Ready for fall gaming?

Winter is coming, and that means new titles, less time spent outdoors and more time in front of the TV and monitor. For us gamers that’s a blessing in disguise, I’m sure my gym going routine will suffer a bit. 

I recently picked up the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 OC Windforce… that’s quite the mouth full if I might say so myself. This is essentially the R9 280, minus 100MHz on the core clock and 125MHz on the memory clock. It’s missing a couple of features as well, but at the steal that I found this at I have no qualms about picking it up. You could catch this up to the R9 280 frequencies with a simple OC, but unfortunately Gigabyte locked the voltages on this line. Either way I was ready to upgrade from my dual 5870s, and the performance boost will be most welcome. I’m going from 1GB to 3GB RAM and this is necessary for the Ultra settings in any game. Well actually you could get away with 1GB GPU RAM but then the computer needs more than 8GB of RAM. Either way BF4 will look better than ever, and so will the other titles this winter.

For those that already own 7970 cards and wish to update to the new R9 series from AMD, have I got a little treat for you. You can go a step further and crossfire the 7970 with a R9 280X. That’s right folks, since they share the same silicon they can be crossfired. The only down side to this,  if one card has a higher clock than the other, the one with the higher frequency will be down clocked to match the slower card. The same goes for the other R7 series cards. Now that is what I call customer service and good old fashined Canadian engineering. If you want to read a little more about this head over to Hardware Canucks they will explain it to you in grater detail. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/63551-will-crossfire-r9-280x-hd-7970-scaling-tested.html

Then comes Mantle, for those of you not familiar with this term this is AMDs new API. This API gives developers direct access to the silicon and all the features it comes bundled with. It supposedly eliminates the unnecessary overhead of DirectX and OpenGL, improving performance and giving greater control of the hardware to the developers. Currently developers are slaves to the likes of DirectX and OpenGL, and these APIs do not support all the features of the GPU. With Mantle Game Developers will have the same API for the PC, Xbox One, Wii U, and PS4. BF4 will be patching their game in December to utilize the Mantle API from AMD. It will be interesting to see some benchmarks on this to test the performance. While Nvidia spent 5 million on optimization for a couple of Ubisoft games this fall, AMD paid DICE 8 mil or so to essentially design or rather optimize their Mantle API for the Frostbite 3 engine. This encompasses all platforms and a plethora of upcoming games. Whereas Ubisoft is notorious for ignoring the PC gaming space and releasing less than stellar software for it, Ghost Recon Future Soldier comes to mind for me. GRFS was unplayable for 3-4 months after being released on the PC. Go online now and it’s a barren wasteland. Looks like Nvidia is backing the wrong horse. AMD got the better deal and made a smarter business decision in the long run.

There is a lot of exciting and interesting things happening in the PC gaming space right now. Steam is at the fore front of all this trying to Steam roll all the competition/consoles and make it’s way into the living room. It already has into mine. Me being a PC gamer and a member of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race, this is very exciting in deed. Steam and Valve have the potential to shut those console peasants up for good. I kid, I kid, I own consoles as well and use them as paper weights and book ends, ha ha ha.

Here is a video demonstration of the Steam controller.

Happy gaming to you all.

HDBase-T

I recently got my hands on an HDBase-T device.

Quoi?

HDBaseT supported by the HDBaseT Alliance, is a consumer electronic (CE) connectivity technology for transmission of uncompressed high-definition video (HD), audio, power, home networking, and some control signals, over a common cable with a standard connector.

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In this instance it is a single device which passes an HDMI signal over cat5e (Network Cable) up to 100 meters or 320 feet. Generally devices such as these go for about $200 – $500. So you can imagine how sceptical I was when I saw this nGear branded one for $140 CDN.

There were alternatives out there on Amazon for a lot cheaper, but they weren’t HDBase-T. Which means limited support, and it will not support 3D or DTS 7.1.

What do you get in the package? You get an input and output terminator, you get two power adapters for the terminators, and you get two IR transmitters/receivers. The IR transmitter/receivers are able to pass your remotes signal over the cat5 cable to your connected device.

Initially when I got this device I was worried about the connectivity, I could not get it to work. Then I decided to crimp a new cable. With the new cable in place I was able to watch a 3D movie in 5.1 surround from my PS3 in my bedroom on my home theatre in the living room.

This is not what I intended the device for. I wanted this for my Gaming PC which sits in the bedroom. Now I play my PC games with a controller in the Living room.

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Additionally to the HDBase-T device I had to get a super long USB 2.0 cable which also runs from the gaming PC to the living room. I have connected a USB hub to this cable and a MS Wireless controller adapter so I can play games with my 360 controller. Sports and adventure games. When it comes to first person shooters I play it at my desk on my 3 monitors, mouse, and keyboard. I have both options available.

Switching between the 3 monitors and the Living room is easy, with AMDs Catalyst profiles I either press Ctrl+Alt+F4 (Desk) or Ctrl+Alt+F5 (Living Room). You can set this up yourself with any key combination you desire. Here’s a little visual guide someone put together.

So that was part of the battle the next challenge came in when I was in the living room I could not start and close applications with my controller, I would have to go to the bedroom unplug the mouse and bring it into the living room. That kind of defeated the purpose of the entire convenience. This is where Xpadder came in. Xpadder alows me to setup my controller and map mouse movements and clicks to buttons and joysticks on the controller. I mapped the mouse to my right analog stick and left click to my right trigger. It was a safe bet that it would no interfere with any controls in games. If you play any games the right stick always translates to mouse movements and right trigger always translates to left mouse click on the PC. I was right it really doesn’t interfere much, having payed Tomb Raider and Fifa 12 on the big screen it works pretty well. Now you can download Xpadder from the official site with a donation, or you can find it for free on other sites. Up to you.

At one point the GF saw me playing Tomb Raider on the bis screen, and she was amazed at how realistic the graphics were “movie like” was her comment. I chuckled, because it totally justified my purchase and it reminded me of this.

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As far as lag goes in gaming, there isn’t any that I have noticed. It works very well and I’m happy with it. My next purchase might be a blue-tooth wireless mechanical keyboard to put in the living room that can connect to 9 different devices.

So there you have it HDBase-T by nGear is a very solid and reliable device. I played through Tomb Raider on it and it hasn’t given me any trouble. I supports up to HDMI 1.4 but without ARC support.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Here is a quick spec sheet:

HDMI version ———————————————    High speed with 3D support
Support HDMI resolution—————–  1080P/1080i/720P/576P/576i/480P/480i
Support video color bit ——————————————  deep color 24bit/36bit
Support audio format———————————   LPCM/Dolby-AC3/DTS7.1/DSD
Input Video signal ————————————————————- 5.0Volts P-P
Output cable distance—————————————————————-  <=5m
Input cable distance——————————————————————- <=5m
Data transfer speed———————————————–  6.75Gbps-10.2Gbps
Operating Humidity range————————–   5 to 90%RH (No Condensation)
Operating Temperature range————————–    -15 to +55C° (5 to 131°F)
Power adapter format——————————-  Input AC(50Hz.60Hz) 100- 240V
Power  Supply———————————————————————–   DC 5V