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Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2, and Lightning Returns Comes to PC

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, final fantasy xv, final fantasy xiii, final fantasy

Square Enix is "very interested" in the PC platform. They acknowledge that the Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII Steam re-releases were quite popular. These titles were originally released on the PC in 1998 and 2000, respectively. They are now interested enough to bring the three titles in the Final Fantasy XIII universe to Steam that were Xbox 360 and PS3 exclusives. Also, the first title is launching for $16, $14.39 on pre-order, so they are not even gouging us with a full-price tag.

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The first title will be available in two and a half weeks (October 9th). The other two are expected to roll out by Spring 2015. Also, Final Fantasy IV was released on September 17th. They are actually releasing them faster than most people can probably play them. The flood gates are open. In their Final Fantasy XIII news post, PC Gamer muses about the rest of the franchise reaching the PC, such as FFX and FFX-2. It would make sense. I mean, they released (or are working on) seven remakes, not even counting the two MMOs. That is already a large chunk of the main franchise.

Personally, I wonder if this is testing the waters for Final Fantasy XV.

Final Fantasy XIII is being released on October 9th for about $15, give or take a dollar.

Source: PC Gamer

Google+ Not Required for Google Accounts Anymore

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: google, google+

I cannot help but feel like this is a step on the eventual phasing-out of Google's most recent attempt at a standalone social network, Google+. Until just recently, the company was doing all that they could to force it into each of their services; now, they give you a "no thanks" option when creating a Google account (for GMail, Google Docs, and so forth).

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Image Credit: Marketing Land

Marketing Land claims to disagree. They expect that Google will "continue making subtle changes to the service" such as enhancements to Hangouts and Hangouts on Air, or even spinning out Google+ Photos. The thing is, these initiatives will not mean that they are supporting Google+; rather, it says that they are supporting the parts of it that worked. The article did not even mention actual Google+, the social network, as something that Google might consider updating -- just Hangouts and other sub-products.

This all depends on what you consider "Google" to be. Not having a profile on a message-sharing service does not really change much, despite how it feels. The real point should be reducing the barrier-to-entry for cross-promotion. A unified login helps in reducing effort to acquire new users without any real risk. Forcing users into your ecosystem could help, if it does not shove them away.

And Google seems to care even less about keeping users in their eco-system with a limited communication and microblogging platform.

EVGA Live Stream! Learn about Maxwell, X99 and Win Prizes!!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | September 22, 2014 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: X99, video, maxwell, live, GTX 980, GTX 970, evga

EVGA has been a busy company recently. It has continued to innovate with new coolers for the recent GTX 980 and GTX 970 card releases, newer power supplies offer unique features and improved quality and power output, a new line of X99 chipset motherboards including a Micro ATX variant and hey, the company even released a line of high-performance mice this year! PC Perspective has covered basically all of these releases (and will continue to do so with pending GPU and MB reviews) but there is a lot that needs explaining.

To help out, an industry and community favorite will be stopping by from EVGA to the PC Perspective offices: Jacob Freeman. You might know him as @EVGA_JacobF on Twitter or have seen him on countless forums, but he will making an in-person appearance on Friday, September 26th on PC Perspective Live! We plan on discussing the brand new ACX 2.0 cooler on the Maxwell GPUs released last week, go over some of highlights of the new X99 motherboards and even touch on power supplies and the Torq mice line as well.

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EVGA GTX 980/970, X99, PSU and Torq Live Stream featuring Jacob Freeman

3pm ET / 12pm PT - September 26th

PC Perspective Live! Page

EVGA has been a supporter of PC Perspective for a long time and we asked them to give back to our community during this live stream - and they have stepped up! Look at this prize list:

How can you participate and win these awesome pieces of hardware? Just be here at 3pm ET / 12pm PT on http://www.pcper.com/live and we'll be announcing winners as we go for those that tune in. It really couldn't be more simple!

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If you have questions you want to ask Jacob about EVGA, or any of its line of products, please leave them in the comments section below and we'll start compiling a list to address on the live stream Friday. Who knows, we may even save some prizes for some of our favorite questions!

