Are We Crazy? 12-hour Live Stream on Sunday, March 6th with Prizes, Guests, Fun!

Subject: Editorial | March 6, 2016 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: video, streaming out loud, sol., pcper live, live

Missed the 12-hour event? Live the magic for yourself here:

Several weeks ago, I tossed out the idea of doing a long-form live stream with the goal of showcasing for our readers, viewers and fans what we do around here. Why not dedicate a full day to interviewing guests, playing some games, doing some Q&A and putting together some projects? Well that's what we are doing.

Let me introduce you to...

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Streaming Out Loud - PCPer Live!

March 6th
Starts: 9am PT / 12pm ET
Ends: 9pm PT / 12am ET

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

That's right, we are hosting a 12-hour long live stream on PC Perspective in which we will drag as many guests in with us as possible to talk shop, giveaway some hardware and celebrate PC enthusiasts and technology!

Guests:

Prizes:

  • EVGA
    • 650 GQ Power Supply
    • 650 P2 Power Supply
    • Z170 Classified K
    • GTX 970 (3975)
  • AMD
    • AOC G2460PF FreeSync 24" 1080p TN
  • Corsair
    • VOID Surround RGB Headset
    • M65 RGB Mouse
    • Strafe RGB Keyboard MX Silent
  • Logitech
    • G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse
    • G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard
    • G640 mouse pad
  • MSI
    • X99S SLI Krait Edition motherboard
    • 5x Thunder Storm gaming mouse pads
  • OCZ Storage Solutions
    • 2x Trion 150 480GB SSDs
  • More to be confirmed!!

Activities (schedule to be determined):

  • Allyn teaches soldering
  • Future of VR discussion
  • Q&A from chat and Twitter
  • Building a table PC
  • Gaming sesssions: Rocket League, UT2004, more
  • Ken vs. Ryan Steam Controller Challenge
  • Riveting game of RISK on a table-top PC

And of course, who wouldn't want to tune in and see the carnage of a team of wily computer nerds attempt to keep a live stream on and stable for the entirety of a 12 hour day? If nothing else, it might be fun to see what breaks, right?

I want to thank our friends and sponsors for getting together some prizes for us as well as to the guests that willingly are going to spend some of their Sunday with us, all in the name of PC gaming and PC hardware! 

Have anything specific you want us to cover or discuss? Let me know in the comments below!! Don't forget to sign up for our PC Perspecgive Live! Mailing List to get the latest updates on dumb shit like this we will be doing in the future!

PS: You can find the schedule for Sunday's live stream festivities after the break!

New ASUS GeForce GTX 950 2G Requires No PCIe Power

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2016 - 09:48 PM |
Tagged: PCIe power, PCI Express, nvidia, GTX 950 2G, gtx 950, graphics card, gpu, geforce, asus, 75W

ASUS has released a new version of the GTX 950 called the GTX 950 2G, and the interesting part isn't what's been added, but what was taken away; namely, the PCIe power requirement.

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When NVIDIA announced the GTX 950 (which Ryan reviewed here) it carried a TDP of 90W, which prevented it from running without a PCIe power connector. The GTX 950 was (seemingly) the replacement for the GTX 750, which didn't require anything beyond motherboard power via the PCIe slot, and the same held true for the more powerful GTX 750 Ti. Without the need for PCIe power that GTX 750 Ti became our (any many others) default recommendation to turn any PC into a gaming machine (an idea we just happened to cover in depth here).

Here's a look at the specs from ASUS for the GTX 950 2G:

  • Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • Interface: PCI Express 3.0
  • Video Memory: GDDR5 2GB
  • CUDA Cores: 768
  • Memory Clock: 6610 MHz
  • Memory Interface: 128-bit
  • Engine Clock
    • Gaming Mode (Default) - GPU Boost Clock : 1190 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1026 MHz
    • OC Mode - GPU Boost Clock : 1228 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1051 MHz
  • Interface: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, DVI
  • Power Consumption: Up to 75W, no additional PCIe power required
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.5 x 1.6 inches

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Whether this model has any relation to the rumored "GTX 950 SE/LP" remains to be seen (and other than power, this card appears to have stock GTX 950 specs), but the option of adding in a GPU without concern over power requirements makes this a very attractive upgrade proposition for older builds or OEM PC's, depending on cost.

The full model number is ASUS GTX950-2G, and a listing is up on Amazon, though seemingly only a placeholder at the moment. (Link removed. The listing was apparently for an existing GTX 950 product.)

Source: ASUS

Podcast #389 - Thermaltake Core X9, the Controversy around DirectX 12, FreeSync HDMI Displays, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2016 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: WD, video, uwp, thermaltake, Samsung, reeven, podcast, Okeanos, Microsoft Store, HelioSeal, hdmi, freesync, dx12, Core X9, brontes, ashes of the singularity

PC Perspective Podcast #389 - 03/03/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Thermaltake Core X9, the Controversy around DirectX 12, FreeSync HDMI Displays, 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!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 1:32:49

    1. And the VLAN on Saturday!
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:51:40 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

AMD to Add DirectFlip for DX12, Indicates FreeSync Incompatible with UWP Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: uwp, radeon, dx12, amd

AMD's Robert Hallock, frequenter of the PC Perspective live streams and a favorite of the team here, is doing an AMAA on reddit today. While you can find some excellent information and views from Robert in that Q&A session, two particular answers stood out to me.

Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on the recent developments regarding Ashes of the Singularity and DirectX 12 in PC Perspective and Extremetech's tests? Will changes in AMD's driver to include FlipEx support fix the framerate issues and allow high-refresh monitor owners to enjoy their hardware fully? http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/PC-Gaming-Shakeup-Ashes-Singularity-DX12-and-Microsoft-Store

Answer from Robert: We will add DirectFlip support shortly.

Well, there you have it. This is the first official notice I have from AMD that it is in fact its driver that was causing the differences in behavior between Radeon and GeForce cards in Ashes of the Singularity last week. It appears that a new driver will be incoming (sometime) that will enable DirectFlip / FlipEx, allowing exclusive full screen modes in DX12 titles. Some of our fear of the unknown can likely be resolved - huzzah!

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Ashes of the Singularity wouldn't enter exclusive full screen mode on AMD Radeon hardware.

Another quesiton also piqued my interest:

Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on how FreeSync is affected by the way games sold through the Windows Store run in borderless windowed mode?

Answer from Robert: This article discusses the issue thoroughly. Quote: "games sold through Steam, Origin [and] anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11."

While not exactly spelling it out, this answer seems to indicate that for the time being, AMD doesn't think FreeSync will work with Microsoft Store sold games in the forced borderless windowed mode. NVIDIA has stated that G-Sync works in some scenarios with the new Gears of War (a Universal Windows Platform app), but it seems they too have issues. 

As more informaiton continues to come in, from whatever sources we can validate, I'll keep you updated!

Source: reddit

Microsoft Comments on UWP Games and Full Screen Capability

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: uwp, uwa, universal windows platform, microsoft, full screen, dx12, DirectX 12

With all of the debate and discussion that followed the second release of Ashes of the Singularity's DX12 benchmark mode, questions about full screen capabilities on AMD hardware and a debate of the impact the Microsoft Store and Universal Windows Platform would have on PC gaming, we went to the source of the debate to try and get some feedback. Microsoft was willing to talk about the issues that arose from this most recent storm though honestly what it is willing to say on the record today is limited.

When asked specifically about the UWP and PC games made available on the Windows 10 Store, Microsoft reiterated its desire to work with gamers and the community to find what works.

“UWP (Universal Windows Platform) allows developers to create experiences that are easily deployed across all Windows 10 devices, from PCs to tablets to phones to Xbox One. When it comes to a UWP game on Windows 10 PCs, we’re early in our journey. We’re listening to the feedback from the community – multiple GPUs, SLI, crossfire, v-sync, etc. We’re embracing the feedback and working to ensure gamers on Windows 10 have a great experience. We’ll have more to discuss in the coming months.” – a Microsoft spokesperson

It's good to know that Microsoft is listening to the media and gamers and seems willing to make changes based on feedback. It will have to be seen though what of this feedback gets implemented and in what time frame.

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Universal Windows Platform

One particular fear for some gamers is that Microsoft would attempt to move to the WDDM compositing model not just for games sold in the Windows Store, but for all games that run on the OS. I asked Microsoft directly:

To answer your question, can we assume that those full screen features that work today with DX12 will work in the future as well – yes.

This should ease the worries of people thinking the very worst for Windows and DX12 gaming going forward. As long as DX12 allows for games to enter into an exclusive full screen mode, like the FlipEx option we discussed in a previous story, games sold through Steam, Origin and anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11.

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Windows 10 Store

I have some meetings setup with various viewpoints on this debate for GDC in a couple weeks, so expect more then!

Fragging Frogs Virtual LAN party #12; Saturday March 5 10:00AM ET until the last Frog falls

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2016 - 05:25 AM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

That's right folks, it is time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN with fun and prizes for all.  For those of you who have not participated in any of the last 11 this is a perfect time to get to know a great group of gamers over the day and maybe even tempt you to participate in the regular gaming sessions.

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The rules for joining and being eligible to win prizes are as follows:

  • You must be a registered member at the PCPer forums (register here)
  • You must have a minimum of 5 forum posts prior to the start of VLAN
  • You must post to this thread stating your intention to attend the VLAN event
  • You must meet the eligibility requirements (if any) of the individual sponsors below
  • Your shipping address must be in the Continental United States or Canada
  • Lastly, you must participate in the VLAN event by playing games with us and having fun!!

It would be appreciated if you reply to this thread to confirm attendance, it also contains valuable information on our Teamspeak server rules and connection details as well as links to the threads that let you share your Steam, Origin and other accounts with other Fragging Frogs. 

This thread here contains the information you need on patches and mods for the games we will be playing and gives you an idea of the standard assortment of games we play.  Feel free to suggest others as well.

