Video: How to Build a Gaming PC: OS Install, Steam Setup

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 25, 2013 - 10:35 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, video, r9 270x, ps4, playstation 4, fx 6300, amd, 200r

Over the past week or so, we have been slowly putting together a guide to help interested readers select, build and now install everything necessary to build the perfect PC to compete against the new console generation.  

In the first part, Josh and I discussed the new console architectures and how they were similar, and different, from modern PC gaming systems.  We also discussed a couple of specific build outs that we thought were price competitive with the Xbox One and the PS4 while also offering quite a bit more performance and flexibility for the user.  

  Gaming Build PlayStation 4 Xbox One
Processor AMD FX-6300 6-core CPU - $109 8-core Jaguar APU 8-core Jaguar APU
Motherboard MSI 970A-G43 AM3+ - $59 Custom Custom
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $80 8GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3
Graphics Card Gigabyte Radeon R9 270X 2GB - $199 1152 Stream Unit APU 768 Stream Unit APU
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM HDD - $64 500GB 5400 RPM 500GB
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $59 Custom Custom
Power Supply Corsair CX 600 watt 80+ Bronze - $69 Internal External
Optical Drive Pioneer Blu-ray Reader - $49 Blu-ray Blu-ray
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $98 Custom, FreeBSD Custom, Windows
Peak Compute 2,690 GFLOPS 1,840 GFLOPS 1,270 GFLOPS
Total Price $780 - Amazon $399 - Amazon $499 - Amazon

In part 2, we recorded a video of me actually assembling the parts (or nearly the same parts) in the build to show users that might be intimidated by the process exactly how easy it is to build a PC from scratch.

Today, we finalize our journey with the installation of the operating system, setup of the Steam gaming platform and even how easy it is to run the PC when attached to a TV.  

After briefly discussing the BIOS and UEFI on the motherboard, installing Windows 8.1 and then running the latest Steam client on the new PC, a brief demonstration of Metro: Last Light running in Big Picture Mode takes place.  With that we can demonstrate the power of the PC and the flexibility it truly offers over even the latest consoles.

I hope this set of videos has been useful for our readers that might have been interested in the idea of a gaming PC but were worried or unsure of their own ability to get the job done.  I think we have demonstrated that the entire process is easy, fun and rewarding - and can be done in a single afternoon as long as you order the right parts. 

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or feedback - and happy building!!

osintall.jpg

Video: How to Build a Gaming PC to Beat the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 22, 2013 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, video, r9 270x, ps4, playstation 4, fx 6300, amd, 200r

After Josh and I discussed and debated which components would be best suited for a low cost gaming PC to compete with the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One, Ken and I set about to create a video to show those users nervous about the idea of building a PC how easy it can be. 

Though Josh and I built systems at $550 and $750 price tags that compare to the new gaming consoles in different ways, for this build I thought it was best to focus on the higher performance, though higher priced option, detailed below.

  Gaming Build PlayStation 4 Xbox One
Processor AMD FX-6300 6-core CPU - $109 8-core Jaguar APU 8-core Jaguar APU
Motherboard MSI 970A-G43 AM3+ - $59 Custom Custom
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $80 8GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3
Graphics Card AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB - $209
(Alternate: ASUS GTX 760 - $259)
1152 Stream Unit APU 768 Stream Unit APU
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM HDD - $64 500GB 5400 RPM 500GB
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $59 Custom Custom
Power Supply Corsair CX 600 watt 80+ Bronze - $69 Internal External
Optical Drive Pioneer Blu-ray Reader - $49 Blu-ray Blu-ray
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $98 Custom, FreeBSD Custom, Windows
Peak Compute 2,690 GFLOPS 1,840 GFLOPS 1,270 GFLOPS
Total Price $790 - Amazon Full Cart $399 - Amazon $499 - Amazon

The links above will take you to the Amazon pages if you want duplicate our setup for a system of your own. 

If you have never built a PC before, gaming or otherwise, it can be a little intimidating to see the list of parts you need to order.  But don't fear!  The build process is surprisingly easy if you pick the right parts and have the right help.  The video below will detail the exact installation process for the components listed above (or close proximity thereof) to get you up and running! 

If you happen to have missed the video where Josh and I discuss the REASONS for selecting the above hardware, I have included it below as well.  Stay tuned in the next day or so for our video that shows the operating system installation process, Steam installation, gaming and Big Picture Mode.

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Does downloading make a difference?

This is PART 2 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  Previously, we compared performance based on Blu-ray based installations though today we add downloaded titles from PSN to the mix.  Be sure you read PART 1, PlayStation 4 (PS4) HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance Testing.

