Flash player not detected. Click here to install flash.
« 1 2 3 4 5 »
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.

settings.jpg

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!!

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.

r9290x1.jpg

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.

r92901.jpg

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

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

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

FanlessTech Shows Gigantic, Unreleased Heatsinks

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 19, 2014 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged:

There are many interesting ways to pull heat away from a processor. You can submerge your device in mineral oil or even phase-change fluid (such as "Novec"). You can push cool fluid up to the thing that you are trying to remove heat from and then pump it away through a radiator. If using air, you can make use of vapor chambers and the convection current formed as devices heat up. The goal is to abuse one or more interesting material properties to store energy and move it somewhere else.

heatsinks-cebit_2012_ekl_everest_prototyp_2.jpg

Image Credit: HT4U.net

Or you can just have an obscene, gigantic mass of metal with more fins than the NHL. According to FanlessTech, these are three heatsinks that are not yet available (and may never be). Two of them have three towers, connected to the base by heat pipes, and the last one has four.

heatsinks-big-triple-2.jpg

Image Credit: ExtraHardware.cz

Personally, I would be a bit uncomfortable about buying a PC like that unless I needed absolutely silent or top air cooling performance. The amount that it hangs over RAM or nuzzles against add-in boards seems sketchy to me, especially if you need to swap a DIMM or two at some point, but I always use stock coolers at reference voltage and frequency so what do I know?

heatsinks-big-quad.jpg

Image Credit: PConline.com.cn

Yes, that would be a regular, ATX motherboard.

When will these prototypes become available? Who knows if they even will. Still, if you have a need for cooling solutions that are a little over-the-top, you might be able to get your hands on these some day. There's nothing wrong with adding more mass and surface area, rather than doing something fancy. It works, and it probably works really well.

Source: FanlessTech

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.

1413885880S78ZQ7Hqqp_1_13_l.jpg

"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

Gigabyte Packs Factory Overclocked GTX 970 GPU Into Mini ITX Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 21, 2014 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: maxwell, nvidia, gaming, mini ITX, small form factor, GTX 970, GM204, gigabyte

Gigabyte has announced a new miniature graphics card based around NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970 GPU. The upcoming card is a dual slot, single fan design that is even shorter than the existing GTX 970 graphics cards (which are fairly short themselves). Officially known as the GV-N970IXOC-4GD, the miniaturized GTX 970 will be available for your small form factor (Mini ITX) systems in November for around $330.

The new Mini ITX compatible graphics card packs in a factory overclocked GeForce GTX 970 processor, 4GB of video memory, a custom PCB, and a custom WindForce-inspired cooler into a graphics card that is smaller than any of the existing GTX 970 cards. Gigabyte is using a custom design with a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector instead of two 6-pin connectors from the reference design or the 6-pin plus 8-pin from manufacturers like EVGA. The single power connector means less cabling to route (and successfully attempt to hide heh) and better small form factor PSU compatibility. The cooler is an aluminum fin array with three copper heatpipes paired with a single shrouded fan.

Gigabyte GTX 970 Factory Overclocked Mini ITX Graphics Card.png

The tiny card comes factory overclocked at 1076 MHz base and 1216 MHz boost, which is a respectable boost over the reference specifications. For reference, the GeForce GTX 970 processor is a 28nm chip using NVIDIA's GM204 "Maxwell" architecture with 1664 CUDA cores clocked at 1051 MHz base and 1178 MHz boost. It appears that Gigabyte has left the 4GB of GDDR5 untouched at 7.0 GT/s.

  Gigabyte GTX 970 Mini ITX
Reference GTX 970
CUDA Cores 1664 1664
Core (MHz) 1076 1051
Core (MHz) Boost 1216 1178
Memory 4GB 4GB
Memory Rate 7.0 (GT/s) 7.0 (GT/s)
Memory Width 256-bit 256-bit
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell
Process Node 28nm 28nm
PCI-E Power 1x 8-pin 2x 6-pin
DirectX Version 12.0 12.0

The display output on the miniature Gigabyte card differs slightly from the reference design with the addition of a DVI-D connection.

