More HyperX Alloy Keyboards, Including A TKL Model

HyperX Alloy FPS ProHyperX Alloy FPS Pro

And then there were three–mechanical keyboards, that is–in HyperX’s growing lineup. The company has added two new SKUs, both bearing the “Alloy” branding: the Alloy Elite and the Alloy FPS Pro. The previous model was the sharp-looking Alloy FPS; the Alloy RGB (a fourth model) is slated to debut later this year.

The Alloy FPS and FPS Pro share quite a bit of design language, and indeed, the FPS Pro is essentially just a TKL version of the original FPS. Both have compact chassis with virtually no front bezel and a top plate design. Both feature a removable red-and-black braided cable. Whereas the Alloy FPS gives you the choice of Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue switches, the Alloy FPS Pro is currently limited to Cherry MX Reds. (We expect that to change.)

Unfortunately, the two FPS models also share red-only LED backlighting, although both do give you a handful of lighting effects you can employ.

The Alloy Elite is essentially a mono color variant of the Alloy RGB. Both are full-size keyboards with four dedicated buttons (plus a volume roller) on the upper right side and three on the upper left for media and lighting functions, and both come with a detachable wrist rest and feature a light bar running across their top edge. They also offer USB passthrough.

The new Alloy Elite comes with eight titanium-colored key caps, four of which are textured (for the WASD cluster). These are basically the same as the metallic red-colored caps you get with the original FPS Alloy.

Prices for the new keyboards are certainly reasonable. The new Alloy FPS Pro bears an MSRP of $80, but the original, the Alloy FPS, is currently going for as little as $85 on Amazon, and its MSRP was $100. Eighty bucks for a good mechanical keyboard, especially one with a little backlighting, is not a bad deal, and if street prices end up lower than that, the FPS Pro will be a terrific deal.

HyperX Alloy EliteHyperX Alloy EliteThe Alloy Elite costs $110. Considering that, we’re a little surprised that the forthcoming Alloy RGB (which is due out later this year) will still cost the expected $150. Now that we know how much the former costs, we would have pegged the latter at perhaps closer to $130, but you may be paying for the additional software there, too.

Assuming we’re close on that estimation, all of the HyperX keyboards are priced well, although the Alloy RGB is maybe a bit too pricey for what it offers. Keeping those costs low, though, is going to reap rewards for HyperX in a terribly crowded market.

Alloy FPS Alloy FPS pro Alloy Elite Alloy RGB
Type Full size TKL Full size
Switch Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue Cherry MX Red Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue
Polling Rate 1,000Hz Unknown
Lighting Red backlighting RGB
Key Rollover NKRO Unknown
Interface USB
Cable 1.8M, braided, removable 1.8M braided
Additional Ports USB (charging only) USB passthrough
Key Caps ABS
Dimensions 441.65 x 129.38 x 35.59mm 359 x 130 x 34.5mm 444 x 226.80 x 36.30mm Unknown
Weight 1,049g 900g 1,467g Unknown
Software None Yes
Construction Steel frame
Misc. -6 LED modes, 5 levels brightness
-Game Mode
-Windows 7/8/8.1/10
-8 metallic red keycaps
-6 LED modes, 5 levels brightness
-Game Mode
-Windows 7/8/8.1/10
-6 LED modes, 4 levels brightness
-Game Mode
-Windows 7/8/8.1/10
-Detachable wrist rest
-8 extra “titanium” keycaps
-Dedicated media and lighting buttons
-Detachable wrist rest
-Dedicated media and lighting buttons
-Will have software
Availability Now Aug 21 Aug 21 Later this year
Price $100 (street prices lower) $80 $110 $150 (expected)

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The 8 best SSDs of 2017

Looking for the best SSD, otherwise known as solid-state drive? You’ve come to the right place, as we list the very best SSDs you can buy in 2017.

We’ve also got some handy buying advice if you’re looking to get a new SSD. Capacity has always been the source of insecurity for SSDs. Even now, 15TB will cost you more than 7,000 clams from Samsung, and that’s where the capacity maxes out (that is, until the company’s 32TB model touches down).