To make sure you don't miss our live stream events, be sure you sign up for our spam-free PC Perspective Live! Mailing List. We email that group a couple hours before each event gets started.

Tickle the keys on Cooler Master's new gaming board

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 11:02 AM |
Tagged: input, cooler master, NovaTouch TKL, gaming keyboard, topre

Cooler Master’s NovaTouch TKL using something called Hybrid Capacitive switches, which you can see illustrated below.  These Topre keys use electric capacitance changes to register a keystroke as opposed to the mechanical actuation on Cherry MX switches but retain a similar feeling thanks to the spring used to return the key to it's initial position as opposed to relying on the rubber dome.  TechGage compared this keyboard favourably to the Logitech G710+ with CHERRY MX brown switches which they had used previously, a lack of clicking noises and motion that felt better to them overall garnered this keyboard a recommendation.  However as the keyboard will be released at $200, you should probably try it yourself before investing in it.

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"Cooler Master’s no stranger to peripherals; when mechanical switches became the hottest thing overnight, it wasted no time getting into the lab to make sure it created products people yearned for. The company’s just-released NovaTouch TKL highlights that goal, with its “Hybrid Capacitive” switch – one that really, really surprised us."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Techgage

Corsair Unleashes Corsair Gaming RGB Keyboards, RGB Mice, and Headsets

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 10:22 AM |
Tagged: audio, input, corsair, K95 RGB, K70 RGB, K65 RGB, M65 RGB, H2100, H1500

Corsair is launching a new website focused on their gaming products, along with new products and a contest.  The contest has a grand prize of a complete system while three runners up will get a set of Corsair peripherals including the ones announced below.  Those colourful peripherals below include three different keyboards ranging from the largest with additional macro keys to the smallest with no numpad.  There is a new mouse and a pair of headphones, with the H2100 offering wireless performance while the H1500 will still need an umbilical.  Check the hole list after watching their lauch video.

Fremont, CA — September 22, 2014 — Corsair, a leader in PC hardware, today launched Corsair Gaming, a new division within the company dedicated to the elevation of PC gaming and the development of high-performance PC peripherals. Forged from Corsair’s engineering know-how and developed alongside eSports professionals and gaming enthusiasts, Corsair Gaming products are driven by a philosophy of performance, style, and comfort. Corsair Gaming’s first salvo is the immediate world wide release of the much-anticipated range of RGB keyboards and mice.

“For 20 years, Corsair has equipped gamers with high performance, precision hardware to build their dream PCs. Corsair Gaming now introduces new ways for PC gamers to optimize how they play,” said Andy Paul, Corsair President and CEO. “We’ve brought together our engineering expertise and our passion for gaming to build a line of products that delivers performance, customized for however you play.”

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K95 RGB, K70 RGB, and K65 RGB Gaming Keyboards
With their color-customizable, 16.8 million color backlighting, the K95 RGB, K70 RGB, and K65 RGB are the headliners of the Corsair Gaming brand. All three keyboards use only German-made Cherry MX RGB mechanical key switches as part of an exclusive-to-launch partnership with Cherry.

Each key switch is built with the exacting precision of Cherry’s self-cleaning, corrosion-proof Gold-Crosspoint electrical contacts, and with over five billion sold, Cherry MX mechanical key switches are the premier choice of professional gamers and enthusiasts who demand uncompromising reliability and performance. Combined with Corsair Gaming’s distinctive aircraft-grade aluminum baseplate, Cherry MX RGB key switches deliver a professional-level gaming keyboard that ensures both consistency and accuracy with the touch of every key.

The K95, K70, and K65 RGB keyboards exhibit Corsair’s hallmark features: sleek design, ultra-precision components, and sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum construction that guarantee long-lasting performance.

Powerful Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software enables the creation of unlimited lighting effects and macros, from solid colors that can highlight key groupings, to smooth gradients, dramatic waves and captivating ripple patterns. These customization options let gamers match their PC system lighting, find gaming keys faster, and provide critical visual feedback for executing in-game objectives.

