Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 11:53 AM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, Trion 150, tesla, steam os, Samsung, rise of the tomb raider, podcast, ocz, NVMe, Jim Keller, amd, 950 PRO
PC Perspective Podcast #385 - 02/04/2016
Join us this week as we discuss Rise of the Tomb Raider performance, a triple RAID-0 NVMe array and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:16:38
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- Week in Review:
- 0:44:25 Winner: EVGA Winter 2016 Prize Pack and Giveaway
- News items of interest:
- 0:46:35 Gigabyte adds full GIMPS and Prime95 compatibility to Skylake processors
- 0:48:40 So That's Where Jim Keller Went To... Tesla Motors…
- 0:54:40 AMD FirePro S-Series Introduces Hardware-Based GPU Virtualization
- 0:56:15 Who's a pretty boy? Is it you Fallout?
- 0:58:40 OCZ Launches Trion 150, Successor to Trion 100 SATA SSD, Using 15nm Flash
- Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
That Depends on Whether They Need One
Ars Technica UK published an editorial called, Hey Valve: What's the point of Steam OS? The article does not actually pose the question in it's text -- it mostly rants about technical problems with a Zotac review unit -- but the headline is interesting none-the-less.
Here's my view of the situation.
The Death of Media Center May Have Been...
There's two parts to this story, and both center around Windows 8. The first was addressed in an editorial that I wrote last May, titled The Death of Media Center & What Might Have Been. Microsoft wanted to expand the PC platform into the living room. Beyond the obvious support for movies, TV, and DVR, they also pushed PC gaming in a few subtle ways. The Games for Windows certification required games to be launchable by Media Center and support Xbox 360 peripherals, which pressures game developers to make PC games comfortable to play on a couch. They also created Tray and Play, which is an optional feature that allows PC games to be played from the disk while they installed in the background. Back in 2007, before Steam and other digital distribution services really took off, this eliminated install time, which was a major user experience problem with PC gaming (and a major hurdle for TV-connected PCs).
It also had a few nasty implications. Games for Windows Live tried to eliminate modding by requiring all content to be certified (or severely limiting the tools as seen in Halo 2 Vista). Microsoft was scared about the content that users could put into their games, especially since Hot Coffee (despite being locked, first-party content) occurred less than two years earlier. You could also argue that they were attempting to condition PC users to accept paid DLC.
Regardless of whether it would have been positive or negative for the PC industry, the Media Center initiative launched with Windows Vista, which is another way of saying “exploded on the launch pad, leaving no survivors.” Windows 7 cleared the wreckage with a new team, who aimed for the stars with Windows 8. They ignored the potential of the living room PC, preferring devices and services (ie: Xbox) over an ecosystem provided by various OEMs.
If you look at the goals of Steam OS, they align pretty well with the original, Vista-era ambitions. Valve hopes to create a platform that hardware vendors could compete on. Devices, big or small, expensive or cheap, could fill all of the various needs that users have in the living room. Unfortunately, unlike Microsoft, they cannot be (natively) compatible with the catalog of Windows software.
This may seem like Valve is running toward a cliff, but keep reading.
What If Steam OS Competed with Windows Store?
Windows 8 did more than just abandon the vision of Windows Media Center. Driven by the popularity of the iOS App Store, Microsoft saw a way to end the public perception that Windows is hopelessly insecure. With the Windows Store, all software needs to be reviewed and certified by Microsoft. Software based on the Win32 API, which is all software for Windows 7 and earlier, was only allowed within the “Desktop App,” which was a second-class citizen and could be removed at any point.
This potential made the PC software industry collectively crap themselves. Mozilla was particularly freaked out, because Windows Store demanded (at the time) that all web browsers become reskins of Internet Explorer. This means that Firefox would not be able to implement any new Web standards on Windows, because it can only present what Internet Explorer (Trident) draws. Mozilla's mission is to develop a strong, standards-based web browser that forces all others to interoperate or die.
Remember: “This website is best viewed with Internet Explorer”?
Executives from several PC gaming companies, including Valve, Blizzard, and Mojang, spoke out against Windows 8 at the time (along with browser vendors and so forth). Steam OS could be viewed as a fire escape for Valve if Microsoft decided to try its luck and kill, or further deprecate, Win32 support. In the mean time, Windows PCs could stream to it until Linux gained a sufficient catalog of software.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
This is where Steam OS gets interesting. Its software library cannot compete against Windows with its full catalog of Win32 applications, at least not for a long time. On the other hand, if Microsoft continues to support Win32 as a first-class citizen, and they returned to the level of openness with software vendors that they had in the Windows XP era, then Valve doesn't really have a reason to care about Steam OS as anything more than a hobby anyway. Likewise, if doomsday happens and something like Windows RT ends up being the future of Windows, as many feared, then Steam OS wouldn't need to compete against Windows. Its only competition from Microsoft would be Windows Store apps and first-party software.