Luckily, there are drives like the Crucial MX300 that’ll set you back less than 300 a terabyte, and even the tiniest solid state drive will soak up a Windows installation. Simply chuck the rest in the big ol’ data bin we call a hard drive.

Note that, for the sake of simplicity, here we will be looking at SATA models only. No mSATA, M.2 SATA, PCIe or standard PCI models. Keep in mind that PCIe drives will generally perform better than SATA drives but also tend to cost far more.

patriot

1. Patriot Torch LE 120GB

Best SSD for low capacity

Capacity: 120GB | Interface: SATA 3

Not as fast as other SSDs
Low capacity

Anything smaller than 120GB is probably too small if you want to use only one hard drive in your computer.

When it comes to price, the Patriot Torch LE range remains the one to be beaten. Its 120GB model is the cheapest SSD in the UK with a very competitive £0.24/GB pricing. Expect minimal packaging or instructions, which makes it perfect for DIYers.

The drive, which uses a Phison S10 controller, is backed by a three-year warranty and Patriot is a well-known memory computer hardware manufacturer. The 120GB model is rated at up to 425MBps and 560MBps for write and read respectively.

As expected, it comes with a slew of other features including end-to-end data path protection (ETEP), advanced wear-levelling and garbage collection, smart ECC, refresh and flush.

Hynix

2. Hynix SL301

Best SSD for medium capacity

Capacity: 250GB | Interface: SATA 3

Easy to install
Good performance
While performance is good, there’s faster SSDs out there

Hynix is not a household name but the South Korean company is actually a big player in the world of memory chipmakers, ranking second only to might Samsung.

No surprise that, like their arch rivals, they use their own memory – TLC NAND – in their products. The storage controller is an unknown quantity.

The SL301, with a 250GB capacity, has one of the cheapest per GB price in this category at 20p but that doesn’t mean that corners have been cut.

The drive has a rated read/write speed of 540MBPs and 470MBps with a read/write IOPS of up to 95K and 85K respectively, all backed by a solid three-year warranty.

In the US or Australia? Try the Sandisk Ultra II SSD at 240GB:

Toshiba

3. Toshiba Q300

Best SSD for high capacity

Capacity: 480GB | Interface: SATA 3

Large capacity
Remains small enough to fit laptops

Asian SSD manufacturers score another winner here as Toshiba nabs that place with the Q300 (2016 version) which, despite being just a relatively new product, has one of the cheapest per GB price of any SSD in the UK.

The inventor of the Flash memory doesn’t cut corners on this one, using 3-bit-per-cell 15 nm NAND Flash and advanced-speed and Adaptive Size SLC Write Cache technology as well as its own controller, the Toshiba TC58NC1000, a customised version of the popular Phison S10 controller.

As for other SSDs listed here, this one comes with a three-year warranty and the firm, which purchased SSD specialist OCZ not long ago, claims that the SSD is capable of read/write IOPS of 87K and 83K respectively with sequential R/W speeds topping 550MBps and 530MBps respectively.

 In the US or Australia? Try the Sandisk Ultra II SSD at 1TB: 

Sandisk

4. Sandisk Ultra II

Best SSD for extra high capacity

Capacity: 960GB | Interface: SATA 3

Very large capacity
Very good performance

Sandisk is one of the better known SSD vendors out there; it also produces memory cards and other storage devices. Now, as part of Western Digital, it is likely to collaborate with HGST, the other WD company acquired which has some valuable solid state expertise.

Sandisk’s Ultra II has the second cheapest per GB price at just £0.18, offering sequential read/write speeds of 550MBps and 500MBps as well as random read/write speeds of 99K and 83K IOPS respectively.

nCache 2.0 technology, Sandisk claims, will deliver enhanced speed and endurance with the SSD dashboard providing with data in real-time about the drive itself. Coupled with a 3-year warranty, this is one of the better deals on the market.