There will be prizes and giveaways but remember that the main point of VLAN #12 is to have fun and get fragging!

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Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: PCPer Forums

NVIDIA Releases GeForce Drivers for Far Cry Primal, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2016 - 10:30 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, game ready, 362.00 WHQL

The new Far Cry game is out (Far Cry Primal), and for NVIDIA graphics card owners this means a new GeForce Game Ready driver. The 362.00 WHQL certified driver provides “performance optimizations and a SLI profile” for the new game, is now available via GeForce Experience, as well as the manual driver download page.

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(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The 362.00 WHQL driver also supports the new Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which is a remastered version of 2007 PC version of the game that includes Windows 10 only enhancements such as 4k resolution support and unlocked frame rates. (Why these "need" to be Windows 10 exclusives can be explained by checking the name of the game’s publisher: Microsoft Studios.)

large_prison2.jpg

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Here’s a list of what’s new in version 362.00 of the driver:

Gaming Technology

  • Added Beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3. GPUs supported include all GTX 900 series, Titan X, and GeForce GTX 750 and 750Ti.

Fermi GPUs:

  • As of Windows 10 November Update, Fermi GPUs now use WDDM 2.0 in single GPU configurations.

For multi-GPU configurations, WDDM usage is as follows:

  • In non-SLI multi-GPU configurations, Fermi GPUs use WDDM 2.0. This includes configurations where a Fermi GPU is used with Kepler or Maxwell GPUs.
  • In SLI mode, Fermi GPUs still use WDDM 1.3. Application SLI Profiles

Added or updated the following SLI profiles:

  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate - SLI profile changed (with driver code as well) to make the application scale better
  • Bless - DirectX 9 SLI profile added, SLI set to SLI-Single
  • DayZ - SLI AA and NVIDIA Control Panel AA enhance disabled
  • Dungeon Defenders 2 - DirectX 9 SLI profile added
  • Elite Dangerous - 64-bit EXE added
  • Hard West - DirectX 11 SLI profile added
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - multiplayer EXE added to profile
  • Need for Speed - profile EXEs updated to support trial version of the game
  • Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 - SLI profile added
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider - profile added
  • Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo - profile updated to match latest app behavior
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege - profile updated to match latest app behavior
  • Tom Clancy's The Division - profile added
  • XCOM 2 - SLI profile added (including necessary code change)

release_notes.png

The "beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3" is certainly interesting addition, and one that could eventually lead to external solutions for notebooks, coming on the heels of AMD teasing their own standardization of external GPUs.

The full release 361 (GeForce 362.00) notes can be viewed here (warning: PDF).

Source: NVIDIA

Samsung Curved 1080p Monitors First with AMD FreeSync over HDMI

Subject: Displays | March 2, 2016 - 10:17 PM |
Tagged: amd, freesync, hdmi, Samsung

Earlier this week Samsung formally made a couple of announcements for new monitors due out this spring. The CF591 and CF390 range in size from 23 to 27 inches, mating a 1920x1080 resolution with an 1800R curvature and an attractive design. Even better news for gamers, all of the monitors in these two series will offer AMD's variable refresh rate technology known as FreeSync over HDMI.

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The specifications of the monitors are interesting in their own light. The CF390 will be available in both 23.5-in and 27-in varieties, with a 1920x1080 resolution on a VA panel, a 4ms response time rating and a maximum brightness of 250 nits. The VA technology allows for solid viewing angles and color reproduction though all of them are limited to a 60Hz maximum refresh rate. The CF591 monitor is only available in a 27-in variety, shares almost all of the same traits, but sheds the glossy black design for a silver and white color option. 

cf2.jpg

Samsung CF390

The CF390 features only VGA (D-Sub) and HDMI inputs while the CF591 overs VGA, dual HDMI and a single DisplayPort connection as well. Only the CF591 allows for audio input through a 3.5mm connection.

cf3.jpg

Samsung CF591

The supposed value of HDMI-based FreeSync is ubiquity and lower cost. Unfortunately, we don't have any pricing information from Samsung on either the CF390 or CF591 monitors, leaving a big question mark for AMD Radeon gamers that might be looking for a new display. Also, while the CF390 directly benefits from the addition of HDMI support on FreeSync, the CF591 still has a DisplayPort connection, meaning the value of HDMI-based FreeSync is lessened.

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They 60Hz maximum refresh rate is disappointing in a world where 75Hz, 90Hz, even 165Hz monitors are being released left and right. Will the AMD driver-based frame doubling technology work on these displays? I have an inquiry in to AMD to verify but it might be difficult with the VA panels' minimum refresh rate. To be fair to AMD and Samsung though, this isn't marketed as a gaming monitor, just a monitor that happens to have a very gaming friendly option.

Both of these monitors look pretty sexy though; we need to see and test them in person to see if the image quality and FreeSync performance meet our expectations. Hopefully we'll be able to do so soon, but until then, let's hope that Samsung is able to release these at very competitive prices to help drive down the cost of VRR. 

