Computex 2015 Round-up: Robo PCs And A Whole Lot More

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With tech conference Computex 2015 a wrap, it’s been a launchtastic week or two for PC clobber. We’ve seen a new GPU from Nvidia, those new Intel CPUs, 144Hz-plus-IPS-plus-G-Sync, all kindsa new SSDs, Transformer-style PC cases, G-Sync-touting laptops, pr0n-proof keyboards with pseudo-mechanical switches. The notion that the PC industry has become dull and commoditised hardly stacks up.

Here’s a round-up of the Computex news and what of it matters to you.

First up, Asus’s new ROG monitor. The Asus ROG Swift PG279Q looks like a dead ringer for the existing PG278Q but this time with an upgrade from TN to IPS panel tech.

The PG278Q ticked so many boxes. 144Hz refresh, G-Sync support, Goldilocks 2,560 by 1,440 resolution that packs plenty of detail without giving your graphics card a 4K-style hammering – it very nearly has it all. But the moment you fired it up, the sludgy TN panel was all too obvious.

The PG278Q wasn’t exactly cheap, either. Upgraded with an IPS panel, it’s not going to be any cheaper (pricing has not been revealed as far as I am aware, but I fear something north of £500 / $600). But it does rather add up to the current Holy Grail of monitor specs given that running 4K at 120Hz-plus just isn’t realistic.

nullIs this as good as gaming monitors get?

Actually, running one of those 3,440 by 1,440 super-wide jobs at 120Hz probably isn’t a goer, either. So the new ROG might just be it. That’s assuming, of course, they’ve manged to successfully marry super-high refresh to what has traditionally been a slightly slow-responding LCD panel technology.

Speaking of ticking a lot of gaming boxes, you can now have laptops with the lot – dual GPUs, multiple M.2 SSDs in RAID configs and Nvidia’s frame-smoothing G-Sync tech. Aorus’s bonkers X5 has all that (the GPUs in question are Nvidia 965M jobs) in a mere 15-inch chassis. How much is it? Lots. In which markets is it available? Clarity is not forthcoming, but it doesn’t really matter.

nullAll your gaming needs in a (probably very pricey) portable…

It’s not actually unique in having this manner of feature set, so the point is to be aware that this kind of thing is available if you are looking for a gaming portable.

Nvidia, of course, has wheeled out its slightly-less-than-insane money GeForce GTX 980Ti. It’s the now-traditional one-rung-down-from-the-very-top GPU based on the mega Maxwell 2.0 chip found in the Titan X board.

As ever, it’s cut down from the Titan X. 3,072 CUDA cores become 2,816 and the graphics memory halves to 6GB. But it’s still an eight billion transistor monster and officially priced at a mere $649 to the X’s £999 (a little over £500 to we Brits). You’d have to be a monetary masochist to choose the X.

nullA hill of money buys you a whole lot of Nvidia shaders…

Oh, yeah, and AMD’s new uber graphics card is due to be revealed on the 16th.

Next, what would a PC case look like were it a Transformer? I imagine this is a question that passes through Alec’s aging, desiccated and Optimus Prime-obsessed synapses on an hourly basis. The answer, quite simply, is the utterly brilliant In Win H-Tower (actually a joint effort with Asus, apparently). At least, it looks utterly brilliant in pictures and video.

It’s a Transformer-style PC case. And it does its Transformer thing at the touch of a button. Do I need to say anything more?

nullYes, you will be able to buy it later this year

Computex has also been subject to an onslaught of new SSD technology. Actually, it’s all a bit frustrating because much of the new kit involves solid-state drive controllers with NVMe support from the likes of Silicon Motion and SandForce (the latter now a sub-brand of Seagate). Sounds good, but it’s actual drives we want to see.

Speaking of SSD tech that needs to get its act together, the snappily titled SF-8639 interface has been rebranded U.2 in order that it sits nicely next to M.2. U.2 is basically PCI Express for regular 2.5-inch drives connected via a cable where M.2 involves exposed circuit boards and multi-pin slots.

We’ve been through much of this before, but the whole NVMe, M.2, SATA Express, SF-8639 and now U.2 mess seems to have been intentionally dreamt up to baffle as many people as possible.

Hopefully, it will all settle down soon and we’ll be able to discover if the NVMe control protocol combined with the speedy PCI Express interface really does make for storage nirvana. Here’s hoping.

Anyway, like I said despite a general sense that the PC market has become dull and commoditised, there’s still plenty of whackiness going on. Like 4GHz DDR4 memory, water coolers with pumps integrated into the cooling block and that pr0n-proof keyboard.

27 Comments

  1. Danorz says:

    that case is the stupidest fucking thing i have seen in a good while and i want one immediately

    • Continuity says:

      It looks sweet but.. where do the hard drives go?

      • Sakkura says:

        Behind the motherboard tray. So on the right side as seen from the front.

  2. Mrice says:

    That case looks like it would cost a huge amount and be almost entirely fucking pointless.

    When and where can i buy it?

  3. aircool says:

    We’ve come a long way since beige boxes.

  4. Baines says:

    In other hardware news, there is now at least one PC game that is officially “not fully compatible” with the memory partitioning scheme Nvidia used with the GTX970 (and presumably the 960 as well).

    Akiba’s Trip, developed by Acquire (published in the US by Xseed and Marvelous), has patch notes stating “Players using the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 graphics card have been reporting framerate issues. We regret to inform that this graphics card is not fully compatible with the game due to manufacturing issues. This is not something we can fix, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

    To be fair, it sounds like it was a rather lazy port from consoles. It has the various indicators of lazy console ports (limited resolution options, 30fps lock, etc), and goes beyond with limited/buggy support for keyboard controls (with the original devs not wanting to add keyboard support at all), a still unresolved video codec issue, and plenty of crashing.

    I guess that could be a bad sign of things to come with future lazy console ports, particularly if Nvidia sticks with their broken design. It also could be interesting if more developers start listing the GTX970 by name under their known problems, though I’ve a feeling that won’t catch on. (Publishers and developers like to remain cozy with graphics card manufacturers, after all. And performance issues are arguably a shared responsibility, even if both sides are trying to dump all blame on the other.)

    • airmikee says:

      I sincerely doubt the problems have anything at all to do with the GTX 970.

      A review of the PS4 version of the game reveals the exact same problems.

      link to hardcoregamer.com

      “Unfortunately, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed suffers in a few key areas. The most obvious part — and this will literally be apparent within the first ten to twenty seconds of taking control of the Nanashi — is the unruly amount of perplexing framerate drops and overall stuttering. It seems inconsistent, to boot, seeing as it was hard to understand why the game was hitting a wall at points. Sometimes it would be understandable, like when there was merely too much happening on-screen. Other times, however, it would trigger when running through the most vacant parts of the city.

      This could be tolerable by itself, except that the FPS plummets are made worse by constant loading screens. Akiba is an open-world game, but it’s hard to fully get lost in it because of how many loading screens you run into when traveling from section to section of the city. In actuality, this isn’t one, sprawling, flowing world; instead, it’s a large city broken into smaller levels. When crossing from one area to the other, a loading screen pops before they can enter the next part of the metropolis. The loading typically isn’t long at all (a few seconds at best, usually one or two), but the fact that it is triggered so repeatedly becomes frustrating.”

      A developer that can’t properly create a game on PC or console, nvidia or AMD, is clearly at fault here.

      • BannerThief says:

        Yeah, I’ve got a 970, and while it may be ‘lesser’ than it was originally advertised to be, it’s still a pretty beastly card for the money, especially after I (mildly) overclocked it. I think Akiba’s Trip just sounds like another bad port job from a Japanese dev who doesn’t care enough to make a decent go of it, and has decided to blame the hardware instead. (Not that I blame them; nobody in Japan plays games on PCs.)

  5. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    980ti = 5% less performance, 30% less money.

    Glad i preordered it as stocks seems dwindling, it’s genuinely something godlike. A tip to those still scared about VRAM: don’t. The only games using more than 6gb of VRAM, even at 4k, are actually programmed to cache a lot if you have some spare, but it’s not required for mere rendering purposes.

    Clever and flexible programming by all means, but a little misleading if taken at face value. The internet is full of this 12gb craze, and besides the GPU would fall behind way before you actually need that.

    Those still waiting for AMD should be fine even with 4gb at least at 1440p, maybe even 4K on most stuff.

    • Premium User Badge

      steves says:

      I pre-ordered one of these:

      link to overclockers.co.uk

      on the day it was available, when it was telling me ETA sometime last week…now it’s two more weeks. Very much #firstworldproblems, I know.

