Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Codemasters

Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT

Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters.  This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings.  I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him.  Paul's answers will be in italics.

Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?

paul_coleman.jpg

Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.

If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments.  Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times.  How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?

The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.

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How do you balance out different controller use cases?  While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards.  Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users?  I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.

Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.

Continue reading the entire DiRT Rally Interview here!

Contest: Win a 400GB Intel 750 Series SSD from Intel and PC Perspective!

Subject: Editorial | May 29, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, PCI Express, NVMe, Intel, giveaway, contest, 750 series

PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together to offer up a giveaway with some pretty impressive swag. Surely by now you have read all about the new Intel SSD 750 Series of products, a new class of solid state drive that combines four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 and a new protocol called NVM Express (NVMe) for impressive bandwidth throughput. In Allyn's review of the SSD in April he called it "the obvious choice for consumers who demand the most from their storage" and gave it a PC Perspective Editor's Choice Award!

contest1.jpg

Thanks to our friends at Intel we are going to be handing out a pair of the 400GB add-in card models to loyal PC Perspective readers and viewers. How can you enter? The rules are dead simple:

  1. Fill out the contest entry form below to find multiple entry methods including reading our review, answering a question about Intel SSD 750 Series specs or following us on Twitter. You can fill out one or all of the methods - the more you do the better your chances!
     
  2. Leave a comment on the news post below thanking Intel for sponsoring PC Perspective and for supplying this hardware for us to give to you!
     
  3. This is a global contest - so feel free to enter from anywhere in the world!
     
  4. Contest will close on June 2nd, 2015.

Win an Intel SSD 750 Series From PC Perspective and Intel!

Our most sincere thanks to Intel for bringing this contest to PC Perspective's readers and fans. Good luck to everyone (except Josh)!

Sponsored by Intel

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Product Specifications

Capacity Seqential 128KB Read (up to MB/s) Sequential 128KB Write (up to MB/s) Random 4KB Read (up to IOPS) Random 4KB Write (up to IOPS) Form Factor Interface
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 Half-height half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 Half-heigh half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4

Experience the future of storage performance for desktop client and workstation users with the Intel® SSD 750 Series. The Intel SSD 750 Series delivers uncompromised performance by utilizing NVM Express* over four lanes of PCIe* 3.0.

With both Add-in Card and 2.5-inch form factors, the Intel SSD 750 Series eases migration from SATA to PCIe 3.0 without power or thermal limitations on performance. The SSD can now deliver the ultimate in performance in a variety of system form factors and configurations.

Source: Intel.com

Podcast #351 - More AMD Fiji Leaks, Rumors on GTX 980 Ti and a great $99 portable DAC!

Subject: Editorial | May 28, 2015 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: X99, video, sapphire, r9 285, podcast, nvidia, GTX 980 Ti, gigabyte, Fiji, DAC, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #351 - 05/28/2015

Join us this week as we discuss AMD Fiji Leaks, rumors on GTX 980 Ti, a great $99 portable DAC, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Sebastian Peak

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

Podcast #350 - AMD's plan for HBM, IPS G-SYNC, GameWorks and The Witcher 3, and more!

Subject: Editorial | May 21, 2015 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, hbm, Fiji, g-sync, ips, XB270HU, corsair, Oculus, supermicro, asus, gladius, jem davies, arm, mali

PC Perspective Podcast #350 - 05/21/2015

Join us this week as we discuss AMD's plan for HBM, IPS G-SYNC, GameWorks and The Witcher 3, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Newegg Jumping Gun on New AMD Game Bundles: GTAV and DiRT Rally?

Subject: Editorial | May 13, 2015 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: R9, newegg, GTAV, DiRT Rally, bundle, amd, 290x, 290, 285

AMD has been pretty quiet on the bundle scene, but I think we may have had their future plans revealed to us a bit early.

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In case the offer gets pulled, here is a screen grab from Newegg on May 13, 2015.

Newegg is offering a number of AMD R9 based cards with one to two free software titles.  The top end R9 290 and 290X products get both Grand Theft Auto V and DiRT Rally.  The value of these two titles are around $95 US.  The lower end cards look to only receive DiRT Rally, which is a $35 US value.

This a pretty nice bundle considering that GTAV is still very new, and DiRT Rally is an early access title that will have a bunch of free content added to it through the next 9 to 10 months.

So far no other retailer that I am aware of is offering this particular bundle.  My assumption here is that Newegg jumped the gun before AMD was able to announce it.

Click here if you want to see these deals on the R9 290X GPUs.

