Introducing the all new Dynamic Super Resolution Duo!

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2014 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr

Move over Super Best Friends, the Dynamic Super Resolution Duo is here to slay the evil Jaggies!  Ryan covered NVIDIA's new DSR in his review of the new Maxwell cards and how it can upsample a monitor with a resolution of 2560x1440 or lower to much higher resolutions using a process similar to supersampling but is in fact a 13-tap gaussian filter.  That is important because supersampling would have some interesting challenges rendering 2560x1440 on a 1080p monitor.  DSR gives you a much wider choice of resolutions as you can see in the Guild Wars screenshot below, allowing you to choose a variety of multipliers to your displays native resolution to give your game a much smoother look.   The Tech Report has assembled a variety of screenshots from games with different DSR and AA settings which you can examine with your own eyeballs to see what you think.

gw2-resolutions.jpg

"One of the more intriguing capabilities Nvidia introduced with the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 is a feature called Dynamic Super Resolution, or DSR, for short. Nvidia bills it as a means of getting 4K quality on a 2K display. How good is it? We take a look."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Microsoft Introduces Windows 10 to the Enterprise

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, windows 10, windows, threshold, microsoft

The Windows event for the enterprise, which took place today in San Francisco, revealed the name of the upcoming OS. It is not Windows 9, or One Windows, or just Windows. It will be Windows 10. Other than the name, there is not really any new information from a feature or announcement standpoint (except the Command Prompt refresh that I actually will give a brief mention later). My interest comes from their mindset with this new OS -- what they are changing and what they seem to be sticking with.

If you would like Microsoft's commentary before reading mine, the keynote is embed above.

Okay, so one thing that was shown is "Continuum". If you have not seen its prototype at the end of the above video, it is currently a small notification that appears when a keyboard and mouse is attached (or detached). If a user accepts, this will flip the user interface between tablet and desktop experiences. Joe Belfiore was clear that the video clip was not yet in code, but represents their vision. In practice, it will have options for whether to ask the user or to automatically do some chosen behavior.

windows-10-continuum.jpg

In a way, you could argue that it was necessary to go through Windows 8.x to get to this point. From the demonstrations, the interface looks sensible and a landing point for users on both Windows 7 and Windows 8 paths. That said, I was fine with the original Windows 8 interface, barring a few glitches, like disappearing icons and snapping sidebars on PCs with multiple monitors. I always considered the "modern" Windows interface to be... acceptable.

It was the Windows Store certification that kept me from upgrading, and Microsoft's current stance is confusing at the very least. Today's announcement included the quote, "Organizations will also be able to create a customized store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of Store apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience." Similar discussion was brought up and immediately glossed over during the keynote.

Who does that even apply to? Would a hobbyist developer be able to set up a repository for friends and family? Or is this relegated to businesses, leaving consumers to accept nothing more than what Microsoft allows? The concern is that I do not want Microsoft (or anyone) telling me what I can and cannot create and install on my devices. Once you build censorship, the crazies will come. They usually do.

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But onto more important things: Command Prompt had a major UX overhaul. Joe Belfiore admitted that it was mostly because most important changes were already leaked and reported on, and they wanted to surprise us with something. They sure did. You can now use typical keyboard shortcuts, shift to select, ctrl+c and ctrl+v to copy/paste, and so forth. The even allow a transparency option, which is common in other OSes to make its presence less jarring. Rather than covering over what you're doing, it makes it feel more like it overlays on top of it, especially for quick commands. At least, that is my opinion.

Tomorrow, October 1st, Microsoft will launch their "Windows Inside Program". This will give a very early glimpse at the OS for "most enthusiastic Windows fans" who are "comfortable running pre-release software that will be of variable quality". They "plan to share all the features (they) are experimenting with". They seem to actually want user feedback, a sharp contrast from their Windows 8 technical preview. My eye will on relaxing certification requirements, obviously.

Source: Microsoft

ARM Introduces the Cortex-M7 Embedded Processor

Subject: Processors | September 30, 2014 - 06:02 PM |
Tagged: arm, cortex, Cortex-A, cortex-m, 90 nm, 40 nm, 28 nm, 32 bit

Last week ARM announced the latest member of their Cortex-M series of embedded parts.  The new Cortex-M7 design is a 32 bit processor designed to have good performance while achieving excellent power consumption.  The M7 is a fully superscalar design with 6 pipeline stages.  This product should not be confused with the Cortex-A series of products, as the M series is aimed directly at embedded markets.

