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AMD unveils FirePro W9100 16GB GPU

AMD unveils FirePro W9100 16GB GPU

AMD’s FirePro W9100 offers a massive 16GB of GDDR5 memory, connected to a Hawaii GCN GPU offering up to five teraflops of single-precision compute power.


AMD has announced its latest workstation-oriented graphics board, the FirePro W9100, which packs an impressive 16GB of GDDR5 memory – nearly three times that of its predecessor the FirePro W9000.

The AMD FirePro W9100 is based around a 28nm implementation of the Graphics Core Next 1.1 ‘Hawaii’ architecture, an upgrade from the GCN 1.0 ‘Tahiti’ of its predecessor. Although full specifications aren’t due to be announced until early next month, the company has confirmed an increase from 2,048 stream processors to 2,816 and from 128 texture units to 176. The result: five teraflops of single-precision compute performance, or 2.67 teraflops of double-precision.

Now, to put that into perspective, Nvidia’s latest GeForce GTX Titan Z board offers eight teraflops of single-precision performance, but requires two GPUs in which to do it – and each GPU has access to only 6GB of the shared 12GB GDDR5 memory. The FirePro W9100, on the other hand, has only a single GPU which has the entire 16GB to itself – and, the company has confirmed, the boards will support stacking of up to four cards via CrossFire for systems that require higher performance.

The board, AMD explained during its press conference, is designed for those working on ultra-high resolution projects. As well as the increasingly popular UHD and 4K resolutions, the company has claimed to be seeing demand from markets looking to work with resolutions as high as 8K – which needs a significantly larger framebuffer than the company’s previous FirePro W9000 6GB could offer.

Official pricing for the FirePro W9100 has yet to be confirmed, but those interested in getting their hands on one – or four – can expect to dig deep: as professional products the FirePros demand a hefty pricetag, the FirePro W9000 launched in August 2012 at $4,000 and the W9100 should easily smash that figure when it formally launches on the 7th of April.

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EVGA announces GeForce GTX 780 6GB models

EVGA announces GeForce GTX 780 6GB models

EVGA’s new GTX 780 models, one with stock cooler and one with dual-fan ACX cooler, both come with a boost to 6GB of GDDR5 memory.


EVGA has announced a new entry in its GeForce GTX 780 line-up, boosting the video memory available to an impressive 6GB of GDDR5 without the need to splash out on the like of a Titan.

The company has confirmed plans to launch a pair of GeForce GTX 780 6GB models, starting with a version feature Nvidia’s stock cooler design. As with the existing models, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 6GB SC includes a Kepler GPU with 2,304 CUDA cores, a base clock of 941MHz rising to 993MHz under boost conditions, and a 384-bit memory bus. Where it differs from the usual models is in its use of 6GB of GDDR5 memory, in place of the usual 3GB.

The stock cooler edition is to be joined by a premium version offering EVGA’s customised ACX dual-fan cooler. Switching the cooler out, the company has claimed, allows for a factor overclock that sees the base clock of the card rise to 967MHz and the boost clock to break the gigahertz barrier at 1,020MHz. The rest of the card’s specifications, including the boost to 6GB, remain the same.

Both models will be covered under EVGA’s Step-Up programme, which allows anyone who has bought an EVGA-branded graphics card in the 90 days prior to the launch of the new boards to upgrade to the new model. Those taking the company up on the offer will, naturally, be asked to pay the difference in cost between their existing board and the new 6GB models.

Official UK pricing for the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC and GeForce GTX 780 ACX have not yet been confirmed, with EVGA offering a recommended retail price for the former of $549.99 (around £334 excluding taxes) in the US as a guideline.

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Oculus Rift DK2 headset goes up for pre-order

Oculus Rift DK2 headset goes up for pre-order

The Oculus Rift DK2 headset includes many of the improvements developed under the Crystal Cove codename, including a Full HD OLED panel and improved head tracking.


