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Setting up true apples-to-apples reviews conse- quently becomes a logistics nightmare. We were able to sync up with Euro- corn www. It also sent over four Nvidia-based GPU “modules.
Each device incorporates an exposed processor and memory, a slot connector, and all of the passive copper cooling that’ll fit in a notebook. But, kids, before you attempt this at home, we’re trained professionals.
Given cramped lap- top enclosures and delicate pieces of elec- trical tape-covered copper, we wouldn’t recommend swapping your mobile gam- ing machine’s graphics often. Besides, you have to consider the typical thermal issues associated with cramped notebook components before upgrading.
Our plans to pit mobile GPUs against each other seemed to be simplified when, late last year, Nvidia became the first graphics vendor to release a unified dri- ver package for all of its mobile products rather than rely on vendor-specific up- dates.
At press time, though, Nvidia’s software was still in beta, so it was a slight disappointment when it failed to recognize our GeForce M GTX. In order to get that board updated to the latest software versions available, we were forced to experiment with the enthusiast community’s hacked mobile drivers.
At full strength, the GTX sports shader processors, a MHz core clock, and memory run- ning at 1. The mobile version is limited to shaders, a MHz core, and MHz memory. Nevertheless, it’s still a flagship.
That lead extends to the rest of our benchmark suite at 1, x 1,, where the high-end card’s extra memory and higher clocks help it maintain playable frame rates.
It’s worth noting, though, that much of the card’s performance is contingent on which driver version you use. The package included by Eurocom was Dri- ver package Nvidia tells us that these driver issues should be corrected by the time you read this.
The hacked driver we used to get our module current isn’t sup- ported in any way — an understandable cause of concern for enthusiasts dropping so much money on such an expensive upgrade.
It centers on the same graphics processor with 96 shaders instead of 1 Moreover, a drop from 1GB of GDDR3 RAM to MB will limit the number of resolutions that are playable with extras such as antialiasing and anisotropic filter- ing turned on not that we’d expect to play many games on the road with eye candy cranked up.
Relaxing the hardware specs has a pro- found impact on the M GT’s price tag. The GeForce M GTX reigned supreme, but considering the M GTS 1 respectable showing, you’ll need to carefully weigh just how much you’re willing to spend to be sailing on the flagship.
Fittingly, you also get a lot less graphics processing power. The GeForce M centers on the G94 processor, armed with 64 shaders. The chip’s core runs at MHz. Performance drops yet again, under- standably.
But the reduction isn’t so severe as to make any of the settings that were available on the M GTX and GT inaccessible. In fact, the only con- figuration we wouldn’t recommend would be Crysis at 1, x 1, Nvidia recently commit- ted to launching a new unified mobile driver package on a quarterly basis, which should help keep the company’s notebook offerings up-to-date.
Everything else simply costs too much for the performance gains. Rnlrinn Inside, Canliino tngn. CtfterPewer is net responsible frjranytflBgrapnkal and phctrjpjrapnic error;. See page 26 of the Jan- uary issue.
See “X58 Explosion” on page 1 8 of the February issue. So what’s a performance-hun- gry power user to do when the object of his desire simply costs too much? Why, sit back and wait for ultra-competitive moth- erboard vendors to strip out a few features and pull down prices on the platform.
In the case of Intel’s X58, it didn’t take long. But the features we’d Specs: Socket LGA 1 ; Chipset: Notably missing are two SATA 3Gbps ports down from 10 , one GbE controller, and the massive cooling apparatus that fea- tured an integrated waterblock.
Instead, this board sports a passive heatpipe circuit with smaller northbridge, southbridge, and voltage regulation heatsinks. After all, it centers on the same PCB design. The bottom line is that Core i7 and Xbased platforms are no longer just for the affluent.
But enthusiasts don’t want to pay extra for a built-in GPU when their gaming needs require the muscle of a discrete card. But there’s a lesser-known chipset model under the FX called X.
It’s equipped with fewer available PCI-E lanes than the FX and doesn’t include inte- grated graphics, making it an ideal foun- dation for building low-cost boards that still showcase Phenom II’s capabilities.
The board’s expansion slot arrange- ment is interesting, too. Although there are two PCI-E xl6 slots, only one is wired to support 16 lanes. The other is limited to eight.
But when you drop in a pair of graphics cards in CrossFire, they both revert to x8 signaling speeds. If value is your thing, it doesn’t get much better than the X chipset. Antec also throws in a full-featured remote control optimized for various media center platforms, includ- ing the bundled iMon iMedian HD soft- ware.
Connect a few system power bypass wires, attach either the internal or external y—. Play music, and it shows a spectrum analyzer. Run a slideshow, and you’ll see the file name of the current image.
The look is impressive, and the build quality feels solid. Fortunately, iMon’s drivers work equally well with both plat- forms. The iMon Manager lets you add addi- tional news sources, Webcasting stations, and button associations for the remote.
If you want the deep flexibility of LCDC or other utilities that give fine programming control over the front-panel display, look elsewhere. Conversely, if you like the Multi- media Station concept but want something smaller, check out the single-bay Elite or Basic models or the exteral Multimedia Station E-Z.
