CES 2014: Kyle Orland (Ars Technica) Tries Steam Controller

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: CES 2014, CES, valve, Steam Controller

Valve has garnered a lot of hype leading up to this CES. This event was the launch of Steam Machines from their OEM partners. The line-up for their keynote speech was intense, Ryan tweeting in the crowd a whole half of an hour before the speech. Finally, at 7:59 pm EST, Gabe begun to speak... and taking questions by 8:02. Included below is a dramatization of the event.

Yes, I know, "Simpsons did it..."

... South Park probably did it too.

As previously reported, thirteen OEM designs were presented and available to discuss their product. Steam controllers came up during the question period and brought out a pretty big detail: while Valve will be making the Steam Controller, other manufacturers will be allowed to make their own. Currently release date and expected price are still unknown.

Some journalists actually got their hands on the official Steam Controller and they, naturally, shared their thoughts. Kyle Orland of Ars Technica was one of them and his opinion was quite literally split down the middle. On the one hand, pun fully intended, aiming felt about as comfortable and effective as a mouse. On the other hand, movement in legacy mode was aggravating without any tactile feedback signaling where any of the eight directions (up, down, left, right, and the diagonals) start and end.

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Again, this opinion only stands for shooter-style games in "Legacy Mode". Developers can use the controller more effectively when they design their title for the actual API. Legacy mode maps controller input to mouse and keyboard events and signals.

He also had other comments (positive and negative) about the button layout and other aspects of the controller. It might be worth checking out if you keep in mind: it is early times and he only had a few minutes to base his opinion.

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Source: Ars Technica

CES 2014: Corsair Launches Graphite Series 760T and 730T Full Tower Gaming Cases

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | January 9, 2014 - 02:18 AM |
Tagged: graphite series, full tower, corsair, CES 2014, CES

In addition to the Mini-ITX Obsidian 250D, Corsair is launching two full tower gaming cases under its Graphite series. The Graphite 760T and 730T are full tower cases constructed of steel and aluminum that incorporate many enthusiast-friendly features. The 760T and 730T share the same form factor and general design including two hinged side panels, tool-less drive bays, and support for air and water cooling options. Note that the 730T has metal side panels while the 760T has two windowed side panels and adds a fan controller. Further, the 760T comes in two color options (black and arctic white) while the 730T is only available in black.

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The pair of full tower cases join the existing mid-tower 230T in the Graphite Series. The 760T and 730T are large 22.4" x 9.7" x 22.2" cases that offer up lots of cooling, expansion, storage, cable management, and motherboard support options. The case has a large mesh front panel that has two LED-lit AF140L 140mm  fans and three 5.25" drive bays. On the top edge of the case is the front IO panel which includes two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two audio jacks, and power and reset buttons. The two side panels are hinged at the back and open using a handle at the front. The left side panel is transparent to show off your hardware while the opposite side panel is opaque. In all, the Graphite 760T and 730T are attractive cases with straight lines and roughly octagonal shape. The case is lifted above the ground using large case feet.

Internally, the case supports 9 PCI slots, three 5.25" drive bays, six 3.5" (or 2.5") hard drives in two modular (and removable) drive cages, four side-mounted 2.5" SSDs, seven cooling fans, ATX motherboards, and ATX power supplies. Users should have no problem fitting a beefy multi-GPU setup into the new Graphite cases.

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When it comes to cooling, the Graphite 760T and 730T support up to seven fans. Corsair includes two LED-lit AF140L 140mm fans in the front and a single AF140L fan in the rear that come pre-installed. From there users can add three 140mm or 120mm fans to the top and a single 120mm fan to the bottom of the case. Users that opt for water cooling can instead install a 360mm radiator in the top of the case and a 280mm radiator to the bottom of the case. The 760T includes a fan speed switch that switches between 12V and 7V power to control the speed (and noise) of the cooling fans. The cheaper 730T does not include this integrated fan controller, however.

Both the 760T and 730T will be available in February from Corsair's authorized distributors and will include a 2 year warranty. The Graphite 760T has an MSRP of $179.99 for the black version and $189.99 for the arctic white SKU. On the other hand, if you can live without windowed side panels, a fan controller, and only one color choice, the black Graphite 730T has an MSRP of $139.99.

Personally, I find it to be a neat looking case that I am considering for my next build assuming the reviews hold up on the build quality. What do you think about the newest entrants to Corsair's Graphite Series?

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Source: Corsair

CES 2014: ADATA shows new PCIe SSD and unique OTG flash drive

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 11:20 PM |
Tagged: PCIe SSD, OTG, CES 2014, CES, adata

ADATA will be rolling out their own PCIe SSD, this solution opting for the SF3700 controller due out later this year. Their demo produced the same 1.8 Gb/sec sequential read speed we saw over at Kingston earlier today:

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While the above solution is SF3700-equipped M.2 adapted to standard PCIe by a ustom PCB, ADATA was also showing an operational PCB which had the components direct mounted:

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Note the heat sink to help dissipate the heat produced by the SF3700. We hope the heat output will be optimized as development of this new controller progresses.

