Saturday, 28 January 2012

Beta Roundup - Tera, Guild Wars 2, Diablo III & Others

We've got three games kicking around at the minute that are set to release quite soon. Most are now in beta stages or are set to enter beta fairly soon.

Tera Online
Pre-Beta. Registration open.

An MMO with a difference. Tera brings a new aspect to the world of MMOs - skill. You can, more often than not, get by in most of the MMOs around with some semblance of common sense and hand-eye coordination, specifically in PvE fights. However, Tera takes targeting to a whole new level.

With a crosshair.

That's right, you have to physically aim your spells. After all of the standard 3rd person MMOs I've played, this has been predominantly the case: Click target, cast damage/healing spell, wait for cast time, boom. Next.

Take a look at this video of the Archer gameplay. The mobs know when you've taken aim at them, there is a skill aspect involved in actually targeting your enemy as opposed to just having them on your targeting pane. I have a feeling this will be absolutely hilarious in a PvP environment and cannot wait to give it a try.

Guild Wars 2
Closed Beta, Open Beta in March. Registration not yet open.

We finally see a sequel to the much loved Guild Wars. Again, another MMO doing something different this year. Guild Wars 2 brings a slightly different take to the traditional roles of tank, dps and healer, they name them Control, Damage and Support. For a start, every class will be able to resurrect, at level 1! There are no dedicated 'healers' in the game so to speak either. All healing will be done via self heals, support heals or defensive abilities, protective domes (positional) and so on.

Death is not the end. When you are pummeled to the ground in GW2, you do not die. Nope, you are given a second chance. You are placed into a 'Downed' mode, in which you can fight to your last dying breath. You can still be attacked and defeated in this state, but you are able to use certain abilities to turn the tides of battle. Certain professions (classes) have instant resurrects, that can get you straight back into the thick of the fight again.

Diablo III
In beta - limited keys available.

It's taking a very, very long time for this to be released. The original promise was Christmas last year if I recall. That didn't happen. It was then 'early 2012', which, I suppose is still around now, but no release date as of yet (but we all know what Blizzard are like with their release dates). I would suspect it will arrive at some point during March as they will want to be competitive with other releases at this time, else they risk losing out.

The beta has technically started, however, I've not spoken to one person just yet who has a beta key here in the UK though that may just be not knowing the right people. If you are signed up for beta access, keep an eye on your battlenet account and the associated email address to see if you get in!

A few more...

It may be worth mentioning a few other releases I've had on my radar for a while. Some of these are works in progress, some are just rumours.

WoW: Mists of Pandaria

We all know WoW is a lumbering behemoth of a game nowadays, so with the current content already complete, yet again comes the time for a new expansion. The next major delivery to the monster is Mists of Pandaria. Information was released last BlizzCon on the zones, dungeons, enemies, classes and so on.

The new playable race (Pandaren) are neutral and can 'side' with a faction at level 10 it seems. A new class (monk) is also being released. No auto attack is present on the monk! Their abilities are all active.

I think we should see MoP beta hit in the next three months some time. I would be disappointed if they released the actual game any later than early August, as with half the level increase in each expansion, they should really be bringing the packs at least 6 months closer between each one, so an 18 month release schedule as opposed to a 2 year one. I would hope for a June/July release of MoP.

Infinity Universe

I am hoping for big things from this project. It's being managed by a small team of 8 people but has been going for years now. In short it is a space simulator, similar in a way to EVE, however, there seems to be more emphasis on skill than how long you've had to train a certain ability. Their aim is to create a seamless universe, in which you can travel through space, head towards a planet and instead of a loading screen where you 'land' and then can walk around etc, you should technically be able to fly towards the planet, enter the atmosphere, fly around the surface, and just head towards space again to leave the planet.

This video was recorded almost two years ago:


In conclusion, I think we have a few good games on the horizon for 2012, and some (Infinity) to watch develop into something possibly fantastic over the coming years.

Monday, 23 January 2012

nVidia Kepler Rumours

So, the mill seems to have been turning! We've seen an article appear on Tom's that has taken some of its information from the Chiphell website. It seems to indicate the timescale for the arrival of the new nVidia Kepler cards:,14499.html

Again, this is a rumour, not fact. It speculates that the new series of cards will hold the 600 series nomenclature, which opposes some previous rumours stating that the 600 series was being ditched for mobile GPUs, as the 300 series was, and that they were skipping to the 700 series instead.

Not only that but it also states that the new '680' card, may not actually host their flagship core, as has mostly been the case before. Hosting a 780MHz clock speed and 2GB of VRAM, it sounds half decent.

[Speculation]I personally think, if this is to be believed, that this card could be a quick release from nVidia. With AMD currently holding the top spot, they are losing out on cash. I also have a feeling that this is not going to be all nVidia have to offer. Again, if it's to be believed, this card may well be the successor to the '560(Ti)' card, with another release of an even higher single GPU card later in the year. Of course, I could be entirely wrong![/Speculation]

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

SOPA Stopped Me

I've taken myself offline for today in protest of SOPA and PIPA. A bunch of ridiculous bills the US Congress are trying to pass.

Read more here:

Support the strike!

Site now back up - thanks for the support and let's hope it achieved something.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Crucial Release Firmware Fix for M4

Crucial announced last Friday that their firmware fix for the M4 SSD went live.

The release was to fix the issue with the drives, where once they reach 5184 power on hours, they would become unresponsive and cycle down. This is just over 7 months of power on time for the drives.

The fix includes all of the changes made in 0009 and you can upgrade from any lower firmware version.

I have just run the update across my two M4's in the desktop and the one in the laptop too without any issue.

See Crucial's website for the files:

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dell L702X & ThermalTake Massive 23 Review

Dell L702x

Right, so I'll give you the premise to this upgrade. I purchased a laptop from Dell in around January 2010, it was a Studio XPS 1645 with an i7 720 and the mobile Radeon 4670. It was a nice looking machine but unfortunately there was an inherent issue with it, when you stressed the computer and more specifically, the CPU, the BIOS would clock back the CPU, so that in the middle of a game, it would drop the clock down to 82%, 66%, 32%, and finally around 15.7%, so I was effectively running a 0.25Ghz i7 dual core... great!

After two years of promises, switching to a 130W adapter and trying countless BIOS updates, nothing would stop this laptop throttling, other than a program called ThrottleStop, but even then it a) only worked half the time and b) I didn't want to run a program every time I used my laptop, as it forced the CPU to 100% and got very hot. End result being an angry email to Dell and they promised to replace the machine for their new L702x model.


1920x1080 HD WLED screen
Intel i7 2640M 2.8GHz (3.5Ghz on Turbo)
4GB 1333MHz RAM
(I fitted 8GB Corsair 1333MHz)
750GB 7200rpm SATA 2 HDD
(I added the 64GB Crucial m4)
3GB nVidia GT555M GPU (New revision chip)
Win 7 Pro 64bit
2 Years in house, 3 years collect and return

(I must apologise for the quality of some of the images, I need to sort the lighting out in this room)

It has a nice exterior design, I still prefer the 1645's looks, but I'm sure this will grow on me

Good sized screen without a ridiculous bezel size. 

Features a backlit Keyboard, complete with numpad. Speakers are JBL, a fairly decent brand.

The package came with installation disks for the OS and drivers/software, the laptop itself and the 150W charger.

A quick look at the ports first:
On the left hand side there is just the one USB2.0 port as the fan vent takes up the rest
Taking the rear top left corner first, it has the charger slot and 2xUSB3 SS ports
Top rear right corner has what I think is the Infrared sensor, a standard size DisplayPort, HDMI and ethernet port

The first thing I did was to put the 64GB crucial m4 in the second bay, which runs at SATA3 speeds and to replace the 4GB standard RAM with 8GB of the Corsair 1333MHz kit. From this respect I can't comment on how the standard system would have performed but technically it should really only alter loading speeds by changing the drive and RAM.

Now, this machine came with the factory set A14 BIOS, however, there is a known issue due to the BIOS build which will not allow you to reinstall certain drivers due to unrecognised hardware (whether this was just not programmed into the BIOS correctly is anyone's guess, Dell have not rectified it yet). This obviously affected myself as I did a fresh install of Windows to the SSD. The affected drivers were the WavesMaxx Audio, Intel HD3000 graphics driver and the nVidia drivers, I'm still trying to rectify the USB3 driver.

It took a frustrating evening to set up the machine and finally get various programs installed. I did run a few benchmarks as standard and recorded the temperature.

Seems like fairly decent colour reproduction (Thanks to Digital Blasphemy for the background!) - the desktop uses the HD3000 graphics on the CPU

A incredibly fast boot for a laptop of 10.56 seconds, mainly due to the m4

Very good read speeds (552.8MB/s) again, write (114.4MB/s) is only low due to the small size of the SSD (64GB)

Shows mobile processors can do alright in a PCMark test! 14089 score

Most people tend to be using 3DMark06 on the L702x as laptops aren't quite as powerful as desktops, this scores a decent 10684

Temps still well within limits there at 74.5 average on load and 42 at idle

It doesn't score too badly on these benchmarks, however the real crux of this laptop is the overclocking potential of the GT555M. As standard it comes at 590MHz core clock with a memory clock of 900MHz, however my MSI Afterburner would push up to a stable 760MHz (can get 770 in benches but sometimes not in games) core and 960MHz memory, though pushing the memory won't give you as large of a gain as the core clock does.


12915 3DMark06 score - a 20.9% increase over stock
7043 3DMark Vantage
1555 3DMark11

As you can see it really did improve the performance in 3DMark06, and after running Vantage and 11 benchmarks didn't do so badly in them for a laptop.

I won't run FPS tests in games as it's not primarily a gaming laptop, more so I at least have the option of playing a game or two when I'm out and about. All I can say is that it runs Skyrim fairly well on medium/high settings on the overclock!
ThermalTake Massive 23

Along with the L702x I also purchased this little piece of kit:

The purpose of it is to provide a decent platform for cooling the laptop, be it on a desk or on your lap. It has four rubber feet to provide extra grip and is very lightweight for its size. A USB2.0 lead is packaged with it, which fits into a small flap at the rear of the fan so you can keep it stored in a safe place.

The side panel contains two USB2.0 ports, one for plugging the unit into the laptop, the other as an 'extender' so you don't lose out on the functionality of the port you are using on the laptop. The buttons are quite self explanatory, to turn on and off the LED and the fan.

I'm a fan of blue/black in components generally, as you can tell from my main setup, but I wasn't so sure of the LED on this, I leave it on mostly because it's 'bling' but I still can't scratch the feeling that some LED's can be tacky.

In short, the cooling potential of this varies greatly with the laptop type, as it all depends on where the fan ducts are. If I'm honest, after running a 3DMark11 test, the highest temps reached were only around 2-3 degrees lower than without the unit. So the answer to the question of 'does it do anything?' I would say is yes, it does, but not a great deal. I can imagine it doing more as temps go up, really these CPU's have a TJunction of 100, I think they start to throttle around 95ish, mine only capped at around 75 on load, without the pad.

Test Result Summary

Boot Time: 10.56 seconds
SSD results: 552.8MB/s read, 114.4MB/s write
PCMark Vantage: 14089
Geekbench: 6150
3DMark06:  10684 (Stock), 12915 (Overclocked)
3DMark Vantage: 7043
3DMark11: 1555


The L702x in itself is a fantastic piece of kit. It doesn't look much from the exterior but I'm happy with that. It can take most of the applications and games I throw at it, and run them to a decent standard, especially the games. It will cope with even Skyrim/BF3 on medium settings.

Load speeds are great, very quick to boot and run most day to day programs, primarily down to the SSD I would say though. The standard hard drive isn't so bad though, it's obviously not as quick but I have a few programs/games installed to it and it doesn't do so bad.

One good thing is that it can't take advantage of a 20% price hike because it looks cool and has a certain, *ahem*, extra-terrestrial brand name on it (yes, Alienware, I'm looking at you). Bear in mind that while Dell and Alienware are effectively the same company the equivalent hardware in the Dells are always cheaper.

I would recommend this laptop as I think it's a great unit, however, I would caution you if you plan on  reinstalling windows, due to the dodgy BIOS, to make sure you have all the relevant information before you do this reinstall and to confirm you can reinstall the drivers successfully. The only other criticism is that the charger doesn't quite fit properly in the port, an issue Dell is aware of but when issued with a 'replacement' charger, it's the same model! I can't comment on value for money, but I would say this system would cost you around £1100 if you purchased it through the Dell store. I paid just over that for my 1645 two years ago and in my eyes they are around the same performance for their era, but I am impressed with the L702x. Definately think of getting 8GB or more RAM in there and a decent spec SATA3 SSD, does wonders for everyday performance.

The ThermalTake, well, that's all down to you. It does work, a little, looks alright and is quite comfortable when just resting on your legs, however is it worth ~£30? I'm not sure, I found mine cheap, but I'm not sure I would pay quite that much for one, maybe £20 tops.

I hope you find this useful and if you have any queries don't hesitate to ask away.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

WoW 64bit Client in Testing

It's now possible to download the 64bit WoW client from the PTR page. This will address a few issues, mainly memory related due to drawbacks of the 32bit client. It should also provide a small FPS boost.

A user from wow-serbia has been posting his findings. As you can see from the below images, it's giving some decent gains in both min and max FPS, along with running quite smoothly with 100+ addons and over 3GB of RAM usage.

See the full thread HERE.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Launch of AMD 7000 Series (7970)

Today was the day AMD lifted their NDA on their new cards, specifically the 7970, which went on sale this morning.

As you can see from Aria's web page, it seems stock levels have already dropped to zero!

The acceptable prices seem to vary between around £430 and £520 among most retailers, some sites are selling at over £550. Possible milking of release day prices, I'd hope to see most places drop to below £500 in the not too distant future.

If someone were to ask me if they should buy one, quite frankly I'd say no, as we currently have no idea what nVidia have to offer in their new Kepler cards due to be released in the next few months. If they aren't all that great, you can pick up one of these AMD cards, hopefully prices may have dropped a few pounds then. However, if they are very good cards, I'd be kicking myself if I'd gone for one of these AMD ones now! So my advice is to hold out a short while and see what the green team have to offer.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

AMD Deny 7000s GPU with 2304 Cores

From this document I posted earlier, leaked by Sapphire, it appeared as though there were a 2304 core GPU on the cards, however it had been crossed out.

Speculation led people to believe this was the rumoured '7980' card, however the senior PR executive from AMD, Mr. Hook, has denied the claims that there is a 7980 card.
Whether this now means Sapphire are in trouble for leaking (what may have been intentionally false) information or whether they just plain lied is uncertain.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sandy Bridge E Setup

Having recently bought a new setup I've done a brief write up on the specs and a few benchmarks.

Cooler Master HAF X
Corsair HX1050W
Gigabyte X79-UD5
Intel i7 3930K & Corsair H100 (Push/Pull with 4x bequiet Shadow Wings)
16GB (4x4GB) Corsair Vengeance 1866Mhz
2x128GB Crucial m4 (RAID0)
1TB Seagate Barracuda (Media)
500GB WD Caviar (Backup & Games that don't fit on RAID)
160GB WD (Documents)
MSI Twin Frozr II GTX 570 (Had a second Gigabyte Windforce 570, was later tested as faulty but took credit note instead as I'm waiting for new cards)
2xSony DVDRW Drives (no need for bluray as I used the TV for that)
2 x 24" HD Iiyama ProLites
Razer Naga Epic
Logitech G510
Logitech X530 5.1 surround system
Plantronics Gamecom 777

Above spec was when it was built, check the side panel on 'My Systems' for the updates to it!

I had a few issues with install which have smoothed themselves out now, something was causing the motherboard to hang on installation of windows and when writing/reading large or multiple files from the RAID array.

I did manage a few benchmarks of the stock system vs the overclocked system though not so fussed on 3DMark scores as the GPU wasn't the main focus of the build.

Peak read of 1010.58 MB/s and write of 413 MB/s

Intel Burn Test @ 70GFlops and an average of 45.3 degrees across cores

Boot Timer ran at 19.6 seconds

PCMark score of 22668

X3 TC @ 109.2fps

I had a quick tinker with the CPU and GPU clock settings and reached 835Mhz core on the GPU at stock voltage and 4.375Ghz on the CPU at 1.3V - I need to re-visit this as the motherboard needs a BIOS update as I'm two behind at the moment.

Intel Burn Test now showing 163.6 GFlops, an increase of almost 95
Average core temperatures were 63.8 degrees

Boot Timer cut by ~4.5 seconds

An increase of 2700 on PCMark, ~12%

X3 showed a large increase at 139.6fps, a 30fps increase

So far I'm fairly impressed with the system, it's very quick to respond, mainly down the RAID array having decreased load times massively. The system itself managed with everything I throw at it, the only downside currently being the GPU, while it's a great card, I'm looking forward to the new nVidia Kepler cards in a few months and comparing them to the current ones available from AMD.

I'll have another play with the overclocking when I get back to the UK and post up an update when I get round to it.