Congratulations, your SHIELD has been upgraded to the next level

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: gaming, nvidia, shield

If you own NVIDIA's SHIELD then you may have noticed an over the air upgrade notification recently which you should take advantage of.  Legit Reviews have assembled a look at the features you get from this upgrade, from broader access to GameStream from both your SHIELD and from any PC with a modern NVIDIA GPU to a new OS, KitKat 4.4.2.  Check out how well NVIDIA implemented these updates in the full article.

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"The NVIDIA SHIELD is potentially the next evolution of mobile gaming. The SHIELD in a nutshell is a blend of mobile android devices, PC gaming, and console gaming. When the NVIDIA SHIELD first came out last year, it was carrying a price tag of $299, eventually that dropped to $249 and that remains the current price for the SHIELD. Though for right now through the end of April NVIDIA has lowered the price to $199 to celebrate the latest and greatest over the air update that we announced last week here."

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Google has an offer you might not refuse

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2014 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: google, winxp, Chromebook

Google has an offer for businesses that it hopes will be attractive enough to get them to abandon Windows complete instead of upgrading from WinXP to a new version of a Microsoft OS.  They are offering businesses $100 off any managed Chromebook or other ChromeOS device and $200 if it will be running VMWare Desktop as a Service.  For those who have to go through major upgrades and software re-writes this might be a reasonable alternative since these companies are less than pleased at the EOL of WinXP and now have an opportunity to try or at least test an alternative OS.  It is unlikely that Windows will go the way of "tamagotchis and parachute pants" Google's Amit Singh is quoted as saying by The Inquirer but the demise of WinXP offers a unique opportunity for change to many businesses which has previously been economically unfeasable.

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"GOOGLE HAS BEEN QUICK to jump on the demise of Windows XP, and is looking to persuade businesses still running the operating system to buy Google Chromebooks instead."

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Source: The Inquirer

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler Announced

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2014 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: cpu cooler, NH-D15, noctua

Known primarily for large and quiet CPU coolers, Noctua is not shy to attach a pair of 140mm fans to a chunk of metal. The NH-D15, announced today, can cool just about any current, mainstream or enthusiast CPU from AMD or Intel. It attaches to the CPU with a copper plate, which is connected to several copper heatpipes, which leads into two towers of aluminum fins. It is plated with nickel to prevent corrosion (I am not sure about the bottom).

As is common for these types of heat sinks, they are daunting to look at. Of course, that is not a bad thing, unless you have a very small case, but it might make you look at your stock fan differently. Noctua is claiming that their two fans spin at a maximum of 1500 RPM and a minimum of 300 RPM. This leads to a listed maximum noise value of 24.6 dBA, around the background noise of a quiet rural area at night.

The NH-D15 will be available mid-April for just shy of $100 USD.

Source: Noctua

NAB 2014: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 07:07 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, NAB 14, NAB, Elgato

Hmm, this is more Thunderbolt than I think we heard all year. Is there like, a video production event going on right now? No matter, because news is news (and so are product announcements). The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock connects to Thunderbolt, go figure, and provides three USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one HDMI 1.4 output, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and one 3.5mm microphone jack. It also has a second Thunderbolt port to daisy chain with other devices, which is a common trait in Thunderbolt devices. It will retail for $229.95.

Yup, it is a Thunderbolt accessory.

Why does it seem like every Mac user in commercials have a studio apartment???

It makes sense to see devices like this. Thunderbolt is really an extension of PCIe which allows anything that was once an add-in board to be connected externally, albeit with significantly reduced bandwidth compared to PCIe 3.0 16x. This looks very clean, tidy, and much more desirable than crawling under the desk and swapping wires and thumb drives in the darkness behind your PC.

I would like to see some benchmarks on this device, however. Clearly, the sum of these outputs should be higher than the bandwidth allowed by Thunderbolt (especially if daisy-chaining another Thunderbolt device). I wonder how efficient it will be at keeping high quality signals when several devices are connected and running simultaneously.

The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock is available now for computers with a Thunderbolt port and either Mac OSX 10.9 or Windows 8.1. I guess us Windows 7 fans need to get used to the dust bunnies behind our PCs for a little longer...

Source: Elgato

Some NVIDIA R337.50 Driver Controversy

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 8, 2014 - 06:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, drivers

NVIDIA's GeForce 337.50 Driver was said to address performance when running DirectX 11-based software. Now that it is out, multiple sources are claiming the vendor-supplied benchmarks are exaggerated or simply untrue.

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ExtremeTech compiled benchmarks from Anandtech and BlackHoleTec.

