Steve Burke

Steve Burke

The delay of Valve's Steam Machine (or Steam Box) has forced the hand of systems manufacturers. Alienware, Gigabyte with the Brix, and now Zotac have all begun shipping their would-have-been Steam Machines as DIY mini-PCs. Steam has disallowed the shipment of officially branded Steam Machines until the completion of its haptic controller, leaving system manufacturers scrambling to untie the resources dedicated to machines that were originally slated for a 2014 launch.

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In an official capacity, Gigabyte's BRIX Pro and Zotac's EN760 are not "Steam Machines" -- at least, not by branding -- but they might as well be. The EN760 (Newegg page) ships in two models: The EN760 and EN760 Plus. The base model ships without RAM or permanent storage at $540; the Plus edition includes a single 8GB stick of 1600MHz RAM and 1x1TB 5400RPM HDD. Both units are outfitted with an 860M mobile GPU, i5-4200U mobile CPU, and custom board design to fit in a 7.4" x 7.4" x 2" (188 x 188 x 51mm) shell. 

No -- this isn't Maxwell news, though I do have some comments on that below. GPU manufacturer nVidia announced today the unveiling of its new "Shield Tablet," an addition to the existing Shield family. NVidia calls its new tablet "the first tablet for gamers," shipping with LTE and wireless PC game streaming, 720p Twitch broadcast, and GRID integration.

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The Shield Tablet fills very similar use case markets as the Shield intends to, though it adds a few features for more non-gaming implementations. One of these includes a graphics-accelerated painting and tinkering application (Dabbler) that shows pigment and paint mixing in real time, along with bleeding and light source adjustment.

Ultimately, though, the new Shield Tablet is targeted at "mobile gamers" who'd like a toy on the go. And I am still of the opinion that tablets are primarily just that -- toys. Let's look at the specs.

Component and systems manufacturer ASUStek has just announced the availability of its next ROG ( Republic of Gamers ) motherboard, the Maximus VII Formula. ASUS has a somewhat mystifying naming convention, though we've defined the company's board names in the past. The Maximus Formula series of motherboards is considered ASUS' flagship -- the highest of the high-end -- and is iterated with Roman numerals. The Z97 family is indicated by the VII numeral.

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Cars have always been a beacon for visual FX presentations. This is evidenced by nVidia's obsession with real-time ray-tracing in every demonstration the company has ever fronted; and AMD isn't much better off -- their multi-GPU solutions almost always have some vehicle showcase. Cars are somewhat easy to grasp as a visual marvel for just about any onlooker, especially investors and non-gamers, so it makes sense.

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With the beginning of the third fiscal quarter for 2014, we see analysts filing revenue reports and public companies announcing performance. We recently posted about the boon to desktop PC sales for 2014 -- recovering nearly 6% of a projected 7% decline -- and now it looks like Intel has similarly good news for the PC industry.

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The semiconductor giant has reported 2Q14 revenue as $13.8B -- an 8% hike over 2Q13's $12.8B -- netting a $2.8B profit. Intel's quarterly profits have risen 40% over its 2Q13 reports of $2B. Promisingly for the world of PCs, Intel showed an $8.7B revenue in its PC Client Group (including desktops), a 6% increase over last year.

We've covered memory overclocking world records a few times over the last few years. From memory (ha!), our first coverage was of Christian Ney's 4000MHz LN2 OC using a kit of G.Skill Trident RAM. Back in June, Kingston and Gigabyte worked with overclocker "Hicookie" to push a new kit of HyperX memory to 4.5GHz.

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ASUS recently predicted a boon in desktop PC and AIO shipments in the face of a slowdown in tablet sales, further amplified by the discontinuation of Windows XP support. With the second quarter of the year effectively behind us, the International Data Corporation (IDC) has reported that the desktop PC business has declined at a “markedly better” pace than previously forecasted.

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We've been recommending Plantronics' GameCom 780 headset alongside our PC builds for a few years now, generally calling it the "best value for gamers." The 780 has fluctuated between the $50 and $80 price range, and at either end of that spectrum, it has always dominated as a high-endurance, high-performing solution for gaming audio and input. Our original review 780 is still functional, and that's after nearly two years of constant use -- the longest time I've ever had a headset last.

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Plantronics recently contacted us about a GameCom 788 refresher of the original 780. There haven't been any changes to the audio drivers and underlying audio tech, so it's all aesthetics and marketing. The 788 ships alongside updated Windows 8/8.1 compatibility, joined by most of Plantronics' other audio products.

In this review and hands-on with Plantronics' GameCom 788, we look at the headset's sound quality, build quality, comfort, and usefulness in gaming.

Samsung's recent 850 Pro SSD launch debuted VNAND, a new approach to Flash memory that aims to improve overall capacity in a small space. The 850 Pro SSD is targeted at professional users, as evidenced by a focus on encryption, endurance (at 150 TBW), and high speeds across the board.

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AMD is slated for a new GPU release in August, Chinese leak-monger VR-Zone reported. Somewhat similar to nVidia's GTX 750 / 750 Ti launch, it appears that AMD plans to plant its impending 28nm " Tonga" GPU in a rebuild of the R9 280 and R9 280X video cards.

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