Is iFi Audio the best choice for a name, let alone a tiny DAC?

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2017 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: audio, DAC, iFi Audio, nano iDSD LE

As you can see from the comparative size of the RCA jacks, the iFi Audio nano iDSD LE is a very small DAC, especially as they have squeezed a 1000 mAh battery inside for portable usage.  Don't let the tiny package fool you, the device supports a wide variety of signals including PCM from 44.1 to 384 kHz/16-32 bit, DSD 2.8, 3.1, 5.6 and 6.2 MHz/1 bit, DXD 352.8, 384 kHz/24 bit.  TechPowerUp reviewed the DAC with both HiFiMAN Edition S headphones and Sennheiser IE-800s in ear headphones, take a look right here.

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"iFi Audio's nano iDSD LE is a little DAC/amp with big ambitions. It packs all the knowledge from the bigger DAC/amps in iFi's huge portofolio of products into a small package. Despite being small, it still features RCA line-outs, a very respectable headphone amplification circuit, and a 1000 mAh battery."

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Audio Corner

 

Source: TechPowerUp

Intel gives their Atom C2000 a longer half life

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2017 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: c2000, atom, Intel, Avoton

Intel have released a new C0 stepping of their Avoton based Atom C2000 series, which have been dying off at an alarming rate thanks to a flaw in the chip's low pin count bus clock outputs.  The chips are found in the Synology DS1815+ series as well as in Cisco routers, Dell servers and a variety of other products; the flaw in the LPC clock bus would cause them to enter a state in which a reboot would be fatal.  Intel has offered a patch for the motherboards of devices using these chips for a while and have now released new versions of these chips which do not suffer from the same problem.  

The Register accumulated a longer list of devices that could be at risk and technical details on the nature of the flaw here.

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"Intel finally has reworked its flawed Atom C2000 chips, which have been failing at a greater-than-expected rate for about a year and a half."

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Gaming

 

Source: The Register

HyperX's Pulsefire, KISS in action

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2017 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: input, hyperx, pulsefire, gaming mouse, pixart, PMW3310

HyperX's Pulsefire is a mouse, plain and simple.  It does not glow, nor can you remove or add peices to it, it is just a large, functional $50 gaming mouse with a Pixart PMW3310 optical sensor. The Tech Report tested it out, contrasting it to the Logitech G302 which the reviewer uses on a regular basis.  Take a look if you are shopping for a mouse, and only a mouse, not programmable macro, weight enhanced and sensor swapping input device of doom.

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"HyperX is making a foray into yet-unexplored gaming peripheral territory today with its Pulsefire gaming mouse, a simple and software-free rodent. We put this mouse to the mat to see whether HyperX's keep-it-simple approach plays well with gaming mice."

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Slow down there pardner, maybe wait for Microsoft to push out the Creators Edition

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2017 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: creators update, microsoft, windows 10

It is a lesson which is learned anew by every wave of new adopters, installing something brand new can lead to unexpected problems.  In this particular case it is the Windows 10 Creators Update, some of those who have manually updated are now in a Vista-like driver conundrum.  There is a method behind Microsoft's madness, they are pushing out the updates to systems they have vetted first and slowly expanding their scope as issues come to light and are resolved, more or less.  If you are doing a fresh install you may end up with several devices which are not functioning properly, if you are manually updating you may find yourself without a working machine.  Patience can be a virtue, especially when it comes to Windows 10.  The Inquirer has some rather pointed commentary here.

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"IF YOU'RE as excited as Microsoft are about the Creators Update to Windows 10, we've got some bad news. The company is warning people not to jump the gun and install it themselves, despite having made the disc image available to download."

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Source: The Inquirer

The next generation of id tech might make Ryzen shine

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2017 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: id software, amd, ryzen, robert duffy

Over at HEXUS you can sit back and watch a video of Robert Duffy from id Software discuss the potential of AMD's Ryzen processors in the next generation of game engines, with some hints about Vega.  He is confident that the team at id will be able to utilize the large core counts of Ryzen processors to enable great performance in 4K and even 8K with the new engine.  He specifically mentioned "framerate improvements, improved realism, and improved AI in games - all from the extra cores and threads available.

