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By Jessica Brown On 12 Jun, 2017 At 02:01 AM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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The Radeon Vega GPU has been a rather mythical thing until the past couple of months, but we are finally approaching the new architecture’s release…Well, sort of.

The Vega graphics processor will be making its first public release on June 27 with the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a powerful professional-grade workstation GPU featuring 16 GB of HBM2. However, as noted, this card is aimed at professionals, game designers, and scientists and is not aimed at PC gamers. Enthusiast gamers will need to wait a little longer for the gaming-grade RX Vega card.

However, it appears that the RX Vega cards will not all be releasing at the same time. Right now, we know that the first RX Vega cards will be released around the time of SIGGRAPH 2017 (July 3 to August 3). Yet, it appears that this will be the release for the most powerful of the gaming grade cards, but those operating on more of a budget will have to wait later…Much later.

According to some sources, the “high end” (non-enthusiast) and mainstream cuts of the Vega architecture most likely won’t be available until early-2018. Until then, Radeon fans that aren’t wanting to push to the bleeding edge will want to check out the RX 500 series of cards that launched back in April.

Time will tell what AMD’s official Vega plans will be, but thankfully SIGGRAPH isn’t that far away now and we should have more concrete answers by then!

By Jessica Brown On 7 Jun, 2017 At 11:46 AM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Opinion, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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While the announcement of Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 only felt inevitable given the success of the first collection, this new package feels a bit incomplete to me. This time we are getting treated to Mega Man 7MM8MM9, and MM10, but where is Mega Man’s other 16-bit outing?

Mega Man & Bass (originally released in 1998 in Japan on the Super Famicom) takes place directly after the events of MM8 and gives players the ability to play as either of the two titular characters. Featuring some unique robot masters, 100 CDs to collect to unlock profiles on all of the characters in the franchise to date (since the game was released in honor of the series 10th/15th anniversary), a fantastic soundtrack, and a solid level of challenge, MM&B is perhaps one of the best entries in the classic series. Leaving it out seems like a big mistake.

However, we also know that at this time Capcom is passing on Nintendo platforms, so that feels like a bit of a double-whammy. Still, there’s always the possibility of MM&B appearing later on in another special collection of Mega Man titles.

Time will tell!

Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 is coming to the PS4, XBox One, and PC on August 8.

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:03 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD will be bringing its new Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to the masses sometime this summer in multiple flavors. These will most certainly be ultra-enthusiast grade processors, geared towards those that push their systems to the absolute limit and need the most threads that they can possibly get. Yet, despite the ambiguous “Summer 2017” release window, we don’t have all the details on these new chips just yet.

What we do know, though, is that Threadripper (sometimes referred to as “Ryzen 9”) will feature a 16-core/32-thread behemoth on the top end, bringing with it a massive 64 PCIE 3.0 lanes with it. Sources say that this top-tier chip will clock to 5.0 GHz and beyond. While not officially confirmed just yet, rumors suggest that 10, 12, and 14-core variants will also be released within this new line of processors.

Threadripper will offer quad-channel memory support and will require a new motherboard socket (referred to as TR4).

These new processors will trade blows with Intel’s upcoming Core i9 series of processors, and while prices have not been announced just yet, based on AMD’s history I’d imagine that the Ryzen chips will offer better price-per-performance ratios.

Hopefully we will get more answers soon!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:12 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD has revealed that its upcoming enthusiast graphics cards will be here within the next two months. The “professional” grade Radeon Vega Frontier Edition is due to release on June 27 while the enthusiast gaming RX Vega cards are set to release during SIGGRAPH 2017, which runs from July 30 to August 3.

Whether or not it’ll be too late for AMD to successfully compete with NVIDIA within the enthusiast space remains to be seen, but the longer AMD holds out on releasing its newest cards the more tempted PC gamers might be to hold on a bit longer and see what NVIDIA has to offer with its next-gen Volta line of GPUs.

Regardless, we’ll keep you updated as we find out more about these new graphics cards!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:43 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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We already know some information about AMD’s upcoming “Threadripper” line of CPUs, but Intel will soon be trading blows with its competitor by launching a whole new tier of processors: Core i9. The Core i9 denomination is a new thing for Intel. Previously, the Core i7 tier of processors included both the high-end processors and the more extreme, very expensive offerings. For example, in the 6th Generation series, the i7-6950X was a 10-core Broadwell-E processor that retailed for a whopping $1723 USD. This time around, Intel wants to separate those ultra-enthusiast processors from the more mainstream offerings.

