Velocity ProMagix PCX Specifications

SECURITY
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NOVEMBER 6, 2007
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HV20
HR10
HG10
©2007 Canon U.S.A., Inc. All rights reserved. “HDV” and the “HDV” logo are trademarks of Sony Corporation and Victor Company of Japan,
LCD screen image is simulated. High definition footage captured in the AVCHD format and recorded to DVD can only be played back with
Meet the family. Three HD camcorders.
perfect for HD. Our camcorders also share
Three HD recording formats.
another genetic trait: stability. SuperRange
Our latest line of High Definition camcorders
Optical Image Stabilization addresses a
covers the spectrum of HD formats.
wide range of vibration — from normal
The HG10 AVCHD HDD camcorder offers the longest
hand - held jitters to the shake of a moving
recording time of all three — up to 15 hours of HD
vehicle. All without any loss in image quality.
video on a 40 GB internal Hard Disk Drive. So
Speaking of quality, each of our HD camcorders
there’s no need for tapes or discs. Then there’s
carries an auto focus system called Instant A F.
the HR10, an AVCHD camcorder
It’s technology that adds an external sensor to
designed for the person who
our internal auto focus system. The result is
dramatically faster auto focus speed and accuracy,
Intuitive handling makes shooting
and playback as simple as it sounds.
which is essential for HD. While we were at it, we even
included the same sensor technology that made our
enjoys the convenience of
Canon EOS Digital SLR cameras the
recording directly to DVD. And
choice of professional photographers.
completing the trio is the HV20
The Canon Full HD CMOS image
HD camcorder that records High
sensor captures HD information at
Definition video to mini DV tape.
1920 x1080 for ultra-realistic detail.
That makes three brilliant ways
And for the budding filmmaker, each
to get the ultimate in
camcorder comes with 24p Cinema
High Definition video
Mode, a feature that allows you to
capture. Despite their
vThere’s HD, and there’s Canon HD. And each
differences, our cam-
and every technology makes it possible.
corders have a lot in common —
like our lenses, for instance. Our
High Definition story starts with Genuine Canon Optics.
add a cinematic look and feel to your own
productions. So there it is: the highest form of High
After all, we have a history of over 70 years of optical
Definition from Canon. Ushering us all
expertise. So it’s no surprise that our lenses deliver
into the HD era with High Def inition
the finest HD image quality. Behind the
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DV II Image Processor, optimized
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your high expectations. And no matter which
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for HD Video. DIGIC DV II offers incredibly
many ways to bring High Definition
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to your life. To learn more about
Canon’s line of HD camcorders, visit
Superior HD begins with the lens. And no one
can match Canon’s legendary optical expertise.
www.usa.canon.com/hdexpert
Limited (JVC). Canon and DIGIC are registered trademarks of Canon Inc. in the United States. IMAGEANYWARE is a trademark of Canon.
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Toshiba recommends Windows Vista® Ultimate
Get the ultimate in HD and a revolutionary recordable
HD DVD drive 1 with the Qosmio® G45 notebook PC.
Enjoy a quiet evening with an indie film, your Qosmio G45
and millions of beautiful pixels. With HD DVD providing
up to 6x the resolution of DVDs, 2 you’ll discover a supreme
home-theater experience. 1 Throw in genuine Windows Vista®
Ultimate, a 17-inch Ultimate TruBrite® widescreen display
and four built-in Harman Kardon® Bass Reflex speakers,
and pretty soon any movie will seem like a blockbuster.
To learn more, visit www.toshiba.com/blockbuster.
1. Because HD DVD is a new format that makes use of new technologies, certain disc, digital connection and other compatibility and/or performance issues are possible. Depending on HD DVD content, you may experience “frame dropping” or lower
performance. See HD DVD Technology Legal Footnote at www.info.toshiba.com. 2. Based on pixel count compared to standard NTSC DVD output. Qosmio and TruBrite are registered trademarks of Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., and/or Toshiba
Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, the Centrino logo, and Centrino are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Windows and Windows Vista are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. All other
trademarks are the property of their respective owners. While Toshiba has made every effort at the time of publication to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein, product specifications, configurations, prices, system/component/options
availability are all subject to change without notice. For the most up-to-date product information about your computer, or to stay current with the various computer software or hardware options, visit Toshiba’s Web site at www.pcsupport.toshiba.com.
©2007 Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
PContents

VOL. 26 NO. 21/22
NOVEMBER 6, 2007
FIRST LOOKS
27 Software
Norton Internet Security 2008
Panda Internet Security 2008
Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard
BullZip PDF Printer
deskPDF Professional
PDF Converter Professional 4
Pownce.com
Totalidea TweakVI
COVE R S TO RY
The Ultimate
PC Buying Guide

With the holidays just around the corner, PC manufacturers are
rolling out their best systems. Whether you want to buy a new
computer for yourself, or to surprise someone special, you’ve
come to the right place. We’ve tested dozens of systems—gaming
rigs, family PCs, budget desktops, and laptops—to bring you our
top picks and pans.
34 Consumer Electronics
Apple iPod touch
Apple iPod nano (3rd generation)
Motorola Q9m (Verizon)
HTC Advantage
Sony PSP (model 2000)
Westinghouse TX-47F430S
TomTom GO 720
Fuji FinePix Z5fd
Helio Fin
Nokia E65
Security Suite Shootout
page 27
Top 200 Web Sites
page 78
46 Hardware
Canon Pixma Pro9000
Iomega eGo
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE
48 Business
Sony VAIO VGN-TZ150N
Your Next PC
page 64
ASUS U1F
HP Officejet Pro K5400dtn Color
Printer
Budget Graphics Cards
page 95
Xerox Phaser 8560MFP/D
54 The Best Stuff
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 5
PCONTENTS
GRAPHICS CARD SUPERGUIDE
Better Graphics
On a Budget
S P E C I A L R E P O R T: I N T E R N E T
Best of the Web 2007

Try as we might, we can’t fit all the best Web sites
in the universe in a mere list of 100. That’s why
we’ve scoured the Net to to bring you the choicest morsels, including the Top 100 Undiscovered
sites as well as our annual Top 100 Classic sites.
FRONT SIDE
OPINIONS
17 News
Better medication
through computing;
the new generation
of thin clients; solidstate storage arrives;
outlawing Wi-Fi
scarfing; putting a
price on music piracy.
9 First Word
Lance Ulanoff
18 At a Glance
Photonic computing;
Microsoft’s SideWinder mouse; weird
research projects.
58 John C. Dvorak
59 Inside Track
John C. Dvorak
60 Jim Louderback

If you’re going to upgrade your PC to Vista, you’re
probably going to need a new graphics card. We
test six entry-level and midgrade graphics cards
and give you step-by-step instructions on upgrading your PC for Vista-ready graphics.
SOLUTIONS
Want more from our experts? Visit us
online for:
106 Ask Neil
• Breaking tech news to keep you
informed
108 Ask Loyd
• Industry analysis from our expert
columnists
110 Business
Building a better Web
site; keeping customers; new Microsoft
Word features for
longer documents.
• Lively tech discussions in our
PCMag.com Forums
62 Dan Costa
63 Sascha Segan
56 25 YEARS
20 Q&A
Felicia Yue, product
manager of Sportvision.
OF PC MAG
2002. iRobot cofounder Colin
Angle; the wireless revolution;
memories of
Windows 95.
• PCMag.com’s Product Guides,
with product pricing, reviews,
and comparisons
128 BACKSPACE
22 Connected
Traveler
Using Web 2.0 to
meet people and save
money while traveling; handy travel gear.
PC Magazine, ISSN 0888-8507, is published semi-monthly, except monthly in July and three issues in November, at $44.97 for one
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6 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
INSIDE PCMAG.COM
103 Yahoo! Pipes
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Illustration by Christoph Niemann
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Fujitsu recommends
Windows Vista® Business.
Small wonder.
Family of Notebooks
U800
800 Ultra-Mobile PC
P1600 Portable PC
All the functionality. Half the size.
The new 1.5-pound Fujitsu U800 Ultra-Mobile PC
is massively versatile and wonderfully small. With its
Intel® Pentium® M processor, you can easily
launch Microsoft Vista® applications and YouTube™ videos
and view them on a vivid 5.6-inch monitor/touch-screen.
Share data and peripherals effortlessly with built-in
Bluetooth® technology. And keep all your data ultra-safe
with biometric security. It’s even Wireless WAN enabled* and
includes a webcam. To learn more go to
us.fujitsu.com/computers/smallwonder
T2000 Tablet PC**
T4200 Tablet PC**
series
** Fujitsu T2000 and T4000
®
™
Tablet PCs feature Intel Core 2
Duo processor technology.
©2007 Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation. All rights reserved. Fujitsu, the Fujitsu logo and LifeBook are registered
trademarks of Fujitsu Limited. Centrino, Intel, Intel Core, Core Inside, the Centrino logo, Pentium M, and the Intel logo are
trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft and
Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
* Wireless WAN not available on all models.
U800 Ultra-Mobile PC
Runs on Genuine
Windows Vista® Business
• 1.5lbs
• 5 hour battery life
• 40GB hard drive
• Webcam included
• Bluetooth®
• 5.6” screen
• Wireless WAN enabled*
•
FIRST WORD LANCE ULANOFF
Fair Use Is a Failure
Blame the Apple iPhone for my new love
affair with mobile video. I’ve always taken
a skeptical view of video on tiny screens—
until recently. A few weeks ago I took
the iPhone on a business trip. I watched
the Scott Baio Is 45 . . . And Single realityshow premiere, along with other brainless
video treats. Most screens on devices of
this genre are too small for my enjoyment.
Thanks to the iPhone, I’ve turned a corner
and started thinking about all the other
video I might consume on this pocket-size
device.
I set my sights on the massive DVD collection in my den, almost a decade’s worth
of my favorite movies. I also know that my
future is filled with business trips. So, naturally, I now want to get that DVD content
onto the iPhone. But that would be breaking the law. Some people, however, would
consider my plans fair use.
The term “fair use” was a widely recognized, albeit not specifically codified
agreement between content creators and
consumers for decades. It became an official part of copyright law in 1976, right
around the time VCRs arrived. Prior to
that, fair use dealt largely with copying
portions of books for research papers and
classrooms, and the less-common practice
of backing up audio LPs to tape.
The VCR changed things. Suddenly,
consumers could copy entire television
shows and even movies from broadcast
TV. The movie studios and television
networks grew concerned, and it became
obvious that more onerous copyright controls would essentially kill the nascent
VCR industry.
Fast-forward to the digital age, with its
content-copying free-for-all. We encounter content piracy at every turn: Street
corners are littered with a wide selection
of pirated DVDs, thousands of unsanctioned studio and network clips are all
over YouTube, and recently the world was
stunned to find complete PDF pages of
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on
the Internet long before it arrived on store
shelves.
Fair use made sense only as long as it
was virtually impossible for individuals
to replicate mass-market distribution of
major content. The digital nature of all
content, and easy access to the Internet
and a broadband pipe, have fundamentally
changed the equation.
So where does that leave me and other
law-abiding citizens who simply want to
watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 on our
iPhones? Content providers counsel buying a version from iTunes. Nuts to them—
I’m not paying twice. As an experiment, I
started looking for easy ways to transfer a
purchased DVD movie onto an iPod. Doz-
The advent of Blu-ray, HD DVD, and
new encryption schemes has slowed the
DVD-ripping engine down, but it hasn’t
stopped it. Soon someone will hack HD
encryption, and new ripper apps will
arrive.
Most people who do what I did are
acting in the spirit of fair use and have no
intention of distributing the content. Realistically, though, once it’s in a digital form,
redistribution is a possibility.
Fair use just doesn’t work in the digital age, and it’s time for content providers
to recognize that if they don’t give people
viewing options, people will generate them
on their own. I suggest that movie studios
create a slightly more deluxe version of
Where does that leave law-abiding citizens who want
to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 on their iPhones?
Content providers counsel buying a version from
iTunes. Nuts to them—I’m not paying twice.
ens of programs are out there, but many
are too hard to use. Open-source HandBrake is a favorite choice of Mac users.
And AoAMedia.com’s spectacularly easy
DVD Ripper includes output options for
the AppleTV and the iPod.
For my tests, I used DVD Ripper on
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Since the
trialware version rips only 10 minutes of
video, I ripped and converted one of the
extra features. Next, I grabbed the completed file and dropped it into iTunes.
Then I synced the iPod and was soon
watching the clip. The whole process took
only about 5 minutes. DVD encryption
was nothing to this app, and though many
similar apps discourage DVD ripping and
others won’t do it at all, it’s likely that apps
such as DVD Ripper are not going away
anytime soon.
their DVD offerings: For another 99 cents,
say, you would also be able to download the
film. That may not be fair use, but it is fair.
In This Issue
The following pages are filled with everything I love about PC Magazine. Our blockbuster PC story is the ultimate system
buying guide, complete with a features
table, benchmarks, and scorecards. We also
show you how to buy a solid graphics card
without breaking the bank. And for those
who live online, we’ve produced what I
consider to be our best Top Web Sites story
ever, with 200 fantastic destinations.
TALK TO THE CHIEF You can contact
Lance at Lance_Ulanoff@ziffdavis.com.
For more of his columns, go to go.pcmag
.com/ulanoff.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 9
®
W W W. P C M A G C O N N E C T. C O M
Visit PC Magazine Connect
for special offers from PC
Magazine and select
partners. It’s your resource
for sweepstakes, downloads,
announcements and updates
that keep you connected.
www.pcmag.com
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
EDITOR
Lance Ulanoff
Stephanie Chang
EXECUTIVE PRODUCT DIRECTOR
Robyn Peterson
DIRECTOR OF ONLINE CONTENT, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
EXECUTIVE EDITORS
ART DIRECTOR
Vicki B. Jacobson
Dan Costa (reviews), Carol L. Gonsher, Jeremy A. Kaplan
Richard J. Demler
PC LABS DIRECTOR, SENIOR EDITOR (HARDWARE)
Laarni Almendrala Ragaza
Sean Carroll (software, Internet, networking), Carol Mangis (blogs),
Sarah Pike (Solutions), Erik Rhey (Front Side)
SENIOR WRITER Eric Griffith
FEATURES EDITOR Dan Evans
REVIEWS EDITORS Brian Bennett (consumer electronics),
Gary Berline (software, Internet, networking), Tony Hoffman (hardware)
SENIOR EDITORS
DISKEEPER® 2007
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Cisco Cheng, Tim Gideon, Robert Heron, Michael Muchmore,
Oliver Rist, Neil J. Rubenking, Joel Santo Domingo, Sascha Segan, M. David Stone
JUNIOR ANALYST Brian Neal
PRODUCT REVIEW COORDINATOR PJ Jacobowitz INVENTORY CONTROL COORDINATOR Nicole Graham
PC LABS LEAD ANALYSTS
Michael St. George ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR Aaron Able
Christopher Ewen GRAPHICS DIRECTOR David Foster
Scott Schedivy
ART SENIOR ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR
ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Nicholas Cosmo
Jacqueline Oquendo
Elizabeth A. Parry COPY EDITORS Margaret McVeigh, Ann Ovodow
PRODUCTION EDITORIAL PRODUCTION DIRECTOR
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
COPY CHIEF
Yun-San Tsai
Mark Lamorgese, Whitney A. Reynolds
NEWS EDITOR Mark Hachman NEWS REPORTER Chloe Albanesius
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Jennifer L. DeLeo, Brian Heater (blogs),
Molly K. McLaughlin (reviews), Kyle Monson
ASSISTANT EDITOR Corinne Iozzio REVIEWS PRODUCERS Errol Pierre-Louis, Nicole Price Fasig
PRODUCTION ARTISTS Veronica de Leon, Renée Lightner
COMMERCE PRODUCERS Iman Edwards, Arielle Rochette
UTILITY PROGRAM MANAGER Tim Smith COMMUNITY MANAGER Jim Lynch
ONLINE MANAGER, ONLINE PRODUCTION
PRODUCERS
DIGITAL LOVE PROGRAM
In honor of our 25th Anniversary,
PC Magazine has partnered with the
National Cristina Foundation (NCF) to
create the PC Magazine Digital Love
Program. Donate your old, unused
technology, and help give someone the
power to learn. Go to www.go.pcmag.
com/donate to find out more.
Helen Bradley, John R. Delaney, Richard V. Dragan, John C. Dvorak,
Craig Ellison, Galen Fott, Bill Howard, Don Labriola, Jim Louderback, Bill Machrone,
Ed Mendelson, Jan Ozer, Neil Randall, Matthew D. Sarrel, Larry Seltzer, Don Willmott
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS
PRODUCER
COMING TO YOU LIVE AND ON DEMAND
-IT’S DIGITALLIFETV.COM
Twice a week, host and teech journalist
Patrick Norton and co-host Robert Heron
dish up product reviews and how-tos on
the coolest digital technology, video
games and equipment and new Website
launches for tech fans. Go to DL.TV.com
4]`OZZbVWaO\R[]`SdWaWb
eee^Q[OUQ]\\SQbQ][
Loyd Case
Jeremy Atkinson
EXTREMETECH.COM EDITOR
SENIOR TECHNOLOGY ANALYSTS
Jason Cross, Joel Durham
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able to rely on a computer, and that the user’s
data is always there and quickly retrievable.
But when that computer is a server, and when
the number of users escalates from one or a
few up to thousands, the word “important” as
it relates to reliability and uptime becomes a
severe understatement. In today’s corporate
world, servers are the brains and backbones
of the enterprise, for executives, employees
and, most importantly, customers and
prospects. Even a few minutes of server
slow-down or downtime impacts the bottom
line of the company.
A large part of the reason that server reliability has become so vital is the evolution of
the Web. No longer the static display that it
once was, the Web is now a place where billions in commerce is conducted, where buyers shop for commodities, pricing and availability, and where customers log in to place
and track orders. CRM applications, once
only used for internal employees on the
phone, now interface with Web applications
so that customers and even employees can
interact with the company online. Databases
such as SQL must be instantly responsive, as
these interface with the Web as well.
Server Technology Evolves
to Keep Up — Almost
Server technology has some time since
passed the point of being single-box/singledisk solution, having migrated into solutions
such as SAN (Storage Area Networks), providing scalability, redundancy, reliability, and
performance. Technology such as virtualization takes server computing one step further,
making more efficient use of resources for
greater power to deliver data and services.
Chip technology such as quad-core is being
marketed to keep pace with the constantly
rising need for processing power.
But despite all these advances, the cornerstone to server response remains the hard
drives, as they remain the slowest components — the “weakest links.” Unfortunately
emerging technologies such as virtualization
don’t change that fact, and actually exacerbate
it. While being the weakest links, disks are
also the storehouse for all server applications
and data. Keeping those drives defragmented
for optimum performance has long ago
become a “given”1 — but it’s the defragmentation technology that can make the crucial difference between keeping drives at maximum
performance and simply “functioning.” With
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today’s frantic pace of 24/7 server disk access,
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was resulting in processing delays of incoming data files. This resulted in our SQL server
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Now, thanks to Diskeeper, we have breathing
room to handle future growth.”
William Cox, IT Director, Georgia Department
of Easy Care and Learning, Atlanta, GA
Julie McGowan, Santa Cruz County, CA
InvisiTasking: The Secret Edge
to Server Performance
As thousands of IT personnel throughout
the world have discovered, Diskeeper 2007
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enhances file systems in real-time, with no
scheduling needed. Testing has shown that
Richard B. West,
Systems Management Architect,
IT Solutions and Infrastructure
Engineering, Melbourne, FL
The backbone of enterprise computing
environments is the server. And disk subsystems are, undoubtedly, vital to the overall performance of a server. And as tens of thousands
have discovered, the most essential component for maintaining maximum performance
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© 2007 Diskeeper Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Diskeeper, Maximizing Performance and Reliability—Automatically, InvisiTasking, Terabyte Volume Engine, and the
Diskeeper Corporation logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Diskeeper Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property
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FeedBack
Three Views on Net Neutrality
I read Lance Ulanoff ’s column on Net
neutrality (“A Nitwit’s Guide to Net Neutrality,” page 7) in the September 18 issue.
Although we are on the same side, I think
his analogy is off. Here is my view of Net
neutrality: I pay my ISP n dollars per
month for x bandwidth. I should be able
to use that bandwidth however I choose.
Ulanoff says: “To be fair, ISPs charge that
bandwidth hogs like Google and YouTube pay no more than joesblog.com for
serving content over their networks.”
This is not a fair statement. Google’s ISP
charges Google a ton of money for getting
those bits onto the backbone. And my ISP
charges me for taking those bits off the
backbone. What the ISPs want is for my
ISP to be able to charge Google.
Here is the analogy that I like to use. I
pay my local road commission via property taxes so much per year for road construction and upkeep. I use these roads
to go to businesses such as McDonald’s
and Target. But McDonald’s doesn’t give
a dime to my local road commission. It is
freeloading. In a road-unneutral world, my
road commission would ask me where I
was going every time I left my house and
ask that business for a fee. If the business
paid, I could drive 50 miles per hour to that
business. If it didn’t pay, I could only drive
20 MPH and might have to wait longer at
every red light.
The only reason Net neutrality is an
issue is that the ISPs for home users have
an oligopoly—cable and DSL. In a truly
competitive market, I could choose an ISP
that was neutral, and others could choose
an ISP that was “packet-shaped.” I might
pay a little more, but that would be fine.
—Bill Doran
Under Ulanoff ’s interpretation of this
issue, no one should ever be allowed to
charge more to provide more service. So I
should be able to get your magazine at the
price I pay for my newspaper, 50 cents, and
a Rolls-Royce for the cost of a Ford Escort.
I already willingly pay more for wireless
HOW TO CONTACT US We welcome your comments and suggestions. When sending e-mail to
Feedback, please state in the subject line of your
message which article or column prompted your
response. E-mail pcmag@ziffdavis.com.
All letters become the property of PC Magazine
and are subject to editing. We regret that we
cannot answer letters individually.
14 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
The only reason Net neutrality is an issue is that the
ISPs for home users have an oligopoly—cable and DSL.
In a truly competitive market, I could choose an
ISP that was neutral.
broadband than slow dial-up so I can have
faster service. This, like stealing copyrighted content, is one more example of his
generation’s “something for nothing” attitude. When can I expect my lower-priced
magazine?—Bill Deaver
Here’s another analogy for Net neutrality:
“common carrier,” as applied to railroads
and oil pipelines. In the late 1800s, Americans saw two justifications for regulating
privately owned railroads. First, to lay
track, railroad companies needed rights
of way through both private and public
land, which required both public support
and full cooperation from the government.
Second, because the public did not want
two or more railroads to compete by laying
parallel tracks through one right of way, a
railroad in that path had monopoly power
that could—and did—selectively ruin customers through discriminatory pricing.
So, the Interstate Commerce Commission was born to regulate railroads. The
railroads were called “common carriers,”
and the ICC banned them from using discriminatory pricing—but only for customers, not for products shipped, for which the
ICC issued rate schedules. So, a railroad
today can charge different rates for cars
and computers, but it cannot discriminate
between Mitsubishi and Yamaha, which
both ship both cars and computers. The
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
applies the same logic to pipelines and oil
companies shipping different kinds of oil.
The common-carrier principles apply
to the Net. Phone and cable companies
cannot string cable or use the air waves
without public and government help, and
communities don’t want multiple cables
covering the same ground. If carriers
could charge different customers different
rates, they would have the power to nourish some customers and to kill others.
To cite the YouTube example, you
cannot use the large size of video files to
justify charging it higher Internet rates.
YouTube also sends and receives other,
smaller kinds of files, and even its videos
are much smaller than a full episode of CSI
or a feature film.
It makes no more sense to give phone
and cable companies life-or-death power
over Internet commerce than it did to
give railroads that power over interstate commerce. Might it make sense
to let Internet carriers charge different
rates for different kinds of files? Then we
would need a “Net Commerce Commission” to set complicated rate schedules
for carried products, just as the railroads
and pipelines have. You don’t need a Ph.D.
in public policy to see the possibilities for
arguments and lawsuits.—Dave Datz
A VoIP Reality Check
In regard to your IP PBX Buying Guide
(“Small Business Talks Big,” page 67) and
your Solutions article (“Virtual Phone
Systems,” page 79) in your September 4
issue, you make many arguments in favor
of such systems but fail to inform readers
properly about the negatives. I have to
say that the largest issue with the IP PBX
systems you reviewed is reliability. All
those systems are computer-based, and as
we are all painfully aware, computers are
not really reliable.
Phone systems have customized
architectures that were designed from the
ground up to be reliable; they are not based
on a PC architecture that’s over 30 years
old. Newer phone systems include flash
memory for voice storage, instead of hard
drives that wear out. The recurring costs of
hosted phone systems, along with the fact
that you never actually own anything, can
be bested by purchasing a traditional phone
system using a monthly lease payment with
a small buyout at the end of the lease.
In addition, both articles fail to point
out the human element. If you buy or
lease a phone system, you can have tech-
/ 2D 3 @ B 7 A 3 ; 3 < B
nician at your door if you need one. If
you have a falling-out with your service
company, you can call another dealer
for that brand (with the hardware warranties for most brands intact). If you
have a falling-out with GotVMail, you’re
stuck.—Jonathan Vine
Cut Apple Some Slack, Louderback
I read the Apple section of Jim Louderback’s column in the September 18 issue
(“That VuDu That U Du,” page 50) and
felt compelled to respond. Jim oversells
his argument when he says Apple sees
everything through the iPod lens. It pains
me to have to point out that Apple is first
and foremost a computer company. It
sold computers before Microsoft existed
(some argue that it invented the personal
computer—debatable, I know), and the
company still sells computers today. And
they’re good computers too!
I can tolerate a certain amount of bias
from “PC” Magazine, but I think this article
goes a bit too far. Let’s be honest. Apple
computers are good. iPods are good. The
iPhone is expensive, but it’s at least pretty
good. People continue to pay a premium
for all these, and Apple’s market share is
increasing, despite all the criticism in magazines such as yours. And Apple’s products
can be good at the same time that many
PCs are good. So express a point of view, by
all means, but don’t abandon all objectivity.
—Ron Embry
PC MVP: Neil Rubenking
I want to let you know how much I appreciate the help I have received from Neil
Rubenking. I have e-mailed him several
times with problems that I couldn’t solve
and gotten an answer almost immediately.
Only once was he not able to figure things
out, because he couldn’t replicate my problem. I solved it by getting a new computer!
The other times he has been extremely
helpful, and I never would have been able to
get things right without him. I have thanked
him myself, but I want to let you know what
a helpful service he provides. I’ve been a PC
Magazine reader for 25 years, and I feel as if
CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS
In John Dvorak’s Inside Track column of September 18, we incorrectly cited the name of one of
the two companies that years ago “dominated the
flash-memory business.” The correct name of the
company is Lexar Media Inc.
the names and faces I see in your magazine
are my friends.—Isabel Berney
A Pat on the Back
Your September 4 issue is the best in a
very long time. A lot of good stuff on PCs
and not much on new cars! Lance Ulanoff’s column on page 11 seems to promise this. Ask Neil is terrific, and Home and
Business Solutions are fabulous. The “Reinvent Your PC” feature story is also excellent. And Jim Louderback’s final First
Word has made me happy to stay with Win
XP (at least until the second iteration of
Vista).—Bob Lurie
Double Your Pleasure
Thanks for the tip in September 18’s Ask
Neil (“Two Yahoo! Log-Ins at Once,” page
78) I am now able to view (on screen) two
financial and brokerage accounts at the
same time! For example, I can view my
spouse’s account and my own account at
the same time. Previously, I always had to
log out and log back in.—Troy Crowder
Vista, Schmista
I enjoyed Sascha Segan’s column, “The
Vista Irrelevancy” (September 18, page
56). Not only are consumers uninterested
in Windows, they are fleeing from it in
droves. I’m an IT veteran, and for the past
ten years have been consulting primarily for consumers and small businesses.
When I started, it was Windows, all Windows—and my fellow geeks chuckled
when I mentioned my Mac experience.
These days, my Windows customers
sob for help, while my Mac folks contentedly go about their business, asking only
for the occasional upgrade or help with
a font issue. While the Mac is enjoying
record sales, nobody wants Vista. When
buying new PCs, my Windows users are
demanding Win XP. Those who wind up
with Vista do so primarily by accident,
and are, at best, unimpressed.
So am I. Vista is nothing but Windows
dressing, fancy graphics sprucing up the
same tired problems. My customers aren’t
willing to pony up for the godlike hardware required to run this sorry excuse for
an OS. People aren’t starting to look for
alternatives, they’ve already embraced
them. As far as the consumer and small
business market goes, both Vista and
Windows are irrelevant.—Triona Guidry
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FrontSide
What’s New from the World of Tech
Computing a Cure
Scientists are building digital libraries of drug data to fight potential outbreaks.
You’ve seen the killer virus used a hundred
times as a doomsday scenario in movies.
But outbreaks can happen in real life, and if
they do, scientists need to come up with a
cure fast. Twenty-first century computing
is helping them in that quest.
Cheminformatics is the process of creating molecular models and archiving
research on drugs. Scientists are compiling
a library from that data to serve as a starting point in fighting illness. In the face of a
terrorist attack or newly discovered virus,
chemists can tap into the library to develop
an antibody or treatment much faster.
“If you wanted to test out a hundred
compounds, with cheminformatics there
Illustration by Pietari Posti
would be about a one-day turnaround,”
says Dr. Wendy Cornell, the director of
Merck’s Molecular Systems (MolSys)
laboratory. “If you started from scratch, it
would take months to synthesize them.”
Currently, Merck’s drug archive is
two million and growing. To perform the
drug modeling, the lab team uses a cluster
of several PCs, linked by a 1-gigabit-persecond network—and connected to two
remote labs—to profile new drugs. The
system uses shared memory processing to
speed throughput. The lab can load up to a
100,000 compounds into a single test.
At the University of British Columbia
in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Artem Cherka-
sov is using a similar process—which he
calls chemoinformatics, with an additional
o—and artificial intelligence to map the
compound structures of existing drugs
with new viruses, looking for similarities.
“In the case of new infectious threats,
there might be no time to develop a completely new drug from the ground up, as
the corresponding toxicological studies
and regulatory investigations will take
years to complete properly,” Cherkasov
says.
The promise of these technologies is
that they will soon be able to create new
drugs or find new uses for existing ones to
save many more lives.—John Brandon
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 17
FRONTSIDE
Computer Labs on a Budget
Desktop virtualization promises dramatic cost and energy savings for businesses and schools.
Imagine the money you’d save if you could
run a whole office or computer lab from
one PC. In this scheme, each workstation
would have nothing more than a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and small box that
clones the host computer. A few companies are making that vision possible with
desktop virtualization.
Unlike thin clients of the past, which
were slower and shoddier than traditional
PCs, “the [virtual desktop] user experience
is no different from having a full-fledged
PC,” says Michael Rose, an analyst with the
research firm IDC.
One company, Pano Logic, has created a
sleek, palm-size device that, with no CPU,
memory, OS, or software, clones Microsoft Windows XP or Vista systems from
a server to workstations. And NComputing, has a system that harnesses one PC’s
BUDGET LEARNING A school in North Carolina using NComputing’s virtualization lab.
untapped power and deploys its resources.
Desktop virtualization can also provide
companies with tighter data security by
restricting USB privileges and storing all
data and software on a server. If someone
steals a virtualization device, no information is lost. Virtual desktops offer another
benefit for our eco-conscious times: They
consume a fraction of the energy used by a
traditional PC lab. And because they have
less hardware, fewer parts will go to the
e-waste graveyard.
NComputing has already deployed
more than 500,000 workstations in 70
countries. In the U.S., North Carolina’s
McDowell School District purchased
NComputing technology last year to
upgrade its computers at a cost of $250
to $350 per workstation. Barry Pace, the
district’s tech director, admits that virtual desktops are not problem-free: If one
computer freezes, all the workstations
freeze with it. But overall, Pace says, he
is pleased with the solution. “We were
able to eliminate 900 to 1,000 legacy desktops in one school year, and we wouldn’t
have been able to do so otherwise.”
—Heather Eng
Desktop Virtualization: How it Works
In NComputing's X-Series desktop virtualization scheme, each workstation connects to the host computer via a terminal box, which
links with the host system via PCI Card. The host computer's resources are divided among the terminals while giving each workstation its own independent experience.
Host
Computer
User 1
User 2
User 3
User 4
PCI Card
G E A R LO G
A Superior Gaming Mouse
At the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, Microsoft unveiled its SideWinder gaming mouse ($79.95) to fill the void in gaming hardware customization. It’s designed to be more ergonomic, with its two vertical side buttons,
a wide metal scroll wheel, and four balanced weights. Its Quick Turn capability, which lets gamers check their position wherever they are in the game,
requires just a click of a button. For more gaming customization, the SideWinder offers changeable feet for different glide preferences, a cable anchor
(which doubles as the weight tray), and three DPI switches. Perhaps the most
innovative feature is the gaming mouse’s LCD (yes, it has an LCD!). It’s meant
to make it easy to keep track of key gaming actions—including DPI and steps
for recording macros.—Jennifer L. DeLeo
For more gear, show reports, and product news, visit Gearlog
at www.gearlog.com
18 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
User 5
User 6
User 7
The Solid State
of Storage
BEST
of the Internet
The likely successor to the hard
drive is solid state. But there’s still
a price barrier.
Are hard disk drives destined to go the way of
floppy drives? If the nascent trend in laptops is
any indication, solid-state drives (SSDs) may
eventually supplant hard drives.
SSDs are made of nonvolatile flash memory—
rather than the spinning disks and read/write
heads of hard drives—and are prized for their
lower power consumption, reduced heat buildup,
and dead-quiet operation. They are also impervious to shakes, shocks, and drops, which is why
Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, and Toshiba have
brought notebooks with SSDs to market.
SanDisk, one of the top SSD makers, says the
flash memory drives can also improve system
performance with data transfer rates of 67MB per
second or more. SSDs can also stretch battery life,
requiring just 0.9 watt of power, versus 1.9 watts
for a hard drive.
The catch, however, is the price tag. SSDs cost
from $11 to $19 per gigabyte, whereas hard drives
cost a mere 32 cents per gigabyte. And though
several companies have announced 128GB SSDs,
most offerings top out at 64GB. “Businesses need
to look at total cost of ownership of SSD versus
HDD,” says Jim Elliott, director of flash marketing
at Samsung. “If you’re managing a fleet of laptops,
SSDs can reduce failure rates, downtime, and lost
productivity.”
ACCUWEATHER
.COM ASTRONOMY
CENTER
www.accuweather
.com/astronomy
Accuweather’s new
Astronomy Center
includes data on
space weather,
astronomy news,
nightly viewing conditions for different
celestial objects, and
more.—Alan Henry
SanDisk’s flash-based
solid state drive
Dell’s ATC series
with SSD storage
SSD prices will keep them out of the hands of
most consumers. Laptops with SSDs cost $500 to
$700 more than ones outfitted with three times the
amount of hard disk storage. Analysts at Gartner
predict that prices will fall and capacities will rise
so that by 2010, about 20 percent of notebooks will
ship with SSDs.—John R. Quain
WOWIO
www.wowio.com
WOWIO is an e-book
site that offers all of its
books for free in PDF
format, so they’re easy
to download, easy to
read, and very portable.
