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    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 5

    We're getting close! In this fifth episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm and John tackle some mistakes made in the original plywood cutting and then work together to assemble the cabinet frame. The challenge of finding a way to mount the heavy CRT monitor inside the chassis requires some problem solving and precise measurements, but this thing is finally starting to look like a real cocktail cabinet! (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    USB Type-C Will Carry Power, Data, and DisplayPort Video

    If you're the kind of person that gets excited about new cable technologies, you're in good company. Although it'll be a while before we actually see the next spec of USB 3.1 cables in circulation, I'm genuinely giddy about the potential of the impending USB Type-C connector. Late last year, we heard that it was going to be a reversible design, which was confirmed in the USB Promoter Group and USB Implementer Forum's final specs for the next-gen plug. Today, VESA--the standards group in charge of video connector standards--announced that USB Type-C will also be able to carry native DisplayPort signals through a "DisplayPort Alternate Mode". Through this spec, DisplayPort signals on compatible monitors and accessories will be able to use up to four of the Type-C connector's high-speed data paths for video, alongside data and power already being channelled. This won't be a pared down version of DisplayPort, either, meaning Type-C will be able to work with DisplayPort conversion adapters as well, such as for HDMI 2.0 and DVI. This means that future laptops may not need separate USB, HDMI, DP, or even VGA ports, and could just use a slew of thin USB Type-C ports for all inputs and outputs. Anandtech has more technical details about how this spec works, and what it may mean for the future of mobile PCs.

    Photo credit: Flickr user taylor90 via Creative Commons

    Of course, all these design specs and certifications mean nothing if hardware manufacturers don't begin to support them in both accessory devices and computer systems. That's where Apple has a leg-up on USB--its Lightning cable is ubiquitous in the iOS and Mac ecosystem, and Apple computers are still the only place you can find native support for Intel's Thunderbolt. Let's get on it, PC OEMs!

    In Brief: "Overhead" Car Camera Technology is Magical

    Of all the new technology and consumer electronics gear we learned about last week (Kindles, GeForces, VR prototypes, digital cameras, etc), the thing that wowed me the most was perhaps a piece of tech that's already been around for a few years. I flew to LA for video shoots with Frank Ippolito and Oculus, and we rented a car for the trip. The car Hertz gave us (read: upsold) was an Infiniti QX56 SUV--a massive land shark that made me feel like Turtle from Entourage driving around VIPs. Infiniti's SUVs have a similar backup camera technology as other manufactures--something that's going to be standard soon--but also has a patented "Around View" camera monitoring tech that blew my mind. It takes video feeds from four cameras around the car, skewing and compositing them to make it look like you're looking at a camera floating about 10 feet above the car. It's one of those tricks that sounds simple once you understand how it works, and works so seamlessly that you can't help but wonder why nobody had come up with it before. Really inspired innovation that has a huge impact on the way I drove and parked that car. Props to Infiniti for coming up with it! (The video below shows off Around View in action.)

    Norman
    Octobot Doubles Its Speed with Webbed Arms

    From the Foundation for Research & Technology's Institute of Computer Science: "Adding a soft silicone web to a small robotic octopus helps the machine hit the gas. The first robot shown propels itself by snapping shut rigid plastic legs. The second bot uses flexible silicone legs and moves at about the same speed. The third robot zips along faster, using silicone arms and a web that helps it push through water." Material science and animal biology come together in this robot's clever mimicking of an Octopus. Read more at Science News.

    Google Play App Roundup: Noyze Volume Panel, Goat Simulator, and daWindci Deluxe

    An app might only cost a buck or two, but if you end up buying things that don't strike your fancy, that could add up to a lot of wasted money. It's best to go into the Play Store with some idea of what's a safe bet. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is here to do--it's the best new stuff every week. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store and test it out yourself

    This week there's a new volume control app, a game about being a Goat, and a lovely atmospheric puzzler.

    Noyze Volume Panel

    Android has had volume management apps since the very beginning as there is no support for a single hardware mute switch, a la the iPhone. Most of these apps rely on an app or widget that you have to find and use. Noyze Volume Panel is cool in that it plugs right into the hardware volume toggles to give you UI tweaks, quick access to multiple volume controls, and a few more neat features. Additionally, you don't need root access, just Android 4.3 or higher.

    Setting up Noyze is a little more involved than most apps. Because it's plugging into a hardware feature, it needs to enabled as an accessibility service. The app will give you a link the the settings menu to enable it, but you'll also need notification access (another trip to the settings) for the full effect--more on that later. The default behavior of Noyze is that instead of the floating volume panel popup that most Android devices have, you'll get a clean volume overlay on the status bar when you change the volume.

