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NVIDIA Responds to GTX 970 3.5GB Memory Issue

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 24, 2015 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 970, GM204, 3.5gb memory

Looking for information on the GTX 980 and GTX 970 to start out? Our initial launch review of the NVIDIA Maxwell architecture is a good place to start!

UPDATE 1/26/15 @ 12:10am ET: I now have a lot more information on the technical details of the architecture that cause this issue and more information from NVIDIA to explain it. I spoke with SVP of GPU Engineering Jonah Alben on Sunday night to really dive into the quesitons everyone had. Expect an update here on this page at 10am PT / 1pm ET or so. Bookmark and check back!

UPDATE 1/24/15 @ 11:25pm ET: Apparently there is some concern online that the statement below is not legitimate. I can assure you that the information did come from NVIDIA, though is not attributal to any specific person - the message was sent through a couple of different PR people and is the result of meetings and multiple NVIDIA employee's input. It is really a message from the company, not any one individual. I have had several 10-20 minute phone calls with NVIDIA about this issue and this statement on Saturday alone, so I know that the information wasn't from a spoofed email, etc. Also, this statement was posted by an employee moderator on the GeForce.com forums about 6 hours ago, further proving that the statement is directly from NVIDIA. I hope this clears up any concerns around the validity of the below information!

Over the past couple of weeks users of GeForce GTX 970 cards have noticed and started researching a problem with memory allocation in memory-heavy gaming. Essentially, gamers noticed that the GTX 970 with its 4GB of system memory was only ever accessing 3.5GB of that memory. When it did attempt to access the final 500MB of memory, performance seemed to drop dramatically. What started as simply a forum discussion blew up into news that was being reported at tech and gaming sites across the web.

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Image source: Lazygamer.net

NVIDIA has finally responded to the widespread online complaints about GeForce GTX 970 cards only utilizing 3.5GB of their 4GB frame buffer. From the horse's mouth:

The GeForce GTX 970 is equipped with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory.  However the 970 has a different configuration of SMs than the 980, and fewer crossbar resources to the memory system. To optimally manage memory traffic in this configuration, we segment graphics memory into a 3.5GB section and a 0.5GB section.  The GPU has higher priority access to the 3.5GB section.  When a game needs less than 3.5GB of video memory per draw command then it will only access the first partition, and 3rd party applications that measure memory usage will report 3.5GB of memory in use on GTX 970, but may report more for GTX 980 if there is more memory used by other commands.  When a game requires more than 3.5GB of memory then we use both segments.
 
We understand there have been some questions about how the GTX 970 will perform when it accesses the 0.5GB memory segment.  The best way to test that is to look at game performance.  Compare a GTX 980 to a 970 on a game that uses less than 3.5GB.  Then turn up the settings so the game needs more than 3.5GB and compare 980 and 970 performance again.
 
Here’s an example of some performance data:

  GTX 980 GTX 970
Shadow of Mordor    
<3.5GB setting = 2688x1512 Very High 72 FPS 60 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3456x1944 55 FPS (-24%) 45 FPS (-25%)
Battlefield 4    
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 2xMSAA 36 FPS 30 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 135% res 19 FPS (-47%) 15 FPS (-50%)
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare    
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling off 82 FPS 71 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling on 48 FPS (-41%) 40 FPS (-44%)

On GTX 980, Shadows of Mordor drops about 24% on GTX 980 and 25% on GTX 970, a 1% difference.  On Battlefield 4, the drop is 47% on GTX 980 and 50% on GTX 970, a 3% difference.  On CoD: AW, the drop is 41% on GTX 980 and 44% on GTX 970, a 3% difference.  As you can see, there is very little change in the performance of the GTX 970 relative to GTX 980 on these games when it is using the 0.5GB segment.

So it would appear that the severing of a trio of SMMs to make the GTX 970 different than the GTX 980 was the root cause of the issue. I'm not sure if this something that we have seen before with NVIDIA GPUs that are cut down in the same way, but I have asked for clarification from NVIDIA on that. The ratios fit: 500MB is 1/8th of the 4GB total memory capacity and 2 SMMs is 1/8th of the total SMM count. (Edit: The ratios in fact do NOT match up...odd.)

