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Linux Gaming Across 9 Distros [Review in Progress]

Jason Evangelho of Forbes has started a Linux series where he reviews various Linux distributions (distros) for ease of use and performance in regards to Linux gaming. Jason's series isn't about just running benchmarks as he asks questions that everyday users would need to find out. Where am I going to get up-to-date graphics drivers for my AMD or NVIDIA graphics card? How is the default state of gaming on the Linux distro? Can I get Steam working right out of the box or am I going to have to tweak my system to accomplish this task? The 9 Linux distros that he is going to test in the series includes: Fedora 29 Workstation, Pop!_OS 18.10, Debian 9, Solus 4, Manjaro 18, Linux Mint 19, elementary OS 5, Deepin 15.9, and Ubuntu 18.10. His test system consists of an AMD Ryzen 5 2600, Radeon Sapphire RX 580, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1080 and more. So far he has tested Fedora 29 Workstation and Pop!_OS 18.10 with Pop!_OS 18.10 easily winning hands down in usability and performance. With the recent announcement that Google is leveraging Linux, Vulkan, first party games, and open-source AMD drivers for games running on its Google Stadia game streaming service; Linux gaming performance may enter into our PC gaming world very soon!

If you're an NVIDIA user, good news: Pop!_OS has a separate installer image for you which automatically installs the proprietary (and far more performant) graphics driver. Again, there's no need to enable alternative software sources or hit the command line. The moment your OS is installed you're ready to start gaming. You'll be using the latest and greatest stable driver, Nvidia 418.43. Radeon gamers have an advantage across several Linux distributions: the open source driver is part of the kernel (and thus ready to use immediately), well maintained and quite performant. This typically means less steps to get up and running with Steam and Steam Proton. One distinct difference between Pop!_OS and Fedora, however, is that Fedora runs with a much newer MESA driver. Specifically, Fedora 29 uses MESA 18.3.4 while Pop uses MESA 18.2.8. The kernel on Pop is also a bit older, but again I noticed no disadvantage on the gaming side save for one: updating your kernel to 5.0 will add Freesync support which is a feature I can't live without. It is quite literally a game-changer.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 20, 2019 12:23 PM (CDT)

Google GDC 2019 Gaming Announcement

Here is the Google GDC gaming announcement.

Gather around as we unveil Google's vision for the future of gaming at #GDC19.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 19, 2019 12:23 PM (CDT)

Real-Time Ray Tracing Support Comes to GeForce GTX GPUs and Game Engines

NVIDIA has announced that real-time ray tracing support is coming to GeForce GTX GPUs. This driver is scheduled to launch in April. GeForce GTX GPUs will execute ray traced effects on shader cores and support is extended to both Microsoft DXR and Vulkan APIs. NVIDIA reminds consumers that its GeForce RTX lineup of cards has dedicated ray tracing cores built directly into the GPU which deliver the ultimate ray tracing experience. GeForce RTX GPUs provide up to 2-3x faster ray tracing performance with a more visually immersive gaming environment than GPUs without dedicated ray tracing cores. NVIDIA GameWorks RTX is a comprehensive set of tools and rendering techniques that help game developers add ray tracing to games. Unreal Engine and Unity have announced that integrated real-time ray tracing support is being built into their engines.

Real-time ray tracing support from other first-party AAA game engines includes DICE/EA's Frostbite Engine, Remedy Entertainment's Northlight Engine and engines from Crystal Dynamics, Kingsoft, Netease and others. Quake II RTX -- uses ray tracing for all of the lighting in the game in a unified lighting algorithm called path tracing. The classic Quake II game was modified in the open source community to support ray tracing and NVIDIA's engineering team further enhanced it with improved graphics and physics. Quake II RTX is the first ray-traced game using NVIDIA VKRay, a Vulkan extension that allows any developer using Vulkan to add ray-traced effects to their games.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 18, 2019 10:09 PM (CDT)

Gaming Display Prices are Dropping

As anyone who recently built or updated a PC probably noticed, memory and GPU prices were conspicuously high throughout most of 2018 and late 2017. But, as we've said before, memory prices are dropping like a rock, while GPU prices are starting to level out thanks to the crypto mining bust. According to a recent report, another important component for any PC is expected to get cheaper throughout 2019. Digitimes claims that competition among "gaming monitor" manufacturers is starting to "heat up" as more Chinese LCD manufacturers enter the market. TV-size panel production is expected to grow as well, and OLED TVs in particular could get significantly cheaper as more OLED factories come online.

