Dell is selling our favorite budget gaming laptop for $800 right now

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming

Bargains are in a bit of a lull before the holidays arrive, but there are still a few decent deals out there. Right now, Dell is offering a 15-inch gaming laptop with a Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card for $800, and IPS screen.

That last detail—the IPS screen—makes this price particularly appealing, given our experience with the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming earlier this year. Back at launch, we loved its performance but were disappointed with its washed-out TN display. Dell eventually ended up offering a $50 upgrade to an IPS display during the ordering process, but now it’s a standard feature.

Even despite the TN display, this laptop had so much value for its price that it’s held the spot of “Best budget gaming laptop” in our list of best laptopssince its launch. This particular configuration is one step up from the base model, with a solid-state drive and a GTX 1050 Ti (instead of GTX 1050) for graphics. Compared to the standard 1050, the Ti version doubles the amount of graphics RAM to 4GB and bumps up the CUDA cores from 640 to 768.

For performance, you can expect to hit between 40 to 50 frames per second in most modern games set at max graphical settings—or about 60 fps if you’re willing to drop down to High. We also got surprisingly long battery life during regular tasks, like video playback. (Though to be fair, that was on the TN panel, so it’s possible the IPS screen could suck more energy.) Not shabby at all for $800.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

CCleaner hacked with malware: What you need to know

malware cybersecurity skull crossbone

It seems that CCleaner, one of PCWorld’s recommendations for the best free software for new PCs, might not have been keeping your PC so clean after all. In an in-depth probe of the popular optimization and scrubbing software, Cisco Talos has discovered a malicious bit of code injected by hackers that could have affected more than 2 million users who downloaded the most recent update.

On Sept. 13, Cisco Talos found that the official download of the free versions of CCleaner 5.33 and CCleaner Cloud 1.07.3191 also contained “a malicious payload that featured a Domain Generation Algorithm as well as hardcoded Command and Control functionality.” What that means is that a hacker infiltrated Avast Piriform’s official build somewhere in the development process build to plant malware designed to steal users’ data.

Cisco Talon suspects that the attacker “compromised a portion of (CCleaner’s) development or build environment and leveraged that access to insert malware into the CCleaner build that was released and hosted by the organization.” As such, customers’ personal information was not at risk.

According to Avast, the malware doesn’t seem to have affected any machines in the wild. In a blog post by vice president of products Paul Yung, he states that the company identified the attack on Sept. 12 and had taken the appropriate action even before Cisco Talos notified them of their discovery. Yung says the attack was limited to CCleaner and CCleaner Cloud on 32-bit Windows systems—fortunately, most modern PCs will likely be running the 64-bit version.

Yung assures customers that the threat has been resolved and the “rogue server” has been taken down. He also says Piriform has shut down the hackers’ access to other servers. Additionally, the company is moving all users to the latest version of the software, which is already available on the company’s website (though the release notes only mention “minor big fixes.”)

Most reassuringly, Yung states that Avast was seemingly able to disarm the threat before it was able to do any harm. The intent of the attack is unclear at this time, though Avast says the code was able to collect information about the local system.

Users can download CCleaner 5.34 from Avast’s website if they haven’t already done so. Previous releases are also still available on the company’s website, but the infected version has been removed from the company’s servers. You’ll also want to perform an antivirus scan on your computer. If you’re affected, Cisco Talos recommends using a backup to restore your PC to a state prior to August 15, 2017, which is when the hacked version was released.

The impact on you at home: While users within the target area shouldn’t see any impact from this attempted attack, it’s still a scary notion. While Avast got in front of the issue and resolved it without incident, smaller companies might not be able to react so quickly. For example, earlier this year, it was found that a breach at Ukranian software company MeDoc was responsible for the NotPetya ransomware. Ransomware is becoming a troubling trend, and if hackers are able to infect infect update servers they can spread malware to as many machines as possible.

Microsoft confirms Outlook issues

Microsoft graphic

Microsoft has confirmed that some users of its email service Outlook are unable to send email or access their accounts.

Hundreds from around Europe have commented on the website Downdetectorthat they have been affected by the problem – many since Monday morning.

One common issue seems to be that sent emails remain in the drafts folder and are not being delivered to recipients.

On its website, Microsoft says the service dropped “unexpectedly” and it is working on a fix.

Not all account holders are affected.

“Intermittent connectivity is affecting customers in some European countries, which we are working to resolve as soon as possible,” said a Microsoft representative.

