Gold Box: Assassin's Creed IV is $29 on Steam, Xbox 360, PS3

Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2013 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: gold box, amazon

If you haven't picked up Assassin's Creed IV yet, today might be the best chance you'll get before the holiday.  Amazon.com's Gold Box deal today offers you the PC DVD, Steam, Uplay, Xbox 360 and PS3 versions for just $29.99.

Just keep in mind that the Amazon Gold Box deal ends at the end of the day!

asscreed4.jpg

That is half off the current Steam price and based on my time with the game, and reviews in general, Assassin's Creed IV is much better than AC3 and currently sits at a score of 87 on Metacritic

Source: Amazon

Support PC Perspective with Amazon Affiliate Codes!

Subject: Editorial | November 25, 2013 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: pcper, amazon

UPDATE: With biggest buying season of them all creeping up on this week here in the US, I just thought I would offer up another reminder about those readers that would like to support PC Perspective while they happen to be shopping on Amazon.com.  You can either install one of the quick and easy extensions listed below or, if you would rather take the passive approach, click the link below and shop away!

Recently a couple of PC Perspective fans have asked about an Amazon Affiliate code they could use for their normal Amazon purchases to help support the team here.  Previously, we rarely used one of these codes so I setup a new one specifically for our use.  As it turns out the small commission we receive for Amazon purchases is quite a bit LARGER than any commission we get for our various links to Newegg.com for example. 

Our Amazon code is: pcper04-20

The easiest way to integrate it into your shopping, rather than remembering to add it to your URL each time, is to use a couple of plugins for Chrome or FireFox.  For Chrome, the plugin is called Amazon Affiliate Link and is super easy to install.

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Install the plugin.

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Right click the new icon in the upper right corner.

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Set the affiliate IDs to pcper04-20

For FireFox, the plugin is called AffiliateFox

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Add the plugin to FireFox.

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Click the okay to install it.

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Go to your Add-on settings and add pcper04-20 as each code.

That's it, you're done and you're supporting PC Perspective!  We thank you tremendously for it and promise to do our best to continue to bring you the best possible content!!

Components Deals: Amazon Gold Box has Core i7-4770K for $299, Intel 240GB 530 SSD for $149

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Storage | November 19, 2013 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: i7-4770k, gold box, deals, amazon, 530 series

I don't often post about the Amazon Gold Box deals, but today the company has some great offerings specific to PC enthusiasts and DIY builders that you might want to take advantage of.  Please keep in mind though that these deals are only good today, November 19th!!

The flagship offering is the Intel Core i7-4770K, the company's highest end LGA1150 Haswell processor, is on sale for $299; $60 off the normal MSRP. That is the best price I have seen on that flagship CPU with the exception of in-store offerings from MicroCenters. 

intel4770k.jpg

For those of you on a tighter budget, Amazon has the Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge processor on sale for $199

Another great price can be had on the Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD that is going for $149; well under the MSRP price. 

intel530.jpg

You can also find good deals on a pair of Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 cards including the OC model with boost for $239 or the Vapor-X model for $289, both after rebates. 

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Here are some other interesting deals, all found on the Gold Box deal page:

And just remember: these deals are only good today, November 19th!!

Source: Amazon

PC Perspective Podcast #276 - AMD Radeon R9 290, Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H, SSD Torture tests and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2013 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: Z87X-UD5H, video, R9 290X, r9 290, podcast, nvidia, gtx 780, grid, ec2, amd, amazon

PC Perspective Podcast #276 - 11/07/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon R9 290, Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H, SSD Torture tests 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

 
Due to a recording error, portions of the audio track are missing. Because of this, the audio will skip around in various places. This is actually happening, and you aren't crazy (well maybe, but not because of the audio). Considering these files were almost not recovered, it's a miracle we have this much of the recording.
 
