Attempts to create truly small gaming desktops usually involve at least some kind of performance hit. Even HP’s category-bending Firebird, one of the few stand-out examples, had to use toned-down graphics to succeed in a tiny enclosure. Digital Storm might have broken the trend towards sacrifice with its new Bolt desktop: although it’s just 3.6 inches wide and 14 inches tall, the Bolt can cram in as much as a GeForce GTX 680 and will even let gamers upgrade the graphics like they would in a full-size PC. The seemingly logic-defying (if also finger-defying) case still allows room for as much as an overclocked 4.6GHz Core i7, 16GB of RAM and storage options that meld a spinning hard drive with up to two SSDs and a DVD burner. Digital Storm isn’t even setting an absurd base price, but it’s in the cost that we finally see the catch to the miniaturization tricks. The $999 entry-level Bolt carries a modest 3.1GHz Core i3, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and GeForce GTX 650 Ti, while it takes a staggering $1,949 to get a fully decked-out Core i7 system with a GTX 680. Those prices might be worthwhile for anyone who has ever strained while lugging a traditional tower to a game tourney.
Vizio recently announced that its first PCs — the ones we glimpsed at CES back in January — will ship in June. From our previous hands-on time, we already knew that the company’s 24- and 27-inch all-in-ones sport 1080p screens and include HDMI passthrough for using them as HDTVs even with the PC portion turned off. And the company clearly drew on its TV know-how to turn out desktops with nice and thin profiles: the power supply is integrated into the subwoofer, and the pivoting neck is a single piece of aluminum connected to an invisible hinge.
At the company’s press event in NYC today, the all-in-ones got extra official — as in, we have complete specs and pricing info. Both the 24- and 27-inch models feature Intel Ivy Bridge processors, NVIDIA Kepler GeForce GPUs (the base configurations ship with Intel HD Graphics 4000), 1920 x 1080 displays and 2.1 surround sound audio with SRS Premium Sound HD. Storage options start at 500GB of space (for the smaller model) and top out at a 1TB hard drive paired with a 32GB SSD. The PCs include dual HDMI inputs and ship with a remote control (hence Vizio’s TV background). The 24-inch model will start at $898, while the 27-incher goes for $1,098 and up.
This is a vaguely awkward message for NVIDIA to be putting out. On one hand, the company is best buddies with Intel and is hoping to see its next-gen GPUs bundled with a large portion of the Ivy Bridge notebooks that will ship this year. But to reach that target, it must risk irking Chipzilla by emphasizing the limitations of Ivy Bridge’s integrated graphics. That’s exactly what happened at a recent presentation, when NVIDIA told us there’ll be “nothing Ultra” about the performance of a regular Ivy Bridge Ultrabook because the integrated HD 4000 graphics will only handle around 43 percent of current games. By contrast, if you add in a GeForce GT 640M you’ll find that 100 percent of current games are playable with frame rates over 30fps and high detail settings, including Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, Crysis 2 and many others. If you leave the lightweight Ultrabook spec behind and combine Ivy Bridge with a GT 670M GPU then you can go even higher — as we just discovered in our review of the MSI’s GT70 gaming laptop. Fortunately, Intel was pretty magnanimous about HD 4000 when it briefed us, and readily accepted that enthusiasts will still want discrete graphics, so we don’t imagine the slide above will cause too many hurt feelings.
We know you’re going to be shocked — shocked! — to hear this, but NVIDIA’s gone and refreshed its high-end line of GeForce GTX cards. The GTX 580M takes the place of the GTX 485M, and NVIDIA’s bragging that it’s the “fastest notebook GPU ever,” capable, we’re told, of besting the Radeon HD 6970M’s tesselation performance by a factor of six. The new GTX 570M, meanwhile, promises a 20 percent speed boost over the last-generation 470M. Both 40-nanometer cards support DirectX11, OpenCL, PhysX, CUDA, 3D Vision, Verde drivers, Optimus, SLI, and 3DTV Play. As for battery life, NVIDIA’s saying that when coupled with its Optimus graphics switching technology, the 580M can last through five hours of Facebook, but last we checked, that’s not why y’all are shelling out thousands for beastly gaming rigs. You can find the 580M in the Alienware M17X and M18X (pictured) starting today, though you might have to wait a week or so for them to ship. Meanwhile, the 570M is shipping in the MSI GT780R as you read this, and you’ll also find the 580M in a pair of 3D-capable Clevo laptops: the P170HM3 and the SLI-equipped P270WN. Handy chart full ‘o technical details after the break.
NVIDIA and YouTube made a rather caveat-heavy announcement today that promises to bring stereoscopic 3D YouTube videos to NVIDIA 3D Vision PCs and notebooks, running Firefox 4. If you’re rocking an NVIDIA GeForce GPU-equipped machine, sporting driver release 275 or later, a 3D Vision monitor, notebook, projector, or DLP HDTV, and Firefox 4 with streaming HTML5, you’ve got access to all the 3D goodness YouTube has to offer — given you’re not trying to access content via a standard YouTube channel, as the outfit’s HTML5 support is still limited. And don’t forget, you’ll need your active shutter 3D glasses handy, too. So, if you fit all of the aforementioned criteria, check out the demo video after break (and make sure to hit the HTML5 function under options) — otherwise, feel free to go on using the old cyan and red method for viewing YouTube in 3D. Full PR after the break.
With all the talk of ASUS’s tablets recently it’s easy to forget the company also dabbles in graphics cards, some large enough to blot out the sun. We’ve got some details on its latest contestants for your PC gaming dollar, the MARS II and Matrix GTX 580 (above), and you might have to buy a new case just squeeze these unwieldy pixel-pushers inside. The Matrix will come in two flavors — standard and Platinum — both with 1.5GB of RAM and an enormous dual-fan cooling solution that eats up a jaw-dropping three PCI slots. But, hey, it should afford you some serious overclocking headroom. Though we’ve yet to seen any pics of the MARS II, the 3GB, dual-GPU behemoth is bound to be even more massive — we wouldn’t be surprised if ASUS had to provide a breakout box for whatever cooler it strapped to those pair of GTX 580 cores. Prices and release dates are still up in the air, but we’re sure all will be revealed during the official announcement at Computex.
Michael Dell may aim to tease, but NVIDIA is just giving it away: a recent driver update lists Dell’s upcoming XPS 15z laptop as one of several snagging 3D Vision 3DTV Play, scoring prospective buyers 3D gaming via NVIDIA-supported 3DTVs. Little surprise here, considering the 15z’s predecessor rocked a GeForce GT 540M (also 3DTV Play supported), which we’ll note, falls under this driver update. Although we’re still short on official hardware specs, we won’t be shocked if the 15z has the graphical chops to handle Duke Nukem Forever, Portal 2, or any of the other 3D Vision games whose profiles were added in the update. Now, the real question: would the Dell dude approve?
You won’t need to compromise much with Origin’s EON17-S gaming notebook, though a $3,000 dent in your wallet could severely compromise your purchasing power for the next few months. That’s the starting price for this gaming laptop, with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-2920XM Quad-Core processor factory overclocked to 4.5GHz, and maxing the system out with 32GB of RAM, dual 480GB SSD’s, and a 2GB NVidia GeForce GTX 485M GPU will send the price tag north of $10,000. Small price to pay for months of geek cred at your neighborhood LAN party, right? We’d rather use the money as a down payment on a Tesla Roadster, but if helping to rebuild the economy with the best, brightest and heaviest (at 8.6 pounds) computing monster sitting on your lap is just what you need, then look for yours in the mail come May 17th.