This Curvy Beauty Sprang From a Solid Chunk of AluminiumI know, I know; a home theater PC barely counts as a gaming PC, but in the case of HardOCP forum member Achron's sexy metal creation I'm willing to make an exception. Warning: machining porn inside.

Achron's "Acronym" project began some three years ago, when the then master's student tried to find a front-end media streamer for the HDTV he didn't possess. He searched around for packaged PCs and didn't find one that struck his fancy. Turns out his fancy was a little too fancy for existing product, so he decided to make his own.

With convenient access to a machine shop, Achron went about making his dream HTPC a reality. There's a painstakingly-detailed log of his endeavor at the Hard Forum, following the process from concept to creation and all points in-between, complete with plenty of juicy machining porn. His shots of coolant splatter are downright filthy.

This Curvy Beauty Sprang From a Solid Chunk of Aluminium

I need a cigarette.

Flip through our meager gallery for more glamor shots of this gorgeous creature, or hit up the link for all this and much, much more.

Scratch Project: Acronym [Hard Forum]

Everything You Need to Know About Intel's Ivy BridgeIntel is set to roll out its latest generation of processors this spring despite a minor setback affecting ultra low-voltage models — the ones destined for super slim notebooks. By normal standards, the launch should mark a new "tick" in the company's product roadmap, but Intel is going beyond just shrinking the current 32nm Sandy Bridge processor by introducing some fundamental advancements along with its new 22nm process.

For those unfamiliar, Intel follows a "tick tock" model for its processor upgrade cycle. With every "tick" the company moves to a smaller manufacturing process, from 32nm to 22nm in this case, dramatically increasing transistor density while enhancing performance and energy efficiency of the current microarchitecture. Then, with an alternating "tock" cycle Intel introduces a new processor microarchitecture.

Ivy Bridge includes manufacturing and subsystem improvements. It is a shrink of Sandy Bridge and is also the first to us Intel's Tri-Gate transistors, which use a nonplanar architecture to cram more transistors into less space, therefore consuming less power or delivering more performance within the same power envelope.

There's been quite a bit of information on Ivy Bridge going around ever since Intel detailed the architecture late last year. We'll recap some of the major changes and practical implications, while also bringing you up to speed on the latest developments, including expected launch lineup and specs.

Tri-Gate transistors = Improved effiency, performance

Unlike conventional planar transistors that lay flat, Ivy Bridge's Tri-Gate transistors use a three-dimensional fin that stands vertically from the silicon substrate. This presents several benefits. For starters, Intel can cram more transistors into less space, which will be incredibly valuable as fabrication tech shrinks to 22nm and beyond.

In addition, the new design allows for essentially three times the surface area for electrons to travel when the transistor is in the 'on' state, which paves the way for increased performance.

Transistors carry an electrical signal while gates control that flow by turning the current on and off. Whereas in a typical transistor only the small layer between the channel and the gate becomes active when the transistor is switched on, Intel's Tri-Gate transistor creates a three-sided silicon fin that the gate wraps around, increasing the surface area where electrical current actually flows. The video below does a better job explaining this.

This design also maximizes transistor switching performance between on and off states and decreases power-wasting leakage.

Intel summarizes the practical implications by saying the 22nm 3D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to a 37% performance increase at low operating voltages versus Intel's 32nm planar transistors — a big deal for Atom and ULV chips — or close to 20% at 1V for higher end desktop and mobile parts.

Everything You Need to Know About Intel's Ivy BridgeAlternatively, the new 22nm Tri-Gate transistors can consume less than half the power when at the same performance level as 2D planar transistors on 32nm chips.

Intel has also mentioned the possibility to have multiple fins standing vertically from the silicon substrate and connected together, as shown to the right, to increase total drive strength of the transistor for higher performance. They haven't discussed this in detail but we assume Intel could use it to more finely tune its 22nm process in higher end products, or use it as a fail-safe method to improve yields of individual dies.

The new 22nm Tri-Gate wafers shouldn't be much more expensive to produce, either. Compared to a hypothetical Intel 22nm planar process, the 3D Tri-Gate process should only add another 2-3% to the total cost, according to Intel's own estimates.

