Subject: Graphics Cards | January 31, 2013 - 01:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, amd, graphics drivers, gpu, Crysis 3, catalyst
The Crysis 3 beta was launched January 29th, and AMD came prepared with its new Catalyst 13.2 beta driver. In addition to the improvements rolled into the Catalyst 13.1 WHQL graphics driver, Catalyst 13.2 beta features performance improvements in a number of games.
Foremost, AMD focused on optimizing the drivers for the Crysis 3 beta. With the new 13.2 beta drivers, gamers will see a 15% performance improvement in Crysis 3 when using high MSAA settings. AMD has also committed itself to future tweaks to improve Crysis 3 performance when using both single and CrossFire graphics configurations. The driver also allows for a 10% improvement in CrossFire performance in Crytek’s Crysis 2 and a 50% performance boost in DMC: Devil May Cry when running a single AMD GPU. Reportedly, the new beta driver also reduces latency issues in Skyrim, Borderlands 2, and Guild Wars 2. Finally, the 13.2 beta driver resolves a texture filtering issue when running DirectX 9.0c games.
Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2012 - 02:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, dx9, dmc, devil may cry 4
DMC: Devil May Cry is coming next month. The latest entrant in the Devil May Cry series, the game is published by Capcom and is being developed by Ninja Theory. Further, Ninja Theory has outsourced the PC version of the game to QLOC. DMC: Devil May Cry is a gothic-themed hack ‘n slash game set in an alternate reality in the Devil May Cry universe.
The game is coming out on PC, PS3, and the Xbox 360, with the console versions being released as early as January 15th, 2013 and the PC version coming January 25th, 2013. The PC version will, of course, bump up the graphical quality as well as allowing frames per second rates above 60 FPS. The PC version will also support keyboard/mouse, Xbox 360 controller, and direct input gamepad input.
When purchased on Steam (it is available for pre-order now), DMC: Devil May Cry will utilize cloud saving, achievments, friend support, and leaderboards. The specific release schedule is as follows:
The game will be available on the PC starting January 25th in both retail and digital versions across Europe and by digital distribution services in North America. Currently, that means Valve's Steam and EA's Origin stores. There is no word yet on if it will be available at retail in Japan or what other digital distribution services will offer the title. The game is already available for pre-order on Steam, however. Additionally, Capcom has released the minimum and recommened system requirements for the PC version. The specifications are listed below for reference.
Minimum PC Requirements:
- OS: Windows Vista®/XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: AMD Athlon™ X2 2.8 GHz or better, Intel® Core™2 Duo 2.4 Ghz or better
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 8 GB free hard drive space
- Video Card: ATI Radeon™ HD 3850 or better, NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800GTS or better
- DirectX®: 9.0c or greater
- Sound: Standard audio device
Recommended PC Requirements:
- OS: Windows Vista®/XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: AMD Phenom™ II X4 3 GHz or better, Intel® Core™2 Quad 2.7 Ghz or better
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 9 GB free hard drive space
- Video Card: AMD Radeon™ HD 6950 or better
- DirectX®: 9.0c or greater
- Sound: Standard audio device
The game is based on the Unreal 3 engine, and while it is not going to push the upper boundaries of gaming PC hardware, it should look fairly good on the computer. If you are interested in the game, the Capcom-Unity website has a number of screenshots and videos showing off the game that are worth checking out.
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2012 - 11:36 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, Crysis 3, crysis, CryENGINE 3
Crysis 3, the third major installment in EA’s popular sandbox nanosuit-toting FPS is just over two months away. And unlike Crysis 2, this iteration is one that PC gamers should look forward to as much as the original. In an interview with Crysis 3’s Technical Director Marco Corbetta, PC Gamer was told that Crytek has made several optimizations and improvements to CryENGINE 3 that take full advantage of the horsepower offered by today’s high-end gaming PCs. Reportedly, with Crysis 2, there was a focus on delivering a console title, but with Crysis 3 PC gamers will get advanced graphics options and the high resolution textures on launch day that they deserve (my opinion there).
PC Gamer quoted Corbetta in stating that Crysis 3 improves upon the “AI navigation system, animation system, water, fog volumes, cloud shadows, POM, AA, cloths, vegetation, particles, lens flares, and grass.” Basically all of the little details that PC gaming is known for. On the topic of grass, the technical director expanded in saying that Crysis 3 is able to model each blade of grass which the player and NPCs will interact with, allowing movement to be spotted in the brush (and now I’m having flashbacks of Jurassic Park and it’s tall grass...). In essence, Crysis 3 is reportedly returning to its PC roots with a vengeance.
