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Subject: Shows and Expos | November 4, 2016 - 02:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: VR, valve, steam, pc gaming
A little over three weeks ago, Valve hosted a fairly big developer conference, which excluded journalists so that attendees could network without feeling anxious. The goal was not to keep information from the public, however, and so they created high-quality recordings of the talks and the Steamworks Development YouTube channel, which I assume is owned by Valve but cannot verify this, made the videos public.
Again, each of these talks were aimed at various types of developers, and they were hosted by numerous companies. One video has Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, discuss Physically-Based Rendering (PBR) and another has Na'Tosha Bard, the technical director at Unity, highlight points that a game developer should know if they intend to publish to Linux, including SteamOS.
In all, there are 25 videos, ranging from ten minutes to an hour and a half, with most clocking in around 45 minutes. It's a fairly large commitment if you want to watch it all, but the topics vary wildly, so it could easily be a “kill an hour learning something” sort of thing. Also, the talks from 2014 are available, too. (There wasn't a Steam Dev Days conference in 2015.)
Thanks Phoronix for finding these.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Displays, Shows and Expos | August 16, 2016 - 01:50 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, project alloy, Intel, augmented reality, AR
At the opening keynote to this summer’s Intel Developer Forum, CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new initiative to enable a completely untether VR platform called Project Alloy. Using Intel processors and sensors the goal of Project Alloy is to move all of the necessary compute into the headset itself, including enough battery to power the device for a typical session, removing the need for a high powered PC and a truly cordless experience.
This is indeed the obvious end-game for VR and AR, though Intel isn’t the first to demonstrate a working prototype. AMD showed the Sulon Q, an AMD FX-based system that was a wireless VR headset. It had real specs too, including a 2560x1440 OLED 90Hz display, 8GB of DDR3 memory, an AMD FX-8800P APU with R7 graphics embedded. Intel’s Project Alloy is currently using unknown hardware and won’t have a true prototype release until the second half of 2017.
There is one key advantage that Intel has implemented with Alloy: RealSense cameras. The idea is simple but the implications are powerful. Intel demonstrated using your hands and even other real-world items to interact with the virtual world. RealSense cameras use depth sensing to tracking hands and fingers very accurately and with a device integrated into the headset and pointed out and down, Project Alloy prototypes will be able to “see” and track your hands, integrating them into the game and VR world in real-time.
The demo that Intel put on during the keynote definitely showed the promise, but the implementation was clunky and less than what I expected from the company. Real hands just showed up in the game, rather than representing the hands with rendered hands that track accurately, and it definitely put a schism in the experience. Obviously it’s up to the application developer to determine how your hands would actually be represented, but it would have been better to show case that capability in the live demo.
Better than just tracking your hands, Project Alloy was able to track a dollar bill (why not a Benjamin Intel??!?) and use it to interact with a spinning lathe in the VR world. It interacted very accurately and with minimal latency – the potential for this kind of AR integration is expansive.
Those same RealSense cameras and data is used to map the space around you, preventing you from running into things or people or cats in the room. This enables the first “multi-room” tracking capability, giving VR/AR users a new range of flexibility and usability.
Though I did not get hands on with the Alloy prototype itself, the unit on-stage looked pretty heavy, pretty bulky. Comfort will obviously be important for any kind of head mounted display, and Intel has plenty of time to iterate on the design for the next year to get it right. Both AMD and NVIDIA have been talking up the importance of GPU compute to provide high quality VR experiences, so Intel has an uphill battle to prove that its solution, without the need for external power or additional processing, can truly provide the untethered experience we all desire.
Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2016 - 04:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, gaming desktop, computex 2016, aegis x, aegis
MSI has released more information about their new non-backpack model systems, the Aegis Gaming Desktops. There will be two models, the basic with a B150 motherboard, a Silent Storm 2 air cooling system and support for Intel CPUs of up to 65W TDP. The Aegis X will sport a Z170 motherboard and Silent Storm 2 Pro watercooling, with support for up to 95W TDP processors such as the 6700K.
Both support M.2 SSDs along with 2.5/3.5" drives and sport a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, although only the Aegis X has the second generation port. The two systems support both wired, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, the base model uses Intel and Realtek while the X uses a Killer product for both wired and wireless. With base prices of $400 and $500 respectively you get a decent deal for a motherboard, a 600W 80 PLUS Gold PSU and a decent looking case with some impressive features.
The Aegis X also comes with one touch overclocking, aka the Dragon OC button which boost speeds by 15%. MSI's Mystic Light LED system is on both systems, the second most popular thing at this year's Computex is the ability to offer 16 million different colours with different modes and patterns.