All are based on iMon’s soft- ware and an IR-based remote control. Naming confusion aside, the M4A79T Deluxe is a strong motherboard in its own right, centering on mature technology that’s decidedly aimed right at the power user, with features such as quad CrossFireX support.
And because it employs two chipset components with which most enthusiasts are already familiar, the only real new functionality it brings to the table is Socket AM3.
Given modest throughput numbers measured in Sandra 7. It couldn’t hurt to wait a few months for prices on mem- ory to dip before grabbing this. But when speed matters, DAS direct-attached storage rules.
Simply slide in a SATA drive and shut the door. The unit staggers the spinup of each drive to avoid taxing the power supply. Two 60mm rear fans provide quiet airflow. As our tests show, a high- risk RAID isn’t worth the small speed gain vs.
Wiebetech’s configuration app re- quires you to use the FireWire connec- tion to set up a RAID, but then you’re free to use other interfaces. The app ran only sporadically for us, but a USB-compatible utility from Oxford worked.
With drives in the powered-on enclosure, use the software to build a RAID. All the [re] drive promises is that it will store and back up stuff while giving you a more environmen- tally friendly product than similarly priced alternatives.
Considering that the GB Western Digital Green drive within the enclosure is only 5,rpm, performance is pretty decent. Inclusion of ArcSoft backup soft- ware and 2GB of free online storage make some amends.
Of course, using a 5,rpm rather than a 7,rpm drive saves some energy, too. This is the Prius of disk storage. The memory clock also received a boost, going from 1,MHz to 1,MHz.
Crysis Warhead returned abnormal scores during our tests. But all of our tests brought back 10 to 1 lfps. Despite Warhead’s irregular behavior, all other tests were on the mark.
That’s how long it took to unbox, configure, and start tapping into the convenience of the XLink BT. Said convenience translates into the XLink letting you dial and receive calls via your cellular service using a stan- dard landline phone handset.
Thus, with my cell phone charging in my kitchen and within range of the XLink, I could use a cordless handset to still dial and receive calls via my cell service — nifty, but also potentially money-saving, as the XLink can save those who want to ditch their landline phone service without losing the comfort and convenience of a traditional handset.
Xtreme Tech offers the XLink in two versions. The BT is for those who’ve already abandoned landline service. Three cell phones can connect simultaneously, and each gets its own unique ring pattern if the handset sup- ports this.
Three LED-lit buttons indi- cate which cell phone is in use, and call waiting can switch among the phones. With multiple cell phones paired, call- ing out requires pressing the respective button on the BT’s station 1, 2, or 3 and using the handset’s call waiting function.
The BTTN defaults to using the landline to call out. Voice and speed dialing, caller ID, and voicemail are also supported. Times being what they are, Digital Storm sent us a Benchmark Crusher with a more affordable price tag while still packing the newest hardware.
There’s an Intel Core i processor overclocked to 3. And with room to grow, this Benchmark Crusher build offers value for those wanting a well-craft- ed, high-end boutique system.
The case features a simple black, brushed aluminum exterior and a clear window that lets you view — and show off — the system’s primary hardware. The red light from Cooler Master’s V8 CPU cooler, as well as the mm side panel fan, drew our attention to the case interi- or, which is exceptionally clean.
Nearly all the cables are tucked away, and because Digital Storm chose to use the Corsair HXW, a power supply with modu- lar cabling, the builder minimized the appearance of bulky power cables.
Digi- tal Storm painted the interior with its Storm White automotive finish — an appealing contrast with the black exterior. We were surprised Digital Storm used a Core i, rather than the faster Core i processor.
The Benchmark Crusher passed our overnight Prime 95 stress test, as well as our gaming benchmarks, without a hitch. Our only qualm was that the 1. Due primarily to processor overclock, the Benchmark Crusher produced scores higher than you’d expect from the sys- tem’s hardware.
Although this particular Benchmark Crusher didn’t break any CPU records, the system is a good example of how well Digital Storm can design and maximize the hardware within a system. Even if the Benchmark Crusher isn’t your style, bou- tique computer buyers will want to check out Digital Storm’s offerings.
Intel Core i 3. Powered by German Engineering. Got a hot date tonight? COM performance — pCS. These higher clocks result in increased performance across the board. Its perforated shroud, which surrounds the entire PCB assembly, has an air inlet at one end.
Cen- tered in the inlet is a barrel-type fan that pulls air into the interior of the card, where it blows across the heatsinks and then escapes from the system through vents in the card’s case bracket.
This cooling setup is effective and relatively quiet for an enthusiast-class card. One of the LEDs indicates if the board is receiving sufficient power, and the other shows the primary display output.
Unfortu- nately, there were no full-version games to be found, but Evga does include a copy of its excellent Precision graphics-tuning utili- ty. And, of course, the card is covered by Evga’s excellent lifetime warranty.
This is arguably the fastest graphics card on the market. A by Marco Chiappetta Test System: Nvidia GT x2; Core clock: This is especially true for notebook users, who are much more limited in their storage options than desktop users.
