Author:
Manufacturer: Corsair

Obsidian Series for under $100

If you need a case for your next PC build, the chances are good that Corsair has a model that you'll like.  Ranging from the obscenely large Obsidian 900D to the $69 Carbide 200R and just about everything in between, Corsair has a ton of options  Today we are reviewing the brand new entrant to the Obsidian series, the 350D, that brings Corsair to the Micro-ATX form factor. 

The Obsidian series is the flagship chassis line from Corsair and typically means you are getting the best of the best from the expanding components company.  With an MSRP of just $99 you are definitely making some sacrifices on features and on size, limiting us to Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX motherboards and systems. 

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The front panel has an attractive brushed finish to it with removable front panel (and fan filter).

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Connections up top include headphones, microphone as well as a pair of USB 3.0 ports.  There power button is right in the center with dual LEDs on each side.  The reset button is just to the right of the mic port and is recessed enough to prevent accidental presses.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Obsidian 350D chassis!!

Help PC Perspective Expand by Contributing to our Indiegogo Project!

Subject: Editorial | April 26, 2013 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: video, pcper, Indiegogo

UPDATE 4/26/13: We are extremely excited to see that we have met our first goal for our Indiegogo project!  We are eternally grateful for our fans and readers that are supporting us in this endeavor.  We are going to start putting together orders for the set materials and I am very excited about the direction this is pointing us in.  There is still room to improve the project though and we have lots of great perks available for those of you that are still looking to contribute to the cause!  Oh, and we should have our T-shirt design ready early next week as well.  Thank you EVERYONE for reading PC Perspective!!

And for those of you looking for a bit more insight into our total goals, here is another mock up of the set!

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Yesterday evening, the team at PC Perspective launched a project that will help us grow and expand our coverage of technology and computer hardware. Using the crowd funding service called Indiegogo.com, we are doing a fund drive to help improve the quality of our video content and enable us to do more, unique styles of content.

If you are anything like us, you love technology.  Motherboards, graphics cards, processors, SSDs, monitors, laptops, tablets, cell phones and more.  And you also love reading about them, hearing about them and seeing them, dissecting them and finding out what makes them tick.

I am confident that high quality video content is the future of our medium and while we have been able to do quite a lot with the basic technology and setup we have here today, my goal is to be able to bring the readers regular, high quality video content on all aspects of technology.  We want to not only have video reviews for products but we want to be able to do near-daily content updates on the news of the day while balancing that with long-form interviews of personalities that make the industry function.  We have dabbled in some of these content types and the responses have been great, but we need a higher quality setup to really do it right.

Our goal with this project is to build the funds necessary to turn our office in Florence, KY into a high tech video production outlet that starts with a quality set design and better quality equipment.

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Other than supporting one of your favorite online outlets, we have also lined up some sweet perks for contributors to our project.  We have ad-free versions of the site, Tshirts and access to the PC Perspective Gold Club that has some pretty ridiculous giveaways!  If you support us even further you can get some individual time with our team to tell us why you supported us, answer your questions or even join us for an episode of the PC Perspective Podcast!  

Come visit the offices, join the process of creating a new show or make fun of Josh's laugh in person - it's all possible!

So if you have the means and you want to support our cause, if you have enjoyed any of our articles, podcasts or video reviews, consider helping to fund our project!

Support PC Perspective's Indiegogo Project

Visit the page to contribute!!

Source: Indiegogo

Podcast #248 - AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: video, Xe, seiki, raidr, podcast, nvidia, Never Serttle, hd 7990, GA-Z77N-WiFi, frame rating, crossfire, amd, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #248 - 04/25/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs 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!

  • 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

Program length: 1:16:34

  1. 0:01:20 Update on Indiegogo: You guys rock!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News items of interest:
    1. Ryan: Seiki 4K TV - more support from enthusiasts! and wet puppies
    2. Jeremy: This is not news people, NFC is a feature but if you are paranoid you can check with this app
    3. Allyn: Put your bits on an ioSafe. Put your 'papers' here.
    4. Tim: BT Sync, it's in public alpha now so go grab it!
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

The card we have been expecting

Despite all the issues that were brought up with our new graphics performance testing methodology we are calling Frame Rating, there is little debate in the industry that AMD is making noise once again in the graphics field.  From the elaborate marketing and game bundles with all Radeon HD 7000 series cards over the last year to the hiring of Roy Taylor, VP of sales but also the company's most vocal supporter. 

