Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

BF4 Integrates FCAT Overlay Support

Back in September AMD publicly announced Mantle, a new lower level API meant to offer more performance for gamers and more control for developers fed up with the restrictions of DirectX. Without diving too much into the politics of the release, the fact that Battlefield 4 developer DICE was integrating Mantle into the Frostbite engine for Battlefield was a huge proof point for the technology. Even though the release was a bit later than AMD had promised us, coming at the end of January 2014, one of the biggest PC games on the market today had integrated a proprietary AMD API.

When I did my first performance preview of BF4 with Mantle on February 1st, the results were mixed but we had other issues to deal with. First and foremost, our primary graphics testing methodology, called Frame Rating, wasn't able to be integrated due to the change of API. Instead we were forced to use an in-game frame rate counter built by DICE which worked fine, but didn't give us the fine grain data we really wanted to put the platform to the test. It worked, but we wanted more. Today we are happy to announce we have full support for our Frame Rating and FCAT testing with BF4 running under Mantle.

A History of Frame Rating

In late 2012 and throughout 2013, testing graphics cards became a much more complicated beast. Terms like frame pacing, stutter, jitter and runts were not in the vocabulary of most enthusiasts but became an important part of the story just about one year ago. Though complicated to fully explain, the basics are pretty simple.

Rather than using software on the machine being tested to measure performance, our Frame Rating system uses a combination of local software and external capture hardware. On the local system with the hardware being evaluated we run a small piece of software called an overlay that draws small colored bars on the left hand side of the game screen that change successively with each frame rendered by the game. Using a secondary system, we capture the output from the graphics card directly, intercepting it from the display output, in real-time in an uncompressed form. With that video file captured, we then analyze it frame by frame, measuring the length of each of those colored bars, how long they are on the screen, how consistently they are displayed. This allows us to find the average frame rate but also to find how smoothly the frames are presented, if there are dropped frames and if there are jitter or stutter issues. 

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Continue reading our first look at Frame Rating / FCAT Testing with Mantle in Battlefield 4!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA
Tagged: ssd, SP920, sata, Marvell, adata

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

ADATA has been in the storage market for a good while now. I like to think of them as the patient underdog. They don't necessarily come out with the shiny new controller or flash technology. Instead they tend to sit back and wait for a given set of hardware to mature and drop in price a bit. Once that happens, they figure out how to package the matured technology into a device of relatively low cost as compared to the competition. They have done so again today, with their new Premier Pro SP920 lineup:

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As hinted at earlier, this line does not use the newest Marvell controller, but as Marvell controllers have been very capable SATA 6Gb/sec units for a long time now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In addition, Marvell controllers have a track record of gaining significant performance margins as their firmware matures, which makes ADATA's later entrance more of a good thing.

Continue reading for the full scoop and performance benchmarks of all available capacities!!

Manufacturer: BitFenix

Introduction, Packaging, and Specifications

The BitFenix Colossus has grown into a family of enclosures, from the massive E-ATX original all the way down to their diminutive mini-ITX version. But somewhere in between there lies a case offering some impressive flexibility, while still retaining a small footprint.

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As the PC industry has evolved over the last decade, the days of high-performance rigs requiring large towers and full-size ATX and E-ATX motherboards are gone. Of course there is still a market (and need) for full tower systems, and the majority of enthusiast motherboards available are still full ATX. But the evolution in process technology and platforms has allowed for more and more to be done within a smaller footprint, and the micro-ATX form factor has emerged as a solid option for anything from budget systems to extreme multi-GPU gaming powerhouses. Regardless of the path you choose, all of those sweet components need a home, and finding the right computer case has long been a very personal odyssey.

BitFenix entered the PC enclosure market in 2010 with the original Colossus, and since then they have grown into a respected brand with a large and differentiated product offering. From that first massive Colossus to the popular Prodigy mini-ITX, they have created an enclosure for just about any build. And while many cases specialize in one or two particular areas, once in a while you will find an enclosure that just begs for experimentation. The micro-ATX variant of the Colossus from BitFenix is just such a case. Every aspect of this small enclosure has been given a close look by BitFenix, and there are options galore for a variety of builds.

Continue reading our review of the BitFenix Colossus Micro-ATX Case Review!!

