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Computing

VR gaming appears to have hit an all-time high

VR gaming seems to have reached an all-time high, with a notable report suggesting a nearly four-times increase in users in the past month. Those figures come from a survey and might not be exact, but do indicate an ongoing trend of more and more people joining the VR gaming revolution.

It’s really not surprising since very affordable and solid VR systems have been around for several years. As early adopters help work out the bugs and introduce new players to the experience, virtual reality will undoubtedly continue to grow until it becomes another mainstream option.

The latest results recently came in from Steam’s Hardware & Software Survey, which is a monthly review of what types of computer hardware are being used. A list of VR headsets used with SteamVR is included in the data and the percentage of computers that are connected to Steam while using a VR headset is shown, and the results are pretty astounding.

What stands out is a huge increase in the use of VR headsets, climbing from an average of 1.87% to 6.67% of Steam players using a VR headset in July. Taken at face value, VR gaming just took a monumental step forward in terms of user base.

But as recently pointed out by UploadVR, there may be some problems with the numbers. A similar but lesser surge to 3.24% was seen in May before returning to about 2% in June. Since the survey is a random sample, it will vary over time and the overall average is a more useful number. A four-times increase in one month is highly unlikely; however, an overall rise does seem plausible.

Even if the size of the surge itself isn’t accurate, these results could show that the number of people that own VR headsets may be higher than what’s been previously reported.

Meta’s Quest 2 headset led the pack with a 50% share in July. It’s really a bit unfair to other manufacturers because Meta subsidizes the cost, giving this great quality headset an incredibly low price. Even with the recent price increase, it remains the most affordable, mainstream VR headset available.

Valve’s Index took the No. 2 position with 15%. Other Oculus (Meta) and HTC Vive VR headsets, having a wide variety of models, made up most of the remainder.

Meta Quest 2 makes virtual reality affordable

An overall increase in VR systems isn’t unexpected and follows the pattern of new technology, particularly in gaming. Arcade gaming inspired affordable, in-home console gaming which slowly got better and became more commonplace. Even early PC gaming was slow to get started since the internet didn’t exist and its lower-quality graphics couldn’t compete with well-established console gaming systems.

Now this story continues with VR headsets challenging the status quo as another fringe idea moves toward the mainstream. Virtual reality has had a particularly long incubation period, but it finally seems to slowly be winning people over.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

F1 2022 performance guide: Best settings for high frame rate

F1 2022 is here, and like every annual release from the popular racing series, it’s a huge benchmark for PC performance. It’s demanding but well optimized. I booted up the DT test bench to find the best settings for F1 2022 so you can have a high frame rate.

You don’t need to do a lot of work to get F1 2022 working, especially with its multiple upscaling options. Ray tracing is a performance killer, though, and it’s not worth the frame rate dip for the vast majority of players.

The best settings for F1 2022

F1 2022 has a ton of graphics options, and none of them destroy performance or image quality. Ray tracing, which I’ll dig into later, is the main culprit of performance issues. Otherwise, you can stick with one of the game’s five presets to get an image you like, as well as use the dynamic resolution option in the Display settings menu to improve your frame rate. If you want to go at it on your own, here are the best settings for F1 2022:

  • Lighting quality: Medium
  • Post process: High
  • Shadows: Medium
  • Particles: Low
  • Crowd: Medium
  • Mirrors: High
  • Car and helmet reflections: High
  • Weather effects: High
  • Ground cover: Medium
  • Skidmarks: High
  • Skidmarks blending: On
  • Ambient occlusion: HBAO+
  • Screen space reflections: Medium
  • Asynchronous compute: On
  • Texture streaming: High

I mainly optimized the settings with the best practices for PC game graphics. That means bumping down the shadows and lighting quality first, which both have the biggest impact on performance. I kept some of the smaller settings, like skidmarks and weather effects, turned up because of their limited performance hit. Feel free to bump down these settings if you’re running into issues, though.

Most people should stick around medium to high settings. I’ll go more in-depth in the benchmarks below, but F1 2022 shows diminishing returns beyond Medium for most settings. The Ultra Low preset isn’t too useful for the best graphics cards, offering only a slight bump over the Medium preset. With multiple upscaling options available, the only reason to go down to Ultra Low is if you’re running well below the recommended system requirements.

F1 2022 system requirements

System requirements for F1 2022.

F1 2022 doesn’t call for much, but the system requirements are a little misleading. At a minimum, an ancient Core i3-2130 or AMD FX 4300 is all you need, but I’d recommend sticking with the recommended specs when it comes to the CPU. F1 2022 is really CPU limited, so pairing a fast GPU with an older processor is sure to cause a PC bottleneck.

For graphics, even a GTX 1050 Ti should be enough at 1080p (though one of the best 1080p graphics cards is better). F1 2022 is really well optimized with ray tracing turned off, and you have a lot of bandwidth to improve your performance with dynamic resolution and the supersampling options in the game.

Ray tracing is the killer. You’ll need a GPU with DirectX 12 support to run the game, even if you want to turn ray tracing off. With ray tracing on, you’ll also need a much faster GPU. The system requirements only call for an RTX 2060 or RX 6700 XT, but I wouldn’t recommend ray tracing with anything less than an RTX 3070. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to settle for frame rates below 60 fps, especially if you want to run at a high resolution.

F1 2022 benchmarks (4K, 1440p, 1080p)

4K benchmarks for F1 2022.

There are five graphics presets in F1 2022, and I tested all of them across 4K, 1440p, and 1080p with a Ryzen 9 5950X, RTX 3070, and 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory. Across resolutions, one preset is vastly slower than the others: Ultra High. This is the only preset that turns on ray tracing as a default option, and it’s extremely demanding.

At 4K, for example, you can see that the RTX 3070 just barely manages 30 fps with the Ultra High preset. The next step down results in a massive 238% increase in performance mostly on the back of turning ray tracing off. Medium offers a solid 32% bump over that, as well.