Still, there are some inter- esting options for the mobile storage space, such as the GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue. The WD Scorpio Blue is a 2. During test- ing, I found the drive to offer up to The drive is also quiet, which is a definite plus for a mobile product.
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This 21 -inch tall stealth black case is highlighted with a bright red outline on the case door, matched by the red LED backlighting on the mm top exhaust fan. Removing the side panels required a few twists of six thumbscrews.
Inspection of these panels revealed rubber stripping on all four edges — ideal for reducing vibration noise. Located on the back of the chassis are numerous slots and mounts for additional fans.
The re- movable HDD cage allowed for simple slide-and-lock installation of our 3. The black thumbscrews desig- nated for the drive blended well with the Element S’ color scheme.
I detached the bottom-mounted PSU bracket, which simultaneously functions as a cable Spec: This is one place to secure a single 2. In terms of cooling, Thermaltake made a bril- liant move by adding a CPU cooler hole on the back of the motherboard tray.
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This chassis is affordable, capable of maintain- ing proper airflow, and embodies practi- cal sophistication. Add up to three hard drives to the M, connect the box to a network, and the setup is nearly complete.
Once assembled and connected, launching a simple configuration utility, picking the desired RAID mode, and configuring some user accounts is all that’s required before users can access and store files on the device.
Setup is quite easy. What makes the M stand out, however, is its built-in media playback capabilities. Connect the box to an HDTV or home-entertainment system, and multime- dia files stored on the device can be played back on the TV or through a stereo sys- tem.
Video quality was good at every reso- lution up to p and on par with other digital media extenders I’ve tested. The M includes a basic remote control that brings up an on-screen menu, where users can browse though pictures, music, or movies stored on the device.
Essentially, the M is a NAS box and digital media extender in one. The media playback features of the M are basic in comparison to prod- ucts like the TViX M or Netgear EVA, but they’ll get the job done if you’re looking for a single device to both Specs: Although you might be the kind who would rather opt for an all-out dragster of a hard drive, such as WD’s VelociRaptor 10,rpm beast, Western Digital also just launched an option for users who live on the other end of the spectrum, where size matters more than simple redline speed.
Additionally, for IT data-center types, the new WD Caviar Green 2TB hard drive offers a power profile and capacity foot- print that can drive rack space and power efficiency to new levels.
Underneath its standard 3. This equates to Gb per square inch areal density, which is currently the highest available in market. Onboard, the new Caviar Green has 32MB of cache. There has been some mystery among the end-user community about the Caviar Green’s spindle speeds, due to the fact that WD doesn’t specify this spec.
The fact of the matter is that its platters rotate at a variable rate from 5, to 7,rpm. However, with 32MB of onboard cache and “Intelli-“branded technologies that bal- ance spindle speed and transfer rates, the Caviar Green also consumes significant- ly less power at about 7.
The good news is that the drive’s vari- able spindle speed doesn’t seem to hamper performance, as it chalked up respectable 90MBps average read and We actually found it gave Seagate’s potent Barracuda But cost and size are typically gates that cause the mainstream consumer to pause and re-evaluate.
Although we all admire machines with inch displays, there’s something just a little over the top about a machine of this size and weight. In addition, sometimes component selections made for machines of this caliber can be overkill, frankly.
But Asus seems to be making an effort to strike a happy medium, in terms of price, features, size, and performance, with its G50Vt gaming notebook. We took one for a test drive and were relatively impressed with its stylish exterior that was backed up by solid build quality and a fair amount of horsepower.
The Asus G50Vt weighs in at a little over 7 pounds, which isn’t the heaviest DTR notebook we’ve tested but certain- ly is substantial. The machine, which is part of Asus’ line of Republic of Gamers products, is adorned with cool silver and blue inlays on its topside and features illuminated side lights on the edge of the lid.
Ours also came config- ured with a 2. This configuration is a standard SKU that Asus assembles for major retailers. The G50Vt offers excellent build qual- ity and a sleek design, but we’d recom- mend going with the high-resolution Performance- wise, the G50Vt delivered in spades, offering great frame rates in some of the latest titles and great general desktop application performance to boot.
The World’s First Description: The Montebello is 1 5. When does it make sense to buy a preconfigured machine rather than piece one together on your own? How about when the prebuilt box is every bit as fierce as you’d wish for in your own dream machine and it costs less than parting the system out piece by piece?
Even two weeks after its build date, we weren’t able to source the parts list online for less than CyberPower is asking. And the setup is pure enthusiast, too. But where the builder really seems to excel is its understanding of technology and how to use it.
We’ve seen some genuinely wonky setups from top-tier vendors — high- end processors with minimal memory and entry-level graphics, for example. In contrast, the CyberPower box is balanced the way a power user would demand.
B, which is slower but better suited for housing lots of music and movies. And while the Core i isn’t the quickest chip Intel sells, it’s the sec- ond-fastest and known for offering serious overclocking headroom.
In fact, our system arrived already tuned to 3. Unfortunately, the massive Cooler Master VI CPU cooler, which can dissi- pate more than W of heat, didn’t seem to make good contact with the processor’s surface.
Given the overclock, the system shut itself down before completing its POST. In order to get the machine running stably at its default 2. Cyber- Power purportedly expected something simi- lar from the heavy GeForce GTX s, so it packaged those separately, counting on the customer to install them.
