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Tips for Choosing An Enthusiast Class Graphics Card

By: guano Sep 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Tips for making a solid decision, buying a video card

    I've been building PCs for about 15 years now. Everything has changed so much! In most ways it has gotten easier and more affordable for the average person to roll their own gaming computer. Here is a link to my current setup if you're into that sorta thing. I wanna throw out a few of the most important considerations when buying an enthusiast class graphics card. I would define an enthusiast GPU as one that gives you uncompromising performance and image quality.  You can game on a mainstream class card and decrease the image quality and play just about any game starting at $150.00 bucks at 1080p. The enthusiast cards start at $225.00. Here are some tips on choosing the right card with some links to help you along.

  • Unless you are wealthy or crazy, you should consider price to performance as a key metric in buying a card.  There is a diminishing return in the form of minimum frames per second when you pass the mid range price of about $250.00, which tends to be the sweet spot.  At the time of writing this, the GTX 760 sells for exactly $250.00 and is Tom's favorite in the 2-$300 range.  You can play the most demanding games on the high setting @1080p.  Not too shabby!!! Along with minimum frame rate you should look at a GPUs ability deliver smooth frames to your display.These are the 2 most important factors behind price to performance.
  • When using benchmarks to help decide, remember that a single GPU solution is always better than multi GPU.  There will be a condition known as micro stutter in a multi GPU setup to contend with as well. Mileage will vary upon your setup as well. Beware. AMDs Crossfire is pretty broken and if you must run 2+ GPUs, you must go with the green team  There is also  the issue of scaling when running multiple GPUs, may it be 2 GPUs on one card or multiple cards. In general, a 2 GPU solution will only yield around 85-90% of theoretical perf.  Adding a third or fourth GPU has a dramatically less efficient scaling and should really be avoided from a price/perf point of view. If your ultimate goal is to have the performance of the $500 GPU, just wait and buy it when you have all the cash.  Granted 2 $250 GPUs will be faster, it will most likely require a multi GPU ready power supply and motherboard that were designed for these configs, which will most likely be more costly in the long run.  Multi GPU setups are not for the faint of heart or for those on a budget. It can be a pain to manage and introduces cooling considerations that most aren't ready for.  It can be hot and loud unless perfectly executed.
  • You don't need a card over $250 unless you absolutely insist on running the highest level of antialiasing in your games or you're running a resolution over 1920x1080.  All that extra horsepower may actually go to waste. Buying the über card will only see gains in minimum FPS at 1080 seeing that the $250 card is probably frame capped at 60 on the max FPS side already!  You can pretty much max the eye candy on an enthusiast class card.  If you want higher minimum FPS, turn down the antialiasing. It is often the bottleneck.  Most serious online multiplayer gamers (may that be WoW, FFXIV, DotA, LoL or CoD, CS or BF) run low or no AA and turn off v-sync because they are the settings that most effect display lag. With those settings in line your minimum FPS will never be an issue with the other settings cranked!
  • There needs to be some balance in your computer.  If you're running a CPU that doesn't have an integrated memory controller, you may want to consider a CPU and motherboard first.  It's not so much about this one feature as you are probably more than four or five generations back in architecture.  A GTX 760 and an Intel Core Duo is an example of a 7 year old platform with a modern GPU. There will be a bottleneck between the components.  A new GPU will scale with your platform, meaning the faster the CPU, the more frames the GPU will give you! You can get an i3 (with abysmal integrated graphics perf) and a motherboard for $250.  These GPUs need to stay fed and that's just what it takes these days.  If you have a platform more than 3 or 4 generations back, don't spend money on a new card.  Consider a used GTX 4xx or HD 5xxx series GPU. Other budget based alternatives are an AMD APU and motherboard for about $250, that will give you the gaming performance of about a $100 discrete GPU, possibly killing two birds with one stone, if you are just way behind the times.  Instructions per clock are not on par on AMD CPUs, compared to Intel's latest offerings but this is a very viable solution for those on a budget!

    Good luck and have fun!

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Display Calibration and a CalMAN RGB Quick Look

By: guano Nov 9, 2013 | 2 Comments

Quick and dirty about display calibration and display types

Some things to consider about display technologies and calibration. Thanks for watching!

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Valve Announces SteamOS

By: guano Sep 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Steam is ready to move past Windows with an in house Linux distro. Does it have the right stuff to make the PC relevant in this next gen climate?

