Tesoro Unveil The Gram Spectrum RGB Mechanical Keyboard

Tesoro is a highly-respected hardware company specialising in peripherals and gained notoriety for releasing affordable products. This notion spans across gaming keyboards, ergonomic mice and comfortable mouse pads. Their latest creation is the Gram Spectrum RGB keyboard sporting Tesoro AGILE mechanical switches. These low profile switches offer a short travel distance while retaining a tactile feel. This means you can effortlessly press keys during intense gameplay moments and type large documents in an effective manner.

The Spectrum supports full RGB illumination with 16.8 million colour options as well as numerous lighting effects including breathing, colour wave and more. This provides superb flexibility and allows you to create a very spectacular appearance. On another note, the keyboard utilises double-injection keycaps and is built on a robust metal plate.

Johan Borggren, VP of Sales at Tesoro Technology described their latest product and said:

“The ultra-accurate, low-profile Tesoro AGILE switches bring something truly unique to market, a low-profile mechanical keyboard that does not surrender the tactile feel,”

The GRAM Spectrum is jam-packed with features and rich in customizable functions making it a premier choice for dedicated gamers.”

Technically, the product opts for a 32bit ARM processor with 512KB of onboard memory to record complex macros. Each key is fully programmable and the unit has a 100Hz polling rate. It also supports full N-key/G-key rollover.  In terms of pricing, the black model will retail for $137.00 while the white edition has an MSRP of $139.00. Both products should be available at the beginning of June.

GRAM Spectrum Specifications

  • TESORO AGILE Mechanical Switch – Low-profile switch with 3.5 mm travel distance.
  • 16.8 Million Customizable Lighting – Brilliant RGB lighting.
  • Double Injection Keys – High-quality, long-lasting keycaps.
  • 32bit ARM Cortex Processor and 512 KB Onboard Memory – Advanced processing power for instantaneous macro execution.
  • All Keys Fully Programmable – Reassign any key or set up the most extreme macros for advanced gaming.
  • Detachable Braided USB Cable – Hassle-free travel and cable management.

AMD Now Includes Wraith Cooler With FX 8350 and FX 6350

AMD’s upcoming CPU architecture, codenamed Zen, is going to offer a 40 percent IPC improvement compared to Excavator and could dawn in a new era of competitiveness. Hopefully, if AMD can produce something which rivals Intel, it could instigate a pricing war and make enthusiast processors more affordable. Clearly, many consumers are eagerly anticipating Zen’s release which makes the current range seems rather outdated. Despite this, there are some users who own AM3+ motherboards and don’t want to upgrade to an entirely new platform. On another note, consumers on a tight budget might feel they’re a great option to create an affordable HTPC.

Traditionally, bundled CPU coolers are fairly poor at thermal dissipation due to the low fin array and compact heatsink size. Also, they can be alarmingly loud under full load which makes for a shoddy desktop experience. As a result, I always encourage people to invest in a third-party cooler, such as the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. Interestingly, Intel decided to ditch the stock cooler altogether on Skylake K series chips because they knew people would be opting for a better option. Although, this didn’t reduce the retail price at all! During CES this year, AMD displayed their new Wraith stock cooler capable of lower thermals compared to the previous model and significantly reduced noise. The design evokes a premium feel and it looks rather nice.

Today, AMD announced that they will now bundle this new cooler with the FX 8350 and FX 6350. Previously, this was limited to the FX 8370 and A10-7890K. The FX 6350 will retail for $129.99 while the FX 8350’s price is set at $179.99. This is fantastic news for consumers wanting to order a new AMD processor right now. Of course, if you can wait, it would be advisable given the upcoming Zen release.

Are you looking forward to Zen?

FreshTech Solutions Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

FreshTech Solutions is one of the leading system integrators in the UK and forged an impressive reputation for their huge range of pre-configured PCs. Whether you’re on a tight budget looking to try out PC gaming for the first time, or a content creator seeking the absolute best performance, there’s something to suit your requirements. Each PC is backed by generous warranty period and it’s even possible to purchase additional cover for further peace-of-mind. For example, on systems costing £1000 and above, you can increase the warranty length from 3 years to 5 years for £25. If you’re opting for a cheaper rig under the £1000 mark, then it’s possible to select three years cover for £25 and five years support at a cost of £50. This level of flexibility allows you to protect your investment for a period which you expect to use the system for.

When selecting a custom PC, the number of configurations and pricing variation means it’s extraordinarily difficult for novices to judge which model to go for. It’s not always a sensible approach to spend more if you’re unlikely to reap the benefits. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of custom PCs from FreshTech Solutions that we are happy to recommend at various price points. Hopefully, our readers will find this useful and those without technical knowledge can make an informed decision about which unit suits their usage scenario.


£529.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6400
  • 8gb Crucial DDR4 2133MHz
  • 120gb Kingston V300 SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • Nvidia GTX 950 2GB
  • Gigabyte H110M-S2H
  • Falcon Blue Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour)

The first machine we’re taking a look at targets consumers on a very tight budget who want to enter into the Intel ecosystem. While you could compile a cheaper build using an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, it doesn’t offer much headroom in the future if you suddenly demand additional horsepower. The majority of games are GPU bound but there’s some examples including ARMA III and more recently, Black Desert Online which rely heavily on a system’s CPU performance. This particular build features a large enough capacity boot SSD to install the operating system and enjoy a snappier feel in Windows.

Also, the GTX 950 2GB graphics card is a great choice for 1080P gaming providing you turn down a few settings. On another note, the lack of overclocking isn’t an issue at this price and won’t impact on the user experience during graphically intensive games. Ideally, I’d recommend paying extra for the next tier, but this is a great choice for beginners moving away from consoles for the very first time.


£699.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 960 2GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Blue Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next system which retails for £699.00 offers overclocking functionality due to the unlocked K processor and Z170 chipset. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 contains an illuminated LED strip on the PCB to create a more ostentatious appearance. This higher end model includes the GTX 960 2GB GPU to maintain improved frame-rates at higher settings. It’s a significant boost over the GTX 950 and worth considering given the constant influx of modern titles requiring additional graphical grunt. Of course, it’ s still a budget option and pales in comparison to higher end graphics cards, but it should provide an enjoyable user-experience with a 1920×1080 display. Also, the boot SSD’s higher capacity allows you to store your favourites games and benefit from faster load times.


£899.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • WD 1TB WD10EZEX HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair CX600 80Plus Bronze PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Red Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next tier’s system costs £899.99 and has a number of key improvements including a secondary mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM and GTX 970 graphics card. When discussing the previous systems it’s important to remember that I’d recommend adding a mechanical drive to store large sums of data. This allows you to easily install various games while ensuring the boot SSD doesn’t fill up rather quickly. Thankfully, this doesn’t increase the asking price by an exponential amount. On another note, the 16GB memory is useful when working with video, photo editing and other complex workloads. It’s not really necessary in games just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if 16GB becomes the standard in the next few years.

NVIDIA’s GTX 970 offers absolutely stunning performance even with a 2560×1440 monitor and can exceed 60 frames-per-second in various titles including the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. It’s unquestionably one of the best price to performance GPUs on the market and a suitable choice for a powerful gaming system.


£1049.00

 

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K Tested Overclock to 4.6GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • Seagate 1TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Falcon Gaming Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Moving towards the higher end market is a system which retails for £1049.00. This model contains a higher wattage power supply and Corsair water cooling unit to attain better temperatures. Furthermore, FreshTech Solutions guarantees the system will reach 4.6GHz and tests each overclock extremely carefully. This will be incredibly useful to consumers who feel apprehensive about overclocking their CPU and haven’t got any experience in this field. They really shouldn’t be concerned because the process is ridiculous simple. However, whenever anything goes awry, it’s important to have an excellent level of after-care support.


