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budget gaming pc header

Gaming PC On A Budget – The Essential Cheat-Sheet

If you’re looking for specific product recommendations after reading this piece, feel free to check out our reviews section!

A modern motherboard is like a Lego board, made easier by the labels that take up every square inch of its silicon real-estate. You have to think of n9k-c93180yc-ex as the bricks to help you build your dream sculpture. So, as you collect the right Lego bricks (read processor, GFX card, RAM kit and so on) and plug them into their respective places on the board, you got yourself a working system. It is that simple!

The problem, however, is the plethora of hardware choices and combinations out there fighting for your attention. To add to that, there is the ever-lasting argument between Intel vs. AMD processor and graphics cards. This is just the tip of the iceberg for someone wanting to build a budget gaming pc under 300, or indeed even a little more expensively.

But, don’t fret, this cheat sheet shall give the right perspective to builds, components and much more on a budget. In other words, if you are okay with playing the latest PC games at ultra-settings (and some at high) on a 1920 x 1080 resolution HD monitor, then you’ll find this article helpful. If not, then this will seem pretty rudimentary for your liking.

Processor And Cooling Unit

From a purely gaming perspective, you shall need a discrete graphics card in any case, so features like ‘integrated graphics’ on your processor shouldn’t matter. However, the processor goes into overdrive for RTS (XCom 2), simulation (Grid Autosport), or games with adaptive utilization of computation such as Deus Ex 2: Mankind Divided. Also, multiplayer games will take more processing power.

That said, all current gen, quad core CPUs can handle modern gaming challenges. Intel core i3-7100 is a good starting point with its dual core, quad thread processing capability and 3.9GHz base clock. Its not power hungry and provides optimum cover for your affordable gaming needs.

Going up the processing-to-price scale, AMD FX-8300 is a capable processor at $105. Its an octa-core processor with 3.3Ghz base clock that ramps up to 4.2GHz on turbo. We suggest you spend on a proper cooling unit like Cooler Master’s HX-212 fan to keep this beast under control.

Motherboards

If you decide on Intel’s i3 processor, then you’ll should be looking for LGA 1151 socket type motherboards, in which case the likes of Asus H110M-A/M.2; MSI H110M Gaming and Gigabyte GA-H110M-A come into play. We like the MSI variant but that is more of a personal rather than a professional choice.

All three motherboards fall within the $60-$80 price band, and offer similar features like two DIMM slots with support for DDR4 RAMs; single slot for graphics card; one processor fan and one case fan connection. Depending on your budget, you could ramp up the motherboard selection to avail more bells and whistles.

As for AMD FX-8300, any good quality, AM3+ socket type motherboard will do the job. Here again, you could choose between Asus, Gigabyte and ASRock for budget motherboards in the $60-$90 range. They offer all the basic connections.

However, if longevity is in your plans, then we suggest you spend a bit more and choose between either MSI Gaming 970 or ASRock AM3 970A-G/3.1. Both gall within $90-$100 and will not wilt under heavy gaming, thanks to their build and pre-installed heat dissipation solutions.

Memory

8GB of RAM should be sufficient for most gaming requirements. So, depending on your choice of motherboard, you could either go for two 4GB sticks or a single 8GB memory module. There is a lot of choice when it comes to RAM manufacturers. So, its really a matter of preference and price ($50-$60).

However, your choice of RAM stick(s) should match your motherboard’s specs. For example, AMD based motherboards accept DDR3 RAMs whereas their Intel counterparts accept DDR4.

Another aspect is the latency if you’re employing two RAM sticks. Make sure the latency of both sticks match exactly.

Power Supply

For a budget PC build, 500-600 watts power supply should be enough. But not all PSUs are built the same and what you really ought to look for is one that gives you constant efficiency at 20, 50 and 100 percent loads. Thus, any PSU with an 80 Plus Bronze certification will cater to your budget gaming rig’s power needs effortlessly.

In the 500 to 600-watt range, EVGA 500B and Seasonic S12II 520W are two excellent choices for sub $50 PSUs. However, we like EVGA 500 W1 for builds with NVidia GTX 1050 and 1060 GFX cards, whereas Corsair’s CX600 600-watts PSU is our favorite for AMD GFX based PCs.

Graphics Card

In terms of sheer price to performance ratio, its hard to ignore the tug-of-war between Nvidia’s GTX-1060 and AMD’s Radeon RX480. Both cards come in two different GPU RAM variants. The 1060 offers a choice between 3GB and 6GB version. Similarly, RX480 comes in 4GB and 8GB variants. The pricing too varies between $200-$250.

Nevertheless, our budget winner in GFX card category has to be the GTX-1050Ti. It hits the sweet spot with its $150 price point; 4GB RAM and 1354Mhz base clock speed (EVGA model). It is just about perfect for playing classic and modern games at 1080p at high settings.

Hard Drive

As a gaming machine, 1 TB SATA hard drive running at 7200rpm will do just fine. But if you are keen upon faster load times, then you could choose a 480GB SATA-3 SSD, in which case Toshiba OCZ Trion 150 and SanDisk SSD Plus become choices worth looking at.

For a better match between speed and affordability, a combination of 128GB M.2 SSD (ADATA or Transcend) and 1TB hard-drive (WB Caviar Blue) would serve your needs and your pocket better ($100 combined). Understanding the difference between WD Blue vs Green SSD can help you make a better choice for your budget and PC so take that into consider when building your PC.

