There is an elegance in simplicity; Cooler Master's QuickFire Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2012 - 10:31 AM |
Tagged: quickfire rapid, mechanical keyboard, input, gaming, cooler master

If you prefer keyboards with built in fans, sirens, LEDs and a key count somewhere north of 200 then you might as well skip this review.  Cooler Master not only eschews extra function keys on the QuickFire Rapid gaming keyboard, they've also dropped the numpad.  The keyboard features CHERRY MX blue switches which are intended more for typists, with the red and black varieties more for usage by gamers.  Sporting a quick response time in USB mode and true n-key rollover in PS/2 mode, you won't find yourself dying because the game didn't register a keystroke.  If you are interested in a mechanical gaming keyboard and don't mind paying $80 then check out the review at Techgage.  If you want to shop around then check Scott's reivews on out front page.

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"CM's QuickFire Rapid gaming keyboard is unlike any other. It's not flashy, it doesn't have a bunch of bright LEDs, it has no macro support and... it has no numpad. So what is it that sets it apart? Its sturdy design and use of CHERRY MX blue mechanical key switches. Let's see if those features make up for what's lacking."

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Source: Techgage

New Xbox (Next Box / Xbox 720) To Be Six Times More Powerful Than Xbox 360

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2012 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: xbox 720, xbox, rumors, radeon hd 6670, next box, microsoft, gpu, gaming, console, amd

Microsoft's Xbox 360 is coming up on seven years old, and the company has sold more than 66 million units. Naturally, as graphics techniques and software has advanced, the aging hardware is starting to hold back game developers from implementing higher detail settings and larger maps with more players. Both developers and gamers are clamoring for the next Xbox to be released so that they can advance to the next stage of gaming. PCs are way ahead in the graphics quality race as the hardware has greatly advanced in the interim, and console gamers and game developers are starting to take notice and want for the features. Bring on the Next Box (or Xbox 720 or whatever it will eventually be called). With updated hardware, it should give console gamers some new (to them) shiny graphics to look at and smoother frame rates at the same quality settings we have now.

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According to IGN, sources have confirmed that the next generation gaming console will have six times the processing power of the current generation Xbox 360. This increase in processing power is due in part to the updated graphics card that is akin to the AMD Radeon HD 6670 GPU, which while only a budget/HTPC card on the PC side of things, is a nice step up from the Xbox 360's ATI Xenos graphics chip.

The card will support 1080p, DirectX11, multiple display outputs, and 3D. Unfortunately, pricing for the upcoming gaming system was not revealed nor were any other details about the specific underlying hardware. If you are in the mood for more speculation on what might be inside the next Xbox, Tech Radar has compiled a list of the various gossip around the net about the console.

Source: IGN

Multimonitor, multidimensional gaming

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2012 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: gaming, eyefinity, nvidia surround, 3d display

The Tech Report tackles multi-monitor gaming in 3D with their latest technique of measuring graphical performance.  Frame time seems to be very much present with some hardware when you attempt to play with this type of display but it seems the overall effect on your enjoyment is variable.  When testing Deus Ex they found less instances of high frame time than with Battlefield 3 but found they noticed the impact more on Deus Ex than BF3.  There are a lot of variables to account for in this overview, not only the differences between AMD and NVIDIA's implementation of the technology but also the differences between active shutter and passive glasses.  Read on to see if you should wait for Microsoft to include 3D support in DirectX or if you can dive in right away.

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"Join us as we slip on the funny glasses to assess the current state of stereoscopic 3D gaming on the PC."

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DX11 to beam up Captain

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2012 - 11:24 AM |
Tagged: gaming, star trek online

Gaming news is a little light this week, partially because of CES coverage eating up most reviewers time but also because some review sites are blacked out today in protest of SOPA/PIPA.  However, [H]ard|OCP has something for Trekkies to check out.  They are in on the DX11 beta for Star Trek Online which allows those using mid or high end features to enjoy more eye candy when playing.  They take you through the steps to enable DX11 as it is not going to be enabled by default as well as checking the quality improvements and any impact on frame rates.  If you are on this MMORPG it is an article well worth checking out.

