Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics card

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That single, simple sentence cuts to the core of what people on the hunt for a new graphics card are looking for: The most oomph they can afford. Sure, graphics cards are complicated pieces of modern technology, powered by billions of transistors and countless other types of intricate hardware, but people just want to crank the detail settings on Far Cry and just plain play.

Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too.

Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to gargantuan, $700 behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops. We’ll also talk a bit about the “extras” that can sway your buying decision, like Nvidia’s ShadowPlay software and AMD’s performance-boosting Mantle API, and we’ll issue buying recommendations for various price points. Finally, I’ll update this article with performance data from every new GPU that launches going forward, so you’ll always have the most recent information at hand.

Graphics cards are expensive. Choosing one can be complicated. But it won’t be after reading this. Let’s dig in.

The gear we used

Hold your horses! Before we dive into raw numbers we need to detail our test system and the cards we’ve tested. If you want to jump right into the juicy benchmarks, skip ahead to the third page. Buying recommendations are on the final page of this article.

Still with me? Great. Here are the details of our test rig. Yes, it’s powerful—and definitely overkill for gaming—but that eliminates any pesky potential bottlenecking situations in the system. For more information you can check out our build guide for PCWorld’s graphics testing PC.

  • Intel’s Core i7-5960X with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard
  • Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory,Obsidian 750D full tower case, and 1200-watt AX1200i power supply
  • A 480GB Intel 730 series SSD (I’m a sucker for that skull logo!)
  • Windows 8.1 Pro

We tested as many different GPUs as possible—one GeForce GTX 750 Ti, one Radeon R9 290X, et cetera—with a preference for models with custom cooling solutions, in order to mimic as realistic a scenario as possible. A couple of high-end reference cards are also included.

Models of all current Nvidia GPUs have been benchmarked, but you’ll notice some missing Radeon models, such as the R7 260X and the R9 285. This is due to a few things: PCWorld’s graphics card review coverage was kind of light the past couple of years, and AMD hasn’t released much new graphics hardware since fall 2013. Plus,wowee the Radeon R-series has a lot of different GPUs! So we gathered as many models as we could. As I said, I plan to update this article with each and every new mainstream GPU launch, so the gaps should start filling in quickly once the next-gen Radeons start rolling out.

Intel doesn't want Curie wearable computer making fashion statements

intel curie computer

Intel wants wearable device technology to be inconspicuous, so it’s making its Curie wearable computer available through a button-sized board or as part of a chip package.

The Curie, slated to ship in the second half of the year, was first shown at CES in the form of a button-sized computer on Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s suit. The almost invisible Curie had technology that could read heart rates, and transfer the data wirelessly using Bluetooth. Blending technology discreetly into wearables is Intel’s goal with Curie, which will go into a wide range of tiny coin battery devices that can run for days and months without a recharge.

The wearable computer is for non-technical customers, such as companies outside of the IT industry, that want to plug and play technology into devices, clothes and accessories.

Intel’s larger wearable computers like the SD card-sized Edison were mainly adopted by enthusiasts. The company is considering a different approach to make Curie and its components accessible to a wider audience. One would be to sell a prebuilt “board” resembling a button with the Curie chip, wireless circuitry, sensors and expansion ports on it, said Mike Bell, corporate vice president and general manager at Intel’s New Devices Group, in a recent interview.

“Literally, you hook up a battery, you hook up some wires, and you have something you can build a product out of,” Bell said.

The other option would be to provide a smaller multi-chip package with just the Curie processor, radio and other basic circuitry. It’ll be smaller and come without the board, and will be ready to implement in wearable devices. That package will be quicker to implement, and should give device makers more flexibility in size when designing wearables.

Intel sells the Basis Peak smartwatch, but is taking a partnership approach as it tries to sell more chips in the fast-growing wearable market. Intel’s technology is already in SMS Audio’s BioSport earphones and Opening Ceremony’s MICA smart bracelet. Intel has also partnered with eyewear companies Luxottica and Oakley and watch company Fossil Group.