£1599.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i7 6700K Tested Overclock to 4.5GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 500GB SSD
  • Seagate 2TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

The £1599.00 system swaps out the i5 6600K for Intel’s enthusiast flagship i7-6700K on the LGA1151 chipset. Once again, FreshTech Solutions guarantees an impressive minimum overclock to reach significant gains compared to stock values. Also, the 500GB SSD is a great addition which allows you to install various applications without constantly checking on the remaining capacity. The system is housed in the highly regard Fractal Design R5 chassis which creates a more premium feel. Clearly, the main improvement revolves around the GTX 980Ti and is a major step up when compared to the GTX 970.

Even though the GPU isn’t capable of running games at maximum details on a 4K display, it’s able to really reach high figures on a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 monitor. If you want to improve the performance even further, it’s possible to add a second GTX 980Ti due to the power supply’s 750 watts rating. The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard supports USB 3.1, SATA Express, multi-GPU configurations and opts for a superb audio solution. Once combined, this offers an absolutely staggering user-experience.


£1938.00

Specification:

  • Intel Core i7 5930K 3.50GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000MHz
  • 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 Solid State Drive
  • Seagate 2TB Hard Drive
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte X99-SLI
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Up to this point, we’ve focussed on the consumer LGA1151 chipset which offers great value for typical desktop tasks. Unfortunately, the platform only supports up to a 4-core 8-thread CPU. This severely limits the computational power during multi-threaded workloads. As a result, many professionals opt for 2011-v3 powered systems because they can leverage extra performance using 6-core or even 8-core processors. The next system totalling £1938.00 utilises a hex core processor with 40 PCI-E lanes and a 2TB hard disk.

Not only that, the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe boot drive is capable of an astounding maximum read of 2500MB/s and maximum write reaching 1500MB/s. This allows games to load faster and helps to process huge 4K video projects in a more efficient manner. Of course, this elite-grade PC opts for the best possible hardware including the GTX 980Ti and Gigabyte X99-SLI motherboard. This means you can have a powerful workstation and play demanding games in your leisure time.

If you’d like us to review any of the systems mentioned above, please let us know in the comments section below.

MSI Announces The Aegis Gaming Desktop

MSI is one of the leading hardware companies around and manufactures an enormous range of products including graphics cards, motherboards, mouse mats, gaming laptops and much more. Their latest creation entitled, the Aegis, is a gaming desktop opting for a usual yet compact design. Furthermore, there’s a carrying handle to easily take the system to another person’s house or compete in a LAN event. The system supports a number of high-end graphics cards up to the GTX 980 Ti.

Ready for Excellent Graphics
Play the latest games in all their glory with MSI Aegis. It can be equipped with the latest high-end graphics cards. The compact case is future proof, as it has enough space for a full-size graphics card to bring all the power that real gamers need.

Silent Storm Cooling 2
To get outstanding performance Aegis is equipped with a powerful cooling system, Silent Storm Cooling 2. Embracing three separate air flow streams that individually take care of the cooling of different components within Aegis. The unique Silent Storm Cooling 2 design makes sure the system’s temperature stays perfectly under control, ensuring a cool and silent operation.

Easy Access to Upgradable Components
For gamers who always want to get the best out of their system, the components of the Aegis are easily accessible and ready to be upgraded at any time. Whether the user wants to expand storage, switch to another CPU or upgrade the graphics card, he can always keep the MSI Aegis gaming rig up to date with the latest hardware.

Mystic Light
Make your build look like it’s on fire or as cold as ice. Choose a style with Mystic Light RGB LED built into the front of the case and select any of the colors from the palette to match and give Aegis its own gaming look. Or use breathe, gradient or Gaming & music modes.

Hear Beyond the Limits
Delivering the crispest sound signal to gamers’ ears with special hard- and software amplifiers built in. Audio Boost 3 is integrated into the Aegis motherboard and produces the best sound, especially benefiting gamers using a gaming headset. Nahimic Sound Technology software is used to boost the audio performance to the next level. Get immersed with high definition virtual 7.1 sound using advanced sound enhancement effects and unique features for gamers.

PC Specialist Announce Stunning Liquid Series Range

PC Specialist has quickly forged a reputation as one of the best system integrators on the market and constantly strives to provide the best possible user experience. Custom water cooling looks spectacular and offers excellent overclocking headroom but it can be extremely daunting for novices. As a result, many people opt for closed-loop-coolers like the H110i GT because of the simplicity. Unfortunately, the majority of these Asetek-based units are bland and struggle to evoke a premium finish. Today, PC Specialist has launched their brand new liquid series designed to cater towards customers wanting a gorgeous custom loop without the headache of sourcing compatible parts.

The new range covers both Z170 and X99 chipsets which allows you to select a system which suits your power requirements. Pricing starts from £1291.00 and includes a standard three-year warranty. The basic Z170 system opts for Mayhems X1 UV Blue coolant, an i5-6600K overclocked up to 4.6GHz, 8GB HyperX Fury 2133MHz RAM, EVGA GTX 970 SC, 1TB mechanical hard disk and Corsair RM850. Of course, you can customise the specification and improve the CPU, memory capacity and more.

In addition to the generous warranty, you can purchase a service pack for £149.00 which includes:

  • Collection & Return of Liquid Series PC
  • Full drain of the loop
  • Flush and clean the loop (including Pumps, Blocks, Reservoirs & Fittings)
  • Replace all tubing & refill loop with new coolant.
  • 24 Hours Leak & Stress Test

The liquid series implements the highest level of expertise and component selection. For example, braided cables are deployed to form an absolutely stunning aesthetic design. Here we can see some of the creations you can expect under the liquid series brand:

If you’re interested in a liquid series system please visit this link to browse the extensive catalogue and perhaps make an order. In the next few days, a review sample will be arriving and I cannot wait to analyse the system in extensive detail. So far, I’m really impressed with the range and believe it’s a great addition to PC Specialist’s impressive line-up.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst System Requirements Revealed

Mirror’s Edge is one of the most inventive games in recent memory due to the enthralling first person perspective and intense parkour mechanics. Furthermore, you feel a sense of being vulnerable and have to rely on your evasion skills instead of traditional weaponry. Personally, I absolutely adore the Mirror’s Edge formula and cannot wait for its sequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst which is currently scheduled for release on May 24th in the US. EA has just released the minimum PC requirements prior to the game’s release:

MINIMUM:

  • OS: Windows® 7 64-Bit (use the latest Service Pack)
  • CPU: Intel i3-3250 / AMD FX-6350. (Note: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst requires at least 4 logical cores to run.)
  • RAM: 6 GB
  • HARD DRIVE: At least 25 GB of free space
  • VIDEO: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 650 Ti 2GB or better / AMD Radeon R9 270x or better
  • INPUT: Keyboard and mouse, dual analogue controller

RECOMMENDED:

  • OS: Windows® 10 64-Bit (use the latest Service Pack)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 at 3.4 GHz / AMD FX-8350 at 4.0 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • HARD DRIVE: At least 25 GB of free space
  • VIDEO: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970 4GB or better / AMD Radeon R9 280x 3GB or better
  • INPUT: Keyboard and mouse, dual analogue controller

Most PC gamers with a relatively modern system should be able to play the game without any complications. However, quoted specifications rarely give an insight into a game’s optimization and there’s no information regarding the resolution used. On the other hand, 16GB of RAM is a large amount considering a large number of people are still using 8GB. As always, we will have a performance analysis report which outlines the frame-rate across various graphics cards.

Are you looking forward to Mirror’s Edge Catalyst?

Ashes of the Singularity DirectX 12 Graphics Performance Analysis

Introduction


Ashes of the Singularity is a futuristic real-time strategy game offering frenetic contests on a large-scale. The huge amount of units scattered across a number of varied environments creates an enthralling experience built around complex strategic decisions. Throughout the game, you will explore unique planets and engage in enthralling air battles. This bitter war revolves around an invaluable resource known as Turinium between the human race and masterful artificial intelligence. If you’re into the RTS genre, Ashes of the Singularity should provide hours of entertainment. While the game itself is worthy of widespread media attention, the engine’s support for DirectX 12 and asynchronous compute has become a hot topic among hardware enthusiasts.

