Issue: Volume 38 Issue 6: (Nov/Dec 2015)


Dell Introduces New Precision Mobile Lineup

Dell recently unveiled its new lineup of Precision mobile workstations and significant updates to the entry line of Dell Precision tower solutions. Redesigned inside and out, the new mobile workstations combine thinner, lighter industrial designs and brilliant displays with the latest graphics technology, new processors, and faster memory and storage. 

This portfolio includes the new 6th Generation Intel Core processors, first Intel Xeon processors for mobile workstations, and future Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 product families. The latest professional graphics from AMD and Nvidia deliver significant compute capacity and visual performance.

New screen options include the first PremierColor 4k Ultra HD displays with 100 percent minimum Adobe RGB color gamut. Full-HD and UHD options on the InfinityEdge display offer a virtually borderless screen for a 15.6-inch viewing area in a small form factor. 

Pricing for the new Dell UltraSharp 25 monitor starts at under $650 and the Dell UltraSharp 27 monitor costs approximately $900. 

Lenovo Positions ThinkPad P40 Yoga for Multiple Tasks

Lenovo just recently presented the ThinkPad P40 Yoga, a multimode mobile workstation featuring the latest Intel Core processors and Nvidia Quadro graphics and ISV certifications. 

Lenovo’s thinnest and lightest full-function mobile workstation, the ThinkPad P40 Yoga (priced at $1,399) handles tasks from sketching to final animation. It contains a unique 360-degree hinge for unlimited flexibility. In addition, it sports a Wacom digitizer for sketching precision from 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The so-called Lift ‘n’ Lock keyboard design protects the keyboard using an automatic rising frame. The ThinkPad pen integrated into the chassis provides all day use on a 30-second charge.

The ThinkPad P40 Yoga joins the company’s ThinkPad P50 and P70 mobile workstations, which rolled out in the fourth quarter and unites the mobile portfolio with Lenovo’s existing line of tower workstations, the ThinkStation P Series. According to the company, the machines contain features that were previously unachievable in a notebook. 

Designed for high-end professionals, the Lenovo ThinkPad P70 is a 17-inch mobile workstation with 64gb of DDR4 ECC memory and the ability to handle up to four storage devices and up to 1tb of SSD storage, utilizing the latest PCIe technology for speeds up to five times faster than current SATA technology. It comes with two Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 4k UHD display or optional FHD touch. 

Lenovo’s thinnest and lightest full-function mobile workstation, the ThinkPad P50 features a 15.6-inch UHD 4k display and is certified to run users’ most requested ISV applications. 

The new ThinkPad P50 and P70 are equipped with the new Intel Xeon Processor E3-1500M v5 product family, and both feature Nvidia Quadro GPUs. The ThinkPad P Series also comes with X-Rite Pantone color calibration.

Pricing for the P50 begins at $1,599, and the P70 begins at $1,999.

HP Focuses on Re-invention

HP has been busy of late, first splitting the company into two: HP Inc. (PC and printer operations) and HP Enterprise (software and services). Then came the re-invention of a number of products and technologies. 

HP just introduced the ZBook Mobile Workstations, which are thin and lightweight but heavy on performance, with DNA from the Z workstation line. The series includes the ZBook Studio, a quad-core Ultrabook. The model features Intel Core or Xeon processors, dual 1tb HP Z Turbo Drive G2 for up to 2tb of total storage, up to 32gb ECC memory, dual Thunderbolt 3, dual cooling fans, and optional HP DreamColor UHD or FHD touch displays. Users have a choice of new Nvidia Quadro M1000M 2gb GDDR5 Professional graphics or Intel HD Graphics 530. The HP ZBook Studio should be available in December starting at $1,699.

Joining the ZBook Studio are the ZBook 15u, ZBook 15, and ZBook 17. In addition, HP has redesigned the docking port on the slim ZBook Dock.

On another front, the HP T730 Thin Client, with native quad UHD/4k display support, will ship in December for $599.

These product evolutions are possible with new storage and cooling innovations: HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro and the uniquely designed HP Z Cooler, respectively.

