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Revisiting an old battleground with updated weapons; the RX 480 and GTX 1060 ride again

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 6, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: rx 480, gtx 1060, sapphire, RX 480 8GB Nitro+, GTX 1060 6GB GAMING, evga

It has been several months and more than a few driver releases since Hardware Canucks last reviewed the RX 480 and GTX 1060, as well as the arrival of more games with at least some DX12 support.  They decided to revisit the performance results of these two cards, both stock versions as well as factory overclocked models.  They chose Sapphire's RX 480 8GB Nitro+ and EVGA's GTX 1060 6GB GAMING models to compare and the results show that the extra work those companies put into these GPUs paid off.  They tested a mix of over a dozen games and their results are interesting, in far more cases than in their first look at these cards the RX 480 comes out the clear performance winner, however that performance comes at a high enough cost that the GTX 1060 shows better performance per dollar.  Take a look at this revised review if these cards are appropriate for your budget.

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"More than four months after the launch of NVIDIA's GTX 1060, we take another look at its performance against AMD's RX 480 8GB in more than a dozen games. The results of this one may surprise you...... "

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Intel Z270 Express and H270 Express Chipsets Support Kaby Lake, More PCI-E 3.0 Lanes

Subject: Motherboards | December 2, 2016 - 08:19 AM |
Tagged: Intel, z270, h270, intel z270, kaby lake, Optane, PCI-E 3.0

Details on Intel’s upcoming Z270 and H270 chipsets surfaced last month that fleshed out the new platform and its capabilities including the inclusion of additional PCI-E 3.0 lanes and out-of-the-box support for 7th Generation Intel Kaby Lake processors versus the current generation Z170 and H170 chipsets.

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An alleged Z270 motherboard from ASUS (STRIX Z270G GAMING) per Wccftech.

TechPowerUp reported that Intel’s 200-series chipsets – which would be used on motherboards with the LGA 1151 socket – would feature incremental improvements over their current generation equivalents including the upgrade to Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) version 15, support for Intel Optane Technology, and additional downstream PCI-E 3.0 lanes. The Z270 and H270 chipsets each have four extra lanes compared to their 100-series predecessors. These “downstream lanes” allow for additional high bandwidth connections that hang off the chipset (which does appear to still be ultimately limited by the physical four PCI-E 3.0 lanes that make up the DMI 3.0 link between the CPU and PCH). Examples include extra Thunderbolt, USB 3.1, and PCI-E slots for NICs, capture cards, storage controllers, or even graphics cards.

Intel Z270 Express will feature 14 general purpose PCI-E lanes versus 10 on Z170 Express along with a total lane budget of 30 versus 26 (16 of those lanes are reserved for CPU to one or two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (electrically 1x16 or 2x8) and the others come from the chipset but really connect back to the CPU over a DMI 3.0 link that is equivalent to four lanes of PCI-E 3.0. H270 also features 14 general purpose lanes versus what appears to be six on H170. H270 and H170 have 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes coming from the CPU for graphics so it is a total lane budget of 30 versus 22 respectively.

  Z270 Z170 H270 H170
High Speed IO (HSIO) 30 26 30 22
PCI-E 3.0 Lanes 24 20 20 16
Maximum M.2 slots 3 3 2 2

H270 will see the biggest benefit from the additional PCI-E lanes which could mean systems like HTPCs and budget desktops where overclocking and multi-GPU setups are not a concern using H270 chipset motherboards could still support a full range of external IO and fast storage.

One interesting thing I noticed from the table is that Z270 and H270 do not support additional M.2 slots. The maximum number of M.2 slots remains the same as their 100-series counterparts at three and two respectively.  After talking with Allyn, this makes sense because of that limiting factor that is the four lane DMI 3.0 link to the CPU and memory. Specifically, he explained:

“Think of the chipset as a means of fanout to individual things that won't simultaneously consumer more than x4. You can use the extra lanes for other stuff, like additional USB 3.1 controllers, Ethernet, audio, etc. Heck, you can route them to the last PCIe slot if you wanted.”

Further, Intel will continue to differentiate the Z270 Express and H270 Express by supporting multiplier overclocking and multi-GPU setups solely on Z270-based motherboards. H270 will be single x16 slot boards that do not allow multiplier-based overclocking at best and more than likely any CPU overclocking. The tradeoff being that H270-based boards should be much cheaper.

