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Rage3D Kombuting // December 11th edition
Author: Panagiotis Vagiakos
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: December 11th, 2012
This week: Blurb about Wi-Fi, new 3DMark, Tegra4, new game trailers and Steam PC.
Is it a blog? Is it my rumblings with a spice of memes? Is it Stuff That Are Entirely My Opinion And Do Not Reflect That of Rage3D? Guilty as charged on all accounts. Enjoy and comment away :)
Not much in the news department these past 10 days, which is kind of strange, come to think of it. We are fast approaching the holiday season where companies prepare new products, hype already existing ones and await happy customers that will open up their wallets and spend their precious money. So the subjects that I will tackle this week are more like personal opinions rather than news commentary. No, I won't be talking about AMD this week, even though they said they have no plans to abandon socketed processors, so yay them. Come to think of it, after the controversy, Intel also said they'd be supporting socketed processors "for the foreseeable future", which is a bit more ambiguous but I think we're safe for the next couple of years.
So this week the column will be more like a blurb on various subjects I've come across; some will be new, some will be new to me, for some I'll be dead wrong (and I am sure someone will point that out right away in the comments). The first subject I'd like to tackle is the latest wireless protocol, 802.11ac. For those of you not in the know, 802.11n does have a successor, albeit it's still in draft status. Which means that the relevant body hasn't finalised the specifications yet, but we have a very good idea of what it will include and what its capabilities will be. Of course these things with the specifications etc. move quite slow; they always had, so companies that deal with networking equipment often grow impatient and release hardware based on the draft version of the specification, and not the final one. Which is OK, most of the time, it has happened before when previous networking protocols were released and when the final version of the protocol was released, a firmware update would bring the hardware up to speed.
I am in the process of wiring the house with CAT6 cabling right now - still in the design stage really, when I start the actual implementation I will mention it here, maybe do a pictorial too; I reckon many people are interested in those types of projects. So naturally one of the things that crossed my mind was this new protocol, which advertises speeds up to 3 times those of 802.11n. Some even advertise it as the "Gigabit Wi-Fi" protocol.
Well, no. I have read numerous reviews on the performance of 802.11ac, and it seems that in order to get speeds close to 300-400mbps you need to be on top of the Wi-Fi router. For normal distances, you get close to 200mbps, and the farther you go, and the more walls you have, the more the speeds drops. So if you have a small house, you should be good with a solution like that (even though the routers are a bit on the expensive side, still, and you also need to have device support as well; most laptops with integrated Wi-Fi are still on the 802.11n/g era). But for a bigger house, wired solutions are still best. And with some clever cable management, you can actually make it look good too.
3DMark of all trades
So we got some new screenshots of the new 3DMark, and it's purty as ever. What troubles me a bit is the fact that it will run in every platform known to man, from Windows, to Windows RT, Android, iOS, you name it.
What troubles me the most is that exact "Jack of all trades, master of none" mentality that I am witnessing. 3DMark will run in all these platforms - with what results? Will we have comparable numbers? And, come to think of it, why would I want to compare my Windows RT tablet to my Windows PC? Or my iPad? 3DMark is a benchmarking suite, fore and foremost, but I think it has just become another number in the various benchmarks we use when we want to compare graphics cards. Just as we compare Crysis scores, and say "this card gives us 30fps, the other one gives us 35fps", 3Dmark scores have become just another number. I do think a benchmarking suite should give you more information about the system you're benchmarking and not just a single number - that's not the point. Yes, 3DMark gives you more than just a number, but let's be honest: what was the last time you saw detailed numbers in a review from the 3DMark suite? So either all journalists are misusing the benchmark, or, they feel that 3DMark's only value is the final number, nothing else. Futuremark should really take a look at these concerns in my opinion; they've been around for a very long time, they've given much to the industry and 3DMark deserves more.
First mention of Tegra 4
Speaking of graphics cards and capabilities, I saw the very first mention of NVidia's Tegra4 the other day over at VR-Zone; it seems HTC wants to use the successor to the extremely popular Tegra3 for an upcoming 5" phablet (and in case you are wondering, yes, this word comes from the words "phone" and "tablet") they are planning, which will have a 1920x1080 resolution. So rumour has it that it will be based on A15 architecture, with a 1.8-2.0GHz clock speed and almost twice the performance of its predecessor. Which is not too bad, actually. Not much is known apart from that (like battery life, for instance), but NVidia has been delivering the goods on the mobile front for quite some time (with most of the tablets sporting their chipsets) so they should have a winner in their hands again.
New trailers from the VGA
So the Spike Video Game Awards came and went, and along came some new trailers that wet our appetite for new and upcoming games. Perhaps one of the most talked about trailers we watched was the one about a mysterious title called The Phantom Pain - the Internet has gone rampant with speculation about this title, and most people seem to agree that this could be a new Metal Gear Solid title. So, if that's indeed the case, good job people, you just created huge amounts of hype out of nowhere. Apart from that, we saw new gameplay trailers for Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and world premiere trailers for Dark Souls II, The Last of Us, Castlevania : Lords of Shadow 2, the new Gears of War: Judgement World, the add-on for Assassin's Creed 3 called The Tyrrany of King Washington, Halo 4 : Spartan Ops and a trailer of the upcoming South Park game imaginatively called The Stick of Truth (which is also officially delayed for Fiscal 2014, aka September 2013 onwards). You can find all of these videos in VGA's official page here.
Valve and their "Console PC"
More and more reports are coming in about Valve's intentions to create a Steam PC for the living room. Gabe Newell confirmed it in a recent Kotaku interview, saying that 2013 is the year Valve will release its first ever hardware - a Steam PC, intended for the living room. Indeed, with Big Picture incorporated on Steam (I've tried it and it works beautifully with a controller) and the Steam Linux client coming out of beta, Valve has all the ingredients to create a good experience. This Steam PC will of course go head to head with the upcoming consoles, so things should get quite interesting, especially if Valve starts persuading other game makers to have their games run on Linux as well. The upcoming consoles will have a contender against them that will have cheaper games, same ease of use and very good graphics capabilities due to modern PC hardware. And what will that do to Windows and its dominance to the game market? Stay tuned because Valve is serious about this project. 2013 is shaping up to be a very interesting year indeed.
Tune in next week; same Komb-time, same Komb-site.