Final Words

Discussed above are the fundamental purchases but not the only ones. There is the aspect of CPU cases, computer peripherals, monitors and the likes. We decided to leave them out because quite honestly, that discussion deserves content space of its own.

Its also worth repeating that PCs assembled with these combinations would cost between $450-$750 and cater to the 1080p gaming audience. Therefore, expecting these builds to take on 1440p, 4K or VR with style would be sheer naivety.

  • Jonas
  • March 9, 2017
  • PC
intel kaby lake chip header

Intel Chips – Finally Taking The Leap Through Its Kaby Lake Processors

After the launch of dual-core Kaby Lake Y-series processors for ultra-thin laptops in August 2016, things seemed a little slow on that front. But that was only the calm before the storm, because at CES 2017, company executives declared nearly 40 different processor configs for the 7th generation processor family that would enter the market to serve a wide range of products.

As with any successive generation, the central point of evaluation is performance. And not surprisingly, Kaby Lake chips are expected to show a 20% increase in performance with respect to Broadwell quad core chips.

There is also tremendous improvement expected on the graphical and video processing front. Compared to last gen Skylake, these 7th gen chips are expected to have better 4K video creation and playback abilities.

According to Intel’s director of mobile platform marketing, Karen Regis, however, Kaby Lake’s strong suit lay in their ability to support ‘Optane’, Intel’s super SSD tech, a topic that we shall discuss at length. But first, lets look at the speeds and feeds of their chips.

The Kaby Lake Overview

The initial Kaby Lake launch in August 2016 saw the launch of low-power, dual-core, Y-series (4.5W) and U-series (15W) processors meant for 2-in-1 detachables and clamshell ultrabooks respectively. The recent rollout is wide ranging (more than 40 models) and covers a whole host of dual and quad core processor families.

Let’s start with the H-series – base clock ranging from 2.5GHz to 3.1GHz, turbo boost readings go all the way up to 4.1GHz. The series features both dual-core and quad-core type chips with TDP of 45-watts, and are designed for performance laptops and VR-ready notebooks. Both unlocked as well as the business-centric Intel vPro models can be found in the family.

For the mainstream desktop configurations, AIO and mini PCs, there is the S-series of dual-core and quad-core processors, available in TDP slabs of 35W, 65W and 95W with base clock speeds starting from 2.4GHz going all the way up to 4.2GHz with turbo boost frequency readings of 4.5GHz.

The 65W and 95W chips being high wattage are ideal for gaming and enthusiast PC builds, whereas the 35-watt chips shall be better suited to mini PCs and AOIs. Available in overclocked and vPro versions, price for the S-series is expected in the region of $117-$339.

A total of eight new chipsets have also been announced. Of these, five (B250, H270, Z270, Q250 and Q270) are designated for desktops whereas three (HM175, QM175 and CM238) shall cater to mobile computers.

Integrated Graphics And Overclocking

One notable omission is Iris and Iris Pro integrated graphics, which had relegated Intel HD graphics to denote the lower rung of graphics integration into Intel processors. The new entrant this time is Iris Plus, which in comparison to integrated HD Graphics shows a 65% uptick in 3D Graphics rendering and close to 40% improvement when converting video files from one format to the other.

According to Intel, Iris Plus along with the increased clock speeds across single, dual and quad core performance in Kaby Lake chips could finally run games at 1080p albeit at lower settings.

The other notable change is with regards to overclocking. The 7th gen chips from S-series will have an overclockable model for the i5(7600K), i7(7700K) and also their i3 chips (7560K). Furthermore, there are two different ways in which these chips could be overclocked.

The first is via an automated tool through which both base clock as well as clock multiplier can be manipulated. The other, which Intel calls AVX offset ratio, is an automatic reduction in clock speed when the processor experiences high degree of computationally complex instructions. This shall prevent the overclocked chip from overheating and thus increase its average lifespan.

Additional Technologies And Optane

There are two big takeaways in terms of other technologies incorporated, either directly or indirectly with Intel’s Kaby Bridge. First in line has to be the integrated video engine which was discussed at length during Intel’s August presentation. The engine supports popular 4K codecs and has its dedicated video block which in turn shall reduce the overall load on the processor.

Intel’s hope is that as more and more 4K videos are made, it shall be lapped by the likes of 4K content creators and resellers such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Not to forget that 4K service providers like FandangoNow, ULTRA from Sony Pictures or iQIYI could stand to make great gains from Intel’s video engine.

The second is Intel’s Authenticate, an in-house authentication technology that combines different factors like PINs, biometrics and even phone based authentication over BlueTooth. An idea that chip making giant shared at the beginning of 2016 is ready to become a reality, and Intel looks all set to incorporate it into business PCs.

Finally, we come to the hot topic of Optane, Intel’s 3D Xpoint technology that blows conventional NAND based SSDs out of the water, both in terms of read and write speeds. Developed in collaboration with Micron, the Optane module is basically a unique SSD replacement that slots into the DRAM slot.

Kaby Bridge processors weren’t built keeping Optane in mind, they are nevertheless the first generation of Intel chips to support this 3D XPoint technology. While there is no clarity on release dates and price point, this much is clear that all 200-series chipsets from Intel shall be optimized for Optane.

