Steam Controller Is Changing?

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2014 - 12:19 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Dev Days, Steam Controller, CES 2014, CES

Valve has always been a company based on experimentation and it looks like the Steam Controller is not the lighthouse which guides SteamOS through the fog. Just a week after presenting the prototype at CES, a 3D mockup of a new one makes not-insignificant changes. Gone is the touchscreen and the first revealed button placement. Frankly, just about the only things untouched on the front face are the twin touchpads and the palm grips.

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Image Credit: Leszek Godlewski (Twitter)

To fully understand the breadth of the changes, the announcement image is included below. There is basically no discussion about the back so that aspect might be untouched.

steam-controller.jpg

The changes were apparently made to assist compatibility with games ported from more traditional input schemes. Looking at the original prototype, there was no obvious mapping from a Sony or Microsoft-based controller to those buttons spread out for both the left and right thumbs to access. The new setup is the typical four face buttons on the right and four more buttons on the left as a surrogate directional pad. If they continue to iterate down this path I hope that the directional pad is more effective than most from the last two generations. It looks like the four directions are separated from one another which does not inspire confidence.

There are two stories which entangle on this one. The first is that Valve is willing to perform rapid iteration until they achieve what they consider a maximum. That is the method to quickest success especially since it allows cross-pollination between designs.

The second is that it also makes the public a little bit nervous.

Source: VR-Zone

Zotac Shows Off Spherical ZBOX 01520 SFF PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 12, 2014 - 12:08 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox 01520, zbox, SFF, CES 2014, CES

Zotac unveiled a number of products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas including several small form factor (SFF) PCs. In addition to the ZBOX Steam Machine, Zotac showed off a ZBOX 01520 computer in a spherical form factor. The ZBOX 01520 comes in bare-bones and PLUS SKUs, similar to the other, existing, Zotac ZBOX computers.

On the outside, the new PC is a small black orb with straight edges on the back and bottom to support it. Inside, Zotac has fitted a tiny motherboard, an Intel Core i3-4010U dual core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB), a spot for a single 2.5" hard drive. The motherboard further includes one mSATA slot for a solid state drive and wireless radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

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Greek tech site Tech Blog managed to snap photos of the new Zotac PC.

Rear IO on the ZBOX 01520 orb includes four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI video output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single 4-1 card reader slot.

The bare-bones kit includes the motherboard, CPU, and case while the PLUS version adds 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Users can add their own mSATA drive for increased performance.

Beyond the basics, details are scarce on the new Zotac PC. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the SFF PC as it becomes available.

Are you interested in the spherical ZBOX 01520?

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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Source: TechBlog

CES 2014: Intel Keynote with Their Dual OS and Edison

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2014 - 12:32 AM |
Tagged: Transformer Book Duet, Intel, CES 2014, CES, asus

Monday, the opening day of CES, was full of keynotes and announcements from Audi to Valve (Yahoo! was the day after). Okay, so that is probably not the complete alphabetical range, but keep reading regardless. The Intel speech had a few surprises including Gabe Newell re-announcing Steam Machines just a couple of hours after his own keynote.

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Possibly the most surprising to me was the "Dual OS platforms" announcement. Frankly, I am fine with using BlueStacks for whatever little Android use that my desktop experiences. I did see a demo of the ASUS Transformer Book Duet, however, which was able to switch between Android and Windows 8.1 with the touch of a button and about 3 seconds of black screen. It seems to be more than emulation and it is pretty clearly not rebooting.

To be clear, the following is speculation (and not even confident at that). I am hypothesizing... not reporting. Unfortunately, Intel (and ASUS) have been very silent on the actual implementation as far as I can tell. Since this is clearly branded as "Android and Windows can be friends", it would not surprise me if this was a baked solution for the two platforms and maybe even special hardware.

One possibility is that hardware or software loads both operating systems into memory or hibernation state. In this way, when the user signals their desire for a change, the former operating system is slept (or hibernated) and the processor is then pointed to the others memory space.

