Dramatic improvements for photo mode too.
Forza Horizon 5 ships on PC, Xbox Series X and Series S with hardware-accelerated ray tracing support to embellish vehicle reflections – but only in Forza Vista and garage modes. This is something of a shame, especially when photo mode in particular stands to benefit immensely. However, on the DF Supporter Program, one of our backers – Frosticles – produced an RT mod for the PC version (with an assist from Rotab for the Windows Store version), allowing for reflections to run in all modes of the game. So, how beneficial is it and what is the performance cost? Could it be enabled in future on Xbox Series X?
To begin with, let’s clarify how standard reflections work in Forza Horizon 5, because it’s fair to say that even without RT, they look great. If you can imagine six invisible cameras attached to the player vehicle, capturing imagery and mapping it onto a sphere, you get some idea of how the reflections are generated. Effectively, you’re looking at cube-map reflections generated continuously in real-time. These reflections are not perspective-correct, but it’s close enough and works well enough.
Here’s how ray tracing in Forza Horizon 5 looks enabled in all areas of the game – and the performance cost for using.
Hardware accelerated ray tracing further embellishes effect by adding RT reflections of the vehicle onto the car itself, something the cube-maps can’t do. It’s important to stress that it is only the car – not the environment – being traced and certainly not other cars. Anything outside of the player vehicle that makes its way into FH5’s reflections all comes from that real-time cube-map image. The specific way that the reflections work also means that ‘reflections within reflections’ are possible – so wing mirrors reflected in the door glass ‘work’, though in this case, it’s the cube-map from the mirror that is being reflected.
In many scenarios, the changes can be subtle – especially in-game – but close-up to the car, the difference can be extraordinary, so using the mod in photo-mode can be highly beneficial in getting a much better shot. In fact, the thumbnail image on the video (and the article thumbnail on the front-page) are based on a Playground press image, which does have ray tracing enabled: you can see the vehicle reflected in the mounted lights at the front of the car. It’s also worth mentioning that the pre-rendered cinematics on the introduction also use the effect. And why not? The cars are the stars of the show and hardware-accelerated ray tracing makes these beautiful models look even better.
In my original PC tech review, I wasn’t hugely impressed by PC scalability beyond the Series X quality mode, but engaging RT offers a cool upgrade – but it also has its limitations, of course. For starters, in-game, primarily you are seeing your car just from the back. This means that the impact of self-reflections varies according to the design of the vehicle. Secondly, hardware RT does not work within the vehicles – so the rear-view mirror does not reflect the interior of the car, for example. The final limitation is that when say that only the player car’s detail is reflected, we mean it. The player model itself is never reflected. This is a bit of a shame for a potential in-game or photo mode application, but would have no impact for FH5’s intended use in Forza Vista or the garage.
However, in addition to forcing RT on in all modes, the mod also access other parameters. The ray-per-pixel or reflection setting can be tweaked to increase or decrease reflection fidelity. One ray per pixel gives a good result, but moving beyond that effectively anti-aliases the reflection and adds a good deal of quality – at a cost to performance, of course. Another option is to increase the number of times rays bounce, above the default one bounce, adding further realism and quality. It’s fascinating to test RT in all modes and to tweak the available parameters in Playground’s implementation – it gives you some idea of scalability and tweakability in what is clearly a work-in-progress technology.
But let’s say you own FH5 on PC and want to give it a go – what’s the performance cost? First of all, you obviously need an Nvidia Turing, Ampere or AMD RDNA 2 GPU to make this feature work at all. And the cost of the feature depends on your GPU, what the rendering resolution is, and how close to the car you are. For my testing, I chose the RTX 3080 and RX 6800 XT and used the game’s PC benchmark at 4K resolution. On the Nvidia side, RT reflections adds 1.7ms of render time in its default configuration. On the AMD card, it adds about 2.9ms. Bearing in mind that to run at 60fps, we’re aiming for a 16.7ms render budget at the maximum, this is a significant cost and clearly, maintaining 4K60 is going to be more viable on the RTX 3080.
Could RT be enabled on Xbox Series X? Bearing in mind that the RX 6800 XT is considerably more powerful, that 2.9ms render cost would rise significantly, so perhaps it’s not viable. However, PC gaming is all about options and delivering forward-looking features – and with that in mind, I would hope to see Playground Games incorporate it as an official feature in future. The mod seems to work quite well – the only issue I found concerned square patch artefacts on the rear car window of one specific vehicle. In the here and now though, it’s obviously early days for RT in ForzaTech – but I’ll be curious to see how the technology evolves for the upcoming Forza Motorsport.