  • 3 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DVI-I
  • 1 x DVI-D

According to Gigabyte, its custom cooler resulted in lower temperatures versus the reference design. The company claims that when running Metro: Last Light, the Mini ITX Gigabyte GTX 970 GPU ran at 62°C versus a reference design hitting 76°C running the same game. If true, the Gigabyte cooler is capable of keeping the card significantly cooler while taking up less space (though fan speeds and sound levels were not mentioned, nor compared to other custom coolers).

The small form factor friendly GTX 970 is coming next month with a MSRP of $329.99. Are you excited?

Source: Videocardz

PCPer Live! Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA Part 2!

Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards | October 21, 2014 - 07:45 PM |
Tagged: video, pcper, nvidia, live, GTX 980, geforce, game stream, borderlands: the pre-sequel, borderlands

UPDATE: It's time for ROUND 2!

UPDATE 2: You missed the fun for the second time? That's unfortunate, but you can relive the fun with the replay right here!

I'm sure like the staff at PC Perspective, many of our readers have been obsessively playing the Borderlands games since the first release in 2009. Borderlands 2 arrived in 2012 and once again took hold of the PC gaming mindset. This week marks the release of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which as the name suggests, takes place before the events of Borderlands 2. The Pre-Sequel has playable characters that were previously only known to the gamer as NPCs and that, coupled with the new low-gravity game play style, should entice nearly everyone that loves the first-person, loot-driven series to come back.

To celebrate the release, PC Perspective has partnered with NVIDIA to host a couple of live game streams that will feature some multi-player gaming fun as well some prizes to giveaway to the community. I will be joined once again by NVIDIA's Andrew Coonrad and Kris Rey to tackle the campaign in a cooperative style while taking a couple of stops to give away some hardware.

livelogo.jpg

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA Part 2

5pm PT / 8pm ET - October 21st

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Here are some of the prizes we have lined up for those of you that join us for the live stream:

Holy crap, that's a hell of a list!! How do you win? It's really simple: just tune in and watch the Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA! We'll explain the methods to enter live on the air and anyone can enter from anywhere in the world - no issues at all!

So stop by Tuesday night for some fun, some gaming and the chance to win some hardware!

global-landing-page-borderlands-presequal.jpg

2K_Borderlands_Pre-Sequel_AthenaToss_1stPerson.jpg

2K_Borderlands_Pre-Sequel_moonBandits.jpg

Another overview of the Win 10 Technical Preview

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2014 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: windows 10

This time it is The Tech Report who are taking a look at Win10 and what it brings to the table and what it takes away.  As you can see from the screenshot below the Start Menu is mostly back, with a selection of large tiles already added to the side of the menu, though they are easily removable or can be replaced with non-Metro applications.  Since the contextual search still appears at the bottom of the Start Menu the search button on the taskbar seems unnecessary. The multiple desktops work as promised, with ways to easily switch between your workspaces, windows have been visually trimmed along the outside and drop shadows are back.  Check out the new command prompt and other changes in their three page article.

startmenu.jpg

"TR's Cyril Kowaliski has spent some time with the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and he's jotted down his thoughts about each of the major new features and changes. His conclusion? This has the potential to be the best Windows release since Windows 7."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

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.

intel-broadwell-e-x991.png

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.

Unreal Engine 4.5 Recently Released

Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2014 - 11:20 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, epic games

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4.5 last Tuesday, and it is one of their largest releases since launch. While most point-releases occur on a four-to-six week schedule, this one took about nine weeks.

epic-ue45-RTDFSS.png

The headlining feature from the press release is Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows. In the real world, lights have an actual size. A light bulb is not an infinitesimal point, it fills up your hand when you grab it (when it is off and cooled to roughly room temperature, of course). If a surface can see a light, it is lit by it. If the surface cannot see the light, it is not lit by it, which looks like it is covered in shadow. If a light is big enough that part of it lights a part of a surface, but part of it is blocked, you get "soft shadows".

Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows is a dynamic effect, which means that it can update over time. This is very useful if, for instance, the object that is casting a shadow gets blown up by a rocket launcher or, less entertainingly, the sun sets. The effect is also particularly quick, with scenes rendering in just a couple of milliseconds (you get about 16ms to hit 60 FPS). This is faster than cascaded shadow maps (a method to generate shadows that is optimized for shadows near the camera) in benchmarks listed at Epic's documentation.

epic-ue45-sss.png

Unreal Engine 4.5 has also updated Subsurface Scattering. I am not exactly sure what is different, because Unreal Engine 4 had SSS for quite some time now, but they changed something. This technique is useful to create realistic skin, but is also very useful for oceans, ice, and wax.

Although Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows and Screen-Space Subsurface Scattering are the most interesting feature to write about, I would consider C++ Hot Reload to be the most important feature of this version. To explain it, I will need to first describe how Unreal Engine 4 is designed. When you subscribe, you are given source code access to the engine on GitHub; alternatively, you can download the Unreal Engine Launcher, which allows you to manage canonical builds of Unreal Engine. When a version of the engine is run, it will open a project in Unreal Editor. These projects could be programmed either in C++ or Epic's flowchart-based scripting system, "Blueprints". Complete games could be made in Blueprints, and developers are encouraged to do so, but they are often used for simple objects (lights and elevators), modifications of complex objects, and rapid prototyping.

epic-ue45-hotreload.png

Rapid prototyping is the key part of my explanation. Remember how there is "engine code" that, when compiled, opens an editor to run "game code" for any given project? Despite the E3 2012 demo, many changes in a project's C++ source require the editor to be shut down and reloaded when game code is compiled. This led people to use Blueprints as a prototyping tool, not because of its logical, visual layout, but because you could manipulate objects several times in just a couple of minutes and without closing the editor. Now C++ is said to be a first-class citizen in this regard (unfortunately I have not had time to test this). As long as you are not modifying the engine's code, just the C++ code associated with your project, your changes should be possible while remaining in editor.

epic-ue45-umg.png

Also updated, and finally supported by default, is Unreal Motion Graphics (UMG). UMG is a UI platform that is built upon Slate, which itself is the main UI platform for Unreal Engine 4 (Unreal Editor, for instance, is created with Slate). Basically, it extends Slate and includes a Flash Professional-like editor for it, complete with styles, animations, and scaling for high-DPI devices.

Because I am not in the DirectX 12 private beta, I am unsure whether that branch has been updated. Microsoft has announced that it was based on Unreal Engine 4.4. They have not said anything publicly since, at least not regarding that.

Unreal Engine 4.5 is available now for subscribers through GitHub or the Unreal Engine Launcher.

Source: Epic Games

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.

101414-speed-test.png

"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

Cooler Master Announces Nepton 120XL and Nepton 240M All-In-One Liquid CPU Coolers

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 21, 2014 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: Nepton 240M, Nepton 120XL, Nepton, cooler master, all in one

They are not quite available yet but Cooler Master have announced two new all in one watercoolers, the Nepton 120XL and 240M which incorporate a new Silencio fan which as you may expect offers good performance with low noise.  If the pricing follows the previous generation of Nepton you can expect to see the 120mm model retail for around $100 and the 240mm for around $120. 