They were not able to tease any secret information from him, but the video is worth watching for both those interested in Ryzen or looking for information on what is next from id Software.

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"AMD has published a video interview with id Software's CTO (Chief Technical Officer), Robert Duffy. Unsurprisingly the interview talks up the capabilities and potential of AMD Ryzen tech in gaming engines, and in particular in the next generation id tech currently in development."

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Gaming

Source: HEXUS

Could Vega be just around the corner?

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2017 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: amd, Vega, rumours

A Facebook post from AMD Poland has started rumours flying around the interwebs as the implication is we will see it arrive this quarter; though perhaps taking a Facebook post as a verified source may lead to disappointment.  However, there is a bit more evidence than just the post which Digital Trends has displayed, we have seen CompuBench results of a mysterious AMD GPU which is very likely to be Vega.  It will have 64 compute units which translates into 4096 stream processors unless something very strange is going on.  The benchmarks also list two frequencies 1GHz and 1.2GHz which indicates computing performance of 8.2 TFLOPS and 9.8 TFLOPS respectively which puts it in the neighbourhood of the GTX 1080's 8.9 TFLOPS.  That will not necessarily directly translate into gaming performance but does indicate that AMD has a nice surprise in store for us. 

Don't forget to add a bit of salt to your rumour consumption and keep your eyes peeled for more information.

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"Of course, it’s entirely possible that someone at AMD Poland spoke out of turn, and so this information should be considered unverified at this point. But there’s other information that seems to confirm an imminent release, such as a Vega GPU showing in CompuBench benchmark results — something that usually happens shortly before a new component is released."

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Tech Talk

Photonic computing is extremely cool right now

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: photonics, nanowires

Confining light in a small enough space to fit on a chip is not an easy task.  Infrared wavelengths tend to be many times larger than the desired width of the nanowires that the light is transmitted over.  The researchers in this story from Nanotechweb were working on a way to transmit a 1342 nm IR signal over a 100nm nanowire and came up with a successful solution.  By placing their nanowire in a silicon photonic crystal which has periodic holes that can slow or trap light they have been able to transmit data over that nanowire at speeds of up to 10 billion bits per second.  There is a catch though, the continuous-wave lasing which they use creates an impressive amount of heat, which at such small sizes will create serious interference.  Currently they are running their tests at temperatures as low as 4 Kelvin to prevent heat from interfering; it will be a while before we see room temperature applications but they are getting ever closer.

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"They have shown that a photonic crystal/nanowire hybrid can sustain telecom-band lasing stable enough to transmit a high-frequency data signal, and believe that the platform’s advantages for component integration could enable them to build an on-chip photonic network."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Snapdragon for Windows 10; in time for Christmas?

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, snapdragon 835, qualcomm

Qualcomm have provided an updated estimate for when we might expect to see Windows 10 running on Snapdragon 835 devices, moving it very close to the end of the second half of 2017.  Having a product launch in December is risky if Qualcomm had hoped to see sales for the holiday season, especially for a type of product we have not seen since Microsoft released ARM powered Surface devices.  It is possible that the price may be attractive enough to entice some users into purchasing the devices but we likely won't see much action until the beginning of 2018.  The Register could not glean any more information beyond the updated release date from the call, we are still somewhat in the dark as to what Snapdragon powered Win 10 devices we will see.

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"But in last week's Q2 2017 earnings call, CEO Steve Mollenkopf said “Our Snapdragon 835 is expanding into Mobile PC designs running Windows 10, which are scheduled to launch in the fourth calendar quarter this year.”

