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Fractal Design Arc XL Review

Fractal Design Arc XL Review

Manufacturer: Fractal Design
UK price (as reviewed):
£101.41 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $129.99 (ex Tax)

The Arc line of Fractal Design cases fall into its performance category. As such, having plenty of airflow is key, as is the ability to install lots of high-end components and water-cooling gear. We’ve been thoroughly impressed by the latest cases in the range, the midi-tower Arc Midi R2 and the micro-ATX Arc Mini R2. With the Arc XL, Fractal has now also seen fit to make an Arc case suitable for those with larger motherboards and components, something it has also done previously with the low-noise Define range of cases.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review *Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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The chassis certainly lives up to the XL in its name. At over 570mm tall it’s capable of housing both E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards, and is of a similar size to the Corsair Obsidian 750D. As expected, it sports the classic Fractal black and white colour scheme, with white PCI brackets and fan blades. It’s also very much an Arc chassis, with the hefty mesh sections on the roof and front panel along with the large, tinted side panel window ensuring aesthetic uniformity throughout the range. Build quality is of the usual high standards – there’s a little bend to the side panels but that’s just a result of them being so large, and elsewhere the plastic and steel exterior is solid and sturdy.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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The front mesh section clips on and off with ease thanks to a pair of push pins, and as usual it’s backed by dust filtering material too. Removing it reveals a duo of 140mm/120mm fan mounts, with a single 140mm Silent Series R2 fan mounted in the top one. The design allows you to install fans here without popping off the entire front panel, which is handy. However, above this section are the four covers for the optical drive bays, which do require front panel removal to access.

The I/O panel is located on the roof, and comprises four USB ports (two being USB 3), dual audio jacks, power and reset buttons and a fan control switch, which has 5V, 7V and 12V settings and can control up to three fans. The action of the power button is fine, but the reset one is too small to use your fingers with – this could become annoying in troubleshooting situations but it does mean you’ll never accidentally press it when fumbling for a USB port or the like.

*Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review *Fractal Design Arc XL Review Fractal Design Arc XL Review
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Practically the entire roof is formed from another mesh and dust filter combination. Unlike the front one this cannot be clipped in and out of place, but Fractal recommends simply cleaning it with a hoover while it’s still attached. Beneath it there is room for three 120mm or 140mm fans, with another 140mm Silent Series R2 fan included in the furthest back mount. This is complemented by the case’s third and final fan (the same model), which is fitted as a rear exhaust.

Moving to the bottom of the Arc XL, we find a set of feet that lift the case some way of the ground, and which are fitted with rubber rings to give it excellent grip on all surfaces. A slide out dust filter is fitted here, and it protects both the PSU and the last of the case’s fan mounts, a 140mm/120mm one on the case floor. Unlike many cases, the filter here is relatively easy to replace without having to tilt the case on its side.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 232 x 552 x 572 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 13.8kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone, fan controller
  • Drive bays 4 x external 5.25in, 8 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 2 x 140mm/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm rear fan mount (140mm fan included), 3 x 140mm/120mm or 1 x 180mm and 1 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm bottom fan mount (fan not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 180mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 330mm (480mm without HDD cage)
  • Extras Removable dust filters, triple speed fan controller

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HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

The Banana Pi pictured, and HummingBoard SBCs offer pin-compatibility with Raspberry Pi accessories but significantly improved features and performance.


The success of the Raspberry Pi project has kick-started interest in low-cost Linux-powered single-board computers, but it has been surprisingly free of clone designs – until now.

Unlike rival development platforms such as the Olimex OLinuXino family or the popular Arduino microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi is not open hardware. Its design is locked-down and proprietary, and its principle components – namely the Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip (SoC) processor – not available in small quantities or without signing restrictive non-disclosure agreements. This may have contributed to a lack of compatible clones appearing on the market since its launch more than two years ago – until now, with two companies announcing Pi-compatible creations featuring considerably improved specifications: the HummingBoard and the Banana Pi.

First, the HummingBoard. Created by Solid-Run, the company behind the ultra-compact CuBox product line, the HummingBoard boasts the same features, design and layout as the Raspberry Pi – right down to the 26-pin general-purpose input-output (GPIO) header at the top-left of the board, which is pin-compatible with existing Pi accessories. Unlike the underpowered single-core 700MHz ARMv6 processor of the Pi, the HummingBoard boasts a quad-core 1GHz Freescale i.MX6 chip, 2GB of RAM – four times that of the Pi – and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Additional enhancements over the Pi include an upgrade to gigabit Ethernet, an on-board real-time clock module, and an infra-red receiver.

The Banana Pi goes a step further. Created by OSSUG Company, The Banana Pi again duplicates the layout and footprint of the Raspberry Pi and includes both the 26-pin GPIO header and the smaller P5 header of its established rival. Although its 1GB of RAM and dual-core AllWinner A20 processor can’t match the performance of the HummingBoard, the Banana Pi boasts an on-board SATA connector with 5V power output for mass storage. The board also includes gigabit Ethernet, an infra-red receiver, three on-board buttons and, interestingly, a microphone.

Thus far, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been slow to offer an upgraded version of its award-winning single-board computer. The initial Raspberry Pi Model B was succeeded by a Revision 2 design which added the P5 connector and doubled the memory to 512MB but retained the slow single-core ARMv6 processor, while the Model A is a cut-down version which drops to a single USB port and loses the Ethernet networking chip. Its most recent product, the Compute Module, still uses the outdated BCM2835 chip – leaving the market open for Pi-compatible devices like the Banana Pi and HummingBoard that can offer buyers higher performance and more features.

Pricing for the HummingBoard has yet to be confirmed, with the Banana Pi available on import from Chinese resellers for $59 (around £35, a mere £7 more than a Raspberry Pi Model B.)

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The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Price: £34.99-£54.99 plus £8.99 monthly subscription
Developer: Zenimax Online
Publisher: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Version Reviewed: PC

Playing The Elder Scrolls Online is the most boring experience I’ve endured since I was seventeen years old, when a series of unfortunate events led to my family moving into my uncle’s two-bedroom house. Because there wasn’t an awful lot of room to do our own things, every night we’d end up playing Scrabble. Now, Scrabble isn’t necessarily a bad game, but after six months it certainly starts to feel like one.

The Elder Scrolls Online is like six months of Scrabble, only it manages to perfectly recreate that sensation of repetitive hopelessness within six hours. What Zenimax Online have attempted is to build a halfway house between the traditional The Elder Scrolls games and the familiar MMO mechanics of World of Warcraft. The result is a game that fails to satisfy in either category. Its formulaic quest structure is recycled over and over, unconvincingly disguised with a superficial smear of “story”. Players are corralled down the same pathways in a world that initially appears free and open, but quickly reveals itself to be anything but. Your interaction with the environments are necessarily limited by the fact that ESO is an exhibit built for thousands of players to witness, rather than a malleable world crafted for the individual.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Your character’s life begins in Coldharbour, a prison realm overseen by Molag Bal, the Daedric prince of domination (not that kind of domination). But Zounds! You escape! Thanks to the help of a blind old man thrillingly known as the Prophet. So begins a quest to reunite a band of ancient heroes and defend Tamriel against Bal’s plans to enslave the population.

At this point, the game drops you into Tamriel proper, the specific location depending on which of the three warring factions you’ve pledged allegiance to. Rather than retread my beta steps in Skyrim and Morrowind allied with the Ebonheart Pact, I joined forces with the Daggerfall covenant, an alliance between the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard. Previously, the game introduced players using a series of starting islands, but this meant it took several hours before you even reached the mainland. Now though, your character begins his adventures on the central continent. Except, you still have to return to the starting islands and go through that before you can get very far. Instead of removing this tedious tumour, Zenimax have moved it from the leg into the brain.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Regardless of whether you take a direct or delayed route through the introductory areas, it soon becomes clear that nearly all the PvE content, meaning every area in the game save for Cyrodiil, is directed specifically toward you. You’re special, you see. You’re special because you, er, don’t have a soul, which handily explains both why your character is so wilfully obliging when helping other people, and why in conversation you have all the personality of a Rich Tea biscuit. Every quest-giver you speak to, whether it’s through the main story, the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, or just people you encounter while wandering the landscape, specifically want your help. And that’s all well and good right up until you enter your first dungeon, where you and seventeen other unique world-saving heroes all run through the same corridors to kill the same goblin.

