Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

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Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games

CES 2016: Dell UltraSharp U3017Q 4K OLED Pro Display

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2016 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, dell, ultrasharp, oled

For the longest time, display technology was stagnant. Professional monitors were 1440p, IPS panels (or 2560x1600 for 16:10 models) and high-90% Adobe RGB color, which is useful for both video and print gamuts. Consumer monitors were based on TN technology that could maybe cover the smaller sRGB color space, which covers video. Mobile devices, due to their small size, relatively high viewing angle requirements, and eventually high PPI, started introducing higher-end technologies to consumers. G-Sync, and later FreeSync, continued to differentiate high-end panels. Still, apart from the shift to 4K 60Hz, professional panels didn't go through an astonishing upgrade.

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Image Credit: Engadget

OLED was always on the horizon though, and are now being integrated into consumer, and professional, monitors. The Dell UltraSharp U3017Q is one such display, with a 30-inch size and 4K resolution. It completely covers Adobe RGB and 97.8% of DCI-P3. DCI-P3 is not a superset of Adobe RGB, it's just a bit more shifted into the reds, and it is designed for digital cinema projects. Because it's not blocking white light, it can get deeper blacks and more saturated colors.

For accessories, it has a USB Type-C connector that can provide 100W of power, as well as high-speed data and apparently video.

Its pricing and availability is where we get to its downside. It will ship March 31st, which is great news for the new technology, but it will cost $4,999, which is not so amazing. That said, if companies get their hands on it, it might eventually trickle into the prosumer and consumer space, like the 4K IGZO panels did a couple of years ago.

What do our readers think?

Did it launch too early? Or does this make you interested when the price drops? Or, alternatively, are you planning on dropping a huge chunk of cash as soon as they'll take it?

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: Engadget

CES 2016: EVGA is making a gaming case

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: prototype, gaming case, evga, CES 2016, CES

While we have already posted our story and given you a video breakdown of the upcoming EVGA SC 17 gaming notebook, the company had another revolutionary product on display at its suite that I think our readers are going to enjoy seeing. I bring to you, the EVGA Gaming Case:

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As we dive through this, keep in mind that EVGA claims this is an early prototype but that it should have product on the market by end of Q2 2016. 

The case is HUGE, like, bigger that you might imagine just from looking at the pictures. The first feature that stands out is that EVGA intends for the orientation of the case to have the window facing the gamer, rotating it from a standard case direction by 90 degrees. That puts your components and lighting and all the work you put into it on full display, which is great, but it also means you'll need more space on your desk or on your floor in one dimension.

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The current build is all plastic, but EVGA's CEO Andrew Han told me it would be all metal when it shipped, an impressive feat for sure. The internals are not rotated at all but EVGA was able to keep a clean look from the "new front" by including a swinging door on the back where the display connections and USB ports, etc. come out, hiding them from view.

evga-case3.jpg

Power supplies are hidden by the mirror finish bottom section that currently holds an easy to use, if overly simplified, intake/exhaust fan speed controller. The power button is also on the bottom right of the case, a result of the new orientation that EVGA plans for. The company will offer different versions of the case, ranging from $79 to $299 depending on features, the most expensive of which will upgrade that fan controller to a full LCD touch screen that can also display and interact with EVGA's Precision X software. Very cool!

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A full window faces the user, bigger than any case I have had experience with. An illuminated EVGA logo sits on the right hiding water cooling gear you might have installed. The internals have more than enough room for basically any and all hardware, as you could guess from the size of the thing. There are zero optical drive bays - sorry Josh - but the back has space for eight 3.5-in drives and six 2.5-in drives. 

evga-case1.jpg

It's too early for me to make a final statement, but the case is surely ambitious. If they can pull it off, EVGA might just create the ultimate enthusiast PC case without going completely insane on pricing. With targets of $79 on the low end, but keeping the same metal construction and layout, and $299 on the high end, this unnamed case will stay on my radar in 2016.

