Computex Taipei 2016 comes at a time when there's wider interest in the PC and computer hardware industry than there has been in many years. Taiwanese company Nvidia has just launched the GTX 1080 and 1070 GPUs amid a flurry of hype, much of which is down to the fact that you need a powerful PC to run virtual reality headsets like the Vive from compatriots HTC. VR is likely to be a major theme at this year's Computex, with HTC making an unexpected appearance after years of skipping the show. But there's a lot more going on: Intel and Microsoft have keynotes planned for the week, chip giants like Qualcomm, AMD, and ARM should all be making news, and there'll be the usual slew of products from the likes of Asus, Acer, MSI, and beyond. I'm in Taipei to bring you everything first-hand — stay tuned.
Jun 8, 2016
HTC Vive against a green screen shows what VR worlds really look like
It's hard to convey what's going on inside a VR headset. Even if you can put a smoothed-out 2D image on a second screen for the benefit of onlookers, they won't get the sense of immersion that comes from having head-tracked screens blasting images into your eyeballs. How can you show off what it feels like to be in another world?Read Article >
Well, this might not be the most practical solution, but it's certainly a solution: HTC had a demo at Computex Taipei this year that's intended to produce movie-like results placing players in their VR environments. It relies on green screen technology just like film studios use to shoot actors against CGI backgrounds, but it also syncs up with the Vive headset to overlay in-game objects over the player's body.
Jun 7, 2016
VR backpack PCs are real, and kind of awesome
At this point I'm pretty experienced with the HTC Vive VR headset, having used it at various trade shows and arcades and so on. But I'm still not quite used to an unavoidable yet unfortunate flaw with the product — the trailing cable that runs from your head to your PC, forcing you to be constantly aware of your feet so as not to trip.Read Article >
There isn’t really anything HTC can do about this; wireless displays don’t have the performance yet to keep up with high-end VR rendering, so your headset needs to be connected to your PC while you’re walking around. There is, however, something PC companies can do about it: they can let you take the PC with you. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen three OEMs announce gaming PCs in a backpack form factor designed to free you from the Vive’s wire.
A new chip can power four 4K displays over a single USB plug
Lots of new technology aims to decrease screen time. But maybe you don't want to avoid screens. Maybe you love them. Their glow beckons to you, and you crave the ability to view images across multiple screens at once. DisplayLink's new DL-6950 chip lets users output to two 60P Ultra HD monitors over one USB connection. Those two screens can then be upped to four through a daisy chain. Four displays, woah. I imagine this will be cool for art and for watching live security footage.Read Article >
The new chip adds to DisplayLink's previous work in making chips and USB connections ideal for displaying high-quality videos and images. The company created an adaptor nearly three years ago that allowed for 4K streaming over USB 2.0 and 3.0. But its new chip offers a more tempting alternative to plugging a screen directly into a graphics card.
Here's what a GTX 1070 looks like as part of a motherboard
Colorful, a graphic cards manufacturer, has created a proof-of-concept motherboard that puts Intel's B150 chipset alongside an integrated GTX 1070 GPU. It's really small, too, even with all that power. That B150 chipset makes it compatible with Skylake CPUs, including the Intel Core i7-6700K. Although Colorful merely made its motherboard to prove it could do it, we're excited about what this idea could eventually lead to, or really, VR BACKPACKS.Read Article >
Digital Storm already mounted a GTX 1080 inside a curved screen, but we still haven't seen the "official" way Nvidia plans to get its new graphics chips inside smaller form factors. Colorful's motherboard mashup certainly isn't it, but it's a delightful frankenstein.The future of consolidated computing is on its way. Weeeeee.
Jun 3, 2016
SanDisk releases a faster, better USB-C flash drive
SanDisk announced the second generation of its USB-C flash drive at Computex, and it's faster, retractable, and now there's a 128GB version. The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C flash drive features USB-C and USB-A connectors, which can be accessed by using the slider on the side of the drive. SanDisk has improved transfer speeds, which now reach up to 150MB/s thanks to USB 3.1.Read Article >
If you're looking for a USB-C flash drive, a dual drive should be your choice for at least the next few years — although USB-C adoption is moving along at a nice pace, the standard USB connector we all know and hate won't exactly disappear in the near future. You can pick up the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C flash drive on Amazon in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB variations for $19.99, $29.99, $39.99, and $69.99, respectively.
