NVIDIA Launches Half-Life 2: Episode One on SHIELD Tablet

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 15, 2014 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, Portal, nvidia, half-life 2: episode one, half-life 2, google play, google, Android

Back in November, we published news about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet update to Android 5.0. A part of the update was the “Green Box” promotion, which gives Half-Life 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One free with the purchase of a 32GB LTE SHIELD Tablet. Today, Half-Life 2: Episode One launches on Google Play store for $7.99 USD (or free with the Green Box). Unlike Half-Life 2 and Portal, which runs on the original NVIDIA SHIELD, Episode One requires an NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. It also requires a controller.

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Like the previous release of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this is a complete port to the ARM architecture of NVIDIA Tegra K1. The game will run natively on the device, without being streamed from a host PC. For a little perspective, the Tegra K1 has a little more compute performance than a GeForce 9600 GT – a popular mid-range GPU that launched two years after Episode One.

Half-Life 2: Episode One launched today for $7.99 USD (or free with “The Green Box” bundle).

Source: Google
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design

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MSI’s unapologetically large GT70 “Dominator Pro” series of machines knows its audience well: for every gripe about the notebooks’ hulking sizes, a snicker and a shrug are returned by the community, who rarely value such items as portability as highly as the critics who are hired to judge based on them.  These machines are built for power, first and foremost.  While featherweight construction and manageable dimensions matter to those regularly tossing machines into their bags, by contrast, MSI’s desktop replacements recognize the meaning of their classification: the flexibility of merely moving around the house with one’s gaming rig is reason enough to consider investing in one.

So its priorities are arguably well in line.  But if you want to keep on dominating, regular updates are a necessity, too.  And with the GT72 2QE, MSI takes it all up yet another notch: our review unit (GT72 2QE-208US) packs four SSDs in a RAID-0 array (as opposed to the GT70’s three), plus a completely redesigned case which manages to address some of our biggest complaints.  Oh yeah, and an NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM—the fastest mobile GPU ever.  (You can find much more information and analysis on this GPU specifically in Ryan’s ever-comprehensive review.)

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Of course, these state-of-the-art innards come at no small price: $2,999 as configured (around a $2,900 street price), or a few hundred bucks less with storage or RAM sacrifices—a reasonable trade-off considering the marginal benefits one gains from a quad-SSD array or 32 GB of RAM.

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Continue reading our MSI GT72 review now!!!

Only 1920x1080 or better need apply

Subject: Mobile | November 27, 2014 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: 1080p, Chillblast, Prestige i5-4200SH, dell, Inspiron 17 7000, hp, Beats Special Edition, Lenovo, Yoga 2 13, toshiba, Satellite S70-B-10U

Sick of the standard laptop screen resolution of 1366x768, especially on a laptop with a 17" screen?  The Register has collected five laptops which have a 1080p resolution, several of which feature touchscreen capabilities for use with Win 8.1 and range in screen size up to 17.3". There is a variety of quality, the lower cost HP notebook does not feature an IPS display and so is not as sharp as some other models but then again it is not as expensive as the other models either.  There is not much in the way of benchmarks but it is not too hard to estimate performance based on the components which are inside these laptops as they are common among the current generation of laptops.  This review focuses on the screen, much like your eyes do.

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"For the more discerning eye, that’s just not enough, and while we’ll be looking at the more expensive HiDPI laptops soon, full HD laptops are certainly more affordable these days, especially if you’re prepared to trade having a high-performance CPU or a speedy solid-state drive for a crisper, higher resolution image instead."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA SHIELD Gets Two New Games for GRID: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 25, 2014 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield, grid, shield tablet, Psychonauts, red faction: armageddon

Last Tuesday, NVIDIA launched the November SHIELD update with Android 5.0 Lollipop, The Green Box promotion, and a refreshed GRID service. Regarding the last part, which is a game streaming service, they also committed to adding at least one extra title per week. Now, seven days later, they pushed two titles to the service: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon.

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While I have never played Red Faction: Armageddon, I did purchase Psychonauts for the Xbox and, later, the PC. It is a fun, linear narrative about kids in a summer camp that specializes in telekinetic/telepathic education for gifted individuals. If you have a SHIELD device, and you are able to play it on GRID, try it. Like it or not, it's free and does not require an installation.

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As will be the case until June 30th, access to the service is free for owners of the SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet. Future titles are expected to be announced on Twitter via the “#GRIDTuesday” hashtag. We will probably have a news post about them, too.

Source: NVIDIA

Intel to Merge PC and Mobile Businesses

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel

Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.

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And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.

At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.

The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.

Source: WSJ

Testing Updated NVIDIA GRID on SHIELD Tablet with Lollipop

Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid

In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:

Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality.  Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent.  You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.

Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV.  You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post.  That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.

Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.

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Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:

  • Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
  • Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
  • NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router

I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.

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LEGO Batman 2

The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.

  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare
  • Astebreed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Borderlands
  • Borderlands 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • Darksiders
  • Darksiders 2
  • Dead Island
  • Dirt 2
  • LEGO Batman 2
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • Race Driver GRID
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Trine 2
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV

There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.

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In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.

For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.

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DiRT 2

With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.

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The Witcher 2

The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

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As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

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But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

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The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

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This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

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What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

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The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

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I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Core M 5Y70 Specifications

Back in August of this year, Intel invited me out to Portland, Oregon to talk about the future of processors and process technology. Broadwell is the first microarchitecture to ship on Intel's newest 14nm process technology and the performance and power implications of it are as impressive as they are complex. We finally have the first retail product based on Broadwell-Y in our hands and I am eager to see how this combination of technology is going to be implemented.

If you have not read through my article that dives into the intricacies of the 14nm process and the architectural changes coming with Broadwell, then I would highly recommend that you do so before diving any further into this review. Our Intel Core M Processor: Broadwell Architecture and 14nm Process Reveal story clearly explains the "how" and "why" for many of the decisions that determined the direction the Core M 5Y70 heads in.

As I stated at the time:

"The information provided by Intel about Broadwell-Y today shows me the company is clearly innovating and iterating on its plans set in place years ago with the focus on power efficiency. Broadwell and the 14nm process technology will likely be another substantial leap between Intel and AMD in the x86 tablet space and should make an impact on other tablet markets (like Android) as long as pricing can remain competitive. That 14nm process gives Intel an advantage that no one else in the industry can claim and unless Intel begins fabricating processors for the competition (not completely out of the question), that will remain a house advantage."

With a background on Intel's goals with Broadwell-Y, let's look at the first true implementation.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell-Y Processor!!

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha; hefty build, light on extras

Subject: Mobile | November 3, 2014 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy alpha, android 4.4.4

The Galaxy Alpha seems made for those who want a heftier version of a Galaxy phone, the 4oz phone sports a metal side gives it a more solid feel than the S5 and previous models.  On the other hand the USB, audio and and buttons on that band of metal are not waterproof unlike its siblings so there is a trade off.  The screen is a bit disappointing at 4.7" and 720x1280 resolution which is compounded by the lack of MHL A/V output from the USB port meaning you will need Chromecast or another solution to send A/V to an external device.  The price is very similar to the S5 and other competition, the features and lack thereof are what might drive your decision as it did The Registers recommendations here.  There is no word on its ability to bend as of yet.

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"The Galaxy S3, S4 and S5 have all felt a bit too toy-like for their price tag. Technically impressive they may have been, but the build quality was, and is, too Fisher Price. The new Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s counterpunch. It is a phone that tries to put aesthetics and build quality on an equal footing with the length of the specification sheet. Now who else does that? Oh yes."

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Source: The Register