Monday, June 30, 2014

Tempted to buy a second hand R9 290

It seems that the coin miners have moved away from the Graphics cards based on AMD's GCN architectures to something else. There are so many second hand cards available in the wild, that are looking for a new home. If you go on eBay and searched for the terms "R9 290", you'll be presented with search results for a massive number of cheap R9 290/290X graphics cards going for dirt cheap. You could easily have a 290 for $290. 

Unfortunately, if I'm ordering from Japan, I'll have to pay for shipping as well as for duty. For a $300 card, it would be about $60, bringing the total up to $360. And that's without warranty too. That's reaching almost the price of a reference model here in Japan.

There has also been a non-reference model from a local brand (the same brand of my old HD5770 from 4 years ago) for around $360, but it is no better than the reference model. You might think that's OK for the price. But that's not. The reference model at least exhausts all the hot air out of the case through its exhaust vents. This card doesn't. It dumps all the heat back into the case and the case fans will have to do overtime to keep the video cards as well as all the components inside the case reasonably cool. So I should not think about buying this card to begin with.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Decided to auction my Haswell CPU as well


Now that shops in Japan are selling the Core i7 4790K CPU aka the Devil's Canyon Core i7 variant, I decided to give a shot at selling my current CPU. Why? Because my CPU doesn't overclock well at a decent voltage. I cannot think of owning a CPU that doesn’t overclock at least past the clock speed that I could overclock the predecessor to. (I managed to overclock my old Sandybridge 2600K for 4.5GHz)

If there is any chance that I would be able to make my PC shrinking project a reality, I would want a CPU that doesn't heat up like a nuclear reactor. Besides, it is fun to play with a new CPU.

If I sell the CPU to a shop, the most I can make is JPY26,000 which is a little less than what I would want. So auctioning is the way to go.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Apple's podcast app ruined my morning!


Today is Friday. That means, I should be able to listen to the new episode of PC Perspective podcast. Hoping to do exactly that, I opened the Podcasts app in my iPhone 5S as I woke up. I usually get ready for work listening to a podcast.

Sure, the episode was there. But as soon as I started playback, the app crashed. I reopened the app several times and with each iteration, it seemed to crash even faster.

Naturally, what you would do in this situation is try rebooting the device. But it didn't fix the issue.

Next option was to sync with iTunes and see. I connected the phone to iTunes and removed all of the podcasts that were there in the phone and synced the ones from the PC to the phone. I thought that a mismatch between the podcasts on the phone and the ones on the PC might have caused these crashes. I also cleaned the podcasts in iTunes before syncing them with the iPhone. No, that didn't fix the problem.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Titanfall is free to play for 48 hours!


Yes, it’s a huge game. Said 50GB in the download page, but people say it is actually 23GB or so. But of course I downloaded it. It’s not as if I have any bandwidth issues with my internet connection.

You can get it from here. After the 48hrs expire, you can either buy the game to continue playing the game with the progress that you made so far, or simply stop it. I don’t know if you can buy it at a later day and continue from the point that you stopped though.

I got a massive download speed when I got it. The game was downloaded and installed within 40 minutes. That’s pretty quick for a game of this size. This is the fastest that I’ve managed to download a large game.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Controlling the CPU fan speed without AI Suite on Maximus VI Hero


I had been using the Asus AI Suite from the very first day I bought the Maximus VI Hero motherboard. I used the fan controlling feature of it but wasn’t really happy that I couldn’t limit the maximum fan speed to a value that I liked.

Two things happened recently.

  1. I sold the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler and went back to the old Antec Kuhler 620 with a Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-29 fan cooling the radiator
  2. I decided to shred the bloat-ware off the PC to maintain the system responsiveness

The Gentle Typhoon fan came with a molex cable for powering itself up. I cut the cable and attached a 3-pin header to control the fan speed using the fan controller. Back then I had a hardware fan controller also made by Scythe. After I installed the cooler recently, I used AI Suite to control the fan speed. AI Suite was too aggressive with it’s sensitivity which made the noise vary rapidly depending on the CPU load. That was really irritating.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Battlefield Hardline goes open beta finally


I tried a couple of times to get into the closed beta of Battlefield Hardline, but I never got an invite. Doesn’t matter anymore. It’s gone open beta now. You can get it from this link.

Time to download and play is before the beta expires! Let’s see if my GTX 670 still has some life left in it. It will have a hard time pumping those 4 million pixels at 60FPS. I’m sure I will have to drop the graphics details a bit.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Next Surface Pro might be the one to get


Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3 few weeks ago and it comes with some nice upgrades. The display has a higher resolution and the tablet body is thinner and lighter than the previous versions.