The Competition Landscape

For the time-being, Kaby Lake processors can enjoy a lot of breathing space but that is until AMD’s Ryzen gets introduced to customers and finally hits the market. And from the looks of it Intel is either readying itself to battle AMD’s onslaught with its Kaby Lake and Optane combination.

Nevertheless, Intel’s mid-level processor pricing will stay high until AMD bring out their trump cards. Also, there has been no talk of extreme level processors from Intel for Kaby Lake, so we’ll need to wait and see if and when they decide to bring that out.

So, all eyes will be on both processing giants on how they go about marketing their respective products when the two finally square off against each other with their own version of processors.

  • Jonas
  • March 7, 2017
  • PC
samsung all in one artpc

New Samsung All-In-One PC – An Innovation That’s Slipped Under The Radar

CES 2017 was a sight to behold – spread over 2.6 million square-feet of floor space and thousands of exhibitors showcasing their consumer technology products to a dizzying populace of visitors. From gaming drones to dishwashers and everything in between, if it involved daily life, then there was a gadget being showcased for it.

Where most products had the full force of promotional elements thrown behind them, there were some that remained hidden in the background, away from plain sight. Why? Because, manufacturers weren’t too sure what to do with them or for that matter, how to introduce them to the public.

One such product that caught our eye was Samsung’s All-In-One PC, which to be honest looked like a big monitor with an attached sound bar at first glance. It was only upon further enquiry that we understood what it really was. Dubbed the ArtPC (albeit hastily), the All-In-One (AIO) did peak our interest, but for different reasons altogether. Let’s take them up one by one.

The DNA Of AIOs

The headspace for AIOs is really quite simple. When you start feeling cramped working for hours on your 15-inch laptop, the other alternatives include connecting it to a bigger monitor or simply switching over to a desktop (provided you have one).

In that respect, an AIO sits comfortably between laptop and a full-scale desktop. On the one hand, its bigger screen size and performance outdo a laptop in a home environment. On the other hand, an AIO’s compact and clutter-free nature is so unlike a traditional desktop and for all the good reasons.

Not surprisingly, it’s the display of AIOs that makes them good or great. While inexpensive ones have those 20-inch screens, the better, more successful models rock a display-size that’s 23-inches or more on the diagonal. It gets better if the resolution is 1080p or higher (1440p and 4K) with an ultra-wide screen, the latter exploiting Windows 10 feature of viewing and working on multiple desktop instances opened side by side to the fullest.

Also, since the screen affords more brightness than laptop displays, choosing an All-In-One with IPS display panel brings off-axis viewing (not having to sit bang in front of the monitor) into play. There’s the added benefit if it’s a touch screen especially since this is another feature that Windows 10 was built to serve whole-heartedly. However, it’s absence isn’t exactly such a loss.

Add to that the hardware features such as SSD storage, more RAM (8GB and higher) and powerful processor with graphic rendering ability, you got a powerful system that’s easy to work on and becomes your entertainment outlet for when you want to take a break.

Attributes like USB connectivity, HDMI port, Ethernet LAN port are a necessity since they extend the operational spectrum of the AIO by letting you connect to your laptop, phone, tablet etcetera. A wireless keyboard and mouse combo complete the AIO circle making it a better, more organized alternative to a traditional desktop.

The Mysterious ArtPC From Samsung

From what we observed from the two promotional videos at the Samsung stall, the ArtPC comes in two variants, one with the touchscreen and the other without it. Also, Windows Hello (a feature that lets you to login quickly via scans of fingerprint, iris or face) is only available on the touchscreen version. Other than that, the rest of the specifications between the two models are pretty much identical.

The Exterior

Externally, the AIO sports a 24-inch HD display and a hefty 10-watt RMS sound-bar towards the bottom. In fact, the first impressions we got from the weird design was that of the display trying to protrude from the sound-bar, much like an over-grown iPod docking station. The cool thing about the sound-bar however, is that it can be connected via Bluetooth even when the AIO was turned off.

Additionally, there’s a wireless mouse and keyboard combo. We were particularly impressed by the curved shape of the keycaps. For one, it made depressing the keys easy thereby allowing for the fingers to glide across the keyboard faster. But more importantly, the shape is highly conducive for typing; a priceless attribute for anyone who spends a lot of time thrashing out write-ups.

The Interior

Go deeper into the ArtPC models, and at the center, you’ll find a 7th Generation Intel core i5-7400T processor, with a base clock speed of 2.4Ghz. For all graphic-intensive work (includes playing certain game titles), the built-in Intel HD Graphics 630 should handle them all without any fuss.

For storage, Samsung has provided a 1TB, 5400RPM SATA hard disk whereas its memory can be extended up to 16GB. All in all, satisfactory specs although we would have loved to see either a full 240GB SSD version or at the very least, a 32GB ‘cache SSD’ to speed up load time for OS as well as frequently used apps.

Connectivity

Thankfully, connectivity options are aplenty on the ArtPC. From USB 3.0 ports, SD card slot, HDMI interface and Gigabit Ethernet port, its got all the necessary connection requirements for a modern PC covered.

Furthermore, we were told that the two ArtPCs shall have some special applications installed including SideSync, an app that promotes interconnectivity and therefore seamless data transfer between the AIO, and smartphones, tablets and other devices.

The Future Remains Uncertain

Despite the new All-In-One PC having made its appearance in CES 2017, the simple fact is that neither many people gave it much attention; nor did Samsung seem interested in peddling it to visitors.

