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.
The Fury X has been a challenging video card to review. This is AMD's best attempt at competition and, as it so happens, the card includes two items of critical importance: A new GPU architecture and the world's first implementation of high-bandwidth memory.
Some system builders may recall AMD's HD 4870, a video card that was once a quickly-recommended solution for mid-to-high range builds. The 4870 was the world's first graphics card to incorporate the high-speed GDDR5 memory solution, reinforcing AMD's position of technological jaunts in the memory field. Prior to the AMD acquisition, graphics manufacturer ATI designed the GDDR3 memory that ended up being used all the way through to GDDR5 (GDDR4 had a lifecycle of less than a year, more or less, but was also first instituted on ATI devices).
Following the comparatively bombastic launch of the HyperX Predator SSD, an M.2 SSD fitted to a PCI-e adapter, Kingston this week launched its “Savage” SATA SSD. The Savage SSD assumes the modern branding efforts fronted by HyperX, which has streamlined its product lineup into a hierarchical Fury, Savage, Beast/Predator suite. These efforts eliminate long-standing names like “Genesis” and “Blu,” replacing them with – although sometimes silly – names that are more cohesive in their branding initiative.
The new Savage SSD sees integration of the Phison PS3110-S10 controller, usurping the long-standing HyperX 3K SSD and its SandForce 2nd Gen controller from Kingston's mid-range hot-seat. HyperX's Savage operates on the aging SATA III interface; this ensures claustrophobic post-overhead transfer limitations that can't be bypassed without a faster interface, largely thanks to information transfer protocols that consume substantial bandwidth. 8b/10b encoding, for example, eats into the SATA III 6Gbps spec to the point of reducing its usable throughput to just 4.8Gbps (~600MB/s). This means that, at some point, the argument of SATA SSD selection based upon speed loses merit. Other aspects – endurance and encryption, for two easy ones – should be held in higher regard when conducting the pre-purchase research process.
It's official: The price gap between the GTX 960 and GTX 970 is large enough to drive a Ti through. NVidia's new GeForce GTX 960 2GB graphics card ships at $200, pricing it a full $50 cheaper than the GTX 760's launch price. The immediate competition would be AMD's R9 285, priced almost equivalently.
NVidia's GTX 960 is intended to target the market seeking the best video card for the money – a segment that both AMD and nVidia call the “sweet spot” – and is advertised as capable of playing most modern games on high settings or better. The GTX 960 uses a new Maxwell GPU, called the GM206, for which the groundwork was laid by the GTX 980's GM204 GPU. In our GTX 980 review, we mentioned that per-core performance and per-watt performance had increased substantially, resulting in a specs listing that exhibits a lower core count and smaller memory interface. AMD has leveraged these number changes in recent marketing outreaches, something we'll discuss in the conclusion.
This GeForce GTX 960 review tests the new ASUS Strix 960 video card against the 970, 760, R9 285, & others. The benchmark analyzes GTX 960 FPS performance in titles like Far Cry, Assassin's Creed, EVOLVE, and other modern titles. The GTX 960 is firmly designed for 1080p gaming, which is where the vast majority of monitors currently reside.
As a part of our new website design – pending completion before CES – we've set forth on a mission to define several aspects of GPU technology with greater specificity than we've done previously. One of these aspects is texture fill-rate (or filter rate) and the role of the TMU, or Texture Mapping Units.
When listing GPU specifications, we often enumerate the clockrate and TMU count, among other specs. These two items are directly related to one another, each used to extrapolate the “texture filter rate” of the GPU. The terms “Texture Fill-Rate” and “Texture Filter Rate” can be used interchangeably. For demonstration purposes, here is a specifications table for the GTX 980 (just because it's recent):
Conveniently, we recently published an article and accompanying video exploring the future of Flash technology: 3D V-NAND Flash memory. VNAND stands as the next step in the SLC/MLC/TLC progression, except instead of primarily adding additional bits per cell, it's beginning to stack cells in 3-dimensional space -- similar in concept to Intel's 3D transistor architecture. This allows higher cell density in the same square area, but reduces the granular voltage requirements introduced by incrementing the cell levels (an exponential voltage level requirement with each level, from SLC to TLC).
Samsung showcased some of its VNAND concept just before CES, but we didn't have reason to believe it'd make it to market so quickly. The first consumer product to use VNAND, a type of Flash fabricated internally at Samsung, will be the company's 850 Pro. The 850 Pro champions the 840 Pro, released just before CES 2013.
SSDs are surrounded by terminology that generally isn't understood beyond a relative level. There's this top-level concept that one type of NAND is superior to another, that synchronous is preferable to asynchronous, that endurance is tied to P/E cycles, but a lot of the knowledge halts there. We've worked closely with several SSD and controller engineers over the past year to educate ourselves on the inner workings of the storage world's biggest recent advancement; now it's time to start organizing that education in article form. Over the next weeks, we'll be releasing several "SSD Architecture" postings (so be sure to like / follow / subscribe) that focus on different aspects of solid-state drives, controllers, and NAND.
This installment includes a video component. The video showcases a discussion with LSI's Kent Smith and spoils the basics of what we'll cover throughout this series. I highly recommend watching the video, especially for those who benefit from visual aids. We covered SSD questions pertaining to varying voltage levels on evolving NAND types (SLC, MLC, TLC), cell decay when an SSD goes unused, P/E cycles and endurance, and "what's next" after TLC for Flash types. That's a lot of stuff. Each item is complex in its own way -- hence the chronicle-like release of in-depth article components.
Today we're talking about top-level SSD anatomy and architecture, defining what "NAND Flash" actually is, evolving NAND types (MLC vs. TLC, what's after TLC), capacity calculations, and providing an "SSD primer" of other basic elements. This is what will lay the foundation for our more advanced articles.
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.
Intel has started acting a bit strangely as a result of its uncontested dominance in the mid-to-high-end marketplace; as discussed in our Z97 vs. H97 chipset comparison, this is the first Intel platform in recent memory that has expanded compatibility between CPU and chipset generations. Haswell, the Haswell Refresh, Devil's Canyon, and Broadwell are all LGA1150 socketed chips, and although there will be some incompatible 8/9-series board/CPU combos (check before buying), a lot of these will work together.
Devil's Canyon (detailed here) is yet unreleased and Broadwell still looms on the 4Q14/1Q15 horizon. Intel has released its "Haswell Refresh" CPUs in the interim, including the new i7-4790, i5-4690, and i3-4360; the CPUs are effectively replacing the i7-4771, the i5-4670, and the i3-4340 respectively. Astute readers will notice that the refreshed CPUs are each xx2x higher in number count than their championed component.
In this Intel CPU buyer's guide, we'll look at whether the Haswell Refresh CPUs are worth buying for gamers given their unique positioning between HW, Devil's Canyon, and Broadwell. We'll also talk about overclocking options and lack thereof on the i7-4790, i5-4690, and i3-4360.
First, the specs:
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