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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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DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

Price: £19.99
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Date Tested: 26/03/2014

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

Note: Early Access Reviews are critical appraisals of games still in development which are charging money for player access to their alpha and beta stages. This review is intended to give you an idea of whether the game is currently worth investing in, but without offering a final verdict.

Take a cursory glance at DayZ and it appears little has changed in the four months since release. The major content Bohemia are planning for the mod; namely vehicles, craftable bases, and broader communication channels such as radios, are still a long way from being added. Investigate a little further, however, and you’ll discover that significant changes have been made, but they’re many and small rather than large and few.

For example, rain was added about a month ago, and now players can catch the water droplets in their canteens, making it ever so slightly easier to acquire this vital resource. In addition, players can aim their guns while sat down, enabling them to sit around a campfire with friends without completely compromising their safety, or keep watch over player prisoners in a more casual, more disturbing manner.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

There are lots of different little channels that feed into DayZ’s remarkable success since it debuted on Steam Early Access at the end of last year. But one of them is this detailed way in which players can interact with their environment and the other players they encounter in post-apocalypse Chernarus. It’s this granularity of experience which Bohemia have been chasing since the Standalone release.

To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to grasp the basis of what DayZ is, and the developer’s intent behind it. For all its layers of complexity, your ultimate goal when playing DayZ is the most basic possible. Stay alive. Do not die. See that bucket? Avoid kicking it. This is done by seeing to your needs, avoiding the zombies scattered around the environment like organic litter, and performing the delicate and potentially deadly social dance with fellow survivors you’ll inevitably encounter during your travels.

Your objective may be simple, but achieving it is anything but. Resources are scarce, and you require lots of food and water just to keep your body functional. The first hour or so of a DayZ life are a half-terrifying, half-gleeful rush as you frantically scour the nearest village for supplies, interspersed with moments of bravely running away from the prowling zombies.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

If you’re very lucky you might find enough food and water to keep you healthy. More typically you’ll either bleed to death after being attacked by your first zombie, or find nothing but rotten food, eat that in desperation, become sick, and spend the next half hour hopelessly searching for the right medication before ultimately collapsing. This is of course an entirely hypothetical scenario and definitely not what happened to me in my first and second lives.

Learning how to cope in this extremely harsh environment is a big factor in what makes DayZ so compelling. So is learning how to navigate it. Modern games are obsessed with keeping the player oriented, ensuring they always know where they are and where they are going, and there’s something about the challenge of being lost in a wilderness that is paradoxically liberating. The moment you first find a map in an abandoned car or inside a petrol station is breathlessly exciting. Then comes the puzzle of figuring out where you are on it, googling the Russian alphabet so you can translate the town signs written in Cyrillic to match them with the map names scribed in English.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

It helps that Chernarus is an incredible foundation for a game like this. Its sweeping vistas, highly realistic terrain, foreboding climate and dilapidated Baltic settlements all contribute to the sense that this is a world where nature has wrested control back from humanity, but also as a place where hope still lingers. Trekking through one of DayZ’s many forests, watching the sunlight shaft through the canopy, listening to your plodding footfall and the twittering birds in the trees is an oddly relaxing experience, providing relief between frantic zombie combat and tense encounters with other survivors.

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CM Storm QuickFire XT Review

CM Storm QuickFire XT Review

Manufacturer: CM Storm
UK price (as reviewed):
£64.82 (inc VAT)
UK price (as reviewed): $89.99 (ex Tax)

The last keyboard we saw from Cooler Master’s gaming-focussed offshoot, CM Storm, was the QuickFire TK Stealth. It was an unusual keyboard in that it used a non-standard layout and stealth keys, where the symbols are found on the front rather than the top of the keys. Despite a good few weeks of use, we struggled to get to grips with it, and found ourselves yearning for a regular key layout. It did spark a healthy debate on the subject in our forums, highlighting if anything just how subjective an experience keyboards provide, and that there will never be a perfect keyboard for everyone.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
With us today is another in CM Storm’s QuickFire range, the QuickFire XT, and unlike the TK Stealth it uses a standard layout, so UK users get a full 105 keys, and the keycaps are also the regular variety, with laser etched symbols on the top face. This lends it the benefit of being instantly familiar, though it’s not as small as tenkeyless or TK layout boards. That said, it is about as small as it could be, thanks to a very thin bezel – there’s no excess plastic above, below or to the sides of the keys, but if the 440mm width is still too much you’ll need to consider layouts that use less keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
Despite costing just £65, which is very good considering it uses 105 Cherry MX switches, build quality hasn’t been sacrificed. It’s not particularly exciting to look at, but the QuickFire XT is sturdy and feels very durable, and it tips the scales at over 1kg. The outer plastic shell is solid and thick, and the keyboard is reinforced by a steel plate too, so there’s little bend to it even when you apply excessive pressure. The keys are embedded within the chassis, so it won’t be as easy to clean as Corsair’s K70, for example, which uses raised keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
The braided USB cable with gold plasted connectors is detachable, but there are no cable channels beneath the board. A PS/2 adaptor is supplied, and in this mode the QuickFire XT supports full n-key rollover. No driver or software is required (nor available), but the board runs natively at a 1,000Hz polling rate. Through a combination of the FN key and the keys on the top row of the numpad, this polling rate can switched between four levels (1,000Hz being the maximum), again when using it PS/2 mode.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
As you might expect at £65, the QuickFire XT is thin on additional features; there’s no extra connectivity, macro keys or wrist rest. However, the F5-F12 keys each have secondary functions courtesy of the FN key. There are seven media functions, with the F9 key reserved for the locking out the Windows keys, and there’s also an LED indicator for when this is activated. Finally, CM Storm also provides a key removal tool along with four red WASD keys and two keys with the Cooler Master/CM Storm logos on, which can be used to replace the two Windows keys.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review *CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
When using the QuickFire XT, the four rubber pads on the base along with the keyboard’s hefty weight mean it stays firmly planted on your desk, even during frantic gaming sessions. Sadly, however, the two fold out legs on at the back of the keyboard have no grip, and when using them there is more of a risk of keyboard movement. This is something we’ve seen overlooked before, but even so it’s a shame given how easy it is to fix. Nevertheless, the keyboard slopes naturally upwards at a nice angle, and we found typing and gaming to be more comfortable with the legs down.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
Cherry MX blue switches aren’t our favourites – the click tends to irritate us and we still find it occasionally difficult to double tap with them, which is particularly noticeable in games. Typing does tend to be quick and smooth, however, thanks to the relatively light actuation force and tactile feedback. Thankfully, CM Storm offers the QuickFire TK with red, brown, black and even green switches, so there’s a good chance your preference is catered for. The rounded shape, smooth surface and slick action of the keys themselves also left us with little to complain about in that regard.

*CM Storm QuickFire XT Review CM Storm QuickFire XT Review
Click to enlarge
There’s no backlight on the QuickFire TK, but the bright white etching does make the symbols stand out well and it’s not going to fade over time. Therefore, unless you’ll frequently be using it in almost total darkness it’s unlikely to be too much of a hindrance (it never was for us), though we know this very much comes down to personal preference.

Conclusion

With no extra features of software there’s little else left to say about the QuickFire TK. It’s well built, handles nicely and is as small as it realistically could be with 105 keys. The option to choose between five switch types is excellent too, and the standard key sizes mean they can all be easily replaced and customised. The design and feature set are hardly jaw dropping, but equally the QuickFire TK does little wrong – the main criticism we have is the lack of grip on the legs, for example. If you need USB 3 ports, audio jacks, backlighting or macro keys, you’ll want to look elsewhere, but equally you’d already know that by now. If, on the other hand, you’re after a basic and robust mechanical keyboard, the QuickFire TK could be perfect.