Other architecture changes

Besides the new transistor design there are no major changes in the Ivy Bridge architecture compared to Sandy Bridge. It continues the 2-chip platform partition (CPU + PCH) and is backwards compatible with existing LGA-1155 motherboards, although there will be new chipsets to enable new features.

Everything You Need to Know About Intel's Ivy BridgeThe central portion of the die has four x86-64 cores with 256 KB dedicated L2 cache each and a shared 8 MB L3 cache. To each side of this central portion is the system agent and the graphics core.

All these components are bound by a ring-bus that transports data between them. The system agent has interfaces for the dual-channel DDR3 integrated memory controller, the PCI-Express controller (supporting 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes), the DMI chipset bus, a display controller, and FDI link to the PCH.


But there are also a few tweaks here and there. First and foremost the graphics core has been completely redesigned and now supports OpenCL 1.1, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 3.1. This will finally bring the Intel integrated GPU to feature parity with AMD's. Intel also added a graphics-specific L3 cache, three display outputs (up from two in Sandy Bridge), better anisotropic filtering, more shaders or execution units (either 8 or 16 EUs in Ivy Bridge depending on the GPU versus 6 or 12 in Sandy Bridge), and a few other enhancements.

Ivy Bridge also greatly improves Intel Quick Sync Video, the chip giant's transcoding technology. All told, the end result is up to a 60% increase in GPU performance over Sandy Bridge's integrated GPU.

Hyper-Threading and CPU instruction set changes On the CPU side there are some changes in the way resource allocation for HyperThreading queue takes place. Ivy Bridge will dynamically allocate resources to threads so that if there is only a single thread active, all resources will be dedicated to that thread rather than some going unused as with SB's static allocation.

There's a new random number generation process that improves security, a power management feature that offers more flexibility in setting a system's thermal envelope (more on this next), and memory and string performance enhancements. Ivy Bridge also reportedly allows for more dynamic overclocking.

Configurable TDP & Other Power Optimizations

The move to a 22nm process and Tri-Gate transistors alone should already account for some pretty significant power savings. But there are a few other changes in Ivy Bridge meant to optimize power consumption.

An important addition brought to mobile Ivy Bridge processors is the inclusion of a configurable TDP that allows them to switch between three different ratings: nominal, a lower configurable TDP and an upper configurable TDP. Ultra low voltage (ULV) parts will be rated at 17W, similar to existing ULV Sandy Bridge processors, but can go up to 25W — with a corresponding rise in performance — when running under mains power, or when it's connected to a docking station that increases the amount of cooling to dissipate the additional heat.

This goes beyond Intel's existing Turbo Boost feature as it exceeds the CPU's nominal TDP, whereas current Sandy Bridge chips are mostly bound by it. Likewise, a 17W ULV processor could go down to a mere 14W to save battery life when running light tasks on the go. Besides ULV chips, extreme edition mobile Ivy Bridge processors will also support configurable TDP, with 55W parts able to go up to 65W or down to 45W.

cTDP Down Nominal cTDP Up
Ivy Bridge ULV 14W 17W 25W
Ivy Bridge XE 45W 55W 65W

Configurable TDP will be exclusive to mobile processors as far as we know. All models can go down in terms of TDP, but not all will be able to go up. Also, notebook manufacturers would presumably have some freedom to "configure" the chip around the system they want to build rather than doing it the other way.

For desktops, TDP will come in 35W, 45W, 55W, 65W, and 77W options, according to the latest leaked Ivy Bridge roadmaps, down from the current peak of 95W for non-Extreme Sandy Bridge parts.

Other power draw optimizations

  • Lower System Agent Voltages: The System Agent is the uncore area of the CPU die containing the display output, memory controller, DMI and PCI Express interfaces. It operates on a separate voltage plane than the rest of the chip and with Ivy Bridge Intel will be able to power optimize some SKUs — likely ULV processor models — even further with lower System Agent operating voltages.
  • Power Aware Interrupt Routing (PAIR): This feature is meant to improve Intel's core sleeping technology by making the CPU aware of which of its cores are asleep and which are awake. It can then send interrupt requests from peripherals or a software application to cores that are up and running, rather than waking a core that has been powered down to handle the interrupt.
  • Support for DDR3L on mobile CPUs: Intel upgraded the dual-channel DDR3 memory controller of mobile Ivy Bridge to accept ultra-low voltage DDR3, or DDR3L, which could shave a few extra watts from a system's total power draw. Ivy Bridge will also switch off the DDR I/O to save power when idle.
  • Optimized voltage choice for all operating frequency points: Like Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge can vary its operating frequency depending on the task at hand, and Intel will use the lowest voltage possible for each one of those frequencies. The chipmaker says it has fine tuned this even further with Ivy Bridge.

Continue Reading

Chipset and CPU Line-up at Launch

Republished with permission from:
Everything You Need to Know About Intel's Ivy BridgeJose Vilches is the managing editor at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.

The Secret World Reveals Deep Mysteries, Intuitive Play, and Deadly ZombiesNorwegian game designer Ragnar Tørnquist is perhaps most associated with the classic PC adventure game The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall. The two posit that our world is really only half of the world-that-is, and that our Earth as we know it has remained sundered from its more magical, mystical half for ages.

In upcoming MMORPG The Secret World, Tørnquist and Funcom continue investigating the theme of the unknowable truths that could lurk beyond our understanding. The game takes place in the "real world," but with a catch: as far as the game is concerned, every myth, legend, conspiracy theory, and weird supernatural rumor is true. The story revolves around the three factions who would run the world: the Templars, fighters against darkness; the Illuminati, controlling the global purse-strings; and the Dragon, creating ripples in the world one well-placed action at a time.

At PAX East last weekend, I had a chance to see The Secret World in action and to speak with two members of the communications team from Funcom's Norway office, Erling Ellingsen and Tor Egil Andersen. Ellingsen and I sat down for a few quiet moments (a rare feat at PAX) to discuss the game.

Ellingsen first confirmed that public beta weekends, for players who pre-order the game, begin on May 11 and will run nearly every weekend until the game's launch on June 19. The closed beta began last April.

He spoke excitedly about the three secret societies that form the backbone of the game, describing how the Dragon, Templar, and Illuminati storylines inform everything the player sees and does. This particularly applied to the presence of PvP gameplay, which Ellingsen assured me was not absolutely required for any player but would be beneficial to experience for most. The PvP mechanic wraps around the intricate story, he explained, giving the gameplay, the spoken words, and the world a way to connect.

The Secret World includes two kinds of PvP gameplay. Warzones are a drop-in, drop-out persistent setting that can hold up to 100 combatants trying to blast each other into oblivion. However, the game also includes specific, strategic battle locations such as Stonehenge or the lost city of El Dorado over which the three secret societies battle for control. Whichever faction controls a key location sees a benefit (the exact nature of which was unclear, but implied to be some kind of small buff or leveling boost) applied to every single character of that faction on the server.

Finally, I had my chance to play the game for myself. I found myself standing at a PC, in control of a dark-skinned young woman in a pink vest. My Templar avatar and I were standing just outside of Kingsmouth, a fictional, Lovecraftian New England town. We had just arrived here from London, I was told, and from here the mysteries would unfold themselves.

I strolled down the road and ran into an incongruous cowboy sitting by a fire. The man, Boone, had a short cut-scene monologue in which, before he directed me to my next NPC in town, he hinted darkly to me that whatever was going on, the Templars had more to do with it than I could know. He was here for a reason, but finding out why was something that would have to wait.

Foreshadowing over, I made my way down the road, taking the time to explore. Clearly, some tragedy had taken place here. A number of cars had crashed, and their drivers and passengers had been killed. I wondered about what had happened, and felt badly for the victims for a moment. I wandered closer to one of the wrecks to see if I could figure out what had happened, but immediately understood my error: in a zombie-infested town, the dead don't stay that way. With eerie precision, the dead rose from the car and came for me. Time to figure out how my skills worked!

I made short work of my zombies with some kind of AOE knife trick I was delighted to find I had, and continued down the road. Over to the side I saw a man make the same mistake I had made, wandering too close to a car, and he was immediately overwhelmed. Running to his side and helping him dispatch the swarming undead felt like the most natural act in the world, after which we easily parted ways again.

Other games have made the promise before of managing a true level-free, class-free system, but few have successfully followed through. The Secret World looks as though it really stands a chance. The massive skill wheel I was presented with breaks down 500 skills into comprehensible groups and trees, letting players customize as they will. Players can also store builds and swap them in or out at any time, which looks extremely useful. From moment to moment, conditions in The Secret World can change quickly and the value in being able to replace a melee-focused build with a ranged or more defensive build on the spot was obvious.

Ellingsen stressed to me, earlier, that the idea was for each player to find their own best personal build of all the skills available from the wheel. He added that in addition to saving and loading builds, that skill builds a player created could be shared to his or her friends. In practice, I suspect that twenty or so of the most effective combinations will be lauded on message boards and passed quickly around server populations. Still, the opportunities are open for any player to create the invidividualized class of their preference.

Overall, the game feels deep and deeply complicated, but manages to avoid feeling at all intimidating or confusing. The UI is clean, simple, and unobtrusive and the modern-day, real-world setting made acting feel intuitive in a way that more common, high-fantasy oriented MMOs sometimes don't. Quests emerged from organic sources, such as picking up a missing persons report from a desk.

I only had about 15 minutes to play the game hands on, which is a short time for forming an impression on any game but especially an MMORPG. But the impression I had was this: I immediately wanted more. Kingsmouth had sucked me into its mystery, and I wanted to keep exploring, to find out what the hell was really going on. I wanted to help find some of the town's missing citizens (the first mission I picked up in Kingsmouth proper), I wanted to help the other players who (like me) were foolish enough to wander into the cemetery, and I wanted the time to dig more deeply into the story.

What The Secret World showed me, that I most enjoyed, was a true sense of character, personality, and place. The game felt like it had soul, which can be hard to find. Ellingsen promised that Tørnquist has laid out the story for years of content yet to come, with the game's world written and defined from the dawn of time through the present day to the far future. Myths and legends from cultures far and wide wind into the unfolding narrative.

Every element of the game is a jigsaw puzzle piece, and only after hours of play do they start to come together into a whole. Personally, I look forward to being able to work on that puzzle later this year.

At Its Most Primitive Aztez is Still More Fun Than Most Beat-em UpsI'm playing an April 2011 build of a game due out in 2013. It only has one level, one hero and only six enemies to dispatch. I've played through it a dozen times since last night.

The stark and striking black and white visuals of Ben Ruiz and Matthew Wegner's Aztez are what initially drew me to this combination side-scrolling beat-em / turn-based strategy game. That odd marriage of game genres captured my imagination. Then the sleek and sexy combat sealed the deal.

I've seen it described as a 2D God of War, but then I've seen many things described as a 2D God of War. Hell, I think I was once described as a 2D God of War.

Having only experienced the game through a playable build from April of last year, I can't speak for the strategy side of the game. The fighting, however, is so very fluid. Playable with a gamepad or keyboard, it's simple combination of slam, strike and two dash buttons makes for a very enjoyable minute of gameplay. Or twelve minutes, if you keep going back as often as I have.

The game's come a long way since last year, as you can see in Ben's developer playthrough from back in February, during which he expounds on fighting mechanics and the smell of blood.

Aztez is due out in early 2013 for Mac and PC. From my tiny taste of the game I feel that is far too long to wait. Luckily Ben and Matthew maintain an incredible entertaining and thoughtful developer blog to keep us abreast of the game's progress. I'll be watching with great interest. Watching and waiting.

Aztez [Official Website]

The action-role-playing game Dark Souls will be available on August 24 for PC, publisher Namco Bandai said today at a Las Vegas event.

It will feature new content and use the much-maligned Games for Window Live platform. Rumors have suggested that it will also have new bosses. As our lovely commenters point out, you can see some of the upcoming new bosses in this trailer.

Prepare To Die [Namco Bandai]

Wow, did Charlie Cleveland ever surprise me at PAX East. I don't know the guy, and I didn't pay much attention to the game his studio was showing off at the big show in Boston. Not at first.

Charlie's game looked, at a glance, like just another team-based shooter. I walked by a row of PCs running the game on Friday and nothing caught my eye. Later on, I was walking past the other side of Charlie's booth. That's when I saw the teeth. That's when I saw what looked like a first-person shooter, except the player wasn't looking down the barrel of a gun but through the jaws of a monster.

This is Natural Selection 2, a shooter, a brawler and a real-time-strategy game. It's awesome.

Charlie Cleveland's small studio, Unknown Worlds, has been working on Natural Selection 2 for a couple of years and will be releasing it this summer on Steam. (Maybe console or Mac later.)

If you play as a Marine, you're playing a first-person shooter.

If you play as a monster, you're chomping through Marines or buzzing over them as some sort of flying critter that streams spores.

BUT! You can also play the game as a Marine or an alien commander, seeing the game overhead, doling out resources

Pre-order the game at NaturalSelection2.com.


Okay, so The Curse of Nordic Cove kind of looks like a rejected Nintendo 64 game. And the hit detection seems a little off. But hey, at least this golf-simulator-slash-action-adventure title thinks outside the box. I saw it on the PAX East show floor last weekend and thought it was so bizarre, I had to tape it.

The Curse of Nordic Cove will be out this September for PC.


Miegakure is a video game set in four spatial dimensions: specifically, the dimension that goes out to the sides, like your keyboard; the one that goes up, like a tree; the one that goes out deep, like a dog fetching a stick... and that other dimension, the one you can't point to unless you've got 4D fingers.

Think of it another way. This is like the Mario from Super Mario Bros., who lives in a flat 2D world, being told that the 3D Super Mario 64 exists and being told he can play it.... one 2D slice at a time. Except you're Mario. You're 3D. And the "Super Mario 64" we're talking about is 4D.

Cool, huh?

Speaking of Mario, this game's a platformer. You're jumping around, pushing blocks, exploring a world.

It's been two years since designer Marc Ten Bosch first showed me Miegakure and convinced me that a game set in four spatial dimensions is possible. The math allows it... all you have to do is take any point in our three-dimensional understanding of space (x,y,z) and add a fourth coordinate to locate its position in a fourth dimension. And if the math allows it, a computer can plot it. If a computer can plot it, we can run through it. And if we can run through it... voila! Video game.

Marc shows us a simple level of the game in the video here, which we shot at PAX East. He also showed us a tougher level, but asked that we not show it off, head-hurtingly interesting as it was. He only wants you to see the game at its most polished. So, enjoy the one level we've got for you.

Miegakure will be out "when it's done" on PC (Steam, probably) and a console.

UPDATE: Since a number of readers are clearly hungering for more explanation about how a spatially-4D game world works in a game that is displayed in three dimensions, I'm adding the following from ten Bosch's own description of the game:

Think about a two-dimensional character living on a horizontal, flat two-dimensional plane. To this character, height would be a foreign concept. A number of actions we three-dimensional beings take for granted feel like absolute magic to this two-dimensional character.

For example, if there is a wall in the shape of a circle around an object in 2D, it is essentially closed-off, since to reach it one would have to leave the 2D plane. It is also impossible for an outsider to know what is inside.

But us 3D beings can see the object from above, and also simply lift it off the ground to move it outside, essentially teleporting it. Now by analogy a four-dimensional being could perform many similar miracles to us living in only three-dimensions. This game allows you to perform these "miracles."


Please check out our game, the developer of Jack Lumber asked me, as I walked through the indie booth.

My reply, because I was in a hurry: Can you pitch me the game in 10 seconds?

In fewer than 10 seconds, the developer told me that the game is about a man whose grandmother was murdered by a tree. It's a revenge story.

Sold, but I'd have to come back the next day.

We came back and he started playing. It... looked like a Fruit Ninja clone. And then it got interesting. Very interesting.

Bottom line: I really am sold. I think Jack Lumber (official site here) is a winner.


The excellent old role-playing game The Legend of Dragoon will be out as a PS1 Classic for the PlayStation Network on May 1. Dragons! [PlayStation Blog]