Amazon Reveals How to Build an Echo Speaker With Raspberry Pi

Amazon wants to push its Alexa voice assistant as far and wide as possible, so much so that one of the company’s employees has released a step-by-step guide to building an Alexa-powered speaker yourself with a Raspberry Pi.

The DIY echo can be made using a cheap USB microphone, speaker and several other easy to obtain parts. The code is shared on the Github platform and was posted by Amit Jotwani, Amazon’s senior evangelist for Alexa. It’s his job to help developers and tinkerers. This in turn generates interest from a technical perspective and all of a sudden – millions of people are tweaking code, modding parts and making some really nice inventions with the Pi and Amazon’s software.

It would take some basic technical knowledge to assemble and make the echo work via the Raspberry Pi. However the guides are very good and it should be fairly easy for the average joe to make. The Echo is now on sale for $180 – it hasn’t been released in the UK as of yet.  There is one downside to running it off the Rasberry Pi, though, you can’t wake it up by saying “Alexa” and to run a voice command you have to press a button.

DXT Mouse 2 Wireless Ergonomic Vertical Mouse Review

Introduction


We see a lot of mice here at eTeknix, and they certainly come in all shapes and sizes, but the DXT Mouse 2 is by far one of the most unique. While we love a great gaming mouse, packed with programmable buttons, RGB lighting and other crazy features, sometimes practicality wins out. The DXT is a vertical mouse, with the buttons on the side to provide your hand and wrist with a more natural resting position, helping eliminate stress and wrist pain, a common issue for a lot of people who use computers for many hours a day.

There are two models available, wired and wireless, and we have the wireless model at our disposal today. As you can see, it’s quite a compact unit, with an ambidextrous design and for those who like an easy setup, it’s plug and play ready.

There may not be a lot of features here, but all the basics are covered and there’s even a four level DPI adjuster for the optical sensor, giving you 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000 DPI options.

  • Read the launch story for this product.
  • The world’s first ambidextrous ergo mouse.
  • Can be used right- or left-handed (instantly switchable).
  • Compact (ideal for laptop users).
  • High-precision vertical mouse design, well suited to detailed work.
  • Fits most hand sizes.
  • Designed by UK ergonomist/physiotherapist team.
  • The wireless version now features an on/off switch to prolong battery life.
  • Now with enhanced finish and quality.
  • New zinc base plate to increase weight and stability.
  • Maximum resolution increased. Options are now 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000 dpi.

The packaging is nice and compact, with a few simple details on the front. Most notable, this is the light touch version, with lighter use switches.

There’s a few pictures on the box, but otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward, so let’s get it out the box and take a look.

In the box, you’ll find a collection of documentation, a USB charging cable, USB dongle for the wireless connectivity and a protective soft carry pouch.

As you can see, this really is no ordinary mouse, the left and right mouse buttons, as well as the scroll wheel are almost 90-degrees compared to most desktop mice. There’s a nice mixture of well finished plastics on DXT, giving it a nice weighted and premium feel. Despite looking completely sideways, it’s actually quite nice looking and well designed.

The scroll wheel is nice and large, set into the body of the mouse and it’s got a light tactile bump when rotated, as well as a soft rubber grip for added control.

The back of the mouse is scooped out, giving it a nice ergonomic thumb rest, while the base of the mouse is wider, giving it excellent stability.

At the rear, you’ll find a small switch for moving from left to right-handed mode, as having it the wrong way would result in inverted mouse Y axis.

There’s also a micro-USB charging port here, so no need to worry about replacing the batteries. I gave it a full charge when I opened the box and a week later, with a few hours use each day and its still going strong.

On the base, you’ll find four small slipmats, which provide a really good amount of glide, it works well on harder cloth surfaces, but just as well on soft mouse mats too. There’s an optical sensor in the middle, a master power switch to save battery and a small button to toggle the DPI level.

The mouse is surprisingly small, but since you don’t need to rest your palm on it, it doesn’t need to be as big as most mice. You’ll also notice it’s symmetrical, so it’s just as comfortable to use in either your left or right hand.

