, CAD professionals and business users.

Credit: SoftlineCredit: Softline

By the images alone, the Quartz Canyon looks bigger than the NUCs we’re accustomed to, which makes sense, since it’ll reportedly feature support for one discrete graphics card.

On the processor side, Intel will allegedly offer the Quartz Canyon with an octa-core Xeon E chip or 9th Generation Core i7 vPro chip. Although the listing didn’t specify the processor’s exact model, we can think of a few candidates that fit the description:

Model Cores / Threads Base / Boost (GHz) Cache (MB) TDP (W)
Intel Xeon E-2288G 8 / 16 3.7 / 5.0 16 95
Intel Xeon E-2278G 8 / 16 3.4 / 5.0 16 80
Intel Xeon E-2278GE 8 / 16 3.3 / 4.7 16 80
Intel Xeon E-2278GEL 8 / 16 2.0 / 3.9 16 35
Intel Xeon E-2286M 8 / 16 2.5 / 5.0 16 45
Intel Core i7-9700K 8 / 8 3.6 / 4.9 12 95
Intel Core i7-9700 8 / 8 3.0 / 4.7 12 65
Intel Core i7-9700T 8 / 8 2.0 / 4.3 12 35

If we look at the Xeon E family first, there are five chips that come with eight cores and 16 threads. The Xeon E-2288G, which is rated with a 95W TDP (thermal design power), is the highest-end part. It comes with a 3.7 GHz base clock and 5 GHz boost clock. The Xeon E-2278G holds the second position with a 3.4 GHz base clock and 5 GHz boost clock. For comparison, on the mainstream side the i7-9700K, i7-9700 and i7-9700T are the only 9th-Generation Core i7 chips that come with eight cores. The i7-9700K is the fastest of the trio.

The Quartz Canyon NUC will support EEC (error-correcting code) DDR4 memory modules and Intel Optane drives. The device also has dual Thunderbolt and Ethernet ports, plus an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 adapter onboard that provides a wireless connection to the Internet with a maximum speed of 2.4 Gbps. Quartz Canyon has a 500W internal power supply.

The leaked brochure doesn’t mention when the Quartz Canyon NUC will be available. But since the document is dated April 24, we don’t expect to see the NUC until perhaps the last quarter of 2019 or early 2020.

Lian Li, EKWB Launch 011D Distribution Plate: Res, Routing and Pump in One

Lian Li and EKWB partnered up and created a distribution plate that combines a water cooling reservoir, routing and pump solution in one. Dubbed The 011D Distro-Plate G1, the design was made specifically to fit the Lian Li 011D and 011D XL PC cases. According to today’s announcement, the location of the inlets on the plate are perfectly aligned to fit inline with PC components in an effort to minimize the number of bends a user needs to make to create the loop. The 011D Distro-Plate G1 is able to support up to two radiators, two GPUs and a CPU while mounting next to the motherboard

The distro-plate itself is made of acrylic, plastic (PPS-GF30), EPDM O-Rings and graphite in the pump. It measures 13.5 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches (LxWxH). Mounting the plate should be straightforward, as it is designed specifically for the cases and includes all the mounting hardware. 

Pushing the water around is the included DDC 3.1 PWM pump that is spec’d out to provide 500 L/H flow with a maximum head of 2.6M while using 6W. The pump is powerful enough to provide ample flow for most loops. 

The multiple inlet and outlet ports provide a flexible solution for GPU, dual GPUs and even a vertical GPU solution, as well as single radiator or dual radiator configurations. But it isn’t all about the functionality. The distro-plate also includes an ARGB LED (18 LEDs) strip in the front, which lights up the water path and acrylic. The strip plugs into a motherboard’s ARGB header and is compatible with the board partner’s RGB ecosystems (MSI Mystic Light, ASRock Polychrome Sync, Asus Aura Sync and Gigabyte RGB Fusion 2.0).

If you have an Lian Li OD11 or OD11 XL chassis and looking to simplify your loop and give it a bit more bling, the Lian Li/EKWB 011D Distro-Plate G1 is available as of today with an MSRP of $199. More details can be found on the product page.

Image Credit: Lian Li

Report: TSMC's 7nm Lead Time Triples

Credit: Ascannio / ShutterstockCredit: Ascannio / ShutterstockIt looks like TSMC is the belle of the ball, and everyone wants a dance. DigiTimes today reported that, according to anonymous industry sources, the semiconductor manufacturer’s lead time for 7nm chips has tripled from two months to four months because of high demand.