UPDATE: Initial information from AMD is that it "is not an AMD bundle" so we aren't quite sure what to make of this. It could be a Newegg-specific bundle, but I haven't gotten any feedback from the reseller on the issue yet. 

UPDATE 2: Well, we found this certificate for the DiRT Rally portion of the bundle on Newegg.com. Clearly this is an official AMD marketing promotion but we haven't yet found anything official on the Grand Theft Auto V side of things.

amdbundle1.jpg

UPDATE 3: And now we have this Tweet from Newegg:

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UPDATE 4: After another conversation with AMD, the company is reiterating its point that it is not directly involved in the GTAV bundles we are seeing today with AMD Radeon graphics cards on Newegg. According to AMD, the bundle was solely built by Newegg and the OEMs, which explains why we don't see similar offers on identical cards on Amazon. It's likely then that Newegg interfaced with Take-Two/Rockstar to get approval for the Grand Theft Auto 5 inclusion while the DiRT Rally portion was just a happy coincidence. (Also, apparently a week ago AMD launched the DiRT Rally bundle...who knew?!?)

Source: Newegg

Please, take this hardware from us! PCPer/HWC YouTube Contest Follow-up

Subject: Editorial | April 27, 2015 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: hardware canucks, giveaway, contest

Seriously, won't SOMEONE please take this hardware from us? We are trying desperately to give it away...

Last month PC Perspective and Hardware Canucks partnered together to offer up a March / St. Patrick's Day themed giveawawy via YouTube. The problem? Only one of 15 people I contacted about winning replied - the rest were silent or replied and did not live in the US or Canada (one of the requirements). So to fix this, we are restarting the contest for the 2nd and 3rd prize winners.

PC Perspective / Hardware Canucks YouTube Contest Follow-up

The rules are basically the same: Subscribe to both PC Perspective's and Hardware Canuck's YouTube channel, live in the US or Canada, enter by May 4th!

We'll draw the winners and notify everyone that we have done so once we have confirmation from the participants. Good luck!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Various

Process Technology Overview

We have been very spoiled throughout the years.  We likely did not realize exactly how spoiled we were until it became very obvious that the rate of process technology advances hit a virtual brick wall.  Every 18 to 24 months we were treated to a new, faster, more efficient process node that was opened up to fabless semiconductor firms and we were treated to a new generation of products that would blow our hair back.  Now we have been in a virtual standstill when it comes to new process nodes from the pure-play foundries.

Few expected the 28 nm node to live nearly as long as it has.  Some of the first cracks in the façade actually came from Intel.  Their 22 nm Tri-Gate (FinFET) process took a little bit longer to get off the ground than expected.  We also noticed some interesting electrical features from the products developed on that process.  Intel skewed away from higher clockspeeds and focused on efficiency and architectural improvements rather than staying at generally acceptable TDPs and leapfrogging the competition by clockspeed alone.  Overclockers noticed that the newer parts did not reach the same clockspeed heights as previous products such as the 32 nm based Sandy Bridge processors.  Whether this decision was intentional from Intel or not is debatable, but my gut feeling here is that they responded to the technical limitations of their 22 nm process.  Yields and bins likely dictated the max clockspeeds attained on these new products.  So instead of vaulting over AMD’s products, they just slowly started walking away from them.

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Samsung is one of the first pure-play foundries to offer a working sub-20 nm FinFET product line. (Photo courtesy of ExtremeTech)

When 28 nm was released the plans on the books were to transition to 20 nm products based on planar transistors, thereby bypassing the added expense of developing FinFETs.  It was widely expected that FinFETs were not necessarily required to address the needs of the market.  Sadly, that did not turn out to be the case.  There are many other factors as to why 20 nm planar parts are not common, but the limitations of that particular process node has made it a relatively niche process node that is appropriate for smaller, low power ASICs (like the latest Apple SOCs).  The Apple A8 is rumored to be around 90 mm square, which is a far cry from the traditional midrange GPU that goes from 250 mm sq. to 400+ mm sq.

The essential difficulty of the 20 nm planar node appears to be a lack of power scaling to match the increased transistor density.  TSMC and others have successfully packed in more transistors into every square mm as compared to 28 nm, but the electrical characteristics did not scale proportionally well.  Yes, there are improvements there per transistor, but when designers pack in all those transistors into a large design, TDP and voltage issues start to arise.  As TDP increases, it takes more power to drive the processor, which then leads to more heat.  The GPU guys probably looked at this and figured out that while they can achieve a higher transistor density and a wider design, they will have to downclock the entire GPU to hit reasonable TDP levels.  When adding these concerns to yields and bins for the new process, the advantages of going to 20 nm would be slim to none at the end of the day.