Source: Samsung

Microsoft plans to merge PC and Xbox gaming

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2016 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, windows 10, uwp, uwa, universal windows platform, pc gaming, microsoft, consoles

If my editorial from yesterday didn't get you interested in this discussion, then perhaps a new line of talking from Microsoft's Phil Spencer will do the job. During its spring presser, the company's gaming lead talked about a plan to merge the PC and Xbox gaming experiences with cross platform gaming, universal applications and compatibility for upgraded Xbox consoles. I found a great write up over at The Guardian that I will pick some of the quotes from and then offer up my views.

Now it seems Microsoft’s plan is to shift the entire development model towards universal applications that run across PC and console – indeed any machine that’s compatible with the Universal Windows Platform. This could have radical implications for the console model, which so far has always been based on the idea that the hardware has to remain largely unchanged throughout the machine’s lifespan.

Much like I detailed in yesterday's story, the Universal Windows Platform and applications are the key here, with the goal of allowing developers to code a single game or program that will run on the entire gamut of PCs in the world including desktops and tablets, as well as on the Xbox One game console. 

“In other [consumer technology] ecosystems you get more continuous innovation in hardware that you rarely see in consoles because consoles lock the hardware and software platforms together at the beginning and they ride the generation out for seven years or so,” said Spencer. “We’re allowing ourselves to decouple our software platform from the hardware platform on which it runs.”

I am actually incredibly excited for the idea of more, and more frequently, updated Xbox hardware from Microsoft. Like it or not, with UWP or without it, consoles and their hardware capability have always been a somewhat limiting factor on how much effort game devs put into creating new games for the PC. If we can depend on newer console hardware, and that games will more ably handle newer, faster components, then it raises the ceiling for image quality, new features, experiences like VR, etc.

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“We can effectively feel a little bit more like what we see on PC where I can still go back and run my old Quake and Doom games, but then I can also see the best 4K games coming out. Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don’t have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.”

Expect to see some rolled eyes as you read this quote from Spencer; as PC gamers we already HAVE that capability and the move to UWP and UWAs is threatening to hinder that for us going forward. The PC has seen Steam, Origin, DRM-free gaming, an accelerated path to digital distribution, mods, overlays, benchmarking - all things that were held back or outlawed on consoles.

The Xbox chief ended his keynote by reiterating the importance of the PC as a gaming platform. He promised that UWAs will support multiple different graphics processors and that issues with V-Sync ( a setting that matches the game framerate with your monitor’s screen refresh rate) would be resolved.

Enabling support for different GPUs is a good promise, but much more important than just saying it is knowing HOW that support will be handled. As we saw based on our testing and research with Ashes of the Singularity, just supporting Radeon and GeForce cards isn't enough. What about features unique to each GPU? What about SLI and CrossFire? Variable refresh rate monitors? Enabling maximum performance with exclusive fullscreen modes? There is a lot to be answered and discussed. 

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Quantum Break will be on PC, exclusively as a Unified Windows App

This also marks the second time I have heard Spencer mention a "fix" for Vsync issues. I'd love to hear what they have in mind, and I have asked MS several times, but so far I haven't gotten any kind of solid answer. The real question is: does MS understand the problem and the gaming community on the PC well enough to even know what the problem is they are trying to fix?

The big question now is how onboard the development community is with the UWA concept. In theory, these apps should run seamlessly on top of PC and Xbox One architectures, with abstractions to exploit the graphics processors, system memory and other hardware features, as well as compatibility with Microsoft’s DirectX application programming interface (API) for enhanced graphics performance. But will the reality match the promise?

"In theory" and "in practice" are two wildly different things, and we've already seen one example of this not going as planned. I do believe that game developers would jump at the chance to have true cross compatibility as long as the hiccups and issues we are discussing can be dealt with in a reasonable way. It just makes sense: this eases development hurdles and expands the possible customer base.

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Outside of Microsoft, it will be interesting to see how studios react. “In principle UWA sounds like a good idea,” says Byron Atkinson-Jones, a veteran games programmer, now running his own indie studio, Xiotex, and working on sci-fi puzzler, Caretaker. “It offers a more unified platform or environment rather than a fragmented operating systems running on an even more fragmented hardware base. However, this is all reliant on just how hard it is to develop for and how much of a closed shop it will become.

“The best thing about PC is that anyone can make a game for it and UWA sounds like it’s going to become a curated system that will probably require some developer registration to get on.”

Exactly this. The benefit of the PC is its openness, even when running on Windows (as opposed to SteamOS or Linux, for example.) If you take that away, will developers and gamers start to walk? 

Given that Microsoft is promoting UWP as a catch-all platform for Windows 10 that encompasses Xbox one, what does this mean in terms of support for the console’s hardware specifications? “As it stands currently, if you are making an Xbox one game you can be sure on what kind of hardware it’s running,” says Atkinson-Jones. “If developers are then forced down a UWA route, is it going to be the case that this certainty is gone and we get back to the situation on PC where you have to start specifying a minimum spec – which kind of renders a unified platform redundant?”

