Small form factor cases and the push to Mini ITX designs took a dramatic journey during 2013 as the popularity of the smaller PC once again became a popular trend. Though a company like Shuttle, that hardly exists in the form it did in 2004, was the first PC hardware company to really drive home the idea of an SFF system design, many other players have released compelling products helping to strengthen it as one of the unique possibilities for enthusiast PCs.
Even better, though a Mini-ITX based platform could mean limited options for hardware and performance, with companies like ASUS, EVGA, BitFenix and others in the mix, building an incredibly fast and powerful gaming machine using small hardware is not only easy but can be done at a lower price than you might expect.
One entry that found its way to our offices this December comes from Silverstone in the form of the Raven Z, RVZ01 case. This case includes unique features and capabilities including the ability to support nearly any high end graphics card on the market (dual slot or single), space for larger heatsinks and even liquid coolers along with a home theater friendly look and style. Oh, and it's
the same almost the same design that Valve used for its beta Steam Machines as well. (Update: Turns out the size of the Steam Machine is actually a fair bit smaller than the Silverstone RVZ01.)
Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2013 - 07:12 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, standing desk, ikea
You have probably seen some interesting articles and content about standing desks; they are a growing trend for those of us that sit in front of computers all day. While the health benefits and detriments are being battled out by scientists everywhere, I knew this was something I wanted to try for myself.
The problem? I didn't want to spend $1400 on a desk with a motor on it before knowing if I would like the result. After doing some research online and finding this post by Colin Nederkoorn, I decided to give an IKEA mod a shot with some slight modifications.
I just did this today so I am still just starting into the world of standing desks but you can be sure I'll have updates as the weeks go by on our PC Perspective Podcast!
Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2013 - 10:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, contest, giveaway
I don't want to spoil anything, but if you haven't gone to our YouTube channel today you are missing out on one of the most interesting giveaways ever hosted at PC Perspective. Partnering with Linus Tech Tips and Hardware Canucks, you could win a prize pack that includes:
- MSI Radeon R9 290 Graphics Card
- Koolance R9 290 water block
- Caselabs Mercury S5 case with custom water cooling kit
- Intel Core i5-4670K processor
Pretty awesome, isn't it? The rules are pretty simple. Watch the video below and visit the YouTube video page for all the details!
Subject: General Tech | December 19, 2013 - 03:15 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, ROG, podcast, nvidia, mars 760, gtx 760, gsync, DirectCU II, aus, 290x
PC Perspective Podcast #281 - 12/19/2013
Join us this week as we discuss our NVIDIA GSYNC Preview, ASUS ROG MARS 760, Custom Cooled R9 290Xs and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Scott Michaud
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
1:04:00 Intel Roadmap Leaks
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Jeremy: Yes I would, would you?
Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2013 - 06:20 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, Type Heaven, topre, keyboard
I don't consider myself a keyboard guru, but I sure do go through a lot of them in my line of work. At any of five different workstations in our office I'll be using a different keyboard. And we tend to interchange them often enough that I would guess I have typed on as many as 15 different keyboards this year. Some for longer periods of time than others of course, but the ones that make it to my main desk get quite a workout.
When our friends at Seasonic told us they wanted to send along a Topre Type Heaven keyboard for us to try out, I told them to feel free; but in my head I was thinking "oh geez another keyboard." Turns out I didn't give this brand and this keyboard enough credit out the gate.
(Note: Seasonic is the official distributor of the Topre keyboard brand in the US now and offers a 2 year warranty on the units!)
With a price tag of $150 on Amazon.com, there are going to quite of few of you that just instantly turn off. Understandable. Others though will appreciate the need for a high quality input device if you do any appreciable amount of typing for work or pleasure. Using a technology called electrostatic capacitive key switches, Topre combines benefits of Cherry and standard membrane keyboards in one package.
Check out my video above for some sound comparison as well as my thoughts on using the keyboard long term. Not to spoil it: but I'm keeping this keyboard on my desk despite me missing the multimedia controls of my previous keyboard.