In fact, according to one representative’s candid confession, there are no immediate plans to bring the AIO into mainstream production and it is perhaps for this reason that it’s pricing too hasn’t been revealed. That in itself should put into perspective the mysterious nature of the ArtPC.

Both Microsoft (Surface Studio) and Dell (XPS 27) have come out with their respective gadgets to occupy the largely unattended Windows 10 AIO segment. So, if Samsung’s new AIO were to become available in the near future, it can be sure to have a battle on its hands.

 

  • Jonas
  • March 6, 2017
  • PC
nvidia pc revival kit in box

NVidia’s PC Revival Kit – A Complete Overview

NVidia has recently launched a PC Revival Kit, which is essentially a collection of hardware to transform your run-of-the-mill PC into a gaming machine. Price wise, if someone in Europe were to order the package directly, it would cost him/her roughly 399 EUR (or $425), and that’s including postage and custom fee.

Contrast this against buying the same parts individually in Europe, there is hardly any substantial difference in price. If anything, there’s higher chance of getting a better deal with the latter option whether be it in terms of quality, warranty or price.

But then, different markets require different strategies. And the concept of PC Revival Kit, the brainchild of NVidia’s Latin America division, is only available to certain countries in the region, Chile being one of them. That said, we’ve examined each piece of this puzzle independently to get a pragmatic perspective of who the ‘Revival Kit’ shall profit.

What’s Inside The PC Revival Kit?

Based on first-hand information from sources in South America, the PC Revival Kit shall contain:

  • 1 x Corsair CX450M power supply unit
  • 1 x Corsair Force Series LE 240GB SSD storage
  • 1 x MSI GeForce GTX 1060 3GB graphics card
  • 1x NVidia T-shirt
  • 1 x game code for Gears of War 4

There are certain base criteria that an existing system should fulfil for the upgrades to even be possible. For starters, the motherboard should have at least one PCI-Express 16x slot to accommodate the GTX 1060 GFX card. Similarly, the SSD drive shall need SATA port(s).

Whereas Intel’s second-generation i5 or an equivalent AMD A8 APU belonging to the same period is the bare minimum requirement for possessor, the existing PC should also have 8GB of RAM. Any lower specs and the system won’t be able to handle games like Witcher 3 and Gears of War 4 even with the Revival bundle installed.

How Well Does The Kit Fare?

Given a desktop computer meets or betters the base requirements mentioned in the preceding section, then this kit can provide a significant albeit budget gaming solution. Here is a look at the included hardware components individually, which should shed some light on the true extent of the upgrade on offer.

Graphics Card

The GTX 1060 was NVidia’s thumping response to AMD’s mid-range GFX card, the Radeon RX 480. And MSI’s version of GTX 1060 isn’t all that different from the ‘Founder’s Edition’ except for the extra overclocking that’s done on it.

This however is the 3GB version of the card. On an average, it has 2-10% lower performance ratings when compared to the 6GB version of GTX 1060. But then, the 3GB model is also 22% cheaper; a trade-off worth considering for some.

While many would call it the ‘poorer brother’ of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, the GTX 1060 dominates the FHD spectrum of game resolution (1080p) and can play most if not all games at high settings on 1440p resolutions. It is also the least expensive GPU that’s VR-ready.

Being the first affordable Pascal architecture based GPU, GTX 1060 packs performance with power-efficiency. In fact, this card matches the past generation’s flagship GTX 980 pound for pound in frame rate for most graphic-intensive games played at 1080p resolution and at the highest possible settings.

Moreover, MSI’s GTX 1060 does all of the above while consuming less power – 135 watts TDP to GTX 980’s 178 watts when tested on identical PC configurations. This aspect has serious implications on the choice of PSU, given that you no longer have to go for high-wattage units to be on the safe side of things.

Power Supply

Positioned carefully between entry-level VS series and high-end TX series, Corsair’s CX450M provides that sweet spot of a power solution for budget and mid-level gaming systems. The M denotes the PSU’s modular nature, which in turn affords better space management.

Despite being a relatively inexpensive PSU option from Corsair’s stables, the CX450M is ‘80 Plus Bronze certified. Thus, this particular PSU model consistently offers 80-85% efficiency over the rated wattage of 450W across different loads.

So, apart from serious savings on electricity units, CX450M ensures that different PC hardware components receive constant power; an attribute that perfectly fits into the requirements of the aforementioned GFX card.

SSD Storage

SSD(s) greatly improves the time it takes to load the OS, applications or games. In that respect, Corsair’s Force LE series, and particularly the 240GB variant provides the all-important sweet-spot between reliability, cost-effectiveness and fast paced data storage and transfer needs.

This is mainly due to Toshiba’s 15-nanometer TLC flash for the memory and Phison’s PS3110-S10 to produce those lightning quick read-write operations that sit inside the LE 240GB model. The read and write speeds for LE series is rated at 560MB/sec and 530MB/sec for sequential operations. Its only in the non-sequential category that one notices a step up between say a 240GB and 480GB.

What’s NVidia’s Endgame With The PC Revival Kit?

From a strategic perspective, this is more of a one-stone-many-birds move by Nvidia with respect to the South American PC hardware market, where the demand for PC gameplay is ever-present, provided it is an affordable proposition.

