|Android on x86: A quick look at Asus' Memo Pad ME176C tablet||47|
|Core i7-4790K 'Devil's Canyon' overclocking revisited||51|
|Biostar's Hi-Fi Z97WE motherboard reviewed||31|
In the years following its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google sourced its Nexus phones from everybody but its own handset business. Now that Motorola Mobility is Google's no more, the rumor mill suggests a Motorola Nexus phone may, at long last, be on the way.
Yep, it's official. We're now living in bizarro world.
The news comes from Android Police, which says the phone, code-named Shamu, is "supposed" to have a 5.9" display and a fingerprint sensor. No other specs seem to have leaked out yet, but word is that the device could be out in November.
Android Police's story includes some fairly convincing evidence, but the site itself rates the rumor with a confidence level of only 6.5/10. "We are confident that Shamu is a real device under active development, and fairly confident that it is a contender for the Nexus program," the site explains, "but are just slightly less confident about its specs, simply due to the information at our disposal."
Still, there's a good chance we'll finally see a Motorola Nexus phone after all these years. The circumstances, though, may be slightly different from what we expected.Latest Raptr client expands game recording for AMD and Nvidia GPUs
Remember Dennis "Thresh" Fong? The former competitive gamer once ruled the Quake scene and famously won John Carmack's Ferrari in a tournament. These days, he's the brains behind Raptr, a game optimization and recording application similar to Nvidia's GeForce Experience. Raptr works with both AMD and Nvidia GPUs, and the latest version includes expanded video functionality.
Released today, the update adds real-time recording support for "all late-model AMD and Nvidia graphics cards." This so-called game video recorder, or GVR, uses the hardware encoding blocks of modern GPUs to capture in-game footage with "virtually no degradation of system performance." Gamers can capture videos of any length, and there's an "instant replay" function that automatically saves the last 20 minutes of gameplay. Webcam and microphone input can also be added to the mix with a picture-in-picture feed, and recordings can be shared via Raptr's website and social media.
If all this sounds familiar, that's because the ShadowPlay component of GeForce Experience offers pretty much the same thing for recent Nvidia GPUs. Raptr's vendor-agnostic approach is more appealing, as is the fact that it has settings optimization profiles for more games—over 5,000 versus about 170 for GeForce Experience. That said, ShadowPlay can still record any full-screen DirectX game and even entire desktop sessions.
Anyone can grab the latest version of the Raptr software right here. Radeon owners should download the AMD-specific Gaming Evolved variant, which introduced more limited recording functionality last month.Rumor: 12'' Retina MacBook, 4K Mac desktop coming
The gossip machine is running in overdrive with talk of Apple's next-gen iPhones—but those may not be the only new Apple products this fall. According to 9to5Mac, Apple is also cooking up a 12" Retina MacBook and a new desktop Mac with a 4K display.
9to5Mac's story is somewhat light on specifics, but it does say the smaller Retina MacBook will feature a "much thinner and slightly lighter aluminum body." (I'm not sure how much thinner Apple can go from the current 11.6" MacBook Air, but I guess we'll see.) As for the desktop system, 9to5Mac adds that it could be either a standalone machine with a separate monitor or an iMac with a 4K screen built in.
Those systems could come on the heels of OS X Yosemite, the next major version of the operating system, which 9to5Mac's sources expect around October 10. Those sources anticipate a "late Q3 or early Q4" launch for the new Mac hardware. Then again, they also reckon the launch might slip into "early 2015" because of "constraints to Intel chipsets as well as resources placed on developing other products for the 2014 pipeline."
Either way, I'm curious to see what the 12" Retina MacBook winds up like. I remain unimpressed with the build quality and ergonomics of PC laptops in that size range, and the 13" Retina MacBook Pro is a little too pricey for my taste. A thinner version of the system with a slightly smaller screen and a lower price tag—now that could be the ticket.Firefly MMO to bring series cast back together
I'm not sure I'll ever forgive Fox for canceling Firefly, but this latest news is, at least, some consolation. The Verge reports that the series' original cast will be reunited in the upcoming massively multiplayer game, Firefly Online. The latest trailer provides a small taste of the cast reunion, with appearances from Ron Glass and Nathan Fillion:
Okay, so, it turns out that seeing other Firefly fans geek out can be a little embarrasing. Also, those graphics don't look all that impressive. Also, Papyrus.
But whatever. I'm not losing hope.
According to The
Verse Verge, Firefly Online is currently in development at Spark Plug games with an as-yet-unknown release schedule. The game will be out on Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS.
Eight is Enough
Read more... Friday night topic: your top movies?
I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes last night and was extremely impressed. Thanks to that experience, I have movies on my mind.
I'm not sure the new Apes movie would make this list for me, but it would be in the running. Here's the question: what are your all-time favorite movies? Give us three to five, or more if you wish, and briefly explain why.
Discuss!Deal of the week: Corsair's 750D case and four fans for $100
We've got a little of everything in this week's deal post, starting with a sizable discount on a nice Corsair case bundle:
Those are the deals that caught my eye today. As always, if you've come across anything else, feel free to link it in the comments below. Your gerbil compatriots will appreciate the gesture.Triple-wide radiator defines Thermaltake's new water cooler
Have you ever looked at a double-wide liquid cooling radiator and thought: "that's just not big enough." If so, Thermaltake might have just the thing. The company has introduced a super-sized Water 3.0 Ultimate cooler with a 360-mm radiator.
The triple-wide unit is strapped to three 120-mm fans that can ramp up to 2000 RPM. Fan speeds are controlled via PWM circuitry, and the individual spinners are rated for 20 dBA. If three isn't enough, another trio can be added to the back of the unit to make a radiator sandwich.
Rubber tubing connects the aluminum radiator to the copper-backed CPU block. There's a low-profile pump in there somewhere, and Thermaltake claims the plumbing is sealed tightly enough to avoid coolant evaporation over time. The cooler ships with mounting hardware for the full range of modern sockets, including LGA2011. The only compatibility challenge will be finding a case that fits the thing.
The press release doesn't detail pricing or availability, but I'd expect the Water 3.0 Ultimate to debut north of $100. Thermaltake's double-wide Water 3.0 Extreme is selling for $99.99 right now (before a $25 mail-in rebate).Report: Google proceeds with $1 billion Twitch.tv buyout
Quoting "sources familiar with the matter," the VentureBeat folks says Google has "signed a deal" to purchase the game streaming service for a cool billion bucks. They add:
We don’t know everything about this deal, such as when it will be announced and the exact purchase price. We do know that Twitch investors who participated in past rounds are pleased that they will be getting significant returns that are multiple times the amount they originally invested.
Yeah, if I were a Twitch.tv investor, I'd also be pretty thrilled right about now.
Google and Twitch.tv refused to comment when contacted by VentureBeat, so there's no official word yet about any of this. Guess we'll have to stay tuned.Friday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... New Asus 802.11ac router can top 1.7Gbps
Asus dabbles in a surprising number of product categories nowadays—including routers. This week, the company has expanded its router lineup with the RT-AC87, a new 802.11ac specimen that's supposed to hit speeds of up to 1.73Gps—or just over 216MB/s.
According to Asus, the RT-AC87 is the "world's first" wave-two 802.11ac router and the "fastest" 5GHz offering. I'm not sure about that, but at $269.99, the RT-AC87 is definitely priced like a premium product. It features a Quantenna QSR1000 chipset, four antennas with universal beamforming, and multi-user MIMO, which prevents bottlenecks from cropping up on multi-device networks:
With MU-MIMO1, the RT-AC87 can form groups of multiple devices that can be served at the same time, simultaneously. Previous 802.11n and 802.11ac routers can stream to only one device at a time. MU-MIMO greatly increases the efficiency of the Wi-Fi network, mitigating potential bottlenecks as more devices are connected to the access point. Furthermore, the RT-AC87’s multiple antennas, coupled with its advanced beamforming, reduce the transmission’s signal-to-noise ratio and improve the reliability of the Wi-Fi signal, providing a better overall wireless experience.
