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Last Updated March 7, 2017
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Intel Chips – Finally Taking The Leap Through Its Kaby Lake Processors

After the launch of dual-core Kaby Lake Y-series processors for ultra-thin laptops in August 2016, things seemed a little slow on that front. But that was only the calm before the storm, because at CES 2017, company executives declared nearly 40 different processor configs for the 7th generation processor family that would enter the market to serve a wide range of products.

As with any successive generation, the central point of evaluation is performance. And not surprisingly, Kaby Lake chips are expected to show a 20% increase in performance with respect to Broadwell quad core chips.

There is also tremendous improvement expected on the graphical and video processing front. Compared to last gen Skylake, these 7th gen chips are expected to have better 4K video creation and playback abilities.

According to Intel’s director of mobile platform marketing, Karen Regis, however, Kaby Lake’s strong suit lay in their ability to support ‘Optane’, Intel’s super SSD tech, a topic that we shall discuss at length. But first, lets look at the speeds and feeds of their chips.

The Kaby Lake Overview

The initial Kaby Lake launch in August 2016 saw the launch of low-power, dual-core, Y-series (4.5W) and U-series (15W) processors meant for 2-in-1 detachables and clamshell ultrabooks respectively. The recent rollout is wide ranging (more than 40 models) and covers a whole host of dual and quad core processor families.

Let’s start with the H-series – base clock ranging from 2.5GHz to 3.1GHz, turbo boost readings go all the way up to 4.1GHz. The series features both dual-core and quad-core type chips with TDP of 45-watts, and are designed for performance laptops and VR-ready notebooks. Both unlocked as well as the business-centric Intel vPro models can be found in the family.

For the mainstream desktop configurations, AIO and mini PCs, there is the S-series of dual-core and quad-core processors, available in TDP slabs of 35W, 65W and 95W with base clock speeds starting from 2.4GHz going all the way up to 4.2GHz with turbo boost frequency readings of 4.5GHz.

The 65W and 95W chips being high wattage are ideal for gaming and enthusiast PC builds, whereas the 35-watt chips shall be better suited to mini PCs and AOIs. Available in overclocked and vPro versions, price for the S-series is expected in the region of $117-$339.

A total of eight new chipsets have also been announced. Of these, five (B250, H270, Z270, Q250 and Q270) are designated for desktops whereas three (HM175, QM175 and CM238) shall cater to mobile computers.

Integrated Graphics And Overclocking

One notable omission is Iris and Iris Pro integrated graphics, which had relegated Intel HD graphics to denote the lower rung of graphics integration into Intel processors. The new entrant this time is Iris Plus, which in comparison to integrated HD Graphics shows a 65% uptick in 3D Graphics rendering and close to 40% improvement when converting video files from one format to the other.

According to Intel, Iris Plus along with the increased clock speeds across single, dual and quad core performance in Kaby Lake chips could finally run games at 1080p albeit at lower settings.

The other notable change is with regards to overclocking. The 7th gen chips from S-series will have an overclockable model for the i5(7600K), i7(7700K) and also their i3 chips (7560K). Furthermore, there are two different ways in which these chips could be overclocked.

The first is via an automated tool through which both base clock as well as clock multiplier can be manipulated. The other, which Intel calls AVX offset ratio, is an automatic reduction in clock speed when the processor experiences high degree of computationally complex instructions. This shall prevent the overclocked chip from overheating and thus increase its average lifespan.

Additional Technologies And Optane

There are two big takeaways in terms of other technologies incorporated, either directly or indirectly with Intel’s Kaby Bridge. First in line has to be the integrated video engine which was discussed at length during Intel’s August presentation. The engine supports popular 4K codecs and has its dedicated video block which in turn shall reduce the overall load on the processor.

Intel’s hope is that as more and more 4K videos are made, it shall be lapped by the likes of 4K content creators and resellers such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Not to forget that 4K service providers like FandangoNow, ULTRA from Sony Pictures or iQIYI could stand to make great gains from Intel’s video engine.

The second is Intel’s Authenticate, an in-house authentication technology that combines different factors like PINs, biometrics and even phone based authentication over BlueTooth. An idea that chip making giant shared at the beginning of 2016 is ready to become a reality, and Intel looks all set to incorporate it into business PCs.

Finally, we come to the hot topic of Optane, Intel’s 3D Xpoint technology that blows conventional NAND based SSDs out of the water, both in terms of read and write speeds. Developed in collaboration with Micron, the Optane module is basically a unique SSD replacement that slots into the DRAM slot.

Kaby Bridge processors weren’t built keeping Optane in mind, they are nevertheless the first generation of Intel chips to support this 3D XPoint technology. While there is no clarity on release dates and price point, this much is clear that all 200-series chipsets from Intel shall be optimized for Optane.

The Competition Landscape

For the time-being, Kaby Lake processors can enjoy a lot of breathing space but that is until AMD’s Ryzen gets introduced to customers and finally hits the market. And from the looks of it Intel is either readying itself to battle AMD’s onslaught with its Kaby Lake and Optane combination.

Nevertheless, Intel’s mid-level processor pricing will stay high until AMD bring out their trump cards. Also, there has been no talk of extreme level processors from Intel for Kaby Lake, so we’ll need to wait and see if and when they decide to bring that out.

So, all eyes will be on both processing giants on how they go about marketing their respective products when the two finally square off against each other with their own version of processors.

  • Jonas
  • March 7, 2017
  • PC
samsung all in one artpc

New Samsung All-In-One PC – An Innovation That’s Slipped Under The Radar

CES 2017 was a sight to behold – spread over 2.6 million square-feet of floor space and thousands of exhibitors showcasing their consumer technology products to a dizzying populace of visitors. From gaming drones to dishwashers and everything in between, if it involved daily life, then there was a gadget being showcased for it.

Where most products had the full force of promotional elements thrown behind them, there were some that remained hidden in the background, away from plain sight. Why? Because, manufacturers weren’t too sure what to do with them or for that matter, how to introduce them to the public.

