E3 2017: Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) and Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958) Announced

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, e3 17, E3, dell, alienware

As mentioned in the Alienware mechanical keyboard news, the brand is pushing back into gaming peripherals at this year’s E3 conference. This announcement is for their pair of RGB-lit gaming mice, the Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) and the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958), which consists of a base model and a higher-end one variant with more customization.

alienware-e3-elite-gaming-mouse.png

Both mice are built on a nine-button, right-handed chassis. It’s difficult to tell from the photos, but it looks like the mouse has three buttons on the thumb side, two on the pinky side, and an extra button on the top (as well as left, right, and scroll wheel click, of course). I could be wrong about this, though. The RGB lighting, two strips of it below the buttons and one going up the palm rest, forming a triangular crosshair, is available on both models.

alienware-e3-advanced-gaming-mouse.png

So what’s different about the Elite? The higher-end mouse can have its side-grips replaced to change up the form and feel of the thumb buttons. It can also have weights added to it, which should help twitch gamers get used to it quicker, because they can make it feel slightly more familiar. Interestingly, the higher-end model (AW958) can store five DPI profiles, while the lower-end one (AW558) can only store three. I don’t know why they didn’t just let both choose five.

The Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) has an MSRP of $49.99 USD and the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958) has an MSRP of $89.99 USD. They are available on June 13th.

Source: Alienware

E3 2017: Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) and Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768) Announced

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, e3 17, E3, dell, alienware

Alienware has announced a pair of mechanical keyboards at E3 this year. While the company has made gaming mice and keyboards before, its been quite a while. After a little Googling, the most recent entries that I’ve seen were over five years old, those being the TactX mouse and keyboard. If you look on their website recently, though, you can’t really see anything first-party -- just brands like Razer and Roccat.

alienware-e3-advanced-gaming-keyboard.png

These two keyboards, the Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) and the Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768), are based on a similar design, with a few differences. First, the similarities. Both of these are mechanical keyboards that are based on brown switches from Kailh, which are very similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. Each key is also isolated in the key matrix, which Alienware claims is N-key rollover, but it’s unclear whether they just mean to the keyboard’s controller, or whether the PC will stop registering buttons after some multiple of USB limitations. (Typically, NKRO requires PS/2, although keyboards started doing things like registering as multiple keyboards to extend this limit... but it’s hard to find a USB keyboard that can literally handle every button independently.)

alienware-e3-pro-gaming-keyboard.png

As for the differences, the main changes are, surprise surprise, RGB backlighting and a volume roller on the AW768 (versus no backlight and volume buttons on the AW568). Interestingly, Alienware claims onboard memory for the AW768, to store macros, although they just advertise the Alienware Control Center for the AW568. This might mean that the AW568 doesn’t have onboard memory, requiring the driver for custom macros, but it could just be an awkwardly-worded press release.

The Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) has an MSRP of $89.99 and the Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768) has an MSRP of $119.99. They will be available in the US on June 13th.

Source: Alienware

Project Scorpio Unveiled as "Xbox One X," Lands November 7th for $499

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2017 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Xbox Scorpio, xbox, microsoft, E3

At its E3 2017 keynote Sunday, Microsoft finally unveiled the official details for its upcoming "Project Scorpio" console, now called "Xbox One X." The console, surprisingly smaller than even the Xbox One S, will launch November 7, 2017 and, as expected, will be priced at $499, the same launch price of the original Xbox One in November 2013.

xbox-one-x-design.jpg

With a maximum 6 teraflops of GPU horsepower and a class-leading 326GB/s memory bandwidth, Microsoft is hoping that its significant performance advantage over Sony's $399 PS4 Pro, as well as its ability to play UHD Blu-ray discs, will help justify the $100 price difference for consumers.

  Xbox One X PS4 Pro

CPU

2.3GHz 8-Core 2.16 GHz 8-Core
GPU 6 TFLOPS 4.2 TFLOPS
Memory 12GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 326 GB/s 218 GB/s
UHD Discs Yes No
Storage 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
Price $499 $399

One of the criticisms of the PS4 Pro is that many of the games "optimized" for the system do not utilize 4K assets or run at true 4K resolution. In response, Microsoft clarified repeatedly throughout its keynote that many games designed for Xbox One X will indeed run at 4K/60fps. While Microsoft will likely ensure that its own house-published titles and those from close partners will hit this mark, it remains to be seen how well cross-platform games from third parties will fare.

xbox-one-x-chip.jpg

As for those who don't have 4K displays, Xbox One X will use supersampling to increase perceived resolution and quality at 1080p. The popular Xbox 360 backwards compatibility feature (which will soon include original Xbox games) will also benefit from the Xbox One X's increased horsepower, with Microsoft promising faster load times and improved anti-aliasing.

