Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Great Cache Hunt


It started in a Hog’s Breath car park, in the middle of a Friday afternoon. My girlfriend directed me towards a tree, the compass on her phone spinning around and pointing towards it as we explored the surrounding area. It was a clear day, and the GPSguided compass claimed accuracy within one meter. I was searching for my first geocache, becoming part of a global phenomenon I had heard mentioned in hushed conversation for years. We found the cache fast – a small plastic container, containing a log book and a pencil for us to ‘check in’ with. We wrote the date and our usernames, logged the find on the app  with a few comments, and set off for the next one.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5: Guardians

The Chief returns to our consoles with something old, something new, something borrowed – and Red vs Blue.

Everyone knew he was coming back. From Xbox One’s announcement, it was always just a matter of time before the Chief crashed through the atmosphere and reminded us all just what a real FPS looks like. The focus of Halo 5: Guardians is exactly that, and with it a beautiful surprise that every long-term fan has been dreaming of. This is a game built from the ground-up to return Halo multiplayer to its first principles, and to the forefront of competitive shooters. “From the day we started working on this game,” says executive producer Josh Holmes, “competitive has been the core of the experience.”

Sunday, 23 November 2014

AOC U3477Pqu

AOC U3477Pqu

Super wide, seriously dramatic, sadly pricey.

We’re so over 4K. That first rush of super high-res 4K screens were pretty exciting, but only because they were offering a new resolution we hadn’t seen before. Now those 4K screens are securely packed away in the kit cupboard because there’s a new wide-boy in town: AOC’s U3477Pqu.

Our big problem with 4K screens is that there isn’t the content yet to justify the step up in resolution and resulting step down in performance. Realistically, moving from a 1440p screen to a 2160p one doesn’t currently offer anything other than a drop in frame rates. Your in-game textures are still generally the same scale and won’t deliver the visual fidelity promised by the 8MP 4K resolution.

Intel Core i7-5820K

Intel Core i7-5820K

The missing link between Haswell and Haswell-E has been found...

The top end of Intel’s Haswell-E platform is where all the finest new technology from this generation of performance computing lies. When you’ve got the fastest PCIe-based storage connections, a brand new generation of system memory and a full eight-core consumer processor pulling it all together, that’s the pinnacle of today’s PC tech right there.

Quite rightly then, the Core i7-5960X, with its 16 threads of processing power, got all the initial headlines. But for us, this bargain-priced six-core Core i7-5820K is the most interesting CPU of this latest chip generation.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Second-hand hardware: What to buy, what to avoid

Second-hand hardware

Used goods don't always equal bargains, so what should you be looking out for?

The option to get discounts on hardware by opting for second-hand and reconditioned goods is a tempting one, and if you're smart about the way you buy hardware, you can knock a fair amount of money off your purchase by doing so. But there's a risk inherent in buying second-hand hardware that might mean you end up enduring a lot of hassle for a very small saving.

If you want to avoid subjecting yourself to unnecessary risks and inconveniences, it's important to be a little discerning about the type of second-hand goods you go for. Some components are fine to buy second hand, others are risky, and a small number should even be avoided altogether. In case you're planning to do some second-hand shopping, here's the advice you'll need so that you can tell the difference.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Quiet components guide

Quiet pc

There are various components that are dedicated to creating a PC that's as quiet as possible, here are some of the options.

One of the best ways to keep noise down in your system is to work preventatively. Although it's possible to locate and eliminate excess noise once you've got a PC you want, it's preferable to build a PC that has quietness in mind from day one. Everything from PSUs to hard drives are available with 'silent' variants that make less noise than a standard version, though they usually trade off something in terms of price or performance to do so. The upshot is that no silent PC will ever be the fastest you can get for your money - but if you're sensitive to the noise your PC makes, it'll definitely be the least irritating.

So, if you're looking to choose some quiet components for your next PC build, this guide has everything you need to make the right decision.

9 reasons to use a system builder

9 reasons to use a system builder

Building a system for yourself has a lot going for it, but there are many convincing reasons to call upon a professional too.

If you've ever put together your own PC, you're probably wondering what system builders can offer you. But don't be too hasty to think you'll be able to save a few quid by shopping around for components and assembling the computer yourself. There are plenty of good reasons to use a system builder even if you consider yourself a confident handler of hardware. To prove it, we've come up with nine reasons to buy a prebuilt system instead of doing it yourself.

Why an iPad Pro really does make sense

iPad Pro

Why bigger iPad should be widely welcomed.

Rumored larger device could be very good news

Looking at the Apple product range right now, including both the devices presently available and those in the pipeline for the coming months, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there's not much more the Cupertino firm could do. However, there must certainly is one more product in the offing for early next year, at least if widespread reports are to be believed: an iPad Pro.