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Source: EVGA

CES 2016: AMD Announces Wraith Cooler

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, amd, cpu cooler, air cooler

AMD seems to be starting off 2016 right. This is the year that they intend to switch to the Zen microarchitecture, and hopefully reclaim a profitable CPU market-share. While that's later in the year, they showed off a new stock cooler that will be bundled with upcoming processors. We don't have a press release or announcement for it, but they did publish a video to their Red Team fan community and they discussed it with attendees of the show.

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The new cooler, called the Wraith, is significantly larger than their previous stock heatsink. It is rated at 125W, up from the previous offering's 95W. This dissipation wattage might allow some overclocking room, depending on the chosen TDP at launch, while providing lower noise at stock voltage and frequency. The fan is now constant speed, so it shouldn't whine under load. It might have also allowed them to tune the fan for its RPM, too.

Speaking of lower noise, the aforementioned video shows a dramatic reduction in that area. We're force to trust their recording and frequency-distribution graph. If accurate, the noise appears to be much lower and the energy is spread out over many frequencies.

No clue when it will launch, though.

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Source: AMD

CES 2016: Windows 10 PC-Exclusive Data Plans

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft is partnering with Transatel to provide cellular data services for Windows 10 PCs and tablets, but not phones. It will launch in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but could be rolled out to other regions over time. This will not be a contract service. Everything will be pre-paid, with short-term plans (think “XGB for the next 30 days for Y upfront”) available for a discount before a trip or something.

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One downside is that compatible PCs will require a SIM card slot, which a Microsoft-branded SIM card will be inserted into. The write-up at Thurrott.com doesn't discuss external adapters, like the USB cellular modems that carriers offer and were popular until tethering became mainstream. A few unlocked LTE, USB modems can be found online, which you'd think would be compatible, but I'm not up on many of the details. I'm not a mobile enthusiast.

Despite the source being a Microsoft corporate VP, speaking on the record, it has not been officially announced by the company yet. Details, like when it will be available, have not been released.

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Source: Thurrott.com

CES 2016: Seasonic prepares flagship Prime series of PSUs

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, seasonic, prime, power supply

In a meeting with Seasonic at CES this week, the company revealed plans for a completely new series of power supplies coming this spring. The new Seasonic Prime series will come in both Platinum and Titanium editions, with wattage ranges of 650 watts to 1000 watts on the former and 550 watt to 1200 watts on the latter. These power supplies will now be ahead of the X-Series in the brand hierarchy. 

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Seasonic is well known in the industry for top quality products and is one of the key manufacturers for other PSU brands that you know and love. They want to build a new flagship brand of their own though, going with an impressively svelte design and include enough features and capabilities to stand out in a crowded market. 

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Both Platinum and Titanium designs will include a totally new hybrid fan control design that allows for a zero fan speed design up to 45% of system load on the higher wattage units. Zero PCB cabling minimizes the chances for individual failure and is aided by the completely modular design. Though the unit is analog rather than digital, Seasonic promises to maintain a 0.5% nominal tolerance on the load regulation on the 12V line. Also, all of the Seasonic Prime power supplies will come with a full 10-year (!!) warranty.

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Looking for a fanless design? Seasonic will have you covered with the Titanium Fanless units at both 400 watt and 550 watt variants.

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Expect the newest Seasonic power supplies to hit stores in April!

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Source: Seasonic

CES 2016: New Intel Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Intel, compute stick

Intel has announced two new Compute Sticks with a handful of available SKUs.

On the high end, in terms of Compute Sticks at least, two products are available. At the low end of the two, a Core m3 processor will be present, and Windows 10 will be pre-installed for $399. The high-end variant will have a faster Core m5 processor, but no pre-installed OS for $499. It seems odd that a choice in SoC will be tied to the OS, but I'm guessing the Intel doesn't want to have too many SKUs for a potentially low-volume product.

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Regardless of the above choice, both Core M-level Compute Sticks, above, have 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 3x USB ports. They also have Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity.