The Aegis X features the most popular feature at the conference, it is VR Ready. In this particular case, since both are bare bones products is that there is a front mounted HDMI and USB 3.1 support. This feature is handy for those of us with head mounted displays but it is quickly approaching the point where toasters and Josh's favourite wand will be advertised as VR Ready.
Click to read through the original PR.
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2016 - 03:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: wall mount, thermaltake, computex 2016, Core P3
Custom made wall and table mounted PCs are gaining in popularity and considering the effort that has gone into making them works of art explains why. Thermaltake is going to make it easier for those of us lacking the time, motivation or creativity to make our own exposed PCs with the new Core P3 chassis which supports boards of up to ATX in size and can be set up on a wall mount or horizontally inside a table or other container. Your GPU positioning is also adjustable, it can be mounted traditionally or horizontally with the PCI-E x16 3.0 riser cable, depending on which way you swing.
They have embraced the current Maker Movement by providing blueprints of their liquid cooling system so that you can print your own, assuming you have access to a 3D printer of course. You also have quite a lot of space for your radiator, the Core P3 supports up to a 420mm radiator if you go custom or up to a 360mm AiO type watercooler. If you prefer to air cool, fans of up to 140mm are compatible and there are plans available for you to print our your own grills.
Check out the full PR below for more information.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2016 - 07:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: supernova, SLI HB, gtx 1080 FTW, GTX 1080 classified, gtx 1070 SC, evga, Dawn, computex 2016, 850GS, 1000GX
Earlier in the week you saw a sneak peek at EVGA's GTX 1080 SC and now we can confirm there will indeed be a GTX 1070 version, bearing the same custom ACX 3.0 cooler which Al proved to be an improvement over the Founders Edition, especially when you consider the price to performance equation.
That is not the only new card announced, there is also a brand new GTX 1080 Classified with the ACX 3.0 cooler, the specific overclock is not yet known but you can bet it should be more a handful of megahertz more than the base. We know that this card will have 14 power phases, full RGB LEDs and those ACX fans are 10cm in size.
The more curious of you might have noticed there is something odd about the back end of the card and the location of the PCIe power plugs and you are absolutely right. The EVGA Power Link adapter can be plugged into any card to move the position of the power plugs to give you better cable management abilities. It also sports an LED light on one side, as you can see in the picture of the GTX 1080 Classified card.
To round out the usual suspects, here you can see the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Edition with some fancy LEDs. Those lights match the CPU waterblock in evidence just above the card, we didn't hear anything official about it but perhaps that is yet another thing to look forward to in the coming year.
Speaking of adapters, here you can see EVGA's custom SLI HB bridges in three different sizes, especially of importance to those who plan on using a code to enable more than two Pascal cards to run in SLI. They will connect the cards at up toand will sport LEDs which can be toggled between red, green, blue or white via a switch on the bridge.
Next up is an EVGA Gaming chassis bearing the names DG-87 and Dawn, hinting that there may be more than model arriving in the near future. As you can see in the picture the front panel, up to and including the power and reset buttons, has been moved to the side. USB including a Type-C plug, HMDI and audio are all available at the sides as well as a LCD which can display the speeds of two of your fans, as well as allowing you control over their speeds. You can also set it to display a temperature, although it is unlikely you can reduce it the same way you can your fan speed. The case also obviously handles watercooling setups as stylishly as Jacob sports those jeans.
Along with the case comes two new PSUs, the successors to the G2 models. The EVGA Supernova 1000GX not only provides 1000W of 80 PLUS Gold power, it will also the smallest kilowatt class PSU available at launch. It looks to have single 12V rail which will provide up to 999.6W @ 83.3A.
If that is a little more power than you need the Supernova 850GL might be more to your taste. It is also 80 PLUS Gold and fully modular, with up to 849.6W @ 70.8A, which should handle all but the most extreme GPU setups. That picture also shows off the certain glow your system will feel when powered by one of these PSUs.
With all these lights and features it would be a shame to have boring PSU cables, now wouldn't it? That is why EVGA is also releasing PSU cables in a wide variety of colours. The ones shown below are only a small sampling of what you can choose from, more will be available from EVGA once they launch.
That is all from EVGA so far but stay tuned for more from Computex here at PC Perspective!
Subject: Memory, Storage, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2016 - 04:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: patriot, sodimm, viper ddr4, spark, ssd
Patriot unveiled the Viper DDR4 SODIMM series, with frequencies ranging from 2400MHz to 2800MHz in both single and dual kits. Available in 8GB and 16GB capacities the prices start at $34.99U for a single 2400HMz 8GB SODIMM to $169.99US for dual 16GB DDR4-2800MHz kit.
They also announced a new series of SSDs called Spark which use the Phison S11 controller and TLC NAND. They will be available in Q3 and come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities with prices of $34.99, $56.99 and $104.99US respectively.
You can read more below the fold.
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Memory, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 01:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: corsair, Vengeance LED, Dominator Platinum SE, ML PRO, ML PRO LED, 400C, bulldog, laptop
As the specifications are sparse as of yet, we will let Corsair tell you about their products in their own words. Start off looking at this fancy setup and carry on through new fans, DIMMs and SFF systems built with VR in mind.
Build it Brighter - Faster, Brighter, Better DRAM
The heart of the CORSAIR Product range, Computex 2016 sees the first showing of two new ranges of high-performance DDR4 memory – CORSAIR Vengeance LED and CORSAIR Dominator Platinum Special Edition. Vengeance LED brings integrated lighting and an aggressively styled new heat-spreader design to the award-winning CORSAIR Vengeance range of XMP 2.0 certified DDR4, allowing enthusiasts to light up their system with vibrant LED lighting in either red or white. Vengeance LED will also be the fastest CORSAIR DDR4 memory kit ever, with specially selected Samsung ICs driving kits to 4,333MHz and beyond.
Dominator Platinum Special Edition takes premium DDR4 to the next level, adding two unique finishes to CORSAIR Dominator Platinum’s unmistakable industrial design and aluminum finish. Shown in both Blackout brushed aluminum and dazzling Chrome finishes, Dominator Platinum Special Edition is built using top bin Samsung ICs, rigorously tested to ensure ample overclocking headroom on X99 and 100 Series platforms. The result is stunning memory that offers both premium looks and premium DDR4 performance.
Vengeance LED and Dominator Platinum Special Edition will launch in Q3.
Build it Cooler - A Revolutionary New Range of Magnetic Levitation Technology Fans
CORSAIR’s range of cooling fans have long been favourites of enthusiasts, matching performance with low noise and a wide choice of customisation options. The new CORSAIR ML PRO and ML PRO LED are much more than just a new range of fans – they include an entirely different kind of bearing that will change what enthusiasts expect from a high-performance cooling fan.
Harnessing patented Magnetic Levitation bearing technology and custom rotor designs, CORSAIR ML PRO fans offer both high static pressure and high air flow, with an ultra-low friction magnetic bearing that simultaneously generates lower noise and provides higher performance. Offered exclusively with PWM speed control over a huge 2,000 RPM range, CORSAIR ML PRO fans mean users don’t have to choose between low-noise and high airflow; one fan can deliver both silence and absolute performance. Customisable with swappable, color co-ordinated corners and available in both 120mm and 140mm models, the ML PRO series is also available in ML PRO LED versions, adding integrated lighting into the fan’s hub, radiating light out through the frosted translucent blades for a vivid, striking look.
The CORSAIR ML PRO and ML PRO LED range of fans will launch in Q3.
Build it Faster – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 comes to CORSAIR with MSI
A modern gaming PC is nothing without a powerhouse of a graphics card, and CORSAIR is proud to once again partner with MSI in the development of its Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 1080. Featuring an integrated closed-loop CORSAIR liquid cooler and PCB design by MSI, the Hydro GFX pushes the GTX 1080 to the limit thanks to its greatly increased GPU core cooling capacity, allowing the GPU to reach higher boost clock frequencies for longer. The result is a quieter, cooler, faster GeForce GTX 1080 right out of the box, ready to conquer even the most demanding of modern games and settings with ease.
The Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 1080 will launch in Q3.
Build it Your Way - 400C Gets a Clean New Look
Building a high-end PC is all about building it your way – your style, your choice of parts, your color. That’s why CORSAIR is bringing a new look to the multi-award winning Carbide 400C Case, the Carbide 400C White. Retaining everything that made the 400C a huge hit with enthusiasts when launched in January 2016, including a stunning full size windowed side panel, minimalist, drive-bay-free front panel and integrated PSU cover, the 400C White swaps ends of the color spectrum for a clean, cool new look.
The CORSAIR Carbide 400C White will launch in June 2016
Build it in the Living Room – BULLDOG and LAPDOG go VR
Celebrating the launch of the CORSAIR BULLDOG and LAPDOG last week, CORSAIR will also be showing the latest application for its living room gaming system and control center, Virtual Reality. By combining the performance of the liquid-cooled, living room friendly BULLDOG system, couch-comfortable LAPDOG and the latest in VR technology from Oculus and HTC, Gamers can experience all that VR has to offer, right from the comfort of their chair.