5. Crucial MX300 SSD 1050GB

Another great high capacity SSD

Capacity: 1050GB | Interface: SATA 3

High Capacity
Good price for an SSD
Not the fastest SSD
Still expensive

The Crucial MX300 SSD 1050GB is another high capacity SSD that lets you have both speed and disk space – you no longer have to sacrifice one or the other. It does come at a price, however, but the Crucial MX300 SSD 1050GB’s price tag is actually relatively low compared to other high-capacity SSDs.

It doesn’t mean it’s cheap, however, and it’s still quite a bit more expensive than a traditional hard drive. However, the decent read and write speeds makes this a hard drive that’s definitely worth considering.

This drive is available in 525GB, 750GB, 1050GB and 2TB capacities  so if you don’t need 1TB, there are other sizes that would suit your needs better.

6. Toshiba THNSN1Q60CSE 1.6TB SSD

When 1TB isn’t enough

Capacity: 1.6TB | Interface: SATA 3

High capacity
Not for everyone

If you want a fast, large capacity SSD for your data center, NAS device or other professional use, then the Toshiba THNSN1Q60CSE 1.6TB SSD is  worth considering – though it comes with a steep price. 

As it is housed in a 2.5-inch body, which is a common size for hard drives, the Toshiba THNSN1Q60CSE can be installed in desktop and laptop PCs, offering huge file capacity while also giving you the speed benefits of solid state drives.

The cost of such a high capacity SSD will be prohibitive for many people, but it’s well worth the money if you need both fast speeds and high capacities.

In the US or Australia? Try the Samsung 850 EVO at 2TB:

7. Samsung 850 Pro

Best SSD for performance

Capacity: 1TB | Interface: SATA 3

Huge capacity
Fast for a SATA drive
Very expensive
Outpaced by M.2 drives

If you are after speedy drives rather than just capacity, then there’s really only two models on the market: Samsung’s 850 Pro and the Sandisk Extreme Pro.

Pair either of those drive in RAID-0 mode and you would have a pretty compelling storage subsystem (although the law of diminishing returns dictates that the improvement is likely to be less than 100%).

The former uses 3D V-NAND memory to deliver some of the best performance on the market despite being more than one-year old. Its sequential R/W speeds reach 550MBps/520MBps while its random R/W speeds top 100K/90K IOPS. Add in a 10-year warranty and a useful 256-bit AES self-encryption feature and it’s easy to see its appeal.

8. Sandisk Extreme Pro

Another very fast performer

Capacity: 480GB | Interface: SATA 3

Fast sequential read and write speeds
Long 10-year warranty
No power-loss protection or encryption
Slightly lower IOPS than class-leading drives

As for the Sandisk Extreme Pro, it has remarkably similar specs, at least on paper, to the 850 Pro. Same warranty, similar sequential read/write performance and random read/write speeds. 

It uses a two-tiered cache architecture called nCache Pro and offers a nifty SSD dashboard to assess your drive’s health and performance in real time.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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HyperX Alloy Elite

The HyperX Alloy FPS is one of our favorite gaming keyboards here at TechRadar. Its simple, frame-less design and solid construction make it one of the best and most affordable gaming keyboards we’ve ever used. However, for those who want a little bit more, Kingston has introduced the HyperX Alloy Elite.

The keyboard is essentially everything the Alloy FPS was, with the addition of a few features, including media keys, a light bar and a palm rest. Despite these inclusions, it’s still reasonably priced at $109 or £119 (about AU$140).

Design

In case the HyperX Alloy Elite looks familiar, it’s basically a non-RBG version of Kingston’s upcoming Hyper X Alloy RGB, first revealed at CES 2017.

The Alloy Elite takes the clean, frameless design of the Alloy FPS gaming keyboard that came before it and adds a new row of dedicated media buttons above the main group of keys. The buttons for play/pause, mute, plus skipping forwards and backwards are large, as is the volume rocker. Thankfully, none of the controls feel mushy.

Meanwhile, there’s the integrated palm rest that features the same textured finish we loved on the HyperX Pulsefire gaming mouse.

Another notable addition this keyboard brings is a 16-zone light bar sandwiched between the keyboard’s standard keys and media buttons. It’s a new element we’ve seen come to other peripherals, like the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum and the Cooler Master MK750.

