Posted on Wed 01 June 2016

Tech news from Computex 2016

Table of Contents

  1. Windows Anniversary Update
  2. Windows Holographic/HoloLens
  3. AMD Releases RX 480; A VR ready graphics card for $200
  4. AMD Zen architecture
  5. MSI VR Backpack
  6. Wooting One Analog keyboard

Windows Anniversary Update

Microsoft has done some crazy things with Windows 10 (most recently, acting like malware to force updates), but the Anniversary update is a step in the right direction. Included in this update are pen/finger drawing recognition, faster Cortana access, better two factor authentication with Windows Hello, and DirectX 12 for enhanced graphics capabilities. Though I'm sure the drawing recognition will be useful on a Surface, I have a hard time imagining someone drawing out a business graph with their finger and a trackpad. As for Cortana, you can now access her without logging in. Microsoft is continuing to push Windows Hello but, unless you have a compatible device such as the Lumia 950, iris scanning won't be of much benefit to you. Lastly is DirectX 12, the graphics driver update. DirectX are usually increments accompanied by increased hardware requirements but 12 is an exception. Unfortunately, it is seemingly tied to Windows 10, with no plans to backport it to Windows 8 or 7.

For now, the release date of this update is set for "later in 2016."

Windows Holographic/HoloLens

Microsoft announced that they are opening up their VR/mixed reality platform called "Windows Holographic." Do not confuse this with the HoloLens - though they share similar names, the HoloLens is a product and Holographic is a platform. Microsoft intends for partners and manufacturers to use this platform as a basis for new products. Subsequently, the HoloLens will be the flagship device for Holographic.

AMD Releases RX 480; A VR ready graphics card for $200

The RX 480 is AMD's first graphics card on the Polaris architecture. Polaris is purported to be manufactured with optimized FinFET technology, incorporates HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.3, and 4K h.265 encode/decode. In practice, what this means is that the 480 will be a significant jump in graphics performance from a midrange card. This particular announcement is quite astonishing, since their major competitor released one of their new graphics cards which seems to give less performance/$. As always, benchmarks will be the true test, but the 480 is shaping up to be the everyday man's GPU for VR.

Set to release June 29, 2016

AMD Zen architecture

In the CPU market there really isn't much competition for desktop computers. Intel has been the top dog for the last few years with AMD trailing by a fair margin. With their new architecture "Zen" on the horizon though, the tide could turn. While the presenter only showed an engineering sample, it is nice to see Zen materialize at last. Zen is built with a new socket, AM4, which means it is not backwards compatible with older motherboards. Additionally, Zen will be used for AMD's APU lineup which could allow for some serious onboard graphics.

It is doubtful whether or not Zen will be retail-ready by the end of 2016.

MSI VR Backpack

One of the major hurdles of VR is immersion, and what better way to feel immersed than the ability to move freely. The MSI Backpack PC solves the wires issue, while developing more hurdles. At its core the Backpack PC is as simple as it's namesake, a VR ready computer built with straps and a battery. Some problems that the Backpack PC supposedly solves are cooling, upgradability, and external ports. Unfortunately the weight is a fair bit higher (12 lbs) than its competitor the Gigabyte Aorus X7 DT (7.6 lbs).

Hints say that the backpack might arrive at the end of 2016.

Wooting One Analog keyboard

In terms of keyboards the Wooting One is anything but standard. Firstly, it is tenkeyless, which means it lacks a numpad, similar to a laptop layout. Secondly, it is mechanical, meaning each key is controlled by its very own switch as opposed to a singular membrane for the entirety of the board. Lastly, (and what makes this keyboard unique) is that instead of the switches having two states (up/down), these switches (Flaratech Optical Switches) have many states determined by an infrared emitter and light sensor. This allows for much more precision, and will be mostly useful in gaming as a substitute for a controller.

The Wooting One is on Kickstarter now for $155.