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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Week in Tech: Ultrawide Monitors, DDR 4 & New Intel CPUs

By Jeremy Laird on June 5th, 2014.

Utterly pointless, but ooh it's purty: Asus's Hoth-spec mobo

Christ, it is Computex again? I can’t keep up. Surprisingly, we’ve never had a round up from what remains the greatest show of PC hardware on earth. But let’s pretend we’re old hands and ponder what another 12 months has bought us barring an incremental uptick in cynicism and one step closer to cold, infinite oblivion? Quicker, cheaper SSDs (yup, that again). Yay! A properly cheap and fully overclockable Intel CPU. Huzzah! The fastest optical mouse sensor ever. Haroo! Super-wide, beyond ultra-HD monitors. Argh! DDR4 memory that will revolutionise gaming (allegedly). Er, zorg?! And even an Hoth-spec tundra-camo motherboard. Mother. Of. God. Oh, and I’ve finally clapped eyes upon one of those cheap TN 4K panels and can confirm that they’re damn good and put an end to the need for anti-aliasing – yes, really. Ride your rodents for the round up.

UPDATE:
Thanks to an AMD Freesync demo, the possibility, albeit still remote, of firmware Freesync updates for existing monitors has emerged…
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HTR+ Brings Scaletrix-Like Thrills To Your PC

By Ben Barrett on June 5th, 2014.

Alright kids, grab your skateboard and bad haircut, it’s time for a trip to the ’90s. It’s time to remember how great Scalextric was: a game-toy which let you race cars with none of the millions-of-dollars downside and all of the friend-beating upside.

That’s the world that HTR+ Slot Car Simulation wants to take you back to, only now with none of the nowhere-to-put-it downsides either, or all that awkward set up time. Hit the accelerator over the jump for tire-burning trailer action. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Faster, Cheaper SSDs, Nvidia’s Driver Bomb

By Jeremy Laird on May 29th, 2014.

Want it cheaper? Want it faster? This week, I can offer both. But not quite at the same time. I speak of SSDs and the first part of the puzzle is Crucial’s upcoming MX100. It replaces the existing M500 as Crucial’s value SSD. And may I remind you the 240GB M500 can currently be had for a preposterous £80/$110? The MX100 sports 16nm NAND memory, doesn’t replace the higher performing M550 and I can only assume its raison d’etre is to be even cheaper. Meanwhile, the first looks at quad-channel SATA Express are popping up (cue 1GB/s SSDs), Nvidia has a new driver out that promises to make your graphics card eleventy-two times faster. Ish. And some other stuff including yet more cheap 4K panels, including one with G-Sync support, and a hot looking gaming lappie from Gigabyte. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Intel 9 Series, £200 GPUs, VR And Fast Food

By Jeremy Laird on May 22nd, 2014.

Where awesome game developers go.

Bit of a mish mash this week starting with a quick update on Intel’s new 9 Series chipset and the motherboards that go with it. The boards are now on sale, but new CPUs of note are missing, so what gives? Meanwhile AMD has officially cut the price of ye olde Radeon R9 280 to $249 which seems like a good cue to look at the state of graphics at that £200 sweet spot here in Blighty (apologies for the mixed currency messaging). While we’re talking AMD, there’s confirmation that new high performance FX CPUs are on the way. Hurrah. But probably not until 2016. Haroo. Oh, and try this bombshell for size. Oculus Rift will be testing out its headsets on snotty youths at none other than the swashbuckling culinary trend setter and conspicuous Michelin star non-awardee that is Chuck E. Cheese’s. And some other stuff that I haven’t quite decided on as I write these very words. Click through and you never know what you might find. It might even be worth reading.
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Week in Tech: Cheap 4K, Adaptive-Sync, DP1.2a, Screens!

By Jeremy Laird on May 15th, 2014.

Sammy's £500, 60Hz, 4K monster

4K, 6-bit, 8-bit and 10-bit panels, G-Sync n’ FreeSync n’ Adaptive-Sync, 120Hz-plus refresh, DisplayPort 1.2 and 1.2a, backlight modulation, multi-stream vs single-stream and IPS vs PLS. The PC display market is completely out of control. But in a good way. Things are developing faster now than at any time I can remember since getting into this game. And I am incredibly, astonishingly, implausibly old. The Atari 2600 was still on sale (just) when I achieved something approaching sentience. I still haven’t truly recovered from the 2600′s piss-poor Pac-Man port. Anywho, the last week or so has seen some really interesting developments in the monitor market, including the announcement that AMD’s FreeSync tech is moving into the mainstream courtesy of official VESA status and the appearance of a cheap Samsung 4K monitor with 60Hz support. High time, then, to pull together the state of play in PC monitors into something we can all understand. Well, hopefully. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: AMD And The End Of x86

By Jeremy Laird on May 8th, 2014.

AMD's crown jewels are our gaming tools

Existential crisis alert. AMD has been laying out its vision of the future of CPUs this week. And it calls into question the very meaning of what makes a PC. AMD is proposing parallel development of pin-compatible chips based on x86 and ARM. For most things I do with my PC, whether there’s ARM or x86 inside doesn’t matter much. I’m not bothered whether there’s an ARM or x86 chip underpinning m’Chrome browsing, for instance. But gaming is a very different matter. Whether for good or ill, being a PC with the x86 instruction set, Windows OS and DirectX API definitely means something when it comes to gaming. But if everything goes ARM or at least instruction-set agnostic, what happens to PC gaming? What does PC gaming even mean? Does RPS disappear in a puff of speculative logic? Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: SATA Express At Last, Not Google Glass

By Jeremy Laird on May 1st, 2014.

And lo, on the first day of the fifth month during the year of Our Lord numbering two thousand and fourteen, verily did the first motherboard with SATA Express arrive. Well, it’s the first I’ve seen sitting in front of me outside a show floor or PR event. The board in question is a new Asus Z97 beastie. Now, by some metrics, plain old SATA has been a speed bottleneck for SSDs and in turn PCs for a while. And these new interfaces will definitely release the solid-state hounds in terms of raw data throughput. But will that actually make your PC feel faster or make any difference for games? Meanwhile, I’ve decided I’m definitely going to buy an Oculus Rift DK2 and oddly it’s Google’s Glass that’s convinced me to pull the trigger. Read the rest of this entry »

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