I posted a story earlier this week that looked at the performance of the new PS4 when used with three different 2.5-in storage options: the stock 500GB hard drive, a 1TB hybrid SSHD and a 240GB SSD.  The results were fairly interesting (and got a good bit of attention) but some readers wanted more data.  In particular, many asked how things might change if you went the full digital route and purchased games straight from the Sony's PlayStation Network.  I also will compare boot times for each of the tested storage devices.

You should definitely check out the previous article if you missed it. It not only goes through the performance comparison but also details how to change the hard drive on the PS4 from the physical procedure to the software steps necessary. The article also details the options we selected for our benchmarking.

psn1.jpg

Today I purchased a copy of Assassin's Creed IV from the PSN store (you're welcome Ubisoft) and got to testing.  The process was the same: start the game then load the first save spot.  Again, each test was run three times and the averages were reported. The PS4 was restarted between each run.

load3.png

The top section of results is the same that was presented earlier - average load times for AC IV when the game is installed from the Blu-ray.  The second set is new and includes average load times fro AC IV after the installation from the PlayStation Network; no disc was in the drive during testing.

Continue reading our story on the performance testing of HDD, SSD and SSHD with downloaded and Blu-ray installed games on PS4!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Load time improvements

This is PART 1 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  In PART 2 we take a look at the changes introduced with PSN downloaded games versus Blu-ray installed games as well as show boot time differences.  Be sure you read PART 2, PlayStation 4 (PS4) Blu-ray and Download Storage Performance, Boot Times.

On Friday Sony released the PlayStation 4 onto the world.  The first new console launch in 7 years, the PS4 has a lot to live up to, but our story today isn't going to attempt to weigh the value of the hardware or software ecosystem.  Instead, after our PS4 teardown video from last week, we got quite a few requests for information on storage performance with the PS4 and what replacement hardware might offer gamers.

Hard Drive Replacement Process

Changing the hard drive in your PlayStation 4 is quite simple, a continuation of a policy Sony's policy with the PS3.

01_0.jpg

Installation starts with the one semi-transparent panel on the top of the unit, to the left of the light bar.  Obviously make sure your PS4 is completely turned off and unplugged.

02_0.jpg

Simply slide it to the outside of the chassis and wiggle it up to release.  There are no screws or anything to deal with yet.

03_0.jpg

Once inside you'll find a screw with the PS4 shapes logos on them; that is screw you need to remove to pull out the hard drive cage. 

Continue reading our analysis of PS4 HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance!!

Sony Playstation 4 (PS4) Teardown and Disassembly

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 15, 2013 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: video, teardown, ps4, playstation 4, APU, amd

Last night Ken and I headed over the local Best Buy to pick up my preorder of the new Playstation 4.  What would any hardware geek immediately do with this hardware?  Obviously we take a screwdriver to it and take it apart.

In this video, which is a recording of our live stream that started last night at 12:30am EST, you'll see us unbox the PS4, turn it on, take it apart and put it back together.  And I only had to fix one piece with gaffers tape, so there's that.

ps4teardown.jpg

(We'll have a collection of high-resolution photos later today as well.)

Though they are out of stock, Amazon.com appears to be getting more PS4s in stock pretty regularly, so keep an eye out if you are interested in picking one up still.

Happy Friday!

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

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 02:07 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.

PS Vita TV.jpg

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.

PS Vita TV_Logo.jpg

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

Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will NOT utilize AMD hUMA with Kabini-based SoC

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | August 22, 2013 - 10:39 AM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation 4, Kabini, hUMA, amd

UPDATE: I have added new info at the bottom of this post with more commentary from AMD (kind of).

You might have seen some reports in the last couple of days claiming that the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will have a big advantage over the Xbox One thanks to its unique ability to support AMD's hUMA memory architecture.  hUMA, heterogeneous unified memory architecture, is an exciting new memory technology that AMD has built into upcoming APUs.

huma_01.jpg

Josh published a story on hUMA that sums it as so:

The idea behind hUMA is quite simple; the CPU and GPU share memory resources, they are able to use pointers to access data that has been processed by either one or the other, and the GPU can take page faults and not rely only on page locked memory.  Memory in this case is bi-directionally coherent, so coherency issues with data in caches which are later written to main memory will not cause excessive waits for either the CPU or GPU to utilize data that has been changed in cache, but not yet written to main memory.

ps4-hrdware-large18.jpg

There's just one problem with these various reports (VR-Zone, ExtremeTech): they're incorrect.  After sending some emails to our representatives at AMD I was told that "Kabini doesn't support hUMA" which is the APU that both the PS4 and Xbox One processors are based on.  AMD further clarified with us:

Our spokesperson made inaccurate statements about our semi-custom APU architectures and does not speak for Microsoft, Sony or the AMD semi-custom business unit responsible for co-developing the next generation console APUs.

xboxone.png

So while the PS4 will still be a faster system thanks to its higher SIMD processor (GPU core) count, there is no support for a true heterogeneous unified memory architecture in either upcoming console platform.

