Dell OptiPlex 5050 Micro PC

In a world where smartphones are being hailed as the next big thing in computing after laptops, desktop PCs might seem rather anachronistic – a throwback to the 1990s when beige was the most popular colour in offices.

The OptiPlex 5050 Micro PC is part of Dell’s new range of OptiPlex models, one which comprises of a traditional tower, a small form factor offering, and this pint-sized PC.

The 5000 series is sandwiched between the more affordable 3000 series and the higher-end 7000 series, and with prices starting at £559 ($720) excluding VAT it’s as expensive as the Vostro 15 5568, a mid-range business laptop. The review sample that was sent to us is the most expensive model at £659 ($845).

Design

Dell engineers have managed to cram a lot of hardware into a 1.17-litre chassis. At 36 x 178 x 182mm, the 5050 Micro is a bit bigger (and thicker) than a DVD case, and a weight of only 1.18kg (without a hard disk drive) means that it will sit comfortably behind most monitors such as Dell’s own UltraSharp U2715H.

It can also be deployed easily and a dozen of these will certainly fit in a drawer. As expected, the chassis is a tool-less one which can be opened within seconds; it is as solid as the previous generations of OptiPlex models.

There are plenty of gaps at the front and back of the PC to ensure a good airflow and keep components cool. The Foxconn fan is quiet enough to be used in most offices and is the only moving part if you opt for an SSD.

There are plenty of ports to satisfy demanding system administrators: these include six USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI and a DisplayPort, one Gigabit Ethernet connector, two audio inputs, one connector for a WLAN antenna and a proprietary one for the 65W power supply unit (19.5V, 3.34A).

The 5050 Micro has been engineered in such a way that it is compact and yet versatile given the proviso that you pair it with the right accessories – all-in-one or vertical stands, VESA mounts and there’s even a DVD enclosure to fit it under a desk.

Specifications

The 5050 Micro series employs the same base hardware, namely an Intel Core i5-7500T processor and a BTX motherboard. The CPU is a 14nm quad-core Kaby Lake model with four threads, 6MB cache, a 2.7GHz base clock speed and a 35W TDP.

It runs with integrated graphics – the processor’s Intel HD Graphics 630 – clocked at 350MHz with support for up to three external displays (and 4K at 60Hz).

There’s a single 8GB Micron memory module (DDR4 2400MHz non-ECC), and that will have a negative impact on the 5050’s performance as memory bandwidth is halved and there’s no option to add more RAM.

A 128GB SATA M.2 SSD from Hynix, an Intel Wireless 8265 802.11ac wireless card (that offers Bluetooth), along with a standard keyboard and mouse round off the component/peripheral list. 

Note that legacy port adaptors are available during the customisation process and there are no card readers. Also, you can save a few pounds by deselecting the input peripherals.

Furthermore, you can slot in a 2.5-inch hard disk drive, and the system runs Windows 10 Pro. Dell throws in a 30-day trial of McAfee Small Business Security and a free copy of CyberLink Media Suite Essentials, a multimedia software package that does data backup and video playback.

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EVGA Has A Mining-Focused Graphics Card, Too

EVGA is the latest company to reveal a graphics card made specifically for cryptocurrency miners. The company hasn’t revealed many details about the card, known only by its 06G-P4-5162-RB part number, but it has shared preliminary specs for the otherwise mysterious device.

In case you haven’t been following our coverage of the recent Ethereum boom and its effect on the graphics card market: A cryptocurrency called Ethereum recently hit record-high prices, which led many people to go out and scoop up as many graphics cards as they could in order to “mine” some units of the currency. This has led to price increases or shortages of many graphics cards, and prompted manufacturers like Biostar, Asus, and now EVGA to make products specifically for miners. Other companies, like MSI, have updated old products for better mining performance.

#PLACEHOLDER_#

EVGA’s mining card is pretty much standard at this point. It doesn’t have any display ports, which means it definitely won’t be used for gaming, and its small form factor is supposed to allow it to fit in a system filled with other graphics cards. It’s based on the GP106 GPU found in Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060s, upon which cryptocurrency miners have pounced like a hungry lion on a fat gazelle. Many GTX 1060s and 1070s have seen drastic price increases or are totally sold out–and signs point to a global GPU shortage exacerbating this issue for a while after Ethereum cools down a little.