    The settings in Noyze are fairly extensive with a number of vastly different themes. You'll need to upgrade to the full version for $1.49 to get access to all of them, but the free ones are good too. Most of the themes are aping some other device or ROM like Paranoid Android (pictured here), iOS, or MIUI. A few are just different takes on standard Android controls. Several volume panel themes also come with built-in playback controls, which is actually really useful. This feature is also why you'll have to add Noyze to the notification service.

    I also quite like that the foreground and accent colors can be changed to better match your system theme. The addition of a custom time out is also much appreciated. Delving into the other settings areas is a good idea because this app is modifying a system function, which can cause some issues. For example, Noyze will pop up every time you take a screenshot with the volume down + power shortcut. Luckily, there's a setting to ignore long-presses of the volume buttons. You can also link together all your individual volumes and assign app shortcuts to a long-press of the up or down toggle. I'm not saying the developer thought of everything, but he thought of a lot.

    There is no discernable lag on any of the devices I've tested Noyze on, but it was a little reluctant to start on one or two until I had fully restarted. There is a helper notification that can be enabled in the settings to make sure the app isn't closed in the background, but a device with 2GB of RAM or more shouldn't have an issue. Even if you don't need the additional features of the pro version, Noyze is a capable app with no ads.

    Hands-On with Oculus Rift "Crescent Bay" Prototype Virtual Reality Headset

    Norm goes to Oculus Connect to get a hands-on demo of the new "Crescent Bay" feature prototype of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. We interview Nate Mitchell and Palmer Luckey of Oculus VR to talk about what's new in the headset, reveal some technical specifications, and then walk through the entire demo experience--with 1080p video from the private demo room!

    Three Amazing Games I Played At XOXO Last Weekend

    If you listened to this week's edition of This Is Only a Test, you know that I was in Portland last week for the XOXO Festival. XOXO is a gathering of interesting makers of all types, from game developers to filmmakers to engineers to sculptors and more. Over the weekend, I got to meet dozens of fascinating folks from around the world. (The talks will be online in coming weeks, and I'll post the ones that were particularly relevant to Tested readers on the site as they come online.)

    The daytime talks are really only half of what XOXO is about though. This year, I spent much more time at the evening events dedicated to videogames and board games. While there, I played a bunch of awesome games, but I spent the most time with three that I think you should really keep an eye out for. Follow their makers on Twitter, and if they end up at an indie festival or an arcade expo near you, go play them. You'll thank me later.

    Nvidia Announces GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 Video Cards

    The next generation of Nvidia graphics cards has arrived. We first saw Nvidia's Maxwell architecture--the follow-up to Keplar--in the GTX 750 GPU. That $150 card was an entry-level introduction to Nvidia's new approach to desktop GPU design, incorporating power efficiencies learned from generations of Tegra development. From Loyd's GTX 750 review:

    "Kepler has a monolithic control logic unit that managed scheduling for up to 192 cores. Maxwell now allocates a smaller, more efficient control logic unit for each block of 32 cores. This change in the scheduler, a larger L2 cache (2048MB versus 25K in the Kepler-based GTX 650) and a large number of smaller improvements allowed Nvidia to build 640 shader cores on a die, versus 384 on the GK107-based GTX 650."

    More shaders, more transistors, and a larger die, all using less power than the last generation. That's what Maxwell now brings to the high-end, in the form of the just-announced GTX 980 and GTX 970 videocards ($550 and $330, respectively). They replace the GTX 780, GTX 780 Ti, and GTX 770.

    GTX 980 has 2048 shader cores running at a base clock of 1126MHz (1216 MHz with GPU boost). But all that runs on a chip with a TDP of just 165 watts. That's compared to 250W on the GTX 780 and 195W on the GTX 680--the card that many users will be upgrading from, I suspect. The GTX 970, with 1664 CUDA cores, is even more power efficient at 145W TDP. We're talking about high-end GPUs that now only use two six-pin PCIe power connectors. SLI now starts to look a lot more attractive. And there's plenty of headroom for overclocking, if you're into that.

    High-end Maxwell also brings three new features for gaming. First is a new anti-aliasing technology, called MFAA. Multi-frame sampled AA supposedly produces the effect of 4XMSAA with the performance hit of only 2XMSAA. Dynamic Super Resolution is a new feature that is essentially resolution downsampling--you can now tell the GPU to render games at 4K resolution for a 1080p screen. Screenshots and Shadowplay video recording spits out 4K resolution files in this mode, too. And finally, Nvidia is especially proud of a new lighting engine called Voxel Global Illumination. This is the first step in real-time light tracing, with fully dynamic illumination for one light source. Unreal Engine 4 will support VXGI in the fall, and Nvidia has produced a Apollo 11-themed render demo to show off the lighting feature.

