Computers

ASUS ROG GR8 II Review

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When you think of gaming PCs, large immobile machines come to mind. ASUS has other plans with its ROG-branded GR8 II, which is smaller than Sony’s PS4 Pro but with the might to take on the latest AAA titles.

And it’s not an ugly sight either; in fact, I’d say it’s the most attractive gaming PC in the market right now.

See for yourself:

This is as compact as a gaming PC can get

Dimensions: 88 x 299 x 281.3mm; weight: 4kg

And is slim enough to fit into cramped spaces

Standing it up is the only practical position, though

You get basic ports in front

Two USB 3.0 ports and audio outputs, plus gorgeous RGB lighting

And all the rest at the back

1x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, Ethernet, Optical S/PDIF out

Most of the heat comes out from the top vent

Be sure not to place anything like headphones on top

You need a single Philips screwdriver to open it up

Only four screws need to be removed to remove the side panel for upgrades

Once set up, it looks especially nice with matching ROG equipment

The 24-inch Full HD ROG Swift PG248Q with its 180Hz refresh rate is perfect for high-speed games

How well does it perform?

What’s a good-looking gaming PC without fitting specs to back it up? The GR8 II isn’t going to impress you with Zephyrus-like numbers, but it’s definitely good enough for gaming on high settings at 1080p.

We have an Intel Core i7-7700 processor, a single stick of 8GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB HDD, and NVIDIA’s midrange GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. These all connect to a custom H110 motherboard.

Playing DOOM on Ultra graphics settings consistently gave us over 90fps on our 1080p monitor; and as expected, Overwatch was an absolute cinch, providing us with over 150fps on optimized graphics settings to maximize the same monitor’s G-Sync-enabled 180Hz refresh rate.

The only game that pushed the GR8 II during our tests was Rise of the Tomb Raider. Although it got 68fps according to the built-in benchmark on the highest settings, actual gameplay wasn’t as smooth. It was only when we lowered some of the more intensive settings like hair effects and texture rendering that the game became playable on high settings.

What else is there to know?

A common concern with cramming so much power into a tiny frame is noise and heat build-up. We were expecting the GR8 II to get loud and warm under heavy load because of its lack of ventilation and relatively small fans, but the results were still pleasant.

Thanks to some strategic chopping up of the motherboard, vents and fans are placed where they need to be. It was only while playing games in an absolutely quiet room when we’d hear the roaring of the fans. Definitely nothing that would wake up a sleeping baby, so you can game with peace of mind.

Speaking of the custom motherboard design, it sadly holds back the upgradability of the GR8 II. You can only swap the RAM and HDD, and add an SSD to the lone M.2 slot. The CPU, GPU, and motherboard would need assistance from an ASUS service center for replacements.

The other drawback is the separate 230W power adapter that acts as the unit’s power supply. This is ASUS’ trick to lowering the weight and size of the GR8 II, but this just means more things to carry with you when you transfer battle stations for LAN parties.

Why choose this over a gaming laptop?

This is the question that went through our minds as we used the GR8 II: Doesn’t an equally priced gaming notebook offer a more complete experience with added mobility?

It’s definitely something to ponder over. A gaming laptop owns the same expandability (user-replaceable storage and memory components), wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), and an external power supply, but comes with a built-in monitor, keyboard, and battery for short trips. However, what the GR8 II does better is port selection and saving space on a tight desk.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It all boils down to your gaming needs. While there’s no doubt the GR8 II is more than enough for 1080p gaming at high frame rates, the previous question establishes the compact PC’s position in the market.

The GR8 II feels like a gaming laptop in the body of desktop PC, with the limited upgradeability of the former and immobility of the latter. At the same time, it also doesn’t have the mobility of a notebook nor the sheer possibilities of a true PC tower.

Considering all those factors, it’s clear the GR8 II is somewhere in between the two segments. You’re buying into the idea of a sleek gaming machine that’s designed to look good and deliver respectable performance beyond the minimal physical space it consumes.

Price relies heavily on what configuration you choose; the setup we reviewed costs PhP 69,990 (US$ 1,375) in the Philippines, but you can find a cheaper setup with a Core i5 processor and less storage for around US$ 1,000.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Strix GL702VM Review: Portable gaming powerhouse

Computers

AMD unveils new Radeon PRO workstation GPUs

Based on the same architecture as the next-gen consoles

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PRO W6000

AMD may be facing some shortages in their chips for the remainder of this year, but it’s not stopping them just yet. Within their GPU lineup, Team Red looks to launch a more powerful AMD Radeon PRO W6000 series of workstation graphics. This time around, they’ve integrated a familiar and powerful type of RDNA architecture to boost your workstation’s graphical performance.

