Podcast #331 - Hardware Picks of the Year, Acer's 1080p G-SYNC Display, a new Drobo and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2014 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, nvidia, Lian Li, LG, Intel, gigabyte, g-sync, freesync, drobo, bitfenix, asus, amd, acer, 850 EVO

PC Perspective Podcast #331 - 12/31/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our Hardware Picks of the Year, Acer's 1080p G-SYNC Display, a new Drobo 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!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:54:53

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
      1. Ken is an idiot, don't try to use the Hyper 212 Evo in the Air 240.
  2. News items of interest:
  3. PC Perspective Hardware Picks of the Year
    1. Graphics Card of 2014
      1. GTX 980
      2. Winner: GTX 970
      3. R9 285
      4. GTX TITAN Z (lulz)
      5. R9 295 X2
      6. Runner-up: GTX 750 Ti
    2. CPU of 2014
      1. Winner: Core i7-4790K
      2. Pentium G3258
      3. Core i7-5960X
      4. Core M 5Y70 (Broadwell-Y)
      5. AMD AM1 Athlon 5350
      6. AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU
      7. Tegra K1
      8. Runner-up: Athlon X4 860K
    3. Storage of 2014
      1. Samsung 850 Pro
      2. Winner: Samsung 850 EVO
      3. Crucial MX100
      4. Runner-up: Intel P3700
      5. 6TB HDDs
      6. Intel SSD 730 Series
      7. Silicon Motion SM2246EN (Force LX, Angelbird ssd wrk, Adata 610)
    4. Case of 2014
      1. Winner: NCASE M1
      2. Runner-up: Corsair Carbide Air 240
      3. Fractal Design Define R5
      4. SilverStone Raven RVZ01
      5. PHT Ultra Low-Profile HTPC Case
    5. Motherboard of 2014
      1. Runner-up: ASUS Crossblade Ranger FM2+
      2. ASUS Z97 Deluxe
      3. Gigabyte Z97X Gaming G1 Black Edition
      4. X99 Deluxe
      5. Winner: Z97 Maximus VII Formula
    6. Price Drop of 2014
      1. Winner: AMD R9 290X/290
      2. R9 295 X2
      3. Good Displays
      4. GTX Titan Z (lulz)
      5. Runner-up: SSDs (again)
      6. Gasoline
    7. Best Trend of 2014
      1. Variable Refresh Rate Monitors / Tear-free Gaming
      2. Smart Watches
      3. Runner-up: PCIe/NVMe storage
      4. Gigabit Internet
      5. Custom Watercooling
      6. Winner: 21:9 Monitors
    8. Worst Trend of 2014
      1. Smart Watches
      2. Locked GPU Voltages
      3. DDR4
      4. Winner: 840 Evo Performance Issues
      5. Runner-up: G-SYNC Monitor prices
      6. Curved Displays
      7. GPU Mining BitCoins
  4. Closing/outro

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Rumor: 15.4" Broadwell-U Chromebooks Are Coming

Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 29, 2014 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: laptop, google, dell, ChromeOS, Chromebook, chrome, acer

According to DigiTimes via The Tech Report, because of course DigiTimes, we should receive 15.4-inch Chromebooks in the near future. Their sources claim that both Acer and Dell have products planned with that operating system, in that size, and will cost less then $300. The Acer system is expected in March 2015 with Dell scheduled for some time in the first half of 2015.

12-failslow-Chrome.png

One part that stands out for me is the maximum price of $300. The claim is that this is a Google mandated ceiling for Chromebooks with up-to Core i3 performance. This is troubling for two reasons. First, depending on the details, it might dance around inside the minefield of price-fixing laws, although I am sure that Google is doing this in a legally. I mean, Apple has been getting away with enforcing maximum retail prices of iPods and iOS devices for around a decade and I believe console manufacturers do about the same.

Second, and more importantly, it limits the ability for manufacturers to be creative and innovative, which is the major advantage of an open ecosystem. Being a web browser-based platform, there is already constraints on what manufacturers can implement. Sure, Google is probably open to communication with their partnered hardware vendors, but it is uncomfortable none-the-less. I could use the Nexus Q as an example of an experiment but unfortunately it was neither a hit nor did it cost over $300. Sure, they could add a more powerful processor to escape that clause but it is still

These Chromebooks are expected to launch in the early half of 2015.

Source: Tech Report

Sony Announces PlayStation Now for Samsung Smart TVs

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | December 29, 2014 - 10:06 AM |
Tagged: sony, Samsung, playstation now, Playstation

I know that I have said it in the past, but I am not big on cloud streaming services. For art, the ability to genuinely own your content keeps it safe from censorship and licensing disagreements. You only need to look back a year to see Disney pulling access to legally purchased content on Amazon because they wanted their TV channel to have exclusive rights to the Christmas movies in the holiday season. This does not apply to people who actually owned the content (semi-)DRM-free. Streaming services, especially for video games, are examples of perfection for anyone willing to abuse the system.