DirectX 12 is a low-level API with reduced CPU overheads and has the potential to revolutionise the way games are optimised for numerous hardware configurations. In contrast to this, DirectX 11 isn’t that efficient and many mainstream titles suffered from poor scaling which didn’t properly utilise the potential of current graphics technology. On another note, DirectX 12 allows users to pair GPUs from competing vendors and utilise multi graphics solutions without relying on driver profiles. It’s theoretically possible to achieve widespread optimization and leverage extra performance using the latest version of DirectX 12.

Of course, Vulkan is another alternative which works on various operating systems and adopts an open-source ideology. Although, the focus will likely remain on DirectX 12 for the foreseeable future unless there’s a sudden reluctance from users to upgrade to Windows 10. Even though the adoption rate is impressive, there’s a large number of PC gamers currently using Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. Therefore, it seems prudent for developers to continue with DirectX 11 and offer a DirectX 12 render as an optional extra. Arguably, the real gains from DirectX 12 will occur when its predecessor is disregarded completely. This will probably take a considerable amount of time which suggests the first DirectX 12 games might have reduced performance benefits compared to later titles.

Asynchronous compute allows graphics cards to simultaneously calculate multiple workloads and reach extra performance figures. AMD’s GCN architecture has extensive support for this technology. In contrast to this, there’s a heated debate questioning if NVIDIA products can even utilise asynchronous compute in an effective manner. Technically, AMD GCN graphics cards contain 2-8 asynchronous compute cores with 8 queues per core which varies on the model to provide single cycle latencies. Maxwell revolves around two pipelines, one designed for high-priority workloads and another with 31 queues. Most importantly, NVIDIA cards can only “switch contexts at draw call boundaries”. This means the switching process is slower and gives AMD and a major advantage. NVIDIA has dismissed the early performance numbers from Ashes of the Singularity due to its current development phase. Finally, the game’s release has exited the beta stage which allows us to determine the performance numbers after optimizations were completed.

Lian Li Unveils The DK-04 Desk Chassis

Lian Li is one of the most prestigious chassis manufacturers and produces a huge range of elegant designs. The company has managed to attract customers wanting the very best possible materials and feel a premium chassis is worth the investment. Lian Li’s mini ITX train chassis really captured people’s attention and showcases their innovative approach. Their latest product is the DK-04 dubbed the world’s first standing computer desk. When compared to the previous desk chassis, the DK-04 offers better drive mounting, extensive water cooling support and of course the stand functionality. The legs are height adjustable from 67.5cm to 116cm with the press of a button. Aesthetically speaking, the DK-04 is remarkable and we’re looking into acquiring a review sample relatively soon.

Latest Vibration-Dampened Drive Storage and Inputs
With four stacking rubber-isolated drive racks, the DK-04 can mount a total of eight 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives with vibration dampeners. These racks are easy to install and remove via thumbscrews, and keep drives running quietly and reliably. This desk also includes a 5.25″ bay on the front panel for an ODD, fan controllers, or other extras. The front panel also includes four USB 3.0 ports, HD audio inputs, and slots for the RGB controller for the optional lighting kit.

Redesigned Ergonomics, Better Legroom
The DK-04 features a new design, sporting a slimmer frame that tapers towards the user for better leg room. As it’s a standing desk, the height can be fine-tuned to match each person; its legs are made from steel for structural strength – it can support loads up to 100kg.

Improved Water Cooling Support
Four 120mm fans intake cool air from the front of the chassis and vent through four additional exhaust fans mounted on the back panel. The DK-04 can also house very elaborate water cooling setups. The front intake fans can be swapped for a large 120mmx480mm radiator; the rear fans can be replaced by two 120mmx240mm radiators.

Updated Case Building Features
Along with Lian Li’s previous desks, the DK-04 uses a removable motherboard tray for easy, unhindered building. Inside the chassis, there are wide margins with anchored cable clips to simplify cable routing and organization. The internal compartment is spacious, bright, and visible. The DK-04 supports eight expansion slots and VGA cards up to 320mm in length. It supports full ATX and mATX motherboards and mounts CPU coolers up to 140mm in height and ATX PSUs up to 210mm long.

The DK-04 will be available on May 10th for $1499.

What is the maximum you would pay for a chassis?

Prolimatech Announces The PK-Zero Thermal Compound

Prolimatech is a highly respected company specializing in cooling equipment with over 22 years of accumulated experience which makes their products some of the best on the market. While thermal compound usually comes bundled with a CPU cooler, there can be a thermal difference between various options. Not only that, it’s recommended to re-fit the CPU cooler mount every so often and over the years it’s possible to run out of thermal paste. Also, some coolers simply pre-apply the thermal interface material which means any re-application requires the purchase of some thermal compound. Prolimatech has just announced the new PK-Zero thermal paste available in quantities of 1.5g, 5g and 30g. Also, there’s larger amounts which come in tubs of 150g, 300g and 600g for users who change coolers on a regular basis.

 

The PK-Zero is an aluminium based compound with zero burn in time which allows for performance gains straight away. Its thermal conductivity is rated at 8 8 W/m-°C, and thermal impedance 0.019 °C-in²/W, with a dielectric constant of 4 kV/mm. The paste is non-conductive and I’m really interested to see the performance difference compared to other leading brands. Unfortunately, Prolimatech didn’t reveal any information about pricing but I’m sure any information will be released fairly soon.

Zotac Announces PCI-E x1 GeForce GT 710 Graphics Card

Some time ago, NVIDIA unveiled the GT 710 graphics card designed for HTPCs and relatively basic usage scenarios. The company claimed that you could experience performance gains up to 10 times better than integrated graphics solutions. Of course, it’s not suited to demanding applications which is reflected in the price point and form factor. The GT 710 doesn’t require any dedicated power connectors and utilizes the PCI Express format instead. Up to this point, custom GT 710 cards from manufacturers including Inno3D, EVGA and others have employed the PCI-E x16 interface. Zotac’s latest model bucks the trend and opts for the x1 interface.

The GPU is passively cooled and supports D-Sub, HDMI and DVI-D. Furthermore, it’s capable of driving displays up to 2560×1600 and opts for a WDDM 2.0 compliant driver. Technically, the Zotac version is clocked at 954MHz and includes 1GB DDR3L memory at 1600MHz. The PCI-E interface means you can use the card in expansions slots which traditionally remain free. This allows you to keep the x16 slots full with fibre-channel cards, enterprise HBAs and more. Clearly, the GT 710’s gaming credentials are fairly basic but they are a better option than many iGPUs. Saying that, I wouldn’t recommend it and there’s greater value when purchasing a higher performing product. The Zotac GT 710 might be useful if you’re watching videos and want to install a dedicated card.

Are you a fan of low power cards like the GT 710 or feel they are pointless due to the good performance levels on APUs?

EK Releases Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti XTREME GAMING Water Block

EK is one of the most prestigious names when it comes to water cooling hardware and evokes a sense of confidence whenever you purchase any of their products. Some time ago, Gigabyte unleashed the GTX 980 Ti XTREME GAMING featuring a superb cooling solution, OC BIOS mode, striking RGB illumination and much more. It’s arguably one of the best custom designed GTX 980 Ti cards on the market and geared towards overclocking. However, if you want to leverage extra performance or simply prefer a slimmer design, EK has released a full water block for this particular GPU. The EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG is a high performance water block which actively cools the GPU, VRAM and voltage regulation module as the water flows over essential components. The water block covers the entire PCB to create a visually stunning appearance and there’s also a stylish backplate from EK’s web shop.

The EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG water block features EK’s unique central inlet split-flow cooling engine design for best possible cooling performance, which also works flawlessly with reversed water flow without adversely affecting the cooling performance. Moreover, such design offers great hydraulic performance, allowing this product to be used in liquid cooling systems using weaker water pumps. On another note, the base is constructed from nickel-plated electrolytic copper while the top section is made of premium POM Acetal or acrylic depending on which model you choose. By default, screw-in brass standoffs are installed to allow for a safe and painless install.

