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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Week in Tech: Nvidia Laptop Graphics Update

By Jeremy Laird on March 13th, 2014.

Yes, we’ve done the Nvidia Maxwell graphics thing already. As a desktop GPU, the new GeForce GTXs 750 and 750 Ti aren’t all that exciting. But the same Nvidia GM107 chip rebadged Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M and stuffed into a laptop? Suddenly, things get a whole lot more interesting. The specifics aren’t official yet. But it looks like GM107 might just deliver twice the performance for the same power budget as its predecessor and that’s pretty exciting for thin-and-light gaming lappies. And remember, this is just the beginning for Maxwell – the arrival of second-gen 20nm Maxwell mobile GPUs could be spectacular. While we’re here, I thought a beginners guide to mobile GPUs would be useful for some of you. What with all the branding shenanigans both Nvidia and AMD get up to in the mobile space, keeping track of what’s actually on offer isn’t always easy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Intel Updates ‘Orrible Haswell, Faster SSDs

By Jeremy Laird on March 6th, 2014.

Intel's new CPUs Hz so good

An extra 100MHz. This is progress, Intel style. I speak of the expected refresh of Intel’s Haswell-vintage CPUs, due in a month or so. It’s a PR upgrade to what was already an underwhelming family of desktop processors and yet another example of some pretty specular foot-dragging from Intel in recent years. Will Intel’s next properly new family of chips, known as Broadwell, be any better? If not, we should at least be able to look forward to a big step up in SSD performance fairly soon in part enabled by Intel’s upcoming 9 Series chipsets. Well, it’s something to look forward to… Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: Proprietary PC Tech and Nvidia

By Jeremy Laird on February 27th, 2014.

Last week we caught an early glimpse of Nvidia’s latest and greatest GPU design, known as Maxwell. We’ll have to wait a while to see what impact it has on true gaming PCs, but the sheer power efficiency of the new architecture certainly looks promising. Anywho, the Maxwell launch event was a chance to hook up with Nvidia and quiz them on a subject that’s been vexing me of late, namely the rise of proprietary gaming tech – well, mainly graphics – for the PC. What with Mantle and HSA from AMD, G-Sync, 3D Vision and Shield-tethered game streaming from Nvidia, it feels like gaming hardware is becoming increasingly partisan. So what gives? Tom Petersen, Nvidia’s Director of Technical Marketing for GeForce, gave me the low down.
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Week in Tech: Nvidia’s Mighty New Maxwell Graphics

By Jeremy Laird on February 20th, 2014.

Nvidia’s new Maxwell graphics kit, then. It’s out but what’s it all about? Epic performance density and power efficiency is the elevator pitch, with a spot of improved cryptocurrency hashing thrown in for good measure. But are the first new Maxwell boards – the GTXs 750 and 750 Ti – the bomb or a bum deal? Read the rest of this entry »

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Week In Tech: I Dream Of Steam Streams

By Jeremy Laird on February 6th, 2014.

For a dying platform, the technical innovations for the PC aren’t half coming thick and fast. For starters, Alec and Graham have been dabbling with Steam’s new streaming capability. It all looks bloody clever to me and has the knock on effect of rebooting interest in some previously pretty pedestrian kit. £40 mini-ITX board with embedded Atom chip as basis for client streaming box (based on a free OS)? As if that wasn’t enough, AMD’s Mantle API has gone live with beta driver support, promising a brave new age of high performance gaming for all. Well, kinda. Read the rest of this entry »

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Week In Tech: Are SSDs Really Reliable?

By Jeremy Laird on January 30th, 2014.

Oh hell, it’s happened again. But this time it’s induced not only frustration but a sudden pang of guilt. Another of my SSDs has gone titsup.com and my borderline breathless fanboyism for SSDs is flashing before my eyes. What have I done? Have I been wrong all along? Are SSDs still not fit for public consumption? At the very least, it’s reason enough to re-examine just how reliable the latest solid staters are and whether the reward is worth the risk. Read the rest of this entry »

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The RPS Verdict: Steam In-Home Streaming Beta

By Alec Meer on January 30th, 2014.

A computer and a stream, yesterday

The first raft of people have been allowed into the beta of Steam’s upcoming In-Home Streaming tech, which enables you to stream pretty much any Steam game (and even a few non-Steam games) from your main games PC to another PC elsewhere in the house. Among those people are Graham and Alec, who’ve been trying it out on assorted hardware, and who here sit down to have a good old chinwag about their respective experiences. It’s a great idea on paper, but does it really work? Yes, obviously it does or they wouldn’t have released it. But does it work well? Sir, you are being clickbaited.

(Yes ok it works quite well, sort of, depending on your setup and which games you try, but please read the article anyway).
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Week in Tech: Sony Vaio Tap 11, Will It Game?

By Jeremy Laird on January 23rd, 2014.

As I wandered the debris-strewn wasteland of discarded smartphones that is the aftermath of the perfect storm of disposable consumerism at CES in Vegas earlier this month, my plan had been to regale you all with a twisting tale of ultra mobile technology and gaming. To talk about the iPhone and how its performance has ballooned by 40 times since introduction in 2007. And what it all means for the PC. I wrote it up and even managed to crowbar in an anecdote about the afternoon I spent lounging in the sun at the Colombo Swimming Club chatting to Arthur C. Clarke without once mentioning 2001 (true story and all that). But then I thought sod that whimsy, I’ll save it for another day. I’ve got an Intel Haswell-powered Sony Vaio Tap 11 at the moment. Will it game? Read the rest of this entry »

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Week in Tech: AMD’s new single-chip console killer

By Jeremy Laird on January 16th, 2014.

Kaveri. Heterogeneous computing. Mantle. What? I just want a decent CPU and graphics card, please. Don’t know about you, but feels to me like you need a masters in integrated circuit design to keep up with PC processor and graphics tech at the moment. AMD has just outed Kaveri, its latest APU or CPU-GPU thingie. What with all this heterogeneous computing stuff, the promise of Mantle and an integrated graphics core that’s not far off next-gen-console performance parity, Kaveri pulls together the tangled web that is AMD’s current strategy in a single chip and puts a different spin on what’s important in PC processors. It’s also bloody confusing. Is Kaveri any good, what does it all mean, should you care, can you even keep up? Answers of sorts I shall provide. Meanwhile, a quick note on Dell and its alleged 30Hz 4K clanger. Read the rest of this entry »

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