The mouse supports a fingertip grip, similar in feel to a claw or fingertip grip on most other mice, giving you light and nimble control that is great for small hand movements and precision work.

Having your wrist at this angle certainly takes a lot of strain off your hand and if you suffer from CTS and many other arm/wrist/hand pain conditions, while also acting as a preventative tool for those who would like to avoid similar issues.

The optical sensor in the DXT is quite good, I wasn’t expecting much from it if I’m honest, but as you can see, the readout is pretty clean and smooth. There’s certainly a slight dose of angle snapping and/or straight line correction going on, but it’s quite acceptable on a mouse that isn’t designed for gaming and can be beneficial when working in CAD, office and image editing software.

There’s no doubt that the mouse is comfortable to use, but it certainly takes some getting used to.  Drawing these charts did prove a little difficult, especially since I was using a normal desktop mouse for most of the day before it, and many years before that. However, after a bit of practice, it starts getting a lot easier and damn is it comfortable! I personally suffer from wrist pain and have to take regular breaks to prevent it getting too bad, and while this mouse won’t cure that for me, it does allow me to work a lot longer before the pain becomes an issue and it has been slowly improved over a few days of use.

The left and right mode switch is great too, as I am an ambidextrous user and being able to quickly switch between left and right is simply awesome for me. Of course, not everyone is comfortable using both left and right handed modes, but it’s nice that lefties aren’t left out of day-to-day use of the DXT

The sensor DPI mode switch on the bottom can be a little fiddly to reach and does involve you lifting the mouse to change, but since this isn’t a gaming mouse, there’s rarely a need to make rapid changes between DPI modes. Overall, the DXT is a joy to use, even if it does have a little bit of a learning curve to get use to effectively click and scrolling sideways.

Afro Samurai 2 Devs Pull Game from Steam & Offer Full Refunds

It has been an erratic year for the games market, following a selection of potentially great games that launched broken, Afro Samurai 2 is the latest game to be struck with failure. Rather than drag the process of a dying game out any longer, the developers at Versus Evil have decided to pull the plug and give all their customers a full refund, what they’ll do after that remains to be seen.

Steve Escalante of Versus Evil revealed that the game has been pulled from Steam and that they’re now offering refunds for Volume 1. Meanwhile, they’ve also cancelled the development of Volume 2 & 3 and this is true for all versions on consoles as well as PC.

Gamers didn’t like the game, and now it seems Versus Evil agree with them.

“The game was a failure. We could not do, in good conscience, Volume 2 and Volume 3. So we’ve begun the process, it’s been a long process to figure it out because Sony has never really had to do this in this way, but we’re returning all the money. So across the board we’re putting out an apology saying ‘sorry about this’.”

I doubt they made that decision lightly, but it’s good of them to admit where they went wrong, fix the problem for their customers and move on. Hopefully the studio can recover, learn from any mistakes made and come back in the not too distant future with a much better product.

“We’re Versus Evil; a company perspective, from a partnership perspective and now we have to do it from a consumer perspective. So we pulled it down, because we didn’t want to exacerbate it anymore and then we’re refunding the money.”

Did you play Afro Samurai 2? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below.

Apple Campus 2 ‘Spaceship’ Construction Progress Recorded in 4K Video

Apple’s second Campus dubbed, ‘Spaceship’ is progressing at an impressive pace as constructions teams try to complete this mammoth project on time. Campus 2 is set to feature a massive ring-shaped building which measures 2.8 million square feet and includes parking areas. Additionally, there will be a 100,000 square foot fitness center, 120,000 square foot auditorium, and dedicated visitor’s area which contains a cafe, Apple Store and observation deck.

Recently, a drone pilot named Duncan Sinfield recorded overhead footage showing the construction process in pin-sharp 4K video. This provides a fascinating insight into a project of this scale and how each small area is slowly coming together. Although, there are concerns regarding privacy and the pilot’s ability to record footage without any restrictions. I highly doubt Apple gave their consent for this footage to be recorded.

