MWC 16: HTC Vive Launches in April for $799 USD

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 08:27 PM |
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.

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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.

MWC 16: Epic Games Unveils ProtoStar Demo on Galaxy S7

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 05:14 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Epic Games

Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Epic Games

CES 2016: Dell UltraSharp U3017Q 4K OLED Pro Display

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2016 - 02:59 AM |
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.

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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?

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: Engadget

CES 2016: EVGA is making a gaming case

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: prototype, gaming case, evga, CES 2016, CES

While we have already posted our story and given you a video breakdown of the upcoming EVGA SC 17 gaming notebook, the company had another revolutionary product on display at its suite that I think our readers are going to enjoy seeing. I bring to you, the EVGA Gaming Case:

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As we dive through this, keep in mind that EVGA claims this is an early prototype but that it should have product on the market by end of Q2 2016. 

The case is HUGE, like, bigger that you might imagine just from looking at the pictures. The first feature that stands out is that EVGA intends for the orientation of the case to have the window facing the gamer, rotating it from a standard case direction by 90 degrees. That puts your components and lighting and all the work you put into it on full display, which is great, but it also means you'll need more space on your desk or on your floor in one dimension.

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The current build is all plastic, but EVGA's CEO Andrew Han told me it would be all metal when it shipped, an impressive feat for sure. The internals are not rotated at all but EVGA was able to keep a clean look from the "new front" by including a swinging door on the back where the display connections and USB ports, etc. come out, hiding them from view.

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Power supplies are hidden by the mirror finish bottom section that currently holds an easy to use, if overly simplified, intake/exhaust fan speed controller. The power button is also on the bottom right of the case, a result of the new orientation that EVGA plans for. The company will offer different versions of the case, ranging from $79 to $299 depending on features, the most expensive of which will upgrade that fan controller to a full LCD touch screen that can also display and interact with EVGA's Precision X software. Very cool!

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A full window faces the user, bigger than any case I have had experience with. An illuminated EVGA logo sits on the right hiding water cooling gear you might have installed. The internals have more than enough room for basically any and all hardware, as you could guess from the size of the thing. There are zero optical drive bays - sorry Josh - but the back has space for eight 3.5-in drives and six 2.5-in drives. 

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It's too early for me to make a final statement, but the case is surely ambitious. If they can pull it off, EVGA might just create the ultimate enthusiast PC case without going completely insane on pricing. With targets of $79 on the low end, but keeping the same metal construction and layout, and $299 on the high end, this unnamed case will stay on my radar in 2016.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: EVGA

CES 2016: AMD Announces Wraith Cooler

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, amd, cpu cooler, air cooler

AMD seems to be starting off 2016 right. This is the year that they intend to switch to the Zen microarchitecture, and hopefully reclaim a profitable CPU market-share. While that's later in the year, they showed off a new stock cooler that will be bundled with upcoming processors. We don't have a press release or announcement for it, but they did publish a video to their Red Team fan community and they discussed it with attendees of the show.

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The new cooler, called the Wraith, is significantly larger than their previous stock heatsink. It is rated at 125W, up from the previous offering's 95W. This dissipation wattage might allow some overclocking room, depending on the chosen TDP at launch, while providing lower noise at stock voltage and frequency. The fan is now constant speed, so it shouldn't whine under load. It might have also allowed them to tune the fan for its RPM, too.

Speaking of lower noise, the aforementioned video shows a dramatic reduction in that area. We're force to trust their recording and frequency-distribution graph. If accurate, the noise appears to be much lower and the energy is spread out over many frequencies.

No clue when it will launch, though.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

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Source: AMD

CES 2016: Windows 10 PC-Exclusive Data Plans

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft is partnering with Transatel to provide cellular data services for Windows 10 PCs and tablets, but not phones. It will launch in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but could be rolled out to other regions over time. This will not be a contract service. Everything will be pre-paid, with short-term plans (think “XGB for the next 30 days for Y upfront”) available for a discount before a trip or something.

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One downside is that compatible PCs will require a SIM card slot, which a Microsoft-branded SIM card will be inserted into. The write-up at Thurrott.com doesn't discuss external adapters, like the USB cellular modems that carriers offer and were popular until tethering became mainstream. A few unlocked LTE, USB modems can be found online, which you'd think would be compatible, but I'm not up on many of the details. I'm not a mobile enthusiast.

