crookedvulture writes: "A revolution is unfolding in the world of game benchmarking. Instead of using FPS averages that obscure brief but perceptible moments of stuttering, reviewers are increasingly moving to more representative metrics based on frame times. Their efforts are being bolstered by Nvidia, which has developed a suite of tools that allows for a deep analysis of the contents of the individual frames sent to the display. These "FCAT" tools will be freely distributable and modifiable, and some portions will be open-source. Examining the data they generate has produced new insight into how modern graphics cards really perform in games. The display output analysis made possible by the FCAT tools exposes "runt frames" that can make up only tiny slivers of the screen, rendering FPS averages especially meaningless. It also suggests that disruptions in smoothness can be measured both early in the pipeline, using Fraps, and later on, where FCAT takes into account frame metering technologies that can massage the flow of frames to the display."
crookedvulture writes: "Today AMD unveils Bonaire, a new graphics chip that will power the $150 Radeon HD 7790. This GPU is based on the same Graphics Core Next architecture as current-generation Radeons, but it employs more advanced power management tech inherited from AMD's Trinity APUs. An on-chip microcontroller manages power states, enabling quicker transitions between a greater number of frequency and voltage states. Thanks in part to that mojo, the 7790 draws 24% less power under load than the Radeon HD 7850 it replaces. The new model also runs two decibels quieter. In games, it delivers lower frame latencies than the 7850 and competing GeForce cards, which translates to smoother gameplay. The 7850 does have higher FPS averages in some titles, suggesting that AMD's recent latency optimizations may not be applied evenly in the latest drivers."
crookedvulture writes: "For years, high-end keyboards have offered extra USB ports for mice and other peripherals. Gigabyte's Aivia Osmium goes one step further by including a USB 3.0 port for high-speed external storage. It also ticks all the usual boxes for a premium keyboard: Cherry MX mechanical switches, adjustable backlighting, audio jacks, and programmable macro keys. The macro support even extends to mouse input. Unfortunately, the USB 3.0 connectivity appears to be a little flaky; it works flawlessly with some device combinations but inconsistently or not at all with others. That's a shame, because there's real utility to having a SuperSpeed USB port at your fingertips."
crookedvulture writes: "Slashdot has already covered the four main flavors of Cherry MX mechanical key switches: red, black, blue, and brown. Now, there's a green MX variant that emulates the feel of the buckling spring switches in old-school IBM Model M keyboards. The green switches combine tactile feedback, an audible click, and a stiff spring that requires 80g of actuation force. They're a stiffer version of the MX blues that more closely matches the characteristics of IBM's buckling spring design. Previously reserved for use with space bars, the green switches have now taken over an entire Cooler Master keyboard. And, unlike the old Model M and contemporary copycats, the new CM Storm Trigger has modern conveniences like an integrated USB hub, LED backlighting, and programmable macros."
crookedvulture writes: "Barebones mini PCs have been around for a while, and the latest one from Zotac is pretty unique. For $270, the Zbox ID42 offers a Sandy Bridge CPU, a discrete GeForce graphics processor, and all the integrated I/O and networking you'd expect from a modern PC. You have to add your own memory, hard drive, and operating system, but the latter shouldn't cost you a dime. The Zbox works well with not only Windows, but also Linux. Ubuntu even recognizes the included remote, which can be used to wake up the system, control XBMC, and navigate Steam's Big Picture interface. Team Fortress 2 for Linux is actually playable, albeit at a relatively low resolution and detail level. The hardware seems better suited to casual games. Zotac also makes a Plus version of the Zbox that comes bundled with RAM and a hard drive, but it costs an extra $130, and you can get much better components if you add them yourself. The user-friendly chassis makes filling out the system a trivial undertaking."
crookedvulture writes: "AMD has begun addressing the Radeon frame latency spikes covered previously on Slashdot. A new beta driver is due out next week, and it dramatically smooths the uneven frame times exhibited by certain Radeon graphics processors. The driver only tackles performance issues in a few games, but more fixes are on the way. In the games that have been addressed, the new driver delivers more consistent frame times and smoother gameplay without having much of an impact on the minimum or average FPS numbers. Those traditional FPS metrics clearly do a poor job of quantifying the fluidity of in-game action. Surprisingly, it seems AMD was largely relying on those metrics when testing drivers internally. The company has now pledged to pay more attention to frame latencies to ensure that these kinds of issues don't crop up again."
crookedvulture writes: "Solid-state drives became much more affordable in 2012. The median price for 240-256GB models fell by about 44% over the course of the year and now sits around 83 cents per gigabyte. Lower-capacity drives also got cheaper, albeit by smaller margins that kept median prices from dipping below the $1/GB threshold. Surprisingly, most drives actually got more expensive over the fourth quarter, despite Black Friday and other holiday sales. This upswing was driven largely by OCZ's decision to back off its strategy of aggressively discounting drives to gain market share, allowing its rivals to raise prices, as well. Although some new models arrived with next-generation 19- and 20-nm NAND that should be cheaper to produce, those drives didn't debut at lower prices. We may have to wait a while before SSD makers pass the savings along to consumers."
crookedvulture writes: "SSD prices are falling as drive makers start using next-generation NAND built on smaller fabrication processes. Micron and Crucial have announced a new M500 drive that's particularly aggressive on that front, promising 960GB for just $600, or about $0.63 per gigabyte. SSDs in the terabyte range currently cost $1,000 and up, so the new model represents substantial savings; you can thank to move to 20-nm MLC NAND for the price reduction. Although the 960GB version will be limited to a 2.5" form factor, there will be mSATA and NGFF-based variants with 120-480GB of storage. The M500 is rated for peak read and write speeds of 500 and 400MB/s, respectively, and it can crunch 80k random 4KB IOps. Crucial covers the drive with a three-year warranty and rates it for 72TB of total bytes written. Expect the M500 to be available this quarter as both a standalone drive and inside pre-built systems."