On the other hand, perhaps their security measures should be improved to combat drones given the advanced technology at the heart of this venture. Clearly, the Campus 2 emphasizes Apple’s prosperity and design philosophy. I’m fascinated to see how the project will develop and what the final campus will look like.

It seems Apple’s financial success isn’t slowing down any time soon, and who knows how many of these campuses could exist in 10-20 years time.

The Incredibles 2 Is Brad Birds Next Film

Can you remember the Incredibles? Pretty awesome film in my opinion. While promoting Tomorrowland, director Brad Bird confirmed that his next film will be the much awaited The Incredibles 2. Brad Bird wrote and directed the original Incredibles back in 2004. He recently confirmed that he was working on putting the sequel together.

“I had a lot of ideas for the original Incredibles that I didn’t get a chance to use that I like. I have ideas that I wanted to pursue a little bit and there wasn’t enough time in Incredibles. There are new ideas I have, and I think there are enough of those together to make an interesting movie. I’m just focusing on getting Tomorrowland out into the world and playing with the Incredibles sandbox again.” 

One of the keys to Pixar’s ability to do what it does is the giant, powerful render farm located in its main headquarters building. This is serious computing power, and on “Cars 2,” it required an average of 11.5 hours to render each frame.But some sequences were especially complex, particularly those involving ray tracing–which involves simulating light hitting surfaces, essentially “trying to simulate photons.” And as a result, a huge amount of computing power was needed to process frames that took as much as 80 or 90 hours to render.And that meant that the studio “bulked up our render farm.”He said that Pixar had to triple its size, and today, the render farm features 12,500 cores on Dell render blades. As well, the file servers, network backbone, and every other piece of the computing puzzle was boosted in order to handle the making of “Cars 2.”

We can expect Pixar to be using the render farm to its full capacity in the Incredibles 2 and we can only hope that there will be some stunning animation techniques.

 

Collider posted a YouTube video with Brad explaining all :

Thank you to cnet and comicbook for this information

Image courtesy of Pixar

Pacific Rim 2 Release Date Published

Pacific Rim, Robots vs Aliens on an unholy level; has made waves in the Sci-Fi genre since its release back in 2013. Well its sequel, Pacific Rim 2, has been pushed back a few months; from its initial release date of April 7 2017 to August 4 2017. This delay is only a tiny amount in the grand scheme of things and a delay can only mean good things for the final product quality.

PR2 Director Guillermo del Toro stated that the film will be a direct sequel to the events of the first movie, continuing its focus on the main characters of Raleigh and Mako, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi respectively.

“The characters I love will return. Raleigh, Mako, Newt, Gottlieb and who knows, maybe even Hannibal Chau – but we are taking them into a fresh territory that will display amazing sights and battles. The first film set the stage and now we’re ready to have a blast,” del Toro said last June.

The news follows an update from Universal that it’s Warcraft movie is facing a delay from March 2016 to June 2016. I personally can’t wait for the release, I loved the original film; I kept talking myself into the new Godzilla installment was a prequel. Are you looking forward to the film? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to IGN for providing us with this information

USA Intends to Provide Internet to Villages via Laser

According to US technology news website, TechnologyReview, several US communications carriers are going to pilot a technology which will see a laser beam internet up to speeds of 2 Gbps through the air – meaning underground cables don’t need to be laid. This advanced laser and millimeter wave technology is said to be a replacement for conventional fiber, utilized in situations where the population is sparsely populated – including remote US towns and African Villages.

Why not mobile technology? The reports claim that although mobile technology is generally a good alternative, cables will still need to be run to telephone towers tracing to the ‘internet backbone’  – providing a huge cost for manufacturers. This new laser and millimeter technology will allow these US communications carriers to beam a data transmission at a distance of up to 10 kilometers without the need to dig trenches or erect towers. The first countries to be testing this technology are the United States, Mexico, Nigeria and some parts of Africa.

AOptix is the original inventor of this capability, claiming that they believe laser communications will provide an ideal alternative to optical fiber – once again due to the costing nature of laying cables. Data shows that in New York City, the cost of laying just one kilometer of fiber optic cable can cost up to $800,000.