GeForce_GTX_980_Block_Diagram_FINAL.png

The full GM204 GPU that is the root cause of this memory issue.

Another theory presented itself as well: is this possibly the reason we do not have a GTX 960 Ti yet? If the patterns were followed from previous generations a GTX 960 Ti would be a GM204 GPU with fewer cores enabled and additional SMs disconnected to enable a lower price point. If this memory issue were to be even more substantial, creating larger differentiated "pools" of memory, then it could be an issue for performance or driver development. To be clear, we are just guessing on this one and that could be something that would not occur at all. Again, I've asked NVIDIA for some technical clarification.

Requests for information aside, we may never know for sure if this is a bug with the GM204 ASIC or predetermined characteristic of design. 

The questions remains: does NVIDIA's response appease GTX 970 owners? After all, this memory concern is really just a part of a GPU's story and thus performance testing and analysis already incorporates it essentially. Some users will still likely make a claim of a "bait and switch" but do the benchmarks above, as well as our own results at 4K, make it a less significant issue?

Our own Josh Walrath offers this analysis:

A few days ago when we were presented with evidence of the 970 not fully utilizing all 4 GB of memory, I theorized that it had to do with the reduction of SMM units. It makes sense from an efficiency standpoint to perhaps "hard code" memory addresses for each SMM. The thought behind that would be that 4 GB of memory is a huge amount of a video card, and the potential performance gains of a more flexible system would be pretty minimal.

I believe that the memory controller is working as intended and not a bug. When designing a large GPU, there will invariably be compromises made. From all indications NVIDIA decided to save time, die size, and power by simplifying the memory controller and crossbar setup. These things have a direct impact on time to market and power efficiency.  NVIDIA probably figured that a couple percentage of performance lost was outweighed by the added complexity, power consumption, and engineering resources that it would have taken to gain those few percentage points back.

The Latest NVIDIA GeForce Drivers Are Here: Version 347.25 adds GTX 960 Support, MFAA to Most Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 11:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 960, graphics drivers, graphics cards, GeForce 347.25, geforce, game ready, dying light

With the release of GTX 960 yesterday NVIDIA also introduced a new version of the GeForce graphics driver, 347.25 - WHQL.

GeForce_Experience_Badge_Type_H_blk.png

NVIDIA states that the new driver adds "performance optimizations, SLI profiles, expanded Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing support, and support for the new GeForce GTX 960".

While support for the newly released GPU goes without saying, the expanded MFAA support will help provide better anti-aliasing performance to many existing games, as “MFAA support is extended to nearly every DX10 and DX11 title”. In the release notes three games are listed that do not benefit from the MFAA support, as “Dead Rising 3, Dragon Age 2, and Max Payne 3 are incompatible with MFAA”.

347.25 also brings additional SLI profiles to add support for five new games, and a DirectX 11 SLI profile for one more:

SLI profiles added

  • Black Desert
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
  • Nosgoth
  • Zhu Xian Shi Jie
  • The Talos Principle

DirectX 11 SLI profile added

  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

The update is also the Game Ready Driver for Dying Light, a zombie action/survival game set to debut on January 27.

DYING_LIGHT.png

Much more information is available under the release notes on the driver download page, and be sure to check out Ryan’s chat with Tom Peterson from the live stream for a lot more information about this driver and the new GTX 960 graphics card.

Source: NVIDIA

DirectX 12 Preview in New Windows 10 Build. No Drivers Yet.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft has added DirectX 12 with the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today. Until today, DXDIAG reported DirectX 11 in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. At the moment, there has not been any drivers or software released for it, and the SDK is also no-where to be found. Really, all this means is that one barrier has been lifted, leaving the burden on hardware and software partners (except to release the SDK, that's still Microsoft's responsibility).

microsoft-windows10-jan-preview-dx12.png

No-one needs to know how old my motherboard is...