Corsair Gaming understands that gamers demand choice when it comes to their hardware, so the K95, K70 and K65 RGBs cater to you every need – including size. All three support complete macro programmability on any key, with the K95 RGB offering an additional array of 18 dedicated macro keys and dedicated media-keys. In contrast, the compact 10-keyless K65 RGB removes the number pad and media keys for a desk-space-saving design, while the K70 RGB offers the standard keyboard layout and media keys that has already made its predecessor the choice for serious gamers.

  • 100% German-made Cherry MX RGB mechanical Red, Blue or Brown key switches (K65 RGB available with Red key switches)
  • 16.8 million multicolor per-key backlighting for virtually unlimited customization
  • Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) enables users to create and customize their own lighting patterns, animations, and macros
  • Aircraft-grade black anodized brushed aluminum for superior rigidity
  • 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover on USB
  • Onboard memory stores performance and lighting settings
  • Two-year warranty
  • K95 RGB: $189.99 MSRP
  • K70 RGB: $169.99 MSRP
  • K65 RGB: $149.99 MSRP (available exclusively from Best Buy in the US, and other retailers worldwide)

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M65 RGB Gaming Mice
The M65 RGB gaming mouse – available in black or white – continues Corsair Gaming’s focus on RGB color customization. This high-end gaming mouse goes beyond the industry standard with built-in three-zone 16.8 million color backlighting. Housed on a durable aluminum unibody chassis, the 8,200 DPI, gaming-grade laser sensor helps gamers make their mark, with a sniper button ensuring the most critical of shots stays on target. Charging the battlefield with a rubber-grip metal high-mass scroll wheel, eight programmable buttons, and adjustable weight turning zones, the M65 RGB mouse balances precise control and intelligent tracking with innate comfort and style.

  • Three-zone backlighting with up to 16.8 million colors for virtually infinite customization
  • Custom-tuned 8,200 DPI gaming-grade laser sensor for pixel-precise tracking
  • High-capacity Omron switches rated for 20 million clicks for years of precise triggering
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum baseplate for light weight and durability
  • Adjustable weight system helps set the center of gravity to match play style
  • Eight strategically placed buttons, including a dedicated sniper button with improved positioning
  • On-the-fly DPI switching to instantly match mouse speed to gameplay demands
  • Two-year warranty
  • $69.99 MSRP

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H2100 and H1500 Gaming Headsets
The Corsair Gaming H1500 and H2100 Headsets are part of Corsair’s new line of high-performance gaming equipment. Joining the K95, K70, and K65 RRB Keyboards and M65 RGB Mice, the H1500 and H2100 Headsets fully immerse gamers – and their ears – in battle. In both wired and wireless options, the Corsair Gaming Headsets offer Dolby 7.1 surround sound for accurate positional audio that captures the acoustic environment of every moment of gameplay. The H1500 keeps gameplay closer to the system, while the H2100 enables gamers to play for over 10 hours with up to 40 feet of unrestricted movement, combining epic audio and optimum comfort without the hassle of wires.

  • Genuine Dolby 7.1 surround sound for complete immersion
  • Micro-fiber wrapped memory foam earpads for comfortable gaming sessions
  • Advanced unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone
  • Oversized 50mm neodymium drivers for crystal clear audio
  • H2100 headset offers wireless freedom up to 40 feet and over 10 hours per charge
  • 2-year warranty
  • $79.99-$99.99

Source: Corsair

The abysmal adoption rate of desktop and mobile touchscreens

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 09:34 AM |
Tagged: win 8, dell, Samsung, LG, Lenovo, hp, touchscreen, IDC

The International Data Corporation's latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Monitor Tracker shows that there were a mere 32.5 million touchscreen monitors shipped in Q2 2014, which accounts for 0.4% of the discrete monitors sold.  This may have been a direct influence on the pitiful market penetration of Win 8 in SMB and Enterprise, as the much touted touchscreen support was meaningless to their users interaction with computers.  The mobile side is a bit better but not much; DisplaySearch pegs the percentage of laptops with a touchscreen sold in 2013 was about 11% with a predicted 40% share by 2017 which still falls short of representing half of the market.  You can pop by The Register for a link to some of the findings.

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"Market monitor IDC's latest word on monitors goes some way to explaining limp enthusiasm for Windows 8: people just aren't buying touch-screen monitors.