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Along with the marketing though goes plenty of technology and important design wins.  With the dominance of the APU on the console side (Wii U, Playstation 4 and the next Xbox), AMD is making sure that the familiarity with its GPU architecture there pays dividends on the PC side as well.  Developers will be focusing on AMD's graphics hardware for 5-10 years with the console generation and that could result in improved performance and feature support for Radeon graphics for PC gamers. 

Today's release of the Radeon HD 7990 6GB Malta dual-GPU graphics card shows a renewed focus on high-end graphics markets since the release of the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012.  And while you may have seen something for sale previously with the HD 7990 name attached, those were custom designs built by partners, not by AMD. 

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Both ASUS and PowerColor currently have high-end dual-Tahiti cards for sale.  The PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13 used the brand directly but ASUS' ARES II kept away from the name and focused on its own high-end card brands instead. 

The "real" Radeon HD 7990 card was first teased at GDC in March and takes a much less dramatic approach to its design without being less impressive technically.  The card includes a pair of Tahiti, HD 7970-class GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of total memory.  The raw specifications are listed here:

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Considering there are two HD 7970 GPUs on the HD 7990, the doubling of the major specs shouldn't be surprising though it is a little deceiving.  There are 8.6 billion transistors yes, but there are still 4.3 billion on each GPU.  Yes there are 4096 stream processors but only 2048 on each GPU requiring software GPU scaling to increase performance.  The same goes with texture fill rate, compute performance, memory bandwidth, etc.  The same could be said for all dual-GPU graphics cards though.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB Graphics Card!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

A very early look at the future of Catalyst

Today is a very interesting day for AMD.  It marks both the release of the reference design of the Radeon HD 7990 graphics card, a dual-GPU Tahiti behemoth, and the first sample of a change to the CrossFire technology that will improve animation performance across the board.  Both stories are incredibly interesting and as it turns out both feed off of each other in a very important way: the HD 7990 depends on CrossFire and CrossFire depends on this driver. 

If you already read our review (or any review that is using the FCAT / frame capture system) of the Radeon HD 7990, you likely came away somewhat unimpressed.  The combination of a two AMD Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of frame buffer SHOULD have been an incredibly exciting release for us and would likely have become the single fastest graphics card on the planet.  That didn't happen though and our results clearly state why that is the case: AMD CrossFire technology has some serious issues with animation smoothness, runt frames and giving users what they are promised. 

Our first results using our Frame Rating performance analysis method were shown during the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan card in February.  Since then we have been in constant talks with the folks at AMD to figure out what was wrong, how they could fix it, and what it would mean to gamers to implement frame metering technology.  We followed that story up with several more that showed the current state of performance on the GPU market using Frame Rating that painted CrossFire in a very negative light.  Even though we were accused by some outlets of being biased or that AMD wasn't doing anything incorrectly, we stuck by our results and as it turns out, so does AMD. 

Today's preview of a very early prototype driver shows that the company is serious about fixing the problems we discovered. 

If you are just catching up on the story, you really need some background information.  The best place to start is our article published in late March that goes into detail about how game engines work, how our completely new testing methods work and the problems with AMD CrossFire technology very specifically.  From that piece:

It will become painfully apparent as we dive through the benchmark results on the following pages, but I feel that addressing the issues that CrossFire and Eyefinity are creating up front will make the results easier to understand.  We showed you for the first time in Frame Rating Part 3, AMD CrossFire configurations have a tendency to produce a lot of runt frames, and in many cases nearly perfectly in an alternating pattern.  Not only does this mean that frame time variance will be high, but it also tells me that the value of performance gained by of adding a second GPU is completely useless in this case.  Obviously the story would become then, “In Battlefield 3, does it even make sense to use a CrossFire configuration?”  My answer based on the below graph would be no.

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An example of a runt frame in a CrossFire configuration

NVIDIA's solution for getting around this potential problem with SLI was to integrate frame metering, a technology that balances frame presentation to the user and to the game engine in a way that enabled smoother, more consistent frame times and thus smoother animations on the screen.  For GeForce cards, frame metering began as a software solution but was actually integrated as a hardware function on the Fermi design, taking some load off of the driver.

Continue reading our article on the new prototype driver from AMD to address frame pacing issues in CrossFire!!

SEIKI SE50UY04 50-in 4K 3840x2160 TV Unboxing and Preview

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Displays | April 18, 2013 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: video, seiki, se50UY04, hdtv, hdmi 1.4, displays, 4k, 3840x2160

This just in!  We have a 4K TV in the PC Perspective Offices!

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While we are still working on the ability to test graphics card performance at this resolution with our Frame Rating capture system, we decided to do a live stream earlier today as we unboxed, almost dropped and then eventually configured our new 4K TV. 