As mentioned, F1 2022 is fairly CPU limited, so performance returns start to fall off beyond the Medium preset. 1440p and 1080p illustrate this point clearly. They’re much closer in performance at each preset, and in some cases, such as the Medium preset, 1440p and 1080p show nearly identical performance. Take advantage of the lower settings if you have an older processor, but don’t count on them to improve your graphics performance.

Ray tracing in F1 2022

It should be clear by now, but ray tracing is extremely demanding in F1 2022. The most demanding Ultra High ray tracing preset can cause as much as a 63% slowdown in your average frame rate, so keep ray tracing turned off unless you have a super power graphics card like the RTX 3090 Ti, or if you take advantage of upscaling options.

Before getting to ray tracing performance, we need to talk about how it works in F1 2022. The game supports ray-traced shadows, reflections, transparent reflections, and ambient occlusion. You have a toggle for each of these settings, as well as three overall quality presets for ray tracing: Medium, High, and Ultra High. You can’t set the quality for individual settings, but the quality doesn’t have a huge impact on performance regardless.

Ray tracing benchmarks for F1 2022.

You can see that in the graph above. The High and Ultra High ray tracing presets have almost identical performance (the game actually uses the High settings for the Ultra High graphics preset). The Medium setting offers a solid 75% increase over the High preset, but it’s still far below just turning ray tracing off.

I’m struggling to see a difference between the quality modes for ray tracing, so if you turn it on, I’d recommend sticking with Medium quality. Most people should just turn ray tracing off, though, as the screen space reflections offer plenty of visual glitter without the massive hit to your frame rate.

DLSS and FSR in F1 2022

Ray tracing is demanding, but F1 2022 gives you options to combat the performance deficit. The game supports Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). They both give you a way to improve performance by lowering the resolution the game renders at. F1 2022 includes its own dynamic resolution setting, too, though it doesn’t look nearly as nice as DLSS or FSR.

DLSS benchmarks for F1 2022.

DLSS doesn’t offer the highest performance, but it’s the best option to maintain image quality. At 4K with the Ultra High preset, it offered a 50% boost in performance with the Quality mode. That’s big, but I’d recommend most people stick with the Balanced mode when using DLSS. It more than doubled my average frame rate without sacrificing image quality too much.

FSR benchmarks for F1 2022.

Unfortunately, DLSS only works on Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards. For everyone else, there’s FSR. F1 2022 only supports FSR 1.0, not the much better FSR 2.0 we’ve seen in games like DeathloopI wouldn’t go beyond the Balanced preset for FSR 1.0 if you want decent image quality, though. FSR falls apart beyond that point.

An interesting trend with both DLSS and FSR is that they fall off past the Balanced mode. With F1 2022 being CPU limited the way it is, the more aggressive quality modes don’t offer as much of a bump in performance as they should.

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Security

Okta hack puts thousands of businesses on high alert

Okta, an authentication company used by thousands of organizations around the world, has now confirmed an attacker had access to one of its employees’ laptops for five days in January 2022 and that around 2.5 percent of its customers may have been affected — but maintains its service “has not been breached and remains fully operational.”

The disclosure comes as hacking group Lapsus$ has posted screenshots to its Telegram channel claiming to be of Okta’s internal systems, including one that appears to show Okta’s Slack channels, and another with a Cloudflare interface.

Any hack of Okta could have major ramifications for the companies, universities, and government agencies that depend upon Okta to authenticate user access to internal systems.

“We have concluded that a small percentage of customers – approximately 2.5 percent – have potentially been impacted and whose data may have been viewed or acted upon,” Okta chief security officer David Bradbury wrote in an update Tuesday evening. “We have identified those customers and are contacting them directly. If you are an Okta customer and were impacted, we have already reached out directly by email. We are sharing this interim update, consistent with our values of customer success, integrity, and transparency.”

In an earlier statement on Tuesday afternoon, Okta said that an attacker would only have had limited access during that five-day period — limited enough that the company claims “there are no corrective actions that need to be taken by our customers.”

Here’s what Bradbury says is and isn’t at stake when one of its support engineers is compromised:

The potential impact to Okta customers is limited to the access that support engineers have. These engineers are unable to create or delete users, or download customer databases. Support engineers do have access to limited data – for example, Jira tickets and lists of users – that were seen in the screenshots. Support engineers are also able to facilitate the resetting of passwords and MFA factors for users, but are unable to obtain those passwords.

Writing in its Telegram channel, the Lapsus$ hacking group claims to have had “Superuser/Admin” access to Okta’s systems for two months, not just five days, that it had access to a thin client rather than a laptop, and claims that it found Okta storing AWS keys in Slack channels. The group also suggested it was using its access to zero in on Okta’s customers.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in a recent filing Okta said it had over 15,000 customers around the world. It lists the likes of Peloton, Sonos, T-Mobile, and the FCC as customers on its website. Based on the given figure of “approximately 2.5 percent,” the number of these customers that have been affected could approach 400.

In a earlier statement sent to The Verge, Okta spokesperson Chris Hollis said the company has not found evidence of an ongoing attack. “In late January 2022, Okta detected an attempt to compromise the account of a third party customer support engineer working for one of our subprocessors. The matter was investigated and contained by the subprocessor.” Hollis said. “We believe the screenshots shared online are connected to this January event.”

“Based on our investigation to date, there is no evidence of ongoing malicious activity beyond the activity detected in January,” Hollis continued. But again, writing in their Telegram channel, Lapsus$ suggested that it had access for a few months.

Lapsus$ is a hacking group that’s claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile incidents affecting Nvidia, Samsung, Microsoft, and Ubisoft, in some cases stealing hundreds of gigabytes of confidential data.

Okta says it terminated its support engineer’s Okta sessions and suspended the account back in January, but claims it only received the final report from its forensics firm this week.

Update, 2:38PM ET: Added Okta’s statement and claims that the hack was very limited, with no corrective actions that need to be taken.

Update, 2:58PM ET: Added the Lapsus$ hacker group’s claim that it had access to a thin client rather than a laptop, that it found Okta storing AWS keys in Slack channels.

Update, 11:30PM ET: Added details from Okta’s updated statement.