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This product is not necessarily meant for multi-media rich applications, so it will not find its way into a modern smart phone.  Products that it is leveraged at would be products like the latest generation of smart watches.  Industrial control applications, automotive computing, low power and low heat applications, and countless IoT (Internet of Things) products can utilize this architecture.

arm_o2.jpg

The designs are being offered on a variety of process nodes from 90 nm down to 28 nm.  These choices are made by the licensee depending on the specifics of their application.  In the most energy efficient state, ARM claims that these products can see multiple years of running non-stop on a small lithium battery.

This obviously is not the most interesting ARM based product that we have seen lately, but it addresses a very important market.  What is perhaps most interesting about this release not only is the pretty dramatic increase in per clock performance from the previous generation of part, but also how robust the support is in terms of design tools, software ecosystem, and 3rd party support.

arm_o3.jpg

Cortex-M7 can also be utilized in areas where a more complex DSP has traditionally been used.  In comparison to some common DSPs, the Cortex-M7 is competitive in terms of specialized workload performance.  It also has the advantage of being much more flexible than a DSP in a general computing environment.

arm_o4.jpg

ARM just keeps on moving along with products that address many different computing markets.  ARM’s high end Cortex-A series of parts powers the majority of smart phones and tablets while the Cortex-M series have sold in the billions addressing the embedded market.  The Cortex-M7 is the latest member of that family and will find more than its fair share of products to be integrated into.

Source: ARM

Look at all the pretty lights! The Corsair K70 RGB

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: K70 RGB, input, corsair, Cherry MX RGB red

There is a new type of Cherry MX switches on the market and they are what allow the Corsair K70 RGB to stand out in a light filled room; Cherry MX RGB switches feel like the original switches but with the clear plastic domes they have clear housings.  Thanks to the Corsair Utility Engine software which comes with the keyboard you can choose from 16.8 million colours to enhance the look of your keyboard, or create macros to have colours change as you are using it.  The Tech Report had great success in programming the keyboard considering that the manual is 142 pages long so expect a bit of a steep learning curve when you first start out playing with this keyboard.  You can find their review as well as a video showing off some of their colour schemes right here.

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"Corsair Gaming's K70 RGB keyboard has been hotly anticipated since its debut at CES earlier this year. Does it live up to the hype? We put the keyboard and its accompanying software to the test to find out"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

The Internet of Thing is a confusing place for manufacturers right now

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: arm, internet of things, Si106x, 108x, Silicon Labs, Intel, quark

While the Internet of Things is growing at an incredible pace the chip manufacturers which are competing for this new market segment are running into problems when trying to design chips to add to appliances.  There is a balance which needs to be found between processing power and energy savings, the goal is to design very inexpensive chips which can run on  microWatts of power but still be incorporate networked communication and sensors.  The new Cortex-M7 is a 32-bit processor which is directly competing with 8 and 16 bit microcontrollers which provide far less features but also consume far less power.  Does a smart light bulb really need to have a 32bit chip in it or will a lower cost MCU provide everything that is needed for the light to function?  Intel's Quark is in a similar position, the processing power it is capable of could be a huge overkill compared to what the IoT product actually needs.  The Register has made a good observation in this article, perhaps the Cortex M0 paired with an M4 or M7 when the application requires the extra horsepower is a good way for ARM to go in.  Meanwhile, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 has been adopted to run an OS to control robots so don't think this market is going to get any less confusing in the near future.

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"The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing an estimated five times more quickly than the overall embedded processing market, so it's no wonder chip suppliers are flocking to fit out connected cars, home gateways, wearables and streetlights as quickly as they can."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

HP Releases Cheaaaaaap PCs and Windows Tablets

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 30, 2014 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer

Before I get into the devices, the $149 HP Stream 8 tablet and certain models of the HP Stream 13 laptop (the ones with an optional 4G modem) includes "free 4G for life" for customers in the USA. Reading in the fine print, the device company apparently signed a deal with T-Mobile for 200MB/mo of 4G service. Of course, 200MB will barely cover the Windows Update regimen of certain months, but you have WiFi for that. It is free, and free is good. I can guess that T-Mobile is crossing their fingers that dripping a drop of water on the tongues of the thirsty will convince them to go to the fountain.

hp-stream-laptop.jpg

If it works? Great. That is just about the most honest way that I have ever seen a telecom company attract new customers.