Remember: If you build it, the abuse will come.

Sony-Playstation_logo.png

With that commentary out of the way, what streaming services are good at is pure entertainment. They are just about peak convenience to deliver... some form of entertaining content... unless you have spotty internet (or some other exception). These services have definite merit, so long as they augment platforms for actual art and not attempt to replace them.

So why am I rambling? Recently, Sony has announced that PlayStation Now will arrive for Samsung Smart TVs alongside Sony devices. At first, this might sound surprising. Sony, a console manufacturer, is providing access to the PlayStation ecosystem on other platforms – and yes, that is noteworthy. It is also not without precedent. While the initiative is mostly abandoned, Sony tried opening up to third-party mobile manufacturers (HTC, Sharp, Fujitsu, Wikipad, and Alcatel) with “PlayStation Certified”.

There is also a second reason why this is not too surprising: Samsung and Sony are fairly close partners in TV technology. Until just a few years ago, Sony LCD TV panels were manufactured by S-LCD, until Samsung eventually bought out Sony's interest in the company. The two companies are not really hostile in the TV market. If we see Sony open up PlayStation Now to LG Electronics, then I will scratch my head.

While announced ahead of CES, PlayStation Now is expected to be present at the show on Samsung TVs.

Source: Tom's Guide

GPU Rumors: AMD Plans 20nm but NVIDIA Waits for 16nm

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 28, 2014 - 09:47 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, gtx, geforce, amd

According to an anonymous source of WCCFTech, AMD is preparing a 20nm-based graphics architecture that is expected to release in April or May. Originally, they predicted that the graphics devices, which they call R9 300 series, would be available in February or March. The reason for this “delay” is a massive demand for 20nm production.

nvidia-gtx-vs-amd-gaming-evolved.jpg

The source also claims that NVIDIA will skip 20nm entirely and instead opt for 16nm when that becomes available (which is said to be mid or late 2016). The expectation is that NVIDIA will answer AMD's new graphics devices with a higher-end Maxwell device that is still at 28nm. Earlier rumors, based on a leaked SiSoftware entry, claim 3072 CUDA cores that are clocked between 1.1 GHz and 1.39 GHz. If true, this would give it between 6.75 and 8.54 TeraFLOPs of performance, the higher of which is right around the advertised performance of a GeForce Titan Z (only in a single compute device that does not require distribution of work like what SLI was created to automate).

Will this strategy work in NVIDIA's favor? I don't know. 28nm is a fairly stable process at this point, which will probably allow them to get chips that can be bigger and more aggressively clocked. On the other hand, they pretty much need to rely upon chips that are bigger and more aggressively clocked to be competitive with AMD's slightly more design architecture. Previous rumors also hint that AMD is looking at water-cooling for their reference card, which might place yet another handicap against NVIDIA, although cooling is not an area that NVIDIA struggles in.

Source: WCCFTech

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Gets OTA2.1 Update

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 28, 2014 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, Android

NVIDIA has upgraded their SHIELD Tablet software to version 2.1. This release increments Android Lollipop to 5.0.1, updates a bit of bundled software, improves localization support, and adds OpenGL 4.5. The updated landed on December 23rd, alongside their Grid Tuesday release.

nvidia-shield-november-14-01b.jpg

The new graphics API is interesting, but its usefulness is a bit questionable. Google does not really support OpenGL on the platform, although they do not prevent companies (like NVIDIA) from providing their own SDKs. This could be a bit increase in performance for apps that are optimized for the SHIELD Tablet and possibly the Nexus 9, especially since its main features increase performance and security. On the other hand, this should increase the potential for NVIDIA's first-party releases and ports.

If you have the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, then this is might be week-old news. If not, the update was released on December 23rd.

Source: NVIDIA

Quick Deal (Canada): 480GB Intel 730 SSD for $259.99 CDN

Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 28, 2014 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ssd, ncix, directcanada, deals

A couple of Canadian stores, NCIX and DirectCanada, have marked down the Intel 730 SSD in both 240GB and 480GB models. While sites like Amazon and Newegg are selling it for $530 and $547, respectively, NCIX has the 480GB version on for $259.99 and the 240GB version for $169.99. DirectCanada is close, their price is about $10 more expensive for the 480GB and a few cents cheaper for the 240GB (480GB - $269.89 and 240GB - $169.95). This is even cheaper than the American Amazon price, which is going for $456.99 USD.

intel-ssd-730-front.JPG

You can see in Allyn's review from February, he really liked the drive. He notes that it is a bit hot and power hungry, but he also notes that the controller is overclocked and that is probably why you want to buy it. If you are Canadian, or are somehow able to make a purchase in Canada, this is a ridiculous price. For everyone else, who knows? It might be a sign that its price could drop altogether. Either that, or NCIX and DirectCanada just feel like throwing money around today.