      Seems you can OC the thing to get better than a Titan-X:

      link to hexus.net

      And yes, VRAM on graphics cards is the “bigger numbers = better” just like megapixels was with cameras. 6 is more than twice enough for the next couple of years.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Six!?

        Dear God, me and my HD 7770 are currently crying huddled in a closet.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        I lucked out, i got that very same model myself, got shipped a couple days before the estimates and then stock died again. Eitherway it’s true about the OC, it can get to around 1500 ghz which is a tad higher than what i’ve seen with Titan X on review, but then you’re pushing a lot with voltage if you don’t have the luckiest sample around.

        Problem with these cards is the power limit, they are already extremely close to their max wattage and even raising it another 10% you’ll still see the card maxing out now and again. This hurts the Titan X the most as it has double the amount of memory modules to think about, which combined to the slightly more shaders might force it to automatically downclock in heavy use more than the 980ti does, and that’s before counting the temperature limit which is off course not a problem with custom cooling.

  6. phelix says:

    I’m kind of surprised to see AMD dismissed here with a shrug and one sentence.

    Where’s the coverage on their new Carrizo CPUs that should be up to 50% faster than Kaveri?

    See: link to arstechnica.com
    I didn’t see it in last week’s article either. Or did I miss something?

      • Asurmen says:

        That’s nice and all but the one sentence and the shrug was about a GPU and not CPU.

        • airmikee says:

          RPS covered AMD’s next generation of all in one chips, Zen happens to be the more powerful, more gaming chip. Carrizo follows the same ideas that Zen is advancing into reality, but it’s not really a ‘gaming chip’, it’s a “I can’t afford a real computer so I’m dumping $500 into a cheap laptop to hold me over until I can pick up something with some balls” chip.

  7. Stone_Crow says:

    Picked up a gigabyte 980ti on Wednesday (in that brief time when there was some stock) Witcher 3 everything on ultra (hairworks on) rock solid 60 FPS. Very happy. Highly recommended.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      Snap!

      Got mine on credit from scan computers, a bit pricier but by the time it’s paid off should still be great for another year or two!

    • Raoul Duke says:

      This comment is meaningless as you chose not to state what resolution you were playing at.

  8. Asurmen says:

    I’ll be interested to know whether the AMD 300 series will Crossfire with the 200 series given that they’re basically the same. I could be tempted to dip my toe into a Crossfire setup if that is true.

  9. xcession says:

    I definitely wouldn’t want to catch my genitals in that mechanism

  10. prof_yaffle says:

    The new SSD interface is called u.2? Does it play “Big Girls Drives Are Best” when you plug a drive in?

    • alw says:

      I want to get a new SSD, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

  11. frenchy2k1 says:

    We’ve been through much of this before, but the whole NVMe, M.2, SATA Express, SF-8639 and now U.2 mess seems to have been intentionally dreamt up to baffle as many people as possible.

    Not quite although the effect is similar. This is the effect from a market without clear direction and a clear leader and/or consortium. Basically, multiple parts of the big computing industry had different needs and each worked to fix that need without talking to the other parts. So, SATAExpress was supposed to be the interface of the future, but as no one even had a standard port for it, on top of being fairly limited (PCIe Gen2 x2), this got dropped by server people that needed something faster.
    Companies creating the Flash drives standardized on PCIe Gen3 x4 (consummer, slower pro) and x8 (full pro). They originally used Half Height Half Length cards and have transitioned to 2.5″ drives. They needed an interface, so came up with SFF-8639, which looks like a SAS port (SATA even, but with the bridge between power and signal for additional pins). This will be the interconnect standard for server in 2.5″ or 3.5″ drive format.
    M.2 exists for the ultra portable segment (ultrabooks, tablets…) and is encroaching into the desktop/server segment too.

    So, 2 ports left, M.2 (M is for mobile) and U.2 (for 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives). Both ports are already used in their niche, but will come soon to consumers.

  12. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Those 144Hz IPS panels have introduced a new QA problem, a sort of bastard offspring of backlight bleed and IPS glow which makes it look like the Deus Ex:HR gold piss filter has been applied in the corners whenever you look at a dark image. The ACER XB270HU suffers with it badly and they have been struggling to keep up with the returns (long waits for those pursuing the ACER swap out scheme). Some images from the show indicated that the ASUS panel has a similar issue.