FinalWire has updated the AIDA64 benchmark software to version 4.30, offering a number of improvements over the previous release, version 4.0. Some of the highlights of the new version include a new OpenCL GPGPU benchmark suite, CUDA 6.0 support, optimized benchmarks for a number of newer Intel and AMD platforms, and support for Windows 8.1 Update 1. With the new GPGPU suite users will be able to measure performance of the SHA-1 hash algorithm, which can then be compared to results obtained from CPUs. The software will be available at multiple pricing tiers for the AIDA64 Business, Network Audit, Engineer, and Extreme editions.
MSI has announced a pair of new ultra-slim gaming laptops, the GS60 Ghost and GS70 Stealth. Both will be available in 15" and 17" models and were designed with serious gaming on the go in mind. Built around a fourth generation Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M/870M graphics, the GS series offers desktop level performance in a small, mobile package. The GPUs boast graphics improvement of up to 50% over previous generation graphics and give the ability to power external 4K displays in addition to the 1080p laptop screen. The laptops will also offer several further customization options with RAM starting at 12GB, a 128GB SSD, and a mechanical hard drive starting at 750GB. MSI Pan America CEO Andy Tung said, "The GS60 Ghost and GS70 Stealth answers portable gaming prayers by packing smoking speeds and deadly graphics into featherlike notebooks." Both laptops are available immediately and start at an MSRP of $1,699.99.
As technology gets smaller and smaller, new possibilities open up and new challenges arise. Among these challenges is how to build technology with almost unbelievably small components. Researchers at MIT have found an answer to that, which could lead to some very interesting applications as well.
Working with nanoscale materials is difficult when you are as large as a human, but it is not so hard for bacteria. E. coli is a well understood bacterium that researchers have been experimenting with for some time now, and the MIT researchers have found a way to use its ability to produce biofilms to build useful structures. By manipulating the peptides on the fibers in the biofilm, it is possible to have them pick up non-living materials, including gold nanoparticles, which could form gold nanowires within the biofilm. The researchers also manipulated programmed the bacteria to be able to respond to signals from others, so multiple bacteria could work together to build a specific structure.
This research was inspired by natural examples of living and non-living materials being combined, such as bones. It could lead to new means of building materials from the bottom up as well as useful applications like scaffolds for tissue engineering.
A couple weeks ago, Creative Assembly released a Developer Diary video for Alien: Isolation about creating the alien. As you're probably aware by now, Alien: Isolation is being called a true survival horror experience, unlike a previous Aliens game I'll leave unnamed. PlayStation Blog sat down with Creative Lead Alistair Hope for a video interview entitled "Behind the Terror". The video discusses the design elements of the game, such as the non-scripted nature, and how it's equally important to be terrified when the alien's location is not known.
In addition to the video, PlayStation Blog conducted a Q&A with Alistair, which you can read at the source below. Alistair touches upon everything from the inspiration for the game, to the support Creative Assembly has received from FOX, to the importance of immersion and an authentic 1970s look and feel. Of course, it all boils down to that singular, unkillable alien – and Alistair describes it rather bluntly: "It is death, and if you don't give it the respect it demands, you will not survive."
Alien: Isolation will be arriving on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 later this year. An official release date will be announced at EGX Rezzed, which takes place March 28 - 30 in Birmingham, UK. In addition to the release date announcement, Alien: Isolation will be playable at EGX on "60 demo pods" for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
We are all familiar with resistance in our daily lives, as it causes our computers to heat up and smartphones to be warm to the touch after extended use. This may change in the future though, if room-temperature superconductors are ever created. Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Harvard University, and Perimeter Institute have recently developed a theory that could be one of the last obstacles to creating those materials.
Superconductors are materials that can conduct electricity without resistance, but their use has been hampered by their necessity to be kept cold. In some cases cold means just above absolute zero. As a material cools to its critical temperature, and just before it becomes a superconductor, it enters what is called the pseudogap phase. Understanding this phase has been a challenge to many physicists, and now the researchers have a theory to explain it. During this base in at least one copper-based superconductor, the material oscillates from one quantum state to another, and this disruption to electrical charges destabilizes superconductivity.
