The schwag was cool; the keyboard not so much

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: sentey, gaming keyboard, Phoenix Extreme Gamer Series, input

Overclockers Club offers an alternative look at the extreme gaming keyboard market which most seem to have accepted as a reasonable product now.  There are many who will pay a high price for a mechanical keyboard with good switches as they do make a difference for frequent typers though arguably not as much for gamers.  Then there are the $50 gaming keyboard with common gel switches but a fancy exterior, eye catching colours and backlighting which generally come with bottle openers and fridge magnets.  The Sentey Phoenix Extreme Gamer is one such keyboard and if you consider it reasonable to spend $50 on a pretty keyboard you probably don't want to read this review.  Those who agree with the author and would rather kill 5 generic keyboards over time will probably crack at least one smile while they read.

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"The keyboard ultimately is a joke to my hands and for the $50 asking price, I'd rather burn through five generic builder series keyboards instead. This keyboard has no home on my desk and shouldn't on yours either. I'm happy to be done with the review, simply for the sake of never using it again. Fortunately, the carry bag will prevent me from picking up shattered keys in my driveway later; good thinking Sentey."

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E3 2014: Battlefield Hardline Closed Beta Sign Up

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: E3 14, E3, beta, battlefield hardline, battlefield

Quick message: The Battlefield Hardline Closed Beta is accepting applications now on a first-come-first-serve basis. Hardline is Battlefield in a cops and robbers universe. Think of PayDay 2 with Battlefield 4 graphics and gameplay elements, basically. It is developed by Visceral Games, the studio known for Dead Space.

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Note: The signup page is a bit glitchy, likely because of server load. If you are interested, hop in quick, before all of the slots are gone. The beta is open now, although it apparently takes a little bit of time before Origin recognizes that you are in it. You will know you are in when you get an email "invoice" for the Battlefield Hardline beta with a $0 transaction.

Source: EA

E3 2014: SteelSeries Announces Sentry Eye Tracking

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 03:25 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 14, steelseries, sentry

SteelSeries has announced Sentry, a device which tracks the user's eye movement. Since so much of professional gaming is perception and attention, it can be valuable to acquire feedback on how your eyes scan the display. This is not exactly a new service for teams. Some StarCraft 2 tournaments have even broadcast eye-tracking data to the audience.

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This is obviously a niche product, but that is not reason to discredit it. One of the leading reasons for purchasing a high-speed camera is to analyze golf swings (I avoided the "driving reasons" pun, for your sanity). More subtly, SteelSeries is a major sponsor of several gaming teams. They might consider their personal needs as a form of subsidization, depending on if their business arrangement with Tobii and their investment in the Sentry. If it is not significantly more expensive than licensing a different service for their players, or that service is missing critical features, then why not make it and sell part (or all) of it as a product?

Currently no pricing or availability yet.

Source: SteelSeries

E3 2014: NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Will Exist?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 9, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, E3 14, E3

The Tech Report had their screenshot-fu tested today with the brief lifespan of NVIDIA's SHIELD Tablet product page. As you can see, it is fairly empty. We know that it will have at least one bullet point of "Features" and that its name will be "SHIELD Tablet".

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Image Credit: The Tech Report

Of course, being the first day of E3, it is easy to expect that such a device will be announced in the next couple of days. This is expected to be based on the Tegra K1 with 2GB of RAM and have a 2048x1536 touch display.

It does question what exactly is a "SHIELD", however. Apart from being a first-party device, how would they be any different from other TegraZone devices? We know that Half Life 2 and Portal have been ported to the SHIELD product line, exclusively, and will not be available on other Tegra-powered devices. Now that the SHIELD line is extending to tablets, I wonder how NVIDIA will handle this seemingly two-tier class of products (SHIELD vs Tegra OEM devices). It might even depend on how many design wins they achieve, along with their overall mobile market share.

Source: Tech Report

Gesture at your camera phone?

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: windows phone 8, nokia, kinect

If you recall, the Nokia Lumia 1020 was the 41MP camera with a phone bolted to it that was released last year.  Nokia is following up their unique product with a new version which will incorporate Kinect sensors into the phone and called it "3D Touch" or "Real Motion".  Nokia sees possible usages such as turning on the phone by grabbing it and to hover your finger  over a Live Tile and tap down in the air to bring up sub-menus.  Combine gestures with Bluetooth and you will never again know if that strange person on the street is a hipster or hallucinating.  Catch more at The Inquirer.

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"KINECT TECHNOLOGY reportedly will debut on Windows Phone this year, with the sensors set to appear in the sequel to the Nokia Lumia 1020."

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Source: The Inquirer

This Wacom "Cintiq" Really Is Based on an Intuos

Subject: General Tech, Displays | June 8, 2014 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: wacom, Cintiq, Intuos, hack

A couple of years ago, you might remember my review of the Wacom Cintiq 22HD. It was not a review unit. I was originally saving for the Cintiq 24HD until the 22HD and the 24HD Touch were announced. At that point, I was making decision whether to upgrade to the 24HD with a touchscreen for Windows 8 development, or save some money and get the 22HD. If you have read my many editorials on Windows Store certification requirements, you might guess that, at least I believe, I made the right decision.

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Image Credit: Hack a Day

This purchase was actually the second graphics tablet that I owned. Years earlier, I purchased an Adesso CyberTablet 12000 but had problems with drawing in one location and seeing the results in another. I, then, transitioned to scanning pencil-and-paper and inking/filling them with a mouse. It was at that point that I took a gamble on a Wacom Cintiq.

Why am I telling this story? Wacom Cintiqs are based on the same technology as their Intuos tablets, even down to pen compatibility, with a display built in. Well, at Hack a Day, one of their clever readers decided to make their own Cintiq out of what appears to be a Wacom Intuos3 A5. Basically, he fit a replacement 9.7-inch, 2048x1536 display, designed for Retina iPads and similar tablets, behind the touch sensor. It apparently worked without much fuss.

