Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 115.
First off, let me thank everyone for their support.In last week's newsletter I wrote about my wife's health issues flaring up, and with her ending up in the hospital for a night. I received a lot of support on the forums and by email, and it helped her and me through it all.
More about that later, lets start with this week's Tech News.
nVidia Shield Launched:
The biggest news for me this week is that finally nVidia started shipping the Shield.
Mine came in yesterday, so more about the Shield below, including a collection of reviews.
Benchmark-specific optimisations found in Galaxy S4:
While they can't be used as a measure for real-world-use, benchmarks are often used to compare the abilities of different products. Because benchmark utilities are designed to reproduce the exact same scenario every time, running the same tool on different devices and keeping track of everything that happens, things like frame rate, calculation speed etc can be translated to an indication value that can be used for comparison.
With cars, things like horsepower and top speed can be measured in a testing facility, and using the same setup for different cars enables you to compare them.
With benchmark tools, a game can be running in a pre-programmed scene, and frame rate and in-game speed can be measured and when ran on different devices compared.
But, since these benchmark tools are designed to run the same thing over and over, and the tools used are publicly known and available, hardware manufacturers can build-in optimizations. Special tweaks that kick in when a benchmark tool is detected, resulting in a slight processor performance boost, or even a battery-optimization tweak in case of a battery-life benchmark.
Earlier this week, someone found such optimisations under the hood of the Samsung Galaxy S4.
AnandTech | Looking at CPU/GPU Benchmark Optimizations in Galaxy S 4
The article describes that when certain, benchmark-related, apps were ran on the phone, the processor's speed was adjusted upwards, thus resulting in a better performance indication for that benchmark.
While not nice, these types of "cheats" have been going on for many years.
10+ years ago, when both ATi and nVidia were very similar in performance, both companies made small tweaks in their drivers specifically for the popular 3D Mark benchmark tool. Ignorance of certain parts of a scene, so less needed to be calculated, small, barely visible quality reductions, again, all to speed things up a bit more, making it look better than the other guy.
nVidia still cheating, even with latest 3DMark build | Games | Geek.com
Benchmarks used to mislead customers- The Inquirer
This later evolved into the specific game-performance/quality tweaks now found in apps like Geforce Experience, but back then, it was just to get the better numbers in the benchmarks.
Similarly, Intel performed some tweaks for benchmark software at one time as well.
Intel graphics drivers employ questionable 3DMark Vantage optimizations - The Tech Report - Page 1
As I mentioned above, benchmarks often provide a real-world usage scenario, however, when used by an independent site, they are useful for many customers who are at a point of making a choice between different products.
Android home phone:
It took a while, but finally a company decided to create a smartphone for at home. While many people use cellphones at home in preference over land-lines, there is still a large market for land-line phones, and Panasonic decided to bundle some things together.
Panasonic KX-PRX120 offers Ice Cream Sandwich on a cordless phone
A wireless home-phone running Android. The specs themselves are not the latest and the greatest, but with Android 4.0, Wifi, Bluetooth, it does make it an interesting option if you need a land-line phone. One thing that would have made it a lot more useful would have been infrared, so that it could be used as an all-in-one remote as well.
Nintendo continues to lose ground with the Wii-U.
Earlier this year, a few gaming companies mentioned that they are no longer developing games for the Wii-U due to a lack of sales, and now a Walmart-owned supermarket-chain in the UK decided to stop selling the Wii-U completely:
Wii U dumped by major retailer as PS4 and Xbox One near - SlashGear
Kindle Fire 3:
Only a couple of months away from Amazon's yearly keynote, rumors on the next Kindle devices are starting to pop up on the web.
Kindle Fire refresh tipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2GB RAM - SlashGear
Google's new Nexus 7:
Last week's release of the second generation Nexus 7 resulted in reviews for the new tablet all over the web:
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review | Android Central
Cheaper than most, better than all: the 2013 Nexus 7 reviewed | Ars Technica
Google Nexus 7 review (2013) | The Verge
Google Nexus 7 (2013) - CNET Reviews
Nexus 7 2013 Review: The Best Small Tablet, Even Better
I don't have the new Nexus 7 on my "wish list". While it has some great specs, a faster processor and a higher screen resolution alone is not enough for me to replace my old Nexus 7 with the new one.
DVD Catalyst News:
I am currently finishing up an update for DVD Catalyst that includes some new device profiles (including the Nexus 7 v2) as well as a number of bug-fixes, and some speed tweaks.
The update should be available within a few days.
Again, thanks to everyone who replied/emailed/posted their support.
