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.

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:

Windows 8 To Have Same System Requirements as Predecessors

Fret not, if you bought a machine that came loaded with Windows 7 or even Vista – it should run Redmond’s upcoming OS without a hitch. Here’s what Tami Reller, Window’s corporate VP said at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in California:

“In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time.”

“Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower,” she added. “We’ve also built intelligence into Windows 8 so that it can adapt to the user experience based on the hardware of the user. So, whether you’re upgrading an existing PC, or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware.”

System requirements for Windows 7 are:

  • 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

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.

Intel’s Next-Gen Chipsets Will Support USB 3.0

According to German site, Heise, they found a presentation that outlines info about the Panther Point chipset series including USB 3.0 integration. These slides were intended for motherboard manufacturers as they discussed the benefits of USB 3.0 (5 Gbp/s speed of course) compared with current USB 2.0 (only Mbp/s). From what Intel has to say, the Ivy Bridge and Panther Point boards will come with four USB 3.0 ports and it will support Windows 7/8 – while XP systems will run the new ports as only USB 2.0 interfaces through a native Windows EHCI driver.

At this point, there’s still no indication of when Intel’s USB 3.0 integration will be generally available, but there’s speculation that the “Panther Point” chipsets are to be showcased at CES 2012.

Kingston Offers SSDNow V100 for Mainstream Users

Since Kingston launched their more enterprise-oriented SSDNow V+100 SSD drives lineup earlier this month, they recently announced yet another addition to their product lineup dubbed SSDNow V100. Coming in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities, these drives are intended for consumers and small businesses alike, and would be ideal affordable upgrade solutions for desktops or notebooks.

The new SSDNow V100 SSDs do have native TRIM support, but it’s OS dependent (e.g. Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2), and the “always on” garbage collection (that works on any operating system) appears to be exclusive to the V+100 series only at this point. Although there’s a premium on that feature, the V100 drives are far more affordable with their stand-alone 256GB V100 drive being $489.99 – making it Kingston’s most affordable SSD to date. In terms of speed, it’s capable of 250MB/s reads and 230MB/s writes (sequential).

The price range for the stand-alone drives are from $119.99 to $489.99, while the upgrade bundle will run you $129.99 to $499.99 depending on storage capacity. Maybe this is something to consider for the holiday season, if you haven’t already made the jump to solid state drives that is.

Kingston’s Revamped SSDNow V+100 Series

Kingston launched their next gen SSDNow V+ SSDs (solid state drives) recently, and first off their new lineup is the SSDNow V+100 series. The drives sport a garbage collection mechanism that doesn’t rely on the OS (like TRIM in Windows 7), as well as an improved controller (no mention of SandForce) that offers up to a 25% performance boost compared to the former, and original SSDNow V series.

“Kingston SSDNow drives have been extremely well received in the worldwide IT marketplace. Our customers have told us that they need an SSD solution that ideally sits both price- and capacity-wise between the 64GB and 128GB drives,” said Ariel Perez, SSD business manager, Kingston. “The feedback through our innovative customer facing programs yielded the 96GB V+100 as the perfect solution to meet these needs, especially as an SSD upgrade path is the preferred execution model rather than spending more on a new system in most corporate environments.”

With this new garbage collection scheme, it supposedly works just as well in Windows 7 and older operating systems, like Vista and XP without needing TRIM support whatsoever. The drives also boast up to 230MB/s reads and up to 180MB/s writes, and come in the following capacities (yes, there’s pricing!):

  • 64GB – $220 USD
  • 96GB – $274 USD
  • 128GB – $390 USD
  • 256GB – $885 USD
  • 512GB – $1,885 USD

UPDATE: Above mentioned prices reflect the MSRP of the stand-alone drives, the complete bundle (upgrade kit with brackets, cables, etc.) we’ve seen around for the original SSDNow will still be available for about $15 extra.

WD Releases Industry’s First 3TB HD

Just yesterday, Western Digital introduced the world’s first ever highest capacity drive, as they broke the 2TB mark and came clear with a 3TB, 5th gen Caviar Green. This drive boasts spacious storage, reduced power draw, lower operating temperatures, and whisper quiet operation as well. There are some drawbacks, however.

For those who are still running Windows XP, your system(s) won’t be able to make use of the full 3TB at the moment. This is because legacy operating system, with the conjunction of a older BIOS and MBR (master boot record), will be capped at 2.19TB. More recent motherboards with a BIOS (non-UEFI), GPT ready OSs like 64-bit of Windows 7, and using correct storage class drivers can address this restriction.

On top of the cap on available space, there are a number of HBA (host bus adapter) and chipset vendors that don’t offer specific driver support for these larger capacity drives. As a workaround for this, WD was so kind to bundle an HBA PCIe card with the Caviar Green 3TB drives which in turn will allow the host operating environment to use a known driver that will appropriately accommodate these larger capacity drives. Hit up the reviews below to see if it deserves almost two-and-a-half of your hard earned Benjamins ($240 to be exact).