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Interesting poll results on PC gaming and sales

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When time came to think about a new topic for TechSpot’s biweekly poll, I thought that doing something about the state of PC gaming and how sales are being generated was very timely considering the many recent headlines about just that…

The results have been very surprising to an extent:

tspollfeb08.gif

The poll is not over yet and we are not closing it until later on, but there are a few things that I wanted to point out based on the results already in from 3,000+ voters:

+ First big shock, 30% are not PC gamers. Wow. So, TechSpot is about more than just PC gaming, I get that ;). But still quite a large number of people that are simply stating, “no, we are not here for the games.” And to be completely clear about it, this doesn’t imply that these people are gaming on consoles either.
Even when I consider myself a PC gaming evangelist, I have to admit I’m very happy to see this trend going on here, as it describes in part a prominent future outlook for TechSpot with or without gaming built into the equation… it’s also about the technology, the hardware, and the innovation on the field.

+ The largest group of people (36%) still prefer to buy games at the store, hmm?

+ A minority of 7% buy games through digital distribution. I expected something in this range considering the many, many games not using this medium yet, however for a PC enthusiast site it could still be considered a low share. Personally, I don’t belong in this group either, although I bought the Orange Box through Steam, I still prefer to keep around my shiny box of Crysis and physical DVD just because…
This also gives some weight – even if minor – to the select few who pointed out a few weeks ago how PC game sales are not being measured correctly because those don’t include digital distribution. Agreed on that, also for non-hardcore casual games that are very much ignored despite of growing sales. The pain is still felt however when major development studios focus more on consoles than the PC.

+ 10% do online and boxed. Here’s where I stand, although for the Crysis case above I ran to the local BestBuy on the launch date.

+ 15% pirate games, most likely using BitTorrent. Thank you for your honesty! And no, we don’t collect your IP addresses or anything like that =)

Written by Julio Franco

February 21st, 2008 at 6:29 am

Motivations for an upgrade & Far Cry 2 eye candy video

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While I barely touched on the subject of high system requirements yesterday on my post about Vista and gaming, it got me thinking about my plans of upgrading my desktop system, where gaming Crysis is basically my only justification for upgrading an otherwise very responsive system. And I know what you are thinking, as TechSpot’s Executive Editor I must be running on the latest hardware out there but that is hardly the case, after all we are better off keeping all test hardware under the same roof (in this case, Steve’s roof!) so whenever we need to crunch some numbers and deliver the goods to you, it’s all handled as quickly as possible…

So, my last batch of major upgrades was over a year ago, when the Athlon X2 was still hip and so I’m running a 4400+ CPU with 2GB of memory on a speedy, but unfortunately very noisy 150GB Raptor HDD. Also just recently got to switch from an oldie GeForce 7800gt to a Radeon HD 3850, in fact I got two cards, but my SLI motherboard won’t let me run them in Crossfire. So, what’s the next step? Intel’s Core 2 Quad is my favorite route at the moment but I haven’t quite yet decided that, after all if my only motivation is gaming then a videocard upgrade should take precedence, but as you know both ATI and Nvidia will be playing the Multi-GPU card early this year which is not necessarily the GeForce 8800 Ultra we all wanted.

In the meantime I’m letting my plan unfold where I play Crysis as little and as slow as possible so when my upgrade finally comes, I still get to play it a bit with some more eye candy turned on :). Not to despair though, Far Cry 2 is up and coming, not to mention the wide number of good PC game releases we got last year, oh, and did you know Crysis is set to be a trilogy? Hopefully the sales will justify it.

Finally, here’s some Far Cry 2 video that recently hit the web:


Written by Julio Franco

January 25th, 2008 at 4:04 am

Vista and gaming, a bad combination?

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Last week we posted a new poll on the main site asking readers if they thought Vista is hurting PC gaming, and while I don’t necessarily agree that the question is a completely fair and valid one to ask just like that, looking at the partial results I have to say my experiment has gone just as I expected.

Despite of a mixed initial response from consumers and a growing acceptance for the OS today – after multiple patch releases and more mature drivers getting out of the door – Vista is still getting a lot of bad publicity in Internet circles, especially the blogosphere. It’s not surprising then that over 50% have responded “Yes” to the poll (that Vista is indeed hurting PC gaming). The rest of responses so far are divided between “No” and some maybes, from which the most voted is that high requirements hurts PC gaming more than Vista does or ever could.

And so, what is TechSpot’s official take on the matter?
I wouldn’t dare to say there’s one single answer that satisfies all the staff preferences – especially when we have Per refusing for so many years to upgrade to XP, for god’s sake! :). Personally, Vista has never been a problem for me bar the occasional disk thrashing nuisance, as long a I ran it on a moderately fast system, preferably dual-core setup with 2GB of memory.

Today, the OS is noticeably more polished and things can only get better with SP1, nevertheless the hardware rule still applies if you want no slowdowns and you are used to be a full throttle multi-tasker in XP. Gaming is a completely different world just because driver implementations can make it or break it, but if our recent tests are enough to make a case, (if you have a fast system) and can live with a marginal drop in fps, then you are ready for it, forget about dual booting and learn to live with the better OS.

