Reviews http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/40/ en AMD Radeon R9 290 Benchmarks http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290_benchmarks <!--paging_filter--><h3>AMD's Radeon R9 290: A Mid-range Monster</h3> <p><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u302/amdrad_r9_290_flatangle_rgb_24in_small.png" alt="Radeon R9 290" title="Radeon R9 290" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />Today <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/amd">AMD</a> is launching the <strong>Radeon R9 290</strong>, which is the second card in its all-new Hawaii series of GPUs designed to take on <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/nvidia">Nvidia's</a> GK110-based super GPUs. This particular card is extremely similar to its big brother, the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290x_benchmarks">R9 290X</a>, but has slightly lower clock speeds and fewer stream processors, allowing it to come in at a slightly lower price point of <strong>$400</strong>. Though it was originally designed to take on the formerly $400 GTX 770, AMD is now positioning it to compete with the GTX 780 due to Nvidia's recent price drops on both cards to $500 and $329, respectively. Read on to see how it handles the heat, both literally and figuratively.</p> <h3>Little Hawaii</h3> <p>As the second, lower-priced Hawaii board you might assume this card has been neutered more than a made-for-TV version of The Big Lebowski, but you would be wrong. Thankfully, AMD has left almost everything from the R9 290X intact, choosing to only reduce its texture units from 176 to 160, its Stream Processors from 2,816 to 2,560, and its maximum clock speed from 1,000MHz to 947MHz. It still has the same 4GB of memory, the same 512-bit memory bus, and is otherwise the exact same GPU. It also has the same PowerTune hardware and software that lets you dictate maximum fan speeds and core temps. Before we jump in, let's take a look at the specs for the Hawaii cards along with their Nvidia counterparts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/specs_take_2_0.jpg" alt="Radeon Specs" title="Radeon Specs" width="462" height="472" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>*We are putting an asterick next to the AMD cards' TDP because it's not a quoted spec but "standard board power."</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As the spec chart shows, this card is almost exactly the same as the R9 290X, just like the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_780_benchmarks">GTX 780</a> and <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013">GTX Titan</a> in that you have two cards with the same die but one is a bit less powerful. The two cards are the same physical size at 11 inches, both require a six-pin and an eight-pin power connector, and both cards draw a bit over 300 watts too. AMD listed the TDP for the 290X as 250w, but it hedged that answer and never gave it as an official number, but rather an estimate. It didn't reply to our emails asking for the TDP of the R9 290, so we'll just put 250w there with an asterick.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><img src="/files/u302/amdrad_r9_290_flatangle_rgb_24in_small_1.png" alt="R9 290" title="R9 290" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The R9 290 is exactly the same size as the R9 290X at 11 inches, and it also features the same 250w-ish TDP. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">PowerTune, TrueAudio, and XDMA</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Like it's larger, more-powerful sibling, the R9 290 comes with all the baked in features that define the top-tier of this generation of GPUs, namely revamped PowerTune controls, TrueAudio technology, and XDNA Crossfire. TrueAudio and XDMA Crossfire are exclusive to the R9 290/X series of cards, though the current iteration of PowerTune is found on all Rx based cards, and TrueAudio is also found on the $140 R7 260X board.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/powertune_1.jpg" alt="PowerTune" title="PowerTune" width="600" height="701" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The new PowerTune controls let you set maximum limits for fan speeds and temperature. We preferred the sliders though, as we found that moving the reticle in the map caused unpredictable results. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Briefly, AMD has changed the PowerTune interface found in the Catalyst Control Center to give you an easier way to control clock, memory, and fan speeds. It also now has a slider that lets you dictate the maximum fan speed and maximum temperature, just like Nvidia is doing with its GPU Boost 2.0 technology found in its 700-series GPUs. You can tell the software to force the card to run at 90C, for example, and it'll throttle the clock speeds in order to maintain those temperatures. Additionally, if you're sensitive to acoustics, you can also set a limit on the fan speed while letting the other settings run at maximum value as well. It's also provided a "2-dimensional heat map" which we found confusing. We also found in testing that moving some of the sliders too far would cause the entire system to hard lock and then experience trouble rebooting, so tread carefully here.<strong> By default the fan on the R9 290 runs at a maximum speed of 47%</strong>.<strong><br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>TrueAudio</strong> is also found on the R9 290, and whether or not it'll make a big difference in the life of an average gamer remains to be seen as no games that use it have been released yet. Gordon wrote an extremely in-depth article about it however, so <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/everything_you_wanted_know_about_amd%E2%80%99s_new_trueaudio_technology_2013">head on over</a> to it and you'll have all your questions answered.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Finally, <strong>XDMA </strong>is a new technology appearing for the first time in the Radeon R9 290 series of cards. It eschews the ribbon cable we've grown so un-fond of over all these years and instead uses hardware built into the GPUs and also lets the cards communicate over the PCI-Express bus. Though AMD had seemingly wrangled its frame pacing issues with its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_delivers_frame_pacing_fix_driver_update135">recent fix</a>, it's software-based and still available for R9 280X cards and lower. For the R9 290 series though, those changes are built into the drivers and handled through XDMA. The previous GPUs based on Tahiti and lower will still have to use the ribbon cable as there's no exclusive hardware built into the GPUs to handle that transaction, but this is not surprising. It is also reasonable to assume that going forward all new GPUs will use XDMA.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The main reason for XDMA is to handle the increased traffic resulting from the proliferation of multiple displays as well as 4k panels. If AMD continued using the old ribbon cable there simply wouldn't be enough bandwidth to drive the displays at 60Hz, so XDMA was both a necessity to prepare for the future as well as a great way to allow for smoother CrossFire at super-high resolutions. AMD claims there is no performance penalty at all to this configuration, but unfortunatley there's not really any way to run Apples to Apples testing since the Crossfire connectors are removed on the cards (though the electrical contacts are still intact). We also don't have a second R9 290X or R9 290 card to test Crossfire currently, but we hope to get a second card in soon.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/xdma.jpg" alt="XDMA" title="XDMA" width="650" height="362" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Only the R9 and R9 290X get the built-in XDMA engine for CrossFire over the PCIe bus. Hopefully it'll come to all of AMD's new cards in the future.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Hit the next page for what really matters - benchmarks, power, heat, and overclocking, and our final thoughts.</em></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;"> <hr /></h3> <h3 style="text-align: left;">Testing the R9 290</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Testing the R9 290 was a straight-forward affair as we had already tested the R9 290X, and this new card doesn't have any new features though it does have one semi-notable feature removed, which is the Uber and Quiet modes. The physical switch is still there on the edge of the PCB, and it still lets you toggle between two BIOSes, but it has no effect on fan speed. On the R9 290X the switch would adjust the maximum fan speed from 40 percent in Quiet mode to 55 percent in Uber mode. The R9 290 still has dual BIOSes, and one is write-protected while the other isn't.&nbsp; Otherwise there's nothing new that needs testing on this card that doesn't exist on the R9 290X, so let's get it on.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">To start off, let’s have a look at how things compare at 2560x1600:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>2560x1600 Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u302/r9290_2560_1.jpg" alt="2560 Benchmarks" title="2560 Benchmarks" width="321" height="492" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves /> <w:TrackFormatting /> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF /> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> 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<w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" QFormat="true" Name="Title" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Closing" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Signature" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Default Paragraph Font" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Message Header" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Salutation" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Date" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Heading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Block Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Hyperlink" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="FollowedHyperlink" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" QFormat="true" Name="Strong" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Document Map" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Plain Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="E-mail Signature" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Top of Form" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Bottom of Form" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal (Web)" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Acronym" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Address" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Cite" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Code" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Definition" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Keyboard" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Preformatted" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Sample" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Typewriter" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Variable" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal Table" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="annotation subject" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="No List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 7" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 8" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 7" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 8" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Contemporary" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Elegant" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Professional" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Balloon Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="Table Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Theme" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Placeholder Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Revision" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" QFormat="true" Name="Quote" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Bibliography" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="41" Name="Plain Table 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="42" Name="Plain Table 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="43" Name="Plain Table 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="44" Name="Plain Table 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="45" Name="Plain Table 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="40" Name="Grid Table Light" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 Colorful" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 Colorful Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 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{mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="line-height: 150%; text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.