AMD Radeon Vega!!! Ay or Nay ?

Let’s talk about new line of Radeon graphics that are soon to be released.

What is Radeon Vega?

Radeon Vega is all new, most advanced AMD GPU ever created. It uses second generation High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) used in new, worlds most advanced way. The Vega GPU features a revolutionary memory controller capable of  leveraging system memory, flash-based SSDs and new storage-class memory types to create incredible new possibilities for gaming, design, and compute analysis workloads.


Main features of Vega

Turbocharged computing
The Vega GPU introduces the Next-Gen Compute Unit that is highly optimised for incredible peak throughput across a range of data types. This NCU makes it possible to deliver higher clock speeds and higher instructions per clock resulting in up to 2X throughput increase over previous designs.

Next gen Pixel engine
The Next-Gen Pixel Engine found in the Vega GPU is designed to boost shading performance more efficiently to bring the latest VR and  extreme resolution games to life.

Freesync 2 Ready
Get ready to experience smooth brilliant HDR gaming with Vega. Enjoy vibrant HDR content while eliminating image tears and choppiness for effortlessly smooth gameplay.3 4
Low Frame-Rate Compensation, Low Latency, Plug and Play and HDR Ready. That’s FreeSync™ 2.

Overall – we are very excited for this new graphics card line and it’s a definite “YES” from us! We remember when AMD released AMD R9 Fury X, it was matching performance of Nvidia GTX 980Ti, offered liquid cooling out of the box, with price lower by £300 on average.

This time Radeon is aiming to outperform Nvidia’s GTX 1080Ti in same price field.
Seeing Radeon to ditch the colour red and moving to all new blue/yellow coloured design for Vega graphics cards, adds few points to our excitement. We cant wait to get our hands on one of those cards and perform real life tests.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Liquid damage and digital devices!

Today we decided to let you know what exactly happens when you damage your phone, laptop or tablet with water or other liquid.

So what happens when you drop phone into tap water? Well, quite a few things… Even tap water has small amount of salts – NaCl and other chemicals. When salts are dissolved in water, they separate into different electrically charged atoms called ions. Salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl), breaks up into positive Na ions and negative Cl ions. If you place a battery with a negative pole and a positive pole into water, the negative ions will be attracted to the positive pole and the positive ions will be attracted to the negative pole thus creating a closed circuit. So what that means is that it is the ions that are dissolved in the water that make water conduct electricity. You now submerge any kind of powered board in the water which contains those salts, minerals etc (call it a solution) and you will short circuit any open contact. If it is off, you will be dealing with the corrosion that these impurities can cause, especially under SMD components, IC’s etc.

Sometimes quickly drying your device helps, but minerals could have short circuited the internal electronics and that can badly damage the device. Most of the time we advice to place water damaged device to bowl of rice, or even better – plastic box with silica gel packets inside (the small bags that you get with new handback, wallet, clothes etc ) so it can collect the moisture from inside of the device. Once that’s done it is advised to reach out for qualified repair shop for any liquid damage treatment regarding corrosion – which is inevitable unless you spilled purified water. Shops like us, have all necessary gear and chemicals required to remove any marks of corrosion, unless device was damaged more than month ago. Corrosion – green or grey coloured “crust” can travel through copper connectors and get inside of chips damaging them permanently. So the sooner it gets treated, the higher are chance to save it.

So far we have treated several laptops, smartphones and couple of tablets. Performing “anti corrosion” service also minimises or completely eliminates the chances for any internal components to corrode. In the picture you can see circuit board before, and after our treatment.

So, keep your devices away from water. If you had it damaged, give us a ring and we will definitely help you!

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

iPhone 7 Plus LCD replacement – Our experience

The phone was in pretty poor condition with badly cracked LCD and touch digitiser. We bought replacement screen and got ready with replacement.