However, China's panel makers including BOE Technology, CPC-Panda LCD Technology and China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT) have recently stepped into the gaming panel sector, encouraged by government policy support and high profits generated by such products. The growing competition has sent gaming monitor panel prices falling sharply, with models with refresh rates of 144Hz and below being hit hardest, indicated the sources. Prices of 144Hz and below gaming panels fell 10% on average in 2018 and has dropped another 5% so far in 2019, as most China-based suppliers are focusing on this segment, said the sources, noting that the prices of 144Hz models will continue to fall in the second quarter.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 14, 2019 8:47 AM (CDT)

MSI Gaming Monitor Stops a Stray Bullet (and Still Works)

PC gamer Eric Gan had five gunshots fired into his room Monday, one of which managed to hit the back of his monitor, an MSI Optix G27C2. Even if he were gaming at the time, he’d still be alive thanks to the display, which blocked the bullet from getting any further into the room. Incredibly, the monitor still works, but MSI is sending him a replacement anyway.

Of course, the bullet had already lost a significant amount of kinetic energy from penetrating through the wall before hitting the monitor. Had that not been the case, we expect the monitor would be in much worse shape. Either way, we're glad that Gan and his neighbors were unharmed in the incident.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 09, 2019 10:50 AM (CST)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Turing Specs Allegedly Leak: 1.4GHz Base Clock, 4GB GDDR5

Bangkok-based leaker APISAK (@TUM_APISAK) has posted a 3DMark screenshot revealing the alleged specs of NVIDIA’s upcoming GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, which will reportedly launch alongside the GTX 1660 in spring. The Turing-based card is listed with a 1,395MHz base clock and 1,560MHz boost clock, and 4GB of presumed GDDR5 memory: "Past leaks peg the memory bus at 128-bit, and with a 2,000MHz effective clock speed, that would give the card 128GB/s of memory bandwidth."

...we can reasonably surmise that this will be yet another Turing card that lacks RT and Tensor cores, which are what give GeForce RTX series cards their real-time ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) mojo. NVIDIA rightly recognized that gamers at large are waiting for both features to be more widely supported before investing in the necessary hardware. Hence why the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti exists -- it lacks those features and is the least expensive Turing card on the market.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 02, 2019 9:40 AM (CST)

GeForce GTX 1660 TI Analyzed

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 TI is out, and one of out favorite Scottish YouTubers has already posted an analysis of the new GPU, along with some notes about the rest of the Turing lineup. Among other things, he points out that the GTX 1660's 284mm^2 die is relatively small compared to the massive RTX 2070, 2080, and 2080 TI dies. But the 1660 TI GPU is also significantly larger and faster than the GTX 1060, yet consumes almost the same amount of power under load, indicating that Nvidia have significantly improved Turing's power efficiency compared to Pascal in spite of the seemingly meager process advantage. Check out the full analysis below:
Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 28, 2019 8:55 AM (CST)

The GTX 1660 is Rumored to Launch in Mid March

The Taiwanese news outlet DigiTimes claims that the Nvidia will launch the mid-range GTX 1660 graphics card on March 15, at a price point of $229. This more or less lines up with the latest info from our own industry sources, who claim the 1660 will launch on March 14 at that same price point. Meanwhile, DigiTimes also expects the GTX 1650 to launch on April 15th at the US $179 price point. We can't verify that particular claim yet, but the latest rumor from Videocardz indicated that the GTX 1650 would launch "next month" in late March.

