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Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

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When Intel revealed their miniature PC platform in 2012, the new “Next Unit of Computing” (NUC) was a tiny motherboard with a custom case, and admittedly very little compute power. Well, maybe not so much with the admittedly: “The Intel NUC is an ultra-compact form factor PC measuring 4-inch by 4-inch. Anything your tower PC can do, the Intel NUC can do and in 4 inches of real estate.” That was taken from Intel’s NUC introduction, and though their assertion was perhaps a bit premature, technology does continue its rapid advance in the small form-factor space. We aren’t there yet by any means, but the fact that a mini-ITX computer can be built with the power of an ATX rig (limited to single-GPU, of course) suggests that it could happen for a mini-PC in the not so distant future.

With NUC the focus was clearly on efficiency over performance, and with very low power and noise there were practical applications for such a device to offset the marginal "desktop" performance. The viability of a NUC would definitely depend on the user and their particular needs, of course. If you could find a place for such a device (such as a living room) it may have been worth the cost, as the first of the NUC kits were fairly expensive (around $300 and up) and did not include storage or memory. These days a mini PC can be found starting as low as $100 or so, but most still do not include any memory or storage. They are tiny barebones PC kits after all, so adding components is to be expected...right?

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It’s been a couple of years now, and the platform continues to evolve - and shrink to some startlingly small sizes. Of the Intel-powered micro PC kits on today’s market the LIVA from ECS manages to push the boundaries of this category in both directions. In addition to boasting a ridiculously small size - actually the smallest in the world according to ECS - the LIVA is also very affordable. It carries a list price of just $179 (though it can be found for less), and that includes onboard memory and storage. And this is truly a Windows PC platform, with full Windows 8.1 driver support from ECS (previous versions are not supported).

Continue reading our look at the ECS LIVA Mini PC!!

No new Intel for you this year

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2014 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: Haswell-EX, Haswell-EP4S, Intel, server, xeon, Broadwell-DE, Skylake

Intel's release schedules have been slowing down, unfortunately in a large part that is due to the fact that the only competition they face in certain market segments is themselves.  For high end servers it looks like we won't see Haswell-EX or EP4S until the second half of next year and Skylake chips for entry level servers until after the third quarter.  Intel does have to fight for their share of the SoC and low powered chips, DigiTimes reports the Broadwell-DE family and the C2750 and C2350 should be here in the second quarter which gives AMD and ARM a chance to gain market share against Intel's current offerings.  Along with the arrival of the new chips we will also see older models from Itanium, Xeon, Xeon Phi and Atom be discontinued; some may be gone before the end of the year.  You have already heard the bad news about Broadwell-E.

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"Intel's next-generation server processors for 2015 including new Haswell-EX (Xeon E7 v3 series) and -EP4S (Xeon E5-4600 v3 series), are scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2015, giving clients more time to transition to the new platform, according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

(Oldish News) Kingdom Hearts 3 on Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2014 - 11:15 PM |
Tagged: square enix, kingdom hearts 3, unreal engine 4, ue4

I did not report on this the first time because it did not seem like a credible rumor. As it turns out, they were citing an interview with the game's director from Famitsu, the Japanese video game magazine. Basically, while Square likes to make their own engine to use with their RPG projects, their Luminous Engine did not satisfy their needs so they decided to shift production to Unreal Engine 4. While it is still not scheduled to come to the PC, we know that the engine feels at home on our platform.

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

As an aside, Famitsu is a surprisingly hard website to machine translate for any content after the first page. I will make a mental note to not feed written content through JavaScript in any website that I make, for the sake of international readers. I eventually had to copy and paste the text directly into Microsoft Translate. It was a pretty terrible experience, but I digress. If you wish to see the interview, do not expect your browser's built-in tools to help. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.

It seems pretty clear that Kingdom Hearts was not moved to Unreal Engine 4 for PC support. That would just be silly. More likely, their internal engine might have needed a little extra development work and, especially with the vastly different art styles of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, they moved the two release dates further apart. Maybe they will even release Kingdom Hearts 3 earlier than intended?