Windows 8's user interface was designed to work on mouse-driven and poke-enabled devices. It's racked up plenty of sales, but not much love."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Manufacturer: Noctua

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Noctua

Noctua is a well known player in the CPU cooling business with their focus on high quality solutions that don't kill your eardrums. The NH-D15 cooler is their current flagship product, building upon the design of their much loved NH-D14 cooler for an even higher performance product offering. The NH-D15 is composed of dual cooling towers, threaded through by six heat pipes. The heat pipes and copper base are all nickel-plated, giving the unit the signature Noctua look. We put the NH-D15 up against other high-performance solutions to best gage its cooling abilities. High performance comes at a cost with the NH-D15 being no exception at a $99.99 MSRP.

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Courtesy of Noctua

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Courtesy of Noctua

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Courtesy of Noctua

The NH-D15 incorporates everything that Noctua has learned in designing its NH-D14 and U-series coolers, coming up with an extreme performance product that maintains almost universal motherboard compatibility. The cooler features twin 150mm wide cooling towers with airflow provided by dual NF-A15 150mm, 1500RPM fans. The heat transfers from the copper base plate to the aluminum radiator towers via six copper heat pipes. The copper base and heat pipes are all nickel-plated, providing scratch and corrosion resistance without affecting thermal transfer capabilities. To ensure optimal acoustics, the NH-A15 fans have rubber corner guards on all four corners to minimize fan vibration and vibration transfer to the radiator. The CPU base plate is seamless and polished to a mirror finish, ensuring an optimal mating surface.

Continue reading our review of the Noctua NH-D15 CPU air cooler!

Microsoft Offers Double Data (30GB) for Camera Auto-Upload

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft

OneDrive has a base storage limit of 15GB for a free account. Microsoft, in promotion of a setting to automatically upload photos to their storage service, is offering an extra 15GB if you enable this feature before the end of the month. That is 30 total GBs! As of their September 10th blog post, they will also allow files of up to 10GB (!!) in size. That is a pretty big picture or movie.

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Through this initiative, Microsoft hopes that more people will sign up for OneDrive and those with accounts will integrate it into their lives. Large storage capacities, mobile apps, applications for Windows and OSX, large file support, and affordable storage tiers definitely make a compelling platform, one that puts pressure on Google and Dropbox.

The question is whether you trust Microsoft with every photo or video that comes off of any given device. While some could find it compelling to have up to 30GB of extra storage for their cameraphone, without the need to manually sync, I could see others who want to be more selective.

You can enter this promotion before "the end of the month" (which is a little vague).

Source: Microsoft

Tech Report's SSD Endurance Test Is Down to Two

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 21, 2014 - 05:41 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, kingston hyper x, kingston, endurance, corsair neutron gtx, corsair, 840 pro

Many drives have died over the last year and a bit. The Tech Report has been torturing SSDs with writes until they drop. Before a full petabyte of data was written, three of the six drives kicked the bucket. They are now at 1500TB of total writes and one of the three survivors, the 240GB Corsair Neutron GTX, dropped out. This was a bit surprising as it was reporting fairly high health when it entered "the petabyte club" aside from a dip in read speeds.

The two remaining drivers are the Samsung 840 Pro (256GB) and Kingston HyperX 3K (240GB).

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Two stand, one fell (Image Credit: Tech Report)

Between those two, the Samsung 840 Pro is given the nod as the Kingston drive lived through uncorrectable errors; meanwhile, the Samsung has yet to report any true errors (only reallocations). Since the test considers a failure to be a whole drive failure, though, the lashings will persist until the final drive gives out (or until Scott Wasson gives up in a glorious sledgehammer apocalypse -- could you imagine if one of them lasted a decade? :3).

Of course, with just one unit from each model, it is difficult to faithfully compare brands with this marathon. While each lasted a ridiculously long time, the worst of the bunch putting up with a whole 2800 full-drive writes, it would not be fair to determine an average lifespan for a given model with one data point each. It is good to suggest that your SSD probably did not die from a defrag run -- but it is still a complete waste of your time and you should never do it.