The most recent October keynote was a big one for all admirers of Apple's wellestablished tablet, with a lithe iPad Air 2 breaking cover alongside the iPad mini 3. Indeed, the use of the term 'Air' mimics the naming conventions applied to the MacBook Air and Pro laptops, which begs the question... will we get a more professional or educationally-oriented larger version of the tablet, bearing the name 'iPad Pro'?

The 'professionals' tablet' is certainly one category with growth potential, with Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 being an obvious rival for any offering from the Cupertino stable.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

OMG they killed mini!

imac mini 2014 deass

For friends and family of the most affordable Mac, this new version offers a terrible shock. It’s one of those Doctor Who moments when a friend turns around and… they’re a Cyberman.

Previously in the four-year history of the unibody Mac mini, its base was a black plastic disc with indents for your thumbs. Twisting this off revealed the inner workings. The RAM was right there, with a diagram to help you swap modules, so you could upgrade the memory at any time, rather than pay Apple’s extortionate prices for extra RAM when buying your Mac. If you were more ambitious, after removing a few more components the main logic board slid right out, revealing the power supply and drives.

14 million 745 thousand 600 pixels

5K iMac

Apple’s brand new Retina 5K display shows seven times more detail than 1080p HD, and nearly three times more than a 15in Retina MacBook Pro. And it comes with a free iMac.

It’s true: when you look at the prices emerging for other makers’ 5K monitors, they’re similar to what Apple is charging for the new 5K iMac. That’s not to say it’s cheap; but its apparent £550 premium over the basic 27in model is only £240 once you adjust all the specifications to match (even then, the 5K has a slightly faster CPU).

And when you see this screen, £240 is suddenly not going to seem like a lot of money. The obvious question about the Retina display, with its fourfold increase in pixel count, is: can you tell the difference? We saw it for the first time, at Apple’s invitation, in the new conferencing annexe to the Apple Store on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, which is as good a place as any to see a thing but offered no previous Macs to compare with. Even so: yes, we could see the difference. Such a huge display with such a complete absence of pixellation is quite something to behold.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dirty Bomb

Dirty Bomb

DAVE KOZICKI discovers that Dirty Bomb is about to blow the roof off this mother…

ow would we sum up Dirty Bomb in a word? Fast. OK, maybe one word isn’t enough. How about ve words? Unrelentingly fast, old school shooter. How unrelenting? Liam Neeson on your arse because you kidnapped his daughter unrelenting. How damned fast? It’s quicker than a newly single Ryan Gosling pulling at a bar. How Old School is it? About as Old School as Will Ferrell drunk streaking his way to KFC. Yep, it doesn’t get more Old School than that.

Dirty Bomb is setting itself up to be the game Splash Damage was destined to make. It takes the developer’s well known pedigree for creating hardcore multiplayer first-person shooters, such as Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, tosses in the loud character designs and personalities of Brink and dumps it all in a Free-to-Play model to maximise exposure and get it out to the masses. It’s a classic shooter designed for the modern gamer and is an amalgamation of everything Splash Damage has done successfully over the decades.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

AS Rock Z97E-ITX/ac

ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac

The Z97E-ITX/ac is one of the cheapest boards on test, so it’s no surprise that its heatsinks are small and plain without a connecting heatpipe. There are no on-board buttons either, and the area around the CPU socket is sparse, although that also makes it easier to attach coolers to the board.

However, the 8-pin CPU power connector is awkwardly located next to a heatsink, while the four SATA 6Gbps connectors and SATA Express port are crammed between the memory slots and Wi-Fi chip. Meanwhile, the CPU fan connector is in the top-right corner, which is fairly sensible, but the other fan connector is in the bottom-left corner, beyond the memory slots, and there's no third fan header.

Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

Gigabyte's F2A88XN-WIFI is one of a few FM2+ mini-ITX boards available, matching the low cost of AMD's APUs with a highly affordable price of £75, making it over £25 cheaper than the cheapest Intel-based boards on test.

That saving immediately makes this board a contender for cheaper builds based on AMD's integrated CPU for modest work and play, rather than small, powerful gaming machines. In some areas, though, the F2A88XN-WIFI's specification matches - or beats - its Intel-based rivals. Its 64GB maximum memory is four times the capacity offered by most mini-ITX boards (although you'll need 32CB DIMMs), and it also sports Gigabit Ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, like most affordable Intel boards.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Unnatural selection

Unnatural selection

Rick Lane charts the rise of the survival game.

Survival games have proved a hardy breed. Their numbers have exploded recently, and they're evolving quickly. From the relatively simple systems explored in Minecraft, survival games have expanded into full-blown simulations, conquering almost every environment imaginable in the process.This month, we're exploring two ofthemostinteresting-lookingexamplesof the genre, which approach the survival idea in very different ways.

Endnight Games' The Forest sees players stranded in a verdant woodland after a plane crash, where they must forage for food and construct shelters while evading a highly aggressive tribe of blue-skinned natives. Ben Falcone, creative director on the project, says the game was inspired by Italian Cannibal Horror films from the 1970s. ‘We wanted to throw players into a world and let them survive. No missions, no real direction, just letting people be creative against a smart enemy threat.'

Corsair Gaming H1500

Corsair Gaming H1500

The H1500 is a rebrand of the Corsair Vengeance 1500 V2 under the new Corsair Gaming division, and it now comes with a yellow and black colour scheme. The colours won't be to everyone’s taste, although they're perhaps a good match for Corsair's 380T (see p46) this month, and the yellow is subtle, rather than overdone.

The headset has its own USB-powered DAC, which uses Dolby technology to provide virtual 7.1 surround sound through its 50mm drivers. The microphone and 3m cable are both non-detachable, so mobile use isn't an option - it's a gaming headset through and through.

Introducing Android Wear

Android Wear

Darien Graham-Smith takes a closer look at Google's smartwatch platform and explains how it works - and what it can do for you.

Three of the watches in this month’s Labs run Android Wear, Coogle’s operating system designed spec! fically for wearables. This isn’t anything close to a full version of Android; there’s no need to run a heavyweight multitasking operating system on a device as simple as a watch. Indeed, trying to do so would doubtless lead to reduced battery life, which is frankly the last thing the current generation of hard ware needs.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Intel MinnowBoard Max

Intel MinnowBoard Max

I've been spending some time over the last month playing with a pre-production Intel MinnowBoard Max, kindly supplied by Intel's John Hawley. I'm told it’s pretty close to the final production design, with most of the outstanding development being concentrated on the EFI system.

The original MinnowBoard was Intel's answer to the Raspberry Pi. Built around a 1GHz Intel Atom E640 processor, the device was notable for being a product of Intel's partnership with BeagleBoard and BeagleBone creator CircuitCo, and the resultant release of the PCB layouts, schematics, design files and even the EFI system code, under an open-source licence.

Life after hacktivism


Now released from prison, hacktivists look back on their 2011 heyday with some regret-although some still see themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, reveals Stewart Mitchell.

The thrill of cracking security, and of striking a symbolic blow against the establishment, can seem irresistible to tcch-sawy British youngsters - but it’s an addiction that can end in a prison sentence. Welcome to the risky world of hacktivism.

Hacktivism came to mainstream prominence three years ago, os the likes of Anonymous and spin-off LulzSec nabbed headlines with their “operations” against companies and government departments; “Operation Payback” targeted PayPal and MasterCard for not accepting payments for WikiLeaks, for example. Hackers with an axe to grind were 2011’s internet subculture stars.

Their moment in the spotlight was short, however. Attacks against the FBI and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) provoked the authorities Into action, and they clamped down on hacktlvists with a series of arrests and punishing prison sentences.

Windows 10. The full story

Windows 10

Fed up with intrusive Live Tiles and Microsoft’s obsession with its non-existent tablet platform? Darien Graham-Smith reveals how Windows 10 will make things right.

On paper, Windows 8 wasn’t a bad idea. The introduction of a new touch-friendly app framework, designed for both ARM-based tablet hardware and more conventional Intel devices, was bold and clever: it addressed the new tablet market head-on without sacrificing the continuity that had always been Windows’ trump card.

Unfortunately, the execution was badly fumbled. The new interface discouraged newcomers with its hidden gestures - and Microsoft failed to support the nascent platform with a competitive software library. Officially, the Windows Store launched with just over 9,000 apps, but without key names such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Windows RT couldn’t hope to challenge the iPad.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 320

Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 320

Turtle Beach aims at the $100 range.

Opening past Turtle Beach headsets has been akin to opening a model aircraft kit; there’s usually dozens of parts with a cryptic instruction booklet that makes as much sense as Ikea instructions written in Klingon (unless you read Klingon, in which case that simile is wasted on you). So I was very surprised to see such a sparse collection of bits and bobs inside the case of the Recon 320 headset. Along with the headphones there’s a removable microphone, which connects to the headset via a 3.5mm jack. Opening up the accessories compartment reveals just two cables; one headphone cable with inline microphone and a male 3.5mm connection on each end, for use with soundcards, and another cable with a USB digital sound processor.

Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6

Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6

The top end router gets its craziest look to date.

While the ability to set up a network without cables is an absolute blessing, today’s various Wi-Fi standards can prove to be a nightmare of compatibility issues. With three common types of Wi-Fi network now widely available, it’s most likely that at least one device in your house won’t work at its optimal speed with your chosen router, if at all. The beastly X6 solves this issue entirely by delivering all three Wi-Fi standards in one box. Kind of…

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Apple records

Mac users beware. The war against privacy intrusions has just begun.

War is over, if you want it. Maybe that was pure optimism from John Lennon, but the same need not be true of privacy. Contrary to what people with vested interests may tell you, our new internet age does not have to mean privacy is over. It just means you have be vigilant for the unending dirty tricks that keep rearing to pull personal information from you for whatever reason.

There is a constant battle between businesses and governments on the one side, and the private individual and his or her dignity on the other. This was brought to mind by some surprising changes in Apple’s new desktop operating system.

CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite X7

CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite X7

A comprehensive graphic-design suite at a bargain price.

While many high-end graphics suites only offer reduced prices to those who can prove they’re currently in education, CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite X7 is available to everyone. It costs under £100 and is identical to the £480 professional edition, except it’s missing Corel Website Creator and a few features only very advanced users will miss.

This makes it a great option for hobbyists, whether you’re already a wizard with a graphics tablet or simply keen to try your hand at new skills. Plus, you can install it on up to three computers in your household.

Canon PIXMA MG5650

Canon PIXMA MG5650

Canon's latest home MFP looks smart and performs well.

The Canon Pixma MG5650 is a multifunction printer (MFP), which means it prints, scans and copies. It offers plenty of features including duplex printing, wireless connectivity and the ability to scan and print without the need for a computer. It’s a stylish device made of high-quality plastic. While it has a colour display, it isn’t touch sensitive and the controls can be a little confusing due to the somewhat convoluted on-screen menus.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Why haven’t smartphone batteries improved?

low energy

Battery technology seems stuck in the dark ages. Nicole Kobie examines its limitations and reveals the research that could cause a power revolution.

Smartphone screens are getting bigger and sharper, processors are ever-more powerful, but battery life continues to be the bane of our ongoing mobile existence.

No wonder, then, that a recent pair of surveys showed battery life as one of the key considerations when buying a smartphone. Global Market Institute found that 89% rated a phone’s battery life as “important” – far more so than the 68% who chose by the brand of the handset – and said extending time between charges was so crucial to users that some turned off key features or turned down screen brightness in order to extend battery life. A separate study by uSwitch revealed that 89% of Britons would be more likely to buy a smartphone purely based on longer battery life, rather than more flashy features such as voice controls, flexible displays or even 3D graphics.

Monday, 10 November 2014

LG 65UB980V: Bold and beautiful

LG 65UB980V

LG's high-end 4K TV combines brilliant Smarts with great images. John Archer reports

LG has had a topsy-turvy year in TV. On the upside, the brand’s taken the Smart TV world by storm with its WebOS interface. On the downside, it’s struggled to keep up with some rivals on the picture quality front.

Chiefl y, this is because the IPS panels it employs in its LED-lit fl atscreens have failed to deliver the sort of contrast performances we’ve come to expect from rival LCD technologies. If any TV’s going to lift LG into the A-List, though, it’s the 65UB980V. After all, this is the company's fl agship 65in model for 2014, and as such it comes packing the highest levels of LG’s hardware and software wizardry.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Dell XPS 18

Dell XPS 18

A step in the right direction.

If you recall from our first Dell XPS 18 review in the August 2013 issue, we were surprised by how much we liked the 18-inch AIO/tablet hybrid. As much as we enthused, however, there were a few issues that kept us from recommending it outright. Haswell was right around the corner, which would have offered better CPU, GPU, and battery performance over its then aging Ivy Bridge processor. We also didn’t like that it only had a paltry 32GB caching drive. With the XPS 18 Mark II, Dell is attempting to address those issues.

Thursday, 6 November 2014



Membership benefits.

Every console needs a killer game or two, titles that redefine the way things are done. Because gaming is so broad, these are genre specific attempts at capturing hearts and minds, and the racing genre is hotly contested. The Xbox, for example, has Forza, which has become something of an unassailable fortress for Microsoft console car gaming. The PS3 had the Gran Turismo series which, despite a wobbly later run, still managed to captivate audiences. For the PS4… well, that space still needs to be filled, really, and it seems that it was the main aim of DriveClub to do just that. But definitive racers need to offer a whole array of positives, including a realistic driving model and, unfortunately, DriveClub doesn’t really deliver in all the areas that it should.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Evil Within

The Evil Within

Get ready for punishment…

Horror is not an easy genre to get right, Whether it be in the format of books or films, scaring the crap out of the audience is a lot tougher than you might think. It is, arguably, easier to do with video games, because the player is so much more involved with the activity, actually providing feedback rather than just receiving information intended to get their heart pounding.

Pay Your e-Troll


The dues of internet usage…

Working in the digital and social media space, everyone in this industry eventually comes across the little understood creature called the troll. Unlike the mythological beast that appears in Terry Pratchett and Harry Potter novels (or in your favourite role playing game), the internet troll is a very real, and very nasty creature. In the books and movies, trolls stick to the dark and dank recesses of the fantasy world to prey on unsuspecting travellers or wayward children, but the internet troll is far more bold and far, far more wicked. Unlike their mythical counterpart, the internet troll uses the anonymity of cyberspace to venture boldly into the public eye, and thrives on the reactions, misery and discord they can sow amongst unsuspecting online communities, rather than simply boiling their bones for meals.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014



If Valve’s Steam Machines delay has you feeling down in the dumps about HDTV-based PC gaming, we‘d like to take this opportunity to remind you that alternatives abound. As much as we love the developer for its contributions to PC gaming, the Steam Machine’s core concept — putting a PC in the living room — isn’t terribly novel. Enthusiasts have been connecting PCs to TVs and playing games on them since graphics cards first started shipping with S-Video outputs. Thankfully, in the high-def era, doing so has gotten significantly prettier (and more practical).

Monday, 3 November 2014

How To Buy A Power Supply

power supply

When pricing out a new system, the power supply unit is usually the component at the bottom of the list. We admit, it’s hard to get excited about the PSU. Jacob Freeman, product manager at EVGA, thinks the PSU’s role in gaming, overclocking, and enthusiast computing is underrated. “Due to the nature of the device, it is not easy to measure the performance of the power supply without expensive equipment, thus some users may buy PSUs that offer low efficiency, or have low quality components that can cause all sorts of issues from system crashes to power supply failure.”

No, the PSU doesn’t directly impact the performance of your PC, but it does feed the components that do make that impact. It’s very possible to get it wrong and never know it. Buying too much power wastes energy, and buying an underpowered PSU may prevent your computer from booting, fail whenever you hit it with a load, and limit your overclocking potential and future upgrade options. Read on to determine what to buy when it comes time to replace your power supply.

Sunday, 2 November 2014



The linchpin of ADATA’s XPG Z1 DDR4 modules is its Thermal Conductive Technology, which improves heat dissipation to boost performance. ADATA has certainly put TCT to good use, as its XPG Z1 kits are already available at speeds up to 2,800MHz. ADATA also plans on releasing a 3,200MHz kit in the near future. The XPG Z1 lineup is already an imposing collection, considering the DDR4 standard is still in its infancy. ADATA sent us a 16GB 2,400MHz quad-channel kit (model AX4U2400W4G16-QRZ) to put through the wringer.

Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4-2400

Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4-2400

Last month, we checked out Crucial’s DDR4 desktop memory lineup, which operate at 2,133MHz. Crucial pumps up its Ballistix Sport DDR4 modules’ speed to 2,400MHz, thanks to a heat spreader that improves heat dissipation. Although you can buy Ballistix Sport DDR4 by the module or in a dual-channel kit, we’ll be focusing our attention on the 16GB quadchannel kit. (Crucial also has a 32GB quad-channel kit consisting of a quartet of 8GB modules if you want to stuff your X99-based rig with an obscene amount of memory.)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Thermaltake Core V51

Thermaltake Core V51

Thermaltake recently sent us the latest entry in its attractive, highly functional Core series of PC cases, the Core V51. The Core V51 is a roomy mid-tower that bears the Core series’ distinctive rounded, perforated steel front panel and wide feet. At 21.3 inches high, it’s only a couple inches shorter than its fulltower sibling, the V71, and the case’s interior is as roomy as many full-tower cases we’ve seen.

Behind the standard left-side acrylic window, the motherboard tray accommodates boards ranging in size from Mini-ITX to Extended ATX, and the interior of the V51’s front and top panels will both accommodate radiators up to 420mm long. (You can also install up to a 240mm rad in the bottom, and the back panel will hold a 120mm radiator.) Your fan options are similarly extensive with the Core V51; the front panel will hold three 120mm fans (two of these come pre-installed), two 140mm fans, or a single 200mm unit. The top panel, which has mounting slots that give you lots of discretion where placement is concerned, can hold three 120mm or 140mm fans, or two 200mm monsters.