Our PAX Prime visit thus far has showcased some of MSI’s new X99 boards, Intel’s X99 setup, and lots of Star Citizen. Come Saturday, we had the opportunity to get hands-on with Zotac’s new Pico PI320 mini-PC announced shortly before PAX.
The PC was fully-detailed in our previous article, so we’ll just recap the core specs and video here.
The first of our more major X99 motherboard coverage comes bearing MSI’s dragon-engraved badge. Intel’s new platform and CPU officially launched on day one of PAX (where we got some video), bringing a new era of $1000 Extreme Series CPUs for professional development and enthusiast rigs. We saw ASUS’ X99 Deluxe board on day one, but didn’t get much of a chance to go in depth.
MSI, EVGA, and Gigabyte also have a presence at PAX Prime 2014, making for a firm hardware showcase at a typically gaming-oriented event. MSI’s booth hosted the X99S XPower AC board, the X99S Gaming 7, and the X99S SLI Plus. We took an extended look at the company’s X99S XPower AC motherboard, home to 5xPCI-e slots, the X99 chipset, M.2 SATA, SATA-e, and one of the biggest VRMs we’ve seen recently.
Star Citizen’s temporary alpha V0.9 delay hasn’t put a damper on CIG CEO Chris Roberts’ mood. Then again, not much does. The Wing Commander creator made a brief appearance at Intel’s PAX Prime 2014 keynote (which we filmed) – a very marketing-heavy, Intel-focused event – but not before speaking with us. We had the chance to collect community questions, as always, and then break the content into more consumable article-video components.
Our last interview specifically looked at the team’s plans for FPS in Star Citizen. Today’s focus is on the recent ~$41m stretch goal established by CIG: expanded procedural content R&D and generation in Star Citizen. We also had the opportunity to discuss customization within Star Citizen’s universe, including character creation, ship painting, ship tuning, station customization, and more. The customization interview will go live on September 3 (subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and RSS).
Let’s get to the procedural generation content!
While at PAX Prime 2014 today, we received news from Cloud Imperium Games that Star Citizen’s much-awaited V0.9 alpha would be delayed until after the holiday weekend. Shortly after conducting two interviews with Chairman & CEO Chris Roberts (posts forthcoming), the announcement was made that Alpha V0.9 still hosted too many bugs to reliably release to the community for play. The announcement did contain information as to the content being pushed with the eventual update, though.
Star Citizen launched its Dog Fighting Module shortly after its PAX East unveil event, which we covered here.
The show floor presence was much more vibrant for Intel at this year’s PAX Prime. When we visited the company at East, presentation was largely devoted to a few 700-series SSDs, some (very large) gaming notebooks, and that was about it. This event’s booth came equipped with Intel-branded lamp shades over the ceiling lights – a clear indication of the company’s technological progress.
Impressive light diffusion aside, Intel did have fairly exciting lineup of hardware to look at: The i7-5960X had its embargo officially lifted at 9AM PST and made an appearance at the show, ASUS has its new X99-Deluxe boards powering the booth, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and other shops have systems present, and there’s a clear push toward the DIY PC consumer. A huge step in the direction we all want to move.
A new PI mini-PC from ZOTAC ships at 115.5 x 66 x 19.2mm, similar to a Raspberry Pi. The new “ZBOX PI320” ships with Windows 8.1 pre-installed on its 32GB Flash memory and fills-out a form factor that ZOTAC calls “Nano XS.”
The computer is equipped with Intel's quad-core Baytrail BGA CPU running the IGP for graphics (specific CPU undefined), 2GB of DDR3L memory, 32GB eMMC integrated Flash, and room to expand storage via micro SD/SDHC/SDXC.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.