Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design

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With few exceptions, it’s generally been taken for granted that gaming notebooks are going to be hefty devices. Portability is rarely the focus, with weight and battery life alike usually sacrificed in the interest of sheer power. But the MSI GE40 2OC—the lightest 14-inch gaming notebook currently available—seeks to compromise while retaining the gaming prowess. Trending instead toward the form factor of a large Ultrabook, the GE40 is both stylish and manageable (and perhaps affordable at around $1,300)—but can its muscle withstand the reduction in casing real estate?

While it can’t hang with the best of the 15-inch and 17-inch crowd, in context with its 14-inch peers, the GE40’s spec sheet hardly reads like it’s been the subject of any sort of game-changing handicap:

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One of the most popular CPUs for Haswell gaming notebooks has been the 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo) i7-4700MQ. But the i7-4702MQ in the GE40-20C is nearly as powerful (managing 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz in those same areas respectively), and it features a TDP that’s 10 W lower at just 37 W. That’s ideal for notebooks such as the GE40, which seek to provide a thinner case in conjunction with uncompromising performance. Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GTX 760M is no slouch, even if it isn’t on the same level as the 770s and 780s that we’ve been seeing in some 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch gaming beasts.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD rounding out the major bullet points. Nearly everything here is on par with the best of rival 14-inch gaming models with the exception of the 900p screen resolution (which is bested by some notebooks, such as Dell’s Alienware 14 and its 1080p panel).

Continue reading our review of the MSI GE40 2OC!!!

Battling Frostbite on the PC

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2013 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield 4

EA may have released the minimum and recommended specs but until properly tweaked and benchmarked it is never clear how much power BF4 wants.  Thankfully TechSpot has gone through all of that work for you, testing over 2 dozen video cards and their performance in BF4 at three different resolutions.  They didn't parse the performance by every single graphics option switching between enabled and disabled but the benchmarks are informative enough to give you an idea where to start.

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"With roots that stretch back more than a decade and enough fans to justify new content every year, Battlefield is among the handful of franchises that needs no introduction around here. Even if you hate EA's approach modern military madness, you can typically expect Battlefield's graphics to raise the bar."

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Source: Techspot

Batman teaches an old engine new tricks

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2013 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham origins

Batman: Arkham Origins is here and using the familiar Unreal 3 Engine but with some new tricks that haven't been tried.  Tessellation, Ambient Occlusion HBAO+, Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and Depth of Field (DoF) will be available for users of DX11 cards with NVIDIA owners also able to use TXAA and PhysX.  That could have some impact on your systems performance and so TechSpot grabbed a couple of dozen videocards and tested them for performance.  They break down performance by resolution and slowly add features such as AA to the benchmarks so that you can get a good idea what to set your machine to when in the graphics options menu but the good news is that just about everyone should be able to get decent performance from this game if they keep to recommended settings.

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"Despite being built with Epic's aging Unreal Engine 3, WB Montreal used a heavily modified version of the software. The PC version has received some special attention in the graphics department including many DirectX 11 and PhysX effects."

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Source: Techspot

BF4's single player campaign; just for benchmarking?

Subject: General Tech | October 23, 2013 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: gaming, BF4

Once again EA has decided to include a single player campaign for the new Battlefield and it will hopefully be better than previous attempts that tended to be as gripping as 3 year old scotch tape.  You can catch the trailer below if you are feeling the need to see cutscenes full of screaming and explosions and if you are interested in commentary you can pick some up at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  As most of the people who played the campaign of BF3 they are only familiar with the first few minutes that it takes to run a benchmark the quality of story in the single player campaign matter very little; most are more hopeful the bugs which plagued Bad Company and BF3's multiplayer will be nonexistent in the newest incarnation.

"So now I want to know: who plays the single-player bits of Battlefield games, and were you/are you excited about the fourth game’s offline shootery? Actually, you should probably wait until watching the trailer before answering that, because it looks a bit crap."

