Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand sent me a link last week to a new product called the Spawn HD-720.

Okay, I agree that's not the greatest name. Spawn, not Ben's.

The HD-720 is being described as a "Slingbox for video games." It allows you to play games on your Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, or Gamecube from a remote computer. Here's a description from the website:
At the simplest level, the Spawn HD-720 captures audio and video from the console and streams these signals with extremely low latency to the Spawn Player across the network, and the Spawn Player receives and plays these video and audio streams on your computer. The gamepad connected to the USB port on your computer passes gamepad control signals through the Spawn Player across the network through the Spawn HD-720 and into the game console. So audio/video is going one way, and gamepad control actions are going the other way across the network.

That's a pretty damned interesting idea, and there are no subscription fees: once you buy the $199 base unit, and one gamepad adapter (for single-player), you're good to go.

Here's information about bandwidth:
To play in standard definition, each remote player/watcher needs from about 500kbps to 1Mbps. And to play in high definition, each remote player/watcher needs from about 2Mbps to 5Mbps.

That's a stout connection if you want to play in 720p, and it's mentioned elsewhere that you need a dual core processor, at a minimum, to support HD resolution.

I'd be impressed, though, if this even works in standard definition without latency issues. Speaking of latency, here's what they say you should expect:
We plan to ship with an average end-to-end latency of approximately 100ms across a local area network, yielding a terrific and natural-feeling game play experience. Playing across the Internet will typically add another 25-75ms of latency.

Yes, this seems like a specialty product, and playing in HD requires lots of bandwidth and horsepower, but it's a fascinating idea, and it would be great to play NHL 10 with Eli in Shreveport during the dreaded holiday trip. It's not a product that I see myself buying, at least not now, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Oh, and if you're curious, here's a video from Engadget that shows the unit in action.

Hydra is the other new tech, and it promises to enable the use of mismatched graphics cards in a multi-GPU setup. In other words, you could theoretically use Geforce and Radeon cards in the same system, and performance would scale better than either Crossfire or SLI.

Originally, this tech was unveiled at IDF last year (Tech Report had a detailed article explaining how it was supposed to work), and now motherboards including the tech will be hitting the market shortly (the first, from MSI, is due in late October). There are three variants of the tech, and while there will initially be support for same-vendor cards only (so only Geforce or Radeon cards in a system, but not both), multi-vendor support is supposedly coming shortly.

I'm a big fan of anything that busts up proprietary solutions. This is just covered in win.

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