Thursday, October 31, 2013

[Rant] NVidia Shadow Play is pretty sweet

28th of October was a great day. NVidia released the beta version of one of the most anticipated features of their platform: ShadowPlay game play recording.

Yes, just like they said that it doesn't come with a performance hit (or at least, a noticeable one), it indeed performed as expected. However, at first, things got a bit screwy. It didn't work for me at first. I tried recording Crysis 3 on the day ShadowPlay was released. It just didn't work. But after fully uninstalling and re-installing the drivers as well as GeForce Experience software, I managed to get it to work.

Here's one of my recordings. Too bad I had to dumb down the quality to upload it to YouTube. The quality of the original file was very good though.


There are few issues with ShadowPlay and few things that I would like to see in the final version or the updates to come in the future. The issue is, when switching from a game to the desktop, it takes a lot longer than normal for the desktop to appear and vice versa. Windows 8 is already much slower than Windows 7 in that department, and ShadowPlay makes it much worse. 

It once crashed the display driver and the game when I tried to switch between the game and the desktop. I guess that's why it is still a beta. 

Currently, ShadowPlay only supports 16:9 aspect ratio (perhaps only 1080p? not sure). So if you have a display with 16:10 aspect ratio like the 1200p or 1600p ones, you will not get a get a very good recording. And it would be great if you could mix an audio input from the mic as well into the recording. That would make commentary much easier.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

[Rant] The inevitable price cuts on NVidia GTX 770 and GTX 780 are finally happening!

Price wars are great for the consumer. That's exactly what's going on in the high-end graphics card market. 

A week (or two?) ago AMD released their flagship graphics card, the R9 290X. (Check out Anandtech review here) It was priced fairly cheaper than the competition yet delivering performance similar to a card that's almost two times more expensive. Of course it is not a perfect card. The reference cards (which are the only ones available) run louder, hotter and draw a lot of power. However, the price to performance ratio excelled past the competition. 

If you thought NVidia was going to do nothing about it, then you are a fool. You can give a million fancy features (example) but in the end of the day, gamers want more performance and less price. Even though NVidia GeForce cards probably have a slight edge on that (features) department, people are going to settle for the faster and cheaper AMD card.

Hence, we have good news. NVidia has come to their senses. They are dropping prices on the GTX770 and GTX780. In fact, they are dropping prices by record levels this time around. Here's what's proposed by NVidia to the card vendors. 

GTX 770: $399 → $329
GTX780: $649 → $499

And that's not all. There is the GTX780 Ti. It packs impressive specs and leaked results claim that it is about 5% faster than the Titan. That's sweet and that actually would take the performance crown back to the green side. But the price isn't going to interest many gamers out there. $699. Ouch! Well, it is still better than the Titan if you have a 1440p or smaller display. But I still believe the R9 290X is better priced. Sure sure, you always get diminishing returns when you go up in the spectrum. 

On the other hand, leaked results show that the R9 290 (the non-X model) still is slightly faster than the GTX780. And that's coming out at $449 price mark. Hopefully it will run cooler than the 290X. That's the only problem with the 290X. Fortunately, if you are thinking of buying a R9 290X, it seems that the non-reference design cards are coming out next month. Let's hope that Twin Frozr cooler, DCUII cooler or Winforce3 cooler will keep the card running  below 80C. 

Would you choose a R9 290X over a GTX780 Ti because it is cheaper and only performs slightly slower? Would you choose the R9 290 over the GTX780 if they perform similarly? Would you get a GTX770 over a R9 280X even though they have almost the same price to performance ratio? I guess with the current pricing, you would be fine with either team.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

[Rant] NVidia Shadow Play, here I come!

Finally NVidia is releasing ShadowPlay to the public. If you don’t know, ShadowPlay is the technology where you can record your gameplay videos using the hardware encoder inside the GeForce 600/700 graphics cards. What’s cool about that is, you will hardly see a performance penalty when you do that. I had been using MSI Afterburner for video capture and while it is better than FRAPS as if doesn’t lock the gaming FPS to 60 or 120FPS, it still comes with a 10-15% performance hit because all the processing is done in real time in the CPU.

2013-10-28_23-26-26

ShadowPlay comes with the version 1.7 of GeForce Experience software. GeForce Experience was originally created to automatically suggest the optimal graphics settings for your system to play the games that are installed in your system. I usually tweak the graphics settings on my own, but if you are a causal user, you will find this software to be very helpful. Of course, if you want to get the best FPS for your multiplayer games, you will have to come up with your own settings.

NVIDIA_GeForce_Experience_2013-10-28_23-34-55

ShadowPlay is still in beta. You also need to update your graphics driver to 331.65 beta driver as well. After you download and install both GeForce Experience 1.7 and graphics driver version 331.65 beta, you will have to din to the Preferences tab on GeForce Experience to enable ShadowPlay. To enable ShadowPlay, you have to click on the button called “ShadowPlay”. Then you have to turn on the switch on the left hand side. Your monitor would go black and do some weird stuff when you click on that button. Don’t worry; just give it about 10 seconds.

 NVIDIA_GeForce_Experience_-_ShadowPlay_(BETA)_2013-10-28_23-34-50

There are indeed limitations in ShadowPlay. The biggest limitation is that you can only record maximum 20 minutes at a time. Plus, you can record only at 1080p 60Hz. At best quality settings, you will end up with a 7.5GB file at those settings.

Even though NVidia said that you would be able to stream games to Twitch, there doesn’t seem to be inbuilt support in GeForce Experience at this time. But hopefully it will come in the final version. For now, you will have to be satisfied with Afterburner or FRAPS like recording and manually uploading the video files to YouTube. Of course you will have to do some preprocessing because 7.5GB sounds very big.

