You can HaaS Surface; Microsoft now considers it a service

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2016 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface

Microsoft now offers the perfect thing to run software you don't really own on; you can run your rented OS and applications on a rented Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 or Surface 3.  As per the usual industry practice they don't refer to it as renting, but rather Hardware as a Service.  The plans are available as 18, 24 or 30 month memberships, with a "Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection" which sounds rather impressive as it claims to cover high velocity impacts and coffee disasters.  The Register has more information on the deal here.

The default Surface Book will run you $109/month @ 18 months or $80/month if you sign up for 30, or $1500 to buy it outright.  Interesting idea, fad or a money grab that will make Adobe green with jealousy?

en-INTL-PDP0-Surface-Book-CR9-00001-P2.jpg

"First Microsoft turned Office into software-as-a-service. It's currently transforming Windows into Windows-as-a-service. And now it's decided that its Surface Pro typoslab should become Surface-as-a-service, to help businesses buy more of the hybrid machines."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:

intel-octane-ssd-roadmap.jpg

For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.

XPoint.png

Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.

3D-NAND-32-Layer-Stack.png

Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).

DSC03304.JPG

IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

Microsoft's guide on how not to to win friends and influence people

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc sales

IDC is predicting a drop in PC sales this year and put the majority of the blame on Microsoft and it's new OS.  The free upgrade has not driven PC sales higher as HP and others predicted in either the consumer or business market segments.  That is not the whole picture of course, as there are also economic factors involved as exemplified by a similar drop in sales of phones and tablets.  You can follow the link from The Inquirer for a more indepth look at this drop and the causes for it from IDC and Gartner.

Windows-10-Technology-HD-Wide-Wallpaper.jpg

"That's according to forecasts by analyst outfit IDC, which claims that PC shipments will fall by 7.3 per cent year on year, around with growth in the market now forecast at two per cent below its earlier predictions for 2016."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Bluetooth 5 Announced

Subject: Networking | June 10, 2016 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: bluetooth 5, bluetooth

The fourth version of Bluetooth was released almost six years ago now. Its main focus was lower power, which was very important at the time. Bluetooth and WiFi were major energy sinks for mobile devices, and smartphones were taking off. This was also during the first wave of tablets.

bluetooth-2016-logo.png

The Bluetooth special interest group has now announced Bluetooth 5. The headlining features are double range and quadruple speed for low-powered Bluetooth connections. (Update, June 13th @ 1:15pm: Bluetooth's PR agency contacted me, said the source's numbers were backwards, and asked me to update to the correct ones. It's double speed and quadruple range for low-powered Bluetooth connections.) This is obviously useful for a data communication protocol, although it is difficult to tell whether low bandwidth was an issue for many devices. It is not exactly something that hardware vendors would publicly complain about.

They also intend to allow certain services to operate without pairing. The open letter says that it is intended to be used with “beacons” and “location-based services” but fails to elaborate. Instead, it points to their Discover Blue: London event on June 16th, so I expect that will be expanded upon there. Part of me is concerned that connectionless could turn into “operates without user control,” but, ultimately, the device is responsible for what it executes. There shouldn't be a way that a protocol, without the OS being involved, could force an interaction -- at least not without a backlash against the OS for permitting it.

Again, we'll find out more in about a week, on June 16th.

Basemark Releases Basemark Web 3.0 with WebGL 2.0

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2016 - 05:50 AM |
Tagged: Basemark, webgl, webgl2

Basemark has just released Basemark Web 3.0, which includes WebGL 2.0 tests for supporting browsers. No browsers support the standard by default yet, although it can be enabled on Firefox and Chrome with a command-line flag.

basemark-2016-webgl2.png

WebGL 1.0 has become ubiquitous, but it is based on quite an old version of OpenGL. OpenGL ES 2.0 was specified all the way back in March 2007. While it simplified development by forcing everyone down a programmable shader pipeline, it has quite a few limitations. OpenGL ES 3.0 remedied many of these, such as allowing multiple render targets and texture compression. OpenGL ES 3.1 added compute shaders, which brings us pretty much to today. In fact, Vulkan targets OpenGL ES 3.1 hardware (should the hardware vendor provide a driver).