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Microsoft Plans to Throttle Background Processes

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Pre-release builds of the next major update to Windows 10, planned for the September time frame, give or take, introduce a new power management feature. Starting with Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors, with support for other vendors planned in the coming months, Windows 10 will be able to prevent background apps from forcing high-power states. This will keep the CPU at a voltage and frequency that gets more work done per watt, even if it takes a little longer, which should result in longer battery life.

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There will be (and currently is) an override available for end-users, as well as an API for developers to suggest which processes can be throttled, and under what circumstances. This entire feature will also be disabled when the device is plugged in. I wonder if we’ll see that characteristic change a little in Windows Server, though, since it might be useful for data centers to throttle some maintenance tasks to cut down on the power and cooling bills for their many, many machines. Currently, it’s designed for battery life.

You can play around with this feature in the new Insider build, but, again, not while plugged in.

Source: Microsoft

PCPer Meetup in London! Sponsored by ARM! Win a FREE Chromebook!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 10:27 AM |
Tagged: meetup, london, giveaway, contest, Chromebook, arm

For a short romantic summer trip, Josh Walrath and I (Ryan Shrout) will be heading across the pond to London, England! With the primary goals of technology education and beer consumption, we thought it would be prudent to invite any and all PC Perspective fans in the area to join us for a night of talking tech, comparing beer preferences and just saying hello!

On Thursday April 27th starting 7:30pm, you will find Josh and me sitting in a dimly-lit booth at the Momentus Bar inside The Cumberland Hotel located at Great Cumberland Place London W1H 7DL. We have no specific agenda but will probably be there until at least midnight, hamming it up with anyone that walks over.

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Yes, it looks fancy, but you're talking to some fancy lads, right!?!

As if hanging with your favorite hosts of the PC Perspective Podcast wasn't enough, I was able to coherce our good friends at ARM to sponsor the event and handing us a couple of Chromebooks to give away as well! That's right - come meet Josh and me at The Cumberland Hotel and have a couple of drinks!

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On display at the event in London will be two ARM-powered Chromebooks: the Acer R13 and the new Samsung Chromebook Plus!

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The Samsung Chromebook Plus powered by ARM

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is powered by the OP processor...a curious part with an even more curious website: www.whatisop.com.

Even though only those in attendance will be able to get hands-on with the two Chromebooks, we are offering the giveaway of the units to our global fan base! All you have to do is enter via the Gleam competition below for your chance to take home one of these two devices!

ARM-powered Chromebook Giveaway!

So, here's the summary: if you are in the London area on April 27th and want to come hang out with Josh and me at Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel, we would love to see you at 730pm! If you aren't in the London area on April 27th, enter the contest above for your chance to win an ARM-powered Chromebook!

PC Perspective London Meetup! Sponsored by ARM!

7:30pm - 12:00am on April 27th

Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel

Great Cumberland Pl, Marylebone, London W1H 7DL, UK

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A HUGE THANKS to our friends at ARM for sponsoring these events and paying for Josh's excuse to drink! Hopefully we will see a lot of you in person very soon!

Windows 10 Cloud ("S"?) Performance Targets Leaked

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: windows 10 cloud, windows 10, uwp, microsoft

The upcoming version of Windows that can only install applications from the Windows Store, Windows 10 Cloud, will be Microsoft’s latest attempt at locked-down devices, like Windows RT was back in the Windows 8.x days. The goal is to take on the Chromebook market, which is similarly locked down to Google Chrome and Google Play Store apps (although Google allows developer sideloading). To be fair to Windows 10 Cloud, it can be upgraded to Home or Pro to run Win32 applications for a fee, although that somewhat flies in the face of “streamlined, simpler experience” if you acknowledge a monetary value in unlocking the features you claim those users theoretically don’t want.

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Image Credit: Windows Central

Preamble and opinion aside, it would seem that Microsoft is hoping to push OEMs into making decent devices. They are recommending a minimum specification of quad-core Celeron, 4GB of RAM, >40 Wh battery, and “fast eMMC or SSD” storage. This last note about “fast” eMMC amuses me, because it not-so-subtly telegraphs that cheap laptops, despite having technically solid state memory, don’t have a noticeably better experience than typical hard drives.