</span></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">At 2560x1600 the R9 290 trades blows with the more-expensive GTX 780, making it the better alternative considering it costs $100 less. The two cards were more or less equal throughout testing, though the GTX 780 was noticeably faster in Far Cry 3, which is odd considering this is an AMD title. The GTX 780 also held the upper hand in Unigine Valley, Metro, 3DMark, and Battlefield 3, with the other tests going to the R9 290. Of course, one area where the GTX 780 is a clear winner is in watts consumed and overall noise, as it was much quieter and also sucked less juice from the wall socket as well. This is nothing new, as the R9 cards run ridiculously hot, and though the R9 290 isn't annoyingly loud, it's certainly louder than the GTX 780. It also ran about 10C hotter than the GTX 780 as well. If the cards were evenly priced, we'd say the Nvidia card gets the nod due to its acoustics and power consumption, but given the $100 price disparity between the two we have to say the AMD card is the better value. Heat and power consumption don't matter that much on the desktop, and the R9 290 card is rock stable, so given its price advantage it takes the win in this category.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Now, let's look at how the R9 290 stacks up to all the cards in this class at 2560x1600.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>2560x1600 Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/r9_group_bench.jpg" alt="R9 Group Benchmarks" title="R9 Group Benchmarks" width="524" height="492" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.</span></em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As you can see from this chart the R9 290X is faster than the R9 290 by quite a bit in many tests, and also beats the GTX Titan in several tests as well. None of this is new information, but when we ran the R9 290X tests before we didn't have enough time to test with Nvidia's latest 331.65 driver, so this chart represents the current leader board in the GPU world. It's all the fastest cards, tested with the latest drivers. You can see the R9 290X and Titan trading blows, which is a situation Nvidia hopes to correct with its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_announces_gtx_780_ti_launch_date_price_shield_update_and_780770_price_cuts_2013">GTX 780 Ti</a> launch later this week.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">We also received some requests for a few benchmarks showing what this card can do at <strong>1080p</strong> going up against the less expensive GeForce GTX 770, so here they are:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>1080p Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/1080p_benchmarks_0.jpg" alt="1080p Benchmarks" title="1080p Benchmarks" width="326" height="428" /></p> <address style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 1920x1080 with 4X AA.</span></em></address> <p style="text-align: left;">Not much explanation is needed here as this card is the clear winner over the GTX 770 at 1080p. It is absolutly perfect at this resolution as it hits that silky-smooth 60fps target in most of the games we use for testing. Metro: Last Light barely runs at 30fps, but that's not too surprising as it can punish even the burliest GPU, and it's heavy use of PhysX favors Nvidia cards. Overall though, this card crushes it at 1080p, but costs $70 more than the GTX 770 so it's a trade-off for sure.</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">4k Benchmarks</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Both Nvidia and AMD are pushing 4k big time with their latest GPUs, so naturally we've run some tests at this resolution. Games at 4K look absolutely amazing, but boy oh boy do you need some serious firepower to run any of the latest games at full detail. In fact, they are so demanding at this 3840x2160 resolution that we have to disable AA otherwise it is simply unplayable, even on these premium GPUs. As an aside, it's interesting to see what they can do at 4K but it's also not terribly relevant right now due to the cost of the panels. The panel we used in the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/dream_machine_2013">Dream Machine</a> cost $3,500, and the Sharp panel we used for these tests (which we believe is the exact same unit) costs $5,300, so we seriously doubt even hardcore gamers are running these bad boys yet. It is simply too bleeding edge, unless you can run dual or three-way Titans or R9 290X cards. We never though we'd say it, but that's even too rich for our blood. Regardless, here are the numbers:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>4K Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/4k_r9_290.jpg" alt="R9 290 4K" title="R9 290 4K" width="333" height="428" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 3840x2160 with AA disabled.</span></em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">In our 4k tests there is not a clear winner as it's five wins for AMD, and four wins for Nvidia, though, once again, the fact that the R9 290 costs $100 less than the GTX 780 gives it an advantage considering their performance parity. The R9 290 is the clear winner is Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider (all AMD games, by the way), Battlefield 3, and Hitman, whereas the GTX 780 is only significantly faster in Metro: Last Light, which is an Nvidia title with physics that are not friendly to AMD's cards at all. All in all though, it's an impressive showing for a $400 GPU.</p> <h3>Power, Heat, and Overclocking</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Just like its big brother R9 290X the R9 290 ran hot, made a little bit of noise, and wasn’t able to be overclocked beyond its base "max" clock of 947MHz. AMD lists its clock speed as “up to 947MHz” and in testing that is how it goes, spinning up to 947MHz when it can, then backing off that clock a bit when temperatures get too extreme. Once it has achieved that delicate balance, it continues to throttle clock speeds up and down by 50Mhz or so under load always staying around 93 or 94C the entire time. Yes, it’s very hot, especially compared to Nvidia’s cards, which typically never get hotter than 83C or so overclocked, but the R9 290 was totally, 100 percent stable throughout testing. Once again we looped Heaven 4.0 over the weekend, and our test bed had no issues whatsoever. The R9 290 sat there at about 94C the entire weekend, and never crashed. Overclocking though, is out of the question. The card already runs hot enough to make the GPU throttle in stock trim, so it's not possible to push the card any further at its stock settings. We could have pushed the fan beyond 47 percent, sure, but it gets very loud very quickly, even at 50 percent, so we don't imagine most users will want to run this GPU at that noise level.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The stock cooling mechanism AMD built for this card does a good job of exhausting heat however, even though it looks a bit plain, especially in comparison to the sleek coolers on the GTX 780/Titan. When the card is hovering over 90C you can still put your hand one half-inch away from it and feel almost no heat whatsoever, so it seems to exhaust well and run totally fine despite its sky-high temperatures. We know it's weird seeing a card run at 94C, and it takes some getting used to. AMD has assured us that is how the card is designed, so it should be able to run at those temps for its entire life without issues. We certainly had no issues in testing, and it was always stable, so we have to give it a passing grade. Just like with the super-hot R9 290X we cannot wait to see what aftermarket cooling mechanisms do for this card's heat output and overclocking potential. Just like how you can overclock a GTX 780 to match a Titan, we're sure the R9 290 could be pumped up to match the 290X with enough cooling. We will have to wait and see if those cards from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire, XFX, and others ever materialize, but we believe they will, and we're excited to check them out when they do arrive, hopefully before the holidays.</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;"><strong>Final Thoughts</strong></h3> <p style="text-align: left;">When AMD launched the R9 290X last week it was an assault on Nvidia's single-GPU dominance in the premium video card space, and it was a shot that certainly hit its target. The R9 290X exceeded the GTX 780's performance while costing $100 less, so that is a clear-cut victory for AMD. Undaunted, Nvidia responded by dropping the GTX 780's price down to $500, essentially wiping out the R9 290X's advantage in that matchup. The Titan is still threatened by the R9 290X though, but Nvidia doesn't seem to bothered by it, so for now it's leaving the Titan alone. Now that we have the R9 290 though, the GTX 780 is once again under some serious pressure from AMD because the 290 is just as fast, and once again, costs $100 less. If you have $400 burning a hole in your pocket, the R9 290 is clearly the fastest GPU at that price point. We didn't test it against the GTX 770 simply because that is a card we test at 1080p, and the R9 290 is a 2560x1600 card, but it would certainly be faster than the GTX 770 as well since it can beat a GTX 780 in many tests.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Overall, the R9 290 is another excellent GPU from AMD with a tremendous price-to-performance ratio that Nvidia simlply cannot match at this time. It definitely runs hotter and makes a bit more noise than it's next of kin on the green team, but for $100 we would bet most consumers would be willing to put on some headphones. Plus it's almost winter, so the heat will probably come in handy for a lot of folks. On a serious note though, we did not find the heat or noise created by this card to be a problem, so don't let it scare you off.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">From here we wait for two events to occur - the GTX 780 Ti launch later this week, which Nvidia is hoping will allow it to once again wrest control of the trophy for "fastest single GPU" since the R9 290X has muddied the waters a bit and put its Titan in peril, at least when it comes to gaming. Also, it's possible that the R9 290 launch will cause Nvidia to lower the price on the GTX 780 even further to be more competitive. As always we will have to wait and see what happens.