FarCry 4 performance, it is almost ready for prime time

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2015 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, sad, gaming, farcry 4

[H]ard|OCP recently put out a pair of articles covering Far Cry 4, the first of which covered the various new graphics features, many of which are only available to NVIDIA users and others like the Godrays which have such a performance impact on AMD GPUs that they may as well be NVIDIA only.  The second will be of more interest to gamers as they benchmark a dozen GPUs, covering NVIDIA from the GTX 750Ti through to the GTX 980 and AMD from the R7 260X through to the R9 290X.  They also had a chance to test SLI performance but unfortunately as Ubisoft decided to disable Crossfire completely in the game there could not be any multiple AMD GPU setups tested.  Perhaps the most telling conclusion from [H]ard|OCP is also the most obvious, even though this is an evolution of the FarCry3 engine there have been numerous issues with the game since launch and even after six patches major issues with the game and the continued refusal to support Crossfire are hurting this games performance.  If you still plan to play the game you can read [H]'s full performance review to see how your GPU should perform in Ubisoft's latest ... release.

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"We play Far Cry 4 on no less than twelve different GPUs for this in-depth look at what graphics settings are playable in Far Cry 4. We will talk about playable settings and show apples-to-apples so you know what to expect in this game and what upgrading your video card may do for you in this new game."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sure it is still 1's and 0's but a lot has changed in 25 years

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2015 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: history, cpu, errata, dan luu

A question was asked of Dan Luu about what new tricks silicon has learned since the early days of the eighties.  The answer covers a gamut of what tools those who work on low level code such as drivers and UEFI/BIOS now have at their disposal.  It is far more than just the fact that we have grown from 8 bit to 64 bit or the frequencies possible now that were undreamed of before but delves into the newer features such as out of order instructions and single instruction, multiple data instructions.  If you are not familiar with how CPUs and GPGPUs operate at these low levels it is a great jumping off point for you to learn what the features are called and to get a rough idea of what tasks they perform.  If you know your silicon through and through it is a nice look back at what has been added in the last 25 years and a reminder of what you had to work without back in the days when flashing a BIOS was a literal thing.  You can also check the comments below the links at Slashdot as they are uncharacteristically on topic.

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"An article by Dan Luu answers this question and provides a good overview of various cool tricks modern CPUs can perform. The slightly older presentation Compiler++ by Jim Radigan also gives some insight on how C++ translates to modern instruction sets."

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Source: Slashdot

Grand Theft Auto V (PC) Delayed Until March 24, 2015

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2015 - 04:20 AM |
Tagged: GTA5, GTA Online, consolitis

The fifth major release of Grand Theft Auto was launched sixteen months ago on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, without the PC. Eventually, Rockstar announced next-gen versions for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which explained why the PC was missing before: it was considered a next-gen platform. Those platforms launched a year after the initial release, but the PC was pushed into January 2015. Now it has been pushed again, into late March (the 24th to be precise).

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It's not like we're not trying!

Again, I hope that the extra time will be worth it -- and it might be, too. The game was overwhelmingly successful from a sales standpoint, but Grand Theft Auto Online (its multiplayer component) was criticized for a wide range of issues: service connectivity, glitches including loss of characters and progression, and some even claim a lack of content. Maybe, just maybe, it will be polished by the time it gets to us. And hey, Rockstar even claims that it will launch with Heists (which could be considered a running joke in itself).

They also claim that Grand Theft Auto Online for the PC will support 30 players. Nice.

The system specifications were also released, and they're fairly modest (unlike other recent titles). At a minimum, you will need a 64-bit OS with 4GB of memory and 65GB of drive space, which might be a stumbling block for some. Besides that? Core 2 Quad Q6600 and a GeForce 9800 GT. Its recommended specs push the CPU up to an Ivy Bridge Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 660.

It is interesting to see that only quad cores (or higher) are supported, but fairly old ones. Unless something like Far Cry 4 happens, there should be plenty enough performance in a dual-core Pentium Anniversary Edition to keep up. Hopefully Rockstar doesn't error-out machines if they do not detect at least four threads.

Source: Joystiq

NZXT Enters the Set-Top Box Market with the DOKO Remote PC Streaming Device

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2015 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: set-top box, remote access, pc game streaming, nzxt, DOKO

The new DOKO device from NZXT is an interesting spin on the living room streaming box, and it's a lot more than another Netflix player.

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So what exactly is it? According to NZXT "DOKO is a low latency (50-80ms), 1080p 30 FPS PC streaming device that brings you the full functionality of your PC, anywhere in your home."