—AH
F U T U R E WATC H
Computing Sees the Light
Imagine a CPU clocked at a few hundred terahertz. A program that typically needs a full day to run would take a fraction of a second. Photonics, or the study of light and other
radiant energy, could make it possible. A U.K. research team
led by Fetah Benabid at the University of Bath is working
toward this goal with the help of a special optical fiber
called “hollow-core photonic crystal fiber,” which allows
THE CORE OF PHOTONICS This diagram
spectrally coherent light (or light that is aligned spectrally)
shows a hollow-core photonics structure.
to pass through. The research may unlock the power to synthesize and control the shape of photon waves. Combine this with the separate explorations into quantum
memory and the photonic computer may become a reality. Does this mean the death of electronics? Not
quite; people are the limiting factor. “We have to slow things down for human use,” Benabid says. “Photonics will always include some kind of electronics, at least as an interface.”—Anton Galang
DEEZER
www.deezer.com
Formerly known as
Blogmusik, Deezer is the
hot new music site of
the moment. No fees, no
registration—not even
a free username and
password—and instant,
one-click access.—Mark
Hachman
For more cool Web sites
and handy utilities and
apps, visit PC Magazine’s
blog AppScout (www
.appscout.com).
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 19
FRONTSIDE
Pinching Wi-Fi Poachers
Police are arresting those who connect to unsecured wireless networks.
But is it really a crime to surf for free?
Piggybacking on your neighbors Wi-Fi connection may seem like a victimless crime unworthy
of punishment, but some officials beg to differ. In
late August, the BBC reported that London police
arrested a 39-year-old man for connecting to an
unsecured Wi-Fi network while standing outside
the network owner’s home. In the U.K., clear provisions such as the Communications Act 2003 and the
Computer Misuse Act ban this practice. But here in
the States, the laws are vaguer.
The closest the U.S. comes to outlawing Wi-Fi
mooching is Title 18, Section 1030 of the U.S. Code,
which prohibits “unauthorized access.” According
to Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy at Cornell University, there are three
types of laws that courts use to try to prosecute WiFi filchers: those dealing with trespassing, hacking,
and creating counterfeit cable boxes.
“It’s not a perfect fit,” Mitrano says. “Trespass
law was based on physical space. I don’t think any of
them successfully address the issue.”
Often, state and local regulations are prosecuted
in vastly different ways. In 2005, a Florida man was
charged with a third-class felony for lurking outside
a Tampa house with his laptop. And two men, one
in Alaska and one in Michigan, were handed down
fines for accessing free Wi-Fi hot spots from the
street, instead of inside the walls of the business.
In 2006, the legislature of Westchester County,
on the outskirts of New York City, became the first
in the country to pass a law requiring businesses
to secure their internal wireless networks. County
Board Chair Bill Ryan says that the measure was put
into place to protect both the data of local businesses
and the personal information of employees.
Mitrano, like many others, feels the responsibility lies with users to secure their home or business
networks. She warns against hindering wireless
technology’s progress through overlegislation.
“Thank goodness we don’t live in a country
where we are required to process all of our technology through federal and state governments—where
it is not released until lawmakers are shown every
intended and unintended use to establish a legal
framework,” she says. “We would throw ourselves
back into the Stone Age if we did that.”—Erik Rhey
WEIRD
RESEARCH
PROJECTS
What lurks
behind the walls
of academia.
1. University
College London
Neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson is testing
virtual simulation of
an OBE (out-of-body
experience) using
head-mounted video
displays.
2. Carnegie
Mellon The Entertainment Technology Center is
working on “live
virtual computergenerated robotic
theatre puppetry” to
create “Virpets” (or
virtual puppets).
3. Stanford University The Rope
Manipulation Planning project involves
“design motion
planning to manipulate a rope” (that is,
teaching robots how
to tie knots).
Q & A : F E LI C I A Y U E , S P O R T V I S I O N
Behind the First-Down Line
Felicia Yue, product manager for Sportvision—the company that created such
TV sports enhancements as the NFL’s virtual first-down line—talks about the
tech that goes into bringing the big game to your living room.
Q: What kind of pregame preparation is required to create the
“1st & Ten” line?
A: We typically have one or two
trained operators at each venue
setting up the day before a game.
The operators “teach” the main
computers in the TV trucks what
the football field looks like from
each game camera. They also
set up special minicomputers
on each camera, which send pan,
tilt, and zoom [PTZ] information
down to the main computers. They can
combine this PTZ data with a 3D model of
the football field to create a very accurate
calculation of what the yellow line should
look like from each camera angle.
20 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Q : How i s t h e
line implemented
during the game
itself?
A: There is one
main in-game
operator who
updates the location of the line
each time a firstd ow n c o nve r sion is made and
who also builds
the chroma key. Building the chroma key
is the magic step that creates the illusion
of players walking over the yellow line.
Basically, we select which colors the yellow line should be drawn on. We choose
all the shades of green that are in the grass
and exclude all other colors, such as those
of the uniforms, helmets, and skin tones.
Q: Are there particular conditions that are
difficult to work with?
A: Rainy, snowy, muddy fields are difficult to chroma-key, as are some lighting
conditions. Also, the Green Bay Packers
uniforms can be a similar shade of green
to the grass, so choosing the right shades
of green to draw the line on while excluding the greens in the uniforms becomes a
challenge.
Q: Is American football better suited than
other sports to using technology?
A: Yes. American football has lots of predictable breaks in the action, as well as
many commercial breaks. Unless there’s
a hurry-up offense in effect, you typically
get at least 30 seconds between plays to
update your graphics and settings. Other
sports like soccer are more difficult to
incorporate virtual graphics into because
the stoppages in the game action are far
less predictable.—Anton Galang
FRONTSIDE
The Price of Piracy
A new report says music thievery costs our economy billions. Are such numbers reliable?
Calculating a business’s losses from theft
typically involves some sleight of hand.
Estimates are often based on the assumption that most items stolen would have been
sold. But can such a formula be applied to
music?
A new study by the Institute for Policy
Innovation (IPI) finds that global music
piracy costs the U.S. economy $12.5 billion in losses and 71,060 jobs annually. The
report, titled, “The True Cost of Sound
Recording Piracy to the U.S. Economy,”
breaks down losses by physical piracy
(bootleg CDs) and illegal downloads on
peer-to-peer networks. Mitch Bainwol,
CEO of the Recording Industry Association
of America (RIAA), released a statement
saying, “This new report vividly illustrates
the serious economic harm caused by the
widespread availability of illegal music
PIRATE’S BOOTY According to the music
industry, billions are lost from bootlegs.
either via the Internet or on the streets.”
To derive these numbers, the study estimated “substitution” rates, which assumes
that without counterfeit channels, many
pirates would purchase legitimate products. The report uses an average substitution rate of 65.7 percent for physical piracy
and 20 percent for Internet piracy. In turn,
the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis used
industry-specific numbers to derive the
cascading effects of those direct losses
throughout the rest of the U.S. economy.
But Koleman Strumpf, a professor of
economics at the University of Kansas,
is skeptical. He is the coauthor, with Felix
Oberholzer-Gee of Harvard Business
School, of a study that found that file sharing has no significant effect on CD sales in
the U.S. “If they [IPI] want to parade a large
number, they have to defend it,” Strumpf
says. “I don’t see it in this study.”
Stephen E. Siwek, however, the author
of the IPI study, says that Strumpf’s findings
are flawed. “I would be very hard pressed to
accept their results based on the dramatic
decline in CD sales that we have seen in the
last few years.”—Isabelle Groc
CO N N EC TE D TR AV E LE R
Social Networking on the Go
Using Web 2.0 in your travel plans can help you save money and meet new people.
In the dim, dark past (in other words, a few years ago), travel could
be a lonely experience. Now, thanks to a slew of Web 2.0 social
networking sites, even solo travelers can be surrounded by new
friends practically at every stop of their journey.
If you’re flying alone, AirTroductions (www.airtroductions
.com) can make sure your seat neighbor isn’t a screaming baby, belligerent cocktail swiller, or a hogger of pillows, blankets, and armrest. You fill out a profile and find someone simpatico to sit next to
on your flight or to meet in the airport for a chat or quick meal.
Saving money on rental cars or taxis is also a mouse click away.
Your local craigslist (www.craigslist.org) site has a ride-share section under Community for finding someone going to the airport.
You can also check your destination’s craigslist to find a ride back
to the airport or around town. An alternative for New York City is
a site called Hitchsters (www.hitchsters.com).
Even when you reach your destination, you needn’t be lonely.
Why bed down in a generic, overpriced hotel room when you could
be staying with a friendly local who is eager to show you around?
GlobalFreeloaders.com is a network of travelers who request a
place to stay in exchange for offering a couch or extra bed to others in the network. You can search your destination and see what’s
available, along with a detailed profile of the person you could be
ULTRA-BUDGET ACCOMMODATIONS At CouchSurfing.com,
users provide a profile in hopes of a place to crash while traveling.
staying with. A more relaxed version of this is the nonprofit organization called the CouchSurfing Project (www.couchsurfing.com),
whose Web site connects people who want to open their homes to
travelers with those looking for a place to crash. If you want to meet
people at your destination but still return to room service at night,
you can also use the site just to meet up with locals for drinks or
walkabouts.—Aaron Dalton
Smart Travel Gadgets
The coolest new toys for your trip.
Microsoft Mobile Memory
Mouse 8000
$99.95 list
www.microsoft.com
The Mobile Memory Mouse
8000 may cost more than
you’d expect to pay for a computer mouse, but it has 1GB of
flash memory built right into
the transceiver! This rechargeable mouse also features
2.4-GHz wireless technology,
four-way scrolling, and a magnifier.—Jennifer L. DeLeo
Skooba Skin 1012
Sleeptracker Pro
$179 direct
www.sleeptracker.com
The Sleeptracker Pro watch
monitors your sleeping patterns. An internal accelerometer detects the movements
associated with restlessness that
indicate we are in a light sleep
stage. You can also upload your
sleep data to your computer via
USB and review it by day, week,
or month. It’s even waterproof
up to 20 meters. Compared with
the first-gen Sleeptracker, it has
a vibrating alarm, instead of
just the standard beeps, and a
sleeker design.—JLD
22 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
$27.95 direct
www.skoobadesign.com
The Skooba Skin 1012 is a customizable laptop case
that you can decorate with markers, pens, paint, and
glue. The only thing you can’t do is use heat (so no
iron-ons!), which will do terrible things to the fabric.
Some customer-designed bags are displayed on the
site—lots of creative, cool stuff. Art supplies are not
included.—Molly K. McLaughlin
Flip Video Ultra
2GB, $179.99 list
1GB, $149.99
www.theflip.com
Pure Digital Technologies hopes to make your
video experience more efficient with the new
Flip Video Ultra Camcorder. It’s not just for
shooting video: You can organize and edit your
videos right on the device. The Ultra has onetouch recording, one-click e-mailing of videos
and video greeting cards, still-photo capture,
and custom movie mixing; built-in software also
lets you upload to video sites like YouTube.—JLD
Panasonic recommends Windows Vista® Business.
LEGALLY, WE CANNOT SAY
YOU CAN CONNECT
ANYWHERE.
A laptop this thin and rugged is good for business in the places
you’d least expect. No specially designated area or coffee shop
needed. The business-rugged Panasonic Toughbook® Y5 has
broadband wireless access built-in so you can email and
work online 24/7 from virtually anywhere your cell phone does.
It’s lightweight, yet rugged enough to withstand bumps, drops and
spills on the road with a magnesium alloy case, shock-mounted
hard drive and spill-resistant keyboard. The Toughbook Y5.
It outperforms in locations more remote than we can legally say.
For more information visit panasonic.com/businessrugged.
To purchase now call Mooring Tech (1.866.381.9159).
THE RUGGED ORIGINAL.
Intel, Intel logo, Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo, Intel Inside, Intel Inside logo and Pentium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other
countries. Toughbook notebook PCs are covered by a 3-year limited warranty, parts and labor. To view the full text of the warranty, log on to panasonic.com/business/toughbook/support.asp. Please consult
your Panasonic representative prior to purchase. ©2007 Panasonic Corporation of North America. All rights reserved. ConnectAnywhere_H_MT_FY07-1
imagine color as mother
nature intended
226CW
906CW
Desktop Monitors with exclusive MagicSpectrum technology
©2007 Samsung Electronics America, Inc. All rights reserved. Samsung is a registered trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
All product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Screen image simulated.
with MagicSpectrum
without MagicSpectrum
Whether you’re into gaming, watching movies or viewing photos, Samsung’s SyncMaster
monitors with exclusive MagicSpectrum technology will change the way you experience color.
MagicSpectrum displays deliver up to 90% – 114% of the NTSC standard producing richer,
more natural colors than traditional LCD monitors. With the Samsung CW series, it’s not that
hard to imagine. To see color the way it was meant to be seen, call 1-800-SAMSUNG
or go to www.MagicSpectrum.com
©2007 Trend Micro Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Go ahead. Let your employees email,
IM, and share their creative vision online, with confidence.
Trend Micro Internet security solutions automatically monitor, respond, and protect
your business from online threats. So while we’re busy keeping your infrastructure out of harm’s
way, you can keep your eye on the prize. Learn more at trendmicro.com.
GO AHEAD. WEB IT UP.
USEFUL KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for navigating digital magazines
PAGE DOWN
.................................
flip to next page
PAGE UP....................................... flip to prior page
ENTER ................................... zoom in on left page
SHIFT + ENTER
.....................
zoom in on right page
ENTER .................. zoom back out to full-page view
C ....................................... flip to Table of Contents
HOME ......................................... flip to front cover
END............................................. flip to back page
USEFUL KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for navigating digital magazines
PAGE DOWN
.................................
flip to next page
PAGE UP....................................... flip to prior page
ENTER ................................... zoom in on left page
SHIFT + ENTER
.....................
zoom in on right page
ENTER .................. zoom back out to full-page view
C ....................................... flip to Table of Contents
HOME ......................................... flip to front cover
END............................................. flip to back page
FirstLooks
OUR RATINGS KEY:
lllll
EXCELLENT l
llllm
VERY GOOD l
lllmm
GOOD l
llmmm
FAIR l
lmmmm
POOR
Remotely monitor NIS 2008
on other network systems
New One-Click
help even shows
wait times!
Norton Internet
Security 2008
$69.99 for 3 licenses
llllh
NORTON INTERNET SECURITY 2008
The Best Defense Gets Better
Norton Internet Security crushed the competition
in 2007, and since then the leading suite has only
gotten better. The 2008 edition adds identity management, and new BrowserDefender technology
defends against Web-based attacks.
The firewall stealths all ports and is totally
resistant to malware. It allows Internet access to
known good programs, removes known bad ones,
and watches others for malicious behavior. Very
effective intrusion prevention stopped a dozen
exploits. The new Network Map can control the
access that network-connected devices have to
your PC and warn you if your wireless network is
unsecured, but it doesn’t detect wireless intruders.
The antivirus/antispyware scan takes longer than
most but cleans up the dozens of files and Registry
items the majority of competitors leave. It’s accurate,
too: It scored 9.3 out of 10 for malware removal and
10 against commercial keyloggers. It managed 9.0
against malware installs on a clean system and 10
against commercial keyloggers. As always, the antivirus is highly rated by the independent testing labs.
Identity Safe, new in this edition, stores personal information in one or more identity cards,
then automatically fills in Web forms. It also records
your username and password for secured Web sites,
then fills in the info when you next visit. Additionally, you can use the log-in record as a smart favorite
that goes to the site and logs in for you. Naturally, the
identity data is password protected. Highly accurate
phishing protection ensures that you don’t give your
private data to a fraudulent site.
Antispam, parental control, and privacy control
reside in an optional add-on. Identity Safe made privacy control obsolete, and the parental control system is just a rudimentary content-based Web filter.
The antispam designated way too much valid mail as
spam, though it does have a well-designed whitelist
you can use to protect known correspondents.
Norton 360 introduced built-in One-Click help,
and now NIS has it, too. If AutoFix can’t automatically find and correct a problem, you can get help via
e-mail, phone, or live chat. The live chat analyst can
remote-control your system to resolve issues.
The 2008 suites are still rolling out, so there’s
a chance another player could dethrone Symantec’s
masterpiece. But for now, Norton Internet Security
is the suite to beat.—Neil J. Rubenking
PROS Virus/spyware scans are
highly accurate, thorough.
Top-quality,
nonintrusive firewall.
New Identity Safe
manages personal info,
passwords. Built-in help
has live chat.
CONS Too many valid
messages were marked
as spam. Rudimentary
parental control.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/nis2008
INSIDE
27 Software
34 Consumer
Electronics
46 Hardware
50 Business
54 The Best
Stuff
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 27
FIRST LOOKS SOFTWARE
If a security setting
needs attention,
you’ll know it
The backup facility
comes preconfigured to
copy important files
Panda Internet
Security 2008
PANDA INTERNET SECURITY 2008
$69.95 yearly for
three licenses
Security Suite Stomps Spies
l l l h m
PROS Stellar antispyware. Backs up important files. No confusing
firewall pop-ups.
CONS Poor antispam.
Useless anti-phishing.
Limited parental control.
Tune-up feature is
nothing special.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/
pandais08
Don’t be fooled. The 2008 version of Panda Internet
Security may look like last year’s model, but you’ll
find exciting additions, like Wi-Fi security and
backup capability. The biggest change is invisible,
though: The on-demand virus and spyware scanner
uses new technology, and it truly rocks.
Panda 2008 defends against zero-day viruses
and spyware using its TruPrevent behavior-based
protection. Its signature-based scanning now uses
“megadetection” technology, which comes from
the company’s TotalScan online scanner, and it was
mega-successful.
The suite removed every spyware sample from
my infested systems and prevented all of them
from installing on a clean system. It wasn’t nearly
as effective at detecting and removing commercial
keyloggers, but I give much less weight to that.
Like Symantec’s firewall, Panda’s uses its own
discretion for program control rather than inundating you with confusing questions. The feature
lets known good programs access the Internet and
deletes known malware. By watching the behavior
of unknown programs, the firewall decides whether
to allow them access. And naturally, it stealths all
ports, making your computer invisible to outside
attackers. New Wi-Fi intruder detection actually
senses any network access—wired or wireless—but
28 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
if your Wi-Fi network is encrypted (as it should be),
this capability doesn’t add much.
The spam filter, parental control module, and
privacy protection features are virtually unchanged.
Spammers, however, have advanced; as a result,
Panda 2008 let over half the junk e-mail into the
Inbox. Also, parental and privacy features remain
mediocre, and the new browser-independent
feature for blocking fraudulent (phishing) sites
detected none—three other products verified all 50
test URLs as rogue sites.
Another new capability will back up your essential files to a local or network-connected disk, then
optionally transfer the information to a CD or DVD.
Backups occur once per day; your only choice is
the time. It’s a very basic solution, but it’s better
than no backup. You also get a free year of hosted
online backup (1GB) with a Panda partner, but when
the year is up you have to pay. You’d be better off
with 2GB free from Mozy and no time limit. And
although Panda has added a performance optimization feature, Windows and Internet Explorer offer
the same or better.
Virus and spyware protection are this suite’s
super standouts. If Panda can bring the other
modules up to a similar level, the next version of its
suite will be an all-around killer.—NJR
Think GAIA
For Life and for Earth
1000x MORE CLICKS.
Wirelessly surf, click, and surf some more with the battery that’s equal to 1000 regular alkalines*.
• 4x more shots than with alkaline
• Long storage life
• Recharges in most modern chargers†
• Recharge up to 1000 times
• Ready right out of the pack
• No memory effect
www.eneloopusa.com
Sanyo North America Corporation. All rights reserved. eneloop is a registered trademark of Sanyo Energy USA Corp. All rights reserved. *Estimate based on test results for battery life according to standard JIS C8708 (4.4).
Actual results may vary according to use. Sanyo eneloop batteries can be charged with most chargers for Ni-MH batteries.
†
FIRST LOOKS SOFTWARE
A PDQ Guide to PDFs
If you need a guarantee that others will be able to read your digital docs, you need
a PDF creator. One of these four should fill the bill—and your budget.
Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard
$299 direct; upgrade, $99
llllm
PROS Flexible, featurepacked PDF creation, editing,
commenting, import/export.
Converts Web sites to single,
multipage PDFs. Can embed
index in PDF files for fast searching.
CONS Some tools are hard to find.
Costly. Can’t create fillable PDF
forms. OCR module has problems
with older documents.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/acrobat8standard
Opening screen
leads to help
files and video
demos
Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard
You can get a less expensive PDF document maker
than the highly polished Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard,
but not a better one. You don’t get all the features
of the Professional edition, such as the ability to
create fillable PDF forms, but you can create PDF
files directly from Microsoft Office applications.
Within Acrobat, drop-down menus on a toolbar provide quick access to the most commonly
used features, which let you perform tasks such
as creating, combining, exporting, securing, and
commenting on PDF files. Some of the app’s most
impressive capabilities enable you to combine multiple PDF documents into one file and let you e-mail
one or more files in a secure package.
With scanned images from office documents
and modern books and periodic als, converting
to searchable PDF files works well. For very old
books, you’ll get better results with Nuance’s PDF
Converter 4 Professional or Abbyy’s ABBYY PDF
Transformer 2.0 Pro. Acrobat can index scanned
files, though, making searches lightning-fast.
Although the software can convert multipage
Web content, maintaining active form fields, it won’t
correctly handle button bars. And exporting PDF
files to Microsoft Word or other standard formats
30 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
doesn’t always produce perfect results. Still, Adobe’s
product remains the gold standard.
BullZip PDF Printer
After hours spent testing freeware PDF creators,
I kept just one: the simple, fast, straightforward BullZip PDF Printer. Print to its driver, and from the
tabbed dialog box that appears, you can specify
the security and display settings for the file, apply
a watermark, and append the output to another PDF
file. A macro capability allows filenames to include
information such as the date, time, and username.
BullZip lets you create multiple PDF printers,
each with a different set of options. To generate
a PDF file, you simply pick a printer—most competing programs require you to pick a previously
saved profile from a separate dialog, a more complex process. You can also control BullZip from the
Windows command prompt, letting you automate
tasks—not so with many free or low-cost rivals.
Actual PDF creation features are minimal: You can’t,
for example, translate Microsoft Word comments
into PDF annotation. For features like that, try one
of the other packages reviewed here. But you get
high-quality output and an efficient program with
a no-fuss interface.
DeskPDF Professional
For a tenth the price of Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard,
deskPDF Professional provides what most personal
and small-business users require and even throws in
clever conveniences. You can create PDFs by printing from the standard Windows print dialog, by
dragging documents onto a desktop icon, or from
within Microsoft Office apps.
My favorite feature puts all your PDF-making
options in a single dialog box that gives the usual
choices for specifying a filename and folder. It also
lets you set output quality, send the PDF as an e-mail
attachment if you want, and determine how the
file will display by setting options for zoom levels
and more—features other programs (including
Acrobat) bury. Another welcome convenience lets
you save multiple settings as reusable profiles.
Despite the low price, you get some high-level
features. You can convert Office document annotations into PDF comments, for example, and merge
multiple PDF files, although the latter isn’t exactly
intuitive. For more than creating or merging PDF
docs, you’ll need a higher-end product, but deskPDF
Professional gives most users all they need.
PDF Converter Professional 4
Depending on your needs, you may be able to get
more for less with PDF Converter Professional. The
program isn’t as polished as Acrobat Standard—for
example, a PDF page disappeared when I added
a comment and then opened the utility’s navigation
panel. But closing the file without saving it and then
opening the uncommented version brought the page
back, and I was pleasantly surprised by the package’s
flexibility, usability, and superior OCR capability.
An automatically installed plug-in provides
redaction that completely removes sensitive material so hackers can’t uncover it—a crucial feature
for some users, and one not in Acrobat Standard.
An even bigger plus is the OCR capability, which
excels at the really hard jobs that cause Acrobat to
stumble, such as transforming a PDF of a scanned
19th-century book into a text-searchable PDF.
Unfortunately, this software lags behind Adobe’s
latest versions of Acrobat Standard and Professional
in PDF indexing. It can create a separate index file
for one or more PDFs but can’t embed the index into
a PDF. For that convenience, you’ll have to stay with
Acrobat. Otherwise, PDF Converter Professional is
a worthy low-cost alternative.—Edward Mendelson
BullZip PDF Printer
Free
lllmm
PROS Simple PDF creation.
Advanced settings for security
and display via dialog box or from
command line.
CONS Can’t set initial zoom level
for PDF files or translate Word
comments to PDF annotations.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/bullzippdf
deskPDF Professional
$29.95 direct
lllhm
PROS Straightforward. Easily accessed display, security settings.
Converts Office comments to
PDF annotations. Output defaults
are easy to set. Raw PostScript
output.
CONS Unintuitive interface for
merging two files.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/deskpdfpro
PDF Converter Professional 4
$99.95 direct
lllhm
PROS Converts PDF files to Microsoft Office and WordPerfect docs.
Exceptionally accurate OCR on
image-only PDFs. Advanced PDF
editing and form filling. Removes
sensitive data totally.
CONS Some unintuitive menus,
operations. Can create indexes
only in separate files, not embedded in PDFs. No warning if you
have an old copy without a dataremoval feature.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/pdfconvertpro4
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 31
FIRST LOOKS SOFTWARE
POWNCE
Share More than Twitters
Pownce
Basic version, free; with 100MB
file-size limit, $20 yearly
l l l l m
PROS Good interface. Options
for lightweight desktop with
notification, private sharing.
CONS No mobile posting or notification. No public page of posts.
For more: go.pcmag.com/pownce
Entry boxes below Message,
Link, File, and Event buttons
change to suit each task
Twitter and its clones may be okay for quickly sharing thoughts with a large audience. But what if you
also want to send invites or share files and videos?
Try Pownce. Like Twitter, it’s lighter than blogging
software: Short posts all appear on a single page
rather than getting their own pages. But Pownce
lacks a public page and doesn’t give users the ability
to post via mobile phone or PDA.
By default, the interface is set up for posting
a simple message, but when you click the Link, File,
or Event links, the entry areas change to reveal appropriate extra fields. If you enter a YouTube link, your
post will include a player for the video. With a free
account, file size can be up to 10MB; a $20 yearly Pro
account ups that to 100MB. You decide who gets to
see your posts, and you can even create user groups.
In addition to its Web interface, the service offers
a pre-beta desktop version that takes advantage
of Adobe’s new AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime)
technology. If you want less than a blog but more
than IM or e-mail for sharing your remarks and files,
you’ll like Pownce.—Michael Muchmore
FIRST LOOKS SOFTWARE
Shouldn’t have made that
change? No problem
Shut down Windows
with one click—finally!
Basic, free; Premium,
$30 direct; Ultimate, $40
lllhm
TOTALIDEA TWEAKVI
Whip Vista into Shape
Why waste time waiting for Microsoft to come out
with a Vista release of the TweakUI Windows configuration utility? Just grab Totalidea Software’s
TweakVI. Even the Basic version covered here goes
considerably beyond its forefather’s capabilities.
Better still, the smart installer makes getting started
easy, and you don’t need much tech know-how
to use the app.
The System Information and Tweaks area
lets you see system information and configure
hard drive details, CPU settings, and Vista’s boot
manager. An especially useful feature gives you
access to the CD keys for your Microsoft Windows
and Office software and also lets you back up your
Office XP/2003/2007 product activation files.
The CPU section, where you can optimize the
system cache according to your system’s RAM—as
well as force core processes to remain in physical
memory instead of being shunted off to virtual
memory—does a much better job than the built-in
Vista equivalent. Hard drive tweaks let you further
speed your system by enabling defragmentation of
boot files (placing them next to each other for faster
start-ups), disabling an NTFS feature that places
a time stamp for the last access of folders and
files, and more.
Visual Tweaks collects all the configuration
options available in various Windows dialog boxes—
Totalidea TweakVI
from the Appearance button in Display Properties
through the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties
dialog. Internet Tweaks contains a huge array of
settings for Microsoft Outlook and Windows Mail,
Internet Explorer, and Firefox. Miscellaneous tools
let you change system folder settings, hide specific
Control Panel applets, and make a number of other
modifications that tighten your control over your
system and change the look of the interface.
TweakVI not only provides customization
elements that you won’t find in Windows itself, it
also collects the huge array of Windows customization options into one interface. The choices are
generally well explained, so you’re not likely to run
into trouble. But if you do, you can easily revert to
the Windows defaults.
The paid editions add, among many other
things, features for automatic shutdown, password
generation, and managing software installation and
system updates. Ultimate adds a disk doctor feature
and a utility for protecting folders and dealing with
virtual drives and page files. Even with the free version, TweakVI offers considerably more configuration possibilities than Microsoft’s own TweakUI.
Choose one of the paid editions and you have an
entire suite of OS configuration tools. This package
isn’t really a competitor to TweakUI at all—it’s a
significantly better tool all around.—Neil Randall
PROS Installs intelligently. Provides scads
of system information.
Makes configuration
highly accessible.
CONS Somewhat costly
yearly subscription for
advanced versions.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/tweakvi
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 33
FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
Same display
as the iPhone’s
Apple iPod touch
8GB, $299 direct;
16GB, $399
l l l l l
PROS Beautiful multitouch
display. Wi-Fi
access. Buy
music via Wi-Fi.
Excellent user interface.
Browser is a delight. Access to YouTube content.
Thinner than the iPhone.
Double-click for music in
any screen.
CONS Can’t turn off
Starbucks feature.
Can’t get podcasts or
purchase video via
Wi-Fi. Earbuds suck.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/
ipodtouch
Double-click for
music controls
APPLE IPOD TOUCH
A New Player Masterpiece
When the iPhone came out in June, many people
(including me) loved it but wanted it without the
phone—and without that pesky two-year AT&T
Wireless contract. With the new iPod touch, the
company has answered our prayers and even added
a Wi-Fi version of the iTunes Music Store. Now you
can download tracks anywhere there’s Wi-Fi.
Apple has announced a partnership with Starbucks that enables iPhone and touch owners
to purchase songs they hear in Starbucks stores via
Wi-Fi. It would be nice if the Wi-Fi store offered
video purchases—currently it’s music only. And, yes,
the earbuds still suck. But these are my only complaints, and they’re minor. The relatively hefty prices
don’t bug me either. Why? Because this is probably
the best portable media player ever made.
On the iPod touch and iPhone, navigation of the
music, video, and photo menus is identical, as is
the excellent combo of the multitouch screen and
the Safari Web browser. Both players load and sync
with iTunes and can be managed much the same
way manually. The touch is much skinnier than the
iPhone, however, and that pesky recessed headphone jack is gone—as is the ability to send e-mail
(unless you use a Web-based program like Gmail).
The YouTube features are nearly identical, except
that the iPod touch does not allow users to send clip
links to friends.
The excellent Cover Flow, part of iTunes and featured on the iPhone, arranges albums alphabetically
in a horizontal array using the albums’ cover art.
34 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Headphone
jack is not
recessed
Drag your finger across the display to slide the covers, as if thumbing through a virtual vinyl collection.
Clicking on the central album cover flips the graphic
over and reveals a music tracklist. From here you can
click on a song and start playing.
The real hero is the new iTunes Wi-Fi Music
store. Searching for artists can be done with the
virtual keyboard or via tabs such as Featured and
Top Tens. Provided that your Wi-Fi signal strength
is decent, downloading a song takes only seconds,
and the track is immediately put into your player’s
library. Next time you plug into your PC, the songs
will transfer to your computer’s library.
I wish Apple would include user-adjustable EQ
settings such as the ones competitors like Samsung,
Sansa, and Sony build into their players. With crappy
earbuds and settings like Jazz and Dance, your best
bet is to leave the EQ off and upgrade your earphones.
I also had hoped you could turn the Starbucks feature
off—you might not want to see a corporate logo pop
up whenever you walk by a store, and you’re even
less likely to share Starbucks’ musical tastes. Again,
these are fairly minor complaints. More significant
gripes? Podcast users will be disappointed that they
can’t get their ’casts via the Wi-Fi store, and the store
doesn’t sell video, either . . . yet.
Whenever Apple releases a new product, “fanboys” proclaim it the greatest ever, while “haters”
lambaste the product and the fanboys as well.
This time the fanboys are right: The iPod touch is
amazing.—Tim Gideon
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FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
New split-screen
interface
Highest pixel-per-inch
count in any iPod
Apple iPod nano
(3rd generation)
APPLE IPOD NANO (3RD GENERATION)
4GB, $149 list; 8GB, $199
Pocket-Size Yet Plenty Powerful
l l l l h
PROS Widescreen video.
New, excellent
user interface.
Superb new
graphics. Extremely thin.
Strong battery life.
CONS Cover Flow loses
something without the
touch screen. Crappy
earbuds. No video out
(yet).
For more:
go.pcmag.com/nano3
Since its inception, the only thing Apple’s small
player ever really lacked was the ability to screen
video—a trick that didn’t mesh with the iTunes
Store’s commitment to TV shows and f ilm
downloads. Sporting a bright, 2-inch widescreen
that shows video in the highest pixel-per-inch count
of any iPod ever, the nano is an entirely new beast.
The flash player, which comes in 4GB and 8GB
capacities, is wider than previous models. But when
you hold it alongside a second-generation nano, its
widened dimensions don’t seem to matter: A beautiful screen and a just-as-thin body make the device
seem like a huge evolutionary step for the line. The
new user interface combines the nicer touches of
the iPhone’s slick UI—like Cover Flow—with novel
elements (a split screen that shows album covers for
highlighted songs and a new Now Playing screen).
File support offers no surprises. For audio,
the nano plays AAC (16 to 320 Kbps)—including,
obviously, DRM and DRM-free tracks from iTunes,
MP3 (all bit rates, including VBR), Audible files,
AIFF, and WAV. If you have WMA files, loading them
into iTunes automatically converts them to AAC,
so while there’s no compatibility, there is at least
a workaround. Video support is the typical Apple
array: H.264 and MPEG-4.
The new main menu has a split screen, dividing
the space equally between the familiar iPod menu
36 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
lists on the left and a moving image of an album
cover, photo, or video on the right. When no tune
is playing, the main menu shows a variety of album
covers slowly floating by, with specific spots zoomed
in on. It’s a nice look.
I found video performance to be exceptional. The
player has the same resolution as the old iPod video
(now called the classic) but applied to a screen that’s
a half-inch smaller. The result is an even sharper
picture. When the new Brightness setting is adjusted
to the highest level, the new nano's screen is much
brighter than the previous model’s, as well. (Apple
claims it’s a 65 percent difference.)
The nano is not without its flaws. The video
output function is listed on the menu but cannot be
switched on. Its inclusion implies that this function
will be available with iTunes upgrades down the
road, but for the time being, there’s no way to watch
nano-loaded video on your TV or video iPod dock.
Also, Cover Flow, while beautiful and useful,
trips up occasionally during fast scrolling. Album
covers appear to have jagged edges, and sometimes the
artwork takes a moment to appear. The feature is not
nearly as sexy as it is on the iPhone.