WebGL targeted OpenGL ES 2.0. WebGL 2 targets OpenGL ES 3.0.

Of course, this means that the WebGL 2.0 base standard does not support compute shaders, which is a bit of a drag. It's something that they really want to incorporate, though, but they still can't seem to decide whether it will align with a new version of WebGL (such as WebGL 2.1) or be incorporated in a multi-vendor extension.

So where are we today?

Well, WebGL 2.0 is still a little ways off from being everywhere. As we mentioned, only Firefox and Chrome support the standard, although WebKit is working on it, too. Microsoft has WebGL 2.0 listed as “Under Consideration” with a “Roadmap Priority” of Medium, “Development is likely for a future release.” One major hold up was its shader support. Again, OpenGL ES 3.0 shaders are much more complex than OpenGL ES 2.0 ones, and many WebGL browsers convert OpenGL ES 2.0 shaders to HLSL for DirectX on Windows. This circumvents lackluster graphics drivers, and it adds an extra, huge layer of complexity for someone who wants to write malware. It's not sufficient to know of a driver bug with a specific shader string -- you need to trick the transpiler into outputting it, too.

But, again, we're slowly inching our way there.

Source: Basemark

A pretty pair of peripherals from Corsair; the K65 RGB and M65 Pro RGGB

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 08:39 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, K65 RGB, M65 PRO RGB, gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX

If you love lights and are searching for a new mouse and keyboard, perhaps ones that would fit on your lap, then drop by Benchmark Reviews for a look at the Corsair M65 PRO RGB Mouse and Corsair K65 RGB RAPIDFIRE Keyboard.  Both of these peripherals are made of aluminium and use CUE LINK to power their light shows, the keyboard able to show off a bit more than the mouse which has only 8 keys.  These devices both scored highly, take a peek at the review to see if you want to get your hands on them.

Corsair-M65-PRO-RGB-Front-LED-Test.jpg

"Instead of the laser sensor seen in the previous model, Corsair has included the PixArt PMW3360 optical sensor with a maximum DPI of 12000. There is also a weight system for adjusting the weight and a dedicated sniper button, which can be assigned to serve various functions."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Lenovo's PHAB2 Family Features Project Tango-Powered PHAB2 Pro

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 652, smartphone, project tango, phablet, PHAB2, Lenovo, augmented reality, AR

Lenovo has unveiled the PHAB2 family at their Lenovo Tech World event today, featuring the PHAB2 Pro, a phablet-sized mobile device powered by Google's Project Tango (now simply Google Tango) augmented-reality technology.

PHAB2 Pro Cameras.jpg

Lenovo PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

“Unlike any other phone, the PHAB2 Pro, powered by Tango technology – a set of sensors and software from Google that senses and maps its surroundings – makes a host of cutting-edge smartphone augmented reality (AR) experiences possible. For example, using AR apps, students can place true-to-scale virtual dinosaurs in their classrooms and enhance their learning through AR data overlays that appear while they walk around the creatures. AR gaming experiences let you play virtual dominos on your kitchen table, raise a digital pet in your bedroom and fight back swarms of aliens invading your house.

With Tango technology PHAB2 Pro can even begin to change the way people think about mapping indoor spaces to create new experiences like future augmented reality museum tours via the GuidiGO app. With Tango, PHAB2 Pro offers unprecedented experiences on a smartphone that will continually learn and improve.”

The large phablet devices are full smartphones, not just small tablets, and the three models offer widely varying specs with significant improvements in each successive model. We'll begin by looking at the base configuration.

Lenovo PHAB2

PHAB2.jpg

The PHAB2 (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch HD (1280x720) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8735 Quad-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with
  • Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Camera:
    • Rear: 13 MP PDAF Fast-Focus
    • Front: 5 MP 85° Wide Angle
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up is the PHAB2 Plus, which improves on the base model's display, SoC, and particularly the cameras:

“The PHAB2 Plus comes with two 13MP rear cameras that have instant focus, fast f1.8 lenses and the same professional-grade Futjitsu Milbeaut image signal processor that powers the Leica camera.”