Note: I have already experienced some issues with Build 9926. Within a half hour of using it, I suffered an instant power-down. There was not even enough time for a bluescreen. When it came back, my Intel GPU (which worked for a few minutes after the update) refused to be activated, along with the monitor it is attached to. My point? Not for production machines.

The interesting part, to me, is how Microsoft pushed DX12 into this release without, you know, telling anyone. It is not on any changelog that I can see, and it was not mentioned anywhere in the briefing as potentially being in an upcoming preview build. Before the keynote, I had a theory that it would be included but, after the announcement, figured that it might be pushed until GDC or BUILD (but I kept an open mind). The only evidence that it might come this month was an editorial on Forbes that referenced a conversation with Futuremark, who allegedly wanted to release an update to 3DMark (they hoped) when Microsoft released the new build. I could not find anything else, so I didn't report on it -- you would think that there would be a second source for that somewhere. It turns out that he might be right.

The new Windows 10 Technical Preview, containing DirectX 12, is available now from the preview build panel. It looks like Futuremark (and maybe others) will soon release software for it, but no hardware vendor has released a driver... yet.

The Reeven Steropes cooler is flat as a pancake

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 23, 2015 - 06:54 PM |
Tagged: reeven, steropes, low profile, air cooling

The Reeven heatsink stands a mere 125x60x129 mm and weighs barely over a pound even with the included fan installed.  This will be perfect for an incredibly thin system and with its small foot print it won't interfere with your RAM as it is not big enough to overhang the DIMMs on most boards.  This will by necessity reduce the cooling capabilities as you can see in techPowerUp's testing with an i7-4770K.  For those looking for a tiny system that is not going to be an issue and at full speed the fan doesn't reach more than 47dBA so it is also good for those who desire quiet as well as small size.  This one is worth checking out if you are looking at this type of build.

intro.jpg

"Reveen looks to impress with their small-form-factor friendly Steropes low-profile CPU cooler. At just 60 mm tall, this diminutive cooler may lack size, but it certainly doesn't lack style. Offering solid performance and low noise, it might be just what you need for a SFF or HTPC."

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: techPowerUp

The GIGABYTE FORCE M63 mouse strips for you

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: input, FORCE M63, gigabyte, gaming mouse

The newest in Gigabyte's Raptor lineup is the FORCE M63 gaming mouse, with sensitivity adjustable between 50 to 4000 DPI and a pack of weights which allow you to adjust between 1.8 to 21.3g.  The sensor is an Avago a3090 and the buttons all use OMRON and TTC switches and there is enough onboard memory to program the 10 buttons in numerous profiles, each of which can produce a different coloured light on your mouse wheel if you so choose.  Modders Inc were quite happy with the performance, head on over to see shots of the innards of the mouse as well as the software.

IMG_7288-500x333.jpg

"To win in the game you need to customize your controls for maximum speed and comfort. It is very important to feel in control of your character whether you are playing an FPS game or an RPG. If you think all of the peripherals are equal in performance, comfort or customization; you are wrong. There are numerous types and styles …"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Modders Inc

Taking the HoloLens with a grain of salt

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, hololens

That fancy black visor was not what was provided to those lucky few who were invited to try out the HoloLens after the WinX presentation.  The working model consists of straps and an adjustable headband holding the lenses all enclosed within a wire frame to which is attached an external enclosure holding the battery and processors.  There were four different experiments to try, including the Minecraft looking demo we saw on stage and a virtual Mars experience using the data captured by Curiosity.  We won't be seeing the slick model demonstrated on stage any time soon but the technology is solid and was enough to convince The Register that Microsoft has an incredible product in store for us.

hololens.jpg

"During Wednesday's Windows 10 preview day, select groups of hacks were stripped of any recording devices or cameras and sent down into the bowels of Building 92 of Microsoft's Redmond campus to try out the HoloLens, the software giant's new "hologramatic" wearable."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

New MSI All In One PCs Powered By AMD Beema APUs

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 12:56 AM |
Tagged: msi, beema, APU, amd, all in one, AIO

MSI will soon release three new All In One PCs under its Adora and Entertainment series. The new PCs are powered by AMD’s Beema APU and are aimed at light duty home computing and commercial applications respectively.