Outlook incorporates Hotmail and Windows Live Hotmail accounts.

On its service status page, Microsoft is currently saying that an “alternate infrastructure” is being used while the service is restored.

“We’ve identified that a subset of infrastructure was unable to process requests as expected, which caused general service availability to drop unexpectedly,” it says.

“We’ve redirected requests to alternate infrastructure to restore service, and we’re monitoring the environment while connectivity recovers.

“Additionally, we’re investigating an issue in which users are unable to send email messages.”

Microsoft Paint avoids brush with death

New Doctor Who in Paint

Microsoft has confirmed that it will continue to offer its graphics program Paint.

In a recent update, it had listed Paint as a feature that would be either removed or no longer developed.

Paint, renowned for its simplicity, has been part of the Windows operating system since its launch in 1985.

Microsoft suggested it would not remain on Windows 10 by default but did say it would be available for free on the Windows Store.

Its successor, Paint 3D, will be part of the Windows 10 package.

Mountain scene done in Paint by ValprineImage copyright@VALPRINE
Image captionThis mountain scene was shared by user Valprine on Twitter.

There had been an outpouring of support for the program on social media, following the publication of the list on 24 July.

“If there’s anything we learned, it’s that after 32 years, MS Paint has a lot of fans,” Microsoft wrote in a blog.

“It’s been amazing to see so much love for our trusty old app.”

  • The artist who only uses Microsoft Paint

There does not appear to have been a similar reprieve for other features on the list of casualties.

These included the Outlook Express email client, now replaced by Mail.

Paddington Bear in Paint

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update may arrive on October 17th

We’ve known that Microsoft planned to release a large Windows 10 updatethis fall, but the company has been mum on the exact date. The Fall Creators Update is slated to feature some big changes, too, including built-in AI to fight malware, new Cortana features and handwriting recognition. While many expected bi-annual updates for Windows 10 starting in September, PC World reports that hardware partner Lenovo leaked a Windows 10 ship date of October 17th on a since-deleted product page for its upcoming two-in-one PC, the Miix 520.

Of course, this isn’t an official date; we’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on the matter, and will update this post when we hear back. Still, a fall release makes sense, given the name of the update itself. PC World‘s Mark Hachman thinks that Microsoft needs more time for its mixed reality technologies, but again, it’s just speculation at this point.

Minnesota Vehicle Licensing Computer System Faces Glitches

Getty Images

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Minnesota’s new computer system for renewing vehicle registrations, license plates and similar tasks is experiencing glitches six weeks after transitioning from the old system.

Reports say the state Department of Public Safety’s decision to replace the 30-year-old system mostly has affected 175 privately operated deputy registrar offices in the state. Glitches have caused delays and long lines.

Mower County Deputy Registrar Stephen Nieswanger estimates that about 90 percent of the issues have been fixed. Many of the solutions have been short-term patches instead of permanent solutions.

Department spokesman Doug Neville says the Driver and Vehicle Services Division has processed almost 615,000 registration renewals and more than 185,000 title transactions with the new system, about 20 percent more than under the old system.

Technology In Persian Gulf, computer hacking now a cross-border fear

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — From suspected Iranian cyberattacks on Saudi Arabia to leaked emails causing consternation among nominally allied Arab nations, state-sponsored hacks have become an increasing worry among countries across the Persian Gulf.

Defending against such attacks has become a major industry in Dubai, as the city-state home to the world’s tallest building and the long-haul airline Emirates increasingly bills itself as an interconnected “smart city” where robots now deliver wedding certificates.

They fear a massive attack on the scale of what Saudi Arabia suffered through in 2012 with Shamoon, a computer virus that destroyed systems of the kingdom’s state-run oil company

“It was and still is the worst physical attack we’ve ever seen,” said Tony Cole, a vice president at FireEye Inc., a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Milpitas, California. “Destruction was what the adversary had in mind.”

He added: “These are going to get worse as we look at more and more nation states that have some capability and quite literally they don’t care how they look on the world stage.”

Iran was the target of much of those fears and a point of discussion at an event Tuesday that Cole’s company held in Dubai. The Islamic Republic developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Stuxnet in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time having the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war. Suspicion again fell on Iran.

But Iran isn’t the only country in the region apparently with capabilities. An Emirati activist named Ahmed Mansoor became famous in August 2016 when he worked with security experts to reveal three previously undisclosed weaknesses in Apple’s mobile operating system from him being targeted with a phishing text message he didn’t click on.