Here’s the rub: EVGA won’t say when, where, or at what price the awkwardly named 06G-P4-5162-RB will debut. Here’s what a spokesperson told us:

“Yes, we will have a mining card (with no IO output) that is specifically targeted at Ethereum mining, however, it will only be available for select customers/regions.”

This is common among these cards–manufacturers have rushed to announce these products, but they haven’t said when they plan to get them into miners’ hands. Some don’t seem likely to hit the U.S. any time soon, especially if they use a GPU that’s currently only available in China, like Biostar’s new mining card does. EVGA won’t have that problem–it’s not like the GTX 1060 isn’t available stateside–but that doesn’t mean the card will hit the U.S. For now we’re going to have to wait and see when manufacturers plan to reveal more information about their trendy products.

Model 06G-P4-5162-RB
GPU GP106
CUDA Cores 1,280
Base Clock 1,506MHz
Boost Clock 1,708MHz
Memory 6,144MB GDDR5
Memory Bit Width 192-Bit
Memory Bandwidth 192GBps
Dimensions (H x L) 111.15 x 172.72mm
Slots Dual

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Nvidia Invests In Deep Instinct, A Deep Learning-Based Cybersecurity Startup

Nvidia announced that it has invested in Deep Instinct, an Insrael-based startup that uses deep learning technology to detect and prevent the “most advanced cyberattacks.”

AI For Cybersecurity

Deep learning is a promising machine learning technology  used across industries. Many companies are now using it to train neural network models that achieve high accuracy without too much help from programmers in specifying what the rules should be for a given task.

Academics researching AI that can stop cyberattacks have previously shown an 85% success rate in detecting cyberattacks. Although that number may look impressive, it means that one out of seven attempts to attack your systems will be successful.

It’s also not much better than what you’d obtain from an antivirus program that doesn’t use machine learning to stop attacks. In fact, most of the top antivirus programs seem to be doing much better than that.

The latest report from AV-Comparatives on how the antivirus programs fare against real threats, they all score from 92% to 100%. However, these are automated tests, and they may not account for the full range of attacks that a system may see, especially regarding advanced cyberattacks from nation-state actors.

Deep Instinct’s Solution

Deep Instinct, which claims to be the “first company to apply deep learning to cybersecurity,” has also stated that its deep-learning solution can defeat 99% of “cyberattacks.” That includes both known malware as well as “first-seen” attacks against a system.

Nvidia vice president of business development Jeff Herbst said:

Deep Instinct is an emerging leader in applying GPU-powered AI through deep learning to address cybersecurity, a field ripe for disruption as enterprise customers migrate away from traditional solutions. We’re excited to work together with Deep Instinct to advance this important field.

Due to its deep learning based technology, Deep Instinct’s solution can run locally on any type of device, and it doesn’t require a connection for cloud analysis. This should keep the data on the devices private, as the file analysis is not sent over to the company’s servers.

The solution is also lightweight, because it doesn’t have to check against hundreds of thousands of malware signatures in real-time. All it needs is the neural network–which was trained against hundreds of millions of malicious and benign files–and a powerful enough GPU to run the model.

Deep Instinct was recently named a “Technology Pioneer” by The World Economic Forum, and the “Most Disruptive Startup” at NVIDIA’s 2017 Inception Awards.

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Colorful Announces The iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W

Colorful announced the Colorful iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W, a factory overclocked GTX 1080 Ti GPU equipped with a 240mm all-in-one closed loop liquid cooler.

Although the press release was rather light on details, considering the fact that this graphics card is based on Nvidia’s mighty GTX 1080 Ti, it’s safe to assume that you can expect 3,584 CUDA cores, 11GB of GDDR5X memory, a 352-bit bus, 224 texture units, 28 streaming multiprocessors, 88 ROPs, a 250W TDP, and a dual-slot design. The iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W also comes with a standard DVI-D, three DisplayPort headers, and a single HDMI display output, as well as two 8-pin power connectors.