But, if it does come to the PC, it seems somewhat more likely that it will function better than Final Fantasy XIII does. That title was locked to 720p with a few odd quirks, like Esc being the equivalent of "/qq" despite even Alt+F4 giving a warning prompt, and that it seems to require a keyboard to close (I could not find a way to close the game with the gamepad or mouse alone). That said, while a tangent-to-a-tangent, I did like the option to have the original, Japanese dub. Yet again, I digress.

This was not the first time that Square has developed an RPG on Unreal Engine. The Last Remnant, for the Xbox 360 and PC, was developed on Unreal Engine 3. Kingdom Hearts 3 does not have a release date, but it might be sooner than we expect (and probably much earlier than Final Fantasy XV).

Source: Famitsu

The Billion Dollar Businesses of Free to Play

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, free to play

Year to date, League of Legends, Crossfire, and Dungeon Fighter Online are each closing in on one billion dollars in revenue. Yes, three free-to-play MMO titles are closing in on $1 Billion USD in a single year. All three exceed World of Warcraft, which is still the most lucrative subscription MMO. That might change once expansion pack revenue from the upcoming Warlords of Draenor is accounted for, however. The total MMO industry, free-to-play or subscription, is estimated at almost $8 Billion USD, from January through September.

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This is all according to Gamesbeat and their dissection of a SuperData Research (how is that a real name?!) report on the MMO industry. Of course, there is always the possibility that these products will fall short of that milestone by the time January rolls around, but they are pretty close for nine months in and three to go.

The interesting part is why. The article discusses how easily these games can transition between markets due to how low the barrier to entry is. This is especially true in markets that embrace internet cafes, where the game is already installed. The barrier to entry is creating an account, the customer does not even need to think about payment until they have generated interest in the free content.

The second reason, which is not mentioned in the article, is the curve of revenue by customer type. A flat-fee is some value multiplied by the number of legitimate users you have. You will get at most "X" from a customer, maybe a little less for sales, and zero for pirated copies or customers that simply ignore your content. Subscription games split this off to a recurring income; it is the number of legitimate users for that month, summed over every month. While this will get more money from the most dedicated players, because they are playing longer, this still has a ceiling. Free-to-play and other microtransaction-based models have no ceiling except for all the content you have ever made. This is an unlimited ceiling for consumable content.

This can be good for the consumer or it can be bad, of course. Where a game falls on this spectrum really depends on how it is designed. Also, money is not everything. A game can even be released for free if the developer has a reason to not ignore all claims, whether it was a hobby, tech demo, are art piece. It is up to the player (or their gift giver) to decide what is worth their time or money, and that is okay.

Blizzard Is Installing World of Warcraft Servers in Australia

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2014 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: wow, blizzard

With the new expansion for World of Warcraft, Blizzard is expanding their infrastructure to better serve their customers in Oceania. The company will not require users who are currently on North American realms to switch, but will be reimbursing server swaps, for as many characters as desired, during the two weeks leading up to Warlords of Draenor's November 13th launch date. This will not affect the time of release, which will be 7:00 PM AEDT / midnight PST (PDT ends on November 2nd).

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The expression, better late than never, definitely applies in this situation. The game has "Oceanic" realms for quite some time now, but they were still physically located in the west coast of America. Sure, the ideal latency of a packet from Australia to California is around 30ms (Update: It's actually around 60ms, 120ms round-trip ideal assuming 66% speed to light in a fiber cable. When Googling the distance between Australia and California, it thought I meant Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, 4000mi, not Sydney, Australia, 7500mi. Pixy Misa in the comments, who pointed out my error, said that they experience about 170ms of latency in practice), assuming the speed of light in fiber optics is about 2/3rds of light in a vacuum, but the actual latency is significantly higher in the practical world. Getting the servers about 4000 7500 miles closer should be welcome.

The transfer does not yet have a date, but refunds will be offered for character migrations between 6:01PM AEDT on October 29th, 2014, until 6:59PM AEDT on November 13, 2014. Just make sure to do realm swaps as a separate transaction from anything else you might buy. Apparently Blizzard acknowledges that their storefront will not be able to pick out the Character Transfer and Guild Master Realm Transfer among other services. While they should have spent a little more time making this promotion robust, I cannot really blame them. This is a one-shot. It is probably not worth the man-hours.