Mansoor and others believed the United Arab Emirates was behind him being targeted, as it involved so-called “zero day” exploits that can be worth over a million dollars each. Mansoor was arrested by UAE authorities in March for his online posts.

In a more recent case, Qatar alleges hackers using iPhones in the UAE broke into the website of its state-run Qatar News Agency and in April planted inflammatory comments attributed to its ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. That hack later spiraled a short time later into the ongoing boycott of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. The UAE has denied being responsible for the hack.

Asked Tuesday about the Qatar News Agency hack by The Associated Press, Cole said: “It was a fascinating instance … of politics moving into the cyberespionage realm.” He declined to elaborate, saying: “I don’t have information I wish to cover on that one.”

Around the same time, a group began publishing embarrassing emails from the account of the Emirati ambassador to the United States, suggesting a tic-for-tat hack. Qatar has denied being involved.

But all that focus on government computers may distract from a bigger threat on the horizon.

As more household devices like coffeemakers and refrigerators find themselves connected to the internet, determined hackers can use them as a means to launch major attacks in the Gulf and elsewhere. That was the case during the October 2016 attack on Dyn Co., a firm that manages internet traffic, which caused outages to sites including Twitter, PayPal, Pinterest, Reddit and Spotify.

“My kitchen can become a hacker’s paradise tomorrow,” warned Kamran Ahsan, the senior director of digital security solutions for telecommunications firm Etisalat.

Intel Launches Xeon-W CPUs for Workstations: Skylake-SP & ECC for LGA2066

On the professional side of the CPU space, Intel’s new Xeon Scalable Processor family, based on the Skylake-SP architecture, is suiting up against the new EPYC processors from AMD. Part of Intel’s Xeon-SP launch was a rebranding of their product stack: gone are E5 and E7 families, and now Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze make for a confusing conversion. With this announcement, Intel also gave the image that now consumer and professional platforms were separate: no longer were Xeons welcome in consumer sockets. However as it turns out, this would not quite be the case.

Today Intel is taking the wraps off of their new Xeon-W family of processors, which will be their new brand for workstation-class processors. With the Xeon-W announcement today, Intel is bridging the gap between servers and consumer processors (in name at least) with a direct replacement for the old E5-1600 series, which will see Skylake-SP Xeons come to the LGA2066 socket with additional professional-level features in tow.

Historically, the E5-1600 series were identical processors to the E5-2600 series, except without the dual socket capabilities and consequently priced more appropriately for single socket workstations. Meanwhile over the last few generations, the consumer and enterprise platforms shared a socket, which made cross compatibility fairly easy.

With the new Xeon-SP processors, however, the enterprise platform went up to Socket LGA3647. This new socket is a far cry from the consumer LGA2066, losing a common platform in exchange for more memory channels and other features such as Omnipath. With a complete division between consumer and enterprise, there was no way to bring features such as ECC and vPro down into more consumer friendly environments.

Today’s launch of Xeon-W fixes this, although you probably still need a new chipset. As a replacement for the E5-1600 series, the Xeon-W CPUs will feature parts from 4 cores up to 18 cores, support up to 512GB of ECC RDIMM/LRDIMM memory, support dual 512-bit FMAs throughout the stack, and peak turbo clocks of 4.5 GHz.

New Intel Xeon-W Processors (LGA2066)
Cores Base
Freq.
Turbo
2.0
L3
(MB)
L3/core
(MB)
TDP Price
Xeon W-2195 18/36 2.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 24.75 1.375 140 W TBD
Xeon W-2175 14/28 TBD TBD 19.25 1.375 140 W TBD
Xeon W-2155 10/20 3.3 GHz 4.5 GHz 13.75 1.375 140 W $1440
Xeon W-2145 8/16 3.7 GHz 4.5 GHz 11.00 1.375 140 W $1113
Xeon W-2135 6/12 3.7 GHz 4.5 GHz 8.25 1.375 140 W $835
Xeon W-2133 6/12 3.6 GHz 3.9 GHz 8.25 1.375 140 W $617
Xeon W-2125 4/8 4.0 GHz 4.5 GHz 8.25 2.063 120 W $444
Xeon W-2123 4/8 3.6 GHz 3.9 GHz 8.25 2.063 120 W $294

In essence, these are Xeon versions of the current Skylake-X (Core i9) processors with all the pro features enabled, such as the extended memory support, vPro, Intel’s AMT, and the standard enterprise Reliability, Serviceability and Availability (RAS) features. They will require a new chipset, the C422 chipset, and despite the common LGA2066 socket, the Xeon-W will not work with the consumer X299 chipset (reaffirming the split we see with the E3-1200 v5/v6 series which require the C236 chipset and will not work with the Z170 chipset). As a result, we are likely to see most of the major motherboard manufacturers pump out at least one version of an enterprise board to cover this market.