To simplify the search for suitable and compatible water blocks, EK is adding newly released products from various manufacturers to their Cooling Configurator database. This allows you to see if there are any blocks for motherboards, memory or graphics cards right now. In terms of pricing, the Nickel model will retail for 119.95 Euros. This is also the price for the unit sporting both Acetal and Nickel. If you just want the blackplate, it can be purchased for 29.95 Euros.

Razer Announces The Turret Lapboard And Mouse Combo

Razer has rapidly become one of the most idolized brands in the peripherals market and continues to attract a very loyal following. While some users decry about product reliability, it’s evidently clear that Razer’s appeal is something many other companies can only dream of. Various products including the Deathadder, Naga and Blackwidow sell remarkably well and Razer strives to constantly improve their current line-up. The latest addition to their range is Turret Lapboard and Mouse combo package which was originally unveiled as a prototype back in early 2015.

The Razer Turret opts for an ergonomic and ultra slim form factor which aids comfort when positioned on a user’s lap. Technically, the device supports dual wireless connectivity and connects to a console or PC lag-free with the bundled wireless 2.4GHz adapter. The Razer Turret incorporates high-capacity lithium polymer batteries with enough power to last four months. This is a fantastic choice and means you don’t have to suddenly charge the keyboard during competitive gameplay. There’s also a foldable hinge which ensures the Lapboard doesn’t get in the way and can be easily docked.

Razer Co-Founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan described the Turret Lapboard and Mouse Combo’s appeal:

“The Razer Turret brings the immense world of PC gaming to a previously impossible frontier – the living room – where only consoles have traditionally roamed until now,”  

“Finally, we have a perfect solution for gamers to enjoy the unrivaled precision of a mouse and keyboard combination from the comfort of the couch with the durability and reliability that PC gamers demand.”

In terms of pricing, the Turret Lapboard and Mouse Combo will retail for USD 159.99 / EUR 189.99.

Technical Specifications:
Keyboard

  • Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 simultaneous key presses
  • Chiclet styled keycaps
  • Dedicated Android buttons
  • Battery life of up to 4 months – The life expectancy of this battery depends upon its usage
  • Battery type: Li-Po (1500 mAh)

Mouse

  • 3500 DPI laser sensor
  • 40 hours battery life for continuous use – The life expectancy of this battery depends upon its usage
  • Battery type: Li-Po (1000 mAh)

ASUS Unveils The GT51CA ROG Gaming PC

In the current gaming PC market, there’s a huge amount of companies to choose from offering pre-configured PC builds at very respectable price points. This allows those without technical expertise to acquire a gaming rig with good cable management and an attractive aesthetic design. ASUS’ Republic of Gamers range initially began as a premium motherboard brand opting for the very best components. Since then it’s expanded into peripherals, graphics cards, gaming laptops and much more! Yesterday, ASUS unveiled their latest gaming desktop sporting the ROG brand which features a 6th generation Intel core i7 processor with Turbo Gear functionality to enable an overclock in a single click. The cheaper model utilizes a core i5-6600K and can be overclocked to 4.3GHz while the higher end model has a core i7-6700K and reaches speeds of 4.6GHz. On another note, the GT51CA’s base model has a GTX 970 and can be upgraded all the way up to two GTX Titan X cards in SLI.

The system is bundled with up to two 512GB NVMe drives in a RAID0 configuration capable of staggering data speeds around 3.2 Gbps. The base package contains 16GB 2133MHZ DDR4 memory which can be overclocked to 2400MHz. Please note, the memory is upgradable to 64GB if you require additional performance. The 64GB higher end option allows for overclocks up to 2800MHz.

Effective cooling for stable marathon gaming sessions
The ROG GT51CA delivers efficient heat management for stable high-performance gaming sessions. It boasts a multi-zone thermal solution that lowers the system’s internal temperatures by up to 31%, even during heavy-load marathon gaming sessions.

It features the liquid-cooled Hydro Overclocking System for the CPU and dedicated air channels to draw cool air into the chassis for the graphics card. In addition, its power supply unit – situated in the bottom corner of the chassis – also has its own isolated airflow design for cooling.

Aggressive, award-winning design
The ROG GT51CA has a bold aerodynamic-inspired design with aggressive, sharp-angled polygonal edges, smooth surfaces, and a fully-functional turbine-like air intake on its front panel. The latter features a pulse-width modulation (PWM) fan that draws air into the cooling system. Inside, a carefully thought-out design ensures perfectly neat cable routing.

The ROG GT51CA is designed to impress, with dynamic 8-million-color LED effects in 4 zones across its chassis, and a preset OC lighting mode that is activated whenever the system is overclocked. ROG GT51CA’s bold design helped it win a 2016 iF Design Award and a 2016 CES Innovation Award.

Additional gaming enhancements
The ROG GT51CA boasts an ESS Sabre headphone DAC and amplifier on its front audio jack to give users incredible audiophile-grade sound. It provides high dynamic range (DNR) and low noise levels for rich audio with less distortion.

The wearable ROG BAND gives users access to Shadow Drive – a hidden hard drive space for managing personal and confidential data safely. ROG BAND can also be used to activate overclocking mode.

The ASUS-exclusive AEGIS II application lets gamers monitor system performance, record and edit gameplay with Gamecaster, and easily share their gaming experiences on social media.

Unfortunately, there’s no information regarding price, but don’t expect it to be cheap given the impressive specification and ROG styling.

ASUS MG24UQ and MG28UQ Monitor Review

Introduction


ASUS has rapidly become a dominant force in the gaming monitor sector due to the popularity of its ROG range. According to Digitimes, the company has seen a staggering growth rate of 30 percent throughout Europe in 2015. Models such as the PG278Q, commonly referred to the ROG Swift beautifully catered towards users requiring a high refresh monitor and G-Sync functionality. This combination proved to be extraordinarily successful and inspired future products such as the PG279Q. The advent of responsive IPS panels featuring enhanced viewing angles and colour reproduction compared to their TN counterparts, forged a new audience for the ROG series.

Today, we’re taking a look at the company’s latest gaming monitors which opt for FreeSync technology instead of the NVIDIA’s proprietary alternative. As a result, these products provide a fluid user experience at a more digestible price point. The MG24UQ utilizes a 4K IPS panel, 4ms response time and 178 degree viewing angles. This is targeted towards consumers who enjoy stunning image quality and yearn for a high pixels per inch display. In contrast to this, the MG28UQ is based on TN technology and has a 1ms response time. While the colour gamut isn’t as impressive on TN monitors, they have a quicker response time and better suited towards professional gamers. Of course, it’s all about your individual priorities and whether you care more about image quality or responsiveness.

Packaging and Features

ASUS MG24UQ

Firstly, it’s important to note that the press samples I received contain the MG24U and MG28U branding. After performing extensive research, I discovered these are now known under the UQ title instead for retail channels so please disregard the box’s naming scheme. As you can see, the packaging adopts a really bold, stylish design and lists the monitor’s key features.

The monitor’s base and cables are housed within the top section to allow for easy access. On another note, the hardened polystyrene inserts offer superb protection and ensures the display arrives in perfect condition.

ASUS gaming monitors incorporate a number of unique features including:

Rather bizarrely, the information here is incorrect and the PPI rate should read 185.


ASUS MG28UQ

The 28-inch model utilises identical packaging apart from the 1ms response time icon.

Here we can see the larger variant has a lower ppi rate, 1ms response time and USB 3.0 hub.

GameStop Launches New Publishing Division

GameStop is a major force in the US retail gaming market and quickly became a popular outlet for consumers trading in their old games for newer releases. The pre-owned market allows users on a tight budget to purchase games at lower prices. However, whenever a used title is sold, none of the money goes to the original publisher. This has caused some controversy from major publishers because GameStop actively encourages people to purchase the cheaper, used option. As a result, some publishers have compared the impact of lost sales via pre-owned games to piracy. Saying that, you can’t blame consumers for trying to save money especially in the current economic climate.