Along with the impressive specs, the RT-AC87 ships with AiCloud 2.0 software, which transforms the router into a "powerful personal cloud server." Network and USB storage hooked up to the router can be accessed remotely using the AiCloud web interface and the dedicated AiCloud apps for iOS and Android. Pretty nifty.
Asus says the RT-AC87 will be available in North America "shortly."Early Unreal Tournament concept art reminds us how far we've come
The image below has been making the rounds online as an example of how the recently announced Unreal Tournament sequel looks, and compared to the visuals in UT3, it's pretty darned impressive.
Turns out, though, that this image is just a bit of concept art, a mock-up made by one of the designers at Epic intended to establish the visual style of the next UT title, which is still in its infancy. You can see more of this concept level, taken from directly inside the Unreal Editor 4 application, in the video below from Epic Games. The images are being generated in real time.
The designer explains that this, erm, Portal-inspired look is intended to be clean and industrial-feeling, with just a splash of color, so that it's visually interesting while still allowing characters to stand-out from the background. That makes sense to me. I'm just ready for a modernized UT game that looks like this and plays like an updated version of UT2004.Report: Intel targeting larger, pricier Android tablets
Android tablets are dominated by ARM-based hardware, but Intel is slowly making inroads. Its Atom CPUs have already infiltrated smaller, budget slates. Now, Fudzilla is reporting that reference designs for larger Android tablets are making the rounds. The systems are targeted at the $299-499 price range, the site says, and they include screen sizes from 9.6-12.5". A detachable keyboard seems to be a part of the package, as well.
Intel appears to have established some baseline specifications for pricier tablets based on its chips. Fudzilla claims those requirements include a minimum of eight hours of battery life and a display resolution of at least 1920x1080. Designs must be thinner than 10 mm, according to the site, but there's no mention of a maximum weight or whether the detachable keyboard is a must-have accessory.
These more upscale Android tablets are reportedly based on Atom hardware, and they might have company. In a separate article, Fudzilla suggests Intel is prepping an even more upscale design based on its next-gen Broadwell CPU. That machine is supposed to have a 2560x1440 display, a 10.6-13.3" screen, and pricing in the $499-799 range.
The reports are unconfirmed, of course, so add your own salt. Also, remember that reference designs don't always translate into actual products.AMD's Mullins APU appears in $250 HP netbook
AMD's low-power Mullins APU has scored a major design win. HP has adopted the Jaguar-based chip for its Pavilion 10z netbook. The Windows 8.1 machine starts at just $249.99, putting it firmly in Chromebook territory. And it doesn't look half bad, either:
There are, however, a few caveats. The E1 Micro-6200T APU is the runt of the Mullins family, with only two cores clocked up to 1.4GHz. Full-fat implementations sport quad cores, and the top model scales up to 2.2GHz. Higher-end Mullins variants also have faster GPU and memory clocks.
HP combines the SoC with 2GB of low-power DDR3 memory and 500GB of 5,400-RPM mechanical storage. Meh. The 10.1" touchscreen has a 1366x768 resolution and LED backlighting, but the panel is likely based on TN technology. There's no mention of wide viewing angles or color depth. Other features include USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, a 100Mbps Ethernet jack, an SD card reader, and a "Miracast compatible" wireless implementation—probably 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Although the underlying APU has a 4W thermal envelope, don't expect marathon run times. HP says the 24Wh battery is good for "up to 4 hours" of video playback. The Pavilion isn't particularly svelte, either; it's 0.89" (22.6 mm) thick and 2.5 lbs.
Compromises are inescapable for PCs in this price range, but it's important to remember that this is basically a tiny Windows PC for only 250 bucks. You get a keyboard and a touchpad and everything, and that's pretty neat. Thanks to VR Zone's Chinese site for the tip.Steam controller gets an analog stick
The Steam controller has gotten a not-so-little design tweak. According to this tweet by the Steam Database folks (who are, I should point out, not affiliated with Valve), the latest version of the gamepad now sports a good old-fashioned analog stick:
Valve has changed their Steam controller once again, here's an image showing the latest revision pic.twitter.com/kFVhMQ0XrC— Steam Database (@SteamDB) July 23, 2014
Yep, that's definitely an analog stick. Compare that to the original design, which had a big touchscreen in the middle, and the circa-GDC revision, which replaced the touchscreen with four buttons and a d-pad.
The analog stick takes care of my biggest beef with the Steam controller, which is that its fancy dual touchpads have a pretty steep learning curve—and, since this a unique design, nobody has prior experience with these things. A Valve guy I spoke to at GDC said that, because of the touchpads, familiarizing himself with the controller took eight hours. I was personally hopeless with it after a 10-minute session.
Early adopters will hopefully face less frustration with the new design. Not that anybody's going to be adopting this thing all that early, mind you. Last we heard, Valve had delayed both the Steam controller and the Steam machines until 2015.Delays strike Battlefield: Hardline, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Battlefield fans will have to make do without a new chapter this year. Hardline, the cops 'n criminals take on the franchise, has been delayed until "early 2015."
According to DICE VP Karl Magnus Troedsson, the delay was in part inspired by feedback from the recent Hardline multiplayer beta. Some of the features suggested by the community will be incorporated into the game. There are also plans to add depth to the single-player campaign and to improve overall stability. Sounds like the initial beta might not have been the smoothest experience for players. A second one is planned before the final release.
Battlefield: Hardline isn't the only Frostbite-powered title that will arrive later than expected. Dragon Age: Inquisition was supposed to be available in early October, but it's been pushed to November 18. Executive Producer Mark Darrah says the additional time will be used to polish the game and strengthen "the emotional impact of the Hero's choices," whatever that means.
The delays were announced before publisher Electronic Arts posted its quarterly financial results. EA raked in $1.2 billion over the past three months and turned a $335 million profit. PC gaming revenue fell 1% compared to the same quarter last year, but revenue from console games increased 67%, and mobile revenue rose 18%.
The outlook isn't as bright for the coming quarter, during which EA expects to lose $37 million on revenue of $965 million. However, the publisher still expects to turn a $581 million profit for its full fiscal year, which runs from April 1 to March 31. Revenues are expected to total $4.3 billion for that period.It's official: Microsoft will consolidate Windows development
On the heels of its quarterly results announcement yesterday, Microsoft announced a plan to unify the creation of disparate Windows versions for phones, tablets, and consoles.
According to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the quarterly earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella specifically talked about a plan to "consolidate overlapping efforts"—meaning "one operating system that covers all screen sizes and consolidated dual use productivity services that cross life and work."
Nadella added, "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes. We will unify our stores, commerce and developer platforms to drive a more coherent user experience and a broader developer opportunity."
During the Q&A portion of the call, Nadella elaborated further, noting that Microsoft will continue to offer multiple flavors, or SKUs, of Windows while despite unifying things at the "engineering" level:
Yes. My statement Heather was more to do with just even the engineering approach. The reality is that we actually did not have one Windows; we had multiple Windows operating systems inside of Microsoft. We had one for phone, one for tablets and PCs, one for Xbox, one for even embedded. So we had many, many of these efforts. So now we have one team with the layered architecture that enables us to in fact . . . bring that collective opportunity with one store, one commerce system, one discoverability mechanism. It also allows us to scale the UI across all screen sizes; it allows us to create this notion of universal Windows apps and being coherent there.
So that’s what more I was referencing and our SKU strategy will remain by segment, we will have multiple SKUs for enterprises, we will have for OEM, we will have for end-users. And so we will – be disclosing and talking about our SKUs as we get further along, but this my statement was more to do with how we are bringing teams together to approach Windows as one ecosystem very differently than we ourselves have done in the past.