Back to these devices. Oh right, they're cheap. They are so cheap, they barely have any technical specifications. The $199.99 HP Stream 11 laptop has an 11-inch display. The $229.99 HP Stream 13 laptop has a 13-inch display and can be configured with an optional 4G modem. Both are passively cooled (more fanless PCs...) and run on a dual-core processor. Both provide a year of Office 365 Personal subscriptions. Both are available in blueish-purple or pinkish-purple.

The two tablets (7-inch Stream 7 and 8-inch Stream 8) are a similar story. They run an x86 processor with full Windows 8.1 and a year's subscription to Office 365. Somehow, the tablets are based on Intel quad-core CPUs (rather than the laptop's passively cooled dual-cores) despite being cheaper. Then again, they could be completely different architectures.

While HP is interested in, you know, selling product, I expect that Microsoft's generous licensing terms (see also the Toshiba alternative we reported earlier) is an attempt to push their cloud services. They know that cheaper device categories cannot bare as much royalties as a fully-featured laptop, and not having a presence at those prices is conceding it to Google -- and conceding that to Google is really giving up on cloud services for those customers. The simple solution? Don't forfeit those markets, just monetize with your own cloud service. I doubt that it will harm their higher-end devices.

The four devices (Stream 7 - $99, Stream 8 -$149, Stream 11 - $199, Stream 13 - $229) are coming soon.

Source: HP

Broadwell-U (BGA) Lineup Leaked

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | September 30, 2014 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: iris, Intel, core m, broadwell-y, broadwell-u, Broadwell

Intel's upcoming 14nm product line, Broadwell, is expected to have six categories of increasing performance. Broadwell-Y, later branded Core M, is part of the soldered BGA family at expected TDPs of 3.5 to 4.5W. Above this is Broadwell-U, which are also BGA packages, and thus require soldering by the system builder. VR-Zone China has a list of seemingly every 15W SKU in that category. 28W TDP "U" products are expected to be available in the following quarter, but are not listed.

intel-broadwell-u_1.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

As for those 15W parts though, there are seventeen (17!) of them, ranging from Celeron to Core i7. While each product is dual-core, the ones that are Core i3 and up have Hyper-Threading, increasing the parallelism to four tasks simultaneously. In terms of cache, Celerons and Pentiums will have 2MB, Core i7s will have 4MB, and everything in between will have 3MB. Otherwise, the products vary on the clock frequency they were binned (bin-sorted) at, and the integrated graphics that they contain.

intel-broadwell-u_2.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

These integrated iGPUs range from "Intel HD Graphics" on the Celerons and Pentiums, to "Intel Iris Graphics 6100" on one Core i7, two Core i5s, and one Core i3. The rest pretty much alternate between Intel HD Graphics 5500 and Intel HD Graphics 6000. Maximum frequency of any given iGPU can vary within the same product, but only by about 100 MHz at the most. The exact spread is below.

  • Intel HD Graphics: 300 MHz base clock, 800 MHz at load.
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500: 300 MHz base clock, 850-950 MHz at load (depending on SKU).
  • Intel HD Graphics 6000: 300 MHz base clock, 1000 MHz at load.
  • Intel Iris Graphics 6100: 300 MHz base clock, 1000-1100 MHz at load (depending on SKU).

Unfortunately, without the number of shader units to go along with the core clock, we cannot derive a FLOP value yet. This is a very important metric for increasing resolution and shader complexity, and it would provide a relatively fair metric to compare the new parts against previous offerings for higher resolutions and quality settings, especialy in DirectX 12 I would assume.

intel-broadwell-iris-graphics-6100.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

Probably the most interesting part to me is that "Intel HD Graphics" without a number meant GT1 with Haswell. Starting with Broadwell, it has been upgraded to GT2 (apparently). As we can see from even the 4.5W Core M processors, Intel is taking graphics seriously. It is unclear whether their intention is to respect gaming's influence on device purchases, or if they are believing that generalized GPU compute will be "a thing" very soon.

Source: VR-Zone

Europeans: Atlast! Has Haswell-based Fanless NUCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: fanless, nuc, haswell

The Akasa Newton X is a fanless case for the NUC form factor that was announced in May and released a couple of months ago. Now, we are beginning to see system builders (albeit in Europe) integrate it in some higher-end devices. This one, from Atlast! Solutions, is built around the Intel Core i5-4250U, up to 1.5TB of SSD storage (512GB Crucial M550 mSATA + 1TB 840 EVO SATA), and up to 16GB of RAM. It can also be configured with up to two-antenna Wireless AC.

