Battlefield 3 MP Beta Date and System Reqs

Above title says all. The beta will take place on Sept. 29th (next Thursday) and will be available for all three platforms (360, PS3, and of course the PC). Players will play in the Operation Metro map that’s set in Paris with the mode being Rush. It’s essentially attacking/defending of respective M-COM stations for those of you who haven’t played Bad Company 2. Here’s what EA had to say:

“Gamers who pre-order the digital PC version of the game at Origin (powered by EA) will be granted early access to the beta starting on September 27, 2011,” EA said Tuesday. “In addition, all customers that pre-ordered a Limited Edition of Medal of Honor will also receive early access to the beta starting on September 27, 2011.”

We instantly snapped a screenshot of the specs needed for the game when we saw it, and they should be nearly identical for the final release. Check out the beta landing page here for more details.

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Upgrading Your Rig for Battlefield 3 (Feature)

We’ve been getting quite a few questions lately regarding whether your (VS)PCs are “Battlefield 3 ready”, so we decided to write up a feature article to address most of your concerns. First off is how the new Frostbite 2 engine looks from footage EA/DICE has been releasing of gameplay and it’ll surely keep everyone guessing whether they can run it without a hitch especially if you want the full experience (on DirectX 11, Tessellation enabled, etc.). Check out the latest trailer following if you haven’t already, BUT something to keep in mind is that they always mention that the actual gameplay footage is based on ALPHA code. This means that it has yet to be optimized for performance and cleaned up for final retail release.

 

So far we’re well under two months in before BF3 hits, and any system requirements for the game? No, not really. About a few months back in June, Atomic PC Magazine interviewed Patrick Bach – Executive Producer at DICE. He obviously wasn’t keen on going into the specifics at the time, but he did mention that the demo system used to run everything had “standard high-end components” and a single GeForce GTX 580 graphics card. Again this is being run on early code as mentioned before, so there’s definitely a direct correlation of better hardware being used to showcase the demo. Then he continued mentioning that if your PC is able to match the same “output” of current game consoles (we believe many modern systems out there would) then you should meet the minimum requirements.

GameStop almost had us when they released a set of minimum and recommended PC specs about two months back, but unfortunately they were deemed simply false. It started with DICE’s Senior Gameplay Designer, Alan Kertz just saying, “We have not announced any specs.” through Twitter when being asked about it. While Johan Andersson at DICE declared on the Beyond3D forum, “FAKE. We haven’t announced any system requirements yet.” He did later say, “But highly recommend a quad core, just as with Bad Company 2.”

Now for the question that we all wind up asking at the end of the day: “So, should I upgrade?”

What we know for sure is that the Frostbite 2 engine has no support for DirectX 9 thus Windows XP, so if you are still kicking the hardware/software then it looks like you’re due for quite an upgrade if you want to get in on the latest Battlefield action.

If you have an ATI Radeon HD 4800 series or NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800 family based card or later then you should be able to run the game on DirectX 10 settings, however the previous generation products for both companies also support the tech and are ones where they first introduced support for DirectX 10 – having those parts handling BF3 well is in fact questionable and somewhat out of the picture.

DirectX 11 performance on the other hand gets a little tricky with more variables and settings, a mid to high end graphics card like something from at least the ATI Radeon HD 5800 family or NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 series might be able to get you very reasonable frame rates. This also depends on the video settings in-game. Note that we can’t make any guarantees however at this stage yet, as it’s just our thoroughly analyzed forecast in terms of game requirements.

Bottom line is that you should sit tight if you are already running any of the above mentioned (or newer) video cards, and see how everything plays out as we get more info. As always, we’ll be striving to keep you all posted as this matter develops.

UPDATE: Some of you mentioned whether memory (RAM) was something to consider for an upgrade. While the minimum of 2GB and recommended 4GB requirements posted by GS are simply inaccurate, so we can’t base our feedback off of that. Although the amounts do similarly translate to the ideal memory capacities a typical system should have today, 2GB being the bare minimum and 4GB as the “de facto” or more common amount. With RAM prices at an all time low and continuing to drop throughout this year, upgrading shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

SSD Boost Manager and “Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD?” Recap

Chances are that if you’re using a SSD as a boot drive for your OS then you probably have run into many occurrences where space is a constraint. This is especially common if your SSD is lower in capacity, so a workaround for this nuisance is to prioritize and keep only a few programs or games on the solid state drive.

Well SSD Boost Manager moves programs or any data between a SSD and traditional HDD in just a few clicks. It allows you to move a file on or off the solid state, and lets you preserve the performance when you launch the allocated applications. SBM not only simply moves the files or folders, but also creates junction links to the new location – this way Windows will still think all files are still in the same location, while it’s actually on the slower drive or vice versa.

Few things to mention due to the native language of the program not being English are that after you carry out an install, you will have to start the junction program listed in the Start menu before launching SSD Boost Manager because it requires admin rights. Once the junction has started already, then initiate SBM and toggle the EN button on the top right on the Window so you get proper translations unless you’re good at French.

To move a new program:

  • Click on “Add” then pick a name, and in the “Directory” line, browse to its location (either on the SSD or regular drive)
  • Under “Dir SSD”, browse to the location you want to move it (again, either on SSD or HDD)
  • Keep the rest of the options on their default values unless you know what you’re doing

There is no limit to the number of profiles you create for the programs you move, and when you decide to move them back – just double click on their respective entries on their entry in SSD Boost Manager’s main window. The program will copy the files, create the junction, and now maintaining space on your SSD would be that much easier not to say this isn’t possible if done manually.

We included a link to the translated homepage here as well.

VSPC also showcased articles previously on how to optimize and improve usability of your SSD, check out the following links:

Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD? – Part 3, Final (Feature)

As promised this will be the final of the three-part series we did for Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD?, also if you happened to miss our previous articles – check out Part 1 and Part 2 (respective links). A brief explanation of our following tweak, the Search feature in Windows indexes certain files and folders on your drive and the index itself is found in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search with the space consumed being about 10% of the total contents being indexed. The space consumption may not be worth it for some due to the already fast nature of SSDs since the search indexes are cached to RAM from the drive.

Disabling Superfetch and Search services

  • Type services.msc in the Start menu Search textfield
  • Scroll down to Superfetch then right-click and select Properties
  • For the Startup type drop-down menu, select Disabled then hit OK
  • Scroll down to Windows Search then right-click and select Properties
  • Click the Stop button, change the Startup type drop-down menu to Disabled and press OK

Disabling Prefetcher and Superfetch from the Registry

Reason behind it? Well, Superfetch is setup to cache files that are accessed frequently since SSDs already have fairly low seek times, so the particular function can be disabled. However if you did a fresh install of Windows 7 on a SSD to start with, Superfetch should already be disabled (may not be if you imaged your OS from an existing HDD). On the other hand, Prefetch loads parts of program files and by disabling this you can free up more of your system memory.

  • Type regedit in the Start menu Search textfield
  • Choose the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SessionManager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters path
  • Right-click on EnablePrefetcher and EnableSuperfetch
  • Choose Modify on each then change the value from either 1 or 3 to 0
  • Restart your system

We hope you all enjoyed our three-part series on SSD optimization and appreciated the extra space or performance boost. Until next time.

Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD? – Part 2 (Feature)

We’ll jump in right away after where we left off last time, and we’ll start off by discussing Power Settings (in Windows) that can affect the TRIM operation. By adjusting and ensuring that the drive does not turn off after a given amount of time, it allows the SSD’s idle garbage collection sequence to run even when you’re away. This can be done by:

  • Going to Control Panel and select Hardware and Sound (in Category view)
  • Click on the Power Options section heading (in green)
  • If you haven’t selected the High performance plan already then hit Show additional plans and select the bubble for it
  • Select Change plan settings for the High performance profile followed by Change advanced power settings
  • Expand the Hard disk drop-down menu and change the Turn off hard disk after to 0 minutes, which will show as Never
  • Click Apply then OK to save your changes

Disable Hibernation and Drive Indexing

This duo frees up space and can help with write performance at the same time. First off with disabling hibernation, you can gain the same storage space as the amount of RAM you have in your system. Reason is of the Hiberfil.sys hidden file on the root folder of the drive where the OS is installed and the Windows Kernel Power Manager reserves this file when you install the operating system. Not coincidentally, the size of this particular file is roughly the same as how much memory (or RAM) you have installed.

Since with a SSD you can power down and boot up with great speed, as a result you won’t have much of a performance gain by hibernating your system. To disable, you:

  • Type cmd in the Start menu Search textfield
  • Press and hold Ctrl + Shift + Enter or right clicking the cmd program to Run as Administrator
  • Key in powercfg -h off and hit Enter
  • An empty prompt should follow which is normal

Now we’ll cover Drive Indexing as response times on a SSD are quite fast already and won’t require contents of the drive to be indexed for quicker retrieval. Not only does this prevent unnecessarily writes to the drive meaning longer life, but also some help in terms of write performance as well. To do this:

  • Open Computer from the Start menu or if you have a desktop shortcut
  • Right-click the SSD and click Properties then un-check Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties

You will be greeted with a pop-up of how the attributes will be applied to the drive or drive and folders/files as well, it should be applied to everything rather than just the drive itself since that would just prevent indexing of future folders/files. Another pop-up that you may see is an error for applying attributes and you can simply hit Ignore All as this is normal.

Be sure to stay tuned for our third and final installment of our Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD? series.

Need More Space (or Speed) on Your SSD? – Part 1 (Feature)

As solid-state drives become more affordable, many of us are getting on board and using them for our systems. Whether it’s in a desktop or laptop, you’ll be seeing a substantial speed bump with faster load times and responsiveness all round. The main issue/weakness are the costs of SSDs and how the drives can get much more expensive as the capacity grows. This will gradually improve as time goes by with increased production volumes and general availability.

Most of us for obvious cost reasons will often opt for a lower capacity SSD to act as a boot drive, having said that you’ll have to be flexible with the space you have to work with. We’ll start out with the more basic tweaks that you can carry out to let you reclaim that much needed space and perhaps yield some gains in performance.

See if TRIM is Enabled

TRIM is an OS command that talks to the SSD telling which blocks of previously saved data are no longer required from deleted files. It then allows the drive to carry out garbage collection otherwise write performance can be negatively impacted. You can do this by:

  • Typing cmd in the Start menu Search textfield
  • Press and hold Ctrl + Shift + Enter or right clicking the cmd program to Run as Administrator
  • Key in fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify and hit Enter

A result of DisableDeleteNotify = 0 indicates that TRIM is enabled while 1 means that it is disabled.

Make Sure your SATA Controller is in AHCI Mode

This can be set through your motherboard’s BIOS/UEFI, and you may have to refer to the user manual on how to do this for your particular model. However your SATA controller may already be in AHCI (advanced host controller interface) mode, you can check by:

  • Opening Control Panel from the Start menu
  • Click the Hardware and Sound category (depending on your view)
  • Select Device Manager under Devices and Printers (there are many ways of doing this)
  • Spot an entry called IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers 
  • Expand it and see if one of the controllers list AHCI

If the AHCI controller is listed then your system configuration is set to AHCI, while is no particular controller is listed then it is not.

We’ll carry on next time with this mini-series with more complex tips towards the end, be sure to keep an eye out.

VSPC Introduces New Opt-Tek Service

Please note that this particular service is no longer available, but is still listed for archival purposes.

First thing’s first and you’re probably wondering what exactly this “Opt-Tek” service is. Well we at VSPC are completely aware that refresh cycles for technology are rather quick, especially when it comes to computing on a desktop or even a laptop. Our goal is simple – it’s to reach out and help individuals to optimize technology hence our effort to create this brand image. In some cases it may be best to replace a system, but before you go scrambling to shell out on a new machine – much can be done prior to that on either the software or hardware level to ensure your current computer is running at its optimal state.

What we’ll be offering:

  • Upgrades and Custom Builds

Sometimes you’ll be able to squeeze some more life out of your computer by swapping out key components including memory (RAM), hard disk or even the motherboard. Or if it’s time for a new system, we’ll point you in the right direction when it comes to picking the one that’s most suitable.

  • Service and Maintenance

“My PC takes a long time to start up.”

“I find it pretty sluggish even when I’m just word processing or browsing the Web.”

“It restarts itself.”

Look like you’re working it too hard, maybe take a day to bring it to a local spa or beauty center. Okay seriously, some of the many indicators like those can be possible virus or malware infections. Anyhow we’ll make an effort to isolate the problem and can reinstall the operating system as a last resort. On the hardware level, we will check components including fans to see if they are in good shape.

  • Recovery and Repairs

Currently we can recover files that are accidentally deleted or formatted from a wide variety of storage mediums, but are currently in the midst of arranging a contract with a data recovery lab to restore files from disasters including physical or water damage done to hard drives.

How we’ll deliver this service:

At this point we can arrive at your door and carry out any necessary work conveniently at the comfort of your own home or you can schedule a drop-off. Since we only recently launched this brand new service, we’ll be undergoing a trial run and will only be catering to select parts of Lower Mainland, BC. Rates start at as low as $29.99 (excluding cost of parts) – please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or to contact inquiry (dot) vspc (at) gmail (dot) com for more details.

Related Resources:

Demystifying AMD’s AM3 Platform and Bulldozer Compatibility

More recently we had manufacturers like ASUS and MSI claiming that some of their products in their existing line-up will in fact work with Bulldozer (AM3+ CPUs), but that may be a case of unofficial support. In the past, there were also talks and rumours of specific support – in the meantime let’s take a look at the key points of how we see the whole fiasco.

  • AMD Won’t be Officially Supporting Bulldozer on the AM3 Platform
  • Major Differences of Official and Unofficial Support
  • No New Details Coming from AMD and Manufacturers like ASUS
  • Conclusion – Few AM3 Boards will Support Bulldozer, but Performance Impact is Unknown

Word straight from AMD is that they won’t be officially supporting Bulldozer on the current AM3 platform and even though they originally had plans not to. Reason is that Bulldozer ships with certain features which includes advanced power management and clock gating capabilities and will in turn require the AM3+ socket.

For those of you wondering about “official and unofficial” support, one thing to point out is that unofficial support may hint voiding your warranty if anything were to go wrong. While on the other hand, official support is still kind of still in the grey area despite the AM2+ boards officially supported AM3 processors in the past. Ultimately it’s up to the motherboard makers to map all this out since the fix isn’t simply a BIOS update. The 780G was a good example, it was capable of supporting virtually all of AMD’s processors, but when it came to the mATX form factor boards – they didn’t have the capacity to take the 125W Phenom CPUs.

As mentioned earlier, AMD only made it clear that Bulldozer won’t be supported on AM3 and while ASUS had made previous announcements – they will cease discussing this matter publicly as per AMD’s request.

Wrapping up, some AM3 boards will inevitably support the upcoming Bulldozer processors and while the extent and overall affected performance, power consumption, and temperatures are all left unknown. Without a doubt, many companies will update their latest and greatest offerings rather than older models if they were to provide this backward compatibility. What we would suggest is that it would be better to wait on an AM3+ ready board rather than buying one that “supposedly” has support and grabbing an AM3+ CPU later on.

We Got Battlefield Play4Free Beta Keys!

Well it’s just one, BUT the single key is good for up to five uses. This is the beta key we got in an email earlier this week:

CPMF-A8D6-YCRJ-9B5N

These are the instructions EA attached:

  • Go to http://battlefield.play4free.com
  • Click on the “Redeem” button and follow the steps given
  • Log in
  • Create your first soldier
  • Head on to the Battlefield

Again the above key is valid and available on a first-come, first-served basis for up to five individuals. If you can, please leave a comment indicating you redeemed the key so this way we can somewhat get a better idea how many times it has been used. Also if you got any keys to share, feel free to leave them below (note that we won’t be responsible for keeping track or monitoring the status of other shared beta keys). Enjoy and have fun!

Updates for Several of Our Custom VSPC Systems

With the general availability of the revised (B3) Sandy Bridge motherboards we’re seeing at many retailers now, we thought it would be a great time to update our configurations for our offered second-gen Intel Core based builds. Not only are the latest systems getting spec bumps (and price cuts in some cases), but our AMD and more value oriented systems are also getting the same treatment as well. We’ll give you a quick run-through of what main changes took place for a majority of our builds below, starting with our flagship Versus series:

  • Versus series (New for 2011) – Memory (RAM) increase from 8GB (2 x 4GB) to 16GB (4 x 4GB), same price
  • Vantage series – Same amount of RAM but fewer DIMMs (2 x 4GB now compared to 4 x 2GB before), reduced price of $1,049 ($326 in savings)
  • Valor series – Now with quad-core CPU, better graphics, and at a lower price of $649 ($50 in savings)

These are the more noticeable and significant changes we made to our line-up, but there has been minor alterations we made to our other offerings as well. This includes using a standard graphics card now for our Velocity II series rather than one with a custom cooler as we did before (due to the lack of availability). The special offer of upgrading to an unlocked quad-core processor and a much better GPU is still in effect, which is a very good deal for only $99. We’re also thinking of equipping it with 8GB of RAM as a standard option, but that has yet to be decided. We also put up our original Velocity series configuration for reference, but note that the status for it is EOL (end-of-life) and will not be available for obvious reasons (discontinued parts, shortages, etc.).

At this point we’ve lost track of how many times we said it, but none of these VSPC systems are fixed configurations and can be customized to suit anyone. This includes a choice of in particular graphics card (e.g. AMD or NVIDIA) or want to lower the price of a base build (e.g. don’t need the extra storage hard drive). The choice is yours.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have below, or if you prefer to reach us through email – you can do so at: inquiry (dot) vspc (at) gmail (dot) com.