Hardware

In addition to Rosewill's custom-painted Throne case, PAX East 2013 will see the return of Corsair, one of the fastest-rising stars in the tech sector. Corsair has announced that its new Vengeance K70 keyboard (first teased at CES 2013) will be present at PAX East this weekend, apt to show-off its key-by-key LED backlighting.

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Valve has long stated its beliefs in a community-driven gaming environment, as evidenced in the tools the company has released for its own Team Fortress 2 and other titles; they see gaming as an ecosystem that can be sustained better by players than by developers, in part due to numbers, in part just because gamers are closer to the end product given their nature of being isolated from the development process.

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In continuing this philosophy, Steam is now equipped with "Steam Early Access," a platform that allows players to play games pre-release and aid devs in testing for bugs and feature requests.

Logitech's made our job of titling a post difficult this time. With impeccable timing, the company is unveiling eight new products (two headsets, two keyboards, four mice), and has effectively renewed its dedication to PC gaming.

This launch sees marketing material surrounding their G-Series branding—a letter that is clearly superior to its 25 competitors, all vying for power—with the new products prefixed by 'G,' as usual, and suffixed with an 's.' Logitech's announcement brings us two high-end gaming mice, the G700s and G500s, two high-end keyboards (G19s, G510s), and a high-end headset, the G430s. There's a lot of stuff to look at, so we'll go through point-by-point:

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Intel's 4th-Gen CPUs ("Haswell") are fast-approaching, and that means a new chipset, socket type, and new motherboards to go with it all. Intel appears to be sticking with its branding schema for the next round of chipsets, including Z87 (the new "Performance" brand, championing Z77) and an X-series enthusiast chipset.

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MSI, BioStar, ASRock, and Gigabyte have all revealed detailed Haswell motherboard plans and prototypes for their impending Z87 boards at CeBIT in Germany; ASUS has additionally teased some information, but nothing of much use yet. All the boards mentioned herein are on Intel's upcoming LGA1150 socket type, made for their 4th-Gen Haswell CPUs.

While writing four liquid cooler reviews of Corsair and NZXT products today, I had an eerily-coincidental story pop-up on my feed reader: Asetek is out for blood (again), and this time, they're targeting Cooler Master.

How extraordinarily relevant to the impending review content.

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You know graphics are starting to get good when hardware developers and game developers have time to work on hair. Rendering realistic hair has historically put GPUs under tremendous load, and actually we've often used FurMark—literally just a ball of dynamic fur—for stress-testing GPUs and testing for thermals. The obstructions to realistic, real-time hair rendering are mostly expected: In the real world, thousands of little strands of hair will react to every step and movement in the wind; hair can be greasy, wet, dry, and I'm sure if we were stylists, we'd be able to name dozens of other hair afflictions. Oh, and hair doesn't clip in the real-world, either. None of this is easy to render without consuming more system resources than can be allocated to, well, just hair.

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This is why we see polygonal, blocky hair in a lot of games -- it gets covered by hoods or rendered in a bland enough way that it's not something you pay any mind. Artists can apply masks and textures that create hair that looks the part, but that's far away from the realm of hair (I'm getting semantic satiation over here) being realistically responsive to weather and movements. And this is where AMD hopes to enter the ring.

Hot on the heels of their Jaguar integration in the PS4, AMD has announced the development of its TressFX hair rendering technology. The company—in joint-effort with game dev Crystal Dynamics—hopes to bring further realism to Lara Croft's blood-spattered, dirt-covered avatar in the newest Tomb Raider iteration.

NZXT Launches New FZ-200mm Case Fan

By Published February 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm

It's been exciting to follow NZXT's developments over the past few months: The company is vying heavily for an enthusiast market, and thus far, it's impressed us a few times. Today's announcement isn't a crazy Phantom case or tediously-designed PSU, though, it's a fan.

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Although fans tend to be a fairly boring topic, if we're all honest with one another, this year has had some pretty exciting fan designs emerging. Antec's TrueQuiet fans intrigued us at CES with their rotational body (the entire casing rotates, not just the blades), the idea being that this eliminates turbulence between the blades and the outer-rim. SilverStone also put out their AP123 tri-blade design fans, which we discussed in a previous TechRAID episode. And now with somewhat of a more conventional fan design, NZXT's FZ-200mm case fans promise to increase airflow 15% on top of the previous NZXT 200mm model, resulting in 103CFM at 20dBA.

Gaming peripheral manufacturer Razer has announced the re-release of its custom StarCraft II gaming peripherals, now in Heart of the Swarm flair and boasting RTS-specific features and other interesting design elements. Among the company's re-launched peripherals are its Spectre mouse, Marauder keyboard, and Banshee headset, each outfitted with the StarCraft II logo in a default deep purple color, a la the HotS/Zerg origins.

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Perhaps the item of most technical interest is the Marauder keyboard, which hosts what Razer calls "an APM Lighting System [that] offers a fully-integrated gaming experience that responds directly to a player's maneuvers and speed, providing vibrant performance feedback." The same feature was found on the original Marauder, launched some back in 2010, though we haven't personally tested it. The backlit keyboard features a fairly comprehensive color spectrum and manipulates the backlight color in accordance with the player's speed and actions, but is decidedly high-price considering its lack of mechanical switches (MSRP $100).

Unigine's Valley GPU Benchmark: Successor to Heaven

By Published February 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Unigine Corp. has announced its successor to the famed Heaven Benchmark GPU stress-testing utility, Valley Benchmark; as we've stated in our "how to benchmark your PC guide," Heaven has been one of the longest-standing, most effective tools for real-world (non-synthetic) graphics hardware stress tests. The utility's primary advantage is that it renders environments similar to what might be found in modern, high-end PC games -- this is unlike synthetic benchmarks, which will focus on number-crunching to put the GPU cores under maximum computational load.

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AMD: No 8000-series GPUs in 2013

By Published February 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Japanese publication 4Gamer.net recently interviewed AMD Product Manager of Desktop Graphics Devon Nekechuk, who made an official statement that the company would not be introducing a new line of RADEON HD graphics processors in 2013. That doesn't mean AMD fans (and fans of competition) have nothing to look forward to, though.

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