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Video Producer, Digital Foundry
Ray-tracing radical, Turok technophile, Crysis cultist and motion-blur menace. When not doing Digital Foundry things, he can be found strolling through Berlin examining the city for rendering artefacts.
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Hack Your Battle Station With the Best PC Gaming Accessories – Yahoo Lifestyle
When it comes to gaming PCs, you’ve got an entire suite of products at your disposal to ensure you have the best experience possible. Unlike with console gaming, you’re afforded the option to outfit your gaming PC with only the finest hardware and accessories to enhance every single second spent exploring the world of Azeroth in World of Warcraft or securing Victory Royales in Fortnite.
That means you need to keep an eye out for the best possible gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, gaming headset, and more when putting together your repertoire of gaming goodness. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got pinpoint accuracy for debilitating headshots, crystal clear audio to hear footsteps advancing your way, and a chair to preserve your posture.
Before we get to our selections, we think it’s fair to note that you don’t need to upgrade your setup all at once, especially if you’re new to PC gaming. Your best bet is to upgrade slowly. Maybe you already have a set of high-quality over-ear headphones that you use for school and relaxing that could translate well to gaming. If so, you can wait on upgrading those. However, if you only have some less-than-impressive stock mouse that came with your work computer, you might want to get a more customizable option. Whatever you choose, we say build slowly. But when you’re ready to roll, give our list of the best PC gaming accessories a look!
BEST GAMING KEYBOARD
Whether your gaming PC is pulling double duty as a workstation or you need mechanical keys to make sure you’re quick on the draw, the SteelSeries Apex Pro RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is what you need if you want to hang with the most competitive gamers. The big draw here is that the keys themselves are fully-adjustable with OmniPoint switches so that you can set the travel distance to your exact specs.
It also features full RGB control, allowing you to customize key colors per game or to utilize the entire spectrum as you see fit. It includes the option to assign program-specific commands to keys and is built with a reliable, hardy aluminum chassis (the same kind they use on aircrafts) to ensure your gaming keyboard stays intact even after one or two tantrums — you know we all throw them.
Buy: SteelSeries Apex Pro $179.99 (orig. $199.99) 10% OFF
BEST GAMING MOUSE
A great mouse is tantamount to any gaming you might do on PC. That’s why the Razer Mamba Wireless Gaming Mouse is an excellent choice to take out onto the battlefield, whether you’re hoping for headshots in Valorant or building towns in Minecraft. The Mamba comes sporting a 16,000 DPI optical sensor with dedicated DPI switches as well as reprogrammable main buttons to make it feel like your very own, customizable mouse.
You can even customize its coloring thanks to its integrated Chroma RGB Color Profiles. You’re in no danger of your finger slipping off of a button or scroll wheel either, with the ridged, rubberized texture and side grips on this gaming mouse. You’ll also get to play for days on end, thanks to the 50 hours you can get from a single charge.
Buy: Razer Mamba Wireless Gaming Mouse $49.00 (orig. $99.99) 51% OFF
BEST GAMING MOUSE PAD
If you splurge on a great gaming mouse, you’re going to need a gaming surface to go with it. SteelSeries has a particularly great one, with enough real estate to cover any area on your desk dedicated to maneuvering around in-game. The QcK Prism comes with LEDs around the outside that let you illuminate the surface with full RGB lighting that you can customize to your liking.
You can also opt to game with this mousepad’s premium hard polymer surface or micro-textured cloth, depending on what feels better for you. What’s more, if you purchase any additional SteelSeries gear, you can sync your lighting across products. Last but not least, you can count on this bad boy not to slip during heated bouts. Say goodbye to the floppy old pads of yesterday and step into the future with this colorful option instead.
Buy: SteelSeries QcK Prism RGB Mousepad $98.81
BEST GAMING HEADSET
A top-rated gaming headset is a must-have for any PC gamer, and the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless option was created with hardcore players in mind. It includes premium speaker drivers that support DTS surround sound as well as a special Arctis ClearCast bidirectional microphone. That way you hear anything that comes through and your squad gets all the commands you issue in the heat of battle.