As far as advanced graphics, users will be able to adjust a number of features to tweak the graphics details to get the most out of their hardware (or at least make the game playable until the next generation of cards?). From the top down, the advanced graphics menu has the following options: Game Effects, Objects, Particles, Post Processing, Shading, Shadows, Water, Anisotropic Filtering (AF), Texture Resolution, Motion Blur Amount, and Lens Flares. There are no sliders, but you will be able to choose from low, medium, high, and very high (for most settings). And if the previously announced PC system requirements are any indication, you will need a rather beefy multi-GPU system in order to crank these settings to the maximum.
You can find more details and the full interview over at PC Gamer. If you’re interested in the upcoming Crysis title, it’s worth a read.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 6, 2012 - 05:57 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: waterproof, stealth, PC, nettop, Intel, desktop, atom d525
Stealth has debuted a new rugged and waterproof computer called the WPC-525F. The nettop-like system is a ruggedized small form factor PC powered by Intel’s Atom D525 processor and ICH8M chipset. IP67/NEMA 6 rated, the company states that the WPC-525F is dust, rain, and splash resistant as well as, allegedly, being capable of being run over by a pickup truck and continuing to function.
If only the tire tread came as a standard silkscreen option...
On the outside, the WPC-525F is a black box with covered ports on the rear, a VESA mount on the bottom, and a power button on the front. Simple enough. Dimensions are 10.15” (W) x 6.22” (D) x 2.04” (H) (258x158x52mm), and it weighs 5.1 pounds without cables. Interestingly, instead of typical ports, it has water resistant “Bayonet” connections with cables that lead away from the back of the PC to the devices. With all the cables connected, you get the following IO options:
4 x USB 2.0
2 x RJ45 LAN (Gigabit Ethernet)
1 x RS232 serial
1 x VGA
1 x Power
It can accept 6 to 36V DC input for power. According to Stealth, the entire system will consume 16W when idle and 19W under full load.
The outside of the Stealth WPC-525F is impressive, but the internals are certainly not as flashy. It features an Intel Atom D525 dual core processor clocked at 1.8GHz (1MB cache), 4GB DDR3 RAM, and a 120GB MLC SSD. The board also includes two internal Mini-PCIe expansion slots. For video, the computer uses the onboard Intel GMA 3150. As implied by the ports listed above, there is no audio support on the WPC-525F, though you could add a USB sound card if it was really needed.
The WPC-525F is fanless and uses the aluminum chassis to facilitate cooling. The ruggedized PC is available now with a starting price of $1595 USD. (Keep in mind that that is without an OS or AC power adapter.) You can find more photos and specifications on the product page.
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2012 - 06:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: razer orochi, razer, PC, mouse, mobile, laptop, gaming
Razer has been on an updating kick this month with a number of its gaming mice being refreshed with better hardware and support for Synapse 2.0 (cloud syncing) software. This time, Razer is turning to its mobile lineup and giving the Orochi an upgrade for a 2013 release.
The ambidextrous mouse can be used in a wired or wireless configuration. While the original Orochi featured a 4000 DPI laser sensor, the updated model upgrades the sensor to 6400 DPI. Further, Razer has bumped up the Bluetooth radio to one rated at Bluetooth 3.0 specifications. Powered by two AA batteries, Razer has reportedly improved battery life by a significant margin. The company rates the mobile gaming mouse at up to 30 hours of continuous gaming, and three months of normal use.
The refreshed mouse maintains the traditional LED-lit scroll wheel, mouse buttons, and two side buttons of the original Orochi. Interestingly, it comes in a shinier "chrome" colored variant in addition to the standard black blade addition.
The refreshed Orochi 2013 is available for pre-order now for $69.99. According to the Razer website, the blade edition will ship in 1-2 weeks and the chrome variant will ship in a little over a month.
Subject: Systems | November 17, 2012 - 08:59 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, PC, Lenovo, ideacentre q190, htpc
Lenovo recently launched a new small form factor PC with the IdeaCentre Q190. This small desktop measures 192mm x 155mm x 22mm and packs some hardware punch that handily surpasses the specs of traditional net-top computers. Exact hardware specifications have not yet been released, but the company has talked about the top-end model.