The DOKO provides the interface to remotely connect to computers over your network, providing access to whatever resources you have on your PC. The DOKO has USB ports to connect peripherals and though there is no proprietary hardware required, the company has compiled a “recommend” list of compatible keyboards, mice, and game controllers on their site.

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The DOKO interface

And NZXT is making the gaming aspect of the streamer’s capability a big part of the product, though with a 30 FPS limit it isn't as exciting as it could be.

“DOKO brings you unrestricted, latency-free gaming direct to your TV. Experience a new way to play your favorite PC games, with complete access to ALL of them, whether they are from Steam, Origin, Uplay or any other source.”

In-home streaming is already a part of Steam, but the idea of an agnostic gaming experience without a second computer is attractive if it works as well as advertised. The company also points out the advantage of being able to do everything your PC can do… (Uh, we’re talking about spreadsheets, right?)

The DOKO will be available exclusively from NZXT’s online store (sorry, online "Armory") for $99, and will start shipping January 28.

Source: NZXT

Alas poor Win7, I knew him ...

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2015 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: win7, extended support, the cycle of life, inevitable

Sigh, the end draws nigh for that most common of desktop operating systems, Windows 7, has moved into Extended Support.  This follows the move at Halloween from an active product to one no longer available but is not the final straw for the OS which is currently scheduled for 2020.  The Inquirer quotes a source which places the current market share of Win7 at just over 56% globally, far above the currently selling Win8.1 but this number will slowly begin to fall, likely at a quicker pace than did WinXP's share.  When a Windows product reaches Extended Support it still receives security patches and serious bug fixes, albeit at a slower pace than when it is current so don't worry that your Win7 boxen will be dying any time soon but it does make it even more worthwhile to familiarize yourself with Windows 10 as new machines will be running that OS very soon.  Drop by The Inquirer for other upcoming dates, such as the final nail in Vista's coffin.

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"WINDOWS 7 has reached an important milestone that begins its long, slow descent into obscurity and eventually end of life, where it will doubtless continue to command more market share than its successor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Using the embedded HD7850 to spot the next generation of gamers in the womb

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: ultrasound, opencl, hd 7850

The new bk3000 Ultrasound System from Analogic will use an embedded HD7850 and OpenCL to triple the quality of the information the ultrasound reveals.  This will allow ultrasounds to reveal anatomical detail and micro-vascularization that was not available with previous ultrasound technology and could even enable Gamegaters to locate their own heads with the use of the E14C4t transducer.  The most familiar usage of ultrasound is for displaying a fetus in utero but there are far more medical uses for this type of (mostly) non-invasive scan and the increase in detail and the transformation abilities that Open CL brings will not only make it more effective but could expand the usefulness of ultrasounds as a diagnostic tool.  As we at PC Perspective continue to age we are very appreciative of advances such as this, especially if we can get a split screen that allows us to do a little light gaming while the doctors poke and prod!

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SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Jan. 12, 2015 — AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) today announced that the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU is enabling cutting-edge application performance for the BK Ultrasound, powered by Analogic, bk3000 ultrasound system. Analogic is a leader in developing healthcare and security technology solutions to advance the practice of medicine to save lives.

“The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU with OpenCL provides a powerful and efficient pairing,” said Cameron Swen, segment marketing manager, medical applications, AMD Embedded Solutions. “This product is yet another proof point to AMD’s dedication to the healthcare segment through its technology, which helps facilitate crisp, detailed medical image visualization and other advanced graphics-driven capabilities, helping doctors provide improved care for patients.”

Analogic used OpenCL standard to gain access to the GPU for general-purpose computing, referred to as “GPGPU,” delivering exceptional performance and offering system and development cost reduction through cross-platform portability. As a result of using AMD GPU technology, Analogic achieved a 3x improvement in the amount of information in each ultrasound image and reduced time from capture to presentation. Traditional FPGAs and DSPs create a fixed, inflexible implementation that requires custom software targeted at specific hardware. Going to a software-based solution using OpenCL helps to further lower the development cost and provides improved long term value since the software can be used across product lines and through generation shifts.

“It was a critical design goal for us to implement a platform that delivered exceptional performance,” said Jacques Coumans, chief marketing and scientific officer, Analogic. “After reviewing the options available, we chose the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU for its excellent quality and scalability. The bk3000 ultrasound system, powered by AMD embedded graphics technology, delivers exceptional speed and image fidelity, which allows clinicians to identify anatomy and flow dynamics deeper in challenging patients.”

The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 is based on AMD’s award-winning Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture to advance the visual growth and parallel processing capabilities of embedded applications. In addition to ultrasound, other applications for GPGPU include some of the most complex parallel applications such as terrain and weather mapping, facial and gesture recognition, and biometric and DNA analysis.