I disagree that having a minimum spec makes a unified platform less useful, it simply sets a standard for which experience and gameplay can be measured. Even Apple iPhones and iOS implement this to some degree and they have as locked down of a software ecosystem as you can get. If it's handled correctly, Microsoft could be the arbiter of hardware classification and certification, as they kind of already are with WHQL, making sure that any PC hardware or updated Xbox hardware will pass the test for previous and upcoming gaming titles.

ed3.jpg

But that is a very difficult task and is likely why MS would like to integrate some restrictions through the API and Windows compositing engine to help them hold that promise moving into the future.

But he will have to convince not just gamers, but the development community. “Microsoft has tried this before with Games for Windows and that was a disaster,” says Atkinson-Jones. “There will be many game developers who had to go through that monstrosity shaking their heads in disbelief that history may just be about to repeat itself.”

Oh yeah, that...remember Games for Windows Live? Remember when it cratered and we had to deal with the fallout of some games not working without GWL servers running? Or just the complication of needing a unique sign-in that often tied the game down in unwieldy ways? That's the dystopian future that PC gamers want to avoid.

All of that being said, I'm still hopeful that Microsoft can turn this into a positive movement. Removing the 7 year upgrade cycle for the Xbox One means that PC gamers will benefit from moving specs on the consoles, giving game developers the ability to target higher end hardware as the platform evolves. I do believe that cross platform games will mean an increase in innovative titles with expanded audiences and more opportunity for developers to make money for their work. But all of this has to be done with more sensitivity to the PC ecosystem than it is being addressed with currently. If nothing else, PC gamers are a loud and easily started group.

Be sure you read the full story over at The Guardian!

Source: The Guardian

Western Digital Infuses Consumer HDDs with HGST HelioSeal Tech - Increases Capacity to 8TB

Subject: Storage | March 1, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: WD, hgst, HelioSeal, He8, He6, He10, 8TB

Helium-filled HDD technology has been around for a few years, but since HGST launched their He series a couple of years ago, Helium has been stuck in the enterprise sector. Western Digital has been in a lengthy merger process with HGST, and I figured (hoped) that it would be only a matter of time before we saw Helium-filled consumer HDDs. I’m happy to report that time is now:

He_8TB_timesquare_RR.jpg

The first product lines to see this expansion will be WD’s external offerings (My Book / My Book Duo / My Cloud / My Cloud Mirror / My Cloud EX2 Ultra) and a few internal lines (Purple / Red / Red Pro). Taking a look at the new housing for the 8TB Red:

WDRed8TB.jpg

…we can tell that it appears to be the same HelioSeal tech used by HGST, right down to the external housing design. Here is an HGST He8 housing for reference / comparison:

HGST-8TB-Ultrastar-He8-Enterprise-HDD-ecomm.png

I’m excited to see He making its way down the product chains, as a sealed HDD enclosure significantly reduces environmental effects on HDD reliability and performance. Helium also means less air friction, causing less heat production and therefore less power consumption. While the capacities are higher, we suspect performance won’t be taking any large leaps with WD’s first generation of Helium filled Hard Disk Drives. We will be testing a few of these once samples arrive and will deliver a full review as soon as possible. Since it appears that Western Digital was holding off on their 8TB capacity point until HelioSeal was integrated, it's a safe bet that their other product lines will receive the same technology and capability in the future.

Full press blast after the break!

Tesla Motors Hires Peter Bannon of Apple

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 29, 2016 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: tesla motors, tesla, SoC, Peter Bannon, Jim Keller

When we found out that Jim Keller has joined Tesla, we were a bit confused. He is highly skilled in processor design, and he moved to a company that does not design processors. Kind of weird, right? There are two possibilities that leap to mind: either he wanted to try something new in life, and Elon Musk hired him for his general management skills, or Tesla wants to get more involved in the production of their SoCs, possibly even designing their own.

tesla-2016-logo2.png

Now Peter Bannon, who was a colleague of Jim Keller at Apple, has been hired by Tesla Motors. Chances are, the both of them were not independently interested in an abrupt career change that led them to the same company. That seems highly unlikely, to say the least. So it appears that Tesla Motors wants experienced chip designers in house. What for? We don't know. This is a lot of talent to just look over the shoulders of NVIDIA and other SoC partners, to make sure they have an upper hand in negotiation. Jim Keller is at Tesla as their “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.” We don't know what Peter Bannon's title will be.

And then, if Tesla Motors does get into creating their own hardware, we wonder what they will do with it. The company has a history of open development and releasing patents (etc.) into the public. That said, SoC design is a highly encumbered field, depending on what they're specifically doing, which we have no idea about.

