Weekend Open Forum: Which PC case do you use?

One of the very first premium aftermarket computer cases I acquired was a Lian Li PC-60. In the 15 or so years since, I’ve had the opportunity to work with probably a hundred or more cases of varying shapes, sizes, building materials and price points including my current chassis, the hulking Cooler Master Cosmos II.

I’ve owned this behemoth for nearly four years now and have no plans of replacing it anytime soon. Outfitted with Noctua fans, a towering heatsink and a passively cooled video card, it’s nearly silent and large enough to accommodate virtually anything I can throw at it in the future.

With this week’s open forum, we’re curious as to what computer case you’re using these days? Does your current case meet all of your needs? Are you eyeballing an upgrade?

Neverware wants to turn your old computer into a speedy ‘Chromebook’

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There’s no shortage of options when it comes to deciding what to do with an old computer once it has been replaced. Repurposing an old machine is certainly a noble cause but when it takes 10 to 15 minutes just to boot into Windows, what good can it really server?

New York City startup Neverware has a pretty great idea – transform that old clunker into a speedy “Chromebook.” And now, you can give it a try without wiping your hard drive thanks to a new dual boot option.

Chromebooks have been one of the surprise hits of the past few years. Unlike netbooks which attempted to run desktop-class versions of Windows on underpowered hardware, Chromebooks utilize a lightweight (albeit limited) OS that’s far less demanding. As a result, manufacturers have been able to churn out slim Chromebooksthat are deceptively quick and affordable enough to cause major disruptions in the entry-level laptop market.

Using Neverware’s CloudReady software (free for individuals), you can essentially create your own Chromebook (it’s not technically a Chromebook as Google owns the trademark for that name). The software is a variation of Chromium, the open source version of Chrome.

Odds are, your old laptop or desktop is probably still faster in terms of raw processing power than most new Chromebooks so you’ll end up with a very usable system absolutely free.

Intel says move to 10-nanometer chips still on track for 2017

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Intel posted a job listing on its website last month in which it mentioned that mass production of products using its 10-nanometer manufacturing technology would begin approximately two years from the date the listing was posted (January 21, 2016).

This caught the attention of The Motley Fool’s Ashraf Eassa who wrote a column on the matter. It was of particular interested because in mid-2015, Intel admitted that difficulties in the move to 10-nanometer had pushed the first round of consumer products based on the advanced manufacturing process back to the second half of 2017.

Initially, 10-nanometer products were to arrive in the marketplace this year.

If the job listing was indeed accurate, that meant Intel was pretty far behind in its move to 10-nanometer. As it turns out, however, the job listing wasn’t accurate.

Intel’s public relations team reached out to the publication and said the job listing contained “errors” and that it would soon be taken down. Sure enough, the listing in question has since been pulled. The PR team clarified that its first 10-nanometer products were still on track to arrive sometime in the second half of 2017.

Moving to a smaller manufacturing process has numerous benefits including (but not limited to) lower power consumption (which leads to better battery life) and improved performance as more transistors can fit on a single chip.

Huawei takes on Surface, iPad Pro with 2-in-1 MateBook running Windows 10

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Huawei at Mobile World Congress pulled back the sheet on its first-ever 2-in-1 running Windows 10. The Huawei MateBook is an incredibly thin 2-in-1 that aims to take on devices like the Surface and the iPad Pro in the productivity category.

The MateBook features a 12-inch IPS LCD display operating at a resolution of 2,560 x 1,400 that’s powered by an Intel Core M processor of your choosing. It measures just 6.9mm thick – rivaling the thinness of today’s flagship smartphones – and tips the scales at only 640 grams.

The keyboard folio is backlit with 1.5mm of key travel. Rather than Bluetooth, the keyboard interfaces with the tablet via a proprietary connector on the side of the tablet. Speaking of, that’s where you’ll also find the device’s fingerprint reader, tucked neatly between the volume rocker buttons. Ars Technica found the trackpad to be surprisingly large and responsive while the two angles of tilt (54 and 67 degrees) were described as sensible choices.

There’s also the optional MatePen, a stylus that offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity with an elastomer tip should you have the need for it.

Its all-metal unibody design certainly looks the part of a premium device with smooth, rounded edges and chamfered buttons. Huawei says its 33.7Wh battery is good for around 10 hours of standard use.

The Huawei MateBook starts at $699 which includes an Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of local storage. On the upper end, you can expect to pay $1,599 for a Core M7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Note that accessories like the keyboard folio and stylus are extra ($129 and $59, respectively). Look for it to go on sale in the US “in the coming months.”

MediaTek unveils Helio P20, a ‘true’ octa-core SoC built on 16nm process

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MediaTek has added a new member to its “P” family of chipsets as Mobile World Congress 2016. The Helio P20 improves on its predecessor, the Helio P10, in virtually every category with a focus on energy efficiency.

