Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Thrustmaster

The New Corinthian Leather?

I really do not know what happened to me, but I used to hate racing games.  I mean, really hate them.  I played old, old racing games on Atari.  I had some of the first ones available on PC.  They did not appeal to me in the least.  Instant buyer’s remorse for the most part.  Then something strange happened.  3D graphics technology changed that opinion.  Not only did hardware accelerated 3D help me get over my dislike, but the improvements in physical simulations also allowed a greater depth of experience.  Throw in getting my first force feedback device and NFS: Porsche Unleashed and I was hooked from then on out.

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The front of the box shows the lovely Ferrari 599XX supercar with the wheel in the foreground.

The itch to improve the driving experience only grows as time goes on.  More and more flashy looking titles are released, some of which actually improve upon the simulation with complex physics rewrites, all of which consume more horsepower from the CPU and GPU.  This then leads to more hardware upgrades.  The next thing a person knows they are ordering multiple monitors so they can just experience racing in Surround/Eyefinity (probably the best overall usage for the technology).

One bad thing about having a passion for something is that itch to improve the experience never goes away.  DiRT 2 inspired me to purchase my first FFB wheel, the TM Ferrari F420 model.  Several games later and my disappointment for the F420’s 270 degree steering had me pursue my next purchase which was a TX F458 Ferrari Edition racing wheel.  This featured the TX base, the stock/plastic Ferrari wheel, and the two pedal set.  This was a tremendous upgrade from the older TM F420 and the improvement to 900 degrees of rotation and far better FFB effects was tremendous.  Not only that, but the TX platform could be upgradeable.  The gate leading to madness was now open.

The TX base can fit a variety of 2 and 3 pedal systems, but the big push is towards the actual wheel itself.  Thrustmaster has several products that fit the base that feature a materials such as plastic, rubber, and leather.  These products go from $120 on up to around $150.  These are comprised of three GT style wheels and one F1 wheel.  All of them look pretty interesting and are a big step up from the bundled F458 replica that comes standard with the TX set.

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The rear shows the rim itself at actual size.

I honestly had not thought about upgrading to any of these units as I was pleased with the feel and performance of the stock wheel.  It seemed to have fit my needs.  Then it happened.  Thrustmaster announced the Ferrari 599XX EVO wheel with honest-to-goodness Alcantara ™ construction.  The more I read about this wheel, the more I wanted it.  The only problem in my mind is that it is priced at a rather dramatic $179.  I had purchased the entire TX F458 setup on sale for only $280 some months before!  Was the purchase of the 599XX worth it?  Would it dramatically change my gaming experience?  I guess there is only one way to find out.  I hid the credit card statement and told my wife, “Hey, look what I got in for review!”

Click here to read the entire Thrusmaster 599XX EVO Alcantara Edition Wheel Review!

Podcast #349 - Death of Media Center, i7 NUC, Fractal Define S and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2015 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, supermicro, X99, Intel, amd, corsair, H100i GTX, H80i GT, fractal, define s, akracing, nvidia, shield, grid, epson, xeon e7 v3

PC Perspective Podcast #349 - 05/14/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Death of Media Center, i7 NUC, Fractal Define S 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!

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  • 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!!

 

Use your SHIELD to stream games over NVIDIA GRID at 1080p

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: gaming, shield, nvidia, grid

Ryan and the crew have tested out NVIDIA's GRID, the cloud streaming service that lets you play games at 720p, as long as you have a 10 Mbps down connection on a network with a NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router and 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server.  In testing Ryan did notice lag but he still found them playable once he mentally adjusted to the delay.

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Today NIVIDA announced an upgrade to the GRID service, 35 of the 50 games on the service can now stream at a full 1080p and 60fps including Batman: Arkham Origins, Devil May Cry 4 and Dirt 3 Complete Edition.  In order to properly enjoy the HD quality you will need a compatible router from the list linked to above and connection of at least a 30 Mbps down, with 50Mbps being recommended by NVIDIA for best results. 

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The new SHIELD Hub beta is available to SHIELD owners by following the link in NVIDIA's blog post here.  They also announced the addition of Bionic Commando to their library, playable at the new resolution.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Brings Saint's Row IV to #SHIELDTuesday. Up Next: Alan Wake and then Metro: Last Light Redux

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 20, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: shieldtuesday, shield, Saints Row IV, nvidia, metro last light, gridtuesday, grid, alan wake

Once again, NVIDIA brings some really good games to their GRID service, which is currently free for all SHIELD owners. The concept is that NVIDIA will compute the graphics at their server farms, accept your input, and return an audio/video stream of the result. This is a very convenient way to access content, but it cannot replace actual ownership for guaranteed access to specific art that find intrinsically valuable. It can help you discover new content, though.

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This week, Saint's Row IV is available to be played on the GRID gaming service. Its predecessor, Saint's Row: The Third, was published on GRID earlier this month. It would be good to play them in order, and they are both worth your time. I did find that the campaign of Saint's Row IV was a bit less unique because the majority of missions were a handful of side-missions strung together, while Saint's Row: The Third had more scenario-based objectives, with the side-missions as an option to build up stats (or just be fun) between these. On the other hand, the movement mechanics were genius in IV. Play them both.

