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Issue 287/january 2014

No.1 for reviews

Speed up your pC

Nvidia GtX 78 OCZ VeCtOr 0 ti 150 ssD BitFENiX pr odiGy M AMD r9 270

Optimise Windows for the best experience

How to

Build a Bf4 rig

¤ Hit 60fps at 1080p in Battlefield 4 ¤ Make a killer system for £740

make your GameS look aweSome Simple monitor calibration for movies and gaming

Set up your own web Server today

Everything you need to build and manage your own site

Get the moSt from your SSd

How to configure your storage for optimal performance

PLUS ¤ Take control of your photos with Gimp ¤ Update your programs automatically ¤ Get your head round qCraft ¤ How to mine Litecoins


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#287/01.14 WorldMags.net

54 Double

your speed 6 High resolution revolution

42 Build a BF4 rig

Featuring…

Hardware reviews…

6 High-resolution revolution The finest big screens around

20 Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti

42 Build a BF4 rig 22 AMD Radeon Hit 60fps in Battlefield 4 R9 270 54 Double your speed 23 AMD Radeon Tips and tricks to boost your PC R7 250

Regulars… 48 Rig Builder 50 Tech Porn: Asus RoG Mars 760 92 Ask Luis 98 Voice of Reason 4

January 2014

28 OCZ Vector 150 30 Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 2 32 Raijintek Ereboss 34 Gunnar Vayper Mercury 36 BitFenix Prodigy M

24 Aria Gladiator Gaming Infinite

38 CM Storm Pulse-R/ Tesoro Kuven

26 Crucial Ballistix 16GB SODIMM

39 Corsair Vengeance 1400/ SteelSeries Siberia Elite

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e to Subscrib NOW! find

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2to Seepage 5save… outhowto

take the Battle tO yOur pc Isn’t it about time your treated yourself to a real gaming machine?

20

36

62

Call of Duty: Ghosts

66

The Stanley Parable

70

Calibrate your monitor

Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti

BitFenix Prodigy M

Hotwired…

70 Calibrate your monitor

Make sure your monitor isn’t ruining your gaming visuals

76 Fine-tune your SSD

Squeeze the last drop of performance from your SSD

80 Host your own website Turn your computer into a webserver with Linux

84 Edit photos with GIMP

Game reviews… 60 Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag 62 CoD: Ghosts 64 F1 2013 66 The Stanley Parable

88 Get automatic updates

68 The Wolf Among Us

90 Mine Litecoins

69 Rocksmith 2014

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ar may be good for absolutely nothing, but a good battle is great for sorting out the current state of the component market. With the release of Battlefield 4 we’ve taken it upon ourselves to build a killer gaming rig, capable of silky smooth visuals, while keeping one eye on the overall price of such a machine. You can find the results of our tinkering and experiences on page 42, where we also show you how to tweak Battlefield 4 to get the most out of it on any hardware. The resulting machine may have been built with one game in mind, but it will kick serious butt when it comes to any modern game. This makes it a great machine to build if you haven’t treated yourself to an upgrade in a while, and a phenomenal system if you’re being pestered for advice on what components should go into a modern gaming PC. Advice that we’re being asked for more and more at the moment as people weigh up their options in these days of the new generation of consoles. If you do build yourself a new machine, then pay a little thought to the screen you’re going to hook it up to as well. This issue we take a good look at some of the most interesting screen tech to be released lately, and consider what the release of the first 4K screens means to the market. We also show you how to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your current screen, with our special guide for calibrating your display for gaming and movies on page 70. On top of this we’ve also got a feature showing you how to optimise Windows for performance, how to make sure your SSDs are set up optimally and configure automatic updates for your programs. Plus we get digging for Litecoins and show you how to set up your own web server, and so much more. Enjoy the issue.

Alan Dexter Editor

alan.dexter@futurenet.com

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High-resolution revolution

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High-resolution revolution

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Super HD DiSplayS are olD newS in SmartpHoneS anD tabletS. but rejoice, SayS jeremy lairD, for tHey’re finally coming to tHe pc

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he king is dead. Long live the king. After a few years when stereoscopic 3D ruled supreme as the next big thing in PC displays, it’s finally been usurped. High-DPI or high-resolution tech is the master of all it surveys, and that’s a very good thing indeed. Stereoscopic 3D was only a big noise in PC visuals because the industry was frantically searching for something new to promote – something to pimp and generally shout about. Not that 3D is entirely worthless, but 3D based on silly goggles has for us always been a niche activity. It’s not the future of PC displays. But that’s exactly how we see the role of high-res technology. So far, the history of high-res in desktop PCs has been one of frustration. Way back in 2006, Dell rolled out the glorious 3007WFP and its 2,560 x 1,600 pixel grid. There was much rejoicing, but the harsh truth for a long while after was that little progress followed. In the meantime, 1080p resolutions and fabulously high-DPI displays have become routine in smartphones. Tablets with four megapixels or more are

commonplace. Even affordable laptops and lightweight Ultrabooks have managed to match or even outstrip that magisterial Dell panel. So, it’s with much fanfare that we welcome the first 4K PC monitors. Okay, they have price tags almost as preposterous as their pixel counts, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Likewise, it’s good to see that more and more monitor makers are offering 27in monitors with healthy 2,560 x 1,440 panels. Overall, it feels like we’re on our way again. So that’s why the time is ripe for getting a feel for the state of play in properly high-resolution PC displays, but what’s available today? And will you have to make compromises in other areas in return for all those lovely pixels? There are plenty of other trends to keep up with in PC display tech. High refresh rate panels are gradually spreading out across the market, for instance. BenQ, among others, is now offering LCD monitors with claimed flicker-free backlighting and Nvidia has its own ideas about how to enable seriously smooth frame rates, so it’s time to get pedantic about flat panels.

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ScreenS revieweD aSuS PQ321Q

benQ BL2710PT

Hazro HZ29WiA

iiyama XB2779QS

SamSung 9 SerieS SyncMASTer S27B971D viewSonic VP2770-LeD

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Size matters revolution High-resolution

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Jargon explained High DPI DPI is all the rage with smartphones, but it can be a misleading term. It refers to the number of dots or pixels per inch. DPI does matter on a PC display, but overall resolution is more important. A bit of variance in DPI doesn’t really matter, but more pixels give increased visual detail and more desktop work space.

e’ve been waiting an awfully long time, but it feels like the highresolution revolution is finally coming to the desktop PC. To be clear, there have always been high resolution PCs. In fact, given a large enough budget, the PC has offered the highest screen resolutions of any technology from its inception. in recent years, however, the Pc was increasingly being left behind by mobile devices in what you might called the mainstream high-DPi explosion. currently, by far the most common resolution for new desktop Pc monitors is 1,920 x 1,080, which is the same pixel grid offered by most high-end smartphones with mere four or five-inch screens. compare that to tablets and things only look worse. The Apple iPad’s retina upgrade arrived over a year and a half ago, bringing with it 2,048 x 1,536 pixels and setting off a resolution race. Today, you can

buy a Google nexus 10in tablet with a staggering native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Of course, smartphones and tablets aren’t Pcs, so maybe that comparison isn’t fair. Problem is, laptop Pcs and Ultrabooks have been getting in on the action, too. Once again, it was Apple that set the tone with the first MacBook retina models and their bonkers 2,880 by 1,800 pixel 15in panels, again well over a year ago. “That’s not a Pc,” you say? in hardware terms, a MacBook is a Pc and will run Windows happily enough. Anyway, with the likes of Dell now producing 11in Ultrabooks with 2,560 x 1,440 pixel panels, you know that the high-resolution revolution has gone mainstream. Moreover, much as it pains us to say it, we have Apple to thank for this burgeoning high-resolution revolution in digital devices. it was Apple that got high-res into the public consciousness with its retina displays for tablets and phones . Without those, at the very least, the revolution would have been much longer coming.

“With Dell producing Ultrabooks with 2,500 x 1,440 pixel panels, high-res has gone mainstream”

It pains us to admit this, but we have apple’s retina displays to thank for this new high-res revolution

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Is backlight flicker a biggie? We’ve tested BenQ’s flicker-free monitor and we can’t tell the difference

The final piece of the broader display puzzle is, of course, the HDTV. Fair to say, it’s a little more immune to the influence of all things Apple, but even here, the next big thing is actually smaller pixels. 4K technology is beginning to build momentum.

Sharp Shooter

in case you’ve missed our coverage of 4K in PCF passim, it refers to the number of horizontal pixels – in this case 4,000. The number actually varies a little in practice. Unlike the 1080p standard, which is always 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, a 4K display might have slightly fewer than 4,000 horizontal pixels, or slightly more. The vertical pixel count varies too, but is typically around 2,100. But the finer details don’t matter a great deal. Whether you’ve got 3,840 or 4,000 pixels, the overall result is still a panel with roughly four times as many pixels as a 1080p display. Four times the pixels, four times the visual detail. The first 4K Pc monitors have arrived but at fairly eye-watering prices of around £3,000, but we’re hoping that will change fairly rapidly. What’s more, the idea of using an HDTV as a Pc monitor might actually make sense with 4K. Our thinking goes something like this. With 1080p technology, a really big screen – say 40in and up – meant really big pixels. Fine when viewing from 10 feet away. Bad when it’s a Pc monitor a foot and a


High-resolution Size revolution matters

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half from your face. But a 40in 4K screen would have a pixel pitch as good or better than most current monitors. Food for thought.

hIgh-reS doldrumS

Anyway, put all that together and you’ve got displays big and small going super high-res, and the Pc trapped awkwardly in the middle. Fortunately, that’s beginning to change. Actually, we thought it was beginning to change back in 2006 when Dell rolled out the 2,560 x 1,600 30in 3007WFP, but 30in panels never really took off and aren’t a whole lot cheaper today than they were in 2006. instead, it’s the 27in 2,560 x 1,440 segment that’s finally giving the high-res monitor market a proper kick start. For a while, only one manufacturer was producing 27in high-res screens, namely LG. Sure, you could buy 27-inchers from plenty of monitor makers, but they all used the same panel. That’s not good, because a single supplier isn’t conducive to competitive pricing. Then Samsung came on board, and more recently AU Optronics has got in on the game too. For us, AU Optronics’ entry is the most significant. That’s partly because AU Optronics tends to

operate towards the value end of the market, pricing its panels aggressively, but it’s also because it uses its own panel technology (AHVA or Advanced Hyper Viewing Angle). it’s really AU Optronics’ take on iPS, but again it adds to competition and choice. Of course, with any exciting new technology there has to be something that threatens to spoil to party, and that something is graphics performance. With a 4K panel, you’re pumping four times the number of pixels for each frame, so to maintain frame rates, you need four times the graphics horsepower. That’s very, very scary. We’ve done some reasonably extensive testing in this area, and our conclusion is that the video card that can cope with 4K has yet to be created. not even the new radeon r9 290 Series from AMD or GeForce GTX 780 Ti from nvidia can handle the heat from the 4K kitchen. Perhaps a trio of 780 Tis could do the trick, but the bottom line is that there’s work to be done. But that’s okay, because panels in the broader 2,560-pixel market are pretty bloody wonderful and halve the stress on you GPU compared with 4K. Likewise, the one good thing about the relatively slow pace of change in the Pc monitor market is that a high-res panel bought today is about as good a long-term investment as you can make. So, as Arnold Schwarzenegger says, do it. Do it now. ■

It’s been a long time coming and is far too expensive for now, but 4K has finally arrived on the pC

Super-smooth graphics Last year saw the arrival of the first mainstream LcD monitors with super-high refresh rates beyond 120Hz. now some manufacturers are flogging 240Hz panels. What’s next for super-smooth graphics? Nvidia recently pulled the wraps off a new technology known as g-Sync. the idea here is syncing the gpu with the display. this is possible to a degree already courtesy of v-sync settings in-game or via the graphics driver. the problem is, v-sync is a pretty blunt tool and only really works at certain refresh rate steppings. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the mismatch inherent in a display with a fixed refresh rate being fed variable frame rates by a gpu means stuttering is usually going to creep in somewhere. the answer is to dynamically match the display refresh to the gpu’s output, and that’s exactly what g-Sync technology does. the only slight snag is that it requires hardware built into the display, so you’ll need to invest in a new monitor, which could be a deal-breaker. In better news, g-Sync works with any Nvidia gpu from the 650 ti upwards. overall, we welcome g-Sync, but we’ll have to wait and see how widely the tech is adopted. It’s not very much use if it limits your choice of monitor to a handful of compatible models. another recent development is the advent of screens with so-called flicker-free backlights. the supposed issue here are pulse-width modulated backlights that achieve variable brightness by rapidly switching the backlight on and off. Some manufacturers, including BenQ, claim this introduces flicker, but in our testing it’s very difficult to spot any actual difference. then again, maybe it’s a bit like the rainbow effect with dlp monitors, and some people will be more sensitive to it than others. try before you buy!

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£2,985 31.5In 4K MOnITOR

Asus PQ321Q VITAL STATISTICS

Price £2,985 Manufacture Asus Web www.asus.com/uk Panel Size 31.5in Panel Type IGZO Native resolution 3,840 x 2,160 Pixel Response 8ms Inputs 2x HDMI, DisplayPort VESA Mounts 200mm x 200mm

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he dust has settled, and time and distance have given us a little perspective. Are we still as crazy about 4K for the PC as we were when Asus’s PQ321Q gave us our very first taste of ultra-HD gaming? For the most part, the answer is yes. There’s simply no denying the epic scale and detail on offer from this 31in-and-a-bit colossus. It is undeniably glorious, and that’s particularly true when you line it up against the 27in masses. It may seem preposterous to demote 27in 2,560 x 1,440 pixel panels to mainstream status, but that’s how they feel once you’ve experienced the majesty of 4K. Admittedly,

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30in 2,560 x 1,600 screens bear the comparison with a bit more fortitude, but if you presently own a 30-incher and expose yourself to a 4K panel, you won’t quite recover from the knowledge of what the greater pixel density gives you. It’s a bit special. Let’s cover the headline numbers. We’re talking 3,840 x 2,160 pixels on a 31.5in panel. That is no fewer than eight megapixels – four times as many as a 1080p screen. The panel tech remains something of a mystery. Known as IGZO technology (on account of the use of indium gallium zinc oxide), it’s an upgrade from the amorphous silicon in standard TFT LCD panels, and allows for smaller pixels while maintaining light transmission. In other words, you get really high resolutions without losing brightness. What’s not clear is whether we’re dealing with a panel tech analogous to IPS or VA. In practice, it feels like an advanced IPS panel to us. That’s partly because of the

800:1 contrast ratio, which is the panel’s only real weakness, but also because of the 8ms response, which is a good thing and better than you’d expect from a big VA screen. Whatever the numbers, subjectively this is a gorgeous display. The colours are great, the pixel pitch is ludicrously sharp, the viewing angles are excellent and even the contrast is better than you’d expect from the official specs. Of course, it’s not perfect. At best you get 60Hz refresh when you’d really like 100Hz and beyond for full 4K nirvana, and even at 60Hz, it puts a hideous load on your GPU. Right now, no single graphics card can handle it at full detail in the most demanding games.

£3,000. Either way, it’s simply way too much. This screen needs to be sub-£1,000. Of course, when you look at the way prices of 30in panels have gone, that seems unlikely. Most 30-inchers are barely any cheaper than they were back in 2005. That’s probably because there isn’t huge demand for them and we suspect big 4K monitors will be the same. Instead, we can hope that 4K resolutions become more widespread at smaller panel sizes. Of course, if that happens, we’ll all be having trouble with Windows’ inability to scale properly outside of the Metro interface. But that’s a story for another day. n

oVerPriCeD

The other thing time and distance give us is perspective regards pricing. Since our original review, the PQ321Q has been occasionally spotted £500 cheaper than the £3,000 launch, but as we go to press most suppliers list it above

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Features Performance Value The finest PC monitor we’ve ever seen at a price almost nobody can afford. 4K is great, but it needs to be cheaper.


High-resolution revolution

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£510 27In MOnITOR

BenQ BL2710PT VITAL STATISTICS

Price £510 Manufacture BenQ Web www.benq.co.uk Panel Size 27in Panel Type AHVA Native resolution 2,560 x 1,440 Pixel Response 12ms Inputs DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA VESA Mounts 100m x 100m

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he scarcity of outfits that make lCD screens is a bit of a pain. We’re talking about panels, not fully finished monitors with chassis, stands and image-processing electronics. Anyone, seemingly, can sling one of those together. But knocking out the panels themselves? Apparently that’s the work of billion-dollar fabrication facilities, which means very few companies can get in on the action. That’s a problem, because it makes for less choice and competition. It’s an issue that particularly afflicts high-resolution PC monitors. If you cracked open a representative sample of PC monitors from all the

mainstream market segments, you’d find that the vast majority of panels originated from three or four companies, with probably no more than six suppliers represented overall. Those numbers are even slimmer for high-res clobber. Until recently, for instance, all 27in monitors with 2,560 x 1,440 pixel grids used an LG-manufactured panel, with one exception. Samsung also makes its own 27in high-def panels, but we’re not aware of any third party screens using the Samsung version. net result? Samsung or LG were the only options, and prices were higher than we’re comfortable with. That’s the context for the very welcome arrival of this BenQ effort. It’s a 27in 2,560 x 1,440 item. And it sports neither an LG nor Samsung panel. Yup, at last we have a new supplier. Hurrah.

HeAlTHy ComPeTiTion

Even better, that supplier is none other than AU Optronics. In our experience, it deals in high volume, competitively

priced panels. Its output hasn’t always been of the highest quality, but it’s significant that AU Optronics thinks there’s sufficient demand to get in on the 27in action. The panel is AU Optronics’ AHVA tech. It stands for Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle, and our understanding is that it’s essentially a type of IPS panel. That’s exactly what it looks like, and it’s gorgeous from the moment you fire it up. The colours are vibrant but not over-saturated, and the whites are super clean. The anti-glare coating is nice and smooth too, so there’s zero annoying sparkle to contend with. The objective metrics are good, but not perfect. Some banding is visible in gradients and at default settings there’s a whiff of compression in the white scales, though it’s easy enough to dial that out. The viewing angles might just be the best we’ve seen from any LCD panel. Certainly there’s little to no evidence of the annoying glow that can blight conventional IPS panels.

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Then there’s the sturdy, fully adjustable stand and the nice, slim bezel. This is a proper piece of kit, albeit a pretty anonymous all-black design. We should also note that this monitor is one of BenQ’s new flicker-free models, so it doesn’t use pulse-width modulation to control the backlight. However, our stance is that backlight flicker isn’t an issue for most people. There’s just one snag: it costs over £500. Admittedly, BenQ is aiming this panel at the pro market and it’s good value in that context, but for now, at least, AU Optronics’ debut into the 27in segment hasn’t hit prices we’d like. n

Features Performance Value A warm welcome to a new 27in panel maker. new AHVA tech is lovely, but not as cheap as we’d hoped.

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£319 29In ULTRA-WIDE MOnITOR

Hazro HZ29WiA VITAL STATISTICS

Price £319 Manufacture Hazro Web www.hazro.co.uk Panel Size 29in Panel Type IPS Native resolution 2,560 x 1,080 Pixel Response 8ms Inputs DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA VESA Mounts TBC

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omebody, somewhere has to be the kicking boy for the 29in ultra-wide PC monitor segment. This time, that duty falls to Hazro. in truth though, unloading on this company doesn’t give us much pleasure, because its modus operandi is right up our alley. Harzo essentially takes really big, beautiful IPS panels and pairs them with affordable chassis and electronics. The theory here is that what really matters is the panel. You can live with a slightly shonky stand and dodgy electronics if it gives you access to bigger, higher-res panels. Unfortunately, this type of 29in panel is probably the

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least edifying expression of that strategy. Indeed, we had hoped to have Hazro’s latest 30in 2,560 x 1,600 model in this group. Retailing at around £700, it’s an intriguing alternative to the 27in masses. Sadly, it didn’t arrive in time, so the 29in HZ29WiA is Hazro’s sole representative. For the most part, it’s a dead ringer for other 29in displays we’ve seen over the last year, with the same 2,560 x 1,080 native resolution and ultrawide aspect ratio. Frankly, our overall view of this panel form factor hasn’t shifted much from our first impression.

WiDe loAD

It’s certainly dramatic. In fact, it’s gloriously cinematic. But it’s also idiotic. The 1,080 vertical pixels mean you have no more top-to-bottom screen real estate than the cheapest 22in screen. Meanwhile, the super-wide aspect doesn’t suit most video content. Some feature films fit nicely, but most HDTV content is 16:9 aspect, so you get large dead

spaces left and right. We’re not sure it makes much sense for games either, though that’s somewhat more subjective. It’s frustrating. If there’s anything that’s missing from the monitor market, it’s more choice in terms of larger, high resolution panels. Then one comes along and it’s largely pointless. Offsetting all this is the value proposition. There’s no denying the HZ29WiA delivers a big visual impact at a relatively low price, so if you can get your head round the weird proportions, what’s the rest of the proposition like? The colours are a bit forced and oversaturated, and at default settings the test images don’t look great either. There’s plenty of banding in gradients, and the black and white scales are miles off. We had problems with Windows not recognising the monitor too. Running at native involved what the video driver considered a custom resolution, which did weird things to the refresh rates and made it difficult to set up.

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The OSD is pretty awful too, but you’ll achieve acceptable image quality settings using your video driver. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with the panel itself. It’s also one of those pseudo bezel-free designs where the panel surface extends almost to the very edge of the chassis. It’s not entirely successful, but at least it’s not just another bland monitor. It’s moderately stylish if a little cheap feeling, all of which makes it a pretty typical Hazro offering. If you’re in the market for a 29in and you understand the shortcomings and some at least can be mitigated, it should be on your shortlist. n

Features Performance Value you can’t deny the drama of the 29in super-wide form factor. it’s just not much good as an all-round PC display.


High-resolution revolution

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£439 27In MOnITOR

iiyama XB2779QS VITAL STATISTICS

Price £439 Manufacture Iiyama Web www.iiyama.com/gb_en Panel Size 27in Panel Type IPS Native resolution 2,560 x 1,440 Pixel Response 5ms Inputs DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA VESA Mounts 100m x 100m

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e’ve waxed lyrical in PCFs passim when it comes to iiyama displays. most recent was the Prolite XB2776QS, a choice 27in effort with one of lG’s latest 2,560 x 1,440 pixel panels. it’s a very nice all round display, but if we’re being picky, it’s not really aimed at our sort. It’s for graphics pros and other desk jockeys, not the addicts of multimedia and gaming indulgence who make up PC Format. Luckily, Iiyama now has a 27in model more in tune with we ladies of gaming leisure. It’s the XB2779QS. The styling has come over all iMac. There’s a flush-fitting glossy screen cover, a black

bezel surrounding the screen and a silver sliver below. Styling-wise, it is quite simply a rip-off of the current iMac. We’re all for copying what works best, but there’s an immediate problem, and that’s the glossy screen cover. Put simply, such covers exist to make a screen look better as an object. They do not improve image quality. At best they’re neutral, but they usually have some negative implications. Hold that thought.

SmooTHly DoeS iT

We’re talking largely the same headline numbers as the old XB2776QS. So that’s 27 inches, 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and an LG IPS panel. And jolly nice it is, too. The test images reveal impeccable gradient rendering, and probably only the Samsung 9 Series serves up smoother gradients. At default settings, the black scale is near perfect and the white scale actually is perfect. Iiyama is a monitor specialist and it really knows how to set a screen up properly.

As for the subjectives, the whites are clean and bright, and the contrast and black levels are very good save for just a whiff of backlight bleed on the far right-hand side. That’s a bit of a surprise from an Iiyama monitor, but you have to look hard to spot it. We’re happy to report that the panel’s anti-glare coating is smooth and clean, with no annoying sparkle. It’s also pleasing to note that the more multi-media centric feature set includes five levels for the pixel response or overdrive settings. The top three introduce visible inverse ghosting, but select the second from bottom and you’re good to go with decent response and no quality issues. As for the physical attributes, the transition to consumer spec means somewhat limited stand adjustability, but you still get height and tilt adjustment, which is probably all you actually need. Less impressive is the build quality; all those Apple-aping silver bits are

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actually plastic. Which just leaves that glossy screen cover to deal with. When we first saw it, our hearts sank, but we have to admit, Iiyama has done this right. Reflectivity is reduced to an absolute minimum and the way the cover has been fitted gives the impression of a flush fit. There’s little to no visible gap between the panel and cover. It’s actually the sheer width of the black bezel that surrounds the panel that’s the problem. Combined with the silver sliver below, it conspires to make the XB2779QS look much smaller than its 27 inches, which probably isn’t a good thing. n

Features Performance Value Super value for a 27in panel from a display specialist. A great all-rounder only let down by the screen cover.

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£599 27In MOnITOR

Samsung 9 Series S27B971D VITAL STATISTICS

Price £599 Manufacture Samsung Web www.samsung.co.uk Panel Size 27in Panel Type PLS Native resolution 2,560 x 1,440 Pixel Response 5ms Inputs HDMI, DisplayPort VESA Mounts no

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amsung, why do you vex us so? its latest 9 Series Syncmaster S27B971D delights and frustrates in equal measure. let’s have the good news first. For this display, Samsung has carried over pretty much all of what made the 9 Series S27B970D such a corker. That starts with a gorgeous stand and chassis. This 9 Series is easily the most expensive and desirable display here. It’s everything the Iiyama Prolite XB2779QS wants to be, but can’t quite pull off. There are lush alloys to touch, deft design to drink in and soft-touch OSD controls on the bottom of the stand arm that actually work. Then

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there’s the LCD panel itself. As before, we’re talking PLS, which is Samsung’s take on the increasingly ubiquitous IPS technology. And it’s ruddy wonderful. This is the only screen in this group test to render subjectively perfect gradients in our test images. The black and white scales are pretty much bang-on, and although the BenQ with its AU Optronics AHVA panel has the edge with viewing angles, the victory is fairly empty. The Samsung is good enough for it not to be an issue. Then there’s the subjective feel of the image quality. It’s similar to the Viewsonic in that there are no gimmicks and no silly, oversaturated colours. Instead it majors in accuracy and control, but somehow it injects a little more vitality and pizzazz into proceedings. We’re dealing with fine subjective margins here, but the Samsung’s contrast and black levels are probably a bit better, which translates into a little more visual punch. The backlight is stronger too,

should you want to really crank things up. As with the Viewsonic monitor, you get a choice of three pixel response modes here, with the middle setting offering up good performance and no visible nasties. The fastest mode is quicker, but introduces a little inverse ghosting.