Our Main- Concept and Xvid encoding tests both exhibited the sort of gains we’d expect going from a 2. CyberPower’s build was clean and profes- sional, exhibiting meticulous cable manage- ment.
The configuration’s performance was clearly exceptional; the vendor’s techs had even popped the hood on Vista to optimize performance and increase usability. With the exception of some shipping damage, which we’re confident would be covered in the company’s three-year labor warranty, the Gamer Xtreme XE is a real winner — one with an unbelievably com- petitive price.
Buffered JSS E2 You’ve probably heard the word “WiMAX” thrown around for a few years, and maybe you haven’t paid much atten- tion to it. Why bother, since you can’t get it? But if you live in Baltimore or Portland, Ore.
And if you live in a major city, rest assured that WiMAX is probably headed your way. Because WiMAX is essentially wireless broadband spread over an entire metro area.
In Portland, the geographic coverage exceeds square miles. This means that you can plug a WiMAX network adapter into your note- book, cruise the Internet at broadband speeds just as you would with Wi-Fi, take the notebook into a taxi, keep surfing without interruption from the back seat, hop out at your friend’s place across town, and jump into an MMPORPG right next to his machine — all without ever breaking your Internet connection.
That’s the promise, at least. Let’s dig further into WiMAX and see if its promise matches today’s reality. Wi- Fi antenna power levels typically measure in the tens of milliwatts, but WiMAX base station power levels are 1 to 20 times stronger, enabling far greater reach.
A WiMAX antenna can usually cover a radius of 0. We all know from Wi-Fi usage that radio signals tend to act like waves rip- pling out from a stone thrown in a pond. As signals bounce off of objects of all sizes, you get multiple sets of ripples, resulting in both peaks and troughs where waves overlap.
We experience the troughs as dead spots, or nulls. One way to deal with nulls on a small, room-to-room scale is to employ multiple antennas in a MIMO configuration, a tactic that’s worked well in Wi-Fi for years.
But on a larger scale, as in a city center or in places where major antennas can’t reach, providers can install pico-cell base stations, or repeaters, to help fill in gaps.
These can also be deployed inside of build- ings prone to screening out radio signals. MIMO isn’t the only way around nulls. There are antenna techniques wherein one can sample each antenna independently to find the best signal, as well as determine if the device is in a null.
If so, the host de- vice can compensate for it by sending out a signal that negates the null, applying Ready to catch a WiMAX wave in Clearwire’s ocean? This is called beamforming, and it’ll be supported in future WiMAX generations.
Also consider that Wi-Fi can only toler- ate multipath signal delays of less than one microsecond, while WiMAX can patiently wait for up to 10 microseconds — very handy when you’re dealing with bounces off of buildings.
Another major difference between WiMAX and cellular is that cellular net- works have their data capabilities bolted onto their voice systems, putting a high bandwidth load on a network designed pri- marily for a low bandwidth task.
Both of these assume steady connection with users travel- ing up to 75mph. But hold onto your hats. In 1 or later, look for Release 2. Target mobility for 2. It remains to be seen if WiMAX providers will bond different spec- trum bands to enable greater data rates.
Clearly, the chicken-and-egg battle for popularizing WiMAX will require widespread service availability before device manufacturers feel confident in delivering products. Intel isn’t playing chicken, though.
Paired with a couple of ARM E-S processors, the chips deliver channel bandwidths up to 10MHz and capabilities such as link subchannelization and beamforming. Note the triple-antenna design of these adapters.
Centrino 2 notebooks come prewired with three antennas, while older notebooks only integrated one for The uses these antennas in a 2 transmit x 1 receive configuration for conventional Mbps The steps up into a 3 x 3 setup for a theoretical maxi- mum Either way, both cards also carry the same chipset, delivering a maximum of 13Mbps down- link and 3Mbps uplink.
Recall for com- parison that Comcast’s cable broadband typically offers downloads in the 6 to 8Mbps range, and the theoretical top end of Calling Clearwire Clearwire www. In the summer of , Sprint was the largest owner of FCC-licensed 2.
The services sell the hardware, as Nokia, which produced the ill-fated N, found out the hard way. Rather than incur the expense of erecting new antenna towers, Clearwire typically colocates its hardware on existing cellular towers, spreading degree coverage among three antennas, each carrying a 10MHz channel.
The company targets an average use of about users for each of those 10MHz tower sectors, figuring on a 2 to 4Mbps experience per user. Obvious- ly, Clearwire knows how much bandwidth the average subscriber consumes and how long he’s typically using that bandwidth.
If all subscribers come on at the same time, they’re not going cruising at 4Mbps. Alternatively, if usage is light in a sector and the signal is strong, a user could see in excess of 8Mbps.
Our Clearwire contacts tell us the highest real-world throughput is 13 to 1 4Mbps, although it stresses that subscribers should not expect anything over 6Mbps. Clearwire launched in Portland with a number of antenna bases “in the high s.