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Windows 8.2 rumoured for autumn launch

Windows 8.2 rumoured for autumn launch

Microsoft is rumoured to be planning Windows 8.2 for an autumn launch, to be followed by Windows 9 and a new product dubbed Windows Cloud.


Microsoft may have only just got its mandatory Windows 8.1 Update 1 release out of the door, but the company is claimed to be looking to launch Windows 8.2 as early as the autumn.

Part of the company’s rumoured shift to a rapid release cycle, similar to the six-monthly releases of Ubuntu Linux and Apple’s more recently adopted annual OS X release cycle, Windows 8.2 will take over from Windows 8.1 as the company’s primary operating system. A precursor to Windows 9, Windows 8.2 can be thought of as a Service Pack release for Windows 8.1 and will include features promised at the BUILD conference earlier this year but not found in Windows 8.1 Update 1 – such as the new Start Menu, which combines the icon-based menu of Windows 7 with a Windows Phone-inspired Live Tile bar.

At least, that’s the rumour. Microsoft, as is usual for the company, is refusing to discuss unannounced products; Russian pirate group WZOR has no such qualms, however, and claims to be in possession of critical information regarding Microsoft’s planned release schedule.

According to a message spotted and translated by Myce, Microsoft plans to launch Windows 8.2 as early as the autumn. The release is expected to be the last update to the Windows 8 family, with the next launch being Windows 9 and bringing with it even more serious changes to the divisive user interface first introduced in Windows 8.

Windows 8.2, like Windows 8.1 before it, will be released as a free upgrade for all Windows 8 family customers. The WZOR group has claimed that it has received conflicting reports that Windows 9 will also be a free upgrade for Windows 8.2 users, with Microsoft echoing the upgrade path of Apple’s recent OS X Mavericks; others speaking to the group have claimed that it will be a paid-for release, with heavy discounts available for early adopters upgrading from the Windows 8 family.

Other details claimed by the group include the impending release of Windows Cloud, a virtualised version of the company’s operating system designed to provide competition at the extreme low-end of the market for Google’s Chrome OS. Windows Cloud, it is claimed, would allow users to access core functionality for free and pay a subscription fee for more advanced applications.

Microsoft, as is usual for the company, has not commented on the rumours.

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AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD’s Q1 2014 financial report shows a drop back into the red with a $20M loss, although investors seem bullish on the company’s future.


AMD’s most recent earnings report has investors impressed, with the company’s stock price rising almost 12 per cent on news of $1.4 billion in sales – despite an overall loss of $20 million for the first quarter of its financial year.

AMD’s quarterly earnings call this week announced $1.4 billion in revenue for Q1 2014, an impressive rise of 28 per cent year-on-year at a time when the global PC market is continuing to shrink – albeit slower than previously. While the quarter-on-quarter shrinkage of 12 per cent might seem like bad news, that’s comparing heavier sales in the run-up to Christmas to the post-Christmas slump; a sequential dip at this time is always to be expected.

A gross profit margin of just 35 per cent, indicative of AMD’s push towards the lower end of the market in CPUs and strong competition from rival Nvidia in GPUs, led to overall operating income of $49 million for the quarter; not enough, sadly, to prevent a loss of $20 million overall. With AMD ending the last quarter on an $89 million profit, that’s a blow – although one significantly less strong than the whopping $146 million loss the company made in the same quarter last year.

AMD continued our momentum by building on the solid foundation we set in the second half of 2013, further transforming the company,‘ claimed AMD president and chief executive Rory Read during the call with press, investors and analysts. ‘Backed by our powerful x86 processor cores and hands-down best graphics experiences, we achieved 28 percent revenue growth from the year-ago quarter. We are well positioned to continue to grow profitably as we diversify our business and enable our customers to drive change and win.

The company’s results show that the PC market slump, while slowing, is continuing to have an impact: AMD’s Computing Solutions business unit’s revenue dropped eight per cent quarter-on-quarter and 12 per cent year-on-year, due to a drop in shipments. Its operating loss, however, was a mere $3 million; down from $7 million last quarter and a painful $39 million in the same quarter last year.

AMD’s Graphics and Visual Solutions business unit is the most interesting story, however: a 15 per cent drop in sequential shipments has been more than offset by an impressive 118 per cent increase year-on-year, attributed to the company’s deals to put semi-custom system-on-chip (SoC) processors in the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles. Overall, the division made a $91 million profit for the year, down from $121 million last quarter when Microsoft and Sony purchased their console chips but up from just $16 million in the same quarter last year.

