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

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.

So, the Crucial MX100. There’s not a great deal more to add. It will début Crucial’s (or more accurately Micron’s) new 16nm NAND memory. Die shrinks usually equate to cheaper memory. I also note there’s a new Marvell SSD controller that’s been announced and might appear in the MX100. And given the MX100 replaces the M500, well…

Current M500 pricing might reflect Crucial’s keenness to shift lingering inventory before the new drive comes out, but it would be odd if the MX100 was much more expensive. You’d also expect it to be a bit faster than the drive it replaces.

Anyway, given that the 240GB M500 is my go-to pick for people looking for a cheap but reasonably fast and capacious SSD at the moment, news of the MX100 is worth a shout out. The MX100 will be officially launched at the Computex show in June, I assume retail availability shortly thereafter.

My advice is probably to hold fire on an M500 until the official announcement, see what the pricing is looking like and if it’s not the good news I’m expecting, snag an M500 before they disappear.

Meanwhile, Anandtech has an early look at an Asrock Z97 motherboard that sports an M.2 (ie SATA Express) SSD socket that supports four PCI Express lanes. You can read the full skinny on Anandtech (and there are some slightly complex PCI Express lane-sharing issues to get your head around re resource competition with graphics cards).

But the really short version goes like this: You’ll get 1GB peak speeds in both directions and the random access numbers look a bit better than what we’ve seen from plain old SATA SSDs, but not spectacular.

Driver bomb
Next up, Nvidia’s latest graphics driver, the nattily named 337.88 WHQL, is out. Nvidia is claiming some spectacular performance increases (eg. 71 per cent in Total War: Rome II). Cherry picked, highly specific scenarios, no doubt.

Likewise, your mileage will vary and this driver is bound to break something somewhere (set a restore point before diving in to be safe). But a quick trawl of forum-post feedback suggests this is more than just your usual, run-of-the-mill driver drop. It may well do some good things for your games, like fix performance issues with anti-aliasing for 2-3GB cards in Watch Dogs, for instance. Assuming you have an Nvidia GPU, of course.

Oh, yeah, while we’re talking Nvidia, you can now buy a Titan Z dual-GPU, 5,760 shader monster for about £2,350/$3000, if that’s your bag. Or you could just buy two Titans for £1,600 and have the same gaming experience. Whatever.

4K super synced

Of course, if you’re thinking Titan Z you must be thinking 4K. After all, this week is seeing a flood of 28-inch 4K TN gaming panels for prices that positively piffle next to the Titan Z. I assume they all use the same 3,860 by 2,160-pixel panel which, interestingly, may set new standards for viewing angles for TN technology.

Anyway, AOC’s new U2868PQU does 60Hz over DisplayPort, has a fully adjustable stand (hurrah!) and is yours for £499 / E650 / $775. I’m hoping to have a look at it soon (and particularly at those viewing angles). Fingers crossed it sucks. Because if it’s any good I’ll have to bloody buy one. And I need all available funds for funnelling into house and car projects.

Acer’s offering (again TN, 28-inch, 4K) is the XB280HK and its party trick is to add Nvidia’s G-Sync to the mix. Yup, we’ve been through the whole G-Sync is a dead-end thing. But FreeSync isn’t here yet, so if you want GPU-synced refresh 4K – and I reckon that actually makes a lot of sense given that syncing allows smooth gaming at sub-60Hz frame rates and frames will be at a premium given the GPU load – the Acer makes a lot of sense.

Slight snag is pricing. No word on what the premium will be for the G-Sync gubbins.

Thin-and-light gaming grunt
Something else that’s grabbed my attention is Gigabyte’s new 15.6-inch thin-and-light gaming portable, the revised Ultraforce P35W v2.

It’s 20mm thick, 2kg, metal chassis, has a 1080p IPS-type (well, wide viewing angles claimed) panel, 4K out, support for up to four SATA SSDs and two mSATA SSDs, Core i7 processors and (the important bit) an Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M GPU with 6GB of memory.

The latter is 1,344-shader version of GK104. Factor in clockspeeds and you’re probably looking at desktop GTX 760 performance. The only price I can find is $1,599 Stateside with a Corei7-4710HQ, 8GB memory and a magnetic rather than solid state drive. Not exactly dirt cheap, but then proper gaming laptops never are.

If anyone is genuinely interested, let me know and I’ll request a sample from Gigabyte and have a closer look. Until next time, chaps.


  1. Retro says:

    Consider me genuinely interested

    • melnificent says:

      Also genuinely interested.

    • dsjohns says:

      Also interested in the laptop. Seems expensive but I like laptops that aren’t super “gamer” looking. Just a simple chassis with good hardware.

    • salgado18 says:

      Not in you, bloody bot!

    • jrod says:

      SWITCH TO DISQUS – the bot spam will end! (and it will be a much better experience for us users all around)

      • phelix says:

        But Disqus has a rating system with upvotes and downvotes.
        I’m inherently opposed to such a system because it means quality by popular vote, and the end result is too often people blaring the popular opinion du jour around to get upvotes (ergo attention), while at the same time downvoting people they disagree with instead of -god forbid- actually trying to form a rational counterargument.
        Better experience? I disagree.


        EDIT: Meant to be a reply to jrod above me.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          I’m inherently opposed to such a system because it means quality by popular vote, and the end result is too often people blaring the popular opinion du jour around to get upvotes (ergo attention), while at the same time downvoting people they disagree with instead of -god forbid- actually trying to form a rational counterargument.

          So you’ve experienced reddit already I see.

        • frightlever says:

          That up vote/down vote is also massively open to abuse when John Walker sets off on some hot button linkbait and attracts a bunch of rapid dogs from some interest group or another, like when they decided to stop covering that Penny Arcade convention.

    • Iain says:

      I’m interested, but please can you look at the cheapest version that’s viable?

  2. Shodex says:

    I’d be genuinely interested if I didn’t just order my very first …. eughh, laptop about five minutes ago.
    I’m not genuinely interested, but I might be honestly interested. Perhaps even authentically interested.

    • db1331 says:

      Well. at least you didn’t refer to it as a “Gaming laptop.”

      • Shodex says:

        I’ve been a desktop elitist for too long to consider any type of laptop fit for gaming. It’s black and has a red lit keyboard, so maybe it is a ‘gaming’ laptop.

        link to shop.lenovo.com

        • AngelTear says:

          I bought my laptop more than 3 years ago for 600€, it has a core i5-480m and a Geforce GT 540m, 4GB ram and 640GB HDD, 15 inches screen. It’s far from a proper gaming laptop, but, except for a couple of games that just hate laptops (I couldn’t run Sanctum for more than a year) I’ve always been able to run pretty much every game I bought with surprisingly high details. (Bioshock 1, SR3, Metro 2033, Payday 2, Dark Souls 2 all run perfectly with the best options)

          That’s to say, it may not be as nice to look at, but you don’t need to spend 1000+$ to properly game on a laptop.

          • Sakkura says:

            Running Metro 2033 smoothly at max settings with a GT 540M? I smell bullshit.

          • Richard Burton says:

            I noticed the games you mention are console-centric games that play perfectly on my PS3 too. I wonder how well those PC-based games would work on that laptop i.e. FSX with the photoreal scenery packs, Steel Beasts Pro, IL-2 Sturmovik Cliffs of Dover, Rise of Flight, ARMA3, Shogun 2, Rome II Total War or perhaps the upcoming Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen… not that you’d know cos you’ll never play them, right? ;)

          • AngelTear says:

            @Sakkura I have uninstalled Metro2033, so I can’t test it, but you may be right, and my memory may be playing tricks on me. I apologize of that’s the case. Still, I definitely played it with more than decent settings, and it looked pretty good and with a solid framerate.

            @Richard I don’t play many games with good graphics, as I like indies more than AAA, so these are my few experiences with such games; even Payday is not really my thing. I do remember pre-optimization Planetside running poorly, and The Secret World also not always keeping a solid frame rate (another game people complained about for poor optimization).

            Still, I think my point stands. Obviously, if you want the best of the best graphics, a non-gaming laptop won’t cut it, and loading times aren’t its strong point either, but I never felt limited or hampered because I played on it, I never felt like my experience suffered because of it, or that I couldn’t buy a game because I risked to not be able to play it (until 6GB ram restrictions came along, at least), and I saved a lot of money compared to a “gaming laptop”. All the limitations of and caveats about laptops still apply (eg. not being able to upgrade, relatively small screen etc.)