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Finally, there are still unknowns in both camps at this time. AMD has its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_r9_290x_will_be_much_faster_titan_battlefield_4">Mantle</a> API and <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/everything_you_wanted_know_about_amd%E2%80%99s_new_trueaudio_technology_2013">TrueAudio</a>, both of which are untested at this time. Nvidia has <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_announces_nvidia_g-sync_gamestream_and_much_more">G-Sync monitors</a>, ShadowPlay, its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidias_geforce_gtx_holiday_bundles_feature_free_games_and_shield_discounts2013">Holiday Game Bundle</a>, GameStream/Shield, and of course, better acoustics and lower overall temps due to Kepler's efficiency. We've yet to test frame pacing using AMD's new XDMA setup, but reports indicate it's finally as good if not better than Nvidia's SLI at this time. Regardless, both AMD and Nvidia have very unique and exclusive features at this time, making the choice between one camp or the other more difficult than it's ever been.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">All in all, we can't remember a time when competition has been as white hot and fierce between AMD and Nvidia as it is right now. AMD has really come out swinging for the fences with its Hawaii GPUs, which have already resulted in both price drops and a new GPU on the way in the form of the GTX 780 Ti. Whether or not today's launch of the R9 290 results in even more price cuts or GPU offspring remains to be seen, but one thing is certain -- it's an awesome time to be in the GPU market.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290_benchmarks#comments amd r9 290 radeon Video cards Reviews Videocards Tue, 05 Nov 2013 06:17:58 +0000 Josh Norem 26610 at http://www.maximumpc.com Battlefield 4 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/battlefield_4_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Epic battles. Epic bugs, too</h3> <p>Stop. Any review you previously read about Battlefield 4 was flat-out wrong. Wrong, we tell you. That’s because any short review based on near-gold code or just a few hours or even a day’s worth of play can’t be complete. In fact, we don’t even consider this review anywhere near done yet, even though by the time you read this, we’ll have logged days of in-game play. To pronounce a verdict on a game this sprawling, this complicated, this organic—and this frakking bug-filled—would be irresponsible.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/commander_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/commander_small.jpg" alt="The Commander Mode is back, with a tablet version promised for the loneliest job in the game." title="Battlefield 4" width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Commander Mode is back, with a tablet version promised for the loneliest job in the game.</strong></p> <p>This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been a fan of the Battlefield series, though. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost 12 years since Battlefield 1942 hit the store shelves with its unique blend of first-person and vehicle combat that revolutionized military-themed shooters. Unfortunately, there was this little game franchise called Call of Duty released a year later that minted money faster than, well, the US Mint, and the two have been competing ever since.</p> <p>The last couple of versions, Battlefield has been chasing CoD and it’s no different here. Developer DICE again invests resources into a CoD-like single-player storyline that we honestly think few will ever play. We can burn a paragraph or two describing the plot but it’s easily summed up as a bad Michael Bay action movie seen through the eyes of South Park: “Booosh!” “Fwraaash!” “Craaaw!” “Kraaaaasssshhhh!!!” Slow-motion helicopter crash. “Caawwwshhh!!!”</p> <p>To be fair, the single-player’s graphics are fairly stunning and more polygons are expended on single-player than multiplayer. The AI is passable and the save-points less offensive to us than they were in Battlefield 3, but we don’t really care about the single-player mode and we’d guess the vast majority of long-time Battlefield fans don’t either.</p> <p>We actually suspect that DICE is finally acknowledging that too, so it’s good to see that multiplayer gets some nice buffs that help justify the franchise’s reputation for being the thinking man’s CoD.</p> <p>Battlefield 2 players belly-ached for years when squads got whittled down from six to four, and Commander Mode and voice com were axed in Battlefield 3. With Battlefield 4, DICE ups the squad size to five, which gives them a little more effective fire teams. Squads are also helped with the return of voice com and a Commander Mode, too.</p> <p>No review of Battlefield 4 can go without mentioning the Levolution feature—which means a lot of things crumble and fall apart. It’s the natural evolution of the already destructible environments first tested in select Battlefield 3 maps, and it’s quite impressive. We’ve been in matches where the fighting practically stops while players rush out to get a glimpse of the towering skyscraper crumbling to the ground. Don’t be fooled, though—not everything can be flattened. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the stunning water and weather physics DICE has implemented, which are reminiscent of the epic sea battles of the original.</p> <p>It goes without saying that Battlefield 4 is an intense game on hardware resources. The min spec is a dual-core Core 2 or Athlon X2 with 4GB of RAM and Radeon 3870 or GeForce 8800GT and up, or— get this—Intel HD4000 graphics with a 512MB allocated for the frame buffer. The recommended spec is a quad-core Intel or six-core AMD part, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7870 3GB or GeForce GT 660 3GB or better. Our experience says that if you want to play on Ultra at 1080p with a constant 60fps, you’ll want an eight-core AMD part or Hyper-Threaded Intel quad-core part with a current-gen $300-tier GPU, and even then, you’ll hit patches of 40–50fps in multiplayer on some maps. Let’s just say you need real hardware to play this game in all its glory.</p> <p>Of course, it’s hard to say what game hardware works best, as you need a fairly stable platform to even get a feel for it. And right now as we go to print, Battlefield 4 hasn’t been stable.</p> <p>And that gets right into the most controversial part of Battlefield 4: the bugs. Of course, no release of Battlefield has arrived without bugs, but Battlefield 4’s launch has been particularly rough. At launch, players were beset with crashes, lost stats, as well as annoyingly constant server crashes and disconnects. Others complained of poor “netcode” failing to register hits on opponents and being shot through walls. Our own experience initially resulted in crashes and disconnects every other match or three. Multiple server-side patches reduced that to the point where we could play for maybe two hours without a crash or disconnect, but they still occurred on occasion and we were victims of the shot-through-the-wall-problem on occasion.</p> <p>DICE has since patched the server code again and issued a 1GB client patch to address the crashes. Unfortunately, that patch caused more issues, including more crashing, server disconnects, an inadvertent blurring effect, and lower performance for some players. For what it’s worth, our experience with the patch was a big improvement in server disconnects and crashes. We played a solid four hours with but one game crash and one server crash. We did, however, get the annoying blur.</p> <p>We won’t even get into the minutia of the odd weapons balance. One grenade upgrade, for example, gives you three smaller grenades that have a smaller blast radius than the single basic grenade you start with, but we’d swear the smaller grenade actually has a larger blast radius. Two engineers repairing the light helicopter make it invulnerable to direct multiple long strings of anti-aircraft fire, too. And many of the weapons seem to be chosen straight from Jane’s Compendium of Obscure Small Arms of the World rather than the familiar armory from Battlefield 3.</p> <p>So, where does that leave us? Kind of torn, honestly. From the hours we’ve logged, we do love the game. It’s fun and the immense three-dimensional battle space is everything a Battlefield player wants and needs. Let’s just say we won’t be playing much Battlefield 3 from now on. But that’s contingent on Battlefield 4 working—and often it isn’t.</p> <p>Yet we have faith that DICE will make it right. Battlefield 4, after all, isn’t about getting your $60 today and moving you along PT Barnum–style. No, it’s about getting your $60 today, and another $50 for the DLC, plus $28 for all of the weapon-unlock packs—right up until Battlefield 5 comes along. Call us suckers, but we’ll probably be there too, lined up with our 60 bucks in hand.</p> <p><strong>$60,</strong> <a href="http://www.battlefield.com/">www.battlefield.com</a><strong>; ESRB: M</strong></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/battlefield_4_review#comments battlefield 4 January issues 2014 maximum pc Review Software Games Reviews Fri, 04 Apr 2014 13:43:34 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27563 at http://www.maximumpc.com V3 Devastator Review http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_devastator_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Pint-size PC packs a punch</h3> <p>How much PC power can one jam into a bread box? (We’ll take a commercial break while the youngsters Google “bread box.”) V3 Gaming tries to answer that question with the latest iteration of its <strong>Devastator</strong> small form factor box. Unlike the four micro-towers that we <a title="micro tower" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/micro-towers_review_2013" target="_blank">previously reviewed</a>, the Devastator conforms to a boxier silhouette, using a slick new Silverstone SG10 case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_0.jpg" alt="The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip." title="V3 Devastator" width="620" height="643" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip.</strong></p> <p>The SG10 is slightly taller than a traditional SFF box, so it can accommodate a microATX motherboard. Lest you wonder why you’d need a microATX in an SFF, we have a simple answer: multiple video cards—more on that later.</p> <p>The Devastator seems like it was configured with best-bang-for-the-buck in mind. Inside, you’ll find a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards slotted into the Asus Gryphon Z87 board, 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, and a Core i5-4670K clocked up to 4.4GHz. For storage, V3 Gaming didn’t skimp on the primary drive—something a lot of vendors do these days—and outfitted the Devastator with a 256GB Plextor M5 Pro SSD. Bulk storage, however, is a bit paltry, consisting of a 1TB Toshiba desktop HDD. These days, it’s pretty hard to justify a 1TB drive on a build that costs more than $800.</p> <p>To measure the Devastator’s performance, we looked to three points of comparison. First was our aging Sandy Bridge-E zero-point test bed, where it was a give-and-take contest. In thread-light tasks, the Devastator’s higher-clocked Haswell is on par and even sometimes faster than the six-core SNB-E in our zero-point. Flip to, say, Premiere Pro CS6 or x264 HD 5.01 encoding, however, and even the elderly Sandy Bridge-E cores hammer the hell out of the less-threaded Haswell. In gaming, the tide turns yet again, with the once-mighty GeForce GTX 690 in our zero-point being trounced by the Devastator’s pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards. Boo hoo.</p> <p>But that’s not the whole story on micro-towers. We also pit the Devastator against the $4,433 Falcon Northwest Tiki, and the latter’s 4.7GHz Core i7-4770K simply dominated in the compute-heavy tasks. But, again, the Tiki’s Titan can’t compete with the dual GeForce GTX 770s—the Devastator is faster in 3DMark 11 by 22 percent. The gap closes in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme, where the Devastator is but 10 percent faster.</p> <p>The Tiki is an extreme example, though. For the most part, simple physics and the ability of a bigger box to better displace thermals and hold more hardware put standard desktops at an advantage. For example, the $2,000 CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE that we reviewed in our September 2013 issue aces the Devastator in compute tasks, thanks to its Core i7-4770K, and comes out slightly faster in gaming since it also has a pair of 770s, while coming in $500 cheaper. Of course, it’s also much bigger.