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.

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.

Far Cry Primal Graphics Card Performance Analysis

Introduction


The Far Cry franchise gained notoriety for its impeccable graphical fidelity and enthralling open world environment. As a result, each release is incredibly useful to gauge the current state of graphics hardware and performance across various resolutions. Although, Ubisoft’s reputation has suffered in recent years due to poor optimization on major titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Watch Dogs. This means it’s essential to analyze the PC version in a technical manner and see if it’s really worth supporting with your hard-earned cash!

Far Cry Primal utilizes the Dunia Engine 2 which was deployed on Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4. Therefore, I’m not expecting anything revolutionary compared to the previous games. This isn’t necessarily a negative concept though because the amount of detail is staggering and worthy of recognition. Saying that, Far Cry 4 was plagued by intermittent hitching and I really hope this has been resolved. Unlike Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, the latest entry has a retail price of $60. According to Ubisoft, this is warranted due to the lengthy campaign and amount on content on offer. Given Ubisoft’s turbulent history with recent releases, it will be fascinating to see how each GPU this generation fares and which brand the game favours at numerous resolutions.

“Far Cry Primal is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Ubisoft. It was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 23, 2016, and it was also released for Microsoft Windows on March 1, 2016. The game is set in the Stone Age, and revolves around the story of Takkar, who starts off as an unarmed hunter and rises to become the leader of a tribe.” From Wikipedia.

Don’t Drill Your Graphics Card or Receive This Expensive Lesson

We have all done something stupid at one point or another, but some people’s actions make ours look pale in comparison. Such a case showed up this week where the victim of stupidity was nothing less than a Zotac GeForce GTX 980Ti Amp graphics card. At this point, you might want to either get the tissue box for your tears and put away the drink so you don’t risk spitting it all over from laughing; because one of those two things are bound to happen.

A user named Zanderlinde had purchased a Zotac GTX 980 Ti AMP! graphics card for his new rig, but having a custom built case, the giant heatsink on the card became an issue and he decided to get an aftermarket cooling solution instead to help that issue. So far everything is like it should be, right? But here we go.

Zanderlinde got himself a Corsair HG10 GPU cooler for his graphics card and tried to mount that to his card, only to find out that it didn’t fit properly, one of the mounting holes didn’t align properly. Being a DIY man, as he calls himself, he attempted to fix this issue; sadly he did so in the worst possible way. Instead of trying to modify the mounting bracket or create a new one himself to fix this issue, he took his power drill and made a new hole in his $1000 CAD graphics card. Yes, you read that right, he drilled another hole in the PCB of a Nvidia GTX 980 Ti graphics card.

Motherboard and graphics card PCBs are usually multi-layered and even tho you can’t see any visible connections where you drill, there might be more between the layers and it looks like Zanderlinde drilled through multiple of those. Now at this point, the card wasn’t fully destroyed yet, but it was before he was done with his stupid ideas. Realising that he might have cut some internal connection within the PCB, he got the idea to solder it up to reestablish the connection. To simulate this before actually doing it, he put a screwdriver through the hole in order to bridge the cap. Oh boy, and yes you already guessed right what happened next. Smoke started to rise from the card.

Before the last stupid attempt, parts could have been salvaged from the card, but now everything is more or less fried. To finish the card off completely, he went ahead and broke it in two. But he admits to his stupidity and called himself out for it, so there is a chance that he learned from his expensive lesson and will ask for help first before attempting something as stupid as this again.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming Graphics Card Review

Introduction


NVIDIA’s cogent strategy to launch the Titan X at $999 and subsequently release the GTX 980Ti with similar performance at a significantly reduced price was a master stroke. This made the 980Ti compelling value and a great choice for high-end consumers wanting the best possible experience at demanding resolutions. Admittedly, there isn’t a GPU on the market capable of driving a 4K panel at maximum details but you can attain 60 frames-per-second with reduced settings. Evidently, the 980Ti has proved to be a popular choice especially when you take into consideration that factory overclocked models can easily pull away from NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. While there is some competition from the Fury X, it’s not enough to dethrone custom-cooled 980Ti models.

Some users might argue that the upcoming Pascal architecture built on the 16nm manufacturing process and utilizing HBM2 ultra fast memory is reason enough to hold off buying a top-tier Maxwell solution. However, the current estimate suggests Pascal won’t launch until Q2 this year, and there’s no indication regarding pricing. As always, any new product has a price premium and I expect enthusiast Pascal cards to retail at a high price point. This means purchasing a Maxwell-based GPU right now isn’t a terrible option unless you require additional power to enjoy 4K gaming and have deep pockets. One of the best custom-designed GTX 980Ti cards on the market is the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. This particular GPU rapidly gained a reputation for its overclocking ability and superb Windforce triple fan cooling hardware.

The latest addition to Gigabyte’s graphics range is the GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming sporting a 1216MHz core clock, 1317MHz boost, and memory running at 7200MHz. One major improvement is the use of illuminated RGB rings behind the fans which creates a very unusual, and stylish appearance. Gigabyte’s GPU Gauntlet is a binning process which selects the best performing chips with impressive overclocking headroom. Once discovered, the top chips are incorporated into the Xtreme Gaming series, and G1 Gaming. By default, the Xtreme Gaming is bundled with a hefty overclock and should offer sensational performance. Although I expect to see some further gains due to the excellent cooling and stringent binning procedure. Could this be the best 980Ti on the market thus far?

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The product comes in a visually appealing box which outlines the extreme performance and gaming focus. I really like the sharp, dynamic logo with bright colours which draws you into the packaging.

On the rear side, there’s a brief description of the Windforce X3 cooling system, RGB illumination, GPU Gauntlet, and premium components. The clear pictures provide a great insight into the GPU’s main attributes and it’s presented in such a slick way.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card includes a driver disk, quick start guide, case badge, sweat band and PCI-E power adapter. It’s quite unusual to see a sweat band, but I’m sure it could come in handy during a trip to the gym or intense eSports contest.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS Graphics Card Review

Introduction


NVIDIA’s GTX 980Ti has proved to be a very popular choice among hardware enthusiasts requiring extreme performance at demanding resolutions. Whether you’re opting for a 21:9 3440×1440 60Hz panel, 4K display or high refresh rate 1440P monitor, there’s very few single card configurations on the market capable of dealing with advanced AA, complex tessellation and other visually taxing effects while driving a large number of pixels. Technically, the Titan X is NVIDIA’s flagship product and its 12GB frame buffer initially appears like an enticing proposition. However, the price to performance ratio is quite poor especially when you consider the 980Ti is based on the same GM200 silicone and only exhibits a few cost saving measures. Most notably, the video memory is reduced from 12GB to 6GB and the shader units have been slightly scaled back from 3072 to 2816.

Barring a few exceptions, the majority of Titan X models utilize a reference design which results in reduced overclocking headroom and higher temperatures. In contrast to this, custom cooled GTX 980Ti SKUs feature very impressive factory overclocks and enable users to access a higher power limit percentage when tackling manual core and memory boosts. As a result, it’s not uncommon for 980Ti GPUs to outperform the Titan X in certain scenarios despite costing £300-400 less. This means it is the perfect choice for the higher end demographic and also provides an improved price to performance ratio.

Today we’re looking at one of the fastest GTX 980 Ti models on the market incorporating a pre-overclocked core of 1216MHz and boost reaching 1317MHz. Additionally, the memory is set at 7280MHz compared to 7010MHz on the reference design. Given the impeccable 3-fan cooling solution, and impressive factory overclock, I expect the graphics card to perform superbly and pull away from the reference 980Ti by a noticeable margin.

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Inno3D 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS is packaged in a hefty box which does an excellent job of protecting the GPU, and bundled accessories. On another note, the box adopts a really striking design which emphasizes the extreme level of performance on offer.

The opposite side includes a brief synopsis of the GPU’s capabilities and outlines the modern features incorporated into this particular model such as High Dynamic Range (HDR).

In terms of accessories, the product comes with interchangeable cover plates, an installation guide, 3DMark digital code, power supply guidelines, driver disk, and the usual array of adapters. Please note, the 3DMark code is not pictured to prevent the serial from being used.

Another highlight is the extremely high quality elongated mouse pad. I love extended mouse pads because they allow you to neatly position your keyboard and mouse while opting for a clean, sophisticated appearance. Despite being a free addition, the mouse pad is remarkably thick and should last a long time without becoming too frayed.

BIOSTAR GAMING H170T (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


BIOSTAR’s retail presence in the western market is rather small as stockists focus on the more recognizable vendors among consumers. Despite this, BIOSTAR is one of the leading Taiwanese global brands and produces a huge range of affordable hardware. Back in 2013, the company launched the first motherboard with an integrated Wireless LAN module which shows their commitment to innovation. Granted, BIOSTAR’s aesthetic design is an acquired taste and I strongly believe this is an area which needs fine tuning especially if they want to appeal to enthusiasts. While some users don’t really care about a motherboard’s appearance, it’s becoming quite common for system builders to have colour coordinated builds. Nevertheless, it’s always fascinating to test any BIOSTAR product and determine how well it stacks up against the competition.

As its name suggests, the BIOSTAR GAMING H170T is built on Intel’s H170 chipset, which supports the latest Skylake processors. Unlike the more expensive Z170 platform, overclocking is theoretically disabled on H170. However, BCLK overclocking is possible on H170 motherboards with the correct BIOS and even allows non-K CPUs to reach an impressive frequency boost. On another note, it’s essential to check every H170 motherboard’s specification as some models opt for DDR3L compatibility while others use DDR4 DIMMs up to 2133MHz. This particular example caters to the lower-end audience and features a maximum capacity of 32GB DDR3 memory, dual Gigabit LAN, 32Gb/s M.2 connector, and Realtek ALC892 audio codec. As a result, the GAMING H170T offers an attractive package for the budget-conscience user and I expect it to master the price to performance ratio.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard comes in an attractive box which clearly displays the model name on a leatherette background. This evokes a premium feel and reminds me of the Logitech G27’s leather rim. The overall design is understated but striking enough to appeal to the gaming clientèle.

On the rear, there is a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s connectivity options, power phases and other essential features. Furthermore, graphical diagrams are used to explain the benefits of high-end components such 10K rated capacitors and durable ferrite chokes.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a basic guide to use the Smart Ear 3D Utility, product catalogue and user’s manual. Unlike many booklets these days, the product catalogue is in colour which encourages the end-user to browse BIOSTAR’s extensive product range.

Other additions include a driver disk, I/O shield, SATA cables, and M.2 screws.

eTeknix 2015 Christmas Buying Guide – Treat Yourself or Someone Else!

The time for holiday festivities is almost upon us and as the modern tradition of consumerism continues to grow, it becomes harder and harder to pick the right gifts for people every year, or perhaps it’s just me who struggles? Either way, we’ve sat around a Christmas fire, or just a general fire in November and December, getting into the gift buying state of mind and picked a range of our favourite products which we’ve reviewed here at eTeknix throughout 2015, as what better products to recommend than the ones we’ve had in our own hands and tested!

We’ve got a huge range of budgets covered here today, although I think it’s fair to assume that given we play around with graphics cards and a lot of enthusiast friendly products, there are some real wallet busters here too. Of course, you can use this guide to find some of the best products of the year to treat your family, friends and more, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t just spoil yourself too!


Rock Band 4 Band in a Box

Get ready to rock out this Christmas and no doubt many other days. Pick up the guitar, drum sticks, or just butcher your favourite song on the microphone. Rock Band 4 – Band in a Box is a fantastic gift and it’s a great thing to deploy at parties too, certainly beats the usual Karaoke chaos! It comes with the guitar, microphone, drums and the game for $249.99. To save costs, the standalone game with the guitar is just $129.99. In the UK, the Band in a Box is £219.99, while the guitar and game is just £109.99.

Check out the full review here.


Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Chassis

The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Mid-Tower chassis is by far my favourite chassis of 2015, it just oozes high quality inside and out, with capabilities for high-end water and air cooling and so much more. It is available from Overclockers UK for £139.99 and is available in both Gun Metal and black.

Check out the full review here.


Raijintek Styx Micro-ATX Aluminium Chassis

What a fantastic little chassis this is! Built from beautifully finished brushed aluminium and available in a wide range of colours, this would make a great gift for someone building a new gaming system this Christmas. The Raijintek Styx chassis is available from Overclockers UK for just £64.99.

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Silent Base 800 Chassis

Another expensive chassis on our list, but one of the best we’ve seen this year. If you’re wanting to build someone, or yourself, a gaming PC that not only looks great but is as silent as you could ever hope for, the Silent Base 800 Window is the way to go. It is available from most popular retailers for 149,90EUR/119 GBP/149,90 USD ex. VAT.

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Strafe RGB MX Silent Red Mechanical Keyboard

Featuring the innovative Cherry MX Silent Switches, the Corsair Strafe RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is simply amazing to use. It’s packed full of features and is by far the quietest mech we’ve ever tested. A little expensive, but I’m sure anyone would be happy to unwrap this at Christmas. The Strafe is available for £139.99 from Overclockers UK, while the MX Red and the MX Brown are priced at £129.95. If you want the non-RGB version, you can find the MX Red and the MX Brown at £99.95 each.

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Commander Gaming Gear Keyboard and Mouse Combo

The TteSports by Thermaltake Commander Keyboard and Mouse Combo is a great gift for Christmas, it’s affordable, has a nice range of features and you get a keyboard and a mouse in a single nice and tidy (and easy to wrap) box! With prices around £23.99 it’s hard to say no to such a great deal! Readers in the US can pick one of from Newegg for an equally impressive $29.99.

Check out the full review here.


CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Keyboard

RGB mechanical keyboards are everywhere this year, but the XTi from Cooler Master is my personal favourite so far. It’s no-fuss and bold design is great for home and office, gaming or work, with the added bonus that it’s incredibly durable and has some of the nicest lighting tones I’ve seen so far, even if it does only allow for a mixture of red and blue! You can pick up the XTi from Box for just £134, although there’s also a deal that includes a free mouse here!

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Scimitar RGB MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse

The Gaming Scimitar RGB MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse is packed full of features that will put a smile on any PC gamers face. With RGB lighting, excellent performance and a customisable keypad on the side, it’s one of the best mice we’ve ever tested. better yet, it’s only £69.95 from Overclockers UK.

Check out the full review here.


Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse

The Logitech G502 is a prime example of how great a gaming mouse can truly be. This is without a doubt the best mouse sensor we’ve ever tested and the rest of the mouse isn’t exactly lacking in features either. I’d be tempted to buy this one for myself this Christmas, but you could always treat someone else with it too. It’s available directly from the Logitech website (with free shipping) for just £69.99.

Check out the full review here.


G.Skill MX780

A relatively new entry on the peripherals market, the G.Skills MX780 is a fantastic gaming mouse, with a switchable left or right handed grip that makes it ideal for a wide range of gamers. With a retail price of just $59.99 it is exceptional value for a Christmas gift, and given its spec, it’ll go head to head with many of the best mice on the market.

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Void Headset

We were absolutely blown away by the Corsair Void series, some of the best sounding, most comfortable and best-looking headsets we’ve ever seen! They would make a great gift, but be careful, if you try them out before you give them away, you may want to keep them. The Corsair Void USB 7.1 RGB Headset is available from Overclockers UK for just £79.99. This is £10 cheaper than the Wireless headset which is £89.99, I prefer the wireless and think it’s not much more to pay for the extra tech, but you’re own preferences will obviously determine which model you prefer.

Check out the reviews for the USB 7.1, Wireless 7.1 and 2.0 headsets here.


Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro

Eager to get the best of the best gaming headset for you or your loved one? Then make no exception, the Astro A40 TR Headset with Mix Amp Pro is the way to go. This is one that’s sure to leave a dent in your wallet, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Available from the Astro store for £200, plus around £48 for the optional Mod Kit, the Astro is expensive, but the sound quality, features and comfortable fit are priceless.

Check out the full review here.


Crucial BX200 SSD

SSD prices are dropping constantly and there really has never been a better time to invest. If it’s for your own system, you can give yourself a great upgrade without spending a fortune, but the smaller drive sizes make excellent gifts to those who could do with a performance upgrade on their system. The Crucial BX200 comes with an MSRP of £234.49 ($299.99) for the 960GB model and £66.49 ($84.99) and £116.99 ($149.99) for the smaller 240GB and 480GB models, plus the small boxes are super easy to wrap up as a gift.

Check out the full review here.


QNAP TS-251 2-Bay NAS

Give the gift of a connected home this Christmas, from streaming your movies around the house, to backing up those important files, there are a lot of benefits to owning a NAS. Not the cheapest of gifts, but it’s one of those products where if you buy cheap, you’ll likely regret it in the long run. The QNAP’s TS-251 Turbo NAS can be found at NewEgg for $384.99, at Scan UK for £295.32, or through Geizhals starting at €284.

Check out the full review here.


Sapphire Nitro R9 380X 4GB Graphics Card

AMD have created a mighty powerhouse with the R9 380X and the Sapphire Nitro is one of the finest examples. It’s fast, sleek and affordable, more than enough power for 1080P ultra gaming, or 1440p high gaming, making it a great addition to anyone who wants the latest PC games for Christmas. The Sapphire Nitro R9 380X is currently available from OverclockersUK for £199.99. NeweggUS currently has this card listed for $229.99.

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Graphics Card

Spend a little more, get a lot more, the GTX 970 is a superb card, but one that may be getting a little expensive for those looking for a Christmas gift. With enough power to play anything on the market and even delve into high-end resolutions, it’s a strong contender for something to put under the Christmas tree, or even put on your own wish list. The Gainward Phoenix GTX 970 is currently available in the UK from SCAN for £273.56 and for an estimated $360 in the US.

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 980ti 6GB Graphics Card

It wouldn’t be Christmas if we couldn’t all hope and dream, but the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980Ti is currently one of the best cards on the market and we would be crazy not to suggest the best of the best. Available in the UK for the £599.99 it’s certainly not cheap, although we’ve seen some great deals bringing it down below £500, so it’s best to shop around. Just imagine the look on your partners face when they unwrap this monster on Christmas day!

Check out the full review here.


DDR4

Getting a little more back to reality and reasonable prices, DDR4 memory is dropping in price quite nicely now. It was super expensive at launch, but now you’ll often find DDR4 kits at equal or lower prices to their DDR3 equivalents. That makes them a great upgrade for Christmas, but make sure you have a DDR4 motherboard to go with it!

Check out our latest memory reviews here.


Shield Android TV

Snapped up a 4K TV in the Black Friday deals? The Nvidia Shield Console is the most powerful Android device on the market, and it’s the perfect media player for Plex, 4K content on Netflix and more. Even better, it’s also a very powerful gaming system, with many AAA games available to play, as well as game streaming features that will leave you wondering why this device doesn’t cost more than £149.99! You can buy the Shield TV and accessories directly from Nvidia here.

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S

Think someone could do with a cooling upgrade for their system, or perhaps even parts towards a new system build this Christmas? Treat them to an AIO water cooler and they’ll be able to reduce the noise from their system and unlock its overclocking potential! The Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S is a little expensive, but it’s still a competitively priced AIO at just £81.98 and would make a great gift, especially if you’re just going to treat yourself.

Check out the full review here.


Alpenfohn Atlas

The Atlas is one of the coolest coolers we’ve seen this year, a tiny form factor with big performance and virtually silent acoustics. Building a system for someone or upgrading your own, this is one cooler you’ll want to consider and given that it’s available from Overclockers UK for a very reasonable £42.95, it’s another great addition to our buying guide.

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim

Need a premium cooler but don’t want to pay a premium price this Christmas? The be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim is more affordable, but still packs some impressive performance figures. It’s available from Scan.co.uk for just £30.52 + shipping here in the UK and from Amazon.com for $49.90 + $9.80 shipping in the US.

Check out the full review here.


Inateck Mercury Box Bluetooth Speaker

Love your music on the go, when you’re out at the park, or anywhere for that matter? The Mercury box offers up a huge sound from such a tiny box. Built from aluminium and featuring a waterproof design, it’s one of the best mobile speakers on the market, great for listening to music wherever you are! Available from Amazon.com for just $48.99 and readers in the UK can get it from Amazon.co.uk for £49.99.

Check out the full review here.


OnePlus 10,000mAh Mobile USB Power Bank

The perfect stocking filler, a 10,000 mAh mobile battery. This has enough juice to charge most mobiles several times, and it’ll even recharge high-end devices such as iPads with ease too. Perfect for travelling, and best of all, it’s super lightweight and affordable. The power bank is £13.99/$14.99/€15.99 and you can order it directly from OnePlus.

Check out the full review here.


Gaming Systems

Nothing says I love you like a kick-ass gaming PC. Of course, budgets vary wildly from hundreds to even thousands of pounds/dollars, but that’s the joy of buying a PC, or building your own, there’s so much to choose from! With so many awesome system integrators around these days, you can’t go far wrong. Chillblast, CyberPower, PC Specialist, Vibox, Freshtech or Overclockers UK.

Gaming in the living room? Why not invest in a CyberPower Syber Steambox! Prices start at £485 and go right up to £1905, giving you a great choice to suit your needs, and your budget.