Click here to read the rest of the 28 nm GPU editorial!

HUGE Contest and Giveaway - Put a little Green in your PC!

Subject: Editorial | March 31, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: video, pcper, hwc, hardware canucks, giveaway, contest

One of our favorite holidays is creeping up on us: St. Patrick's Day! What's better than an open excuses to skip work and down some beers? How about getting a boat load of free PC hardware as well?!?

That's right, PC Perspective and Hardware Canucks have teamed up with sponsors NVIDIA, EVGA, ASUS, Crucial and Phanteks to bring our readers and YouTube subscribers a a mega-epic prize pack you are going to have to see to believe!

Here is the total list:

  • Grand Prize
    • ASUS ROG Swift G-Sync Monitor
    • EVGA GTX 980 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Strix Claw Mouse
    • ASUS Strix Tactic Pro KB
    • ASUS Strix Pro Headset
    • Crucial MX200 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks Enthoo Luxe Case
    • Phanteks PH-TC14S
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140SP
  • 2nd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse
    • Crucial BX100 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks PH-TC12LS
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
  • 3rd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse

We are hosting this contest on our YouTube channels, so here are the rules for entry:

  1. Subscribe to PCPer's YouTube channel
  2. Leave a comment on PCPer's contest video
  3. Subscribe to Hardware Canucks' YouTube channel
  4. Leave a comment on Hardware Canucks' contest video

Sorry, this is open only to US and Canada users; the cost and complexity of international shipping is just to drastic for this much hardware.

You have until March 30th to enter and we'll announce the winner on March 31st.

Good luck!!

New Intel Xeon D Broadwell Processors Aimed at Low Power, High Density Servers

Subject: Editorial, Processors | March 12, 2015 - 08:29 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, xeon, servers, opinion, microserver, Intel

Intel dealt a blow to AMD and ARM this week with the introduction of the Xeon Processor D Product Family of low power server SoCs. The new Xeon D chips use Intel’s latest 14nm process and top out at 45W. The chips are aimed at low power high density servers for general web hosting, storage clusters, web caches, and networking hardware.

Intel Xeon D Processor.png

Currently, Intel has announced two Xeon D chips, the Xeon D-1540 and Xeon D-1520. Both chips are comprised of two dies inside a single package. The main die uses a 14nm process and holds the CPU cores, L3 cache, DDR3 and DDR4 memory controllers, networking controller, PCI-E 3.0, and USB 3.0 while a secondary die using a larger (but easier to implement) manufacturing process hosts the higher latency I/O that would traditionally sit on the southbridge including SATA, PCI-E 2.0, and USB 2.0.

In all, a fairly typical SoC setup from Intel. The specifics are where things get interesting, however. At the top end, Xeon D offers eight Broadwell-based CPU cores (with Hyper-Threading for 16 total threads) clocked at 2.0 GHz base and 2.5 GHz max all-core Turbo (2.6 GHz on a single core). The cores are slightly more efficient than Haswell, especially in this low power setup. The eight cores can tap into 12MB of L3 cache as well as up to 128GB of registered ECC memory (or 64GB unbuffered and/or SODIMMs) in DDR3 1600 MHz or DDR4 2133 MHz flavors. Xeon D also features 24 PCI-E 3.0 lanes (which can be broken up to as small as six PCI-E 3.0 x4 lanes or in a x16+x8 configuration among others), eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes, two 10GbE connections, six SATA III 6.0 Gbps channels, four USB 3.0 ports, and four USB 2.0 ports.

Intel Xeon D Server Processor Performance.png

All of this hardware is rolled into a part with a 45W TDP. Needless to say, this is a new level of efficiency for Xeons! Intel chose to compare the new chips to its Atom C2000 “Avoton” (Silvermont-based) SoCs which were also aimed at low power servers and related devices. According to the company, Xeon D offers up to 3.4-times the performance and 1.7-times the performance-per-watt of the top end Atom C2750 processor. Keeping in mind that Xeon D uses approximately twice the power as Atom C2000, it is still looking good for Intel since you are getting more than twice the performance and a more power efficient part. Further, while the TDPs are much higher,

Intel has packed Xeon D with a slew of power management technology including Integrated Voltage Regulation (IVR), an energy efficient turbo mode that will analyze whether increased frequencies actually help get work done faster (and if not will reduce turbo to allow extra power to be used elsewhere on the chip or to simply reduce wasted energy), and optional “hardware power management” that allows the processor itself to determine the appropriate power and sleep states independently from the OS.

Being server parts, Xeon D supports ECC, PCI-E Non-Transparent Bridging, memory and PCI-E Checksums, and corrected (errata-free) TSX instructions.