Taipei, Taiwan — Oct 21st 2014 — Cooler Master, a leading creator, innovator, and manufacturer of desktop components and peripherals as well as mobile accessories today announced the Nepton 120XL and 240M, the latest additions to the Nepton all-in-one liquid cooling family. See full details on the Nepton 240M product page here.

unnamed1.jpg

Keeping It Cool
Nepton 120XL and 240M are introducing a brand new Silencio fan from Cooler Master. This fan is designed with unique fan blades and technology in order to maximize air flow and static pressure with minimal noise output. The result of these fans and Nepton’s skived fin micro-channel technology brings Nepton 120XL and 240M to a whole new level of cool, mirroring the thermal success of the Nepton 140XL and 280L models.

unnamed2.jpg

Maximum Compatibility
The Cooler Master Nepton series was introduced with the 140XL and 280L models, which sported 140mm and 280mm radiators respectively. The new Nepton 120XL is equipped with a 120mm radiator while the Nepton 240M is equipped with a 240mm radiator. These sizes allow more opportunity for builders and enthusiasts to get their hands on the incredible performance from the Nepton line.

unnamed3.png

Sealing the Deal
Using Cooler Master’s exclusive design, the pump of the Nepton series pushed 120 Liters of liquid per hour through the flexible and robust FEP tubing to maximize thermal transfer. Topping the pump with a simple geometric design and illuminated Cooler Master logo, the Nepton series continues to turn heads. Backed by a 5-year warranty, Nepton 120XL and 240M will be cooling systems for years to come.

Availability
Nepton 120XL and 240M is now shipping to vendors in North America and will be available soon. Price and availability may vary based on region.

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."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

02-board_0.jpg

Courtesy of MSI

MSI upped the ante with their X99S Gaming 9 AC board, combining their black and red Dragon-inspired design with support for the newest Intel LGA2011-3 socket processors and DDR4 memory modules. The board features heat sinks over all the expected areas as well as a large LED-lit heat sink over the X99 chipset. MSI also integrates an armor-style overlay covering their audio components and an overlay cover for their rear panel. One of their most interesting additions is the MSI Streaming Engine, touted to assist with graphics encoding to make up for the lack of the integrated graphics processor in the Haswell-E CPUs. As a flagship board, the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC comes at a flagship price with an MSRP of $429.99.

03-profile-1.jpg

Courtesy of MSI

04-profile-oc-essentials.jpg

Courtesy of MSI

MSI integrated an 8-phase digital power delivery system into the X99S Gaming 9 AC, combining Hi-C and Dark capacitors with super ferrite chokes for optimal power delivery with enhanced power efficiency characteristics. The board includes the following integrated features: eight SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express port; one M.2 PCIe x4 32 Gb/s port; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2205 NIC; Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; five PCI-Express x16 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, and OC-Genie buttons; Slow Mode boot, Multi-BIOS, OC Genie mode, and Audio Power switches; Realtek audio solution with isolated audio PCB and Nichicon audio capacitors; dedicated per-channel headphone OP-AMPs; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points; Streaming Engine with integrated AVerMedia HD H.264 encoding chip; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

05-rear-panel_0.jpg

Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC motherboard!

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.

overview.jpg

"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

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.

board.jpg

"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

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!!

 

Can you see the difference between these DDR4-3000 DIMMs?

Subject: Memory | October 20, 2014 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: Vengeance LPX, corsair, Ripjaws 4, G.Skill, hyperx predator, kingston, ddr4, DDR4-3000

With the new DDR4 standard comes new speeds and of course updated branding from the major memory resellers.  As it is brand new there is a possibility that some memory is better than others at this point, which is why Kitguru assembled three different kits to test.  Corsair's Vengeance LPX, G.Skill's Ripjaws 4 and Kingston's HyperX Predator all have very similar specifications on paper though each has a distinctive look.  Read on to find out if there is a brand that you should be looking for right now, or if it is price and availability which should drive your purchasing decision.

DDR4-post-image-3_.jpg

"One of the key technological advancements that the Haswell-E processors and Intel’s latest High-End Desktop (HEDT) platform iteration have brought into the consumer limelight is DDR4. We compare three 16GB quad-channel memory kits from Corsair, G.Skill, and Kingston, all running at 3000MHz. Is there a specific set of ‘go-to’ memory at this early point in the DDR4 life-cycle?"

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

 

Source: KitGuru

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.

index.jpg

"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