Even with these minor flaws, nothing beats the
nano in its price range. Throw in the few bundled
games with quality graphics and you’ve got yourself
a winner.—Tim Gideon
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FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
MOTOROLA Q9M (VERIZON)
Sophisticated, but Sluggish
This latest smartphone for Verizon pairs excellent call quality
with a top-notch keyboard, making it a strong Windows Mobile
choice. I just wish it felt a little quicker.
The Q9m’s keyboard is the biggest change from the old
Motorola Q. The larger, rectangular keys are easier to settle your
fingers on (which helps prevent mistyping), and they depress
with satisfying clicks. All but the most ham-handed will fly over
this smartphone's keyboard.
A superior phone, the Q9m has very strong reception. The
earpiece and especially the speakerphone are unusually loud
and clear, and ringtones sound terrific.
Verizon has updated the Q9m with a lot of useful new software. At the head of the pack is DataViz DocumentsToGo for
Windows Mobile 6, which lets you view PDFs and view, edit,
and create Microsoft Office documents. Also, its Word-, Excel-,
and PowerPoint-compatible apps are refreshing oases of cutting
and pasting. Verizon’s new media-player home screen is less
accommodating, but you don’t have to use it.
The Q9m’s one problem is that it feels a bit laggy. When
typing an e-mail message, I sometimes had to wait for the screen
to catch up with my typing, and PDF files took quite some time
to open. Still, the new Q is a powerful, flexible mobile office.
—Sascha Segan
Motorola Q9m
(Verizon)
$199 to $349.99 list
llllm
PROS Excellent phone
quality. Top-notch
keyboard. Ability to
read and edit Microsoft
Office documents.
CONS Feels slow. Lackluster camera. No GPS.
No cut-and-paste in
e-mails.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/q9m
Best smartphone
keyboard yet
es
2.3 x 3.9 x 0.5 inch
HTC ADVANTAGE
Phone, Laptop in One
Detachable
keyboard
HTC Advantage
Joystick or
touch screen?
You choose!
38 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
$899.99 list
lllmm
PROS Stunning, bright screen.
Includes basic document editing
and robust keyboard. Built-in
HSDPA, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
CONS Too large to be a primary
mobile phone. Occasional
OS glitches. Sluggish system
performance. Pricey.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/advantage
At 12.7 ounces, this massive device is meant to be an überPDA—a handheld for adventurous computer enthusiasts
who wish they could inject their Treo with steroids. It
can replace a laptop in more situations than any other
smartphone on the market, but it doubles as a phone only
when you wear a headset or use the speakerphone.
Though the Advantage’s top-end 624-MHz Marvell
PXA270 processor aced our benchmark tests, the unit still
felt pokey. But built-in HSDPA and Wi-Fi didn’t disappoint,
grabbing speeds approximating 700 Kbps on the AT&T
network. The device’s keyboard is big, but flat and soft.
The Advantage makes a handy in-car GPS, thanks to
its big 5-inch screen and TeleNav’s built-in GPS Navigator
5.1 software. One button press gets TeleNav to reroute you
around tie-ups. The device runs Windows Mobile, so you
can sync e-mail, calendar, and contacts with Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007, and the unit can receive push Exchange
e-mail. Office Mobile still needs work, though: I saw formatting errors in some documents, which limits the handset’s
usefulness when editing important files. You can save data
to the internal 8GB hard drive or to a miniSD card.
The Advantage could bridge the gap between handhelds
and laptops, but for $900 you might as well buy a laptop and
get a free phone from your carrier.—Jamie Lendino
FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
ttons
Elevated pad andntbu
provide better co rol
Screen looks amazing
Quicker
load
times
Less complicated slot
opens more easily
Sony PSP
(model 2000)
SONY PSP (MODEL 2000)
$169.99 direct
Slimmer, Faster Mobile Gaming
l l l l m
PROS Sleeker and lighter
than the original. AV
output. Additional RAM
makes load times faster.
Displays photos. Plays
video and music files.
Built-in Wi-Fi and Webbrowsing capabilities.
Stunning widescreen
display.
CONS Unfortunate
power button location
is unchanged from the
original. AV output lacks
gaming support for
interlaced-only TV sets.
USB charging alternative
is inconvenient. UMD
load times still an issue.
Screen smudges easily.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/psp2000
Slimmed down and souped up, Sony’s latest handheld gaming device offers some welcome improvements over its predecessor. It boasts more RAM to
make game load times a little faster, and it’s now able
to output video straight to your TV.
At 2.8 by 6.6 by 0.6 inches (HWD) the new PSP
has been streamlined, and its sleekness is noticeable when compared with the original (which measures 2.9 by 6.7 by 0.9 inches). The major difference
between the two devices, however, is that the new
PSP feels much lighter. Weighing 6.7 ounces, it’s
a third lighter than its predecessor. Those seasoned
by hours of game play on the original model will feel
the difference instantly.
A new A/V port serves two purposes. Since the
port uses the 3.5mm minijack format, it can be used
with any standard headset for listening. The port
also doubles as a video-out: A special cable (sold
separately for about $20) lets you output your PSP
games, videos, movies, and photos directly to your
television or any LCD monitor via component or
composite connections. Videos and photos are displayed at DVD-quality resolution (up to 720 by 480,
or 480p), but games are limited to the PSP’s native
resolution of 480 by 272 pixels in progressive format
only. Out of juice from all those movies? Fortunately,
you can fully charge the PSP via a computer’s USB
port in roughly 5 hours.
40 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
The PSP’s multimedia prowess is impressive,
and the new model is no different. The device can
play back full-length movies on UMD (Universal
Media Disc—over 450 movies are available), play a
wide range of digital audio files, and even transfer
recorded shows from TiVo (series 2) DVRs. I found
that the 480p and 480i modes looked better; when
the PSP upscaled video to HD resolution, the result
was a slightly distorted picture. In general, AVI and
H.264/MPEG-4 files looked fine on a 65-inch HDTV,
and my S.W.A.T. UMD gave nearly as good a picture
as you can get with a standard DVD.
Though rich on multimedia functions, the PSP’s
primary focus is gaming. Most games for the PSP
now rely on richly detailed 3D graphics, and more
and more titles are starting to take advantage of
the device’s Wi-Fi capability and offer multiplayer
options. Add in the PSP’s TiVo compatibility, as well
as the ability to access streaming music and video via
Sony’s Location Free system or a PS3, and the PSP
becomes a powerful, portable media extender, albeit
pretty much tied to other Sony hardware.
All in all, the new “enhanced” PSP is a satisfying
addition to any gaming enthusiast’s collection, and
a must-buy for gamers who currently do not own a
PSP system. The new enhancements only broaden
the appeal of this already exceptional gaming
device.—Brian K. Neal
FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
47-inch widescreen display
Westinghouse
TX-47F430S
$1,799.99 list
lllhm
PROS: Excellent 1080i
video processing. Four
HDMI ports. Attractive
price.
CONS: Poor contrast
ratio. No video noise
reduction control.
Oversaturated greens
in skin tones.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/
tx47f430s
1080p resolution
WESTINGHOUSE TX-47F430S
HDMI Ports Galore, and More
There’s no disputing that HDTVs look their best
when displaying high-definition video, and the
ideal way to transmit this pristine high-def signal
is over an HDMI cable. That’s the draw for Westinghouse Digital’s affordable new 47-inch LCD set.
This well-priced TV boasts a total of four HDMI
ports for your viewing pleasure.
The TX-47F430S measures 31.4 by 46.1 by 9.8
inches (HWD) with its base attached, and weighs
in at 71.6 pounds. On-display controls consist of a
series of thin buttons along the right side of the TV’s
frame. A lone Westinghouse logo adorns the bottom
bezel, as does an unobtrusive blue power-indicator
light. The TX-47F430S’s two integrated 10W speakers are concealed within the TV’s frame along the
bottom edge and fire downward. The set delivers
ample volume for a large room, and an integrated
subwoofer (15W) helps balance the system’s otherwise bright sound.
Watching standard-definition video using
DVD and satellite television sources revealed
that the TX-47F430S’s picture was a bit too colorful. Light skin tones were excessively green, and
grass lawns tended to look eerily electric, likely a
“feature” designed to grab the attention of outdoor
sports fans. Also distracting, at viewing angles of
20 degrees or more, was screen glare that over-
whelmed the corners and edges of the picture,
resulting in decreased image contrast. Apart from
that, the set’s results on the HD HQV Benchmark
test DVD were among the best I’ve seen; I recorded
perfect performance within the HQV’s film resolution loss tests. In fact, the TX-47F430S is one of only
two HDTVs I’ve reviewed that properly process 24p
video material encoded in 1080i format.
Sadly, contrast was another story. I configured
the TX-47F430S for dark-room, eye-friendly viewing
by lowering the backlight control, which produced
a respectable but still relatively bright 0.25 Cd/m2
black level with a nearly identical contrast ratio of
463:1. Power consumption measurements put the
monthly operating cost of the TX-47F430S at a relatively pricey $10.65 with the backlight set to maximum. I based my calculations on 8 hours of daily
operation with a kilowatt-hour cost of $0.13. This
was more than $3 higher than any similarly sized
LCD I’ve measured to date.
Despite the set’s competitive price, videophiles
may be put off by the TV’s oversaturated green,
relatively poor black levels, low gamma response,
and lack of video noise reduction controls. I did find
the TX-47F430S’s picture quality more appealing,
however, once its color was calibrated to realistic
levels.—Robert Heron
PORTS INCLUDED
HDMI
4
Component
2
Composite
1
DVI
0
IEEE 1394
0
RF
1
S-Video
1
VGA
1
CableCARD
0
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 41
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FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
One-touch activation of
a face-detection mode
FUJI FINEPIX Z5FD
Ultracompact With
Awesome Auto Controls
A sturdy build, quick performance, and useful advanced automatic features give this Fuji 6.3-megapixel ultracompact a big
competitive edge.
Stylish and available in four colors, the Z5fd has a sliding front
cover that acts as the power switch and also protects the lens
and built-in flash. Geared toward auto-shooting, the camera features 12 scene modes, as well as a mode that takes a quick pair
of shots—one with flash and one without—and lets you save the
one you prefer. Its 3X zoom lens has a focal length of 36mm to
108mm, with a maximum aperture of f/3.5 on the wide end and
f/4.2 when zoomed in. The Z5fd’s 2.5-inch LCD is flexible in that
you can adjust its brightness and refresh rate.
In both daylight and flash shots, images were well exposed
and exhibited realistic color. One serious problem, however, was
the heavy processing that left visible noise in my images. At the
camera’s maximum ISO setting (1600), this noise made images
look more like pastel drawings than like photographs. But when
it came to performance, the Z5fd excelled, with a boot-up time of
2.7 seconds, a 2.3-second recycle time, and a 1-second shutter lag.
Despite its image problems, the well-crafted Fuji Z5fd is a good
buy with a set of features typically found in more expensive models.
—Aimee Baldridge
Fuji FinePix Z5fd
$199.99 list
lllhm
PROS Useful advanced automatic features. Responsive
operation. Sturdy build.
CONS Noticeable artifacts
in photos. Limited manual
adjustments. Some frequently used functions
aren’t quick to access.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/z5fd
2.5-inch LCD automatically
brightens in low light
Lone power button—all other input is
done with the on-screen keyboard
TOMTOM GO 720
A GPS That’s Always Up to Date
TomTom GO 720
3.3 by 4.7 by 0.9 inches
$499.95 list
llllm
PROS Text to speech. Multisegment routing. Map Share technology. Optional traffic receiver.
Lots of audio output options.
CONS Limited cell-phone support. Mobile services are not
compatible on Verizon or Sprint.
For more: go.pcmag.com/go720
44 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Keeping GPS maps and POIs (points of interest) up to date is
a gargantuan task. TomTom tries to alleviate this problem with
its innovative Map Share technology, along with a little help
from drivers like you.
When you first power up the TomTom GO 720, you notice a
new Map Corrections icon in the main menu. From here, you can
make edits such as reversing traffic direction, changing a street
name, and adding or augmenting POIs. You can also specify
which types of changes you’d like to download: yours, those verified by TomTom, or ones from “trusted sources.” The included
USB dock makes it simple to connect to your PC for updates.
The 7.8-ounce GO 720 sports a sleek new design, too: a 4.3inch WQVGA touch screen display and a Bluetooth speakerphone interface. Its GPS receiver performed on a par with those
of other devices using the ubiquitous SiRFstarIII, and there were
no surprises in my road tests.
The TomTom Jukebox media player is the best I’ve seen
in a PND, offering a variety of search options and audio book
support. Furthermore, the GO 720 includes text-to-speech
conversion, with the option to purchase celebrity voices.
There’s a lot to like about the TomTom GO 720, not least of
which is the promise of easy map updates, as well as communitybased road and POI fixes.—Craig Ellison
FIRST LOOKS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
NOKIA E65
Business-Class Cellular
Helio Fin
$375 direct,
$175 with contract
lllmm
PROS Slim. Three-megapixel camera. Full Web
browser. Excellent e-mail
client.
CONS Very short battery life. Annoyingly flat
keypad. Feels sluggish in
advanced applications.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/fin
Keys
are
large
but too
flat
HELIO FIN
Thin but Short-Lived
Take a look at this sweet, svelte little cell. It happens to be the
thinnest phone yet from Helio, the extremely Web-friendly
cellular carrier, and the company’s best camera phone, too. But
with its slim body also comes an annoyingly short battery life.
The Fin is a very good voice phone. Calls sound clear, with
no hiss, though the speakerphone is somewhat quiet. For Helio
users, however, voice is just where handhelds begin. This cell
has the de rigueur MP3/AAC player supporting 4GB memory
cards, though there’s no integration with Windows Media
Player. (Better PC media software will come soon, Helio says.)
With its big 2.3-inch, 320-by-240-pixel screen, you can navigate full Web pages, check multiple e-mail accounts including
Yahoo! and Windows Live, or log on to MySpace. The ability
to read Microsoft Office attachments in e-mails is a bonus.
A 3-megapixel camera takes photos that but look a bit washed
out in daylight and have a tendency to blur under low light.
But the Fin’s performance felt sluggish at times, the flat
keypad was a bit difficult to use, and battery life was pathetic,
providing less than 3 hours of talk time. This brief battery life
hurts, especially because this is a phone you’d want to use for
extensive gaming and Web browsing. Helio’s Ocean, while
larger, is a much better platform for the cellular carrier’s rich
set of Web and messaging services.—Sascha Segan
A classy pin-striped suit of a phone, Nokia’s new handset gives
you smartphone power with a dignified feature-phone look.
With its aluminum faceplate and snappy slide-out keypad,
the E65’s build is unusually solid and feels decidedly rich.
Watch out, though, as some of this cell’s keys may be too small
for the ham-thumbed.
The E65 is a Symbian Series 60 smartphone with unusually speedy EDGE data support, as well as Wi-Fi. Voice calls
sounded clear, though the speakerphone’s sound level was low.
The built-in e-mail client works with POP/IMAP accounts, and
third-party software can let you edit Office documents. Nokia’s
Web browser, which handles full pages, is the best available on
any mobile platform. The bundled music player app had no
trouble with MP3 tracks but couldn’t play unprotected iTunes
Plus AAC files. For pictures, an internal 2-megapixel camera
takes detailed, grayish photos with good light balance. Battery
life, at 7 hours and 44 minutes of talk time, is pretty good.
Sold as an unlocked device, E65 is especially appealing to
world travelers, who appreciate the ability to swap in foreign
SIM cards. But any professional could warm up to this solid
GSM handset, which may look and act like an ordinary phone
but offers a host of smartphone features.—Jamie Lendino
Nokia E65
$449 direct
llllm
PROS Sharp, bright
screen. Crisp slider
mechanism and keypad.
Includes Wi-Fi. Superb
Web browser. Fast
camera.
CONS Lacks 3G support.
No document editing.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/e65
Leathertextured
back
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 45
FIRST LOOKS HARDWARE
PictBridge/
USB port
Front-loading paper path
for large-format printing
Canon Pixma
Pro9000
$499.99 list
L L L L M
PROS Topquality color
photos and
graphics.
Maximum
13-by-19-inch paper
size. Choice of fine-art
papers available.
CONS Relatively poor
text quality.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/pro9000
CANON PIXMA PRO9000
Photo Prints Fit for Framing
Almost any ink jet printer can churn out decent
photos, particularly at small sizes. But to get exceptional quality, and to print on fine-art papers at sizes
up to 13 by 19 inches, you need a high-end printer
built for professional photographers or serious
amateurs. The Canon Pixma Pro9000 may just
fill the bill. The Pro9000 packs an eight-color ink
system, designed both to widen the range of colors
it can print and to reproduce the subtle shading that
makes skin tones look realistic and rounded objects
look three-dimensional.
Although it can serve as an all-purpose printer in
a pinch, the Pro9000 is clearly built for photos: The
default paper setting in the driver is for photo paper.
Slower than its rivals, the Pro9000 ran through our
business applications suite at a lackadaisical 25:58
(min:sec), but nobody is going to buy it to output
spreadsheets. And although print speed is far less
important than output quality for photos, it’s worth
noting that, in its price class, the Pro9000 is the
fastest photo printer I’ve tested, averaging 1:06 for
each 4-by-6 print and 2:05 for each 8-by-10.
Photo quality is equally impressive. When tested
with semigloss fine-art paper, the Pro9000 earned a
perfect score on almost every point I use to evaluate
color prints. The only shortcoming was a slight tint
on a monochrome photo. I also printed our standard
46 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
photo suite on a range of other papers. With matte
paper, the quality was just as good for color photos and better for monochrome prints, which were
free of tint. I also printed an assortment of photos
on several of Canon's fine art papers, including
Museum Etching, Photo Rag, Premium Matte, and
Semi-Gloss. I was so impressed with the results that
I plan to frame several of the photos.
Graphics quality is also superior, with no notable flaws. This makes the Pro9000 a fine choice for
graphic artists. Its text output was a little bit below
par for an ink jet, particularly with more stylized,
non-business fonts, but few people will be using the
Pro9000 to print text.
At 7.6 by 26.0 by 14.0 inches (HWD) and 30.8
pounds, the Pro9000 is larger and heavier than
most ink jets. You’ll need extra room in the front
and back to print on large-size paper, in effect making the printer’s footprint 26 by 26 inches. But for
most photo enthusiasts, the Pro9000’s spectacular
prints will be well worth the extra space it takes up.
For photo quality in its price range, the Pro9000
can’t be beat. About its only real drawback is that, if
you print a lot of photos in a single session, you may
find that one or another of its eight ink cartridges
will always seem to be on the brink of needing
replacement.—M. David Stone
FIRST LOOKS HARDWARE
IOMEGA EGO
Iomega eGo
$160 street
lllhm
PROS Large capacity.
Drop resistance.
Compact. Good dollarper-gigabyte value.
CONS Dual-headed
cable’s “Y-section” is a
bit short. You have to
download backup software. Backup software is
Windows-only. Chrome
attracts fingerprints.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/ego
Pocket-size drive
(5.3 by 3.5 by
0.8 inches)
Storage to Go
Pocket USB hard drives are all the rage. One of the more
attractive and reasonably priced offerings is the Iomega
eGo. The drive packs 160GB of storage capacity into its
red, chrome-accented frame. It’s shielded from tumbles
and comes with a fine backup program—at least if you’re
a Microsoft Windows user.
Designed to be economical, the eGo offers a better
cost per gigabyte ($1) than many of its peers. Its hard drive
yields decent performance, taking 54 seconds to copy our
1.2GB test folder, which is fast enough for backup or data
transfer. The drive is rated to survive a fall of 51 inches—at
least when it’s not plugged in and operating.
The eGo comes with a license for a good backup
program, EMC’s Retrospect HD. Retrospect can protect
both document folders and entire hard drives, including the
operating system and applications. But the drawback is that
you have to download the program from Iomega’s support
site. Worse, it works only on Windows systems.
All in all, the eGo is a solid portable hard drive for
storing and transporting your digital life. It should be on
your short list if you’re looking for more storage for your
laptop or home PC.—Joel Santo Domingo
Auto Movie Creator
Automatic! Intelligent Movie Creation Software
Auto Movie Creator is for everyone who wants to make a movie in a flash. Start by importing
videos or photos from a camera, simply follow the Assistant Director wizard and you are
ready to export your movie to a DVD, your website, blog, or any portable device.
The Assistant Director wizard offers intelligent suggestions for adding effects, transitions,
and titles. It automatically creates clips based on scene changes, lets you add music and
voice narrations. You can create a professional looking movie in a few minutes!
Capture video and audio from any USB or FireWire input device
R
The Assistant Director takes all the guesswork out of movie-making
R
Automatically divide your video footage into scenes
R
Add narration and background music to your video effortlessly
R
Our other products
Download Free Trial
www.deskshare.com/amc
DeskShare
WebCam Monitor
Digital Media Converter
My Screen Recorder Pro
Software to help you excel !
Phone: 1-516-620-3152
FIRST LOOKS HARDWARE
Cooling fan
(loud)
CyberPower Gamer
Ultra 8500 SE
$849 direct;
$999 with 19-inch
widescreen LCD monitor
lllhm
PROS Gaming performance
on a sub-$1,000 system.
Good performance on our
multimedia benchmark tests.
Nice mix of components
for the money. Three-year
warranty.
CONS Loud cooling fans.
Ball mouse. No included
security software.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/
cyberpower8500se
Ball mouse?!
CYBERPOWER GAMER ULTRA 8500 SE
Gaming Rig with Room to Grow
As a budding gamer, you needn’t shell out five grand
for a system with all the bells and whistles. You
don’t even have to get a mainstream desktop and
slap a gaming card into it. Instead, you could get
the sub-$1,000 CyberPower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE
and expand it as your skill and funding increase.
The 8500 SE, with its windowed, mid-tower case
adorned with a Smilodon (saber-toothed tiger) logo
and LED lighting, looks like a gaming rig. It contains
a speedy, 3-GHz dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
processor, 1GB of 800-MHz DDR2 memory, a 320GB
hard drive, and an nVidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card with 256MB of graphics memory. The card is
DX10-compliant and has an SLI connector.
The system can support a lot of expansion: four
more hard drives, two more memory DIMMs, two
more PCIe x1 cards, and two more PCI cards. The
case is a cinch to get into, with easy-to-open latches.
Its downside is the loud case fans. You’ll probably
want to turn the speakers up or wear headphones.
Gaming performance wasn’t bad for a system at
this price. At 1,280-by-1,024 resolution, the 8500SE
scored 46 frames per second on Prey and 48 fps on
48 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Company of Heroes. At this resolution, it will be a
bit jerky in action situations. The 8500 SE took 1:12
(min:sec) on our Photoshop CS2 test and a respectable 1:23 on the Windows Media Encoder test .
The CyberPower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE is a reasonably priced performance system, with a decent
feature set. It’s a good choice for a beginning gamer
or a film student.—Joel Santo Domingo
Specs: 3.0-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ processor; 1GB
800-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard
drive; 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card;
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
PERFORMANCE TESTS
3D TESTS
High scores are best.
3DMARK06
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
RESOLUTION
GAMING TESTS (fps)
PREY
COMPANY OF HEROES
1,280 x 1,024
2,560 x 1,600
1,280 x 1,024
2,560 x 1,600
1,280 x 1,024
2,560 x 1,600
AA/AF**
Default
0X/8X
Default
High
0X/0X
0X/0X
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE
4,428
1,774
46
16
48
4
Velocity Micro Vector GX
Campus Edition (2007) *
5,112
2,331
51
18
55
11
* Editors' Choice, reported for comparison.
** Anti-aliasing/anisotropic fi ltering.
You’ve never settled for less.
Why do it with your color laser all-in-one?
Choose Plan b.
Up to 21ppm
DCP-9040CN
Color Laser Digital Copier/Printer
$
599*
MFC-9440CN
Color Laser All-in-One
$
699*
MFC-9840CDW
Wireless Color Laser All-in-One
$
849*
When choosing a color laser all-in-one, Plan A is settling for the ordinary. Plan B from Brother is all about making the smarter
choice. So you get more of the features you need. The 21ppm1 maximum color printing speeds you want. And the affordability you’ve
been waiting for. It’s a combination that’s definitely not Plan A. And it’s only
found in the full color laser line from Brother. So don’t compromise on quality
or break your budget. Choose Plan B. Visit us online at www.brother.com
Available at: Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Fry’s Electronics, BestBuy.com, Costco.com, Brandsmart, Microcenter, J&R Computer World, CDW, Insight,
PC Connection, PC Mall, Zones, Quill, PC Nation, TigerDirect.com, Provantage, Amazon.com, Buy.com, Newegg.com and other fine resellers.
*Estimated street price, dealer price may vary. 1pages per minute.
© 2007 Brother International Corporation, Bridgewater, NJ
Brother Industries, Ltd. Nagoya, Japan
FIRST LOOKS BUSINESS
LED screen
Sony VAIO
VGN-TZ150N
$2,299 direct
l l l h m
PROS Carbon fiber case.
Improved, raised keyboard. LED-backlit screen.
Integrated optical drive.
2.7-pound featherweight.
Excellent battery life.
CONS Too much bloatware.
Slow ULV processor. 1GB of
RAM is not enough for Vista.
Slow-spinning hard drive.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/sonytz150n
Raised
keyboard
Carbon-fiber
frame
SONY VAIO VGN-TZ150N
Laptop’s Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep
Laptop manufacturers are putting their focus on
design these days, and they’ve come out with some
amazingly sleek and sexy creations. This is fine—as
long as they don’t forget that performance and features are an important part of the mix. The Sony
VAIO VGN-TZ150N epitomizes elegance. It’s a featherweight (2.7-pound) ultraportable with a gorgeous,
LED-enhanced screen, a raised keyboard, and a
durable carbon-fiber frame. Too bad that Sony hasn’t
paid equal attention to what’s beneath the snazzy
exterior. If you need a system to keep you productive, you’ll run into a few snags with this one.
The TZ150N has some top-notch features: LED
backlighting that makes viewing the 11.1-inch screen
a joy, a dual-layer DVD burner, a Sprint EV-DO Rev
PERFORMANCE TESTS
hr:min
SYSMARK
2007
PREVIEW:
OVERALL L
Sony VAIO VGN-TZ150N
3:49
Dell XPS M1330*
3:23
L High scores are best.
M Low scores are best.
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
BATTERY
RUNDOWN
SCORE L
* Editors' Choice, reported for comparison.
50 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
MULTIMEDIA TESTS
WINDOWS
MEDIA ENCODER
M
PHOTOSHOP CS2
ACTION SET
min:sec
min:sec
47
2:32
2:58
96
1:32
1:07
A modem—and a webcam, which, as far as I know, is
unique in a system weighing less than 3 pounds.
Not so hot is the 1.06-GHz ultra-low-voltage
(ULV) Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 processor; nor does
it help that the system comes with only 1GB of RAM.
(You’ll want to double that to do justice to Windows Vista Business.) Then there’s the hard drive.
Although its capacity (100GB) is adequate, it spins
at only 4,200 rpm. Worse, the system is loaded with
bloatware: no less than 30 VAIO apps, plus lots of
trialware such as Corel Snapfire, Microsoft Office
2007, and Norton Internet Security.
One advantage to the TZ150N’s low power is
that it extends battery life. The unit lasted almost 4
hours (3:47) playing back a DVD, which translates
into roughly 6 or 7 hours’ worth of more routine
tasks. But long battery life doesn’t make up for feeble
components, especially considering that the TZ150N
carries the price tag of a luxury item.—Cisco Cheng
Specs: 1.06-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7500; 1GB DDR2
SDRAM; 100GB, 4,200-rpm hard drive; Intel Graphics
Media Accelerator 950; 11.1-inch, 1,366-by-768 screen; 2.7pound system weight (3.3-pound travel weight); 63-Wh,
5.8-Ah lithium ion battery; Windows Vista Business.
FIRST LOOKS BUSINESS
LED-backlit screen
ASUS U1F
$2,100 street
l l l h m
PROS LED backlight
offers terrific contrast.
Good battery life.
Leather palm rests.
Featherweight.
Innovative design.
CONS Lacks an
integrated optical
drive. Low-powered
components.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/asusu1f
ASUS U1F
An LED-Lit Ultraportable
The ASUS U1F is a sweet ultraportable with awesome picture quality and an innovative design. It’s a
traveler’s delight, packing a lot of appealing features,
but one thing you’ll miss is an optical drive.
Thanks to LED backlighting, the U1F’s 11.1-inch
screen looks magnificent. Digital photos and even
YouTube videos look amazing under low light.
However, the screen is very sensitive to glare coming from any light source above you. ASUS uses
a magnesium-aluminum alloy in its frame to protect
the screen, which is only 5mm (0.2 inches) thick.
The small form factor presents challenges to
ultraportable manufacturers. It’s unfortunate that
ASUS didn’t integrate an optical drive, as Panasonic,
Toshiba, and Sony have managed to do on similar
lightweight systems. (See the review of Sony’s VAIO
PERFORMANCE TESTS
L High scores are best.
M Low scores are best.
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
ASUS U1F
Lenovo ThinkPad X60 (Vista)*
* Editors' Choice, reported for comparison.
hr:min
SYSMARK
2007
PREVIEW:
OVERALL L
2:48
3:45
BATTERY
RUNDOWN
SCORE L
MULTIMEDIA TESTS
WINDOWS
MEDIA ENCODER
PHOTOSHOP CS2
ACTION SET
min:sec
min:sec
49
3:15
3:48
N/A
1:47
1:12
N/A—Not applicable: The product could not complete the test.
52 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
M
Leather
palm rests
VGN-TZ150N, page 50.) Another nit is that the U1F
runs a weak ultra-low-voltage (ULV) 1.06-GHz Intel
Core Duo U2400 processor, which hampers performance. Also, its hard drive spins at just 4,200 rpm.
The keyboard is a bit unwieldy, though the
leather on the palm rests is a nice touch. The touchpad is responsive, but the mouse buttons were
difficult to press. The U1F has four USB ports, rare
on such a small system, and adds a FireWire port,
an ExpressCard slot, and a 4-in-1 card reader.
The U1F has a peculiar RAM configuration. It
comes with 1.5GB of memory (a 512MB and a 1GB
module), enough to run Windows Vista Business.
Still, I’d have liked to see a full 2GB of RAM.
Good battery life is just one of the things we like
in this 2.7-pound wonder. The battery lasted 2 hours
48 minutes running a DVD; you’d probably get 5 to
6 hours on more basic tasks. I’d like the U1F better,
though, with an integrated optical drive and a little
more power.—Cisco Cheng
Specs: 1.06-GHz Intel Core Duo U2400; 1.5GB DDR2; 80GB,
4,200-rpm hard drive; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator
950, 224MB; 11.1-inch, 1,366-by-768 screen; 2.7-pound system
weight (3.4-pound travel weight); 53-Wh, 4.8-Ah lithium ion
battery; Microsoft Windows Vista Business.
FIRST LOOKS BUSINESS
HP Officejet Pro
K5400dtn Color Printer
Ink jet with
laser-class
speed
$249.99 direct
llllm
PROS Laser-class speed
for business applications.
Network connector.
Built-in duplexer. Two
paper trays.
CONS Photo quality is far less
than ideal. Photos aren’t even
slightly water-resistant.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/hpk5400dtn
350-sheet and
250-sheet paper trays
HP OFFICEJET PRO K5400DTN
Laser-Class Ink Jet
If you’re looking for a color printer for a small office,
you might go with an inexpensive laser printer. Or
you might pick the HP Officejet Pro K5400dtn Color
Printer, an ink jet with many of the qualities of a
color laser, at a much lower price and running costs.
The K5400dtn has laser-like speed on text, finishing our business suite in 8 minutes 49 seconds, a
record for standard ink jets. But photo speed was not
very good, averaging 2:25 (min:sec) for a 4-by-6 and
5:22 for an 8-by-10. Like a laser, the K5400dtn is optimized for business printing, and that includes out-
put quality. Text and graphics were decent (though
not laser-quality), but photos fell short. Colors were
often too punchy, and prints prone to smudging.
Paper-handling capability is strong, thanks to
the two paper trays and duplexer. The K5400dtn
is priced inexpensively, and at 1.5 cents for a blackand-white page and 6 cents for a color page, the
company’s claimed cost per page is relatively low.
When it comes to quality, the K5400dtn may not
be a match for a laser, but small offices may find it
a good substitute.—M. David Stone
XEROX PHASER 8560MFP/D
As Solid as Its Ink
Solid-ink printers are designed to compete with
color lasers, offering laser-like speed and output
quality. They’re pretty much exclusive to Xerox,
whose latest, the Phaser 8560MFP/D, is among the
more impressive laser-class all-in-ones I’ve seen.
Solid-ink printers are best for an office that can
keep the printer running all night so that the ink
stays melted. The 8560MFP/D is a whiz at paper
handling, with a standard 625-sheet paper capacity
and a 1,675-sheet maximum with optional trays. It
also has a built-in duplexer.
The 8560MFP/D went through our business
applications suite in 10 minutes 31 seconds, faster
than the fastest color laser AIO I’ve tested. It also
prints photos quickly, averaging 23 seconds for
a 4-by-6 and 36 seconds for an 8-by-10.
The 8560MFP/D’s output quality is superb. Text
is a bit below ideal. Graphics were good enough for
any internal business need. Photos were superior
for a laser-class printer, good enough to pass as true
photo quality at arm’s length.
If you’re looking for a color laser AIO, don’t rule
out a solid-ink unit. The Xerox Phaser 8560MFP/D
offers an effective balance of speed, output quality,
and features for a small to midsize office.—MDS
Xerox Phaser
8560MFP/D
$2,000 street
l l l l m
525-sheet and
100-sheet paper trays
PROS Fast. Reasonably high quality. Prints,
scans, and faxes from
a PC. Standalone copier
and fax.
CONS Fax feature is
inconveniently hidden
in a driver.