The new Analogic bk3000 ultrasound system is targeted for urology, surgery, general imaging, and procedure guidance applications and is commercially available in key markets worldwide.

Source: AMD

Still wondering about adaptive refresh and why it matters to more than the 144Hz crowd?

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

The Tech Report published a video of Freesync in action using a camera which records at 240 fps.  The subject material is running at less than the 60Hz that most of our monitors use which means that you can actually see what it does for you.  Watching the video at 60Hz you can see the tearing on the blades of the windmill as the actual frame rate of the render is 44 - 45Hz while when Freesync is active the matched frequencies do not cause any tearing.  The demonstration shows how Freesync can benefit lower end systems that are not going to push a 144Hz monitor to the limits, if you can only manage 40-50 fps in a game Freesync is going to make it much easier on your eyes.  You can catch our latest coverage of Freesync here.

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"We've been hearing about FreeSync, AMD's answer to Nvidia's G-Sync variable refresh display tech, for just over a year now. This week at CES, we finally got a chance to see FreeSync in action, and we used that opportunity to shoot some enlightening 240-FPS footage. We were able to find out some new specifics from AMD, as well."

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Two of Intel's CES Wearables Powered by ARM Processors

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: wearables, SoC, smartwatch, Intel, ces 2015, CES, arm

Wearable tech shown at this year's CES by Intel included the Intel MICA and Basis PEAK wearables, but a blog post from ARM is reporting that a pair of these devices are powered by an ARM SoC.

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The Intel MICA (Image credit: Intel)

ARM has posted pictures of teardowns from different wearable products, highlighting their presence in these new devices. The pictures we have taken from ARM's blog post show that it is not Intel at the heart of the two particular models we have listed below.

First is the Basis PEAK, and it actually makes a lot of sense that this product would have an ARM SoC considering Intel's aquisition of Basis occurred late in 2014, likely after the development of the PEAK had been completed.

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The Basis PEAK (Image credits: Basis, ARM)

Of course it is likely that Intel has plans to integrate their own mobile chips into future versions of wearable products like the PEAK.

Of some interest however is the SoC within their own MICA luxury wearable.

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The Intel MICA (Image credits: Intel, ARM)

For now, ARM is the industry standard for mobile devices and they are quick to point this out in their their blog post, writing "it’s important to remember that only ARM and its partners can meet the diversity requirements and fuel innovation in this space". Intel seems to be playing the "partner" role for now, though not exclusively as the company's mobile technology is powering the newest ASUS ZenFone, for instance.

Source: ARM IoT Blog

CES 2015: Samsung Monitors and ATIV Computers

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2015 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: UD970, Samsung, S34E790C, ces 2015, ATIV One 7 Curved, ATIV Book 9, ativ

I was invited to a meeting with Samsung on my last day at CES.  The Samsung Pavilion was absolutely packed, but I was able to see a handful of products that should pique the interest of people that are passionate about their monitor technology.  I was led around by Sara and we checked out not only a few monitors, but the latest ATIV PC products.

Up until this point, I thought curved TVs were a gimmick.  I still think curved TVs are a gimmick.  For a living room seating multiple people that will have a different angle to the TV, I believe a flat screen is still the best overall experience.  When it comes to PC usage, my mind has been thoroughly changed.

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Samsung has forged ahead with a curved 21:9 panel that they give the very unwieldy product name of S34E790C.  This is a 34” VA based panel that features a resolution of 3440x1440.  This is not quite 4K resolution, and of course it features the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio.  This means that it is a bit easier on a video card than a full 4K monitor.  This is simply a stunning looking unit.  The design features a thin bezel and a really solid looking base that adds to the aesthetic rather than detracts.  The rear ports include two HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2, 3.5 mm audio output, power, and a 4 port USB 3.0 hub.

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The base is a solid, curved unit that allows users to raise and lower the panel.  The bezels are again relatively thing so that multiple monitors can be placed together without the bezels becoming distracting.  The unit also features a 100x100 mm VESA mount so that other stands can be used with this monitor.

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Three of these monitors together would make for a tremendous Surround or Eyefinity setup.  There would have to be some serious horsepower in terms of graphics to push that many pixels though.  The curve is not extreme in the least, and the monitors curve around the user in a subtle way.  This would be outstanding for flight sims, racing, and pretty much any game that can utilize a wide FOV.  Samsung showed five of these together, and they blend nearly seamlessly together.  This monitor currently retails around $1400, but MSRP is supposed to be $1,199 US.