Source: Blizzard

AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta for Civilization: Beyond Earth

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 26, 2014 - 02:44 AM |
Tagged: amd, driver, catalyst

So Ryan has been playing many games lately, as a comparison between the latest GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA. While Civilization: Beyond Earth is not the most demanding game in existence on GPUs, it is not trivial either. While not the most complex, from a video card's perspective, it is a contender for most demanding game on your main processor (CPU). It also has some of the most thought-out Mantle support of any title using the API, when using the AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta driver.

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And now you can!

The Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta drivers support just about anything using the GCN architecture, from APUs (starting with Kaveri) to discrete GPUs (starting with the HD 7000 and HD 7000M series). Beyond enabling Mantle support in Civilization, it also fixes some issues with Metro, Shadow of Mordor, Total War: Rome 2, Watch_Dogs, and other games.

Also, both AMD and Firaxis are aware of a bug in Civilization: Beyond Earth where the mouse cursor does not click exactly where it is supposed to, if the user enables font scaling in Windows. They are working on it, but suggest setting it to the default (100%) if users experience this issue. This could be problematic for customers with high-DPI screens, but could keep you playing until an official patch is released.

You can get 14.9.2 Beta for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 at AMD's website.

Source: AMD

AMD Radeon R9 290X Now Selling at $299

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, leaderboard, hwlb, hawaii, amd, 290x

When NVIDIA launched the GTX 980 and GTX 970 last month, it shocked the discrete graphics world. The GTX 970 in particular was an amazing performer and undercut the price of the Radeon R9 290 at the time. That is something that NVIDIA rarely does and we were excited to see some competition in the market.

AMD responded with some price cuts on both the R9 290X and the R9 290 shortly thereafter (though they refuse to call them that) and it seems that AMD and its partners are at it again.

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Looking on Amazon.com today we found several R9 290X and R9 290 cards at extremely low prices. For example:

The R9 290X's primary competition in terms of raw performance is the GeForce GTX 980, currently selling for $549 and up. If you can find them in stock, that means NVIDIA has a hill of $250 to climb when going against the lowest priced R9 290X.

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The R9 290 looks interesting as well:

Several other R9 290 cards are selling for upwards of $300-320 making them bone-headed decisions if you can get the R9 290X for the same or lower price, but considering the GeForce GTX 970 is selling for at least $329 today (if you can find it) and you can see why consumers are paying close attention. 

Will NVIDIA make any adjustments of its own? It's hard to say right now since stock is so hard to come by of both the GTX 980 and GTX 970 but it's hard to imagine NVIDIA lowering prices as long as parts continue to sell out. NVIDIA believes that its branding and technologies like G-Sync make GeForce cards more valuable and until they being to see a shift in the market, I imagine that will stay the course.

For those of you that utilize our Hardware Leaderboard you'll find that Jeremy has taken these prices into account and update a couple of the system build configurations.

Source: Amazon.com

Cooler Master's new Nepton 240M in action

Subject: General Tech | October 24, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: watercooler, Nepton 240M, Nepton, cooler master, all in one

As with the previous generation the new Nepton 240M is designed with "ultra-fine micro channel" technology which quadruples the surface area of the radiator but does provide more resistance to air travelling through the rad.  Installation was a breeze with only one small issue with the gasket which was easily solved.  The Tech Report were more than happy with the new Silencio fans which stayed under 40dB under load, in fact the noise barely changed when compared to when the computer was idle.  The pump was also reasonably quiet and powerful enough to keep the CPU nice and cool though at a cost, the new Nepton 120M has an MSRP of $130.

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"The Nepton 240M is a big liquid cooler with a price to match. We strapped it to TR's Casewarmer to see whether it could take the heat."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Avoiding online price creep

Subject: General Tech | October 24, 2014 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: dirty pool, online retailers, wretched hive of scum and villany, airlines

Have you noticed that prices seem to creep up slightly every time you visit an online ticket site hoping for a deal?  As many are probably already aware, the cookies dumped on your machine when you browse allow the sites to keep track of how many times you have visited a site and can base their pricing off of that count.  In other cases they can tell if you are browsing their sites mobile device version or the desktop site and of course if you are logged in as a member or not.  So far none of these practices is technically illegal but they are also laughably easy to defeat.  Simply browsing in anonymous mode, clearing your cookies or even just using a different device will reset those prices and is a habit you should get into.  Slashdot has linked to a PDF which details many of these questionable practices and of course those ever polite commentators under the headline will offer sage and on topic advice.