Beyond the above two products, a low end, Intel Atom-based Compute Stick is available. Just one SKU will be available, though. It has the same Intel Atom x5-Z8300 that was present on the Zotac PC Stick. It also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 2x USB ports. It has Wireless AC, but Bluetooth 4.0 (instead of the Core M version's 4.1). It will be available for $159.

Release dates are not announced, but the Atom-based Compute Sticks are in production, and the Core M-based one will enter production next month.

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Source: Intel (pdf)

CES 2016: Zotac Skylake ZBOX and PC Stick

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:06 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, zotac, zbox

Zotac is one of the most memorable manufacturers of mini PCs. We have been highlighting their tiny creations since at least 2011, which was as far back as our site's Zotac tag went. At the time, we appreciated them as media center PCs, but interest seems to have picked up substantially since then. They are also appreciated in the fanless community, because silent and tiny devices are even more novel.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

They had several products at CES, which span the gamut of uniqueness. Some are fanless, others are in a PC stick form factor, and other ZBOXes are there, too. Liliputing went through a few different models, and gave a pretty detailed discussion of the PC Stick, the ZBOX Pico (T3 and T4), and the ZBOX C series. Be sure to check the site out for a more elaborate look.

The fanless model had a pretty interesting upgrade, though. With a Core i5-6300U, it has a lot of performance for something like an audio recording PC, especially if it's maxed out with 16 GB of RAM. The Intel HD 520 is a bit light otherwise though, but it could play most new games at low settings (~720p). On the other hand, it has two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, as well as a few regular USB 3.0 ports.

zotac-2016-ces-stick.jpg

Image Credit: Liliputing

The PC stick is definitely low powered, though. It has an Intel Atom x5-Z8300, which could really do without the “Z” in the model name. It has 2GB of RAM, which should be sufficient for those applications, and 32GB of on-device storage, which is better than many other offerings. It even has a MicroSD card slot on top of the internal storage.

Pricing and availability are not yet provided.

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Source: Liliputing

CES 2016: New Cooler Master Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, cooler master, mechanical keyboard, RGB LED

Back in September, we mentioned that the CoolerMaster QuickFire XTi was launched worldwide. They have now launched three more keyboards. Two of them have Cherry MX switches and RGB LEDs, while the third uses a supposedly high-quality membrane switch.

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According to The Tech Report at the show, Cooler Master has apparently used their own LED solution, rather than just purchase Cherry MX RGB switches directly. They also say that they needed to change the housing to fit those. The MasterKeys Pro L and S are fairly minimalist keyboards. I assume L stands for long, and S stands for short, because the S is the tenkeyless version of the L (which means it is cut off to the right of the arrow keys).

The Devastator II has switches that Cooler Master calls “Mem-chanical.” They apparently created high-end membrane switches that are supposed to feel like tactile mechanical ones. I guess this means that they were trying to emulate the Cherry MX Brown force curve. This doesn't say what quality the keyboard will end up being, that said, one of the most precise keyboards I've had (according to my straight-edge test) was a Microsoft Media keyboard from the early 2000s.

The Devastator II also has an ambidextrous mouse. Not sure about pricing and availability, though. The Tech Report claims $30, which is right around what the original Devastator costs today.

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CES 2016: Polaroid Phones Actually Sound Interesting

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 10:15 PM |
Tagged: southern telecom, polaroid, CES 2016, CES

Of course, the Polaroid name is a trademark used under license for these phones. According to FoneArena, Southern Telecom is the underlying manufacturer, who I don't know much about. These sorts of arrangements happen frequently, such as when Funai licenses RCA and Magnavox to sell consumer electronics in department stores. It's basically an endorsement, with maybe some cross-promotion.

polaroid-2016-phone-snap.jpg

Image Credit: GSMArena

There were two types of phones at CES. I wasn't there personally, and I don't think anyone at PC Perspective saw these, so I'm not sure how they were announced at the show. Each image were product renders, so I'm guessing they weren't at a booth. Regardless, the specs are listed and they seem really good for the price.