</p> <p>Still, the Devastator is a good blend of size and performance, and is fairly priced to boot, given that small form factor boxes&nbsp; typically carry a premium.</p> <p><strong>$2,500,</strong> <a href="http://www.v3gamingpc.com/">www.v3gamingpc.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_devastator_review_2014#comments 2013 computer Hardware Holiday issues 2013 maximum pc Review silverstone case V3 Devastator Reviews Systems Mon, 03 Mar 2014 22:54:29 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27322 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asus Radeon R9 280X DC2 TOP Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_radeon_r9_280x_dc2_top_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The new 1080p king</h3> <p>At any given time, we have one GPU in our inventory that holds the title of “loudest card in the office.” The current title-holder is the PowerColor Radeon HD 7970 Vortex, which sounds like a jet engine. That’s just how the Radeon 7970 GHz cards are; their boosted clock speeds drum up a lot of heat, making them much louder than their Nvidia counterparts. Given this pedigree, imagine our surprise when we fired up the <strong>Asus Radeon R9 280X</strong>, which rocks the exact same Tahiti XT chip used in the 7970 GE boards. As we leaned in close to our test bed expecting to hear that oh-so-familiar fan noise, we were greeted instead with a barely audible whirring sound. It’s truly miraculous what AMD and Asus have done with this formerly unruly chip, making it whisper-quiet and also surprisingly affordable at $310, which is roughly half what it used to cost.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="img-float-right" href="/files/u152332/asus-radeon-r9-280x-directcu-ii-top-1000x716_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/asus-radeon-r9-280x-directcu-ii-top-1000x716_small.jpg" alt="The R9 280X is a heck of a lot more quiet and affordable than the original HD 7970 GE. " title="Asus Radeon R9 280X DC2 TOP" width="620" height="444" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The R9 280X is a heck of a lot more quiet and affordable than the original HD 7970 GE. </strong></p> <p>Like the previous Asus boards we’ve reviewed, this is a DirectCU II card, so it has a fancy custom PCB, high-end components for improved stability, longevity, and overclocking, as well as a hulking two-slot cooler we’ve seen before (and loved). This is a 28nm Tahiti card, with 2,048 stream processors, a 384-bit-wide memory bus, and 3GB of GDDR5 memory. This card will be competing with the more expensive Nvidia GTX 770, which costs $400 as we went to press, with no indication that Nvidia will lower its price. Perhaps after reviews of this card appear, Nvidia will rethink that proposition.</p> <p>This is a TOP card, which means it’s overclocked, but not by much at 1,070MHz, only 70MHz higher than stock. Asus also has a super-premium version of this card named the Matrix Platinum, which has a three-slot cooler and a much higher price tag. One interesting note is that, unlike the flagship R9 290X cards with their new dies that don’t require a CrossFire bridge, this card still requires a bridge in multicard configs. Thankfully, Asus threw a bridge connector into the box along with a driver CD. The card measures 11 inches long and includes two DVI connectors, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connector.</p> <p>When we ran the R9 280X through our gauntlet of PC benchmarks, two things immediately surprised us. The first was just how quiet the card was, as it is barely audible at any time, even under heavy load. The second was that it was trading blows with the GTX 770, which costs $90 more. Sure, the GK104 and Tahiti chips have always been comparable, so this is expected, we suppose, but given this card’s low pricing (by comparison), it was hard to wrap our heads around the fact that it’s punching above its weight class. It also handily spanked the $250 GTX 760, giving it the best price-to-performance ratio in its price segment.</p> <p>In the end, this is the go-to card for ultra settings at 1080p, no question. It smokes the more expensive GTX 770 and also spanks the GTX 760, as it should. If the performance delta isn’t enough to sway you, there’s word that the Never Settle Forever game bundle will be coming to the 200-series cards soon, too, making this card almost irresistible. The only fly in the ointment is the Asus GPU Tweak software, which looks and feels antiquated, and is difficult to examine at a glance. Thankfully, third-party options are available, making this only a minor blemish on an otherwise perfect GPU.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>$310,</strong> <a href="http://www.asus.com/">www.asus.com </a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_radeon_r9_280x_dc2_top_review#comments 2013 Asus Radeon R9 280X DC2 TOP gpu graphics card Hardware Holiday issues 2013 maximum pc Review Video Card Reviews Videocards Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:46:28 +0000 Josh Norem 27311 at http://www.maximumpc.com Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/gateway_one_zx4970-ur22_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A budget-friendly AiO for dad</h3> <p>While we love powerful super-rigs that can cut through benchmarks like a hot knife through buttah, not everyone can afford an $8,000 PC. This is where a budget-friendly all-in-one computer such as the <strong>Gateway One ZX4970</strong> comes into play. At a mere $530, it certainly presents an interesting value proposition, but is it actually a good deal or a waste of dough?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small.jpg" alt="A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!" title="Gateway One ZX4970-UR22" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!</strong></p> <p>The first thing you’ll notice about the ZX4970 is its 21.5-inch screen. It’s not small, but it is dwarfed by most other AiOs on the market, which generally come in 23- and 27-inch form factors. Furthermore, the display’s TN panel offers subpar viewing angles, besides being a bit dim. But where the ZX4970 really falls short is in its omission of a touchscreen, which is a shame given the presence of the touch-friendly Windows 8 OS. On the upside, we don’t have much beef with the integrated 2.5-watt speakers beneath the monitor—they serve decent volume levels, though they obviously can’t match a dedicated 2.1 setup.</p> <p>On the left side of the screen, the ZX4970 features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and both a headphone and mic jack. To the right of the monitor is a button that lets you switch the AiO’s HDMI port from in to out (or vice versa) and a DVD burner. The HDMI port itself resides behind the monitor, along with four USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. It’s not an exorbitant amount of ports, but it covers most common needs. Cables can be routed through a cutout on the stand in the back. The stand allows you to bend the monitor back roughly 20 degrees, which could be useful for use from a standing position if not for the fact that the screen doesn’t support touch and the included full-size keyboard and mouse are wired, so you’re essentially tethered to your desk anyhow.</p> <p>If you’re hoping to play the latest PC games or put the machine through heavy compute tasks, the ZX4970 is not for you. While the AiO features a respectably hefty (for this price, that is) 1TB hard drive, the rest of the ZX4970’s parts are pretty bare-bones. The unit is running a dual-core Ivy Bridge–based Intel Pentium G2030 clocked at 3GHz, has 4GB of DDR3/1600, and lacks discrete graphics. Compared to our Asus ET2300 zero-point AiO, which features a quad-core processor, twice the amount of RAM, and a GeForce GT 630M GPU, Gateway’s offering faced a whole lot of pain in our benchmarks. It performed roughly 20–30 percent slower in our ProShow Producer 5 and Stitch.Efx CPU tests, and was left in the dust in x264 HD 5.0 benchmark, which thrives on cores. Our ZP AiO is by no means a tank, but compared to Gateway’s ZX4970, it was like an M4 Sherman facing off with a Volkswagen microbus full of hippies. And as far as graphics go, high-end integrated graphics are on the cusp of matching low-end mobile GPUs, but the ZX4970 uses a meager Pentium integrated-graphics solution, so it found itself roughly 60–70 percent slower than the ZP’s GeForce GT 630M in both the STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 benchmarks. In our real-world test, we booted Borderlands 2 and ran everything on low at 1366x768 resolution and got an average frame rate in the mid-teens. No, it’s notß pretty for anything beyond casual gaming.</p> <p>While the ZX4970 is dang cheap, it’s an unfortunate example of “you get what you pay for.” It reminds us of the affordable eMachines of yesteryear, in AiO form. Although it may be a decent computer for Aunt Peg, for an enthusiast, we recommending spending a little more to build a much better desktop.</p> <p><strong>$530,</strong> <a href="http://www.gateway.com/worldwide/">www.gateway.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/gateway_one_zx4970-ur22_review#comments 2013 aio all in one pc Consumer Desktops Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Hardware Holiday issues 2013 monitor pc Review Reviews Systems Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:29:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 27310 at http://www.maximumpc.com Cooler Master V8 GTS Review http://www.maximumpc.com/cooler_master_v8_gts_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Not firing on all cylinders</h3> <p>When it comes to keeping your CPU cool under pressure, it’s hard to beat a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC). They’re on the expensive side, though, so there’s still plenty of room at $50 and below for conventional air cooling. What, then, do we make of an air cooler with an MSRP of $100? It’s gotta be pretty fancy to command that kind of scratch, and the <strong>Cooler Master V8 GTS</strong> sure seems like a contender.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/v8_gts_front01_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/v8_gts_front01_small.jpg" alt="The fans have small embossed arrows to indicate airflow." title="Cooler Master V8 GTS" width="620" height="618" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The fans have small embossed arrows to indicate airflow.</strong></p> <p>As its name suggests, it’s an update of the original V8, which used a single 120mm fan to cool four sets of radiator fins. That version is actually still compatible with recent CPU sockets, but it’s rated for “only” 180 watts of heat dissipation. The GTS version ups the cap to 250 watts, with dual 140mm fans and a vapor chamber. But despite its bulk, it will still play nice with high-profile RAM sticks and large motherboard heatsinks, such as those on the Rampage IV Extreme in our test-bench machine.</p> <p>However, the fans are not designed to be removed, making installation a bit awkward. You know that things are not going to go swimmingly when the bundled items include a proprietary tool for tightening nuts. And sure enough, we had to pull the RAM, video card, and motherboard from the case to get enough clearance to crank this widget. This is also a four-way SLI motherboard, so the first slot is designed for the primary video card. But unfortunately, there was not enough space there to install it. We can just use a different slot in our test system, but you may run into trouble if you’re already using your slots for other devices.</p> <p>You might let these hassles slide if the cooler had the class-leading performance to justify its quirks. Unfortunately, our testing demonstrated that the V8 GTS was good, but not $100 good. The Phanteks TC14PE cools a little more, costs less, and is quieter and a lot easier to install. Cooler Master’s own Hyper 212 Evo air cooler edges out the GTS for nearly a third of the price, albeit at unacceptable noise levels (never mind the CLCs from NZXT and Corsair that cost about the same as the V8 GTS and considerably outperform it).