Beema Powered MSI All In One PC.jpg

MSI AE200 5M and AE220 5M AIO PC

The AIOs are clad in a white plastic casing with a clear bezel surrounding the matte display.  The Adora20 5M offers a 19.5” 1600 x 900 screen while the AE200 5M and AE220 5M feature a 19.5” 1600 x 900 and 21.5” 1920 x 1080 displays respectively. All the displays use MSI’s anti flicker, blue light reduction, and optional anti-glare technologies to reduce eye strain. The panels are multi-touch capable as well.

As far as I/O, the AIOs have webcams, optical disc drives, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ45 Ethernet, analog audio in/out, and an SD card reader. All of the PCs support 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The Entertainment series PCs (AE200 5M and AE220 5M) further add a Mini-PCIe connection and a COM port on the back to support barcode scanners, card readers, and other legacy peripherals.

Internally, the PCs are powered by a low power AMD “Beema” APU, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a single 2.5” SATA III hard drive or SSD. The Beema APUs in question are the AMD A4-6210 and E2-6110 with the Adora20 5M getting the latter chip. Both processors are 15W 28nm SoCs with four Puma+ x86 cores and discrete Radeon GCN graphics. The A4-6210 and E2-6110 are similarly configured but the A4-6210 has higher clockspeeds on the quad core CPU (up to 1.8GHz vs 1.5GHz) and 128 GCN graphics cores (600MHz vs 500MHz). Josh wrote up an article following the launch of Beema that goes into more details, but the gist of it is that Beema is competing with Intel’s Bay Trail Atom chips in this area and the chips tend to trade benchmark wins. Depending on the application used under Windows 7/8.1, users should see roughly similar performance versus an Atom based system. I will admit to being surprised to see AMD get a design win here given the huge popularity of Bay Trail, but in this form factor Beema should do well.

Beema Powered MSI All In One PC rear IO.jpg

Rear IO of the AE220 5M and AE200 5M PCs.

As is usually the case with these sort of announcements, there is no word on pricing or availability yet. Keep in mind that the AE200 5M and AE220 5M are aimed at businesses for use as kiosks, checkout terminals, product demonstrations, et al while the Adora20 5M is aimed more towards consumers who need a second PC or a primary PC for those with basic (mostly web-based or media playback focused) needs.

Source: MSI

PCPer Live! GeForce GTX 960 Live Stream and Giveaway with Tom Petersen

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 22, 2015 - 06:44 PM |
Tagged: video, tom petersen, nvidia, maxwell, live, gtx 960, gtx, GM206, geforce

UPDATE 2: If you missed the live stream you missed the prizes! But you can still watch the replay to get all the information and Q&A that went along with it as we discuss the GTX 960 and many more topics from the NVIDIA universe.

UPDATE (1/22): Well, the secret is out. Today's discussion will be about the new GeForce GTX 960, a $199 graphics card that takes power efficiency to a previously un-seen level! If you haven't read my review of the card yet, you should do so first, but then be sure you are ready for today's live stream and giveaway - details below! And don't forget: if you have questions, please leave them in the comments!

Get yourself ready, it’s time for another GeForce GTX live stream hosted by PC Perspective’s Ryan Shrout and NVIDIA’s Tom Petersen. Though we can’t dive into the exact details of what topics are going to be covered, intelligent readers that keep an eye on the rumors on our site will likely be able to guess what is happening on January 22nd.

geforce-logo.jpg

On hand to talk about the products, answer questions about technologies in the GeForce family including GPUs, G-Sync, GameWorks, GeForce Experience and more will be Tom Petersen, well known on the LAN party and events circuit. To spice things up as well Tom has worked with graphics card partners to bring along a sizeable swag pack to give away LIVE during the event, including new GTX graphics cards. LOTS of graphics cards.

pcperlive.png

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 Live Stream and Giveaway

10am PT / 1pm ET - January 22nd

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:

  • 3 x MSI GeForce GTX 960 Graphics Cards
  • 4 x EVGA GeForce GTX 960 Graphics Cards
  • 3 x ASUS GeForce GTX 960 Graphics Cards

prizes.jpg

Thanks to ASUS, EVGA and MSI for supporting the stream!

