PCI-E 3.0 will take awhile before it really bears fruit for early adopters, but within a year or two you’re going to see a big shift in how computational intensive applications are written specifically to take advantage of GPU Compute and PCI-E 3.0.
At the launch of Intel’s LGA-2011 based Sandy Bridge E CPU we finally had a platform capable of supporting PCI Express 3.0, but we lacked GPUs to test it with. That all changed this past week as we worked on our review of the Radeon HD 7970, the world’s first 28nm GPU with support for PCIe 3.0.
The move to PCIe 3.0 increases per-lane bandwidth from 500MB/s to 1GB/s. For a x16 slot that means doubling bandwidth from 8GB/s under PCIe 2.1 to 16GB/s with PCIe 3.0. As we’ve seen in earlier revie…
It’s no big secret that I’m a huge fan of the CoD franchise so it should probably go without saying that I loaded up Call of Duty: World at War with high expectations. At the same time I had my doubts as this is the first CoD by the folks at Treyarch I’ve played. I never played CoD 3 because it was console only so my only experiences have been with the Infinity Ward produced versions all of which I’ve loved.
The good news is that they used the same engine as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare so it’s got a solid foundation to begin with. The bad news, for me at least, is that it’s taking full advantage of the engine with some very lush environments full of detail and foliage. With CoD4 the game wanted to run at 800×600 resolution with most of the effects turned off, but I could squeak it up to my monitor’s native resolution of 1680×1050 and it would play OK on most maps, but chug a little on the maps with lots of vegetation. In comparison CoD:WaW just kills my video card. It’s unplayable at any resolution higher than the 800×600 with almost all the effects turned off as suggested by the “optimal settings” option. This isn’t the fault of the software so much as my hardware.
I last did a major upgrade on my PC in early 2006 while I was working in-house at my previous contract house. I was trying to keep the cost down so I only bought a new motherboard, processor, and what was a mid-rang video card at the time which was a GeForce 7600GT. I went with the cheaper card with the intention of buying a second one before too long and setting them up in a SLI configuration, but never got around to it. Since then I’ve bumped my RAM up to 2GB and switched up to a dual-core AMD 4200+ processor, but I’m still running the same video card and it’s starting to show its age. I believe my processor and RAM is still more than adequate to run most of today’s games outside of Crysis—most of my specs exceed the recommended minimums for CoD:WaW—but the video card remains a weak point. Alas I don’t have the funds at the moment to buy anything newer so I’m stuck with it. With a little luck I’ll get some money for Christmas that I could put towards a new card. There are several mid-range (less than $150) cards these days that should be more than adequate for the games I’m playing to choose from if I do.
That said, the game so far still looks pretty great considering most of the effects are turned off and the resolution is so low. I’ve only got a little way into the solo game and a couple of hours with the multiplayer, but what I’ve seen so far I’ve liked. I still have to try out the co-op mode and the Zombie Nazi survival mode and I’d like to get through the whole solo game before writing a full on review, but I’m enjoying it so far. Well, other than the deaths in multiplayer due to my poor video card choking at a critical moment, but otherwise it’s been a lot of fun. Expect a full review once I get some more time in with the game.
Sony seems to be falling into a pattern with how they market the PS3. Since the beginning they’ve offered two models of the console and as time goes on they drop the low-end model and make the high-end the new low-end and introduce a new high-end version. Originally it was the 20GB and 60GB models and there were significant hardware differences between the two. Then came the 40GB and 80GB models with the primary difference being the lack of PS2 backwards compatibility on the 40GB version. Then they changed the 80GB model so it was the same as the 40GB just with a bigger HD, but added value by including a game as a pack-in (Metal Gear Solid 4). Now they’ve dropped the 40GB model altogether and reduced the 80GB model down to $399 without MGS4 so what’s the new high-end model to be?
The 160GB PS3 system announced at the GC will be available here as part of a new limited-edition bundle that includes the hardware, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune game, a PLAYSTATION Network voucher for PAIN, and a DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller. We’re hearing from a lot of you that more PS3 storage space is important, particularly since the launch of our video delivery service, and this new model delivers more memory and a whole lot of content packed-in. The 160GB PS3 has all of the same functionality as the new 80GB PS3 that’s popping up on retailer shelves now, but obviously has twice the HDD space, so you can build levels to your heart’s content in LittleBigPlanet, download a ton of videos, and still have room for your entire music collection. The Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 160GB PS3 bundle launches in November for $499.99 (MSRP).
Double the disk space and two games for an extra $100 isn’t too bad of a deal and Uncharted is easily one of the better titles available for the PS3 right now. I’ve played the hell out of the demo as I’ve not been able to squeeze out the money to pick it up myself yet, but it’s gotten pretty good reviews.
The other big PS3 announcement is for a new wireless keypad that attaches to the PS3 controller to make entering text a bit easier:
Lastly, we’ve announced a new Wireless Keypad for PS3 that will make text communications and Web browsing much easier. The Wireless Keypad snaps onto the top of a SIXAXIS or DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller and comes with some cool features, including a mode that turns the main key area into a touch pad (similar to a touch pad on a Laptop computer). Once in this mode, you can slide your finger on this area to move the cursor on the screen and tap to enter. There will be two short cut buttons on the Keypad that will enable users to jump directly to the XMB’s “Friends” icon and the “Message Box” during gameplay. The Wireless Keypad will launch in late November.
Last but not least, the Wireless Keypad is a Bluetooth device that can not only be used with the PS3 system but with any other Bluetooth enabled device that has Keyboard functionality. You will be able to use it with your smart phones and other portable devices that are equipped with Bluetooth. With the PS3 system, it can be paired and charged seamlessly just by connecting them with a USB cable.
With it sitting on top of the controller it may be awkward to use so I doubt you’d use it during the heat of battle, but it should still beat the hell out of using the on-screen keyboard to enter text into games. Considering it’s designed to snap onto a PS3 I’m not sure how you’d use it with a smart phone other than perhaps just holding it in your hand to type on.
After spotting a good deal on PC3200 RAM I finally broke down and upgraded my desktop from it’s lowly 1GB of RAM (2x512MB) to a slightly more roomy 2GB (2x1GB). The RAM itself is from the OCZ folks who also made the 512MB sticks I was using previously. The motherboard is a DFI Lanparty UT NF4 SLI-DR Expert (whew!) which means it’s a performance board which means it’s finicky as hell. Using the stock BIOS settings it wouldn’t boot into Windows at all, but I managed to get out to the Official OCZ Support Forums and found that they do an excellent job of listing off how to get their RAM to work with various motherboards. They had a listing of BIOS settings for me to try specifically for the DFI NF4 motherboards and that particular model number of RAM.
And it works, mostly. Windows boots up and will run, but it gets upset anytime it feels there’s too much sustained or heavy hard drive access. Which means there’s a 50/50 chance immediately after the desktop appears that the system will crash to a warm boot. If I start a large file copy, such as backing up folders in preparation to restage because it’s been awhile since I’d last done it, that’ll go for a short time and then a crash to a warm boot. If I try to play WoW it’ll load up and run for a bit and then when it does some heavy disk access, say when I enter the city Shattrath which has a lot of people in it, it’ll crash to a warm boot. For standard stuff like browsing the web or writing blog posts it seems like as long as it makes it past the initial start up of Windows it’ll run fine. It’s been crash free for the past hour and a half. But I know if I try to backup those files it’ll die within minutes.
Obviously I’ve got some tweaking to do, but I’m having trouble figuring out which setting needs the tweak. So I registered on the OCZ forums after doing much searching there without success (most folks can’t get their machines to boot at all) and I posted about my unique situation in hopes someone can offer some ideas. In the meantime it looks like I’m limited to lightly disk intensive applications.
The folks at Kotaku are live blogging the Sony TGS keynote bringing us news that the SIXAXIS will soon be replaced by the Dual Shock 3 controller that’ll bring force feedback to the PS3. There was a lot of griping about that feature being dropped from the controllers and now that the lawsuit with Immersion has been settled it looks like it’ll finally see the light of day on the PS3. I know I was disappointed that rumble would be dropped in favor of the motion controls so I’m happy with this news. The new Dual Shock 3 will ship in Japan this November and in the U.S. and Europe next spring. At least ten titles are known to support the DS3 and there’s word that some already released titles may also support it or be updated to support it.
Sony also focused on a relatively new feature that was officially unveiled with the release of Lair called Remote Play that enables you to link your PSP to your PS3 and play the game on the hand held. The lack of motion sensing on the PSP makes some parts of the game unplayable, but that’s OK because word has it the game has some shitty controls to begin with. However a number of other games will be supporting this quirky feature in various ways such as using a PSP as a second additional screen in Formula 1 Racing to simply using multiple PSPs as alternative game controllers for your PS3. An upcoming firmware update will all you to turn your PS3 on over the Internet using your PSP and shut it off again, presumably so you can play some of your PS3 games when not at home as well as to stream video stored on your PS3 to your PSP.
They also mentioned that they have heard the gripes from fans about the pricing of PS3 hardware, but aren’t saying one way or the other if any of the rumored price drops and/or new SKUs are coming in the future. All they’ll say on price drops at the moment is that they are a “possibility.” Well of course they’re a possibility. If anything they’re an inevitability, the real question is, of course, when they will happen? It makes sense Sony doesn’t want to say ahead of time because then folks will hold off on buying a PS3 until the price drop happens. Analysts continue to speculate that it’ll happen soon, though, perhaps as early as the next month or two.
Audience participation time. I’m sure more than a few of you folks out there are using USB headsets to voice chat online and I’m looking to pick one up as the quality of the audio from the collar mic I’m using now is best described as “meh.” The collar mic uses the standard microphone jack on the audio system and I’ve read that USB based mics tend to produce better sound, especially when used with a headset to help muffle output from the speakers.
My primary uses will be for voice chat while gaming though I’d like to try a podcast at some point so I’d like something that provides really good audio quality. I’ve been reading reviews here and there, but it’s hard to judge how much I need to speed for something that’ll produce decent audio and I’m hoping to be able to pick up two as Anne is voice chatting more when she plays WoW. So I’m turning to you folks to see if you have any recommendations you can pass along for me to check out. What’s good? What’s bad. What’s the best bang for the buck?
We’ve been hearing about Solid State Drives (SSD) for over a year now and the first few models are finally hitting store shelves. The folks over at AnandTech.com take a look at a newcomer with some major performance promises:
MTRON is a fairly new player in the storage market. In fact, the company was founded less than two years ago in South Korea. They have been on the fast track since with major funding being provided by Hyundai IT Ltd. and Digital First Co., Ltd. They have steered clear of mechanical drive designs and instead have focused their efforts entirely on Solid State Drives (SSD). We have been keeping track of MTRON since the introduction of their first 64GB SSD last year. It was their promise of an SSD product that would run with the Raptors that really piqued our interest.
Therefore, we were really excited when our friends at DV Nation contacted us about the recent arrival of the MTRON MSD-S25032 32GB 2.5” product that advertised maximum read speeds of 100 MB/sec, write speeds of 80 MB/sec, and burst speeds up to 150 MB/sec – all that combined with random access speeds of around 0.1ms. These specifications far exceed those of the latest SanDisk and Samsung consumer SSD products that are approaching 67MB/sec read speeds and 45MB/sec write speeds, although these also boast typical average random access times of .12ms.
They put the drive up against a Western Digital Raptor 150GB drive to see how well it would perform. The results weren’t quite up to the promises made, but it turns out that the problem was with the motherboard chipset they were using and not the drive:
After a few phone calls and several email exchanges, it was suggested that we drop our Intel P35/ICH9R test board and switch over to any of the NVIDIA 680i/650i products. Apparently those whispers we had been hearing about some of the latest Intel chipsets not working at full speed with the latest SSD products were true, or at least it appeared that way. We swapped out the motherboards, loaded a new drive image, and fired up the benchmarks. Sure enough every benchmark we had run to date improved with the NVIDIA 680i board, and we noticed our HD Tach numbers were now close MTRON’s performance claims.
The final HD Tach results showed the NVIDIA 680i generating a sustained transfer rate of 95.1 MB/sec, write speeds of 74.7 MB/sec, and a burst rate of 100.4 MB/sec. The same MTRON drive on the Intel P35/ICH9R boards scored a sustained transfer rate of 79.4 MB/sec, write speeds of 67.2 MB/sec, and a burst rate of 82.7 MB/sec. For those keeping count, the NVIDIA 680i chipset was showing a 17% improvement in sustained transfer rates, 11% improvement in write speeds, and a 21% increase in burst rates. Some of the synthetic benchmarks show improvements up to 88% in certain cases while our current application benchmarks show anywhere from a 1% to 20% gain when using the NVIDIA 680i instead of the Intel ICH9R.
The rest of the article gets into the actual tests they ran and their initial thoughts on the drive are at the end. They think the drive is pretty sweet except for two issues: Its limited capacity and its high cost. Go check out the full article for all the details.