Microsoft is expected to discuss the initiative on May 2nd at their #MicrosoftEDU event.

Oculus App Version 1.14 Released

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift

Oculus has updated their Oculus App to version 1.14. This release has two noteworthy features: full support for 360-degree tracking with three sensors, and the Touch controller can now be used with some, but not all, games that were previously gamepad-exclusive. For the latter, you will need to check with each specific game in the Oculus store, where it will be listed with a “Touch (as gamepad)” tag.

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As for the former, Oculus has been allowing 2- (like the Vive) and 3-sensor setups for 360-degree tracking for a while, but experimentally. They have apparently settled on the three-sensor setup for final support, though. According to their documentation, they recommend that two of the sensors are plugged into USB 3.0 or higher, while leaving the third on USB 2. Specifically, the USB 2-connected sensor will be the one behind the user, with the two USB 3.0 sensors sitting out in front; to visualize this, imagine stereo speakers sitting on either side of your TV, with only one surround sound speaker behind the user. It will be interesting to see how Oculus two-sensor, Oculus three-sensor, and Vive two-sensor compares, especially since the last two are (in the case of Oculus, now) officially supported, but the first one isn’t.

While I don’t currently have a Rift, Oculus apparently delivers updates on a staggered schedule. Don’t be surprised if your system isn’t pushed to the new version immediately.

Source: Oculus

Twitch Announces New Affiliate Program

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: twitch, pc gaming, amazon

While Twitch had quite a large lead as a streaming service, it had a fairly large gap between its regular creators and their “Twitch Partners”. If you weren’t a Twitch partner, you couldn’t directly monetize your stream, guarantee that your stream would be transcoded, and so forth.

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That isn’t changing, but they are introducing an easier to obtain, middle tier that will have some, but not all, of the Partner perks. “Twitch Affiliate” is this middle-ground, and, while it is invite-only, it is open to pretty much anyone who intends to stream on a regular basis. Specifically, the threshold is about 500 online minutes in a month, spread out over at least seven days, and an average of at least three viewers at the same time; you will also need at least 50 followers. If you stream a few times per week, this is not a very high bar, but it’s still not automatic.

I should note that Twitch will only consider the previous 30 days, rolling.

The goal of this new tier is to provide some support for streamers, as they try to find their on-ramp to being a Twitch partner. At first, only the (relatively controversial) “Bits” system will be available for monetization, but other revenue streams, like video ads, should follow. Also, while you’re not guaranteed to receive video transcodes, Affiliates get priority access to whatever is left over from the Partners.

Personally, I’d like a guarantee that transcodes would be available, because I don’t want to occasionally alienate some viewers by sending Twitch too high of a bitrate for the, let’s say even just 10% of the time, that lower-quality versions would be unavailable. It still puts pressure on me to lower the quality that I send Twitch, which will often result in worse VOD quality. (I realize that you can use multiple encodes… and I currently do… but certain things, like frame rate, need to be consistent – at least with the current version of OBS Studio.)

Twitch should begin to contact eligible streamers soon, and will continue rolling in new users as they become eligible. Even then. it's not an immediate, automatic thing, though.

Source: Twitch

Modulate all the things! EpicGear's Defiant modular gaming keyboard

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: modular, mms, mechanical keyboard, input, epicgear, defiant

Move over modular PSUs and mice, the Epicgear Defiant is a modular keyboard.  What that actually means is that you can swap the actual switches on the keyboard, as long as they are Modular Matrix Structure switches.  The MMS switches as described as analogous to Cherry MX switches, though the colours do not translate directly and The Tech Report found them to be of equivalent quality.  In their testing they found that gaming with mismatched switches was somewhat unpleasant, so make sure to get a full set of the ones you plan to use.  The full review can be found here.