Lenovo PHAB2 Plus

PHAB2 Plus.jpg

The PHAB2 Plus (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8783 Octa-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 13 MP Dual Camera Milbeaut ISP, F2.0 Aperture, 1.34 Big Pixel, Laser Focus with PDAF Light Supplement
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel, Light Supplement
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up we have the PHAB2 Pro, the flagship of the lineup, which moves to a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC from the MediaTek chips in the first two phones, and offers a higher screen resolution and (most importantly for this launch) Google Tango support - the first product equipped with this AR technology.

Lenovo PHAB2 Pro

PHAB2 Pro.jpg

The PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch QHD (2560x1440) IPS Assertive Display
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Processor Built for Tango
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 16 MP PDAF Fast-Focus, Depth Sensor for Tango, Motion Tracking Sensor for Tango
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

There will be a retail presence in the U.S. for the PHAB2 Pro, with Best Buy confirmed as an outlet for the Google Tango device. Additionally, in a move that is perplexing at first, the PHAB2 Pro will be featured for sale in Lowe's home improvement stores. (Wait, what?) A move which actually makes sense once you’ve read Lenovo’s press release:

“Homeowners can also now use their PHAB2 Pro to remodel their homes by visualizing real home furnishings in their living rooms and kitchens. Home improvement company Lowe’s is one of the first partners to develop a Tango-enabled application, Lowe’s Vision. The app empowers customers by leveraging Tango technology to measure spaces and visualize how products like appliances and décor, or materials like countertops or backsplash tile, will all look and fit together in a room. With Lowe’s Vision, customers will be able to control a new generation of augmented reality tools with a mere tap of the finger.”

As to pricing, the base PHAB2 has an MSRP of $199, the PHAB2 Plus moves up to $299, and the PHAB2 Pro will be $499. Availability set for September of this year.

Source: Lenovo

Podcast #403 - Fractal Define S, Corsair Lapdog, Pascal dropping 3+4 way SLI game support, EVGA SLI HB's, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: Wit.nes, video, technology, SSD 750 M.2, sli, podcast, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, GP104 laptop, Fractal Nano S, fan speed fix, EVGA SLI HB, Corsair SF

PC Perspective Podcast #403 - 06/09/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Fractal Define S, Corsair Lapdog, Pascal dropping 3+4 way SLI game support, EVGA SLI HB's, 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:19:54
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
      1. This is actually in the Mirror’s Edge Driver!
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Sebastian: Clean install Windows 8.1 or Windows 10
  4. Closing/outro

OCZ and NVMe all up in the RD ... 400

Subject: Storage | June 9, 2016 - 05:30 PM |
Tagged: ocz, NVMe, RD400, M.2 2280

With all the new drives on the market it would be interesting to see The Tech Report try to kill another stack of SSDs.  With the spread of NVMe drives they could take the OCZ RD400 they just reviewed and a number of others and see if they can't write them to death.  It would likely be a bit more work, these drives are more resilient and the amount of data they can move in a short time would certainly require a change in methodology.  The Intel 750 and Samsung 950 Pro would be obvious choices as most other SSDs simply would not be able to keep up.  Al has a collection as well, maybe a joint effort to kill as many PCIe SSDs as possible?

guts.jpg

"Toshiba is bringing the OCZ brand into the NVMe SSD market with its RD400. We put the drive through its paces to see how it stacks up with Intel's 750 Series and Samsung's 950 Pro drives."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Criminy, that's a nasty one! Near invisible infections via BITS

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, BITS, security

BITS, the Microsoft Background Intelligent Transfer Service used for pushing out OS updates among other things can be turned to the dark side in a rather nasty way.  When cleaning up an infect network, security professionals stumbled upon a nasty discovery, a compromised machine with no sign of an infection vector except in the BITS database.  The malware came in through the usual channel but once installed it used a BITS task to clean up any traces of the installation from temp files and the registry and then delete itself, leaving an infected machine with almost no traces of where the infection came from or is residing.  The Register offers advice on how to check suspicious machines in their story.