Going alphabetically, Anandtech tested the R337.50 and R331.xx drivers with a GeForce GTX 780 Ti, finding a double-digit increase with BioShock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light and basically zero improvement for GRID 2, Rome II, Crysis: Warhead, Crysis 3, and Company of Heroes 2. Adding a second GTX 780 Ti into the mix helped matters, seeing a 76% increase in Rome II and about 9% in most of the other titles.

BlackHoleTec is next. Testing the mid-range, but overclocked GeForce 760 between R337.50 and R335.23 drivers, they found slight improvements (1-3 FPS), except for Battlefield 4 and Skyrim (the latter is not DX11 to be fair) which noticed a slight reduction in performance (about 1 FPS).

ExtremeTech, finally, published one benchmark but it did not compare between drivers. All it really shows is CPU scaling in AMD GPUs.

Unfortunately, I do not have any benchmarks to present of my own because I am not a GPU reviewer nor do I have a GPU testbed. Ironically, the launch of the Radeon R9 295 X2 video card might have lessened that number of benchmarks available for NVIDIA's driver, who knows?

If it is true, and R337.50 does basically nothing in a setup with one GPU, I am not exactly sure what NVIDIA was hoping to accomplish. Of course someone was going to test it and publish their results. The point of the driver update was apparently to show how having a close relationship with Microsoft can lead you to better PC gaming products now and in the future. That can really only be the story if you have something to show. Now, at least I expect, we will probably see more positive commentary about Mantle - at least when people are not talking about DirectX 12.

If you own a GeForce card, I would still install the new driver though, especially if you have an SLi configuration. Scaling to a second GPU does see measurable improvements with Release 337.50. Even for a single-card configuration, it certainly should not hurt anything.

Source: ExtremeTech

NVIDIA Will Present Global Impact Award And $150,000 Grant To Researchers At GTC 2015

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: research, nvidia, GTC, gpgpu, global impact award

During the GPU Technology Conference last month, NVIDIA introduced a new annual grant called the Global Impact Award. The grant awards $150,000 to researchers using NVIDIA GPUs to research issues with worldwide impact such as disease research, drug design, medical imaging, genome mapping, urban planning, and other "complex social and scientific problems."

NVIDIA Global Impact Award.png

NVIDIA will be presenting the Global Impact Award to the winning researcher or non-profit institution at next year's GPU Technology Conference (GTC 2015). Individual researchers, universities, and non-profit research institutions that are using GPUs as a significant enabling technology in their research are eligible for the grant. Both third party and self-nomiations (.doc form) are accepted with the nominated candidates being evaluated based on several factors including the level of innovation, social impact, and current state of the research and its effectiveness in approaching the problem. Submissions for nominations are due by December 12, 2014 with the finalists being announced by NVIDIA on March 13, 2015. NVIDIA will then reveal the winner of the $150,000 grant at GTC 2015 (April 28, 2015).

The researcher, university, or non-profit firm can be located anywhere in the world, and the grant money can be assigned to a department, initiative, or a single project. The massively parallel nature of modern GPUs makes them ideal for many times of research with scalable projects, and I think the Global Impact Award is a welcome incentive to encourage the use of GPGPU in applicable research projects. I am interested to see what the winner will do with the money and where the research leads.

More information on the Global Impact Award can be found on the NVIDIA website.

Source: NVIDIA

NAB 2014: Intel Iris Pro Support in Adobe Creative Cloud (CC)

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, NAB, NAB 14, iris pro, Adobe, premiere pro, Adobe CC

When Adobe started to GPU-accelerate their applications beyond OpenGL, it started with NVIDIA and its CUDA platform. After some period of time, they started to integrate OpenCL support and bring AMD into the fold. At first, it was limited to a couple of Apple laptops but has since expanded to include several GPUs on both OSX and Windows. Since then, Adobe switched to a subscription-based release system and has published updates on a more rapid schedule. The next update of Adobe Premiere Pro CC will bring OpenCL to Intel Iris Pro iGPUs.

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Of course, they specifically mentioned Adobe Premiere Pro CC which suggests that Photoshop CC users might be coming later. The press release does suggest that the update will affect both Mac and Windows versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, however, so at least platforms will not be divided. Well, that is, if you find a Windows machine with Iris Pro graphics. They do exist...

A release date has not been announced for this software upgrade.

Source: Intel

NAB 2014: Thunderbolt Networking Announced for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt

Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.

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Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.

While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".