Program length: 0:47:56
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  3. podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

NVIDIA Grid GPUs Available for Amazon EC2

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | November 5, 2013 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, grid, AWS, amazon

Amazon Web Services allows customers (individuals, organizations, or companies) to rent servers of certain qualities to match their needs. Many websites are hosted at their data centers, mostly because you can purchase different (or multiple) servers if you have big variations in traffic.

I, personally, sometimes use it as a game server for scheduled multiplayer events. The traditional method is spending $50-80 USD per month on a... decent... server running all-day every-day and using it a couple of hours per week. With Amazon EC2, we hosted a 200 player event (100 vs 100) by purchasing a dual-Xeon (ironically the fastest single-threaded instance) server connected to Amazon's internet backbone by 10 Gigabit Ethernet. This server cost just under $5 per hour all expenses considered. It was not much of a discount but it ran like butter.

nvidia-grid-bracket.png

This leads me to today's story: NVIDIA GRID GPUs are now available at Amazon Web Services. Both companies hope their customers will use (or create services based on) these instances. Applications they expect to see are streamed games, CAD and media creation, and other server-side graphics processing. These Kepler-based instances, named "g2.2xlarge", will be available along side the older Fermi-based Cluster Compute Instances ("cg1.4xlarge").

It is also noteworthy that the older Fermi-based Tesla servers are about 4x as expensive. GRID GPUs are based on GK104 (or GK107, but those are not available on Amazon EC2) and not the more compute-intensive GK110. It would probably be a step backwards for customers intending to perform GPGPU workloads for computational science or "big data" analysis. The newer GRID systems do not have 10 Gigabit Ethernet, either.

So what does it have? Well, I created an AWS instance to find out.

aws-grid-cpu.png

Its CPU is advertised as an Intel E5-2670 with 8 threads and 26 Compute Units (CUs). This is particularly odd as that particular CPU is eight-core with 16 threads; it is also usually rated by Amazon at 22 CUs per 8 threads. This made me wonder whether the CPU is split between two clients or if Amazon disabled Hyper-Threading to push the clock rates higher (and ultimately led me to just log in to an instance and see). As it turns out, HT is still enabled and the processor registers as having 4 physical cores.

The GPU was slightly more... complicated.

aws-grid-gpu.png

NVIDIA control panel apparently does not work over remote desktop and the GPU registers as a "Standard VGA Graphics Adapter". Actually, two are available in Device Manager although one has the yellow exclamation mark of driver woe (random integrated graphics that wasn't disabled in BIOS?). GPU-Z was not able to pick much up from it but it was of some help.

Keep in mind: I did this without contacting either Amazon or NVIDIA. It is entirely possible that the OS I used (Windows Server 2008 R2) was a poor choice. OTOY, as a part of this announcement, offers Amazon Machine Image (AMI)s for Linux and Windows installations integrated with their ORBX middleware.

I spot three key pieces of information: The base clock is 797 MHz, the memory size is 2990 MB, and the default drivers are Forceware 276.52 (??). The core and default clock rate, GK104 and 797 MHz respectively, are characteristic of the GRID K520 GPU with its 2 GK104 GPUs clocked at 800 MHz. However, since the K520 gives each GPU 4GB and this instance only has 3GB of vRAM, I can tell that the product is slightly different.

I was unable to query the device's shader count. The K520 (similar to a GeForce 680) has 1536 per GPU which sounds about right (but, again, pure speculation).

I also tested the server with TCPing to measure its networking performance versus the cluster compute instances. I did not do anything like Speedtest or Netalyzr. With a normal cluster instance I achieve about 20-25ms pings; with this instance I was more in the 45-50ms range. Of course, your mileage may vary and this should not be used as any official benchmark. If you are considering using the instance for your product, launch an instance and run your own tests. It is not expensive. Still, it seems to be less responsive than Cluster Compute instances which is odd considering its intended gaming usage.

Regardless, now that Amazon picked up GRID, we might see more services (be it consumer or enterprise) which utilizes this technology. The new GPU instances start at $0.65/hr for Linux and $0.767/hr for Windows (excluding extra charges like network bandwidth) on demand. Like always with EC2, if you will use these instances a lot, you can get reduced rates if you pay a fee upfront.