This isn’t a simple point a to point b device either. AOptix claims that you can set up multiple devices to be set as a relay, allowing for 10km worth of transmission to take place per unit. There are a few possible issues with this technology that they haven’t covered in their releases however. How much do these units cost and do they need line-of-sight?

The announcement of this new technology also could have military use, but we’re very interested to know if it needs direct line-of-sight to function.

Image courtesy of Chiphell

The iPad Air 2 Comes out on Top in Performance Tests

Only just hitting the market, Apple has incorporated some blisteringly fast tech into their new champion tablet – the iPad Air 2. Featuring a 64-bit A8X chip running at 1.5GHz with 2GB of supporting RAM, the iPad Air 2 boasts a 40% performance increase when compared to its predecessor, the iPad Air. Comparing this to other tablets on the market, Apple has given itself the edge in performance as seen in the graphical representation below.

On top of beating current market offerings, the iPad Air 2 is also rated higher than the unreleased Nexus 9 – set for debut in the first weeks of November.

The numbers don’t lie – looking at the image you can see the Air 2 provides a 4500 point score in the multi-threaded approach and a respectable 1800 points single-threaded when compared to the second place finisher, the Nexus 9, which scored at 3150 and 1800 respectfully. This can be also viewed as a small win for AMD, blowing the Nexus 9’s Nvidia Tegra K1 chip out of the water.

Are you in the market for a new tablet? We’re interested in knowing what direction you’ll be heading – does the information above sway your opinion either way?

Cover courtesy of News.com.au

Inset image courtesy of Apple Insider

Top Gun 2 Gets The Green Light… No, Seriously!

I feel this article needs some backing music. So let’s just open up this link in a new tab. All set? Skipped the adverts on YouTube? Good.

Even after 20 years of being grounded, it looks like the Top Gun sequel is finally set to take off as Paramount gets behind the sequel to give it the shake up it needed. It’s long been known that the sequel was in the works, but after ten years in development hell and the death of the original director Tony Scott, it was long believed that things had been abandoned.

As with most things in the movie industry, all you need is a big cheque book and Paramount of got Tom Cruise on board to reprise his role, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and even writer Justin Marks is on board to try fix up the since abandoned script draft from Peter Craig.

Personally I think this film is going to be utter guff, I just can’t imagine it gaining the same iconic status as it once did, but no doubt enough people will line up on day one to justify the cost of making it.

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TweakTown.

 

Oculus Rift DK2 Support Now Available in Half Life 2

Good news Oculus Fans, as Valve classic Half Life 2 has finally gotten the update you’ve been waiting for. The game will now support the recently released and much updated Oculus Rift DK2 headset thanks to a recent update and while I know many of you are still waiting for your DK2 (myself included) it’s is great to see the big AAA titles getting these updates.

If you already have your Oculus and you’re wondering how to get it working in the game, you need to go to Steam > Library > Tools, from there you need Steam VR > Properties > Beta and to make sure you’re opted into the beta. Once updated you’ll need to restart steam and will then find a VR setting in Half Life 2. You’ll also need to leave your Oculus Utility on and put the device in extended mode.

Also thank you Reddit for pointing out that the command line “-freq 75” will remove the blurriness from the game for those using DK2.

VR Half Life, should be enough to keep us entertained until Half Life 3… right?

Thank you /r/Oculus for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of RoadtoVR.

Apple’s Second Campus Build in Full Swing

Pictured above is the scale model for Apple’s Campus 2, being constructed in Cupertino, California.

The new building is to be completely circular in shape, includes some crazy extras and has already set the giant manufacturer $160 million in purchases for the land rights. But as for recent updates, there has been some sneak peek photos posted to Twitter by San Francisco news and traffic reporter Ron Cervi:

Cervi’s photo confirms the curved structuring and you can pinpoint a few underground tunnels that have already been dug out.

This campus was originally announced in 2006 by the late Steve Jobs with a commencement date of 2013 set. Unfortunately due to delays, it didn’t begin construction until 2014 with an extended finishing date of “sometime in 2016”.