The low-end version is called the “Polaroid Snap,” which is also the name of a previously released digital camera with an instant printer. The phone is based on a 720p, IPS panel in one of three sizes: 5-inch, 5.5-inch, or 6-inch. It has a quad-core processor of some sort with either 1GB or 2GB of RAM. They ship with Android 5.1.1, but some (not all) sources claim it will be upgraded to Android 6.0. Both front (5MP) and rear (13MP) cameras have LED flashes. The 1GB version has 8GB onboard storage (eugh!) but the 2GB one has 16GB of storage. Small, but that's all for $130 - $180 USD.

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Image Credit: GSMArena

Then we get to the Polaroid Power.

As you can guess, this is the more powerful version. It has a 6-inch, 1080p, IPS panel, which is backed by an eight-core, 64-bit processor. It has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which makes it much more interesting. The front (now 8MP) camera seems to have lost its flash, but the rear (13MP) one still has one. Again, it ships with Android 5.1.1 but definitely can be upgraded to Android 6.0. All of that hits a $250 price point.

All phones have a 3000 mAh battery, but they come with an 8000 mAh external booster.

As someone who rarely uses smartphones, this could be a decent offering for the price. In general, the mid-range smartphone ecosystem is getting quite competitive, as we've said on our year-end podcast. There is room for high-end devices to keep their mark, but at least there's a better gradient between cheap, “feature” phones and impressive, high-end devices.

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Source: FoneArena

CES 2016: Hello Moto

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 09:01 PM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, CES 2016, CES

A little over a year ago, Lenovo purchased Motorola from Google for $2.91 billion USD. They did not acquire the vast majority of the patents, and they did not purchase Motorola Research. It was assumed that Lenovo wanted the Motorola brand and their connections with global cell carriers. Your hardware means very little without a network provider to sell, support, and connect it with their infrastructure.

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Today, Motorola / Lenovo announced that the Motorola brand will be deprecated. They will still operate within Lenovo as their own division, but the consumer-facing brand will be Lenovo, and it will run their entire mobile effort. The company will continue to make nods to Motorola, however. The stylized “M” logo will remain an identifiable trademark, and their line of high-end devices will be given the “Moto” name.

This doesn't feel like an admission of failure on Lenovo's part. I have the impression that they are trying to assimilate Motorola into their organization, but that makes me wonder what they wanted in the first place. They can use the connections and the workforce that they acquired, which is highly valuable, and they can use the brand in subtle ways (as they are). Really, I'm just confused whether Lenovo changed their mind about the Motorola brand, or if this was expected from the start.

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Source: CNet

CES 2016: Razer Stargazer Webcam Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, razer, razer stargazer, webcam, Intel RealSense

Razer has announced the Stargazer webcam with a few tricks up its sleeve. Each of these has a downside or catch though, so be sure to read my commentary.

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The first advanced feature is the sensor. It supports 1080p output, which is common these days, but it can be driven at 60 FPS when dropped to 720p. For video streamers, who usually shrink their webcam to a fraction of the screen anyway, this bump in refresh rate will match that game or desktop capture. 720p is more resolution than a corner of a 1080p broadcast, so you're throwing out pixels anyway. The problem would be streamers who have a full-screen webcam shot. This is common for educational or discussion-based podcasts, which would likely need to choose between 720p60 or 1080p30. I don't think it's possible for any webcam to output both resolutions at the same time, so you'd need to release and renew the device when you switch, which isn't feasible. That said, I'm not sure if there was a major, technical reason for Razer not just shipping 1080p60. There might be.

The second feature the webcam's inclusion of Intel RealSense. This is their technology for gesture recognition, 3d scanning, and background removal. Having the camera automatically key out the background on webcam video is interesting, and probably quite accurate given that it knows 3D positional data. The ability to 3D scan would also be interesting for game and mod developers. The catch? It apparently requires a sixth-generation Core processor (Skylake). This entirely removes AMD and DDR3-era Intel processors from the equation, including the high-end Core i7-4790k. It also requires Windows 10. Note that Razer lists these requirements for the webcam in general, including the Skylake processor, but it might only apply to RealSense features. It also might apply to everything, though.