Video credit: PCMag

If the above is the case then I hope popular Linux distributions can get their hands on it. Rebooting is far too annoying for me to try out alternative operating systems and virtualization is also too problematic (at least for now). If I can just suspend and switch, especially with native performance on either end, then I will definitely be willing to play around. Honestly, how expensive are RAM and storage these days?

But, if it is user-accessible, then it would be a major consideration for a future upgrade.

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The other cute little announcement is Edison, a dual core PC in an SD card form factor. The hope is that this device will power wearable computing and make other devices smarter. It is based on 22nm silicon and even includes WiFi. One use case they presented was a bottle warmer which warms the milk before you even get your child.

Despite the late coverage, it was a very interesting keynote. Ars Technica still has their live blog published if you would like to skim through a play-by-play.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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Source: Ars Technica

CES 2014: VisionTek Launches Liquid Cooled CryoVenom R9 290 Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 9, 2014 - 11:19 PM |
Tagged: water cooling, VisionTek, r9 290, liquid cooling, CES 2014, CES, amd

VisionTek unveiled a new custom liquid cooled graphics card based on AMD's R9 290 GPU. The CryoVenom R9 290 900675 card uses a custom engineered full cover EK water block that allows VisionTek to wring the full potential out of AMD's Hawaii GPU by overclocking it 24% over stock clockspeeds while running much cooler than the fan cooled reference cards.

VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290_Close Up.jpg

As a refresher, the AMD R9 290 GPU at the heart of the new graphics card is based on AMD's latest Hawaii architecture and features 2,560 shaders, 160 texture units, and 64 ROPs. The GPU interfaces with 4GB of GDDR5 memory on a 512-bit bus. The reference R9 290 GPUs have a GPU clockspeed of 947 MHz and memory clockspeed of 1250 MHz (note the clockspeed problems of reference cards due to the coolers used).

The VisionTek card ditches a fan HSF in favor of a full cover waterblock that cools the GPU, memory, and VRMs. It has a nickel-plated copper base with an acrylic top. Water is channeled through a micro-fin array designed to cool the card without putting strain on low pressure pumps. A black anodized aluminum backplate adds support and passive (additional) VRM cooling to the graphics card. The CryoVenom maintains the two DL-DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort video output connections of reference cards, however.

VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290_top.jpg

Going with a liquid cooler has allowed VisionTek to ratchet up the clockspeeds to an impressive 1,175 MHz for the GPU and 1,450 MHz for the memory. That is a respectable 24% and 16% increase over stock, respectively and is estimated to offer up to 38% better overall performance at those overclocked speeds. Perhaps even more impressive than the overclocks themselves is that VisionTek claims to be able to keep the card just under 52-degrees C under load which is a significant improvement over stock!

VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290_display output.jpg

According to VisionTek, each Cryovenom R9 290 graphics card is custom build and put through a variety of burn in tests to ensure that it can operate at the rated overclocks and is free of water leaks when attached to a loop.

The liquid cooled cards have an MSRP of $550 and will be available shortly (the cards are currently out of stock on the VisionTek site). Here's hoping that VisionTek is able to keep the cards at MSRP, because even at a $150 premium over the MSRP of reference cards it would still be a good deal at a time when reference cards are being sold at prices well over MSRP.

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Source: VisionTek

CES 2014: Sennheiser Launches New PC Gaming Headsets

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2014 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: sennheiser, headset, gaming, CES 2014, CES, audio

Hi-end PC audio manufacturer Sennheiser has announced two new PC gaming headsets aimed at enthusiasts. The new headsets are called the G4ME ZERO and G4ME ONE and feature a closed ear and open ear design, respectively.

G4ME ZERO Gaming Headset.jpg

The G4ME ZERO is a high end model circumaural headset with a foldable design, ample padding on the headband and ear cups, and noise cancelling microphone. The analog headset is rated at 150 Ohms and the speakers at 10 Hz to 26 KHz. The G4ME ZERO has a 3 meter cable that ends with two 3.5mm jacks for the microphone and headset. Users can purchase the Sennheiser PCV 05 Combo Adapter to take the two 3.5mm jacks into a single jack for use on Mac PCs and game consoles. It is slightly heavier than the G4ME ONE at 312 grams.