Built to house 13,000 employees, it’s certainly an extravagant spaceship look-alike building. Believed to be featuring 7,000 trees, a 3,000 person café, a 1,000 seat auditorium, 300,000 square feet of research and development, fitness facilities and even includes an orchard.

Unfortunately, that’s all the information available at hand currently, but when there are future updates we will be sure to report.

What do you think of such extravagant establishment setups? Do you think companies like Apple, Blizzard and Google are going over the top with their facilities? Or is it all part of their company culture and brand recognition plans?

Cover image courtesy of Design Collector

Construction update image courtesy of Ron Cervi

NVIDIA Shield 2 Launch Set for August

NVIDIA’s Project Shield is without a doubt a huge success and as you can see from our reviews on this compact gaming system (Shield full review, emulation on the Shield, games to play on the loo and Shield as a desktop replacement) it is simply one of our favourite tech gadgets to have at the moment.

With the Shield being undoubtedly popular, who would NVIDIA be if they were not to bring out a fresher updated model at some stage. As it happens they are doing just that and next month we will see the second generation console hitting the shelves.

Built around NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 SoC, the Shield 2 will offer users 16GB of internal memory and 4GB RAM with the capability to stream 1080p content at 60Hz to a connected display. Like the current Shield though, the performance that you experience on the console is largely down to the performance of your desktop gaming system so don’t be surprised if you get laggy performance if you’re running newer games on a yester-year spec. In addition to streaming over a local network the second gen unit is set to offer streaming over the internet and like all things, the connection that you have at home will have a considerable impact on what you can play.

As far as the Android status goes, there is no conformation that Android L is to be featured along with the AEP (Android Expansion Pack) so there is really going to be a lot more to see on that front for now. Although we know that next month will see the new units coming to market, there is not any word as of yet on the pricing, obviously it will demand a premium over the first gen units, but how much of a premium is yet to be announced.

Source: WCCFTech

Gangnam Style Passes Two Billion Views On YouTube

Love it or hate it, Psy’s Gangnam Style has undoubtedly been the biggest hit single around the world since its début on YouTube back in 2012. Since then it has taken the world by storm and even though the are many people who can’t stand hearing the track over and over again – myself included, it appears that are large number of people around the world are still obsessed with it. There is no question of doubt that the Korean artist, who has been producing music for the last 13 years, has made the track truly unique, including the iconic ‘horse riding’ dance move and as its popularity has grown, we have seen dozens of parodies and remakes appear online.

As Psy’s fame and fortune has grown, in December 2012, only 5 months after the track was released, Gangman Style became the first video ever to pass through the 1 billion views barrier and now as the track nears its two year anniversary [so-to-speak], Psy claims another YouTube first as the video passes 2 billion hits. To put this into comparison, the next hit video on YouTube’s rankings comes from another controversial love or hate artist – Justin Beiber with his track – Baby, reaching only 1 billion views to date. To add to the list of hits, Psy claims three of the top fifteen top videos on YouTube, alongside the likes of ‘Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!’

Just in case you’ve not heard Gangman Style (in which case I’ll be asking where you’ve been for the last two years), let’s have another listen to the most popular track of the 21st Century.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/9bZkp7q19f0[/youtube]

QNAP SilentNAS HS-210 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When we look at where a NAS is typically designed to be placed, integration into a home A/V setup is not overly common surprisingly. Whilst there are a countless number of two and four bay systems that offer media playback capabilities, which I will add is great to see for the SOHO markets, their tower like design is not always that convenient to fit in with the DVD players, surround sound systems and game console stack that many of us have underneath our TV’s in the lounge – like the photo above funnily enough which is a quick glimpse into the system that we are taking a look at today.

QNAP as we know are one of the big players in the NAS market, lining up alongside Thecus, Asustor and Synology to name but a few and like everyone else, their product range spreads out from the basic single bay systems that are found on the entry-level end of the scale, right up to the 16+ bay rackmount systems that are built for enterprise and datacentre use. What QNAP have noticed though is that there is a gap in the market for systems like the one in hand today and considering many home users are now looking towards a network storage solution for their home media, now is a perfect time to hit that market with a system that blends right in to the A/V stacks that we all have in one way or another.