Here is the Laptop in action.
Followed up by the Bulldog
Subject: Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 12:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ECS, leet gaming, liva pro, Z170-LIGHTSABER, computex 2016
It must have been quite a fight for ECS to be able to call their new motherboard the Z170-LIGHTSABER but that is exactly what they have done. The motherboard features the usual lineup of Z170 features, three 16x PCIe 3.0 slots with an additional 1x, 7.1 sound from an onboard ALC1150 codec and an OPAMP, a pair of USB 3.1 ports along with over a dozen legacy USB ports and support for an M.2 drive. In addtion higher end Nichicon caps were used, there is an E2400 Killer NIC onboard and seven colour LEDs to make it shine. They also discuss a brand new USB power supply for use with devices that draw a lot of power, it will be interesting to see if this has the impact on VR devices they imply.
They have also announced the new LIVA Pro based on the new SFX motherboard standard. The brochure has a good example of what this new form factor is and how it compares to others.
The LIVA Pro will support any 6th generation Skylake Intel processor with a TDP of 65W or less and a pair DDR4 SO-DIMMs of up to 32GB. Internal storage is handled by an M.2 drive and the 1.3L case has an external 2.5" drive dock built into it for additional storage. For external interfaces you have a USB 3.0 Type C port, three USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0, HDMI and DisplayPort. There is a second M.2 port which is populated by a WiFi/Bluetooth combo card.
Click on through to read the PR.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 08:04 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: crazy people, concept, computex 2016, computex, avalon, asus
If you expected Computex to be bland and stale this year, ASUS has something that is going to change your mind. During the company's Republic of Gamers press conference, it revealed a concept PC design it has been working on dubbed Avalon. The goal of this project was to improve on the fundamental design of the PC; something that hasn't changed for decades. ASUS wanted to show that you could build a platform that would allow DIY machines to be "more modular, easier to build, and more tightly integrated."
The result is a proof of concept design that looks more like a high end turntable than a PC. In reality, you are looking at a machine that has been totally redesigned, from the power supply to motherboard and case integration to cooling considerations and more. ASUS has posted a great story that goes into a lot of detail on Avalon, and it's clear this is a project the team has been working on for some time.
The brainchild of Jonathan Chu, the Avalon concept takes a notebook-like approach to desktop design. The motherboard is designed in conjunction with the chassis to enable more seamless cooperation between the two.
The first example of changes to Avalon is something as simple as the front panel connectors on a case. Connecting them to your motherboard is the same today, basically, as it has ever been. But if you are the manufacturer or designer of both the chassis and the motherboard itself, it is trivial to have the buttons, lights and even additional capabilities built into a specific location on the PCB that matches with access points on the case.
Re-thinking the rear IO panel was another target: making it modular and connected to the system via PCI Express means you can swap connectivity options based on the user's needs. Multiple Gigabit NICs a requirement? Done. Maximum USB capability? Sure. Even better, by making the back panel IO a connected device, it can host storage and sound controllers on its own, allowing for improved audio solutions and flexible data configurations.
ASUS even worked in a prototype power supply that is based on the SFX form factor but that uses a server-style edge connector, removing wires from the equation. It then becomes the motherboard's responsibility to distribute power through the other components; which again is easy to work through if you are designing these things in tandem. Installing or swapping a power supply becomes as simple as pulling out a drive tray.
This is all made possible by an internal structure that looks like this:
Rethinking how a motherboard is built, how it connects to the outside world and to other components, means that ASUS was able to adjust and change just about everything. The only area that remains the same is for the discrete graphics card. These tend to draw too much power to use any kind of edge connector (though the ASUS story linked above says they are working on a solution) and thus you see short run cables from a break out on the motherboard to the standard ROG graphics card.
The ASUS EdgeUp story has some more images and details and I would encourage you to check it out if you find this topic compelling; I know I do. There are no prices, no release dates, no plans for sampling yet. ASUS has built a prototype that is "right on the edge of what’s possible" and they are looking for feedback from the community to see what direction they should go next.
Will the DIY PC in 2020 be a completely different thing than we build today? It seems ASUS is asking the same question.
Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 07:18 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ROG, rampage v edition 10, computex 2016, computex, asus
In celebration of 10 years of ASUS ROG motherboards, the company today revealed the new Rampage V Edition 10, an X99 motherboard targeting the release of the Intel Broadwell-E processors that are also set to be announced this week at Computex. This new board has basically every feature and capability an ROG product and buyer could ask for, including more LED and LED control than I know what to do with.