Jun 3, 2016
Get you a curved screen that does both
Taiwanese company TPV Technology Group wants you to never struggle to find a charging port near your computer again. Its new U Surfing curved screen — with a 21:9 aspect ratio — works like a regular monitor, but also comes with a wireless charger and speaker built into its base. The U Surfing's design looks lovely in these renders, but we should note that TPV Technology Group isn't a well-known company and hasn't yet provided the wireless charging specs, a price, or a release date. Who knows if this will ever be manufactured.Read Article >
Still, I love this idea, and we've already seen it done before. I'm constantly fumbling around trying to find a charger nearby. Having one directly in front of me would make that whole process less aggravating, at least until we live in a world where low batteries are a thing of the past.
This analog mechanical keyboard could change the way you play PC games
Keyboard and mouse is the dominant input mechanism for PC gamers, and not for no reason — it's fast and accurate, all the better for pulling off those split-second headshots. But there is one way in which the control scheme falls short next to consoles: character movement. On a PlayStation or Xbox controller, you move your character with the left stick while looking around with the right, which means you can control the speed of movement in each dimension. The W, A, S, and D keys generally used for movement on a keyboard, however, only offer on-off digital control, meaning it's not really possible to move slowly and smoothly.Read Article >
Dutch startup Wooting wants to change that with its first keyboard, the Wooting One. It's a product that just by its very description sounded like an oxymoron to me: an analog mechanical keyboard, using the full range of input allowed by optical switches. Now, I like mechanical keyboards because of their instantly responsive digital actuation, with each key press (depending on the switch used) punctuated with an unmissable click. In other words, I like them because I always know whether I've pressed the key or not — it's either on or off. I recognize the problem that the Wooting One is trying to solve, but I wondered whether it might lose much of the appeal of mechanical keyboards in solving it.
The Ducky Pocket is a mechanical keyboard calculator with Cherry MX switchesRead Article >
If that headline means anything at all to you, you will probably fall in love with the fabulously named Ducky Pocket just like I did today on the Computex Taipei show floor. It is exactly what it sounds like: basically the numpad of a mechanical keyboard extracted and adapted into a standalone calculator with a segmented LCD. And RGB backlighting. Oh, and you can use it as a numpad, too, if you prefer to go tenkeyless most of the time. Expect this to be the new hip way for PC gamers to do math when it ships later this year.
This motorized standing desk is actually a gaming PC
Furniture is cool, sure, but I've always thought its timeless nature was a problem. Sure, you might have a gorgeous classic Eames chair, but how can you improve on that and demonstrate to visitors that you're on the cutting edge? When things can't go obsolete, can they really be said to progress? Enter this desk from classy Taiwanese PC case maker Lian Li, which acts as the housing for an entire gaming PC and has a transparent surface so you can show off those SLIed 1080s in all their glory.Read Article >
The DK-04X is a fully adjustable motorized standing desk, so you can improve your posture while slaughtering demons in Doom. It also has its own liquid cooling system that you can hook up to your motherboard. It also costs $1,499, which is a lot for a PC case but might not seem too crazy when you consider that some standing desks without liquid cooling systems — the horror! — go for more than twice the price.
USB-C is the best thing to happen to mobile computing in years
I’ve been at Computex Taipei all week, and I have yet to plug my MacBook into a wall outside of my hotel room. Normally this would amount to dereliction of duty at any trade show, but things are different now. The reason is USB-C, that controversial little reversible port that does everything; while there wasn’t much use for it a year ago when the MacBook launched, there’s now a whole growing ecosystem of adapters, monitors, and indestructible cables that are making it one of my favorite tech advances in a while.Read Article >
My weapon of choice this Computex is the MOS Go, a hipflask-sized 12000 mAh battery pack that gives my MacBook about three quarters of a charge, which is more than enough for me to make it through a day of heavy use. (Of course, it’ll also charge a phone multiple times, and has a USB-A port if you need it.) Importantly, USB-C means the charging speed is dramatically better than you’d expect from a portable battery — it’s not all that much slower than plugging into the wall. Also it comes in Space Gray.