As with the PS4 Pro, all games will support both console generations, with many titles going forward "enhanced for Xbox One X." One of Sony's biggest problems is the lack of games that truly take advantage of the PS4 Pro's unique features, so Microsoft's ability to bring third party developers on board will be key to the Xbox One X's success.

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We'll need the console to hit the market to get a more detailed look at its technical specifications, but based on Microsoft's claimed performance numbers, the Xbox One X looks like a relatively good deal from a hardware perspective. The console's 6 TFLOPS of graphics processing power compares to an NVIDIA GTX 1070, which currently retails for just over $400. Add in the 1TB hard drive, custom 8-core CPU, and UHD Blu-ray player, and the price is suddenly not so unreasonable. Of course, newer cards like the AMD Radeon RX 580 also hit around 6 TFLOPS for ~$220, but you won't be able to find one of those these days. At a $100 premium over the PS4 Pro, however, it's unclear how the console community will value the Xbox One X's hardware advantage.

One thing that is clear is that Microsoft's Xbox team wasn't too happy to be the source of mockery based on performance and sales for the past four years, and they're highly motivated to come out swinging this fall.

Preorders for Xbox One X have yet to be announced, but you'll find the Amazon pre-order page here when orders go live.

Source:

NVIDIA Announces an E3 #GameReady Giveaway

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2016 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, giveaway, e3 2016, E3

Update, June 8th @ 8:15pm: Just to clarify, this giveaway is not affiliated with PC Perspective. We just found it on Twitter and thought that our readers might like to have a chance at free hardware.

Fairly simple bit of news for this one. NVIDIA has announced that they will be giving away $100,000 of prizes to people who message @NVIDIA and use the #GameReady hashtag, on either Twitter or Instagram, during one of five E3 keynotes.

nvidia-geforce.png

Sunday (June 12th, 2016):

  • EA at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT
  • Bethesda at 7PM PDT / 10PM EDT / 2AM GMT (Monday)

Monday (June 13th, 2016):

  • Microsoft at 9:30AM PDT / 12:30PM EDT / 4:30PM GMT
  • PC Gaming Show at 12PM PDT / 3PM EDT / 7PM GMT
  • Ubisoft at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT

Interestingly, Sony was not listed on their rundown. Sure, they rarely have anything relevant to PC gamers, but it's still an amusing omission none-the-less.

According to their Terms and Conditions, the sweepstakes is open to a large portion of the world. They will be giving away fifty GTX 1080s, “up to” thirty $500 Steam Gift Cards, and “an ultimate PC battlestation”??? I'm not sure what that is, but it sounds like Mark Hamill will be trying to destroy it a few times.

E3 starts this weekend! Stay tuned for coverage. (You can also sleep, eat, and do laundry, though.)

Source: NVIDIA

E3 Demos Versus Released Games

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2016 - 07:39 AM |
Tagged: E3

With E3 coming up, JohnGR pointed out a video in the comments of one of our E3 trailer posts that compares Ubisoft's demos with their released games. I tend to be relatively forgiving of these issues, personally, but the video is quite well done from an editing standpoint. It has quite a few moments of dry irony, especially with the contrast between the demo's busy audio sequences and the game section's silence.

We'll be seeing a lot of demos over the next handful of days. It's good to keep in mind that they are promotional snippets, either video or playable, that represent what the developer or publisher wants their game to be viewed as. Sometimes, it's just an overly optimistic view of what they can accomplish.

Hitman Will Get Free Content Updates

Subject: Shows and Expos | June 20, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: hitman, E3 2015, E3 15, E3

SquareEnix would apparently prefer to say “no DLC or microtransactions” when referring to free, post-launch, content updates. Personally, I think “free DLC” would be an acceptable name for their plans. However you want to brand it, the new Hitman will have content added for not additional cost. This was once a common practice for PC games, at a time when they had access to internet, consoles did not, and there was nothing like Steam or Xbox Live to facilitate microtransactions.

square-eidos-2015-hitman-stare.jpg

Some of the updates could deviate from what is considered “traditional DLC” though. For instance, they might push an update that adds or modifies an NPC to be a target, but just for a couple of days. Since Hitman has been one of the games that scores how effectively you can take down opponents, PC Gamer hopes that impromptu and time-limited missions will test players on skill and intuition, rather than manufacturing a calculated strategy. In fact, some will only occur once and you might not have more than a photo to go off of.