The IdeaCentre Q190 PC will have up to a 2nd generation Core i3 Intel Sandy Bridge processor, 8GB DDR3 memory, HD3000 integrated (processor) graphics, a 1TB hard drive, and a 24GB caching SSD. These specifications are, of course, for the top end model.
The IdeaCentre Q190 with the optional optical drive attached.
In addition, the Q190 can support a DVD writer or Blu ray optical drive that mounts on top of the PC, which adds a bit of depth but can still be mounted vertically with the supplied stand. Other optional accessories include a handheld wireless keyboard and mouse trackpad.
External IO includes an SDXC card reader, S/PDIF optical audio port, VGA video output, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack.
The Q190 will come preloaded with Windows 8, and an option for Windows 8 Pro. Lenovo is pushing the HTPC merits of the computer, and it will certainly do a serviceable job. It would also make for a nice low-power desktop system as well, and it looks nice enough to display on your desk.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 will be available in January 2013 and will have a starting price of $349, with the top end model described above costing a bit more (the exact amount is as yet unknown).
In a recent press release, Zotac unveiled three new ZBox small form factor computers, including one PC that features a blu-ray optical drive. Specifically, the new models include the ZBOX ID82, ZBOX Nano ID61, and the ZBOX Blu-ray AD05. In addition, the company offers "plus" versions of the three ZBOX computers that add 2GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive to the hardware package. Carsten Berger, marketing director for ZOTAC stated that the company is constantly pushing the small form factor envelope and the latest Intel Core i3 Sandy Bridge processors "enables us to give demanding users the performance edge they need."
The ZBOX Nano ID61
The ZBOX ID61 is the smallest of the three PCs and is the latest in their Nano form factor. It is powered by a dual core Intel Celeron 867 processor, a single DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and an integrated multimedia card reader. Connections include HDMI, Displayport, 2 USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, 1 eSATA port, Bluetooth 3.0, and a built in IR receiver. The ID61 plus further features 2 GB of DDR3 1333 MHz laptop RAM and a 320 GB SATA III (6Gbps) hard drive.
The ZBOX ID82
The ID82 represents the latest ZBOX PC, and while it is a big bulkier than the Nano series, it packs a lot more punch with an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3-2330. The new Intel CPU is a dual core 2.2 GHz processor which further includes Hyper-Threading tech for a total of four virtual cores. Further, the PC has two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, DVI-I, and Bluetooth 3.0. The ZBOX ID82 Plus includes 2 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 320 GB laptop hard drive.
The ZBOX Blu-ray AD05
Finally, the ZBOX Blu-ray AD05 is a small form factor PC that moves to AMD for their processor and GPU with the AMD E-450 APU with integrated Radeon 6320 GPU. The extra hardware horsepower provides the "oomph" needed to support smooth blu-ray playback. The mini PC holds a 4x Blu-ray reader that doubles as a 8x DVD +/- writer. It includes support for two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots and an 2.5" SATA II hard drive. Connections include HDMI, DVI, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, and one combo USB 2.0/eSATA port. The ZBOX Blu-ray AD05 Plus version further includes 2 GB of memory and a 320 GB hard drive.
All three of the mini ZOTAC ZBOX PCs (wow, that's a lot of caps) also feature Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and a bundled Media Center remote and USB IR receiver. No matter the model, the user is still responsible for providing an OS as one does not come bundled. Unfortunately, there is no word on pricing or availability.
Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2012 - 06:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sales, record, pcga, PC, gaming
In two surprising bits of news, the PC gaming alliance is not only still alive and kicking, but their recent report indicates that the PC games industry saw record sales numbers in 2011. The consortium reported that worldwide PC game sales hit $18.6 billion last year, a year over year increased of 15%. The initial numbers definitely seem to suggest that PC gaming is nowhere near dead.
The PCGA states that the rise in sales is due to increases in the Chinese PC games market and the rise in popularity of Free-to-Play games like TF2, Star Trek: Online, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft (which has a free component), and many others. The integration of some of the most popular Free to Play games into Valve's Steam store certainly didn't hurt either!
Further, the release of several big hit titles including Battlefield 3, Skyrim, Saints Row: The Third, and Portal 2, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (my pick for PC Per Game of the Year) all contributed to the record sales numbers on the PC. According to the article, Asian publisher Tencent launched League of Legends and is now bringing in 11 million players (though it's likely that not all of those players are active and/or spend money on the service) and will be surpassing Activision as the company making the most money off of PC games. Zynga, the company behind many of the
annoying time sinks popular Facebook games, continued to rake in a boatload of money with 2011 revenue of $1.1 billion.