The phone disassembly start was just like other iphones since iphone5 – it had two pentalobe screws at the bottom of the phone. Now the other iphones are quite easy to open after removing these screws, exceptions apply only for iPhone 6S and iPhone 7. The inner frame is surrounded by thin layer of quite strong adhesive which holds the screen in place, Apple did not seem to rely on screen frame clips only like on previous models. We’ve been able to separate the screen and the phone, to find another surprise- new placement of the LCD flex cable. While the last 5 generations of iPhones had LCD connector on the top right side of the phone, iPhone 7 has connector that goes from bottom of the LCD, and plugs into the connector at the middle of the phone. As we are quite used to old construction, we would normally lift the bottom of the screen up, to reveal the covering plates, under which there are LCD flex cable connectors. But inside iPhone 7 things are different. Lifting bottom of the screen up too far may damage the flex cables. Instead, after separating LCD and phone body, the screen part flips to the right side of the phone. The slack of flex cables is just enough to put screen right next to the phone’s body, and unscrew the covering plate screws. There were another surprise. The screws that secures the covering plates and most of components inside the phone are not Philips screws as it was in previous iPhone models. Instead – They have used tri-way screws which we only saw in Macbook Pro’s, securing the battery. We weren’t expecting this, but luckily we had the screwdriver that fits.

Removing the plates and disconnecting the screen from the main body is fairly easy to do. Hard part was migrating components like front facing camera/proximity sensor/light sensor flex cable with earpiece/loudspeaker, and home button which is not a button anymore. The home button with covering plate is secured by four tri-way screws and it holds the home “button” and flex connectors in place. However, the home “button” pops out through the front of the phone. While disassembling the screen unit we found that “button” does not have any mechanical parts. Basically, it’s just a touch sensor with finger print scanner. The flex of this sensor/button is being held in place by soft adhesive so to remove it, you won’t need much of effort.

Now going for earpiece part. This is where we saw a big trouble. Previous model of this connector joining several sensors and earpiece connector – was on a single piece of flex cable. In iPhone 7 Plus there are two cable soldered in the middle.

One flat flex cable is meant only for front facing camera. The other part is meant for proximity, ambient light sensors, front microphone and earpiece connector. These two flat cables are soldered together and if you pull it slightly, it will separate them, requiring to buy new part (that actually happened to us).

Migrating all parts to a new screen is fairly straight forward job, the hardest part is to disassemble the phone. So good luck with your repair.

Thanks for reading!

Builds 10: Operating system

Builds 10: Operating System (OS)

Once you have all the parts and ready for computer assembly, you need to think about – what OS I’m going to use for it!

Well there is a few options there and some of choices can depend on the parts used in the build. So let’s have a look at the most popular operating systems and see which are the best for gamer, home user or office clerk.

windows-7

Windows 7 is one of the most popular operating systems just because of ease of use and suitability for any user base. Gamers find it easy to use and supported with all of current games and programs. It’s great to run on older machines, as media player, office document editor etc.

The only downside – it’s slightly outdated operating system that can support up to DX11 version, which new games are built on. Therefore it offers realistic physics, reflection, water particle acceleration etc. but looses to DX12 which is being used on Windows 10.

windows-10-logo

Windows 10 is currently latest operating system and is used on over 60% of computers worldwide. Lots of people used free upgrade from windows 7/8/8.1 to Windows 10 increasing number of Windows 10 users. So why this OS so good? It has DX12 which especially benefits gamers. When Microsoft released their Xbox One gaming console they wanted to squeeze as much power and graphics quality as possible. They have developed DX12 which paired with AMD graphics, chipset and CPU get massive performance improvement. AMD hardware was used in their console, which was same as desktop or laptop therefore – benefiting non console users, which lead to AMD being a lot faster than Intel. Basically, a lot of AMD budget users gained great improvement on lots of games after upgrading to windows 10. So if you’re a gamer is a lot better to choose Windows 10, especially after recent XBOX integration into Operating System.

linux

Linux. Well linux is good for programmers. Regular pc user describes use of Linux as riding a bike, except bike is on fire, you’re on fire, everything is on fire and you’re in hell. It’s difficult for regular consumer, but advanced computer users find it great because you can control almost every bit of your computer, while using Linux.
It will run even on old 10-15 year old computers as hardware requirements are really low.

Thanks for checking out and stay tuned for more!

Did you know that at eHallam Tech Solutions, we can repair your Apple iPhone 5 s/c/se and get you back with a working handset. You can get your device repaired at our repair centre at 377 South Road, Walkley, Sheffield. Give us a call on 0114 2012012 for more details.