Source: Eletrek

JPR Notes Huge Increase in Enthusiast AIBs for 2015

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 29, 2016 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, AIB, pc gaming

Jon Peddie Research, which is market analysis firm that specializes in PC hardware, has compiled another report about add-in board (AIB) sales. There's a few interesting aspects to this report. First, shipments of enthusiast AIBs (ie: discrete GPUs) are up, not a handful of percent, but a whole two-fold. Second, AMD's GPU market share climbed once again, from 18.8% up to 21.1%.

jpr-aib-february-2016.png

This image seems contradict their report, which claims the orange line rose from 44 million in 2014 to 50 million in 2015. I'm not sure where the error is, so I didn't mention it in the news post.
Image Credit: JPR

The report claims that neither AMD nor NVIDIA released a “killer new AIB in 2015.” That... depends on how you look at it. They're clearly referring to upper mainstream, which sit just below the flagship and contribute to a large chunk of enthusiast sales. If they were including the flagship, then they ignored the Titan X, 980 Ti, and Fury line of GPUs, which would just be silly. Since they were counting shipped units, though, it makes sense to neglect those SKUs because they are priced way above the inflection point in actual adoption.

jpr-aib-february-2016-table.png

Image Credit: JPR

But that's not the only “well... sort-of” with JPR's statement. Unlike most generations, the GTX 970 and 980 launched late in 2014, rather than their usual Spring-ish cadence. Apart from the GeForce GTX 580, this trend has been around since the GeForce 9000-series. As such, these 2014 launches could have similar influence as another year's early-2015 product line. Add a bit of VR hype, and actual common knowledge that consoles are lower powered than PCs this generation, and you can see these numbers make a little more sense.

Even still, a 100% increase in enthusiast AIB shipments is quite interesting. This doesn't only mean that game developers can target higher-end hardware. The same hardware to consume content can be used to create it, which boosts both sides of the artist / viewer conversation in art. Beyond its benefits to society, this could snowball into more GPU adoption going forward.

Source: JPR

Lock Screen Ads Apparently Come to Windows 10

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2016 - 12:48 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

I haven't seen these first hand, but several tech blogs are reporting that Microsoft has begun advertising on the Windows 10 lock screen. In this case, a full screen image from Rise of the Tomb Raider appears to be overlaid with a few links, like we used to see on the Bing homepage (except that this seems to launch the Windows Store app).

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Image Credit: David McGavern via Twitter

One key thing to note, though, is that Microsoft allows you to disable these. If you go to Settings -> Personalization -> Lock screen, you can flip “Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen” to off. It also doesn't appear to be targeted based on your personal information, although that is difficult to tell with a sample size of 1. In that case, however, where the ad is located would be fairly irrelevant.

Personally, I'm not too upset. Microsoft allows an easy, safe opt-out, although the option could be better labeled. Regardless of the number of people who block the ads, the part that matters is how intrusive they are. If the setting continuously reverts, or it moves to Group Policy, the registry, or worse, then it could be a problem. (Or, of course, if it sacrifices usability, performance, or security.)

The last part is an interesting note. I've read a few comments that are concerned about it being an attack vector for malware. They seem to assume it must be, but not necessarily (relative to other theoretical attacks, like Microsoft.com itself getting hacked). It looks like everything is served directly from Microsoft, and the functionality is severely limited. It could be done right, but yes, it's possible that they could be tricked in the future into providing a malicious link (just like they could be tricked into hosting a malicious app at the Windows Store itself). They mostly depends on the volume and type of ads they plan to integrate into the OS, and where.

Windows Store brings me to my personal concern -- antitrust.

Governments have been more permissive about this issue than they were two decades ago. Back then, the integration of web browsers and media applications were cause for litigation. Now, companies like Apple are able to ship OSes that disallow third-party browsers (beyond just reskins of Safari). (Update: Feb 26th @ 8:48pm - There was a bit of confusion. I am referring to iOS, specifically. Mac OSX allows full third-party web browsers. The example was referring to how iOS is legally treated compared to how Windows XP/Vista/7 was.)  Again, Microsoft needed to put a browser ballot in Windows XP, Vista, and 7, yet, when Windows RT launched, they would completely ban any web browser unless it used Internet Explorer's Trident engine. Think about that direction shift for a moment.

I wouldn't accuse Windows Store of having a dominant stance in digital distribution market share, but it definitely has unique exposure within the OS. This could become a growing concern, especially if Microsoft progresses with their initiatives. At the same time, several other platform owners are doing the same thing (pretty much all of them). Should we place boundaries on this behavior? If so, what and how?

Microsoft Ends Project Astoria, the Windows Phone "Bridge for Android" Apps

Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2016 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: windows phone, Project Astoria, microsoft, developers, build 2015, Android

A smartphone is nothing without a large selection of quality apps these days, and to that end it seemed Microsoft was going to follow the BlackBerry OS 10 method (injecting life into a platform barren of software by borrowing Android apps) when they announced the "Windows Bridge for Android" last year.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

Blackberry accomplished this by adding the Amazon app store to OS 10, which gave BB users at least some of the apps an Android user has access to via Google Play. BlackBerry also provided devs tools to help them convert Android apps to run on the BB 10 OS platform, but the market share of BB OS 10 just isn’t high enough to justify many doing this.