Despite the source being a Microsoft corporate VP, speaking on the record, it has not been officially announced by the company yet. Details, like when it will be available, have not been released.

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Source: Thurrott.com

CES 2016: Seasonic prepares flagship Prime series of PSUs

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, seasonic, prime, power supply

In a meeting with Seasonic at CES this week, the company revealed plans for a completely new series of power supplies coming this spring. The new Seasonic Prime series will come in both Platinum and Titanium editions, with wattage ranges of 650 watts to 1000 watts on the former and 550 watt to 1200 watts on the latter. These power supplies will now be ahead of the X-Series in the brand hierarchy. 

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Seasonic is well known in the industry for top quality products and is one of the key manufacturers for other PSU brands that you know and love. They want to build a new flagship brand of their own though, going with an impressively svelte design and include enough features and capabilities to stand out in a crowded market. 

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Both Platinum and Titanium designs will include a totally new hybrid fan control design that allows for a zero fan speed design up to 45% of system load on the higher wattage units. Zero PCB cabling minimizes the chances for individual failure and is aided by the completely modular design. Though the unit is analog rather than digital, Seasonic promises to maintain a 0.5% nominal tolerance on the load regulation on the 12V line. Also, all of the Seasonic Prime power supplies will come with a full 10-year (!!) warranty.

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Looking for a fanless design? Seasonic will have you covered with the Titanium Fanless units at both 400 watt and 550 watt variants.

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Expect the newest Seasonic power supplies to hit stores in April!

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Source: Seasonic

CES 2016: New Intel Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Intel, compute stick

Intel has announced two new Compute Sticks with a handful of available SKUs.

On the high end, in terms of Compute Sticks at least, two products are available. At the low end of the two, a Core m3 processor will be present, and Windows 10 will be pre-installed for $399. The high-end variant will have a faster Core m5 processor, but no pre-installed OS for $499. It seems odd that a choice in SoC will be tied to the OS, but I'm guessing the Intel doesn't want to have too many SKUs for a potentially low-volume product.

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Regardless of the above choice, both Core M-level Compute Sticks, above, have 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 3x USB ports. They also have Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity.

Beyond the above two products, a low end, Intel Atom-based Compute Stick is available. Just one SKU will be available, though. It has the same Intel Atom x5-Z8300 that was present on the Zotac PC Stick. It also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 2x USB ports. It has Wireless AC, but Bluetooth 4.0 (instead of the Core M version's 4.1). It will be available for $159.

Release dates are not announced, but the Atom-based Compute Sticks are in production, and the Core M-based one will enter production next month.

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Source: Intel (pdf)

CES 2016: Zotac Skylake ZBOX and PC Stick

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:06 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, zotac, zbox

Zotac is one of the most memorable manufacturers of mini PCs. We have been highlighting their tiny creations since at least 2011, which was as far back as our site's Zotac tag went. At the time, we appreciated them as media center PCs, but interest seems to have picked up substantially since then. They are also appreciated in the fanless community, because silent and tiny devices are even more novel.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

They had several products at CES, which span the gamut of uniqueness. Some are fanless, others are in a PC stick form factor, and other ZBOXes are there, too. Liliputing went through a few different models, and gave a pretty detailed discussion of the PC Stick, the ZBOX Pico (T3 and T4), and the ZBOX C series. Be sure to check the site out for a more elaborate look.

The fanless model had a pretty interesting upgrade, though. With a Core i5-6300U, it has a lot of performance for something like an audio recording PC, especially if it's maxed out with 16 GB of RAM. The Intel HD 520 is a bit light otherwise though, but it could play most new games at low settings (~720p). On the other hand, it has two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, as well as a few regular USB 3.0 ports.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

The PC stick is definitely low powered, though. It has an Intel Atom x5-Z8300, which could really do without the “Z” in the model name. It has 2GB of RAM, which should be sufficient for those applications, and 32GB of on-device storage, which is better than many other offerings. It even has a MicroSD card slot on top of the internal storage.

Pricing and availability are not yet provided.

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Source: Liliputing