Builds 9: Motherboard

gigabyte-ga-z170x-gaming-g1-motherboard

When choosing motherboard for your system, it is great to think well ahead. Some people may think, all the motherboards are same, does the same thing, just more expensive ones has more PCI-e slots for extra graphics cards, or has some neat styling (RGB lighting, aluminium covers with images etc). But it’s not about that actually. Different motherboards has different chipsets, which offers different features.

Lets talk about current most popular chipsets. Chipset number for Intel CPU’s normally starts with a letter and two or three numbers, like Z170, or Q160, or Z97 and some others. You may see obvious difference in price when choosing the motherboard. Cheapest current generation motherboard with Intel H110 chipset cost less than £50, while cheapest Z170 starts at around £80. So why exactly prices differ? What are those chipsets, and how can they benefit you computer build.

Well, simplest way to answer to that, Z170 is the top notch motherboard with great overcklocking capabilities, while H or Q series chipset motherboards does not have overcklocking function by default. They may match the performance of the Z170 (non overcklockable equivalent of Z170 would be Q170) but, if you remember, as I mentioned you need to think ahead. Would you be thinking about CPU overcklocking in the future or just run computer on base clock all the time. These days overcklocking is getting very popular among PC enthusiasts. Even in my own computer , I managed to raise the CPU speed up to 4.2GHz (although such overcklock requires liquid cooling, which I do have in my computer). This has bumped up FPS counter by 15FPS on average on most of my high end games. Also, high tier chipsets are set to support future generations of the CPU’s, although, of course it’s a lot better to pair latest CPU with latest motherboard.

Another factor – the entire build plan has to come together with motherboard. You have to be sure that RAM is correct type, CPU socket is the one that you need and it supports functionality that you’re going to use. If you’re going to use Intel motherboard, you wont be able to attach AMD CPU and vice versa. Normally to make a full plan what parts you’re going to use that the whole thing would work takes few hours to come up with.

Of course everyone has different ways of planning. We like to find motherboard first, then look for supported CPU and other components. Some other people starts from CPU, then motherboard and everything else. Sometimes it also depends on case, sometime customer knows what CPU he wants and then we just adapt to situation.

So here you are. If you plan future improvements and/or overclocking – you should go for high tier motherboard whether that be Intel or AMD chipset. But if you plan to use computer for simple office work you can get around with low to mid tier parts as simple jobs do not require much of power.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Builds 8: Processor

It may be strange that we leave computers “brain” and motherboard (in which all of the other components sit in) for one of last topics we speak, regarding new computer build. But there is a reason behind it.

When you finally know what you will use your new computer for you can adapt the motherboard and processor (CPU). So let’s see what, and why we would need to choose…

When choosing processor, you would need to think about quite few factors. What you will use it for? Gaming? Video editing? Basic use in office or home? Depending on your use you may save by buying decent but low priced processor. Video games, photo and video editing requires a lot more computing power so you would need a speedier processor.

At the moment there are two processor makers in the world that makes processor for home computers (whether that be laptop or desktop). Those two companies are called AMD and Intel. So what are they good at?

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AMD is absolutely unbeatable in price/performance ratio. When you compare eight core AMD FX-8350 CPU sold for around £120, and Intel equivalent like i5-6600K which costs around £220, you can save £100. The downside of AMD chips always was a high running temperature. Almost every single AMD chip from FX series has Thermal variation of 95W to 125W, in which case is highly advised to use good quality, aftermarket cooling solution, just so you could manage the CPU’s temperature. Some exclusive FX series chips like FX-9590 which runs at 225W, needs liquid cooling in order to run this chip. But then you can use over 5GHz core clock on 8 core CPU. AMD chips are easily overclockable and current world’s record of eye popping 8.72GHz was achieved on AMD FX-8370 chip, cooled with liquid nitrogen. It is undeniable that AMD was favorited by people building powerful budget computers, just because they are quite cheap and delivers impressive performance. Recently AMD announced new design which they have called Ryzen. czlqlvruaaagg4g
During CES2017 it was shown that Ryzen performed better than most powerful chip from Intel. But although Ryzen was announced and benchmarked, its not for sale yet. But it is expected that once Ryzen chips will hit the shelves, it will be the most powerful and popular chip in CPU market.

