This is one of the best weekend hardware sales round-ups we've had yet. This weekend, there's an MSI R9 270 2GB video card on sale for $180 (yes, actual MSRP!), an ultra-wide ASUS LED LCD for $210, Fractal's Define R4 case at $90, and more.
AMD announced yesterday that it is releasing the AM1 platform. The AM1 socket type and accompanying motherboards are scheduled to be released globally on April 9, the day after Windows XP officially ceases support. This will feature the AMD quad-core and dual-core “Kabini” APU with socketed FS1b motherboards in micro-ATX and mini-ITX sizes. Currently, ASRock, ASUS, BIOSTAR, ECS, Gigabyte, and MSI are planning to have something ready to go by the launch date. The Kabini APU consists of the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture-equipped HD 8000 series GPU and AMD's “Jaguar” CPU cores, as found in the PS4 and Xbox One.
The name is still unknown, but what will eventually become DirectX 12 should be shown off at GDC shortly; we'll be in attendance to report on the new announcements and will also be attending the GPU Technology Conference the following week, so check back for deeper analysis as we are exposed to information. In the meantime, Microsoft's new iteration of DirectX has some between-the-lines reading for AMD's Mantle.
It might seem like just a few weeks ago that we posted about AMD's Catalyst 14.1 beta drivers --and that's because it was. The 14.1 beta drivers saw the delivery of Mantle to the general public, which would later be applied in a large (>1GB) Battlefield 4 patch. Of course, I've yet to discover a software application that can release patches without introducing new issues. Catalyst 14.2 attempts to address some of the leftovers from 14.1 and prior.
14.2's major changes bring TrueAudio and Mantle support for the impending launch of the new Thief game; TrueAudio, if you're unaware, is AMD's way of driving surround-style audio through the video card (offloading some processing). The experience as a whole is pretty unique and promising, though we've only tested the "studio version" at CES, where the environment and equipment were fairly optimized.
NOTE: This has been updated with the launch version of the game!
During our hands-on press preview with Titanfall's PC deployment last night, we put the game through its paces on numerous GPU configurations atop our standardized test bench. Initial test attempts resulted in some frustration and hurdles, but with enough research and troubleshooting, we managed to develop a stable, reliable test bed for Titanfall's PC debut.
If you're yet unfamiliar with Titanfall, check out our (now-outdated) Titanfall Analysis.
In this Titanfall benchmark & analysis, we look at the best video cards for Titanfall, framerates (FPS), performance of APUs, SLI configs, & CrossFire, and more; the graphics devices we tested on Titanfall include AMD's 7850 1GB (+ CrossFire), the A10-5800K Trinity APU (7660D), NVIDIA's GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB (+ SLI), GTX 760 2GB, and GTX 580 1.5GB (for reference), and Intel's HD4000 integrated graphics processor (IGP) on the 3rd-Gen Ivy Bridge CPUs. This IGP is also found in modern Haswell CPUs.
Note: Titanfall is presently in early beta, so it is highly likely that these numbers will improve as the game nears launch and optimization patches are released. It is also likely that nVidia and AMD will release updated drivers with profiles for Titanfall shortly, at which point we will re-test the game appropriately.
Although it doesn't compete directly with Thunderbolt's ability to push PCI-e signals, AMD's new DockPort standard (renamed from code name "Lightning Bolt") has promising features and pricing expectations.
We recently discussed that DisplayPort's primary adoption advantage over HDMI is its lack of a licensing fee (HDMI costs $10,000 per year for adopters to utilize). DockPort continues the free legacy of DisplayPort and other AMD technologies, making itself available for integration without licensing from manufacturers. AMD released a new video showcasing the tech's use case scenarios.
AMD's R7 250 has had a boring life due to its relative uselessness when compared against slightly more expensive, significantly more powerful cards (see: GTX 650 Ti Boost, AMD 7850). AMD just announced their $100 R7 250X -- a step below the 260 (which is GCN 1.1-enabled and offers TrueAudio) and above the R7 250. It is equivalent to the Radeon 7770 in all aspects other than memory -- for which we are still awaiting information.
The new Radeon R7 250X runs on a GCN 1.0 Cape Verde GPU, meaning it lacks TrueAudio support (along with better CU optimization). It will likely ship with 1GB and 2GB SKUs in a GDDR5 configuration, though there is a possibility that AMD could ship the 2GB model in DDR3 configurations.
The new 250X will compete most directly vs. the already-uninteresting GTX 650, where gamers will see a slight FPS advantage in favor of the 250X at roughly the same price. For what it's worth, we're also expecting an nVidia GTX 750 Ti launch on February 18th.
For those of you who recall our CES coverage of VisionTek's liquid-cooled R9 290 video card, the system showcased in our video hands-on is now up for grabs in a VisionTek giveaway. In a press release by VisionTek today, the company stated:
"To demonstrate the CryoVenom R9 290 as the industry’s first and fastest custom-built liquid cooled AMD Radeon™ R9 290 graphics card on the market at the recent CES show, the VisionTek Custom Shop team built a high performance gaming rig and dubbed it Cryosphere."
AMD's newest Catalyst 14.1 bet drivers introduce Mantle support on all GCN-enabled GPUs available, including modern APUs and all Radeon 7000 cards and onwards (7000, 8000, RX 200, and Kaveri APUs). In testing performed around the web, the most significant performance gains can be found in the 290 & 290X, 260 / 7790, and Kaveri APUs.
Mantle makes the most sense as a booster for low-end hardware (like APUs) moreso than the high-end stuff; with an APU, your borderline between medium and high settings at 1080p is going to be more noticeable than on a 290X (which is already more powerful than any game can truly utilize). Mantle makes the difference between playable and unplayable FPS on Kaveri chips and low-end discrete GPUs.
This weekend's hardware sales round-up focuses on CPU and motherboard sales, with Intel's mainstream flagship i7-4770K on sale alongside AMD's 220W FX-9370; motherboards were also located on sale, ensuring you'll be able to put these powerful CPUs to use immediately.
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