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"Some gaming keyboards offer customizable backlighting and key caps to change up the feel of the keys underneath one's fingers. EpicGear's Defiant keyboard goes one better and lets gamers change out its key switches themselves for a different tactile experience. We switched around the Defiant's clickers to see if the feature upped our game."

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Tech Talk

Windows 10 Releases Target ~September and ~March

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Now that Microsoft has pushed their third major version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, the company has decided to settle on a six-month rotation. This is similar to how the Ubuntu distribution of Linux pushes updates, although Windows 10 will be targeting September and March rather than Ubuntu’s October and April (and Ubuntu has a different long-term support model, as we’ll discuss below). More importantly, it’s designed to occur at the same time as Office 365 ProPlus updates, so IT departments can certify and roll out both at the same time.

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The previous release cycle was a little… chaotic. The November Update occurred about three and a half months after the initial release, followed almost nine months later by the Anniversary Update. Seven months after that, the Creators Update landed, which brings us to today.

Each version will be supported for eighteen months.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 3.11 in WebVR

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Windows 3.11, webvr

One of the latest WebVR experiments puts an emulated Windows 3.11 terminal in a virtual space. In it, you can play Minesweeper, Solitaire, and generally mess around. Because it’s a WebVR demo, certain browser, OS, and VR headset combinations will also work, in case you wanted to feel like you were actually in front of a beige box.

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If you’re using it without WebVR, then it will appear as a static 3D scene. Make sure you enable mouse pointer lock, because you will need to use the virtual mouse pointer, not your actual mouse pointer. It will ask you when it’s loaded and focused, but your browser will probably require you to click allow or something.

Source: Metacade

Interesting Blender Updates for Upcoming Versions

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 02:49 AM |
Tagged: Blender

The Blender Foundation and volunteers have been quite busy, especially over the last few weeks. Two major changes that are prepared for Blender 2.79: near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL, and an implementation of the Disney PBR shader.

Aside: A physically-based (“PBR”) shader allows modeling a bunch of common materials, such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and so forth, using parameters that are independent of lighting. This means that you can reuse the same object and material in all of your scenes, and it will behave like we expect it would given the environment. For instance, PBR materials account for conservation of energy, so objects get shinier as they get smoother, but they also look darker off-axis because less light is being diffusely scattered.

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While it was always possible to render in Cycles with a PBR workflow, you needed to create your own node setup, which typically consisted of about seven or eight elements connected in a specific way. When this new version lands, you will just need to connect the appropriate textures and colors to their corresponding pins in this node. The Disney-based Principled BSDF accounts for albedo (base color), subsurface scattering, metallic, specular, roughness, anisotropic reflections, sheen, clearcoat, index of refraction, and transparency.

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Update (April 21st @ 5:35pm): Blah! I forgot to embed the chart. Here it is.
Image Credit: Blender Foundation

Now we get to “near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL”. According the Blender Foundation, OpenCL can support all features found on CUDA with the exception of correlated multi jitter. This is accompanied by a graph, embed above, showing the RX 480 beat the GTX 1060 in a variety of benchmark scenes. Unfortunately, at the same time, GPU-accelerated rendering in Cycles now requires GCN 2.0 and up, which is the AMD R9 290 and later. Blender will still work on older cards, like the R9 280 or, heck, probably even the Radeon HD 4890, but the final render will need to be done on the CPU.

Blender 2.79 doesn’t have a firm release date, but the code freeze schedule has it expected for some time in either May or June.

Joe Macri on Ryzen

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: video, amd, Joe Macri, ryzen

TechARP just posted a video of AMD's Joe Macri discussing the new Ryzen processors from AMD.  It is not quite 20 minutes long which gives you a chance to quickly hear from AMD about what they feel the new architecture means for the company, as well as the impact it will have on gamers and enthusiasts.  He does mention the HSA Foundation and how AMD is working towards a basic change in how PCs utilize resources. They also embedded a link to a video featuring AMD's Radeon Product Marketing Manager, Adam Kozak, on the new 500 series if you have time.