However, until now, Intel’s software technology has been used in wearables more than its chips. Whether an Intel chip is used or not, the company wants to make building wearables approachable and easy, Bell said. “It’s really cool to be able to put together products that allow people to do great things without becoming engineers. That’s a lot of fun,” Bell said.

Curie has a low-power Quark chip, Bluetooth wireless capabilities and a sensor hub to track activities like steps. It also has a pattern recognition engine, and software packages—called IQs by Intel—are key to analyzing collected data. For example, the health software package will use the pattern recognition engine to quickly analyze steps and other health data. “All these devices are interesting only if you can do something with the data,” Bell said.

Fashion companies don’t have time to think about technology, and the software packages make implementing Curie into wearables easy, Bell said. Still, Intel faces significant challenges as it tries to make a mark in wearables. Like it did in mobile devices, Intel has to contend with ARM and MIPS, whose processors are used in most wearables today.

Intel’s emphasis in wearables is on “making it easy and making it early,” said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. The early approach is to prevent what happened to Intel in tablets from happening as well in wearables. ARM got a head start in tablets and now dominates the market.

The wearables market is growing, and Intel wants to ensure the next big hit product has its chips, McCarron said.

TAG Heuer has a smartwatch

TAG Heuer, the revered luxury watch maker, is on the verge of announcing a smartwatch that blends all its fine Swiss craftsmanship with modern digital features.

oracle digital team usa 2 100354628 origSpeaking to Bloomberg, Claude Biver, head of the timepiece group of LVMH Moet Hennessy (TAG Heuer’s parent company), said the watch’s hardware and software will “come from Silicon Valley,” while the case, dial, design and crown will “of course be Swiss.”

Meanwhile, Pocket-lint is reporting that TAG Heuer will announce a partnership with Google and Intel tomorrow at Basel World, the most important luxury watch show in the world. It’s held in Switzerland, but of course.

The Aquaracer 72 looks all TAG Heuer—until you reach the ugly LCD display.

What we have here is an intriguing collision of ideas. Google’s smartwatch platform is Android Wear. Its UI consumes a watch’s face from edge to edge. Yet Biver is suggesting a TAG Heuer smartwatch with dials—presumably analog, no? We’ll have to see what’s revealed, but the last time TAG Heuer dipped its toe in the smartwatch waters, it gave us the Aquaracer 72, an extremely limited-edition sailing instrument that, well, just wasn’t very attractive.

The story behind the story: The Swiss luxury watch industry is clearly feeling the smartwatch pinch. Eariler this month, Swiss watch maker Frederique Constant and various partners revealed plans for a “horological smartwatch” platform that provides all the panache of analog dials along with the step- and sleep-tracking features offered by the Jawbone UP.

TAG Heuer isn’t currently part of that effort—but at least the horological smartwatch concept jibes with what TAG Heuer CEO Stephane Linder told me July last year.

Analog dials, he said, are the one component that says luxury to prospective buyers. “If you go for purely digital, you don’t have the feeling of the mechanical instrument,” Linder said. “So maybe the question will be, Can you make a dial that looks like a dial, with hands like a real watch?”

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The “horological smartwatch” from Swiss manufacturer Frederique Constant displays fitness tracking data on the dial at the bottom of the watch face.

Last July, Linder expressed significant hesitation about TAG Heuer entering the smartwatch market. “I don’t see us taking a big risk,” he said, “unless we find a way to make luxury watches looking like real luxury watches that provide very easy-to-use, smart information that isn’t complicated—and don’t just replicate the mobile phone.”

GoogleX exec: Where Google went wrong with Glass

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Google botched its wearable, Google Glass, and now the director of GoogleX labs is openly talking about it.

Astro Teller, Google’s director of its research arm, GoogleX, was speaking to an audience at the South by Southwest conference in Austin on Tuesday when he said the company made mistakes with Glass.

