2016 Will Be Great For Gamers: Part 1, Graphics

This year. Soon to be so last year

Four long, desolate years. Yup, it really was 1,460 sleeps ago, almost to the day, that the very first 28 nanometer graphics chip was launched, allowing card-makers to squeeze billions more transistors into their GPUs – meaning better performance for theoretically lower costs as a result. But here we are and 28nm is still as good as it gets for PC graphics. That’s a bummer, because it has meant AMD and Nvidia have struggled to improve graphics performance without adding a load of cost. It’s just one reason why 2015 has kind of sucked for PC gaming hardware. But do not despair. 2016 is going to be different.

In fact, it’s not just graphics that’s getting a long overdue proverbial to the nether regions. Next year is almost definitely going to be the best year for PC gaming hardware, full stop, for a very long time. So strap in for what is merely part one of my guide to the awesomeness that will be 2016.
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One Month On: Valve’s Steam Controller Tweaks

Cara’s gone for a wee nap (we’re full of Christmas cheer), so I’m free to talk about something secret without ruining the magic: where toys really come from. We saw Elf on Wednesday (and Krampus last night – it’s good!) but, turns out, toys are not made by Will Ferrell at the North Pole. Valve have made a video showing where Steam Controllers come from, which is pleasing in a How It’s Made way, while also explaining how they’ve improved the pad since launch – when it was a bit a bit Marmitey. We should make Graham report back with revised impressions. Graham. Graham. Graham! He can’t hear me, all the way down in London. GRAHAM. He’s not listening. GRAHAM!

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Valve Time Strikes Again: No SteamVR / HTC ‘Til Spring

It wasn’t that many months ago that I had fondly but confidently dreamed I would be spending Christmas in a VR wonderland. Those tykes at Valve seem always able to convince me that this time, this time they’re going to meet a mooted release date. Of course they’re not going to! It is completely, absolutely their thing to not do it! Would they even still be Valve if they did?

In fairness, their Steam VR headset, the Vive, is a partnership with HTC, who are doing the heavy lifting in terms of manufacturing, and it’s them who’ve finally broken cover and admitted that the thing definitely won’t be with us until next year. DAMMIT.
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AMD’s Radeon R9 380X Graphics And ‘Crimson’ Driver

XFX's 380X - other 380X's are available...

Rejoice, for among we mere mortals walks a new AMD graphics card. But hang on. Is it actually new? If it isn’t, what is going on with PC graphics these days and why do we keep having to make do with these thinly disguised rebadges? The answer is simple and the solution, happily, is imminent. Meanwhile, AMD has a new graphics driver out, and by that I mean not just a driver update but a whole new interface and platform. Give it up for AMD Crimson and kiss goodbye to that awful Catalyst interface.

Take the jump for an overview of the new AMD Radeon R9 380X and Crimson and a hint of why 2016 is shaping up to be the most exciting year in PC graphics since the early days of hardware T&L…
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Guide: The Best Gaming Monitors On A Budget

The version with the perpendicular panel costs more...

You say jump. My only question is how high? Last time around we dissected the state of play in PC monitors. But there was a problem. Some of you are skinflints. Or just, you know, normal people who may not have £400/$500-plus to blow on acres of liquid crystal magnificence. Either way, if that’s you then this is your post. I bring you profound insights into the more prosaic end of the flat-panel market. Yup, I’ve been slumming it with cheap screens. So, join me on the other side for a deep dive into the maths of colour depth. And some other stuff.
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The 2015 PC Gaming Monitor Mega Guide

All the screen you actually need?

Is capitalism in all its ghastly splendour is to blame? Or is it just us, we first-world punters, who have a problem with our priorities? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that, while parts of the world can’t get the basic human rights thing worked out, we’ve sure as hell nailed it when it comes to choice in the PC monitor market. 4K, adaptive-sync, 144Hz, curved screens, superwide aspect ratio – where to begin? And how can you end up with the right screen for you?

You see, I’m no latter-day socio-economic sage. But I can tell you which of this new-fangled monitor malarkey actually matters. So, who’s with me for some LCD-themed retail therapy?

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Projectors: A Guide To Truly Cinematic Gaming

Are projectors any good for gaming? Just possibly, I’m not the right person to ask. After all, I’ve a smallish obsession with big screens. If there’s a single, consistent theme to what I hesitate to call my career as a tech hack, that’s pretty much it. Biased? Oh yes. And yet if there’s a display technology that’s truly cinematic, it’s surely the projector. At its best, nothing comes close to the sheer visual spectacle. And surely visual spectacle is a big part of modern gaming. Take a long-term view and projectors are far more cost effective than you might think, too. So, here’s why you should consider a projector and how to do it right. Read the rest of this entry »

Is VR The Future Of Gaming?

Once a week most weeks, the RPS hivemind gathers to discuss An Issue. Sometimes it’s controversial news, sometimes it’s a particular game, sometimes it’s favourite things and least favourite things, sometimes a perennial talking point. This week, in the wake of the Oculus Connect conference and all its many reveals about the Facebook-owned side of virtual reality, we’re talking VR. We’re a few years into what some say is gaming’s next big leap, but it’s still all sweaty plastic faceboxes and a great uncertainty as to whether headspinning and handwaving can sustain their merriment across the course of what we snootily call Proper Games.

Are the Oculus Rift, the Valve Vive, the GearVR and the rest of ‘em really the future of games? We definitely sort the matter out once and for all below. Definitely.

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Do DirectX 12 & Windows 10 Make Your Games Faster?

Something something low-level abstraction. Something something optimised pipelining.

The mixed blessings of Windows 10 have been ours to experience for a few weeks now, and that means a new gaming API thingy (technical term) in the form of DirectX 12. We’ve touched on the possible impact of DX12 for all things gaming previously, how it promises to unleash CPU performance for free, bring the PC level with consoles when it comes to reducing overheads and all that jazz. Well, now it’s out, some early DX12 software has emerged and there’s all kinds of intrigue going on between AMD and Nvidia, the big noises in PC gaming graphics.

So pull up a pew and let’s see if DX12 makes games run faster on the graphics card you’ve already got… Read the rest of this entry »