The company is not only adding more anten- nas very coincidentally, we photographed a relay antenna being installed at the clos- est tower to our main testing site but also tilting existing antennas to refine signals based on Clearwire’s own drive-through analyses and user feedback.
Initial deploy- ment is largely based on simulated models made from databases containing most known geographic features and existing tower locations. But simulations only get you so far, and never-ending tweaking and expansion is necessary.
This leaves loads of room for future scaling. Increasing spectrum utilization to MHz would yield between 6Mbps and 15Mbps per user, allowing for services such as HD video on demand, CD-quality music streaming, gobs of online gaming, and so on.
You’d think that the RSU, being larger than the dongle, would pull in a stronger signal, but we found results between the two to be almost in- distinguishable. If anything, the dongle performed better.
Clearwire notes that the RSU tends to be directional and gets the best results by being placed near a win- dow and aiming its slender front face toward the local tower.
This made little difference for us: It turned out that our main testing location sat smack between two towers, meaning that we were proba- bly at the outer range of both. For in-home testing, we tried several locations, both near windows and in the middle of rooms, using both modems sepa- rately plugged into a notebook.
The Mo- torola RSU features five signal-strength LEDs across its top; in our two residential test sites, we never saw more than two of these lit. The promise of seamless, high-speed, wireless Internet is intoxicating, but do the results measure up?
Signal Strength Download bps! Condition i of bars, i higher is better: Ping ms i Condition i 1 of 5 i i i stationary residential I of bars Upload i Download i j GbE reference 3: Yuki restaurant ‘time recorded in minutes: At two bars or less, we would eventually lose the network connection.
Placing the notebook at one spot on the living room couch yield- ed two bars, but shifting two feet to the back of the couch boosted signal strength to six bars. The bedroom got nine to When we tested performance under the local antenna tower, it was predictably a solid 10 bars for many blocks.
However, we hit a dead spot about a half-mile away at the bottom of the tower’s hill. We observed similar sporadic results while driving around Portland. Strangely, we achieved the highest transfer rates driving at 60mph down through the middle of Portland when we had 10 bars and a download speed just shy of 10Mbps.
Two minutes later, we hit a null and lost the connection. We used a series of 30MB FTP uploads and downloads to test sustained throughput and repeated hits of the Portland test server through www.
Over time, we observed that we rarely had a fair four to six bars signal. It was either really good eight to 10 bars or really bad zero to two. For our unlimited account, Clearwire states a maximum connection speed of 4Mbps down and Kbps up.
Usually, these num- bers are overly conservative. With a decent connection, we averaged downloads in excess of 6Mbps. With a poor connection, downloads hovered in the 1.
A Wireless Work In Progress We should re-emphasize that Clearwire is continuing to optimize its network, and it’s not like you’ll be stuck in a two-year contract if your home happens to be in an irreparable null.
The company wants cus- tomers, not forum flames. When it works, it’s hot, and it’s easy to see how people could soon use it to replace their existing broadband and phone services. This is something you should look for- ward to.
Just don’t expect coverage mir- acles on launch day. Intel released Prescott, the nail in the Pentium 4 s coffin; a chip that was too hot and didn’t perform well enough to justify the heat.
Enthusiasts were abandoning Intel, if they hadn’t already, for the Athlon 64 platform. Nvidia could produce Intel chipsets. What came next were a number of f Intel chipsets with SLI support, some good, some bad.
The major advantage of these chipsets over competing Intel solu- tions was their support for SLI, which Intel wasn’t licensed to enable without Nvidia’s blessing. It seems such a blessing was too rich for Intel’s blood at the time.
We’ve seen a few unique concoctions since. More recently, Intel X58 motherboards can sup- port SLI if they go through Nvidia’s certi- fication process, which curiously enough requires a fee per motherboard sold.
Back before Core i7 launched, Nvidia told me that it wouldn’t build any Core i7 chipsets but would make chipsets for mainstream Nehalem processors that use a DMI interface between the CPU and chipset.
Staying out of the Core i7 chipset space was curious, but I didn’t think much of it; perhaps Nvidia just wanted to build chipsets for main- stream platforms and stay out of the high-end market.
It turns out that the reasons were per- haps a litde more serious. Sometime in , Intel allegedly informed Nvidia that Core i7 was coming and that in Intel’s opinion, the chipset licensing agreement would not extend to Core i7 or any other CPU with an integrated memory con- troller.
The justification was the language I mentioned above; Nvidia had a license to build chipsets that sat between an Intel CPU and system memory. With an on-die memory con- troller, a chipset no longer sits between the CPU and main memory, thus, according to Intel, the agreement no longer holds.
His site — www. According to Intel, Nvidia refused to see things this way and com- mitted to building chipsets for Core i7 and its derivatives. As of today, Nvidia hasn’t built anything; it has simply talked about building chip- sets for these upcoming CPUs.
Nvidia’s official response is that current FSB-based chipsets are not affected true , and Nvidia is currently devel- oping chipsets for mainstream Nehalem processors using DMI. Earlier this year, Intel filed a lawsuit to block Nvidia from building them.
As I see it, there are three possible out- comes. First, Nvidia wins the suit and con- tinues to make chipsets for Intel — this is the most clear-cut scenario.