If these limitations, including the very high system requirements, don't apply to you, then look for the Razer Stargazer in Q2. It will apparently cost about $200 USD.

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Source: Razer

CES 2016: Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Bundle

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: square enix, nvidia, CES 2016, CES

NVIDIA has just announced a new game bundle. If you purchase an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, GTX 980 desktop or mobile, GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980M, or GTX 970M, then you will receive a free copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider. As always, make sure the retailer is selling the participating card. If the product has a download code, it will be specially marked. NVIDIA will not upgrade non-participating stock to the bundle.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider will go live on January 29th. It was originally released in November as an Xbox One timed exclusive. It will also arrive on the PlayStation 4, but not until “holiday,” which is probably around Q4 (or maybe late Q3).

If you purchase the bundle, then you graphics card will obviously be powerful enough to run the game. At a minimum, you will require a GeForce GTX 650 (2GB) or an AMD HD 7770 (2GB). The CPU needs are light too, requiring just a Sandy Bridge Core i3 (Intel Core i3-2100) or AMD's equivalent. Probably the only concern would be the minimum of 6GB system RAM, which also requires a 64-bit operating system. Now that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have been deprecated, 32-bit gaming will be increasingly rare for “AAA” titles. That said, we've been ramping up to 64-bit for the last decade. one of the first games that supported x86-64 was Unreal Tournament 2004.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA bundle starts today.

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Source: NVIDIA

Gigabyte reveals two motherboards and a Next Generation BRIX at CES 2016

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: X170-Extreme ECC, gigabyte, GA-X150M-PLUS WS, GA-X150-PLUS WS, CES, brix

Gigabyte revealed two high end LGA1151 motherboards which will support Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors in addition to the more common Core models purchased by enthusiasts.  The GA-X150-PLUS WS is a full sized ATX board with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 connector with transfer rates of up to 32Gb/s as well as SEx ports and a network traffic management application called cFosSpeed on the gigabit NIC to reduce latency.

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The GA-X150M-PLUS WS is a Micro-ATX version of the previous board, keeping all of the features of the larger model but sacrificing dual GPU support due to size constraints.  They also released a X170-Extreme ECC, one of the few consumer boards to support ECC memory for those who regularly use programs which can benefit from error correcting DRAM.

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For those who like their systems small and ready to go out of the box, the new Brix line up is a mere 0.46L (34.4 x 112.6 x 119.4mm) and uses the new Skylake processors, the model number indicating the processor you will find within the Brix.  They all sport an M.2 SSD slot, a pair of slots for SO-DIMM DDR3L, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs along with four USB connectors and both wired and wireless network connectivity.  These new Brix will also support Thunderbolt 3 over their USB Type-C port

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Full PR after the break.

Source: Gigabyte

CES 2016: Oculus Price Announced and Pre-Orders Open

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, CES, CES 2016

Oculus has finally announced that the Rift will launch on March 28th for $599 USD. If you were an original backer on Kickstarter, then this kit will be given to you for free. DK2 purchasers do not receive this gift, but I guess the company was relatively established by that point. Pre-orders have now opened, although the kit will be available (albeit at “limited locations”) through typical retail channels in April. Finally, making good on their “$1500” announcement earlier this year, systems that meet the minimum requirements, and bundle the Oculus Rift, will be available for pre-order that start at $1499.

oculus-2016-riftkit.jpg

Okay, so let's unpack this.

The elephant in the room is the price. It's steep. If you are even moderately patient, you can pick up a GeForce 980 Ti for the same amount. (As I write this, I'm looking at a Gigabyte 980 Ti with a custom cooler for $599.99 on Amazon.) For that price, you get the headset (with its two 1080x1200 OLED screens, microphone, and headphones), an Xbox One controller, a sensor, and a newly-announced Oculus Remote. You cannot purchase the Oculus Rift without an Xbox One controller, which is unfortunate for current owners of Xbox One controllers.