Microsoft appeared to be headed in this direction when they introduced Project Astoria at last year’s Build conference, which was going to enable devs to bring Android apps over to the Windows mobile OS. Well, that’s over. In an update published yesterday by Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s Director of Windows Developer Platform, this news was spun positively (of course).

“We also announced the Windows Bridge for Android (project “Astoria”) at Build last year, and some of you have asked about its status. We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing. We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs. For those developers who spent time investigating the Android Bridge, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the iOS Bridge and Xamarin as great solutions.”

To editoralize here a bit, I will add that I own a Lumia smartphone, and in my experience Windows Phone is an innovative and extremely efficient mobile OS. However, the lack of quality apps (and the non-existent updates for those that do exist) is too great a barrier to use a Windows Phone as my primary device. It’s telling that BlackBerry's latest smartphone, the Priv, runs Android, as BlackBerry has effectively given up trying to compete with their own OS.

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BlackBerry Priv, which runs the Android 5 OS (image credit: BlackBerry)

Microsoft seems unwilling to do this, but they are a software company first and foremost and that's not surprising. But as a hardware company they have struggled with portable devices, as we saw with the ill-fated Kin smartphone, and of course the Zune music player. Android is the only realistic option if you want to compete with iOS on a smartphone, but Microsoft hasn't given up on the OS just yet. As much as I like the tiled interface, I think it's time to say goodbye to this iteration of Windows Mobile.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #388 - Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2016 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: YOGA 710, YOGA 510, vulkan, VR, vive, video, T3, T1, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, Oculus, MWC 2016, logitech, LG G5, Lenovo, htc, galaxy s7, G933, G633

PC Perspective Podcast #388 - 02/25/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing 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!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:42:11

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:41:35 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  3. News items of interest:
    1. MWC News!
      1. 0:48:30 Lenovo
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Use PAR files? Get MultiPar. (PAR3 support!)
    2. Sebastian: Running PS2 games at high res with PCSX2 Version 1.4
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Video Perspective: Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge Hands-on from MWC 2016

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Samsung, galaxy, s7, s7 edge, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 820

I got to spend some time with the brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones at MWC this week in Barcelona. Is this your next Android flagship phone?

Video Perspective: Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 Hands-on from MWC 2016

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Huawei, matebook, Intel, core m, Skylake, 2-in-1

Huawei is getting into the PC business with the MateBook 2-in-1, built in the same vein as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Can they make a splash with impressive hardware and Intel Core m processors?

Xamarin Acquired by Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2016 - 09:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, xamarin, Qt, .net, mono

Microsoft has purchased Xamarin, who currently maintain the Mono project.

This requires a little background. The .NET Framework was announced in 2000, and it quickly became one of the most popular structures to write native applications, especially simple ones. Apart from ASP.NET, which is designed for servers, support extended back to Windows 98, but it really defined applications throughout the Windows XP era. If you ever downloaded utilities that were mostly checkboxes and text elements, they were probably developed in .NET and programmed in C#.

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Today, Qt and Web are very popular choice for new applications, but .NET is keeping up.

The Mono project brought the .NET framework, along with its managed languages such as C#, to Linux, Mac, and also Windows because why not. Android and iOS versions exist from Xamarin, under the name Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android, but those are proprietary. Now that Microsoft has purchased Xamarin, it would seem like they now control the .NET-derived implementations on Android and iOS. The Mono project itself, as it exists for Linux, Mac, and Windows, are under open licenses, so (apart from Microsoft's patents that were around since day one) the framework could always be forked if the community dislikes the way it is developing. To visualize the scenario, think of when LibreOffice split from OpenOffice a little while after Oracle purchased Sun.

If they do split, however, it would likely be without iOS and Android components.

Source: Microsoft

MWC 16: Imagination Technologies Ray Tracing Accelerator

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2016 - 01:46 AM |
Tagged: raytracing, ray tracing, PowerVR, mwc 16, MWC, Imagination Technologies

For the last couple of years, Imagination Technologies has been pushing hardware-accelerated ray tracing. One of the major problems in computer graphics is knowing what geometry and material corresponds to a specific pixel on the screen. Several methods exists, although typical GPUs crush a 3D scene into the virtual camera's 2D space and do a point-in-triangle test on it. Once they know where in the triangle the pixel is, if it is in the triangle, it can be colored by a pixel shader.

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Another method is casting light rays into the scene, and assigning a color based on the material that it lands on. This is ray tracing, and it has a few advantages. First, it is much easier to handle reflections, transparency, shadows, and other effects where information is required beyond what the affected geometry and its material provides. There are usually ways around this, without resorting to ray tracing, but they each have their own trade-offs. Second, it can be more efficient for certain data sets. Rasterization, since it's based around a “where in a triangle is this point” algorithm, needs geometry to be made up of polygons.

It also has the appeal of being what the real world sort-of does (assuming we don't need to model Gaussian beams). That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though.