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The Core i5-4250U is a dual-core (four threads) processor that is rated for 15W TDP. Its on-chip GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 with a peak, theoretical compute throughput of 704 GFLOPS. This makes it a little under three-times the graphics performance of an Xbox 360. In terms of PC games, you are looking at Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on low at 1024x768 (or basically whatever your home server can do if used as a stream-to target).

Prices currently start at £449.00 for 4GB of RAM and 60GB of mSATA SSD, including VAT.

Thanks to FanlessTech for covering this story.

AMD Catalyst 14.9 for Windows

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 29, 2014 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: whql, radeon, Catalyst 14.9, amd

AMD.jpg

The full release notes are available here or take a look at the highlights below.

The latest version of the AMD Catalyst Software Suite, AMD Catalyst 14.9 is designed to support the following Microsoft Windows platforms:

Highlights of AMD Catalyst 14.9 Windows Driver

  • Support for the AMD Radeon R9 280
  • Performance improvements (comparing AMD Catalyst 14.9 vs. AMD Catalyst 14.4)
    • 3DMark Sky Diver improvements
      • AMD A4 6300 – improves up to 4%
      • Enables AMD Dual Graphics / AMD CrossFire support
    • 3DMark Fire Strike
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series - improves up to 5% in Performance Preset
    • 3DMark11
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series - improves up to 4% in Entry and Performance Preset
    • BioShock Infinite
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series – 1920x1080 - improves up to 5%
    • Company of Heroes 2
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series - improves up to 8%
    • Crysis 3
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 10%
    • Grid Auto Sport
      • AMD CrossFire profile
    • Murdered Soul Suspect
      • AMD Radeon R9 290X (2560x1440, 4x MSAA, 16x AF) – improves up to 50%
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 6%
      • CrossFire configurations improve scaling up to 75%
    • Plants vs. Zombies (Direct3D performance improvements)
      • AMD Radeon R9 290X - 1920x1080 Ultra – improves up to 11%
      • AMD Radeon R9290X - 2560x1600 Ultra – improves up to 15%
      • AMD Radeon R9290X CrossFire configuration (3840x2160 Ultra) - 92% scaling
    • Batman Arkham Origins:
      • AMD Radeon R9 290X (4x MSAA) – improves up to 20%
      • CrossFire configurations see up to a 70% gain in scaling
    • Wildstar
      • Power Xpress profile Performance improvements to improve smoothness of application
      • Performance improves up to 30% on the AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series of products for both single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations
    • Tomb Raider
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series – improves up to 5%
    • Watch Dogs
      • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 9%
      • AMD CrossFire – Frame pacing improvement
      • Improved CrossFire performance – up to 20%
    • Assassin's Creed IV
      • Improves CrossFire scaling (3840x2160 High Settings) up to 93% (CrossFire scaling improvement of 25% compared to AMD Catalyst 14.4)
    • Lichdom
      • Improves performance for single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations
    • Star Craft II
      • AMD Radeon R9 290X (2560x1440, AA, 16x AF) – improves up to 20%

AMD Eyefinity enhancements

  • Mixed Resolution Support
    • A new architecture providing brand new capabilities
    • Display groups can be created with monitors of different resolution (including difference sizes and shapes)
    • Users have a choice of how surface is created over the display group
      • Fill – legacy mode, best for identical monitors
      • Fit – create the Eyefinity surface using best available rectangular area with attached displays
      • Expand – create a virtual Eyefinity surface using desktops as viewports onto the surface
    • Eyefinity Display Alignment
      • Enables control over alignment between adjacent monitors
      • One-Click Setup Driver detects layout of extended desktop
      • Can create Eyefinity display group using this layout in one click!
      • New user controls for video color and display settings
      • Greater control over Video Color Management:
        • Controls have been expanded from a single slider for controlling Boost and Hue to per color axis
        • Color depth control for Digital Flat Panels (available on supported HDMI and DP displays)
        • Allows users to select different color depths per resolution and display

AMD Mantle enhancements

  • Mantle now supports AMD Mobile products with Enduro technology
    • Battlefield 4: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1366x768; high settings) – 21% gain
    • Thief: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; high settings) – 14% gain
    • Star Swarm: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; medium settings) – 274% gain
  • Enables support for Multi-GPU configurations with Thief (requires the latest Thief update)
  • AMD AM1 JPEG decoding acceleration
    • JPEG decoding acceleration was first enabled on the A10 APU Series in AMD Catalyst 14.1 beta, and has now been extended to the AMD AM1 Platform
    • Provides fast JPEG decompression Provides Power Efficiency for JPEG decompression