G4ME ONE Gaming Headset.jpg

The G4ME ONE, on the other hand, weighs 300 grams and features a open circumaural design that wraps around the ears but still lets air in to reduce sweat over long gaming sessions and allow some outside sound in.  This lighter analog headset is rated at 50 Ohms and the speakers at 15 Hz to 28 KHz. Similar to the ZERO, the ONE uses two 3.5mm jacks at the end of a 3 meter long cable. It uses plush velvet pads on the ear cups and provides plenty of padding along the headband as well.

Both headsets share a design aesthetic that incorporates white, red, and silver colors on the outside of the ear cups and microphone. The headband and ear pads are black with a large Sennheiser logo along the top end of the headband. Users can control volume via controls on the right ear cup and automatically mute the microphone by lifting the boom mic upwards. Both high end G4ME headsets look nice and comfortable from the specifications and amount of padding shown in the photos.

Along with the headsets, Sennheiser has announced a partnership with IO Interactive, which is part of Square Enix to develop game audio using Sennheiser recording equipment. The company is positioning this deal as the perfect way for gamers to get the exact audio the game developers intended by using Sennheiser microphones to record the audio, headsets in the studio to test the audio, and gamers using the same headsets to play the games. It is a nice perk for sure if you are already looking to buy into one of the company's high end headsets.

The G4ME ZERO has an MSRP of $279.95 while the G4ME ONE has an MSRP of $249.95. You can find more information on their respective product pages:

Read more about PC gaming headsets at PC Perspective.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Sennheiser

CES 2014: BenQ Announces 24-Inch and 27-Inch Monitors With NVIDIA G-Sync Technology

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2014 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: monitor, g-sync, CES 2014, CES, benq, 3d vision

BenQ has announced two new monitors that will incorporate NVIDIA's G-Sync technology. The 24-inch XL2420G and 27-inch XL2720G will both be available in Q1 2014. Both monitors have 144 Hz refresh rates and will support three display modes: G-Sync, Low Motion Blur, and 3D Vision. In addition to G-Sync technology, the monitors support ResolutionEyes technology which is a set of features designed to make prolonged gaming sessions easier on the eyes.

BenQ XL2720G G-Sync Monitor.jpg

BenQ's 27-inch G-Sync gaming monitor.

According to NVIDIA, the 24-inch and 27-inch BenQ monitors will sport a 1920x1080 resolution on an uspecificed panel time. Unfortunately, BenQ has not revealed whether it is using TN, IPS, or some other panel technology nor what the response time is beyond stating that it is "ultra fast" (which may imply a TN panel...). We do know that the monitors are hieght adjustable.

Both G-Sync capable monitors will be available in Q1 2014 at not-yet-released prices. It is promising to see other monitor manufacturers supporting G-Sync out of the box.

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Source: BenQ

CES 2014: Gigabyte R9 290X and GTX 780 Ti WindForce Enthusiast Graphics Cards

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, gigabyte, R9 290X, gtx 780 ti, windforce

While the world still waits for stock of the custom cooled R9 290X and R9 290 cards from AMD's partners to show up in stores, Gigabyte was showcasing its WindForce models on the floor at CES 2014.

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The Gigabyte GV-R929XOC-4GD is an R9 290X graphics cards that includes the company custom designed WindForce, triple fan cooler.  The cooler is rated at 450 watts of dissipation, but hopefully you'll never actually be drawing that from this single GPU graphics card.  The core clock on this model will be slightly overclocked, going from the stock 1000 MHz to 1040 MHz.  Hopefully we'll have a review sample soon so we can verify that it maintains that overclocked clock speed throughout the gaming workloads.