The event will take place Thursday, January 22nd at 1pm ET / 10am PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Tom to answer live. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

Tom has a history of being both informative and entertaining and these live streaming events are always full of fun and technical information that you can get literally nowhere else. Previous streams have produced news as well – including statements on support for Adaptive Sync, release dates for displays and first-ever demos of triple display G-Sync functionality. You never know what’s going to happen or what will be said!

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Tom or I?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 1pm ET / 10am PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Reading material to go along with the GTX 960 live stream

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 22, 2015 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: video, nvidia, msi gaming 2g, maxwell, gtx 960, GM206, geforce

Did Ryan somehow miss a benchmark that is important to you?  Perhaps [H]ard|OCP's coverage of the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G will capture that certain something.  MSI runs their 960 at a base of 1216MHz with the boost clock hitting 1279MHz, slightly slower than the ASUS STRIX at 1291 MHz and 1317 MHz.  At the time this was posted the cards were available on Amazon for $210, that is obviously going to change so keep an eye out.  As [H] states in their conclusions, it is a good value but not the great value which the GTX 970 offered at release, check out their full review here or one of the many down below.

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"NVIDIA is today launching a GPU aimed at the "sweet spot" of the video card market. With an unexpectedly low MSRP, we find out if the new GeForce GTX 960 has what it takes to compete with the competition. The MSI GTX 960 GAMING reviewed here today is a retail card you will be able to purchase. No reference card in this review."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Now that is small form factor, a PC in a mouse

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: DIY, mod, mouse-box

Inside the red and black striped body of this mouse is a quad-core ARM Cortex processor of unknown pedigree running at 1.4GHz and 128GB of flash storage; no information on how much RAM might be available.  It has inbuilt WiFi, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a single micro-HDMI port for output and it will charge wirelessly when placed on a pad via Qi or a similar solution.  As well the regular mouse input the Mouse-Box will also have an accelerometer and gyroscope, perhaps a revival of the 3D interface mice which appeared and quickly disappeared a few years back.  Check out the video at The Register to see the team's pitch and a way to get in contact with them.

mouse_box.jpg

"The specs aren't going to excite gamers, but Polish developer Przemysław Strzelczyk and his team have built a decent working computer into a Mouse."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #333 - ASUS Rampage V Extreme, Samsung T1 Portable SSD, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2015 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, asus, Rampage V Extreme, Samsung, T1, 850 EVO, ECS, liva x, amazon echo, amd, carrizo, windows 10, raptr

PC Perspective Podcast #333 - 01/22/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS Rampage V Extreme, Samsung T1 Portable SSD, Windows 10 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!!

 

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A new GPU, a familiar problem

Editor's Note: Don't forget to join us today for a live streaming event featuring Ryan Shrout and NVIDIA's Tom Petersen to discuss the new GeForce GTX 960. It will be live at 1pm ET / 10am PT and will include ten (10!) GTX 960 prizes for participants! You can find it all at http://www.pcper.com/live

There are no secrets anymore. Calling today's release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 a surprise would be like calling another Avenger's movie unexpected. If you didn't just assume it was coming chances are the dozens of leaks of slides and performance would get your attention. So here it is, today's the day, NVIDIA finally upgrades the mainstream segment that was being fed by the GTX 760 for more than a year and half. But does the brand new GTX 960 based on Maxwell move the needle?

IMG_1373.JPG

But as you'll soon see, the GeForce GTX 960 is a bit of an odd duck in terms of new GPU releases. As we have seen several times in the last year or two with a stagnant process technology landscape, the new cards aren't going be wildly better performing than the current cards from either NVIDIA for AMD. In fact, there are some interesting comparisons to make that may surprise fans of both parties.