You can find Wacom Intuos3 6 x 8-inch pen tablets for about 120-150$ used. You can also find a 9.7-inch 2048x1536 panel and the other necessary hardware for about $70. While it is not an exact replacement for a Wacom Cintiq, it is the best you will do for under $250 (or even under $900).

Source: Hack a Day

Xbox One Controller PC Drivers Now Available

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2014 - 04:09 AM |
Tagged: xbox, microsoft, pc gaming, reverse-consolitis

Ah cool. Microsoft has provided the 32-bit and 64-bit (x86) drivers for their Xbox One controllers. The controller can only be used in wired mode, connected to the PC with a micro-USB cable, and there does not seem to be any plans to develop a PC wireless dongle like the 360 had. It will support any game which can make use of an Xbox 360 controller, which is certainly a lot of games.

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The D-Pad is said to be a huge step up from the 360, which is a polite way of saying the 360's directional pad was absolute garbage. I am hesitant about the rest of the controller, though. I have heard numerous complaints about its design, particularly with its shoulder buttons, although it is hard to know without physically trying it. Like all peripherals, I would expect it comes down to personal preference to some extent.

PC gamers have other choices, too. For instance, unofficial support for the PS4 controller exists, albeit it is missing features from what I remember (it does support Bluetooth wireless on the PC, however). Also, and this is a better option, numerous PC gaming companies have their own controllers, including Razer, Logitech, and others.

But, of course, if you already have an Xbox One -- then why not try its controller on your PC?

PCIe 4.0 Is 2x Bandwidth of 3.0, like 3.0 to 2.0 and 2.0 to 1.0

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | June 7, 2014 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: pcie 4.0, pcie, PCI SIG

You know the PCI-SIG might break the pattern with PCIe 5.0, just to mess with us. But for right now, Tom's Hardware seems to have acquired part of the PCIe 4.0 spec and it is expected to get 2 GB/s bandwidth per lane, per direction. This is double the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0, continuing the trend of each major PCIe release doubling bandwidth of the previous major version.

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A 16-lane PCIe 4.0-compliant graphics card or storage add-in board (that feels so weird to write...) has a maximum bandwidth of 32 GB/s inbound and 32 GB/s outbound, 64 GB/s total. This is still below GDDR5 bandwidth, but approaching the same order of magnitude. That said, memory bandwidth is the major roadblock for optimizing GPGPU workloads, already. APUs will probably still have an advantage in CPU and GPU tag-teaming tasks, despite their lower compute performance.

According to bit-tech, the spec is expected to arrive with Skylake and its 100-series chipset.

Microsoft Allows Developer Use of Kinect-Reserved Shaders

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2014 - 04:32 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, xbox one, xbone, gpgpu, GCN

Shortly after the Kinect deprecation, Microsoft has announced that a 10% boost in GPU performance will be coming to Xbox One. This, of course, is the platform allowing developers to avoid the typical overhead which Kinect requires for its various tasks. Updated software will allow game developers to regain some or all of that compute time back.

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Still looks like Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury 'stache.

While it "might" (who am I kidding?) be used to berate Microsoft for ever forcing the Kinect upon users in the first place, this functionality was planned from before launch. Pre-launch interviews stated that Microsoft was looking into scheduling their compute tasks while the game was busy, for example, hammering the ROPs and leaving the shader cores idle. This could be that, and only that, or it could be a bit more if developers are allowed to opt out of most or all Kinect computations altogether.

The theoretical maximum GPU compute and shader performance of the Xbox One GPU is still about 29% less than its competitor, the PS4. Still, 29% less is better than about 36% less. Not only that, but the final result will always come down to the amount of care and attention spent on any given title by its developers. This will give them more breathing room, though.

Then, of course, the PC has about 3x the shader performance of either of those systems in a few single-GPU products. Everything should be seen in perspective.

Source: Eurogamer

MSI Adora20 3M All-in-One PC Is Based on Kabini

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 7, 2014 - 02:44 AM |
Tagged: msi, all-in-one, Kabini

MSI has just announced an updated all-in-one PC which they hope you find... Adora-able? If you thought that joke was terrible, then it gets worse: I stole it from their product page. The Adora20 3M is based on an AMD E2-3800, which is a quad-core Kabini APU. Its built-in Radeon HD 8280 will not be able to play most modern games as it is unable to keep 30 FPS in either DOTA 2 or Diablo III at the screen's native (1600x900) resolution. This will be a GPU for web browsing and video decoding tasks.

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The device, itself, is built into a 19.5-inch touchscreen display and comes with Windows 8.1. It has two integrated 3W speakers from Creative and a one-megapixel webcam. It also has mic in, headphone out, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, two more pairs of USB 2.0 ports (one pair on the side and one pair on the back), an HDMI-out port, gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card reader (no maximum card size listed). It also has Wireless-N. An SSD will be available on some units, but not every one. A TV tuner is also optional.

The Adora design is marketed as a slim design that about nine-tenths (9/10) of an inch at its thickest. The point seems to be that it is a full desktop PC in a TV form factor. They do not mention whether it supports VESA wall mounts (and its pictures suggest that it does not). Its kickstand looks handy, but I cannot really find a compelling reason for a thin monitor that is just going to lean on its kickstand all day.

It could be a good deal, however, if it is priced appropriately. Unfortunately, we do not have details on pricing or availability yet. If cheap enough, this could be very compelling for a kiosk or a kitchen/office nook. I still question whether those use cases would care about it being less than an inch thick, but I guess it would be a nice bonus.

Source: MSI