This new 7th Generation Core i9 series will come in a variety of offerings ranging from $999 for a 10-core CPU all the way up to $1999 for an 18-core monster:

  • Core i9-7980XE: 18-cores/32-threads @ $1,999
  • Core i9-7960X: 16-cores/32-threads @ $1,699
  • Core i9-7940X: 14-cores/28-threads @ $1,399
  • Core i9-7920X: 12-cores/24-threads @ $1,199
  • Core i9-7900X: 10-cores/20-threads @ $999

For the more modest enthusiasts out there, though, Intel also will have a new Core i7 X series available:

  • Core i7-7820X: 8-cores/16-threads @ $599
  • Core i7-7800X: 6-cores/12-threads @ $389
  • Core i7-7740X: 4-cores/8-threads (4.3 GHz) @ $339

All of the chips above are part of the “Skylake-X” family, except for the 7740X which is a Kaby Lake processor.

It looks like we’re in for quite a competition between Intel and AMD for the first time in quite a while. If nothing else, hopefully this healthy competition will help drive both innovation and a reduction in consumer prices!

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 11:28 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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Recently, AMD announced that the professional version of their upcoming “Vega” family of GPUs, the “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” was going to launch in June while the consumer cards would follow sometime in Q3 2017. However, at the J. P. Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference on May 22, AMD President Lisa Su announced that the gamer cards would be releasing right after Vega FE.

Vega FE, she said, is set to release in the second half of June and we can expect the RX Vega cards to release this July.

While details have yet to be completely confirmed, we know that there will be three flavors of this new enthusiast architecture:

  • RX Vega Core ($399): Competes with the GTX 1070
  • RX Vega Eclipse ($499): Competes with the GTX 1080
  • RX Vega Nova ($599): Competes with the GTX 1080 Ti

How well these cards will compete with their competition from NVIDIA remains to be seen, but these will be the first enthusiast grade cards released since the R9 Fury (Fiji) GPUs in 2015. There are rumors that AMD is working on “Vega 2.0” which will be aimed to compete with the NVIDIA Volta GPUs in 2018, but nothing is official on that front yet.

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 12:22 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For a while now we’ve known that AMD’s new flagship GPU, powered by the 14nm Vega architecture, was set to release sometime in the first half of 2017. Tech analysts had suspected a formal announcement at Computex (May 30 – June 3), followed by a release sometime in June, but as it turns out that’s only partially correct.

Last week at a Financial Analyst Day live-stream, AMD revealed its upcoming “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” the first formal presentation of a card in the Vega family. However, one thing was quickly made clear: The Vega FE cards are geared at professionals and scientists, featuring a whopping 16GB of HBM2 and a premium price to suit. Vega FE is set to release in June, meeting AMD’s “1H 2017” deadline, but consumer Vega is still a bit off yet.

On May 31, AMD is holding a press conference where they will finally reveal some real details about the upcoming enthusiast RX Vega gaming cards, but unfortunately those will not be coming in June. No release window has been announced just yet, but I’d expect them to start arriving later in Q3 2017.

So what do we know about the gaming-level Vega cards?

Well, we know that the “RX Vega” models will be optimized for gaming performance (a key difference between them and the professional-grade Vega FE) and will come in three tiers: Core, Eclipse, and Nova. Nova, which will be the top-tier of the RX Vega line, could possibly have similarities to the Vega FE, although whether or not it will have 16GB HBM2 will remain to be seen.

With Computex 2017 just around the corner, though, we should know more real soon!

 

By Jessica Brown On 14 May, 2017 At 05:20 PM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For quite some time now, PC gaming enthusiasts have been talking about AMD’s “Vega” line of GPUs. Last year, there was speculation at several tech sites that Vega would make its first appearance as the theoretical RX 490 graphics card. However, as time went on it became quite apparent that AMD had no plans to release a 490 graphics card, capping off the RX 400 series with the RX 480 card. The 400 series was powered by the company’s 14nm Polaris line of graphics cards, offering great performance per dollar for the mainstream market (where the majority of the money is to be made, honestly).

This April, Radeon refreshed its Polaris line of cards and released the RX 500 series, offering around a 10% boost in performance versus the previous iteration. Again, Vega was excluded from this numbering. However, AMD has stated that the upcoming Vega GPU will simply be called the “RX Vega,” releasing as its own product line. This is a bit of a different move from the enthusiast Fury cards from 2015, which were branded as being in the top-tier of the R9 300 series of cards.

So far, there has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming graphics architecture accompanied by quite a few benchmark leaks. Presumably, Vega will be released with at least a couple variants, all of which will make use of the new High Bandwidth Memory 2 format, a successor to the original HBM that was found in the Fury cards. The cards should come in a 4GB and 8GB variant with a 16GB dual, liquid-cooled GPU having been teased.

Early leaked benchmarks have suggested that at least one of the models tested performs at just around the level of NVIDIA’s GTX 1070. The problem with leaked scores like this is that we have no idea which Vega model was being tested. Also, from experience we know that engineering samples and pre-released versions of a card very well may not represent the performance seen in the final consumer versions.

However, the RX 580 is generally seen as a competitor for the GTX 1060, so it makes sense for a “low end” version of Vega to compete with their rival’s 1070 card. Higher versions of Vega will most likely go head-to-head with the GTX 1080 and possibly the GTX 1080 Ti (although many believe that the highest variation of Vega will actually come in somewhere between the 1080 and the 1080 Ti). Yet, it all comes down to price. Even if the best Vega card can only trade blows with the GTX 1080, if it comes in at a more affordable price it may very well steal a bit of the market place from the graphics giant.

There is one problem, though: TweakTown has suggested that there may only be 16,000 total Vega cards across all variants available when it first releases due to limited quantities of HBM2. If this is true, it keeps NVIDIA even safer in the enthusiast field of GPUs for a good bit longer.

Regardless, we should know more after the AMD press event at Computex on May 31. Stay tuned!

By Jessica Brown On 29 Apr, 2017 At 11:17 PM | Categorized As Featured, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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  • TITLE: “Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap”
  • DEVELOPER: Lizardcube
  • PUBLISHER: DotEmu
  • GENRE: 2D Action-RPG
  • PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch
  • ALSO ON: PlayStation 4, XBox One, & PC (June 2017)
  • RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
  • PRICE: $19.99 (eShop)

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and I have an interesting history together. I first encountered the game at a kid’s club at a hotel while on vacation. At the time, I had no idea what the game was called and I didn’t even have a clue what the Sega Master System was. After that single play session, the game fell off my radar for over a decade, but as luck would have it I picked up a copy of the game in a lot of games that came with a Sega Master System I purchased on eBay while in college. Having no idea what the game was called, imagine my surprise to see a familiar title when I plugged the cartridge in and gave it a whirl!

It was my experience with the 1989 version of The Dragon’s Trap that drove me to track down other titles in the series, resulting in the discovery of a wonderful, if often-overlooked, franchise of whimsical action-RPGs.

I remember being really surprised when I first learned that The Dragon’s Trap was receiving a full-on modern remake because it almost seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, it was most certainly a thing that was really happening and it was a project that I made sure to check in on every now and then to see how it was progressing. Once I saw that the game was set to hit consoles on April 18, I made plans to pick the title up on the new Nintendo Switch, thinking it would be a perfect title to include in my initial roster of Switch games.

One of the things that I really love about this remake is that while the game is super nostalgic and very familiar, it’s also different and fresh with lots of fine details and added enhancements. The developers took the 8-bit aesthetics of the original game and used them as an inspiration for this modern hand-drawn version, adding in all sorts of extras that make the environments and characters crisp and vivid. Where once there were dark corridors and bleak hallways, now you’ll find intricate carvings, statues, and various odds and ends. The environments are much more fleshed out and places that were once empty now feel like they have their own story to tell (such as the field to the left of the village which in this version has a cemetery in it).

For those that don’t know the story of the original, The Dragon’s Trap picks up at the end of 1987’s Wonder Boy in Monster Land (an arcade title). The hero, fully decked out in legendary gear, makes their way through the final castle and confronts the evil Meka Dragon. Upon its defeat, however, the warrior gets cursed and turned into a dragon-like lizard and must escape the burning, crumbling castle. It’s here that the real journey begins with the hero set on a quest to lift their curse and become human again.

When the main game begins the player is dumped in the village – the game’s main hub area. From there, several themed areas branch off that can be explored to find hidden items, shops that sell various goodies, and lots of treasure. Ultimately, they are seeking out various dragons that hold the power to transform them into something else (for example, the Mummy Dragon turns them into “Mouse Man” once defeated). Each of the different forms starting with Mouse Man that the player can assume has their own special ability (the mouse can walk up special walls and ceilings, Piranha Man can swim in the water, etc.) and making use of these powers in new and creative ways will help advance the game as well as let you uncover quite a few hidden treasures during your adventure.

One neat feature of the game is the ability to play as either the original Wonder Boy character or a new female protagonist referred to as Wonder Girl. They both play exactly the same, but it is a fun, forward-thinking feature that they included.

I really love the game’s original, hand-drawn art style and the soundtrack is simply fantastic. Of course, as great as this version’s music is and as talented as its musical team is, they had some wonderful source material to work with. As fun as the gameplay of the original was, it was one of those games where all of the songs are very memorable and I’d often find myself humming them or playing them through in my head. Here, they’ve all been lovingly updated yet they still remain as catchy as ever.

For those wanting to take a trip down memory lane (or to just see what the title first looked like), Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap allows the player to swap between both modern and retro visuals and sound at any time they wish and in any combination they wish. It may be a small touch that doesn’t really affect gameplay at all, but it’s a really cool feature that pays loving homage to the classic adventure.

Those that are familiar with the original adventure know that as fun as the game is, it doesn’t last forever. It’s one of those games that you have so much fun playing that you’re very sad when it comes to an end, even though you can see it coming. Those who have never played the classic game will most certainly take a good bit of time to make their way through this game but veteran players should be able to clear it within a relatively short amount of time.

One thing that does help with the game’s replay value is the fact that there are various collectibles that you can unlock and the game does feature three different difficulty settings (Easy for beginners, Normal being the original difficulty level, and Hard offering more difficult enemies and a time limit).

Seeing The Dragon’s Trap remade like this makes me hope that someone (if not this team here) will revisit Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV, both of which were amazing follow-ups to this Master System gem.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a great game for the Nintendo Switch. It’s one of those titles that’s fun to play while docked to a TV but also is great to be able to take on the go with you (be that lounging around the house or on a trip of some sort). The developers did a wonderful job revisiting this classic and I can only hope that they consider giving a similar treatment to some of the other titles in this often-overlooked franchise.

By Jessica Brown On 24 Apr, 2017 At 09:52 AM | Categorized As Editorials, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch | With 0 Comments

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When the Nintendo Switch was first announced last fall, I thought it was a nifty looking device although I wasn’t sure that I’d rush out to buy one on release day. I made the decision not to pre-order the console, but as March 3 approached I decided I did want to pick one up. I stayed up until midnight Eastern refreshing the Walmart website and managed to snag a Nintendo Switch with Neon Red/Blue Joy-Cons and get it checked out within a couple minutes.

The new console arrived that next Monday, March 6, and it was here that my strange, frustrating adventure began.

Before I go into any more details, I’d like to point out that I agree with the Nintendo Customer Service Representatives that I spoke to who assured me that my issues represented less than 2% of customers and that the Nintendo Switch is a solid gaming platform. I’m sharing these experiences with you because they are interesting, but please don’t let them dissuade you from buying this awesome device!

Because I was busy most of the week that the console arrived, it took me several days to finally unpack the device and get it set up. Set up was actually pretty fast and went without a hitch, but not long after getting into playing around with the system I noticed that the docking station was acting up. While connected to the TV via HDMI, the signal would drop out every once in a while and refuse to come back. Also, the Switch would not consistently be charged while docked, sometimes running off of A/C power and at other times running off of battery. I also noticed that the dock was a very tight fit for the console, running the risk of scratching up the screen.

Thankfully, Walmart has a pretty awesome return policy, so I packed up the system and brought it to one of my local stores. Sadly, they didn’t have any Nintendo Switch consoles in stock and they were unable to order a replacement one for me, so I was forced to accept a refund. While I was originally set on getting a console that came with the neon controllers due to their uniqueness, I was able to come to terms with getting one with the grey Joy-Cons and eventually tracked down a second Switch.

Happy that I was able to get a second system while many were scouring the Earth just trying to get their first one, I soon set up this new Switch and started enjoying it…Only to discover that the console’s screen would randomly cut off while in tablet mode. Because the Switch would still output audio, I figured that there was something up with the display and this, too, ended up having to be refunded.

I decided to take a short break from trying to get a working system, having started to get burned out on the process. Eventually, though, I got restless and decided to take one more crack at it. I actually managed to track down two consoles this time at two nearby stores, deciding to sell one online at a very reasonable price and keeping the other for personal use. The one I kept worked out great for a week or so of playing it almost exclusively while docked, but once I disconnected the tablet for an extended period of time I noticed that it was unable to maintain a charge, going from 100% battery down to around 25% in about 20 minutes.

Nintendo’s Customer Service was profusely sorry the few times that I contacted them during this adventure and made sure to assure me that less than 2% of Nintendo Switch consoles had experienced any major issues like these. They said that it was probably a matter of stores in my area having gotten an unfortunate batch of products in and when I asked them if I should try to track down a fourth system, the last representative I spoke to said he would probably give it a few weeks or so to iron out any further problems.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever returned a game console in the past, let alone returned one more than once. I think the fact that I returned the Nintendo Switch three times is a testament to the fact that I think this game console has a lot of potential. Honestly, it’s the first home console that I’ve been excited about in over a decade and the first I bought on launch day since the GameCube came out back in 2001. I’d really like to get a brand-new, working Nintendo Switch that comes with the neon Joy-Cons, and I guess I’ll just have to be patient while I wait to find one.

Meanwhile, Link has gone back to his chamber in the Shrine of Resurrection and is waiting for that fateful day when I will return to set him free…