Jun 1, 2016
Wiso is a Bluetooth-connected whistle for stopping assaults
Wiso is a Bluetooth-connected smart whistle that people can use to sound for help if they're being physically assaulted. Through the corresponding app it also automatically texts, calls, or emails designated contacts with the victim's GPS coordinates.Read Article >
Wiso is very clearly marketed as a product for women, and I have no problem with that. If this makes women feel safe, then by all means they should consider buying one. But I do have an issue with the company's ad, which portrays women as feeble and weak, as opposed to empowered by a whistle. It portrays Wiso as if it were a gadget in James Bond that assists in the rescue of the token damsel in distress. In reality, most rapes and sexual assaults are carried out by someone a woman already knows. A whistle likely wouldn't get her out of that situation. If someone were held up at gun or knife point, I don't think a whistle would help much there either.
Jun 1, 2016
ROG Avalon is a DIY PC that combines motherboard and chassis
This week at the Computex Conference in Taipei, Asus introduced a proof-of-concept build called the ROG Avalon. It combines a motherboard and chassis into a single unit. Usually, if you're building your own gaming PC, you're buying these two components on their own and assembling them yourself.Read Article >
Asus claims this motherboard-chassis unibody "optimizes the layout" of your custom PC's internal components. The Avalon has SSD, PSU, and graphics-adapter boards — all located at the front of the unit — which eliminate the need for pesky cabling. In back the I / O is modular, so you can apparently pick all your favorite plugs. ROG hasn't said when gamers can expect the Avalon to go on sale or how much it will cost.
Microsoft says partners can build Windows Holographic devices with wider fields of view
At its Computex Taipei keynote today, Microsoft announced sweeping plans to build off its HoloLens experiment by creating a fully fledged Windows Holographic platform for hardware partners. The platform is aimed at VR and AR headset makers; Microsoft demonstrated an HTC Vive working in tandem with a HoloLens on stage. After the presentation, Windows chief Terry Myerson and OEMs VP Nick Parker took questions on the initiative in a meeting with reporters.Read Article >
"The framework with which we're approaching this... we have a Microsoft HoloLens device where we're going to push hard on what's possible with Microsoft HoloLens," Myerson said, when asked about about a timeframe for HoloLens technology becoming more accessible. "And the current price point of HoloLens is $3,000. What we're announcing today is the opportunity to work with our partners that have their own vision for different price points, different form factors and other ways to use the same platform."
HTC Vive on a rowing machine makes cardio way more fun
I don't know about you, but I find cardio workouts pretty boring. But! What if you could do them in SPACE?!?!?! Thanks to the HTC Vive, that dream is now a virtual reality. HTC doesn't usually attend Computex Taipei, but now that it has a hand in the high-end PC game, it's making the most of its rare appearance by conducting several demos at its booth. One of which is a rowing machine in which you row through space.Read Article >
That's about all there is to say, really. You propel yourself through asteroid fields by rowing, and feel slightly better about yourself for not going to the gym all week because you're at a trade show in Taiwan. There are other settings, too, like a tropical river, but really space is the one you want.
Windows 10 will soon let you unlock your PC with wearables
Microsoft is opening up its Windows Hello feature to allow wearables to unlock a Windows 10 PC. The software maker first introduced Windows Hello as a way to support fingerprint readers and even your face to unlock a PC, but its now extending it to devices like the Microsoft Band. During an onstage demo at Computex today, Microsoft showed how the Microsoft Band or devices like Bionym's Nymi can unlock a Windows 10 PC.Read Article >
It's part of new updates to Microsoft's Windows Hello Companion Device Framework that will allow third parties to create wearables that support unlocking PCs and more. As the devices will be part of Windows Hello, you'll even be able to use them to make payments in the Windows Store or log into websites in Microsoft Edge. Microsoft didn't provide any timeline for the support, but it's reasonable to assume it will be introduced with the upcoming Anniversary Update to Windows 10. Microsoft is also testing an update to its Authenticator app that will allow Windows 10 Mobile devices to unlock a PC.