For more:
go.pcmag.com/
xerox8560mfpd
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 53
TheBestStuff
Editors’ Choices
in Key Categories
For the complete
reviews of these
products, go to
go.pcmag.com/
editorschoice
SMB COLOR LASERS
Xerox Phaser 6180N $500 street
Xerox Phaser 6360DN
(NETWORKED)
$1,600 street
PHOTO PRINTERS
ALL-IN-ONE
Canon Pixma MP960 $400 street
BUDGET PROSUMER
DESKTOPS
Apple iMac
(20-inch Aluminum) $1,499 direct
MAINSTREAM
Dell Inspiron 531 $709 direct
GAMING
Falcon Northwest Mach V
(Radeon HD 2900 XT) $7,930 direct
NEW HP Blackbird 002
Q
$5,500 direct
ALL-IN-ONE
HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC
$1,800 direct
BUSINESS
Lenovo ThinkCentre M55e
Velocity Micro Vector GX
Campus Edition 2007
$999 direct
LAPTOPS & NOTEBOOKS
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
(LED) $1,999 direct
Nokia N95 $749.99 list
REAR-PROJECTION
HP Pavilion md5880n
$3,499.99 list
VERIZON WIRELESS
PLASMA
Pioneer PRO-940HD $3,300 list
Vizio VP42 $1,099.99 list
CELLULAR CARDS
LCD MONITORS
Samsung SyncMaster 305T
SPRINT
HIGH-END
Epson PictureMate Flash
$300 street
PORTABLE
HP Deskjet 460wf $299 direct
COMPACT BUDGET
HP Photosmart A516
$100 street
COMPACT HIGH-END
HP Photosmart A716
$250 street
PROSUMER
HP Photosmart Pro B9180
$1,999.99 list
ALL-PURPOSE FLATBED
Canon CanoScan 8600F
$180 list
Canon PowerShot SD1000
$299.99 list
$400 street
DOCUMENT
Canon Rebel XTi $799 list
Nikon D80 $999.95 list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
$349.95 list
DIGITAL CAMCORDERS
Sony Handycam
DCR-DVD508 (SD) $899.99 list
Sony HDR-HC3 HDV 1080i
Handycam (HD) $1,499.99 direct
DIGITAL PHOTO FRAMES
Pandigital 8.0" Digital Photo
Frame (DPF-80-2) $199.99 list
PROJECTORS
Planon DocuPen RC800
HIGH-END SXGA+
BUDGET
$299.99 direct
Canon Realis SX50
Dell Inspiron 1420 $1,099 direct
PORTABLE
$5,000 street
Plustek OpticSlim M12
Corporate $299 direct
HIGH-END XGA
Dell XPS M1330 $2,200 direct
VISTA
SOHO/PERSONAL DOCUMENT
$3,000 street
NEW HP Pavilion dv9500t
Q
Xerox Documate 152 $595 list
BUDGET SVGA
$4,048 direct
MULTI-DRIVE
Drobo $499 direct
PORTABLE
TABLET PCS
Dell 1200MP $699 direct
MAINSTREAM XGA
Toshiba TDP-T95U $1,299 direct
AT&T
Western Digital MyBook Pro
Motorola RAZR2 V9m
$330 direct
$249.99 list
HIGH-DEFINITION PLAYERS
TiVo HD $299.99 list
SPRINT
MEDIA HUBS
Slingbox Pro $249.99 direct
VERIZON WIRELESS
(mono laser) $250 street
MP3 PLAYERS
STANDARD INK JET
HARD DISK
Canon Pixma iP4300 Photo
Apple iPod 80GB $349 direct
$99.99 direct
FLASH
ALL-IN-ONE INK JET
Apple iPod nano (3rd gen)
Canon Pixma MP600 Photo
$199 direct
$199.99 direct
NEW Apple iPod touch
Q
ALL-IN-ONE HIGH-END INK JET
From $299 direct
Canon Pixma MP830 Office
BUDGET FLASH
$300 street
Samsung YP-U3 (2GB) $90 list
HP Officejet Pro L7680
$400 street
SPEAKERS/DOCKS
Chestnut Hill Sound George
$549 direct
54 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
SUITE
Adobe Creative Suite 3
$999 direct
PHOTO MANAGEMENT
ProShow Gold 3.0 $69.95 direct
DIGITAL VIDEO
$799 direct
Final Cut Studio 2 $1,299 direct
SightSpeed 6.0 Free
E-MAIL
Windows Live Hotmail (beta)
Free
Toshiba TDP-FF1AU $699 direct
$2,299 direct
ALL-IN-ONE WITH NETWORKING
DIGITAL IMAGING
Yahoo! Mail (beta) Free
PORTABLE
DESKTOP
Canon imageClass MF 4150
CONTACT MANAGERS & PIMS
AnyTime Organizer
Deluxe 10.0 $29.95 direct
VIDEOCONFERENCING
Canon Realis X600
Lenovo ThinkPad X60
ALL-IN-ONE
GPS DEVICES
Garmin nüvi 680 $999.99 list
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3
Toshiba 200GB USB 2.0
External Hard Drive $230 direct
PRINTERS
HEADSETS
Aliph Jawbone $119.99 list
PROFESSIONAL EDITING
VISTA
INTERNET TELEPHONY
GE DECT 6.0 Wireless
Handset for Skype $149 list
$299.99 list
SUPERZOOM
PEN SCANNER
STORAGE
Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U
D-SLR
HIGH-END ALL-PURPOSE FLATBED
Canon CanoScan 9950F
$99.99 direct
ULTRACOMPACT
$700 street
SCANNERS
Sierra Wireless AirCard 595
AT&T
DIGITAL CAMERAS
$4,708 direct
Lenovo ThinkPad T60p
Motorola RAZR V3xx $49.99 list
$500 street
Canon DR-2580C $875 street
BUSINESS
AT&T
Canon Pixma Pro9000
Alienware Area-51 m9750
$1,949 direct
LG VX3450 $29.99 list
LCD HDTV
GAMING
ULTRAPORTABLE
VOICE PHONES
Sharp LC-32D40U $1,599.99 list
$1,259 direct
BUDGET
AT&T, T-MOBILE
HDTVS
FEATURE PHONES
FINANCIAL
QuickBooks Simple Start
2007 $99.95 direct
OFFICE SUITES
Microsoft Office 2007
$149 direct
2
Motorola RAZR V9m
SECURITY
$249.99 list
WEB-BASED ANTISPAM
OnlyMyEmail Personal
2
Motorola RAZR V9m
$3 direct
$299.99 list
ANTI SPYWARE
T-MOBILE
TV
Panda Anti-Rootkit Free
Spy Sweeper 5.5 with
Antivirus $39.95 direct
Samsung SCH-U620 $149.99 list
FIREWALL
SMARTPHONES
Comodo Personal
Firewall 2.0 Free
SPRINT
NONSIGNATURE ANTI-MALWARE
Motorola RIZR Z3 $99.99 list
BlackBerry 8830 $199.99 list
BlackBerry 8830 $199.99 list
Norton Antibot $29.99 direct
Primary Response
SafeConnect 2.1 $29.95 direct
HELIO
PARENTAL CONTROL
Helio Ocean $295 list
Safe Eyes 5.0 $49.95 direct
AT&T, T-MOBILE (KEYBOARD)
SUITE
Nokia E61i $484.95 list
Norton Internet Security
2008 $69.99 direct
VERIZON WIRELESS
Where’s Your Point N?
From Your Linksys N Router. Into the breeze. 3 feet from the pool. To Point N.
Point N
is the place you never thought a wireless router could
reach. It’s sharing photos beside the pool. Watching videos on the
veranda. Sending emails from the second floor bedroom. There are
thousands of places you can connect from, but only one way to get
there… Linksys Wireless-N Ultra Range routers.
Find out where N will take you. www.linksys.com
WRT150N
Linksys is a registered trademark or trademark of Cisco Systems, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and certain other countries. Maximum performance derived from IEEE Standard 802.11 specifications. Actual performance can vary, including lower
wireless network capacity, data throughput rate, range and coverage. Performance depends on many factors, conditions and variables, including distance from the access point, volume of network traffic, building materials and construction, operating
system used, mix of wireless products used, interference and other adverse conditions. Copyright © 2007 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
25 YEARS OF PC MAGAZINE
2002
INNOVATORS
Colin Angle
Our future robot overlords owe their evolution to
Rosie on The Jetsons. Colin Angle knows she set a
stellar example. From the day iRobot began, the
cofounder and CEO was constantly asked, “When
are you going to clean my floors?”
For years, Angle and his team—including
cofounder and CTO Rodney Brooks, Panasonic Professor of Robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology—learned a lot about cleaning. But their
bots never made it to market. Costs were too high. It
wasn’t until they broke the magical sub-$200 barrier
in mid-2002—and finally garnered deals with catalog retailers—that the Roomba hit America’s floors.
The Roomba was the first truly useful consumer
robot—sorry, Sony AIBO—and is the most successful yet. Two million have been sold. The new iRobot
vacuums are even more versatile: some clean a
workshop, others scrub a kitchen floor.
Angle says iRobot’s secret is doing everything
possible to make a product better. His staff “accelerates the destruction of Roomba, so we can see it
fail—and improve it.”
RIDING A WIRELESS WAVE
When did phones
stop being phones
and become . . .
computers? We
dove into wireless
data headfirst in
May with a Wireless
Super Guide, examining e-mail devices,
call-forwarding services, PDA modems,
and the promising Stinger phone
platform. It didn’t
create the “wireless
ecosystem” Microsoft envisioned,
but mobile phones
became our most
personal computers anyway. PC Mag
even hired an analyst (hello, Sascha
Segan) just to keep
track of it all.
PRODUCT FLASHBACK
Creative Labs Sound Blaster
Audigy Platinum eX
$250
l l l l l
Requires Intel Pentium 266 MHz, 64MB RAM, Windows 98SE or higher
PROS External break-out box adds more ports than anyone should need.
CONS Pricey, complex setup, takes up two PCI slots.
BOTTOM LINE Creative Labs has topped itself once again.
“For three years, the Creative Labs PCI audio cards dominated the market. The company ups the ante with its new Audigy series . . . [it] makes
a huge difference in the quality of your PC sound output, and it is in your
best interest to take full advantage of it.”—Rich Brown, January 15, 2002
What product had
you wating in line?
Send your memories
of hot technology
to pcmag@ziffdavis.
com with “PC Mag
Anniversary” in the
subject line.
56 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
READERS RESPOND
When Windows Was Loved
I got to Egghead Software in Altamonte Springs, Florida, around 6 p.m [on
August 23, 1995]. They opened up at midnight to sell Windows 95. By 11 p.m. the
crowd was really large. People had come in from all over central Florida. The most
unusual group had desktop computers in their van. They planned to install it all
night long during their trip back to the University of Florida. I took the next day
off to install the new Windows OS myself.—James L. Cioccio, Kansas City, Missouri
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JOHN C. DVORAK
My Top Ten Bright Ideas
When you follow the computer scene
the way I do, you begin to develop a list
of complaints and ideas for fixing them.
Here’s my latest Top Ten list.
1. Sun-Apple Merger
This has been under discussion since 1985
or so, with no action taken. I have personally never seen two companies that suit
each other to a T as these two do. It would
tribalism—but they are no longer valid.
Linus Torvalds could make this happen
overnight.
4. Motherboard Standardization
Why do we need so many motherboard
variations? How many different x86
boards do we need in the world? I know
there are rationalizations for this, since
every new glue chip that hits the market
What about Intel building a fabrication plant in
Macon, Georgia, instead of China? I understand all
the bogus arguments from the outsourcing perspective.
“Bogus” is the operative word.
round out the line of machines perfectly
and put Sun out of its misery. At one point
in the late 1990s, Sun would have been the
big dog in the deal, putting Apple out of its
misery. Now it is the other way around.
2. Microsoft Split
As anyone who has read my columns over
the years knows, I’m a big promoter of a
Microsoft split. Whether it is into two,
three, or four entities, I do not care. All I
know is that the Microsoft shareholders
and the company itself would benefit from
a breakup. Only the egos of the executives
keep it from happening.
3. Unification of Linux
More than anything else, the industry
needs a unification of the Linux operating system, with one purveyor that can
control the details of the operating system in such a way that you do not have all
these confusing distros (see Inside Track,
opposite). The current flavor of the day is
Ubuntu. In a year or two, it’ll be another
distro. Years ago there were good reasons
for this internecine battling—a form of
58 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
improves things a little. But this is a bigger
mess than Linux distros.
5. Make Dead Products Public Domain
It’s ridiculous how much superb computer code and how many cool products
and inventions get shelved and die. Sometimes one company buys another and then
decides to stop marketing the acquired
product because it is not making enough
money. Users are left in the lurch. There
should be a proviso in the copyright and
patent laws about abandoned properties.
They should become public domain. I’ve
been harping on this for years.
6. AMD-Intel Merger
I’m sick of watching these two companies
bicker. Enough said.
7. Universal Ink Cartridges
Why does a single printer company have
a line of, say, 30 different printers that
use 20 different kinds of ink cartridges? I
could as easily complain about the price
of ink (another peeve of mine), but that
said, what is the point of all these different
cartridges? What’s weird about it is that
every company in the world constantly
moans and groans about having too many
SKUs. Meanwhile, this situation continues
unabated. We’re not talking about unique
cartridge mechanisms here; they’re mostly
just little tanks filled with ink.
8. Standard Cell Batteries
Digital cameras should use standard cells
so people could buy batteries in situations
where they cannot recharge. This change
would also get camera manufacturers
back into the business of making cameras
rather than making weird, overpriced proprietary batteries for profit. Companies
have to figure out if they are in the camera
business or the battery business.
9. Stop Outsourcing Everything
This issue has died down in the news lately,
but the problem is worse than ever. Intel
is dropping $2.5 billion into a fabrication
plant in China. Money is flowing into India
in much the same way—by the billions.
What about building a fab in Macon, Georgia, instead? And, yes, I understand all the
bogus arguments from the outsourcing
perspective. “Bogus” is the operative word.
10. Get Rid of DRM
There is more money being lost in digital
rights management schemes than any savings from thwarting piracy. I’m not convinced that piracy prevention is necessarily
that good an idea when the evidence continues to indicate that a more open market
for file sharing results in increased sales.
But everyone in Hollywood sees that seeming contradiction as a mere coincidence.
Honestly, I could pull together similar
lists of complaints week after week. This
is it—for now.
DVORAK LIVE ON THE WEB John’s Internet TV show airs every Wednesday at 3:30
EST on CrankyGeeks.com—and you can
download back episodes whenever you like.
Dvorak’s
InsideTrack
Another Bad Idea Bites the Dust Dept.: Palm wised up and
killed that Foleo micro laptop project. No one wants this form
factor. It began with the Gateway Handbook, deteriorated
into the Toshiba Libretto, then mutated into the OQO after
a few other exercises in futility. The Palm decision supposedly happened because Apple’s iPhone has challenged the
smartphone category, and Palm now wants to concentrate
on smartphones. Everyone wants to, despite the rather small
market. Microsoft even says it would seriously consider developing a Zune phone. I hope Microsoft calls it the PhoZune.
Get the URL now!
Numerous Zune fanboy sites (yes, they exist) have been
trying to guess at the name. Some ideas: the Z-phone, the Pune,
the Zell Phone, Telezune, MicroPhone (get
it?), Zobile, Zone, etc. Another guess from
me—and a likely candidate considering the
way things are going for Microsoft—the
Microsoft Zune Mobile Phone. The company
must be galled by the attention being paid
to Apple, considering that Microsoft has
been in the business for some time.
In the meantime, I got one of the rare (in
the U.S.) Neonode N2 smartphones from
Sweden. It plays movies, shows photos,
takes pictures, uses a touch screen, and does
much of what the iPhone does, in a package
the size of a pager. It hooks to a computer
and becomes a thumb drive so you can easily download WAV and MP3 files to use as ringtones. Why
can’t you do that with the iPhone? I’ll eventually post an elaborate review on www.dvorak.org/blog.
Never-Ending Stats Dept.: A site called W3Counter (www
.w3counter.com) tallied 33 million visits at over 5,000 Web sites
to develop some interesting stats people should know. The
most interesting by far is that very few people have jumped
on the Windows Vista bandwagon. (Duh!) The market share
for operating systems is still led by Windows XP, at 83.5 percent, followed by Windows 2000, with 3.9 percent. The Mac
OS comes in third, with 3.7 percent, followed by Vista, with
3.5 percent. Linux as a desktop OS is still moribund, at 1.3 percent, the same as the laggards such as Windows 98.
This does not bode well for Linux on the desktop. There
needs to be a rigid Linux standard or reference platform. Too
many people have too much gear that simply doesn’t work
with Linux; either no drivers exist or the gear is just incompatible. People do not want to put together an elaborate system
only to find that their printer doesn’t work or that their system
doesn’t recognize the hard drive. Some sort of seal of approval
list that covers the top 10 Linux distros and what works with
them should reside in one place. Right now this information is
scattered. It needs to be sensibly consolidated in one site with
someone handing out “Approved” stickers.
Of course, the likelihood of this happening is zilch, since
there are too many anarchists in the Linux community. Not
that that’s a bad thing.
Two other things in the survey worth noting: First, IE 6/7
has 66.2 percent of the market. Remarkable when you consider
that, at one time, Microsoft had nearly 100 percent. And Opera
is very low at 0.6 percent. This doesn’t sound right, and it tells
me that many of the smarter users take advantage of the Opera
option of pretending to be IE. This is so downloads and other
functions go smoothly at sites that refuse to accommodate
non-Microsoft browsers. Opera should have 2 to 5 percent market share, if not more. All those estimates would further reduce
the IE numbers. Most of the rest goes to Mozilla/Firefox.
In addition to browsers, the survey covered screen size. 1,024-by-768 is the winner,
at 49.5 percent. But only 8.3 percent of the
users run a smaller (800-by-600) size. All
the rest—over 42 percent—are bigger! So
people should get off the old 640-by-480
bandwagon for Web sites.
Digital Cameras Are Clicking Dept.: Many
interesting machinations are taking place in
the digital-camera arena, with pocket cameras moving to 12 megapixels. Kodak has two
models selling for less than $249. All sorts
of cool, subtle feature improvements are
showing up on the new offerings, at a great
low price. I am impressed with what Kodak
is doing. This new 12MP CCD (charge-coupled device) sensor
is the hot ticket. But Kodak and a few other companies are making noise about finally moving over to CMOS (complementary
metal-oxide semiconductor). Nikon just showed its new D3
full-frame 35mm D-SLR, and just like the Kodak, it uses a big
CMOS sensor. Its little brother, the D300, is also CMOS. So the
change first promised around 1997 is finally beginning. Ha!
Will the E-Book Rise Again? Dept: The e-book and e-book
reader have been nibbling at the collective unconscious for
years. But the promise has not been fulfilled, as users have not
warmed up to electronic reading devices. The Apple iPhone
may change that, with its sharp image and page-flipping
touch screen that adds needed tactility. Instead of iPhonecompatible e-books, though, expect more proprietary readers
and new incompatible formats.
That said, what happens if Apple decides to do an e-book
reader? It will take off and leave everyone in disbelief. Is it a
coincidence Apple took the iBook off the market but still has
the name in waiting? After all, the company needs more content to sell online, doesn’t it? It’s just too logical to ignore.
WANT MORE DVORAK? John writes a weekly column for our
Web site, too. Log on to go.pcmag.com/dvorak. Or you can e-mail
him at pcmag@dvorak.org.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 59
JIM LOUDERBACK
My Tech-Support Rant
Those T-Mobile support people are some
of the nicest folks around. Too bad they’re
so useless. Here’s my problem. I returned
from Europe with a snazzy new Windows
mobile phone available only on the Continent. No problem, as it works on AT&T
or T-Mobile’s GSM network here in the
States. I wanted to avoid AT&T’s iPhonesaturated network, which made T-Mobile
the obvious choice.
My wife’s already on T-Mobile with
a Sidekick II, so the family plan saves me
a few bucks. The bad news? Compared
with the Sidekick, I’ll be paying 50 percent
for free. But they’ll probably end up charging me double for all those service calls.
Foleo, We Hardly Knew Ye
I was crestfallen when I heard that Palm
cancelled its $500 Foleo just before launch.
Not because I had high hopes for this
tweener device, a halfling wedged between
notebooks and smartphones. Nope, I was
eagerly looking forward to buying a bunch
for $100 on Woot when they were finally
discontinued.
Palm did the smart thing, but why did it
try to buck history? Back in the mid-1990s,
It’s been weeks, and although my T-Mobile voice
service works beautifully, nary an Internet bit has
been delivered. My only hope is that I just might get
voice service for free.
more for unlimited Internet access on my
smartphone. And I had to sign a one-year
contract for the privilege of paying through
the nose for that service. But that’s all
beside the point, which was to rant about
T-Mobile’s emasculated support.
I already had a T-Mobile SIM card, so
the company activated my phone in minutes. But in trying to add unlimited Internet
service, I suffered through a steady progression of cheery reps, only to encounter
this Catch-22: Despite the fact that I could
make and receive calls, my SIM card number had been deactivated. “We’ll fix it,” they
each insisted, “within 24 to 48 hours. And
I’ll call you if there’s a problem.”
T-Mobile reps, apparently, live no longer than fruit flies. Every two-day period
came and went with no calls and no Internet access. It’s been weeks, and although
my voice service works beautifully, nary
an Internet bit has been delivered. My only
hope is that I just might get voice service
60 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
HP had high hopes for its Omnibook. Alas,
with anemic storage, poor graphics, and
Microsoft Office and Windows in ROM, it
failed to catch on. A few years later, Windows CE devices with full keyboards and 8inch screens debuted but suffered the cruel
death of a thousand compromises. And
don’t get me started on Magic Cap.
Some companies never learn. Microsoft, Samsung, and others have recently
been pushing their $1,000 Origami/UltraMobile PC tablet computers that run a baby
version of Windows. Woot and Origami
will shortly meet. At least Palm tried to get
a reasonable $500 price. But the Foleo was
still a halfling, neither fish nor fowl, neither
a full-featured notebook nor a pocket-size
smartphone.
Why launch a third device class that
has to be synchronized, supported, and
serviced? Hats off to Palm for realizing
that the Foleo’s portability and battery life
just weren’t compelling enough to justify
the price. My only question is why the
company entertained the notion in the
first place.
Beware Social Networks Bearing Gifts
Finally, a cautionary tale about the changing nature of spam. One of my coworkers,
a savvy Web professional we’ll call Rube,
unwittingly fell prey to an Internet scam.
He received an invitation from a new social
network, called Quechup, which sounded
promising. After filling out the requisite
personal information, the software asked
to check his contacts, to see if any of his
friends were already members. Rube proffered his Gmail username and password,
and then the unscrupulous program took
him to the cleaners. Without asking or telling, it stripped his contacts out of Gmail,
and then sent e-mails to every one of them,
inviting them to join Quechup and spoofing Rube’s e-mail address to make it look as
if he’d personally penned the message.
That’s wrong in so many ways. First,
Rube never should have given this program—no matter how trustworthy it
seemed—his Gmail username and password. But that minor error is dwarfed
by the outrageous and possibly criminal
audacity of Quechup’s snarfing his personal contacts and then spamming them as
if Rube had personally authorized the messages. I know, because I received an invite
from Rube and went through the same process, using a fake e-mail account to monitor
its behavior.
Quechup is the worst sort of malware
masquerading as a legitimate program. It
just goes to show you that even seemingly
legitimate Web businesses can’t be trusted.
So if you get a message from a friend inviting you to join something, be aware. It just
might be a scam. Rube won’t let it happen
again. And don’t you fall for it either.
KEEP IN TOUCH Contact Jim Louderback at
Jim_Louderback@ziffdavis.com. For more
columns: go.pcmag.com/louderback.
DAN COSTA
My Space Is Not Your Space
On campuses everywhere, Facebook is
bigger than binge drinking. That is a good
thing, but the company’s recent decision
to extend beyond colleges presents graduates with a problem potentially even more
destructive than underage drinking: overage Facebooking. Facebook’s beauty was
the community of like-minded users to
which it catered. Now, the company has
decided to expand its focus and invite
users of all ages to join the fray. Bad idea.
Facebook is killing the originality of its
community.
If Facebook wants to use its technology
to help people who aren’t college students
network, it should rebrand itself or even
launch a separate site. Perhaps to TheBig-
MySpace
(teens/young adults, 14 to 30 years old)
MySpace is the gateway social-networking service—there is nothing wrong with
passing through it, but make sure you get
to the other side. It’s garish, loud, and infinitely customizable. Almost everybody I
know, of every age, has a MySpace page.
Officially, you have to be 14 years old to
sign up, but my stepson signed up when he
was 11 and simply claimed to be 100 years
old. If you are older than 30, it is time to
move on. Leave the page up as a testament
to your youth, but it is time to put away
childish things.
There are two exceptions to this rule.
First, if you are a musician, a MySpace
Facebook decided to expand its focus and invite users
of all ages to join the fray. Bad idea. The company
is killing the originality of its community.
Chill.com? Maybe give users the option of
connecting across networks, the way The
Knot does for wedding planners. Once
married, they are dumped into The Nest.
I am not trying to keep the 50something, married software engineer
away from the 17-year old coed cheerleader majoring in Art History—although
maybe I should be. I simply believe there is
far more value for the people of the Facebook community if Facebook the company
continues to focus on the college students
who made it successful.
Social-networking sites want as many
people to sign up as possible, so they can
make the most money before they sell to
Google or Yahoo!. But that doesn’t mean
you should join. My advice is to follow a
few simple rules before you sign up for any
old network. Bear in mind, these aren’t the
companies’ stated rules—they are mine.
They tend to break down by age range.
62 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
page is job requirement. MySpace made
its bones helping bands connect with fans,
and it remains one of the best ways for
bands to reach fans. I would also make an
exception for political candidates, though
I don’t really believe Rudy Giuliani and
Hillary Clinton are staying up late updating their Top 8s. These Potemkin pages
may be a farce, but they’re still better than
having kids get all their political information from South Park.
Friendster
(old Friendster users, 25 to 35)
It isn’t that no one under 25 should have
a Friendster page; it’s just that no one
under 25 has one. The company claims to
have more than 48 million members, but
I bet most of those pages haven’t been
updated in a long time. Industry reports
claims page views are rising, but it seems
to me Facebook and MySpace are stealing
Friendster’s lunch—and eating it at the
cool kids’ table.
LinkedIn.com
(professionals, 22 to 80)
LinkedIn is designed for business networking and makes it pretty easy to connect to
your peers and keep your professional
history online. Just don’t try to use it for
romance. This is a place to do business.
eHarmony
(straight singles, 35 to 60)
After you put your single ways—or that
first marriage—behind you, this is the
place to go for romantic compatibility.
Unfortunately, the site doesn’t offer any
options for gay people. Founder Neil Clark
Warren says it is because he hasn’t done
enough research into same-sex relationships to provide accurate matches. Yahoo!
and Match.com will gladly fill in the gap.
aSmallWorld
(beautiful, rich, and powerful of any age)
For the most exclusive social network, you
can try to get into aSmallWorld. Whereas
most networking services want to do
everything to get you to sign up, aSmallWorld probably won’t let you pass the
home page. To join you have to be invited
by a trusted member. Once past the virtual
velvet rope, you are presumably treated to
pop-ups for high-end cognac and oceanfront real-estate in the Hamptons. I will
report back as soon as my invite arrives.
There is a community for everyone,
every reason, and every season online.
One giant, connected, indiscriminate network would look like, well, the Web. Sure,
online social networking is all the rage, but
you have to know your place. Just because
you get an invite doesn’t mean you should
accept it. Please network responsibly.
VOICE YOUR OPINION Debate Dan on this
topic at go.pcmag.com/costa.
SASCHA SEGAN
Less Anonymity, More Privacy
We need less anonymity on the Internet.
And we need more privacy. And the two
should go together.
The vast, lazy culture of message-board
anonymity is a perfect example of “slacktivism”—an easy but false solution to the
problem of our eroding right to true privacy, which will take real grit and courage
to solve.
Face it, all “anonymity” saves you from
is accountability before your peers. It lets
people release the worst in themselves
through trolling and online fraud, and
disconnects people from a reality where
you’re held responsible for the stupid
things you say. It dramatically lowers the
post on message boards just to inflame
passions, not to engage in genuine discussion. Wonder if they’d do that if their
names were attached? And the plague of
spam would certainly slow if rules requiring the authentication of e-mail senders
came into force.
Meanwhile, you may have a false anonymity, but you have no privacy—not
from Google’s database of Web searches,
private addresses, and phone numbers,
nor from goverment agencies’ searches of
your ISP’s records. False anonymity leads
to a complacency where we forget that we
don’t have privacy where it really counts—
because we’re able to act like idiots in front
“Anonymity” lets people release the worst in themselves
through trolling and online fraud, and disconnects
people from a reality where you’re held responsible for
the stupid things you say.
reliability of Internet communication, as
people can lie without real consequence.
It makes Internet-based activism a joke
when any online petition can be signed by
a thousand sock puppets. Internet users
need to face up to the 21st-century truth:
What’s online can’t be separated from “real
life.” It’s all real. It’s just life.
Losing the weak anonymity of handles
and the false differentiation between “reality” and “cyberspace” would stamp out all
sorts of worthless, childish behavior. Take
the jerk who has a second wife on Second Life, to the dismay of wife #1. There
is no “second life.” There’s only one life,
bigamist. Even Second Life the company
is starting to figure that out, demanding
identity verification to access some parts
of the service. Or take the loser who IM’d
me trying to impersonate a celebrity for
no apparent reason. Or all the folks who
of strangers who don’t matter. You may
think you can pretend to be somebody
else on the Internet, but the Department of
Homeland Security doesn’t see the distinction between you and your cyber-self.
Getting rid of the Internet’s lazy anonymity habits will actually aid the cause
of privacy, because it’ll finally bring the
issue of online privacy into the day-today world. Do you want to protect your
message-board postings from prying eyes?
Well, right now they can be probed by any
law-enforcement tyro with a grudge. Without the imaginary shield of weak anonymity, people will have the incentive to rise up
and demand some laws that would actually
protect privacy—against our peers, our
corporations, and our government. We can
have a real societal debate over what information should be public and when people
should be accountable. My vote: If I want
something I write not to be indexed and
not to be searchable, or if I want to delete
something I wrote anywhere, I should be
able to do so. With the duty of accountability should come the right to power over
your own words.
Real privacy would help the people
who actually need to be anonymous on the
Net: corporate whistle-blowers, teenagers
seeking advice from Planned Parenthood,
that sort of thing. Just as in the non-Net
world, there are limited situations where
people need to be anonymous. But we
should start from a presumption that people should be honest about who they are
unless they have a real need for anonymity.
Those who truly require it, the few Deep
Throats, are outnumbered by self-serving
agenda-pushers, cowards who don’t live
up to their words. Opinions worth having
are worth putting your name to. Do you
see people walking down the street in ski
masks and wigs to hide their identities and
calling themselves “xxLuvNKisses906xx?”
I don’t, and I live in New York City.
Or how about, let’s open a ghetto. If
people want to flame each other with
handles without a real reason for doing so,
they can do so on a limited set of message
boards, which will quickly devolve into
sludge. Perhaps each purveyor of message
boards can have one free-for-all forum
allowing that sort of nonsense. On the rest
of the Net, we’ll be grownups.
My proposal here applies only to the
U.S. and Canada. People who live under
more oppressive regimes can post all the
anonymous stuff they want; they have my
blessing. But we, luckily, live in a place
where the government and Web firms will
respond to the people, if the people get
angry enough. And if the people sign their
own names.
MORE SEGAN ONLINE Have a comment
on Sascha’s latest PC Labs-tested and rated
reviews of mobile gear at go.pcmag.com/
segan? Speak up, but use your real name.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 63
THE
ULTIMATE
PC
BUYING
GUIDE
It’s that time of the year again, when PC manufacturers roll out their
best and brightest systems for the holidays. If you’re planning on
buying a new system to start the next year right, or want to surprise
a loved one with a system of his or her dreams, you’ll find out what
you need to know right here. We have sifted through the coolest, the
fastest, and even the cheapest systems out there to bring you our picks
for the best PCs to buy. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate gaming rig, the best family system, the cheapest desktop, or the coolest
desktop-replacement laptop, we give you the must-have (and maybe
the must-avoid) systems. So sit back, relax, and find your ultimate PC.
By Joel Santo Domingo and Cisco Cheng
INSIDE
DESKTOPS Mainstream 66 | Business 67 | Budget 69 | Small-Form-Factor 69 | Gaming 70 | Media Centers 71
64 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Desktop Performance 73 | LAPTOPS Desktop-Replacement Laptops 75 | Tablet PCs 75 | Laptop Performance 76
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 65
Mainstream
Desktops
By Joel Santo Domingo
• Dell Inspiron 531 (Blu-ray)
Mainstream is a broad category. The newest mainstream systems we’ve seen cost
as little as $1,200 or as much as $3,000. If
you’re looking at a $500 PC, you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck
while holding your purse strings tight.
With a top-end PC, you’re looking for
something more specific, such as gaming
performance. A mainstream system falls
somewhere in between. I tend to define
mainstream desktops as those systems
you want to buy because you need more
features than you’d get with a simple $500
PC, or because your old PC is just too darn
slow. Two of the systems we review are
all-in-one PCs that combine the best parts
of notebook computers with the larger
screen and design presence of a desktop
built into a LCD panel. Meanwhile, the
towers are multimedia powerhouses, with
the expansion space, hard drive space, and
computing power you can’t find in a notebook (yet).
Apple iMac (20-inch, Aluminum)
$1,649 direct
llllh
• HP Pavilion Media Center TV m8100y PC
66 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Apple’s latest iMac continues the
design excellence that placed previous versions at the top of the
all-in-one PC heap. Improvements
include a new metal keyboard, a more ecofriendly aluminum-and-glass recyclable
exterior, and updates to the excellent iLife
08 software suite. Aside from its lack of TV
tuners of any kind (that’s what the iTunes
store is for), the new iMac is the epitome
of simple-to-use multimedia. The built-in
webcam, the ability to suck virtually any
digital media off your digital camera or
Business Desktops
Buying desktop PCs for your small
business can be more efficient than
getting laptops for all your workers. They are usually less expensive,
and they’re built on technologies
that won’t go obsolete as quickly as
mobile tech.—JSD
• Apple iMac (20-inch, Aluminum)
• Gateway DX440X
camcorder, and the iLife suite with which
to glom the resulting pictures, music, and
videos together mean that you have an
instant YouTube/Facebook/MySpace
machine that takes just minutes to set up.
To coin (steal) a phrase, this is the computer for the rest of us.
the Dell Inspiron 531 (Blu-ray), it rips one
out of the park with its larger hard drive,
built-in TV tuner, enhanced graphics
memory (though slower 3D graphics), a
bay for a (proprietary) multimedia drive
cartridge, and better overall performance. This is the one to get if you have
about $1,200 to $1,500 to spend. It’s also
a better bargain than the HP m8100y if
you don’t need HD-quality movie playback or burning.
Specs: 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor; 2GB, 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB,
7,200-rpm hard drive; 256MB ATI Radeon HD
2600 PRO graphics card; Mac OS X 10.4.
Dell Inspiron 531 (Blu-ray)
$1,129 direct; $1,409 with 20-inch LCD
widescreen monitor
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Dell’s Inspiron 531 (Blu-ray) is one of the
two bargains in this category, coming
in at under $1,200 without a monitor.
Though it has more computing power
than sub-$1,000 PCs do, it falls a step
behind the competition. Its Blu-ray drive
is read-only, but you can use it to watch
HD-quality movies. Other pluses include
Bluetooth, a USB multimedia keyboard,
and the recommended “No Additional
Software” option. Not a bad machine, but
the Gateway DX440X is a better value.
Specs: 2.6-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
Core 5000+ processor; 2GB, 667-MHz DDR2
SDRAM; 320GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; 256MB
ATI Radeon HD 2600XT graphics card; Windows Vista Home Premium.
Gateway DX440X
$1,108 direct; $1,268 with 19-inch LCD
widescreen monitor
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The Gateway DX440X is the best choice
here for the cash-strapped multimedia
enthusiast. For about the same price as
Specs: 2.4-GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor;
2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard
drive; 512MB nVidia GeForce 8500GT graphics
card; Windows Vista Home Premium.
• Dell Vostro 200
Dell Vostro 200
$899 direct
(E-Value Code: OC brde2ph)
lllhm
Dell has introduced a small business
desktop in the mold of the Inspiron consumer desktop. It’s a good choice for
business that doesn’t have IT staffers.