One such product that caught our eye was Samsung’s All-In-One PC, which to be honest looked like a big monitor with an attached sound bar at first glance. It was only upon further enquiry that we understood what it really was. Dubbed the ArtPC (albeit hastily), the All-In-One (AIO) did peak our interest, but for different reasons altogether. Let’s take them up one by one.

The DNA Of AIOs

The headspace for AIOs is really quite simple. When you start feeling cramped working for hours on your 15-inch laptop, the other alternatives include connecting it to a bigger monitor or simply switching over to a desktop (provided you have one).

In that respect, an AIO sits comfortably between laptop and a full-scale desktop. On the one hand, its bigger screen size and performance outdo a laptop in a home environment. On the other hand, an AIO’s compact and clutter-free nature is so unlike a traditional desktop and for all the good reasons.

Not surprisingly, it’s the display of AIOs that makes them good or great. While inexpensive ones have those 20-inch screens, the better, more successful models rock a display-size that’s 23-inches or more on the diagonal. It gets better if the resolution is 1080p or higher (1440p and 4K) with an ultra-wide screen, the latter exploiting Windows 10 feature of viewing and working on multiple desktop instances opened side by side to the fullest.

Also, since the screen affords more brightness than laptop displays, choosing an All-In-One with IPS display panel brings off-axis viewing (not having to sit bang in front of the monitor) into play. There’s the added benefit if it’s a touch screen especially since this is another feature that Windows 10 was built to serve whole-heartedly. However, it’s absence isn’t exactly such a loss.

Add to that the hardware features such as SSD storage, more RAM (8GB and higher) and powerful processor with graphic rendering ability, you got a powerful system that’s easy to work on and becomes your entertainment outlet for when you want to take a break.

Attributes like USB connectivity, HDMI port, Ethernet LAN port are a necessity since they extend the operational spectrum of the AIO by letting you connect to your laptop, phone, tablet etcetera. A wireless keyboard and mouse combo complete the AIO circle making it a better, more organized alternative to a traditional desktop.

The Mysterious ArtPC From Samsung

From what we observed from the two promotional videos at the Samsung stall, the ArtPC comes in two variants, one with the touchscreen and the other without it. Also, Windows Hello (a feature that lets you to login quickly via scans of fingerprint, iris or face) is only available on the touchscreen version. Other than that, the rest of the specifications between the two models are pretty much identical.

The Exterior

Externally, the AIO sports a 24-inch HD display and a hefty 10-watt RMS sound-bar towards the bottom. In fact, the first impressions we got from the weird design was that of the display trying to protrude from the sound-bar, much like an over-grown iPod docking station. The cool thing about the sound-bar however, is that it can be connected via Bluetooth even when the AIO was turned off.

Additionally, there’s a wireless mouse and keyboard combo. We were particularly impressed by the curved shape of the keycaps. For one, it made depressing the keys easy thereby allowing for the fingers to glide across the keyboard faster. But more importantly, the shape is highly conducive for typing; a priceless attribute for anyone who spends a lot of time thrashing out write-ups.

The Interior

Go deeper into the ArtPC models, and at the center, you’ll find a 7th Generation Intel core i5-7400T processor, with a base clock speed of 2.4Ghz. For all graphic-intensive work (includes playing certain game titles), the built-in Intel HD Graphics 630 should handle them all without any fuss.

For storage, Samsung has provided a 1TB, 5400RPM SATA hard disk whereas its memory can be extended up to 16GB. All in all, satisfactory specs although we would have loved to see either a full 240GB SSD version or at the very least, a 32GB ‘cache SSD’ to speed up load time for OS as well as frequently used apps.

Connectivity

Thankfully, connectivity options are aplenty on the ArtPC. From USB 3.0 ports, SD card slot, HDMI interface and Gigabit Ethernet port, its got all the necessary connection requirements for a modern PC covered.

Furthermore, we were told that the two ArtPCs shall have some special applications installed including SideSync, an app that promotes interconnectivity and therefore seamless data transfer between the AIO, and smartphones, tablets and other devices.

The Future Remains Uncertain

Despite the new All-In-One PC having made its appearance in CES 2017, the simple fact is that neither many people gave it much attention; nor did Samsung seem interested in peddling it to visitors.

In fact, according to one representative’s candid confession, there are no immediate plans to bring the AIO into mainstream production and it is perhaps for this reason that it’s pricing too hasn’t been revealed. That in itself should put into perspective the mysterious nature of the ArtPC.

Both Microsoft (Surface Studio) and Dell (XPS 27) have come out with their respective gadgets to occupy the largely unattended Windows 10 AIO segment. So, if Samsung’s new AIO were to become available in the near future, it can be sure to have a battle on its hands.

 

  • Jonas
  • March 6, 2017
  • PC
nvidia pc revival kit in box

NVidia’s PC Revival Kit – A Complete Overview

NVidia has recently launched a PC Revival Kit, which is essentially a collection of hardware to transform your run-of-the-mill PC into a gaming machine. Price wise, if someone in Europe were to order the package directly, it would cost him/her roughly 399 EUR (or $425), and that’s including postage and custom fee.

Contrast this against buying the same parts individually in Europe, there is hardly any substantial difference in price. If anything, there’s higher chance of getting a better deal with the latter option whether be it in terms of quality, warranty or price.

But then, different markets require different strategies. And the concept of PC Revival Kit, the brainchild of NVidia’s Latin America division, is only available to certain countries in the region, Chile being one of them. That said, we’ve examined each piece of this puzzle independently to get a pragmatic perspective of who the ‘Revival Kit’ shall profit.

What’s Inside The PC Revival Kit?

Based on first-hand information from sources in South America, the PC Revival Kit shall contain:

  • 1 x Corsair CX450M power supply unit
  • 1 x Corsair Force Series LE 240GB SSD storage
  • 1 x MSI GeForce GTX 1060 3GB graphics card
  • 1x NVidia T-shirt
  • 1 x game code for Gears of War 4

There are certain base criteria that an existing system should fulfil for the upgrades to even be possible. For starters, the motherboard should have at least one PCI-Express 16x slot to accommodate the GTX 1060 GFX card. Similarly, the SSD drive shall need SATA port(s).

