Hardware

With the much anticipated release of Watch Dogs, nVidia is ensuring that users are getting the best-looking game they possibly can by releasing their newest 337.88 driver. The driver, by the way, is up for download here. It is no secret that nVidia has been working with developers, such as Ubisoft, to provide more realistic effects in games through their GameWorks program. Technology like TXAA, PhysX, and HBAO+ are some. But the partnership between Ubisoft and nVidia also leads to nVidia having ample time to optimize their drivers. In fact, nVidia claims that these drivers will boost framerates up to 75% in certain configurations and games, and although I am skeptical of this and will wait until our own benchmarks to draw conclusions, it is promising to see nVidia putting effort into their drivers like this.

Update: We’ve benchmarked Watch_Dogs on multiple GPUs and two CPUs. See the results here. nvidia-sli-watch-dogs

The rather artsy, spherical OI520 Zotac PC that was announced last week made for an interesting object, but didn't really have anything to get gamers interested. Equipped solely with an i5-4200U 1.6GHz / 2.6GHz TB CPU and an HD4400 IGP, the little orb isn't meant for much beyond generic HTPC and movie/stream viewing tasks. Zotac has addressed this with their beefed-up version, the EN760, announced earlier today.

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Zotac's EN760 & EN760 Plus "mini gaming PCs" propel the ZBOX family forward with integrated GTX 860M Maxwell GPUs in a small form factor box. Before getting deeper into this, the specs:

A new pair of hypnotically-decaled ASUS video cards claim to cool passively unless exceeding a thermal threshold of 65C. Named for the Latin word for "owl," the ASUS Strix video cards are equipped with a large heatsink, heatpipes, and two fans that are controlled based on thermals.

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Let's get into more of the detailed specs on the ASUS Strix video cards:

Rumor has it that Crucial is manufacturing an MX100 SSD, likely using Micron's new 16-nm NAND. The MX100 will fall into the spot of the oft-selected M500 in Crucial's SSD lineup, making it the new budget contender in the entry-level arena; the M550 remains as a mid-range option at slightly faster speeds. The MX100 will continue operating on the SATA interface in a 2.5" form factor.

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Zotac has been pushing small form factor HTPCs for years now, but they arrived to the market a bit ahead of the mini-ITX & Steam Machine craze of CES 2014; it'd be fair to say Zotac was ahead of its time, shipping "Zboxes" even before the NUC existed publicly, and as a result saw perhaps lower sales than if they'd been a year later to market.

And now they're back.

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The new Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520 series SFF HTPCs ship in two models -- the OI520 and OI520 Plus (both of which have awfully annoying names to remember). Here are the relevant specs:

Computer component manufacturer NZXT steps away from hardware for a moment to release their first bit of software: meet CAM. CAM is an elegantly designed PC monitoring program that finally does remote system observation right. After using other PC monitoring software like System Mechanic, which overloads their program with a lot of unneeded and non-functional features, CAM delivers with the bare basics for enthusiasts, focusing on everything you should need to monitor your gaming rig.

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There's been a lot of delaying going on in the industry lately. NVidia and AMD have both pushed back launches (Maxwell, Titan Z) on the GPU side, Intel pushed back X99 / HW-E to 3Q14, and even delayed Broadwell into "4Q14 or 1Q15." All of these delays are attributable to fabrication process changes that are sweeping the semiconductor industry right now; we're shrinking the process to a point that it's small enough that new engineering hurdles have arisen -- good news for innovation, but bad for the impatient.

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AMD stated yesterday in a press statement that the Radeon R9 280 would see price cuts to $250 from a previous $300+. The cryptocurrency craze caused a severe spike in retail prices of AMD cards (far exceeding MSRP) for a number of months, but with pressure from AMD and the frenzy dying down, we've seen a return to original MSRP. With prices firmly stabilized, AMD has issued price cuts across the board for several members of its family -- including the R9 280.

Video Card New Price
NVIDIA GTX 780 Ti $720
AMD R9 290X $510
NVIDIA GTX 780 $510
AMD R9 290 $380
NVIDIA GTX 770 $300
AMD R9 280X $290
NVIDIA GTX 760 $255
AMD R9 280 $250
AMD R9 270X $200
AMD R9 270 $170

Rumors were spun on social pages and overclocking forums today that nVidia's Titan Z had been "canceled" or "indefinitely postponed," depending on who you asked. We first covered the Titan Z at its live unveil during GTC, in case you missed that, where we filmed the introduction of the company's new full double-precision, 2xGK-110 GPU. AMD announced its new W9100 FirePro card shortly thereafter, soon followed by its 295X2, which is targeted more at gamers and lacks full double-precision support.

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I'd like to take this opportunity to educate the community on two key items: First, the Titan Z has not been canceled or postponed beyond its initially-targeted 2Q14 release date, and second, the Titan Z and 295X2 are not meant for identical markets. Each device has its place and they are not head-to-head competition.

Let's start with that first item.

GN contributor Patrick Lathan wrote his review of the GX Gaming "Deathtaker" almost exactly one year ago. GX Gaming is a business unit of Genius, a large manufacturer in the East, and was the company's first attempt at breaking into the US market with gaming peripherals. I recently regrouped with Patrick to talk about a new mouse review (stay tuned for that) when he mentioned a couple issues that had arisen with the Deathtaker.

genius-deathtaker-1

We do our best to review products extensively (I even take the mice apart) and in a timely manner, so unfortunately it's simply impossible to get more than 1-2 months on a device before we put the review up. Occasionally editors and writers like Patrick will continue to use the mouse going forward, depending on how much they like the particular device; Patrick has about a year of use on the Deathtaker, priced at around $50 MSRP, and recently updated me on its endurance. For reference, I also decided to stick with the GX Gaming Gila that I previously reviewed and have about a year of use on that one, though it's a bit higher grade than the Deathtaker. We'll talk about that one next.

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