Week in Tech: Desktop Vs Laptop, Kinda

By Jeremy Laird on November 27th, 2014.

Sometimes, the numbers aren’t enough. When you compare what the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M looks like on paper with what it will actually do stuffed into a laptop PC, grudgingly you concede this is one of those times. Nvidia’s latest graphics chip for laptops looked good at launch, but a few weeks later I’ve now had a play and it’s burst right through my cynical, dessicated, world-weary attitude to the technology refresh cycle. This thing takes laptop gaming to a new level. Great. But here’s the real question. Is it good enough to finally put that desktop vs laptop debate to bed? Time to find out… Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: SSD Update – It’s All About (NV)Me!

By Jeremy Laird on November 20th, 2014.

Turns out Samsung's 840 Evo is a bit borked...

One word. NVMe. Take it from me, you want some of it. So, you’d better start to get your head around it. Luckily, it’s all you need to know about solid-state drives or SSDs over the next year or so. Well, that and whether your motherboard can support NVMe. Oh, and the difference between M.2, SFF-8639 and SATA Express. I know. This whole SSD thing is a nightmare to keep up with right now. But let me simply say this: some early solid-state drives with that NVMe stuff I just mentioned have appeared in recent months, and these things absolutely fly.

Time, then, for an SSD update and for me to make something intelligible out of the technosoup that is emerging SSD tech. Also, can there really be any of you left without an SSD of some kind? If so, shout out below and let’s see if we can all encourage the laggards to finally make the leap. SSDs are cheaper than ever (an eminently viable 100GB-120GB drive can be had for as little as about £50 / $70, possibly even less with some deft shopping), and I can promise that you will not be disappointed.
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Week in Tech: Mobile Gaming Update

By Jeremy Laird on November 6th, 2014.

Embrace the brick

Long ago, in an age when PC magazines ruled the land, the internet had barely achieved broadband and being a tech journalist really meant something (OK, that last bit was probably never true), I used to be a laptop gaming junky. This, I’d largely forgotten until Nvidia’s new mobile GPUs launched the other day and were accompanied by some conspicuously OTT hyperbole from wet-behind-the-ears padawans in the tech press. How quickly they forget the great mobile GPUs of yesteryear. Thus, for a serious dissertation on the delights and, let’s be honest, drastic downsides of laptop gaming along with a grudging admission that the new GeForce GTX 970M and 980M do actually look pretty damn fine, you know what to do.

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Week in Tech: All Hail The Mighty Mechanical Keyboard

By Jeremy Laird on October 30th, 2014.

The cheap way to get a taste of those Cherries

Mechanical keyboards. What, dear readers, is the schitnitz? Dare I say it, there is such a thing as the mechanical keyboard movement. Indeed, we’re now at the point where there’s significant debate within that community over various types of mechanical keyboard switches. Knowing your Cherry MX Red from your Blue and Brown absolutely matters. But what exactly is a mechanical keyboard, why is it rapidly becoming so revered by some gamers and should you pop out and pick one up? While we’re talking keyboards, are programmable keyboards with per-key full-colour RGB LED backlighting the next big thing? For answers to all these questions (at best), ride your rodents to the other side. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: The PC Is Dead, Long Live The PC

By Jeremy Laird on October 23rd, 2014.

My desk drawer, yesterday

You know the one about the New Scientist editor and his philosophy for the magazine, right? Science is interesting and if you don’t agree you can bugger off? It comes second hand via the shy, retiring figure that is Richard Dawkins and, for all I know, it’s probably apocryphal. But it’s at least in broadly the same ballpark as my feelings about the computer industry. It’s just had such a huge impact on the way we live. And none so much as the PC, even if the image of the poor old thing being devoured alive by a swarm of vicious mobile devices gets repeated so often, nobody really bothers to check if it’s true. And yes, we’ve been here before, kinda.

But in recent weeks it’s all become more baffling than ever. Try this for size: Record revenues for good old Intel, AMD laying off staff while another bit of what used to be AMD is paid $1.5 billion to take away what’s left of IBM’s chip production facility – deep breath – tablet sales tanking, PC sales taking up the slack, an Apple iPad chip with more transistors than an eight-core Intel PC processor, graphics chip vendors stuck on 28nm while Apple pinches all the 20nm production capacity…I’m not sure what to make of all, especially in terms of, ya know, simply playing games on PCs. But one thing is for sure, it’s interesting. And if you don’t agree… Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard Choices: The Great DIY Vs Pre-built PC Debate, Part 2

By Jeremy Laird on October 16th, 2014.

After last week’s missive, the comments were alive with la passion PC. And it was all good. But the one critical aspect we didn’t look at in detail was the value proposition. Do you really save a chunk of change with a DIY build? A matter of some simple sums, you say?

Would that it could be so. The reality is that the variables quickly get out of control. Much depends on your budget, how flexible you are on spec, what kind of warranty you want, even where you are in the world. There are no definitive answers, folks. However, what I can do is spec up my ideal PC via both separate components and a few of the usual suspects from the PC building industry here in Blighty. The upshot makes for some interesting observations that highlight the various pitfalls, pros and cons, hell even some of my own personal peccadilloes, when it comes to DIY vs pre-built PCs. So get comfortable. This is going to take a while. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard Choices: The Great DIY Vs Pre-built PC Debate, Part 1

By Jeremy Laird on October 9th, 2014.