</p> <p>The GTS’s aesthetics may win over some converts, though. A silver-and-black theme rarely fails to deliver, and an overall shape evoking a V8 engine block is admittedly pretty nifty. The fans also sport several red LEDs, slotted in the top to make it look a bit like a Decepticon. More LEDs are tucked underneath, so they can’t be seen directly but emit a spooky glow onto the motherboard.</p> <p>But that silvery look comes at a cost; the GTS’s heat pipes and contact surface are aluminum instead of copper, which can make a difference when dealing with this much surface area; copper tends to transfer heat more quickly, but it’s also heavier and more expensive. It’s also disappointing that the fans will be tricky to replace if they break down, get damaged, or aren’t beefy enough for your needs. They use a custom housing similar to a Noctua NF-P14, but with two screw holes removed.</p> <p>The V8 GTS isn’t a complete indictment of performance air coolers, but we’re wondering if that time isn’t fast approaching.</p> <p><strong>$100,</strong> <a href="http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/">www.coolermaster-usa.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/cooler_master_v8_gts_review_2014#comments air cooler Air Cooling Cooler Master V8 GTS CPU Cooler Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:22:42 +0000 Tom McNamara 27303 at http://www.maximumpc.com Foul Play Review http://www.maximumpc.com/foul_play_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Mash all the buttons</h3> <p>Going for a spin or two in the indie title Foul Play takes us back to our youth. Specifically, a time before we had deep knowledge of fighting-game moves; a time when the fabled art of the button mash often proved successful against our lesser-equipped (grade-school) friends.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/1_small_32.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/1_small_31.jpg" alt="Master the art of the air combo and you’ll be nigh-unstoppable in Foul Play." title="Foul Play" width="620" height="343" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Master the art of the air combo and you’ll be nigh-unstoppable in Foul Play.</strong></p> <p>Foul Play slaps a decently creative premise over a genre classic: This game is a 2D, button-mashing, side-scrolling slugfest, pure and simple. So much so, that we’d almost prefer to play it on a handheld controller instead of our keyboard. While the game does an admirable job of straddling console and PC platforms with minimal frustration, it’s pretty clear it was developed with consoles in mind. A quick, refreshing jaunt through one of the game’s 22 separate “acts” feels like the kind of thing you’d do to relax while waiting for a friend to come over (obviously, to join you in some Foul Play co-op.)</p> <p>The game’s story isn’t all that interesting, we admit: Set in an environment that’s aesthetically reminiscent of Gangs of New York, you’re a demon-hunter, retelling stories of your accomplishments through each of the game’s five plays. That’s right—plays. The intriguing bit of Foul Play is that the entire slugfest is set within the world of theater. You’re not running through caves or climbing mountains, so much as you are acting out your exploits on stage—beating up actors costumed as baddies, throwing enemies through set pieces, and stringing together wicked fighting moves for approval by the ever-present audience that’s watching the carnage unfold from the lower-half (or so) of the game’s screen.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/2_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/2_small_19.jpg" alt="Foul Play does an excellently cute job of maintaining the game’s “stage show” aspect." title="Foul Play" width="620" height="351" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Foul Play does an excellently cute job of maintaining the game’s “stage show” aspect.</strong></p> <p>In fact, you don’t even have a health bar. In this beat-’em-up, it’s audience approval that dictates whether you “live” or “die,” as it were. Dodge your way around a level and generally act boring, and you’ll start to get booed (and ultimately have to restart your brawling from the last checkpoint); string together a 50-hit combo, and the crowd will throw their hats into the air with approval and your special move meter will start to shine like a Tony award.</p> <p>Foul Play isn’t itself all that challenging; we found ourselves rarely succumbing to any of the game’s fights while rampaging through its three-to-four-hour storyline. What’s challenging, however, are the game’s… well, challenges. Within most of the game’s levels, Foul Play gives you the optional task to accomplish three varying things. One might be something like, “achieve a 75-hit combo,” or “throw three people into one another”—things like that.</p> <p>These challenges are relatively achievable and, honestly, much-needed aspects of the core game given that the endless fighting does start to get a bit lukewarm after a while. However, we wish Foul Play’s combo system was a bit more lenient; we often found ourselves losing our multi-hit combo—and our patience—simply because it took too long to jump to an enemy halfway across the screen. Boo, indeed.</p> <p>Additionally, we wish the main character himself simply had more he could do. We’d much prefer a crazy amount of Arkham City–style combos, move-stringing, and general insanity versus Foul Play’s simplified setup, which made us feel as if we were mashing the same button over, and over, and over—about as fun as it would be to play Street Fighter II and jab all the challengers to death.</p> <p>Foul Play is cute, fun, and quaint, but it needs a shot in the arm to maintain interest until the big eleven o’clock number.</p> <p><strong>$15,</strong> <a href="http://mediatonicgames.com/games/foul-play">http://mediatonicgames.com/games/foul-play</a><strong>, ESRB: E</strong></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/foul_play_review_2014#comments 2013 foul play games Holiday issues 2013 Review Software Games Reviews Mon, 24 Feb 2014 09:11:13 +0000 David Murphy 27323 at http://www.maximumpc.com Super Talent DRAM Disk Review http://www.maximumpc.com/Super_Talent_DRAM_Disk_Review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u163784/super-talent-usb-3.0-express-dramdisk1.jpg" alt="Super Talent Dram Disk" title="Super Talent Dram Disk" width="250" height="88" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>USB DRAM thumb drive shows off its uber fast RAM disk.</h3> <p>When we first heard of this USB DRAM disk, we didn’t really know what it was, but we knew we wanted to try it out. Now that we’ve had a chance to kick the tires, we’re impressed, even though it’s not the most practical thing in the world. Then again, acquiring maximum performance is rarely practical, yet it’s still our raison d’etre. The <strong>DRAM Disk</strong> is a USB 3.0 thumb drive available in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities and includes software to create a RAM disk. It works quite well, though the key itself features a boring design.&nbsp;</p> <p>The way this bad boy works is, when you plug in the drive there are two volumes—the main USB 3.0 drive, and a second volume that appears like a CD/DVD to the system and contains the RAM disk software and a user guide. Once you install the software, which takes five seconds, a new volume appears, and that’s your RAM disk. Whatever you copy into the RAM Disk folder is also synced in the background to a folder on the USB key, which is handy but it also demonstrates the problem with RAM disks. Since they use volatile DRAM, as soon as the system loses power everything on them is deleted, so it’s not safe to keep any data on them without a backup since one accidental reboot or Windows update and all your data goes sigh-oh-narr-ah.&nbsp;</p> <p>On our test system with 8GB of RAM, the RAM disk was 2.90GB, though we could have made it smaller via the included software. Adding another 4GB of RAM increased the size of the RAM disk by 1.4GB. The RAM disk itself is insanely fast, hitting 5GB/s read speeds and 8GB/s write speeds in CrystalDiskMark. You can copy gigs of data in a millisecond, and it’s truly breathtaking to witness. The USB 3.0 portion of the key is standard stuff, running at about 100MB/s in our transfer tests, so you could use it like a standard-issue key if you want to.&nbsp;</p> <p>Overall we dig the DRAM Disk. It makes it quick and painless to run a RAM disk, which provides insane speed for scratch disks and other temporary files. It works exactly as advertised and is totally affordable too, costing just $15. We think it’s pretty sweet, but are withholding the Kick Ass, as it needs more capacity and a better chassis design.</p> <p><strong>$15</strong>&nbsp;<a title="SuperTalent Homepage" href="http://www.supertalent.com/home/index.php" target="_blank">www.supertalent.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/Super_Talent_DRAM_Disk_Review_2014#comments Super Talent SuperSpeed Thumb Drive USB DRAM Reviews Thu, 20 Feb 2014 19:51:40 +0000 Josh Norem 27306 at http://www.maximumpc.com EVGA GTX 780 SC w/ACX Review http://www.maximumpc.com/EVGA_GTX_780_Review <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u163784/evga_small.png" alt="EVGA GTX 780 w/ACX" title="EVGA GTX 780 w/ACX" style="float: right;" />As good as it gets</h3> <p>EVGA has unveiled its GeForce <strong><a title="780" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_780_benchmarks" target="_blank">GTX 780</a></strong> as well as a new GPU cooling design dubbed <strong>ACX</strong> that it plans to stick on all its high-end GPUs for the foreseeable future. The cooler’s acronym stands for Active Cooling Extreme since it uses active cooling and it’s more extreme than getting a Red Bull enema.&nbsp;</p> <p>Honestly, it’s high time <a title="evga" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/evga" target="_blank">EVGA</a> came out with this, as it’s been using a slightly modified version of the Nvidia reference “blower” design for way too long, so it’ll now be able to compete with Asus’s DirectCU II, MSI’s Twin Frozr, and Gigabyte’s Windforce designs. EVGA says the new cooler offers a 40 percent increase in heatsink volume, which translates to 15 percent lower temps and totally silent operation. The biggest thing it’s promoting is that the fans use ball bearings instead of the sleeved variety, allowing for longer life and quieter operation. The new heatsink covers the entire card—all 10.5 inches of it—so the VRMs and RAM are also covered by the cooling apparatus. EVGA offers <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">six</span>&nbsp;nine variants of this particular card, and this is its <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">flagship</span> higher-end&nbsp;air-cooled model, the SuperClocked ACX board. There are also FTW And Classified editions that are clocked a bit higher.</p> <p>Compared to the stock design, which has a <a title="titan" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013" target="_blank">Titan</a> cooler by the way, this silver siren features a 104MHz overclock to the base clock, 118MHz overclock to the boost clock, and the aforementioned extreme cooler. It retains the stock card’s 3GB of memory and 6GHz memory clock. That huge-ass fancy cooler only adds $10 to the price of the stock card, too, which is surprising. Sure, we’re used to seeing aftermarket coolers go for $10 or $20 more over stock, but this cooler looks so premium we were we expected it to be more expensive, especially since the card is also overclocked. We should point out that the card’s hardware “bundle” is, well, crappy and small, but we are coming to terms with the state of video card bundles now—which is to say they’re all like this.