Source: Tech Report

Oculus Announces Crescent Bay (Prototype)

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 20, 2014 - 10:55 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, crescent bay, oculus connect

As they progress toward a consumer product, Oculus announced another prototype at their Oculus Connect developer conference. Dubbed Crescent Bay, the headset contains a new display, with a higher refresh rate and higher resolution, better optics, and 360-degree head tracking. It is also lighter and includes built-in speakers.

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Of course, these features were not quantified with hard specifications.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, stressed that this is not the consumer product yet. He claims that this is an increase over DK2 that is equivalent to the increase DK2 saw over the original Oculus Rift. It is not all about hardware, though. This company is engaged in hardware and software, video and audio. This should make sense considering their early acquisition of John Carmack and hundreds of other engineers. They, rightly, see themselves as a platform and, while they see game engines as necessary for VR, due to the ability to reposition the camera in milliseconds of notice, compared to film's never, they are not limiting themselves to just "games" (but yes they consider it a big part of it).

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Honestly, months ago, I was sitting at my desk with its five monitors, each with bits of news posts, chats, reference material, and maybe a StarCraft tournament live stream, and Oculus was being discussed. I started to wonder if monitors, especially multiple displays, are just an approximation -- our current best effort -- of how to receive video cues from a PC. I could see a VR platform take on entertainment and even productivity with its infinite, virtual environments.

Currently, there is not even a hint about pricing and availability (as far as I found).

Source: Oculus

Want Haswell-EP Xeons Without Expensive DDR4 Memory?

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Processors | September 20, 2014 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Haswell-EP, ddr4, ddr3, Intel

Well this is interesting and, while not new, is news to me.

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The upper-tier Haswell processors ushered DDR4 into the desktops for enthusiasts and servers, but DIMMs are quite expensive and incompatible with the DDR3 sticks that your organization might have been stocking up on. Despite the memory controller being placed on the processor, ASRock has a few motherboards which claim DDR3 support. ASRock, responding to Anandtech's inquiry, confirmed that this is not an error and Intel will launch three SKUs, one eight-core, one ten-core, and one twelve-core, with a DDR3-supporting memory controller.

The three models are:

  E5-2629 v3 E5-2649 v3 E5-2669 v3
Cores (Threads) 8 (16) 10 (20) 12 (24)
Clock Rate 2.4 GHz 2.3 GHz 2.3 Ghz
L3 Cache 20MB 25MB 30MB
TDP 85W 105W 120W

The processors, themselves, might not be cheap or easily attainable, though. There are rumors that Intel will require customers purchase at least a minimum amount. It might not be worth buying these processors unless you have a significant server farm (or similar situation).

Source: Anandtech

ARChon Brings App Runtime for Chrome Outside ChromeOS

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2014 - 11:33 AM |
Tagged: chrome os, chrome, google, Android

Last week, we reported on Google's App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) beta release. Its goal is to bring apps from the Google Play Store to ChromeOS through an Android stack built atop Native Client. They are sandboxed, but still hardware-dependent for performance. Since then, vladikoff on GitHub has published ARChon, a project which brings that initiative to desktop OSes.

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Image Credit: ARChon Project

To use Archon, you will need to use an x86-64 version of Chrome 37 (or later) on Windows, Mac, or Linux. This project is not limited to the handful of ARC-compatible apps that Google officially supports. The Android apps need to be converted into Chrome extensions using a tool, also available, called chromeos-apk. In fact, the example app is an open source version of the game, 2048, rather than just the four launch apps from Google.

Whether Google intends to offer this, officially, with their Chrome browser is the most interesting part for me. I would prefer that everything just works everywhere but, failing that, having a supported Android platform on the desktop without dual-booting or otherwise displacing the host itself could be interesting. And yes, Bluestacks exists, but it has not been something that I would recommend, at least in my experience of it.

Source: ARChon

NVIDIA GeForce 344.11 Driver and GeForce Experience 2.1.2 Released Alongside Maxwell-based GTX 980 and GTX 970

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2014 - 09:56 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, graphics drivers, geforce experience

Update: There is also the 344.16 for the GTX 970 and GTX 980, resolving an issue specific to them.

