With 64-player maps, exquisite textures, amazing physics, and tessellation that consoles can only dream of, PC gaming is undergoing a renaissance.
Wasn’t it just four years ago that the pundits and game media gathered in wake, made a few pithy quips about graphics and soundcard drivers, and poured their 40‑ouncers over the grave of PC gaming? Well guess what, baby—PC gaming ain’t dead by a long shot. In fact, there’s a strong argument that PC gaming is not only alive and well, it’s thriving and poised to dominate consoles.
Don’t believe us? Battlefield 3, one of the most anticipated launches of the year, only offers 64-player goodness to those on the PC, and tweaks the frak out of PC-only graphics that make game consoles look like peddlers of VGA output in a 1080p world. Smash a window in Batman: Arkham City on a PC with PhysX support, and you’re rewarded with glass particles flying everywhere—just as if you threw a thug through a plate glass window in real life. Do that on a console, and you’re rewarded with a pathetic tinkle.
Let’s not even talk about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which has enhanced textures and graphics on the PC that its developer, Bethesda, says will “melt your face.” And hell, we haven’t even gotten to the PC-only titles of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dota 2, and Diablo III, or the free-to-play phenomenon and MMOs.
So are we seeing a resurgence of PC gaming, or are we just fooling ourselves? To find out, read our report on whether “real” gaming has returned. Then read our reviews of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City, two of the latest games to celebrate what PCs uniquely offer; and finally, take a gander at our list of the 10 best free PC games online. If we are fooling ourselves about a PC gaming comeback, we’re having a kick-ass time of it.
To say that Batman: Arkham City is the best licensed game of all time is like saying Oreos are the best chocolate-and-cream sandwich cookies; sure, it's praise, but it's meaningless praise given the competition. A more impressive feat is that outside of the comics and graphic novels, Batman: Arkham City is the single best representation of the Batman property ever created.
Skyrim is torn by civil war: A weakened Empire struggles to retain control of the province, while rebel Nords vie for self-determination. Dragons have returned after centuries, and nobody knows why. Undead infest the crypts, cairns, and barrows, and more dangerous things haunt deep Dwarven ruins. Elsewhere, ordinary people are living their lives. Guilds struggle to reclaim past glory, shopkeepers try to scrape by, lovers quarrel, and everyone could use your help. Time to make your mark on the world.
Let’s be frank: If you’re even thinking about buying into Intel’s deliciously fast LGA2011 platform this early, you are an enthusiast—Enthusiast with a capital-freaking-E, since you can’t even look at LGA2011 without buying a $550 chip.
So if you’re jumping in, you might as well use both feet. Asus’s P9X79 Deluxe certainly fits that bill, delivering cool features and a stout price tag: This X79-based board will set you back a cool $400.
“Deluxe” features on board include digital VRMs, Asus’s trademark UEFI, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with a bundled smartphone app that enables you to remotely overclock and monitor your system. This board also has an all-new feature that lets you use a particular USB port to update its BIOS without a processor installed.
For a company whose primary business is manufacturing hard drives, Western Digital sure knows a lot about digital media and how to stream it over a network. Each succeeding generation of the company’s WD TV Live product has led the market in terms of features, price, and performance, and this one is no different.
Craving a spot at the commercial online media buffet, but not at all interested in ripping your own media? Netgear has just the right dish. The NeoTV taps your broadband connection to serve up Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, YouTube, Picasa, and plenty of other online services; but it can’t tap media stored on your own network, and it doesn’t have any USB ports to access local storage.
There is a creature in Greek mythology known as the Chimera. The Chimera was an unholy patchwork of a beast, a combination of lion, snake, and goat. Battlefield 3 is the software equivalent of a Chimera—a beast of a game stitched together from disparate parts.
So, is the Chimera that is Battlefield 3 held back by its worthless goat element and its sneaky snake components?
It’s been about 10 years since multicore processors burst on the scene, and we’re now seeing several innovative variations. At first, chip designers simply replicated CPU cores, filling their silicon with copies of the same brain. Now they are exploring alternatives—and these variations will change the way we benchmark performance and compare processors.
Lenovo also brings its A-game to the Ultrabook party. And well it should, since it’s asking almost $1,500 for the IdeaPad U300s. That’s premium, business-ultraportable price territory. It’s therefore apropos that the U300s has the most businessy aesthetic, although not at the sake of sleek design. Like the Asus UX31E and the MacBook Air, the U300s is crafted from a single-sheet of aluminum. It eschews the wedge form factor established by Apple and instead uniquely mimics the lines of a hardbound book, with the top and bottom edges protruding slightly all the way around the perimeter, the way a book’s covers protrude past the pages. It makes for a distinct and pleasing silhouette.
With the Asus UX31E, all the fuss about Ultrabooks starts to make sense. Its all-metal chassis, cut from a single sheet of aluminum, is undeniably handsome. And while this attractive metal wedge that’s just .71 inches at its thickest brings to mind the fine craftsmanship of a MacBook Air, it’s by no means a knockoff. The UX31E possesses a unique character that’s admirable in its own right. And at $1,050, it’s $250 less than its similarly spec’d Apple counterpart.