With this understanding of what precedes superconductivity, researchers may be able to one day design a material to superconduct at room temperature. Such a material would revolutionize the world with superior power-grids, faster electronics, and better storage systems.
We have some items for you to check out today that could help give your computer more horsepower or even a new home. There's another look at the Sapphire Vapor-X R9 280X TRI-X OC, with its massive cooler and factory overclock to keep you gaming long into the night. If a new home is what you need, then perhaps the AZZA CSAZ-XT1 full tower case is for you. It has a very unique look, but comes in at a nice price for those on a budget. Finally we have a 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive from Mach Xtreme Technology, the MX-LX, which makes use of MLC NAND to keep prices down.
With its highly anticipated Wolfenstein: The New Order set to release in less than two months, Bethesda has announced a limited edition collection of goodies for the select few. Limited to 5,000 individually numbered editions, the Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition comes in a vintage footlocker-style box that measures approximately 20" x 10.5" x 8.5". Inside the box is a classified folder containing eleven classified documents, a hand-painted, 8" articulated Panzerhund statue made of high quality vinyl material (PVC and ABS), and a velvet-lined tray containing an exclusive Steelbook and a separate book containing fourteen full-color weathered-looking postcards of the game's alternate history. Beneath the tray reveals compartments housing a set of three high-quality, embroidered patches, and a box of custom molded replica dog tags.
All those goodies can be had for the price of $100, but one thing you won't be receiving with it is the actual game. Bethesda says it is doing it this way to ensure it can ship these boxes worldwide without having to wait on the game; though the estimated ship date is still May 20, 2014, like the game. On the bright side, it means fans can buy this Panzerhund Edition regardless of the platform they choose for the actual game – just keep in mind that the full price of this plus the game will set you back roughly $160.
Earlier in the month, Perfect World Entertainment announced its newest free-to-play MMORPG, the martial arts-inspired Swordsman, based off the popular wuxia novels by Louis Cha. Today, Perfect World released a new trailer entitled "Introducing the World of Swordsman", which shows actual gameplay. The screenshots below are from the trailer, also provided by Perfect World.
Swordsman is currently in Closed Beta, which you can register for at www.playswordsman.com.
There are some truly extraordinary materials out there with fantastic properties. Naturally we are interested in using these materials and properties in technology, and we may be a step closer to realizing that with one of them. Topological insulators have very curious conducting characteristics, and researchers led by those at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee have found a way to control these properties, in one material.
For most materials if they are able to conduct electricity, all of the material is able to, and if it resists currents, all of it resists currents. Topological insulators however behave as electrical insulators within their volume, while their surfaces are conductive. This causes some interesting quantum mechanical effects that lead to interesting behaviors, such as protecting the flow of electrons from defects and preserving their spin. Such properties could have very powerful applications, but controlling topological insulators have thus far proven impossible with external fields, until now. The researchers have found that bismuth selenide can have its properties tuned by applying stress to it, as strain along its grain boundaries affects how electrons flow on it.
By compressing the grain boundaries, the researchers can disrupt the states of the electrons flowing on the surface, creating a kind of switch. Potentially this could evolve in the future to create spintronics, which store, process, and transmit information with the spin of electrons, instead of their charge, like modern electronics.
Although Spotify eliminated its web client listening limits during January of this year, it is attempting to do even more to bring additional individuals to its music streaming service. Spotify has announced that United States college students will be able to access the premium version of the music streaming service for $5 per month instead of $10 per month. This price reduction is good for up to four years, and is meant to cover students that are enrolled in junior, two-year, and four-year college. Verification of college student eligibility will be taken care of by SheerID, which is a trusted third-party verification service.
Various media outlets as well as general users of Twitter have noticed that certain tweets have begun to disappear from the popular online social networking website. Some of the more popular tweets that have seemed to vanish as of late are the selfie photo taken by Ellen DeGeneres and the tweet of actor Cory Monteith before his death. Twitter has confirmed the issue, and revealed to users that it is researching the bug that has caused some tweets to seemingly vanish from the service.