With the launch of the four products bearing high price-performance ratios, Nvidia is apparently seeking to refocus its graphics card business on the medium- and low-end market in the first half of 2019 to prevent its profits from falling further and drive AMD's share in the market down to under 25% or even 20%, industry sources commented. The drastic shrinkage in demand for crypto mining graphic cards seen since the second quarter of 2018 prompted Nvidia to fast reduce its inventory in the following months, minimizing the impact on profitability. For the fiscal quarter from November 2018 to January 2019, Nvidia's revenues plunged 24% on year and 31% on quarter to US$2.205 billion, and its profits for the quarter plunged 54% sequentially and 49% on year to US$567 million.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 27, 2019 10:22 AM (CST)

Phil Spencer Comments on Developer Acquisitions and PC Gaming Plans

Microsoft recently acquired the long-running RPG developers Obsidian and inXile, and, given Microsoft's track record with acquisitions and PC titles in general, many fans were justifiably worried about what that means for either studio. But, in a recent interview with PC Gamer, Microsoft's Phil Spencer not only seemed cognizant of these concerns, but did his best to quell them. He said that it's "up to the studios to decide what platforms to make games for," and that he doesn't expect either developer to shift their focus away from PCs. Overall, it looks like both developers have plenty of leeway to make whatever they want, which mirriors what both studios have been loudly telling the public ever since they were acquired by Microsoft. Additionally, PC Gamer asked if gamers can expect Xbox games to show up on Windows, or if Microsoft Store games will ever show up on Steam. He said "It's a good question and something we've spent a lot of time thinking through. I expect us to share more details on our plans here soon." As they often have in the past, Microsoft repeatedly promised to do right by PC gamers this time around, but only time will tell if they follow up on that promise.

"While we are proud of our PC gaming heritage, we've made some mistakes along our journey. We know we have to move forward, informed by our past, with the unique wants, needs and challenges of the PC player at the center of decisions we make. I know we've talked quite a bit over time about what we want to deliver for the player on PC, but at E3 this year, and throughout 2019, you'll begin to see where we've been investing to deliver across Store, services, in Windows and in great games. It's just the beginning."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 27, 2019 9:52 AM (CST)

GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Mega Benchmark: 34% Faster than GTX 1060 6G at 1440p

Hardware Unboxed’s latest mega benchmark pits the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti against 33 games at 1440p. Steve found the 1660 Ti performing 34% faster on average compared to the GTX 1060 6G, with significant differences in titles such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Rainbow Six Siege, and Apex Legends. While the GPU performed similarly to the GTX 1070 ("same performance"), it was 14% slower on average than the RTX 2060 and 8% slower on average than the Radeon RX Vega 56.
Discussion
Posted by Megalith February 24, 2019 6:00 PM (CST)

Valve Is Removing Steam Video Section; Retiring Non-Gaming Content

Valve’s plan for selling hit Hollywood blockbusters on a digital distribution platform meant for games didn’t turn out so well, it seems: the company has announced it is scrapping Steam’s movie catalog so it can focus primarily on gaming. The good news is that gamers won’t lose any of their previously purchased titles.

"In reviewing what Steam users actually watch, it became clear we should focus our effort on offering content that is either directly related to gaming or, is accessory content for games or software sold on Steam," Valve wrote in a blog post. "As part of this refocus, we have retired the Video section of the Steam Store menu with an expectation that video content is discovered via the associated game or software store page, or through search, user tags, recommendations, etc."

Discussion
Posted by Megalith February 24, 2019 1:40 PM (CST)

Linux Gaming Is on a Life-Support System Called Steam

Linux gamers should get on their knees and give Gabe’s feet a good kissing because Steam is largely responsible for keeping gaming on that platform alive, according to a piece by Engadget. While the percentage of Linux gamers hasn’t really grown and still represents a tiny fraction of the gaming market, some argue Valve’s enthusiasm for technologies such as Proton (which has brought thousands of Windows games to the open-source OS) is a great reason to back Steam instead of competitors such as the Epic Games Store, which lacks this kind of support.

One of the only reasons Linux is even a conversation nowadays is because Steam has kept its embers warm all these years. "The pro of supporting Linux is the community," Super Meat Boy Forever creator Tommy Refenes said. "In my experience, Linux gamers tend to be the most appreciative gamers out there. If you support Linux at all, the chances are they will come out of the woodwork to thank you, offer to help with bugs, talk about your game, and just in general be pretty cool people. The con here unfortunately is the Linux gaming community is a very, very small portion of the PC gaming market."

Discussion
Posted by Megalith February 23, 2019 4:25 PM (CST)