    Performance-wise, Nvidia is claiming 1.5 to 2X the performance of the GTX 680 (their choice for point of comparison) in the GTX 980. They're also claiming that the GTX 980 will be better for VR, with built-in optimizations to minimize rendering latency--taking 10ms out of OS overhead and built-in asynchronous warp. Nvidia is calling this VR support "VR Direct", and it's something I'll be asking Oculus about this Saturday at the Oculus Connect conference. As for real-world performance and evaluating Nvidia's claims, I'm getting a review unit in and will be testing it next week on my new Haswell-E system.

    Testing: Building a Haswell-E Desktop PC

    We published our Haswell-E discussion video today, but ran through a lot of technical stuff in the 40 minutes we spent talking about desktop PC technologies. I wanted to distill some of that information for you with the salient takeaways from my time building and testing this new system. It's not a system I expect most (or even any) of you to actually buy and build yourself, but testing and researching these components gave me a better understanding of the state of the high-end PC market, which uses new tech like DDR4 and PCI-e storage that will hopefully trickle down into the mid-range over the next year.

    I'm going to run through each component of this build, and make some prescriptions for practical alternatives in each category.

    Haswell-E Core i7 5960X CPU

    This is the piece that kicked off the entire build. Haswell-E is Intel's top-of-the-line desktop processor series. With each generational release (Nehalem, Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell), Intel segments its desktop CPU releases. There's the low-end i3 processors that only have two cores and consume very low power, the mid-range i5 processors that have four cores but no hyperthreading, and i7 processors that have four cores and hyperthreading for 8 threads of computing--only useful if applications support it. In the i5 and i7 line, Intel also has 'K' moniker processors that are unlocked, meaning you can overclock them by bumping up the base clock or multiplier ratio in your motherboard BIOS. On the ultra high-end Intel has i7 "Extreme" processors that add even more cores. That's what Haswell-E is.

    Past Extreme processors for Intel topped out at 6 cores (hexacore). In the past this was sometimes done by disabling two cores on an 8-core server part, which also took away some L3 cache available. Haswell-E is Intel's first desktop CPU with eight actual cores (in the high end model), meaning 16 threads with hyperthreading. It also has a whopping 20MB of L3 cache.

    There are actually three Haswell-E processors, each speced slightly differently. The i7 5960X I tested is the only model with eight cores. The i7 5930K and 5820K are both six core parts, and significantly cheaper. The pricing for the three models from high to low are pegged at $1000, $580, and $390, respectively. But you'll also note that the two six core parts are actually clocked higher than the 5960X. That's because the additional two cores makes this a really power hungry and hot chip. Intel specs it at 3GHz with a 3.5Ghz Turbo (auto clocking up to hit the 140W TDP), but the other two clock in at 3.5GHz and 3.3GHz respectively. The other difference between the two lower ends is how any lanes of PCIe they support. 40 for the high end, 28 for the $390 part. 28 PCIe lanes is actually plenty for most people, even if they're running dual-GPU setups. 40 lanes is only really needed for tri-SLI or future-proofing with thunderbolt and PCIe storage like SATA Express.

    If you're building a Haswell-E system, I would recommend the $390 i7 5820K, clocked at 3.3GHz. This chip will comfortably and easily overclock past 4GHz as long as you have a decent cooler.

    Tested In-Depth: Building a PC with Haswell-E, X99, DDR4

    We sit down to discuss some of the latest new technologies available to desktop PC building, including Intel's eight core Haswell-E CPU, X99 motherboards, DDR4 memory, and PCIe storage. While most of these high-end components are impractical for home PC builds and even gaming, we prescribe some picks for what upgrades make the most sense for PC builders.

    Amazon Announces Kindle Voyage, Updates to Kindle Family

    Well these new Kindles arrived much sooner than expected. Fresh on the heels of the Kindle Voyage leaks on Amazon Germany and Japan--which indicated a Nov 4th release date--Amazon has announced the new generation of Kindle e-book readers. A whole lot of them. On the e-ink side, there's a new entry-level touch model that starts at $80 (with no paperwhite, but a new processor), an updated Paperwhite with double the storage starting at $120, and of course the leaked Kindle Voyage, which starts at $200.

    Voyage has a Paperwhite lit screen, with a high-resolution 300ppi display that's flush to the bezel. Early hands-on reports indicate that text does indeed look much sharper on the Voyage than the 212ppi Kindles. Of course, resolution is only part of the story--readability has a lot to do with typography chose and font rendering techniques. Voyage's front-lighting is also now adaptive based on ambient light (as well as being 40% brighter), and the reader comes with a free 3G connection for downloading books.

    On the Kindle Fire Android-based tablet side, Amazon has again lowered the floor for pricing with a $100 6-inch model, a $140 7-inch model, and kid-friendly models starting at $150. A new high-end HDX model starts at $380, but has a 2560x1600 8.9-inch display that's lighter than the iPad Air and adaptive backlighting to better simulate the effect of reading on paper. These Kindle Fires run a new version of Fire OS, dubbed Sangria, based on Android KitKat.

    We've pre-ordered the new Kindle Voyage and Paperwhite models and will be testing and reviewing them when they arrive in late October.

    Beautiful Quadcopter Video Over Prague

    I really enjoyed this aerial tour of Prague, shot with a Phantom DJI and GoPro with a three-axis stabilizer. The filmmakers promise that they were cautious in their filming, but I think it would still be considered reckless by veteran multi-rotor hobbyists who are struggling with regulatory limbo and dickishness here in the States. It makes me wonder if this genre of videos--beautiful aerial montages from the uniquely mobile perspective--is a flash in a pan, and will go away as governments tighten down their restrictions on where hobbyists and professional videographers can fly. I was actually surprised to see how few drone or aerial RC videos came out of Burning Man this year. DJI's Eric Cheng shot a great montage, but I expected the desert skies to be littered with these things.

    In Brief: Amazon May Launch New Kindles on Nov 4th

    For the past six years, Amazon has followed a pretty regular annual schedule of updating its popular Kindle e-book reader. The past few updates, including two generations of Paperwhite, have brought relatively minor improvements--faster processors for page turning, higher contrast in its e-ink display, and lighter formfactors. We've been waiting for a big leap in Kindle, and that may not come this year. The Verge is reporting that Amazon has accidentally listed this year's Kindle refresh on its German site. Dubbed the Kindle Voyage, it would still be a 6-inch black and white e-ink reader, but with a higher resolution display reaching 300 ppi (up from 212 ppi). A leaked page on Amazon Japan shows the new reader's dimensions and weight to be smaller and lighter than the Paperwhite 2 as well. Still no color display.

    Norman
    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 4

    For this week's episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm experiments with the laser cutter at Adam's shop to design some decorations for the control panels. We also begin prepping the cut, sanded, and stained pieces of wood for the final assembly. That means learning some basics about biscuit joining! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    In Brief: Canon Announces PowerShot G7 X, Long-Awaited 7D Mark II

    It's been a crazy week in technology already, and a few bits of news escaped me until today. Photokina is going on right now, and camera companies are making some pretty big announcements there. New "entry-level" Leica cameras, Instagram-styled Polaroid instant cameras, and plenty of lenses. I honestly have trouble keeping up with all of it. But Canon has two cameras that extremely notable. First is the PowerShot G7X, a direct competitor to the Sony RX 100 III. It's a compact that uses the same 1-inch type 20MP sensor, but is $100 cheaper than the RX 100 III and has a better 24-100mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens. Apparently, the lens stays wider longer, and Canon goes directly after Sony with a clicky lens dial and a dedicated exposure comp dial. No EVF, but that's not a big miss. Canon knows where fans are at and are finally addressing high quality compact needs. Also announced was the long-awaited EOS 7D Mark II, the best APS-C camera you can get from Canon before going full-frame. Like the 7D, it's designed for video shooters, with a fast AF system equipped with 65 cross-type focus points. Recording is still limited to 1080p50, but now there's a headphone jack and uncompressed clean HDMI out. I bet it shoots pretty good photos, too.

    Norman 3
    In Brief: Microsoft Buys Minecraft for $2.5 Billion

    Microsoft today announced that it has acquired Mojang, the Stockholm-based game developer that created and publishes Minecraft. The deal is valued at $2.5 Billion. To date, Minecraft has sold more than 54 million copies across multiple gaming platforms, and Microsoft says that it intends to keep to keep developing and supporting the game in platforms outside of the Windows and PC ecosystem. Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft's Xbox division, reassures Minecraft fans in a public statement, and Mojang's post about the acquisition answers some looming questions. The founders of Mojang, including Notch, are leaving the company, and the status of Mojang's other project, Scrolls, is up in the air. Plenty of editorial opinions on the deal all over the internet.

    Norman 6