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On the professional side they were showing the UD970.  This monitor was released around mid-year in 2014, but they were happy to put it on exhibit at CES.  This is a 3840x2160 (4K) monitor that is aimed directly at professionals with color calibration done at the factory.  When this comes out of the box, it should be in good enough shape to start working directly on professional applications which require a nicely calibrated monitor.  This monitor is the typical flat style rather than the curved unit described above.

 

The ATIVs

Away from the monitors Samsung was showing off their latest all-in-one.  The ATIV One 7 Curved is a 27” AIO that features the latest Intel i5 processor (Broadwell) with the HD 5500 graphics option.  It has 8 GB of memory and a 1 TB hybrid HD (flash and spinning 5400 RPM drive) and runs Windows 8.1.  The screen is a 1080P unit, which is a little disappointing considering the availability of fairly affordable 1440P panels, but that extra cost would drive up price from the very reasonable $1,299 MSRP.

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The machine seemed very snappy and the curved screen again seems very appropriate for PC usage.  Since the user is fairly close, the curve does allow better use of peripheral vision.  The unit is only about 1.5” deep, so we can see exactly why they are using a Broadwell based chip which does not require a tremendous amount of cooling.  It features HDMI in and out ports for use with consoles and other display options.  There are also two 10 watt speakers integrated into the machine which will provide for some pretty impressive integrated sound.  Most speakers in this class are around 2 to 4 watts, so by putting in a couple of 10 watt units there will not be a need by most people to utilize other speaker peripherals.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this product is the SideSync 3.0 software platform.  This application allows users to control their Samsung based Android device.  The demonstration I was given used the Galaxy S5.  The user will see a representation of the phone on their screen and they have access to all of the applications installed on the phone.  Here is what Samsung has to say about SideSync 3.0:

“Through SideSync 3.0, ATIV One 7 Curved users can receive phone calls and text messages forwarded from their Samsung smartphone right to their PC. Users can also control their smartphone from their PC screen, mouse and keyboard through SideSync 3.0’s sharing mode, as well as share content between devices with Samsung Link 2.0. This means that users can save all of their photos, videos, music and more in the ATIV One 7 Curved’s ample 1TB flash drive, and then easily access it from other devices from anywhere in the home.”

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The demonstration was actually pretty slick and it is useful.  It was really funny to see the cursor go from the screen and over to the smartphone and be able to click on the programs icons.

The final product shown to me was the ATIV Book 9.  This is a 12.2” laptop that weighs in at a pretty light 2.09 lbs.  It has a very dense screen that is 2560x1600.  Samsung is bringing back the 16:10 aspect ratio as they found it more useful for productivity work on this particular laptop.  The laptop features the new Broadwell based Intel Core M 5Y70 processor with 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and around 10.5 hours of battery life.  This particular configuration goes for around $1,400 US when it is released this quarter.

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This probably would have been a much more impressive looking laptop if I had not seen the Dell XPS 13 with an edge to edge display.  That model is around 11” wide and weighs slightly more at 2.6 pounds (2.8 pounds with the touchscreen version).  Still, the ATIV Book 9 is an impressive performer with its 2560x1600 screen and half pound less weight.

After all is said and done, I really want 3 x S34E790Cs.  Now if I can only get more desk space and a couple graphics cards that can push that resolution.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

Steelseries colourful Siberia Elite Prism headset

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Siberia Elite Prism, steelseries

Don't worry if the orange ring on the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism headset turns you off as that is an LED which can be changed to one of 16.8 million colours which will shift or breath in time to your music.  The headset has a frequency response of 16-28000 Hz and the unidirectional microphone is retractable for when it is not in use.  The headset uses 3.5mm jacks and comes with adapters to allow you to plug it into a variety of mobile devices or into the USB soundcards which ships with the device when you are using it on a PC.  The soundcard is not as good as a dedicated DAC but does add functionality to the headset as well.  The noise cancellation will be appreciated in noisy environments but the headset is not for the completely antisocial as there is a 3.5mm jack on one earcup to allow a friend to plug in and share your music if you so desire.  You can see MadShrimps full review here.

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"Siberia Elite Prism is a slight improvement over the original Elite version which features better comfort for the ear-cups, a new, more flexible microphone, a slightly different color scheme for the white version but also a better design of the top frame. The bundled sound card can be used with PCs and laptops via USB, but the Elite Prism also comes with the necessary cables in order to connect the headset on analog to sound cards and mobile gadgets. SteelSeries Engine 3 makes configuration possible with a custom equalizer and many more…"

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Source: MadShrimps