Second, Nvid- ia loses the suit, and Intel doesn’t agree to a new licensing agreement. In this scenario, Nvidia’s chipset business is basically done for.
AMD chipsets are finally more popu- lar for AMD platforms, and with no sup- port for new Intel CPUs, Nvidia would eventually have to exit the chipset business and focus on graphics alone. Third, Nvidia loses the suit but drafts a new agreement with Intel.
OEMs don’t generally like only having one supplier for a particular product; that’s why AMD is around in the first place. The chipset loses its importance with on-die, on-package integrated graphics, so maybe OEMs won’t really care, but if a new agree- ment takes effect, we’ll still see the occasional Nvidia chipset for mainstream Intel CPUs.
I don’t see a reason for Nvidia’s chipsets once Intel moves graphics onto the CPU pack- age at the end of this year. True, Nvidia could offer better graphics, but there’s nothing stop- ping Nvidia from making a cheap, low-power GPU and selling it to OEMs that want some- thing better than Intel’s on-package graphics.
We’ll see what happens, but if Nvidia loses, I’m not sure it makes sense to continue to invest resources into chipset development. The strength is in the GPU, not in the chipset. A Talk back to Anand at anand cpumag.
Watching movies on Blu-ray disc with full 7. Getting at the Protected Audio path, how- ever, has been a different animal. These two formats support 7. Yet none of these solutions gives us what we want: But there’s a wrinkle: Thus, technically, you can decode the audio with your software and send it out as uncompressed LCPM, bypassing the GPU and the need for the Protected Audio path altogether.
All you need is the right hard- ware support. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your Blu-ray movie-viewing experience. A PC’s body anyway, inside and out.
Here you’ll find hardware, firmware, tools, tips, and tutorials for modding your rig’s performance and appearance. Send us your own mod-related tips and ideas at modding cpumag. M odding enthusiasts have a pen- chant for the latest toys.
Fast processors, powerful video cards, silent SFF enclosures, and radically lit motherboards are all fair game when it comes to a modder’s creative mind. Recognizing the appeal of unconventional customization, an entire industry has emerged to support the community.
The case can accommodate up to nine internal hard drives and has six external 5. As you can probably surmise from the Whisper branding, the case is also quiet, thanks to 10mm sound-dampen- ing foam that’s installed on the side and top panels.
In addition, the Whisper also sports rubber grommets to reduce vibration noise from hard drives installed in the case; it also has a padded PSU bay to reduce noise and vibration from the power supply.
A predrilled wire management system makes it easy to route wires and cables through the Whisper. Thermaltake ProWater PWi Modders who have been hesitant to make the transition to liquid cooling, due to concerns about internally mounted pumps, reservoirs, and radiators, have a new option to consider.
Thermaltake’s new ProWater PWi liquid-cooling kit can be mounted inside a chassis like most current kits. But a specialized mount included with the kit also allows the entire assembly to be mounted externally, using an available fan-mounting location.
According to Thermaltake, mounting the PWi externally results in easier maintenance and better performance because there’s more available air within the case to circulate over internal compo- nents, and the PWi’s fans can circu- late cooler air that resides outside the system over the unit’s It’s time to put your liquid-cooling fears to rest.
Thermaltake’s ProWater PWi makes it easy to upgrade your system to liquid cooling. The PWi’s copper waterblock is compatible with most desk- top processors, thanks to a variety of included CPU mounts.
If you need to mount a 3. It also resolves some issues related to automatic power manage- ment and system fan failure warnings. Like pro- cessors that are speed binned to create an entire lineup of similar products that sim- ply have different frequencies or cache sizes, so, too, are the GPUs used on today’s graphics cards speed binned.
That means the GPUs used on mainstream cards may be identical to those used on some of today’s most expensive high-end graphics cards. And, as is typically the case, with a little effort and some tweak- ing, it’s often possible to make a cheap graphics card perform like a much pricier, wallet-busting flagship product.
The only real differences between the Radeon HD and , at least on a technical level, are their GPU core and memory clock speeds. GDDR5 , but the cards are very similar. They have the same features, use the same drivers, etc.
By overclocking a Radeon HD , it can perform almost like a It’s often difficult to overclock the significant- ly with it running in its stock form, however. To really wring some additional performance from a Radeon HD , its GPU and memory voltages need to be tweaked, which, in turn, usually allows for With a complete disregard for product warranties, all you need to volt mod a Radeon HD is a pencil and a bit of courage.
Thankfully, it’s very easy to alter a Radeon HD ‘s GPU and memory voltages, and you can do it using nothing more than a pencil. We’ll show you how. Map The Terrain Before we explain anything, we must warn you of the dangers of volt modding.
Supply too much voltage to a particular component, and there’s a good possibility it will be irreparably damaged. Increasing the voltage supplied to a component will also raise its heat output, so cooling is an important consideration, especially with a card such as the Radeon HD , which runs excessively hot in its stock configura- tion.
And, of course, the card’s warranty will most likely be void. If you plan to perform this mod, you must take steps to ensure voltages remain in check and that your graphics card is adequately cooled.