Hitman (no subtitle) is scheduled to launch on December 8th.

Source: PC Gamer

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Gets Prologue in July

Subject: Shows and Expos | June 18, 2015 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 15, E3 2015, blizzard, Starcraft II, legacy of the void, whispers of oblivion

While StarCraft II is known for its multiplayer component, some of us are mostly interested in the campaign... and Arcade mods, but there's no news on that front. Legacy of the Void is the end of the StarCraft II trilogy, which is said to finally deal with the hybrids that were introduced in the secret missions of Brood War and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. They played a larger role in Heart of the Swarm's campaign although that did not even have unlockable missions, so they wouldn't exist otherwise.

blizzard-2015-sc2lotv-woo.jpg

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void does not yet have a release date, but there will be a mini-campaign released for free before it launches. StarCraft II: Whispers of Oblivion (or is that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void: Whispers of Oblivion?) are three single-player missions that will be released in July. Those who pre-purchase Legacy of the Void will get the missions first, which might mean that everyone else needs to wait until after July to play them... or not. That said, if you are patient, you do not even need to own StarCraft II at all. Free to all, but timed-exclusive for those who pre-order.

Source: Blizzard

PC Gamer Lists Many E3 Games (and If We Should Care)

Subject: Shows and Expos | June 18, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, E3 2015, E3 15, E3

This has been a good E3 for the PC platform. We got our first keynote, organized by PC Gamer and AMD, which took the format in its own direction. This had basically the same reaction as putting Skittles in an M&Ms vending machine; they are good, but you'll see lots of weird faces on those who were expecting chocolate that melts in their mouths and not in their hands. It also ran long, celebrating the platform for almost two and a half hours, which is problematic for fans of console games who are very busy (and anyone with sub-phenomenal blood circulation or irritable bowels). Personally, I found it very interesting (while a bit long).

pc-gaming-alliance-logo.jpg

Lol... just kidding. No.. (Image Credit: Rock Paper Shotgun)
They aren't even called that anymore...

Throughout E3, PC Gamer has also kept a vast (but not as complete as they claim) list of titles at the event. Each entry in the slideshow (I know) format has a brief blurb about the game, its release date if available, and whether it is coming to the PC platform. It is updated as the event progresses, but it already has about forty entries. Of the current list, only four are not yet confirmed for the PC. That sounds pretty good, and a stark contrast from five-to-ten years ago.

These four are:

  • The Last Guardian (no surprise)
  • Fallout Shelter (iOS only)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (which will probably make it to the PC at some point)
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake (which was twice a PC release already)

Unfortunately, they are missing many titles that would be excluded from the PC, so I will add to it here. Gears 4 has not been confirmed for the PC, although the developer is bringing the original Gears remake to the platform. Yup, we get the one Gears we already had (at least until Games for Windows Live had something to say about it). Uncharted 4, Ratchet and Clank, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Dreams are pretty safe bets against the PC. Microsoft has been extremely quiet about Halo 5 and its chances on the PC; ReCore and Rare Replay sounds like Xbox One exclusives, as in excluding the PC as well as the other consoles, as well. Then you add Nintendo, and this list blows up from 12, including my additions, to a much bigger number that I don't even want to figure out.

Still, it is interesting to browse through PC Gamer's slideshow and look at all the content that we will get. It has been a good year for the PC. Microsoft is pulling Windows 10 forward with equivalent effort to what they have spent dragging the mostly unprofitable Xbox division around. They know that gaming is an essential component of why people are locked in to Windows, and it has thrived even through the decade-plus of neglect and maltreatment. On the other side, we see Sony appreciating the PC as a profitable market that can exist alongside their PlayStation initiatives for Sony Online content, and they don't even have as much first-party developers as they used to anyway.

But yeah. Lots of games is good. While I've managed for the last couple years, I feel it's getting much easier to ignore the console exclusives. How about you?

Source: PC Gamer

Microsoft Announces Xbox One Elite Controller for Windows 10

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller

And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.

xbox-one-2015-elite-front-and-back.jpg

At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.

The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.

xbox-one-2015-elite-case.jpg

That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.

xbox-one-2015-elite-paddles.jpg

Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.

xbox-one-2015-elite-remap.jpg

This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.

xbox-one-2015-elite-custom.jpg

The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.