Clearly, GameStop’s financial stability relies on second-hand sales so it’s an interesting notion that they’ve now launched a publishing division to help independent developers. The new division entitled, GameTrust has already signed up a number of famous studios including Ready at Dawn (The Order: 1886), Tequila Works (Deadlite, Rime) and Frozenbyte (Trine). Not only that, company revealed that they’re working with Insomniac (Ratchet and Clank) on brand new title called Song of the Deep. Apparently, GameStop is planning to launch between five and ten games each year which showcases the publishing division’s ambitious goals. In an interview with MCV, GameStop’s VP of Internal Development and Diversification, Mark Stanley proclaimed:

“Having been in the publishing part of first-party for many years [he worked for PlayStation in Latin America], there are many pieces in traditional publishing that have prevented many independent developers going down the publishing route. A lot of these included lack of creative control and the inability to make some of the game they always dreamt of making. We are trying to solve a lot of pieces there with GameTrust, and the model covers a lot of things. We can help if a developer needs funding to finish a game, or even kick-off a game.

“We may partner in a full development funding mode, or we may have a development partner who has a game that is almost finished and are just looking for someone that can treat their IP in a great way and bring it to market.”

“Also, every IP that we are working with from these developers are smaller-scale games, it’s an area of games development that is pretty much ignored by traditional publishers… we are talking of games with development budgets of up to $15m. Publishers today really focus on the larger franchises and triple-A, where budgets are $30m and above. We are working in this sweet spot that is largely ignored, but we are treating these IPs as if they are triple-As.

“We are not just going to put a disc on a peg on a shelf, we are going to treat these games as triple-A by expanding the media. As an example, with Song of the Deep we are publishing a book with Barnes and Noble, and we are also looking at potential TV and movie deals. We are also looking at putting all of GameStop assets behind the game – we will be promoting it as if it is a triple-A, if you walk into any GameStop store today, you will see Song of the Deep reservations and pre-order signage is all over the prime front part of the store.”

If you’d like to read more, please remember to visit MCV for the full in-depth interview.

Rajintek Announces Morpheus II Core Edition VGA Cooler

Rajintek is a hardware company which currently specializes in affordable solutions aimed towards budget-conscience users. Their products offer astounding value and compete against higher tier solution with a much greater price point. For example, The Triton all-in-one liquid cooler gained a cult following due to the changeable dyes, clear tubing and transparent block. The unique design looks phenomenal and is more stylish that the huge quantity of re-branded Asetek units on the market. Today, the company unveiled the Morpheus II Core Edition VGA cooler. This is the successor to the Morpheus Core Edition launched in 2014 and features enhanced GPU support including the Radeon R9 Fury series, R9 390, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti and more!

In a similar vein to the Triton, the core branding relates to a lack of fans bundled with the unit. This is a fantastic idea if you already own high performance fans such as Noctua NF-F12s and want to save a bit of money on the VGA cooler itself. In terms of dimensions, the heatsink measures a total of 254mm x 98mm x 44mm and weighs 512g. The dense, monolithic, aluminium fin stack dissipates heat from a nickle-plated copper GPU block. There’s also six 6mm thick heat-pipes making two passes through the dense fin stack. This supports cooling for up to 18 memory chips, an in-line MOSFET heatsink and smaller MOSFETs. The package comes with thermal pads, thermal paste and mounting equipment to quickly attach this aftermarket heatsink.

Unfortunately, Rajintek didn’t disclose any information regarding the price point or when the product will hit retail channels. Although, given the company’s history, I would expect it to remain very affordable. In the modern era, vendors opt for impressive cooling solutions and I’m not entirely sure how widespread the product’s appeal will be.

Do you think custom VGA coolers like the Morpheus II Core still have a place in the current market?

Image courtesy of modcrash.

Is This Photo of The GTX 1080 Genuine?

NVIDIA’s upcoming architecture codenamed Pascal is rumoured to launch in June and apparently invites have already been sent out to members of the press for an early briefing on its unique features. The new range is built on the 16nm manufacturing process and could utilize the latest iteration of high bandwidth memory. Although, the mid tier options might opt for GDDR5X to cut costs and maintain a lower price point. Of course, there’s always leaks whenever a new architecture is being readied from either graphics company. However, NVIDIA has kept the information extremely secret and there’s not much to go on when trying to work out the specification across various products. Some time ago, a leaked image supposedly showcased the new cooler shroud and GTX 1000 branding. This looked fairly credible given the environmental setting and high quality of workmanship.

Today, a brand new image has arrived courtesy of Chinese website Baidu which apparently shows the GTX 1080 in full for the first time:

The cooler opts for a dynamic appearance with sharp edges compared to the older reference design. It also corresponds with the previous leak which suggests both images are credible. On the other hand, it’s important to adopt a cynical approach just in case someone made the effort of modding the stock cooler to foil people around the globe. Honestly, this is very unlikely and it’s probably the final design for the GTX 1080. Sadly, it’s impossible to tell if the GPU contains a stylish backplate. Although, this should be revealed soon if the release date reports are correct. Whatever the case, it looks like NVIDIA has tweaked the cooler design and opted for the GTX 1000 series name. I’m not so sure this is a clever move as the 1080 might cause some confusion.

Do you think the image discussed in the article is genuine?

Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Cyberpower is one of most respected system integrators worldwide and quickly gained a superb reputation for their commitment to impeccable customer service. The company’s vast buying power means consumers can choose from a massive range of components and construct a system which suits their individual requirements. This level of flexibility is astounding and ensures the end-user receives a product with the best possible specification. Upgrades are listed using high-resolution images and include a brief outline of the pricing variation when selecting various parts. Of course, there are pre-configured options with a default configuration to help simplify the buying process. Cyberpower’s slick website manages to catch your imagination and become fascinated by the company’s custom PC range.

The latest PC to arrive for review purposes is the Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro sporting an Intel i5-6660K processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM and XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB. Cyberpower has utilised the Corsair H55 all-in-one CPU cooler to achieve a hefty 4.5GHz overclock. In terms of storage, there’s a high-performance 240GB SSD and 1TB mechanical disk. The Corsair VS 650W is a non-modular 80 plus white power supply with enough wattage to easily cope with demanding applications. This impressive specification is housed in the extremely unusual Corsair 600C chassis. Priced at £999, I’m fascinated to see the performance numbers in relation to other products under the £1000 mark.

Specifications

  • Name: Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro
  • Case: Corsair 600C
  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A SLI Plus
  • Processor: Intel Core-i5 6600K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H55
  • System Memory: Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 LPX 2400MHZ
  • Main Boot Drive: Corsair Neutron XT 240GB
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital 1TB 7200RPM
  • Graphics card: XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB
  • Power Supply: Corsair VS 650W
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive: N/A 
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 3 Year Labour, 2 Year Parts, 1 Month Collect and Return plus Life-Time Technical Support
  • Price: £999

Packing and Accessories

The system arrives in a humongous outer box which offers exceptional protection during transit. More specifically, the thick cardboard adds rigidity and prevents the system from encountering cosmetic imperfections. On another note, the fragile notice instructs the courier to adopt a careful approach when handling the package.

Once opened, the main chassis box is held in place with supporting foam inserts and the accessories box. As a result, the unit shouldn’t move around in a brash manner.

Prior to turning on the system, a precautionary label is used to cover the power supply and inform the user to remove any internal packaging.

Here we can the huge array of protective inserts which cushions the key components from any sudden impact during delivery. These are absolutely essential additions to ensure the system arrives safely and without any cables being misaligned. Honestly, I’d prefer Cyberpower to use a foam pack instead because of the harder material and more secure positioning.

The system is bundled with a handy troubleshooting guide, component documentation, driver’s disk, PCI brackets where the GPU has been installed, power cord and SLI bridge. Unfortunately, the troubleshooting guide was placed underneath the chassis box which led to some hefty creases.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

Billion Dollar F-35 Strike Fighter’s AI Could be Hacked

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II strike fighter is currently in development and designed to be the US military’s next major step forward in aircraft technology. There’s already been some criticism regarding the project’s immense cost and claims that the jet has numerous design flaws. Figures suggest the F-35’s cost is around $400 billion. The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is an incredibly advanced software package which monitors altitude, enemy tracking, diagnostics and much more. This system alone costs a staggering $16.7 billion although it’s certainly one of the most important aspects on the F-35.