Whereas Intel’s second-generation i5 or an equivalent AMD A8 APU belonging to the same period is the bare minimum requirement for possessor, the existing PC should also have 8GB of RAM. Any lower specs and the system won’t be able to handle games like Witcher 3 and Gears of War 4 even with the Revival bundle installed.

How Well Does The Kit Fare?

Given a desktop computer meets or betters the base requirements mentioned in the preceding section, then this kit can provide a significant albeit budget gaming solution. Here is a look at the included hardware components individually, which should shed some light on the true extent of the upgrade on offer.

Graphics Card

The GTX 1060 was NVidia’s thumping response to AMD’s mid-range GFX card, the Radeon RX 480. And MSI’s version of GTX 1060 isn’t all that different from the ‘Founder’s Edition’ except for the extra overclocking that’s done on it.

This however is the 3GB version of the card. On an average, it has 2-10% lower performance ratings when compared to the 6GB version of GTX 1060. But then, the 3GB model is also 22% cheaper; a trade-off worth considering for some.

While many would call it the ‘poorer brother’ of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, the GTX 1060 dominates the FHD spectrum of game resolution (1080p) and can play most if not all games at high settings on 1440p resolutions. It is also the least expensive GPU that’s VR-ready.

Being the first affordable Pascal architecture based GPU, GTX 1060 packs performance with power-efficiency. In fact, this card matches the past generation’s flagship GTX 980 pound for pound in frame rate for most graphic-intensive games played at 1080p resolution and at the highest possible settings.

Moreover, MSI’s GTX 1060 does all of the above while consuming less power – 135 watts TDP to GTX 980’s 178 watts when tested on identical PC configurations. This aspect has serious implications on the choice of PSU, given that you no longer have to go for high-wattage units to be on the safe side of things.

Power Supply

Positioned carefully between entry-level VS series and high-end TX series, Corsair’s CX450M provides that sweet spot of a power solution for budget and mid-level gaming systems. The M denotes the PSU’s modular nature, which in turn affords better space management.

Despite being a relatively inexpensive PSU option from Corsair’s stables, the CX450M is ‘80 Plus Bronze certified. Thus, this particular PSU model consistently offers 80-85% efficiency over the rated wattage of 450W across different loads.

So, apart from serious savings on electricity units, CX450M ensures that different PC hardware components receive constant power; an attribute that perfectly fits into the requirements of the aforementioned GFX card.

SSD Storage

SSD(s) greatly improves the time it takes to load the OS, applications or games. In that respect, Corsair’s Force LE series, and particularly the 240GB variant provides the all-important sweet-spot between reliability, cost-effectiveness and fast paced data storage and transfer needs.

This is mainly due to Toshiba’s 15-nanometer TLC flash for the memory and Phison’s PS3110-S10 to produce those lightning quick read-write operations that sit inside the LE 240GB model. The read and write speeds for LE series is rated at 560MB/sec and 530MB/sec for sequential operations. Its only in the non-sequential category that one notices a step up between say a 240GB and 480GB.

What’s NVidia’s Endgame With The PC Revival Kit?

From a strategic perspective, this is more of a one-stone-many-birds move by Nvidia with respect to the South American PC hardware market, where the demand for PC gameplay is ever-present, provided it is an affordable proposition.

Secondly, with NVidia’s 10 series of graphics cards offering an exponential rise in gaming performance and graphics rendering across the board, there’s no reason why today’s budget gaming PCs can’t compete with the likes of Xbox One and Playstation-4 over a prolonged period.

Granted upgrading a PC with NVidia’s ‘bundle’ might require more than just cost considerations. But once completed, that machine despite a mid-level graphics card shall produce far better gaming and visual experience than any present video-game console connected to a Full HD TV (1080p resolution).

Finally, there are those who are either new to the culture of PC upgrades or haven’t kept up with latest hardware developments for some time. For such people, NVidia’s PC Revival kit removes the learning curve associated with gaming PC components. Instead, it gives them a reliable yet ready-made option to realize their desire to play the latest PC games.

  • Jonas
  • March 5, 2017
  • PC
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Games You Might Have Missed In 2016 That Are Worth Your Time

In the horde of salivating after the big, expansive mainstream titles, we often forget those small, independent titles that despite their lack of breath-taking graphics and scenes are nonetheless gems worth your playing time.

Granted many of them won’t cater to our fine-tuned palette, but if you are up for some offbeat entertainment, then these 2016 titles should help your cause immensely.

Event[0]

It’s a very misleading game in that its dressed as a sci-fi adventure but performs more like a text adventure. Most of our time was spent communicating with Kaizen, the AI system of our run-down spaceship.

Weird as hell, Event[0] attempts to  interpret your worded commands and responds with an appropriate reply. And we must say, it was successful most of the time. Its experimental but worth a shot if you are bored to bits.

Shenzhen I/O

A game that is about programming, like real programming. Much like TIS-100, Zachtronics’ 2015 game with similar concept, Shenzhen I/O eggs you on to build your own circuits that will aid in assembly of cheap electronics.

It can be intimidating at first, especially for those who aren’t used to programming basics, but once you get used to mastering a logic and find optimized solutions, you get the ultimate satisfaction akin to what Archimedes must have felt after his ‘Eureka’ moment.

Rusty Lake Hotel

We believe there is a lot to enjoy about this point and click game if you can get over the fact that you have to shrink and negotiate inside a man’s chest cavity to remove his heart! And if that’s not enough, you’ll have to find a way out of his body (hint: through his mouth). Oh, and did we mention that you have to poison him first?

Thankfully, the game has a very cartoonish feel which is necessary to dilute the gore aspects of what’s asked of you, and in tandem with Roots – the latest from the Rusty Lake series form an awesome twosome. The imagery might be unnerving for some, but if you can look past it, then what you get some serious puzzle solving and point-and-click gameplay.

