Right now, the best overall video quality on the PC is still the GeForce 8800 line-up. It features a VP1 video processor and has PureVideo HD certification including HDCP content protection. When paired with a fast Core 2 Duo or X2 5600+, the 8800 GTX lets you enjoy the best quality HDTV, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray playback. While the 8800 is dependent on a fast CPU for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, thankfully most GeForce 8800 owners can boast such as high-performance CPU. The beauty of this is that current GeForce 8800 owners can rest assured that they’ve got both great video quality and great gaming performance.
With the GeForce 8500 and 8600 however, NVIDIA has given video enthusiasts a superb mainstream option. With the more powerful VP2 video processor, a bitstream processor, and AES128 decode engine, these new GPUs are offloading virtually all of the compute-intensive elements of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD playback. This allows HTPCs to be built with combo HD-DVD and Blu-Ray drives while avoiding the hefty cooling requirements of a flagship CPU. With today’s drivers, the only difference between the 8800 and 8600 (when it comes to video quality) is HD noise reduction and HD sharpening. With tomorrow’s drivers, who knows…
The 8800 is "picture quality" champion due to HD sharpening and noise reduction. This is particularly important for watching broadcasted HDTV. These quality features are only available on the GF8800 because they are being performed by the GPU shaders.
When watching a well-mastered Blu-Ray or HD-DVD film, HD noise reduction and sharpening is less important -- the noise and necessary sharpening will have been performed at the time of the digital master. In this case, the GF8600 will be the GPU of choice. It is also important to note that the VP2 is not being used to its full potential at this time. In time, it may be possible to convert the HD sharpening and noise reduction algorithms into something that runs on both the GPU shaders and the VP2 processor. If this happens, the GF8600 could have the full set of quality features found in its bigger brother, with the added benefit of the additional H.264 CPU offload. NVIDIA has had a good track record of transitioning GPU-shader based algorithms to the VP1 when it comes to GeForce6 and GeForce7. The future is bright for NVIDIA's VP2.
Hardcore gamers looking to play games at 1600x1200 or higher resolutions will still need to go with the 8800 series GPUs, but for those of you still running 1280x1024, the 8600GTS becomes an interesting proposition. For non-gaming HTPC enthusiasts, a silently cooled or passively cooled 8600 is going to be a no-brainer decision. The only remaining question is which board manufacturer is going to be the first to implement a full HDMI solution.
Look forward to an updated article with comparisons between NVIDIA’s second-generation PureVideo and ATI’s still-unannounced second-generation AVIVO GPU. Oh yeah, we’ll be adding a new test to our video suite.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Almost two years later, the result of that proverbial mulligan is currently undergoing closed beta testing. In today's article, Will reports his thoughts on how Fallen Enchantress is shaping up, and will tell you whether or not you should be keeping an eye on it as it nears release later this year.
The Elder Scrolls Online Details Leak - Should Fans Be Excited? The Elder Scrolls Online, long rumored to be in development, was officially announced yesterday. Still in development at Zenimax Online Studios, this MMO aims to combine traditional genre mechanics with the spirit and sensibilities, not to mention setting and lore, of the immensely popular series of single-player RPGs. Though the game is set for a full unveiling in the next issue of Game Informer magazine, what appears to be the entire cover story article has been leaked to the interwebs already. In today's article, you'll find summary and analysis of all the alleged details, as well as feast your eyes on the very first screenshots and concept art from the game. Of course, the burning question now is, should you be excited?
ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
This city-building RTS/simulation game from Ubisoft tasks you with re-colonizing what little land areas are left on the planet following a global warming apocalypse. Does it have what it takes to be worthy of your time and money, or should it be cast out to sea with the rest of civilization? Find out in today's review!
Hear that? It's the sound of the largest computer chip manufacturer in the world churning out new processors to power your gaming rig. This week, Intel is launching their next generation of Core CPUs, code-named Ivy Bridge. Like last year's Sandy Bridge chips, they're low-power, quad-core powerhouses that also feature integrated graphics processors. Want to find out more? Maybe check out a whole bunch of performance benchmarks on both the CPU and graphics sides of things? Well you can, in today's review!
Intel Z77 Chipset & DZ77GA-70K Motherboard Overview
Looking forward to those new Ivy Bridge CPUs? In anticipation of their release later this month, Intel has already unveiled the new Series 7 chipsets designed especially to take advantage of what will be the 3rd-generation of Core processors. In today's article, we take a look at the architecture of the enthusiast variant, the Z77, and how it's used in the Intel Desktop Extreme DZ77GA-70K motherboard. Even if you're not particularly interested in the motherboard itself, you'll probably want to see some of the new features that come along with it, so read on!
Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
If you want to cut through all the crap and find out whether or not the rest of ME3 is worth playing, come check out Will's spoiler-free take on the first blockbuster game release of 2012.
Batman: Arkham City PC Review Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s smash-hit action game Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the name suggests, you will be reprising your role as the Caped Crusader and going against an even larger 'prison' filled with Gotham's criminals and villains. A textbook example on how to do a proper sequel, Arkham City takes what worked in the original, excised or improved upon what didn’t, and elevated everything to an even greater scope. The PC version suffered from a few months of delay, but in that time, Rocksteady worked closely to NVIDIA to implement some familiar technologies from the last game, such as PhysX and 3D Vision, along with new DirectX 11 optimizations. But how well was the whole package executed? Read on to find out!
Saints Row: The Third PC Review Saints Row is one of most unique series of games to build upon the open-world action template forged by Grand Theft Auto, and has met with plenty of critical and commercial success since it began on consoles back in 2006. This latest iteration, titled Saints Row: The Third promises the most outlandish fun and freedom of customization of them all, and in a much more PC-friendly package than its predecessor. Does it live up to those expectations and, more importantly, is it worth the price of admission? Find out in Will's latest review!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda Softworks’ latest offering in their series of epic fantasy RPGs, as well as one of the most highly-anticipated PC titles of 2011. As the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, prepare to take the fight to the mythical beasts that have returned to the realm after centuries of slumber, all the while exploring a huge and highly-detailed open world.
The PC version of the game promises enhanced graphical fidelity, standard RPG trimmings such as hotkeys and quick-save, as well as unbridled mod support, something we’ll all be thankful for once they release that SDK. Skyrim has already sold millions of copies and set records for play-time on Steam... Find out why in today's review, which happens to be one of the biggest and most in-depth articles on the subject out there!
L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!