Google, according to Teller, needs to work out its wearable’s battery and privacy issues, and address miscommunications about the state of the project.

Google Glass, even when it was being sold to early testers for $1,500, was never close to being ready for official sale. It’s a prototype and still solidly in the experimental phase.

The company, however, did not make that clear, especially when its executives and its PR people were repeatedly putting timeframes on an official Glass release.

Looking back at the Glass Explorer program, Teller said Google did one good thing it launched the project but it also did one thing wrong.

“The bad decision was that we allowed and sometimes even encouraged too much attention for the program,” he said. “Instead of people seeing the Explorer devices as learning devices, Glass began to be talked about as if it were a fully baked consumer product. The device was being judged and evaluated in a very different context than we intended.”

That tactic frustrated a lot of early adopters.

“While we were hoping to learn more about how to make it better, people just wanted the product to be better straight away , and that led to some understandably disappointed Explorers,” Teller said.

While thousands of people bought Glass to become early adopters, or Explorers , the application ecosystem for the product didn’t grow and the project became the target of jokes and waning interest.

“It sounded reasonable to them to have an alpha testing program where, rather than paying the folks testing the product and keeping it secret, they got the testers to pay for the privilege in a kind of a Tom Sawyer scheme, and made the test public,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “Now the product has to dig itself out of a hole that wouldn’t have existed had they done the testing using traditional methods.”

A public experiment

Teller said the Explorer program, which ended in January, was invaluable.

“I can say that having experimented out in the open was painful at points, but it was still the right thing to do,” he said. “We never would have learned all that we’ve learned without the Explorer program, and we needed that to inform the future of Glass and wearables in general.”

According to Teller, Google learned that it has to work out problems with the wearable’s battery and with the privacy issues surrounding computerized eyeglasses that can take photos and short videos.

After the company stopped selling the prototypes early this year, speculation swirled that Google was giving up on the project altogether. Google said that’s not the case, and that Glass was pulled out of the spotlight to be retooled. The device also was moved from under the research umbrella of GoogleX and placed with its own team, much like the teams working on search and Android.

“Google did screw up,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “The way they talked about it led people to believe it was a finished off, polished product, which it’s not. So by hyping it so much, they set expectations they could not meet.”

Google had the hype ramped up way before it was time, said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst.

“Google had the sizzle, they just didn’t have the steak,” Kagan said. “This is a perfect example of a company believing their own PR and not paying any attention to the realities that make something hot… This is a very painful and embarrassing lesson for Google to learn. It’s amazing that they haven’t learned it yet.”

Kagan said he can’t see Glass becoming a product anytime soon, but Kerravala said the device still has a good shot.

“Oh, sure they can recover,” Kerravala said. “They’ll have to take a step back but… there’s an expression that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

TAG Heuer, Google, and Intel get together to announce a conceptual smartwatch

Google Intel TAG Heur cut the cheese

TAG Heuer is huddling up with Google and Intel to build a luxury smartwatch, but it’ll be a while before they actually show it off.

The three companies announced their partnership during the Baselworld watch and jewelry trade show in Switzerland. The watch will run Google’s Android Wear operating system, but that’s about all we know for sure. The companies promised to announce more details by the end of this year.

“We are not revealing the price, we are not revealing the functions,” said Jean-Claude Biver, TAG Heuer’s CEO and president of the watch division at parent company LVMH. “We are just revealing the most important thing, which is our partnership.”

The three companies spent most of their press conference extolling the virtues of their collaboration. TAG Heuer lacks the necessary technology expertise to build a smartwatch on its own, and Silicon Valley firms could use some help on the design front—as evidenced by the many ho-hum or outright ugly smartwatch designs on the market today.