Written by Julio Franco

January 24th, 2008 at 1:30 am

TechSpot’s frontpage receives the pagination treatment

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(This is a reprint from a frontpage news story, reposting for those who missed the annoucement given further news coverage followed shortly after).

To kick off the post-Christmas news coverage let me tell you about a new feature I implemented in the TechSpot frontpage during the break, news pagination.

Although this feature is widely used by blogs based on WordPress, it’s not a common feature for other platforms including the CMS (Content Management System) we run. Nevertheless it’s quite an useful feature from a reader’s perspective, we can reduce the load off the frontpage, making it quicker, and you can browse up to 60 of our latest news stories by using the page links at the bottom of our frontpage as seen in the image below:


Many of you are probably aware our news coverage is on-going throughout the day, but for those who can’t spend as much time hitting the reload button in a single day, you can now stop by whenever possible and still be able to browse through our past news with ease.

Written by Julio Franco

December 28th, 2007 at 3:24 am

Posted in blog,techspot,the web

New MacBook Pro owner, joining the dark side?

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Depending for how long you’ve been reading TechSpot you may have read a variety of comments about Apple products, from hate to well, less hate :). No, but seriously, despite of being mainly a Windows site we have tried to remain balanced and objective when time has come to report on any product, no matter if it came from Nvidia or ATI… Intel or AMD, Microsoft or Apple. We have said it like it is, and backed it up as needed and as possible. It’s what we owe to our readers.

Part of this objectivity comes from recognizing when a company is doing things wrong, and applaud their efforts when they make a brilliant comeback. For example there was no room left for fanaticism when Intel kept pushing the horrible Pentium 4, while AMD had to offer a better product in the Athlon. Likewise, how not to love the speedy and efficient Core 2 Duos nowadays.

But the discussion of the better operating system makes for a much stronger and subjective case, not to mention it’s been around almost as long as the Personal Computer itself. I can remember how Apple still had some loyal following during some of its darkest days in the mid 90s, and around the time TechSpot opened its doors in 1998, I could not help but hate the brand for its delusional claims that did nothing but mislead the end consumer.

In our eyes, Apple had no game in the computer world until the first consumer version of OS X was released in 2001. And even then it was severely lacking in the hardware department until they finally ate their own words to partner with Intel in recent years.

Apple MacBook Pro running OS X Leopard

Which takes us to the present day, a revived Apple that is looking healthier than ever thanks to the iPod revolution along with some good long-term decision making on its computer division. The reaction from hardcore Apple fans is evident today throughout the web and even more so in the blogosphere. But like many PC users have begun to notice the fanaticism sometimes goes too far, and what you get as a result is a lot of subjective noise all-around that is certainly not helped by Apple’s own commercials.

But going back to the original purpose of this post, after a failed experiment using a Mac two years ago (Mac Mini G4 running Tiger, I couldn’t stand the slow hardware), I have decided to invest once again in Apple hardware, namely a MacBook Pro running a cool Core 2 Duo processor and OS X Leopard.

The thinking behind my decision was varied, for starters my old trusted ThinkPad T42 was needing a rest and another Vaio TX laptop I own, while very portable at 11″, is sometimes too small to get work done comfortably. Making a long story short, the MacBook Pro offered hardware that was on par with other major manufacturers ‘performance’ models, industrial design that is on par with Lenovo’s and Sony’s top models, and finally I got the choice of ditching OS X for Windows Vista or even XP, if I never found my way around it or needed to use Windows-only software. Of course, if I was going to believe all those Mac lovers out there, that could never happen.

I should add that it was also easier to swallow the $2000 spent on this laptop considering that as TechSpot’s Executive Editor, it comes handy when I can make a knowledgeable and up to date opinion on where OS X stands today against Vista or any other current Operating System, let’s face it it’s an ever recurrent topic.

I have been using the MacBook Pro for about a month now, and my experience has been mixed. The hardware is indeed beautiful and while I was expecting more from the LED lit screen, it’s still very very acceptable. There are small details that add to the overall experience like the backlit keyboard, the magnetic power connector and double finger scrolling, all in one portable package that is also the closest I have ever got to the performance of my custom-built desktop PC.

There are a few drawbacks that for the most part are inherent to every laptop that offers this kind of performance, so I won’t bother mentioning those. In the software side, I came across more than one surprise though.

Whatever you have heard about OS X Leopard’s ability to put Windows Vista to shame is probably not true… at least not from my perspective. In the first 24 hours I experienced two hard crashes, and in the first week I came across a reportedly software bug that locked my keyboard from functioning after waking up from sleep (it forces you to restart). So perhaps Tiger was more polished than Leopard is, and those early reviews that told you otherwise are pure bull.

Not to put the latest incarnation of OS X down, there are a number of things that work much better in the Mac than in Windows, like Spotlight – now that is powerful search that works – but I’m afraid it’s still an above-average consumer platform with flaws here and there, and a far cry from an Apple’s fanboy dream claims.
But my evaluation of the MacBook Pro’s hardware and software is far from over, this is an experiment I may actually be able to pull off (forgive my Windows roots), and hopefully it will also open the door for further Mac-related coverage and perspective at TechSpot for a very valid and growing consumer base.

Written by Julio Franco

December 14th, 2007 at 2:50 am

A tale of a not so early adopter…

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As the Executive Editor of TechSpot it would only seem logical to assume I have to be an early adopter for anything computer or technology related, but that is not the case necessarily. While I do tend to spend thousands of dollars in new stuff throughout the year, I have to admit I keep running a somewhat old Athlon X2 system fitted with 2GB RAM and some other basics that have not received any upgrade treatment in the past 12 months. I may end up upgrading in the coming weeks/months but you get the point… instead of running a top of the line Core 2 Quad and SLI Ultras, I have kept running a moderate system that gets the job done.

Likewise, I was very reluctant to jump into the Blackberry bandwagon, or for that matter any other mobile device that kept me online and in touch with work at all times. In this case it wasn’t me not wanting to upgrade to the latest technologies but I was already finding myself checking my email dozens of times per day and so I thought getting hooked permanently would only make things worse. There were other reasons like the bulkiness of devices available at the time, the lagging speed of connections available, and the lack of a decent web browser.

And so it was only a few months ago that I got myself a Blackberry Pearl, despite of the lack of a full QWERTY keyboard, it was a nice entry into the world of true smartphones. The Blackberry puts a lot of emphasis on email functionality with some basic web browsing available, and I have to admit it works pretty well for keeping myself up to date while away from the office. As it happens the Pearl has actually provided more peace of mind that I could have ever anticipated. Now I can tell if there is something important going on, or perhaps not as many things I need to attend to immediately. If this holiday season you are having second thoughts like I did before, try to follow my advise, I just wish I had decided on making the jump much much sooner.

Written by Julio Franco

November 29th, 2007 at 1:33 am

Posted in blog,techspot

The popular TechSpot user gallery

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There are a number of semi-hidden features on TechSpot that unfortunately go unnoticed by many. It’s likely that frequent readers of our news coverage or reviews have yet to visit the forums and see how thousands of users stop by every week helping and sharing their knowledge with fellow TS members.

Other two (even more buried) sections are our Windows Startup Radar which gives info on startup programs and the User Picture Gallery, otherwise known as “the gallery.”

Just recently the developers of web software Photopost (which we use to run the gallery) announced a new milestone update and website. This piece of software is particularly popular as it integrates well with the even more popular vBulletin forum that thousands of websites use and have relied on for years now.

According to the new Photopost website, our gallery happens to be one of the most popular on the net (using Photopost) with 2,288 photos uploaded, over eight thousand comments, and 29 million picture views. Not bad at all considering we are not a general purpose site but have restricted uploads to technology and PC related pictures for the most part.

Way to go TS members! If you have not checked the gallery yet, you may want to do so now and upload anything cool you have to share, too. BTW, I recently upgraded the gallery to accept pictures up to 2560×1600 pixels.

Written by Julio Franco

October 22nd, 2007 at 12:02 am

Posted in blog,techspot,the web

Maximum PC is back online plus a bit of TechSpot’s history

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Those of you living in the U.S. are probably familiar with Maximum PC magazine, which in my opinion is one of the few excellent print publications catering to PC enthusiasts. For a long time they had relegated their online presence which was poor decision making from its parent publishing company. The fact is, MaximumPC.com was very much alive until the dot com bust came and advertising dollars went dry. It took them until now to come back and while they are late to the online scene, they have still reopened doors offering full access to the magazine content. A lot of the articles are buried on PDF format so it’s not very easy to navigate but it’s still worth taking them a look as they have tons of information to offer.

Going to their new site also reminded me of the old days of TechSpot. New visitors may not know this but TechSpot was originally called 3D Spotlight (we mostly dealt with 3d graphics companies that at the time included 3dfx, S3, Nvidia, Rendition, Matrox, ATI, and a few others).

For a short period of time (before Maximum PC went down), 3D Spotlight was part of the exclusive “Maximum PC Network”, which gathered a select few quality technology sites; we got some extra exposure on their site and they hooked us up with A+ technology advertisers which at the time was hard to come by.

Thanks to archive.org I was able to recover an old Maximum PC frontpage where 3D Spotlight is listed as a network member and one of our articles is featured on that frontpage. Also here’s the network’s member list, and why not, an archived frontpage of 3D Spotlight that dates back to August 2000. How about this for a headline: “Nvidia announces the GeForce 2 Ultra” yay! Also 3D Spotlight’s forums are expanded to 4 sections!

Perhaps even more gratifying than tripping down the memory lane is that 3D Spotlight is still alive today in the form of TechSpot. Looking at the list of sites that used to be part of the Maximum PC network, a majority of them are gone with few exceptions like Ars Technica, Neoseeker, Storage Review and The Tech Zone.

Written by Julio Franco

October 7th, 2007 at 5:53 am

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