    Based on other stories I've written recently, I wanted to comment on Steam's announcement today. SteamOS is the next phase of their plan to take over the world.  On the website created just for this announcement they tell us only a few real pieces on info. It will be open source, derived from the Linux kernel. Linux in the simplest description is this small piece of software that can be thought of as the brain of the computer, that has the know how to control the computer's hardware and offers the tools required to access and operate them by the user or other software. You put layers of software (a user interface and apps) on top of that kernel, they can be open source, proprietary or a combination of both to give the box all the features you want it to do.



    Steam is doing all this to divorce Microsoft. Gabe Newell, CEO at Steam, is of the opinion that they are at the mercy of their competitor when it comes to getting changes committed to Windows or even new features added that allow PC gaming to grow. Microsoft is in the business of selling Xbox One's and an OS that is tailored to general computer usage, not gaming. They are going so far as to end their Games for Windows program, albeit unsuccessful, is conveniently anticompetitive to end at the beginning of this console cycle. So now steam will be free to tune this OS as if it were embedded and maximize performance on a console-like level and add or remove features as they please.

    Along with performance they can now build this cohesive and hopefully appealing platform.  For years they have been touting if you build your game on their in house engine, Source, your game can easily move across platforms. That vision is clear now, that if you not only had been taking advantage of selling your games on Windows, Linux and MacOS, now you can sell it on SteamOS with no effort. If you didn't make your game in their ecosystem then you can stream the games across your home network to the SteamOS computer, from another Steam client. This says SteamOS will not use wine or such technology to emulate the Windows API, they will use network streaming to support playing non-Source Engine games. The only other notable features they covered are Netflix-like, multi-user options, so you don't have to see your wives Bejeweled in your library.  Family Sharing of Steam Accounts was also mentioned, which will be in beta soon, allowing one to share their entire library with a friend, with the hook that only one of you can be logged in at a time. They will have Pandora, Netflix, blah blah blah on SteamOS... Who cares...

    Less overhead than Windows, means console level performance and you lose the cost of having Windows includedin the cost of your PC build, if all you're really doing on it is gaming (that applies to me!). There will be a real chance for another player in the game to do something different or special is very exciting. The big dogs need to be shaken out of their complacency. Competition is great for the consumer. You should all embrace this platform. I believe that SteamOS will be offered as a free download for users to build gaming PCs. Sure they may sell their own hardware for those who don't want to roll their own. The SteamOS is just a way to sell more games, which is where they make most of their money. I have no idea what their other announcements could possibly be besides the SteamBox everyone has been going on about. So the third one is a real mystery to me. If I had to speculate, I will guess it will be a new API for the community to build apps for SteamOS. The only problem with that is I could only see this hurting gaming performance, having stuff running in the background on your gaming box, which is a real perk of moving past Windows. We will all see soon enough.

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Tritton Kunai Universal Wired Headset Review

By: guano Oct 24, 2013 | 1 Comments

A brief review of a Tritton offering and a shout out to MarkMan23 for all his support!

We will let the video do all the talking on this one! Thank you Triton Technologies and MarkMan23!

 

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Day One Impressions of SteamOS

By: guano Dec 17, 2013 | 1 Comments

The woes of the day one SteamOS beta. I lived through the pain so you don't have to!

smh. SteamOS beta... Ya know, the instructions were written by an engineer for this beta... Need I say more? After some issues that I had to do some digging to resolve, I got this thing up and running. I braved this so you can wait until it's ready... and that's what I suggest you do! WARNING: There is no third party support for hardware and/or peripherals of any kind beyond the most basic PC components! YMMV based on your configuration!

Here is a video walkthrough I found from PCPer, after I suffered through the process!!!

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Tips For Playing Those Retro Nintendo Games

By: guano Jan 15, 2014 | 1 Comments

tips for getting great image quality from all previous consoles from Nintendo!

Just wanted to share a few of my experiences with my retro Nintendo setup! Thanks for watching!

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Radeon R9 290X Saga Continues

By: guano Dec 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

Will third party PCBs and cooling solutions clean the egg on AMDs face, surrounding the R9 290X?

  As a follow up to my post about Radeon R9 290X and its thermal throttling, there has been some ripples in the pond, especially around third party cards. The issue with all reference R9 290X cards (PCB and cooling designed by AMD as a reference for their partners to follow for minimum power and cooling requirements) has been that the cards have no minimum clock speed. The room and case you're running the card in are the metrics that will decide what clock the card will run at... NVIDIA has a minimum clock speed that their cards will run at and it will clock up if it has the thermal headroom. AMD R9 cards will just keep clocking down with no base(clock). There is so much drama around this card, I encourage you to Dorito it and see for yourself.