Colorful lists this card as having a 1,594MHz base clock and 1,708MHz boost clock. Memory speeds appear to be stock at 11Gbps. The iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W features the company’s “one-key” overclocking function (via a BIOS switch on the I/O panel just above the uppermost DisplayPort header) that, when switched to the “on” position, activates a performance mode. Unfortunately, the company did not provide specific details, such as clock / memory speeds, for this “one-key” overclocking feature.

#PLACEHOLDER_#

At first glance, the cooling solution for the Colorful iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W looks pretty standard for an all-in-one liquid-cooled video card. But, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.Hidden under the shroud you will find a water block with a copper cold plate and a large aluminum thermal plate to cool the memory and VRM. It’s interesting to note that it appears that the company has routed the cooling lines through the aluminum thermal plate to aid in cooling.

Traditionally, graphics card manufacturers tend to use 120 / 140mm radiators on their water cooled GPU offerings, so it was nice to see Colorful opt for a larger 240mm radiator with dual 120mm fans. A radiator this size should be more than capable of removing the heat energy generated by this highly overclocked graphics card.

Finally, this card also includes RGB lighting, which allows you to custom tailor the look of your graphics card to your system using the included  iGame-Zone II software.

We reached out to the company for information on pricing and availability.

Model Colorful iGame 1080 Ti Neptune W
GPU GP102
CUDA Cores 3,584
Base Clock 1,594MHz
Boost Clock 1,708MHz
Memory Size 11GB GDDR5X
Memory Data Rate 11Gbps
Memory Bus 352-bit
Transistors 12 Billion
Texture Units 224
Streaming Multiprocessors 28
ROPs 88
TDP 250W
Power Input 3x 8-pin
Price TBA

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WD My Passport 4TB review: A good budget choice that's just a little slow

WD’s My Passport 4TB mobile USB 3.0 drive lets you stuff a lot of data in your pocket without emptying it of cash. While not as fast with sequential transfers as the LaCie and Seagate drives we’ll be comparing it to, it’s certainly fast enough. And, at $115 on the street, it’s considerably cheaper. 

Design and specs

Because the 4TB drive housed inside is 15mm thick, the My Passport 4TB isn’t as thin as many lower-capacity units, measuring 0.85 inch from top to bottom. It’s approximately 4.25 inches long, 3.1 inches wide, and weighs around 8 ounces. The My Passport is also available in $60 1TB, $80 2TB, and $100 3TB capacities, with the 1TB version being about 0.2 inch  thinner and 2 ounces lighter. All models come with a three-year warranty.

The My Passport also ships in a variety of hues, starting with the black of our test drive and moving on to brighter white, red, orange, blue, and yellow. That’s six in all: one for every weekday, plus another for the weekend. Lest you consider that remark flippant, note that some backups are rotated by days of the week, and a little color-coding never hurt anyone. WD informed us that the colors are simply to entice buyers, however. 

wdfmypassport black 2 4tbangle WD

The WD My Passport offers more flair than you might expect from a mainstream portable USB drive. The wavy bevels also make for a better grip.

WD has added even more consumer bait by beveling a wavy texture into the half of the drive that’s home to the powered micro-B USB port and power indicator. The waves also provide a better grip on the smooth, glossy plastic. After the color-coding response, we didn’t ask whether tactile grip was the reason, but it does have that effect.

Software

WD doesn’t provide anything fancy like LaCie’s dual FAT/NTFS or HFS+ partitioning utility, but you can use the Windows or OS X (or Linux) system utilities for that. WD does provide backup software; a drive utility that will check the status and secure-erase the drive; as well as encryption software for dealing with sensitive data. This is a very nice software bundle considering that the My Passport is essentially the company’s entry-level USB drive.

Performance

We started off the review with a mild warning about the My Passport 4TB’s tepid performance with large files, and indeed it falls about 10MBps short of average. But it’s also better than average at writing large batches of smaller files and folders, as you can see in the chart below.

20gb copies PCWorld

The WD My Passport is faster than its Seagate and LaCie rivals with lots of smaller files and folders, but not in sustained throughput.