AMD's Small Form Factor Project Quantum PC Is a Dual Fiji Powerhouse [Updated]

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: water cooling, SFF, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, dual fiji, amd

AMD revealed a new liquid cooled small form factor PC called Project Quantum during an E3 livestream today.

AMD Project Quantum with Dual Fiji.JPG

On the outside, an angled dual compartment aluminum case with rounded edges houses the processing hardware in the bottom and all the cooling components in the top part. AMD is using liquid cooling for the processor and graphics with the tubing running up the center column joining the two pieces together to a radiator or radiators. Red LEDs light up the center column while Radeon R9 branding sits in the bottom left corner. 

AMD Project Quantum.JPG

While at first glance that Radeon R9 branding might be unassuming, it is actually referring to AMD's latest Fiji architecture. That's correct, Project Quantum is part of the Fiji product family and is, in fact, powered by two AMD Fiji-based graphics procesors!

Update: AMD has posted a behind-the-scenes video on the development of Project Quantum which you can watch below.

In the video, AMD reveals that they are using a modified ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac motherboard (thanks to djotter in the comments for pointing that out) which means that Project Quantum is using an Intel Haswell processor in addition to the two Fiji-based GPUs. AMD has removed all of the rear IO connectors save two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. They have also moved the 8-pin CPU power connector to the back panel of the board next to the USB ports. My guess is that they did this for cable management and height restriction reasons within the bottom compartment. Specifically, from the CAD render shown in the video, it appears that the AMD graphics card sits horizontally on top of the motherboard which meant that at least some of the rear IO ports had to be removed or relocated.

AMD Project Quantum PSU.jpg

Another bit of information from that AMD video is that Project Quantum is using what looks like an external power supply. The power brick connects to the system over a single cable to an internal board. This board provides power to a Pico PSU that is plugged into the ATX 24-pin connector on the motherboard and provides power to the AMD branded Solid State Drive (SSD) as well as the motherboard and CPU 8-pin connectors (which have both been modified to right angles for height and cable management reasons). The internal power board that connects to the socket at the back likely also powers the Radeon graphics card via PCI-E connectors, but it is difficult to tell from the photo (it is that red PCB towards the top of the photo).

AMD Radeon R9 Quantum Dual Fiji SFF Prototype.jpg

Interestingly AMD has switched out the power and USB 3.0 headers with right angle models and removed the blue ASRock heatsinks covering the VRMs and PCH. AMD is instead using two large waterblocks to cool the components on the motherboard and graphics card. A large radiator and pump sit in the top compartment cooled by an 180mm Enermax Apollish fan. The 180mm radiator should result in quieter, or at least less annoying, fan noise since the large fan can spin slower while moving similar amounts of air as smaller fans paired with 120 or 140mm radiators. Using a single large radiator for both the CPU and GPU is an interesting choice here, and I think a correct one.

AMD Project Quantum Waterblocks.jpg

A rendering of the water loop layout on Project Quantum. Image from AMD with annotations by Aibohphobia.

It was actually djotter and Aibohphobia in the comments who spotted the Pico PSU and provided an example. (I did not notice that in the video initially, so thanks for pointing that out!)  This power brick and tiny Pico PSU setup would certainly help to explain how AMD was able to make Project Quantum so thin (though an external PSU isn't necessarily a bad thing). The Pico PSU does suggest that the dual Fiji GPUs may be closer to lower end R9 Nanos than two high end Fury Xs (heh) or maybe some other yet unannounced cut-down Fiji chip entirely.

(End of update)

Update 9:30PM:

During the PC Gamer E3 Twitch stream, AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off Project Quantum, and Ken was able to snap a photo of the back panel.

AMD Project Quantum Rear IO.JPG

Project Quantum has, from left to right, a single power input (see above), two analog audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports, and a single horizontal PCI slot. A Radeon R9 graphics card is installed in this slot and features three DisplayPort and one HDMI 1.4 video outputs. We still do not know all the specs of this card, but is is Fiji-based and supports LiquidVR along with AMD's other features including FreeSync and Frame Rate Target Control.

(End Update 9:30PM)

Beyond that, we do not know many details on Project Quantum. From the other announcements around Fiji today, particularly the R9 Nano and R9 Fury X, this little machine is going to be a powerhouse with impressive power efficiency and performance per watt – especially for its size!

Of course, pricing and availability were not discussed at the event. Stay tuned to PC Perspective as we get more details closer to its official release!

Source: AMD