The MediaTek Helio P20 is a true octa-core SoC that foregoes the popular big.LITTLE configuration in favor of eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores, each clocked at up to 2.3GHz. Graphics duties will be handled by ARM’s high-end Mali T880 GPU clocked at 900MHz, we’re told.

Other noteworthy additions include an integrated Cat. 6 LTE modem that supports 2×20 carrier aggregation at speeds of up to 300Mbps down / 50Mbps up and Dual-SIM plus Dual Standby support. The Helio P20 is also said to be the first SoC to support low-power double data rate random access memory (LPDDR4X) which cuts the voltage from 1.1V down to just 0.6V. It’ll also use the same Imagiq Image Signal processor (ISP) as MediaTek’s Helio X20.

The Helio P20’s enhancements are largely made possible by MediaTek’s move to a 16-nanometer FinFET+ manufacturing process (the Helio P10 was a 28-nanometer affair).

So what does all of this mean for the consumer? According to MediaTek, the Helio P20 offers 25 percent better power efficiency, is 20 percent faster than the Helio P10 in terms of CPU speed and provides 25 percent better graphics performance compared to the previous generation. A full list of specifications can be found on MediaTek’s website for those looking to dig a bit deeper.

MediaTek expects to ship its Helio P20 to manufacturers sometime in the second half of this year.

Samsung Portable SSD T3 1TB

Samsung’s ultra-compact T1 SSD made a strong impression around this time last year when it topped our performance charts as the quickest USB 3.0 storage device we’d ever tested.

Having been based on an mSATA version of the company’s SSD 850 Evo, the T1 shared similar performance to that TLC SSD, and although USB 3.0 doesn’t offer quite as much bandwidth as SATA 6Gb/s, Samsung touted sequential read and write speeds of 450MB/s, which at the time was more than twice that of the fastest thumb drive we’d handled.

Upon release the T1 series was $180 for the smallest 250GB model, $300 for the 500GB unit that we tested and $600 for the 1TB flagship. Now 13 months later the T1 pricing has been adjusted somewhat and the huge 1TB model can be had for just $360, 40% less than its debut price.

Having lowered its T1 series to a new price bracket, Samsung has made room for a newcomer — no, not the T2 series, but rather T3. The new Samsung Portable SSD T3 drives will be available in four capacities ranging from 250GB all the way up to 2TB.

The company tells us that the T3 features several significant upgrades based on the T1’s consumer feedback.

The key upgrade as far as we can tell is the change from USB 3.0 to USB 3.1, providing the T3 series with the easier to use and more convenient USB Type-C connection. That being said, let’s move on to discover all of said significant upgrades.

Samsung T3

Samsung has enjoyed a lot of success with its SSDs over the past few years and its current drives are as good as ever. The SSD 850 Pro is the world’s fastest 2.5″ SATA SSD, while the SSD 850 Evois arguably the best value going.

Both are based on Samsung’s proprietary 3D Vertical NAND (V-NAND) technology which overcomes cell-to-cell interference by stacking cell layers in 3D like manner. Stacking 32 cell layers of cells on top of one another allows for greater density and more performance without an increase in size, while overcoming the interference and manufacturing challenges which had previously limited progress.

Having already proved this technique with the SSD 850 range, Samsung released an external portable SSD known as the T1 in early 2015. The T1 was essentially an mSATA 850 Evo stuffed in a sleek enclosure with a SATA to USB 3.0 adapter card.

The 850 Evo 500GB boasts read and write speeds of 540 to 520MB/s over SATA 6Gb/s. Since USB 3.0 offers slightly less bandwidth, the T1 was limited to read and write throughputs of 450MB/s.

Now we have the T3, though from a performance point of view little appears to have changed. Samsung is still claiming the same sequential 450MB/s performance despite upgrading to the USB 3.1 spec. There’s good reason for this however as the T3 is based on the USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps) spec rather than Gen2 (10Gbps).

As the T3 is still based on an mSATA SSD the dimensions are similar to the original model. The T3 measures just 74.0mm wide, 10.5mm thick and 58mm deep, or a fraction larger than the T1. The heaviest T1 model came in at just 30 grams while the T3 2TB model will tip the scales at 51 grams, and while that’s much heavier, it’s still extremely light.

Being compact and light, the T3 feels sleek but it also looks the part thanks to a mostly metal enclosure. The T1 features an all-plastic enclosure and didn’t look or feel particularly durable.

The T3’s metal case with shock-resistant internal frame increases the durability for tough environments. It can withstand up to 1500G of force and will survive a drop of up to two meters.

Included in the package is an 11cm USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-A cable that’s been custom designed for the T3, though there is nothing special about the cable besides its appearance. The cable is short because the T3 is designed to be used much like a thumb drive and thanks to its lightweight design it can hang from the cable safely while it’s plugged in.

