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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 GPU Unleashed

NVIDIA Unveils GeForce GTX 690 -- Dual Graphics Card Combines World's Fastest Gaming Performance With Sleek, Sexy Design.

Powered by dual Kepler™ architecture-based GeForce GPUs, the GTX 690 is meticulously designed -- inside and out -- to deliver the most refined, elegant and smooth PC gaming experience possible.

The surprise announcement was made by NVIDIA CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang during his keynote address at the NVIDIA Game Festival in Shanghai, which is being attended by more than 6,000 gamers from across China.

Engineered to reach a new threshold in gaming performance, the GTX 690 also looks the part. Its array of innovative technologies is complemented by sleek materials that contribute to the exotic design of the card, including:

  • An exterior frame made from trivalent chromium-plated aluminum, providing excellent strength and durability.
  • A fan housing made from a thixomolded magnesium alloy, which offers excellent heat dissipation and vibration dampening.
  • High-efficiency power delivery with less resistance, lower power and less heat generated using a 10-phase, heavy-duty power supply with a 10-layer, two-ounce copper printed circuit board.
  • Efficient cooling using dual vapor chambers, a nickel-plated finstack and center-mounted axial fan with optimized fin pitch and air entry angles.
  • Low-profile components and ducted baseplate channels for unobstructed airflow, minimizing turbulence and improving acoustic quality.

The GTX 690 is powered by a total of 3,072 NVIDIA CUDA® cores, all working to deliver awesome gaming performance for ultimate gaming setups. Designed for the discriminating gamer and ultra-high-resolution, multimonitor NVIDIA Surround™ configurations, the GTX 690 delivers close to double the frame rates of the closest single GPU product, the GTX 680. Plus, it is more power efficient and quieter when compared to systems equipped with two GTX 680 cards2 running in NVIDIA SLI® configuration.

"The GTX 690 is truly a work of art -- gorgeous on the outside with amazing performance on the inside," said Brian Kelleher, senior vice president of GPU engineering at NVIDIA. "Gamers will love playing on multiple screens at high resolutions with all the eye candy turned on. And they'll relish showing their friends how beautiful the cards look inside their systems."

The GTX 690 graphics card is designed using GeForce GPUs based on NVIDIA's 28-nanometer Kepler architecture, following the introduction late last month of the GTX 680.

"The GTX 690 is truly a work of art -- gorgeous on the outside with amazing performance on the inside," said Brian Kelleher, senior vice president of GPU engineering at NVIDIA. "Gamers will love playing on multiple screens at high resolutions with all the eye candy turned on. And they'll relish showing their friends how beautiful the cards look inside their systems."

The GTX 690 graphics card is designed using GeForce GPUs based on NVIDIA's 28-nanometer Kepler architecture, following the introduction late last month of the GTX 680.


The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 GPU will be available in limited quantities starting May 3, 2012, with wider availability by May 7, 2012 from NVIDIA's add-in card partners, including ASUS, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Inno3D, MSI, Palit and Zotac. Expected pricing is $999.

Kaspersky Security Tips for Mac Users

At the moment, there are more than 100 million Mac OS X users around the world. The number has grown switfly during the past years we expect this growth to continue. Until recently, Mac OS X malware was a somehow limited category and included trojans such as the Mac OS X version of DNSChanger and more recently, fake anti-virus/scareware attacks for Mac OS X which boomed in 2011. In September 2011, the first versions of the Mac OS X trojan Flashback have appeared, however, they didn’t really become widespread until March 2012. According to data collected by Kaspersky Lab, almost 700,000 infected users have been counted at the beginning of April and the number could be higher. Although Mac OS X can be a very secure operating systems, there are certain steps which you can take to avoid becoming a victim to this growing number of attacks.

Here are the recommendation on 10 simple tips to boost the security of your Mac:

1. Create a non-admin account for everyday activities.
Your default account on Mac OS X is an administrator user, and malware writers can take advantage of that to infect your computer.

For everyday activities, we recommend you create a non-admin user and you only log in as administrator when you need to perform administrative tasks. To do that, go to the "Accounts" pane of "System Preferences, then create a non-administrator user. Use the new account for everyday tasks like e-mail and web browsing. This greatly helps to limit the damage from zero-day threats and drive-by malware attacks.

2. Use a web browser that contains a sandbox and has a solid track record of fixing security issues in a prompt manner.
Google Chrome is updated more often than Apple’s built-in Safari browser. Google Chrome also comes with a sandboxed version of Flash Player that puts up a significant roadblock for malicious exploits. It has also a silent, automatic update mechanism that removes the burden of patching security vulnerabilities.

3. Uninstall the standalone Flash Player.
Unfortunately, Adobe’s Flash Player has been common target for hackers looking to take control complete over your computer. An old version of Flash Player will most certainly put you at risk when browsing the internet. To uninstall Flash, you can use the two utilities provided by Adobe, for versions 10.4-10.5 and 10.6 and later. See this link for details.

4. Solve the Java problem. 
Java is also a preferred target for exploit writers looking to plant malware on your machine. It is recommended to have it completely uninstalled.

5. Run “Software Update” and patch the machine promptly when updates are available.
Many of the recent attacks against Mac OS X take advantage of old or outdated software. Commonly exploited sxploited suites include Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader/Acrobat, and Oracle’s Java, but there are other applications that can be abused as well. Office for Mac 2011 is much better from a security point of view than Office for Mac 2008. If you are still using 2008, we recommend you update to 2011 as soon as possible. Whenever you see the Apple’s “Software Update” prompt, be sure to apply the fixes and reboot the machine when necessary.

6. Use a password manager to help cope with phishing attacks.
The good news is that unlike Windows, Mac comes with a built-in password manager, the “Keychain”.

Whenever possible, try to generate unique, strong passphrases for your resources and keep them in the keychain instead of remembering easier passwords. Whenever the cyber-criminals manage to compromise one of your accounts, they will immediately try the same password everywhere - GMail, Facebook, eBay, PayPal and so on. Hence, having an unique strong password on each resources is a huge boost to your online security.

Another, though more complicated advice is to have a separate keychain, with a 3-5 minutes password cache timeout, for important passwords only. What are important passwords? Well, things such as resources which when compromised can cause direct financial loss: eBay, PayPal, online banking and so on. If somehow your “Keychain” gets compromised, you don’t loose all the passwords.

7. Disable IPv6, AirPort and Bluetooth when not needed.
Turn off connectivity services when not in use, or when not required. These include IPv6, AirPort and Bluetooth, three services that can be used as entry points for hacker attacks.

IPv6 is a relatively new communication protocol which your Mac can use. This is rarely used in practice , although in my years of travelling, I’ve seen only one hotel which supported IPv6 in parallel to IPv4. Hence, it’s probably safe and even a good advice to disable IPv6 proactively.

To disable IPv6 on your computer Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Network.

If the Network Preference is locked, click on the lock icon and enter your Admin password to make further changes. Choose the network service you want to use with IPv6, such as Ethernet or AirPort.

Click Advanced, and then click TCP/IP. Click on the Configure IPv6 pop-up menu (typically set to Automatically) and select Off.

See this link for details.

8. Enable full disk encryption (MacOS X 10.7+) or FileVault.
In MacOS X Lion, Apple updated their encryption solution (FileVault) and added full disk encryption. It is now known as “FileVault 2”. This has the advantage of security the entire disk instead of just your home folder and can be very useful if your laptop gets stolen.

See this link for details.

9. Upgrade Adobe Reader to version “10” or later.
Adobe Reader is also a preferred target of cybercriminals. Version 10 includes numerous security enhancements which make it a lot safer than any previous versions.

10. Install a good security solution. 
It is no longer true that “Macs do not get viruses.” After six years, the situation has changed considerably. The Flashback trojan which appeared in September 2011 caused a huge outbreak in March 2012, which amounted for over half a million infected users worldwide. Thus, a security solution is absolutely required for any Mac user. One can easily download and install a trial of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Gets Andoid 5.0 Jelly Bean

Today Google began to offer a new U.S. GSM Galaxy Nexus directly from the Play Store, with a price tag of $399.00 contract free and this is definitely good news moving forward.  This is the device that truly encompasses what a Nexus device is meant to be completely open and directly from Google. An automatic crash report was posted to Google+ last week reporting a Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean the next major version of Android. The issue was that the devices code name was not of any Galaxy Nexus currently available that is until today where that code name turned out to be of the U.S. GSM Nexus that Google now sells directly from the Play Store.

The addition of this straight from Google Nexus brings up the question of how does it fit in with the other Nexus’ either from Verizon, Sprint, or international variants? As an owner of a Verizon Galaxy Nexus it does feel that the device gets the short end of the stick when it comes to “Official” updates from Google/Verizon as they have still not updated the phone from 4.02 while other GSM version are already on 4.04 which includes some needed bug fixes and battery life improvements.  It being a Nexus however I have of course already placed a 4.04 ROM on the device as it is unlocked and loaded.

It would be nice though if it received the updates straight from the source on day one. Which of these devices will be the first with Jelly Bean remains to be seen, but it surely being tested on Google’s unlocked version which should at least see it the same time as other devices. Jelly Bean is being tested on the Verizon model of the Nexus also as we have received from an anonymous first hand source who has seen it in action. So all version will see the update and hopefully Google is working with Verizon to see the updates pushed out at the same time to correct the fact that we have had to wait for updates that Nexus owners are supposed to have on the day they drop.

Which Nexus do you see getting the update first, and will your next purchase come directly from Google now that they have returned to offering devices first hand?

Skype Apps on PS Vita

Later today the PlayStation Vita will receive Skype support. The latest PlayStation Store update will introduce an app that enables players to communicate via voice and video chat. 

The app is available for both the 3G and 3G/Wi-Fi models. The video calls are placed using the Vita's front and rear cameras. You speak through the internal microphone already included with the device. The Vita is also compatible with any Skype-enabled headset. 

You won't actually be able to talk on Skype while gaming or using a different app, though. Instead, you'll have to pause your other activity to make calls. It's also worth noting that not all games or apps will be able to pause. 

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 7mm Drive Review

Western Digital has announced it is shipping the WD Scorpio Blue 7 mm hard drive, which features the lowest power consumption on the market today.

Specified to a best-in-class in 400Gs shock tolerance, the new single-platter WD Scorpio Blue small form factor hard drives are available in 500 GB and 320 GB capacities and the drives’ compatibility with industry-standard 9.5 mm slots make them ideal storage options for mainstream notebooks as well as slimmer notebook and Ultrabook devices that require a 7 mm drive height. 

Features of the new WD Scorpio Blue 7 mm hard drives include:
  • Low power consumption - Advanced power management features and algorithms optimise the way the drive seeks data, which significantly improves power consumption.
  • Shock Tolerance – WD’s ShockGuard technology, now increased to a best-in-market 400Gs shock specification, protects the drive mechanics and platter surfaces from shocks.
  • Cool and quiet - In a notebook drive, silence is golden. WD’s exclusive WhisperDrive technology enables quiet performance.
  • Reliable – WD’s SecurePark parks the recording heads off the disk surface during spin up, spin down, and when the drive is off. This ensures the recording head never touches the disk surface resulting in improved long term reliability due to less head wear, and improved non-operational shock tolerance.
  • Compatibility Tested - WD performs tests on hundreds of systems and a multitude of platforms in its FIT Lab and Mobile Compatibility Lab to give customers confidence that drives will work in specific systems.

The WD Scorpio Blue 7mm / 2.5-inch mobile hard drives are covered by a two-year limited warranty. MSRP for the 500 GB, model #WD5000LPVT is $99.99 USD and the 320 GB, model #WD3200LPVT is $79.99 USD. 

Samsung's Official Announcement Galaxy S3 On May 3rd

We were hoping that Samsung would officially take the wraps off the hotly anticipated Galaxy S3 smartphone at MWC, but that didn’t happen. Now, it looks like Samsung Mobile Unpacked 2012 in London will be the chosen venue for the unveiling.

This event is scheduled to take place on May 3 and the invitations have been sent out to various press and other industry folks. The biggest clue is that the invite tells potential attendees that they’ll be able to “come and meet the next Galaxy.” This presumably refers to the Galaxy SIII (or S3, if you prefer), but it’s necessarily a confirmation. Maybe Samsung is expanding the Galaxy line into other areas, but I’d say the new smartphone is most likely.

Even if you’re not invited and you’re not going to be in London during that time, you can watch the announcement from the comfort of your own computer. Samsung is setting up a livestream on its Facebook page.

Meizu MX Quad-core Smartphone Review

The much anticipated Samsung Galaxy S3 is said to be coming with a quad core processor and is expected to be a powerhouse, but why wait anxiously for the handset if you already have a powerful smartphone to play with. No, we do not mean the HTC One X which reportedly is coming with a design flaw. We are talking about the Meizu MX Quad-core which, according to the company, is the world’s first smartphone to utilize the quad-core Exynos chip.

Powered by a Cortex-A9-based quad-core Samsung Exynos chip, the new handset will run Meizu-customized Ice Cream Sandwich (Flyme OS) and has a 4-inch 960 x 640 ASV display. The company claims that the device will feature 20% less CPU power consumption, and its CPU is 60% faster and GPU is 50% faster when compared to its dual core predecessor.

The battery will be a 1,700mAh one (bumped up from 1,600mAh), which will be tested when we get our hands on the device sometime soon. You will also get to play with an 8 MP BSI camera with an f/2.2 lens aperture, which means that you will be able to snap some good images in low light conditions.

There’s no microSD expansion, but the base model has 32GB of internal storage and it will cost the same as the current 16GB MX. When the device is released in June, it will have a price tag of US$480 in China and US$400 in Hong Kong, and the 64GB version will be yours for US$635 and US$530, respectively. Meanwhile, the original MX now costs ¥2,399 (US$380) and HK$2,599 (US$335).

Microsoft Xbox 720: 16-core CPU Gaming Console of the Future

In what could well be the 720th rumour about the Xbox 720, it is thought the upcoming next-gen games console is set to utilise a 16-core CPU.

This is according to Xbox World, which has it on good authority that the Durango dev kits sent out last month – Durango being the Xbox 720's potential codename – are nowhere near as powerful as the finished product.

The final console is said to contain a 16-core IBM Power PC CPU with a graphics processor on par with AMD's Radeon HD 7000-series graphics cards.

It has been previously reported that AMD's kit will be inside both the Xbox 720 and the PS4.

Power hungry

Now, if this is indeed the case – there is some serious power packed into the next-gen Xbox. Possibly too much power just to play games.

Xbox World reckons that the extra power boost could be to do with Kinect 2 – which apparently will suck the life out of four of the cores, due to the pinpoint accuracy that the new motion controller will bring.

Interestingly, although it has been strenuously denied that a next-gen console will be announced by either Sony or Microsoft at this year's E3, XBW believes that many developers are working towards E3, which takes place in June, as a deadline for game demos.

Tips on How to Avoid Android Malware

According to NQ Mobile Security Research Center, more than 160,000 Android phone owners were affected by malware called UpdtBot, which spreads itself via text messages telling people to download a software update. UpdtBot appears to be mostly in China, but even in English-speaking countries thousands of people have so far been fooled by a fake app that doesn't do what it claims to, and there are several more on the Google Play store.

How can you tell the difference between real apps and fake ones -- or worse, even malware?

1. Read the description and reviews
The fake app in question, according to Steven Blum of AndroidPit, is called Solar Charger by szlab. Even if you didn't already know that an app can't turn your Android device's screen into a solar panel, the end of the description explains that the app is a joke that's designed to fool people into writing angry reviews. It also warns people not to really leave their phones out in the sun, as this can damage them.
If something seems too good (or unbelievable) to be true, read the description and reviews carefully, and look it up on your favorite search engine if you're still not sure. Things you should be especially wary of are apps that tell you to shake, drop, squeeze, or otherwise risk damage to your phone; and apps that purport to be free versions of popular iPhone or Android apps but that have few downloads or coherent reviews, use generic icons, or are all written by the same author. The "Mother of all Android Malware" scare last year involved such dodgy apps.

2. Look closely at the permissions
Most people don't do this -- or need to do this -- for every app that they download, especially an Editor's Choice app on the Google Play store. But if you're suspicious that an app might not do what it claims to, look at the permissions it asks for when you install it. An app that requests things like (for instance) the ability to send SMS text messages, when it isn't an SMS app, ought to be looked at a little more carefully.

3. Only get apps from trusted sources
The Nook store and Amazon's "Appstore" review apps before publishing them, like Apple's iTunes store does. If you download apps from the Google Play store, though (formerly known as the Android Market), you should know that pretty much anyone can put stuff there without needing permission. It's up to you to make sure they're legit, by looking at permissions, reviews, the app's homepage, and anything else that you can.

As for "updates" sent by SMS? It's probably a good rule of thumb not to download anything sent to you by a text message unless you specifically asked for it, just like how Windows users shouldn't open programs sent as attachments by email. Wireless carriers can generally update your phone without your permission, anyway.

Beware on New Android SMS Malware Arrives

There is no denying that Android has had its fair share of security issues as of late. Now it seems that a new malware program, known as UpdtBot, has been discovered by NQ Mobile Security Research Center. Basically UpdtBot shows up as a text message that contains a link saying that an important system update is needed for an upgrade.

Once installed it gives a remote Command and Control server the ability to send SMS messages, make calls, and download new apps that might cause further damage to your phone (or tablet). According to NQ, there is likely already up to 160,000 devices affected by the malware. The direct reason for the existence of UpdtBot is unknown, but you can pretty much bet that making money is at the root of whatever is behind it.

While Android does have its major security flaws that are exclusive to Google’s platform (many more than Windows Phone or iOS), let’s be fair. These kinds of text/email viruses and malware have been around for other platforms, such as Windows, for well over a decade and honestly could probably happen just as easily with other mobile operating systems. The frustrating part is that a little common sense is generally all that is needed to avoid these kinds of scams, regardless the platform. Think about it, is it really still 2001? What kind of modern phone OS uses text messages like this for legitimate updates? None that I know of, but I could be wrong.

Never download anything from SMS, never from email, and always check the permissions that are being used by an app. A little research before downloading anything can save you time, frustration and even money.

Expect Nvidia Tegra 4 On First Quarter of 2013

The next generation of Nvidia tablet and smartphone processors will arrive early next year, according to reports in China.

The successor to the current Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, naturally called the Nvidia Tegra 4, will launch on tablets in Q1 of 2013, says VR-ZONE's Chinese-language site.

The report claims the Tegra 4 will boast four new Cortex A15 chips from ARM, which will surpass the A9 Cortex chips currently fleshing out devices like the ASUS Transformer Prime.

Helping Android and Windows take on Apple

Clocking-up speeds of 1.8GHz per chip, the Tegra 4 is scheduled to make its first appearance on a 10-inch tablet.

Other variations of the chip, reaching speeds of up to 2.0GHz, will follow in Q3, according to the leaked chart.

Tegra 4 is likely to give rise to a new breed of super-fast Android and Windows 8 tablets, which could battle the iPad's A5X processor.

Macs Attacked by Flashback Trojan

More than half a million Macs around the world have been infected with variations of the Flashback trojan.

Flashback pinches user names and passwords by monitoring your network traffic.

Russian antivirus company Dr. Web claims that the growing botnet has infected 600,000 Macs with 274 bots located in Cupertino, home of Apple.

56.6 percent of the affected Macs are in the US, 19.8 percent in Canada and 12.8 in the UK.

The Flashback trojan was first discovered in September 2011, disguised as an Adobe Flash Player installer.

New variant triggered by website visit

Two months ago, a new variant began exploiting a security hole in Java. In its new form, a visit to a malicious website will automatically install the Flashback malware.

Apple has now patched the hole, but only just this week.

The new, patched, version of Java can be downloaded from Apple for OS X 10.6 and OS X Lion.

If you think your Mac could already be infected, F-Secure has instructions on how to remove it.

Samsung Now Leading US Market

Of 234-million Americans using cellphones, a quarter are using Samsung devices. LG is next at 19.6%, followed by Apple at 13.5%. And Android now serves half the smartphone market. 

comScore today released data from the comScore MobiLens service, reporting key trends in the U.S. mobile phone industry during the three month average period ending February 2012. The study surveyed more than 30,000 U.S. mobile subscribers and found Samsung to be the top handset manufacturer overall with 25.6 percent market share. Google Android continued to grow its share in the U.S. smartphone market, crossing the 50-percent threshold in February to capture a majority share for the first time in its history.

OEM Market Share

For the three-month average period ending in February, 234 million Americans age 13 and older used mobile devices. Device manufacturer Samsung ranked as the top OEM with 25.6 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers, followed by LG with 19.4 percent share. Apple captured the #3 ranking in February with 13.5 percent of mobile subscribers (up 2.3 percentage points), followed by Motorola at 12.8 percent. HTC moved into the #5 position in February at 6.3 percent (up 0.4 percentage points).

Smartphone Platform Market Share

More than 104 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in February, up 14 percent versus November. Google Android’s share of the smartphone market eclipsed 50 percent in February, an increase of 17 percentage points since February 2011. Apple ranked second with 30.2 percent of the smartphone market (up 5 percentage points versus year ago), followed by RIM at 13.4 percent, Microsoft at 3.9 percent and Symbian at 1.5 percent.

Mobile Content Usage

In February, 74.8 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device, up 2.2 percentage points. Downloaded applications were used by 49.5 percent of subscribers (up 4.6 percentage points), while browsers were used by 49.2 percent (up 4.8 percentage points). Accessing of social networking sites or blogs increased 3.1 percentage points to 36.1 percent of mobile subscribers. Game-playing was done by 32.3 percent of the mobile audience (up 2.6 percentage points), while 24.8 percent listened to music on their phones (up 3.1 percentage points).

Budget-Friendly Graphic Cards For Your PC

Getting great gaming performance doesn't have to involve breaking the bank. Here are the best budget graphics cards.

5. AMD Radeon HD 7750

The AMD Radeon HD 7750 launched at the right side of £80, making it an altogether friendlier proposal than the AMD Radeon 7970 which goes for around £440. These new-gen AMD cards boast some excellent power efficiency by shutting off all but one core when your system enters power save mode.

But what's this HD 7750 missing out on to hit that price point? The HD 7750 is quicker than its big Nvidia rival, the GTX 550 Ti, and its predecessor, the HD 5770 - but not the HD 6770. General performance is limited primarily by a slender 128-bit frame buffer, however the die-shrink down from 45nm to 28nm and increase in transistor count that comes with it gives this Southern Islands card a definite edge in tessellation-heavy tasks. You can also eke out some modest improvements through overclocking, with big core and memory clock increases running smoothly and without crashes - we had ours cranked up to 900 MHz on the core clock from the 800 MHz stock setting without any glitching or hangs.

4. AMD Radeon HD 6670

It's all very well talking about £600 graphics cards that need PC cases the size of Andre the Giant to house them, and a mini Arc reactor to keep them powered, but how many of us are actually going to drop a month's wages on such a pixel-pushing behemoth? More likely you're going to be looking at a maximum outlay of around £150-£200.

And currently there's a lot of graphics processing power available all the way down the price spectrum too. AMD though has come in, GPUs-blazing, at a sub-£100 price point with a DirectX 11 graphics card, the Radeon HD 6670.

At under £70, it's a decent compromise between price and performance, and if you're really on a tight budget you'll still be able to game at your 22-inch panel's native res, albeit with a few graphical niceties dialled down.

As ever in this tightly compressed graphics card market there's a more powerful alternative, but it's a few pounds away. For less than a tenner you're looking at XFX's single-slot Radeon HD 5770,  and that's rather close to being a bone fide gaming GPU.

3. Nvidia GeForce GTS 450

The Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 is in serious gamers' graphics card territory, without hitting the big prices.

Nvidia doesn't have a great lineup in the budget segment of cards, and anything lower than this here GeForce GTS 450 isn't really worth a look for those with any passing interest in frame rates. This venerable card does have some gaming chops to offer, and for the £81 cost it's a tough card to argue against.

Immediately you can feel the step up in performance terms with this gaming-oriented card. With DiRT 3 and Far Cry 2 we saw the card hit 32fps and 52fps respectively, and that's with 4x AA running at very playable speeds. You could drop this into any system and be hitting gaming speeds across most modern titles at the modest 1680 x 1050 resolution. Should you not mind taking the performance hit, this card will also give you access to PhysX extras in game and 3D Vision, if you so wish.

2. AMD Radeon HD 6850

To be honest we were rather unforgiving of the HD 6850, at launch it was pricing itself almost out of the market.

It was going toe-to-toe with Nvidia's 1GB GTX 460 which, at the time, just about had it pipped in performance terms. It was also a little pricier than the GTX 460, coming in around the £160 mark.

Again though time has been kind to the HD 6850. The price has dropped a huge amount, indeed AMD recently announced a further price-drop bringing the card down to less than £120, which for a spec like this is a serious bargain.

AMD's constant driver updates too have meant that performance has increased over time as well. The Barts Pro GPU core at the heart of the HD 6850 is a reworking of the Cypress Pro that made the HD 5850 such an impressive card back in the day. It doesn't have the huge number of Radeon Cores the HD 5850 had, but still maintains the ROPs count of 32.

1. AMD Radeon HD 5770

For budget-conscious gamers, the HD 5770 should be a serious consideration. Have a scout around the online retailers, and you'll see that examples can be had for less than £100 now.

Offering competent performance at the mainstream 22-inch resolution of 1680 x 1050, it also comes with the promise of cool-running, quiet operation – a trademark of AMD's last-gen design philosophy.

However, try to crank the shinier graphical elements – such as Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering – too high, and the card starts to run out of grunt.

AMD's EyeFinity technology, which enables multi-screen scaling, is a very real option with the 5770, although we wouldn't recommend the 5770 for multi-screen gaming; it just doesn't have the throughput for gaming at huge resolutions.

The really interesting thing about the HD 5770 is what its price represents. At these low prices, our thoughts turn to CrossFire setups. For under £200, you can net yourself a twin-card setup that offers kick-ass performance at mid-range resolutions.

If you're content with that 22-inch monitor and want zingy performance on a budget, this CF setup is probably the cheapest way to achieve it.

2012 Best Mid-Range Graphic Cards

These mid-range graphics cards represent the sensible money for most PC gamers – combining great raw performance with a price tag that won't make you pass out.

If you're looking to power a screen with a native resolution of 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1080, then you really don't need to get anything more powerful than this. At least given the current slew of games.

These cards also hold an ace up their sleeve if you have an SLI or CrossFire motherboard in your rig, because they enable you to boost the performance of your machine by adding in a second card as your needs progress.

5. Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti

Originally designed to replace the GTS 450, the GTX 550 Ti has recently found itself being pushed out of the frame by the Radeon HD 6790 (which we're looking at next). Yes, it's a next-generation graphics card, but is that alone enough to make it relevant? Not really.

As with the Radeon HD 6790, The Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti suffers comparison with the slower, but more-affordable GTS 450 and the faster, and only a bit more pricey GeForce GTX 460. Indeed it's testament to the GTX 460 that it still manages to define this end of the market.

If you've got a 20-inch or 22-inch screen, then the GTX 550 Ti is briefly worth considering, because it will produce playable frame rates at 1680 x 1050 at reasonable settings.

Unfortunately, unless there's a bizarre disease that specifically targets the GTX 460 and removes it from the world, we'd recommend hunting down that older card every time.

4. Asus EAH 6770 DC

Asus has released the highest-clocked passively-cooled graphics card around in this, the Asus EAH 6770 DC.

And it's whisper quiet too.

There was a time, not too long ago, when if you wanted to build a silent or very quiet PC you knew you were going to have to sacrifice any notion of serious gameplay to get the quietness needed for the system you were building.

Well, helping to kick that idea out of touch, Asus has introduced the EAH6770 DC SL/2DI/1GD5. A really snappy name to remember that mouthful is. The card combines AMD's HD6770 core with, it must be said, a pretty massive passive heatsink and cooling array.

It's created a passive card that makes a pretty good fist of playing today's demanding games even at high resolutions.

Although size-wise it's not a card for the more compact of PC cases.

3. AMD Radeon HD 7850

The HD 7850 pretty much finalizes AMD's current plans for the Southern Islands line up, bar the crazy-expensive dual-GPU New Zealand card which is likely waiting on Nvidia's new cards.

The AMD Radeon HD 7850 is also the card that's arguably got the most chance of being successful out of this family. At the price it looks likely to retail at, the sub-£200 mark, it could well be the highest-selling of AMD's mid-range cards.

The fact AMD has filled out these lower-caste cards with all the same features as their higher-end brethren is refreshing, as is the fact that we'll get all the HD 7850 goodness in such small footprints as 7.8-inches.

Again, it's the same Graphics Core Next story – the overclocking headroom is immense. The OC path is the only way to get the most out of these cards.

2. Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti

The GTX 560 Ti is essentially the direct replacement for the awesome GTX 460.

Though that's not actually how it's running. The performance of the GTX 560 Ti actually means it's retiring the GTX 470 with the GTX 570 effectively retiring the GTX 480 and the GTX 580 just standing on it's own. In competition terms the GTX 560 Ti is being pitched directly against AMD's sub-£200 Radeon HD 6870, but is also touted by Nvidia as something that can also take on AMD's Cayman-powered Radeon HD 6950.

The GTX 560 Ti hits Nvidia's marketing claims of 30% better performance over the GTX 460 and isn't asking any more for it than it did for the previous generation.

The impressive overclocking capabilities of the card are also worth special mention, especially considering the card is recommended to come in below the £200 mark.

1. AMD Radeon HD 6950

Every few years a graphics card is released that sums up that generation better than any other. We're talking about the likes of the 8800GT and the budget-focused Radeon X1950 Pro. Cards that transcend their immediate markets and time frames and stand up for years to come as being bang on the money.

The AMD Radeon HD 6950 defines the market. Cheaper cards look up to it for its raw power, while the top-end cards are mindful of the sheer value it offers and are rightly fearful of what can be achieved when two are cajoled together in CrossFire.

The Radeon HD 6950 isn't a subtle reworking of the first generation of DX11 graphics in the same way that Barts is, but rather a complete reworking of the inner logic of AMD's graphics chips. And it's an incredible card for it.

The performance is incredible, at console-breaking 1080p resolutions, and in DX11 games it punches well above its weight. If you're looking for a no-nonsense card that will last you until DX12 rolls out, and don't plan on running insanely high resolutions, this is the card for you.

Those with the stomach for it will discover that they can turn their £200 Radeon HD 6950 into a fully fledged 6970 with a BIOS flash as well. Here's a card that both AMD and Nvidia are going to be hard pushed to beat any time soon. It's simply incredible.

Top High-End Graphic Cards for 2012

The following five cards represent the pinnacle of modern graphics performance. These are cards that are beyond the sweet spot of what's needed in order to enjoy the latest games at reasonable resolutions.

The following cards are essentially here to fill the niches in gamers' requirements that the likes of the AMD Radeon HD 6950 can't satisfy. Here we're talking about outputting to 27-inch and 30-inch panels that have a native resolution of 2560 x 1600. Or multiple screen displays made up of three or more 22-inch or 24-inch panels.

This end of the market is complicated somewhat by the advances made in SLI and CrossFire. These twin-graphics card pairing technologies now genuinely provide the performance improvements over single cards that you would hope for – 90-95% is often the norm.

A pair of cheaper cards in SLI can outperform the following cards too, which means the requirement of having a supporting motherboard is generally the only thing holding you back.

5. Nvidia GeForce GTX 570

Value for money may seem like a strange metric to pull out of the hat at this end of the graphics market, but the GTX 570 does a decent turn at making your investment feel prudent rather than simply excessive.

Essentially a replacement for the soon to be retired GTX 480, here's a card that does everything that Nvidia's last-generation top dog did, but without the problems that card suffered from when it shipped.

The cooler is quiet and more efficient, and the raw power on offer from this sub-£300 card is stunning. This is a slightly cut down version of the GTX 580, losing one Streaming Multiprocessor (or 32 CUDA cores, to put it another way) and 8 ROPs.

The GTX 570's core operates at 732MHz as opposed to the GTX 580's 772MHz, while the 1,280MB of GGDR5 memory speeds along at 950MHz, as opposed to the GTX 580's 1,002MHz.

For the money, there isn't a lot out there that can touch the GTX 570 in terms of pure performance, apart from possibly a pair of GTX 460s in SLI – but such a configuration requires an SLI motherboard.

4. AMD Radeon HD 7970

AMD blinked first and opted to release its brand new graphics card architecture before Nvidia did. It was a brave move by AMD though. Bringing out a radically different graphics design spec, compared with its previous vector processors, in the same year as it brought us a brand new CPU architecture.

It may well be one of the fastest single-GPU cards around at the moment, but there is still little justification for the price. There are very few of us out there running a monitor capable of the eye-watering resolutions of 2560x1600 so realistically a 1920x1080 resolution is going to be more likely.

And at that resolution the excellent £365 Nvidia GTX 580 is all the card you're going to need. The overclocking potential of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 is incredible.

Topping 1,100MHz is a huge overclock and makes it almost comparable to the previous generation of dual-GPU cards.

3. Nvidia GeForce GTX 580

Created as the spiritual successor to the much-maligned GTX 480 , Nvidia took the problems it had with its first DX11 graphics card and corrected them with the GTX 580.

This means you get a full-fat core boasting 512 CUDA cores and 48 ROPS, not one that has been cut down to achieve better yields. And all running at a healthy 772MHz with a 1,002MHz memory bus for the 1,384MB of GDDR5 memory.

Not everyone needs the power of a GTX 580 – only those with serious screens to power. This is a market targeted by the twin-GPU Goliaths that are the AMD Radeon HD 6990 and Nvidia's own GeForce GTX 590.

The GTX 580 still has the nod, however, because those cards have had to be throttled back to fit on a single card, while here you know nothing is being constrained. This is still the most sensible option for anyone looking for unfettered speed from a single GPU.

2. AMD Radeon HD 7950

AMD is really putting the pressure on Nvidia now with its second release of the new AMD HD 7000 graphics card generation, the AMD Radeon HD 7950. We've been pushing the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 as the go-to gamer's card since it was released, but the HD 7950 has that beat and for a good chunk of cash less than the Nvidia card.

And that's just at stock speeds. When you start overclocking this card the difference in performance increases hugely.The AMD HD 7950 could also be a massive hit for the CrossFire crew too, as for £700 you'll find yourself with an insanely quick graphics setup.

And for £300 less than an equivalent HD 7970 array. The AMD Radeon HD 7950 is one hell of an impressive pixel-pusher, and Nvidia is going to have to work incredibly hard with its Kepler cards to best this excellent card.

1. Nvidia GeForce GTX 680

It may have been a long while coming but the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 is on the way to balance up the next-generation graphics market.

AMD launched its Radeon HD 7970 in December so it's a bit of gap that Nvidia has to make up with its latest top-end GPU.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 is its latest £400-odd, top-of-the-line card and is now the fastest graphics card in the world. We all kind of knew that would be the case, after all Nvidia has played the waiting game with AMD, letting the competition draw first and release its entire slew of HD 7000 graphics cards.

That meant Nvidia could see how the competition was performing and ensure its engineers finalised the GTX 680 specs and set the clocks to ensure the requisite 10% performance improvement.

As it turns out this Kepler-based Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 is far more than just another big, power-hungry graphics card, relying on pure grunt alone to give it the edge.

This is actually a far more elegant card than people might give it credit for.
It's not the power-crazed GPU behemoths we're used to from Nvidia, but it's still got the performance chops and some neat extra tricks.

Microsoft XBox 720's Latest Rumors

New information has come to light with regards to the Xbox 720, which hints that the console will be a power beast when it is released.

According to VG247, which has quoted sources close to the matter, the Xbox 720 is indeed a reality and it will be with us by Christmas 2013.

These multiple sources have gotten together and confirmed to the gaming site that the new console like two PCs taped together, with its graphics cards said to be the equivalent of AMD's 7000 series GPUs.

If this is the case, then AMD have managed to pull of a gaming double whammy as the PlayStation Orbis / PS4 is also said to have AMD architecture inside.

The next-generation Xbox will also have Kinect built-in, according to reports, and it will also be forever connected to the web – which is thought to be an anti-piracy measure.

As for a nickname – it has to have one, given the PS4 is now Orbis – there is a Durango summit in London for devs in February 2012 and it is thought that this is the nickname for the new Xbox.

As with other reports, we are not expected to hear anything about the Xbox 720 this year – so don't go thinking that Microsoft will show off things at the upcoming E3 gaming expo.

It also smacks down the rumour that there's a Lite version of the Xbox 720 coming out in 2013 with a more powerful one to follow. Unless these specs are for the Lite version - if that turns out to be the case, colour us impressed.
It is also expected for the Xbox 720 to have a Blu-ray drive which will come to relief to those who had to deal with multiple DVDs for content-heavy games.

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