Manufacturer: Cooler Master

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Cooler Master

Cooler Master is known in the enthusiast community for their innovative designs with product offerings ranging from cases to desktop and laptop cooling implements. Like many other manufacturers, Cooler Master offers its own line of all-in-one liquid cooling solutions. Unique to their Glacer 240L cooler is the ability to easily add additional cooling blocks into the base loop. The Glacer 240L has an fill port integrated into the base of the radiator for drain and refill and uses removable clamps on all connections for easy maintenance and tube reconfiguration. To measure the performance of the Glacer 240L, we set it against several other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. With a $139.99 MSRP, the Glacer 240L comes at a premium price.

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Courtesy of Cooler Master

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Courtesy of Cooler Master

Continue reading our review of the Cooler Master Glacer 240L liquid CPU cooler!

Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Features

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The highly anticipated 450D mid-tower case is Corsair’s latest addition to their top of the line Obsidian Series and is the first new Obsidian case to be released in 2014. The Obsidian 450D mid-tower enclosure is positioned between Corsair’s 750D full-tower and 350D Micro-ATX enclosures and shares many of the same styling and design concepts of the 350D, 750D and 900D. The 450D is being introduced with an MSRP of $119.99 USD, which makes it considerably less expensive than Corsair’s classic Obsidian 650D mid-tower enclosure ($199.99 USD). It appears the new 450D may eventually become the successor to the 650D but we hope the 650D mid-tower case doesn’t go away any time soon as the two enclosures are still different enough to appeal to different users.

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(Courtesy of Corsair)

And in addition to PC enclosures, Corsair continues to offer one of the largest selections of memory products, SSDs, power supplies, coolers, gaming peripherals, and PC accessories currently on the market today!

Here is what Corsair has to say about the Obsidian 450D PC case:

The 450D Performance Mid-Tower PC case matches the iconic, brushed aluminum design of the Obsidian series with an increased focus on high-airflow, ensuring your system not only looks great, but runs cool.

Behind the 450D’s aluminum mesh intake grill are dual AF140L intake fans to direct airflow straight to a PC’s hottest component, the graphics card. The rear AF120L 120mm fan keeps the airflow moving smoothly and five other optional fan locations give you serious cooling flexibility. The 450D’s fan mounts also accommodate a wide range of water-cooling radiators, with room for up to a 360mm radiator in the roof, a 280mm radiator in the front, and a 240mm radiator in the floor.

The 450D also boasts all of the features that make the Obsidian Series a favorite among enthusiasts around the world. Easily accessible dust filters on the roof, front, and bottom ensure your system will stay looking its best, while modular tool-free 3.5”/2.5” hard disk mounts offer a wide range of storage options, or can be removed entirely to prioritize airflow.

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(Courtesy of Corsair)

Obsidian Series 450D Mid-Tower PC Case Key Points:
•    Mid-tower PC case with clean, elegant styling
•    Tool-free 2.5”, 3.5” and 5.25” drive installation
•    Two AF140L intake fans and one AF120L exhaust fan
•    Excellent airflow and low noise levels
•    Support for water-cooling in a broad variety of configurations
•    Support for 240mm, 280mm, and/or 360mm radiators
•    Two dedicated 2.5” SSD drive sleds located behind motherboard
•    Included modular (removable) drive cage supports three 2.5”/3.5” drives
•    Optional drive cage adds support for three more 2.5”/3.5” drives
•    Removable magnetic top filter provides a cleaner look
•    Competitive price point

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Obsidian Series 450D Case!!

Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 video card is the latest incarnation of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) Poseidon series. Like the previous Poseidon series products, the Poseidon GTX 780 features a hybrid cooler, capable of air and liquid-based cooling for the GPU and on board components. The AUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card comes with an MSRP of $599, a premium price for a premium card .

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Courtesy of ASUS

In designing the Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card, ASUS packed in many of premium components you would normally find as add-ons. Additionally, the card features motherboard quality power components, featuring a 10 phase digital power regulation system using ASUS DIGI+ VRM technology coupled with Japanese black metallic capacitors. The Poseidon GTX 780 has the following features integrated into its design: DisplayPort output port, HDMI output port, dual DVI ports (DVI-D and DVI-I type ports), aluminum backplate, integrated G 1/4" threaded liquid ports, dual 90mm cooling fans, 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe-style power connectors, and integrated power connector LEDs and ROG logo LED.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

DX11 could rival Mantle

The big story at GDC last week was Microsoft’s reveal of DirectX 12 and the future of the dominant API for PC gaming.  There was plenty of build up to the announcement with Microsoft’s DirectX team posting teasers and starting up a Twitter account of the occasion. I hosted a live blog from the event which included pictures of the slides. It was our most successful of these types of events with literally thousands of people joining in the conversation. Along with the debates over the similarities of AMD’s Mantle API and the timeline for DX12 release, there are plenty of stories to be told.