          • Tams80 says:

            @ Richard

            Oh, please take your elitism elsewhere. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with console gaming. Neither is there anything wrong with laptop PC gaming. For some of us it is our best solution to gaming.

            Yes, you take a hit in terms of graphics. Obviously you can’t play a lot of games at max settings (especially PC only ones). However, all those games you mentioned (especially Shogun 2) will run acceptably at lower settings and are still enjoyable.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Same here, I got a Toshiba Satellite L850-119 for 600€ two years ago, it has a Radeon HD 7670M (20% faster than a Geforce GT 540m), a Intel Core i3-2350M @2.30 Ghz (plenty enough for the vast majority of games where the bottleneck is usually the graphic card), and 6 Gb of RAM, and a 15″ (38.1 cm) screen with 1366×768 resolution (the relatively low resolution isn’t noticeably bad and helps a lot not to strain the graphic card). I swapped the 5400 RPM disk for a SSD for a tremendous improvement in reactivity.

            There are some games that it would have trouble to run, like Crysis 3 or Sword of the Stars 2, but it runs the vast majority of games at medium graphic settings well enough.

            And it’s even Mantle-compatible, so who know, it might be even quite future-proof!

        • colw00t says:

          I have a Y500 with dual graphics cards and it’s lovely. It’s not a serious cutting-edge gaming machine, but it does quite well with most titles that aren’t pushing the boundaries. Most newer games can be run at 1080p and high-ish settings and of course it’s plenty for anything older, which is honestly most of what I play these days.

          Of course, the greatest benefit is that I can mess about while sitting on the couch next to The Lady, instead of being banished to the other room.

      • Sleepy Will says:

        My yardstick for whether a laptop is a gaming laptop or not is to tell TeH MaStErRaCe L33Trs that PC gaming is expensive. When they indignantly show me a system that costs a few hundred pounds, if my laptop outperforms it, it’s a gaming laptop.

  3. db1331 says:

    Guy here at work bought a 250GB Samsung SSD from Amazon, and they sent him a 500GB instead. I actually found this out hours after ordering my own 250GB Samsung SSD from Amazon, which arrives today. Fingers crossed!

  4. Low Life says:

    That Gigabyte laptop seems nice, I’d definitely consider it if I was planning a laptop upgrade. Nonetheless, would be interesting to read your impressions on it.

    Buying a monitor has gotten really difficult lately. For a few years it was just a function of money, latency and image quality; but now we have these high resolutions, high refresh rates and the *sync options – and no monitors offering all of those.

  5. Sakkura says:

    AMD released their Catalyst 14.6 beta driver a couple days ago, and they too are claiming major performance improvements in several games, most notably Watch Dogs.

    It’s a beta unlike the Nvidia driver which is WHQL, but for most people there’s really no difference.

    • Cinek says:

      I got drivers from… I don’t know… half a year ago? Or something around that.

      On ultra-details Watch Dogs runs for me at ~40 FPS (1080p). On high details I can keep 60 FPS, but not stable, on medium it never goes below 60 FPS.
      My setup: Radeon 7970 / i7 920 / 6GB RAM.

      I constantly hear complains about performance, but…. TBH: As far as I see – this game runs as smooth as any other out there.

      • Sakkura says:

        Some people won’t accept 40 FPS, though for me that’s more or less my cutoff point; 40 FPS fine, 30 FPS not fine, less than 30 completely unacceptable (except maybe very static games – point and click adventures or whatever).

        You could probably get a bit more performance with the newest driver, but it actually doesn’t look like you’re missing that much compared to the benchmarks I’ve seen with the newest driver.

        • Cinek says:

          Yea, I got the same: 30 FPS = bad, 40 FPS = good enough. And to be honest – I can’t be bothered to upgrade drivers, it’s not like this game requires some super-high reflex, or it’s some competitive multiplayer game. I’m cool with my ultra details @ 40 FPS/1080p.
          I still get way better experience then console gamers with their 30 FPS/900p ;)

          • cafeoh says:

            This is odd. I’m much less tolerating of low framerates. I’d probably sacrifice resolution to fps to a certain degree in many cases. Anything at 40 fps or below is unacceptable (I don’t do much console gaming, and Dark Souls gets a free pass). 60 fps is good, anything above is much appreciated bonus.

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  8. iyokus says:

    The 4K revolution has me worried. It’s wonderful and everything, but a *huge* leap forward in terms of hardware demands. It’s not something you can do by degrees, and it won’t be enough to splurge now and economise later; to keep playing future games in 4K you’ll need to maintain a top-end GPU or have to use your expensive panel in lower resolution.

    • LazyGit says:

      Well, the good thing about UltraHD is that it’s exactly 4 times the resolution of 1080p so running games at 1080p won’t result in horrible scaling artifacts. UltraHD will also negate much of the need for anti-aliasing so although the resolution may be increasing, other power hungry settings are reduced.

  9. Moraven says:

    I got a P35G in Dec. It essentially is the slight step down version from the W (860 4GB for P35G v2 instead of the 870 6GB in the W). V1 had a 765M 2GB, at $1400 (now $1200) 8GB ram, HDD. I still plan to put my own older SSD into the DVD drive slot, instead of getting an mSata one. Not like I use DVDs anyway.

    Good size, light, has power. I do not notice the fans a whole lot, being used to being by two desktops most of the time. I have not updated it in a couple months, they may have added it.

    The 4K output and Display Port are new.

    I am happy with the purchase and have not had chassis warping issues some buyers had.

  10. Tams80 says:

    Hopefully the P35W v2 won’t have issues with bending. O.O

    A model that scraps the RAID for a bigger battery would be nice. I think only Samsung offer a quad core CPU, with discrete graphics and a large battery. 76Wh isn’t terrible like most powerful laptops, but this one seems to have some features it doesn’t really need.

    • Richard Burton says:

      “Oh, please take your elitism elsewhere. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with console gaming. Neither is there anything wrong with laptop PC gaming.” Elitism? When did I say there was anything wrong with it? If you would like to actually read what I wrote, you might see that I mentioned I have a PS3 and I have played all of the games Angel mentioned on said console. That was my point that seems to have sailed over your head. Perhaps while you’re on your way to Specsavers you would like to take your blind drunkenness – or whatever it is you’re on – elsewhere?

  11. Rollin says:

    I very recently bought a 2560×1440 monitor and found everything in windows was too small. I had to increase to 125% but lots of applications (e.g. Steam) don’t respond to this. You can fix Chrome separately.

    People adopting 4k must be having even worse problems, many programs must be tiny. That and the high graphics card demand mean I wouldn’t want it for another few years at least, until MS fix windows for high res like Apple have.

    • TormDK says:

      Windows is fine, the various programs just need to account for it.

      Check out some of the Windows 8.1 Build videos, the unified app approach gives alot of leeway when accounting for monitor resolution.

      • fish99 says:

        “the various programs just need to account for it.”

        …but until they do you’re screwed. And what if they never do? Not every piece of software people still use is still being actively developed.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          Still, Valve should really looking into getting Steam working on high DPI screens, especially as it’s gamers who are often at the forefront of shiny new tech.

        • Gargenville says:

          By that logic you’d better not upgrade anything, ever. Sure there are legitimate issues right now but this isn’t some weird fringe technology where you have to worry whether it’ll ever catch on (hi G-sync), this is just your regularly scheduled resolution bump (it’s a bit overdue, even).

        • RvLeshrac says:

          So the solution is to pull an Apple, and ensure that 100% of your applications won’t run after updating the OS, unless the developers decide to update them, rather than simply having SOME of them deliver a less-stellar experience?

          I’ll stick with not being forced to replace my commonly-used software, thanks.

    • Cinek says:

      Yea, I got similar screen at work.
      Just use it for a week or two without up-scaling anything. You’ll get used to it. :) I did.

    • iainl says:

      Really? I’m running 150% on the PC that’s connected to my 1080p TV, so I can read the text from the sofa, and Steam is indeed scaled (in an ugly way, admittedly – it just gets blocky). Alternatively, you can just have it launch in Big Picture mode, which laughs at your resolution issues, if you’re desperate.

  12. joa says:

    Aren’t TN panels the ones that go into the cheapest-of-the-cheap LCD monitors? Seems a bit silly to have such a huge resolution with poor image quality.

    • Cinek says:

      Majority of people cannot see any difference.

      • Sakkura says:

        Well, you can easily see the limited vertical viewing angle. But that’s something most people can live with – just have to adjust the screen properly and it’s no problem.