Not doing so could mean an early death for your Radeon. Plus, third- party tools have built-in stability tests that make the overclocking process easier. The first step in the mod is ensuring that you have a compatible card.
There is an arrangement of resis- tors and a voltage regulator to the far left, about in the middle of the card. This is the area where we’ll perform the GPU pencil mod.
About two inches to the right, along the top edge of the card, is the area where we’ll volt mod the memory. For the GPU voltage mod, we’ll be pencil- ing the resistor in the position between R and R, and for the memory voltage mod, we’ll be penciling the R resistor.
Penciling the resistors effectively lowers their resistance, which, in turn, increases the output voltage of the circuit. The Prep Work Before applying any penciling to the resistors, though, it is important to check the GPU and memory voltages with the card in its stock form.
There are two spots to check — the solder pad underneath the C capacitor for the GPU voltage , and the solder post next to the R label on the PCB for the memory voltage.
Both are circled in blue in the illustration. With the card installed in a system and powered up, set the multimeter to check DC voltage. Ground its black probe to the PC’s case or a black power supply lead and touch the solder pad and post.
The memory volt- age should read approximately 2V There can sometimes be a bit of variance due to the tolerance of the components used dur- ing manufacturing, but your voltages should be similar to ours.
If they’re not, do not proceed. There is a chance you have a nonreference card and the manufacturer is already supplying extra voltage to the GPU and memory. Using a sharp No. Each line drawn on the resistor reduces its resis- tance, so only draw a few at first.
Thoroughly clean any excess pencil residue from the card, then put it back in the system to check its GPU voltage. If the voltage is between about 1. If not, remove the card again, draw a few more lines on the resistor and repeat the process.
Any volt- age above the stock value will increase the card’s overclockability, but a value in the 1. Follow a similar procedure to increase the memory voltage.
Take the card out of the system, pencil the resistor in the R position, reinstall the card, and check the voltage with your multimeter. In our expe- rience, the memory voltage is likely to increase more substantially with fewer pen- cil strokes on the resistor, so start with only a few pencil lines and add more as neces- sary.
A memory voltage in the 2. Once you’ve performed the pencil volt mods, it’s time to overclock the card. We would like to reiterate the importance of good cooling here, as the Radeon HD tends to run very hot with its stock single-slot cooler.
ATI claims temperatures up to C are safe, but cooler is better. If, prior to overclocking, your GPU is running hot- ter than 90 C under load, we’d advise you to add some more cooling or reduce the supplied voltage to the GPU and memory a bit by cleaning off some of the pencil residue on the resistors.
Should the card’s temperatures be within these thermal limits, it is safe to begin overclocking it. The lower area toward the back of the card is where the circuitry that determines the GPU voltage is located.
And the upper area along the top edge of the card is where to find the memory voltage regulation circuitry. Monitoring temperatures is also a good idea, considering how hot stock Radeon HD cards can run.
Use a sharp No. The pencil marks left on the resistors lower their resistance, which causes an increase in the output voltage of the circuit. All Done After overclocking the Radeon HD , the only thing left to do is run a few stability tests and benchmark the card to see how much its performance has improved.
If you find that the card isn’t stable at its peak overclock, try reducing the GPU and memory clocks a few megahertz at a time and retesting. We should also note that if performance seems to decrease after an overclock, the card could be overheating or suffering from other anomalies resulting from the increased voltage.
In this instance, clean off some of the pencil marks from the resistors to reduce voltages. As is always the case when modding, not every card is creat- ed equal. It’s better to err on the side of caution than destroy a perfectly good graphics card.
We’ve detailed the performance of the Radeon HD running in its stock form, while unmodded and over- clocked, and finally while volt modded and more significantly overclocked to illustrate how the mod affected frame rates.
We have also listed the performance of a more expensive Radeon HD for reference. As you can see in the chart, you can realize a significant amount of extra performance by modding and overclocking a Radeon HD The GPU and memory volt mods al- lowed us to overclock the card higher than was possible in its stock form, and the increased overclock resulted in perfor- mance that was about on par with a more expensive Radeon HD card.
In our case, because we were able to take the GPU clock higher on the modded than the , the modded card will be faster in purely GPU-bound situations. No amount of modding and overclocking would allow the Radeon HD to overtake the Radeon HD in terms of memory bandwidth, howev- er.
In the end, our benchmarks show that modding and over- clocking the Radeon HD is well worth the effort. Significant performance gains are there for the taking, if you don’t mind voiding your warranty and putting in a little time tweaking.
If you’re wondering where you’ve heard Rosenberg’ name before, check out the May issue, which pro ly bears the likeness of his Trash80 mod on its cover. Look for coverage in the June issue.
When we asked him what the most remark- able thing about the process was, Rod replied, “Amazingly enough, this mod came out almost exactly as planned. Does that ever happen with a Rosenberg says he began work on S girlfriend, a die-hard Steelers fan, when the steel run started looking like it would culminate in a trip deep into postseason.
Determined to complete all of the finish work on his own, Rosenberg used an automotive detail gun for most of the paint work, supplementing this with some airbrush work “for the fine stuff. Rosenberg also painted the rig’s keyboard Steelers yellow and the NFL.