Built around a two bay design and supporting the latest 5TB drives, the HS-210 SilentNAS is, as the name would suggest, a system that takes noise head on and following some carefully planned design work, they have created a system that is totally passive with no fans included in the system. No fans = no noise and whilst we do have to account for the fact that spinning platter do generate a certain level of acoustic output, they are nowhere near as acoustic as they were only a few years ago. Another challenge that QNAP have decided to take on is hiding the drive bays away from view. Whereas having drive bays on view on a typical desktop NAS, in a home theater setup they’re not the most elegant of objects to look at, so a front cover that hides the bays away acts as a simple, yet effective solution.

In addition to offering up the looks that home theatre users are likely to want, QNAP are aware that the price point is also key to securing the purchase, so a price point of around $290 / £240 should whet the appetite of any tech enthusiast – at least that is the theory.

There is no surprises in seeing a simple and to the point kit list with this being an entry-level system. Along side a quick setup guide and a couple of sets of screws for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, we get a single Ethernet cable and a DC power adaptor with regional mains cable to suit.

Asustor AS-302T 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Since we had our first look at an Asustor product little over four months ago, the freshman to the NAS market have been busy extending their product line-up with the addition of four systems in a new entry-level ‘Personal to Home’ category. As seen when I put the AS-604T through its paces, the subsidiary company of Asus have clearly not lost their edge when it comes to modern design; even though two and four bay systems generally follow the same basic design pattern.

The AS-302T that I’m going to have a look at today is part of the ‘Home to Power User’ group of systems that Asustor have to offer; however there are one or two distinct features that will set this system apart over say the AS-604T that I previously reviewed. Whilst the main specification of the system is, as expected, lower than some of the more premium units, home entertainment and media serving capabilities are included to wet the appetite of any home entertainment technophile.

There are a large number of systems these days that claim to offer the home user the perfect system for streaming audio and video content from, but what most of these lack is the ability to do this directly from the NAS, as opposed to stream the content through a 3rd party system such as a smart TV or laptop. The AS-302T however has this covered. On the rear of the system is a fully operational HDMI port and inside the box we find a remote control. Place these together with a range of downloadable media playback applications that include the popular XBMC front end and what we have is an all-in-one file storage system come media centre in one compact package.

Inside the box, Asustor include all the basics needed to get the system up and running with an AC power adaptor, CAT5e patch lead, two sets of screws for 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, installation CD, quick start guide and we have also been given the optional remote control for the systems media functions.

Western Digital Black² Dual Drive 120GB SSD & 1TB HDD Review

Introduction


Solid state storage as we know it today is certainly the way forward and this is proven by the fact that it is the storage medium of choice for any enthusiast or performance user. Whilst the speeds are fantastic, there is still a slight cause for concern to be seen when it comes to the amount of storage that these pioneering drives have to offer. Whilst flash storage is considerably cheaper than it was a few years ago, a typical 240GB SSD will set you back around £160-180 (~$260-295 US) and if you want to go any higher than this with a 480GB or even a 960GB drive then you really are starting to look at some serious money. On the flip side, the price of traditional mechanical storage is more affordable than ever and with 4TB drives available for as little as ~£133 (~$216 US) it really is a case of prioritising what is the greater need – is it going to be performance or capacity?

In a desktop system, this dilemma is typically not a problem, as the space is available to accommodate both solid state and mechanical drives and this is what we see many users opting for in the market today. When we move over to notebooks and ultra books however, the story couldn’t be any more different. Speaking for the vast majority of laptops that are out on the market today, storage is very limited and typically we find space for just one 2.5″ drive and no more. For a number of people, this is not really a real issue, as there is of course external hard drives and flash drives that can be used to extend your storage capacity, but when we look at it, this is not necessarily a practical option – especially for those of us who are on the go all the time. One option would be to remove the optical drive and install a 2.5″ drive adaptor in its place and this is good, but not every laptop has an optical drive, so this leads us back round to square one – do you choose performance or capacity?