Users of the Xbox One console will soon have access to even more streaming applications, provided that they hold an active Xbox Live Gold subscription. One of the services that will makes its way to the Xbox One is MLB.TV Premium, which provides access to live and on-demand content with capabilities to pause and rewind content. Current MLB TV subscribers must upgrade to MLB.TV Premium, and at this time MLB.TV Premium will cost users $24.99 per month, or $129.99 annually. Another service that will be available to Xbox One users is Epix, which provides primarily movies through a subscription model.
MLB.TV Premium will be available to Xbox One users in time for opening day, while Epix is set to debut sometime in the near future.
If you happened to check your email today, you may have found something from Amazon saying you received credit for past eBook purchases. It's the direct result of the eBook price fixing scheme ran by Apple and five book publishers to try and get the price above what Amazon was charging. A lawsuit resulted, which ended up with the five publisherssettling and Apple getting hit with a five-year anti-competitive ban (something it's still appealing). The good news from it all is credit is now finding its way to Amazon customers who purchased an eBook from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. Credit amounts are variable, with anything from under a dollar to $20 (and maybe higher) being possible based on how many eBooks you bought. Residents in Minnesota (current or former) that purchased an eBook are entitled to a little bit more due to a separate term negotiation because the state's attorney general didn't participate in the original lawsuit.
Anyone receiving credit from Amazon can put it towards any book available on the website, regardless of it being a physical or digital copy. It could help ease the price on something you've had an eye on, or maybe completely fund a new book if you get a lot of credit. Just be sure to use the credit by March 31, 2015, otherwise it will expire. All credit should have gone out by now, so check any folders in your email inbox (or the first source below) to find out if you received any.
Facebook has been on something of a buying spree this year, but those acquisitions have focused more on communication than anything else. That all changes today, as Facebook's CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company has purchased Oculus VR, the team behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. A rather lengthy post by Zuckerberg on Facebook (viewable at the source) covers the decision to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion, and it stems from the fact that Oculus is a leader in virtual reality technology. Zuckerberg intends for the Rift headset to continue on its intended course of delivering immersive gaming experiences, and how Facebook can help accelerate that plan. However, there's another part of the VR experience Zuckerberg is interested in, and it ties directtly into what Facebook is about: communication.
Zuckerberg explains that VR communication can allow people to share experiences easier, from meeting your doctor when you aren't in town to taking in your favorite team's game when you're nowhere near the stadium. It can also be used in the classroom for a multitude of applications. Hopefully we can avoid people sharing their most recent meal on an Oculus headset, but you never know. So, we have Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg saying the Oculus Rift will continue on its gaming path, but also get expanded upon to cover much more. It could be the kick in the pants needed to make VR a possibility for everyone, but it could also be something that makes plenty of people wary.
Microsoft's world creation tool Project Spark isn't just for games. American rock band Linkin Park decided to use Project Spark to create an interactive music video for "Guilty All The Same" (featuring Rakim), the first single from the band's upcoming album The Hunting Party. The band wants "fans to literally play with their music" – which you can do if you're in the Project Spark beta.
Band member Joe Hahn attended E3 2013 where Project Spark was unveiled, and told Billboard it blew his mind. Hahn explained that "the next step was to see if we could showcase our next song as a game instead of a video." Fellow band member Mike Shinoda told Billboard that he always wanted to make games since he was a kid, so the pieces seemed to all fall into place when Project Spark came around.
While some bands wouldn't dare think to let fans mess with their songs, Hahn says that once you put a piece of art out there, "people will interpret it their own way, and even re-interpret it as something else" – Linkin Park is simply fostering that behavior. Shinoda sees the process as a turn-based game of its own. The band has taken their turn and now it's the fans' turn.
Fractal Design has launched a contest to give away the original Define R4 Blackout Silent case that was introduced at CES 2014. The case features a little something extra in the form of a side panel signed by a number of Youtube personalities including "Linus from Linus Tech Tips, Marques of MKBHD, Logan from TekSyndicate, Austin Evans, the entire NeweggTV team and more." Entry is simple and only requires you to Like the Fractal Design Facebook page and then fill out a form. Three bonus entries can be obtained by getting your friends to enter.