Starting at the bottom of the new Xeon-W product stack, we find something interesting: Intel is releasing a pair of four core parts that have 8.25MB of L3 cache, rather than the 5.5MB we would expect from a 1.375MB/core Skylake-SP design. This indicates that these parts retain access to some of the L3 cache attached to the disabled cores, making them particularly well suited for software that is licensed per CPU core and consequently needs the the highest single-threaded performnace possible. There are two 6 core members of the stack, which differ solely on clock speed. This is then followed by an 8 core, a 10-core, a 14-core and an 18-core, with no 12-core or 16-core present (although if launched, these are likely to be called the W-2185 and W-2165). All the parts will support 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes from the processor, suitable for 2x GPU and 3x PCIe storage direct from the CPU without going out to the chipset (in the consumer Skylake-X product line, the two bottom SKUs only have 28 PCIe lanes, and the rest have 44). Every processor in the Xeon-W stack sits at 140W, except the quad cores at 120W. By contrast, Skylake-X goes up to 165W. It is also worth noting that the Xeon-W processors only support Turbo Boost 2.0 rather than Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and its “favored core” underpinnings. And as with past Xeon processors, Xeon-W processors are also likely to be locked.

Top SKU Comparison
Features Skylake-X
(i9-7980XE)
Xeon-W
(Xeon W-2195)
Skylake-SP
(Xeon 8180/M)
Platform X299 C422 C620
Socket LGA2066 LGA2066 LGA3647
Cores/Threads 18 / 36 18 / 36 28 / 56
Top Base/Turbo 2.6 / 4.2 2.3 / 4.3 2.5 / 3.8
GPU PCIe 3.0 44 48 48
DRAM / DDR4 128GB
UDIMM
Quad-Channel
512GB
RDIMM+LRDIMM
Quad Channel
768GB/1536GB
RDIMM+LRDIMM
Six Channel
TDP 165W 140W 205W
 Price $1999 TBD $10009 / $13011

There are several obvious comparisons that can be made between the Xeon-W family and both the consumer Skylake-X and the server Xeon-SP platforms. Intel’s goal here is to hit something in the middle: an increase in price over Skylake-X gets you more memory support, ECC, more PCIe lanes, and management features, but doesn’t go the full way to six-channels of DDR4 or multi-socket support. Not all of the Xeon-W parts have specifications and prices yet, but the 8-core processor is a good place to do comparisons.

8-Core Comparison
Features Skylake-X
Core i7-7820X
Xeon-W
Xeon W-1245
Skylake-SP
Gold 6144
Platform X299 C422 C620
Socket LGA2066 LGA2066 LGA3647
Cores/Threads 8 / 16 8 / 16 8 / 16
Base/Turbo 3.6 / 4.3 3.7 / 4.5 3.5 / 4.2
GPU PCIe 3.0 28 48 48
DRAM / DDR4 128GB
UDIMM
Quad-Channel
512GB
RDIMM+LRDIMM
Quad-Channel
768GB
RDIMM+LRDIMM
Six Channel
TDP 140W 140W 150W
Sockets 1 1 Up to 4
 Price $599 $1113 $2925

The consumer Core i7 has fewer PCIe lanes and the most limited DRAM support, but it’s the cheapest. Conversely, the Xeon Gold CPU is easily the most expensive, but it supports up to four sockets, has more L3 cache per core overall, and gets the greatest memory capacity, while incurring a slightly higher TDP in the process. The Xeon-W then sits neatly in the middle, taking advantage of high clock frequencies and pro features with a small bump in price, without forking over for multi-socket support.