service.jpg

"While working on a customer clean-up project, SecureWorks staff found that attackers had created self-contained BITS tasks that didn't appear in the registries of affected machines, and their footprints were limited to entries on the BITS database."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

ASUS Plans a 27-Inch, 144Hz, 4K, IPS Gaming Monitor

Subject: Displays | June 9, 2016 - 06:55 AM |
Tagged: asus, 4k 144hz, ips

Well this will be an impressive set of features some day. People have been asking for high-refresh, 4K panels with good colors for quite a while. It was almost a running joke in some of our comments. Apparently, ASUS took it seriously, and they are looking to release a 144Hz, 4K, IPS Gaming monitor, and they had a prototype on the show floor at Computex 2016.

ASUS-2016-4k-144hz-monitor-vrzone.jpg

Image Credit: VR-Zone

Okay then. That checks off just about every box on the enthusiast wishlist, except maybe OLED (depending on whether the specific enthusiast loves its contrast or fears it color accuracy). Also, it is unclear whether they will support the FreeSync or G-Sync, but either could happen -- or both! Or neither.

We won't know until they make an official announcement... again, some day.

Source: VR-Zone

Samsung Announces Galaxy S7 Active

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 06:20 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy, galaxy s7, ruggedized

The Samsung Galaxy S7 launched a couple of months ago. While it wasn't too bad from a durability standpoint, I have heard people complain that their screen fractured from a seemingly low-risk fall. Over time, it seemed like they were somewhat fluke examples because it kind-of fell off the radar. Still, if you want the specifications of a Galaxy S7, and you want to extra reliability without placing it inside a case, Samsung has added a version of the phone in their Active line.

samsung-2016-galaxys7active-att.jpg

Image Credit: AT&T

AT&T doesn't list pricing and they only state “coming soon” for availability. They do mention that the battery will get a significant bump in capacity, though. The original Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones have a 3,000 mAh and a 3,700 mAh battery, respectively, but the Galaxy S7 Active is larger: 4,000 mAh. Critics like the battery life of the original S7, many claiming that it lasts a whole, heavy-use day for them, but an extra 33% is nothing to sneer at.

If only it comes to Canada, too...

Source: AT&T

Microsoft Open-Sources Their WebGL Implementation

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 05:42 AM |
Tagged: webgl, microsoft

Well that's something I never expected to write. It turns out that Microsoft has open-sourced a small portion of their Edge web browser. This is the part that binds OpenGL ES 2.0 functionality, implemented atop Direct3D in Edge, to JavaScript for websites to directly interact with the user's GPU (as opposed to hardware-accelerated CSS effects for instance).

Websites can use WebGL to share 3D objects in an interactive way, have interesting backgrounds and decorations, or even render a video game.

trident-fork.jpg

This is not an open-source build of Microsoft Edge, though. It doesn't have the project files to actually be built into something useful. Microsoft intends for it to be reference, at least for now they say. If you are interested in using or contributing to this project for some reason, their GitHub readme file asks you to contact them. As for me? I just think it's neat.

Mozilla Will Begin Electrolysis with Firefox 48

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 05:08 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox

Electrolysis (e10s) is Mozilla's codename for their multi-process initiative in Firefox. The main goal of this is to separate the content of the website from the user interface. This means that, if a site has long-running JavaScript or layout, Firefox will not lock up. This seems like a simple idea, except that it undoes over a decade of assumptions that were made during Firefox's development. Imagine, for instance, that you have an extensions which modifies both the browser UI as well as the page content -- that's a single script that needs to be run across multiple threads. Whoops!

Mozilla_Firefox_logo_2013.png

This roll-out won't necessarily be immediate, though. You can install Firefox 48 and, only some weeks later, get Electrolysis turned on retroactively. They are starting with about 1% of eligible users, which will ramp up to all eligible users over time or even be disabled if alarm bells start to ring.