Right now AMD is the most well-known purchaser of 7nm chips from TSMC–the company relies on those chips in Ryzen 3000 processors and Navi graphics. Nvidia told us in July that it will make its next-gen GPUs with both TSMC and Samsung, meaning the two largest graphics companies will be vying for the manufacturer’s 7nm chips, assuming the reports about Nvidia adopting a 7nm process are true.

Bloomberg reported in July that Apple tapped TSMC and its 7nm process for the A13 used in the iPhone 11 as well. (The company then revealed the A13 Bionic on September 10, and it confirmed the chip is made using a 7nm process, but it didn’t name the manufacturer.) It’s possible that demand from this triumvirate alone ramped up quicker than TSMC anticipated, resulting in these increased lead times.

Meanwhile, TSMC has been upgrading its 7nm processes to offer improved performance and lower power draws, as we reported in July. DigiTimes said in today’s report that the company will be increasing its budget for various nodes, too. Introducing a variety of 7nm processes that can serve different kinds of devices could help reduce competition for the limited number of 7nm chips TSMC makes.

All of this arrives shortly after GlobalFoundries filed multiple lawsuits against TSMC in the U.S. and Germany. The suits alleged that TSMC used GF’s “proprietary technology in its tens of billions of dollars of sales.” Now GF is looking to halt the import of devices that use processors made by TSMC–which includes many of the products made by the trio we mentioned above–until the case is decided.

One Year Later: Intel Adds Heatsink To M.2 Optane 905P SSD

According to a recent product notice, Intel has added a heatsink to its Optane SSD 905P SSDs. The company first released the M.2 variant of its speedy Intel Optane 905P SSD a year ago, but a handful of concerns were raised about its ability to dissipate heat. This was only a natural response from the market because the other forms of Intel Optane 905P SSDs, such as the U.2-connected model and the more-common PCIe add-in-card, all had metal heatsinks. Yet the M.2 model lacked this particular feature when it came out roughly one year ago.Credit: IntelCredit: IntelAt the time, third-party cooler-maker EKWB introduced a passive heatsink that you could add on to the SSD to handle cooling. This was great, except that it cost an additional $20 plus shipping – and a lot of people weren’t amused by the apparent necessity for a third-party cooler, or the hassle of the extra effort. Consequently, we doubt many buyers opted to take this route.Credit: IntelCredit: IntelIt appears that Intel has listened to those concerns. It might have taken almost a year, but the chipmaker has come out with its own cooling solution for the 380GB Optane 905P M.2 SSD. It consists of an Optane-branded metal plate for each side of the unit.

Intel Optane SSD 905P M.2 SSD

Capacity (GB)

22x110mm, M.2, 380GB

Memory Media

Intel 3D XPoint Memory Media

Sustained Sequential Read/Write3

Up to 2,700 / 2,200 MB/s

Random 4KB Random Read/Write3

Up to 575,000 / 550,000 IOPS

Read/Write Latency

<10 µs / < 11 µs

Interface

PCIe 3.0 X 4, NVMe

Form Factors, Height, and Weight

M.2 22mm / 110mm / 3.88mm / up to 13 grams

Life Expectancy

1.6 million hours Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

Lifetime Endurance4

10 Drive Writes per Day (DWPD)

Power Consumption Typical

Active Sequential Read: 6.5W / Active Write: 11.7W / Idle: 2.7W

Operating Temperature5

0° C to 85° C

The cooling solution will be shipped with all new units of the Intel Optane 905P M.2 SSD, although some current inventory might still ship without it. As noted by Computerbase, if you already own one of these SSDs, you can request a free heatsink at www.intel.com/ssdmodulesupport.

 

Hands-on with Google Stadia: Streaming Doom Eternal

Google won’t launch its Stadia streaming service until the end of the year, but here at E3 2019, I got to try it early. 

The setup was non-traditional but a definite possible use case.I played Doom Eternal on a Pixelbook hard-wired to the internet and connected to a TV with an HDMI cable. The Stadia controller (part of the $130 Founder’s edition or $70 on its own) was connected to the Pixelbook via USB. 

There was no server in the backyard of the downtown house the Google rented. Everything was coming from a data center in San Francisco. While a representative don’t know which ISP has wired the house, he said they were getting 25 Mbps down, good enough for 1080p at 60 frames per second with 5.1 surround sound. That is short, however, of the maximum 4K at 60 fps when you get 35 Mbps down.

For the most part, Doom Eternal played pretty well. After a tutorial and half hour of play I was blasting enemies with a flamethrower, performing glory kills and dashing to walls I could climb reliably. Two or three times in my half hour of play, there were slight hiccups in which I encountered lag, but other than that it was smooth sailing. Was it as exact as playing on a PC? Not exactly, but it felt pretty damn close to console play.