Intel Optane support is compelling, but will not be a reason to upgrade quite yet as drives are still a ways off and when they do arrive are sure to be very expensive. Rumors do suggest that Intel may introduce a small 3D XPoint-based Optane SSD up to 32GB alongside the rollout of Kaby Lake and new motherboards but as that is not large enough for an OS drive it will remain more of a niche thing at first. As larger drives come out at lower price points, the support for them on Z270 and H270 would help make the case for enthusiasts running Z170 and H170 boards to make the jump.

Of course, that brings me to my main thought surrounding Z270 and H270 based motherboards which is that while someone looking to build a new PC could justify going straight to the newer chipset-based motherboards, users running existing Z170 and H170 motherboards – many of which will support Kaby Lake processors with a BIOS update – have little reason to jump at an upgrade. Budget builds might even justify going to the older and cheaper boards if they don’t need the new features and putting the saved money towards something like more memory or a better CPU cooler.

For the highest end (save HEDT) builds, Z270-based boards should offer more connectivity options for Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 ports and the ability to dive into XPoint storage when it fully rolls out is nice. There are arguments to be main on both sides.

What are your plans for Kaby Lake? Will you be upgrading to the new processor, and if so will be using a Z170/H170 or a new Z270/H270 board?

Also read:

Source: TechPowerUp

WD and HGST Refresh Enterprise SSDs to Include 8TB, Push HDDs to 12TB and Beyond

Subject: Storage | December 6, 2016 - 08:58 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ultrastar, ssd, SS200, SN200, SAS, NVMe, hgst, helium, He8, He6, He12, He10, He, hdd, 12TB, 10TB

Since their acquisition of SanDisk and recent wrapping up of a long-time integration with HGST's Helium tech, Western Digital took the lid off of a round of product updates this morning.

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First up is a second generation of HGST-branded SSD products - the Ultrastar SN200. These enterprise SSDs boast impressive specs, pushing random reads beyond 1 million IOPS, coming in 8TB capacity, and if you opt for the HHHL PCIe 3.0 x8 SN260, 6.2GB/s maximum throughput.

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Moving into SAS SSDs, the SS200 uses a 12Gbit link to achieve 1.8 GB/s and 250,000 random read IOPS. Write specs dip to 37,000 random as this is a 1 DWPD endurance class product. These are also available in up to 8TB capacities.

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Last but certainly not least are preliminary specs for the He12, which boast particularly impressive low QD random write performance and a notable bump in Watts/TB despite the addition of an eighth platter to achieve the 12TB capacity. Note that this is not an archive class product and is meant for continuous random access.

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There is also a 14TB model in the lineup, but that is an archive class model that is essentially the He12 with Shingled Magnetic Recording enabled.

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Not bad HDD progress considering we were just discussing 10TB SMR this time last year. We'll be confirming the performance of these as samples arrive for testing.

Press blast appears after the break.

Source: HGST

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 376.19 Drivers (and Two Contests)

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 6, 2016 - 07:05 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, nvidia, graphics drivers, giveaways, giveaway

Alongside the release of the Oculus Touch controllers from Oculus VR, and the fifty-or-so games that launched with it, NVIDIA has published another graphics driver. The GeForce Game Ready 376.19 WHQL drivers also resolve one of two SLI issues in No Man’s Sky (the other bug, which involves temporal anti-aliasing, is still being worked on) and also fixes two issues with G-Sync for laptops.

nvidia-geforce.png

Since it affects a few of our readers: the Folding@Home bug is not yet fixed, but it’s now classified as a top-priority bug, though. Personally, I’m guessing that it will be fixed soon, now that there’s a little down-time before and after the holidays, after and before the game release rushes. Otherwise, it seems pretty stable and smooth for me. One user is complaining about Windows 10 UI freezes and crashes, starting with 376.09, but it’s otherwise relatively quiet.

As for the contests

NVIDIA is hosting two giveaways: one on their social media sites (Twitter and Facebook) and the other on GeForce Experience. The first contest runs from Tuesday to Friday, where they are giving away a GTX 1080, game codes, and one grand prize of a custom PC, accessorized with an Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch. The other contest runs until December 30th, where NVIDIA will give away a bundle of Oculus Rift, Oculus Touch Controllers, and a GTX 1070 to ten people, at random, who log in to GeForce Experience.

Check out their blog post for details on how to enter, as well as get the new driver (if GeForce Experience hasn’t already started begging).

Source: NVIDIA

Qualcomm and Microsoft bring full Windows 10 to Snapdragon devices

Subject: Mobile | December 7, 2016 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, windows 10, snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, arm

At the WinHEC developer conference in China today, Qualcomm and Microsoft have announced a partnership to enable a full Windows 10 computing environment on systems based on the next-generation of Snapdragon processors in the second half of 2017. The importance of this announcement can’t be overstated – it marks another attempt for Microsoft to enter the non-x86 market with mobile devices (think tablets and notebooks, less smartphones).