Still, CrystalDiskMark shows a clear drop-off from Seagate’s products (the company owns LaCie) when it comes to sequential throughput.

cdm PCWorld

CrystalDiskMark rated the WD My Passport as slower than LaCie and Seagate’s similar drives, but it’s still fast enough for most purposes—and cheaper.

Conclusion

Okay, the WD My Passport isn’t the Seagate Backup Plus Fast, or the Samsung T3, which are what you want if you need to copy a fair amount of stuff quickly and be on your way. But it offers what most people want: fast performance with small files and copies, and a budget-friendly price—at least currently. If you’re paying MSRP (about $5 to $20 more), it’s a somewhat trickier decision whether to give up the 10MBps to 20MBps of sustained throughput offered by other drives.

Surprise Patch Gives 'Eve: Valkyrie' A Visual Overhaul

CCP Games announced that the PC versions of its flagship VR title, EVE: Valkyrie, will receive a “mandatory patch” today that includes a graphics update for gamers with powerful Nvidia graphics cards.

When CCP Games builds a game, it sticks with it for the long run. The developer’s primary title, EVE Online, came out in 2003, and to this day it enjoys a loyal fanbase, many of whom attend the company’s annual community celebration, EVE Fanfest. EVE Online’s community continues to enjoy the game in large part because CCP continues to support it with regular patches. The developer is doing the same thing with its flagship VR title, EVE: Valkyrie.

In 2012, when Oculus launched the Kickstarter to fund Rift developer kits, CCP Games was one of the first developers to jump onboard. The company quickly started exploring ideas and eventually settled on EVE: Valkyrie, a first-person space dogfighting game built within the EVE Online universe. EVE: Valkyrie came out alongside the Oculus Rift as a timed exclusive title, and CCP has since launched the game on the SteamVR and PlayStation VR platforms.

The version of EVE: Valkyrie that CCP Games launched all those months ago is a very different game from the version you can play today. With each patch, the developer alters the game somewhat, whether it’s with better AI, new maps, more affordable ships, or extra game modes. In fact, CCP Games teased that the development team is “incredibly hard at work on some exciting (but still secret) changes to the game you know and love.” In the meantime, the developer dropped a surprise announcement about a patch for EVE: Valkyrie players on PC. Normally, CCP Games announces changes a few days in advance, but this update is coming down the pipe today.

Visual Improvements

CCP Games added an Ultra Settings option to the Graphics menu that improves the visual fidelity of the game for Vive and Rift players. The new graphics settings add God rays to create a more realistic look to the environment and better VFX on projectiles to make the firefights even more stunning. The cockpit gets the most impressive overhaul with improved lighting, move vibrant color, and crisper edges to make it a little bit more realistic.

CCP Games didn’t explain why, but the developer said that the new settings are meant for players with “higher spec Nvidia cards”—namely; GTX 1070, GTX 1080, or GTX 1080 Ti owners. We’re not sure if that’s a suggestion because AMD doesn’t currently sell a GPU that can keep up with Nvidia’s top dogs, or if there’s some Nvidia-only technology baked into the new update. We’ve reached out to the developer for more details.

Changes For Newbies

Today’s patch isn’t just about the visual effects. The company also made changes to the game that should improve the experience for newcomers. Previously, when you started your career as a Valkyrie pilot, you would start with one ship and would have to work your way up the ranks to unlock new ships. Following community feedback, CCP Games increased the starting lineup from one ship to three. Now you get access to the Wraith, Spectre, and Banshee from the moment you start the game.  The developer said that allowing players to try each class from the get-go removes “unjustified barriers” to finding the class the matches their playstyle.

The latest version of the game also disables the Rolling maneuver associated with the right analog stick by default so newcomers won’t accidentally “initiate some of [the] more ‘extreme’ aerial maneuvers” before they’re ready. You can enable Rolling in the Settings menu.

Balance Adjustments

CCP Games said a big patch is in the works, but that didn’t stop it from making changes to the player balance now. The developer made changes to several ships, including dialing up the power, speed, and damage to various Fighter class ships and toning down the effectiveness of weaponry on Heavy class and Support class ships.

The update also includes the customary bug fixes and stability improvements. For more information about the changes, you can find the patch notes on the EVE: Valkyrie website.