The good news is that Maxwell and the GM206 GPU will price out starting at $199 including overclocked models at that level. But to understand what makes it different than the GM204 part we first need to dive a bit into the GM206 GPU and how it matches up with NVIDIA's "small" GPU strategy of the past few years.

The GM206 GPU - Generational Complexity

First and foremost, the GTX 960 is based on the exact same Maxwell architecture as the GTX 970 and GTX 980. The power efficiency, the improved memory bus compression and new features all make their way into the smaller version of Maxwell selling for $199 as of today. If you missed the discussion on those new features including MFAA, Dynamic Super Resolution, VXGI you should read that page of our original GTX 980 and GTX 970 story from last September for a bit of context; these are important aspects of Maxwell and the new GM206.

GeForce_GTX_960_Block_Diagram_FINAL.png

NVIDIA's GM206 is essentially half of the full GM204 GPU that you find on the GTX 980. That includes 1024 CUDA cores, 64 texture units and 32 ROPs for processing, a 128-bit memory bus and 2GB of graphics memory. This results in half of the memory bandwidth at 112 GB/s and half of the peak compute capability at 2.30 TFLOPS.

Continue reading our review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 2GB Graphics Card!!

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Introducing Windows 10 (Again)

I did not exactly make too many unsafe predictions, but let's recap the Windows 10 Consumer announcement anyway. The briefing was a bit on the slow side, at least if you are used to E3 keynotes, but it contained a fair amount of useful information. Some of the things discussed are future-oriented, but some will arrive soon. So let's get right into it.

Price and Upgrade Options

Microsoft has not announced an official price for Windows 10, if the intent is to install it on a new PC. If you are attempting to upgrade a machine that currently runs Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, then that will be a free upgrade if done within the first year. Windows Phone 8.1 users are also eligible for a no-cost upgrade to Windows 10 if done in the first year.

microsoft-windows10-consumer-keynote-01.jpg

Quote Terry Myerson of Microsoft, “Once a device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will be keeping it current for the supported lifetime of the device.” This is not elaborated on, but it seems like a weird statement given what we have traditionally expected from Windows. One possible explanation is that Microsoft intends for Windows to be a subscription service going forward, which would be the most obvious extension of “Windows as a Service”. On the other hand, they could be going for the per-device revenue option with Bing, Windows Store, and other initiatives being long tail. If so, I am a bit confused about what constitutes a new device for systems that are regularly upgraded, like what our readers are typically interested in. All of that will eventually be made clear, but not yet.

A New Build for Windows 10

Late in the keynote, Microsoft announced the availability of new preview builds for Windows 10. This time, users of Windows Phone 8.1 will also be able to see the work in progress. PC “Insiders” will get access to their build “in the next week” and phones will get access “in Feburary”. Ars Technica seems to believe that this is scheduled for Sunday, February 1st, which is a really weird time to release a build but their source might be right.

microsoft-windows10-consumer-keynote-02.jpg

We don't know exactly what will be in it, though. In my predictions, I guessed that a DirectX 12 SDK might be available (or at least some demos) in the next build. That has not been mentioned, which probably would have been if it were true. I expect the next possibility (if we're not surprised in the next one-to-ten days when the build drops) is Game Developers Conference (GDC 2015), which starts on March 2nd.

The New Web Browser: Project Spartan

My guess was that Spartan would be based on DirectX 12. Joe Belfiore said that it is using a new, standards-compliant rendering engine and basically nothing more. The event focused on specific features. The first is note taking, which basically turns the web browser into a telestrator that can also accept keyboard comment blocks. The second is a reading mode that alters content into a Microsoft Word-like column. The third is “reading lists”, which is basically a “read it later” feature that does offline caching. The fourth is Adobe PDF support, which works with the other features of Spartan such as note taking and reading lists.