Secondly, with NVidia’s 10 series of graphics cards offering an exponential rise in gaming performance and graphics rendering across the board, there’s no reason why today’s budget gaming PCs can’t compete with the likes of Xbox One and Playstation-4 over a prolonged period.

Granted upgrading a PC with NVidia’s ‘bundle’ might require more than just cost considerations. But once completed, that machine despite a mid-level graphics card shall produce far better gaming and visual experience than any present video-game console connected to a Full HD TV (1080p resolution).

Finally, there are those who are either new to the culture of PC upgrades or haven’t kept up with latest hardware developments for some time. For such people, NVidia’s PC Revival kit removes the learning curve associated with gaming PC components. Instead, it gives them a reliable yet ready-made option to realize their desire to play the latest PC games.

  • Jonas
  • March 5, 2017
  • PC
nvidia graphics card

NVIDIA’s Latest Graphics Cards – What Makes Them So Good?

The Titan X and GeForce GTX 10x series of graphics cards are the latest from NVidia, all of which are based on the new Pascal architecture. GTX 1080 is the standard for the series, with Titan X featuring at the premium range, whereas the likes of 1070 and 1060 offer systematic scaled-down versions without suffering on performance parameters. For this article, we shall focus on the marquee players i.e. 1080 and Titan X, but not before delving into some much-needed Pascal literature.

Pascal Architecture – The DNA Of NVidia GeForce GTX 10x And Titan X Graphics Cards

The GPU architecture for the 10x series graphics card is named Pascal whereas it was called Maxwell for the preceding 9x series. So, what’s in the name you ask? Well not much more than a collection of new feature(s) and/or improvements across baseline attributes that make the Pascal 10 times better if one were to go by NVidia’s claims.

Compared to Maxwell’s 28 nanometres (nm), Pascal GPUs have managed to cram up billions of transistors over a 16 nm FinFET manufacturing process. In layperson’s language, you got way more computational power on a given piece of silicon board than ever before. Plus, smaller architecture means efficient energy consumption, leading to less heating issues.

Pascal architecture variants churn out more than 5-teraFLOPS; up to 12 times more neural network training and seven times higher deep learning throughput. Without delving deeper into each aspect, its suffice to say, that the processing capability of Pascal GPUs is way higher than existing benchmarks.

But modern Graphics cards are a marriage between processing power and memory capabilities. And the simple thing with pairing memory with GPU until Pascal was that you could either increase capacity or you could increase bandwidth of the memory unit.

Increasing both capacity and bandwidth was a challenge, but it was a necessary challenge to overcome. Enter 3D memory on Pascal GPUs which offer 2.7 times the capacity and 3 times the speed, thereby leading to a holistic jump in overall performance attributes of the GPU.

Titan X Pascal – Simply Irresponsible Amounts Of Performance

In terms of performance parameters, Titan X’s Pascal version shreds its Maxwell counterpart to bits. Just to give you a perspective of the gulf in class, made from a 12 nm FinFET lithography on a die size of 471mm2, the GP-102 chip in the Pascal Titan X sports 12-billion transistors compared to 8-billion transistors on GM-200 chip of the Maxwell Titan X card.

The new Titan X with its 3584 CUDA cores and 1,417MHz of base clock speeds compared against its Maxwell counterpart (3,072 CUDA cores and 1,000MHz) is simply a phenomenal jump in graphic processing power. And even though the older version had similar memory capacity and bus i.e. 12GB and 384-bit respectively, the Pascal Titan X with its 48GB/s bandwidth accounts for 40% increase in that department.

As if past Titan X owners weren’t feeling miserable enough about their pricey card being trumped by the new GTX 1080 (on a price to performance scale obviously), the new Pascal Titan X has taken that gulf in class to a whole new level. The parameter numbers and benchmarks are all good, but the real test for the new Titan X was always going to be its performance on 4K resolutions. And here too, its proven more than capable.

For starters, this is the only single-GPU card that has been able to constantly pump out 60fps at 4K resolution for most games, a feat that was previously possible only through SLI. As for the games that it can’t, the bottleneck lies at the CPU level. So, if you really need to see what this card can do, then shift to a X99 platform with an eight-core CPU.

GeForce GTX 1080– The Gold Standard For 4K And VR

The GTX 1080 is the flagship of NVidia’s 10x GFX cards featuring the famed Pascal architecture. It is also the first card from the NVidia stables to take on the dual pronged challenge of 4K resolution display units and Virtual Reality gears.

The GTX 1080 uses the GP-104 GPU with 7.2 billion transistors, but for us gamers what counts is the CUDA cores and there’s 2,560 of them on this card. Compare that to GTX 980’s 2048, that’s a 25% more cores!

The clock speed is also higher – 1,607MHz to GTX 980’s 1,126MHz translating to 40% higher speeds. These two parameters alone offer ample evidence of the superior performance of the GTX 1080 against it’s previous generation counterpart and that too at a marginal increase in peak power draw.

There’s massive improvement on the RAM front too. Compared to GTX 980’s 4GB GDDR5 at memory clock of 7,000MHz, the GTX 1080 sports 6GB of GDDR5X RAM clocking at 10,000MHz. That means all that extended holding capacity for graphical data can be transferred at higher speed.