HP Compaq dx2300
$563 direct
lllhm
HP Pavilion Media Center
TV m8100y PC
$2,199 direct, $2,769 with 24-inch LCD
widescreen monitor
llllh
This fully loaded HP desktop
is the one with the most multimedia bells and whistles in the
group. These include a dualcore processor, full-size removable hard
drive bay, TV tuner, combo Blu-ray/HD
DVD burner (read-and-write Blu-ray,
CDs, and DVDs, read-only HD DVD),
wireless keyboard, mouse, and a multitude of input and output ports. With the
removable HP Personal Media Drives,
storage is convenient and limitless, so
your home videos and downloads have
a place to stay when you’re not actively
enjoying them. Performance was on a
par with that of the Gateway DX440X, so
go for the cheaper DX440X if you don’t
need or want Blu-ray and HD DVD in
one package. This is the one I would buy
if I were a budding filmmaker.
HP’s “budget” business desktop is
just enough for the clerical worker
in a medium-size business. It’s not a
powerhouse, but you’re not paying your
employees for ripping MP3s and working on YouTube videos, right?
HP rp5700
$1,299 direct
llllm
HP’s “long life” PC will be available
in its current configuration for the
next five years, whereas most business PCs top out at 18 months. This
reduces administration headaches
and IT costs. The system’s “green”
features are an added bonus.
Lenovo ThinkCentre M55e
$1,259 direct
llllm
The ThinkCentre line is no
stranger to the corporate
worker. ThinkVantage utilities,
including rescue and recovery
enterprise-class components, and a
good feature set make this smallform-factor PC a shoo-in for businesses of all sizes.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 67
• Sony VAIO VGC-LT19U
Specs: 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 250GB, 7,200-rpm
hard drive, 512MB nVidia GeForce 8500GT
graphics card; Windows Vista Home Premium.
Sony VAIO VGC-LT19U
$2,900 direct
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The VAIO VGC-LT19U is the PC to get if
you want to hide it in plain sight, in your
bedroom or front room perhaps. It can
be mounted on a wall or positioned in a
cabinet, and it looks just like an HDTV
set if you hide the (wireless) mouse and
keyboard. Too bad there’s a huge amount
of bloatware, and the price of the fully
loaded version is high. (A basic LT without tuners starts at $1,700.) An external
CableCARD tuner, a built-in webcam,
a glorious 22-inch widescreen, and an
HD-movie-friendly Blu-ray burner are
big pluses.
Specs: 2.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor; 2GB, 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 500GB,
7,200-rpm hard drive; 256MB nVidia GeForce
8400M GT graphics card; Windows Vista Ultimate.
• Velocity Micro Pro Magix
SLI (dual-card) graphics, the Pro Magix
yields the gaming and multimedia performance normally found in gaming rigs.
It also features two hard drives, one at
500GB and 7,200 rpm and the other at
150GB and 10,000 rpm. Both utilitarian
and a thing of beauty, the new case even
looks mean. The ProMagix is for the
speed freak or the well-heeled gaming
fan who wants to play at an impressive
number of frames per second but can’t
stomach the thought of a $6K+ bill.
Specs: 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (overclocked to 3.2 GHz); 2GB 800-MHz
DDR2 SDRAM; 150GB, 10,000-rpm hard drive,
and 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; two 320MB
EVGA nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics
cards (SLI); Windows Vista Home Premium.
How We Rate Desktops
The Design category takes into account aesthetics (which is admittedly subjective) and
also covers how well design elements function within a PC. We’re looking for systems that
use design intelligently to make the product better. Usability rates the functionality of
some design elements (for instance, how much sense the placement of the card reader
may make in ergonomic terms), but it also takes into account elements such as bloatware
(or lack thereof), environmental concerns such as noise, and expandability and upgrades.
The Features rating looks at components: hard drives, card readers, TV tuners, and the
like. We also considered system memory, the amount of hard drive space, and optical drive(s). Performance is pretty self-explanatory. The rating is based on the system’s
benchmark-test results. The Overall rating takes all the other ratings into consideration,
along with intangibles such as value for the dollar.
MAINSTREAM SCORECARD
DESIGN
USABILITY
FEATURES
PERFORMANCE
OVERALL
Apple iMac (20-inch, Aluminum)
lllll
lllll
llllm
lllmm
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Velocity Micro ProMagix
Dell Inspiron 531 (Blu-ray)
lllmm
lllhm
llllm
lllmm
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$2,926 direct; $3,295 with 22-inch LCD
widescreen monitor
Gateway DX440X
lllmm
lllmm
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HP Pavilion m8100y
lllhm
lllhm
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Performance and more performance:
That’s what the ProMagix gets you. With
an overclocked quad-core processor and
Sony VAIO VGC-LT19U
llllh
lllll
llllh
lllmm
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Velocity Micro ProMagix
lllhm
lllhm
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68 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMER 6, 2007
The best possible rating is 5.
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
Small-FormFactor Desktops
Like cell phones and the cars on the
road, desktop PCs are shrinking in
size as never before. The combination of laptop processors, integrated
components, and decent-size hard
drives means that these little wonders can do most, if not all, of the
tasks that your old tower PC could
do—and more.—JSD
• Compaq Presario SR5130NX
Budget Desktops
By Joel Santo Domingo
Six years ago, we stated that you weren’t
really getting such a bargain if you paid
only $500 for a PC, but that’s changed.
These days, you can buy a system with
1GB or 2GB of RAM, a speedy dual-core
processor, and over 160GB of drive space
for less than $500. These specs make these
systems more than capable of running
Windows Vista, collecting your digital
photos and music, and helping you enjoy
them in the comfort of your home-office
chair. The sweet spot for Windows Vista
is 2GB because it gives the operating system some breathing room if you’re the
type who keeps a lot of windows open at
the same time. Look for at least that much
memory in your next PC. If you’ve gotten
steamed staring at the hourglass while
waiting for your PC to do something, you
know what I mean. The following PCs
have what it takes to manage your digital
life while giving you a portal to the Web, all
without emptying your wallet.
Acer Aspire T180
$379 direct
Specs: 2.4-GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+ processor; 1GB, 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 160GB,
7,200-rpm hard drive; 256MB integrated nVidia
GeForce 6100 graphics; Windows Vista Home
Basic.
Compaq Presario SR5130NX
$480 direct
lllmm
The Compaq Presario SR5130NX is a
cheap PC for the growing media enthusiast. It’s glossy black with silver highlights and comes with Vista Home Premium, an AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core
3800+ processor, and a DVD burner that
lets you burn labels onto LightScribe
discs. Performance was good, albeit
middle-of-the-pack. Drawbacks include
a short Norton Internet Security subscription (60 days) and a lot of bloatware. Still, there’s a lot to like here for
the majority of users.
Specs: 2-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor; 1GB, 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 200GB,
7,200-rpm hard drive; 128MB integrated nVidia
GeForce 6150SE graphics; Windows Vista Home
Premium.
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The Acer Aspire T180 is hobbled by its
single-core Athlon processor. It placed
last on our multimedia tests, so I can
recommend it only for light use and Web
browsing. Still, on the plus side, it comes
with 90 days of Norton AntiVirus, and
it’s bloatware-free. It also has the most
internal tool-less expansion space. The
Aspire is one of the more stylish value
PCs, and it is the least expensive desktop in our lineup. That said, the other
choices here are a lot more computer for
not a lot more money.
• enano e2 model ex7400u
Acer Aspire L310
$849 direct
lllhm
The Acer Aspire L310 is a really small
PC, and its design is as attractive as that
of the Apple Mac mini. This is a terrific
Windows-based alternative to the mini,
and it comes with hardly any bloatware.
Apple Mac mini
$874 direct
lllmm
The Apple Mac mini is a success story
in the small-form-factor arena. It has
a minimalist design, with a capable
processor and wireless networking
(including 802.11n and Bluetooth). You
probably won’t miss its limited expandability if saving space is your aim.
enano e2 model ex7400u
$1,825 direct
llhmm
Though the ex7400u model I reviewed
is a bit overpriced, enano’s core product
(and lower-priced configurations) is
sound. It’s a small PC with power and
multimedia capabilities. It also has a
green “hook”: energy efficiency, Energy
Star certification, and fewer hazardous
materials used in its construction.
HP Slimline Pavilion S3020n
$580 direct
llllm
• Dell Inspiron 531s
There may soon be a new version in this
series, but it should be as capable as
the S3020n. The Slimline trades a little
space (it’s bigger than the other smallsize systems here) for a lot of capability
(desktop-class hard drives and the HP
Pocket Media Drive bay).
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 69
• Systemax Venture E21
Gaming
Desktops
• Acer Aspire T180
By Joel Santo Domingo
Dell Inspiron 531s
$499 direct (E-value code: DDPMGX1)
l l l l m
The slim, stylish Inspiron 531s
uses a small-form-factor chassis to save desk space. The 531s’s
pluses include good-to-great performance numbers for a value PC, thanks
to its ATI Radeon HD 2400 discrete
graphics card. The 531s also has 2GB of
memory, one of only two value PCs that
we feature here to do so. Dell now gives
you a “No Additional Software” option
to avoid bloatware. About the only nits
to pick are the choice of Vista Home
Basic, the short (30-day) McAfee freetrial subscription, and the lack of a DVD
burner. Otherwise, the 531s represents
the best overall value here.
Specs: 2.1-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ processor; 2GB, 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 160GB,
7,200-rpm hard drive; 256MB ATI Radeon HD
2400 graphics card; Vista Home Basic.
eMachines T5234
$499 direct
l l l h m
The eMachines T5234’s performance
numbers are almost a mirror of the sim-
ilarly equipped Compaq’s. It has the
advantage of a longer (90-day) McAfee
Internet security suite subscription.
The amount of bloatware is a downside.
Media enthusiasts and general users will
like this Vista Home Premium–equipped
budget desktop.
Specs: 2.1-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ processor; 1GB 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB,
7,200-rpm SATA hard drive; 128MB integrated
nVidia GeForce 6150SE graphics; Windows
Vista Home Premium.
Systemax Venture E21
$499 direct
lllhm
The Venture E21’s drab case holds the
heart of a lion, with an Intel Core 2
Duo CPU and 2GB of system memory.
It aced the photo-editing test and also
placed first on our Windows Media test.
Another plus is a year’s subscription to
CA eTrust Anti-Virus. Though the system is otherwise lackluster, you can’t argue with its performance numbers.
Specs: 1.8-GHz Pentium E2160 processor; 2GB,
533-MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 250GB, 7,200-rpm
hard drive; 224MB integrated Intel GMA950
graphics; Windows Vista Home Premium.
BUDGET SCORECARD
DESIGN
USABILITY
FEATURES
PERFORMANCE
OVERALL
Acer Aspire T180
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llmmm
llhmm
Compaq Presario SR5130NX
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lllmm
lllmm
Dell Inspiron 531s
l l l h m
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lllhm
llllm
eMachines T5234
l l l m m
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lllmm
lllhm
Systemax Venture E21
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lllhm
lllhm
The best possible rating is 5.
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
70 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
The ultimate gaming PC used to be solely
about benchmark numbers. Now, nearly
all the system builders overclock, and
since they get their components from the
same sources (Intel, AMD, ATI, nVidia),
it is no wonder that these systems rack
up similar benchmark scores. All seven of
this year’s competitors use the same quadcore overclockable processor: the Intel
Core 2 Extreme QX6850. The differences
are in the features and execution. The HP
Blackbird 002’s efficiency, cooling, performance, serviceability, and good looks raise
the bar way above the competition’s reach.
New tech, like solid-state drives in the
Falcon Northwest Mach V, increases the
appeal of crazy-expensive systems. There
are also a couple of Blu-ray and HD DVD
drives in the mix. Gaming is not just about
the benchmark drag races anymore; you
have to make the system drool-worthy yet
packed with useful extras.
ABS Ultimate X Magnum
$6,399 direct
lllhm
Though the ABS Ultimate X Magnum is
water-cooled, it’s noisy. The din from the
cooling fans drowns out all other sounds in
the room. Good thing it does perform, with
very-good-to-excellent scores all around
in multimedia and 3D. The ABS proves it
can play with the big boys and is worthy of
consideration.
Specs: 3.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
(overclocked to 3.33 GHz); 4GB DDR3 SDRAM;
four 150GB, 10,000-rpm SATA hard drives
(RAID 0); one 750GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard
drive; two 1GB ATI Radeon HD 2900XT graphics cards (CrossFire); Windows Vista Ultimate.
Media Centers
Not long ago, a Media Center was
any system running Windows Media
Center Edition. When Microsoft built
MCE into the Vista Premium and Ultimate versions, the stakes got higher.
Digital Cable Tuner and copious storage rule the day now.—JSD
• Dell XPS 720 H2C
• HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC
HP Pavilion a6130n
$750 direct
llllm
The a6130n has expandable disk
storage through the innovative
HP Pocket Media Bay drive. It has
integrated graphics, so it lacks
3D chops, but it’s powerful enough to
handle all your digital life.
HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC
$1,800 direct
llllm
The TouchSmart succeeds where
previous all-in-one PCs have tried
and failed. It has a touch-screen
interface that works. It could use
a speed bump and an HD DVD drive, but
this all-in-one is a perfect TV/DVR/family
communications center/kitchen PC.
Velocity Micro CineMagix
Grand Theater
$3,699 direct
lllmm
The Grand Theater does something that
even a $5K+ gaming rig can’t: It replaces
your TiVo, recording HDTV over cable,
even the premium channels. It does all
this while looking like a piece of stereo
equipment, unlike the gaming PCs.
• HP Blackbird 002
Dell XPS 720 H2C
$7,756 direct; $8,955 w/27-inch widescreen
l l l h m
Dell’s latest gaming PC is still in the old
XPS 700 case, but now it has a new, optional
window to show off the thermoelectric
cooler. The exterior design is still love-itor-hate-it, but the internals—including a
1TB hard drive and 4GB of memory—are
sound. This is the performance gaming
system for those who can handle Dell’s
quirky take on upgrades: Components
such as the power supply, motherboard,
and sound card are often Dell-specific.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
(overclocked to 3.67 GHz); 4GB, 1,066-MHz
DDR2 SDRAM; two 160GB 10,000-rpm SATA
hard drives ( RAID 0); one 1TB 7,200-rpm hard
drive, two 768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra
graphics cards (SLI); Windows Vista Ultimate.
Velocity Micro Vector GX
Campus Edition 2007
$999 direct
llllm
It may have “Campus Edition” in its
name, but this is a system for the
budding director in your family. Its
overclocked processor gives it the
legs it needs to keep up with the latest
Internet trends, including helping you
express your creativity on the Web.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 71
• ABS Ultimate X Magnum
• Falcon Northwest Mach V (8800 Ultra SLI)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
(8800 Ultra SLI)
$10,995 direct
l l l l m
Falcon’s latest Mach V, now with two
nVidia GeForce 800 Ultra graphics cards
in an SLI configuration, is as much of a
speed demon as the car that inspired its
optional ($710) “BMW Montego Blue”
paint job. It comes with an Intel Core 2
Duo Extreme QX6850 CPU overclocked to
3.9 GHz. This, along with the pair of nVidia
GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics cards, helped
it to beat the competition on several of our
benchmark tests. Its solid-state hard drives
boost the cost, but boot-up and program
launches are near-instantaneous. This one
is for the exotic technology fan for whom
cost is really, really no object.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
(overclocked to 3.9 GHz); 4GB, 800-MHz DDR2
SDRAM; two 32GB solid-state drives (RAID
0); one 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; two 768MB
nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics cards
(SLI ); Windows Vista Ultimate.
HP Blackbird 002
$5,400 direct
lllll
The Blackbird comes from a huge
system manufacturer, but its internals are from a so-called boutique
builder. It has “Voodoo DNA,”
which means that its parts have been handpicked by the overclocking experts from
Voodoo PC. The Blackbird’s case is mostly
a machined block of solid metal, with a
good heft and feel. Its design sets it apart—
it looks like nothing else in the world, inside
GAMING SCORECARD
and out. The system’s “foot” helps stand
the system above the rest, literally as well
as figuratively, while providing increased
airflow to the components inside. In addition to the CPU’s liquid cooling system,
internal features include separate and
innovative Voodoo-style wind tunnels that
blow air over the graphics cards. Tool-less
hard drive caddies enable easy upgrades. I
love the Blackbird’s swinging chassis door
that lets you into the case with one finger.
The Blackbird is competitive, though not
the fastest on the benchmark tests. Still, it’s
a system well worth showing off. It’s the
one I want.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor (overclocked to 3.67 GHz); 2GB, 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 160GB, 7,200-rpm hard
drive; 320GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive; two
1GB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics cards
(CrossFire); Windows Vista Ultimate.
Overdrive PC Core2.SLI
DESIGN
USABILITY
FEATURES
PERFORMANCE
OVERALL
ABS Ultimate X Magnum
l l h m m
l l h m m
l l l l m
llllh
lllhm
llllm
Dell XPS 720 H2C
l l l h m
l l l l m
l l l l h
llllm
lllhm
Falcon Northwest Mach V (8800)
l l l h m
l l l l m
l l l l l
llllh
llllm
HP Blackbird 002
l l l l l
l l l l h
l l l l h
llllm
lllll
Overdrive PC Core2.SLI
l l l m m
l l l m m
l l l l h
llllh
llllm
Polywell P3503
l l m m m
l l m m m
l l l l m
lllhm
llhmm
Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge PCX
l l l m m
l l l l m
l l l l m
llllm
llllm
The Overdrive PC Core2.SLI, along with
its stablemate, the Velocity Micro Gamers’
Edge PCX, is unique among these gaming
rigs in that it is air-cooled yet overclocked
for performance (the other systems went
with sealed water or liquid cooling for their
CPUs). This 4.0-GHz overclocked system
won top scores on several of our gaming K
The best possible rating is 5.
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
72 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
$7,190 direct
Desktop Performance: What the Numbers Mean
Whether they’re PCs under $500, mainstream systems, or
obscenely monstrous gaming machines that cost as much as a
car, the newest desktops share some common themes: dual- and
quad-core processors, discrete dual graphics cards, and beefedup memory. Although the performance of the budget and mainstream systems was pretty much what we expected, things were
a little more complicated with the gaming rigs.
In the budget desktop category, it’s easy to see why the
performance leaders are the Dell Inspiron 531s and the Systemax
Venture E21. Both have dual-core processors and 2GB of RAM.
The other systems came with 1GB of memory, which hurt their
Adobe Photoshop scores. Notably, the Acer Aspire T180 we
tested had a single-core Athlon 3800+, so though that system
had the highest clock speed here, it was the worst performer.
(Think of it as two slower people performing a shared task faster
than one quick person.) The Venture E21 beat out the Inspiron
531s on Photoshop partly because of its Intel Pentium E2160
processor: Photoshop has Intel-based optimizations that make
Intel CPUs a better choice for photo editing.
With the mainstream systems, we saw that more horsepower
means better performance. The Velocity Micro ProMagix, with
its overclocked Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (3.24 GHz,
up from the stock 2.4 GHz) and two nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
graphics cards, ran away with wins across the gamut of benchmark tests. On 3DMark06, it scored 15,000 points when the
others were all in the 2,400-to-4,700 range. The other systems
MAINSTREAM AND BUDGET TESTS
aren’t too shabby, though, if 3D gaming isn’t your main concern.
The Gateway DX440X and HP Pavilion m8100y both use a stockclocked version of the Q6600 quad-core processor, and both
have single GeForce 8500GT graphics cards. The DX440X and
m8100y are excellent-performing multimedia systems. You just
have to decide if the HP’s extra features—such as HD DVD/Bluray and the removable drive—are worth the extra expense.
The two all-in-one PCs, the Apple iMac (20-inch, Aluminum)
and the Sony VAIO VGC-LT19U, both use notebook-class components to help with power and heat issues, but both are still competitive. You don’t pay (too much) in performance for their sleek
bodies, which is a vast improvement over notebook-componentbased desktops of the past (Compaq iPaq PC, anyone?).
Things are less clear-cut on the high-end systems. Five out
of our seven gaming PCs placed first on at least one of the
benchmark tests, including the various subsets in SYSmark 2007
Preview. It is perhaps notable that the Editors’ Choice HP Blackbird 002 did not place first on any of those tests, though it was
within a few percentage points of the winner or slower by only
a couple of seconds on many of them.
The 3D tests were dominated by systems running dual-card
nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra SLI graphics (specifically, the Overdrive PC Core 2.SLI and Falcon NW Mach V). The dual-card ATI
Radeon HD 2900XT Crossfire graphics in the ABS Ultimate X
Magnum and HP Blackbird 002 were smooth and stutter-free,
but the 8800 Ultra SLI systems won the races. Interestingly, K
0:58
745
102
95
4,767
1:26
1:08
721
152
142
138
2,442
0:59
0:44
1,262
129
126
144
131
2,409
0:59
0:44
1,266
92
90
131
124
108
2,604
1:22
0:59
672
320MB nVidia GeForce
8800GTS (SLI)
179
195
217
187
194
15,338
0:47
0:37
1,749
AMD Athlon 64 3800+
(2.4 GHz)
256MB (integrated) nVidia
GeForce 6100
48
36
56
77
52
217
2:45
5:21
5:21
Compaq Presario
SR5130NX
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+
(2.0 GHz)
128MB (integrated) nVidia
GeForce 6150SE
55
45
53
84
58
247
1:48
4:37
4:37
Dell Inspiron 531s
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
(2.11 GHz)
256MB ATI Radeon HD
2400
76
52
82
86
73
1,222
1:44
2:14
2:14
eMachines T5234
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
(2.1 GHz)
128MB (integrated) nVidia
GeForce 6150SE
56
49
58
85
60
265
1:51
4:59
4:59
Systemax Venture E21
Intel Core 2 Duo E2160
(1.8 GHz)
224MB (integrated) Intel
GMA 950
70
80
83
86
80
232
1:41
1:08
1:08
N/A
N/A
N/A
Dell Inspiron 531
(Blu-ray)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
Core 5000+ (2.6 GHz)
256MB ATI Radeon HD
2600XT
84
104
91
Gateway DX440X
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
(2.4 GHz)
512MB nVidia GeForce
8500GT
123
135
HP Pavilion m8100y
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
(2.4 GHz)
512MB nVidia GeForce
8500GT
127
Sony VAIO VGC-LT19U
Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
(2.2 GHz)
256MB (Integrated) nVidia
GeForce 8400M GT
Velocity Micro
ProMagix
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
(2.4 GHz @ 3.24 GHz)
Acer Aspire T180
CINEBENCH 9.5 †
1:16
256MB ATI Radeon HD
2600 PRO
min:sec
3,784
Intel Core 2 Duo T7700
(2.4 GHz)
M Low scores are best.
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
PHOTOSHOP CS2
ACTION SET
N/A
Apple iMac (20-inch,
Aluminum)
L High scores are best.
3DMARK06
min:sec
N/A
OFFICE
PRODUCTIVITY
Default
GRAPHICS CHIPSET
VIDEO
CREATION
1,280 x 1,024
AA/AF*
PROCESSOR
ELECTRONIC
LEARNING
RESOLUTION
WINDOWS MEDIA
ENCODER
MULTIMEDIA M
OVERALL
3D L
3D MODELING
SYSMARK 2007 PREVIEW L
MAINSTREAM
BUDGET
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
* Anti-aliasing/anisotropic filtering.
N/A—Not applicable: The product could not complete the test.
†On Cinebench 9.5 high scores are best.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 73
GAMING TESTS
into class-leading performance, and it allowed the ABS and
Polywell systems to outperform PCs with higher-clocked processors. The gap isn’t huge—only a couple of seconds on a test
that these machines finish in less than 30 seconds—but it is still
significant, since DDR3 is forward-looking technology. Mainstream systems and budget systems will take from 1 minute to
as many as 5 minutes on the same Photoshop test.
So we see that quad-core rules the game grid, along with
dual-card graphics. But you can certainly get a system with multimedia performance in the mainstream $1,000-to-$2,000 space,
and if you choose wisely, even in the $500 space. It’s all a matter
of how much coin you want to trade for your time waiting for
things to happen on your PC.—JSD
220
10,907
100
83
0:40
0:22
202
208
14,979
109
118
0:42
0:25
200
225
219
14,273
133
126
0:42
0:25
159
52
209
134
11,303
115
92
0:42
0:30
209
188
254
210
214
13,635
127
156
0:46
0:31
768MB nVidia GeForce
8800 Ultra
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
8,745
74
65
0:40
0:25
786MB nVidia GeForce
8800 GTX (SLI)
198
213
234
208
208
13,452
109
137
0:43
0:28
1GB ATI Radeon HD
2900 XT (CrossFire)
194
249
230
Dell XPS 720 H2C
3.0 GHz @
3.67 GHz
768MB nVidia GeForce
8800 Ultra (SLI)
185
229
220
Falcon Northwest Mach
V (8800 Ultra SLI)
3.0 GHz @
3.9 GHz
768MB nVidia GeForce
8800 Ultra (SLI)
217
235
HP Blackbird 002
3.0 GHz @
3.67 GHz
1GB ATI Radeon HD
2900 XT (CrossFire)
187
Overdrive PC Core2.SLI
3.0 GHz @
4.0 GHz
768MB nVidia GeForce
8800 Ultra (SLI)
Polywell P3503
3.0 GHz
Velocity Micro Gamer's
Edge
3.0 GHz @
3.67 GHz
* Anti-aliasing/anisotropic filtering.
N/A—Not applicable: The product could not complete the test.
tests and was competitive on the others.
I just wish its dozen-plus fans weren’t so
loud. This is the one you want if you’re
looking to win the benchmark drag races.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor (overclocked to 4 GHz); 2GB, 800-MHz
DDR2 SDRAM; 150GB, 10,000-rpm SATA hard
drive, 750GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive; two
768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics
cards (SLI); Windows Vista Home Premium.
Polywell P3503
$4,559 direct
and it didn’t even finish the SYSmark 2007
Preview tests. It had problems, including
crashes. The P3503’s so-so build quality
didn’t help its overall score. While its price
tag is low for a high-end gaming box, alas,
in the high-tech gaming stratosphere, you
get what you pay for.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor; 4GB, 1,600-MHz DDR3 SDRAM; two
74GB, 10,000-rpm SATA hard drives (RAID 0),
two 500GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard drives (RAID
0); 768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics
card; Windows Vista Ultimate.
l l h m m
The Polywell P3503 is the one system here
that runs the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
CPU at its normal 3.0-GHz clock speed.
Although it came in first on the Windows
Encoder test (finishing in 40 seconds), it
was last on many of our benchmark tests,
74 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
PHOTOSHOP
CS2 ACTION SET
WINDOWS MEDIA
ENCODER
209
3.0 GHz @
3.33 GHz
COMPANY
OF HEROES
min:sec
0X/0X
OFFICE
PRODUCTIVITY
2,560 x 1,600
High
VIDEO
CREATION
2,560 x 1,600
0X/8X
ELECTRONIC
LEARNING
OVERALL
PREY
2,560 x 1,600
ABS Ultimate X
Magnum
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
3DMARK06
MULTIMEDIA M
AA/AF*
GRAPHICS CHIPSET
M Low scores are best.
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
GAMING (FPS) L
RESOLUTION
INTEL CORE
2 EXTREME
QX6850
PROCESSOR
L High scores are best.
3D L
3D MODELING
SYSMARK 2007 PREVIEW L
min:sec
the Polywell P3503, the lone system with only one nVidia
GeForce 8800 Ultra card, still returned smooth, stutter-free
results at 2,560-by-1,600 resolution on both Prey and Company
of Heroes gaming tests. This is the raison d’etre for gaming PCs:
You pay major bank for smooth game play, even with all the eye
candy turned on.
Another new technology we saw was DDR3 SDSRAM. The
ABS Ultimate X Magnum and the Polywell P3503 are the first
systems we’ve tested that have it. Both were the fastest or
among the fastest on the memory-intensive Windows Media
Encoder and Photoshop tests. Theoretically, DDR3-1,600 MHz
has a peak transfer rate of 12.8 gigabytes per second versus
6.4 GBps for DDR2-800 MHz. This extra bandwidth translates
Velocity Micro Gamers’ Edge PCX
$5,126 direct
llllm
The Gamers’ Edge capitalizes on the
bang-for-the-buck quotient. It’s not the
fastest here, though it comes close on
several benchmark tests. It’s not the prettiest, though it is attractive, with a full
complement of internal lights to show
off the neat wiring inside. It’s not the best
equipped, but it is loaded. It offers two
DVD burners, 10 USB 2.0 ports, and Creative Labs’ X-Fi Extreme Gamer’s card
and 5.1 surround speakers. And its price is
among the more manageable (that is, for
the $5K+ club). The Velocity Micro Gamers’ Edge PCX makes its case as a highperforming gaming desktop with great
value for the money.
Specs: 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
processor (overclocked to 3.67 GHz); 2GB, 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 150GB, 10,000-rpm SATA
hard drive, 750GB, 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive;
two 768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards (SLI) configuration; Windows Vista
Home Premium.
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Tablet PCs
The concept behind a convertible
tablet PC is simple. Flip it open and
it looks and functions like a regular
laptop. Rotate the laptop screen
180 degrees, however, and suddenly
you can apply the digital pen to the
screen as you would pen to paper.
The trick is to find the best combination of power and features. And we,
as always, are here to help.—CC
DesktopReplacement
Laptops
• Acer Aspire 5920G
By Cisco Cheng
Despite its name, the desktop-replacement
laptop has evolved into something more
than just a portable version of a desktop.
Thanks to shrinking components, you
can now find a 17-inch widescreen desktop replacement that’s under 8 pounds.
The heavier ones will pack in more power,
multiple drives, more storage capacity, and
cool media features. Most offer options
for either a Blu-ray or an HD DVD drive.
They’ll feature high-resolution screens,
as well as integrated webcams, wireless
remotes, and cellular modems. Thinner
bodies, fancier metals, cool finishes, and
LED effects are just some of the things
being done to heighten their appeal. All of
these extras come at a cost, so be prepared
to spend at least $2,000 on one of these.
Acer Aspire 5920G
rock. Inside you’ll find a pretty 15.4-inch
widescreen and a built-in HD DVD-ROM,
running off the latest Intel components and
powerful nVidia graphics.
Specs: 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 200GB, 5,400-rpm
hard drive; 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M GT
graphics card; 15.4-inch 1,280-by-800 screen;
Windows Vista Home Ultimate.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch
(Intel Core 2 Duo T7700)
$3,799 direct
llllm
The MacBook Pro has added to its fabulous 1-inch-thick body and 17 inches’ worth
of widescreen goodness a whole new set of
Intel components, faster graphics, and bigger hard drives. With all that, it retains its
claim to fame as the thinnest and lightest
17-inch laptop on the market.
$1,999 list
l l l l m
Acer calls its new Aspire a Gemstone, and
we agree: It’s a gem. The cover is edged with
a piano-black finish reminiscent of a shiny
Specs: 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor; 3GB DDR2 SDRAM; 160GB, 7,200-rpm
hard drive; 512MB nVidia GeForce 8600M GT
graphics card; 17-inch, 1,920-by-1,200 screen;
Mac OS 10.4.9.
• Gateway M285-E
Fujitsu LifeBook T4210 Tablet PC
$2,349 direct
llllm
This full-featured convertible tablet
integrates a DVD burner and standardvoltage processing parts. The built-in
security features and the lightweight
chassis make it a great choice for
professionals on the move.
Gateway M285-E
$1,843 direct
lllhm
The M285-E is one of the few
convertible tablets that give you
enough screen real estate (14 inches)
and powerful discrete graphics to take
your 3D drawings to another level.
Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet
$2,299 direct
llllh
What’s not to love about this
sturdy convertible tablet? Along
with its magnesium-alloy housing,
the superior keyboard, great
battery life, and ubiquitous wireless
options are a boon for tablet lovers.
Toshiba Portégé R400-S4931
$2,599 direct
llllm
• Sony VAIO VGN-AR590E
• HP Pavilion dv9500t
The R400 is super-lightweight and
sports a sexy, white piano finish. We
also love the fact that it has a Verizon
EV-DO modem built into its 3.7-pound
frame.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 75
Laptop Performance: What the Numbers Mean
LAPTOP TESTS
as graphics-heavy software. Thanks to SLI graphics and a super
processor, the Dell M1730 reigns supreme in the gaming arena.
The Gateway M-150X, the only laptop to use an ATI graphics
chipset, didn’t fare as well as its counterparts with nVidia cards.
The nVidia GeForce 8600M GT was the graphics card of choice
among three of our desktop replacements, the Acer Aspire
5920G, the MacBook Pro 17-inch, and the Sony VAIO VGNAR590E. The MacBook Pro scored significantly better than the
Sony and Acer laptops on 3DMark06 at 1,024-by-768 resolution,
most likely because processor and hard drive speeds come into
play at low resolutions. The HP Pavilion dv9500t, with its lowergrade nVidia GeForce 8600M GS card, placed low on our 3D and
gaming tests. (Because Toshiba uses a weaker integrated graphics chipset that couldn’t be expected to handle the gaming tests,
we didn’t run them on the P205-S6237.)
This story also introduces BAPCo’s latest battery metric:
MobileMark 2007. Desktop-replacement laptops aren’t known
for their long-lasting batteries. However, the HP Pavilion
dv9500t and the Acer Aspire 5920G managed over 3 hours of
battery life, thanks to a combination of 70+ Wh batteries and
cooler-running components.—CC
WINDOWS MEDIA
ENCODER
N/A
N/A
3,048
35.4
17.6
1:29
1:07
131
115
2,829
25.1
13.3
1:20
1:07
162
147
138
6,016
50.7
28.1
1:08
0:43
79
127
114
106
1,350
22.3
11.7
1:28
1:11
111
84
106
118
104
1,970
20
9.7
1:25
1:17
1:47
102
93
125
110
107
2,613
23.5
8.6
1:32
0:59
2:10
53
59
52
83
61
N/A
N/A
N/A
2:07
2:04
ELECTRONIC
LEARNING
VIDEO
CREATION
OFFICE
PRODUCTIVITY
N/A
N/A
N/A
Apple MacBook Pro
17-inch
T7700
(2.4 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
8600M GT
2:43
123
97
112
Dell XPS M1730
X7900 Extreme
(2.8 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
8700M GT
1:26
130
117
Gateway M-150X
T7300
(2.0 GHz)
ATI Mobility Radeon
HD 2400XT
2:19
111
HP Pavilion dv9500t
T7500
(2.2 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
8600M GS
3:10
Sony VAIO VGNAR590E
T7300
(2.0 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
8600M GT
Toshiba Satellite
P205-S6237
T2080
(1.73 GHz)
Intel Graphics Media
Accelerator 950
† High quality.
Dell XPS M1730
Price: $4,024 direct
l l l l h
What do you get when you combine
the fastest laptop parts with the
most mind-blowing LED effects?
You get the best gaming laptop
known to man. The Dell XPS M1730 is a
rare breed, integrating an Intel Core 2 Duo
Extreme processor, an Ageia physics card,
and some of the most masterfully crafted
color-shifting lights available on a laptop.
76 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
hr:min L
3:21
PHOTOSHOP CS2
ACTION SET
0X/4X
min:sec
OVERALL
Native
MOBILEMARK
2007
Native †
0X/4X
Acer Aspire 5920G
* Anti-aliasing/anisotropic filtering.