As superfluous as a lighting bar on an already-fully-lit keyboard is, we can’t deny the illumination doesn’t look gorgeous and diffused.

The only thing we don’t like about the HyperX Alloy Elite’s design is the thickly braided cable. It’s noticeably fatter and less flexible compared to cords we’ve seen attached to the other gaming keyboards, even those featuring a USB 2.0 pass-through like the Alloy Elite.

Performance

Our HyperX Alloy Elite review unit came with Cherry MX Red switches that feel perfect for gaming. The keyboard is also available with Brown and Blue switches, the latter of which we prefer for typing. Regardless of which type of switch you prefer, the underlying solid steel frame makes for a completely stable platform.

One other nicety is HyperX includes a set of titanium-colored keys with a textured surface to replace the WASD and first four number keys. These have become a standard pack-in for most gaming keyboards, and they’re great for making your main gaming keys more distinguishable.

Features

Like many of HyperX’s peripherals, you won’t need to install any software after plugging it in. You can switch between all the lighting modes by hitting the effects buttons. There’s also a quick access button – which sits on the left side of the keyboard, opposite of the media keys – to change the backlight brightness and a gaming mode that disables the Windows key.

While it’s nice to not have to install another application on our PCs, the HyperX Alloy Elite doesn’t offer any kind of macro support. We also wished we could customize the lighting, as the keyboard comes with only a few modes built in.

Final verdict

Overall, the HyperX Alloy Elite is a solidly-built gaming keyboard that’s well priced. It packs all the same features as the $119 (£104, AU$209) Logitech G610 Orion with a lower price as well as better and more media keys, a light bar gamers will appreciate, plus an included palm rest. Likewise, the HyperX Alloy Elite packs in as many features as the $119 (£119, AU$179) Corsair K70 LUX with a lower price.

That said, this keyboard has a few limitations. The lack of software comes as boon for simple setup, but robs it of any macro programing or customizable lights. If those features are important to you, other options might be more your speed.

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Leap Motion Raises $50 Million To Fuel R&D And Asia Expansion

Leap Motion raised $50 million from J.P. Morgan Asset Company clients to support its motion tracking research and expand in Asian markets.

Leap Motion has made quite a few changes in the last year. The company announced in December 2016 that it’s working on a mobile VR platform, and in June, it shuttered the Leap App Store and added motion controller support to its Interaction Engine. Now it’s raised a $50 million Series C funding round to help it achieve a long list of goals, which the company laid out in the press release announcing the investment:

The funding enables Leap Motion to drive global expansion, particularly in Asia, which the company will serve through the opening of an office in Shanghai, China; advance innovation and adoption of its groundbreaking hand and finger tracking technology; and broaden its reach into new commercial and enterprise applications including education, healthcare, and industrial training simulation. 

Leap Motion’s course follows that of the VR industry at large. The company got its start with a peripheral that let you control your PC with gestures, and then it introduced the Interaction Engine to offer more realistic grip physics in VR games made with Unity. This funding round will help it move beyond games to more lucrative fields. (The gaming market is big, but education, healthcare, and industrial training are bigger.)

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Perhaps the first real VR headset, the Oculus Rift, was fueled primarily by games. Now companies are investing in VR and AR to cover everything from construction to pharmaceutical research. Gaming helps VR appeal to the enthusiasts who own PCs powerful enough to handle it, but as Microsoft has shown with Windows Mixed Reality, the true goal is to make VR / AR / XR the future of computing.

Interfaces will have a big effect on how successful those efforts are. Oculus Rift debuted with gamepad support, and motion controllers have become increasingly popular with Oculus, HTC, Microsoft, and others. But nothing’s as intuitive as reaching out with your own fingers to swipe a window away, point at something, or accomplish some other task. Leap Motion is working to get us those gesture-based interfaces.

Here’s what the company said in its press release:

“Natural input through full hand tracking is inseparable and fundamental to the future of VR/AR, and Leap Motion is a principal driver of its widespread adoption,” said Michael Buckwald, CEO and Co-founder of Leap Motion. “In much the same way as the touchscreen sparked the mobile revolution, Leap Motion is playing a transformative role in the development of human interface technology for VR/AR. As a result, the industry as a whole is on the verge of a similar moment of exponential growth.”