If you remember the first attempt at Windows on ARM, Windows RT, it’s failure was a result of a split software base: some applications could work between Windows RT and Windows 8 while most could not. It likely helped in the demise of that initiative that Windows 8 was overall very poorly received and that the overzealous box-style interface just wasn’t a hit with users. Major players like NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Samsung and many different OEMs were all caught up in the mess, making it very unlikely that Microsoft would undertake this again without a surefire win.

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Though details are light today, the success of this depends on software compatibility. Microsoft and Qualcomm claim that Windows 10 on mobile devices will bring “the scale of the mobile ecosystem with an unparalleled pace of innovation to address consumers’ growing need to be always on and always connected.” Modems and high performance SoCs for mobile systems is the realm of Qualcomm and form factors using these components as the base could be a solid source of innovation. The press release states as much, saying this partnership will “enable hardware makers to develop new and improved consumer products including handsets, tablets, PCs, head mounted displays, and more.”

Software is the silver bullet though.

New Windows 10 devices powered by Snapdragon supports all aspects of Microsoft’s latest operating system including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge browser, Windows 10 gaming titles like Crysis 2 and World of Tanks, Windows Hello, and touchscreen features like Windows Pen. It also offers support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps through emulation, providing users with a wide selection of full featured applications.

Based on what I have learned, the native software experience will come with UWP applications. UWP is Microsoft’s attempt to merge the software base for different platforms, and though it has been slow, adoption by developers and users has been increasing. If it’s true that everything being sold in the Microsoft app store today will be compatible with the ARM architecture processors in the Snapdragon SoC, then I think this leaves the door open for a wider adoption by an otherwise discerning audience.

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Are you ready to hit that start button on your Snapdragon computer?

The emulation for ALL other Win32 (and x64) applications is critical as well. Being able to run the code you are used to running on an x86-based notebook will give users flexibility to migrate and the ability to depend on Qualcomm-based Windows 10 machine for work and for play. With emulation comes a performance hit – but how much of one has yet to be seen or discussed. The rumors have been circulating recently that ARM compatibility was coming to Windows 10 with the Redstone 3 update, and the timing of “late 2017” matches up perfectly with the announcement today.

While notebooks and convertibles are likely on the table for this platform, it’s the new form factors that should excite you. Microsoft’s Terry Myserson expects Qualcomm and Windows to bring “a range of thin, light, power-efficient and always-connected devices, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, is the next step in delivering the innovations our customers love.” Cristiano Amon, President at Qualcomm Technologies thinks they can provide “advanced mobile computing features, including Gigabit LTE connectivity, advanced multimedia support, machine learning and superior hardware security features, all while supporting thin, fan-less designs and long battery life.”

This partnership will lead to more than just new consumer products though, reaching into the enterprise markets with the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform addressing markets ranging from “mobility to cloud computing.”

Full press release after the break!

Source: Qualcomm

Intel just got some competition, Qualcomm's 10nm server chips will launch first

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, centriq, centriq 2400, server

The days when AMD and Intel were the two choices to build a server with are long gone.  The ARM architecture has been making serious inroads as various vendors have begun to offer various solutions utilizing ARM designs, up to and including AMD for that matter.  Today, Qualcomm have joined these ranks, announcing their first processor family designed to power a server.  The Centriq 2400 series is based on a 10nm process node, with up to 48 cores.  As The Inquirer points out, this is a rather impressive shot across Intel's bow as Qualcomm will ship a 10nm FinFET before Intel does.

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"The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series, the first in the Centriq product family that Qualcomm has been working on for four years, has up to 48 ARMv8-compliant cores targeting compute-intensive data centre applications that require power efficiency and is built on the 10nm FinFET manufacturing processor."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Magnetic fans, how do they work? Check out Corsair's new ML series

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 2, 2016 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: magnetic levitation, corsair, air cooling, ML 120, ML140 Pro, ML120 Pro, led

Instead of using sleeve bearings, ball bearings or fluid dynamic bearings, the Corsair ML series relies on magnetic levitation to deal with the friction created by a spinning fan.  The fans are available in 120mm and 140mm sizes, with blue, red or white LEDS, or none if you prefer.  The fans use a 4-pin PWM connection to allow you to control their speed and should be compatible with any case, heatsink or radiator you might want to use them with.  Techgage tried them out in a Cooler Master CM 690 III.  They are somewhat pricey, the Pro version which ships with rubber mounts more so, with the non-Pro models shipping in pairs.  Read all about them in their review.