Microsoft wants VR headsets to run its Windows Holographic OS
Microsoft is opening up its Windows Holographic operating system to virtual reality headset makers. At Computex today, Microsoft released a demo video of its vision of "mixed reality" where VR headsets can interact with the company's HoloLens, and more. Microsoft demonstrated a concept of its vision for a mixed world of HoloLens and VR headsets, which included a HTC Vive headset. While HTC is working with Microsoft on VR experiences with Windows 10, it's not clear if the company is planning to shift its software over to Windows Holographic.Read Article >
Central to Microsoft's vision is allowing VR headset makers to make use of the software and OS that powers HoloLens. At present, most VR headsets can't mix real people and real environments into the virtual world in the same way that Microsoft's augmented reality HoloLens headset can. Microsoft is hoping VR headset makers will take advantage of Windows Holographic to enable its mixed reality capability. That makes Windows Holographic a new platform, and the key part is Microsoft's perception APIs that power a lot of the HoloLens experiences.
Microsoft teases Porsche Design 2-in-1 with Windows 10
Microsoft's Computex Taipei keynote is going on right now, and VP of the OEM division, Nick Parker, has a surprise on stage: a new Windows 10 convertible created in collaboration with Porsche Design. It's a 13.3-inch 2-in-1 with support for Windows Hello 2.0, Cortana, and new Inking features that'll arrive with the Windows Anniversary Update this summer. We don't know which OEM is making it, detailed specs, or whether it'll be less disastrous than the Porsche Design BlackBerrys. We do, however, know that it'll be available this winter for an undisclosed price.Read Article >
Update June 1st, 3:10AM ET: Post updated with new specs and release date.
HTC's Front Defense is a solid shooting gallery for the Vive
If you were expecting HTC's first game for its Vive headset to be a revolutionary, platform-defining title, I can only disappoint you. Front Defense, developed by "internal startup" Fantahorn Studio, is a World War II shooter that places you behind sandbags to fight off the onslaught of soldiers with an array of weaponry. At least on its Computex showing, there's no attempt made to solve the problem of long-distance movement in VR, or to provide any degree of structure or progression.Read Article >
That's not to say it isn't a lot of fun. There's an element of absurdity to the proceedings at first — half the challenge of the game is in learning how to use your motion-tracked hands. You can pick up a rifle in your right hand and load a magazine with your left. You can pick up a grenade and hold it to your teeth to take out the pin before throwing it. You can load a bazooka by stretching to insert a rocket in the rear end. These actions aren't always the easiest to perform under fire, and sometimes it's as if the sedate office chaos of Job Simulator has been transported to a warzone.
AMD's next-generation laptop processors are available now
AMD is marking the occasion of Computex Taipei by launching its next-generation laptop processors. The seventh-generation Bristol Ridge A-series APUs — that's AMD parlance for "Accelerated Processing Units" that include a CPU and GPU on the same chip — feature CPU cores based on the new Excavator architecture alongside Radeon graphics. The FX chips are at the high end of the range, while the A12 and A9 are positioned as competitors to Intel's Core i5 and i3 processors, respectively.Read Article >
AMD is claiming that Excavator delivers up to 52 percent improved CPU performance over the sixth generation, with up to 53 percent higher visual performance than the integrated graphics in unspecified Intel Core i7 processors. As for power efficiency, AMD offers the somewhat unusual statistic of "as little as one third the power consumption of a three-year-old AMD system for 1080p video playback" while delivering up to 38 percent higher performance, so make of that what you will.
Intel knows it's no longer inside
You don't hear "Intel Inside" too often these days.
Instead, the legend adorning the Taipei International Convention Center stage today ahead of Intel's Computex keynote was "Experience what's inside." The newer slogan has been kicking around for a while, but its deployment betrays a shift in Intel's priorities, and the acceptance of a harsh reality — Intel won't be inside the most important device in your life, and the devices it will be inside will be less relevant.Read Article >
Intel recently announced a restructuring of its business along with 12,000 layoffs; CEO Brian Krzanich said the company's focus was on moving to the cloud, with data centers and the Internet of Things considered primary growth drivers. And much of the Computex keynote was devoted to laying out that vision, with sections on IoT and 5G networks bookending its plans for PC innovation.