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/gpu10191.jpg" alt="780" title="780" width="620" height="419" /></p> <p>In testing, we saw the ACX-cooled GTX 780 run neck-and-neck with the more expensive GTX Titan, effectively closing the gap between the two cards in a way that just isn’t possible on the GTX 780 reference board, at least not in our testing. This is the first card we’ve ever seen get this close to a Titan, and in the tests where it didn’t graze it, the ACX card matched the Titan, which is damn impressive. It was able to match the Titan in Heaven 4.0, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 3.</p> <p>More good news: We were able to overclock the ACX board a fair bit, eventually getting it up to 1,149MHz boost by nudging the power target slider to 106 percent in the superb PrecisionX software, and GPU offset was set to +59MHz. Under full load, overclocked, the ACX cooler kept the card at a steady 75 C, which is about 10 C cooler than stock.&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-style: normal;">Let's recap then: sexy good looks and blistering benchmarks, cool and quiet performance, overclockable, as fast as a Titan, the best overclocking software around, and only $10 more than a stock board. Sounds like what is basically a perfect video card to us.</p> <p style="font-style: normal; text-align: center;"><em><img src="/files/u163784/evga_benchmarks.png" alt="Benchmarks" title="Benchmarks" width="650" height="490" style="line-height: 15px; text-align: center;" /></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/EVGA_GTX_780_Review#comments active cooling extreme acx evga geforce gtx 780 kick-ass nvidia Reviews Tue, 11 Feb 2014 23:19:42 +0000 Josh Norem 27246 at http://www.maximumpc.com Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5H Review http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_ga-z87x-ud5h_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u163784/gigabyte.jpg" alt="Gigabyte Z87" title="Gigabyte Z87" width="290" height="195" style="float: right;" />The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H offers a lot of features for the price.</h3> <p>The world’s economy may be on the mend but a lot of people still want to justify every cubit spent on technology. For some people, spending $280 for the <a title="asus z87" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_z87-deluxe_review_2013" target="_blank">Asus Z87-Deluxe</a>&nbsp;or even $260 for the <a title="intel z87" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/Gigabyte_GA-Z87X-UD5H_vs_Intel_DZ87KLT-75K" target="_blank">Intel DZ87KLT-75K</a> may seem exorbitant. Fortunately for you, budget-minded power user, Gigabyte has its GA-Z87X-UD5H board. OK, we’ll admit, $210 isn’t really budget, but you’ll see that it’s a pretty modest price given the board’s features.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Z87X-UD5H gives you SLI and CrossFireX support, 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports, dual USB 3.0 headers, dual NICs, a POST LED, surface-mounted power and reset buttons, Creative Labs X-Fi MB drivers, and Gigabyte’s trademark dual-BIOS setup. We’ve had the unfortunate need to resort to the dual-BIOS in the past and it’s been an automatic affair. The UD5H offers and automatic and manual mode, which we got to use when we bricked the primary BIOS. No problem, flip a switch and you’re back up and running on the backup BIOS. From there, you simply flip the switch back to the primary and reflash the BIOS again. It’s pretty damned robust.</p> <p>The last time we reviewed a Gigabyte board we complained hardily about the goofy UEFI (hey, that rhymes), with its faux “3D” mode. Gigabyte has since redone its BIOS with a vastly improved interface. Unfortunately, it’s still not in the class of Asus’s and now Intel’s excellent UEFI. In fact, we went back to “classic” BIOS mode because the sheer amount of information on the UEFI screen is overwhelming.</p> <p>One area where Gigabyte has really improved is in its OS utilities. We haven’t been happy with the gear-shifter style interface and confusing options for some time and usually just avoided them. With the UD5H, the utilities have gotten a complete makeover that actually makes them competitive with Asus’s excellent utilities. Gigabyte, for example, now has its own equivalent of Asus’s Fan Xpert2 that’s pretty good. It’s not as granular or nerdtastic in settings but it’s a step in the right direction. And Gigabyte even aces Asus is the update utility, which can find and fetch mobo drivers and utilities for you. This isn’t a breakthrough feature, as MSI used to do this (although not very reliably), but it’s a welcome feature that we’d love to see other board vendors also implement. The upshot is that the utilities are something to actually be used, not just installed once and ignored.</p> <p>In performance, the Z87X-UD5H holds its own. Both the Intel and Gigabyte boards showed default multipliers of 8-39 on our Core i7-4770K, while the Asus had a default multiplier of 8-43. This gave the Z87-Deluxe a decided advantage in several benchmarks—but the Z87X-UD5H got pretty close. It also managed to smoke the Intel by a good margin.</p> <p>In the audio department, the board uses the same ALC898 as the Intel board, but Gigabyte licenses Creative’s software algorithms, including its Crystallizer and voice changing-features, among others. We’re fans of the Crystalizer, which is a nice upgrade over the stock Realtek audio applets we usually see. We also did some close listening tests using a set of gaming headsets while hammering the USB 3.0 port with gigabytes of data and couldn’t discern any snap, crackle, or pop.</p> <p>Our overall view of the GA-Z87X-UD5H is that it’s probably the sweet spot for most enthusiasts who could put the money saved by forgoing Thunderbolt or Wi-Fi into the CPU, GPU, or SSD instead.</p> <p><img src="/files/u163784/gigabyte_chart.jpg" alt="GB" title="GB" width="541" height="700" style="font-weight: bold; text-align: center;" /></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_ga-z87x-ud5h_review_2014#comments best of the best GA-Z87X-UD5H gigabyte haswell motherboards Review z87 Reviews Tue, 11 Feb 2014 18:21:56 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27240 at http://www.maximumpc.com MSI N780 Lightning Review http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_n780_lightning_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Too exotic (and expensive) for mere mortals</h3> <p>Back in October, we took a look at the MSI GTX 770 Lightning, which was a bit like a hot rod that had been given a little too much go-go juice. It was fast, and provided a plethora of performance options for horsepower junkies, but it was simply unstable, even at stock clocks. Undaunted, MSI followed it up by sending us an even bigger, badder board in the same series, the <strong>GTX 780 Lightning</strong>. Like the other Lightning cards, this is the cream of the crop from MSI in terms of board design, cooling, features, and clock speeds. In other words, if you are looking for the fastest non-Titan board MSI offers, this is it. Unfortunately for MSI, though this board was quite stable overall, we didn’t see enough of a performance advantage over other GTX 780 cards to justify its outrageous $750 sticker price.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gtx_780_lightningv296_3d_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gtx_780_lightningv296_3d_small.jpg" alt="MSI includes a separate utility just for the card’s fans, letting you control the outer ones separate from the inner fan." title="MSI N780 Lightning" width="620" height="492" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>MSI includes a separate utility just for the card’s fans, letting you control the outer ones separate from the inner fan.</strong></p> <p>To its credit, MSI has made this card pretty damned awesome and worthy of the Lightning moniker by infusing it with all kinds of badassery. For starters, it has a color-sensitive Lightning logo that changes shade (green, yellow, or red) depending on GPU load. Twin rows of blue LEDs flicker on the top of the backplate, showing GPU activity, and there’s also a GPU Reactor PCB on top of the card with blue LEDs, and it supposedly helps overclocking by allowing up to 300 percent more power to surge into the card. The reactor is easily removable though, in case it causes clearance issues. The card also uses twin BIOS chips for overclockers, and a redonk three-fin setup dubbed Tri-Frozr with PWM and its own separate fan-control software. Of course, it has “military-class” everything, including a custom PCB with 16 phase power, and hardware leads for directly monitoring voltages straight off the card.</p> <p>To test the card, we spent about a week overclocking it so we could take it to the maximum level of performance. We ended up with a power-target setting of 109 percent, GPU offset of 135MHz, and a small memory overclock of 220MHz. This gave us a boost clock that cycled between 1,254MHz and 1,267MHz, which was stable. Whenever it ran at 1,280MHz for any period of time, it would hard lock, so this is as high as we could take it. Overall, that’s an excellent result, but not any better than what we achieved with the less expensive Asus and EVGA boards. Under load, the 780 Lightning ran at 76 C, which is also excellent and very quiet, but nothing unusual for these high-end boards.</p> <p>Looking at the benchmark chart, you can see why we’re puzzled by this card’s price tag. It performed exactly the same in our testing as the other top-tier GTX 780 boards, yet costs $90 more than the EVGA card and $40 more than the Asus board. Now, if you’re looking to do competition-level overclocking, we imagine the Lightning is the board you want, but for people who just want an air-cooled GPU that is quiet and overclocks well, it’s tough to recommend this board given its exorbitant price tag.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;$750,</strong> <a href="http://www.msi.com/language/">www.msi.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_n780_lightning_review#comments 2013 December issues 203 graphics card Hardware maximum pc MSI N780 Lightning Review December 2013 Reviews Videocards Tue, 11 Feb 2014 09:20:06 +0000 Josh Norem 27235 at http://www.maximumpc.com Total War: Rome II Review http://www.maximumpc.com/total_war_rome_ii_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We hope you have some chores to do between turns</h3> <p>It didn’t take long, but we soon came to a point within our <strong>Total War: Rome II</strong> empire-building where it would have been much nicer to just build a big wall around our smattering of conquered lands, put up a “Go Away” sign or two, and live out the rest of our days in boredom and serenity. After all, the game had already taken us pretty far toward the former.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/3_small_22.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/3_small_21.jpg" alt="While we’re big fans of “starving them out,” you can also employ fun rock-chuckers to encourage enemies to vacate a city." title="Total War: Rome II" width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>While we’re big fans of “starving them out,” you can also employ fun rock-chuckers to encourage enemies to vacate a city.</strong></p> <p>It’s a shame, too. We can recall spending (too much) time playing many of the predecessors in the Total War franchise—moving around armies and special units as if we were playing a hybrid of Risk and chess, and jumping into absurdly fun, sprawling battles reminiscent of the opening scene of Gladiator. That’s all still present in Total War: Rome II, but the game itself just isn’t all that compelling.</p> <p>For one thing, it’s huge. Starting off any of the offered campaigns (which is the closest you’ll get to a “story mode” within this strategy title, save for its “prologue” trainer campaign) presents an overwhelming amount of factions and lands for you to deal with. That doesn’t sound so bad at first, given that the game is called Total War and you should really arrive expecting to dance with a number of lesser folk. However, just getting through a simple turn or two is a battle unto itself.