03.11.15 | ISSUE 36
Nearly two years after the initial announcement SteamOS is finally ready for release, with Valve recently announcing the launch date will be 10th November. The new OS is designed especially for gaming PCs, with an interface that has been created especially for running on TVs, so that Steam Machines bridge the gap between a console and a Windows PC at a desk. In other news, NVIDIA is giving away even more free games with its graphics cards, while Intel is giving its Xeon E3 1200-series an upgrade to Skylake. Read on to find out more.
1. A console for PC gamers
Scan has been working hard with Valve on the development of SteamOS for the last two years so we’re excited to reveal that this November you’ll finally be able to get hold of your very own Steam Machine and Steam Controller.
A Steam Machine is a powerful and compact gaming PC that’s ideal for hooking up the TV in your living room. Instead of running Windows, Steam Machines run SteamOS, which is not only free, but has a special 10-foot interface specially designed to be used on big-screen TVs from the other side of the room. Combine your Steam Machine with the wireless Steam Controller, developed specially by Valve, and you’ve got what The Gadget Show recently described as a ‘console for PC gamers’.
You can check our Scan’s range of 3XS Steam Machines on our website and in Episode 5, Series 22 of The Gadget Show, which was broadcast recently on Channel 5. If you missed the episode you can watch it on the Channel 5 website available in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes the 3XS Steam Machine range starts up a very affordable £599 and scales up from there depending on what sort of games you want to play. Taking a look at a £699 Steam Machine, The Gadget Show found that it is ‘unbeatable at that price point’ and ‘it’s got the power I crave’.
Steam Machines along with the Steam Controller are available to pre-order now and will start shipping on 10th November.
2. Scan wins Best Online Retailer at PC Pro Awards
Scan is heavily invested in providing the best service to all our customers, from providing expert advice on products, speedy despatch and delivery, and technical support if your product is faulty, so we’re really pleased to see that hard work recognised by winning the Best Online Retailer at this year’s PC Pro Awards. These awards are voted for by members of the public, so we’d like to thank all our customers who voted for Scan – we aim to keep impressing and improving our services over the coming years.
3. Free games with GeForce
Pick up an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, 980 or 980 Ti graphics card or gaming laptop with a GeForce GTX 970M or 980M GPU inside and you get a free game. Choose between a free copy of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege or Assassin's Creed Syndicate, both of which are due for release later this year. If you can’t decide between creeping around shooting terrorists or creeping around robbing the rich then you feast your eyes on these trailers for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege or Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
4. Intel Xeon E3 1200 v5 review
After releasing a deluge of different desktop and laptop CPUs based on the new Skylake architecture over the last couple of months, some Xeons are now getting the upgrade too.
The first Xeons to go Skylake are from the E3 1200-series, so are designed for single-socket workstations. The new models have a v5 on the end of the name to distinguish them from previous generation CPUs, such as the V3s, which were based on the Haswell architecture. Intel claims the new models perform up to 26* better in CPU intensive applications.
Along with all the architectural improvements in Skylake the new Xeons also add in support for DDR4, running at up to 2133MHz. With 11 models ranging from 2 to 3.7GHz, all with the ability to handle eight threads thanks to having four cores plus HyperThreading, there are two types of Xeon E3 1200 V5. Models ending in a 5 having integrated Intel HD Graphics P530 which Intel claims is 27* faster than the GPU in earlier Xeons, and models ending in a 0 without a GPU for systems with a discrete graphics card such as an NVIDIA Quadro.
Being Skylake based, the new v5 Xeons require a new motherboard, which are based on the new Intel C230 chipset. Like the consumer chipset for Skylake, Z170, the C230 chipset supports 16x PCI-E 3.0 lanes for add-in cards plus four additional lanes dedicated for PCI-E SSDs and eight USB 3 ports.
The principle difference between the new Xeon E3 1200 v5s and the consumer Core i7 CPUs is in the memory controller, with the Xeons supporting ECC and the Core i7s unbuffered memory. ECC helps to improve reliability as it checks and corrects memory errors that might otherwise cause a system to crash.
You can check out the new range of Intel Xeon E3 1200 v5 CPUs on the Scan website or as part of one of award-winning 3XS workstations.
5. TP-Link Archer VR900 review
While a new CPU, graphics card or SSD is likely to put a smile on your face, there are some unsung heroes in the tech ecosystem that are equally, if not more important. For example a slow or unreliable net connection.
Although this is mostly down to which ISP you choose, you may be able to improve your connection by upgrading your ISP-supplied router with a new model such as the TP-Link Archer VR900. Part of a huge range of networking products by TP-Link, the VR900 has an integrated DSL modem plus a WAN port for use with a fibre broadband or cable modem with an Ethernet port. It can then route your net traffic through to three Gigabit Ethernet ports and 3 dual-band antennas that support 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi using the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards.
HEXUS recently published areview of the VR900, finding that the wired Ethernet ports were considerably faster than the BT Home Hub 5, writing at 570Mbps versus 483Mbps. WiFi data transfers were also faster on the VR900, especially at 5GHz, making it a worthwhile upgrade for anybody wanting to make the most of their net connection, and earning it a Recommended award from HEXUS.
The TP-Link Archer VR900 is available to buy from Scan for £130.
6. G-Sync monitor update
After what seems like years, but in reality has only been a few months, there’s a whole slew of new G-Sync monitors hitting the market this month. G-Sync is the technology that syncs the refresh rate of the monitor with the frame rate of your NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, minimising the stuttering and tearing that plagues normal monitors.
Highlights among the new monitors include the Asus PG279Q, an upgraded version of the incredibly popular ROG Swift, now upgraded with an IPS panel for superior colours and viewing angles. Like the original Swift, the new model is a 27" panel with a 2560 x 1440 resolution, making it razor sharp. There’s also a new 4K G-Sync monitor from Asus, the PG27AQ, which also has an IPS panel.
Acer and Asus are also competing to bring the first curved 3K G-Sync monitor to market. Both monitors share the same IPS panel that has an uber-wide 3440 x 1440 resolution, massively increasingly the sense of immersion in games. Acer is likely to be first, with its Predator X34 available to pre-order now, with Asus not far behind with its PG348Q.
Our favourite Skylake rig so far
The final issue of PC Format went on sale recently and includes a stunning review of one of Scan’s most popular gaming PCs, the 3XS Z170 Vengeance.
The review found that "At the risk of sounding like fan-boys, we’ve always been impressed by the 3XS PC builds. And not just down to the unprecedented warranty it offers – though that first year of on-site support is incredibly reassuring – the machines are always smartly specified. Rigs like this Scan machine make it rather hard to resist for a full PC build. And when you’re comparing system integrators, the extra peace of mind that impressive 3XS warranty offers – especially for such an aggressively overclocked machine – make the 3XS Z170 Vengeance our favourite Skylake rig so far."