Despite the huge investment, a recent Government Accountability Office report suggests the system is open to vulnerabilities. Apparently, part of the computer code isn’t secure and can be hacked. The report also discussed the difficulty in deploying the system. The ALIS tool is plugged into a jet which sends data to 1,600 pound server racks. Each F-35 requires:

“ server connectivity and the necessary infrastructure to provide power to the system”

Not only that, there’s no alternative backups in case any system failures occur and the report states:

“If either of these fail, it could take the entire F-35 fleet offline,”

This could easily delay the F-35’s deployment for a significant amount of time and it’s an embarrassing situation for the US military. The loopholes really put the aircraft at risk and could have severe consequences. Only time will tell, if the F-35 project is cancelled or the ALIS system improves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see F-35 jets without the software system go into production.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Enermax Ostrog ADV Case to be Unveiled at Pax East

Enermax might not be the most recognizable hardware manufacturer in western territories but they’ve quickly assembled a huge product line including power supplies, chassis fans, liquid coolers and affordable cases. Many of these products have received positive reviews and the company has continued to expand their current offerings. Curing CES this year, Enermax unveiled the Ostrog ADV chassis sporting a visually stunning illuminated design with 262 LED diodes. The chassis also comes with two synchronized Enermax T.B Vegas fans in the front section featuring six unique LED lighting transitions. As you can imagine, this creates a really distinctive appearance and I’m interested to see how well it works with other components.

In terms of features, the Ostrog ADV has a quick release mechanism for the top and front panel as well as screwless 5.25″ bay kits. The chassis supports up to 280mm radiators and should offer pretty decent flexibility. Next up is the front panel which contains a fan controller, LED display mode selection, two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 and HD audio connectivity. The Ostrog ADV case is currently scheduled to be shown off during Pax East and should be available for sale sometime soon. Unfortunately, there’s no word regarding the price but I’m guessing it will remain relatively affordable given the company’s current target market. Of course, when samples are provided to the press, we will be giving you our detailed thoughts.

If you’d like to see more information on this particular product, Enermax has a brief video showcases the case’s main selling points.

Image courtesy of realhardtechx

Colorful Announces GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN

Even though the current Maxwell line-up is set to be replaced by Pascal relatively soon if recent revelations are true, it hasn’t stopped new custom models from entering production. Colourful, a vendor offering high-end solutions primarily in the Chinese market has announced their latest product based on the GM200 core. This particular GPU entitled, the GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN utilizes an overclocked core of 1203MHz and boost reaching 1304MHz. On another note, the graphics card is powered by two 8-pin PCI-E connectors and includes three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI and a DVI-I port. Of course, it’s built on the 28nm process and comes with 6GB GDDR5 memory using a 384 bit bus.

The GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN opts for a unique cooling solution with an integrated water cooling loop and five heatpipes. Furthermore, the densely packed fin array provides exceptional thermal dissipation and should allow for some impressive manual overclocking performance. The water cooling aspect even allows you to add the GPU to a custom loop via the embedded block mount.

Colourful have employed silver plating technology to improve the PCB’s reliability compared to traditional copper alternatives. This also reduces oxidation and should allow for a longer lifespan.

The graphics card employs an impressive power delivery to enable large overclocks, and there’s EMI shielding throughout. This hefty cooling solution and impeccable components makes it a great choice of users demanding the ultimate in performance. While the timing is a little strange given the upcoming release of Pascal, I highly doubt the GTX 980 Ti is suddenly going to become outclassed by lower end options. However, its price might reduce by a decent amount once the new cards arrive.

Uber Shared Data on 13 Million Users With US Government

The Uber mobile application which allows smart phone users to travel to another location by an accredited driver has revolutionized transport and caused a great deal of anger from taxi drivers. These people feel they can’t earn a living due to the huge taxi license expense and lower fees consumers face when using Uber. Clearly, Uber has modernized the taxi system for the interconnected world and offered consumers an additional choice. Recently, the company publicly released a transparency report which discloses how much information is shared with authorities. The data shows Uber shared information on 13 million users including passengers and drivers with the US government. The majority of these requests stem from U.S. transportation regulators. Once the findings were unveiled, Uber released a statement on their thoughts about data requests which reads:

“Regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But in many cases they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed, or how it will be used,”

“And while this kind of trip data doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior—and is more than regulators need to do their jobs.”

“We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances,”

Rightfully so, Uber believes the huge scale of these requests isn’t right and it does seem like interference from government bodies. Personal information should be protected if you’re using a commercial service. There’s no reason for the government to get involved and it looks like all they want to do is monitor the behaviour of its citizens. Hopefully, transparency reports like this can help raise the issue of privacy and how many requests are made by government authorities.

Do AMD Drivers Really Deserve Such a Hostile Reception?

Introduction


AMD has a serious image problem with their drivers which stems from buggy, unrefined updates, and a slow release schedule. Even though this perception began many years ago, it’s still impacting on the company’s sales and explains why their market share is so small. The Q4 2015 results from Jon Peddie Research suggests AMD reached a market share of 21.1% while NVIDIA reigned supreme with 78.8%. Although, the Q4 data is more promising because AMD accounted for a mere 18.8% during the last quarter. On the other hand, respected industry journal DigiTimes reports that AMD is likely to reach its lowest ever market position for Q1 2016. Thankfully, the financial results will emerge on April 21st so we should know the full picture relatively soon. Of course, the situation should improve once Polaris and Zen reach retail channels. Most importantly, AMD’s share price has declined by more than 67% in five years from $9 to under $3 as of March 28, 2016. The question is why?

Is the Hardware Competitive?


The current situation is rather baffling considering AMD’s extremely competitive product line-up in the graphics segment. For example, the R9 390 is a superb alternative to NVIDIA’s GTX 970 and features 8GB VRAM which provides extra headroom when using virtual reality equipment. The company’s strategy appears to revolves around minor differences in performance between the R9 390 and 390X. This also applied to the R9 290 and 290X due to both products utilizing the Hawaii core. NVIDIA employs a similar tactic with the GTX 970 and GTX 980 but there’s a marked price increase compared to their rivals.

NVIDIA’s ability to cater towards the lower tier demographic has been quite poor because competing GPUs including the 7850 and R9 380X provided a much better price to performance ratio. Not only that, NVIDIA’s decision to deploy ridiculously low video memory amounts on cards like the GTX 960 has the potential to cause headaches in the future. It’s important to remember that the GTX 960 can be acquired with either 2GB or 4GB of video memory. Honestly, they should have simplified the process and produced the higher memory model in a similar fashion to the R9 380X. Once again, AMD continues to offer a very generous amount of VRAM across various product tiers.

Part of the problem revolves around AMD’s sluggish release cycle and reliance on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 architecture. This was first introduced way back in 2013 with the Radeon HD 7790. Despite its age, AMD deployed the GCN 1.1 architecture on their revised 390 series and didn’t do themselves any favours when denying accusations about the new line-up being a basic re-branding exercise. Of course, this proved to be the case and some users managed to flash their 290/290X to a 390/390X with a BIOS update. There’s nothing inherently wrong with product rebrands if they can remain competitive in the current market. It’s not exclusive to AMD, and NVIDIA have used similar business strategies on numerous occasions. However, I feel it’s up to AMD to push graphics technology forward and encourage their nearest rival to launch more powerful options.

Another criticism regarding AMD hardware which seems to plague everything they release is the perception that every GPU runs extremely hot. You only have to look on certain websites, social media and various forums to see this is the main source of people’s frustration. Some individuals are even known to produce images showing AMD graphics cards setting ablaze. So is there any truth to these suggestions? Unfortunately, the answer is yes and a pertinent example comes from the R9 290 range. The 290/290X reference models utilized one of the most inefficient cooler designs I’ve ever seen and struggled to keep the GPU core running below 95C under load.