When they release a new graphics card, especially in a new architecture, NVIDIA will have software ready to support it. First and most obvious, Maxwell comes with the GeForce 344.11 drivers - which is the first to support only Fermi and later GPUs. Mostly, the driver's purpose is supporting the new graphics cards and optimizing to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, The Evil Within, F1 2014, and Alien: Isolation. It also supports multi-monitor G-Sync, which was previously impossible, even with three single-DisplayPort Kepler cards.

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At the same time, NVIDIA launched a new GeForce Experience with more exciting features. First, and I feel least expected, it allows the SHIELD Wireless Controller to be connected to a PC, but only wired with its provided USB cable. This also means that you cannot use the controller without a GeForce graphics card.

If you have a GeForce GTX 900-series add-in board, you will be able to use Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) and record in 4K video with ShadowPlay. Performance when recording on a PC in SLI mode has been improved also, apparently even for Kepler-based cards.

Both the drivers and GeForce Experience are available now.

Source: NVIDIA

Developer's View on DirectX 12 Alongside Maxwell Launch

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2014 - 09:06 AM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, microsoft, maxwell, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft and NVIDIA has decided to release some information about DirectX 12 (and DirectX 11.3) alongside the launch of the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. Mostly, they announced that Microsoft teamed up with Epic Games to bring DirectX 12 to Unreal Engine 4. They currently have two demos, Elemental and Infiltrator, that are up and running with DirectX 12.

epic-ue4-infiltrator.jpg

Moreover, they have provided a form for developers who are interested in "early access" to apply for it. They continually discuss it in terms of Unreal Engine 4, but they do not explicitly say that other developers cannot apply. UE4 subscribers will get access to the Elemental demo in DX12, but it does not look like Infiltrator will be available.

DirectX 12 is expected to target games for Holiday 2015.

Source: Microsoft
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspecitve
Tagged: tlc, Samsung, bug, 840 evo, 840

Investigating the issue

Over the past week or two, there have been growing rumblings from owners of Samsung 840 and 840 EVO SSDs. A few reports scattered across internet forums gradually snowballed into lengthy threads as more and more people took a longer look at their own TLC-based Samsung SSD's performance. I've spent the past week following these threads, and the past few days evaluating this issue on the 840 and 840 EVO samples we have here at PC Perspective. This post is meant to inform you of our current 'best guess' as to just what is happening with these drives, and just what you should do about it.

The issue at hand is an apparent slow down in the reading of 'stale' data on TLC-based Samsung SSDs. Allow me to demonstrate:

840 EVO 512 test hdtach-2-.png

You might have seen what looks like similar issues before, but after much research and testing, I can say with some confidence that this is a completely different and unique issue. The old X25-M bug was the result of random writes to the drive over time, but the above result is from a drive that only ever saw a single large file write to a clean drive. The above drive was the very same 500GB 840 EVO sample used in our prior review. It did just fine in that review, and at afterwards I needed a quick temporary place to put a HDD image file and just happened to grab that EVO. The file was written to the drive in December of 2013, and if it wasn't already apparent from the above HDTach pass, it was 442GB in size. This brings on some questions:

  • If random writes (i.e. flash fragmentation) are not causing the slow down, then what is?
  • How long does it take for this slow down to manifest after a file is written?

Read on for the full scoop!

ASUS Announces STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 19, 2014 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: asus, strix, STRIX GTX 970, STRIX GTX 980, maxwell

The ASUS STRIX series comes with a custom DirectCU II cooler that is capable of running at 0dB when not under full load, in fact you can choose the temperature at which the fans activate using the included GPU Tweak application.  The factory overclock is modest but thanks to that cooler and the 10-phase power you will be able to push the card even further. The best news is the price, you get all of these extras for almost the same price as the reference cards are selling at!

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Fremont, CA (19th September, 2014) - ASUS today announced the STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970, all-new gaming graphics cards packed with exclusive ASUS technologies, including DirectCU II and GPU Tweak for cooler, quieter and faster performance. The STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970 are factory-overclocked at 1279MHz and 1253MHz respectively and are fitted with 4GB of high-speed GDDR5 video memory operating at speeds up to 7010MHz for the best gameplay experience.