Resolved Issues

  • 60Hz SST flickering has been identified as an issue with non-standard display timings exhibited by the AOC U2868PQU panel on certain AMD Radeon graphics cards. A software workaround has been implemented in the AMD Catalyst 14.9 driver to resolve the display timing issues with this display
  • Users seeing flickering issues in 60Hz SST mode are further encouraged to obtain newer display firmware from their monitor vendor that will resolve flickering at its origin.
  • Users are additionally advised to utilize DisplayPort-certified cables to ensure the integrity of the DisplayPort data connection.
  • 4K panel flickering issues found on the AMD Radeon R9 290 Series and AMD Radeon HD 7800
  • Series Screen tearing observed on AMD CrossFire systems with Eyefinity portrait display configurations
  • Instability issues for Grid Autosport when running in 2x1 or 1x2 Eyefinity configurations
  • Geometry corruption in State of Decay
Source: AMD

Need an extreme cooling fan?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 29, 2014 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: noctua, water

The colours of the Noctua Industrial PPC family of fans are familiar but these 8 fans have some serious tricks up their sleeves.  While most fans focus on the amount of air they can move and how quietly they can manage that feat these fans are also rated on how harsh the conditions can be while they can maintain full functionality.  For instance the IP67 fans will operate perfectly even when submerged in water to a depth of 1m and provide complete protection against dust if used in air.  While it is unlikely your computer will function when submerged there are builds which could take advantage of the ability to move water around.  Generally these fans are intended for use cooling systems that reside in industrial plants and other harsh conditions but it is nice to know you can pick up fans specifically designed to operate in very dusty or wet environments.  Check out the review at Modders Inc if the idea of having a ruggedized cooling system appeals to you.

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"The Noctua Industrial PPC line packaging is similarly Spartan like the new Noctua Redux line, packed without extras such as adapters, splitters and alternate mounting options but comes with a 4-piece screw mounting kit."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: Modders Inc

Gigabyte's Z97X G1 Gaming GT is a bit of a step backwards

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z97X G1 Gaming GT, z97

Calling the GIGABYTE G1 Gaming GT Z97 motherboard trimmed down is a bit of an exaggeration, all that was removed was Bluetooth, WiFi and and Creative's Sound Core3D codec.  It still features AMP-UP audio with swappable OP-AMPs, a E2200 KillerNIC, high quality caps, four PCIe 3.0 16x slots thanks to a PLEX chip as well as an impressive array of SATA and USB ports.  At $270 it will cost you a somewhat less than choosing a new Haswell-E system and the performance in most cases will be very comparable, especially if you desire high quality audio.  However not all was good once [H]ard|OCP started testing the board, while there were no insurmountable issues their overall experiences with setting up the board make this particular model difficult to recommend; read the reasons why in their full review.

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"GIGABYTE’s G1 Gaming GT looks to be a stripped version of the Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi-BK. Like other offerings in the G1 family the G1 Gaming GT is a premium part representing the pinnacle of what GIGABYTE design and innovation can and should offer. We have high expectations for the G1 Gaming GT."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Check out results of The Tech Report's hardware survey

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: survey, components

The Tech Report have compiled the data from their survey of readers machines and the data is now posted in this article.  You can see how your build compares to the major trends that they observed, from the number and type of monitors that you use to the amount of RAM you have installed.  The most interesting page covers the odd facts which were revealed such as the overwhelming predominance of ATX boards and cases that are being used despite the fact that 75% of respondents having only a single card installed in their systems.  It is also interesting to note a mere 10% of those responding use more than one GPU.  Check out the findings here.

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"Typical PC enthusiasts may spend more on their PCs than you might think—and by the looks of it, their taste for high-end hardware isn't just limited to core components. Those are two of the main takeaways from the TR Hardware Survey 2014, in which we invited readers to answer 26 questions about their PCs. Around 4,000 of you participated over a period of about a week and a half, and the results paint an enlightening picture of current trends in the hobbyist PC realm. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Intel RealSense SDK Beta Available, Camera Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 03:41 AM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, realsense, kinect, Intel

RealSense is Intel's 3D camera initiative for bringing face recognition, gesture control, speech input, and augmented reality to the PC. Its closest analogy would be Microsoft's Kinect for Windows. The technology has been presented at Intel keynotes for a while now, embodied in the "Intel Perceptual Computing SDK 2013" under its "Perceptual Computing" initiative.