But is it enough? Not to me. I need it to be thinner and I want those fans out.

Good news is that it might not be that farther down the road. Intel announced the Broadwell Mobile CPUs - aka Core-M - which can run without active cooling. Holy cow!

I currently have the Asus Transformer Book T100 tablet but that's just darn slow for me. Sure it's running the latest BayTrail Atom CPU which is almost twice as faster as the CloverTrail which I also owned about a year ago but sold because I had a lot of issues with it. But it is still not good enough for me. I need a proper Core-I CPU with 4GB RAM and a proper SSD (not the crappy eMMC you find in these Atom based tablets). For that, you have to get the Surface Pro.

Then you might ask why not just buy an iPad Air. It fits the description, right? But I like the flexibility of Windows. You can transfer data using a USB stick. You can connect to the desktop PC that's running Windows without any hard work. To be honest, those are pretty much the only advantages of having a Windows tablet but those are very important to me.

So, next year will probably be my chance to buy a Surface tablet unless Microsoft goes bankrupt or discontinues Surface tablet production. A year is a long time but I will wait for a proper revision before buying a Surface Pro tablet.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

[Guide] Tweaking the setting to get less input lag in games

Couple of days ago I came across a thread in OCN (click here to check it out) that talked about the things you could do to lower the input lag of your PC. Why should you care? Because less input lag translates to a smoother gaming experience. You might be getting 120FPS or more, but it still could feel choppy if you have a high input lag.

While I have a decent PC with me (right?), I have been having similar issues with Crysis 3 multiplayer (click here to go to my Crysis 3 game play videos on YouTube), which is pretty much the only game that I play regularly. It didn’t feel smooth at all. I had some hard time aiming and it drove me insane. This happened even with a reasonably high refresh rate of 96Hz. It seemed weird why I would get a lag at such a refresh rate even when the frame rate wasn't dipping below the refresh rate. Naturally, I blamed the wireless mouse at first. But it seemed that I had been having some DPC latency issues. And some of the things this guy mentioned, helped me to dramatically improve responsiveness in Crysis 3, even with massive ping times.

Few of the things that the guy suggested can be considered hardcore. Things such as uninstalling the Keyboard/Mouse software is a big no no. I need the ability to remap the keys of the mouse and the keyboard in difference apps. Further, disabling the virus guard and Anti-Spyware software is not a wise thing to do.

I performed a lot of changes in the UEFI that he suggested. The biggest change to the DPC Latency was caused by disabling HPET (High Precision Event Timer). But I kept the USB 3.0 settings in tact. Besides, I had disabled a lot of things that I didn’t use anyways.

He also suggested disabling all the power saving features of the CPU. Some people do that when they overclock the CPU but I have never turned off the power saving options with any of the CPUs. Besides,  it is impossible for the CPU to be in a low power state when you are inside a game. But the clock rate fluctuations might cause stuttering, so I just disabled it. But I wanted to see how much power the CPU will use if I disabled all the power saving features (that is the C states) and it amounted to like 25W when I checked it through AISuite. Usually when all the power saving features are ON, it could even go down to 1W. This didn't change regardless of whether I had dynamic clock scaling (turbo boost) enabled or disabled or whether I had EIST enabled or disabled. So I disabled both so that the clock speed doesn't fluctuate. I further set the power settings to "High Performance" in Windows Power Management section. However, since C states are still enabled, there is a small lag when the CPU comes from a power saving state to the fully operational state. But like I said, this should not cause any issues once you get inside a game.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Devil's Canyon pre-orders are now available (2014-06-13)

Couple of days ago, many shops in Japan started taking pre-orders for the Devil's Canyon CPUs – the 4690K and the 4790K. From past experience, I already knew the prices won't be anywhere near the US prices. But I wanted to just check if I was wrong. Sadly, I wasn't.

The Core i7 4790K model, which is the only one that I really care about, is priced at JPY39,722. The above image shows the prices posted on Tsukumo's website. The prices are same across all shops. Of course, this is inclusive of the 8% consumption tax. But even if you take it away, the price of the CPU would come close to $360 which is $20 more than the US price. Still, it is not that bad, right? Well, the problem is, the 4770K model which is supposed to carry the same price tag as the 4790K, costs JPY3,000 less. So there is no second guessing that all these companies are trying to steal from the early adopters.

I, on the other hand, will not change my stance. I will buy the motherboard + CPU combo because that way I will be entitled to combo deals. Even though my PC downsizing project is standing still as I haven't managed to get rid of the case yet, I will probably get the 4790K + Z97 micro ATX board combo when they come out. There is already one, but that is with the memory as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Logitech G602 battery life


My Logitech G602 mouse was delivered to me on April 4, so it is 2 months and a week to-date. So how many times did I have to change the batteries?

Zero times!

The battery life of this “wireless” mouse is downright amazing. I’m still using the original batteries that came bundled with the mouse. According to the Logitech Gaming Software (the screenshot above), there is about half of the battery life still left.

I have to confess though, I didn’t have much time to play games in the past few days. That privilege was available in the weekend, and even then when the baby was sleeping. As a result, the mouse was mostly in the “Endurance” state, not “Performance” state. But still…it’s admirable. I was expecting to change the batteries at least once every two weeks.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Devil’s Canyon overclocking? Yay or nay?


Devil’s Canyon is the code name for the two CPUs from Intel aimed at enthusiast overclocking. They are still based on the same Haswell micro architecture though. What’s different is that they have better TIM – something Intel calls next generation polymer based TIM – and few more capacitors underneath the CPU to smooth out the power delivery to the CPU. Would just these two changes be enough to win back the hearts of the enthusiasts.

However, in a previous post I mentioned that the Devil’s Canyon CPUs – especially the 4790K - weren’t performing up to my expectations. That was completely based on a review posted on Hexus, which didn’t even explore the overclocking capabilities of the CPU. It seemed like a rushed up job and they just wanted the initial swarm of people looking for the reviews to come to their website.

But today, two more reviews went online; one from PCPerspective and the other one from Digital Storm. Just like one would expect, they do explore the overclocking capabilities of the CPU. But neither sample was able to make me feel enthusiastic about the CPU. The one PCPerspective got only managed to do 4.7GHz at 1.365V. The one Digital Storm got only managed to do 4.8GHz at 1.370V. Those are pretty high voltages for CPUs built on the 22nm fabrication process. And neither managed to hit the magic 5GHz. In fact, there are people who own 4770K’s that can do 5GHz at as little as 1,3V but that is the cream of the crop CPUs. However, despite the high voltages, the coolers they used – AIO water cooler by PCPerspective and a custom water loop by Digital Storm – seem to have managed to tame the temps down to reasonable levels. At least that’s something. The new TIM seems to do it’s job just fine. Still, you would probably get much better temps with a delid and Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra TIM.

Since these CPUs come with a guaranteed 4.4GHz clock speed – at least in the case of the 4790K, every 4790K will be able to overclock past my current CPU – which can do a measly 4.3GHz – while keeping the temps lower. That means lower fan noise as well. If you look from that perspective, it seems upgrading to the 4790K still has some merits, even if I get a dud chip that can merely do 4.6GHz at 1.3V. The only way to tame the temperature with my current CPU is to delid, which I am hesitant to do as it would make reselling harder – especially with the clumsy clock scaling of my chip.

Even though the initial impressions are not that positive, I would still be waiting to see how the retail chips would overclock and the pricing of the chips in Japan. One would probably argue that Haswell-E is the way to go, but that could require a substantial amount of money.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Rant] Saw a 4K PC display for the first time at Yodobashi

2014-06-04 16.59.50

Today I went to Yodobashi Camera and there I saw the new "cheap" Asus 4K display, the PB287Q. It has been only days since this model has come out and it is good to see that you can already buy it in Japan. The price is decent (you get back 10% of the price as points to use on a future purchase) given the usual high prices when a product is initially launched in Japan.

I didn't get to play much with it, unfortunately. Just saw a movie playing in full screen – that is their demo - and also played a little bit with the desktop. The text wasn't small, so I thought that there was some kind of DPI scaling at play. But I couldn't notice anything out of the ordinary in the DPI settings section of the control panel. I was in a hurry so couldn’t play with it much. So I snapped a quick photo and came home.

Maybe one day I will be able to afford a 4K display. But the thing is, they are pretty expensive at present. It is not just the display itself, but the entire 4K Eco-system - especially if you are a PC gamer. You would need no less than dual Radeon R9 290 grade graphics cards to pump all that pixels while maintaining smooth frame-rates in games. When I bought my 1440p QNIX display, I thought it would be the same but 4K is twice that much pixels, so you get the idea.

But I think 4K displays have a long way to go. Currently the best displays refresh the panel at only 60Hz. But you can get displays up to 144Hz if you are willing to sacrifice the resolution for speed. It will take a long time for us to see a 4K display pulling that kind of a stunt. Remember, 4K means 4 times the number of pixels than a 1080p display. We'd need a massive bandwidth for it to work. Maybe the formulation of a new display connectivity standard.

[Rant] Kind of disappointed about Devil's Canyon

Yesterday at Computex 2014, Intel revealed the Devil's Canyon chips to the public. Sadly, they won't be available for purchase this instant. We'll have to wait for another 3 months for that. At least, there were few positive things about the unveiling.

First of all, the clocks are identical to what the leaks were saying. 4GHz base/4.4GHz boost for the 4790K and 3.5GHz base/3.9GHz boost for the 4690K. It's interesting to see how confident Intel are to release the 4790K at such high clock speeds. And the TDP is 88W for both of them.

Secondly, the pricing. Both chips aren't that much expensive than what the 4770K/4670K are priced at. I thought Intel would ask for a huge premium for them. But not the case. They are asking $250 for the 4690K and $350 for the 4790K. Quite reasonable, given the pricing of the entire lineup. But that makes one wonder if it is possible that these CPUs aren't as good as what we were made to believe.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this is indeed the case. There aren't many reviews out there and there definitely aren't any reviews that have explored the overclocking potential of these CPUs. But something that Hexus posted on their initial review is concerning. They had the following words to say about the temperature of the CPU.
A word or two about temperatures: Intel says it is to use the same processor-in-box (PIB) cooler for this chip as for the 4770K. We used just such a heatsink during regular testing and found that, due to the extra power consumption generated by higher voltages, the Core i7-4790K ran hotter, at an average of 88C, compared to 78C for the older Haswell processor.

Monday, June 2, 2014

[Rant] Z87 boards are going to support Intel Devil's Canyon? Oh yeah!

Despite what Intel made us believe, Z87 chipset seems to support Devil's Canyon. At least on some boards. Couple of days ago, I checked the support page of my motherboard - the Asus ROG Maximus VI Hero - to see if there were any new driver updates available. I went into BIOS page, but didn't really expect to see any new versions out. But to my amazement, there was a new version - 1504 - which had a very interesting description under it.

But there was a little bit of confusion caused by the wording. It said "Devil's Canyon CPU" and not "CPUs". But we know there are at least two CPUs - the Core i5 4690K and the Core i7 4790K. So what is it? Does this bios only support the unlocked Pentium model? But as far as I know, it does not carry the code name "Devil's Canyon". This had been debated on OCN forums, until someone posted the actual CPU support list for the motherboard.

It clearly states that the Core i7 4790K is supported. But I didn't check whether the Core i5 model is supported as well, because I simply have no interest in it.

[Rant] Prices of R9 290 are dropping but it is a good time to buy one?

The prices of the Radeon R9 290 with custom coolers have dropped below the $500 mark in Japan. Still I believe that is a steep price to pay. So I might stick with the new plans after all. That is, to wait till the GeForce GTX 880 comes out. But I am afraid that I won't be able to afford one. I might have to go down a notch - that is the GTX 870.

If the R9 290 cards with custom coolers were available for less than $500 at launch, I probably would have gone for it. But those cards have been available for more than 6 months and it won't be long before we see the next big thing from either company, right?

On the other hand, people seem to be selling their Radeon cards for dirt cheap on eBay. Maybe I should grab one of them? Not sure if I want to take that risk though. Those cards could be hammered to death - figuratively speaking. Even if that is not the case, I won't get a warranty. Nah! Buying local is better.

Come on NVidia. Release the darn cards!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

[Rant] Oops! It wasn't the mouse pads. It was the wireless adaptor

2014-06-01 21.00.05

I recently wrote two posts (this one and this one) mentioning that the Logitech G602 mouse had some issues with the mouse pads I owned. One from Razor called Sphex and the other from Steelseries called QCK. I tried switching to the bare wooden surface of the desk a couple of days ago but yesterday I found out that it also showed the same behavior with the mouse. The mouse pointer would skip and jump every now and then making it impossible to play Crysis 3 MP.

Then a thought struck me. Could it be a problem with the quality of signal reception? The mouse came with an extension cable for the USB receiver but I didn't use it because the mouse seemed to work just fine without it. Not to mention how much I disliked adding more cable clutter to the back of the desk.

But I had to give it a go as last resort.

And it seems that I nailed the culprit. It indeed was a reception problem.

So stupid of me for coming into false conclusions. I guess I should dig back one of the mouse pad then eh? I prefer the Sphex because it doesn't cause any resistance. Let's see if it definitely was a reception problem.

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