Archive for February, 2012

Be still, our pulsating nostalgia glands. Could there finally be another… ? No. No. We won’t get our hopes up. Even if, you know, Beamdog – a company fronted by former BioWare designer Trent Oster – has commandeered and given the whole thing a tease-tacular modern makeover. And even though Oster definitely said, “We’re not related to the Steam complete edition, I can tell you that much. Other than that, we’re hoping to announce something soon.” And even though the site’s source code has skipped its way to a masterful breadcrumb trail of hints, including references to the Infinity Engine and the “Child of Bhaal.” Nope. We refuse to get excited. We won’t be hurt again. We… yeah, screw it. This looks damn promising. Oops, we jinxed it. Now it’s going to be a Kinect-compatible Facebook dance minigame collection or something.

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The battle for itty-bitty computing supremacy is heating up, out of seemingly nowhere. The diminutive Raspberry Pi should be shipping any day now (in fact, its website promises a big announcement on Feb. 29th) and bringing its $35 1080p video capabilities with it. And if that wasn’t enough tastily named micro-computing news, FXI announced that its USB key-esque Cotton Candy minicomputer is now available for preorder, too.

A quick refresher: Cotton Candy sports a 1GHz, dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor paired with an ARM Mali-400 GPU. The stick will ship with 1GB of DRAM and supports up to 64GB of storage via a microSD card slot. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, USB, MicroUSB, HDMI and Bluetooth. Like the Raspberry Pi, its capable of outputting HD graphics via an HDMI connection; both MPEG-4 and H.264 are supported, as are other, unspecified formats. It’ll come preloaded with either Android (Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich) or Ubuntu. You choose which after preordering the PC and registering it online.

Just what would you use it for? FXI takes a stab at usage cases in its preorder press release: Its unique architecture will allow the device to serve as an ideal companion to smartphones, tablets, notebook PCs and Macs as well as will add smart capabilities to existing displays, set top boxes and game consoles.

Speaking of registering it online, FXI just launched, which will serve as the online home of Cotton Candy. Head over there if you want to preorder the $199 PC (which is expected to ship in March) or check out the Cotton Candy page on FXI’s website for more technical details.

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Verizon Wireless has never been one to shy away from a dollar or two. (See: the company’s aborted attempt to charge online bill payers a $2 “convenience fee.”) Don’t be too quick to judge the company, though; it looks to be taking a turn for the consumer friendly with new family data plans. Rumors about the plans have been swirling for a while, but now we have some official semi-details about the launch window for the wallet-friendly data packages.

Notice we said “launch window,” not “launch date.” That’s because it isn’t going to be a simple flip of the switch migration. “It’s important to realize that the day we launch this account billing, everybody won’t be migrating to the account billing day one,” TechCrunch reports Verizon CFO Fran Shammo as saying at an investor meeting. “This is going to be a long-term migration into where we want to get data plan sharing.”

That being said, Shammo says the new family plans should start rolling out in the middle of the year. Verizon hopes to spur 4G adoption with the new packages.

So it may be coming later, but hey, at least it’s coming. With the proliferation of Wi-Fi, it’s easier than ever to stay off the mobile data networks, which makes Verizon’s current $30/mo. per smartphone required data plans, well, suck even harder. My family’s two phones typically use less than 1GB of mobile data every month and we’re still stuck with a $60 data bill for the separate lines. Halving that will be awesome.

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You might think your brand new mobo, CPU, graphics card and case are fancy, but nothing kicks a custom PC build to the next level like individually braided power cables. Re-sleeving the individual cables on your power connectors can be incredibly time-intensive. Enter NZXT, and their new Premium Cables Starter Kit, which includes four of the most common cables you’ll want spruce up. 

As you might have assumed, the Starter Kit includes some of the most common cables around, all of which are 250mm (9.84 inches) long:

  • CB 6V – 6Pin VGA Extension
  • CB 24P – 24Pin Motherboard Extension
  • CB 8P – 8Pin Motherboard Extension
  • CB 8V – 6Pin to 6+2Pin VGA Extension

On top of having all those cables in a single package, the Premium Cables Starter Kit isn’t all that expensive, either, at $25. Buying just the 6 Pin VGA extension and the two mobo cables through NZXT costs $25, so this kit basically tosses in the 6+2 Pin VGA extension for free. Not too shabby.

Check out the NZXT site for more details, but these won’t be available until March. (Normally, that means tomorrow, but this February has an extra day. Stupid leap years.)

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AMD fans might be looking forward to Piledriver, but the Sunnyvale chip maker isn’t quite ready to move on from Bulldozer. On the contrary, AMD today sent out a message announcing two new FX-Series Bulldozer chips — AMD FX-4170 and FX–6200 — along with a price cut to its existing FX-8120 processor with eight processing cores clocked at 3.1GHz (4GHz via Turbo Core).

The newly minted FX-4170 processor is a quad-core part clocked at 4.2GHz (4.3GHz via Turbo Core). It has 4MB of L2 cache, a 125W TDP, and a northbridge clockspeed of 2.2GHz. The FX-4170 is AMD’s top-clocked quad-core chip.

On the six-core front, the new sherrif in town is AMD’s FX-6200, a hexacore part that runs at 3.8GHz (4.1GHz via Turbo Core). It has 6MB of L2 cache and the same TDP as the FX-4170 (125W). AMD didn’t list its northbridge speed, which will probably be 2.2GHz.

Lastly, AMD is cutting the price of its FX-8120 and FX-6100 processors. The FX-8120 has been reduced from $199 to $185, and the FX-6100 from $149 to $145. No word on how much the new processors will cost.

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