Of course, we can put the Xeon W-2145 up against AMD’s Threadripper 1900X and EPYC 7401P too:

Comparison
Features Xeon-W
Xeon W-1245
AMD Ryzen
TR 1900X
AMD EPYC
7401P
Platform C422 X399
Socket LGA2066 TR4 SP3r2
Cores/Threads 8 / 16 8 / 16 24 / 48
Base/Turbo 3.7 / 4.5 3.8 / 4.0 2.0 / 3.0
GPU PCIe 3.0 48 60 124
DRAM / DDR4 512GB
LDIMM+RDIMM
Four Channel
128GB
UDIMM
Four Channel
2 TB
RDIMM + LRDIMM
Eight Channel
L3 Cache 11.00 MB 32 MB 64 MB
TDP 140W 180W 155W/170W
 Price $1113 $549 $1075

For both parts that have the same core counts, Intel has the frequency advantage (and the performance advantage) and the power advantage, but AMD’s chips have 60 PCIe lanes, more memory support, and are cheaper. When the 1950X doubles the cores but reduces the frequency, it still comes out cheaper than the Xeon W. Intel still has dual 512-bit FMAs/AVX-512 support, which Intel says is a big bonus in this market, and will point to its single thread performance.

While today is the formal announcement of the Xeon-W family, Intel has not announced much in the way of release details other than that the 14/18 core parts will be available in Q4. The rest are likely to come to market sooner, and we have requested details on retail availability. We’ve also had a lot of requests for workstation level testing or Xeon vs EPYC, and we’re in touch with both companies to get our hands on processors as soon as we can.

To clarify, we’re still waiting on information about CPU/chipset support, and if Xeon-W will be supported in X299 motherboards. We will update this piece when we get that information.

GIGABYTE Unveils GeForce GTX 1080 Mini ITX 8G for SFF Builds

GIGABYTE has outed their GeForce GTX 1080 Mini ITX 8G, the newest entrant in the high-performing small form factor graphics space. At only 169mm (6.7in) long, the company’s diminutive offering is now the second mITX NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 card, with the first being the ZOTAC GTX 1080 Mini, announced last December. While the ZOTAC card was described as “the world’s smallest GeForce GTX 1080,” the GIGABYTE GTX 1080 Mini ITX comes in ~40mm shorter, courtesy of its single-fan configuration.

Just fitting in the 17 x 17cm mITX specifications, the GIGABYTE 1080 Mini ITX features a semi-passive 90mm fan (turning off under certain loads/temperatures), triple heat pipe cooling solution, and 5+2 power phases. Despite the size, the card maintains reference clocks under Gaming Mode, with OC Mode pushing the core clocks by a modest ~2%. Powering it all is an 8pin power connector on the top of the card.

Specifications of Selected Graphics Cards for mITX PCs
GIGABYTE
GeForce GTX 1080
Mini ITX 8G
ZOTAC
GeForce GTX 1080 Mini
AMD
Radeon R9 Nano
Base Clock 1607MHz (Gaming Mode)
1632MHz (OC Mode)
1620MHz N/A
Boost Clock 1733MHz (Gaming Mode)
1771MHz (OC Mode)
1759MHz 1000MHz
VRAM Clock / Type 10010MHz GDDR5X 10000MHz GDDR5X 1Gbps HBM1
Capacity 8GB 8GB 4GB
Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 4096-bit
Power Undisclosed 180W (TDP) 175W (TBP)
Length 169mm 211mm 152mm
Height 131mm 125mm 111mm
Width Dual Slot
(37mm)
Dual Slot Dual Slot
(37mm)
Power Connectors 1 x 8pin (top) 1 x 8pin (top) 1 x 8pin (front)
Outputs 1 x HDMI 2.0b
3 x DP 1.4
1 x DL-DVI-D
1 x HDMI 2.0b
3 x DP 1.4
1 x DL-DVI-D
1 x HDMI 1.4
3 x DP 1.2
Process TSMC 16nm TSMC 16nm TSMC 28nm
Launch Price TBA ? $649

The dimensions of the GIGABYTE GTX 1080 Mini ITX actually match GIGABYTE’s previous GTX 1070 Mini ITX and 1060 Mini ITX cards, as well as their OC variants. This is in line with mid-range and high-end mITX cards generally bottoming out at ~170mm lengthwise to match the mITX form factor specification, with the exception of the petite 152mm Radeon R9 Nano, a card made even smaller due to the space-saving nature of HBM. This is a non-trivial distinction, as graphics card dimension measurements often do not include the additional length of the PCIe bracket and sometimes delineate length of the PCB rather than the cooling shroud. In any case, the 211mm long ZOTAC GTX 1080 Mini actually extends over mITX motherboards. For SFF enthusiasts, these millimeters matter.

In the meantime, the GIGABYTE GTX 1080 Mini ITX will be the fastest 169mm long card. For the competition, with the R9 Nano no longer in production, the Vega-based Nano has only been teased at SIGGRAPH 2017 so far.

Details on pricing and availability have not been announced at this time.