Play League of Legends and StarCraft in silence!
The STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970 both come with the ASUS-exclusive DirectCU II cooling technology. With a 10mm a heatpipe to transport heat away from the GPU core, operating temperatures are 30% cooler and 3X quieter than reference designs. Efficient cooling and lower operating temperatures allow STRIX graphics cards to incorporate an intelligent fan-stop mode that can handle games such as League of Legends1 and StarCraft1 passively, making both cards ideal for gamers that prefer high-performance, low-noise PCs.

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Improved stability and reliability with Digi+ VRM technology
STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970 graphics cards include Digi+ VRM technology. This 10-phase power design in the STRIX GTX 980 and 6-phase design in the STRIX GTX 970 uses a digital voltage regulator to reduce power noise by 30% and enhance energy efficiency by 15% – increasing long term stability and reliability. The STRIX GTX 970 is designed to use a single 8-pin power connecter for clean and easy cable management.

Real-time monitoring and control with GPU Tweak software
The STRIX GTX 980 and STRIX GTX 970 come with GPU Tweak, an exclusive ASUS tool that enables users to squeeze the very best performance from their graphics card. GPU Tweak provides the ability to finely control GPU speeds, voltages and video memory clock speeds in real time, so overclocking is easy and can be carried out with high confidence.

GPU Tweak also includes a streaming tool that lets users share on-screen action over the internet in real time, meaning others can watch live as games are played. It is even possible to add a title to the streaming window along with scrolling text, pictures and webcam images.

AVAILABILITY & PRICING
ASUS STRIX GTX 980 and GTX 970 graphics cards will be available at ASUS authorized resellers and distributors starting on September 19, 2014. Suggested US MSRP pricing is $559 for the STRIX GTX 980 and $339 for the STRIX GTX 970.

Source: ASUS

The EVGA X99 Classified is expensive and impressive

Subject: Motherboards | September 19, 2014 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: evga, X99, X99 Classified

The EVGA X99 Classified is definitely a premium board as it carries a $400 price tag and Legit Reviews took a look at it to see if it was worth the price.  It certainly comes with a lot of extras including 2-way, 3-way and 4-way SLI Bridges in addition to an assortment of other cables and headers.  As is implied this board can support 4 way SLI or CrossFire with it's five PCIe x16 slots as well as a 4x slot.  It bears two M.2 ports, one a type 2 and one type 3 as well as an onboard Creative Sound Core3D codex.  The overclocking potential is good, Legit hit Core i7-5960X at 4.5GHz at only 1.33V and they highly recommend it to anyone that can afford it.

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"EVGA has been known as some of the best components out there for some time now. Today I have the opportunity to look at the flagship motherboard from their Intel X99 product stack. The EVGA X99 Classified motherboard (151-HE-E999-KR) is hitting the shelves with a retail price of only $399.99! The EVGA X99 Classified isn’t geared for the casual overclockers, it’s built for those that want to push the Intel core i7-5960X to the extreme speeds using liquid nitrogen and other sub-ambient cooling methods. Read on to see how this board performs!"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

NVIDIA's Maxwell offers smart performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 19, 2014 - 11:17 AM |
Tagged: vr direct, video, nvidia, mfaa, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr

The answer to the two most important questions are as follows, the GTX 980 will cost you around $560 compared to the $500 for an R9 290X and the GTX 970 an attractive $330 compared to $380 for an R9 290.  Availability is hard to predict but the cards will be shipping soon and you can pre-order your choice of card by following the links on the last page of Ryan's review.  Among all the new features that have been added to this new GPU one of the most impressive is the power draw, as you can see in [H]ard|OCP's review this card pulls 100W less than the 290X at full load although it did run warmer than the 290X Double Dissipation card which [H] compared it to, something that may change with a 980 bearing a custom cooler.  Follow those links to see the benchmarking results of this card, both synthetic and in game.

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"Today NVIDIA launches its newest Maxwell GPU. There will be two new GPUs, the GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970. These next generation GPUs usher in new features and performance that move the gaming industry forward. We discuss new features, architecture, and evaluate the gameplay performance against the competition."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

JavaScript Is Still Getting Faster...