Official press blast after the break.

Source: NVIDIA

Amazon's Kindle Matchbook Program Offers Discounted or Free E-Books for Users That Buy Physical Copies

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2013 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: matchbook, kindle, ebook, amazon

Amazon recently announced a new service called Kindle Matchbook. Akin to the digital and physical music album matching AutoRip service, Matchbook will offer users Kindle editions of physical books purchased from Amazon at steep discounts.

Amazon Kindle Matchbook.png

Starting in October, Matchbook will offer Kindle editions for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or for free to customers that purchased the physical version of the book new from Amazon. The company is extending the program to those books purchased from 1995 to the present, and to future purchases. The program will cover approximately 10,000 books at the time of the program's launch in October.

Notably, the Kindle Matchbook program depends on publisher support, which means that users will only be able to get the discounted ebooks if the physical book publisher allows it. Hopefully, publishers will jump on board with the program and add more books to the supported library!

Keep an eye on Amazon's homepage for more information next month.

Source: Amazon

Please Tip Your Server of Raspberry Pi. 5V DC Customary.

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, nvidia, HPC, amazon

Adam DeConinck, high performance computing (HPC) systems engineer for NVIDIA, built a personal computer cluster in his spare time. While not exactly high performance, especially when compared to the systems he maintains for Amazon and his employer, its case is made of Lego and seems to be under a third of a cubic foot in volume.

It is a cluster of five Raspberry Pi devices and an eight-port Ethernet switch.

NVIDIA_Pi.jpg

Image source: NVIDIA Blogs

Raspberry Pi is based on a single-core ARM CPU bundled on an SoC with a 24 GFLOP GPU and 256 or 512 MB of memory. While this misses the cutesy point of the story, I am skeptical of the expected 16W power rating. Five Raspberry Pis, with Ethernet, draw a combined maximum of 17.5W, alone, and even that neglects the draw of the networking switch. My, personal, 8-port unmanaged switch is rated to draw 12W which, when added to 17.5W, is not 16W and thus something is being neglected or averaged. Then again, his device, power is his concern.

Despite constant development and maintenance of interconnected computers, professionally, Adam's will for related hobbies has not been displaced. Even after the initial build, he already plans to graft the Hadoop framework and really reign in the five ARM cores for something useful...

... but, let's be honest, probably not too useful.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

Amazon Adds New Apps With File Sync Feature To Cloud Drive

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 06:41 AM |
Tagged: file sync, cloud storage, cloud drive, amazon

Amazon has announced two new Java-based applications for Windows and Mac PCs that will sync files between multiple computers and the company's Cloud Drive online storage service.

amazon cloud drive_web interface.jpg

Amazon Cloud Drive is a companion service that was spun off of its Cloud Player music locker service. Users get 5GB for free, with additional tiers of storage available for purchase. (Any music from Amazon side-loaded to Cloud Drive and Cloud Player before July 31st does not count towards your storage quota). Until now, Cloud Drive has been merely a web storage locker, but with the new desktop apps Amazon is adding file syncing capabilities that will keep your files updated across multiple PCs. The desktop apps will create a folder which will then contain a locally-stored copy of your Amazon Cloud Drive files. If you choose to install the desktop app onto a second PC, it will also sync with Cloud Drive and store a copy of the files locally. The most recently modified version will sync to all the other computers' local store and the cloud drive. There is no word on versioning support, so note that this should not be a replacement for a true file backup. With that said, the multiple-PC file sync is a welcome addition that makes Cloud Drive much more useful than ever before.

The new desktop apps will run on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8, and on Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8.

When Amazon was asked about mobile apps and file sync, the company told Ars Technica that it had "nothing specific to share." That could mean that Cloud Drive will bring file synchronization to iOS, Android, and WP8, or it could be a literal statement. It is difficult to say, but I think if Amazon wants its Cloud Drive storage service to be taken seriously the company will need to enter the mobile space (as it has done with Cloud Player).