Source: NCIX

#GRIDTuesday Brings F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid, f1 2010, dirt showdown

Okay, so I forgot about #GRIDTuesday for a little while. NVIDIA didn't. They have been releasing two games for the GRID service each and every week. You will need a SHIELD device to access it, which I don't have, and you will also need to be in a supported region. If you qualify in both criteria, then you can have access to NVIDIA's cloud-streamed game service for free (until June 30th). Since our post last month, which aligned with the release of Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon, eight new games have been added.

nvidia-grid-F2010-Dirt_Showdown.jpg

The most recent inclusions, occurring two days before Christmas, were F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown. The previous Tuesday was Lego-themed, with LEGO The Hobbit and LEGO The Lord of the Rings joining the service. This followed the indie titles, Stacking and PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate on December 9th. Finally, December 2nd was Batman: Arkham Origins and LEGO Batman: The Video Game.

Now you're all caught up.

These are quite good games. Batman: Arkham Origins was released just about a year ago and enjoyed by most, especially fans of the franchise. Some have complained about bugs and glitches, but it is free in this promotional period, so why not?

This week brought the number of available games up to an even 30, and they are quite diverse. If you have a SHIELD device, and are in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe, then be sure to check it out.

Source: NVIDIA

Console DRM Woes? Try Some Good Old PC Games Instead!

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 11:23 AM |
Tagged: Xbox live, retro, PlayStation network, pc gaming, GOG, gaming, DRM, console

With the outage over Christmas of both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (both pretty much restored, though it took Sony much longer to recover) many console gamers were unable to play.

psn_xboxlive.png

Screen captures of the official status from both networks this morning

Beyond online gaming even those attempting to play their own local games were often hampered by the inability of the DRM system to work, preventing the game from loading. Oh, DRM...who needs it? Not the person playing old games that don't use it!

While the term "retro gaming" will likely evoke images of an Atari 2600 or NES, it is retro gaming of the PC persuasion to which we direct our attention now. The website known as Good Old Games (GOG.com) sells many classic titles from distant and not so distant past, and everything sold is DRM free. Install, run; no internet connection required (after you use the internet to actually download the game, that is).

gog.png

The games are inexpensive as well, but get so much more so during the frequent sales the site promotes. One such sale is going on now, where various Square Enix-owned titles are 75% off, which puts them at $1.49 to $2.49 each. Take that, modern console gaming!

Team Fortress 2 Beta Includes "Mannpower Mode"

Subject: General Tech | December 26, 2014 - 05:02 PM |
Tagged: tf2, valve

So Valve is working on a new game mode for Team Fortress 2, called “Mannpower Mode”. It is a variation of Capture the Flag and it is currently available in the beta map pool, accessible from the Play Beta Maps checkbox in Play Multiplayer. While it will change significantly over its development period, this beta launch corresponds with their Christmas promotion.

valve-tf2-gamemode_powerup_beta.png

Even though it's like Capture the Flag, there are some significant differences. First, similar to many other franchises, the objective is touch-return. Fans of Unreal Tournament, Halo, and many other franchises will know that this is different in two main ways: a dropped objective will return to base instant when it is touched by a defender, and the attacker's flag must be returned in to capture the opponent's one. Second, random critical hits are disabled.

Third, grappling hooks and power-ups? I am guessing the Valve wants TF2 to be more competitive in with the fast-paced shooter crowd, so they are finding ways to increase mobility and map control within the Team Fortress 2 ruleset. Of course, that is not a criticism about TF2's game design – quite the opposite; it is different, not worse. It is interesting to think about the relatively slow characters of TF2 being used in more of a higher-reward, lower-forgiveness game mode. The updates add mobility and incentives to use it, both rewarding flag returns as well as acquiring power-ups.

Team Fortress 2 is still free-to-play, but rarely free-toupee.

PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 10 - Netgear X6 AC3200 Router

Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2014 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: router, nighthawk x6, netgear, DSLR, Canon, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

The staff here at PC Perspective couldn't decide on a final item for our 10 days series. We decided to do a post with two items to end with a bang (and extreme indecisiveness). Then, just before the post went live, one of the items was no longer available in the bundle that we considered a good deal. Thanks, universe, for stepping in and making us declare a single best deal... of the day. Our final recommendation is: a high-performance router!

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Router

IMG_410382.jpg

This tri-band, 6-antenna monster that is the Netgear Nighthawk X6 looks the part, and offers up to 3.2 Gbps performance from its three Wi-Fi data streams (one 600 Mb/s 2.4 GHz network and dual 1300 Mb/s 5 GHz networks).  It's powered by a dual-core 1 GHz CPU with 256 MB of RAM, has the usual 4-port Gigabit switch, and offers both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports on the back. It's an impressive piece of hardware with a price to match, just under $300.

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Router - Amazon.com ($288.99) - BHPhoto.com ($288.99)

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

 

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?