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"AMD Corporate Vice President, Product Chief Technology Officer and Corporate Fellow, Joe Macri, flew in to brief us on the disruptive nature of the new AMD Ryzen processors. Join us for his full tech briefing!"

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Tech Talk

Source: TechARP

There are a couple of ways to enjoy Dawn of War III

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 07:57 PM |
Tagged: dawn of war III, open beta, giveaway, relic, gaming

Dawn of War III will not be released until the 27th of this month but you can take a look at it already.  Relic are hosting an open beta which kicks off this Friday and encompasses the whole weekend.  You will be able to play as any of the three races, with a somewhat shortened line up, in 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 multiplayer games.  You will not be able to play on your own against an AI player and there are only three maps but if you can't wait until the launch or desire a closer look at the game before deciding to pick it up on release day you can get a quick peek.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have posted a video of gameplay you can check out, with a commentary track.

Also worth noting is that recent NVIDIA cards coming from Amazon, at least of the ASUS STRIX variety, now include a game key for DoW 3 as opposed to the For Honor or Ghost Recon: Wildlands offer currently advertised.

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"The multiplayer open beta test for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is starting Friday but ugh, waiting! For those who want to see 40K real-time strategy action right now, Relic have released a video of a full 3v3 match with commentary from some of the folks who made the game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Logitech Announces the G413 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: romer-g, mechanical, magnesium, logitech, keyboard, gaming, aluminium

Logitech has announced the G413, a mechanical gaming keyboard with the company's exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches and premium construction (including an aluminum-magnesium upper panel).

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"Engineered for precision and performance, the keyboard delivers unrivaled performance in a thoughtfully balanced, modern design. The Logitech G413 features Logitech’s exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches, offering 25 percent faster actuation than standard mechanical keys, as well as a brushed anodized aircraft-grade aluminum top case, USB passthrough port and precision key backlighting for an affordable price."

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Logitech lists these features for the G413 mechanical gaming keyboard:

  • Romer-G Mechanical Switches: Logitech’s exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches are purpose-built for professional-grade performance, responsiveness and durability. With a short-throw actuation point of 1.5 mm, Romer-G switches register key presses up to 25 percent faster than standard mechanical switches, so you can get your shots off faster than your opponent. Designed to enhance gameplay, Romer-G switches offer the perfect blend of speed, precision and quiet performance.
  • Precision Key Lighting: Romer-G mechanical switches are also purpose-designed for precise and clean lighting through the keycaps. This means keys are always visible and never distracting, especially during late night gaming sessions. The Logitech G413 Carbon features elemental red backlighting and the Logitech G413 Silver features iconic white backlighting, for a premium, focused look.
  • Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Alloy: A brushed 5052 aluminum-magnesium alloy top case serves as the keyboard’s backbone. The result is a minimal design balanced with a full set of features. With a focus on high-end finish and performance, the Logitech G413 is crafted from the highest-grade materials.
  • USB Passthrough: Convenience and speed are directly within reach. The additional, dedicated USB cable connects the USB passthrough port to its own input for full power throughput and data speed. 
  • Full Function Keys: Media control is built-in so you can use the FN key to control volume, play and pause, mute, game mode, lighting, etc. The FN toggle feature in the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) configure the keys to perform media commands by default.  
  • Programmable Macros: Use LGS to program custom functions and macro commands on F1-F12 buttons. Execute complex commands, or unleash a timed series of actions or spells with the press of a button.
  • Performance Keycaps: Laser-etched cylindrical keycaps come standard plus a set of 12 optional performance faceted keycaps designed by esports pros are included.

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With an MSRP of $89.99 the G413 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard goes on sale this month in two versions, with a black finish (shown here) and a silver finish that is exclusive to Best Buy.

Source: Logitech