NOTE: I have had several people point out that it's possible Sony and Microsoft worked on their own custom memory architectures that will perform similar functionally to hUMA.  That is entirely possible but means that official hUMA support isn't on the SoCs.

UPDATE: AMD contacted me again to make another comment.  Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was "inaccurrate" but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true.  Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn't give us any more information. 

So does the PS4 have support for some type of heterogeneous unified memory?  Maybe.  And the Xbox One?  Maybe.  At this point, I'd stop listening to anything AMD has to say on the subject as they are likely to recant it shortly thereafter.  Many readers have emailed me with their thoughts and I personally feel that its more likely the original statement from AMD (that the PS4 will have the edge with a hUMA design) will turn out to be the truth in the long run...

Epic Games is disappointed in the PS4 and Xbox One?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | May 23, 2013 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, unreal engine, ps4, playstation 4, epic games

Unreal Engine 4 was presented at the PlayStation 4 announcement conference through a new Elemental Demo. We noted how the quality seemed to have dropped in the eight months following E3 while the demo was being ported to the console hardware. The most noticeable differences were in the severely reduced particle counts and the non-existent fine lighting details; of course, Epic pumped the contrast in the PS4 version which masked the lack of complexity as if it were a stylistic choice.

Still, the demo was clearly weakened. The immediate reaction was to assume that Epic Games simply did not have enough time to optimize the demo for the hardware. That is true to some extent, but there are theoretical limits on how much performance you can push out of hardware at 100% perfect utilization.

Now that we know both the PS4 and, recently, the Xbox One: it is time to dissect more carefully.

A recent LinkedIn post from EA Executive VP and CTO, Rajat Taneja, claims that the Xbox One and PS4 are a generation ahead of highest-end PC on the market. While there are many ways to interpret that statement, in terms of raw performance that statement is not valid.

As of our current knowledge, the PlayStation 4 contains an eight core AMD "Jaguar" CPU with an AMD GPU containing 18 GCN compute units, consisting of a total of 1152 shader units. Without knowing driving frequencies, this chip should be slightly faster than the Xbox One's 768 shader units within 12 GCN compute units. The PS4 claims their system has a total theoretical 2 teraFLOPs of performance and the Xbox One would almost definitely be slightly behind that.

Back in 2011, the Samaritan Demo was created by Epic Games to persuade console manufacturers. This demo was how Epic considered the next generation of consoles to perform. They said, back in 2011, that this demo would theoretically require 2.5 teraFLOPs of performance for 30FPS at true 1080p; ultimately their demo ran on the PC with a single GTX 680, approximately 3.09 teraFLOPs.

This required performance, (again) approximately 2.5 teraFLOPs, is higher than what is theoretically possible for the consoles, which is less than 2 teraFLOPs. The PC may have more overhead than consoles, but the PS4 and Xbox One would be too slow even with zero overhead.

Now, of course, this does not account for reducing quality where it will be the least noticeable and other cheats. Developers are able to reduce particle counts and texture resolutions in barely-noticeable places; they are also able to render below 1080p or even below 720p, as was the norm for our current console generation, to save performance for more important things. Perhaps developers might even use different algorithms which achieve the same, or better, quality for less computation at the expense of more sensitivity to RAM, bandwidth, or what-have-you.

But, in the end, Epic Games did not get the ~2.5 teraFLOPs they originally hoped for when they created the Samaritan Demo. This likely explains, at least in part, why the Elemental Demo looked a little sad at Sony's press conference: it was a little FLOP.

Update, 5/24/2013: Mark Rein of Epic Games responds to the statement made by Rajat Taneja of EA. While we do not know his opinion on consoles... we know his opinion on EA's opinion:

GDC 2013: Sony Reveals Additional Details About PS4 Hardware

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2013 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation eye, playstation 4, gaming, dualshock 4, APU, amd

Sony teased a few more details about its upcoming PlayStation 4 console at the Games Developer's Conference earlier this week. While the basic specifications have not changed since the original announcement, we now know more about the X86 console hardware.

The PS4 itself is powered by an AMD Jaguar CPU with eight physical cores and eight threads. Each core gets 32 KB L1 I-cache and D-cache. Further, each group of four physical cores shares 2 MB of L2 cache, for 4MB total L2. The processor is capable of Out of Order Execution, as are AMDs other processor offerings. The console also reportedly features 8GB of GDDR5 memory that is shared by the CPU and GPU. It offers 176 GB/s of bandwidth, and is a step above the PS3 which did not use a unified memory design. The system will also sport a faster GPU rated at 1.843 TFLOPS, and clocked at 800MHz. The PS3 will have a high-capacity hard drive and a new Blu-ray drive that is up to 3-times faster. Interestingly, the console also has a co-processor that allows the system to process the video streaming features and allow the Remote Play game streaming to the PlayStation Vita at its native resolution of 960x554.