UnCoVereD

In fact, if anything the image quality is tangibly better than the old S27B970D. Is that because the panel has been improved? Possibly, but it might be down to a much more obvious change. Samsung has ditched the glass cover. Apple made such covers fashionable with its iMacs, but they do nothing for image quality. At best they make a screen look swankier when switched off and perhaps protect the panel surface, but most of the time they simply add reflections. As for the frustration, it’s the same old problem: pricing. This is unashamedly Samsung’s premium PC display and it feels like a

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quality item throughout, but a minimum £600 for a 27in model is steep-going-onvertical. When you think about how much Samsung HDTV £600 buys you these days, the S27B971D looks faintly ridiculous at this price point. It’s also worth noting that the S27B971D offers only tilt and height adjustment. That’s probably all most people actually need, but fans of portrait mode should be aware that it’s not part of the Samsung package. The same applies to VESA mounting, which is another casualty of the slick consumer-electronics styling and stand-mounted OSD controls. n

Features Performance Value it’s unbeatable for image quality and improved by the lack of a glass cover, but the new 9 Series is still too pricey.


High-resolution revolution

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£480 27In MOnITOR

Viewsonic VP2770-LED VITAL STATISTICS

Price £480 Manufacture Viewsonic Web www.viewsoniceurope.com Panel Size 27in Panel Type IPS Native resolution 2,560 x 1,440 Pixel Response 12ms Inputs DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA VESA Mounts 100m x 100m

W

ind back the clock to the early days of the lCD monitor around a decade ago and it’s amusing to recall how futuristic and exotic the likes of a thin-bezel Viewsonic 19in panel looked and felt. It seemed huge, in part thanks to the fact that a 19in LCD monitor was just that – 19 inches. A 19in CRT monitor meant a viewable screen at least an inch smaller. The LCD was totally flat, super sharp and quite simply the future. It was also competitively priced, which has always been Viewsonic’s thing. However, as the years rolled by, Viewsonic seemed to shift to more of a commodity-spec strategy,

with endless cheap monitors based on generic Tn panels. The odd thin-bezel monitor remained in the VP range, but they never seemed to offer very good value.

BACK To THe FUTUre

The VP2770-LED is a return to the best Viewsonics of old, with modern technology. Indeed, it’s amusing to note that the design vibe hasn’t moved on much. What worked a decade ago still flies today. That means clean styling and a thin bezel, the latter accentuating this screen’s 27in proportions. God knows what we would have thought of it back in 2003. We’d have probably spontaneously and collectively spasmed at the sight of a 27in LCD panel with 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Anyway, another welcome quality that the VP2770-LED shares with its trail-blazing forebears is a fully adjustable stand with height, swivel, tilt and, yes, the ability to rotate into portrait mode. The latter is admittedly of niche utility in

practice, but a fully adjustable stand is at the very least a reminder that corners haven’t been cut. This is a serious bit of display technology. Fire her up, though, and you might be a bit disappointed. Is this panel a little dull? The LED backlight is no scorcher, but in reality, the highest settings of brighter panels are usually redundant. In normal home or office conditions, you’re aren’t going to be running anywhere near max brightness. What’s more, LED backlights don’t go off like CCFL tubes used to, so having a little headroom to spare as the backlight dims with use isn’t an issue, either. Once you’re over that little hump, you begin to appreciate the quality on offer. The colours are lovely and subtle rather than in-yourface. This display doesn’t need to impress with cheap visual gimmicks. It renders nearly perfect gradients and flawless white and black scales. There’s no edge bleed from the backlight, either. This display has been properly assembled.

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As you’d expect from an IPS screen, its viewing angles are excellent, too, if not quite as expansive as the BenQ and its super-wide angle AU Optronics panel. There’s only a whiff of IPS glow, so the gap between this and the BenQ in that regard is probably academic. It’s good to see three levels of pixel response in the OSD menu. The middle setting gives a great compromise with no inverse ghosting or discernible lag. Great for gaming. Overall, this isn’t the best display here. The Samsung SyncMaster S27B971D takes that accolade. Problem is, the Sammy is eye-wateringly expensive at around £600. n

Features Performance Value Gimmick-free and honed for the job, the VP2770 is a Viewsonic out of the old school. That’s a good thing .

January 2014

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High-resolution revolution

ThE fINAl REckoNINg

Six of the finest high end screens around, but which is the best?

F

irst, some housekeeping. There’s an elephant in this group test. or rather, there isn’t an elephant. By that we mean something big and broad is missing. okay, we’re confusing ourselves, now. We speak, of course, of the absence of a 30in option. Most 30-inchers cost around £1,000 or more, which we reckon makes them relatively poor value in comparison to a good sub-£500 27in model. Such a screen would be unlikely to upset the pecking order here. However, there is at least one 30in model available for £600. It’s the new Hazro HZ30WiG. It’s the full 2,56 x 1,600 pixel deal and delivers full 10-bitper-channel colour. We couldn’t source a sample in time for this test, but it’s worth bearing in mind and we hope to review it in the next issue of PC Format. As things are, the contest this month comes down to one of the four 27-inchers. That means both

16

the 29in Hazro and 31.5in 4K Asus don’t make the cut. The HZ29WiA gets the chop not due to any fault of Hazro’s. It didn’t invent the 29in ultra-wide segment. Instead, it’s the very idea of a 29in panel with 2,560 x 1,080 pixels that’s the problem. It’s a fundamentally silly idea that familiarity isn’t improving. As for the mighty Asus PQ321Q, it remains the finest PC monitor we’ve yet seen, if only money and the ability to drive it properly in games weren’t issues. Back in the real world, money is an issue and there’s no point for us in a monitor that we can’t drive smoothly at native resolution. And given the current state of graphics tech, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels is simply too much to handle for even the latest and greatest GPUs. Of the remaining four, it’s a very tight contest. We could make an argument for any of them, but the first for defenestration – of the

unceremonious kind – is the Samsung 9 Series. In terms of pure image quality it’s the best here, but the others aren’t far behind, so the price premium of around £100 doesn’t wash. We’ll kiss goodbye to the Iiyama at this point, too. The ProLite XB2779QS is aggressively priced and looks great on paper. We’re big fans of the existing XB2776QS too, but in the transition to a supposedly more home user friendly package, the XB2779QS has gained a screen cover and lost some of its appeal. That said, it’s the cheapest panel here and still a very decent option. That just leaves the BenQ, the Viewsonic and a pair of pistols. Honestly, we struggle to choose between these two – they’re both completely gorgeous and either one would make an excellent long-term companion

for you and your PC. On the one hand, the Viewsonic VP2770-LED is marginally cheaper. On the other, the BenQ BL2710PT probably has infinitesimally more visual clout. Both sport sturdy, no nonsense chassis with fully adjustable stands and similar feature sets. You demand an outright champ? Fine, it’s a win for Viewsonic and purely based on pricing. It’s a bit cheaper and thus in the absence of knock-out blows it takes this fight on a points decision. n

ASuS PQ321Q

BENQ Bl2710PT

hAzRo hz29WIA

IIyAMA XB2779QS

SAMSuNg 9 SERIES SyNcMASTER S27B971D

VIEWSoNIc VP2770-lED

PRIcE

£2,985

£510

£319

£439

£599

£480

PANEl SIzE

31.5-inch

27-inch

29-inch

27-inch

27-inch

27-inch

PANEl TyPE

IGZO

AHVA

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

NATIVE RESoluTIoN

3,840 x 2,160

2,560 x 1,440

2,560 x 1,080

2,560 x 1,440

2,560 x 1,440

2,560 x 1,440

BAcklIghT

LED

LED

LED

LED

LED

lED

PIXEl RESPoNSE

8ms (GtG)

12ms

8ms (GtG)

5ms (GtG)

5ms (GtG)

12ms (gtg)

coNTRAST

800:1

1,000:1

1,000:1

1,000:1

1,000:1

1,000:1

BRIghTNESS

350cd/m 2

350cd/m 2

350cd/m 2

350cd/m 2

350cd/m 2

350cd/m2

STAND ADjuSTMENT

Height, tilt, swivel

Height, tilt, swivel, rotate

Tilt

Tilt

Height, tilt

height, tilt, swivel, rotate

INPuTS

2x HDMI, DisplayPort

DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA

DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA

DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA

HDMI, DisplayPort

DVI, hDMI, DisplayPort, VgA

VESA MouNTS

200mm x 200mm

100m x 100m

TBC

100m x 100m

no

100m x 100m

January 2014

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#287/January

WorldMags.net Performance gear, uncompromising verdicts WHAT ArE YOu dOiNG, dAVE?

“Nvidia has thrown a chunk of marketing capital at SIs to develop small form factor gaming rigs”

components onto the CPU package means fewer parts must be dropped onto the mobo, and in turn, that means they can deliver the same performance in a smaller package. The rise of the mini-ITX motherboard has given the small form factor gaming PC the impetus it needed to capture the imagination of the masses, and has attracted support hings are starting to look very ’80s from some of the biggest players in the PC around here. Alan’s started wearing game. Valve’s Steam Machine is probably neon leg warmers and Jeremy’s going to give the mini-ITX form factor the taken to carrying an overlarge biggest boost, but while we wait for Valve to stereo above his head playing Peter get its prototype out the door, with its super Gabriel. Why for am I saying such apocryphal cut-down OS, Nvidia has thrown a chunk of things? Well, it’s that late-’80s trend of marketing capital at some of the leading SIs rampant miniaturisation, and it’s come full to create small form factor gaming rigs with circle. It was mostly brought about by the a green tinge. It’s calling it the Art of Gaming, humble transistor and the microchip allowing and has backed the initiative up with free for electronics to actually stop taking up an games in its Pirates, Heroes and Spies bundle. entire room of your house, and now we’re Nice to see it switching back to a full game seeing PCs shrinking all over again. bundle from its free-to-play add-on initiative. When the gaming PC first became a The combination of excellent, thing, the trend was about making powerful mini-ITX boards, along sure you had enough space for a with stylish, smartly-designed huge mobo, fat graphics card small form factor chassis and enough cooling to stop it means that there’s barely any melting a hole in your desk need for full size gaming rigs than making some svelte any more, but they’re still not consumer electronics. really shifting units. Maybe Build fOr BF4 Gaming PCs got bigger and things might change with bigger, adding water-cooling Nvidia throwing cash at them, radiators, lights and even but the people I’ve spoken to in Perspex peep holes. Now, like the industry say the same thing. some rebounding universe theory, Consumers love the look and style, they’re starting to shrink. but if you put a hefty gaming rig next to Like the initial round of computer a wee one – with the same price tag – their shrinkage, it’s all come down to a microchip. value-perception glands start swelling and The processor at the heard of your PC is the they opt for the bigger-is-better option thing that’s enabled us to have gaming rigs pretty much every time. Hopefully the the size of a couple of shoeboxes. Shrinking surge of support from the industry over the the transistors and shifting motherboard next year will start to change their minds. Dave James has come to the realisation that no matter how shiny, how powerful or how robust his gaming PC is, he’s still not very good at running around a battlefield without repeatedly being shot in the face by person or persons unknown. Still, at least he’s figured out how to get BF4 running smoothly at 60FPS without spending an absolute fortune on a machine.

T

P42

Gold Award

This is the ultimate badge

of hardware excellence. Only truly outstanding gear gets this coveted award. Oh, and there are no prizes for runners-up here.

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January 2014

Our Hardware Manifesto Would we buy it and should you buy it? That’s all you want to know and it’s all we care about. Performance and value for money are the two key pillars supporting the mighty PC Format Gold Award on its lofty pinnacle.

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SIs like DinoPC are creating small form factor gaming rigs to challenge the bigger boys

Shadow Playground The beta for Nvidia’s game recording software, ShadowPlay, has finally been released along with the latest Nvidia drivers. It’s included in the GeForce Experience app, and allows owners of the GTX 600 series cards or higher to automatically capture there games with negligible impact upon in-game frame rates. You can choose how far back a capture goes; mine’s set up to save the last five minutes of the game each time I hit the record button. It uses 1.9GB of space, but it’s worth it when you get that special kill, or die in a new and hilarious way. For more details, hop along to http://blogs.nvidia.com/ blog/2013/10/18/shadowplay/.


LoNg-term teSt: GiGABYTE AiViA OsMiuM

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I’ve been using Gigabyte’s Osmium mechanical switch keyboard for the last year now and it has been a very faithful companion for every word I’ve written in my man-cave back home. Sadly though, the robust retrostyled keyboard is starting to get a little flaky. To begin with it was fantastically responsive, with long travel on its keys that led to very few accidentally struck keys. A year on though, I’m starting to get odd double-strikes

on different keys as I write. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme nor reason as to when it happens – it’s not on particular keys, which might indicate failing switches, but across the whole board. This problem hasn’t happened to me in-game though, where it’s still just as responsive as ever, but I’m beginning to worry about the long-term life of the board I’ve loved so well.

HIgHLIgHtS tHIS moNtH

EdiTOr’s ONE TO WATcH

Everyone’s sorry…

W

hile sorry used to be the hardest word, big companies are starting to learn the power of those two syllables – but is it enough? We’ve been playing lots of Battlefield 4 in the office recently, as you can probably tell by the massive splash on the cover, but it’s not the most robust game we’ve ever played. Not a lunchtime will go by without one or other of the team throwing their mouse down in anger because they’ve been kicked from a server for no reason or their machine has collapsed under the strain of dodging bullets. EA and DICE have recognised this, and because of the ‘turbulence’ during the launch period, they’re offering a ‘player appreciation’ week where online gamers will get a 2x XP boost for the duration. The idea being that you could reclaim the XP you might have lost while the game remained a broken mess. Oh, and you also get a scope for some pistol or other. Fixing the game first might be preferable for most of us, though… It’s not the first time EA has had to apologise. Remember the mess it and Maxis made of SimCity? After the terrible failure of that game, EA offered free Origin codes for certain other titles by way of an apology. I asked for SimCity 4 instead. It’s not just us PC gamers who are owed apologies either – when GTA Online launched to a resounding facepalm, Rockstar responded by offering $500k in-game cash to say sorry. What about hardware? AMD released a quick fix for some issues with its R9 290X, but remains bullish about it operating at 95ºC. Microsoft on the other hand has needed to say sorry – Xbox One consoles are shipping with faulty disk drives that sound like they’re filled with cat litter, so MS is firing out free games to people. Obviously it doesn’t need to apologise for Windows 8 though, because that’s awesome [Dave’s been staring at his screen too long, someone get his medication - Ed].

20 Nvidia GTX 780 Ti

28 OCZ Vector 150 240GB

Sorry your game is broken. Here, have some XP on us!

36 BitFenix Prodigy M

WD goes for the combo It’s always the same, just as we’re finishing an issue, some company sends an interesting new product for us to look at. This time it’s Western Digital with a combo-drive that’s got a bit more about it than we’ve seen before. Normally an SSD/HDD combo uses a small amount of flash memory as a cache for a larger spinning platter drive. With the WD Black2, however, it is genuinely two drives combined together in one

rather neat package. There’s a middle-order 120GB SSD and a full 1TB HDD all in a 9.5mm thick 2.5-inch drive, living together as comfortably as metric and imperial measurements when talking about storage... It’s certainly technologically impressive, but the problem here is price. At £250 it’s simply too expensive, especially when a 500GB top-spec SSD can be yours for just £260.

Western Digital’s combo drive is clever, but just too pricey

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January 2014

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£550 GRAPHIcs cARD

Nvidia GeFoRce GTX 780 TI Nvidia brings its big guns to bear on AMD’s Hawaii cards vITAL sTATIsTIcs Price £550 Manufacturer Nvidia Web www.nvidia.co.uk GPU GK 110 CUDA cores 2,880 Base clock 875MHz Boost clock 928MHz Memory clock 7,000MHz Memory capacity 3GB GDDR5 Memory bus 384-bit

T

here’s no getting away from it – this is the graphics card we’ve been waiting for since we first heard about Nvidia’s Kepler GPU architecture. The GTX 780 Ti is simply the most powerful graphics card on the planet right now, and the first to sport the real full-fat GK 110 graphics processor. When Nvidia unleashed the impressively efficient GK 104 chip, with the GTX 680 as the vanguard, we had our suspicions that it wasn’t the full-fat Kepler chip it had been working on. When we heard about the Tesla K20 and K20X professional cards, with their massive GK 110 GPUs and

20

January 2014

frighteningly fast floating point performance, we inevitably wanted one, but time, she passed, and there was no talk of the top Kepler chip ever making its way down into our gaming machines. And we were sad. Luckily for us, AMD pulled its finger out and delivered the HD 7970 GHz update, giving the GTX 680 a wee shoeing in the benchmarks. Nvidia had to hit back, and whether or not the GK 110 chip was ever meant to be dropped into a gaming card, the green giant decided to bring its big guns to bear upon AMD’s top graphics card. The GTX Titan was Nvidia’s shock-and-awe response, and its attempt to reclaim the single-GPU performance crown. It used the same GK 110 GPU that Nvidia had reserved for its pro range, opting for the Tesla’s 2,688 core behemoth in order to drop the mother of all benchmarking bombs on AMD’s top card. It wasn’t just the Titan’s performance that singled it out from the competition,

though. Despite the massive 533m 2 slice of silicon, it still managed to run relatively cool and very quiet – this was mostly down to the beautiful chrome-plated cooler Nvidia used to pimp out its top card. As well as giving the Titan an immediately recognisable and desirable design, this chiller also provided a much better user experience than the (admittedly quicker) GTX 690, and later the HD 7990 dual-GPU cards.

Full-fat Kepler

But the GK 110 GPU being sported by the Titan still wasn’t representative of the full power of the Kepler architecture. The graphics processor at the heart of both the Tesla K20X and the GTX Titan contained 2,688 cUDA cores spread across 14 sMX modules, but the full GK 110 GPU was designed to house 15 of those Kepler streaming microprocessors with 192 cUDA cores in each. Doing the mathematics, that meant there should be a chip around

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with all 2,880 cUDA cores, which would be capable of throwing around polygons at breakneck speeds. As ever though, yields were a problem. Nvidia could make the full-fat chips, but not in any commercially achievable numbers when it first started manufacturing the Kepler graphics processors. As a result, the company decided to go with 14 sMX modules in exchange for being able to produce lots of the beefy 28nm processors. But despite our best efforts, history has a tendency to repeat itself, and as AMD reclaimed the performance lead in the single-GPU graphics game, Nvidia responded with the full weight of its Kepler architecture. The GTX 780 Ti comes with 2,880 of those cUDA cores in that 15-sMX configuration. Fingers crossed, now the production process is more mature, the yields on these top chips are much improved. If not, we’ll either see very few of these impressively powerful cards


Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti

WorldMags.net Technical analysis

When you consider the GTX 780 Ti at stock speeds it may claim the top performance crown overall, but not by much. At those speeds it doesn’t look like the extra money you’re spending makes much difference at all. When you overclock though, the top-end GK 110 chip really stretches its legs and the price difference starts to make sense.

Temperature performance GPU 100%

Peak platform power performance GPU 100%

WaTTS: loWeR iS beTTeR

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

83

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

340

RADeoN R9 290X

95

RADeoN R9 290X

383

GeFoRce GTX TITAN

80

GeFoRce GTX TITAN

300

RADeoN R9 290

93

RADeoN R9 290

347

deGReeS CeNTiGRade: loWeR iS beTTeR

0

20

40

60

80

100

0

100

200 300 400

500

directX 11 gaming performance Company of Heroes 2

(MiN) avG FPS: HiGHeR iS beTTeR

Total War: Rome ii

(MiN) avG FPS: HiGHeR iS beTTeR

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

(12) 25

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

(12) 37

RADeoN R9 290X

(15) 29

RADeoN R9 290X

(13) 36

GeFoRce GTX TITAN

(12) 25

GeFoRce GTX TITAN

(12) 33

RADeoN R9 290

(14) 27

RADeoN R9 290

(11) 34

0

Top chops

And it is the fastest, but at stock speeds the performance lead isn’t really that great compared with the R9 290X and even the straight R9 290.

30

(MiN) avG FPS: HiGHeR iS beTTeR

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

(14) 28

RADeoN R9 290X

(13) 26

GeFoRce GTX TITAN

(13) 24

RADeoN R9 290

(13) 25

We found ourselves a little underwhelmed by this card’s performance, but not surprised. We kind of expected Nvidia to ensure it was quicker than the R9 290X, otherwise there really would be no point in releasing a more expensive option. The GTX 780 Ti then is a great example of a card being released for the sake of claiming overall top-end

“NvIDIA HAs eNcoURAGeD PeoPLe To GeT cReATIve WITH THe cLocKs” Indeed, in the Company of Heroes 2 test, the second-tier Hawaii card beats this GPU behemoth. elsewhere though, it’s generally only a few FPs on average quicker than the top AMD card. considering the GTX 780 Ti is another £100-odd more expensive, the stock performance makes it hard to argue for the Nvidia card, despite it being the faster GPU.

20

Metro: last ligh

superiority, but not as something any real person would actually buy. Well, it would be were it not for the stellar overclocking performance. Normally we’re not ones for leaning review scores so heavily on overclocking performance, particularly as it can vary so much from chip to chip, but the GPUs in these cards represent the pinnacle of graphics

40

50

0

10

20

30

40

50

40

50

overclocking performance Heaven 4.0

0

out in the wild, or Nvidia will take a massive hit on each one just to be able to say it’s got the fastest single-GPU card in the world.

10

10

20

30

40

(21.5) 49.2

RADeoN R9 290X

(18.5) 36.7

50

excellence and Nvidia has been keen to encourage folk to get creative with the clocks.

Crank those clocks

Traditionally when it comes to homebrew or factory-spec overclocking, 10 per cent is about the best you can hope for when it comes to performance boosts. In contrast, the GTX 780 Ti sample I’ve got here hits a minimum of 16 per cent, and sometimes goes over 22 per cent. That’s a really hefty frame rate boost, and puts it generally comfortably ahead of the AMD competition. even when you’re really pushing the clocks it still only hits 83ºc, and with the Titan-esque cooler running at 67 per cent we reckon it only makes as much noise as the 290X. The serious overclocking headroom enjoyed by this iteration of the GK 110 chip still doesn’t give the GTX 780 Ti the ‘must-have’ performance of the superb Radeon R9 290 (minus the ‘X’). The price/ performance ratio of the

WorldMags.net

(MiN) avG FPS: HiGHeR iS beTTeR

GeFoRCe GTX 780 Ti

0

10

20

30

second-tier Hawaii card keeps it at the top of our graphics card shopping list, but the new GeForce card is still a mighty desirable thing. And that’s something the Radeon cards, with their toy-town plastic shrouds and noisy fans, just don’t have. They may be quick and fantastic value for money, but just as the vast majority of gamers were desperate to get their mitts on a Titan card for their rig, they’ll now be after a GTX 780 Ti. Those people wont have changed their targets to either of the more affordable, but almost as quick Radeons. n dave James

Features Performance value incredible overclocking performance, but priced out of most normal people’s grasp. The R9 290 still has us in its thrall.

January 2014

21


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technical analysis There is precious little difference in terms of average frame rate gaming performance between the 270 and 270X, but considering there’s also very little between them in terms of price, that small bump in minimum framerates make the ‘X’ a slightly better GPU. Still, the GTX 760 is a far superior gaming card, and can be yours for just £30 more.

DirectX 11 tessellation performance heaven 4.0

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

SAPPhIre r9 270

(9.7) 15.5

AMD R9 270X

(10.2) 16.9

ASUS R9 270X TOP

(10.1) 16.9

0

5

10

15

20

25

DirectX 11 gaming performance total War: rome II

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

SAPPhIre r9 270

(12) 32

AMD R9 270X

(15) 34

ASUS R9 270X TOP

(15) 35 0

Company of heroes

20

30

40

50

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

SAPPhIre r9 270

(13) 25

AMD R9 270X

(14) 27

ASUS R9 270X TOP

(15) 29 0

£150 GRAPHICS CARD

10

10

20

30

40

50

SAPPhIre DUAl-X R9 270 To X or not to X? That’s not really the question… vITAl STATISTICS Price £150 Manufacturer Sapphire Web www.sapphiretech.com GPU Curacao Pro Radeon cores 1,280 Base clock 900MHz Turbo clock 925MHz Memory clock 1,400MHz Memory capacity 2GB GDDR5 Memory bus 256-bit

C

an you have too much of a good thing? Possibly. Can you have too much of an incredibly mediocre thing? Most definitely. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find justifications for how bloated Nvidia and AMD’s graphics card ranges are getting. last month we checked out the R9 270X, AMD’s mid-range successor to the HD 7800 range, coming in at £150. Fair enough, we said, that’s a price point worth hitting, though the £180 overclocked version from Asus didn’t deliver enough performance to justify its own price premium, especially against the Nvidia

22

January 2014

competition. The GTX 760 is a real thorn in AMD’s midrange side – in the sub-£200 category it’s hard to beat the GeForce card for 1080p gaming performance. So now we’ve got the R9 270 without the X. Okay, we know the drill. This card will have essentially the same GPU at its heart, with a few shaders chopped out, and maybe some texture units too. It’ll deliver slightly slower performance for a slight drop in price. But that’s not really how it’s working out with the R9 270. The Curacao Pro seems to be exactly the same in architectural terms. It’s the same 2.8bn transistor GPU, and it’s still got the same 1,280 Radeon cores. In fact, it’s the exact same core configuration of shaders, texture units and ROPs as the Curacao XT. So what gives? Well, somehow AMD has enforced a cut in clockspeed onto this chip, and that seems to be the only difference over the X version. The R9 270X has a standard clockspeed of 1GHz, which is

100MHz quicker than the Curacao Pro in this R9 270. It’s possible that AMD is simply using the Curacao GPUs that failed to hit the 1GHz clockspeed as the basis for this new SKU. We’ve tried overclocking the sample we’ve got, and despite the low temperature and generally impressive Dual-X cooling from Sapphire, this card is unable to operate at the same frequency as the 270X. It could be just this particular GPU that wont go any higher, but it’s also possible that the chips denoted as Curacao Pro will produce similar results.