Read more about cloud storage at PC Perspective, including a review of Google Drive and a look at the new SkyDrive.

Source: Amazon

Amazon AutoRip Service Gives Free MP3s For Every AutoRip CD Purchased Since 1998

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2013 - 10:38 AM |
Tagged: music, mp3, autorip, amazon

Today, Amazon rolled out a new feature for users of its Cloud Player music service called AutoRip. The new feature will provide free MP3 files to users that purchase CDs from Amazon with the AutoRip logo. The MP3 files will automatically be made available for streaming or download in your Cloud Player application (or the web browser-based music library) upon purchase of an eligible album.

The MP3s are 256kbps files and can be played on Kindle Fire, Android and iOS devices as well as Samsung Smart TV, Roku, and Sonos boxes. You will also be able to stream them from the Cloud Player website. The free music files from AutoRip are stored in your Amazon Cloud Player library, but they will not count against your storage quota.

Amazon AutoRip.jpg

Currently, the AutoRip program extends to 50,000+ physical CDs available on the Amazon website. Amazon has stated that it is working to add additional albums to the program. Interestingly, the AutoRip program applies to all future purchases as well as any AutoRip eligible CD purchase from Amazon since 1998(!). Albums that are eligible for the free MP3 copies can be identified by the AutoRip logo, which is a double blue and green arrow.

Considering older CDs were likely ripped with inferior codecs and/or bitrates (like RealMedia...), the AutoRip service may be a great deal if you purchased your discs from Amazon! Personally, I’m surprised Amazon did not restrict the value add to Prime subscribers only (not that I’m complaining), but it should help to bolster physical CD sales if you are getting the MP3s anyway along with a physical disc.

The full press release is available below the break.

Source: Engadget

Amazon Announces Four New Kindle Fire Tablets

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 06:24 AM |
Tagged: tablet, kindle fire hd, kindle fire, kindle, amazon

Amazon announced four new Kindle Fire tablets at a live event yesterday. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in, it is time to run through and compare the new offerings! Included in the new lineup are two 7” models and two 8.9” models. Further, the tablets with the new internals are differentiated with Kindle Fire HD branding whereas the updated model keeps the traditional Kindle Fire name.

7” Kindle Fire Tablets:

1. Updated Kindle Fire 7"

During the event in Santa Monica, California Amazon announced an update to the existing Kindle Fire and introduced a new “HD” version. The original Kindle Fire (which we reviewed here) packed a dual core 1GHz ARM processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. It weighed in at 14.5 ounces and was .45” thick. That hardware cost $199.

The new (updated) 7” Kindle Fire

The updated model keeps the 7” display but has a 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 processor (that Amazon claims is 40% faster), 1GB of RAM, battery life improvements, and in a surprising twist will actually cost less than the original Fire at $159. Software has also been improved for the new Kindle Fire but it is not clear if the first-generation model will also be getting an update. Once reviews start coming out, it should be more apparent what exactly has been changed (Amazon mostly focused on hardware at the event). You can expect it to be a customized version of Android that looks nothing like the stock experience, however. The updated Kindle Fire will be available September 14th for $159.

2. Kindle Fire HD 7"

The Kindle Fire HD is where the hardware starts to get interesting as the specifications have been improvement greatly versus the original $199 Kindle Fire. The new tablet measures 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches and weighs 13.9 ounces. The front of the tablet features an HD webcam and a 7" display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Interestingly, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself, which Amazon claims reduces glare by cutting down on air gaps. Powering the tablet is a OMAP 4460 SoC featuring a dual core processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, and stereo speakers. Connectivity options include dual band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi with two hardware antennas, HDMI, and a Bluetooth radio.

The 7" Kindle Fire HD will be available September 14th. The 16 GB model will cost $199 while the 32 GB model is $249. 