Corsair has added a new model to the Obsidian series of mid-tower cases, the 450D. According to Corsair, "the 450D matches the iconic, brushed aluminum design of the Obsidian series with an increased focus on high-airflow, ensuring your system not only looks great, but runs cool." A pair of 140mm AF140L fans are included on the front of the case with a 120mm AF120L mounted on the rear of the case. The case also has three different mount points for a water cooling radiator, a 360mm in the top, 280mm in the front, and a 240mm in the bottom. Three 3.5"/5.25" combo bays are included along with space for a pair of 2.5" drives behind the motherboard and an additional two 5.25" drives. The case will have an MSRP of $119.99 and will be available in April.
NVIDIA just launched its first Maxwell-based GPUs last month and isn't even done with Kepler (see today's GTX TITAN Z announcement), but the company is already looking to the future. During the keynote speech at NVIDIA's annual GPU Technology Conference, CEO Jen-Hsun announced the company's follow-up to the Maxwell architecture, Pascal, named after the famous 17th century French mathematical Blaise Pascal.
Due to arrive in 2016, Pascal-based GPUs will include three key new features: stacked DRAM, unified memory, and NVLink. Here are the descriptions of those features in NVIDIA's words:
3D Memory: Stacks DRAM chips into dense modules with wide interfaces, and brings them inside the same package as the GPU. This lets GPUs get data from memory more quickly – boosting throughput and efficiency – allowing us to build more compact GPUs that put more power into smaller devices. The result: several times greater bandwidth, more than twice the memory capacity and quadrupled energy efficiency.
Unified Memory: This will make building applications that take advantage of what both GPUs and CPUs can do quicker and easier by allowing the CPU to access the GPU’s memory, and the GPU to access the CPU’s memory, so developers don’t have to allocate resources between the two.
NVLink: Today’s computers are constrained by the speed at which data can move between the CPU and GPU. NVLink puts a fatter pipe between the CPU and GPU, allowing data to flow at more than 80GB per second, compared to the 16GB per second available now.
If you'd like to learn more about how stacked memory and NVLink work from a more technical standpoint, check the second link below. In addition to the above features, the module used to house Pascal GPUs is "one-third the size of standard boards used today," which means we can expect high-end NVIDIA GPUs in more compact form factors.
Ubisoft has released a new video for its upcoming 2.5D platform racing game Trials Fusion, which shows off the all-new FMX tricks system. This pure gameplay trailer features some insane tricks, some bone-crunching falls, and a slew of tracks specifically designed for FMX tricks.
Trials Fusion will arrive April 16 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, while its free-to-play mobile sibling, Trials Frontier, will arrive on iOS April 10.
NVIDIA sees the SHIELD as an evolving platform and the software update coming April 2nd proves that, with a whole slew of upgrades and enhancements, including going from Android Jelly Bean to the latest Android KitKat OS, 4.4.2. The biggest enhancements are coming to GameStream, including the oft-requested ability to stream PC games to SHIELD away from home. Referred to as "Remote GameStream", it not only allows you to stream PC games without the need for a VPN workaround, but also includes Wake on LAN support and Remote Login support. However, a "robust Wi-Fi connection" is required, with minimum speeds of 5 Mbps up and down, so don't expect to connect at your local Starbucks.
Notebook support will also be coming, allowing GameStream to be used with Kepler and Maxwell mobile GPUs, which includes all GTX 800M, GTX 700M, and most GTX600M GPUs. In addition, full Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support will be added to Console Mode, which allows you to stream games through your SHIELD to your TV. This will make playing gamepad-unfriendly games like Civilization V a lot easier. Furthermore, while the number of GameStream-Ready games has increased from the initial 24 at launch to over 100, GeForce Experience will be getting the ability to add unofficially supported games manually. A host of advanced settings will be added to the SHIELD as well, allowing users to manually set bitrate, FPS, and optimal settings preferences.