Clock up

But does that really matter? Actually, no. As we discovered with the overclocked R9 270X from Asus last issue, boosting the clockspeed of the Curacao XT chip doesn’t really result in any tangible performance gains. And so it remains true for the Curacao Pro in this R9 270. Despite the 250MHz clockspeed boost of the Asus card, it’s still only a few FPS on

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average quicker than this Sapphire card. Where the R9 270X does have an advantage is in the minimum frame rate, where it’s consistently higher than the R9 270, even when the average frame rates are identical. And while the Asus 270X is more expensive than this Sapphire 270, there are other R9 270X cards you can pick up for the same price as this slower card. When the prices are the same, there really is nothing to recommend this card over the faster AMD version. But really, when there’s only £30 in it, we’d still recommend the GTX 760. n Dave James

Features Performance Value An unnecessary graphics card SKU that has nothing to recommend it over the competition – not even price


HIS R7 250 iCooler

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technical analysis If you can’t afford the £110 of the GTX 650 Ti Boost then the R7 260X is a far better bet than this kitten-weak R7 250. When an APU’s graphics component is set to beat it in gaming performance, there’s little point spending out on a worse discrete graphics card.

DirectX 11 gaming performance GrID 2

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

hIS r7 250 ICooler

(18) 23

AMD R7 260X

(40) 50

NvIDIA GTX 650 TI BOOST

(40) 52

0 bioShock Infinite

(10) 19

AMD R7 260X

(18) 36

NvIDIA GTX 650 TI BOOST

(10) 48 0

30

40

50

10

20

30

40

50

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

hIS r7 250 ICooler

(9) 14

AMD R7 260X

(18) 29

NvIDIA GTX 650 TI BOOST

(18) 35 0

£68 GRAPHICS CARD

20

(MIN) AVG FrAMeS Per SeCoND: hIGher IS better

hIS r7 250 ICooler

battlefield 4

10

10

20

30

40

50

hIS R7 250 iCOOlER

When a discrete GPU can be beaten by APU graphics, what’s the point? vITAl STATISTICS Price £68 Manufacturer HIS Web www.hisdigital.com GPU Oland XT Radeon cores 384 Base clock 1,000MHz Turbo clock 1,050MHz Memory clock 1,150MHz Memory capacity 1GB GDDR5 Memory bus 128-bit

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here is a massive gulf in gaming class as soon as you drop below the £100 threshold in graphics cards. Spend a £110 on a GtX 650 ti boost and you’ll happily top 30FPS in the latest games, with a high level of prettification. Drop £70 on an r7 250 and you’ll become very familiar with the settings pages of your favourite games; you’re going to be spending a lot of time in there trying to configure playable frame rates out of this wee card. This HIS card is sporting the Oland XT core, a genuine 28nm Graphics Core Next processor, but sadly one with a scant 384

Radeon cores at its heart. Along with that we’re talking just 24 texture units and a paltry eight render output units. Essentially, this is a card with half the architectural make-up of the R7 260X just a little higher in the stack. That’s what we mean by a gulf in class. You can pick up the R7 260X for around £90, making it a mere couple of rounds down the pub more expensive than this card. It has twice the core configuration, which translates almost directly into tangible gaming performance. Where the R7 260X will get you around 29FPS on average in Battlefield 4 at 1080p on Ultra settings, the R7 250 only manages to hit 14FPS, with the minimum frame rate dropping into single figures. And despite all the ’splodes and geometry, the Frostbite 3 engine is actually pretty kind to GPUs – games like Metro: Last Light and Company of Heroes 2 do very bad things when they find such weakness in a graphics card. Yes, you can

change the settings – hurrah for the versatile PC – but you’ll have to make a lot of compromises to make it playable. The fact that you’ll need to make sacrifices in aging Unreal Engine 3 titles is also quite damning for the R7 250’s gaming performance. When you can get twice the frame rate for not much more, what’s the point in such gaming configuration self-flagellation?

Future gazing

There is one point that makes the R7 250 of some interest to us, though: there’s probably not much between the Oland XT GPU and the graphics component of AMD’s next-gen APU, codenamed Kaveri. AMD is updating the new line of APUs with bona fide GCN cores, pushing the whole thing across to the 28nm process while it’s at it. In fact, Kaveri could house up to 512 GCN Radeon cores in its package, which would make the desktop processor quicker than this discrete alternative. That makes things look even

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more bleak for this low-end AMD card. very soon it’s going to be superseded by the integrated graphics of an APU. The writing is on the wall for these sub-£100 cards, and you’ve got to wonder just how many are going to be produced in the next generation of AMD GPUs if its APUs are capable of outstripping them in the gaming department. We feel mean denigrating such a low-price card for not delivering decent gaming performance, but what else is a discrete graphics card meant to do? It should at least remain ahead of an intergrated GPU, and this won’t. n Dave James

Features Performance Value every inch the budget GPU, which is a genre set to slide into obsolescence very soon with advances in integrated graphics.

January 2014

23


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Technical analysis Compared with the more affordable Aria Gladiator, with its identical GPU but Core i5 CPU, the Gaming Infinite has a bit of an edge, especially in CPU performance. Against the £100 more expensive Scan 3XS rig, though, the combination of Haswell CPU and GTX 780 dominates this Ivy Bridge E machine.

CPU rendering perfomance Cinebench r11.5

INDEX SCorE: hIGhEr IS BETTEr

ArIA GlADIATor GAMING INFINITE

9.21

ARIA GlADIAToR DIABlo GTX

7.69

SCAN 3XS vENGEANCE 780

9.59 0

2

4

6

8

10

80

100

40

50

DirectX 11 gaming performance Bioshock Infinite

(MIN) AVErAGE FPS: hIGhEr IS BETTEr

ArIA GlADIATor GAMING INFINITE

(10) 51

ARIA GlADIAToR DIABlo GTX

(5) 49

SCAN 3XS vENGEANCE 780

(7) 63

0

20

40

60

DirectX gaming performance Metro: last light

(MIN) AVErAGE FPS: hIGhEr IS BETTEr

ArIA GlADIATor GAMING INFINITE

(8) 21

ARIA GlADIAToR DIABlo GTX

(12) 19

SCAN 3XS vENGEANCE 780

(13) 28

0

10

20

30

£1,499 GAMING PC

ArIA GAMING INfINITE Can Ivy Bridge E server tech give good game? vITAl STATISTICS Price £1,499 Manufacturer Aria Web www.aria.co.uk CPU Intel Core i7 Extreme 4820K @ 4.6GHz Motherboard Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 Memory 16GB Corsair vengeance DDR3 Graphics EvGA GTX 770 2GB Storage 250GB SSD, 2TB HDD OS Windows 8 64-bit Chassis Corsair vengeance C70 PSU 600W Corsair CX600M Cooling Corsair Hydro H80i Warranty 1 -year Collect and Return

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ria calls this machine the Gladiator Gaming Infinite, but to us that feels a little off the mark. This isn’t really just a gaming rig. Sure, it’s got a tasty Nvidia graphics card and a funky, ammo-crate-a-like Corsair chassis, but we’d argue one component marks it out from the other gaming rigs we’ve seen recently – an Ivy Bridge E processor. It means there’s none of the pandering to the mobile crowd you get from the Haswell range. No-one’s jamming in

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January 2014

needless, weak-hearted integrated graphics components into these processors. This is all processing silicon, straight from the Intel’s server labs. The processor at the system’s heart may be an architectural generation behind Haswell, but Ivy Bridge E chips represent the most powerful CPU performance around thanks to their server background. The same goes for the X79 motherboard too – it’s so server that you could jam an eight-core Xeon into it without pause. It’s also the only consumer platform around that you can run quad-channel memory in. You know, for all those memory-intensive tasks that we run…

Moar coars?

Sadly, there isn’t an eight-core Xeon, or even a hex-core Ivy Bridge E chip, churning away beneath that Corsair watercooler. If you want either of those you could add another £1,000 to the price tag. So, the CPU Aria has opted for here is

the quad-core i7 4820K. It’s a HyperThreaded chip, and it has an unlocked multiplier too. So there are eight threads waiting for you to throw some maths at them and Aria has boosted the clockspeed from its base 3.7GHz up to 4.6GHz. It turns out our benchmark suite barely gives a weepy toss whether Aria’s dropped a Haswell i5 or an Ivy Bridge E i7 into its rig. Aria’s Gladiator Diablo GTX had the same GTX 770 cantering alongside the i5 4670K and there’s barely a couple of frames per second on average between the gaming benchmarks. The difference is obviously more pronounced between the CPU tests, as expected, but compared to one of the many Haswell i7 machines we’ve tested, the 4820K starts to look very much like older tech. The main problem here is that it doesn’t have any extra cores over the likes of the desktop Core i7 4770K. This wouldn’t be a problem if there was no price differential, but there is. Maybe not especially

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in terms of CPU price, but the X79 boards are notably more expensive than the Z87. That’s why you can pick up a Haswell machine from DinoPC for the same price as this, but that comes with a GTX 780 Ti. Now that’s a real gaming machine. So we return to whether this is a gaming rig. The GTX 770 is a bona fide gaming GPU, but there is no need to spend extra on an X79/Ivy Bridge E-based machine just for gaming. The X79 platform is great on a computational basis, with its vast memory bandwidth, but that’s akin to a gnat’s fart in a hurricane when it comes to our gaming libraries. n Dave James

Features Performance Value By no means a bad rig, but the extra you’re spending on the X79 platform gains you nothing in terms of actual gaming.


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WorldMags.net Technical analysis The most significant increase in the benchmarks is the bandwidth boost, though that’s down more to the filling of the memory channels than the highercapacity or higher-speed RAM. The same will arguably be true for the subjectively better performance we experienced using the laptop after the RAM upgrade.

Memory bandwidth performance SiSoft Sandra

GB/S: hiGheR iS BeTTeR

Crucial Ballistix 2x 8GB 1,866Mhz

24

Samsung 1x 8GB 1,333MHz

8.5 0

5

10

15

20

25

800

1000

200 300 400

500

CPu rendering performance Cinebench R15

inDex SCoRe: hiGheR iS BeTTeR

Crucial Ballistix 2x 8GB 1,866Mhz

632

Samsung 1x 8GB 1,333MHz

607 0

200

400 600

Data transfer performance 12GB folder

TiMe (SeConDS): quiCkeR iS BeTTeR

Crucial Ballistix 2x 8GB 1,866Mhz

298

Samsung 1x 8GB 1,333MHz

333 0

100

£126 lAPTOP MEMORY

CRuCiAl BAllISTIx 16GB How much laptop memory do you want, and how fast do you need it to be? vITAl STATISTICS Price £126 Manufacturer Crucial Web www.crucial.com Frequency 1,866MHz Memory type DDR3 SODIMM Channels Dual Modules 2x 4GB Latency 10-10-10-30 Voltage 1.35v

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e’ve been playing around with a few mid-range gaming laptops recently and something has surprised us about the memory configurations we’ve come across. The manufacturers of a fair number of machines we’ve tested have tried to save a little space and cash by dropping in just one memory module, despite them being dual-channel platforms. We’ve seen this trend in a few of the budget gaming rigs we’ve been testing, too. Now, we’ve been a bit down on this practice because it doesn’t really seem to be saving the consumer much money and cuts the memory

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January 2014

bandwidth of your machine in half (at least). But does that really make much difference in the grand scheme of things? We’ve picked up a 16GB kit from Crucial to see what benefit upgrading the RAM in your gaming laptop gives you. Even our favourite laptop of the moment, PC Specialist’s MSI-based SkyFire, came with a single SODIMM. It’s 8GB and runs at 1,333MHz out of the box. Surely dropping in a full dual-channel 16GB kit, running at 1,866MHz, would make a huge difference to the setup? You can probably tell where we’re going with this already…

Memorise

Predictably, you will barely see any difference with this hefty memory upgrade when you look at the standard benchmarks we use. The CPU index scores from Cinebench see a slight boost, and in our Company of Heroes 2 benchmark the frame rate rose by a solitary frame per second on average. That, though, is offset by the fact

we saw the minimum frame rate drop by one FPS, too. None of which paints a particularly positive picture for this £126 upgrade kit. When you look at the memory bandwidth scores, though, the difference is huge. With the single module, we were getting 8.5GB/s, but with the Crucial kit dropped in that leapt to just over 24GB/s. It’s a shame that boost barely translates into any jump in performance for us gamers. In general PC use, though, there is a difference. The jump in memory configuration delivered a drop of 35 seconds in the time it took to copy a 12GB game folder, and the machine subjectively feels a lot more responsive. None of that, though, is likely to have much to do with the extra 8GB DDR3 we’d just dropped into the rig. It’s more likely that filling out the dual-channel slots with just a pair of 4GB modules would deliver the same benefit as this huge kit. You can pick up a kit with a pair of 4GB modules for just

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over £60. For the PC Specialist machine, you could get a single 8GB module to fill the empty slot for around the same price, or you could configure it with a pair from the start. It’s tough to see the benefit of this sort of high-capacity, high-speed memory for the laptop crowd, especially for gamers. I still believe there’s a subjective benefit to splitting the SODIMMs to run in dual-channel mode, but opting for lots of high-speed RAM does so little for this sort of laptop as to render it rather a waste of cash. Gift your laptop a decent SSD instead. n Dave James

Features Performance Value The RAM upgrade delivers a bit of a boost, but nowhere near a big enough one to justify the hefty cost.


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WorldMags.net Technical analysis Throwing the standard sequential read and write numbers around doesn’t really tell us a huge amount these days, but the long-tail, sustained performance of the OCZ drive dealing with a hefty 38GB folder shows off its real-world speed. Being nearly two minutes quicker than the Samsung drive is really impressive.

Sequential read performance AS SSD

MB/S: hIgher IS BeTTer

OCZ VeCTOr 150

497

OCZ VECTOR

514

SAMSuNG 840 EVO

494 0

100

200 300

400

500

400

500

Sequential write performance AS SSD

MB/S: hIgher IS BeTTer

OCZ VeCTOr 150

482

OCZ VECTOR

494

SAMSuNG 840 EVO

482 0

100

200 300

real-world data transfer performance 38gB file

TIMe IN SeCONDS: quICker IS BeTTer

OCZ VeCTOr 150

212

SAMSuNG 840 EVO

320 0

£200 SOlID STATE DRIVE

100

200 300 400

500

OCZ VECTOR 150 240GB The new Vector is playing the long game VITAl STATISTICS Price £200 Manufacturer OCZ Web www.ocztechnology.com Capacity 240GB Memory Toshiba 19nm MlC NAND Controller Indilinx Barefoot 3 Interface SATA 6Gbps Max IOPS 95,000

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umours of OCZ’s demise have been somewhat (I hesitate to say greatly) exaggerated. By the end of January 2014, Toshiba should have completed it’s acquisition of the company, and the current plan is for the OCZ brand to continue - a bit like Dell and Alienware. We were big fans of the original Vector when it landed in our test bench, offering excellent performance from OCZ’s bespoke Barefoot 3 controller and fantastic 4K random performance for the time. It also had an impressive five-year warranty, which gave us more trust in its endurance than the rather shaky Vertex 4 drives that preceded it.

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January 2014

It’s the endurance that OCZ is promoting this time, which is interesting considering it’s shifted down to a smaller production process on the NAND flash memory it’s using to fill out its newest drives. Compared with the original Vector and its 20GB/day writes, OCZ rates the Vector 150 drives for up to 50GB/day. That’s a whole lot of writing. OCZ has boosted the endurance of the Vector 150 through over-provisioning (the original drive is a full 256GB option, while the 150 only goes as far as 240GB) and some proprietary flash management. With the tech-buying public still conscious that solid state drives have issues with long-term reliability, it seems to be the new battleground for consumer SSDs. Well, now that performance has largely been maxed out on the SATA 6Gbps interface, anyway.

No NAND

So yes, despite a switch to the newer, more advanced 19nm

Toshiba NAND over the 25nm IMFT flash it used for the first Vector, not a lot has really changed in the standard performance metrics. The usual SATA 6Gbps limits apply, so sequential read and write speeds are knocking around the 500MB/s mark. The original Vector’s scores were a touch higher, but not enough to really be significant. Where the changes do come into play in the performance numbers is in the 4K random reads – the small data transfers that make up most of your OS drive’s activity in its operating life. The first Vector was pretty impressive, but the Vector 150 is even higher than the Turbowriting Samsung 840 EVO. The reads still aren’t too hot, but the writes are hugely impressive. OCZ has made a big deal of the new drive’s sustained performance, and when you compare it to something like the EVO at this capacity, with only 3GB of its faux SlC flash, you can see it making a difference. We picked a 38GB

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game folder (with various sub-folders and file types) to give the two drives a workout, and the difference was startling. The Samsung drive completed this real-world test in 5m20s, while OCZ’s new baby took just 3m32s. That’s a huge difference and shows just what the new drive can do in a relevant situation. As ever, you’re paying for performance, and for the fact that OCZ can’t manufacture every component itself, unlike Samsung. Still, this plucky upstart is capable of matching – and here besting – what the Korean giant can do in terms of technology. n Dave James

Features Performance Value A very impressive new solid state drive from OCZ when you dive into the realworld performance metrics.


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Technical analysis We’ve included the £80 Cooler Master liquid-chiller in the results as a comparison, but it’s the performance against the similarly sized and priced Raijintek cooler that is most damning for this Be Quiet! chiller. The time it takes to return the CPU back to its original idle temperature is particularly poor.

Stock-clocked performance (idle) i7 4770K

DegReeS CeNTIgRaDe: loweR IS BeTTeR

ShaDow RoCK 2

37

EREBoSS

36

SEIDon

36 0

20

40

60

80

100

Stock-clocked performance (100%) i7-3770K @ 3.5ghz

DegReeS CeNTIgRaDe: loweR IS BeTTeR

ShaDow RoCK 2

56

EREBoSS

49

SEIDon

47 0

20

40

60

80

100

150

200

250

Peak-to-idle performance i7-3770K @3.5ghz

SeCoNDS: FaSTeR IS BeTTeR

ShaDow RoCK 2

219

EREBoSS

55

aRCTIC CoolInG FREEzER I30

16 0

50

100

£36 CPU CoolER

Be QuIeT! SHaDoW RoCK 2 Casting quite a shadow is Be Quiet!’s latest mammoth chip-chiller vITal STaTISTICS Price £36 Manufacturer Be Quiet! Web www.bequiet.com Socket compatibility Intel and aMD TDP 180W Fans 1x 120mm PWM Dimensions 147 x 122 x 160mm Materials Copper base, aluminium fins

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here’s something about that exclamation mark in Be Quiet!’s name that has always concerned me. Not least because it makes figuring out where to put possessive apostrophes an absolute nightmare, but part of it is also because in my head I’m always thinking about some engineer in Be Quiet!’s research and development labs tearing at his face and screaming its name in frustration at his latest creation. Punctuation aside, the Shadow Rock 2 has to keep with the company’s ethos and take a low-noise approach to CPU cooling. It does so using an enormous heatsink array,

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January 2014

with one of Be Quiet!’s own SilentWing 120mm fans doing the air-shovelling. It also uses four fat copper heatpipes tunnelling through the base to the densely packed heatsink. The Shadow Rock 2 is neatly engineered, allowing you to mount that fan on any of the four sides of this cooling cube. That’s a particularly handy feature if you’re struggling to fit the giant cooler onto your motherboard or into your case. You’ll be better off if your chassis has a cut out behind the motherboard to help you mount the beast, as you need to screw the cooler onto the CPU bracket from the rear. You’d struggle to get your mobo back into most cases if you had to install it with the Shadow Rock 2 attached. We’re in familiar territory when it comes to the memory, though. Performance memory modules with giant heatsinks will have to be replaced if you want to get this hefty cooler atop your processor; there just isn’t enough clearance under the Shadow Rock 2’s heatsink.

You’ll be okay with standard height modules, but anything else will cause frustration.

Cool ‘n’ Be Quiet!?

But what about performance? Well, sadly it’s not stellar. Yes, it’s quiet (though not exactly silent), but it’s most definitely not the most effective chip chiller we’ve used recently. It struggles to shift heat away from the CPU at any pace, leaving the processor sitting much hotter than the Raijintek cooler we’ve checked out over the page. at stock speeds it’s around 7ºC hotter, and with a 4.5GHz overclock on our i7 4770K it was 10ºC hotter. That struggle is plain to see when you look at the time it takes for the Shadow Rock 2 to get the CPU back to its idle temperatures. This is where water-coolers really come into their own, taking seconds to shift the excess heat away, but the Be Quiet! Cooler takes over three and a half minutes to return the CPU to its happy place. Considering water coolers are generally twice the

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price of the Shadow Rock 2, you could forgive it, but the Ereboss from Raijintek manages sub-60-second peak-to-idle timings, and is a shade cheaper too. all of this leaves the Shadow Rock 2 a little off the pace of the competition. When even low-profile coolers like Gelid’s SlimHero give it a run for its money at stock speeds, there are fewer reasons than ever to go for such a chunky chip chiller. With the drop in prices of water cooling and the rise in small form factor gaming rigs, we’re struggling to see a future for such large scale tower coolers. n Dave James

Features Performance Value The sheer size of Be Quiet’s Shadow Rock 2 gave us high hopes for its cooling performance, which is sadly lacking.


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WorldMags.net Technical analysis

The Ereboss easily beats the Be Quiet! cooler right across the board. Those extra heatpipes and perforated aluminium fins give it both cooler temperatures and quicker peak-to-idle performance too. The fact that this active air-cooler isn’t far off the performance of our favourite water cooler, the Seidon 240M, is also rather impressive.

Stock-clocked performance i7 4770k (100%)

DEGREES CEnTIGRADE: loWER IS bETTER

EREboSS

49

SHADOW ROCk 2

56

SEiDON 240M

47 0

20

40

60

80

100

overclocked performance i7 4770k (@4.5GHz)

DEGREES CEnTIGRADE: loWER IS bETTER

EREboSS

61

SHADOW ROCk 2

71

SEiDON 240M

52 0

20

40

60

80

100

30

40

50

Peak-to-idle performance i7 4770k (stock)

SEConDS: quICkER IS bETTER

EREboSS

55

EREBOSS (2ND fAN)

35

SEiDON 240M

16 0

10

20

£32 CPU COOlER

RAIJInTEk EREBOSS The lord of darkness rises again… to give his name to a CPU cooler viTAl STATiSTiCS Price �£32 Manufacturer Raijintek Web www.raijintek.com Socket compatibility intel and AMD Heatpipes 6x 6mm Fans 1x 140mm PWM Dimensions 140 x 110.5 x 160mm Materials Nickel copper base, aluminium fins

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ooler company Raijintek is a new one on us, and it’s created a series of chip chillers taking the names Greek gods in vain. It’s kind of fitting that the Ereboss is named after the god of darkness, albeit with an extra ‘S’ so it can have the word ‘boss’ in there too. The heatsink on this cooler is almost big enough to start geo-engineering with your PC to blot out the sun. You know what we’re inevitably going to say about sticking performance memory anywhere near your PC with this chunky beastie clamping down on your processor. High-end RAM modules with hefty heatsinks are going to be

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no use to you if you want the Ereboss keeping things cool. That’s not the big problem it could be in terms of actual PC performance though. Those RAM heatsinks barely make a difference anyway, and high-speed memory can be easily stuck in the same category if you’re mostly gaming with your rig too, but if your existing modules have some height to them then the Ereboss definitely isn’t for you. There is a certain aesthetic pleasure to be gleaned from those six copper heatpipes snaking through the nickel copper base, and they’re as effective as they are pretty. They may not have quite the girth of the Shadow Rock 2 on the previous page, but the extra pair of pipes certainly get the heat away from the base quickly and efficiently. Raijintek has played with the design of the cooling fins too, slicing little triangular holes in each layer of aluminium stacked above the base plate. This gives an extra level of airflow around them, and

judging by the cooling performance we got from the Ereboss, it seems to be an effective little tweak too.

Water meets air

The fact that we can genuinely compare the performance of the Ereboss to the Seidon 240M from Cooler Master is impressive. That’s a doublesize radiator on one of the best water coolers around. The stock clocked CPU cooling performance is especially impressive, with only two degrees between the 100 per cent loaded temperature of the water-cooler and this active air-cooler. The overclocked performance is also impressive, though you can see daylight between the air and water cooling options. There is inevitably more of a difference between the peak-to-idle speeds, but the Ereboss can still get back down to idle temperatures in under a minute. When you add a second fan in a push-me-pullyou configuration, that drops to just 35 seconds. Those large

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(though only 13mm thick) fans are at once one of its best features and biggest problems. They are very quiet as their size means they don’t need to spin quickly, but even with low-profile RAM they only just fit. On our Sabertooth test bench, the raised cover over the mobo’s power components meant there was barely room for the second optional fan. But if you’ve got enough space on your mobo – and the mad skills needed to screw the cooler to the motherboard through the heatsink – then the cooling performance of this low-priced chip chiller is its own reward. n Dave James

Features Performance Value A quality air-cooler that can stand alongside the best. Its only problem is one of scale and fiddly fitting.