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Computing

AMD Ryzen 7000 will ‘end the stalemate’ on high DDR5 prices

AMD revealed its Ryzen 7000 CPUs at Computex 2022, and as expected, the new generation exclusively supports DDR5. That’s a bit of a problem considering the massively inflated prices of DDR5 memory at the moment, but AMD says it doesn’t expect pricing to be an issue once launch rolls around.

Following AMD’s keynote presentation, director of technical marketing Robert Hallock said the company is “all-in on DDR5.” When asked about the high prices of DDR5, Hallock seemed confident: “The supply looks really good. The memory vendors are bullish about being able to enable our supply forecast for the year, for next year. And so we don’t see any real challenges here [with pricing].”

After sustained high pricing in 2021, experts say that DDR5 prices will drop throughout 2022. At the moment, though, they’re still much higher than DDR4. A 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR5 kit — among the best RAM you can buy — sells for about $310, while the same DDR4 kit is only $180.

The concern surrounding high prices comes from Intel Alder Lake, which supports both DDR4 and DDR5 memory. Ryzen 7000 is exclusive to DDR5, which could make for a much more expensive upgrade if prices stay high. AMD says Alder Lake is part of the problem with high prices, and that the launch of Ryzen 7000 could bring prices down.

“It’s people just aren’t buying [DDR5]. And there is a reason, a big one, named Alder Lake,” Hallock said in an interview with Digital Trends. “That creates something of a weird chicken and egg demand problem for DDR5 in that it exists, but there’s another option that caused people to not choose it. We think we can help break that stalemate.”

Although AMD was careful not to say that DDR5 prices will drop, the company seems confident that Ryzen 7000 and the increased demand for DDR5 will balance the scales of supply and demand. That could be a big deal for upgrading, as upcoming X670 motherboards use an LGA socket that could increase the cost of buying a new motherboard.

MSI MEG X670E Godlike motherboard.
MSI

“I’m not going to say that DDR5 is going to be cheaper than DDR4, but we certainly expect that the increased demand from having a bunch of new Ryzen customers exclusively on DDR5 will absolutely bring pricing down,” Hallock said.

In our interview with AMD, the company also revealed that its Ryzen 7000 processors will come with only two RDNA 2 graphics cores, and that they won’t replace the long-standing range of APUs that are focused on gaming.

Ryzen 7000 processors are slated to launch this fall with the new AM5 socket. DDR5 is certainly the largest platform improvement, but the new generation also brings PCIe 5.0, and we have already seen some ultra-fast SSDs taking advantage of this new interface.

We don’t have concrete details on the range yet, but AMD has confirmed that the flagship chip will come with 16 cores and will be capable of hitting clock speeds well above 5.5GHz on a single core. We expect to hear more in the coming months as the launch gets closer.

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Computing

Battlefield 2042 Performance: The Best Settings for High FPS

Battlefield 2042 is one of a few massive AAA shooters releasing this holiday season. It ditches the campaign to focus solely on multiplayer, and it still features the same gigantic, bombastic battles that the Battlefield franchise is known for. To feel the heat of the battlefield as accurately as possible, we rounded up a list of the best Battlefield 2042 settings so you can optimize your gaming PC’s performance.

Like previous games in the franchise, Battlefield 2042 is a game built to stress the most recent PC hardware. Our testing revealed how demanding the game is, though it seems to stress older and low-end components more. As long you meet a certain threshold — particularly a recent six-core CPU and one of the best graphics cards — you should be able to reach 4K with a few settings tweaks.

The best settings for Battlefield 2042

Unlike recent AAA shooters, such as Call of Duty: Vanguard, Battlefield 2042 features a slim list of 13 graphics options — and only 12 if you ignore Nvidia Reflex. That means each setting will impact your performance more, but the limited list doesn’t have a lot of room for optimization beyond the basics.

We isolated each of the settings at 4K to see how they impact performance. Here are the best settings for Battlefield 2042: 

  • Texture quality: High
  • Texture filtering: Ultra
  • Lighting quality: Low
  • Effects quality: Medium
  • Post process quality: Medium
  • Mesh quality: High
  • Terrain quality: Medium
  • Undergrowth quality: Low
  • Anti-aliasing quality: TAA High
  • Ambient occlusion: SSAO
  • Ray traced ambient occlusion: Off
  • Nvidia Reflex: Off
  • High-fidelity objects: Ultra

The two settings that impacted performance most were lighting quality and undergrowth quality, both of which we turned down to Low. Lighting brought an 8% increase in our average frame rate, while undergrowth improved it by an additional 3%. Although not a massive increase, 11% between the two settings is nothing to sneeze at.

Otherwise, we only saw marginal gains with most of the graphical options. The only time we saw a big increase in performance is when we turned ambient occlusion off, though we compromised with SSAO to maintain as much visual quality as possible. We didn’t see a difference between SSAO, HBAO, and HBAO Full. That said, HBAO is normally more demanding, so we recommend sticking with SSAO if you’re having performance issues.

Outside of the normal list of settings, there are a few other options you’ll want to tweak. We kept Nvidia Reflex turned off because it dropped two frames over our baseline average frame rate. That’s within the margin of error, but we recommend leaving the setting off unless you’re particularly sensitive to latency.

Buried deep at the bottom of the settings list, you’ll find an option for high-fidelity objects. It’s not with the other graphical options for some reason. This setting determines the distance that the game renders detail — character animations, effects, etc. We didn’t measure a difference with it set to Ultra, though you may want to turn it down if have a quad-core CPU.

Lastly, we have ray traced ambient occlusion. This is the only form of ray tracing in Battlefield 2042, and it’s demanding. It halved our average frame rate, tanking the RTX 3070 from a playable 63 frames per second (fps) at 4K to only 31 fps. It’s an option, and it looks great, but you’ll need to combine the setting with Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS).

Battlefield 2042 minimum and recommended system requirements

A soldier in a helicopter in Battlefield 2042.

Battlefield 2042 is a demanding game, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. For years, the Battlefield franchise has cemented itself as a pillar of PC graphical power, and this release is no different. The minimum specs aren’t up to snuff based on our testing, either. Unless you’re willing to make some serious visual compromises, you’ll need a powerful rig to run Battlefield 2042. 