Who has two thumbs and bought an Xbox One Elite controller? This guy.

The benefit of including a (regular) Xbox One controller is that Oculus Rift developers can rely on each customer having access to a solid PC gamepad. Without it, some percentage of users might (and when you deal with large sample spaces, probability increasingly becomes a distribution) have just a mouse and keyboard. I'd also expect that Microsoft would provide them a bit of a discount for at least the volume, with the ties between Microsoft and Facebook possibly coming into play, too.

Unlike the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift will not ship with its motion controller (called the “Oculus Touch”). That will be delayed until later in the year, which also means that some fraction of the user base will never have it. This is a concern for cross-compatibility between the Rift and the Vive, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if Oculus didn't have any motion control option at all. Developers would be looking at a “release on both Wii and PS2” situation, only with a (likely) much smaller install base.

And a final point: What about the other uses of Oculus?

oculus-2016-remote.jpg

The Oculus Remote controls the interface and media.

This announcement is gaming-centric, to say the very least. Oculus has said that the Rift is “primarily a gaming device” and, apparently, Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, strongly believes in gaming for the device. In my opinion though, it could be very useful, especially in professional applications. If the OLED screens have sufficient color and resolution, then desktop space becomes infinite. You don't need an additional monitor to map additional virtual space to your environment. While that's probably not something that Facebook could do alone, they could encourage the parties who influence these decisions with tech demos, peripherals, and so forth.

They still don't seem to be. This could be a concern since their primary competitors, Microsoft and even Valve/HTC, already have non-zero amounts of progress in that space. I'd be curious to hear whether they have any plans at all moving forward, even if those plans are to be reactionary.

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Source: Oculus

Meet the new PowerVR Series7XT Plus family of GPUs from Imagination Technologies

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: Series7XT Plus, PowerVR, hsa. GT7200 Plus, GT7400 Plus, CES

Update (Jan 7th, 2016 - Scott Michaud): Imagination sent us an updated diagram, and they wanted to clarify that there is "a 1:1 correspondance between the FP32 ALUs and the integer units." The updated diagram is just below.

PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU - ALU architecture_2.png

Original article below

PowerVR GPUs are found in a variety of devices from the PlayStation Vita to the last couple of iPhones and at one point was the GPU in Intel APUs.  Their latest offerings are the GT7200 Plus and GT7400 Plus both of which offer quite a few improvements over their previous generations, not least of which is wholesale adoption of heterogeneous computing and its various benefits such as shared virtual memory.

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These GPUs expand their support to INT16 and INT8 data paths, keeping the legacy INT32 paths for applications that require it.  They have also adopted the OpenCL 2.0 API for heterogeneous computing as well as OpenGL ES 3.2 and even Vulkan support.  The GT7200 Plus is in a dual-cluster configuration with 64 ALU cores and the GT7400 Plus doubles that to a quad-cluster with 128 ALU cores.

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Along with the performance and feature upgrades comes a focus on upgrading the machine vision capabilities of the Rogue GPUs to be able to  identify thousands of objects directly from the camera input stream in real-time.  Check out their blog entry for more information on the new chips and if you want a refresher on the technology in these GPUs you can refer back to Ryan's article here.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Intel Announces Core m Skylake and Cherry Trail Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, core m5, core m3, compute stick, Cherry Trail, CES 2016, CES

First up on the meeting block with the official opening of CES 2016 was Intel and its NUC and Compute Stick division. You should remember the Intel Compute Stick as a HDMI-enabled mini-computer in the shape of a slightly over sized USB drive. The first iteration of it was based on Bay Trail Atom processor and though we could see the benefits of such a device immediately, the follow through on the product lacked in some key areas. Performance was decent but even doing high bit rate video streaming seemed like a stretch and the Wi-Fi integration left something to be desired.

