Hardware Guides

This short posting comes following a reader question pertaining to motherboard selection. Some recent Intel-based motherboards now offer support for USB3.1, which operates at an impressive 10Gbps (equivalent to Thunderbolt 1.0) and uses an insertion-agnostic header. The speed boost is easily utilized when driving external SSDs, which will throttle on the 4.8Gbps cap of USB3.0 – especially after overhead.

MSI was the first to introduce USB3.1 on motherboards earlier this year, demoing the Krait white/black boards at CES 2015. Other manufacturers have moved to offer firmware updates on existing platforms for “unlocking” USB3.1. ASUS is among these, shipping its X99-S motherboards with a natively-supported USB3.1 add-on card.

“Tessellation” isn't an entirely new technology – Epic and Crytek have been talking about it for years, alongside nVidia's own pushes – but it's been getting more visibility in modern games. GTA V, for instance, has a special tessellation toggle that can be tweaked for performance. Like most settings found in a graphics menu, the general understanding of tessellation is nebulous at best; it's one of those settings that, perhaps like ambient occlusion or anti-aliasing, has a loose tool-tip of a definition, but doesn't get broken-down with much depth.

As part of our efforts to expand our game graphics settings glossary, we sat down with Epic Games Senior Technical Artist Alan Willard, a 17-year veteran of the company. Willard provided a basic overview of tessellation, how it is used in game graphics, GPU load and performance, and implementation techniques.

NVidia's latest addition to the Titan family diverges from its predecessors' market objectives. Previous Titan cards were fully double-precision enabled, ensuring marketability as affordable production and simulation cards that, by nature, also served reasonably as gaming cards. Because double-precision is detrimental to gaming performance, the original Titan and current Titan Z can be set to “single-precision mode” to better game, but aren't targeted as the “best gaming video card” out there. The Titan X is; in fact, that's exactly what nVidia calls it – the best single-GPU on the market. The selection of these words is intentional, ruling-out dual-GPU single cards (like the 295X2 or 690) and multi-card configurations (like what we're testing today).

Because the Titan X is heavily marketed as a gaming solution, something reinforced by offering just 1/32 of SP in DP performance, we decided to perform a value comparison between 2xGTX 980s in SLI. The SLI configuration offers indisputably powerful raw computational output, but has a smaller memory capacity than the Titan X's 12GB single-GPU pool.

Major Misconceptions with Gaming Mice

By Published April 05, 2015 at 4:20 pm

“There's a lot of arcane voodoo magic around gaming mice,” Logitech Product Manager Chris Pate told us in a discussion on gaming mouse hardware. Joined by Logitech, we discussed mouse acceleration, smoothing, the interpretation of 2D input into a 3D gaming space, mouse myths, and mouse sensor technology in our latest video.

Monitors aren’t always given the most thought beyond resolution and size, for many buyers. The fact is, though, that monitors are incredibly complex components. Attributes like response time, input lag, color reproduction, and viewing angles are all measurements that make a noticeable difference in how a monitor’s picture looks, but even for expert builders, such terms can be confusing; it doesn’t help that the TV & display industry has been plagued with marketing nonsense since the dawn of creation, ensuring that some attributes lose meaning over time.

Not only will our monitor hardware dictionary (which is scheduled to be released soon) help provide an irreplaceable resource for those confused, this article will detail the advantages and disadvantages of the common LCD panel types – the types of LCD technology used in the monitor. While there are minor revisions/versions of monitor panels types, today we will be focusing on the differences between IPS, TN, PLS, and VA panels, but we will also be covering CRT for grounding, despite CRT not being an LCD panel type.

Following the launch of 2GB cards, major board partners – MSI and EVGA included – have begun shipment of 4GB models of the GTX 960. Most 4GB cards are restocking availability in early April at around $240 MSRP, approximately $30 more expensive than their 2GB counterparts. We've already got a round-up pending publication with more in-depth reviews of each major GTX 960, but today, we're addressing a much more basic concern: Is 4GB of VRAM worth it for a GTX 960?

This article benchmarks an EVGA GTX 960 SuperSC 4GB card vs. our existing ASUS Strix GTX 960 2GB unit, testing each in 1080, 1440p, and 4K gaming scenarios.

Consoles have long touted the phrase “close to the metal” as a means to explain that game developers have fewer software-side obstacles between their application and the hardware. One of the largest obstacles and enablers faced by PC gaming has been DirectX, an API that enables wide-sweeping compatibility (and better backwards compatibility), but also throttles performance with its tremendous overhead. Mantle, an effort of debatable value, first marketed itself as a replacement for Dx11, proclaiming DirectX to be dead. Its primary advantage was along the lines of console development: Removing overhead to allow greater software-hardware performance. Then DirectX 12 showed up.

DirectX is a Microsoft API that has been a dominant programming interface for games for years. Mantle 1.0 is AMD's abandoned API and is being deprecated as developers shift to adopt Dx12. The remnants of Mantle's codebase are being adapted into OpenGL, a graphics API that asserts minimal dominance in the desktop market.

About a year ago, we published a piece notifying our readers of hoax HDMI-to-VGA passive cables proclaiming that they did absolutely nothing for the buyer; we called them “fake,” indicating that a passive cable is electrically incapable of transforming a signal, and therefore could not serve as a digital-to-analog adapter without some sort of active conversion taking place. There are a few hardware-side exceptions, but they are rare.

It was in this same content that we mentioned “SATA III cables” vs. “SATA II cables,” noting that the two cables were functionally identical; the transfer rates are the same between a “SATA III” cable and a “SATA II” cable. The difference, as defined by the official SATA specification, is a lock-in clip to ensure unshaken contact. Upon being taken viral by LifeHacker, statement of this simple fact was met with a somewhat disheartening amount of resistance from an audience we don't usually cater toward. Today, we had enough spare time to reinforce our statements with objective benchmarking.

Corsair's New Logo & Touring Their Test Labs

By Published March 21, 2015 at 11:15 am

In town for GTC, we decided to stop-over in Fremont, California to tour Corsair's new US headquarters. The company moved to its new location in November and has only just begun filling the entire space, but critical business components were in full operation during our visit. Among these components are the various test and engineering labs, which provided a hands-off look at some of the test equipment deployed by the memory giant and cooling manufacturer.

Jumping straight into equipment discussion feels unfair, though – that slider image deserves demystifying. Looming above is Corsair's new logo, spotted just outside of the building before our tour. The logo is only slightly varied from the company's current sails logo, introducing harder edges for a more 'modern' design. This change comes after an unbelievably polarizing debate among gamers pertaining to the unveil of Corsair's “gaming forged” logo, a crossed scimitar design intended for some peripherals.

Stepping into Valve’s full-room virtual reality experience resulted in a nervous excitement that's rare to come by. Seated quietly in the center of the room, HTC’s “Vive” HMD, a pair of controllers, and a headset all awaited my arrival.

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