During the conference call, AMD’s Lisa Su, general manager of global business units, confirmed that the company is still in the design stages of a new semiconductor process node. ‘We are 28 [nanometre] this year, we have 20 nanometre in design, and then FinFET thereafter,‘ she claimed in response to an analyst query – suggesting that 20nm parts won’t be available in quantity until 2015 at the earliest, with the 3D FinFET transistor move – designed to compete with Intel’s Tri-Gate Transistor technology – likely to come the year after.

Su also had positive things to say about AMD’s foray into the low-power server market with Cambridge-based ARM’s IP. ‘There’s been a lot of customer interest around Seattle [chips], so certainly for the server guys, the hyper-scale guys and then even some adjacent markets, there’s good customer interest, claimed Su. ‘I’ll say the interest in the platform is quite high and it’s a major milestone for us to introduce our first 64-bit ARM chip into the market.

What we’re doing here is identifying this opportunity long before it has taken place,‘ added Read, ‘and we’re catching it just as the way it is forming. That’s the kind of innovation leadership that we really want to go after. This is going to be an important market over the next three, five years, and we have an opportunity to truly lead in this ARM server ecosystem, and take advantage of our ambidextrous capability. This is spot-on in the strategy.

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Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review

Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review

Manufacturer: Nanoxia
UK price (as reviewed):
£64.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): Currently unavailable

As the name suggests, the top priority of Nanoxia’s Deep Silence range of cases is noise reduction. While a bespoke water-cooling system can do wonders for your system’s noise output, cases designed specifically to contain noise are an easier and more financially realistic option for most people. The noise (or rather the lack thereof) of the Deep Silence 1 and Deep Silence 2 chassis certainly impresses, but cooling performance also takes a hit – a classic trade-off. We’re now looking at the Deep Silence 4 (Deep Silence 3 having apparently been skipped), which brings the now familiar design to the micro-ATX form factor for an attractive £65.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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The Deep Silence 4 is available in three different colours, and each one has a nice brushed metal effect on the plastic front section. Elsewhere, there’s little visual fanfare, but like the Fractal Design Define series the case is modest looking and refined. Build quality on the outside is good all round, and the feet have large rubber pads to contain vibrations, and they also provide the case with plenty of grip and clearance.

The Deep Silence 4 features a case door that occupies the top third of the front panel. Opening it up reveals the reset button and the two optical drive covers, which can easily be clipped in and out of place. You’ll also find an impressively powerful set of fan controllers for so small and cheap a case. Each of the two variable speed sliders can be used to control the speed of up to three fans each.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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While we can’t complain about the ability to control six fans, it’s a little odd given that you can sadly install just three to the chassis itself, including the two that are bundled with it. These 120mm Deep Silence models, which have green blades, are fitted in the front intake and rear exhaust positions. The third and final fan mount, which can take both 120mm and 140mm models, is found in the roof, as the two side panels and the floor of the case are devoid of any extra ones. While we understand that the Deep Silence 4 is designed for low noise, having such a limited ability to expand upon the default cooling is nonetheless disappointing.

The front intake pulls air in through small vents on the sides of the front panel, as well as a single larger one beneath it. It’s blocked off entirely at the front, however, so airflow from this fan is unlikely to be that high, even at full speed.

*Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review *Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Review
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Thick, spongy material designed to suppress noise lines the inside of the front door. Sadly, the bottom section of the front has no door, but it too is backed by noise dampening material, as are both side panels and the roof. The roof even includes a foam-backed blanking plate for the single fan mount, which is excellent to see – your case will be quieter and protected from dust when you’re not using this mount. A slide out dust filter is also provided for the PSU, while the front fan has its own one too (though you’ll need to pop the front panel off to access it), meaning the Deep Silence 4 is fully shielded against dust.

The final thing of note on the case’s exterior is the front panel connections. There’s nothing special here, though with two USB 3 ports alongside a USB 2 one and the usual audio jacks, there’s easily enough for a £65 case.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 200 x 480 x 380 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black, anthracite (reviewed), white
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 6 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 1 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 1 x 120mm front fan mount (fan included), 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mount (fan not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 160mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 265mm (395mm without HDD cage)
  • Extras Dual channel variable speed fan control, removable dust filters

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Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards

Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards

Non-reference graphics cards often have capacitors and VRM circuitry in different places to reference PCBs making it tricky to make universal waterblocks. Alphacool will be soon be able to tailor-make blocks for specific non-reference models.


Alphacool has announced that it will soon be able to 3D-scan graphics cards with non-reference PCBs in order to make custom waterblocks far more easily.

It has made use of a cutting-edge 3D scanner to accurately measure the PCB to allow it to quickly manufacture custom cooling plates that are compatible with a new range of waterblocks.

In addition, it’s offering a free waterblock set for your graphics card (see requirements below) in return for you loaning it to the company. This means it can scan your model and add it to its manufacturing database so others can potentially buy it too.

In the past, if you owned a graphics card with a non-reference PCB – that is one that’s maybe had additional power circuitry added to offer better overclocking or even just a few capacitors moved around, you were very often out of luck if you later wanted to water-cool it.

This is due to the simple reason that it wasn’t worth the time of waterblock manufacturers to go through their usual lengthy production process to create a new waterblock that far fewer people would buy compared to reference models.

Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards *Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards
The dimensions will be used to create a custom base plate that cools the memory and VRMs, which attaches to a backplate and universal waterblock that cools the GPU core directly. As the waterblock is universal, you can re-fit it to future GPUs and just buy a new base plate and backplate for the new GPU.

The baseplate is made from aluminium (at no point does it come in contact with the coolant), and Alphacool claims the mosfets on the card will be cooled to the same level as they would be on an air cooled graphics card running its fan at full speed while the core and ram would see a temperature drop in the region of 30-40°C.

The new waterblock range and 3D-scanning service will cater for any Nvidia GeForce 7XX-series model and any AMD Radeon 2XX-series models only at the start, with both reference GeForce GTX 750 Ti and Titan Black waterblock kits available at launch.

Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards *Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards
If you’re interested in sending your non reference GeForce 7XX-series or Radeon 2XX-series card to Alphacool, you can contact them directly at www.alphacool.com or via your local Alphacool etailer.

Alphacool will also be producing a unique ‘multi-bridge’ connection system for customers with more than one GPU. The bridge will effortlessly connect the waterblocks as well as letting the customer illuminate the Alphacool logo with 5mm LED’s.

Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards *Alphacool to 3D-scan GPUs to make waterblocks for non-reference cards
To support the modding community Alphacool will be publishing the dimensions of the ‘multi-bridge’ cover so you have the ability to make your own. Also if there is enough demand for a specific brand or logo Alphacool will be making custom covers available.

This could in theory be one way to create a proper water-cooling solution for AMD’s new R9 295X2 as well. Do you think Alphacool’s idea could be useful? Have you had to opt for reference models in the past as you needed to water-cool them? Let us know your thoughts in the forum.

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Goat Simulator Review

Goat Simulator Review

Price: £6.99
Developer: Coffee Stain Games
Publisher: Coffee Stain Games
Platform: PC

Goat Simulator Review

Well, here we have it. The defining moment in gaming. The pinnacle of the form. For the play it was Hamlet, for the novel Ulysses, and for film Citizen Kane. Each took its own medium and elevated it to unrepeatable heights. Now we have our own unrivalled masterpiece, a classic that will be remembered even when the last human on Earth hunches over the dying embers of the final flame. “I was there,” this crooked old man, bent by time and torment, shall whisper to the ether. “I was there when Goat Simulator was released.”

Goat Simulator Review

That’s not a very good joke, I know. But neither is Goat Simulator. As comedy games go, it is the equivalent of daytime TV covering a popular Youtube video. What works perfectly well as thirty seconds of amusement is stretched into half an hour of awkwardly searching to spin it into something more, and ultimately falling back on repeatedly pointing out how funny the original joke was.

Handing you control of one standard-issue Capra Aegagrus Hircus, Goat Simulator plonks you in a small open-world with the simple aim of causing as much destruction as possible. Now even the most nihilistic of goats would usually struggle to do more than churn a farmer’s field into mud before getting its horns hopelessly tangled in a wire-fence. Fortunately for your cloven-hoofed avatar, everything in Goat Simulator’s world appears to be made out of papier-mâché and springs.

Goat Simulator Review

Head-butting a person in Goat Simulator will send them flying across the map like a comet, while doing the same to one of the many stationary vehicles dotted around the environment will cause an explosion that catapults anything nearby into a geostationary orbit, including the twisting, flopping ragdoll of your own goat-y self. In addition, your goat can lick things to attach them to his sticky tongue, things like basketballs, chunks of broken fence, other goats, and the wheels of a fast-moving articulated lorry.

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YoYoTech Easter 2014 discounts available now

YoYoTech Easter 2014 discounts available now

YoYoTech’s discounts are available from now until April 25th


Starting today, our friends at YoYoTech are hosting some week-long Easter Specials, with discounts quietly being made available on a select range of Asus motherboards, graphics cards and accessories.

As bit-tech readers, you’re the first and only ones to know about it, and we’ve asked YoYoTech to provide links to the discounted products, which you’ll find below.

If any of them take your fancy, we recommend getting in there quick as stocks are limited and the deals won’t be returning once they’re exhausted.

First up we have two Asus ROG-branded Intel Z87 motherboards, the Maximus VI Hero and the mini-ITX Maximus VI Impact, both of which did enough to earn themselves awards in our reviews (here and here). You’ll find them both discounted by £20 at £128.99 and £151.99 respectively.

For AMD fans, YoYoTech is offering the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 for £109.59 again at a £20 discount. We’ve not reviewed this new revision, but the original board was also award-winning.

Continuing the theme of £20 discounts on Asus products, YoYoTech will have the Asus GTX 760 DirectCU II OC card going for £169.99.

Finally, the Asus NFC Express will be offered at £15.99, a £7 discount. Using near field communication technology, this accessory works with specific Asus motherboards to provide instant pairing with NFC-enabled phones and tablets, which can then be used to control various functions of your desktop PC.

These deals will be ending on April 25th – will you be taking the plunge on any?

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Intel pledges Skylake ramp in 2015

Intel pledges Skylake ramp in 2015

Intel has pledged to begin mass production of its 14nm Skylake family in the second half of 2015, despite the schedule slip suffered by predecessor Broadwell.


Intel has pledged to continue with plans to begin mass production of its next-generation Skylake chips in the second half of next year, despite the schedule slip that delayed predecessor Broadwell.

Broadwell, the successor to the current-generation Haswell microarchitecture, is based on a 14nm process node which has been giving Intel a spot of bother. Plans to begin mass production of Broadwell processors last year were postponed due to yield problems at the extremely small feature size required of the parts. Although since resolved, Broadwell is still hanging back with rumours claiming overstock of Haswell parts is staying Intel’s hand.

The delays that have beset Broadwell may have a knock-on effect for its successor, Skylake. Detailed in a slide leaked in July last year, Skylake follows the process shrink of Broadwell with an updated microarchitecture at the same 14nm process node. Skylake will, the slide claimed, support PCI Express 4.0, Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) 3.2 and DDR4 memory. Officially, Skylake has no formal launch date but those following Intel’s earlier release schedules have expected a release some time in late 2015 to early 2016.

Although Intel refuses to comment on rumours surrounding its launch schedule, the company’s chief executive Brian Krzanich has suggested that Skylake will be hitting the market within its originally-rumoured timeframe. ‘We had a lot going on,‘ Krzanich claimed, in response to an analyst’s query regarding Intel’s use of Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) for SoFIA chip production, in his company’s most recent earnings call. ‘The ramp of Broadwell, the ramp of Skylake in the second half of next year, plus bringing these products inside.

Krzanich also confirmed plans to transition its mobile parts, including the outsourced SoFIA heavily-integrated chip, to internal production on a 14nm process. These moves, Intel has claimed, will boost demand for its parts – but profitability for its loss-making Mobile and Communications Group is a long way distant. ‘I’d say for 2015, I would expect to see reduction in the loss [of the group],‘ chief financial officer Stacy Smith added. ‘Not profitability, but a reduction in the loss will feel pretty good when we get there and then we’ll keep driving towards the long-term profitability goal.

Sadly, Intel did not confirm any further details regarding Skylake – but if production ramp is planned for the second half of 2015, retail availability should not be far behind.

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