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Since August 31st, that has been removed from their site and replaced with the Intel RealSense SDK. While the software is free, you will probably need compatible hardware to do anything useful. None is available yet, but the "Intel RealSense Developer Kit" hardware (not to be confused with the "Intel RealSense SDK", which is software) is available for reservation at Intel's website. The camera is manufactured by Creative Labs and will cost $99. They are also very clear that this is a developer tool, and forbid it from being used in "mission critical applications". Basically, don't trust your life on it, or the lives and health of any other(s) or anything.

The developer kit will be available for many regions: the US, Canada, much of Europe, Brazil, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Israel, and Singapore.

Source: Intel

Assassin's Creed: Rogue Might Be for the PC?

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: assassin's creed, pc gaming, ubisoft

Ubisoft's upcoming Assassin's Creed: Rogue is currently only announced for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it might see a PC release, too. This is particularly weird because Rogue is scheduled to launch, for the two aforementioned consoles, on the same day as Assassin's Creed: Unity is scheduled for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Unless they are planning a delayed PC launch, PC gamers might receive two games, in the same franchise, on the same day.

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I would have to expect that its PC release would need to be staggered though, right? I mean, how would they market two similar games at the same time? In particular, how would they market two fairly long, similar games at the same time? I mean, thanks Ubisoft, but it just seems like an unnecessary risk of market cannibalization.

About that evidence, though. PC Gamer apparently found reference to the title in the Brazillian software ratings board and the title was mentioned on one of Ubisoft's Uplay page for the PC. Those are pretty good pieces of evidence, although we need to take their word on it, which is implicitly trusting screenshots from NeoGAF. Also, PC Gamer really needs to link to the exact thread at NeoGAF because it was buried under the first several pages by the time I got there.

Assassin's Creed: Unity launches on November 11th, 2014 (not the 14th). Rogue -- maybe?

Apple A8 Die Shot Released (and Debated)

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | September 29, 2014 - 01:53 AM |
Tagged: apple, a8, a7, Imagination Technologies, PowerVR

First, Chipworks released a dieshot of the new Apple A8 SoC (stored at archive.org). It is based on the 20nm fabrication process from TSMC, which they allegedly bought the entire capacity for. From there, a bit of a debate arose regarding what each group of transistors represented. All sources claim that it is based around a dual-core CPU, but the GPU is a bit polarizing.

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Image Credit: Chipworks via Ars Technica

Most sources, including Chipworks, Ars Technica, Anandtech, and so forth believe that it is a quad-core graphics processor from Imagination Technologies. Specifically, they expect that it is the GX6450 from the PowerVR Series 6XT. This is a narrow upgrade over the G6430 found in the Apple A7 processor, which is in line with the initial benchmarks that we saw (and not in line with the 50% GPU performance increase that Apple claims). For programmability, the GX6450 is equivalent to a DirectX 10-level feature set, unless it was extended by Apple, which I doubt.

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Image Source: DailyTech

DailyTech has their own theory, suggesting that it is a GX6650 that is horizontally-aligned. From my observation, their "Cluster 2" and "Cluster 5" do not look identical at all to the other four, so I doubt their claims. I expect that they heard Apple's 50% claims, expected six GPU cores as the rumors originally indicated, and saw cores that were not there.

Which brings us back to the question of, "So what is the 50% increase in performance that Apple claims?" Unless they had a significant increase in clock rate, I still wonder if Apple is claiming that their increase in graphics performance will come from the Metal API even though it is not exclusive to new hardware.

But from everything we saw so far, it is just a handful of percent better.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Editor Video

Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2014 - 08:30 PM |
Tagged: mount & blade, taleworlds, mount & blade ii, bannerlord, pc gaming

The Mount & Blade franchise is enjoyed among a relatively small, dedicated group of fans. One leading reason for this uptake is the large base of third-party content from its modding community. One mod, Mount & Musket, led to the creation of a game studio, Flying Squirrel Entertainment, when the mod was picked up into an official expansion, Mount & Blade: Warband: Napoleonic Wars. Sometimes taxonomy can be proper but a little bit excessive.

taleworlds-mount-and-blade-ii-bannerlords-logo.jpg

Developer, TaleWorlds, builds games atop their own, proprietary engine and designs it with modders in mind. They are currently in development of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlords, a prequel to Mount & Blade: Warband. In the video, below, they explain that every feature in the video is available for third-parties. This includes painting layers of materials and foliage, generating terrain by height-maps, and tessellation.

