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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Week in Tech: AMD On The Up, NVIDIA Game Streaming

By Jeremy Laird on April 24th, 2014.

It’s a funny old world when losing $20 million is a cause for moderate rejoicing. But then $20 million’s worth of bleeding is a hell of a lot better than $146 million. I speak, of course, of the never ending saga (going-on soap opera) that is AMD’s fortunes. Thing is, we are all of us much better off if AMD remains in the game and at the very least things are looking up. So, its worth tuning in for this latest episode. Meanwhile, it looks like the range and choice of LCD panels for PC monitors might just be ready to explode, Nvidia adds remote access to its game streaming tech and small-form factor bricks with proper gaming grunt are popping up. Hurrah and huzzah.
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A Clash Of Shafts: Three Flight Sticks Compared

By Alec Meer on April 22nd, 2014.

I’ve spent far too long thinking about and researching joysticks lately, primarily as a result of playing Elite: Dangerous. One thing I haven’t established during all that time is whether ‘joystick’ is the right word for a genre of game controller which also throws out terms like ‘flight stick’ and ‘HOTAS.’ I’ve probably offended someone with just the title of this piece, but then again someone like decided that Hot Ass is a perfectly reasonably thing to call a ‘Hands On Throttle-And-Stick.’ Someone also thought that writing ‘VIBRATION’ in enormous capital letters down the shaft of one of the three sticks I’m looking at here was sensible. Basically, the joy/flightstick industry is a place where innuendo goes to die.

In any case, I’m sticking with ‘joystick’, and I’m using it as a term for three very different types (and costs) of stick I’ve looked at in my recent return to space games. Those are, in descending price order, the Saitek X52 Pro, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro and the Speedlink Black Widow.
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Elite Dangerous, Nostalgia, Joysticks & Returning To Space

By Alec Meer on April 11th, 2014.

I come and go on old franchises and old ideas being resurrected by rich old men for rather less rich and old men and women. Sometimes it seems like a roadblock to fresh invention, other times it seems like returning to roads that games were forcibly and unfairly turned away from as forces of marketing and demographic-chasing decided they weren’t suitably commercially viable. For example: space sims didn’t all but die out because the possibilities were exhausted. Though there have always been survivors, they all but died out because they required huge budgets to pull off well, but could not command the sort of easily advertised-at mainstream audience required to earn their keep. What remained turned inwards, servicing the very particular demands of a passionate few, and making themselves all the more inaccessible to those who were interested but not quite so fervent about it.

The comeback, thanks to the removal of almost all middlemen and the ability to engage directly with an audience large enough but spread far and wide, is something I find incredibly exciting. After having barely touched space games for years, I now find myself owning a £120 joystick and obsessed with Elite 4.
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Week in Tech: World’s Best GPU, Elite 4 + VR + IR

By Jeremy Laird on April 10th, 2014.

Is Sapphire’s Tri-X Radeon R9 290 the world’s best graphics card? I think it just might be. OK, it’s only the best graphics card in the world in a given context – one in which you’re willing and able to cough up £330 for a graphics card. Likewise, a few other add-in board makers have similarly impressive custom-cooled offerings based on the R9 290 chipset. And somehow all this would hang together a bit better if the Tri-X was available for £290, which is the figure I’d hoped the R9 290 would have to slipped to by now (damn you, cryptocurrencies!). But the Tri-X still ticks all my boxes, I reckon it’s right in the sweet spot and I’m going to explain why. In other news, last week I saw the most exciting thing in gaming since I gazed fecklessly at the goldfish-bowl-proportioned cathode ray tube that masqueraded as a PC monitor and experienced hardware T&L and filtered textures (Tomb Raider on a TNT2, if you must) for the first time. The funny thing is, the bit I’m most excited about I haven’t even seen. I’m talking Elite: Dangerous. I’m talking TrackIR. I’m talking Oculus Rift DK2. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Intel Loves You, VR, $3,000 Graphics

By Jeremy Laird on March 27th, 2014.

The golden age of detachable twangers returns...

Right, then, it’s been an intriguing week or so in PC gaming tech. The virtual reality roadmap just got a rocket up the bum with the news that social network and moneybags megacorp Facebook has snapped up Oculus VR while Sony has injected additional momentum by showing off its own prototype headset for the PS4. Meanwhile, remember when you could buy a cheap Intel chip and overclock the twangers off it? Those days may be returning. Intel has apparently decided that it cares about we PC enthusiasts after all. Well, kinda. Oh, and Nvidia has another catastrophically expensive video card which you won’t be buying. Same old.

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Week in Tech: DirectX 12 And Faster PC Games

By Jeremy Laird on March 20th, 2014.

It’s not a huge surprise. But it is interesting. Microsoft has lifted the lid on its latest graphics API, DirectX 12. And the big news isn’t a fancy new rendering technology. The big news is better performance. Just like AMD’s Mantle API, DX12 promises to reduce CPU loads when playing games by as much as 50 per cent. Intriguingly, DX12 is coming to the Xbox One and phones, too. Which brings us to the really good bit. It looks likely your existing graphics card will be compatible with DX12. And that includes Nvidia GPUs… Read the rest of this entry »

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