Ars Technica notes that Xeon D is strictly single socket and that Intel has reserved multi-socket servers for its higher end and more expensive Xeons (Haswell-EP). Where does the “high density” I mentioned come from then? Well, by cramming as many Xeon D SoCs on small motherboards with their own RAM and IO into rack mounted cases as possible, of course! It is hard to say just how many Xeon Ds will fit in a 1U, 2U, or even 4U rack mounted system without seeing associated motherboards and networking hardware needed but Xeon D should fare better than Avoton in this case since we are looking at higher bandwidth networking links and more PCI-E lanes, but AMD with SeaMicro’s Freedom Fabric and head start on low power x86 and ARM-based Opteron chip research as well as other ARM-based companies like AppliedMicro (X-Gene) will have a slight density advantage (though the Intel chips will be faster per chip).

Intel Xeon Processor D Product Family Server SoC.png

Which brings me to my final point. Xeon D truly appears like a shot across both ARM and AMD’s bow. It seems like Intel is not content with it’s dominant position in the overall server market and is putting its weight into a move to take over the low power server market as well, a niche that ARM and AMD in particular have been actively pursuing. Intel is not quite to the low power levels that AMD and other ARM-based companies are, but bringing Xeon down to 45W (with Atom-based solutions going upwards performance wise), the Intel juggernaut is closing in and I’m interested to see how it all plays out.

Right now, ARM still has the TDP and customization advantage (where customers can create custom chips and cores to suit their exact needs) and AMD will be able to leverage its GPU expertise by including processor graphics for a leg up on highly multi-threaded GPGPU workloads. On the other hand, Intel has the better manufacturing process and engineering budget. Xeon D seems to be the first step towards going after a market that they have in the past not really focused on.

With Intel pushing its weight around, where will that leave the little guys that I have been rooting for in this low power high density server space?

Source: Intel
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Bohemia Interactive

Project Lead: Joris-Jan van ‘t Land

Thanks to Ian Comings, guest writer from the PC Perspective Forums who conducted the interview of Bohemia Interactive's Joris-Jan van ‘t Land. If you are interested in learning more about ArmA 3 and hanging out with some PC gamers to play it, check out the PC Perspective Gaming Forum!

I recently got the chance to send some questions to Bohemia Interactive, a computer game development company based out of Prague, Czech Republic, and a member of IDEA Games. Bohemia Interactive was founded in 1999 by CEO Marek Španěl, and it is best known for PC gaming gems like Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, The ArmA series, Take On Helicopters, and DayZ. The questions are answered by ArmA 3's Project Lead: Joris-Jan van ‘t Land.

PC Perspective: How long have you been at Bohemia Interactive?

VAN ‘T LAND: All in all, about 14 years now.

PC Perspective: What inspired you to become a Project Lead at Bohemia Interactive?

VAN ‘T LAND: During high school, it was pretty clear to me that I wanted to work in game development, and just before graduation, a friend and I saw a first preview for Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis in a magazine. It immediately looked amazing to us; we were drawn to the freedom and diversity it promised and the military theme. After helping run a fan website (Operation Flashpoint Network) for a while, I started to assist with part-time external design work on the game (scripting and scenario editing). From that point, I basically grew naturally into this role at Bohemia Interactive.

arma3_screenshot_02.jpg

PC Perspective: What part of working at Bohemia Interactive do you find most satisfying? What do you find most challenging?

VAN ‘T LAND: The amount of freedom and autonomy is very satisfying. If you can demonstrate skills in some area, you're welcome to come up with random ideas and roll with them. Some of those ideas can result in official releases, such as Arma 3 Zeus. Another rewarding aspect is the near real-time connection to those people who are playing the game. Our daily Dev-Branch release means the work I do on Monday is live on Tuesday. Our own ambitions, on the other hand, can sometimes result in some challenges. We want to do a lot and incorporate every aspect of combat in Arma, but we're still a relatively small team. This can mean we bite off more than we can deliver at an acceptable level of quality.

PC Perspective: What are some of the problems that have plagued your team, and how have they been overcome?

VAN ‘T LAND: One key problem for us was that we had no real experience with developing a game in more than one physical location. For Arma 3, our team was split over two main offices, which caused quite a few headaches in terms of communication and data synchronization. We've since had more key team members travel between the offices more frequently and improved our various virtual communication methods. A lot of work has been done to try to ensure that both offices have the latest version of the game at any given time. That is not always easy when your bandwidth is limited and games are getting bigger and bigger.

Continue reading our interview with Bohemia Interactive!!