Minimum Recommended
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or Intel Core i5-6600K AMD Ryzen 7 2700X or Intel Core i7-4790
GPU Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti or AMD RX 560 Nvidia RTX 3060 or AMD RX 6600 XT
Memory 8GB 16GB
OS Windows 10 64-bit Windows 10 64-bit
DirectX DirectX 12 DirectX 12
Storage 100GB 100GB SSD

Between the minimum and recommended system requirements, you’ll need either a six- or eight-core AMD CPU, or a quad-core Intel CPU. The more cores you can get, the better. Battlefield 2042 features a suite of simulations, including wind and destruction physics. If you have more cores, your processor can split that workload up.

For graphics, there’s a massive gap between the minimum and recommended requirements. From our testing, the recommended specs can hit 60 fps with High to Ultra settings at 1440p. The minimum specs, on the other hand, will likely only accommodate 1080p with Low settings. The RX 580, which is more powerful than what the developer recommends, couldn’t crack 60 fps with the sliders turned up at 1080p.

The requirements call for 100GB of storage, but our installation only took up 47GB. The developer is likely recommending more for future updates. At launch, you don’t need to worry about freeing up 100GB of hard drive space, though you may need to in the future.

Battlefield 2042 performance, tested

A soldier stands next to a downed satellite in Battlefield 2042 Hazard Zone.

We tested Battlefield 2042 with three graphics cards targeting the three most common resolutions: The RTX 3070 for 4K, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RX 580 for 1080p. We ran all of our tests on a bench with a Ryzen 9 5950X and 32GB of RAM to focus on GPU performance.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super RX 580
1080p Ultra 115 fps 72 fps 44 fps
1080p Recommended 140 fps 124 fps 76 fps
1440p Ultra 85 fps 66 fps 35 fps
1440p Recommended 129 fps 98 fps 54 fps
4K Ultra 63 fps 38 fps 21 fps
4K Recommended 80 fps 54 fps 31 fps

With the exception of the RX 580, we were able to hit 60 fps with the graphics cards at their respective resolutions. As we’ll dig into in the next section, Battlefield 2042 includes a dynamic resolution option, which can push a card like the RX 580 above 60 fps at 1080p.

Starting with the RTX 3070, 4K Ultra was no problem, but our optimized settings still brought a sizeable 27% increase in our average frame rate. The AMD RX 6700 XT can hit 60 fps with our recommended list, too, though a card like the RX 6600 XT will struggle to maintain a playable frame rate at 4K. Anything higher, like an RTX 3080, shouldn’t have any problems.

The RTX 2060 Super was a higher performer at 1440p, and it even got close to 60 fps at 4K with our recommended settings. The AMD RX 5700 XT should provide similar performance, but it might struggle at 4K. Although we recommend the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, it can run at 4K with some settings tweaks and DLSS turned on.

Finally, the RX 580 couldn’t hit 60 fps at 1080p, but our optimized settings pushed it far above that mark. Battlefield 2042 doesn’t offer as much graphical bandwidth as Forza Horizon 5, but the settings still leave plenty of room for optimization. The RX 580 is a testament to that, bringing it from an unplayable 21 fps at 4K to 31 fps with some settings tweaks.

A lot of our performance came on the back of the Ryzen 9 5950X in our test bench, particularly at 1080p. As mentioned, the more cores you have access to, the better. Core speed isn’t as important, though it certainly helps. If you’re running at 1440p or higher, the CPU plays less of a role.

Dynamic resolution, DLSS, and ray tracing in Battlefield 2042

Weapon attachment swap screen in Battlefield 2042.

Battlefield 2042 includes a suite of Nvidia technologies: DLSS, ray tracing, and Reflex. As mentioned, turning on ray tracing will cut your frame rate in half, and Reflex offers no frame rate advantages. DLSS is a different matter. As it does in all supported games, DLSS helps improve performance in Battlefield 2042, but at a surprising cost to image quality.

Unlike Call of Duty Vanguard, which features almost no change in visual quality with DLSS turned on, Battlefield 2042 struggles. The most aggressive Ultra Performance mode is noticeable, even if it offers a big increase in frame rate.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super
DLSS Quality 76 fps (21%) 48 fps (26%)
DLSS Balanced 78 fps (24%) 55 fps (45%)
DLSS Performance 84 fps (33%) 56 fps (47%)
DLSS Ultra Performance 94 fps (49%) 65 fps (71%)

Our results mirror the ones we found in our Back 4 Blood performance guide. With the Ultra Performance mode at 4K Ultra, DLSS offered a 71% increase in average frame rate with the RTX 2060 Super and a 49% increase with the RTX 3070.

DLSS still works well, though we’d recommend keeping it at either the Quality or Balanced performance mode. Battlefield 2042 also includes an Auto setting for DLSS, which will adjust the resolution to meet a target frame rate. We would have liked to see an option for AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution, but with an Nvidia graphics card and Nvidia Image Scaling, you can get the same effect.

The game’s built-in dynamic resolution option works, but it’s aggressive. Targeting 60 fps at 4K with Ultra settings, the game was able to push even the underpowered RTX 2060 Super to the target frame rate. The visual cost is too high, though. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the dynamic resolution option, so it will scale down the game as much as it needs to in order to meet the target frame rate.

In the end, you’re just running the game at a lower resolution. We recommend using the dynamic resolution mode with a high refresh rate monitor and graphical options that fall just short of the refresh rate. Dynamic resolution is at its best when it can save you from some frame rate dips, not multiply your performance.

How to force DirectX 12 in Battlefield 2042

Hidden graphics settings for Battlefield 2042.

During our testing, we ran into a couple of problems with Battlefield 2042. Suddenly, our frame rate would tank into single digits, and we wouldn’t be able to turn on DLSS. It turns out this is an issue with DirectX 12 being turned off. Throughout testing, the game would inexplicably turn off DirectX 12, but you can manually turn it back on.

If you’ve ever edited a settings file on PC, you know what to do. Open File Explorer and follow Documents > Battlefield 2042 > Settings. Find the PROFSAVE_profile file and right-click on it. Select Open With > Notepad. 