The First Custom R9 290X
It has been a crazy launch for the AMD Radeon R9 series of graphics cards. When we first reviewed both the R9 290X and the R9 290, we came away very impressed with the GPU and the performance it provided. Our reviews of both products resulted in awards of the Gold class. The 290X was a new class of single GPU performance while the R9 290 nearly matched performance at a crazy $399 price tag.
But there were issues. Big, glaring issues. Clock speeds had a huge amount of variance depending on the game and we saw a GPU that was rated as "up to 1000 MHz" running at 899 MHz in Skyrim and 821 MHz in Bioshock Infinite. Those are not insignificant deltas in clock rate that nearly perfectly match deltas in performance. These speeds also changed based on the "hot" or "cold" status of the graphics card - had it warmed up and been active for 10 minutes prior to testing? If so, the performance was measurably lower than with a "cold" GPU that was just started.
That issue was not necessarily a deal killer; rather, it just made us rethink how we test GPUs. The fact that many people were seeing lower performance on retail purchased cards than with the reference cards sent to press for reviews was a much bigger deal. In our testing in November the retail card we purchased, that was using the exact same cooler as the reference model, was running 6.5% slower than we expected.
The obvious hope was the retail cards with custom PCBs and coolers would be released from AMD partners and somehow fix this whole dilemma. Today we see if that was correct.
A slightly smaller MARS
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was released in June of 2013. Based on the same GK104 GPU as the GTX 680, GTX 670 and GTX 770, the GTX 760 disabled a couple more of the clusters of processor cores to offer up impressive performance levels for a lower cost than we had seen previously. My review of the GTX 760 was very positive as NVIDIA had priced it aggressively against the competing products from AMD.
As for ASUS, they have a storied history with the MARS brand. Typically an over-built custom PCB with two of the highest end NVIDIA GPUs stapled together, the ASUS MARS cards have been limited edition products with a lot of cache around them. The first MARS card was a dual GTX 285 product that was the first card to offer 4GB of memory (though 2GB per GPU of course). The MARS II took a pair of GTX 580 GPUs and pasted them on a HUGE card and sold just 1000 of them worldwide. It was heavy, expensive and fast; blazing fast. But at a price of $1200+ it wasn't on the radar of most PC gamers.
Interestingly, the MARS iteration for the GTX 680 never occurred and why that is the case is still a matter of debate. Some point the finger at poor sales and ASUS while others think that NVIDIA restricted ASUS' engineers from being as creative as they needed to be.
Today's release of the ASUS ROG MARS 760 is a bit different - this is still a high end graphics card but it doesn't utilize the fastest single-GPU option on the market. Instead ASUS has gone with a more reasonable design that combines a pair of GTX 760 GK104 GPUs on a single PCB with a PCI Express bridge chip between them. The MARS 760 is significantly smaller and less power hungry than previous MARS cards but it is still able to pack a punch in the performance department as you'll soon see.
Subject: Displays | December 16, 2013 - 09:11 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, vg248qe, nvidia, gsync, g-sync, asus
It looks like some G-Sync ready monitors are going to be on sale starting today, though perhaps not from the outlets you would have expected. NVIDIA let me know last night that they are working with partners, including ASUS obviously, to make a small amount of pre-modified ASUS VG248QE G-Sync monitors available for purchase. These are the same monitors we used in our recent G-Sync preview story so you should check that article out if you want our opinions on the display and the technology.
Those people selling the displays? Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and Overlord Computer. This creates some unfortunate requirements on potential buyers. For example, Falcon Northwest is only selling the panels to users that either are buying a new Falcon PC or already own a Falcon custom system. Digital Storm on the other hand WILL sell the monitor on its own or allow you to send in your VG248QE monitor to have the upgrade service done for you. The monitor alone will sell for $499 while the upgrade price (with module included) is $299.
This distribution model for G-Sync technology likely isn't what users wanted or expected. After all, we were promised upgrade kits for users of that specific ASUS VG248QE display and we still do not have data on how NVIDIA plans to sell them or distribute them. Being able to purchase the display from these resellers above is at least SOMETHING before the holiday, but it really isn't the way we would like to see G-Sync showcased. NVIDIA needs to get these products in the hands of gamers sooner rather than later.