Leap Motion didn’t offer more details about its plans for the new Shanghai office or when we might see the results of this funding round.

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Biostar's Racing 200-Series Motherboards Get Intel Optane Support


Biostar has released several new BIOS updates to bring Intel Optane support to its its Racing 200-series motherboards.

Optane is Intel’s marketing name for the 3D XPoint technology it co-developed with Micron tp serve as a middle ground between an SSD and DRAM. By storing your computer’s most frequently used data, an Optane memory stick allows your system to make less trips between the processor and the much slower mechanical spinning-disk hard drive for data access.

Intel’s Optane memory looks like your average M.2 drive and fits into any M.2 slot on Intel 200-series chipset motherboards. The benefit of Optane memory is that it is much faster and more durable than NAND while also being cheaper and denser than DRAM.

During our initial evaluation of Intel’s Optane memory, we explained the benefits of upgrading as such:

Optane Memory can quickly and easily boost performance at a low price point. Intel designed the technology to speed up hard disk drives, but you can use RST to accelerate solid-state drives as well (more on the following page). You can only accelerate one drive at a time, and even though Intel doesn’t officially support it, it can be a secondary drive. This is good news for gamers who already use an SSD for the boot drive and a hard drive for game installations.

Biostar assured us these BIOS updates will make your current system feel a little snappier by reducing boot times and providing faster load times for your favorite games and applications.  

Although updating your BIOS is a fairly straight-forward process, the company provided a step-by-step guide to getting the job done:

  1. Download the BIOS file from: http://www.biostar.com.tw/
  2. Copy the BIOS file onto a USB storage device (not NTFS format)
  3. Power on the motherboard and press ‘F12’ during POST (power-on self-test) screen.
  4. After POST screen, a menu for BIOS update will appear.
  5. Select USB device and press ‘Enter’, it will go into the BIOS update screen.
  6. Use the BIOS file listed on the left to update.
  7. Wait for the system to load the BIOS file.
  8. Press ‘Y’ to flash the BIOS and erase DMI data. The system will update the BIOS automatically.
  9. After reboot, the system will run with new BIOS. Turn-off the computer and install Optane Memory on M.2 slot to enjoy the performance upgrade.

The BIOS files can be downloaded from the following links:

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Intel Plays Defense: Inside Its EPYC Slide Deck

Intel, like many other vendors, holds press workshops before key product releases. The company invited several publications and analysts, Tom’s Hardware among them, to its Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro, Oregon for two days of marathon briefings. These included 15 sessions, 10 slide decks, and 365 slides outlining nearly every detail of its new Xeon Scalable Processor family.

It was an almost overwhelming amount of information to sift through. In our quest to cram as much relevant information as possible into our coverage, however, we considered it much-needed information.

One presentation stuck out more than the rest. Intel presented a deck that outlined what it considers to be its advantages against AMD’s EPYC CPUs. The slides generated a lot of controversy over the last week, but they haven’t been presented in context. We’re going to fix that. But first, some background:

Competition Heats Up

AMD was last competitive in the server space around five years ago, which allowed Intel to gobble up ~99.6% of the market. EPYC has the potential to change this by virtue of its strong performance, scalability, aggressive pricing, and less confusing segmentation than Intel’s Xeon line-up.

Most analysts surmise that AMD’s latest and greatest poses little short-term threat to Intel’s data center dominance. The conservative enterprise is notoriously slow to adopt unproven designs, and that means the safe money is still on Xeon. It will take time for AMD to reclaim more than a single-digit share of the server space. The company knows this.

Aside from market share, AMD poses a larger threat to Intel’s margins, which can exceed 60%. By strategically snipping features from various models in the Xeon portfolio, Intel is able to maximize the profit it earns across its product stack. Core count, clock rates, memory handling, compute functionality, threading, scalability, and manageability are all used to create unique SKUs with price points to match the features that get turned on.

