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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Week in Tech: AMD’s New 285 GPU, NVMe SSDs And Stuff

By Jeremy Laird on August 28th, 2014.

Oh, you silly GPUs. Remember the days when by your names should we know ye? No longer. Increasingly, both AMD and Nvidia appear to be engaged in a game of one-upmanship when it comes to baffling branding. Enter, therefore, the new AMD Radeon R9 285. The nomenclature suggests it should sit above the existing R9 280, but in fact it’s cheaper, less complex and most likely a bit slower. Why not Radeon R9 275? I have no idea. Still, it looks like a promising new option in terms of bang for your buck. Meanwhile, the complete package for next-gen SSD performance is finally coming together as a major new controller chipset with support for NVMe is announced. Yes, NVMe! Oh and on a related note, it now looks like you might want to skip Intel’s upcoming Broadwell architecture / CPU family / platform / whatever and jump straight to Skylake. Details after the break.

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Week in Tech: Bent Screens, Reversible USB, AMD SSDs

By Jeremy Laird on August 21st, 2014.

I’ve been dreading this moment for some time. But inevitably, inexorably, irresistibly it’s happened. LG has announced a curved LCD monitor. Specifically, we’re talking 34-inches of bent IPS panel in the super-wide 21:9 form factor that had me gushing like an idiot the other week. Admittedly I haven’t seen it first hand. But curved HDTVs are an appalling gimmick conceived to exploit the most base consumerist tendencies. I suspect bent PC monitors will be just as bad. Meanwhile, you might think the requirement for correct orientation of USB connectors upon insertion is hardly the most onerous threat to humanity’s collective well-being. But the finalisation of USB Type-C looks set to put an end to it, regardless. Oh, and I have a little – but only a little – more on the Intel Haswell-E uber platform I mentioned last week, Freesync monitors are said to be coming soon and, whaddya know, AMD is doing SSDs… Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Intel Shrinks Desktop Apathy Down To 14nm

By Jeremy Laird on August 14th, 2014.

22nm apathy to the left, 14nm on the right

Spool up the apathy drive and buckle in for yet another family of unexciting new CPUs from Intel. The 14nm Broadwell generation is nearly upon us and Intel has begun the slow drip feed of info about a CPU hardly anyone will notice or care about in desktop PCs. It’ll be a while yet before we get full speeds and feeds. But we already know enough to say that Broadwell is more of the same. No more cores, barely any additional CPU performance, better graphics and battery life. Deathly dull and disappointing? Yup, except possibly for mobile gaming. It’s all too familiar. Of course, if it’s exciting desktop stuff you crave, Intel’s Haswell-E is, surprisingly, shaping up rather nicely. Pity I can’t tell you any more about that, for now…
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Week in Tech: MMOuse, Shield, Superwide Is Super Cool

By Jeremy Laird on August 7th, 2014.

Not being hugely of the MMO persuasion, the extent to which fixed-configuration mice generate significant anguish is, to coin a Tuckerism, beyond my jaunty-bonneted purview. However, the fellows at ROCCAT are apparently feeling someone’s pain and the result is the new Nyth, a modular mouse for MMOists that comes complete with 3D-printing intrigue. Rejoice. Meanwhile, I’ve had a little face time with both the Nvidia Shield tablet and one of those 34-inch superwide LCDs. GOP-style gut reaction to each after the jump (see, cultural references to make people happy both sides of the pond).
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Week in Tech: Random Screen Round Up

By Jeremy Laird on July 31st, 2014.

Never before in the history of mankind have so many PC display options emerged in such a short space of time. At least, that’s the way it feels right now and in the time-honoured journalistic tradition I’m certainly not going to let fact checking get in the way of a mediocre narrative. It’s, er, monitormageddon people! In all seriousness, it’s enough to keep up with all the 120Hz, G-Sync, FreeSync and 4K nonsense. But now the mix of panel sizes, types and resolutions is beginning to spin out of control. I’m rapidly approaching the point where I haven’t a clue what I would personally plump for. Things will settle down in the next 18 months or so as the sweet spot emerges, no doubt. But that’s no help in the here and now. If you’re in the monitor market today, what the devil are you supposed to do?
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Week in Tech: Nvidia’s Gaming Tablet, No More Moore

By Jeremy Laird on July 24th, 2014.

Nvidia has wheeled out its second effort at the obviously-not-actually-a-PC-but-does-interesting-things-with-PCs Shield gaming device. And this time it’s a tablet. Which is what it should have been in the first place. But doesn’t actually mean it’s automatically good idea. Still, it’s hard to imagine Shield the Second doing much worse than Shield the First, which ended up being given away in boxes of Cheerios (ish) and even then only escaped landfills on account of being handed out by the sackful to shameless media types addicted to freebies. Meanwhile, there’s more confirmation that Moore’s Law is really no, er, more, some interesting screens get priced up, another interesting screen turns out to be an epic dud…it was ever thus.
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Week in Tech: Ode To The HDD, More On AMD Mantle

By Jeremy Laird on July 10th, 2014.


And so on this 10th day of the seventh month, the year of our Lord two thousand and 14, the final hard disk drive verily came to pass. And there was much rejoicing. Or should that be wailing and gnashing of spindles and platters? Whatever, Hitachi has unleashed what it claims is the highest performing and largest 10,000rpm HDD. Like, ever! Actually, I think an additional qualifier may be its 2.5-inch form factor. But either way, with cheap SSDs now approaching the point where you might consider one for mass storage, let alone boot drive duties, the Hitachi Ultrastar C10K1800 – ye shall know it by its name, etc – feels very much like a swansong. Meanwhile, momentum appears to actually be building for AMD’s Mantle graphics API. Does that mean performance-enhancing magic for all AMD graphics owners? Death to Nvidia? Or just a temporary blip on the road to DX12?
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Week in Tech: Microsoft Loves Desktops, 3D SSDs, AMD

By Jeremy Laird on July 3rd, 2014.

Bit of a mishmash this week while deep and meaningful matters continue to machinate. First up comes news that Microsoft wants your love. Yes, you, the lowly, worthless, mouthbreathing desktop user. Apparently the next significant version of Windows, codenamed Threshold, is designed to win desktop users back. Since there’s actually a fair bit to like about Windows 8 in terms of under-the-hood optimisations that get overlooked thanks to the idiocy of the interface changes, Threshold might turn out to be a very good thing indeed. Meanwhile, ever the SSD innovator, Samsung has now added 3D chip tech to its SSD line up in the shape of the new 850 Pro and with it introduced a rather epic 10 year warranty. Oh, and AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software continues to mature…

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Week in Tech: Buy A Decent Screen, That’s An Order

By Jeremy Laird on June 26th, 2014.

While I slave away gathering all the bits for our upcoming home-build vs factory-built PC comparo extraordinaire, here’s something to think about and even get on with in the meantime. Buy a decent screen. I’ve touched on this before, but some recent shenanigans with 4K monitors and Laird Minor (little brother) being in need of a new screen have reminded me of something. My main PC display is seven years old. My secondary PC display is eight years old. And it’s only now that I’m beginning to even think about upgrading. Imagine trying to game on an eight-year-old CPU or graphics card. Nasty. Meanwhile, the skinny is out on Intel’s new anniversary-themed CPUs and the rumour mill is building up for the next wave of high-end graphics cards.
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Week in Tech: Alienware’s Non-Steambox, SSD No-Brainer

By Jeremy Laird on June 12th, 2014.

Alienware's just-a-box, er, box

Can there be any of you left not running an SSD as your main boot drive? If so, do not pass go, do not worry about M.2 and SATA Express, do not collect 200 units in non-sequential, unmarked local denomination. Just buy a Crucial MX100. It’s now on sale with the 256GB effort yours for just £78 / $109. If you don’t do it, I shall sulk. Meanwhile, it turns out Alienware is pressing ahead with its Steambox thingie in spite of Valve’s foot dragging. Consequently, Alienware now plans to sell its Steambox without SteamOS or the Steam controller. Er, what? Oh, and there’s a spot of good news concerning Intel’s new Devil’s Dumplings CPUs. They’re confirmed compatible with a bunch of existing 8 Series motherboards.

Finally, home build versus factory built. Used vs new? What are your preferences and why? I’m planning on sourcing a pre-built PC from one of the UK’s better system builders in the next few weeks and comparing it to the home-built option using both new and used components. Speak now or forever hold your peace. At least, don’t complain if I’ve missed something you wanted to know!
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