Ok, enough chitter chatter. I need to experience this. See ya later!

Monday, October 28, 2013

[Rant] Found a nice free app that can monitor the data usage on the iPhone: My Data Mgr

If you read this post, you would know that SoftBank capped my LTE speeds because I downloaded more than 1GB data on the LTE network. Even though I knew about the monthly limit of 7.5GB, I didn’t know about this until it actually happened.
 
I checked if the speeds had restored back to normal by yesterday, but no, I had to wait till today. That drove me insane because I had to go shopping with my wife all evening. When SoftBank capped the speeds, it became virtual unusable. So, beware guys. Basically, I want to spread out the daily usage evenly, or otherwise you will be suffocated in the next day or the day after. On Fridays, if there is not special plans to go out for a long while, I can use up the remaining data because the phone would be connected to Wi-Fi when I am at home.
 
However, just to be safe, I disabled automatic app updates when I'm on LTE. I can wait till I got home and connected to Wi-Fi. It's unfortunately that this had to be done though.
 
I ended that earlier post saying that I had to find a free app that could monitor the data usage and warn me before hand if I was getting seriously close to my limits. You can only check the total usage if I used built in monitoring in iOS. There weren’t many free apps available, and after trying out all of them, I finally came across something that worked really well. In fact, it was miles ahead of the competition. It’s called My Data Mgr. It shows daily data usage, let’s you set alarms, forecasts the monthly usage, keeps history, set custom timers as well as let’s you monitor where on the map you used your data. And it’s FREE!!! That’s a lot of features for a free app. I looks decent too. I need to rate it.
 
2013-10-28 20.58.522013-10-28 20.59.012013-10-28 20.59.062013-10-28 20.59.142013-10-28 20.59.23

 
 
 
 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

[Rant] OMG! My iPhone 5S' SoftBank LTE speeds got so slow!

Yesterday, while I was at work, I felt the browsing speeds of my iPhone 5S had gotten terribly slow. So slow, that it was way slower than my iPhone 4S which itself was terrible on the crappy SoftBank network. At first I thought it had something to do with the SoftBank's LTE network. I saw so worried that it was becoming like the 3G network.

I rebooted the phone. That was the first time I had rebooted the phone manually. But it didn't fix the problem. I was worried that it was because I updated the 7.0.3 the previous day and there was a bug in it. With a lot of effort (because of the slowness), I googled to see if there was such an issue. No such issue was reported. 

Worse case would be having to restore the OS. But before that, there was a simple thing I could do. I could reset the network settings and see. I did that, and it seemed to fix the issue. I couldn't use the phone extensively, but it seemed to have fixed. On my way home, I tried to download an app from the App Store. I do not remember how big the app was though. I entered the elevator while it was downloading, and the download halted mid-way. I couldn't resume it though. Luckily, I could watch the PC Perspective stream on the AMD R9 290X's release. But when I got off the train, it stopped working again. I mean, it became very slow. 

Resetting the network settings didn't fix it this time. I knew I had to do a restore. I restored the factory settings and restored the backup. It still didn't work. Then restored it again, but didn't restore the backup. It still didn't work!

Just to be sure, I ran Speed Test from the phone. I was baffled by the results. The download speed was a mere 30Kbps!!! The upload speed was not affected. It was doing well above 5Mbps. 


Then it struck me! Could I have exhausted the 7.5GB monthly download limit before the speeds got capped? But when I checked the status from the SoftBank website, it said I had another 3.66GB left before the speeds got capped.


I didn't know what to do. I called SoftBank's customer support. I explained the situation. He checked how much GBs were left for me this month. There obviously was no issue. But then he said that there was another condition! I was not supposed to download more than a total of 1GB in 3 consecutive days or else the speeds would get capped until the 4th day dawned!!!! But even then, your download quote for the 4th days was 1GB - (day 1 + day2)'s download. So basically, if had downloaded 100MB, 100MB, 800MB, I'm screwed for the next couple of days because 800MB of the quota is already filled!!! Oh dear! 

SoftBank doesn't show the daily downloads though. I wonder if there is a free app for that. If there isn't, then the whole App ecosystem is a worthless pile of crap!

Anyways, I'm going to stop the phone from downloading app updates automatically when I'm connected to the internet via LTE. I can wait till I got home to do that.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

[Rant] Status of Carbonite backup after 10 months

In last December, I paid for a 1 year subscription of Carbonite. If you guys don't know, Carbonite is a cloud backup service that gives you "unlimited" cloud backup storage for a monthly price of about $5. There are two conditions though. First one is that you can only backup the data on your internal hard drives. The second is more restrictive. Once your backed up amount of data exceeds 200GB, your upload speed drops from 2Mbps to like 100kbps. Basically it is not unlimited backup. You are limited by time.

There are few other issues as well. You have to get a subscription for a whole year at once. There is no way you can pay monthly. So even if you feel that it is not going to work well for you, you cannot cancel it at halfway mark and get the remainder of your money back.
 
Then, even if you have super fast internet at home, the restore speeds are going to be very slow. What good is a backup if you cannot restore it? I saw somewhere that the restore speeds are like 14GB per day. That's quite low. What if you somehow managed to upload like half a terabyte of data? It'll take more than a month to get the whole thing back.
 
There is one thing that's not clear though. Carbonite only keeps a file backed up for 30 days. That means, if you have deleted the file from your hard drives, Carbonite will do the same but after a month. It is to stop people from abusing the system. Carbonite is a backup solution, not a storage solution. What I mean by that is you should have pair of files: the original and the backup. If there is no original (say you deleted it), the backup become the original. Say you have a 100GB hard disk. This will stop you from using Carbonite to expand it to 200GB by deleting files that are on the drive and adding new files. We all have files on the hard drive that probably might never be needed again. You could simply store them in Carbonite and not locally. No, you cannot do that. But of course they have to give us time to restore the file in the case of a crash. That time is one month. But say that you lose everything. Now you have to get everything from the backup. Once you've started the restore process, even if the 30 day period is exceeded (which is very likely to happen) the files should not be deleted. Does that happen in that fashion? If it does not, Carbonite is useless.
 