Gaming Notebook Sales Take A Breather

The global PC gaming hardware market is forecast to slightly recede in 2015, albeit less than the overall PC market, and then resume growth in 2016. However, all recession and growth within the market is not equal. Jon Peddie Research (JPR) believes that notebooks bought for gaming have entered a challenging sales environment, as PC gamers gear up for the forthcoming mass-market 4k/UHD development. 

Ted Pollak, senior analyst, points out, “This cycle, unlike any for the past 15 years, will inspire gamers to upgrade their displays. Twenty-seven-inch and larger 4k/UHD displays are reaching mass-market pricing levels and producing an incredible experience, allowing much wider field of view and greater detail. The financial outlay for these display upgrades alone is billions of dollars over the coming years.”

Jon Peddie, president of JPR, adds that in addition to the cost of the new display technology, gamers are going to need the computing muscle to drive Triple-A game engines at over 60 frames per second. “And that horsepower comes at a premium,” he says. “Sixty frames per second is considered the gold standard in PC gaming, and many prefer even faster speeds – at least twice that number if VR is involved.” 

The gaming notebook and desktop market is especially challenged in the mainstream sector, as many casual players opt for tablets and TV gaming options to satisfy their needs. However a new wave of TV-optimized PCs from Alienware, iBuyPower, and other companies could buck the trend. 

Additionally, the PC gaming peripherals market, projected to weigh in at $3.6 billion in 2015, serves as a market buffer, as gamers who go through mice, keyboards, and headsets easily justify their replacement.  

The PC gaming hardware market is very diverse among its different segments. The high-end Enthusiast segment is very performance- and style-oriented, much like sports car owners. Meanwhile, the low end just wants to play games on something, and this is why the segment is under threat from cheaper gaming solutions.          

“The Worldwide PC Gaming Hardware Market” report series by Jon Peddie Research covers 33 countries, notebooks, desktops, DIY, and accessories, and addresses a wide range of issues pertaining to this market segment.

Houdini 15 Arrives

Just nine months after artists first got their hands on Houdini 14, Side Effects Software has announced the release of Houdini 15. This new version enhances modeling, rendering, and animation with VFX tools that are faster, more scalable, and more efficient at handling big data.

With Houdini 15, modelers can increase efficiency with a new tweak edit workflow, edge sliding, and new tools such as PolyBridge, PolyExtrude, and PolyExpand 2D. The new version also contains improvements to shader building, material overrides, and support for RenderMan 20. Moreover, onion skinning, a pose library panel, and improvements to the dope sheet make it easier to pose and keyframe characters within Houdini. New simple male and simple female rigs provide sample characters so users can explore the animation tools. 

Ragdoll dynamics have been added to the Houdini 15 crowd tools, along with limb detachment, fuzzy logic, and better crowd behavior. It is now easier to set up material and geometry variations, and tools have been added to set up explicit target locations.

Users can also make bigger, more dynamic VFX in terms of simulations and collisions. New viscous fluids tools, such as Lava, Melt Object, and Emit Steam, give artists quick access to a number of typical effects.

Autodesk Illuminates Flame News

Autodesk is blazing new pathways for its Flame product with new Desktop Subscription pricing starting at $750 per month or accessed annually for as low as $500 per month. 

    The company also announced Flame support for OS X as part of the Autodesk Flame Extension 2 release, available in late
November 2015. 

Autodesk Flare and Autodesk Flame Assist software are now available as standalone products with monthly subscription prices, starting at $400. New monthly, quarterly, and annual Subscription options extend to Flame, Flare, Flame Assist, and Lustre. Customers have the unrestricted ability to purchase Flare and Flame Assist licenses with no requirement to own Flame software already. In addition, customers may source their own qualified Linux hardware for the Flame Family of products.

Autodesk plans to continue to sell perpetual licenses of Flame Family. By early next year, though, sales of Flame as a turnkey system will discontinue. Flame will be available as a software-
only product. 

The upcoming Flame Family 2016 Extension 2 release, which became available in November, brings new format support and performance gains.