Intel’s MSRPs are largely irrelevant to its largest customers, some of which are commonly referred to as the Super Seven+1: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and AT&T. These companies purchase CPUs in high volume and often have access to new processors months in advance of the official launches. They also don’t pay Intel’s official prices. The same goes for other large customers, such as Dell/EMC and other OEMs.

Truth be told, it’s hard to negotiate with a company that essentially controls the world’s data centers. Companies commonly hammer out press releases claiming they’re rolling out alternative platforms, such as those powered by ARM processors. But many of these are ultimately regarded as a tactic to remind Intel there are other options. After all, while it is possible to switch to ARM, that architecture doesn’t support x86 without some sort of emulation. This presents significant technical challenges.

EPYC changes the game. During AMD’s launch event, representatives from several major companies took to the stage and expressed support for the platform. Baidu, Microsoft, Supermicro, Dell, Xilinx, HPE, Dropbox, Samsung, and Mellanox were all there. Notice the Super Seven+1 members? Surely there are other high-profile names being courted behind the scenes, so we expect more partner announcements in the future. We can’t overstate the importance of OEMs like Dell and HPE, but Sugon also clears the path to the burgeoning ODM market. Xilinx and Mellanox are key partners that might help offset Intel’s goals with Purley’s integrated networking and FPGA features, and the Azure tie-up portends penetration into cloud-based deployments.

We also see that AMD specifically calls out “harnessing the power of the x86 ecosystem.” To that effect, the company lined up a strong roster of hypervisor/operating system and developer tools partners. VMware, Microsoft’s server division, and Red Hat also took to the stage at AMD’s event.

EPYC also does away with some of Intel’s segmentation practices. AMD only manipulates core count, clock rates, and multi-socket support to break up its portfolio. That means customers still get simultaneous multi-threading, along with all of the architecture’s PCIe lanes and unaltered memory capacity/speed support, even from the least-expensive models. In short, EPYC offers more connectivity across the board and simpler (purportedly cheaper) motherboards. Instead of “buying up” with Intel for one crucial feature, there are now less expensive alternatives, some of which revolve around AMD’s single-socket server strategy.

These CPUs are a threat to Intel’s margins because they give Xeon customers another option. Consequently, Intel might have to get more price-competitive in key portions of its product stack, especially with high-volume customers. That means EPYC could affect Intel’s bottom line, even if it doesn’t gain significant market share.

There is little doubt that AMD’s EPYC will find some measure of success in the data center, and Intel wants to get ahead of any potential adoption. Like most companies, Intel does its own research to gauge the positioning of competitors. Typically, though, the press isn’t privy to such defensive documentation. But one of the slide decks we saw at Intel’s recent press workshop outlined what Intel feels are the strengths of Xeon compared to the weaknesses of AMD’s EPYC. This presentation is generating quite a bit of criticism online. So let’s see what Intel had to say…

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

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'Gran Turismo Sport' Arrives October 17 On PS4, PSVR

Microsoft’s marquee racing game, Forza Motorsport 7, comes out in early October, and it looks like Sony’s exclusive racing title will come out around the same time. Polyphony Digital president Kazunori Yamauchi announced that the long-awaited Gran Turismo Sport arrives October 17.

The game was initially scheduled for release last November as part of the lineup of titles that would support the launch of the then-new PlayStation VR. However, Yamauchi announced a delay, citing that the studio needed “more time to perfect GT Sport.” A select group of players then entered a closed beta version of the game in March.

The game’s page on Sony’s website reveals a bit more information about what to expect from the latest installment in the long-running racing series. The game will feature over 150 vehicles for you to try out, with the types of cars ranging from the everyday stock car to concept designs. As far as tracks are concerned, there are 28 different layouts spread across 17 track locations where you can test your driving skills. For PlayStation 4 Pro owners, Gran Turismo Sport will support 4K resolution and high dynamic range. The game will also support PlayStation VR.

Yamauchi didn’t provide other details about the game, but he said that more information on multiple topics, such as the campaign mode, creative tools, and even the car and track lists, will come at some point in the future. If you’re curious about GT Sport’s VR performance, you can check out our hands-on feature where we tried three laps within the game while using PlayStation VR.

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