I would say that Valve might even have a better chance than Microsoft in that case.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2015 - 03:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, amd, nvidia, steam os
Steam Machines powered by SteamOS are due to hit stores in the coming months and in order to get the best performance you need to make sure that the GPU inside the machine plays nicely with the new OS. To that end Phoronix has tested 22 GPUs, 15 NVIDIA ranging from a GTX 460 straight through to a TITAN X and seven AMD cards from an HD 6570 through to the new R9 Fury. Part of the reason they used less AMD cards in the testing stems from driver issues which prevented some models from functioning properly. They tested Bioshock Infinite, both Metro 2033 games, CS:GO and one of Josh's favourites, DiRT Showdown. The performance results may not be what you expect and are worth checking out fully. As well Phoronix put in cost to performance findings, for budget conscious gamers.
"With Steam Machines set to begin shipping next month and SteamOS beginning to interest more gamers as an alternative to Windows for building a living room gaming PC, in this article I've carried out a twenty-two graphics card comparison with various NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon GPUs while testing them on the Debian Linux-based SteamOS 2.0 "Brewmaster" operating system using a variety of Steam Linux games."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti LIGHTNING @ [H]ard|OCP
- Gigabyte GTX 950 Xtreme @ Modders-Inc
- The EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MSI GTX 980 Ti Sea Hawk Review @ Hardware Canucks
- EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti FTW Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- PNY GTX 950 2GB @ eTeknix
- MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning 6GB @ Kitguru
- PowerColor Devil 13 Dual Core R9 390 @ [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 07:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam os, steam machines, steam, pc gaming
According to SteamDB, Valve has struck deals with GameStop, GAME UK, and EB Canada to create “store within a store” areas in North American and UK locations. The article does not clarify how many of stores will receive this treatment. It does note that Steam Controller, Steam Link, and even Steam Machines will be sold from these outlets, which will give physical presence to Valve's console platform alongside the existing ones.
The thing about Valve is that, when they go silent, you can't tell whether they reconsidered their position, or they just are waiting for the right time to announce. They have been fairly vocal about Steam accessories, but the machines themselves have been pretty much radio silence for the better part of a year. There was basically nothing at CES 2015 after a big push in the prior year. The talk shifted to Steam Link, which was obviously part of their original intention but, due to the simultaneous lack of Steam Machine promotion, feels more like a replacement than an addition.
But, as said, that's tricky logic to use with Valve.
As a final note, I am curious about what the transaction entailed. From what I hear, purchasing retail space is pricey and difficult, but some retailers donate space for certain products and initiatives that they find intrinsic value in. Valve probably has a lot money, but they don't have Microsoft levels of cash. Whether Valve paid for the space, or the retailers donated it, is question that leads to two very different, but both very interesting in their own way, follow-ups. Hopefully we'll learn more, but we probably won't.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 1, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: steam os, living room gaming, liquid cooling, gaming, DIY, corsair, computex 2015, computex, barebones, 4k
Today at Computex, Corsair unveiled a new barebones gaming PC aimed at the living room. The compact Bulldog PC is an upgradeable barebones DIY kit that offers gamers an interesting base from which to build a living room PC capable of 4K gaming. The chassis resembles an overbuilt console in that it is a short but wide design with many angular edges and aesthetic touches including stylized black case feet and red accents surrounding the vents. A hidden panel in the lower right corner reveals two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks. It looks ready to fight in the next season of Robot Wars should you add a flamethrower or hydraulic flipper (heh).
The Bulldog kit consists of the chassis, motherboard, small form factor power supply, and a customized Hydro H55F series closed loop liquid CPU cooler. From there, users need to bring their own processor, RAM, and storage devices. There is no operating system included with the kit, but it, being a full PC, supports Windows, Linux, and SteamOS et al.
As far as graphics cards, Corsair is offering several liquid cooled NVIDIA graphics cards (initially only from MSI with other AIB partner cards to follow) that are ready to be installed in the Bulldog PC. Currently, users can choose from the GTX TITAN X, GTX 980, and GTX 970.
Alternatively, Corsair is offering a $99 (MSRP) upgrade kit for existing graphics cards with its Hydro H55 cooler and HG110 bracket.
