Around this time last month, Valve officially opened up its Steam platform to the Mac community, and in doing so helped chip away at the argument that Macs suck for gaming. What they also did was reveal some interesting statistics about the machines their users are running.
As Steampowered forum member and Mac user "90rmbrown" points out, "facts are facts," and according to the latest Steam Hardware Survey, the average Steam gamer running an Apple computer has a beefier system than those running a Windows-based PC, at least in some areas. Mac users, for example, have more RAM (4GB vs 2GB) on average, while half of those running a Mac have an Internet connection of 2Mbps or higher, compared to 28 percent of PC users. Mac users are also more likely to have a dual-core processor running at 2.3GHz to 2.69GHz, or higher.
Before you whip out the pitchforks and light the torches, there are some things to note here. The sample size of Mac users is significantly smaller than that of PC users, so the hardware breakdown is dubious at best. And where it really counts for gaming -- in the graphics department -- PC gamers have more video RAM, and probably beefier videocards as well.
So what can we take from all this? As Sean Portnoy at ZDNet writes, PC gamers are still getting by with older hardware, while the early influx of Mac users with refreshed hardware could benefit from better graphics. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say -- we'll still take a PC over a Mac any day, especially when it comes to gaming.
What hardware are you running? Hit the jump and post your specs.
You may not be able to name every bone in your own body or all 50 states, but we're willing to bet you're intimately acquainted with each and every component of your bleeding-edge rig. What about other PC gamers, though? How do their PCs stack up? Fortunately for you, Valve's decided to douse that burning question with its latest Steam hardware survey.
First off, Nvidia's still the preferred GPU manufacturer overall at 61%, but Radeon's HD 4800 has sprinted to the head of the pack as the single most popular graphics card. Previously, Nvidia's GeForce 8800 wore that crown.
Meanwhile, the number of users embracing newer tech like Quad Core continues to increase, with 25% of users rocking four CPUs. Fittingly enough, then, Windows XP – tried and true, yes, but also a bit on the old and moldy side -- is looking about ready to give up the ghost. Once the most popular OS, it now sits at a mere 33% – a sharp decline from January's 45%. Windows 7, previously in close second, now takes first with 35%.
Also of note: Mac users – who finally hopped aboard the Steam engine in March – account for 8% of overall users. Which is a great start, obviously, but we're wondering how many of them only showed up for the free cake.
And that's only the tip of the iceberg. If you're some kind of strange PC voyeur, put down those binoculars and click on that link. Valve's survey is ridiculously comprehensive, and well worth a look if you're into that sort of thing.
We don't remember there ever being a healthy heart logo plastered on the side of our Atari 2600 consoles growing up, but had there been, perhaps we logged a lot more time playing Adventure, Pitfall, and Pac-Man. Maybe we can make up for lost time because hey, there's something to be said about playing videogames in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
Don't believe us? Just ask the American Heart Association, which has teamed up with Nintendo to promote healthy living through active-play videogames, as the organization explains it. No need to twist our arms, we're all in.
"Our two organizations come from different worlds, but we share a common goal," said Clyde Yancy, M.D., president of the American Heart Association. "Showing people accessible ways to stay active has been a part of our mission for decades, but our research tells us nearly 70 percent of Americans are getting no regular physical activity. As an organization we are looking for ways to change this. Nintendo has demonstrated clear leadership in active-play video games with the popularity of the Wii system, and I’m confident that together we can encourage Americans to become more physically active."
As part of this totally awesome campaign, consumers will see the American Heart Association brand on boxes for the Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort titles for the Wii starting this summer. And what better way to stay healthy during summer break than to toss a virtual Frisbee or wakeboarding from your recliner?
Bigfoot Networks, makers of the original Killer NIC (see our review in the Holiday 2006/2007 issue, page 70) is back again with a new product and more big promises. According to Bigfoot Networks, the new Killer 2100 is the world's fastest online gaming network card, which isn't hard to believe considering the extremely niche market it's competing in.
"Killer 2100 is the fastest network card available for online games, period," said Michael Howse, CEO, Bigfoot Networks. "From its completely redesigned user interface and race-inspired outer casing to its high-performance Game Networking DNA software, everything about Killer 2100 screams speed and maximum performance."
Like the original, the Killer 2100 comes with a dedicated 400MHz network processor, but this time around Bigfoot doubled up on the onboard memory to 128MB of DDR2 RAM and the card now plugs into a PCI-E x1 slot. If you're new to Bigfoot's aftermarket NICs, the Killer cards work their mojo by using their own optimized network stack instead of the one built into Windows, and according to Bigfoot, you can expect up to 10x lower latencies versus an onboard NIC.
Reviews of the original have been mixed, with our own evaluation noting an "imperceptible ping reduction," though frame rates did go up anywhere from 3 to 10 percent when using the Killer NIC for online gaming. We've yet to test the new Killer 2100, so we'll reserve judgment until we do.
Bigfoot says the new card is "coming soon" with an MSRP set at $129.