Some more detail from the ASUS press release:
The Rampage V Edition 10 is a celebratory refresh of ROG’s flagship extreme-performance motherboard designed to let gamers and overclockers break every limit.
Based on the Intel® X99 chipset, the new motherboard sets new industry standards. It features the ultimate RGB lighting scheme with five independently-controlled onboard LED areas plus one 4-pin 5050 RGB header, and all can be synchronized by the all-new Aura software for stunning aesthetics. ROG has also teamed up with well-known RGB strip-makers and case manufacturers, including CableMod, IN WIN, Deepcool, BitFenix, and Phanteks — helping simplify RGB lighting compatibility and control.
The new motherboard is equipped with multiple ASUS exclusive features to aid extreme overclockers. These include Extreme Engine Digi+ voltage-regulator module (VRM) for the cleanest, smoothest power, ASUS-exclusive T-topology technology for maxed-out DDR4 performance, and 5-Way Optimization for easy overclocking and fan tuning with one click.
The Rampage V Edition 10 also includes multiple technologies to deliver the best gaming experience. The included SupremeFX Hi-Fi audio amplifier ensures flawless audio, dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet and GameFirst combine forces for low-latency networking, and ASUS Safe Slot reinforcement for PCIe connectors to prevent damage from heavy graphics cards. The new board introduces a patent-pending integrated I/O shield for style, easier construction, and enhanced durability. There’s also a slew of onboard storage and connectivity options, including U.2, M.2, USB 3.1, and 3x3 Wi-Fi.
According to a post on an ASUS sub-site, the board will retail for $599 and should be on the market very soon!
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 25, 2016 - 02:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, computex 2016, GS63 Stealth Pro
MSI offered a sneak peek at the lineup you can expect to see them showcase at Computex and the list is quite long, with some interesting new additions.
For laptops you can expect to see the new GS63 Stealth Pro, with a Core i7 6700HQ and GTX970M inside. The cooling system is also new, a five heatpipe system called the Cooler Boost Trinity with Whirlwind Blades pushing hot air out the exhaust ports. We should hear more about what this system actually is during the show.
The GT83 and GT73 Titan SLI laptops are built with VR in mind, as well as supporting output to multiple monitors and 4K resolutions; though perhaps not both at once. The GT83 contains desktop class GTX 980s while the GT73 uses the mobile versions, the GTX 980M or a single desktop GTX 980 if you prefer.
The GS73 focuses on a slimmed down design while still incorporating a GTX970M and the aforementioned Cooler Boost Trinity system. It will also sport a SteelSeries gaming keyboard, an ESS SABRE HiFi headset AMP and Nahimic 2.0 sound system.
Something far more unique is the 'Backpack PC', allowing you to strap a Core i7 and GTX 980 to your back so that you are not tied to a desk when using VR. With that amount of power you will still need mains power as the weight of the battery required to power that system for more than a few minutes would be prohibitive. On the other hand the cables from your VR headset and controllers would be connected to the backpack which would theoretically direct the cables out of your way.
The Aegis Gaming Desktop is a far more familiar desktop machine, though it too offers a nod towards VR usage by locating an HDMI connection at the front of the 19.6L case. It will also have a Dragon Button, reminiscent of the old Turbo button from the original 8086 processor, which will boost your 'speed and performance' by 15%. Likely this is an overclocking preset which one assumes can be enabled on the fly.
The Vortex G65 SLI desktop is a little less plain, a round case which is a mere 6.5L in volume but still contains two GTX 980s and an i7-6700K, with their proprietary Silent Storm Cooling system. MSI continues the pattern of building systems around VR compatibility with the Vortex.
Continuing on to their Cubi 2 Plus, a SFF system powered by a Skylake-S class processor a wee 5x5" mini-STX motherboard. The CPU is not BGA and so can be upgraded and there is enough space in the system for a 2.5" SSD upgrade, albeit just barely.
On to their motherboards, first up is the X99A GAMING PRO CARBON which offers a few new features to tempt users to upgrade. Not only does it have USB Type-C connectors but they are described as being located at the front, presumably on a header. It also sports Audio Boost 3, Turbo M.2 32 Gb/s, SEx ports and Dynamic Mystic Light, an LED systems with software that supports more than 16.8 million colors.
For those more concerned with overclocking than having an impressive light show, the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM features Military Class 5 components and a specially designed thermal system to ensure a solid overclock. It also has support for U.2 32Gb/s drives.