You can change every setting manually here. For DirectX 12, find GstRender.Dx12Enabled and change the value from to 1. You can do this with other graphics options, too, which we had to do during testing. At one point, dynamic resolution was turned on in the settings, but it wasn’t working. This locked us out of using DLSS because you can only have one upscaling mode enabled. We disabled the dynamic resolution in this file by setting GstRender.DRSEnabled to 0, and everything went back to normal.

You can also improve your performance by tweaking some settings in the file. You may notice that Battlefield 2042 doesn’t have a graphical option for shadows in the game, but the setting is available in this file. By setting GstRender.ShadowQuality to 0, you can improve your frame rate a lot (though at the cost of image quality).

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Computing

Halo Infinite Performance: The Best Settings For High FPS

Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is here, three weeks ahead of time. In a surprise announcement during Xbox’s 20th anniversary celebration, Microsoft dropped the Halo Infinite multiplayer beta. To get you set up before the game officially launches, we put together a guide on the best settings for Halo Infinite so you can optimize your PC’s performance.

The Halo: Master Chief Collection is on PC, but Halo Infinite is the first new game in the franchise to arrive on PC since the original Halo: Combat Evolved. There are a lot of graphics options to dig into, as well as a few critical options you need to tweak for a high frame rate.

The best settings for Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite includes a sizable list of graphical options, with 19 settings to tweak — ignoring the dynamic resolution and sensory effect options, as well as the tiny UI elements. There isn’t a single setting that represents a big gain in performance, unlike Forza Horizon 5, where we saw a 14% increase in our average frame rate with a single setting change.

Halo Infinite makes you work a little harder. Although none of the settings bring big wins, you can still squeeze some extra performance out of the graphics options. Here are the best settings for Halo Infinite:

  • Anti-aliasing: High
  • Texture filtering: High
  • Ambient occlusion: Medium
  • Texture quality: Medium
  • Geometry detail: Medium
  • Reflections: Low
  • Depth of field: High
  • Shadow quality: Low
  • Lighting quality: High
  • Volumetric fog: Medium
  • Cloud quality: High
  • Dynamic wind: Medium
  • Ground cover quality: High
  • Effects quality: Medium
  • Decal quality: High
  • Animation quality: Auto
  • Terrain quality: Medium
  • Simulation quality: High
  • Flocking: Off
  • Sensory effects: Default

The important settings are the top 10. We saw the biggest increase with reflections. Turning the setting down to Low, we increased our average frame rate by nearly 11%, and in the heated action of Halo Infinite, the drop in visual quality is hard to make out. You can turn reflections off entirely, but that’s a visual change you’ll notice. We didn’t see any performance between Low and Off, either.

Shadow quality also brought a solid 7% increase in our average frame rate, and volumetric fog brought back 4%. Overall, texture resolution, reflections, shadows, and volumetric fog are the most important settings to look at. Depending on your CPU, there are a few other settings to take note of.

Simulation quality and and animation quality both rely on your CPU. For animation quality, we recommended leaving it set at Auto. There isn’t a lower setting, and this mode will adjust the animation quality based on your CPU’s power. For simulation quality, we recommend turning it down to Medium if you have a six- core eight-core CPU or if your CPU is a couple of generations old. If you have one of the best gaming processors, you shouldn’t need to worry about these options.

Although the top 10 settings are the most important, you shouldn’t ignore the rest of the list. The problem is that the settings further down the list are situational, so they only bring a performance improvement in maps where they’re relevant — more on that later.

We turned flocking off, because looking at an accurate flock of birds doesn’t really change the gameplay experience. Similarly, we left dynamic wind at Medium and cloud quality at High, because neither of these settings were relevant in the main map we tested (Streets). In large, outdoor maps such as Deadlock, these settings are more important.

At the bottom of the list, we have the sensory effects. Halo Infinite includes a list of sliders for motion blur, screen white-out, and a few other UI effects. Based on our testing, these settings don’t change anything in terms of performance. Tweak them how you want, but don’t look at to the sensory effects for any extra performance.

Halo Infinite system requirements

Spartans attacking each other in Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is designed to run on everything from the base Xbox One to high-end gaming PCs, but you wouldn’t know that from the system requirements. You’ll need either a recent AMD Ryzen processor or quad-core Intel chip to run the game, along with one of the best graphics card from the past few AMD and Nvidia generations.

Here are the minimum and recommended system requirements for Halo Infinite:

Minimum Recommended
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or Intel i5-4440 AMD Ryzen 7 3700X or Intel i7-9700K
GPU AMD RX 570 or Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti Radeon RX 5700 XT or Nvidia RTX 2070
Memory 8GB 16GB
OS Windows 10 RS5 x64 Windows 10 19H2 x64
DirectX DirectX 12 DirectX 12
Storage 50GB 50GB

Halo Infinite is fairly demanding, with only high-end gaming PCs from the last few years meeting the recommended system requirements. Based on our testing, the game isn’t nearly as scalable as a title like Back 4 Blood. On PC, at least, you’ll need some powerful hardware to run it.

There are a few interesting notes from the system requirements, though. First, storage. The requirements list the game as taking up 50GB of space, but the base game only takes up 19GB, and the high resolution texture pack requires an additional 8GB. We suspect the 50GB requirement is for when the campaign launches, which will surely bloat the installation size.

The high resolution texture pack is an interesting point of contention. It’s installed and enabled by default, but you can disable it in both the Steam and Xbox app versions. Player reports suggest that this pack will tank your performance. We’ll dig a bit more into if it does later, but keep in mind that disabling the texture pack is an option.

Halo Infinite PC performance and upscaling, tested

Halo Infinite UI during a multiplayer game.

As with all of our PC performance guides, we took Halo Infinite out for a spin with three graphics cards targeting three resolutions: The RTX 3070 for 4K, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RX 580 for 1080p. The last two cards, in particular, closely align with the system requirements, so we expected solid performance out of them.