After the initial session, I wanted to setup meetings with both AMD and NVIDIA to discuss what had been shown and get some feedback on the planned direction for the GPU giants’ implementations.  NVIDIA presented us with a very interesting set of data that both focused on the future with DX12, but also on the now of DirectX 11.

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The reason for the topic is easy to decipher – AMD has built up the image of Mantle as the future of PC gaming and, with a full 18 months before Microsoft’s DirectX 12 being released, how developers and gamers respond will make an important impact on the market. NVIDIA doesn’t like to talk about Mantle directly, but it’s obvious that it feels the need to address the questions in a roundabout fashion. During our time with NVIDIA’s Tony Tamasi at GDC, the discussion centered as much on OpenGL and DirectX 11 as anything else.

What are APIs and why do you care?

For those that might not really understand what DirectX and OpenGL are, a bit of background first. APIs (application programming interface) are responsible for providing an abstraction layer between hardware and software applications.  An API can deliver consistent programming models (though the language can vary) and do so across various hardware vendors products and even between hardware generations.  They can provide access to feature sets of hardware that have a wide range in complexity, but allow users access to hardware without necessarily knowing great detail about it.

Over the years, APIs have developed and evolved but still retain backwards compatibility.  Companies like NVIDIA and AMD can improve DirectX implementations to increase performance or efficiency without adversely (usually at least) affecting other games or applications.  And because the games use that same API for programming, changes to how NVIDIA/AMD handle the API integration don’t require game developer intervention.

With the release of AMD Mantle, the idea of a “low level” API has been placed in the minds of gamers and developers.  The term “low level” can mean many things, but in general it is associated with an API that is more direct, has a thinner set of abstraction layers, and uses less translation from code to hardware.  The goal is to reduce the amount of overhead (performance hit) that APIs naturally impair for these translations.  With additional performance available, the CPU cycles can be used by the program (game) or be slept to improve battery life. In certain cases, GPU throughput can increase where the API overhead is impeding the video card's progress.

Passing additional control to the game developers, away from the API or GPU driver developers, gives those coders additional power and improves the ability for some vendors to differentiate. Interestingly, not all developers want this kind of control as it requires more time, more development work, and small teams that depend on that abstraction to make coding easier will only see limited performance advantages.

The reasons for this transition to a lower level API is being driven the by widening gap of performance between CPU and GPUs.  NVIDIA provided the images below.

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On the left we see performance scaling in terms of GFLOPS and on the right the metric is memory bandwidth. Clearly the performance of NVIDIA's graphics chips has far outpaced (as have AMD’s) what the best Intel desktop processor have been able and that gap means that the industry needs to innovate to find ways to close it.

Continue reading NVIDIA Talks DX12, DX11 Efficiency Improvements!!!

Manufacturer: Cooler Master

Introduction and Features

Cooler Master continues to offer a full line of cases, power supplies, and coolers along with numerous other accessories for PC enthusiasts. Today we will be taking a detailed look at Cooler Master’s new V Series 850W power supply.

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(Courtesy of Cooler Master)

It has been quite some time since we last reviewed a Cooler Master power supply and we were happy to see one show up recently on the test lab doorstep. We were even happier to learn that the new Cooler Master V Series, which includes three units: the V700, B850 and V1000, are all built by Seasonic, who has a stellar reputation for building some of the best PC power supplies on the planet. All three power supplies in the V Series incorporate all modular cabling, high efficiency (80Plus Gold certified), high quality Japanese made capacitors, a silent 135mm fan with a Fluid Dynamic Bearing, and they come backed by Cooler Master’s 5-year warranty. In addition, the V Series power supplies deliver excellent voltage regulation (particularly on the +12V output) with minimal AC ripple and noise. The Cooler Master V850 power supply is currently selling for $169.99 (newegg.com, March 2014).

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Here is what Cooler Master has to say about their new V Series PSUs:

Developed to be the highest quality, Cooler Master carefully sourced every aspect of the V Series PSU line to produce a high-efficiency and stable power supply. It’s highly efficient even at low loads, extremely stable, and works well beyond the parameters of 80Plus specifications.