Corsair-ML120-PRO-LED-ML140-PRO-LED-Fans.jpg

"I’m a big fan of magnets, they’re just plain cool. Corsair was attracted to the idea of using magnets in it’s latest fans and created the ML-Series. Sporting magnetic levitation, the ML Series fans are meant to be the last set of fans you’ll ever need. Maintaing both high performance and quiet operation, we take the ML120 and ML140 PRO LED fans for a spin."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: Techgage

HP Launches Ruggedized Apollo Lake Powered Convertible Tablet For Students

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 02:34 AM |
Tagged: x360, Intel, hp, convertible tablet, apollo lake, 2-in-1

HP recently introduced a new convertible tablet for students. Built to be a bit more ruggedized than the consumer Pavilion model, the new HP ProBook X360 11G Education Edition is an 11” 2-in-1 laptop weighing in at 3.19 pounds, 0.78 inches thick, and designed to pass the MIL-STD 810G specification test with a spill resistant keyboard, shock and minor drop tolerance, and keyboard keys that are difficult to rip off (heh).

HP’s new convertible uses the same 360-degree hinge design as the existing Pavilion x360 notebooks which allows the user to bend the display all the way back so that it can be used as a tablet with the keyboard on the underside. Unlike the older consumer versions though, it appears HP has slightly upgraded things.

HP ProBook X360 11 G1 Education Edition.jpg

On the outside the notebook is dark gray with black around the display and has a more business aesthetic while keeping the curves of the consumer model. The display is an 11” SVA panel with LED backlighting that is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. There is a 720p front facing webcam above the display and a 1080p camera on the keyboard that can be used while in tablet or tent modes while using the display as a viewfinder. Further, HP managed to cram what looks like a decent sized keyboard sans numpad and a trackpad that supports multi touch gestures 

The display supports both multi touch and digitizer input using the optional Active Pen which is nice to see and a feature I had wanted to see on the Pavilion x360 when i was looking for a replacement for my old convertible (I'm still looking heh).

Along the edges HP has included HDMI 1.4b, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) Type A, one USB Type-C, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a Micro SDXC card slot for expansion.

Internally, the ProBook X360 11G EE is powered by one of two possible Apollo Lake SoCs: a dual core Celeron N3350 running at 1.1GHz and up to 2.4GHz boost and HD Graphics 500 or a quad core Pentium N4200 clocked at 1.1GHz base and up to 2.5GHz with an Intel HD 505 GPU. Regardless of the processor choice, the convertible also includes 8GB of DDR3L-1600 memory and a 64GB eMMC drive that can be upgraded to a 128GB ot 256GB M.2 SSD for better performance. Ditching the 500GB spinning rust drive of the consumer version is a good thing and is likely what helped HP get the ruggedized specifications.

Networking is handled by Intel dual band 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2, and Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet. HP claims up to 11 hours of battery life.

The ProBook X360 11G Education Edition comes with a 3 year warranty and starts at $329 with availability expected in January. Unfortunately, the convertible will initially only be available to educational institutions and HP partners though eventually you should be able to pick one up through a reseller. Another possible wrinkle is that the notebooks come preloaded with HP’s School Pack software which has software for students that lets a teacher do lesson planning, desktop sharing, and a student social network among other things. Of course if your school does not use this platform it is just more pre-installed software taking up resources. On the other hand, they do come with Windows 10 Pro rather than Home so that is something at least.

I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one to see how it feels as it sounds like it is more solidly built than the non education edition version.

 

Source: Tech Report

Thermaltake Launches Water Cooling Friendly E-ATX Tower 900 Series Case

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 2, 2016 - 02:46 AM |
Tagged: watercooling, tower 900, thermaltake, liquid cooling, E-ATX Case, case mods

Thermaltake is readying the Tower 900 for launch later this month. Clad in all-black or snow white, the Tower 900 was designed in concert with Watermod France to be modder and liquid cooling friendly with a design that allows enthusiasts to show off their DIY builds.

The upcoming Tower 900 series is part of Thermaltake’s TT Premium line and is constructed using a “dismantlable module design” that allows builder to completely strip the case down to the frame to make modding the various panels and pants easier. The case used a neat dual chamber design that puts the PC components front and center and the liquid cooling, power supply, and storage devices behind the motherboard chamber.