To build or to buy. That is the fundamental philosophical, cultural, hell maybe even epistemological, question for we PC lovers. Some of you will already know the cut of your own jib. You’ll either gag at the thought of paying through the nose for an oily work-experience tick to inexpertly cobble your PC together using whatever bits the system seller bought cheap that week. Or you’ll wonder why anyone imagines the marginal savings of self build are worth the risk of bork.

I reckon a lot of us are floating voters on this issue. Is DIY a false economy? Is buying pre-built just paying the man? Let’s pick apart the pros and cons and have a proper powwow in the comments below. For part one, we’ll cover off the theoretical bases, the theories, assumptions and practical pros and cons. In part two, I’ll wheel out some examples from both sides of the equation and get forensic with the cost comparison. Here we go.

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Week in Tech: Windows 9 10

By Jeremy Laird on October 2nd, 2014.

Ignore the stupid branding. Embrace the uncharacteristically sane noises coming out of Microsoft. Windows 10 looks promising for old-school PC users. You know, like gamers with desktop PCs. Will I live to regret this sunny optimism? Maybe. Will Windows 10 stop the general Windows rot? Doubtful. Even now, Microsoft’s technical ambitions for Windows seem feeble compared to the grand vision it once had back in the early 2000s. But most of what Microsoft revealed in its mercifully brief presentation covering the new Windows 10 Technical Preview release was positive for desktop dinosaurs and relatively little made me gag.

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Week in Tech: Nvidia’s New GPUs Are Stupidly Good

By Jeremy Laird on September 25th, 2014.

Last week, Nvidia’s unstoppable NDA force ran up against the immovable object that is Week in Tech’s Thursday slot. Now it’s all out in the open and we can take in just what Nvidia has achieved with its new high performance Maxwell graphics. And not at an altogether offensive price either, at least for one of the new 3D chipsets Nvidia wheeled out last Friday, the £250 / $320 Nvidia GeForce GTX 970.

Is the 970 the new no brainer, the default weapon of choice for any of you lot with around £250 / $300 to spend on graphics? As I write these words, yes. Nvidia really has produced something very special. But then I’m writing these words roughly 24 hours before you’ll read them and by then it’s just faintly possible Nvidia’s main rival AMD might very well have buggered things up for me with its own announcement. Again! It was ever thus in the graphics card silly season…oh, and we have a little update on AMD vs Nvidia in the battle for virtual reality rendering supremacy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wot I Think: Oculus Rift DK2

By Alec Meer on September 24th, 2014.

The possible future is here, delivered by a nice man from UPS after a challenging five-month wait on my part. The first gen Oculus I’d been using had sadly morphed from toy of tomorrow into insufferable antique in the time it took for my gen 2 Oculus pre-order to process, and I’d almost forgotten why I was once so charmed by the whole concept of VR headsets.

The Oculus Development Kit 2, which I’ve been using for just under a week now, is an excellent reminder. My excitement is back, and I have a raft of new games, mods and experiments with which to assault my now bone-dry eyeballs. At the same time, I’ve been a little underwhelmed by this new-gen prototype.
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Week in Tech: Don’t Buy A New Video Card

By Jeremy Laird on September 18th, 2014.

Actually, do. But possibly don’t. Or probably do. The problem here is partly ye olde NDA or non-disclosure agreement and the threat of legal immolation at the hands of sharp-suited lawyers and their homicidal liability clauses. I’m not actually under NDA, but I’ve seen things that are and there’s little value in getting people into trouble for the sake of 24 hours. And apparently Nvidia doesn’t fancy shifting its global PR campaign to suit RPS’s Thursday hardware slot. Short sighted as that may be, we must make do.

Nvidia is outing some new GPUs tomorrow and they’re definitely going to shake things up. In fact, they already have in terms of the pricing of existing graphics cards with some conspicuous bargains popping up – on this side of the pond at least. Meanwhile, there’s some interesting LCD screen news, including high refresh IPS on the horizon, and the Beast of Redmond officially brings the Xbone’s controller to the PC. Yay! But there’s no wireless support. Boo! Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard Choices: How To Choose The Right CPU

By Jeremy Laird on September 11th, 2014.

Apparently, some of you don’t dedicate every waking hour to keeping up with PCI Express lane counts, silicon production nodes and CPU socket redundancy. I know, some people, eh? But with that in mind, plus the tendency for product-driven reportage to get a bit jargon heavy, not to mention some significant recent CPU-related developments from Intel of late, now feels like a good moment to stick a peg in the sand, pull all the current CPU options together, outline the key technologies and issues and then point you in the direct of a few best buys. It’s time for another semi-newbie’s guide to CPUs.
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Week In Tech: Intel’s Haswell-E Is Actually Interesting

By Jeremy Laird on September 4th, 2014.

Remember when Intel’s top platform was relevant? When proper CPUs didn’t come with nonsense like integrated graphics and the Core i7-920 D0 was the weapon of choice for gamers and PC enthusiasts in the know? Good times. More recently, the LGA2011 socket and its CPUs have been irrelevant unless you had money to hose about with nonchalant abandon. Yeah, yeah, they’ve been the fastest PC platforms you could buy. But at a premium that massively outweighed the real-world benefit. No longer. Those good times are back. With its new ‘Haswell-E’ Core i7s, the new X99 chipset and revised LGA2011-v3 socket, Intel has finally delivered the goods that I, at least, have been waiting for. Haswell-E is something you’ll actually want to buy. Ride your rodents to the other side to find out why.

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