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Cooler Master V Series 850W PSU Key Features:

•    Fully modular cable design
•    Single 850W +12V output that delivers up to 70A (840W)
•    80Plus Gold Certified: up to 93% efficient @ 50% load)
•    Silent 135mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) fan for low noise and longer life
•    Six PCI-E 6+2 pin connectors to support high-end GPUs
•    100% high-quality Japanese capacitors ensure performance and reliability
•    Reliable 5-Year warranty

Please continue reading our review of the Cooler Master V850 PSU!!!

Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Background

Introduction:

Back in 2010, Intel threw a bit of a press thing for a short list of analysts and reviewers out at their IMFT flash memory plant at Lehi, Utah. The theme and message of that event was to announce 25nm flash entering mass production. A few years have passed, and 25nm flash is fairly ubiquitous, with 20nm rapidly gaining as IMFT scales production even higher with the smaller process. Last week, Intel threw a similar event, but instead of showing off a die shrink or even announcing a new enthusiast SSD, they chose to take a step back and brief us on the various design, engineering, and validation testing of their flash storage product lines.

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At the Lehi event, I did my best to make off with a 25nm wafer.

Many topics were covered at this new event at the Intel campus at Folsom, CA, and over the coming weeks we will be filling you in on many of them as we take the necessary time to digest the fire hose of intel (pun intended) that we received. Today I'm going to lay out one of the more impressive things I saw at the briefings, and that is the process Intel goes through to ensure their products are among the most solid and reliable in the industry.

Read on for more on how Intel tests their products!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

EVGA GTX 750 Ti ACX FTW

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti has been getting a lot of attention around the hardware circuits recently, but for good reason.  It remains interesting from a technology stand point as it is the first, and still the only, Maxwell based GPU available for desktop users.  It's a completely new architecture which is built with power efficiency (and Tegra) in mind. With it, the GTX 750 Ti was able to push a lot of performance into a very small power envelope while still maintaining some very high clock speeds.

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NVIDIA’s flagship mainstream part is also still the leader when it comes to performance per dollar in this segment (for at least as long as it takes for AMD’s Radeon R7 265 to become widely available).  There has been a few cases that we have noticed where the long standing shortages and price hikes from coin mining have dwindled, which is great news for gamers but may also be bad news for NVIDIA’s GPUs in some areas.  Though, even if the R7 265 becomes available, the GTX 750 Ti remains the best card you can buy that doesn’t require a power connection. This puts it in a unique position for power limited upgrades. 

After our initial review of the reference card, and then an interesting look at how the card can be used to upgrade an older or under powered PC, it is time to take a quick look at a set of three different retail cards that have made their way into the PC Perspective offices.

On the chopping block today we’ll look at the EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti ACX FTW, the Galaxy GTX 750 Ti GC and the PNY GTX 750 Ti XLR8 OC.  All of them are non-reference, all of them are overclocked, but you’ll likely be surprised how they stack up.

Continue reading our round up of EVGA, Galaxy and PNY GTX 750 Ti Graphics Cards!!

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair expanded from a known presence in the memory space to well-respected entity in the component market, offering everything from cases to all-in-one water coolers. Their newest cooler, the Hydro Series™ H75 Liquid CPU Cooler, features a 120mm x 25mm radiator with dual fans and a copper-based water block. The H75 unit includes mounting support for all current Intel and AMD processor offerings. To gage the performance of the cooler, we set it against several other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. With a retail MSRP of $84.99, the Hydro Series™ H75 cooler is priced to be competitive.

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Hydro Series™ H75 cooler was designed to be a "one size fits all" type cooler, having no space issues fitting in most cases including some of the larger mITX style cases. Corsair used Asetek as an OEM to assist in manufacturing the H75 and appears to be based on the Asetek 550LC all-in-one cooler. As we've seen previously with Corsair OEM products, Corsair had a hand in tweaking the cooler design to meet their performance and aesthetic expectations. The radiator in an all aluminum, thin-finned unit designed to effectively dissipate heat from the liquid medium using the two include Corsair-branded fans.

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Courtesy of Corsair

The water block is composed of a two part acrylic top piece, housing the unit's electronics and pump, held to a copper cold plate secured with an inner and outer ring of screws. The inner ring of screws are counter-sunk to prevent mating-related obstruction and was polished to a mirror-like luster.

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Courtesy of Corsair

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Hydro™ Series H75 all-in-one liquid cooler!