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We also saw a unique spin on the OTG-style USB flash drive we'd been seeing all around CES this year:

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Instead of having a common center containing the flash memory, they have made the center section into more of an adapter to bridge the super-small USB drive (right) across to the micro-USB port (left). An advantage of this format is that you could use the same adapter to bridge pretty much any standard USB flash drive over to an Android device.

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CES 2014: Plextor launches M6e PCIe SSD (and a sneak peek)

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: plextor, PCIe SSD, M6e, CES 2014, CES

This morning Plextor launched their new M6e PCIe SSD. Their press blast appears after the break, but before you do so, check out the pics we grabbed earlier today:

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The M6e is essentially an interposer board that simply interfaces the Marvell controller / Toshiba flash M.2 PCIe SSD to a standard desktop class PCIe connector. This solution is slower than the upcoming SF3700 solution being implemented by Kingston and ADATA, but this product is shipping now, while the SF3700 will not be production ready for at least another six months time.

Full press blast appears below:

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CES 2014: Kingston shows PCIe SSD, comfy headsets, DDR4, and gaming seats

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 10:47 PM |
Tagged: SF3700, Predator, OTG, Need For Seat, kingston, CES 2014, CES

We swing by Kingston this morning to see what was cooking. Here we go:

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OTG compatible dual micro / standard USB drive that's physically a tiny bit smaller than the Corsair model we saw yesterday.

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This was probably the most comfortable headset I've ever put on. The padding is real leather wrapped over memory foam, and the arms are aluminum for durability. It really didn't feel like it was on at all, aside from the reduction in background noise from the room, assisted by the denser memory foam.

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Here is a reference Intel chassis populated with a whopping 384GB of DDR4-2133.

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This modules were populated with Hynix DDR4 modules.

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...and this staggering speed and capacity was able to be run by the reference board in multi-channel mode. That's a serious amount of RAM running at a serious speed. Speaking of things running at serious speeds:

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Here is the Kingston HyperX Predator, a PCIe SSD. The unreleased LSI SandForce SF3700 is capable of 1.8 GB/sec as it is a native PCIe implementation. The only catch is we will have to wait until mid-late 2014 for these to launch. Kingston is ready, but SandForce is not. Here is the 2.5" version of the same, demonstrating that the SF3700 is also capable of configuring for a SATA 6Gb/sec link:

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We also saw some cool looking "Need For Seat" office / gaming chairs. They were fairly comfortable, and the backs pivot nearly flat, just like the seats in your car:

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In addition to differing looks, each model has a different cushion layout, so I recommend trying to sit in the one you intend to buy prior to doing so.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

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CES 2014: Firefox OS to Power Panasonic Smart TVs

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 04:18 AM |
Tagged: Panasonic, mozilla, Firefox OS, CES 2014, CES

Firefox OS is a thin Linux layer which immediately loads Gecko, the rendering engine behind Firefox and other Mozilla products, to handle everything else. The entire OS interface is developed in HTML5, CSS, Javascript, and other web standards. It suffices to say that it can handle web apps very easily (it is one).

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Panasonic and Mozilla have entered into a partnership, announced at CES, for future smart TVs to be powered by Firefox OS. This can be very useful for Panasonic. Provided they keep up with certifying new releases, performance should be about the only other barrier preventing their product from running the popular apps as they arise. It also lifts the burden away for developer support.

On the other hand, this could also be good for Firefox OS and the web itself. Mozilla is not a stupid organization and, while they certainly like their products adopted, I would not be surprised if they hope this effort brings content out to play. Netflix and other content providers who want to be on Panasonic's platform would need to support their flavor of Firefox OS. Netflix, in particular, has already made inroads with HTML5 albeit with certain encryption extensions.

Atwood's Law applies to televisions, too!

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Source: Panasonic

CES 2014: NVIDIA Shows Modified ASUS PQ321Q 4K Monitor with G-Sync

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | January 8, 2014 - 04:01 AM |
Tagged: pq321q, PQ321, nvidia, gsync, g-sync, CES 2014, CES, asus, 4k

Just before CES Allyn showed you the process of modifying the ASUS VG248QE to support NVIDIA G-Sync variable refresh rate technology.  It wasn't the easiest mod we have ever done but even users without a lot of skill will be able to accomplish it.  

But at the NVIDIA booth at CES this year the company was truly showing off G-Sync technology to its fullest capability.  By taking the 3840x2160 ASUS PQ321Q monitor and modifying it with the same G-Sync module technology we were able to see variable refresh rate support in 4K glory.

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Obviously you can't see much from the photo above about the smoothness of the animation, but I can assure you that in person this looks incredible.  In fact, 4K might be the perfect resolution for G-Sync to shine as running games at that high of a resolution will definitely bring your system to its knees, dipping below that magical 60 Hz / FPS rate.  But when it does with this modified panel, you'll still get smooth game play and a a tear-free visual experience.