Source: Intel

Corsair Released Vengeance K70 Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2014 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: Vengeance K70, corsair

Update (4/8/2014 @ 8:48 PM EDT): Some commenters pointed out that the K70 already exists and has been on sale for quite some time. That is true, however Corsair has refreshed the line, apparently adding Cherry MX Blue and Brown along with the "original MX Red". It is a new product that will be released mid-April.

No, this is not the Cherry MX RGB keyboard; we still do not know when that will come out. The K70 is a mechanical keyboard made out of blackened (anodized) aluminum with red backlights in each keycap. It comes in either Cherry MX Blue, Red, or Brown. Unlike some of their previous models, every key is mechanical. It is advertised as "100% anti-ghosted with full n-key rollover". Being a USB keyboard, it is unclear whether it actually allows every key to be pressed simultaneously or whether it is limited by the interface.

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That said, previous Corsair keyboards registered as 3 USB devices and split inputs between the three to overcome 6KRO limits, thus allowing for 18-key rollover. This should be sufficient for all quadridextrous typists. For the mental image of someone typing with their eight fingers, two thumbs, and all but two of their ten toes, you are welcome.

Also, and I have said this before, but it kills me when a keyboard based on an NKRO key matrix (even if it is limited by USB) needs to describe itself as "Anti-ghosting". Anti-ghosting is a hack which prevents unintended keypresses by locking-out the keyboard when it gets confused. Many keyboards, to save money, group keys together in their grid of circuits. Basically, each key is assigned to two circuits and the keyboard can thus see which switches are pressed by their pairings. The keyboard does not know how many switches are open on each circuit, just that at least one is. Ghosting occurs when three or more keypresses cause the same signals as four or more keys. The keyboard then has two options: register all possible keypresses or jam and ignore everything (anti-ghosting). An NKRO-based matrix uses diodes to further isolate keys so that each can be individually addressed.

Thus an NKRO keyboard never needs to jam. It is immune to the conditions. Unfortunately, if they did not advertise anti-ghosting, the uninformed will think it is an inferior keyboard... rather than so superior that it is immune to the problem in the first place.

Back on the Vengeance K70, it will be available this month for $129.99 USD (MSRP).

Source: Corsair

Amazon Takes On Apple TV, Roku, and Ouya With $99 Fire TV Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: streaming box, Netflix, media streaming, html, fire tv, Android, amazon

Amazon is making a play for the living room with its new Fire TV. The tiny box offers up mobile gaming along with movie and music streaming. Users will be able to tap into Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video collection in addition to various streaming video and music services from partners (see below). The box runs an operating system based on Android and HTML and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC which makes it about as powerful as today’s mid-range smartphones. At $99, the Fire TV is, ahem, a shot across the bow of devices from Apple, Roku, and Ouya.

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The box measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7" and comes bundled with a remote small remote control. Amazon provides hardware ports for HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet, and USB. The remote has basic playback controls along with a microphone used for the voice search functionality. The Fire TV is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of DDR2 memory at 533 MHz, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Networking includes wired Ethernet and a 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0 radio. A large heatsink is used to passively cool all of the components.

The Fire TV is launching with a number of applications from partners. Users can stream video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Vudu, Flixter, NBA, and YouTube among others. Music apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Vevo. Finally, users can play back music and photos from their Amazon Cloud Drive storage. Amazon further offers up an app store for free and paid games. For example, users will be able to play Minecraft Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, or Sev Zero using the included remote or optional $39.99 game pad.

Amazon Fire TV Game Controller 1.jpg

For media junkies with children Amazon has added the FreeTime functionality from its Kindle tablets to the Fire TV. FreeTime restricts the device to kid-friendly programming and a new optional $2.99 per month FreeTime Unlimited subscription offers up a catalog of kid-friendly media for streaming. Other software features include X-Ray (in-media information, such as identifying an actor) and ASAP which attempts to determine what programs you are likely to stream next and begin caching it in the background. For example, it will begin to cache the next episode of a TV series so that when you go to watch the next episode you will not see any loading screens.

The FireTV is a compelling alternative to the Roku (latest being the $50 Streaming Stick) and Apple TV (so long as you are not already invested in the Apple / iTunes ecosystem) while also offering up mobile gaming on the living room TV in a more-polished way that the Ouya ever did. The $99 Fire TV is available from Amazon immediately.

I think the Fire TV has real potential to catch on with most consumers, though the real test for enthusiasts and readers of PC Per will be to see if the extra features and Amazon polish will be worth the price premium over cheaper options like the Chromecast and Raspberry Pi setups.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information and hands-on experience with Amazon's latest bit of hardware.

Source: Amazon