Playstation 4 Controller (1).jpg

The PlayStation Eye has also been upgraded with the PS4 to include 2 cameras, four microphones, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The Eye cameras have an 85-degree field of view, and can record video at 1280x800 at 60 Hz and 12 bits per pixel or 640x480 and 120Hz. The new PS4 Eye is a noteworthy upgrade to the current generation model which is limited to either 640x480 pixels at 60Hz or 320x240 pixels at 120Hz. The extra resolution should allow developers to be more accurate. The DualShock 4 controllers sport a light-bar that can be tracked by the new Eye camera, for example. The light-bar on the controllers uses an RGB LED that changes to blue, red, pink, or green for players 1-4 respectively.

Speaking of the new DualShock 4, Sony has reportedly ditched the analog face buttons and D-pad for digital buttons. With the DS3 and the PS3, the analog face buttons and D-pad came in handy with racing games, but otherwise they are not likely to be missed. The controllers will now charge even when the console is in standby mode, and the L2 and R2 triggers are more resistant to accidental pressure. The analog sticks have been slightly modified and feature a reduced dead zone. The touchpad, which is a completely new feature for the DualShock lineup, is capable of tracking 2 points at a resolution of 1920x900–which is pretty good.

While Sony has still not revealed what the actual PS4 console will look like, most of the internals are now officially known. It will be interesting to see just where Sony prices the new console, and where game developers are able to take it. Using a DX11.1+ feature set, developers are able to use many of the same tools used to program PC titles but also have additional debugging tools and low level access to the hardware. A new low level API below DirectX, but above the driver level gives developers deeper access to the shader pipeline. I'm curious to see how PC ports will turn out, with the consoles now running X86 hardware, I'm hoping that the usual fare of bugs common to ported titles from consoles to PCs will decrease–a gamer can dream, right?

Read more about the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4) at PC Perspective.

Source: HEXUS

PlayStation 4 (PS4) Orbis Hardware Specifications - AMD APU or Discrete?

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 23, 2013 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: southern islands, sony, ps4, playstation 4, orbis, Kaveri, bulldozer, APU, amd

Earlier today a report from Kotaku.com posted some details about the upcoming PlayStation console, code named Orbis and sometimes just called the PS4.  Kotaku author Luke Plunkett got the information from a 90 page PDF that details the development kit so the information is likely pretty accurate if incomplete.  It discusses a new controller and a completely new accounts system but I was mostly interested in the hardware details given.

We'll begin with the specs. And before we go any further, know that these are current specs for a PS4 development kit, not the final retail console itself. So while the general gist of the things you see here may be similar to what makes it into the actual commercial hardware, there's every chance some—if not all of it—changes, if only slightly.

This is key to keep in mind because here are the specs listed on the report:

  • 8GB of system memory
  • 2.2GB of graphics memory
  • 4 module (8 core) AMD Bulldozer CPU
  • AMD "R10xx" based GPU
  • 4x USB 3.0 ports and 2x Ethernet connections
  • Blu-ray drive
  • 160GB HDD
  • HDMI and optical audio output

We are essentially talking about an AMD FX-series processor with a Southern Islands based discrete card and I am nearly 100% sure that this will not match the configuration of the shipping system.  Think about it - would a console developer really want to have a processor that can draw more than 100 watts inside its box in addition to a discrete GPU?  I doubt it. 

kaveri2.jpg

Instead, let's go with the idea that this developer kit is simply meant to emulate some final specifications.  More than likely we are looking at an APU solution that combines Bulldozer or Steamroller cores along with GCN-based GPU SIMD arrays.  The most likely candidate is Kaveri, a 28nm based product that meets both of those requirements.  Josh recently discussed the future with Kaveri in a post during CES, worth checking out.  AMD has told us several times that Kaveri should be able to hit the 1.0 TFLOPs level of performance and if we compare to the current discrete GPUs would enable graphics performance similar to that of an under-clocked Radeon HD 7770.

There is some room for doubt though - Kaveri isn't supposed to be out until "late Q4" though its possible that the PS4 will be the first customer.  It is also possible that AMD is making a specific discrete GPU for implementation on the PS4 based on the GCN architecture that would be faster than the graphics performance expected on the Kaveri APU. 

kaveri.JPG

When speaking with our own Josh Walrath on this rumor, he tended to think that Sony and AMD would not use an APU but would rather combine a separate CPU and GPU on a single substrate, allowing for better yields than a combined APU part.  In order to make up for the slower memory controller interface (on substrate is not as fast as on-die) AMD might again utilize backside cache, just like the one used on the Xbox 360 today.  With process technology improvements its not unthinkable to see that jump to 30 or 40MB of cache.

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With the debate of a 2013 or 2014 release still up in the air, there is plenty of time for this to change still but we will likely know for sure after our next trip to Taipei.

Source: Kotaku