4kgsync2.jpg

The mod is actually using the same DIY kit that Allyn used in his story though it likely has a firmware update for compatibility.  Even with the interesting debate from AMD about the support for VRR in the upcoming DisplayPort 1.3 standard, it's impossible to not see the ASUS PQ321Q in 4K with G-Sync and instantly fall in love with PCs again.

Sorry - there are no plans to offer this upgrade kit for ASUS PQ321Q owners!

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Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

DisplayPort to Save the Day?

During an impromptu meeting with AMD this week, the company's Corporate Vice President for Visual Computing, Raja Koduri, presented me with an interesting demonstration of a technology that allowed the refresh rate of a display on a Toshiba notebook to perfectly match with the render rate of the game demo being shown.  The result was an image that was smooth and with no tearing effects.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  NVIDIA's G-Sync was announced in November of last year and does just that for desktop systems and PC gamers.

Since that November unveiling, I knew that AMD would need to respond in some way.  The company had basically been silent since learning of NVIDIA's release but that changed for me today and the information discussed is quite extraordinary.  AMD is jokingly calling the technology demonstration "FreeSync".

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Variable refresh rates as discussed by NVIDIA.

During the demonstration AMD's Koduri had two identical systems side by side based on a Kabini APU . Both were running a basic graphics demo of a rotating windmill.  One was a standard software configuration while the other model had a modified driver that communicated with the panel to enable variable refresh rates.  As you likely know from our various discussions about variable refresh rates an G-Sync technology from NVIDIA, this setup results in a much better gaming experience as it produces smoother animation on the screen without the horizontal tearing associated with v-sync disabled.  

Obviously AMD wasn't using the same controller module that NVIDIA is using on its current G-Sync displays, several of which were announced this week at CES.  Instead, the internal connection on the Toshiba notebook was the key factor: Embedded Display Port (eDP) apparently has a feature to support variable refresh rates on LCD panels.  This feature was included for power savings on mobile and integrated devices as refreshing the screen without new content can be a waste of valuable battery resources.  But, for performance and gaming considerations, this feature can be used to initiate a variable refresh rate meant to smooth out game play, as AMD's Koduri said.

Continue reading our thoughts on AMD's initial "FreeSync" variable refresh rate demonstration!!

CES 2014: Razer Project Christine & Nabu... Because CES.

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 03:30 AM |
Tagged: razer, Project Christine, Nabu, CES 2014, CES

Razer has a long history of announcing odd products at any given CES. Some of those products win prestigious awards such as Best of Show. A few of them also never see the light of day. This year, the company has two major announcements: a wristband computer called "Razer Nabu" and a modular computer concept called "Project Christine". The last one feels more like their April 1st announcements.

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First: the wristband. The Razer Nabu (isn't it ironic that the god of wisdom and writing is a homonym of JarJar's home planet) is said to be somewhere between a Nike+ FuelBand and a smartwatch. Track the number of steps you take, calories you burned, floors you climbed by stairs, distance you traveled, hours you slept, and do some stuff with location data. They can sense one another, if someone nearby is also wearing theirs, and optionally share information. It is also expected to connect to Razer Comms at some point. It is unclear how many of these applications can be done directly with the device and how many require an Android or iOS smartphone nearby.

Razer is currently accepting requests from developers looking to purchase the device for $49 USD. That may or may not be the final consumer price for whenever it makes a real launch.

The other product is a little less, concrete.

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Project Christine reminds me of that period where the tech world went nuts over the thought that Apple would design a modular Mac Pro. The thought is that you could swap modules in and out for upgrading purposes with peace of mind that you never need to open anything. Everything is external connections to black boxes. Razer seems to have taken that idea and run with it. Suffices to say, I am highly skeptical. I can think of about a dozen complications ranging from bandwidth to inventory to relative need compared to other solutions.

Sure, it looks cool, but just think about it (if it ends up being a legitimate project rather than a CES talking point). Are you really going to have Razer versions of every possible upgrade SKU? Would you really save anything over a custom solution or paying someone to do the technical work?

Interesting thought experiment, if nothing else, but I would be fairly shocked if we even see this mentioned again more than 8 months from now.

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Source: Razer

CES 2014: Corsair Flash Voyager GO - closer look

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 02:20 AM |
Tagged: usb, On-The-Go, Flash Voyager GO, flash, corsair, CES 2014, CES

Earlier today, Corsair announced the Flash Voyager GO combination micro USB (OTG spec) / USB 3.0 (standard connector) drive. Being the storage nut that I am, I got a closer look while the rest of the PCPer gang were checking out the new cases, keyboards, and power supplies. Here are some more detailed pics for your viewing pleasure:

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Connected to an Android smart phone:

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Connected to a laptop:

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Yes, you're seeing things correctly. The 'back' end opposite the micro-USB port is actually another USB port supporting USB 3.0 speeds.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

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