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"For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.”

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot
Author:
Manufacturer: Firaxis

A Civ for a New Generation

Turn-based strategy games have long been defined by the Civilization series. Civ 5 took up hours and hours of the PC Perspective team's non-working hours (and likely the working ones too) and it looks like the new Civilization: Beyond Earth has the chance to do the same. Early reviews of the game from Gamespot, IGN, and Polygon are quite positive, and that's great news for a PC-only release; they can sometimes get overlooked in the games' media.

For us, the game offers an interesting opportunity to discuss performance. Beyond Earth is definitely going to be more CPU-bound than the other games that we tend to use in our benchmark suite, but the fact that this game is new, shiny, and even has a Mantle implementation (AMD's custom API) makes interesting for at least a look at the current state of performance. Both NVIDIA and AMD sent have released drivers with specific optimization for Beyond Earth as well. This game is likely to be popular and it deserves the attention it gets.

Testing Process

Civilization: Beyond Earth, a turn-based strategy game that can take a very long time to complete, ships with an integrated benchmark mode to help users and the industry test performance under different settings and hardware configurations. To enable it, you simple add "-benchmark results.csv" to the Steam game launch options and then start up the game normally. Rather than taking you to the main menu, you'll be transported into a view of a map that represents a somewhat typical gaming state for a long term session. The game will use the last settings you ran the game at to measure your system's performance, without the modified launch options, so be sure to configure that before you prepare to benchmark.

The output of this is the "result.csv" file, saved to your Steam game install root folder. In there, you'll find a list of numbers, separated by commas, representing the frame times for each frame rendering during the run. You don't get averages, a minimum, or a maximum without doing a little work. Fire up Excel or Google Docs and remember the formula:

1000 / Average (All Frame Times) = Avg FPS

It's a crude measurement that doesn't take into account any errors, spikes, or other interesting statistical data, but at least you'll have something to compare with your friends.

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Our testing settings

Just as I have done in recent weeks with Shadow of Mordor and Sniper Elite 3, I ran some graphics cards through the testing process with Civilization: Beyond Earth. These include the GeForce GTX 980 and Radeon R9 290X only, along with SLI and CrossFire configurations. The R9 290X was run in both DX11 and Mantle.

  • Core i7-3960X
  • ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79
  • 16GB DDR3-1600
  • GeForce GTX 980 Reference (344.48)
  • ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II (14.9.2 Beta)

Mantle Additions and Improvements

AMD is proud of this release as it introduces a few interesting things alongside the inclusion of the Mantle API.

  1. Enhanced-quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA): Improves anti-aliasing quality by doubling the coverage samples (vs. MSAA) at each AA level. This is automatically enabled for AMD users when AA is enabled in the game.
     
  2. Multi-threaded command buffering: Utilizing Mantle allows a game developer to queue a much wider flow of information between the graphics card and the CPU. This communication channel is especially good for multi-core CPUs, which have historically gone underutilized in higher-level APIs. You’ll see in your testing that Mantle makes a notable difference in smoothness and performance high-draw-call late game testing.
     
  3. Split-frame rendering: Mantle empowers a game developer with total control of multi-GPU systems. That “total control” allows them to design an mGPU renderer that best matches the design of their game. In the case of Civilization: Beyond Earth, Firaxis has selected a split-frame rendering (SFR) subsystem. SFR eliminates the latency penalties typically encountered by AFR configurations.

EQAA is an interesting feature as it improves on the quality of MSAA (somewhat) by doubling the coverage sample count while maintaining the same color sample count as MSAA. So 4xEQAA will have 4 color samples and 8 coverage samples while 4xMSAA would have 4 of each. Interestingly, Firaxis has decided the EQAA will be enabled on Beyond Earth anytime a Radeon card is detected (running in Mantle or DX11) and AA is enabled at all. So even though in the menus you might see 4xMSAA enabled, you are actually running at 4xEQAA. For NVIDIA users, 4xMSAA means 4xMSAA. Performance differences should be negligible though, according to AMD (who would actually be "hurt" by this decision if it brought down FPS).