</p> <p>We were rocking a fairly beefy system to play this title—even going so far as to install the game on an SSD—and we still found ourselves waiting around 45 seconds or so just to get through the turns of our campaign’s many, many other players. Worse, that was just in our campaign’s early game when not all that much is happening around the map. Best of luck to you if your computer is a little slow on the uptake; you might want to go make a sandwich (or mow the lawn) while the AI does its thing.</p> <p>If you like to turtle—sitting inside your borders and building a lovely little civilization while everything else around you burns—this might not be the title for you. There’s simply not that much to do within the game’s city-building component, save for carefully managing the balance between your provinces’ public order and food. Want to make a building that gives you more food? More unrest! Want to quell the unrest so you can make more food or other buildings that confused us as to their usefulness? Insert random building here!</p> <p>There’s also a growth-rate mechanic that allows you to increase the size of your cities, assuming you’re even allowed to add more buildings—some will be limited to just a few. In other words, Total War: Rome II ain’t Civilization; don’t expect to be able to take every city of yours through some kind of masterwork plan to transform it into the next Rome; expect to do a lot of minutia calculating as to whether your simple upgrades will make or break your faction’s food surplus (or start a decrease in public order). Spoiler: You really don’t want to break your provinces’ careful balance.</p> <p>Unless you have armies on the move, the city/cultural aspects of the game contribute to its boredom, thanks to the aforementioned overabundance-of-factions issue. If you find yourself with a few turns where you’re just taking care of business at home instead of marching around and sticking pointy spears through everybody, you might very well be waiting five minutes for the 20 seconds’ worth of action that you’ve taken. Do this enough, and you’ll turn yourself into a warlord if for no other reason than to give yourself a bit more to do.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/2_small_18.jpg" alt="We’re almost afraid to uncover the entire map, lest it lead to turns that each take five minutes to resolve." title="Total War: Rome II" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We’re almost afraid to uncover the entire map, lest it lead to turns that each take five minutes to resolve.</strong></p> <p>Similar to previous Total War titles, there’s a whole micromanagement aspect behind your faction’s “characters”—your generals, thieves, nobles, and other “special” units. As they grow, you can assign them skills and upgrade their abilities and statistics. You can marry them off, promote them, kill their wives, and even attempt to kill them off, depending on how their growing influence factors into your faction’s politics. If that sounds confusing, if not antithetical, don’t worry; we didn’t have much of a clue what we were doing in this element of the game, nor is it quite clear what you should be doing on the political field (nor is this level of micromanagement all that much fun).</p> <p>We partially blame the game’s “throw you into it” mentality. Admittedly, Total War: Rome II does come with a lovely “prologue” campaign that’s designed to get newbies up to speed on the game’s various parts; we recommend you not skip that, even if you’re a fairly accomplished Total War player (and will no doubt find yourself unchallenged in the campaign’s actual battles). At the end of the day, however, there’s just a lot going on within Total War’s “map mode,” for lack of a better way to phrase it, and it’s not exactly thrilling work.</p> <p>That brings us to the battles.</p> <p>We greatly enjoy the raw, physical fighting of the Total War series, and Total War: Rome II spares no expense in that regard. While the computer still remains fairly out-thinkable, there’s just a delightful joy that comes each time you fire up your cavalry’s special abilities and run them right through enemy archers—and that’s just the beginning.</p> <p>Total War: Rome II ups the ante by throwing naval combat into the mix, and it’s every bit as beautiful as it is tactically interesting (even though we wish there were a way to move one’s troops from land to ships, and vice versa, within the general campaign). You’ll smile with delight the first time you zoom in to watch your troops leaping over from your ship to an enemy vessel; disembarking a huge chunk of whoop-ass in front of a garrisoned city within a battle is even more glee-inducing.</p> <p>However, Total War: Rome II’s prettiness comes with a price. We didn’t quite expect to see frame-rate issues, thanks to our system’s Nvidia GTX Titan card, but our battles definitely got choppy when we cranked the game to its highest graphical settings. The developer has since patched the game, but after our deadline had passed. Bummer.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/1_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/1_small_28.jpg" alt="It’s no Saving Private Ryan, but sailing toward a garrisoned city (full of painful archers) does feel a bit awe-inspiring." title="Total War: Rome II" width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>It’s no Saving Private Ryan, but sailing toward a garrisoned city (full of painful archers) does feel a bit awe-inspiring.</strong></p> <p>Total War: Rome II puts us in the precarious position to say that the game’s a half-success: The rock ’em, sock ’em battles are fun and engaging (albeit imperfect), but the game’s larger strategy elements make us want to retreat back to the pleasantry of Civilization V. Unless you want to throw down every turn you get (which you might very well do, should you opt to enslave your beaten foes), Total War: Rome II is a tough, strategic slog to get through.</p> <p><strong>$60,</strong> <a href="http://www.totalwar.com/en_us/">www.totalwar.com</a><strong>, ESRB: T</strong></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/total_war_rome_ii_review_2014#comments 2013 december issues 2013 games maximum pc Review rome II total war Software Games December 2013 Reviews Mon, 10 Feb 2014 11:08:25 +0000 David Murphy 27227 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asus PQ321Q Review http://www.maximumpc.com/Asus_PQ321Q_Review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>4K has arrived!</h3> <p>Thirty inches. 2560x1600 resolution. Four million pixels. That&nbsp;<em>was&nbsp;</em>the gold standard in PC displays, but it's just been blown away. Welcome to the wonderful world of ultra-high-definition visuals. With this outrageous $3,500 flat screen, Asus is giving us our first taste of 4K resolutions. It might just be the next big thing in PC graphics. Can it possible live up to the hype?</p> <p>Maybe. The <strong>Asus PQ321Q</strong> is the largest true PC monitor we've seen, at 31.5 inches diagonal, and it's also the most expensive, at $3,500. It's therefore tricky to immediately take the Asus PQ321Q seriously. If you're the kind of person fed up with $600 GPUs, what are you supposed to make of a $3,500 monitor? Here's the thing: This panel is so exceptional, so spectacular, that it demands your attention at any price.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u163784/front-angle-lowered.jpg" alt="Asus PQ321Q" title="Asus PQ321Q" width="600" height="519" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You might recognize the PQ321Q from our Dream Machine 2013. It's&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;special.</strong></p> <p>The big news, of course is the 3840x2160 resolution. Strictly speaking, it's not quite 4K (or 4,000 horizontal pixels), but it's close enough not to make a material difference to the viewing experience. It's made possibly by indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology, which takes the place of amorphous silicon in standard TFT LCD panels and allows for smaller pixels, while maintaining light transmission. In other words, you can have really high resolutions without losing brightness.</p> <p>Anyway, it's precisely four times the resolution of a 1080p full-HD panel. To understand how much real estate that is, take a 1920x1080 grid and superimpose it top left on the Asus's 3840x2160 grid. It'll stretch halfway across and halfway down. Then stick another 1920x1080 on the right. You've covered half the screen. Add two more below, and bang - four 1080p grids and four times the resolution.</p> <p>Advanced mathematics aside, what follows is all manner of goodness. First is general sharpness and image quality. You may be used to seeing high DPI and tight pixel pitches on your mobile devices, but experiencing it on a screen of this scale is truly spectacular.</p> <p>Admittedly, mobile devices still trump the Asus PQ321Q in sheer pixel density. The Asus sports pixels measuring 0.182mm across, whereas even the low-res iPhone 5's pixels are less than half as big - just 0.07815mm across - but the initial impression is still of staggering clarity and sharpness, the likes of which you've never seen before in a desktop display.</p> <p>Next up is screen real estate - a metric ton of it. We're accustomed to using 2560x1440 27-inchers and 2560x1600 30-inchers. But this thing blows them away. Yup, somebody has finally come up with a panel that makes those existing high-res panels feel cramped. The inherent quality of the panel is outrageously good, too. If you've been wondering why not many monitor-makers bother with PVA these days, this panel comes along and gives that oft-overlooked panel type a much needed shot in the arm. It matches or bests the top panels out there for contrast, viewing angles, saturation, and black levels, for starters. Then it blows them away with far superior color accuracy and zippy response, free from overdrive-related nasties such as inverse ghosting. It's also worth noting that there's not a whiff of IPS glow and the anti-glare coating is smooth and sparkle-free.</p> <p>Our next port of call is video quality. What's really interesting here is that high-definition video is typically pegged at 1920 by 1080 pixels. That's currently Full HD, and it's what all our brains are tuned to, so when you fire up some 4K content (there are demo streams on YouTube, among other sources), the results are spectacular.</p> <p>It genuinely feels like looking through a window into an alternative reality - one that's as sharp as the real world, but brighter and more vibrant. Move over stereoscopic 3D; this is where it's at.</p> <p>When it comes to games, however, the step up isn't quite so dramatic. The reason for that, of course, is that we're accustomed to seeing games rendered at true 2560x1440 or 2560x1600 on similar size panels. At 3840x2160, the Asus PQ321Q does look tangibly better - it's nothing less than superb - but if you're used to today's beyond 1080p panels, it's not quite a life-altering improvement.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bottom line is that the Asus PQ321Q looks utterly sublime, but there are issues, and we're not talking about the 3,500 problems denominated in US dollars. The first is the monumental load that 3840x2160 pixels puts on a graphics chip. Do the math and we are talking about an excess of 8 million pixels on this panel. Ideally, you'd want those pixels updated at a rate of at least 30 times a second - preferably twice as fast. Net result? Your GPU has to process and then pump out roughly 250 million pixels per second. It's a number that's almost beyond comprehension, and it says a lot about modern graphics tech that it's actually doable with a single GPU such as a GeForce GTX 780 TI or Radeon R9 290X. What you really want to know is: Can you get playable frame rates at super-high settings? The answer is: It's borderline. You should really expect to run multi-GPU set ups for this resolution.