But that’s the question that Stadia will have to answer. For those with even the most stable internet connections, hiccups can happen. How many will gamers tolerate? 

Credit: BethesdaCredit: Bethesda

I encountered a few issues; The game itself crashed twice, which a representative from developer Bethesda that was on hand said was due to the fact that it was an early demo. I had to use the touchpad on the Pixel to relaunch the game, which led to the cursor being stuck in every gun’s reticle until I moved it offscreen. Unlike some other reporters I’ve spoken too, I was never disconnected from the game entirely due to internet issues. But the fact that they did does give some pause.

I asked the Bethesda representative if there will be any settings options at all, but was told that the Stadia edition of Doom Eternal will perform like its console brethren with only your internet connection changing graphics and performance.

One highlight is that the controller is surprisingly comfortable. It takes Sony’s DualShock 4 shape and control stick layout and mixes it with Xbox’s button layout to make an ergonomic design that was comfortable for a solid period of play.

Stadia will launch in November for $10 per month or $130 for a Founder’s Edition package that includes three months of service, a Chromecast Ultra and a midnight blue controller. When that happens, we’ll be able to test in our own homes. Doom Eternal will launch November 22 on Stadia, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

AOC Unveils Lightning-Fast 0.5ms Response Gaming Monitors

AOC today announced two gaming monitors that may very well make your day if you’re looking for something extra speedy to spice up your gaming rig or the one you’re thinking about building.

The new 27-inch AG271FZ2 and 24.5-inch AG251FZ2 LCD panels, part of AOC’s AGON line, feature AMD FreeSync and a refresh rate of 240 Hz. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this new monitor duo is the fact that they have insanely fast response times, clocking in at just 0.5ms. This low of a response time ensures you’ll get the most fluid movements possible out of the games you throw at these displays without ghosting or tearing. 

These specs and features make the new line nearly perfect for a PC gaming rig you may be dreaming of putting together. That smoking hot response time, and the refresh rate that’s as high as you can get in a gaming monitor these days, so it’s great for eSports players and others obsessed with speed. 

Both monitors offer DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D and VGA inputs in addition to Shadow Control for cranking up brightness of darker areas onscreen. In addition, Low Blue Light Mode is also available in an effort to soothe your tired eyes. 

However, with all that speed the monitors only feature 1080p resolution. This will disappoint the many gamers salivating over 4K monitors or 1440p. However, the AG271FZ2 and AG251FZ2 are going for just $380 and $330, respectively.

While both monitors are currently available for pre-order, there’s no specific release date announced yet. But considering they’re up for pre-order now, we’ll likely see them hit stores later this year. 

Nvidia Quietly Patches Tegra 'Selfblow' Exploit

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockNvidia released a security update for the Jetson TX1 in the Tegra Linux Driver Package (L4T) on July 18. The associated security bulletin offered precious few details about what Nvidia fixed, but on GitHub, a researcher named Triszka Balázs revealed that the company was patching a flaw that enabled malicious code execution on “every single Tegra device released so far” via what he called the Selfblow exploit.

The flaw involved an issue with the Tegra bootloader. Balázs explained that “nvtboot (NVC) loads nvtboot-cpu (TBC) without validating the load address first, leading to arbitrary memory write,” which means the Selfblow exploit “completely defeats secure boot even on latest firmware.” (There is an exception in the Nintendo Switch–the console uses a different bootloader and thus wasn’t affected by this flaw.)

Balázs said he disclosed the vulnerability to Nvidia on March 9 with plans to publicly reveal it on June 15. That’s longer than most researchers give companies to respond to security flaws–the industry standard is 90 days–but it still wasn’t long enough for Nvidia to address the issue. Balázs claimed that Nvidia said it would fix the flaw in May, but then it didn’t even assign a CVE identifier until July.

So he “decided to give this to the public in good faith that [it] will encourage them in fixing it so we can have a better, more secure devices.” Nvidia responded by releasing the security update on July 18, but Balázs still wasn’t content, updating his GitHub “readme” to say Nvidia didn’t include reference to Selfblow in the security bulletin and made a mistake gauging the flaw’s severity on the CWE scale.

Nvidia “corrected the summary to describe potential impacts more accurately” on July 19. It also thanked Balázs for discovering and disclosing the vulnerability. More information about the security update can be found via the Nvidia DevZone, from where it can also be downloaded. There is no other mitigation for the Selfblow exploit; the only way to defend a device using the Tegra chipset is to install this update.