Is the flash drive going to be layer of landfill just above the optical media sediment?

Subject: Storage | June 24, 2014 - 07:43 PM |
Tagged: usb, flash drive, obsolete

A high capacity USB flash drive used to be the definition of great swag, a company could put whatever tools, media or programs on a promotional USB drive but what really counted was the size.  As 128GB and larger drives started to become more common and more reasonably priced may got in the habit of dumping all their optical media to be replaced by a handful of flash drives, some bootable and some not.  Take the Patriot SuperSonic Rage XT 128GB up for review at NikTech, for $80 you get 128GB of storage that can hit 200MB/s random or linear reads and is rather durable.  There is nothing wrong with the drive until you realize you can pick up a 128GB Crucial MX100 and an eSATA cable for the same price or double your storage for an extra $30.  Those SSDs are roughly twice as fast and every bit as rugged, so why pick up that flash drive in the first place?

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"Storage capacity needs increase on a daily basis and with them so does demand and thus in the end those two result in more competition between companies and lower prices (at least most of the time). Think about it, just two years ago i was running around carrying an 16GB USB flash drive with my keychain while now i have attached a permanent 32GB one which i sometimes replace with an 128GB one if i need to carry way too much data with me."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: NikkTech

AMD Catalyst 14.6 RC is now available

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 24, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: amd, beta, Catalyst 14.6 RC

Starting with AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta, AMD will no longer support Windows 8.0 (and the WDDM 1.2 driver) so Windows 8.0 users should upgrade to Windows 8.1, AMD Catalyst 14.4 will continue to work on Windows 8.0.

The WDDM 1.1 Windows 7 driver currently works on Win 7 and in a future release will be used to install updated drivers under Windows 8.0.

Features of the lastest Catalyst include:

  • 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
  • 3DMark Sky Diver improvements:
    • AMD A4 6300 – improves up to 4%
    • Enables AMD Dual Graphics / AMD CrossFire support
  • Grid Auto Sport: AMD CrossFire profile
  • Wildstar:
    • Power Xpress profile
    • Performance improvements to improve smoothness of application
  • Watch Dogs: AMD CrossFire – Frame pacing improvements
  • Battlefield Hardline Beta: AMD CrossFire profile

Get the driver and more information right here.

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Source: AMD

Corsair Force Series LX SSDs Now Available in 512GB Capacity

Subject: Storage | June 24, 2014 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: corsair, Corsair Force Series, 512GB, ssd

They are not quite available yet but Corsair have just added a 512GB model to accompany the $80 128GB and $130 256GB Force Series LX SSDs.  You should expect to see the new larger model at it's MSRP of $260 in the very near future.

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FREMONT, California —June 24, 2014 — Corsair®, a worldwide designer of high-perform­­­­­­ance components to the PC hardware market, today announced the addition of a 512GB model to the recently announced Force Series LX line of solid-state drives (SSD). The new Force Series LX 512GB SSD brings the amazing performance benefits of high-capacity SSDs to a lower price point.

The faster performance and silent operation of solid-state drives have long attracted PC enthusiasts, but high prices may have put off some users from making the switch to this faster storage technology. In response to this, Corsair is bringing these SSD advantages to more budget-friendly price points. The Force Series LX are available in three capacities and price points—128GB for $79.99, 256GB for $129.99, and the 512GB at $259.99.

Powered by a Silicon Motion SSD controller, the Force Series LX SSDs offer fantastic performance up to 10 times faster than that of a conventional spinning-disk hard drive. The 512GB model and its SATA 3 interface delivers file transfer speeds of up to 560MB/sec read and 450MB/sec write which can deliver massive improvements in system performance. Operating system start-up and application load times accelerate to mere seconds, anti-virus scans complete far faster, and navigating your PC’s files feels much more responsive thanks to near-instant access times.