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Thoughts on the unintended consequences of Mantle and SteamOS

Subject: General Tech | October 11, 2013 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, gaming, valve

The Tech Report has been thinking on the upcoming release of SteamOS and AMD's Mantle and they see some problems that could come about because of them.  Fragmentation has always been a problem for PCs, be it that the hardware between systems never matches or the wide variety of APIs and game engines on the software side.  It can de daunting to begin developing a game and determining if optimizing for AMD, NVIDIA or Intel is worth considering as well as the choice between Direct3D or OpenGL or trying to make them both work.  Mantle is now a choice, BF4 will actually be releasing a version that is natively Mantle shortly after they launch the first version of the game.  Valve has also hinted that several AAA titles will be released on SteamOS, not necessarily Windows or Linux.  What effect could this have on PC gaming as these new choices arrive at the same time the next generation consoles are released?  Read on and see.

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"Valve's SteamOS and AMD's Mantle API have the potential to do great things for PC gaming. However, they also threaten to fragment the platform at a critical time, when next-gen consoles are about to reduce the PC's performance and image quality lead by a long shot."

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Tech Talk

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Design

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As we’re swimming through the veritable flood of Haswell refresh notebooks, we’ve stumbled across the latest in a line of very popular gaming models: the ASUS G750JX-DB71.  This notebook is the successor to the well-known G75 series, which topped out at an Intel Core i7-3630QM with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX dedicated graphics.  Now, ASUS has jacked up the specs a little more, including the latest 4th-gen CPUs from Intel as well as 700-series NVIDIA GPUs.

Our ASUS G750JX-DB71 test unit features the following specs:

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Of course, the closest comparison to this unit is already the most recently-reviewed MSI GT60-2OD-026US, which featured nearly identical specifications, apart from a 15.6” screen, a better GPU (a GTX 780M with 4 GB GDDR5), and a slightly different CPU (the Intel Core i7-4700MQ).  In case you’re wondering what the difference is between the ASUS G750JX’s Core i7-4700MQ and the GT60’s i7-4700HQ, it’s very minor: the HQ features a slightly faster integrated graphics Turbo frequency (1.2 GHz vs. 1.15 GHz) and supports Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d).  Since the G750JX doesn’t support Optimus, we won’t ever be using the integrated graphics, and unless you’re doing a lot with virtual machines, VT-d isn’t likely to offer any benefits, either.  So for all intents and purposes, the CPUs are equivalent—meaning the biggest overall performance difference (on the spec sheet, anyway) lies with the GPU and the storage devices (where the G750JX offers more solid-state storage than the GT60).  It’s no secret that the MSI GT60 burned up our benchmarks—so the real question is, how close is the ASUS G750JX to its pedestal, and if the differences are considerable, are they justified?

At an MSRP of around $2,000 (though it can be found for around $100 less), the ASUS G750JX-DB71 competes directly with the likes of the MSI GT60, too (which is priced equivalently).  The question, of course, is whether it truly competes.  Let’s find out!

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Continue reading our review of the ASUS G750JX-DB71 Gaming Notebook!!!

ARMA III is designed solely for the PC and it shows

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 2, 2013 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: gaming, ARMA III

Forget Crysis, if you want to hammer your PC pick up ARMA III and try turning up the settings!  Even an i7-3770K @ 4.8GHz and GTX 780's in SLI struggle to render this game with all the graphical bells and whistles turned on.  The close up landscapes and objects are gorgeous with high quality textures but to truly get into the feel of the game you need to be able to turn up the veiw distance and number of displayed objects as you can see from [H]ard|OCP's screenshots below.  [H] spent ia bit of time breaking down the best playable settings for numerous GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD as well as showing you the impact that MSAA and PPAA has on the visual quality as well as your PCs performance.  If you want to show off the superiority of a high end gaming machine then this is the game for you.