Unfortunately, that’s not what we saw. Before getting to the results, we should point out that we ran out tests with a Ryzen 9 5950X CPU and 32GB of RAM. The CPU plays a role in Halo Infinite, but we wanted to remove it from the equation as much as possible to focus on GPU performance.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super RX 580
1080p Ultra 119 fps 90 fps 31 fps
1080p Recommended 165 fps 104 fps 38 fps
1440p Ultra 92 fps 65 fps 26 fps
1440p Recommended 126 fps 77 fps 31 fps
4K Ultra 55 fps 36 fps 16 fps
4K Recommended 72 fps 46 fps 20 fps

The RX 580 is a good place to start because we just couldn’t crack the 60 frames per second (fps) mark with it. This card is faster than the RX 570 the developer recommends, but even at the lowest quality preset at 1080p, we averaged a measly 40 fps. Using the dynamic resolution option helped a bit, increasing the frame rate to 45 fps at 1080p.

Otherwise, we saw much better performance. The RTX 2060 Super broke 60 fps at 1440p with all of the sliders turned up, but our optimized settings still brought an 18% increase in our average frame rate. At 4K, the RTX 3070 struggled to hit 60 fps at max settings, but our optimized list still produced a comfortable 72 fps average.

For all of these tests, we kept upscaling turned off. Halo Infinite offers minimum and maximum frame rate options, and we recommend taking advantage of both. With the RTX 3070, we averaged 72 fps at 4K Ultra with the minimum frame rate set at 60 fps. That’s the same as our optimized settings, all without tweaking them.

The upscaling works great, especially to push you 10 to 15 fps above what you can get at native resolution. It’s not perfect, though. Each GPU has its own upscaling ceiling, it seems. Take the RX 580 as an example. It averaged 31 fps at 1080p Ultra. With the minimum frame rate set at 60, we upped the average to 41 fps.

That’s a respectable gain, but we got most of the way there with our optimized settings, and the dynamic resolution looks much worse. To be clear, you should use the minimum frame rate option. That said, it’s best to push you over a frame rate target, not boost your performance beyond what your GPU should be capable of.

Performance differences in Halo Infinite’s maps

Halo players compete in a Halo Infinite multiplayer match.

We ran all of our tests on the same map to keep our results as consistent and comparable as possible. That said, there are some large gaps in performance between certain maps. We used Streets as our map for testing, because it sat in the middle of the other options, and it offered similar performance as the lion’s share of maps on the launch roster.

RTX 3070 (4K optimized)
Streets 72 fps
Bazaar 77 fps
Aquarius 78 fps
Behemoth 67 fps
Deadlock 63 fps
Fragmentation 66 fps
Highpower 62 fps
Launch Site 90 fps
Live Fire 71 fps
Recharge 77 fps

That doesn’t mean it represents all maps, though. You can see that tiny, close-quarters maps like Launch Site and Aquarius saw a much higher average frame rate than large outdoor maps like Highpower and Deadlock. Part of the reason why are the outdoor simulations: Dynamic wind quality, flocking, and clouds.

You can turn these settings down to improve performance on outdoor maps, but there isn’t a world where you’ll get the same average frame rate across maps. The smaller ones perform better, and the larger ones worse. Just keep in the mind the performance differences. You shouldn’t immediately jump into your settings just because you’re seeing a lower frame rate on Highpower, for example.

Halo Infinite high-resolution texture pack

Several Spartans line up in Halo Infinite.

Halo Infinite automatically installs with a high-resolution texture pack. A Reddit thread revealed that this texture pack could tank performance on low-end and older hardware by a lot. One user reported jumping from 23 fps to anywhere from 72 to 100 fps on a GTX 980 Ti and Core i7-5820K, while another said they went from single-digit fps values to a smooth 60 fps.

We disabled the texture pack but didn’t find the same increase in performance. In fact, we didn’t find a performance boost at all. With the RX 580 in our test bench, we measured the same average frame rate at the Low and Ultra presets with the high-resolution texture pack disabled.

Still, there are a lot of user reports that this pack can increase your frame rate, maybe helping slower RAM or older CPUs more than just low-end graphics cards. If you’re struggling to maintain a consistent frame rate, try disabling the texture pack to see if it helps.

We’ll start with Steam. Install Halo Infinite, find it in your Steam library, and follow these steps:

  • Right-click on Halo Infinite and select Properties. 
  • Select the DLC tab.
  • Uncheck the box next to Multiplayer High-Res Textures. 

You can disable the pack through the Xbox app if you’re playing the Game Pass version too. Once again install the game, select it through the Xbox app and follow these steps:

  • Click the three bots next to the Play button.
  • Select Manage Game. 
  • Uncheck the box next to High-Res Textures. 

And that’s it. You can enable and disable the texture pack without any massive installs or game-breaking headaches, so give it a shot to see if your PC can benefit.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Report: AI startup funding hits record high of $17.9B in Q3

Even as economies struggle with the chaos of the pandemic, the AI startup space continues to grow stronger with increased investments and M&A deals.

According to the latest State of AI report from CB Insights, the global funding in the segment has seen a significant surge, growing from $16.6 billion across 588 deals in Q2 2021 (figures show $20B due to the inclusion of two public subsidiary fundings) to $17.9 billion across 841 deals in the third quarter. Throughout the year (which is yet to end), AI startups around the world raised $50 billion across 2000+ deals with 138 mega-rounds of 100+ million. As much as $8.5 billion of the total investment went into healthcare AI, $3.1 billion went into fintech AI, while $2.6 billion went into retail AI.

The findings show how AI has become a driving force across nearly every industry and is drawing significant attention from VCs, CVCs, and other investors. In Q3 alone, there were 13 new AI unicorns globally, bringing the total number of billion-dollar AI startups to 119. Three startups also reached $2 billion in valuation — Algolia and XtaPi from the U.S. and Black Sesame Technologies from China.

Meanwhile, in terms of M&A exits, the quarter saw over 100 acquisitions like the previous one, putting the total exits for the year at 253. The biggest AI acquisition of the quarter was PayPal snapping up Paidly — a company determining creditworthiness using AI/ML — for $2.7 billion, followed by Zoominfo’s acquisition of Chorus.ai — a startup using AI to analyze sales calls — for $575 million.