A whole lot of gaming for not a lot of money from Chillblast, with their very competitive Fusion NightHawk, a great option for those looking for their first gaming PC at just £599.

Got a little more budget to play around with this Christmas? The super fast gaming systems from PC Specialist that feature ASUS Maximus VIII hardware also come with the gorgeous Gladius mouse! Systems in this category start at £890 for the i5 and GTX 960 model, all the way up to £1670 for the i7 and GTX 980 Ti.

Another mid-budget powerhouse, this time from Vibox with their Element X. At just £649, this MSI R9 380 and AMD FX-6300 powered computer is great for gaming and would make a great gift this Christmas.

Time to bring out the big gun’s and really treat yourself? Or perhaps you just want your friend or family member to open a present they’ll never forget? The FreshTech Solutions Stealth Gaming PC is an absolute beast, powered by some of today’s latest and greatest hardware. Of course, it’s not cheap at £1412, but this is not your run of the mill gaming PC.

Overclockers UK offer a range of gaming systems, and general day-to-day PC’s just like another other, but with the big advantage that they’re also a normal PC component retailer. If you want to build your own system, customise a build or pick a pre-built system, you’ll find lots to play around with here.

Check out our full range of system reviews here.

SCAN Launches Black Friday Extravaganza!

Black Friday is finally upon us and retailers have started to slash prices on a number of items just before the holiday period. SCAN is the latest company to offer heavy discounts on computer hardware, and it’s certainly one of the best sales I’ve seen in recent memory! Some of the highlights include a Corsair K65 RGB keyboard for £79.99, EVGA GTX 980Ti Hybrid costing £499.99 with game voucher and huge selection of CPUs at cheap prices! Another bargain is the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset for £39.99 which features exceptional audio and rivals products twice the price.

The EVGA GTX 980Ti FTW is also £100 off and on sale for £449.99. This makes it the cheapest 980Ti to date and it’s a factor overclocked model with a sturdy backplate. If you’re looking for a high-end GPU, I doubt any deal is going to come close to this. On another note, the Corsair H110i GT is another unbelievable deal and on sale for £69.98. The closed-loop-cooler comes with a 5 year warranty, luxurious tubing finish and superb temperatures. It’s one of my favourite products from Corsair in the past few years and a wonderful hassle-free choice for overclocking purposes. It also looks incredible and features an RGB LED block.

Overclockers UK Launches Huge Graphics Cards Sale!

Overclockers UK often engages in heavy promotions and offers some of the best prices for components. In particular, their huge graphics card range caters to various budgets and aggressively targets the UK’s lowest price-point. As a result, consumers can acquire graphics cards at a discounted price and other retailers try to price match to become competitive. However, many struggle to compete with OCUK’s staggering buying power and stock levels.

Today, the company launched a comprehensive sale across a wide array of graphics cards. This includes budget-orientated models like the R9 270X all the way up to the GTX 980Ti. Interestingly, OCUK’s graphics card promotion spans to a number of older-generation cards at rock-bottom prices. For example, you can purchase an MSI Frozr Gaming GTX 780 for only £169.99. This performs similar to the GTX 970 while being approximately £100 cheaper! There is also a reference designed MSI GTX 770 for £109.99 and GTX MSI Gaming LE 780Ti for £239.99. These cards are all backed with a 2-year warranty.

For the price, the 780Ti is astonishing value and used to be a top-tier graphics card. In terms of real world performance, the card competes with the GTX 980 which retails between £375-£450.

Finally, you can pick up the Fury X for £499.99 and the R9 Nano is priced at £469.99. Thankfully, the Fury X prices have come down to the RRP as inflated prices were imposed by retailers due to stock shortages. On another note, the KFA2 GTX 980Ti is available for £479.99 and built on the Titan X PCB. This makes it a good choice for custom water-cooling configurations. My pick of the sale has to be the EVGA GTX 980Ti Superclocked+ which retails for £509.99.

This particular card is used in my own personal rig and features a core clock of 1102MHz and boost of 1190MHz. Additionally the ACX 2.0+ cooling system results in quiet operating temperatures and utilizes a semi-passive 0db mode under low load. The GPU implements a lovely EVGA logo and branding via white LEDs and opts for a hefty backplate.

Please note, only the NVIDIA 900 series cards are eligible for the free game promotion.

MSI Unveils Limited Edition GTX 980Ti Golden Edition

MSI has announced the GTX 980TI Golden Edition to celebrate its successful launch of the GTX 980Ti range. Some of you might remember the eye-catching GTX 970 Golden Edition which adopted a similar aesthetic design to MSI’s latest entry in the graphics card market. This particular card features a core clock of 1190 MHz and factory overclocked boost reaching 1291 MHz.

Obviously, this can be improved further via manual overclocking and I would expect around 1450MHz on the boost clock. Although, your results may vary due to the silicon lottery. Furthermore, this compares rather nicely to the MSI Gaming 980Ti which utilizes a 1178/1279 configuration. The 980Ti Golden Edition is equipped with 6GB GDDR5 RAM operating at a speed of 7096 MHz. In terms of connectivity, the GPU has three DisplayPort connectors, HDMI and Dual Link DVI-I.

The MSI GTX 980Ti Golden Edition opts for dual 10cm Torx fans and the highly-acclaimed Twin Frozr V cooling design. This includes an all-copper heatsink and heatpipe with anti-oxidation treatment. As a result, the GPU is cool, quiet and has headroom for large core, boost and memory overclocks.