NVIDIA also prepared a new video to showcase G-Sync. Unlike other marketing videos this one wasn't placed on YouTube as the ability for it to run at a fixed 60 FPS is a strict requirement, something that YouTube can't do or can't do reliably. For this video's demonstration to work correctly you need set your display to a 60 Hz refresh rate and you should use a video player capable of maintaining the static 60 FPS content decoding.
To grab a copy of this video, you can use the link right here that will download the file directly from Mega.co.nz. It should help demonstrate the effects us using a G-Sync enabled display for users that don't have access to see one in person.
Oh, and I know that LOTS of you have been clamoring for information on how you can get your hands on one of those DIY G-Sync upgrade kits for yourself and I have some good news. Though I can't tell you where to buy one or how much it will cost, I can offer you one of 5 FREE G-Sync ASUS VG248QE upgrade kits through a giveaway we are hosting at PC Perspective! Check out this page for the details!!
A not-so-simple set of instructions
Valve released to the world the first beta of SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built specifically for PC gaming, on Friday evening. We have spent quite a lot of time discussing and debating the merits of SteamOS, but this weekend we wanted to do an installation of the new OS on a system and see how it all worked.
Our full video tutorial of installing and configuring SteamOS
First up was selecting the hardware for the build. As is usually the case, we had a nearly-complete system sitting around that needed some tweaks. Here is a quick list of the hardware we used, with a discussion about WHY just below.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K - $222|
|Motherboard||EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX Motherboard - $257|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $109|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB - $999
EVGA GeForce GTX 770 2GB SuperClocked - $349
|Storage||Samsung 840 EVO Series 250GB SSD - $168|
|Case||EVGA Hadron Mini ITX Case - $189|
|Power Supply||Included with Case|
|Optical Drive||Slot loading DVD Burnder - $36|
|Peak Compute||4,494 GFLOPS (TITAN), 3,213 GFLOPS (GTX 770)|
|Total Price||$1947 (GTX TITAN) $1297 (GTX 770)|
We definitely weren't targeting a low cost build with this system, but I think we did create a very powerful system to test SteamOS on. First up was the case, the new EVGA Hadron Mini ITX chassis. It's small, which is great for integration into your living room, yet can still hold a full power, full-size graphics card.
The motherboard we used was the EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX - an offering that Morry just recently reviewed and recommended. Supporting the latest Intel Haswell processors, the Stinger includes great overclocking options and a great feature set that won't leave enthusiasts longing for a larger motherboard.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 12, 2013 - 05:20 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, amd, radeon, hawaii, r9 290, R9 290X, bitcoin, litecoin, mining
If you already listened to this weeks PC Perspective Podcast, then feel free to disregard this post. For the rest of you - subscribe to our damned weekly podcast would you already?!?
In any event, I thought it might be interesting to extract this 6 minute discussion we had during last nights live streamed podcast about how the emergence of Litecoin mining operations is driving up prices of GPUs, particularly the compute-capable R9 290 and R9 290X Hawaii-based cards from AMD.
Check out these prices currently on Amazon!
- Radeon R9 290X - $725+
- Radeon R9 290 - $499+
- Radeon R9 280X - $429+
- GeForce GTX 770 - $409+
- GeForce GTX 780 - $509+
- GeForce GTX 780 Ti - $699+
The price of the GTX 770 is a bit higher than it should be while the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti are priced in the same range they have been for the last month or so. The same cannot be said for the AMD cards listed here - the R9 280X is selling for $130 more than its expected MSRP at a minimum but you'll see quite a few going for much higher on Amazon, Ebay (thanks TR) and others. The Radeon R9 290 has an MSRP of $399 from AMD but the lowest price we found on Amazon was $499 and anything on Newegg.com is showing at the same price, but sold out. The R9 290X is even more obnoxiously priced when you can find them.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you think Litecoin mining is really causing these price inflations and what does that mean for AMD, NVIDIA and the gamer?