Continue reading our article on Civilization: Beyond Earth performance!!

Who rules the ~$250 market? XFX R9 285 Black Edition versus the GTX 760

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2014 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: xfx, R9 285 Black Edition, factory overclocked, amd

Currently sitting at $260 the XFX R9 285 Black Edition is a little less expensive than the ASUS ROG STRIKER GTX 760 and significantly more expensive than the ASUS GTX760 DirectCU2 card.  Those prices lead [H]ard|OCP to set up a showdown to see which card provided the best bang for the buck, especially once they overclocked the AMD card to 1125MHz core and 6GHz RAM.  In the end it was a very close race between the cards, the performance crown did go to the R9 285 BE but that performance comes at a premium as you can get performance almost as good for $50 less.  Of course the both the XFX card and the  STRIKER sell at a premium compared to cards with less features and a stock setup; you should expect the lower priced R9 285s to be closer in performance to the DirectCU2 card.

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"Today we are reviewing the new XFX Radeon R9 285 Black Edition video card. We will compare it to a pair of GeForce GTX 760 based GPUs to determine the best at the sub-$250 price point. XFX states that it is faster than the GTX 760, but that is based on a single synthetic benchmark, let's see how it holds up in real world gaming."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel Broadwell-E Expected for Q1 2016

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | October 23, 2014 - 03:25 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, Broadwell-E, Haswell-E

VR-Zone China got hold of an alleged Intel leak, go figure, that talks about their next enthusiast processor platform, Broadwell-E. This architecture is mostly Haswell-E that has its (rated) feature size shrunk down to 14nm. Given an available BIOS, it is expected to support at least some existing LGA 2011-v3 motherboards with the X99 chipset. Like Haswell, they are sticking with a maximum of 40 PCIe lanes. We will need to wait for individual SKUs to see whether one or more models will be limited to 28 lanes, like the Haswell-E-based Core i7-5820K.

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Image Credit: Chinese VR-Zone

Intel claims 140W TDP, which is identical to the current three offerings of Haswell-E, for all options. The slide claims six and eight core models will be available (also identical to Haswell-E).

One bullet-point that baffled me is, "Integrated Memory Controller: 4 Channels DDR4 2400, 1 DIMM per Channel". Double-checking with the other writers here, just to make sure sure, it seems like the slide claims that Broadwell-E will only support four sticks of DDR4. This makes zero sense for a couple of reasons. First, one of the main selling points of the enthusiast platform has been the obscene amount of RAM that workstation users demand. Second, and more importantly, if it is compatible with existing motherboards, what is it going to do? Fail to POST if you install a fifth stick? This has to be a typo or referring to something else entirely.

When will you be able to get it? A bit later than we were hoping. It is expected for Q1 2016, rather than late 2015.

Podcast #323 - GTX 980M Performance, MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 23, 2014 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, GTX 980M, msi, X99S GAMING 9 AC, amd, nvidia, Intel, Kingwin, APU, Kaveri, 344.48, dsr

PC Perspective Podcast #323 - 10/23/2014

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 980M Performance, MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

The ASRock Z97 Extreme6 has a surprise for you M.2 fans

Subject: Motherboards | October 23, 2014 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: asrock, Z97 Extreme6, Broadwell, haswell

For just under $200 the ASRock Z97 Extreme is a good base to build a Broadwell or Haswell platform on for significantly less than a brand new Haswell-E system.  The design is quite clean and well spaced out to allow the use of a large cooler along with integral heat sinks improving the looks and thermals of the motherboard.  The first two PCIe 3.0 16x slots share 16 lanes between them, the third slot is PCIe 2.0 and is limited to a maximum of two lanes, with two 1x and a mini PCIe slot each getting one lane.  Four of the remaining PCIe 3.0 lanes are taken up by the M.2 socket, which gives you up to 32Gbps of transfer speed, not too shabby for a Z97 board.  There are a lot of other features, including two separate physical UEFI chips and a very comprehensive software suite to manage the system, which you read about at The Tech Report.