Which Transitions Into Cortana

The fifth feature of Spartan is Cortana integration, which will provide auto-suggestions based on the information that the assistant software has. The example they provided was auto-suggesting the website for his wife's flight. Surprisingly, when you attempt to control a Spartan, Cortana does not say “There's two of us in here now, remember?” You know, in an attempt to let you know she's service that's integrated into the browser.

microsoft-windows10-consumer-keynote-03.jpg

Otherwise, it's an interesting demo. I might even end up using it when it comes out, but these sorts of things do not really interest me too much. We have been at the point where, for my usage, the operating system is really not in the way anymore. It feels like there is very little friction between me and getting what I want done, done. Of course, people felt that way about rotary phones until touch-tone came out, and I keep an open mind to better methods. It's just hard to get me excited about voice-activated digital assistants.

Gaming Features

As I stated before, DirectX 12 was mentioned but a release date was not confirmed. What they did mention was a bit of relative performance. DirectX 12 supposedly uses about half of the power consumption of DirectX 11, which is particularly great for mobile applications. It can also handle scenes with many more objects. A FutureMark demo was displayed, with the DirectX 11 version alongside a DirectX 12 version. The models seem fairly simple, but the DirectX 12 version appears to running at over 100 FPS when the DirectX 11 version outright fails.

microsoft-windows10-consumer-keynote-04.jpg

Other gaming features were mentioned. First, Windows 10 will allow shadow recording the last 30 seconds of footage from any game. You might think that NVIDIA would be upset about that, and they might be, but that is significantly less time than ShadowPlay or other recording methods. Second, Xbox One will be able to stream gameplay to any PC in your house. I expect this is the opposite direction than what people hope for, rather wishing for high-quality PC footage to be easily streamed to TVs with a simple interface. It will probably serve a purpose for some use case, though.

In Summary

Well that was a pretty long event, clocking in at almost two-and-a-half hours. The end had a surprise announcement of an augmented reality (not virtual reality) headset, called the “HoloLens”, which is developed by the Kinect team. I am deliberately not elaborating on it because I was not at the event and I have not tried it. I will say that the most interesting part about it, for me, is the Skype integration, because that probably hints at Microsoft's intentions with the product.

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For the rest of us, it touched on a number of interesting features but, like the Enterprise event, did not really dive in. It would have been nice to get some technical details about DirectX 12, but that obviously does not cater to the intended audience. Unless an upcoming build soft-launches a DirectX 12 preview (or Spartan) so that we can do our own discovery, we will probably need to wait until GDC and/or BUILD to find out more.

Until then, you could watch the on-demand version at Microsoft's website.

Battlefleet Gothic could be a real thing very soon!

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: gaming, warhammer 40k, exterminatus, battlefleet gothic

That's right, Eldar and their tissue paper clad ships will be going up against the city sized ships of the Imperium, Abaddon the Despoiler's Black Legion and even the cobbled together Orc vessels which have grown large enough to deserve the name Battlekrooser.  The single player and possibly the two player co-op missions will be Imperium only while multiplayer will allow you to choose to control filthy Xenos fleets.  In both cases the ships and crew will accumulate experience and upgrade skills or weaponry but only if they survive battle and do not get executed for not following orders.  Exterminatus will be present in the game as well as boarding parties, with the latter being restricted to scuttling ships.  The game will be based on it's tabletop forefather but will not be enslaved to it, map movement is expected to be turn based but the battles will be in real time, at a pace which matches the ponderous size of these ships.  Check out the excitement at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

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"The news that an adaptation of Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic was in development made for happy reading last week but solid facts were thin on the ground. We knew that the game would be real-time rather than turn-based, which was cause for concern in some quarters, and that four factions would be available."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Chromecast meets Linux

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2015 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: linux, chromecast, DIY, stream

Linux.com has put together a quick tutorial on how to stream content to Chromecast from a machine running Linux, giving you an incredibly inexpensive and effective way to stream your own capture media.  With the use of a Samba group in openSUSE you can send data to the Chromecast dongle attached to your TV, something that was not initially possible with Chromecast.  The author took this a step further, showing you how to set up your Android devices to stream to Chromecast as well.  Learn how to here.

