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Intel and Micron Announce New, Fast Non-Volatile Memory

In most modern systems, there are two types of storage, volatile and non-volatile memory. Volatile storage is very fast, but is expensive and requires constant power to retain data, if the power drops, the data disappears. For this reason, it's typically used as system RAM and provides the working storage for the system's processor. Non-volatile storage, which typically takes the form of a hard drive or solid-state drive, retains your data without power to the system, but it is much, much slower than typical RAM.

Today, Intel and Micron announced XPoint memory (pronounced: crosspoint). The companies are promising that XPoint is 1000x faster than the NAND flash used in today's SSDs and because the structure is simplified, they can be packed 10x denser than the chips used in SSDs today. In terms of performance, this puts XPoint somewhere between the DRAM used for system memory and the NAND flash used in SSDs. Cost for XPoint memory will be somewhere between that of NAND and DRAM as well.

This kind of advancement has real potential to move bottlenecks inside the PC, but the current PC ecosystem can't accommodate the scale of performance that Intel and Micron are promising. Current PCI-Express SSDs are already able to saturate PCI-Express, so making the storage inside a drive faster won't show a performance benefit without upgrading the drive's connection to the PC. If XPoint succeeds, we'll eventually see significant architectural changes to the PC to take advantage of the new technology, but that will take time. At first, I'd expect to see the new technology integrated in next-generation PCI-Express SSDs, but as DRAM density growth is slowing down, it's good to see new potential technologies that can scale come online to replace or supplement it.

So when will you be able to get XPoint in your PC? Intel and Micron didn't share any details about potential product integrations, but they did say that they're manufacturing now and will ship products in 2016. Given what we know about the technology, I'd expect to see this show up first on SSDs destined for the data center, but we'll likely find out more about product plans in a few weeks at the Intel Developer Forum.

The Best Coffee Maker Today

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article here.

After two months spent surveying readers; interviewing coffee experts; researching makes, models, and reviews; and testing five finalist machines with a 10-person tasting panel, we recommend the $190 Bonavita 1900TS. It's the best coffeemaker for most people who love good coffee but don't have the time or patience for pour-over. The 1900TS brewed the most consistently delicious coffee among all of the machines we tested. That's thanks to a smart internal design: a wider showerhead, a flat-bottomed filter (the normal, wavy kind), and a built-in pre-infusion timer.

Why you should trust us

To get to these picks, we talked to coffee experts of various backgrounds from different parts of the industry: Humberto Ricardo, the owner of the renowned Manhattan coffee shop Third Rail Coffee; barista Carlos Morales, who just won third place in the Northeast Brewers Cup Championship; and Mark Hellweg, who founded and runs the speciality coffee accessory company Clive Coffee, which recently developed and released a high-end coffee machine of their own design. We also chatted with pretty much every barista we encountered at shops to get their perspectives.

Tested Builds: DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit, Part 1

Time to start more weeks of builds! This week, we're joined by Jeremy Williams to assemble his new Porta-Pi DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit. the Porta-Pi is a desktop-sized arcade emulator that runs on either a Raspberry Pi or mini computer. Jeremy had built an earlier version, but the new model has a larger screen and more powerful computer inside. Let's get to building! (Follow along the rest of the week by joining the Tested Premium member community!)

Google Play App Roundup: WiFiMapper, Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf, and Piloteer

Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

OpenSignal WiFiMapper

Mobile networks are more robust than they used to be, but capped data plans are also considerably more common. If you need a WiFi connection on the go, it's not always easy to find one. That's where the OpenSignal WiFiMapper app comes into play. You can probably guess what it does -- WiFiMapper shows you nearby WiFi hotspots and tell you whether or not you'll be able to access them.

OpenSignal gets its vast location data on WiFi access points from users of the app, and this collection happens automatically in the background. If you're not cool with that, no problem. You can open the settings and disable automatic collection of AP locations. However, that's the only setting in the app. Everything else takes place in the main UI.

At the top of the screen is a map that shows your location as well as the approximate location of the access points your phone can see. Gray icons are private and green ones are public. Less common are the paid access points, which are pink. Tapping on any of the icons lets you open the detail page on the AP (or scrolling down below the map). Depending on where you are, there might not be any data about a network. However, most public spaces I've checked have some indexed networks.

The app can tell you if a network is run by a business, if it needs a password, and if it's completely private. For business networks, the app ties in with FourSquare to show user comments. There are also comments within the OpenSignal system related specifically to the WiFi (i.e. whether or not it's usable).

If a network doesn't have any details listed, you can fill in the details yourself (requires a Google login). The app also keeps a log of the networks you've connected to in the MY History section so you can go back and add availability information to them. Again, this is optional. You can turn off the background canning and clear your history.

WiFiMapper has a material UI and performance seems good. I haven't seen any detectable battery drain from letting it save AP locations. It's a handy tool to have around if you're watching your mobile data closely.

Behind the Scenes of the BattleBots Production

The BattleBots season finale is tonight, and we were on location during the filming of the final match-ups. Here's what you didn't see on TV. We chat with some of the competitors after their matches, learn how they prepare and repair their bots, and stick around for the unaired grudge matches!

Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 1

At this year's Comic-Con, we unveiled The Rancor Project: a huge foam-fabricated costume built by effects artist Frank Ippolito. The project was inspired by a test suit made by LucasFilm for Return of the Jedi, which never made it to the film. To show you how the Rancor was created, we visit Frank's workshop and walk through the design process, starting with a maquette sculpture and patterning by foam fabricator Ben Bayouth. Using these techniques, you can build your own creature costume! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

The Anatomy of a Modern BattleBot

What does it take to build a BattleBot, and what technology makes a good combat robot? We chat with BattleBots competitor Will Bales about his matches and examine the parts of his HyperShock robot. From chassis to circuitry to weapons systems, we run through each component to give you an idea of how these 250-pound machines work!