A slim-line 7mm aluminum housing makes it easy to install the Force LX into almost every desktop or notebook PC with a 2.5 inch drive bay – an ideal upgrade to breathe new life into an notebook, ultrabook or PC in need of a boost. Corsair’s bundled SSD Toolbox software utility is also included as a free download, allowing you to easily optimize your SSD’s performance, clone your existing hard drive, or securely erase all data on a drive. TRIM, NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. technologies automatically maintain drive performance for years to come, and Corsair tops off the package with a 3 year warranty and legendary customer service for total peace of mind.

Source: Corsair

Seiki Announces 28-in, 32-in and 40-in 4K Ultra HD Monitors with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.3

Subject: Displays | June 24, 2014 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged: UHD, seiki, 4k, 40U4SEP-G02, 3840x2160, 32U4SEP-G02, 28U4SEP-G02

An interesting press release found its way into my inbox just now that announces a new competitor to the world of 4K monitors. Seiki, made famous recently for its line of incredibly low cost 4K TVs that really started the 4K trend for consumers and PC gamers, is building a set of three professional series 4K monitors for release early next year with some damned impressive specifications.

Though you can find the 50-in Seiki SE50UY04 for just $799 on Amazon and the 39-in SE39UY04 for only $469, these are televisions with somewhat limited 30 Hz refresh rates. The new products that Seiki is showing for the first time at CE Week Exhibits and Conferences in New York City do not have any of these limitations though and instead boast one of the most complete list of specifications I have seen on a monitor.

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Seiki SE39UY04 4K Television

Seiki will introduce three different sizes including a 28-in (28U4SEP-G02), 32-in (32U4SEP-G02) and 40-in (40U4SEP-G02) offering with the following specs:

  • Vertical Alignment (VA) LED panel technology with 3,840 by 2,160 4K Ultra HD
    resolution
  • 12-bit color processing and 14-bit gamma mode
  • HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.3, MHL 3.0, DVI and VGA standards display connections
  • Picture-by-picture (x4) and daisy chain mode
  • USB 3.0 hub (1 upstream and 2 downstream)
  • VESA-compliant adjustable monitor stand with quick release

I am still waiting for confirmation on the panel type quality (more like TN or more like IPS, etc.) but the list of specifications here offers a glimpse of what to expect. (Vetical Aligned panels should be pretty damned good.) 12-bit color and 14-bit gamma indicate that this display will be built for the professional and creative designer at heart. Support for upcoming standards like HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.3 should tell you that the monitors won't be shipping for a while (Q1 2015 I'm told) but when you have them they will be able to push 4K at 60 Hz without issue.

Seiki_Pro_Monitor_Logo.jpg

The quad PiP mode could be really cool if it works as I suspect - four different HDMI inputs allow for four unique unscaled images on the panel at the same time. This could be great for multi-display uses where consumers can utilize a set of four 20-in (effective) 1080p panels without a bezel. We are already drooling over the possibilities of that here for our test setups...

So while I am excited about the prospect of these monitors, we don't yet know the pricing. If these are high quality IPS displays you can expect them to be quite expensive. But Seiki is known for building great displays at a low cost, so perhaps the company will be able to do so once again and surprise us all in time for CES next year.

You can find the full press release by looking after the news break!

Would you trade your Macbook for a Surface 3 for $650?

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft, MacBook Air

In it's latest attempt to not look desperate when offering the latest Surface for sale Microsoft will offer up to $650 off a Surface 3 if you trade in your Macbook Air.  The top end model of Surface 3 will have a Intel Core i7 processor and 512GB internal storage and cost you around $1950.  There are less expensive models available though it is possible that will reduce the amount of money you receive for the Macbook Air that you trade in.  Also according to The Inquirer this is not an online deal, you must be able to show up at a Microsoft Store in person to claim the trade in.   Will this be enough to help drive sales of Microsoft's hardware or will this incarnation of the Surface or shall it languish on store shelves like the previous generations?

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"Yes, you read that right. Microsoft has launched a trade-in programme at its US stores, where it offers customers up to $650 for their Macbook Air, which can be put towards a Surface Pro 3."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

In memory of Kernal_Tom

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2014 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: in memorium, fragging frogs

It was a sad day for the Fragging Frogs last Monday (6/16/14) when we lost one of our own, Kernal_Tom, known in the forums as tlemaste. He passed away due to complications from surgery to address his ongoing health issues.  He joined the PC Perspective Forums and the Fragging Frogs over 12 years ago after running into Lenny at his day job.  They became fast friends immediately and Kernal_Tom's great personality and positive attitude ensured he quickly became good friends with all the regular Fragging Frogs as well ... indeed he didn't give you much choice as he was one of the most frequent participants in Teamspeak and gaming nights.

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Anyone who knew him and has not yet done so can leave their remembrances and well wishes for Kernal_Tom's wife in this thread in the Forums.  This loss has hit many of us and sharing your memories can be helpful and is very appreciated.  Anyone who wishes to help out his wife please donate to this fundraiser which Lenny has kindly started on YouCaring.  Carol is also unfortunately in a battle to maintain her health and anything you can afford would help her greatly in this next stage of her life. 

Show how much you miss Kernal_Tom and remember him the way he would want you to... by showing up at least once a week to game with a Fragging Frog!

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Modular 'flat pack' PSUs from Cooler Master

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 23, 2014 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: PSU, cooler master, Cooler Master V Series, 80 Plus Platinum, 80 Plus Gold, modular psu, 850W, kilowatt, 1200w

The three stars of the Cooler Master V Series, the 850W, 1000W and 1200W are up for review at Legion Hardware.  All three have a 135 mm fan for cooling and feature a single +12VDC rail though the amperage differs, 70A, 83A and 100A for the three respectively.  The two lower powered PSUs feature a 5 year warranty and are rated 80 Plus Gold while the 1200W carries a Platinum rating and a 7 year warranty.  The modular cabling is worth mentioning, it is flat which will allow you to have very clean cabling in your machine and may tip the scales towards this series if you like to keep your case clean looking. 

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"Finally, we have been very pleased with the Cooler Master V series, and believe that they would make a fine addition to any high-end gaming system. Enthusiasts will be able to invest their hard earned cash in a V Series power supply knowing it is backed by a full 5-year Cooler Master warranty, while the V1200 Platinum offers an industry leading 7 year warranty."

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

CASES & COOLING

The renewed FX-9590, still up to 5GHz

Subject: Processors | June 23, 2014 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: amd, fx 9590, vishera

Hardware Canucks have just let out AMD's secret on a new take on a Vishera processor, the FX-9590 which will come with a Cooler Master Seidon 120 AIO LCS which will add $40 to the original $320 price tag.  The base clock of the 8 CPUs will still be 4.7GHz, 5GHz boost buit with the TDP of 219W the watercooler should allow the boost clock to be maintained longer.  If you ever planned on overclocking the FX-9590 but never picked it up because of the challenge of cooling it, then here is your chance.

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"It all started with a tweet. AMD teased an unnamed new FX-series chip on Twitter and we've got the inside track. It's a refreshed 5GHz FX-9590 with an included water cooling unit."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Some good news on competition for a change; SSDs may be getting cheaper

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2014 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: ssd, kingston, Samsung, Intel, sandisk, rumour

If the information provided to DigiTimes is correct we may be in for a price war between SSD manufacturers.  We have seen price drops in flash memory, especially with the advent of TLC and asynchronous flash which have been heartily approved by most enthusiasts.  However there is a chance that in the coming months competition will start driving prices of SSDs down but may have the opposite impact on other products.  Micron is planning on reducing the amount of memory it sells to other companies in order to ramp up its stock of SSDs and SanDisk has jumped into the market with both feet.  You can also expect to see all the major manufacturers start putting out more M.2 drives as adoption of Intel's Z97 board grows.

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"The SSD industry is heading for fierce price competition as major suppliers, including Micron Technology, Intel, Kingston Technology, SanDisk and Samsung Electronics, are gearing up efforts to outperform others, according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Qualcomm Focuses on Android Gaming, Snapdragon Benefits to Gamers, Developers

Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 23, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, gaming, Android, adreno

Today Qualcomm has published a 22-page white paper that keys in on the company's focus around Android gaming and the benefits that Qualcomm SoCs offer. As the dominant SoC vendor in the Android ecosystem of smartphones, tablets and handhelds (shipping more than 32% in Q2 of 2013) QC is able to offer a unique combination of solutions to both developers and gamers that push Android gaming into higher fidelity with more robust game play.

According to the white paper, Android gaming is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market with a 30% compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2015, as projected by Gartner. Experiences for mobile games have drastically improved since Android was released in 2008 with developers like Epic Games and the Unreal Engine pushing visuals to near-console and near-PC qualities. 

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Qualcomm is taking a heterogeneous approach to address the requirements of gaming that include AI execution, physics simulation, animation, low latency input and high speed network connectivity in addition to high quality graphics and 3D rendering. Though not directly a part of the HSA standards still in development, the many specialized engines that Qualcomm has developed for its Snapdragon SoC processors including traditional CPUs, GPUs, DSPs, security and connectivity allow the company to create a solution that is built for Android gaming dominance.

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In the white paper Qualcomm dives into the advantages that the Krait CPU architecture offers for CPU-based tasks as well as the power of the Adreno 4x series of GPUs that offer both raw performance and the flexibility to support current and future gaming APIs. All of this is done with single-digit wattage draw and a passive, fanless design and points to the huge undertaking that mobile gaming requires from an engineering and implementation perspective.

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For developers, the ability to target Snapdragon architectures with a single code path that can address a scalable product stack allows for the least amount of development time and the most return on investment possible. Qualcomm continues to support the development community with tools and assistance to bring out the peak performance of Krait and Adreno to get games running on lower power parts as well as the latest and upcoming generations of SoCs in flagship devices.

It is great to see Qualcomm focus on this aspect of the mobile market and the challenges presented by it require strong dedication from these engineering teams. Being able to create compelling gaming experiences with high quality imagery while maintaining the required power envelope is a task that many other company's have struggled with. 

Check out the new landing page over at Qualcomm if you are interested in more technical information as well as direct access to the white paper detailing the work Qualcomm is putting into its Snapdragon line of SoC for gamers.

Source: Qualcomm

Gaming Evolves, a new and improved Raptr App is here

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2014 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: raptr, gaming evolved, Game DVR, amd

AMD's Gaming Evolved app powered by Raptr has just undergone some changes that focus on those who like to show off their gaming skills and tricks with others.  Updates to their H.264 support now allow you to stream your gaming to Twich with no impact on your performance.  They've also added Game DVR which automatically records the past 10 minutes of your game play, guaranteeing you can save your best moments even if you forgot to start the recording manually. 

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The interface has also undergone an overhaul to make it even easier to use the auto-configuration features in the Gaming Evolved app to optimize your games graphical settings to ensure you get the best looking game your AMD hardware can give you without compromising your performance.  Currently there is a list of 204 supported games and the list is growing constantly.  They still make it easy to install and play Free To Play games such as World of Tanks and there is currently a sale on in the Rewards section where you can spend your accumulated RPs on top games.  Since you get 500 points simply for signing up and they stack up while you play games it is a great way to get your hands on new games without spending a dime!

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Source: Raptr

It is slim but not that quiet; BeQuiet's Shadow Rock Slim

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 20, 2014 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: bequiet!, Shadow Rock Slim, air cooling

For those who's cases are small and CPU sockets are crowded the enormous dual fan 1kg heatsinks you commonly see are not an option.  BeQuiet has a smaller cooler called the Shadow Rock Slim which is a much better choice.  As the name implies it is quite slim and so should not interfere with your RAM's heatspreaders and the 159mm (6.25") height means it can fit in a wide range of cases.  Even with it's small size the tests that FrostyTech performed show it performs quite well at stock fan speeds, though they do not recommend running it a lower speeds on hot processors as the performance simply changes too much.

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"BeQuiet's Shadow Rock Slim heatsink stands 159mm tall and has a footprint of 130x74mm so it will fit most motherboards where space between the memory slots and videocard is on the tight side. The Shadow Rock Slim heatsink weighs 730 grams and is constructed around four 6mm diameter copper heatpipes onto which are swaged raw aluminum cooling fins."

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: FrostyTech

Origin wants to know if you will love them now

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2014 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: origin, titanfall, free

[H]ard|OCP spotted a brand new feature on Origin called Game Time, which allows you to play a full version of a game for a limited time.  They are launching this feature with 48 hours of Titanfall, if you plan on playing make sure to clean up your drive as it is almost 50GB.  The clock starts to tick from the moment you first launch the game; from that point you have 2 days of access whether you play or not.  This is perhaps a little better than Steam free weekends for those with slow connections as your download time doesn't count against you.  Hop on for some Titan on Pilot action this weekend as The Fragging Frogs are likely to take advantage of this

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"It’s Game Time! This is a brand new program on Origin: it’s free time with full games. Origin Game Time isn’t a demo, it’s the full game playable for free for as long as there’s time on your Game Time clock. And we’re kicking off Origin Game Time with a truly massive experience: Titanfall on PC."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

SilverStone Announces the Raven RV05 Case - The Dark Knight Returns

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 19, 2014 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: Silverstone, raven rv05, raven, enclosure, cases, atx case

SilverStone’s Raven series, what I would describe as the “Batmobile” of PC enclosures, has graduated from the Tim Burton-like approach of the RV01, to a little more of a Chris Nolan-reboot feel with its fifth incarnation. Announced today, the RV05 is a sharply angled matte black design sure to strike fear in the hearts of villains everywhere.

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In the same move SilverStone is making with the upcoming Fortress series revision, the new Raven eliminates the 5.25" bays from the prior iterations and the result is a much smaller size overall.

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Still utilizing the trademark inverted layout of the series, the RV05 includes two of their 180mm "Air Penetrator" fans at the bottom of the case to force warm air upwards and across components. The case also offers support for various watercooling radiators along the bottom in place of the included 180mm fans (up to 120mm x3 or 140mm x2), and 120mm support on the top.

The case retains the full ATX form factor with the new smaller footprint, which is listed as 242mm W x 529mm H x 498mm D - or 9.52” x 20.83” x 19.60” if you aren’t on the metric system.

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The SilverStone Raven RV05 will be available next month and will be offered in two versions, the SST-RV05B (black) and SST-RV05B-W (black + window).

Source: SilverStone

Gigabyte's torture tested Black Edition Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK

Subject: Motherboards | June 19, 2014 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK, z97, Ultra Durable BLACK EDITION, lga 1150, gigabyte

The Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK is serious about PCIe slots, the four 16x slots can all run simultaneously at 8x speeds which is fairly rare for a Z97 board and is due to the presence of a PLX PEX8747 chip.  Gigabyte also provided some serious onboard audio with an OP-AMP socket to go with their EMI shielded Sound Core3D chip and a pair of low noise "DAC-UP" USB ports for high end headphones.  [H]ard|OCP's review also brings up two points about this board, the aesthetic similarities to the ASUS ROG boards and the 168 hour/7 day stress test done to every single Black Edition board before it is packaged and sold.  If you are in the market for a $380 motherboard then this review is a must read.

We are kind enough here to assume you have already memorized Morry's review.

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"GIGABYTE has come to market with a great execution of concept that is shrouded by me-too branding. The Ultra Durable BLACK EDITION motherboards are tested to work before you purchase, and not only that, these motherboards are load tested to work for a full week before you ever open the box."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Now on Amazon: 1TB Samsung 840 EVO SSD for $399, ASUS PB287Q 4K for $649

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Storage | June 19, 2014 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, 840 evo, 1TB, amazon, pb287q, asus, 4k

A couple of really nice Amazon picks hit my email box today and I thought they were worth posting for our readers as well.

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1TB Samsung 840 EVO for $399

First, and clearly the most exciting: the 1TB version of the Samsung 840 EVO SSD is now selling for just $399. That comes in at $0.399/GB, which is actually better than the cost per GB of the Crucial MX100 that launched this month. If you haven't picked up an SSD that is big enough to hold all your games, this is the perfect opportunity!

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ASUS PB287Q 4K 28-in monitor for $649

Also, after our review went up at the end of May, the 4K ASUS PB287Q 28-in monitor is finally up for sale on Amazon for $649 with a shipping date of July 1st. If you think you might be interested in the universe of gaming at 4K, now is a great time to jump in.

Thanks for supporting PC Perspective!

Podcast #305 with Guest David Hewlett - Richard Huddy Interview, Seagate 4TB SSHD, SSD Endurance and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 19, 2014 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: watch dogs, video, steamboy, sshd, richard huddy, podcast, openworks, game works, g1 sniper a88x, fusion io, David Hewlett, amd, 4TB

PC Perspective Podcast #305 - 06/19/2014

Special guest David Hewlett joins us this week to discuss our interview with AMD's Richard Huddy, the Seagate 4TB SSHD, SSD Endurance 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Maleventano and David Hewlett

Program length: 1:31:16

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

 

You got your FPGA in my Xeon!

Subject: General Tech | June 19, 2014 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Intel, FPGA

Intel has just revealed what The Register is aptly referring to as the FrankenChip, a hybrid Xeon E5 and FPGA chip.  This will allow large companies to access the power of a Xeon and be able to offload some work onto an FPGA they can program and optimize themselves.  The low power FPGA is actually on the chip, as opposed to Microsoft's recent implementation which saw FPGA's added to PCIe slots.  Intel's solution does not use up a slot and also offers direct access to the Xeon cache hierarchy and system memory via QPI which will allow for increased performance.  Another low power shot has been fired at ARM's attempts to grow their share of the server market but we shall see if the inherent complexity of programming an FPGA to work with an x86 is more or less attractive than switching to ARM.

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"Intel has expanded its chip customization business to help it take on the hazy threat posed by some of the world's biggest clouds adopting low-power ARM processors."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

AMD Planning Open Source GameWorks Competitor, Mantle for Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 19, 2014 - 10:35 AM |
Tagged: video, richard huddy, radeon, openworks, Mantle, freesync, amd

On Tuesday, AMD's newly minted Gaming Scientist, Richard Huddy, stopped by the PC Perspective office to talk about the current state of the company's graphics division. The entire video of the interview is embedded below but several of the points that are made are quite interesting and newsworthy. During the discussion we hear about Mantle on Linux, a timeline for Mantle being opened publicly as well as a surprising new idea for a competitor to NVIDIA's GameWorks program.

Richard is new to the company but not new to the industry, starting with 3DLabs many years ago and taking jobs at NVIDIA, ATI, Intel and now returning to AMD. The role of Gaming Scientist is to directly interface with the software developers for gaming and make sure that the GPU hardware designers are working hand in hand with future, high end graphics technology. In essence, Huddy's job is to make sure AMD continues to innovate on the hardware side to facilitate innovation on the software side.

AMD Planning an "OpenWorks" Program

(33:00) After the volume of discussion surrounding the NVIDIA GameWorks program and its potential to harm the gaming ecosystem by not providing source code in an open manner, Huddy believes that the answer to problem is to simply have NVIDIA release the SDK with source code publicly. Whether or not NVIDIA takes that advice has yet to be seen, but if they don't, it appears that AMD is going down the road of creating its own competing solution that is open and flexible.

The idea of OpenFX or OpenWorks as Huddy refers to it is to create an open source repository for gaming code and effects examples that can be updated, modified and improved upon by anyone in the industry. AMD would be willing to start the initiative by donating its entire SDK to the platform and then invite other software developers, as well as other hardware developers, to add or change to the collection. The idea is to create a competitor to what GameWorks accomplishes but in a license free and open way.

gameworks.jpg

NVIDIA GameWorks has been successful; can AMD OpenWorks derail it?

Essentially the "OpenWorks" repository would work in a similar way to a Linux group where the public has access to the code to submit changes that can be implemented by anyone else. Someone would be able to improve the performance for specific hardware easily but if performance was degraded on any other hardware then it could be easily changed and updated. Huddy believes this is how you move the industry forward and how you ensure that the gamer is getting the best overall experience regardless of the specific platform they are using.

"OpenWorks" is still in the planning stages and AMD is only officially "talking about it" internally. However, bringing Huddy back to AMD wasn't done without some direction already in mind and it would not surprise me at all if this was essentially a done deal. Huddy believes that other hardware companies like Qualcomm and Intel would participate in such an open system but the real question is whether or not NVIDIA, as the discrete GPU market share leader, would be in any way willing to do as well.

Still, this initiative continues to show the differences between the NVIDIA and AMD style of doing things. NVIDIA prefers a more closed system that it has full control over to perfect the experience, to hit aggressive timelines and to improve the ecosystem as they see it. AMD wants to provide an open system that everyone can participate in and benefit from but often is held back by the inconsistent speed of the community and partners. 

Mantle to be Opened by end of 2014, Potentially Coming to Linux

(7:40) The AMD Mantle API has been an industry changing product, I don't think anyone can deny that. Even if you don't own AMD hardware or don't play any of the games currently shipping with Mantle support, the re-focusing on a higher efficiency API has impacted NVIDIA's direction with DX11, Microsoft's plans for DX12 and perhaps even Apple's direction with Metal. But for a company that pushes the idea of open standards so heavily, AMD has yet to offer up Mantle source code in a similar fashion to its standard SDK. As it stands right now, Mantle is only given to a group of software developers in the beta program and is specifically tuned for AMD's GCN graphics hardware.

mantlepic.jpg

Huddy reiterated that AMD has made a commitment to release a public SDK for Mantle by the end of 2014 which would allow any other hardware vendor to create a driver that could run Mantle game titles. If AMD lives up to its word and releases the full source code for it, then in theory, NVIDIA could offer support for Mantle games on GeForce hardware, Intel could offer support those same games on Intel HD graphics. There will be no license fees, no restrictions at all.

The obvious question is whether or not any other IHV would choose to do so. Both because of competitive reasons and with the proximity of DX12's release in late 2015. Huddy agrees with me that the pride of these other hardware vendors may prevent them from considering Mantle adoption though the argument can be made that the work required to implement it properly might not be worth the effort with DX12 (and its very similar feature set) around the corner.

(51:45) When asked about AMD input on SteamOS and its commitment to the gamers that see that as the future, Huddy mentioned that AMD was considering, but not promising, bringing the Mantle API to Linux. If the opportunity exists, says Huddy, to give the gamer a better experience on that platform with the help of Mantle, and developers ask for the support for AMD, then AMD will at the very least "listen to that." It would incredibly interesting to see a competitor API in the landscape of Linux where OpenGL is essentially the only game in town. 

AMD FreeSync / Adaptive Sync Benefits

(59:15) Huddy discussed the differences, as he sees it, between NVIDIA's G-Sync technology and the AMD option called FreeSync but now officially called Adaptive Sync as part of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. Beside the obvious difference of added hardware and licensing costs, Adaptive Sync is apparently going to be easier to implement as the maximum and minimum frequencies are actually negotiated by the display and the graphics card when the monitor is plugged in. G-Sync requires a white list in the NVIDIA driver to work today and as long as NVIDIA keeps that list updated, the impact on gamers buying panels should be minimal. But with DP 1.2a and properly implemented Adaptive Sync monitors, once a driver supports the negotiation it doesn't require knowledge about the specific model beforehand.

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AMD demos FreeSync at Computex 2014

According to Huddy, the new Adaptive Sync specification will go up to as high as 240 Hz and as low as 9 Hz; these are specifics that before today weren't known. Of course, not every panel (and maybe no panel) will support that extreme of a range for variable frame rate technology, but this leaves a lot of potential for improved panel development in the years to come. More likely you'll see Adaptive Sync ready display listing a range closer to 30-60 Hz or 30-80 Hz initially. 

Prototypes of FreeSync monitors will be going out to some media in the September or October time frame, while public availability will likely occur in the January or February window. 

How does AMD pick game titles for the Never Settle program?

(1:14:00) Huddy describes the fashion in which games are vetted for inclusion in the AMD Never Settle program. The company looks for games that have a good history of course, but also ones that exemplify the use of AMD hardware. Games that benchmark well and have reproducible results that can be reported by AMD and the media are also preferred. Inclusion of an integrated benchmark mode in the game is also a plus as it more likely gets review media interested in including that game in their test suite and also allows the public to run their own tests to compare results. 

Another interesting note was the games that are included in bundles often are picked based on restrictions in certain countries. Germany, for example, has very strict guidelines for violence in games and thus add-in card partners would much prefer a well known racing game than an ultra-bloody first person shooter. 

Closing Thoughts

First and foremost, a huge thanks to Richard Huddy for making time to stop by the offices and talk with us. And especially for allowing us to live stream it to our fans and readers. I have had the privilege to have access to some of the most interesting minds in the industry, but they are very rarely open to having our talks broadcast to the world without editing and without a precompiled list of questions. For allowing it, both AMD and Mr. Huddy have gained some respect! 

There is plenty more discussed in the interview including AMD's push to a non-PC based revenue split, whether DX12 will undermine the use of the Mantle API, and how code like TressFX compares to NVIDIA GameWorks. If you haven't watched it yet I think you'll find the full 90 minutes to be quite informative and worth your time.

UPDATE: I know that some of our readers, and some contacts and NVIDIA, took note of Huddy's comments about TressFX from our interview. Essentially, NVIDIA denied that TressFX was actually made available before the release of Tomb Raider. When I asked AMD for clarification, Richard Huddy provided me with the following statement.

I would like to take the opportunity to correct a false impression that I inadvertently created during the interview.

Contrary to what I said, it turns out that TressFX was first published in AMD's SDK _after_ the release of Tomb Raider.

Nonetheless the full source code to TressFX was available to the developer throughout, and we also know that the game was available to NVIDIA several weeks ahead of the actual release for NVIDIA to address the bugs in their driver and to optimize for TressFX.

Again, I apologize for the mistake.

That definitely paints a little bit of a different picture on around the release of TressFX with the rebooted Tomb Raider title. NVIDIA's complaint that "AMD was doing the same thing" holds a bit more weight. Since Richard Huddy was not with AMD at the time of this arrangement I can see how he would mix up the specifics, even after getting briefed by other staff members.

END UPDATE

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Sound like a pro with Blue Microphones' Spark Digital Lightning

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2014 - 05:45 PM |
Tagged: audio, blue microphones, spark digital lightning, microphone

The Spark Digital Lightning condenser microphone contains its own DAC which means that all the signal processing is done before the audio is sent to the device which you are recording to or broadcasting from.  That saves processor cycles on a PC but also means you can use this with a phone and other mobile devices and still produce audio of a decent quality.  It comes with a shock mount and your choice of either USB and Lightning cords or USB and the old style 30-pin Apple connector.  You can control volume, gain and mute directly on the mic as well as switch on a Focus option which alters the bias voltage of the condenser capsule similar to a low frequency filter.  Check out Benchmark Reviews full look at this ~$200 microphone that can almost compete with studio mics bearing a much higher price tag.

Blue_Microphones_Spark_Digital_Lightning_USB_Microphone_Left_Fr_34_01.jpg

"The Spark Digital from Blue Microphones is an all-in-one solution for high quality digital audio production. All the signal processing is done inside the body of the microphone, and the interface to your computer is through one of several available serial connections. The Spark Digital supports USB 1.1/2.0, the relatively new Lightning connection, or the older Apple 30-pin interface, through the use of separate cables for each connection type."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner