|Notes from TR's next-gen storage testing||22|
|Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones reviewed||185|
|TR's Christmas 2014 System Guide||63|
So here's the question: what are you getting your "significant other" (wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever) for Christmas this year? Anything good? Any, you know, last-minute ideas that others of us could copy?
Discuss.Today's Steam deals include AC Unity, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
The Steam Holiday Sale is on its second day, and some of the latest bargains are even sweeter than yesterday's. The 48-hour Featured Deals section now includes Assassin's Creed Unity and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, among others:
The latest 12-hour deals aren't bad, either. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a pretty excellent game:
Steam even has a few Community's Choice deals today. I haven't played any of them, but if these are community picks, I'm sure they're good:
Check back in tomorrow for more Steam goodness. Oh, and if you're not married to Valve's distribution service, GameStop.com has Battlefield 4 for $4.99, according to SlickDeals. That's worth picking up, especially for the multiplayer.Deal of the week: A Radeon R9 290X for $280, a 960GB SSD for $339, and more
Precious few shopping days remain before Christmas. Good thing there are plenty of sweet deals on PC hardware.
Those are the deals that jump out at me this morning. I probably missed a few, so feel free to add any that you spot in the comments below.RRAM breakthrough could lead to 1Tb chips built on 28-nm tech
Remember Crossbar, the firm developing resistive random access memory (RRAM) with higher performance and endurance than NAND? The company announced a breakthrough at the International Electron Devices Meeting earlier this week. We caught up with VP of marketing and business development Sylvain Dubois for an explanation—and to find out how close Crossbar is to actually delivering RRAM products.
Crossbar is pursuing two RRAM applications. The embedded variant is designed to provide on-chip storage for microcontrollers, SoCs, and the like. There's also a higher-density version meant for discrete storage, like SSDs.
According to Dubois, the embedded stuff is "very close" to commercialization. Crossbar isn't talking specifics just yet, but it has multiple "alpha customers" integrating RRAM tech into their chips. The first samples are expected in a few months, and mass production could begin by the end of next year or early 2016. The timeline for embedded products is somewhat contingent on what's going on in the rest of the chip, which is outside Crossbar's domain.
The company's recent breakthrough applies to high-density RRAM optimized for discrete storage. The cross-point array is vulnerable to sneak path current, where leakage from other cells interferes with addressing the desired target. This leakage stems from having multiple cells gated by a single transistor. It also increases power consumption.
Leakage is avoided in Crossbar's embedded RRAM by tying each cell to its own transistor. That approach doesn't scale to higher storage densities, but Crossbar has developed a cell selector that does. This component acts "almost like a switch," Dubois told us, effectively eliminating the leakage associated with unselected cells.
The graph on the left shows a standard RRAM cell. The two current lines for each voltage represent the cell's response when it's empty and when it's filled with data. On the right, the addition of the selector creates an "off" state while still leaving enough margin to represent data. Crossbar claims this approach is extremely fast, with turn-on times under 50 nanoseconds. The firm also says the endurance clocks in at over one million cycles.
Crossbar already has the selector working in hardware. The demo chip is fabbed on older 110-nm tech, but the technology can apparently be adapted to any traditional fab. Commercialization is running about a year behind the embedded products, Dubois told us, and first implementation could be built using 28-nm tech. Dubois expects the initial offering to have 16 layers and a 1Tb (128GB) capacity with one bit per cell.
MLC and TLC configurations are also possible, and Crossbar doesn't anticipate problems scaling down to smaller lithography. The conductive filaments at the heart of its RRAM tech are only four nanometers wide, regardless of the cell geometry, which would seem to leave room for a few process shrinks.
Crossbar hopes to partner with multiple semiconductor foundries to bring its RRAM tech to market. Dubois wouldn't tell us which ones the firm is talking to right now, but he did reveal that Crossbar has no plans to share its technology with memory makers.AC Unity season pass holders can now redeem their free game
Ubisoft recently announced that, to make amends for the botched Assassin's Creed Unity launch, it would give away a free game to folks who purchased the Unity season pass. As GameInformer reports, the company has now put up a page where season pass holders can redeem their freebie.
The redemption process seems fairly straightforward: choose your platform, log in with your Uplay credentials, and then select your free game. The titles on offer are The Crew, Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed Black Flag, Rayman Legends, and Just Dance 2015. At least one of those is still selling at full price, so that's not a bad offer.
To be eligible, GameInformer says players must have redeemed their season pass before November 25. Also, the deal expires on March 15—so don't file this away and forget about it.Friday Shortbread
The Pick 6
Read more... Our bonus TR live stream is up right now!
Update: The stream has ended. Thanks to all who joined in!
Hi folks. You can watch our bonus TR live stream below:
Ask us questions live using the Twitch chat below:This year's Steam Holiday Sale is on
It's that time of year again. Valve has kicked off its latest Steam Holiday Sale, which is going to serve up a rolling selection of bargains until January 2 at 10:00 AM, Pacific Time.
The first batch of Featured Deals will stick ardound for the next two days, and it includes:
A handful of lesser deals is also available for the next 12 hours. They include:
Happy shopping, folks! And keep your eyes peeled for the next round of deals.Minecraft: Story Mode coming next year
Mojang has teamed up with Telltale Games, the folks behind the popular The Walking Dead games, to produce Minecraft: Story Mode, a standalone title based in the same universe as the open-world sandbox.
According to Telltale, Story Mode will have "an original story, driven by player choice" and will "mix new characters with familiar themes, in an entirely original Minecraft experience, inspired by the Minecraft community and the game that continues to inspire a generation."
There's no word yet on what the story and characters will be, but Mojang says it's not intent on "creating an 'official' story for Steve, or explaining the world of Minecraft in detail." (Steve is, of course, the name of Minecraft's player character.)
Mojang adds that Story Mode will come out in episodic form, much like Telltale's other games, with the first chapter due out "some time in 2015." You'll be able to play on Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS. Story Mode will also be out on "PlayStation consoles" and "Xbox consoles," which I assume means both current and previous generations.Join us this evening for a bonus TR live stream
Since Jordan's not available, our plan has been to put The TR Podcast on hiatus until 2015. That seems like an awfully long time to wait, though, and I might have a few things to say about Scotty's First Phone Review. I also expect that some of you might enjoy popping into a live stream and having the chance to ask TR's editors about pretty much anything.
So let's do this. Tonight at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT, we'll fire up a live stream on our Twitch channel. We'll take random tech questions from the chat, talk about our iPhone 6 and 6 Plus review, and just hang out for a while.
Come join us if you can. If you can't, feel free to post your questions for the panel below, and we'll try to address them in the stream. We'll then post the video to YouTube for viewing later.
Here's our last episode, for those who missed it:Hang your PC on a wall with Lian Li's new O Series cases
Live in a shoebox apartment with little floor space for a conventional PC tower? Good news: Lian Li has introduced a full line of cases designed to be hung from a wall.
The O Series spans four models and three form factors. The PC-05 is the smallest of the bunch, with support for Mini-ITX motherboards and only one system fan. A second Mini-ITX model, the PC-05S, expands the dimensions slightly to accommodate liquid cooling setups with radiators up to 240 mm. Both Mini-ITX versions are restricted to smaller SFX PSUs.
All the chassis combine aluminum construction with tempered glass faces. They're billed as open-air designs, so there's plenty of ventilation for internal components—and plenty of places for dust to get sucked into the system. If you don't want to mount the cases to a wall, you can prop them up vertically with the included stand or lie them flat on four rubber feet.
To maintain slimmer profiles, the O Series mounts the graphics card parallel to the motherboard via a PCIe ribbon cable. Note that graphics card is singular; there doesn't appear to be a way to add more than one to even the largest member of the family. It may be possible to squeeze low-profile expansion cards into some of the cases, though.
The O Series is slated to be available in February, and prices are predictably steep. The PC-05 is due to ring in at $289, the PC-05S at $319, the PC-06S at $379, and the PC-07S at $419.100Mbps Internet available to most Americans, but not from multiple ISPs
According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report published earlier this week, 94% of Americans can get Internet access with download speeds up to 10Mbps. 70% can choose from at least two providers, but that figure shrinks rapidly as the connection speed rises. While 59% of the population has access to 100Mbps connectivity, only 9% can get it from more than one ISP.
The following chart from the full report (PDF) highlights the trend clearly:
Even for a ho-hum 25Mbps connection, just 37% of Americans have a choice in providers, and only 9% can choose between more than two. To be fair, the figures are pulled from 2013. They may have shifted slightly since, especially for the gigabit tier.
Speeds are lower overall on the mobile front, but there are at least more carrier options. 99% of folks can get 10Mbps mobile broadband from at least one provider. 90% have two or more carrier choices, and 71% have at least three. Faster 25Mbps connections are available to only 3% of the population.
Thanks to Ars Technica for the tip.Thursday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... AnandTech purchased by parent company of Tom's Hardware
Just a few months after its founder departed for Apple, AnandTech has been sold. The buyer is Purch, a growing "digital content and services company" that acquired Tom's Hardware last year. Here's a snippet from the official press release:
NEW YORK, NY (December 17, 2014) – Purch today announced the acquisition of Anandtech.com, a leader in mobile, computing and IT analysis and reviews. Purch’s industry-leading combination of high-quality content and integrated commerce experiences makes complex buying decisions easy for more than 100 million consumers and professionals monthly. With the acquisition of AnandTech, Purch furthers its mission to simplify purchase decisions for in-market tech consumers by adding one of the most popular computer components, hardware, and mobile reviews sites to a brand portfolio that already includes category heavyweight, Tom’s Hardware.
The release goes on to quote the boy wonder himself. Anand says he's "happy to see [AnandTech] end up with a partner committed to taking good care of the brand and its readers."Saitek is making a custom controller for Farming Simulator
Saitek offers a full lineup of custom controller hardware for flight sims. The firm has everything from combat-ready joysticks to yoke-and-throttle combos pulled from a Cessna. Its latest project is a little different, though. Saitek is developing a custom controller for the Farming Simulator series.
I can't even.
Unlike the setups one might use with conventional driving games, this one is tuned specifically for heavy machinery. The center-sprung wheel is tilted at a relatively shallow angle. Thanks to a suicide knob at the top,
drivers operators can spin through the 900 degrees of rotation with only one hand. That leaves the other hand free for the separate side panel, which includes a joystick for loaders and other vehicle attachments. There's a separate pedal set, as well.
According to Steam's stats, Farming Simulator 2015 has about as many players right now as Civilization: Beyond Earth, Far Cry 4, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. I can't find any specifics on sales figures, but the series is reportedly quite popular in Europe—and apparently a big enough deal to justify its own controller.GeForce 347.09 driver is ready for Elite: Dangerous, new Metal Gear Solid
A new set of beta GeForce drivers has landed. Today's release is numbered 347.09, and Nvidia bills it as a "Game Ready" driver for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Elite: Dangerous.
The download page is light on details—it simply says the 347.09 beta driver "ensures you'll have the best possible gaming experience for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Elite: Dangerous."
Diving into the release notes uncovers a few additional tidbits. Apparently, Nvidia has added new application profile for Project CARS as well as new 3D Vision and 3D Compatibility Mode profiles for a handful of games, including Alien: Isolation, Far Cry 4, and Elite: Dangerous
You can grab the GeForce 347.09 beta driver right here from GeForce.com. The driver should download automatically for folks running Nvidia's GeForce Experience software. (Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the tip.)Report: Microsoft prepping streaming service for apps and games
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been vocal about his "mobile first, cloud first" strategy. So, it's no surprise that the latest whispers out of Redmond suggest the OS giant is developing a cloud-based streaming service for games and applications.