</p> <p>The final problem is more of a generic question of 2D support for such a huge resolution. It's beyond what DVI can handle, even in dual-link format, so that's out. A single HDMI connection, using the latest spec, can handle the 3840x2160 resolution, but only at 30Hz refresh. Take it from us, 30Hz is fugly. You need to run this panel at 60Hz.</p> <p>In theory, you can drive it at 60Hz using dual HDMI connections, but real-world support for that configuration seems patchy. Thus, your main option is DisplayPort. You'll still need to run the display in what's known as multi-stream mode (MST), rather than single-stream mode (SST).</p> <p>The technicalities are a bit complicated, but MST boils down to a halfway house between a true single pixel grid and running the screen as a pair of virtual displays.</p> <p>The key thing with MST is that it shows up as one display to the operating system and applications - most critically, games. The problem is that it's not fully compatible with rendering prior to graphics-driver loading. That means thing such as BIOS screens, Windows Safe Mode, and all that jazz. Your mileage will vary depending on the video card. With some, the screen is blank during book. With others, you'll get the BIOS squished into one half of the display, which is at least usable.</p> <p>The bottom line is, you'll have to switch modes in the PQ321Q's OSD to guarantee you're seeing things correctly outside of a fully drivered-up Windows OS, which you won't enjoy doing because the OSD controls are placed carefully to make them almost impossible to use comfortably.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the new de facto measure for all other screens. OK, hardly anyone will buy this screen, and we do wonder why it's so expensive (the first 30-inch 2560x1600 panels were half this price when they appeared around eight years ago), but for the time being, this monitor is as good as it gets. Well, until someone cooks up a lovely 4K 120Hz panel, that is.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/Asus_PQ321Q_Review_2014#comments 4K Displays 4K Technology asus Dream Machine 2013 monitor pq321q Reviews Thu, 06 Feb 2014 23:15:23 +0000 Jeremy Laird 27216 at http://www.maximumpc.com Silverstone Tundra TD03 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/silverstone_tundra_td03_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A promising first step</h3> <p>Ever since closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) arrived on the scene, hardware manufacturers have been scrambling to get a slice of the pie. On paper, CLCs can achieve better performance than even the most expensive air coolers, and more quietly. Because PC technology is always evolving, it’s rare to see a genuinely new and interesting war front appear—if you’re not participating in it, you might get left behind. <a title="silverstone" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Silverstone" target="_blank">Silverstone</a> has stepped into the game with its Tundra series of CLCs. Last month, we reviewed its 240mm <a title="TD02" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/silverstone_tundra_td02_review_2014" target="_blank">TD02</a>, and now it’s time for the <strong>Silverstone Tundra TD03</strong>, which is the 120mm version.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/silverstone_cooler_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/silverstone_cooler_small.jpg" alt="The fan cables are short, but the bundled Y adapter gives them plenty of total length." title="Silverstone Tundra TD03" width="620" height="544" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The fan cables are short, but the bundled Y adapter gives them plenty of total length.</strong></p> <p>At a glance, the TD03 is similar to the <a title="h80i review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_h80i_review_2013" target="_blank">Corsair H80i</a>. The 120mm radiator is paired with two 120mm fans that install in a push-pull orientation, where one fan pushes air into the rad on one side, and the other fan pulls it out. You can reverse the direction, but the temperature difference is usually negligible.</p> <p>The TD03 has a very different look, however. Its tubes are enclosed in white corrugated plastic, the rad’s housing is white, and the water block installed on top of the CPU is housed in brushed aluminum. If we were scoring purely on aesthetics, the Tundra cooler would walk away with a gold medal.</p> <p>The rad is also nearly twice as thick as usual (with about twice the fin density, as well); combined with the two fans, you need a whopping 3.75 inches of clearance. Unless you have a cavernous super-tower (our test case is a Corsair 900D), the TD03 is not fitting in the top of your case. It will go in the rear, but high-profile RAM on an LGA2011 motherboard may obstruct it. You may have a 120mm fan mount in the bottom of your case, but a radiator’s reservoirs need an inch or two of extra space on each side, so it’s not guaranteed to work. And the tubes might not reach.</p> <p>On the bright side, installation for Intel CPUs is made easier with two pre-installed aluminum brackets, and a generally minimized number of widgets. The LGA2011 socket needs only four easily distinguishable bolts, and a set of four screws with springs on them. And the Intel bracket is attached with four screws, so it’s an easy swap to AMD. Since aluminum dissipates heat better than the standard plastic housing and is more impact-resistant, it’s a good choice for protecting a copper block, albeit a relatively expensive one. That and the extra materials in the jumbo-size radiator put the TD03 in a different price range than a standard 120mm CLC.</p> <p>So, the 64-gigabyte question is, does the TD03 have the performance to justify its premium design? Not as much as we’d like, unfortunately. We tried both airflow directions, different amounts of thermal paste, and even laying the case on its side. But in the end, the TD03 came in a half-step behind the competition in its price range. At around $100 on the street, it’s up against the likes of the <a title="corsair h100i" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_h100i_cpu_cooler_review" target="_blank">Corsair H100i</a> and the <a title="kraken x60" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_kraken_x60_review_2013" target="_blank">NZXT Kraken X60</a>, which consistently outperform it, if slightly. Are the TD03’s fins too densely packed for its fans? Are the liquid tubes too narrow? We’ll leave it to the science wizards to figure that out. But until then, we can’t quite recommend this cooler over others in its class.</p> <p><strong>$100,</strong> <a href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/">www.silverstonetek.com </a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/silverstone_tundra_td03_review_2014#comments 2013 Air Cooling closed loop CPU Cooler Hardware Review Silverstone Tundra TD03 water cooler December 2013 Reviews Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:56:29 +0000 Tom McNamara 27148 at http://www.maximumpc.com Phanteks Enthoo Primo Review http://www.maximumpc.com/phanteks_enthoo_primo_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Phanteks Enthoo Primo Review: A big, monster case with a few little quirks</h3> <p>We appreciate it when a case manufacturer dares to go above and beyond the standard construction techniques we see time and time again. Enter the <strong>Phanteks Enthoo Primo</strong> case—a chassis that sounds more like a sneeze than a container for your expensive hardware, but one that comes with a few tricks hidden within its jet-black frame. However, a few peculiar quirks make us hesitant to give this $250 chassis a full-on recommendation.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_left_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_left_small.jpg" alt="Give up your gym membership; lifting this case up and down is all the workout you’ll ever need." title="Phanteks Enthoo Primo" width="620" height="755" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Give up your gym membership; lifting this case up and down is all the workout you’ll ever need.</strong></p> <p>To begin with, we were annoyed with the Primo’s packaging. Not that the box it arrived in didn’t adequately protect the near-40-pound steel chassis with the help of a ton of foam, but rather that Phanteks covered the case with protective wrap that was stickier and gooier and more difficult to take off than what we’re used to dealing with. And there’s quite a lot of it, too.</p> <p>Moving on to the case itself, the Primo’s five 5.25-inch bays are screwless and easy to access by popping off the grilled covers on its front. We just wish we could switch the case’s front-panel door from swinging open right-to-left to left-to-right—like on a refrigerator. The Primo’s six drive bays all use easy-to-install trays to hold your storage in place, and the case itself comes with two areas on the rear of the motherboard tray where you can double-stack SSDs (so, four total).</p> <p>Slapping an ATX, eATX, or mATX motherboard into this case is pretty easy, given its pre-installed standoffs. Swapping an aftermarket cooler into a build is similarly simple, thanks to the huge, cut-out hole on the upper half of the motherboard tray.</p> <p>Installing a standard video card into the Primo is a bit trickier since a large reservoir bracket covers the right half of the motherboard area. We didn’t have any room whatsoever to slap a 10.5-inch GTX 480 in the case as-is; we had to first remove the bracket’s cover and, even then, it was an extremely tight fit. Video cards measuring 11 inches or more need not apply. Yes, you can remove the bracket entirely, but it’s just one more somewhat annoying step in the installation process.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/enthoo-primo_5_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/enthoo-primo_5_small.jpg" alt="Phanteks goes to great lengths to help you conceal cables, but its water-cooling apparatuses get in the way a bit." title="Phanteks Enthoo Primo" width="620" height="620" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Phanteks goes to great lengths to help you conceal cables, but its water-cooling apparatuses get in the way a bit.</strong></p> <p>The reservoir bracket, when in place, severely hampers one’s ability to effectively manage cables within the case. But even with a standard ATX motherboard installed, two of the case’s seven rubberized cable mounting holes on the tray itself are ever-so-slightly covered up; it’s not a deal-breaker, but mildly annoying given the sheer size of the full-tower chassis.</p> <p>The case’s connectivity is pretty standard: two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports on top. The connectors themselves are covered by lovely rubber tabs, but these tabs aren’t themselves attached to the case in any fashion—making them neat to look at but super easy to lose. An additional button controls the case’s lovely lighting, a thin blue strip that runs over the front-right side and up onto the case’s top.</p> <p>What we’d love to see on this case is a fan controller. A built-in circuit board allows you to connect up to 11 different fans to a single, 4-pin connector—presumably, you’d be able to control everything via your motherboard. We think a dial, switch, or some other means of changing up your fan speeds on-the-fly would be a lot easier.</p> <p>The Primo is an odd hybrid. It comes with plenty of cooling, support for plenty of devices (including two PSUs, if you dare), and offers a lot on the liquid-cooling front. However, its ease-of-use is countered by a few nagging features that, for a case this costly, should have been eliminated at the drawing board. For this much scratch, you could almost snag a 10/Kick Ass–winning Corsair Obsidian 800D.</p> <p><strong>$250,</strong> <a href="http://www.phanteks.com/">www.phanteks.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/phanteks_enthoo_primo_review_2014#comments 2013 case chassis computer Hardware pc Phanteks Enthoo Primo Review Cases December 2013 Reviews Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:36:03 +0000 David Murphy 27147 at http://www.maximumpc.com