Speaking of eligible users, there are quite a few conditions that will prevent you from getting Electrolysis. Namely, if you use extensions (it's unclear if they're talking about all extensions, or just ones that use certain APIs) then you will be kept on single-process. They don't specify why, but it could very well be the situation that I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Firefox 48 is scheduled to be released in six weeks (the first week of August).

GOG.com Commences Their Summer Sale

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 04:32 AM |
Tagged: GOG, pc gaming

GOG.com has begun their Summer Sale, as of June 8th, and it has some fairly deep discounts in it. First, if you sign in to their GOG Galaxy client, they will gift you a free copy of System Shock 2. Second, The Witcher III is 50% off again, or you can get the game and all of its DLC for the price of the base game (which ends up working out to 33% off).

gog-2016-summersale.jpg

The top seller is the Homeworld Remastered Collection, which has been reduced to $17.49 USD (50%-off). You can also get either The SOLUS Project, which released this week, or The Witness for 15% off. Then we get to some of the game bundles, like all of the Tropicos or a bunch of Bullfrog titles for 80% off. You know how these digital game sales work.

They are also doing an XP system. If you buy games, check in, or do a few other actions, you can accumulate points that will unlock a handful of free games. The three that they're offering me are Spelunky, Gabriel Knight, and Dreamfall Chapters. I'm not sure if it's the same for everyone, though.

Source: GOG.com

GIGABYTE ANNOUNCES GTX 1080 XTREME GAMING

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 9, 2016 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged:

That wasn't even capslock. That was pure shift key.

A little after Computex, GIGABYTE announced their GTX 1080 XTREME GAMING graphics card, which should be their flagship of the GeForce GTX 1080 line. It is a three-fan design, although the center fan overlaps with the two edge ones. It will also accept two, eight-pin PCIe power connectors, which gives a theoretical maximum draw of 375W.

gigabyte-2016-GTX1080XG_03.png

Also, taking a cue from EVGA's recent VR-Edition 980 Ti, GIGABYTE includes a I/O front panel for cases with an extra 5.25” bay. This contains two HDMI ports and two USB 3.0 ports to allow users to quickly connect VR headsets to and from their PC. When connected, it disables two DisplayPort outputs on the card, routing them to the front-panel's HDMI instead. I'm not exactly clear on why you would need two HDMI connections in the front, but okay.

gigabyte-slihb-claims.jpg

They are also releasing their own SLI HB connector, which they claim will support speeds up to 1080 MHz. The SLI HB standard, from NVIDIA, clocks up to 650 MHz. We assume that this is a typo on GIGABYTE's part (having 1080 on the brain for some reason...) but we've contacted NVIDIA to see what's up.

Currently no pricing or availability information. It comes with a three year warranty that can be upgraded to a four-year warranty by registering your product and signing up to their “XTREME GAMING Club”.

Source: GIGABYTE

GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 3-Way and 4-Way SLI will not be enabled for games

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 9, 2016 - 12:44 AM |
Tagged: sli, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, GP104, geforce, 4-way sli, 3-way sli

IMPORTANT UPDATE: After writing this story, but before publication, we went to NVIDIA for comment. As we were getting ready to publish, the company updated me with a shift in its stance on multi-GPU configurations. NVIDIA will no longer require an "enthusiast key" to enable SLI on more than two GPUs. However, NVIDIA will also only be enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for a select few applications. More details are at the bottom of the story!

You'll likely recall that during our initial review of the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition graphics card, we mentioned that NVIDIA was going to be moving people towards the idea that "only 2-Way SLI will be supported" and promoted. There would still be a path for users that wanted 3 and 4 GPU configurations anyway, and it would be called the Enthusiast Key.

As it turns out, after returning from an AMD event focused on its upcoming Polaris GPUs, I happen to have amassed a total of four GeForce GTX 1080 cards.