According to sources cited by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, the "Arcadia" service is being built on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. Arcadia reportedly replaces the "Rio" game-streaming service Microsoft demoed last year, but there are few details about what it entails.
Foley was spurred by a Twitter user inquiring about a couple of Microsoft job posting that mention Arcadia and streaming specifically. Those posts indicate that the team behind the project is part of the Operating Systems Group, and that it's developing "premium and unique experiences" that "take advantage of a new geo-distributed massively scaling service to redefine what is possible on today's devices."
The job postings say experience with Android and iOS is a plus, hinting at a possible mobile connection. Foley notes that Arcadia could be used to bring Windows software to mobile devices running other operating systems, which seems plausible given Microsoft's recent push to get its products working on Android and iOS. Streaming Android apps to Windows devices was reportedly considered at one point, as well, but one of Foley's sources says that idea was shelved. Some form of local emulation probably makes more sense for running Android apps in Windows.Transformer Book T100 Chi teased on Wi-Fi Alliance page
Asus' Transformer Book T100 convertible earned our TR Recommended award last year. Now, a premium successor to the system looks to be in the works, at least judging by a Wi-Fi Alliance certification page spotted by Liliputing.
The page lists Wi-Fi certified systems. One of them is the "T100Chi" from Asus, which is described as a "tablet" with 5GHz Wi-Fi and Windows 8. The listing doesn't include other details, but we know Asus already applies the "Chi" suffix to the Transformer Book T300 Chi, an uber-thin convertible powered by Intel's new Core M processor.
Liliputing speculates that the T100 Chi could have either a Core M or a slower Bay Trail Atom under the hood. Given the original T100's budget leanings, though, an Atom seems more likely to me. Official tray prices for Core M chips start at $281, which is more than what some variants of the T100 currently cost.
Anyhow, we'll keep our eyes peeled. Most likely, the T100 Chi will make an appearance at CES early next month.Nvidia FleXes new PhysX effects
During a press event last year, Nvidia introduced PhysX FleX, a particle-based physics simulation that lets different effects affect one another. GPU-driven engine promises seamless interaction between rigid bodies, fluids, cloths, and other objects in real time. The initial demo reel released earlier this year is loaded with slick effect interactions, and the latest footage is even more impressive:
I really dig the combination of smoke, blocks, and cloth in the brief snippet starting around 0:23. All the effects look pretty good, though.
FleX is part of Nvidia's GameWorks program. It's currently in beta, and it's available as a standalone library for programmers who want to get their feet wet. The simulation engine will also be integrated into Unreal Engine 4, which should give plenty of developers access to the technology. More details are available in this Siggraph paper and accompanying presentation (PDF).Just Cause 3 screenshots show tropical vistas, explosions
I think a lot of us at TR are excited about Just Cause 3, which Avalanche studios finally unveiled last month. We've only gotten short glimpses at the game so far, but Avalanche has now released a big batch of screenshots that show off Just Cause 3's tropical vistas, explosions, and... uh, other explosions. Here's one of the shots:
Yep. That looks like a Just Cause game, all right. Head here for the full gallery.
Just Cause 3 is due out in 2015 for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game won't have a multiplayer mode at launch, but a post-launch multiplayer add-on could be in the cards. (Thanks to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for the tip.)
|Friday night topic: what are you giving for Christmas?||82|
|Notes from TR's next-gen storage testing||22|
|Today's Steam deals include AC Unity, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel||25|
|Deal of the week: A Radeon R9 290X for $280, a 960GB SSD for $339, and more||1|
|RRAM breakthrough could lead to 1Tb chips built on 28-nm tech||19|
|The TR Podcast 167.5 bonus edition: You guys ask us stuff!||4|
|AC Unity season pass holders can now redeem their free game||13|
|Our bonus TR live stream is up right now!||3|