It will be interesting to see how the graphics card performs compared to other high-end models from Gigabyte, Asus, EVGA and more.

What is your favourite aftermarket board partner?

Nvidia Prepping Dual-GPU Graphics Card

Dual GPU graphics card have been common over the [ast few generations and it looks like Nvidia is about to launch another one. Set to use the Maxwell architecture, the new dual-GPU card will feature 2 GM200 class GPUs, the same ones that power the GTX 980Ti and Titan X.

Back in the Fermi generation, Nvidia had the GTX 590 which was followed up by the GTX 690 with Kepler. Both cards were relatively well received. Looking to make use of their Titan brand, Nvidia then pushed for the Titan Z, essentially 2 Titan Blacks. That card, unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on where you stand) flopped heavily due to an exorbitant $3000 price tag. This time around, we will likely see a return to more sane pricing, with two GTX 980Ti equivalents priced about $1500.

Given the tight time frames, a Maxwell based dual-GPU flagship likely means Pascal won’t be dropping for a while. After all, Nvidia won’t want those who shelled ou top dollar for the new card to feel burned with Pascal drops with a new architecture, memory interface, and better performance. This does cement the fact that Nvidia will probably launch most of Pascal with HBM2, with maybe a few select cards using HBM1, similar to what AMD has done.

It’s interesting to hear of this Nvidia now so close to AMD’s dual Fury GPU. The R9 Fury X2 is set to feature two of AMD’s top line Fiji chips and would have likely dominated the market for single board graphics cards. With this new card, Nvidia will be able to offer some stiff competition given Maxwell’s strength. It is important to note that Crossfire does scale a bit better than SLI, leading to AMD’s 7990 and 295X2 doing quite well.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information

Corsair & MSI Launch Water-Cooled GTX 980 Ti SEA HAWK Graphics Card

MSI is already known for their high-performance graphics card and the 980Ti has certainly proven to be a popular choice for the enthusiast gamer. Custom coolers are certainly nothing new to the GPU market, a great cooler is what separates the men from the boys in terms of hardware, as high-end cooling can make a huge difference in terms of how hard you can push the graphics cards in terms of overclocks. Of course, custom cooling also has other benefits, lower temperatures, less noise and even longer life expectancy.

Corsair is well known for their high-end range of AIO water coolers, so it makes sense that they would team up with MSI to create a Corsair AIO water-cooled GTX 980Ti. The two companies have created the 980Ti SEA HAWK, it features a hybrid cooling design that uses a 120mm Corsair H55 AIO cooler to boost the cooling performance of the card.

Huge overclocks right out of the box, high-end components for stable voltages and much more are to be found, the only thing we don’t know right now is the price, but you can expect it to be one of the more expensive 980Ti’s on the market; of course, you get what you pay for.

What do you think, will the SEA HAWK be your next graphics card?

Thank you LegitReviews for providing us with this information.

ASUS Announces the ROG Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum

With the superb overclocking abilities of the GTX 980i, it’s no surprise that overclocking oriented cards like MSI’s Lightning and EVGA’s K|NGP|N have launched already. Today, ASUS has announced their own counter, the ROG Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum. While being part of the gamer-focused ROG lineup, there can be no mistake that the card is overclocking oriented, living up to its Matrix branding.

Right off the bat, the card feature’s ASUS’s classic DirectCU II along with 10mm heat pipes. This should put the cooling solution well beyond many others and it’s supposed to offer 25% cooler performance and 3X less noise than the reference card. This is combined with Wing-blade fan technology which should improve air pressure by 105%.

On the power delivery side, ASUS has gone with their usual Super Alloy Power II components to ensure high-efficiency and clean power delivery. As befits an overclocking card, the ROG Matrix Platinum also features Memory Defroster, a defrosting for the GDDR5 memory when under sub-zero conditions. This means that LN2 users won’t have to worry as much about insulation when searching for those high clocks.

As a way to ensure stability as well, the card also features a once-click Safe Mode button that restores the VBIOS to its original settings in case something goes wrong; this makes using custom VBIOS that much safer. Another useful feature is a color-coded ROG load indicator which shows GPU load without having to delve into software. While not that useful for overclocking or even normal users, it’s a neat feature to have.

Overall, ASUS has what appears to be a solid card coming along the heals of the Strix and Poseidon. The bigger question is how the card will fare against rival 980Ti overclockers like MSI’s Lightning and EVGA’s K|NGP|N editions among others. There is also one GTX980Ti left from ASUS, which is the Gold20th GTX980Ti Platinum.

MSI GeForce GTX 980Ti Lightning Launched

MSI has launched their much-anticipated GeForce GTX 980Ti Lightning, one of the premier overclocking GTX 980Ti’s around. As part of the overclocking Lightning lineup, the card is designed to push the GPU to the limit and is the flagship OC product of MSI. To meet those high expectations, the card features a whole host of features and tools.

Starting off the bat, the specifications are actually a bit better than previous leaks had alluded to. A minor improvement is in the number of power phases to 16 in total, up from the 12+3 from the leaks. Other than that, the board largely remains the same, with Military Class 4 components, dual BIOS (LN2 tweaked). Cooling is provided by 5 nickel-plated 8mm “SuperPipes” paired with a massive heatsink cooled by new Torx fans in a TriFrozor setup and directional airflow. While technically a dual slot card, the Lightning pretty much will take up 3 due to the massive cooler. The card also features a memory and MOSFET heatsink as well as a backplate.