Like the rest of SteelSeries’ suite of products, you can customize the outside OLED lighting to your liking as well as rest easy with the lightweight headband that’s sturdy, but never uncomfortable. Finally, bring everything together with GameDAC to tweak your audio settings as you see fit. You’ll be outfitted with superpowers hearing in-game in no time.
Buy: SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC $249.99
BEST GAMING CHAIR
Your mouse, keyboard and headset are important when it comes to PC gaming, for sure. But you’ve got to have somewhere to sit, or you aren’t going to get much done. The GTRacing Gaming Chair comes in a variety of colors and seats gamers up to 300 pounds. It features a sturdy metal frame with both head and lumbar cushions that are meant to help support your spinal column and head as you settle in for lengthy play sessions.
The seat height is adjustable, and this gaming chair can recline and rock as you see fit, with a 360-degree swivel. Plus, the chair’s constructed from PU leather with nylon casters to ensure you can roll from point A to point B in your place with the least resistance possible. Match your chair to your gaming setup or just go all black. This brand has you covered either way.
Buy: GTRacing Gaming Chair $109.99 (orig. $169.99) 35% OFF
BEST FOR ORGANIZING
The best gaming accessories for PC setups often look like something straight out of science fiction. Case in point, this gaming mouse cable holder. If your gaming desk is a maze of twisted cables, then this is the perfect solution. The bungee cable holder also comes with futuristic gaming lights and four USB ports. A spring-loaded cable support arm helps you control the movements of your gaming mouse and stops cables from tripping you up.
Buy: ENHANCE Pro Gaming Mouse Bungee Cable Holder $24.99
BEST GAMING DESK
If you’re going to be spending long hours at your computer, make sure your gaming station is up to snuff with this flashy and functional gaming desk. This 60-inch carbon fiber textured desk has plenty of surface area for your gaming PC, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and more. It can also be configured to match the rest of your peripherals with its added dynamic RGB lighting setup, which lets you choose your own customizable hues to light up your gaming area.
What’s more, it’s sturdy, sleek, and supports up to 220 pounds. That means anything you need for a lengthy gaming session will fit comfortably here. Sit back, relax, and know all of your gaming equipment is safe and sound with this attractive gaming desk that would look good in anyone’s office.
Buy: Eureka Ergonomic Gaming Desk $254.99
BEST GAMING MONITOR
All gamers strive to have crystal-clear displays when it comes to enjoying their favorite titles. Upgrade your setup with this to-die-for gaming monitor, which offers FreeSync technology to ensure you get seamless, fluid movements and high-resolution graphics.
Dynamic Action Sync offers faster reaction time and the monitor sits atop an attractive, pivoting stand. Say goodbye to stuttering and screen tearing and hello to a monitor that can truly do it all. The best part? You won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to bring home this bad boy, as it’s much more affordable than the heavy-hitters of the gaming arena.
Buy: LG 27-inch Ultragear QHD IPS Gaming Monitor $348.00 (orig. $379.99) 8% OFF
BUDGET GAMING HEADPHONES
While falling down the rabbit hole of gaming headsets can turn into an expensive adventure quickly, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t quality options for affordable prices. Fortunately, Razer has stepped in with the Kraken X gaming headset, which supports premium features like 7.1 surround sound. On top of that, the headset itself is very lightweight, ensuring that it will remain comfortable after hours of gameplay, and the 3.5mm audio connection means it will work on virtually any gaming platform with an audio jack.
Buy: Razer Kraken X $29.99 (orig. $49.99) 40% OFF
BEST FOR MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR
This is definitely a specialty accessory that really only works with one type of game, but if you play a lot of Microsoft Flight Simulator, getting a good joystick can make all the difference in providing a true-to-life experience when playing the game. While there are options that range up to $1000, we like the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X as an affordable, mid-range option. Offering up a HOTAS (hands-on throttle and stick) configuration, this controller has 12 additional buttons that mimic all the real-world action that comes with flying a plane.
Buy: B001CXYMFS $107.40
BEST WALL ART
In order to set the mood, you’ll need proper lighting around your PC gaming setup. That’s where the Nanoleaf Lines come to mind, a unique set of smart light bars that can be arranged on a wall for some neat designs perfect to keep gamers immersed with the action.
Nanoleaf has come out with some cool-looking smart lights on several occasions, but its latest one is undeniably aimed at gamers. First of all, you should know that the Nanoleaf Lines has the neat feature of syncing up its lights with your screen — which really enhances the ambiance as you’re playing. Secondly, since you can arrange the light bars, it makes for the perfect decor if it’s positioned above your desk and gaming setup. And lastly, it supports all the popular smart home ecosystems, including Apple’s HomeKit, so you can control it with voice commands.
With so many different lighting effects to choose from, your gaming experience will get a dose of color with the Nanoleaf Lines.
Buy: Nanoleaf Lines $199.99
Another quick (and relatively inexpensive) way of adding a bit of color to your PC gaming setup is to add a smart table lamp into the mix. It definitely makes for a good distraction when you’re not in the thick of battle, plus it can be useful for setting the mood while you’re gaming.
The Govee Smart Table Lamp has you covered with its hypnotic lighting effects. This tabletop-friendly smart lamp boasts voice controls via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa while offering users plenty of preset color effects through the Govee Home app. Even better, there’s a built-in microphone that can sync up with the sounds and music coming from your games. All of this adds to the immersive experience.
Buy: Govee Smart Table Lamp $64.99
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Entry-level gaming PC guide: The best parts to pick for budget gaming – XDA Developers
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With the shortage of key components and the corresponding prices on the rise, building a new computer may sound like a daunting task right now. But luckily, it’s relatively easy to build a basic computer for entry-level gaming even under current circumstances. In this article, we’ll take you through a guide to help you build a solid entry-level gaming PC for around $700. With the recent price spikes on GPUs, it goes without saying that it’s impossible to fit a discrete graphics card into a $700 budget. As a workaround, we’re using a Ryzen 5 5600G APU to power the graphics for this build. So without wasting any more time, let’s get to the build.
Note: We’ve added a couple of budget GPU recommendations in the ‘Price Summary’ section of this article for those who are interested. We’re not including a graphics card for this build because, well, most people don’t have access to even budget GPUs at retail prices or anything remotely close to it. Perhaps we’ll update this build once the dust settles down and the GPU market stabilizes.
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The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is one of the best processors in the Ryzen 5000 series. This tried and tested APU is an absolute no-brainer as it’s a part of our collections of the best gaming CPUs as well as the best AMD CPU on the market right now. The Ryzen 5 5600G APU offers an impressive price-to-performance ratio for those who’re looking to save money on an entry-level build. It eliminates the need for including a discrete graphics card in your build for entry-level gaming. Intel’s new Core i5-12600 is a solid processor to consider for a budget build but it comes with an associated cost for the new 600 series chipset motherboards that are still somewhat expensive on the market. The Ryzen 5 5600G, on the other hand, drops on one of the existing affordable motherboards including the less expensive B550 boards.
As for the performance, the Ryzen 5 5600G should be good enough for entry-level gaming. You’re not going to get fantastic frames across all games, but we think it’s plenty to run even some of the newer titles at 720p or at 1080p with low-graphics settings. The Ryzen 5 5600G is a six-core APU that comes with the AMD Radeon Vega 7 graphics. This particular APU also comes with a bundled CPU cooler which means you’ll save more money on the build. There’s a lot to like about the Ryzen 5 5600G as long as you keep your expectations in check from a budget-centric PC with entry-level parts.
For the motherboard, we think any of the affordable B550 chipset-based boards should be able to handle the Ryzen 5 5600G APU. We’ve picked the ASRock B550M Pro 4 motherboard for this build mainly because it’s one of the most affordable options on the market right now. It comes with plenty of noteworthy features including an eight-phase power design, support for DDR4-4733+ RAM, and more. The ASRock B550M Pro 4 isn’t the best when it comes to overclocking, but it should allow you to tweak the 5600G to offer better performance than its stock settings. The ASRock B550M Pro 4 is an mATX form-factor motherboard, which means it’s probably best to stick to a small-sized PC case or a mid-tower case at best. Alternatively, you can check out our collection of the best AMD motherboards to find more options for your build.
Unlike the new DDR5 memory kits, there’s no shortage of DDR4 RAM sticks on the market right now. You can always pick up a pair of budget sticks for the build but we recommend picking up the XPG Gammix D30 gaming DDR4 RAM sticks. There’s a lot to like about these sticks and we think they offer great value for money. We’re looking at memory latency of CL18 and memory speeds of about 3600Mhz. These sticks are faster and have tighter timings than a lot of other kits on the market. They also have a stylish heat-spreader that we think will add to the overall look of the build.
Western Digital’s Blue SN550 is one of the most affordable and reliable M.2 SSDs on the market right now. This particular SSD is the go-to option for a lot of entry-level builds and we’ve picked the 500GB variant of the drive for this guide. For just $60, the Blue SN550 offers plenty of features including high sequential read and write speeds of up to 2,400MB/s and 1,750MB/s, respectively. If you don’t mind putting up with slightly slower speeds in favor of high-capacity, then we suggest you replace the M.2 drive with a SATA SSD of choice. Additionally, you can also pair it with a high-capacity 7200+ RPM HDD as your secondary drive to dump your files. These are entirely optional upgrades though, which is why we’re not adding them to our price summary of this build.
When it comes to the PSU, we recommend picking up the Corsair RM550x. This unit, as the name suggests, offers 550W of power to the PC, which is plenty for a relatively low-powered build like the one we’re working with for this guide. We’re only using an APU to power this rig, which is why we can get away with spending less on the PSU. That being said, it’s still recommended that you pick a reliable power supply unit with a good rating. The ATX PSU that we’ve picked here comes with an 80 Plus Gold rating and is fully modular, making it better than a majority of other PSUs in its class. 550W of power is enough for the build we’ve listed here but it goes without saying that you will have to upgrade it if/when you buy a discrete graphics card.
At $80, we think the Phanteks Eclipse P360A is the perfect PC case for this particular build. Despite the affordable price tag, it’s a reliable mid-tower PC case that comes with two 120mm D-RGB PWM fans pre-installed out of the box. Additionally, the case has plenty of space to add more case fans and radiators for CPU coolers, should you decide to add them in the future. It offers great clearance for all the components including tall CPU cooler towers, modern GPUs, and more. The case also has plenty of vents for airflow and they’re all covered with mesh filters to keep the dust away from the internals.
You can always step down and pick up PC cases that cost as low as $50 or less. However, we decided to stick to the Eclipse P360A mainly to keep our upgrade paths open for the future. This particular case is considered to be amongst the best in the budget space. It’s also one of the better-looking cases out there market with included RGB fans and a see-through side panel.
Here’s a quick look at the price summary of the entry-level gaming PC based on the parts we’ve picked for this guide. The prices are subject to change based on the availability of stocks and other factors, so keep that in mind.
While the Phanteks Eclipse P360A comes with a pair of 120mm fans, it’s recommended that you add at least one more fan to maintain adequate airflow. We’re not adding the cost of the case fan to the price summary because a) it’s not a significant addition to the overall cost of the build, and b) the number of required case fans depends on your choice of the PC case. The same is true for thermal paste. We’re not adding it to the overall price of the build, but it’s not a bad idea to pick up a thermal paste syringe for as low as $5 and keep it handy for when you need it. You can check out our collection of the best thermal paste solutions to find some good options. We also have an essay explaining how to apply thermal paste if you need help with your first build.
If you’re hellbent on adding a discrete GPU to the build and somehow have access to one at retail price, then we recommend considering either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super or something more affordable like a Radeon RX 570. You can also swap out the Ryzen 5 5600G with an IGP-less CPU to save some money for the graphics card.
Building an entry-level budget gaming PC, as you can see, is entirely possible even under the current circumstances. Sure, you may not be able to afford a discrete graphics card in this price range, but this particular build is capable of running even some of the modern titles at low graphics settings. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G can also act as a reliable stop-gap GPU while we wait for the discrete GPU prices to stabilize. It’s the next best thing to a discrete GPU that’ll save you money to spend on graphics cards when the prices go down.
It’s also possible to build more affordable PCs by swapping out our recommended parts with cheaper alternatives. For instance, you can replace M.2 SSDs with SATA SSD or even slower HDDs to save more money. Similarly, you can pick up a non-modular PSU and perhaps a more affordable PC case to save a few more dollars. That being said, we don’t recommend skimping on the APU or a compatible motherboard to make sure you’re not taking a performance hit, especially while gaming on a budget. As always, you can also join our XDA Computing Forums to discuss your build and get more product recommendations from the experts in our community. You can also check out our PC building guide in case you need help building your PC at home.
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Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.
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