Thermaltake Tower 900 Black.jpg

The front chamber is surrounded on three sides by 5mm thick tempered glass and holds up to E-ATX motherboards vertically and supports 260mm high CPU coolers and 400mm long graphics cards. There are 8 PCI expansion slots. In addition to the motherboard, the front chamber holds two 3.5”/2.5" drive trays that are visible through the case windows, two hidden 2.5" SSD mounts, and up to two large coolant reservoirs. Thermaltake suggests that the Tower 900 would work well with dual loop systems, and I tend to agree. Modders will be able to put together some very nice looking builds, especially if they use rigid tubing.

Other features include large rounded case feet, a single 5.25” drive bay nestled in the bottom of the front panel, and four USB 3.0 and one audio jack for front panel I/O up top.

Thermaltake Tower 900 Black Rear Chamber.jpg

Around back, the Tower 900 hosts a standard ATX power supply, up to four 3.5” or 2.5” drives in a hard drive cage (though you give up some radiator capacity on the right side if you use the HDD cage), and up to an impressive 480mm or 560mm (depending on if its 120mm or 140mm fans) radiator on both the left and right sides! In theory you could have a 560mm radiator for your multi GPU setup on one loop and 360mm radiator for the CPU on a second loop along with all four hard drives or if you can get by with the two 2.5” drives in the front chamber your CPU could also have a 480/560mm radiator of its own.

Thermaltake Tower 900 Snow White.jpg

If you are into air cooling, the Tower 900 supports a total of 13 120mm or 140mm fans. One fan in the front chamber above the SSD drive trays, four on the left, four and four on the right in the back chamber, and two fans each on the top and bottom.

For those curious, the case measures 29.6” x 16.7” x 19” and weighs 54 pounds. Once it is full of water and PC components, you should probably team lift this monster heh. Additional photos and videos can be found here.

The Thermaltake Tower 900 is currently up for pre-order and is slated to be available by mid-December in both all black and snow white for $249.99 with a full rollout in January.

It certainly looks nice, and I can see a lot of potential for custom PCs. I am looking forward to seeing the full reviews as well as what enthusiasts are able to do with it!

Source: Thermaltake
Author:
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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2016 has been another busy year for EVGA as they continue to expand their product offerings. EVGA recently introduced five power supplies in the new Supernova G3 Series. Compared to the original G2 Series, these new power supplies offer improved performance, a smaller chassis, and incorporate a hydraulic dynamic bearing fan. We will be taking a detailed look at the entry level 550 G3 in this review.

•    EVGA SuperNOVA 550W G3 ($89.99 USD)
•    EVGA SuperNOVA 650W G3 ($109.99 USD)
•    EVGA SuperNOVA 750W G3 ($129.99 USD)
•    EVGA SuperNOVA 850W G3 ($139.99 USD)
•    EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W G3 ($159.99 USD)

The Supernova G3 Series is based on EVGA’s popular G2 series but now comes in a smaller chassis measuring only 150mm (5.9”) deep. The G3 Series also uses a 130mm cooling fan with a hydraulic dynamic bearing for quiet operation and extended life.

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The Supernova G3 series power supplies are 80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency and feature all modular cables, high-quality Japanese brand capacitors, and EVGA’s ECO Intelligent Thermal Control System which enables fan-less operation at low to mid power. All G3 series power supplies are NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire Ready and are backed by either a 7-year (550W and 650W) or 10-year (750W, 850W and 1000W) EVGA warranty.

EVGA SuperNOVA 550W G3 PSU Key Features:

•    80 PLUS Gold certified, with up to 90%/92% efficiency (115VAC/240VAC)
•    Highest quality Japanese brand capacitors ensure long-term reliability
•    Fully modular cables to reduce clutter and improve airflow
•    Quiet 130mm hydraulic dynamic bearing fan for long life
•    ECO Intelligent Thermal Control allows silent, fan-less operation at low power
•    NVIDIA SLI & AMD Crossfire Ready
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    Heavy-duty protections: OVP, UVP, OCP, OPP, SCP, and OTP
•    7-Year warranty with unparalleled EVGA Customer Support

Please continue reading our review of the EVGA 550W G3 PSU!!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: The Khronos Group

Maybe Good that Valve Called their API OpenVR?

Update, December 6th, 2016 @ 2:46pm EST: Khronos has updated the images on their website, and those changes are now implemented on our post. The flow-chart image changed dramatically, but the members image has also added LunarG.