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"Chromecast is one of the most used devices in my household. After using it for over a year now, I believe there is no longer a market for the so-called 'smart TV'. Inexpensive devices like Chromecast can turn any HDMI-enabled TV into a smart TV with immense possibilities to expand its features."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

Windows 10 Consumer Briefing Predictions

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana

Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.

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Here is what I expect to see:

A New Build for Windows 10

Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.

DirectX 12

When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):

  • Targeting Holiday 2015 games
  • Preview release coming later this year
  • Don't want to wait that long? Early access!

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The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.

Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.

'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)

Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.

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Image Credit: cnBeta.com via TheVerge

These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).

It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?

Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes

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Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.

Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.

Source: Microsoft

A happy medium between noise and cooling, Cooler Master's Hyper D92

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 20, 2015 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: Hyper D92, cooler master

The Cooler Master Hyper D92 does count as compact with dimensions of 5.7 x 3.3 x 4.9", at 448g it is lighter than many coolers on the market and with 53.4mm of clearance over your DIMM slots it should not interfere with most RAM.  The reduction in size does have an effect on the heatsinks ability to disperse heat but The Tech Report's testing shows better performance than the stock Intel heatsink when cooling an i5-4690K and at a lower noise level.  The performance is not up to snuff for overclockers nor are the stock fans quiet enough at full speed for those wanting a near silent build but for those looking for a good compromise between those two scenarios at a decent price it is well worth considering the Hyper D92

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"The Hyper D92 is a compact tower-style cooler with dual 92-mm fans. We tested its performance on stock-clocked and overclocked CPUs to see how it stacks up."

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

CASES & COOLING

Need a consulting gig and know AD and Exchange?

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: server 2003, microsoft, EoL, migration

There are over eight million active servers running Server 2003 according to the stats The Register has seen and who knows how many Server 2000 installs still kicking around but as of the 14th of July extended support for Server 2003 ends and no longer will security patches or support be available.  The difficulty of prying WinXP out of users hands will be nothing compared to convincing stakeholders to part with money to upgrade to a new version of Server, be it hosted onsite or via Azure and O365.  There will be some companies wise enough to find leverage to start the migration soon but there will also be many who will not see the cost benefit until their system fails or even worse, a breach occurs.  If you have any knowledge of newer versions of ActiveDirectory, Exchange or Azure and O365 you should update your resume as there will be people looking for help migrating in the near future.

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"A channel-wide migration skills shortage is a real danger this summer as stragglers strain available resources by making an eleventh hour dash to flee Windows Server 2003, distributor veterans are warning."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Today Samsung has lifted the review embargo on their new Portable SSD T1. This represents Samsung's first portable SSD, and aims to serve as another way to make their super speedy VNAND available. We first saw the Samsung T1 at CES, and I've been evaluating the performance if this little drive for the past week:

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We'll dive more into the details as this review progresses.

Specifications:

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Packaging:

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The T1 comes well packaged, with a small instruction manual and a flat style short USB 3.0 cable. The drive itself is very light - ours weighed in right at 1 ounce.

Continue reading our review of the Samsung Portable SSD T1 500GB unit!

Upgrade your car with an SSD?

Subject: Storage | January 19, 2015 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: super talent, DuraDrive AT7, ssd, SM2246EN

If you have an entertainment system in your car, why not go whole hog and upgrade it with a specially designed Super Talent DuraDrive AT7 SSD.  Unfortunately you will be hard pressed to find one as they will generally be sold directly to the auto manufacturers but The SSD Review's look at it is interesting because it is the first look at Silicon Motion's new SM2246EN 6Gbps 4 channel controller.  The ATTO results when connected to an X99 motherboard were impressive, peaking at 554MB/s read and 446MB/s write.  It will be interesting to see which manufacturers install this in their vehicles and what usage scenarios would require this kind of throughput.

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"Every now and then, we are fortunate to have SSDs reach our bench that one might not normally find within every day PC systems or servers. Our review today of the Super Talent DuraDrive AT7 SSD is just that; a SSD fully intended for the automobile industry, and more specifically In-vehicle Infotainment Systems."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage