Maximum PC latest stories, 06 Feb 2016 13:00:00 +0000yesIn Case You Missed It - January 31 to February 6 Edition highlight of the biggest and most interesting tech news stories of the past week.Sat, 06 Feb 2016 13:00:00 +0000 Epic Launching VR Editor for Unreal Engine 4 will be able to create VR experiences using Unreal Engine 4Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:57:25 +0000 GamesNewsUnreal Enginevr <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Unreal Engine 4 VR Editor"></p><p>Epic Games reports that its Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 is up and running in virtual reality, meaning developers should be able to strap on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, don the accompanying motion controllers, and create virtual reality experiences in real time. The company says movement in the real world is mapped one-to-one in VR, allowing developers to reach out, manipulate, and grab objects. How cool is that?</p><p>According to Epic boss Tim Sweeney <a href="" target="_blank">in a recent blog</a>, VR movement and editing controls are now&nbsp;functional in the VR editor, which also sports “key parts” of the Unreal Editor UI such as the Content Browser and the Details Panel. When the editor is eventually&nbsp;released, it will be built into Unreal Engine 4, which can be downloaded gratis, straight from Epic. The company will also release the full source code on GitHub. </p><p>“You start out in the VR editor at a human scale, and can directly manipulate objects by moving around in a room-scale VR setting,” Sweeney says. “But you can also use a smartphone-like pinching motion to zoom in and out. With one pinch, the world is shrunk to the size of a Barbie Doll house on your table. You can manipulate it granularly and ergonomically, and then zoom back to human scale.”</p><p>He says that developers also have a laser pointer at their disposal, allowing them to point at an object that’s far away and either move it around, or reel in the object as if using a fishing rod. Developers can also teleport to the object’s location by merely clicking a button.</p><p>“With a mouse, several operations are often required to transform an object along multiple axes in 3D. In VR, you can frequently accomplish the same result with a single, intuitive motion,” Sweeney adds. “This should come as no surprise, as a mouse only tracks two degrees of movement (X and Y), but in VR your head and two hands track six degrees of freedom each: X, Y, Z, and three rotational axes. That’s 9 times the high-fidelity input bandwidth!”</p><p>Sweeney says that Epic’s Mark Rein saw the early DK1 version of Facebook’s Oculus Rift prototype years ago and decided that Unreal Engine needed to support the hardware. Sweeney thought the idea was crazy at the time, until the HTC Vive and Oculus Touch motion controllers were introduced. These devices proved that developers could manipulate 3D objects directly in 3D just as humans do with objects in the real world.</p><p>Unreal Engine has come a long way since it was first introduced back in the mid-'90s. It was the first engine to provide “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editing, allowing map creators to move around the virtual environment and place objects in real time. Now developers can do the same in virtual reality, providing a more personal, hands-on experience.</p><p>Sweeney says that additional details, including an actual release date, will be revealed in March during GDC 2016. In the meantime, you can catch the new VR editor in action by checking out the video below!</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe> Steam's Lunar New Year Sale Is Your Newest Excuse to Buy More Games's Lunar New Year Sale is taking place now.Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:14:54 +0000 <h3>Ready...Set...Buy!</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Steam Lunar Sale"></p><p> Oh boy, like the diet that always starts on Monday so there's an excuse to splurge one more time beforehand, Steam's frequent game sales often prove too tempting to pass up. The discounted titles are like pieces of chocolate (speaking of which, guys and gals, Valentine's Day is right around the corner) or some other savory treat that you know you can do without, but what the hell, just this one last time, right?</p><p> You may have found yourself saying that when Steam held its Fall Sale or the Winter Sale that quickly followed. The latter barely ended a month ago, but if you thought Valve would give you time to play all those games you stocked up on, think again&mdash;the Steam Lunar New Year Sale is now underway with thousands of marked down games!</p><p> Some of today's highlighted deals include anywhere from 75-83 percent off XCOM titles, 33-75 percent off Fallout games (including 33 percent off Fallout 4, which puts the price at $40.19), 75 percent off Tomb Raider titles (minus Rise of the Tomb Raider), half off of Rust ($9.99), and 20 percent off Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide ($23.99, or $35.99 for the Collector's Edition).</p><p> Valve also continues to be creative with its sales. Last time Valve posted a free comic called "Gingerbread Jake in Northpole Noir" on Steam and revealed a new page each day of the sale. This time? There's an interactive story element.</p><p> "It is Lunar New Year once again, a time to travel home and reunite with family," the story begins. "You are far away from your home town of Monkey City, and many obstacles and choices lie on the path ahead... Your first obstacle is a massive body of water. Do you swim across, or hitch a ride and drive the long way around?"</p><p> Your choice will determin what type of discounted games you're shown next&mdash;choose to swim and you'll be shown aquatic titles, and if you choose to drive, you'll be shown driving games (you can always go back and alter your choice). It's goofy, but hey, if you're going to have a sale every month, this is one way to try and keep gamers coming back.</p><p> You can check it out for yourself <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some games to buy and some sweet treats to gobble before Monday rolls around.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Asus ROG Horus GK2000 Quiet Mechanical Keyboard is Loud on Looks ROG just announced a new mechanical keyboard, the Horus GK2000 with Cherry MX Red key switches.Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:39:26 +0000 keyboardsNews <h3>Take your settings with you</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus ROG Horus GK2000"></p><p> Asus just <a href="" target="_blank">added</a> another mechanical keyboard to its Republic of Gamers (ROG) division, the Horus GK2000, which is wrapped in an aggressive looking chassis that gamers are likely to either love or hate.</p><p> A mishmash of lines and angles is pretty typical of an ROG product, be it a laptop or, in this case, a keyboard. It's not all just for looks, though&mdash;in addition to the wings, which <em>are</em> for aesthetics, Asus claims its newest plank has a premium, high-quality feel with CNC-processed aluminum accents and a special topcoat finish. You can also remove the bulky wrist-rest if you'd prefer a bit more desk space, plus there are two-way adjustable feet and a detachable stand for docking mobile devices.</p><p> One of the highlights of the keyboard is an embedded 32-bit MCU and 4MB of onboard memory. The reason for the hardware is to control the lighting effects and create and store macros and profiles right on the keyboard itself. In total, gamers can program up to 80 macro commands with mouse and media-control functions thrown into the mix, and store them in up to 10 profiles.</p><p> Asus chose Cherry MX Red key switches for the Horus GK2000. I prefer the audible and tactile click action of Cherry MX Blue key switches myself, though many gamers like the Reds because they're relatively quiet and have a low/lightweight actuation force (45g) that's preferable for rapid keystrokes.</p><p> Each individual key gets its own red LED backlight which you can adjust on a per-key basis (like lighting up just the WASD keys, for example). There are also five preset lighting modes, plus a sixth profile for your own customized LED layout.</p><p> The keycaps are ABS with a UV coating. According to Asus, they're also ergonomically shaped for both gaming and general purpose typing.</p><p> Other notable features include a volume knob that can also control the backlight, two built-in USB 2.0 ports, audio pass-through (headphone and mic), five dedicated macro keys, and N-Key rollover (NKRO) support.</p><p> It looks like the keyboard will come with a custom-fit neoprene carrying case so you can bring the plank to LAN parties. No word yet on price or availability though.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" width="500" frameborder="0" height="281"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Sony Tries Hand at Consumer Solid State Drives has begun making its first consumer-based SSDs.Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:01:08 +0000 state drivesonyssdstorage <h3>Look who's joining the SSD party</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Sony SSD"></p><p> Sony <a href="">sold off its Vaio PC busines</a>s around this time a year ago, but apparently the company is still interested in the PC space, at least from a component angle. Proof of that comes in the form of Sony"s new <a href="" target="_blank">SLW-M series</a> solid state drives.</p><p> The SLW-M series is Sony's first foray into the consumer SSD market. They're 2.5-inch form factor drives measuring 7mm thick with a SATA 6Gbps interface. Initially there was no mention of what controller or type of NAND flash memory chips Sony opted to run with, but a teardown of one of the drives by Chinese-language website <a href="" target="_blank"><em></em></a> reveals that Sony paired Toshiba's A19 TLC chips with a rebranded Phison S10 series controller.</p><p> Sony's kicking things off with two capacity options, 240GB and 480GB. They're rated to read and write data at up to 560MB/s and 530MB/s, respectively, though it's not clear if both drives sport the same rated performance or if those figures are combined maximums (performance tends to vary by capacity).</p><p> This isn't a high performance line, though the rated specs would have been top notch before the emergence of PCIe-based SSDs. It will be interesting to see how pricing shakes out, along with real-world performance metrics.</p><p> It's not yet known when the drives will be available or for how much. What is known is that the retail kit will come with a 9.5mm spacer, Acronis True Image 2015 HD, and Sony's own SSD Toolbox drive management software.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Mobile Connections Will Push Internet Traffic Past 1 Zettabyte in 2016 predicts that Internet traffic will enter the zettabyte era this year.Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:35:14 +0000 <h3>The Zettabyte Era</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Datacenter"></p><p> If you need another reason to complain about data caps&mdash;we're looking at you, Comcast&mdash;consider that combined Internet traffic is expected to top the zettabyte mark this year, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, an ongoing survey of web traffic and trends.</p><p> What is a zettabyte? It's equivalent to around:</p><ul> <li>1,000 exabytes</li> <li>1,000,000 petabytes</li> <li>1,000,000,000 terabytes</li> <li>1,000,000,000,000 gigabytes</li> <li>1,000,000,000,000,000 megabytes</li></ul><p> These are rounded measurements, mind you, but you get the idea&mdash;a zettabyte is a lot of data, enough to fill about a hundred thousand of those fancy helium infused 10TB hard drives.</p><p> The explosion in Internet traffic is predominantly mobile&mdash;smartphones, laptops, tablets. Since the first camera phone was introduced in 2000, the number of mobile users has quintupled, and by 2020, Cisco predicts there will be 5.5 billion mobile users.</p><p> "With the ever-increasing billions of people and things that are being connected, mobility is the predominant medium that’s enabling today’s global digitization transformation," <a href=";articleId=1741352" target="_blank">said Doug Webster</a>, vice president of service provider marketing, Cisco. "Future mobile innovations in cellular, such as 5G, and Wi-Fi solutions will be needed to further address new scale requirements, security concerns, and user demands. IoT advancements will continue to fuel tangible benefits for people, businesses, and societies."</p><p> Not surprisingly, mobile video is growing the most of any mobile application. This is because faster online connections&mdash;think 4G LTE&mdash;have enabled higher resolution video feeds.</p><p> These trends don't show any signs of slowing down. Just the opposite, Cisco says that by 2020, global mobile data traffic will reach 30.6 exabytes per month, up from 3.7 exabytes in 2015. An auditing of the web will also show 81 trillion images and 7 trillion video clips by 2020.</p><p> Data caps are the bane of this increased dependence on Internet connectivity, particularly among smartphone owners, though expect more Wi-Fi hotspots in the future. Cisco reckons that the total number of Wi-Fi hotspots, including home spots, will grow seven-fold from 2015 (64 million) to 2020 (432 million).</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Logitech Intros G810 Orion Spectrum Keyboard new mechanical keyboard for gamersFri, 05 Feb 2016 15:41:50 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum Keyboard"></p><p>Popular peripheral maker Logitech updated its RGB mechanical gaming keyboard lineup with the release of <a target="_blank" href="">the G810 Orion Spectrum</a>. The new keyboard features the company’s exclusive <a target="_blank" href="">Romer-G mechanical switches</a> that promise 25 percent faster actuation than standard mechanical keyboards. Logitech says these switches have an actuation point of 1.5mm and an improved durability of 70 million keystrokes. That's impressive.</p><p>According to Ujesh Desai, vice president and general manager of gaming at Logitech, the company met with “dozens” of gamers last year to see what they wanted from a keyboard. The resulting device features a fingerprint-masking matte texture, a durable braided cable, RGB lighting, and dedicated media buttons for controlling audio and video without having to leave the game.</p><p>The specs show that the RGB lighting is customizable and supports a full spectrum of colors (16.8 million). Users simply load up the Logitech Gaming Software and customize every aspect, from personalizing each key to marking specific groups of&nbsp;keys by color to synchronizing lighting effects with other Logitech products. The software, which can be downloaded from Logitech, comes packed with profiles for more than 300 games.</p><p>In addition to controlling the backlighting, the software also enables users to set up custom button macros on the F1 to F12 keys, and to determine what physical keys are turned off when the customer turns on Game Mode. The keyboard itself also provides 26-key rollover, three-step angle adjustments so that the user can set the keyboard to 0, 4, or 8 degrees, and rubber feet to keep the peripheral from sliding around during heated gaming moments.</p><p>Logitech says that the big selling point is the switches, which deliver “near-instant responsiveness,” a very desirable feature for intense PC gaming. The company indicates that they’re better than standard Cherry MX switches, giving gamers a competitive edge. These switches feature patent-pending asymmetric keycaps, a soft click switch design, and a surface-mounted LED design that minimizes light leakage. </p><p>“Low-force, 45g actuation results in near-instant responsiveness and helps minimize fatigue over long gaming sessions,” Logitech states. “Dual-contact redundancy helps ensure key activation at the same point, every time.”</p><p>Logitech’s new G810 Orion Spectrum is slated to arrive in the United States and Europe sometime in the beginning of February. The suggested retail price is $159, which isn’t too shabby for a mechanical gaming keyboard for the serious PC gamer.&nbsp;</p> Google Cracking Down on Fake Download Buttons someone is doing something about the fake download buttonsFri, 05 Feb 2016 14:57:25 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google"></p><p>Google updated <a href="" target="_blank">its security blog</a> on Thursday with a promise of to rid our browsing experience of deceptive download buttons. This promise will be carried out via Google’s Safe Browsing service, which seeks to protect Web surfers from the growing number of social engineering attacks. The download buttons being targeted typically look legit, but instead lead to what the company calls "deceptive embedded content."</p><p>Safe Browsing, which has been used by more than one billion people to help ward off phishing attacks over the last eight years, got serious about social engineering attacks <a href="" target="_blank">back in November 2015</a>. Users are deceived by seemingly trusted web content, such as a fake-but-legit-looking bank or government page. This content tries to trick the visitor into coughing up valuable information such as passwords and credit card numbers. They’ll even lead unwary users to fake tech support calls.</p><p>According to Google, content will be considered to be "social engineering" when it pretends to act, look, and feel like a trusted entity, then tries to trick the Web surfer into doing something that the user would only do&nbsp; with an authentic trusted entity. For instance, a website may show a deceptive ad that asks the visitor to update their media player, but pressing the button leads the user to a malicious website or downloads malicious software.</p><p>“Our fight against unwanted software and social engineering is still just beginning,” Google says in its blog. “If visitors to your web site consistently see social engineering content, Google Safe Browsing may warn users when they visit the site. If your site is flagged for containing social engineering content, you should troubleshoot with Search Console.”</p><p>That warning usually appears as a big red sign flagging that a specific site the Web surfer is about to visit is deceptive. This site may trick you into doing something dangerous, the warning reads, such as installing software or revealing personal information. Users can either click on the details link or the “Back to safety” button.</p><p>Google’s Safe Browsing can be used in Apple’s Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. The company seems intent on cleaning out the junk that causes Web surfers headaches and financial woes. Google says it will continue to refine Safe Browsing protection so that more people can remain safe online.</p> Amazon Echo Finally Supports Spotify is now officially supported by Amazon Echo.Fri, 05 Feb 2016 05:51:18 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AmazonEcho"></p><p>Amazon introduced&nbsp;<a href=";node=13575751011&amp;pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&amp;pf_rd_s=desktop-hero-kindle-A&amp;pf_rd_r=01621JB9GWZQ8HV2XJBW&amp;pf_rd_t=36701&amp;pf_rd_p=2382003162&amp;pf_rd_i=desktop">its Echo “smart” speaker</a> to the masses back in June 2015 after shaping the product with a closed group of customers starting late 2014. The device was available only&nbsp;through Amazon until this past holiday season when the company served up Echo in retail outlets such as The Home Depot, Staples, Sears, Brookstone, RadioShack and more. It’s priced at $179.99 and finally offers a feature owners have been asking for since its initial launch: Spotify support.</p><p>Amazon and Spotify announced the compatibility on Thursday, revealing that Spotify Premium members in the United States can now listen to their favorite playlist, artist, genre and more on Amazon’s device. Echo also now supports Spotify Connect, allowing customers to transfer and control their music from the Spotify app to Echo.</p><p>Amazon Echo already supports a number of music services such as Audible, Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn. Users can simply ask for a station, playlist, genre, or song. However, the speaker also supports Bluetooth, allowing the customer to stream their favorite tunes from a compatible phone or tablet.</p><p>Amazon Echo comes packed with a Texas Instruments processor based on the ARM Cortex-A8, 256MB of LPDDR1 RAM, 4GB of internal storage, Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band Wireless N connectivity, one 2.5” woofer, one 2” tweeter, and seven microphones that use beamforming technology and enhanced noise cancellation. This device can hear users from across the room using far-field voice recognition technology.</p><p>“We’re extremely pleased that Spotify Premium subscribers can now listen to their favorite music on Amazon Echo,” said Ian Geller, Global Head of Hardware at Spotify. “Creating innovative experiences is core to our mission. We know our users will love controlling music with their voice at home.”</p><p>New customers can try Spotify Premium free for 30 days by <a href="" target="_blank">heading here</a>.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: HGST Deskstar NAS 4TB HDD, Dell 23.8-Inch LCD, and More!'re big proponents of NAS boxes. They're great for backing up data (among other things) and it's better to have a solid backup in place before the need arises (trust us on this one). If you're going to get one, mechanical hard drives still offer the best storage per dollar, and companies make HDDs specific for NAS applications.Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:06:16 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hgst 4tb"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>We're big proponents of NAS boxes. They're great for backing up data (among other things) and it's better to have a solid backup in place before the need arises (trust us on this one). If you're going to get one, mechanical hard drives still offer the best storage per dollar, and companies make HDDs specific for NAS applications. One of them is today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822145912-_-0204&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HGST Deskstar NAS 4TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch High-Performance Hard Drive for Desktop NAS Systems (Bare Drive)</a> for <strong>$140</strong> with free shipping (normally $160 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEGEH22</strong>]). It's capacious, features an active Rotational Vibration Safeguard mechanism to decrease wear and tear, and is backed by a 3-year warranty.</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260217-_-0204&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell S2415H Black 23.8-inch 6ms HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor</a> for <strong>$150</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $170)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822178781-_-0204&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Portable External Hard Drive with 200GB of Cloud Storage &amp; Mobile Device Backup USB 3.0</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEGEH23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814150733-_-0204&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">XFX Radeon R7 370 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 CrossFireX Support Double Dissipation XXX OC Video Card</a> for <strong>$140</strong> with free shipping (normally $150; additional $10 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-case-N82E16811139018-_-0204&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Carbide Series 200R Black Steel / Plastic compact ATX Mid Tower Case</a> for <strong>$55</strong> with free shipping (normally $60 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEGEG23</strong>]; additional $10 Mail-in rebate)</p> Oh Great, IRS Is Having Computer Problems Internal Revenue Service said yesterday that it's having computer issues.Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:55:39 +0000 <h3>Waiting on refunds</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Irs"></p><p> There's good news for nine out of 10 people expecting a refund after filing taxes&mdash;you'll likely receive it within the 21-day window the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) quotes. And if you're the unlucky sap in a group of 10? Well, who knows when it will come.</p><p> The IRS is currently experiencing computer issues in the form of a hardware failure, and it's affecting an untold number of tax processing systems.</p><p> "Several of our systems are not currently operating, including our modernized e-file system and a number of other related systems," the IRS said in a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> on Wednesday. "The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible. We anticipate some of the systems will remain unavailable tomorrow [today]."</p><p> You can still prepare and file your tax return as usual, and even submit them to your e-file provider of choice. However, those companies will hold the tax returns until the IRS fixes things on its end. If you've already filed your tax return, there's nothing more to do other than cross your fingers and hope you're not among the unlucky 10 percent who will end up waiting longer than 21 days (whether or not that's due to the glitch, the IRS didn't say).</p><h4>Don't go phishing</h4><p> In related news, the IRS issued a <a href="" target="_blank">news release</a> warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for fake emails or websites looking to steal your personal information. Otherwise known as phishing, the scheme continues to be on the annual IRS list of "Dirty Dozen" tax scams.</p><p> "Criminals are constantly looking for new ways to trick you out of your personal financial information so be extremely cautious about opening strange emails," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The IRS won't send you an email about a tax bill or refund out of the blue. We urge taxpayers not to click on any unexpected emails claiming to be from the IRS."</p><p> One thing to keep in mind is that the IRS doesn't typically doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal information or financial details. If you receive such a request, consider it a red flag.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Canonical's Ubuntu Linux Arrives in Tablet Form, Doubles as a Desktop's launches its first Ubuntu Linux tablet.Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:34:24 +0000 M10canonicallinuxNewstabletubuntu <h3>Fashionably late or right on time?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Aquaris M10"></p><p> Canonical is on a mission to reinvent the personal mobile computing experience. That's not hyperbole on our part, it's Canonical's way of describing the significance of its new and first Linux tablet, the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition, which it's launching in partnership with Spanish device maker BQ.</p><p> It's a curious time to be entering the tablet market&mdash;tablet shipments continue to decline while 2-in-1 detachables are <a href="">gaining steam</a>. But in Canonical's defense, the Aquaris M10 isn't an ordinary slate, it's a tablet that can also double as your desktop. Sounds like what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 10, right?</p><p> In that regard, the timing couldn't be better in Canonical's eyes. The company points out that Ubuntu is "firmly established as the preferred desktop experience of over 30 million users" around the globe, and that it's first three models of Ubuntu phones quickly sold out when they hit the market last year. Now with the release of the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition, Canonical's looking at full convergence.</p><p> "We’re bringing you everything you’ve come to expect from your Ubuntu PC, now on the tablet with BQ, soon on smartphones. This isn’t a phone interface stretched to desktop size – it’s the right user experience and interaction model for the given situation," <a href="" target="_blank">said Jane Silber</a>, CEO of Canonical. "Also, in terms of applications, we have something no other OS can provide: a single, visual framework and set of tools for applications to run on any type of Ubuntu smart device."</p><p> Let's look at the specs. The BQ Aquaris M10 features a 10.1-inch multi-touch display powered by a MediaTek quad-core MT8163A processor clocked at up to 1.5GHz. It also has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage expandable via microSD, Full HD 1080p front-facing camera, 12-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and dual flash, front-facing speakers, and a micro HDMI slot.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Aquaris M10 Attached PC"></p><p> The tablet is running the mobile version of Ubuntu with hundreds of apps and <a href="" target="_blank">scopes</a> now available in the Ubuntu App Store. That's not a lot compared to Android, iOS, or even Windows, but when you connect a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, you get the full Ubuntu PC experience. You can also connect the tablet to an external display. Think Continuum, but for Ubuntu.</p><p> Will it prove popular? Canonical seems to think so, and it's certainly not in this to be an also-ran.</p><p> "We're not out to win the tablet market. We want to win the reinvention of the PC experience," <a href="" target="_blank">Silber told <em>ZDNet</em></a> in an interview. "Today, the PC, tablet and smartphone markets are not really different things. It's what we're doing on our devices that's important. By providing one code base for all devices, our view of convergence will make it easier to deal with blurring of form factors."</p><p> It's a bold statement, and starting soon&mdash;the Aquaris M10 goes on sale in the second quarter of this year from BQ's online store (no word yet on price)&mdash; we'll see if Canonical can back it up.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Asus Rolls Out Three Small Form Factor Motherboards for Skylake announced a trio of B150 chipset motherboards for small form factor builds.Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:34:40 +0000 <h3>Think small</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus B150 Motherboard"></p><p> Building a fast and respectable system doesn't necessarily mean going big with your setup. Lest there be any doubt, Asus has <a href="" target="_blank">three new</a> small form factor motherboard options for system builders looking to go small.</p><p> All three are based on Intel's B150 chipset for Skylake. The first of the three is the B150I Pro Gaming/WiFi/Aura. It's a mini-ATX mobo that boasts a pair of DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, a single PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, four SATA 6Gbps ports, a single M.2 Socket 3 with M key, 802.11ac 2x2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi, GbE LAN, four USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 3.0 Type-C port, four USB 2.0 ports, and HDMI and DVI-D graphics connectors.</p><p> The "Auru" in the model name denotes a new LED-illumination technology exclusive to select Asus motherboards. Through accompanying software, you can control a series of RGB lights with various effects, like breathing and color-strobing, to name just two. Going beyond simple bling, you can configure the lights to change their shade based on CPU temperatures&mdash;if everything starts glowing red, you might want to check your cooling scheme.</p><p> Second up is the B150I Pro Gaming/Aura. It's also a mini-ITX motherboard that's configured similarly to the one above, but without baked in Wi-Fi.</p><p> Finally, there's the B150M Pro Gaming. This one's a micro ATX motherboard, so it's a bit bigger than the other two and uses that additional real estate to offer a few additional ports and slots. Specifically, it adds two PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots to the mix, has six SATA 6Gbps ports instead of two, has four DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, and has a dozen USB ports split evenly between USB 3.0 (Type-A) and USB 3.0. Curiously, there's no Type-C connectors on this one. It also lacks onboard Wi-Fi and the Aura LED lighting.</p><p>Asus didn't say how much the boards cost or when they'll be available.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Google Boots Samsung's First Android Ad Blocker may be booting third-party apps that block ads in another company's softwareThu, 04 Feb 2016 16:06:47 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Adblock Fast"></p><p>Google has <a href="" target="_blank">confirmed with The Verge</a> that it has removed an app called Adblock Fast from Google Play. The company did not provide a reason, but the app’s developer, Rocketship Apps, claims that Adblock Fast was removed because it violates section 4.4 of <a href="" target="_blank">Google’s Developer Distribution Agreement</a>. Adblock Fast was developed in conjunction with Samsung and worked within Samsung’s mobile browser.</p><p>“You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Store, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator. You may not use customer information obtained from the Store to sell or distribute Products outside of the Store,” Google states in its Agreement.</p><p>Until now, Adblock Fast was the first free and first open-source ad blocker on Samsung’s Android phones, promising a 51 percent faster load average because it leverages seven optimized filtering rules to clean out all the advertising junk. Adblock Fast was launched on Google Play just days ago, but now it’s nowhere to be found.</p><p>The app made its first appearance on Apple’s App Store back in September 2015, and has since racked up more than 200,000 users on the iOS platform. The app appeared on Google Play after Samsung rolled out support for content blocking as an over-the-air update over the weekend.</p><p>Ad blockers have become popular as of late thanks to Apple’s iOS 9 platform, which features built-in support for ad blockers. These plugins provide faster page loads, less data usage, and a cleaner browsing experience. The drawback is that advertisers aren’t reaching mobile visitors.</p><p>Since the removal of Adblock Fast, several other ad blocking solutions have surfaced on Google Play including Crystal (which is also on Apple’s App Store) and Adblock Plus. What’s unclear is how Adblock Fast has violated Google’s terms and the new solutions have not. The Verge notes that Adblock Plus ran into a similar problem back in 2013 and was only allowed to come back if it was bundled in the developer’s own browser.</p><p>An unnamed source close to the situation <a href="" target="_blank">told VentureBeat</a> that this was a “unique case” because two apps are required to activate the ad blocking process. Sources also said that Google has no problems with browsers that have built-in ad-blocking solutions, or browser&nbsp;plugins. Thus, Samsung’s Internet browser is all clear to be downloaded from Google Play, but the Adblock Fast app is not.</p><p>There’s now speculation that Samsung may merely distribute Adblock Fast through its own preloaded app store on Galaxy devices. As it stands, Google seems to be banning third-party apps that block ads within another company’s software.</p><p>Adblock Fast is currently available on Apple's App Store, and for Chome and Opera browsers for desktops and laptops.&nbsp;</p> Rise of the Tomb Raider AMD 16.1.1 Hotfix Testing delivering somewhat underwhelming performance with last week's launch, AMD has released their Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix driver for Rise of the Tomb Raider. We take the new drivers for a spin to see how much they help.Thu, 04 Feb 2016 09:30:00 +0000 of the Tomb Raider <h3> <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (4)"></p></h3><h3>Can AMD's Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix rise to the occasion?</h3><p> Last week, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> launched and received fairly good reviews. We then&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">benchmarked the game</a> to see how AMD and Nvidia GPUs stack up, along with checking out the CPU side of things. At the time, AMD was running "unoptimized" drivers while Nvidia had already released their 361.75 Game Ready drivers. We were told AMD was working to improve performance and would hopefully have an updated driver available this week, and they've followed through with their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix</a>.</p><p> To be clear, these are drivers that are <em>only</em> supposed to help with <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>&mdash;performance in other titles shouldn't change, but AMD makes no promises. This is the difference between a beta (preview of a general update) and a hotfix (usually focused on one or two specific items that have been deemed critical).</p><p>We've covered all of the benchmarking details in our earlier article, so let's just jump straight to the chase.&nbsp;We're focusing purely on AMD performance here;&nbsp;if you want to see Nvidia numbers, nothing has changed from before. The reason for limiting testing will become fairly obvious in a moment. Here's our test system:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC Graphics Card Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-5930K</a>: 6-core HT OC'ed @ 4.2GHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044420&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Gigabyte+GA-X99-UD4">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD4</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPUs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354392&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=R9+Fury+X">AMD R9 Fury X</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354436&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+390">AMD R9 390</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354465&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+380">AMD R9 380</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354483&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+285">AMD R9 285</a> (Sapphire) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1447354339&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+evo+2tb">Samsung 850 EVO 2TB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044466&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=EVGA+SuperNOVA+1300+G2">EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=G.Skill+Ripjaws+16GB+DDR4-2666">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB DDR4-2666</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044501&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+Nepton+280L">Cooler Master Nepton 280L</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044514&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+CM+Storm+Trooper">Cooler Master CM Storm Trooper</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>OS</strong> </td> <td> Windows 10 Pro 64-bit </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Drivers</strong> </td> <td> AMD Crimson 16.1 <br> AMD Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p>Note that we don't currently have any CrossFire configurations available, as our second 290X has gone kaput sometime during the past two months. CrossFire support is one of the items 16.1.1 apparently fixes, so if you have multiple AMD GPUs, that's at least a good sign.&nbsp;As before, we're using the same five test settings:</p><ul> <li>3840x2160, FXAA, High preset</li> <li>2560x1440, TMAA, Very High preset (without HBAO+)</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, Very High preset (without HBAO+)</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, High preset</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, Medium preset</li></ul><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Hotfix Rise of the Tomb Raider 2160p High"></p><p> Okay, did we miss something? Sure, the Hotfix drivers at least equal the performance of the previous drivers, but we're basically looking at margin of error here for most of the cards. There are two exceptions: The R9 390 97 percentiles are significantly better, and the R9 285 2GB is about eight percent faster. Otherwise, you basically won't notice any changes. It's too bad the same boost to minimum fps didn't happen on the Fury X, as it could have pushed the card into mostly playable territory. It's still breaking 30 fps, if only barely, but there's a lot of stuttering as you move around the game world.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Hotfix Rise of the Tomb Raider 1440p Very High"></p><p> At 2560x1440 with Very High settings, the situation is almost worse. Yes, we're still matching performance of the earlier drivers, but the R9 285 is again the sole benefactor. Average frame rates are up six percent, and 97 percentiles are up 38 percent. Unfortunately, that particular GPU is so far from being playable at these settings that it's an almost meaningless improvement.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Hotfix Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p Very High"></p><p> The story is the same at 1080p Very High, with the R9 285 improving by 13 percent while everything else is less than a two percent change. The R9 380 does show a 10 percent bump to 97 percentiles, but it's not something you'd generally notice.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Hotfix Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p High"></p><p> Hey, would you look at this? At 1080p High, we actually see some decent improvements on most of the GPUs&hellip;except it's still only to the 97 percentiles. The R9 390 with its large 8GB VRAM doesn't see any benefit, but nearly all of the other GPUs are now consistently staying above 30 fps. The Tonga-based R9 380 and R9 285 both see a jump of roughly 50 percent on minimum frame rates, and at least on the 4GB VRAM card it's enough to smooth out most of the stuttering. And once again, the R9 285 sees at least a statistically significant 8 percent increase to average fps, though anything less than 15 percent is pretty difficult to notice during actual use.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Hotfix Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p Medium" style="background-color: initial;">Can 1080p Medium results save the day for the Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix? Not really. The R9 285 now sees a welcome 18 percent increase in average fps, and another 50 percent gain in minimum fps; that's great and it makes the card actually viable for 1080p Medium gaming in <em style="background-color: initial;">Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>. That's a bit shocking, however, considering the R9 285 is basically faster than any of AMD's current mobile GPUs. For the other cards, Fury X and R9 380 also show improved minimum fps results, but average fps is still basically unchanged.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (1)"></p><h5>Such a greedy woman</h5><p> So what's the problem&mdash;why is <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> so much more demanding than 2013's <em>Tomb Raider</em> reboot? Judging by our earlier results, it looks like the new Lara is very high maintenance. GPUs that could pull roughly 120 fps at 1080p Ultimate settings in the earlier release are finding performance has been cut in half. In fact, even at 1080p Medium, the results with the new Lara are worse than the 1080p Ultimate results of her predecessor. We can take that a step further: At 1080p on the Low preset, performance is about equal to the old 1080p Ultimate results. Yikes!</p><p> What happened? There's no easy answer, as the supported platforms remain the same (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One), so it's not like the developers were able to radically change the minimum hardware spec by dropping support for older consoles. Except, they <em>did</em> change the minimum hardware required to run <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>&mdash;you don't have a prayer of playing this game on Intel's non-Iris graphics solutions, for example. What it comes down to is improved visuals, where even the Low and Medium quality settings look quite good while the High and Very High settings are even better. Consider also that previously, TressFX was <em>only</em> enabled with the Ultimate preset, where PureHair is now toggled on starting at the Medium preset.</p><p> Bottom line: Lara is embracing her wealthy upbringing and expecting gamers everywhere to have potent systems. And more likely than not, the PC release isn't nearly as optimized for performance as the console release&mdash;though the consoles do seem to top out at the 1080p Medium equivalent in terms of image fidelity. Short of some major improvements from drivers and/or patches, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> also raises the bar for minimum hardware.</p><p>As for AMD's 16.1.1 Hotfix, it doesn't reduce performance, but outside of mainstream cards (particularly those with 2GB VRAM), it also doesn't dramatically improve performance either. CrossFire users will definitely appreciate having support for the game as well, though we weren't able to test that at present. Still, any&nbsp;CrossFire support is better than nothing.</p> Use Good Headphones with a Modmic "gaming headsets," the Modmic works with any headphonesThu, 04 Feb 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AudioGaming headsetheadphonesKick-AssmicrophoneModmicReviews <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">Need to know</h5> <p> <strong>Product:</strong> Modmic 4.0<br> <strong>Company:</strong> Antlion Audio<br> <strong>Price:</strong> $43 (starting)<br> <strong>Options:</strong> Omni or uni-directional; muteless or mute-able<br> <strong>Link:</strong>&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href=""></a> </p> </div><p> So you're into gaming, which means unless you're a gaming hermit, you're probably communicating with your friends and other gamers via some sort of "gaming" headset. I never understood the word "gaming" for computer peripherals&mdash;they're usually reserved for products that have ugly designs, with some exceptions.</p><p> The most popular product categories to fall into the "gaming" pile are headsets, and the majority of them are not made with the best quality components. The microphone is usually terrible, or the audio is awful, or both. For the most part, 95 percent of headsets out there are pretty terrible, and if I were&nbsp;reviewing them, most would score a 6 out of 10. Yeah, that's a failing grade&mdash;pretty brutal. Probably the one gaming headset exempt from my scathing remarks would be Kingston's HyperX Cloud Gaming headset. It has relatively good audio, has a good microphone, and is comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions. But&nbsp;I still wouldn't use it for listening to music.</p><p> What if you've already got a great pair of headphones sitting around and you want to use them for gaming? That's a great question. My advice is to use&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">a product called Modmic by Antlion Audio</a>. It's a very high-quality boom microphone that can be purchased in either omni-directional or uni-direction configuration, with or without a mute switch.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Modmic, by Antlion Audio." class=""><figcaption>The Modmic, by Antlion Audio.</figcaption></figure><p> I have been recommending the Modmic to many friends and readers,&nbsp;as it's the best way to get great audio with a great microphone. No "gaming" headset can beat a great set of headphones in audio. This is&nbsp;especially&nbsp;true if you have an ounce of interest in the quality of your&nbsp;audio output for&nbsp;games and music. The difference can be night and day.</p><p> Many readers seem to like using Sennheiser's headphones at their desk, especially the HD 598 or the HD 600. Other brands appear to be popular as well, including Audio-Technica, HiFiMAN, AKG, and Beyerdynamic. Then there are the other more boutique brands like Audeze, Fostex, Master and Dynamic, MrSpeakers, Oppo, Stax, etc. If you're familiar with any of these, and you've been looking for a way to add a microphone, look no further.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Adjustable magnetic attachment. Comes with 2 nubs." class=""><figcaption>Adjustable magnetic attachment;omes with 2 nubs.</figcaption></figure><p> The Modmic is easy to use. The mic itself has a magnetic attachment that tethers to a small nub, which&nbsp;you stick onto your favorite cans. Antlion ships the Modmic with two nubs so you can use more than one set of&nbsp;headphones, or you can&nbsp;stick the second nub somewhere that you can dock your Modmic when not in use.</p> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title"><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Strange use of the Modmic. Weirdo!" style="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; color: rgb(154, 154, 154);" class=""></h5> <p> Strange use of the Modmic. Weirdo! </p> </div><p> Once attached, the link itself can be rotated in any direction. Perhaps you have a really short or really&nbsp;big head, and can't find a headset that suits your size. Or maybe you prefer your mic on the right instead of the left. Position the attachment nub anywhere you want; problem solved.&nbsp;Some users even&nbsp;attach a nub to the frames on their glasses. Bizarre!</p><p> Build quality is excellent, and the Modmic arm is easily adjustable so you can get the best positioning. Speaking with several people who own Modmics, they prefer using the uni-directional Modmic over the omni due to the omni picking up&nbsp;surrounding noises, like loud mechanical keyboard typing. The uni-directional Modmic is sensitive to your voice, but it isn't sensitive&nbsp;enough to pick up sounds that will&nbsp;annoy your buddies.</p><p> The Modmic is exceptionally clear in audio performance. In our tests, it's better than&nbsp;just about&nbsp;any other integrated mic on any gaming headset&mdash;even the HyperX. The best part of it all is it's easily stowed away when not in use.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Good case to protect your Modmic." class=""> <figcaption>Good case to protect your Modmic.</figcaption></figure><p> Getting back to the dual nubs,&nbsp;let's talk about other reasons people might like using two different sets of headphones.&nbsp;During our talks with users, many audio enthusiasts&nbsp;like&nbsp;having one closed set of&nbsp;headphones, and another set&nbsp;that's open. Most headphone reviewers&nbsp;say the same thing.</p><p> In FPS games especially, or other games with an emphasis on environmental acoustics, an open-back headphone can produce a more convincing environment, which helps to determine direction from audio cues. On closed-back headphones, the sound is more centered within your skull, and many like this focused sound when listening to&nbsp;music. Depending on how you like your audio and what you listen to, having both kinds of headphones is a great thing.</p><p> The Modmic is a simple and elegant solution for anyone requiring mic input. Pair it with your favorite headphones and ditch the world of poor mic, poor audio, poor quality "gaming" headsets. During gaming sessions, our friends easily heard the quality difference between headsets from companies like&nbsp;Corsair, Logitech, and Razer compared to the Modmic.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Attached and ready for action!" class=""> <figcaption>Attached and ready for action!</figcaption></figure><p> The Modmic Omni-directional muteless starts at $43, and a uni-directional with mute switch goes for $50. If the pricing seems a bit steep, it is&mdash;at first. Then you realize the quality of audio you're broadcasting is amazing, the flexibility it provides, and that you can take your mic with you should you decide to upgrade cans. Suddenly, the price isn't a deterrent, but it's a bargain instead&mdash;especially when you consider&nbsp;pro-level mics can get into the thousands of dollars. On the flip side, this is all in service of your friends (or for doing streaming sessions), since you don't have to listen to yourself. So if you don't care what your friends are hearing, maybe any old headset will do. But at least get a good pair of headphones!</p> Comcast Rolling out Gigabit Internet via Cable's new gigabit service uses DOCSIS 3.1 technologyWed, 03 Feb 2016 22:30:55 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Comcast"></p><p>Comcast announced this week the rollout of gigabit Internet connections for a handful of cities across the nation. The new service will hit residences and businesses in Atlanta and Nashville in early 2016, followed by Chicago, Detroit, and Miami in the second half of this year. Comcast hasn't yet provided pricing information.</p><p>What makes this announcement a big deal is that the new&nbsp;gigabit service won’t be experienced on fiber optic connections as seen with the company’s current <a href="" target="_blank">Gigabit Pro service</a>, which costs $300 a month and provides speeds of up to 2Gb/s. Instead, this new service will use the current TV cable network that’s already installed and sparkly new DOCSIS 3.1 technology.</p><p>First introduced in 1997, DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. New versions typically don’t make the headlines, the company explains, but v3.1 is different because it now allows gigabit speeds. That means Comcast doesn’t have to run new lines and its customers don't have to pay a hefty fee for installing the necessary equipment, unlike other gigabit services.</p><p>Comcast says that it has “extensively” tested the DOCSIS 3.1 modems in labs and simulated network environments, and a few have been installed in homes in Philadelphia and Atlanta. This rollout across the five cities will be the first time these modems will be widely used in homes and offices. Comcast will also be using its existing cable plants.</p><p>News of the cable-based gigabit service arrives after Comcast introduced Gigabit Pro last year to metro Atlanta, which offers a 2 gigabit symmetrical (same speeds up and down) residential service. Gigabit Pro has evolved into an 18 million client business, spreading over Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and other markets. It’s a fiber-to-the-home solution, meaning potential customers must be located near Comcast’s fiber network in order to get the service.</p><p>Although Comcast’s new offering will be slower than Gigabit Pro, it’s still faster than what most North Americans receive from their broadband cable provider. There’s a good chance Comcast will charge half of what its Gigabit Pro customers pay. Comcast says that installation will be as easy as switching out the old cable modem for the new DOCSIS 3.1 model.</p><p>"DOCSIS 3.1 represents a tremendous step forward in our commitment to keeping customers at the technology forefront. Combined with all the upgrades we have already put into our advanced fiber optic-coax network, this technology will not only provide more gigabit speed choices for customers, it will also eventually make these ultra-fast speeds available to the most homes in our service areas,” says Comcast Central Division President, Bill Connors.</p><p>Along with the lack of a price, Comcast has also not specified if the new Gigabit service will have data caps or overage charges as seen with its broadband service.</p> New Lian Li Case Has Lots of Drive Mounts is a good case if you want to install lots of drives in a small form factor.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 22:21:23 +0000 LiNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lian Li PC-M25"></p><p>Got a lot of hard drives you need to pack into a single mini-tower chassis? You’re in luck, as Lian Li just introduced <a href="" target="_blank">the PC-M25</a>, a small form factor case that provides space for up to seven 3.5-inch hard drives. There’s even a hot swap HDD cage that supports up to five 3.5-inch drives, and enough room left over to pack in a VGA card measuring up to 410mm in length.</p><p>The specs show that in addition to the hot swappable cage, the new case provides an HDD tray at the bottom for the remaining two 3.5-inch drives, or three 2.5-inch drives if you want to install something smaller. The cage itself includes thumb screws and a rubber suspension, for ease of pulling out the five hard drives on the fly.</p><p>On the cooling front, the case has a vent on each side and two fans: a 140mm intake fan to force cold air through the HDD cage and a 120mm exhaust fan at the top of the chassis. Thus air is pulled in from the front, blown across the hardware, and then up and out through the exhaust vent. Why not out the back? You need space for the ATX PS/2 power supply and its fan, which takes up around 230mm.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lian LI PC-M25"></p><p>Lian Li’s new case supports Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, and a CPU cooler measuring 80mm tall. Additional notable features include a tool-less side panel, vented PCI brackets, a PCI lock, a removable dust filter, and rubberized case stands to keep the case from scratching your desktop’s surface. The chassis is made of aluminum and comes in either Black or Silver finishes.</p><p>“Lian Li is famed for its quality of construction and minimal design, exemplified by the PC-M25. Everything from the power button to the case stands are cut from quality aluminum; it's a solid, lightweight chassis weighing only 8.24 pounds,” the company says.</p><p>The new Lain Li case measures 199(w)x322(h)x441(d)mm and will be made available in mid-February for a not-too-shabby price of $169.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, Corsair Hydro H100i GTX, and More!'s time to upgrade your graphics card and you're thinking, "Go big or go home!," right? But then you check out the asking price for a GeForce GTX Titan X and think, "Hmm, maybe I'll go just a little less big." Hey, there's no shame in that, and if you're looking for a potent graphics card that's not quite as pricey as a flagship, then check out today's top deal.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 19:37:41 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="EVGA GTX 980 Ti"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>It's time to upgrade your graphics card and you're thinking, "Go big or go home!," right? But then you check out the asking price for a GeForce GTX Titan X and think, "Hmm, maybe I'll go just a little less big." Hey, there's no shame in that, and if you're looking for a potent graphics card that's not quite as pricey as a flagship, then check out today's top deal for an<a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814487160-_-0203&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank"> EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB FTW Gaming w/ACX 2.0+, Whisper Silent Cooling w/ Free Installed Backplate Graphics Card</a> for <strong>$630</strong> with free shipping (normally $680; additional $20 Mail-in rebate; Free game: Rise of the Tomb Raider w/ purchase, limited offer). It's not exactly cheap, but cheaper than usual, comes with a free game, and sports a custom cooling solution and reinforced backplate design.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-COOLING-N82E16835181090-_-0203&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX Extreme Performance Water / Liquid CPU Cooler. 240mm</a> for <strong>$110</strong> with free shipping (normally $130; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820313531-_-0203&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Team Dark 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$60</strong> with free shipping (normally $65 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEGEG32</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824260174-_-0203&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Dell U2414H Black 23.8-inch 8ms (GTG) HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS</a> for <strong>$190</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $200 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEGEG34</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-ODD-N82E16827135247-_-0203&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Drive</a> for <strong>$40</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $53 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEGEG49</strong>])</p> Malwarebytes Scrambles to Plug Security Holes Pointed Out by Google Researcher is fixing security issues with its software that Google's Project Zero team made public.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:55:24 +0000 <h3>Time's up</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Malwarebytes"></p><p> Google's Project Zero team doesn't mess around when it comes to security vulnerabilities&mdash;if it finds one that's noteworthy, it gives companies 90 days to fix the issue before going public. Surprisingly, one of the latest disclosures involved Malwarebytes, a popular anti-malware program.</p><p> No anti-malware program is perfect, though in our experience, Malwarebytes does a good job of detecting threats that other software solutions miss. Be that as it may, Google Project Researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered a few security holes in Malwarebytes that could leave users vulnerable to attack, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Register</em> reports</a>. He alerted the company back in November of last year, but since several of the security issues have gone unpatched, they're now <a href="" target="_blank">public</a>.</p><p> One of the lingering issues is that Malwarebytes doesn't use a secure channel to deliver updates, nor are they signed, which leaves users open to man-in-the-middle attacks. And the other security holes could lead to things like remote code execution and trivial privilege escalation.</p><p> The good news is Malwarebytes isn't ignoring the threats, nor does it appear salty at Ormandy for pointing them out (companies <a href="">*ahem* Microsoft *ahem*</a> haven't always been receptive of Project Zero's 90-day policy).</p><p> "In early November, a well-known and respected security researcher by the name of Tavis Ormandy alerted us to several security vulnerabilities in the consumer version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware," Malwarebytes stated in a blog post. "Within days, we were able to fix several of the vulnerabilities server-side and are now internally testing a new version (2.2.1) to release in the next 3-4 weeks to patch the additional client-side vulnerabilities. At this time, we are still triaging based on severity."</p><p> Malwarebytes doesn't necessarily agree with Project Zero and Ormandy regardaing the severity of the security holes, but it is concerned enough with the findings that it's issuing fixes.</p><p> The company also announced a <a href="" target="_blank">bug bounty program</a> that will pay anywhere from <a href="" target="_blank">$100 to $1,000</a> per qualifying bug, depending on the severity.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Crappy USB Type-C Cable Sends Google Engineer's Laptop to the Grave Google engineer who's been testing USB-C cables fried his Chromebook Pixel using one that was non-compliant.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:16:51 +0000 pixelGoogleNewsUSB Type-C <h3>Proving an expensive point</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SurjTech Cable"></p><p>Benson Leung, the Google engineer who took it upon himself to test and <a href="" target="_blank">review USB Type-C cables</a> and adapters on Amazon to call attention to the dangers of using ones that are out of spec, just sacrificed his Chromebook Pixel to the digital gods.</p><p> No cheap lesson, Chromebook Pixels start at $999 direct from Google. Nevertheless, Leung continued with his mission of publicly shaming (or praising, in some cases) USB Type-C cable makers through transparent user reviews on Amazon. When he attempted to test SurjTech's 3M USB A-to-C cable, he discovered just how troublesome a poorly constructed cable can be.</p><p> "Hi, Benson here doing another USB Type-C legacy cable review. This one will probably be the last one I do for a little while because this cable (1-star review score, straight off) seriously damaged the laptop computer I am using for these reviews, a Chromebook Pixel 2015, and two USB PD Sniffer devices (Twinkie)," Leung stated in his review.</p><p> Leung said he plugged the cable into the Twinkie as a pass-through and then into his Chromebook Pixel, which wreaked havoc as soon as he turned his system on. It immediately killed his analyzer, as well his laptop's USB controller chip, which took out&nbsp;both USB Type-C ports.</p><p> "I directly analyzed the Surjtech cable using a Type-C breakout board and a multimeter, and it appears that they completely miswired the cable. The GND pin on the Type-A plug is tied to the Vbus pins on the Type-C plug. The Vbus pin on the Type-A plug is tied to GND on the Type-C plug," Leung explained. "This is a total recipie for disaster and I have 3 pieces of electronics dead to show for it, my Pixel 2015, and two USB PD analyzers."</p><p> Mistakes happen on the manufacturing side, this one admittedly much more severe than most. However, the poor Q&amp;A that went into this particular product wasn't the only egregious complaint. Further investigation revealed that even if it had been wired correctly, it's still yet another Type-C cable that's out of spec. Here's what he had to say in a follow-up <a href="" target="_blank">Google+ post</a>:</p><ul> <li>Red wire to G. Black wire to V. So wrong.</li> <li>Missing SuperSpeed wires on the back of the connector. Only 4 wires in total. This cable was advertised as a USB 3.1 SuperSpeed cable but is entirely missing the TX/RX.</li> <li>Generally a poor job with the soldering of the wires.</li> <li>10 kΩ resistor instead of 56 kΩ resistor used.</li> <li>Resistor hooked up as a pull-down instead of a pull-up</li></ul><p> It's easy to take cables for granted and aim for the least expensive ones, but as Leung has shown on multiple occasions, these seemingly simple accessories aren't all built the same.</p><p> <em>Source: </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>ArsTechnica</em></a></p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Toshiba's Upgraded OCZ Trion 150 SSDs Boast High Bang for Buck today announced the availability of its OCZ Trion 150 SSDs.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:34:33 +0000 state drivessdstoragetoshibaTrion 150 <h3>Budget drives by circumstance only</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="OCZ Trion 150 SSD"></p><p> Even if you have no plans whatsoever of overhauling your setup and upgrading to a fancy pants NVMe-based solid state drive, you should be super excited about the category. Why? Simply put, those stupid-fast drives that take advantage of PCI Express are pushing yesterday's performance models into budget territory. Just look at Toshiba's new <a href="" target="_blank">OCZ Trion 150</a> line for evidence of this.</p><p> The Trion 150 line is pitched as a real-world performance upgrade to the Trion 100 family. You might recall that we <a href="">evaluated a 480GB Trion 100 SSD</a> and weren't exactly blown away, but if the Trion 150 does indeed improve real-world speeds like Toshiba claims, it would suddenly become much more compelling.</p><p> Let's cover some stats. The Trion 150 uses Toshiba's 15nm triple-level cell (TLC) NAND flash memory paired with Toshiba's own controller and firmware. The result is a list of performance ratings that, not too long ago, would have been considered top-end. Here's a look at capacities and speed ratings:</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="OCZ Trion 150 SSD Speeds"></p><p> And here's a look at street pricing:</p><ul> <li>OCZ Trion 150 120GB: $46 (~$0.38 per GB)</li> <li>OCZ Trion 150 240GB: $70 (~$0.29 per GB)</li> <li>OCZ Trion 150 480GB: $140 (~$0.29 per GB)</li> <li>OCZ Trion 150 960GB: $270 (~$0.28 per GB)</li></ul><p> Those prices are a bit cheaper than the what the Trion 100 series debuted at&mdash;the aforementioned Trion 100 480GB that we reviewed was $159 versus $140 for the same capacity Trion 150.</p><p> Once again, Toshiba's hoping to entice "value oriented mainstream consumers" with these new drives, and at the above price points, the company has our attention. The question is, do these drives bring enough of a real-world performance bump to make them more exciting than their predecessors? We'll let you know as soon as we have a chance to run some benchmarks.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Logitech Has Its Own VR Plans has plans to enter the VR arena.Wed, 03 Feb 2016 11:32:54 +0000 vivelogitechNewsoculus riftvr <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Logitech Logo"></p><p>In a recent interview with <a href="" target="_blank">The Australian Financial Times</a>, Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell revealed the company’s plans for entering the virtual reality market. However, don’t expect to see products from the company any time soon. Darrell indicated that Logitech intends to enter the VR market late rather than bust in “early and awkwardly.”</p><p>“Just like with the mouse and keyboard, optimizing the experience of the peripherals that go with VR will be an interesting place for us,” he said in the interview. “We're in the middle of many discussions in that space &hellip; and at some point you can bet we'll jump in. But we're years away from viewing that as a serious category.”</p><p>However, Logitech doesn’t plan on developing its own VR headset, but rather the peripherals that would be used along with a third-party solution such as Facebook’s upcoming Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both those headsets will come with their own controllers, so whatever Logitech plans to launch is unknown at this point.</p><p>That said, by the time Logitech enters the VR arena, the market may be into its second or third generation of headsets. The market should be quite large by then, giving the peripherals company a bigger playing field to develop VR products. After all, the VR market is expected to explode into a billion dollar industry <a href="" target="_blank">in just a few short years</a>.</p><p>According to the interview, Darrell has been looking to expand Logitech’s reach into new territories such as mobile since he took the CEO role back in 2012. Since then, the company has produced products for tablets and phones, portable speakers, and smart home devices like the “Harmony” TV remote controls and the Bluetooth Audio Adapter.</p><p>Just last month, the Switzerland-based company saw a <a href="" target="_blank">3% rise in sales during its third quarter</a> compared to the same quarter last year. Retail sales actually grew to 9% in constant currency at $595 million. Thus, the company raised its fiscal year 2016 outlook, expecting retail sales to grow 7% to 9% in constant currency.</p><p>Logitech taking the road to VR should come as no surprise, as the company produces some of the best peripherals on the market. Logitech offers game-focused peripherals as well spanning from mice to keyboards to controllers for racing enthusiasts.&nbsp;</p><p>We're keeping a close watch on you, Logitech&nbsp;</p> Fallout 4 Graphics Revisited: Patch 1.3 three months later, the Commonwealth is looking better than ever, and AMD and Nvidia haven't been standing still eitherWed, 03 Feb 2016 11:22:14 +0000 4FeaturesGamingintelnvidiapatches <h3>War, war never changes&hellip;</h3><p> &hellip;the hardware and software you're using, on the other hand, can change in rapid fashion, often rendering older results meaningless. This is the case with <em>Fallout 4</em>, which we&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">initially benchmarked right after launch</a>. Two and a half months later, we've just received the latest official 1.3 patch, which was in open beta for the past week or two. Unlike the beta, the official release is intended to be ready for general consumption. This is important because there have been rumblings that <em>Fallout 4</em> performance has gotten worse with the patch.</p><p> Let's just cut straight to the point: That's bollocks. We've got the same performance sequence we used in our initial testing, only now we're running the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers. After dozens more repeat benchmark runs, we can comfortably say that almost everyone will see some healthy improvements to performance compared to the state of the game back in November. But there's more to the story than just driver updates and bug fixes.</p><p> <em>Fallout 4</em> version 1.3 offers a few new enhancements to graphics, both courtesy of Nvidia's GameWorks libraries. Now, before any AMD fans get too bent out of shape, let's be clear that all the new features are <em>optional</em> using the graphics presets. So if you go into the options and click Low/Medium/High/Ultra, you won't even see the new enhancements. Instead, you'll need to open the Advanced menu, and there you will see the option to set Ambient Occlusion to HBAO+, and if you have an Nvidia GPU, you can also set Weapon Debris to one of four options (Off/Medium/High/Ultra). Weapons Debris appears to leverage some PhysX libraries&mdash;or at least, something Nvidia isn't enabling for other GPU vendors&mdash;while HBAO+ will work on all DX11 GPUs.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 Ultra (left) vs. Max (right) quality settings" class=""><figcaption><em>Fallout 4</em> Ultra (left) vs. Max (right) quality settings</figcaption></figure><p> What does <em>Fallout 4 </em>look like with the image quality maxed out compared to the Ultra preset? The shadows are improved and there's more foliage in some areas, but outside of pixel hunting you likely won't notice a sizeable change in the way things look.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 version 1.3 Ultra quality preset" class=""><figcaption><em>Fallout 4 </em>version 1.3 Ultra quality preset</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 version 1.3 with HBAO+ and max quality" class=""><figcaption><em>Fallout 4</em> version 1.3 with HBAO+ and max quality</figcaption></figure><p> Besides the graphics updates, we've also noticed that the game now plays much more nicely when it comes to disabling V-Sync (iPresentInterval=0) or using a display that supports 144Hz refresh rates. Entering/exiting power armor no longer causes the player to occasionally get stuck, at least not in our experience, and while picking locks at high frame rates is a bit iffy (you'll break a lot of bobby pins), the only main concern with disabling V-Sync is the usual image tearing.</p><h5>Let's talk performance</h5><p> Before we get to the new performance numbers, let's quickly recap the launch. <em>Fallout 4</em> showed clear favoritism for Nvidia GPUs, but at the time AMD hadn't released an optimized driver for the game. That came out about a week after our initial benchmarking, and it dramatically improved the situation for AMD graphics cards. Since then, we've seen the Crimson 15.12 and 16.1 drivers, but <em>Fallout 4</em> performance has mostly stayed the same. Nvidia meanwhile has gone from their <em>Fallout 4</em> Game Ready 358.91 driver to the current 361.75 driver, and they've also shown some performance improvements during the past few months. CPUs were also a potential bottleneck at launch, particularly for AMD graphics cards, but the optimized drivers appear to have largely addressed that area.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC Graphics Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-5930K</a>: 6-core HT OC'ed @ 4.2GHz<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454134343&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Core+i3-4350">Core i3-4350</a> simulated: 2-core HT @ 3.6GHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044420&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Gigabyte+GA-X99-UD4">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD4</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPUs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354392&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=R9+Fury+X">AMD R9 Fury X</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354436&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+390">AMD R9 390</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354465&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+380">AMD R9 380</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354483&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+285">AMD R9 285</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354522&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=gtx+980+ti">Nvidia GTX 980 Ti</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354558&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=gtx+980">Nvidia GTX 980</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354586&amp;sr=1-3&amp;keywords=asus+gtx+970">Nvidia GTX 970</a> (Asus)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354627&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=asus+Nvidia+GTX+950">Nvidia GTX 950</a> (Asus) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1447354339&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+evo+2tb">Samsung 850 EVO 2TB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044466&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=EVGA+SuperNOVA+1300+G2">EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=G.Skill+Ripjaws+16GB+DDR4-2666">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB DDR4-2666</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044501&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+Nepton+280L">Cooler Master Nepton 280L</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044514&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+CM+Storm+Trooper">Cooler Master CM Storm Trooper</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>OS</strong> </td> <td> Windows 10 Pro 64-bit </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Drivers</strong> </td> <td> AMD Crimson 16.1<br> Nvidia 361.75 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> We're using the same hardware as before, though we've modified our choice of CPUs on the low end from parts that don't actually exist to a simulated Core i3-4350. Many gamers wouldn't be caught dead running such a "low-end" processor, but you might be surprised just how much performance even a Core i3 part can offer. We've trimmed down our list of GPUs slightly this round as well, dropping the GTX Titan X and GTX 960 as those scores aren't all that different from the other parts we're testing. And with that out of the way, let's just dive right back into the radioactive waters and hope our Rad-X can keep us healthy&hellip;.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 2160p Ultra GPU"></p><p> Running at 4K resolutions, particularly at Ultra quality, is generally the domain of multi-GPU setups, and that remains the case with <em>Fallout 4</em>. Sure, a single GTX 980 Ti can break 30 fps most of the time, and paired with a G-Sync display it's certainly playable, but it can definitely feel choppy. The good news is that nearly all of our GPUs show some decent performance improvements since launch, and especially AMD looks much more reasonable here.</p><p> With the 1.3 patch in place, we now have two GPUs comfortably breaking the 30 fps mark, and even the GTX 980 manages to just squeak by. 97 percentile frame rates are all below 30 fps, however, so you can expect a bit of stuttering on occasion&mdash;especially when you're outside and transition between area boundaries. <em>Fallout 4</em> doesn't demand ultra-high frame rates, however, and with a bit of tweaking (say, the High preset, or maybe just disable TXAA) you can definitely play 4K with the R9 390, GTX 980, R9 Fury X, and GTX 980 Ti.</p><p> What's interesting is how far the gap has narrowed between AMD and Nvidia GPUs. Where the 980 Ti and 980 used to hold double-digit percentage leads over the Fury X and 390, with the patch and updated drivers the cards are now running basically tied (4–6 percent leads for Nvidia, but AMD has better 97 percentile results now). The 970 was also more or less tied with the 390 before, but now the 390 holds a sizeable 12 percent advantage. It's just unfortunate it took a couple of weeks after launch to narrow the gap. We could point out how badly AMD dominates Nvidia at the $200 market, though with sub-20 fps results we'll save that for below.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 1440p Ultra GPU"></p><p> If the changes at 4K were helpful to AMD, at QHD they're almost a night and day difference. 980 Ti used to lead the Fury X by 30-40 percent; now it's down to less than 10 percent. The 980 still beats the 390 by 5-15 percent, but it should given their respective prices; the 970 on the other hand has gone from leading the 390 by 5-15 percent to trailing by 5-10 percent. And we're not just talking meaningless numbers here; at 1440p Ultra, all of these GPUs are certainly playable&mdash;particularly if you pair them with a G-Sync/FreeSync display. 97 percentiles are above 30 fps for all of these cards, and if you're shooting for even higher frame rates you can always drop the quality settings a notch.</p><p> For the lower priced cards like the GTX 950 and R9 380, 1440p Ultra still proves to be (mostly) insurmountable. The R9 380 4GB card is easily ahead of the others, however, and it leads the GTX 950 by almost 20 percent. Of course, it also costs 35 percent more than the GTX 950 2GB, so it's not really a decisive victory.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 1080p Ultra GPU"></p><p> 1080p Ultra isn't really where the highest-end cards are designed to run, though the 980 Ti still easily claims the top spot. AMD for their part shows 20-40 percent improvements compared to launch performance, with the Fury X benefiting the most. This is why driver optimizations for games are important, and the sooner you get them into the hands of gamers, the more likely they will be to recommend your hardware. If you're a day-0 gamer that pre-orders stuff in advance, AMD's track record doesn't look so good.</p><p> Nvidia still shows better scaling overall, suggesting the CPU is perhaps more of a bottleneck on AMD GPUs in this title. We'll get to that further on down the page. Having 4GB of VRAM also looks to be a big boost to performance here, with the R9 380 outpacing the R9 285 by a solid 15 percent or more, where prior to the driver and game updates the gap was mostly equal to the difference in their core clocks.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 1080p Max GPU"></p><p> But what happens if you enable the new HBAO+ ambient occlusion&mdash;along with maxing out all of the other settings? (Note that the weapons debris option is only available with Nvidia GPUs, so we left it off.) If you compare the numbers from 1080p Ultra to our 1080p Max, interestingly, the gap between AMD and Nvidia narrows again. All of the GPUs we tested remain "playable" (meaning, higher than 30 fps averages), though interestingly it's Nvidia that appears to have more stuttering and low frame rates now.</p><h5>How's your CPU?</h5><p> To be frank, I wasn't actually going to retest CPU performance, but there was a small snafu. The last testing I had done involved <em><a target="_blank" href="">Rise of the Tomb Raider</a></em>, running with a simulated i3-4350. I ran all of these benchmarks using that configuration before realizing I was missing four cores and 600MHz of CPU clock speed. Here's the catch, though: The simulated i3-4350 still has a full 15MB L3 cache, where a real i3-4350 only has 4MB L3&mdash;and of course, quad-channel DDR4-2667 instead of some form of DDR3 memory. You might be wondering how I could have missed the lack of CPU performance, especially in light of our earlier findings. Take a look at the charts, though:</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 2160p Ultra CPU Scaling"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 1440p Ultra CPU Scaling"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fallout 4 V1.3 1080p Ultra CPU Scaling"></p><p> Previously, we simulated much slower parts and ran with multiple core configurations. This time, targeting a real Core i3 SKU does a lot to eliminate the performance gap. In fact, there are actually some oddities that show up, with the "Core i3" part often beating the real Core i7. Our best guess is that by devoting the whole 15MB L3 to just two cores, more data can fit into the cache, resulting in improvements particularly for our 97 percentiles.</p><p> Given we're testing with FRAPS, which is prone to wider variations between runs, we wouldn't read <em>too</em> much into these charts, but overall there looks to be very little difference in performance between our two processor configurations. Average frame rates are mostly within the margin of error (less than five percent), and only the two fastest GPUs (980 Ti and Fury X) appear to benefit from the hex-core i7-5930K&mdash;and even then, it's only at 1920x1080 Ultra where they outperform the simulated i3-4350. Crazy!</p><p> I suspect everything else showing the simulated Core i3 "winning" is due to the cache differences, because really that shouldn't happen with a real Core i3. We've got a faster core clock, three times as many cores, and more than three times as much L3 if we're looking at a true i3-4350 comparison. But even if you have an actual Core i3 processor, short of dual GPUs it's very likely the CPU won't be a significant bottleneck.</p><h5>Prepare for cryogenic sleep&hellip;</h5><p> And that wraps up our return to the post-apocalyptic wastes. Things have improved, and if you like open-world adventures, <em>Fallout 4</em> is awesome. You don't even want to know how many hours I've spent playing the game, let alone benchmarking it. But I digress. The short summary is that Nvidia continues to hold on to the performance crown, but AMD users no longer need to feel betrayed. In the midrange $200 GPU market, AMD even holds the lead, and with a few tweaks to the settings you should be able to happily run around soaking up rads until your eyes rot out.</p><p> We'll continue to use <em>Fallout 4</em> as one of our GPU and CPU benchmarks, because it's a popular title and can be reasonably taxing. But unless something really dramatic happens (like a DX12 patch, which is highly unlikely), this is going to be our last detailed look at <em>Fallout 4</em> performance. Meanwhile, if you heard rumors that Nvidia was intentionally crippling performance on older Kepler GPUs, we did run a quick test with a GTX 770 using both older and newer drivers and found no noteworthy changes, so you can hopefully rest easy.</p> Technolust: On the Road Again or Homeward Bound few exceptions, most of us can't have it all but dreams are free, which is why we technolustWed, 03 Feb 2016 08:00:00 +0000 chairsmartphonesTechnolust <h3>Working from home and away</h3><p> Getting things done efficiently and effectively is part of our everyday lives. If there's a product out there that can help you get your work done faster, that means more free time to do the things you enjoy. It's also important to be comfortable, and having used a lot of different products over the years, I know what I like and what I don't. I also know what I'll use and what will gather dust, so while it would be really cool to have a sweet drone or an awesome home stereo, they're not particularly high on my priority list.</p><p> So what upgrades would I like to have right now? I can think of many, but at the top of my list are three things: a new smartphone, a new laptop, and a new chair&mdash;not necessarily in that order.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="iPhone 6S"></p><h4>My Dream Smartphone (for now)</h4><p> This might seem like a fanboy pick, but let me start out by saying that I only use one Apple product right now, and it's not something I purchased: It's my iPhone 5S 16GB. Prior to coming to Maximum PC, I used an Android phone, a Nexus 5 to be precise. I liked that phone a lot, but then I dropped it and shattered the screen (and repaired it, though it was never quite the same afterward). When I found out that my new job would provide me with a free phone, but it had to be an iPhone&hellip; well, I figured I would try switching and see how it goes.</p><p> First the bad: I miss the back button of Android, and I despise iTunes. Over the past year, I've learned to live with the iOS interface and have found it to be responsive and generally easy to use&mdash;the switch from Android wasn't all that bad. I've also found that the GPS works a lot better than on my old Nexus 5. But iTunes&hellip; oh, how I love to hate you. On Windows, it feels like it was intentionally developed as a way to try and convince people that Macs are superior. Why do I need to install iTunes just to use USB tethering? Or transfer images from my phone to my PC? It's a clunky piece of software and something I do my best to avoid using. But the phone, well, the phone is still great.</p><p> Design is where Apple really excels, and compared to most of the Android phones I've used and handled, iPhones simply have a fit and finish that's unmatched. I do think the 5/5S looks nicer in many ways than the latest offerings, and thinner isn't always better, but I do have a few gripes with the 5S. For example, turning on Bluetooth sucks my battery dry, the display is a rather smallish four inches, not to mention the 1136x640 resolution. Having come from a 5-inch 1920x1080 Nexus, I want something a bit larger than the 5S display, but not as big as the iPhone 6S Plus 5.5-inch display. The iPhone 6S is the near-perfect compromise in my book.</p><p> I don't know if the Bluetooth battery issue has been fixed with the latest model, and I can live without Bluetooth most of the time. It's really about moving to that 4.7-inch display, although for a company that coined the "retina display" category, I'm a bit surprised the resolution is still only 1334x750. Apple is also really good about delivering accurate colors on their displays, however, so given the choice between their lower resolution and other companies' offerings, the iPhone generally wins.</p><p> What's really surprising to me is how far Apple is pushing the performance metrics with their latest SoC. My old Snapdragon 800 in the Nexus 5 wasn't particularly sluggish, and the move to the 5S was more lateral than forward. But since the A7 in the 5S launched more than two years ago, Apple has come out with the A8 and now the A9 processor. As one of the first 14nm/16nm FinFET parts&mdash;yes, if you hadn't heard, Apple sourced the A9 from both TSMC and Samsung, which is frankly a crazy thing only Apple would do&mdash;the A9 is at the cutting edge of technology.</p><p> In practical terms, the iPhone 6S is roughly twice as fast as my current 5S, with graphics performance often two to three times faster. Oh, and Apple also delivers NAND performance that's hard to beat. What's really impressive is that Apple delivers all of this with just two of their Twister cores. Why use eight run-of-the-mill ARM cores when you can custom design your own processors that are apparently superior in every way? That doesn't mean Apple's A9 wins every performance metric, but when we struggle to use more than two cores on many desktop PCs, it's not surprising that the benefits of an octal-core smartphone SoC are more for marketing than the real world.</p><p> So far so good, but there's one area where I'm really techolusting after something more than my current phone: storage capacity. I got my phone for free, but I also got the base model 5S with a paltry 16GB of NAND. It's enough for minor use, but if I start snapping photos and recording videos, not to mention storing music for listening, 16GB gets gobbled up in no time at all. And of course, Apple has no intent to let you add your own micro-SD card, meaning you get what you buy and you live with it. For that reason, I'd normally go for the 64GB model, but in my dreams I'd go whole hog and nab the 128GB version&mdash;because why not?</p><h5><strong>What does the iPhone 6S get me?</strong></h5><p> In a word: more. More of everything. More performance, more screen, more resolution, more battery life, and more storage. There are few upgrades where you actually win in every single area, but this is one of them. The only compromise is in the money you have to spend. Depending on the color, an unlocked 64GB iPhone 6S <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454448793&amp;sr=1-4&amp;keywords=iphone+6s+64gb">runs around $800</a> while the <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454448996&amp;sr=1-4&amp;keywords=iphone+6s+128gb">128GB 6S costs $890–$945</a>. Buying a phone via a carrier can help bring down the price, but only about $50, so I'd rather just pay the extra for a fully unlocked phone. The biggest drawback? We all know we're only eight months away from the iPhone 7 launch.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dell XPS 15"></p><h4>A Well-Balanced Laptop</h4><p> I've had the opportunity to play with some of the fastest notebooks on the planet for much of the past decade. They're awesome, and I love seeing things like the new GTX 980 for notebooks stuffed into MSI's GT72S. But when it comes time for me to actually get a new laptop for business and pleasure, I'm looking for something a bit more portable&mdash;there's nothing worse than lugging around a 15-pound backpack during a trade show! Enter Dell's latest revision of their XPS 15.</p><p> It's come a long way since the earliest models, and the XPS brand is now basically Dell's take on a MacBook Pro Retina. In many ways, they even manage to beat Apple, which is saying something&mdash;plus, again, I'm not really an Apple devotee; I'll stick with my Windows OS, thank-you-very-much. The new Skylake edition packs a Core i7-6700HQ processor, which is plenty fast for my laptop requirements. There are many different configurations available, but the one I really want is the <a target="_blank" href=";l=en&amp;s=dhs">fully loaded XPS 15 Touch</a>. $2,650 is a serious investment, but this is basically a go-everywhere, do-everything option.</p><p> Joining the Core i7 processor is a not-insignificant GTX 960M graphics card. Granted, this is Maxwell 1.0 (GM107), which is a bit of a letdown, but it should still handle all games at medium to high settings running at 1080p. Besides, I've got my gaming desktop at home when I need it, so this is just something to let me game a little on the road. Optimus means I can still get good battery life, so there's no compromise there, and the top models are packing PCIe-based SSDs. In this case, you can get a full 1TB SSD, with no slow hard drive taking up space, allowing Dell to use a large 84Wh Li-polymer battery. Dell claims up to 17 hours of battery life, but they're probably running at minimum LCD brightness to get there; in practice, I expect 6–7 hours is more likely, and that's enough for me.</p><p> The screen is probably the real selling point for me&mdash;and I'm not just talking about the 3840x2160 touchscreen aspect. In truth, I don't need that high of a resolution, but it still looks great. What I really love is the "InfinityEdge" design, where the screen bezel is super narrow, at least on the top and sides. Dell would get even more bonus points if they would use a different aspect ratio (16:10 or even 3:2 would be awesome), but that ship has mostly sailed so I'll live with a 16:9 panel. The InfinityEdge does force the webcam down to the lower bezel, which can be a bit odd, but my webcam use is pretty limited so again, not a problem for me.</p><h5><strong>What does Dell's XPS 15 get me?</strong></h5><p> Much like the iPhone, this is a case of more being better. I have a laptop with a 512GB SSD, and it's generally sufficient, but it's not a PCIe-based drive and it's often running at 75 percent filled or more, forcing me to move files over to my desktop. It's not a huge problem, but a 1TB SSD would definitely be nice to have. I'd also like the move to a faster GTX 960M graphics chips for on-the-road gaming (my current laptop's GT 750M is proving woefully inadequate these days), and Skylake should provide a moderate but welcome improvement to both performance and battery life. The important thing is that I can get all of this in a laptop that still weighs under five pounds, and while there are times when I'd like an even smaller Ultrabook-class laptop, ultimately I'm not willing to give up the larger screen size and keyboard.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ergohuman ME7ERG"></p><h4>Sit Down and Relax</h4><p> Last but not least, while the prior two items are great for when I'm away from home, most of my work time is spent at my desk. I've thought about standing desks, but for now I'm sticking with a traditional seated option, which means I need a good chair. I've gone through quite a few office chairs over the past couple of decades, and many of them have ended up in the dump after a few years. My current chair mostly works, but it's uncomfortable and lacks many of the adjustment options I really want.</p><p> One thing that I know now is that I really don't like leather chairs, particularly when I'm going to be sitting there 5–10 hours a day. They don't breathe well, which is a real problem in the summer, and they're usually firmer than I'd like. Ergohuman makes some great chairs, and their ME7ERG is a fully mesh design&mdash;exactly what I'm after. With a <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454450959&amp;sr=1-1-catcorr&amp;keywords=ergohuman+me7erg">current price of $625</a>, It's about three times the price of my current chair, but having suffered with this seat for most of the past two years, I now realize how important a comfortable chair can be.</p><p> The Ergohuman V1 has been around for a while, though it underwent a slight redesign in 2011. Unlike so many other accessories, chairs can last for decades if they're made right, and a good design won't become outdated. The ME7ERG can adjust the position of pretty much every element, ensuring good support whether you're sitting up straight or reclining. It's also a high-back model with a headrest, which is definitely a must-have feature in my book. The adjustable back gives you better lumbar support, and there's the usual tilt, sliding seat, and height adjustments. The single-lever control mechanism is also pretty slick, and the arm rests can move up and down as well as swiveling in and out.</p><h5><strong>What can Ergohuman give me that I’m currently missing?</strong></h5><p> <strong></strong></p><p> Somehow or another, I ended up with one of the least comfortable office chairs I've ever used, and I've been stuck with it for a couple of years. It looked nice when I saw it in pictures, but besides being leather it has a serious problem: It can't properly support my 6'3" 220 pound size. And by that, I mean the height adjustment keeps sliding down. I tried locking the hydraulics in place with a pipe clamp, but the clamp&nbsp;still slides, and that takes away the height adjustment feature. Even at its best, however, this chair was merely serviceable rather than something comfortable that I want to keep using. The Ergohuman is a far better design, with a lifetime warranty, so even if something does go wrong, the company will fix it. And then I can let my children use my current chair and leave mine alone (fat chance of that happening).</p> Nintendo Eyeing Re-Entry into VR Industry is working on virtual reality technologyTue, 02 Feb 2016 23:35:13 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nintendo"></p><p>Nintendo first entered the virtual reality industry back in 1995 with the launch of Virtual Boy. The product tanked in Japan and North America, which led the company to refrain from selling the device in other regions. Complaints about the device included headaches caused by the monochrome screen, the high retail price, and its failure to create an immersive experience. Virtual Boy only lasted seven months (give or take) on the North American market.</p><p>Despite its Virtual Boy failure, Nintendo may not be entirely out of the VR picture. Nintendo’s new president <a href="" target="_blank">Tatsumi Kimishima told reporters</a> during a news conference on Tuesday that the company was indeed researching VR products. He called the technology “interesting,” but only that: he gave no sign that the company would produce a product in the near future. </p><p>News of Nintendo’s new journey into VR isn’t surprising. Sony is developing a VR product of its own called <a href="" target="_blank">PlayStation VR</a> that’s slated to arrive in the first half of 2016 for the PlayStation 4 console. The headset packs a 5.7-inch OLED display with a 1920x1080 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. Microsoft, on the other hand, is currently developing <a href="" target="_blank">HoloLens</a>, which is powered by Windows 10 and supports holographic computing. The HoloLens developer kit is expected to arrive in early 2016.</p><p>Nintendo is currently working on its next gaming console, codenamed the NX, which is slated to be revealed later this year. Unnamed sources <a href="" target="_blank">said back in October</a> 2015 that the company was handing out the software development kit to third-party developers, and that the NX will be a console/mobile hybrid device sporting “industry-leading chips.” If Nintendo is indeed working on a VR headset, the console powering the device will definitely need all the horsepower it can get.</p><p>Nintendo is in need of new streams of revenue, and VR certainly could pay off if applied correctly. The company just announced falling numbers in its fiscal third quarter earnings report, revealing a net profit of Y29.1bn ($241m) in the October/December quarter, down from Y45.2bn earned in the same time frame last year. The company saw a 2 percent decrease in Wii U sales compared to a year ago, and 3DS sales saw a 28 percent drop.</p><p>One stream of revenue Nintendo investors are banking on is in the mobile sector. The company’s first mobile game is called Miitomo and is slated to arrive in March 2016. The game will be free-to-play but offer in-app purchases. Nintendo plans to launch a total of five mobile games before March 2017, the second of which promises to feature a “<a href="" target="_blank">best-known character</a>.”</p><p>On a whole, Nintendo will need to impress both consumers and investors with its new hardware to regain the momentum generated by the original Wii console. And because of the Virtual Boy failure, the company may face some hesitation from consumers regarding the introduction of a new VR headset. Still, if the recent high demand for VR equipment is any sign of things to come in 2016, we’ll likely see a VR hint from Nintendo before the end of the year.</p> Writers Wanted wanted for Maximum PCTue, 02 Feb 2016 21:04:11 +0000 pc Freelance for Maximum PC<br /> <br /> Do you write well and know PC hardware and/or&nbsp;software like the back of your hand? If you've been building PCs since&nbsp;before you could walk and would like to contribute to Maximum PC, we would love to have you on board.<br /> <br /> We’re currently looking for PC&nbsp;experts who can write about&nbsp;the following categories:<br /> Software (Windows/Linux/Multimedia Production/Editing)<br /> <br /> Cases<br /> Building PCs<br /> Cooling<br /> <br /> Overclocking<br /> <br /> Modding<br /> Peripherals (headset, keyboards, mice)<br /> <br /> NetworkingHome automationSecurityNAS<br /> Basically, if you write well and consider yourself an expert in any of the aforementioned categories, we would love to hear from you. Writers should be able to write a variety of content that could include how-to guides, tips articles, and informative features. Freelancers should be assertive and willing to take the&nbsp;initiative to pitch article ideas.To be considered, please send resumes/written samples to<br /><br /> and let us know what hardware/software beats you specialize in/like to cover!<br /> This Tool Reveals Which VPN Server Is the Fastest's a good way to decide which VPN service is best for youTue, 02 Feb 2016 20:20:38 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vpn Scanner"></p><p>Looking to stream Netflix in your territory? Need to extend your private network to a location overseas? <a href="" target="_blank">There’s a new free tool</a> that monitors the upload and download speeds of specific Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers located around the globe. Even more, it lists the details of each provider’s servers, showing which connection is best for your VPN needs.</p><p>Upon first loading the site, new users are greeted with a popup welcoming them to the world’s first localized VPN speed testing tool, which was in development for two years before recently going live. The tool is sponsored by Private Internet Access and six other providers, and is accepting donations. Across the top is a list of social networks that allow the user to post news about the new tool. </p><p>“We have set upfew servers in multiple locations across North America, Europe &amp; Australia,” the site states. “Multiple intelligent software robots check internet speed of different VPN providers at their VPN servers at every hour every day. Every robot updates speed result at a centralized database. Another robot cleans this data with machine learning algorithm and finally sends accurate speed data to a Web server. The more data it receives the more accurate result it can produce, our current accuracy is more than 90% and at the end of 2015 the estimated accuracy will be 99%.”</p><p>On the left of the browser window is a sidebar with a list of VPN providers and a list of territories for testing the VPN speed in near real time (if a provider isn’t listed, you can request it to be added). The world map spread out across the window displays blue spheres that indicate the location of a VPN’s server; each sphere contains a number that displays the server’s download speed. Double-clicking on a sphere reveals the server download and upload details. You can zoom in and out of the map using the mouse wheel, and click the wheel to pan around the map.</p><p>AS an example of how the tool works, we checked out PIA’s server located in Florida. Using a test location in New York, the server had a download speed of 4.42MB/sec and an upload speed of 5.69MB/s. By changing the test location to London, that same server had a download speed of 7.69MB/s and an upload speed of 12.50MB/s. Not too shabby.</p><p>As for supported VPN providers, the list includes Private Internet Access (the default), VPN-S, Black VPN, Liquid VPN, Vyprvpn, Invisible Browsing VPN, Cactus, TorGuard, IP Vanish VPN, CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, and Hide My Ass. Test locations include two in the United States, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.</p><p>Ultimately users can walk away with valuable information that will help them choose the right VPN for their needs. While privacy is a very important factor in choosing a service, so is speed, especially when streaming video is involved. This tool, which updates server information on an hourly basis, is ideal because users can compare multiple providers in one sitting.</p><p>News of the tool arrives as Netflix begins to crack down on users who are using VPNs and proxies to stream content into geographic territories that don’t have licensing rights to the media. In other words, they’re getting access to movies and TV shows that aren’t legally available in their region. <a href="" target="_blank">Only the US military</a> is purportedly allowed to stream Netflix’s US catalog overseas via VPNs.</p><p>Netflix vowed to beef up its proxy and “unblocker” detection <a href="" target="_blank">in mid-January</a>. The company said this detection technology will continue to evolve, and should not affect members who are not using proxies.</p><p>VIA:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> Newegg Daily Deals: EVGA 80 Plus Gold 550W PSU, Seagate 3TB HDD, and More!, we're fans of excessit doesn't read Modest PC on our magazine cover, but Maximum PC. That doesn't mean we suggest being careless with your component selection and going over the top at every opportunity. Let's say you're putting together a respectable mid-range system with a quad-core processor, SSD, and a mid-level graphics card. You could spurge on a 1,200W power supply to run the thing, or make a much wiser choice with your money...Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:51:03 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Evga 550w Psu"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Look, we're fans of excess&mdash;it doesn't read <em>Modest PC</em> on our magazine cover, but <em>Maximum PC</em>. That doesn't mean we suggest being careless with your component selection and going over the top at every opportunity. Let's say you're putting together a respectable mid-range system with a quad-core processor, SSD, and a mid-level graphics card. You could spurge on a 1,200W power supply to run the thing, or make a much wiser choice with your money, such as today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817438049-_-0202&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">EVGA 550W Power Supply</a> for for <strong>$75</strong> with free shipping (normally $85; additional $20 Mail-in rebate). There's plenty of power here to play with, and it's a high-quality unit that's 80 Plus Gold certified. It's also modular and comes with a 5-year warranty.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822148844-_-0202&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Desktop HDD 3TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$85</strong> with free shipping (normally $100 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEGEF22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025212-_-0202&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG 25-inch IPS 2 x HDMI FHD Ultra-Wide LED Monitor 250 cd/m2 5,000,000:1</a> for <strong>$160</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $190)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814127878-_-0202&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Radeon R9 380 DirectX 12 R9 380 GAMING 4G 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support ATX Video Card</a> for<strong> $225</strong> with free shipping (normally $239; additional $10 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16874113147-_-0202&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">NBA 2K16 - Xbox One</a> for <strong>$50</strong> with free shipping (normally $54)</p> AMD Radeon Software Crimson 16.1.1 Hotfix Driver Now Available's Crimson Edition 16.1.1 Hotfix introduces performance optimizations for Rise of the Tomb Raider.Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:36:40 +0000 <h3>Best performance for Rise of the Tomb Raider</h3> <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the tomb raider"> </p> <p> Rise of the Tomb Raider is out now for PC (it has been for the past several days) and whether you use an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card, there's an optimized driver release available to download. </p> <p> For NVIDIA graphics cards owners, it's the <a href="">361.75 driver release</a>, which was made available a couple of days before&nbsp; the game's release. And for those on team AMD, it now has your back as well with the release of its new Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.1.1 Hotfix. </p> <p> The highlights of the hotfix are short and simple&mdash;performance and quality improvements for Rise of the Tomb Raider plus a Crossfire profile, and also a Crossfire profile for Fallout 4. </p> <p> AMD also resolved a bunch of issues with the latest hotfix. They include: </p> <ul> <li>[81915] Assassin's Creed Syndicate - Building textures may be missing on some AMD Freesync displays with VSync enabled</li> <li>[82892] Display corruption may occur on systems with multiple display systems when they have been left idle for some time</li> <li>[82926] Mordheim: City of the Damned – some loading screens may be very dark</li> <li>[83032] Star Wars: Battlefront – The sky rendering may be corrupted in some situations</li> <li>[83832] Radeon Settings – AMD OverDrive Power setting changes on the secondary GPU are not immediately displayed. This is seen only on dual GPU graphics cards, such as the AMD Radeon HD 7990 and Radeon R9 295x2</li> <li>[83833] Radeon Settings - AMD OverDrive&trade; clock gauge needles for the secondary GPU may be in wrong position when the system is idle and the secondary GPU is inactive</li> <li>[83839] Some games may experience brightness flickering with AMD FreeSync enabled</li> <li>[83940] AMD Radeon Additional Settings window will close if the help button is pressed on Japanese/Korean language setups</li> <li>[83948] Corruption seen in video playback for M2TS format files via Windows 10 Movie &amp; TV application</li> <li>[84199] Flickering textures experienced in Dota 2 when accessing the "Heroes" menu</li> <li>[84428] Battlefield Hardline – A crash may occur when changing graphics settings from "Ultra" to "High" during gameplay</li> <li>[85030] The screen may turn dark and colors may be corrupted after installing the driver on some AMD Crossfire setups</li> <li>[85099] Custom game profiles are reset to defaults after system is restarted</li> <li>[85142] HDMI audio lost when monitor enters sleep mode and are woken up</li> <li>[85299] Black line corruption seen all along the edges of characters and menus in Game of Thrones</li> </ul> <p> Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second title since 2013's Tomb Raider reboot. It's not overly demanding, though it definitely can be taxing if you crank up the eye candy and resolution. If you're thinking about jumping in or just want to know more, check out our separate Rise of the Tomb Raider <a href="" target="_blank">benchmarks</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">optimization guide</a>. </p> <p> AMD's hotfix is <a href="" target="_blank">available here</a>. </p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em> AMD Launches Quieter Stock Cooling Solutions and New Processors has a couple of new coolers that it says are whisper quiet, plus new processors.Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:05:29 +0000 <h3>Achieving a library level of quietness</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Wraith"></p><p> Reference coolers aren't usually all that exciting or particularly newsworthy, though in this case, AMD deserves a shout out for finally introducing some new air cooling solutions.</p><p> First up is the Wraith. It replaces the stock air cooler that AMD's been using for the past several years, though as of right now it's only available with the company's FX 8370 CPU.</p><p> The Wraith is noticeably bigger than the one it replaces, and that added footprint is put to good use&mdash;it has a larger fan that spins at a low RPM to deliver what AMD claims is 34 percent more airflow than its predecessor, while the body offers 24 percent more surface area to dissipate heat. That allows it to do a better job cooling than its predecessor, while operating at a "near-silent 39 decibels, about as quiet as a library," which is one-tenth the noise level of its predecessor, <a href="" target="_blank">AMD says</a>.</p><p> The fan also brings a unique styling to the table with a fan shroud and backlit illumination for added bling.</p><p> In addition to the Wraith, AMD trotted out a new 95W stock cooler that it's including with half a dozen other processors, including a pair of new ones. They include the following:</p><ul> <li> AMD A10-7860K (new)</li> <li>AMD A8-7670K</li> <li>AMD A8-7650K</li> <li>AMD Athlon X4 870K</li> <li>AMD Athlon X4 860K</li> <li>AMD Athlon X4 845 (new)</li></ul><p> The Athlon X4 845 is AMD's first desktop chip based on its Excavator x86 architecture. It's a quad-core part clocked at 3.5GHz to 3.8GHz with 2MB of L2 cache and a 65W TDP. It doesn't have any built-in graphics, but in lieu of that, AMD touts a high IPC (instructions per clock) and budget friendly price tag ($70).</p><p> AMD's other new addition, the A10-7860K, features four Steamroller cores clocked at 3.6GHz to 4GHz. It also has 4MB of L2 cache, a 65W TDP, and eight built-in Radeon R7 graphics cores clocked at 757MHz. It's priced at $117.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Asus Gives Swift PG348Q G-Sync Monitor Flagship Status, Still Mum on Pricing ROG announces its Swift PG348Q monitor.Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:12:52 +0000 <h3>Shipping this month</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus ROG Swift PG348Q"></p><p>Asus has been teasing its 34-inch PG348Q monitor since around last summer, first by trotting it out to Computex and IFA 2015, and more recently at CES where it won the convention's Innovation award. If you were starting to wonder if it would ever come to market, wonder no more, it's now officially part of Asus ROG's Swift lineup.</p><p>The flagship monitor boasts a curved panel with an ultra-wide QHD (3440x1440) resolution and 21:9 aspect ratio. It sports a frameless design and adopts the ROG "Armor Titanium" and "Plasma Copper" color scheme that Asus seems infatuated with as of late, plus some fancy built-in LED effects.</p><p>As for the panel itself, it's an In-Plane Switching (IPS) display with a 100Hz refresh rate, Nvidia G-Sync support, 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color space, 300 cd/m2 brightness, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, 5ms gray-to-gray response time, and viewing angles (horizontal and vertical) of 178 degrees.</p><p>One thing Asus warns is that 34 inches is a lot of real estate, especially if you're used to sitting close to your monitor.</p><p>"A 34-inch display so close to your face is simply massive. Initially it would take a little time to get used to it if you’re upgrading from a smaller display, [but] after spending some time with it, you simply can’t go back," <a href="" target="_blank">Asus says</a>.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus ROG Swift PG348Q back"></p><p>The Swift PG348Q has a pair of 2W speakers built into it. Connectivity consists of a DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4, four USB 3.0 ports, and an earphone jack.</p><p>As for the ergonomic stand, it supports height adjustments up to 115mm, tilt (+20 to -5 degrees), and swivel (+50 to -50 degrees).</p><p>Asus still hasn't said how much it's new flagship monitor will command, but did indicate that it will begin shipping this month.</p> Game Performance Using Different Storage Media different storage media affects in-game performanceTue, 02 Feb 2016 08:00:00 +0000 vPC gamingperformancestorage <h3> How different storage media affects in-game performance</h3><p> One of the biggest questions when choosing your storage setup is what kind of device you want to use to store and run your games. While 1TB SSDs have fallen to about $300 as of early 2016, this may still be too pricey for those looking for large amounts of storage. But if you use an HDD when you don’t have enough storage to spare on your SSD really going to be a painful experience? Since hard drives are slower than SSDs, using one may affect not just the loading time of the game, but performance can suffer if the game accesses content from storage regularly and the hard drive can’t keep up.&nbsp;</p><p>With this conundrum in mind, let's take a look at how games perform using different types of storage media.</p><h4> Why would storage media affect performance?</h4><p> Your choice of storage media can make a difference if an application halts its processing when requesting data from storage. Because the data it wants isn't in RAM, it waits until it can get it from storage. This can either result in a small hiccup or a long pause, depending on how long it takes to get the data. We’re testing to see if putting a game on a hard drive will impact in-game performance over running it from an SSD, as hard drives have notably slower response times. To clarify, in-game performance is the frames per second the system can sustain.</p><h5> <strong>Testing setup and methodology</strong></h5><p> The following system setup is what we used to test:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> Intel Core i7-6700 <br> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> 16GB DDR4-2166 <br> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> GPU </td> <td> GeForce GTX 980 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Storage </td> <td> HDD: 3TB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda <br> SSD: <strong></strong>1TB Samsung 850 EVO SATA SSD<br> NVMe: 256GB Samsung 950 Pro NVMe SSD </td> </tr> <tr> <td> OS </td> <td> Windows 10 Pro </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p>The games we tested:</p><ul> <li><em>ARMA 3</em></li><li><em>Call of Duty: Black Ops 3</em></li><li><em>Civilization V</em></li><li><em>Company of Heroes 2</em></li><li><em>Crysis 3</em></li><li><em>Final Fantasy XIV</em></li><li><em>Grand Theft Auto V</em></li><li><em>The Witcher 3</em></li></ul><p>Each of the tests has scenarios that are repeatable, but in a real-world situation, i.e., no benchmark tests were used. We used both <a target="_blank" href=";MSPPError=-2147217396">Performance Monitor</a> and <a target="_blank" href="">Fraps</a> to gather data; Performance Monitor for&nbsp; gathering the number of bytes read per second, and FRAPS to capture the rendering time of each frame, with capture starting just before each scenario starts. For each game, we looked at storage activity in relation to performance to see if storage activity affects it.</p><p>To avoid the possibility of Windows caching games ahead of time into RAM, Superfetch was disabled. In addition, after each run for one type of storage, the PC was reset in order to flush out RAM. </p><p>Note that for some of the graphs, they may have data points that go off the chart in order to make seeing the rest of the data easier.</p><h4><strong>Results</strong></h4><h5><strong>ARMA 3</strong></h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 1"></p><p>For <em>ARMA 3</em>, we ran through the Showcase mission “Armed Assault.” This was done up until the second major checkpoint was reached.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 2"></p><p>From this scenario, <em>ARMA 3</em> regularly accesses the storage but the bandwidth is under 20MB/s most of the time. Still, with a lot of activity happening toward the middle, let’s see how this affects performance.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 3"></p><p>It does appear the hard drive has more stutters in the middle, but the average framerate isn’t too much worse than the SSDs. </p><p><strong>Call of Duty: Black Ops 3</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 4"></p><p>For this first-person shooter, we ran the first part of the mission “New World.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 5"></p><p>With very little reading going on during the game, we can expect it to run with similar performance on all three storage types. Interestingly, <em>Black Ops 3</em> is one of the few games in this test to exceed 200MB/s on the SSDs, and the HDD even managed to spike as high as 120MB/s.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 6"></p><p>As there wasn’t much storage activity, all three runs performed practically the same.</p><p><strong>Civilization V</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 7"></p><p>In this large-scale turn-based strategy game, we loaded up a game 400 turns in, then played 10 turns. Similar actions were performed for consistency.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 8"></p><p>Surprisingly, <em>Civilization V</em> does very little reading, and it topped out at 120MB/s for the SSDs. We can expect to see similar performance across the board.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 9"></p><p>All three storage types exhibit the same performance in-game. All the sudden jumps in rendering time were due to the computer players taking their turns. </p><p><strong>Company of Heroes 2</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 10"></p><p>In this World War II strategy game, we ran a 4 vs. 4 skirmish map, and stopped once the game timer reached 10 minutes.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 11"></p><p>Another interesting case, <em>Company of Heroes 2</em> is a high-bandwidth performer, topping the NVMe drive at almost 450MB/s while the hard drive achieves a respectable 120MB/s. However, the game practically doesn’t touch the drives afterward. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 12"></p><p>The game has a few jumps in rendering time for each run, but for the most part, the performs the same on all three storage types.</p><p><strong>Crysis</strong><strong> 3</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 13"></p><p>In this large-scale shooter, we played the mission “Welcome to the Jungle” up until the player character Prophet meets up with his teammate Psycho, the second major objective.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 14"></p><p>With its large environment for this map,<em> Crysis 3</em> does a lot of accessing during the run with lots jumps in read bandwidth. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 15"></p><p>Despite reading a lot from the storage, even using a hard drive doesn’t result in any appreciable performance loss, with the exception of that sudden jump in the middle.</p><p><strong>Final Fantasy XIV</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 16"></p><p>The test for this MMORPG from the popular <em>Final Fantasy</em> series consists of doing a Chocobo Porter run between three major areas. </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 17"></p><p>Despite the areas being lively and covering large areas, there’s fairly little loading going on until the transition to another one.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 18"></p><p>However, the game’s performance on all three storage types remains effectively the same. One caveat is that your experience may vary on the server you use and what sort of activities you do. However, seeing that the game doesn’t make a lot of storage requests should instill confidence that there is plenty of wiggle room.</p><p><strong>Grand Theft Auto V</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 19"></p><p>In this large, lively open-world game, we be started from Franklin’s home, went to the nearest interstate on ramp to do a lap around Downtown Los Santos, then back to Franklin’s home. Refer to the image below for the route. </p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The route we drove around Los Santos."> <figcaption>The route we drove around Los Santos.</figcaption></figure><p>This route was chosen for having some of the most detailed scenery in the game, as well as having a high chance of dense population in the mix.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 21"></p><p><em>GTA V</em> frequently accesses the storage devices, floating around 20MB/s to 30MB/s, with some peaks of 40MB/s during the run. There was almost no idle time for storage until the end. This should be a good candidate to see if what kind of storage you have affects performance.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 22"></p><p>However, <em>GTA V</em> offers the most surprising result: Despite constantly reading from storage, there is little to no appreciable variation in performance between devices.</p><p><strong>The Witcher 3</strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 23"></p><p>For this open-world RPG, we played through the first few objectives of the early quest, “The Beast of White Orchard.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 24"></p><p>Despite having open spaces, <em>The Witcher 3</em> doesn’t read a lot from storage.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 25"></p><p>Storage type doesn’t affect performance all that much either. </p><h4>A quick recap: 95<sup>th</sup> percentile rendering times</h4><p>Taking all of that data, we’ll also look at the 95<sup>th</sup> percentile for rendering times on each game. This means 95 percent of all frames were rendered at or under the reported time.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Table"></p><h5>Digging a little deeper</h5><p>Looking at all of the data from the games we tested, performance doesn’t seem to be affected by the type of storage it’s on, save for loading. Not content with leaving it at that, we decided to take a deeper look into what one of the games was doing during the test. </p><p>For this test, we looked at <em>GTA V</em>, since it had the most storage activity, using a tool called <a href="">Process Monitor</a>. This tool examines a program that's running and tracks its events. In this case, we’re only interested in when the program reads a file and how long it took for the file to be accessed. We examined the <em>GTA V</em> test running from the hard drive:</p><p><strong></strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ShoGPF 26"></p><p><strong></strong></p><p>If this chart is unfamiliar to you, the horizontal axis represents if a request time falls between the two values. In this case, it starts at request times up to 1 millisecond. Every bar after that is 1 millisecond intervals. The vertical axis is how many requests fall in between the times.</p><p>According to the data pulled from Process Monitor, most of the requests made on the hard drive were finished in a millisecond or less. This seems strange when typical access times for a hard drive are around 8 to 10 milliseconds. However, the following may explain the low access time:</p><ul> <li>AHCI’s Native Command Queuing may shorten seek time when picking up data.</li><li><em>GTA V</em> spreads 36GB of data into 23 files. This helps prevent having to look up individual files, which incurs more overhead than a single file lookup.</li><li>A lot of requests in a row were for the same file but in a different location. </li><li><em>GTA V</em> may employ a technique to load lower-quality assets first, then load higher-quality ones as needed. If the higher-quality asset doesn’t come in, the game still runs with the lower-quality asset rather than wait for it.</li></ul><p><strong>Wrapping it up</strong></p><p>From the data collected, storage devices have little to no impact on performance while the game is running. Where it impacts the most is where there’s lots of loading, such as starting a new game, loading a new level, or loading from a save file. </p><p>While we recommend putting what you can on the SSD for maximum performance, if you’re stuck deciding what to put on your SSD and what to leave on the HDD, here are our recommendations:</p><ul> <li>Detailed open-world games, such as <em>GTA V</em> and <em>Fallout 4</em>, should be on an SSD to minimize load times and any possibility of performance hiccups.</li><li>Games with smaller maps to act as game levels, such as first-person shooters, strategy games, and action games, can remain on an HDD without fear of performance loss during gameplay. The load times for each level or map is still much smaller than open-world games, and they may play a cinematic to pass the time.</li><li>Games that you’ve heavily modded should be on an SSD. These mods may comprise of many files instead of large contiguous files games are usually packaged in, giving the faster access time of an SSD an edge.</li></ul><p>We also still recommend fitting an SSD into your PC build if you can, but if you’re having trouble budgeting for one, don’t worry about losing out on much in-game performance by using an HDD. A low-end processor or video card will hurt your performance more than running on an HDD.</p> Check Out Windows 95 Running In a Browser don't have to install a thingMon, 01 Feb 2016 22:09:41 +0000 95 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 95 emulated in JavaScript"></p><p>The 90s was a great decade. It introduced us to <em style="background-color: initial;">The X-Files</em>, the Internet, polygon-based first-person shooters, and the dedicated GPU. The 90s also saw the dramatic&nbsp;transformation of Microsoft’s Windows platform, taking the DOS-heavy operating system and painting it with a slick interface and a new Start Menu. Enter Windows 95, the beginning of a beautiful relationship between computer and human.</p><p>Those who wish to relive the Windows 95 experience without having to install any software can do so by merely opening a browser. 19-year-old Andrea Faulds of Scotland managed to get the 20-year-old operating system running in JavaScript using Emscripten, which is an emulator that compiles C and C++ code into JavaScript that can execute at near-native speeds.</p><p>“I installed Windows 95 in DOSBox using <a href="" target="_blank">this guide</a> from a virtualised CD, then packaged up the disk image, along with an AUTOEXEC.BAT file and a custom dosbox.conf using Em-DOSBox,” Faulds writes. “Really, all the hard work was done by the Emscripten, DOSBox and Em-DOSBox people. And, of course, the browser vendors and other people who have worked tirelessly to make the modern web platform what it is today. In the process of making this, I never once had to touch the DOSBox source code!”</p><p>Faulds notes that Windows 95 is running on an emulated CPU. And because DOSBox isn’t running natively on your machine, it won’t run quite as fast as if it were installed locally on your hard drive. Faulds also warns that because the operating system is running entirely in memory, nothing can be saved, so don’t get crazy and hope to have an ancient, secondary operating system on your hands.</p><p>One thing Fauls points out is that this Windows 95 project is for educational purposes only. Windows 95 is still protected by copyright law, so those who choose to load Windows 95 into RAM are doing so at their own risk. If Fauls receives a cease and desist letter, the site will be shut down immediately.</p><p>Until then, you can check out Windows 95 in a browser <a href="" target="_blank">right here</a>. The disk image is 47MB gzipped and 131MB uncompressed, so it may take a short time to download and execute. Fauls suggests that interested users load up Windows 95 in Firefox, given that Mozilla’s browser supports asm.js. We tried loading it up in the latest Google Chrome release and didn’t have any problems.</p><p>Despite the caveats, what Fauls has done is simply awesome. After the platform loads and you’re required to set the date, users can stroll down memory lane and take Windows 95 for a spin. You can open My Computer and check out the “C” Drive (which is 125MB of allocated memory), play Solitaire, tool around in the Control Panel, and enter the MS-DOS prompt. However,&nbsp;Internet Explorer crashes, which is a known bug.</p><p>If you’re curious about Microsoft’s retired platform, this is a good way to check out what we endured in the mid-90s. Again, this experiment isn’t sanctioned by Microsoft, so it could get nuked at any time. It certainly brings back some great memories and doesn’t require that you install a thing!</p> Newegg Daily Deals: MSI Apache-235 Laptop, Seagate 4TB HDD, and More!, you're off to visit the in-laws for an extended stay. That can be a good thing or a really bad thing, depending on whether or not you get along with them. If not, the easy solution is to bring along a gaming laptop and excuse yourself to the guest bedroom for "work" at every opportunity.Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:32:09 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MSI Apache Laptop"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>So, you're off to visit the in-laws for an extended stay. That can be a good thing or a really bad thing, depending on whether or not you get along with them. If not, the easy solution is to bring along a gaming laptop and excuse yourself to the guest bedroom for "work" at every opportunity. Need one that can serve as both a work and gaming machine? Then check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-LaptopHD-N82E16834152902-_-0201&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Apache-235 i7 5700HQ (2.70 GHz) 16 GB Memory 1 TB HDD Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M 2 GB GDDR5 17.3-inch Windows 10 Home</a> for <strong>$940</strong> with free shipping (normally $999 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGN55</strong>]; Free gaming backpack with purchase, limited offer). It's a respectable setup based on Intel's Skylake architecture, and it comes with free backpack to boot!</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822178338-_-0201&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$115</strong> with free shipping (normally $125 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFGN23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820233731-_-0201&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (4 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2133 (PC4 17000) Memory Kit Model</a> for <strong>$165</strong> with free shipping (normally $175 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGN24</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824022019-_-0201&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Samsung 24-inch 2ms HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor 250 cd/m2 DCR Mega Infinity (700:1)</a> for <strong>$130</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $140 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGN22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-NETWORK-N82E16833704232-_-0201&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">TP-LINK Archer C9 Wireless AC1900 Dual Band Gigabit Router</a> for <strong>$140</strong> with free shipping (normally $170 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGN56</strong>]; Free Pantum Laser Printer w/ Promocode!)</p> Acer's Windows-Based TravelMate B117 Will Take on Chromebooks in the U.S. Windows laptops from Acer are headed to the U.S. next month.Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:19:20 +0000 <h3>Low cost Windows laptops</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Acer TravelMate B117"></p><p> Acer is one of Google's major partners in the Chromebook movement that's seen some success in the education market, but that won't stop Acer from trying to sell low-cost Windows laptops to the same audience. If you need evidence of this, then consider the company's forthcoming TravelMate B117.</p><p> Available in two base configurations, the TravelMate B117 was "tailor made for education," Acer says. A big reason why is the price.</p><p> The first model&mdash;TravelMate TMB117-M-C578&mdash;runs $229 and includes an 11.6-inch display with a 1366x768 resolution, Intel Celetron N3050 processor, 2GB of DDR3L RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage. 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a webcam, up to 12 hours of battery life, and Windows 10 Pro. For $20 more, the TMB007-M-C0DK model doubles the amount of RAM to 4GB.</p><p> Acer considers the TravelMate B117 line to be "game changing," and not just because of the price points, but also the feature-set. One of the features Acer is touting is called TeachSmart.</p><p> "The TravelMate B117 with Acer TeachSmart features an LED light embedded on the lid which can flash in different colors. Students can toggle between four colors through a software interface to indicate their status, allowing teachers to easily keep track at a glance," Acer says.</p><p> "For example, teachers can post multiple-choice questions to the entire class. After students select their answers on the notebook, the LEDs will light up in a corresponding color to indicate the answers they have chosen," Acer added.</p><p> The LED light can also be used by students to let a teacher know that he or she has finished an assignment or otherwise needs attention.</p><p> As the TravelMate B117 is designed for students, it sports a ruggedized frame with a rubber strip to protect it from bumps and drops. It's also thin and lightweight at 0.8 inches and 2.9 pounds, and boasts a spill-resistant keyboard with a water drainage system.</p><p> Acer says the TravelMate B117 will head to the U.S. in March.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Tablet Shipments Tumble as 2-in-1 Devices Reach New Heights says that 2-in-1 shipments reached an all-time high while tablet shipments declined yet again.Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:57:27 +0000 <h3>Getting attached to detachables</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Book image 3"></p><p>Well look at what we have here, another quarter of declining tablet shipments while detachable 2-in-1 devices reached an all-time high, according to data released by International Data Corporation (IDC).</p><p> This is notable on a number of levels. First, long time Maximum PC readers might remember a time when analysts were infatuated with rising tablet shipments. They blamed tablets for declining PC sales and pretty much predicted that tablets were the future. Wrong.</p><p> Secondly, it was barely three weeks ago when <a href="" target="_blank">IDC reported</a> a 10.6 percent year-on-year decline in PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2015, noting it was the largest year-on-year drop in the history of PCs. However, IDC's figures didn't include 2-in-1 PC shipments&mdash;they're tallied separately and would have added 6 percentage points to the fourth quarter total and 3 percentage points to the full year.</p><p> In any event, it's nice to see IDC acknowledging the market for 2-in-1 devices, which is comparatively small to traditional PCs but quickly growing.</p><p> "One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," <a href="" target="_blank">said Jean Philippe Bouchard</a>, Research Director, Tablets at IDC. "We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it's clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable – performance is."</p><p> That might be overstating things a bit. Lest we get too excited about 2-in-1 devices, IDC isn't talking about hundreds of millions or even tens of millions of shipments, but 8.1 million units. And then there's the debate of whether or not an iPad Pro qualifies as a 2-in-1 dectachable.</p><p> As for tablets in general, despite the holiday season, the tablet market tablet again in the fourth quarter of 2015 with 65.9 million units shipped, down 13.7 percent year-over-year.</p><p> "The transition towards detachable devices appears to be in full swing as pure slate tablets experienced their greatest annual decline to date of -21.1%. On the other hand, detachable tablets more than doubled their shipments since the fourth quarter of last year," IDC said.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Windows 10 Jumps Past Windows XP for Third Spot in OS Usage 10 continues to increase its share of the OS market.Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:26:09 +0000 10windows xp <h3>Number three or number two?</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 PCs"></p><p> The first month of the new year is in the books and with it comes a new ranking for Windows 10, now either the second or third most popular operating system in the world, according to updated data by <em><a href=";qpcustomd=0" target="_blank">Net Applications</a></em>.</p><p> If you count Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 as separate operating systems, then Windows 10 is in third place. Otherwise, it's second only to Windows 7, still the big man on campus. But no matter how you slice it, Windows 10 is now on more PCs than Windows XP, a fan favorite that's managing to cling to a double-digit percentage.</p><p> Here's how things shake out based on the accounting methods of <em>Net Applications</em>:</p><ol> <li>Windows 7: 54.47 percent</li> <li>Windows 10: 11.85 percent</li> <li>Windows XP: 11.42 percent</li> <li>Windows 8.1: 10.4 percent</li> <li>Mac OS X 10.11: 3.44 percent</li> <li>Windows 8: 2.68 percent</li> <li>Mac OS X 10.10: 2.33 percent</li> <li>Others: 5.4 percent</li></ol><p> Microsoft's goal is to have Windows 10 installed on 1 billion devices two to three years post launch. Now six months into that time frame, Windows 10 is installed on more than <a href="">200 million active devices</a>, according to Microsoft's latest official count. At this rate, Microsoft will likely reach its goal somewhere between the two- and three-year mark.</p><p> The <a href="" target="_blank">numbers at <em>StatCounter</em></a> differ slightly but paint a similar picture. According to <em>StatCounter</em>, the OS landscape looks like this:</p><ol> <li>Windows 7: 46.66 percent</li> <li>Windows 10: 13.65 percent</li> <li>Windows 8.1: 11.67 percent</li> <li>Mac OS X: 9.03 percent</li> <li>Windows XP: 7.98 percent</li> <li>Unknown: 3.8 percent</li> <li>Windows 8: 3.15 percent</li></ol><p> "Microsoft's determined promotion of Windows 10 seems to be having an impact," <a href="" target="_blank">commented Aodhan Cullen</a>, CEO, <em>StatCounter</em>. "However, there remains a lot of loyalty to Windows 7 and it will be interesting to see if it becomes the equivalent of XP which, 14 years after launch, refuses to lie down and still has a 8 percent global share in terms of desktop internet use."</p><p> How does the adoption rate compare to previous versions of Windows 10? After six months on the market, Windows 8 was sitting at just 5 percent, while Windows 7 raced out to 13.5 percent, just behind the 13.65 percent Windows 10 now finds itself at.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Apple Reportedly Has a Big VR/AR Team supposedly has a big, secret dedicated team for VR and AR technologyMon, 01 Feb 2016 14:08:42 +0000 realityNewsvr <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Apple Headquarters"></p><p>Unnamed sources have <a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>Financial Times</em></a> that Apple has created a large team of experts to develop virtual and augmented reality devices. This team consists of employees poached from other companies as well as staff from recent acquisitions. This team has been working on prototypes for the past several months, sources say.</p><p>As the report points out, Apple is no stranger to VR technology development. The company experimented with headsets back in the mid-2000s but considered the technology “too immature” at the time. Apple is said to have become interested in VR again once the Oculus Rift surfaced, which has proven that the industry is finally ready for public consumption.</p><p>Reports say that Apple began to beef up its arsenal with the acquisition of PrimeSense in 2013, followed by Metaio and Faceshift. The company’s latest acquisition is Flyby Media, an augmented-reality startup that worked with Google on Project Tango. Sources say that Apple is still looking for more acquisitions in optical technologies to prefect its VR and AR designs.</p><p>Apple recently hired a top virtual reality researcher, former Virginia Tech computer science professor Doug Bowman. So far there’s no indication of what Bowman will be doing at Apple, although his background points to possible VR projects. Apple also hired several former Lytro employees who worked on a consumer-oriented camera that used light field optics.</p><p>During a recent quarterly earnings conference call from Apple, current CEO Tim Cook <a href="" target="_blank">answered a question</a> regarding the company’s interest in virtual reality. “In terms of VR, I don't think it's a niche. It's really cool and has some interesting applications,” he said. That’s not a confirmation about developing VR hardware, but it’s not a denial either.</p><p>Apple posted a series of job advertisements <a href="" target="_blank">last year</a> seeking software engineers who would create apps for virtual reality systems “for prototyping and user testing.” VR patents submitted by Apple also surfaced, such as a head-mounted display that is compatible with the iPhone and likely meant for virtual (or augmented) reality. </p><p>What’s unknown at this point is who Apple plans to take on in the VR and AR space. Will Apple’s VR/AR solution compete with Samsung’s Gear VR or Google Cardboard, or go after the heavy-hitters like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift? There’s also speculation that Apple may not release hardware at all, although given recent reports and the growing VR/AR industry, that seems unlikely.</p> Scan Firmware Using Google's VirusTotal can scan for malware in firmware using Google's new VirusTotal tool.Mon, 01 Feb 2016 14:02:44 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Virustotal"></p><p>Until now, Google's&nbsp;VirusTotal merely scanned URLs and “suspicious” files (up to 128MB) that are uploaded to the site including Windows executables, Android APKs, PDFs, images, and more. Now, <a href="" target="_blank">PC World points</a> to a new tool added to the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">VirusTotal</a> service that will scan firmware for known malicious code.</p><p>Firmware is at the root of a device, stored on a flash memory chip and loaded into memory when the device boots up. It’s the platform of communication between the hardware and operating system, and typically isn’t scanned by virus detection software. This has been a target by the likes of the National Security Agency and hackers, because malware embedded in firmware can survive device reboots and system wipes.</p><p>With the new tool in place, analysts and researchers can search for low-level infections in firmware, and label this firmware as either legitimate or suspicious. The new tool will also extract certificates, executable files that may be packed in the firmware, and UEFI portable executables (PEs), the latter of&nbsp;which could be the source of malicious behavior.</p><p>“These executables are extracted and submitted individually to VirusTotal, such that the user can eventually see a report for each one of them and perhaps get a notion of whether there is something fishy in their BIOS image,” says IT security engineer Francisco Santos. He added that the tool will also highlight which PEs are targeted at Windows, which could be a sign of foul play.</p><p>For those interested in scanning firmware, Santos suggests that users remove private information first, such as vendor “secrets” (like Wi-Fi passwords) that are stored in BIOS variables to retain specific settings during system reinstalls. For those on a Mac, Santos recommends DarwinDumper and checking the “Make dumps private” option.</p><p>Here’s a list of the basic tasks the new tool can perform:</p><ul> <li>Strings-based brand heuristic detection, to identify target systems</li><li>Extraction of certificates both from the firmware image and from executable files contained in it</li><li>PCI class code enumeration, allowing device class identification</li><li>ACPI tables tags extraction</li><li>NVAR variable names enumeration</li><li>Option ROM extraction, entry point decompilation and PCI feature listing</li><li>Extraction of BIOS Portable Executables and identification of potential Windows Executables contained within the image</li><li>SMBIOS characteristics reporting</li><li>Apple Mac BIOS detection and reporting</li></ul><p>For more information about VirusTotal, Google has a lengthy FAQ that answers common questions <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. VirusTotal is a subsidy of Google and is a free online service.</p> Is Apple Taking on Netflix with Original Content? may be working on exclusive video content for its streaming TV serviceMon, 01 Feb 2016 13:45:26 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Apple Store"></p><p>We’ve known for a while that Apple has been trying to launch a streaming TV service, but has met resistance from Hollywood studios and networks over pricing and how media will be served up. At one time there was even talk that Apple was creating an actual TV, but as of late we’ve only heard that the Cupertino-based company is seeking to provide a bundled service based on apps and Siri integration.</p><p>However, <a target="_blank" href="">a new report by The Street</a> indicates that Apple may be pushing to create its own content for iTunes customers. The company is said to have been in negotiations with Hollywood studios since last year, and plans to reveal the original content alongside its streaming TV service and the iPhone 7 in September 2016. So far, Apple has not reached an agreement regarding the original content, sources say.</p><p>According to the report, negotiations are being spearheaded by senior vice president of Internet sales and software Eddie Cue, along with vice-president of iTunes content Robert Kondrk. Meanwhile, Apple continues to hammer out its streaming TV service as revealed by ESPN president John Skipper in an interview with the <a target="_blank" href=""><em>Wall Street Journal</em></a>. The streaming TV service is expected to bolster sales of Apple’s struggling set-top box.</p><p>Original content seems to be the theme with streaming video providers. Netflix offers exclusive movies and TV shows such as <em>Daredevil</em>, <em>House of Cards</em>, <em>Orange is the New Black</em>, and Adam Sandler’s <em>The Ridiculous 6</em> (which is one of many Sandler exclusives to come). Amazon has exclusives for Prime subscribers such as <em>The Man in the High Castle</em>, <em>Transparen</em>t, and <em>Mad Dogs</em>. </p><p>Original content from Apple could help prove to Hollywood that the company means business. However, over the years we’ve heard talk about fears regarding a possible monopoly of the market on Apple’s part. Those fears have subsided with the growing popularity of competing streaming services like Sling, Netflix, and Hulu.</p><p>"Since the beginning of television, content differentiation has been the single most important element driving the business," Blair Westlake, former chairman of Universal TV told The Street. "Apple undoubtedly recognized that offering programming that is only available on iTunes is a 'must have,' just as it is for mainstream TV."</p><p>Two weeks ago, <a target="_blank" href="">reports surfaced</a> claiming that Apple was actually interested in acquiring Time Warner to accelerate its streaming TV plans. According to the <em>New York Post</em>, Apple would gain access to HBO programming, CNN news, Turner sports and movies, and TV shows from Warner Bros. Eddie Cue is reportedly “keeping tabs” on what’s going on at Time Warner, which could spin off its assets or be sold off entirely.</p><p>Apple could potentially disrupt the video streaming subscription industry with a new offering. It was former Apple CEO Steve Jobs who declared that the TV was broken, and set out to transform the way we consume content many years ago. Whether Apple will succeed depends on how the company’s offering will stand out against the other players in the field.</p> Sager NP9870-S Review engineering marvelMon, 01 Feb 2016 08:00:00 +0000 980Kick-AssReviewReviewssager <h3>An engineering marvel</h3><p> When Nvidia told us that it managed to shrink its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">desktop GTX 980 GPU</a> to fit inside notebooks, we went through two stages of denial. The first stage was disbelief. “The 980 is a huge and powerful card,” we thought to ourselves. The second stage was dismissiveness. “It’s got to throttle tremendously.” To prove us wrong and to fan the flames of hardware absurdity, Sager armed its sexily named NP9870-S gaming notebook (seriously, who names these things?) with both a desktop 980 and a high-end&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">6700K Skylake desktop CPU</a>. On paper, it’s an abomination of a laptop, but crazily enough, it actually friggin’ works!&nbsp;</p><p> Of course, if you’re going to squeeze desktop components into a laptop chassis, you shouldn’t expect an ultra-portable package. The Sager here is of the big, bulky 17-inch variety, and it has a hefty 14-pound carry weight to match its size. If there’s one criticism we could levy against Sager in the past, is that its gaming notebooks were very bland looking. There are a few aesthetic bells and whistles this time around. In addition to the nice silver Sager logo on the back, there are some pulsating LEDs, which add a little bling to the look (if you’re into that). The chassis also has some sharp lines and edges, which give it a slightly futuristic look.&nbsp;</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SagerLaptop NP9870S-0025"></p><p style="text-align: center;"> <strong>Surprisingly, 980 GPU performance wasn't throttled.</strong></p><p> More exciting is the 1080p display. While we would have preferred a 1440p screen, the monitor here uses a 75Hz IPS panel that supports G-Sync. That’s a lot of cool display tech in one sentence. The rest of the design is good. The speakers by Sound Blaster are competent, the LED-backlit keyboard offers some nice travel, and the trackpad is solid and has two discrete click buttons and a fingerprint reader. The notebook also sports enough ports to warrant its desktop-replacement label, which include: two Ethernet, five USB 3.0, one USB type C, two DisplayPort, an SD card reader, and an HDMI port.&nbsp;</p><p> But you probably aren’t reading this review to hear about the laptop’s ports. “How well does it perform?!,” you’re probably screaming. Cool your jets, we’re getting there. The 980 outfitted here has the same 256-bit memory interface width and 224GB/sec memory bandwidth as its desktop sibling. One advantage that this 980 has over Nvidia’s discrete card is double the VRAM. Your reference 980 has 4GB VRAM, whereas this card rocks 8GB. Considering that the notebook is relegated to a 1080p panel, you’d be hard pressed to actually use up all that VRAM (or anything near it), but it’s still nice to have. Compared to our&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Alienware 14&nbsp;ZP laptop</a>, which is getting long in the tooth with its GTX 765M GPU, we saw a 106–234 percent performance delta in our graphics benchmarks. It’s really not a fair comparison at this point, so we decided to see how it stacks up against the 3D Mark 11 Extreme numbers we ran on<a href="" target="_blank"> CyberPower’s Syber Vapor system</a> we reviewed last year. If you’ll recall, the Vapor rocked a 4790K and GTX 980 desktop card in a small Mini ITX chassis, which makes it a fair comparison point for the Sager.&nbsp;</p><p> The results? The Sager not only performed on par with the desktop PC, but actually ran three percent better! Older drivers on the Vapor could explain some of this delta, but still, getting anywhere near close to the desktop card in this form factor is insane. Consider us believers in this Nvidia voodoo. CPU performance was also great. We saw up to an 11 percent increase in single-threaded CPU tests compared to our ZP laptop’s Core i7-4700MQ laptop proc. In multithreaded tests, we saw a huge 43 percent difference. Yes, it did get a little loud under load, but it’s running top-tier desktop parts in a laptop chassis, so what do you expect?&nbsp;</p><p> One performance hurdle that we ran into pertained to boot times. It took roughly 25 seconds to reach Windows, despite the notebook using a premium Samsung 850 Evo SSD. Sager tells us that this is because the gaming notebook has so many built-in peripherals for the drive to check, so it takes a little longer. That seems fair.&nbsp;</p><p> At $2,850, you’ll be paying a high price for this kind of performance, but at the same time, it’s kind of an engineering marvel. To fit this much power out of a chassis of this size boggles the mind. You can max out pretty much any game at 75fps here. Whether you’re looking for a high-end gaming system, editing rig, or VR machine on the go, the Sager NP9870-S has you covered. It might not be cheap, but it’s still pretty Kick-Ass.</p><h5>BENCHMARKS</h5> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> &nbsp; </td> <td> Zero-point </td> <td> Sager&nbsp;NP9870-S </td> <td> Percent difference </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) </td> <td> 962 </td> <td> 970 </td> <td> -0.8% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Proshow Producer 5 (sec) </td> <td> 1,629 </td> <td> <strong>1,459</strong> </td> <td> 11.7% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> x264 HD 5.0 </td> <td> 13.5 </td> <td> <strong>19.4</strong> </td> <td> 43.7% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bioshock Infinite (fps) </td> <td> 36.1 </td> <td> <strong>74.6</strong> </td> <td> 106.6% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Metro Last Light (fps) </td> <td> 30.4 </td> <td> <strong>74.6</strong> </td> <td> 145.4% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> 3DMark 11 Perf </td> <td> 4,170 </td> <td> <strong>13926</strong> </td> <td> 234% </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Battery Life (min) </td> <td> <strong>234</strong> </td> <td> 124 </td> <td> -47% </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> Our zero-point notebook is an Alienware 14 with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ, 16GB DDR3/1600, 256GB mSATA SSD, 750GB 5,400rpm HDD, a GeForce GTX 765M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. BioShock Infinite tested at 1920x1080 at Ultra DX11 settings; Metro: Last Light tested at 1920x1080 at DX11 medium quality settings with PhysX disabled.</p><h5>SPECIFICATIONS</h5> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> Intel 4GHz Core i7-6700K </td> </tr> <tr> <td> RAM </td> <td> 16GB of DDR4/2133MHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Chipset </td> <td> Intel Z170 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> GPU </td> <td> Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 w/8GB VRAM </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Display </td> <td> 17.3 inch, 1920x1080 display (matte) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Storage </td> <td> 250GB SSD, 1TB HDD </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Connectivity </td> <td> 5x USB 3.0, headset and mic port, SD card reader, 2x Mini DisplayPort, HDMI port, 2x Ethernet port, fingerprint reader, USB type C </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lap/Carry </td> <td> 10 lbs, 1.6 oz /14 lbs, 14.4 oz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Online Price </td> <td><a href=";qid=1454392727&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=np9870-s" target="_blank">Starting at $2849</a><br></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> $2,850, <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> In Case You Missed It - January 24-30 Edition highlight of the biggest and most interesting tech news stories of the past week.Sat, 30 Jan 2016 13:00:00 +0000 Benchmarked: Rise of the Tomb Raider's back, and she's more demanding than ever before; we find out what sort of hardware you really need to run the latest Tomb RaiderSat, 30 Jan 2016 10:03:53 +0000 of the Tomb Raider <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (6)"></p><h3>Who knew raiding tombs could be so difficult?</h3><p>You have to love Lara and her single minded focus on getting whatever she wants. And if you're like us, you're also jealous that she has all the money and equipment needed to jet set around the globe to all sorts of exotic locales. I have to be honest, though: I've been camping in the snow plenty of times, and a tiny campfire in the middle of a blizzard would not be enough to keep me warm. Which is why it's more fun to run around as Ms. Croft in a virtual world where rain, snow, falling rocks, wild animals, and gunshot wounds won't phase me.</p><p>Should you care to join us in this pastime, you might want to know if your rig is up to the task at hand. As the latest installment in the long-running franchise, and the second title since 2013's <em>Tomb Raider</em> reboot, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>&nbsp;(<a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454138861&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=rise+of+the+tomb+raider" target="_blank">$54 for PC download</a>)&nbsp;ups the ante on graphics requirements yet again. It's definitely not the most demanding game on the block, but if you want to crank every dial to maximum and run at a high resolution, you're inevitably going to come up short.</p><p>We've posted <a href="" target="_blank">our optimization guide</a> detailing all of the settings and what they do, along with some recommendations on what sort of settings you should use to get 60+ fps on our latest computer builds. Now, it's time to dig through a larger assortment of hardware and provide some concrete benchmarks. Rather than trying to determine what settings we should use to hit playable frame rates, this time we're using the same settings on a large collection of graphics cards&mdash;and in some cases, processors&mdash;to see which cards can reach the summit, and which will plunge into a spikey trap of destruction.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (5)"></p><h3>A scenic overlook</h3><p> Before we get to the benchmarks, let's take a quick detour off the beaten path to look at the scenery. As discussed in our optimization guide, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> comes equipped with five presets (plus "Custom") for graphics quality. We'll just bypass the Lowest preset, as frankly it looks pretty awful&mdash;though if we could travel back in time, our 2005 selves would likely be impressed. In fact, even for moderate systems, you hopefully won't need to stoop down to the Low preset, which again has a pretty noticeable drop in fidelity. Our focus will primarily be on the top three presets: Medium, High, and Very High. But if you're curious, here's what the five presets look like at 1080p:</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Very High preset looks very nice!" class=""><figcaption>The Very High preset looks very nice indeed (this is with HBAO+ enabled)...</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The High preset is nearly as good, with only a minor loss of fine details." class=""><figcaption>...and the High preset is nearly as good, with some loss in shadow quality.</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Medium quality starts to make some compromises but still looks good." class=""><figcaption>Medium quality starts to make some compromises but still looks good.</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Low quality finally disables PureHair, and textures are very blurry." class=""><figcaption>Low quality finally disables PureHair, and textures are very blurry.</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="OMG! The Lowest preset turns off all shadows, and Lara's eyes look a bit glassy." class=""><figcaption>OMG! The Lowest preset turns off all shadows, and Lara's eyes look a bit cray-cray.</figcaption></figure><p> Even the Very High preset doesn't actually represent the maximum image quality&mdash;you can still enable things like SSAA, along with higher quality shadows and hair. The penalty for going from Very High to Maximum (minus SSAA) looks to be around 25 percent, however, and the minor improvements in image quality generally aren't worth the trouble. In fact, even looking at the Very High vs. High vs. Medium screenshots, you might wonder if the drop in frame rates is worth the slightly better visuals. Bottom line here is that you shouldn't feel bad if you have to start at the Medium setting and start tweaking, as <em style="background-color: initial;">Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> still looks quite nice.</p><p> Something else to mention is the game's use of HBAO+ for ambient occlusion, as opposed to the more pedestrian SSAO. Nvidia developed HBAO+, but unlike some previous titles, you can use the setting with both Nvidia and AMD GPUs. The catch is that it's optimized for Nvidia hardware, resulting in a larger hit to frame rates on AMD cards; for this reason, we've elected to test with HBAO+ turned off (using the "On" setting for ambient occlusion), even at the Very High preset. If you want to pixel hunt, there are differences between the two modes, and HBAO+ looks better, but in motion we feel most gamers are unlikely to notice or even appreciate the finer nuances of HBAO+.</p><h5>Check Your Equipment</h5><p> So what sort of settings will we test, and what hardware are we using? We've settled on the following five configurations, along with limited testing at the Low preset for a few specific cases that we'll get to later:</p><ul> <li>3840x2160, FXAA, High preset</li> <li>2560x1440, TMAA, Very High preset (without HBAO+)</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, Very High preset (without HBAO+)</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, High preset</li> <li>1920x1080, TMAA, Medium preset</li></ul><p> If you happen to be familiar with the last <em>Tomb Raider</em> (2013), you might think you have a good idea of what to expect. At the highest quality settings, the patterns are pretty similar, but the 2013 release happened to scale very well to lower performance hardware. Sure, it looked pretty awful at the lower quality settings, but a single fast GPU could reach into the hundreds of fps. <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is not so forgiving, as we'll see in a moment. Fast graphics cards may have to opt for High or even Medium presets (with tweaking), while moderate hardware may struggle even at the Low preset. Ouch. Don't say we didn’t warn you!</p><p> For our test platform, we're using one system for all the discrete graphics cards, but we'll check out a few integrated graphics solutions later and update the article. For the time being, here's our standard GPU test system:</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC 2015 GPU Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-5930K</a>: 6-core HT OC'ed @ 4.2GHz<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454134330&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Core+i5-4690K">Core i5-4690K</a> simulated: 4-core no-HT @ 3.9GHz<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454134343&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Core+i3-4350">Core i3-4350</a> simulated: 2-core HT @ 3.6GHz </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044420&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Gigabyte+GA-X99-UD4">Gigabyte GA-X99-UD4</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPUs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354392&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=R9+Fury+X">AMD R9 Fury X</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354436&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+390">AMD R9 390</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354465&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+380">AMD R9 380</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=r9+290x">AMD R9 290X</a> (Gigabyte)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354483&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sapphire+R9+285">AMD R9 285</a> (Sapphire)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354522&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=gtx+980+ti">Nvidia GTX 980 Ti</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354558&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=gtx+980">Nvidia GTX 980</a> (Reference)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354586&amp;sr=1-3&amp;keywords=asus+gtx+970">Nvidia GTX 970</a> (Asus)<br> <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1447354627&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=asus+Nvidia+GTX+950">Nvidia GTX 950</a> (Asus) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSD</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1447354339&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+evo+2tb">Samsung 850 EVO 2TB</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044466&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=EVGA+SuperNOVA+1300+G2">EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=G.Skill+Ripjaws+16GB+DDR4-2666">G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB DDR4-2666</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044501&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+Nepton+280L">Cooler Master Nepton 280L</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1440044514&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Cooler+Master+CM+Storm+Trooper">Cooler Master CM Storm Trooper</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>OS</strong> </td> <td> Windows 10 Pro 64-bit </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Drivers</strong> </td> <td> AMD Crimson 16.1 <br> Nvidia 361.75 </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> We've also included results for two 980 Ti cards in SLI for some of the more demanding settings. On the AMD side, we tried to test a pair of R9 290X GPUs in CrossFire, but things didn't go so well as one of our GPUs has gone belly up. Le sigh. Since that's the only pair of AMD GPUs we currently have for CrossFire testing, we don't have any results right now, but you'll see in a moment that there are other items that AMD needs to address.</p><p> A few final items before we depart. First, we're running the latest graphics drivers for both AMD and Nvidia GPUs. However, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is an Nvidia title ("The Way It's Meant To Be Played") and Nvidia released a Game Ready driver a couple of days ago. AMD meanwhile reports that they are working on an optimized driver, but for the time being it is not ready&mdash;it may come out next week, or perhaps later in the month, and we'll see about testing and updating our findings when that happens. But let's be clear: If you're a gamer eagerly awaiting a new release, Nvidia's approach to drivers is far better; you get to play the game at launch with what should be a reasonably optimized experience. It may not always be perfect (see <em>Batman: Arkham Knight</em>), but more often than not, having a driver tuned for a new game helps a lot.</p><p> The second item we want to note is the choice of CPUs. Rather than trying to test multiple systems&mdash;which would be ideal if you want to know exactly how a particular configuration performs&mdash;we're electing to simulate slower processors using our i7-5930K. The Gigabyte BIOS allows us to disable cores and Hyper-Threading, and while the larger L3 cache is still a factor, at least we can get some idea of how mainstream parts like the i5-4690K and i3-4350 perform. Besides, testing every desirable configuration is a rabbit hole with no end in sight&mdash;we would have to look at A10-7850K, A8-7650K, FX-8350, FX-6300, and more to really check out the CPU side of the equation. The good news is that most games are far more dependent on GPU performance rather than CPU/APU performance, so our three test CPUs should at least give a good idea of what to expect.</p><h5>Feeing Testy?</h5><p> One final item to discuss before we get to the pretty graphs <em>[Ed: I like pretty graphs!]</em> is the benchmarking procedure. <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> doesn't have a built-in benchmark mode, unlike its predecessor, which means we need to explore alternative means of benchmarking. This is good and bad&mdash;good because it's a better real-world look at the game's true performance, but bad because it's far more time consuming and it makes it hard for others to compare results with our numbers. So let's talk about what we're doing for our test sequence.</p><p> We use a save at the start of the Soviet Installation level, except we've already played through the level and taken care of all the enemies. This makes the test sequence more consistent, as engaging hostiles in a benchmark inevitably leads to increased variability. We follow the same path each time, as closely as possible; each test run takes about 52 seconds. While we're running the test path, we use <a target="_blank" href="">FRAPS</a> to log frame rates, which we then analyze to find the average as well as 97 percentile performance.</p><p> If you'd like to test your own rig using our benchmark, you can <a target="_blank" href="">download our save file</a> and put a copy in the appropriate folder (default is C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Userdata\[Unique Steam ID]\391220\remote)&mdash;don't forget to back up your own save first, if you have one. As for the benchmark run itself, just follow our path shown in the video below. Then feel free to share your results in the comments&mdash;and if you want to calculate the 97 percentile, you'll have to do that by opening the CSV file in Excel (or some other spreadsheet program).</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"> </iframe><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (4)"></p><h3>The game is afoot</h3><p> We'll start our benchmarks with a look at graphics cards, all running on a 4.2GHz i7-5930K. This is a beefy rig, so rest assured we're making our best effort to hit high frame rates&mdash;if the CPU is a bottleneck here, there aren't many faster CPUs around (short of additional overclocking). As a reminder, we're testing at 3840x2160 using the High preset, with anti-aliasing set to FXAA.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance 2160p High"></p><p> 4K can be punishing even in the best of situations, and <em style="background-color: initial;">Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is certainly not going to be a best-case scenario, particularly so soon after launch. We might see some performance improvements over the coming weeks, but we're far from breaking 60 fps at the Very High setting, and even using the High preset we're still coming up short on the fastest current GPUs. A single 980 Ti at stock breaks the 30 fps mark, but not by much, with lows still dipping into the high 20s; it's still playable, for the most part, but it's not an ideal solution. The GTX 980 is about 20 percent off the pace set by its big brother, averaging exactly 30 fps but with frequent dips into the low-to-mid 20s. AMD's R9 Fury X meanwhile falls between those two in average fps, but the minimums are substantially worse, often dipping into the low teens. Lack of VRAM may be part of the problem here, as a single R9 390 actually manages slightly better 97 percentile results, but drivers are almost certainly a big part of the problem.</p><p> Looking at the potential for multiple GPUs to help, dual 980 Ti cards in SLI do get us well into the playable range, particularly if you're running a G-Sync display. (Our particularly test display is an <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1454128405&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Acer+XB280HK">Acer XB280HK</a>, if you're wondering.) Even so, we're still well short of 60 fps, and minimum frame rates end up slightly worse than with a single GPU&mdash;nothing new there. We've encountered plenty of new releases that fail to scale at all with SLI/CrossFire at launch, so getting even a 33 percent boost from the second GPU at launch is pretty decent; hopefully we'll see even greater gains in the coming weeks.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance 1440p Very High"></p><p> Dropping down to 2560x1440, we also move to the Very High preset (minus HBAO+, which ends up knocking about 10 percent off Nvidia GPUs and 15-20 percent off AMD GPUs). The net result is that we're rendering half as many pixels, but they're rendered at a higher quality, and performance ends up only improving by a moderate 30-50 percent. If you're struggling to hit acceptable frame rates at QHD, many GPUs will still need to run at the High or even Medium preset.</p><p> As for the cards, 980 Ti SLI easily averages more than 60 fps&mdash;so paired with a 40-144Hz QHD display like the <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1454130048&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Acer+XB270HU">Acer XB270HU</a> would be an awesome experience. Minimum frame rates are still a bit choppy at times, however, falling just below 40 fps. A single 980 Ti boasts higher 97 percentile scores, but it still falls short of 60 fps averages; again, G-Sync would be a boon here. The Fury X does a bit better at this setting, with a clear win over the GTX 980, but it's well short of 60 fps and would benefit from a FreeSync panel like the <a target="_blank" href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454130296&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+MG279Q">Asus MG279Q</a>. (Yes, we're very bullish on FreeSync/G-Sync right now, precisely for games like this where averaging more than 60 fps can be a bit difficult even with higher-end hardware.)</p><p> Moving down the list, we can see that the 4GB VRAM cards are still struggling&mdash;look at the 390 vs. the 290X, where the minimum fps drops quite a bit thanks to texture thrashing on the 290X. For some reason the Fury X doesn't appear to have as much difficulty, perhaps because of its faster HBM, or perhaps due to some other architectural/driver differences. Basically, most graphics cards will need to reduce some of the quality settings to handle QHD at smooth frame rates.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance 1080p Very High"></p><p> 1080p with Very High settings finally allows several single GPU configurations to run at or slightly above 60 fps. Interestingly, the GTX 980 passes the Fury X now, placing second on our charts (not counting the SLI setup). AMD's minimum fps continues to be a problem, with a lot more dips and stutters than Nvidia's cards. We won't say too much else here, as we test multiple settings at 1080p, but the Very High setting still requires at least a GTX 980 or above to run really well. Users with FreeSync or G-Sync displays meanwhile could get by with an R9 390 or GTX 970 or better GPU.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance 1080p High"></p><p> 1080p with High settings finally allows the $300 GPUs to hit 60 fps averages, with the GTX 970 now holding a slight lead over the R9 390. In fact, AMD is still encountering problems, this time with apparent CPU limitations, as the GTX 970 also delivers a better overall experience than the Fury X. The 390 and 290X end up with the same average fps, but the additional VRAM on the 390 gives a huge boost to minimum frame rates.</p><p> Now granted, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> looks quite nice, even at the High preset&mdash;in many ways, it's similar to the previous iterations Ultimate preset. It's still a bit surprising to see so many GPUs struggling to reach playable frame rates at this setting, but we expect further driver tuning will help.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance 1080p Medium"></p><p> Our final GPU chart is a sobering look at graphics requirements. Here we've turned off a lot of the high visual quality settings (though PureHair remains enabled), and yet the $150-$200 cards continue to fall well short of the 60 fps mark. Considering a GTX 950 is pretty similar to a notebook GTX 970M in performance, for the time being only the fastest notebooks are going to handle <em style="background-color: initial;">Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> without resorting to Low-to-Medium quality. Ouch.</p><p>Speaking of Low quality testing, we did run a few of the cards at 1920x1080 Low (FXAA). We won't generate graphs for these results, as the visual hit is pretty severe, but the GTX 950 managed 58.8 fps average, with a 48.9 fps 97 percentile score. That at least beats the R9 285 (for now), which scored 54.8/36.2 average/97 percentile. The R9 380 meanwhile crested the 60 fps mark with 67.4 fps and a 37.4 for 97 percentile. So even at Low quality, several otherwise capable GPUs are failing to hit 60 fps. Double Ouch.</p><p> Perhaps not surprising given the game's TWIMTBP branding, Nvidia comes out on top in most of our tests. The R9 390 at least is a decent match of the GTX 970, and the R9 380 4GB beats the GTX 950 2GB, but if you happen to run AMD hardware, we'd suggest holding off for a driver update before raiding this particular tomb.</p><p>And as a final little nugget of information, we did do some limited testing of Intel's HD 530 Graphics on an i7-6700K. It's not pretty, though not in the sense of rendering errors. There were a few minor rendering glitches, but the biggest problem is frame rates. Even at 1280x720 with the Lowest preset, average frame rates on HD 530 Graphics failed to break 30 fps, and in fact they're closer to 20 fps than 30: 21.6 average fps and 15.9 fps for 97 Percentile. So Intel processor graphics solutions other than Iris can basically forget about running <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>, unless a driver update from Intel improves the situation.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider (3)"></p><h3>Brain taxidermy</h3><p>Terrible puns aside, we also wanted to look at how a few of the GPUs scale with lesser CPUs. As noted earlier, we're using a single CPU to simulate two other CPUs. It's not going to be exact, but it should be close enough for our purposes. If a game is predominantly GPU limited&mdash;which was the case with 2013's <em>Tomb Raider</em> reboot&mdash;then any decent CPU will prove sufficient. We've tested the 1080p Very High and Medium presets this round, and we're looking at the 980 Ti and Fury X at the top of the GPU totem pole (basically, removing GPU limits from the equation as much as possible), with the R9 380 and GTX 950 representing mainstream parts.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider CPU Scaling 1080p Very High"></p><p>Yikes! Did we mention AMD needs to work on tuning their drivers for this particular title yet? The i7-5930K and i5-4690K are at least somewhat close, and the R9 380 doesn't do too badly with the i3-4350, but the Fury X takes a swan dive when paired with the dual-core processor. That's not encouraging, and hopefully it isn't too difficult to fix. Then again, we doubt many users are looking at running a Fury X with a budget Core i3 processor.</p><p>Nvidia for their part shows far more reasonable scaling. The 6-core i7-5930K wins out overall, which it should considering it's also running a higher clock speed, but the i5-4690K isn't far off, and neither is the i3-4650. There's a bit more choppiness with the Core i3 configuration, but overall you should be fine with any single Nvidia GPU matched with any recent Core i3 or higher Intel CPU. We had hoped to check out AMD APUs/CPUs as well, but time is not on our side&mdash;perhaps we'll check that aspect once drivers are up to snuff.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider CPU Scaling 1080p Medium"></p><p>Dropping to Medium quality puts more of a burden on the CPU, at least for the faster GPUs. Average frame rates on Nvidia remain relatively consistent, but minimums show a clear progression when moving from i3 to i5 to i7 parts. You could still use a 980 Ti with a Core i3 and not worry much, but again we expect most people plunking down $650 on a GPU will have at least a Core i5 processor, and more like a Core i7.</p><p>The R9 380 again has very stable results, but the Fury X is seriously handicapped by the dual-core processor&mdash;and Hyper-Threading doesn't appear to help. This is one of those items that DirectX 12 should help alleviate, as the CPU bottleneck will be reduced, but these CPU charts certainly paint AMD's drivers in a less than kindly light. Now we just need to wait and see how long it takes for AMD to rectify the situation.</p><h5>Tracking the Divine Source</h5><p>We've had plenty to say about performance and drivers, but the short summary right now is that Nvidia has a clear lead. That's not really a shock, given the Nvidia branding and Game Ready driver, but in an ideal world we'd see "Game Ready" drivers from all contenders on every major launch. With AMD's new Crimson drivers and a stated increased focus on all things Radeon (from the Radeon Technology Group), things are getting a bit better but AMD isn't out of the woods yet.</p><p>Interestingly, despite the Nvidia branding, AMD definitely had at least some influence on <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>. This is the first game to come out using Eidos' new PureHair library. AMD had Eidos present at their RTG Summit last December, and one of the points of their presentation was how Eidos was able to take AMD's open source TressFX and modify it as they saw fit. The result is PureHair, which is supposedly optimized to work even better for things like animating Lara's ponytail. Considering how much time you'll spend looking at Lara's head, it's a far more noticeable graphics effect than HBAO+ in our opinion.</p><p>As for&nbsp;<a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454138861&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=rise+of+the+tomb+raider" target="_blank"><em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em></a>, the game is treading familiar ground in terms of Lara Croft and her spelunking activities, but the reboot definitely helped to breathe new life into the series. There have been several other good games that overlap with <em style="background-color: initial;">Tomb Raider</em> in a variety of ways&mdash;the hunting and crafting of the <em style="background-color: initial;">Far Cry</em> series, for instance, definitely gives a feeling of <em style="background-color: initial;">déjà vu</em>&mdash;but that's not a bad thing. PC Gamer scored <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> at 83, and their full review is definitely worth a read if you haven't checked it out. This isn't a series known for innovation (other than the original game back in 1996, perhaps), but it's still good fun, and the graphics are better than ever. Sometimes, that's all you really want, and we can think of far worse ways to spend a weekend.</p> CybertronPC Readies Launch of CLX Line of Luxury PCs builder CybertronPC announced a new lineup of luxury systems.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 18:22:45 +0000 <h3>Fancy pants PCs</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC CLX"></p><p>Quick, name three different boutique system builders. Was CybertronPC among them? Probably not (unless you were swayed by the headline), though the company's been around since 1997 and boasts that it's the 15th largest system builder in the U.S. Out of how many, we don't know, though CybertronPC is attempting to boost its name recognition by launching a luxury line of customizable PCs.</p><p> "Already a strong leader offering products that cater to PC users across the spectrum on retail sites such as Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and Fry’s among others for 19 years, CybertronPC is expanding its growth with the introduction of the CLX brand targeted towards PC gamers looking for the ultimate custom PC that offers an aggressive price to performance options," CybertronPC said. "This marks a significant milestone for CybertronPC, as it’s the first time the company has launched a fully high end custom performance product line with special options from their Foundry customizations that includes features such as overclocking and liquid cooling."</p><p> Dubbed "CLX" for "CybertronPC Luxury Experience," the outfit will offer five different categories of systems inspired by the Egyptian mythos and sci-fi genre.</p><h3>RA</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC Ra"></p><p> First up is RA, CybertronPC's new flagship desktop PC line. Buyers can configure a RA system around an Intel's X99 or Z170 platforms with support for the latest Skylake processors, up to four Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics cards, up to 64GB of RAM, and hard-lined liquid cooling.</p><p> If you're looking to game at 4K, the RA is what you're after.</p><h3>Horus</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC Horus"></p><p> Next up is Horus, CybertronPC's line of mid-tower desktops. It offers the same components as RA, but in a smaller space and with toned down specifications, such as up to two graphics cards instead of four and up to 16GB of RAM instead of 64GB.</p><h3>Scarab</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC Scarab"></p><p> Moving on to Scarab, this is a line of mini-ITX desktops that deliver "Goliath performance," CybertronPC says. Component options will be the same as for the two aforementioned lines, but again, in toned down form such as support for a single graphics card (up to a Titan X) instead of multiple ones.</p><p> Overclocking will also be part of the package here, with a base configuration consisting of a closed-loop CPU cooling setup.</p><h3>Osiris</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC Osiris"></p><p> For mobile warriors, Osiris is a 17-inch desktop replacement. It supports up to an Intel Core i7-6700K processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics, plus up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM and lots of expandability. You may be tempted to pair it with an external display, as the hardware will likely be overkill for its 1920x1080 panel.</p><h3>Anubis</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CybertronPC Anubis"></p><p> Finally, the Anubis is another gaming laptop line, one that comes in 15.6-inch and 17-inch form factors. These aren't desktop replacements, in that they measure less than an inch thick and sport mobile parts, such as up to a Core i7-6700HQ CPU and a GeForce GTX 970M GPU</p><p> CybertronPC said its new CLX systems will be available in two weeks (<a href="" target="_blank">countdown timer here</a>) starting at $999.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> G.Skill's 128GB Ripjaws DDR4-3200 RAM Kit Tops $1,000 MSRP announced a new 128GB DDR4-3200 Ripjaws memory kit for Intel's X99 platform.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 17:36:27 +0000 <h3>Not for the faint of wallet</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GSkill DDR4 Ripjaws V"></p><p> It's been less than three weeks since <a href="">G.Skill announced</a> its big and bad Ripjaws 128GB DDR4-3000MHz memory kit, and now it's back with another kit that's just as big and even faster at 3,200MHz.</p><p> Like the previous offering, this newest Ripjaws V series memory kit consists of eight 16GB modules, so if you're shelling out for this thing, make sure your motherboard has enough DIMM slots (and can support 128GB).</p><p> Capacity isn't the only thing that's big about this kit, so is the price. G.Skill's MSRP is a penny shy of $1,070. Before forking over that kind of dough, you'll want to assess your needs hyper-carefully to (A) see if you can utilize 128GB of RAM and if not, then (B) determine if you're willing to spend that kind of a premium on bragging rights.</p><p> Okay, enough of all that. Moving on, the new kit is designed for Intel's X99 platform, which tops out official support at 128GB. It's rated to run at 14-14-14-34 at 1.35V, which G.Skill is awfully proud of.</p><p> "Not only does this massive memory kit manage to max out on supported capacity at high speeds, its latency is also improved to<strong> </strong>CL14-14-14-34<strong></strong>, which is also more efficient than the standard DDR4-2133MHz latency of CL15-15-15-35. At this point, there’s nowhere else to go but faster," <a href="" target="_blank">G.Skill says</a>.</p><p> If this is the kit you've been waiting for, hang tight just a little bit longer&mdash;it will be available by the end of February.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Rising Surface Sales Helped Microsoft Post $6.3 Billion Quarterly Profit came out ahead by $6.3 billion during its fiscal second quarter ended December 31, 2015.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 16:57:11 +0000 <h3>Making it rain in Redmond</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Store"></p><p>Microsoft gets to head into the weekend on a positive note. That's because the numbers for its second fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2015, are in and they're cause for celebration.</p><p> All of its businesses combined, Microsoft collected $25.7 billion in revenue (non-GAAP) during the quarter. Though that's down from $26.1 billion in the same quarter a year prior, Microsoft increased its quarterly profits by 8 percent to $6.3 billion, up from $5.8 billion.</p><p> "It was a strong holiday season for Microsoft highlighted by Surface and Xbox," <a href="" target="_blank">said Kevin Turner</a>, chief operating officer at Microsoft. "Our commercial business executed well as our sales teams and partners helped customers realize the value of Microsoft’s cloud technologies across Azure, Office 365 and CRM Online."</p><p> Indeed, the launch of the <a href="">Surface Pro 4</a> and <a href="">Surface Book</a> helped boost overall Surface sales 29 percent in constant currency to $1.35 billion, up more than double from the previous quarter's $672 million. This helped offset a 49 percent in Phone revenue, a decline that Microsoft said reflected its "strategy change announced in July 2015." In other words, this wasn't unexpected.</p><p> Microsoft was particularly pleased with its cloud performance, noting a 10 percent rise in revenue related to server products and cloud services, and a big 140 percent jump in Azure revenue.</p><p> "Businesses everywhere are using the Microsoft Cloud as their digital platform to drive their ambitious transformation agendas," said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer at Microsoft. "Businesses are also piloting Windows 10, which will drive deployments beyond 200 million active devices."</p><p> Investors reacted positively to the news, with shares of Microsoft trading up nearly 5 percent today.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> HP Spectre x2 Review those that want a Surface Pro, but can't afford oneFri, 29 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 x2 <div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title" style="margin-left: 0px;">At a glance</h5><p><strong>X2 (+)</strong> Good value; quiet; decent battery life.</p><p><strong>X-Men: </strong>The Last Stand (-) No integrated USB type-A port; performance not great; kickstand solution needs work.</p></div><h3>For those that want a Surface Pro, but can't afford one</h3><p> Now that&nbsp;<a href="">Microsoft's Surface Pro</a> line of computers is catching some hype, HP is jumping on the bandwagon with its own variant of the convertible. Meet the HP Spectre X2. In many respects, it’s similar to the Surface Pro 4 we reviewed in the February issue. It’s a 12-inch Windows 10 tablet with a kickstand and a detachable keyboard. You can also purchase a stylus for it, for more input choices. But perhaps the biggest difference between the two convertibles is in price. The unit we tested has a $1,150 price tag, which is $300 cheaper than the Surface Pro 4 we reviewed. Unfortunately, while this may sound great on paper, the Spectre x2 makes some compromises that help explain its more affordable price tag.</p><p> The Surface Pro 4 uses a super sharp 2736x1824 resolution panel; HP opts for a more conservative 1920x1280. To the left of the HP’s monitor, there’s a volume rocker and a USB type-C port. To the right of the monitor are ports for a SIM card and Micro SD card slot. We didn’t like that you need to use a needle to get these two ports open, however. Finally, the last port here is another USB type-C slot. If you’ve done the math, you’ll notice that we made no mention of any USB type-A slots. Yep, the x2 doesn’t include one. The company did this to accommodate for the thin form factor. While the one-centimeter-thick chassis is nice, we would have preferred HP make the convertible a little thicker to accommodate at least one type-A port. HP does include a USB type-A converter in the box, although it feels a little janky to have it dangling off the side of the tablet when not in use.<img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Spectre X2" style="width: 668px; background-color: initial;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Unlike Microsoft, HP actually includes the keyboard.</strong></p><p> Despite the thinness, the x2 is about a pound heavier than the Surface Pro 4. At 3.4 pounds, however, it’s still not super heavy. We didn’t care too much for x2’s kickstand; in order to get it to pop out of the back, you have to press down on a physical switch to unlatch it. While this is a little annoying, perhaps the biggest annoyance here is that you can’t get the monitor to stand straight up or bend forward. The way the stand is set up, you have to lean it back a little. This is especially annoying when you want to lean it forward as you watch movies on it in bed. And the times we did use it in bed, the x2 had the habit of occasionally falling on its back. Fortunately, it comes with a good keyboard, which snaps on easily via a strong magnet, and the keys are about as comfortable to type on as any Ultrabook. We weren’t enamored as much with the trackpad, however, which is really wide and often couldn’t distinguish our right-clicks from our left. It also required a little more actuation force than we would have liked. Finally, rounding out the design are the speakers by Bang &amp; Olufsen, which we felt could use a little more volume firepower.</p><p> Our x2 unit rocks a 1.2GHz Intel Core M7-6Y75 along with 8GB of DDR3 RAM. The CPU is only a dual-core/four-thread part that carries a 1.2GHz base clock. While that doesn’t sound too enticing, it is a 4.5-watt Skylake chip that is passively cooled, which makes it silent.</p><p> In terms of actual performance, you can probably surmise that it’s not ultra powerful. Because its form factor is so similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, we decided we would use that as our zero point for testing. Now, we don’t expect it to best Microsoft’s convertible, considering our Surface Pro 4 cost $1,430 and uses a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300 CPU, but it should give you a good point of reference. In single-threaded CPU tests, the x2 ran around 20 percent slower compared to the Surface, and lagged behind in the mid 30s against Microsoft’s solution. In graphics, the x2 saw similar 25–30 percent losses. One benefit to going with a low TDP part, however, is battery life. Here, the x2 showed a 20 percent longevity boost over the Surface with the device lasting 325 minutes in our run-down test. Boot-up time was also great with the convertible launching in 14.6 seconds.</p><p> In the end, the x2 certainly has its blemishes but if you’re in the market for a Surface Pro 4–style device but can’t afford Microsoft’s version, the x2 can get the job done for a much lower price.</p><p>$1,150,&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p><p>Benchmarks</p><table><tbody><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>Zero-point (Surface Pro 4)</td><td>HP Spectre X2</td><td>percent difference</td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td><td><strong>1,447</strong></td><td>1884</td><td>-23.2%</td></tr><tr><td>Proshow Producer 5 (sec)</td><td><strong>2,343</strong></td><td>2,947</td><td>-20.5%</td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0</td><td><strong>7</strong></td><td>4.4</td><td>-37.1%</td></tr><tr><td>Tomb Raider (fps)</td><td><strong>33.4</strong></td><td>23.6</td><td>-29.3%</td></tr><tr><td>3DMark 11 Perf</td><td><strong>1,575</strong></td><td>1182</td><td>-25%</td></tr><tr><td>Battery Life (min)</td><td>270</td><td><strong>325</strong></td><td>20.4%</td></tr></tbody></table><p>Our zero-point is Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U CPU with 8GB of RAM, running Windows 10 64-bit.3DMark 11 was run in Performance mode; Tomb Raider was run using low settings.</p><table><tbody><tr><td>Specifications</td><td></td></tr><tr><td>CPU</td><td>1.2GHz Intel Core M7-6Y75</td></tr><tr><td>RAM</td><td>8GB</td></tr><tr><td>Display</td><td>12-inch 1920x1080 IPS</td></tr><tr><td>Storage</td><td>256GB SSD</td></tr><tr><td>Connectivity</td><td>2x USB C, microSD card reader, headphone jack, 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0</td></tr><tr><td>Tablet/Laptop</td><td>2.7 lbs/3.4 lbs</td></tr></tbody></table> Rise of the Tomb Raider Optimization Guide tips will help Lara Croft look her best in the latestTomb Raider installmentFri, 29 Jan 2016 07:15:25 +0000 GuideRise of the Tomb Raider <p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lara Croft with a blue glow stick"></p><p> If you think of archaeology in pop culture, two big names come to mind: Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. If someone were to make a game about archaeology&mdash; <em>real archaeology</em>&mdash;it would be boring as hell. There'd be a lot of reading, fundraising, and cataloging tiny bits of pottery called sherds that often measure around a centimeter square.Only if things got really exciting would there be a dig, and even then the digs are carefully planned out and methodical. Indiana Jones, you've spoiled us.</p><p> Square Enix has released the follow-up to its 2013 reboot of the <em>Tomb Raider</em> series, calling this one <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>. In the game, you play as Lara Croft, a British archaeologist (of sorts) with a gift for getting into trouble. Our friends at PC Gamer wrote a review of the game, so if you're on the fence, it's worth a look.</p><h5>MORE: <a href="" target="_blank">PC Gamer's review of Rise of the Tomb Raider</a></h5><p> While we love <em>Tomb Raider</em> for its platforming, puzzle solving, and combat, we also really love the graphics. We've been using the benchmark from the 2013 <em>Tomb Raider </em>in our system tests for a while now, and it still can make the best PCs break a sweat at 4K resolutions. After playing this game for a couple of hours on a few of our rigs, we can safely say that your GPU will drop a few pounds trying to keep up with Ms. Croft.</p><p> This guide is designed to give you some insight into what you can do to get the best performance out of your PC while playing Rise of the <em>Tomb Raider</em>. Our goal is to get as close as possible to achieving an average frame rate of at least 60 frames per second. But before we get into that, it's a good idea to become acquainted with the options <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> comes with.</p><h3>The Options</h3><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ROTTR Launcher Options"></p><p> <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> has a slew of options to help you tweak the appearance of the game. Some settings have bigger effects on performance than others, but all of them can help make the game look amazing from scene to scene.</p><p> All of the options can be configured before launching the game, or while running the game itself. We recommend setting the fullscreen setting, the resolution, and the anti-aliasing mode before launching the game. Resetting things like resolution in the game will cause the video driver to reset, which can cause problems with some setups.</p><h4>Fullscreen </h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> The fullscreen toggle determines whether the game will be played fullscreen (on) or in a window (off). Most users will want to play in fullscreen mode.</p><h4>Exclusive Fullscreen</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> This toggle controls the <em>type </em>of fullscreen mode you'll be in. When set to <em>on</em>, the game fills the screen, and an Alt-Tab takes you to the desktop with the game minimized. This is what you're probably used to in most games, and what we recommend using for most people. When set to <em style="background-color: initial;">off</em>, the game renders in a borderless window to match the fullscreen resolution that has been set. If you're wondering why this wasn't combined with the Fullscreen option, we are too.</p><p> Running a game in a borderless window may sound funny, but it does have its merits. The game gets rendered like any other window, and captures input when active. When you press Alt-Tab, you can drag other windows on top of the game, which may be useful if you're looking up guides (you cheat, you), or want to be able to hop into another application quickly.</p><h4>Resolution</h4><p> <strong>Width x Height</strong></p><p> When you set the resolution, you're setting the size of the rectangle that the game will render. This number will default to your monitor's native resolution, but you'll generally be able to change it to any smaller resolution your monitor is capable of displaying.</p><p> Changing the screen resolution is often the single biggest determiner of performance for your GPU. The larger the resolution, the more pixels that have to be calculated and rendered. Generally, if you can't get a decent frame rate at your native resolution with settings turned down, you can often get a higher frame rate by stepping down to a lower resolution and turning the other settings up a notch or two. This can be especially helpful if you've got a hankerin' to turn up all the whiz-bang special effects the game has to offer.</p><h4>Refresh Rate</h4><p> <strong>Hz</strong></p><p> The refresh rate should match one of the refresh rates available to your monitor. This will allow VSync to work correctly. If you're not planning on using VSync (you should probably be using VSync) you can sort of ignore this setting, but you should still set it to your highest possible refresh rate. (Hint: 24Hz without VSync results in even more tearing. Fun!)</p><h4>Anti-aliasing</h4><p> <strong>Off, FXAA, SMAA, SSAA 2x, SSAA 4x</strong></p><p> Anti-aliasing is one of those settings that has a drastic effect on the appearance of the game. To put it simply, anti-aliasing is a type of edge blurring that attempts to make make the transition between two adjacent contrasting colors easier. This helps eliminate aliased edges or "jaggies." If you've ever used Photoshop to zoom in on an image and noticed how an outline or edge looks jagged, anti-aliasing is the equivalent of using the blur tool to make those edges a little softer.</p><p> After the screen resolution, anti-aliasing is frequently the next most "expensive" option to use. On top of that, the bigger the resolution, the more expensive anti-aliasing becomes. However, there's a limit to its usefulness: Anti-aliasing is typically used to compensate for low pixel density screens. With a high enough pixel density, the effects of anti-aliasing become harder to notice. If you use a moderately sized 4K monitor (as opposed to a 40-inch monster), the physical pixels are smaller. That increased definition and accuracy often lets you do away with anti-aliasing, which results in some pretty big compute savings for the GPU. This doesn't work as well at 1440p or 1080p, so if you're gaming at those resolutions, it's a very good idea to turn on anti-aliasing.</p><p> <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider </em>offers several anti-aliasing modes, and despite what we just said, the impact on frame rates ranges from mild to severe. FXAA (Fast approXimate Anti-Aliasing) will usually work just fine in most cases, and it's a type of post processing&mdash;a smart blur filter applied to the final rendered output before it gets sent to the screen. It's very fast on modern GPUs and is practically free to enable, though it doesn't always eliminate all jaggies. SMAA (Subpixel Morphological Anti-Aliasing) is another post-processing filter, but it's supposed to look better than FXAA with a similar performance hit; in testing <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>, we found SMAA runs slightly slower than FXAA. SSAA (Super-Sample Anti-Aliasing) is one of the best looking forms of anti-aliasing, but it's also by far the most demanding. It effectively renders the game at a higher resolution (2x or 4x your selected resolution), then samples that down to your native resolution. Unless you have an extremely beefy setup, you're likely going to want to avoid SSAA for this title and invest the computing power elsewhere.</p><h4>VSync</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> Vertical-sync or VSync is basically a frame rate cap that the game or video driver places on the GPU. At first, VSync may sound counter-intuitive: Why the hell would you ever want to limit the output of your video card? Well, there are two big reasons.</p><p> First, VSync helps to synchronize the frame rate output with the refresh rate of your monitor. Without VSync, you can get what's called tearing, and it's a pretty nasty glitchy-looking effect. In short, the screen output can contain portions of multiple frames, and when a lot of things change between frames you get a horizontal split that's very visible. VSync causes frame buffer updates to only take place when the screen output isn't currently updating, thereby eliminating tearing.</p><p> The other good thing VSync can do is improve stability and reduce heat. Without a frame rate cap to meet, your system will happily churn out as many frames as it can. This requires the full effort of the GPU and CPU, which means more heat and potentially a shorter product lifespan. Using VSync helps keep heat and GPU utilization under control. It can also smooth out gameplay, as a steady 60fps or even 30fps can often feel better than jumps from 60 to 200fps and back.</p><p> The problem with VSync is that if your system is running just below your monitor's refresh rate&mdash;say, at 55fps on a 60Hz display&mdash;the next frame update always arrives just after the screen update. On a 60Hz display, you'd end up running at a steady 30fps instead of 55fps, which some will find too slow. If you're in an area that fluctuates between 55 and 65fps, it's potentially even worse, as you'll experience a stuttering effect where a few frames will update at 60fps and then you'll get some at 30fps, then back to 60.... But tearing isn't really any better, which is why it's usually best to leave VSync on (unless you're benchmarking).</p><p> There is now technology to take care of the VSync problem, of course. AMD's FreeSync and Nvidia's G-Sync allow your GPU and display to synchronize updates within a supported refresh range. So if your GPU is running at 50fps, your display will refresh at 50Hz. It's really a great technology and can definitely improve the gaming experience, particularly if you're falling shy of the "magical" 60fps mark; better displays even support refresh rates of up to 144Hz, which feels liquid smooth. But FreeSync and G-Sync displays cost more than regular displays.</p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Graphics menu in Rise of the Tomb Raider."> <figcaption>The Graphics menu in Rise of the Tomb Raider.</figcaption></figure><h4>Preset</h4><p> <strong>Lowest, Low, Medium, High, Very High, Custom</strong></p><p> In the graphics menu, the first option you'll see is Preset. Presets vary from Lowest to Very High and are great jumping-off points to customize your settings. We prefer to start with a preset that gives us more frames than we're asking for and add features from there. Note that even the Very High preset won't max out all settings, however&mdash;which leaves room for future GPUs to push quality even higher.</p><p> The moment you change an option other than Preset, this option gets set to Custom to indicate that the user has set options manually.</p><h4>Texture Quality</h4><p> <strong>Low, Medium, High, Very High</strong></p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="High-res textures are expensive, but you can definitely see a difference."><figcaption>High-res textures are expensive, but you can definitely see a difference.</figcaption></figure><p> The texture quality sets the size of the texture files that <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider </em>will use to skin the game models. Simply put, the higher the setting, the larger the resolution of the texture files, and the more graphics memory you'll need to hold those textures.</p><p> There's a lot of processing that goes on with textures as well, so a higher setting will also tax the GPU more. We've found that using the Medium setting at 1440p still looks really good, so there's no need to feel bad if your GPU can't take the High or Very High settings.</p><h4>Anisotropic Filter</h4><p> <strong>Trilinear, 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x</strong></p><p> Anisotropic filtering helps to make sure textures don't look weird and distorted when they're viewed on surfaces that are closer to parallel with the user's gaze than perpendicular. The higher the setting here, the better textures will look when not viewed straight-on. It also blends the transition between mipmaps (different texture resolutions are used based on how far a texture is from the user; there's no need to use a 2K texture on an object that's so far away that it only fills a few hundred pixels). While this used to be a relatively expensive option, modern GPUs are all fairly adept at ansiotropic filtering, though dropping this setting down to 2x may give you a couple of extra FPS. We don't recommend dropping it down to trilinear filtering unless you have to, since ansiotropic filtering looks much better.</p><p> This is one of those operations that is performed on your textures, so the the higher your Texture Quality setting, the more expensive this setting becomes.</p><h4>Shadow Quality</h4><p> <strong>Off, Medium, High, Very High</strong></p><p> This setting controls how sharp the shadows will appear in-game. The lower the setting, the more "jaggies" you'll see in shadow effects. We don't recommend turning this setting to Off, since it will ruin the atmosphere of the game. Rise of the Tomb Raider takes place in a number of caves and tombs, so having shadow in dark places is an obvious need. Why would you want to remove that basic element of the game art? However, running at Medium instead of High/Very High can definitely buy you some extra FPS.</p><h4>Sun Soft Shadows</h4><p> <strong>Off, On, High, Very High</strong></p><p> Sun Soft Shadows is basically like anti-aliasing for shadows cast by the sun. Shadows do look noticeably less jaggy with this feature turned on, but if you're in need of a few extra frames, it won't kill you to turn it off.</p><h4>Ambient Occlusion</h4><p> <strong>Off, On, HBAO+</strong></p><p> If the objects in a game were like the contours of an object in a sketch, ambient occlusion is like the shading an artist would use to bring out the details. Ambient occlusion helps accentuate the contours of just about every object in the game to create a better sense of depth. We highly recommend leaving this on. The game just doesn't look as impressive without it.</p><p> If you've got a dozen extra frames to spend on quality, switching this setting to HBAO+ (Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion)&nbsp;will yield even better results. This setting is computationally expensive, so we recommend leaving this setting to On unless you've got some serious graphics muscle to help kick it up a notch.</p><h4>Depth of Field</h4><p> <strong>Off, On, Very High</strong></p><p> If you've never taken a photography course, the idea of depth of field may be a little foreign to you. Don't worry, it's an easy enough idea to wrap your head around.</p><p> Depth of field has to do with the focal plane of a lens. A lens can only ever focus to a given distance. Depth of field determines how far away objects can be from that plane while still remaining in focus. A large depth of field means that almost everything will be in focus (think of a landscape photo), while a narrow depth of field will make everything in front of or beyond the plane look more blurry (think of a close-up of a flower).</p><p> This setting determines how much processing will be allocated to creating a depth-of-field lens effect. For some, it may not matter, since the effect is often subtle. However, the setting does add a little polish to the way the game feels, so we recommend leaving this set to On unless you're really pressed for frames&mdash;and even then, the difference in performance is generally not very big.</p><h4>Level of Detail</h4><p> <strong>Low, Medium, High, Very High</strong></p><p> The level of detail is a very vague setting, but an important one. It controls the number, draw distance, and quality of object meshes in the game. Higher settings require more processing power and memory, while lower settings can create good savings in terms of compute power.</p><p> In our tests, we found that Medium is really the lowest you want to go with this setting. While we were testing the Syria level in the game, we noticed that this setting directly affected how lush the environment looked.</p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Level of Detail set to Low."><figcaption>Level of Detail set to Low.</figcaption></figure><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Level of Detail set to Medium."><figcaption>Level of Detail set to Medium.</figcaption></figure><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Level of Detail set to High."><figcaption>Level of Detail set to High.</figcaption></figure><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Level of Detail set to Very High."><figcaption>Level of Detail set to Very High.</figcaption></figure><p> On top of that, we noticed that some objects like piles of bones simply disappeared at a distance when this was set to low. For this reason, we recommend keeping this setting at Medium unless playability becomes an issue.</p><h4>Tessellation</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tessellation helps details like these engravings pop."><figcaption>Tessellation helps details like these engravings pop.</figcaption></figure><p> Tessellation is a fancy word that describes the subdivision of polygons into smaller polygons. Wait, what?</p><p> Three-dimensional objects in a games are first rendered by drawing polygons, which are then covered with a texture. The fewer the polygons in an object, the more blocky it looks (think of a cube). The more polygons (or sides) you add to the object, the more round or defined its characteristics can be (think of going from a dodecahedron to a sphere). Tessellation is basically a way to use texture to take a flat object and add depth, by creating a bunch of additional polygons.&nbsp;It looks great, but it takes a bunch of computing power to do it. In graphics engines, tessellation is usually only done fairly close to the player (or "camera"), since there's no need to display details the player won't notice.</p><p> Tessellation is great to have on, but it won't kill you if it's off either. The Medium preset, which we think looks pretty darn good at 1440p, has Tessellation turned off by default.</p><h4>Screen Space Reflections </h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> This setting determines whether or not the game will attempt to use ray tracing (produce reflections on water and other reflective surfaces) when it needs to. This can get pretty expensive for things like water, but most of the time it's not too big of a deal.</p><p> We don't think it's the end of the world if you turn it off, but it does look awfully nice when you notice it. If you can spare a few frames, we say keep it enabled.</p><h4>Dynamic Foliage</h4><p> <strong>Low, Medium, High</strong></p><p> You know how plants tend to move when you or an animal brush past them? That's what dynamic foliage is in <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>. The higher this setting is set to, the more plants will tend to move around. It's a cool effect that adds to the realism, but we think you can get away with this set to Low or Medium without much worry.</p><h4>Bloom</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> Bloom enables or disables the bloom effect when transitioning from dark to light areas. You know that painful contrast between sitting in a dark room and walking out a door into a bright, sunny day that makes you wonder if you're part vampire for just a second? That's what the bloom effect tries to emulate.</p><p> You can take it or leave it, but it won't destroy your frame rate to leave it on.</p><h4>Vignette Blur</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> The vignette blur is a slight blur effect around the edges of the screen. We don't think it's necessary for playability or for the aesthetic integrity of the game, so we turn it off.</p><h4>Motion Blur</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><p> Motion blur helps objects look like they have a greater sense of speed when moving. We like to keep it enabled, but if you're really trying to eke out a few extra frames, it's one more effect that's more like icing on the cake.</p><h4>PureHair</h4><p> <strong>Off, On, Very High</strong></p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Get used to looking at Lara's hair. You'll be doing it a lot."> <figcaption>Get used to looking at Lara's hair. You'll be doing it a lot.</figcaption></figure><p> PureHair is one of those effects that can get pretty expensive, but we try to enable&nbsp;it anyway. Since <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is a third-person game, you'll end up spending a lot of time looking at Lara's ponytail. PureHair helps make hair in the game look more realistic by simulating the physics for each strand of hair. That's quite demanding, but we think it's one of the nice touches that makes the cinematic scenes pop.</p><p> If you're wondering, PureHair was created by Eidos Labs as a modification of AMD's TressFX. <em>Tomb Raider 2013 </em>was one of the first games to use&nbsp;TressFX, and with AMD having released the code to the open source community, Eidos was able to improve the feature.</p><p> Of course, if you don't care about how Lara's (or anyone else's in the game, for that matter) hair looks, you can get a few extra frames by disabling this option. We recommend disabling it for midrange graphics cards, since there are other core effects and settings you should be prioritizing.</p><h4>Lens Flare</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Didn't anyone ever tell you not to look at the sun?"><figcaption>Didn't anyone ever tell you not to look at the sun?</figcaption></figure><p> This option should be pretty obvious. If you're reminded of Michael Bay every time you see a lens flare, feel free to turn this one off. If you like your lenses to refract light when pointed directly at a light source, feel free to leave this turned on. It's not terribly expensive in most scenes, since you'll be rummaging though a lot of dark places anyway.</p><h4>Screen Effects</h4><p> <strong>On, Off</strong></p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="A little motion blur combined with screen effects helps make the scene more immersive."><figcaption>A little motion blur combined with screen effects helps make the scene more immersive.</figcaption></figure><p> Screen effects are the spatters of dirt, water, and blood that appear to hit the lens of the "camera." Rise of the Tomb Raider also uses a slight film grain. The effects do add some grittiness to the game, so we like to leave this set to On; plus, these aren't particularly taxing to render.</p><p> Whew! Still with us? There's more to know about Lara Croft's latest game than just the raw settings. Next, we'll discuss what we found out about the engine and our hardware from our testing.</p><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lara with pistol"></p><h3>A tomb raider is a tough mistress</h3><p> We learned a few things about <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> from our testing. The first was that this game can be really demanding in some scenes. There's a lot going on in the world of Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics took a lot of time crafting all the little details in the game, which can be a blessing or curse, depending on how you look at it.</p><p> We first tested the game on the <a href="" target="_blank">Midrange gaming rig</a> we built in November. The PC is no slouch, boasting an Intel i7-6700K, a GeForce GTX 980, and 8GB DDR4. Normally, this rig can handle just about anything at a resolution of 2560x1440. We were surprised to find the 980 falling under 60fps in many areas of the levels we used fortested on.</p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The frame rate struggle is real at 1440p."><figcaption>The frame rate struggle is real at 1440p.</figcaption></figure><p> Things didn't look much better for <a href="" target="_blank"> our Turbo rig</a> when we dialed the resolution up to 4K. Even when we dialed back to the medium preset and turned off anti-aliasing, we still struggled to climb north of 50fps in some zones. That's with an i7-5820K, 32GB of memory and two GTX 980 Tis working in SLI. (It's worth noting that when we turned the resolution down to 1440p on this rig, we didn't see frame rates dip below the high 60s while using the Very High preset.) So what gives?</p><p> It feels like the game simply isn't optimized for the PC. That's not to say it's not playable; it's just a battle to stay above 60fps in any given zone. The game remains very playable, and in most areas where you'll need a quick reaction time (like running from disaster while jumping over stuff), the frame rates we saw stayed in the mid-50's and low 60's for most of it.</p><p> It seems like when the engine is showing off (entering a tomb, presenting a temple, or playing a cinematic), the frame rate drops as well, often locking in at 30fps. The longer you're going to be looking at something, it feels like more power is spent on quality of frames over quantity.</p><figure><img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cutscenes look great, but they also run closer to 30 fps than 60 fps."> <figcaption>Cutscenes look great, but they also run closer to 30fps than 60fps.</figcaption></figure><p> With all of that said, it bears remembering that wildly fluctuating frame rates can lead to unsightly tearing. We definitely recommend using a G-Sync or FreeSync monitor, if you have the option. Unless you're running a beastly rig (and maybe even only at 1440p), your frame rates will frequently drop below 60fps&mdash;and sometimes even 50fps&mdash;in <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider.</em></p><p> Even with all this gloomy doominess, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is still very playable at the lower frame rates<em>.</em> Rarely did we see frame rates slip below 30fps. Of course, you can always pretend to be a console gamer and set VSync to On, and you'll be all set.</p><p> So how did we get our rigs to run satisfactorily? Let's see.</p><h3>The Midrange</h3><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Blueprints Fall 2015 Midrange Beauty"></p><p> The <a href="" target="_blank">Blueprints Midrange rig</a> is midrange in name only. This rig is designed to be built around a price of $1,500, and includes a water-cooled i7-6700K and a GTX 980. We designed this PC to be a go-to for 1440p gaming, though <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> had us doubting. We spent the most amount of time trying to tweak this rig, clawing our way toward 60fps. We got to that mark, but only by making some sacrifices that we wouldn't have to in other games. Here's what we used:</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Setting </td> <td> Value </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> Resolution </td> <td> 2560x1440 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Anti-aliasing </td> <td> FXAA </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Texture Quality </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Anisotropic Filter </td> <td> 2x </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Shadow Quality </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Sun Soft Shadows </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Ambient Occlusion </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Depth of Field </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Level of Detail </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Tessellation </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Screen Space Reflections </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Dynamic Foliage </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bloom </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Vignette Blur </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Motion Blur </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> PureHair </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lens Flares </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Screen Effects </td> <td> On <br> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><h3>The Turbo</h3><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Blueprints Fall 2015 Turbo Beauty"></p><p> The <a href="" target="_blank">Blueprints Turbo PC</a> is built to be a statement of power. While still under the prices of many boutique PC builders, the Turbo is a baby brother to the Dream Machine. It runs <em>Star Wars: Battlefront</em> at 4K without breaking a sweat, and scored an impressive average of 77fps on the <em>Tomb Raider</em> benchmark at 4K. That's pretty awesome, but it's kind of to be expected when you have two GTX 980 Tis in SLI. Along with 32GB of DDR4 and a six-core i7-5820K, this rig happily takes whatever you can throw its way. However, <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> really put the machine through its paces. We were able to get frame rates that rarely dipped below 70fps at 1440p with these settings:</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Setting </td> <td> Value </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> Resolution </td> <td> 2560x1440 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Anti-aliasing </td> <td> FXAA </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Preset </td> <td> Very High </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> Meanwhile, this rig couldn't keep up with Lara at 4K, dropping to 40fps in some zones with the following settings:</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Setting </td> <td> Value </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> Resolution </td> <td> 3840x2160 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Anti-aliasing </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Preset </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><h3>The Budget Gamer</h3><p> <img class="" style="display: block; margin: auto;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Blueprints Fall 2015 Budget Gamer Beauty"></p><p> Our <a href="" target="_blank">Budget Gamer build </a>is only "budget" when compared to the awesome power of the Turbo and Midrange. With a target total cost of $800–$850, the Budget Gamer is designed to be a machine that will handle most games at 1080p. When it comes to <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em>, the system is quite capable of running the game at full HD.</p><p> With this configuration, frame rates stayed at or near 60fps, dropping into the mid-50s from time to time. Only rarely did rates drop into the 40s.</p> <table> <thead> <tr> <td> Setting </td> <td> Value </td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> Resolution </td> <td> 1920x1080 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Antialiasing </td> <td> FXAA </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Texture Quality </td> <td> High </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Anisotropic Filter </td> <td> 2x </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Shadow Quality </td> <td> Medium </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Sun Soft Shadows </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Ambient Occlusion </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Depth of Field </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Level of Detail </td> <td> High </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Tessellation </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Screen Space Reflections </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Dynamic Foliage </td> <td> Low </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bloom </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Vignette Blur </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Motion Blur </td> <td> On<br> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> PureHair </td> <td> Off </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Lens Flare </td> <td> On </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Screen Effects </td> <td> On </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> The thing about gaming at 1080p is that objects can start to look surprisingly low-res after you've been gaming at 1440p or above. To compensate, we made sure to invest some power and memory into the high-resolution textures. We also turned off PureHair, which gave us about 3–5 frames per second right away.</p><h3>Final thoughts</h3><p> <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em> is still a very new title, so we may yet see patches or driver updates that boost performance on the PC. This game isn't an FPS, and as such isn't designed to keep a constant frame rate in every scene. To drive this point home, the game set the default graphics preset for our budget gamer to High. Frankly, it looked great, but that preset wasn't going to allow us to stay consistently near or above 60fps.&nbsp;</p><p> The game is designed well enough that it remains above 30fps in just about every instance. That said, frame rates like to jump around from zone to zone. Use of VSync and adaptive sync technologies (G-Sync, FreeSync) will help keep tearing under control, and we highly recommend using it if you've got it. For those that want to know more, we've done detailed&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">benchmarking of <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>using&nbsp;an assortment&nbsp;of graphics cards and several CPUs, so if your particular setup doesn't match any of these builds, that will give you a better idea of what to expect.</p><p> Have you played <em>Rise of the Tomb Raider </em>on the PC yet? Let us know what you're running, your settings, and what kind of frame rates you're getting in the comments.</p> Synology Releases New Two-Bay DiskStation NAS offers a new two-bay NAS packed with featuresFri, 29 Jan 2016 00:31:06 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology DiskStation DS216+"></p><p>Synology has released a new NAS server aimed at the small office and home user, the <a target="_blank" href="">DiskStation DS216+</a>. This backup solution offers on-the-fly H.264 4K to 1080p video transcoding for video streaming, two drive bays for up to 16TB of storage, and the intuitive DiskStation Manager (DSM) interface that should make data management a breeze for any user.</p><p>The specifications show that this new NAS sports a dual-core Intel Celeron N3050 processor (1.6GHz, 2.16GHz), 1GB DDR3 memory, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, an eSATA port, and a gigabit Ethernet port. A 92x92mm fan mounted on the back keeps the innards cool with two modes: cool and quiet.</p><p>The DS216+ comes equipped with an AES-NI hardware encryption engine, keeping your files safe and secure while transmitting over the network. Synology says that the NAS is capable of over 113MB/s read speeds and 109MB/s write speeds during encrypted data transmissions. Otherwise, the NAS is normally capable of exceeding 111MB/s read and write speeds.</p><p>Synology’s new NAS uses the Btrfs file system, allowing the device to offer services like quote control for shared folders, metadata mirroring, point-in-time snapshot, and more. It boasts easy integrates into your network, showing up in File Explorer and allowing users to drag-and-drop files directly to the NAS from Windows. Users can also set up an FTP server to share files securely with others.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Synology DiskStation DS216+ NAS"></p><p>For offices, the NAS can serve as a multi-function server, allowing users to share a printer across the network, create up to thirty local websites, send and receive emails using the built-in Mail Station app, create a VPN server to access files remotely, and more. There’s also a proxy server for monitoring website access and content regulation.</p><p>The big selling point is the DiskStation Manager operating system, which offers an awesomely cool user interface to make data management easy. The platform comes with its own app store, allowing users to download and install useful tools that will make the DS216+ even better. Users can also access the NAS by using mobile apps offered by Synology, such as DS Photo+ for managing photos, DS Audio for accessing stored music, and DS Video.</p><p>There’s a lot packed into this new two-bay NAS, which provides a tool-less drive tray design to make drive swapping painless. Synology says the DS216+ is now shipping worldwide for a MSRP of $300.</p> Amazon Wants to Take on Spotify, Apple Music has it that Amazon is launching a standalone music streaming service this fallFri, 29 Jan 2016 00:22:52 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Amazon"></p><p>Unnamed sources have informed the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>New York Post</em></a> that Amazon has set out to create a full-blown streaming music subscription service to take on Apple Music and Spotify. Rumor has it that the plan is in an early stage, but that the company has been conversing with music publishers over the last several weeks to license songs for the service.</p><p>According to the report, the service will be offered in addition to the current music streaming Amazon offers to its Prime (Music) subscribers. This new offering will also offer a more “robust” library of music than what’s offered on Prime. Sources say that Steve Boom, Amazon’s vice president of digital music, is in charge of the music service plans.</p><p>So, how much will Amazon’s new standalone music service cost? Sources state that the company is considering a $10-per-month fee. However, Amazon may offer a discount of $3 to $4 per month if the streaming service is bundled with <a href=";hvadid=84473570345&amp;hvpos=1t1&amp;hvexid=&amp;hvnetw=g&amp;hvrand=15696176900209839081&amp;hvpone=&amp;hvptwo=&amp;hvqmt=b&amp;hvdev=c&amp;ref=pd_sl_3zgs23gr54_b" target="_blank">Echo</a>, the company’s $180 voice-controlled speaker that boasts 360-degree omni-directional audio.</p><p><a href=";p=irol-newsArticle&amp;ID=1939437" target="_blank">Amazon launched Prime Music</a> back in June 2014, an ad-free service that’s part of Amazon Prime. The service is free to members, and includes more than one million songs and hundreds of Prime Playlists designed for various types of moods and occasions. Members can even download the music for offline playback on mobile devices. Some of the featured artists include Aerosmith, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Daft Punk, Fun, and many more.</p><p>By comparison, both Spotify and Apple Music offer more than 30 million songs, so Amazon would need to beef up its music arsenal substantially to compete in the music-streaming subscription arena. Even more, <a href="" target="_blank">Spotify is rolling out a video component</a> to both its free and subscription services starting this week, with content provided by the likes of ABC, Adult Swim, BBC, Comedy Central, NBCUniversal, TBS, and numerous others.</p><p>Will Amazon be able to compete in the music subscription arena? Will music artists take to the new plan? Steve Boom seems to think so, as <a href="" target="_blank">he told Billboard</a> back in October that Amazon is “the only place that touches all of the different formats.” He added that Amazon is the biggest retailer of physical music and the second largest retailer of digital music.</p><p>According to the report, the company's plan is to roll out the standalone music streaming service this fall. Amazon has remained quiet regarding the report, but there’s a good possibility that the service will help make up revenue being lost due to an industry-wide decline in digital track download sales. Having a standalone music subscription service to pick up the slack&nbsp;makes sense.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: HP LaserJet Pro M402n Duplex Printer, EVGA 850W PSU, and More! advent of the Internet could have killed off the printer, but as it turns out, dead tree copies of receipts, school papers, and everything else are still in demand, and so is the printer. That will probably be the case for a long time to come.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:40:47 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HP Laser Printer"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>The advent of the Internet could have killed off the printer, but as it turns out, dead tree copies of receipts, school papers, and everything else are still in demand, and so is the printer. That will probably be the case for a long time to come, and if you're need of a workhorse that can print fast, then check out today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Other-N82E16828414463-_-0128&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HP LaserJet Pro M402n Duplex 4800 dpi x 600 dpi USB mono Laser Printer</a> for <strong>$160</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $270 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK35</strong>]). This thing holds up to 900 sheets of paper, prints up to 40 pages per minute, and offers mobile printing options.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121899-_-0128&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 970 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 HDCP Ready SLI Support G-SYNC Support Video Card</a> for <strong>$320</strong> with free shipping (normally $350 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK33</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate; Free game: Rise of the Tomb Raider w/ purchase, limited offer)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817438030-_-0128&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">EVGA 80 Plus Bronze 850W Semi-Modular Nvidia SLI Ready and Crossfire Support Continuous Power Supply</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $85 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK78</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820233310-_-0128&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model</a> for <strong>$65</strong> with free shipping (normally $70 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK29</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822178381-_-0128&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Hybrid Drive 1TB MLC/8GB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s NCQ 3.5-inch Desktop SSHD</a> for<strong> $65</strong> with free shipping (normally $70 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFGK27</strong>])</p> T-Mobile Customers Stream Twice the Video with Binge On, Amazon Joins the Party claims that streaming video has doubled since introducing Binge On.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:28:22 +0000 neutralityNewst-mobile <h3>Binge On lives up to its name</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="John Legere"></p><p> T-Mobile ruffled a few feathers when it introduced Binge On, a controversial streaming service that allows customers to watch an unlimited amount of video from participating providers without it counting against their data caps. It's controversial because critics claim it's a net neutrality violation, while T-Mobile CEO John Legere has adamantly denied such claims.</p><p> For now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is on T-Mobile's side, though it's examining so-called zero-rated video services, of which Binge On isn't the only one.</p><p> Controversy aside, Binge On is proving popular among T-Mobile's subscribers. The company today said that those on qualifying plans are already watching more than twice the video than before from the free services with Being On.</p><p> "Binge On is our most disruptive Un-carrier move yet. It has literally changed the way millions of people are watching video – they’re watching more, more than twice as much as before, and most importantly, they’re watching without worrying about bigger bills or surprise overages!," Legere said in a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a>. "Binge On is the Un-carrier solution to satisfy Americans’ growing appetite for mobile video – and the facts are telling us that customers love it!"</p><p> This is just the beginning. T-Mobile continues to add more streaming video partners to the Binge On fold, including Amazon Video, Fox News, Univision Now, and WWE Network. The new additions bring the total number of partners to over 40, among them big names like HBO Now, Hulu, Showtime, and Sling TV.</p><p> Binge On works by "optimizing" video to mobile devices it's streaming to. While the video is downgraded, it's always at least 480p (DVD) quality.</p><p> According to T-Mobile, customers have streamed 34 petabytes of free video since launching Binge On. The wireless carrier also claims that one of its partners is seeing a 79 percent jump in daily viewers since joining Binge On.</p><p> Binge On is activated on qualifying accounts by default, though users can disable it if they want to. T-Mobile's also rolled out some changes to make it easier to do so&mdash;just dial #BNG# (#264#) on your phone and hit send to check your settings, #BOF# (#263#) to turn it off, and #BON# (#266#) to turn it on.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Cheap VR: Google Boasts 5 Million Cardboard Shipments announced that it's shipped over 5 million Cardboard headsets to date.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 17:46:56 +0000 realityvr <h3>Money talks</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cardboard Graphic"></p><p> Google on Wednesday <a href="" target="_blank">revealed</a> that it's shipped over 5 million of its Cardboard VR headsets since launching a year and a half ago, and there might be a lesson there.</p><p> The fact that over 5 million people are willing to slap a cardboard contraption on their mug is telling. A virtual reality optimist will read it as a sign that the demand for VR is there and the hype is real. But the real lesson might be one of cost.</p><p> Let's back up a moment. Remember when Android tablets were new and shiny? In the beginning, the early models carried premium price tags in the neighborhood of $500 because they were trying to compete with Apple's iPad. Android device makers quickly figured out that though consumers loved the open source platform and were interested in tablets, they wanted to cheaper devices (compared to Apple's pricing). Device makers responded and suddenly Android tablets were everywhere.</p><p> It's too early to say whether or not VR products will shake out the same way&mdash;it's an apples and oranges thing&mdash;but there are signs that suggest it might. One of them is the <a href="">$599 pre-order price</a> of Oculus Rift. The price caught consumers off guard, in part because earlier comments suggested the headset might retail for $350ish.</p><p> Facebook and Oculus haven't said how many of Rift headsets&nbsp;have been sold so it's hard to evaluate things (for more reasons than one). What we do know is that a basic Cardboard headset runs $20 (sometimes less), or you can build your own, and though it seems goofy (and rudimentary) by comparison, there are millions of them in the wild.</p><p> It's an interesting topic, one we'll have to explore down the line when the Rift and HTC Vive start shipping. In the meantime, here are some more braggadocios stats and facts from Google.</p><ul> <li>In the past two months, installs of Cardboard apps from Google Play have increased by 10 million to over 25 million</li> <li>The top Cardboard app is Chair in a Room</li> <li>Users have watched over 350,000 hours of YouTube video in VR</li> <li>Cardboard Camera has been used to capture more than 750,000 VR photos</li></ul><p> Neat stuff, though the bigger point here is that Cardboard owners are actively using VR.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Oracle's Pulling the Plug on Java Browser Plugin long last, Oracle is killing its Java browser plugin in JDK 9.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 17:14:10 +0000 <h3>A more secure web</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Java"></p><p> Try to hold back your tears, but the Java browser plugin that's plagued the web with security holes is not long for this world; Oracle plans to snuff it out with the release of JDK 9, the company announced.</p><p> Consider the move the equivalent of Oracle throwing in the towel, and doing so much to the crowd's delight.</p><p> "With modern browser vendors working to restrict and reduce plugin support in their products, developers of applications that rely on the Java browser plugin need to consider alternative options such as migrating from Java Applets (which rely on a browser plugin) to the plugin-free Java Web Start technology," Oracle stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> "Oracle plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9. This technology will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release," Oracle continued.</p><p> The writing was already on the wall for the plugin's fate. Mozilla in October of last year said it would remove support for plugins like Silverlight and Java in Firefox by the end of this year, while Chrome already stopped supporting plugins (like Java) that use the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) standard, choosing instead to run with a plugin technology called Pepper Plugin API (PPAPI). Microsoft's Edge browser doesn't support plugins, period.</p><p> Businesses that rely on the Java plugin might be upset about the move, but the web at large is cheering it&mdash;Java's been a pretty constant target of hackers, causing more than a few headaches for IT admins who have to deal with the aftermath.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> 12 Awesome New Vive Demos We Played showed us some impressive demos for its upcoming Vive launchThu, 28 Jan 2016 15:48:00 +0000 viveoculus riftValvevirtual reality Build It: Caged Power awesome cage-rig Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 a gaming pcBuild a PCbuild itFeatures <p> <em>This article was published in the Holiday 2015 issue of </em>Maximum PC<em>. For more trusted reviews and feature stories, <a target="_blank" href="">subscribe here</a>. We have updated the pricing at the time of online posting (1/27/2016).</em></p><h4>Assembling the cage</h4><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit beauty"></p><p> Most of the time, our builds end up in PC cases that encloses the guts on all six sides. Even if there is a side panel window, five out of six sides remain mostly or totally opaque. That means that the case is on display, not the parts. Since the case is only a fraction of the cost of the PC, it’s a shame to hide all those parts away behind sheets of black steel or aluminum.</p><p> We wanted to try out this open-air case because it gives us a chance to look at those parts that are too often hidden away. But with beauty comes pain. An open-air case like this one presented some unique challenges for our build.</p><p> Even with those challenges, we were happy with the final result.</p><h4>Rounding up the parts</h4><p> When we set out to do this build, we wanted to include some shiny-new, recently released parts. This, of, course meant we had to go with Skylake; we’ve been overdue for a build that used Intel’s latest architecture. For graphics though, we had a choice to make: we could go lower-end with the recently released GTX 950, or go bigger with the AMD’s R9 Nano.</p><p> Guess which way we went? More power is sexier, so we went with the Nano, which fit really well in this mini-ITX build. It’s been a minute since we went with an AMD GPU in one of our monthly builds, and the Nano felt like the obvious choice for this form factor.</p><p> The CPU and GPU found their home on the Gigabyte GA-Z170N motherboard, which supports DDR4 and offers up a wireless connection with an included mini-PCIe Wi-Fi card. We had an EVGA Z170 board on hand, but for this build, we felt that the included Wi-Fi capability was a good reason to choose one board over the other. We do wish that the mobo came with on-board power and reset buttons like the EVGA model does. Since this is a Z170 board, we had to go with DDR4 memory. We got a couple of 8GB sticks of 2666MHz Corsair Dominator for the job.</p><p> All of our parts found a comfy, airy home in the In Win D-Frame Mini. We really liked this model with its orange-and-blue frame, but the D-Frame also comes in black-and-red and red-and-black. The cool thing about the case is that there’s no clear top or bottom; the only thing you need to worry about is access to ports and buttons.</p><p> The 750W power supply is plenty for the assortment of parts we chose, and since mini-ITX is limited to one GPU, there’s no need to worry about extra headroom for SLI or Crossfire. However, the extra wattage does allow for single-GPU upgrades, or the addition of some spinning drives.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td> <strong>Part </strong> </td> <td> <br> </td> <td> <strong>Street Price</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Case </td> <td> <a href="" target="_blank">In Win D-Frame Mini</a> (orange/blue) </td> <td> $270 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Motherboard </td> <td> <a href="" target="_blank">Gigabyte GA-Z170N-Gaming 5 </a> </td> <td> $150 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> CPU </td> <td> <a href="" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-6700K</a> </td> <td> $414 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Memory </td> <td> 16GB (2x 8GB) <a href="" target="_blank">Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 2666</a> </td> <td> $125 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> GPU </td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Radeon R9 Nano</a><br></td> <td> $500</td> </tr> <tr> <td> PSU </td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">BitFenix Fury 750G 80 Plus Gold</a><br></td> <td> $120</td> </tr> <tr> <td> SSD </td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Samsung 850 Evo 2TB</a><br></td> <td> $620</td> </tr> <tr> <td> CPU Cooler </td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Deepcool Maelstrom 240K</a><br></td> <td> $160</td> </tr> <tr> <td> Total </td> <td> </td> <td> $2,359</td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> <small><em>All prices reflect market pricing at time of writing.</em></small></p><h4> <strong>Step 1 – Hot Stuff</strong></h4><p> <strong></strong></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.1"></p><p> The Radeon R9 Nano a quite the powerful GPU, given its tiny form factor. However, we noticed that this card got pretty toasty when we ran our graphics benchmarks. While normal closed cases could solve this by channeling a lot of air through the case, we were low on options because there was no way to effectively push extra air over the card. The air coming from our CPU radiator was nice and cool, but the slight offset of the motherboard meant that the Nano wouldn’t get any of those cool breezes. Placing the “front” glass panel on the case helped a little bit, but at the end of the day, the Nano breathes best with a little extra air flow from a case fan.</p><p> If we were to redesign the case, we’d like to see an extra removable bracket for a case fan, just below the GPU mount. This would allow extra-toasty GPUs that would usually have more forced air to stay a bit cooler under load.</p><h4>&nbsp;Step 2 <strong>–</strong> Side Mounted</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.2"></p><p> The PSU is the heaviest component in nearly any build, so mounting it on the side of the case might seem counter-intuitive. Not so, with the D-Frame. The PSU happily occupies a bracket on the side of the cage, but doesn’t make the cage feel off-balance. Since mini-ITX builds will rarely see high-wattage PSUs, extra support for a potential 1600W monster wasn’t warranted here. In this photo, we show the cage positioned with the PSU on the bottom.</p><p> To make things a little neater, we went with individually sheathed cables, which are easier to manipulate. These cables can also be used with cable combs for an ultra-clean look, though we just went with trusty zip ties. Routing the cables was a bit tricky with a smooth aluminum plate instead of a motherboard tray rife with cable-management tie loops. Luckily, the cage came with a few accessories that helped out with wrangling the cables.</p><p> Like we’d recommend for most mini-ITX builds, we used a modular power supply, so there’s no need to stash unused cables. That’s a big deal in a case where there are no hiding places for your cabling. The glass on this cage is tinted, so black cables don't exactly advertise their presence on the back side. If you prefer white or other bright-colored cables, be prepared to get creative to keep them neat. The tinting only hides so much.</p><h4> Step 3 <strong>–</strong> USB 3.0 Woes</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.3"></p><p> If there was one beef we had with this motherboard, it was the positioning of the USB 3.0 front panel connection. At first glance, it didn’t look so bad, but after you figure in the presence of a GPU, it became clear that there was no sexy, clean way to attach the cable.</p><p> To the left, you have the R9 Nano, and routing under the GPU between the PCIe slot and the “back” panel was too tight of a squeeze. If we came from below, we’d have to let the cable cross over both the memory and CPU. That just wouldn’t do. We decided to run the cable over the “top,” which routes it over a pair of USB ports and the Wi-Fi antenna connectors. The result was the best of a bunch of less-than-ideal options. There really wasn’t an attractive way to do this.</p><p> If there’s an upside to this, it’s that the USB cable is braided, which makes it at least look good, even if it is in the way.</p><p> Then again, some may like the appearance of a cable or two jutting out of the mobo, giving it a bit of a cybernetic look. We won’t judge.</p><h4>Step 4 <strong>– </strong>Silent Storage</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.4"></p><p> With the recent release of the 2TB Samsung 850 EVO, we thought that it would be the perfect storage solution for a mini-ITX build. Having two whole terabytes available on an SSD is pricey (even&nbsp;at $620, this SSD is still&nbsp;a luxury item), but it has its advantages: It eliminates the need for having a small HDD for Steam games or media files, and it means that there’s one less moving part to fail from frequent moves to and from LAN parties or events.</p><p> It also means that the machine will be a little quieter.</p><p> In a cage-type case, it’s easy to forget that an enclosed case muffles sounds of fans, and hard drives searching for, reading, and writing data. The high-speed clicks of the hard drive disappear when using an SSD, leaving only the CPU cooler and GPU as noise sources.</p><p> Another thing we noticed was the black finish on the 850 EVO is very similar to the finish of the aluminum mount of the D-Frame. This makes the slim little SSD seem to disappear, until you look from the top and see the Samsung label on its face. The one downside to this mount was that the drive is just a little too far from the edge of the plate (about two or three millimeters), which made it a little hairy when we tried using an L-shaped SATA cable.</p><h4> Step 5 <strong>– </strong>Dominating the Cage</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.5"></p><p> When we went looking for memory to put in the build, we wanted to go big on the capacity. As we looked, we noticed that most of our DDR4 kits come are 16GB, but in 4x4GB kits. Bummer.</p><p> As we searched and searched, we remembered: We had a machine sitting in our lab that could donate a few sticks for our purposes. We grabbed two 8GB stick of Corsair Dominator RAM from our 2015 Dream Machine, and pressed them into service in this build.</p><p> The 2,666MHz sticks are plenty fast, and didn’t give us any problems at boot. However, just as with most X99 systems, our Z170 board from Gigabyte defaulted to setting the RAM clocks at 2,133MHz. The problem was quickly solved by upping the multiplier for the RAM clock, granting us our desired 2,666MHz.</p><p> Leaving the RAM at 2,133MHz wouldn’t have hurt performance much since RAM clocks are rarely a bottleneck these days. In other mini-ITX builds, going with 2,133MHz DDR4 RAM modules would be just fine in most cases, and you’ll save a little coin by forgoing higher RAM clocks.</p><h4> Step 6 <strong>–</strong> One Cool Cage</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.6"></p><p> One of the neat things about this build was the way the cage accommodated our cooling solution. The cage comes with a bracket for a 240mm closed-loop cooler, which sits out of the way at the “bottom” of the cage.</p><p> We were able to get our Deepcool Maelstrom 240 snugly situated in the bracket, with nary a screw to secure it in place. Other coolers might not simply stay put with friction alone, so the eight screw holes can be used to secure fans to the bracket for a more secure fit.</p><p> The Deepcool cooler was our backup choice in this build, though. We tried using another, bigger cooler, but for some reason it wouldn’t have good enough contact with our CPU, which resulted in some problems booting. The larger cooler did fit on&mdash;not in&mdash;the bracket when we flipped it upside down, though.</p><p> The one main gripe we had about using a 240mm cooler with this mobo was the lack of PWN pinouts. The motherboard offers two pinouts: CPU and a case fan. Both pinouts are four-pin, but the lack of a CPU_OPT or second case fan pinout meant that we had to do something to get three PWM connectors (two fans and one pump) fit on two pinouts.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="MPC119.rd buildit.callouts"></p><ol> <li>The blue rubber bumpers on the D-Frame Mini allow you to position the cage in any orientation you like. They’ll also keep the case from sliding around in your car’s trunk on the way to a LAN party.</li><li>&nbsp;The extra room below the PCIe slot allows for full-length video cards. In our build, the Nano leaves this area sparse and clear.</li><li>Thumb screws allow for the attachment and removal of hard drive and cooler brackets, for tons of modularity.</li><li>The “front panel” is a bit of a misnomer in this cage, where there is no clear front, back, up, or down.</li></ol><h4>Breaking Out</h4><p>Throwing all of these parts together in a cage was a lot of fun and was quite a different building experience. Such a build requires you to think more about the aesthetics of the build’s entirety, since there’s no hiding of cables or extraneous accessories here.</p><p>Like we said earlier, though, an open-air case build is not without its challenges. One of those major challenges was the cooling system. We started off with a larger cooler that ended up not maintaining good contact with our CPU for some reason, so we had to go with the Deepcool we had on standby. Once we had the radiator and pump in place, we had three PWM connectors to plug in, but only two pinouts to work with. Problems.</p><p>We solved this in a roundabout way. First, we plugged the two fans for the radiator into the CPU and case fan pinouts. We then connected the pump to a two-pin Molex-to-PWM adapter. This had two consequences, which we weren’t exactly fond of. First, the two fans ran at different speeds, since each PWM pinout runs as a function of a different temperature sensor. The CPU fan is a function of CPU temps, as you’d expect, but the case fan takes temps from the motherboard itself. While we stayed at acceptably cool temperatures due to the large radiator, we wouldn’t do this when overclocking, as the fan plugged into the case fan connector wouldn't rev up as temps increase. Not good.</p><p>The other bad side effect was that the water pump runs at full speed while connected to the two-pin adapter. Normally, you’d connect the pump to a four-pin pinout for much of the same reason you’d attach the radiator fans to them. However, we just needed the pump to work, so we put up with this while we ran our benchmarks.</p><p>We wouldn’t recommend attaching fans and pumps this way, and ideally, we’d use a PWM two- or three-way splitter and attach the single side to the CPU PWM connector. But sometimes, you just gotta make things work.</p><p>Speaking of benchmarks, our caged rig did pretty well in some aspects, while relatively poorly&mdash;compared to our three-way SLI zero-point&mdash;in others. In the single-threaded CPU benchmarks, the i7-6700K Skylake performed well, outpacing the i7-5960X in our zero-point. With a 240mm cooling setup, we believe this CPU could score even higher with a little bit of overclocking. When we reviewed the CPU, we found that the 6700K can get a 17 percent performance boost from overclocking. Not bad at all.</p><p>When it came to the 3D application benchmarks, the little R9 Nano put up a good fight. Considering our beefy zero-point machine has three GTX 980s in SLI, a single GPU can hardly expect to beat it in raw frames per second.</p><p>Despite having less than half the 3DMark score in Fire Strike Ultra, the Nano delivered playable framerates in <em>Tomb Raider</em> and <em>Shadow of Mordor</em> at 4K. Remember that these benchmarks are stress tests, so turning off or reducing antialiasing will render much better framerates at 4K, without a big difference in video quality. In <em>Batman: Arkham City</em> at 1440p, the 92fps means that there’s plenty of power there to keep a FreeSync 1440p monitor synced and happy at 60Hz. </p><p>In the multithreaded test, x.264, the octa-core 5960X still reigns supreme, with double the cores that Skylake has to offer. While that seems damning on its surface, the majority of applications people interact with on a daily basis don’t take full advantage of multithreading anyway. </p><p>For most gamers and enthusiasts who don’t encode video all day, this build would perform nicely. And with its small, portable, and unique form factor, this PC can be quite the conversation starter at a LAN party.</p><table><tbody><tr><td></td><td>Zero-Point</td><td>Our Build</td><td>Percent Difference</td></tr><tr><td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td><td>806</td><td>781</td><td>+3.1%</td></tr><tr><td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td><td>1,472</td><td>1,442</td><td>+2%</td></tr><tr><td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td><td>33.8</td><td>19.54</td><td>-42.9%</td></tr><tr><td>Batman: Arkham City 1440p (fps)</td><td>204</td><td>92</td><td>-54.9%</td></tr><tr><td>Tomb Raider 2160p (fps)</td><td>87.5</td><td>36.6</td><td>-58.2%</td></tr><tr><td>Shadow of Mordor 2160p (fps)</td><td>70.1</td><td>40.2</td><td>-42.7%</td></tr><tr><td>3DMark Fire Strike Ultra</td><td>8,016</td><td>3,362</td><td>-58.1%</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Our desktop zero point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GB of RAM. Arkham City tested at 2560x1440 max settings with PhysX off. Tomb Raider at Ultimate settings. Shadow of Mordor at Max settings.</em></p> Aereo CEO Wants to Shake Up ISPs with No Caps seeks to disrupt the broadband Internet industryThu, 28 Jan 2016 02:25:39 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Starry Internet"></p><p>Former Aereo CEO Chaitanya "Chet" Kanojia tried to shake up the cable TV industry by transmitting over-the-air network TV signals to Aereo subscribers. That plan eventually failed, and now he’s set his sights on the broadband Internet sector by launching a new wireless service that promises speeds of up to one gigabit everywhere. That service is called Starry Internet, and is rolling out in the greater Boston area as a beta starting this summer.</p><p>The idea behind <a href="" target="_blank">Starry Internet</a> is to sell equipment directly to users that they can install themselves rather than lease the hardware on an ISP. The new Internet service is based on millimeter wave active phased array technology and uses the underutilized (freely available) high-frequency spectrum to deliver the wireless broadband signal. To receive this signal, users must place a “smart” antenna outside a window, aka the Starry Point receiver, as shown above.</p><p>“By using OFDM modulation coupled with MIMO as a foundation, along with active phased array RF front ends, Starry's technological architecture enables it to leverage OFDM radio technology, including MU-MIMO, in a dense architecture across multiple licensed spectrum bands, including ultra-high frequency millimeter waves, to deliver high speed broadband to your home or business through a self-installed home receiver,” the company explains.</p><p>The benefits, according to&nbsp;Starry Internet,&nbsp;is that there will be no data caps and no contracts to sign. The actual wireless broadband signals will be broadcast by a MetroNode, or what the company calls the Starry Beam beta, which converts an Internet connection into a millimeter-wave signal. This is what is picked up by the Starry Point receiver sticking out the user’s window.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Starry Station"></p><p>In addition to announcing the Starry Internet service, the company also revealed <a href="" target="_blank">the Starry Station</a>, a new Wi-Fi hub that communicates with the Starry Point and provides broadband to all of your wired and wireless devices. This will also be sold directly to consumers, and is compatible with Wireless AC devices and older. </p><p>Outside its triangular shape, the Starry Station’s biggest feature is its 3.8-inch capacitive touchscreen. The spec sheet indicates that the&nbsp;hub also features dual-band, concurrent 4x4:3 MIMO Wireless AC radios, a dual-core processor, a dual-core display processor, 1.5GB RAM, and 8GB flash storage. There are two Gigabit Ethernet ports (one in, one out), a speaker and mic, a proximity sensor, and support for future&nbsp;802.15 Internet of Things devices.</p><p>According to the product page, the screen will show the health of each device connection using blue and red orbs: blue for healthy and red for troubled connections, and the larger the orb, the more data the connected device is apparently using. If there’s a problem, the hub will advise on a resolution. The proximity sensor is used to change the information on the screen when the user approaches, showing stats like the Health Score, the Internet speed, etc.</p><p>The Starry Station seems to have its sights set on Google’s OnHub router, another “hub” released last year that aims to make setup and management easy on users. While there’s no built-in screen on the OnHub, users can access the router’s interface using the Google On app for tablets and smartphones. The TP-Link model includes a dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB internal storage, two Ethernet ports, and a USB 3.0 port. We spent four weeks with the Google OnHub, which you can read about <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p>As for when the Starry Station will be available, customers can reserve the device for a meaty $350 at until February 5. After that, the device&nbsp;can be purchased directly from the website, or pre-ordered from <a href=";node=12034488011" target="_blank">Amazon Launchpad</a>. The router is set to ship in March 2016, the company says.</p> Asus 970 Pro Gaming/Aura Mobo Does SLI, Too's new mobo officiallysupports Nvidia SLIWed, 27 Jan 2016 20:23:03 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus 970 Pro Gaming/Aura"></p><p>AMD gamers looking to build a new system might want to start with the latest release from Asus, <a target="_blank" href="">the 970 Pro Gaming/Aura ATX motherboard</a>. It’s the first board based on the new AMD 970+SB950 chipset and not only supports two-way, quad-GPU CrossFireX configurations, but two-way, quad-GPU Nvidia SLI setups as well. The board even sports Aura RGB lighting, providing your build brilliant color and special effects.</p><p>The specifications show that the new 970 Pro Gaming/Aura provides four dual-channel DIMM slots for a maximum of 32GB DDR3 memory clocked at 2,133MHz. There are also two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots. Storage consists of six SATA 3 ports and one M.2 socket.</p><p>On the audio front, the board comes packed with the company’s proprietary SupremeFX eight-channel audio technology, with 115dB BNR stereo output. Asus says the audio portion of the board features a shielded design including an electromagnetic-interference cover and a voltage-protected 5V power supply. Backing the audio is the Realtek ALC1150 codec and an illuminated red-line shielding.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus 970 Pro Gaming/Aura"></p><p>For PC gamers, Asus has tossed in “tournament-level” Intel Gigabit Ethernet, promising fast, lag-free gaming. Added to the mix is Asus’s LANGuard capacitors and components for better connections and protection against power surges, and the company's&nbsp;GameFirst technology that allocates more bandwidth to games and prioritizes game-related packets. </p><p>As for input and output, the board provides an optical S/PDIF-out port on the back panel. There are also two USB 3.1 Type-A ports on the back, two USB 3.0/2.0 ports mid-panel, eight 2.0/1.1 ports on the back, and six USB 2.0/1.1 ports mid-board. There’s also an Ethernet port, audio jacks, a PS/2 port. All of this is backed by a corrosion-resistant stainless-steel panel.</p><p>Asus says the new motherboard provides a dedicated onboard water-pump header, RAMCache technology for quick program loading, the Digi+ voltage-regulator module, durable capacitors, and DRAM Overcurrent Protection with resettable fuses. Also included is a special Sonic Radar II software overlay for quickly pinpointing the origin of sounds heard in-game.</p><p>The new motherboard is compatible with the latest FX/Phenom II/Athlon II/Sempron 100 processors for the AMD AM3+ socket. Asus hasn't provided pricing or an actual ship date yet. Still, there seems to be a lot of goodness packed into this board, and the support for Nvidia SLI as well as CrossFireX is an added plus PC gamers shouldn't ignore.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: HGST Deskstar NAS 6TB HDD, Intel Core i5-6500, and More! was a time when a 1TB drive might have felt super spacious. Not anymore. It's pretty easy to fill such a thing with videos, photos, saved games, and everything else, so why mess around with a smaller size drive?Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:18:55 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hgst Hdd"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>There was a time when a 1TB drive might have felt super spacious. Not anymore. It's pretty easy to fill such a thing with videos, photos, saved games, and everything else, so why mess around with a smaller size drive? 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This drive is built for 24/7 operation and is backed by a 3-year warranty.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DESKTOP-N82E16883221132-_-0127&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Desktop Computer AMD FX-Series FX-8310 (3.40 GHz) 8 GB DDR3 2 TB HDD Windows 8.1 64-Bit</a> for <strong>$420</strong> with free shipping (normally $430 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK56</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117563-_-0127&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i5-6500 6M Skylake Quad-Core 3.2 GHz LGA 1151 65W Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 530</a> for <strong>$193</strong> with free shipping (normally $205 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822178740-_-0127&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Seagate Expansion 3TB USB 3.0 3.5-inch Desktop External Hard Drive</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGK34</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231428-_-0127&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$33</strong> with free shipping (normally $50)</p> Vaio Back in Action with New Laptop Models for Businesses today introduced its Vaio Z and Vaio S notebooks for business professionals.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 17:54:21 +0000 <h3>A familiar face</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vaio Z Flip"></p><p>Sony <a href="" target="_blank">dumped</a> its Vaio PC brand two years ago and hightailed it to mobile, though you could be forgiven for thinking it was still involved in some way. That's because the newest Vaio laptops retain the same overall look as systems that came before them, and of course carry the same branding.</p><p> Be that as it may, these are new models, starting with the Vaio Z available in both two-in-one convertible and clamshell styles. The flip model weighs 2.96 pounds while the clamshell variant is even lighter at 2.58 pounds.</p><p> Both are based on Intel's 6th generation 28W Skylake architecture and feature 13.3-inch displays, albeit with different resolution options&mdash;1920x1080p or 2560x1440 for the clamshell model and just 2560x1440 for the flip version.</p><p> The least expensive of the bunch is the Vaio Z Clam VJZ131X0211S. It runs $1,499 and includes an Intel Core i5-6267U processor, 8GB of LPDDR3-1866 RAM, 256GB PCIe-based SSD, 1920x1080 resolution, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, SD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and up to 15.5 hours of battery life.</p><p> On the opposite end of the spectrum, the highest end configuration is the Vaio Z Flip VJZ13BX011B priced at $2,399. It bumps things up to an Intel Core i7-6567U processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. Battery life on this one is rated at up to 11 hours and 15 minutes.</p><p> While the Vaio Z models are pitched as flagship machines, the Vaio S is an "all-purpose, durable" laptop, also with a 13.3-inch display (1920x1080 only).</p><p> "The Vaio S is equipped with a molded magnesium alloy casing that ensures robustness and durability. The casing is further reinforced by adding ribs to the designated points, which also brings improvement to the feel of keyboard and touch pad," <a href="" target="_blank">Sony says</a>.</p><p> Pricing for the Vaio S ranges from $1,099 to $1,399, the latter of which boasts an Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 8GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM, 256GB of PCIe-based SSD storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA output, SD card slot, and Windows 10 Pro 64-bit.</p><p> The Vaio Z in flip form will be available to order starting February 8, 2016; all the rest will be available in early March of this year.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> What Monitor Makers Have Planned for 2016's what kind of monitors AU Optronics, Samsung, and LG are planning this year.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 17:17:15 +0000 optronicsLGmonitorsNewssamsung <h3>Continuing to innovate</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung Monitor"></p><p> This is generalizing things a bit, but not that long ago it seemed like the monitor market was stuck in a rut with options limited to low-end models, mid-range offerings, high-quality IPS panels, and the granddaddy of them all, a 30-inch monster with a 2560x1600 resolution. Times have changed.</p><p> Those options still exist, but they're also surrounded with even more choices, sizes, and technologies. The buzz around 4K seems to have awoken monitor makers, which not only responded with a variety of 4K models, but also fancy technologies like G-Sync and FreeSync, along with curved screens and so on.</p><p> So, what's in store for 2016? The folks at <a href="" target="_blank"><em>TFT</em></a> did some digging at AU Optronics, LG Display, and Samsung to find out (credit to <em><a href="" target="_blank">Fudzilla</a></em> for the heads up).</p><p> The information from AU Optronics was fairly limited, though it was discovered that it's bringing 30-inch and 35-inch ultra-wide curved panels in the third and second quarters of this year, respectively. Both will be of the VA variety and feature a 3440x1440 resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate, a first for that resolution.</p><p> "This would push things beyond DP 1.2 bandwidth limitations as we understand it, so this might require the forthcoming DP 1.3 interface to be practical," <em>TFT </em>says.</p><p> As for LG Display, it's forging ahead with more borderless neo-blade panels. These will be different sizes, among them 23.8 inches, 27 inches, and 31.5 inches. But the biggest treat is its LM375UW1 panel&mdash;it's 37.5 inches in size and will offer a 3840x1600 resolution, giving it a 2:4:1 aspect ratio, perfect for watching Blu-ray flicks.</p><p> Finally, Samsung is planning a 31.5-inch curved display with a 2560x1440 (QHD) resolution and 144Hz refresh rate in the third quarter. While not confirmed, it's believed it will be an SVA panel.</p><p> Samsung also plans to release 41-inch and 49-inch panels, though it's not known if those will be big size monitors or TVs.</p><p> What about 8K? Samsung's on it with a 31.5-inch 8K4K (7680x4320) resolution monitor planned for the third quarter.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Nvidia Releases 361.75 Drivers for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Tom Clancy's The Division 'Game Ready' drivers from Nvidia are available for Rise of the Tomb Raider and Tom Clancy's The Division beta.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:46:49 +0000 of the Tomb RaiderTom Clancy's The Division <h3>Lara Croft approved this message</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rise of the Tomb Raider"></p><p> Attention Nvidia GeForce GPU owners, there's a new Game Ready driver available to download, one that's intended to deliver the best possible gaming experience for Rise of the Tomb Raider and the beta for Tom Clancy's The Division.</p><p> It's a minor update with optimizations for both of the aforementioned titles, plus a few other goodies thrown into the mix. One of them is beta support for GeForce GTX graphics over Thunderbolt 3, as seen with Razer's external Core accessory. With the latest driver, Nvidia adds official support for all GeForce GTX 900 series graphics cards, plus the Titan X, GeForce GTX 750, and GeForce GTX 750 Ti.</p><p> The new 361.75 driver release also adds or updates the following SLI profiles:</p><ul> <li>Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - multiplayer EXE added to profile</li> <li>Rise of the Tomb Raider - profile added</li> <li>Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo - profile updated to match latest app behavior</li> <li>Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege - profile updated to match latest app behavior</li> <li>Tom Clancy's The Division - profile added</li></ul><p> That's about the extent of the driver release.</p><p> Rise of the Tomb Raider releases to PC tomorrow, as is the beginning of the closed beta for Tom Clancy's The Division. Barring any delays, the latter will be available in finished form to all PC players on March 8, 2016 (and also for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One).</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Technolust: I'm Fulla Schiit first time I'm featuring Schiit from just one company, but it's all greatWed, 27 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 amplifierSchiitSchiit FullaSchiit Mjolnir 2Schiit RagnarokSchiit Wyrd USB DecrapifierSchiit YggdrasilTechnolustUSB DACusb sound card <h3>This Schiit's great!</h3><p> If you haven't gathered by now,&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="http://https//;theater">I'm somewhat of an audio enthusiast</a>. Notice I didn't use the word "audiophile." That's because the term's now being thrown around like a Frisbee. No one even knows what it really means anymore, other than "Hey, my stuff's expensive." This is an unfortunate situation, and the world of high-end audio is full of hyperbole and snake oil, which doesn't lend itself credibility. I've seen things as ridiculous as a $3,500 1m long "audio" USB cable. Apparently, the cable also opens up mini worm holes for you to travel into another universe.&nbsp;Well, we plan to review audio gear here without all the BS.</p><p> It's also rare that I'm&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">featuring just one company in a single Technolust piece</a>, but the case with Schiit is that it's a company that's been making really good audio gear without the crazy hyperbole-induced prices. Right now I can think of two companies that make audio electronics without snake oil: Oppo and Schiit. If you've been to Schiit's website, it's&nbsp;pretty tongue-in-cheek about the company name. Just look at the&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">Amazon description for its "USB Decrapifier"</a>:</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Improves your color printing. Just kidding." class=""> <figcaption>Improves your color printing. Just kidding.</figcaption></figure><h3>Schiit Yggdrasil</h3><p> The "Yggy" from Schiit is&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">possibly the best high-end DAC for the money</a>. Unlike essentially every other DAC on the market, the Yggy doesn't use delta-sigma digital-to-analog converters. What is a delta-sigma DAC? In short, delta-sigma converters take samples of the changes in an analog voltage (signal), and covert them into pulses. The pulses are then matched to the voltages, and is an approximation of the voltage changes. Delta-sigma modulation introduces errors, because the modulation can never completely represent the original analog signal, since voltage changes are infinitesimal. Delta-Sigma DACs are popular because they're easy to design for, but to go truly accurate, you don't use Delta-Sigma DACs.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Schiit's multi-bit Yggdrasil DAC." class=""> <figcaption>Schiit's multi-bit Yggdrasil DAC.</figcaption></figure><p> The Yggdrasil from Schiit throws out the&nbsp;Delta-Sigma for a&nbsp;"multi-bit" design&mdash;the same technology used in medical MRI imaging machines. Utilizing Analog Devices' AD5791 DAC,&nbsp; <a target="_blank" href="">the Yggdrasil boasts the world's most accurate DAC</a> at a true&nbsp;1ppm (parts per million) resolution. The drawback? Complex engineering and design skills are required to design products around the AD5791.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The &quot;Yggy's&quot; internal design." class=""> <figcaption>The internal design of the"Yggy."<br></figcaption></figure><p> This is where Schiit engineers show their audio engineering prowess. The other killer feature? Yggy retains the original samples from the incoming analog signal. Other DACs get rid of the original samples in place of fully interpolated samples. Lastly, one very desirable feature is the end-to-end balanced design of the Yggy. XLR in, XLR out. This helps shed any interference over the cable runs. Of course, you'll need speakers that have XLR inputs, which you'll have if you're considering studio monitors.</p><h5>So, what can the Schiit Yggdrasil do for me that I can't do now?</h5><p> Right now&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">I'm using an Oppo HA-1 DAC</a>, which is a fabulous piece of work in its own right. It's got the fully balanced ins and outs, as well as every possible type of input known to man. It sounds fantastic. But I'd really like to try out my music on a multi-bit DAC. If you know your DACs, you know that&nbsp;the Yggy is the Schiit.</p><h3>Schiit Ragnarok</h3><p> What would pair perfectly with the Yggy? Schiit's&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">Ragnarok might be just the answer</a>. The Ragnarok is a headphone/speaker amp designed to pair perfectly with the Yggy, or Schiit's Gungir. Offering balanced headphone output,&nbsp;powered speaker output, and pre-outs, you're covered in your audio outputs.&nbsp;</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Schiit's Ragnarok headphone and speaker amp." class=""><figcaption>Schiit's Ragnarok headphone and speaker amp.</figcaption></figure><p> What about output power?</p> <div> Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.25db, 2Hz-110KHz, -3dB <br> Maximum Power, 4 ohms: 100W RMS per channel <br> Maximum Power, 8 ohms: 60W RMS per channel <br> Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 15W RMS per channel <br> Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 10W RMS per channel <br> Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 1.7W RMS per channel <br> Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 850mW RMS per channel <br> THD: Less than 0.006%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS <br> IMD: Less than 0.008%, CCIF at 1V RMS, high gain mode (worst case) <br> SNR: More than 103db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS, in gain = 1 mode <br> Crosstalk: Less than -80dB, 20Hz-20KHz <br> <br> </div><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ragnarok rear; fully equipped." class=""> <figcaption>Ragnarok rear: fully equipped.</figcaption></figure><p> That's an impressive piece of equipment with an ultra-low noise floor. In fact, Schiit challenges you to dial up the volume on the Ragnarok's potentiometer and witness zero noise. Thanks to multiple outputs, the Ragnarok would help with A/B testing audio gear too.</p><h5>So, what can the Ragnarok do for me that I can't do now?</h5><p> Essentially, lower my noise floor and offer powered speaker output. As impressive as my Oppo HA-1 is, it lacks powered speaker outputs, which means I always need powered monitors or rely on a separate powered amplifier. Not so with the Ragnarok.&nbsp;</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Schiit's Mjolnir 2 with swappable tubes." class=""> <figcaption>Schiit's Mjolnir 2 with swappable tubes.</figcaption></figure><p> For those who are interested in customizing the "color" of their sound,&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">check out Schiit's Mjolnir 2</a>, which allows you to swap between tubes and solid state. The Mjolnir has just about everything the bigger Ragnarok has except powered speaker application and extra balanced-XLR inputs.</p><h3>Schiit Fulla</h3><p> What if I wanted to take my Schiit on the go? The company has a&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="">portable headphone amp/DAC called the Fulla</a>&mdash;I told you the company has a sense of humor. For $79, you can carry with you a high-quality USB DAC with plenty of power to handle sensitive headphones.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Schiit's Fulla portable USB DAC/headphone amp." class=""> <figcaption>Schiit's Fulla portable USB DAC/headphone amp.</figcaption></figure><p> The Fulla is small, but just as well made as the rest of Schiit's audio products. And yes, everything is designed, made, and fully assembled in the USA. It uses a high-quality potentiometer for adjusting volume, just like the Ragnarok&mdash;no chip interference here.</p><p> The Fulla supports 24-bit/192kHz formats and boasts high-tolerance to USB clock jitter. Best of all? The Fulla's AK4396 DAC&nbsp;supports 1-bit DSD decoding. This is like carrying a mini Yggy in your pocket.</p><h5> So what can the Schiit Fulla do for me that I can't do right now?</h5><p> With Fulla, I can ensure that my audio listening sessions remain blissful when I'm traveling. I'd love to carry an Yggdrasil and Ragnarok around with me in my backpack, but while that would be great for my ears, it wouldn't work out very well for my back. The Fulla will allow me to bypass a laptop's cruddy audio and is small enough not to make any noticeable impact in carrying weight. The Fulla is about the size of two rolls of quarters. Schiit, I wish the company made a portable music player.</p> Intel Starts Shipping Faster Clocked Skylake and Xeon CPUs for Laptops just updated its CPU price list to include new mobile Skylake and Xeon processors.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 20:23:01 +0000 <h3>Faster laptops on the horizon</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Intel Core i7 Skylake Logo"></p><p>If you haven't been all that impressed with the first batch of Skylake-based laptops to hit the market, hang tight, faster models are the horizon. Intel just added some new Core i7 Skylake (and mobile Xeon) models to its CPU price list, as <em><a href="" target="_blank">PCWorld spotted</a></em>, and it's only a matter of time before they trickle into new laptop offerings.</p><p> This is good news if you've been hankering for a high performance laptop upgrade. Even though Skylake has been shipping since last year, laptops based around Intel's 6th generation Core architecture have mostly been aimed at entry-level and mainstream users.</p><p> Among the chips Intel just added to its price list, the fastest is the Core i7-6970HQ. It's a quad-core chip with Hyper Threading support clocked at 2.8GHz and with 8MB of cache. It's listed at $623, so expect this one to only show up in premium priced laptops.</p><p> Two other entries include the Core i7-6870HQ and Core i7-6770HQ. Both are also quad-core CPUs with Hyper Threading support, the higher of the two clocked at 2.7GHz with 8MB of cache and priced at $434, and the other clocked at 2.6GHz with 6MB of cache and priced at $378.</p><p> These are likely to hold the high-end fort until Intel's Extreme Edition Skylake chips manifest.</p><p> In regards to mobile workstations, Intel also added a trio of Xeon CPUs, all of which are quad-core parts with Hyper Threading support and 8MB of cache. From bottom to top they include the Xeon E3-1535M v5 clocked at&nbsp;2.8GHz and priced at $489, Xeon E3-1545M v5 clocked at 2.9GHz and priced at $679, and Xeon E3-1575M v5 clocked at 3GHz and priced at $1,207.</p><h3>Celeron Too!</h3><p> On the opposite end of the spectrum, Intel fleshed out its Celeron lineup on the desktop with some new chips. They include the following:</p><ul> <li>Intel J3710: 4 cores, 4 threads, 2MB cache, up to 2.64GHz, $161</li> <li>Intel G3920: 2 cores, 2 threads, 2MB cache, 2.9GHZ, $52</li> <li>Intel G3900: 2 cores, 2 threads, 2MB cache, 2.8GHZ, $42</li> <li>Intel J3160: 4 cores, 4 threads, 2MB cache, up to 2.24GHz, $107</li> <li>Intel J3060: 2 cores, 2 threads, 2MB cache, up to 2.48GHz, $107</li> <li>Intel G3900T: 2 cores, 2 threads, 2MB cache, 2.6GHz, $42</li></ul><p> You can view the full price list <a href="" target="_blank">here (PDF)</a>.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Thermaltake Core X5 'Riing' Edition Case is Big, Trips Your Spell Checker's new Core X5 and Core X5 Riing Edition cases are cube shaped enclosures.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 19:13:51 +0000 <h3>Don't call it a typo</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Thermaltake Core X5 Riing Edition Side-by-Side"></p><p> Thermaltake is sorry-not-sorry that its new Core X5 Riing Edition computer case will eat away at the part of your OCD that twitches at typos, but ultimately decided that an extra "i" was necessary. Why? We're not really sure.</p><p> What we <em>do </em>know is that the Core X5 Riing Edition sports two pre-installed 140mm green Riing fans, one in the front and one in the back, to give the case a look that's "nothing like your usual PC chassis." That claim is based on the ring of LED lighting that circles the fan and is viewable from any angle.</p><p> The case itself is a sort of bright, neon green, which is another reason the Core X5 Riing Edition stands out from the crowd. It's big enough to hold up to an E-ATX motherboard, though if more space is required&mdash;or if you have multiple builds that need to be close to one another&mdash;you can stack the cases on top of each other.</p><p> You can also stack Thermaltake's regular Core X5, which is the same case but in black and with two regular 120mm fans pre-installed instead of the flashy Riing fans.</p><p> "The Core X5 and Core X5 Riing Edition offer endless stackable capacity and expandability for enthusiasts to create massive liquid cooling systems for a single system, file server, or even dual systems," <a href="" target="_blank">Thermaltake says</a>. "Users can customize the chassis for the best viewing presentation with an interchangeable window and I/O panel design."</p><p> Both cases feature modular drive racks in a 3+4+3 configuration, giving users the ability to install up to seven storage devices. Builders also have access to eight expanson slots and three 5.25-inch drive bays.</p><p> As far as clearance restrictions go, there's a lot of space to work with. Thermaltake says its Core X5 cases support graphics cards up to 480mm (around 18.89 inches) in length if yanking out the ODD cage, or 330mm (12.99 inches) if keeping it in. There's also room for CPU coolers up to 230mm (9 inches) high and PSUs up to 220mm (8.66 inches) long.</p><p> Thermaltake didn't say when its new <a href="" target="_blank">Core X5</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Core X5 Riing Edition</a> cases will be available or for how much.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Finally, Das Keyboard Launches Peripherals for Gamers Under Division Zero Brand Keyboard launches Divsion Zero gaming gear line.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 18:02:26 +0000 KeyboardDivision Zeromechanical keyboardmouseNews <h3>Look who's got game all of a sudden</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Division Zero X40"></p><p> At long last, Das Keyboard is going after gamers with some new gaming gear, including the "utra-edgy" X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard and M50 Pro Gaming Mouse. Both are part of Das Keyboard's new Division Zero brand.</p><p> I say "at long last" because an eye towards gaming is the only thing that's been absent from the company's past mechanical keyboard offerings. Das Keyboards makes some of the best keyboards out there&mdash;I use a Das Keyboard 4 Professional with Cherry MX Blue key switches as my daily typer&mdash;but up until now the company's never really released a plank specifically aimed at gamers.</p><p> That all changes to today.</p><p> "At Das Keyboard we understand that winning is everything, so every detail in our Division Zero line of products was measured on its ability to take one’s gaming experience to the next level," said Daniel Guermeur, founder and CEO of Das Keyboard. "We also wanted to bring something different to gamers by arming them with badass, edgy equipment that inspires them to strive for total domination. Division Zero’s premium gaming products deliver a superior level of performance, durability and design for today’s competitive gamers who desire a new edge."</p><p> Whether or not it was worth the wait remains to be seen and we'll reserve judgement until we've spent some hands-on time with the company's new products. In the meantime, here's what we know.</p><p> The <a href="" target="_blank">Division Zero X40 Pro</a> is purportedly the only mechanical gaming keyboard with interchangeable metal top panels. There are four color options, including red, olive (green), mustard (yellow), and sliver, and two different designs.</p><p> Beyond the attention grabbing aesthetics, Das Keyboard said it developed brand new Alpha-Zulu key switches specifically for the X40 Pro. They have gold contacts (as does the Das Keyboard 4 Professional) and 1.7mm actuation, which is a bit shorter than the 2mm distance that Cherry MX key switches feature. There are two kinds&mdash;Alpha Zulu Tactile (audible) and Linear (quiet), both with an actuation force of 45g and rated for 60 million keystrokes.</p><p> Other features include a column of five dedicated macro keys on the left-hand side, quick-access media controls, a red LED backlight with five levels of brightness, USB 2.0 pass-through, full N-key rollover, audio jacks, and braided cables.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="DIvision Zero M50 Pro"></p><p> Second up is the<a href="" target="_blank"> M50 Pro mouse</a>. Designed for both right- and left-handed gamers, this ambidextrous rodent is made of "premium materials" and "metal components."</p><p> There are 9 programmable buttons on the M50 Pro. You can create up to 6 game profiles and save them to the mouse's onboard memory.</p><p> Other notable features include a 6,400 DPI 4G laser sensor, on-the-fly adjustable DPI settings, 4D tilt scroll wheel, red LED lighting, diecast aluminum shoe and Teflon feet.</p><p> Finally, <a href="" target="_blank">some new mousepads</a> round out the assortment of gaming gear kicking of the Division Zero brand. There are three different kinds with varying degrees of friction to account for different types of games.</p><p> The X40 Pro keyboard is available to pre-order now for $149 with shipments expected in mid-February; the M50 Pro mouse is available now for $79, as are the mousepads starting at $19.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Apple, Google Beefing up VR Efforts? job listings point to Google dabbling in virtual reality hardwareTue, 26 Jan 2016 13:32:41 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google"></p><p>Back in June 2014, Google first revealed Google Cardboard, a cheap virtual reality alternative that consisted of a cardboard box that can be folded into wearable glasses. It’s not meant for a fully immersive experience, but a cheap way to get some VR thrills without having to sink hundreds of dollars into actual hardware (outside the need for a smartphone, that is).</p><p>That said, a few job postings have appeared on Google revealing that the company may be working on dedicated VR hardware to rival the upcoming Oculus Rift headset. These jobs, <a href="" target="_blank">discovered by RoadtoVR</a>, were posted over the last several days and are looking for a <a href="!t=jo&amp;jid=161915001&amp;" target="_blank">Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager, VR</a>, and a <a href="!t=jo&amp;jid=164675001&amp;" target="_blank">PCB Layout Engineer, VR</a>. Currently, there are around <a href=";q=j&amp;d=virtual+reality&amp;so=dt_d&amp;li=10&amp;j=virtual+reality&amp;" target="_blank">seventeen job openings</a> at Google that focus on virtual reality.</p><p>“As the Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager for the consumer hardware products, you will drive the design and execution of our ever increasing product portfolio,” reads the Hardware Engineering listing. “You will be responsible for the building multiple CE devices and will put together the right team that will scale with our product offering.”</p><p>News of the job openings arrive after Google’s VP for Product Management, Clay Bavor, apparently shifted focus at the company to manage Google’s virtual reality products. <a href="" target="_blank">According to Re/code</a>, Bavor has a new title at Google: VP of Virtual Reality. Serving Google for over ten years, his prior responsibilities included running apps like Gmail, Drive, Docs, and the company’s Cardboard product since its introduction two years ago. </p><p>Google isn’t the only company dashing to create a virtual reality product. <a href="" target="_blank">The Financial Times reported</a> last week that Apple hired a top virtual reality researcher, former Virginia Tech computer science professor Doug Bowman. So far there’s no indication of what Bowman will be doing at Apple, although his background points to the possibility of VR.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Bowman’s bio</a>, listed on Virginia Tech’s website, shows that he served as the principal investigator of the 3D Interaction Group, focusing on the topics of “three-dimensional user interface design and the benefits of immersion in virtual environments.” Bowman’s bio also says that he served as the general chair of the IEEE Virtual Reality Conference in 2007 and 2008, and as the lead author of the book <em>3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice</em>.</p><p>Google and Apple’s move into “hardcore” virtual reality should come as no surprise. According to Goldman Sachs analysts, virtual reality and augmented reality could create an industry worth billions of dollars, and could be as “game changing” as the invention of the personal computer. VR headsets could possibly outsell desktop PCs, tablets, and televisions by 2025.</p><p>Goldman analysts expect Apple to fully participate in the AR/VR market in the near future. In a note to clients, they said that Apple is likely investigating the challenges of the tech and how consumers will want to interact with VR, before revealing its AR/VR hand to the public.</p> NZXT CAM 3.0 Review's CAM 3.0 is a big leap forward for system tools, and its full potential is yet to comeTue, 26 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CAMPC ToolsReviews <h3>A big leap forward for system tools</h3><p> As a PC enthusiast, you're always building, tweaking, testing, monitoring. It's the endless life-loop of a PC junkie. At least, that's how it is for us&nbsp;here at Maximum PC. We've used our fair share of tools and tricks to get our PCs running in tip-top shape&mdash;everything from CPUID to HWMonitor to Corsair Link to GPU-Z. But what if there were a tool that could do all of that and more? And what if that tool could actually help you analyze your system performance over time?</p><p> Meet CAM, an all-encompassing tool that's pitched as the only utility you'll ever need. The&nbsp;brainchild of NZXT&mdash;the McLaren wannabe of PC cases and&nbsp;accessories&mdash;CAM takes the best of all the most popular system utilities and combines them into one cohesive package.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CAM 3.0 dashboard." class=""> <figcaption>CAM 3.0 dashboard.</figcaption></figure><p> We've been playing with CAM versions 1 and 2 for a while, and while NZXT had the look down, it hadn't quite nailed the functionality. CAM was primarily designed to control NZXT's own hardware devices, such as its Kraken liquid cooler, and Hue LED lighting system, but it hadn't provided anything else beyond those main features.</p><p> CAM 3.0, however, is an entirely different beast. In fact, NZXT wants to disassociate itself with CAM as a PC chassis and accessories design house. According to NZXT founder Johnny Hou, "We wanted CAM to be a complete system tool for everyone, not just NZXT fans. I think of CAM as being the go-to app for all gamers and PC users, it doesn't matter if they have NZXT hardware. We want CAM to be the centerpiece to your PC, without being tied to proprietary hardware."</p><p> That's a generous statement to make, but can CAM 3.0 meet that vision?</p><p> Upon installation, CAM requests that you sign up for a CAM Cloud account. You don't have to, but if you do, the real intelligence behind CAM comes out in full force. Yes, CAM does all of the things you expect it to do: monitor CPU and GPU data, voltages, fan speeds, etc. But the killer app for CAM is to be able to see historic data.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="See every major component stat." class=""> <figcaption>See every major component stat.</figcaption></figure><p> CAM monitors and records your frequency and FPS data, if you let it, and uploads it to CAM cloud. From there, you can track your history. You can also compare your results with those that have the same system specs, or those that have better system specs. Using this feature, you can know what kind of performance to expect compared to others. Thinking of upgrading from that GeForce GTX 780 to a 980 Ti? CAM lets you see others with 980 Ti's, and what to expect in the games you play.</p><p> For those who do a lot of overclocking, this feature is also smart. You can compare overclocking results with others directly through CAM. Right now, CAM Cloud has several thousand users, but as its database grows, it'll become even more detailed and granular.&nbsp;NZXT tells us that in a near future update to CAM, you'll be able to tell it the kind of performance that you want, and it'll suggest upgrades for your rig.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="My gaming PC compared to other people's." class=""> <figcaption>Our gaming PC compared to other people's.</figcaption></figure><p> From the screenshot above, you can see that according to 314 others with the same specs as our system, average idle temps for our CPU should be around 30C. At 29C, we know our 4960X is being cooled slightly better than average. This live comparison feature also works with the GPU, and we find it incredibly powerful.</p><p> What if you want to see all the details in your system? CAM can do that, too. You can use CAM in three different modes: basic, advanced, and expanded. In basic mode, CAM shows you all the critical details of your system. Advanced mode gives you live graphs of CPU cores, temps, RPM, and a bunch more details. The beastly mode is CAM expanded, where you get an entire overview of every detail in your system.</p> <div> <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CAM in full screen view." class=""><figcaption>CAM in full-screen view.</figcaption></figure> </div><p> CAM shows you far more detail than we can cover here, but we're particularly pleased that you can check out full stats on your SSD, like how long its been operating, any errors, and expected cell life, etc.</p> <div> <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Control CPU cooling, fans, and LEDs." class=""><figcaption>Control CPU cooling, fans, and LEDs.</figcaption></figure> </div><p> If you have NZXT hardware, such as a Kraken, Hue+, or Grid, CAM will allow you to control all those devices, too. As a side effect, if you have an Asetek-based all-in-one liquid cooler, CAM will recognize it and allow adjustment and control, as NZXT's Kraken series are made by Asetek.</p><p> For gamers who want to track their live hardware stats, CAM also allows you to do in-game overlays. Just enable the overlay features in CAM, select the data you want to be displayed and where you want them shown, and you'll be able to see your stats as you play. CAM will also log all your gameplay sessions, to let you see historic data on frame-rate performance. You can see if your system has degraded over time, or see how much of an improvement you got from a new hardware purchase. Useful!</p> <div> <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Overlay CAM's info in your games." class=""><figcaption>Overlay CAM's info in your games.</figcaption></figure> <h5>The Future</h5> <p> Right now, CAM doesn't allow you to overclock your system. You can't adjust voltages and can't adjust CPU frequencies. NZXT says its working on an update where you will be able to do all that. </p> <p> For those who are interested in overclocking, that future update to CAM can't come soon enough. Combined with CAM Cloud, CAM will be able to let you overclock your system to a target system, based on the target's stable settings. Since CAM Cloud sees all details from other users, such as voltages and frequency settings, overclocking could be made extra easy. For now though, we'll have to wait.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mini CAM." class=""><figcaption>Mini CAM.</figcaption></figure><p>Aside from progress, CAM 3.0 is a major step forward for system-monitoring apps. CAM goes beyond just monitoring and lets you compare your performance data with others. Future update features appear promising as well. Can CAM completely replace all of our tools? That depends on whether NZXT can get deep access to change motherboard values, and how many people get into using CAM.</p><p>NZXT tells us they have bold visions for CAM, and lots of interesting features on the CAM roadmap that the company doesn't want us to talk about yet. But from what we were told, if all the features do come true, CAM will be huge for PC builders.</p><p>Already innovative with its cloud-based feature, CAM 3.0&nbsp;is a good step in the direction that NZXT says it wants to go. With CAM Cloud, we can imagine plenty of useful functions for CAM. Right now, CAM 3.0 is like NZXT making a rabbit disappear. CAM 4.0 might be where NZXT pulls that rabbit out of a hat.</p><h5>NZXT CAM 3.0 Gallery</h5> </div> Spotify Launching Video Service This Week is finally rolling out to the masses this week, starting with AndroidMon, 25 Jan 2016 22:12:37 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Spotify Might Come in a Different Package When it Hits the US"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journa</em>l reports</a> that Spotify is finally rolling out video content this week in Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the United States. The content will first arrive on the Android app within the next few days, followed by the iOS app by the end of next week. Spotify originally said that video would be added to the music streaming service <a href="" target="_blank">back in May 2015</a>.</p><p>So, what's taken so long? According to Spofity vice president of product Shiva Rajaraman, the slow rollout was intentional in order to gather content, experiment, and test the service on less than 10 percent of Spotify’s users before launching to the masses.</p><p>Back in May, the original announcement said that Spotify had landed deals with the likes of ABC, Adult Swim, BBC, Comedy Central, NBCUniversal, TBS, and numerous others. Since then, however, content has consisted of short clips, although there are companies producing original music-themed content specifically for Spotify. </p><p>Rajaraman said that the problem Spotify will face is getting users to look directly at the app. The video service will be for the mobile clients only, people who typically have the Spotify app running in the background for listening to music. Getting customers to actually focus on the app will take some “consumer training.”</p><p>“Obviously, our primary user is a music fan, and they are not necessarily leaning in and looking into the app,” he told the paper. “So there are no particular recipes for how to get this right.”</p><p>During the extended testing period, Spotify learned that people will watch videos that are relevant to the type of music they consume. However, Rajaramen told the <em>WSJ</em> that the company will focus on offering programming packages, such as “News of the Week” and “”Laughs at Lunch” rather than provide multiple ways of seeking out video content.</p><p>Initially, video won’t be a money maker for Spotify. In fact, the company is paying partners to license the content, so end users won’t see advertisements in the video clips&hellip; at least, not yet. Spotify is more interested in end users, new and existing, to consume the service on a daily basis. Both subscribers and non-subscribers will have access to the new video content.</p><p>Ultimately, Spotify’s video service is about giving music fans what they want, Rajaraman said. Currently, the company makes its money selling a premium&nbsp;ad-free music streaming service, and from ads on the free service. Money-wise, Spotify is doing just fine, he indicated.</p> Windows 10: Beware the Insider Preview Builds Preview builds sound like a cool idea, but sometimes things can go seriously wrong.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 21:35:11 +0000 Previewmicrosoftwindows 10 <p> Okay, let's get this out of the way: I'm an early adopter and I'm okay with doing a bit of beta testing. I've been using various builds of Windows 10 for about a year now, and while many had issues, this is the first time I've felt like a build was such a fundamentally bad move that I'm turning off Insider Preview builds and rolling back to an earlier build.</p><p> What's the problem? In a nutshell, build 11102, which came out January 21 and installed on my desktop over the weekend. Here's the pertinent quote from <a target="_blank" href="">Microsoft's build notes</a>: "Some PC games will crash switching from windowed mode to full screen, upon game resolution change, or upon launch due to a bug in Windows graphics stack. We have observed this with The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, and Metal Gear Solid V but it may occur with other titles as well."</p><p>Wait, what!? Microsoft basically broke gaming on Windows with this build. The problems extend to many other titles as well; in fact, in my testing, every game I tried had issues&mdash;I gave up when I was four for four on games having problems.</p><p> The good news is that rolling back to an earlier build isn't super difficult. Just open up the Windows Settings app, go to Updates and Security, then click on Recover. From there you have a couple of options that will get you off the current build (though if you've deleted the files for the previous build(s), you only have one choice):</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 Updates"></p><p>I chose to go back to an earlier build, which left me on 11099, and games once again work properly. Whew! But what if you want to get out of Insider Preview altogether? It's not quite so easy. Depending on your current build, you might be able to go into the advanced update options and stop receiving Insider Preview builds; if you've been on the fast ring, however, this apparently doesn't work and you'll need to reset the PC and then install all your programs again.</p><p> You can try waiting until there's a non-Insider build available that's more recent than your current Insider build&hellip;a process which could potentially take months. You can also elect to enter the slow ring of updates, which are less prone to risk, but again it might be a while before a new slow ring build becomes available.</p><p> Now you might say that I deserved what I got from the Insider Preview fast ring&mdash;the notes even say it's "for people that enjoy being the first to identify issues, provide suggestions, and ideas" to make Windows better. I thought that described me, but it seems I was wrong. I'm usually okay being a beta tester, but when one of the big draws of Windows 10 is the availability of DirectX 12, breaking support for most games feels more like an alpha OS issue than a beta.</p><p> The next fast ring update will almost certainly fix the gaming problem (and perhaps break other areas), but I've learned my lesson. I've opted to go for the slow ring of updates now, and I doubt I'll enable Insider Preview on any future builds. It sounded cool when I first heard about it, but despite frequent new builds, many of the changes aren't particularly dramatic or worth the hassle. It was a bit like running Linux and opting to build and install every kernel update, which is a really odd thing to say about Windows.</p><p> Let's end with some questions. What's your take on the Insider Preview program; do you like it, and if so, are you on the fast ring or the slow ring? Have you encountered any other noteworthy problems with the builds, or have there been any features/changes that you particularly enjoyed? Let us know in the comments.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Gaming, Corsair 1,000W PSU, and More! to play Tom Clancy's The Division when it releases later this year? You can skate by with a GeForce GTX 760 level card and the rest of the minimum specs, but for a better experience, Ubisoft recommends a GeForce GTX 970.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 19:33:59 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nvidia GeForce GTX 970"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Planning to play Tom Clancy's The Division when it releases later this year? You can skate by with a GeForce GTX 760 level card and the rest of the <a href="">minimum specs</a>, but for a better experience, Ubisoft recommends a GeForce GTX 970. As luck would have it, today's top deal is for an<a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814487088-_-0125&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank"> EVGA GeForce GTX 970 04G-P4-3975-KR 4GB SSC Gaming w/ACX 2.0+, Whisper Silent Cooling Graphics Card</a> for <strong>$310</strong> with free shipping (normally $330). It's clocked faster than reference, boasts a custom cooler that's quieter and cools better than the stock one, and it comes with Rise of the Tomb Raider to boot!</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-PSU-N82E16817139057-_-0125&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair 1000W ATX12V v2.4 and EPS 2.92 80 Plus Gold Certified Power Supply</a> for <strong>$130</strong> with free shipping (normally $140 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGJ23</strong>]; additional $30 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824025112-_-0125&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">LG 29-inch Adaptive-Sync (Free-Sync) 21:9 UltraWide, 60 Hz 5ms (GTG) IPS, 5,000,000:1 LED Backlight Gaming Monitor with Built-in Speaker, exclusive game mode</a> for <strong>$280</strong> with $1 shipping (normally $300)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822235013-_-0125&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Blue 2TB Desktop Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5-inch</a> for <strong>$70</strong> with free shipping (normally $81 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFGJ24</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822236988-_-0125&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD 3TB White My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0</a> for <strong>$120</strong> with free shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGJ25</strong>])</p> PC Game News: Mighty No. 9 Delayed Again, Recommend Specs for The Division the PC gaming world, Mighty No. 9 suffers yet another delay while recommended specs for Tom Clancy's The Division emerge.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 18:00:29 +0000 clancy <h3>What's going on in the game world</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mighty No 9"></p><p> If you backed Mighty No. 9 on Kickstarter, the last thing you want to hear at this point is about yet another delay. it might also be the first thing you expect, even if you skipped the headline and despite a previous promise to the contrary. Either way, it's happening again.</p><p> Keiji Inafune from Mega Man fame announced today that Mega No. 9's release is being pushed back one more time to Spring 2016. It's the third delay, the last of which nudged the release date to February 9, and as always it's to squash some unexpected bugs.</p><p> "The reason for the delay is rooted in bugs inside the network modes, and specifically problems with matchmaking. There are two large reasons for this problem, one of them being the large number of platforms supported (the solution for each platform is slightly different) and the other stems from the fact that the engine we are using is no longer being updated which means adjustments for matchmaking and online code are being made manually (actually reprogramming parts of the engine by the dev team themselves). Unfortunately, this is all a result of miscalculations on the part of us, the development staff," <a href="" target="_blank">Inafune explains</a>.</p><p> Granted, putting out a buggy game isn't what anyone wants. At the same time, backers are understandably frustrated with all the delays, not just to the game itself, but also for the demo. After the project was successfully funded&mdash;it raised over $3.8 million, far surpassing its goal of $900,00&mdash;delays and apologies started rolling out pretty consistently. Back in October of last year, Inafune told fans there wouldn't be any further delays. He was wrong.</p><p> "For this 3rd delay of the game, we have no excuses for disappointing our fans and especially our backers once more. We want to take this chance to express our sincerest apologies to everyone who has looked forward to the release," Inafune added.</p><h3>Tom Clancy's The Division</h3><p> In other gaming news, Ubisoft has released minimum and recommended system requirements for Tom Clancy's The Division.</p><p> Here's a look at the minimum requirements:</p><ul> <li><strong>Supported OS:</strong> Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)</li> <li><strong>Processor:</strong> Intel Core i5-2400 | AMD FX-6100, or better</li> <li><strong>RAM: </strong>6GB</li> <li><strong>Video Card:</strong> Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 with 2 GB VRAM (current equivalent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760) | AMD Radeon HD 7770 with 2 GB VRAM, or better</li> <li><strong>Notebook support: </strong>Laptop models of these desktop cards may work as long as they are on-par in terms of performance with at least the minimum configuration</li> <li><strong>DirectX:</strong> Version 11</li> <li><strong>Hard Drive Space:</strong> 40 GB available space</li> <li><strong>Optical Drive:</strong> DVD-ROM Dual Layer</li> <li><strong>Peripherals Supported: </strong>Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, headset, optional controller</li> <li><strong>Multiplayer:</strong> Broadband connection with 256 kbps upstream, or faster</li></ul><p> And here's a look at the recommended requirements:</p><ul> <li><strong>Supported OS:</strong> Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)</li> <li><strong>Processor</strong><strong>:</strong> Intel Core i7-3770 | AMD FX-8350, or better</li> <li><strong>RAM:</strong> 8GB</li> <li><strong>Video Card:&nbsp;</strong>Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | AMD Radeon R9 290, or better</li> <li><strong>Notebook support: </strong>Laptop models of these desktop cards may work as long as they are on-par in terms of performance with at least the minimum configuration</li> <li><strong>DirectX:</strong> Version 11</li> <li><strong>Hard Drive Space:</strong> 40 GB available space</li> <li><strong>Optical Drive: </strong>DVD-ROM Dual Layer</li> <li><strong>Peripherals Supported</strong>: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, headset, optional controller</li> <li><strong>Multiplayer:</strong> Broadband connection with 512 kbps upstream, or faster</li></ul><p> The Division releases to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStaiton 4 on March 8, 2016.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Teaches Cortana to Poke Nose in Emails to Set Reminders now scours your emails for phrases that it can use to set reminders.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 17:18:31 +0000 10 <h3>Helping you keep your commitments</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 Cortana"></p><p> Little by little, Microsoft is expanding its Cortana digital assistant to do new things in Windows 10. One of those new things is the ability to scan your emails for certain phrases, ones that might indicate a reminder would be helpful.</p><p> According to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Verge</em></a>, it's part of a new commitment option in Cortana for Windows 10 that's available to Windows Insiders. It's not all that different than flight and delivery tracking, both of which Cortana already does, but in this case Cortana will set reminders to help you keep commitments you might have promised, like telling your boss you'll have that financial report ready by Thursday.</p><p> "Cortana will look for emails where you've said you're going to do something," Microsoft's Marcus Ash told <em>The Verge</em>.</p><p> The email scanning for commitments is performed on a local level; data only gets sent to Microsoft if you choose to add a reminder for a particular commitment or event. On the flip side, if you're worried about the functionality being abused and pushing aside your privacy, you can disable the feature altogether and Cortana won't peek at your emails.</p><p> It's just one of many ways Microsoft is working to make Cortana more than a novelty or afterthought. In addition to helping you remember commitments, the new version released in the latest Insider build alerts you if you receive a meeting request that runs outside the times you normally schedule meetings.</p><p> Both features are available now to Windows Insiders for testing before rolling out to the general public.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Samsung 950 Pro 512GB Review we first looked at Samsung’s 950 Pro, we only had the 256GB model for testing; it’s time to rectify that omission and see what the additional capacity brings to the partyMon, 25 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 950 prossdstoragev-nand <div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">At a Glance</h5><p><strong>(+) Flamethrower:</strong> Great performance; compact form factor; power efficient; lowest price per GB for NVMe.</p><p><strong style="background-color: initial;">(-) Flameout:</strong> Can throttle at times; needs M.2 NVMe support to use as a boot drive; where's the 1TB model?</p></div><h3>More in more ways than one</h3><p> Last year, we looked at Samsung’s speedy new <a target="_blank" href="">950 Pro M.2 NVMe drive</a>. At the time, we noted that while it was fast, we really wanted to test the 512GB model. Nearly three months later, we’re finally able to fix that omission. Much of what we said in our previous review still applies, with the advantages of the 512GB model being more than just the raw capacity. Unlike hard drives, SSDs benefit tremendously from increased parallelism. In general, this means the more NAND chips you have available for concurrent reading and writing, the faster your drive. It’s sort of like RAID on a chip level, with the SSD controller frequently being the limiting factor. By doubling the capacity, Samsung also doubles the number of NAND chips, and that means it’s better able to keep humming along at top speed.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="3"> <strong>Samsung 950 Pro Specifications</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Capacity</strong> </td> <td> 512GB </td> <td> 256GB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Interface</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> M.2 PCIe x4 Gen3 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Form Factor</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> M.2 2280 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Controller</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> Samsung UBX </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory Type</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> Samsung V-NAND </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Max MB/s Read/Write</strong> </td> <td> 2,500/1,500 </td> <td> 2,200/900 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Max IOPS Read/Write</strong> </td> <td> 300,000/110,000 </td> <td> 270,000/85,000 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Endurance</strong> </td> <td> 400TB </td> <td> 200TB </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Warranty</strong> </td> <td colspan="2"> Five years or TBW (Endurance) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>MSRP</strong> </td> <td> $350 </td> <td> $200 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Online Price</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">$328 </a><u></u> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">$193 </a><u></u> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> We can easily see the expected gains by just looking at the spec sheet, where the 512GB model potentially offers a 10–15 percent improvement in read speeds, along with a more substantial 30–70 percent boost to write performance. This isn’t too surprising, as reading NAND is less difficult than writing NAND. Writing NAND can potentially keep a chip busy for a few extra cycles, but thanks to wear-leveling algorithms, adding more chips gives the controller more options. The reason for wear-leveling, if you need a NAND 101 refresh, is that NAND cells have a limited number of program/erase cycles. Whereas on a hard drive, overwriting a file usually uses the same physical sectors on the spinning disk, with NAND it’s better to mark a cell as “available” but do the actual write to a different cell&mdash;one with the fewest used P/E cycles. This improves performance as well as drive longevity.</p><p> As a whole, the 512GB 950 Pro looks to improve performance by 10–50 percent, depending on the task at hand. It also doubles the endurance to 400TB TBW (total bytes written), with a five-year warranty. That means you could write over 200GB of data every day with the 512GB model and still not use up all the P/E cycles. Or to put it another way, even after a week of intensive use for our testing, we’re only at 5TB TBW; once we stop running sequential write tests and just use an SSD as a regular drive, normal use generally averages less than 5GB per day. So no, we’re in no danger of killing off any SSD, unless we specifically attempt to do so. And as a final bonus for the 512GB model, it drops the price per GB from $0.75 on the 256GB model to $0.64 per GB. That’s still about twice the price per GB of the 850 Evo SATA drives (which use less expensive TLC V-NAND), but peak performance is much more than twice as fast, as we’ll soon see.</p><h5>Too Hot to Handle</h5><p> All of this is well and good so far, but there have been issues at times with small M.2 drives throttling performance due to excessive heat in the controller. The UBX controller used in the 950 Pro has three Cortex-R4 ARM cores clocked at 500MHz. While these cores are not as fast as the Cortex-A57/A53 cores in modern smartphone SoCs, they’re substantially faster than the cores in most traditional microcontrollers. For reference, Samsung’s progression in SSD controllers has gone from tri-core 300MHz in the MCX and MDX, to tri-core 400MHz in the MEX, MGX is a dual-core 550MHz design, MHX is tri-core 400MHz again (but with 2GB RAM vs. 1GB on the MEX), and finally, the UBX is tri-core 500MHz.</p><p> Increasing clock speeds mean more power and heat, and thus the controllers are designed to reduce clock speeds if temperatures get too high. That wasn’t a common issue when dealing with SATA drives, but with PCIe offering over 5x the throughput, the UBX controller can get a serious workout. While we don’t have tools to measure the real-time clock speeds of the controllers, we did test the 950 Pro 512GB with and without additional cooling.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 950 Pro without cooling" class=""> <figcaption>Samsung 950 Pro without cooling</figcaption></figure><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samsung 950 Pro with a 120mm fan nearby" class=""> <figcaption>Samsung 950 Pro with a 120mm fan nearby.</figcaption></figure><p> For our purposes, cooling was pretty simple: We placed a case fan near the SSD and angled it to blow across the drive. That was sufficient to eliminate throttling, as far as we can tell, and some companies are even creating M.2&nbsp;add-in boards with&nbsp;heatsinks to help cool&nbsp;M.2 SSDs. In our charts, we’ll highlight both the cooled and uncooled performance of the 950 Pro 512GB.</p><p> That brings us to the benchmarks. For our <a target="_blank" href="">SSD testing</a>, we’re running a <a target="_blank" href="">Skylake</a> processor in a Z170 motherboard. Below are the full specifications.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2"> <strong>Maximum PC SSD Test Bed</strong> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Platform</strong> </td> <td> LGA1151 </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>CPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">Intel Core i7-6700K (4–4.2GHz)</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Mobo</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442950441&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=ASUS+Z170-A">Asus Z170-A</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>GPU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";N=100007709%20600565061%204814&amp;IsNodeId=1&amp;bop=And&amp;Order=PRICE&amp;PageSize=30">Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>SSDs</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1445459709&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Corsair+Neutron+XT+480GB">Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868491&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=intel+ssd+750+1.2tb">Intel SSD 750 NVMe 1.2TB PCIe x4</a><br><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452890993&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Kingston+HyperX+Predator+480GB">Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB M.2</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1445459775&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=OCZ+Vector+180+960GB+SATA">OCZ Vector 180 960GB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452890722&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=samsung+850+pro+2tb">Samsung 850 Pro 2TB SATA</a><br><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1445459795&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=Samsung+850+Evo+2TB+SATA">Samsung 850 Evo 2TB SATA</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1442868425&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=850+evo+250gb">Samsung 850 Evo 250GB SATA</a> 2x in RAID0<br><a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452890819&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=Samsung+950+Pro+256gb">Samsung 950 Pro NVMe 256GB M.2</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452890806&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Samsung+950+Pro+512gb">Samsung 950 Pro NVMe 512GB M.2</a><br> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452890840&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=sm951+nvme">Samsung SM951 NVMe 256GB M.2</a> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>PSU</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";N=100007657&amp;IsNodeId=1&amp;Description=dark%20power%20pro&amp;name=Power%20Supplies&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;isdeptsrh=1">be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Memory</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x8GB DDR4-3000</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Cooler</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href="">be quiet! Dark Rock 3</a><u></u> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <strong>Case</strong> </td> <td> <a target="_blank" href=";qid=1452892170&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=be+quiet%21+SILENT+BASE+800">be quiet! Silent Base 800</a> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><p> When we first looked at the Samsung 950 Pro, we knew it was a great drive. Unfortunately, the drive we really wanted to test was in short supply at the time, so we had to settle for the 256GB model. We expected even better performance from the larger drive, and it doesn't disappoint. There are times when it's not the absolutely fastest drive we've tested, as the Intel SSD 750 1.2TB holds the crown in six of our 10 tests, but that's a bit unfair. For starters, the SSD 750 has three times the peak rated power draw, more than twice the raw NAND capacity, and it uses a PCIe card equipped with a large heatsink. It's also more expensive on a per gigabyte basis.</p><p> Where the Intel SSD 750 excels is in long periods of sustained drive activity (which for consumers, mostly means benchmarks). It also wins out in 4K random write performance by a decent margin. But there's no putting an SSD 750 into a laptop, no matter how much you might want to, and for less strenuous workloads the 950 Pro 512GB often takes the checkered flag. This includes both of our real-world tests, the 20GB file copy and the PCMark 8 storage bandwidth.</p><h5>Potent Portable</h5><p> Ultimately, what it comes down to is your intended use case, combined with how much capacity you need and how much you're willing to spend. The 950 Pro 512GB goes places other SSDs can't, and if you're lucky enough to own a modern laptop with an M.2 slot and NVMe support, it will allow you to upgrade from a weak-sauce 128GB drive that so many OEMs still insist on using, to a healthy half a terabyte. In daily use, the drive is so fast that storage is no longer a system bottleneck&mdash;games load as fast as your CPU can chew through the data, Windows boot times are frequently in the single digits (as in &lt;10 seconds), and you still have room for plenty of games, images, videos, and music.</p><p> Do you need this much storage performance? Probably not, as this is a classic case of diminishing returns. But if you've covered all your other bases and still have cash to burn, not to mention a system that supports M.2 NVMe SSDs, you definitely want one of these hot rods. Until the competition releases their next generation SSDs, this is the <a target="_blank" href="">best M.2 NVMe drive</a> you can find.</p> In Case You Missed It - January 16-23 Edition news highlights from the past week.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 08:30:00 +0000 Subscribe to Maximum PC today and get a year of Maximum PC fromonly $9.Fri, 22 Jan 2016 22:02:41 +0000 pc magazineMust ReadNewssubscriptions <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Subscribe to Maximum PC"></p><h3>Maximum PC January Sale</h3> <div class="boxout"> <h5 class="title"> Save up to a HUGE 90% off a Maximum PC subscription*</h5> </div><p> Maximum PC is considered by enthusiasts to be the number one source for the <strong style="background-color: initial;">latest in guides</strong>, <strong style="background-color: initial;">reviews</strong>, and <strong style="background-color: initial;">in-depth analysis </strong>on cutting edge PC hardware. Our team of experts give you the guidance you need to make the most informed buying decisions and deliver the best advice.</p><p> You’ve found the definitive reference on PC hardware. Subscribe today and for $38 you can get 13 issues of the glossy print edition delivered straight to your door; for $9 you’ll get access to 13 issues of the digital edition; or for only $43 you can get our complete print + digital bundle which includes both our glossy print edition and our iOS and Android digital edition.</p><p> <a target="_blank" href=";utm_medium=article&amp;utm_campaign=januarydiscount&amp;utm_content=maximumpc">Click here</a> to subscribe and save up to 90% on a Maximum PC subscription.</p><p> <em> *Savings compared to buying 13 full priced issues from US newsstand. This offer is for new US subscribers only. You will receive 13 issues in a year. If you are dissatisfied in any way you can write to us to cancel your subscription at any time and we will refund you for all un-mailed issues. Address: Future Publishing, PO Box 2024, Langhorne PA 19047, USA. Prices correct at time of send and subject to change. For full terms and conditions please visit <a target="_blank" href=""></a>.</em></p> Newegg Daily Deals: Asus Z170 Pro Gaming, WD Blue 6TB HDD, and More! you turn it's Skylake this and Skylake that. Does it have you wanting to make the plunge? If you're in need of an upgrade anyway, now's a great timenext generation technologies like DDR4 RAM and M.2 SATA have arrived, giving you a modicum of future proofing. Both are features of today's top deal.Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:53:15 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus Z170 Gaming Pro"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Everywhere you turn it's Skylake this and Skylake that. Does it have you wanting to make the plunge? If you're in need of an upgrade anyway, now's a great time&mdash;next generation technologies like DDR4 RAM and M.2 SATA have arrived, giving you a modicum of future proofing. Both are features of today's top deal for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-mobo-N82E16813132567-_-0122&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Z170 Pro Gaming LGA 1151 Intel Z170 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard</a> for <strong>$145</strong> with $3 shipping (normally $170 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGF27</strong>]). This board features numerous amenities and is primed for overclocking.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814121855-_-0122&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus GeForce GTX 750 2GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 HDCP Ready Video Card</a> for <strong>$125</strong> with free shipping (normally $130 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGF24</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822235009-_-0122&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Blue 6TB Desktop Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch</a> for <strong>$210</strong> with free shipping (normally $225 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFGF28</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231568-_-0122&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model</a> for <strong>$65</strong> with free shipping (normally $75)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819113282-_-0122&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">AMD A6-5400K Trinity Dual-Core 3.6 GHz Socket FM2 65W Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 7540D</a> for <strong>$38</strong> with free shipping (normally $45 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFGF34</strong>])</p> Google Disabled Over 780 Million 'Bad Ads' in 2015 claims it shut down more than 780 million unwanted ads, including ones containing malware, last year.Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:41:08 +0000 <h3>Banishing bad ads</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Google"></p><p> Like it or not, ads are a large reason why much of the content you see on the web is free to access (versus sitting behind a paywall). Maybe that will change in the coming years, but for now, it's simply how the web works. Be that as it may, it's not an excuse to let so called "bad ads" rum amok, or run at all, and Google says it shut down hundreds of millions of them last year.</p><p> "Some ads are just plain bad&mdash;like ads that carry malware, cover up content you’re trying to see, or promote fake goods. Bad ads can ruin your entire online experience, a problem we take very seriously," Google explained in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>. "That’s why we have a strict set of policies for the kinds of ads businesses can run with Google&mdash;and why we’ve invested in sophisticated technology and a global team of 1,000+ people dedicated to fighting bad ads."</p><p> And what of those that run afoul of Google's policies? The sultan of search said it disabled more than 780 million ads last year alone. That's the most yet of any given year, and not surprisingly, it's a number that continues to grow.</p><p> Need some perspective?</p><p> "If you spent one second looking at each of these ads, it'd take you nearly 25 years to see them all!," Google added.</p><p> Ads laced with malware obviously draw the attention of Google's ban hammer, but they're not the only kind that get snuffed out. Google also keeps a lookout for fraudulent ads that make false claims, such as those related to weight loss, along with phishing ads, those touting certain pharmaceuticals, counterfeiters, and so forth.</p><p> Google also said it cracked down on trick-to-click ads.</p><p> "We got even tougher on ads that mislead or trick people into interacting with them&mdash;like ads designed to look like system warnings from your computer. In 2015 alone we rejected more than 17 million," Google says.</p><p> It's a growing problem and to stay ahead of the curve, Google said it's planning updates for 2016 like adding more restrictions on allowable ads and new protections against malware and bots.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Skype Now Hides IP Addresses to Thwart Vengeful Gamers latest version of Skype will keep your IP address hidden by default.Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:18:58 +0000 <h3>Sour grapes for sore losers</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skype"></p><p> Attention gamers and streamers, go update your Skype installation if you haven't done so recently. The reason why is because the latest build finally hides IP addresses by default.</p><p> "Starting with this update to Skype and moving forward, your IP address will be kept hidden from Skype users. This measure will help prevent individuals from obtaining a Skype ID and resolving to an IP address," the Skype team announced in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p><p> Microsoft is specifically targeting gamers with this update. Why? Prior to this latest release, it wasn't all that difficult for a sore loser (or pretty much any trouble maker) on the Internet to discover a person's IP address based on their Skype ID. There are several sites and services called "resolvers" that offer to do the dirty work, so even non-programmers and armchair hackers could obtain a Skype user's IP address with little effort.</p><p> As a result, targeted gamers have been putting up with distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks, sometimes from sore losers and other times simply from someone with nothing better to do with their time. The latest version of Skype should go a long way towards reducing (not eliminating) the prevalence of such incidents.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Now Sells Fully Loaded Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Configurations can now order Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book systems with maxed out hardware options.Fri, 22 Jan 2016 17:47:48 +0000 BookSurface Pro 4 <h3>Kicking it up a notch</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Microsoft Surface Book Detached"></p><p> Microsoft's been selling its Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book systems for several weeks now, but if you wanted to max out the hardware configuration on either one, you were previously out of luck. Not anymore.</p><p> The most powerful versions of both systems are now available to purchase in the United States and Canada, provided you have the requisite coin to bring one home.</p><p> Starting with the new top-end Surface Book configuration, Microsoft is making it available online-only at its Microsoft Store and through select retailers. It <a href=";VID=327098000" target="_blank">runs $3,199</a> and boasts a 13.5-inch display with a 3,000x2,000 resolution powered by an unspecified Intel Core i7 processor based on Skylake, 16GB of RAM, 1TB solid state drive, and discrete NVIDIA graphics.</p><p> The Surface Book is essentially the laptop version of the Surface Pro. It's a detachable 2-in-1 device that comes standard with a keyboard. It also features a pair of full-size USB 3.0 ports, full-size SD card reader, headset jack, mini DisplayPort, 5MP (front) and 8MP (rear) cameras, 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity, a few other odds and ends.</p><p> As for the Surface Pro 4, the new top-end configuration is available in Microsoft Stores (online and offline) and via select retailers. A fully loaded setup <a href="" target="_blank">runs $2,699</a> and features a 12.3-inch display with a 2,736x1,824 resolution, Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 1TB SSD.</p><p> Microsoft pitches the Surface Pro 4 as a tablet that can replace your laptop. As a tablet-first device, it has a few less features than the Surface Book, such as a single USB 3.0 port instead of two and a microSD card reader rather than a full-size SD card slot.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Gold Pen"></p><p> The availability of higher end configurations isn't all that Microsoft added today, it also boosted its inventory with a new gold Surface Pen that's available in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.</p><p> "The new gold Surface Pen makes a bold statement as a colorful complement to your Surface that’s also a powerful tool for both creativity and productivity. When used with your Surface Book or Surface Pro 4, it offers 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity for the ultimate writing and drawing experience. The gold Surface Pen also includes the Surface Pen Tip Kit so you can further customize the experience of taking notes or drawing on your Surface," Microsoft says.</p><p> All three items are available today.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft, Dropbox Release Native Windows 10 App new Dropboxapp provides exclusive Windows 10 featuresFri, 22 Jan 2016 15:45:43 +0000 10 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 Dropbox App"></p><p> On Thursday, Dropbox and Microsoft announced the launch of a new native <a href="" target="_blank">Dropbox app for Windows 10</a>. The app will be fine-tuned for tablet users, but it can be used on desktop systems, too, for those who want&nbsp; to take advantage of exclusive&nbsp;Windows 10 features. The app is expected to roll out to Windows Store this week.</p><p> The new Windows 10 Dropbox app is based on the Universal Windows Platform and takes advantage of Windows 10–based features like Notifications, Live Tiles, and Windows Hello. With the latter, you’ll see an added layer of protection when securing files with Dropbox, which allows use of fingerprint, iris, and facial recognition software to unlock the Dropbox account.</p><p> According to Microsoft, Windows 10 customers can right-click on the Dropbox app in the taskbar to access what’s called a Jump List, a means to access recent files faster. There are also interactive notifications, allowing Dropbox users to accept a shared folder invitation without having to load the app. There’s also a quick-search feature, the ability to drag and drop a file into Dropbox from File Explorer, and adding comments directly to files.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10 Dropbox App"></p><p> “Our partnership with Dropbox has helped more than 17 million people get more work done on the go,” Microsoft’s Steve Guggenheimer said in a blog. “With Windows 10 running on over 200 million devices worldwide, we’re excited to continue to offer our fans easy and convenient access to photos, documents, and files anytime, anywhere.”</p><p> The partnership between Microsoft and Dropbox began back at the end of 2014. The companies introduced means to editing Office files within the Dropbox mobile app, accessing Dropbox files from the Office app, and sharing Dropbox links from Office. Eventually, these features moved to the Web with integration between Office online and the Dropbox website.</p><p> Of course, the current desktop Dropbox&nbsp;client also supports Windows 10. This can be <a href="" target="_blank">installed from here</a>, and allows users to sync a specific local folder with their Dropbox folder online. Naturally, if you use the desktop client, you won’t have the cool features like Windows Hello and Interactive Notifications offered in the new Windows 10&nbsp;app.</p><p> In addition to the desktop and Windows 10 clients, there are also mobile apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire. Microsoft says that a Dropbox app for Windows 10 Mobile will be made available soon, so stay tuned.</p> Fender Launching Five In-Ear Monitors in March has a set of new in-ear monitorsFri, 22 Jan 2016 15:19:04 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fender Pro In-Ear Monitor"></p><p> Typically, when you hear the name Fender, it brings up images of guitars and amps. However, the company has launched a new category of headphones called <a href="" target="_blank">in-ear monitors</a>. They’re actually made by a company called Aurisonics, Inc., which Fender acquired back in 2015. Prices range from $100 to a very hefty $500.</p><p> Fender says that its new Pro In-Ear Monitor Series products are designed and assembled in Nashville. The series consists of five models, all of which have custom-designed drivers. However, some of the higher-end models sport a special 3D-printed Digital Hybrid Technology casing that Fender says will fit most people's ears (95 percent) as if they were custom molded. Some of the models also have a patented Hybrid-Dynamic tuned Balance Armature Array.</p><p> “The launch of the Fender In-Ear Monitor Series is an exciting step in the expansion of our product offering,” said Jim Ninesling, VP of Fender Amplifiers and Pro Audio. “Fender is committed to delivering innovative products and services that accompany players at every stage of their musical experience. We believe serious players and discriminating audiophiles alike will appreciate both the design and performance of Fender IEM’s, setting the stage for further additions to this new line in the future.”</p><p> The top-of-the-line $500 model, the FXA7, includes a custom 9.2mm precision rare-earth driver and Groove-tuned port. This headset also boasts a 6Hz–24kHz frequency response, a 100dB @1mW sensitivity, and a 16-ohm +/-10% @1kHz impedance. Offered in metallic black and metallic gold finishes, this model also comes packed with acoustic filter earplugs, a 1/8” to ¼” adapter, and is built for a premium listening experience.</p><p> The FXA6 model, the next step down, costs $400 and boasts a 6Hz–22kHz frequency response, a 109dB @1mW sensitivity, a 16-ohm +/-10% @1kHz impedance, and a custom 9.25mm precision rare-earth driver and Groove-tuned port. Like the previous model, it can be driven by a smartphone and eliminates up to 22dB of ambient noise. This model is provided in metallic black and metallic red finishes.</p><p> As for the other three models, the $300 FXA5 features a 19Hz–21kHz frequency response, a 120dB @1mW sensitivity, a Dual Balanced Armature Array and Groove-tuned port, and a 36-ohm +/-10% @1kHz impedance. The FXA2 is cheaper, costing $200 and featuring a 6Hz–23kHz frequency response, a 112dB @1mW sensitivity, a custom 9.25mm precision rare-earth driver with a Groove-tuned port, and a 16-ohm +/-10% @1kHz impedance. This model is targeted toward bassists and drummers.</p><p> Finally, the DXA1 costs $100 and includes a custom 8.5mm titanium micro driver. This model has a 14Hz–22kHz frequency response, a 116dB @1mW sensitivity, a 16-ohm +/-10% @1kHz impedance, and a 18dB noise reduction rating. The DXA1 is housed in a low-profile slimline shell and comes with a detachable MMCXi silver-plated low-oxygen cable. Fender says this model is ideal for offstage listening.</p><p>The five models come packed with a deluxe carrying case, an assortment of SureSeal tips, a cleaning tool, and cable. They'll be available for purchase in March 2016.</p> Rig of the Month: Shinai month's featured mod is based on a bamboo weapon that's used for practiceFri, 22 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 a gaming pcBuild a PCCasesFeaturesmodsRig of the Month Newegg Daily Deals: Asus Desktop PC, WD Red 4TB NAS HDD, and More!'s a lot more fun and rewarding to roll your own rig, there's no denying that. At the same time, there are situations where it might be more convenient to go the pre-built route. If you find yourself in one those situations, today's top deal might provide some solace.Thu, 21 Jan 2016 20:12:53 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Asus PC"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>It's a lot more fun and rewarding to roll your own rig, there's no denying that. At the same time, there are situations where it might be more convenient to go the pre-built route. If you find yourself in one those situations, today's top deal might provide some solace. It's for an <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DESKTOP-N82E16883221132-_-0121&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Desktop Computer</a> for <strong>$440</strong> with free shipping (normally $560). This mid-tower setup features an AMD FX-8310 processor clocked at 3.4GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 2GB HDD, AMD Radeon R7 240 graphics, Windows 8.1 64-bit (upgradeable to Windows 10), DVD burner, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a bunch of other odds and ends. A USB keyboard and mouse are included as well.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236599-_-0121&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Red 4TB NAS Desktop Hard Disk Drive - Intellipower SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5-inch</a> for <strong>$145</strong> with free shipping (normally $160 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFGE22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814127763-_-0121&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI Radeon R7 250 2GB 128-Bit DDR3 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card</a> for <strong>$60</strong> with free shipping (normally $74; additional $15 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-LaptopHD-N82E16834232954-_-0121&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Asus Laptop X555UB-NS71 Intel Core i7 6500U (2.50 GHz) 8 GB Memory 1 TB HDD NVIDIA GeForce 940M 15.6-inch Windows 10 Home 64-Bit</a> for <strong>$720</strong> with free shipping (normally $779)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-DISPLAY-N82E16824009626-_-0121&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Acer Black 27-inch WQHD 6ms (GTG) HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS Built-in Speakers</a> for <strong>$300</strong> with free shipping (normally $356)</p> Recall Instructions for Faulty Surface Pro Power Cords are Microsoft's recall instructions to check if your Surface Pro power cord is faulty and obtain a free replacement.Thu, 21 Jan 2016 19:23:31 +0000 pro <h3>Official word from Microsoft</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro 3"></p><p> It was <a href="">reported earlier this week</a> that Microsoft was going to issue a voluntary recall for certain Surface Pro power cords that are prone to overheating, and the official details of that recall are now available.</p><p> The recall affects all Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3 AC power cords sold before March 15, 2015, in the U.S. and Canada, and before July 15, 2015, in other markets. As stated to media outlets previously, the problem can manifest itself when the cord is wound too tightly, twisted, or pinched over an extended period of time. In such cases, the power cord has a tendency to overheat.</p><p> "While there are no reports of serious injury, a small number of our customers have reported this issue and we are taking action to address by making free replacement cords available to all eligible customers. The safety of our customers is our top priority," Microsoft said.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro AC Cord"></p><p>Microsoft has setup a <a href="">dedicated website</a> you can use to see if you qualify for a free exchange and to initiate the process. The replacement cord you'll receive differs from the original in that it has a extra layer of protection near the end that plugs into the Surface Pro to prevent it from cracking, fraying, or bulging when bent or twisted.</p><p>Note that the recall is for the AC cord only and not the power supply "brick" or Surface Pro system itself. It also does NOT affect AC cords that shipped with the Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface 3, Surface Pro 3 devices sold after March 15, 2015 (in the U.S.), Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Google's Giving Chrome Browser a Speed Upgrade's Chrome team is ready to roll out a new compression algorithm that will improve browsing performance.Thu, 21 Jan 2016 18:59:27 +0000 <h3>Faster page loads await</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Chrome Logo"></p><p> Most browser updates are pretty ho-hum in nature, the result of rapid release schedules that see frequent upgrades with mostly minor tweaks and feature enhancements to your browser of choice. That won't necessarily be the case with an upcoming Chrome update, one that promises to speed things up by a potentially significant margin.</p><p> The update will introduce a new compression algorithm called Brotli. Google first <a href="" target="_blank">introduced</a> the new algorithm in September with a claim that it can condense webpages up to 26 percent more than Zopfli, Chrome's current compression algorithm.&nbsp;"At Google, we think that internet users’ time is valuable, and that they shouldn’t have to wait long for a web page to load," Google said at the time.</p><p> Now it's getting ready to forge ahead with Brotli, as revealed by Ilya Grigorik, a Web Performance Engineer at Google, on his <a href="" target="_blank">Google+ page</a>.&nbsp;Brotli will also benefit mobile users. It's implementation in Chrome on mobile gadgets will lead to lower data use and longer&nbsp;battery life. In addition, the performance benefits could trickle over into web apps that are rendered by Chrome.</p><p> Chrome users won't be the only ones to benefit. Google made Brotli open source and barring any changes in plan, Mozilla will roll out support in Firefox later this month.&nbsp;"The best way to make data appear to move faster over the Web is to move less of it and lossless compression has always been a core tenet of good web design... If all goes well in testing, Firefox 44 (ETA January 2016) will negotiate Brotli as a content-encoding for HTTPS resources," <a href="" target="_blank">Mozilla stated</a> back in September.</p><p> If you're anxious to see what Brotli can do, you can enable it in Chrome Canary via <strong>chrome://flags#enable-brotli</strong>.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Ex-Mozilla CEO Creates a "Brave" New Browser new browser replaces ads with "clean" ads.Thu, 21 Jan 2016 18:04:19 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Brave Software"></p><p>Former Mozilla CEO and JavaScript creator Brendan Eich has resurfaced in the news this week with the launch of a new company called <a href="" target="_blank">Brave Software</a>. What’s the new startup focused on? An open-source web browser called Brave. The browser, version 0.7, is available now for early adopters and testers on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.</p><p>According to Eich’s blog, the browser blocks ad-click confirmation signals, impression-tracking signals, and signaling/analytics scripts. On a web page, Brave will insert a few new “clean” ads into standard-sized spaces that are found by a cloud robot. He also said that the browser will target ads that are based on “browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary.” The use of re-identifiable cookies and persistent user IDs will not be permitted.</p><p>“The browser sees everything you do, including actions to stop that annoying phenomenon of retargeting where an ad chases you around the Web, often for something you just bought or decided not to buy,” Eich writes. “We keep user data out of our cloud Brave Vault by default. It’s better for you and us that we don’t store any of your data without your permission.”</p><p>Essentially, Brave promises faster browsing because it blocks trackers and intrusive ads. It also promises safer browsing due to its ability to block third-party tracking and “malvertisement,” and directing traffic to HTTPS sites automatically. Users of Brave can also either see ads that supposedly “respect your privacy,” or pay the sites directly for ad-free browsing.</p><p><a href=";IR=T" target="_blank">Eich told Business Insider</a> that by inserting new “clean” ads onto a web page, existing publishers get a better deal because the “ad-tech middle-men” have been eliminated. Publishers will receive 55 percent&nbsp;of the revenues, Brave Software will get 15 percent, and the ad supplier will get 15 percent.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Surprisingly, around 10-15 percent of the revenues will go directly to the Brave browser user. This money that the end-user receives can be used to pay publishers via a Bitcoin wallet. Thus, the browser will block all ads on "paid" websites.</p><p>Eich says that Brave is based on Chromium <a href="" target="_blank">and uses Electron</a>, which is a tool found within GitHub’s Atom text editor. He told VentureBeat that the company could have based Brave on a current browser, but that would have brought less “impressive” performance gains and limited functionality. Besides, developing a new browser is more impressive given Eich’s background with JavaScript and his gig at Mozilla.</p><p>“We are a browser-based ad-tech platform, with high precision and privacy,” Eich says. “Brave is the only approach to the Web that puts users first in ownership and control of their browsing data by blocking trackers by default, with no exceptions.”</p><p>To download Brave now, <a href="" target="_blank">head here</a>.</p> BenQ Announces Basic and Affordable GW2270 Monitor's new GW2270 monitor sports a 22-inch display with a 3,000:1 contrast ratio, the highest of any TN, VA, or IPS panel in its stable.Thu, 21 Jan 2016 17:54:14 +0000 <h3>Cranking up the contrast</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="BenQ GW2270"></p><p> BenQ just added another monitor to its stable, the GW2270, a 22-inch display with a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) resolution and 3,000:1 contrast ratio. Interestingly, BenQ claims the GW2270 offers the highest contrast ratio of any TN, VA, or IPS panel it's ever offered.</p><p> We're always skeptical of rated monitor specs because it basically boils down to an honor system, but for what it's worth, it's much more common to see a monitor maker report a 1,000:1 static/typical contrast ratio. Dynamic contrast ratios are the ones that are usually much higher, and so it is here with BenQ reporting it at 20,000,000:1. What's the difference?</p><p> A contrast ratio&nbsp;represents the ratio of the luminance of the brightest to darkest colors a display can produce. Where dynamic contrast ratios come into play is when measuring the ratio based on the display adjusting the light output depending on the content. It allows for a greater range, and more importantly from a marketing standpoint, an inflated measurement.</p><p> Moving on, this isn't a high-brow monitor meant to dominate the display scene. Just the opposite, BenQ is aiming for a "stylish design and visual comfort at a great value." That translates into a fairly basic VA display with a 5ms GTG response time, T-shaped base with a polished black finish, and an assortment of technologies like BenQ's Eye-Care, RevolutionEyes, and ZeroFlicker technologies, all of which are meant to reduce eye fatigue.</p><p> BenQ says the GW2270 is available now for $119.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> New Directions in Storage capacities and better performanceThu, 21 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ssdssdstorage <h3>Larger capacities and better performance</h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Storage 1"></p><p>Storage used to be considerably simpler, with computers using mechanical hard drives for their operating systems&mdash;desktops with 3.5-inch drives, and notebooks with smaller 2.5-inch models (in a pinch, you could use a notebook drive in a desktop, but it meant a speed penalty). For the geeks, the differentiating factors included the number of drive platters and the speed of rotation, with 7,200rpm much preferred over the more pedestrian 5,400rpm. However, after years of slow evolution in storage, we’re now in the midst of a storage revolution, with the shift away from traditional mechanical hard drives.</p><h4><strong>eMMC</strong><strong></strong></h4><p>At the bottom end of the storage rung is eMMC, which stands for “embedded multi media card.” This is the descendant of MMC, a flash-based storage format in the physical package of a flash card. MMC competed with Secure Digital (SD) cards a decade ago. However, SD cards became the standard and MMC ended up being odd man out, as digital cameras and laptops offered SD card slots. MMC ended up transitioning to eMMC, and the embedded designation refers to the memory controller embedded into the package of the memory.</p><p>eMMC gets used in a variety of portable devices, including smartphones and tablets. More recently, eMMC even has seen action to replace a traditional hard drive at the bottom end of the notebook market. In these laptops, such as the HP Stream and the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook, which can be had for around $200, one of the many corners cut is the storage department.</p><p>While eMMC offers the advantages of affordability and the reliability of no moving parts, the biggest tradeoff is having speeds more akin to a mechanical drive than an SSD. In addition, these eMMC drives are permanently attached to the motherboard, and are not upgradeable or replaceable like a conventional hard drive solution.</p><h4><strong>Helium Mechanical Hard Drives</strong></h4><p>Mechanical hard drives have been less favored for the last few years, as solid-state drives (SSDs) increased in speed, capacity, and affordability. However, there is still one area in which mechanical hard drives have maintained their advantage: larger capacities. With 1TB SSD prices still north of the $300 mark, when it comes to larger storage needs, a mechanical hard drive still remains the drive of choice.</p><p>Thankfully, while SSDs steal the spotlight these days, their mechanical brethren are still innovating. These mechanical drives are now capable of 10 terabytes of storage in a single 3.5-inch drive, a palatial capacity that would have seemed outlandish just a few short years ago. While so far, the<a href="" target="_blank"> HGST Ultrastar He10</a><strong></strong> is an enterprise drive, its technology should (hopefully) trickle down to the consumer market in the not-too-distant future; Seagate is working on the technology as well.</p><p>The Ultrastar He10 achieves this by having seven platters that get stuffed into a standard-size hard drive enclosure. The so-called “secret sauce” that makes this happen is that the drive is hermetically sealed, and filled with helium gas. Yes, the stuff that goes into party balloons and is lighter than air also has the property of being less dense than air, which reduces the air resistance of the spinning platters. This translates into significant improvements in reliability and&nbsp;power efficiency. The speeds also get boosted with a purported read speed of 249 MB/s; while slower than almost any modern SSD, it is still approximately double the speed that mainstream mechanical hard drives had a few years ago.</p><p>Over the next few years, expect to see ever-increasing capacities for mechanical hard drives, made possible by this application of helium. These drives may also get paired with larger amounts of onboard cache, currently at 256MB for the He10, and even hybrid configurations.</p><p><strong></strong></p><h4><strong>SSDs with SLC vs. MLC vs. TLC</strong></h4><p>Solid state drives (SSDs) have been a boon to computers, speeding up storage processes significantly since their debut to consumers in 2007. After using a desktop with a good SSD, few of us would willingly go back to a mechanical hard drive for a boot drive.</p><p>One of the challenges of SSD technology has centered around the ability to offer a large-capacity drive at an affordable price. This would effectively allow the SSD to be the single storage solution for a rig, rather than the two-drive solution that many users currently employ, with an SSD for speed and an HDD for larger capacity.</p><p>When comparing SSDs, one of the specs to be aware of is the type of NAND chip used. This affects the memory density, which in turn determines the write speeds, power consumption, performance, endurance, and cost of the drive. The types of NAND flash chips used for the consumer market include: single-level cell (SLC), multi-level cell (MLC), and triple-level cell (TLC). Each of these flash chips holds many cells, which provide the storage space for the read and write cycles. Here are the traditional differences between the NAND flash chip types:</p><p><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt=""></p><p><em>Above is a representation of the data storage capacity of SLC, MLC, and TLC. It visualizes why TLC has the most data capacity per cell, and why it is the most cost effective at this time. Quad level cell (QLC) is being developed, which would theoretically offer even more capacity at a higher density, but is not expected in the short term.</em></p><ul><li>SLC has the fastest write speeds, highest endurance, and the lowest power consumption. However, this comes at the expense of the lowest density, which in turn gives us a higher cost than the other types. This high performance makes SLC the choice for enterprise storage, though even that area is migrating to MLC now.</li><li>MLC is the middle-of-the-road choice. While it has slower write speeds and lower endurance than SLC, its higher density gives it good performance, and lower cost compared to SLC. This balancing act of cost versus performance makes MLC the choice for consumer-grade NAND applications at affordable prices.</li><li>TLC has the highest density of NAND storage, which gives it the lowest cost. The penalties are that the read and write speeds are the slowest, with the lowest endurance compared to the other NAND types. This makes TLC most&nbsp;appropriate for budget SSDs.</li></ul><p>While this was the traditional division of NAND types, more recently, performance drives have featured a mix of the types of NAND used. For example, the SanDisk X300 SSD features a write buffer of SLC NAND flash, while the main storage goes to TLC; by combining the flash types, the overall performance characteristics of the drive are enhanced, at an attractive price. This is in comparison to an entry-level drive, such as the OCZ Trion 100, which uses TLC NAND flash across the entire drive, but performance suffers. In other cases, a small portion of the MLC or TLC gets used to store only two bits as in SLC, in a “pseudo-SLC” <a href="" target="_blank">configuration</a>.</p><h4><strong>Drive Interfaces</strong></h4><p>Serial AT Attachment, better known as SATA, has been the way storage devices were attached to your rig for over a decade now. Making its debut in 2003, SATA offered a significant leap forward from the previous Parallel ATA (PATA)&nbsp;interface. The original SATA Revision 1.x offered speeds of 150MB/s and&nbsp;was designed for mechanical hard drives. SATA was later&nbsp;updated to SATA 3Gbps, which doubled the speed to 300MB/s, and subsequently to SATA 6Gbps, which again doubled the speed to 600MB/s. At the time, there were no consumer storage devices running anywhere&nbsp;near the fastest SATA speeds, providing headroom for storage speeds to grow. More recently though, SSDs caught up, easily exceeding SATA 6Gbps' speeds, putting the pressure on for even faster interfaces with the current data throughput saturated.</p><p><strong></strong></p><h4><strong>M.2</strong></h4><figure><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Patriot Ignite M2 uses the so-called “gumstick” form factor."><figcaption>The Patriot Ignite M2 uses the so-called “gumstick” form factor.</figcaption></figure><p>M.2 is the replacement to the mSATA standard, and it was designed to be more suitable for storage, with targeted use in mobile devices including tablets and Ultrabooks. The specification for M.2 is composed of four PCI Express lanes, and one SATA 6Gbps port, providing a maximum bandwidth of 4GB/s. While the M.2 spec is relevant here for its use in mobile SSDs, it also gets used in mobile devices for such applications as Wi-Fi cards, Bluetooth, and GPS modules.</p><p>The M.2 interface allows for a variety of package sizes, giving flexibility in design, and all in less space than a traditional hard drive. The maximum bandwidth for SATA based M.2 is still limited to SATA 6Gbps speeds, making it more suitable for notebooks, and less so for desktops. PCIe-based M.2 however can run at up to x4 Gen3 PCIe lanes, or 3980 MB/s (see below).</p><h4><strong>PCIe</strong><strong> SSD</strong></h4><figure><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plextor's PCI Express storage solution."><figcaption>Plextor's PCI Express storage solution.</figcaption></figure><p>In the quest for more bandwidth, SSDs have been repackaged for the PCI Express (PCIe) interface. PCIe was introduced in 2003, as a replacement for the older PCI interface. PCIe is most commonly used for GPUs, with their high bandwidth requirements. Current motherboards are based on the PCIe 3.0 standard, which provides for 8GT/s (GT/s refers to a Gigatransfer rate, which converts 8GT/s to approximately to 6.4Gb/s). The latest revision of PCIe is 4.0, and has data throughput rates of 16GT/s (about 12.8 Gb/s) with products expected in 2017. With this much bandwidth for data available, this should give some serious headroom for speeds on storage devices to grow substantially over the next few years.</p><p><strong></strong></p><h4><strong>NVMe</strong><strong></strong></h4><figure><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="NVMe drive."><figcaption>NVMe drive.</figcaption></figure><p>Non-volatile memory express (NVMe) is not a new interface, but rather a protocol, originally developed for enterprise, as a scalable host controller interface to optimize and standardize PCIe SSDs. Like many products that start out as “industrial strength,” NVMe is making the transition to the consumer market. The first retail&nbsp;NVMe consumer drive is the Samsung 950 Pro, and <a href="" target="_blank">in our testing</a> it was ridiculously fast, with read speeds over 2,000Mb/s and write speeds over 1,000Mb/s! With these kinds of speeds, especially considering that this is the first drive for consumers in this category, this promises a quantum leap in storage performance analogous to the jump that SSDs took over mechanical hard drives.</p><p>For PCIe drives with NVMe to work as boot devices, they need to be supported by the motherboard BIOS. The newer Z170 boards will all support this, with select older Z97 and X99 motherboards supporting NVMe as well. Technically, there's nothing stopping even older M.2 PCIe implementations from support NVMe, but the time and testing required to update the motherboard BIOS makes such support unlikely.</p><h4><strong>Onward</strong></h4><p>The storage system of the computer was quite stagnant for some time with reliance on mechanical hard drives&mdash;and little else. Even now, there is room to innovate with mechanical hard drives with ever larger capacities, and modest increases in their speeds. With the transition to SSDs for main system storage, there has been considerable increase in storage throughput. Now that the SATA 6Gbps throughput limit can be saturated by SSDs, it will require a transition to PCIe with NVMe to provide the needed headroom for SSDs to get even faster. Then there is Intel and Micron's promising&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">3D XPoint technology</a>, which hopes to leapfrog NAND altogether. While little is known about the technology at this point, the companies are saying that it could run up to 1,000 times faster than traditional SSDs&nbsp;&mdash;warp drives, anyone?</p> Verizon "FreeBee Data" Promises Free Content is testing a new service that pays for your media consumption on its networkWed, 20 Jan 2016 22:13:46 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Verizon FreeBee"></p><p>Following in the footsteps of AT&amp;T and T-Mobile, this week Verizon Wireless introduced <a href="" target="_blank">FreeBee Data</a>, a scheme that allows Verizon customers to consume content without having to use their precious data. It’s a “sponsored” data service, meaning content providers pay for whatever Verizon customers consume, whether it’s visiting an entire website or streaming a video.</p><p>FreeBee Data is provided via two models. The first, FreeBee 360, enables content providers to pay per gigabyte, allowing Verizon post-paid customers to access a number of services and content seemingly free of charge. A second FreeBee Data model allows the content provider to pay on a per-click basis, meaning they’ll pay for only streaming video, streaming audio, or app downloads the Verizon customer clicks on.</p><p>According to <a href="" target="_blank">the product page</a>, the per-click FreeBee Data plan allows for thirty seconds of paid video including movie trailers, product videos and ads, and brief video highlights. This plan also allows for thirty minutes of audio streaming such as podcasts, audiobooks, and music streaming. All content provided under this plan, including apps and websites, is designated with a bee logo (shown above), indicating that the media is basically “on the house” and won’t be charged against the consumer’s data cap.</p><p>“With FreeBee Data 360, you can sponsor some or all of the mobile content on your website or app so consumers will be able to access your content without impacting their data plans,” reads the product page. Seemingly, this would be used to pay for consumers accessing an entire website on the go, such as grabbing an online coupon while shopping in a retail store. Or to download the store’s app and shop online without having to use your data.</p><p>Colson Hillier, vice president, Consumer Products at Verizon, said that one in three Americans watch video on their smartphones, and another 100 million do the same on their tablets. That’s a lot of data, even more so when customers are out and about, away from their home Wi-Fi networks and streaming video and audio on their data plans. At the end of the month, that data usage can add up.</p><p>Verizon Wireless is offering the FreeBee Data 360 plan to content providers now. However, the per-click FreeBee Data plan doesn’t start until January 25, and that will only be offered as a beta trial until it goes commercial later this year. Content providers already signed up for the per-click plan include GAMEDAY, AOL, and Hearst Magazines, who will provide paid content to 1,000 test Verizon customers.</p><p>How will this plan play nice with net neutrality rules? Is it fair to content providers that can’t afford to pay for Verizon customers’ data habits? Some have suggested that Verizon’s new FreeBee Data plans make its mobile network an unfair playing field for content providers fighting for consumer attention and dollars.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Corsair Carbide 500R Case, Intel Core i5-6600, and More! the days of old, building a PC meant fighting with what was often a beige colored case with sharp edges and little in the way of conveniences. A build wasn't truly complete until you'd spilled a little blood and cursed the PC gods. Fortunately things are much improved now. Todays cases are much easier to build in than ever and they look nice to boot.Wed, 20 Jan 2016 20:07:23 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Corsair Carbide 500R"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>In the days of old, building a PC meant fighting with what was often a beige colored case with sharp edges and little in the way of conveniences. A build wasn't truly complete until you'd spilled a little blood and cursed the PC gods. Fortunately things are much improved now. Todays cases are much easier to build in than ever and they look nice to boot. Such is the case with today's top deal for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-case-N82E16811139010-_-0120&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Corsair Carbide Series 500R Arctic White Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Gaming Case</a> for <strong>$110</strong> with free shipping (normally $126 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFFN28</strong>]; additional $20 Mail-in rebate). More than just a good looking chassis, the 500R provides a few welcome cooling amenities, such as a multi-channel fan controller and large 200mm fan mounted on the side panel's mesh screen for extra GPU cooling.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-ssd-N82E16820226596-_-0120&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 2.5-inch 1TB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive</a> for <strong>$240</strong> with free shipping (normally $250 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFFN23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-memory-N82E16820231489-_-0120&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$60</strong> with free shipping (normally $70)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822236344-_-0120&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">WD Red 3TB NAS Desktop Hard Disk Drive - Intellipower SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch</a> for <strong>$100</strong> with free shipping (normally $110 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFFN22</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-CPU-N82E16819117562-_-0120&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Intel Core i5-6600 6M Skylake Quad-Core 3.3 GHz LGA 1151 65W Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 530</a> for <strong>$220</strong> with free shipping (normally $230 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFFN32</strong>])</p> AMD Narrows Loss in Q4, Looks Ahead to Polaris ended the year with a $102 million loss in Q4.Wed, 20 Jan 2016 19:52:27 +0000 <h3>A new year with new opportunities</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Headquarters"></p><p> AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su admitted that 2015 proved a "challenging" year from a financial standpoint, but found reasons to be optimistic for the company's future. One of those reasons is Polaris. We'll talk more about Polaris in a moment, but first a look at how AMD performed in Q4.</p><p>The Sunnyvale chip designer reported revenue of $958 million for the quarter, down 10 percent sequentially and 23-percent year-over-year. That led to an operating loss of $49 million and a net loss of $102 million, or $0.13 per share.</p><p> One of the positives for AMD is that its losses, while significant, are shrinking. In the same quarter a year ago, AMD posted a loss of $364 million, which it was able to reduce to $197 million in the third quarter of 2015. That's not exactly cause to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but at the pace AMD is going, it could be profitable by the end of the 2016.</p><p> "AMD closed 2015 with solid execution fueled by the second straight quarter of double-digit percentage revenue growth in our Computing and Graphics segment and record annual semi-custom unit shipments," <a href="" target="_blank">said Dr. Su</a>. "While 2015 was challenging from a financial perspective, key R&amp;D investments and a sharpened focus on innovation position us well to deliver great products, improved financial results and share gains in 2016."</p><p> AMD's loss in the fourth quarter might have dipped below $100 million if it hadn't been for a drop in game console royalties. That alone accounted for a 15 percent drop in revenue for the quarter, as AMD provides processors to all three major game consoles&mdash;Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.</p><p> Looking ahead, AMD is again betting big on graphics. Industry veteran Roja Koduri has been heading AMD's <a href="">recently formed</a> Radeon Technologies Group, which has already made noise by <a href="">ditching AMD's Catalyst Control Center</a> in favor of a new driver architecture called Radeon Software, the first release of which is called <a href="">Crimson Edition</a>.</p><p> On the hardware side of things, AMD has been previewing its forthcoming 14nm FinFET Polaris GPU architecture. The hype is high for Polaris with AMD claiming a two-fold bump in performance-per-watt. There will be two versions in 2016&mdash;one that's aimed at thin and light systems, which seems to be the primary focus, and another that will compete in the high-end segment with Nvidia. You can read more about <a href="">Polaris here</a>.</p><p> Investors aren't as optimistic. Since releasing its fourth quarter results, AMD's stock price has fallen nearly 8 percent to $1.79 per share (at the time of this writing).</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Windows 10 Adoption May Thwart Gloom and Doom PC Sales Predictions predicts that PC sales will increase by 4 percent in 2017 thanks in large part to businesses adopting Windows 10.Wed, 20 Jan 2016 18:17:18 +0000 10 <h3>The sky isn't falling</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Windows 10"></p><p> I don't envy market analysts. They're tasked with predicting the future, and no matter how much research goes into the matter, something inevitably screws things up -- an unexpected product release, fluctuations in the value of the dollar, a natural disaster, and the list goes on.</p><p> Despite the impossible mission, where I generally fault analysts is with their gloom and doom predictions, particularly in the PC sector. You know what I'm talking about&mdash;analysts tend to focus on a downturn in overall sales for a year while ignoring the fact that hundreds of millions of PCs continue to make their way into the market. Or worse yet, they <a href="">ignore an entire segment of PCs</a>.</p><p> Gartner's been guilty of this very thing, though not today. Rather than report on how fast the sky is falling, Gartner predicts that businesses will adopt Windows 10 at a faster rate than previous Windows upgrades, and in turn spur growth in the PC market. Well, eventually.</p><p> According to Gartner, worldwide shipments of desktops, notebooks, and ultramobile devices (x86 products like the Surface Pro and MacBook Air) tallied 290 million units in 2015. That number is expected to fall to 287 million in 2016, a 1 percent decline, before rallying 4 percent to 299 million in 2017. And in 2018, Gartner expects PC sales to rise another 13 million units to 312 million.</p><p> "Ultramobile premium devices are expected to drive the PC market forward with the move to Windows 10 and PCs built around Intel’s Skylake architecture," <a href="" target="_blank">said Ranjit Atwal</a>, research director at Gartner. "We expect that businesses will deploy Windows 10 faster than with previous Windows upgrades."</p><p> "Given the shorter testing and evaluation period, many businesses could start to migrate by the end of 2016," Mr. Atwal added. "By the end of 2017, many business are looking to move as much as 40 percent of their installed base onto new Windows 10 devices, mainly driven by the appeal [of] hybrid touch-screen 2-in-1 [devices]. This will be the catalyst for growth in the PC market in 2017."</p><p> The numbers probably won't line up exactly as Gartner laid out, though it will be interesting to see if the firm's Windows 10 prediction holds true. Gartner hasn't wavered in its expectation that Windows 10 will drive upgrades&mdash;<a href="">back in November</a> of last year, the outfit predicted that implementation in the enterprise "will be significantly more rapid than that seen with Windows 7 six years ago." At the the time, Gartner predicted that half of all enterprises will have upgraded to Windows 10 or at least begun deploying the OS by January 2017. All we can do now is wait and see.<br> <strong> </strong></p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Microsoft Readies Voluntary Recall for Overheating Surface Pro Power Cords will reportedly announce a recall on its Surface Pro power cords this Friday.Wed, 20 Jan 2016 17:38:56 +0000 pro <h3>Too hot to handle</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Surface Pro 3"></p><p> If you purchased a Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro 3 model before March 2015, be aware that you might have a faulty power cord. Microsoft is expected to announce a voluntary recall this Friday with an offer to replace affected power cords for free.</p><p> News of the recall was first reported by <em><a href="" target="_blank">Channelnomics Europe</a></em>, which provided some early information on the matter. Those details have yet to be made official by Microsoft, though in the meantime, <em>ZDNet</em> says it was able to confirm with a Microsoft spokesperson that a recall is imminent and that it has to do with overheating power cords.</p><p> "As a result of damage caused by AC power cords being wound too tightly, twisted or pinched over an extended period of time, a very small proportion of Surface Pro customers have reported issues with their AC power cord. We will be releasing details of how customers can obtain a free replacement cable shortly," the spokesperson <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>ZDNet</em></a>.</p><p> There's a bit of confusion as to which purchases might be affected. <em>Channelnomics Europe</em> reports that Microsoft will replace power cords for affected models sold before July 15, 2015, though that might apply to systems sold in Europe.&nbsp;<em>ZDNet</em> claims it was told the recall will apply to models sold before March 2015, in the U.S.</p><p> In any event, if you own a potentially affected model, stay tuned for an update on Friday. Until then, keep an eye on your power cord, or stop using it altogether if that's an option.</p><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Technolust: Music to My Ears Alex Campbell wants to shake some air with these audio toolsWed, 20 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000 playerTechnolust <h3>Tools for shaking the air</h3><p>Everyone has a hobby. A healthy pursuit of a hobby can enrich one's life and help give purpose to the time off we get. For some (and most of our readers), building and tinkering with PCs and electronics is a hobby. Like some other hobbies (like skiing), building PCs can become really expensive really quickly. The same goes for music.</p><p>My Technolust this week speaks to that love of vibrating air in creative and pleasing ways, so let's get to it.</p><h4>Yamaha SV-150 Electric Violin</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Yamaha SV-150" style="display: block; margin: auto;" class=""></p><p>When I was in the fourth grade, every student at my elementary&nbsp;school had to choose between learning to play the violin, or sing in choir. As a kid, I wasn't comfortable in front of people, and I thought that singing was just too much. I chose to learn to play violin. I kept playing the violin all the way through high school. I didn't get very good at it, but I did enjoy playing with the orchestra, especially when we had wind instruments and percussion practice with us.</p><p>It's hard to list a decidedly acoustic instrument as a technological want, but then I remembered that electric violins exist. This fine&nbsp;instrument,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Yamaha's SV-150</a>, would be at the top of my list if I were to purchase an electric violin.</p><p>When it comes to violins (and most other music instruments), it's easy to part with a significant chunk of change well before you get into the realm of "maximum" quality. The SV-150 isn't the most expensive model in Yamaha's "Silent Violin" line, but it has features that someone wanting to rediscover an instrument would want.</p><p>First off, the whole model line of violins is silent. If you've ever had to listen to someone learning to play, you have an idea of just how amazing this feature is. Being able to hear myself without the embarrassment of knowing other people are suffering through the noise as my fingers stumble along the fingerboard is reason enough to own this instrument.</p><p>But wait, there's more.</p><p>In addition to having a standard 1/8-inch (3.5mm) jack, the violin also has a digital metronome, built-in tuner, and an&nbsp;SD card reader. The SD card reader allows you to play back music tracks into your headphones, and mix that sound with the output from the pickups.&nbsp;That's no trivial feature, as it is often much easier to practice if you know what the rest of the orchestra is playing. This especially rings true when you're playing the for the second violin section, which only rarely plays the melody.</p><p>With an MSRP of $1,600, the SV-150 is definitely an instrument to lust after, especially if you're looking to learn or rediscover the violin.</p><h5>What would the SV-150 offer me that I don't have now?</h5><p>I lost my violin some time ago due to a storage unit, a military deployment, and a friend's divorce.&nbsp;It's a long story. The end result is that an instrument that I owned for over a decade is gone. I've&nbsp;longed&nbsp;to replace it ever since it was lost.</p><p>I've always favored string instruments over the others, and learning to play again has been on my bucket list for a while. With this instrument, my fiancée&nbsp;and roommate wouldn't have to suffer though the learning process.</p><h4>Pioneer CDJ-2000MK2</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="CDJ-2000nexus angle 800pix" style="display: block; margin: auto; background-color: initial;" class="">Despite what some people say, spinning music as a DJ is its own art form, though highly distinct from performing music on an acoustic instrument. I first began DJing back in 2010 as a hobby, and I was hooked. The hobby is extremely expensive, especially when it comes to players and mixers. And if there's one CD player a DJ aspires to have, it's the Pioneer CDJ-2000.</p><p>This model, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">CDJ-2000 Nexus</a> costs a pretty penny with an MSRP of $2,000. Each. Remember that to spin a set, you'll need at least two players, so getting a pair of these will set you back $4,000. Yeowch.</p><p>To be fair, you get a lot with the CDJ-2000 Nexus.&nbsp;You can play music from CDs, DVDs, USB, and SD cards. On top of that, you can use the thing as a physical interface for music performance&nbsp;programs like those offered by Ableton or Serato.</p><p>The CDJ-2000 Nexus has an&nbsp;onboard&nbsp;sound card as well, so if you're using the&nbsp;device to control DJ software, you don't need to fall back on your laptop's built-in sound card. You can output that audio to good old RCA, digital output at 24-bit 96kHz, or USB, depending on need. Basically, this player can do do just about anything you need it to. Want to go "old school" and use the player by itself? Fine. Want to use it with a laptop? Great. Want to use it as a MIDI controller to control a light show? Go for it, if you're feeling froggy.</p><p>When used as a standalone player, the CDJ-2000 is a very capable platform. It displays ID3 tags and titles for current tracks, as well as the waveform for the track being played. That's really handy if you want a visual cue for a sound effect or beat drop. The player also has a beats per minute (BPM) counter and supports setting a master tempo, which will attempt to detect tracks' BPM and match them to the tempo you set. This makes controlling pitch a cinch.&nbsp;The player also has an array of loop controls, including the ability to create loops of 10 minutes or longer.</p><p>When it's all said and done, you can't get much better DJ gear than the CDJ-2000. In many ways, I consider it to be the CDJ equivalent of the legendary&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Technics SL-1200 series</a>.&nbsp;</p><h5>What does the CDJ-2000 Nexus offer me that I don't have now?</h5><p>My first DJ setup was a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Numark Mixdeck</a> that I bought back in 2010. The power supply (or some other part) has since failed, preventing the deck from powering on. As great of a beginner piece of equipment the Mixdeck was, I'd like to have better gear if I were to get back into DJing. (Even if it's at the risk of becoming an antagonist on <em>Portlandia</em>.)</p><iframe src="" scrolling="no" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="288" width="512"></iframe><h4>Sennheiser HD8 DJ Headphones</h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="HD8-DJ sennheiser" style="display: block; margin: auto;" class=""></p><p>We review a bunch of gaming headsets here at Maximum PC, and editor-in-chief Tuan Nguyen&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">tried on a pair of $55,000 Sennheisers at CES</a>. DJ headphones tend to sit in the space between consumer street and gaming headsets and expensive audiophile cans. And in this space, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Sennheiser HD8 DJ</a> is one&nbsp;of the best pairs of DJ-oriented aural&nbsp;air vibrators&nbsp;you can get.&nbsp;This headset comes with the standard set of DJ-friendly features: ear cups that swivel around for any wearing position, removable (and&nbsp;replaceable)&nbsp;cables, good isolation, and high levels of comfort and&nbsp;durability.</p><p>If you've never actually played the role of DJ, seeing DJ headphones that swivel so that only one ear is covered can seem like some sort of funny stereotype. Don't be misled: this serves a legitimate function. By covering only one ear, the DJ can hear what's actually coming out of the speakers as opposed to what she's listening to in the mix. This allows her to beatmatch, match pitch and time fades. While you can do this in-headphone, comparing the single-ear-cup is a better reality check of how things sound.</p><p>Since this is such a key feature, a headset that allows a lot of swivel and has a sturdy swivel assembly is crucial. The metal pivot rings on the HD8 allows for up to 210 degrees of pivot.&nbsp;That's&nbsp;a lot of freedom to put the&nbsp;cups and headband where you want them.</p><p>Removable cables are a big&nbsp;plus&nbsp;for any expensive headset, whether you're a gamer, DJ, or audiophile.&nbsp;Removable cables means&nbsp;replaceable&nbsp;cables, and will save you money since you don't have to buy a whole new headset if a cable is broken or frayed. This headset comes with two cables, a straight one and coiled one. Both cables have 1/8-inch (3.5mm) jacks, though the headset also comes with a 1/4-inch (6.35mm) adapter.</p><p>Removable cables can save your headset from crashing to the floor if you (or someone else) trip over your headphone cable. (This happens a lot.) If the cable is removable, it can be yanked out, and you'll just be mad, not sad that you've broken a pair of expensive ear cans. Some of this can also be mitigated by a solid build, which the HD8 has with metal construction.</p><h5>What does the HD8 offer me that I don't have now?</h5><p>While I love them to death,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">my trusty AKG K-181 headset</a> is starting to show its&nbsp;age. The Sennheiser HD8 represents a great upgrade that's a little out of my price range at about $300 street.</p><p>I'd love to get back into spinning tracks now and then, and CD players are only part of that equation. Even if I didn't have any speakers, having a good pair of headphones made with DJs in mind is one of the minimum requirements.</p><p>Is there anything you'd love to have to help you shake the air around you? Let us know.</p> Newegg Daily Deals: Fractal Design Define R5 Case, Toshiba 1TB HDD, and More! a PC is pretty easy, it's when you start aiming for specific traits that things can get a little challenging. For example, have you ever built a quiet PC? It takes a bit of research, the right parts, and of course a case that muffles sound is helpful too.Tue, 19 Jan 2016 20:23:02 +0000 dealsNeweggNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fractal Design R5"></p><p><strong>Top Deal:</strong></p><p>Building a PC is pretty easy, it's when you start aiming for specific traits that things can get a little challenging. For example, have you ever built a quiet PC? It takes a bit of research, the right parts, and of course a case that muffles sound is helpful too. That's the type of thing you can do with today's top deal -- it's for a <a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-Case-N82E16811352048-_-0119&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Fractal Design Define R5 FD-CA-DEF-R5-BK Black Computer Case</a> for <strong>$80</strong> with free shipping (normally $110). It's equipped with sound dampening material to quiet fans to keep noise at a minimum.</p><p><strong>Other Deals:</strong></p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-INT-HDD-N82E16822149382-_-0119&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">Toshiba 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive</a> for <strong>$40</strong> with free shipping (normally $50 - use coupon code: [<strong>ESCEFFM26</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-GPU-N82E16814127860-_-0119&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">MSI GeForce GTX 960 DirectX 12 GTX 960 GAMING 4G 4GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support ATX Video Card</a> for <strong>$230</strong> with free shipping (normally $242; additional $20 Mail-in rebate)</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-EXT-HDD-N82E16822145923-_-0119&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">HGST 1TB Ultra-Portable Drive USB 3.0</a> for <strong>$50</strong> with free shipping (normally $60 - use coupon code: [<strong>EMCEFFM23</strong>])</p><p><a href=";cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-DailyDeals-_-MEMORY-N82E16820231314-_-0119&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner&amp;AID=5555555" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory</a> for <strong>$30</strong> with free shipping (normally $36)</p> Fractal Design's Nano S Case Brings Quiet Computing to Little Builds Design announces the Nano S, a mini ITX case that supports full size graphics cards.Tue, 19 Jan 2016 20:00:53 +0000 designNews <h3>Silent but deadly</h3><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fractal Design Nano S"></p><p> Fractal Design says its new <a href="" target="_blank">Nano S</a> offers a unique combination of size (it's a compact enclosure for mini ITX builds), noise (it has several sound dampening qualities), and potential power (you can fit some full size components inside).</p><p> The case measures just 275mm (W) by 485mm (H) by 420mm (D) and weighs 4.6 kilograms, or 10.82 inches (W) by 19.09 inches (H) by 16.53 inches (D) and 10.14 pounds. It has about half the volume of a standard ATX form factor case, Fractal Design says.</p><p> Fractal Design's goal was to create a quiet case that offers "enthusiast-level builds" in a mini ITX footprint. To that end, it supports up to four storage drives, including a pair of dedicated 2.5-inch mounting points and two more that each support both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drive installations.</p><p> Graphics cards up to 315mm (12.4 inches) in length can fit inside. To put that into perspective, a reference GeForce GTX Titan X measures 10.5 inches long. This would also be a good time to remind anyone reading that AMD recently <a href="" target="_blank">slashed the price</a> of its Radeon R9 Nano to $499.</p><p> You can also fit a standard ATX power supply up to 160mm/6.3 inches deep and CPU cooler up to 160mm/6.3 inches high.</p><p> The Nano S sports half a design fan positions and comes with two fans, a 140mm and a 120mm. Filtered fan slots in the front and bottom eject from the front of the case to keep those dust bunnies from raising an army.</p><p> You can also opt to liquid cool -- the case can hold up to a 280mm radiator up front, up to 240mm up top, and up to a 120mm radiator on the bottom.</p><p> As for the quiet computing claim, Fractal Design decked out its Nano S with sound dampening material on both side panels, or just one if opting for the version with a side window.</p><p> You should be able to order the Nano S soon for $65 MSRP, or $70 with side Window.</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="620"> </iframe><p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> November 2014: Ultimate Minecraft Mods Minecraft ModsTue, 19 Jan 2016 19:46:04 +0000 2014PDF Archives <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mpc112014"></p><p>In the PDF archive of the <a href="" target="_blank">November 2014</a> issue, you can find:&nbsp;</p><ul> <li>Ultimate Minecraft Mods</li><li>Intel's new Haswell-E CPU</li><li>Coding Raspberry Pi</li><li>Build It: Pentium K budget gaming rig</li></ul> September 2014: Dream Machine 2014 PDF issue archive: Dream Machine!Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:11:50 +0000 ArchivesSeptember 2014 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dm2014"></p><p>In the PDF archive of the <a href="" target="_blank">September 2014</a> issue, you can find:</p><ul> <li>Dream Machine!</li><li>High-End Gaming Mouse Roundup</li><li>How to Calibrate Your Monitor&nbsp;</li><li>Build It: A small Devil's Canyon rig</li></ul>