The last of the trio of motherboards will be the Z170A MPOWER GAMING TITANIUM, similar to the X99A model apart from the socket. You will get all the features of the TITANIUM series for your LGA1151 processors.
Expect to see much more information about these products and others once Computex gets underway.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 31, 2016 - 01:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: BUILD, build 2016, microsoft, windows 10, windows phone
If you watched the opening keynote of Microsoft's Build conference, then you probably didn't see much Windows Phone (unless you were looking at your own). The Verge talked to Terry Myerson about this, and Microsoft confirmed that they are leading with non-Windows, 4-inch devices, and they want to “generate developer interest” on those platforms for this year.
PC World interpreted this conversation to say that Windows Phone is put on hold.
That might be a little hasty, though. Microsoft is still building Windows 10 for Mobile. In fact, since Microsoft updated “Windows OneCore” and jumped build to 14xxx-level build numbers with Windows 10 build 14251, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC are kept in lockstep. As far as I know, that is still the plan, and Windows Insiders should continue to receive these on compatible devices.
That said, Microsoft has basically admitted that Windows Phone would just be a distraction for developers this year. At the very least, they don't believe that the platform will be ready for them until next year's Build conference, which means that consumers will probably be even further down than that because there would be no applications for them. Yes, Windows Phone could be slowly shimmying out of the spotlight, but it could also be delayed until they make a good impression, and have the PC, Xbox, Hololens, and other ecosystems secure to lift it up.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 30, 2016 - 01:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, microsoft, build 2016, BUILD
When a platform vendor puts up restrictions, it can be scary, and with good cause. Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the successor of WinRT, which, in the Windows 8 era, forced web browsers to be reskins of Internet Explorer, forced developers to get both their software and themselves certified before publishing, and so forth. They still allowed the traditional, more open, Win32 API, but locked them into “the Desktop App”.
Naturally, UWP carries similar concerns, which some developers (like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games) voiced publicly. It's more permissive, but in a brittle way. We don't want Microsoft, or someone like a government who has authority over them, to flip a switch and prevent individuals from developing software, ban content that some stakeholder finds offensive (like art with LGBT characters in Russia, the Middle East, or even North America), or ban entire categories of software like encryption suites or third-party web browsers.
This is where we get to today's announcement.
Microsoft's Phil Spencer, essentially responding to Tim Sweeney's concerns, and the PC gaming community at large, announced changes to UWP to make it more open. I haven't had too much time to think about it, and some necessary details don't translate well to a keynote segment, but we'll relay what we know. First, they plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May. I find this kind-of odd, since Windows 10 will not receive its significant update (“Anniversary Update”) until July, I'm not sure how they would deliver this. It seems a little big for a simple Windows Update patch. I mean, they have yet to even push new versions of their Edge web browser outside of Windows 10 builds.
The second change is more interesting. Microsoft announced, albeit without dedicating a solid release date or window, to allow modding and overlays in UWP applications. This means that software will be able to, somehow, enter into UWP's process, and users will be encouraged to, somehow, access the file system of UWP applications. Currently, you need to jump through severe hoops to access the contents of Windows Store applications.
They still did not address the issue of side-loading and developing software without a certificate. Granted, you can do both of those things in Windows 10, but in a way that seems like it could be easily removed in a future build, if UWP has enough momentum and whoever runs Microsoft at the time decides to. Remember, this would not be an insidious choice by malicious people. UWP is alluring to Microsoft because it could change the “Windows gets viruses” stigma that is associated with PCs. The problem is that it can be abused, or even unintentionally harm creators and potential users.
On the other hand, they are correcting some major issues. I'm just voicing concerns.
Subject: Shows and Expos | March 16, 2016 - 09:00 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: skulltrail, Skull Canyon, nuc, Intel, GDC
No we are not talking about the motherboard from 2008 which was going to compete with AMD's QuadFX platform and worked out just as well. We are talking about a brand new Skull Canyon NUC powered by an i7-6770HQ with Iris Pro 580 graphics and up to 32GB of DDR4-2133. The NUC NUC6i7KYK will also be the first system we have seen with a fully capable USB Type-C port, it will offer Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity; not simultaneously but the flexibility is nothing less than impressive. It will also sport a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs so you can still send video while using the Type C port for data transfer. The port will also support external graphics card enclosures if you plan on using this as a gaming machine as well.
