Windows 7 Service Pack 1 to be released February 22nd Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Friday, 11 February 2011 09:00

I'm not sure anyone is gasping for a Service Pack for either Windows 7 or Windows 2008 Server R2, but regardless we're getting one on February 22nd (or February 16th for MSDN and volume license customers).

Today we officially handed off the final release (RTM) of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) to our OEM partners. On February 16th Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will be available for MSDN and TechNet Subscribers as well as Volume License customers. On February 22nd, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will become generally available for folks to download via the Microsoft Download Center and available on Windows Update.

For Windows 7, SP1 will help keep your PCs well supported by delivering ongoing updates, many of which have been made previously available through Windows Update. It also includes client-side support for RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory which are two new virtualization features enabled in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

You can find the full announcement at the Windows Team 'Blog.

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Interview with Andrew Dodd - AMD Catalyst Software Product Manager Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Friday, 11 February 2011 08:52

Now well and truly in the hot seat after taking over from Terry Makedon's role as the "front man" of AMD's Catalyst drivers, Hardware Heaven have taken the opportunity to speak to Catalyst Software Product Manager Andrew Dodd and quiz him on various aspects of the Catalyst programme.

A final question from our readers. "Matth" asks whether you feel that a commitment to monthly releases is still appropriate given the frequency of hotfixes in recent times. They also ask whether you still feel WHQL releases are important, given that the certification process can delay the release of drivers to the public.

Andrew: Monthly WHQL releases of AMD Catalyst are here to stay. We may have hotfix drivers released in between - (which are really targetted at the enthusiast community); but the monthly Microsoft certified Catalyst releases ensures that we're delevering a fully qualified software release which have also passed Microsoft's level of standards as well. Passing Microsoft's level of standard is an important benchmark in driver stability; not just from a gaming perspective but from an overall system/graphics perspective. Last year, an independent 3rd party conducted a number of driver stability runs using the Microsoft DCT WHQL test kit. The results (Testing under extreme conditions, AMD passed each of the rigorous tests 100% of the time) clearly demonstrate AMD's graphics stability leadership.

As far the monthly updates - I really think there is a lot of value in each release - we always deliver new features, new performance improvements, and driver fixes, and we want to make sure our customers have access to all of these benefits as quickly as possible.

Check out the full interview here.

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Duke Nukem Forever hands-on preview Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 10 February 2011 14:24

After more years of hype than most of us care to remember, we're now edging closer to an actual, proper, official Duke Nukem Forever release.  But will it be worth waiting for?

I could list jokes and throwbacks to the original game or go on about this graphical deficiency or that hiccup in the framerate, but the game just didn't grab me. It didn't spark my imagination. It just made me miss the original. The game's technical flaws did a lot to keep me distant, and nothing in the game did enough to draw me in.

It's clear that the people involved with Duke Nukem Forever care deeply about Duke Nukem, but this may have been an impossible challenge. Trying to pick up so many pieces and recreate a whole based on the notes and past work of those who failed before is an amazingly intricate task, and Gearbox has no lack of talent and willpower. I wanted this story to have a happy ending, to be able to say that we should all step in line and hail the king, but this game, for me, is a miss.

ArsTechnica have the brief preview.

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Crysis 2 “will have a PC version that’s a PC game” Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 10 February 2011 14:19

Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli is keen to keep PC gamers onside with the release of Crysis 2 now imminent, promising a proper PC gaming experience from this particular platform.  That said, the poor guy sounds understandably exasperated by the constant criticism that comes from PC gamers.

A set of unofficial Crysis 2 minimum specs appeared recently, revealing that Crysis 2 won’t need a monster PC to run. Yerli says this is a deliberate move after taking criticism for the high system requirements of the first game. “I’m frustrated about this. We said it was a game that was pushing boundaries, which would stay relevant in the future, and all we got was a backlash: “This game doesn’t run!” Then games came out for the same hardware that weren’t running at all, or were choppy and whatnot despite low-res graphics. Yet we were the bad guys for pushing PC graphics, making it too expensive to play.”

“Now, it’s more like we want to give you the best PC experience with current high-end equipment. So if you bought the last high-end graphics card, you’re going to get a blast out of it. Likewise, the minimum-spec experience will be of a far higher quality than Crysis was.”

PC Gamer has more details of Mr. Yerli's comments.

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LG Optimus 2X and NVIDIA Tegra 2 review Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 08:50

Fancy a dual-core smartphone?  LG's Optimus 2X is one of the first to hit the market, sporting NVIDIA's Tegra 2 solution.  Does this change the game in the mobile phone market?

2011 is going to be a year dominated by multi-core smartphone launches, but there always has to be a first. So just like that, we have our first example of said category of smartphone, the LG Optimus 2X, with Nvidia's dual-core 1 GHz Tegra 2 AP20H at its heart. The Optimus 2X (simply the 2X henceforth) hasn't changed much since we saw it at CES - the hardware is aesthetically the same, and software at first glance is the same as well. We weren't able to publish benchmarks at that time purely because LG hadn't finalized the software build on that test hardware, but we definitely can do so now.

First off are the hardware specs. There's a version of the 2X already shipping on South Korea Telecom which is similar but not identical to the version we were sampled - what we're reviewing is the LG PP990 rather than the SU660. You can look at the specs of that Korean version and compare yourself, but the differences boil down to a few things. The South Korean version ships with 16 GB of internal storage compared to 8 GB like ours, Xenon versus LED flash, likely a different build of Android (more on that later), and a physically different set of Android buttons. The Korean version also has T-DMB for mobile TV. LG hasn't officially announced what carrier the 2X will launch with stateside, nor has it been specific about what UMTS or GSM bands that final version will work with, I'd expect that announcement to happen at MWC. Needless to say, I was surprised that the 2X immediately hopped on HSPA when I inserted my personal AT&T SIM. Regardless, just know that what we're reviewing here is something between the international model and what will be launched in the US. The 2X will launch running Android 2.2.1 and is already slated to move to Android 2.3 at some time in the future.

Anandtech has the full review.

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Intel resumes shipping Sandy Bridge chipsets without implementing repair Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 08:27

Their chipsets may not be fixed yet but Intel has nonetheless resumed shipping Sandy Bridge parts, albeit only to system builders who guarantee that their boxes won't be affected by the Serial ATA issue that plagues them.

Intel subsequently initiated extensive discussions with computer makers about this topic...As a result of these discussions and specific requests from computer makers, Intel is resuming shipments of the Intel® 6 Series Chipset for use only in PC system configurations that are not impacted by the design issue.

Only computer makers who have committed to shipping the Intel® 6 Series Chipset in PC system configurations that are not impacted by the design issue will be receiving these shipments.

Hot Hardware have the full story.

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ASUS and Gigabyte respond to Sandy Bridge chipset design error Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 14:40

If you're the proud owner of an Intel "Sandy Bridge"-based system, then you're probably feeling a little less proud after the news earlier this week that Intel will be recalling all of their 6-series chipsets due to a design flaw which affects operation of some of these parts Serial ATA ports.  So, what are the major motherboard manufacturers doing about the situation?  Both ASUS and Gigabyte have responded with their plans.

The key messages are as follows:

1) Gigabyte has stopped shipment to and recalled any unsold 6-series B2 motherboards from distributors and dealers.

2) Any Gigabyte 6-series B2 motherboards that have already been sold will be accepted back for replacement with a B3 board, regardless of condition. I asked Gigabyte if this meant that non-working boards could also be returned, Gigabyte said yes - all eligible 6-series models with B2 stepping chipsets will be accepted back.

3) Gigabyte says that it should have 6-series B3 chipsets in April.

4) The replacement program will happen at the dealer/distributor level. You will have to exchange your board at the location you purchased it from.

5) Customers can either exchange their board (you'll have to wait until April for this to happen) or you can get a full refund sooner (immediately?). Gigabyte recommends going the refund route as that gives you more flexibility for what you want to do next.

6) The replacement board you get will be a brand new motherboard based on the B3 chipset. Gigabyte isn’t ready to disclose if there will be any new design features to these boards as well.

7) The cost of the product exchange will be handled by Intel and Gigabyte (presumably Intel is footing the entire bill).

Anandtech have more on Gigabyte's response.

Acting on our philosophy and promise of inspiring innovation and persistent perfection, we've created a comprehensive response to this development to safeguard the best interest of ASUS customers around the world. We will provide total warranty services to maximize computing and usability, as each ASUS product is delivered with an uncompromising quality pledge. This includes the hassle-free return and/or replacement of all affected ASUS products. We’re doing all this effective immediately – and as a first step, shipments of current ASUS Sandy Bridge-based products have been halted. The suspension covers all distribution and retail channels — ASUS only sells quality-assured products, at all times and across all product segments.

For all customers who already own any ASUS product affected by the design error identified by Intel®, simply visit this page for detailed warranty and service hotline information. We’ll be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have regarding this issue, as well as provide information on future updates to Sandy Bridge technology.

Meanwhile, you can find ASUS' full plans on their own web site.

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The Top Selling 20 Games of 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 08:50

Want to know what the best-selling games of last year were?  Then check out this article... assuming you live in one of the territories it covers, that is.

The UK chart isn't dramatically different from the USA. DS and Wii are a bit weaker, PS3 a bit stronger, and X360 has comparable strength. Gran Turismo 5 was probably in the top 30 for the USA, but in the UK, and in other European countries it cracked the top ten with about six weeks on the market for 2010.

Represented publishers in the UK are Nintendo (8), Sony (1), Microsoft (1), Ubisoft (3), Activision (3), EA (2), and Take Two (2). These are the same companies represented in the USA so no Japanese third parties produced a top-20 hit.

VG Chartz has the full low-down.

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Intel finds flaw in 6-series chipsets, halts shipments Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Monday, 31 January 2011 16:19

Oops... this probably isn't the kind of news that early adopters of "Sandy Bridge"-based systems want to hear.

As phenomenal as Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors turned out to be, nothing in this world is truly perfect. Intel announced earlier this morning that it has discovered a flaw in the 6-series chipsets that accompany the new processor family. While it reassures users that they can "continue to use their systems with confidence," the chipmaker has nonetheless halted chipset shipments until a new, bug-free version of the silicon starts to ship out late next month.

What's the problem? Intel explains, "In some cases, the Serial-ATA (SATA) ports within the chipsets may degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives."

The Tech Report has the story, while Anandtech has more on the specifics of the issue.

If you have a desktop system with six SATA ports driven off of P67/H67 chipset, there’s a chance (at least 5%) that during normal use some of the 3Gbps ports will stop working over the course of 3 years. The longer you use the ports, the higher that percentage will be. If you fall into this category, chances are your motherboard manufacturer will set up some sort of an exchange where you get a fixed board. The motherboard manufacturer could simply desolder your 6-series chipset and replace it with a newer stepping if it wanted to be frugal.

If you have a notebook system with only two SATA ports however, the scenario is a little less clear. Notebooks don’t have tons of storage bays and thus they don’t always use all of the ports a chipset offers. If a notebook design only uses ports 0 & 1 off the chipset (the unaffected ports), then the end user would never encounter an issue and the notebook may not even be recalled. In fact, if there are notebook designs currently in the pipeline that only use ports 0 & 1 they may not be delayed by today’s announcement. This is the only source of hope if you’re looking for an unaffected release schedule for your dual-core SNB notebook.

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Intel 'Emcrest' SSDs to launch next month? Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Monday, 31 January 2011 08:47

While Sandforce's SSD controllers rule the roost in performance terms right now, it was inevitable that Intel would soon strike back with something new of their own to try and snatch their crown.  That attempt looks set to appear under the company's "Emcrest" codename, although sadly these drives won't feature the 25nm memory chips we've been looking forward to for what seems like an age now.

The rumour mill has been pretty quiet on Intel's third-gen SSDs since we caught wind of some supposed specs in October last year. Although the drives are still due out this quarter, the latest buzz suggests that they might actually be something to get excited about.

According to Fudzilla's network of unnamed sources, the next-gen SSDs will be a part of the Emcrest-family and built using Intel's brand new 34nm NAND. Although this is a step backwards from the 25nm memory that was rumoured previously, it does seem a little bit more realistic.

But it's the performance numbers that are really interesting. The source suggests that read speeds could be on the order of 450MB/s, while writes would be able to hit 300MB/s. For comparison, Intel's current generation drives - even the high performance X25-E series - only managed to hit 250MB/s and 170MB/s. Random read performance is suspected to be around 20,000 4k IOPS.

HEXUS has the full story.

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