Author:
Manufacturer: NZXT

Installation

When the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X first launched last year, they were plagued by issues of overheating and variable clock speeds.  We looked at the situation several times over the course of a couple months and AMD tried to address the problem with newer drivers.  These drivers did help stabilize clock speeds (and thus performance) of the reference built R9 290 and R9 290X cards but caused noise levels to increase as well.  

The real solution was the release of custom cooled versions of the R9 290 and R9 290X from AMD partners like ASUS, MSI and others.  The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II model for example, ran cooler, quieter and more consistently than any of the numerous reference models we had our hands on.  

But what about all those buyers that are still purchasing, or have already purchased, reference style R9 290 and 290X cards?  Replacing the cooler on the card is the best choice and thanks to our friends at NZXT we have a unique solution that combines standard self contained water coolers meant for CPUs with a custom built GPU bracket.  

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Our quick test will utilize one of the reference R9 290 cards AMD sent along at launch and two specific NZXT products.  The Kraken X40 is a standard CPU self contained water cooler that sells for $100 on Amazon.com.  For our purposes though we are going to team it up with the Kraken G10, a $30 GPU-specific bracket that allows you to use the X40 (and other water coolers) on the Radeon R9 290.

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Inside the box of the G10 you'll find an 80mm fan, a back plate, the bracket to attach the cooler to the GPU and all necessary installation hardware.  The G10 will support a wide range of GPUs, though they are targeted towards the reference designs of each:

NVIDIA : GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770, 760, Titan, 680, 670, 660Ti, 660, 580, 570, 560Ti, 560, 560SE 
AMD : R9 290X, 290, 280X*, 280*, 270X, 270 HD7970*, 7950*, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 6770, 5870, 5850, 5830
 

That is pretty impressive but NZXT will caution you that custom designed boards may interfere.

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The installation process begins by removing the original cooler which in this case just means a lot of small screws.  Be careful when removing the screws on the actual heatsink retention bracket and alternate between screws to take it off evenly.

Continue reading about how the NZXT Kraken G10 can improve the cooling of the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Impact is ASUS' newest mini-ITX member of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) family. ASUS integrated design innovations from its Z77-based mITX board and added in some ROG-based innovations to come up with a wholly unique entity. With an MSRP of $229, the Maximus VI Impact comes in at the higher-end of the mITX price range with enough integrated features to more than justify the cost.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Similar to other members of the ROG-based Z87 releases, ASUS designed the Maximus VI Impact board with top of the line power components. The board's digital power system centers on an 8+2 phase power regulation system using 60 amp-rated BlackWing chokes, powIRstage MOSFETS, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. To save space on the board, the power components are mounted vertically on a hard-attached PCB to the right of the socket with the sound components and wireless networking on vertical removable cards to the upper left of the CPU socket and integrated into the board's rear panel.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Impact motherboard!

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Kingston

So Many MHz, So Little Time...

If you've looked at memory for your system lately you've likely noticed a couple of things. First, memory prices have held steady for the past few months, but are still nearly double what they were a little over a year ago. Second, now that DDR3 has been a mature standard for years, there is a vast selection of RAM from many vendors, all with nearly identical specs. The standard has settled at 1600MHz for DDR3, and most desktop memory is programmed for this speed. Granted, many modules run at overclocked speeds, and there are some out there with pretty outlandish numbers, too - and it’s one of those kits that we take a look at today.

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Hardly subtle, the Kingston HyperX 'Predator' dual channel kit for review today is clocked at a ridiculous 1066MHz OVER the 1600MHz standard. That's right, this is 2666MHz memory! It seems like such a big jump would have to provide increased system performance across the board, and that's exactly what we're going to find out.

We all want to get the most out of any component, and finding the best option at a given price is part of planning any new build or upgrade. While every core part is sold at a particular speed, and most can be overclocked, there are still some qualifying factors that make selecting the fastest part for your budget a little more complicated. Speed isn't based on MHz alone – as with processors, where it often comes down to number of cores, how many instructions per clock cycle a given CPU can churn out, etc.

Continue reading our review of the Kingston HyperX Predator 2666 MHz DDR3 memory kit!!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Maxwell and Kepler and...Fermi?

Covering the landscape of mobile GPUs can be a harrowing experience.  Brands, specifications, performance, features and architectures can all vary from product to product, even inside the same family.  Rebranding is rampant from both AMD and NVIDIA and, in general, we are met with one of the most confusing segments of the PC hardware market.  