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Using the very same cooler is the GV-N78TGHZ-3GD based on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti GPU.  In fact, without my tell you which card was which, you'd likely have no way to tell them apart without looking at the PCB more closely. Gigabyte will be setting the base clock on this model at 1085 MHz and the Boost clock at 1150 MHz.  

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The cards will also include a back plate on the rear of the PCB to help protect the components and ICs while also strengthening the board during shipping general use.  Gigabyte says these cards will only carry and MSRP that is $20-50 more than the reference cards so look for each of them this month!

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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CES 2014: Gigabyte BRIX MAX is Haswell based Android NAS Device

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, gigabyte, brix, brix max, haswell, Android, NAS

While browsing the Gigabyte suite at CES I came across a very interesting new product from Gigabyte that falls into the Brix family.  The Brix Max is a larger version of the Brix SFF chassis (taller) that includes support for four 2.5-in hard drives.  Powered by a 4th Generation Intel Core (Haswell) Core i5-4250U processor, this system is aimed towards the NAS market.  In particular, those that want tiny NAS devices.

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With a total fluid capacity of 1.2 liters (please don't fill your Brix with liquid...), the Brix Max includes a USB flash port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 3.0 ports.  Maybe more surprising is the fact that this unit was running Android and marks the first time we have seen a Haswell platform running the OS.

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Gigabyte demoed the Brix Max powering a handful of networked devices and providing media content and backup storage for all sorts of other operating system.  I am still not sure what kind of software was running on the Android OS to facilitate the NAS functionality but the Max includes the ability to set users, partition different share locations and more.  Hopefully we'll be able to get a sample in at the offices to test out and let our readers know how an Android-based NAS can perform.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

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CES 2014: AMD Supported in SteamOS "Out of the Box". Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.9 in SteamOS Public Stable Branch

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2014 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: SteamOS, CES 2014, CES, amd

The Steam platform prides itself on benefiting from the many billions of dollars spent by the PC industry in-fighting. Two-and-a-half of the consoles seem to realize that they cannot keep up with the constant churn as the PC trots along its exponential curve. They, now more than ever, align themselves with our industry instead of running their own R&D treadmill. Each of these companies now license the efforts of AMD.

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Simply put, consoles struggle because their business model plans on a big loss followed by a few years of rest to have a chance of breaking even. Slow and steady wins the race.

SteamOS is a console that, instead of seeing how much it can justify locking down, goes the other way. So, when the prototype units were announced, it felt really weird to see a fairly wide selection of components... from a set of Intel processors and NVIDIA discrete graphics cards. AMD and Intel were a bit late for one reason or another.

But only just a bit. An updated AMD graphics driver, the Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.9, has just been integrated into the SteamOS public stable branch. This driver is expected to fix tearing, overlay performance, in-game performance, and "malfunctioning return to desktop".

The driver will also be released on AMD.com soon.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

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CES 2014: Gigabyte Aorus Brand Launches with X7 Slim Gaming Notebook

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 11:21 AM |
Tagged: x7, gigabyte, gaming notebook, CES 2014, CES, aorus

An interesting development that popped out of CES this year was the announcement of a new brand from Gigabyte, Aorus, focused on gaming peripherals and a gaming notebook.  The gaming notebook was particularly impressive as it was able to pack in a ton of high-end hardware in an ultra-slim design that should rival the likes of MSI and Razer.  

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The Aorus X7 weighs in at 6.4 pounds and just 0.9 inches think but is powered by an Intel Haswell 4th Generation processor and a pair of GTX 765M GPUs running in SLI.  Storage options include a pair of mSATA ports for RAID-0 and a 2.5in hard drive (up to 1TB).  

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For connectivity the X7 includes USB 3.0 x3, USB 2.0 x2, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, mini-DisplayPort,  and an SD card reader.  Four SODIMM memory slots allow for upgrades up to 32GB.  For a slim gaming machine and an estimated 3DMark score of P7393, the X7 looks damned enticing. 

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The Aorus X7 will be available this month at Newegg.com and should be priced starting at around $1500.

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