Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tech & U: Powercolor HD3850 256MB

OMG WTF!!! I admit I messed up the Sygate (Skygate) but the Adobe spec is crap.


ATi recently released a new line of graphics cards for this year. The HD 3800 series is an die shrunk and tweak version of the current GPU. With added features like DirectX 10.1, lower power requirements, less heat and PCI-E 2.0 just to name a few it comes as full replacement for the HD 2000 series line.

My friends at Sygate (Penang), generously lent me the Powercolor HD 3850 256MB PCI-E to play with for a few days. So when you open box what do you get for RM610? Well, there is no game but you get a nice host of cable and adapters which you may need to hook up your PC to varies systems. You got S-Video to AV and HDTV cables to for those 'old' gen TVs. Then there are the HDMI and DVI adapters for both old and new LCD TVs and monitors. And finally, you get the power cable and Crossfire Cable.

The card itself is pretty large, this form factor is called a 'full' size card. Which means any expansion card can get up that long in size. It's always a good idea to make sure you have enough room in your casing to install the card and not that it presses against the back of any drives.

The HD 3850 is fairly light for a card that size, that is because the heatsink is rather conservative in size. Yes, it covers the whole length of the card but it is not thick that it takes up two expansion slots. The 'full' cover fan encloses GPU area that makes contact with the copper heatsink. The rest of the heatsink that covers the RAM is bare.

Since, I tested the HD 3850 in December I only used the 7.12 Catalyst Drivers. System I used is an X2 BE-2400 with 2GB of DDR2 800 on an Asus M2A-VM HDMI using a cheap RM50 PSU. I used only three game benchmarks and did not bother with any useless synthetic benchmarks since they don't reflect real world performance. Please note the maximum resolution for my LCD monitor is only 1280x1024.

Call Of Duty 4 is considered one of the best multi-player FPS out there with great graphics and usable physics that most mid to high range PC owners can enjoy. My scores with all Details set to Extra is a minimum of 13 FPS (frames per second), a maximum of 107 FPS and an average of 40 FPS.

Crysis is a fish out of water. Even with a Quad core system and a set of SLI graphic cards no reviewer can get decent any FPS from it when all the details are set to Very High. This makes Crysis just another Doom 3. My score with all Details set to High is a minimum of 6 FPS, a maximum of 44 FPS and an average of 22.393 FPS. During the opening cut scene of the first mission my FPS dropped to 3 FPS. The scores are all taken from the first mission. Expect your results to get worse as the missions start to pack in more effects and 3D objects.

Bioshock I threw in because I wanted to see what the heavily modified UNREAL 2.5 could do with the HD 3850. My score with All Effects On and Details set to High is a minimum of 0 FPS, a maximum of 62 FPS and an average of 56.716 FPS. I know the score is strange but that's what FRAPS gave me. Note that the UNREAL Engine will never allow the FPS go above 60 FPS. This is to preserve game smoothness instead of your monitor dropping FPS (LCDs normally have 60hz which means it can only refresh the screen 60 times a second).

Overall the HD 3850 is a very decent replacement for the last gen cards from ATi. Although, not the butt kicker you would hope but the pricing and performance does put it on par with any nVidia offerings in the same range. And with hardware Direct 10.1 support you're a little future proofed too.

Product: Powercolor HD 3850 256MB GDDR 3
Manufacturer: Powercolor
Price: RM610

Our Verdict: 4
Physical Design: 4
User-friendliness: 5
Performance: 4
Features: 4
Value for money: 4

Graphics Engine: RADEON HD3850
Video Memory: 256MB GDDR3
Engine Clock: 668MHz
Memory Clock: 828MHz x 2
Memory Interface: 256bit
DirectX Support: 10.1
Bus Standard: PCIE 2.0

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tech & U: Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance


On Saturday, I received a courier. Not knowing who or what, I open it to feast my eyes on one my favourite RTS franchises. That's right, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.

Forged Alliance is a stand alone expansion of the Supreme Commander. It continuous off the story where use of the Black Sun brought the Seraphim which if you remember were the space hippies that thought the Aeon the peace loving 'Way'.

Well, this must be another bunch of Seraphim because they came to wipe out the human parasite once and for all. Which leaves all of humanity to join forces and fight against the Red, eh I mean Alien Threat.

Now, you I know some of you are nodding your heads and are drooling for what new units each side has not to mention how powerful the Seraphim are? Well, you got to wait for a bit because the reason why Forged Alliance was a stand alone expansion and not an addon is that Gas Powered tweaked the hell out of the original Supreme Commander.

So, whatever you have gained in tactics and skillz is SupCom forget it. Throw it out. Cause Forged Alliance has brought a whole new gameplay to the table. In the orginial SupCom all you needed to win most games was to get a huge amount of power going, build tons of Mass Fabs then turtle up in your base while your 10 to 20 engineers assist your factories building bots. Then in hour 3 of the game mass rush each other.

It ain't gonna happen in Forged Alliances. First off, Mass Fabs are now moves up a tech level. They cost more to build. Instead, like a real war you gonna have to grab land and hold it so your Mass Extractors can dig up the ores. Not only that, assisting factories to build to units is not longer 'effective'. Instead, you are better off building more factories and having them churn out units and have your engineers go around strengthening your defences.

And if that was not enough, all buildings and units have been tweaked a lot for balance. So, what you know what your unit can do have been changed to it can do better or worse. Take for instance the Cybran Destroyer. It now can waddle at nearly the same speed as any Tier 3 assault unit instead of doing its impersonation of a chewed bubble gum sliding down the side of a wall.

Then you have the AI. The AI now has a few new moves in its hat that ever before. Note: that I am talking about the Skirmish AI not the Campaign AI which is still as dumb as ever. The AI comes in three flavours; easy, normal and cheating. We can skip easy and go straight to normal. First, you got 'normal' normal then you got Adaptive, Rush, Turtle and Tech. Adaptive means the AI will change its attack type according to the situation meaning it will air raid your extractors, anti-air and point defence. While attacking with land or sea units at the same time. A little later it will use its Experimental units and Nukes. By the way, Strategic Defence is faster to build than Nukes so I suggest when you get a Tier 3 engineer out to build that first. Rushers, will air raid you non-stop and tech up to nuke bombers. While, turtles will concentrate on artillery units and defence. Then you got the techer that just techs until tier 3 then lets you have it.

Cheating AI will have double building speed and double resources. This is for you extreme players that get bored pounding the normal AI.

Graphics for the game has been spruced up and more effects has been added. The game engine also has been tweaked to give better performance on lower end machines. And the HUD is been uncluttered a bit.

Music for the game is still the same high standard and the voice acting is professional still, none of that C&C performances you see.

If you are an extreme player that really wants to fight wars not battles than Forged Alliance is for you. Although, Supreme Commander has been given a huge boost in gameplay I won't recommend this to first timers to RTS or players that can't stand high learning curves. Because not matter how badly SupCom chewed you up and spit you out, Forged Alliance will do a lot worse.

Title: Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Gas Powered
Availability: New Era Interactive Software Sdn Bhd
Suite 27-02B, 27th Floor Menara Keck Seng 203 Jalan Bukit Bintang55100 Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaTel: (603) 2143 1332 Fax: (603) 2143 1330

Package: 1 Manual, Game DVD.


Microsoft® Windows® XP Service Pack 2, Vista
1.8 GHz processor
512 MB RAM
8 GB available hard-drive space
128 MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6x00/ATI 9600 or better)
Sound card, instancing required

3.0 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor or better
1 GB RAM or better
8 GB available hard-drive space
256 MB video RAM, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6800 or better)
Sound card, instancing required

Note: recommended specifications provide optimal experience for single player and up to four players/medium-size map multiplayer

Our Verdict: 5
Documentation: 2
Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Replay Value: 5

Tech & U: Call Of Duty 4


I was not much of a fun of Call Of Duty, although I did play the first briefly I kinda out grown WWII FPS unless they follow an alternative universe storyline. But after playing the Modern Warfare COD kind of grew on me.

COD 4 has the basic storyline for all 'current day' FPS, Arabs are up to no good and the Russkies are pulling the strings. In terms of story that's all you need know. The single player missions are more focused on intense combat situation than the actual story, at least for me. And some of the missions seem mundane, with really no point to it and the story switches focus from the SAS and the Marines characters which just confuses you.

With all the complaints a few things can be guaranteed, there will be lots of enemies to shoot at. You will reload the save checkpoints a lot and there will be bad AI in the game. What do I mean? The game seems to have a never ending amount of enemies just spawning out of nowhere where. One minute the coast is clear, the next minute the scripts kick in and you Vodka Heads up your backside. Then you got their insane accuracy skills where they can take you down with a few shots while you pound NATO rounds, from some of the finest rifles, into brick walls making silhouettes. And finally, you got some of the dumbest AI, when the enemy is unaware of you or is searching they apparently can't spot you more than 20 feet away like one of the missions where I and a couple of mates were shot down. But once they do find you they lock on and there is no place for you to hide. And its not a 'local' effect, all the enemies on the map will know where you are.

Fortunately, COD 4's multiplayer experience is enyouable. One first things you notice different from the single experience in multiplayer is that it feels like Counter Strike 1.6. All those wonderful tricks executed CS can be used in COD. That means, rabbit hopping and jump sniping. But what saves it is the experience points you earn as you continue to play online. You go up in rank for your account and you can unlock new weapons and their attachments. But probably one of the coolest features are the Perks that you can unlock. Perks in COD 4 is one of the main game features lets you either improve you weak points in your playing style or evaluate your strongest skill to the next level.

There are tons of Perks in the game, like those that steady your aim to those improve your stamina for running to those that increase the default amount of ammo you carry to those that give you more grenades or even RPGs!

Graphic-wise the game is gorgeous. Everything is very well rendered and lovely textured. The game does boast some physics but doesn't rely on it like other games which make playing COD more realistic in way since you then don't see any physic anomalies without a physics' card. Lightning effects and particles are handled very well especially like in situations where you are looking out from a dark room to the bright outside you get a slight bright blurring effect or when grenade blows up throws a lot of dust in front of your view. And the animation for the soldiers are incredibly life-like. They will duck when there is a big explosion near by or even wipe their eyes if a flash bang goes off near by. And none of this eye candy affects your movement and aim!

Sound-wise the game fully utilises 3D positioning sound. Being able to identify where are shots fired from even on a 2.1 speaker setup gives a good show for the coders of the game. Guns do sound like guns, explosions are nice and voluminous and not just a big blast of sound. Voice acting is good but at some points sometimes sounds a bit strained. Music, is ok.

Overall, COD 4 looks like a very mature version of CS 1.6. Gameplay is fast and the ranking and reward system works. Perks earned in the game really help customise your playing style for Multiplayer, that and the fact you can have five custom class so you can switch on the fly during round makes COD 4 an aggressive completive muliplayer game. So those of you that are looking for a well supported online FPS that is intense than you really should point your dollars to COD 4.

Title: Call Of Duty 4: Modern Combat
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Availability: New Era Interactive Software Sdn Bhd
Suite 27-02B, 27th Floor Menara Keck Seng 203 Jalan Bukit Bintang55100 Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaTel: (603) 2143 1332 Fax: (603) 2143 1330

Package: 1 Manual, Game DVD, 10 days Trial Online Multiplayer Edition for a friend DVD, Histroy Channel Modern Marvels: Strategic Air Command. (This was a mistaken. Took the template from World In Conflict.)

Minimum Requirements:
Windows XP/Vista (Windows 95/98/ME/2000 are unsupported)
Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 2800+ processor or any 1.8Ghz Dual Core Processor
RAM: 512MB RAM (768MB for Windows Vista)
Video card: nVidia Geforce 6600 or better or ATi Radeon 9800Pro or better
Sound card: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
30MB of free hard drive space
Broadband connection and service required for Multiplayer Connectivity

Our Verdict: 4
Documentation: 4
Graphics: 5
Sound: 4
Replay Value: 4

Tech & U: Crysis


Well, well, well, Crysis was finally release as a 'pre-release' demo by Crytek. I am sure several thousand people downloaded it in the first 5 minutes of availability. Crysis is touted as the next 'Big' thing. It is referred to as the next coming to PC FPS as Halo is to the console systems.

Truth be told I thought it was possible from all the trailers released to hype it up. That is, even up the the beginning of the demo mission.

You play Jake Dunn, a United States Delta Force Soldier sent to an island in the South China Sea to rescue a group of archaeologists kidnapped by the powerful North Korean army. Things turn sour quickly, as their chilling discovery awakens, proving itself to be history's greatest threat to mankind. Jake must use his customizable arsenal and high tech nanosuit to fend off the North Koreans and the terrifying alien threat.

So I start the demo and get a great CGI movie of the suit that Jake and his team uses. It shows all the abilities of the suit which are Invisibility, strength (for jumping and throwing people), speed, armour and something for aiming. All of these 'powers' are accessible with the middle mouse button. You have unlimited use of you suit's powers but a limited charge. Once you deplete you suit's charge you'll have to wait for it to recharge.

The suit can also heal you over time just like in Timeshift. Other nifty things you can fiddle with in the game are your weapons. You modify your weapons with additional mods to improve functionality. Like add a sight, laser sight, silencer, etc. And finally, you can drive any vehicle you see in the game.

Now with the good stuff out of the way let's strip the Crysis' demo down to what it really is. Which is just a demo showing off the suit and vehicles. There is no physics to speak of, the graphics are terrible and the demo really feels like an early beta unlike what you have seen in the trailers.

Graphic-wise, the demo is horrible. I knew it had high requirements so I allowed Crysis to auto-detect and select my detail levels. Which was pretty damn low. You may say 'hey, just increase the detail level' but no the game actually lags a bit at the level Crysis selected. The texture details are terrible, mipmaping (the level of detail displayed over 'distance' in game) is so low, it just looks bad. The game engine actually will render your enemies first before environment. Which means if you think you spotted a Korean in the open and try to snipe him and wonder why he doesn't go down. It is because actually there is an obstacle in front of him.

Sound-wise the special effects are ok, there is 3D positioning, thank god and the voice acting is top notch. There some environmental effects but just only some.

Overall, this Crysis demo just plain sucks. I never seen a game so hyped up for such a long time and when a demo is finally delivered to the public you get something that feels like it is in its early beta stages. You will have problems during game play when leaves in the game can stop your bullets, you keyboard and mouse seem to have 'sticky' keys (you tap forward and you seem to move non stop) and then you got the wonderful low mipmap level. A 1.5 out of 5.


1st Person Shooter

EA Games


Windows XP:
CPU: Intel P4 2.8 GHz / AMD Athlon 2800+ / Intel Core 2.0 GHz or higher
RAM: 1.0 GB
Hard Drive: 6 GB or more of free space
Video: NVIDIA 6800 GT 256 MB / ATI 9800 Pro or better
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

Windows Vista:
CPU: Intel P4 3.2 GHz / AMD Athlon 3200+ / Intel Core 2.2 GHz or higher
RAM: 1.5 GB
Hard Drive: 6 GB or more of free space
Video: NVIDIA 6800 GT 256 MB / ATI X800 Pro 256 MB or better
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card



What I write does not come out the same.

Some of you know that I write weekly for the NST's Tech & U Thuresday's edition. Apparently, even though I am not a good writer (grammar) sometimes what I write appears to have gone through the blander sometimes when the sub-editors of NST get hold of my stuff. So as a regular feature, I'll post my weekly article here. Both the printed version and the original text. So you guys can criticise me all you want.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Review of the Samsung Ultra Slim Mouse 8.0

The Samsung Ultra Slim Mouse 8.0

Look at that small blue led!

The Mouse lighted up.

Ok, I actually had this mouse for over 6 months now and I wanted to put a review of it on my blog but as RL has it in for me and my less than diligent work ethics it got delayed.

So as you can see this mouse is very small. Being a notebook mouse you can understand that but for that weight catagory this sucker is probably the smallest mouse you could find. It's about the same size as my YP-T9 or to put in proper perspective: just a little longer than 3x20 cents by 20 cent and 1/2 20 cent wide and 5x20 cents at the thickest end.

Being so small you would expect USM 8.0 to be bare minimal in features. Nope. This sucker is packed. First you got the dial wheel to scroll up and down. Dial clockwise and you scroll down. Counter-clockwise and you scroll up. And if you think those little dimples on the side are the buttons of the USM you are mistaken. The buttons on the USM which count up to 5, are left mouse, right mouse, middle mouse, forward and back buttons.

The left mouse button is the dead centre of the dial wheel so you can't miss it. The right mouse button is on the dial wheel, right of the left button. The middle mouse button left of the left mouse on the dial wheel. The forward button (for moving forward in your web browser) is the top of the left mouse button. And the back button is on the bottom of the left mouse button.

Complicated? Not really. You get used to it quite quickly. Although, using the USM 8.0 for an hour over may start to cramp your fingers is main function it's to act as a ultra portable mouse to replace the touchpad when you need it.

In the end the USM is pretty cool to use and the dial wheel is incredibly handy. The build quality is very high, the top being brushed alu and the feet has extra smooth gliding. The buttons don't feel cheap and have a 'soft' click to it. So if you need to use the mouse in a pinch the USM would be a pretty good choice.

I got mine for RM89 including shipping from LowYat.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Back from the holidays.

Yes, am back from my holiday (which is funny since I am freelance and everyday is a holiday). After my bro's and aunt's visit and the wonder family circus than ensured I got a few reviews up for you guys.

First lot, which allow me to type this evening my fair readers is from Samsung's PC brand line: Pleomax. Which I'll cover the Ultra Slim Mouse 8.0 and the PKV-7000X Crystal Edition keyboard.