COMPANY
OF HEROES
Native
nVidia GeForce
8600M GT
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
PREY
0X/4X
T7300
(2.0 GHz)
Bold type denotes fi rst place.
3DMARK06
MULTIMEDIA M
AA/AF*
GRAPHICS CHIPSET
M Low scores are best.
GAMING (FPS) L
RESOLUTION
INTEL CORE
2 DUO
PROCESSOR
L High scores are best.
3D L
3D MODELING
SYSMARK 2007 PREVIEW L
min:sec
It’s natural to expect desktop-like performance numbers from
desktop replacement laptops, and these systems do not disappoint. With Intel dual-core CPUs and discrete graphics, we’re
seeing performance that could have given some of last year’s
desktops a run for their money.
On SYSmark 2007 Preview tests, the Dell XPS 1730 stood
out from the rest of the pack. This pricey gaming system, with
a 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900 Extreme CPU and an nVidia
GeForce 8700M GT graphics card, had SYSmark Overall scores
that were at least 20 percent faster than its closest competitor, the Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch (Core 2 Duo T7700). And
because video-encoding tests rely heavily on the processor,
it’s no surprise that the Dell XPS M1730 eclipsed the rest of the
competition on the multimedia tests.
With the exception of the Toshiba Satellite P205-S6237, every
system in this lineup had at least 2GB of RAM, which plays a
huge role in SYSmark and Photoshop scores. The MacBook Pro
17-inch deserves honorable mention for finishing second in our
video-encoding tests with its 2.4-GHz T7700 processor.
The discrete graphics cards, increasingly common in desktop
replacement laptops, allow you to run popular 3D games, as well
N/A—Not applicable: The product could not complete the test.
This is a practical desktop replacement
whose only downside is its high price.
Specs: 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900 Extreme
processor; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 400GB, 7,200rpm hard drive; 256MB nVidia GeForce 8700M
GT SLI graphics card; 17-inch, 1,920-by-1,200
screen; Windows Vista Home Premium.
Gateway M-150X
$1,926 direct
lllhm
Gateway has given its plain corporate
designs a newfound sex appeal. The
M-150X’s glossy black finish and laminated imprints are in step with the latest
design trends. Gateway has also put highdefinition technology in the spotlight by
integrating an HD DVD-ROM, an HDMI
port, and an option for a 1,920-by-1,200
resolution screen.
Specs: 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor; 2GB, DDR2 SDRAM; 100GB, 7,200-rpm
hard drive; 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD
2400XT graphics card; 15.4-inch, 1,280-by-800
screen; Windows Vista Home Premium.
MORE ON THE WEB
For the full reviews of all the systems
here, point your browser to go.pcmag
.com/ultimatepc
• Dell XPS M1730
• Gateway M-150X
HP Pavilion dv9500t
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6237
$1,949 direct
$999 direct
l l l l h
lllhm
grated graphics. It may not run the fastest components, but it’ll handle basic and
moderate workloads.
The dv9500t is a tough act to follow
when you factor in both features
and price. It’s not often you’ll find
an HD DVD-ROM, a gorgeous 17inch widescreen, and dual hard drives for
under $2,000. Looking at the dv9500t’s
unique imprints and sleek black finish, you
can see that HP’s effort to transform its
laptops into stylish devices has paid off.
Not long ago, 17-inch widescreen laptops
came at a premium, but not so these days.
Toshiba is serving up this 17-inch widescreen LCD for only $999. It comes with
a 1.73-GHz dual-core processor and inte-
Specs: 2.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB, 5,400-rpm
hard drive; 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M GS
graphics card; 17-inch, 1,440-by-900 screen;
Windows Vista Home Premium.
Sony VAIO VGN-AR590E
$3,149 direct
l l l h m
It’s the best Blu-ray experience on a laptop. The sleek AR series is one of the bestlooking media centers in the industry. Sony
isn’t shy about putting in the latest processors and multiple hard drives, though you
might want to stay away from the CableCARD tuner option.
Specs: 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2GB
DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive;
256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics
card; 17-inch, 1,920-by-1,200 screen; Windows
Vista Home Premium.
Specs: 1.73-GHz Intel Core 2 T2080 processor;
1GB DDR2 SDRAM; 120GB, 5,400-rpm hard
drive; 224MB Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 graphics; 17-inch, 1440-by-900 screen;
Windows Vista Home Premium. Q
How We Rate Desktop Replacement Laptops
The Design rating takes into account aesthetics (admittedly, a subjective assessment) and
also covers how well design elements function within the laptop. We considered colors,
the metals used, and the balance between the system’s weight and its thickness. Usability
rates the placement and responsiveness of the keyboard, numeric keypad, touchpad, and
mouse. The software load (whether bloated or perhaps anemic) is also factored in. How a
laptop opens and closes and portability are additional considerations. Under Features, we
look at storage capacity, the amount of USB ports, high-definition screens and drives, A/V
accessories, and dedicated media keys. Performance rating is clear-cut: We look at benchmark-test results, processor speeds, RAM configuration, graphics cards, hard drive speeds,
and battery life. The Overall rating takes all the other ratings into consideration, along with
intangibles such as value for the dollar.
LAPTOP SCORECARD
DESIGN
USABILITY
FEATURES
PERFORMANCE
OVERALL
Acer Aspire 5920G
llllm
lllhm
llllm
llllm
lll l m
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch
llllh
llllm
lllhm
llllh
lll l m
Dell XPS M1730
llllh
llllm
llllm
lllll
lll l h
Gateway M-150X
lllhm
lllhm
lllhm
llllm
lll h m
HP Pavilion dv9500t
llllh
llllh
llllm
llllm
lll l h
Sony VAIO VGN-AR590E
llllm
lllmm
llllm
lllhm
lll h m
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6237
lllmm
lllhm
lllmm
lllhm
lll h m
The best possible rating is 5.
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 77
T
H
E
B
E
S
T
INSIDE
80 Info, Reference, & Search
83 News, Politics, & Government
85 Hardware News & Blogs
80 Health & Food
83 Reading
86 Software & Internet Blogs
81
84 Shopping, Classified, & Travel
86 Video
82 Money & Career
84 Download & DIY
87 Web Apps
82 Music
85 Gaming
88 Top 100 Classic Web Sites
Lifestyle & Entertainment
78 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Illustration by Christoph Neiman
of
T
H
E W E
B
We put our heads together to come up with the ultimate list of undiscovered
and classic sites to satisfy your appetite for the Web. By Kyle Monson
Every year, we at PC Magazine excavate our browser bookmarks,
poll coworkers and friends, dig deep into the World Wide Web, and
put our heads together to come up with PC Magazine’s list of the
Top 100 Undiscovered Web Sites that have grabbed our attention.
You’ll find a large collection of Web apps and tech sites, excellent
blogs, offbeat social networks, and, as always, a few addictive Flash
games for those slow days at work. Some sites are completely under
the radar, while others are hugely popular within a specific demographic. But all deserve to be in your bookmarks. In the story’s
second half you’ll find our Top 100 Classic Sites—the established
best-of-breed sites in their respective categories. Download both
lists directly to your bookmarks from go.pcmag.com/topwebsites.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 79
Top 100 Undiscovered Sites
Our picks for the top new or under-the-radar sites of 2007. You may not know
many of these sites, but you should.
Info, Reference, and Search
AfterVote
www.aftervote.com
AfterVote is a search aggregator that combines results from Google, Yahoo!, and
MSN. Each search results page shows you
a particular page’s ranking on each search
site, lets you vote for and rank each result,
and offers quick bookmarking. It also
offers goodies such as Firefox plug-ins,
desktop searchers, Yahoo! widgets, and
more.—Corinne Iozzio
Footnote
www.footnote.com
For genealogists, history buffs, and even
the average Web passerby, Footnote has a
deal with the National Archives to digitize
and upload every document it houses. You
can find anything from handwritten notes
from the Continental Congress to Project
Blue Book UFO sightings. Users can also
upload their own content, so you may be
able to find your own high-school yearbook.—Lisa Ruefenacht
Hard to Find 800 Numbers
www.hardtofind800numbers.com
Waiting on hold for customer service or
tech support is painful enough, so why
do tech companies also have to make it
so hard to find the toll-free 800 number
to call? With Hard to Find 800 Numbers,
you’ll never have to scramble for contact
information again. The site organizes companies alphabetically and displays phone
numbers and hours of operation.
—Jennifer L. DeLeo
Ninjawords
www.ninjawords.com
Sometimes you need to know the meaning
of a word, and you need to know it twotenths of a second faster than any other
dictionary site can get it to you. That’s why
Ninjawords is there. Like a ninja, it’s smart,
fast, and accurate. And fortunately, unlike a
ninja, it is not deadly.—Whitney Reynolds
Uncyclopedia
www.uncyclopedia.org
If the stress of worrying whether a Wikipedia article is factual and accurate is getting you down, take a break and check out
Uncyclopedia; it promises to be contentfree. It’s easy to lose a few hours laughing at
the nonsense presented with a straight face
here. You could even “learn” a few “facts”;
for instance, did you know that a shark,
while atop an elephant, is considered the
deadliest animal ever? If anyone questions
you, just tell them you read it on the Internet.—WR
Wikisky.org
www.wikisky.org
Much as Google has figured out how
to harness user-submitted content to
improve Google Earth, Wikisky.org turns
the collective wiki-eye on the vast reaches
of space. Check out the draggable space
model with constellations highlighted,
learn more about distant stars, or see a
model of the stars that are above you right
now.—Kyle Monson
Wink
www.wink.com
Wink is a people-search engine that culls
results from social-networking sites
(MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo, and more), followed by results from other sites where
users keep public profiles, followed by
results from the Web at large. You can craft
your own Wink profile if you want to shape
what others see when they do a search on
your name, or you can just hunt for longlost friends.—KM
Health and Food
Cork’d
www.corkd.com
If you have trouble keeping track of
whether that Château Lafite in your cellar is a 1787 or a 1788, this site can help you
get your corks in a row. If your taste tends
more to the Two-Buck Chuck varietals,
this site also offers user-generated reviews
and recommendations for wines you might
like based upon your tastes.—WR
UNCYCLOPEDIA Lose a few hours laughing at nonsense presented with a straight face.
80 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
ExtraTasty
www.extratasty.com
It used to be that a social network for booze
hounds was called “a bar,” but apparently,
there are also Web sites devoted to keeping track of your friends and your drinks.
ExtraTasty lets you search for drink recipes, share drink recipes, and talk to friends
about drink recipes. Get the picture?
—Vicki B. Jacobson
Lumosity
www.lumosity.com
It’s not the first “brain-training” site we’ve
ever encountered, but it may be the most
scientific. On this site you can play games
that have been lab-tested and shown to
improve memory, attention, processing
speed, and even cognitive control. If you
decide you want the complete brain-training treatment, you’ll have to spend $9.95 a
month or $79.95 a year.—Carol Mangis
Menupages
www.menupages.com
The days of having to keep a messy stack
of takeout menus or not knowing if a restaurant has a vegetarian option before
you make the reservations are over.
Menupages offers menus and reviews for
thousands of restaurants in New York,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia,
Boston, Chicago, Washington, and South
Florida.—WR
Top Secret Recipes
www.topsecretrecipes.com
Bring the recipes of your favorite restaurants into your kitchen with Todd Wilbur’s
Top Secret Recipes. Wilbur clones the
secret recipes of popular restaurants, letting you work up your favorite menu items
in the comfort of your own home. Also,
check out “The Sleuth” for secrets and lore
about food.—VBJ
Who Is Sick?
www.whoissick.org/sickness
We all know that misery loves company.
If you can’t manage to find company to
share your illness, try turning to the Who
Is Sick? database. This fun beta site maps
out illnesses, showing you who’s got what
(runny nose, cough, fever, headache,
muscle ache, stomachache, or whatever
ailment), and where. It’s a good little timewaster—and when you’re sick, it can be
oddly comforting to know that others
nearby are suffering, too.—Sean Carroll
The World’s Healthiest Foods
www.whfoods.com
This is the site for anyone who’s read a
quick blurb in a magazine or seen a health
segment on the news and thought “cherries fight XYZ disease? Really?” The site
provides info on how foods affect our
health and can boost energy. You also
get daily menus laying out three smart,
nutrient-rich meals.—CI
Lifestyle & Entertainment
Dethroner
www.dethroner.com
Dethroner is the classy men’s magazine
of the Web world. With themed content
based on topics like beer, meat, and danger, and features such as “Testosterone
Television,” a guide to the manliest sights
on TV, this site has everything the modern man needs (or the modern woman,
provided her interests are beer, meat, and
danger).—WR
EXPN
www.expn.com
EXPN is like ESPN but with an X for
eXtreme—you know, for the kids. It covers the dangerous stuff in sports, such
as skating, surfing, motocross, and the X
Games. EXPN has great photos and videos
of death-defying stunts, along with the
typical (and safer) sports columns, feature
stories, and podcasts.—KM
FirstShowing.net
www.firstshowing.net
Many of us have no idea what goes into
making a film and what takes place behind
the scenes. For those interested in peeking behind the curtain, this movie blog
will keep you up to date on the hot gossip.
(It’s also a great place to find new teasers,
trailers, and production stills.)—CI
Going.com
www.going.com
Tired of your lame friends wanting to go
to the same restaurant, watch the same
movies, and play the same video games
night after night? Going.com is just the
ticket. Search hundreds of local events by
location, popularity, and time. Then search
for other Going.com members (currently
over 123,000 active) who are headed to the
same place. Going also hosts monthly parties for its members.—CI
I Can Has Cheezburger?
www.icanhascheezburger.com
Cats are comical. You either get that or
you don’t. If you do, this site will make
you very, very happy. The site collects
and posts pictures of kitties that are captioned using ungrammatical “lolspeak,”
to (mostly) hilarious effect. Vote on the
captioned pictures, awarding them 1 to 5
LUMOSITY Lab-tested games to help improve memory and attention.
cheezburgers; leave comments; and vote
on the comments, too.—CM
iminlikewithyou
www.iminlikewithyou.com
This dating site twists the old formula
of online meet-and-greet. You can’t just
strike up a conversation. Rather, you must
“bid” on a particular user. Users who are
bid on get to choose someone from the top
five bidders to interact with, and that’s how
you collect friends. If you’re miserly, you’ll
make no friends . . . but if you bid too generously you’ll run out of points to bid with.
Earn more points by answering questions
about yourself.—KM
I Watch Stuff
www.iwatchstuff.com
Staffed by (gasp) trained journalists,
I Watch Stuff has an air of actual credibility spliced into its snark-filled posts about
film news, trailers, and clips. That’s not to
say they’re above sniffing out gay subtext
in celebrity interviews or mocking Paula
Abdul’s reality show—but that’s why we
keep going back.—CI
MeeVee
www.meevee.com
MeeVee is more than just your average
TV listings. It also provides personalized
recommendations on shows you might
want to watch, based on shows or stars you
already enjoy. You can also create channels
based on your own interests; type in a keyword and you’ll get videos, news, gossip,
and show listings based around it.—WR
MyPunchbowl
www.mypunchbowl.com
Planning a party is a hassle, but invitations
needn’t be an additional headache. Just
jaunt over to MyPunchbowl. The simple
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 81
depth interviews with both stars and upand-comers are must-reads.—Dan Evans
BULLPOO An investors’ online community for swapping tips and making trades.
interface makes creating your invitation
fun, walking you through styles and images,
offering suggestions, and even helping
locate supplies. A message board is automatically created to let invited guests chat
before the main event.—Jeremy A. Kaplan
Skeptic
www.skeptic.com
Skeptic is a playground for those who face
life with an incredulously raised eyebrow.
Debunkers can find videos, articles, and
podcasts that cast doubts on controversial
subjects from UFOs to, uh, the existence of
God.—WR
Money and Career
BullPoo
www.bullpoo.com
The scatologically named site is an online
community where investors can swap tips
(or stocks) and talk money. It includes builtin stock-ticker features, solid blog content,
and virtual brokerages for conducting
online trades. A leaderboard displays the
net worth of the top ten users.—KM
Indeed
www.indeed.com
Bored with your job? Search Indeed.com
for something new. It checks job Web sites,
newspapers, and company career pages
by keyword and location to fit your needs.
Or browse jobs alphabetically by state,
category, company, or job title. Save your
searches and have them delivered to your
inbox or via an RSS reader.—JLD
Kiva
www.kiva.org
Put your cash to work helping those less
82 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
fortunate with Kiva, a site that makes small
loans to deserving entrepreneurs worldwide. You might choose to finance a boutique in Kenya ($200), help an Ecuadorian
shopkeeper diversify into toys ($600), or
fund the launch of a firewood business in
Uganda ($350). You can lend as much or
as little of the total as you like; Kiva takes
care of tracking the loan and getting your
money back.—SC
Rentometer
www.rentometer.com
Rentometer compares your rent with the
rest of your neighborhood. Just enter in
your address and how much you pay—no
personal information is saved—and the
site will let you know if you’re paying
more, less, or the average compared with
users in your area. A Google Map shows
logged rents, so you know which doors
to knock on to score that rent-controlled
place of your dreams.—WR
Trulia
www.trulia.com
Whether you’re looking to upgrade, move,
or flip undervalued property, Trulia has
the sound real-estate advice and extensive
home listings you need. It provides you
with all the vital stats for your new neighborhood, including schools, local buying
and selling trends, and purchasing advice
from local real-estate agents.—CI
Music
AllHipHop.com
www.allhiphop.com
More than just record reviews and industry rumors, AllHipHop.com includes a
large archive of editorial content. Its in-
Amie Street
www.amiestreet.com
Amie Street applies the simple economic
principle of supply and demand to music
selling. New or not-as-popular tracks sell
for less, and popular tracks sell for more.
Tracks start off free and go up to $0.98 as
they catch on. The site gives new bands a
way to get their music heard, and listeners
get a free way to check out new bands, so
it’s a win/win!—KM
Beethere.net
www.beethere.net
Going to live music shows can be a hassle, but finding good shows in your area
doesn’t have to be part of the problem.
BeeThere makes it possible to track your
favorite artists and their tour dates in 800
cities, using your iTunes collection as a
starting point.—Brian Heater
Imeem
www.imeem.com
Imeem is a social-networking/musicdiscovery site that’s becoming one of
the Web’s most popular destinations for
the young. With an attractive design and
partnerships with Warner Music, SnoCap,
and Pitchfork, it’s sure to catch on with us
old folks as well before too long.—BH
Musicovery
www.musicovery.com
This free music player asks you to plot
your mood on a spectrum and then creates
a chart of songs to fit that mood. Narrow
your results by genre, year, and whether
the tunes are hits or not. It’s a great way to
discover new music and find the perfect
tunes to fit your day.—KM
SingShot
www.singshot.com
Why sing in the shower? The SingShot
online community provides a way for
crooners, belters, and the tone-deaf to strut
their stuff. Record to karaoke tracks, rate
others’ recordings, and enter your songs
into member-initiated contests.—Gina Suk
Slacker
www.slacker.com
This Internet radio service was a bit slow
in getting online, but with a name like
“Slacker,” what do you expect? It’s been
run through the regular corporate filters
and media machines? Take things into your
own hands with Topix. It has local sections
for thousands of towns and communities
and includes news links, stories, and blog
posts gathered and overseen by local editors. If your hometown doesn’t have its
own section, start one yourself.—BH
SLACKER Internet radio done right.
worth the wait. The station browser and
“heart,” skip, and ban options make creating or tweaking a custom station so effortless even a, um, slacker can do it.—CI
News, Politics, and
Government
Guerrilla News Network
www.guerrillanews.com
Combine CNN with Wikipedia and you’ve
got Guerrilla News Network. It’s an independent news organization that strives to
bring global issues to the masses through
wide-ranging articles, headlines, videos,
and blogs. Articles are all written by GNN
users or contributors. You can filter content on the site by country, keyword, and
topic.—JLD
MediaStorm
www.mediastorm.org
Photojournalist and technological innovator Brian Storm’s site is a mixture of multimedia stories that incorporates video,
audio, photography, and personal essays.
This beautifully crafted multimedia Web
site is sponsored by WashingtonPost.com
and welcomes online submissions. It’s
great for browsing, too.—JLD
Tech President
www.techpresident.com
There’s no denying the huge impact the
Web will have on the 2008 presidential
race. To respond to the political trend, the
Presidential Democracy Forum started
Tech President to keep tabs on campaign
sites, YouTube postings, and how each candidate’s friend pool on social-networking
sites is growing (or not).—CI
Topix
www.topix.net
Tired of getting news only after it’s been
Reading
Act-I-Vate
community.livejournal.com/
act_i_vate
This LiveJournal-based collective offers
“serialized graphic novels” by some of
underground comics’ brightest stars,
including Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi,
and Dan Goldman. The site is also the
home of Kevin Colden’s award-winning
serial, Fishtown.—BH
copyblogger
www.copyblogger.com
A blog about online marketing? Look
closer: Copyblogger is chock-full of excellent tips and practical advice for online
writing and blogging.—KM
Goodreads
www.goodreads.com
Goodreads combines the nosy fun of
snooping through your friends’ bookshelves with the antisocial, shut-in joy of
not actually having to go to their homes.
The site not only lets you keep track of
how many Danielle Steel novels you have,
but also introduces you to other people
with similar tastes.—WR
Librivox, however, provides pod fodder
for free. The site features a collection of
public-domain books read by volunteers—
and anyone can volunteer. Some narrators
are better than others, but almost everything is at least decent. The collection
(a bit more than 800 Project Gutenberg
works so far) is a bit of a hodgepodge, with
everything from Walt Whitman to Edgar
Rice Burroughs.—SC
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs
fakesteve.blogspot.com
If you’re the type who gets excited by sexy
gadgets, sleek OSs, and sultry photos of
guys in black turtlenecks, then Fake Steve
has the keynote address to your heart.
The blog—there’s a Forbes editor in there
somewhere—lends a uniquely Jobsian
perspective to the insane media coverage
of the Apple empire.—BH
Verbotomy
www.verbotomy.com
Verbotomy gives you the power to create words from meanings with daily
challenges: The site provides a definition, and you invent a verb (or Verboticism)—usually a mashup of others, such
as “Flirtagonist.” Entries are judged based
on spelling and whether anything similar
already exists. You can also hear your word
pronounced, courtesy of AT&T Sound
Labs.—CI
xkcd
www.xkcd.com
In the endless sea of mediocrity that is comics on the Web, there are occasional islands
of hope, and one of them is xkcd. The drawings are simple stick figures, but the jokes
Ironic Sans
www.ironicsans.com
No, it’s not a site full of fonts for hipsters.
Ironic Sans is actually a sharp and clever
blog. The site’s author, photographer
David Friedman, is a font of great ideas and
musings on design that he’s kind enough
not to keep to himself. Highlights include
the Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters; the
“60 Seconds in the Life of . . .” video series;
and the Uncensor the Internet Firefox plugin.—WR
Librivox
www.librivox.org
Audiobooks are ridiculously expensive:
The latest Harry Potter title is $80 on CD.
XKCD Fabulous comics for nerds.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 83
are a source of nerdy glee, from limericks
about Slashdot to musings on the romance
of the Fibonacci sequence.—WR
Shopping, Classifieds,
and Travel
The Bargainist
www.bargainist.com
Everyone loves a bargain; that’s what
makes The Bargainist so great. Updated
several times a day, it scours the Web for
the best bargains, coupons, and free offers,
from garden supplies and beauty products to movies and computers. The Stores
section reveals bargain links to over 50
retailers and online stores.—JLD
Do My Stuff
www.domystuff.com
No time to pick up that dry cleaning or do
some little project around the house? No
problem. A quick post on DoMyStuff.com
sends your chore into cyberspace where
businesses and individuals place bids; the
lowest bidder wins. There are even online
escrow accounts to keep your payment
safe until the task is done.—CI
EuroCheapo
www.eurocheapo.com
Heading across the pond? Let EuroCheapo’s team of expert hotel reviewers show
you how and where you can save a buck
(or a euro). Search for the best rates by city,
peruse photos of your options, and—if you
don’t trust the site’s own reviewers—read
user reviews.—KM
Roadside America
www.roadsideamerica.com
Roadside America is your definitive
resource for kooky, nichey, and downright
bizarre landmarks, such as the “Ax Murder
House” and the birthplace of Kool-Aid.
Use this site to plan your next road trip
and getting from here to there will be more
interesting than your average game of “I
Spy.”—BH
TheThingsIWant.com
www.thethingsiwant.com
This ultimate service for creating shopping and wish lists lets you make sure your
friends and family pick out the perfect gift
for you. With the click of a button on your
favorite shopping sites, items you’re interested in will be added to your lists, with
images, prices, and commerce links.—GS
Ugallery.com
www.ugallery.com
Ugallery.com helps college artists find
recognition; it includes artists from more
than 60 universities nationwide. They’re
not all Picassos, but the site vets artists’
work before letting them in and claims to
accept only 25 percent of applicants. It’s a
pleasure to browse as well as an affordable
way to get your hands on a beautiful piece
of original art.—Christopher Ewen
Wikitravel
www.wikitravel.org
We’ve seen a ton of travel sites, but for
the sheer amount of information, not one
touches the user-generated content of
Wikitravel. Need to find out how much to
tip in Costa Rica or where the sweet surf
spots are in Santa Cruz? Wikitravel is your
one-stop destination.—BH
Yapta
www.yapta.com
Simply enter in your flight information
and the price you paid for your tickets,
and Yapta will track the ticket price for
your flight(s) from that point on. If the fare
drops before you leave on your trip, the site
will let you know the price difference and
how to claim a refund or vouchers from
the airline.—KM
Download and DIY
afreeDLL
afreedll.com
Hunting for a missing DLL (DynamicLink Library)? AfreeDLL makes finding,
downloading, and restoring DLLs a breeze,
and all of the downloads are free. You can
browse the site’s most popular files or
search alphabetically, and the site includes
explanations and helpful tutorials to walk
you through the download and installation
process.—KM
DaFont
www.dafont.com
With almost 7,500 fonts uploaded by various users worldwide, DaFont has the coolest, freshest fonts you’d ever need. Simply
browse for fonts either by the categories
listed at the top of each page, or by searching for a specific font name. Most of these
free fonts are compatible with both Macs
and PCs.—LR
UGALLERY.COM Get affordable, original art from students at universities nationwide.
84 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
DZone
www.dzone.com
DZone is a developer’s dream and much
more—a vast network of user-submitted
links to message boards, news, coding
tricks, and more. The DZone Snippets section is the “ultimate community source
clipboard” for everything from Java to C++.
If you’re looking for new tools or tips, a
quick DZone scan will definitely put you
on the right path.—CI
Infected or Not
www.infectedornot.com
Panda’s Infected or Not service offers
the excellent (and free) NanoScan tool
to ascertain quickly whether there’s malware on your machine. It also tracks PC
infections around the world. Get the data
on both active and latent threats, and find
out what percentage of scanned PCs have
gunk on them.—KM
InviteShare
www.inviteshare.com
Don’t you hate when the coolest new Web
services are by-invitation-only closed
betas? If you aren’t on the invite list, InviteShare is your ticket in. The free service lets
early beta users share their invites—and
the more you share, the more likely you’ll
receive the invites you crave.—CM
MajorGeeks.com
www.majorgeeks.com
If your PC is behaving badly, MajorGeeks
.com has a collection of free and paid apps
and utilities for your PC that have been
tested to recover, repair, protect, back up—
the list goes on and on. Sort files by name,
date, license, OS, or popularity.—JLD
OldVersion.com
www.oldversion.com
Everyone’s encountered new versions of
products that add unnecessary features.
Or worse, a new version that’s simply
incompatible with the other apps you need
for daily use. Roll back to the good old days
with OldVersion.com! Need QuickTime
2.0 or AIM 5.9? Chances are, if you want it,
OldVersion’s got it.—JAK
ProgrammableWeb
www.programmableweb.com
ProgrammableWeb keeps tabs on mashups and open APIs across the Web. When
a service such as Google Maps or Flickr
opens its API, ProgrammableWeb is one of
the best resources for finding new extensions or building your own.—KM
Website Grader
www.websitegrader.com
Submit your URL (and your competitors’
URLs) to Website Grader and it will give
you some basic feedback on how your site
is doing and in what areas it can improve.
It’s a free way to get advice on optimizing
your site for search engines, which can
drastically boost your traffic.—KM
Gaming
Armor Games
www.armorgames.com
Is the boss looking? No? Good, then you
can have a fine time at Armor Games, the
home of countless free Flash-based games,
all playable on the Web. This site has
everything from classic card and puzzle
games to more complicated adventure or
strategy games.—WR
K2xl
www.k2xl.com
Watch dots. Place cursor on dot. Click
mouse. Watch chain reaction as dots
explode. Repeat. Basically, this is all there
is to Boomshine, one of K2xl’s highly
addictive Flash games. It’s actually really
hard to watch these beautifully colored
dots dance across your screen and not
become hooked on this simple and relaxing game.—VBJ
Kongregate
www.kongregate.com
Kongregate is a flash-video game site
driven by user-generated content. Aspiring game developers submit their work to
have it played and debated among the site’s
online community. Not every game is a hit,
but games such as Desktop Defender and
Castle Wars will hook you and leave you
wondering what happened to all that free
time you used to have.—DE
LikeBetter
www.likebetter.com
This site presents you with two pictures,
and you click on the one you like better. Repeat on a new pair of images. After
you’ve made your personal preference
known on enough pairs of photos, LikeBetter’s “brain” will know what kind of person
you really are . . . and what kind of people
you should befriend through its site.—WR
Line Rider
www.official-linerider.com
There’s something oddly addictive about
sending a fragile, scarf-clad man hurtling
down a steep, crudely drawn slope on a
sled. Line Rider is a simple online game
that lets you draw any kind of sledding
course for your character, who will then
bravely sled it with no regard for his personal safety.—KM
LIKEBETTER The “brain” knows you.
Shacknews
www.shacknews.com
The monumentally massive Shacknews
really is the new go-to spot for all your
gaming news. On top of an oft-updated
blog, there are Shack Reviews, a ShackCast, and a FileShack filled with downloadable demos, movies, and game mods.
It also highlights the best and brightest
comments right on the home page.—CI
Hardware News and Blogs
All Things Digital
www.allthingsd.com
All Things Digital is the online brand
extension of the D: All Things Digital conference, which in turn is a brand extension
of Walt Mossberg’s technology coverage
for The Wall Street Journal. The site uses
both text and video to dish on the hottest
tech news, and industry experts and fresh
voices contribute to the conversation.
—KM
Anything But iPod
www.anythingbutipod.com
Who wants to be a part of the Apple iPod’s
80 percent market share? Certainly not the
bloggers and readers of Anything But iPod,
which tracks the market for non-Apple
audio hardware, software, and accessories.
Whether you’re a fan of SanDisk players,
Archos PMPs, or the Microsoft Zune, ABi’s
got the news, rumors, and details.—KM
Everything USB
www.everythingusb.com
Everything USB is a gadget blog dedicated
to the one-wired-connection wonders
that are USB computer peripherals. From
keyboards to webcams and everything
in between, the newest and coolest—not
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 85
MakeUseOf.com
www.makeuseof.com
If you’re searching for in-depth, handson reviews of the latest Web apps, keep
looking. MakeUseOf.com’s real strength
lies in its quick but surprisingly comprehensive roundups of apps and sites in a
given space. If you’re looking to discover
the best iPhone apps, Firefox extensions,
or accounting sites, MakeUseOf can point
you in the right direction.—BH
USTREAM.TV Stream your footage live as you record it, or watch video clips from others.
to mention the weirdest—gizmos pass
through here on their way to the market.—CI
GoodCleanTech
www.goodcleantech.com
With this brand-new resource, brought to
you by the editors and analysts of PC Magazine, consumers and techies should find it
much easier to be green. The site’s goal is
to keep you apprised of all manner of environmentally conscientious technology in
an illustrated, user-friendly format.
—Maggie McVeigh
iLounge
www.ilounge.com
Industry news, hands-on product reviews,
tips, tricks, downloads—everything
you wanted to know about the iPod (and
now the iPhone, as well) can be found
on iLounge, which is every bit as userfriendly as the MP3 player that gave it its
name.—BH
Phone Scoop
www.phonescoop.com
Phone Scoop is an online resource for
mobile-phone users and enthusiasts, with
an emphasis on news, reviews, and building a mobile-phone community. It continues to grow each year, with more in-depth
coverage and videos. Don’t miss the site’s
glossary to familiarize yourself with relevant technical terms such as CDMA and
SIM.—JLD
TechMeme
www.techmeme.com
We’re not exactly sure what kind of secret
sauce Gabe Rivera uses to find stories for
his TechMeme news aggregator, but what
we do know is that it brilliantly unearths
86 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
the hottest news stories on the Web. It
posts breaking tech news from around
the Web and routinely beats sites such as
Digg (as well as the major media) to the
story.—KM
Software and Internet Blogs
AppScout
www.appscout.com
Our AppScout blog is a great place to find
software tips and tricks, cool or useful
Web sites and applications, and the latest
news from the world of Web technology.
The blog is written mainly by PC Magazine editors and analysts, and we give
readers exclusive access to our regular
vendor meetings, trade shows, and interviews.—KM
Download Squad
www.downloadsquad.com
Download Squad is basically Engadget for
software and Web apps, and it’s owned by
the same company, Weblogs Inc. The blog
traffics in rumors and news announcements, posts frequently, and has fun content like “Today’s Time Waster”—ways for
bored cubicle-dwellers to entertain themselves online.—KM
eHub
www.emilychang.com/go/ehub
Somehow Emily Chang manages to get
wind of every Web 2.0 app long before the
rest of the blogging world does. Her synopses are short and sweet, which is just fine,
given the frequency of her page updates.
eHub has been branching out recently, too,
adding interviews, job listings, news, and
events.—BH
Mashable
www.mashable.com
Mashable, a blog devoted to covering
MySpace, Facebook, and their ilk, reports
on the exploding world of social-networking apps and features. It’s a top-notch news
resource for Web 2.0 developers and even
MySpace users who want to pimp their
pages with the latest plug-ins.—KM
Uncov
www.uncov.com
Uncov is kind of the bizarro equivalent of
TechCrunch. It mercilessly reviews startups, harshes on everything Web 2.0, and
passes along (or makes up) juicy Silicon
Valley rumors. The blog posts are written
by potty-mouthed software nerds who dig
deep into Web apps, exposing the sloppy
programming and faulty business models
that so much of the Web is built on.—KM
Video
Dabble
www.dabble.com
Dabble.com aggregates video clips from
major services such as YouTube, blip.tv,
and Revver, along with smaller sites and
video podcasters. The site lets you search
all the video services at once and organize
your favorite clips from them into custom
playlists that you can share with the Dabble community.—KM
PrezVid
www.prezvid.com
The pundits and talking heads have all
proclaimed that much of the upcoming
presidential election campaign will play
out on the Internet—specifically, on YouTube. Jeff Jarvis is following the YouTube
campaigns on his PrezVid blog, where
he adds his own (written) commentary
to YouTube clips of the candidates’ TV
appearances, stump speeches, gaffes, and
rallies.—KM
ScienceHack
www.sciencehack.com
ScienceHack is a video-search engine dedicated to the world of science, including
physics, green energy, and space. What sets
it apart from the rest is that every indexed
video is screened and approved by real
scientists. You can search for a video by
keyword or by selecting a tag.—JLD
uLinkx
www.ulinkx.com
For serendipitous video searching, check
out uLinkx, which finds the most popular
videos from across the Web and makes
aimless video browsing fun and easy.
