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
And is slim enough to fit into cramped spaces
You get basic ports in front
And all the rest at the back
Most of the heat comes out from the top vent
You need a single Philips screwdriver to open it up
Once set up, it looks especially nice with matching ROG equipment
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.
Windows 10 touch keyboard is getting GIFs, updated emoji picker
And new Voice Typing!
Have you tried using Windows 10’s touch keyboard on your laptop or tablet? Laptops have a handy physical keyboard, but an increasing number of users rely on the software option while using devices like the Surface Pro. To make the Windows 10 experience cooler, Microsoft is rolling out a few nifty features.
The new touch keyboard is based on the company’s work with Windows 10X, bringing in better animations, sounds, and GIF support. Microsoft is calling it WonderBar, which sounds very similar to Mac’s Touch Bar but is limited to the on-screen keyboard only.
It also includes the ability to move the cursor through the space bar on the touch keyboard. A similar setup is found on iOS for cursor navigation and even BlackBerry 10 relied on this feature for a better typing experience.
The user can also search and insert GIFs directly from the keyboard, a feature that has now become mainstream on Android keyboards. There’s also an updated emoji picker which can be activated via the Winkey + period.
Microsoft is working on implementing a Fluent Design system that’ll bring together emoji search, GIF support, and your clipboard history. Lastly, the company is working on a new dictation system called Voice Typing. It has been completely revamped with a new design, auto punctuation, and an updated backend.
The changes are currently rolling out via Windows Insider Dev Channel and may not show up for all testers. The update is expected to roll out publicly in the first half of 2021 for Windows 10.
Intel announces 11th-Gen chips with new company branding
Directly competes with AMD Ryzen series
Intel has finally announced their newest 11th-gen chipsets that directly rival AMD’s powerful yet inexpensive Ryzen series. Though these aren’t the new 7nm processors that are rumored to come as late as 2022, these are still new chips based on their 10nm SuperFin process technology.
Other than the annual chipset announcement, Intel also announces a major rebrand after almost a decade — all before Apple ditches Intel with their first in-house ARM-based Apple Silicon chipset that will run on the new MacBook by the end of 2020.
For half a century, Intel has undergone three major logo overhauls. The oldest logo was used for 38 years while the post-millennium logo was utilized for just 14 years. In this new decade, they decided to re-do their logo. Just like any other manufacturer, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t stopping them from doing a major rebrand.
Alongside the company logo, they also did several iterations of the “Intel Inside” campaign that was launched in 1991. The new logo leans more into a flat, minimalist style — a trend you can see among company logos nowadays.
While the new branding may not be totally flat because of the gradient styling, it’s still a major rebrand that changes the overall look of their chipset lineup in contrast to the older generation that heavily relied on images of system internals and silver gradient combinations that imitate the metallic texture of processors.
New chipset lineup
As expected, Intel has revealed their latest Intel chipset lineup. It uses Willow Cove cores with a maximum speed of up to 4.8GHz (faster than last year’s 3.8GHz) but still at 4-cores and 8-threads. Future motherboards can support up to two 64GB of DDR4 RAM on PC rigs, while four 32GB LPDDR4x RAM on portable machines.
The new Tiger Lake architecture equips the 11th-gen chipsets with the next-gen Wi-Fi 6 standard for faster internet/wireless transfer speeds. The PCI Express 4.0 support will also be able to handle the latest SSDs and discrete graphics cards with low latency and higher bandwidth.
For video editors and content creators, the new chipset has a Thunderbolt 4 support that can plug one 8K/60Hz display or up to four 4K/60Hz displays altogether. It will also be able to read 4K/90p videos and up to 42-megapixels of still image. The new Thunderbolt standard can also reach 32GB/s of transfers and faster charging in higher voltages through Power Delivery.
There’s also an integrated AI-based engine that reads tasks faster such as image and text processing or video playback.
New (real) integrated graphics
As said earlier, Intel is directly hitting AMD with their new line of chips. A diagram shows that everything’s faster with the latest 11th-gen Core i7 chipset — that’s in comparison with AMD’s latest Ryzen 7 4th Gen. A significant boost can be seen when running Office apps and Adobe apps. It also shows that there are improvements while browsing and downloading files.
With Intel’s Iris Xe graphics integrated into the new-gen Core chipsets, 1080p Full HD gaming will be more accessible. Mainstream games such as Valorant, League of Legends (LoL), Dota2, CS:GO can be played over 100 frames per second (fps) .
Moreover, graphics-intensive games such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA) V, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG, and other titles can run around 40-60fps depending on game settings and processor power. Playing these titles usually require dedicated graphics card such as NVIDIA’s GeForce and AMD’s Radeon series.
The new integrated graphics will also be able to read 4K HDR10 and Dolby Vision-certified videos with minimal power consumption.
Evo is Intel’s new platform that can fit in upcoming thin and light ultrabooks without compromising their overall performance. With the new chips’ improved power-efficiency, you can expect no less than nine hours of use with Full HD displays. 40% responsiveness will also be present via Instant Wake.
Cuts in cords doesn’t mean you will be less connected. The platform will also support Thunderbolt 4 through USB-C ports and Wi-Fi 6 for consistent internet and data transmission.
Machines that will run this platform will feature either an 11th-Gen Core i5 or i7 chipset coupled with Iris Xe graphics. That’s a better alternative for bulky gaming laptops that are equipped with thick dedicated graphics cards.
Intel’s 11th-generation chipsets are expected to be shipped by the end of 2020 alongside brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, Samsung, and many more in the list. Sourced from a tweet, there will be 50 new machines that will run Intel’s latest chipset family — including 20 devices that run the Evo platform.
Apple accidentally approves a known malware to run on macOS
It could affect as many as one in 10 macOS devices
Apple has a solid reputation in the cybersecurity space and in recent times, it has increased emphasis on its privacy-centric operating systems. iOS has a host of features that let you monitor and control app data collection while macOS is generally known to be virus-immune.
In recent years, macOS has come under increasing attack via ransomware and adware. To protect users, Apple announced a new process called “notarizing.” It basically scans the software for security issues and malicious content. The software can run on macOS only if it has cleared notarization.
However, Peter Dantini, who works with well-known Mac security researcher Patrick Wardle, has discovered a malicious program that’s disguised as an Adobe Flash installer. The malware was accidentally notarized by Apple and officially made its way into the Mac ecosystem.
Also called the “Shlayer” adware, it could affect as many as one in 10 macOS devices. Wardle has confirmed that Apple approved the code and it can run on the unreleased Beta version of macOS Big Sur.
Keep in mind, the program does not steal your data or set up a backdoor entry. It’s essentially an adware program that generates a lot of annoying ads. It isn’t clear how the program was able to get past Apple’s notarization, but this is the first case of malware directly getting approved.
“Malicious software constantly changes, and Apple’s notarization system helps us keep malware off the Mac and allow us to respond quickly when it’s discovered,” Apple said in a statement. “Upon learning of this adware, we revoked the identified variant, disabled the developer account, and revoked the associated certificates. We thank the researchers for their assistance in keeping our users safe.”
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