!–

Score

Overall 79%

Approved Award

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Antec ISK600 Review

Antec ISK600 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed): £53.98 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $64.99 {ex TAX)
Preferred Partner Price: 53.98 (inc VAT)

Although Antec is one of the bigger household names of the case market, it’s presence in the mini-ITX segment is fairly small. Looking to change that, the company has recently released the ISK600. Even for a mini-ITX chassis it’s on the small side, but as you’ll see you can still cram quite a lot of hardware inside, and at £55 it’s also very affordable, though not quite as much as the £40 Cooler Master Elite 130.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
Click to enlarge
While the Cooler Master case is cheaper and has a similar size and shape, it lacks something that we think many here will appreciate about the ISK600: aluminium. The core ISK600 chassis is built from steel, but the entire n-shaped lid is hewn from this premium case material, which helps explain the small price premium. The brushed effect is very pleasing to the eye, though it does pick up marks easily, so you’ll want to give it a wipe once you’ve finished your build. The aluminium also has the advantage of retaining the case’s great build quality while keeping it light – it tips the scales at less than 3kg.

Cooling comes courtesy of a single 120mm rear exhaust fan, and this is all that there’s room for without modification. This isn’t a lot of airflow by any means, but the case’s small volume means that you don’t need a lot to be effective. The fan will create a negative air pressure inside the chassis, which will draw air in through the small slits in the front panel as well as the larger mesh sections on the sides of the lid (which serve the GPU and front-mounted PSU). This is an effect to which internal CPU and GPU coolers will also contribute, though bare in mind there are no dust filters on this case.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
Click to enlarge
The plastic front panel is generally well built, though the power and reset buttons do feel cheap and tacky. Besides these are the standard audio jacks, as well as a USB 3 and USB 2 port, though there’s no external fan control. In the interests of space, Antec has opted for a slimline optical drive mount rather than a full 5.25-inch one.

Above the I/O connections is also a thin strip, which is actually a molex powered light that glows blue when the system is on. Thankfully, the glow is subtle and pleasant rather than blindingly bright, and you can easily disconnect it if you find it to be a distraction. The final thing of note on the case’s exterior is the set of rubber feet, which mean the ISK600 stays firmly planted despite weighing so little.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 260 x 369 x 195 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium, steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 2.95kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 1 x external slimline optical, 3 x internal 3.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
  • Cooling 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 170mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 315mm
  • Extras Illuminated front panel, internal dual-speed fan control

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Eich steps down from Mozilla over equal rights furore

Eich steps down from Mozilla over equal rights furore

Brendan Eich has officially resigned from his post as chief executive officer of Mozilla, relinquishing his board seat over a firestorm surrounding his donation to an anti-equality campaign.


Controversial chief executive of the Mozilla Corporation Brendan Eich has stepped down, both as CEO and as a member of the Mozilla board, following public outcry over a political donation in opposition to gay marriage.

Eich, the inventor of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, was upgrade from chief technical officer to chief executive officer late last month in a private vote by the board, which immediately led to calls for a boycott against the non-profit company. Those calling for his dismissal pointed to a personal donation of $1,000 Eich made to lobbying efforts in favour of Proposition 8, a US law which would have made gay marriage illegal. Those who support equality, not to mention people in gay marriages, were naturally opposed to the proposition.

While Eich’s tenure as CTO appeared to slip under the radar, his appointment to the post of CEO did not. Many, including numerous Mozilla employees and project contributors, questioned how a man who has made a public donation in efforts to curtail others’ rights could possibly lead an organisation that prides itself on inclusiveness. A statement by Eich failed to address the donation at all, merely pledging to continue to support – and to improve – inclusiveness at the company.

Now, with the public still baying for blood, Eich is out. ‘Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO,‘ executive chair Mitchell Baker announced late yesterday. ‘He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

‘Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves,’ admitted Baker. ‘We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

I’ve resigned as CEO and I’m leaving Mozilla to take a rest, take some trips with my family, look at problems from other angles, and see if the “network problem” has a solution that doesn’t require scaling up to hundreds of millions of users and winning their trust while somehow covering costs,‘ Eich announced in a personal blog post. ‘That’s a rare, hard thing, which I’m proud to have done with Firefox at Mozilla. I encourage all Mozillians to keep going. Firefox OS is even more daunting, and more important. Thanks indeed to all who have supported me, and to all my colleagues over the years, at Mozilla, in standards bodies, and at conferences around the world. I will be less visible online, but still around.

No successor to the role of CEO has yet been named.

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Intel invests in China with Smart Devices venture

Intel invests in China with Smart Devices venture

Intel has announced the formation of a Smart Device Innovation Centre in Shenzen, back by a $100 million Intel Capital fund, alongside the release of an IoT gateway product line.


Intel is continuing its push into the it’ll-take-off-any-day-now-honest wearable computing market with a major investment in China, founding a Smart Device Innovation Centre backed by a $100 million fund from Intel Capital.

That Intel is focusing heavily on low-power embedded systems for wearable computing is no secret. Having been caught on the hop with the mobile computing boom, allowing Cambridge-based rival ARM to gain an overwhelming majority market share, the company is adamant it won’t make the same msitake twice. In September last year, Intel Capital invested in Recon Instruments, Intel proper recently picked up Basis Science, and the Quark processor and Edison computer-on-module are clearly designed for low-power ultra-compact computing.

Now, chief executive Brian Krzanich has announced a new plan to push its low-power and wearable computing efforts still further with a little help from Shenzen. Announced at the company’s Chinese Developer Forum today, a new deal will see the company establish the Intel Smart Device Centre in Shenzen and introduce a $100 million Intel Capital China Smart Device Innovation Fund to encourage the use of Intel products in future low-power devices.

The China technology ecosystem will be instrumental in the transformation of computing, claimed Krzanich in his speech. ‘To help drive global innovation, Intel will stay focused on delivering leadership products and technologies that not only allow our partners to rapidly innovate, but also deliver on the promise that “if it computes, it does it best with Intel” – from the edge device to the cloud, and everything in between.

Krzanich also announced the launch of the awkwardly-named Intel Gateway Solutions for the Internet of Things, a router based on Intel’s Quark and Atom chips for connecting low-power wearable and embedded sensors to a network, and demonstrated for the first time his company’s SoFIA integrated mobile system-on-chip design, an all-in-one chip for smartphones and tablets with which Intel hopes to challenge ARM’s dominance.

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review


Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Price: £29.99
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: X360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

Whatever you may think of Kojima Production’s decision to split off Ground Zeroes from the rest of Metal Gear Solid V and release it as a full game, there’s no denying that it is a remarkable creation. In terms of its politics, its technology, its systems, and its artistic direction, Ground Zeroes is absolutely fascinating. It departs radically from many of the conventions the series has established over the years, while at the same time it is truer to the motto of “Tactical Espionage” than any of its predecessors.

Ground Zeroes is set in 1975 – a year after the events witnessed in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and casts you as Big Boss on a mission to infiltrate a heavily guarded detention camp in order to rescue two prisoners. Prior to the game’s start, there’s a brief summary of events leading to the Ground Zeroes mission, and a short cut-scene that introduces “Skull Face”, the leader of the mysterious XOF organisation which opposes Big Boss’ FOX unit.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
It’s a refreshingly terse opening to a Metal Gear Solid game, and makes it immediately apparent that Ground Zeroes strives to be different. Kojima’s writing has grown increasingly indulgent since the release of the first MGS, his games burdened by exhaustive cut-scenes and rambling dialogues. Ground Zeroes, on the other hand, is nearly all about play, only removing you from control during a couple of key moments while you’re on mission.

In fact, Ground Zeroes is a very restrained game in general. Aside from the much-discussed running time, the weirder elements of the Metal Gear Solid universe have been dialled back, with only the appearance of Skull Face acting as a nod to the series’ penchant for science fiction and the supernatural. Similarly, Ground Zeroes’ approach to stealth is very straightforward – stay low, stay shadowed, stay quiet. The most advanced gadgets in Big Boss’ arsenal are an “iDroid” that gives a real-time updated map of the detention centre, and a pair of binoculars that can mark guard positions on a map.

What most definitely isn’t dialled back, is the technology that powers the game. Ground Zeroes looks, sounds, and feels superb. Even on the Xbox 360, visually it’s a cut above most other games. This is because the FOX engine’s approach to graphical fortitude has nothing to do with resolutions or anti-aliasing or post-processing effects or any other technical gimmickry. Rather, it’s about attention to detail. FOX’s physically-based rendering techniques are based on vast amounts of research into how different types of light react with different types of surfaces in different conditions, and replicating the results in a virtual environment.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
It’s tempting to say the results are spectacular, but that would be to miss the point. FOX isn’t about spectacle, it’s about creating a convincing environment, and Ground Zeroes’ Camp Omega is very convincing indeed.

The reason we bring this up is because Ground Zeroes’ pinpoint production values feed into the design intent for the rest of the game. Ground Zeroes is entirely about attention to detail. Navigating your way through the maze of tents and fences and rocky coastline without being spotted by a patrol or a searchlight requires careful planning and speedy execution.

Deciphering the story behind Camp Omega involves searching every corner of the Black Site to collect audio logs, listening into guard conversations, and interrogating them for information. There’s a particularly brilliant section where you have to find a specific location within the camp by figuring out the route taken there from the ambient sounds on an audio cassette. It’s all geared toward making you feel like a spy, the way you collect snippets of information and piece them together to form a plan.

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3D-printed medical device rescues baby’s breath

Baby Garrett with parents

Garrett with his parents.


(Credit:
University of Michigan Health System)

Garrett Peterson is only 18 months old, but he has been hooked to a ventilator just to stay alive. He suffers from a serious form of tracheobronchomalacia, which causes his breathing airways to collapse. Even slight movements can trigger the problem, so he has been unable to go home with his parents, Natalie and Jake Peterson. That’s about to change thanks to the use of a 3D-printed trachael splint.

“Nothing would stop him from turning blue,” said Natalie Peterson in a release from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where Garrett underwent surgery in January. “Just lifting his legs for diaper change would collapse his airways and that was it. There was nothing we could do to help him.”


3D-printed splints

These 3D-printed splints were made to match Garrett.
(Click to enlarge.)


(Credit:
University of Michigan Health System)

Using a technique pioneered by researchers from the University of Michigan, Garrett was surgically fitted with a custom splint. It was printed based on a 3D model made from a CT scan of the baby’s bronchi and trachea. The splint is now helping to keep his airways open, and he is being weaned from the ventilator.

Glenn Green is one of the doctors who developed the device, and he assisted in Garrett’s surgery. “This is absolutely fabulous. We know that the splint’s working. He’s able to ventilate both lungs for the first time. I’m very optimistic for him,” said Green shortly after the surgery.

The splint was printed using polycaprolactone, a type of biopolymer that will break down and be absorbed by the body over the course of a few years. By the time the splint is gone, Garrett’s airways should be strong enough to stay open without assistance.

This is only the second time the technique has been used. The first time was last year, when a baby with the same condition received the device. That child recently turned 2 and is doing well, with no lingering symptoms from the condition, according to the release. News of that successful first attempt prompted Garrett’s parents to look to the 3D-printed splint as a solution.

Before the splint, Garrett would stop breathing up to several times a day and he wasn’t getting better. Since 3D printers have grown in popularity, doctors and designers have used them for everything from casts to prosthetics. Garrett’s case shows just how great an impact this burgeoning technology can have on a life. It’s giving a child who couldn’t even go home a ticket to a normal life.

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Mobile March Madness tips for staying in the game

March Madness Live

The welcome screen for March Madness Live.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET)

You’ve got March Madness fever, and the only solution is more cowbell. Scratch that. The only solution is to harness the awesome power of mobile technology and turn your smartphone and tablet into your personal ball boy.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone who fills out your bracket based on which mascot is most likely to eat the other, you can rely on your mobile device to provide non-stop tournament coverage. You can also rely on it to be the most discrete way to watch games, check your bracket, and see what social media has to say while you’re stuck at work.

Make it official
Let’s start with the source, the one app to rule them all: the official NCAA March Madness Live. The free app is back, along with some updates over last year’s model. The tournament bracket has been redesigned with a handy pinch-to-zoom interface, there’s an integrated news section, and an even stronger focus on social-media updates.

All of the games are available as live streams through the app, but there are some restrictions. Any game due to broadcast over the air on CBS is open to anyone to watch. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET.) Games that are scheduled for cable, however, require proof of a paid TV subscription. There is one way to skim around this (sort of). The app gives you a three-hour grace period to watch games before you have to log in, so choose wisely, grasshopper.


ESPN Tournament Challenge

Face off against celebrities with the ESPN app. (Click to enlarge.)


(Credit:
Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET)

Post-Selection Sunday
You survived the insanity of Selection Sunday; that means you’ve been dreaming in brackets and agonizing over your Final Four. You can’t stand to be away from your bracket for more than a few minutes, so be sure you have a bracket app on your mobile device. Naturally, March Madness Live has a bracket section, but it’s not your only option.

The free ESPN Tournament Challenge app for
Android or iOS looks pretty slick and lets you build a bracket group with your buddies, all pretty standard fare. To sweeten the pot, it also lets you compete against celebrity brackets. Last year’s celebrities included the likes of Will Smith, Takeo Spikes, and Common. It’s a bit like TMZ meets March Madness.

Only the thrillers
With 68 teams scheduled to play throughout the tournament, you’re going to have to make some decisions about which games to watch. You could pore over the schedule, or you could just sit back and let the Thuuz app tell you what’s worth watching. The free app gives out game ratings on a scale of 1-100. A score of 85 or up means it’s a great game. This is updated live, so you can get alerts of impending bracket busters or overtimes. The excitement alert is particularly handy. When a game hits a certain “excitement threshold,” you get a notification so you can get your eyes on it in time to catch the best action. It sure beats watching the video replay later.

Sneak March Madness at work
You don’t have to be James Bond to discreetly sneak March Madness past the watchful eyes at work. If you already have your phone cued up, it’s simple enough to steal a glance at a game or check the score under your desk. Are we encouraging this sort of behavior? No, but if you’re going to it anyway, you might as well get away with it. Here are a few ways to get a more complete experience without taking a sick day:

Grab an earful
Local radio stations usually carry the tournament games, so break out your earphones and download the TuneIn app to get access to 100,00 live radio stations. You’ll get the play-by-play in a format designed for listening, so there’s no awkwardness around holding a phone or
tablet on your lap that makes your co-workers wonder why you’re constantly looking down at your crotch.

Put up a privacy screen
If you prefer to leave your tablet or smartphone on your desk with impunity, then at least try to hide it with a privacy screen protector. These sheets fit over the display and make it so only people looking head-on can see what’s shaking on the device. Anybody looking at it from the side will just see a dark screen, which might raise questions about why you’re standing up and yelling at your blank
iPad. Just try to keep yourself under control.

Get creative
Last year, a clever college-basketball fan hacked a simple notepad, carving out a niche for his phone to sit. It looked like he was studiously taking notes, but he was actually watching the games stream live. This would work equally well in either a work or school environment.

Whatever method you choose to stay jacked into the tournament, just try not to let your productivity slump too much. You don’t want to give yourself away. Have a marvelous mobile March Madness, folks.

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Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition 3GB Review

Manufacturer: Gigabyte
UK price (as reviewed):
£384.38 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $519.99 (ex Tax)

We’ve looked at a fair number of custom made high end GPUs recently, and the latest one to enter our labs is the Gigabyte GTX 780 GHz Edition. With modifications to the clock speeds, power circuitry and cooling equipment there’s plenty to get our teeth into. It comes in at £385, which is around £25 more than stock cards but still slightly less than basic AMD R9 290X cards.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review
Click to enlarge
The GTX 780 uses a cut down GK110 GPU with a total of 2,304 stream processors and 194 texture units. It has the full 384-bit wide memory interface and 48 ROPs of the GTX 780 Ti and Titan Black, however, as well as 3GB of GDDR5.

As Gigabyte’s naming scheme hints at, its overclocked card is very fast by straight out of the box. It ships with a base core clock of 1,020MHz, a massive 18 percent faster than the default 863MHz. This also gives it a rated boost clock of 1,072MHz, though our sample stayed at a mighty 1,176MHz under load. This overclock is very impressive, as it’s almost the same as that which we achieved with our stock GTX 780, indicating that Gigabyte has selected only the best GTX 780 GPUs for use in this card. Sadly, it hasn’t overclocked the memory, which remains at 1.5GHz (6GHz effective). This is a shame as with our original GTX 780 we were able to raise this all the way to 7GHz.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review
Click to enlarge
Physically, the GTX 780 GHz Edition is 287mm long (20mm longer than stock) but crucially won’t occupy more than two expansion slots, unlike the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X. It maintains the standard video outputs, with the DisplayPort connection ensuring G-Sync compatibility. Along the top the usual pair of SLI connectors are present, but Gigabyte has beefed up the power connectivity, going from an 8-pin/6-pin combination to dual 8-pin connections to provide a little more juice – a 600W power supply is recommend as a minimum. Finally, on the back is a brushed metal backplate, and as with the Asus R9 290 DirectCU II, this is primarily for stability and aesthetic purposes.

While the backplate isn’t used to cool the card, there’s plenty of cooling going on at the front. The custom Windforce 3X cooler is rather hefty and responsible for the card’s extra length. There’s also an extended section at the top featuring the Windforce logo which increases the height of the card by 21mm beyond the edge of the PCI bracket. The open black shroud means that heat is dumped into your chassis from the three slimline 80mm fans, which are powered and controlled by a single header on the PCB.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review
Click to enlarge
Removing the cooler reveals a copper baseplate for the GPU connected to six copper heat pipes (two 8mm, four 6mm) in the main heatsink. One of these heat pipes loops back into the heatsink while the remaining five feed the secondary one. Aluminium plates and thermal pads are used to cool all twelve memory chips as well as the MOSFETs of the eight GPU power phases.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review
Click to enlarge
Looking at the PCB, we see Gigabyte has stuck with the SK Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C memory chips, which are rated for 6Gbps. The GTX 780 usually has a 6+2 phase arrangement, but Gigabyte has given the GPU two extra phases for a total of 8+2 power phases making for a supposedly cleaner supply of power to the GPU.

Unfortunately, we no longer have samples of the PNY GTX 780 XLR8 OC or Asus ROG Poseidon GTX 780 with which we can compare this card. However, we do still have up to date results for the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X, which is similar in being a high-end custom cooled card.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 780, 1,020MHz (boosting to 1,072MHz)
  • Pipeline 2,304 stream processors, 194 texture units, 48 ROPs
  • Memory 3GB GDDR5, 6GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 288.4GB/sec, 384-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.3
  • Outputs/Inputs Dual Link DVI-D, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Power connections 2 x 8-pin PCI-E top-mounted
  • Size 287mm long, dual-slot
  • Warranty Retailer dependent

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