Warning: The “Most Popular” videos that
uLinkx aggregates are often salacious
(especially the ones from YouTube).—KM
Ustream.tv
www.ustream.tv
Ustream.tv makes it easy to stream your
footage live—as it’s being recorded. All you
need is a webcam or video camera, a PC,
and an Internet connection. There’s plenty
to watch on Ustream, though obviously
much of it is, shall we say, rough?—KM
VideoJug
www.videojug.com
VideoJug touts itself as an “encyclopedia
of everything,” but what sets it apart from
other how-to sites is the way the information is presented: no long articles, just
video. All the video content is written,
reviewed, and produced by experts and
professionals to ensure that the information and advice is factual and, to put it
bluntly, won’t kill you.—CI
Web Apps
Bubbl.us
www.bubbl.us
This free Web application helps you organize your thoughts into easily readable and
colorful mind maps to print and to share
online. Bubbl.us lets you interact with your
team to pool and sort out your thoughts
in a clean, crisp way that leaves the usual
conference-room mishmash and endless
e-mail threads behind.—CI
PICNIK Upload your photos, then crop, edit, add special effects, and share them.
Eyejot
www.eyejot.com
Eyejot combines elements of e-mail, voice
mail, and video chat into one free streamlined solution. The site lets you record a
video message and e-mail a link to your
friends, who can click on the link at their
leisure, view your message, and reply via
their own video messages.—KM
MediaFire
www.mediafire.com
Media Fire is a free file-sharing and storage service that lets users upload unlimited files and images. After the easy,
registration-free file-upload process, you
can access your data from any computer
and post links to the files to share with family (and coworkers if you’re using the site
for work-related purposes).—CI
Meebo
www.meebo.com
Why bother installing software for all your
instant-messaging accounts? Use your
most important app—your Web browser—
to log on to all of them at once. Sign up with
Meebo to access AIM, GoogleTalk, MSN,
and Yahoo! networks automatically, without a separate program.—Eric Griffith
Only2Clicks
www.only2clicks.com
Only2Clicks lets you set up a customized
home page with instant access to the sites
on which you spend the majority of your
time, along with previews of what’s on
their home pages. Yes, the Opera browser
has this “speed-dial” feature built in, but
Only2Clicks is a free and easy way to add
this functionality to any browser.—KM
Picnik
www.picnik.com
Upload a photo or import online photos
from Flickr, Picasa, and others; then Picnik’s real-time online manipulation tools
let you crop, sharpen, adjust exposure and
color, and more. Add some effects, such as
doodles or infrared (try the “gooify” feature for true wackiness), and then share
them with your friends.—JAK
Remember the Milk
www.rememberthemilk.com
Get organized with Remember the Milk, a
handy online list-making app that makes
your to-do list accessible from anywhere.
Adding items to your list is as easy as sending an e-mail, and you can receive reminders via e-mail, IM, or text message.—KM
Wetpaint
www.wetpaint.com
Wikis have revolutionized the way we consume information online, but for the most
part, they’ve never really been dynamic in
terms of aesthetics and creation. Wetpaint
makes good-looking, easy-to-create wikis
a reality, and since it’s a Web 2.0 site, you
can bet dollars to donuts that it includes a
social-networking component.—BH
Zamzar
www.zamzar.com
Before Zamzar, you had to download a
utility—or two or three—to convert file
formats. But with Zamzar, you can convert
anything—images, documents, and YouTube videos—and have it e-mailed back to
you in four quick steps . . . without downloading a thing.—CI
Zoho
www.zoho.com
Zoho has the typical stuff (word processor,
spreadsheet, and presentations) along with
some distinctive items such as the Zoho
Creator database, a notebook, a Wiki, and
a Web-based collaboration tool. Not all the
modules are free (like the project manager
and CRM tools), but all are exceptionally
well done and kept fresh with new options
and features.—EG
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 87
Top 100 Classic Sites
You’ll see a lot of familiar URLs on this list, and we hope there are also quite a few that
you haven’t heard of before. These sites are best-of-breed in their respective categories.
Info and Reference
About.com
www.about.com
Thirty-four million monthly visitors head
to About.com for guidance on subjects
from careers to child-raising to technology.—JLD
How Stuff Works
www.howstuffworks.com
Find out how everything really works
when experts share their knowledge on
any and all subjects.—CI
Internet Archive
www.archive.org
The archive and its celebrated WayBack
Machine are, at this very moment, dutifully cataloging the Internet.—KM
The Library of Congress
www.loc.gov
Home to numerous reference materials,
digitized collections, films—everything
ever published in the country.—LR
Merriam-Webster Online
www.m-w.com
Besides the regular old dictionary features,
learn your mother tongue with fun stuff
like the Word of the Day and crossword
puzzles.—KM
Nolo
www.nolo.com
Get legal documents, advice, and information for your business or family from this
excellent online law resource center for
non-lawyers.—KM
NICKELODEON ONLINE Brimming with kid-centric news, forums, podcasts, and more.
(“Who invented the smiley face?”) with a
delicious combination of sarcasm and profanity.—CI
certainly among the most eccentric, the
resulting conglomerate is truly “A Directory of Wonderful Things.”—KM
Urban Dictionary
www.urbandictionary.com
This user-generated online slang dictionary doesn’t just teach us creative new ways
to swear; it can actually expand our common vernacular.—VBJ
Epicurious
www.epicurious.com
The online home of Gourmet and Bon
Appetit, Epicurious has the swank recipes
you’d expect to find here.—CI
Wikipedia
www.wikipedia.org
Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore the
poster child for the wisdom of crowds,
now featuring 8 million articles written in
253 languages.—BH
Lifestyle
Snopes
www.snopes.com
An extensive index of urban legends, common fallacies, old wives’ tales, strange
news stories, rumors, trashy gossip, and
more.—CI
Beliefnet
www.beliefnet.com
This Web community covers all faiths:
Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam,
even Scientology and China’s Falun Gong.
(Sorry, Jedis. Try StarWars.com.)—EG
The Straight Dope
www.straightdope.com
Tackling the burning questions of the day
Boing Boing
www.boingboing.net
Among the top blogs on the Web, and
88 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Food Network
www.foodnetwork.com
As if you can’t get enough Rachael Ray,
get more—along with tons of extra recipes, entertaining tips, and 10-minute meal
suggestions.—CI
Nickelodeon Online
www.nick.com
The site captures the essence and draw
that is Nickelodeon—it will suck your kids
in for hours.—CI
Money
Bloomberg.com
The go-to financial news service for the
guys who manage your stock portfolio, and
also for the Wall Street bigwigs who manage theirs.—KM
Internal Revenue Service
www.irs.gov
The tax code doesn’t make things easy, but
the Web site does, with all the forms you
need, plus loads of tips on how to save on
your taxes.—KM
The Motley Fool
www.fool.com
The Motley Fool’s credo is “To Educate, Amuse, and Enrich”—and it means
“enrich” literally.—KM
Music, Movies, and TV
allmusic
www.allmusic.com
An exhaustive resource for music chronologies, history, biographical information,
and criticism, compiled by more than 900
writers.—BH
The Internet Movie Database
www.imdb.com
The most complete movie guide ever, with
movie news, filmmaker bios, and unbelievably detailed indexing of every film and
TV show.—CI
Netflix
www.netflix.com
The company that revolutionized the way
videos are rented eight years ago must be
doing something right, after one billion
transactions.—BH
Pitchfork
www.PitchforkMedia.com
This über-hip and impartially snarky site
has eclipsed the Spins and Rolling Stones
of the world for news and reviews of independent artists.—BH
Television Without Pity
www.televisionwithoutpity.com
The staff of professional “recappers” gives
you the full dirt on TV’s most popular
shows, complete with quips that you can
pass off as your own.—CI
News
CNN.com
www.cnn.com
Recently redesigned and as newsy as ever,
PITCHFORK Fans can’t ignore this über-hip site for independent-music news and reviews.
the cable news network’s Web site provides 24/7/365 coverage of the world.—EG
Digg
www.digg.com
The premise: an online popularity contest.
The contestants: everything on the Internet. Can you Digg it?—EG
Fark.com
www.fark.com
Fark is not news. In fact, it wants to be synonymous with “not news.” The Farkers
who submit the stories also provide witty
commentary.—EG
Gawker
www.gawker.com
The grande dame of celebrity blogs,
Gawker has single-handedly made snark
the most valuable blog commodity.—VBJ
Onion can be enjoyed daily, hourly, or even
(if your boss isn’t looking) by the minute.—Alex Ivey
Slate
www.slate.com
The news site that excels at taking the leading stories of the day and reanalyzing them
is consistently both excellent and engaging.—KM
The Smoking Gun
www.thesmokinggun.com
Existing at the crossroads of First Amendment rights and gossip, The Smoking Gun
specializes in incriminating evidence.
Celebs beware.—BH
Politics and Government
Guardian Unlimited
www.guardian.co.uk
The Guardian is one of the most celebrated
English-language newspapers for its journalistic transparency. The Web version is
equally excellent, and free.—BH
Electronic Frontier Foundation
www.eff.org
Regardless of whether you’re aware of it or
not, the EFF is looking out for you, defending the civil rights of citizens as they pertain to technology.—BH
NPR
www.npr.org
News coverage doesn’t get much better
than NPR, which runs the gamut in terms
of coverage, from serious to downright
silly.—LR
Fact Check
www.factcheck.org
The team at the Annenberg Political Fact
Check does the verifying for you, translating political speak into plain English.—CI
The New York Times
www.nytimes.com
As you’d expect from the number-one
newspaper in America, the site is chockfull of video, photos, and traditional news
articles.—LR
The Onion
www.theonion.com
A perk of living in the Internet age: The
The Huffington Post
www.huffingtonpost.com
This political commentary site (known as
the HuffPo) has become a news provider
to be reckoned with.—EG
opensecrets.org
www.opensecrets.org
Follow the money that floats politics on
both sides of the aisle with help from the
Center for Responsive Politics.—EG
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 89
Shopping, Classifieds,
and Travel
WEBMD Internet doc for your ailments.
PODCAST ALLEY The ’cast lover’s portal.
USA.gov
It’s the home page for the Land of the Free,
offering governmental information and
services.—JLD
NASA
www.nasa.gov
The neatest stuff at NASA.gov is for kids
and educators. There is great material
about the earth, ocean, and space for all
levels of students.—AI
Reading and Listening
Arts & Letters Daily
www.artsandlettersdaily.com
A clearinghouse for a dizzying number
of articles on various subjects. What do
they all have in common? Great writing.
—Laarni Almendrala Ragaza
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
www.mcsweeneys.net
Until the hipster literati take over,
McSweeney’s will have to be content with
being the best spot online where the wellread can kill some time.—BH
Podcast Alley
www.podcastalley.com
The “podcast lovers’ portal,” indeed. This
alley is teeming with home-brewed programming.—EG
Project Gutenberg
www.gutenberg.org
The foremost online source for publicdomain literature, with over 20,000 books
available.—Lisa Ruefenacht
Science and Nature
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention
www.cdc.gov
Forget computer viruses and malware,
there are plenty of human ailments and
diseases to go around. The CDC tracks
them all.—EG
90 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
National Geographic Online
www.nationalgeographic.com
Millions of species, thousands of cultures,
seven continents, one Earth: National
Geographic Online is one site that delivers it all.—Yun-San Tsai
ScienceDaily
www.sciencedaily.com
News and videos are updated every 15
minutes on topics such as health, space,
and computers.—JLD
Space.com
Get the latest news and everything else
cosmophiles could want for exploring the
final frontier from a PC.—Tony Hoffman
WebMD
www.webmd.com
If a Web site could replace a real, live doctor, WebMD would be just about as close
as you could come.—CI
Search
Amazon
www.amazon.com
Amazon isn’t content selling everything
from DVDs to designer jeans. Check out
Unbox for videos and even a new online
grocery store.—CI
The Consumerist
www.consumerist.com
Read cathartic rants about retailers, and
learn to save money on purchases.—KM
craigslist
www.craigslist.org
The world’s most popular online classifieds site is the premier one-stop destination for rentals, jobs, secondhand goods,
and, yep, casual encounters.—BH
Dynamism.com
Buy your share of Japanese PCs, phones,
and wacky gadgets such as a duck-inspired
USB flash drive or robotic bird.—JLD
eBay
www.ebay.com
The phrase online auction is synonymous
with eBay.—BH
Google Product Search
www.google.com/products
The former Froogle is a shopper’s dream
come true—a centralized product search
that shows you all the sites selling what
you’re looking for.—LR
Priceline
www.priceline.com
You can still Name Your Own Price to an
extent, but these days the deal-making site
also offers you preexisting deals.—EG
Google
www.google.com
We poke fun at it, but this search engine is
a fantastic tool that has revolutionized the
way results are found and presented.—KM
ThinkGeek
www.thinkgeek.com
This online store makes it easy to satisfy
your geeky appetites for oddball gadgets.
—JLD
Technorati
www.technorati.com
Technorati’s core mission: to give you a
quick snapshot of what’s happening in the
blogosphere.—KM
TripAdvisor
www.tripadvisor.com
Utilize user-to-user communication on
what works and what doesn’t when you’re
out and about.—EG
Social Networking
Facebook
www.facebook.com
This social network shares its premise
with MySpace, but with less design flexibility (thank goodness!) and more updates
on your friends’ activities.—Chloe Albanesius
LinkedIn
www.linkedin.com
LinkedIn is social networking for professionals. That means more résumés but no
drunken party pics.—KM
MySpace
www.myspace.com
The site that launched a million bathroommirror self-portraits continues to broaden
its reach with features such as the video
site MySpaceTV.—CA
Sports
ESPN
www.espn.com
Whatever your favorite league acronym—
NBA, NFL, NHL, PGA, MLB, even NASCAR—ESPN covers it on TV and in even
more detail online.—EG
Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
fantasysports.yahoo.com
The best fantasy sports site on the Web,
with an easy-to-use interface and some
clever features and alerts.—KM
Technology
Dev and I.T.
DevX
www.devx.com
This site is chock-full of great resources
for software and Web developers of all
stripes.—KM
The Register
www.theregister.com
If your sense of humor runs along the lines
of bits, bytes, and Monty Python, then The
Reg may be just your thing.—LAR
THINKGEEK Oddball gadgets and techy
trinkets for sale.
INSTRUCTABLES Instructions for DIY
projects with pictures and videos.
SourceForge.net
www.sourceforge.net
“The world’s largest open-source software
development Web site”? With more than
150,000 registered projects, it’s not bluffing.—KM
thing from tweaking your PC settings to
organizing your home.—KM
W3 Schools
www.w3schools.com
Find loads of free training tools and references for all levels of developers.—KM
Download and D.I.Y.
AVS Forum
www.avsforum.com
Home-theater buffs, audiophiles, and highdef junkies will feel right at home on these
extensive forums.—BH
DistroWatch.com
www.distrowatch.com
Keep pace with the many-headed hydra
that is the open-source community.—KM
ExtremeTech
www.extremetech.com
The site for people who build cutting-edge
computers.—KM
Instructables
www.instructables.com
There’s no DIY project too technical, artistic, or edible for Instructables. Each step
comes with an annotated picture—occasionally a video.—EG
Lifehacker
www.lifehacker.com
The preeminent DIY blog covers every-
ProcessLibrary.com
www.processlibrary.com
Translates gibberish process names into
familiar English and gives you a security
rating and recommended action.—KM
Version Tracker
www.versiontracker.com
Among the most popular resources to keep
you on top of updates and patches.—CI
Gaming
1up.com
www.1up.com
Serving up news on upcoming game titles,
plus a huge selection of reviews, cheats,
and spoiler-filled graphics.—EG
IGN.com
www.ign.com
The site for gaming news and reviews
extends to entertainment, with movie trailers and television-show recaps.—JLD
Kotaku
www.kotaku.com
Gawker’s entry in the world of gaming
blogs is everything it should be: tenacious,
passionate, and full of rumors.—EG
News and Blogs
Akihabara News
www.akihabaranews.com
Based in Tokyo’s Akihabara District, this
site gets the gadget-oriented scoops and
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 91
stories that U.S. news outlets and blogs
can’t.—KM
Ars Technica
www.arstechnica.com
Propeller-heads, check out the thorough
how-tos, commentary, and deep collection
of helpful tech knowledge.—EG
Engadget
www.engadget.com
The crown jewel of AOL’s Weblogs Inc.,
Engadget posts briefs (always with pretty
pictures) on everything a true-blue or
budding early adopter cares about.—EG
Slashdot
www.slashdot.org
Before there was Digg, there was Slashdot,
still the leading gathering place for hardcore nerds.—KM
TechCrunch
www.techcrunch.com
Michael Arrington’s blog covers software
and Web start-ups with inimitable passion, candor, and fervor.—KM
Reviews
CNET
www.cnet.com
There’s no denying it (though we wish we
could): CNET is one of the premier technology destinations on the Web.—VBJ
Digital Photography Review
www.dpreview.com
Get exhaustive coverage of the digitalcamera industry, with breaking news and
detailed hands-on reviews of new cameras.—KM
PCMag.com
www.pcmag.com
Is it cheeky of us to put ourselves on our
own list? Perhaps, but we think it’s warranted. Online extras include our product
guide, episodes of DL.TV and John Dvorak’s Cranky Geeks, PCMag Radio podcasts, our blogs like SecurityWatch and
AppScout, and so much more.—KM
Security and the Web
BroadbandReports.com
www.dslreports.com
Fast Internet connections via cable, DSL,
FTTH, and even VoIP services are all fair
92 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
FLICKR Caper, senior writer Eric Griffith’s dog, is ready for his closeup.
game for reviews and ratings on this online
community.—EG
GetNetWise
www.getnetwise.org
An online learning center with all the info
you need to keep your kids and yourself
safe. Fight spam, upgrade PC security, and
protect your privacy.—EG
Gibson Research Corp.
www.grc.com
Steve Gibson fills his site with free tools
and utilities (such as the legendary Shields
UP!!), and information via his Security
Now column/podcast.—JAK
Internet Storm Center
isc.sans.org
A program that monitors the level of malicious activity on the Internet is this site’s
heart, but visit daily for a diary of technical
analysis about the data.—JAK
Security Focus
www.securityfocus.com
Take a look at the vendor-neutral security
information or read the BugTraq mailing
list. It’s fascinating, informative, and really,
really scary.—JAK
Google Labs
labs.google.com
Google always has quirky and brilliant
beta products in the pipeline. Check them
out here.—KM
Google Maps
maps.google.com
It’s the spinning globe you always wanted,
only onscreen with infinite detail. There
are new features added each year.—EG
Last.fm
www.last.fm
This social Web radio site is perhaps the
best free music-discovery engine around.
Generate your own radio stations based on
virtually any criteria.—BH
Live Search Maps
maps.live.com
Street maps and satellite images are almost
old hat. Live Search has bird’s-eye and 3D
views that you can navigate like a flight
simulation.—EG
Web Apps
Pandora
www.pandora.com
Pandora reimagined the way that we think
about Internet radio. It utilizes a song’s
traits to generate individual radio stations
based on users’ favorites.—BH
Flickr
www.flickr.com
The user-generated photo site lets you
document your life in photos for everyone
to see, browse other users’ photos, and
share pics with friends.—AI
Yahoo! Mail (beta)
mail.yahoo.com
Stripped-down freemail might be all the
rage, but Yahoo! goes in the opposite direction. The service acts like a fast, responsive
desktop application.—KM
Google Docs & Spreadsheets
docs.google.com
Whether or not it ever supplants Microsoft Office, Google’s online office software
is handy, collaborative, and free.—KM
YouTube
www.youtube.com
As therapy for the billions of bored people
in the world, YouTube lets users upload
and view video content for free.—LR
Better Graphics
On a Budget
These six graphics cards feature
low prices and decent performance.
How do they compare with their
higher-priced, enthusiast-level
counterparts? And is it time for
an upgrade? By Joel Durham Jr.
Illustration by Sean McCabe
INSIDE
96
98
99
101
Summary of Features
Performance Tests
How to Upgrade a Graphics Card
ESD and Your Electronics
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 95
XFX nVidia
GeForce 8500 GT
$85 street
256MB DDR2 memory,
128-bit interface
lllmm
PROS Great price. Outpaces
ATI part at similar price
point. Very quiet. Good Aero
performance.
CONS Weak performance,
unless you’re willing to make
your games ugly so they run
faster.
AMD ATI Radeon
HD 2600 XT
$130 street
512MB GDDR3 memory,
128-bit interface
lllmm
PROS Low wattage. Does a
decent job on Aero. Excellent video quality. Terrific for
DirectX 9.
CONS Insufficient for
DirectX 10 3D apps or
games.
Most people can’t tell a graphics card
from an UNO card, and you’ll need one (a
graphics card, that is) if you want to use
Windows Vista to its full extent. Bear in
mind that the vast majority of PCs in this
country fit into one of two categories:
those used for Web surfing, e-mail, and
shopping online; and those used for business, finance, spreadsheets, and activities
such as monitoring stock tickers. Neither
scenario requires a vast amount of pixelpushing graphics power. So when ATI or
nVidia releases a new chipset for cards
that will cost upwards of $600, quite a few
of us simply shake our heads and wonder
if there’s a decent next-gen card for nongaming computers.
The good news is that there are cards
for the rest of us. Released with less fanfare
than those enthusiast-level, crazy-priced
cards, they are quietly available for far
less money. They also pack less power for
3D applications like games—and Vista’s
fancy, graphics-heavy Aero interface. Both
AMD and nVidia manufacture higher- and
lower-end versions of their latest chipsets.
The $400 AMD ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
is the company’s top-of-the-line card, but
you can buy cheaper 2600 and 2400 versions. And to complement its top-end K
Summary of Features
Memory The amount and type of memory that the card uses. To run
Windows Vista Aero, 256MB of DDR2 SDRAM is plenty, but it might
be a bit weak for gaming. GDDR3 SDRAM is faster and needs less
power than other types of memory. (Discrete memory—located on
the card—is faster than shared, which requires the card to talk to
the computer’s main memory.) Memory interface The bandwidth
between the card’s memory and its GPU, or graphics processing
unit. A wider bandwidth usually means better performance. Stream
processing units The number of special, multipurpose processing
units available on the card. Stream processing units aren’t tied to
graphical data but are used for various software functions. Die process Determines the size of the chip’s parts. Smaller parts require
less power, which usually means less heat to dissipate and less fan
noise to deal with. Core, shader, and memory clocks The different frequencies used by the various components of a card. Faster
clocks allow more operations to be done in a shorter time.
RATINGS
TYPICAL
PRICE
MEMORY
MEMORY
INTERFACE
(bits)
Radeon HD 2400 Pro
l l m m m
$70
256MB DDR2
64
40
80
525
525
400
Radeon HD 2600 Pro
l l l m m
$100
256MB DDR2
128
120
65
600
600
500
Radeon HD 2600 XT
l l l m m
$130
512MB GDDR3
128
120
65
600
600
1,000
Radeon HD 2900 XT*
l l l l m
$400
512MB GDDR3
512
320
65
740
740
1,650
GeForce 8500 GT
l l l m m
$80
256MB or 512MB DDR2
128
16
80
450
900
800
GeForce 8600 GT
l l l m m
$150
256MB DDR2
128
32
80
540
1,180
700
GeForce 8600 GTS
l l l l m
$200
256MB GDDR3
128
32
80
675
1,450
2,000
GeForce 8800 GTX*
l l l l l
$580
768MB GDDR3
384
128
80
575
1,350
1,800
* High-end cards, tested for comparison.
96 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
STREAM
PROCESSING
UNITS
DIE
PROCESS
(nm)
CORE
CLOCK
(MHz)
SHADER
CLOCK
(MHz)
MEMORY
CLOCK
(MHz)
ASUS nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
$150 street
256MB DDR2 memory, 128-bit interface
lllmm
PROS Generally decent benchmark test scores.
Quiet. Excellent Aero acceleration.
CONS Slow and weak in 3D apps and gaming.
Insufficient for DirectX 10 3D apps or games.
Compares poorly with last year’s high-end cards,
which now sell for a similar price.
AMD ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro
$100 street
256MB DDR2 memory, 128-bit interface
lllmm
PROS Low wattage. Very quiet. Does a
decent job on Aero. Excellent video quality.
CONS Slow and weak in 3D apps and gaming. Insufficient for DirectX 10 3D apps or
games. Not CrossFire-compatible.
ASUS nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS
AMD ATI Radeon HD 2400 Pro
$200 street
256MB GDDR3 memory, 128-bit interface
$70 street
256MB DDR2 memory, 64-bit interface
ll l l m
llmmm
PROS Speedy for its price. Does a great job
on DirectX 9 games. Shreds Aero.
CONS Insufficient for DirectX 10 apps or
games. Huge heat sink for a single-width
card.
PROS Very cheap. Energy efficient. Silent.
Runs Vista Aero (barely).
CONS Slow and weak in 3D apps and
gaming. Insufficient for DirectX 10 apps or
games. Limited amount of memory.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 97
the Radeon HD 2400 Pro, the HD 2600
Pro, and the HD 2600 XT. The other three
are nVidia cards based on the GeForce
8500 GT, the 8600 GT, and the 8600 GTS
chipsets. We tested two high-end cards for
comparison: the Radeon HD 2900 XT and
the GeForce 8800 GTX. These cards cost
significantly more than the other cards in
our roundup, and, as the test results show,
you get what you pay for.
nVidia doesn’t make its own cards: It
produces only the hardware they’re based
GeForce 8800 series, nVidia offers the
less-expensive 8600, 8500, and even 8400
cards (although the latter seem to be available only to OEMs).
These lower-tier cards are priced from
$200 down to as little as $70, but are they
sufficient for today’s newest technologies?
Can they handle gaming at all?
The Cards
We tested eight cards in total. Three lowend cards are based on AMD ATI chipsets:
upon. The actual nVidia cards we tested
came from ASUS, EVGA, and XFX—popular manufacturers that assemble the graphics chips, circuit boards, and memory chips
into products for sale on retail shelves.
But keep in mind that the performance
of the nVidia chips doesn’t vary much
despite different company labels, so any
given GeForce card with similar memory
timings and specifications from any company will show performance similar to that
of the card we tested.
Graphics Card Performance: How We Tested
Specifications are one thing, but the actual performance of
cards can vary. So we tested each of these cards in different
environments to see how they performed. We installed a brandnew, fresh image of Windows Vista Ultimate on a computer and
turned off variables that might eat up processing time, such as
automatic updates. And we used the latest drivers for each card,
without enabling overclocking.
First we ran 3DMark06, a synthetic test that focuses primarily on the graphics card. It runs six gamelike environments (four
on the graphics card, two on the CPU) and measures the frame
rates that each “game” sustains, as well as other factors, such
as how many polygons and pixels (the building blocks of 3D
images) the card can render each second. 3DMark06 then spits
out a number, in 3DMarks, which constitutes the card’s score.
Not surprisingly, the more a card costs, the higher its score
and the better it generally does. This test shows why hard-core
gamers spend all that money on a high-end GPU: Pixel-pushing
power makes all games look better.
We also ran a number of gaming tests. These are performed
not only for comparison but also to see how well a card can run
a particular 3D game. Most game results are reported in frames
per second (fps), which refers to how many frames of animaBENCHMARK TESTS
PREY (fps)
High scores are best.
3DMARK06
4XAA, 8XAF
Radeon HD 2400 Pro
2,292
2.4
1.9
Radeon HD 2600 Pro
3,393
36.7
14.2
Radeon HD 2600 XT
4,953
54.8
21.8
Radeon HD 2900 XT*
10,321
119.7
84.1
GeForce 8500 GT
2,215
20.2
14.4
GeForce 8600 GT
3,969
37.5
22.9
GeForce 8600 GTS
5,184
50.6
32.1
GeForce 8800 GTX*
10,707
130.4
93.4
* High-end cards, tested for comparison.
All tests were run at 1,260-by-1,024 resolution.
98 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
tion the card can draw in a single second. A rate of 30 fps is
considered playable. Anything less and you’ll be able to discern
the changes from one frame to the next.
We ran each test at the relatively low resolution of 1,280-by1,024, with the game set at its defaults. We then ran the same
test with some features turned on: namely, anti-aliasing—the
removal of jagged edges and lines—and, if it was available,
anisotropic filtering—the smoothing of the image between close
up and faraway items. (Company of Heroes, for example, does
not have anisotropic filtering.) These features further burden the
graphics card and therefore result in lower frame rates; however,
with these features turned on, images look better.
The lowest-end cards couldn’t run the DirectX 9 game Prey
at acceptable frame rates. Better cards could—barely. The moreexpensive gaming cards had no trouble with it. We ran Company of Heroes twice: once in DirectX 9 and once in DirectX 10.
And just look at the difference! DirectX 10 takes a 30 percent or
higher hit on performance. While in DirectX 9, most of the cards
render the game at playable frame rates; in DirectX 10, few do.
Each of these cards has its strengths and weaknesses. As
most of the benchmark test results showed, higher-end cards
produce better performance. If all you’re looking for is simple
graphics and absolutely no gaming flare,
the cheapest ATI or nVidia cards will
suffice. The upside is, these cards are
COMPANY OF HEROES (fps)
remarkably quiet and energy efficient as
well (especially the ATI models).
DX9
DX9 4XAA
DX10
DX10 4XAA
The more you want gaming or even
39.4
27.9
14.6
9.6
Aero performance, the more you’ll have
56.9
43.0
35.7
22.3
to spend—and that’s truly the bottom
58.6
45.9
39.4
30.6
line. Besides, DirectX 10 isn’t a draw for
51.7
49.4
42.6
40.4
the lower end of these cards at all. If
you’re looking forward to future DirectX
27.1
21.0
14.6
13.1
10 gaming, you simply have to go high
47.8
40.1
30.3
26.5
end. That means buying an expensive
54.6
53.6
38.2
34.8
card from nVidia’s GeForce 8 series or
59.2
57.3
54.3
51.7
from ATI’s HD 2000 series. Start saving
AA—Anti-aliasing; AF—anisotropic filtering.
those pennies!
How to Upgrade
a Graphics Card
Save a bundle on your graphics card upgrade by doing it yourself. It’s not difficult,
and our handy guide does away with all the guesswork.
Windows Vista is the most graphically
intensive operating system ever, and
DirectX 10, its multimedia and gaming
component, has computer users all over
the world considering upgrading their PCs.
With its 3D-driven Aero graphical user
interface (GUI), Vista requires more graphics-card muscle than XP does. And because
DirectX 10 isn’t backward- compatible,
gamers who are captivated by its powerful specs are being forced to upgrade their
hardware in order to enjoy it.
Unlike earlier versions of Windows,
which used the 2D components of graphics hardware to display their GUIs, Windows Vista presents its Aero interface in
a 3D-intensive manner. The various windows displayed on-screen are actually 3D
surfaces. That allows interesting effects
like Flip 3D, the new alternative to the AltTab method of browsing through open
Illustration by Sean McCabe
programs. It also means Vista needs more
sophisticated graphics cards than Windows XP or Windows 9x ever did.
DirectX
The DirectX libraries make gaming and
multimedia possible on the Windows
platform, and they absolutely require
current-generation hardware. (Vista does
feature a version of DirectX 9 as well, for
compatibility with older games.) Basically,
DirectX is a series of application program
interfaces (APIs). An API, in turn, is a layer
of code that makes it easier for manufacturers and programmers to create hardware and software for a given platform. In
theory, developers shouldn’t have to worry
about making their products compatible
with the vast amount of hardware that
exists; they simply make their titles compatible with an API.
Prior to DirectX 10, each new version
of DirectX has been backward-compatible.
For instance, a DirectX 8 game can run on
DirectX 9 hardware. DX9 games, meanwhile, will usually run on DX8 hardware—
albeit without all the features of the newer
library.
DirectX 10, however, has thrown backward compatibility into the recycle bin.
Its rigid requirements mean anyone who
wants to run DirectX 10 games must have
DirectX 10 hardware. DX10 hardware will
work with software written for earlier versions of DirectX, but the opposite is not
true: a DirectX 8 or 9 graphics card absolutely will not run DirectX 10 titles.
The “Big Two” makers of graphics hardware, nVidia and AMD (ATI’s parent company), both have DirectX 10 hardware on
the market. nVidia’s DirectX 10 line is the
GeForce 8 series (it includes the 8800 K
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 99
1
LET’S GET STARTED
Uninstall the graphics card driver in Windows Vista. After unplugging your PC, open the case and remove the old card.
3
NEW CARDS NEED POWER
5
PRESS FIRMLY TO SEAT THE CARD
Plug in the power-supply lead before you install the card.
It’s a six-wire cable and should be keyed to fit securely.
This graphics card is fully seated and flush against the slot.
Note that the tab has secured the card in place.
100 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
2
THIS SIDE DOWN
4
THE PCI EXPRESS BUS
6
FINAL STEPS
Insert the gold contact edge of the graphics card into the
PCI Express x16 slot. Try not to touch the contacts.
The blue slot is the PCI Express x16 interface. Notice the
tab at right; it must be depressed to remove the old card.
Use one or two screws to secure the graphics card. Then
boot up, install the latest drivers, and reboot Vista.
READ THIS FIRST
ESD and Safe Electronics Handling
Bare electronic components on a circuit board are susceptible to all kinds of accidental damage. Handling your
graphics card safely and being very careful regarding static
electricity are of paramount importance.
Handle the card only by its edges, and by the metal
bracket on the rear. Be sure not to touch the gold contacts
that slide into the slot on the motherboard. The oils on your
fingers can interfere with the electrical contact, which can
result in the card not working properly. Also, don’t touch the
chips! If you do, the small amount of static that can build up
in your body may discharge and permanently damage them.
ESD, or electrostatic discharge, is a silent killer of electronics. Here’s how to avoid it:
GTX and GTS products, as well as the 8600
and 8500 chipsets). ATI’s is its Radeon HD
2000 series (featuring the HD 2900 XT,
and the 2600 and 2400 products).
You’ve probably read that early DirectX
10 efforts by game developers have been
disappointing. Still, it’s only a matter of
time before the developers figure out how
best to use the new APIs—and consequently cease to support DirectX 9.
The bottom line is this: Even if your
DX9 graphics card has enough memory
and muscle to handle Windows Vista, it
won’t run tomorrow’s games. If your old
card can’t even run Vista and you’re going
to upgrade, you might as well jump to
current-generation, DirectX 10 hardware.
Both AMD and nVidia make a wide
range of cards at several price points. The
highest-end cards (such as the nVidia
GeForce 8800 GTX and the AMD ATI
Radeon HD 2900 XT) are aimed squarely
at gamers, whereas lower-end products
(from nVidia GeForce 8600 on down;
AMD ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and
below) are geared more for office and
casual home users.
The Right Slot
Depending on how old your computer
is, you might have to replace the entire
board—and even the CPU, memory, and
other components—just to replace the
graphics card.