Ports wise, the Founder’s edition card offers connections for DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort (DP), where using the latter, 4K content can be pushed on to equally able display units at 120Hz and 5K at 60Hz. The 2.0b HDMI interface too can push 4K content but at 60Hz. So, all in all the GTX 1080 can be considered future proof in terms of the GFX hardware on offer.

On the software side, NVidia looks to have finally cracked the code to multi-monitor displays (4K), not to forget support for VR modules likes those on offer by Oculus and HTC. Apart from the basic software packages, one significant software feature is the asynchronous compute, which allows the GPU to work simultaneously with games and other GPU-intensive applications.

Now, you can play a game with a video compression software running in the background, without being bugged by those irksome frame freezes that were a constant pain with the GTX 980.

Verdict

The future of 4K gaming definitely looks a lot brighter with the Pascal based Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080 cards. At this point, there really aren’t that many games that can push the GTX 1080, and we doubt the Titan X will break a sweat with upcoming games.    

  • Jonas
  • January 30, 2017
  • PC

Windows 10 Game Mode – Gaming Revolution Or Storm In A Teacup?

Sometime towards the final week of December 2016, a few users who were testing out the latest Windows 10 developer build noticed a ‘gamemode.dll’ in the operating system’s DLL list. Once the word came out, the PC gaming community was abuzz about Windows finally doing more than paying lip service to hardcore gamers. Windows can be a great OS to play games on, however, to get to the gaming stage you might encounter an error before you even get to that part. Windows 10’s Activation Error may or may not be something you’ve encountered previously, however, if you have there are ways to help you to fix the update error 0x8024000b in Windows 10.

Microsoft too officially announced that it would reveal more details of Windows 10 Game Mode’s prowess over the coming weeks in the form of previews. The first bit of information that did come straight from Microsoft was that the new Game Mode was designed to finetune your PC and therefore push the performance parameters of the games being run on your system.

Furthermore, the feature would help both legacy Windows (Win32) games as well as the modern titles so that you can play them all without having to choose one over the other. And…end of transmission. Oh and this improvement won’t be immediately visible but instead will be pushed through when future releases of the OS come out.

Sounds great, right? But then, we PC-gamers have already found turnarounds to these problems. Many PC-gamers also enjoy making use of a few Dragon city hack. So, is there any genuine reason to be celebrating this not-yet-released update? To answer that question, we need to take a more incisive look at Windows 10’s game-related attributes thus far.

Windows 10 Game Mode vs GeForce Experience And Radeon Software

Any gaming rig features one or more graphics card(s) from either GeForce (NVidia) or Radeon (ATI). That means you automatically get the option to download GeForce Experience or Radeon Software depending on the GPU to maximize your gaming experience.

The question then arises that if GPUs already came with their own game performance optimizers then what is it that Windows 10’s Game Mode wants to add to the existing setup?

The answer lies in the long-drawn tales of Windows 10’s incompatibility issues with the aforementioned game-tuners. In fact, one common gripe with gamers who owned NVidia cards and had upgraded to Windows 10 was that the GPU drivers kept crashing frequently, to which NVidia responded by releasing a slew of driver updates (for older cards) and how-to hacks.

To be fair, Windows too did its part with the reconciliation bit but not before throwing another curveball. The OS would clash with either GPU’s customization software. So, while you could tweak the settings in-game, you weren’t able to optimize your games from the desktop screen.

Perhaps the ‘Game Mode’ could be the solution from Windows to customize game settings beforehand, just the way most of us gamers like it. Fingers crossed.

Windows 10 and Gaming

In terms of running games, Windows 10 isn’t that much different from its predecessor, Windows 8.1 apart from the introduction of DirectX 12. As for performance, Windows 10 provides as good if not better a performance as Windows 7 did.

But the great thing about Windows 7 was that you could run really old PC games over administrator mode. Similarly, in Windows 8.1, you had the compatibility mode that you could enable by right-clicking on the game icon and choosing the said option. The same is on offer in Windows 10 too.

So what’s the difference? Nothing and that’s exactly our point. While Windows 10 promised to be this lightweight, resource-intelligent OS, and it did too but mainly for main-stream applications. That bonhomie was absent when it came to games. To make matters worse, there was a dip in frame-rates when dual-GPU (Crossfire and SLI) setups came into the picture. Talk about spending a fortune to build a beast only to be hamstrung by the OS!

Thankfully, third-party candidates like GOG, who have in the past battled hard for DRM-free game environment. They have taken the pain to ensure that all those classic titles in their library run on Windows 10 without a glitch.

From its side, Windows 10 too has went ahead and asked testers to seek out incompatibility issues with games, both new and old. A list was compiled for each game and their respective compatibility verdict. It can be found here. But that has really been the extent of Microsft’s support for games.

Quite frankly, we don’t expect much from Windows 10 or its ‘Game Mode’ in this department, because lets face it, Microsoft was never historically interested in taking that responsibility. But then it never limited game and graphics hardware developers from running their own micro-environment within the OS ecosystem, the way Windows 10 has done and that too so vigorously.

Beam Live-Streaming: Is It Worth It

Beam was this start-up streaming service that allowed viewers to engage actively instead of just viewing a broadcasted game passively. That meant viewers could choose a feature like the next weapon that the player would use.

Microsoft having purchased Beam earlier this year, is showing it off as its central streaming platform for Windows. Looks like Window Game Mode is following on the footprints of its more successful Xbox One UX. And that’s excellent news for someone who’s new to the whole PC gaming scene.