On the GPU side of things, the core is clocked to 1304 MHz boost but can drop down to 1203 MHz. The 6GB of GDDR5 will run at an effective rate of 7096Mhz. Interestingly enough, these speeds are the exact same as those offered by rival EVGA’s GTX 980Ti K|NGP|N Edition, another overclocking-focused offering. Given these similarities, it might be that Nvidia is restricting their partners to certain limits, or that this is simply the sweet spot for the GTX 980Ti. One allure that the K|NGP|N offered was ASIC binning so it will be interesting to see if MSI did any ASIC binning themselves as well. Given the fierce competition in the overclocking world, it will be interesting to see if the Lightning will surpass the K|NGP|N.

MSI Geforce GTX 980 Ti Lightning Pictured

MSI’s hotly-anticipated GTX 980 Ti Lightning has been unveiled by VideoCardz and features a triple slot, Tri-Frozr cooler for improved thermals. The Lightning is MSI’s flagship overclocking card and built on a 12+3 power phase to leverage the extra power required for improved clock speeds. Additionally, there is a dual-BIOS, three power connectors (8+8+6 pin) and a 10-layer PCB. Coupled with the Military Class 4 components, and 5 SuperPipes, the MSI 980 Ti Lightning is an absolute beast and probably the fastest GPU on the planet.In terms of its default setup, the 980 Ti Lightning utilizes a base clock of 1203MHz and boost reaching 1303 MHz. The 6GB of GDDR5 runs at a speed of 1774Mhz which equates to an effective 7010MHz.

This technical picture illustrates the staggering build quality throughout.
MSI have also included a gorgeous backplate which strengthens the card, and protects against GPU sag. In theory, it could also help with operating temperatures but the effect will be fairly minimal. Compared to previous Lightning editions, the backplate is fairly understated and lacks any vivid, yellow highlights.A closer look at the GPU’s components emphasizes how overbuilt the power regulation is. With LN2, the card really should shine above the competition.As you can see, the nickel plated heatsink is extremely robust and uses 5 thick heatpipes.The rear IO supports HDMI 2.0, DVI-I and 3 Display Port 1.2 configurations. This provides a better scope of options than the Fury X which is limited to HDMI 1.4 and doesn’t have any DVI connectivity.Are you looking forward to the MSI Lightning 980 Ti?

Thank you VideoCardz for providing us with this information.

12K (Triple 4K Monitor) Graphics Test Bench Upgrade Review

Introduction


1080p, 1440p, 1660p, 2160p; just a random bunch of numbers with a ‘p’ after them can mean nothing to some people; however, to gamers it means a whole world of display quality goodness. For the last few years, 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) monitors have been the normal standard for a ‘decent’ gaming setup and what most graphics cards are tested at. Then we started moving up to higher resolutions such as 2560 x 1440p and 2560 x 1600p.

For some, this wasn’t enough; despite the pixel densities growing larger, as humans we wanted even more pixels. This resorted to users buying multiple monitors and connecting them one next to another and activating AMD ‘EyeFinity’ or NVIDIA ‘Surround’ to have an almost 180° viewing range. Even though the latter part of the pixel count didn’t change, this meant that monitor set-ups were hitting 5760 pixels wide by using three 1920 x 1080p monitors.

Then we move onto today, 1080p and 1440p has been surpassed by what has now become the new ‘standard’ of gaming, 2160p, or 4K. At this resolution, even the most powerful of graphics cards can struggle to churn out the desired 60FPS which we have come to accept as the acceptable standard. So what about when you put three 4K monitors next to each other and ask for 11520 x 2160 of pixelated goodness (or 6480 x 3840 if you prefer your monitors in portrait mode.)

Before we go rushing into things, there are some issues regarding our particular test system. The provided AOC monitors (U2868PQU) has known issues with AMD graphics cards and 60Hz refresh rate. Symptoms can present themselves as minor screen flickering to a complete system freeze. This was made worse when trying to display at 11520 x 2160; however, after multiple tests, we found the issue was subdued by putting the monitors into Portrait mode. This isn’t the ideal gaming set-up, however, in the interest of bringing you the information; I endured the pain of a 2″ thick bezel between each monitor.

To get to the technical nitty gritty, a typical 4K monitor at 60Hz refresh rate can present 497 Million information pixels per second, so this set-up can present almost 1.5 Billion pixels per second; yes 1.5 BILLION. To put that into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge has a screen size of 1440 x 2560 and a refresh rate of 60Hz; that works out to a mere 221 Million pixels per second in comparison.

Nvidia AIB Partners Cut Price on GTX 980 and 980Ti

For those of you debating on whether or not to snag a card from the green team, now may be the time. Following the launch of AMD’s R9 Fury many of Nvidia’s AIB partners are cutting prices on their 980 and 980Ti cards. MSRP are dropping about $20 for both cards, with the 980 dropping from $499 USD to $479 while the 980Ti falls from $649 to $629. This time around, the price drop is silent, with no official announcement coming out from anyone.

While a price cut of $20 isn’t much, that’s another extra $20 that can be put to a larger SSD, better case, CPU or power supply. With this price cut, it looks like Nvidia and it’s AIB partners want to have their cards be more competitive. The R9 Fury currently has an MSRP of $550 and the R9 Fury X at $650. While the 980 won’t make too much difference, dropping the price of the 980Ti below the Fury X will make more of an impact.