The Bulldog case supports Mini ITX form factor motherboards and it appears that Corsair is including the Asus Z97I-Plus which is a socket 1150 board supporting Haswell-based Core processors, DDR3 memory, M.2 (though you have to take the board out of the case to install the drive since the slot is on the underside of the board), a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, four SATA 6.0 Gbps ports, and the usual fare of I/O options including USB 3.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and optical and analog audio outputs (among others).
A mini ITX motherboard paired with the small from factor Corsair H55F CPU cooler (left) and the internal layout of the Bulldog case with all components installed (right).
User purchased processors are cooled by the included liquid cooler which is a customized Hydro series cooler that mounts over the processor and exhausts air blower style out of the back of the case. The system is powered by the pre-installed 600W Corsair FS600 power supply. The PSU is mounted in the front of the system and the graphics card radiator and fan are mounted horizontally beside it. Along the left side of the case are mounts for a single 2.5" drive and a single 3.5" drive.
GPU manufacturers will be selling card with liquid coolers pre-installed. Users can also upgrade existing air cooled graphics cards with an optional upgrade kit.
The liquid cooling aspect of the Bulldog is neat and, according to Corsair, is what is enabling them to cram so much hardware together into a relatively small case while enabling thermal headroom for overclocking and quieter operation versus air coolers.
I am curious how well the CPU cooler performs especially as far as noise levels go with the compacted and shrouded design. Also, while there is certainly plenty of ventilation along the sides of the case to draw in cool air, I'm interested in how well the GPU HSF will be able to exhaust the heat since there are no top grilles.
Corsair is marketing the Bulldog as the next step up from your typical Steam Machine and game console and the first 4K capable gaming PC designed for the living room. Further, it would be a nice stepping stone for console gamers to jump into PC gaming.
From the press release:
“Bulldog is designed to take the 4K gaming experience delivered by desktop gaming PCs, and bring it to the big 4K screens in the home,” said Andy Paul, CEO of Corsair Components. “We knew we needed to deliver a solution that was elegant, powerful, and compact. By leveraging our leading expertise in PC case design and liquid cooling, we met that goal with Bulldog. We can’t wait to unleash it on gamers this fall.”
The Bulldog DIY PC kit is slated for an early Q4 2015 launch with a MSRP of $399. After adding in a processor, memory, storage, and graphics, Corsair estimates a completed build to start around $940 with liquid cooled graphics ($600 without a dedicated GPU) and tops out at $2,250.
Keep in mind that the lowest tier liquid cooled GPU at launch will be the MSI GTX 970 (~$340). Users could get these prices down a bit with some smart shopping and component selection along with the optional $99 upgrade kit for other GPU options. It is also worth considering that the Bulldog is being positioned as a 4K gaming machine. If you were willing to start off with a 1080p setup, you could get buy with a cheaper graphics card and upgrade later along with your TV when 4K televisions are cheaper and more widespread.
At its core, $400 for the Bulldog kit (case, quality power supply, high end motherboard, and closed loop CPU cooler) is a decent value that just might entice some console gamers to explore the world of PC gaming (and to never leave following their first Steam sale heh)! It is a big commitment for sure at that price, but it looks like Corsair is using quality components and while there is surely the usual the small form factor part price premium (especially cases), it is far from obnoxious.
What do you think about the bulldog? Is it more bark than bite or is it a console killer?
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 12:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: syber, CyberPowerPC, steam os, gaming, gdc 15, gdc 2015
Syber, a new division of CyberPowerPC, announced plans to launch a slew of Steam OS-powered living room PCs this fall. There are six Steam Machines planned in all, with prototypes being shown off at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) this week.
So far, CyberPowerPC has revealed the Syber Steam Machine-E, Syber Steam Machine-P, and Syber Steam Machine-K. At the low end sits the Steam Machine-E with an unspecified quad core AMD processor and NVIDIA GTX graphics card starting at $449. For $100 more, you can step up to the Steam Machine-P with a dual core Intel Pentium G3258 CPU clocked at 3.2GHz and an AMD Radeon R9 270X. Finally, the Steam Machine-K sits at the high end with an Intel Core i5-4690K processor and a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970.
Syber also hinted at an exclusive orange clad Steam Machine through CyberPowerPC for $1,399.
Of course, these are merely starting prices and users will be able to further customize them when ordering. This is CyberPowerPC’s second stab at breaking into the living room with the SteamOS partnership. Interestingly, they have managed to shave a bit off the cost of the lowest end model and added several more tiers compared to the initial series launched at last year’s CES.
Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2014 - 01:50 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam os, steam, htpc
In a recent Steam Beta update, Valve added a few new entries to its EAppType structure. Previously, the options were invalid, game, application, tool, demo, media, DLC, guide, driver, config, shortcut, and "depotonly". The recent update adds five new ones: film, TV series, video, plugin, and music.
These additions could mean that Steam is intending to distribute film, TV, video, plugins, and music; alternatively, it could just allow users to integrate existing catalogs into the same interface. Of course, this is coming from someone with just about zero knowledge of Steam's internal structure. Someone who is more familiar with Steam might be able to say that I am stupid and this specific enum structure is only used the interface with the catalog or the store. I do not know.
What I am confident in saying is that Valve is serious about making Steam a full home theater PC platform. At LinuxCon, prior to the announcement of SteamOS, Gabe Newell discussed the family ownership (and sharing) of music and movie libraries right alongside his discussion of video games. Whether they want to deal with media company relations is a different story, however.
But let's not get too caught up in media for a second. What is a "plugin"?
This entry was what really caught my eye. Could Valve be designing a plugin architecture for the Steam client? Its built in web browser (or third-party browsers if Valve allows)? Or could it be a method of delivering user content for other apps on their system (similar to how DLC has its own type). If it is a Steam Client or SteamOS plugin, what would that even entail? I am definitely curious.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os
Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.
The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.
This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.
The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.
Subject: Systems | January 7, 2014 - 05:08 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: CES, steam os, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, small form factor, dual boot, Digital Storm, CES 2014, Bolt 2
Today Digital Storm has announced the Bolt 2 small form factor computer. This little number is marketed as a “Steam machine”, and for very good reasons. This particular number packs in quite a punch in a very small space.
The custom designed case has a very effective and logical layout. It really is quite small, but it is very strong and robust. It can handle a micro-ITX board, multiple drives, and a dual slot graphics card. The system I saw was decked out with a GTX 780 Ti along with the Intel i7 4770K. It includes Digital Storm’s proprietary lighting and cooling module which of course controls the lighting… and cooling fan speed for the system.
Cooling is primarily based on the Corsair H100i dual fan unit. This portion takes air from one side/top of the case (depending on orientation) and then vents it through the rest of the chassis. The graphics card takes air from the other side of the case and routes it out the back. This cooling solution allows a fair amount of overclocking to be attempted by the end user, but it does have limitations as compared to a larger system with more airflow.
The design utilizes a 700 watt power supply, which is pretty impressive considering the space constraints that Digital Storm has to deal with. A lot of work with partners has allowed them to include this very small unit with a pair of 30 mm fans at either end. One would expect such fans to produce a LOT of noise. This is happily not the case. The design is good enough, and efficient enough, that at higher loads (including overclocking) it stays very quiet.
The system is very accessible, far more than most would expect. Anyone that has worked on an older small form factor case will testify as to how annoying and contorted setting up hardware (or swapping it out) can be. Digital Storm again took their time with the design to make sure that installation and the changing of components is as simple as possible. A person armed with a screwdriver can get to any major component in a few seconds. Swapping out the video card would take the amount of time of removing four screws, unplugging the power, and making sure not to rip out the PCI-E 16X ribbon connecting the card to the board.
Prices for the unit start at $1500 and go above $2500, depending on component choices. When Valve finalizes the Steam OS and has it ready for prime time, Digital Storm will be including the Steam controller with the build.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 6, 2014 - 11:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: steambox, steam os, Steam Machine, Cyberpower, CES 2014, CES
Today, CyberPowerPC announced its series of SteamOS-powered Steam Machines. Set to be available in the second half of this year, the Steam Machine series will come in several customizable models ranging in price from $499 to $699.
All models share a custom Steam Machine gaming case, a 500GB 7200RPM mechanical hard drive, 8GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz, Valve's Steam OS, and a bundled Steam Controller. From there, the systems differ by processor, graphics, and networking hardware.
On the low end, the $499 CyberPowerPC Steambox is powered by a dual core AMD A6-6400K Richland APU clocked at 3.9GHz, a Radeon R9 270 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and a Mini-ITX motherboard with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.
Stepping up to the $699 mark gets you Intel and NVIDIA hardware in the form of a dual core/quad threaded Intel Core i3-4330 CPU clocked at 3.5GHz and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The networking is also upgraded to 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The chassis is a white case with black front panel and green LEDs. A Valve logo is on the top of the case. It certainly has a gaming console look that should sit well in your entertainment center. The front of the case has three USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks. Personally, I look at the case and am reminded of classic cartridge-loading game consoles due to the cutout/depressed gray accent.
As always, stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information as it becomes available!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!