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"Star Trek Online has recently added DX11 Beta support, and we wanted to know how AMD's latest Radeon HD 7970 compared to NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 580 in the game and if DX11 provided any kind of performance difference over DX9. Our results were not what we expected."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Razer Shows Gaming Laptop, Prototype Gaming Tablet and More at CES

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: tablet, razer, mouse, laptop, keyboard, gaming, CES

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Gaming peripheral company Razer is already well known for its gaming mice, keyboards, headsets and other gadgets. But if CES 2012 is any indication, they’re far from content making products that go along with gaming devices.

You’ve probably already heard of the Project Fiona gaming tablet. It made quite a splash at CES when it was announced last night, and today I had a chance to inspect it up close and personal. 

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Unfortunately they’re keeping the prototype in a glass case to protect it, but handling it would not reveal much information anyway. Razer has made it clear that the device is only a prototype and will be revised significantly before release. Everything from the display resolution to the controllers could change, and the company is encouraging feedback to help them refine the final concept. 

The only thing that seems concrete is the pricing. Razer is very confident that the final product will be sold for under $1000. I doubt it will provide amazing hardware at that price, but this was never going to be the system of choice for playing Battlefield 3 regardless of what’s inside. The finalized version of Project Fiona is targeted for release this year.

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Another system being built by Razer is the Blade laptop, a product that was announced several months ago but is now finalized and should be on store shelves in February. The Blade is a thin and portable 17-inch laptop built for mobile gaming. Despite the large display it weighs about 6.5 pounds and is less than an inch thick. 

Unlike a normal laptop, the blade doesn’t have a touchpad below the keyboard. Instead the Blade replaces the numpad with a multi-touch display and ten programmable LCD keys. Mouse navigation takes place using the multi-touch display, but if you’d like it can also be used for other tasks including web browsing and recording macros. Razer is also working with game developers to make it possible for games to display customized information and controls.

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The Blade comes equipped with a Core i7 dual-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GT555M graphics and 8GB of RAM. These specifications are disappointing in light of the $2799 price tag. Razer tried to play down the hardware, insisting that hardcore gamers looking for a mobile machine will be more concerned with the laptop’s portability and customizable mutli-touch display than raw power. 

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Also shown was a full set of new Star Wars: The Old Republic peripherals. Of these the most notable is the keyboard, which features Star Wars design ques and a multi-touch display identical to the one on the Razer Blade laptop. Players will be able to bind abilities to the customizable LCD keys and see game information via the display. There’s a lot of possibility here, but it doesn’t come cheap – you’ll have to part with $249 to snag this keyboard.

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Last is Razer’s new Hex mouse. It is similar to the Razer Naga, but six larger buttons in a hex format have replaced the columns of programmable buttons. Razer says that this design works better with action-RPGs and specifically referenced Diablo 3 as a game they had in mind when designing the mouse. The Hex will use Synapse 2.0, Razer’s cloud device profile service. An unlimited number of custom profiles can be stored on remote servers (hosted by Amazon) and they are automatically downloaded to the Hex when it is plugged in to a new computer. Pricing is set at $79.99 with availability expected in February. 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

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

Source: Razer

LucidLogix Announces XLR8 Tech To Improve Embedded and SoC GPU Performance

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 12:48 AM |
Tagged: virtualization, tegra, Lucidlogix, gpu, gaming, game, embedded, CES2012, CES

Earlier today Lucid (LucidLogix), the company behind quite a few GPU virtualization technologies, announced yet another piece of GPU virtualization software. This time; however, instead of wrangling as much performance as possible from multi-GPU beasts, this technology- codenamed "XLR8"- is aimed at the mobile market of tablets, smartphones, and laptops with integrated graphics. Such products are powered by integrated GPUs in AMD's APUs and Intel's Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, and by the GPUs in mobile SoCs (system on a chip) like Nvidia's Tegra and ARM's Mali graphics processors. XLR8 uses "unique CPU multithreading" to feed the mobile GPUs as efficiently as possible.

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According to Lucid, many of the PC graphics issues are magnified when it comes to embedded GPUS including visual tearing, pipeline inefficiencies, power management, and artifacting. Offir Remez, president of Lucid further stated that most of the big, popular PC games have playability issues on mobile platforms and on computers with integrated graphics. "If it's got a GPU, we can improve the end user experience."

