Astro makes some of my favorite gaming headsets. They’re comfortable for long play sessions, their boom microphones sound clear when I’m calling out new objectives, and they sound pretty damn good—balanced enough for serious music listening but dynamic enough to catch every bullet snap in a Battlefield 4 match. So I was excited to try the company’s newest model, the Astro A38 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headset. Astro bills it as an all-in-one gaming headset that can be used on your desktop PC, a gaming laptop, or even your smartphone. After two weeks of use, I think it’s a great set of cans, but I’m not sure it belongs at your gaming rig.
This is the first time I can remember that PC gaming was mentioned at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) without me having to remind an exec that we existed. Unprompted, Intel's Kirk Skaugen took to the stage in the main keynote proclaiming “desktop is alive and well. It's innovating, whether it's small form factors, all-in-ones, portable all-in-ones or extreme gaming.”
"There are 711 million PC gamers in the world today, that's one in ten people on the planet,” he enthused.
Is it a bird, is it a laptop, is it a desktop? No, it's MSI's GS30...er...entertainment system? At the moment it's just a pre-production sample but the bundled laptop and dock ought to allow bona fide desktop performance via a laptop. On the road, you've got a thin and light notebook and plugged in, at home you've effectively got a full desktop running from the same system.
The desktop has so many advantages over the laptop: power, price, multiple monitors. A powerful gaming laptop has the advantage of portability, but we hate giving up the productivity of two (or three) side-by-side monitors. So do the creators of a soon-to-be Kickstarter called the DuoScreen, apparently: they’ve built a prototype laptop dock that, true to its name, houses a fold-out second screen.
Intel’s eight-core i7 5960X super chip may have grabbed a lot of headlines for its unprecedented multi-threading capabilities, but as a $1,000 CPU it was effectively irrelevant for most PC gamers. Their significantly cheaper Core i7 5820K, though, is a serious step up in performance from the Devil’s Canyon quad-core, and I’ve just got my hands on it for the first time.
Gaming laptops are the perfect solution for a very specific group of people—they’re ideal for serious gamers who need a rig that can play demanding games while remaining somewhat portable for frequent travel or LAN parties. They aren’t slim battery life champions, and building a desktop will always get you more raw gaming power for less money, so gaming laptops aren’t the most practical solution for all gamers. That said, a great gaming laptop can play the latest games on high to ultra settings with a good 1080p screen, keyboard, and cooling system.
At $1800 (~£1130), the Asus G750JS-DS71 is our pick for best gaming laptop. The JS-DS71 configuration has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M graphics card, a quad-core Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, and 16GB of RAM, along with a 256GB solid state drive and a 1TB hard drive to store games and other media.
Hot damn this is some quick, expensive silicon. But even though this brand new, $1,000 eight-core, sixteen thread, Core i7 5960X processing monster is capable of some serious number-crunching, it’s probably not the CPU you’re really looking for.
The i7 5960X is the first, and the most powerful, of the new Haswell E range of Intel CPUs. They represent the processors of a whole new PC platform, comprising new motherboards and the next generation of system memory, namely X99 and DDR4 respectively. But all this is designed to power servers, rather than drive gaming performance.
If you’ve been eyeing up the eight-core, sixteen-thread Intel Core i7 5960X with jealous peepers, but lack the big wallet of the CEO of the ALS Association, there is still a way to top the four cores of a Devil’s Canyon i7.
There’s a six-core, twelve-thread, unlocked Intel Haswell E processor on its way that doesn’t cost a lot more than the Core i7 4790K.
A USB thumbdrive can be a lot of things—a backup of important photos, a quick transfer device for big files, a cheap way to give out documents. It can also be a Swiss Army knife of portable software, filled with software that runs straight off the USB drive. These tools can be useful for working with computers you can’t install your own software on, or laptops that have dropped the CD drive for a thinner chassis. Our colleagues at TechRadar have covered a variety of portable tools, and we’ve put together six we recommend below. Make your own USB Swiss Army knife.
Whether it’s a new bunch of processors, cheaper chips, new graphics cards or even the arrival of a new range of solid state drives, AMD are trying to build a bit of a buzz about their new hardware at the moment.Considering its Intel and Nvidia-shaped competition are on the verge of releasing brand new, super-exciting products themselves, AMD know they’ve got some serious work to do. The latest slew of announcements should help.
However disgruntled I’m becoming about the amount of gaming hardware being named after classical Greek characters, I have to admit to being seriously impressed by the latest Logitech mouse.
It’s being marketed as ‘the world’s fastest gaming mouse’ and to be fair Logitech have got a point. It’s not trading on the sort of crazy-high DPI settings it’s bigger sibling, the G502 Proteus Core, can manage, but it’s capable of tracking your movements however quickly you hurl your gaming rodent around the desktop.
We're ready for Windows 9 to wash away the sins of Windows 8, and it looks like Microsoft is, too. According to ZDNet's veteran Microsoft reporter, a "technology preview" version of the OS is coming in late September or October, with the final release scheduled for spring 2015. More tantalizing: that technology preview may be freely available to the public.
Windows 8.1 has been out since October 2013, but we still cling to our installs of Windows 7. We love its reliability, even if it's missing some of Windows 8's under-the-hood improvements. If you're also still using Windows 7, your gaming PC is probably loaded with years of accumulated software. But are you using the best? Our colleagues at TechRadar put together a list of the best free programs for Windows 7, and we've boiled that list down to the 10 programs we think are essentials. If you don't have these programs installed already, here's why you should download them.
Having spent a long time using 4K monitors I’ve become a bit jaded about next-gen gaming resolutions. They don't tangibly deliver anything above what you can get from a beautiful 27-inch IPS 1440p screen. The problem is, while 4K does deliver a huge upgrade in terms of pixel count, it doesn’t make a huge difference in games where the texture resolution hasn’t changed. All you’re really doing is shanking your frame rate in return for the possibility of being able to knock your anti-aliasing settings down a notch. If you want a dramatic upgrade of your gaming monitor you should have a good think about the new ultrawide 34-inch 21:9 screens trickling out of all good monitor manufacturers’ factories at the moment.
Gamescom isn’t the only big conference going on at the moment, though, if you’re into Witcher 3 footage, Tomb Raider exclusivity rage and Snake slithering onto the PC, it’s probably the most important. Still, this week has seen SIGGRAPH 2014 taking place in Vancouver, the 41st international conference on computer graphics. Intel has been there showing off how good DirectX 12 is going to be for its processors.
Using one of Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 tablets, rocking an Intel Core i5 CPU, they have been showing a neat little graphics demo that could have been ripped directly out of Elite: Dangerous.
We love building PCs. Last year, we set out to assemble the most irresponsible gaming rig imaginable, and we called it the Large Pixel Collider. Over the past nine months, we’ve spent a ton of time writing stories, making videos, and playing around with our absurd, $10,000 computer.
But as Valve’s incursion into the living room started taking shape this year, we wondered: what if we could build an equally ridiculous but smaller PC suited for playing games on a couch?
The world of specialty gaming mice is about to get a little more exotic thanks to Roccat's new Nyth MMO mouse. It's a "fully modular" design, meaning that gamers can customize its mouse grid with any kind of layout they like—and if you don't like what Roccat has to offer, you can use a 3D printer to whip up your own.
The last thing you want on your PC is a virus. The second-to-last thing you want on your PC is antivirus software that slows down your computer when you're gaming. Spending money on your antivirus software doesn't guarantee that you're getting the best, either. These days, there are a ton of free antivirus options, and many of them will keep your computer perfectly safe from the trojans and spyware and adware that lurk on the Internet.
Logitech's G402 Hyperion Fury "Ultra-Fast FPS Gaming Mouse" promises to be the fastest mouse on the planet, capable of reliably and accurately tracking at speeds of over 500 inches per second.
The future—aka 4K gaming—is made up of very, very small pixels. After spending the past two weeks checking out games on Samsung's U28D590D 4K monitor, I'm still going to call 4K gaming the near future rather than the present. Yes, you can play games at 3840x2160 pixels right now. Yes, 4K monitors are becoming more affordable. But are they worth it? After spending a couple weeks using one, I can comfortably say: no, not yet. Even for a high-end graphics card (or two), 4K is too demanding for max settings and high framerates. If you're willing to play at 30 frames per second, though, 4K is a different story.