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.

AMD’s Dual-Core Llano Desktop APU Spotted

AMD recently launched two desktop (Llano) APUs which are available for purchase if you so desire, and there are four more different processors slated for the remaining of this year. According to some MSI marketing material, we got some idea of what kind of parts they’re brewing up. Our attention should be focused on the E2-3200 and is supposedly clocked at 2.4GHz bearing 1MB of L2 cache and has a TDP of 65W. It’s also to sport an integrated Radeon HD 6370D graphics solution clocked at 443MHz with 160 stream processors all on the same die. There is no Turbo Core and will be based on the FM1 package.

Early Benchmarks for AMD’s “Llano” Platform Surface

Apparently somebody got their hands on the AMD A8-3800 Quad-Core APU along with Gigabyte’s GA-A75-UD4H motherboard and they did exactly the right thing. Ran several benchmarks. Aside from the two feature parts, other parts used were 4GB (2x2GB) of GSKILL DDR3-1600 RAM, a standard 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 HDD, and note that the graphics is the on-board Radeon HD 6550D that’s on the same die.

What we found fairly darn impressive (for an integrated solution) were the benchmarks in the gaming department with these scores (at 1080p):

  • Street Fighter 4: 50.32 FPS
  • Hawx: 54 FPS (DX9) / 22 FPS (DX10)
  • Hawx 2: 46 FPS (DX9) / 34 FPS (DX11)
  • Resident Evil 5: 29.0 FPS (DX9) / 27.4 FPS (DX10)

All the Answers to Intel’s Brand New Z68 Chipset – Part 2 (Feature)

Looking back at our last article, we’ll continue with discussing Intel’s SRT (Smart Response Technology) and this cool feature on the Z68 chipset uses an SSD to cache more frequently used data from an hard drive. One can expect up to a 4x increase in performance over the traditional HDD.

The process of setting up this new tech requires a few simple steps to get it up and running, as you need to ensure that both the SSD and hard drive are hooked up then you need to make sure that the Intel controller default of AHCI is set to RAID in UEFI. After that you can go about installing Windows 7 to your hard drive as normal, but you can’t enable SRT until all the drivers are installed. Finally it’s just a mater of hitting the Accelerate button in the RST driver (see below).

Onwards, simply select the drive you’d like to use as a cache and select the disk you want “accelerated” (would usually be C:\) then choose the mode of Enhanced or Maximized (see following image). First option Enhanced is probably your best bet in terms of being safer, and it offers better read speeds but write speeds remain the same as the HDD used. Second is Maximized and this is a form of caching since data is written to the SSD then synced to the hard drive. This mode should yield similar write speeds as what the SSD used is capable of.

At the end of the day, SRT is ideal for those who can’t afford large capacity SSDs but want that solid state performance. By leveraging this tech, individuals can get smaller SSDs and be able to achieve similar speeds when used in conjunction with a traditional hard drive.

All the Answers to Intel’s Brand New Z68 Chipset – Part 1 (Feature)

At the a first glance there aren’t a whole lot of changes opposed to its predecessor P67, but there are some significant improvements that make the Z68 platform worth considering. Let’s jump straight in, and they include:

  • Being able to overclock the graphics core in the CPU (Sandy Bridge)
  • A new IPT (Identity Protection Technology) feature that integrates a hardware token in to the PC
  • Support for switchable graphics between external graphics and the integrated solution in Sandy Bridge
  • SSD caching that uses a smaller capacity SSD and traditional hard drive to increase responsiveness

We have to agree with many critics out there that the first two won’t be the main selling points for a typical consumer, but being able to switch between might be more of an interest. The early adopters of the P67 chipset couldn’t utilize the on-die graphics simply because the board didn’t have any outputs as those were only on the H and Q-series chipsets. For the Z68 now, Intel bundles the Flexible Display Interface which allows processor graphics to the chipset and a good example which includes bother DVI and HDMI ports would be ASUS’s P8Z68-V Pro.

Here’s the part that will intrigue most people, since motherboard makers will be bundling LucidLogix’s Virtu tech as we previously mentioned. Two modes available are i-mode and d-mode, we’ll elaborate further.