Reigns

As heir to the throne, you have finally inherited your father’s kingdom. But the life of a king isn’t so easy, there’s so many decisions that need to be made, some more existential than others. And in Reigns, you take those decisions by swapping left or right to choose one of two answers to a challenge.

For instance, your people are starving, but you have to decide whether to route the supplies to their aid or pass it off to your army fighting a battle. But, its amazing how a simple game concept can produce such engaging yet deep story arcs.

We spent an entire day playing Reigns and even then weren’t able to go through the complete gamut of scenarios. While this game is more suited to playing on a smartphone or tablet, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the Steam version over your laptop.

Unbox

Lets call it Crash Bandicoot in Cardboard box land, shall we? A 90s-era, mascot-based, collect-the-doo-dads kind of a game, you begin your journey as the newest member of a global group of self-delivering boxes.

But for some strange reason, you don’t do any delivery, just climb buildings, bobsled your way down icy paths, move between four dimensions (worlds) and oh yes, collect as many goodies as you can. We loved the whole boxy vanity, and those out-of-the-blue references to Metal Gear Solid, that are simply hilarious.

Grim Dawn

Off the bat, we have to say that Grim Dawn is neither unique nor the best-written game, but it is worthy enough to be placed alongside other action RPGs like ‘Path of Exile’ and ‘Diablo III’s Reaper of Souls’.

Grim Dawn’s main strength lies in its open-ended class system. As a result, each class has a skill tree, which when combined with other elements such as multi-classing and constellations list basically let you have different combinations of powers. Thus, in turn lets you play the game in different ways.

So, if you like character customizations, and that good old feeling of click and loot this, take that, then this is one game you simply shouldn’t miss.

Owlboy

For a game that took nine years to release, Owlboy incorporates some of the most breath-taking pixel art, that would give any of the other similar yet costlier titles a run for their money. In fact, we would rate it at par with the likes of Shovel Knight and perhaps a shade lower than Cave Story+, but that’s only because we love the latter.

As for the gameplay, you are a boy with wings of an owl who sets out on an adventure through cities in the sky and ruins on the ground. Great controls and an excellent soundtrack to boast of, Owlboy could easily be one of the best indie games of 2016.

Quadrilateral Cowboy

Another title on the lines of Shenzhen I/O, Quadrilateral Cowboy is the alternative for those who like a good hacking-centric game with lots of wacky gadgets and puzzles to solve. In fact, playing it for a few hours, and getting the pseudo codes right and we started feeling like hackers ourselves.

The retro-modern look blends nicely with challenges thrown at you that graduate upwards in difficulty, until you find a new gadget that can makes it all easy. Honestly, we were surprised that the game got over so soon, but then it also means that it was that immersive.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

We have saved the best for the last. Those who have played it have complained about its camera angle and isometric playing profile. But, make no mistake, this has to be by far the best game that we are happy to have played in 2016.

Creative, tremendously open-ended and total demand for stealth, Shadow Tactics reminds us so much of Commandos series of games, except it is based in Japan and features swords, shoguns and samurais.

gabe newell head shot

Gabe Newell AMA And All The Major Talking Points

Reddit’s AMA or Ask Me Anything is a popular online Q&A session where personalities from different walks of life answer. Typically, Reddit users post their questions by replying to an AMA thread, to which the celebrity can then choose to answer.

Recently, Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve ventured into the subreddit, The_Gaben – a virtual veneration chamber dedicated to him. While there, he answered many questions, dodged a fair bit and even participated in some light-hearted banter regarding the lack of part-3 releases of Valve’s game titles. Here is a look at some of the major takeaways from the Gabe Newell AMA discussion thread.

Portal 2 Is Gabe’s Personal Favorite

When asked about his favorite single-player game developed by Valve Corporation, Newell’s reply was Portal-2 and not Half-Life. This was surprising for many given that Half-Life is by far one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time. So, when he was pressed to talk about regrets that he may have had with Half-Life, his answer was understandable.

According to Gabe, the reason for him to rate Portal 2 over Half-Life had to do with the level of his involvement with both of them. Given that Half-Life was first released in 1998, the amount of personal involvement for Newell was too high for him to actually sit back and enjoy the game for what it was – a game.

Thus, its hard for him to look at HL series in any other way than him regretting not having incorporated all the ideas that should have been. There are always trade-offs that one has to bear when developing anything and with Half-Life series, those trade-offs seem to have had a big impact on Newell.

In comparison, he was less directive with the Portal series, and Portal 2 in particular that released in 2011. As such, it’s easier for him to be a fan of the game. It wasn’t surprising to see him rate Dota 2 as his favorite in the multiplayer category.

Why Valve Doesn’t Talk Of Upcoming Developments So Freely?

A common gripe of the Valve community is the lack of communication from the company on subjects such as upcoming games and apps. This becomes especially evident when other game studios provide constant updates on every little aspect of every game they are currently working on.

Newell’s response to the question was that decision making at Valve Corporation is way more conditional than what it is at other companies. What he meant by that is the amount of changes and modifications they do on their previous decisions regarding a certain game can get annoying and outright frustrating for a normal reader if they decided to share every little development with the valve community.

In fact, according to Newell they have never been afraid of changing or canceling some portion of game at latter stages of development, primarily because they have the customer’s interest in mind. Unlike other companies, they do not think it wise to waste customer’s time and money on a game title that is glitchy or worse without the necessary updates as and when required.

Another point of view offered by Newel was that they preferred to communicate with the community through their final products and updates, rather than talk about how well the developments were going with an upcoming title. But that in no way should mean that Valve doesn’t value the community’s feedback. On the contrary, reading and listening to the most ardent fans of their games has helped the company provide better gaming experience.

Moreover, Valve generally chooses to respond almost always through Steam, especially when it concerns updates that either add functionality to the game or address in-game glitches. But Newel did concede that this form of response instead of the conventional blogposts can give the impression to some that Valve isn’t interested in talking to them.

He did however assuage concerns citing that this feeling is nothing more than latency imposed by way of choosing to take the longer route of listening and providing updates as opposed to getting on a forum and discussing them ever so frequently.