Oculus Rift surprised the crowds at the Game Developers Conference late last night with the news that it was launching an upgraded yet lower-cost virtual reality development kit based on its Crystal Cove design.

The company’s virtual reality headset technology has proven popular since its first development kit went up for sale. Despite an extremely low resolution display which suffered from nausea-inducing motion blur, the $400 kit sold in large enough quantity that production was halted when critical components were unavailable in sufficient amounts. Now, the company has opened pre-orders for a second-generation version which borrows much of the improvements developed under the codename Crystal Cove.

The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, to give it its full name, swaps out the hard-to-find low-resolution LCD panel for a Full HD OLED version. The result: a much-improved resolution of 960×1080 per eye, a 100-degree field of vision, and an end to the motion blur of the LCD based original. The new kit also comes bundled with an infra-red camera, which offers improved head tracking – including the ability to see when you’re leaning forwards or backwards and modify the action accordingly.

Most surprisingly of all, however, is the pricing: while the original development kit sold for $400, the much-improved DK2 is up for pre-order at just $350. Partly this appears to be thanks to a reduction in the support hardware required – although the new model includes a cheap webcam for head tracking, it does away with the dedicated control box of its predecessor in favour of USB and HDMI connections direct to the headset – and partly in response to Sony’s announcement of an upcoming VR headset for its PS4 console.

The development kit is available to pre-order now on the official website.

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Corsair Raptor M45 Review

Corsair Raptor M45 Review – Introduction and Features

Manufacturer: Corsair
UK Price: £44.99
US Price: $59.99

The Corsair Raptor M45 is an upgrade to the Corsair Raptor M40, with an improved 5,000dpi sensor. It could also be considered a cut-price variant of the company’s Vengeance M65 model that uses an optical rather than laser sensor. However, while cheaper than that model it still boasts plenty of other features that mark it out from entry level models – this is still a true gaming peripheral.

Corsair Raptor M45 Review Corsair Raptor M45 Review - Introduction and Features
When we say this is a low cost version of the M65 we really mean it. The M45 sports essentially exactly the same physical design as that model but rather than the metal base of the M65 here it’s all plastic. This doesn’t detract at all from the mouse’s overall look or feel though. On the desk you’d be hard pushed to tell it apart from its more luxurious sibling and all the surfaces of the mouse that you touch feel solid and have nice finishes. The top has a soft-touch coating while the sides have a textured moulded finish to them, which theoretically aids grip and reduces overall sweaty finger-syndrome.

Corsair Raptor M45 Review Corsair Raptor M45 Review - Introduction and Features
Another nice addition is the aluminium scroll wheel. The metal construction doesn’t serve a purpose in terms of adding extra weight for inertial scrolling but it looks the part. The edge is finished with a nice thick and grippy rubber band and the scrolling action has an accurate lightweight feel – perfect for precise weapon selection in FPS games for instance.

Another key feature of this mouse is that it includes a weights system. Three screw-off metal bolts on the underside reveal three tiny metal discs. Each of the bolts weighs 3g and the weights weigh 4g, making for a total possible extra weight of 21g.

Corsair Raptor M45 Review Corsair Raptor M45 Review - Introduction and Features
We aren’t generally fans of weights in mice as we tend to find the lighter the better. As such we ended up removing both the weights and the bolts. However one area where we did see some benefit was in photoshop work where the extra stability provided by the higher weight made tracing round fine objects a little easier. Also, some people like extra weight generally and as far as weight systems go this one seems to do the trick nicely.

One area where the M45 actually trumps the M65 is that it has more lights! As well as the indicator bars for the DPI setting, which sit below the scroll wheel in between the two DPI adjusting buttons, the Corsair logo is also backlit. The lighting is single colour but good quality and we like the choice of red and black – it’s the perfect partner to the matching Corsair Raptor K40 keyboard at the very least.

Corsair Raptor M45 Review Corsair Raptor M45 Review - Introduction and Features
An interesting little quirk of this mouse is that the cable comes from the left side of the front edge, rather than the middle. This doesn’t seem to serve any purpose for the user but simply is a result of the design and construction of the mouse. The cable itself is 1.2m long, which is plenty, and is fully braided, terminating in a matching red USB plug.

Corsair Raptor M45 Review Corsair Raptor M45 Review - Introduction and Features
The base of the Corsair Raptor M45 has five very large PTFE glide pads which provide a wonderfully smooth mousing action. It glided effortlessly over every conventional mousing surface we tried and the sheer area of padding means the pads should last a while. A nice touch too is that each pad has a little notch next to it for easy insertion of a screwdriver or such for prizing off and replacing the pads. How easy it will be to get hold of replacements is a different matter, of course.

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May the ‘Star Wars’ March Madness be with you!

Yoda, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Boba Fett return to compete in This is Madness: The Star Wars Character Tournament 2014.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET)

Yoda triumphed last year as the most popular “Star Wars” character, but who will win this year’s geekiest bracket tournament in the galaxy? Darth Vader, R2-D2, Admiral Ackbar, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Yoda, and other fan favorites compete for fan votes in This is Madness: The Star Wars Character Tournament 2014, which started earlier this month and runs through April 7.

Upgrades to this year’s online competition include real-time voting results, social-media sharing functionality, and new character divisions such as Rebels, Jedi, Scoundrels, Republic, Empire Separatists, Sith, Bounty Hunters, and Underworld. There’s also an “Attack of the Play-Ins” round, which allows four wild cards to enter the main tournament.

To kick off this year’s fan-voted competition, Jedi Master Yoda spoke exclusively with ESPN SportsNation’s Max Kellerman about his championship win last year, his thoughts on this year’s tournament, and more.

“Excited I am, to defend my title,” Yoda said of this year’s competition. “New divisions and entrants there are. Make the tournament even better, they will. Fun, it will be, to see who wins.”

Fans can visit This is Madness: The Star Wars Character Tournament 2014 daily to vote on new matchups. May the best character prevail.

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Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review

Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review

Manufacturer: Crucial
UK price (as reviewed):
MSRP £241.50 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP £$336.99 (ex Tax)

When we looked at the Crucial M500 we found it to be a decent SSD with a host of handy features rarely found in consumer drives, though its performance wasn’t chart topping. Just six months ago its price was £270, which was pretty affordable for a 480GB drive. Now, however, it can be found for just £170 – a fantastic price no doubt, but one which may have something to do with today’s launch of the M550 SSD. The new 512GB drive has a suggested retail price of £240, but naturally it may be lower than this at retailers. For reference, the SSD 840 Evo 500GB is as low as £200 now, but more professional 512GB drives are closer to £300.

As with the M500, the M550 will be available in mSATA and M.2 form factors with no performance deficit, though the 1TB drive is reserved for the standard 2.5-inch form factor. The 7mm tall drive comes with a spacer for 9mm bays, with no other accessories or software provided.

READ MORE: SSD and HDD Reviews

Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review
Click to enlarge
As you can see, the 512GB drive along with the 1TB one has the best performance of the range. Over the 480GB M500, sequential read and write speeds are up by 50MB/sec and 100MB/sec, while random read and write speeds (at 32 queue-depth) have increased by 15,000 and 5,000 IOPS respectively.

The M550 is again powered by a Marvell controller running custom firmware, though it’s been upgraded from the 88SS9187 to the 88SS9189. Information on the eight-channel 9189 controller is scarce, but according to Crucial it has more bandwidth and allows for better programming efficiency, both of which contribute to the increased performance. It also now supports low-power DRAM, and indeed the 512MB cache is now of the LP-DDR3 variety, so it consumes less power than before and also happens to be a bit faster too. As with the M500, DEVSLP is also supported, with Crucial reporting that its drive typically consumes just 3mW in this ultra low power state, which is particularly beneficial to portable users and in stark contrast to Intel’s latest SSDs, for instance.

As well as standard ATA AES 256-bit encryption support, the M550 also meets the TGC Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards of hardware level encryption. This means the drive again meets Microsoft’s eDrive protocol, and the encryption is more secure and has less of a performance penalty than the ATA method, which also requires a password to be set within the BIOS in order to work.

Adaptive Thermal Protection, which automatically throttles performance when the drive detects that it has risen too far above its rated operating temperature (0°C – 70°C), is again present. At 78°C, write speeds fall to around 150MB/sec, and will continue to fall if temperatures continue to rise, with read speeds affected too. DRAM refresh rates are simultaneously increased to provide additional data integrity, and the drive will remain throttled until it reaches 65°C again. While unlikely to be an issue for desktop users, high performance gaming notebooks may be at risk of exceeding the operating temperatures, though a thermal pad connects the controller and cache to the SSD’s metal chassis to aid cooling.

Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review
Click to enlarge – The rear of the PCB houses eight of the sixteen IMFT NAND packages
As you’d expect, the M550 uses Micron NAND, specifically the IMFT 20nm MLC variety, which is the same as that in the M500. In the higher capacities, 128Gbit dies are used, and in the 512GB model there are two of these in each of the sixteen NAND packages, and four per controller channel. 64Gbit dies are used in the 128GB and 256GB models to increase the number of dies per channel and thus increase performance. In terms of endurance, the M550 is again rated for around 40GB/day of host writes for five years (72TB total), and it carries the same three year limited warranty.

The move from rounded capacities (480GB) to power-of-two ones (512GB) equates to an increase in available capacity. This usually decreases performance and endurance, but with the M550 this isn’t the case since the additional spare area in the M500 was used exclusively for RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent NAND), another feature carried over from Micron’s enterprise business. Essentially, as user data is written, the M550 calculates and writes parity data to the NAND with a minimal performance penalty. This parity data block can then be used by the RAIN algorithms to restore the user data associated with it in the event of an unrecoverable error. In this sense it’s similar to the distributed parity of a RAID 5 array.

Crucial M550 SSD 512GB Review
Click to enlarge – The front of the PCB is home to the controller and cache as well as the capacitors that protect the drive against power failure
The reason that the M550 has more usable capacity is simply because the ratio of data to parity blocks has increased from 15:1 to 127:1, so there are now more data elements associated with each parity element. This ratio is fixed and cannot be altered. While the lowered parity technically means less reliability, Crucial says that the maturation of its 20nm NAND manufacturing process means that the drive still meets the same reliability targets, while the M500 with its lower ratio is now considered reliable enough to be used in certain data centre applications (which far exceed the endurance requirements of personal storage).

The final feature of note is the M550′s power loss protection. Only 2-4MB of user data is ever stored in the large cache at one time (the rest is used to manage the NAND address table). In the event of sudden power loss, the series of capacitors on the PCB should power the drive long enough for this data to be flushed to NAND. Intel uses a similar method in its SSD 730 and the feature was also present in the M500.

Specifications

Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Nominal capacity: 512GB
Formatted capacity: 476.94GB
Controller: Marvell 88SS9189
Cache: 512MB LP-DDR3
Memory type/amount: 32 x 128Gbit IMFT 20nm MLC NAND dies (16 x 32GB packages)
Endurance rating: ~40GB/day for five years (72TB total)
Warranty: Three years

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Nvidia ends support for DirectX 10 GPUs

Nvidia ends support for DirectX 10 GPUs

Nvidia’s DirectX 10 graphics card family has officially reached end-of-life, with the company announcing the GPUs will no longer be supported in future driver releases.


Nvidia has officially announced plans to end support for its DirectX 10 graphics card families, instead concentrating its future driver efforts on optimising the performance and stability of its DirectX 11 compatible Fermi, Kepler and Maxwell ranges.

