Under The Hood: This Week In PC, Component And Software News

Thinking of building a new gaming PC? Struggling with whatever random error your desktop is throwing up this week? Under The Hood gives you a quick and concise run-down of the most important things that happened to the PC master race in the last seven days.

Intel's New CPUs Will Only (Officially) Support Windows 10

It’s been a long time since we’ve had to worry about CPU / OS incompatibilities. In fact, the last time it was an issue was the shift from x86 to x64, but that was largely transparent to consumers thanks to AMD and its x86-64 specification, which was later adopted by Intel. Now, with Windows 7 having just entered its extended support phase, Microsoft has taken the opportunity to drop the news that only Windows 10 will be supported on upcoming CPUs.

The word "support" here extends as far as deep integration on an OS level; that's for things like sleep and hibernate and other low-power states, RAM utilisation, and Intel's new Speed Shift dynamic overclocking and throttling. And if you want these features to work as intended, out of the box with no workarounds or fiddling, that means purchasing a copy of Windows 10 alongside the rest of your hardware.

OK, so there's a lot of confusion around this. There's a big difference between official support and unofficial success -- in actual fact, there will be nothing serious stopping you from installing Windows 7 or 8.1 on your brand new Skylake machine, or even a Kaby Lake machine in the further future. However, your setup will only get the "most critical" security fixes, and nothing further.

Fractal Design's New Define Nano S mITX Case

King of understated Swedish case design, Fractal is also great at building a chassis that houses powerful components quietly. There's a big trend these days towards building small, powerful gaming PCs, and jumping on that trend means Fractal Design needs a new case: enter the Define Nano S.

It's a design that's similar in a lot of ways to a regular ATX setup -- vertical motherboard mount, base-mounted PSU, and room for more than a couple of hard drives. Two fans -- a 120mm and a 140mm -- are bundled with the case, although it has enough room inside for a 240mm top- and 280mm base-mounted radiator, with enough spare space to mount a pump and reservoir besides.

My two PCs at the moment are both in Fractal Design cases -- one in the Define S and one in the Define Mini -- so I'm extremely interested to see the Nano S in action; it might be the centrepiece of my first full-loop-watercooled mITX gaming system. The Nano S will be out in March, and we're planning to give it a test run at Gizmodo as soon as we can.

Samsung Starts Building High-Density, High-Speed HBM2 RAM

Graphics cards took a step into the future with AMD's recent R9 Fury and R9 Nano cards -- not because of their GPU silicon, which was only lightly refreshed from last year's, but because of their use of high-speed HBM RAM chips.

High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) is vertically stacked RAM, with thousands of tiny through-silicon vias providing interconnect that is much, much faster than traditional flat RAM production methods. The only problem is that it's a new and therefore relatively expensive production process, limiting the quantity of the modules produced and therefore shipped on graphics cards (and potentially RAM sticks) in the near future.

And Samsung is already producing the second generation of HBM. HBM2 doubles the already crazy-fast data rate of HBM1 at 256Gbps, and it's possible -- so I'm hearing, at least -- that Nvidia will be using the high-density memory on its upcoming Pascal graphics cards. Those won't be out until at least the second quarter of this year, so don't hold your breath.



    I stopped building my own PCs about a decade ago, when laptops got fast enough to be viable desktop replacements. Now I couldn't imagine anything more tedious.

    It's like cars - when you are younger you work on your car and you are quite proud of what you are able to achieve but eventually, one day, you get to buy your first new car and realise what an abominable chore it is to work on cars. From that point on you are more than happy to pay someone to go through that misery on your behalf.

      depends on your reason for building pc's.
      personally, i find it kind of therapeutic and feel a sense of accomplishment after building a pc which makes me feel good about myself.

      ive never done a water cooled build, so i think that will be my next challenge to overcome.

        I have moved away from water cooling in recent years.
        Its a lot of effort for minimal gains, and higher risk.
        Also I got sick of draining my loop every time I moved my computer lol.

          yeah, i more want to do it as a project as ive never played with it before. it will more than likely be a build and sell rather then a build and keep. i personally am not comfortable with water-cooling in my own rig and i never overclock anyway so im fine with fans only.

        skinja, those are all the kinds of things I used to say about cars, except for the "feel good about myself" (I simply don't think like that).

      I did the same, then got into a situation where I actually needed high end graphics and power for 3D design and rendering. No way I'd pay $3000 for a laptop nowhere near comparable to a $2000 computer.

      However because I haven't built a computer for so damned long, I have no modern spare parts for troubleshooting. Stupid thing is currently randomly rebooting and a PITA to troubleshoot. Doesn't help that most PC stores are staffed by unqualified tech's and just want to sell you whatever no name rubbish they stock.

    I am liking the look of the Corsair 400c (Windowed case) launched at CES 2016..


      I genuinely think that I may never build an ATX PC again. So big!

        Certainly can't do this with it: http://gizmodo.com/a-tower-pc-for-your-less-than-legal-hobbies-1708804026

    i read some where just last week that NVidia might be going back to ddr5X and not with HBM... ill see if i can find the article again.

      damn, cant find it. nevermind.
      good to see Samsung is giving AMD a leg up with some manufacturing. some exciting times ahead in the GPU market.

        Pascal and Polaris are going to be baller. Will be a great year to buy a new GPU...

          yeah ive been holding off for about a year now. im still running a AMD Phenom II 965BE and HD5850. so im itching like hell to upgrade, but i wont do it until next gen GPU and CPU (for AMD anyway) are released.

            Why wait? Depending on your motherboard, you could get a significant upgrade for relatively cheap. You may (likely) be capable of using a Phenom II x6, or even a current octacore. If you are stuck with DDR2, AMD motherboards are compatible with ECC memory and that can be had at a reasonable price on ebay. Lastly, there is little reason not to upgrade your gpu. You will still see significant performance increases. Not to mention, if you get a second hand AMD card HD7xxx and above, you get DirectX12 support.

              yeah, i have thought about it trust me,
              my current motherboard is ddr3.
              the only thing i dont want to do i start chucking in newer parts and then have the older ones failing and me forever leapfrogging parts into it to keep it going.
              i figure this one has done me good for the last 6 years and i think i spent about 1300 on it roughly.
              so if i can build a new one for a similar price point, if not a bit more, with all new parts, ill feel most at ease then and im also really keen for the new gen stuff and the lower power consumption/higher performance they'll bring. and i really am keen to get a HBM based gpu.
              my current rig lets me play the games i want at the moment. it just suffers when it comes to new release AAA titles.

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