These price drops will be sure to put more pressure on AMD. Nvidia appeared to have been planning these prices drops for a while already, waiting till AMD had launched their new lineup. It’s important to note that while the MSRP has dropped, not every card has dropped by that amount, with some hitting above and below $20. AMD may not be able to afford to drop prices yet on the Fury’s given their new launch and tech. It will be interesting to see how AMD will react to this price drop in the near future.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ti 6GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


When you think of graphics cards and manufacturers, you automatically think of NVIDIA and the GTX range; regardless of what side of the fence you are on. Without a doubt, they produce some of the best graphics cards in the world, but that performance comes at a hefty price, the current most powerful single GPU card sits at around $950; not exactly sofa change. Today we have the newest Maxwell based graphics card and the first (and likely only) Ti model of the GTX 900 series; the GeForce GTX 980Ti.

We know that Maxwell are the go-to graphics card options of early 2015, they offer amazing performance in the GTX Titan X, great bang for buck in the GTX 970 and awesome budget gaming in the GTX 960; so what are NVIDIA doing by offering up a brand new high-end graphics card? My thought is to cement the fact that NVIDIA is a formidable force in the graphics card marketplace and a new memory technology (High Bandwidth Memory) isn’t going to beat them without a fight.

The GTX 980Ti will be based on the mighty GM200 GPU with some slight modifications to bring the performance down from the Titan X. It is around 90% of the specification in regards to cores and TMUs; so let’s see if it’s around 90% of the performance too.

The retail packaging is very high-end, very strong construction and dense foam for the perfect shipping box to keep your new pride and joy safe.

The card is almost identical to that of the rest of the GTX 900 series reference coolers.

The PCB look very similar to the Titan X, but without the rear mounted VRAM and a few components missing.

Very minimalistic output end, 1x DVi port, 3x DisplayPort and 1x HDMI port.

 

ZOTAC Renders A Bonkers Hybrid Titan X

With the upcoming release of the NVIDIA GTX 980Ti and AMD’s Fiji card(s), our focus has moved from the current most powerful graphics card; the Titan X. It now seems that NVIDIA have lifted or plan on lifting the ban on custom cooling versions of the Titan series.

So far we have seen only reference designs from manufacturers, but ZOTAC have recently released some 3D renders of what is to be the first custom cooled Titan X. The cooler will be called Arctic Storm and looks to be a hybrid water block with a basic AMP! fan and heatsink set up placed on top. It is expected to be a slightly overclocked version of the current Titan X that Zotac offer with clocks speeds around 1026/ 1114MHz core and 7GHz memory and a similar power input of 6+8 pin power connectors.

  

Zotac has not yet commented on pricing; I wouldn’t expect this to be cheap anyway. They have stated that this cooler will be used on the upcoming GTX 980Ti.

Would a hybrid cooling solution like this push you to go water cooled? Use the standard fans and heatsink and then add onto it later. Or would you prefer to buy a reference graphics card and then purchase a well-known brand such as XSPC or EK water block to complete the set-up? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to VideoCardz for providing us with this information.

Graph Shows Nvidia Dominance Over AMD, but Can AMD Make a Comeback?

A very interesting graph has made its way online courtesy of Beyond3D member ‘dbz’, which shows us how many sales of Nvidia and AMD hardware there have been over the last few years. The information was pulled from aggregated quarterly reports, which were mostly from Mercury Research, with a few extras taken from JPR when Mercury figures were not available.

Nvidia are more popular than AMD, that much we all know, they often have more powerful and/or efficient hardware in the flagship card department and sell more hardware overall, where as AMD put up a hell of a fight in the mid-budget market. What’s amazing is just how far ahead Nvidia really are, with almost 3 out of 4 PC gamers running Nvidia hardware, it’s clear that AMD have a lot of ground to make up.

With AMD still dragging their heels with the 3xx series and Nvidia no doubt already cooking up their GTX 980 Ti to compete with that. It’ll certainly be an interesting showdown this summer with both companies launching new hardware, but if AMD can’t make up ground on Nvidia, it certainly won’t benefit gamers if one company holds a monopoly on the market, so let’s hope the rest of this year sparks a performance and price war between the two companies.

What hardware do you run in your system, AMD or Nvidia?

Thank you DSO for providing us with this information.

 

Nvidia GTX 980 Ti Coming This Summer?

The rumour mill is spinning with full force this morning, as the guys at SweClockers report that Nvidia will be launching a more affordable GM200 based GPU this summer.

The new card, expected to be the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, will feature the GM200 hardware with 2072 CUDA cores, the same as the current Titan X. However, the card is expected to feature less memory and perhaps a few other refinements to help bring the cost down to something more affordable.

What’s crazy is that the Titan X is already proving a big hit, Nvidia is actually selling their $1000 cards like crazy, despite the concerns most of us have when we check our bank balances or try explaining such a fanciful purchase to our SO. If Nvidia can get much of the performance of the Titan X into a price point that won’t be such a bitter pill to swallow, then that can only be a good thing for consumers, because I think we can all agree that flagship GPU prices are getting out of hand.

The 980 Ti seems like a sure thing, especially given it will no doubt launch at the GAME24 event and be around the same time as the AMD 3xx series launches; Nvidia would be mad not to have something to compete with at that time.

Image courtesy of Videocardz.