However, these features were already available from both NVidia (ShadowPlay) and ATI (Radeon ReLive). What’s even better is that they directly interface with the hardware to optimize and prioritize resources. So, from an experienced gamer’s perspective, its really nothing new that Windows 10 is trying to offer in this department.

Final Verdict

So, there already existed this live capture feature called Game DVR on Windows 10 which by default remained on. Now if you wanted better frame rates, then you simply had to disable this feature. With the upcoming Game Mode, what we feel is that Microsoft aims to cut down on that resource loss when Game DVR is turned on.

In simple terms, this ‘feature’ isn’t exactly improving gaming performance but rather looks to stop another Windows feature from fiddling with your game-intensive resources. And it begs the question as to why Microsoft is so hell-bent on doing everything from the scratch. It could as easily team up with NVidia and AMD to make their existing ‘in-game optimizers’ compatible with its OS. We guess that’s something only Microsoft can answer!

  • Jonas
  • January 26, 2017
  • PC
samsung notebook odyssey

Samsung Makes Foray Into Gaming Laptop Segment, Announces The Notebook Odyssey

A week back, Samsung Electronics announced its Notebook Odyssey, a brand new entrant in the world of portable gaming PCs. Available in two models, Samsung provides the option to buyers of either a smaller screen of 15.6 inch or a larger screen of 17.3 inch. As of now though, the 15.6-inch model has its specifications clearly laid out by Samsung and it seems this unit will ship with a GTX1050 GDDR5 4GB graphics card.

As hardware differences between laptops and desktops begin to disappear, demand for portable gaming machines grows. Customers today are just as much interested in laptops with gaming capabilities as they are in building their own PC from scratch. The latest generation of graphics cards from NVidia has made it easier for laptop makers to market their gaming products as cutting edge. This was earlier a problem since laptop versions of graphics cards always underperformed as opposed to their desktop variants.

Samsung has taken this opportunity and the power of the 10 series GTX NVidia cards to enter the gaming market with its Odyssey segment. The Samsung Odyssey Laptop just won the innovation award at CES 2017 Las Vegas and is reported to sell for 1.8 million won, which is around $1528. Considering, the rave reception it received at the Las Vegas show, maybe it truly is worth the steep price on its head.

In the words of YoungGyoo Choi, the Senior Vice President for the PC Business Team at Samsung Electronics, “The Notebook Odyssey is exclusively designed keeping gamers in mind. It is equipped with features that will give users the best ever gaming experience from a notebook”. In the current age, gamers prefer a stylish, powerful and portable solution rather than a premium bulky and fixed unit. Samsung is confident that its newest entrant will be able to steal some of the market from existing big punters such as Alienware, MSI and the lot.

High Performance and Power

Keeping the desires of casual and intense gamers in mind, the engineers at Samsung have produced the unique body and cooling system for the Notebook Odyssey. The outer casing of this laptop features a HexaFlow Vent that basically provides better ventilation and cooling by guzzling in a lot more air and improving the airflow through the inside of the laptop. Additionally, if the customer wants to upgrade his machine, he can open the HexaFlow vents on the bottom panel to switch out the memory and storage device.

To ensure performance without a compromise in power, the Samsung Notebook Odyssey will come equipped with 7th Generation Core i7 Intel processors 45W. These processors will operate on both the smaller 15.6 inch and larger 17.3 inch models and shall use actual four cores rather than hyper threading.

Superior Display With Vivid High Quality Images

On the display front, these performance machines boast of a beautiful display that offers backlight as high as 300 nits on the 17.3-inch model and 280 nits on the 15.6-inch model. The high brightness should help gamers get superior clarity and crystal clear images. The screen is also treated to remove glare and reduce reflections as much as possible. As for viewing angles, the Samsung Notebook Odyssey brings life-like color contrast regardless of the angle you view from thanks to the wide-view angle display. Overall, the screen performance of the Odyssey series will outmatch any ever made by Samsung and knowing this company’s history with television panels and screens, it should be a real treat for the eyes.

Design Meets Function Through Usability

How can you provide superior functionality without compromising on the design aspects? The designers at Samsung must have spent several sleepless nights trying to pack the innovations, power and performance into a casing that won’t just look attractive but also justify its gaming ambitions.

The end result is an innovative design refined for optimal usability, stylish and yet highly functional. One key aspect where Samsung seems to have made improvements is in the portability. Up until now, most gaming laptop makers gave a lot of features and performance but failed in portability by making the machines big and bulky. Samsung has gone the opposite way by ensuring ergonomics is maintained as well as the weight of the complete package.

Samsung promises ergonomic curved keycaps that will provide better tactile performance and response in gaming scenarios. The keys are 0.5mm volcano keys on the 17.3-inch unit while the 15.6-inch unit will feature 0.3mm crater keys. Keys on the Samsung Notebook Odyssey 17.3-inch model will come with individual backlit color for keycaps thus providing customers the chance to customize their keyboard experience.

Moving away from the hardware and gaming features, the software package seems rather sleek too with the ability to share files with compatible smartphones, PC Gallery, PC Message and more.

The Inspiration

As seen in the teaser trailer for the Samsung Notebook Odyssey, the notebooks draw their styling and inspiration from the legendary dragon. This is in fact noticeable in the device features such as the front logo that bears close resemblance to the eye of a dragon while the vents instantly appear as scales of the magnificent beast.