One option that is available to you is to get a hybrid drive that offers up hard drive capacity but with the read performance of flash storage. The catch is that this isn’t really what we would call a proper solid state and hard drive combo as the flash portion of the drive is there purely to cache the commonly used data, making it quicker to access whilst the remainder of the data is still held on the spinning platters. What we really want is to have a drive that is effectively two in one and that is just what Western Digital have to offer with the Black² Dual Drive – to separate storage mediums, but in one single 2.5″ form factor – what we once thought to be a dream is now a strong reality.

Synology DS214Play 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


When the imminent arrival of the DS214 was brought to people’s attention earlier in the year, hardware transcoding was a hot topic and the news that a NAS with improved on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices was also on the horizon only stirred more interest towards Synology. So without any more delay, it’s time to delve into the world of the DS214Play.

We’ve recently seen a few of Synology’s 2-bay systems and prior to  this review we had a look at the DS214Se – a special edition NAS that has budget users in mind – giving them a simplified NAS feature list. On the outside, the DS214Play looks nothing like the DS214Se and there is a good reason for this; whilst the DS214Se wants to make its stand in the budget end of the market, the DS214Play is aiming for a more premium look, whilst not hitting the same high prices that we see some 2-bay systems reaching. With the design and build blue-print derived from the DS414 and the little brother to this system the DS214 looking almost identical, the difference as always is what lies inside the system.

The crucial difference with this system over everything else is the Intel Eversport CPU that Synology have chosen. Many NAS options are not capable of transcoding media files – such as video – into another format for mobile devices such as phones and tablets to playback, however hardware transcoding is where the DS214Play pulls its weight. Thanks to the floating-point unit ability of the Evansport CPU, transcoding is a key part of the systems design, giving users the flexibility to watch whatever format of content they like without the worry of file compatibility.

When we look at the performance figures later on in this review we will be looking at the systems performance figures for video playback and processing photo albums as these are the two main area where this system should [in theory] top the charts. This is why we are here, so does it make a difference or is it all a load of pointless sales talk?

The DS214Play brings us a new lease of life to Synology’s packaging with a bright white and green design to the packaging, whilst inside the box there is the usual array of accessories for a system of this size.

Synology DS214Se ‘Special Edition’ 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Synology have been hot on the market recently with the release of the DS414 4-bay NAS – the latest revision to their popular 4-bay desktop range as it replaces the top-selling DS413. One of the main focus points of the DS414 is the price point for a pretty good level of performance. As we saw it may not be the fastest 4-bay system available, but when it’s priced considerably lower (>£100) than some of its rival units, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who is focussing more on raw capacity over performance.

Keeping on the same line, every NAS vendor has a few budget units in their product catalogue, however Synology have a more equal distribution across their range in the terms of performance and cost. As a brand Synology are not afraid to advertise that they build cheaper systems that offer lower performance figures and there is a good reason for this. When you take into account the overall cost of a typical 2 or 4-bay system with the cost of hard drives on top can easily tip over the £500 mark (or more if you go far a higher performance system); that price tag for some people does equate to a substantial chunk of money. For a number of users, the cost is simply too much to churn out. Typically those fighting the battle of cost is the home user, especially with today’s credit crunch here in the UK – where the cost of living when marked against your income is a bit out of proportion. As a result the goal is to get as much raw capacity as possible and for as little as possible.

As we’ve seen before, Synology use a simple naming system for their products, and those ending with a ‘j’ are built with capacity over performance in mind. To take things a step further, Synology have now re-written the rule book as they create a 2-bay system that is more budget conscious than ever. Bring forth the DS214Se. In the same way that the DS414 is the successor the DS413, the DS214 is the new model to the DS213 and the Se (Special Edition) marking puts this model in a position where it is even more budget friendly than before.

With the aim of the game keeping the overall purchase cost down, Synology have removed a number of features from the DS214 specification and have been more ruthless than ever. As a result, the DS214Se is going to be ideal for anyone who is a) on a very tight and b) not needing to run multiple features at the same time.

