AMD processors combining x86 CPUs and Radeon GPU technology have defined the current era of console gaming, but what if these small form factor boxes were wide-open devices, capable of running Windows 10 and PC games? And what if the under-powered Jaguar CPU cores were replaced with Ryzen instead for improved processing power? Last month, Chinese manufacturer Zhongshan Subor unveiled its Z Plus machine, which ticks all of those boxes - and I've spent the last week experimenting with an early production unit.
The DF take on the new Xbox announcement.
Games machine, ultrabook... heavy duty 4K editing workstation?
Cutting-edge PC tech takes on one of PC's most notorious ports.
But does image quality hold up?
Digital Foundry will be hosting a panel on the future of gaming technology at EGX at the Birmingham NEC next week, offering an in-depth look at Nvidia's new GeForce RTX technology and discussing how the new hardware could shape the future of gaming graphics.
Nintendo's Gamescom line-up confirms once again that Switch is a superb handheld games machine with a growing range of impressive titles. During the show, Digital Foundry got the chance to go hands-on with both the Diablo 3 Eternal Collection and Dark Souls Remastered running in handheld mode - and there's off-screen footage on this page showing how well these games are shaping up.
Nvidia has released first benchmarks for the GeForce RTX 2080, based on its new Turing architecture. The company's numbers suggest that the new card delivers circa 2x the performance of the last-gen GTX 1080 on certain games. Much of this remarkable gen-on-gen leap is derived via new Nvidia technology called DLSS - deep learning super-sampling. The same benchmarks running without the technique in play, along with titles not supporting DLSS, show performance increases more along the lines of 30 to 50 per cent, with select titles posting even higher increases.
Snuck out a few weeks back, the GeForce GTX 1050 3GB has been met with some degree of bafflement and bewilderment from the PC hardware press, but choose the right model - like the Gigabyte example reviewed here - and you have the best entry-level budget GPU on the market. As things stand, our only major criticism of the vanilla GTX 1050 is its meagre 2GB of framebuffer memory - not enough for console-quality textures on many games. This revised model beefs up processing power and adds that crucial extra gig of RAM, but it comes with a sting in the tail - memory bandwidth drops significantly, meaning a performance penalty in some games.
As a piece of hardware designed for the core gamer and die-hard fan, it's been a little surprising how little Sony has leveraged PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of ultra-desirable, collector-centric special release consoles - a situation it aims to put right with the imminent release of the 500 Million Limited Edition, a £450 offering that combines a super-deluxe translucent machine with a range of upgrades and bespoke peripherals, including a 2TB hard drive, matching Dual Shock 4 and PlayStation Camera, plus vertical stand. Having received a unit on loan for a short time last week, it's a seriously desirable piece of hardware.
The arrival of Fortnite on Android completes the set - Epic's remarkable cross-play juggernaut is now available on pretty much every games-capable device running a modern GPU. We've looked at the console and iOS versions in the past, but with the Android release, we wanted to take a closer look at how Fortnite looks and runs across a gamut of mobile devices from top-end smartphones down to Nintendo's Switch running in mobile mode. The inclusion of the Nintendo hybrid is fascinating, revealing how low-level graphics APIs and a dedicated gaming focus allow for older mobile hardware to directly compete with - and sometimes even surpass - the outputs of today's top-end phones.
Nvidia has finally unveiled its new GPU architecture - codenamed Turing - with three products designed primarily for the professional market, while teasing the upcoming reveal of next-gen gaming graphics cards - where they may be a couple of surprises in store.
AMD has collaborated with hardware manufacturer Zhongshan Subor to create custom console hardware for the Chinese market - and first impressions suggest a hardware specification similar to PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of GPU compute power, but combined with next-gen Ryzen processor architecture. New hardware set for a Chinese launch in the next month actually takes the form of a Windows PC, with a dedicated console using a custom OS due later this year.
Confirming a leak that surfaced earlier this week, Epic Games says that its upcoming Android release for Fortnite will not use Google Play as a distribution platform. Instead, phone users download an installer from Epic's website and install the game directly, bypassing Google's store completely. "Epic's goal is to bring its games directly to customers. We believe gamers will benefit from competition among software sources on Android," says Tim Sweeney. "Competition among services gives consumers lots of great choices and enables the best to succeed based on merit."
Despite no official confirmation, it's more than likely that we'll see new eight-core CPUs from Intel in the next month or so, delivering the ability to comprehensively outperform the already stunning Core i7 8700K - our pick as the fastest gaming CPU money can buy right now. The additional benefits for gaming in the short-term may be limited but once the new wave of Ryzen-powered consoles arrive, the need for faster, wider processors in the PC space should become abundantly clear.
Microsoft's Xbox One backwards compatibility is almost taken from granted these days, but let's not forget the scale of the achievement here - even the standard Xbox One S model has the ability to outperform original hardware both in terms of CPU and GPU performance, with most titles sticking far closely to their frame-rate targets than they did on original hardware. But just how much faster could original Xbox 360 titles run if developer-imposed 30fps caps were removed? And is there a case for the games of today to include optional modes that unlock performance, only becoming fully exploited when running on the hardware of tomorrow?
In the wake of E3, Sony sent over high quality 4K versions of their trailers, allowing us to get a closer, more granular look at how PlayStation 4 Pro is set deliver the next wave of first-party exclusives for owners of ultra HD displays. Technologies like checkerboarding and temporal injection persist and in all cases, the results are impressive. And that's a good thing, as these techniques - or evolved versions of them - are likely to be a component of games designed for the next generation of consoles. By extension, what that also means is that marketing a new PlayStation or Xbox as a 'true 4K' console, or pushing developers to maximise pixel-counts first and foremost, may not be the best idea.
We've already taken a look at the excellent Radeon RX Vega 56, the cut-down version of the full-fat graphics card reviewed here today - and it's a winner. A couple of outliers aside, it's as fast as Nvidia's GTX 1070 or significantly faster and it easily overclocks to push further ahead. It's AMD at its best - competitive, disruptive and adding value - but the same can't quite be said for the RX Vega 64. It's a good product overall and it's competitive enough with Nvidia, but it offers no knockout blow - in the here and now, at least.
Nvidia's Pascal architecture continues its top-down steamrolling of the graphics product stack, with the arrival of the first of two more budget-orientated parts - GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050. It's the first card we're looking at today, highlighting the debut of the fully enabled version of Nvidia's GP107 processor, offering performance significantly ahead of PlayStation 4 and paired with a useful 4GB of GDDR5. GTX 1050 Ti can get you to 1080p60 in most titles with careful tweaking, but really this class of GPU is all about matching ballpark console performance with improved visuals and more consistent frame-rates.
Years in development, the new Radeon RX Vega line is finally arriving - AMD's return to the higher-end of GPU performance after concentrating its efforts more on the mainstream and budget sectors of the market. There's no shortage of cutting-edge tech here: the Vega processor utilises 12.5 billion transistors on a very large 486mm2 area of silicon, the chip paired with two 4GB stacks of cutting-edge HBM2 memory. It's a bigger chip than Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti and it has more memory bandwidth - however, the top-end RX Vega 64 offers performance more in line with GTX 1080, while the cut-down RX Vega 56 reviewed here is clearly aimed to compete with the GTX 1070. It does this job rather well.
Just six weeks ago, the notion that Nvidia's GTX 970 replacement could offer Titan X-level performance seemed like a product of wishful thinking. But the GTX 1080's comprehensive takedown of Nvidia's previous GPU flagship was so overwhelming that what many thought was fanciful thinking is now a cold, hard reality. The bottom line is that GTX 1070 isn't just on par with Titan X. It's actually a touch faster, and a whole lot cheaper.
On a platform with near infinite levels of configurability, just how do you demonstrate whether a new GPU really has the power to deliver a quality, native 4K experience at 60 frames per second? In our testing with the new GTX 1080 Ti, we established a very simple test criteria: if the new card's performance at ultra HD matches up to the 1080p prowess of GTX 970 at the same settings, we have a winner. We're perhaps one generational step away from a complete match, but Nvidia's new GPU king gets astonishingly close. In some cases, it's actually even faster - a remarkable turnout bearing in mind the 4x increase in pixel-count.
AMD call it Polaris refined, but to all intents and purposes, RX 570 and RX 580 are indeed upclocked versions of their predecessors. There's the same complement of 32 and 36 compute units respectively, power efficiency is diminished in the quest for higher frequencies and by extension, the emphasis this time is on increased performance. And to be frank, that's fine with us - just don't go into a 570/580 purchase thinking you're getting the new AMD Vega technology, because you're not.
Just a couple of weeks after the launch of AMD's mainstream-friendly Radeon RX 480, Nvidia enters the fray with its own pitch to the more value-orientated gamer. The new GeForce GTX 1060 is pricier than both of the Radeon RX 480 SKUs - and it loses two gigs of VRAM compared to AMD's 8GB offering. However, Nvidia hopes that the extra power on offer makes the difference, promising GTX 980-level performance. Two years ago, that would have set you back £430/$550. Today, thanks to GTX 1060, it's £240/$250. That's a highly attractive proposition but the question is, does the product fully deliver?
The headlines are clear enough. Requiring a mere 180W, and using just a single eight-pin PCI Express power input, the GeForce GTX 1080 offers a 25 to 30 per cent increase in overall performance compared to Titan X, combined with a 28 per cent reduction in TDP. It is the fastest graphics card on the market by a significant margin, and our testing essentially confirms Nvidia's chucklesome claims of "irresponsible levels of performance".
The 3GB version of Nvidia's GTX 1060 is a curious product. Is it actually a GTX 1060 at all? The cutbacks made to this product aren't just memory-based in nature. In addition to chopping down the full-fat product's memory allocation, we also see a drop in available processing cores. The full complement of 1280 shaders drops to 1152 - and most of the time, this tends to be accompanied by a change in name. GTX 1050 Ti any one? Scratch that, it's taken, GTX 1060 LE perhaps?
The spiritual successor to Burnout we've been waiting for is coming - but perhaps not quite in the way you might have imagined. Danger Zone 2, a current-gen revamp of Burnout's crash mode, arrives on July 13th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, courtesy of Three Fields Entertainment. Meanwhile, further on down the road, Dangerous Driving is the circuit-based Burnout successor that follows it, arriving as soon as this winter - and developed by the same close-knit team of just seven people.
It's been revealed that the piracy-enabling firmware recently launched for Nintendo Switch contains 'brick code' that can render the device inoperable, designed to stop it from being copied - a somewhat ironic state of affairs. Security researcher Mike Heskin took to Twitter to reveal the findings of his analysis of Team Xecutor's 'SX OS' custom firmware. It's a software patch for the Switch's operating system, released in tandem with a hardware dongle that opens the door to running unsigned code - ie homebrew - but also enables copied games to run.
A welcome announcement at Microsoft's E3 2018 media briefing, Nier Automata is receiving a long-overdue port onto Xbox One. Better yet, the game is due for release next week and our E3 hands-on suggests that Xbox One X is set to deliver the best version of the game yet. Indeed, Microsoft's list of X-enhanced titles suggests that we'll be receiving a 4K ultra HD experience (with HDR, no less) - a substantial boost over the PS4 Pro's 1080p showing. So is the upgrade as substantial as Microsoft suggests?