It’s worth noting that when Google announced Android Wear a year ago, it listed another big watch brand, Fossil Group, as a partner. Later in the year, Intel announced that it wasalso collaborating with Fossil on wearable technology, but it didn’t mention Google. So far, neither partnership has yielded any actual products, though Mashable reported in Januarythat Fossil Group still plans to launch connected watches later this year.

Meanwhile, some other Swiss brands are working on analog watches with smart features such as fitness tracking and automatic time-zone adjustments.

The story behind the story: While the timing of Baselworld is coincidental, it certainly seemed like TAG Heuer and its Silicon Valley partners were trying to take some air out the Apple Watch, which launches next month. Still, it’s hard to shake the notion that the three companies were caught flat-footed without an actual product to demonstrate. Add the fact that Android Wear only works with Android phones, and the odds are slim that anyone eyeing an Apple Watch will now feel compelled to delay their purchase.

Pebble Time's first “smartstraps” could have modular features

sparkpebblePebble’s plan for modular smartwatch straps is edging closer to reality with a couple of early supporters.

On the upcoming Pebble Time watch, Pebble is including a smart-accessory port that lets the wristband carry additional hardware features. For instance, you might have a strap with extra battery life, or one with GPS connectivity. But these “smartstraps” only existed in theory when Pebble announced the Pebble Time last month, with no other companies committed to the idea.

Now, it seems that Pebble has found some allies for its initiative.

One of the participants is Seeed Studio, which makes hardware modules for do-it-yourself electronics projects. Seeed is planning a Pebble adapter for the company’s Xadow modules, which offer features like GPS and NFC. While it’s unlikely that Seeed will market these modules to consumers, other companies could still use the modules as prototypes before creating their own polished smartstraps. The modules could also be of use to DIYers who want to hack their own Pebble straps.

The other participant is Spark, whose open-source hardware kits serve as a launching point for other Internet-connected products. Spark’s upcoming Electron kit has built-in cellular connectivity with data plans costing just a few bucks per month. The Pebble prototype strap shows how the watch could easily gain 3G connectivity, letting users send and receive messages without a paired smartphone. Again, it’s not a consumer-facing product, but the idea is that companies who want to make 3G straps for Pebble would have an easy way to do so.

Spark says this is in no way a final design, though it does have some geek appeal.

When will we see some actual smartstraps that you can buy? That’s still unclear, and the Pebble Time itself isn’t even shipping to Kickstater backers until May. But Pebble has set aside $1 million for companies that want to build their own straps through crowdfunding. Pebble says it will pick the most promising smartstrap projects to receive funding and promotion.

Why this matters: The modular wristband makes a lot of sense for smartwatches. Not everyone wants or needs the exact same features from these devices, and the space inside them is so constrained that it’s not practical to include everything. While we’ve seen some modular smartwatch concepts before, Pebble is clearly the farthest along in delivering real products.

OnePlus Gaming Device Teased for April Launch

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OnePlus dropped its first hint about entering a new product category back at MWC 2015 where the company’s Co-Founder Carl Pei revealed that a new product category will be launching next month.Pei even went on to suggest that the new product is neither a smartwatch nor a tablet leaving everyone to guess the next OnePlus product. Now, the company has teased the launch of the upcoming device for the first time, with a post on the company’s official forum that hints at the at a gaming product.

On Thursday, the company on its official Forum post shared three images teasing the upcoming device and said, “It’s been a little over a year since OnePlus was founded, and while we launched with our flagship killer smartphone, we have, and always will be, a technology company. Innovation and revolutionary ideas that shake up the industry are what OnePlus has built itself upon.”

oneplus_teaser_april1.jpgThe company, describing its product strategy, added, “The One was created to disrupt the smartphone world. The Power Bank was born to give our users more options and greater mobility. So, when it came time to think about our next product, we decided on a curveball [..] It’s not a tablet, and it’s not a smartwatch. But it is a game changer,” it said.

The first image shows a red lit circle, tipping an infrared or 3D motion sensor. The image has a tagline that says, “Start a New Game.” While the second image shows trail of line making up the company’s logo. The tagline on the image says, “For the fun of it.”

Lastly, the third image shows a pair of hands miming holding something larger than a gaming controller, either tipping motion controls or a game controller case for the OnePlus One phone, with the image tagline saying, “You are in control.”

oneplus_teaser_april2.jpgWe will have to still wait till April to see what OnePlus has up its sleeves, but the teasers so far hint at a gaming ecosystem based around the One smartphone.

Xiaomi, a rival Chinese firm, launched the Bluetooth-enabled Mi Game Controller in January at its gaming event. The firm in January had also launched its Mi Box Mini set-top box, and back in August had partnered with Ouya to offer games on its Mi Box and Mi TV platforms. –

In other news, OnePlus recently announced a hike in price for Europe (specifically the countries part of the European Union) of its “2014 flagship killer” smartphone, the One, citing the decline in value of the Euro.

Android Wear Smartwatch Can Now Find Your Phone via Voice Command

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Google on Thursday started rolling out an update to Android Device Manager that helps users find their lost device via an Android Wear device.The Android Device Manager introduced in 2013 essentially allowed locating, resetting and deleting data for Android devices from Web. With the update, Google says that the ‘Find my phone’ support has now been added for the Android Wear devices.

The feature works can either work with voice command “Ok Google. Start. Find my phone” or by selecting the ‘Find my phone’ option from the start menu. If your device is mapped with Android Device Manager, it will start ringing at full volume till the time your Android Wear device/ smartwatch is in range (Bluetooth range).

Google didn’t mention any time-frame for the update, but said that users won’t need to do anything to enable this new feature; it will roll out to all Android Wear devices over the next few weeks.

Last year in August, Google had updated the Android Device Manager app with ability to set a call back button on the lock screen of a lost or a stolen smartphone. Earlier the app allowed users to set a lock screen password and a custom message for lost or stolen phones, and with the update, it also added new option to add an alternative phone number that will appear in the form of a bright green call button on the lock screen. While they can set up the feature before the device is lost or stolen, the feature can also be set up afterwards, by signing into Android Device Manager via the Web, or in guest mode via a friend’s Android phone.

AppDynamics Says Will Manage Apps, Analytics for Apple Watch

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Indian-founded application solutions provider AppDynamics on Tuesday said it will provide mobile app performance monitoring and user analytics solutions for US-based Apple’s recently unveiled smartwatch.Founded in 2008, California-based AppDynamics was started by Jyoti Bansal, an IIT Delhi graduate. It has around 600 employees and 1,600 enterprise customers.

The solutions it would provide for Apple Watch would include real-time monitoring and analytics support for WatchKit, an extension that controls the smart wearable device’s user interface and responses to user interactions.

AppDynamics did not disclose financial details of the deal.

AppDynamics also provides solutions for the US-based firm’s iconic iPhone.

The wearables market is projected to grow quickly and the need to monitor and manage the apps and huge variety of data on these devices has reached a critical point.

Research firm Statista projects the wearables sales to grow to more than $7 billion this year, with an annual growth of about $1.5 billion through 2018.

Strategy Analytics has projected Apple Watch sales of 15 million units in 2015, while IDC expects compound annual growth of nearly 80 per cent for wearables from 2014 through 2018.

Google Chromecast Will Now Work With Your TV Remote

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Good news for owners of the Google Chromecast as Google has updated the device and it will now work with your TV remote.

You can now pause and resume playback on the Google Chromecast with your TV remote and the feature appears to work with a number of apps.

Some of the reported apps that the new feature works with include the BBC iPlayer, Google Play Music, YouTube and more.

The new feature works with HDMI-CEC which is an extension of the HDMI protocol and this allows your TV remote to send signals to the Chromecast. This feature was apparently added to Google’s streaming device in the last software update.

Not all apps support the feature at the moment, it appears that the Netflix app does not support the use of the remote control, although we presume that this is something that will change in the future.