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Now, Intel is greatly known as great performer and all rounder. The only issue – Price. Intel chips are very expensive compared to AMD. Current top of a range Intel Kaby Lake design chip i7-7700K outperforms most powerful chip of AMD(that is available for sale, not talking about Ryzen), but it cost three times more – £450. Of course it runs a lot cooler than AMD, Intel TDP is 65W or even less. While AMD is great performer at multithreading, Intel steals the show in single thread performance. Intel chips are well known for stability and longevity. When it comes to overclocking – Intel has one rather annoying decision. Most of chips are locked and you’re unable to overclock them, unless the chip has a letter “K” in it’s name. “K” series chips are unlocked and ready for overclocking, but just simple letter typically add’s £50-£90 to the price. Therefore, if you plan to overclock the chip, you’d need to be ready to spend more to buy overclockable chip. As I mentioned before, AMD wins overclocking enthusiasts hearts because most of chip they sell, comes already unlocked.

So there we go. To choose a chip whether you are enthusiast or casual user is fairly easy but you really need to think ahead. How long you’re going to use it? What you’re going to use it for? Think about that and come to decision that it would last you 2 or more years.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.

Ehallam’s top 5 Tech from CES 2017

Hello everyone

So today we’re going to have a quick view of CES 2017 best, or most significant innovations presented by big brands. Lets have a little top list here going from best and most interesting to us to least interesting but still enough to rise our curiosity!

Number 1: Razer Project Valerie.

razer-valerie

Razer been know as one of the fastest growing companies in gaming peripherals industry. Their slogan – For gamers, by Gamers, describes well what they are aiming for. Razer company’s CEO Ming-Lian Tan is a gamer himself, and he always described his company as not a big, money making machine, but a real helping hand for gamers, compared to other companies.

They have introduced Project Valerie, the world’s first automated triple display laptop. Constructed to be incredibly powerful yet mobile, this revolutionary laptop gives it’s user easy access to three eye-popping 4K displays. Regardless of where you are, you can have the visual superiority of a 12K desktop setup to excel at both work and play.

This is great technology announced from a company, that makes gaming laptops, mices, keyboards, mousemats, headsets and even smartwatches.

Number 2: Acer Predator 21X

acer-predator-21-x-hands-on-1-970x647-c

Acer have announced the gaming notebook for an whopping $9000 price!
But for that you get 9kg’s weighting notebook with dual Nvidia GTX1080 graphics cards, overclockable Intel i7 processor, five drive bays for HDD’s or SSD’s, 21inch curved display and all of this has to be powered by two power supplies! A truly amazing portable gaming machine.

It will be released in February 2017 so don’t forget to get yours for a “mere” £7500.

Number 3: LG W7 Wallpaper OLED TV’s

lg-signature-oled-tv-w_21

Just as the name suggests, this is incredibly thin television screen that is flexible and can simply stuck to the wall.
The 65-inch model weighs just 18 pounds and the 77-incher weighs 27. That’s less than many 32-inch LCDs, light enough to attach just about anywhere, without worrying about in-wall studs or weight limits. LG includes a special flush-mounting plate, the top of which screws into the wall as usual, while the bottom sticks to the wall with magnets. It’s even flexible enough to peel slightly away, if for no other reason than to blow your visitors’ minds.

LG will start shipping them on March with prices starting at £6580 for 65inch TV, and around £12600 for 77 inch model.

Number 4: Hisense A2 Dual screen smartphone

hisense-a2

This is the Android OS powered smartphone that has two screens on each side of the phone. The main side of the device has an AMOLED screen with full HD, and high color gamut.  The second screen is called E-ink and is a mono color screen designed for low power consumption in order to conserve battery life. The other features of the phone are 32GB internal memory with 3GB of RAM, and the other option with 64GB memory and 4GB of RAM. The device will have eight core 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 CPU, 3000MAh battery and will come with Android 6.0 out of the box.

This is not the first phone with dual screen that we seen. We know the legendary very first dual screen smartphone, made by Russian company Yotaphone which was not very popular due to high price and outdated hardware.