Those advanced settings will be found in the TegraZone, which is getting an update of its own. While there are now over 140 games in TegraZone, the current interface doesn't make it easy to discover new additions. The TegraZone is getting a complete user interface overhaul that should improve organization and discoverability of games. There will also be an integrated news feed, which will provide the latest SHIELD and TegraZone articles. While GameStream is a huge selling point, NVIDIA is committed to bringing PC and console games to Android, which is no more apparent than with three recent additions to the TegraZone: Rochard, Mount & Blade: Warband, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. For those games without official physical-button support, Gamepad Mapper is getting a new user interface that should make it easier to download and share Mapper profiles.
In honor of all these great improvements, the SHIELD will be priced at $199 through the end of April, providing an instant savings of $50. You can check here to buy directly from NVIDIA or for a list of retailers in your region. Be sure to check out my pre-update review of the SHIELD if you're on the fence.
Back in February, NVIDIA unveiled the GTX TITAN Black, which offered increased clock speeds and performance over the original GTX TITAN. Today, at NVIDIA's annual GPU Technology Conference, the company unveiled the newest iteration, the GTX TITAN Z, which includes two Kepler GPUs (with 2880 processor cores apiece) and 12GB of 7Gbps GDDR5 memory.
According to NVIDIA, TITAN Z's GPUs "are tuned to run at the same clock speed, and with dynamic power balancing [...] so neither GPU creates a performance bottleneck." The company also claims it's "cool and quiet" with "low-profile components and ducted baseplate channels" to reduce turbulence and noise.
While the TITAN Z may seem like overkill for the normal user, it's geared toward "next-generation 5K and multi-monitor gaming." And of course, it comes with quite the hefty price tag: $2,999 (three times the price of a single TITAN Black). This is clearly not for your typical gamer, but you can't fault NVIDIA for really pushing the envelope.
ArenaNet will be releasing a Guild Wars 2 update on April 15 that focuses entirely on in-game features. Dubbed the April 2014 Feature Pack, it includes a variety of additions and changes, from new traits to balance changes. Arguably the biggest addition – at least of the ones announced thus far – is the inclusion of an Account Wardrobe.
The Wardrobe "makes it easy to customize your look at any time and to share cosmetic items across all the characters on your account." The Wardrobe is accessible in a tab on your Hero Panel and includes every armor and weapon skin you have unlocked on any character. Changing skins consumes Transmutation Charges, but you can preview them before applying them, and you can apply skins infinitely, so you can always change your look whenever you want.
To accommodate the new Wardrobe system, ArenaNet has changed skins to an account-wide unlock system. Account-bound items will automatically unlock their skin when they go into your inventory, while you'll be able to unlock other skins "by using consumables, equipping items, salvaging equipment, or right-clicking on equipment and account-binding it." In addition, if you have any current items that have gone through "skin progression," you'll unlock all the skins in that line of progression when you log into that character for the first time after the April 15 update. Check out the video and screenshots below for a more in-depth look at the new Wardrobe system.
We have just a couple items for you to check out today, but one should be rather interesting. It's a look at AMD Mantle performance in Thief and Battlefield 4, which has the potential to increase fidelity and make more efficient use of your CPU and GPU. If it actually does is something you'll just have to read the article to see. Our other item for today is a review on Icy Dock's Blizzard 3.5" SATA enclosure, which supports hot swap and plug-and-play functionality to give you plenty of flexibility when it comes to an external hard drive.
Maker Studios, which was founded in 2009 and focuses on online videos featured on YouTube, is set to be purchased by The Walt Disney Company for a minimum of $500 million. Maker Studios is able to deliver online videos to more than 380 million subscribers located across the world, and successfully receives around 5.5 million video views every month. Disney stated that depending on the milestones hit by Maker Studios before the purchase is completed, the price for the YouTube network could be as high as $950 million. Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, noted that because short-form online video is growing so quickly, the company is excited to enter the dynamic industry.
The purchase deal is expected to be completed during the third fiscal quarter for Disney.
After video features on the story, animating Batman, and keeping gameplay fresh, Game Informer has released a new video feature for Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Knight focused on the music. Rocksteady's audio director and composer Nick Arundel has worked on the previous two games and returns for Arkham Knight, but this time he recruited composer David Buckley to help him out, who has not only worked on other video games, but movies and television shows as well. In the video, Arundel explains what it's like to work on the Arkham trilogy and how the Scarecrow is influencing the new soundtrack.
Batman: Arkham Knight is set to release later this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
CRYORIG is a relatively new company in the PC cooling landscape and it is hoping to make a splash with the first entry into the C series of "ITX orientated top flow coolers." The C1 cooler will be paired with the XT140 slim 140mm pulse width modulation fan. It will be compatible with AMD APUs and CPUs as well as Intel processors. The C1 is set to release in May 2014 with more information expected to be available as the release date nears.
DirectX 12 (DX12) was officially unveiled last Thursday at GDC, and of course it has every PC gamer excited. Even though it's not scheduled to release until Holiday 2015, the biggest concern with any new major API release is whether it'll require new hardware to support it. During the GDC presentation, both NVIDIA and AMD took the stage to confirm DX12 support for existing cards, but just how true is that?
I had a chance to speak with representatives from NVIDIA today, who reconfirmed that all Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell cards will support DX12. In other words, 100% of GeForce DX11 GPUs will already support DX12! You may recall that AMD didn't provide specifics at the GDC presentation and now I know why – according to NVIDIA, like AMD's Mantle, DX12 requires AMD's GCN architecture, which means only 40% of AMD DX11 GPUs will support DX12 (the same percentage that supports Mantle). Not the best news if you're a member of the red camp.
Also not the best news for the red camp is that Mantle seems doomed to fail now that DX12 has been officially unveiled. Proprietary graphics APIs have simply never been able to compete with the likes of DirectX because their footprint is much smaller. This is no more apparent than looking at the current breakdown from the recent Steam Hardware Stats. DX11 GPUs account for 78% of the total discrete GPU install base, with DX10 at 21% and DX9 at 1%. Of those DX11 GPUs, 79% support DX12, while only 14% support Mantle. How many developers will care to focus their efforts on Mantle when DX12 will have a much larger install base at launch?
So why does it seem NVIDIA is much better equipped to handle DX12 from the onset than AMD? While I am unsure of AMD's relationship with Microsoft, NVIDIA stated that DX12 is a "result of four years of collaboration between Microsoft and NVIDIA." Clearly that long-term collaboration and commitment is paying off. In fact, it was NVIDIA that provided Microsoft with a working DX12 driver to show off the world's first DX12 game demo, Forza Motorsport 5, which was running on a GTX Titan Black.
The good news for NVIDIA DX11 GPU owners is that we don't have to wait until Holiday 2015 to see some major performance improvements. A brand new NVIDIA driver will be publicly released in April that will improve performance dramatically across all DX11 games. Details are not yet available, but NVIDIA did release two benchmarks (one synthetic and one game) that show significant improvement, which can be seen below. Of course those should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the source, but it's certainly promising nonetheless.
Conquer Online, which is a free-to-play martial arts style MMORPG that is set within ancient Chinese lands, is welcoming a new expansion known as Wrath of the Trojan. Within this expansion, several new skills are available for all in game classes, and additional weapons are present in the land of Conquer as well. Players of Conquer Online: Wrath of the Trojan can obtain the new weapons, known more specifically as Epic Weapons, by playing through quests known as Epic Quests, which provide quite a bit of challenge.
In an announcement made by Google, its personal assistant known as Google Now has made its way into the Google Chrome web browser. The latest stable version of Google Chrome supports the service, and users will be able to see Google Now cards within the system tray or notification area of their operating system. Google Now within Chrome works basically the same as the mobile version, offering commute traffic information, event reminder cards, sport scores, voice search capabilities, weather, and more. Some information provided by Google Now within the Google Chrome web browser is actually based off of location information of mobile Android devices.
Users will be able to access Google Now within the latest stable version of Google Chrome throughout the next few weeks as the update makes it way to the masses.
Brendan Eich, who was the former CTO at Mozilla, has been named as the new CEO for the company. Eich replaces Gary Kovacs, who announced his resignation as the Mozilla CEO just around a year ago. Eich will be responsible for the Firefox web browser in his new position, and will also take on the mobile operating system known as Firefox OS. As the new CEO, Eich is attempting to develop and market smartphones that are powered by Firefox OS, with the mobile operating system being his main focus for the company going forward.