Today though Intel is announcing three new Compute Stick models. One is based on Cherry Trail, the most recent Atom processor derivative, and two using the Intel Core m processors based on the Skylake architecture.

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Old Compute Stick on top, new on the bottom

The Intel STK1AW32SC uses the Cherry Trail Atom x5 processor, the x5-Z8300 quad-core CPU with a 1.44 GHz base clock and a 1.84 GHz Turbo clock. This CPU only has a 2 watt SDP so power consumption remains in line with the design we saw last year. Other specifications include an updated 802.11ac 2x2 wireless data connection (nice!), 32GB of internal eMMC storage, 2GB of DDR3-1600 memory and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Intel claims this configuration will offer about 2x the graphics performance of the previous model though CPU changes will be less noticeable. Still, we should see much improved 1080p streaming video performance without the dropped frames that were a problem last generation.

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For connectivity, Intel has moved from a single USB port to a pair, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. There is still a requirement for external power via the micro USB port on the side.

The design is definitely more refined and feels higher quality than the original Compute Stick concept. This model is shipping today and should have an MSRP of $159 on the market.

More interesting are the pair of new Core-based Compute Sticks. There are two different models, one with a Core m3-6Y30 and another with a Core m5-6Y57 and vPro support. These devices get a nice bump to 64GB of internal eMMC storage, which Intel promises has better performance to take advantage of the USB 3.0 ports, along with 4GB of DDR3-1833 memory to keep things running smoothly.

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The processor differences are noteworthy here – the Core m5-6Y57 has a sizeable advantage in peak boost clock, hitting 2.8 GHz versus only 2.2 GHz on the Core m3-6Y30. Base clocks are 1.1 GHz and 900 MHz, respectively, so I am curious how much time these devices will spend in the higher clocked modes in this form factor. As with the original Compute Stick, all three of the new models include an active fan cooling system.

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The build quality on the Core variants of the Compute Stick are very similar to the Atom Cherry Trail model, though with a couple of unique changes to the I/O. On the device itself you have just a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB 3.0 Type-C connection used for both power and data.

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On the wall power connector though, Intel has smartly integrated a USB 3.0 hub, giving us two more USB ports available at the wall, moving data to the Compute Stick itself through the Type-C cable. It’s really neat design idea and I can easily see this moving toward more connectivity on the power device in the future – maybe additional displays, audio outputs, etc.

The STK2M3W64CC, the Core m3-6Y30 variant that has Windows 10 pre-installed, will MSRP for $399. A version without Windows (STK2M364CC) will sell for around $299. Finally, the Core m5-6Y57 model, the STK2M3W64CC, is going to be $499, without an OS, targeted at the business markets. All three will be shipping in February.

We have a Cherry Trail Compute Stick in our hands already for testing but I am very curious to see how both the Core m3 and Core m5 version of the device improve on it with performance and usability. It’s very possible that these 4.5 watt parts are going to be more than enough for a large portion of the market, making truly headless computing a viable solution for most workloads.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

MSI and HTC team up for Vive support as well as two tools for streamers

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 09:05 AM |
Tagged: vive, nahimic, msi, dragon eye, CES

Along with the hardware that MSI is teasing us with at CES comes a project worthy of note.  It would seem that MSI has been working with HTC to provide out of the box support for the Vive, assuming you buy components with the power to push that many pixels at the necessary speed.  There is little meat as to the specifics but any work done before the product is released which gives first adopters a helping hand is a valuable thing when it comes to sales.

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For those gamers who love to livestream their gaming sessions or record them for editing and later publication should take a peek at Dragon Eye and Nahimic 2, two new software tools MSI will be releasing.  Nahimic 2 is an HD Audio Recorder to ensure captured or broadcasted audio is of high quality and also includes Sound Tracker which will give you graphic indications of noise sources in games, assuming you would stoop that low.  Dragon Eye is for video and its usage is also quite different from Nahamic2.  It will allow you to easily use its picture-in-picture feature to watch Youtube videos and other streams in a small window while you are gaming. 