Hopefully they also add "connect to IP"...

While the game was first announced two years ago, it is still in a "when it's done" phase. The publisher is still unknown. Paradox Interactive was attached to the first three games, and Napoleonic Wars, but are not involved with Bannerlord, according to a Reddit AMA from last year. As popular as it is, at least for what it is, TaleWorlds could even be self-publishing to digital distribution platforms like Steam, Desura, GoG, and others, but that is just speculation.

Source: TaleWorlds

EVGA Live Stream! Learn about Maxwell, X99 and Win Prizes!!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | September 28, 2014 - 12:25 AM |
Tagged: X99, video, maxwell, live, GTX 980, GTX 970, evga

UPDATE: If you missed the live stream with myself and Jacob, you can catch the entire event in the video below. You won't want to miss out on seeing the first ever GTX 980 water block as well as announcements on new Torq mice!

EVGA has been a busy company recently. It has continued to innovate with new coolers for the recent GTX 980 and GTX 970 card releases, newer power supplies offer unique features and improved quality and power output, a new line of X99 chipset motherboards including a Micro ATX variant and hey, the company even released a line of high-performance mice this year! PC Perspective has covered basically all of these releases (and will continue to do so with pending GPU and MB reviews) but there is a lot that needs explaining.

To help out, an industry and community favorite will be stopping by from EVGA to the PC Perspective offices: Jacob Freeman. You might know him as @EVGA_JacobF on Twitter or have seen him on countless forums, but he will making an in-person appearance on Friday, September 26th on PC Perspective Live! We plan on discussing the brand new ACX 2.0 cooler on the Maxwell GPUs released last week, go over some of highlights of the new X99 motherboards and even touch on power supplies and the Torq mice line as well.

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EVGA GTX 980/970, X99, PSU and Torq Live Stream featuring Jacob Freeman

3pm ET / 12pm PT - September 26th

PC Perspective Live! Page

EVGA has been a supporter of PC Perspective for a long time and we asked them to give back to our community during this live stream - and they have stepped up! Look at this prize list:

How can you participate and win these awesome pieces of hardware? Just be here at 3pm ET / 12pm PT on http://www.pcper.com/live and we'll be announcing winners as we go for those that tune in. It really couldn't be more simple!

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If you have questions you want to ask Jacob about EVGA, or any of its line of products, please leave them in the comments section below and we'll start compiling a list to address on the live stream Friday. Who knows, we may even save some prizes for some of our favorite questions!

To make sure you don't miss our live stream events, be sure you sign up for our spam-free PC Perspective Live! Mailing List. We email that group a couple hours before each event gets started.

NVIDIA Confirms It Has No Plans to Support Adaptive Sync

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 27, 2014 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, gsync, g-sync, freesync, adaptive sync

During an interview that we streamed live with NVIDIA's Tom Petersen this past Thursday, it was confirmed that NVIDIA is not currently working on, or has any current plans to, add support for the VESA-based and AMD-pushed Adaptive Sync portion of the DisplayPort 1.2a specification. To quote directly:

There is no truth [to that rumor of NVIDIA Adaptive Sync support] and we have made no official comments about Adaptive Sync. One thing I can say is that NVIDIA as a company is 100% dedicated to G-Sync. We are going to continue to invest in G-Sync and it is a way we can make the gaming experience better. We have no need for Adaptive Sync. We have no intention of [implementing it]."

Discussion of G-Sync begins at 1:27:14 in our interview.

To be clear, the Adaptive Sync part of DP 1.2a and 1.3+ are optional portions of the VESA spec that is not required for future graphics processors or even future display scalar chips. That means that upcoming graphics cards from NVIDIA could still be DisplayPort 1.3 compliant without implementing support for the Adaptive Sync feature. Based on the comments above, I fully expect that to be the case.

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The ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync monitor

With that new information, you can basically assume that the future of variable refresh monitors is going to be divided: one set for users of GeForce cards and one set for users with Radeon cards. (Where Intel falls into this is up in the air.) Clearly that isn't ideal for a completely open ecosystem but NVIDIA has made the point, over and over, that what they have developed with G-Sync is difficult and not at all as simple as could be solved with the blunt instrument that Adaptive Sync is. NVIDIA has a history of producing technologies and then keeping them in-house, focusing on development specifically for GeForce owners and fans. The dream of having a VRR monitor that will run on both vendors GPUs appears to be dead.