Source Engine 2

There has been a lot of chatter regarding Valve’s latest game engine, Source 2. And not surprisingly, redditers were interested to know how its going to the shape the games that are currently running as well as those that are to come in the future.

The first bit of information Newel gave on the Source 2 was that it has now become their primary environment for game development. As of now, Dota 2 is being moved on to Source 2 and the engine shall serve as a bedrock for future unannounced games. The aim, according to Gabe is to have everyone working at Valve on game creation to incorporate Source 2, so that certain foundational consistencies are achieved.

This could mean better things in the future, since multiple games developed over a single engine generally leads to faster debugging and better cross platform solutions. Moreover, the fact that Valve wants more of the game developing community to make use of their free to use engine bodes well not just for the company but also for independent developers.

Case in point being Counter Strike, which was developed independently using the Valve engine at the time and went on to open a whole new genre of multiplayer online battles, not to forget the amount of sales it garnered since it got released more than a decade ago.

Valve’s Direction For The Future

From what we gathered from the Gabe Newell AMA, the company is looking at enhancing the range of options so as to create better experiences for the gamer. In that respect, Valve has begun investing in hardware; the knuckles controller being a prime example.

The other area that Valve seems interested in is Virtual Reality. And Gabe actually went ahead to confirm that they are indeed working on a VR based game of their own.

Furthermore, AI work and environments for machine learning are of great interest to the company. For Newell though, brain- computer interface seems to have captured his fascination.

 

  • Jonas
  • March 3, 2017
  • PC
february releases

Most Anticipated Games Of 2017 – Our Top Five Picks

The year 2016 is past us and quite honestly it wasn’t the best, be it world events or video game releases. Apart from ‘Gears of War 4’ and ‘Uncharted 4’, there weren’t many that evoked the interest to play them. Thankfully, indie titles did a solid job (Superhot, Inside, Firewatch…) but they too were few and far in between.

Then there were the big disasters. ‘The Division’ takes pole position and who can forget ‘No Man’s Sky’ – so much promise but delivered very little in terms of immersive gameplay.

That said, the year 2017 looks promising with some of the best titles coming out in as early as March. While there are too many upcoming games worth mentioning, we focussed on five and for good reasons too. Read ahead to find out why.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This PlayStation 4 exclusive title certainly has us on the edge of our seats brimming with anticipation ever since we got a taste of it’s gameplay in E3 2016. Set in our world 1,000 years from now, robotic creatures and not the humans have moved up the ladder to become the dominant species of the planet. With much of the human population wiped out, there are but a handful of surviving colonies that have to constantly fight the odds.

You get to play the role of Aloy, the female protagonist of the Horizon Zero Dawn plot, she has been outcast from her tribe and over time, has learnt to hunt these creatures making her way through an open world. Her sole weapon from the first looks, is a bow and a quiver of arrows. The arrows themselves seem to be of different grades, some explode, whereas others pierce armours and discharge electricity.

The part that’s intrigued us is what Aloy does once she runs out of ammo (read arrows). It seems she has this special ability to construct weapons through a combination of machine parts from downed robotic animals and earth-based natural minerals. Oh, and did we mention it has giant metallic dinosaurs, because it does!

Mass Effect: Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has taken single-player space hoping and exploration missions to the next level. And we are guardedly confident that Andromeda shall not disappoint us on that front when its available in March and playable on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

The Andromeda plot begins in 2185, somewhere between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3. The Citadel has identified the galaxy Andromeda as the next best bet to find and populate new home worlds by letting each race send a group of its finest on a one way, 600-year journey to the new galaxy. Each ship appoints a leader who’s called the Pathfinder.

In the game, there is a choice between human protagonists Scott and Sarah Ryder who serve under their father Alec Ryder, who happens to be humanity’s pathfinder. Much like the other Mass Effect games, here too we expect lots of space explorations, interactions with other alien species, alliances, wars, negotiations, decisions, break-ups and make-ups and a kickass storyline to thread all of these individual gameplay aspects together.

Although there will no cross-platform feature for multiplayer, like Mass Effect 3, Andromeda will support peer-to-peer gameplay. And quite frankly, we did enjoy playing it this way on the last one.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

The eighteenth in the list of Zelda family of games released by Nintendo over the years, Breath Of The Wild is among the rare few to incorporate HD graphics that’s set to release in March 2017. What makes this game even more exciting is that it can be played on the all new Nintendo Switch console as well as the Wii U.

Set in an open world, players can finally explore the lands either on foot or by riding Epona, the protagonist’s horse. That in itself should be reason to rejoice as the earlier titles had constricted gameplay decision making by pipelining entry and exit points in the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption was such a hit that its 13-million players (that includes us too) were praying that the game studio releases a sequel to it. And those prayers have been answered! Red Dead Redemption 2 is officially a thing and should be released for consoles sometime in autumn 2017.

Like its predecessor, this too will be open world but whether it clings tightly to the Western action adventure genre is something that we need to wait and watch. Chatter on the forums suggests that sequel will take American history as its central point, and offer a big sprawling gameplay to match.

Also, there just might a rethink to release Red Dead Redemption 2 for PC platform following the massive online petition sent to Rockstar with more than 47,000 signatures (and counting). The other being a multiplayer game play for the title, about which Rockstar has remained characteristically tight lipped.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Set in Bolivia, a few years into the future, you take on the role of an elite Special Forces team, The Ghosts who are sent behind enemy lines to wreak havoc on the Santa Blanca cartel and neutralise their drug peddling operations for good.

As per Ubisoft, Ghost Recon Wildlands will be set in an open world that’s not just massive but extremely responsive. In fact, this could be the first game to offer nine varying types of topography, terrain and atmospheric combinations, from arid deserts to mountainous regions, each with their own rendition of day-night cycle.

Open world means more travelling and that means vehicles to do the job. And the rumor is that we could get to a do smash and grab ops on cars and trucks much in a GTA style. As for main gameplay, the weapons, tactical planning shall no doubt be improved, but a welcome addition are side-missions that you could do while on a mission.