Original Post Below

The Khronos Group has just announced their VR initiative, which is in the early, call for participation stage. The goal is to produce an API that can be targeted by drivers from each vendor, so that applications can write once and target all compatible devices. The current list of participants are: Epic Games, Google, Oculus VR, Razer, Valve, AMD, ARM, Intel, NVIDIA, VeriSilicon, Sensics, and Tobii. The point of this announcement is to get even more companies involved, before it matures.

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Image Credit: The Khronos Group

Valve, in particular, has donated their OpenVR API to Khronos Group. I assume that this will provide the starting point for the initiative, similar to how AMD donated Mantle to found Vulkan, which overcomes the decision paralysis of a blank canvas. Also, especially for VR, I doubt these decisions would significantly affect individual implementations. If it does, though, now would be the time for them to propose edits.

In terms of time-frame, it’s early enough that the project scope hasn’t even been defined, so schedules can vary. They do claim that, based on past experiences, about 18 months is “often typical”.

That’s about it for the announcement; on to my analysis.

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Image Credit: The Khronos Group, modified

First, it’s good that The Khronos Group are the ones taking this on. Not only do they have the weight to influence the industry, especially with most of these companies having already collaborated on other projects, like OpenGL, OpenCL, and Vulkan, but their standards tend to embrace extensions. This allows Oculus, Valve, and others to add special functionality that can be picked up by applications, but still be compatible at a base level with the rest of the ecosystem. To be clear, the announcement said nothing about extensions, but it would definitely make sense for VR, which can vary with interface methods, eye-tracking, player tracking, and so forth.

If extensions end up being a thing, this controlled competition allows the standard as a whole to evolve. If an extension ends up being popular, that guides development of multi-vendor extensions, which eventually may be absorbed into the core specification. On the other hand, The Khronos Group might decide that, for VR specifically, the core functionality is small and stable enough that extensions would be unnecessary. Who knows at this point.

Second, The Khronos Group stated that Razer joined for this initiative specifically. A few days ago, we posted news and assumed that they wanted to have input into an existing initiative, like Vulkan. While they still might, their main intentions are to contribute to this VR platform.

Third, there are a few interesting omissions from the list of companies.

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Microsoft, who recently announced a VR ecosystem for Windows 10 (along with the possibly-applicable HoloLens of course), and is a member of the Khronos Group, isn’t part of the initiative, at least not yet. This makes sense from a historical standpoint, as Microsoft tends to assert control over APIs from the ground up. They are, or I should say were, fairly reluctant to collaborate, unless absolutely necessary. This has changed recently, starting with their participation with the W3C, because good God I hope web browsers conform to a standard, but also their recent membership with the Khronos Group, hiring ex-Mozilla employees, and so forth. Microsoft has been lauding how they embrace openness lately, but not in this way yet.

Speaking of Mozilla, that non-profit organization has been partnered with Google on WebVR for a few years now. While Google is a member of this announcement, it seems to be mostly based around their Daydream initiative. The lack of WebVR involvement with whatever API comes out of this initiative is a bit disappointing, but, again, it’s early days. I hope to see Mozilla and the web browser side of Google jump in and participate, especially if video game engines continue to experiment with cross-compiling to Web standards.

It's also surprising to not see Qualcomm's name on this list. The dominant mobile SoC vendor is a part of many Khronos-based groups including Vulkan, OpenCL, and others, so it's odd to have this omission here. It is early, so there isn't any reason to have concern over a split, but Qualcomm's strides into VR with development kits, platform advancements and other initiatives have picked up in recent months and I imagine it will have input on what this standard becomes.

And that’s all that I can think of at the moment. If you have any interests or concerns, be sure to drop a line in the comments. Registration is not required.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Announced on Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mechwarrior 5, Mechwarrior

Piranha Games, known for the free-to-play MechWarrior Online, has just announced MechWarrior 5: Merceneries. The first thing I noticed is that they revived the Merceneries subtitle, used twice before with expansion packs to MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4. The second thing I noticed is that it now runs on Unreal Engine 4, despite MechWarrior Online being based on CryEngine.

The third thing I noticed is that, while it’s a bit of a meme to start MechWarrior things with the mech powering up, the video actually begins with the pilot on foot, walking through the hangar. I’m wondering whether this will be expanded upon in the gameplay or narrative. I don’t really see how it could work, but it seems like a fair amount of effort for no real intent. Yes, I’ve played MechAssault 2, but it seems highly unlikely that anything like that will happen.