U.S. AI startups continue to dominate

State of AI startup funding

Out of the $17.9 billion raised by AI startups worldwide in Q3, a significant $10.4 billion went to companies based in the U.S. and $4.8 billion into those in Asia. However, Asian firms raised this amount in nearly just as many deals (321) as in the U.S. (324), which signals that the average deal size was smaller there compared to U.S. Mega-round deals in the U.S. stood at 24 in Q3, while Asia saw 13 such deals.

Databricks, Dataiku, Olive, XtalPi, Datarobot, and Cybereason were the companies with the biggest rounds in the U.S. in the third quarter.

As compared to Asia and the U.S., funding in Canada, Latin America, and Europe regions was the lowest at $0.4 billion, $0.5 billion, and $1.6 billion, respectively. These regions cumulatively saw just eight mega-rounds.

Read the full report here.

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Categories
Game

Forza Horizon 5 Performance: The Best Settings for High FPS

The Forza franchise has always been known for its graphical quality, and the most recent release, Forza Horizon 5, is no different. It’s a show-stopping game, but to achieve the best frame rate and performance on your PC, you’ll need the best settings for Forza Horizon 5. 

You don’t have to change much to get Forza Horizon 5 performing well, and almost regardless of your settings, the game looks great. We’re going to run through the best settings we found through testing, as well as what performance you can expect when you boot up the game.

The best settings for Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 has 17 graphics options, and that doesn’t include options pertaining to your display like the game’s built-in frame rate limiter. Like Forza Horizon 4, the newest entry in the franchise is highly scalable, and the options leave the door open to a lot of different configurations.

Using the Extreme preset as a baseline, we tested each setting individually to find the ones that offer the highest performance gains with the lowest drop in image quality. Here are the best settings for Forza Horizon 5: 

  • Anisotropic filtering: High
  • Shadow quality: High
  • Night shadows: On
  • Motion blur quality: Ultra
  • Environment texture quality: Medium
  • Environment geometry quality: High
  • MSAA: 2X
  • FXAA: Off
  • SSAO quality: High
  • Reflection quality: Medium
  • World car level of detail: High
  • Deformable terrain quality: Ultra
  • SSR quality: Medium
  • Lens effects: Ultra
  • Shader quality: High
  • Particle effects quality: High
  • Ray tracing quality: Off

There are a lot of interesting notes to point here. First, ray tracing. Forza Horizon 5 technically supports ray tracing, but you won’t see it in-game. Ray tracing is exclusively part of Forzavista, where you can view car models up close. We left the setting off for most of our testing, though we can confirm that there’s no performance difference in-game with ray tracing turned on.

For the settings that make a difference, we found the largest gains with shadows, shader quality, and reflection quality. You can actually turn the shadows off entirely, which resulted in a solid 8% increase in our average frame rate. The game doesn’t look great without shadows, but it doesn’t look bad, either. This is definitely an option if your hardware is struggling.

Shader quality represented the biggest increase in performance, though, increasing our average frame rate by a massive 14% at the lowest setting. We kept this setting to High in our optimized list because there’s a large trade-off in visual quality. But if you’re running into performance issues, shader quality is a good place to look.

Reflection quality brought a 9% increase at the Very Low setting, though once again, we compromised with the Medium setting in our optimized list. If you were hoping to earn some extra frames with SSR (screen space reflection) quality, don’t bother. We didn’t see any performance increase with this setting, even when we turned SSR off entirely. It looks terrible, too, implying reflections without actually showing them.

Forza Horizon 5 system requirements

A car in the jungle in Forza Horizon 5.

Forza Horizon 5 is a big-budget AAA game from 2021, but you wouldn’t know that from the system requirements. Where games like Far Cry 6 and Back 4 Blood call for the latest GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, Forza Horizon 5 only calls for an RX 590 or GTX 1070 with its recommended specs.

Minimum Recommended
CPU Intel i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200 Intel i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 1500X
GPU Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD RX 470 Nvidia GTX 1070 or AMD RX 590
Memory 8GB 16GB
OS Windows 10 version 15063.0 or higher Windows 10 version 15063.0 or higher
DirectX DirectX 12 DirectX 12
Storage 110GB 110GB

Those cards are powerful but much less than what we expected from a franchise known for its visual flare. As we’ll dig into in the next section, though, you’ll need a little more power if you want to turn all of the sliders up.

The good news is that Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t require a particularly powerful CPU, and if you have an older or low-end GPU, our testing shows that the processor doesn’t play much of a role past 1080p. We wouldn’t recommend going too far below the recommended specs, but as our results show, Forza Horizon 5 has a lot of bandwidth when it comes to performance.

Forza Horizon 5 performance, tested

Cars driving in rain in Forza Horizon 5.

We chose three graphics cards to test Forza Horizon 5 — the RX 580 for 1080p, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RTX 3070 for 4K. We tested every card on an open-air test bench with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory, and a 1TB PCIe 3.0 NVMe solid-state drive. Basically, we tried to isolate GPU performance as much as possible.

1080p Extreme 1080p Optimized 1440p Extreme 1440p Optimized 4K Extreme 4K Optimized
RTX 3070 97 fps 147 fps 85 fps 127 fps 62 fps 87 fps
RTX 2060 Super 65 fps 98 fps 54 fps 80 fps 38 fps 54 fps
RX 580 35 fps 49 fps 27 fps 42 fps 20 fps 29 fps

Referencing the system recommendations, the RX 580 is just slightly slower than what the developers recommend. Usually, the recommended specs target 1080p with the highest quality preset, and the RX 580 doesn’t hit the mark. Even with our optimized settings, which mix Medium, High, and Ultra options, we couldn’t crack the 60 frames per second mark.

Still, our results show just how scalable the settings are in Forza Horizon 5. With the RTX 3070, we improved our frame rate by 40% at 4K with some moderate settings tweaks. At 1080p, where the GPU isn’t the only factor, we saw as much as a 52% increase. There’s a lot of performance between the Extreme and Low presets.

The RTX 2060 Super is a testament to that. This is a card that shouldn’t hit 4K at 60 fps in most modern AAA games, but we got close with our optimized settings. 54 fps at 4K with little visual downgrade is nothing to sneeze at, and if you tweak the settings a little further — particularly bumping shader quality down to Medium — you’ll easily crack 60 fps.

That leaves the RX 580, which wasn’t able to hit 60 fps at 1080p with our optimized settings. You’ll notice a smaller disparity in results with this card compared to the other ones as the resolution climbs. The in-game benchmark handily provides a GPU bound percentage, showing how much of an impact the CPU is having on performance. And with the RX 580, we hit 100% at 1440p.

It’s an important note — the game seems to stress low-end GPUs quite a bit, so you’ll need to experiment with settings more. Our optimized settings should be a baseline, but we recommend tweaking from there if you’re not getting the performance you want. Forza Horizon 5 includes a frame rate target, too, so the can dynamically adjust to hit 60 fps.

The most important takeaway, though, is that Playground Games once again created a technical marvel. We almost hit 30 fps at native 4K with an RX 580, which is insane. Outside of the performance range the settings provide, the visual quality is unmatched. Sure, the Low preset looks worse than the Extreme one, but it still doesn’t look bad. It’s hard to make Forza Horizon 5 look bad.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Intel Alder Lake Sports XMP 3.0, High Overclocking Headroom

Intel just announced its 12th-gen Alder Lake platform at the Intel Innovation event. In addition to six new processors, Intel detailed some key overclocking news for the upcoming range. Marrying software and hardware, Alder Lake looks primed for extreme overclocking unlike any previous Intel generation.

Starting with the hardware improvements, Alder Lake chips feature a thicker integrated heat spreader (IHS). Intel was able to add a little more heft to the IHS by reducing the die thickness by 25% and reducing the solder thermal interface material (STIM) by 15%. We don’t know what kind of difference that will make yet, but a thicker IHS should mean higher cooling potential.

More exciting are the software improvements. Intel is launching Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) 7.5 with the release of Alder Lake, which supports DDR5 and Alder Lake’s hybrid architecture. You’ll be able to overclock the P-cores and E-cores independently with ratio and voltage controls, and you can quickly check your overclock with the XTU benchmark, which includes hwbot.org integration.

If you don’t want to mess with your settings independently, you can use Intel Speed Optimizer. At launch, this feature is only available for the Core i9-12900K and i9-12900KF, but it will arrive for other Alder Lake chips soon. With a single button, the feature will boost P-core frequency by 100MHz and E-core frequency by 300MHz.

In a demo, Intel showed this chip reaching 5.2GHz on all cores with a modest overclock. We can’t make any claims on performance until the processors are here, but Intel suggests that most chips will have even higher headroom for overclocking.

Along with the launch of XTU 7.5, Intel released Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 3.0. If you’re unfamiliar, XMP is what allows your memory to run at higher speeds without manual tuning. It’s an overclocking profile stored on the memory itself, and the third version includes some big upgrades.

First, XMP 3.0 supports five memory profiles instead of two, and for the first time ever, you can define and store your own profiles. Up to three profiles will come from the vendor, and you can configure the other two. In addition, you’ll be able to configure your profiles through software on your desktop. Intel pointed out Corsair’s iCue as an example, which allows you to tune and store XMP profiles without digging in the BIOS.

XMP 3.0 is only available on DDR5 modules. However, Intel has news for DDR4 memory, too. Both DDR4 and DDR5 support Intel’s new Dynamic Memory Boost technology on Alder Lake. It’s a bit like the turbo on a processor. Instead of running the memory at a higher speed all of the time, the overclock will adapt to the workload to boost speed as necessary.

We don’t know how good Alder Lake chips will be for overclocking, but Intel is setting up the generation for success. Although overclocking the chips is exciting, XMP 3.0 is a larger development. For the first time, users will be able to define and store their own memory profiles, opening the door to manual memory overclocking to the masses.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Apple Confirms High Power Mode On M1 Max MacBook Pro

Apple has just confirmed that the 16-inch version of the latest MacBook Pro will support the new High Power mode. This applies only to models that run on the M1 Max chip. High Power mode is Apple’s new invention made to maximize performance during periods of intense workloads, such as color grading an 8K ProRes video.

In order to enable the new High Power mode, users will likely need the 16-inch version of the new MacBook Pro, equipped with an M1 Max chip and running MacOS Monterey. According to Apple, the new mode will be enabled through System Preferences and will not be on by default.

It’s still somewhat unclear what the new High Power setting will fully entail. It’s clear that it’s meant to let the MacBook Pro handle periods of highly intensive workloads. Such tasks can involve working with 4K or 8K videos, video editing, design work, and more.

Although this feature should let the 16-inch MacBook Pro run smoothly during resource-intensive tasks, code-level references that were previously found indicate that this will make the fans louder. Whether the temperatures will rise beyond what’s acceptable remains to be seen, but Apple did optimize these new Macs to offer better airflow. Battery life reduction is also to be expected during High Power mode usage.

The first references to the new feature were discovered last month by Filipe Espósito of 9to5Mac in the beta of MacOS Monterey. Prior to this, in 2020, references to “Pro Mode” were found in MacOS Catalina 10.15.3. At that time, the internal code that was found suggested this option will make apps run faster while quickly exhausting the Mac’s battery.

Lifestyle image of someone using the new Macbook Pro 2021.

Apple hasn’t made a statement as to whether the feature will be enabled on the M1 Pro chip or whether it will be available on the 14-inch MacBook Pro at all. For now, it’s safe to assume that High Power mode will remain reserved for the 16-inch MacBook. This marks a difference compared to the previous assumptions that the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will offer the exact same performance, but it still remains to be seen whether this is true.

Pre-orders for the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, equipped with the new-and-improved M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, have already started rolling in. The first units are set to be shipped soon and will arrive on October 26. At that point, we can expect more reviews of High Power mode, which should clarify the extent of the performance increase provided by this setting. Regardless of the final outcome, it’s already clear that the new notebooks are swiftly topping the ranks of the best MacBooks out there due to the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips installed inside.

Editors’ Choice




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