8.9” Kindle Fire HD Tablets:

The 8.9-inch tablet is a new form factor for Amazon, and an interesting one at that. The tablet is sits nicely between the 7" tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and larger 10"+ tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad. It remains to be seen whether it will be successful for Amazon, but at only 20 ounces it's still fairly portable. Specific measurements are as follows: 9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35 inches. There is just a single tablet model in the 8.9" form factor, but there are two options based on that. Specifically, you will need to choose between a Wi-Fi only tablet and a tablet that can connect to both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular networks.

The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD features an 8.9" display with resolution of 1920x1200. Further, like the 7" model, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself to reduce glare. Above the display is an HD webcam. Connectivity options on the base Wi-Fi only model include HDMI, Bluetooth, and dual band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with dual antennas. The 4G version further adds a cellular modem. 

Kindle Fire HD 8.jpg

Internally, the Kindle Fire HD is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 SoC running at 1.5 GHz and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is either 16 GB or 32 GB for the Wi-Fi model and 32 GB or 64 GB in the 4G Kindle Fire HD. Any amazon purchased content can be stored on your Amazon Cloud Drive as well.

Both the Wi-Fi and 4G tablets will be available on November 20th, and are available for pre-order now.

The Wi-Fi model will cost $299 for 16 GB or $369 for 32 GB.

The 4G model gets a bit more complicated, thanks to the cellular modem. In basic terms, the 32 GB version will cost $499 and the 64 GB version will cost $599. With purchase, you get a $10 Amazon Appstore credit and 20 GB of Amazon Cloud Drive storage. On the data plan front, for $50 a year, Amazon will provide you with 250 MB per month of data usage over the cellular connection. It's not much, but it is still a pretty good deal if you are around Wi-Fi most of the time and/or plan to only use the Fire to read books and listen to music on. The bad news is that if you do happen to go over that 250 MB limit, you'll be subject to AT&T's going rate for the next tier of data. IE, expect to pay about $30 if you go over (ouch!).

On TWICH, Ryan brought up the Kindle Fire HD and mentioned the big price difference between the 4G and Wi-Fi only model. You are looking at about $250 extra from the 4G model, and the addition of the cellular radio definitely does not cost Amazon that much per tablet to integrate. One likely reason is that Amazon is subsidizing part (or all) of the data plan (the cost above the $50 it is charging customers) with the increased cost of the hardware. (Sort of the opposite of the traditional cell phone subsidizing arrangement where the contract subsidizes the hardware). You will just have to determine if the 4G modem is worth the cost increase or not.

Opt out of ads for $15, information on charging

Speaking of cutting costs, Amazon has done two things to reduce the price of its Kindle Fire tablets. For one, all Kindle Fire tablets will come with Kindle Special Offer ads turned on. These are deals and ads that display on the home screen and lock screen of your Kindle (and in my experience are not very intrusive). If you want an ad-free experience, you can opt out by paying a one-time $15 fee – which essentially amounts to you paying the full cost of the hardware versus the ad-subsidized cost. 

The other cost cutting measure is that the company is not bundling a wall charger with any of the tablets. You can purchase the Kindle PowerFast for Accelerated Charging wall charger for $9.99 if you buy it at the same time as you purchase the tablet, but is $19.99 if purchased separately. Note that a wall charger is not required, as you can charge the Kindle over USB connected to a computer or cell phone charger – it does not necessarily have to be the expensive Amazon charger.

Lastly, all of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are running a customized version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, I would not expect an update to Jelly Bean any time soon. The biggest question i have is whether or not the original Kindle Fire will get the same software update as the new tablets are coming out with. It is difficult to comment on any specific improvements as Amazon primarily focused on hardware at the event. Once reviewers get hands on with the tablets, more information should become available. I'm looking forward to trying out the tablets once they show up as demos at retail to see how well the UI runs on the updated hardware.

If you are interested in one of the new Kindle Fire tablets, I highly recommend checking out the handy comparison chart on the bottom of any Kindle Fire product pages as it puts all the specifications in a simple table.

What do you think about the new Amazon tablets, will you be picking one up or sticking with the Nexus 7?

Source: Amazon