We’ll be keeping tabs on this, Rod. In the meantime, we need to talk about another NFL-themed mod. Maybe something in Vikings purple? Rosenberg took the Steelers yellow theme all the way through the case’s interior, including yellow LEDs for fans, visible lights, and indirect lighting.
Rosenberg had to do a little footwork to come up with the yellow LEDs, but they were absolutely worth the effort. Email photos and a description to madreadermod cpumag. We’re looking for rigs that are recognizable as PCs; your Wookiee mod won’t find a home here.
Debuting with the first issue of CPU back in December , the Challenge was an instant hit among readers and staffers alike. The rules of the Challenge haven’t changed: Build the best system according to the specific Challenge without going over bud- get.
We’d like to thank our sponsor, Newegg. Sure, liquid-cooled, quad- core, multi-CPU PCs are closer to my heart, but to take this round’s PC Challenge crown, I’m going to have to lock my inner enthusiast in a closet and adopt a more mainstream mindset.
From the outset, I had a short list of well-researched, budget-priced components that were more than adequate for my mom’s emailing and document-creating needs.
But for this PC, I would need to broad- en my scope to account for dad’s movie making and photo editing, the kiddie- site-surfing and multitasking tendencies of little Gregory Grade School, the chat and music-storage affinities of preteen Christine, and the gaming and video-stor- age demands of teenage Tim.
Let’s see if you agree, shall we? The processor I selected, the 2. This little processor performs nearly as well as the similarly priced 2. Other advantages this processor lends my system include cooler running temps and quieter acoustics due to fans running at lower rpm.
It’s a dual-core CPU ideal for mul- titasking, but it also has a wallet-friendly sticker price that left me with more money to spend elsewhere. One of my early configura- tions featured a G chipset mother- board, like Seth’s, which I had planned to use in conjunction with a discrete graphics card to take advantage of ATI’s Hybrid CrossFireX technology.
My only criteria for memory were that it support DDR speeds and come from a reliable manufacturer. A 2GB dual- channel kit from Crucial satisfied those requirements with ease. For my hard drive, I knew I needed a lot of capacity because everybody wants their own user account.
My optical drive was another choice driven more by frugality than performance concerns. This graphics card features MB of GDDR2 running on a bit bus, which will let you play just about any game out there, albeit at limit- ed resolutions and enabled effects.
As an added bonus, I was pleasantly surprised with how quietly this card runs. The computer case and power supply are two components that can easily cost as little or as much as you’re willing to spend.
For this build, pairing the two turned out to be the most cost-effective option, and I settled on the Enermax Pandora ATX midtower case, which was bundled with a watt PSU. Enermax is known for its PSUs, but a quick look at the reviews of this bundle revealed that this case comes with a generic PSU.
Our keyboard and mouse come cour- tesy of Logitech. The EX cordless Hopefully nobody in your family dares enter here. One of the final components I selected was the speak- er system. Here, too, you can spend as lit- tle or as much as you can afford on a set of speakers.
The X will more than satisfy the family’s music and movie- watching needs, and as an added bonus, it has a portable music player dock that accommodates iPod, Zune, and any other MP3 player with a headphone jack.
Better yet, no additional software is need- ed to enjoy this system to the fullest. Seth, on the other hand, might get one of those phone calls asking why Blu-ray discs won’t play without software.
My initial misgivings about building a family-friendly PC turned out to be largely unfounded. When selecting com- ponents, I favored those that would collectively result in a dependable, afford- able, and expandable PC.
Really, what more could an enthusiast ask for from his own PC? OK, I thought of a few things, but you get the idea. Free Shipping I Rebate! There’s a sort of push-and- pull between how much you can spend on components when building such a system, because any splurges in one area mean you have to cut back in another.
The skill here is selecting components that balance cost savings, performance, and compatibility. I like the G chipset, as it features Radeon HD integrated graphics, which is plenty of graphics horsepower for typical computing applications.
That’s right, friends — no discrete graphics card needed here. It was an easy call, as its 7,rpm spindle speed will offer excellent performance, while the GB capacity grants you plenty of stor- age.
And GB should be plenty, unless you’re building a video library or a massive collection of music. If you need more stor- age, you can always add an external hard drive to your arsenal or add another inter- nal 1TB or GB drive.
With the optical drive, you can play DVDs to your heart’s content. It will also play Blu-ray Discs, although due to the nature of BD technology, you’ll need additional software to be able to play them.
OK, you got me — I neglected to buy a BD drive with the appropriate software, and not a free Blu-ray player application in sight. Let this be a lesson to all of us.
I opted for Vista Home Basic for my operating system because, despite the negative view many have of Vista, Microsoft isn’t going to be supporting Windows XP forever. Besides, Vista Part Newegg Item: Give your desktop computer what it craves.
Upgrade to a multi-core processor and say goodbye to sluggish performance. Home Basic costs the same and, in some cases, less than WinXP. At just over 30 bucks for the pair, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
The case is nothing flashy, but its solid black finish and compact size will keep a low profile wherever you store it. Plus, it’s sturdy enough to handle all the components you can cram in there.
Trust me, the combo is fine. I’m using it right now.