When asked about the possibility of seeing future monitors that can support both NVIDIA G-Sync technology as well as Adaptive Sync technology, Petersen stated that while not impossible, he "would not expect to see such a device."

The future of G-Sync is still in development. Petersen stated:

"Don't think that were done. G-Sync is not done. Think of G-Sync as the start of NVIDIA solving the problems for gamers that are related to displays...G-Sync is our first technology that makes games look better on displays. But you can start looking at displays and make a lot of things better."

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Diagram showing how G-Sync affects monitor timings

So now we await for the first round of prototype FreeSync / Adaptive Sync monitors to hit our labs. AMD has put a lot of self-inflicted pressure on itself for this release by making claims, numerous times, that FreeSync will be just as good of an experience as G-Sync, and I am eager to see if they can meet that goal. Despite any ill feelings that some users might have about NVIDIA and some of its policies, it typically does a good job of maintaining a high quality user experience with these custom technologies. AMD will have to prove that what it has developed is on the same level. We should know more about that before we get too much further into fall.

You can check out our stories and reviews covering G-Sync here:

Intel Expands x86 SoC Program to Tsinghua Unigroup

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Intel, spreadtrum, rda, Rockchip, SoC

A few months ago, Intel partnered with Rockchip to develop low-cost SoCs for Android. The companies would work together on a design that could be fabricated at TSMC. This time Intel is partnering with Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. and, unlike Rockchip, also investing in them. The deal will be up to $1.5 billion USD in exchange for a 20% share (approximately) of a division of Tsinghua.

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

Intel is hoping to use this partnership to develop mobile SoCs, for smart (and "feature") phones, tablets, and other devices, and get significant presence in the Chinese mobile market. Tsinghua acquired Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics within the last two years. The "holding group" that owns these division is apparently the part of Tsinghua which Intel is investing in, specifically.

Spreadtrum will produce SoCs based on Intel's "Intel Architecture". This sounds like they are referring to the 32-bit IA-32, which means that Spreadtrum would be developing 32-bit SoCs, but it is possible that they could be talking about Intel 64. These products are expected for 2H'15.

Source: Intel

The Evil Within System Requirements

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 27, 2014 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: rage, pc gaming, consolitis

Shinji Mikami has been developing a survival horror game, which makes sense given a good portion of his portfolio. He created Resident Evil and much of the following franchise. The Evil Within is about to release, having recently gone gold. At around this time, publishers begin to release system requirements and Bethesda does not disappoint in that regard.

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Are the requirements... RAGE-inducing?

A case could be made for disappointing requirements, themselves, though.

Basically, Bethesda did not release minimum requirements. Instead, they said "This is what we recommend. It will run on less. Hope it does!" This would not be so problematic if one of their requirements wasn't a "GeForce GTX 670 with 4GBs of VRAM".

They also recommend a quad-core Core i7, 4GB of system memory, 50GB of hard drive space, and a 64-bit OS (Windows 7 or Windows 8.x).

Before I go on, I would like to mention that The Evil Within is built on the RAGE engine. Our site has dealt extensively with that technology when it first came out in 2011. While I did not have many showstopping performance problems with that game, personally, it did have a history with texture streaming. Keep that in mind as you continue to read.

A typical GTX 670 does not even have 4GBs of VRAM. In fact, the GTX 780 Ti does not even have 4GB of VRAM. Thankfully, both of the newly released Maxwell GPUs, the GTX 970 and the GTX 980, have at least 4GB of RAM. Basically, Bethesda is saying, "I really hope you bought the custom model from your AIB vendor". They literally say:

Note: We do not have a list of minimum requirements for the game. If you’re trying to play with a rig with settings below these requirements (you should plan to have 4 GBs of VRAM regardless), we cannot guarantee optimal performance.

Each time I read, "You should plan to have 4 GBs of VRAM regardless", it is more difficult for me to make an opinion about it. That is a lot of memory. Personally, I would wait for reviews and benchmarks, specifically for the PC, before purchasing the title. These recommended settings could be fairly loose, to suit the vision of the game developers, or the game could be a revival of RAGE, this time without the engine's original architect on staff.

The Evil Within launches on October 14th.

Source: Bethesda