May 31, 2016
Intel invents the concept of mega-tasking to sell new 10-core CPUs
At Computex Taipei today, Intel is introducing its new range of Extreme Edition processors, with the crowning jewel being the company's first 10-core CPU for consumers, the $1,723 Core i7-6950X. For that eye-watering price, you get a 3GHz powerhouse capable of running 20 simultaneous work threads and also achieving a turbo boost speed of 3.5GHz. Intel's answer to the inevitable question of what anyone would want to do with all that might is the new concept of mega-tasking.Read Article >
The primary scenario envisioned by Intel is of a gamer playing at 4K resolution while also encoding a recording of his or her match and streaming at 1080p on Twitch at the same time. The extra processor cores make this new EE chip the new champion for handling CPU-intensive tasks running in parallel. Intel has more stats to wow professional users with, such as up to 35 percent faster performance in 3D rendering, 25 percent faster video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, and 20 percent faster video transcoding in HandBrake relative to the previous flagship Core i7-5960X.
Qualcomm's new wearables chip is for fitness trackers and kids' watches
Qualcomm has announced a new Snapdragon processor at Computex as the chipmaker aims to extend its presence in the wearables market. The Snapdragon Wear 1100 complements the Snapdragon Wear 2100 announced a few months ago; while that processor was designed for smartwatches, the 1100 is intended for use in simpler "targeted-function" devices with less functionality like fitness trackers, smart headsets, and location-aware gadgets for kids and the elderly.Read Article >
The Snapdragon Wear 1100 prioritizes compact size and power efficiency while offering LTE and 3G connectivity, and can also work alongside Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and voice commands. Qualcomm's iZat location engine employs multi-GNSS, geofencing, and cell-ID positioning for devices that need to continually relay their locality. Companies including Anda Technologies, inWatch, and WeBandz are announcing kids' watches that use the Snapdragon Wear 1100; the SoC is commercially available today.
May 30, 2016
Asus' crazy water-cooled laptop is getting an upgrade
Asus' mammoth GX700 — a gaming laptop with a separate water-cooling station that allows for some ridiculous overclocking shenanigans — blew our minds when it was unveiled last fall, and now it's getting a younger sibling. The GX800 was unveiled alongside a handful of other products at Asus' Republic of Gamers (ROG) Computex press event today, and the company is calling it "the most powerful gaming laptop in the world."Read Article >
Asus is keeping the GX800's specifics close to the vest for now, the same strategy it employed when the GX700 was unveiled. We know it's rocking "the latest NVIDIA SLI GPU and Intel K-series CPUs," and that's about it. The GX700 ended up containing the then-unannounced mobile GTX 980; cross your fingers the GX800 is playing host to something similarly exciting. It's also coming with two separate 330W power supplies, and a mechanical keyboard that's backlit with multi-color LEDs, because there's no point pushing your system to the limit without a little style. If you're not going to crank every part of the GX800 to the most powerful point possible, it's probably overkill, and that's just fine — the ZenBook 3 is looking mighty sleek for those of you feeling a little more sensible. This one's all about excess.
May 30, 2016
This is the first unibody metal phone without antenna linesRead Article >
Even by its own high standards, Asus outdid expectations with its Computex presser today. Not only did it announce a completely ridiculous home assistant robot and a thinner-than-a-MacBook laptop, but it also laid claim to having the first aluminum unibody phone free of unsightly antenna lines. Study the square-jawed ZenFone 3 Deluxe as closely as you wish; you won't find its matte rear disturbed by the practicalities of obtaining a wireless signal. Asus has somehow worked around the iPhone's most glaring aesthetic shortcoming, beating competitors like HTC, Huawei, and Meizu in producing a "full-metal" phone with completely discreet antennas. LG might dispute that claim with its G5 and its disguised antennas, but the G5 has a detachable bottom that really detracts from the notion of a unibody device.
May 30, 2016
Here's an Asus VR headset with fancy leather straps
Asus didn't mention this during their laptop- and phone- and robot-packed Computex Taipei press conference, but in the demo area there's a virtual reality headset on display behind glass; other than the name "Asus VR" emblazoned above it, there's zero explanation of what it actually is. But! It does have stitched leather straps, which look a little too ZenWatch-like for my taste but are arguably more fashion-forward than the likes of the HTC Vive.Read Article >
Chances are, this is little more than another example of what's increasingly starting to feel like an obligatory accessory for phone manufacturers. It's a particular curio in Asus' case, however, since the company has publicly stated that it finds augmented reality more interesting than VR and plans to release an AR headset in 2016. If that's still the plan, it sure isn't at Computex.