|AMD's Wraith CPU cooler reviewed||79|
|Asus' ROG Maximus VIII Impact motherboard reviewed||60|
|Cooler Master's MasterAir Maker 8 CPU cooler reviewed||71|
After a brief delay, the latest Need for Speed game is coming to PC on March 15. The racing game was released for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in early November, but developer Ghost Games decided to put some extra work into the PC version before launch.
The game will run at up to 4K resolution with unlocked framerates, so it could put even high-end rigs to the test. Ghost is adding support for a manual transmission mode to all three platforms with this release, and the PC version will support "a selection" of steering wheels from Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec. There's no word yet on which wheels have made the cut, though.
The game is up for pre-order on Origin, although no system requirements are posted as yet. The standard version is priced at $69.99. The Deluxe version offers up a fancier starter car, early access to upcoming car upgrades like a turbocharger, and other perks for an additional $10. Reviews of the console versions have been mixed, but it will be interesting to see how the game performs with more, erm, horsepower at its disposal.White Shirt Day Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Some Zen CPUs may pack 32 cores and eight memory channels
Every time there's an impending CPU or GPU release, a lot of rumors start floating around. AMD's upcoming Zen architecture is no exception to that rule, but now there are a few tasty morsels of actual information.
A couple weeks ago, folks from CERN's IT Technical Forum delivered a talk titled "Technology and Market Trends for the Data Center." In that talk, a CERN engineer revealed that the upcoming AMD CPUs will pack as many as 32 physical cores on a single package, spread across two 16-core modules with an on-die interconnect. The presenters said that AMD is also introducing its own take on Hyper-Threading into the mix, called Symmetrical Multi Threading.
This tidbit of info from CERN corroborates some earlier information derived from a Linux kernel patch which contains a reference to a maximum of 32 cores for an upcoming AMD "Zeppelin" CPU architecture.
32 isn't the only big number being thrown around, though. The presenter repeated AMD's promise of a 40% increase in IPC, which is a welcome improvement and could help the company's CPUs become more competitive with Intel's offerings.
Zen looks to be packing serious memory bandwidth, too. The CERN slides mention that the new CPUs can make use of as many as eight channels of DDR4 memory. Given the 16+16 core architecture described above, it's possible that the eight-channel total is implemented as four channels connected to each 16-core physical module.Snapdragon 625 SoC powers up mid-range mobile devices
Qualcomm has announced three new additions to its Snapdragon line of mobile SoCs: the Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425. The numbers suggest that these are intended for entry-level mobile devices rather than flagship smartphones, for which Qualcomm offers its more potent 800-series processors.
Still, the Snapdragon 625 is interesting for what it could bring to the crowded middle segment of the smartphone market. Like its big brother, the Snapdragon 820, the 625 is manufactured on a 14-nm FinFET process. by as much as 35%. , and comes with an X9 LTE modem.
With the Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm also appears to be introducing the Adreno 506 GPU. This graphics processor supports 1900x1200 displays and 4K video recording and playback. Somewhat intriguingly, Qualcomm touts the Adreno 506's support for the delayed Vulkan API. While the company's model-numbering scheme seems to indicate scaled-back performance from the Adreno 530 GPU that users get with the Snapdragon 820, we'll have to wait for phones with these GPUs to get out in the wild to see just how well they perform in the graphics department.
The other two Snapdragon processors appear to be destined for the budget-phone market. The Snapdragon 425, in Qualcomm's words, "ups the entry point" for mobile processors. It houses a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and an Adreno 308 GPU, and it'll support "HD displays." With the Snapdragon 435, Qualcomm steps up to an octa-core CPU and an Adreno 505 GPU, and supports 1080p displays. All three processors are expected to appear in commercial devices in the second half of 2016.HP will bring FreeSync to all of its AMD-powered laptops this year
AMD has announced that HP will be offering consumers FreeSync-enabled HP Envy 15z laptops sometime during the first half of this year. Those machines will be powered by AMD's latest Carrizo A-Series processors. By the end of the year, HP plans to go a step further and enable FreeSync on all of its AMD-powered consumer laptops.
FreeSync is AMD's variable-refresh-rate technology that can reduce image tearing and choppiness. HP's move to add the technology to mid-range laptops like the Envy 15z may expose Freesync to a much wider audience. We don't expect earth-shattering performance from integrated graphics, so FreeSync could benefit these lower-powered machines so long as their screens can handle lower refresh rates.
We don't have the specifications for the FreeSync-equipped Envy 15z yet, but we created a version of the current model for $559.99 that includes a Carrizo FX-8800P APU. That part includes four Excavator cores and eight Radeon R7 compute units with a 35W TDP. Reviews have indicated that Carrizo performs best with dual-channel memory, and the current Envy 15z comes with two DIMMs standard.EVGA GTX 980 Ti VR Edition puts 5.25" drive bays to use
EVGA has added to its extensive collection of GeForce GTX 980 Ti offerings with its GTX 980 Ti VR Edition. What sets this beast apart is the inclusion of a 5.25" breakout box that's meant to reduce cable clutter between the PC and a virtual reality headset. That box lets owners connect their Oculus Rift with one HDMI 2.0 port and two USB 3.0 ports. The box connects to the graphics card using a special mini-HDMI port on the card's front edge, and its USB ports connect to motherboard headers.
Aside from the breakout box, the VR Edition card is pretty standard fare. The card has reference 1000 MHz base and 1076 MHz boost speeds, along with 7 GT/s memory clocks. In addition to the internal mini-HDMI connector, the back of the card features one HDMI 2.0 port, one DVI-D port, and two DisplayPort 1.2 ports.
EVGA is offering up to two versions of the GTX 980 Ti VR, one with Nvidia's reference blower cooler and one with its familiar ACX 2.0+ dual-fan heatsink. Both cards are available now for $699.99.Windows 10 gets new Release Preview ring and detailed change logs
Most users are aware that Microsoft regularly publishes updates to Windows 10 called "cumulative updates." Although that name has a nice ring to it, it doesn't describe exactly what those updates contain. The vast majority of software developers out there publish change logs when they update their wares, but for some reason, Microsoft has historically declined to do that for its latest OS.
That's now changing, though. The company has put up a dedicated page succintly named "Windows 10 update history." There, users can find a simple bulleted list detailing the main improvements for every Windows 10 update, both present and future. This should prove a boon for system administrators in particular, who have be extra cautious when deploying operating system updates.
Microsoft is also adding a new Windows Insider ring, called the Release Preview. This ring is targeted at users that want early access to Windows 10 updates, but in a more controlled manner when compared to the existing Slow and Fast update rings. The company says that despite being a prerelease branch, Release Preview builds should pose "minimal risk" for most devices. Any users electing to use this update ring can provide Microsoft with bug reports and feedback, too.Asus releases a trio of colorful B150 boards for smaller PCs
It's still amazing how much horsepower one can cram into a small computer these days. Asus is serving that increasingly popular market with three B150-based itty-bitty mobos.
First off, there's the B150I Pro Gaming/WiFi/Aura. This B150 board comes with two full-sized DIMM slots capable of taking in up to 32GB of DDR4 clocked at up to 2,133 MT/s. The storage section comprises four SATA 6Gbps ports and an M.2 PCIe x4 slot. Networking on this board seems to tick all the right boxes: MIMO-enabled 2x2 802.11ac WiFi, plus an Intel Ethernet LAN adapter.
Peripheral connectivity is likewise plentiful, with two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, plus a Type-C USB 3.0 port. Should the need arise, four more USB ports can be tapped from the motherboard's headers. No self-respecting gaming motherboard these days would be complete without lighting effects, and the RGB LED "Aura" setup in this motherboard certainly looks the part. Users can set it up with a multitude of preset effects, including patterns that respond to music or shift according to CPU temperature.
In case you don't think you'll have a use for on-board Wi-Fi, Asus offers another option. The B150 Pro Gaming/Aura is a near-verbatim copy of the board described above, minus the 2x2 Wi-Fi adapter. It should save builders a few bucks.
Sometimes two RAM slots and four SATA ports are not enough, though. The B150M Pro Gaming motherboard is a microATX model which can take in up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM in its four DIMM slots. The storage section gets another two SATA ports, for a total of six.
USB connectivity comes by way of four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports on the board's backplate, plus another four on tap from internal headers. There are no USB Type-C ports on offer, though. Networking is once again handled by an on-board Intel LAN Ethernet controller. Besides the requisite PCIe x16 expansion slot, the B150M Pro Gaming offers two PCIe x1 connectors.Ash Wednesday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Google to phase out Flash display ads in January of next year
Progress towards a Flash-free web continues. Google has announced that as of June 30 of this year, no new Flash-based ads will be accepted for its AdWords and DoubleClick services. As of January 2, 2017, any existing Flash ads will be mercifully laid to rest, and only HTML5 display ads will be delivered. Unfortunately, Flash ads will continue to get a pass for now.
Google has been encouraging its advertisers to move to HTML5 for some time now by making available a number of tools to make the transition as painless as possible. HTML5 includes a number of new elements that can be used for multimedia creation, including the new canvas element for 2D drawing and a new video element. For its part, Adobe has discouraged the use of Flash by creating the Animate CC authoring tool.
Despite widespread calls for its demise, Flash is still used by just under 10% of websites. The technology has earned itself a bad reputation over the years for its frequent security vulnerabilities and poor performance.Oculus will discount Oculus Ready PCs as part of a Rift bundle
Oculus' Rift is almost here, but in case you haven't heard, it's probably not going to run on the old family laptop. For those uninterested in building a new gaming PC from scratch this spring, Oculus has announced several new Oculus Ready PCs from Asus, Alienware, and Dell. Starting on February 16th, these machines can be preordered as part of a bundle including the Oculus Rift headset.
Each bundle includes a PC that meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for the Oculus Rift, along with the headset itself and everything else Oculus will ship with its Rift preorder packages. That includes the sensor, remote, Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale. Buyers who bundle one of these PCs with a Rift will get a discount of up to $200 on the system's regular price.
Asus G11CD, Alienware X51 R3, and Dell XPS 8900 SE, all have pretty similar hardware under the hood. Each is powered by an Intel Core i5-6400 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive.he
It's a little sad to see brand-new gaming PCs being sold without solid-state storage, but we figure corners had to be cut on systems that already include a Windows license, a $189 processor and a $330-ish video card. While we favor building our own machines, these rigs seem decently priced for what they offer.
Anyone willing to spend a little more might look at the two ROG G20CB systems from Asus. The $1349 model offers the same GTX 970 and Core i5-6400 as the entry-level machines above, but upgrades the storage to a single 512GB SSD. The $1599 G20CB offers a Core i7-6700 CPU, a GeForce GTX 980, a 256GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive. Remember that neither of those prices represent the total bundle cost, though.
Alternately, Alienware offers the $2549 Area 51, which comes with a Core i7-5820K, a GeForce GTX 980, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 128GB of solid-state storage, and a 2TB hard drive. That one's not so great a value.
All five models will be available for preorder through Best Buy, Amazon, and the Microsoft Store. If you've already preordered your Rift and need a PC to go with it, you'll still be able to get in on a discounted Oculus Ready PC by opting into partner offers from Oculus.
If you're willing to get your hands dirty, though, you can always check out our most recent system guide and build your own VR-capable machine for not a whole lot more than any of these machines on their own. Just sayin'.Micron reports early successes in GDDR5X production
Micron Technology posted an early report on its production of GDDR5X chips today, and the results sound good. The company says it's gotten working silicon back from its fabs earlier than expected, and those parts are already hitting 13Gb/s speeds. That's already toward the top end of the expected speeds for GDDR5X, whose specified transfer rates range from 10 to 14 Gb/s. Micron says those results are "incredibly promising."
The first Micron GDDR5X chips are being produced on the company's 20-nm process, and they'll be 8Gb (1GB) dies. The company expects mass production of these parts to begin in the summer of this year, and it'll announce sampling dates for the chips later this spring. Tantalizingly, Micron says that going off its early performance results, we could see GDDR5X chips exceed the 14 Gb/s speed range as time goes on. JEDEC standardized GDDR5X graphics memory just a couple weeks ago, so it's heartening to see production of this improved graphics RAM move so fast.AOC U2879VF monitor brings 4K and FreeSync together
1080p is still the most common resolution used by today's gamers, but compelling 4k monitor options are stacking up in the marketplace. AOC has a new 28" monitor in the works that combines a 4K resolution and AMD's FreeSync tech in a 28" package.
The AOC U2879VF houses a 28" TN panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio. HDMI 2.0 connectivity enables 4K refresh rates up to 60Hz on that port. The panel has a claimed 300 cd/m2 maximum brightness and an 80 million:1 dynamic contrast ratio. The U2879VF also offers an unusually wide color gamut for a TN panel: 1.07 billion colors. The 1ms response time could help reduce ghosting. The monitor also takes advantage of AMD's FreeSync variable refresh technology to minimize stuttering and tearing with Radeon graphics cards.
For connectivity, the AOC U2879VF has VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and MHL ports, and AOC backs it up with a three-year warranty. The company expects the display to sell for about 350€, or about $400.Amazon lets developers build games for free with Lumberyard
Amazon, never shy to enter a new line of business, has announced a free, cross-platform game engine today called Lumberyard. The online giant also announced GameLift, a managed service backend for multi-player games using Amazon Web Services. GameLift will only be available to games using Lumberyard.
Lumberyard's graphics technology is a fork of Crytek's CryEngine. That engine has powered many triple-A titles to-date, like Crysis 3 and the upcoming Star Citizen.
Amazon has integrated a number of its own properties into the engine, including its recent acquisition Twitch.tv and its ubiquitous Amazon Web Services. Amazon says Lumberyard's native Twitch integration will allow new interactions between streamer and audience, like allowing a streamer to issue invites for an audience member to join the current game or in-chat voting that impacts gameplay. Lumberyard includes the entire AWS C++ SDK, and comes with visual scripting tools that make connecting to existing AWS services easier.
The Lumberyard source code is free to use and download, and the beta is available now. Standard AWS fees apply to any of Lumberyard's integrations with that service, and GameLift will cost $1.50 per thousand daily active users in addition to standard AWS fees. For now, developers can use Lumberyard for PC or console game development, but Amazon says support for mobile and virtual reality platforms is coming soon.National Bagel Day Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Just a month ago, we took a peek at MSI's updated gaming laptop lineup. Among them, the GT72S Tobii looked the most intriguing. It promised competent eye tracking technology that would integrate with games for a more immersive experience. MSI officially launched the GT72S Tobii today, and we now have a better idea of its full specs and price.
Gaze upon this GT72S' substantial specs: an Intel Core i7-6820HK CPU with four cores and eight threads, clocked at 2.7GHz base and 3.6GHz Turbo speeds; a Nvidia GTX 980M graphics card with 8GB of VRAM, 32GB of DDR4 system RAM, and a storage section comprising a 256GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a Blu-ray burner. Other niceties include G-Sync variable-refresh-rate techonlogy, a SteelSeries RGB LED backlit keyboard, and Killer DoubleShot networking.
That's all well and good, but the real star of this show is Tobii's eye tracking technology. The system integrated into MSI's notebook is comprised of "triple dual-lens near-IR illuminators," which the firm claims can do the eye tracking thing in any room and under any lighting conditions. Our intrepid editor-in-chief Jeff Kampman spent some time with the GT72S Tobii at CES, and he confirms that the technology works well.
Of course, great electronics are nothing but a waste of good silicon without software to go with them, and twitchy-eyed gamers will be happy to know that Tobii's tech is already built into or being integrated with a handful of major titles. The GT72S G Tobii comes bundled with a copy of The Division, and MSI says Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Rogue, ArmA III, and Elite: Dangerous are also tracking-enabled titles.
With the Tobii sensor on board, users can set up Windows 10's Hello feature to use their eyes as an additional authentication factor. Tobii also integrated its tech with Windows 10 itself—users should be able to highlight, select and delete items, go through folders and applications, and center and zoom maps by moving nothing more than their pupils.
If you're wondering how much this whole setup costs, the answer is $2,600. That may sound like an eye-watering price, but keep in mind that wad of cash gets you a laptop packing top-of-the-line mobile hardware. Setting up a similarly-specced version of the GT72S without the eye-tracking hardware at Newegg costs $2,461, so Tobii's technology doesn't add a huge price premium.
For those simply looking to add eye tracking to their existing setup, Tobii also sells a standalone tracking bar for $140 (or 119€.)Imagination Technologies CEO steps down amid financial upheaval
Imagination Technologies CEO Hossein Yassaie announced his departure this morning as the company warned it would record a loss for its fiscal year ending April 30, 2016. Yassaie joined the company in 1992 and became its CEO in 1998. His corporate profile credits him with creating the intellectual property licensing model that brought the company to prominence.