In a support update posted this week, Nvidia has warned that all driver package releases following Release 340, starting with Release 343, will drop support for the company’s DirectX 10-exclusive GPU families in both the consumer and professional product lines. As a result, owners of said cards will be stuck on an outdated driver branch until such a time as they see fit to splash out on a hardware upgrade.

Cards affected by the move include the GeForce 8 and 9 desktop GPU families, the GeForce 100, 200, 300 and 400 desktop GPU families, the GeForce 7, 8 and 9 laptop families and the GeForce 100, 200 and 300 laptop families. Professional users will also find a range of Quadro FX, Quadro CX, Quadro Plex and a single Tesla board on the end-of-life list.

Nvidia isn’t forcing users into an immediate upgrade, however: the Release 340 branch of the company’s driver bundle will continue to be updated for reported issues until the 1st of April 2016, after which it will be formally abandoned. Non-bugfix enhancements found in the Release 343 branch and newer, however, won’t be backported to the older driver branch – including enhancements and performance optimisations.

Nvidia’s support page offers a full list of the affected graphics card products for both desktop and laptop users.

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Asus Game Box micro-console plans leak

Asus Game Box micro-console plans leak

Asus plans to launch an Android-powered micro-console dubbed the Game Box, with images of its controller leaking from the US FCC.


Details regarding a new Android-powered micro-console from Asus have emerged ahead of an official announcement, even as market pioneer Ouya looks to diversify away from hardware and into platform licensing.

According to a recent filing with the US Federal Communications Commission spotted by Droid Life, Asus is in the process of finalising Bluetooth certification for an Android-powered micro-console system dubbed the Game Box. While images of the console itself are not provided, a shot of the controller is and reveals a DualShock-inspired layout which includes dual analogue sticks, an island-style directional pad, four face buttons – plus Start, Select and a central Home button – along with shoulder buttons.

Internally, the console is claimed to be based on an quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, include 2GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage – likely upgradeable through external USB mass storage devices or SD cards of some description – and will run a customised version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. In short, it’s a mild upgrade over the Tegra 3-based Ouya and aimed primarily at gamers who don’t need the latest and greatest visuals to have fun.

Speaking of Ouya, which will be Asus’ biggest rival at launch, the company is currently in the process of diversification. With sales of its micro-console proving poor, Ouya has announced plans to offer its Android gaming platform as a licensable option to competitors – starting with the Mad Catz MOJO. Although this gives the company a new revenue stream, it also removes the last unique feature of the Ouya hardware platform – something that the company may regret as the number of competing devices rises.

Asus has not commented on its plans for the Game Box.

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Watch robotic pole dancers shake their actuators


(Credit:
Tobit Software)

No job is sacred any more: Even the technology trade show booth babe’s role has been taken over by robots. Lexy and Tess the robotic pole dancers drew a crowd Monday at the CeBit IT show in Hanover, Germany.

The pair were upgraded models for the Tobit Software booth, which has been displaying the dancers for a few years now. Designed by British artist Giles Walker, they’re made from 12V motors found in
cars (the kind that control the windshield wipers); have LED arrays instead of faces; and are controlled via PC, while their “male” counterpart, a DJ with a megaphone horn for a head, looks on.

Tobit altered the robots, which cost around $39,500 each, to make them a bit more “interesting,” a representative told RuptlyTV. “We changed them to get more color, we changed them to get bigger breasts,” he said, also indicating that the robots are now controllable via an
Android smartphone.

The dancing itself seems rather tame — the robots stand in place and gyrate their hips a little and move their free arms — so perhaps not every human achievement can be replicated by a robot. One that could dance like Anastasia Skukhtorova? Now that would be something.

(Source: Crave Australia via The Verge)

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Finally, Marvel’s ready for you to hear its comics (scoop)

Starting with the popular story Captain AmericaL The Winter Soldier, Marvel is adding “adaptive audio” to some of its digital comics.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

It’s a fallacy of the superhero genre that a new costume accompanies every power boost the hero earns. That’s also the case with a major upgrade to Marvel Unlimited, the preferred (and only) subscription-based comics reading app for fans of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America.

Scheduled to be announced on Sunday afternoon’s Marvel panel at
South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, and currently live in Apple’s
iTunes Store, the new version of Marvel Unlimited looks a lot like the old version of Marvel Unlimited. Don’t let that fool you, though, as the changes could present a way forward for smarter integration between traditional comics and multimedia features.

A year in the making, the new version of the app comes with three important changes: transitions from one panel to the next are faster and smoother, there’s now adaptive audio, and Marvel AR’s DVD-style extras are now included in its digital comics for the first time.

While the added features might turn off more traditionalist comics readers, Vincent said that the goal was to make digital comics feel more digital without losing their essential nature.

“We knew we had something conceptually,” she said of last year’s adaptive audio announcement by Marvel at SXSW, “but we weren’t sure how it was going to work with comics. We wanted to figure out how we could tell stories in new ways.”

Arune Singh, director of communications for publishing and digital media at Marvel, described the change as one that could alter how the company makes its comics available electronically.

“The way we used to paste comics together on the page in production, so far we have been pasting comics on our
iPad. Now,” he said, “we have adaptive audio.”

The features can also be disabled in the Options panel. Because Marvel Unlimited is a subscription-based app, the features have been added at no extra cost. To entice new readers, Marvel has dropped the cost of subscribing for the first month to $0.99, if you sign up by March 14 with the promo code SXSW99. Normally and thereafter, Marvel Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, or $69.99 per year.

The DVD-extras added commentary of Marvel AR videos now comes to Marvel’s digital comics.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The overhaul to the comics reader has swapped out HTML5 for native iOS code, so page turning and panel transitions are smoother. The update to the Android app is “so, so close” said Kristin Vincent, Marvel’s vice president of digital products. Both were done as work-for-hire by Chaotic Moon, Marvel’s long-standing partner on Marvel Unlimited.

The big new feature, though, is that Marvel is finally making available to its readers what it calls “adaptive audio.” It’s similar to a background soundtrack or movie score, but it detects when you move from one panel to the next and plays themed music appropriate to each panel. It can also gauge how quickly the reader is changing panels, and will adapt the score to suit the pace of the reader, says Marvel.

The music plays from when the comic loads, starting with the book’s cover, and then adding in adaptive elements such as the pinging sonar of a submarine when viewing a panel of a submarine and mines.

The adaptive audio, which is only available on Captain America: The Winter Soldier storyline at first, probably owing to the extra time required to create the score for each comic. Vincent said that other comics will be added, but added that Marvel wants to hear from its fans on what they think of the debut.

More traditional fans can disable the new features through the options panel.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

“I think we have the best fans in the world, and the most vocal fans in the world. We’re always watching the metrics,” she said. “We look for what people are sharing in the social space. We’re very in tune with our fans, or at least try to be, and move where they move.”

Marvel’s previous partners on the adaptive audio, CORD and Momentum, are no longer working on the project. In their place, Marvel has signed on Melbourne, Australia-based Firelight Technologies’ FMOD, which also is used in video games such as Crysis, Bioshock and Guitar Hero, and contracted with Emmy-nominated composer David Ari Leon’s SoundMind Music. SoundMind is no stranger to Marvel, having also worked on Marvel cartoons and motion comics.

Marvel AR, or augmented reality, videos have been available previously only to people who bought the printed comic. You would then have to hold your phone or tablet over an AR-enabled panel to activate the video, and it would show you a behind-the-scenes look at the comic, often interviews with writers or artists, or the process of developing the page.

Marvel has begun integrating that AR content into Marvel Unlimited with 20 videos related to the first issue of author Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers series from 2012. The company plans to move its current 1,400 videos to Marvel Unlimited, Vincent said, as well as adding new videos.

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