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"With Broadwell compatibility and a secondary M.2 socket connected to four PCIe Gen3 lanes in the CPU, ASRock's Z97 Extreme6 might just be the most future-proof Haswell motherboard around. It's surprisingly affordable, too, despite having loads of other extras. Read on for more on a truly unique Z97 contender."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

BitTorrent Sync; faster than OneDrive, Dropbox and Drive?

Subject: General Tech | October 23, 2014 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: bittorrent sync, cloud, dropbox, onedrive, google drive

BitTorrent is good for more than just downloading files of various natures, it has a tool called Sync which performs a similar task to solutions like Dropbox only more privately and apparently with more speed.  From the graph below you can see that in at least one scenario BitTorrent Sync is significantly faster than other solutions when it is allowed free reign on your connection, you can limit the speed in the settings if time is not of the essence.  What is also very important to note is that this is purely an encrypted client to client transfer, your files are never cached on a server for posterity or for 'quality assurance' as they are when you use the competitions software.  That does mean both devices need to be powered on and on the network for this to work but for many the privacy would be worth the slightly less flexible operation.  Check it out on Slashdot.

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"Now that its file synchronization tool has received a few updates, BitTorrent is going on the offensive against cloud-based storage services by showing off just how fast BitTorrent Sync can be. More specifically, the company conducted a test that shows Sync destroys Google Drive, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Dropbox. The company transferred a 1.36 GB MP4 video clip between two Apple MacBook Pros using two Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapters, the Time.gov site as a real-time clock, and the Internet connection at its headquarters (1 Gbps up/down)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

AMD Cuts APU Prices and Q3 Results Fallout

Subject: Processors | October 22, 2014 - 10:02 PM |
Tagged: Richland, Q3 results, lisa su, Kaveri, APU, amd, A10 7850K

While AMD made a small profit last quarter, the Q4 outlook from the company is not nearly as rosy.  AMD estimates that Q4 revenues will be around 12% lower than Q3, making for a rare drop in what is typically a robust season for sales.  Unlike Intel, AMD is seeing a very soft PC market for their products.  Intel so far has been able to deliver parts that are as fast, if not faster than the latest APUs, but they also feature lower TDPs while at a comparable price.  The one area that AMD has a significant advantage is in terms of 3D performance and better driver support.

To keep the chips selling during this very important quarter, AMD is cutting the prices on their entire lineup of FM2+ parts.  This includes the entire Kaveri based lineup from the top end A10-7850K to the A6-7400K.  AMD is also cutting the prices on the previous Richland based parts, which include the A10-6800K.  Also of interest is that buyers of A10 APUs will be able to select one of three game titles (Murdered: Soul Suspect, Thief, or Sniper Elite 3) for free, or use the included code to purchase Corel’s Aftershot Pro 2 for only $5.

  A10-7850K A10-7800 A10-7700K A8-7600 A6-7400K
Compute Cores 12 (4+8) 12 (4+8) 10 (4+6) 10 (4+6) 6 (2+4)
Graphics R7 R7 R7 R7 R5
TDP (cTDP) 95 (65/45) 65 (45) 95 (65/45) 65 (45) 65 (45)
Suggested Price $143 $133 $123 $92 $58

The A10-7850K is a pretty good part overall, though of course it does suffer at the hands of Intel when it comes to pure CPU performance.  It still is a pretty quick part that competes well with Intel’s 2 core/4 thread chips.  3D performance from the integrated graphics is class leading, and the potential for using that unit for HSA applications is another checkmark for AMD.  We have yet to see widespread adoption of HSA, but we are seeing more and more software products coming out that support it.  Having tested it out myself, the GPU portion of the APU can be enabled when using a standalone GPU from either AMD or NVIDIA.  The Kaveri chips also support TrueAudio, which will show up in more titles throughout the next year.