At Mobile World Congress, Imagination Technologies once again showed off their ray tracing hardware, embodied in the PowerVR GR6500 GPU. This graphics processor has dedicated circuitry to calculate rays, and they use it in a couple of different ways. They presented several demos that modified Unity 5 to take advantage of their ray tracing hardware. One particularly interesting one was their quick, seven second video that added ray traced reflections atop an otherwise rasterized scene. It was a little too smooth, creating reflections that were too glossy, but that could probably be downplayed in the material ((Update: Feb 24th @ 5pm Car paint is actually that glossy. It's a different issue). Back when I was working on a GPU-accelerated software renderer, before Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12, I was hoping to use OpenCL-based ray traced highlights on idle GPUs, if I didn't have any other purposes for it. Now though, those can be exposed to graphics APIs directly, so they might not be so idle.

The downside of dedicated ray tracing hardware is that, well, the die area could have been used for something else. Extra shaders, for compute, vertex, and material effects, might be more useful in the real world... or maybe not. Add in the fact that fixed-function circuitry already exists for rasterization, and it makes you balance gain for cost.

It could be cool, but it has its trade-offs, like anything else.

Corsair Releases VOID Surround Hybrid, White Wireless RGB Headsets

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2016 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: wireless headset, VOID Wireless, VOID Surround, RGB, gaming headset, gaming headphones, Corsair VOID, corsair, 7.1 headset, 7.1 channel

Corsair has released a pair of gaming headsets in their VOID lineup, with the new VOID Surround Hybrid and a white version of the VOID Wireless RGB.

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The VOID Surround Hybrid Gaming Headset

"The VOID Surround Hybrid Stereo Gaming Headset brings Corsair’s most advanced gaming headset to the widest range of devices yet. VOID Surround’s mobile-compatible 3.5mm connector offers instant connectivity to virtually any audio source, as well as full headset capability with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One (requires Xbox One Wireless Controller with a 3.5mm port or Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter)."

With the addition of a 3.5 mm analog input the Hybrid version of the VOID Surround can be used with virtually any device, though to experience surround effects the headset still needs to be connected via USB.

"For connection to a PC, VOID Surround includes a USB 7.1 Dolby headphone adapter, unlocking genuine Dolby Surround for deadly accurate positional audio, as well as a fully customizable EQ in the Corsair CUE (Corsair Utility Engine) software."

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The new white version of the VOID Wireless RGB headset

The new VOID Wireless RGB headset released is simply a new white color, so specs and features remain constant from the previous options. As to pricing, MSRPs for these headsets are $79.99 for the VOID Surround Hybrid, and $129.99 for the VOID Wireless RGB, making them more affordable than some of the competition at the high end of the market.

Here are the features and specs for both headsets from Corsair:

VOID Surround Gaming Headset Specifications

  • Genuine Dolby Headphone: Treat yourself to 7.1 channels of accurate and immersive surround
  • Universal Compatibility: The mobile-compatible connector works with PlayStation 4, Xbox One and mobile devices. The included USB Dolby 7.1 sound card unlocks genuine Dolby Surround for PC.
  • Embark on Marathon Gaming Sessions: Microfiber-wrapped memory foam ear pads enable extended play.
  • Unlock Legendary Audio: Oversized 50mm neodymium drivers bring the action to life with brilliant range and precision.
  • Crystal Clear Voice Communication:  The noise-canceling microphone on the VOID headset puts your voice in the spotlight—and nothing else
  • Microfiber/Memory Foam Earpads: Play in comfort for hours… and hours

VOID Wireless Dolby 7.1 RGB Gaming Headset – (White) Specifications

  • Legendary Audio, Zero Hassle:  2.4GHz wireless freedom up to 40 ft. + 16 hours of uninterrupted gaming
  • Epic Immersion and True Multi-Channel Audio: Genuine Dolby Headphone surround delivers lethally accurate 7.1 positional audio
  • RGB Lighting: Sync with other Corsair RGB devices—or light your own path
  • CUE Control: Instantly re-spec your gaming audio—EQ, Dolby and volume—with a single digital control.
  • InfoMic: Everything you need to know about your audio status—instantly.
  • Unlock Legendary Audio: Oversized 50mm neodymium drivers bring the action to life with brilliant range and precision
  • Microfiber/Memory Foam Earpads: Play in comfort for hours… and hours
  • Take Command: The advanced unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone makes you loud and clear

Corsair is also announcing a new feature for their Corsair Utility Engine software, called "VOID Visualizer": 

"Combining a digital Corsair VOID headset (VOID Wireless, USB or Surround) with any RGB-enabled keyboard (such as the K70 RGB or Strafe RGB) enables gamers to unleash a stunning multi-color graphic equalizer on their keyboard, turning it into a real-time display of the active audio or microphone signal. Compatible with VOID Surround, VOID RGB Wireless and VOID RGB USB headsets, VOID Visualizer can be enabled with just a few clicks in the Corsair Utility Engine."

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Amazon listings for the VOID Surround Hybrid and the white VOID Wireless RGB are already up, and both headsets should be available now wherever Corsair products are sold.

Source: Corsair