PCs pick up the slack
E3 is all about the games, but it’s usually all about the console games. That held true at E3 2014, but PC gaming hardware still surged at the show. For this we can thank the rise of virtual reality; a bunch of snazzy (and sometimes expensive) PC gaming peripherals; and both hulking rigs and itty-bitty Steam Machines—which were picking up the slack for the still-immature Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.
Here’s the best of the PC hardware bunch, starting with a would-be Steam Machine that’s launching without SteamOS.
Valve recently delayed the Steam Controller/Steam Machine until 2015, but not all manufacturers are following suit. Alienware’s iconic Steam Machine has been reinvented as Alienware Alpha, a streamlined Windows machine that’s still intended for living room use.
It comes complete with a custom, gamepad-friendly interface that lets you ignore your keyboard and mouse while you’re sitting on your couch. So, yes, there’s finally a living room PC that acts like a console, at least on the surface. Check out the full details here, and look for our hands-on report on how this innovative PC handles on Monday.
Roccat Steam Machine peripherals
This Roccat prototype is intended for use with Steam Machines, but is suitable for any living room PC. It’s a wireless lapboard that integrates a mouse and a mechanical keyboard into one device, and provides a fast 1000Hz polling rate.
The underside is cushioned, and I had no problems getting comfortable in my demo. Hopefully this product escapes the concept stage and gets a full release soon.
Ain't it cute?
The current dongle receiver for the Roccat prototype is this adorable miniature sofa. Cheeky, indeed.
Tucked away in a corner of the Bethesda booth was this Origin behemoth—the 2014 Millennium. When entirely tricked out, this PC sports an Intel Extreme i7-4960X (clocked at 4.4Ghz). This model has four Titans inside. Hot damn.
The Nvidia tent
Nvidia wasn't at E3 proper, choosing instead to have a tent across the street from the convention. Inside? That same Origin Millennium with four Titans, pumping out this incredible three-screen display.
Look out, HAL
Nvidia toted a whole rack of GRID (cloud gaming) servers to the show. They looked quite a bit like the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith—if, of course, the monolith glowed bright green.
Prepare for Titanfall
Nvidia also showcased this custom Titanfall PC at the show, which featured two GTX770s in SLI. It's not the most powerful machine, but it sure is pretty.
Kor-FX haptic feedback vest
The Kor-FX is a haptic feedback vest that rests on your chest, and provides force-feedback based on audio cues. It’s currently on Kickstarter, with a tentative fall release date.
Turtle Beach Z60 gaming headset
Turtle Beach used E3 to show off its Z60 headset—the first of its PC headsets to use 60mm drivers, instead of the 50mm drivers used previously. Bigger drivers generally mean better bass, which means meatier in-game explosions and growls.
Fast and furious raceware
Playseat showed off a dizzying array of (surprise!) seats, for your racing pleasure—shifters, pedals, and comfy chair included. All you need to is supply your own racing wheel. I can’t say I’m quite hardcore enough to purchase one of these rigs, as it took me years to even buy a flight stick. I’m tempted, though. After all, The Crew is coming up...
Oculus debuted a new booth that resembles an enormous living room. On the shelves? The old Oculus prototypes, giving attendees something to look at while they wait in line. It’s sort of like a Disneyworld ride, except it doubles as a history of the company.
I particularly love the “circuit board glued to plastic block” look rocked by the mannequin head on the right.
This other shelf showcases Oculus’ recent projects—the second iteration of the Oculus Rift development kit (DK2) and, prior to that announcement, the short-lived but much-loved Crystal Cove prototype.
The current second-generation Oculus Rift developer’s kit was available to trial, of course, showing off demos of newly VR-compatible versions of three games: Lucky’s Tale, Superhot, and the upcoming Alien: Isolation. Go here to check out our impressions, and learn how Oculus is building a PC gaming dream team to guarantee that top-notch games get the VR treatment.
Virtual walking on easy street
Virtuix’s Omni treadmill, designed to let you walk around virtual reality spaces uninhibited, is back at E3, almost exactly a year after the company successfully completed its Kickstarter. The team didn’t have much new to show this time around, besides a brief virtual tourism demo in Amsterdam.
I was told that this is hopefully the last show where we’ll see the old prototype hardware. By PAX Prime in August, we should be able to run around on the final product, which tentatively ships at the end of this year.
Omni counts calories too
Another new development from Virtuix: When you finish a session on the Omni, the system now tells you how many calories you burned in the process. Walking (virtually) through Amsterdam, I only managed to burn off 15 calories, but longer experiences can add up quickly. The Omni still has some issues to solve, but this is an interesting product to watch if you’re looking to lose some weight.
Razer's new digs
Razer announced earlier this week that it’s teaming up with other companies to create desktop computer cases via a new “Designed by Razer” initiative. The first partnership is with NZXT, and the result is this H440 case.
It’s got a lot of green, as per Razer tradition—even the USB slots are highlighted in green. The $150 case supports Mini-ITX, MicroATX, and ATX motherboards, has seven expansion slots, filters for each fan opening, two USB 3.0 slots, an additional two USB 2.0 slots, and support for six 3.5-inch and two 2.5-inch drives.
Razer is also giving its Kraken headset/headphones line a new set of paint with the Razer Kraken Neon Series. They come in six acid-trip colors: blue, green, yellow, red, orange, and purple.
When we reviewed the Kraken 7.1 headset, it sounded great, was priced right, and felt great on your ears. Watch out for those wires, though.
Small, but strong
Of course, Razer also had its super-powered Blade and Blade Pro laptops on hand for people to test out.
Polk Striker headset
Polk audio showed off its upcoming Striker headset—easy on the budget, but supposedly with the acoustics of much pricier hardware (though this claim is impossible to test on the deafening show floor).
Nintendo Family Computer
This counts as a computer, right? I mean, it's right in the name. Once again, E3 played host to a beautiful collection of classic hardware, including this Nintendo Famicom, also known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the United States.
But wait, there's more!
The gaming gear onslaught actually kicked off the week before E3, as a slew of major manufacturers announced powerful PCs, impossibly thin gaming laptops, Steam Machines, and peripherals ahead of the show, hoping to get an early ride on the hype train. In many ways, those announcement actually topped what was revealed on the E3 show floor proper. Check out the fashionably early gaming hardware.
And be sure to read about the PC games that got us personally giddy at E3, too. Because gaming hardware isn't anything if you don't have anything to play on it.