Thinking of building a new gaming PC? Struggling with whatever random error your desktop is throwing up this week? Under The Hood gives you a quick and concise run-down of the most important things that happened to the PC master race in the last seven days.
For years, we’ve been tempted by the idea of tiny Intel Atom-powered PCs built into Chromecast-esque dongles, plugging into our TVs’ and monitors’ HDMI ports with proper Windows 10 onboard. Asus’s VivoStick might be the best version of that ideal yet, with a new Cherry Trail processor, a healthy serving of RAM and flash storage, and two USB ports.
The VivoStick is like the Intel Compute Stick in that it’s built around a HDMI connector, plugging into your TV or monitor directly to display a Windows 10 desktop. Power doesn’t come through the HDMI port’s measly current, though — there’s a microUSB port on the VivoStick’s side that needs its own AC power adapter. And, conveniently, audio output is handled through the combined mic/headphone jack.
If you’re paying any degree of attention to the gaming world, you’ll probably be aware that Dark Souls 3 came out last week. And if you’re a PC gamer, you’ll probably be abreast of the fact that the GPU manufacturers like to push out new patches to coincide with major game launches. NVIDIA’s Game Ready driver for Dark Souls 3 is version 364.72, and it’s also the latest release with Microsoft’s WHQL certification. Problem is, lots of gamers are having issues.
If you go back a couple of years, drivers used to be one of NVIDIA’s best attributes. Their drivers were solid, the performance gains were good, and there was always bigger and better improvements to be found. But things have been prickly of late, and 2016 has been marked by a string of spotty releases that have led to some frustrating bugs for players.
The super-thin, super-pretty Apple MacBook is an expensive luxury, but it also justifies its price with the fact that it’s by far the thinnest and lightest Mac notebook ever, with a full-fat, not-actually-a-tablet laptop experience in a body that weighs barely 920 grams. Apple has just given the MacBook a mid-lifecycle refresh, with Intel’s latest energy-efficient Core M chips and an extra hour of battery life.
The new-for-2016 12-inch Retina MacBook now has Intel’s sixth-generation Core M processors, which follow the same good-better-best specification as the more powerful Core i3, i5 and i7 chips. The MacBook now has three purchasable variants rather than the previous two, and is also available in a Rose Gold finish — alongside the existing silver, space grey and gold.
You’ll pay a premium for the MacBook’s crazy thin design, though — which is 13.1mm thick at its bulkiest point, tapering off along its depth. Despite the almost complete lack of internal space, Apple has crammed 10 hours’ worth of battery inside the MacBook, up from 9 hours in the previous model. That’s for Web browsing, too — use it to watch a video on a plane and you might reach 11.
The ideal notebook is a machine that can run double duty — it needs to handle the dreary everyday office work like typing and basic productivity tasks, but then after work it can be used for some friendly inter-office Counter-Strike, or lugged home for a marathon session of Star Citizen or The Division.
Gigabyte’s newest P37X laptop looks like the kind of machine that you’d use in an office job, but under the hood it has the grunt to play the latest PC titles at smooth frame rates.
ASUS has announced the new N Series N552 15.6-inch laptop, which it calls "the latest and most powerful in this entertainment-focused range". The laptop features a 6th generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and gaming-grade NVIDIA GTX series graphics.
This is what ASUS are hailing as "the perfect portable replacement for a high-end desktop PC" with a price tag of $1599, so let's take a look at what it is made of.