Number 5: Hover Camera Passport

hover-camera-drone-14

A tiny foldable drone with camera to make your daily picture taking easier. It’s like a camera with 4 propellers. It’s very small, and can easily fit in pocket. Full list of feature as it’s shown on creators website:
4K Video & 13MP Photos.
Foldable & portable – easily fits into your backpack or purse
Lightweight – under 0.52 pounds, no FAA registration required
Easy-to-use & intuitive – no experience required
Compatible with your iPhone or Android phone
Capture precious moments from unique perspectives
Follows you autonomously
Safe design, thanks to a full carbon fiber enclosure
Capture breathtaking panoramic videos up to 360 degrees

So there it is 5 most interesting tech news we found announced on this years CES event!

We hope you enjoyed this and stay tuned for more blogging!

Builds 7: Storage

When you are building computer, you have to decide, how much, what sort of internal storage it will have. What type, and size of storage is also important factors. At the moment, there are three main types of internal storage for desktop and laptop computers: SSD (Solid State Drive), HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and SSHD(Solid State Hybrid Drive). Lets talk a little bit more about them.

SSD (Solid State Drive)
ssds

SSD’s are fairly new technology, although, technology was introduced as early as 1950’s. By that time it was called auxiliary memory using read only charged capacitors, or magnetic core memory. It has built a foundation to electronic, RAM based memory, which later – in 1989 evolved into flash based memory and was first time used by Psion company in their MC400 laptop. It was incredibly expensive memory. In 1991, Sandisk released 20 MB SSD for consumers, costing impressive $1000. 6 years ago when I have built a gaming computer for one of my customer, I paid £90 for a 60GB SSD drive.
But good news, as technology advances, the price decreases because of new, and more efficient ways of manufacturing are created. At the moment , 250GB SSD would cost you just £70, 500GB – £90-110.
SSD’s are great for their loading speeds. They’re 5-10x faster than regular hard drives. Therefore program launches, computer boots happens in a matter of seconds.
It is very useful in businesses or gaming computers, as waiting time between press of a button and program/OS launch is minimised.

Most popular use of SSD –storage for operating system and main programs, while larger files, game data, movies, music etc. can be kept in separate hard drive.

SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive)

SSD vs HDD, new vs old, new technology with no mechanical elements
SSD vs HDD, new vs old, new technology with no mechanical elements

In computing, a hybrid drive is a logical or physical storage device that combines a fast storage medium such as NAND flash solid-state drive (SSD) with a hard disk drive (HDD), with the intent of adding some of the speed of flash storage to the cost-effective storage capacity of traditional HDDs. The purpose of the SSD in a hybrid drive is to act as a cache for the data stored on the HDD, improving the overall performance by keeping copies of the most frequently used data on the faster SSD.
It’s the most perfect solution to people whose budget is limited. SSHD’s can achieve at least 3x speed of HDD. At the moment 1TB SSHD costs around £60. It’s perfect all rounder and great value for money.

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
hdd

One of the oldest technology in electronic computers history. Introduced in 1956, with amazing 3.75MB storage size, it was fast, reliable and compact storage solution. Although, it wasn’t that compact, at 1.9 meters tall and weighing 910 kilograms it was quite huge compared to hard drives these days.

There is enormous choice of HDD’s in the market with storage variation from 60GB’s to 10 TB’s. At the day of writing this article, 10TB hard drive cost was around £500. For more affordable £50-150 you can get hard drive between 1Tb and 3TB.
Hard drives are quite slow due to all mechanical construction and also faces the natural degradation of moving parts (due to abrasion) but it’s fairly cheap and large storage space for good price makes it good choice for basic home, or business users.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

Builds 6: Graphics card

Let’s get to the fun part. Graphics cards is the topic that can start long lasting debates. So how to choose the right one, or the one for sure to be future proof?
graphics-cards

There are quite few important factors when choosing graphics card. Its graphics memory or VRAM, bus rate, GPU power, power consumption and make.