MechWarrior 5 takes place in 3015, which means that it will have a very small subset of the weapons and equipment that you would see in, say, MechWarrior 3 (~3060) and MechWarrior 4 (~3063). There probably will not be ER weapons, pulse lasers, gauss rifles, ECM, LBX autocannons, or anything like that. I would be surprised to see anything more than standard lasers, PPCs, short-range missiles, long-range missiles, machine guns, and standard autocannons. It will be an interesting change of pace.

MechWarrior 5 also might be single-player only. The teaser site seems to suggest that MechWarrior Online will continue to be updated, which I interpret to mean that it will be its multiplayer companion.

It is expected for release in 2018.

Manufacturer: DEEPCOOL

Introduction and First Impressions

The GENOME is the world’s first computer case with an integrated liquid-cooling system, and this unique design allows users to simply drop in the main system components and have a complete system with liquid cooling loop (and with very little effort).

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“One of the first things many of us look at when considering the purchase of a new case is whether it will accommodate the cooling subsystem that we’d like to install in our next build. Can you install big enough radiators? Is there room in the main interior space for the reservoir and pump that you have your eye on? How will it look when everything is put together? To improve PC user experience is why DEEPCOOL comes up with GENOME, which is a PC hardware component, consists of an ATX PC case and an extreme liquid cooling system.”

When I first heard about the GENOME I was nonplussed - wondering how I would even go about reviewing at since it defies conventional classification. It’s as much a CPU cooler as a case, and DEEPCOOL calls this simply a “cooling system”. But however you label it there is no doubt that this novel concept has the potential to produce a polished build with a minimal effort (if it is well-designed, of course).

If you have switched cases as often as I do (no one should - I do it once every week or two), you might appreciate any sort of labor-saving design in a case. As a reviewer moving a test system from one enclosure to the next, I just want an easy build with adequate clearance and good cable management (these requirements are true for most normal people as well). Some cases are much easier to build in that others, and I was very curious to see how something which sounds quite complex would actually come together.

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Continue reading our review of the Deepcool GamerStorm GENOME liquid-cooled case!!

Are your Puma powered packets ponderous? A router update should be coming to fix your latency

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Puma, latency, lag

Intel's Puma 6 system on a chip is a popular choice in modem provided by ISPs across the western world and if you have recently upgraded your broadband modem you may have noticed an undesirable side effect.  There is an issue with the chip which is causing bursts of high latency, ruining video streaming and gaming for those affected by the issue.  There is good news, The Register confirmed with Intel that a fix is forthcoming and you should expect your ISP to push out a firmware update soon, hopefully not while you are in the middle of something important.

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"Intel's Puma 6 chipset, used in gigabit broadband modems around the world, suffers from latency jitter so bad it ruins online gaming and other real-time connections."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

DIY self driving car; what could possibly go wrong!

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: DIY, self driving car, comma.ai, geohot

George Hotz, aka [Geohot], created the comma.ai program in an effort to create and sell a program to control self driving cars.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took offence to this, citing the possibility of this endangering humans in a letter sent to his company Comma.Ai.  He shut down the project rather than having to deal with lawyers, red tape and regulations.  The code survived however and is now available on GitHub.  Hack a Day took a look and discovered it is written in Python with some C included and is rather easy to interpret if you are familiar with the language.  It is compatible with Acura ILXs or Honda Civic 2016 Touring models, if you are so inclined.

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"First there was [Geohot]’s lofty goal to build a hacker’s version of the self-driving car. Then came comma.ai and a whole bunch of venture capital. After that, a letter from the Feds and a hasty retreat from the business end of things. The latest development? comma.ai’s openpilot project shows up on GitHub!"

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Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Kingston in the data centre? The DC400 Enterprise SSD

Subject: Storage | December 6, 2016 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: kingston, dc400, enterprise ssd

One does not usually think of Kingston when building out a server but perhaps the DC 400 series of SSDs might change that.  It uses 15nm MLC NAND and a pair of quad core Phison PS3110-S10 controllers, each with 256GB DDR3L-1600 of cache.  You will find enterprise class features such as SmartRefresh, SmartECC and firmware controlled power loss management.  Currently there are 480GB and 960GB models, with a 1.6TB model expected soon and all models have over-provisioning which can be modified by the user after purchase.  Pop over to Kitguru to see if the drive can meet its advertised speeds.

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"Kingston’s DC400 series are the latest additions to the companies Enterprise range of SSDs and have been designed as entry level drives for data centers. The new drives have been built with read-intensive applications in mind for use in a mixed workload environments."

