Interview: Windows 10’s new Game Mode explained

Just last week (and yet somehow an eternity ago, in terms of world events), Microsoft announced that they’d soon be adding something called ‘Game Mode’ to Windows 10 with the aim of improving games’ performance, but gave away few details about what this might involve. Are we talking real framerate gains, suppressing potentially bothersome background tasks or just freeing up a wee bit of RAM?

With the first iteration of Game Mode due to arrive as part of Windows 10’s optional early Insider builds due today, I had a chat with Kevin Gammill, Partner Group Program Manager, Xbox Platform, spokesperson for the group building Game Mode, to find out what this thing actually does, which games it will support and what kind of control users will have over it. Read the rest of this entry »

Steam expands controller support, adds game-moving

A belter of a Steam update launched last night, bringing better controller support and finally adding a way to move installed games around your hard drives. The controller changes let Xbox pads and generic X-Input controllers use the fancy Steam Controller configuration tools, playing with controllers in games which don’t officially support ’em and rebinding as you please. Hooray, lessy faffing in folders or finding tools. Read the rest of this entry »

AMD’s Ryzen: A gaming CPU worth waiting for?

Something good is about to happen. I’m fairly sure of that. RPS isn’t exactly hardware rumour central, of course. There’s plenty of that elsewhere and, frankly, I can’t compete. But after the downbeat tone of my recent Intel Kaby Lake coverage, I reckon it would be remiss not to balance things out with a quick preview of what to expect from AMD’s new Ryzen CPU. It’s definitely coming soon and will probably go on sale in around six weeks. Exactly how good is Ryzen going to be? I don’t know. But all the indications are that it’s going to be at least good enough to make AMD CPUs relevant for gaming again. Read the rest of this entry »

Can you use a pocket-size PC as a games machine?

Bootleg Transformer not included

The PC is dead, long live the PC, etc. By which I mean ‘a big box that sits underneath your desk’ is an increasingly inaccurate definition of PC. The concept is heading off in all sorts of directions, from patently ridiculous laptops to transforming tablets to all-in-one giant touchscreens to surprisingly games-capable laptops to yes, big boxes under your desk but also small boxes on top of your desk. And, as I’m looking at today, teeny-tiny boxes that just about fit into the back pocket of your trousers or can slip behind your TV.

Can a $235/£188, 12x12x3cm box really work as a PC? And, more pertinently, can it possibly be any kind of games machine? Read the rest of this entry »

Hands-On With Intel’s New Kaby Lake CPU

Behold. Intel has a new PC processor. Does it game, will it blend, is it AMD’s Ryzen CPU you really want and what the hell happened to ‘Tick Tock’? For answers to at least some of these questions, including the shattering news that the arrival of Kaby Lake means the era of ‘Tick Tock’ is over, summarily usurped by ‘Process, Architecture, Optimisation’ (or if leaked roadmaps are anything to go by, make that ‘Process, Architecture, Optimisation and One More for the Road’), join me on the other side. Read the rest of this entry »

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050Ti: Affordable Graphics That’s Actually Gaming-Worthy?

Last time, we had a sniff around AMD’s latest entry-level pixel pumper, the Radeon RX 460. It was not impressive. This week, it’s time for the 460’s nearly-but-not-actually competitor from Nvidia, the GeForce GTX 1050. Except I’ve actually got the 1050Ti, which is in turn the 1050’s slicker, slightly more expensive sibling. So, can the Ti win where the 460 failed and deliver good-enough gaming at an affordable price? Read the rest of this entry »

AMD’s Radeon RX 460 Graphics: Bargain or just bad?

Multi-bazillion-transistor behemoths like Nvidia’s Titan or the AMD Radeon R9 Fury are all very well. But the stats suggest hardly any of us actually buy them. Not a single Titan shows up in the latest Steam survey. If that’s some kind of driver-related GPU flagging anomaly, the next rung down in the form of Nvidia’s GTX 1080 clocks a mere 0.3 per cent of Steam gamers. On the other hand, the third most popular GPU on Steam is Nvidia’s old budget board, the GeForce 750 Ti. Enter, therefore, AMD’s latest attempt at a parsimonious pixel pumper, the Radeon RX 460. Aspirational it ain’t. But could it be that an entry-level board now makes for good-enough gaming graphics? There’s only one way to find out.

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Oculus Touch Review: The Games

I’ve already yammered about the design and capabilities of the Oculus Touch motion controller hardware itself, and now it’s time to talk software. Around 50 Touch-enabled VR games and apps launched this week – more than I can feasibly hope to look at, but I’ve been able to finger-gun and swipe and prod in enough of ’em to give you a clear sense of what this whole experience is like right now for games and software, and whether the Touch is generally a goer or not.

Also: SUPERHOT.
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Oculus Touch is a superior motion controller to the Vive’s

I’ve been playing with them there Oculus Touch controllers for the last few days – a pair of wireless, motion-tracking handheld devices that, in theory, bring the Oculus Rift more in line with the HTC Vive and its wavy, donut-ended pointers. Turns out they’re quite a bit better. Read the rest of this entry »

An Exciting Dishonored 2 Performance Update

I’ve a ‘mare of a time with Dishonored 2 [official site]. You can tell because I’ve devoted an order of magnitude more words to the subject than I’ve written to my parents in the past two years. As I wrote yesterday, the latest patch has ameliorated but not solved the performance problem – however, I might now have found the sweet spot. Not without compromise.
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Black Friday 2016 Budget Monitor Guide

A very naughty monitor

HDR hotness, uber-res 4K panels and the messiah of 27-inch IPS monitors are all very well. But what is a parsimonious PC gamer to do if she or he just wants a decent screen at a price mere mortals can afford? Take the advice I’m just about to give you, that’s what. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised what a limited budget now buys you. Beyond the jump you’ll find everything from sub-£100 screens from 40-inch 4K wonders to high-refresh honeys, and none of them breach the £300 barrier. What’s more, the ghastly spectacle of consumerism that is Black Friday is imminent. Which means now is undeniably a good a time to buy. Read the rest of this entry »

The HTC Vive Is Getting An Official Wireless Add-on

Huh. The smart money was on the Vive (and indeed Oculus Rift) not embracing the wireless future is so desperately needs until a full second generation of the hardware, but seems like we might get to cut the cord a whole lot sooner than that. An HTC partner company is about to start selling a little bolt-on box that makes the existent Valve-friendly headset entirely wireless. Finally, we can frolic freely, like Lawnmower Lambs.
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Week in Tech: Wearable VR, Photo-Realistic Fleeces And So Much More

With the profound logistical complexities of orchestrating the arrival of two 3D cards in the same place at roughly the same time apparently beyond me, my planned graphics-off between the latest budget video boards has been punted two weeks hence (hopefully, anyway). So, it’s time for another installment of the somewhat tenuously-titled Week in Tech. This week’s muses include a preposterous looking VR backpack PC from Zotac, an even more preposterous gaming laptop from Asus and the PC’s journey towards rendering photo-realistic graphics in games. Read the rest of this entry »

Budget Graphics Update: AMD Radeon RX 460 VS Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050

Graphics. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. In 2016, at least. We’ve covered much of the pricier performance end of the market, cards like the new Radeon RX 480 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. But not all of us have made the leap from washing lettuce to assistant manager. Money, put simply, is an object.

With the launch of a new budget GPU from Nvidia, now looks like as good a time as any for a quick recap of the cheapest graphics cards that at least purport to be good for gaming and ask that crucial question – how cheap does proper 1080p gaming get?
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Nvidia 1050: Cheap 1080p/60FPS Graphics?

I’ve been lucky/dorky enough to live a life in the mid-range of graphics cards, so I must confess that what goes on with entry-level boards is a bit mysterious to me. Clearly though, that’s where a whole heap of people need to focus their interests – in many cases purely because of cost, in others because they’re stuck with some nasty off-the-shelf PC that doesn’t have enough space or power supply connectors for a Big Mama card. Nvidia’s next, the GeForce GTX 1050, is for those folk – the idea is it can do most modern games at medium settings in 1080p, at a cost of approx $110/£115. Read the rest of this entry »

Steam Dev Days Goss: New Vive Controllers, Steam Link In TVs

Valve invited our mate Ian Video Games to their Steam Dev Days conference this week because “they recognise his genius potential”, or so he’d have you believe. Suspicious sorts have observed that the never-before-mentioned ‘twin brother’ housesitting to water Ian’s plants looks just like him, down to the same red wine stain on his jeans, with a stick-on moustache. Other say that the tweets and photos he’s ‘sending back’ from Seattle look suspiciously like tweets from actual developers who are actually there. No matter. Either way, Valve have been gabbing about prototype new Vive motion controllers, Steam Links included with Samsung televisions, and other Steamstuff. Read the rest of this entry »

Nvidia’s GTX 1070: The 1440p Graphics Card Of Choice?

Hello. Good evening. And graphics. After a brief excursion into the delights of HDR screens, it’s back to This Week in Graphics in which I deliver my subjective, benchmarkless verdict some months behind almost everyone else in the Alpha Quandrant. Being first is so easy, so obvious, after all. This time around we’re filling in the final slot in Nvidia’s new Pascal family of GPUs. If you discount the crazy money Titan X, at least. Yup, it’s the GeForce GTX 1070. As it happens, the 1070 neatly fills what is normally my favoured slot in the overall hierarchy of any given GPU family, namely one rung down from the top graphics chip that’s actually bought in significant volumes. Except, Nvidia’s Pascal family isn’t entirely normal…

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Review: Too Good To Be True? A 4K VR Headset That Supports SteamVR For $300

Oh, virtual reality. So much promise, so many drawbacks. Stick your hand into the Tombola Of VR Woes and see what you grab. Headaches and nauseau? High system requirements? Too many cables? Screen door effect? Apparent low resolutions? Gimmicky games? Problematic prices? Your face in a box? I could go on, but I won’t because, er, that is most of them. Both Oculus Rift and the Vive offer a real jolly good time for initial forays into lifesize 3D wonderlands, but come up short when it comes to longer term usage, for reasons we’ve opined about at length here and here. But those constitute just the first consumer generation of hardware.

The tech will be refined over time (unless the market totally loses faith in the concept), but whether that is achieved by Oculus, Valve/HTC or someone else entirely is very much up for grabs still. In the interim, here’s Chinese outfit Pimax, who are selling what they label as the first 4K VR headset for PC, which works with SteamVR. It’s also $350 (or $300 without headphones), compared to the Rift’s $599 and Vive’s $799. Two questions, then. 1) Can it really solve the image quality problem? 2) Can it really do what it needs to at half the price of the big boys of VR? I’ve been testing the Pimax for the last few days, and here’s what I think.

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HDR Gaming And The PC: It’s Complicated

There was a time when all you had to worry about with an LCD display was whether you cared enough to pay extra for a monitor with an IPS panel. Well, that and its size. And resolution. And maybe its native colour depth. And brightness. And contrast. And pixel response. And inputs. OK, it was never that simple. But it’s certainly not getting any simpler: the last few years have added further unfathomables including frame syncing, higher refresh rates, new display interconnects and the 4K standard.

Now there’s more for you to worry about in the form of HDR. Or should that be UHD Premium? Or Rec. 2020? Or BT.2100? Maybe SMPTE 2084 or HDR10? Whatever, it’s mainly about colours, lots and lots of lovely colours. This is already a big thing in HDTVs. It’s coming to the PC. But what’s it all about and is there any chance of making sense of what is, currently, a bit of a mess?

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Get Gogged: Oculus Rift Hits European Retail Today

Mate, no wonder cybergoggles didn’t bring an overnight revolution: they weren’t in the shops here. Digital distribution is great for games but you can’t download goggles, can you? Think it through, yeah? No one’s going to pay a few hundred quid for an e-mail with a small picture of a black plastic box. What kind of mug do they take us for?

At long last, Oculus Rift is now officially in Europe as something you can touch with your face. The physical edition is now in shops in boxes, and a fair few places are hosting demos so you can try jacking your face in.

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