When we think of high end gaming machines, Intel's Xeon processors aren't the first chips that come to mind, but that doesn't mean we'd turn our noses up at a monster setup with not one, but two six-core Xeon 5600 chips. That's exactly what AVADirect delivers in its new custom hybrid gaming system / workstation setup built for both work and play.
If you don't need quite that level of performance, you can drop down to a mere quad-core Xeon chip, but where's the fun in that? As with most boutique system builders, you can choose from a wide variety of components, including up to 48GB of DDR3 memory, up to FOUR freaking graphics, oodles of SSD and HDD options configurable in a RAID array, and just about everything else you can imagine. For a fee, AVADirect will go the extra mile however little or much you wish, including GPU overclocking, sound dampening your setup, slapping on a custom paint job, and spiral wrapping or looming custom colored cables.
All of these hardware options come jammed into an EVGA SR2 motherboard with support for SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0, and the whole thing is shoved into a Lian Li Armorsuit PC-P80 tower chassis, which are about the only two components that can't be swapped.
You can't check out of a Best Buy or other retail electronics chain without a sales associate pushing for an extended warranty. Even Toys R Us will try to up sell you on additional coverage, but if Sony has its way, you'll go through them for longer warranties when shopping a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable (PSP) console.
It appears Sony suddenly wants to cash in on all the the third-party extended warranties being sold at the retail level, and perhaps cut into those offered by services like SquareTrade. Helping to do that, Sony will offer additional accidental damage coverage, so should you fall down a flight of stairs and land on your PS3 to soften your blow, you're covered.
Of course it's all going to come down to pricing, and Sony's is fairly competitive. For a barebones extension, Sony will charge $50 to bump up warranty service on its PS3 console from one year to two years, or $60 for three years of coverage. The PSP console will run $30 for two years or $40 for three years. And the accidental damage insurance? That's another $40.
What do you think about Sony's pricing? Do you usually buy an extended warranty when purchasing electronics? Hit the jump and sound off.
Boutique system vendor Maingear is hoping to capitalize on AMD's low-priced 6-core Phenom II X6 processor line by releasing a pair of modestly priced gaming PCs built around the new platform. It's called the VYBE Limited Edition and it comes in two baseline configurations.
The first one sells for $999 and comes built around AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T processor, the lesser of AMD's two chips. Maingear couples the CPU with AMD's new 890GX chipset, which boasts support for SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0. Other features include a Radeon HD 5670 videocard, 4GB of DDR3-1333 memory, 640GB hard drive, DVD burner, 500W power supply, and Windows 7 Home Premium.
For $300 more, Maingear bumps the processor up to a 1090T (3.2GHz). Other upgrades include a Radeon HD 5830 videocard and 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory, otherwise the specs remain the same.
Would a sleeker look courtesy of an all-black makeover be enough to get you to consider buying a Wii? Nintendo is hoping it will, and according to the latest rumblings, the Wii is putting on its tuxedo and heading for North American shores.
Apparently the Wii hasn't been selling as well as Nintendo's bean counters would like, and according to news and rumor site Fudzilla, the console maker is hoping that the new black version will spark a bunch of sales. The black Wii bundle will still cost $200 and will come with Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and the Wii Motion Plus. With Wii Resort and the Motion Plus thrown in, that's not a bad deal, but if a black console doesn't match your decor, don't fret -- the bundle will also be available in white.
In addition to the new digs, new life has recently been breathed into the Wii with recent availability of Netflix streaming, the last of the Big Three consoles to jump on that bandwagon. Netflix subscribers need only request a disc, which must be inserted into the Wii when watching streaming content.
Look for the new bundle to arrive on store shelves on May 4, 2010.
We first heard about MSI's GE600 gaming notebook at CES earlier this year, and at long last, MSI has begun shipping the 16-inch laptop to the North American market.
Not much has changed since our sneak peek several months ago, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The GE600 sports a respectable spec sheet consisting of an Intel Core i5 420M processor (2.26GHz), 4GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 videocard with DX11 support, a DVD burner, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 4-in-1 memory card reader, 1.3MP webcam, 6-cell battery, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
MSI's new notebook also features a scratch resistant chassis, illuminated touch sensitive hotkeys, a raised chiclet keyboard, wide touchpad, and a glossy exterior we imagine will act as a fingerprint magnet.
How much gaming goodness can you cram into a 15-inch chassis? That's what Maingear set to find out and the end result is the relaunched eX-L 15 gaming notebook.
Driving the Full HD 1920x1080 LED display is ATI's Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics adapter, the fastest mobile graphics chipset on the planet. The baseline configuration also includes an Intel Core i5 520M processor clocked at 2.4GHz, 4GB of DDR3-1333, 250GB Western Digital hard drive, memory card reader, 8X DVD burner, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, a 2MP webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
As configured above you'd be spending $1,600. If your pockets run deeper there are several upgrade options available, including up to a Core i7 820QM processor clocked at 1.73GHz, 8GB of RAM, up to a 750GB hard drive or 512GB SSD, Blu-Ray, and a handful of other upgrades.
Other features include a 30-day zero dead pixel warranty, DVI, HDMI, and S/PDIF ports, 4 USB ports, eSATA, Firewire, and a dual-heatpipe cooling design.