Steve Burke

Steve Burke

Retailers and manufacturers are always happy to give consumers purchasing options: Spend an extra $30 and get buying insurance, another $50 and you get an extended warranty, spend untold thousands on a car to add Bluetooth, and in the case of video cards, an extra $20 and you get a “faster” card in the form of a pre-OC or “SuperClock.”

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We’ve explained overclocking as it pertains to GPUs in the past, but never looked specifically at pre-overclocked or SuperClocked cards. The realistic intent of higher-clocked GPUs is to enable users who are either too busy/lazy to overclock, would prefer to have an expert do it for them, or who are legitimately unaware of or afraid of overclocking. Some of the high-end overclocking cards are binned-out with hotter chips (chips that can overclock higher), but not all SuperClocked and pre-overclocked cards are like this. Many of the available options are just overclocked versions of the stock card.

Monday, 25 August 2014 09:39

Minecraft Remade in Trials Fusion Map

When asked what we most enjoy in gaming, it’s always easiest to point to the mods made by the community. Mods extend a game’s life far past what its creators could have accomplished, as evidenced by our Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas mod overhaul guides.

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Trials Fusion mapper “PneumaticBog484” just recently recreated Minecraft inside of Trials Fusion. For the unfamiliar, Trials is a popular cross-platform title that features a trials rider (in motocross form) progressing through increasingly deadly levels; the goal is to overcome obstacles in the fastest fashion possible. Fusion shipped with a powerful map editor -- so powerful that even the mechanics of Minecraft could be recreated within it.

Saturday, 23 August 2014 14:19

PAX Prime 2014 Full Exhibitors List

PAX is always a big event for us. Actually, it was one of the very first events that GamersNexus covered, way back in its infancy. The reason we’ve always liked PAX is the same reason its 70,000+ attendees cling to: It’s a consumer event, prioritizing attendees over everyone else -- that includes media. We get no special treatment there as is oft the case at industry tradeshows, so the feeling of the exhibition is overall more “real.”

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The mobile Guidebook app was recently released with the full PAX schedule, the maps, and the list of exhibitors. All of this can be viewed on a desktop here or downloaded to mobile here. Be sure to follow us on twitter, facebook, and YouTube for on-site coverage.

For sake of ease, we’ve listed all of PAX Prime 2014's on-site exhibitors followed by booth or room number. Keep in mind that several game and hardware companies are hosting media display suites off-site that won’t be listed, but will still be covered when our PAX coverage section goes live.

We remarked upon the GTX 750 / 750 Ti reveal that passive cards were a distinct possibility, given the low TDP and ability of the cards to operate solely on motherboard PCI-e power. Hovering at a 55W TDP, nVidia’s GM107-powered GTX 750 doesn’t draw any power from the PSU and has a lower thermal footprint than any of its higher-powered brethren. With the right heatsink design, it’s always been an ideal candidate for a passively-cooled, silent, low-profile HTPC video card.

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ZOTAC announced its “GTX 750 ZONE” passively-cooled solution just a few weeks ago. Standard GTX 750 specs apply, the one exception being that Zotac has nixed the active fan in favor of a larger aluminum and copper heatsink with no active components. Thermals are always a concern when operating a passively-cooled device, and with GPUs, thermals will directly impact the throttling and performance (FPS) output in games.

We benchmarked Zotac’s passive GTX 750 Zone video card for temperatures and framerate (FPS) in Metro, GRID, Battlefield 4, Titanfall, Watch_Dogs, and FurMark. These results can be extrapolated upon for a wider-spectrum understanding of the GPU’s worth for gaming.

One of the hurdles of TLC NAND and VNAND is an inherently lower count of program / erase (P/E) cycles that the SSD can endure. This is the nature of packing more voltage levels into a cell to accommodate for the extra bits each cell can hold (yielding our higher capacity and lower cost). More voltage levels means more granularity required when attempting to read/write data, and the NAND loses its ability to accurately perform those reads / writes as it ages. Controllers have to step in to ensure longer life when using TLC NAND.

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There was a time when mouse bungees cost $20 to $30 and were a novel invention. Thankfully, that time's long past. There was also a time when we reviewed Razer's eXactMat X (2009) and remarked that its $40 price-point was the most we'd ever shelled-out for a mouse pad, but followed-up that the purchase was well worth it for sturdy aluminum.

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Razer's pad, by the way, is still in use and now has about 5 years of life on it. Aluminum lasts a lot longer than cloth -- go figure.

Thermaltake's new Tt eSports "Draconem" mouse pad is a 2mm-thick, dual-side mousing surface with detachable cable bungee. The smooth side of the pad is brushed aluminum and anodized, outfitted with decals in opposing corners for the Tt eSports logos; the rougher side is grittier to offer greater traction with the mouse's Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) feet, colored with a red dragon emblem off-center.

The Draconem is somewhat massive, scaling in at 360 x 300 x 5mm (14.1 x 11.8 x 0.2") and taking up significant desk real-estate.

DDR4 will see its consumer debut in Intel's X99 HW-E platform, though Broadwell is sticking with DDR3 for now. As the memory manufacturers ramp-up for X99, we're starting to see specs roll out for updated product lines; the most recent is Corsair's Dominator Platinum high-end OC memory, with a new iteration of Vengeance LPX shipping alongside it.

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DirectX 12 has been discussed by nVidia and Intel for a while now, with AMD only responding occasionally to recommit to Mantle. The API is still far away for gaming uses -- at least a year -- but it's making the rounds at SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver.

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Intel demonstrated a Haswell-equipped tablet running graphics stress test software that toggled between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12. During the demonstration, the company was able to yield nearly a 70% performance increase in Dx12 over Dx11, jumping from 19FPS to 33FPS. Intel attributes this gain largely toward reduced overhead in the API (putting developers "closer to the metal," as Mantle does), then pointed toward multi-threaded rendering optimization.

SSD benchmarks generally include two fundamental file I/O tests: Sequential and 4K random R/W. At a very top-level, sequential tests consist of large, individual files transfers (think: media files), which is more indicative of media consumption and large file rendering / compilation. 4K random tests employ thousands of files approximating 4KB in size each, generally producing results that are more indicative of what a user might experience in a Windows or application-heavy environment.

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Theoretically, this would also be the test to which gamers should pay the most attention. A "pure gaming" environment (not using professional work applications) will be almost entirely exposed to small, random I/O requests generated within the host OS, games, and core applications. A particularly piratical gamer -- or just someone consuming large movie and audio files with great regularity -- would also find use in monitoring sequential I/O in benchmarks.

This article looks at a few things: What types of I/O requests do games spawn most heavily and what will make for the best gaming SSDs with this in mind? There are a few caveats here that we'll go through in a moment -- namely exactly how "noticeable" various SSDs will be in games when it comes to performance. We used tracing software to analyze input / output operations while playing five recent AAA titles and ended up with surprisingly varying results.

UPDATE: Clarified several instances of "file" vs. "I/O" usage.

Scott's taking a break this weekend for vacation, so I'll be filling-in for the regularly-scheduled hardware sales round-up. This weekend, we spotted an ASRock Z97 Extreme4 board marked down to $130, 27" Acer IPS panel for $195, and Tt eSports Poseidon Z keyboard for $70.

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