Tech

The first SSDs of 2014 have been announced

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Crucial have unveiled their new M550 series of SSDs, hot on the heels of Intel’s SSD 730 drives. These are the first new SSDs of the year, and represent two of the big boys in SSD manufacturing.

Crucial’s M550 is an update to their incredibly successful M500 series, and as such still retains the same commitment to performance and pricing. The M550 drives are competitive with the top SSDs on both of these fronts.

Crucial are using a slightly revised Marvell memory controller in their new drive, along with parent-company Micron’s 20nm NAND Flash to provide the storage. The M550 range comes with a little more space than their M500 counterparts, shifting from 480GB to 512GB, and from 960GB to a full 1TB for the relevant drives.


Razer sharpens up their new Blade gaming laptop

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Razer have announced their new thin and light gaming notebook will have a hefty screen upgrade along with the new Nvidia 800M series GPU.

We’re not quite talking 4K resolutions here but the 3200 x 1800 native resolution of the Indium Gallium Oxide (IGZO) panel isn’t far off the resolution we’ve seen from the beautiful, similarly IGZO-based 4K screen from Asus. Razer is calling the screen QHD+, because the world needs more display-based acronyms.


Thief's Mantle update incoming on March 18th

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So far, the only real world example of AMD’s new graphics API, Mantle, is some less-than-convincing performance in Battlefield 4. Now though, AMD have teamed up with Eidos and are set to release a new update to the latest Thief game, wrestling it away from the Microsoft clutches of DirectX and giving it some Mantle lovin'.

For the uninitiated Mantle is a rival graphics layer AMD have created to replace DirectX on their Graphics Core Next graphics cards. Its promise is of giving developers much closer access to the hardware they’re coding for, and reducing the processor overheads that have recently become synonymous with Microsoft’s API.


The API wars continue: Valve launches free OpenGL translator

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We’ve seen Microsoft teasing the GDC announcement of the latest installment in their popular DirectX series — subtitled "A Storm of Low-Level Hardware Interaction" — and now it seems the open source brigade are countering this new Microsoft offensive. Valve have freely released a software layer, ToGL, which will translate Direct3D calls to OpenGL.


DirectX 12 is incoming, is this a return to the API wars?

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We’ve already spoken about the possibility of Microsoft changing their DirectX API to be more like AMD’s new Mantle API - bringing developers more access to the actual performance hardware. Now it looks they are going to be announcing a whole new iteration of the Microsoft API and not just an update.

A new Twitter account has appeared, called DirectX12, and has teased an announcement set to take place at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco in a couple weeks time.


Is Microsoft going Mantle?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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

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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 In-Home Streaming beta first impressions

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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.


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

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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.


AMD take on Haswell with newly unveiled Kaveri architecture

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At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) AMD’s Lisa Su, Senior VP and General Manager, officially introduced their latest, groundbreaking APU, code-named Kaveri. You can pre-order it straight away or wait until it’s officially available to buy on the 14th January.

Sadly my review samples won't be around until after I’m back from the Las Vegas show, which is why I wouldn't recommend a pre-order, but AMD are convinced this piece of tech represents a new dawn for them, and they might just be right.


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

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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.


Nvidia's smooth G-sync tech impresses at CES 2014

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Nvidia’s big press conference at this year's CES I was given a reason to go green in the ongoing battle between Nvidia and AMD - G-Sync. It enables the GPU and monitor to work together to ensure frames are delivered to the display consistently and smoothly. Your monitor only updates the frame when the GPU is ready, eliminating screen-tearing and reducing stutter.


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

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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.


Samsung squeeze a terabyte into a tiny SSD

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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.


Dell introduces $1000 4K monitor, a step towards affordable ultra-res screens

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Good news, everyone! Soon 4K monitors are going to start being actually affordable. Dell have just announced details of their new UltraSharp UHD range of monitors with price tags that might not give you a heart attack. It's hardly cheap, but we could soon be seeing a proper 28-inch 4K 3840 x 2160 Ultra High Def monitor for less than $1,000. That's cause to celebrate when When you consider that the only 4K monitor I’ve actually been able to get into the labs is Asus’ 31.5-inch PQ321Q, which costs around £3,000 in the UK, that’s a pretty hefty saving.