Microsoft had already announced universal Windows apps at its Build conference in April. As the company said at the time, developers will be able to write applications that can run on all of Microsoft's current consumer operating systems—Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, and the Xbox One—with a different user interface for each one.
In November 2013, Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green also dropped some not-so-subtle hints about Windows consolidation. The Devices and Studios head said, "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three." However, her statement seemed to point to a future with two Windows versions—for mobile and desktop—rather than just a single one.Microsoft's 2014 revenue up 11.5%, but income stagnates
Microsoft has posted financial results for its fourth fiscal quarter and the year as a whole. (Instead of conforming to the calendar, Microsoft's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.) The Windows giant took in $86.8 billion over the last 12 months, an 11.5% increase over its 2013 fiscal year. Net income was up, too, though by only 1%. Here are the relevant yearly numbers:
|Revenue||$86.8 billion||$77.8 billion||11.5%|
|Net income||$22.1 billion||$21.9 billion||1.0%|
|Gross margin||$59.9 billion||$57.6 billion||4.0%|
The Devices and Consumer Licensing division suffered a 1.1% revenue decline slightly over the year. That decrease was offset by 49% growth in Computer and Gaming Hardware revenue likely driven by the Xbox One. Commercial revenue also rose for both licensing and the nebulous "other" category. And, according to CEO Satya Nadella, revenue from commercial cloud products "doubled again."
Microsoft's purchase of Nokia closed during the last quarter. The acquisition contributed $2 billion in revenue, so keep that in mind as you peruse the quarterly numbers:
|Q4 2014||Q4 2013||Change|
|Revenue||$23.4 billion||$19.9 billion||17.5%|
|Net income||$4.6 billion||$5.0 billion||-7.1%|
|Gross margin||$15.8 billion||$14.3 billion||10.4%|
Although net income fell 7.1% from the same quarter in 2013, Microsoft still turned a tidy profit. Year-over-year revenue increased substantially, and gross margin ticked up over 10%. Windows volume licensing also climbed 11%, likely due to corporate upgrades inspired by the end of extended support for Windows XP. The old OS was cut off on April 8, just after the beginning of the quarter.
Looking ahead, Microsoft expects to take up to a $1.6-billion hit associated with the sweeping job cuts announced last week. The company believes most of that charge will manifest itself in the first half of fiscal 2015—over the next six months, in other words.Tuesday Night Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... New Humble Bundle includes Thief, Deus Ex, Anachronox, Hitman
Still hungry for game discounts after last month's completely insane Steam sale? Well, you're in luck. A new Humble Bundle full of Square Enix classics is now up for grabs.
The pay-what-you-want package includes Thief Gold, Daikatana, Anachronox, and the first two Hitman games. Folks who pay more than the average (just over $6 as I write this) also get Hitman: Absolution, Deus Ex: The Fall, Deus Ex: Invisible War, and a couple of other titles I've never heard of.
If you don't mind coughing up $15, then you'll also receive all of the above plus the original Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Just Cause 2, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.
Yeah, not a bad deal for 15 bucks. And as always, the Humble Bundle guys still let you choose how much of your contribution goes to charity.
I could wax poetic about many of the games above, but I have particularly fond memories of Anachronox, a product of the ill-fated Ion Storm Dallas venture. While John Romero was busy destroying his career in another part of the studio, Tom Hall was spearheading this masterpiece of humor-laden sci-fi RPG goodness. I'm still broken up over the fact that Hall never got to tell the end of the story. Still, the game is worth playing for sure.
|The TR Podcast 158: Planet of the Shield Tablets||6|
|Could the next Nexus phone be from Motorola?||33|
|Latest Raptr client expands game recording for AMD and Nvidia GPUs||13|
|Rumor: 12'' Retina MacBook, 4K Mac desktop coming||64|
|Firefly MMO to bring series cast back together||49|
|Friday night topic: your top movies?||209|
|Deal of the week: Corsair's 750D case and four fans for $100||21|
|Android on x86: A quick look at Asus' Memo Pad ME176C tablet||47|