The TV in question?  A brand new SEIKI SE50UY04 50-in 3840x2160 ready display.  Haven't heard of it?  Neither have we.  I picked it up over the weekend from TigerDirect for $1299, though it actually a bit higher now at $1499.

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The TV itself is pretty unassuming and other than looking for the 4K label on the box you'd be hard pressed to discern it from other displays.  It DID come with a blue, braided UHD-ready HDMI cable, so there's that.

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One point worth noting is that the stand on the TV is pretty flimsy; there was definitely wobble after installation and setup.

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Connecting the TV to our test system was pretty easy - only a single HDMI cable was required and the GeForce GTX 680s in SLI we happened to have on our test bed recognized it as a 3840x2160 capable display.  Keep in mind that you are limited to a refresh rate of 30 Hz though due to current limitations of HDMI 1.4.  The desktop was clear and sharper and if you like screen real estate...this has it. 

The first thing we wanted to try was some 4K video playback and we tried YouTube videos, some downloaded clips we found scattered across the Internet and a couple of specific examples I had been saving.  Isn't that puppy cute?  It was by far the best picture I had seen on a TV that close up - no other way to say it.

We did have issues with video playback in some cases due to high bit rates.  In one case we had a YUV uncompressed file that was hitting our SSD so hard on read speeds that we saw choppiness.  H.265 save us!

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And of course we demoed some games as well - Battlefield 3, Crysis 3, Skyrim and Tomb Raider.  Each was able to run at 3840x2160 without any complaints or INI hacks.  They all looked BEAUTIFUL when in a still position but we did notice some flickering on the TV that might be the result of the 120 Hz interpolation and possibly the "dynamic luminance control" feature that SEIKI has. 

We'll definitely test some more on this in the coming days to see if we can find a solution as I know many PC gamers are going to be excited about the possibility of using this as a gaming display!  We are working on a collection of benchmarks on some of the higher end graphics solutions like the GeForce TITAN, GTX 680s, HD 7990 and HD 7970s!

If you want to check out the full experience of our unboxing and first testing, check out the full live stream archived below!!

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Not a simple answer

After publishing the Frame Rating Part 3 story, I started to see quite a bit of feedback from readers and other enthusiasts with many requests for information about Vsync and how it might affect the results we are seeing here.  Vertical Sync is the fix for screen tearing, a common artifact seen in gaming (and other mediums) when the frame rendering rate doesn’t match the display’s refresh rate.  Enabling Vsync will force the rendering engine to only display and switch frames in the buffer to match the vertical refresh rate of the monitor or a divisor of it.  So a 60 Hz monitor could only display frames at 16ms (60 FPS), 33ms (30 FPS), 50ms (20 FPS), and so on.

Many early readers hypothesized that simply enabling Vsync would fix the stutter and runt issues that Frame Rating was bringing to light.  In fact, AMD was a proponent of this fix, as many conversations we have had with the GPU giant trailed into the direction of Vsync as answer to their multi-GPU issues. 

In our continuing research on graphics performance, part of our Frame Rating story line, I recently spent many hours playing games on different hardware configurations and different levels of Vertical Sync.  After this time testing, I am comfortable in saying that I do not think that simply enabling Vsync on platforms that exhibit a large number of runt frames fixes the issue.  It may prevent runts, but it does not actually produce a completely smooth animation. 

To be 100% clear - the issues with Vsync and animation smoothness are not limited to AMD graphics cards or even multi-GPU configurations.  The situations we are demonstrating here present themselves equally on AMD and NVIDIA platforms and with single or dual card configurations, as long as all other parameters are met.  Our goal today is only to compare a typical Vsync situation from either vendor to a reference result at 60 FPS and at 30 FPS; not to compare AMD against NVIDIA!!

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In our initial research with Frame Rating, I presented this graph on the page discussing Vsync.  At the time, I left this note with the image:

The single card and SLI configurations without Vsync disabled look just like they did on previous pages but the graph for GTX 680 SLI with Vsync on is very different.  Frame times are only switching back and forth between 16 ms and 33 ms, 60 and 30 instantaneous FPS due to the restrictions of Vsync.  What might not be obvious at first is that the constant shifting back and forth between these two rates (two refresh cycles with one frame, one refresh cycle with one frame) can actually cause more stuttering and animation inconsistencies than would otherwise appear.

Even though I had tested this out and could literally SEE that animation inconsistency I didn't yet have a way to try and demonstrate it to our readers, but today I think we do.

The plan for today's article is going to be simple.  I am going to present a set of three videos to you that show side by side runs from different configuration options and tell you what I think we are seeing in each result.  Then on another page, I'm going to show you three more videos and see if you can pinpoint the problems on your own.