Today, with the release of the GeForce GTX 800M series from NVIDIA, we are getting all of the above in one form or another. We will also see performance improvements and the introduction of the new Maxwell architecture (in a few parts at least).  Along with the GeForce GTX 800M parts, you will also find the GeForce 840M, 830M and 820M offerings at lower performance, wattage and price levels.

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With some new hardware comes a collection of new software for mobile users, including the innovative Battery Boost that can increase unplugged gaming time by using frame rate limiting and other "magic" bits that NVIDIA isn't talking about yet.  ShadowPlay and GameStream also find their way to mobile GeForce users as well.

Let's take a quick look at the new hardware specifications.

  GTX 880M GTX 780M GTX 870M GTX 770M
GPU Code name Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler
GPU Cores 1536 1536 1344 960
Rated Clock 954 MHz 823 MHz 941 MHz 811 MHz
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 4GB Up to 3GB Up to 3GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 4000 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit
Features Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE

Both the GTX 880M and the GTX 870M are based on Kepler, keeping the same basic feature set and hardware specifications of their brethren in the GTX 700M line.  However, while the GTX 880M has the same CUDA core count as the 780M, the same cannot be said of the GTX 870M.  Moving from the GTX 770M to the 870M sees a significant 40% increase in core count as well as a jump in clock speed from 811 MHz (plus Boost) to 941 MHz.  

Continue reading about the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 800M Launch and Battery Boost!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

1920x1080, 2560x1440, 3840x2160

Join us on March 11th at 9pm ET / 6pm PT for a LIVE Titanfall Game Stream!  You can find us at http://www.pcper.com/live.  You can subscribe to our mailing list to be alerted whenever we have a live event!!

We canceled the event due to the instability of Titanfall servers.  We'll reschedule soon!!

With the release of Respawn's Titanfall upon us, many potential PC gamers are going to be looking for suggestions on compiling a list of parts targeted at a perfect Titanfall experience.  The good news is, even with a fairly low investment in PC hardware, gamers will find that the PC version of this title is definitely the premiere way to play as the compute power of the Xbox One just can't compete.

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In this story we'll present three different build suggestions, each addressing a different target resolution but also better image quality settings than the Xbox One can offer.  We have options for 1080p, the best option that the Xbox could offer, 2560x1440 and even 3840x2160, better known as 4K.  In truth, the graphics horsepower required by Titanfall isn't overly extreme, and thus an entire PC build coming in under $800, including a full copy of Windows 8.1, is easy to accomplish.

Target 1: 1920x1080

First up is old reliable, the 1920x1080 resolution that most gamers still have on their primary gaming display.  That could be a home theater style PC hooked up to a TV or monitors in sizes up to 27-in.  Here is our build suggestion, followed by our explanations.

  Titanfall 1080p Build
Processor Intel Core i3-4330 - $137
Motherboard MSI H87-G43 - $96
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1600 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $89
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti - $179
Storage Western Digital Blue 1TB - $59
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $72
Power Supply Corsair CX 500 watt - $49
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $96
Total Price $781 - Amazon Full Cart

Our first build comes in at $781 and includes some incredibly competent gaming hardware for that price.  The Intel Core i3-4330 is a dual-core, HyperThreaded processor that provides more than enough capability to push Titanfall any all other major PC games on the market.  The MSI H87 motherboard lacks some of the advanced features of the Z87 platform but does the job at a lower cost.  8GB of Corsair memory, though not running at a high clock speed, provides more than enough capacity for all the programs and applications you could want to run.

Continue reading our article on building a gaming PC for Titanfall!!

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of SilverStone

SilverStone Technology is a well known brand in the computer component space, offering high quality solutions for everything from cases to case-mounted fan controllers and displays. Their CPU air-coolers are some of the best in the industry with the latest incarnation being part of the Argon Series. The Argon Series AR01 CPU cooler is made for optimal cooling of your Intel socket 115X or AMD-based systems, comprised of a single aluminum radiator tied to a copper base-plate via a set of copper heat pipes with a 120mm fan for heat dissipation. To prove out the performance of the AR01 unit, we tested put it up against other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. At a retail MSRP of $34.99, the AR01 cooler has a great performance to price ratio for its cooling potential.

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Courtesy of SilverStone

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Courtesy of SilverStone

Continue reading our review of the SilverStone Argon Series AR01 CPU air cooler!

