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System-builders-600-x-272

We’re back with another System Builders guide and this time we’re ducking into the mid-range segment, covering builds between R11,500 and R16,500. Historically this segment of the guide is the least exciting because the hardware doesn’t vary too much. Occasionally there’s a processor change here, a SSD there and a chipset or board change to support new features but overall, the mid-range market is pretty boring. On the GPU side there’s also a performance gap that makes it difficult to spend more than R3000 on a GPU, especially if you’re playing at 1080p. If you want to see how I’ll address that, follow me after the jump!

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sid-meiers-civilization-beyond-earth

You know that goosebump-inducing trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilisation: Beyond Earth? Well, there are some interesting things that haven’t gotten nearly as much attention as that epic music or the fact that the series is finally returning to the stars – namely the technologies that the game employs. Beyond Earth is the first Civilisation game that supports OpenGL, Linux and Mantle all in a single package. Its also one of the bigger AAA titles in recent memory that will simultaneously release on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms thanks to Valve’s Steam client. PC Master Race indeed?

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xbox one header

For the current generation of consoles, Sony and Microsoft have the same problem on their hands – both the PS4 and the Xbox One are based on the X86 processor architecture, whereas both of their previous products were based on IBM’s PowerPC acrhitecture, which is very different from anything else on the market. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One already have a decent library of titles to choose from, but both brands have an incredible back catalog of games that they could emulate or otherwise offer backwards compatibility for.

While Sony works out the kinks for PS Now and deals with PS1 and PS2 emulation on the PS4, Microsoft is doing its part in the matter and is investigating the chances of emulating Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.

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System-builders-600-x-272

The System Builder’s Guide has been around for roughly two years. I started writing this bi-monthly column in March of 2012 and before that I contributed to the System Builder’s thread on the NAG Forums together with JP “Chevron” Dormehl since its inception in 2009. I’ve been writing and compiling these guides ever since and it’s mostly been unchanged in the presentation – a wall of text, some options in green highlights that were linked and a little total at the bottom. Starting from this month to coincide with the April issue of NAG Magazine’s 2014 revamp, I’m switching the look a little bit to something that’s easier to understand and nicer to look at. I can’t promise there won’t be walls of text but I can promise it will be prettier. Follow me after the jump!

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Nvidia logo HD

AMD’s Mantle has had a lot of media coverage over the past few months for it’s ability to almost completely eradicate all traces of CPU bottlenecks when you’re pairing a high-end GPU with something like a Core i3 or i5 or FX processor. Mantle removes a lot of API bloat and prioritises multi-threaded code, resulting in games that aren’t limited in single-core performance but this requires a lot of work and, occasionally, a complete re-engineering of a game engine in order to support the renderer.

Nvidia, not content with letting AMD get the performance crown on unequal grounds, has been working in the shadows to improve performance on Geforce graphics cards with results that could rival Mantle’s offerings. But there’s a little more to it than that.

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Windows 8 success kid header

Microsoft’s quest to make Windows 8 palatable and useable to the general public has been met with much failure, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Despite the improvements under the hood to the OS and the unification of interfaces through Modern UI, Windows 8 continues to show slower growth than Windows 7 and Microsoft isn’t yet at the level they thought they’d be just over two years into the operating system’s life. But they’re making up for past mistakes with new features for Windows 8 and for the first time, a march back to the way things were.

Windows 8.1 Update will become available to download through the Windows Store on 8 April 2014, the day of the death of Windows XP support. Follow me after the jump to see what’s going to be changed!

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intel-logo

Intel is gearing up for the release of a refresh of the Haswell family as well as the introduction of socket LGA 2011-3 and a bunch of new chipsets. These chipsets belong to the 9-series family and will start with the Z97 high-end chipset, the H97 mid-range chipset and the holy-hell-expensive X99 platform, which will be the first ever consumer product to support DDR4 memory. Its going to be a busy year for big blue and this is only the beginning of a very rapid series of changes to the way things are currently being done. Hit the jump to find out more about the hearts of the new 9-series motherboards due out in 2H 2014.

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Kinect for Windows V2

Well, it’s on the way! If you began to drool at the thought of being able to use the Kinect module bundled in with the Xbox One on your desktop computer, you probably won’t have much longer to wait. Microsoft recently revealed Kinect for Windows V2 and it’s an exact replica of the one paired to their games console, with a few external changes. Development kits have already been shipped to developers working on applications that use Kinect V2 and apparently people are very excited for the camera’s release.

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MS Dos retail boxes

Microsoft as we know it really started to take hold of the computing world with Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, two operating systems which changed the paradigm for personal computing on a much deeper level than Apple had in mind with their competing Macintosh and Lisa desktop computers. But before that, Microsoft’s tiny team of less than 100 employees was given the contract by IBM in November 1980 to take the concepts of the CP/M operating system and produce a version of it for the IBM Personal Computer. Microsoft bought a CP/M clone for the project for $75,000 (86-DOS, whose creator was also hired by Microsoft) and their end result was MS-DOS, which was licensed again by IBM and rebranded as PC DOS.

Thus began the very long and very lucrative relationship between the two companies. To celebrate their long history and to educate younger minds about the history of the computer, Microsoft has released the source code for MS-DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a.

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85a

The dearth of motherboards available for Intel’s Haswell CPU family is pretty incredible – from all vendors and board partners there are several choices for the H81, H87, B85, Q85, Q87 and Z87 chipsets that it becomes a mini-game to sort out which one you need and what features you want or can do without. Sometimes it feels like having a 21-sided die would be useful to narrow things down a bit. Well, we’re going to need a bigger die because ASUS has just sent in their “Gamer” offering to fight off one of the most competitive segments for Haswell motherboards – midrange “gaming motherboards” – with the B85-Pro Gamer.

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