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At the very least it will be handy to see your team mates screen or to watch a walkthrough while playing a game, again assuming a certain moral turpitude on the part of the player.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSI

Four full systems announced by MSI, Vortex Gaming Tower Impresses

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 09:04 AM |
Tagged: Vortex Gaming Tower, Nightblade X2, Nightblade MI2, msi, Gaming 27XT, Cubi 2 Plus, CES

Along with the laptops comes three full sized prebuilt systems and a mini-PC at MSI's display booth.  Most are customizable, the price you pay depends on the components you choose and the case you prefer, two of which have picked up awards.

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First we have the Vortex Gaming Tower which as you can see from the picture is not configured like a normal PC at all.  The cylindrical shape is 6.5 litres, about 1.7 gallons which is an odd measurement but does mean the case is rather small.  Don't let that fool you about the interior components, it comes with two GTX 980's in SLI and their proprietary 360° Silent Storm Cooling.

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The Gaming 27XT comes with an impressive and almost unique feature, support for an external GPU.  It is an All-in-One PC, with a 144Hz display and is likely powered by Intel's HD graphics if you do not choose to mount a GPU on the back of the display.  The placement should also help keep that GPU cool by separating its airflow from the rest of the components.  Nahimic Audio Enhancer and a Killer Lan NIC come standard.

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The familiar Nightblade Series gains two new members, the Nightblade X2 and MI2.  The systems both use a Skylake motherboard with the X2 being compatible with cards up to the GTX 980ti and the MI2 stopping at the 970.  As you should expect both systems use  Military Class 4 components and come with a variety of tools from MSI.

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Last comes the tiny Cubi 2 Plus system, competition for the NUC and ZBOX.  It will be powered by a 6th Gen Skylake-S processor so it will be more than capable of handling duties as a media server.  More importantly it has support for both an M.2 SSD and  a 2.5" SSD ensuring you are not forced into using a drive you would rather not have.  You can also see four USB ports on the front which means plenty of room for expansion even with a mouse and keyboard connected.

Keep your eyes peeled for more detailed information as the team on the ground visits the MSI booth in person.

 

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSI

MSI has number of neat new laptops for you

Subject: Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: WS72 Workstation, msi, GT72S Tobii, GS72 Stealth Pro, GS40 Phantom, CES

MSI is revealing a long list of laptops, systems, motherboards, GPUs, and even new software to use.  Up first are the laptops, of which there are three.  The GS40 Phantom is a 14" gaming laptop with a Skylake processor and NVIDIA GTX 970M graphics but yet weighs only 3.75 lbs and is less than 0.87 inches thick. 

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Next up is the larger GT72S Tobii which offers a unique feature, Tobii Eye-Tracking technology built into the laptop.  That allows facial recognition and eye tracking in applications and games, currently this would apply to Windows Hello, which enables Windows 10 biometric authentication and eye-tracking functionality.  In the near future the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division will add a game to the list of supported applications.  You can read more about them here.

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MSI are also updating their Stealth lineup with the GS72 Stealth Pro, which currently features a 4k screen, with another model coming out very soon with a non-4K display for those who don't see the point of such a high resolution on a 17" laptop.  It is also rather thin, at 0.78".

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To finish up the laptops is the workhorse, the WS72 Workstation.  This comparatively thick laptop is powered by an Intel Xeon and is certified to work with a long list of professional applications such as Autodesk, Adobe, PTC Creo, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Maya, and Revit.\

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Las Vegas – January 6th, 2016 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, showcases the future of PC gaming technology with an award-winning selection of ultra-portable and desktop-replacement laptops, gaming AIOs, compact desktops, and more; including CES Innovation Honorees GS40 Phantom, Gaming 27XT, and Vortex Gaming Tower.

“Gamers demand reliable, versatile and powerful products that address their gaming needs, and our newest selection of gaming warriors address those demands,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “PC gaming is constantly evolving and our award-winning selection rises to any challenge.”

 

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSI