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.
A no-nonsense box design that lets the buyer know exactly what systems this product is for.
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 12:52 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Intel, Chromebook, chrome os, CES 2016, budget, acer
CES 2016 has seen its share of high end product unveilings, but in addition to its premium hardware, Acer is launching a very budget-friendly PC in the form of the Chromebook 11. The new Chromebook 11 is a surprising product that does not compromise aesthetics in order to hit it’s $179 price tag.
Running Chrome OS, the budget 11.6” notebook features an aluminum alloy top cover with crosshatch pattern that helps to give it a more high end look. The rest of the laptop is plastic though The Verge claims that the build quality feels nice with a comfortable keyboard and a body that does not flex while typing. The top cover and hinges are a metallic silver while the bottom and area surrounding the keyboard is white. The keys are black with white lettering, and the package (at least from the photos) looks like it belongs to a more expensive laptop! A webcam sits above the display and a large trackpad is nestled below the keyboard. It measures 0.73 inches thick and weighs 2.42 pounds. Acer claims it can withstand corner drops from a height of 60cm (just under 2 ft).
The Verge got hands-on time with the new Chromebook at CES 2016.
The left side of the Chromebook 11 holds the DC power input, HDMI output, USB 3.0 port, and a SD card slot while the right side has a SIM card slot, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock slot.
The Chromebook 11 had me excited, but it is not perfect. Acer did not compromise looks, but compromises had to be made somewhere and in the case of the Chromebook 11 it is, unfortunately, in the display which has a mere 720p resolution. That is the big drawback in this notebook, made slightly livable due to it having a matte finish with enough backlight that it can be used outdoors.
Internally, Acer is using a quad core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal flash storage.
The Chromebook 11 will be available at the end of January starting at $179 in the US and 229 Euros across the pond.
I think this would be a good PC for younger students or as a second PC. I was excited about this for $179 while reading about it, but it was tempered by the revelation that the display resolution is stuck at 720p which isn’t horrible but I was expecting a bit more there (at least give me 1366x768...). What do you think about Acer’s newest Chromebook?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Processors | November 21, 2014 - 04:08 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: quad core, pentium, gaming, far cry 4, dual-core, dragon age inquisition, cpus, budget, athlon
A new report covering dual-core woes with Far Cry 4 paints a "bleak future" for budget gamers.
Image credit: Polygon
For a while now the dual-core Pentium processors have been a great option for budget gaming, with the Pentium G3220 and newer G3258 Anniversary Edition taking center stage in a number of budget gaming builds. Today, we may be nearing the end of the road for dual-core CPUs entirely as a couple of high-profile games now require a quad-core CPU.
Is the anniversary really...over?
Far Cry 4 won't even open with a dual-core CPU installed, and while the game will load when using dual-core CPU's with hyper-threading enabled (for 4 total "cores") the performance isn't very good. PC World's article points to users "reporting that Far Cry 4 flat-out refuses to work with 'straight' dual-core PCs - chips that don’t use hyperthreading to 'fake' having additional cores." The article references a "black-screen 'failure to launch' bug" being reported by users with these dual-core chips.
This should come as good news for AMD, who has embraced quad-core designs throughout their lineup, including very affordable offerings in the budget space.
Image credit: AMD
AMD offers very good gaming performance with a part like the Athlon X4 760K, which matched the Pentium G3220 in our budget gaming shootout and was neck and neck with the Pentium in our $550 1080p gaming PC article back in April. And the Athlon 760K is now selling for just under $77, close to the current best-selling $70 Pentium.
Ubisoft has made no secret of their new game's hefty system requirements, with an Intel Core i5-750 or AMD Phenom II X4 955 listed as the minimum CPUs supported. Another high-profile new release, Dragon Age: Inquisition, also requires a quad core CPU and cannot be played on dual-core machines.
Image credit: Origin
Looks like the budget gaming landscape is changing. AMD’s position looks very good unless Intel chooses to challenge the under $80 price segment with some true quad-core parts (and their current 4-core CPUs start at more than twice that amount).
Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2014 - 07:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, nividia, budget, 1080p, r7 265, gtx 750 ti, r7 260x
[H]ard|OCP's testing was performed using an i7-3770K but for those looking at the G3258 or other lower priced processors their results will still hold true. As of this posting all three of these cards are within $15 of the $150 mark so even including taxes and shipping you can get your hands on one for less than $200. If you have a 1080p monitor and want the best bang for your buck, which card is the best choice? The results were not absolutely clear cut and your experience may vary depending on the overclock you can achieve but in the end one card stood out, see which one in their full review.
"Today we continue our quest at finding the best value for 1080p gaming at less than $200. We are looking at two video cards from ASUS, the R7 265 DirectCU II and the GTX 750 Ti DirectCU II OC. We will compare across a variety of 1080p gaming, and draw our conclusion on the best value between the R7 260X, R7 265, and GTX 750 Ti."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- ASUS ROG Striker Platinum GTX 760 4GB @ [H]ard|OCP
- The NVIDIA TITAN Z Performance Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Asus GTX780 Ti ROG Matrix @ Kitguru
- Swiftech Komodo NV-LE GPU Block Review @HiTech Legion
- MSI R9 280 GAMING 3G @ X-bit Labs
- HIS Radeon R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC @ Benchmark Reviews
- Sapphire Radeon R9 280 Dual-X 3GB Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
Subject: Motherboards | July 7, 2014 - 07:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asrock, Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, budget
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer can be yours for $135, much less than many previous motherboards bearing that famous name and [H]ard|OCP has a good idea why after reviewing the board. The build quality of the board is rather cheap, as in the PCB is "as straight as undercooked bacon and feels more prone to breakage than the crispiest strips of bacon" and there was also mention of blood spilled. However you should not judge the board by its cover as [H] soon found out, 8 phase power and sold caps provided a solid performance experience with no problems installing the OS or during their benchmarking process. Their i7-4770K hit 4.7GHz with almost no effort whatsoever and can be coaxed higher if you have the time and skill. This mix of low price, cheap build and stellar performance for a budget board earned this Killer a Gold Award and a place on the short list for economical enthusiasts.
"The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer offers very little frills and boasts tons of performance at a very low cost. ASRock with us has been hit and miss in the past in terms of reviews. This $125 has all the features though that are needed to get you overclocking though. We put the ASRock Z97 Killer Fatal1ty to the test."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H-BK @ eTeknix
- GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK Intel Z97 Motherboard Review @ Legit Reviews
- ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- ASRock Z97 Extreme6 @ Phoronix
- BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z97WE LGA1150 Motherboard Review @ Madshrimps
- ASRock Z97 Extreme6 @ Kitguru
- ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO @ techPowerUp
- ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
The Road to 1080p
The stars of the show: a group of affordable GPU options
When preparing to build or upgrade a PC on any kind of a budget, how can you make sure you're extracting the highest performance per dollar from the parts you choose? Even if you do your homework comparing every combination of components is impossible. As system builders we always end up having to look at various benchmarks here and there and then ultimately make assumptions. It's the nature of choosing products within an industry that's completely congested at every price point.
Another problem is that lower-priced graphics cards are usually benchmarked on high-end test platforms with Core i7 processors - which is actually a necessary thing when you need to eliminate CPU bottlenecks from the mix when testing GPUs. So it seems like it might be valuable (and might help narrow buying choices down) if we could take a closer look at gaming performance from complete systems built with only budget parts, and see what these different combinations are capable of.
With this in mind I set out to see just how much it might take to reach acceptable gaming performance at 1080p (acceptable being 30 FPS+). I wanted to see where the real-world gaming bottlenecks might occur, and get a feel for the relationship between CPU and GPU performance. After all, if there was no difference in gaming performance between, say, a $40 and an $80 processor, why spend twice as much money? The same goes for graphics. We’re looking for “good enough” here, not “future-proof”.
The components in all their shiny boxy-ness (not everything made the final cut)
If money was no object we’d all have the most amazing high-end parts, and play every game at ultra settings with hundreds of frames per second (well, except at 4K). Of course most of us have limits, but the time and skill required to assemble a system with as little cash as possible can result in something that's actually a lot more rewarding (and impressive) than just throwing a bunch of money at top-shelf components.
The theme of this article is good enough, as in, don't spend more than you have to. I don't want this to sound like a bad thing. And if along the way you discover a bargain, or a part that overperforms for the price, even better!
Yet Another AM1 Story?
We’ve been talking about the AMD AM1 platform since its introduction, and it makes a compelling case for a low cost gaming PC. With the “high-end” CPU in the lineup (the Athlon 5350) just $60 and motherboards in the $35 range, it makes sense to start here. (I actually began this project with the Sempron 3820 as well, but it just wasn’t enough for 1080p gaming by a long shot so the test results were quickly discarded.) But while the 5350 is an APU, I didn't end up testing it without a dedicated GPU. (Ok, I eventually did but it just can't handle 1080p.)
But this isn’t just a story about AM1 after all. Jumping right in here, let's look at the result of my research (and mounting credit card debt). All prices were accurate as I wrote this, but are naturally prone to fluctuate:
|Memory||4GB Samsung OEM PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 (~$40 Value)|
|Storage||Western Digital Blue 1TB Hard Drive - $59.99|
|Power Supply||EVGA 430 Watt 80 PLUS PSU - $39.99|
|OS||Windows 8.1 64-bit - $99|
So there it is. I'm sure it won't please everyone, but there is enough variety in this list to support no less than 16 different combinations, and you'd better believe I ran each test on every one of those 16 system builds!
Subject: Motherboards | July 30, 2013 - 06:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: H81, gigabyte, ga-h81m-ds2, ga-h81m-d3v, ga-h81m-d2v, budget
Gigabyte recently launched three new motherboards based on Intel’s budget H81 chipset. The new motherboards include the Gigabyte GA-H81M-D3V, GA-H81M-D2V, and the GA-H81M-DS2. The boards feature a 3-phase VRM, UEFI BIOS, two DIMM slots, four SATA ports (two SATA 3, two SATA 2), and a LGA 1150 CPU socket that supports Intel’s latest Haswell processors. They are all ATX and identical in featuresets, but differ in the rear IO ports and number of PCI-E x1 slots.
Gigabyte H81 motherboards. From right to left: GA-H81M-DS2, GA-H81M-D2V, and GA-H81M-D3V. (Click on images for larger versions.)
The GA-H81M-DS2 comes with a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot and two PCI-E x1 slots. Rear IO includes:
- 2 x PS/2
- 1 x LPT
- 1 x COM
- 1 x VGA
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 3 x analog audio
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
Meanwhile, the GA-H81M-D2V includes the same PCI-E slot configuration as the GA-H81M-DS2 above, as well as the following IO:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x COM
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 3 x analog audio
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
Finally, the Gigabyte GA-H81M-D3V steps up the PCI-E options to a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot and three PCI-E x1 slots. Rear IO on this budget H81 board includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 3 x analog audio
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
All of the H81 Gigabyte boards should be available in the US soon for around $50. More information on the idividual boards can be found on the Gigabyte product pages linked above.
Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2012 - 03:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, s405, s400, s300, Lenovo, laptop, Ivy Bridge, core i5, budget, amd, a8
Tablets and ultrabooks have stolen the IFA 2012 show, but the hardware – while nice to look at – is not for everyone, especially for the price. It seems that Lenovo has the budget showings covered by announcing three budget laptops that offer up some decent specifications.
Lenovo has added three new laptops to its Ideapad S series, and the specifications of the new models are vastly improved versus the current netbook-class S-series models. The new additions are the S300, S400, and S405, and all three are packing the latest generation processors from Intel and AMD respectively.
All three of the laptops feature a display resolution of 1366x768, full QWERTY keyboard, trackpad with gesture support, 720p webcam, and a "tactile metal finish" for the laptop lid that comes in silver, pink, or red colors. External ports include an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and power jack on the right side and a USB 3.0 port, HDMI output, Ethernet jack, and recovery button on the left. They are all expected to provide around four hours of battery life, and the laptops weigh in at 3.97 pounds and are 0.86" thick. All three models will come with Windows 7, but will eligible for the $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.
According to the press release, all three models will have cotton candy pink, red, and silver-gray lid color options in a "tactile" metal finish, though only the S300 has been spotted in the wild with the pink lid.
The S300 has a 13.3" screen while the S400 and S405 have 14" screens, but they share the same chassis, which means that the S300 will have a slightly bigger bezel but otherwise will be the same as the higher-end models on the outside.
On the inside, the S300 is powered by an Intel ultra low voltage (ULV) Core i3 or Core i5 "Ivy Bridge" processor, a 500GB mechanical hard drive, up to 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M graphics. Other features include Intel's WiDi (wireless display) technology, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and stereo speakers powered by Dolby Advanced Audio v2.
The S400 follows that exact same pattern: Intel ULV Core i3/i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, up to 500GB spinning platter hard drive, 4GB of RAM, optional AMD Radeon 7450M GPU, WiDi, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, stereo speakers and WiDi support. The differences include a larger 14" LED backlit display (at that same 1366x768 resolution, unfortunately) and an optional 32GB SSD.
The S400 comes in two different lid color options: a black interior and red lid, or a black interior with silver lid.
The S405 breaks the mold by replacing the Intel Ivy Bridge processor for an AMD A8 Trinity APU. It can also have up to 1TB of mechanical hard drive storage, 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M. Alternatively, it can be upgraded to a 32GB SSD. It features the same LED backlit 14" display and red/black or silver/black color scheme as the S400. The WiDi option does not appear to be included with the Ideapad S405 (which would make sense), but otherwise it is essentially the S400 without the Intel CPU/iGPU.
All three notebooks will be available later this month in the US, and the starting price is $499. The new Lenovo Ideapads make up a nice middle ground between expensive thin-and-light ultrabooks and low cost tablet+keyboard combinations. The quality of the keyboard and trackpad are really going to make or break the new S-series notebooks, because if they manage to pull off a good typing experience these could be some decent travel companions for people that need a productivity machine with a bit of "oomph" thanks to the Intel i5 or AMD Trinity APU. On the other hand, if the keyboard is crappy, the middle ground budget notebooks will really miss the entire point and road warriors will need to look elsewhere. Be on the lookout for reviews on these S-series Lenovo notebooks, as they look interesting for the money (if you are in the position of looking for a budget workhorse machine/one that would not be as terrible to lose on a trip, et al).
What do you think about the new budget Lenovo laptops?