One aspect of AMD’s latest FM2+ platform that cannot be ignored is the pretty robust selection of good and interesting motherboards that are offered at very low prices.  Products such as the Gigabyte G1.Sniper.A88X and the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboards are well rounded products that typically sell in the $90 to $110 range.  Top end products like the Asus Crossblade Ranger are still quite affordable at around $160.  Budget offerings are still pretty decent and they come in the $50 range.

amd_a_series.jpg

One other product that has sparked interest is the Athlon X4 860K Black Edition.  This product is clocked between 3.7 GHz and 4.0 GHz, features two Steamroller modules, and is priced at a very reasonable $90.  The downside is that there is no GPU portion enabled, while the upside is that there is potentially more thermal headroom for the CPU portion to be clocked higher than previous A10-7850K parts.  This will of course differ from individual chips, but the potential is there to have a pretty solid CPU for a very low price.  Add in the low motherboard prices, and this has the making of a nice budget enthusiast system.

So why the cuts now?  We can simply look at last week’s results for AMD’s previous quarter, as well as how the next quarter is stacking up.  While AMD made a small profit last quarter, predictions for Q4 look grim.  AMD is looking at around a 12% decrease in revenue, as stated above.  AMD has a choice in that they can keep ASPs higher, but risk shipping less product in the very important 4th quarter; or they can sacrifice ASPs and potentially ship a lot more product.  The end result of cutting the prices on their entire line of APUs will be of course lower ASPs, but a higher volume of parts being shipped and sold.  In terms of cash flow, it is likely more important to see parts flowing rather than having higher inventories with a higher ASP.  This also means that more APUs being sold will mean more motherboards from their partners moving through the channel.

Intel does have several huge advantages over AMD in that they have a very solid 22 nm process, a huge workforce that can hand tune their processors, and enough marketing money to make any company other than Apple squirm.  AMD is at the mercy of the pure-play foundries in terms of process node tweaks and shrinks.  AMD spent a long time at 32 nm PD-SOI before it was able to migrated to 28 nm HKMG.  It looks to be 2015 before AMD sees anything below 28 nm for their desktop APUs, but it could be sooner for their smaller APUs and ARM based products on planar 20 nm HKMG processes.  We don’t know a all of the specifics of the upcoming 16/14nm FinFET products from TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, so it will be hard to compare/contrast to Intel’s 2nd generation 14 nm TriGate line.  All we know is that it will most assuredly be better than the current 28 nm HKMG that AMD is stuck at.

Source: AMD

Cooler Master mouse parade, up next is the Mizar Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: Mizar, input, gaming mouse, cooler master

The Cooler Master Mizar gaming mouse has a nice understated appearance with a 7 buttons and high end Avago ADNS 9800 sensor capable of 1000 Hz/1ms.  That mix of design and technology let Cooler Master retail the mouse at a reasonable price without trimming out the functionality that really matters.  It does not ship with a copy of the software, which is a good thing as it will be outdated as soon as it is packaged, but there is a CM utility available for download to program your mouse buttons including macros and profiles.  Check out how it performs in game in Benchmark Reviews full article here.

Cooler-Master-Mizar-View-2.jpg

"For some odd reason Cooler Master seems to be releasing products everyday, whether it’s a new case or a new peripheral, their product line has been increasing exponentially in the past few years. What is not odd is the fact that many of Cooler Master products Benchmark Reviews has come across end up highly appraised. Today we are looking at one of two pointing devices Cooler Master has released this month."

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Borderland lunacy abounds

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming, borderlands: the pre-sequel

As you may have noticed, Ryan and the gang from NVIDIA have been playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and giving out lots of prizes to viewers.  That is certainly enough to make anyone think positively about the newest installment of Gearbox's series, but how is the game its self?  Several familiar characters make an appearance, albeit in slightly different roles than either of the previous games nor do gravity or oxygen remain as they were.  Does the zany dialogue and cartoony graphics provide as much fun as the other games or has the series already reached its peak?  As usual Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have thoughts on that topic to share with you.

blands1.jpg

"It’s a little tricky to avoid feeling that a review of The Pre-Sequel (!) is superfluous. Surely everyone in the world has had a taste of Borderlands at this point, and have made their minds up about it? This is very much more of that same formula, with zaniness turned up to… What’s that, Steve? You’ve never played a Borderlands game? Wow."

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Gaming

GeForce Game Ready Driver 344.48 WHQL

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 22, 2014 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: whql, nvidia, GeForce 344.48

"Game Ready" for Lords of the Fallen, Civilization: Beyond Earth, and Elite: Dangerous. 