Continue reading our article on the effects of Vsync on gaming animation smoothness!!

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Nerdytec

Gaming on your Couch

Sometimes really unique products come across our door step and we just love to tell our readers about things that might normally fall outside the PC hardware field.  The COUCHMASTER, essentially a piece of furniture made for gaming, is one of those items.

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The COUCHMASTER, produced by a German company called Nerdytec, is a device built to help gamers use a mouse and keyboard while sitting on a couch and gaming in large screen environments.  It has a pair of foam-stuffed side block that hold up a wood-constructed center panel that puts your mouse and keyboard at a comfortable angle. 

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Cable routing is made simple with Velcro removable panels under the keyboard and mouse and some versions of COUCHMASTER include a 4-port USB hub for connecting input devices, audio headsets, etc.  The only that didn't work in our testing were external hard drives - just not enough power coming from the USB 3.0 connection through the include extension cable.

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I played the entirety of Bioshock Infinite with the COUCHMASTER, and other than getting some odd looks from my wife, couldn't think of a more impressive and comfortable way to play PC games from a distance and without a standard desk setup.

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I would love to see some changes like the addition of recessed drink holders on the sides, but otherwise, the only drawback to Nerdytec's COUCHMASTER is the price; it starts at $170 or so USD.

Check out the full video review posted below!!

UPDATE: The CouchMaster is now for sale in the US now!

Podcast #246 - ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard, more Frame Rating, DirectX 12 and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2013 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: video, xeon, thunderbolt, roccat, quadro, premiere, podcast, opencl, nerdytec, Ivy Bridge-E, haswell, frame rating, firepro, falcon ridge, DirectX 12, couchmaster, ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #246- 04/11/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard, more Frame Rating, DirectX 12 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!

  • 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:01:46

  1. Winner last week? Mike McLaughlin!! Congrats!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:24:00 NerdyTec COUCHMASTER
  4. News items of interest:
  5. 0:47:00 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Ultra Brush dust remover
  6. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  7. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

What to look for and our Test Setup

Because of the complexity and sheer amount of data we have gathered using our Frame Rating performance methodology, we are breaking it up into several articles that each feature different GPU comparisons.  Here is the schedule:

 

Today marks the conclusion of our first complete round up of Frame Rating results, the culmination of testing that was started 18 months ago.  Hopefully you have caught our other articles on the subject at hand, and you really will need to read up on the Frame Rating Dissected story above to truly understand the testing methods and results shown in this article.  Use the links above to find the previous articles!

To round out our Frame Rating testing in this interation, we are looking at more cards further down the product stack in two different sets.  The first comparison will look at the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 graphics cards in both single and dual-card configurations.  Just like we saw with our HD 7970 vs GTX 680 and our HD 7950 vs GTX 660 Ti testing, evaluating how the GPUs compare in our new and improved testing methodology in single GPU configurations is just as important as testing in SLI and CrossFire.  The GTX 660 ($199 at Newegg.com) and the HD 7870 ($229 at Newegg.com) are the closest matches in terms of pricing though both card have some interesting game bundle options as well.

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AMD's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition

Our second set of results will only be looking at single GPU performance numbers for lower cost graphics cards like the AMD Radeon HD 7850 and Radeon HD 7790 and from NVIDIA the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650 Ti BOOST.  We didn't include multi-GPU results on these cards simply due to time constraints internally and because we are eager to move onto further Frame Rating testing and input testing. 

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NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 660


If you are just joining this article series today, you have missed a lot!  If nothing else you should read our initial full release article that details everything about the Frame Rating methodology and why we are making this change to begin with.  In short, we are moving away from using FRAPS for average frame rates. We are using a secondary hardware capture system to record each frame of game play as the monitor would receive them. That recorded video is then analyzed to measure real world performance.

Because FRAPS measures frame times at a different point in the game pipeline (closer to the game engine) its results can vary dramatically from what is presented to the end user on their display.  Frame Rating solves that problem by recording video through a dual-link DVI capture card that emulates a monitor to the testing system and by simply applying a unique overlay color on each produced frame from the game, we can gather a new kind of information that tells a very unique story.

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The capture card that makes all of this work possible.

I don't want to spend too much time on this part of the story here as I already wrote a solid 16,000 words on the topic in our first article and I think you'll really find the results fascinating.  So, please check out my first article on the topic if you have any questions before diving into these results today!

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB
Graphics Drivers AMD: 13.2 beta 7
NVIDIA: 314.07 beta
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

On to the results! 

Continue reading our review of the GTX 660 and HD 7870 using Frame Rating!!