That’s because physical and electronic
graphics card interfaces change every few
years. Until recently, the slot in which the
graphics card sits, with its electronic connection to the motherboard, was called
the Accelerated Graphics Port, or AGP.
In late 2005 the industry switched over
to a new standard called PCI (Peripheral
Component Interconnect) Express x16.
And way back before the AGP slot existed,
graphics cards used standard PCI slots.
You’re not likely to find any DirectX 10
hardware for the AGP standard, much less
1. Before you touch any electronic parts, plant your feet.
2. Ground yourself by touching part of your computer’s
chassis.
3. Don’t move your feet while you work inside the computer or handle the graphics card (or any other electronic parts).
4. If you do move your feet, plant them again and reground yourself before you reach back into the case
or pick up more electronic parts.
You can also wear an antistatic bracelet that you clip to
grounded metal to keep static from building up in your body.
for the vanilla PCI standard. This guide,
therefore, covers only the PCI Express x16
slot. Check your computer’s documentation, or that of its motherboard, to be sure
it can take a PCI Express x16 graphics card.
If not, you’re in for a far bigger upgrade
than this article outlines.
Removing the Old Graphics Card
Before you tear your computer’s case
open, you need to remove the software
programs—the drivers—that make your
old graphics card work with Windows.
The drivers usually appear in the Add or
Remove Programs interface (in XP) or
Programs and Features (in Vista). You can
open the pertinent interface through the
Control Panel.
Highlight the drivers and click the Uninstall button. You’ll probably encounter all
kinds of prompts asking if you really want
to uninstall them, and Windows Vista’s
User Account Control will kick in and
require your permission to let the uninstall
continue. If you are using a motherboard
with integrated graphics, you will need to
disable them in the BIOS.
Your screen might change to a lower
resolution and color depth during or after
the uninstall process. When it’s done, the
computer will prompt you to reboot. Say
no! Instead, shut down the computer,
unplug the AC cord, open the case, and
prepare to remove the card physically.
Look for the card that corresponds
with the monitor cable on the rear of the
machine. That’s your computer’s graphics card. Unplug the monitor cable, then
remove the screw or screws holding
the graphics card in place. Pop the card
upward, out of its slot. You might have to
disengage a plastic clip on the slot on the
motherboard, near the front of the card, to
release it fully.
When you’ve removed the card from
the case, unplug the power-supply cable
from the front of the card, if there is a
power connection, and place the card into
an antistatic bag. If you don’t have one
handy, lay the card flat on a clean surface
and later, when you’ve freed up the antistatic bag that your new card came in, use it
to store your old one.
Installing the New Graphics Card
There may be two PCIe x16 slots on your
motherboard. If that’s the case, use the one
that held your old graphics card. If you’re
still not sure which one to use, consult
the motherboard’s documentation, which
should clearly identify one of them as the
primary slot. Find the PCI Express powersupply lead (some current cards actually
require two of these) and plug it into the
socket on the card.
Next, line up the card’s gold contacts
with the slot on the motherboard and
insert the card. Some current graphics
cards are surprisingly big, so be careful not
to knock any other components or cables
loose inside the case.
Press down on the top edge of the card
until it’s firmly seated in the PCI Express
x16 slot. The metal bracket on the back of
the card should be tight against the case.
Finally, using a screw (or two), secure the
card in place. Replace the side cover and
plug the monitor into the graphics card.
Boot up the operating system. Cancel
any Windows attempts to find new hardware drivers, and open your favorite Web
browser. Head to www.nvidia.com or www
.ati.com to download the latest drivers for
your graphics chip. The drivers will be in
an executable program; run the program
after it’s fully downloaded.
In Vista, User Account Control will
again break in to be sure you want to install
the drivers. Simply follow the prompts
and the installation routine will take care
of everything. You’ll need to reboot when
the driver installation is finished. After the
computer boots back up, the graphics card
installation is complete. Q
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 101
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Solutions
PROBLEMS SOLVED THIS ISSUE
106 Outlook Express spell-checker not
working
106 Unremovable shadows in Excel
110 Building a better Web site
108 How can I use multiple monitors?
112 Where do customers “drop out”?
106 Annoying USB 2.0 warning
108 Why is my computer so slow?
114 Making longer documents better
Create No-Code Mashups
with Yahoo! Pipes
Even if you don’t wear a hat with a propeller or write code, you can “mash up”
a brand-new Web service right now. By Bill Dyszel
MASHING UP DATA You can combine the most relevant dynamic
data from more than one site. Here
we mashed the PC Magazine Editors’ Choice feed and the Yahoo!
Tech Advisors feed.
You’ve probably already used at least one
online application that combines the services of different sources. You may have
used one, say, to create a local map that
shows traffic reports, or to create a map
of the neighborhood you’ll be visiting in
Prague, highlighting the area’s four-star
restaurants. Now you can take advantage
of an array of new mashup tools designed
to help you assemble the relevant features
of multiple online sources and create a new
application that suits your needs precisely.
Truly sophisticated mashups still
demand coding and often require a Web
server, but anyone can accomplish quite
a lot right now with hosted, Web-based
mashup authoring tools. An easy—and
free—way to begin is by using Yahoo! Pipes
(pipes.yahoo.com). It’s a totally graphical,
integrated development environment that
is surprisingly intuitive, and really easy
enough for ordinary, everyday Web users.
Yahoo! Pipes lets you mix, match, and
kludge Web-based information into a conNOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 103
SOLUTIONS SOFTWARE
coction to suit your taste. It requires no
coding—just drag and drop data sources
and operators onto the Yahoo! Pipes workspace and tie them together.
The most immediately valuable application of a Yahoo! Pipes project is to
manipulate the contents of one or more
RSS feeds to produce a new RSS feed tailored to a specific purpose. As a primitive
1
example, we’ll remix an RSS feed from
PC Magazine and another from Yahoo!
to generate a uniquely useful result. That
only scratches the surface of what’s possible with Yahoo! Pipes, but it’s a good place
to begin.
When you first sign on to Yahoo! Pipes,
you’ll see listings of Pipes projects that
have already been created by others and
published for public use. You can run those
projects, copy them, modify their source
code to create your own project, and even
subscribe to the results in your favorite
RSS reader. Most are pretty easy to figure
out. You can learn a lot from examining
other people’s projects, even if you opt not
to use them as a data source for a pipe of
your own. Q
GET STARTED
To begin, drag a source module from the list on
the left to the main workspace to reveal a dialog
box in which you can enter sources, instructions,
or operations. In this case, we’ve dragged in the
Fetch Feed module, which will capture data from
an RSS feed.
The Debug window at the bottom of the
screen shows the results of the currently
selected module. In this case, it simply displays the contents of the feed we specified in
the Fetch Feed module.
Drag the circle at the bottom of one module to the circle at the top of another to create
a “pipe” that moves data between them. The
Pipe Output module simply makes the data in
your Pipes project available through an RSS
feed or Java.
If you need to learn more about how a
module functions, click the question-mark
button at the upper right-hand corner of
the module dialog box to reveal a small help
window at the lower right-hand corner of the
Pipes workspace.
2
SELECT DATA
Once you’ve chosen a feed to fetch, you can
manipulate the data in the feed by choosing
an operator; drag the operator in from the
list on the left. The Filter module includes or
excludes items according to the parameters
you select. In this case we’re filtering the PC
Magazine Editors’ Choice RSS feed to limit the
feed to items containing the word bluetooth.
EDITOR’S TIP
READY-MADE MASHUPS If you want to take
advantage of the mashup possibilities but
creating a Pipes project doesn’t float your
boat, look around the list of existing Pipes to
see if someone has already created the project
you need. An even better place to search for
existing mashups is ProgrammableWeb (www
.programmableweb.com), a clearinghouse of
mashups, APIs, tools, and other mashuprelated resources.
104 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
3
4
ADD SOURCES
Now we’ll bring in multiple filters and
sources to enhance the value of this
mashup. In this case we’ve combined RSS
feeds from two sources, one from PC
Magazine and another from Yahoo!. We’ve
plugged each into the Union module,
which is the filter that enables multiple
sources. Then we’ve run the results
through a multilevel filter seeking several
prominent brands: Nokia, BlackBerry,
Sony, and Nintendo. The Union module
wasn’t actually necessary in this case—
you can stack multiple feeds in a single
Fetch Feed module, but the Union module
comes in handy when you’re trying to test
the contents of each feed separately by
connecting only one at a time.
CHECK IT OUT!
After saving your Pipes project, click the View
Results button to see the information your
project delivers. From the results screen you
can click any individual item to view its contents, or you can click Edit Source to go back
and tweak your project.
EDITOR’S TIP
5
BACK TO RSS
Pipes serves up its output through RSS, which allows you to view
results in any RSS-enabled program, including most popular RSS
readers, as well as Microsoft Outlook 2007.
OTHER TOOLS Yahoo! Pipes is a great
place to get started if you’re interested in
creating mashups, but there are also other
toolsets that might give you more of what
you need. Some popular choices include
Proto, Tequlo, and Open Kapow, along
with dozens of others. Microsoft’s Popfly
service is still an invitation-only alpha
product, but it’s already developing some
buzz. Google has announced a similar
service, as has IBM. We’re a long way
from knowing whose mashup tools will
dominate the field, but there’s never been
a better time to learn how to make your
Web experience your own.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 105
SOLUTIONS SOFTWARE
AskNeil
Office 2007 Whacks OE
Spell-Checker
I have a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC, which includes
Internet Explorer and Outlook
Express as well as Office 2007.
I am English, but I can get only French
in the OE6 spell-checker. How can I get
an English (U.K.) spell-checker? My old
computer with OE6 checked in English!
—Christine Henderson
Q
A
Outlook Express doesn’t actually
have a spell-check feature of its
own, but it will exploit Microsoft
Office’s spell-checker if it’s installed. Your
loss of English-language spell-checking
is a side effect of installing Office 2007.
Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article
932974 confirms that installation of Office
2007 “upgrades” the spell-check files for
English, Spanish, and German to new versions that are incompatible with Outlook
Express.
Microsoft does not offer any solution for this problem, but it suggests you
“use a search site to find spell-checking
programs” or get advice in the Microsoft
Communities discussion forums. You’ll
have the added concern of finding one that
supports English (U.K.) and not just English (U.S.).
Of course, you could just switch to
using Outlook for e-mail. It’s part of Office
2007, so you’ve already paid for it. When
you fire it up, it will offer to import settings and messages from Outlook Express.
Who knows—you might come to prefer it!
(Hmm . . . is this a sinister plot by Microsoft to marginalize Outlook Express?)
A
You can turn off that message, but
only by turning off all USB-related
error messages. Right-click My
Computer and choose Properties from the
pop-up menu. Click the Hardware tab and
click the Device Manager button on that
tab. Near the bottom find the entry for
USB devices; click the plus sign at left to
expand it. Find the entry for the controller
itself—it should have the word “Universal” or “Open” in its name. Right-click it
and choose Properties. Click the Advanced
tab, check the box titled Don’t tell me about
USB errors, and click OK. If there are
multiple controllers listed, do this for each
of them.
In the future, if you experience any
odd behavior or other USB device problems, go back and temporarily turn off the
option to suppress USB error messages.
Back from the Shadows Again
I have applied a drop-shadow
effect to several cells in Microsoft
Excel 2003. I now wish to remove
the shadow-box effect, but the “No
Shadow” selection on the Drawing toolbar
Q
is dimmed. I have even tried to change the
shadow effect, but Excel maintains the current effect while applying the new effect.
How do I remove an existing drop shadow? I
have searched the Microsoft Excel help and
the Internet for a solution but have not been
able to find one.—Dwight Jessup
A
If you simply select those Excel
cells again, you will indeed find
that No Shadow is dimmed. And,
yes, if you select one of the shadow styles,
you’ll just get an additional shadow—the
original won’t go away. But if you look
closely, you should see a skinny border
around the block of shadowed cells. If
you don’t see it, move the mouse slowly
around the edge of the cells until it
changes to a four-way arrow. When you
click the border, the display will change
to show a set of object handles around
the cells. In other words, you’ll see little
circles at each corner and at the middle
of each side, plus another that looks like a
handle sticking straight up.
Making sure the object handles remain
visible, click the Drop Shadow button in
Turn Off USB 2.0 Warning
Every time I start my PC I receive
a message in a dialog box informing me that the device (an external
drive) I have attached to the USB
port could perform faster if I attached it to a
USB 2.0 port. I have not yet added a USB 2.0
card to the PC. I wonder, how can I prevent
the message from appearing in the meantime?—Brian Abbishaw
Q
106 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
I’LL STICK WITH 1.1 If you don’t plan to add USB 2.0 functionality to your older computer,
you can turn off the warning that appears every time you plug in a USB 2.0 device.
the Drawing toolbar. Now the No Shadow option is enabled; click it. Finally,
press the Delete key to delete the object
handles. You’re back from the shadows
again!
Find the Cookies Folder in Vista
Where can I find the Cookies folder
in Windows Vista? When I ran
Windows XP, I put a shortcut to
the Cookies folder on my desktop.
When I went to a Web site, I could quickly
see how many cookies a site was putting on
my computer and delete them if I wanted to.
I’ve tried searching in Vista but haven’t had
much luck. Please help!—Walter Nowak
Q
A
To find just about anything in
Vista, you simply start typing its
name at the Start menu. When you
type cookies, it points you to C:\Users\
username\cookies—great! Great, that
is, until you click on the link and get an
“Access Denied” slap in the face. In actual
fact, that path is just a kind of pointer. The
cookies are stored in a completely different location.
Open Windows Explorer, press F10 to
see the menu, and choose Tools | Folder
Options. Click the View tab. Find the
option to Show hidden files and folders
and check it. Find Hide protected operating system files and uncheck it (Vista will
gripe). Now you can navigate to the actual
location, which is twofold: C:\Users\
username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\
Windows\Cookies and C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies\Low.
If you like, you can put shortcuts to
these on the desktop or elsewhere—just
right-drag the folder, let go, and choose
Create shortcut(s) here. These shortcuts
will work even if you change the Windows Explorer options described above
back to their default values.
Clean Install Using Vista Upgrade
I currently run Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional on a
custom-built PC, so I have the
Win 2000 operating system CD.
I am planning to buy Windows Vista Ultimate upgrade edition and install it on a
new PC that I’ll be building.
Because I’ll be purchasing the upgrade
edition of Vista, I won’t be able to completely wipe my hard drive using a thirdparty product and then install the upgrade,
Q
HIDDEN COOKIES The obvious folder location for cookies in Windows Vista is wrong—
they’re actually stored deep in a path of hidden folders.
since there would be no evidence on the hard
drive that I actually had Windows 2000
installed previously. I typically clean the
drive and then do a full OS reinstall about
twice a year. How well does the “clean
install” really clean the hard drive prior to
installing the OS?—George Chimich
A
Some past Windows versions have
let you prove upgrade-readiness
by inserting the CD of the previous
OS during the install process. Vista doesn’t.
Microsoft specifically says: Windows Vista
does not check upgrade compliance. Therefore, you cannot use an upgrade key to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista.
Microsoft’s solutions are (1) first install a
compliant Windows version such as 2000,
XP, or Vista, or (2) purchase a full license.
So, no problem! Just run through
your usual full drive-wipe and reinstall
of Windows 2000, and then upgrade to
Vista. Hang onto that Windows 2000 CD
if you want to continue this semiannual
reinstallation practice.
“Copy Only Subtotals in Excel”
Revisited
There’s a much quicker and easier solution to “Copy Only Subtotals in Excel”
(February 6, 2007). With the subtotals displayed at the level you want to copy, select
the entire area and then use Edit | Go To |
Special and click the radio button Visible
cells only. Now only the visible cells are
selected (note the dashed boxes around
each of the subtotal rows instead of the
entire selection). Then proceed as normal: Press Ctrl-C to copy to the clipboard,
move to your destination cells, and press
Ctrl-V.—Jim McMichael
A
This is just one out of the dozens
of letters in response to “Copy
Only Subtotals in Excel.” I used a
combination of the built-in Subtotal feature and Excel’s Advanced Filter, which
many readers felt was too complex. Most
of them suggested the method described
above, but actually there’s an even simpler
way to select only visible cells when some
cells are hidden because of a filter or subtotal being active.
Select Tools | Customize from the menu
and click on the Commands tab. Select
Edit in the left-hand list and scroll down
the right-hand list until you find the item
Select Visible Cells. Drag that item onto
one of your toolbars. Now, whenever you
need to copy only the cells that are visible
within the highlighted region, you can
just click this button and then press CtrlC. Still too much work? Okay, how about
this one? Highlight the region, press Alt-;
(semicolon) and then Ctrl-C. That’s about
as simple as anything can get!
NEED ANSWERS? PC Magazine’s software
expert, Neil J. Rubenking, tackles your
toughest software and Internet problems. Send your questions to askneil@
ziffdavis.com.
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 107
SOLUTIONS HARDWARE
AskLoyd
Multiple Monitors,
Multiple Questions
Q
Please inform me whether I can
connect two or more monitors to
the same PC. If so, what additional settings are needed?—Shyam S
How do I go about getting dual monitors set
up at my home computer? I do a lot of CAD
work, and having the extra space would be
great!—Timothy Hold
A
You should consider several
important factors before connecting multiple displays: the graphics
card, the operating system, and the physical connectors.
I’m going to assume that you have
Microsoft Windows XP or Windows
Vista. Given that, you’ll need a graphics
card or graphics subsystem that supports
multiple displays. Any video card manufactured in the past three years—even
the budget cards—can do that. But take
a minute to refer to your PC’s manual if
your system has only integrated graphics hardware—that is, a graphics adapter
that’s built into your system’s motherboard chipset. Some integrated graphics
systems can handle more than one display, but others can’t.
The bottom line is that you need a
graphics adapter with two physical connectors—either VGA or DVI—and two
displays with appropriate connections. If
you have a video card with two DVI ports,
but one or both of your displays has only
VGA connectors, you can obtain DVI-toVGA adapter dongles.
Once you connect both displays, either
Windows or the graphics driver control
panel should autodetect the second display and walk you through setting it up.
If the autodetect message doesn’t pop up,
you can set up the dual display yourself,
either through the Display control panel
or the graphics driver. The Windows
control panel is simpler, but the graphics
driver may give you more options.
The biggest problem you may encounter is physical space on your real-world
108 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
desk, particularly if the displays are oldstyle CRT monitors. But once you get
used to having dual displays, you’ll never
go back. The additional screen space is a
tremendous productivity asset.
Why So Slow?
I build my own computers and
usually figure out things on my
own, but my most recent PC is
causing me some problems. I
used an ASUS P5V800-MX motherboard:
The front-side bus is supposed to run at
800 MHz, and the PC has a 3.2-GHz processor. The machine should be running a lot
faster than it is. My BIOS tells me it is running at 800 MHz, but I have a utility program that I really like called Belarc Advisor,
and it’s telling me that the FSB is running at
only 200 MHz, which would obviously slow
things down.
I’ve racked my brains and tried to get
answers from ASUS, but I am getting
nowhere fast.—Tasman1067
Q
A
This is a pretty common mistake
to make; bus speed is an oddly
confusing issue. Both the BIOS
and your Advisor software are correct.
WINDOWS DISPLAY CONTROL PANEL
You can check the Extend the desktop
onto this monitor box to enable your
second display.
Your graphics driver control panel
offers more options but is also more
complex.
Here’s why:
When you see “800-MHz FSB” (frontside bus), what you’re seeing is the effective FSB clock frequency. The FSB is
actually running at 200 MHz. That is,
there’s a clock control in the chip that
runs the FSB at 200 MHz.
Intel processors, like the one in your
ASUS, can move four data items per clock
cycle, however. This is commonly referred
to as a “quad-pumped bus.” To simplify
labeling, this is often called an 800-MHz
FSB. But it’s really a 200-MHz FSB moving four data items each clock cycle.
Similarly, a 1,066-MHz FSB is really
running at 266 MHz but is also quadpumped.
Oh . . . Blue Screen of Death
Finally, an update. In “Blue Screen of . . .
Wait, What?” (October 2), I gave reader
Theodore Miller a checklist that might
help keep his blue screens at bay—updating graphic card driver, checking memory
settings in the BIOS, checking and reseating RAM modules, and ensuring the CPU
fan was operational.
What Mr. Miller had actually asked for,
though, was a way to read the blue-screen
information before his machine rebooted.
And it is strange that a screen meant to convey critical system error messages should
disappear before the average human could
possibly read it, much less copy down the
often huge amounts of information on it.
My colleague Neil J. Rubenking chimed
in: “You can keep that blue screen visible.
Right-click My Computer. Choose Properties. Click to select the Advanced tab
(or the Advanced system properties link
in Vista). Click the Settings button in the
Startup and Recovery pane. Uncheck
Automatically restart, Click OK | OK. Now
the blue-screen information will remain
visible on your screen until you force a
reboot with Ctrl-Alt-Del.” Thanks, Neil!
NEED ANSWERS? ExtremeTech.com’s
editor, Loyd Case, tackles readers’ hardware problems in each issue. Send your
toughest to askloyd@ziffdavis.com.
SOLUTIONS BUSINESS
INTERNET DEVELOPMENT
Build a Better Web Site
Getting site visitors is only half the battle. By Vicki B. Jacobson
Back in 1985, legendary music producer
Quincy Jones invited the day’s most popular singers to record “We Are the World,”
a single for charity. In his invitation, he
asked the musicians to “check your egos at
the door.” Sage advice, and something you
should keep in mind as you gather with
the editors, producers, designers, developers, and business folks who are creating
or redesigning your business’s Web site.
The process of designing or reworking a Web site can be a long one, and it
shouldn’t be rushed. Tackling these criteria before and during the site’s development will save you time and help keep you
from making costly mistakes.
Define Your Goals
There are user goals and then there
are business goals. User goals are often
defined by your content, what kind of people you want to attract to your site, and the
kind of experience you want to deliver for
them. Business goals, well, they’re often
about making money. As much as you can,
define the expectations for both these
areas up front.
Identify Your Audience
You may know your site and its content
better than anyone—and you should—
but, remember, you’re likely not the target
audience. Identifying the user, or site visitor, should be one of the first things that
you do. One way to do this is by developing personas for the types of visitors you
have and want to attract. Give them names
and some personality traits. Define their
Internet habits (what they do online, how
they might get to your site, how much
experience they have navigating Web
sites, how they may use your site . . . you
get the picture).
As you develop the site, click around
the preview pages and ask yourself if you’re
satisfying the needs of those personas.
Develop a Project Plan
If possible, all parties should know what’s
going on with the project. Most important,
a project plan lets the key players know
110 PC MAGAZINE NOVBEMBER 6, 2007
HOW’S IT DOING? Getting site visitors is only half the battle. You want them to stick
around and find not only what they need but also what you want them to find. One
tool we use at PCMag.com is called SiteCatalyst. It tells us how many times each
link on a page has been clicked—the darker the red, the more clicks—which helps us
determine how effective the page layout is.
the schedule for “deliverables” (deadlines
for design, usability testing, templates,
development, beta testing, launch dates,
and so on).
Employ the same consistency for your
search box. Page elements, too, should be
as consistent as possible. Disorganized,
cluttered pages will only frustrate visitors.
Design and Development
Design is just as much about the organization of content as it is about color schemes,
font sizes, and compelling graphics. Everyone will have an opinion about what should
be included on your main pages and on
individual article pages. And you’ll be
tempted to integrate all of that new technology you’ve been hearing about. Start with
everything but the kitchen sink, prioritize
elements, and then remove the extraneous.
Consistency is the name of the game
here, and nowhere is this more important
than with your site navigation. Navigation
bars need to stay in the same place—typically at the top or left—and look identical
regardless of which page a visitor is on.
Keep it tight, too—provide all the navigation buttons a visitor should need, no
fewer and certainly no more.
Make Pages Usable
Yes, your home page is important. It’s the
front door to your site, but it’s not the only
way people enter. Visitors will often find
their way to your site via a search engine.
That means that individual pages are just
as important as your home page. Each
page should be a destination, with easy
access to related content as well as to the
rest of the site.
Define Success
Is it all about money? Or are you interested
in delivering a good user experience?
Maybe it’s both. Set goals. These may
include fast page-load times as well as the
expected number of page views, unique
visitors, and pages viewed per visit.
It’s simple, really. Get them there. Keep
them there. Everyone’s happy. Q
SOLUTIONS BUSINESS
SMB BOOT CAMP
Keep Your Customers in View
Analyzing how you deal with customers is almost always worthwhile. By Matthew D. Sarrel
Is your business as efficient as it should be?
Or do customers slip through the cracks?
Many small businesses struggle just to get
routine things done, but a careful analysis
of the steps you take in dealing with customers is almost always worth the time
you invest. Examine the way your business
functions and the daily tasks employees
perform. Take a special look at the role IT
systems play in the process. Then look for
ways to improve and serve the customer
better and less expensively.
This is all common sense, of course, but
it goes quite a bit further and has grown
into a field called business process analysis,
or business process management. Companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars a
year in software and services for it.
Years ago, I worked at the New Jersey
Medical School National TB Center. Part of
what we did was provide preventive therapy for people infected with tuberculosis.
Those who were infected but not sick were
asked to take medication for six months.
It’s pretty hard to get someone to take a
pill every day who doesn’t even feel sick,
so many patients in this category stopped
coming to the clinic, and we couldn’t follow up with them. In public-health terms,
that’s considered a “negative outcome.”
In business-process terms, compare it to
someone coming into a retail store in need
of something, looking around, and leaving
without buying anything. Q
Fixing a Business Process
The first step in my analysis was to involve everyone who played a role, from clinic
staff to data entry clerks to health officials to the IT director. We looked at the process of preventive therapy and created a process diagram, paying special attention
to where we thought patients were slipping through the cracks. Manually reviewing patient charts to schedule appointments wasn’t working. We mapped the old,
manual process and a new, automated process (see below).
I developed a custom database that automated the generation of reminder and
missed-appointment letters, lists of delinquent patients who needed follow-up
calls, and reports. It worked. We demonstrated a statistically significant increase
in the percentage of patients who completed preventive therapy.
Do Your Own Business Process Analysis
According to Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a key factor in
project success is engaging employees. Many people are resistant to change—especially when the change is dictated from above. It’s important for IT to understand
the business side of things, and vice versa. “Hold short collaborative brainstorming
sessions with cross-functional teams,” advises Wince. To write an effective database, for example, the developer needs to understand how it will be used.
TAKE A BASELINE MEASUREMENT Whether you measure your success by
straight financial figures or other metrics, take stock of your current rate.
BE THE CUSTOMER Look at your processes from the customer’s perspective.
DIAGRAM THE PROCESS Create a process diagram that shows the steps that a
customer must go through to complete a transaction. I like to use Visio for this.
USE FRESH EYES Try to view the process as an outsider might, not taking anything for granted. Look for procedures that don’t make sense, where steps don’t
seem to be in the right order, and where there’s a chance for customers to drop out.
CHANGE Easy to say, not always so easy to do. Fix the problems you identified,
either by changing the overall process or by adding or subtracting technology.
MEASURE THE OUTCOME No initiative can be called successful unless you can
show a positive effect such as an increase in revenue or a decrease in costs.
AUTOMATED METHOD PROCESS FLOW
Developing and implementing IT systems should be an ongoing process focused on continual improvement of the business process.
Here’s a sample workflow that worked at the New Jersey Medical School National TB Center.
Patient file
incomplete
END
No
Does
patient
come to
clinic?
START
Yes
Patient
enters
clinic
Receptionist
starts chart
Nurse
provides
treatment
to patient
Yes
Data-entry
clerk
generates
missedappointment
letter
Patient
is in
treatment
limbo
No
Does
patient
come to
clinic?
112 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
Data-entry
clerk
inputs
appointment
Receptionist
schedules
next visit,
files chart
<6
times
6th
Patient
file
Patient time
complete
returns in
1 month
END
No
Yes
Data-entry
clerk
generates
missedappointment
letter
Patient
is in
treatment
limbo
No
Does
patient
come to
clinic?
Receptionist
calls patient
Data-entry
clerk
generates
delinquency
list
Patient
is in
treatment
limbo
SOLUTIONS OFFICE
New Features for Long Documents
Although most of us use Microsoft Word most of the time, when
it’s time to write a long or complex document, such as a book, we
switch to higher-end page-layout software—or at least Microsoft
Publisher—to get the features we need. With Word 2007, Microsoft has added a number of capabilities that make it much easier to
author long documents. Most exciting for students and researchers are the greatly improved tools for providing a bibliography and
citations. You can enter the information once for each source you
want to cite into a convenient dialog, and then Word lets you place
references. With one click, Word will generate a bibliography in
one of several widely accepted standard formats.
If you have multiple contributors working on your document,
Word 2007 style sets, which are predefined sets of style definitions saved as a template, can ensure everyone’s contributions are
laid out consistently. You can provide your contributors with your
style set or apply it to their contributions after you receive them.
For those who need to submit their final documents electronically, Microsoft has responded to user need and added a Document Inspector, which can remove old versions of text, hidden
text, or other potentially embarrassing or confidential items left
around from your draft revisions.—David Cardinal, frequent
contributor
COMPARE
Even when you are working solo, the time will come when you want to
compare two different versions of a document. Word has always let you
compare documents, but with Word 2007, you can see two versions in
side-by-side windows, making it much easier to merge the multiple drafts
into one. So if you have multiple authors or an editor, all parties can work
on the document, even without using the change-tracking tools, and still
have a good chance of integrating the changes from both versions. The
Compare and Combine options are located on the Review ribbon.
SAVE AS PDF
One great new feature in Word 2007 for anyone
planning either to publish a document online or
to send it electronically for publication is the integrated PDF export capability. You need to download the free PDF converter from Microsoft Office
Online, but then it’s a simple matter to generate
PDFs optimized for Web display or printing. To get
PDF export capability, go to Save As | Find add-ins
for other formats, which takes you to Microsoft’s
download page.
EQUATIONS
Word 2007 offers a powerful new equation editor. Simply click on Equation on
the Insert ribbon and the Equation Editor
ribbon will appear. It is amazingly simple
to input almost any mathematical equation
and print professional-looking results. You
can customize how the equation editor
works to adapt it to the specific terminology in use in your industry, and save equations to a library for easy reuse. Note that
Equations, like SmartArt and a few other
new features, will not work in Compatibility
mode (that is, if you save documents in
Word 97–2003 format).
114 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
O U T LO O K T I P
Better Searching
There are so many buttons, flags, pull-downs,
and assorted gewgaws in the new Microsoft
Outlook that it took me months of using the
much-improved Search to notice the pull-down
arrow—not the one in the box, but the doublearrow to the right of the box. And wouldn’t you
know it, that arrow leads to a real, advanced
search, with actual multiple fields and everything.—Sarah Pike
WO R D T I P
Changing Cases
RESEARCH
If you don’t remember where you read something or perhaps are still working on your research, use the integrated Research pane to search both Word’s
internal thesaurus and an array of online research sources. Currently, the
online sources are mostly Microsoft-owned sites (Encarta is probably the best
known), but there is a provision for third parties to make additional research
sites available. To bring up the Research pane, you can Alt-click on a word, or
go to Review | Research.
Hey thanks, Microsoft, for finally making a button to change the case of selected text, and putting it on Word 2007’s Ribbon. Till now, I’ve had
to make do with my favorite secret key combo:
Shift-F3. (Keyboard monkeys will be pleased
to hear that the combo still works: Select your
text and press Shift-F3 to change the case from
all-lowercase to all-uppercase to sentence
capitalization.) In fairness, the button adds two
options that Shift-F3 won’t give you: initial caps
on all words, and toggle case (for when you
accidentally iNTERcAP in reverse).—SP
E XC E L T I P
Cell Navigation
CITATIONS
There is nothing I hate more about writing research papers than muddling
through formatting the bibliography. Word 2007 makes it a snap by automatically generating one based on data you type in. In the References tab, choose
a reference style (for example, APA or Chicago). Then click on Manage Sources,
then New to create a reference list. That done, making citations, footnotes, and
a bibliography really is as simple as clicking on the Insert Citation, Insert Footnote, and Bibliography buttons.
Need to enter data in a number of noncontiguous Excel spreadsheet cells? Rather than
inputting a value, clicking on the next location, and repeating, first select all the cells you
want using Ctrl-click. After that, hitting Enter
or Tab will cause the cursor to jump automatically to each successive selection until you
break the spell by clicking on a cell that’s not
in the chosen group. Entry will start on whichever cell you select last, then roll around to the
first.—Gary Berline
NOVEMBER 6, 2007 PC MAGAZINE 115
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,-. /
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BackSpace
EDITED BY DAN EVANS
DOWN THE TUBES You’ve been to YouTube, but have you seen these “Tubes”?
JEWTUBE.COM
EWETUBE.COM
MOOTUBE.COM
NEWTUBE.COM
TUTUTUBE.COM
KUNGFUTUBE.COM
TRUETUBE.COM & UTUBE.COM
The preeminent site for Jewish home video.
A blog for sheep lovers (no, not that way, sicko).
Recently retired site where PBS showed clips of
longhorn cattle. Yeah, um, retired.
Didn’t know people still used tubes in amps?
If you need a new one, shop here.
Do you like YouTube but find that the videos aren’t
random enough for you? Check this out.
“A Web site specializing in database retrieval for
kung fu video.”
If you’re looking for information about construction
and machine tubes, try these sites.
ABORT, RETRY, FAIL
by Don Willmott
By “etc.” we assume they mean a tire iron,
a brick, or a baseball bat.
San Pedrito, Mexico.
The world’s loneliest Wi-Fi hot spot.
Note how CompUSA directs its Honolulu
shoppers to nearby stores . . . in California.
Spotted at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge
Business Center. Oh, don’t apologize!
ARF NEEDS YOU! If your entry is used, we’ll send you a PC Magazine T-shirt. Submit your entries via e-mail
to arf@ziffdavis.com. Ziff Davis Media Inc. shall own all property rights in the entries. Winners this issue:
Dan Edelstein, Dale Gibson, Justin Sloan, and Robin Wulffson.
128 PC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 6, 2007
And we
thought the
OS/2 on
Dvorak’s
chest was
hard-core.
PC MAGAZINE
REJECTED STORY
HEADLINES HALL
OF FAME
1
Digital
Camcorders:
Shoot Your
Friends and
Family
2
New Linux
Software:
Grab Your Apps
3
Solutions:
Picking the
Proper Patch
and Placing It
Perfectly
Top right: photo by Sean Thamer, tattoo by Daniel Innes, and arm by Samuel Mulin
Sidestep the obstacles of remote connectivity
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In the world of IT, obstacles are unavoidable—except for the avoidable ones. Take
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to more than 210 million people in 245 major metropolitan areas and 194 primary airports in the U.S. Network details and coverage maps at www.verizonwireless.com. See www.verizonwireless.com/bestnetwork for details.
©2007 Verizon Wireless. All Rights Reserved. Verizon Wireless is a registered trademark of Verizon Trademark Services LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
The new iMac. A complete high-performance computer, inside a stunning all-in-one aluminum design. From $1199.z
©2007 Apple Inc. *MSRP 2.0GHz. 24" model shown. Prices subject to change, don’t include taxes/shipping. 1-800-MY-APPLE or visit www.apple.com/mac.