        • Silent_Thunder says:

          Yeah I wouldn’t put a limited viewing angle as that big an issue with a desktop monitor, as presumably you’ll always be sitting in around the same spot to view it at.

          Limited horizontal angle however would be an issue for those of us who use triples.

          • Gargenville says:

            They also traditionally have the worst contrast and color reproduction of all display types. That said it’s been forever since I (or anyone else for that matter) have actually seen a new HIGH END* TN panel not primarily aimed at gaming use so ???

            *the fanciest TN I can think of would be the screen on a 13 inch Macbook Air which is pleasant enough aside from the garbage resolution.

        • fish99 says:

          A lot of people don’t realize this, but with TN there’s a significant drop off in brightness at the top of the screen even with your head stationary (and the bottom of the screen will be a little washed out too). Nothing to do with brightness or backlight, it’s just the vertical viewing angle is that limited. I can live with it on my screen because it’s 120Hz and I game in 3D a lot, but it’s a definite weakness of TN tech.

          TBH LCD tech as a whole needs to die, mainly because it’s too slow, even the very fastest screens, but also because of the viewing angles.

          • Premium User Badge

            phuzz says:

            If you don’t realise there’s a problem, is it really a problem?

          • fish99 says:

            Well, I can definitely see the blur watching football on my HDTV, and I do sometimes notice the top of the screen being darker on my desktop LCD. I had an IPS as my desktop screen for a while before switching to a 120Hz TN panel for 3D, and the vertical viewing angles were much better.

            I also think with HDTVs and SD broadcasts we still haven’t gotten back to the image quality we used to have on the old CRT TVs.

      • KwisatzHaderach says:

        Viewing angle is one thing, the other, much more prominent advantage of IPC/PLS panels are the vivid colours. I bought a korean 1440p screen a while ago and while I sometimes have to scale down to 1080p I wouldn’t want to miss the vibrant colours and incredible saturated contrast. Go play Mirror’s Edge on a PLS and you will know what I mean. I would take lower with better image quality over higher res with washed out colours and weak contrast.

        • Low Life says:

          Colours aren’t about the panel type, but its quality. It’s just that TN panels, due to their other limitations, are usually manufactured as cheaply as possible so the colours are crap.

          As an example, this thing has a TN panel: link to anandtech.com

          (The displays it’s being compared to are the usual TN garbage, but you can check other displays’ performance for example here.)

        • Cinek says:

          As I said – majority of people cannot see a difference. I got calibrated EIZO IPS panel – mostly because I do plenty of photography as a hobby – but so far I haven’t stumbled upon anyone who would see any difference or tell that my fancy super-expensive and color-accurate screen is any better (or worse) then their TN.

          • joa says:

            I don’t know – my own experience with TNs is at work, and every time I sit down at a different desk the monitors look too pink or too green or murky somehow. Even after a good 5 minutes messing around with the settings it doesn’t look quite right. My monitor at home (which isn’t IPS, but is one of the higher-grade ones they were making 5 or 6 years ago) always has very natural looking colours.

            That said if others don’t notice a difference then more power to them.

          • Cinek says:

            “every time I sit down at a different desk the monitors look too pink or too green or murky somehow.” – that’s because you got used to the light temperature of your screen. What you should do is to have a half an hour break without looking at any monitors – go outside, take some fresh air, lunch break, or something like that, then come back to the different screen – unless it’s horribly miscallibrated – it will feel fine.

  13. cheaperthansteam says:

    About the monitor… I still prefer IPS panel compared to TN. Even though it’s more expensive, I prefer quality above cheap price. Anyway if you want to buy games cheaper than Steam, check this one out: link to tinyurl.com

  14. Gargenville says:

    The entire concept of a gaming laptop seems kind of antiquated now that we have In-Home Streaming and I can max out Metro/Crysis/Witcherer on my grimly business focused 1.5Ghz Core 2 Duo lappy from 2009. Obviously I need to be within wifi range of my desktop but to actually utilize a gaming laptop’s full potential for more than 20 minutes you’d need a power outlet anyway. I guess if you spend a lot of time in hotels or something it still makes sense but for the entire ‘I want to play Skyrim in the kitchen’ segment the practice of putting a bunch of expensive specialty parts into a laptop is pretty much obsolete.

  15. Megakoresh says:

    Hmm… Dat SSD looks interesting.