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2014 - 11:08 PM |
Tagged: asm.js, simd, sse, avx, neon, arm, Intel, x86

The language that drives the client-side web (and server-side with Node.js) is continually being improved. Love it or hate it, JavaScript is everywhere and approaching native execution performance. You can write it yourself or compile into it from another, LLVM-compatible language through Emscripten. In fact, initiatives (like ASM.js) actually prefer compiled code because the translator can do what you are intending without accidentally stepping into slow functionality.

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Over at Microsoft's Modern.IE status page, many features are listed as being developed or considered. This includes support for Mozilla-developed ASM.js and, expected to be included in ECMAScript 7th edition, SIMD instructions. This is the one that I wanted to touch on most. SIMD, which is implemented as SSE, AVX, NEON, and other instruction sets, to perform many tasks in few, actual instructions. For browsers which support this, it could allow for significant speed-ups in vector-based tasks, such as manipulating colors, vertexes, and other data structures. Emscripten is in the process of integrating SIMD support and the technology is designed to support Web Workers, allowing SIMD-aware C and C++ code to be compiled into SIMD.JS and scale to multiple cores, if available, and they probably are these days.

In short, it will be possible to store and process colors, positions, forces, and other data structures as packed, 32-bit 4-vectors, rather than arbitrary objects with properties that must be manipulated individually. It increases computation throughput for significantly large datasets. This should make game developers happy, in particular.

Apparently, some level of support has been in Firefox Nightly for the last several versions. No about:config manipulation required, just call the appropriate function on window's SIMD subobject. Internet Explorer is considering it and Chromium is currently reviewing Intel's contribution.

Source: Modern.IE
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

The GM204 Architecture

James Clerk Maxwell's equations are the foundation of our society's knowledge about optics and electrical circuits. It is a fitting tribute from NVIDIA to include Maxwell as a code name for a GPU architecture and NVIDIA hopes that features, performance, and efficiency that they have built into the GM204 GPU would be something Maxwell himself would be impressed by. Without giving away the surprise conclusion here in the lead, I can tell you that I have never seen a GPU perform as well as we have seen this week, all while changing the power efficiency discussion in as dramatic a fashion.

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To be fair though, this isn't our first experience with the Maxwell architecture. With the release of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and its GM107 GPU, NVIDIA put the industry on watch and let us all ponder if they could possibly bring such a design to a high end, enthusiast class market. The GTX 750 Ti brought a significantly lower power design to a market that desperately needed it, and we were even able to showcase that with some off-the-shelf PC upgrades, without the need for any kind of external power.

That was GM107 though; today's release is the GM204, indicating that not only are we seeing the larger cousin of the GTX 750 Ti but we also have at least some moderate GPU architecture and feature changes from the first run of Maxwell. The GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are going to be taking on the best of the best products from the GeForce lineup as well as the AMD Radeon family of cards, with aggressive pricing and performance levels to match. And, for those that understand the technology at a fundamental level, you will likely be surprised by how much power it requires to achieve these goals. Toss in support for things like a new AA method, Dynamic Super Resolution, and even improved SLI performance and you can see why doing it all on the same process technology is impressive.

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Architecture

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 graphics processor was built from the ground up with an emphasis on power efficiency. As it was stated many times during the technical sessions we attended last week, the architecture team learned quite a bit while developing the Kepler-based Tegra K1 SoC and much of that filtered its way into the larger, much more powerful product you see today. This product is fast and efficient, but it was all done while working on the same TSMC 28nm process technology used on the Kepler GTX 680 and even AMD's Radeon R9 series of products.

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The fundamental structure of GM204 is setup like the GM107 product shipped as the GTX 750 Ti. There is an array of GPCs (Graphics Processing Clustsers), each comprised of multiple SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors, also called SMMs for this Maxwell derivative) and external memory controllers. The GM204 chip (the full implementation of which is found on the GTX 980), consists of 4 GPCs, 16 SMMs and four 64-bit memory controllers.

Continue reading our review of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GM204 Graphics Cards!!