crookedvulture writes: "AMD is bundling a stack of the latest games with graphics cards like its Radeon HD 7950. One might expect the Radeon to perform well in those games, and it does. Sort of. The Radeon posts high FPS numbers, the metric commonly used to measure graphics performance. However, it doesn't feel quite as smooth as the competing Nvidia solution, which actually scores lower on the FPS scale. This comparison of the Radeon HD 7950 and GeForce 660 Ti takes a closer look at individual frame latencies to explain why. Turns out the Radeon suffers from frequent, measurable latency spikes that noticeably disrupt the smoothness of animation without lowering the FPS average substantially. This trait spans multiple games, cards, and operating systems, and it's "raised some alarms" internally at AMD. Looks like Radeons may have problems with smooth frame delivery in new games despite boasting competitive FPS averages."
crookedvulture writes: "The consumer SSD market is dominated by copycat drives based on a small handful of different controller chips. Only a few SSD makers have controller technology all their own, and OCZ is the latest to join that club. Its new Vector SSD features a proprietary Indilinx controller surrounded by a sea of custom-packaged NAND. The drive offers excellent performance regardless of the data type, and it's equally comfortable crunching sequential and random I/O. However, the Vector rings in at over a dollar per gig, which is rather pricey give its lack of full-disk encryption support. Even if you don't consider last week's Black Friday deals, there are plenty of SSDs that are nearly as fast as the Vector but much less expensive. Solid-state drives may be approaching the point where mid-range offerings are more than fast enough for most consumer applications."
crookedvulture writes: "Intel's Next Unit of Computing has finally made its way into the hands of reviewers. The final revision is a little different from the demo unit that made the rounds earlier this year, but the concept remains the same. Intel has crammed what are essentially ultrabook internals into a tiny box measuring 4" x 4" x 2". A mobile Core i3 CPU provides the horsepower, and there's a decent array of I/O ports: USB, HDMI, and Thunderbolt. Users can add their own memory, storage, and wireless card to the system, which will be sold without an OS for around $300. Those extras raise the total price, bringing the NUC closer to Mac Mini territory. The Apple system has a bigger footprint, but it also boasts a faster processer and the ability to accommodate notebook hard drives with higher storage capacities than the mSATA SSDs that are compatible with the NUC. If Intel can convince system builders to adopt the NUC, the future of the PC could be a lot smaller."
crookedvulture writes: "For the first time in more than four years, Intel is rolling out a new SSD controller. The chip is featured in the DC S3700 solid-state drive, an enterprise-oriented offering that's 40% cheaper than the previous generation. The S3700 has 6Gbps SATA connectivity, end-to-end data protection, LBA tag validation, 256-bit AES encryption, and ECC throughout. It also includes onboard capacitors to prevent against data loss due to power failure; if problems with those capacitors are detected by the drive's self-check mechanism, it can disable the write cache. Intel's own high-endurance MLC NAND can be found in the drive, which is rated for 10 full disk writes per day for five years. Prices start at $235 for the 100GB model, and capacities are available up to 800GB. In addition to 2.5" models, there are also a couple of 1.8" ones for blade servers. The DC S3700 is sampling now, with mass production scheduled for the first quarter of 2013."
crookedvulture writes: "The next generation of NAND has arrived. Intel's latest 335 Series SSD sports 20-nm flash chips that are 29% smaller than the previous, 25-nm generation. The NAND features a new planar cell structure with a floating, high-k/metal gate stack, a first for the flash industry. This cell structure purported helps the 20-nm NAND overcome cell-to-cell interference, allowing it to offer the same performance and reliability characteristics of the 25-nm stuff. The performance numbers back up that assertion, with the 335 Series matching other drives based on the same SandForce controller silicon. The 335 Series may end up costing less than the competition, though; Intel has set the suggested retail price at an aggressive $184 for the 240GB drive, which works out to just 77 cents per gigabyte."
crookedvulture writes: "The next generation of AMD FX processors has arrived. Otherwise known as Vishera, this new chip features up to eight cores based on the updated Piledriver microarchitecture. It's a speed demon, with clocks ranging as high as 4.2GHz in Turbo mode, and relatively inexpensive, with prices under $200. For heavily threaded tasks, the top-of-the-line FX-8350 offers largely better performance than competing Intel chips. However, the FX's performance isn't as impressive in single-threaded workloads and in games. The chip is also quite a power hog, pulling over 100W more at the wall socket than an equivalent Intel CPU. All of the FX chips have unlocked multipliers, though, and it looks like they might be decent overclockers."
crookedvulture writes: "AMD has released a new APU designed specifically for tablets and hybrid devices. Dubbed the Z-60, this low-power offering uses the same microarchitecture as AMD's existing budget processors but cuts the thermal envelope by almost 25%, allowing the chip to slip into systems just 10 mm thick. In addition to dual CPU cores, the Z-60 features Radeon integrated graphics and a decoding block that's fully supported by Windows 8's video pipeline. The accompanying platform hub supports conventional Serial ATA drives and USB 3.0 devices, perks you won't find in Intel's equivalent Atom processor, and ones that seem particularly applicable to notebook/tablet hybrids."