Whilst the systems specification has been cut down, the bundled extras include everything that you’ll ever need. Alongside the NAS, there is an AC power adaptor, Ethernet cable, a quick installation guide, warranty leaflet, and finally two sets of screws for fitting the drives and for holding the enclosure together.

Synology DS213j 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


This week I’m taking a look at a NAS from a company that I’ve been wanting to get hands on with for quite a while now. In the UK NAS markets, QNAP and Thecus are two of the top players, however there is another company that have just as much of a presence as those that I’ve just mentioned – this is of course Synology.

Formed in 2000 by two ex-Microsoft employees – Cheen Liao and Philip Wong – Synology’s goal was to bring enterprise level NAS technologies down to an affordable price point for the small-to-medium business market and later on the small office / home office user as well. Whilst it took four years for Synology’s first NAS the DiskStation DS-101 to reach market, over the last nine years we have seen many solutions come to market under two main categories, DiskStation (DS for short) and RackStation (RS for Short) and in disk capacities varying from one bay solutions, right up to their biggest rack-mount unit which holds up to 12 hard drives for the biggest storage capacity that Synology can offer.

Before we delve into the in and outs of the DS213j that I’ve got to play with today, its worth noting the company’s very clever numbering system that to me is one of the easiest to understand out of those that I’ve seen in the past. using this NAS as an example, the model number is broken down into four parts. DS-2-13-j

The first part of the name is with DS or RS referring to either a DiskStation or a RackStation model with the first number that follows indicating how many bays the system holds – in this case 2. The second set of digits give us the year that the system was released, so 13 here refers to a release year of 2013. After that there is one of three options to be had. These are as follows:

  • ‘+’ – this is the performance series of units offing the best features that Synology have to offer
  • the standard series is next and this has no digit after the year indicator – for example DS213 – these units offer a balance between price and performance
  • ‘j’ – Units with a j in their model name are geared for the entry-level user whose focus is more on getting the largest capacity they can, whilst not worrying too much about the performance side of things.

With this all explained, it’s now easy to see, just from the model name ‘DS213j’ that we have an entry-level 2-bay system that was built this year and comes as a desktop design – nice and easy to understand if I have to say so.

Last of all before I dive into the guts of this compact little system, Its worth having a look at what comes in the box along with the system itself. Alongside a quick installation guide that shows how to install the drives into the DiskStation, there is a CD with the operating system on as well as the systems full user manual for reference. Also included is a CAT5e patch lead and a UK clover leaf power cable and inverter giving the DiskStation a DC power connection and two sets of screws – one set to secure the drives in place and the other set of three screws to hold the cover of the unit in place once the disks are installed as we will see on the next page.

Teratrend (SilverStone) TS231U 2 Bay USB3.0 RAID Enclosure Review

Introduction


The storage markets are growing rapidly at the moment and this is certainly clear from the large number of home and small office users that are jumping onto the NAS bandwagon to increase their storage capacity to satisfy their needs. For some people though the prospect of setting up network devices is still either a daunting process or even more simply, too much hassle. Having a solution that is virtually plug and play is still the main choice of many users and as a result there is a market flooded by USB enclosures for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.

Teratrend is a name that some may look at and turn away as its not recognised, but the sooner its realised that their a sub-brand of SilverStone – the same people of manufacture many great looking chassis and power supplies as well as coolers, the attention is soon brought back with the prospect of a high quality, well build unit.

As storage is not the main focus of SilverStone, the Teratrend brand was brought in to distinguish the new line of products a few years ago and since then we have seen a number of two and four bay options that take the effort out of storage expansion with say to use and simple devices that look good at the same time on any desk.

Like many other drive enclosures on the market, the contents are rather simple and alongside the enclosure itself we find a kettle lead, eSATA and USB3.0 data cables and a simple manual that outlines the RAID selection and drive installation process.

BeQuiet Product Updates At CeBIT 2013

We have a sit down with Aaron from BeQuiet to see what’s new in their product lineup. Three new items are on show this time round with a non-modular PSU, entry level fan and new heatsink.

Following the trend that was set last year, we can only sit and have a beer with Aaron during the busy day as he takes us through the new items that are on show in the Planet Reseller at CeBIT.

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