VRAM or graphics memory

The amount of VRAM in graphics cards can vary between 1GB to 12GB depending on model. There are few exclusive models that has 24GB of memory or more but those graphics cards cost at least £5000. When choosing right amount you need to think what monitor you’re going to use. For standard 1080p monitors 2-4GB would be enough. If you’re going to aim for 4K monitor, minimum of 8GB VRAM is a necessity to deliver decent performance. The memory type is also important. These days GDDR5 is a standard but there still is DDR3 equipped graphics card, which should be avoided by gamers. The memory BUS rate or data transfer speeds are important too. 256bit or bigger is recommended. Again, there are exclusives like Radeon Fury, Fury X and R9 Nano which has VRAM built in GPU’s die and delivers astonishing 4096bit bandwidth speeds, such memory is called HBM or High Bandwidth Memory. But such memory is still in development and is not perfect. Although, myself as user of Fury X, I can tell that it has great performance on 4K although it has just 4GB of VRAM. 4 times larger bitrate compensates for lack of memory.

GPU power and power consumption

GPU power increases as the model number goes higher. Lets say current Nvidia 1050 is lowest tier and 1080 is highest, as well as Radeon RX460 is lower tier compared to RX480.
The difference is in GPU’s clockspeed and overclocking capabilities. Obviously, higher clock in MHz means more power consumed, which leads to increase of your power bill. Although, improving CPU and GPU development allows to create a smaller die CPU’s and GPU’s that consumes a lot less power then predecessors, while offer same or better performance. 3 years ago if graphics card consumed 300W of power it was OK, now there graphics that surpasses that one of 300W, and consumes just 112W (comparison of Radeon R9 290X and RX480). Therefore these days you can also judge performance by seeing power consumption and work out performance per watt levels.

Make of the GPU

There are two main GPU makers in the planet – Nvidia and AMD Radeon. Both of them has it’s own fanbase and argues which GPU is better. Nvidia was always getting ahead with impressive performance, but Radeon was always beating them pricevise. Radeon RX480 costs around £200 but delivers performance that equals to £400 Nvidia GTX1070.
rx480-7gtx1070384bcd-500-320

Basically saying, Radeon is the true bang for buck. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on GPU, Radeon is for you as it allows you to play at great framerates without spending all summers savings. But if money is not an issue and you need best performance, you can go for Nvidia model like GTX 1080 costing £700, or even higher – GTX Titan X costing £1500.
msi-geforce-gtx-titan-x-12gb-gddr5
There is a choice for you according to your budget.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

Builds 5: Operating memory (RAM)

When building a computer you also have to take some time and consider what sort of RAM set you’re going to use. There are quite few important factors. Ram type, bus speed and design. Let’s speak about this a bit more.

RAM types.
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There are 4 types of RAM. DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4. DDR and DDR2 are old types that been used in laptops until 2007 when DDR3 type was announced. DDR3 standard is the most popular one because it can be widely used and is being supported by newest and outdated chipsets. DDR4 is latest and has great improvements regarding bus (data transfer) speeds and power consumption, but DDR4 modules are quite expensive and their prices spiked up because of recent Samsung failure regarding Galaxy Note 7. When building computer you need to be sure that you’re buying right RAM modules for your motherboard. DDR3 RAM sticks can fit only in DDR3 socket and same goes to other types.

RAM BUS speeds.
ddr3-ram

RAM speeds are very important factor. They can vary anywhere from 1066MHz to 3000MHz. Before making decision of what RAM speed you need, you may need to check what maximum RAM bus speed does your motherboard and CPU support. The other factor – will you use graphics card or internal graphics chip. When using internal chip, it use systems RAM and faster rates are better to improve graphics quality. This is very important when you decide to go for AMD APU’s (Accelerated Processing Units). On the other hand, you can go for lower speed (minimum 1600MHz recommended anyway) when you use graphics card. Graphics cards has internal built in high bandwidth memory so they don’t really need support from RAM.

RAM design.
gskill-heatsink

Most of new RAM sticks has heatsinks on. Memory chip even though it uses little bit of power it still warms up, therefore, heatsinks are attached to them. It dissipates the heat and allow internal airflow to cool them down.
Some RAM sticks has lighting effects to match you PC design.
gskill-ram

In conclusion, if you are buying let’s say Intel i5-6600K CPU that supports 2800MHz memory, but your motherboard can support 2400MHz tops – you should go for 2400MHz, because you would waste money for performance which you wouldn’t be able to utilise.
These are good tips to remember when choosing operating memory for you PC build.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!