Tech

Is Microsoft going Mantle?

Dave James at

Over on the Neogaf forums one of their members has dug up a couple of interesting sessions from the next Games Developer’s Conference (GDC) taking place in a couple of weeks in sunny San Francisco. Both of which are talking about bringing Microsoft’s DirectX API a lot closer to the metal.

That means giving developers much more open access to the actual hardware that’s available inside modern PCs, without hiding it behind layers and layers of performance-sapping software code.

If that sounds familiar it’s because that’s exactly what AMD have been trying to do - relatively successfully by what I’ve seen in the StarSwarm demo and high-end Battlefield 4 benchmarks.


ASRock's M8 barebone rig could make a decent, rugged mini-PC

Dave James at

The ASRock M8 has just arrived in the office and it’s one of the best-looking mini-ITX boxes I’ve seen in a long time. It's a high-end barebone PC, which means you'll need to provide your own processor, graphics card, memory, cooler and storage, but it uses a PCIe riser board so you can lie your dual-slot graphics card in line with the motherboard.


Lian Li reveal bizarre new desktop PC design

Dave James at

Taiwanese PC chassis manufacturers, Lian Li, are preparing for the upcoming CeBIT trade show in Germany with the announcement of a collection of fresh case designs. As well as some pretty standard-looking aluminium PC cases, Lian Li have also shown off some pictures of this bizarre DK01. Is it a desk? Is it a PC? Whatever it is, it's supposedly “combining the symbiotic relationship of desks and computer cases,” according to Lian Li's press material. Let's take a closer look


Nvidia GTX Titan Black announced, designed to be Nvidia's new fastest card

Dave James at

Did you find yourself yawning at the idea of a new budget-priced GTX 750 Ti yesterday? If you're looking at the top end of the market, Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan Black might suit. Their new premium card is designed to oust the Titan, and can be yours for the hefty asking cost of £785.


AMD and Nvidia's new budget cards do battle this week

Dave James at

There's a big showdown happening in the world of affordable graphics cards this week. AMD and Nvidia are releasing the latest editions in their £100 / $150 range, an important battleground, given that cards at that range easily outsell their flashy flagship $1000 tech. AMD are bringing some rebranded and boosted versions of their last-gen GPUs to compete with Nvidia's GTX 750Ti and GTX 750, which will give us our first look at their new Maxwell GPU architecture.


Silverstone's new mini-chassis could house a fine Steam machine

Dave James at

Chassis builders, Silverstone, have just announced the release today of their new Raven RVZ01 PC case. And it bears more than a passing resemblance to Valve’s Steam Machine prototype. The Raven RVZ01 is the follow up to the RV01 Silverstone released some six years ago, and shows how times and aesthetics have changed. Gone are the overly-angular edges of the original, instead gone for a simpler, smoother chassis design.

Personally I’ve been waiting for third-party manufacturers to start creating small form factor, mini-ITX chassis capable of housing a horizontally-mounted graphics card - a la the Steam Machine prototype. That’s the only way to get the height of a machine with a discrete GPU down and make it look less like a hefty traditional PC.


Nvidia's Maxwell GPU on its way, but no GTX 800s yet

Dave James at

Nvidia is launching a couple of brand new graphics cards in the entry-level arena. Normally that wouldn’t be a particularly exciting event, but this is going to be our first taste of Nvidia’s new Maxwell GPU architecture. It'll be the first time Nvidia have launched new graphics architecture without housing it in a top-end graphics card. You could argue that’s because they simply don’t need to with the likes of the GTX 780 Ti delivering the goods against the hot and hungry Radeon 290X.


AMD A10-7850K "Kaveri" processor review

Dave James at

AMD’s latest processor design is probably the most interesting new chip from the Texan silicon giant since they released their Bulldozer FX chips on the world. And, on first glance at the performance metrics, it would be just as easy to dismiss the new APU as a bit of a failure.

But there is more to the A10-7850K - the APU formerly known as Kaveri - than meets the eye, though it might be a while before its promise is completely realised. Let’s talk about the actual processor performance first though. It’s pretty unspectacular.


AMD's Mantle API arrives in new beta driver, free Star Swarm benchmark released

Dave James at

It’s finally happened. AMD have launched their new graphics API, Mantle, to the public and you can pick it up right now in the new Catalyst 14.1 beta driver update. Obviously there are caveats. The first is that it’s a beta driver so don’t expect it to be rock-solid no matter what the situation - I’ve already encountered some glitches in a CrossFireX rig that I didn’t see in a single GPU setup.

The biggest caveat though is that only AMD GPU-owners need apply, and then only those with Graphics Core Next architecture in their cards. That means all HD 77XX and above, and all R7 and above, will be able to support the new API.


Steam Hardware Survey shows small gains for Windows 8 and Nvidia through January

Phil Savage at

It was a muted January for Steam's hardware stats, perhaps due to all of December's lovingly gifted Christmas RAM. There were minor gains in expected areas, and minor losses that chipped away at the lead configurations. So where last month, 19.97% of polled users ran Windows 8, this month, it's 21.31%. But while the numbers aren't earth shattering, there are plenty of trends to mull over.


Steam In-Home Streaming beta first impressions

Dave James at

This is what I’ve been waiting for. And actually also cements in my mind exactly what a waste of time those $499 and up third-party Steam Machines are for many PC gamers. The beta version of In-Home Streaming (IHS) is up and running on my Steam account and I've had a big grin all over my face since I started playing with it.


Windows 9 release date set for April 2015

Dave James at

It looks like the anticipated 2015 Windows 8 update, code-named ‘Threshold’, is actually going to be released as a whole new iteration of the operating system. By calling it Windows 9 it looks like Microsoft are hoping to draw a line under Win8 like they did with Vista.

We will still be getting an update to Windows 8.1 this year sometime around April. According to ZDNet the update will be free and there are some indications that they are looking for ways to “make Windows 8.1 friendlier for mouse and keyboard users.”


Dell's affordable 4K screen is a compromise too far for PC gaming

Dave James at

Back at the beginning of December I got excited about the prospect of actually affordable Ultra High Definition (UHD) screens coming to our desktops in the very near future. As well as announcing the 24-inch UP2414Q - a lovely IPS IGZO panel with a hefty price-tag - Dell also hinted at a sub-$1,000 28-inch 4K screen.

That sounded perfect for PC gamers hoping for affordable 4K screens in future. Sadly it looks like this particular screen was a little too good to be true.


Battlefield 4 demoed with AMD's Mantle during CES conference, runs "up to 45% faster"

Phil Savage at

If PC gaming is a romance, then DirectX represents the high-school era. It's the thing that's passing notes between your games and your graphics cards, possibly while getting a bit bashful and giggling. Cute as this image is, it's hardly the most efficient way to foster a relationship. Step in AMD's new low-level API, Mantle, which has been designed to allow games to directly access GPUs. That sounds like a good thing, although it's going to be awkward when Battlefield 4 realises that your graphics card has been seeing other games behind its back.

At AMD's CES conference, Battlefield 4 was demoed on-stage running the Mantle API. It was presented alongside the claim that it could run "up to 45% faster than the original version on this same hardware." Meaning, up to 45% faster than the DirectX equivalent.


Valve: Streaming-only box would be "awesome," but native SteamOS support is priority

Tyler Wilde at

Buying a Steam Machine right now—if they were available—would be a curious decision. You'd have an attractive, compact gaming PC meant to go under your TV—a good thing, but pricey—with a Steam-modded version of Linux that you'd be best off uninstalling. SteamOS might be better-designed than Windows for your TV, but a GTX 780 is a bit overkill for the small portion of Steam's library that runs natively on Linux. That's Valve's challenge, and expanding Steam's native Linux library is its priority, says Product Designer Greg Coomer, who spoke with PC Gamer at CES 2014 today.


The first consumer-ready PrioVR mo-cap suits unveiled at CES 2014

Dave James at

The Oculus Rift does a neat job of putting your head inside a game, but what about the rest of your body? YEI Technology’s first stab at Kickstarting their PrioVR mo-cap suit fell short, gathering 49% of its $225K goal, but with the first consumer-ready prototypes being shown off at a packed CES preview event YEI are gearing up to start a new funding drive on Valentine’s Day.


Samsung 840 EVO mSATA 500GB SSD review

Dave James at

This is an absolutely tiny solid state drive. Not in capacity terms - nope, it packs 500GB into that frame - but in build size. It’s tough to really get across just how wee the new Samsung 840 EVO mSATA drive is. Even when I tell you it measures some 5 x 3cm that hardly seems to do it justice. The fact is you’d probably miss the drive even once it’s embedded in a mini-ITX motherboard.

The most impressive thing about this little mSATA 840 EVO though is the fact that it has exactly the same performance as it’s chunkier 2.5-inch brethren. In case you’d forgotten, they’re pretty epic when it comes to SSD performance themselves. The 840 EVO mSATA is pure Samsung from top to bottom. It’s got a smattering of 19nm 3-bit MLC NAND Flash attached to that wee slice of PCB, and Samsung’s own MEX memory controller helps shunt data around at excellent speed.


Asus announces Poseidon GTX 780, with hybrid air and water cooling

Dave James at

Asus are planning to expand their Republic of Gamers line-up with two new high-end Nvidia cards - The Poseidon GTX 780 and the GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II. The Poseidon will add a hybrid cooling solution to the GK 110 GPU at the core of the standard GTX 780.


Antec double the pumps in latest liquid cooler

Dave James at

The Kühler H20 1250 is the latest in Antec's run of liquid-cooling setups. It’s a bulky, 240mm, closed-loop water cooler with a single water pump sitting atop each of the radiator’s fans. They reckon that doubling the water pumps should boost the cooling performance and increase the efficiency of that radiator.

I checked out the predecessor to the Kühler 1250 earlier this year in the paper edition of PC Gamer. The Kühler 920 suffered from a combination of issues, including awkward CPU mounts, buggy software and weak cooling performance. The biggest problem for the 920 was the length of time it took to return the CPU to its idle temperature - four minutes instead of the five seconds of the impressive Cooler Master Seidon 240.


Samsung squeeze a terabyte into a tiny SSD

Dave James at

Remember the excellent 1TB Samsung EVO drive I checked out back in the Summer? No matter, Sammy have trumped their own SSD by now releasing one that’s about one third the size of a standard solid state drive. Ladies and gentlefolk, here’s the Samsung 840 EVO mSATA sliver of SSD loveliness.

At 5cm x 3cm the new range of mSATA SSDs is certainly space-conscious and is primarily designed so that those laptop folk have access to the same sort of speedy SSD capacity that we’ve become so used to on the desktop side.