Unbelievably, the core was designed to run at these high thermals and AMD created a more progressive RPM curve to reduce noise. As a result, the GPU could take 10-15 minutes to reach idle temperature levels. The Hawaii temperatures really impacted on the company’s reputation and forged a viewpoint among consumers which I highly doubt will ever disappear. It’s a shame because the upcoming Polaris architecture built on the 14nm FinFET process should exhibit significant efficiency gains and end the concept of high thermals on AMD products. There’s also the idea that AMD GPUs have a noticeably higher TDP than their NVIDIA counterparts. For instance, the R9 390 has a TDP of 275 watts while the GTX 970 only consumes 145 watts. On the other hand, the Fury X utilizes 250 watts compared to the GTX 980Ti’s rating of 275 watts.

Eventually, AMD released a brand new range of graphics cards utilizing the first iteration of high bandwidth memory. Prior to its release, expectations were high and many people expected the Fury X to dethrone NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. Unfortunately, this didn’t come to fruition and the Fury X fell behind in various benchmarks, although it fared better at high resolutions. The GPU also encountered supply problems and emitted a large whine from the pump on early samples. Asetek even threatened to sue Cooler Master who created the AIO design which could force all Fury X products to be removed from sale.

The rankings alter rather dramatically when the DirectX 12 render is used which suggests AMD products have a clear advantage. Asynchronous Compute is the hot topic right now which in theory allows for greater GPU utilization in supported games. Ashes of the Singularity has implemented this for some time and makes for some very interesting findings. Currently, we’re working on a performance analysis for the game, but I can reveal that there is a huge boost for AMD cards when moving from DirectX11 to DirectX12. Furthermore, there are reports indicating that Pascal might not be able to use asynchronous shaders which makes Polaris and Fiji products more appealing.

Do AMD GPUs Lack Essential Hardware Features?


When selecting graphics hardware, it’s not always about pure performance and some consumers take into account exclusive technologies including TressFX hair before purchasing. At this time, AMD incorporates with their latest products LiquidVR, FreeSync, Vulkan support, HD3D, Frame rate target control, TrueAudio, Virtual Super resolution and more! This is a great selection of hardware features to create a thoroughly enjoyable user-experience. NVIDIA adopts a more secretive attitude towards their own creations and often uses proprietary solutions. The Maxwell architecture has support for Voxel Global Illumination, (VGXI), Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), VR Direct and G-Sync. There’s a huge debate about the benefits of G-Sync compared to FreeSync especially when you take into account the pricing difference when opting for a new monitor. Overall, I’d argue that the NVIDIA package is better but there’s nothing really lacking from AMD in this department.

Have The Drivers Improved?


Historically, AMD drivers haven’t been anywhere close to NVIDIA in terms of stability and providing a pleasant user-interface. Back in the old days, AMD or even ATI if we’re going way back, had the potential to cause system lock-ups, software errors and more. A few years ago, I had the misfortune of updating a 7850 to the latest driver and after rebooting, the system’s boot order was corrupt. To be fair, this could be coincidental and have nothing to do with that particular update. On another note, the 290 series was plagued with hardware bugs causing black screens and blue screens of death whilst watching flash videos. To resolve this, you had to disable hardware acceleration and hope that the issues subsided.

The Catalyst Control Center always felt a bit primitive for my tastes although it did implement some neat features such as graphics card overclocking. While it’s easy enough to download a third-party program like MSI Afterburner, some users might prefer to install fewer programs and use the official driver instead.

Not so long ago, AMD appeared to have stalled in releasing drivers for the latest games to properly optimize graphics hardware. On the 9th December 2014, AMD unveiled the Catalyst 14.12 Omega WHQL driver and made it ready for download. In a move which still astounds me, the company decided not to release another WHQL driver for 6 months! Granted, they were working on a huge driver redesign and still produced the odd Beta update. I honestly believe this was very damaging and prevented high-end users from considering the 295×2 or a Crossfire configuration. It’s so important to have a consistent, solid software framework behind the hardware to allow for constant improvements. This is especially the case when using multiple cards which require profiles to achieve proficient GPU scaling.

Crimson’s release was a major turning point for AMD due to the modernized interface and enhanced stability. According to AMD, the software package involves 25 percent more manual test cases and 100 percent more automated test cases compared to AMD Catalyst Omega. Also, the most requested bugs were resolved and they’re using community feedback to quickly apply new fixes. The company hired a dedicated team to reproduce errors which is the first step to providing a more stable experience. Crimson apparently loads ten times faster than its predecessor and includes a new game manager to optimize settings to suit your hardware. It’s possible to set custom resolutions including the refresh rate, which is handy when overclocking your monitor. The clean uninstall utility proactively works to remove any remaining elements of a previous installation such as registry entries, audio files and much more. Honestly, this is such a revolutionary move forward and AMD deserves credit for tackling their weakest elements head on. If you’d like to learn more about Crimson’s functionality, please visit this page.

However, it’s far from perfect and some users initially experienced worse performance with this update. Of course, there’s going to be teething problems whenever a new release occurs but it’s essential for AMD to do everything they can to forge a new reputation about their drivers. Some of you might remember, the furore surrounding the Crimson fan bug which limited the GPU’s fans to 20 percent. Some users even reported that this caused their GPU to overheat and fail. Thankfully, AMD released a fix for this issue but it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. Once again, it’s hurting their reputation and ability to move on from old preconceptions.

Is GeForce Experience Significantly Better?


In recent times, NVIDIA drivers have been the source of some negative publicity. More specifically, users were advised to ignore the 364.47 WHQL driver and instructed to download the 364.51 beta instead. One user said:

“Driver crashed my windows and going into safe mode I was not able to uninstall and rolling back windows would not work either. I ended up wiping my system to a fresh install of windows. Not very happy here.”

NVIDIA’s Sean Pelletier released a statement at the time which reads:

“An installation issue was found within the 364.47 WHQL driver we posted Monday. That issue was resolved with a new driver (364.51) launched Tuesday. Since we were not able to get WHQL-certification right away, we posted the driver as a Beta.

GeForce Experience has an option to either show WHQL-only drivers or to show all drivers (including Beta). Since 364.51 is currently a Beta, gamers who have GeForce Experience configured to only show WHQL Game Ready drivers will not currently see 364.51

We are expecting the WHQL-certified package for the 364.51 Game Ready driver within the next 24hrs and will replace the Beta version with the WHQL version accordingly. As expected, the WHQL-certified version of 364.51 will show up for all gamers with GeForce Experience.”

As you can see, NVIDIA isn’t immune to driver delivery issues and this was a fairly embarrassing situation. Despite this, it didn’t appear to have a serious effect on people’s confidence in the company or make them re-consider their views of AMD. While there are some disgruntled NVIDIA customers, they’re fairly loyal and distrustful of AMD’s ability to offer better drivers. The GeForce Experience software contains a wide range of fantastic inclusions such as ShadowPlay, GameStream, Game Optimization and more. After a driver update, the software can feel a bit unresponsive and takes some time to close. Furthermore, some people dislike the notion of GameReady drivers being locked in the GeForce Experience Software.  If a report from PC World is correct, consumers might have to supply an e-mail address just to update their drivers through the application.

Before coming to a conclusion, I want to reiterate that my allegiances don’t lie with either company and the intention was to create a balanced viewpoint. I believe AMD’s previous failures are impacting on the company’s current product range and it’s extremely difficult to shift people’s perceptions about the company’s drivers. While Crimson is much better than CCC, it’s been the main cause of a horrendous fan bug resulting in a PR disaster for AMD.