Grab it straight from NVIDIA or GeForce.com.

dsr-auto-enabled-in-geforce-experience-640px.jpg

What’s New in Version 344.48

Game Ready

Best gaming experience for Lords of the Fallen, Civilization: Beyond Earth, and Elite:Dangerous.

Gaming Technology

  • Supports Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) on Kepler and Fermi-based desktop GPUs. Software Modules
  • NVIDIA PhysX System Software - version 9.14.0702
  • NVIDIA GPU PhysX acceleration is available only on systems with GeForce 8-series and later GPUs with a minimum of 256 MB dedicated graphics memory.
  • NVIDIA GPU PhysX acceleration is not available if there is a non-NVIDIA graphics processor in the system, even if it is not used for rendering.
  • HD Audio Driver - version 1.3.32.1 CUDA - version 6.5
  • GeForce Experience - 16.13.56.0 Application Profiles

Added or updated the following profiles:

  • Assassin's Creed Unity – control panel FXAA disabled
  • Dead Rising 3 – SLI-Single profile added
  • Elite Dangerous – SLI profile added, control panel FXAA disabled
  • Escape Dead Island – SLI profile added
  • FIFA 15 – SLI-Single profile added
  • Lichdom: Battlemage– SLI profile added
  • Lords of the Fallen – SLI profile added
  • MechWarrior Online – DX11 SLI profile added
  • Monster Hunter Online Benchmark – SLI profile added
  • Ryse: Son of Rome – SLI profile added, stereo blocked
  • Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth – ambient occlusion (AO) profile added
  • Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition – SLI profile added
  • The Crew – control panel FXAA disabled
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter – SLI profile added 3D Vision Profiles

Added or updated the following profiles:

  • Dead Rising 3 – Not Recommended
  • Strife – rated as Fair 3D Compatibility Mode Support

Support for 3D Compatibility Mode has been added for the following games:

  • Dead Rising 3 – rated as Excellent
  • Strife – rated as Excellent

Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 8.1 Fixed Issues

  • Make control panel option for MFAA visible in NVIDIA Control Panel only for non-SLI configurations.
  • Implement MFAA along with porting TSF filter to driver side shim.
  • Add SLI profile for Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition.
  • GeForce GTX 980, Windows 8.1: Occasionally, the first line in a displayed frame mistakenly has content from a prior rendered frame.
  • Need SLI profile for FIFA 15.
  • Having G-SYNC enabled with Oculus Rift drivers installed causes applications to crash while launching and sometimes causes the system to reboot.
  • Green screen when certain videos played back in Media Player Classic Home Cinema. Backport to r304_00 all missing changes to the FreeBSD installer.
  • Device does not start (error code 49) in certain OEM motherboards.
  • Assassin's Creed Unity, Windows 8: TDR crash after loading a level and playing a little on NVIDIA 7-series GPUs.
  • Windows 8.1: Significant drop off in performance with 3D Vision enabled in SLI in Tomb Raider, no repro with Windows 7.
Source: NVIDIA

Double your Win10 Preview, double your fun?

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, assimilate

Now calling number 9860; you may proceed directly to download or use the automated Update system to receive your newest installment of the Win 10 Tech Preview.  Do be warned that your installation size will increase as this download is as large as the original you received to begin your Windows 10 Experience.  Those who have never touched a Windows phone previously should not be alarmed by the Action Center which will pop over top of any work you are doing whenever one of your social media feeds receives any sort of update, this is its intended effect and you should embrace it. 

You now have the option of joining the Insiders Fast ring of updates, this is highly recommended for those who prefer to enjoy the new features Microsoft will be incorporating without warning and before these wonderful new developments can be sullied by the anti-TIFKAM masses found online.  The Register did not report how many Canaries died to bring you this technical preview but any sacrifices would not have been in vain.  Please touch here to launch IE to visit their post on mobile and desktop devices.

windows_10_release_rings.jpg

"Less than three weeks after it debuted the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft has shipped a comprehensive update to the pre-release OS that brings substantial changes, including some new features borrowed from Windows Phone."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register