Things did change for the better for my wife in the hospital, and she came home later in the day last Friday. While the problems she has haven't been solved, they made some adjustments to her meds, enough to get her numbers back to a safe level, and things are improving. Part of the problems she is experiencing is that the different levels in her blood aren't tested enough, so with medicine taking effect, she ends up continuing with the same dose until being told otherwise, even if that amount is no longer needed. With the amount of different medicine she takes and changes in her health (last week's flu), things can spiral out of control quite quickly.
Even though she came home Friday night, we ended up going back to the Emergency Room early Saturday morning due to a bad nose-bleed.
At home, with her oxygen, she has a little cup that humidifies the oxygen, preventing her nose from drying out. Unfortunately when she overnighted at the hospital, they didn't use the cup, so her nose dried out. At home, due to the humidified oxygen, her nose started bleeding, and with her being on blood-thinners, it looked like a faucet turned open all the way. Trying to stop it and cleaning it at the same time so she could breathe didn't work at all, so after it gotten from bad to worse, she ended up in the ER, where they did manage to stop the bleeding.
While we knew bleeding would be worse when on blood-thinners, somehow we missed any information on how it would be with a bloody nose. It is mainly common sense, holding your nose bridge closed to have the bleeding stop, but doing that for 20-30 minutes is something you don't think of at that moment.
Anyway, we learned the hard way, and now we know for the next time. We already had a few doctors visits this week, changing some of the amounts of the meds she takes, and we also set up a better monitoring system for her with more regular testing, and of course if something changes her health, we try and keep a better eye on it all.
nVidia Shield launched:
This week, after a month delay, nVidia finally released the Shield.
For me, one of the few 2013 devices I am very excited about. Of course I'm looking forward to the retina iPad Mini 2 and the iPad 5, and the Nexus 7 v2 is cool as well, but the nVidia Shield is a "new" device, rather than a bigger/better/faster version of a last-years device.
I have wrote about it before, but for the last 2 1/2 some years, basically since the Motorola Xoom was released, innovation with portable devices have been slow. Of course new tablets and smartphones have been released daily, but aside from a faster processor and a higher resolution screen, is there really that much difference between a Motorola Xoom and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1? Or between the original iPad and the iPad 4? Or the Motorola Droid X and the Samsung Galaxy S4?
While its functionality can be mimicked by using a variety of individual devices, the Shield's design is something new. A gaming controller with a build-in (small) Android tablet.
A device build for a single purpose, gaming. Either by making use of the filled Google Play library, or with its desktop game-streaming feature.
Below a collection of some of the reviews for the nVidia Shield found on the web.
NVIDIA Shield review | Android Central
NVIDIA SHIELD Tegra 4 Android Gaming Portable - HotHardware
Skyrim In Bed: The NVIDIA SHIELD Review - Forbes
AnandTech | NVIDIA Shield Review: At the Crossroads of PC and Mobile Gaming
Nvidia Shield review | Joystiq
NVIDIA SHIELD Review - SlashGear
Nvidia Shield Review - IGN
Nvidia Shield review | The Verge
Not everyone is as positive over the Shield as I am (IGN for example), but they all provide some interesting perspectives.
Mine came in yesterday, and I have to say, I'm not disappointed.
If you have been reading the newsletter for a while and thus my thoughts on the Shield, you probably know that I didn't order it for the ability of playing Android games. My main purpose for it is to be able to play triple-A desktop/console caliber games (Fallout 3 / New Vegas, Skyrim, Tomb Raider, Dishonored etc) while I am not behind my desktop.
During the day I spent my time behind a computer for development and answering support questions, but at nights, my wife and I are in the same room (that way I can keep an eye on her), and while she watches her content on the TV, I watch my own content on a tablet (the main reason why I started DVD Catalyst is for that purpose).
Watching my own taste of movies and TV shows while she watches hers is great, but playing a game every now and then is a great way to let off some steam, but to sit in the same office I work in all day, or use the XBOX 360 in the other room doesn't work well.
I tried a few different setups, a small TV with the XBOX in the same room as my wife, and I even tried using a laptop (my old development laptop as well as the Surface Pro) to play some games while in the same room, but in order to be able to use the setup for longer periods of times (2+ hours), a powercord comes into play, and then I'm not even talking about the actual setup of the system, being either on my lap, on top of a pile of pillows or by using a small table in front of me.
The Shield fixes all that. No need for a portable gaming rig, no need for connecting a collection of multiple devices, just a single gaming controller with its own build-in screen, accessing content from my (reasonably) powerful development/gaming desktop.
I can be in the living room, office, bedroom, or if I want to, even sit outside on the porch on a nice night.
But, one of the biggest drawbacks of the Shield is that in order to be able to use its main feature (for me at least), is that it requires an nVidia-based "gaming-rig". A reasonably powerful processor and of course a current-generation nVidia video card. For me, the development system I picked up last year to replace my aging development laptop, was not enough. While the system did have an nVidia video card build-in, it was too old, so I had to upgrade. There are a lot of different models of cards available, ranging from $100 all the way to the $1000's, but I don't care too much about being able to turn on all the visuals on the latest games, so for me, I went with one of the minimums, a $130 GTX 650.
Since the games I prefer are somewhat older, it is powerful enough to pull some great effects, and with the 720p resolution of the Shield, it actually looks better in most ways than the same games on the XBOX 360.
Personal Experiences with the Shield so far:
My Shield came in only yesterday, so I haven't been able to put it through a lot yet, so expect some updates from me on the Shield on Facebook / Google Plus in the next couple of days.
I already posted up a few things of interest last night when I was finally able to play with it.
My biggest concern was the "Supported Games" list that nVidia posted up for the Shield. It has a nice collection of games, but the one game I wanted to use the Shield for, Fallout 3, was not on the list.
Last night, when I got the Shield setup and working, I spent some time on trying to get other stuff to work.
On the Shield itself, it displays the supported games you have in Steam, but it also has a direct Steam option. With this option you get full access to your Steam Library, with everything you have in it, and accessible on the Shield.
I tried some unsupported games this way, and a few I tried worked. Unfortunately, Fallout 3 did not. The Geforce Experience application, which is required for streaming, applies "tweaked" settings to games it supports, so my guess is that it uses this same system for streaming the games. Changing the game settings to something the Shield supports. So I changed the settings I use for Fallout 3 to something more Shield-friendly, I lowered the game resolution to the Shields 1280x720, and then, Fallout 3 worked just fine on the Shield.
From there, I tried a few other things. I tried a few non-Steam PopCap games (you have to add them into Steam using the Games > Add non-Steam Game option), and found that one worked and one did not. Starting them on the PC, I realized that the one that worked was set to play in full-screen, and the other in "windowed" mode, so I set it to full-screen and it worked.
Then, I tried something else. Since adding a non-Steam game basically just creates a shortcut to the game in Steam, why stop at only games. I added Windows Media Player, and it worked. I then tried Photoshop CS6, and it worked as well. And of course, I tried running DVD Catalyst this way, and it worked too
One caveat though, if the game/app doesn't have game-controller support build-in, you can only control it using the touch-screen on the Shield. This by itself would be usable, was it not for an issue with the mouse-pointer not being where you actually touch the screen.
Last night, after trying a couple of things, I spent about 2 hours with the Shield playing Fallout 3.
As mentioned in a couple of the reviews above, I had some disconnect issues due to other devices connected to the same wireless router (a 4 year old Apple Airport Extreme). Thankfully, unlike what one of the reviews above stated, reconnecting to the game was possible. After losing a connection, the game stays open on the PC, so it was only a reconnect to continue.
Gameplay itself on the Shield was great. The controller-part feels great, and the button/thumbstick resistance is well-balanced. A little stiffer than an actual XBOX360 controller, but I think that after a week or so, it will be loosened up a bit
The game-streaming part for the Shield works by turning the screen output on the computer into a video stream, which is then played on the Shield. I think that the quality of the video stream is adjusted based on the wifi-connection in order to get consistent playback.
I noticed a few times (when the air conditioning kicked in in the place) that the visual quality of the game was reduced a bit.
The screen itself is great. I would have liked it to be a little bigger, maybe the size of the screen without the borders, but it looks amazing. It is one of the best screens on a portable device I have seen so far.
Anyway, for more news on the Shield, keep an eye out on my Facebook / Google Plus pages.
Thank you for reading the DVD Catalyst Newsletter. As mentioned above, I'm finishing up an update for DVD Catalyst 4 which includes some new device profiles as well as some tweaks and fixes, which should be ready in the next couple of days.
Thanks again for reading, and have a great weekend.
About DVD Catalyst:
DVD Catalyst 4 is the fastest, easiest and most affordable software available for converting and optimizing your movies and TV shows from DVD and for converting popular (AVI, MKV, ISO etc) video files into the right file format for PCs, smartphones and tablets. Don't let the price fool you. Aside from its affordability, DVD Catalyst beats most similar applications in terms of conversion speed AND visual quality of the created videos and with smaller file-sizes.
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If you have not done so already, download the free trial version (link) or purchase the retail version for a limited time for only $9.95 (link).
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Step 2: Start DVD Catalyst 4 and select your device profile.
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After the conversion is complete, connect your device to your computer and copy the created movie file over.
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