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Storage

Source: Kitguru

Watch Dogs 2, in two parts

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, gaming, watch dogs 2, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, rx 480x, rx 470

[H]ard|OCP have spent a lot of with Watch Dogs 2 recently, enough to create three articles covering the game of which two are now published.  The first article focuses on performance at ultra settings and finding the highest playable settings that the GPUs they tested were capable of, without installing the high resolution texture pack.  As it turns out, the game is much more graphically demanding than many other recent releases, so much so that only the Titan X and GTX 1080 was able to perform at 4k resolutions, the GTX 1070 and 1060, as well as the RX 480 and 470 only feature at lower resolutions. 

The second article looks at performance with the texture pack installed, which did not have much effect on overall performance but significantly increased VRAM usage.  Even the mighty Titan X struggled with this game, we will need a new generation of GPUs to utilize all the available graphics features available in this game.  The last review will be up soon and will focus on what effect each of the graphical settings have on the visual appearance of the game.

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"Watch Dogs 2 has been released on the PC. We will have a three part evaluation of performance and image quality starting today with performance comparisons. We will also find the highest playable settings for each graphics card and the gameplay experience delivered. Finally, a graphically demanding game."

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #427 - Leaked Zen Prices, Kaby Lake Performance Leaks, GTX 1050 Ti Upgrades

Subject: Editorial | December 1, 2016 - 11:54 AM |
Tagged: Zen, video, Samsung, podcast, microsoft, megaprocessor, Lenovo, kaby lake, Intel, GTX 1050 Ti, arm, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #427 - 12/01/16

Join us this week as we discuss leaked Zen prices, Kaby Lake performance leaks, GTX 1050 Ti upgrades 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!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:20:41

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Fishing for performance improvements? A shallow dive into Intel's desktop Kaby Lake

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, 7th generation core

Ryan recently offered a sneak peek at Kaby Lake, which powered two HP Spectre laptops recently sent to PC Perspective for review.  [H]ard|OCP managed to acquire a desktop version of the i7-7700K along with a mysterious unreleased motherboard which supports both Skylake and Kaby Lake architectures.  When testing the two chips in Passmark there was no meaningful performance difference, a pattern repeated in 3D Mark and Sandra.  The performance per clock is not the whole story with this chip, there are new features and possible overclocking improvements but at the moment it does not look like there is a compelling reason to upgrade if you are already on Skylake.  The same is not true if you are using a previous generation.

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"If you are wondering what Intel's new Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor's performance will look like when it is launched next month at CES, we have a quick preview for you here today. Just some quick and dirty synthetic benchmark numbers to whet your appetite at 4.5GHz with comparison to the i7-6700K at matched clocks."

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Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Move Over T150...

The Thrustmaster TMX was released this past summer to address the Xbox One ecosystem with an affordable, entry level force-feedback wheel.  This is essentially the Xbox version of the previously reviewed Thrustmaster T150 for the PS3/PS4.  There are many things that these two wheels have in common, but there are a few significant differences as well.  The TMX is also PC compatible, which is what I tested it upon.

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A no-nonsense box design that lets the buyer know exactly what systems this product is for.

The Basics

The TMX is priced at an MSRP of $199.  Along with the T150 this is truly an entry level FFB wheel with all of the features that racers desire.  The wheel itself is 11” wide and the base is compact, with a solid feel.  Unlike the T150, the TMX is entirely decked out in multiple shades of black.  The majority of the unit is a dark, slick black while the rubber grips have a matte finish.  The buttons on the wheel are colored appropriately according to the Xbox controller standards (yellow, blue, green, and red).  The other buttons are black with a couple of them having some white stenciling on them.

The motor in this part is not nearly as powerful as what we find in the TX and T300rs base units.  Those are full pulley based parts with relatively strong motors while the TMX is a combination gear and pulley system.  This provides a less expensive setup than the full pulley systems of the higher priced parts, but it still is able to retain pretty strong FFB.  Some of the more subtle effects may be lost due to the setup, but it is far and away a better solution than units that feature bungee cords and basic rumble functionality.

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The back shows a basic diagram of the mixed pulley and geared subsystem for force-feedback.

The wheel features a 12 bit optical pickup sensor for motion on the wheel.  This translates into 4096 values through 360 degrees of rotation.  This is well below the 16 bit units of the TX and T300rs bases, but in my racing I did not find it to be holding me back.  Yes, the more expensive units are more accurate and utilize the Hall Effect rather than an optical pickup, but the TMX provides more than enough precision for the vast majority of titles out there.  The pedals look to feature the same 10 bit resolution that most other Thrustmaster pedals offer, or about 1024 values for several inches of travel.

Click to read the entire wheel review!