Author:
Manufacturer: EVGA

Its been a while...

EVGA has been around for quite some time now.  They have turned into NVIDIA’s closest North American partner after the collapse of the original VisionTek.  At nearly every trade show or gaming event, EVGA is closely associated with whatever NVIDIA presence is there.  In the past EVGA focused primarily on using NVIDIA reference designs for PCB and cooling, and would branch out now and then with custom or semi-custom watercooling solutions.

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A very svelte and minimalist design for the shroud.  I like it.

The last time I actually reviewed an EVGA products was way back in May of 2006.  I took a look at the 7600 GS product, which was a passively cooled card.  Oddly enough, that card is sitting right in front of me as I write this.  Unfortunately, that particular card has a set of blown caps on it and no longer works.  Considering that the card has been in constant use since 2006, I would say that it held up very well for those eight years!

EVGA has been expanding their product lineup to be able to handle the highs and lows of the PC market.  They have started manufacturing motherboards, cases, and power supplies to help differentiate their product lineup and hopefully broaden their product portfolio.  We know from past experiences that companies that rely on one type of product from a single manufacturer (GPUs in this particular case) can experience some real issues if demand drops dramatically due to competitive disadvantages.  EVGA also has taken a much more aggressive approach to differentiating their products while keeping them within a certain budget.

The latest generation of GTX 700 based cards have seen the introduction of the EVGA ACX cooling solutions.  These dual fan coolers are a big step up from the reference design and puts EVGA on par with competitive products from Asus and MSI.  EVGA does make some tradeoffs as compared, but these are fairly minimal when considering the entire package.

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Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Low Power and Low Price

Back at CES earlier this year, we came across a couple of interesting motherboards that were neither AM3+ nor FM2+.  These small, sparse, and inexpensive boards were actually based on the unannounced AM1 platform.  This socket is actually the FS1b socket that is typically reserved for mobile applications which require the use of swappable APUs.  The goal here is to provide a low cost, upgradeable platform for emerging markets where price is absolutely key.

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AMD has not exactly been living on easy street for the past several years.  Their CPU technologies have not been entirely competitive with Intel.  This is their bread and butter.  Helping to prop the company up though is a very robust and competitive graphics unit.  The standalone and integrated graphics technology they offer are not only competitive, but also class leading in some cases.  The integration of AMD’s GCN architecture into APUs has been their crowning achievement as of late.

This is not to say that AMD is totally deficient in their CPU designs.  Their low power/low cost designs that started with the Bobcat architecture all those years back have always been very competitive in terms of performance, price, and power consumption.  The latest iteration is the Kabini APU based on the Jaguar core architecture paired with GCN graphics.  Kabini will be the part going into the FS1b socket that powers the AM1 platform.

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Kabini is a four core processor (Jaguar) with a 128 unit GCN graphics part (8 GCN cores).  These APUs will be rated at 25 watts up and down the stack.  Even if they come with half the cores, it will still be a 25 watt part.  AMD says that 25 watts is the sweet spot in terms of performance, cooling, and power consumption.  Go lower than that and too much performance is sacrificed, and any higher it would make more sense to go with a Trinity/Richland/Kaveri solution.  That 25 watt figure also encompasses the primary I/O functionality that typically resides on a standalone motherboard chipset.  Kabini features 2 SATA 6G ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and 8 USB 2.0 ports.  It also features multiple PCI-E lanes as well as a 4x PCI-E connection for external graphics.  The chip also supports DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA outputs.  This is a true SOC from AMD that does a whole lot of work for not a whole lot of power.

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Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Last October, Western Digital launched the My Cloud. This device was essentially a network connected version of their My Book line of external hard drives, but with Internet connectivity and apps that could reach back to the My Cloud even when you were away from home. One month later, WD launched the My Cloud EX4, a much beefier version which supported redundant arrays of 4 hard disks, redundant network and power, and a load of other features. There was a rather large gap in features between these two devices, as the only RAID option was more of a small business one. Today Western Digital closed that gap:

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The My Cloud EX2 is essentially a My Cloud, but with dual drive bays, and a few additional features. Check out this projected trend below:

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You can see there was a definite void in the 2-drive range that needed filling. With those two drives, you get a few options for redundancy or capacity+speed:

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All standard RAID options for a 2-bay appliance are met here, though the vast majority of users should opt for the default RAID-1 mirrored set.

 

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple here with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX2!