The internal storage subsystem is equally impressive, dual M.2 slots will give you great performance, the SD card slot not so much but still a handy feature. Connectivity is supplied by Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (802.11 ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 and an infrared sensor will let you use your favourite remote control if you set up the Skulltrail NUC as a media server. All of these features are in a device less than 0.7 litres in size, with your choice of two covers and support for your own if you desire to personalize your system. The price is not unreasonable, the MSRP for a barebones system is $650, one with 16GB memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 should retail for about $1000. You can expect to see these for sale on NewEgg in April to ship in May.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2016 - 08:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: raytracing, ray tracing, PowerVR, mwc 16, MWC, Imagination Technologies
For the last couple of years, Imagination Technologies has been pushing hardware-accelerated ray tracing. One of the major problems in computer graphics is knowing what geometry and material corresponds to a specific pixel on the screen. Several methods exists, although typical GPUs crush a 3D scene into the virtual camera's 2D space and do a point-in-triangle test on it. Once they know where in the triangle the pixel is, if it is in the triangle, it can be colored by a pixel shader.
Another method is casting light rays into the scene, and assigning a color based on the material that it lands on. This is ray tracing, and it has a few advantages. First, it is much easier to handle reflections, transparency, shadows, and other effects where information is required beyond what the affected geometry and its material provides. There are usually ways around this, without resorting to ray tracing, but they each have their own trade-offs. Second, it can be more efficient for certain data sets. Rasterization, since it's based around a “where in a triangle is this point” algorithm, needs geometry to be made up of polygons.
It also has the appeal of being what the real world sort-of does (assuming we don't need to model Gaussian beams). That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though.
At Mobile World Congress, Imagination Technologies once again showed off their ray tracing hardware, embodied in the PowerVR GR6500 GPU. This graphics processor has dedicated circuitry to calculate rays, and they use it in a couple of different ways. They presented several demos that modified Unity 5 to take advantage of their ray tracing hardware. One particularly interesting one was their quick, seven second video that added ray traced reflections atop an otherwise rasterized scene.
It was a little too smooth, creating reflections that were too glossy, but that could probably be downplayed in the material ((Update: Feb 24th @ 5pm Car paint is actually that glossy. It's a different issue). Back when I was working on a GPU-accelerated software renderer, before Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12, I was hoping to use OpenCL-based ray traced highlights on idle GPUs, if I didn't have any other purposes for it. Now though, those can be exposed to graphics APIs directly, so they might not be so idle.
The downside of dedicated ray tracing hardware is that, well, the die area could have been used for something else. Extra shaders, for compute, vertex, and material effects, might be more useful in the real world... or maybe not. Add in the fact that fixed-function circuitry already exists for rasterization, and it makes you balance gain for cost.
It could be cool, but it has its trade-offs, like anything else.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 22, 2016 - 05:09 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, LG, G5
The new LG G5 flagship smartphone offers a unique combination of form factor, performance and modularity that no previous smartphone design has had. But will you want to buy in?
I had a feeling that the Snapdragon 820 SoC from Qualcomm would make an impression at Mobile World Congress this year and it appears the company has improved on the previous flagship processor quite a bit. Both Samsung and LG have implemented it into the 2016 models, including the new G5, offering up a combination of performance and power efficiency that is dramatically better than the 810 that was hindered by heat and process technology concerns.
Along with the new processor, the G5 includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage with micro SD expansion, a 2,800 mAh battery and Android 6.0 out of the box. The display is 5.3-in and uses LG IPS technology with a 2560x1440 resolution, resulting in an impressive 554 PPI. LG has updated the USB connection to Type-C, a move that Samsung brushed off as unnecessary at this time.
The phones design is pretty standard and will look very familiar to anyone that has handled a G4 or similar flagship smartphone in recent months. It was bigger in the hand than the iPhone 6s but considering the panel size differences, it was more compact than expected.
Modularity is the truly unique addition to the G5 though. The battery is replaceable by sliding out a bottom portion of the phone, released with a tab on the left side. This allows LG to maintain the metal body construction but still offer flexibility for power users that are used to having extra batteries in their bag. This mechanism also means LG can offer add-on modules for the phone.
The first two available will be the LG Cam Plus and the LG Hi-Fi Plus. The Cam Plus gives the phone a camera grip as well as dedicated buttons for the shutter, video recording and zoom. Including an extra 1,200 mAh of battery is a nice touch too. The Hi-Fi Plus module has a DAC and headphone amplifier enbeded in it and can also be used connected to a PC through the USB Type-C connection; a nice touch.
I was overall pretty impressed with what LG had to offer with the G5. Whether or not the modular design gains any traction will have to be seen; I have concerns over the public's desire to carry around modules or affect the form factor of their phones so dramatically.
Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 08:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC, mwc 16, valve, htc, vive, Oculus
Valve and HTC announced that the Vive consumer edition will be available in April for $799 USD, with pre-orders beginning on February 29th. Leave it to Valve to launch a product on a date that doesn't always exist. The system comes with the headset, two VR controllers, and two sensors. The unit will have “full commercial availability” when it launches in April, but that means little if it sells out instantly. There's no way to predict that.
The announcement blog post drops a subtle jab at Oculus. “Vive will be delivered as a complete kit” seems to refer to the Oculus Touch controllers being delayed (and thus not in the hands of every user). This also makes me think about the price. The HTC Vive costs $200 more than the Oculus Rift. That said, it also has the touch controllers, which could shrink that gap. It also does not come with a standard gamepad, like Oculus does, although that's just wasted money if you already have one.
Unlike the Oculus, which has its own SDK, the Vive is powered by SteamVR. Most engines and middleware that support one seem to support both, so I'm not sure if this will matter. It could end up blocking content in an HD-DVD vs BluRay fashion. Hopefully Valve/HTC and Oculus/Facebook, or every software vendor on an individual basis, works through these interoperability concerns and create an open platform. Settling on a standard tends to commoditize industries, but that will eventually happen to VR at some point anyway. Hopefully, if it doesn't happen sooner, cross-compatibility at least happens then.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 05:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Samsung, epic games, unreal engine 4, vulkan, galaxy s7, MWC, mwc 16
Mobile World Congress starts with a big bang... ... ... :3
Okay, not really; it starts with the formation of a star, which happens on a continual basis across the universe. I won't let facts get in the way of a pun, though.
As for the demo, it is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and runs on a Samsung Galaxy S7 with the Vulkan API. The setting seems to be some sort of futuristic laboratory that combines objects until it builds up into a star. It is bright and vibrant, with many particles, full-scene anti-aliasing, reflections, and other visual effects. The exact resolution when running on the phone was never stated, but the YouTube video was running at 1080p30, and the on-stage demo looked fairly high resolution, too.
Epic Games lists the features they added to mobile builds of Unreal Engine 4 for this demo:
- Dynamic planar reflections
- “Full” GPU particle support, which includes vector fields.
- Temporal Anti-Alising, which blends neighboring frames to smooth jaggies in motion.
- ASTC texture compression (created by ARM and AMD for OpenGL and OpenGL ES)
- Full scene dynamic cascaded shadows
- Chromatic aberration
- Dynamic light refraction
- Filmic tonemapping curve, which scales frames rendered in HDR to a presentable light range
- Improved static reflections
- High-quality depth of field
- Vulkan API for thousands of onscreen, independent objects.
The company has not stated which version of Unreal Engine 4 will receive these updates. I doubt that it will land in 4.11, which is planned for March, but they tend to release a full dot-version every one to three months. They also have early previews for those who wish to try it early, some compiled leading up to launch, and others that need to be built from GitHub.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr
Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.
Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.
Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.
Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2016 - 02:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, dell, ultrasharp, oled
For the longest time, display technology was stagnant. Professional monitors were 1440p, IPS panels (or 2560x1600 for 16:10 models) and high-90% Adobe RGB color, which is useful for both video and print gamuts. Consumer monitors were based on TN technology that could maybe cover the smaller sRGB color space, which covers video. Mobile devices, due to their small size, relatively high viewing angle requirements, and eventually high PPI, started introducing higher-end technologies to consumers. G-Sync, and later FreeSync, continued to differentiate high-end panels. Still, apart from the shift to 4K 60Hz, professional panels didn't go through an astonishing upgrade.
Image Credit: Engadget
OLED was always on the horizon though, and are now being integrated into consumer, and professional, monitors. The Dell UltraSharp U3017Q is one such display, with a 30-inch size and 4K resolution. It completely covers Adobe RGB and 97.8% of DCI-P3. DCI-P3 is not a superset of Adobe RGB, it's just a bit more shifted into the reds, and it is designed for digital cinema projects. Because it's not blocking white light, it can get deeper blacks and more saturated colors.
For accessories, it has a USB Type-C connector that can provide 100W of power, as well as high-speed data and apparently video.
Its pricing and availability is where we get to its downside. It will ship March 31st, which is great news for the new technology, but it will cost $4,999, which is not so amazing. That said, if companies get their hands on it, it might eventually trickle into the prosumer and consumer space, like the 4K IGZO panels did a couple of years ago.
What do our readers think?
Did it launch too early? Or does this make you interested when the price drops? Or, alternatively, are you planning on dropping a huge chunk of cash as soon as they'll take it?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!