01.jpg

Courtesy of some friends at EVGA and two readers that were awesome enough to let me open up their brand new hardware for a day or so, I was able to go through the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configuration process. Once all four were installed, and I must point out how great it is that each card only required a single 8-pin power connector, I installed the latest NVIDIA driver I had on hand, 368.19.

driver2.jpg

Knowing about the need for the Enthusiast Key, and also knowing that I did not yet have one and that the website that was supposed to be live to enable me to get one is still not live, I thought I might have stumbled upon some magic. The driver appeared to let me enable SLI anyway. 

driver1.jpg

Enthusiasts will note however that the green marker under the four GPUs with the "SLI" text is clearly only pointing at two of the GTX 1080s, leaving the remaining two...unused. Crap.

At this point, if you have purchased more than two GeForce GTX 1080 cards are simply out of luck and are waiting on NVIDIA to make good on it's promise to allow for 3-Way and 4-Way configurations via the Enthusiast Key. Or some other way. It's way too late now to simply say "we aren't supporting it at all." 

03.jpg

While I wait...what is there for a gamer with four GeForce GTX 1080 cards to do? Well, you could run Ashes of the Singularity. It's multi-GPU mode uses MDA mode, which means the game engine itself accesses each GPU on its own, without the need for the driver to handle anything regarding GPU load balancing. Unfortunately, Ashes only supports two GPUs today.

Well...you could run an OpenCL based benchmark like LuxMark that access all the GPUs independently as well.

lux2.jpg

I did so, and the result is an impressive score of 17,127!!

lux.jpg

How does that compare to some other products?

luxmarkgraph.jpg

The four GTX 1080 cards produce a score that is 2.57x the result provided by the AMD Radeon Pro Duo and 2.29x the score of SLI GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards. Nice!

02.jpg

So there you go! We are just as eager to get our hands on the ability to test 3-Way and 4-Way SLI with new Pascal GPUs as some of the most extreme and dedicated enthusiasts out there are. With any luck, NVIDIA will finally figure out a way to allow it - no matter how it finally takes place.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Before going to press with this story I asked NVIDIA for comment directly: when was the community finally going to get the Enthusiast Key website to unlock 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for those people crazy enough to have purchased that many GTX 1080s? The answer was quite surprising: NVIDIA is backing away from the idea of an "Enthusiast Key" and will no longer require it for enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI. 

Here is the official NVIDIA statement given to PC Perspective on the subject:

With the GeForce 10-series we’re investing heavily in 2-way SLI with our new High Bandwidth bridge (which doubles the SLI bandwidth for faster, smoother gaming at ultra-high resolutions and refresh rates) and NVIDIA Game Ready Driver SLI profiles.  To ensure the best possible gaming experience on our GeForce 10-series GPUs, we’re focusing our efforts on 2-way SLI only and will continue to include 2-way SLI profiles in our Game Ready Drivers.
 
DX12 and NVIDIA VR Works SLI technology also allows developers to directly implement and control multi-GPU support within their games.  If a developer chooses to use these technologies then their game will not need SLI profiles.  Some developers may also decide to support more than 2 GPUs in their games. We continue to work with all developers creating games and VR applications that take advantage of 2 or more GPUs to make sure they’ll work great on GeForce 10-series GPUs.
 
For our overclocking community, our Game Ready Drivers will also include SLI profiles for 3- and 4-way configurations for specific OC applications only, including Fire Strike, Unigine and Catzilla.

NVIDIA clearly wants to reiterate that only 2-Way SLI will get the attention that we have come to expect from the GeForce driver dev team. As DX12 and Vulkan next-generation APIs become more prolific, the game developers will still have the ability to directly access more than two GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs, though I expect that be a very narrow window of games simply due to development costs and time.

NVIDIA will enable support for three and four card configurations in future drivers (without a key) for specific overclocking/benchmarking tools only, as a way to make sure the GeForce brand doesn't fall off the 3DMark charts. Only those specific applications will be able operate in the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configurations that you have come to know. There are no profiles to change manually and even the rare games that might have "just worked" with three or four GPUs will not take advantage of more than two GTX 10-series cards. It's fair to say at this point that except for the benchmarking crowd, NVIDIA 3-Way and 4-Way SLI is over.