Not only did the PC gaming alliance report these positive numbers for 2011, but they predict that the PC games industry will continue to grow. As digital distribution systems catch on and broadband connections continue to improve and spread into new areas (though Verizon and AT&T aren't helping matters by stopping further roll outs of FIOS and Uverse), the PCGA predicts that the industry will grow to $25.5 billion, which would be a 37% rise in four years. If the growth rate continues in Asian markets and publishers continue to back down from DRM in favor of producing more titles that people want to buy, their predicted growth is certainly achievable. More information on the PCGA report can be found here along with the full press release here(PDF).
Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2012 - 07:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, mass effect 3, gaming, game, ea, bf3, battlefield 3
Update: Apparently EA has decided to pull the deal because it was too good of an idea :(.
The final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy is almost upon us, and for those itching to get a taste of Mass Effect 3 can now go and download the Mass Effect 3 demo for the PC via EA's Origin service. The demo delivers about an hour (they claim two hours, but I finished it in about an hour and I was purposefully taking it slow to take in the scenery and such) of Shephard battling against a (spoilers ahead) Reaper invasion.
Personally, from playing the demo I'm not convinced that it is going to live up to the hype, and it seems to be rather "dumbed down" compared to the first one. With that said, it was not terrible and I will likely pick it up if only to finish out the story. The story itself hits hard in the demo and I am excited for that aspect of the Mass Effect sequel, for example. If you have not already done so, check out the demo that's out now.
Anyway, if you do enjoy the demo and are getting pumped for the release this March, EA is currently running a rather good deal on Origin for those willing to Pre-Order Mass Effect 3 from the Origin store. According to EA, users who place a pre-order for Mass Effect 3 through the Origin store for any platform (including digital download, boxed PC copy, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) before March 5, 2012 will receive a free digital PC edition of Battlefield 3 for free. The codes for BF3 will be emailed to customers when they become available.
As always, there are some caveats:
- The offer is only valid for those in US and Canada.
- You must pre-order through Origin and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
- You are not eligible for the free copy if you already own Battlefield 3 on Origin.
- The Battlefield 3 codes will be emailed no later than March 8, 2012.
That last one is a big one (for me anyway). Considering Battlefield 3 is already released, why can't those that pre-order ME3 get instant access to it? I was all for the deal at first as I have not yet purchased BF3 and if I could get it for free by pre-ordering a game I was likely to buy anyway it sounded like a sweet deal. Unfortunately, not being able to jump into BF3 to hold me over until Mass Effect 3 launched makes it less awesome. After all, once Mass Effect 3 releases, I'm not going to want to play Battlefield 3 anymore! Considering Battlefield 3 will likely still be approximately $60 on Origin in a few months, getting it free is still a good deal, but it's less of a impulse purchase knowing I might not get the Battlefield 3 code until after I have Mass Effect 3 downloaded.
It's there if you want it though, so go download the Mass Effect 3 demo and let us know what you think of it!
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2012 - 08:48 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: portable, PC, microsoft, laptop, kinect
At CES 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) for Windows. In that same vien, the company is now exploring the idea of integrating a Kinect sensor directly into laptop computers.
Not the actual prototype. Just a mock up I concocted.
The crew over at The Daily managed to get their hands on two such prototype laptops with integrated Kinect sensors. They state tha the two machines resemble Asus laptops that are running Windows 8; however, upon closer inspection, the laptops have removed the typical 1.3 megapixel webcam that is common in today's notebooks and have instead placed a Kinect sensor bar at the top of the display instead. They claim that a source within Microsoft has confirmed that the two laptops are indeed official prototypes.
Unfortunately, there aren't many details beyond that. Whether Microsoft will forge ahead with this idea and license out the Kinect technology to laptop makers or if the prototypes will go into some bunker somewhere and never see the light of day still remains a mystery. Currently at $250 (to end users, OEMs could likely cut a much better deal), it is not likely that we will see a proliferation of Kinect sensors into all manner of displays for notebooks, TVs, and desktops. If Microsoft could get the cost of the technology down far enough that manufacturers could justify adding it, it could definitely catch on. In the end, I don't think we'll be seeing Kinect powered computers any time soon, but in the future when the hardware is cheaper and there are Kinect for Windows applications readily available, it could happen. Would you like to see Kinect in your laptop (insert Xzibit meme here) or desktop monitor, and if so what would you like to do with it?