Releasing in March 2017 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC , Ubisoft is offering a lucky few the chance to beta test the game between 23rd -27th February. The beta will have both single and multiplayer modes. It shall include two out of the twenty-one provinces from the actual game for players to test the open world nature and provide feedback.

february releases header

Top February Game Releases of 2017

The sheet number of titles scheduled for launch in 2017 makes this the best year yet in terms of game choices and February is just the start of a flood. Here’s a quick look at February’s top video game releases of 2017.

Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of game title releases since some games were announced for February but no specific release date were given for them. Only games with confirmed release dates are mentioned in this list.

Fire Emblem Heroes, Feb 2nd

The game just launched for smartphone users and is available on both iOS and Android platforms. This particular edition of the franchise sees the player taking up the role of Summoner. You are required to call upon the services of various Fire Emblem Heroes throughout mankind’s history, which brings back characters from its previous installments. Using these heroes, you participate in turn based battles that occur over an 8 by 6 grid on your phone. The game relies on the same triangle weapon system and Players get to upgrade heroes plus call extra heroes to aid them in battle.

Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, Feb 3rd

Designed exclusively for Nintendo 3DS, this game will include all levels present in the Wii U edition plus a few new levels where you can control the woolen Poochy. As Yoshi in game you can take the help of the Poochy Pups to find secrets.

Atelier Sophie, Feb 7th

Did you know that this will mark the 17th title in this franchise and while this particular edition has already made its appearance on PS4 as well as the PS VITA, it makes its way to the PC this February.

Nioh, Feb 7th

Exclusive for PlayStation 4, Nioh feels influenced from Dark Souls series though the major difference between the two is that the former occurs in feudal Japan with mythological creatures walking the lands along with ninjas and samurais. You play the role of a westerner in their society taking the shoes of William, who is suddenly thrown amidst the turmoil of this tumultuous land. The game is riveting and keeps you glued to your seat throughout thanks to the picturesque settings and the character interactions.

WWE 2k17, Feb 14th

Your usual package of wrestling available on your computer, releases on Valentine’s Day. Great for us single gamers but those in a relationship might have to wait till 15th to play their favorite smash-your-head-in title.

For Honor, Feb 14th

An original cross-platform game title from the stables of Ubisoft Montreal, this battle intensive medieval action game features total of three playable factions starting with the Vikings, Samurai and ending with the Knights. It is the multiplayer mode of this game titled, War of the Factions, that you should be interested in though it features a complete single player mode too. Good news though, the multiplayer mode too is cross-platform too.

Sniper Elite 4, Feb 14th

For those loyal Sniper Elite fans, the 4th installment releases on February 14th but those who haven’t ever played this title, be ready to be bored on purpose. Yes, the game is a lot of preparation and planning and very little action but for those who love to strategize and meticulously plan each and every move, this is a title worth having.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, Feb 21st

This game is based on a popular manga series by the name of Berserk but it gets its own spinoff world and warriors. You basically control the protagonist Guts and his merry band of fighters in a vendetta on the hordes of demons terrorizing the fictional lands.

Halo Wars 2, Feb 21st

Releasing this time around for Xbox One and PC, Halo Wars 2 is a strategy based real-time game with multiplayer put in it. The focus is more on card-based strategies and deck building rather than resource management and base building. There is a single player campaign too, complete with its own villain and mercenary band. The unique feature of this title is that a single license purchase allows you to play on Windows 10 as well as Xbox One.

Night in the Woods, Feb 21st

Proper cross-platform game that works not just on PS4 and PC but also Mac and Linux, this game follows a cat, Mae who has just returned to her rust-belt town from college. The dialogues are dense and the game presentation is enticing. There are several mini-games inside the main game plus loads of characters and upgrades.

Horizon Zero Dawn, Feb 28th

Developed by Guerilla Games, the new project titled Horizon Zero Dawn brings together a fantastical world where robots have overtaken the world and somehow made giant dinosaur copies of themselves. You are a hunter-gatherer who has to survive in this post-apocalyptic world now run over by robots.

Torment: Tides of Numenera, Feb 28th

Another cross-platform title this game will be available for Xbox One, PS4 as well as PC. It also is the only title on this list that gathered funding from Kickstarter about three years back. The game draws major inspiration from a classic RPG title called Planescape: Torment. However, that’s where the similarity ends because the game takes on a life of its own. The focus in this RPG game is more on conversations and how each sentence can affect future events.

Interested in any of the February releases scheduled or already available this year? If so, leave us a comment below and let us know which game you mostly look forward to playing and why. Also, if you feel we have missed any title out, do remember to remind us!

nvidia quadro gp100

$6000 For Latest Nvidia Graphics Card – What’s The Hype?

Nvidia has finally revealed the secret of its latest graphics cards and no we are not talking about the GTX 1080 Ti. While that graphics card is scheduled to come out soon, fact remains that it is a poorly kept secret and everyone knows it will make an appearance sometime in 2017. We are speaking of the GP100 Pascal architecture and the Quadro GP100 – first PCIe graphics card in the Pascal architecture for the Quadro range. Some might argue that the Tesla P100 is the first in the Pascal line-up but this isn’t a commercial card since it is only available on Nvidia DGX-1 server, which by the way costs a whopping $129,000.

For those of you unaware of the Tesla P100, this specific graphics card is proprietary from Nvidia and it works only on its own servers, more specifically the DGX-1 server. Now, the first editions of this card relied on custom NVLink mezzanine connectors from Nvidia instead of a PCIe slot. A little while later though Nvidia did introduce the PCIe variant but without any display output. If Nvidia can make a PCIe version of their proprietary graphics card, then it stands to reason that they can add display outputs and that is what the GP100 brings to the consumers. Think of it as a toned done version of the P100 Tesla that operates off a PCIe bridge and has its display outputs.