But if restore time is the issue, there is a way to get your backup quickly. You can tell them to courier a hard drive with the backup on it to you. But for that service, you have to pay extra. You have to get the Home Premier subscription which costs $149 per year. That's pretty steep but they have to bear the cost of the hard drives as well. So it is not unfair. I don't know how often you can ask them to send you back a copy though. Can you keep the hard drives as well?
 
After 10 months of backing up (not 24/7 of course) my backup status is like this. The backup is growing very slowly. But the amount of data that needs to be backed up has grown a lot in the last couple of months. Most of them are photos from trips. (But I’d rather keep what I am uploading “just to myself”, hence I’m “censoring the filename”.)
 
Carbonite
 
To be honest, I'm not so happy about the limitations of Carbonite. With hard drive sizes growing, if you are limited to just 200GB or so data, that doesn't make sense. I think I am not going to continue the subscription next year. I'm definitely not going to upgrade to the Home Premier tier so that I can get the backup couriered. Besides, even right now I have a local backup. Once my first year runs out, I'm going to think of another plan. Maybe a NAS. Who knows? But I don't want to get something bulky.

[Rant] NVidia G-Sync is great but...

 

The problem

So many PC gamers are whining about stuttering. The main reason for stuttering is the mismatch between the FPS and the refresh rate of the display. It doesn't matter whether the GPU renders faster than the display or slower than the display, you will get stuttering. But when the GPU is rendering faster than the display, you get image tearing, which might drown out the stutter.

Remember that the refresh rate of the display is fixed while the FPS of GPU rendered images varies depending on the complexity of the scene.
 
Up to now, the answer to this issue was V-Sync. Just enabling V-Sync alone doesn't do it. The GPU needs to be able to render the frames faster than the display refreshes what's shown on its output. Else, the display will show exact frame in two or more refresh cycles until the next image is fully rendered.
 
But not many people can afford hardware that can render frames faster that 16ms. Or, you will have to drop the complexity of the scene (i.e. drop the quality settings from high to medium or even low). That doesn't translate to a good experience. You will have to compromise the image quality to fluidity of animation.
 

G-Sync to the rescue

 
This is where G-Sync comes into play. G-Sync is mostly a hardware solution, but you need the driver support as well. It is implemented in both the GPU and the display. With this technology, the GPU tells the display when to start refreshing the content. Say for example, the first frame took 15ms to render and the next frame took 20ms to render. With a 60Hz display (16.6ms per refresh cycle), the 2nd frame won't be rendered fast enough to be shown on the 2nd refresh cycle. It will be shown on the 3rd refresh cycle. But with G-Sync, the GPU tells when the monitor should refresh. As soon as the rendered frame is available, the screen refreshes the content. So there is no mismatch.

 
It sounds like the way to go.
  • You won’t get screen tearing because tearing is directly caused when FPS and refresh rate not the same.
  • You won’t get input lag, because the frames are rendered as soon as possible. They don’t have to wait until the previous frame is outputted first, to start rendering the next frame.
  • You won’t get stutter caused by the mismatch of the display refresh rate and rendered FPS.
 

But does it still feel fluid enough at when the FPS is varying?

 
I am not so sure. I mean, the GPU renders the frame with the information it has at the time of start of rendering. But the output is given after the rendering is done. So, there is a delay. (There is the delay on the display too, but let’s say it is constant.)
 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[Rant] The iPad Mini got better and the regular iPad got lighter

Yesterday Apple unveiled their nee products for the holiday season. The new MacBook  Pros, Mac Pro, iPads and some software that very few people tune into watch at the keynote. I'm not interested in their MacBooks or Mac Pros because none of them matter to me. I'm all into DIY PCs. But I wanted to see what they will bring to the new iPads. 

The big one now has a new name: iPad Air

It must be because it is about 30% lighter than the old iPad with Retina display. We all knew that the new iPad was getting a new chassis. There was so much wasted space in side the old chassis. But other than that, there isn't a huge improvement in features.



It lacks the fingerprint reader that the iPhone 5S has. We expected at least the big guy to come with it. Sadness!

It has the same A7 chip the iPhone 5S has. Not an A7X chip which has pumped up graphics compared to the A7 though. iPad 3 and 4 had A5X and A6X SoCs to give it a speed boost in terms of graphics performance. And the CPU in those models were running at a slightly higher clock speed. But there weren't any talk about the new one having faster clocks than the iPhone 5S though it probably could. Anand will be able to confirm it in his review. 

It has the same 10hr battery life too. No improvement there.

Finally iPad Air comes with Wireless 802.11ac. That's a nice speed bump. If only you had a Wireless 802.11ac supported router that is. But because the CPU is faster, you will feel the speed boost even when browsing the internet.

Basically, the only thing they brought to the table was the weightlessness. (Sure, there is the speed boost too, but that's a given.) You readaholics will find it is less tiresome to keep holding the new tablet for an extended period of time. But it is still quite large which means that you cannot carry it everywhere and pull it out at everyplace.