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Blizzard Reveals First 'Overwatch' League Teams

Overwatch esports fans can rejoice: Blizzard Entertainment revealed the first seven teams participating in the Overwatch League, the company’s answer to traditional sports organizations like the NFL or MLB, and reaffirmed plans to host the league’s first season later this year.

The Overwatch League is an organization-slash-competition with a focus on city-based franchises. Much like the New England Patriots or the New York Mets, teams are supposed to represent their host cities. The primary difference here is that Overwatch League teams will compete internationally–the first seven cities are in the U.S. and Asia, but other teams are expected to be announced before the league kicks off.


The first seven teams are based in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Shanghai, and Seoul. (Miami’s team will also represent sort-of-nearby Orlando.) Each team will be expected to build its own venue for both home and away games, but because this is the Overwatch League’s first season, Blizzard said this year’s games will be hosted at an “esports arena” in the Los Angeles area. Games will be played on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays during the Overwatch League’s season.

These games won’t be hosted by no-name organizations. Boston’s spot was secured by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and the company behind the New York Mets bought that city’s spot. (What, did you think we mentioned those teams earlier by accident?) This support highlights Blizzard’s hopes of having the Overwatch League stand alongside the NFL and MLB–and that some members of those organizations are interested in that proposition.

The first seven teams were rounded out by companies and individuals who lean more towards esports. San Francisco and Los Angeles were scooped up by NRG Esports and Immortals, respectively, while Miami-Orlando went to Misfits CEO Ben Spoont. Across the pond, Shanghai’s spot was bought up by NetEase, a Chinese internet company. Kabam co-founder Kevin Chou rounds out the lineup with Seoul’s team. To say this is a varied bunch is an understatement.

But it would be hard to understate Blizzard’s ambitions for–and belief in–the Overwatch League. ESPN reported earlier this month that the company’s asking some team owners for up to $20 million in exchange for their spot in the organization. That isn’t chump change; every team that’s signed on so far has made a significant commitment to Overwatch’s future as an esport. (It would also explain why more teams haven’t signed on for the Overwatch League so far.)

Blizzard explained in its announcement how it plans to justify that investment:

We’re keen on making sure that teams will be able to share in the Overwatch League’s overall financial success and be rewarded for investing in their home cities. With that in mind, teams will all receive an equal share of net revenues from league-wide advertising, ticketing, and broadcast rights deals; at the same time, they will keep all local revenues up to a set amount each year (past that amount, a portion of the local revenues will go back into the league-wide shared pool for teams). Overwatch players will be able to support the collective teams via special in-game items, as 50% of the revenues from these items will flow into the shared revenue pool. These arrangements will help ensure that teams have the resources to establish and grow their local Overwatch communities for years to come.

Overwatch League participants will also be able to host “up to five amateur events in their home territory each year.” That could encourage more interest in Overwatch on a regional level while simultaneously raising awareness for the game’s global appeal. Overwatch Contenders will fill a similar role by allowing players with professional ambitions to compete against each other. Between the two, Blizzard has regional, minor, and major league organizations covered.

The Overwatch World Cup, then, is something like the Olympics for Overwatch. Teams are based on their countries, not their cities, and compete on the international stage. Blizzard plans to host the first stage of the Overwatch World Cup in Shanghai from July 13-15. (You’ll be able to watch the games on Twitch, which recently became the Blizzard’s official esports broadcast partner.) Overwatch will soon have basically every tier of play represented in one way or another.

But that doesn’t mean things are totally sunny for Blizzard. Many professional players have expressed concerns about the lack of information about the Overwatch League, and Blizzard’s attempts to have a hand in the game’s esports scene have stifled other efforts. Many organizations have also dropped their Overwatch rosters–Splyce, compLexity, Rise Nation, and Ninjas in Pyjamas, among others, have all recently let their  teams go.

Silence from other cities–or entire regions, in Europe’s case–also highlights concerns about the Overwatch League’s chance of success. Blizzard is currently missing one of the best teams in the world, Rogue, which is based in France. The Overwatch League is supposed to be a competition between champions; how is that possible if relatively few teams are willing to buy in to the organization? We probably won’t get the answer to that question until the league actually debuts.

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