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"ARMA III is our focus point for today. It features a large open world environment designed on a massive continent measuring 270 square kilometers. To go along side this massive continent is a max visibility range of 20km. Combine this with ARMA III's impressive looking graphics and we have a game that demands performance."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Does Saints Row IV have what it takes to stress modern hardware?

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2013 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Saints Row IV

[H]ard|OCP lined up five GPUs from the two competitors to see if Saints Row can benefit from serious GPU power.  They set the performance bar at an average of 40fps and raised the graphics options as high as they could while staying above that target frame rate.  For the high end GPUs 2560x1600 was playable at the highest settings though the mid-range cards needed to be reduced to 1920x1080 to remain playable except for the 7870 Gigahertz Edition which retained the higher resolution.  As you can guess from the fact that even a 650Ti or 7790 can max out the graphics options there is not much new in this game from a quality perspective and it really does not stress modern GPUs.  You can have fun playing it but don't expect jaw dropping scenery.

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"Deep Silver's next game is out in the Saints Row saga. Today we examine Saints Row IV focusing on the games performance with the latest hardware on the market. We dissect image quality in great detail and find out if this is a game we expect to see in 2013, or if it falls flat on its face in the innovation department."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sony PS Vita TV Supports Vita Games, Online Services, and PS4 Remote Play for $100

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 05:07 AM |
Tagged: sony, remote play, ps vita, playstation 4, gaming

Today, Sony announced a new Vita-branded product called the PlayStation Vita TV. The small 60mm x 100mm box connects to televisions over HDMI and is able to play Vita games using a while PS3-style controller or a touchpad-equipped PS4 game controller.

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The PS Vita TV also connects to your home network over Ethernet and is able to pull down content from various Sony online services including Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and Karaoke according to Engadget.

Those features alone make it an interesting product, but the PS Vita TV will also be able to connect to the PlayStation 4 over your home network and remote play PS4 games. Users will be able to play PS4 games on a second TV using a PS4 controller and network-connected PS Vita TV.

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The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan in November for 9,954 Yen ($100 USD). Alternatively, a bundle that includes the PS Vita TV, controller, and memory card can be purchased for 14,995 Yen ($150 USD).

If it works as advertised, the PS Vita TV looks to be an excellent companion product to the PS4 which will allow users to play their PS4 and PS Vita library and access streaming content in multiple rooms without needing to pony up for multiple PlayStation 4 consoles.

I hope that the PS Vita TV comes to the US as it should shake up the decision of Xbox One or PS4 in favor of the latter, as the $100 Vita TV will bring the two consoles to the same price, but with the PS4 having remote play and more powerful hardware. In short, I believe the PS Vita TV to be a much more desirable add-on over Microsoft's bundled Kinect.

Does the announcement of the PS Vita TV affect your pre-order decisions at all?

Source: Engadget

A Roman of a different colour

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2013 - 05:21 PM |
Tagged: total war, rome, gaming, creative assembly

The Total War series has come a long way, from campaign maps that played like a Risk game and cloned troopers in the battlefield to gorgeous landscapes with much more realistic movements and incredibly detailed units in battles.  On the other hand the long awaited next installation of Rome: Total War might have gone a bit too far.  It is not necessarily the obscene amount of time it takes to process the AI's turns nor the inevitable bugs that crept through the QA process; the ability to easily distribute 100MB patches has degraded every publishers QA process to a joke when you compare it to the days of dial-up.  Instead it is the realization that the niggling feeling as you push the End Turn button that you have left something undone is caused by the fact that you did nothing that turn at all.  The campaign map in Total War has never been fast paced nor is it meant to be, instead there had always been a million micromanagement tasks to be completed every turn whereas in this new Rome you often have nothing to do but bash on the end turn button for a few seasons.

It is as Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN comment "I feel that Total War should be a coiled armadillo rather than Rome IIs jellyfish."

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"So then. I am usually in the Total War apologist camp, but not this time. I am not sure if it’s because I had a better experience with Shogun 2, or whether there’s some kind of allergy due to over-exposure going on, but Rome II rubbed me up the wrong druid."

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