The company further expanded that the XLR8 technology works by disabling unnecessary and redundant processes in addition to "unique multithreading" to improve system (gaming) responsiveness up to 200 percent. The XLR8 software monitors battery drain and power draw while shutting down background processes to increase CPU frame generation and minimizing redundant GPU rendering processes.

If this sounds a lot like marketing speak, it certainly does. On the other hand, Lucid has been able to push some useful virtualization technology into desktops, so maybe mobile platforms are just the next step for the company. The company is currently demonstrating the XLR8 software in private at CES and is being tested by hardware partners.  Mobile SoC are getting faster and more powerful, and on battery powered devices there is always room for efficiency improvements.  Once reviewers manage to get their hands on some actual hardware, and XLR8 is past the concept/testing stage you can bet that people will have a better understanding of what exactly XLR8 is capable of.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

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

Steam Sees Huge Growth in Sales and Users

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2012 - 10:39 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, growth, gaming, game

Valve, the company behind the Steam digital (game) distribution service recently announced their 2011 growth data for Steam. Tech Power Up reports that Steam did exceptionally well last year and managed to grow its sales numbers and user base quite a bit.

Among the data, the service saw a more than 100% growth in year over year sales "for the seventh straight year." Further, the service boasted 5 million simultaneous players during the Steam Holiday Sale! Even more mind blowing is the amount of data the company served to users at 780 Petabytes of data (that's a lot of game downloads; about 89.35 million copies of Dirt 3 for example!).

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Steam, taking my money since HL2.

Also, Valve managed to bring more games into the Steamworks fold including Skyrim and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Since the program's inception, over 400 games have shipped with the Steam DRM and achievements. Quite a success! CEO Gabe Newell seems happy about the service's success and confident about the future. He was quoted by the site in stating "Looking forward, we are preparing for the launch of the Big Picture UI mode," and that Steam continues to evolve to meet customer and game developer demands for content. More information can be found here.  

I'm glad that Steam is continuing to grow.  On the other hand, my wallet is going to hate me come the Steam Summer Sale!

PC Per(sonal) Game of the Year 2011

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2012 - 11:36 PM |
Tagged: opinion, gaming, game of the year, fps, deus ex: human revolution, deus ex

I have to say that 2011 was a pretty good year for PC gaming. Sure, it wasn't without some drab moments; however the diamonds in the rough more than made up for it. Those gems are the PC games that especially stood out for being of quality stock and most of all were awesomely fun.

Skyrim and Battlefield 3 have received a good deal of attention and praise among the PC Per staff, but I'm going to toss the guys a curve ball and name Deus Ex: Human Revolution as my personal favorite PC Game of the Year 2011. Here's why!

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Well, first a bit of history. Growing up, I was always a big PC gamer (earliest game I remember is Digger on an actually floppy floppy disk), but somehow missed the first Deus Ex. I read about it year after year on various technology and gaming sites' "Greatest PC Games of All Time" lists, but somehow never picked it up. A couple years ago, I saw it pop up on a Steam sale, so (naturally) I bought it and gave it a shot. There was a lot of hype behind it, and as such it had a lot to live up to.

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Try taking away my equiptment now!

Unfortunately, it never really came close to living up to all of the hype and praise that people gave it. That is not to say that it's a bad game, just that compared to the newer games that I was used to it wasn't my personal favorite. From the perspective of comparing it with games of its time, it certainly is an interesting release and relatively really good. Compared to the much improved graphics, controls, budgets, and hardware of years later (when I finally played it); however, it simply did not measure up. One of my main gripes with the game was that the AI was not all that great and at some points would have super vision that could spot me from a football field away in the shadows. Had I played it when it came out and had games of that era to compare it to, (and the nostalgic love) I'm sure I would be among those singing it's praises but as a late comer to the game I just wasn't interested.