If you want a longer wire, any USB 3.1 Type-C cable will do the trick. On that note it would have been great if Samsung also included a USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-C cable as well.

Samsung’s portable SSD works effortlessly with both Windows and Mac PCs using the exFAT file system, eliminating the hassle of having to reformat for every type of computer.

The T3 can connect with not just PCs but also Android mobile devices and large screens (Smart TVs). This means users can now send content to and from PCs, access content through Android mobile devices, and view multimedia on large screens, including TVs, with ease and reliability. The T3 also comes coupled with a brand-new complementary Samsung Portable SSD Android mobile app to make password changes and remaining capacity checks easy and convenient.

Additionally, those concerned with security will appreciate the T3’s support for AES 256-bit hardware encryption along with an optional password to access the drive. Samsung has included some basic software to set up the T3 for the first time and this lets you apply a password.

The MSRPs for the various T3 models are set at $130 for the smallest 250GB model, $220 for the 500GB unit, $430 for the 1TB model that we are testing, and $850 for the flagship 2TB drive. Samsung backs the series with a three-year warranty. Ideally, we would have appreciated an extended five-year warranty, particularly for the $850 2TB drive.

How to fix your PC’s USB ports

USB ports, just like everything in your PC, may occasionally stop working. However, what you might not know about them is that quite often USB ports don’t break down for good. In many situations the problem comes from software or firmware (drivers) and not the hardware itself. So, if one of your USB ports has suddenly failed to work properly, here’s what you need to do to find out what’s wrong with it and maybe fix the problem.

Find out if it’s a hardware problem

The first thing that you need to clarify is whether the USB port is physically damaged or there’s something else wrong with it.

  • The simplest way to examine it is to insert your USB device in the port and see: either it fits in or wiggles (try to wiggle it slowly so that you don’t cause the hardware problem yourself).
  • If you think that it wiggles, but you’re still not sure, try plugging it into a port that you know is functioning; repeat the experiment and if in the second case it fits perfectly, then you most likely have a physical problem. In theory you can fix that too, but you will need to search YouTube for a tutorial on how to go about it and find the right tools or seek professional assistance.
  • In case the USB device wiggled in all the ports you’ve tried it, it may be the device fault.
  • If you’ve determined that the hardware isn’t defective, try restarting your PC.
  • In case that didn’t work, proceed to the next chapter.

Solution 1: Device Manager

Device ManagerDevice Manager

This is the fix I used when my USB port kept turning my mouse on and off, and the solution worked like a charm. It requires you to open theDevice Manager window (and the simplest way to do that is to launch the Run menu (press the Win+ R keys)), then type in devmgmt.msc and pressEnter. Additionally, you can get to the Device Manager menu from the Control Panel or you can write devm in your Start Menu and it will be the first result that shows up. Once you’ve opened the previously mentioned window, find the entry named Universal Serial Bus controllers and click on the arrow next to it.

Now, since it’s very difficult to determine which entry corresponds to which port on your PC, you should simply uninstall all of them. Look for every entry that has “USB Host Controller” (or “USB Enhanced Host Controller“) in its name, right-click it and press the Uninstall button. One you’ve taken down all of them, make sure that the USB device is plugged into the port that you want to fix, then restart your PC or right-click theUniversal Serial Bus entry and select the Scan for Hardware Changes button. Your computer will automatically reinstall all the USB drivers and that, in turn, might solve your problem (it did in my case).

Solution 2: Windows Registry

Registry EditorRegistry Editor

Another possible cause for USB ports malfunctioning is an entry in the Windows Registry. To be able to use this fix, you will need to edit your registries, so please proceed with caution and follow my instructions closely as modifying the wrong registry could cause your operating system to stop running completely. The first thing you need to do is to open the Registry Editor window, so once again go to the Run menu (Win + R keys), but now type regedit and pressEnter. Then, click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE –> SYSTEM –> CurrentControlSet –> Services, and find the entry named USB (all of these are on the left-side panel).

  • If you managed to find it, there should be an entry named DisableSelectiveSuspend in the right-side panel; right-click on it, select the Modify option from the menu that pops up and then change the number in the Value field to 1.
  • If you’re sure that the USB entry wasn’t present, you will need to create it yourself. Click on the previously mentioned Service section, then press Edit button (from the top file menu), click onNew and create a new Key named USB. Click on the newly created item, then, in the right-side panel, right-click the empty space, select the New option and create a DWORD Value or DWORD 32-bit Value. Name it DisableSelectiveSuspend. Now, repeat the procedure Value modifying procedure (from above) and everything should be fixed.

Since you now know how to fix your USB ports, you might also want to find out how to fix Windows issues concerning DLL files, read about how to properly maintain your PC or check out the efficient ways toincrease the power of your WiFi signal.