While the teaser doesn’t reveal much else, what is evident is that the gaming laptop will be cutting edge in design and features. As seen in the recently held CES 2017, both models come feature packed and cleverly designed. As standard both will ship with 8GB DDR4 memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 as OS. The exact dates haven’t yet been revealed by Samsung but when they do finally begin commercial production, the Notebook Odyssey is sure to give stiff competition to existing market leaders.

  • Jonas
  • January 18, 2017
  • PC
overwatch nuking

Overwatch ‘Nuking’ Cheats Are Now Actively Hunted And Banned

Back in July 2016, Blizzard proudly reported over 15 million players worldwide with 500 million hours already been registered on its global servers. A runaway success, Overwatch continues to go strong across the globe and while the masters of online multiplayer gaming, Blizzard made a game that was enjoyable and easily acceptable beyond global borders and boundaries, it has recently landed itself in a bit of soup thanks to a new breed of players, more appropriately cheats who engage in the black arts of ‘nuking’.

As with any massive community based online game, the potential to exploit new updates, patches and releases is ever present. Blizzard only recently realized the phenomenon of nuking thanks to several official and unofficial message boards for Overwatch where players described a game behavior that eventually came to be called – ‘nuking’.

What Is Nuking

Imagine playing a match and suddenly you realize all your controls are lagging, you simply cannot do anything and it feels like your connection has either slowed to a halt or the server is facing an overload of requests. First few times, it is understandable as this happens periodically in almost all online gaming titles with servers suddenly getting overloaded with requests or your own internet connection bottoming out. However, when it happens too often and then you notice the frequency is directly proportional to the presence of specific player profiles – you know it isn’t natural. That is how nuking was discovered in overwatch.

In the practice of nuking, you bombard the opposing team’s IP with large number of packets. This basically brings the victim’s game down to a crawl allowing you to exploit the game and notch up kills and points while the victim team desperately tries to get back control over their match. With regards to the mechanism of Nuking, it is pretty close to DDoS attacks conducted on websites. In fact, if you look at the anatomy of nuking, it is practically the same thing except you are targeting specific user IPs rather than server IPs.

Why Does Nuking Suck

The problem with nuking is that it is difficult to report since your entire game has now crippled to a slow crawl. Those who notice the hack and are certain of it cannot report in-game because their system is now unplayable for the match. While almost all previous hacks were easy to report, nuking is difficult to report.

Other Dangerous Hacks

Aimbots is yet another dangerous hack but it is not limited to only Overwatch. Any multiplayer shoot’em up title suffers from this hack. Aimbots are automated scripts designed for Overwatch that help a player get kills quicker because they are automated and not user controlled. The fact is that while Aimbots exist, majority of complaints against users using aimbots boils down to sore losers who just cannot handle getting outplayed. Nevertheless, this hack is continuously being dealt with and it is much easier to tackle than Nuking because, it is easier to investigate such instances and more importantly, victims can instantly report the abuse to the game mod.

The Nuking Ban

After repeated complaints on various forums and discussion boards, Blizzard took the drastic step to ban over 10,000 players from South Korean servers who engaged in the black arts of nuking. Henceforth, Blizzard has also promised to keep a watch on the practice of nuking and ban any player or account that participates in this act.

According to Blizzard, the need for a pleasant gaming experience is key to ensuring longevity of Overwatch and thus increasing its player base. However, practices such as nuking and aimbot are detriments to their objectives as they turn away new and intermediate players as it is always impossible to compete against gaming cheats.

The Impact of the Ban

Some proponents of the ban suggest that it is impractical to impose such bans especially in a South Korea because it does not address the root of the problem. In South Korea majority of gamers do not invest into games. Instead they hop over to PC bangs, which are basically internet cafes where a customer can pay $1 per hour and enjoy any online game. PC bangs use special versions of Battle.net such that all Blizzard games are almost free to play.

Unfortunately, this method of gaming in Korea is the reason why a ban on profiles involved in nuking will not work. A banned player can simply create a new account and start playing from the beginning. He or she can then continue to practice the nuking hack until his account is once more banned. In fact, it is widely believed that several PC bangs in South Korea actually encourage their customers to engage more in the dark arts of nuking by pre-installing cheating clients on their systems!

Reddit user, TISRobins311 suggests that nearly 10% of all Overwatch Grandmasters use nuking and other hacks to maintain their position. While this is more of an educated guess, it isn’t hard to imagine this being true. With the numerous loopholes the ban presents, why would someone not indulge in this activity along with aimbots, especially if they happen to have access to PC bangs?

The good news for now though is that nuking as a practice hasn’t yet spread beyond South Korea but the popularity of this hack makes it only a matter of time before it does cross borders.

If You Are Nuked

If you are ever nuked in a match, stop trying to press the report button. Instead, immediately take down the name of all opposing players and then try to press the report button. Once you get back control of your game, immediately open a ticket to Blizzard and mention the match, opponent names and exact time that you experienced nuking.

Fact is, the ban is only a temporary solution from Blizzard to help control the outrage on forums and discussion boards worldwide. It is really only a matter of time before they come up with a permanent solution that prevents nuking. But, until then it is best to stay aware of what Nuking and Aimbot is, how you can help Blizzard and what to do if it happens to you.

  • Jonas
  • January 17, 2017
  • PC
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