We expect the "benchmark only" mode of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI to be ready for consumers with the next "Game Ready" driver release. If you happened to get your hands on more than two GTX 1080s but aren't into benchmarking, then find those receipts and send a couple back.

So there you have it. Honestly, this is what I was expecting from NVIDIA with the initial launch of Pascal and the GeForce GTX 1080/1070 and I was surprised when I first heard about the idea of the "enthusiast key." It took a bit longer than expected, and NVIDIA will get more flak for the iterated dismissal of this very niche, but still pretty cool, technology. In the end, this won't have much impact on the company's bottom line as the quantity of users that were buying 3+ GTX GPUs for a single system was understandably small.

NVIDIA Announces an E3 #GameReady Giveaway

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2016 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, giveaway, e3 2016, E3

Update, June 8th @ 8:15pm: Just to clarify, this giveaway is not affiliated with PC Perspective. We just found it on Twitter and thought that our readers might like to have a chance at free hardware.

Fairly simple bit of news for this one. NVIDIA has announced that they will be giving away $100,000 of prizes to people who message @NVIDIA and use the #GameReady hashtag, on either Twitter or Instagram, during one of five E3 keynotes.

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Sunday (June 12th, 2016):

  • EA at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT
  • Bethesda at 7PM PDT / 10PM EDT / 2AM GMT (Monday)

Monday (June 13th, 2016):

  • Microsoft at 9:30AM PDT / 12:30PM EDT / 4:30PM GMT
  • PC Gaming Show at 12PM PDT / 3PM EDT / 7PM GMT
  • Ubisoft at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT

Interestingly, Sony was not listed on their rundown. Sure, they rarely have anything relevant to PC gamers, but it's still an amusing omission none-the-less.

According to their Terms and Conditions, the sweepstakes is open to a large portion of the world. They will be giving away fifty GTX 1080s, “up to” thirty $500 Steam Gift Cards, and “an ultimate PC battlestation”??? I'm not sure what that is, but it sounds like Mark Hamill will be trying to destroy it a few times.

E3 starts this weekend! Stay tuned for coverage. (You can also sleep, eat, and do laundry, though.)

Source: NVIDIA

Gigabyte's Z170X-UD3 for the middle of the road enthusiast

Subject: Motherboards | June 8, 2016 - 10:17 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z170X-UD3, Intel Z170

At $150 Gigabyte's Z170X-UD3 is within the budget of many system builders but the question remains as to the value you get for that money.  The Tech Report delved into this topic in their recent review and the prognosis is good, especially if you can find it on sale for $120 like they did.  They did find the firmware somewhat limiting, though some of us do like the Classic Mode UEFI the fan speed control is quite limited.  Gigabyte did address that with their System Information Viewer utility for Windows which does allow for fine control and when asked Gigabyte did suggest they may address this in a new UEFI update.  With three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, USB 3.1 and a pair of M.2 ports you do not suffer for connectivity and the overclocking potential is certainly acceptable for this price point.  Check out their full review here.

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"Gigabyte's Z170X-UD3 is a mid-range motherboard that gives builders everything the Z170 chipset has to offer and more. We take an in-depth look at this board to see whether it lives up to the promise of its impressive spec sheet."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Battlefield 1; faster bullets and slower truncheons

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2016 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield 1

It won't just be flamethrowers and HMG emplacements in Battlefield 1, you can expect shotguns, sniper rifles, submachine guns, LMGs and semi-automatic along with a variety of melee weapons to inflict pain with.  According to the information Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN garnered from the Q&A sessions that the developer hosted, bullet velocity will also be increased; not in a CoD way but to travel at speeds somewhat closer to reality.  There will also be tools for snipping barbed wire and possibly to damage light vehicles if the inference is correct ... and not referring to a horse.  Follow the link for an extremely short video of two weapons in action.

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"The weapons of Battlefield 1 are a bit more specialized,” Schimek said. “To get the most out of them, you have to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and use the right one in the right situation."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming