GDC 15: Imagination Technologies Shows Vulkan Driver

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 7, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, PowerVR, Khronos, Imagination Technologies, gdc 15, GDC

Possibly the most important feature of upcoming graphics APIs, albeit the least interesting for enthusiasts, is how much easier driver development will become. So many decisions and tasks that once laid on the shoulders of AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and the rest will now be given to game developers or made obsolete. Of course, you might think that game developers would oppose this burden, but (from what I understand) it is a weight they already bear, just when dealing with the symptoms instead of the root problem.

imaginationtech-powervr-vulkan.jpg

This also helps other hardware vendors become competitive. Imagination Technologies is definitely not new to the field. Their graphics powers the PlayStation Vita, many earlier Intel graphics processors, and the last couple of iPhones. Despite how abrupt the API came about, they have a proof of concept driver that was present at GDC. The unfinished driver was running an OpenGL ES 3.0 demo that was converted to the Vulkan API.

A screenshot of the CPU usage was also provided, which is admittedly heavily cropped and hard to read. The one on the left claims 1.2% CPU load, with a fairly flat curve, while the one on the right claims 5% and seems to waggle more. Granted, the wobble could be partially explained by differences in the time they chose to profile.

According to Tom's Hardware, source code will be released “in the near future”.

Windows 10 (Enterprise) Build 10031 Sighted

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

WinBeta found a new screenshot of an internal Windows 10 build. They originated from the same group, Wzor, that leaked almost every other image from unreleased Windows 10 builds. The only real feature that is shown is a translucent start menu. To make the transition a little less jarring, you are able to partially see the content behind it.

microsoft-windows10-10031.jpg

Image Credit: WinBeta and Wzor.

This feature should be especially useful for the full-screen start menu, so that it looks like an overlay, rather than: “Your computer is doing something totally different now!” You can still see, if only a little bit, what you were doing. It should feel a lot more like the Steam Overlay rather than a full context switch.

The build is also not labeled Microsoft Confidential, so it might be on the branch that is designed for public release. We are due for a new build, so it should only be a matter of days before consumer previewers, and apparently enterprise ones too, get pushed forward... ... after about five-or-so reboots.

Source: WinBeta

Maybe GDC 15? Third-Party Unreal Engine 4 Forest Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, gdc 15, GDC

I am not quite sure if the Game Developers Conference led to this video being released, or if it was just a coincidence. This is the sole work of Alexander Dracott, a visual effects, lighting, and shader artist who has been employed at Sucker Punch and Sony Online Entertainment. He works for a studio in Bellevue, Washington, USA doing VR demos, which sounds like Valve but is probably someone else entirely.

Unreal 4 Lighting Study: Forest Day from Alexander Dracott on Vimeo.

Basically, it is a forest scene that is rendered in Unreal Engine 4. It is convincing, despite a little macroblocking from Vimeo compression (or its source). Even the falling leaves cast appropriate shadows. Granted, he never mentions his computer's specifications, which could make a difference in how many features he could get away with enabling. Either way, the art would even be amazing in a non-realtime scene, let alone Unreal Engine 4.

ue4-thirdparty-forest-autumn.jpg

A couple of days later, he posted pictures of the same scene in an autumn time frame (same link). I guess that I should keep coming back to this thread, just in case it gets a Winter update or something. Awesome work!

Source: Polycount

GDC 15: Microsoft Announces Wireless Xbox Dongle for PC. Controller Refresh Rumored for E3?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, gdc 15, GDC, controller

During his keynote speech, Phil Spencer of Microsoft announced a wireless adapter for PC. It can apparently be used to connect any wireless Xbox One peripheral on Windows 10. If you watch the presentation, the statement occurred at about 36 minutes and 30 seconds in. It was just a brief acknowledgement of its existence this year.

Microsoft-Xbox_360_Wireless_Receiver.png

This is the Xbox 360 wireless accessory adapter. Image Credit: Wikipedia
Hopefully the new one will be a stick that pairs via software (vs. the cord and button).

A similar device existed for the Xbox 360, pictured above, and I used it heavily with controller-friendly games (until the adapter died abruptly). I was not a fan of the directional pad, of course, but the rest of the controller suited the games that I play without a mouse and keyboard. I also used the adapter with the Xbox 360 wireless headset, which was surprisingly good (especially at removing speaker noise).

On the same day, Neowin acquired a leak that claims the company is looking to create a new Xbox One controller. They expect that, if the project doesn't get killed internally, we will see the new controller at E3 2015 in June. The design is supposed to focus on first person shooters and driving titles, but nothing else is known about it. We'll see.

Novachips is teasing us with two 8TB SSDs

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: novachips, ring, ssd

Novachips is giving out some details of a series of large SSDs they are planning to release in April; 2TB, 4TB and 8TB models will use point-to-point ring connections as opposed to the usual parallel arrangements.  The speeds are impressive, 360,000 random read/write 4k IOPS
and sequential reads and writes topping out at 1.8GB/sec as is the expected lifespan of the drives which they rate at 10 full drive writes a day for five years.  Unfortunately the one stat which was not provided to The Register was the pricing, with these sizes and the new flash arrangement you can expect they will carry a hefty price tag.

ns5700.jpg

"Fancy an 8TB SSD? Put one in a PC or notebook and you've got yourself a smoking hot system, fast and with a gaping capacity for data."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

GDC 15: Valve's $49.99 Steam Controller Coming In November

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 01:54 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, peripheral, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, controller

Valve has given the elusive (vaporous? heh, I'll leave the good puns to Scott) Steam Controller a release date and several refinements to the design. Slated for a November 2015 launch, the Steam Controller will ship with most of the Steam Machines offered by OEMs. Users will also be able to purchase controllers directly from Valve (via Steam) for $49.99.

Valve Steam Controller.jpg

The final controller features a curved design with lots of rounded edges (no sharp angles here), large handles and dual circular programmable trackpads. The four button d-pad has been replaced by an analog stick while the four A, B, X, and Y buttons sit where a second thumb stick traditionally resides.

A circular Steam button and two smaller buttons finish out the face controls.

The two large (and despite my impressions from photos apparently ergonomic) handles each host two dual stage (analog and/or digital) triggers on the top and a button on the underside of the controller.

The Steam Controller is powered by two replaceable AA batteries and is wireless.

Users will be able to create and save custom configurations to their Steam profiles as well as share those custom settings with other Steam users. This should make adoption a bit easier since you will be able to jump into games with a recommended configuration that other users report works well. Or at least it will be a better starting point for your own custom settings rather than being thrown to the wolves with a new and unfamiliar controller. I think it is going to take practice to get good at this even with the jumpstart on suggested configurations though.

It will be available in November (Steam Store page link) for $49.99 which is just cheap enough that I will likely pick one up just to try it out and see what the hype is about. If it is as comfortable as some writers (who have gotten hands on time with them at GDC) are claiming, I’m willing to give it a shot now that it includes a thumb stick (I think I need to be eased into this dual trackpad setup).

Engadget has several more photos from the GDC show floor that are worth checking out.

What do you think about the final Steam Controller?

Source: Valve

GDC 15: Maingear Launches Customizable Drift Steam Machine

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: SteamOS, Steam Machine, maingear, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, drift

Maingear is joining the Steam Machine fray at the Games Developers Conference with its announcement of the upcoming Drift Steam Machine. The Drift is a configurable small form factor gaming PC that will come equipped with Valve’s SteamOS operating system in November.

Maingear Drift Steam Machine.png

Maingear’s new Steam Machine uses a small aluminum unibody chassis with optional Glasurit automotive paint to create an exceptionally attractive gaming console. It comes in two base systems – the Maingear Drift and the Maingear Drift SS – from which users can further customize based around the Intel H81 and Z97 chipsets respectively.

The Drift is the entry level system starting at $949. This system includes a MSI H81-i motherboard, Intel Pentium Anniversary Edition G3258 processor, 8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz memory, a NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti, 500GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, 8x DVD drive, and a 450W Silverstone power supply.

Maingear’s Drift SS takes things up a notch by moving to a Gigabyte GA-Z97N-WIFI motherboard, Intel Core i5-4590 processor paired with Maingear’s Epic 120 Supercooler closed-loop water cooler, a NVIDIA GTX 970 GPU, and a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO in addition to that 500GB hard drive in the Drift PC. The higher end liquid cooled Drift SS starts at $1,949.

Maingear Drift Steam Machine Rear IO.jpg

The Drift SS comes at a hefty premium but it sure would look impressive in your entertainment center!

Maingear is offering up the systems for pre-order today and will start shipping the customize-able systems next month. Note that systems shipped before November will come with Windows 8.1 x64 and not SteamOS (though you can emulate the experience by booting Windows into Steam Big Picture Mode or installing the beta yourself).

Source: Maingear

GDC 15: Source 2 Is Free But Must Be Available on Steam

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2015 - 10:40 PM |
Tagged: valve, source engine, Source 2, gdc 15, GDC

At the Game Developers Conference, Valve has formally announced the Source 2 engine and that it would be free for content developers. At the same time, they committed to releasing a version of it that is compatible with Vulkan, the graphics API from the Khronos Group that we have been talking about a lot over the last couple of days. Of course though, free can mean many things. As it turns out, there is one string attached: the game must be made available on Steam at launch. It can be available elsewhere too, but Steam must be one of the launch retailers.

SteamLogo.png

I do wonder what will happen if someone makes a title that Steam refuses to publish. Of course, the natural thought is “What if Valve refuses to publish for content reasons?” That is an interesting thought, and maturity is one area that many other engines (like Unreal) do not restrict, but it is not the only concern (and Gabe Newell is quite laissez-faire with his -- albeit loosely defined -- content guidelines). What if your content simply does not make it on Steam? For instance, with is someone creates a title in Source 2 and has a failed attempt at Greenlight because it was unpopular? Are you then unable to publish your content through alternative channels, too? This seems like something that Valve will need to provide a little clarification on.

Try as I might, I could not find a release date for Source 2, however. It will arrive when it does.

Source: Valve

GDC 15: Upcoming Flagship AMD Radeon R9 GPU Powering VR Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 5, 2015 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, amd, radeon, R9, 390x, VR, Oculus

Don't get too excited about this news, but AMD tells me that its next flagship Radeon R9 graphics card is up and running at GDC, powering an Oculus-based Epic "Showdown" demo.

amdgdc.jpg

Inside the box...

During my meeting with AMD today I was told that inside that little PC sits the "upcoming flagship Radeon R9 graphics card" but, of course, no other information was given. The following is an estimated transcript of the event:

Ryan: Can I see it?

AMD: No.

Ryan: I can't even take the side panel off it?

AMD: No.

Ryan. How can I know you're telling the truth then? Can I open up the driver or anything?

AMD: No.

Ryan: GPU-Z? Anything?

AMD: No.

Well, I tried.

Is this the rumored R9 390X with the integrated water cooler? Is it something else completely? AMD wouldn't even let me behind the system to look for a radiator so I'm afraid that is where my speculation will end.

Hooked up to the system was a Crescent Bay Oculus headset running the well-received Epic "Showdown" demo. The experience was smooth though of course there were no indications of frame rate, etc. while it was going on. After our discussion with AMD earlier in the week about its LiquidVR SDK, AMD is clearly taking the VR transition seriously. NVIDIA's GPUs might be dominating the show-floor demos but AMD wanted to be sure it wasn't left out of the discussion.

Can I just get this Fiji card already??

Podcast #339 - NVIDIA SHIELD and Titan X, AMD Mantle, OpenGL Vulkan, and much more from GDC!

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, vive, video, valve, titan x, strix, Silverstone, shield, Samsung, rv05, re vive, raven, podcast, nvidia, Nepton 240M, liquidvr, Khronos, Intel, htc, gtx 960, glnext, coolermaster, amd, 750ti

PC Perspective Podcast #339 - 03/05/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA SHIELD and Titan X, AMD Mantle, OpenGL Vulkan, and much more from GDC!

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: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Scott Michaud and Ken Addison

Program length: 1:22:13

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News item of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Jeremy: Um, I don’t know, SteamOS sales I guess?
  4. Closing/outro

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

Since TLS connections mostly ignore OCSP, Firefox is creating yet another solution

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: security, OneCRL, irony, firefox, CRLSet, chrome

It seems somehow strange that the vast majority of 'secure' connections still completely ignore what were developed as industry standards to ensure security in favour of creating their own solutions but that is the world a security professional lives in.  The basic design of OCSP does carry with it a lot of extra bandwidth usage and while maintaining a time limited local cache, referred to as stapling, would ameliorate this your TLS connection is not likely to support that solution.  Instead of fixing the root cause and utilizing existing standards it would seem that Firefox 37 will start a brand new solution, maintaining a list of revoked certificates ironically called OneCRL which will be pushed out to Firefox users, duplicating the CRLSet which Chrome has already developed and maintains. 

This is good for the end user in that it does add security to their browsing session but for those truly worried about attempting to make the net a safer place it offers yet another list to keep track of and for attackers yet another vector of attack.  At some point we will have to stop referring to standards when referencing networking technology.  Pour through the links on the Slashdot post and read through the comments to share in the frustration or to familiarize yourself with these concepts if the acronyms are unfamiliar.

firefox-crset-onecrl.jpg

"The next version of Firefox will roll out a 'pushed' blocklist of revoked intermediate security certificates, in an effort to avoid using 'live' Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) checks. The 'OneCRL' feature is similar to Google Chrome's CRLSet, but like that older offering, is limited to intermediate certificates, due to size restrictions in the browser."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

AMD To Release FreeSync Ready Driver on March 19th

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | March 5, 2015 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

Hey everyone, we just got a quick note from AMD with an update on the FreeSync technology rollout we have been expecting since CES in January (and honestly, even before that). Here is the specific quote:

AMD is very excited that monitors compatible with AMD FreeSync™ technology are now available in select regions in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). We know gamers are excited to bring home an incredibly smooth and tearing-free PC gaming experience powered by AMD Radeon™ GPUs and AMD A-Series APUs. We’re pleased to announce that a compatible AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver to enable AMD FreeSync™ technology for single-GPU configurations will be publicly available on AMD.com starting March 19, 2015. Support for AMD CrossFire™ configurations will be available the following month in April 2015.

A couple of interesting things: first, it appears that FreeSync monitors are already shipping in the EMEA regions and that is the cause for this news blast to the media. If you are buying a monitor with a FreeSync logo on it and can't use the technology, that is clearly a bit frustrating. You have just another two weeks to wait for the software to enabled your display's variable refresh rate.

freesynclogo-small.jpg

That also might be a clue as to when you can expect review embargoes and/or the release of FreeSync monitors in North America. The end is in sight!

Logitech Launches G303 Daedalus Apex Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: pmw3366, mouse, logitech g, logitech, g303

Here at the tail end of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, gaming accessory powerhouse Logitech is launching a new mouse in the family of G-series products, the G303 Daedalus Apex. That’s a hell of a name for a mouse to be sure, but the feature set and technology included in this $60 gadget will get some attention from PC gamers and enthusiasts.

Based on the same basic housing and design as the Logitech G302, the G303 is an incredibly lightweight mouse targeted at the gaming community that has such a metric in mind. It includes the same button and spring combinations as the G302, a metal-spring tensioning system, as well as RGB lighting that can be customized with 16.8 million colors.

g303-1.jpg

The most important new feature of the G303 though is its upgraded optical sensor. Using the Logitech PMW3366, the same sensor found in the Logitech G502, the G303 brings the same level of accuracy and performance to a lighter weight mouse. The technical feature set of the sensor are impressive:

  Logitech PMW3366 Sensor
Sensor Features Exclusive Clock Tuning Technology
Delta Zero™ Technology
Zero Smoothing
Zero Filtering
No Pixel Rounding
No Pixel Doubling
Sensor Surface Tuning
Tracking Resolution: 200 – 12,000 dpi
Max. acceleration: >40G
Max. speed: >300 ips
Responsiveness USB data format: 16 bits/axis
USB report rate: 1000 Hz (1ms)
Microprocessor: 32-bit ARM

Obviously a 12,000 DPI rate is a bit much for any user to really utilize but the capability of the PMW3366 allows it as an option. Other features directly target the gaming market, like Zero Smoothing that guarantees no lag or latency in mousing due to comparisons of sensor data. Clock Tuning is based on Logitech’s inclusion of a crystal that maintains speed and acceleration characteristics despite traditional degradation of these traits over time or due to part-to-part variance. Each G303 should feel the same and the performance should be identical from day one through year one.

g303-2.jpg

The G303, along with the G502, that utilizes the PMW3366 sensor, can take advantage of Surface Tuning – the ability for the mouse to tune itself to the texture of the plane it’s being used on. By enabling the feature in Logitech’s software then moving the mouse in a series of figure eights, surface-to-surface experiences should be similar.

G303 Daedalus Apex also has advanced Surface Tuning technology as an integral feature of the PMW3366 sensor. Surface Tuning is a technology used to tune mouse parameters to match a surface. Most gaming mice that have “surface tuning” optimize only for lift-off distance by adjusting LED intensity, which can sacrifice maximum speed. G303 Daedalus Apex optimizes the sensor dynamic range to match the properties of your mouse surface for maximum high-speed performance in addition to lower lift-off distance.

The same build quality and software infrastructure that sit behind the G302 and the rest of the Logitech G gaming mice follow to the G303 Daedalus Apex. Buttons rated at 20 million clicks, metal spring tensioning system, intuitive software to manage the DPI presets and 6 programmable buttons along with easy customization of the RGB lighting system create a total package that is beyond the $59 MSRP. As a direct comparison, the G302 will continue to sell for $49 using the older sensor controller while the G502 runs at $69 leaving plenty (maybe too many) options for gamers.

g303-3.jpg

Logitech sent me at G303 and G502 for testing late last week and I am planning a short story on my experiences. It will be hard to beat the G402 for sheer speed (remember our video review trying to break the accelerometer) but a direct comparison is forthcoming.

Source: Logitech

GDC 15: New Syber Steam Machines Coming This Fall From CyberPowerPC

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 12:17 AM |
Tagged: syber, CyberPowerPC, steam os, gaming, gdc 15, gdc 2015

Syber, a new division of CyberPowerPC, announced plans to launch a slew of Steam OS-powered living room PCs this fall. There are six Steam Machines planned in all, with prototypes being shown off at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) this week.

Steam_Product_Setting_02.png

So far, CyberPowerPC has revealed the Syber Steam Machine-E, Syber Steam Machine-P, and Syber Steam Machine-K. At the low end sits the Steam Machine-E with an unspecified quad core AMD processor and NVIDIA GTX graphics card starting at $449. For $100 more, you can step up to the Steam Machine-P with a dual core Intel Pentium G3258 CPU clocked at 3.2GHz and an AMD Radeon R9 270X. Finally, the Steam Machine-K sits at the high end with an Intel Core i5-4690K processor and a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970.

Syber also hinted at an exclusive orange clad Steam Machine through CyberPowerPC for $1,399.

Steam_Product_Setting_0112.png

Of course, these are merely starting prices and users will be able to further customize them when ordering. This is CyberPowerPC’s second stab at breaking into the living room with the SteamOS partnership. Interestingly, they have managed to shave a bit off the cost of the lowest end model and added several more tiers compared to the initial series launched at last year’s CES.

Source: Syber

New Fanless Shuttle DS57U PC Powered By Broadwell

Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 4, 2015 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, fanless, core i7-5500u, Broadwell

The Shuttle DS57U is a new small form factor fanless PC packing Intel’s latest Broadwell processor. The Shuttle 1.3L chassis (7.9" x 6.5" x 1.5") is all black and sits vetically on raised feet. Vents run along the top of the case and the vertical design along with a large heatsink lets them offer a fanless design.

Shuttle DS57U SFF PC Angled.jpg

External I/O includes:

  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x RS232
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2 x Analog audio
  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet (Intel i211 and i218LM)

The PC can be attached to the back of a monitor stand or to the wall using its VESA mounting holes.

Internally, the Shuttle DS57U comes with up to an Intel Core i7 5500U processor which is a 15W dual core part with Hyper Threading clocked at 2.4GHz base and 3GHz max turbo, 4MB cache, and Intel 5500 graphics clocked at up to 950MHz. It is a barebones PC which means that users have to add their own storage, memory, and operating system. Users can add two laptop DDR3 SODIMMs (16GB max), a single 2.5” drive, and a two Mini PCI-e devices (an 802.11n wireless module comes pre-installed in the half-height slot).

Shuttle DS57U SFF PC Internals.jpg

The Shuttle DS57U would make for a silent home PC, media server, or an extremely overpowered home router (heh). Its feature set also makes the DS57U suited for commercial and industrial applications. The fanless Broadwell PC is available now in Europe for 192 euros (approximately $220 USD). There is no word on when it will hit this side of the pond, but its introduction is a promising start to other fanless Broadwell systems hitting the market.

Source: Shuttle

GDC 15: Intel and Raptr Partner for PC Gaming Optimization Software

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2015 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, Intel, raptr, GFE, geforce experience

One of NVIDIA's biggest achievements in the past two years has been the creation and improvement of GeForce Experience. The program started with one goal: to help PC gamers optimize game settings to match their hardware and make sure they are getting the top quality settings the hardware can handle and thus the best gaming experience. AMD followed suit shortly after with a partnership with Raptr, a company that crowd-sources data to achieve the same goal: great optimal game settings for all users of AMD hardware.

Today Intel is announcing a partnership with Raptr as well, bringing the same great feature set of Raptr to users of machines with Intel HD Graphics systems. High-end users might chuckle at the news but I actually think this feature is going to be more important for those gamers that utilize integrated graphics. Where GPU horsepower is at premium, compared to discrete graphics cards, using the in-game settings to get all available performance will likely result in the most improvement in experience of all the three major vendors.

raptor1.jpg

Raptr will continue to include game streaming capability and it will also alert the users to when updated Intel graphics drivers are available - a very welcome change to how Intel distributes them.

raptor2.jpg

Intel announced a partnership to deliver an even better gaming experience on Intel Graphics. Raptr, a leading PC gaming utility now available on Intel Graphics for the first time, delivers one-button customized optimizations that improve performance on existing hardware and the games being played, even older games. With just a little tweaking of their PC settings a user may be able to dial up the frame rate and details or even play a game they didn’t think possible.

The Raptr software scans the user’s PC and compares a given game’s performance across tens of millions of other gamers’ PCs, finding and applying the best settings for their Raptr Record system. And Raptr’s gameplay recording tools leverage the video encoding in Intel® Quick Sync technology to record and stream gameplay with virtually no impact on system performance. Driver updates are a snap too, more on Raptr for Intel available here.

Hopefully we'll see this application pre-installed on notebooks going forward (can't believe I'm saying that) but I'd like to see as many PC gamers as possible, even casual ones, get access to the best gaming experience their hardware can provide.

GDC 15: Intel Demos Socketed, LGA1150 Broadwell CPU with Iris Pro Graphics

Subject: Processors | March 4, 2015 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, Intel, Broadwell, iris pro, LGA1150, core i7

Consumer have been asking for it since the first time Intel announced it, but Iris Pro graphics is finally finding its way to the desktop, socketed market. Shown powering one of Dell's new 5K displays, this processor shipping in "mid-2015", is going to be configured with a 65 watt TDP and will be unlocked for overclockers to tweak. Intel first disclosed these plans way back in May of 2014 so we are going to be approaching the 12-month mark for availability.

iris1.jpg

It doesn't look special, but this system has the first desktop Iris Pro processor

In a new disclosure at GDC, Intel showed the first 5th Generation Core LGA-socketed CPU with Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics. This 65 watt unlocked desktop processor, available mid-2015, will bring new levels of performance and power efficiency to Mini PCs and desktop All-In-Ones. Since 2006 the 3D performance of Intel Graphics has increased nearly 100 fold (Intel 3DMark06 measurements) and powerful form factors from Acer, Medion and Intel’s own NUCs are becoming available with 5th Generation Intel Core processors with Intel Iris Graphics.

iris2.jpg

Under that little heatsink...

Details of this new CPU offering, including clock speed and graphics performance, are still unknown but Intel claims we will have this part in our hands in the near future. This isn't targeted to overtake consumers with mid-range discrete graphics systems but instead will bring users interested in a SFF or low power system with both home theater features and improved gaming capability. Our testing with Iris Pro graphics in notebooks has proven that the gaming performance gains can be substantial, but often the battery life demands have limited implementations from OEMs. With a desktop part, we might actually be able to see the full capability of an integrated GPU with embedded memory.

GDC 15: Intel shows 3DMark API Overhead Test at Work

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | March 4, 2015 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, API, dx12, DirectX 12, dx11, Mantle, 3dmark, Futuremark

It's probably not a surprise to most that Futuremark is working on a new version of 3DMark around the release of DirectX 12. What might be new for you is that this version will include an API overhead test, used to evaluate a hardware configuration's ability to affect performance in Mantle, DX11 and DX12 APIs.

3dmark1.jpg

While we don't have any results quite yet (those are pending and should be very soon), Intel was showing the feature test running at an event at GDC tonight. In what looks like a simple cityscape being rendered over and over, the goal is to see how many draw calls, or how fast the CPU can react to a game engine, the API and hardware can be.

The test was being showcased on an Intel-powered notebook using a 5th Generation Core processor, code named Broadwell. Obviously this points to the upcoming support for DX12 (though obviously not Mantle) that Intel's integrated GPUs will provide.

It should be very interesting to see how much of an advantage DX12 offers over DX11, even on Intel's wide ranges of consumer and enthusiast processors.

GDC 15: PhysX Is Now Shared Source to UE4 Developers

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 4, 2015 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, nvidia, epic games, ue4, unreal engine 4, PhysX, apex

NVIDIA and Epic Games have just announced that Unreal Engine 4 developers can view and modify the source of PhysX. This also includes the source for APEX, which is NVIDIA's cloth and destruction library. It does not include any of the other libraries that are under the GameWorks banner, but Unreal Engine 4 does not use them anyway.

epic-ue4-nvidia-physx.jpg

This might even mean that good developers can write their own support for third-party platforms, like OpenCL. That would probably be a painful process, but it should be possible now. Of course, that support would only extend to their personal title, and anyone who they share their branch with.

If you are having trouble finding it, you will need to switch to a branch that has been updated to PhysX 3.3.3 with source, which is currently just “Master”. “Promoted” and earlier seem to be back at PhysX 3.3.2, which is still binary-only. It will probably take a few months to trickle down to an official release. If you are still unable to find it, even though you are on the “Master” branch, the path to NVIDIA's source code is: “Unreal Engine/Engine/Source/ThirdParty/PhysX/”. From there you can check out the various subdirectories for PhysX and APEX.

NVIDIA will be monitoring pull requests sent to that area of Unreal Engine. Enhancements might make it back upstream to PhysX proper, which would then be included in future versions of Unreal Engine and anywhere else that PhysX is used.

In other news, Unreal Engine 4 is now free of its subscription. The only time Epic will ask for money is when you ship a game and royalties are due. This is currently 5% of gross revenue, with the first $3000 (per product, per calendar quarter) exempt. This means that you can make legitimately free (no price, no ads, no subscription, no microtransactions, no Skylander figurines, etc.) game in UE4 for free now!

Source: Epic Games

GDC 15: Valve Shows Off $50 Steam Link Game Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: GDC, valve, streaming box, Steam Box, steam, pc game streaming, gaming, gdc 2015

Valve has slowly but surely been working on its living room gaming initiative. Despite the slow progress (read: Valve time), Steam Machines are still a thing and a new bit of hardware called the “Steam Link” will allow you to stream all of your Steam content from your computers and Steam Machines to your TV over a local network. Slated for a November launch, the Steam Link is a $49.99 box that can be paired with a Steam Controller for another $49.99.

Steam Link Angled.jpg

Valve has revealed little about the internals or specific features of the Steam Link. We do know that it can tap into Valve’s Steam In-Home Streaming technology to stream your PC games to your TV and output it at 1080p 60Hz (no word on specific latency numbers but the wired connection is promising). The box is tiny, looking to be less than half of a NUC (and much shorter) with sharp angles and one rounded corner hosting the Steam logo. Two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI output, and an AC power jack sit on the rear of the device with a third USB port located on the left side of the Steam Link.

Steam Link Budget Streaming Box.jpg

In all, the Steam Link looks like a promising device so long as Valve can get it out the door in time, especially with so many competing streaming technologies hitting the market. I’m looking forward to more details and getting my hands one later this year.