Looking ahead, next Tuesday will be Alan Wake. This is a survival-horror title from Remedy that makes you appreciate just how long your batteries last in real life. Basically, electricity is light and light is a vulnerability for the monsters that want to destroy you. The week after, the third of March, is Metro: Last Light Redux. This is one of the most visually demanding games available, and it is still used as a GPU benchmark at this site.

Saint's Row IV went live last Tuesday, while Alan Wake arrives on the 24th and Metro: Last Light comes in last, on March 3rd.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Releases 347.52 Drivers and Brothers for GRID

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | February 11, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: shieldtuesday, shield, nvidia, gridtuesday, grid, graphics drivers, geforce, drivers

Update: Whoops! The title originally said "374.52", when it should be "347.52". My mistake. Thanks "Suddenly" in the comments!

Two things from NVIDIA this week, a new driver and a new game for the NVIDIA GRID. The new driver aligns with the release of Evolve, which came out on Tuesday from the original creators of Left4Dead. The graphics vendor also claims that it will help Assassin's Creed: Unity, Battlefield 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Crew, and War Thunder. Several SLi profiles were also added for Alone in the Dark: Illumination, Black Desert, Dying Light, H1Z1, Heroes of the Storm, Saint's Row: Gat out of Hell, Total War: Attila, and Triad Wars.

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On the same day, NVIDIA released Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on GRID, bringing the number of available games up to 37. This game came out in August 2013 and received a lot of critical praise. Its control style is unique, using dual-thumbstick gamepads to simultaneously control both characters. More importantly, despite being short, the game is said to have an excellent story, even achieving Game of the Year (2013) for TotalBiscuit based on its narrative, which is not something that he praises often.

I'd comment on the game, but I've yet to get the time to play it. Apparently it is only a couple hours long, so maybe I can fit it in somewhere.

Also, they apparently are now calling this “#SHIELDTuesday” rather than “#GRIDTuesday”. I assume this rebranding is because people may not know that GRID exists, but they would certainly know if they purchased an Android-based gaming device for a couple hundred dollars or more. We could read into this and make some assumptions about GRID adoption rates versus SHIELD purchases, or even purchases of the hardware itself versus their projections, but it would be pure speculation.

Both announcements were made available on Tuesday, for their respective products.

Source: NVIDIA

#GRIDTuesday Brings F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid, f1 2010, dirt showdown

Okay, so I forgot about #GRIDTuesday for a little while. NVIDIA didn't. They have been releasing two games for the GRID service each and every week. You will need a SHIELD device to access it, which I don't have, and you will also need to be in a supported region. If you qualify in both criteria, then you can have access to NVIDIA's cloud-streamed game service for free (until June 30th). Since our post last month, which aligned with the release of Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon, eight new games have been added.

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The most recent inclusions, occurring two days before Christmas, were F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown. The previous Tuesday was Lego-themed, with LEGO The Hobbit and LEGO The Lord of the Rings joining the service. This followed the indie titles, Stacking and PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate on December 9th. Finally, December 2nd was Batman: Arkham Origins and LEGO Batman: The Video Game.

Now you're all caught up.

These are quite good games. Batman: Arkham Origins was released just about a year ago and enjoyed by most, especially fans of the franchise. Some have complained about bugs and glitches, but it is free in this promotional period, so why not?

This week brought the number of available games up to an even 30, and they are quite diverse. If you have a SHIELD device, and are in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe, then be sure to check it out.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA SHIELD Gets Two New Games for GRID: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 25, 2014 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield, grid, shield tablet, Psychonauts, red faction: armageddon

Last Tuesday, NVIDIA launched the November SHIELD update with Android 5.0 Lollipop, The Green Box promotion, and a refreshed GRID service. Regarding the last part, which is a game streaming service, they also committed to adding at least one extra title per week. Now, seven days later, they pushed two titles to the service: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon.

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While I have never played Red Faction: Armageddon, I did purchase Psychonauts for the Xbox and, later, the PC. It is a fun, linear narrative about kids in a summer camp that specializes in telekinetic/telepathic education for gifted individuals. If you have a SHIELD device, and you are able to play it on GRID, try it. Like it or not, it's free and does not require an installation.

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As will be the case until June 30th, access to the service is free for owners of the SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet. Future titles are expected to be announced on Twitter via the “#GRIDTuesday” hashtag. We will probably have a news post about them, too.

Source: NVIDIA

Podcast #327 - NVIDIA MFAA, Corsair's Neutron XT SSD, New Dell 4K Monitors

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2014 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, am3+, windows 10, Inateck, corsair, Neutron XT, nvidia, mfaa, shield, grid, gigabyte, raptr, Dell 4K

PC Perspective Podcast #327 - 11/20/2014

Join us this week as we discuss NVIDIA MFAA, Corsair's Neutron XT SSD, New Dell 4K Monitors

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!!

Testing Updated NVIDIA GRID on SHIELD Tablet with Lollipop

Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid

In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:

Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality.  Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent.  You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.

Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV.  You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post.  That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.

Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.

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Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:

  • Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
  • Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
  • NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router

I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.

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LEGO Batman 2

The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.

  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare
  • Astebreed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Borderlands
  • Borderlands 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • Darksiders
  • Darksiders 2
  • Dead Island
  • Dirt 2
  • LEGO Batman 2
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • Race Driver GRID
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Trine 2
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV

There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.

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In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.

For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.

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DiRT 2

With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.

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The Witcher 2

The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

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As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

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But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

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The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

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This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

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What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

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The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA