FPSLabs Interviews Robert Krakoff, aka RazerGuy

FPSLabs Interviews Robert Krakoff, aka RazerGuy

I recently got a chance to chat with the President of Razer, Robert Krakoff (aka RazerGuy) this week about some things the company is doing right now, including the release of some of their new products. He explains some of the challenges engineers had with designing the company’s first wireless mouse aimed at gamers, some of the upcoming product possibilities the company has, and how the company has become such a dominant force in gaming.

Let’s start with the new Mamba wireless mouse that Razer will be release later this quarter; what finally made Razer start looking at a wireless mouse made for gamers? And what sets this wireless mouse apart from others that have been released by companies such as Logitech or Microsoft?

Four released features establish the Mamba as the first true wireless will be the mouse. They are latency (only 1ms of Logitech or in the wireless mode), lightweight (only 129g with the battery in place), battery life (72 hours in mouse apart use and 14 hours continuous gaming) and limited signal conflict (I’ll talk more about this later).

The Mamba carries an almost identical design to personally my favorite mouse of all-time, The Deathadder; what made you stick with this shape for the Mamba? Besides the wireless function, What are some of the features that will set these two apart?

You are correct, the DeathAdder was the inspiration for the Mamba; however this is actually an improved design over the DA. There is more palm area on top and the side (thumb) buttons are designed for better feel and access.

Do you think gamers will be a bit timid to shell out $130 on a mouse?

The one thing that we have learned over the years is to never assume what gamers are willing to pay for great technology. If a product can give them a notable edge in their skills the price is usually not a huge factor.

Razer seldom sets out to make a product to fit a certain retail price. We design and develop products that offer the gamer an edge in technology so they can gain better enjoyment in their game of choice. Ten years ago we introduced the Boomslang 2000, the first gaming grade mouse at a retail of $99.99. Ten years later we introduce the first gaming grade wireless mouse for $30 more. If you put it into that perspective the price isn’t that inflammatory.

The mouse runs on the 2.4ghz range; what safeguards have been put in place to prevent interference with other common devices on the same band, such as wireless routers or wireless home phones?

Transmission interference which may cause cursor unresponsiveness does not occur in wired
Mode; however, it can occur in wireless mode due to the inherent nature of wireless communications when there is an inevitable risk of interference. The engineers at Razer are well aware of the possibility of such wireless interference affecting quality of game play. In order to prevent degradation of performance, the Razer Mamba hardware-assisted interference avoidance automatically switches channels if it detects strong signal interference. Switching of channels serves as an extra protection to ensure optimum game play and is only necessary when the wireless environment can be extremely noisy.

In rare situations whereby there is too much transmission interference, the Razer Mamba will perform channel switching which could possibly cause the cursor to not respond for a split second. This prevents longer downtimes or freezes of the cursor such as with other wireless mice and is essential to ensure optimal gaming performance.

We have tested the Razer Mamba extensively in multiple stimulated gaming environments and determined that this channel switching only occurs when there is significant interference affecting the gaming performance of the Razer Mamba.

Other wireless mice and wireless gaming mice have similar issues whereby the cursor may appear not to be responding once every two to three hours of gameplay. We have equipped the Razer Mamba with an inbuilt DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) technology in combination with an interference detection technology which enables the Razer Mamba to detect and avoid noisy channels. As such, the cursor error response rate is minimized on the Razer Mamba to once every five hours or more depending on how noisy the environment is.

To minimize interference in the wireless mode, reduce the distance between Razer Mamba and the charging dock.

Lately, mice manufacturers have been in an almost endless race to claim the highest DPI device on the market. The Mamba features an engine capable of an astornomical 5600 DPI; what is the advantage to gamers from having a high DPI setting that high?

Mamba is actually a 48 MHz processor but with a 12 MIPS rating and while the DPI is the highest of any mouse on the market, the inches per second (IPS) rating is really the most important metric. That represents the speed your hand can reach without skipping or loss of data. The IPS of the Mamba ranges from 60 to 200 inches per second depending on your sensitivity setting.

When can we expect the Mamba available for sale?

Very soon.

Now onto the Carcharias, the new headset that was recently debuted at CES. The set is obviously similar to the Megaladon; what sets the newer Carcharias apart from it’s not so distant relative, the Megaladon?

The only difference is that the Carcharias is a standalone headset while the Megalodon is a headset designed specifically to incorporate the Razer Maelstrom Audio Engine, making it the definitive directional audio headset for gamers. The Carcharias is ready to ship now while the Megalodon is due in the second quarter of the year.

The Razer Lycosa was a huge hit among fans of the slim-key design and you’re put out variations of the same board; are there any plans for another keyboard with the same low profile keys in the near future?

We are pretty tight lipped about products in development; however you can bet the farm that there will be new Razer keyboards in the future.

Logitech began putting LCD screens in their keyboards, like the G15 and G19, to convey various information the user might need at quick-glance; does Razer have any plans to introduce this same kind of feature into any devices in the future?

While I would never say never to any good feature nor badmouth a great competitor’s product, I must say that Razer does not make products in a vacuum. Before we begin the developmental process we engage a dialog with top gamers around the world. When the subject of keyboard features has come up over the past few years our gamer friends, fans and employees have told us that they are not interested in this particular feature. What they say is that they see little to no benefit from taking their eyes away from the monitor to look at a screen on their keyboard.

Last year, you released a Cypher/ESWC 08 Commemorative Editon Deathadder; any plans to do this any other eSports Stars?

We are always open to either licensing our technology to other hardware makers or offering our Powered by Razer products to leagues, brands and even teams (if you remember the SK Copperhead).

A couple years back, Razer released their own soundcard, the Barracuda AC-1; given the recent innovations in HD video and audio and the increase in people using their computer as the main multimedia device in their homes, are there any plans for a followup? Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of technology; video cards? Motherboards?

This is the really cool thing about Razer … we develop all of our own technologies. We have a team of engineers, industrial designers and firmware and software mavens in house, 24/7/360. Almost no other gaming hardware company can make this statement honestly and their development model forces then to go outside their company to seek OEM or other consultants to complete their products. This in house edge provides Razer the luxury of assigning a team to core products and other teams to advanced or skunk works projects. These new projects can be nearly anything our imagination can provide.

Recently, Razer sponsored an online gaming tournament for Quake 3; will there be any more of these in the future, and does the company plan on sponsoring any major LAN events in the future?

In 2001 Razer pioneered eSports sponsorships by offering the first big cash award of $100,000 at CPL Summer Quake event. Back in 1999 we began contributing to local, online, live, LAN and other sponsorship programs.

Since then, other companies have come in and pushed eSports sponsorships to ludicrous amounts, many just trading cash for endorsements. Now the money has all but vanished as sponsors are running away from gamers as fast as their bottom line is evaporating. Stalwarts like the CPL, WSG and CGS have all been forced to pull the plug due to big ticket sponsors dropping out. This all started before the current recession and IMHO will only continue to hurt our community for sometime to come.

Despite all of this doom and gloom, Razer continues to sponsor gamers and events in a low-key fashion, supporting gamers, the community, and validating hardware.

With the current financial crisis, many of the companies have and will pull out of sponsorships. While Razer has also been affected by the economic downturn, we will continue to sponsor gamers and events as we believe in the mantra for gamers by gamers. While our marketing budgets have also been scaled back, we intend to continue sponsoring LAN events and have no intentions of ever pulling out.

So Robert, what is your favorite Razer product and why?

I have a few favorites. My favorite mouse has been the DeathAdder due to its comfort; however I have been using a test Mamba without drivers for a couple of months and it simply rocks. My favorite performance product has to be the Mako speaker system though. This product is the perfect example and response to your question, “Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of technology”

So what does Razer have in store for fans in the coming year?

I hate to be evasive about what we’re working on but Razer is no longer small enough to sneak below the radar of our competitors. My best response is that you can expect more of the same cool, smart, advanced technology products that have been our legacy over the past ten years.

Farewell Q6600 – Time to usher in a replacement

Farewell Q6600 - Time to usher in a replacement

We have known for some time that Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q6600 was approaching its End of Life. Today we have read reports confirming that the chip will cease to be sold come to the end of Q2 2009. The Q6600 is far and away the most successful quad-core processor of all time. Despite being released more than two years ago, the 2.4GHz processor based on Intel’s now-ancient Kentsfield core has remained the best selling processor on major online retailers like Newegg.com as recently as Christmas 2008.

With the exit of the Q6600, consumers will need to look elsewhere for a processor that represents the same kind of value and performance. The Q6600 offered significant overclocking headroom, considerable performance across all types of applications, and a very low price point – the result of numerous price drops over the course of two years. Additionally, the Q6600 was a strong match for Intel’s P35 and P45 chipsets, which represent the mainstream segment and are generally low-cost motherboards. The final thing the Q6600 had going for it was the LGA775 platform, which enjoyed and still is enjoying a very long and successful tour of duty.

So, the replacement for the Q6600 on the top of the best sellers list will have to overclock well, be relatively cheap, and be based on an affordable platform with a long shelf-life. If the replacement can do away with some of the drawbacks of the Q6600, like the high levels of heat generated by the 65nm part, then that would be an added bonus. While Intel’s more recent quad-core processors might be an attractive option, there is already a replacement for Intel’s LGA 775 socket available, along with another for the lower-end to be launched before the end of the year.

AMD, on the other hand, has several parts that could potentially replace the Q6600 on the top of the charts. The Phenom II X4 940 (945 soon), the Phenom II X3 720 BE, and the Phenom II X4 810 are three processors that exhibit all of the above traits. The AM3 platform (and the AM2+ platform for that matter) will be around for quite some time. The cost of DDR3 is plummeting as we speak and is expected to level with the price of DDR2 before the end of the year. There are already several very capable motherboard offerings on the market with AM3 support, despite it being a very new development. Overclocking is already proven to be superb, with the X3 720 BE reaching speeds close to 4GHz from a stock 2.8.

Not only would these processors be a good choice for those consumers looking for the same sort of value that the Q6600 represented, but it would be great news for AMD should they experience a similar level of success. Only time will tell what replaces the Q6600 as the top-selling processor on the market, but luckily we should be able to find out pretty soon what it will be.

HYDRA renders SLI and CrossFire obsolete?

Lucid, a little-known fabless semiconductor designer, has just announced a new product that could render both NVIDIA’s SLI and ATI’s CrossFire technolgies obsolete. Despite the performance advantages gained using the existing multi-GPU setups, SLI and CrossFire each have drawbacks that prevent many enthusiasts from adopting either. Logic would lead most people to believe that using two video cards together would result in twice the performance. After all, last we checked 1+1=2. However, neither SLI nor CrossFire, despite recent strides, do not scale linearly. In fact, after a full two years of maturing, all NVIDIA and ATI have managed is a performance increase of 40-70% when adding a second card.

Lucid’s new chip, called the HYDRA Engine, aims to bring linear scaling to multi-GPU configurations. What’s more, these multi-GPU configurations are not brand-exclusive. Anyone wanting to pop a new ATI Radeon 4800 series into their 9800GTX rig would theoretically be able to get near-linear scaling from the second card. The secret is in a custom logic for rendering a scene with multiple GPUs. There are two main methods used by current multi-GPU technologies to render a scene. Split frame rendering consists of each card rendering part of a frame. The problem here is that all of the information for the scene has to be synchronized on both cards, which does not allow the combined power of the both cards to be optimally exploited. The other method, alternate frame rendering, has the inherent latency of switching between GPUs involved. HYDRA, on the other hand, splits the graphics work before anything is sent to the GPU, so everything is dependent on the hardware rather than the software. This means that each card’s individual hardware is used up 100% all the time, rather than having anything to do with the other card. This eliminates the need for SLI or CrossFire bridges entirely.

The HYDRA Engine chip intercepts graphics calls from the CPU before it gets to the graphics cards and tells which graphics card to do what. One graphics card might be told to perform a task such as rendering the background geometry and applying to light and what have you, while the other graphics card renders the foreground and applies motion blur. Lucid claims that there is virtually no CPU overhead, which permits the entire scene to be rendered twice as fast; linear scaling. The HYDRA Engine can be applied to configurations with up to 4 GPUs.

There is a slight damper in what would seem to be the single most phenomenal development in graphics technology in the past couple of years: you cant really use it to mix AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards just yet. Currently, Microsoft Windows operating systems do not permit the use of more than one graphics driver. Unless Microsoft re-writes the rules and allows NVIDIA and ATI drivers to be installed on the same system, the HYDRA Engine will only be useful in this capacity on a hacked OS.

Want to know what the craziest thing is? Lucid’s work was made possible thanks largely to $50 million in venture capital funding from none other than INTEL. That should be pretty interesting, eh? AMD/ATI and NVIDIA might want to watch out for this, especially if Intel wants to cut them out of the platform scene for their processors entirely.

You can find a whole lot more information and some neat pictures over at PC Perspective

SLI on X58: That Simple?

Intel’s next-generation processor has already been previewed to the point where there probably won’t be any surprises when it launches in October of this year (OK, maybe one; o ). Of course, the processor has been shown to be phenomenal. It’s Intel we’re talking about, after all. Intel, the company that just three short years ago was being so thoroughly trounced by AMD in the processor market that it was hard for anyone not on the inside to think they would ever be able to snap out of it. Intel, the company that for three years has not been able to do wrong. Yes, it’s the very same Intel we’re talking about. Nehalem is going to be amazing. Let’s put that to rest right now.

SLI on X58: That Simple?

However, one can make an argument that Intel’s success over the past few years has been at least in small part thanks to NVIDIA of all people, since their generally excellent nForce 600 and 700 series chipsets merged industry-leading graphics with industry-leading processors. Consumers looking to get the best of both worlds ended up going with NVIDIA chipsets so they could do 8-series SLI with their brand new Intel Core 2. Intel’s own 975X and 965 chipsets were successful for sure, but anyone will tell you that the lack of multi-(NVIDIA)GPU support was a big detriment to sales. X38 and P35 were a pretty significant improvement, but again, those chipsets owe at least part of their success to somewhat competitive ATI graphics cards (HD3800) that were making waves at the same time. And even now – even when NVIDIA is no longer in the top spot of the graphics world – people prefer nForce chipsets over their ATI-compatible counterparts from Intel. The reputation that NVIDIA chipsets have steadily built since nForce 2 is incredibly strong.

So it would stand to reason that the next-gen NVIDIA chipset, the one that supports Nehalem, will be equally successful. The only problem: there won’t be a next-gen NVIDIA chipset that supports Nehalem. Why? Well, it sort of depends on who you ask. At first, everyone thought Intel shut the door on NVIDIA and disallowed them to create a chipset for Bloomfield (first generation Nehalem). Now, it seems that the official story is that NVIDIA has no interest creating a chipset for Bloomfield. Good idea? Given everything we know about Nehalem so far, probably not.

We definitely don’t know when NVIDIA made this decision, but it’s safe to say AMD had not yet released the Radeon HD4800 series. Now that they have, the threat of a Nehalem/CrossFireX setup might be a little scary. Given that Bloomfield will be the only Nehalem option for the better part of a year, and that AMD does not have anything competitive in the processor segment on the horizon, NVIDIA probably thought it might be a good idea to get in on some Nehalem action. So, they let their nForce 200 chip out into the market so motherboard manufacturers could slap it on to X58, Intel’s enthusiast chipset for Bloomfield, and magically have SLI support. A simple solution. But is it really that easy?

X58

The first step in understanding how Nehalem/X58 works are to take everything you know about Intel motherboards and throw it out the window. The next step is to remember that Intel has eliminated the need for a memory controller hub (MCH) by taking a page out of AMD’s book and integrating the memory controller onto the Nehalem die. Consequently you would think that Intel’s usual three-chip chipset (CPU/MCH/ICH) would be cut down to two. But it hasn’t. Instead of the MCH communicating with the PCI-Express graphics lanes, the dual channel memory, and the ICH chip, Intel now has something called the IOH (I/O Hub). The IOH is connected to the CPU, just as the MCH was. However, now there is no such thing as a front side bus. Previously, the front side bus ran between the memory, MCH, and CPU. Now, there is no need for anything between the MCH and CPU, since they are on the same chunk of silicon. On X58, Intel has implemented something called a QuickPath Interconnect. QPI is an extremely quick, high-throughput means of communication between the IOH and the CPU. QPI is the same kind of concept has HyperTransport on AMD platforms, but… kinda better.

In any case, the result is that the IOH has a simplified job. All it has to do is communicate with the PCI-E graphics lanes and the ICH10/R. So there are still three chips on the new Intel chipset, their roles are just revised and things are sped up, significantly.

nForce 200

On current nForce 7 series chipsets, there are 4 chips (including the processor). There is the nForce SPP, nForce MCP, and nForce 200. The SPP basically does memory, nForce 200, and the MCP. The MCP does PCI, SATA, USB, audio, and other I/O features like IEEE1394. The nForce 200 does the PCI-E graphics. It is pretty complicated, but it has worked incredibly well. Now, it is key to note that you don’t need the nForce 200 chip to do SLI on an NVIDIA chipset. 680i didn’t have one. The advantage of nForce 200 is you get more PCI-E lanes for greater bandwidth (PCI-E 2.0) and, consequently, performance. So to put it simply, nForce 200 is sort of a great enabler for SLI.

The other side of the story is that nForce 200 is a pretty simple chip. It basically adds PCI-E lanes (?) and does something or other to allow two graphics cards to communicate. It doesn’t seem to be able to do anything else. By using the nForce 200 on a motherboard, you do nothing to negate the need for an additional chip to control/provide other functionality like I/O.

Smackover

In case you haven’t heard, Intel chose the totally cool and not cheesy at all name of “Smackover” for their next generation enthusiast chipset. Smackover joins Bonetrail (and Bonetrail 2!) and Skulltrail as the brain children of the Intel Extreme Desktop Board team. Pictures of Smackover have been on the web for a while now, and instead of showing you the actual final design of the board, we will just regurgitate the existing photos (which show the final configuration anyway).

Of course, the first thing you will notice about this board is the location of the memory slots. Below that obviously is the LGA 1366 (Socket B1), and to the right of that is the IOH. If you look a few inches below the IOH you will see the ICH10/R chip. The rest of the board is pretty self-explanatory. Of course on a motherboard, there is always more than meets the eye. Motherboards are not just a flat thing of plastic with a bunch of little doo-hickeys on them. If you look closely, you will see hundreds upon thousands of little tiny lines that seem to be connecting everything. These are called traces. Traces are tiny conductive paths on the board that really do connect everything. What’s more, is that they are engineered to precise lengths to insure information gets to certain spots at certain times. Oh, and one more thing: traces cannot cross over each other. Since components need to be connected and traces cannot cross over each other, layers have to be added to the motherboard to accommodate more complex circuitry. Most motherboards are 4 or 6 layers thick. The fewer the traces on the motherboard, the simpler it is to create and the less expensive it is to produce.  Intel’s X58SO is 8 layers thick. Of course there have been 8 layer PCBs before, but the fact that Intel’s primary CONSUMER desktop board is 8 layers is fairly alarming. When you actually look at what X58 represents and how everything is connected, you begin to realize that this chipset is one of the most complex ever created.

On Smackover, Intel has mounted the memory slots right next to and right above the processor socket. This allows them to rout the memory traces (remember, three memory channels) directly to the processor in as straight and short a line as possible. Similarly, the IOH is mounted to the right of the CPU and connected by the QPI, which again is routed as simply as possible, in a straight line. Intel has chosen a very efficient layout for Smackover which should provide for very low overall latency. It is easy to see that a “traditional” motherboard layout would result in some over-complicated connections between the IOH and ICH, which would consequently add latency to the board.

The thing to take away from all this is that there are a set number of components on the board and they all have to be connected with a large amount of traces and it is extremely difficult to make everything fit together on an ATX form factor motherboard.

X58 + nForce 200

If NVIDIA could make their own chip to replace the IOH, they could fairly easily create their own chipset mimicking the setup of X58. However, in order to do this, they would need to have a chip with a QuickPath link on it so it could communicate with the Nehalem processor. When news hit that X58 would support SLI, many believed that NVIDIA had received a QPI license from Intel in exchange for their nForce 200 chip. Intel would put the nForce 200 chip on their board to run SLI, and NVIDIA would have a slice of the Nehalem pie. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case. There was no QPI license given by Intel. NVIDIA simply released their nForce 200 chip into the marketplace. Now, motherboard manufacturers had the option to put nForce 200 on X58 boards to enable SLI support.

But why would anybody do this? Intel had no desire to plop a new chip onto their fine-tuned X58 setup when they already had a perfectly good multi-(AMD)GPU capable configuration. If NVIDIA had a QPI license, they could manufacture their own “IOH” and run the PCI-E Graphics lanes off that and integrate or circumvent nForce 200 altogether. But they don’t. Instead, motherboard manufacturers will have to add another chip to an already extremely complex X58 chipset. nForce 200 does not replace any existing chip on X58. As mentioned before, the only thing it does is control video cards. So how hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out, pretty damn hard. Despite the way this diagram makes it look easy, motherboard manufacturers will now have an extremely complex mess of circuitry to deal with by putting the nForce 200 chip somewhere in the already overcrowded southeast corner of the motherboard. There is only so much real estate on an ATX motherboard, and adding extra things necessitates the use of even more traces. Existing paths will probably need to be completely re-routed, which – and we hate to sound like a broken record – is not going to be easy since there is pretty much no extra space available in the first place. Remember, X58 is already built on an 8 layer PCB. Oh, and one more thing: using nForce 200 to control the PCI-E lanes means you have one more link between the graphics cards and the QPI. This will increase latency/overhead and more than likely result in crippled performance over what is expected from SLI on nForce 200.

So, not only will X58 motherboards with nForce 200 be available (and they will be available) for a $30 premium (approximate raw cost of nForce 200), they will likely be even more expensive for two reasons: We will probably see at least some manufacturers going with a 10 layer design (which increases production costs), and more feature-rich boards like this (read: Skulltrail) are always more expensive.

For the sake of article length we won’t get into the rumor about X58 being able to run SLI without the nForce 200 chip, and that the only thing holding it back is NVIDIA being stubborn and not putting one tiny line of code into their driver. That topic is purely rumor at this point as far as we know, so there is no point in discussing it further.

Conclusion

Yes you will be able to run SLI on the X58 chipset. But at what cost? Not only will you end up paying more for the ability to do this, but inevitable performance deficits will also be present. On the surface, this looks like a huge score for NVIDIA. But when you think about it, NVIDIA didn’t really score anything. What they did do is put one of their previously exclusive chips on the market. In exchange, they get the possibility that motherboard manufacturers will put the chip onto Intel’s (their competitor’s) chipset, the $30 that they charge for it, and any potential revenue that will be generated by graphics cards sales as a result of Nehalem.

It seems like the real winner here is Intel. Not only do they seem to have the most logical and well-thought out X58 design, but now their main competitor, AMD, does not have full reign on mutli-GPU configurations (and the money/notoriety gained from sales of multi-GPU configurations) for their new platform, and their other competitor, NVIDIA, can only do multi-GPU on their new platform by bumping up the price considerably. We simply cannot wait to see what happens come October when Nehalem launches.

Cooler Master Cosmos S Review

Cooler Master gets galactic again with the newest version of the flagship Cosmos series. Do the new exotic exterior and redesigned interior leave performance gurus stone cold or craving a bit more?

Cooler Master Cosmos S Review

Cooler Master didn’t become a top tier hardware manufacturer by mistake. With innovative case designs ala the WaveMaster and Aquagate cooling systems, this Taiwanese company is all about the chill. Our review of the original Cooler Master Cosmos caught a lot of people by surprise and the subsequent redesign in this newer, sportier version can only mean that Cooler Master heard the thermal complaints loud and clear.

Upon opening the packaging the Cosmos S is completely enveloped in a brown bag which makes removing the case from its packaging extremely simple. The black and gray exterior gives off a mean spirited look that truly mimics an auto exotic. The high caliber paint is apparent upon closer inspection, especially in the left side panel where the 200mm side fan resides. Unfortunately, the dual front bar system that opens up access to 5.25″ drives and the HDD bay shows misapplied paint where the indentations are. This is inexcusable at this price range and visible even in low lighting conditions.

Although the predominantly aluminum structure is light-weight when empty, fully loaded the total weight is still 50 pounds compared to nearly 60 with the same components in the original Cosmos. The large top handle bars feel secure and are essential to moving the Cosmos around with any ease. The additional two top 120mm fan bays for a total of three makes installing high-end radiators for liquid cooling systems even easier than before. A former complaint now rectified is the addition of the sleek new concealable I/O panel featuring a built-in touch sensor in place of a standard power button. This prevents dust from accumulating in these ports. Attractive as it may be, we found one of the two springs that helps the concealment plate slide back and forth loose inside the case.

Another issue is that the touch sensor ceases to function when a system crashes, therefore turning the power supply off/on or pulling the power plug is necessary to reboot the system. This can be quite a pain.

Because of the redesigned interior, the bottom dust filter underneath the front of the case is much harder to access. The entire front panel is designed to be porous and let air in easily, especially to the hard drives. Each 5.25″ drive bay plate is equipped with a dust filter. This is noticeable in the area in front of the HDD bay where the 120mm fan eventually accumulates a thin layer of dust. Because of the extremely simple access to these plates however, cleaning the dust off is a cinch.

The rear end of the Cosmos has no discernible differences from its predecessor and is still equipped with a single 120mm fan, dual top water cooling tubing holes, along with your standard I/O plate and expansion slots. One nice difference is that the filter for the bottom mounted power supply bay is no longer underneath the case in a hard to reach area. It is now removable by simply pulling it out via a neat handle from inside the case. Another small gesture is including a thumbscrew for easier removal of the top fan shroud for the triple 120mm fan bay.

Accessing the interior is done via pressing down on a rear latch that theoretically pops the side panel open. This is the same design that garnered much contention in the original Cosmos. This time, the side panels are much harder to open and you actually have to physically pry them open. This is an obvious defect since the original had no such issues and I would expect Cooler Master to rectify this issue in the near future. On the plus side it does make closing the right sided panel easier since the bottom end of each panel snaps into place before closing. This makes it easier for those with über cable management in mind to close the still-too-tight right side of the case.

As mentioned earlier the need for additional space in this area can be considered pointless now that the hard drive bay is now parallel to the side panels. The entire complaint centered on the fact that the original drive bay didn’t sufficiently cool hard drives but did look really nice. Now the opposite effect plagues the Cosmos S where the HDD bay now looks like your standard run-of-the-mill setup where cables are exposed in full view but the cooling for the hard drives is much better since there is a fan directly pushing air over them. Thus the need to route cables in this area is rendered moot. Sigh, c’est la vie.

Also something to note is that the Cosmos S can only house four hard drives versus six in the old Cosmos. It’s the tradeoff made if you want cooler hard drives, I guess. The design of the HDD bay is unique in that drives aren’t screwed directly into the case. Instead, the drives are directly screwed into a small cage which in turn is surrounded on either side by a vibration dampening plate. With the cage and both dampening plates held in place, you simply slide it all in and click the patented securing mechanism button. It’s a bit unwieldy at first, but the design is easy to figure out. If you plan on transporting the system, the option to permanently screw in the drive bay is available for your peace of mind.

Pros
Overall Craftsmanship Good
Easy to Access Front Bay
Lots of Dust Filters
Excellent Cooling Capability
Water Cooling Friendly
Concealed I/O Ports
Aluminum Construction
Helpful Instructions
Power Extender Handy
Thumbscrews Everywhere
Redesigned Cable Management
Long Video Card Friendly
Cons
Not Painted Thoroughly Enough
Side Panels Hard to Open
Concealment Plate Springs Loose
Touch-Sensor Doesn’t Always Work
Still Heavy Even with Aluminum
Only 4 HDD Capable
HDD Bay Installation Finicky
Cooling Performance is Okay
Steep Price
Fewer Fans than Original
7/10

Overall the Cooler Master Cosmos S is a great case marred by several unfortunate imperfections that bring the score down. The steep price can only be justified if the chassis is devoid of glaring flaws, and in this case there’s too many things to ignore and warrant a higher score. In the coming months Cooler Master may or may not release an updated Cosmos that fixes some of these problems – we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out the additional pics in the gallery.

Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme is on the way

Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme is on the way

Arctic Freezer is finally gearing up to release their Freezer Xtreme which we saw wayyyy back at C.E.S. The new cooler is set to replace the Arctic Freezer Pro 7 as their high end model. Features include:

• Unmatched cooling performance – 160 Watts
• Unique twin tower 102-fin heat sink design
• Effective heat dissipation via 4 double-sided heat pipes
• 1 ultra quiet 120mm PWM fan
• Patented fan holder eliminates the buzzing sounds
• Voltage regulators and north bridge cooling
• Pre-applied MX-2
• 6 Years Warranty

The numbers they give vs. that of the Intel QX9770 show it holding a a 28C cooler difference at almost half the RPMs; 1500 vs 2850. It also runs much quieter.

Hopefully, we get a chance to check this out for you as the AF7 is one of our regularly recommended coolers as its price to performance is top notch. If the Xtreme performs as well we may have a new favorite at only $39.95 to boot

Razer Piranha Review

Aural acuity is paramount when it comes to situational awareness in any game these days. Unfortunately sound isn’t the problem with this latest headset from Razer.

Introduction

Razer has been catering to gamers with a variety of peripherals for a long time. Such dedication to an obsessively meticulous crowd demands countless hours researching and developing new products. This latest headset however is neither an original creation of Razer, nor has it been properly tested to make sure the product is even comfortable. Perhaps there are some out there that have absolutely no problems with the design of the Razer Piranha. I’d like to argue that they’re a bit masochistic in their endeavor to get quality audio.

CategoryHeadsets
ManufacturerRazer
ProductPiranha
Price$79.99
InterfaceUSB + 3.5mm

Packaging & Contents

Razer never fails to impress with trendy packaging that exudes the stylistic product it encloses. Since this is just a headset, the packaging is straightforward. There’s nothing else in the box worth mentioning really. While we emphasize peripheral reviews are subjective, we try to eliminate factors such as fat, oblong heads by testing the product on other gamers. In the case of the Razer Piranha, a secondary tester with a small skull size and shape (in contrast to yours truly) also verified the headset was painfully uncomfortable. More on that later.

Packaging

The headset is rather lightweight. Composed primarily of plastic, it’s very durable and doesn’t feel fragile. Although the pictures taken show signs of dust, it’s unnoticeable for the most part in real world conditions. The soft cloth material lining the ear cups is smooth and doesn’t feel sticky when your ears get sweaty after prolonged gaming sessions. The headband offers a seemingly useless gap in the middle, perhaps to minimize weight, or to distract from the fact that it’s based off of a Sennheiser design. The actual point where the cables enter the headphone feels strong, so those of us that rip our headsets off in agony or joy need not worry. The USB and 3.5mm cord length is extremely long at 9′8″.

The microphone is non-removable which is great since you won’t lose it, but if you prefer your microphone on the right side you’re out of luck. In terms of flexibility, what you see above is the maximum the microphone can bend. This may seem rather conservative but it never proved to be an issue with teammates and co-workers commenting on the excellent clarity of the microphone compared to that of a Zalman clip-on alternative. The deep, rigid notches make adjusting the headband easy and precise. The Razer logo only has one brightness setting, and is powered by the lone USB connector. If you have other Razer peripherals like the DeathAdder it’ll match up nicely. In time the LED might fail, but usually Razer Support can take care of these things, usually. Overall the construction is high quality. With time the headband padding might lose grip, but other then that it’s tough enough to take to your next event.

About 2′5″ into the cord is the in-line remote sporting another blue Razer logo. The volume dial works fine, as does the clip on mechanism. What I found extremely irritating was that the mute switch found on the side of the remote was overly sensitive. Several times I would be trying to coordinate ubers as a medic in Team Fortress 2 only to get killed because my teammates couldn’t hear me. Oh, the mute was accidentally triggered. Again. Sigh. The reason this occurs is because there is little tension between the two settings, so simply brushing it across your lap could easily trigger mute. A visual ID signifying whether or not the switch is in the mute position or not would be helpful, but it’s still terrible.

Testing

Testing of the Razer Piranha involves using the headset in a variety of popular first-person shooters. No other genre benefits from accurate sound as much as shooters. Games like Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 are played at multiple volumes with a variety of audio settings and modes native to the sound output device – in this case an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude. As a gamer I want a headset that is simply accurate. The Razer Piranha provided this throughout all testing. The difference between a good headset and a terrible one, say for playing Counter-Strike: Source, is that I’m able to distinguish where my opponents are coming from 3D space and how far away they are. What’s great is that this headset did not sacrifice bass to do so.

Many manufacturers understandably emphasize mids and highs and leave out any potential bass that could mask footsteps and other important sound triggers. This causes the headset to suffer in non-gaming applications such as music and movies. Although we primarily test games, it’s important that headsets deliver an immersive experience. Dropping bass altogether as some headsets do leave you with a sense of longing, not only when playing games non-competitively, but in your favorite tunes as well. Coupled with an excellent audio source, the Razer Piranha is no slouch when it comes to audio. Unfortunately it’s unbearable to wear.

Comfort Level

Using the Razer Piranha on a daily basis is very uncomfortable. I wish to emphasize this point so as to make clear that throughout our months of testing I couldn’t manage to make this headset comfortable. Attempting to leave the headset atop a six pack of beer for a week to stretch out the frame for a looser fit did nothing. Testing with another individual as mentioned earlier proved fruitless. When wearing the headset, the natural curve places too much force on your ears. Certainly, anyone who prefers circumaural solutions knows this, but the Razer Piranha felt like it was literally pinching my ears. No one should ever have to attempt to play through pain. On several occasions I cut my nightly gaming routine short because my ears were too red and tender from the pain to play any longer.

If you do prefer using on-ear solutions, you may enjoy the Razer Piranha. If you love the Sennheiser series you’ll be glad to know this headset is practically identical in all aspects. The splash of Razer chic is the only real difference. Unfortunately, I don’t really care how good the sound is on any headset if it makes me want to take it off as soon as I put it on. If this is the case then it’s practically worthless. Razer’s website states that the Piranha’s are “comfortable, ergonomic and adjustable headphones suitable for prolonged use.” Well no. No they aren’t suitable for prolonged use. Not even fifteen minutes worth without starting to feel pinching pain.

Conclusion & Value

Pros

  • Excellent Overall Sound Quality
  • Durable and Lightweight
  • Superior Microphone
  • Easy to Access Volume Dial
  • Extra Long Cord

Cons

  • Extremely Uncomfortable
  • Mute Switch Too Sensitive
  • No LED Off Switch
  • Price
6/10

Unfortunately the Razer Piranha is the victim of poor ergonomic design. The sound really is excellent in both gaming and desktop applications. Despite the niceties and classy nature of the headset, it all means jack if I can’t wear it for more than fifteen minutes at a time without my bloody ears turning red. If you like your cans on your ears, then you should give these a shot because the audio is really good. If you’re used to wearing headsets that go around your ears, avoid these like the plague.

Tritton AXPC, AX360 Review

Today we’re going to go over Tritton Technologies’ two “5.1” headsets, the AXPC and the AX360. Do they really stand up to other “5.1” headphones or are they just another dead corpse along the consumer electronics highway.

Tritton AXPC, AX360 Review

This past summer it seemed that everyone and their mom had their own take on “5.1” headphones. We saw Audio Technica, Turtle Beach and numerous others release this “revolutionary new technology”, which in some cases seemed like nothing more than smoke and mirrors combined with stone-age electronics. Among the competitors, there were a fair share of duds and an equal amount of sets that really shined among the rest.

This summer at QuakeCon, I was browsing the booths of vendors that were showing off their wares and came along the Tritton Technologies booth with a bright orange table filled with flyers and bright orange and blue pairs of headphones with a banner reading “5.1 Surround Sound Headphones” plastered across the front. Interested, I stood there for a bit and talked with the rep a bit about both pairs he had and really got interested in the units the more he talked. Thought I didn’t get to try them out on the floor, I was still pretty satisfied with the features that I saw. We exchanged information and I continued to cover the Quake tournament that I was originally attending the event for.

A few months later, I was sent both their AXPC (marketed toward PC gamers, orange) and their AX360 (for console gamers, blue). Since they are mechanically the same inside the units, I thought I’d review them both at the same time, as the only thing that really separates the two is the output options.

CategoryHeadsets
ManufacturerTritton Technologies
ProductAXPC (TRIUA512), AX360 (TRIGA600)
Price$126.95

Packaging

By the time they arrived, I was already pretty psyched that these would be my first pair of “5.1” headphones. I always love trying out new technologies and seeing if they really stand up to all the hype. I opened the shipping box and found two, clear-plastic clamshells with the sets inside. I pulled the shells out and flung the box aside; leaving a trail of packing peanuts behind like it was Christmas morning. I held them for a bit and then began looking for a way to open the first one. I struggled a bit and slowly came to the realization that scissors would be required. I got a pair out of my desk and continued to try to open the plastic with them. The fact that they are made of a relatively strong plastic combined with some odd curves made this no easy task, and in fact it took a couple minutes to just get ONE OF THEM opened. After straining for another several minutes, I finally was able to pull both sets out of their plastic fortresses and onto my desk. Overall, it was one of the most unpleasant times I’ve ever had opening a package and didn’t put me in the giddy mood I usually am in when I get something new.

Features
AX360
• True 5.1 Digital Audio Headset
• Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic Certified
• Digital audio connection for DVD, PC, PS2, PS3, XBOX, XBOX360, and all other devices with digital audio output
• 8 speakers, 4 in each ear cup
• Rumble Technology
• In-line volume adjustment for Front, Center, Rear and Subwoofer controls
• Includes external 5.1 audio controller or can connect with any 5.1 amplifier
• Detachable microphone for PC gamers, XBOX live compatible
• Light weight and ergonomically designed for comfort and quality to allow for extended periods of use
AXPC
• USB Interface
• True 5.1 Surround Sound
• Rumble Technology
• 8 Individual Speakers
• Removable Microphone
• Inline Audio Controller

Comfort

Since both sets are constructed entirely identical (except the outer shells), I can say wholeheartedly that both feel exactly the same: not very good. Now, I’ve tried just about every style and design of headset or headphone out there, but for some reason these seem to be the most uncomfortable. In this case, it’s not just one element that makes them uncomfortable either; it’s various aspects of the design. From the width of the over-head band, to the material of both the cushions around the ears and over-head band, to the depth of the cans; everything just feels “off”.

First off, the sets both feel as if they were designed for someone with a massive skull in mind. Now I consider myself to have an average size head, not too big or too small, but I just can’t imagine who would find this comfortable. Even on the smallest setting, it feels like the headphones are hanging onto my head by a hope and a prayer. Second, the depth of the ear cups is rather shallow and I could feel my ear up against the cloth inside. Even with the extremely minimal clamp the headphones have, having my ear pressed up against the cloth and the speakers inside were quite unpleasant, and something I don’t look for in quality headphones. Next, the “leathery” material covering the pads around the cans and the band going across the top seems low quality and is rather uncomfortable. The inner filling is packed in tight enough that there is very little give and no way for them to give that cushy, soft feeling you get with other sets. Just wearing the sets is not the best experience and it’s hard to find any positive things about the feel of these things.

If this were the Figure Skating Olympics Of Audio Technology and I needed to give these sets a score for comfort, I’d give them a 1, the German judge would give them an 8 (Germans love their pain and bondage) and the Russian judge would give them a -6.

Performance

Hoping that it would get better after the initial distaste for the feel of the set, I hooked up the AXPCs to my Audigy 2 ZS, set all the sound card settings to stock levels, and enabled 5.1. For the AXPC, I wanted to cover just about every element a gamer could want these headphones for. For the AX360s, I used some of the different inputs that a console gamer would use, such as RCA and Optical.

Music

For music I used the AXPCs to listen to some different CDs that I have recently got; Tiesto’s “In Search of Sunrise 6”, Musiq Soulchild’s “Aijuswanaseing” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced”.

I decided to start off the music section with a little Musiq Soulchild, who is known for his inventive rhythms and great beats. The album is mixed with some great songs like “Just Friends (Sunny)”, “Love” and “Speechless”. Unfortunately, just about all the lows and most of the highs aren’t there when listening through this headset. The deep bass that comes in the beats of just about all the songs on the albums is distorted and garbled, leaving the music flat and lifeless. I even tried to tune the Bass and Treble settings on the card to improve the sound quality, but to no avail, the “quality bottleneck” seems to simply be the set. I persisted through the entire album, only to be left dissatisfied and let down. This wasn’t looking good.

In the classic “Are You Experienced”, Jimi Hendrix changed the world of music as he showed why he is one of the great innovators of rock and roll. This album defined a generation and set the standard with songs like “Hey Joe”, “Manic Depression” and “Purple Haze”. Though not as much as with Musiq Soulchild, I was still left wanting more out of what I was hearing. The mids and highs weren’t as distorted as much as the lows, but it’s Jimi Hendrix for Christ’s sake; listening to him in anything less than perfection should be a crime. The only way I can put this in perspective is to say that it felt like I just killed off an endangered species. I wept for hours.

As I reached the last of my new-ish favorite albums, I cringed when I wondered how the AXPCs would make very technical and dynamic albums sound.

PC Gaming

But hey, gamers are called so for a reason, so let’s dig into some games. I’m going to take a look at 3 of my all-time favorite games: Quake 3, Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat.

Starting with Quake 3, I wanted to concentrate more on positional sound than sound quality. In my opinion, being able to accurately hear where things are happening is almost as important as seeing where they are happening; so for me a good set of headphones is right on the list with a quality video card and monitor. After playing a few matches with these, I must say I’m pretty surprise how accurate these things are. Positioning-wise, these are some of the most precise I have used yet, and definitely score some points in this department.

Half-Life 2 is one of my favorite games because there is so much going on around the player that it’s sometimes overwhelming- let’s see if these can keep up. At the beginning of the game, the main character starts out in a train station full of passengers and other random people standing around talking, while guards loom over, sometimes shouting commands to pick up trash or to stay away from the area. As I made sure EAX was enabled, I was amazed how the AXPCs presented the audio environment with such clarity and distinction. Even with my eyes closed and holding forward, I could pick out the voices as I walked through this mental soundscape. Again though, the quality is far from great and brings down my mood after discovering the wonderful audio positioning these headphones bring.

I have found that Call of Duty 4 is one of the most technically demanding games in respect to audio. In some of the Iraq missions, the sounds of tanks rolling along the street, screams of enemy insurgents and commands of teammates are almost dizzying. I decided to also take advantage of the massive amount of action going on to test the Rumble feature on the set. As for quality and clarity, the set is still pretty flawed. At above-average volume levels, the set starts to lose credibility, as well as any kind of handle it used to have on the sound coming through them. At this point the sound has transformed into a garbled mess of unorganized noise- almost impossible to pick out certain voices and sound sources.

Xbox Gaming

For the Xbox, I used the AX360s and their unique input options that make them quite special (and most likely attribute to their steep price tag). With a number of different inputs at my disposal, I decided to go with the optical input since I have a custom cable with that option. So after hooking up the mini amp and the headphones, I was ready to play some Halo 2 with headphones for the first time.

Again, the AX360s are plagued with the same design flaws as the AXPCs and they feel like they are barely being held on my head. One nice feature I did find with the set was the ability to individually adjust the volumes in the different speakers, though it may throw you off when considering the virtual soundscape. Overall though, I thought that playing a console shooter like Halo with headphones was great and a great change from playing it with regular TV speakers. If you are a hardcore console gamer and don’t mind mildly-butchered sound quality, these may be the ticket.

Conclusion

After going over this review, I started to feel like I might have over-exaggerated just a bit, so I slid on both headsets again and repeated each of my tests. Nope, I feel I was pretty spot-on with my descriptions and accounts of using these. For the price they are asking, I really expected higher quality units, and was sadly let down when both were nowhere near what I was expecting. My overall experience with these sets has been extremely disappointing and one that I would like to quickly forget.

Pros

  • Removable microphones on both the sets
  • The directional sound is very accurate
  • Tons of input options on AX360 set

Cons

  • Sound quality on both sets is atrocious
  • I never got either set to sit comfortably on me head
  • Ear cups are too shallow (personal)
  • Little to no clear bass, no matter how I tuned the sound card
4.5/10

Welcome To FPSLabs V3 With Added Awesome!

PLEASE READ FOR IMPORTANT LOGIN INFORMATION

Hello everyone!–

First and foremost, welcome to the new site. I, with a bit of help from the rest of the gang, have completely revamped absolutely everything and implemented a couple of new features that we think will benefit the community.

“The biggest change is obviously layout, but we will talk about every new little thing in an upcoming post by Stu Grubbs, who stayed up for two days straight to make sure everything was working smoothly.” -Thomas “Shoes” Gribble

I did stay up for two days straight, meaning there were two sleepless nights in a row for a whopping near 72 hours straight of being awake. I wanted to make sure that while we captured all the benefits of the new system, that we didn’t lose anything or inconvenience our community. Over the last few days I was able to transfer every user, forum post, and piece of content from one system to our entirely new and different system with out losing a single person, reply, or word from those items. All the links have been formatted just as they were on the old site so no link will be broken. Check out the forums and pick up where you left off in conversation.

Couple things to note: All users will need to do a “lost password” check in order to get a new password for their account. This is due to the fact that I could not transfer the passwords because they are encrypted differently in each system. The other is that we won’t have the comment from the old system. Unfortunately, there was no feasible quick method to transfer them from the old site, so our articles won’t have any comments until you start commenting on them again!

So… what’s new?

Front Page/Main Site

I brought the idea to the guys about a week ago of moving the site to a new system with a different kind of layout and we all quickly agreed that this would be the best move. The system we have moved to for both the main site and the forums is INCREDIBLY faster than Joomla and Fireboard (the old site). The old site used a total of 100+ database tables, whereas the new site uses less than 30. You’ll notice the speed increases both here at the site and even more over on the forums.I know this was one of our primary complaints, so enjoy the speed boost.

We have also opted for a more clean layout that is not only easier to navigate, but offers more features and more fun. I urge you to check out the site from literally top to bottom on every page to see all the cool features available to you at the speed of light.

New features include an awesome gallery system that we are still migrating into, a tag system to help you find more of what you love, and more! Everything about this new site is better, and we think you’ll agree.

Forums

I can’t say enough about the new forums system. It’s lightweight, fast, and very community friendly. 20 of the most recent threads/discussions appear first, then the listing of all our forums. You will find you have the ability to tag your forums posts, you can paste a link to a video at your favorite video site and its autoconverted into an embed, you can upload your avatar, and all the other good stuff you were able to at our old forums. SO MUCH FASTER. It was quite the experience that has caused the sames words to be uttered by everyone who tries out the new forums: “Holy shit!”

Feedback

As always, I, and the rest of the team want your feedback on the new site. As I do all the development here at FPSLabs, I urge you to drop me a PM on the forums or email me directly with any bugs, glitches, complaints, or suggestions you may have.

Thank you so much for your continued support and we look forward to continuing to bring you the best in gaming technology news and reviews. You guys are awesome and the reason we continue to strive in bringing you the best experience possible when on our site. As for now, I am going to get some sleep as the gallons of coffee are starting to wear off.

Sincerely,

Stu, Thomas, and the rest of Team Amazing (FPSLabs Staff)

NVIDIA 9 series details

Unofficial NVIDIA 9 series roadmap includes upcoming parts from the GeForce 9800GX2 down to the 9500GS.

Nordic Hardware published a fairly complete roadmap for NVIDIA’s upcoming GeForce 9 series. The roadmap details cards from the ultra high-end GeForce 9800GX2, all the way down to the mainstream GeForce 9500GS. Some information is missing from the graphs, but most of the specifications given fall in line with what we have seen and heard from other sources, including NVIDIA representatives.

The site claims that the GeForce 9800GX2, NVIDIA’s first dual-GPU graphics card since the 7950GX2, will launch on March 11th. This date comes just after the 2008 CeBIT that runs March 4-9 in Hannover, Germany, which leads us to believe the card will have a large presence at the event.

The unofficial roadmap reveals that the GeForce 9800GX2 will carry a core clock speed of 600MHz and a memory clock of 100MHz (2000MHz DDR), both of which numbers we can confirm. The site also details information for some interesting products like the GeForce 9800GTX which at this point seems like it will be quite a powerful card. The GTX will double the amount of stream processors from the recently-launched 9600GT, bringing the amount up to 128. This is the same number of stream processors found in fully-enabled G80 and G92 cores. At this point the 9800GTX looks very similar to the recent GeForce 8800GTS 512MB, which has the same number of stream processors and similar clock speeds. The memory bus width is also the same, at 256-bit, which brings up the question of what is really different between the two cards. With the 9600GT, NVIDIA implemented a new form of data compression that speeds up communications between the graphics memory and the GPU. As a result, the 9600GT performs almost near the same level as the 8800GT, which has 112 stream processors and similar clock speeds. If the same sort of scaling applies when the GeForce 9800GTX bumps the SP count to 128, then we should see some stellar performance from the card.

The 9800GTX will be the third card in NVIDIA’s 9 series, with a launch date sometime in late March. After that will be the 9800GT on April 3rd, followed by lower-end 9600GS, 9500GT, and 9500GS in May, June, and July, respectively. The information relayed in these unofficial roadmaps should obviously not be considered as the absolute truth, but as stated before, everything seems pretty accurate based on discussions we have had with various sources.

The only thing the roadmap is not very clear on at all is pricing. This is admittedly the toughest thing to predict for any launch, as actual retail price may vary significantly from the initial MSRP. We have been hearing that the 9800GX2 will go for $469 at launch, while the roadmap suggests somewhere under $500. Given the recent trouble NVIDIA has been having with getting parts on the shelves, we wouldn’t be surprised if the price of the 9800GX2 climbs up to the $500+ range after the first week.