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£79 GaMinG eyeWear

GuNNAR vayPer MercUry

Bring rifle-range chic home to your gaming rig vital statistics Price £79 Manufacturer Gunnar Optiks Web www.gunnars.co.uk Material stainless steel Lens colour amber Lens size 58mm Weight 20g

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ho would want to buy a pair of glasses specifically to use while gaming? It seems crazy to most of us that anyone would willingly drop £80 on a set of urine-coloured goggles just so they can feel like they’re on some NRA-sponsored rifle range. We’re just reviewing them here so we can scoff at them and warn everyone off, right? Well, no. We’ve actually been fans of the Gunnar Optiks glasses since before they arrived on the shores of the UK. they may be pricey, but they’re genuinely useful. like most of you reading this we use computers almost all the time. We are constantly staring at a screen; whether it’s for work or recreation, we’ve got millions of pixels glaring out at us for much of the time that we’re conscious. the beauty of the Gunnars is that they ease the strain on your poor sight-balls by softening the glare via that urine-yellow filter, and the slight focus of the lenses reduces the

strain of concentrating on ickle lines of text or the minute outlines of the pixelated people you’re looking to frag. the curve of the frames and lenses also protects the eyes from the drying effects of airflow, which is particularly useful if you’re at your Pc in an air-conditioned office or in front of a fan keeping the man-cave cool in those summer months. the vayper design is a little more classically stylish than the more gaudy steel series designs we’ve seen before and, yellow-lens aside, wont look out of place in front of your eyes. speaking as a contact lens-wearer, these admittedly pricey goggles mean i don’t have to pluck them out when i want to get gaming for a long session. they are most definitely a luxury product – you don’t need them – but they genuinely do make a difference. surprisingly so, too. n Dave James

Features Performance Value Very much a luxury, but these lightweight gaming goggles will take the strain so you don’t have to.

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£65 CHASSiS

BItFENIx ProDiGy M A simple update that makes a big difference to this small chassis viTAl STATiSTiCS Price £65 Manufacturer BitFenix Web www.bitfenix.com Motherboard compatibility mATX, mini-iTX Drive bays 1x 5.25in, 4x 3.5in, 5x 2.5in Fans 2x 120mm Expansion slots 5 Dimensions 250 x 404 x 359mm

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he original Prodigy was a bit of a trailblazer. Before Valve got us all excited about the Steam Machine, and before Nvidia started throwing money at manufacturers to build small form factor machines with its Art of Gaming tag, BitFenix saw the writing on the wall and set out to build a stylish little chassis capable of housing the finest gaming components around. Stylistically, the Prodigy M is identical to its older brother, but inside things are rather different. Where the Prodigy was limited to mini-iTX motherboards, the M has been retooled to allow the installation of mATX boards as well. BitFenix has shifted to a

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more traditional placement, with the mobo positioned vertically rather than horizontally, as in the first case. The size has remained the same though, so the PSU placement has had to change to accommodate the switch in mobo alignment. That’s a good thing. We had very few issues with the original case, but they were mostly based around the space for PSU cabling. The new positioning means that’s far less of an issue now unless you’re using incredibly long AMD cards. We stuffed a GTX Titan inside without it bumping heads with the power supply. The biggest thing though is the extra versatility of this revised edition. Having the option to use a mATX board means that dual-GPU mini-PCs become a possibility and given the impressive airflow in this chassis, such a setup is unlikely to melt itself down either. The layout inside is still modular, allowing for many different configurations too. Ditch the optical drive tray and you can drop in a 240mm water-cooling

radiator, but if you still feel the need for that dying medium there’s still space for a 120mm option or chunky tower cooler.

Easy build

it all means that, even more so than with the first Prodigy, this case is capable of housing the finest gaming components around without it being a trial getting things to fit. it may not have the diminutive stature of the lovely EvGA Hadron Air, but it makes your build much easier. it’s a satisfying experience routing everything through and watching it burst into life for the first time. The Hadron was occasionally awkward, with no cutout on the motherboard tray to ease CPU cooler installation, but the Prodigy M is a breeze. it’s still not a perfect chassis though, and one of the biggest issues anyone had with the first case is still there. While we’re big fans of the mock Mac G5 aesthetic, the fact BitFenix has used the same material on the feet as it has for the handles is still a problem. Give

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a built Prodigy M machine a little nudge and it’ll rock back and forward like the most technologically advanced Weeble ever made, but with more of a risk of actually falling over. We could have done with BitFenix offering replacement feet for those who just preferred screw-in versions, as it’s a doddle to remove the wobbly bits at the bottom, though the plastic around where it fits to the chassis are a little brittle and parts were already broken when we started testing. Those wobbly niggles aside though, this is a very pleasing mini chassis. n Dave James

Features Performance Value It may be a bit wobbly, but the Prodigy M is a versatile and stylish small form factor chassis with few compromises to its scale.


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Build a Battlefield 4 rig

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Build a Bf4 rig How to

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unchtimes at Future have changed irrevocably in recent months. Where once it was a civilised mock-Georgian affair, with Alan playing a harpsichord in the corner while the rest of us nibbled at cucumber sandwiches and sipped tea in the Grade II-listed surrounds of the PC Format office, it’s now an expletive-filled rage-fest. Thank you DICE and thank you Battlefield 4. It’s not been an easy road though – far from it. The game’s launch was fraught with both server and client-side issues, hoofing people from games seemingly at random and causing us to lose so much progress we could all have been promoted to overlords of the combined forces of Earth by now. Sometimes gaming performance has suffered too, and in the frantic life and death and death and more death situations of BF4, lag will have you killed more surely than kamikaze-ing a chopper into a wall. Electronic Arts and DICE have been working hard to squash those early bugs

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though, and the game is a far more robust affair than it was when we first dipped our toes into the BF4 water and had them shot off. Now that it’s solid and more reliable, it’s time to put together a rig to really pack a punch in an online bun fight. There are many options available to you. You can either buy a new machine, lock, stock and barrel, from an upstanding system integrator such as the PC Specialist rig over there, or save some cash putting one together yourself. Don’t worry if an expensive component upgrade is beyond your wallet right now, though – there are also some simple ways to push up the frame rates of your existing rig without really sacrificing any of the beauty of Battlefield 4’s quite stunning Frostbite 3 engine. No matter whether you’re in the market for a brand new rig, are on the hunt for the perfect BF4 upgrade or simply want to optimise the frag-filled experience on your current machine, we’ve got you covered. Aren’t we good to you?

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Build a Battlefield 4 rig

WorldMags.net Box 1 Big Corsair’s Carbide Air 540 is

off the ol’ BloCk 2 Chip Somewhat inevitably, the PC Specialist

a real beast of a chassis, offering enough airflow inside for all your components to breathe – and with an overclocked processor and hefty graphics card, you want to make sure that your whole rig is ready to rock and roll running at 100 per cent load for the duration of a long Battlefield 4 sesh. This cubist’s wet dream separates the rig’s PSU and storage from the main components, giving the squared-off machine more airflow than normal ATX towers. It’s similar to Cooler Master’s HAF XB, but with the system mounted vertically rather than horizontally.

build comes with the mighty Core i7-4770K, rocking eight threads of processing power. Thanks to the hefty chassis and the Corsair H100i chip-chiller mounted inside, you get one that’s mightily overclocked too. Running at 4.4GHz out of the box is pretty decent for the top Haswell chip, and that Asus RoG Maximus VI Hero motherboard is comfortable keeping the silicon running at those speeds. You may not need those eight threads, or even the overclocked clockspeed for Battlefield 4 to run perfectly, but if you want to keep your rig future-proofed for the coming next-gen sponsored, multi-core gaming revolution, it’s worth having in the bank.

5 graphiCs-gasm The GPU is the biggie for

memories? 3 more If the GPU is so important to

Battlefield 4, why bother with the massive 16GB of super-quick 2,400MHz memory sat inside this PC Specialist machine? Well, actually memory can make a real difference to your BF4 gaming, although only when the GPU is no longer the bottleneck. Granted it has to be quite an extreme example for this to happen, however. We’re talking either high-end graphics cards on relatively low-res panels – a GTX 780 Ti on a 1080p screen, for instance – or when you’ve got a suite of SLI or CrossFire cards making mincemeat out of the Frostbite 3 engine. Either way, after the GPU it’s the system memory that’s the next thing to slow down a serious BF4 setup, so for the ultimate Battlefield rig you want lots of RAM and ought to be pushing above the 1,600MHz mark.

and save 4 store One of our biggest bugbears with BF4

(server crashes and lost advancements aside) is the time it takes to load a level, especially from scratch. Alan’s review rig is still stuck on an old spinning platter drive (he’s too lazy to upgrade), and he’s always last to the battle. The PC Specialist machine is rocking a healthy 240GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD, which will cut down your wait to get in to the frag-fest.

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your Battlefield 4 machine. It’s the component that does the most work when you’re gaming and is responsible for making sure you get frame rates smoother than a kitten in a velvet smoking jacket, so your choice is vitally important. The difficulty is figuring out what’s more important to you – the absolute fastest frame rates or the better actual PC experience. This is the battle we’re seeing fought between AMD and Nvidia at the moment. There’s little argument that the AMD R9 290 is the finest GPU of this generation – it’s quick and great value – but it’s bloody hot and loud too. The GTX 780 Ti in this machine is much cooler and quieter, and still has some impressive performance packed inside that lovely chrome-plated exterior. January 2014

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Build a Battlefield 4 rig

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BuIlD A DIY. BATTlEFIElD 4 rIG.

Y

es, you can pick up a pre-built rig that will absolutely nail a fantastic frame rate in BF4. The £1,700 machine on the previous page gives a great experience at the resolutions we’re looking at in this month’s group test, but it’s a massive overkill if you’re rocking a standard 1080p screen or under. The sort of build you can put together to get you a great frame rate at 1080p will be nowhere near as pricey as the extreme performance rig PC Specialist assembled for us. There are a few corners you can cut and a few tweaks you can make along the way, but essentially this ‘ere machine will run at 60fps on average, with minimum frame rates not far off that, and it’s not going to break the bank either.

motherBoard and CpU

£80 Asus H87-Plus £150 Intel Core i5 4570 These two components form the base of your build, and they are two of the most important choices you have to make for any rig. For a gaming machine we’re looking at a quad-core processor – ideally of the Intel persuasion – but actual processor speed isn’t really going to net you any more gaming performance. So, especially for a BF4 rig, overclocking is pretty much unnecessary. That frees us up to go for the non K-series SKU of the latest Intel Haswell CPUs, and allows us to set our sights on the H87 chipset rather than the Z87. The only real difference between the H87 and Z87 is the overclocking potential on offer - the H87 doesn’t support overclocking, but for us that’s not going to be an issue. Usually they don’t really go in for much in the way of multi-GPU support either, but the Asus H87Plus has both PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 2.0 slots in x16 trim with CrossFireX support. On the CPU side, the i5 4570 is a bona fide quad-core Haswell, clocked at 3.2GHz, but capable of running up to 3.6GHz via Turbo mode. For Battlefield 4 that’s plenty, and boosting either frequency or core count nets you very little in the way of extra gaming performance.

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power and Chassis

£50 XFX Core Edition 550W £46 Corsair Carbide 200R Considering this setup will probably only pull down between 250W and 320W (with the AMD card) at most, you might be questioning the need for a 550W power supply. Ideally though, you want to have at least double the platform power capacity available in your chosen power supply. This will cover you for any random power spikes your system might produce, and will

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help to ensure a decent level of power efficiency from the PSU itself. A power supply running at its ragged limits wont be nearly as efficient as one with a little more breathing room. As for the chassis you’ll be using to clothe your PC, you can’t really go wrong with the Corsair Carbide 200R. It’s reassuringly solid and welldesigned for such a reasonably priced chassis. There’s nothing else for the price that can come close to the simple but effective design of the 200R.


Build a Battlefield 4 rig

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graphiCs

£180 Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 £204 AMD HD 7970 As with the high-end PC Specialist machine, the graphics card is the most important choice when it comes to getting the best performance out of Battlefield 4. Nothing else has such claims on the frame rates you can squeeze out of the game. That’s why we’re spending more on this part of the rig than anywhere else. At this level the GTX 760 and the HD 7970 are great options for getting up to a smooth 60FPS at 1,920 x 1,080 without having to sacrifice the visual fidelity the Frostbite 3 engine has to offer. The Nvidia card is a very reliable respin of last generation’s GTX 670, with a few minor tweaks, and at this price is great value. It’s still widely available too, which isn’t something you’ll be able to say about the HD 7970 for much longer. Having been replaced by ostensibly the same card, the R9 280X, its stock is dwindling. But then again, at £200-odd it’s great value, and generally delivers higher minimum frame rates than the Nvidia option. There is another reason we’ve included an AMD card here though, and that’s the possibility of Mantle. The new API will make its debut via an update to BF4 this month, and has the potential to make AMD GCN-based cards much more efficient in supported titles.

Your shopping list

“ThIS ‘ErE mAChINE WIll ruN AT 60FPS oN AvErAGE”

This DIY effort will cost £740 all-in. Even when you add another £70 for a copy of Windows 8 64-bit, it’s still half the price of the performance rig from PC Specialist, and will have you gaming happily at 1080p with Battlefield 4 looking gorgeous and running smoothly. Well, as smoothly as it can, frustrating disconnects notwithstanding. We’ve only covered the basic base unit in this build, so there’s no keyboard, mouse or other peripherals included. Those are easily transferred from your current gaming rig though, as is the monitor your existing machine is hooked up to.

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Price list Intel Core i5 4570 @ 3.2GHz

£150

Asus H87-Plus

£80

8GB DDR3 (2x4GB) @ 1,600MHz £60 Nvidia GeForce GTX 760

£180

Crucial 240GB M500

£120

Western Digital 750GB HDD

£54

XFX Core Edition 550W

£50

Corsair Carbide 200R

£46

total

£740

January 2014

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Build a Battlefield 4 rig

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oPTImISE BATTlEFIElD 4

N

ot all of us can go out and drop a suitcase full of cash on a new build or a couple hundred on a new graphics card when a new game comes out, but there are things you can do to ensure you get the very best experience, and that doesn’t necessarily just mean hacking up the graphics settings so you get a vague approximation of Battlefield 1942 on medium settings. one of the wondrous things – and sometimes the most intimidating thing – about PC gaming is the flexibility we have in getting our games to run. Sure, a lot of people use the default settings, often to their disadvantage, and apps like raptr will sort them out for you, but you’ll get your best experience by making the changes yourself. Battlefield 4 seems remarkably scalable, offering great 1080p performance on mid-range graphics cards. here we’re looking at how you can get our GTX 760 / hD 7970 rig up and running smoothly at 60fps, but these tweaks will help smooth out frame rates on any card lower down the stack. right from the off we can hit 54fps on average at ultra settings with 4x anti-aliasing, and many of you will be calling that job done, but the minimum frame rate drops as low as around 30fps, and with such a discrepancy between the average and minimum frame rate you’re not getting the smoothest experience. In an online frag-fest, that can get you killed real quick.

partiCles

Tweaking any of the settings we’ve highlighted here will help get the average frame rates of the GTX 760 and the HD 7970 above 60fps, but you’ll still be looking at a large variation in the minimum frame rate. The AMD card fares a little better than the Nvidia in this regard, but we still want to get the minimum close to 60fps. The most effective way to do that is to cut down the Effects quality setting. This is the feature 46

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that looks after the particle effects in the Frostbite 3 engine – stuff like smoke and explosions. Moving the setting from ‘Ultra’ to ‘High’ doesn’t make a lot of difference to the average frame rate, but seriously boosts the minimums. With these settings in place, both GTX 760 and HD 7970 are showing just over 60FPS on average with the minimums rocketing up to 55FPS. Smooth as Dean Martin with alopecia.

mesh qUality

When you’re dodging bullets and ‘splodes, chances are you’re not paying a massive amount of attention at the tree that just blew up behind you or the rock that guy shooting you is hiding behind. With that in mind, it’s not much of a stretch to think you could happily drop down the mesh quality settings a notch. The mesh setting looks after the terrain and environment details, and when you leave the texture settings up you’ll still have a lovely-looking war.

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Build a Battlefield 4 rig

WorldMags.net anti-aliasing

The easiest way to boost your frame rates is to turn off anti-aliasing, but while that will indeed boost your FPS, it’s also going to make it look like you’re gaming on a weak-hearted console. Anti-aliasing smoothes out the jagged lines you’ll get on hard edges in-game. It does require a fair chunk of processing power, but it also makes a big difference to visual fidelity, so we want to keep this turned on. Have no fear though, there are other ways to go.

post-proCessing

amBient oCClUsion

This is a type of lighting effect that adds soft shadows and colouring to objects that are close to each other, and into gaps. There are two options for this: horizon-based (HBAO) and screen space (SSAO). The HBAO setting requires a load more graphics processing power, so knocking that back to SSAO will net you a little performance boost for a very minor loss of fidelity.

“You CAN hAPPIlY DroP mESh quAlITY DoWN A NoTCh ” WorldMags.net

As well as the standard antialiasing, there is an AA postprocessing setting, as well as more general post-processing. Pushing the AA version to ‘High’ instead of ‘Ultra’ will only slightly affect the anti-aliasing of objects with transparency, such as foliage. The individual post-processing setting only looks after the luxury lighting effects of HDR and bloom. As with the AA post-processing, you’ll barely notice the difference if you move from ‘Ultra’ down to ‘High’. And don’t worry, you’ll still get to see those gorgeous god-rays… January 2014

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Hardware review WorldMags.net

Builder Whether you’re upgrading your PC or starting anew, this is the best kit

O

ne of the joys of owning a PC is that you can upgrade it as you go. Need higher frame rates in games? Drop in a newer graphics card. More power elsewhere? Grab a new processor or go for that old favourite: a memory boost. There’s a wealth of upgrades that can transform your machine, and you can change slowly over time to suit your budget, so you rarely have to suffer a sluggish rig for long. Every now and then, the best possible upgrade is to dump your current rig and start afresh by building a whole new machine from scratch. What sort of machine should you build, though? Which items are important? Which work well together? How much should you

be budgeting for? That’s a lot of questions, and to get the right answers means having to go and research all the current trends in order to make the best decision. Before you do that, though, take a look to the right. You’ll discover that we’ve taken the hard work out of the equation and presented you with three machines that fit three different budgets. On these pages are our usual recommendations for putting together a budget, mainstream and silly high-end machine. These all include a screen in the ticket price, but over the next few pages we’ve also got an in-depth look at simply putting together the best base-rig you can build yourself if you’ve already got a decent monitor. So, happy building you lovely people! n Dave James

How to… BuY a mOniTOr

a new monitor is one of the most important purchases you can make for your rig. it’s the component you’ll be staring at pretty much the entire time you’re using your PC, so you want to make sure it’s a good ’un. There’s also the fact that, realistically, a good quality monitor is very likely to outlast the first gaming rig you plug it

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into. more than any other component, the monitor is the bit of tech that gets transistioned between multiple generations of PCs. So what do you do? unless you’ve got a £400 GPu it’s not advisable to make the leap to 2,560 x 1,440 high-res panels. The extra graphics processing required for the higher resolution is immense. instead, you can get excellent 1080p screens in Va and iPS flavours for just over £100. You can still go for large panels without making a leap in resolution – aOC makes a good value 27-inch iPS panel that still runs with a native 1080p res. That way you get a large screen for your existing GPu.

budGet £519 When every pound counts, spend them wisely motHerboard £52 Gigabyte Ga-970a-DS3

cpu amd FX-6300 BE

amD has carved itself out a rather comfortable niche in the lowend market, and Gigabyte is helping. With SaTa 6Gbps and uSB 3.0, this mobo covers all your needs.

The FX-6350 may well be here, but the FX-6300 still has better OC chops and a lower price point. The fact you can hit 5GHz with one of these makes it a favourite.

memorY £29 crucial 4GB 1600 DDr3

GrapHIcS card £111 Nvidia GTX 650 Ti Boost

memory pricing continues to be incredibly volatile, but it’s still a great time to squeeze more sticks into your rig. You really should see 4GB as the minimum these days.

it’s worth topping £100 for this excellent little graphics card. it has far more in common with the GTX 660 than the GTX 650 and is great value.

Hard drIVe £46 Seagate 500GB Barracuda

power SupplY cm GX Lite 500W

Taking advantage of the SaTa 6Gbps connection on the Gigabyte mobo is this Seagate drive. it’s not going to give you SSD speeds, but it’s not bad and gives you enough space for gaming.

We may be talking about a budget rig here, but it’s still a rather hefty chunk of cash to risk on a no-name power supply. This 500W Cooler master PSu, though, ought to offer a little peace of mind.

cHaSSIS £54 corsair Carbide 200r

ScreeN aoc E2250SWDnK

We admit this isn’t the prettiest case, but it gets the job done and certainly doesn’t look as cheap as it is. You get front-mounted uSB ports and a PSu into the bargain as well.

This 21.5-inch panel has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1080 and looks pretty good despite that price tag. You’ll need a minimum of £150 for iPS, but this Tn ain’t bad.

optIcal £17 lG GH22LS50 DVD-rW

cpu cooler amd Stock Cooler

it’s hardly the sexiest component, but until games and OSes come on uSB sticks, this is your best option to get your rig up and running.

Coolers make a big difference for tweaking high-end CPus, but the standard one that comes with the ‘retail’ processor is just fine for this rig.

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£93

£35

£82

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Rig Builder

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maINStream £1,047 You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a stunning rig

HIGH-eNd £4,073 if you really want to treat yourself, this is how to do it

motHerboard £153 mSI Z87-GD65 Gaming

cpu Intel Core i5-4670K

now that we’ve uncovered some quality Z87 motherboards, such as the mSi Gaming, it’s time to make the switch over to Haswell for our mainstream gaming machine.

The lack of HyperThreading makes this a straight quad-core chip, but the Haswell Core i5 is still the silicon of choice for a new gaming rig. The extra Core i7 threads cost a lot more.

asus has really gone to town on the X79 platform, spamming the market with a host of boards (and most of them are pretty darned good, too). This here P9X79 Pro is a great little performer.

With the same six-core setup as the previous gen, there’s not a lot of extra stock performance, but if you’re after the fastest CPu, this is it right now.

memorY £58 corsair Vengeance LP 8GB

GrapHIcS card Nvidia GTX 760

memorY £97 Kingston HyperX 16GB

GrapHIcS card Nvidia GTX Titan

This pair of 4GB sticks will give you all the performance you could ever want, and they’re in stormtrooper white. They’ll only take up two slots in the board for upgrading, too.

unfortunately, the ol’ HD 7870 XT is hard to get hold of and rather pricey now. Thankfully, the GTX 760 has arrived for less than £200 and offers some serious gaming performance, too.

The quad-channel memory config of the X79 makes for a great opportunity for ram makers to ship new kits. This XmP 1.3-compatible kit is a tasty 16GB package.

We agonised over this, as the Titan doesn’t have the top performance, but it will give the best money-no-object PC gaming experience. and it’s one desirable card.

SolId State drIVe £131 Samsung 840 EVO 250GB

power SupplY £52 ocZ modXStream Pro

SolId State drIVe £499 Samsung 840 EVO 1TB

£171 power SupplY cm Silent Pro Gold 1000W

Samsung’s new EVO SSDs cover a wide range of capacities. This 250GB version is a bargain price and rather damned quick as well.

if you want to build a performance machine, you’re going to need a powerful PSu. This 500W baby will power the rig, with extra to spare. it’s quiet as well.

it’s been a while coming, but we’re finally seeing terabyte-class SSDs, and for a decent price. The 840 EVO uses some impressive algorithms to offer high speed, too.

Cooler master continues to impress with its power supply units, and this wonderful box of tricks managed to scoop the gold award in our exacting test way back in PCF246.

cHaSSIS £63 cooler master Cm690

ScreeN £125 Viewsonic VX2370Smh-LED

cHaSSIS cm Cosmos 2 ultra

ScreeN Hp Zr30W 30-inch

The Cm690 eschews silly gimmicks in favour of producing a no-nonsense chassis that has plenty of cooling options for your mainstream rig. There’s space aplenty inside, and all at a reasonable price.

For years, we’ve been lamenting the constant use of Tn panels in our gaming monitors, always preferring the delights of the iPS screen. now they can be yours for just £125.

Cooler master was always an impressive maker of cases, but it has truly stunned us with this chassis. Yes, it’s expensive, but if you can afford it, go for it.

HP’s 30-incher is exactly what highend gaming means to us and if money is no object, this is the screen to buy. You’ll need the GTX Titan to really show it off.

KeYboard £70 corsair Vengeance K65

cpu cooler enermax ETS-T40

KeYboard £120 corsair Vengeance K70

cpu cooler £105 thermaltake Water 2.0 Ext.

We love a good mechanical switch keyboard here on PC Format, and Corsair is making some of the best. The K65 is a great compact option , with a compact price to boot.

Enermax has simply amazed us with this, its first CPu cooler. The performance is excellent, the price is astonishing, it’s easy to fit and it isn’t so big that it limits your case or mobo choices.

Corsair’s update to the older Vengeance keyboard rights all its older sibling’s wrongs. it’s also a truly stylish gaming board.

Why settle for a reasonable overclock when you can hit 5GHz? This kit is speedy, boasts incredible performance and is quiet in operation.

£183

£180

£32

motHerboard asus P9X79 Pro

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£236

£286

cpu £850 Intel Core i7-4960X

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£787

£922

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1 Multi-header WorldMags.net

The new dual-GPu Mars represents the first time you can get these mid-range GPus in a quad-sLI configuration. sadly there are still diminishing returns on GPus beyond the first two.

Asus RoG MaRs 760

W

here once new graphics cards were greeted with the cry of “Yes, but can it play Crysis?!” now it seems to be more a case of “Yes, but is it faster than the Titan?!” Well, that’s what seems to be in the heads of the marketing folk these days, as the Asus Republic of Gamers Mars 760 has been unleashed with the claim that it bests Nvidia’s head-turning graphics card. asus’ Mars and ares cards have always been about jamming a pair of discrete GPUs onto a single slice of PCB with the express intention of making a seriously quick graphics card. Here though, the RoG team hasn’t picked the top GPUs, and has instead opted for the more mid-range GK104 chip that’s in the GTX 760. What it has done though is clock those two chips over 1GHz and let them loose on the gaming world. With these two chips working together they’re capable of quicker speeds than a GTX Titan and almost parity with the GTX 780 Ti. Though asus is claiming higher minimum frame rates with its dual-GPU design. There’s still the unwelcome spectre of multi-GPU issues with the latest games, but as a bit of tech porn, these cards are beautiful things. n Dave James

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asus RoG Mars 760

WorldMags.net 2 Memory matters

The two GPus on each of these cards have 4GB GDDR5 shared between them. On this setup pictured here, that makes for a mammoth 8GB of shared graphics memory. Just think of the 4K textures, people!

3 Money worries

Price is so important when it comes to graphics cards, which is why at £500+ the RoG Mars 760 struggles to find relevance. With a single GTX 760 costing under £200 and a GTX 780 Ti available for around £550, you’re paying over the odds for the RoG branding.

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terms & conditions Savings compared to buying 26 full priced issues from UK newsstand. This offer is for new UK print subscribers only. You will receive 13 issues in a year. Full details of the Direct Debit guarantee are available upon request. If you are dissatisfied in any way you can write to us or call us to cancel your subscription and we will refund you for all unmailed issues. Prices correct at point of print and subject to change. For full terms and conditions please visit: www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/terms. Offer ends 20th February 2014.

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Double your speed

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Double your

Speed

Don’t let WinDoWs 7 sloW you DoWn. Ben AnDreWs reveAls essentiAl tips to get your pC up to speeD

R

emember when you first powered up your shiny new Windows 7 PC and how quickly it sprang into life? If it’s been well used, things will no longer seem quite so nippy. Well fear not – you might not need to fork out for a new machine just yet. With the aid of various Windows tweaks and some software, your computer can be restored to its former glory. In this feature, you’ll discover why your computer is feeling the strain and how best

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to unshackle it from this virtual ball and chain. You may already be familiar with some of the ways you can show your PC some love, but we’ll reveal plenty more Windows 7 tune-ups that’ll help you keep your computer in tip-top condition. Doubling your computing speed isn’t a fine art. One of the easiest and most effective ways to get your PC back on track is simply to keep it tidy and free of clutter. Just as you’d struggle to find a crucial document in a filing cabinet bursting with papers, a computer hard drive stuffed full

of unnecessary files isn’t going to be the fastest environment to work in. Once Windows has been given a thorough tidy, you’ll find out how a humble USB flash drive can boost its performance and we’ll reveal the hidden settings that will deactivate some of Window’s 7’s speedsapping visual effects. Armed with these tricks you can spend less time staring at loading screens and get on with using and enjoying your PC. Most of the techniques here can be mastered with ease, and they won’t cost you a penny.

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Double your speed

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Quick Turbo Tricks r

eadyBoost is a Windows 7 feature that uses an ordinary USB flash drive to help speed up your computer’s hard drive when it loads frequently-used software and files. ReadyBoost won’t work with any old flash drive though, as it needs at least a 256MB capacity and be fast enough to meet Windows’ requirements. To see if you’ve already got something suitably quick, plug the drive in, click ‘Start > Computer’ and right-click on the drive’s icon, then select ‘Format’ from the menu and leave any formatting options unchanged. Formatting will delete any data that’s already on your flash drive and prepare it for use with ReadyBoost, so if there are any files stored here that you don’t want to lose, back them up first. Once the format is complete, right-click on your hard drive again, but this time select ‘Properties’, followed by the ReadyBoost tab. Should you be met by a message stating that this device cannot be used for ReadyBoost – try clicking the ‘Test again’ button, but if Windows still won’t play ball, it’s time to buy a faster flash drive. Next, select ‘Dedicate this drive to ReadyBoost’ and click ‘Apply’. As Windows learns the software you use most, loading times will gradually reduce. Older PCs with 512MB of RAM will reap the greatest speed increase, and while machines with 1GB or more RAM can benefit from ReadyBoost, don’t expect to be blown away by it.

ADjusT visuAl seTTings W

indows 7 may be a few years old, but it still looks the part thanks to its animations, drop shadows under each window and other eye candy. These effects shouldn’t slow modern PCs down, but an older machine that only just met Windows 7’s minimum requirements when new could be struggling to make the grade. Help it out by disabling some of the frills. Click ‘Start’, type windows performance and press [Enter]. Selecting ‘Adjust for best performance’ will disable all visual effects to give you the biggest performance boost. Click ‘Apply’, but if you now come across something that looks a little too crude like jagged font edges or jerky list scrolling, revisit this menu and re-tick the options.

Increase your PC’s virtual memory

on your hard drive? 1 RAM When your computer runs out of

memory, it borrows a portion of your hard drive to use as virtual memory. To improve performance by allocating more virtual memory, click ‘Start’, right-click on ‘Computer’ and select ‘Properties’.

the sums 2 Do See the amount of ‘Installed memory

(RAM)’ you have listed here? Multiply this figure by 1,024 and then multiply the new number by 1.5. Make a note of the answer, before clicking the ‘Advanced system settings’ link on the left.

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the change 3 Confirm On the Advanced tab, click the

uppermost ‘Settings’ button, followed by the ‘Change’ button. Uncheck the top tickbox, choose the ‘Custom size’ option and enter your previously noted number into both boxes. Click ‘Set > OK’ to finish. January 2014

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Double your speed

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sTreAmline Any WinDoWs services y

ou can use the System Configuration tool to stop unnecessary programs starting up when you load Windows, but it’s possible to take this concept a stage further and prevent individual elements of Windows itself from using precious power resources. To free up some extra speed this way, type services.msc in the Start menu search box and press [Enter]. You’re now greeted with a long list of services Windows may use to operate your computer. It looks daunting at first, but notice the Description column, which adds a little background information about each service name. Clicking the ‘Status’ column will order the list so you can see which services are currently active, then it’s a matter of scrutinising these to see if any can be disabled. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not absolutely sure what a particular service does, simply leave it alone. This isn’t to say other services can’t be tweaked, but we’d recommend visiting www.blackviper.com and finding the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Service Configurations chart to see which ones can be altered.

TWeAk The regisTry W

indows 7 has some helpful time-saving features, such as the miniature preview windows that pop up whenever you slide your mouse pointer over a Taskbar icon. By default, there’s always a small delay between when you point at an icon and anything happening, which can get frustrating if you preview windows frequently. To speed this up, click ‘Start’, type the word regedit in the search box and press [Enter]. This gives you access to the Registry Editor, the secret control panel where Windows 7 can be fine-tuned. Using the folder menu pane on the left, double-click ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USER’, then ‘Control Panel’ and finally ‘Mouse’. Now find ‘MouseHoverTime’ in the list displayed in the right-hand pane and double-click it to reveal a new window. Here the number 400 in the ‘Value data’ box represents the millisecond delay between you hovering over a Taskbar icon and a preview appearing. Changing this to a lower figure will speed things up nicely. Click ‘OK’, restart your computer and hey presto, faster Taskbar previews.

Three easy tweaks

Account Control 1 Disable User Account Control is a security

feature relentlessly asks your permission every time a program tries to make changes to your PC. To disable it, type UAC in the Start menu search box, press [Enter] and set the slider to ‘Never notify’. 56

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auto-logon 2 Activate If your computer only has a single user

account, did you know you can skip the logon screen and load straight to the desktop? Click ‘Start’, type run and press [Enter]. Now type control userpasswords2, click ‘OK’ and uncheck the tickbox.

your power plan 3 Check Sounds obvious, but it’s worth clicking

‘Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options’ to ensure your computer is set to the speediest High Performance plan. Laptops tend to revert back to the Power Saver mode when unplugged.

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Double your speed

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sTAy fAmiliAr WiTh WinDoWs TAsk mAnAger

n

ow your PC has been given a good tidying, it’s a good idea to keep track of what software is left running to ensure nothing is hogging an unfair share of computing resources. The good old Windows Task Manager is one of the most reliable tools for keeping you in the picture. Access it by right-clicking an empty area of the Taskbar and selecting the ‘Start Task Manager’ option. Switch to the Processes tab and click the column label ‘CPU’ to arrange each active program and Windows service in order of which is using the most processor power. Ignore the ‘System Idle Process’ entry if this appears at the top of the list and instead check whether anything else is consistently ranking high on this powerhunger scale. Clicking the ‘Memory’ column header will reveal any programs that may have an appetite for large amounts of RAM. If you do come across a program that seems to be putting undue strain on your machine, head over to the software manufacturer’s website to see if any updates have been released to tackle the problem. Next time you hear your hard drive crunching away of its own accord, bring up the Task Manager again, but move to the Performance tab and click the ‘Resource Monitor’ button. Next, select the Disk tab and click the column header ‘Total (B/sec)’ and any software monopolising your hard drive will be exposed at the top of the list. ■

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GamingWorldMags.net Review Set captured men free to lower your wanted level

Diving kills from your ship’s rigging is endless fun

RELEASE OUT NOW

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag The grand pirate adventure you’ve been waiting for

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ssassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag doesn’t really want to be an Assassin’s Creed game, and I don’t blame it. It seems keen to shrug off the convoluted lore surrounding the aeon-long Assassins vs Templars power struggle, which reached new peaks of ludicrousness even after that bit in the second game where you punch the Pope unconscious in order to access an alien hologram. You play as Edward Kenway, a rogue who loves money enough to leave his girlfriend in port and sail to the West Indies in search of a vast fortune. In the opening scenes he steals an Assassin’s hooded garb and wristblades and accidentally falls in with a crowd of Templars – a team of comedy evil caricatures

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VITAl STATISTICS ¤ Price £40 ¤ Developer In house ¤ Publisher Ubisoft ¤ Web www.bit. ly/AssFlag ¤ Multiplayer Four player co-op ¤ DRM Steam/ Uplay ¤ Recommended spec Dual core CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX470/ Radeon HD 5850, 4GB RAM, 30GB HDD AMD 6850

led by a bearded grand master and backed up by a plate-armoured man-ogre who throws axes at people. They’re searching for the Observatory, an ancient device that enables its user to see the location of anyone in the world at any time. The Templars want it because it’ll make coups easier, the Assassins want it to stop the Templars, and Kenway wants it because it’s the most valuable thing on the planet. If that sounds a bit removed from piracy and plunder, don’t worry. After the two-hour hand-holding tutorial – mercifully shorter than in previous AC games – the story refocuses on the building of the lawless pirate paradise of Nassau. Kenway isn’t exactly an Assassin. He has all the free-running, jumping

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and killing skills of the sect – a genetic bonus, it’s implied – but his relationship with the series’ morally ambiguous order of murder-monks is fractious. That keeps the plot’s severest absurdities at arm’s length and lets you just be a pirate and do pirate things. Sail across the ocean, rob ships, fight the British, capture forts, harpoon whales, explore coastal cities and raid Aztec ruins for treasure. All this in a beautiful tropical open world that’s at its hyper-detailed best on PC.

Treasure islands

On land, much is familiar. Hubs such as Havana and Nassau are large, but there are no urban spaces to match the size and spectacle of Rome or Constantinople. A shame, but there’s still a huge amount to explore. As always, you have to climb to high perches to scout sections of town, revealing chests, stores and sidequests. These place targets in open areas patrolled by British or Spanish forces and invite you to solve the problem creatively. Stealth has been tightened up, too. Jungle foliage offers constant cover and targets can be marked using Kenway’s ‘Eagle Vision’ mode, which lets you track guards through walls – a serious advantage, yes, but


Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

WorldMags.net Freerunning through Black Flag’s jungles is a joy

Kenway’s killing blows double up as dance moves Flaming vessels won’t sink until you deliver a final shot

you no longer have access to the silent, ranged instant-kill throwing knives that made similar challenges trivial in previous games. Instead you have the blowpipe, which can temporarily knock enemies out, or send them into a berserk rage. Snipers are a pain, perched on high guard towers with long-range muskets. The blowpipe is the obvious counter, but the short duration of its sleeping effect can lead to comical races to kick its victims back into unconsciousness before they raise the alarm.

Cannonisation

There’s plenty to do on land, but you’ll spend half your time on your ship, the Jackdaw. The archipelago map operates in a similar way to the smaller city ones, in that you’re unable to see all of the available activities in an area until you’ve conquered a region’s fort. Once that’s done you’ll be able to identify whaling spots, convoys and sunken shipwrecks. You can use a diving bell to travel underwater to investigate these watery remains, dodging sharks to reach the treasure within.

You see a manta ray, Kenway sees a new belt

Sailing is lifted almost wholesale from Assassin’s Creed III, with some concessions to accessibility – by which I mean your boat handles like a bus. Wind direction has little meaning, and you can stop without dropping anchor and magically taxi sideways into ports when docking. I say this to pop any assumptions you might have about Black Flag as an authentic sailing sim, not to suggest that it isn’t good fun. You improve your weapons and armour using materials and money you earn pirating. That lets you take on larger ships, which present different challenges at the naval and close combat level. Bigger ships come with advanced weaponry, and carry captains, crow’s nest snipers and other tough enemies. As you commit more acts of piracy, your wanted level increases and you’ll be pursued by hunter ships,with ominous red sails. At the highest level, you can take on huge ‘legendary ships’ hidden on the map. It’s a good system, designed to gate a series of escalating challenges, not to provide padding. Black Flag will try to waste your time a little bit. The near-future

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sections make an unwelcome return, and are more pointless than ever. The gormless Desmond Miles is gone. Now you wander around the smug offices of evil corporation Abstergo in first person, as an employee tasked with digging through Desmond’s genetic memories for fun pirate bits to stick into its latest entertainment product, which you are playing right now. It isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is, but these bits only take up about five minutes every few hours of main-mission progression. Black Flag is best regarded as a collage of the many games and technologies Ubisoft has cultivated over the past decade, and by brute force, those varied components merge beautifully to create rich and constantly interesting world. Forget the Assassins, Templars and their nonsense war. loot, pillage and steal instead. The rewards are so much greater. ■ Tom Senior

A gorgeous, relentlessly entertaining open-world piracy simulator packed with interesting 18th century rogues.

January 2014

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GamingWorldMags.net Review The space stuff is fantastic, but is over too soon

RELEASE OUT NOW

Call of Duty: Ghosts Stay frosty and keep moving

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all of Duty: Ghosts will be damned if you peek away from your screen. Boredom is absolutely not allowed as it pelts you with action vignettes – including a scene ripped from the opening of The Dark Knight Rises – and repeats its mantra ad nauseam: “Keep moving!” In rare instances, I was able to part from my squad, flank the enemy and wipe them out with the advantage, but that kind of tactical planning was a sparsely present treat. It appeared once more in a jungle mission that put columns of guards between me and my squad, arming me only with a silenced pistol and sensor to detect nearby enemies. That was also the only time I was given a goal without explicit instructions to achieve it. That was also the only time I got a magic bad guy sensor, which is another of the campaign’s failings: it fires off interesting ideas, then forgets them. Near the beginning, I was introduced to my canine companion, Riley, and I could mark

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vITAL STATISTICS ¤ Price £40 ¤ Developer Infinity Ward ¤ Publisher Activision ¤ Web www. callofduty.com ¤ Multiplayer up to 18 players online ¤ DRM Steam ¤ Recommended spec Dual core CPU, 8Gb RAM, DirectX 11 graphics card

targets for him to de-jugular. I did that once, when ordered to, and never again. Later, I used a remotecontrolled sniper rifle to clear out a stadium. It’s a great gadget, but it never appeared thereafter. Both tools are like toys I can play with in the shop, but never take home. But we get bored of toys if we take them home, whereas if we stay in the shop, poking at everything that requires batteries, nothing needs to do more than light up and make noise to keep us entertained. Ghosts’ novelties are similarly loud and bright, and are whisked away before they can be broken open.

Call of shooty

The multiplayer is about flanking, out-flanking, and milliseconds of animation that determine who lives and who dies. The maps are circular arenas dressed in grey military garb, pulling assets from the dullest bits of the campaign. Instead of a space station or tropical shipwreck, the maps are Busted Up Train Yard and Overcast Snowy Place.

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The guns are plentiful and nuanced, though every vital stat is experienced in milliseconds of surprise action. Everyone swirls around the map like disoriented flies, and I either catch glimpses of their feet under collapsed steel girders, or run face first into them as our beelines intersect, reacting with spasms more often than cool tactical awareness. At a pub level, Ghosts’ multiplayer is whack-amole to Counter-Strike’s chess. An exception is Search and Rescue, which gives teams bomb and defend objectives, and players one life per round unless a team member collects their dogtag to revive them. That encourages teammates to stick together, generating group engagements at range that I prefer over darting around like an armed insect. I also enjoy the Ground War mode. With bigger maps and 12-14 players, there’s more room to breathe and more teammates to rely on. Still, even in the modes that I like, I don’t want to stay for long.


Call of Duty: Ghosts

WorldMags.net It’s okay, CoD jumped this a long time ago

A lot of multiplayer happens at a distance Riley likes to stick his head out of the tank when we go for drives

So yeah, this is a thing that happens

In previous Call of Duty games, the drive to unlock a new weapon might have kept me going, but that’s been replaced with Squad Points. Accrued through good play, these can be spent to unlock any weapon at any time. I appreciate that this is more respectful of players’ time, as well as returning CoD fans’ desire to get right to the gun they’re happy with, but it nullifies any sense of accomplishment the progression system once provided. Like the campaign, multiplayer is about constant momentum, and matches go by too fast to develop a rhythm or personality. I never enjoyed a nail-biter, witnessed heroics, or developed a rivalry during a round. There were no brilliant shots that I’m eager to show off on YouTube, with the exception of one accidentally impressive grenade throw. The cooperative Extinction mode is much better: four players versus waves of aliens, where you earn money for each kill, and there are weapons and defences to buy. It’s a healthy application of a formula we’re used to, but it doesn’t do

anything I wouldn’t rather do in Left 4 Dead or Killing Floor, and it feels like a side note compared to the effort put into the campaign and competitive multiplayer. When I began, the keys used to buy special items weren’t even bound. My options were shown with a fourway cross that looked like it was intended for a D-pad, and when I did bind the keys, the menu referred to them as ‘killstreak rewards’.

Call me maybe

That doesn’t damn Ghosts as an icky console port though. The only technical problem I encountered was sudden framerate dips in the menus – it never happened while playing. I’ve heard that some people experience sudden spikes in mouse sensitivity during multiplayer, but I haven’t encountered that. The netcode in multiplayer is as robust, but no better than previous Call of Duty games. There were still a few times where I swear a hit registered on me before I saw my opponent’s character model round a corner. These details have become a part of serious CoD play – some

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complain, but others master the nuances to gain an advantage. What bothers me is how cold Ghosts feels. I haven’t touched on the campaign’s story much, but its attempts to tug heart strings with the boys and their Ghost dad are cringeably cheesy. And even the multiplayer seems bored with itself, changing systems just so they’ll be different from Modern Warfare. I don’t doubt that every gun, perk and reward in Call of Duty: Ghosts was implemented and tweaked with fine-brush precision, but painting in every eyelash of the Mona Lisa wouldn’t make it a better painting. With a broader brush, Activision might stop noodling around in the corners of Modern Warfare’s greatness and paint something actually modern. ■ Tyler Wilde

The campaign is passively entertaining and the space bits are great, but it’s forgettable, and the multiplayer is perfunctory.

January 2014

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GamingWorldMags.net Review

Pit crews can replace a driver’s entire body in less than five seconds

RELEASE OUT NOW

F1 2013 Codemasters cuts a few corners, but keeps its foot to the floor

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lthough coded primarily for the gamepad crowd, this multiplatform sequel offers wheel-and-pedal equipped sim racers a persuasive reason to take a break from their online iRacing contests. Codies’ EGO 3.0 gaming engine can’t match top-line simulations for outright driving fidelity, but it fakes the process well enough to give those pricey force-feedback wheels an enjoyable workout… especially with cheats such as ABS and traction control switched off. Enable the game’s brilliant dynamic weather, and rain adds further drama to an already challenging search for road-purchase. Featuring all 11 teams, 22 drivers and 19 tracks from the 2013 F1 season, the game’s exclusive F1 licensing remains a key selling point. Codemasters has expertly replicated each vehicle, down to the wheel nuts, and whether I opted for

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vITAL STATISTICS ¤ Price £30 ¤ Developer Codemasters ¤ Publisher Codemasters ¤ Web www. formula1-game. com ¤ Multiplayer Up to 16 on Steam (plus 6 AI) ¤ DRM Steam ¤ Recommended spec Dual-core CPU, 4GB RAM, 1GB DirectX 10 videocard

Lewis Hamilton’s Petronas Mercedes or Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, I was racing the bestlooking Grand Prix cars my PC’s seen. The circuits are similarly well done, boasting levels of detail to impress even the most demanding F1-ophile while remaining surprisingly playable on mid-range PCs (I was able to max out all graphics settings on my dual-core, 4GB RAM, Radeon HD 5850 PC).

Ghost riders

F1 2013’s splashiest new feature is the addition of classic Grand Prix cars from decades past. Flinging Alan Jones’ FW07B Williams through Brands Hatch’s sphinctertightening Paddock Hill Bend, or smoking the tires of Gerhard Berger’s turbocharged Ferrari F1/87 out of the final hairpin at Circuito de Jerez, was both exhilarating and tempering as I came to appreciate the limits,

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nuances and personalities of each car. The basic game offers five of these beasts, plus two 1980s tracks, while the Classic edition adds five 1990-era cars and two more circuits (albeit for an extra £10). The limited car count sets up some sad looking ten-car grids – a 1980 Williams has no business racing a turbo-era 1988 Lotus – but the nostalgia is compelling. Multiple play modes include an expanded Young Drivers Test and carry-over Career, Time Trial, Time Attack, and Season Challenge options. Codemasters has also reprised the much-missed full season Grand Prix mode and exchanged F1 2012’s Champions mode for an entertaining new Scenario alternative, with gamercentric challenges. Solo players will also appreciate the better AI, less draconian penalty system and overdue inclusion of mid-race game saves. Apart from some warping


F1 2013

WorldMags.net The dynamic weather is terrifyingly good

What’s in a wheel? Driver’s dashboards, then and now Featuring enough buttons, displays, switches and dials to operate a small starship, Formula One steering wheels have evolved into carbon fibre command modules that cost more than your car. F1 2013 gives you the freedom to romp around in old-school ’70s, ’80s and ’90s machines, or elevate your standards to 2013’s button-festooned era of paddle shifters, hand clutches and engine management controls.

1976 Ferrari 312T You can almost smell the Alcantara leather.

If you want full F1 2013 licensing, this is your game

How many polygons? All of them

2013 Ferrari F138 That middle dial updates your Facebook page.

Stormtroopers make great pit crew 1980 Williams FW07B A study in British reserve.

2013 Williams FW35 Distracted driving much? Texting kills.

issues in graphically intense wet races, the RaceNet-enhanced online multiplayer game is largely hiccup-free, hopefully attracting more players than F1 2012’s woefully under-populated effort. F1 2013 does have speed bumps: most notably its pathetically short, non-saveable replays, mouse-less console interface, and overpriced classic ’90s car collection, but these are poor design decisions, not bugs. There’s enough simulation here to keep F1 fans burning those Pirelli slicks down to the cords, and enough game to etch a smile on their face too. ■ Andy Mahood

Shame about the nonsaveable replays

A faithful representation of modern F1 racing. Diehard fans will likely praise it for its depth, while railing about missteps.

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GamingWorldMags.net Review It looks impressive, but it’s hardly practical

RELEASE OUT NOW

The Stanley Parable

Turning the pages of PC Format, Stanley paused to read a game review…

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his is the 11th time I’ve completed The Stanley Parable. I’ll avoid spoilers, and instead say that in the 15 or so minutes it took to finish my last playthrough, I laughed, felt a pang of sadness and, more than anything, was genuinely surprised. Even after 10 previous attempts – more if you count those with the Half-Life 2 mod that this full release is expanded from – I was being shown something new. The Stanley Parable isn’t a long game, but it is a broad one. If you’ve played that mod, I can save you some time by giving you my review in a nutshell . The Stanley Parable is broader, denser, smarter, funnier, darker. It’s a wonderfully twisted maze of consequence, packed with jokes and surrealism. Four and a half stars. For everyone else, let’s begin again. The Stanley Parable starts in an office. There you meet Stanley, on

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vITAl STATISTIcS ¤ Price £8 ¤ Developer Galactic cafe ¤ Publisher In-house ¤ Web www. stanleyparable. com ¤ Multiplayer None ¤ DRM Origin ¤ Recommended spec 3GHz cPU, 128MB GPU, 2GB RAM

the day that the orders from his menial job stop and his co-workers disappear. You also meet the narrator: the disembodied voice telling Stanley’s tale. The Stanley Parable isn’t that story, but it is the story about that story. From Stanley’s first-person perspective, you follow the narrator’s instructions. When he says that Stanley leaves his office, you leave the office. When he says that Stanley walks through the empty corridors, you walk through the empty corridors. When he says that Stanley heads through the left door, you... ah. There are two doors here, and you’re not Stanley. You’re you, with all the free will and sense of rebellion that implies. So what do you do?

Forking paths

Whatever you choose, The Stanley Parable branches, and branches, and branches again. At each of the

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game’s many intersections, you can either follow the narrator’s instructions or ignore them and face the consequences of your petty resistance. Each combination of choices leads to something unique. Some of these ‘endings’ are lighthearted, some are absurd, some are unnerving, most are self-referential and many centre upon the narrator’s attempts to get back to his story. There are a few reasons why it works so well, the most obvious of which is the narrator’s character. At times, he feels like an antagonist, but really he’s narrative design personified. Often exasperated, he’s as trapped by your whims as you are by his retribution. Depending on the path you’re walking, he can be grandiose, affectionate, cold, impassioned, pleading, and, often, wearied. Backing up his versatile performance is the level design,


The Stanley Parable

WorldMags.net Never has a whiteboard doodle been so apt

Suicide? If only it were that easy

Stanley, before his parable

You didn’t expect it to make sense, did you?

Get used to this office You’ll be seeing it a lot

which acts as the third, equally petulant character. Moment to moment interactions with the game are light – mostly walking and pressing an occasional button. But Stanley feels more engaging than other first-person ambulators (like Dear Esther or Proteus) in the way that it’s constantly challenging you to find ways of reinforcing your agency over the game. In response to these actions the map can warp, glitch and double back on itself, load into something new, or restart into a false opening. Every loading screen elicits a spark of anticipation, because it feels as if anything could be on the other side of that transition. There are pacing issues, but they’re inherent in the illusory freedom. The more subtle endings

can fall flat if experienced directly after the most shocking and bizarre ones as well. More ironically, this game about game endings doesn’t actually have a proper one of its own. Having run through my internal checklist of possible paths, I’m now left poking around for possible secrets. And so The Stanley Parable ends on a whimper, but to have it any other way would spoil the frequent bangs along the way. ■ Phil Savage

Effortlessly inventive, frequently surprising and consistently hilarious. This is how to make a game about games.

The first choice Two doors, many possibilities

Go left for... The broom closet, a keypad, an escape, an interactive tour, buttons, freedom, death, a breakdown, a countdown, The Stanley Parable.

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Go right for... A nice room, a third door, an elevator, happiness, sadness, love, adventure, restarts, a survey, a phonecall, an instructional video and a baby.

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GamingWorldMags.net Review Remember that time you huffed, and you puffed?

1980s New York was really, really pink

Crime is a disease. Meet the cure. It’s a mongoose

He’s just as mean as he looks

“Wait, Telltale’s Dickensian adventure is next month?”

RELEASE OUT NOW

The Wolf Among Us When murder comes to Fabletown, Bigby Wolf goes on the prowl

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igby Wolf isn’t worried about survival. Before he left the Homeland, he was the Big Bad Wolf. The one who terrorised the Three Little Pigs. The one who schemed to have Little Red Riding Hood for dinner. He can handle himself. But he is worried about his job as sheriff of Fabletown, a community of fairytale immigrants hiding out in 1980s New York. Telltale Games’ now-signature moral dilemmas form the core of this new episodic adventure, but Bigby comes from Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series with alreadyestablished relationships. I never felt as though I was trying to build emotional bonds with Mr Toad or Bigby’s boss, Snow White, the way that I did with The Walking Dead’s survivors. Faith, which kicks off this five-episode series, introduces Bigby and Fabletown before dropping a grisly murder on the sheriff’s doorstep. Investigating the crime doesn’t involve a great deal more than walking around and clicking on items in the environment.

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vITAl STATISTIcS ¤ Price £19 for five episodes ¤ Developer Telltale Games ¤ Publisher In-house ¤ Web www. telltalegames. com ¤ Multiplayer None ¤ DRM Steam ¤ Recommended spec core 2 Duo cPU, 3GB RAM, 1GB graphics card

Telltale has distanced itself from traditional adventure game trappings, such as environmental puzzles, and without them Wolf is a leaner, moodier detective thriller. Telltale’s artists have done an incredible job of re-envisioning ’80s New York as a place where harsh shadows collide with neon pinks and purples. The bold colours give Wolf an oppressive, grungy vibe. This feels like a place where people would be murdered all the time. But Fables are tougher than humans, which is a convenient basis for some brutal quicktime brawls. The fights are flashily animated, but also my least favourite portions of the game, because I mostly lose control of Bigby’s character. Thankfully, the bulk of the first episode’s snappy two-hour runtime is devoted to conversation. The dialogue system is identical to TWD’s, where four conversation options cover the spectrum from ‘gruff jerk’ to ‘gruff silent type’. Faith presents a couple of major choices that will influence how future episodes play out. My

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favourite moment, though, was a tense sequence that was unusually open-ended. I had to decide when to ambush a suspicious ruffian rooting around a crime scene. If I jumped out of hiding too soon, I wouldn’t learn why he was skulking around. If I waited too long… well, there was a gun in the room, and I didn’t want to find out what he might do with it. The more I’ve thought about The Wolf Among Us, the more its choices and their ramifications have got under my skin. I lied to someone in the first episode, thinking it was better not to get involved in their problems. But what if they learn the truth? I also let a violent Fable escape, and now he’s prowling Fabletown’s shadowy streets somewhere. I don’t think he’s a killer, but if he is, will the next death be on my hands? I’m afraid to find Wes Fenlon out, but I can’t wait.

The Wolf Among Us deftly applies The Walking Dead’s moral quandaries to a murder mystery setting.


Rocksmith 2014

WorldMags.net Rocksmith requires a unique 0.25in jack to USB cable

The lag issues of the previous game have been eradicated

When you see that, it will make you feel like a real rock star Rocksmith will point you to new techniques when it feels you’re ready

The game will even help you tune your guitar correctly

Minigames offer new incentives to improve your technique

RELEASE OUT NOW

Rocksmith 2014 Pick up your axe and learn how to bend, pick and shred like a rock god

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ew guitar players have never had it so good. In my day, you’d hear a Nirvana song on the radio, blow your savings on a crummy Fender Stratocaster clone, and spend the next 15 years trying to remember how to finger an open G chord. It took guts to try, but the effort meant I might get to play some stupid open mic night at college and maybe impress a girl, as the rock ‘n’ roll gods intended. That’s not the future, though. The next generation of guitar heroes have Rocksmith 2014 to teach them how to play, and it’s a far better teacher and motivator in the craft of playing guitar than anything the teenage version of me could have imagined. This year’s edition of the game – which requires an actual, real-life guitar to play – improves on everything from the original game. Every song and nearly every mode is available right from the beginning, but Ubisoft guides players through the game’s many parts by assigning you small goals, called Missions. I missed almost every note in the bridge to White Zombie’s

vITAL STATISTICS ¤ Price £40 ¤ Developer Ubisoft San Francisco ¤ Publisher Ubisoft ¤ Web rocksmith. ubi.com ¤ Multiplayer Local co-op ¤ DRM Steam, Uplay ¤ Recommended spec Dual-core CPU, 512MB GPU, 4GB RAM

Thunderkiss ’65, and Rocksmith picked up on that, giving me a mission to play through the bridge in Riff Repeater until I had mastered it. The game also monitors when a song will introduce you to new techniques, such as slides or hammer-ons, and points you to video tutorials and chord charts when the moment is right. More importantly, Rocksmith 2014 obliterates the visual and audio lag that plagued its predecessor. Every note I played was on target with the game’s notational elements, and resonated clearly through the game’s bevy of software amplifiers as I plucked the notes. It’s exactly how the first Rocksmith should have worked. Rocksmith’s standout feature is Session mode, where you select up to three other instruments that will improvise based on your playing. It sounds cheesy on paper, but as I idly fingered through the pentatonic scale presented to me, the software bandmates actually jammed along with me, changing tempo and intensity based on my playing. If only real bandmates

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were as responsive – and as talented – as this. The game’s collection of minigames and its Score Attack mode offer new incentives to improve your technique. The minigames, in particular, are inspired by classic coin-op games, right down to the fake arcade boot-up screens. The biggest mark against Rocksmith 2014 is that, at its core, it’s a guitar-teaching tool. Even experienced guitarists will enjoy playing the diverse setlist, though, and may even learn a thing or two. Ubisoft will also add DLC in the form of albums and songs, much like the original Rocksmith. I’ll probably buy quite a few of them, frankly. I’ve never had a guitar teacher as fun as Rocksmith 2014, and I’ve never wanted to practise as much Cory Banks as I do now.

Rocksmith 2014 is not just a fun game for guitar players, but the best way to learn to play guitar or improve your technique.

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Calibrate your monitor

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Calibrate your monitor Don’t let a baDly calibrateD monitor spoil your gaming anD movies. Ben Andrews shows Deceptive Displays who’s boss

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he poor old monitor. In development terms CPUs and GPUs leave it choking in their digital dust. 4K screen res may be the next big thing, but try extending the pixel density of an HTC One’s screen to cover a 27-inch monitor and you’d get the equivalent of 11K. To put it another way, that’s 68.4 megapixels and a gaming experience measured in frames per week, but we’ll gloss over that. Anyway, seeing as you’re likely to be stuck with your dear old display for some time yet, it makes sense to get the best out of it. Correct positioning is a good start, and you’ll probably want to fiddle with the brightness and contrast controls to strike a balance between good visibility and a headache, but the fun really begins when you want to ensure colours are accurately displayed. How are you supposed to tell how closely your monitor’s idea of red or green matches a predefined benchmark such as the sRGB colour space?

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Now hold up. Before you skip straight to the gaming reviews, assuming this kind of anal pixel play is the preserve of Photoshop junkies, consider this: a monitor is your primary means of interacting with your PC. Okay, a mouse and keyboard help, but they’re not much cop if you can’t see anything. A well calibrated monitor is certainly good news for photo-editing, but sorting your screen is also going to give you the best possible gaming and movie experience. Fed up with being at the mercy of shadow-bound enemies everyone else seems to see? Calibrate. Confused why every other scene in your Blu-ray of The Matrix looks like it’s been filmed through the camera man’s Ray-Bans, or why Shrek’s skin tone is making him look like the illegitimate lovechild of Cookie Monster and Smurfette? Yup, you know what to do. Book an eye test. So don’t get hung up on trying to clock that extra 100MHz out of your CPU, as let’s face it, you’ll never notice the difference. Try showing your monitor some love for a change.

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Calibrate your monitor

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Calibrate your monitor

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ou’d have thought all monitors would come pre-calibrated to display at their best. After all, this isn’t just a telly, it’s a monitor; it’s supposed to give an unbiased, completely accurate view of what’s coming out of your graphics card. Trouble is, as you’ll know from a trip past Currys’ storefront, LCD makers have varying ideas of what constitutes optimum image quality. That’s fine if all you want to do is 4oD your way through Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but those of us with sophisticated viewing requirements demand more from our monitors. Monitor calibration ensures the colour output from your monitor matches a predefined standard, rather than whatever it happens to display after rolling off the production line. The calibration process doesn’t alter anything about the monitor itself, apart from adjusting any internal settings like brightness or contrast. Instead, calibration detects the colours emitted by your screen and creates a bespoke software profile that tells Windows and your graphics drivers how to compensate for any colour discrepancies. Now your graphics card can distort its output so what you end up seeing on your monitor conforms to a preset colour benchmark such as the sRGB or Adobe RGB colour space. All this faffing is usually left to digital imaging fanatics who need the utmost consistency for image editing and printing, but we gaming and video enthusiasts can also reap the rewards of a modified monitor. After all, what’s the point in setting up the perfect mouse DPI, fine tuning custom macros and tweaking graphics quality for maximum frame rates when bad

cool monitor backlighting isn’t always best for accurate colour reproduction

contrast or gamma settings could give you all the vision of gaming behind a welding mask? Likewise, a large part of a game like Fez’s visual appeal is its carefully chosen colour palette, so it makes sense to banish your monitor’s colour cockups and view these digital landscapes as their designers intended.

Pre-calibration checks

Ensuring your screen is up to scratch is easier than you may think. Sure, you can go mad and

the Windows calibration tool is basic, but it does the job

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spend upwards of a grand on professional calibration hardware, but that would be insane when you could get so many more interesting gadgets for that price. No, it may surprise you, but it’ll cost naff-all to get the basics in order. First, make sure your monitor is positioned correctly. Generally you want the top edge of the screen to be level with your sight line when looking dead ahead. Some TNbased panels may look a bit washed out positioned like this, in which case you should raise the screen until the upper and lower halves can be viewed as clearly as possible. Ambient lighting also plays a major part on monitor visibility, so wherever possible, try to minimise on-screen reflections and perform any calibration tests in your typical viewing conditions. At the risk of stating the obvious here, make sure your monitor is set to its native maximum resolution. Back in the day, your bulky old CRT monitor would look crisp at various resolutions, but setting an LCD to anything less than max res results in blurry antialiasing as the monitor struggles to expand the unexpectedly low pixel count coming from your graphics card to fill the available screen space.


Calibrate your monitor

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Which hardware? choosing the right calibration tool

if all else fails, your graphics drivers should come to the rescue

Next, delve in to your monitor’s own display settings. Some will have more inbuilt options than others, but hunt around for a colour temperature control. This sets the tone – or warmth – of light emitted from each pixel, from a 2,500k temperature that roughly equates to the orangey light you’d expect from a traditional tungsten light bulb, up to the bluish 9,300K (or D93) temperature many monitors are preset to. This might look fresh and crisp in Word, but games and films will are best displayed at a more daylight-balanced colour temperature of 6,500K, or D65. Stepping down to this from 9300K is going to look as though the world has turned sepia for a bit, but give it a chance, as colours will be displayed more accurately. We’re almost ready to calibrate, but if you’ve only just powered up your monitor, it’s best to let it ‘warm up’ for at least 20 minutes so the panel’s backlighting reaches optimal brightness and emits a consistent colour temperature.

WindoWs calibration

Windows includes a calibration utility, but it’s well hidden. To find it, type calibrate into the Start search box in Windows 7, or the Charms search box in Windows 8, then select ‘Calibrate display color’. The first thing you get to play with is the gamma setting, which is

remind you of Knight Rider, in black and white?

something you’ve probably seen mentioned on the display options in many a game. Gamma correction has the power to lift murky shadow areas and reveal any sneaky sods waiting to pounce, or alternatively restore highlight detail from an oversaturated sky. Defining gamma and gamma correction is rather tricky – so much so that you need to use words like ‘relative luminance’ and ‘nonlinear perceptual response’. What matters is that messing with gamma correction is similar to adjusting both brightness and contrast at once. Windows adopts the Three Bears approach to setting the right gamma correction, giving you examples of too much gamma, too little and just the right amount. All you need to do is tweak one slider to match the preferable mid-point. Next is the all-important brightness and contrast adjustment, again performed via your monitor’s controls and aided by downright dreary Windows images of a man in a white shirt shot against a contrasty background (Ballmer, some choice over the sample images please? Preferably between Zooey Deschanel and Mila Kunis, but we’ll take Clooney too in the name of gender balance). Anyway, daydreaming aside, the sample images you do get aren’t exactly ideal for the job at hand, so check out the next section to find out how to ensure you’ve nailed the correct brightness and contrast settings. The process concludes with Windows having a go at helping you set the correct colour balance for your screen. You’re given three sliders to tune the red, green and blue colour channels, plus a simple greyscale chart to aid the process. It’s all easy enough, but not terribly

Using Windows or other software calibration tools will certainly solve any glaring image quality issues, and will ensure you don’t miss anything while gaming. however, to be absolutely sure your monitor’s colour output is spot on, you’ll need to invest in some hardware. two brands have the colour calibration market pretty much sewn up: X-rite Pantone and datacolor. the former produces one of the most inexpensive colorimeters available, called the colorMunki smile. don’t be put off by the silly name, as this effortlessly easy to use gadget will give almost as much calibration accuracy as devices costing several times its sub-£70 price tag. since the smile is an entry-level device, you’ll need to wait a relatively sluggish five minutes for it to complete the colour calibration process, but when it finishes and saves the freshly tweaked colour settings to Windows, they’ll load automatically every time your system boots up. the calibration software can also be installed on more than one machine, should you want to calibrate your other desktop computers or laptops. the only downsides with the colorMunki smile are that it is unable to calibrate a multi-monitor setup, and it can’t measure ambient light to ensure that your monitor’s brightness is set appropriately. For that kind of control you’ll need to step up to a device such as datacolor’s spyder 4 Pro. at a cool £120 this is a more serious piece of kit, but it will help you get the very best from your monitor. of course you can spend even more, but then you’re into the realm of calibration kits designed to scan not only your monitor, but also colour match it with print material. Unless you’re a die-hard photo editing and printing enthusiast, this kind of money would be far better spent on a quality monitor that’s likely to come calibrated fairly accurately right out of the box.

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calibration tools like these will help you get the best from your monitor

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Calibrate your monitor

WorldMags.net to calibrate properly, one of these gizmos is a must

accurate. You can offset any blatant colour casts, but if you want to do better, shelling out for calibration hardware is the only way to go. And that’s it. In next to no time you’ve tuned out any potential image quality hiccups that could get in the way of your gaming, or have you seeing red when you needn’t. That’s not to say Windows is the last word in software calibration accuracy though, so

if you fancy going the extra mile then you can set up your own calibration tests and still keep costs at diddly-squat.

diY calibration

One issue with calibrating your panel using Windows is that it relies on your monitor having on-board brightness or contrast controls. If yours doesn’t, then your graphics driver software will

undoubtedly be able to adjust these settings itself, and usually do plenty more besides. For instance the Nvidia Control Panel includes an option called Digital Vibrance that’ll increase colour saturation in a more subtle fashion than a traditional saturation slider. This can make a game like Far Cry 3 look ultra-luscious, but remember that the effect is completely fake and isn’t really what monitor calibration is all about. Returning to the task of tweaking brightness and contrast, you’ll still need some form of sample image to know how far to adjust things, and to be honest, shots of semi-naked celebs probably aren’t your best bet here. Instead, it’s time to turn to the (almost as enticing) greyscale chart. These visual benchmarks tend to be used for printer calibration, but they work just as well for setting up a monitor. A quick Google search should deliver the goods, but make sure you download a chart with at least 20 steps of grey ranging from pure white to pure black. The objective here is to get every stage on the scale to display clearly, from a crisp white to a deep, inky black. Pay close attention at these extremes, because a monitor with its brightness cranked to the max will often merge the lightest greys into white, and do the opposite when set too dimly. Most halfdecent monitors should be able to display this many shades of grey

Different display technologies Just as correcting the grammatical errors in Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t going to make it a literary masterpiece, even the fanciest calibration kit won’t help a crummy monitor display... well, extra shades of grey.

thankfully a large-screen monitor with decent image quality no longer costs the earth, as the smartphone and tablet revolution has done wonders for raising awareness of iPs (in-plane switching) lcd tech and its superior viewing angles and colour consistency. desktop monitor manufactures are now keener than ever to flaunt iPs at lower prices, so you too can enjoy the significant image quality boost over an old monitor using a tn (twisted nematic) lcd. of course aside from their comparatively high price, iPs screens used to fall short of tn-based panels when it comes to calibration tools are useful, but they can’t make a bad monitor great

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response time. Whilst iPs still can’t match the 1 or 2ms figures boasted by the fastest tn screens, many can now reach the 6ms mark, which is fast enough to eliminate any noticeable image ghosting from even the most frantic gaming melees. the fact remains that iPs screens are still pricier than their tn counterparts, but the difference is much smaller than it used to be. that’s meant that the third member of the lcd screen tech trio, Va (vertical alignment) is now becoming a relatively rare breed. Pity, considering Va-based monitors tend to give a good balance between colour accuracy, response time and cost. shop around and a 23in 1,920 x 1,080 iPs screen can be had for as little as £130. if you’re feeling flush, then there are plenty of bargain 27in 2,560 x 1,440 iPs displays to be had at right now as well. take a look at this month’s supertest, where we look at the best ultra high resolutions screens currently available, and highlight the best ones to drop you cash on.

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Calibrate your monitor

WorldMags.net stare at these patterns long enough and you’ll reach nirvana

separately, but if yours can’t then try to strike a balance between displaying as many light and dark shades as possible. Now turn your attention to gamma correction. The freeware QuickGamma tool is worth a try, as it offers far clearer test patterns than Windows provides (http:// quickgamma.de/indexen.html). You’ll be met with a headacheinducing chart of alternate fine light and dark grey lines, but sit back and squint so the lines appear as two solid columns. Ideally the halfway point on the scale, marked 2.2, should display the backing colour, and the two columns of alternating lines at the same shade of grey and your gamma will be bang on. If the shades blend further up or down the scale, use the plus and minus buttons on the right hand side to raise or lower the gamma correction so the test chart balances at 2.2. There are also options for adjusting gamma separately for the red, green and blue channels, which comes in handy for correctly any slight colour casts. Be warned though, as these separate tweaks can end up causing more problems than they solve. The danger is that you can easily lose track of what was a half decent colour balance and struggle to get things back to normal without just cancelling out of the whole adjustment.

hardWare calibration

No matter how seriously you take this software calibration malarkey, there’s always going to be a weak link in the process, and it isn’t the lack of sexy celeb shots in the Windows calibration utility. No, worryingly it’s the human eye that’s not to be trusted here. Even if you have perfect vision, the eye just isn’t an objective judge of colour balance or consistency. Take that

classic shadow on a checkerboard optical illusion. Stick a Photoshop colour picker on both squares and it’s clear they’re exactly the same shade, but our pathetic noggins just won’t see it. To get around the problem and calibrate your screen properly, there really is no alternative but to splash out on a robotic eye. But fear not, as you can pick one up for under £100. It won’t look like a prop from The Terminator though. Pity. The device in question is related to what car body repair shops use to match paint colours during a respray. This nifty little gadget is usually about the size of a mouse and only requires a USB connection. Simply hang it over the top of the screen so it rests in the middle where a monitor’s brightness tends to be at its best, then corresponding software flashes various different colours over a period of several minutes for the all-seeing eye to detect. This then feeds the colour data back to the software so it can create a custom Windows colour profile for your monitor. More advanced colorimeters can even read ambient light levels to tell you the optimal brightness for your viewing conditions. Colorimeters aren’t the only hardware you can use for monitor calibration. Spectrophotometers look pretty much identical and do the same job, but they can also calibrate your printer because they’re capable of analysing both

Colour theory how calibration tools actually work to understand colour calibration, we need to take a trip back to a time when, ironically, the world was in black and white – 1931. this was when the first mathematical chart defining the range of colours visible to the human eye was created, dubbed the cie 1931 colour space. What’s nice about a chart is that you can define coordinates for each colour, which is rather handy for this calibration business. ideally, all monitors would be capable of displaying the same colour spectrum our eyes can detect, but the cost of such a display would make a titan sli setup seem cheap. to create a more realistic standard, less extensive colour spaces such as srGb and adobe rGb were devised. the vast majority of current monitors should display the srGb colour spectrum, with pro-spec iPs monitors covering the extra colours incorporated by the adobe rGb colour space. calibration software displays a range of colours within this spectrum. the colorimeter then detects each colour displayed by the monitor, references it with the colour’s coordinates in the srGb chart and works out the correction required to get the monitor’s interpretation to sync with its location in the srGb colour space. the software then creates a colour profile incorporating all these correction values into one table. this is loaded into the graphics driver so your graphics card can modify its colour output by the amounts specified in the colour calibration profile.

squares a and b are the same colour. still trust your eyes to calibrate?

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emitted light from monitors and light reflected off printed colour swatches. The only downside is price, as spectrophotometers usually cost considerably more than hardware dedicated solely to monitor calibration. Once the calibration is done and Windows has the unique colour profile for your monitor, you’re almost home and dry. Remember that the brightness and colour reproduction of any monitor will fluctuate over time, so to keep everything consistent you should repeat the calibration process once every few months. n January 2014

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Fine-tune your SSD

houRS

Phil Iwaniuk shows you how to squeeze the last drop from a solid state drive Project Goal SSD perfection

A solid state drive gives you a performance boost as soon as you hit the power button, but with a little extra TLC you can push it further and prevent it from silting up over time.

requires Confidence

No tools are required for this one, and the hardware side doesn’t get much more hands-on than plugging in SATA cables, so it should be an approachable job for anyone who’s still a bit scared of their machine’s inner workings.

Software

In terms of software you’ll need an updated install of Windows 7/8, the latest firmware for your SSD and the freshest chipset drivers you can find on the net.

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he instant increase in performance you get from switching from a hard disk to a solid state drive is quite special. You don’t notice an upgraded CPU in the same way (unless you’re replacing a Pentium II), and as for RAM? Forget it. No other component transforms your everyday computer use like an SSD, which is why making sure it’s running as efficiently as possible is a worthwhile endeavour. There’s a mountain of advice out there from the internet, the IT guy in your office and the lady down the road in the tinfoil hat regarding proper maintenance of solid state drives, and often their insights are

conflicting. Should you turn off the page file or not? Is Windows 7 using the TRIM command correctly, or do you need an extra software layer? We’re here to help.

Reads and writes

First, let’s establish what it means to ‘optimise’ your SSD. Begin by forgetting those sequential read/ write figures that manufacturers love to wheel out. They do so because a sequential write time of 500MB/s sounds hella impressive, whereas a random write time of 24MB/s sounds bloody pedestrian. Guess which type of task your disk completes most often? Correct, the random writes. You can check

What is TRIM, anyway? Solid state devices can’t write new data onto blocks that already contain old data. They must first wipe that cell clean, then perform the write (the read-erasemodify-write cycle), and the more that happens, the more performance degrades over time. The TRIM command works a bit like the Recycle Bin on your desktop: the SSD marks data as ready for deletion, and TRIM confirms that it’s okay to empty the Recycle Bin and flush the

data away for good. The more unused data is flushed away, the likelier it is that the memory controller in your SSD will find unoccupied cells to write to, minimising disk wear. That process is known as garbage collection. TRIM is initialised by your oS. That means your SSD can’t force its will upon your system – instead, the system must support the TRIM command in the first place. In the very early days of

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consumer SSD usage, none did. Windows 7 made the jump in 2009, though even today it only supports TRIM in AhCI mode, not PCIe.

SSDs create a lot of garbage


Fine-tune your SSD

WorldMags.net this for yourself by downloading Diskmon (http://bit.ly/1iSAiXv) – a program that tracks every task your disk does as you go about your business for a few hours. Maximising your random read and write times is a big part of SSD optimisation, but it’s not the whole story. Flash memory performance degrades over time, so it’s also important to ensure you’re not thrashing your SSD unnecessarily. Windows 7 was designed before solid state became the norm, so by default it does a number of things that are either superfluous or potentially damaging to your storage. Windows 8 isn’t without its anachronisms in this area, either. There are three areas to focus on that’ll help to optimise your disk: motherboard spec and BIoS settings are the starting point; tweaking your operating system is the main course; and third-party software programs are your dessert. Let’s start with the nuts and bolts: getting your mobo and its BIoS to play nice with your drive.

tiPs toTAP ke IT eASY

Jargon buster NAND A type of Flash memory in which every bit of data is stored on transistors known as floating gates. Write amplification Unnecessary writes that are performed by an SSD’s memory controller when it comes across occupied NAND cells.

SATA starter

There’s an excellent chance your SSD is SATA 3 compatible, which means its SATA port can throw data back and forth at a theoretical 6GB/s. It’s therefore paramount to make sure your motherboard also supports this interface – ideally natively rather than using a third-party controller. It’s common in cheaper P67/Z68 chipsets to only

re-scanning data find a Marvell nchmark clusters so it can Don’t overdo the be SATA 3 port on e, tests – by their natur ur return search your mobo, and yo on they’re very taxing results quicker these really will flash memory and for you. It’s time lower your ce an rm rfo contribute to pe to turn all that off, performance e. degradation over tim and give your drive ceiling. If you’re some peace and quiet wondering why you (see ‘Disable unnecessary can’t replicate the Windows settings’ on p78). advertised synthetic Turning off defragmentation is a benchmarks, this is probably the biggie. You don’t need to defrag an cause. on anything later than SSD, and the only voice that’ll tell Intel’s Z68 platform there’s a better you otherwise is that of someone chance of finding native SATA 3 shilling SSD defrag software. An ports, and boards built around SSD’s memory controller writes to AMD’s 9-series chipset regularly NAND cells across several flash feature as many as six. Now the modules at a time, writing data first potential bottleneck is literally all over the place. on a cleared, enter your BIoS and check mechanical drive that’d be a you’re running the disk in AhCI problem, since its moving parts mode rather than IDE. of these two take time to scan the disk. Flash standards, only the former enables memory controllers are more than SATA 3 functionality. up to the task of retrieving the data Now that we’re out of the BIoS across several modules – you’re not and into Windows, it’s gentlemanly losing a drop of performance. conduct to check that your chipset With your BIoS and oS now drivers are up to date. Most mobo tailored to your SSD’s needs, you manufacturers will host a page have created an environment in containing links to all the relevant which it can perform random firmware and drivers, and there’s a read/write tasks as fast as possible chance the latest driver increases but, crucially, only when those performance. After the restart, tasks are necessary. It’s win-win: you’ll be taking on Windows, lightning performance when you tweaking it like… you know what? need it, with the longest possible Let’s not finish that one. Suffice to lifespan. If you want to take it even say, changes will be made. further, there are options, but by Windows does an assortment getting Windows in order and of background tasks that are eliminating the possibility of a unnecessary for SSD owners hardware bottleneck, you’ve done – scheduling disk defrags, creating your drive a solid. system restore points, constantly

Check your TRIM is working properly

Minimise write amplification by making sure unused data is being flushed

a prompt 1 Open There are programs like Intel’s Toolbox

that let you manually TRIM your drive, but you need to make sure Windows supports the command in the first place. To do so, start a command prompt as an administrator by searching cmd in the Start search, rightclicking on the program and selecting ‘Run as administrator.’ Got a prompt window? Good.

query 2 Quick Before telling Windows whether we

want TRIM on or off, we need to know whether it’s running already. Type fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify and hit [enter]. This only works if you’re running with admin privileges, mind. If you are, you’ll see a zero or a one. Zero is good – it means TRIM is already working. One means it isn’t, but we’re about to fix that.

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TRIM 3 Activate You’re about to tell Windows to change

one to zero, so in the same window, enter fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0. You’re setting rather than querying this time, and voilà: the TRIM command is now enabled in your Windows 7 install. Just try not to think about all the write amplification that’s been going on right under your nose until now. January 2014

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WorldMags.net Disable unnecessary Windows settings No more needless write tasks with these handy tweaks

indexing 1 Disable Let’s start by disabling drive indexing, which does nothing for

your SSD’s response time, but increases writes. From My Computer, right-click on your drive and hit ‘Properties’. At the very bottom is a tickbox that says ‘Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed’. Untick it. Hit ‘Ignore all’ on the error message and wait a moment for the process to complete.

it a rest 3 Give Next on the chopping block are prefetch and superfetch –

processes designed to speed up search results by, yes, constantly thrashing your storage. In the Start search bar, type regedit, and when the registry editor opens, find the following file path: HkeY_LOCAL_ MACHINe\SYSTeM\ CurrentControlSet\Control\SessionManager\ Memory Management\PrefetchParameters.

the bin 5 Trash If you’re feeling brave, you can disable the Recycle Bin, which

helps the TRIM command to do its thing and keeps the maximum possible disk space free. Just don’t come crying to us if you delete something important. Right-click the Recycle Bin, then hit ‘Properties’, select your SSD and hit ‘Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin’. 78

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defrag 2 Don’t While we’re in the neighbourhood, stay in the Properties

window and select the Tools tab, then hit the ‘Defragment now’ button. We’re not going to actually run a defrag, now or ever; it does nothing to improve performance and thrashes your drive for no reason. Instead, select ‘defragment schedule’ and then untick any schedules lurking within. That’s a load off your SSD’s plate.

fetch 4 Abandon Now right-click on ‘superfetch’ and ‘prefetch’ to bring up their

modify windows, then change their values to 0. You’ll need to do a restart for the changes to take effect. Once that’s done, type services. msc into the Start search bar, then find both superfetch and Windows search and use their drop-down menus to set them to ‘Disabled’. So long, super-thrasher.

frills 6 No With Windows no longer beating your SSD like it’s wearing a

bow tie on its first day of school, all that’s left is to boost your startup time. Type msconfig into Start search bar, then in the Boot tab, tick ‘No GUI boot’ to disable the Windows graphic and cut seconds off your boot time. Untick any unwelcome programs in the ‘Startup’ tab, too.

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Fine-tune your SSD

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Create an over-provisioning partition The closest you can get to overclocking your storage space

your drive 1 Wipe Setting aside some raw disk space in a partition can really

boost the efficiency of your solid-state drive, but there’s a catch: we do mean raw disk space, so you’ll need to set this up on a completely wiped drive while running your OS on a separate drive. First step, then: format your SSD. Good night, sweet Willy Wonka meme JPG collection.

I shrunk the volume 3 Honey, Select your freshly formatted drive, right-click and hit ‘Shrink

volume’. Here you can set the over-provisioning space manually in MB. We recommend at least 10 per cent to see changes that’ll show up in benchmarks. The OP space you’re about to create is reversible with another format, but make sure you don’t leave yourself wanting for space. When you’re sure, press ‘Shrink’.

it yourself 2 Do If your drive manufacturer doesn’t have a program that’ll set up

over-provisioning for you, you can Heath Robinson your way around it by right clicking on ‘My Computer’ and opening the ‘Manage’ window, then ‘Disk management’. You won’t be able to shrink a volume with data on it, because SSDs have a scattergun approach to writing data and Windows simply won’t be able to find a chunk of clean space.

easy way 4 The If you do have some software provided by your SSD

manufacturer, it’s a bit simpler (though still requires a formatted drive). Samsung’s Magician has an over-provisioning tab that allows one-click setup. You can fiddle with the reserved area size first, of course. Once it’s set, you can also enter this menu to clear the over-provisioning area again and fill the space with virtual tat.

one step beyond You can’t yet overclock a solid -state drive, but you can boost its performance through other means. The most effective of these is over-provisioning, in which you set aside a certain amount of storage space (usually a minimum of 10 per cent) as a buffer for the memory controller. Think of it like a work bench. Setting up a partition for overprovisioning requires software from your SSD manufacturer like Samsung’s Magician, and while the results grow significantly

better the more space you set aside, you’re also trading writable disk space for performance. As such it’s only a viable option for 320 GB drives or bigger. If you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to commit to a partition, simply keeping a big chunk of free space (at least 10-20 per cent) will help too. It all comes down to write-amplification: when the memory controller tries to write on a NAND cell that already has data occupying it, it must first erase that data,

rewrite it somewhere else, then perform the original write task. We’ve already covered how excess writing can be filed under ‘a bad thing’, but whether you’re overprovisioning or simply running plenty of free space, you’re increasing the probability that the memory controller will come across a free NAND cell, and thus will only have a single write operation to perform. It’s worth exploring all the features in the manufacturer’s software suite for your drive.

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We’ll touch on Samsung again since it’s ahead of the curve with Magician, which includes RAPID mode – an optimised caching method that really yields increased random write speeds. Surprisingly, features like this can be patched in, so it’s worth keeping your software up to date. If you’ve tried everything in this guide, your drive will be operating quicker than a hummingbird after its third cup of coffee. You just made its life a little easier, and now it’s going to return the favour. n January 2014

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Host your own website

HoUR

Turn your computer into a web server, says Linux expert Mayank Sharma Project Goal Dedicated web server

Take a stock desktop Linux distro such as Ubuntu and turn it into a web server by installing the different web server components, then use this server to host your website.

requires A Linux distro

We’ll install all the different server components on top of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, so make sure you have one installed natively or over Windows via the WUBI installer.

Internet connection

We are setting up a web server after all! We need a connection to fetch the components from the online Ubuntu repositories and then later to serve our website to everyone out there.

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here’s no end to the debate of whether you should host your own website, but there’s no better way to prove your geek credentials. You can set up the infrastructure to host a website on your regular computer, or an old unused one. Start by making sure the computer that’ll be your server has a static IP address. The easiest way to do this is to set up your router to reserve an IP address for the server. The exact

steps for doing this vary from one router to another. For the router to identify your server, it needs the MAC address of the network adapter. To find this, scan the output of the ifconfig command, which will point you to the network interfaces on the machine and their MAC addresses. The active interface will have an IP address dished out to it via DHCP. In my server, scanning the output of the command reveals that my

Do this on a Raspberry Pi Follow the instructions in the tutorial and set up your Pi as a web server Before you begin, make sure you have burned the Raspbian distro to an SD card. Raspbian is the customised Debian for Raspberry Pi. The first thing you should do after you boot the image is run its configuration script with sudo raspi-config and then change its memory allocation. By default, the Raspberry Pi divides its 512MB memory between the ARM

CPU and the VideoCore GPU. network. After rebooting the Pi, update Raspbian with Since you’ll be using the Pi sudo apt-get update and primarily as a web server, make sure you allocate only sudo apt-get upgrade. the bare minimum memory to the GPU – 16MB. You should also enable the SSH server to securely access the Pi from a remote computer on the Change the default password of the ‘pi’ admin user.

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Host your own website

WorldMags.net active network interface is wlan0 and its MAC address is 0c:ee:e6:bc:33:f6. It also has 192.168.2.111 as its IP address, which is set as its static IP.

Put up the infrastructure

Now let’s fetch the components that make up a web server. We’ll start by installing the Apache web server. Fire up a terminal and enter sudo apt-get install apache2, which should fetch and install all the required dependencies too. You’re now all set to host simple websites. Enter the fixed IP address in the address bar of a browser on any computer in your local network and you will get the default Apache ‘It works!’ index page. However, since we plan to host heavy-duty dynamic websites, we’ll need additional components, such as a database and a scripting language. PHP is a popular scripting language that can fetch data from a database and render it on a web page. Some of the most popular content management systems are written in PHP. To install PHP5, enter the following command in a terminal: sudo apt-get install php5 libapache2-mod-php5. This will also hook up the module with the web server. Next, you should install the Alternative PHP Cache (APC) package. APC is a PHP extension that’s designed to improve the performance of applications written in PHP. In a terminal, type

sudo apt-get install php-apc. You’ll now have to restart your web server with sudo service apache2 restart. To check the PHP cache, copy the apc.php file into your web root with sudo cp /usr/share/doc/ php-apc/apc.php /var/www and view it from a web browser by going to http://localhost/apc.php. This will show you information about what is being cached, and give you stats on the memory usage. Let’s plug a database into our web server. Fire up a terminal and enter sudo apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client php5-mysql. While the MySQL packages are installing, you’ll be prompted for a password for the MySQL admin user, root. To test the MySQL installation, you can log in to it by entering mysql -u root -p in a terminal. You’ll be prompted for the password for the MySQL root user and then be logged into the database monitor, which has the mysql> prompt. Type quit to exit MySQL and return to the terminal. Restart the Apache web server with sudo service apache2 restart. The MariaDB database has been gaining popularity as a drop-in replacement for MySQL. Most apps that are designed to work with MySQL will work with MariaDB, but it isn’t available in the official repositories of popular Linux distributions. Follow the instructions at http://bit. ly/1887pEW to install MariaDB. The one component in your web

server you’ll have to interact with is the database server. The phpMyAdmin tool is designed to ease the management of a MySQL/ MariaDB database server with its browser-based graphical interface. Install the tool by entering sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin in a terminal. You’ll then select a web server that will be automatically configured to run phpMyAdmin. Select the apache2 entry. While configuring the tool, you’ll be asked to hook it up with a database. For this to work, the tool will prompt you for the password of the database administrative user, which you set up earlier. once authenticated with the database server, you’ll be asked to create and confirm a password for phpMyAdmin itself. The setup will then add a phpmyadmin.conf file in the /etc/ apache2/conf-enabled directory, which will point to the phpMyAdmin installation under /usr/share/phpmyadmin. To access the tool, point your web browser to http://localhost/phpmyadmin. Log in with ‘phpmyadmin’ as the username, along with the password you created during the setup. If phpMyAdmin prints an error message, follow the instructions at http://bit.ly/19GT8Jo. You can now disconnect the monitor. As long as the computer is connected to the network, you can log in to it remotely with SSH and copy files via FTP.

Install additional items

Flesh out your web server with these helpful tools

1 ProFTPD This app will help you transfer files to

the web server. To install the app, log in to the web server and enter the command sudo apt-get install proftpd in a terminal. You can run the FTP server in either the inetd mode, which is ideal for a low-traffic installation or a standalone server. The server is controlled by the /etc/proftpd/proftpd.conf configuration file.

2 Webmin If you like phpMyAdmin, you’ll love

Webmin. It’s a web-based tool that lets you configure various aspects of your web server from within a web browser. You can use its tools to add users to your server, as well as edit configuration files and modify the different components of the web server. Follow the instructions at www.webmin.com/ deb.html to install the tool in your distro.

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3 Webalizer The Apache web server keeps track of

lots of data about the server, such as the date and time that a web page was accessed, the IP address of the individual viewing the page, and more. Webalizer presents this information in an easy to digest graphical view. You can install the tool with sudo apt-get install webalizer, and then generate the reports with sudo webalizer. January 2014

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WorldMags.net Install WordPress Set up the popular content management system on your web server

WordPress 1 Download The first step is to get the WordPress files on to your web

server. Log in to the server and change to the web server’s root directory (cd/var/www). Here, download the latest WordPress release with wget http://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz and unzip it with sudo tar zxvf latest.tar.gz, which will extract all the files under a folder called wordpress. Rename the folder if you wish.

up WordPress 3 Set To pass on the database settings to WordPress, launch your

browser and navigate to the WordPress setup page under the WordPress installation location – for example, http://localhost/ wordpress/wp-admin/setup-config.php. Enter the name of the database you created in the previous step, along with the MySQL admin’s username and password.

5 Install Navigate to the WordPress installer under the wordpress

installation directory – for example, http://localhost/wp-admin/ install.php. You’ll be prompted for details of your WordPress website, such as its name and the credentials of the site admin, and your email address. Click ‘Install WordPress’ when you’re done. 82

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a database 2 Create Now log in to phpMyAdmin and switch to the ‘Users’ tab. Click

on the ‘Add user’ option to add a new user. Enter the username and password for the new user in the text boxes. Also, select the option to create a database with the same name as the username – for example, WordPress or Blog. Finally, select the ‘Check All’ option under Global Privileges and click the ‘Go’ button.

setup 4 Manual The previous step will create a wp-config.php file under your

wordpress installation directory. If it is unable to create it, you’ll have to manually create the file under the wordpress installation directory. The WordPress setup will print the contents of the file, that you can paste into the manually created ‘wp-config.php’ file using your favourite text editor.

6 Dashboard The WordPress installer will connect to the database server and

use the information in its configuration that you created in earlier steps to make the required tables in the WordPress database. It’ll then drop you to the login page, where you can authenticate yourself, log in to the WordPress dashboard and start building your website.

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Host your own website

WorldMags.net Access your website from the web Punch holes in your firewall

1 Register To get started, create an account with a Dynamic DNS website,

such as www.noip.com, to map your local website with a domain name and track changes to the DNS configuration. You’ll need to select a domain name for your website and create an account with the service. Different services offer different domain names but many also offer some free ones, such as www.no-ip.biz.

ports 3 Open Next, you need to forward ports to tell the router to allow

incoming web traffic from its firewall. Again, the exact steps for this depend on the router. Try the guides at http://portforward.com for exact steps for your router. Basically, you need to enter the port number you wish to allow traffic from (80), and the local IP address of the web server this traffic should be directed to.

up your router 2 Set After you’ve confirmed the account, log in to your router and

head to its Dynamic DNS section. The exact location of this section varies from router to router. In this section, select the DDNS provider and enter the login credentials with the service, along with the registered domain name. Save the configuration after you router connects successfully with the DDNS service.

up Apache 4 Set The final step is to edit your Apache configuration file under

the sites-enabled directory and then create a ServerAlias entry in the default <VirtualHost *:80> configuration, such as ServerAlias l33tbodhi.no-ip.biz. Once you’ve done that, restart the Apache web server, and your local website should then be accessible from anywhere on the internet.

The 50p tour of Apache A web server is a complex piece of software. Don’t underestimate it In Ubuntu, Apache is installed under /etc/apache2 directory. It houses the apache2.conf file, its main configuration file. on startup, the server reads the instructions in this file, and ports.conf, which directs it to ports it should monitor for incoming connections. There are directories, such as conf-enabled, mods-enabled and sites-enabled, that house different configurations to manage modules and snippets of configuration usually added

by additional components, such as phpMyAdmin. If you need to configure the web server, add an entry in a file under the appropriate directory instead of modifying the apache2.conf file. For example, if you get an error about the server’s fully qualified domain name when starting the web server, you can resolve it by setting the ServerName parameter. The command $ echo “ServerName localhost” |

sudo tee /etc/ apache2/confenabled/ servername.conf will create the servername.conf file under the You can extend Apache by fetching useful modules conf-enabled from the http://modules.apache.org website. directory to set the installation enables only the identity of the server. site called default, which you’ll The sites-enabled directory see at http://localhost. You can is tied with Apache’s ability to enable configuration elements host multiple sites on one and modules with a2enconf installation. This is known as and a2enmod. n VirtualHost. By default, the

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Edit photos with Gimp

30 MINUTES

Ben Andrews shows you how to get the best out of your photos using this powerful free app. Project Goal Edit your images You’ll learn how to liven up a bland photo as well as how to remove an unsightly element from its composition.

requires Gimp To complete this tutorial, you’ll need to download a copy of Gimp from www.gimp.org/ downloads.

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ven beautiful photographs can often be improved with some subtle editing tweaks. You can spend a small fortune on suitable software, but a free tool called Gimp includes nearly all the features you’d find in a professional package. Whether you just want to crop an image or resize it for emailing, Gimp can help you do it quickly and easily. It’s also great for boosting colour saturation or brightening up some murky shadow areas, and with a little practice you can even edit out unattractive elements from an image, such as a piece of litter or a facial imperfection. Gimp is packed with useful and fun tools to turn a dull holiday snap into a masterpiece, and while some features can be a little tricky to learn, the results will be worth the effort. It’s also easy to use, so with our help you won’t feel intimidated by a huge array of options and complicated tools. So without further ado, let’s get editing!

Step-by-step: Enhance your digital photos

your workspace 1 Customise We like to customise Gimp’s tool pallets to suit our working

style. By default, these float in separate Windows, but to combine them with the image window, click the Windows tab on the top toolbar and select ‘Single-Window Mode’. Open your photo via the usual ‘File > Open’ procedure and hit [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[J] to automatically zoom the image preview to fill the window space. 84

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Tool opTIonS Whenever you select an editing tool, all the associated options for fine-tuning its specific features are displayed here.

verticals (part one) 2 Converging See those leaning wooden pillars on the left of the building?

Let’s correct these converging verticals by first creating some vertical reference lines. Click anywhere on the ruler located to the left of the image and drag it right, dropping a line roughly two inches from the right-edge of the image. Now drag a second line and drop it among the wooden pillars on the left.

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Edit photos with Gimp

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FIlTEr EFFEcTS We’re going to teach you some essential editing techniques, but the Filters tab menu conceals many weird and wacky effects that can also be fun to try.

hISTorY pAllET Every time you change something about your photo, it’s recorded here. Make a mistake and you can easily revert back to an earlier point in the editing process.

BruSh TYpES Select the brush tool and you’ll find all these brush heads available, from subtle soft-edged tips to more creative shapes.

verticals (part two) 3 Converging Press [Shift]+[P] to activate the Perspective tool. Ensure the

‘Clipping’ option on the left is set to ‘Adjust’, then click and drag the lower-left corner of the image directly to the right until the leaning pillars stand parallel with the left-hand reference line. Drag the bottom-right corner roughly the same distance to the left, then click the ‘Transform’ button in the small pop-up window.

the image 4 Crop To restore the rectangular framing, switch to the cropping tool

by pressing [Shift]+[C], then click the bottom-left corner of the image and drag up to the top-right to make a box that includes as much of the photo as possible while still excluding the diagonal edges. Double-click inside the box to apply the crop, then resize the image preview again by clicking [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[J].

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levels 5 Adjust Landscape photos can often look hazy, with dull colour

saturation. We’ll address this by clicking the ‘Colors’ tab and selecting ‘Levels’. Notice the black and white ‘Input Levels’ histogram graph and the three small triangle markers directly beneath it? Drag the left and right triangles so they line up with their respective ends of the black graph shape, then click ‘OK’.

colours 7 Boost Now we’re getting somewhere – however, the area of blue sky is

still slightly dull. You can increase the saturation of this specific area by clicking the ���Colors’ tab again and selecting ‘Hue-Saturation’ from the menu. In the new window, choose the blue colour (not cyan) and slide the bottom ‘Saturation’ slider all the way to the right. Click ‘OK’ to apply the changes.

the background 9 Clone Press and hold [Ctrl], click once, release [Ctrl] and align the

cursor as best you can in the equivalent position over the pillar behind the sign. Click, drag and paint over the sign. To remove the sign’s pole, find a new reference point that’s about an inch to the left or right of the pole and again press [Ctrl] and click. Move your mouse to the matching position on the pole and paint it out. 86

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shadows 6 Brighten Next, those dark shadows need brightening up. Back on

the ‘Colors’ tab, opt for ‘Curves’. Click roughly a quarter up the long diagonal line and drag it straight up approximately two squares of the background grid. Now click the same distance from the other end of our curve and drag back down to the original straight line, restoring the highlight areas to their previous brightness.

unsightly objects 8 Remove Let’s try digitally uprooting that small sign in front of the

building. Press [C] to switch to the Clone Stamp tool, then tap [2] to zoom in to 200 per cent for a better view. Find the sign by holding down [Space] and clicking and dragging the image. Position the cursor so the dotted circle is centred on the bottom-right corner of the wooden pillar, just to the right of the sign.

and admire! 10 Save To save your completed image, ignore the obvious ‘Save’ option

on the File tab and instead select ‘Export’. Name your file something different from the original, click ‘Export’ and ensure the ‘Quality’ slider is set to 90 or higher. Finally, click ‘Export’ again to complete the save. Now you can sit back, flick between the original and edited images and admire what you’ve achieved! n

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10

Receive automatic program updates

MINUTES

Hand over update duties to Ninite to save time and effort, says Christian Hall Project Goal Auto updates Ensure you always have the latest versions.

requires Ninite Get it at www.ninite.com.

E

veryone wants their PC’s programs to have the latest features, fewer bugs and no security holes, but individually updating dozens of programs can be a real pain. You can leave Windows to look after its own updates, but your third-party programs are still waiting for you to update them. That’s where Ninite comes in, doing all the tedious updating for you.

Ninite is particularly useful for new machines – when you set it up for the first time, you pick various programs to install and Ninite will take care of everything for you. Ninite will even exclude the installation of toolbars with the software you’ve opted to install. The default selection of apps that Ninite is capable of installing is extensive and it’s a great addition to any toolset.

Step-by-step: Effortless updates Let Ninite take the hassle out of installing the latest software versions

the programs you want 1 Get You start using Ninite before you even download it. Just go to

www.ninite.com and start ticking the checkboxes for the free apps you want to install on your computer. The catalogue is extensive and is arranged into categories. It includes favourites such as Firefox, Google Chrome, VLC, iTunes, uTorrent, Dropbox and Google Drive. 88

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your personalised installer 2 Get Once you’ve finished selecting the programs you want on your

machine, click ‘Get installer’ (the green button at the bottom of the page), then simply locate the downloaded file and double-click it to install the programs. It’s a tailored package, so this will take a little longer if you’ve selected a lot of programs.

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Receive automatic program updates

toP tiPs WorldMags.net MAke SeCURITY TY YOUR TOP PRIORI doesn’t it is, e nit Ni As useful as s in any ion lat tal ins e itis ior pr sure you logical way, so make curity se y an l choose to instal software first.

if required 3 Reinstall Ninite doesn’t force you to click ‘Next’ five times, agree to usage

terms or endure any of the usual annoyances. The only issue you may come across is that one or two programs you’ve selected may fail to install first time. If this happens, click the ‘Retry/Reinstall’ link, and after a few minutes, those other programs should be installed too.

the old installer 5 Keep Ninite always installs the latest versions of apps, regardless of

when you downloaded them. This means that after you install some apps, you can keep the exe file somewhere accessible and run it when you want to update them. You can keep multiple installers, but be careful not to overwrite the old file if you download a new one.

installers to friends 7 Send On the installer download page you’ll find a permanent URL

that you can copy and send around to share a Ninite installer package. This is also useful to send to yourself via email if you want to install the same set of programs on another machine – from a desktop to a laptop that you use on the move, for example.

more 4 Install Ninite isn’t a one-time-only package, which means you can go

back to the site and select new programs to install any time. Ninite’s bots constantly scour the web for the latest software builds – if you click the ‘More news’ link under the heading ‘Always up to date’, you’ll be presented with a list of all the latest version numbers.

line instructions 6 Command Ninite doesn’t exist as a program in its own right, but you can

execute some instructions using the command line. Open the Start menu, type cmd, then type NiniteInstaller.exe /repair, for example, which will force a reinstallation of your apps. See www.ninite.com/ help/features/switches.html for a comprehensive list of commands.

an updated life! 8 Enjoy That’s it! You now have everything at your disposal to make

updating dozens of programs far less of a chore. If you end up using Ninite installers regularly, consider Ninite Pro ($20 a month), which installs programs faster and has some really useful features, such as the ability to manage a whole network at once. ■

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Mining value

Bitcoins are out of our reach, but Litecoins are still worth digging up says Alan Dexter Project Goal Mine Litecoins Put your rig to work when you’re not gaming to make some money. Maybe not as much money as you’d get from mining Bitcoins, but money all the same.

requires AMD GPU Virtual coin mining favours AMD cards. If you’re packing an Nvidia GPU then you can still mine, but at less than a quarter of the red team’s rate.

15 MinUtes

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t the time of writing, the increased value of the Bitcoins Bitcoins have just hit an themselves, you won’t be able to all-time high, their value produce them on PC hardware more than trebling in at a rate that offsets the cost the space of a little over two of the electricity. weeks to $750 per coin. That’s There is some good news GPU sPecifics using the per virtual coin. That’s a lot of though, and that is that CGMiner is good at your r money. That’s an incredible there is an alternative to optimal settings fo u can yo t bu , rd ca amount, in fact, for a currency Bitcoin, called Litecoin, graphics s by with no guarantee of a future. which is still easy enough check specific value at rd ca That clearly hasn’t affected its to mine. The market for searching for your HU. http://bit.ly/1cSSo perceived value though – it is, Litecoins is linked to after all, about potential. Bitcoins, and thus is pretty There is some bad news that buoyant too. A single Litecoin accompanies this explosion of may only be worth around $30, but interest in the currency though, and you can expect to mine a single that is that it’s no longer feasible Litecoin in a couple of nights from to mine Bitcoins using your PC. No the same Radeon HD 7990. We’re matter how good your graphics not suggesting you need to have hardware is, it’ll cost you more in access to a dual-GPU card to mine electricity than you’ll make mining. Litecoins by the way – any modern To put some figures behind this, GPU is more than capable of mining six months ago a 7990 would Litecoins at a reasonable rate. manage a Bitcoin a month if left As with Bitcoin mining, there’s running almost constantly. The little point mining on your own – you same card at today’s difficulties want to work as part of a larger would take closer to five years to team to smooth out anomalies and get you that single Bitcoin, and share the profit. This way you can that’s assuming that the difficulty be sure that you’re not duplicating doesn’t increase – which it will. other machines as well. It’s the ASIC mining has pushed GPUs out sensible thing to do, and there are of the picture, and even allowing for plenty of pools to pick from.

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Mining value

Step-by-step: Down t’pit Put your gaming rig to work mining for Litecoins

the coin-face 1 At cGMiner is the tool of choice for pretty much every mining

it 2 Coining Download cgminer-2.11.4-windows.zip and unzip it to your

currency on every hardware platform, and it’s the tool of choice for Litecoin as well. The latest builds are designed with fPGA and Asic mining in mind, so some of the old switches for mining Litecoins no longer work. You’ll need an older version – 2.11.4 definitely works, and can be downloaded straight from http://ck.kolivas.org/apps/cgminer.

desktop. You can run cGMiner straight away, entering the values you need as you go. This isn’t the easiest interface though, so check to see whether your pool provides a batch file that does the work for you. That’s one of the benefits of signing up to WeMineLTc – it gives you the option of downloading a specific batch file for your account.

together 3 Working Head to www.wemineltc.com and sign up for an account. You’ll

digging 4 Start You now have everything you need to start mining Litecoins.

need to register a username and password to set up an account, which you should then use to log in. Once done, click ‘My Workers’ on the ‘My Account’ menu to be taken to the worker accounts page. This is where you create your miners – the accounts that do the work. simply click the ‘Generate .bat’ link and download it to your cGMiner directory.

hacking 5 Optimal You’d be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t a lot you can do to

interact with cGMiner once it’s running – the interface certainly looks rather basic. However, it packs a surprising amount of power, enabling you to change everything from your GPU’s operating frequency to the all-important intensity (press [G] then [i] to change this value). You can also restart your GPUs if you’re having problems.

simply launch the batch file you’ve just downloaded and it will launch cGMiner with the correct arguments. All being well you should see your hashrate start to climb, with a similar (if not quite the same) hashrate updated on your pool’s website. if you have problems, try restarting and launching the batch file as an administrator.

out 6 Cashing The last thing you’ll want to do is set up how you get your

Litecoins out of your account. The best way to do this is to set up an automatic transfer to your Litecoin wallet every time you earn five Litecoins. if you’re looking for a wallet, then download one for your Pc from www.litecoin.org, create an address and enter it under your payment address under My Account on your pool. n

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All the stuff you didn’t know On budget, on time and maybe a teensy bit sarcastic. Luis Villazon lets you pick two in this month’s edition of Ask Luis IMRTIUTB

Home on tHe range

I have a telkom mega 105Wr DSL router that I am using in my house. Sadly, the position of my router makes it difficult to pick up Wi-Fi signal throughout the house (I have attached a crude diagram of my house). I made a sort of satellite dish out of cardboard and foil, which had absolutely no effect on the signal despite the online forums saying it works. then I decided to get a wireless USB adapter for my parents’ PC and move the router to the spare room, which solved one problem but created another: the USB adapter didn’t pick up the signal or it was very weak, which caused my parents’ PC not to connect to the DSL. I have considered getting another router, but I don’t want waste more money just to sit with the same problem. Christopher Watt So you have a single-story house with your parents’ bedroom at one end, and a long corridor with rooms off either side, leading to the lounge at the other end. It’s essentially the same layout as Walter White’s house in Breaking Bad. Let me see, how did Walter sort out his Wi-Fi reception in season three? Oh yes, that’s right; he spent all day in a huge underground meth

lab and never used the internet for anything ever. The advantage of this approach is that he made more than enough money to be able to get a new router, but then again he did get shot at. Cardboard and tinfoil antennas belong in the same too-good-to-be-true category as ‘Make $$$ working a few hours a week from home’. Whether or not they’re theoretically possible is essentially irrelevant. There are better ways to spend your time and energy. Here are three: 1. Leave the router in the spare room in the middle of the house and run Ethernet cable back to your parents’ room to connect to their desktop PC. 2. Leave the router in the spare room and swap your parents’ USB Wi-Fi adaptor for a PCI Wi-Fi adaptor card with twin antennas to improve their reception. 3. Put the router back in their bedroom and get a wireless access point for the spare room, to extend the signal to the far end of the house. The TP-Link TLWA901ND, perhaps, or the Netgear N150. ICDNT

Do I reaLLy neeD DrIverS?

I bought an amD Phenom ll x4 965 processor, as well as an mSI nF750 g55 motherboard from a dude off the internet recently, but it came without any

installation disks. I’m still waiting for my PSU so I haven’t tried it out yet. Will it work without the installers, and if not where can I get them? also, where can I find a heatsink for this processor? What else will I need for this operation and where can I find it? Lloyd Traut If you Google ‘MSI NF750 G55 motherboard’, as I did just now, you will probably see that the top match is for the product page at www.msi.com. Click on the ‘Download’ tab and you can download the drivers and utility software for that board. The motherboard will still work without them – the default drivers that install with Windows 7 or 8 should be perfectly adequate – but you might get slightly better audio support. I very rarely bother installing the motherboard utilities – it’s usually just a bunch of temperature monitors and tools to tweak settings that work much better when they’re left alone. If this “operation” you refer to is building a working PC, then you will definitely need a heat sink and fan – don’t “try out” your motherboard until you have that. The Zalman Silent is a good choice for this CPU. You’ll also need a hard disk, monitor, keyboard and mouse. And possibly a DVD drive and PCI-e graphics card too. You can get these from various places, but I’d advise picking one up on Amazon or Dabs. ICDNT

SSSSSSSSS... Bang!

I have been trying to Lan Minecraft with my brother’s Windows XP PC, but whenever I host a session he can find it

Free technical support

Windows sorts out most drivers itself these days, but you’ll probably need the network drivers

Email Luis for guaranteed insults and possibly even some technical help as well. pcfhelpline@futurenet.com PCF Helpline, 30 Monmouth Street Bath, BA1 2BW

the six categories of all human misery IUTWANID: It Used To Work And Now It Doesn’t. IGAEM : I Get An Error Message. IMRTIUTB: It’s More Rubbish Than It Used To Be. RATH: Randomly, A Thing Happens. ICDNT: I Can’t Do the New Thing. IKBTL: I Know Better Than Luis.

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Expert technical help

WorldMags.net Minecraft - introducing gamers to home networking since 2009

yoU askeD!

qCraft The world is simply a bunch of blocks, all the way down Is this a mod for Minecraft? Amazingly, that’s exactly what it is. qCraft is an add-on designed to introduce the concepts of quantum mechanics to a non-technical audience in a fun way.

but he can’t join me, so I always have to sit there lonely keeping the creepers and zombies away from my house. Jeandré Gouws When you click ‘Open to LAN’ on your machine, you’ll see the message ‘Local game hosted on...’ in the chat log. The numbers after this should be the IP and port number that your brother will need in order to connect to you. Sometimes, Minecraft won’t correctly pick up your IP address and will show 0.0.0.0 instead. (The port address after the colon is correct though, so remember this one.) To get the correct IP address, open the Windows Command Prompt and type ipconfig. The IP address that it displays will probably begin with 192.168 and this is the one you need. Your brother then needs to choose ‘Direct connect’ and enter the IP address,

Are you installing those motherboard drivers because something doesn’t work, or just out of a sense of completeness? Drivers aren’t Pokémon; you don’t need to catch them all. If your motherboard doesn’t have Win8 compatible drivers available, it may be that they will be available from the manufacturer’s web site eventually. But equally, they might very well not be, because Win8 may have perfectly functional drivers for your hardware already built in. If you are insistent that you need these drivers installed, you could try rightclicking the setup file for the drivers and selecting ‘Troubleshoot compatibility’. When the wizard starts, select ‘Worked in a previous version of Windows’ and choose Windows 7. Now let it run and see if that allows them to install correctly. I’m making no promises, mind.

“I THINk I’M TOTALLY BUrNED OUT ON MineCrafT, HAVING BUILT MANY A FAMILY-rEqUESTED HUT” followed by a colon, then the port address from your PC. Also, make sure you are both running the same version of Minecraft. I’m totally burned out on it now, having built many a family-requested hut. IGaeM

a tIny BIt totaLLy annoyIng

I have a slight, very frustrating, problem. I recently tried installing Windows 8 on my PC using the upgrade version from Windows 7. But every time, it stops during the setup phase and says there was an error and it takes me back to Windows 7. If I do the same but choose to remove all programs before it installs, it works perfectly until I try installing my mobo drivers. and I have tried installing Win8 drivers from the web after installation to no avail. Daniel Joubert

ICDNT

It simulates quantum mechanics? Not exactly. It’s more of an analogy to make quantum mechanics seem less strange. At our macroscopic level we never directly experience quantum effects because they operate only at tiny scales. Because of that, our brains never develop an intuition for how an object can be in two places at once, or change according to whether someone is looking at it or not. These strange behaviours are modelled in qCraft to let you play around with them and get used to them. How does it work? A new kind of block lets you mine ‘quantum dust’, like you would mine redstone dust. You can use quantum dust at the crafting table to create blocks that change into other blocks according to which direction you view them from first. And you can create these blocks in entangled pairs so that when one changes, the other always changes to the same state, no matter how far apart they are. This lets you build triggers and mechanisms.

WHICH WInDoWS IS BeSt?

What’s the point, though? Just as the redstone blocks encourage a familiarity with the most basic principles of electrical circuits, the quantum blocks make quantum effects less daunting. The mod development was partly funded by Google, with the stated aim of finding the next generation of quantum computer scientists by introducing them to the weird stuff early on.

You talk as if this is a PC you already have, so which version does it have now? I wouldn’t advise anyone to remain with XP any more. Microsoft is ending support for it on 8th April, and it will only become less stable and less secure as time goes on. Windows 7 on the other hand is

So is that cat really alive or dead? Neither. It’s actually more of a zombie pigman.

I can’t seem to make up my mind. Which oS will be the best for my system? I have a 256gB hard drive, Core 2 Quad 2.66gHz CPU, 5gB ram and a 1gB graphics card. Which do you think will be the best for me – Windows XP Pro or Windows 7 Ultimate. I am not an avid gamer, “do not play games often, as I can’t afford it”. I want something stable with a nice interface but also a lot of speed. Jean Brummer

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Read more at: www.qcraft.org January 2014

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WorldMags.net perfectly functional and there is no point upgrading to Win8 on fairly old hardware like yours just for the sake of it. If this is a PC you are buying second hand and it somehow doesn’t have an OS, then you might as well get Windows 8. None of them is going to give you markedly more speed than the other though. Windows has always been like that. The newer version generally has better support for newer hardware, worse support for older hardware, some extra user interface features that you might want and some others that you’ll turn off or never use, but it runs about the same speed as the previous version. And most of the time, you don’t really care. Your PC is low-end by today’s standards, but it’s not so slow that you’ll notice performance problems in ordinary Windows apps. In

“SADLY, CHOOSING ONE OPErATING SYSTEM OVEr ANOTHEr WON’T MAkE YOUr PC rUN ANY FASTEr” games you will, sure, but that’s not something that your version of Windows will change much. You just need a better graphics card. Also, if you can’t afford to spend much money on games – try Kerbal Space Program instead. If it’s not going to be your kind of thing, the free demo should be enough to test the waters. If it turns out it’s for you, the £14.25 the full version costs is effectively the same thing as free, when you divide it by the number of hours you will end up playing it.

Windows 8.1 mail Finally, the mail app is useful again!

1 Installing If you haven’t installed Windows 8.1

yet, click the Windows Store on the Start screen and you’ll see the free upgrade as the first app listed there. the mail app is installed along with this and if you have already set up your email account for Windows 8, it will be imported automatically.

2 Setup more likely, you’ve been accessing

gmail or Hotmail through the web interface until now, so you need to connect the mail app to your email account. Pick your email provider from the list provided and enter your address and password. the setup wizard does the rest.

3 Composing 4 Folders you can write an email without it taking mail will automatically import the

over your whole screen now. the summary view of your inbox remains in its own column while the new message pane sits in the middle. It still looks a little oversized on a large desktop screen, but it’s certainly much better than it was before.

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folders from your mail server. these are synced automatically, and you can create new ones too. right-click to bring up the bottom bar and click ‘manage folders’. you can now drag messages directly to folders as well, which was a ridiculous oversight originally.

IMRTIUTB

Free WInDoWS ISn’t Free!

I followed the extremely detailed instructions in the november issue to install a virtual copy of Win XP within virtualBox. the installation went well, but near completion I was asked for the product key for XP. I now keep getting reminders about it and a message that I have a 30-day trial. the article in PCF states that this is a free download, so how do I convince microsoft that I shouldn’t need a product code for my virtual version of microsoft XP? alan Sutton Here are some possible techniques: 1. A massive donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation might give you enough leverage to insist that Microsoft resurrects the source code for XP and creates an activation-free version for you. You can write off your charitable giving against tax, so if you are extremely rich, this could be cost-effective. 2. Orbital mind-control lasers. 3. Gather some compromising Snapchat pictures of Steve Ballmer. These are all exciting ways to try and brute-force the problem but they are probably unnecessary. The virtual copy of XP should activate itself automatically but there have been reports of a few occasions where it trips up. If that happens, just opt for telephone activation and call the number it gives you. ICDNT

HoW Do I LInUX?

Sorry about frying your brain with questions, but I just don’t understand the Linux installation process. How do I put Linux on my XP and where do I get the Windows remover software and is it free? I am also not sure if my system will support Linux. Is the Windows deinstaller free? If not where can I get it? Samuel adkins So you have a PC with XP on it at the moment and you want to remove that and replace it with Linux, right? Well the good news is that the uninstaller for Windows is free and comes bundled with it. Usually though people don’t want to completely erase their hard disk when they install Linux; they want to keep access to both operating systems. The most common configuration is to use a live CD. This is just a DVD disc that has a bootable version of Linux on it. You burn the installation directly to the DVD and nothing gets put on your hard disk, except for some temporary files whenever you actually boot into Linux. You can create a

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Expert technical help

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No NeeD To ReaD

C# Quick Syntax reference by mikael olsson

Price £11.50 Publisher Apress ISBN 978-1-4302-6280-0 Kerbal Space Program is essentially free when you consider how many hours of fun it offers

live USB stick that works in much the same way as well, but it’s slightly more complicated to set up. Live CDs are a good way to double-check how well a particular flavour of Linux (or ‘distro’) will run on your PC, without erasing data on your hard disk or changing the partition table. If you install Linux on your hard disk, you can either put it in its own partition and dual boot between Windows and Linux or you can tell the installer to use the whole of your hard disk and it will automatically replace Windows for you. There is also a thing called WUBI, which will install Ubuntu Linux on the same partition as Windows using clever technology called loop mounting. Have a look at www. ubuntu.com/download/desktop for more. ICDNT

reaLLy retro gamIng

I have recently come into possession of an old tabletop arcade cabinet for the four-player Gauntlet game. (are you old enough to remember that one?) the bad

news is that it is literally just the cabinet itself – none of the internals or screen. my question is: what would I need to do to resurrect this to be able to play PC games? Could I just fit a cheap PC inside and hook up the buttons etc. Bear in mind I know next to nothing about electrics or wiring, so be gentle. anthony Kenson Am I old enough to remember Gauntlet? I was at school when Space invaders came out; of course I remember Gauntlet. Most of my first year at university was spent shooting ghosts and finding enough food for that insatiably hungry wizard. The four-player tabletop version of the game is actually really rare and getting hold of an original cabinet is the hardest part of a restoration project by far, so congratulations – I’m more than a bit jealous of you. The rest shouldn’t be that hard to complete. If your cabinet doesn’t include the joysticks and buttons, you can get

replace Windows with Ubuntu? Just try it out first with a live CD

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We’ve already reviewed two C#-related books published by Apress in the last year; surely we can have no possible business in reviewing a third one? Ah, but this one is by Mikael Olsson, an author of Finnish descent. They are a terse people, the Finns. Just look at Mika Häkkinen. When you’re trying to squeeze some juicy pit lane gossip from an F1 driver, taciturnity is a frustrating attribute at the best of times, but in a technical author, it’s a veritable godsend. At 119 small pages, this book would squeeze into the back pocket of the sort of baggy jeans that today’s youth likes to wear down around mid-thigh. It’s nothing more and nothing less than a concise guide to the syntax of C#. Not the recommended programming style, or the philosophy, or the history of C#. Simply the syntax of this programming language. The entry for the ‘while’ statement looks a little like this: “The while loop runs through the code block only if its condition is true, and will continue looping for as long as the condition remains true. Note that the condition is only checked at the beginning of each iteration (loop). int i = 0; While (i < 10) { System.Console. Write(i++); } // 0-9” That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write a programming language reference. Not an ounce of fat, right down to meat of the matter – see, I told you the Finnish angle would be worth a review. If you have already done any programming at all, in any other language, this book is the fastest way to transition to C#. It’s the only one of the three C# books that I will ever likely read from cover to cover. It’s also the only one I would unhesitatingly recommend. January 2014

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WorldMags.net WhaT’s NeW IN WINDoWs 8.1??

1. What happened to Windows Experience Index in Win8.1? a) It went up b) It went down c) Stayed the same d) There’s no WEI any more 2. What happened to the Libraries folder in Win8.1?? a) Nothing b) It was removed c) It was renamed ‘Repository’ d) It’s now hidden by default

Ah Gauntlet, such fond memories of the stupid Elf shooting the food...

ICDNT

IntervIeW SUIt

I’m a recent computer science graduate and I’m starting to interview for programming jobs and internships. one question that I’ve been asked is “What aspects of software development do you dislike?” I really don’t know how to answer this question because I like all programming jobs. Being a programmer is really all I want to do, but I’ve tried saying that and it didn’t seem to go down too well. Have you been asked this question before? What’s the right answer? Kim Sutee 96

January 2014

3. S what happened to the My Computer option in 8.1? a) Nothing b) It was removed c) It was renamed ‘This PC’ d) It’s now hidden by default

This is another version of the old interview standby “What is your biggest weakness?” It’s supposed to be a sort of kobayashi Maru question because whatever you answer either makes you unsuitable for the job, or an arrogant liar. But it’s really just a way to see how you handle a curve ball and no one pays all that much attention to what you actually answer. If you look a bit flustered and then say “Umm... questions with no right answer?” everyone will laugh and you’ll look humble and perfectionist at the same time, which is pretty good. Or you can go ultra-sincere and say “So far I haven’t found any aspect of development that I hate, but I’m very new to the industry and I’m sure there will be lots of new challenges ahead.” Just don’t say “commenting my code”. IMRTIUTB

SeCUrIty CLamP DoWn

I work in an office and our It department has recently changed their security policy so that our passwords expire every 90 days. not only is this extremely irritating for me personally, it is making us less secure because everyone just writes their current password on a Post-it stuck on their monitor or in their desk drawer. What can I do to change their minds? Can you put something in your oh-so-mighty magazine that I can point to and show them the error of their ways? Mark Danbere Sure. Passwords that automatically expire reduce the overall security of your network because users will write them down on bits of paper that can be stolen from litter bins, or use easy-to-remember password variants based around the current date or simple word combos that can be brute-forced with a dictionary. There you go. When you show this to your manager though, make sure you hold your hand over this paragraph, because

4. What happened to the Search bar a) Nothing b) It was removed c) It was renamed ‘Looky look’ d) It’s now part of Bing Desktop 5. And what’s happened to the Messaging app? a) Nothing b) 1t was replaced with Skype c) It was renamed ‘Skype Messaging’ d) It’s now hidden by default

auto-expiring passwords aren’t necessarily worse. It depends on which threats you are protecting against. If your building has good physical security with ID badges and routine incineration of all waste paper, then passwords written down might be less of a problem than the risk of a hacker on the other side of the world stealing the password hash file. If he has that, then he can do a brute force attack by running random strings through the same hashing algorithm until he finds one that matches. Using passwords that expire means that his brute force attack must be fast enough to find a match before the passwords change and his hash file is out of date. Unless you work in the IT department yourself, you should probably confine yourself – at most – to a memo that outlines your concerns. Send it to the head of IT and cc it to your line manager. Then make absolutely sure that your password is always the hardest one to guess and you know how to change the toner cartridge in your own printer, because no one likes a smart arse in this world. n

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Answers: 1d, 2d, 3c, 4a, 5b

replacements from www.arcadeworlduk. com. To wire them up, I would use an Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino Leonardo is only about £15 and will emulate a USB keyboard. Arcade joysticks are wired as four switches – one for each direction. All you need to do is connect one terminal of each switch to a different pin on the Arduino and the other terminal to the common ground connection. With one joystick and two buttons per player, you’ll need 24 inputs, which is more than the Leonardo has, but you can get around that quite easily using an IO extender board, like the SX1509 from www.proto-pic. co.uk. None of this is going to need much electronics knowledge – it’s just about the simplest kind of Arduino project you can do – but it will need a tiny bit of programming to write the code that controls the Leonardo. Don’t be alarmed though - it’s really, really simple stuff and the example code that comes with the Leonardo will need only a tiny bit of customising to do what you need. After that, all you need is very basic PC and a copy of Gauntlet itself. A Windows port of Gauntlet 2 is available as part of Midway arcade Treasures Deluxe edition, which is still available from Amazon (and other reputable retailers) for the princely sum of £3.85.


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98

R

ecently, a graph has been doing the rounds suggesting that you shouldn’t buy a next-generation console. Nothing new there you might say, but the angle is a little more intriguing than that. That’s because the graph in question shows that the best games for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 didn’t appear until four years after the consoles were launched. Specifically, the ‘golden years’ for the consoles were between 2009 and 2011. This is according to the Metacritic scores at least (which winds me up in all kinds of ways, but I’ll go along with the logic for a minute, just because I’m intrigued to see where it will take us). A quick rundown of the list of games that have scored so highly on Metacritic does indeed paint an interesting picture. Uncharted 2 starts the ball rolling (which is a decent enough game, if that’s your bag), followed by Red Dead Redemption (which we don’t talk about because it never made it to the PC for political reasons), and then there are loads of games that were released on the PC too – Skyrim, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, Bioshock 2, Grand Theft Auto… the list goes on and on, but you get the message. There were games. They were released. Some of them were quite good. It’s much more difficult to think about gaming on the PC in the same way, if only because the ‘golden years’ have been going for so long. They started long before there was such a thing as a PlayStation

January 2014

and way before Microsoft turned its hand to ex-boxes. Oh, and it predates Metacritic by quite a bit, too. When you consider that the venerable Half-Life was released back in 1998, Quake hit the shelves two years before that, and Command and Conquer landed a year earlier, even the pre-history of PC gaming puts most recent console titles to shame. And the golden years of the PC aren’t about to finish any time soon, either. In fact, if anything, things are just going to keep getting better and better for us as the new consoles stumble out of the starting blocks. Most of their games are going to be hitting the PC anyway, and thanks to the power available in even mid-range gaming rigs, these games are going to look better on the PC as well. Not only is the PC the platform of choice for serious simulations, non-trivial gaming, MMOs and the healthiest indie movement in the world, it’ll happily chew through your console games too. Oh, and the PC is going to be the home of Star Citizen, which for some members of the core PC Format team is more than enough. So what can you take away from all of this? Just be thankful you’re a PC owner. Be delighted that you don’t have to agonise over when you should throw money at a piece of hardware that may not take off. Be happy that you have access to some of the best games in the world already. Oh, and be happy that you have a machine that does so much more than just play games too. n

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