Where Tesla is predominantly a computing based solution, Quadro from Nvidia is geared more towards professional multimedia and graphics works such as 3D rendering, CAD/CAM, video editing and a lot more in between. Now while the region of overlap between graphics and multimedia work with gaming has grown, there is still a clear demand for the gaming series of graphics card as well as the QUADRO range of professional graphics cards.

Now the next question about the $6000 card is whether it trumps the previous version of QUADRO, the P6000 or does it come close to its performance? Let’s find out.

New Memory Module

If you were to create a Venn diagram showcasing the areas where the GP100 overlaps on the performance of the P6000, it would have a large area of intersection but the one place where it would stand far apart is in the memory module. The GP100 relies on HBM2 memory rather than GDDR5X and this gives it higher memory bandwidth. At 720GB/s, it is way higher than the P6000’s 480GB/s transfer rates. However, memory bandwidth isn’t the only thing that defines a graphics card and it is in other areas that the figures get a little confusing.

The Disparity

The P6000 features a fully functional GP102 GPU, which means it uses the complete 3840 CUDA cores at a clock speed of 1530 MHz thus producing around 12 TFLOPS. To do this it uses 24GB of GDDR5X memory. The Quadro GP100 however packs in only 16GB of HBM2 memory with 3584 CUDA cores operating at around 1430 MHz that together deliver around 10.3 TFLOPS of performance. Basically, you get greater memory bandwidth but less computing power and memory. Because of the tradeoffs though, the GP100 uses significantly less power as opposed to the P6000.

At present the P6000 Quadro retails for about $5000, which is a significant slash in prices from the original price of $7,000. It is safe to assume that the Quadro GP100 will perfectly slot into the $7000 price range though going by the initial stats, but considering the slight drop in overall performance, it is possible for a lower price tag. The P6000 on the other hand should continue to retail at around the $5000 mark even with the GP100 launch since it is still a quite capable card that matches the GP100 blow for blow, outdoing it some performance segments.

Now, being a gaming oriented website, all this talk of QUADRO is immaterial to us unless the GP100 technology is scheduled to make an appearance in the GTX commercial gaming series. Can it make an appearance as a Titan? Well, as it stands this seems highly unlikely. The Titan Pascal X is already giving phenomenal performance with its 12GB GDDR5X GP102 processor that produces around 11 TFLOPS. The need for higher performance of memory bandwidth at the moment is limited and companies that are interested in this sort of jump in memory performance are limited. In other words, GP100 might not receive a consumer variant anytime soon simply because the Titan XP performance is almost at par with it.

No graphics card article is ever complete without discussing AMD cards. Good news for AMD lovers, the Vega will release with HBM2 memory with 8GB in total. The reason for such limited releases in this particular memory technology is the price. More expensive than GDDR5 memory, AMD trying to keep true to its affordable nametag, packs in only two stacks of 4GB HBM2 memory. This does beg the question as to why Nvidia could not reduce its memory stacks on the GP100 for a slightly lower memory module with 8GB in total? This card could have outgrown the popularity of the P6000 with its lower price tag plus equal performance.

As it stands, Nvidia probably will not pump out another graphics card with HBM2 memory module at least until AMD comes out with its Volta model, which is scheduled for the later part of 2018.

Performance Of The P6000 And Why It Won’t Be Outdated Because Of GP100

Speaking in terms of pure gaming, professional graphics cards were never really designed with this intention. Yes, they have similar stats and at times even better parts but they are not game optimized – this is the number one complaint we hear from gamers. Well, if benchmarks are anything to go by, the P6000 blasts high end gaming GPUs to smithereens.

A popular choice among benchmarks, the NVIDIA TITAN X Pascal actually falls way behind the P6000 QUADRO in gaming benchmarks. This is not surprising though, since the TITAN X Pascal has only 3548 cores while the GP102 based card has all its CUDA cores enabled. When it comes to gaming parlance, the full gamut of cores and superior architecture together help the P6000 zoom past the Titan X Pascal in games.

  • Jonas
  • February 27, 2017
  • PC
indian men gaming

Gaming Takes Off Big Time In India

With the size and magnitude of the gaming public in India, International publishers are beginning to see the country as an undiscovered market ripe for the taking. The size, scale and potential of this market is truly different as opposed to that of any country. Yes, there are several challenges facing publishers but the rewards are equally lucrative.

Before we get further into the article, it is worth noting that the Indian game market is ripe for AAA titles with big budgets but doesn’t really respond well to independent games developed indigenously in the country. However, this could change in the coming years as the market has seen a steady growth in India, year by year.

Earlier, a lot of game makers preferred staying out of China and India because they felt the market wasn’t ready for games that cost a lot. Today though, these two countries have a market riddled with gamers who don’t mind foregoing the piracy route. Indian gamers pay for games that they are really interested in. The problem up until the past few years was that Indian gamers really had no option to pay for the games they played and now that Origin, Steam and others are offering the gamers licenses, more and more gamers are willing to pay for their gaming experience. Previously payment methods were unsupportive of Indian services and that was probably the biggest hurdle. This no longer is a concern with indigenous payment portals and international portals opening up to the Indian Banking sector.

Yes, another limitation over the years in India has been the abysmal broadband plans. Not only are the plans archaic but also expensive. You have capped download limits that cost a lot. With today’s games averaging around 50GB, the decision to download games off the internet is a big one. Take for instance, DOOM download on Steam. 70GB is a huge amount of data and for a country like India, this means spending your entire month’s bandwidth trying to get a game from the internet. Things are changing however with better plans and higher packages available in major cities across the country. However, it is the availability of original game CDs days after their international launch that is helping convert Indian gamers into loyal customers for international big brands.

India As Game Makers

Yes, major titles are not in the pipeline from Indian game manufacturers but the moment you move into the mobile gaming segment, you realize what kind of potential the country has. Indian companies and their gaming titles all dominate the Play Store. In fact, after voice, text, chat and email, gaming is what Indian mobile users spend their time on. In a recent report published by the Business Standard, the mobile gaming sector in India will be worth $400 million with nearly 628 million users by 2020.