Imagination says royalties from some of its key customers fell short of its expectations last quarter, and it now expects less revenue in the first quarter than it had previously forecast, as well. In response, the company expects to cut $26.2 million (£15 million) from the operating costs of some of its businesses between now and April 2017. It plans to re-invest $2.9 million (£2 million) of that savings back into its PowerVR graphics division. The company will also sell off its Pure consumer electronics business.
The company appointed Andrew Heath as its interim chief executive officer, and it says it'll begin the search for a new CEO immediately. Heath had previously served in executive positions at Rolls-Royce and as CEO of Alent. Imagination's PowerVR graphics processors can be found in Apple's iPhone and iPad, among many other products.Phanteks launches entry-level contenders with its Eclipse cases
Phanteks has officially launched its latest case series today with its Eclipse P400 and P400S Silent Edition mid-towers. These cases borrow some features from its siblings in the Enthoo lineup, like the Enthoo Evolv ATX, but at a step down in price point.
The Eclipse can house motherboards ranging up to some E-ATX giants, and it features seven expansion slots. Storage is kept out of the way with two 3.5" bays tucked away under the included power supply shroud, along with two SSD mounting brackets on the rear of the motherboard tray. More storage can be added with up to four 3.5" optional modular mounting brackets, though these may interfere with front fan or radiator placement.
The case has space for up to six fans in various configurations. It includes one 120-mm exhaust fan and one 120-mm intake. Builders can add two top-mounted 120-mm or 140-mm fans, and they can also add two more 120-mm fans at the front or exchange those for a pair of 140-mm spinners. Radiators as large as 360 mm can fit in the front, and a 120-mm radiator can fit on the rear fan mount.
The case offers an all-metal exterior in black, white, and anthracite gray finishes. At the bottom of the front panel, a Phanteks logo is illuminated by an RGB lighting system. The optional side panel window appears much larger than the one found on the Enthoo Pro M. If quieter computing is your thing, Phanteks is offering a P400S Silent Edition that adds soundproofed panels and an integrated 3-speed fan controller.
The Eclipse is among the lowest priced Phanteks cases yet. The P400 starts at $69.99, and windowed versions of that case are $10 extra. The P400S will cost $89.99, windowed or not.Asus' ROG Horus GK2000 keyboard spreads its wings
Asus has added another mechanical gaming keyboard to its Republic of Gamers lineup, the Horus GK2000. Named after the Egyptian god of the sky and hunting, the Horus GK2000 is styled with machined aluminum "wings."
That material makes up almost the entirety of the keyboard, and should provide a stable platform for long gaming sessions. The GK2000's Cherry MX Red switches should be good for 50 million keystrokes. A set of programmable macro keys and volume and lighting control knobs complement the keyboard's main layout.
As befits any gaming peripheral these days, the Horus GK2000 comes with red-colored LED lighting. The lights is configurable per individual key with the included software, and the keyboard's onboard memory can store multiple presets.
Asus gave the GK2000 some thought when it came to ergonomics and convenience, too. The Horus GK2000 has a detachable phone stand and two USB ports on its back, along with audio jacks for plugging in headsets. As a final touch, Asus made a neoprene carry case for the GK2000, making it easier for gamers to take it to LAN parties and tournaments.Square Enix patches Rise of the Tomb Raider for the PC
Just in time for this weekend, Square Enix has released a patch for the latest Lara Croft adventure, Rise of the Tomb Raider. After the game was released for the PC last week, some Steam users reported problems starting the game. A number of potential culprits for that issue—a C++ runtime error, a failed Visual C++ installation, and conflicts with other applications—have all been addressed.
Updates to the in-game experience also made their way into the patch, including a new UI for maps and basecamps. Those with Nvidia cards should see improved HBAO+ quality and better SLI support, and Razer Chroma-enabled peripherals should affect performance less and put on a better show.
|Take a video tour of our Breadbox build||3|
|Need for Speed for PC embraces 4K displays and unlocked FPS||1|
|White Shirt Day Shortbread||13|
|Some Zen CPUs may pack 32 cores and eight memory channels||87|
|Snapdragon 625 SoC powers up mid-range mobile devices||13|
|HP will bring FreeSync to all of its AMD-powered laptops this year||21|
|EVGA GTX 980 Ti VR Edition puts 5.25" drive bays to use||27|
|Windows 10 gets new Release Preview ring and detailed change logs||19|
|Asus releases a trio of colorful B150 boards for smaller PCs||20|