  Well, partners like ASUS and MSI are giving out samples of non-reference PCB and cooling solutions for the 290X this week. The results are astounding. The reviews of the ASUS DirectCU II specifically, show that the card can sustain 15% faster clocks due to more effective cooling. The main issue I have with R9 290X is still not resolved. There is still no minimum clock speed and if you don't have exceptional cooling, I still suggest you do not buy a 290X. Don't be fooled by the price difference between AMD and NVIDIA's flagship cards. They are not created equal in this current iteration. There is a real value in spending a little more money for knowing exactly how your GPU will perform. At least you get to choose if you're on the red team or the gold team when you buy ASUS's latest! Nonetheless, I'm glad to see board partners picking up the slack that AMD left out there. We need at least a two horse race if we expect any innovation in the industry, so thank you for keeping AMD in the race, ASUS! Here is a link to a review of the ASUS Radeon R9 290X DirectCU II for you to check out!

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Valve Not Entering the Hardware Business

By: guano Sep 25, 2013 | 3 Comments

Steam to work with partners to deliver a variety of SteamOS enabled devices

I wish I would have wrote it in my last story about SteamOS. As I said to BatRastered last night, and he wholeheartedly agreed, there is no way Valve will get into the hardware business. They revealed this morning that they are launching a beta test for a Steam Machine. There will be many partners and configurations when the specs are finalized. They mentioned that the Steam Machines (at least some configurations) will be upgradable. More on this from Guanodamus as it unfolds. Go sign up for that hardware beta if you're interested. I will wait for the SteamOS distro DVD and I'll do a full write up then!

Your dollars are your vote in shaping the future of gaming. Will you keep the walls up or promote the end of first party games?

  Microsoft and Sony tell us the next generation is here! Now! Why doesn't it feel like it? Why are no industry experts telling us just how amazing console games will be for the next 7-10 years? As you've probably heard, these consoles are nothing more than PC components on a custom Micro ATX motherboard. The specs are on everyone else's website. Dorito it. As usual, there are some technologies that will give these consoles legs like: a true shared memory pool for the PS4, an ultra fast GPU cache for the Xbox One and GPGPU acceleration for physics and procedural AI algorithms across both platforms.  All of these technologies have been fleshed out for years and have not been able to get any traction on the PC.



  Barriers for these and many other technologies lies in the software realm. On the PC, they have to be supported by Microsoft in Windows or in the game engine, or both! How can you convince a company that has its own interest in Xbox to add technology to Windows, that will improve game performance on your PC, so you won't buy that Xbox?

  So let's assume that support for said tech was in the driver there has been a lot of resistance by game developers to spend a lot of time and money, adding optimization for something that will only help them sell copies on the PC build of their games. It is easier to design the game to the lowest performing platform rather than the higher performing one, meaning that PC games in particular have been at the mercy of the consoles. The PC version tends to be a direct port with higher texture quality and resolution support. Current generation consoles and PCs not being the same architecture held back the industry's growth. It has kept game developers from reaching out and pushing the envelope on PC hardware and reduced their likelihood to make a PC port at all, since the sales on the platform is just lower and porting across architectures is an ugly thing.Who's to blame them? There are so many more consoles than gaming PCs in the wild.  So where does this leave the consumer and the industry entering the next cycle?

  Everyone has the chance to have more games of better quality with the next gen and PC sharing hardware. All PC only game houses will be more likely to make big money selling on more platforms with a lot less work to port to console. Console only developers will be able to cross the streams and put their games on Steam and maximize their profits! With Steam, you don't have to worry about physical distribution expenses (duplication, console royalties, shelf space, price changes...)  Hardware optimizations that are not platform specific are also far more likely to be used by third party publishers since it impacts more consumers. In turn, Microsoft will be more likely to serve their customers request to adopt standards like HSA, in the kernel, because it would be impacting more of their users.

  This generation has much more, away from the hardware to consider. Xbox wanted to move closer to a walled garden, tougher DRM and add some digital only options. Sony is interested in offering gamer perks like spectating, streaming, digital distribution and indy games. And then there's the PC...

  Consider this, the WIntel box is so mature of a platform and Steam has been refining their game for many years now as well. Recently Gabe has been saying that they aim to reduce the bottlenecks that have kept Greenlight games from releasing more often and faster. Their Big Picture program has been encouraging developers to bring full controller support to their games because they intend to release Steam hardware as well. Now more than ever, your dollars will shape the direction of gaming in the future. Let's talk money.



  You can buy an Xbone with Kinect 2 for $499 and a PS4 for $399. I spec'd a PC with a more powerful 8 core CPU (the 1.6 Ghz CPUs in the next gen consoles are not available to consumers. The lowest available was 3.5 Ghz), otherwise on spec to the PS4's graphics and Xbox One's memory speed, for $730, after rebate and 2 free games from AMD. I know, that's a lot of dough... but there are a lot of things to consider:

I play fighting games. Our arcade joysticks start at $129. If you also have invested in current generation peripherals like headsets and additional controllers, you may want to consider the PC as well. All of your current gen stuff just works with the PC. If you choose a next gen console, it has been stated on both sides of the fence that no peripherals will work from last generation. The value equation is hidden from plain sight from the consumer. You will be bleeding money if you are a serious gamer.



  It is not an accident that Live for Windows is shutting down before Xbox One's launch. They are trying to make the PC less attractive and make you buy an Xbox for "The Ultimate Online Experience". This will leave Origin, UbiPlay amd Steam to fend for themselves for matchmaking with your friends list. This is a very strange position for Microsoft but it is reality. They are all in for Xbox as their premier gaming platform.  When you think about it, it looks more and more like Sony and Microsoft are doing all they can to keep everyone else paying them as much as they can. Gabe Newell of Steam, very much wants the Steam Box to break up with Windows, and go Linux/OpenGL, to stop having dependency on them. Sony is not as obvious about their anticompetitive agenda but be sure that they don't want anyone else to have their money. They are so quick to share the evildoings of M$ at every chance to keep that cash coming in as well. I'm not trying to suggest that Steam isn't partaking in thier own money grab, because they are, just that sometimes we need a fresh start on things. It's way overdue in gaming. Maybe Steam is or isn't that horse in this race...

  Peripherals and first party games are Sony and Microsoft's ways of making money and keeping you coming back. Is it worth it anymore? You can buy a way more powerful box that plays the same third party games, can run more background tasks with all that extra CPU and post to Gouki.com about the fall of the giants because you didn't give them your money! Strong words I know but I GoukiJones plays Halo and was a reason to keep buying Xbox. He says the franchise is dead. He says his game is ruined. I have not played a single first party game on Xbox and have only played Journey on PS3. Sony has always struggles with first party games and has leaned heavily on second party. First and second party games are dead in my opinion. Console exclusives are very expensive for Sony and M$ to lock down and there seems to be less and less of them as time passes. Gaming PC sales are on the rise while the rest of the PC industry sees more and more decline. Developers demanded that they have more of the cut and begged these industry giants to use PC hardware for multi platform porting because it's cheaper and easier for everyone to have return on investments. My current generation peripherals are great! I have no desire to replace my amazing stuff that I payed good money for, especially for no reason, besides to pay out for compatibility to next gen hardware!

  Capcom has come out of the closet and said that everything they are making is coming to PC. EA and Ubisoft have been ramping up their infrastructure into UbiPlay and Origin for a couple years now because they all had early insight to all of this happening. They have been getting their developers and tools ready for this too! You will gain access to more games than you will be losing access to by jumping over to PC. There's League of Legends, DoTA, WoW, FFXIV and that is just scratching the surface. Everyone else besides those that actually get paid by Sony and Microsoft know that they are all leaving money on the table by not making PC games and they are actually stifling growth of their industry by playing their game. Just some things to consider before you keep those preorders.

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Wednesday Night Fights and Las Vegas FGC

By: guano Aug 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

Observations at Wednesday Night Fights: What is their mojo that keeps it all going?

  Every year in August I head out to Southern California with the family to do some camping in Rincon, California.  I take the time to make a pilgrimage to Super Arcade in Walnut, California for the world famous Wednesday Night Fights for some Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition.  Because I am a knucklehead and can’t plan accordingly, I left my arcade stick at home, I took the time to take a closer look at what was happening away form the bracket stations. 

  Super Arcade is owned by Mike Watson.  Since my last visit he lost his partner in the business.  The result is that almost every arcade cabinet has been replaced in part by community donation.  There was an incredible selection of fighting games, with a strong focus on Capcom fighters and a few rhythm games.  All of the fighters appeared to get play while I was there.  Seems like Mr. Watson made all the right choices with the selection.

  Watson’s partner in the tournament schedule is Alex “CaliPower” Valle. They have a slew of weekly events and less rigid and infrequent one-off monthly and seasonal events.  Uncle Valle recounts the the history and growth of Level|Up in many interviews.  It's just a search away on the internets to hear the story for yourself. No need to retell it.  I guess it was because my mind was clear to just soak in the whole thing without distraction of my bracket, that the scope of the whole thing just blew me away.  The community pitches in on many levels to pull off these tournaments.  Other than Watson and Valle, it is my understanding that everyone else is a volunteer.  Although Tekken and Injustice killer, Ares is an employee of Super Arcade, he is there on his own time to offer his commentary and presence between his matches.  Nearly everyone else on the stream is doing the same.  Whoever you see on the stream is doing it for the love of their game.  When you watch them from the other side of the camera, you can tell they are all doing it with such a passion that can only come from their love for these games and the competition!

  When I think about what is the mojo that keeps this community flourishing, in short, the answer is: everything!  Mike Watson has an arcade that needs more income.  These events satisfy that need through quarters dropped in the cabs and a share of venue fees collected from the players that enter the brackets.  Alex Valle is vested in results, being that this is his only job.  Results in the form of profit are the only option!  So Valle is spending a ton of time spreading the word and growing the community to get momentum behind it.  The players had arcades peppered up and down Southern California at one time and they don’t want to see one of the last  of its kind go away too.  There are a number of expert and professional players that are vested in showing up to stay sharp or try new tech.  Beyond the big dogs, intermediate and beginners come to level up, to mingle with a pro and maybe catch a tip or two!  Regularity in their schedule means people plan their lives around the activity.  Regularity also means more people make lasting relationships they don't want to part with.  It also makes players interested in doing more things together away from the bracket.  Online Tony had a setup to play random old fighters like, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition and Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi, for shits and giggles.

  The Las Vegas and every other scene wants all that WNF has to offer to the Fighting Game Community.  I know that a venue is a big obstacle.  GoukiJones and BatRastered have had some amazing events are working on the venue issue and for this I thank them. It is not an easy issue to resolve.  It will take a lot of resources and community involvement beyond the issue of finding a home.  Vegas has so many talented players.  I have met a lot of players and have had amazing experiences over the last two years I have been following the Vegas FGC.  This year at EVO I seen first handed the camaraderie between the Vegas players.  I was proud of them for looking out for each other and their results in their respective games!  I know it is Vegas’ fantasy to have a similar weekly tournament kick off and stick around for the foreseeable future. 

  It would be easiest if it just fell into our laps and we just showed up to play and hang out. That will never happen.  This outing really made it clear to me that an even bigger mountain than having a venue is players making the time and doing their part, may that be experts and pros inviting and encouraging the beginner and intermediate types to feel at home and spend time and money doing what they love with like minded people, doing some commentary on stream or making themselves ambassadors of the scene, helping everyone level up!   It really was the people away from the TOs and the venue that made this possible.  We all have to share our love and interest in our local areas to make the people with venues and capital believe they are making the right choice investing in us and our community.  It's only with the effort of many that anyone can have it all, like they do at Super Arcade and the Level|Up Series.

  Quite a few players made a point to welcome me to Super Arcade and ask more about what’s happening in my area of Las Vegas.   They really made me feel at home at their arcade.  Had some great conversation!  A special thank you to Tekken Tim for taking the time to say what’s up and listen to what’s up at Gouki.com.  Thank you, Mike Watson for letting me take pictures at your awesome arcade!

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My Experiences With the ASUS ROG SWIFT PG278Q

By: guano Sep 5, 2014 | 2 Comments

Had a few points to add to all the ROG SWIFT reviews on the internets...

  The ROG SWIFT PG278Q is the finest gaming monitor ever! Period. With that said, if you spend a significant amount of time on the desktop then you may want to use this as a second display. There are still tradeoffs when choosing a display for your PC, here are a couple things to consider when looking at the SWIFT. Thanks for watching!

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AMD Radeon R9 290 and 290X Performance Analysis

By: guano Nov 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

PC component performance, heat and you!

  The AMD Radeon R9 Series follows the latest trend in PC components having their advertised performance rated as an "up to X Mhz". You can no longer buy a GPU or CPU for that matter and have the rating on the package be the actual real world performance all the time. It's complicated...

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