Gaming As An Event

India hasn’t yet seen the likes of E3 gaming events however, the trend of annual gaming events has already begun in the country. Take the Indian Gaming Show that ran from 2nd February to 5th February in Delhi. While it wasn’t as massive as E3, it was a success on a much humbler scale. While the turnout was slim, there were a lot of encouraging signs. Take for instance big game publishers such as Square Enix participating in the event.

Held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, Hall number 18 was the venue for The Indian Gaming Show and this hall had several smaller pavilions, each sporting a host of publications, publishers and gaming hardware makers. Among the many things that you notice as you walk into the venue is the mega setups for pro gaming matches. India’s E-Sports pros had a heavy presence in this event and it was probably the biggest crowd puller of the entire event.

The usual gimmicks from large brands were on display. Sony booth had a mash up of several weird ideas that kept the crowd engaged but what stood out was the sheer number of game titles on display. Some of the titles weren’t yet launched. Nier: Automata was one such title. Then there were complete VR zones that gave visitors a taste of the VR experience.

Specific titles have for long gathered a lot of fan following in India. Take the Tomb Raider franchise or even the Final Fantasy franchise that has several Indian gamers following the official fan pages on Facebook from the subcontinent. Delhi seems to be the hub for such fan following in India and this gaming event was an attempt to connect pro gamers, enthusiasts with game developers and hardware makers.

Two titles that have managed to capture the Indian market include FIFA from EA Sports and GTA V. The sheer number of users from the subcontinent suggests the potential of gaming in the country. Up until 2015, EA Sports would target India on a third tier basis, opting to release their games later in the country and offer game CDs at lower prices because piracy was a big thing. However, with a steady growth in fan following, they quickly went the online licensing way with 2016 and for the FIFA 17, they managed to record the highest sales ever. GTA V has had a similar experience with the Indian gaming market.

All these developments over the past few years points towards a boom in Indian gaming promises a better future for gaming enthusiasts in the country. Will the next big independent game title to take the world by storm come out of India? It truly is only a matter of time.

resident evil 7 still shot

Resident Evil 7 – Sneak Peek Into What You Are Missing

It is the environment in which Resident Evil 7 is set that gives the creeps. The game manages to bring you into a state of absolute solitude and then it brings on the horrible sequences, scares and the whole shebang. In fact, one of our fondest memories is simply navigating the house to discover stuff. Initially you only find decrepit things and abandoned stuffs but as you progress further you begin discovering animal parts, mutilated dolls and slime. That’s the moment you know you are in for a heavy session of horrifying gaming.

The game’s USP isn’t the demons, monsters and the gore. They only add to the overall effect. What truly sets this game apart is the reality of the decaying space around you. With littered items, an environment that speaks of abandonment, it compels you to imagine the life of the owner and previous occupants, what might have happened for the house to become the way it is now. That’s what really sets the tone of the game with the gore creating whatever remaining horror effect is necessary.

Instead of spoilers, let’s just briefly outline an idea of the game for you. Say you are Ethan and your wife is missing, much like the Outlander story. Except, she goes missing in some swamp somewhere. You play this character and he doesn’t like speaking much, but when he does open his mouth – it is usually to say something useful.

The starting of the game, about an hour is really non-descriptive other than the surroundings. You are left to discover things and by the time the real creeps start appearing, it is a little bit too late. No warning and definitely no inkling of idea when the horror starts. By the time, you are in the middle of the gore storm, you are left with a gut wrenching feeling of being in a wreckage.

In hindsight though, we felt that the game had a sort of low budget horror vibe to it. Through the first half of the game, things are laid out with clear ideas, there is a lot of thought that goes into the game. If you are a horror movie franchise fan, then you will begin to see similarities with various movie titles such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and more.

The game only works because of the sparse use of guts and gore. Unlike many previous horror instalments, here in Resident Evil 7, you spend much of your time moving about through nothing but filth. The limited gore appearances and gut wrenching horror moments leave you with an anticipation of things yet to happen, except you don’t have any idea when they will happen.

In our opinion, Resident Evil 7 is more of an intimate game. Yes, the world in this game is small, there aren’t that many protagonists in the game including the horror characters but together they somehow make up for an experience that is terrifying and yet addictive at the same time.

Think of a madman or in this case an entity that wants to do horrible things to you, creeping up on you as you explore a mansion. Imagine the weight of that knowledge on your shoulders and not knowing when this entity or its many minions will surface. It is the threat that Resident Evil 7 possesses in its spacious surroundings that drives the player forward. At times you are left alone in a quiet corridor with the fear of something untoward happening but then nothing happens. Then there are times when you are a well-lit environment with complete visibility that scares the crap out of you, catching you unaware.

Yes, there are cheap scares and thrills laid out bare in the game but then no horror game would be complete without those spine chilling cheap tricks. What does help with the entire effect of the game is the use of the house and its limited space. As you go on unlocking specific areas of the house and new routes, you end up back in a place you previously explored only to realize that there’s more to it than previously met the eye. Sometimes, that something more happens to be a scary part of the game and at other times, you are left wondering how you missed it in the first place. The sound effects in the game too play their part. Clacking shoes, some breathing noises, minimalistic music that appear right after a sudden change in storyline – all work well in giving that panic attack, unsafe for heart patients.

After completing just a few hours on Resident Evil 7, it was evident that this game hasn’t received the right kind of reception and that’s why we decided to provide an idea of the horror a player is in store for. If you still aren’t convinced, then we suggest you check out the crazy new video for the game that was recently released. This particular release has managed to drive the sales of the title further.

At the end of a brief overview of Resident Evil 7, here are a few reasons why we feel everyone should attempt playing the game at least once.

  • Loads of puzzles, exploration and an ever present tense atmosphere that just seems like it squeezes on you. This experience is reminiscent from its previous installments.
  • Totally revamped gameplay that brings survival horror into the next generation.
  • For VR adopters, this is a one scary game as the entire game engine was designed keeping VR compatibility in mind.
  • Addictive immersion where you are in control of your actions and the consequences but not aware of when the two will eventually tie together.