The price is hasn't changed as well. It's still $499 for the base model with no LTE.

iPad Mini on the other hand has some noticeable changes



It's got Retina! The same resolution as the big guy, which means higher pixel density as well because of the smaller display size. We didn't expect the small guy to have higher pixel density than the big guy. But apple didn't have a choice. If they brought yet another resolution to be supported by apps, it could ruin the app ecosystem as the developers will have to support yet another resoltuion. But they could always do some scaling as they do in the MacBook Pro with Retina displays. I feel bad for the people who bought the old iPad Mini thinking that the new one won't have Retina display as well.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

[Rant] NVidia outs their answer to the R9-290X: The GTX780 Ti

That was unexpected really. We were all waiting to see the price of the GTX780 to drop to $550-ish, then the price of the Titan to $799 and finally add a new card to the end of the spectrum at the magic $999. No, that's not what is going to happen - at least immediately. It's going to be GTX780 Ti

Well, the Titan Ultra or whatever will inevitably come out because that is not something NVidia has to design from the scratch. It is already designed. That's the full blown GK110 chip - the big Kepler. However, that silicon is not yet being used even in their workstation graphics cards. The K20x, which is the fastest Tesla card only supports 2688 shaders. That's the same count as found in the Titan.

This is the first time NVidia has used the Ti moniker in their flagship card. (Titan is of course the flashship card, but that is more of a dream chip) The GTX *80 is usually the flagship card of the generation. The Ti moniker is reserved for mid-range/mainstream graphics cards like the GTX *50 or GTX *60. The thing is, just like we have no clue what the R9-290X's specs or pricing will be, it's the same story with the GTX780 Ti. But there were a few of official results the reviewers were allowed to post, and according to them, the 290X could easily own a GTX780. But we only have the performance figures for 4K gaming. It could be because AMD cards seem to incur a less of a performance hit that NVidia as the resolution goes up. The 1080p results might be almost same. 

Image courtesy LegitReviews.

In my opinion, the GTX 780 should still come down in price. Heck, there is no reason for it to be $250 more expensive than the GTX 770. NVidia should drop the price of the GTX780 to $550 and perhaps introduce the GTX780 Ti at the $650 price point. 

But the issue is, GTX780 is so close to the performance of the Titan. The only differentiating point is the amount of RAM present. Yes, it has better compute performance compared to the GK104, but that is not much of a concern for the gamer. GTX780 Ti will obviously be faster than the GTX780, but how much? That would be faster than the Titan in gaming benchmarks, except in 4K game-play perhaps. That's a really niche market. It's actually a niche in a niche market. Remember, the only 4K monitor that is currently available is the Asus 32" monitor which costs $3000+. So, the GTX780 Ti would cripple the position of the Titan in the line up. NVidia won't be able to charge $999 for a card that performs slower in most scenarios (or for most people, in all scenarios.) It would be very interesting to see what NVidia would price them at. 

On another note, AMD has actually delayed the launch of the R9 290X. I believe this is to see what NVidia was up to. It's time for PRICE WARS! OH YEAH! Good times for the consumer.

[Article] Got my Audiotechnica ATH-AD500X headphones

I wasn't sure whether to get a headset at all. I had my eyes only on two products. The Audiotechnica ATH-AD700X and the Logitech G430. But both of them were pretty expensive. So I decided not to get either of them.
 
But then I searched if there were any cheaper options but that didn’t compromise on quality too much. The AD700X was overkill for me because I'm not an audiophile (well, at least not yet). I found out that the AD500X which is only slightly worse than the AD700X at a significantly cheaper price. Almost half price. In US$ terms, it was only $60. (or JPY5,868). Even the price of the AD500X in Japan is about half the price of USA. That must be because this is a Japanese brand. Usually it doesn’t make things cheaper, but in this case it did. (Although, it says that the headphones were made in China.)
 
So I didn't think twice about this and placed the order. It arrived couple of days later. Free shipping of course, but since I’m not paying for Amazon Prime anymore, I am not going to get one day or same day shipping anymore. I can live with that.
 
IMG_0128 IMG_0130
 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

[Rant] How do you connect speakers and a headset to your PC at the same time?

It seems like a simple question, right? But the issue is that there is usually only one speaker out port on the audio card I/O panel. Unless you have a high-end audio card, you won't find a dedicated headset port in there. There isn't one on the on-board audio solution of my Maximus VI Hero motherboard; not even on the X-Fi Titanium PCI-E card that I don't use anymore. What?!
 
Only the high-end audio cards have a dedicated headset port. Not only they come with the dedicated port, but the port is usually amped. Well, you don't really need an amped headphone port unless the headset has a high impedance.
 
12121-5181
 
The headset I bought recently, the AudioTechnica AD500X, doesn't need one. It's so loud even with the system volume set to about 20%. Getting an audio card just for the dedicated headphone port doesn't sound like the best way to spend the bucks. Besides, the audio cards that support dedicated headset ports are pretty expensive too. And, an audio card would block the airflow to the video card from the back intake fan. (Of course it will still be fed with cool air from the bottom intake fans.)
 
Anyways, so if you don't have an audio card that has a dedicated headset port, how do you plug your headset and the speakers at the same time? Well, you could simply plug the headset to the front audio ports and speakers to the back. That would work just fine. In fact, that's how most onboard solutions or low-end (<$100) sound cards are designed to be used as. The issue is that when you have a long cable on the headset, it gets in the way. And it kills the looks of your setup depending on how you care about aesthetics.
 
creative_sound_blaster_x_fi_titanium
 
It makes you wonder if there isn't a better way to do it. Perhaps there are connectors that plug to the front audio on the sound card, that installs to the back of the case. Just like the cables that connect to the motherboard USB headers. That would actually fix my issue.
 
 

Friday, October 18, 2013

[Rant] Why upgrade your phone every two years?

The smartphones are essentially PCs. PCs become outdated pretty quickly. So are mobiles phones. But in most countries you have to enter a two year contract period when you buy a mobile phone. They will subsidize the price of the phone, but there is no such thing in reality. They will cover up the full price of the phone over the two year period.

Now in Japan, especially when it comes to the iPhone offered by Softbank, you essentially pay zero money up front. If you keep the phone for two years, you will not have to pay a dime “for the phone”. Like I said, they always make up for it by heavy monthly charges. So for example, the iPhone 5S which I recently bought costs about JPY6,700 per month. That’s for a 24 month period. The phone itself doesn’t cost a dime – if you settle for the lowest capacity (i.e. 16GB) model. But you are paying about JPY160,000 over the two year period. That’s a huge amount of money, especially when 3G was performing pathetically. With

There is another way you can buy the phone. You pay the whole price of it upfront, and that amount will be discounted from your monthly bill. In the end, you are paying the same amount of money. Basically, you will pay like JPY3,900 per month if you bought the phone paying upfront.

Let’s get to the real point of the article. If you didn’t upgrade to a new phone after two years, you will still have to pay the same monthly price. If you paid upfront, your monthly charge will increase to JPY6,700 after 24 months. Basically if you bought a new phone or not, you are going to pay the same amount of money every month. So why the heck wouldn’t you upgrade?

I cannot speak for other countries though. In other countries, the phone is not always free. Especially a high-end phone that just got released. The newest iPhone would cost $199 and above. For that scenario, maybe you don’t want to pay that amount every two years. But how much is your monthly bill? I’m sure it is close to $100. So paying $200 additionally every two years won’t go noticed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

[Rant] Video card rebranding

AND just released their next generation graphics card. Well, not the the entire line up, but 3 cards to be exact. The high-end cards code named Hawaii are coming out in a week's time. But the ones that were released are all rebrands - rebrands of the last generation. That sucks doesn't it?

Yes, unless they did it right of course. In my opinion, they need to get two things right. Those two things are the right pricing and the uniformity of the feature set. 

First, they cannot release them at the same price point and add newer faster cards on top of it. No, no! They have to drop the pricing of the current cards, rebrand them and release the faster cards at the price the older cards were priced at. We cannot say anything about the pricing of the unreleased cards, but AMD have got the first thing spot on. 

The second one is, they need to offer a uniform feature-set across the entire family of cards. Otherwise people will get confused when choosing a graphics card. AMD has failed to do that with the new generation, at least if you consider True Audio technology. True Audio is only available with R7 260X and the yet to be released R9 290 and 290X cards. People who want to get the R9 270X or 280X won't be getting True Audio. That sucks! Those are pretty high-end GPUs. Well, I think True Audio technology needed some hardware modifications, not just in the driver. But in that case, they probably have sold off the existing cards with the current branding and made the new chips from the scratch with just the True Audio related modifications. Would that have cost more? Maybe. Who knows. I'm sure it was a economic decision. But the good thing is, True Audio might be just a gimmick that nobody makes use of. Maybe AMD knows that too. However, on the other hand, all the rebranded cards as well as the 7000 series cards support Mantle API. That's much more important that True Audio so this is not much of an issue.


So what do you think? 

I think you cannot blame AMD for doing it this time around, because they seem to have done it almost the right way. I mean, if they are still using the same process architecture and they cannot make a new GPU that performs as same as the R9 270X or R9 280X with a smaller die, there is no reason to make a completely new GPU. This way, they don't have to shed out a lot of money for R&D and they can make use of the GPUs that have been already manufactured. 

But there has been shameful and easy rebrands in the past, such as Geforce 8800GT becoming a Geforce 9800GT without a price drop. We don't want to see that again. Actually if you look at it, the GTX770 is a rebranded GTX680 with much higher clocks and much lower pricing. So NVidia did it the right way with the GTX770 as well. But the R9 280X's price is so low that what NVidia did is gone unseen. 


Saturday, October 12, 2013

[Rant] I'm not going to delid my 4770K

Why? Because there is no point. My chip is voltage limited. I cannot get 4.4GHz stable with below 1.3V and I don't want to feed it more volts. Sure some people don't care but I do. I don't want the power consumption of the CPU to increase by 50% just by getting that last 100MHz stable. Sure, if you run the CPU cooler, you can reduce the power consumption. In that sense it is worth delidding because that would allow you to du  the CPU cooler at the same settings. Plus, I have the Liquid Ultra thermal paste with me.

But, no.

I'm going to do it differently. I'm going to see what Intel is going to with Haswell Refresh that's coming in next year. I'm sure it wont be much faster than what's available right now. But it might clock better. Again, there is good chance that I would lose the silicon lottery once more. That's become a bad habit of mine. But I will no do anything else with this CPU. I wont try to tweak it anymore. I wont buy faster RAM because it would not be noticeable. I won't add another CPU fan to make it run cooler. All those are diminishing returns. I would put all best I have towards the G710+ keyboard, G602 wireless mouse and a R9-290X graphics card.
Oh btw, I ordered a new set of headphones. It w's neither the AD700X nor the G430. It's the AD500X. I felt that I was not audiophile enough to notice the difference between the 700X and the 500X. the 500X is about half the price of the 700X. These e are Japanese prices, so usually much less than rest of the world. I'll right about them on a separate post.

[Rant] Do I really need a headset?

Now that I'm headset-less, I was wondering if I should get a new pair. Last night I played a little bit of Battlefield 4 (beta) with the Apple EarPods and I didn't notice anything out of the box. In fact, it feels good not to hold that massive weight of the Roccat Kave headset on my head. I can move my head easily as well. Plus, there is way more space on the desk now. And the cable clutter coming off the back of the PC is gone as well.

Even if I'm going to buy a headset, I'm definitely not going for a true 5.1 headset. The Roccat Kaves were bulky because of the multiple drivers inside the ear cups. I had to use a splitter to connect the speakers because I didn't want to plug the pseakers to the headphone socket. Not only there were 4 cables going to the sound card, but there was a USB cable as well. The USB cable was there to power up the equalizer. I'm sure there was some post processing happening in there because there was a switch to optimize it for games or movies. I never felt a difference between them. I wonder what it actually did.

In the last couple of days I've been checking up on reviews on different headset. Two headsets stood up from the rest of the pack. One is a audiophile grade headset -  the Audiotechnica ATH-AD700X. The other ones is a gaming headset - the recently released Logitech G430 7.1 (virtual) surround sound headset.


The AD700X is a little more expensive and obviously would sound much better than the G430. But the issue with it is that the headband is loose and if you have a small head, it doesn't fit. In fact, there is no headband, but two arms like parts that rest on the head. They are too soft. After a while the headset would be resting on your ears and not on your head. Plus, if you move your head, they will fall off. There is a rubber band mod that you can do to fix this issue. But that would look ugly. The original AD700's were ugly but the AD700X looks great. Like all other audiophile grade headsets, it would lack the bass, but that is alright because they sound crystal clear and you don't want bass when you are playing multiplayer games as the bass would drown out the footsteps.

The G430 is new and is about $25 cheaper than the AD700X. Even though it has a mic just like every other gaming headset, the audio quality is sub-par. However, it does come with 7.1 virtual surround functionality. But you have to use the inbuilt sound card (well, it is not a sound "card", is it?) which connects to the PC via USB. These headsets are so flexible because the sound card can be removed. You can then connect them to the sound card on your PC (especially if you have a good audio card) using the regular 3.5mm jacks. You can use virtual surround sound provided by the sound card as well. One good thing about this is that the software that comes with the headset which allows you to control the surround sound features is the same Logitech Gaming Software. It's good to see that you can control your keyboard, mouse and headset all within one software.

I think I would be going with either of these two headsets if I'm going to get a headset. Fine, I'll use the rubber band mod to fix the issue with the AD700X. But I don't feel like shedding that much money out for something that I don't really need. I like how my desk looks like now because the headset is not there anymore. It's not as if I could take it off every time I didn't have the need for it. It's not a simple pull from the socket.

Anyways, what do you guys say? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know via the comments.

Friday, October 11, 2013

[Rant] Whats up with me and headsets: the Roccat Kaves are a goner!

Couple of years ago I bought the Roccat Kave 5.1 headset which had hardware 5.1 support with truly multiple drivers inside the ear cups. It was a bit cumbersome to use because of all the cabling and the sheer size of the headset on my small head. I looked as if I had three heads. 

Anyways, it fell of the desk and broke. It's one heavy bastard but cheap plastic hinges. The hinge holding the left cup was damaged, but I could glue it using superglue. But I'm not getting any audio from the right cup either. It's not physically damaged, so I get the cable got stretched and came off loose. 

And the mic is not working either. The mic hasn't been working for a while. I hardly used the mic but when I wanted to use it, it wasn't working anymore. The light indicating that the mic is on lights up. That's it. No, it is not a problem with the audio card, as I tried it with onboard audio of the old motherboard as well as the new Maximus VI Hero motherboard. The mic must have been dead for a while.


So last night I took it off the desk and threw it away in the cupboard for now. I won't be keeping it. I'm gonna throw it away the first chance I get. I cannot remember on which day I can throw them out. 

So right now I'm using the iPhone's ear-buds (Apple EarPods I mean) when playing games. They are working fine and are comfortable enough. I'm still wondering if I should get a new pair of headset. Perhaps I can get by with just the EarPods. I'm still in dilemma. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

[Rant] My thoughts on the AMD R7 and R9 graphic cards

The reviews on the new Graphics cards from and came out yesterday. The ones out are all re-brands  The truly new generation cards code named Hawaii are yet to come out. It seems they are coming out a week after. That's what most people are eagerly looking forward to.

The R9-280x is basically a HD7970 GHz edition card with a new cooler and different output options. It doesn't have True Audio technology that the 290 series and the 260 series seem to carry. ( makes one wonder if the 260x is a re-brand or a new card). But the good news is, it is not just a re-brand but also a repositioning in the price segment. It costs only $299 instead of the close to $400 price tag of the 7970.

The R7-270x is a re-branded 7870 but a little fast clocks. It also is going on sale for $199 which is about $40 cheaper than the 7870. The R7-260x is a re-branded 7790 (or so they say) but it is only slightly cheaper than the 7790. 



Basically speaking, the R7-270x and the R9-280x are the cards that give most bang for the buck. The R7-270x performs close to NVidia GTX760 which is $50 more expensive. R9-280x performs same as a NVidia GTX770 which is $100 more expensive. I don't care about the 260x really. So basically, for single card setups, there is no reason to buy a NVidia card below the GTX780. The GTX780 and the Titan are still uncontested though. But hopefully the R9-290 and R9-290x will have something to say about that. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

[Article] There is an advantage of going with an overkill PSU for you PC

A while back I wrote this article in which I talked about how 80Plus Rating of a PSU didn't really mean that much in reality. You should read reviews, if possible, multiple reviews before going with a particular product, not the 80Plus rating.

There are two very important things to check before you choose a PSU. The manufacturer and the capacity. You are almost certain to get a very good PSU, regardless of the 80Plus-ness, if you go with a reputed brand. One can argue that if you go with a PSU that has a high 80Plus rating (gold or platinum), you would get better internal components. Yes, that is correct, but I would pick a 80Plus Bronze rated PSU made by Corsair or Seasonic over a 80Plus Platinum rated PSU made by an unknown manufacturer. You are definitely paying a price premium for the brand name and the higher 80Plus rating, but it is better not to cheap out on PSUs. Cheap out in terms of 80Plus rating, and not the brand.

Capacity is the next point. You definitely want to have some headroom for future expansion. But how much? The GPU is the most power hungry component in a typical high-end PC (unless of course you are going with a AMD FX-9370 and overclock it further), so you can get a rough idea about how much power you need. For a high-end gaming PC with a single graphics card, even when overclocked, won't use 500W. For two graphics card, 750W should suffice. I'm talking about a typical high-end users. Not the ones who want to break overclocking records. Even for a couple of NVidia Titans, 850W PSUs would be more than enough. If you want triple or quad graphic card, you are looking at 1200-1500W to be safe. That is, only if you are going with the most power hungry GPUs. (i.e. Titan)

Now, going overkill not only costs you a lot of initial capital that will never pay off, but will also cause your power bills to go up. It won't be THAT noticeable though. See, the thing is, there is a wattage range where the PSU can perform very efficiently. When too less power is drawn from it as well as too much power is drawn from it, the efficiency goes down the toilet. Usually 20% to 80% range is where the PSU is efficient, and around the mid point is the peak of the efficiency curve. Since most PCs are sitting there idle most of the time, the PSU's operating point will be below 20%. 20% of 850W is about 160W. Most current generation PCs idle well below 100W, even with a graphics card on. Even though the PC is only using about, say, 100W, because the effiency of the PSU is low at below 20% load, the PSU might be running at 70% efficiency. This would result in the PSU pulling like 142W from the walls even though the PC is actually only using 100W. Now, if you had a PSU that has a capacity of 400W, it will be perform decently at 100W load. Perhaps you might get like 85% efficiency and that would pull only 117W from the walls. 25W difference between a 400W PSU and a 850W PSU at idle. So basically, getting a PSU that fits your PC's load is ideal in terms of the initial capital you put into the PSU and the eventual power bill. Remember though, that the difference in power consumption would be smaller when the load increases. If the 400W is too low, you might actually see better efficiency with the 850W PSU.

But going overkill has it advantages as well. The chances of failure is less because the components inside the PSU won't be stressed as much as in the case of a lower capacity PSU. That not only prolongs the lifespan of the PSU, but also allows it to run cooler and quieter. If you like silent computing, like myself, you should probably go slightly overkill in terms of the capacity of the PSU. 

P.S.
By all means, get a PSU that has modular cabling.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

[Rant] Got a cheap Lightning cable for the iPhone 5S and it is working!!

Few days ago I was in the dilemma whether to buy a Lightning cable or a mobile portable charger in case I run out of battery on my iPhone 5S. Initially I was in the opinion that a cheap third party cable wouldn’t work at all. But on Amazon I found few cables and when I read the reviews on them, I found out that some cables seemed to work better than others. However, even the ones that worked for some people, didn’t work for others.

But they were so cheap compared to an official one from the Apple store. Basically, they were about 10 times cheaper. Some even 20 times cheaper. The official cable is about JPY2,000 while the ones available on Amazon were about JPY100 ~ 200. Cheap, right? So I wanted to try one out. Worse case would be getting a dud cable. I hope it won’t kill the phone though.

So I ordered this one and it arrived today. It didn’t qualify for Amazon Prime, but I didn’t have to pay for shipping. It just took a bit longer than next day delivery.

IMG_0059

It has a weird marking on the USB jack. Who cares, right? I am going to use this on the office PC.

But it works! That’s all I care about. I could sync the phone to iTunes and the battery also got charged, The only worry is whether it can harm the phone in any way.

Now I am wondering if I really want a mobile charger. Sure, the office is not the only place the battery can die. What if I go on a trip? Hmm…. decision!

Friday, October 4, 2013

[Rant] Should I get a mobile charger or a second lightning cable for myiPhone 5S?

I'm very happy with the battery life of the iPhone 5S. With regular usage, it can easily last a day with my usage behavior. But that is not to say that there won't be a day I'll manage to drain the battery out. Like day before yesterday, I managed to drop it to 10% before I came back home from work. But yesterday it didn't drop below 50%. That's a new record for me.

I used to charge the old iPhone 4S while I was at work. I had a spare 30 pin USB cable made by a 3rd party that did the job. But the iPhone 5S uses the new lightning cable and Apple doesn't seem to let 3rd parties manufacture them. But if I browse through Amazon, I can see that a lot of people are selling the lightning cable for couple of hundred yen. That's 10 times cheaper than the price Apple is charging for the original cables. Some say they work, some say they don't.

Even if I manage to find a working lightning cable at a low price, it won't be as versatile as a mobile charger. Versatile in the sense, I can use it anywhere. I need to have a PC to charge it. On the plus side, I can get the files out of the phone (for example, the photos) if I have the cable alone. However, I'm sure there are chargers that come with a lightning cable as well, so you get the best of both worlds. But it is definitely not as cheap as getting just the cable.


What do you guys say? Which one should I opt for? Should I get a mobile charger or just the lightning cable. Maybe I should get both?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

[Rant] Blistering fast downloads via OCN Flets Hikari connection with EA Origin

The public beta of the most anticipated game of the year, Battlefield 4, came out yesterday. However, they let us preload the game the previous day and be ready as soon as the game went online. I also had the Battlefield 4 Beta automatically added to my games list, and even though I am not much of a Battlefield fan, I started downloading it.

This is not the first time, but the download finished in about 5 minutes. The download size is 5.5GB. That’s about 18MBps (not Mbps) average. I hit over 23MBps towards the last quarter actually.

Origin_-_87%_Complete_2013-09-30_19-07-12

Few times before, I have been managed to fully exhaust the connection, which is supposed to be 200Mbps (or 25MBps at max efficiency). The funny thing is that OCN sales personnel said that in reality you won’t get more than 100Mbps. Hey, 100Mbps is nothing to be sad about. It’s 200 times faster than the connection I have at home!!!

Of course I didn’t play the game fore more than a few minutes. The game wouldn’t play full screen, Hitting ALT + Enter didn’t fix it. Sabreen said it could be because of TeamViewer and I still couldn’t check it out. He could be right. I had the same issue with BF3 as well, when I checked it a few days ago. I had been using TeamViewer to monitor the PC remotely when I was stress testing it to see if the overclock was stable. I don’t really need it anymore, but I’ll keep it there in case I need to access the PC remotely. Of course, I have to have the PC turned ON in the first place.

[Rant] They replaced the defective screen protector!

Remember few days ago I bought a case and a screen protector for my shiny new iPhone 5S? The screen protector had a line carved onto it, where the two stickers separated. There were two screen protectors in the package so I tried the both of them and both of them were defective.

I informed this to Micro Solutions Inc, who was the seller of the product, and they sent me a new screen protector. Two of them in fact, just like in the original package, because I had to use up both of them needlessly.

The new ones are flawless. I actually have gained proper skill on how to apply them without dust particles or air bubbles getting caught in between. The first time I did it, there was a little mishap. The second times was perfect, except that line was carved in to the screen protector. The new one was applied perfectly as well, and it doesn’t have the line. Happiness!

iPhone5S_ProGuard

Now I have to send the defective one back to them. They sent me a package to put it in. It’s already been paid for. I only have to call the courier and arrange a time to come and pick it up. Simple. I’m going to do it on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

[Rant] Not impressed about the Ear pods

Remember I told you that I broke my Zagg Smart Buds few months ago. I decided to wait and see how the Ear Pods that come with the iPhone 5S would perform. Now that I have had the phone with me for about a week, I have come to a conclusion that they are even worse that the old Ear Buds.

Well, they are sort of more confortable in the ear that the previous design. But they fall off much easily. Maybe it is because I had gotten used to the old design after using it for couple of months. I could even run wearing them. Of course neither design is well thought after like the Zagg Smart Buds. But I thought they would at least stick in the ear better than the old design.

1024x600px-LL-0370d4ba_AppleEarpodsandEarbuds

Now I am wondering if I should buy a new pair of earphones. I am still leaning towards the Smart Buds. Zagg has better quality ear buds called ZR-6, but they don’t carry the around the neck design. Nonsense!!!

Should I give the Ear Pods more time?

[Rant] Forgot that I had to change the Credit Card used for Domain Registration!!!

If you haven't noticed, I am using Blogger for my blog, but I am using a custom domain called anushand.com. I have bought it through Google Apps and the domain provider is GoDaddy. It only costs JPY1,000 per year. I have not had any issues after setting up the domain, even though the setting up part was rather tedius.

Today, however, I got an email from Google saying that the payment for Domain was declined by the credit card company. I had set it up so that it automatically charges the Domain Registration fee annually. Only then I remembered that I had to renew my Credit Card and that I forgot to update it there. I went to update it but I could not get into the admin console. I couldn't even remember which account I used for it.

Once I found the link, which is https://admin.google.com/anushand.com/AdminHome, I tried both my accounts but none of them could get me in. But after I signed out of Google, I could log in with the credentials. Phew!

After that, I went into Billing and chose Domain Registration and clicked on Billing Settings. From there I added not just one payment method, by two, in case one of them fails. 




Then I had to make the payment manually, which they say would be reflected in a few days *hopefully*.

Phew! My domain is still working fine. :)

[Rant] Should I upgrade the RAM on my Haswell rig?

When I upgraded to Haswell, I decided to keep using the RAM from the old rig. They are two kits of 4GBx2 Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz RAM. I tried overclocking those RAM, but they don’t want to deviate from the stock settings. Funny thing is though, they can work fine at XMP settings with just 1.35V, down from the 1.50V.

With the previous couple of generations, RAM speed didn’t make any difference in performance. But the integrated memory controller (IMC) on Haswell CPUs is strong and can run RAM even at 3GHz. (Sure it can cripple the core overclock of the CPU). Anandtech published an article saying that the sweet spot is between 1866MHz and 2400MHz.

Even then, the performance advantage is negligible. But for me, I can upgrade RAM and improve some other aspects of the rig.

  • First is, by buying a 8GBx2 kit, I can lower the power consumption as well as the stress on the IMC. Usually, when you populate all the memory slots, it stresses the IMC more.
  • Second is, if I can go with low profile modules, I can mount a 3rd fan on the CPU cooler for improved cooling performance. But it won’t make a big difference.

So which kit fits all these criteria? I could find only one such kit. Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP kit. They are low profile (not just low profile heat sink, but the PCB itself it low profile; even with the heatsink they are shorter than standard RAM with no heatsink), cheaper than the kits in the same league (JPY14,470), comes with life-time warranty and uses only 1.35V. They operate at 1600MHz 8-8-8-24 timings. The speed is not great, but reviews say that if you push the volts to 1.5V, you can easily clock them to 2133MHz, which is very good considering they still cost less than 2133MHz sticks. However, I’ve been bitten by putting my faith in these reviewers, who usually get cherry picked samples. A lot of people managed to run the Vengeance sticks at 2000MHz or above but mine wouldn’t budge.

crucial_BLT2K4G3D1608ET3LX0

On the second hand, the 2400MHz sticks are well over JPY 20,000 and come with tall heat sinks. I won’t be able to install a 3rd fan in there.

2013-10-02_00-30-19

But I still haven’t decided whether to get these or not. The RAM prices have gone up in the last few days and perhaps they won’t come down anytime soon. The prices of these Crucial sticks have not gone up. Maybe I should order them now, and sell my current sticks later when the prices are up.

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