Hardware Guides

At PAX Prime, thanks to the folks at Valve and HTC, we got another first-hand experience with what may be the best option in personal VR to-date: the Vive.

Our first encounter with the Valve/HTC Vive was at GDC 2015, the headset’s first showcase, and we were limited on information and recording permission. HTC and nVidia brought the Vive to PAX Prime this year, the former bringing us into their conference room for another lengthy, hands-on demonstration. We took the opportunity to talk tech with the HTC team, learning all about how Valve and HTC’s VR solution works, the VR pipeline, latencies and resolutions, wireless throughput limitations, and more. The discussion was highly technical – right up our alley – and greatly informed us on the VR process.

Previous facility tours have brought us to NVIDIA's silicon failure analysis lab and Kingston's automated SMT line, pulling the curtains aside for an inside look at how devices are made. Yesterday, we toured Logitech's acoustics engineering and compliance labs to explore software, high-voltage test equipment, and the foamy confines of Mr. HATS' anechoic fortress of solitude.

Poor guy.

Below is a video interview with Logitech Acoustics Engineering Manager Matt Green, followed by in-depth article content and photos.

Following the tremendous growth in engagement from our fanbase – through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the comments – we've decided to start a regular “Ask GN” series. We're using these videos to address reader questions that can be answered in a few moments, helping us to increase consistency of content delivery without sacrificing quality. That's the strategy behind it, anyway, and it's work thus far; the questions for our first episode invoked current topics of critical importance, making for strong discussion points.

For the second episode, we discuss the DirectX 12 vs. DirectX 11 disparity between AMD & nVidia (though we don't go as deep as discussing shader array size and architecture), whether or not 300W is “enough power” for a build, and the GTX 980 Ti AMP Extreme.

A bad power supply can cause a number of issues – in fact, it can even “pop!” and die. Other issues include bad regulation, response to load changes, and poor efficiency. Another consequence is volatile voltage ripple.

We will first cover what voltage ripple is, then how it affects users, and we’ll end by quantifying voltage ripple objectively.

Intel's Skylake Core i7-6700K CPU has officially been reviewed in gaming capacity. With the launch, we indicated that Intel would be rolling-out the Z170 chipset as a replacement to the current Z97 motherboard brainstem. A few major changes have been instituted in Z170 – some more visible to the consumer than others – and we've detailed most of them below. Motherboards already exist with Z170, like this MSI Krait board.

This chipset comparison between Z170 and Z97 aims to detail the differences between Intel's Haswell motherboard platform and its Skylake successor. Note that the chipsets are coupled with different CPU architectures and, as such, are not interchangeable outside of their supported processor lists. Z170 is joined by the hip with LGA1151 socket types.

After Corsair hyped and released their programmable RGB mechanical keyboard, it seemed everybody and their grandma (who only makes large print keyboards) started coming out with their competing RGB keyboards. Corsair’s early arrival to market and general popularity mean that the Corsair RGB K-series keyboards are primarily recommended while alternatives are ignored or forgotten. So, in order to help those looking for a programmable RGB keyboard, we’ve put together this roundup of reliable solutions.

This RGB LED mechanical keyboard round-up compares budget, mid-range, and high-end keyboards with RGB capabilities.

Following our massive Fury X and Z170 motherboard feature pieces, we thought we'd take a moment to revisit some simpler how-to topics. Today's guide shows how to jump a motherboard without connecting the PWR_SW header that goes to the case power button.

Our recent Fury X driver comparison took rumors of a disparate relationship between press and launch drivers to task, ultimately finding that no real difference existed. This testing procedure exposed us to the currently discussed “coil whine” and “pump whine” of the new R9 Fury X. Today's test seeks to determine with objectivity and confidence whether the whine is detrimental in a real-world use case.

AMD's R9 Fury X video card emits a high frequency whine when under load. We have located this noise on both of our retail units – sold under Sapphire's banner, but effectively identical to all Fury X cards – and reviewers with press samples have cited the same noise. The existence of a sound does not inherently point toward an unusably loud product, though, and must be tested in a sterile environment to determine impact to the user experience. The noise resembles coil whine, for those familiar with the irritating hum, but is actually an emission from the high-speed pump on the Fury X. This relegates the noise to what is ultimately a mechanical flaw in the engineering rather than something electrical, as coil whine would suggest.

Our R9 Fury X analysis is still forthcoming, but we interrupted other tests to quickly analyze driver performance between the pre-release press drivers and launch day consumer drivers.

All testing was conducted using a retail Fury X, as we were unable to obtain press sampling. This benchmark specifically tests performance of the R9 Fury X using the B8, B9, and release (15.15.1004) drivers against one another.

The purpose for this test is to demystify some rumors that the Fury X would exhibit improved performance with the launch day drivers (15.15.1004), with some speculation indicating that the press drivers were less performant.

 

Following our initial review of AMD's new R9 390 ($330) and R9 380 ($220) video cards, we took the final opportunity prior to loaner returns to overclock the devices. Overclocking the AMD 300 series graphics cards is a slightly different experience from nVidia overclocking, but remains methodologically the same in approach: We tune the clockrate, power, and memory speeds, then test for stability.

The R9 390 and R9 380 are already pushed pretty close to their limits. The architectural refresh added about 50MHz to the operating frequency of each card, with some power changes and memory clock changes tacked-on. The end result is that the GPU is nearly maxed-out as it is, but there's still a small amount of room for overclocking play. This overclocking guide and benchmark for the R9 390 & R9 380 looks at the maximum clockrate achievable through tweaking.

All these tests were performed with Sapphire's “Nitro” series of AMD 300 cards, specifically using the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Tri-X and Sapphire Nitro R9 380 Dual-X cards. Results will be different for other hardware.

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