On balance, it’s clear AMD’s decision to separate the Radeon group and CPU line was the right thing to do. Also, with Polaris around the corner and more games utilizing DirectX 12, AMD could improve their market share by an exponential amount. Although, from my experience, many users are prepared to deal with slightly worse performance just to invest in an NVIDIA product. Therefore, AMD has to encourage long-term NVIDIA fans to switch with reliable driver updates on a consistent basis. AMD products are not lacking in features or power, it’s all about drivers! NVIDIA will always counteract AMD releases with products exhibiting similar performance numbers. In my personal opinion, AMD drivers are now on par with NVIDIA and it’s a shame that they appear to be receiving unwarranted criticism. Don’t get me wrong, the fan bug is simply inexcusable and going to haunt AMD for some time. I predict that despite the company’s best efforts, the stereotypical view of AMD drivers will not subside. This is a crying shame because they are trying to improve things and release updates on a significantly lower budget than their rivals.

Suspect iPhone 7 Leak Could Actually be True

Whenever Apple develops a new product, there’s usually various leaks and theories about the company’s future direction. This is especially when case when the latest iPhone is upon us and creates a media frenzy. Often, the leaked designs are innovative renders which are simply not possible to produce on a mass scale. Recently, a leaked image claimed to show the rear unibody of Apple’s upcoming iPhone 7 handset. The image was rightfully met with scepticism because the three dots near the bottom look like a Smart Connector. According to the reliable Japanese Apple blog MacOtakara, which was reported by MacRumors,  “the possibility is great” that both the image of the iPhone 7 Plus housing and the design sourced from Catcher are “the real thing.”

The images also suggest that there won’t be a huge difference in the device’s form factor compared to current offerings with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Previous rumours have hinted at Apple’s plans to remove the headphone jack and introduce dual stereo speakers. The source goes into detail about the possibility of two new sensors positioned at the top of the device. It’s uncertain what these will do but it could revolve around adjusting ambient lighting based on an environment’s temperature. Another consistently reported rumour is the introduction of dual cameras on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Clearly, it’s difficult to deduce if the leaked image is authentic, but MacOtakara has a reputable history when disclosing details about upcoming Apple products. As the release date dawns nearer, more rumours from multiple sources should appear. If the widespread report regarding the lack of a headphone jack is true, I’m really interested to see the reaction among consumers. Apple probably perceives this is a bold, revolutionary step to streamline the iPhone’s design. However, this surely is coming at the expense of basic functionality.

ASUS Announces ROG Spatha Gaming Mouse

ASUS’ Republic of Gamers range is one of their most successful divisions and continues to attract a very loyal following. The ROG brand has come on a long way since the emergence of gaming focussed motherboards with a specialized set of features. In today’s market, the ROG series covers motherboards, graphics cards, gaming mice and I’m sure there’s more to come in the future. Recently, ASUS unveiled their latest flagship gaming mouse entitled the ROG Spatha. This particular product opts for a striking design and employs a magnesium alloy chassis. There’s also RGB illumination in three independent zones which creates a spectacular appearance.

The Spatha can be used as a wired or wireless mouse and features a 8200DPI laser sensor with the ability to track 30g (gravitational) acceleration, 150 ips (inches per second) and at 2000Hz for polling rate (in wired mode, 1000Hz for wireless). Unfortunately, there’s no information from the press release stating which specific sensor is being used. Other features into 12 programmable buttons, soft side grips, replaceable Omron switches with a lifespan of 20 million clicks. A 2-level DPI switches with LED indicator acts a sniper mode to change sensitivity on-the-fly. The magnetic charging dock contains a battery level meter to easily keep a check on the device’s remaining battery life. ASUS’ Armoury software suite allows you to alter various attributes including acceleration/deceleration, lift-off distance, six lighting modes (where each of the three zones can display its own effect), and more.

ASUS ROG Spatha Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wireless RF 2.4GHz, Wired via USB 2.0
  • Tracking resolution: 8200DPI laser sensor
  • Tracking speed: 150 inches per second
  • Tracking acceleration: 30g
  • Responsiveness: 2000Hz polling rate (in wired mode), 1000 Hz polling rate (in wireless mode)
  • Switch: OMRON D2FC-F-7N(20M) with 20-million-click lifespan, Additional OMRON D2F-01F switches included, *Compatible switches: OMRON D2F Series switches: D2F, D2F-F, D2F-01, D2F-01F, OMRON D2FC Series switches: D2FC-3M, D2FC-F-7N, D2FC-F-7N(10M) , D2FC-F-7N(20M)
  • Cables: 2m braided USB cable, 1m rubber USB cable
  • OS compatibility: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7
  • Size: 137 x 89 x 45mm
  • Weight: 175g (without cable)
  • Package contents: 1 x wireless receiver/ charging dock, 1 x 2-meter braided USB cable, 1 x 1-meter regular rubber USB cable, 2 x Japanese-made Omron switches, 1 x ROG hard carry case, 2 x ROG logo stickers, 1 x screwdriver, User documentation

Fable Legends Has Now Officially Closed

Fable: The Lost Chapters received a great deal of critical acclaim for its memorable characters, exceptional dialogue and gorgeous environments. It spawned a very successful series which is remembered fondly by RPG fans. Fable II launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive and managed to emulate the magical formula which made the original so enjoyable. In contrast to this, there’s varying views regarding Fable III and I’ve never really been able to play it to the latter stages. Rather bizarrely, Lionhead Studios decided to move into the MMO circuit instead of creating another traditional Fable title.

This was a fairly big risk given the cost of development and uncertainty about the appeal of a Fable MMO. I was fortunate enough to be given access to the closed beta and really enjoyed my time exploring Fable Legend’s world. In a shock twist, Microsoft announced the closure of Lionhead Studios and Fable Legend’s development. Despite this, there was some hope that their work could be saved and acquired from another company. However, I received an e-mail today confirming the game’s current status which reads:

“As announced last month, Fable Legends has now been closed and can no longer be accessed.

Refunds are currently being processed, you can find further information on the Lionhead Forums.

From all of us here at Lionhead Studios, we would like to thank you for participating in the closed beta and being a part of the game’s development. All stories have to end eventually, but the memories of Heroic triumphs and Villainous plots will last forever. Thank you for your support – you are all Legends!”

This is a real shame because Fable Legends never got the chance to be publicly released. While there were some concerns with the cash shop, these could have been resolved in the future. Of course, Microsoft owns the Fable IP and it’s unlikely that we’ll see another game using the Fable name ever again.

Gigabyte Releases World’s First Thunderbolt 3 X99 Motherboard

Gigabyte is one of the leading motherboard vendors with a large X99 range including the X99-Gaming-5P, X99-UD4P and more. The 2011-3 platform is designed for professionals requiring additional multi-threaded processing power in complex workloads. Intel’s mainstream Z170 chipset only supports up to 4-core, 8-thread CPUs. While the current X99 platform is older than Skylake, current offerings such as the 5820K and 5960X are better options when working with large video editing projects or heavy rendering tasks. Of course, Intel is poised to launch their brand new X99 based processors, codenamed “Broadwell-E” relatively soon. Vendors including MSI and ASRock have already released widespread BIOS updates to allow the current models to support Broadwell-E CPUs.

Today, Gigabyte unveiled a brand new motherboard, entitled the X99P-SLI. This particular product supports Broadwell-E out-of-the-box and utilizes the ATX form factor. More importantly, it’s the world’s first X99 motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 certification. This connector is currently the fastest connectivity protocol offering speeds up to 40 Gb/s, twice that of the previous generation. In practical terms, Thunderbolt allows you connect discrete GPU boxes, external quad M.2 devices or U.2 expansion drives. X99-based CPUs don’t have an iGPU which means you have to use a discrete graphics card to utilize the Thunderbolt controller. Thankfully, an included cable connects between an integrated DisplayPort connector and monitor with Type-C functionality. This allows you to daisy-chain up to 6 devices via Thunderbolt 3 and offers unparalleled flexibility.

As you might expect, the motherboard supports up to 128GB DDR4 memory, 4-way SLI and 4-way CrossfireX. The expansion slots include two PCI-E x16 running at x16, two PCI-E running at x8, and two PCI-E x1 slots. The Realtek ALC1151 115dB SNR HD audio is a great addition as many X99 motherboards ignore gaming focussed features. The motherboard deploys an all digital power design with IR digital PWM & IR PowIRstage ICs, premium 10k black capacitors and audio noise isolation.