When in i-mode, you are mainly utilizing integrated graphics and only tapping in to your discrete card for gaming and there is some prep that needs to be done. This includes initializing the integrated graphics port in UEFI, connecting your monitor to the motherboard’s graphics port, and installing graphics for both the on-board Intel graphics portion then your choice of the discrete card. It’s not all that labor intensive with just a couple of straight forward steps, but the problem arises when you need Lucid to make profiles for any game you decide to run in the Virtu mode and we know that several gamers are eager to dive in to the newly released title. Asides from that, power savings are insignificant, and in contrast to a mobile version of switchable graphics the external video card doesn’t shut off completely. Despite all the power management features in high-end graphics solutions today, they still consume quite a bit of power even when it’s idling. The i-mode is also not compatible at the moment with dual-GPU cards and SLI.

As for d-mode? We think that this will be the more useful one of the two. You are start by setting UEFI to initialize the PCI-E graphics adapter first then hooking up your monitor to the graphics card. In this particular mode, the external graphics solution is the main one and games can run without the use of any profiles coming from Lucid. Then you may be wondering now about the usefulness of this mode, well it’s being able to take advantage of the Quick Sync technology built right into Sandy Bridge. It may not shine when it comes to gaming, but it means serious business for encoding and transcoding since Intel dedicated transistors just for those jobs. How good is this implementation you would ask?

In d-mode, Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5 took 142 seconds on a GeForce GTX 580 to transcode a single VOB file to a generic WMV file. While the QuickSync mode on the Core i7-2600K took only 109 seconds, and that’s about a 30% difference. If something were to take hours, which option would you rather have?

Another rad feature is Intel’s SRT (Smart Response Technology) which lets the Z68 chipset to use an SSD to cache commonly used data from a hard drive. This supposedly yields up to a 4x improvement in performance over a traditional drive alone. Unfortunately our coverage got longer than we expected, and we’ll discuss SRT in the next segment as our two-part series. Stay tuned.

Powercolor touts World’s First Single Slot HD 6850

It seems like a while since we did an article about video cards, and if you’re someone who’s looking in to multi-GPU setups or something for the HTPC then this is for you. Most of the GPUs on the market today usually take up two slots on the motherboard mostly due to the cooler they have. Luckily we have many innovative companies out there that like mashing up designs of their very own, and Powercolor happens to be one of them.

Currently there aren’t that many details on the custom cooler besides bearing three units of 8mm heatpipes with a full cover shroud, but the card itself will be a standard AMD Radeon HD 6850 with stock speeds (775MHz on the core and 1000MHz for the memory on a 256-bit bus) and powered by a single 6-pin PCIe plug.

Roundup: AMD Radeon HD 6790

With their top of the line offering released and out of the way, AMD has expectedly put together an answer to NVIDIA’s GTX 550 Ti mid-range card. The new graphics unit retails for the same ($149), and comes clocked at 840MHz for graphics and shader speeds with 1GB of GDDR5 at 4.2GHz. We got reviewers acknowledge that this may have been a late response to their competitor’s GTX 460, but that’s a card that is slowly leaving the scene to be replaced by the less powerful GTX 550 Ti (awkwardly). If you’d want the latest video card for this particular price point then AMD’s solution does seem like the better option, but the new HD 6790 is suffering the same fate as its counterpart alternative since an HD 6850 can be had for close to the same price with rebates (if you don’t mind them that is). In all it’s a good card, and a tad lower price would have made it superb. All the detailed info and benchmarks below.

Roundup: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590

You’d probably want to know about the specs right off the bat, so it looks like we got 1,024 CUDA cores as speculated, 94 ROPs, and 3GB of GDDR5 RAM for this card. If you’re wondering, the GTX 590 is actually two GTX 580 chips combined but with power constraints – speeds were adjusted for the components on-board to compensate. The core is at a lower 607MHz, while it’s 1.2GHz for the shaders, and the memory is clocked at 3.4GHz.

Not surprisingly, with all the performance that’s jam packed into this card, it costs the same as AMD’s single-card flagship at $699. Hate to spoil it for all you NVIDIA fans out there, but the arrival of this much anticipated card doesn’t exactly blow the HD 6990 out of the water. It actually falls slightly behind the current single-card performance leader in some of benchmarks, however props to the experts behind an astonishingly quiet cooler especially for a card that performs at this level. We got the usual links for you to go through and bonus videos below for the weekend!

 

 

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.