See, AMD designed the new Radeon PRO W6000 series of workstation GPUs for heavier, more complex workloads. From demanding architectural design to 4K video rendering, these new GPUs will ideally handle all of these with ease. One of the big reasons behind this is that these GPUs are built using the RDNA 2 architecture. Yes, it’s the same architecture behind the GPUs of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S!

Apart from graphical performance boosts, the Radeon PRO W6000 series also offers realtime ray-tracing for faster renders. Essentially, the GPU has more enhanced compute units that boost design renders by up to 46 percent compared to previous generations. Along with AMD’s Smart Access Memory, you can even unlock higher performance for supported AMD Ryzen CPUs.

AMD will roll out their Radeon PRO W6000 series of GPUs in this fashion, along with their SRPs:

  • Now Available: AMD Radeon PRO W6800 (US$ 2,249)
  • Starting July 2021: AMD Radeon PRO W6600M (in select countries and mobile workstations)
  • Q3 2021: AMD Radeon PRO W6600 (US$ 649)
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Apps

SmartThings by Samsung unveils new interface

Better, more optimized

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A new generation for SmartThings is about to release. A revamped version of its mobile and Windows desktop app. The new design, which is part of SmartThings’ continued effort to simplifying the connected home experience. Additionally, it provides a simpler, more robust user journey and faster load times with a whole new interface.

The new interface makes it easier to identify connected home experiences while also maintaining a smooth transition from the previous version of SmartThings. The design that was improved for SmartThings divides the app into five sections: Favorites, Devices, Life, Automations, and Menu.

Favorites are the new home screen within SmartThings and gather the devices, scenes, and services used most for quicker access.

Devices let users monitor all devices, connecting TVs, light bulbs, appliances, and many more.

Life is a part where customers discover new services. As a matter of fact, this transforms physical objects into meaningful user experiences as they explore the expanding world of linked life. Users may learn about new features that will better their entire living experience, such as SmartThings Cooking. It is an all-in-one service that will offer seamless kitchen and meal preparation experiences.

Automations link devices, allowing them to collaborate and respond to certain situations in the home, such as a door opening and a light switching on.

Additional functions, such as Labs, Notifications, History, and Settings, will be housed in the Menu.

SmartThings

Availability

The new interface is available for Android devices starting today, and iOS will follow. This update follows SmartThings’ recent announcement of its Windows application, which offers a similar experience right from a Galaxy Book and any other Windows PC.

Samsung continues to invest in enhancing its technology, they also announced the incorporation of the Matter protocol into its ecosystem. SmartThings claims to be in the leading spot as the platform with the most flexible ways to connect devices. This includes Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Matter. 

Finally, you can see more information about SmartThings here.

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Computers

macOS Monterey introduces Shortcuts, Universal Control, new Safari

Really significant upgrades

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macOS Monterey

Anyone who works on a MacBook or an iMac should be pretty darn excited about the features coming to macOS Monterey, announced at WWDC 2021. Some of the most notable ones are Shortcuts, Universal Control and a new and improved Safari browser.

Shortcuts

Initially introduced on iOS, Shortcuts is essentially a way to cut down the time you spend to execute tasks you repeat regularly. There’s a rich gallery of pre-built actions designed just for Mac like being able to instantly share files, make animated GIFs, and more.

Shortcuts is integrated throughout macOS, including the menu bar, Finder, Spotlight, and even hands-free with Siri. What happens to automator now? Users can easily import existing Automator workflows into Shortcuts and be up and running right away.

Universal Control

For Apple users with multiple devices, Universal Control will be a godsend. This lets users work with a single mouse and keyboard and move between Mac and iPad for a seamless experience, with no setup required. Users can drag and drop content back and forth between devices like it’s nothing.

New Safari

Safari adds a new tab design, including a redesigned tab bar and Tab Groups, so users can browse the web in new ways.

A new tab bar takes on the color of the webpage and combines tabs, the tool bar, and the search field into a single compact design.

Tab Groups offer a new way to easily save and manage tabs. They also sync across Mac, iPhone, and iPad, so users can continue their project from anywhere and easily share tabs with other Apple users.

Other improvements and features

SharePlay — Works similarly to the one on iOS where you can have a listening or watch party via Apple Music and Apple TV with people you’re in a FaceTime call with.

Shared with You — Makes it easy to locate and enjoy all the great content that’s shared through Messages, including photos, videos, articles, and more, right from a Shared with You tab within various Apple apps.

Live Text — Uses on-device machine learning to detect text in photos, including phone numbers, websites, addresses, and tracking numbers, so users can copy and paste, make a phone call, open a website, and easily find more information

Privacy — Mail Privacy Protection let users choose whether emails can collect information about their Mail activity, and the Mac recording indicator now shows which app is accessing the Mac’s microphone.

Accessibility — Lets anyone add alternative image descriptions right from Markup, and improved Full Keyboard Access and new cursor customization options provide more flexibility when navigating Mac.

macOS Monterey is coming this fall.

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