While PC gamers grew up with Deus Ex, I grew up with the Metal Gear Solid series and I absolutely loved sneaking around and being Solid Snake. Sure, the story was a crazy one, but the same could be said for Deus Ex. That's not to say that I didn't play PC games like Doom 3 (I went from Wolfenstein 3D to Doom 3 due to not growing up with constant internet access living out in the boonies and not having the money for a powerful GPU) but that the games that most stick around in my mind as favorites and fond memories were things like MGS (whereas others may have held Deus Ex for example). I did find Deus Ex's story interesting though even if I wasn't too impressed with the graphics or game play, so when I read that a new Deus Ex was coming out and that it was getting the proper PC attention (thanks, Nixxes!) as it should, I jumped on the chance to play it. Now that I have built a few PCs and have a decent video card, playing the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a "no-brainer".

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Enough vents to make even Solid Snake jealous!

To make what could be a long and spoiler-ific story about Deus Ex: HR short, the game is my personal game of the year because it made me feel like Solid Snake again, vents and all. The conversations, hacking, story, augments, and graphics were all really fun and memorable. From walking around the city and listening to the people to punching through a wall to take out an enemy to sneaking through the vents and reading all the emails the game was immersive and I found myself staying up all night not wanting to go to sleep in favor of breaking into my co-workers office and reading their email... umm all in the name of keeping the office secure (some Head of Security I was!). Some of the comments I blogged about just after completing the game include that despite the long loading times, there are more vents than you can shake a stick at and being able to stealth around was very fun. More specifically, I noted:

"The emails and conversations that you overhear walking around the city are nice touches that help immersion. Some people have complained about the graphics quality; however, for what it is I find them to be very good. For a multi-platform game, it certainly runs well on the PC, which is an exceptional feat in this day and age!. . . . I have to say that it was an awesome experience!"

I'm sure that Ryan will disagree that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the Game Of The Year, but for me it was very memorable, fun, and far exceeded my expectations. Now that I have found out about some cool sounding mods for the original Deus Ex, I may have to give it a second chance ;)

I invite the rest of the PC Per crew to share their personal Game of the Year as well as you, the readers! What was your favorite game this year, and why?

Runners up included Saints Row: The Third which is also crazy fun and Portal 2 who's story was awesome but came out so early in the year that it slipped my mind as GOTY.

Some of us have fond memories of turn based games

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2012 - 10:44 AM |
Tagged: gaming, jagged alliance

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were lucky enough to get their hands on Jagged Alliance - Back in Business, a game that was on its way to surpassing Duke Nukem Forever's record for longest game in development.  The new incarnation of the beloved turn based squad combat game is, as many fans are aware, in real time with a pause button to allow you to issue commands.  On the other hand it seems that the game is exactly like JA2 in that RPS recognized every tree, fence hole and building from JA2 ... and those who played it through multiple times will likely recognize them too.  One of the biggest changes, at least for the version they played with, is the lack of fog of war; when you hit a map you can see every single enemy and their moves, even without line of site.  As it turns out the enemy AI is even dumber than you thought.  Check out the full preview here.

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"I’ve been playing an early version of Jagged Alliance – Back In Action, the upcoming remake of one of my most beloved games. I keep my copy of Jagged Alliance 2 atop a giant stack of Soldier of Fortune magazines, which stands between an ashtray containing a smouldering over-sized cigar, some satellite surveillance photos of a dictator’s villa, a few scattered dogtags (some with bulletholes through them) and a pile of empty shell casings. I don’t know why I keep a lot of that stuff but I guess it reminds me how much of a man I am. Can Back In Action do the same?"

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Serious Sam takes his PC gaming ... seriously

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2011 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: gaming, serious sam, serious sam 3 bfe

In a nice change from many other recently released games, Serious Sam 3 was obviously designed with PC gaming in mind.  While it is still a DX9 game, the developers spent a significant amount of effort pushing DX9 as far as it could go to provide you with great visuals and an options screen that gives you a lot more control than other recent console ports games.  [H]ard|OCP's testing shows the game scoffs at high resolutions, with the performance at 2560x1600 being essentially the same as at 1920 x 1280.  AMD holds a slight lead in performance over NVIDIA, though not enough to really brag about, either manufacturer will give you a great experience while playing this game.  Check it out here.

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"Croteam's latest installment in the Serious Sam series takes us back to a time when first person shooters were designed around fragging endless waves of zombified enemies, cover did not exist, and rocket launchers were semi-automatic weapons. This DX9 game comes packed with graphics options that push the current generation of graphics cards to the limit."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP