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MINIMUM BS • JULY 2011 www.maximumpc.com
THE COMPLETE
GUIDE
TO
MASTERY
Expert
Tips for
Power
Users!
Clear Out Your Inbox!
Host Your Own
Email Domain
Top 20 Outlook
+ Gmail Tips
6 Alternatives
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where we put stuff
inside
JULY 2011
On the Cover
Illustrated by
Gottfried Moritz
table of contents
QUICKSTART
08 NEWS
What to expect from Windows 8;
Intel's new tri-gate transistor;
AMD first with USB 3.0.
14 THE LIST
FEATURES
Nine games that really push a PC.
16 HEAD TO HEAD
Dropbox vs. SugarSync in a battle
of online storage services.
R&D
50 WHITE PAPER
Crysis 2
802.11ac: Everything you need
to know about the Wi-Fi of the
future.
51 AUTOPSY
Inside an NZXT Sentry LXE fan
controller.
53 HOW TO
Make the Start Menu obsolete
with Launchy; use multiple
desktop wallpapers; create
virtual desktops for free.
60 BUILD IT
22
EMAIL
MASTERY
The complete guide to taming your inbox and becoming
an email power user.
32
SFF
ROUNDUP
You'll be astounded at
how much gear can fit into
today's wee PCs!
Build a transparent PC you can
be proud of.
44
MAXIMUM PC
CHALLENGE
This month: Which outrageous multiscreen setup is
the best for gaming?
LETTERS
20 DOCTOR
94 COMMENTS
IN THE LAB
+
MAINGEAR
SHIFT
SUPER
STOCK PC
71
SAMSUNG SERIES
9 NOTEBOOK
76
SAPPHIRE RADEON
HD 6790
MORE
70
86
ZALMAN
CNPS11X
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
5
editorial
a thing or two about a thing or two
MAXIMUMPC
TECH GROUP
Vice President: Kate Byrne, 650-238-2049
Editorial Director: Jon Phillips
EDITORIAL
Editor in Chief: George Jones
Deputy Editor: Katherine Stevenson
Senior Editor: Gordon Mah Ung
Senior Associate Editor: Nathan Edwards
Online Managing Editor: Alex Castle
Online Features Editor: Amber Bouman
Online Associate Editor: Alan Fackler
Digital Content Producer: Christopher Rogers
Contributing Writers: Seamus Bellamy, Loyd Case, Ken Feinstein,
Gordon Goble, Nathan Grayson, Tom Halfhill, Steve Klett, Thomas McDonald, David Murphy, Quinn Norton, Bill O’Brien, Robert Strohmeyer
Copy Editor: Jan Hughes
Podcast Producer: Andy Bauman
Editor Emeritus: Andrew Sanchez
ART
Art Director: Richard Koscher
Contributing Art Director: Boni Uzilevsky
Photo Editor: Mark Madeo
Associate Photographer: Samantha Berg
Contributing Photographer: Patrick Kawahara
BUSINESS
National Sales Director: Anthony Losanno, 646-723-5493
Regional Sales Manager, West Coast: Greg Ryder, 650-745-9243
Regional Sales Manager, West Coast: Bryan Plescia, 650-238-2523
Account Executive, East Coast: John Ortenzio, 646-723-5492
Account Executive, East Coast: Samantha Rady, 646-723-5402
Senior Marketing Manager: Andrea Recio-Ang
Marketing Associate: Robbie Montinola
Publishers Assistant: Jaime Dioli
Advertising Coordinator: Austin Park, 650-745-9207
PRODUCTION
Production Director: Michael Hollister
Production Manager: Larry Briseno
Senior Production Coordinator: Dan Mallory
Print Order Coordinator: Jennifer Lim
CONSUMER MARKETING
VP / Director Consumer Marketing: Rich McCarthy
Circulation Director: Crystal Hudson
Newsstand Director: Bill Shewey
Consumer Marketing Operations Director: Lisa Radler
Renewal & Billing Manager: Mike Hill
Sr. Online Consumer Marketing Director: Jennifer Trinkner
Customer Service Manager: Mike Frassica
FUTURE US, INC.
4000 Shoreline Ct., STE 400, South San Francisco, CA 94080
Tel: 650-872-1642, Fax: 650-872-2207, www.futureus.com
President: John Marcom
VP / CFO: John Sutton
VP / Sales & Marketing: Rachelle Considine
VP / Internet & Mobile Products: Mark Kramer
General Counsel: Anne Ortel
Human Resources Director: Nancy Dubois
SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE
Maximum PC Customer Care,
P.O. Box 5159, Harlan, IA 51593-0659
Website: www.maximumpc.com/customerservice
Tel: 800-274-3421
Email: MAXcustserv@cdsfulfillment.com
BACK ISSUES
Website: www.maximumpc.com/shop
Tel: 800-865-7240
REPRINTS
Future US, Inc., 4000 Shoreline Court, Suite 400,
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Website: www.futureus.com
Tel: 650-872-1642, Fax 650-872-2207
Future produces carefully targeted magazines, websites and events for people with a
passion. We publish more than 180 magazines, websites and events and we export
or license our publications to 90 countries
across the world.
Future plc is a public
company quoted on the
London Stock Exchange.
www.futureplc.com
Chief Executive: Stevie Spring
Non-executive Chairman: Roger Parry
Group Finance Director: John Bowman
Tel +44 (0)20 7042 4000 (London)
Tel +44 (0)1225 442244 (Bath)
©2011 Future US, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine
may be used or reproduced without the written permission of Future
US, Inc. (owner). All information provided is, as far as Future (owner)
is aware, based on information correct at the time of press. Readers
are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to products/services referred to in this magazine. We welcome
reader submissions, but cannot promise that they will be published
or returned to you. By submitting materials to us you agree to give
Future the royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive right to publish and
reuse your submission in any form in any and all media and to use
your name and other information in connection with the submission.
George
Jones
MY PRIVATE
EMAIL HISTORY
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH EMAIL was
in my freshman year of college in
1988. I attended Dar tmouth, and we
had a system named BlitzMail. Ever y
student was granted an email address and access to the system. Like
most students, I didn’t use it at all.
It’s hard for even me to believe, but
back then I was in the habit of writing
letters and postcards.
I vividly recall the tipping point,
though. In 1989 in the middle of my
sophomore year, I was eating lunch
with a few freshmen who were talking about how great email was for
chatting up women. I remember being shocked at the notion that these
guys didn’t have the courage to pick
up the phone. Little did I know.
I’d be lying if I said that I took to
email the next day. I didn’t. It took
three more years and my first job
in PC Week’s lab in 1992 to actually
star t using it. Like a lot of corporate
workplaces, email was commonly
used for interoffice communications.
But the volume was manageable; I
remember going two or three hours
without new email. That sounds absolutely crazy now, but this was the
era before SPAM even existed.
As more friends star ted working
and came online, the postcard- and
letter-writing days ended forever.
(That lab job was also awesome because after four years of using a Mac
in college, I was able to get back to
PC gaming—after hours, of course.)
I’ll be honest; I still love checking
my inbox and discovering email—
from friends, family, writers, readers, PR people, whomever—even if
it has become a bit over whelming.
Between my work account and my
personal accounts, I’ve never had
trouble keeping up. Until now. This is
par tially what inspired this month’s
cover stor y. Over the last 18 months,
I’ve begun to notice that my ability
to quickly parse, read, and respond
to email just isn’t fast enough anymore. I need to develop new systems
and shor tcuts. I need to change my
ways.
I’m curious—are you finding yourself in the same boat as I am? If so,
what have you done to better manage your email life? Let me know at
George@maximumpc.com.
Contest Winners
Finally, the winners of last month’s
challenge to identif y the fake Google
app icon. For those scoring at home,
the correct answer was Google Storage. Here are the winners: Keith
Lucas (who was the first correct
response), Andy Man, Chris Brush,
Bruce R., Bill Hor tman, Louis Celli,
Kyle Ir win, Sean McCormick, Wil
Last, and Laura Carlson. Congrats,
ever yone! We’ll have a new contest
next month.
↘ submit your questions to: george@maximumpc.com
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
7
quickstart
the begining of the magazine, where the articles are small
Windows 8:
What We Know
Prerelease versions of Windows 8 have leaked to the web.
Here’s what they tell us about the upcoming OS
RECENTLY LEAKED BUILDS show
that Windows 8 will be a very
different OS from its forebears, from the kernel to the
cloud. ARM processor support, mobile-device optimization, and system-wide menu
tweaks abound. Here are some
of the most interesting changes
we’ve spotted so far.
ARM-ament
It’s no secret that Microsoft
wants Windows on tablets.
To get there, Windows 8 will
include support for ARM
processors, as Steve Ballmer
demonstrated at CES in
January. That means it could
compete with Android and iOS
on slim, low-power devices—if
Microsoft keeps bloat under
control.
Touch Optimization
The suckage of Windows touch
screen interfaces has been,
well, a touchstone of tech
reality for more than a decade.
But design elements from the
login screen, task manager,
and browser all point to tight
integration of touch controls
throughout the operating
system. A touch-friendly login
screen buried in the leaked
code lets you unlock the device
using a pattern rather than a
password, in the same way
Android does. Some shortlived YouTube videos (DMCA’d
by Microsoft’s legal team) also
demonstrated gesture support.
Ribbons Galore
If you were among the throngs
who hoped Office’s ribbon
menus would prove a passing
phase, you’ll be sorry to note
that they’re now pervasive in
Windows Explorer. The good
news is that it looks like you’ll
be able to revert these menus
to a layout more similar to
that of Windows 7.
Revamped Task Manager
Managing running applications—and being able
to quickly kill resourcehogging tasks—is even
more critical on mobile
devices than it is on gaming
rigs. The reconfigured tool,
renamed Modern Windows
Task Manager, will give you a
single window from which to
spot and kill the processes
that are slowing down your
system by combining the Resource Monitor and the Task
Manager together. It also
includes tap-friendly kill
buttons for tablet users.
Immersive Browser
Windows 8 Explorer menus will apparently feature the same ribbon interface as Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, though we may have the option of
reverting to old-school menu bars.
8
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JUL 2011
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Some leaked screenshots
from the Windows 8 alpha
show a simple, full-screen
browser that looks identical
to the Metro browser included
in Windows Phone 7, complete
with a mosaic of little blocks
for favorites and such. Once
again, strong evidence that
Microsoft is betting big on
tablets as the future home of
Windows.
Cloud Integration
At long last, it looks like Windows will get integrated cloud
storage synching with Win8.
In addition to Windows Live
SkyDrive, which you’d expect
the next Windows to support by
default, it appears you’ll be able
to add third-party cloud storage services as mapped drives.
Portable Workspaces
The demise of U3 in 2009 left
a void in the portable apps
market that Microsoft helped
to fill by cofounding StartKey
in partnership with SanDisk.
It now appears that Microsoft
is integrating this technology
directly into Windows 8 with a
feature called Portable Workspace. Leaked screenshots
show that USB drives of 16GB
or larger will be formatted
with a portable image of the
user’s Windows 8 system.
Of course, predicting final
release features based on
Windows alphas is always
dicey. We need only recall all
the cool features Longhorn
was supposed to bring us, and
then look at the reality of Vista,
for a cautionary tale in the hazards of banking on Microsoft’s
leaked alpha builds. But if Microsoft has the sack to release
all the features we’re seeing
in these early builds, Windows
8 could prove as significant a
platform change as Win95.
–Robert Strohmeyer
Tom
Halfhill
Fast
Forward
Today’s 32nm transistor passes electricity underneath a gate in a flat plane.
On the right is the new 3D transistor
which increases surface area, lowers
leakage, and increases density.
HKMG FOR
THE MASSES
industry is
catching up with Intel. Now, any chip designer can use transistors with high-k metal
gates, which enable higher clock speeds and
lower power consumption. It’s the biggest
advance in transistor technology in 50 years.
Intel announced high-k metal-gate
(HKMG) transistors in 2003 and introduced
them in 2007 with 45nm Penryn processors. AMD wanted 45nm HKMG, too, but
couldn’t pull it off. The first AMD chip with
HKMG is the Llano Fusion processor, an integrated CPU/GPU. Llano is manufactured
in a 32nm process and is finally hitting the
market this year.
Now the wait is over. Independent chip
foundries like GlobalFoundries (the AMD
spin-off) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) are rolling out their
28nm HKMG processes this year. Any chip
designers willing to pay the price can use
HKMG transistors in their new designs.
Test chips and engineering samples are
looking good, so volume production will
ramp up next year. The improved transistors will appear in some consumer products you’ll buy in 2012.
Few of those products will advertise HKMG,
but the benefits will be higher performance
and greater power efficiency. It’s coming in
time for the next wave of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile electronics.
The “k” in high-k is the dielectric constant, a measure of electrical capacitance.
The “gate” determines if the transistor
passes current or not. Since the 1960s, transistor gates have been made of silicon materials. As transistors keep shrinking with
each generation of fabrication technology,
the gates keep getting thinner. Now they’re
so thin (only four atoms, in some cases) that
they’re leaking too much current.
Substituting exotic metallic materials
for the silicon increases the gate’s capacitance, so it’s less leaky. Higher capacitance also permits higher drive currents,
which allow higher clock frequencies.
The entire semiconductor industry now
turns on such microscopic differences.
FINALLY, THE SEMICONDUCTOR
Intel Gets 3D
Transistors
New 22nm design due next
year in Ivy Bridge CPUs
Announcing a “revolutionary” breakthrough, Intel says its next CPUs
will feature a 3D tri-gate design
that allows it to pack transistors
into less space—and more importantly, greatly increase performance while reducing power consumption.
While today’s CPUs flow power
through a flat surface, the new
3D tri-gate design builds up and
out, much the same way a skyscraper does. By building threedimensional gates, Intel says it
can dramatically improve transistor performance. The upcoming
22nm tri-gate transistor will, for
example, offer up to a 37 percent
increase in performance over a
32nm planar transistor. The same
tri-gate will also reduce power by
up to 50 percent when the transistor is switched on.
The upshot is that the nextgeneration Iv y Bridge CPU (the
sequel to Sandy Bridge) is likely
to offer higher clock speeds while
consuming less power. Or tweaked
for a mobile application, Iv y Bridge
could offer more performance
while consuming less power.
The first Iv y Bridge–based processors aren’t expected until the
first half of 2012, and they will go
into desktops, laptops, and ser vers. To demonstrate how well the
technology is already running,
though, Intel showed off an Iv y
Bridge–based PC running Windows
7 and Need for Speed via its integrated graphics processor, as well
as a ser ver running SUSE Linux.
Perhaps more importantly, the
3D tri-gate when applied to an
Atom chip could finally put the little
x86 processor on the same power
footing as today’s ver y popular
ARM chips, which are used in tablets and smartphones. Intel didn’t
reveal details of when Atom would
get the new 3D transistor, but most
expect it by 2013 at the latest. – GU
An electron
microscope image
of Intel’s new 3D
tri-gate transistor
shows the gates
(in green) with
current running
through (in white).
Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior
editor for Byte magazine and is now
an analyst for Microprocessor Report.
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
9
quickstart
Thomas
McDonald
Game
Theory
WHEN THE
DEALIN’S DONE
thousands of professional Internet gamers were put out of work by the
U.S. Justice Department.
You didn’t realize there were so many
people who derived some or all of their income from online gaming? Well, if poker
isn’t a game, then I’m not sure what it is.
And thousands of people—many of them
college students and the unemployed—
played poker online to support themselves, right up until the Justice Department decided to pull the plug.
Technically, Internet gambling isn’t illegal, or at least not clearly illegal. When the
Bush administration rammed through the
Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement
Act of 2006 (the UIGEA) as a last-minute
addition to a port security bill, they didn’t
bother to really define “unlawful Internet
gambling.” Instead, they opted to deny
the financial tools commonly used for ecommerce (extension of credit, electronic
fund transfers, etc.) to any enterprise
transmitting a wager to any location where
that wager is illegal.
But these laws, which are different
for each state, simply can’t be applied to
something like Internet poker. Plus, all of
the major poker sites were based offshore,
bringing international law into the picture.
President Obama, in his mysterious efforts to cement his reputation as The Second Coming of George W. Bush, decided
to pick up the UIGEA ball and run with it.
Thus, on April 15, the Justice Department
seized the domains for Full Tilt Poker,
PokerStars.net, and Absolute Poker; froze
billions in assets; and arrested 11 of their
executives. These three weren’t chosen at
random: They are the three largest online
poker sites.
If you were a casual online player, you
may miss the thrill of playing for real
money. But if you relied on that income,
you woke up on poker’s Black Friday to find
your world gone. Rather than taking on the
complex task of defining and perhaps even
regulating Internet gambling, the government simply destroyed it.
ON APRIL 15,
What's in Store
for YouTube?
News abounds over the future of YouTube. First came word that Google is developing “channels” for its popular video
site, which would be categorized by
topic, such as arts or sports, and feature
longer-form, professionally produced
original programming.
It’s a logical move as more people
access online content from their living
rooms. Successes by Netflix, Apple, and
others in this arena are hard to ignore. It
would also give YouTube a better chance
of selling ads.
In other news, the site is reportedly
on the verge of launching a premium
movie rental service. Warner Bros.,
Sony Pictures, and Universal Studios
are said to be on board. Fox, Disney, and
Paramount are holding out, supposedly
over the pirated content YouTube still
features. – KS
AMD Grabs USB 3.0 Crown
AMD is officially the first vendor to offer native USB 3.0 support with its upcoming A75 and A70M chipsets. The two chipsets were formerly certified by
the USB Implementers Forum.
The A75 and A70M are aimed at upcoming Fusion processors and to be
used in notebooks. The native support means board makers won’t have to pay
for and integrate USB 3.0 controllers.
Intel, meanwhile, continues to say it will support USB 3.0 but declined to
comment on reports that its new X79 chipset still does not include USB 3.0
support. AMD desktop fans don’t seem to fare any better, as the upcoming
AMD FX Bulldozer series of motherboards don’t appear to have native support for USB 3.0, either. –GU
WHS 2011 Gets Drive Extender, Sort Of
Windows Home Server’s most popular feature was its Drive Extender technology,
which let you combine a number of drives into a single volume. So it made sense
that Microsoft would eliminate it from WHS 2011.
But where Microsoft fears to tread, third parties venture. No fewer than three
different vendors are now offering Drive Extender–like capabilities in WHS 2011.
The three we know of include Drive Bender, StableBit DrivePool, and DataCore.
They are all works in progress but could make Windows Home Server whole again.
The removal of Drive Extender from WHS 2011 prompted speculation that the
entire OS was slated for termination. Microsoft, itself, said the need for Drive Extender has declined as the size of consumer hard drives has climbed to 3TB. –GU
You can follow Thomas McDonald on
Twitter at StateOfPlayBlog.
Third-party tools, such as StableBit Drive Pool, promise to replace Drive Extender.
10
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
maximumpc.com
quickstart
Quinn
Norton
Byte
Rights
STREISAND'S
HOUSE [PICS!]
THERE ARE SO MANY PLACES where the law
doesn’t get the net, but few are as extreme
as the Streisand Effect. Named for the
singer/actress, it’s really about how the
net responds to censorship. It is insufficient to say the net routes around censorship. The net wedgies censorship and
hangs it on the school fence.
In 2003 Barbara Streisand sued a photographer to keep an incidental picture of her
house taken during a survey of the California coast off the Internet. The publicity
of the suit, along with the net’s fascination and ridicule, made the obscure photo
ubiquitous. Now if you Google “Streisand,”
the incident is the third result.
There have been many, often hilarious,
Streisand Effect moments: the MPAA/
AACS takedown notices for the DVD crypto key that catapulted the key from 9,000
Google results to 300,000 overnight; the
takedowns on Diebold documents and
Wikileaks.com that lead to massive mirroring; the ruling against linking to DeCSS
that resulted in .sig files, T-shirts, tattoos,
and, of course, more linking. Most profoundly, Scientology’s attempts to censor
a leaked internal video created the sometimes lunatic anticensorship community of
Anonymous, which has taken the law enforcement headache to a new level.
But the culture of law has doubled
down instead of backing off. Recently, the
British have become fond of the superinjunction—journalists are ordered by
the courts to not report on the injuncted
news item, and they’re not allowed to say
they’ve been gagged. It’s been used by oil
companies under investigation, by a bank
CEO to gag the media from being mean
to him, and celebs and soccer players to
protect their sexual proclivities. This only
punishes traditional publications, because
all these stories are easily Googleable. Legal methods of getting information off the
net resemble a guy trying to kill bacteria
with a hammer, and I don’t see them getting better.
Quinn Norton writes about copyright for Wired News and other
publications.
12
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JUL 2011
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Nook Color
Gets Better
Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color
ereader is beginning to look
like the best deal going in
Android tablets. The $250
7-inch touch screen device
recently got a free software update that not only
upgrades the OS to Android
2.2 (Froyo), but also adds
Adobe Flash suppor t, a fullfeatured email app, and an
app store, which currently
features more than 125 applications in the dedicated
Nook shop. These additions,
along with the Nook Color’s
expansive selection of digital
books and magazines, make
the device a feature-packed
ereader, to be sure, but also
a product wor th the consideration of tablet buyers. – KS
AMD Boards to Get SLI
Come this summer, AMD fans will no longer be prevented from running multiGPU Nvidia cards. Nvidia said it has cut deals with motherboard makers Asus,
Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI to add SLI support to new AMD motherboards.
The support will only be featured on new chipsets for the Bulldozer and Zambezi processors, though. Those chipsets will include the 990FX, 990X, and 970
chipsets. Older 980FX chipsets that are currently available will not be included,
Nvidia said. Nvidia said it will even enable three-way and four-way SLI on certain
motherboards.
The decision by Nvidia officially ends the multi-GPU cold war, where Nvidia
and AMD would not enable multi-GPU support on each other’s chipsets. –GU
Z68 for Sandy Bridge
Can’t afford a fat SSD? Intel’s new Z68 chipset
for Sandy Bridge CPUs promises “SSD-like”
responsiveness without the high cost of a
large solid-state drive.
Using Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SRT), the Z68 lets you combine a small
SSD with a traditional hard drive. The drivers
cache often-used files on the SSD, so instead
of the system having to grab a file from the
HDD, it can grab it from the SSD. This will outperform a hard drive by 4x, Intel claims.
In addition, the Z68 allows you to overclock
the integrated graphics core in all Sandy
Bridge CPUs; and in some motherboards, it
lets you use either the integrated or discrete
graphics. –GU
The upcoming Z68 will let you run
discrete and integrated graphics.
quickstart
THE 9 BEST GAMES FOR FLEXING YOUR PC’S MUSCLES
METRO 2033
Red Faction:
Guerilla
The game's locations teem
with tiny details—dust
flecks floating about,
makeshift clotheslines,
rotting bar tables, and
crowds of people.
Literally everything in this 3D
shooter breaks,
making it a perfect
demonstration for
real-time physics.
TOTAL WAR:
SHOGUN 2
This series has always
been known for its ludicrously
large armies and real-time battles.
The latest game doesn't disappoint.
FAR CRY 2
Heh heh, fire. Far Cry 2’s
fire effects are impressive
and lifelike and the best
we’ve seen in a while.
DEAD SPACE 2
JUST CAUSE 2
The winner for best draw
distance eschews GPUprotecting fog effects for
impressive visual effects.
A great game for
positional audio—the
screams, thunks, and
more form a haunting
aural landscape.
BATTLEFIELD: BAD
COMPANY 2
Great battlefield sound effects. If you
want to put your brand-new speakers
through their paces,
this is the
game.
14
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
maximumpc.com
BULLETSTORM
Colorful, gorgeous, and
capable of stretching out your
GPU, Unreal Engine 3 throws
one heck of a party on your PC.
CRYSIS 2
The level of
variation
in environments
elevates this
shooter's
showcase
potential
beyond
that of its
predecessors. It also
supports
3D.
1
quickstart
BY ROBERT STROHMEYER
Dropbox vs.
SugarSync
vs.
Now that most of us use more than one PC and juggle any number
of smartphones and tablets daily, cloud storage and syncing have
gone from a nicety to a necessity. While Dropbox has emerged
as the almost universally accepted winner in the cloud storage
arena, competitors abound. We decided to pit the old favorite
against one of its most formidable opponents, SugarSync.
Round 1: Interface
The user experience differs
radically between Dropbox and
SugarSync, mostly because the
two services evolved along very
different paths.
Dropbox is by far the simpler
of the two services. You sign
up, you download the app, and
it creates a Dropbox folder on
your hard drive. You can then
create subfolders and drop
files into them, and everything
that goes into these folders will
be synced to the website and
any other devices you’re running Dropbox on.
SugarSync is evolving into a
Dropbox-like service, but retains all of the legacy features
for syncing your Documents
folder, your Pictures folder, or
any other folder on your PC. All
this added functionality takes
its toll on the user experience,
and you’ll need to think twice
before adding your entire photo
collection to a free 5GB account.
Round 2: Mobile
Support
Both SugarSync and Dropbox
offer great apps for the most
popular mobile platforms.
iPhone, iPad, Android, and
BlackBerry users are handily
covered by either service. If,
however, you’re using a Symbian or Windows Mobile phone,
only SugarSync has your back.
Frankly, any debate about
whether support for either of
these two laggard platforms
adds much value to a sync
service seems pretty much
academic to us, but since there
can be only one winner, Dropbox hits the mat in this round.
Winner: Dropbox
16
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
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Winner: SugarSync
Round 3: Multimedia
Round 4: Sharing
Both Dropbox and SugarSync
let you sync pictures and view
them from mobile devices, but
they approach the problem in
distinct ways.
Dropbox treats photos and
videos just like any other file,
in that it doesn’t go looking for
them. Its mobile apps include
built-in photo viewers, and the
web interface includes a gallery view, but otherwise Dropbox makes few overt concessions to photo buffs.
SugarSync not only includes a better web-based
gallery layout and good photo
viewers in its mobile apps, but,
as we’ve already pointed out,
it’s designed specifically to
share your Pictures folder and
add new images as you import
them on any of your synced
machines.
Dropbox gives you a public folder, which will be visible online
for anyone with the specific link
to a file. Once you remove a file
from the public folder, its public link stops working. Alternatively, you can share any given
folder in your Dropbox account
with any other Dropbox user by
clicking Sharing and entering
their email address.
SugarSync lets you set any
given file as public and enables
you to control permissions by
setting a file to “read only” for
certain users. And you can set
passwords for your folders. If you
plan to use your cloud storage
for sharing files with coworkers,
consider a SugarSync Business
account, which gives you three
logins for a shared 100GB storage capacity for $30 per month.
While we prefer Dropbox’s
simplicity in overall interface
design, we think file sharing demands finer control for security.
Winner: SugarSync
Winner: SugarSync
DROPBOX
SUGARSYNC
Free,
50GB for $10/month,
www.dropbox.com
Free,
30GB for $5/month,
500GB for $30/month,
www.sugarsync.com
Round 5:
File Protection
Accidentally delete a file you
wish you’d kept? Made a big,
sloppy change you’d like to
undo? Both services have you
covered. The difference is in
how much data is stored and
for how long.
SugarSync stores the last
fi ve versions of any file regardless of date modified. Dropbox
stores the last month’s worth
of revisions to all your data.
Which approach is best? That
depends on whether you’d
rather have the ability to revert to a file that’s more than
a month old or a version that’s
more than fi ve revisions in the
past. We prefer the former,
especially for frequently modified files.
Winner: Dropbox
Round 6: Price
Because both Dropbox and
SugarSync are freemium services, the price war is waged on
how much storage you get for
free, how many price tiers the
company offers, and how much
storage you get for the money.
Dropbox offers only three
pricing options: a 2GB free account, which can be upgraded
to as much as 8GB if you spam
enough of your friends about the
service, and a 50GB pro account
for $10 per month. The company
offers two free months of service if you pay annually.
SugarSync offers 5GB gratis, as well as free upgrades for
roping in your pals. Premium
accounts start at $5 per month
for 30GB and ratchet up to $40
monthly for a whopping 500GB.
SugarSync offers twice as many
price/capacity tiers as Dropbox,
and gives you more storage for
the dollar at every tier.
And the
Winner Is…
In four out of six rounds, SugarSync triumphs easily over
the more popular Dropbox. It’s got broader mobile support,
cooler multimedia syncing, better sharing controls, and it
gives you more gigs for the buck (or even for free). If you
don’t need more than 2GB, and you’re already entrenched in
a free Dropbox account, don’t sweat it. But if you’re thinking
of going premium for more capacity, SugarSync is the overwhelmingly superior option.
Winner: SugarSync
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
17
quickstart
THIS MONTH THE DOCTOR TACKLES...
Streaming Music Via
Web > SSD Reformat >
High CPU Temps
FTP = RIAA?
Would creating an FTP server
that contains all my music
be a quick way to get a "Go
directly to jail" card issued by
the RIAA? I really just want to
be able to access my data files
from any computer; should I
leave my music directory out
of that?
Player (www.amazon.com).
It allows you to upload your
own fi les and play them back
from anywhere via a web
browser or smartphone. You
get 5GB free, 20GB free for
a year if you buy an Amazon
MP3 album, and other larger
capacities at a variety of
price points.
–Kris Frausto
Formatting SSDs
I understand that an SSD should
never be reformatted. However,
I have a corrupted Windows 7
install and therefore need to
reinstall the OS. There are lots
of comments all over the web
about how to do this and what
to do and what not to do—but
there seems to be little agreement. So I'm turning to the
experts. How do I wipe clean
an SSD and reset it so Windows
7 Professional can be reinstalled? I have a Corsair P128
CMFSSD-128GBG2D, but can
you offer general guidance?
–Cliff Wilson
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
Sockso lets you create your own streaming music server with
ease, so you can access your music from anywhere.
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
This shouldn’t be construed
as legal advice, but it is our
considered opinion that as
long as your FTP server is
password protected and accessed only by you, the RIAA
has no way of fi nding out that
you're (gasp) downloading
your own fi les from your own
server, and it would be hardpressed to prove infringement if it did.
That said, you might want
to check out Amazon Cloud
Or, if you already have
the server available, don’t
trust the cloud, or generally
prefer to roll your own, try
Sockso (sockso.pu-gh
.com). This free app will
let you set up a passwordprotected personal media
server/streamer like the one
you're talking about, with
way more features than a
simple FTP, that you can access anywhere via the web.
And yes, you can download
the tracks, too.
Cliff, it’s not true that an SSD
should never be reformatted.
We reformat ours all the time.
It’s true, however, that an SSD
doesn’t need to be defragmented, but you shouldn’t
have any problem reformatting the drive in order to
reinstall Windows. We’ve
had success using Windows’
built-in Disk Management
tool to quick format an SSD.
For a deeper cleanse, we’ve
used diskpart.exe to zero our
drives.
In your specific case, you
have an opportunity to kill two
birds with one stone. Depending on when you bought the
SSD (either before or after
December 2009), you might
have a firmware update wait-
ing for you. (If your drive has
Trim support, it’s already been
updated.) The firmware update
tool for your drive will format
your drive in the course of its
updating.
Budget AMD Upgrade
My old PC died on me and I need
your insight as to what AMD
motherboard, RAM, and CPU to
buy. I need something that has
decent performance and reliability. My budget is $350.
I have four Western Digital
Caviar Black 640GB 7,200rpm
SATA hard drives I want to run
in a RAID setup, one Intel X25-V
40GB SSD, and one combo
optical drive. So I will need at
least six SATA connections.
I have a PNY Nvidia GeForce
GTS 450 1GB (Fermi) and an
Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W
PSU. The rig will be used for
midrange gaming, playing movies, recording TV, streaming
music, and surfing the Internet.
I'll be running 64-bit Windows
Home Premium.
–Ken Ewing
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
For folks on a budget, MSI’s
890FXA-GD65 is a good pick.
It’s the little brother to our
current favorite board, the MSI
890FXA-GD70. It gives you six
SATA ports, its AM3 socket is
capable of running just about
all things AMD, and its street
price is about $145.
↘ submit your questions to: doctor@maximumpc.com
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For what you do, a quadcore Phenom will work fine; at
about $140, the 3.2GHz Phenom
II X4 955 Black Edition is a good
sweet-spot CPU. If you want to
just go ahead and use up the
rest of your budget, you can
actually get a 2.8GHz Phenom
II X6 1055T for about $170. We
don’t think you need the hexacore, but there’s something to
be said for bragging rights. The
CPU and mobo combined come
in under your budget, and the
890FXA-GD65 will supposedly
be capable of running AMD’s
upcoming Bulldozer chip, so
you even have an upgrade path.
One final upgrade option: a
2.8GHz Phenom II X4 925 for
about $115. With mobo, that’s
about $260. Take the remaining $90 and buy a 2TB drive
to replace your four 640GB
hard drives and cut down on
your noise, heat, and power
consumption.
Too Hot to Handle
I believe there is a problem with
the thermal sensor in my CPU,
but I'm not sure how to tell. The
CPU is a 3GHz AMD Phenom
II X4 940. I currently have the
multiplier turned up a bit, so it's
running at 3.2GHz. I do not have
the voltage increased. I’m trying
to monitor the temperature,
but the numbers seem way off.
I can easily get the CPU to read
77 C under partial load.
According to my research,
that is way too high for a
Phenom II. The chip is currently
running Windows 7 and the
CPU Monitoring widget says
"CoreTemp is not running."
This chip was previously on a
different mobo and running
Linux. Whenever it booted, a
message flashed on screen
saying something about an
invalid thermal sensor. I have
had no issues with stability on
the machine. All this leads me
to believe there is a problem
with the sensor. What can I do to
confirm this, and how do I gauge
safe overclocking levels?
–Jason Sachan
THE DOCTOR RESPONDS:
You are correct, Jason; 77 C is
beyond spec for the Phenom II
X4. The official max temp is 62
C. However, it’s not clear to the
Doctor how you are monitoring
the temps on your chip. If you
are referring to the cool little
All CPU Meter gadget from
Addgadget.com, that app requires you to also have Alcpu
.com’s Core Temp installed for
it to register a temperature
reading—hence the message
you’re receiving. Lately, we’ve
been relying on Cpuid.com’s
HWMonitor to monitor core
temperatures. We recommend
that you give that a spin to see
if the readings match the ones
you’ve been getting.
If HWMonitor’s temps
match those from the utility
you’re currently using, you
should check a few things in
your system. Check that the
heatsink fan is spinning and
clear of dust. Check that the
case’s airflow is unobstructed
and adequate. Finally, remove
the heatsink fan and remove
and reapply thermal paste.
When installing the heatsink
fan, make sure it is firmly
attached and flat in the board.
Consider updating the motherboard’s BIOS and setting the
board’s values to the default.
If the board is too old and does
not recognize the CPU model,
it could cause issues. If the
thermal controls of the board
are not set correctly, that
could also be an issue. Finally,
if the chip is still saying that it’s
running 77 C with a very moderate load and is stable and
not crashing (run a Prime95
stress test on it), it is quite
possible the CPU’s thermistor
is bad. The good news is that
the chip is fairly current and
likely under warranty from
AMD. Contact AMD’s warranty
service department about
a possible replacement for
the CPU.
Regarding safe overclocking levels, that depends on
how you define “safe“—and
how risk–averse you are. Overclocking always has inherent
risks of data loss, but mild
overclocks such as yours, with
a properly cooled processor,
should be relatively safe. If
you’re looking for Green Zone
safety, we say that if it’s passing a stress test like Prime95
and you aren’t adding voltage,
you’re in good shape.
AD
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
21
e
the complete guide to email mastery
BY GORDON GOBLE AND
SEAMUS BELLAMY
THE
COMPLETE
GUIDE TO
EMAIL
MASTERY
EMAIL. WE ALL HAVE IT. WE
ALL HATE IT. FROM OUTLOOK
TO GMAIL TO THE GREAT
EMAIL BEYOND, HERE’S HOW
TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT.
22
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JUL 2011
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THEY SAY
THAT THE
KIDS DON’T
USE EMAIL THAT MUCH
THESE
DAYS.
DOESN’T
THAT SOUND DREAMY?
WE ADULTS, UNFORTUNATELY, HAVE NO SUCH
LUXURY. FOR BETTER OR
FOR WORSE, EMAIL IS A
MAJOR PART OF OUR PERSONAL AND WORK LIVES.
WE’RE
TEMPTED
TO
JUST LEAVE IT AT THAT.
BUT THERE’S NO NEED TO
FEEL HOPELESS. WE TOOK
A GOOD, LONG LOOK AT
THE CENTER OF OUR COMMUNICATION
UNIVERSE
WITH AN EYE TOWARD
IMPROVING, UPGRADING,
AND (HOPEFULLY) DOMINATING IT. THE FRUITS
OF OUR LABOR ARE ON
THE NEXT SEVEN PAGES.
ENJOY! (OR MAYBE WE
SHOULD
SAY,
SUFFER
LESS?)
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
23
the complete guide to email mastery
Getting Intimate
with Outlook
The road to email mastery begins with
Microsoft’s ubiquitous email application
USING OUTLOOK IS ONE
THING. EXPLOITING IT TO
ITS FULLEST POTENTIAL IS
ANOTHER. OVER THE NEXT
TWO PAGES, WE'LL GIVE YOU
A FEW WAYS YOU CAN DO
JUST THAT, AND THEN SHOW
YOU FIVE OTHER WAYS YOU
CAN EXIST WITHOUT MICROSOFT'S SEEMINGLY UBIQUITOUS PERSONAL INFORMATION MANAGER.
Photo ID
The Microsoft Outlook Social
Connector Provider for Facebook, new on the scene but
compatible with Outlook 2010,
2007, and 2003, links your
Facebook or LinkedIn account
to Outlook and helps you keep
on top of information you can
use to blackmail… er, get familiar with your contacts. Plus,
having pics of your peeps helps
safeguard against wrongly addressed emails.
Fast-Action Screenshots
In Outlook 2010, you can insert
a screenshot in the body of your
email message. Click the Insert tab of the message you've
created and select Screenshot.
A drop-down menu appears,
from which you can instantly
select the current image in any
nonminimized window. Even
cooler, if you scroll down to
the bottom of that menu and
click Screen Clipping, you get a
chance to crop and select just a
portion of that image.
Get Your Xobni On
Xobni ("inbox" spelled backward) is an Outlook add-on
that appears within the program as a separate pane and
does a bunch of cool stuff that
Outlook junkies will eat up.
Xobni searches your emails
faster than Outlook itself, extracts oodles of information,
and features a deep connection
with social networking sites.
Outlook 2010 now handles the
social networking angle itself,
yet Xobni continues to maintain
its rabid fan base. Check out
www.xobni.com for more info.
Take Command of Replies
It sucks when you want each
of your recipients to Reply to
All, and one of them neglects
Xobni offers faster Outlook searches and connects to social media.
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MAXIMUMPC
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Photo ID: Microsoft now has its own built-in social connections.
to do so. But now you can ensure that the offending party
gets with the program. In the
message composition screen,
click Options/More Options
and look for Delivery Options
in the drop-down list. Click
Select Names and enter those
you want to receive all future
replies.
Harness Quick Steps
New to Outlook, Quick Steps
are a series of macros that
conveniently merge several
separate actions—as many as
10, actually—into a single button click. And while Outlook's
predefined Quick Steps are
just peachy, customizing the
macros is peachier still. To set
up your own Quick Step, click
Create New in the Quick Steps
group (found within the Home
tab), and fill in the blanks.
Seek and You Shall Find
Outlook 2010 offers more
search parameters than a Dalmatian has spots. But it also
allows you to save your results
in fully customizable Search
Folders. In the future, you
merely access that folder when
you need quick access to the
results of those keywords and/
or criteria. To create a Search
Folder, click New Search
Folder in the New group of the
Folders tab and select from
the available options. Or create
your own parameters.
Message Recall Isn't All It's
Cracked Up to Be
You know that intimate message
you sent to your ex-girlfriend
but tragically misaddressed to
your new girlfriend? Well… Outlook now has a Recall feature
(accessed via Move/Message/
Actions) that should, one would
think, save your sorry backside.
Except it probably won't. You
see, Recall will work its magic
only if both email accounts are
configured using Microsoft's
Exchange and only if the message shows as unread and
unforwarded. Moral: Do not
misaddress.
Sync Your Team
Avail yourself simultaneously
of the calendars of all your
team members by creating a
Calendar Group. Start by clicking Calendar just like you've
always done, then look for
the Manage Calendars group.
Then click Calendar Groups
and New Calendar Group.
Choose a name for your group,
then add your contacts.
Clean Up Your Act
Ever notice that 'round about
the third or fourth message in
a thread (aka “Conversation”),
each succeeding message just
gets longer and more cumbersome? Now you can do something about it. First, switch to
Conversation view by clicking
the View tab and checkmarking Show As Conversations. To
clean up a conversation, go to
the Delete group in the Home
tab, click Clean Up and then
Clean Up Conversation. Voilà,
Outlook will take care of the
redundancy.
Christopher Alden
I'd love to have a
Gmail-style
conversation view.
READER'S RESPOND:
10
Ways to Fix
Microsoft
Outlook
Clean up your act by using Outlook's Conversation view.
Get out of the Import/
Export Business
It is not unusual to successfully import and/or export
PST files (the critical Outlook file that contains all
your irreplaceable personal
data) to and from Outlook.
Unfortunately, doing so will
not only eradicate certain
custom elements, but may
also set you up for a file
corruption or a ghost PST
that won't close. We know,
it's happened to us. Our ad-
vice? Forget about importing and exporting altogether.
Instead, close Outlook, find
your PST file, and simply
copy it to your backup device. To restore your PST
file—say, after you've accidentally beaten your PC
with a baseball bat—merely
find that copied PST, recopy
it where it won't cause a
conflict, then open Outlook
and instruct it to access that
file (File/Open/Open Outlook
Data File).
The Maximum PC
offices have been an
Outlook shop for a long,
long time. We started
applying our brains to
the matter of improving
Outlook before realizing that your ideas are
just as good as ours.
We asked you to let the
ideas (and gripes) fly,
and these are the results. If you want to join
the daily conversation
about tech, point your
browser to
www.facebook.com/
maximumpc.
Our Top Five Outlook Alternatives
In the corporate world—and especially in those
environments built on Windows—Microsoft's
Outlook email client reigns supreme. But once
you start poking around, you'll find that Outlook is far from the only game in town. Here,
we present five of the most interesting alternatives for home and small business users.
Zimbra Desktop
Zimbra Desktop is open-source software and
thus free. That it allows you to access email
even when you're disconnected from the Internet and handles calendars, contact lists, and
documents in a single application is even more
reason to consider it. www.zimbra.com
Gmail
Is Outlook's entrenchment the primary reason
it still dominates market share? Would webbased Gmail otherwise lead the pack? Truth is
that the two offer very different approaches. In
an environment where offline Inbox access and
Microsoft Office merging capabilities are mandatory, Outlook is king. But Gmail delivers far
more mobility, costs nothing, and is seemingly
becoming the future right before our eyes.
mail.google.com
Thunderbird
Fast, very fast, and in a strictly email sense,
the equal of Outlook (and perhaps more intuitive to use with its tab-browsing style), Mozilla's long-established Thunderbird runs in any
operating system and, like Zimbra, is free. It's
also incredibly simple to set up, although addons are required to match Outlook's scope.
www.mozillamessaging.com
Windows Live Mail
Effectively the successor to Outlook Express
and Windows Mail—and better than both—
Microsoft's Windows Live Mail is a good
option for those who run in a Windows environment and don't need the added businessoriented features (and complexity) of Outlook.
explore.live.com
eM Client 3
Purported to be the fastest email client for
Windows, eM Client 3 boasts customers such
as Toyota and Oracle. Available in either a
no-charge Home or $50 Pro version (which
includes backup and syncing to any mobile
device). www.emclient.com
Robert J. Armitage
Better support
for showing "new
mail" in subscribed
folders and sub-folders. For
me only the inbox updates
properly; I have to manually
click others for the new message count to pop up.
Mike Tjepkema
Integration of
"signature grabbing," where you
can double-click someone's
signature and dump it into
your contacts. It's available
in third-party software, but I
want seamless integration.
Jp Allen Fix
Outlook Web Access for non-IE
browsers. Better
shared calendar/contacts.
Threaded conversation view
that doesn't suck so bad it
gets turned off. Search that
isn't beaten by third parties
like the Globetrotters do to
the Generals. More granular
junk/spam filtering options.
A far less bloated archiving
option/format.
James Burt The
ribbon interface,
may it go back to
the hell-spawned
pit from whence it came. Its
inconsistent layout, big buttons, small buttons, icons with
no name, etc., are frustrating.
Add in the fact that I find myself clicking more to perform
tasks that were one or two
clicks in the past is irritating.
Cory Notrica Add
something like the
Lotus Notes Swiftfile. It would be
so much easier than building
rules and clicking twice to file
to recently used folders.
Ryan Case My
#1 most desired
feature in Outlook
2003 and Outlook
2007 is smooth scrolling.
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JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
25
the complete guide to email mastery
Suffer Spam
No More
Dear friend! I am the son of the late Nigeria's former minister of mines and power in the regime of
the late former Nigeria's military Head of State. I
have discussed with my family attorney how best to
provide for you the information on blocking email
spam. To unlock these mysteries, you need only supply $2,500 of your United States dollars. To show
you my sincere interest in giving you these antispam treasures, I give you immediately a sampling
of suggestions for reducing the amount of spam your
inbox suffers.
Use a Complex Email Address
While using yourname@yahoo.com might make it easy for your
friends and loved ones to find you online, it also makes it easy
for spambots to track you down and pummel you with junk mail.
To throw them off your email trail, consider using an address
that includes punctuation or numerical values as well.
Check Those Checkboxes
When signing up for a new service, often times, you’ll be given
the option of opting in or out of mailing lists and additional services. Before finishing your registration, be sure that you’re not
accidentally signing up for something you’re not interested in
by leaving checkboxes in their native state. Take the time to do
it right.
Use Disposable Email Addresses
If you need to register for something online, consider doing it
with a disposable email address, like those available from ser-
IF YOU NEED TO
REGISTER FOR
SOMETHING ONLINE,
CONSIDER DOING IT
WITH A DISPOSABLE
EMAIL ADDRESS.
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MAXIMUMPC
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Courtesy of Geek and Poke
Use these antispam tips for junk mail
protection worthy of a… Nigerian prince
vices like Ten Minute Email (10minutemail.com) or GuerillaMail
(www.guerillamail.com). Doing so will guarantee that your inbox stays spam-free.
Maintain Two Email Accounts
If you prefer to keep a record of what you’ve signed up for and
when, a disposable email address just isn’t going to cut it. Instead, consider using a secondary email address solely for the
purpose of signing up for online services, such as web communities, Internet shopping sites, and newsletters. The bulk of
the spam your online activity generates will be sent to the secondary email address, leaving your primary account relatively
spam-free.
Choose ISPs According to Their Spam Policy
Your Internet service provider should be at the heart of your
antispam solution, not at the heart of the problem. When selecting an ISP, research its antispam policy: Does it penalize
customers who engage in spamming? Does it host spamvertisment sites? How closely does it guard customer information?
These are all questions that your ISP’s customer service representatives should be able to answer. If you don’t like what you
hear, take your business elsewhere.
Unsubscribe Is Not Your Friend
Taking the time to unsubscribe from a service you never signed
up for in the first place is a sure-fire way of letting spammers
know that their aggravating messages are indeed being read by
someone. Don’t encourage them. Instead, delete the email or…
Use Antispam Software
There are a lot of excellent antispam software packages,
extensions, and services out there. Choose one and run
with it. Installing antispam software like SpamFighter (free,
www.spamfighter.com) can dramatically cut down the amount
of spam your inbox sees on a daily basis. For the holy grail of
Internet privacy, you may also want to consider investing in a
computer security suite, such as our favorite, Bit Defender Internet Security 2011 ($50, www.bitdefender.com). Along with
antispam protection, you’ll also get antivirus and antimalware
protection, plus a large number of other perks.
the complete guide to email mastery
Gmail, Pro Style
Trick out your Gmail experience with
these 10 pro-level hacks
WHETHER YOU’RE NEW TO
USING GMAIL OR A SE ASONED VETER AN, WE’RE
POSITIVE
THAT
YOU’LL
FIND AT LE AST ONE OF OUR
AWESOME GMAIL TIPS TO
BE, WELL, AWESOME.
Create Custom Labels
Creating custom labels to
organize your Gmail inbox is
easy. From the mail menu on
the left side of your browser
window, click the More link,
and then Create New Label.
Enter a name for your new
label in the field provided.
You can repeat this process
to create as many labels as
you need.
Use Filters to Organize
Your Inbox
OK, it’s time to put those labels to use. Click any message in your inbox. Locate
and click the More Actions
button at the top of the message window. Now pick Filter Messages Like These.
You can now create a filter
that will automatically sor t
and label your incoming
email.
Bookmark Messages for
Quick Reference
Find yourself referring to the
same email message time and
time again? Instead of hunting it down every time you
need to take a peek, consider
bookmarking the message instead. This trick works in any
browser and can significantly
increase your productivity if
having frequent access to a
particular email is mission
critical.
Become a Gmail Search Ninja
Gmail’s
advanced
search
functionality is a finding-stuff
juggernaut. To enable these
features, look next to Gmail’s
search bar and click Show
Search Options. You now have
access to a number of search
parameters that’ll make finding a message feel less like
rooting through a haystack for
a needle. Locating the message you’re looking for becomes even easier using this
method if you’ve taken the
time to create customized categories, filters, and aliases for
your account. If this turns out
to be more search functional-
To access a list of recent activity in Gmail, select Details in
Last Account Activity.
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By using custom labels and filters, you can sort and label email.
ity than you can handle, click
Hide Search Options to revert
to Gmail’s vanilla search bar.
One Address, Many Faces
You can use multiple Gmail
address aliases to handle incoming mail. Just add a plus
sign and a word to your Gmail
address—yourname+news@
gmail.com, for example—when
subscribing to new services.
All email sent to the alias will
be sent to your inbox where it
can be filtered.
Watch for Stalkers
To keep tabs on when and from
where your account has recently been accessed, scroll to
the bottom of any Gmail screen
and from the “Last account activity” line, select Details. Doing so will grant you access to
a list of locations, login times,
and IP addresses that coincide with your Gmail account’s
most recent activity.
Use Gmail Off line
Using online webmail while offline? Insanity! True, but it can
be done. Just install Google
Gears and restart your browser.
Open Gmail, and select Settings, then choose Offl ine.
From here, you can enable
offl ine Gmail access for use
on your computer. Now that’s
sweet.
See Who’s Sending What
Unsure about the origins of a
message sent to you? Click the
arrow next to that message’s
Reply button and select Show
Original. Doing this forces
Gmail to show you the message’s pathing information.
Copy the information to your
clipboard and then enter the
information in a service like
MX Tool Box (bit.ly/3y9AbC),
which will look up the origin of
the message.
Enable Free and Easy Gmail
Backups
Gmail’s great—until it isn’t.
When the service crashes, it
crashes hard. To avoid losing any valuable messages,
consider forwarding a copy
of every message you send or
receive to a secondary email
account. To set this up, click
Settings and then choose Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Boom!
Instant backups.
Send Executable Files as an
Attachment
For security reasons, Gmail
won’t let you send an executable file as an attachment. You
can get around this by manually changing the file’s extension before attaching it to your
email. Provide the message’s
recipient with instructions for
changing the file extension
back to its original .exe and
Bob’s your uncle.
Set Up a Hosted Email Domain with Google Apps
A personal hosted email domain for the low, low cost of free? Yes, Please
DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN DOMAIN AND/OR WEBSITE? THINKING ABOUT SETTING UP PERSONALIZED EMAIL ADDRESSES
TO GO ALONG WITH THEM? WELL, YOU CAN PAY YOUR ISP
FOR THE PRIVILEGE, OR YOU CAN QUICKLY SET UP A FREE
GOOGLE APPS ACCOUNT THAT’LL PROVIDE YOU WITH A
GMAIL ACCOUNT BRANDED WITH YOUR WEBSITE’S DOMAIN, AS WELL AS A NUMBER OF OTHER GOOGLE GOODIES.
Here’s How It Works
To set up your account, navigate to the service’s home page at
bit.ly/cEETyJ. Enter your site’s domain name. You’ll be asked to
submit some personal information. You’ll also have to choose a
user name for your administrator account (yourname@yourdomain
.com, for example) and a password.
Adding a DNS record to your domain is an easy way to verify
your site with Google Apps.
Now, scroll to the bottom of the screen and accept the service’s Terms of Agreement. Before Google will allow you to
marry your domain name to your Google Apps account, you’ll
have to verify that you actually own the target domain. If you
agreed to the Terms of Agreement, there’ll be a confirmation
email waiting in your inbox. The email contains a link that will
allow you to continue the setup process. Find it and click it.
Doing so will open your default web browser, where you’ll be
asked to enter the user name and password you selected earlier in the setup process.
Once Google accepts your credentials, a Google Apps welcome
page will open. Click the Activate Google Apps button. This opens
a new page with two tabs: Recommended Method and Alternate
Method. We advise using the recommended verification method:
adding a DNS record to your domain’s configuration.
You’ll note a drop-down menu sporting the names of a number of popular ISPs. If your ISP is on the list, select it and follow
the instructions provided. If your ISP is not listed, select Other
and follow Google’s instructions. You can also verify the ownership of your domain by linking your Google Apps account to an existing Google Analytics account, adding a meta tag to your site’s
homepage, or uploading an HTML file to your server. You’ll find
those options under the Alternate Methods tab.
After following through on any of these methods, click the
Verify button. Within 48 hours your new personalized Gmail
address will be ready for action.
Six Great Alternatives to Gmail
Maybe you’re a unique and special snowflake that can’t
bear to use the same email service as everyone else. Or
perhaps you just feel like rebelling against something—
anything. No matter the reason, you yearn to leave Gmail
behind in search of a new webmail service. We’re OK with
that, and we’re not going to try to talk you out of it. In fact,
here’s a list of six alternatives to get you started. Just remember to write us once in a while so that we know you’re
all right, OK?
GMX
If you’re looking to break free of Gmail, GMX is a great place
to start. Offering users 5GB of email storage accessible via
POP or IMAP and the ability to send attached files up to
50MB in size, GMX can hold its own in a blow-for-blow fight
with Google’s email service. www.gmx.com
Hushmail
The folks at Hushmail pride themselves on providing a
high-security webmail service to their personal and business clients. With the Hush Encryption Engine protecting
your webmail’s privacy, you can be certain that your digital
information is in good hands. www.hushmail.com
Inbox.com
Much like Google, Inbox.com is a veritable department store
of online awesomeness. Aside from offering users 5GB of
free email storage, the service also provides file storage,
photo sharing capabilities, a virtual message board, and
computer-side email notification and download clients. It’s
hard to argue with that kind of value. www.inbox.com
Windows Live Hotmail
More than 360 million users can’t be wrong. Thanks to a
number of recently introduced new features, one of the
most popular webmail services in the world is now also
one of the most versatile. Offering calendar, instant messaging, and online storage solutions, Microsoft has done
Hotmail some serious justice in recent years.
www.hotmail.com
Lavabit
Sick of spam? So’s Lavabit, and it’s got an email account
with your name on it. By providing clients with an impressive mixed bag of antispam technologies, Lavbit makes for
a sane email experience that’s mostly Viagra- and Nigerian
prince–free. www.lavabit.com
Zoho
If you rely on your webmail for your business, you’re going
to love Zoho. Offering a feature set similar to that enjoyed
by Google Apps users, Zoho will brand your webmail with
your company’s domain name, letting you send out emails
in style. www.zoho.com
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
29
the complete guide to email mastery
How to Have an
Empty, ClutterFree Inbox
Welcome to Inbox Zero, an email management philosophy that could change
your digital life
A 2010 REPORT BY THE R ADICATI GROUP ESTIMATED THAT
ROUGHLY 90 TRILLION EMAILS ARE SENT PER YE AR. IF
YOU’RE LIKE US, YOU KNOW THAT IT CAN FEEL AS THOUGH
E VERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE MESSAGES SOMEHOW MAKES
ITS WAY INTO YOUR INBOX IN A BID TO RUIN YOUR DAY OR
WEEK BEFORE IT HAS E VEN STARTED. (FOR MANY OF US,
THIS PHENOMENON IS CALLED MONDAY.)
Some of us manage the flow in a standard linear fashion. Others have developed complex, byzantine systems of folders, archives, and filters. Neither is right or wrong, but lately we’ve begun
to wonder if we could do things better. Enter Merlin Mann’s Inbox
Zero philosophy, which purports to help clear the clutter and cut
your overwhelming inbox down to a manageable size. We’ll explain
what Inbox Zero is, how it works, and why you might want to use
it. Or not.
Origin Story
The underpinnings of Inbox Zero were culled from a series of
articles that first appeared on Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders blog
(www.43folders.com), as well as from the task-management Tao
of David Allen’s Getting Things Done site (www.davidco.com).
Why the name? Because if you’re doing it right, every time you
open your mail client or browse to your webmail, all new email must
be categorized and dealt with, deleted or archived, immediately,
leaving you with no messages in your inbox. For those of us who
are greeted by thousands of old messages each time we check our
email, this is a pretty extreme idea. Inbox Zero operates under the
premise that everything in life, email included, can be categorized,
and that the number of categories should be as few as possible.
FOR THOSE OF US WHO
ARE GREETED BY
THOUSANDS OF OLD
MESSAGES EACH TIME WE
CHECK OUR EMAIL, THIS IS
A PRETTY EXTREME IDEA.
30
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
maximumpc.com
Just looking at this cleared-out inbox makes us feel less stressed out.
The Five Categories
To get Inbox Zero neophytes started, Mann suggests five categories
that email should fall under:
» Delete or Archive: Email that has been read, resolved, or has no
sway on your life should be immediately deleted or archived.
» Delegate: If an email needs to be forwarded to another person in
order to complete a task, forward it. That said, be sure to follow up
and make sure the task is being attended to.
» Respond: Not all email demands a response. Some can simply
be acted upon. Entering a meeting into your calendar is a good example of this. In the event that you do need to send a reply to someone’s message, keep it short and to the point. Mann suggests that
no email should be longer than five lines in length. While some of
your coworkers, friends, or family might think you’re being snippy
with them, you can deal with this by leaving an explanation for your
brevity in an email signature.
» Defer: If you don’t have enough information to take action on an
email, or your response to a message is dependent on the work of
others, come back to it later. The Inbox Zero philosophy demands
that after you’ve read a message it be moved out of your inbox in
one way or another, so set up a folder for deferred action. And don’t
let this get out of control.
» Do: If you can take care of a task sent to you via email, do so immediately and get it out of the way. Once the task is completed—you
guessed it—delete it from your inbox. Or archive it.
That’s the bare minimum the Inbox Zero system requires. Depending on your job or lifestyle, you may need to throw a few additional categories or folders into the mix. Mann advises that should
this be the case, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. For
example, if you feel the need to archive a message, maintain a
single archive folder. Complex subcategory-driven filing systems
only serve to stymie the email simplicity that this is supposed to
achieve. As you receive new mail, each message should be addressed and dealt with immediately by mercilessly jamming it
into one of the fi ve Inbox Zero categories and perhaps a few usercreated ones.
It’s easy to see how this could be an effective weapon in the
war against inbox bloat and counterproductivity. By following the
rules, users are empowered with the ability to whittle the contents of their inbox down to nil in no time at all. For anyone who
receives a mountain of messages on a daily basis, this is a great
way to increase your overall productivity, as less time spent on
dealing with email means more time that you can spend on higherpriority tasks.
Drawbacks
The Inbox Zero philosophy may
not be everyone’s cup of tea. For
starters, if you don’t receive large
amounts of email on a regular
basis, there’s little productivity
to be gained in clearing out your
inbox on a regular basis, as your
volume of mail is already manageable. If this is the case, we will
gladly trade places with you.
Some detractors argue that
taking pause to wipe out the contents of your inbox on a regular
basis is a waste of time, with far
too many productive minutes lost
to the sorting of emails for the
sake of categorization. Others,
especially those who manage
multiple projects or have a number of clients they work for, find
that deleting or archiving their
messages can cause more harm
than good when it comes time to
track assignments or create an
invoice at the end of the month.
Laziness and time are also factors to consider here. No matter
how many folders or rules you
create to manage your chronically bulging inbox, if you don’t
have enough drive or hours in the
day to enact your organizational
scheme, your efforts (or lack
thereof) will turn into one big bag
of organizational failure.
In the end, the best inbox management system—Inbox Zero or
otherwise—is the one that works
for you.
The 8 Worst
Email Blunders of All Time
8) Birthday Bitch: London bank employee Lucy Gao was turning 21. A keystone moment
in anyone's life, but for Lucy, it was also a reason to demand, in email, that every guest at
her birthday celebration treat her like the royalty she wasn't. "I will be accepting cards
and small gifts between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.," was but one of Lucy's many diva-like pronouncements. Soon, several billion people were privy to all of them.
7) Out Damn Spot! Secretary Jenny Amner accidentally spilled ketchup on her boss's
pants while they lunched together at a local eatery. The next day, Jenny got an email suggesting she cover cleaning costs. She agreed,
again via email, but only after citing the very
real fact that her mother had died that same
day, then chiding the exec for being such an
uncaring tightwad, then telling everybody
about it. Jenny's boss resigned soon thereafter.
6) Mmm… Spam: Irish Green Party member
Eamon Ryan got serious in 2008, successfully pushing important antispamming legislation through that country's parliament.
So how did the Greens commemorate such
an accomplishment? By inviting, via email, in
spamlike fashion, regional technology bloggers to participate in a "viral video" contest.
Sure, we've heard of far worse spam, just not
worse-timed spam.
5) Cruel Fool: April 1, 2011: The University
of California, San Diego, alerted all 47,000
people who'd applied to the institution that
they'd been granted admission—a massive
miscalculation of approximately 30,000 potential students. Needless to say, it took days
to undo the damage.
CHUNG
IS KING
OF HIS
DOMAIN
HERE IN
SEOUL.
4) Poetic Injustice: Britain's Joseph Dobbie
met what he felt was the woman of his dreams and soon thereafter adorned her inbox
with a highly sensitive and very lengthy expression of his feelings. But Dobbie's would-be
princess declined, laughingly forwarding his prose to her sisters, who then reforwarded
it to the world. Apparently unfazed, Dobbie has since insisted he's received more overtures than mockery.
3) All Wet: When your country is in the grips of a killer flood, you gotta have a little sympathy, right? Wrong, at least in the case of a certain unnamed employee of Australia's
Queensland Health. Seems the insensitive boob emailed a mass memo demanding that
absentee staff furnish photo proof they were indeed flood victims.
2) Careless Whispers: Adultery, spanking, force-feeding, tickle torture. An episode of
Criminal Minds? Well, maybe, but in this instance we're talking about staid old Cornell
University. Two Cornell employees, John and Lisa, somehow misdirected their pseudoBDSM perv-ersation to the entire campus.
The cluttered, nested-folder
hierarchy directly contradicts
the principles of Inbox Zero.
1) Wang Chung: Peter Chung, filthy-rich investment banker by day, nonstop stud machine
at night. At least that's what Chung led his compatriots to believe in what surely must be
considered one of the most pompous emails ever devised. Begging for an additional army
of condoms was just the start; Chung bragged openly about virtually every facet of his
life. But his bosses weren't nearly so amused. When they somehow received wayward
copies of the grandstanding, Chung was canned.
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
31
BIG
SMALL
FORM FACTOR,
SURPRISE
From the caliber of their parts to
the breadth of their abilities to their
unconventional shapes and sizes,
today's small form factor PCs are a
tasty treat for power users
BY GORDON MAH UNG
32
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
maximumpc.com
I
t has long been considered common wisdom that the smaller the size of a PC, the
greater its compromises. Notebooks, no
matter how fat, for example, will never
touch the power of a desktop machine.
The same held true for small form factor rigs.
But is that still the case? To find out how today’s SFF
rigs compare with their full-size desktop brethren,
we tasked five top PC makers with sending us their
best and brightest, and, well, smallest machines.
We didn’t put any hard and fast limits on size
or price. Instead, we wanted the vendors to
go nuts with the definition of “small form factor rig.” As a result, what we received for our
shoot-out was an incredibly diverse assortment
of shapes and sizes that completely upended our
old notions of the category. It also proved to us
that small PCs can pack a mighty punch.
To judge these little wonders, we looked at
price, aesthetics, power consumption, acoustics,
and, of course, performance. What you’ll see is
that this contest yielded some unexpected challengers and results.
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
33
small form factors
Falcon
Northwest
FragBox
There isn’t much space to work in the FragBox, but
that also means it doesn’t take up much room either.
9
VERDICT
$3,975, www.falcon-nw.com
3,049
2,528
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
300
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
883
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
1,722
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42.0
83.8
114.4
179.9
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate.
JUL 2011
”
SPECIFICATIONS
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
MAXIMUMPC
5”
The FragBox is amazingly quiet
considering that it packs an overclocked Core i7-2600K and SLI’d
GeForce GTX 580 cards.
ZERO
POINT
34
10.
Falcon Northwest FragBox
BENCHMARKS
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
8”
ray burner and more RAM. Heck, even the
Origin PC is $200 less. Ouch.
What the FragBox does bring,
however, is a top-notch build quality, acoustic bliss, and performance
that’s damn respectable considering
its displacement of roughly 1,200 cubic inches. By comparison, the three
much larger rigs are about 2,000 cubic
inches. So, while we can’t give the FragBox the nod for breakout performance,
it offers the best blend of size and performance in a shape and size that meets
the traditional definition of an SFF box.
15
Falcon Northwest’s FragBox is no new
face around here. We’ve seen various iterations of this SFF over the years, but the
latest is perhaps the most impressive. In
a chassis that’s the second-smallest of
the bunch—just slightly larger than CyberPower’s LAN Party Evo—Falcon manages
to jam in not one, but two GeForce GTX 580
cards, along with a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
overclocked to 4.2GHz.
Storage is handled by Crucial’s new
256GB M4 SSD and a 1TB Western Digital HDD. RAM is maxed out on the Asus
P8P67M with 16GB of DDR3/1600.
Despite the abundance of hardware in
such a confined space, the FragBox is an
amazingly well-behaved machine. It stood
out in contrast to other boxes in this roundup whose dual videocards were pushed
into thermal detonator mode by our gaming benchmarks, forcing the system fans to
spool to noticeable or unacceptable levels.
The FragBox exhibited none of that.
You could play a game for hours at
2560x1600 resolution and not notice that
the machine was working hard.
So what’s the FragBox’s big problem?
It’s majorly outgunned by the iBuypower,
Origin PC, and AVADirect rigs’ four-way
GPU setups and higher-clocked or highercored CPUs. It also doesn’t help that the
FragBox is priced at a painful $4K. That’s
the same as the iBuypower rig, which not
only has dual dual-GPU cards, but a Blu-
maximumpc.com
PROCESSOR
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K (overclocked to 4.2GHz)
MOBO
Asus P8P67-M Pro (Intel P67
chipset)
RAM
16GB DDR3/1600
VIDEOCARD
Two GeForce GTX 580 cards in SLI
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
STORAGE
256GB Crucial M4 SSD, 1TB
Western Digital 7,200rpm
OPTICAL
LG DVD burner
CASE/PSU
Custom / Silverstone 1,000 watt
AVADirect
Compact
Gaming PC
Tucked in behind the 1,200W PSU are two Radeon HD
6990 dual-GPU cards and a Prolimatech Megahalem.
at higher resolutions for longer than 15
minutes and the fans in the system begin
to howl at intolerable levels. Like ruinyour-music-or-gaming-experience kind
of loud.
And that’s really a shame because
when we originally uncrated the AVADirect
box, we were floored by its configuration.
Overall, performance, especially in multithreaded tests, is superb, but in gaming, the
CrossFireX takes a back seat to quad SLI.
Combined with the noise, it’s a deal breaker
and a bit of a heartbreaker, too.
12.5”
For our shoot-out, AVADirect came loaded
for bear… as well as grabboid, sandworm,
and arachnid, too. Yeah, basically AVADirect
enters the scene packing a cartoonish
amount of hardware firepower.
In what arguably pushes the definition of a
small form factor rig, AVADirect’s Compact
Gaming PC sports an Intel 3.46GHz Core i7990X, 12GB of DDR3/1600, and two of AMD’s
Radeon HD 6990 cards in CrossFireX mode.
Also jammed into the Lian Li PC-V354R
chassis are an Asus Rampage III Gene X58
board, a 250GB Intel 510 SSD, a 2TB Barracuda XT, and an LG Blu-ray burner.
Interestingly, instead of using a closedloop liquid cooler, AVADirect cools the
CPU—overclocked to 4.4GHz—using a gigantic Prolimatech Megahalem cooler.
This being our first encounter with a Radeon HD 6990 in a shipping system, we were
curious to see how the new dual-GPU cards
performed. It was hit or miss against the two
rigs outfitted with Nvidia’s dual-GPU GTX 590
cards. In our Far Cry 2 benchmark, which is
mostly a CPU benchmark these days, the
AVADirect was even. But in STALKER: CoP,
the quad-SLI configs blew the doors off the
CrossFireX setup. In the Heaven benchmark,
the AVADirect was about 17 percent slower,
as well. The AVADirect got within striking
distance in 3DMark 2011, but only if you consider a 7 percent disparity close.
In app performance, the AVADirect’s
hexa-core saves face by acing all other machines in Sony Vegas Pro 9 and also sliding
past the Sandy Bridge boxes in our MainConcept test. The major problem with the
AVADirect is acoustics. In CPU-only tasks,
there’s no problem, but kick on any 3D game
16
”
10”
7
VERDICT
AVADirect Compact Gaming PC
$4,976, www.avadirect.com
AVADirect’s SFF is a head-turning rig
loaded to the gills with firepower.
BENCHMARKS
SPECIFICATIONS
ZERO
POINT
PROCESSOR
Intel 3.46GHz Core i7-990X
(overclocked to 4.4GHz)
MOBO
Asus Rampage III Gene (Intel X58
chipset)
883
RAM
12GB DDR3/1600
1,499
VIDEOCARD
Two Radeon HD 6990 cards in
CrossFire X
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
STORAGE
250GB Intel 510 SSD, 2TB
Seagate Barracuda 7,200rpm
OPTICAL
LG Blu-ray burner
CASE/PSU
Lian Li PC-V354R / Silverstone
1,200 watt
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
3,049
2,142
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
275
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42.0
83.1
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
114.4
202.2
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate.
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
35
small form factors
CyberPower
LAN Party
Evo
The Evo can’t beat the others here, but a GTX 580 and
2600K in this chassis are impressive nonetheless.
games at 1080p resolutions. In app performance, it really isn’t that far behind
the other rigs.
But against the hardware in this
roundup, it’s got no chance of winning any gaming tests. Despite all this,
we’re really tickled pink by the LAN
Party Evo. It’s quiet, lightweight, and is
even relatively easy on the electricity.
Its idle power consumption is a third of
some of the machines here. And at half the
price of the other rigs (as it should be), it’s
really a damn spiffy rig.
Overall, the LAN Party Evo is an impressive box. Unfortunately, it’s just not as impressive as the others in this roundup.
8
VERDICT
If you look up “small form factor”
in the dictionary, you will see
a picture of CyberPower’s LAN
Party Evo.
PROCESSOR
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
3,030
MOBO
Asus P8H67-I (Intel H67 chipset)
310
RAM
4GB DDR3/1333
VIDEOCARD
GeForce GTX 580
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
STORAGE
120GB Intel 510 SSD, 1TB
Western Digital 7,200rpm HDD
OPTICAL
LG Blu-ray combo drive
CASE/PSU
Silverstone SG07 / Silverstone
600 watt
3,049
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
1,054
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
2,064
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42.0
44.8
114.4
109.5 (-4%)
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate.
JUL 2011
5”
SPECIFICATIONS
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
MAXIMUMPC
”
8.7
$2,100. www.cyberpowerpc.com
ZERO
POINT
36
14
CyberPower LAN Party Evo
BENCHMARKS
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
7.5”
If you stopped a nerd in an electronics store
and asked her to describe a small form factor PC, she’d just pull up a picture of CyberPower’s LAN Party Evo on her smartphone.
In many ways, this is the ultimate evolution of the original SFF design. The LAN
Party Evo isn’t much bigger than the original SFFs of yesteryear, but peep these
specs: a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K, a GeForce
GTX 580 card, a 120GB Intel 510 SSD, and
1TB hard drive.
Cooling is handled by a deftly installed
Asetek 550LC. And thanks to the Mini-ITX
P8H67-I Deluxe, the sucker boots from dead
cold to desktop in 24 seconds.
In performance, there were no surprises.
There was no chance the LAN Party Evo
could outbox any of the other rigs here
considering how the others are loaded to
the gunnels with hardware. We won’t even
bother to get into performance comparisons because there’s no need. Certainly
overclocking the 2600K could have helped,
but you have to remember that you can’t
really overclock on the H-series chipset,
and CyberPower told us there are no Pseries chipsets in Mini ITX available today.
Turbo Boost 2.0 is still functioning, though,
so you do get some clock bumps.
Lest you think the LAN Party Evo is some
drag-ass slow system, it’s not. With its
2600K part and GTX 580, it’s probably faster
than 90 percent of standard desktop systems today, and will comfortably play today’s
maximumpc.com
small form factors
The Origin Chronos was an early bet on
which system would be the fastest here, as
we’ve seen what other vendors can do in
Silverstone’s fabulous FT03 case.
Despite it having the same volume as
the AVADirect and iBuypower machines,
the FT03 occupies a smaller footprint than
all others here, including the CyberPower
LAN Party Evo, yet it accommodates an
incredible amount of hardware.
Yeah, we know, it’s tall. But for folks
who want to stuff their machine under a
desk, or even keep it atop a desk, system
height is rarely a problem. We can’t really see the FT03’s height being an issue
unless you have to store your rig in a foot
locker or a cubby.
Inside the FT03 is a Core i7-2600K
overclocked to 4.7GHz, a pair of GeForce
GTX 590 cards, and an Asus P8P67-M Pro
board. To keep costs low, Origin runs a pair
of 64GB Crucial C300 drives (what no M4
available?) and keeps the system RAM to
8GB of DDR3/1600.
The Origin PC’s performance is quite
competitive. It walked past the others in
our ProShow test, but it just couldn’t wrest
the crown from the wicked-fast AVADirect
machine in Sony Vegas and MainConcept
Reference.
So it’s fast and it’s beautiful, there’s
gotta be a catch, right? Unfortunately, yes.
Like the AVADirect, the Origin’s fans are
tweaked to increase as the system heats
up. With Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590 cards
producing the heat of a phaser on overload
(even with the case drilled out to add ventilation), the Origin PC’s case fans spool up
to unbearable levels. And due to the pitch
of the fans, you get a din that’s annoying as
hell during gaming. It’s as bad, if not worse,
than the AVADirect’s dual Radeon HD
6990s under gaming loads. To be fair, if
the Origin’s acoustics could have been
better managed, it likely stood a chance
of winning this affair—the same goes for
the AVADirect. But as it is, they are both
too loud.
And that’s just a shame. Because,
like the AVADirect, Origin’s is a majorly
fast system that costs even less than the
Falcon Northwest FragBox. But it’s just
too damn noisy for us to recommend it.
7
VERDICT
Origin PC Chronos
$3,800, www.originpc.com
19.25”
Origin PC
Chronos
The open access of the FT03
case makes wrenching inside
the system a joy compared to
the other rigs here.
11”
9.25”
Think of the Origin PC Chronos as the
Manute Bol of PCs. It’s tall, but really
doesn’t take up that much room.
BENCHMARKS
SPECIFICATIONS
ZERO
POINT
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
(overclocked to 4.7GHz)
MOBO
Asus P8P67-M Pro (Intel P67
chipset)
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
3,049
2.256
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
261
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
778
RAM
8GB DDR3/1600
VIDEOCARD
Two GeForce GTX 590 cards
in SLI
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
STORAGE
Two 64GB Crucial C300 SSDs
in RAID 0, 1TB Western Digital
7,200rpm HDD
OPTICAL
Optiarc Blu-ray burner
CASE/PSU
Silverstone FT03 / Silverstone
1,200 watt
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
1,537
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42.0
124.6 (197%)
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
114.4
203.8
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate.
38
PROCESSOR
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iBuypower
LAN
Warrior II
Air blown directly onto the GPUs seems to tame the noise of the
GTX 590 cards.
explain that result is the storage subsystem and choice of SSDs.
Frankly, the LAN Warrior II’s form
factor and performance would have put it
in second place to either the AVADirect or
Origin machines, but with those two rigs’
intolerable acoustics, the LAN Warrior
II leaps to the front of the line by easily
clipping the Falcon’s wings in pure frame
rates and app performance.
If you don’t mind the nontraditional SFF
shape, the LAN Warrior II’s performance,
stellar price, and configuration make it the
contender to beat.
9
VERDICT
15.75”
Remember those “kids” in Little League who
shaved and had college-age girlfriends yet
their birth certificates said they were 14 years
old? iBuypower’s LAN Warrior II is kind of like
that.
What else can you say when the LAN
Warrior II looks an awful lot like a small
mid-tower case. Or maybe a mini-tower.
We had a tough time actually figuring out
whether the LAN Warrior II even qualified
for our SFF roundup. In its defense, the
actual volume of the case is roughly 2,000
cubic inches. That’s about the same as the
Origin PC and the AVADirect, so any bias is
strictly superficial.
Like those other two rigs, the LAN
Warrior II takes advantage of its volume by
packing in the hardware. Its Core i7-2600K
is overclocked to 4.6GHz, with Turbo Boost
taking it to 4.9GHz for some workloads. In
the GPU department, two GeForce GTX 590
cards push the frame rates through the
roof, and two 120GB Intel 510 SSDs in RAID
0, a 3TB HDD, and Blu-ray burner fill in
the gaps.
To keep the system cool, a massive fan
and mesh side keep air moving over those
hot-as-hell GTX 590 cards. Originally, we
thought the LAN Warrior II’s acoustics were
excessive when compared with the nearly
silent CyberPower and Falcon systems, but
actually, the noise level wasn’t bad. Noticeable, certainly, but probably only half as
loud and half as annoying as the Origin and
AVADirect boxes.
In performance, the LAN Warrior II does
quite well. It’s a pinch behind the very fast
Origin system, in most of the app tests and
gaming. The LAN Warrior II’s lone win was
an oddly fast score in our Lightroom test.
Considering the similar clock speeds of the
systems tested, the only thing that might
18.
25
”
7”
It might look like a mini-tower,
but the LAN Warrior II actually
offers no more internal space
than the AVADirect rig.
iBuyPower LAN Warrior II
$4,000, www.ibuypower,com
BENCHMARKS
SPECIFICATIONS
ZERO
POINT
PROCESSOR
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
(overclocked to 3.7GHz)
MOBO
Asus P8P67-M Pro (Intel P67
chipset)
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
3,049
2,376
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
233
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
829
RAM
16GB DDR3/1600
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
1,595
VIDEOCARD
Two GeForce GTX 590 cards in SLI
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42.0
122.9 (193%)
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
114.4
190.9
STORAGE
Two 120GB Intel 510 SSDs in RAID
0, 3TB Western Digital 7,200rpm
HDD
OPTICAL
Optiarc Blu-ray burner
CASE/PSU
NZXT Vulcan / Corsair 1,200 watt
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate.
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MAXIMUMPC
39
small form factors
Small Form Factors: The Final Analysis
How a controversial winner emerges from a field full of surprises
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, a showdown of full-size
super PCs can get pretty boring. What you
usually end up with is five systems all packing the same internal components.
But a contest among computer makers
that restricts physical size? Now that
seemed bound to yield some interesting results. Just as any race sanctioning
body, such as NASCAR or FIA, sets weight
limitations or adds restrictor plates, we
thought that by limiting vendors to the
simple term “small form factor,” we’d rein
in the out-of-control system specs and
benchmark-crushing performance that we
see with full-size systems.
Our plan worked and it didn’t. It worked
because we received an incredibly diverse
set of machines that show what can happen when you’re thermally and spatially
constrained by a SFF rig. Our plan didn’t
work because the machines we got blew
our mind in specsmanship. We really did
not think it was possible to cram as much
hardware into such small machines as the
vendors did here.
CyberPower’s LAN Party Evo impressed
us with its size, power consumption, and
capability. It actually serves as a good
zero-point for the kind of performance
you get out of the prototypical small form
factor machine. As we said in our review,
it’s enough firepower to keep most of us
happy, and when you consider its small
footprint, who can complain? And yet it
gets no cigar and shouldn’t. The other
rigs’ performances were simply superior.
Next we had Falcon Northwest’s
FragBox. It’s not much bigger than the
CyberPower machine, yet it packs GTX 580s
in SLI and its P-series chipset allows for
some overclocking. Its main limitation is its
size. Like the CyberPower, the size imposes
a thermal ceiling on the rig. There’s no
thermal headroom to run this generation
of dual-GPUs in the FragBox, nor crank the
processor clock very far. While we feel the
Falcon is the best of bunch for folks who are
severely space-constrained, the quad-GPU
configs rip up the GeForce GTX 580s pretty
handily. Of course, Falcon could have opted
to add more fans and increase airflow, but
we’re kind of glad it didn’t.
That’s perhaps a lesson that AVADirect
and Origin PC should have taken to heart.
Instead, we suspect the builders decided
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to throw caution to the wind in their pursuit of victory. In performance, both boxes
are certainly fast—fast enough to put
some full-size boxes to shame.
AVADirect’s use of the overclocked 990X
is perhaps that machine’s most eyebrowraising feature. Well, that and the use of the
Radeon HD 6990 cards. The HD 6990 cards
have a reputation for being loud—a reputation that’s well deserved, we discovered. Ultimately, that cost AVADirect serious points.
Similarly, acoustics were a serious failing
with Origin PC’s Chronos, which was even
more obnoxiously loud. Part of that may
come from the innovative Silverstone case.
With the AVADirect, the loud-as-hell 6990
cards at least have the audio directed out
the back. With the Silverstone, the audio
emanates from the top and the side panels,
which makes it sound even louder.
With Origin and AVADirect penalized for
audio, that left iBuypower’s LAN Warrior
II as the last man standing. From what
we can see, the GeForce GTX 590s can be
kept running at lower fan
speeds if you have enough
fresh air moving over
them. With the NZXT
Vulcan case, a mas-
sive 20cm fan ducts external air directly
onto the GTX 590 cards. The LAN Warrior
II is certainly not quiet, mind you—especially when compared to the CyberPower
LAN Party Evo or Falcon Northwest FragBox—but the fan whir is fairly low-pitched
and more comparable to a standard fullsize gaming machine.
The LAN Warrior II’s performance
numbers are certainly all smiles. It’s a
smidge slower than the Origin PC Chronos in the Heaven 2.5, STALKER: CoP,
and 3DMark 2011 benchmarks. Application performance is also competitive,
but not the best.
The only issue we have with the LAN
Warrior II is its size and shape. Even
though it has the same volume as the
AVADirect and Origin PC rigs, its shape
is closer to a mini-tower than a small
form factor. In that respect, is it a fair
competitor to the more conventional Falcon and CyberPower SFFs? In the end,
we decided that philosophical arguments
aside, the fact remains
that the iBuypower LAN
Warrior II is not only a fine
machine but the overall
winner in this contest.
SMALL FORM FACTORS COMPARED
CHIP
Falcon
Northwest
FragBox
AVADirect
Compact
Gaming PC
CyberPower
LAN Party
Evo
Origin PC
Chronos
iBuypower
LAN Warrior
II
3.4GHz Core
3.46GHz
3.4GHz Core
3.4GHz Core
3.4GHz Core
i7-2600K
Core i7-
i7-2600K
i7-2600K
i7-2600K
990X
CPU CLOCK
4.4GHz
4.4GHz
3.4GHz
4.7GHz
4.6GHz
RAM
16GB
DDR3/1600
12GB
DDR3/1600
4GB
DDR3/1333
8GB
DDR3/1600
16GB
DDR3/1333
MOTHERBOARD
Asus
P8P67-M Pro
Asus
Rampage III
Gene
Asus P8H67-I
Deluxe
Asus
P8P67-M
Pro
Asus
P8P67-M
Pro
SSD
Crucial
256GB M4
Intel 250GB
510
Intel 120GB
510
64GB
Crucial
C300 RAID 0
Intel 120GB
510 in RAID 0
HDD
1TB
2TB
1TB
1TB
3TB
ODD
DVD burner
Blu-ray
burner
Blu-ray
combo
Blu-ray
burner
Blu-ray
burner
GPU
GeForce GTX
580 in SLI
Radeon
HD 6990 in
CrossFireX
GeForce GTX
580
GeForce
GTX 590 in
SLI
GeForce GTX
590 in SLI
PSU
Silverstone
1,000
Silverstone
1,200
Silverstone
600
Silverstone
1,200
Corsair
1,200
PRICE
$3,975
$4,976
$2,303
$3,800
$4,000
VEGAS PRO 9 (SEC)
2,528
2,142
3,030
2,256
2,376
PROSHOW
883
883
1,054
778
829
MAINCONCEPT (SEC)
1,722
1,499
2,064
1,537
1,595
STALKER: COP (FPS)
83.8
83.1
44.8
124.6
122.9
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
179.9
202.2
109.49
203.78
190.9
LIGHTROOM 2 (SEC)
300
275
310
261
233
3DMARK 11
X3,695
X5,140
X1,995
X5,577
X5,496
HEAVEN 2.5 (FPS)
32.4
41.1
16.6
50.8
49.7
IDLE POWER
140
218
85
190
176
CPU LOAD POWER
(WATTS)
281
385
173
368
356
GPU + CPU LOAD
500
715
320
750
750
WEIGHT (LBS)
24.6
30.7
17.05
32.9
30.7
HEIGHT (INCHES)
8*
12.5
7.5
19.25
15.75*
WIDTH (INCHES)
10.25
10
8.75
9.25
7
LENGTH (INCHES)
15
16
14
11
18.25
DISPLACEMENT
1,230
2,000
919
1,958
2,012
ACOUSTICS
Very Good
Poor
Excellent
Poor
Fair
APPEARANCE
Very Good
Very Good
Good
Very Good
Good
PRODUCER (SEC)
EXTREME
(WATTS)
(WATTS)
(CUBIC INCHES)
Best scores are bolded. *Does not include handle.
SFF VS.
FULL-SIZE
DESKTOP:
FIGHT!
Can small be the new
standard for power users?
If you’ve seen the specs on the machines
in our roundup, you know that you can
indeed stuff a lot of hardware into a
smaller-size machine. But is it enough
to sway you from building a full-size
desktop for your next build?
We’d say probably not. We have much
respect for the vendors’ ability to cram
all manner of performance parts into
these machines, but there are still compromises inherent to SFFs.
The most obvious are thermals. The
two smaller SFF rigs here don’t have the
thermal chops to run dual-GPU cards.
And two of the three machines here
had to run their fans at such excessive
speeds that it’s not worth it.
But what about performance? We
decided to compare the SFF rigs against
the Maingear Shift Super stock—a
state-of-the-art desktop that’s reviewed on page 70. With its CPU running
at 5GHz, the Shift SS is faster than the
fastest of the SFF machines, from 5 percent to 10 percent.
Even better, the Shift SS is very well
behaved. The machine can run two dualGPU cards without having to crank the
fans to maximum speed.
Noise and performance aren’t the
only things to consider when looking at
a desktop though. There’s also serviceability—how easy a machine is to work
in. The Origin PC Chronos is actually
very serviceable, but the rest of the SFFs
here have so much hardware crammed
into such a small space that wrenching
on them is a major undertaking.
The final category is obvious: expandability. All of the SFF machines are pretty
much maxed out on hardware. There’s
no option to add a soundcard, additional
hard drive, or secondary optical drive.
A full-size desktop machine has space
to grow into. Let’s not even mention that
finding Mini-ITX or microATX motherboards with enthusiast features is very
difficult. Yes, SFFs certainly have power
and capability previously unimagined,
but they still aren’t as versatile, powerful, or serviceable as that dinosaur, the
desktop PC.
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MAXIMUMPC
41
feature
MAXIMUMPC
Challenge
Multiscreen
THREE OF THE MORE HARDCORE
GAMERS ON STAFF SERVED AS
OUR INTREPID TESTERS.
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Madness
BECAUSE ONE SCREEN IS NEVER
ENOUGH! WE SET OUR SIGHTS ON
FINDING THE BEST MULTISCREEN
SETUP FOR GAMING
BY AMBER BOUMAN
LAST MONTH’S REVIEW of Samsung’s
MD230X6 six-screen Eyefi nity display got
us thinking big. We were awestruck by the
majesty of so much screen real estate—
particularly in games, where a screen confi g of massive proportions provides a level
of immersion that a single screen, or even
two screens, can’t come close to matching.
But the MD230X6 wasn’t perfect, as our review revealed. This got us wondering: Would
just three of the 23-inch displays side-byside make for a more satisfying all-around
experience? Would it be as encompassing in games? What if we could take three
large displays and turn them vertical? And
hey, while we’re imagining the possibilities,
what would gaming be like on three gigantic
HDTVs? What, after all, could be more maximum than that?
We knew of no better way to answer these
pressing questions than with a Maximum PC
Challenge. We grabbed three of the more
hardcore gamers on staff to serve as our intrepid testers: Online Associate Editor Alan
Fackler, Senior Associate Editor Nathan Edwards, and Senior Editor Gordon Mah Ung.
We had each editor play three distinctly different game types—Need for Speed: Hot
Pursuit, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and World
of Warcraft—on our four test setups: Samsung’s MD230X6 with all six screens, the
MD230X6 with just three screens, three of
NEC’s new PA301Ws 30-inch screens vertically oriented, and three NEC E461 46-inch
HDTVs.
We were looking for the perfect combination of screen real estate, game immersion, and functionality across multiple game
types. Which config would prevail? We needed
to find out—even if it took hours and hours of
gameplay (oh, how we toil!).
While our primary objective in this challenge was to identify the most awesome
screen setup for games, we also include a
sidebar on which GPU/s will produce the
best frame rates and quality settings in each
multiscreen scenario.
Now, with that out of the way… Game on!
E
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MAXIMUMPC
45
multiscreen madness
SAMSUNG’S MD230X6 is particularly suited to a six-screen setup,
Configuration 1
Six 23-inch Panels
SAMSUNG’S MD230X6 IS NICKNAMED "THE
BEAST," BUT IS IT THE BEST?
Samsung’s MD230X6
brings a whopping
5760x2160 resolution
to the table.
Configuration 2
Three 23-inch Panels
IS HALF A BEAST TWICE AS NICE?
THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION to the bezels running through the center
of the MD230X6 was to remove the top three displays and rerun
our gaming tests on just the bottom three displays—essentially
making it an MD230X3. Scaling back to just the three displays—for
a combined resolution of 5760x1080—provided a whole new set of
challenges. Nathan thought they seemed too low and said the setup
felt "squat,” and that there was still too much horizontal real estate.
“I still have to look too far to the right or the left to see vital informa-
By far the least outrageous
configuration of our challenge, three 23-inch LCDs
are hardly pedestrian.
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MAXIMUMPC
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with super-slim bezels that minimize disruption between screens
and a solid setup. While the Beast (our pet name for the monstrous
display) isn’t hard to screw together, it’s a pain to keep track of all the
wires coming out of the back. It also takes up significant desk space,
and its weight makes it susceptible to some wobbling. Intended for
the über-productive user or the intense gamer, the Beast earned a
7 verdict in last month’s review—in large part because of the horizontal bezel running through the middle of the display, which made
aiming in first-person shooters (such as Call of Duty) frustrating and
difficult. While bezel correction is an option in the Catalyst Control
Center, we couldn't enable it with this setup, since the monitors had
varying display identification data. Unable to aim or see his team or
user tags, Gordon declared first-person shooters on the MD230X6
a “waste of time.” And while Alan said he felt “enveloped” by the
display, he also declared it nearly impossible to aim. Nathan said
straight-out he’d prefer a smaller screen.
The Beast fared much better in WoW, where the bezels didn’t
interfere with gameplay but did cut our avatars oddly in half. Surprisingly there was almost too much screen real estate—both Alan
and Gordon found it difficult to swing the mouse through six screens
to get to the menu icons, and Nathan disliked having to turn his head
to view the chat window and controls—although all agreed that the
“panoramic view of the world was encompassing.”
All three editors found the MD230X6 most gratifying in a racing
game. Nathan summed it up best during his Need for Speed test with
the declaration, “This I can get behind!”
tion.” While the aiming in the FPS was easier, as the bezel issue
had been removed, the images being displayed were problematic.
The settings in Call of Duty seemed off, as though the aspect ratio
was incorrect, and the character models and weapons were oddly
expanded across the screens. Gordon kept saying, “Something is not
right here,” and despite lots of fiddling with the aspect ratio and field
of view, never quite got it tuned to his liking.
These issues were characteristic of the first-person point of
view and cropped up to a lesser extent in Need for Speed. World of
Warcraft, on the other hand, elicited a positive response from all the
editors. While Gordon lamented that the three panels weren’t as “in
your face” as the six-display setup, he preferred the three screens to a
single display and found WoW to be “totally playable” and “a better experience than racing or FPS," adding that a nice wide peripheral view
of the world is much better suited to a third-person perspective.
DESPITE THE PITFALLS of the MD230X3, we weren’t convinced
that multiscreen bliss couldn’t be found with three monitors. Enter
NEC’s spanking-new PA301Ws—professional-grade 30-inch screens
with a price tag to match at $2,300 each. Besides each boasting a
2560x1600 native resolution, the PA301Ws offer the unique ability
among 30-inch monitors to pivot into portrait mode. Set side-by-side
in this fashion, you’re looking at a wall of 4800x2560 unabashedly
color-accurate pixels. True, the PA301Ws lack the Samsung screens’
dainty bezels, but that didn’t prove to be a problem, as the bezels
didn’t cross our primary focal point. As it happens, we could enable
bezel correction with this setup, but we had mixed feelings about the
results. Images appeared less “split” by the bezels, but a great deal
of information was lost in the process.
Either way, the editors unanimously found this setup to be unequivocally awesome. Gordon quickly declared it the “best of both
worlds” between the previous six- and three-panel setups, and “a
superior experience.” Alan called his Call of Duty testing “intense,
crazy immersive,” and Need for Speed “freakin’ sick.” Nathan said
of World of Warcraft, “Rad! It’s like I’m peering through a window to
another world.”
All were in favor of the “vertical improvement” over the other
three-panel config and the lack of a horizontal bezel. Gordon was
impressed by the details during his Call of Duty run (although he
was concerned the frame rates wouldn’t hold—see our GPU guide,
"What Videocard Do I Need?" page 48), and he called Need for Speed
“ideal,” stating that the PA301Ws was “in all ways better than the six
panels.”
Configuration 3
Three 30-inch Panels
LET’S TRY THIS ONE MORE TIME WITH
FEELING (AND PORTRAIT MODE)!
NEC’s PA301W professional-grade
30-inch monitors overshadow a
triad of 23-inch LCDs in resolution,
image quality, and girth.
LESSONS LEARNED
THERE’S MORE TO USING A MULTISCREEN SETUP THAN JUST PLUGGING IN THE DISPLAYS
SO YOU’VE CLEARED OFF a huge swath of desk space, and you
have your multiple large screens arranged just so. Now what? If
you’re using an AMD graphics card, you need to pay a visit to the
Catalyst Control Center. Getting your displays to work in concert
isn’t a totally obvious process. You’ll see all your monitors represented by icons, but no standard menu option for extending the
desktop. Rather, you need to select one monitor, then use a dropdown arrow in the upper-right corner of the icon to span a group of
your choosing.
In the Nvidia Control Panel, you might think you can take care
of the job in the “Set up multiple displays” tab, like you would with
two screens. But if you’re using more than one GPU—in either a
single- or double-card config— you actually need to go into the
“Manage 3D settings” tab to get three or more screens working
together.
While gaming can be glorious across three or more large
screens, some games are more adaptable to that format than others. In our tests, for example, we found that Call of Duty: Black Ops
assumed an unnatural aspect ratio and field of view when we ran
it on three 1080p LCDs (with a combined resolution of 5760x1080).
But there is a way to compensate for these issues. A free thirdparty app called Widescreen Fixer (www.widescreenfixer.org) will
adjust the aspect ratio to suit your screen setup. It requires that you
install a separate plugin for each game you want to adjust—plugins
are available for many popular FPS titles, including the Battlefield
and Call of Duty franchises, BioShock, and Ghost Recon.
Another issue we encountered involved the placement of various maps, menus, toolbars, etc., in a massively multiplayer game,
such as World of Warcraft. By default, this information occupies
the far edges of your display, out of the way of the action. But when
using an array of large screens, you find yourself having to crane
your neck from side to side to access that information. Fortunately,
there are a ton of custom interfaces that move those elements to
alternate parts of the display. A multitude of custom UIs for WoW
can be found at Wowinterface.com. –KATHERINE STEVENSON
With Widescreen Fixer, you can adjust the aspect ratio of select games
for improved playability across multiple screens.
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multiscreen madness
WHAT VIDEOCARD DO I NEED?
A MULTISCREEN SETUP CALLS FOR ROBUST
GRAPHICS. HERE'S A QUICK GUIDE
GAMING ON THREE or more monitors is no easy feat. Pushing that
many pixels is hugely demanding on a GPU. So if you want to get
the most from your multiscreen setup, you’ll need to pair it with
adequate graphics power. Using our challenge scenarios as examples, we examine what kind of GPU/s you will need to achieve
adequate frame rates and quality settings.
The Wall of Six
AMD likes to tout the ability of its GPUs to handle up to six LCD
panels simultaneously. You’ll need a special Eyefinity Edition card,
complete with six Mini DisplayPort connectors, if you want to drive
six panels with one card, based on the previous-generation Radeon
HD 5870.
The problem is that the HD 5870 doesn’t really have enough
gas to drive six 1080p panels with decent frame rates in many
games. You’ll either have to significantly dial down the eye candy
or reduce resolution—which defeats the purpose of having six
panels. You’ll see better performance if you pair up two Radeon
HD 6970s. Even then, you’ll need to sacrifice some high-end
features.
Configuration 4
Three 46-inch TVs
TIME TO GO BIG OR GO HOME!
SO FAR, SO GOOD. So… what else? Three big HDTVs! The idea started as
almost a joke by Gordon, but then germinated into a why-the-hell-not proposition. After all, if we want to be immersed in gameplay, what better way than
by planting ourselves within a fortress of three giant 46-inch LCD screens.
We turned to NEC’s E461s, and we got busy. After some (pretty extensive)
troubleshooting, we were ready to press Play.
The E461s obviously eat up huge amounts of space, and while this was easily the most unrealistic of the configs we tested, we had to see how it would
play out. Like the three 23-inch panels, the HDTVs, which are 1920x1080 each,
had a combined resolution of 5760x1080. But unlike the 23-inch panels, no
NECs E461s
offer a
standard
1920x1080
resolution
with a 120Hz
refresh rate.
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If you want to go all out and drop in a pair of Radeon HD 6990
dual-GPU cards (assuming you can actually find them), then you
can get pretty decent frame rates.
You can theoretically drive six panels with Nvidia-based cards,
but you’d need either three cards in triple-SLI mode or two GTX
590 dual-GPU cards. It’s unclear, however, whether driver support is really there to deliver the same level of experience.
Triple HD Desktop Monitors
For more practical gaming, three 1080p LCD monitors is probably
the sweet spot right now. You can drive three 1080p monitors with
a single high-end, single-GPU card like the Radeon HD 6970 and
get decent frame rates at the full 5760x1080 resolution. You will
need to sacrifice some detail settings in some games. And there
will be a few titles, like Metro 2033, that won’t be playable at
these resolutions with a single card.
If you’re willing to go with two cards or a dual-GPU card, the
field opens up. Either Nvidia or AMD can run a triple HD desktop display with either dual-GPU cards or two discrete cards. If
you’re willing to go with the high midrange—Radeon HD 6950s for
one was complaining that the display felt too squat. Unfortunately, the
aspect ratio and field of view issues that arose in Call of Duty with the
other 5760x1080 setup remained.
Need for Speed was the biggest hit on this setup. Nathan’s initial
impression in the game summed it up nicely: “This is madness.” Alan
felt similarly, declaring that the peripheral view of the road rushing
past made the game feel faster. Gordon, actually preferred Need for
Speed on the TVs to the 30-inch screens, saying it felt like he was
really driving and that the horizon appeared as large as in life.
World of Warcraft produced some complaints about the extensive
screen real estate: “Turning my head to view data on the side screens
destroyed the feeling of immersion and also took my eyes off my
character,” said Nathan. Gordon wasn’t bothered by that so much, but
did find WoW’s relatively low-res textures to be unusually noticeable
on the all-encompassing displays. During Alan’s testing of World of
Warcraft, Nathan declared it “more impressive looking” from further
back. In fact, one of the drawbacks to using such large screens is that
it’s difficult to find a position that’s close enough to feel immersed but
not visually overwhelmed; Call of Duty caused dizziness during one
portion of our testing.
AMD or GeForce GTX 560 Tis for Nvidia—then you can probably
get decent frame rates.
The 30-inch Solution
Assuming you have the monitors and the necessar y stands, you
can get an awesome experience from three 30-inch panels in
portrait mode. That translates to 4800x2560 resolution, or 12.3
million pixels. You can go with a single AMD card, but don’t expect
a good gaming experience. What you really want is a pair of highend, dual-GPU cards. If you’ve got the cash, you might be able
to hit good frame rates with two Radeon HD 6990s. That’s a lot
of cash, but then you’re driving a lot of pixels. Remember, three
of these 30-inch panels are really only about 150,000 pixels less
than six 1080p panels. So in terms of GPU horsepower, you need
about the same performance for a three-panel, 30-inch setup as
you’d need for six 1080p panels—but it will probably look better.
The other issue you’ll run into is overscan—where the signal
extends beyond the visible boundary of the display—although this
problem crops up less with the newer HDTVs. If you’re hooking up
older TVs, however, overscan can be enough to make you tear out
your hair. In that case, you’ll definitely want a third-party solution,
like PowerStrip ($29.95 for a single license, http://bit.ly/kpehC1).
But that’s not a solution for the faint of heart. –LOYD CASE
Triple HDTVs
What if you want to hook up three HDT Vs? That’s the same
resolution as three 1080p desktop panels, and the performance
requirements are the same. However, unique problems exist. For
one thing, you’ll want three HDMI connections. That’s not as hard
as it sounds, though. If you’re going with Nvidia, you’ll need two
cards (or a single GTX 590) and three DVI-to-HDMI cables. With
AMD cards, you’ll want DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters. Both of
these solutions exist, thankfully.
To get the best gaming experience on a sixscreen setup, you need two Radeon HD 6990
videocards—if you can find them.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
OUR PICK FOR THE BEST MULTISCREEN SETUP FOR GAMING
be utilized for any other productivity task—from web design and
IN THE END, the PA301Ws won the votes of all three of our tesphoto and video editing to PowerPoint and Excel, it’s hard to imagters—the combination of pristine images spread across increased
ine a task this setup couldn’t tackle with ease and aplomb.
vertical landscape was just too good. Hey, anything that makes
curmudgeonly Gordon utter “ideal” or “bingo” is definitely noteworthy. It’s also one of the more practical setups (while
the models themselves might be prohibitively expensive,
the configuration is what impressed us); the sheer space
that six panels or three HDTVs take up already puts both
into the realm of fantasy for most users.
But this challenge wasn’t about being realistic; it was
about putting our fantasy multiscreen configurations
to the test in games—and in that respect, the PA301Ws
were the overall winner. While the three E461s did well
in World of Warcraft and excelled in Need for Speed, they
left us cold during Call of Duty. The six-panel MD230X6
display tripped over its own toes with the bezel issue, and
its three-panel sibling wasn’t grand enough to fulfill our
desires and struggled with first-person point of view.
While all of the configurations required a considerable
amount of setup and troubleshooting, the three vertical displays were ready to go with the fewest difficulties.
With a combined resolution of 4800x2560, three 30inch LCD monitors offer grandeur and detail without
Additionally, the three vertical displays could easily
requiring an outrageous amount of desk space.
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49
R&D
examining technology and putting it to use
BY BILL O’BRIEN
802.11ac
With eight transmitting antennas and theoretical data transfer
rates of 1Gb/s, Wi-Fi is about to become turbocharged
Not much has happened to good old Wi-Fi since
802.11n arrived on the scene about six years ago,
but a new protocol that the 802.11 WG (Working
Group) is currently stirring up might turn out
to be much bigger and way faster than 802.11n.
It’s called 802.11ac, and it promises a whopping
1Gb/s throughput by improving modulation and
extending 802.11n’s MIMO scheme to extreme
levels. The only real bad news is that we may
have to wait a while to experience it. We’ll explore
the specifications of this budding standard and its
potential availability below.
THE CURRENT STATE OF AC
Where 802.11n offered a dual-band solution
(2.4GHz and 5GHz), 802.11ac operates solely in
the 5GHz (VHT, or very high throughput) band.
This is still considered a cleaner spectrum than
2.4GHz, despite its use in 802.11n, because few
802.11n access points actually use much of the
higher band.
The basic specifications for 802.11ac, as currently defined, are as follows:
Wider channel bandwidths: 80MHz and 160MHz
channel bandwidths (vs. 40MHz maximum in
802.11n). The 80MHz channel is mandatory for
stations (STAs); 160MHz is optional.
More MIMO spatial streams: Support for up to
eight spatial streams (vs. four in 802.11n).
Multiuser MIMO: Multiple stations (STAs, typically handheld or mobile devices), each with
one or more antennas, can transmit or receive
independent data streams simultaneously.
Downlink MU-MIMO (a single transmitting
device with multiple receiving devices) is an
optional mode within the specification. The
upside of these multistation enhancements is
that routers or host computers will be theoretically capable of streaming HD video to multiple
clients throughout a networked environment.
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Space Division Multiple Access (SDMA):
Streams of data are resolved spatially as
opposed to by frequency. This is similar to
802.11n’s MIMO approach and boosts throughput while also ensuring signal strength and
fidelity.
Modulation: 256-QAM (quadrature amplitude
modulation), rate 3/4 and 5/6 is used to carry
data, as opposed to 64-QAM, rate 5/6 in 802.11n.
The result should be considerably improved
throughput. (This is not the same as the digital
television QAM standard.)
Other features include improved beamforming, which will enable the multiple signal emissions to work together, and MAC modifications to
support the multiclient changes noted above. The
standard as currently specified is also backward
compatible for 20/40/80/160MHz channels as
well as 802.11a/b/n devices.
It’s worth noting that while 802.11ac’s goal
is to produce transfer rates as high as 1Gb/s,
rates will vary depending on the exact scenario.
We’ll insert our usual caveat here: Real-life
transfer rates are always lower than theoretical throughput rates—sometimes embarrassingly so. 802.11ac will be faster than 802.11n,
but probably not as fast as the throughput
rates claim. For example, 802.11ac will probably operate in the 350Mb/s range, not 1Gb/s—
which is still a huge step up from 802.11n’s
160Mb/s (or so).
This said, given the use of multiple signals,
it’s theoretically possible that 802.11ac might
even be able to exceed the maximum given
exaggerated MU-MIMO conditions. At the very
least, this architecture will permit much faster
file synchronization and backup, and may even
permit direct transmission of wireless video
signals.
Scenario
Typical Client Form
Factor
PHY Link Rate
Aggregate
Capacity
1-ANTENNA AP, 1-ANTENNA
STA, 80MHz
Handheld
433Mb/s
433Mb/s
2-ANTENNA AP, 2-ANTENNA
STA, 80MHz
Tablet, Laptop
867Mb/s
867Mb/s
1-ANTENNA AP, 1-ANTENNA
STA, 160MHz
Handheld
867Mb/s
867Mb/s
2-ANTENNA AP, 2-ANTENNA
STA, 160MHz
Tablet, Laptop
1.73Gb/s
1.73Gb/s
4-ANTENNA AP, 4 1-ANTENNA
STAs, 160MHz (MU-MIMO)
Handheld
867Mb/s to each STA
3.47Gb/s
8-ANTENNA AP, 160MHz
(MU-MIMO)
—1 4-ANTENNA STA
—1 2-ANTENNA STA
—2 1-ANTENNA STAs
Digital TV, Set-top
Box, Tablet, Laptop,
PC, Handheld
3.47Gb/s to 4-antenna STA
1.73Gb/s to 2-antenna STA
867Mb/s to each 1-antenna STA
6.93Gb/s
8-ANTENNA AP, 4 2-ANTENNA
STAs, 160MHZ (MU-MIMO)
Digital TV, Tablet,
Laptop, PC
1.73Gb/s to each STA
6.93Gb/s
The chart above describes a series of possible 802.11ac usage scenarios based on device
and network configurations.
autopsy
NZXT SENTRY LXE
FAN CONTROLLER
PRETENDER TO THE THRONE
As if we haven’t had enough of competing standards over the years, the 802.11 Working Group
is also working on an 802.11ad specifi cation that
operates in the 60GHz bandwidth spectrum.
Fortunately, it and 802.11ac are not competitive.
They can, in fact, be used in complementary situations. For example, using both 5GHz and 60GHz
interfaces, it’s possible to carry typical network
data on the 802.11ac portion throughout the house
while using the 802.11ad specifi cation for streaming media within rooms. Assumptions, at this
point, indicate that 802.11ad and its potential 6Gb/s
transfer rate should be able to handle as many as
three HD videos simultaneously.
The semi-bad news is that 802.11ad parallels WiGig’s goals. And while 802.11ad is still to come, WiGig
already enjoys support from Atheros, Broadcom, and
Intel. Despite the considerable stature of these three
companies, this is only semi-threatening to 802.11ad
because support and alliances are routinely abandoned and/or assimilated with frightening regularity
for a variety of reasons.
As always, backward compatibility is a mixed
bag. Its presence is understandable, but insisting
on it often ensures that weaknesses built into prior
technology limits performance. With 802.11n equipment already in use, it would be interesting to see
the spec architects draw a line in the ether and offer
a fresh starting point for a new class of WLAN. This
is not likely.
WHEN IS IT COMING?
Assuming that the ISPs don’t start throttling bandwidth—a valid concern given the recent data limit
edicts by AT&T—the implications of real-world data
transfer rates of 350Mb/s are potentially revolutionary, particularly when used in tandem with 802.11ad
devices. Video transmission, networked virtualization, remote control, and basic large-file transfers
all suddenly become much more practical.
So when will we get our hands on 802.11ac tech?
The sad answer is not anytime soon. The standard
will likely be finalized in late 2012. Assuming this is
the case, Working Group approval probably won’t
come until a year or so later in late 2013, which
means we probably won’t see the release of officially
sanctioned 802.11ac consumer devices until then.
But, just like with 802.11n devices, it is likely that
we’ll be faced with confusing standards before the
final 802.11ac spec is approved. Remember “draft-n”
and its variants? We’ll probably face the same coin
toss with the same probability of buying noncompatible gear. Our take is that it’s a small price to pay for
doubling our wireless transfer rates.
Fan controllers don’t just control fans—although they do that, too. Highend ones, like the NZXT LXE, show case temperatures and fan speeds,
not to mention add a bit of fl air to the outside of your case. Most mount in
fan bays, but the Sentry LXE stands alone outside the case, attached by
a cable, so the information and controls are always within reach. Here’s
what’s inside.
RESISTIVE TOUCH
SCREEN
The Sentry LXE’s 5.27inch touch screen rests
above the actual LCD
display; a faint grid of
dots allows the touch
screen to interpret finger
location; that information
is fed via ribbon cable to
the fan controller.
LCD SCREEN
The custom LCD isn’t
fully pixilated; instead
it consists of a number
of individual segments
that show fan speed,
temperatures, and
other data.
PCI EXPANSION BOARD
The business end of the
Sentry LXE, the PCB fits
in a spare PCI expansion
slot. The actual fan controller is on this PCB, as
is the CMOS battery that
enables it to store preferences, as well as the leads
for the fi ve temperature
probes and fi ve 3-pin fan
connectors.
8-PIN CONNECTOR
An 8-pin cable carries
power and data from the
PCI expansion board to
the external screen.
MICROCONTROLLER
(NOT SHOWN)
An Elan EM78P520N 8-bit
microcontroller on the
underside of the PCB is the
brains of the operation. It
contains a timer, LED driver,
LCD driver, display RAM,
and more, all on a tiny chip
.
maximumpc.com
TEMPERATURE
PROBES
These fi ve bimetal
probes can be
attached anywhere
inside your chassis
and can measure
temperatures
between 0 C and
99 C.
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R&D
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDES TO IMPROVING YOUR PC
WINDOWS TIP OF THE MONTH
ALEX CASTLE
ONLINE MANAGING EDITOR
LESSERKNOWN
BROWSER
SHORTCUTS
PREVIEW YOUR FILES IN WINDOWS EXPLORER
IF YOU’RE SORTING PHOTOS, MUSIC, OR OTHER MEDIA AND WANT A
LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL WITHOUT ACTUALLY OPENING THE FILES, JUST
PRESS CTRL + P. THIS ENABLES THE EXPLORER PREVIEW PANE, WHICH
LETS YOU VIEW MEDIA, DOCUMENTS, AND MORE RIGHT IN THE WINDOW.
MAKE - USE - CREATE
IN THE PAST I’ve written about
all the general-use shortcuts
that can make your Windows
experience faster, but I’ve never
focused on just those that work in
your web browser before. Since
you likely spend a big chunk of
your computing time using a
browser, it’s worth memorizing
these lesser-known, time-saving
shortcuts:
ALT + D: Move the cursor to the
URL bar, and highlight everything.
ALT + ENTER: With an address
entered in the URL field, open
that page in a new tab, leaving the
old one intact.
CTRL + PLUS OR MINUS: Increase
or decrease zoom on a web page.
54 Make the
Start Menu
Obsolete
56 Use Multiple
Desktop Wallpapers
58 Create Win7Integrated Virtual
Desktops for Free
CTRL + SHIFT + T: Reopen the
most recently closed tab. The
number of tabs “remembered”
differs from browser to browser.
↘ submit your How To project idea to: comments@maximumpc.com
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53
R&D
Make the Start Menu
Obsolete with Launchy
Forget about clicking—Launchy lets you start programs as fast as you
can type –Seamus Bellamy
FORTUNATELY,
LAUNCHY HAS
BEEN HELPING
WINDOWS
USERS GET
BACK UP TO
SPEED SINCE
2007.
right on through to Windows 7, the Start Menu
has always been just a wee bit short of perfection. Requiring
users to seek out content through an endless series of nested dropdown menus and folders with company names you can’t remember
having ever seen before, it’s a user interface element that was designed to make our lives easier, but in actuality slows our workflow
down to a crawl. Fortunately, Launchy has been helping Windows
users get back up to speed since 2007.
For those of you not familiar with this fabulous free utility,
Launchy is a Start Menu alternative that provides you with wickedfast access to every file, bookmark, and program on your PC, using
nothing more than a few keystrokes. Once you’ve installed and configured it, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
FROM WINDOWS 95
1
INSTALL LAUNCHY You can snag yourself a copy of
Launchy’s .exe file at www.launchy.net. As of press
time, Launchy comes in two different fl avors: a stable
version (version 2.5) and a beta (version 2.6). While we’re
all for progress, this how-to is supposed to stress how
Launchy can improve your PC productivity, not slow it
down to a glitch-filled crawl, and we’ve heard reports of
instability in the beta version. With this in mind, we recommend downloading the utility’s stable version.
» It’s worth mentioning that while Launchy works like a
charm with Windows 7 32-bit, it can have issues with Windows 7 64-bit. In our experience, you can install Launchy
on a 64-bit system and index everything your PC is rocking without any issues, but should you try to launch any
64-bit applications through the utility, you’ll be rewarded
with a hot, steaming plate of fail. So we recommend you
avoid Launchy for now if you’re running a 64-bit OS, or you
can check out the Launchy forums, where members occasionally post 64-bit versions of the Launchy software.
Now, with the fine print out of the way, we can get down to
the nitty-gritty of getting Launchy up and running.
» Once you’ve downloaded Launchy, open it up and
begin the installation. You’ll be asked to jump through
the typical hoops that come with any software installation, including identifying the folder location, agreeing to
Launchy’s software license, and choosing whether you
want to see a shortcut added to your desktop as part of
the installation process.
2
CONFIGURE LAUNCHY By default, Launchy will index the
programs in your Start Menu automatically, making it possible to locate and start any of them with just a few keystrokes.
For example, if you want to start up Firefox, you can do so by typing
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With hundreds of nested
folders and files, finding
things in the Start Menu can
be a nightmare.
A
B
in the first few letters of the browser’s name.
Launchy allows you to extend this same keystroke-easy search functionality to just about
any other file or program on your PC, as well.
In order to do this, however, you’ll need to point
Launchy in the right direction. Look to the Options pane (image A) and click the Catalog tab.
See that button all gussied up with a + symbol?
Click it.
» You’ll be rewarded with the ability to hunt
down additional folders and files from your PC’s
internal or external storage locations to include
in Launchy’s catalog (image B). Once you’re
done, click OK. If you’re fussy about what kinds
of files get thrown into your Launchy search
catalog, you can even specify which extensions
and executables should be included by using
the File Types dialogue located on the righthand side of the Catalog options pane (image C).
» When you’ve located the files or folders
that you want to include in your Launchy catalog, click the Rescan Catalog button. Boom:
The folder or file you selected has been added
to Launchy’s index. You can repeat this process
for as many folders or files as you want. Sure
this is a little more work than any of us might
actually want to do, but it’ll pay off huge dividends in the end.
C
F
G
4
D
PUT LAUNCHY TO WORK
You’ve installed Launchy, skinned it and
tweaked it. Now it’s time for the easiest
part of this tutorial: using it. To access Launchy,
press your keyboard’s Alt key and spacebar at the
same time. Your freshly skinned Launchy interface will pop up on the desktop, just begging for
some text input (image F). Go ahead and give it
a try. Based on what you’ve entered in Launchy’s
text field, you’ll be presented with a number of
search results (image G).
» Just use your keyboard’s arrow keys to navigate to the program or file you’re looking for, hit
Enter, and Launchy will launch it. Using just the
keyboard, Launchy is pretty much the fastest
way to launch programs—in no time at all, you’ll
be using it like a pro and wondering why anyone
would ever want to do anything as old school as
open up their Start Menu.
E
3
CUSTOMIZE LAUNCHY Since you’re already customizing your PC to
make hunting down applications and files a whole lot easier, you might
as well take a little time to customize your customization. If you look at
Launchy’s Option panes, you’ll notice a tab for Skins and another for Plugins.
We won’t insult your intelligence by explaining what purpose each of these
serves. Select a skin (or, if you feel like being difficult, don’t), for your Launchy
interface (image D). Now, turn your attention to the Plugins tab.
» Launchy comes with six plugins baked right in, and they’re enabled by
default (image E). In our opinion, the best of the bunch is one named Controly,
which makes it possible for Launchy to add Control Panel items to its search
index. If you don’t think that’s huge, just consider how many times a week
you’re forced to jump through fire to access a single Control Panel function.
Yeah, now you’re getting the idea. There’s some other great plugins here as
well, including one that allows Internet searches from right inside of your
Launchy interface, user command-line access, and even a calculator capable
of doing some pretty complex number crunching. If for
some reason, you feel like this is all too much awesome
for you to handle, the plugins can be turned off with the
click of a checkbox. Oh, and if you’ve got a hankering
for additional plugins, you can find them on the official
Launchy webpage.
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55
R&D
Use Multiple Desktop Wallpapers
Without Extra Software
Spruce up your multiple desktops –Alex Castle
has become something of a necessity for serious PC users. You don’t have to take
it to the sort of extremes we do in this
month’s display challenge (page 44), but
anything less than two monitors is risking serious damage to your nerd cred.
Unfortunately, running multiple monitors can make it difficult to keep your
RUNNING MULTIPLE MONITORS
desktops looking nice with custom wallpapers. If you’re running displays of two
different resolutions (a laptop display
and a 24-inch monitor, for instance),
you’re likely to end up with a wallpaper
that looks good on one, but ugly on the
other (image H).
So how can you solve this problem and
get good-looking backgrounds for each
H
1
TAKE SOME MEASUREMENTS To begin, remind yourself what
resolution both of your monitors are running at by right-clicking
the desktop, and selecting Screen Resolution from the context
menu (image I). Write down the resolution of each of your monitors,
and note their relative position (vertical and horizontal). While you’re
at it, calculate the combined horizontal resolution of all displays.
You’ll need that later.
I
of your displays? The functionality is built
into several free and commercial multimonitor management programs, such as
DisplayFusion (www.displayfusion.com),
but that involves installing one more bit
of software on your computer. It’s not
hard to do it manually, with an image editor. We’ll show you how.
3
STITCH THEM TOGETHER Now, for the trickiest
part: stitching together the two images. Windows
will only accept a single image to use for its wallpaper. It will, however, paste that single image all the way
across multiple monitors, if the size is big enough. The trick
is to create a large image that fits across your display collection like a glove.
» Here’s what to do: Open the wallpaper that will go on
your primary monitor in Photoshop or any other competent
image editor. When applying a wallpaper, Windows will always treat the main monitor as if it were on the far left, no
matter how your monitors are arranged in the screen resolution options menu. Therefore, we want to extend the canvas (in other words, increase the image size by adding blank
space) to the right, so that the total canvas size is equal to
the combined horizontal resolution of all displays, and the
vertical resolution of the tallest monitor (image J).
» Though Windows disregards the horizontal layout of
your monitors, it does pay attention to the vertical layout.
So if your two monitors are aligned along the bottom, you’ll
want to stitch together the two wallpapers with the bottoms
aligned. If the displays are aligned at the top, the wallpapers
will need to be aligned at the top.
» So drag the second wallpaper into your image editor,
align it with the first appropriately (image K), and save the
product. Right-click the desktop again, select Personalize,
and set the desktop background to the stitched-together
image you just created. Make sure to set the position setting
to Tile, and you’ll be good to go.
J
2
FIND YOUR WALLPAPERS Now, for the fun part. Hunt down
wallpapers in the proper resolution for each desktop. If you’re
having a hard time finding images in the proper resolution,
check out Desktop Nexus (www.desktopnexus.com) or InterfaceLift
(www.interfacelift.com), or go to Google Image Search and use the
Advanced Options to specify the resolution you’re looking for. If you
have a single, large image you’d like to use on both desktops, open it
up in an image editor, and crop out sections that are exactly the right
size for your monitors.
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K
R&D
Use Dexpot for Free, Windows 7–
Integrated Virtual Desktops
The next best thing to an extra display –Alex Castle
IN THE PREVIOUS HOW-TO,
we discussed
multiple monitors as a great tool for increased efficiency. However, sometimes
multiple displays just don’t work in a cer-
tain environment. Fortunately, there’s still
a way to get some of the efficiency benefits
of having multiple desktops without needing two displays: virtual desktops.
L
1
SET UP DEXPOT Dexpot’s installation procedure is about as
easy as it gets. Just download the installer from www.dexpot.de
and run it, making sure not to install the toolbar that it tries to
bring with it.
» Once it’s installed, run Dexpot, and check out your new virtual
desktops. You can switch between desktops by clicking the Dexpot
icon in the taskbar and selecting one of the other virtual desktops
(image L). If you want more or less than four virtual desktops, you
can change that and other basic options in the Settings menu, which
you access by right-clicking the Dexpot taskbar icon.
2
NAVIGATE YOUR DESKTOPS There are several ways to
navigate between your virtual desktops. The easiest is what
you’ve been doing already—clicking the Dexpot icon and
choosing a different desktop. To move a program from one desktop
to another, you can right-click the program window, and then use the
Dexpot context-menu item to send it to whichever window you want
(image M).
» Unfortunately, both of those procedures are on the slow slide,
negating some of the efficiency benefits you gain from multiple desktops. To get the most out of Dexpot, you need to learn to use one of the
other methods for navigating desktops. Here are three different ways
to navigate:
Hotkeys: The fastest way to change desktops is with hotkeys. By
default, use Alt + the number keys to switch between desktops,
and Alt + Shift + the number keys to transfer the currently active
window. You can rebind those actions, and find even more in the
Controls section of the settings menu.
Mouse Control: If you want to be able to switch between desktops
without using the keyboard, you can turn on Mouse Switch in the
Controls section of the Settings menu. This allows you to switch between desktops by moving your mouse to the far edge of the screen.
Full-Screen Preview: A function of Dexpot allows you to see all of
your desktops on screen at once, arranged in a Brady Bunch-esque
grid (image N). If you’ve forgotten where a window is, this is the fastest way to find it. You can launch it quickly using the hotkey Win + F3.
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Dexpot, a free program that lets you set
up multiple virtual desktops, integrates with
the Windows 7 taskbar, offering live previews
of your desktops and jump-list support.
3
KEEP YOUR DESKTOPS ORGANIZED WITH
RULES One of the hard things about using multiple
desktops is keeping your applications sorted properly. Dexpot makes this a little easier by allowing you to
set up rules that define which desktop certain applications live on. For instance, here’s how to make it so that
Outlook always stays on Desktop 2:
1. Right-click the Dexpot icon and choose Desktop
Rules.
2. Click the button marked Assistant.
3. Give the rule a name, and click OK.
4. Under Condition 1, click the drop-down menu to
select “Executable is,” then click and drag the
crosshairs icon onto the Outlook application. This
should automatically enter outlook.exe into the fi nal input fi eld. Click Next.
5. For the Action 1 drop-down fi eld, select Move, and
then choose which desktop you want Outlook to
move to. Click next, and then Done.
» By learning to use the rules system, you can give
your virtual desktops structure, which keeps them tidier
and you more productive.
M
N
R&D
DAVID MURPHY CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
A See-Through
PC
When all of the walls of a system are transparent, where do
you hide the cables? Answer: behind all the awesome insides
LENGTH OF TIME: 12 HOURS
THE MISSION Were there a
Mount Everest of PC builds,
the see-through PC would
likely be it. The difficulties are
great, and the possibilities for
failure high, but there’s nothing that gets me more excited
than the opportunity to crack
my knuckles and customize
the lighting and electrical setup of a transparent desktop
system.
The most fearsome part of
this build is the acrylic case
I’m using: There’s nowhere to
hide any mistakes. Nor can
I just stuff a mass of cables
in some secluded area of the
case and call it a day. Every bit
of this build has to be focused
on aesthetics, so I’m grabbing
my toolbox and busting out a
ton of different tricks to make
sure this system can stand up
to scrutiny.
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LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: EXPERT
INGREDIENTS
PART/URL
PRICE
Case DangerDen DD Tower-21
www.dangerden.com
$210
PSU Kingwin LZG-1000
www.kingwin.com
$170
Water Block Koolance CPU-370
www.koolance.com
$85
Reservoir Swiftech MCRES Micro Rev2
www.swiftech.com
$26
Pump Swiftech MCP35X
www.swiftech.com
$110
Radiator Black Ice GT Stealth 360 X-Flow
www.dangerden.com
$70
Tubing Tygon 3/8-inch ID tubing (5 feet)
www.frozencpu.com
$10
Fluid Feser One, UV orange
www.frozencpu.com
$20
Fans 3x Yate Loon 12x2.5cm UV-reactive LED fans
www.frozencpu.com
$21
Fan Filters 3x ModRight FilterRight 12cm filters
www.frozencpu.com
$18
Switch UV-illuminated Bulgin-style "Momentary"
Vandal switch, Lamptron EZ Bulgin switch cable
www.frozencpu.com
$21
Connectors 8 pairs Koolance Quick Disconnects
(VL2N-MG and VL2N-F06S)
www.koolance.com
$101
Mobo Asus P6X58D Premium
www.asus.com
$280
CPU Intel Core i7-950
www.intel.com
$270
RAM Corsair TR3X6G1600C7 DDR3/1600 6GB kit
www.corsair.com
$75
Optical Drive Lite-On iHAS424-98 DVD burner
us.liteonit.com/us/
$25
SELECTING THE RIGHT HARDWARE to make a system look good is the
most important part of a transparent PC construction. That’s why you’ll
see that my parts—a number of which were donated to the cause by online retailer FrozenCPU—are more focused on the system’s appearance
than its actual performance. Feel free to use whatever components you
want. I’m using the same standard parts I’ve used for my previous case
builds.
The case is a no-brainer: acrylic. DangerDen graciously sent over a
version of its acrylic case that hides the hard drive underneath the power
supply, lest I be tempted to bust out the Dremel and construct a window
within the drive itself. The two-bay cutout on the front of the case is critical, too, providing just enough space for an optical drive and a series of
switches that I’ll use to power and control the system’s lighting.
Also critical: the modular power supply (provided by Kingwin). If you
haven’t noticed by now, the name of the game here is cable management. Specifically, I need to use as few cables as possible inside the
case, as there’s no great way to conceal them.
I’m packing a 3/8-inch water-cooling setup to give the inside a bit
more visual flair. The reactive fluid should look extra special combined
with blue lighting from the radiator fans and separate UV spotlights. And
to complete the Tron motif, I’m outlining the exterior of the case with yellow electroluminescent wire.
Hard Drive 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7,200rpm
www.wdc.com
$80
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6850
www.amd.com
$180
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
www.microsoft.com
$99
Lighting Mutant Mods EL wire, yellow (10 feet)
www.jab-tech.com
$12
Lighting UV Flexiglow Lazer Beam LED kit
www.directron.com
$5
Fan Controller Sunbeam Rheobus Extreme
6-channel fan controller
www.frozencpu.com
$35
Sleeving Flexo (UV Jester) and black heat-shrink
www.frozencpu.com
$22
Total (customizations only)
TOTAL
DangerDen
DD Tower-21
$945
$1,945
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1
B
BUILD THE CASE
THE DANGERDEN acrylic case I’m using, the DD Tower-21, comes fully
disassembled. The process for assembling your flat-packed parts into a
mighty chassis will vary with whatever case you’ve purchased, but two key
pointers will always stay the same.
First, take precautions to minimize fingerprint smudges. Wearing a pair
of soft gloves or using a cloth barrier between you and the panels can keep
things clean (image A).
Second, don’t use power tools—no battery-powered screwdrivers, no
drills, nothing. Over-tightening screws can lead to cracked acrylic, which
defeats the entire purpose of having a see-through case to begin with. I love
how the design of the DangerDen case makes it so I don’t actually have to
hold nuts in place while attaching screws (image B).
A
D
ATTACH THE RADIATOR
2
THERE’S ONLY ONE place to attach a radiator on this case, and it’s on an
acrylic panel that sits directly behind the case’s front. Since I knew I wanted
to run EL wire to outline the front of the chassis, this secondary panel had
to be in position prior to setting up the case’s lighting. This point illustrates
the reason why you should inventory and strategize a case build before you
start slapping things together.
I used smaller screws to attach my Black Ice GT Stealth 360 X-Flow
radiator to the acrylic panel. I then flipped the panel over and used longer
screws to attach a combination of three UV-reactive Yate Loon 12cm fans
and three ModRight FilterRight fan filters (image C). I then slid the secondary
panel into place and screwed it into the case (image D).
C
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3
4
INSTALL THE EL WIRE
EL WIRE, or electroluminescent wire, is thin copper wire that
glows a particular color (thanks to a phosphor coating) when
you run current through it. After mounting the primary inverter
to the rear of the case (image E), right around the hard drive (for
maximum concealment), I ran the black wire cabling for my two
strands of EL wire through the holes in the rear of the case. I then
looped each 5-foot strand of wire around the bottom, front, and top
of the case, securing it to the case’s sides using clear adhesive tape
(image F)—any other method would disrupt the strand of light.
E
5
F
ADD PSU AND HARD DRIVE
I NEXT DECIDED to throw in my Kingwin LZ-1000 modular power
supply and 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive, because
I wanted to get a feel for how the system’s primary components
would affect the placement of the other aesthetically oriented
parts I had in mind. I also wanted to start testing out my system’s
lighting setup by connecting an Antec power supply tester to my
PSU, which would generate juice for anything attached to its wires.
Both the power supply (image G) and hard drive (image H) slid
right in without difficulty, and I hand-secured them with a smile.
G
H
J
ASSEMBLE THE WATER COOLING
TO ASSEMBLE the water-cooling apparatus, I began by attaching Koolance
Quick Disconnects to my various water-cooling parts (image I); these would
come in handy for adjustments and spill prevention later. My plan was to
run 3/8-inch tubing from my Swiftech MCP35X pump (overkill in power, but
extremely small and easy to position) to the Black Ice radiator, which would
flow out to my Koolance CPU-370 water block, up to a Swiftech MCRes Micro
Rev2 reservoir, and back down into the pump.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Test your loop away from expensive components before you put it in your rig. I tested the whole setup using
UV-reactive Feser One cooling fluid (image J) before cracking open a cold
one and pondering just how I was going to get this into the case—and look
good, to boot. I decided to delay this decision a bit and proceeded to install
the system’s motherboard into the case using the provided standoffs and
screws, followed by the graphics card.
I
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R&D
6
7
INSTALL WATER COOLING
I DECIDED to mount the reservoir right below the hard drive,
using a mechanism that would allow me to run the reservoir itself
parallel to the case. I screwed a mounting bar into a hole previously
designed for a hard drive, then screwed a mounting bar attached
to the reservoir into the first mounting bar (image K). The way I
attached the reservoir meant that the tank could conceivably pivot
on an axis, so I made sure to tighten the screw and nut combinations as much as possible to lock the entire contraption into place
(image L). Attaching the pump to the case was much easier: I just
used velcro, adhered to the case itself (image M).
K
L
CONNECT THE CABLES
TO MINIMIZE cabling and maximize my ability to control lighting brightness and fan power, I connected all the case fans and
lighting equipment (including a 12-inch UV cathode) to a Sunbeam
Rheobus Extreme six-channel fan controller (image N). The
controller provides up to 30 watts of power per channel, meaning
that no connected device would need a secondary connection to
the power supply.
I cut off these secondary connections and, if a device didn’t
come with a 3-pin connector, I split its cable and the cable of the
fan controller’s included 3-pin wire, then connected these two
halves by twisting the wiring and covering the connection with
electrical tape (image O).
After I plugged in all the cables to the controller, I installed the
system’s optical drive over the top of it—both to hide the cabling
connections and because it would have been a real pain to try and
hook them up with a huge optical drive in the way.
N
O
M
8
Q
TIDY UP
FOR ANY SMALLER cables that didn’t come presleeved, I used Flexo Pet
sleeving to wrap the cables in a colorful, UV-reactive exterior. Heat-shrinks
and—in some cases—velcro strips were used to hold the sleeving in place
(image P). I used these same velcro strips to bind all of the power supply’s
black-sleeved cables together, and then wove all UV cabling around the
exterior of this mass, akin to vines around a tree trunk (image Q). It might
not look that interesting with the lights on, but the UV-reactive cabling looks
striking in the dark—and with my UV spotlights on, of course.
I finished out the system build by connecting all the associated power and
data cords, including the tiny wires used by my third-party, UV-glowing system
switch. The last part of the puzzle involved finding the perfect place to mount
my three UV-LED spotlights, which deliver focused light over a good chunk
of the case’s now-glowing parts.
P
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1 THE BRAIN
T his b uild w o uld n ot b e
possible without this rig’s
six-channel fan controller.
Ever y light and fan in the
case (save for the PSU’s) is
adjustable (and powered)
using this simple series of
switches.
2 COOL IT
1
In a d di tio n to p r o v i din g
better cooling than air, a
liquid-cooling setup provides visual flare, especially
with UV-reactive coolant.
2
3 SIMPLICITY, SIMPLICITY
3
4
I didn’t just pick Koolance’s
CPU-370 for its prowess.
The water block is also a
snap to install, requiring
very few parts, headaches,
or wizard swears in order to
firmly attach the block over
one’s CPU.
4 ARTIFICIAL WALLS
Use elements like your lighting inverter or your watercooling pump to wall of f
cabling where possible. It’s
a lot easier to keep a cable
in place with a rigid device
blocking its path than with a
ton of Velcro and twist ties.
LOOKING THROUGH THE RESULTS
IT SURE LOOKS EASY on paper,
doesn’t it? In practice, the physical
construction of the see-through
PC was a multiday build involving
several trips to the hardware store
to deal with a variety of issues. The
biggest hurdle in working with a
case that you build your self is
that not ever ything always goes
according to plan. Some screw
lengths don’t fit the predr illed
holes in the chassis; some unexpected twists have to be navigated
(the first U V-reactive coolant I
used looked less than impressive);
some dents, dings, and cr acks
find their way onto the chassis
no matter how careful you are.
If I could of fer one piece of
advice to instill courage in folks
looking to follow in my transparent footsteps, it would be this:
over plan. Take your time. Don’t
order a mess of components at
once with some grand vision in
your head of how they’re all going
to come together, because you’ll
be amazed at some of the new
ideas you’ll come up with once you
actually have a huge acr ylic case
sitting on your coffee table. You
can just wing it with a conventional
build, but acr ylic cases require a
lot more TLC.
Had I the time, opportunity, or
work setup, I would have loved to
craft some acrylic frames for both
the power supply and the optical
drive. That’s not the kind of deal
that one just budgets an hour for,
and it does pose some risk that a
newbie with a Dremel could send
his or her expensive components
off to the scrap heap. Still, seethrough is see-through, and seethrough devices, where possible,
would have been a nice touch.
One f inal w or d to the w is e:
EL w ire is both a blessing and
a curse. Get the longest single
strand you can purchase. Here’s
why: The more strands of EL wire
you connect to a conver ter, the
dimmer the str ands become in
total. Depending on the brand of
inverter and wire you’ve chosen,
the inver ter itself can also emit
a loud, high-pitched whine. It’s a
rookie mistake, but one that could
easily scuttle the dreams of those
looking to turn their mid-tower
desktops into a device out of Tron:
Legacy.
Building a see-through PC is
like the sword in the stone of computer construction: Once you’ve
mastered the sleeving, electrical,
and liquid-cooling challenges of a
transparent build, you can accomplish great things. May your lights
shine bright, aspiring builder.
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65
in the lab
reviews of the latest hardware and software
TESTED. REVIEWED. VERDICTIZED.
INSIDE
70 Maingear Shift Super Stock PC
71 Samsung Series 9 Notebook
72 3TB Hard Drives: Hitachi
Deskstar 7K3000 3TB and
Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB
74 Sony Vaio F21 Notebook
75 Blackberry Playbook Tablet
76 Videocard Roundup: Sapphire
Radeon HD 6790 and Zotac
GeForce GTX 550 Ti AMP Edition
78 Sentey Arvina GS-6400 Case
80 Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD
82 All-in-One Roundup: Sony
VAIO L Series VPCL214FX/W,
MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D, and
HP TouchSmart 610
84 Logitech Z906 5.1 Speakers
86 Zalman CNPS11X CPU Cooler
87 Harman AKG GHS 1 Headset
88 Razer Onza Tournament Edition
Gamepad
89 Portal 2
90 DCS A-10C and Thrustmaster
HOTAS Warthog
92 Lab Notes
MAINGEAR
SHIFT SUPER
STOCK PC,
PAGE 70
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69
in the lab
Maingear Shift
Super Stock
A bronze statue of power
HOW FAR CAN YOU TAKE a Sandy Bridge
processor? We’ve heard that even extreme
overclockers seem to hit a wall just beyond 5GHz with Intel’s darling new chip.
Whatever the limitations, Maingear
seems content to take its Shift Super Stock
to the brink of madness by clocking the
3.4GHz Core i7-2600K to 5GHz.
The company credits some of that
high overclock to its new partnership
with CoolIT and the use of a massive
and exclusive 18cm EPIC cooler. EPIC,
in this case, stands for Enhanced Performance InterCooler. Perhaps even
more impressive, you can’t even find the
cooler in the Shift SS.
When we cracked open the case, we
scratched our heads as we searched for
the new cooler. It happens to be hidden
away between the bottom of the hard drive
cage and the case frame’s center support.
While inside, we also saw the reason the
Shift SS’s two GeForce GTX 590s run so
quietly: an 8cm fan sits atop the quad-SLI
setup and blows cool air directly onto the
GPUs. Another aid to system cooling is the
inverted motherboard that allows air to
rise straight up out of the case. Any hot air
that doesn’t intend to leave is forced out by
another large 12cm mounted at the base
of the cards.
The case itself is Maingear’s custom
Silverstone enclosure with an attractive
paint job applied. It’s not the most refined
we’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly good and
sets the machine apart from the standard
black or off-the-shelf aluminum systems. The case interior is wired tight and two
sets of LED interior lights are
tastefully set into the rig.
Performance is what
you’d expect of a Sandy
Bridge rig running at 5GHz
with a pair of GTX 590s. In
our Vegas Pro 9 test, it was
fastest of the Sandy Bridge–
based boxes that we’ve tested
to date. However, our Vegas
Pro 9 test favors threads, so the record
continues to be held by the hexa-core
Velocity Micro rig we reviewed in March.
The Maingear set the record in our ProShow Producer benchmark. It also
smashed right through the record that
had been held by—believe it or not—
a Digital Storm system we reviewed
back in May 2010. In our STALKER: CoP
benchmark, the quad-SLI GTX 590s still
couldn’t muscle past AVADirect’s monstrous machine from our Holiday 2010 issue. That rig used two Xeons paired with
four GeForce GTX 480 cards. The Shift SS
is close, very close, but it’s still a couple
frames behind. Against our zero-point,
a 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to
3.5GHz, it’s a slaughter, of course. Basically, expect tasks to take half the time
with the Shift SS and games to run, well,
from 90 percent to 213 percent faster.
The only serious ding against the Maingear Shift SS is its price: At $5,640, it’s
The Shift sports a well-tamed quad-SLI setup.
a big chunk of change. Especially when
you consider that the CPU is the bargain
burner Core i7-2600K. Much of the price
comes from the GPUs—a $1,500 commodity. But the paint job, a $650 option, is also
to blame. This is all academic, though. If
you’re the kind of person that can even
consider buying a custom-built, tunedto-the-max gaming rig, you’re probably
not the kind of person to quibble too much
over price. –GORDON MAH UNG
9
VERDICT
Maingear Shift Super Stock
PC GAMING Two GeForce
GTX 590s, two Vertex 3s, and a
5GHz 2600K!
CONSOLE GAMING Pricey;
paint job has a couple of rough spots.
$5,650, www.maingear.com
SPECIFICATIONS
BENCHMARKS
ZERO
POINT
PROCESSOR
3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
(overclocked to 5GHz)
VEGAS PRO (SEC)
3,049
2,079
MOBO
Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD7
LIGHTROOM 2.6 (SEC)
356
261
RAM
8GB Patriot DDR3/1866
PROSHOW 4 (SEC)
1,112
757
VIDEOCARD
Two GeForce GTX 590s in SLI
REFERENCE 1.6 (SEC)
2,113
1,451
SOUNDCARD
Onboard
STALKER: CoP (FPS)
42
131.4 (+213%)
STORAGE
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
114.4
217
Two 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSDs in
RAID 0, 2TB Samsung F4 5,400rpm
OPTICAL
LG Blu-ray burner
CASE/PSU
Custom Silverstone / Silverstone
Strider 1,200 watt
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked
to 1750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the
64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.
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Samsung Series 9
A bold move into Apple territory
selling its
laptops in North America for the last
few years, and while those machines
haven’t been bad, they haven’t been
remarkable either. But with the
Series 9, the company is putting forth
a laptop that demands notice. From
its sub–three pound, super-slim, and
sexy chassis to its spare, sophisticated
style, it looks like nothing so much as
a MacBook Air. It’s a bold, high-profile
move by a company that’s been firmly
rooted in the mainstream.
While the comparison to a MacBook
Air is inevitable, the Series 9 features
some distinct design touches. The
exterior of the 13-inch laptop is black
duralumin, a strong but lightweight
aluminum alloy with a brushed-metal
look. Inside, glossy black plastic
surrounds a backlit keyboard and an
antiglare screen. A unified click pad,
similar to a Mac’s, provides a roomy
surface that works well for multitouch
and feels smooth and responsive. From
the side, the laptop’s 0.64-inch profile is
accented by an arching curve. To maintain the slim dimensions, as well as
the sleek aesthetic, Samsung hides the
laptop’s ports behind pop-out bays on
either side. You’re given USB 2.0, USB
3.0, Mini HDMI, a mic/headphone jack,
a MicroSD card reader, and Ethernet by
way of an included dongle.
While Apple’s Air, along with most
other MacBooks, are living in the past
with Core 2 Duos, the Series 9 sports a
new Sandy Bridge Core i5-2537M. The
low-voltage chip is clocked at a modest
1.4GHz, although it has a maximum
SAMSUNG HAS ONLY BEEN
The 13-inch Series 9 has a
duralumin exterior that makes
it sturdy, lightweight, and aesthetically pleasing all at once.
Turbo frequency
of 2.3GHz. Still, it’s at
a disadvantage against our
ultraportable zero-point, an HP
2540p that features a last-gen Core
i7-640LM, clocked at 2.13GHz. The
benchmarks tell the story, with the HP
holding substantial leads in the CPUbound tests, including Quake III. In the
more graphics-dependent Quake 4, the
Series 9 prevails—a testament to the
improvements in Intel’s new integrated
graphics, which are integrated graphics
nevertheless.
An even better comparison for the
Series 9 is the Toshiba R700 that received a Kick Ass award in our December 2010 issue. The R700 also featured
a 13.3-inch, 1366x768 screen, weighed
less than three pounds, and cost nearly
the same as the Series 9 at the time of
its release. But the R700 had a 2.66GHz
Core i7-620M and consequently even
better benchmark results than the HP
zero-point. Also, by foregoing an extreme aerodynamic aesthetic, the R700
managed to squeeze in an optical drive
and a greater array of ports—while being
every bit as portable as the Series 9.
This raises the question of values.
If a stylish, stand-out design is of
paramount importance, the Series 9
brings it—more so than any other ultraportable PC around—while offering
respectable features and performance.
But better features and performance
can be found in an ultraportable form
factor that makes less of a fashion
statement. –KATHERINE STEVENSON
9
VERDICT
Samsung Series 9
CATCHING AIR Apple-esque
style on a PC; Sandy Bridge
CPU with improved integrated graphics;
good battery life.
CATCHING A COLD Design costs a premium; other ultraportables offer better
performance.
$1,650, www.samsung.com
SPECIFICATIONS
BENCHMARKS
ZERO
POINT
PREMIERE PRO CS3 (SEC)
1,260
1,686 (-25.3%)
PHOTOSHOP CS3 (SEC)
183.6
193.6 (-5.2%)
PROSHOW PRODUCER (SEC)
1,533
2,105 (-27.2%)
MAINCONCEPT (SEC)
2,530
3,660 (-30.9%)
QUAKE III (FPS)
191.7
109.2 (-43%)
QUAKE 4 (FPS)
17
21.6
BATTERY LIFE (MIN)
240
1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M
RAM
4GB DDR3/1333
CHIPSET
Intel HM65
DISPLAY
13.3 inch,1366x768, LED-backlit,
antiglare screen
STORAGE
Samsung 128GB SSD
CONNECTIVITY Mini HDMI, Ethernet, USB 3.0,
259
0%
CPU
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
USB 2.0, headphone/mic,
100%
MicroSD reader, Bluetooth,
802.11b/g/n, webcam
Our zero-point ultraportable is an HP EliteBook 2540p with a 2.13GHz Intel Core i7-640LM, 4GB of DDR3/1333 RAM, integrated graphics,
a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
LAP / CARRY
2 lbs, 14.9 oz / 3 lbs, 5 oz
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71
in the lab
3TB Hard Drive Hustle
The competition among ultralarge-capacity
drives spins up
AFTER A LONG STAY at the 2TB highwater mark, manufacturers finally
started trickling out 3TB drives in
late 2010. For a quick recap of the 2TB
bootable partition–size limit and the
factors necessary to surpass it (64-bit
OS, GPT partitions, UEFI), see our
review of the 3TB Caviar Green (http://
bit.ly/dYo2Fs). Since that drive came
out, the Sandy Bridge platform has
eliminated a big barrier to entry for
3TB bootable drives by offering UEFI.
And now 7,200rpm 3TB drives have arrived. Here we pit Hitachi’s 3TB Deskstar against Seagate’s Barracuda XT
3TB to see which is most worthy of your
dollars and data. – NATHAN EDWARDS
HITACHI DESKSTAR 7K3000 3TB
Alas, poor Hitachi; we knew him well,
Horatio. Hitachi’s Global Storage division might have been gobbled up by
Western Digital, but it’s still putting
out product, at least for now. Hitachi’s
latest addition to the Deskstar line is a
five-platter, 3TB, 7,200rpm drive with
64MB of cache and a 6Gb/s SATA interface. Yeah, we can deal with that.
Hitachi’s Deskstar ships with a
piece of paper directing users to
download the Hitachi GPT Disk Manager from Paragon Software. The boot
solution for legacy users seems to be
to just divide the disk into separate
partitions. We expect Maximum PC
readers can manage the same with
Windows’ built-in tools—although
we’re not sure how many Maximum PC
readers want to boot from a 3TB partition in their desktop rigs.
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On our Sandy Bridge test bed, which
has UEFI, we had no problem creating
a 3TB bootable partition and installing
64-bit Windows 7; we didn’t even need
to load F6 drivers. We ran our standard mechanical-drive benchmarks
on the Deskstar and found average
sustained read speeds of around
119.5MB/s and write speeds around
118.5MB/s. In both our Premiere Pro
encoding test, which writes a 20GB
uncompressed AVI to the disk, and
the PCMark Vantage HDD subtest, the
Deskstar performed faster than the
Barracuda XT, despite having largely
the same specs and despite the Barracuda’s faster average read and
write speeds. The Deskstar’s randomaccess speeds were fully 2ms faster
than the Barracuda’s.
With an MSRP of $250 and faster
real-world scores than the Seagate
Barracuda XT, the Hitachi Deskstar
7K3000 is a real winner.
9
VERDICT
Hitachi Deskstar
7K3000 3TB
$250, www.hitachigst.com
SEAGATE BARRACUDA XT 3TB
Seagate’s Barracuda line has long been
a contender in the 7,200rpm drive space
and—7200.11 firmware snafu notwithstanding—has generally vied with WD’s
Caviar Black line for the 7,200rpm
crown. The Barracuda XT 3TB is a
five-platter 7,200rpm drive with 6Gb/s
SATA and 64MB of cache, just like the
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000. So what’s the
difference?
Like the Hitachi drive, but unlike
WD’s Caviar Green, the Barracuda XT
ships sans hardware adapter, instead
offering a link to rebranded partitioning software. In this case, Seagate
offers the Seagate DiscWizard,
powered by Acronis. Again, it doesn’t
offer much functionality beyond that
provided by Windows, but it is easier
for novice users. Those with 64-bit
operating systems, UEFI-enabled
motherboards, and GPT partitions
won’t even need that.
In our low-level disk benchmarks,
the Seagate Barracuda XT offered sequential read and write speeds exceeding 120MB/s, while random-access
times lagged a few milliseconds behind
both the Hitachi Deskstar and WD
Caviar Green 3TB drives. In Premiere
Pro and PCMark Vantage, though, the
Barracuda’s scores were slightly slower
than those of the Hitachi Deskstar—12
seconds slower in Premiere Pro and
around 600 PCMarks (whatever those
are) behind the Deskstar.
The Barracuda XT is a wicked-fast
drive with a helpful software wizard
for legacy users. But with an MSRP of
$270 and real-world scores slightly
lower than those of the cheaper Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000, it’s not necessarily the best bang for your buck.
8
VERDICT
Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB
$270, www.seagate.com
BENCHMARKS
Hitachi Deskstar
7K3000 (3TB)
Seagate Barracuda
XT (3TB)
WD Caviar Green
(3TB)
HDTUNE 4.01
Avg Read (MB/s)
119.5
124
101.5
Random-Access Read (ms)
15.7
17.2
15.7
Avg Write (MB/s)
118.5
122
96.9
Random-Access Write (ms)
15.7
17.3
15.6
Burst Write (MB/s)
315.6
284.8
183.1
PREMIERE PRO ENCODE (SEC)
435
447
530
PCMARK VANTAGE
7,663
6,975
4,910
Best scores are bolded. All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel Core i3-2100 CPU on an Asus P8P67 Pro
(Rev 3.1) motherboard with 4GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All tests performed using native Intel 6Gb/s SATA chipset
with IRST version 10.1 drivers.
Ooh, Barracuda! Seagate's
biggest fish isn't necessarily the meanest in the
sea, but it's close.
Hitachi's Deskstar slightly edges
out Seagate's Barracuda—but
how long will the Hitachi hard
drive brand last?
maximumpc.com
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73
in the lab
Sony Vaio F21
Beautiful 3D laptop with
mediocre graphics performance
WHAT YOU DO ALONE in your man cave
is your business. If you want to put on
a pair of 3D glasses and practice the
Na’vi language, more power to you.
Sony’s F Series Vaio 3D can make that
dream a reality in style, but it lacks the
graphics power to deliver first-class
stereoscopic 3D gaming.
If you’re not piloting the Mars Rover or
doing endoscopic telesurgery, you probably want stereoscopic 3D technology
for two main purposes: watching movies
and playing games. Now that 3D TVs are
becoming widespread, there are lots of
3D Blu-ray discs available, and the Vaio
3D delivers an excellent 3D movie experience. The 16-inch, 1920x1080 display
supports full HD resolution and a 240Hz
refresh rate. The included active shutter
3D glasses give a ghost- and fl icker-free
3D viewing experience that’s probably
better than you’ll find at the local cinema. The speakers are also fine-tuned to
turn this laptop into a mini home-theater.
We cannot recommend this system,
however, for playing stereoscopic 3D
games. The visual quality is excellent,
but the performance just isn’t there to
deliver a smooth gaming experience.
Playing games in 3D is easy enough;
a little button above the keyboard lets
you turn on and off stereo 3D, and many
games are compatible out of the box. The
problem is that to display a game in stereo 3D, the graphics card has to render
each frame twice, cutting the frame rate
in half. Nvidia’s midrange GeForce 540M
If you're willing to wear the
glasses, this notebook plays
high-quality 3D movies but
lacks the power for serious
stereo 3D gaming.
with 1GB of dedicated memory produced
choppy results, except at the lowest resolutions. For instance, running our Far
Cry 2 benchmark without stereo 3D at
1680x1050, the system delivered 24.7fps;
in stereo 3D mode, it only managed 11fps.
Dropping down to 1280x720 helped a
little, resulting in 17fps, but that’s still
not playable.
The system performed much better in
our other benchmarks, blowing through
the CPU-intensive tasks thanks to the
2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU (with
Turbo Boost), 6GB of DDR3/1333MHz
memory, and a 640GB, 7,200rpm hard
drive. Battery life was also good for a
machine in this class, lasting 123 minutes on full-screen DVD playback.
This big, shiny, black Vaio includes
a backlit keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. The touchpad is textured,
which we like, and looks slick integrated
into the palm rest. There are two USB
3.0 ports and one USB 2.0, IEEE 1394,
BENCHMARKS
HDMI 1.4, and VGA-out. The HDMI port
can be connected to a 3D-capable TV,
letting you play games or display 3D
movies on the big screen.
Overall, we’re not convinced the
stereo 3D on this system goes much
beyond novelty. We doubt any serious
gamer is going to take the performance
hit to play games while wearing 3D
glasses. The multimedia features work
well, but it’s probably not worth the extra expense. –KEN FEINSTEIN
7
VERDICT
Sony Vaio F21
DEPTH PERCEPTION Slick
industrial design; excellent
3D movie playback; fast on CPU-intensive
tasks.
OFF THE DEEP END Underpowered
graphics can’t deliver smooth stereo 3D at
high resolutions.
$1,800, www.sony.com
SPECIFICATIONS
ZERO
POINT
CPU
2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM
PREMIERE PRO CS3 (SEC)
899
600
RAM
6GB DDR3/1333
PHOTOSHOP CS3 (SEC)
131
106
CHIPSET
HM65
PROSHOW PRODUCER (SEC)
876
641
DRIVES
640GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
MAINCONCEPT (SEC)
1,782
1,276.6
OPTICAL
Blu-ray ROM drive
Nvidia GeForce GT 540M
16-inch, 1920x1080 LCD
FAR CRY 2 (FPS)
48.5
24.7 (-49.1%)
GPU
CALL OF DUTY 4 (FPS)
62.2
31.8 (-48.9%)
SCREEN
BATTERY LIFE (MIN)
96
123
0% 10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Our zero-point notebook is an Asus G73Jw-A1 with a 1.73GHz Intel Core i7-740QM, 8GB DDR3/1066, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard
drives, a GeForce GTX 460M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty tested at
1680x1050 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.
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CONNECTIVITY HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, two USB
3.0, one USB 2.0, FireWire,
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, headphone,
mic, line-in, media reader, webcam
LAP / CARRY
7 lbs, 1 oz / 8 lbs, 11 oz
Among the Playbook’s few redeeming features is its
gorgeous—albeit
smaller—screen.
Blackberry Playbook
Pretty impressive—if you don't like email, apps, or games
FOR THE RECORD, the Maximum PC Lab
keeps both feet planted squarely in the
present tense. We don’t believe anyone
should buy hardware based solely on its
future potential. So what then to make of
RIM’s nascent and decidedly half-baked
Blackberry Playbook? Unless you’re 1) a
Blackberry owner, 2) don’t care about apps
or games, or 3) a devoted BB fanboy, the
answer is: not much.
By the time you read this, it’s possible
that the Playbook might be more complete
via OS updates. The release version,
however, omitts some basic functions. It
has no native email client and no native
calendar app. To access either, you need
to bridge your existing Blackberry to the
Playbook. What’s that? You don’t have a
Blackberry phone? Or your Blackberry
isn’t near your tablet? Well then you get
no email. RIM says a pending update will
deliver stand-alone email.
What else is missing? There’s no 3G
or 4G wireless connectivity. There is a
dearth of apps, including no Amazon
Kindle, no Netflix, no Hulu, and no audio/
video marketplace. (In Kindle’s place is
the surprisingly excellent Kobo Books
app and store.) There are poorly designed
buttons, including an oddly placed power
switch. There is buggy, crash-prone
desktop client software. And the OS is,
well, it exhibits the kinds of bugs any 1.0
release does: flickering screens, unreliable syncing, and so forth.
It’s not all bad, however. Given RIM’s
propensity for building underpowered
smartphones, we were surprised to
discover that the hardware itself exceeded
our expectations. The 1GHz dual-core
ARM Cortex A-9 CPU and PowerVR
SGX540 GPU offer impressive heavyweight
performance that the OS actually appears
to take advantage of. Almost everything—
downloads, web browsing, and the ability
to multitask music, movies, camera functions, and even games—feels snappy.
The 1024x600 capacitive touch
screen LCD is a gem. It’s spectacular
enough that we deem it king of all tablet
displays—including the iPad 2. And the
Playbook’s battery life holds up fairly
well, easily going several days in a row
before needing a charge when performing basic functions. This may prove to be
an illusion, however, once we see more
CPU-intensive games and apps.
Finally, we found ourselves appreciating the OS interface the more we used it.
It’s a significant departure from Android
and Apple in that it relies entirely on
gestures instead of buttons to navigate
between apps and the home screen. It’s
simple and we like it. And truth be told,
even the email client is solidly functional—
provided you can get into it.
But this is the big problem with the
Playbook. For now, it’s all if, then, and
when. Awesome HD video viewing? Great,
but there’s no streaming content. Multi-
tasking? What are we going to multitask?
Front-facing camera? That’s cool, but no
apps make use of it.
Unless and until RIM finishes fleshing
out the Playbook, there’s no reason to
buy it. After that, this tablet might be onto
something. –GEORGE JONES
5
VERDICT
Blackberry Playbook
RIM SHOT Awesome screen,
snappy performance, great
camera.
RIM’S OUTS No email/calendar/contacts
without bridge; no app support.
$500 (16GB); $600 (32GB); $700 (64GB),
www.blackberry.com/playbook
SPECIFICATIONS
CPU
Dual-core 1GHz ARM
Cortex A9
SYSTEM MEMORY
1GB
STORAGE CAPACITY
16, 32, or 64GB
SCREEN
7-inch, 1024x600 LCD
capacitive multitouch
display
CAMERAS
5MP rear-facing; 3MP
front-facing
GPU
PowerVR SGX540
DIMENSIONS
5.1x7.6x0.4 inches
WEIGHT
0.9 pounds
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75
in the lab
Zotac’s take on the
GTX 550 Ti hits
the sweet spot for
HTPC systems, but
gaming performance
is lackluster.
Sapphire’s Radeon HD
6790 is surprisingly
capable, but still an
oddball GPU.
Attack of the $150 GPUs
AMD and Nvidia offer up new videocards for budget buyers
NOT CONTENT TO VIE only for the top of the graphics card heap, Nvidia and AMD are both
racing to capture the $150 GPU market. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 550 Ti is a new chip aimed
squarely at the budget GPU market. Zotac takes the 550 Ti, beefs up the clock speed, and
ships a digital media–savvy version of the card, well suited for home theater PC enthusiasts. AMD responds with the Radeon HD 6790—Radeon HD 6870 salvage parts, with half
the functionality and higher clock speeds. Sapphire’s Radeon HD 6790 targets the hearts
and minds of budget gamers. –LOYD CASE
SAPPHIRE RADEON HD 6790
Remember the Radeon HD 5830? That
videocard filled a certain price point, but
it was actually the same GPU used in the
high-end HD 5870, with a large chunk
of the die disabled. The net result was a
graphics card that was physically bigger
than the intermediate HD 5850 and used
more power. And although it cost less,
performance really wasn’t up to snuff for
the target price point.
Enter the Radeon HD 6790. At first
blush, it’s similar in concept to the HD
5830. AMD took its Barts GPU (used
in the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850) and
disabled a big chunk of it. Voilà: the
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Radeon HD 6790. The card requires two
6-pin PCI-E power connectors, while the
beefier HD 6850 only needs one. AMD
told us this was necessary due to the HD
6790’s higher core clocks and voltages.
We’re being a little unfair, though,
because AMD (and Sapphire, which
makes this particular model of the HD
6790) is setting a more appropriate price
for the performance, particularly when
compared to its direct competition, the
Nvidia GTX 550 Ti.
The problem, however, isn’t how it fares
against the 550 Ti. Rather, it’s the fact that
for a few dollars more, you can get faster
cards. On the one hand, you can find Rad-
eon HD 6850 cards, which typically require
only a single power connector, for about
$20 to $25 more. On the other hand, you
can still find 768MB Nvidia GTX 460 cards
for around $160—just a $10 increase.
It’s worth noting that the Zotac GTX 550
Ti used in our comparison is factory overclocked to 1GHz—fully 100MHz higher than
the factory default. (Does “factory default”
even have a meaning anymore?) The Sapphire card is running at the stock 840MHz.
When you look at performance, the
Sapphire looks like a pretty decent
choice, particularly for single 1080p displays. At 1920x1200, with 4x AA enabled,
it managed respectable frame rates in
some games, and generally overpowered
the overclocked Zotac. It does use a little
more power at idle, but is more efficient
at full throttle, which is pretty typical of
AMD parts. The 6790 seems a bit bulky
for its class, but should fit in most PC
cases. The Sapphire HD 6790 ships with
two DVI ports (one is single-link), one
full-size DisplayPort 1.2 connector, and
an HDMI 1.4a port. The card can fully
support three displays, though if you
want three 30-inch monsters, they’ll
need DisplayPort 1.2 capability.
In the end, Sapphire’s Radeon HD 6790
offers decent enough performance in its
class, but bear in mind, for just a few bucks
more, you can pick up an HD 6850.
8
VERDICT
Sapphire Radeon HD 6790
$150, www.sapphiretech.com
ZOTAC GEFORCE GTX 550 TI AMP
EDITION
The Zotac AMP edition of Nvidia’s new
budget GPU, the GTX 550 Ti, pushes the
clock speeds to a full 1GHz—more than 10
percent higher than the default 900MHz. It
amounts to a $150 card with 1GB of GDDR5
memory that performs moderately well
in modern games, if you’re willing to dial
down features like antialiasing. When you
compare the performance to Sapphire’s
Radeon HD 6790, the GTX 550 Ti falls a
little short on the gaming side, despite the
beefed-up clock speeds.
However, Zotac doesn’t seem to be aiming this card at gamers, but rather at digital
media junkies and home theater PC enthusiasts. Inside the box, you’ll find software
offers, including 30 percent off vReveal (a
GPU-accelerated package for cleaning up
shaky-cam video footage), 20 percent off
Nero Vision, and promos for XBMC (the
popular HTPC front end) and CoolIris (a
3D-accelerated media browser).
The card itself is quite compact, at just
7.5 inches long, and only requires a single
PCI-E power connector. It still takes up
two PCI-E expansion slots, but at least the
big fan keeping the overclocked GPU and
memory cool is relatively quiet. Unlike a
number of Nvidia-based cards, the Zotac
ships with a native, full-size DisplayPort
connector. Other attachments include a
pair of dual-link DVI ports and an HDMI
output with full support for HDMI audio.
Despite requiring only a single power
connector, Zotac’s 550 Ti card consumes
more power than the Radeon HD 6970 in
our demanding full-throttle test, in which
we run the Unigine Heaven benchmark
at 2560x1600 with 4x AA and extreme
tessellation settings. However, it also
generated a higher score than the AMD
part in that particular test. The GTX 550
Ti fared less well in other games compared to Sapphire’s $150 card.
8
VERDICT
If you’re looking for a relatively lowpower, compact card for a home theater
PC that can still handle games at HD
resolution, the Zotac may be just what
you want. It’s short, quiet, and has the
chops for GPU-accelerated media transcoding. Gamers on a budget might look
instead to Sapphire’s HD 6970.
Zotac GeForce GTX 550 Ti
AMP Edition
$150, www.zotacusa.com
BENCHMARKS
Sapphire Radeon
HD 6790
Zotac GTX
550 Ti
Asus ENGTX
460 TOP
768MB
XFX Radeon
HD 6850
1GB
STREET PRICE
$150
$150
$160
$170
3DMARK 2011
3,216
2,779
3,201
3,596
3DMARK VANTAGE PERF
13,315
12,559
13,737
14,292
UNIGINE HEAVEN 2.1 (FPS)
14
16
18
16
CRYSIS (FPS)
20
17
19
24
BATTLEFORGE DX11 (FPS)
31
31
38
36
FAR CRY 2 / LONG (FPS)
68
77
88
85
HAWX 2 DX11 (FPS)
62
83
85
68
STALKER: COP DX11 (FPS)
26
25
25
28
JUST CAUSE 2 (FPS)
26
29
30
30
ALIENS VS. PREDATOR (FPS)
22
19
21
23
F1 2010 (FPS)
39
33
36
46
METRO 2033 (FPS)
11
6
15
9
SYSTEM POWER @ IDLE (W)
137
132
128
133
SYSTEM POWER @ FULL
THROTTLE (W)
226
263
248
218
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of
DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.
SPECIFICATIONS
Sapphire
Radeon HD 6790
Zotac GTX
550 Ti
Asus ENGTX
460
Radeon HD
6850
DIE SIZE
255mm 2
238mm2
332mm2
255mm 2
TRANSISTOR COUNT
1.7 billion
1.17 billion
1.95 billion
1.7 billion
MEMORY BANDWIDTH
134.4 GB/s
98.5 GB/s
192 GB/s
128 GB/s
STREAM PROCESSORS /
SHADER PROCESSORS
800
192
336
960
TEXTURE UNITS
40
32
56
48
ROPS
16
24
24
32
CORE CLOCK
840MHz
1,000MHz
675MHz
775MHz
GDDR 5 MEMORY CLOCK
1,050MHz
1,100MHz
900MHz
1,000MHz
MEMORY
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
768MB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
POWER CONNECTORS
2x 6-pin
1x 6-pin
2x 6-pin
1x 6-pin
Note: Nvidia and AMD shader units are not directly comparable.
maximumpc.com
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MAXIMUMPC
77
in the lab
Sentey Arvina GS-6400
Big form factor, big value
has a lot of
things going for it, especially given its
$89 price tag. The question is whether a
bunch of fans and a ton of space are worth
the inclusion of some cheapo parts and a
somewhat tacky appearance.
Sentey calls the GS-6400 a “high
tower,” but we call it a mid-tower. The
Arvina has a steel frame and side panels,
with plastic trim and a mesh front panel.
The front panel is removable, exposing
a 14cm front intake fan and four optical
drive bays. Up top, you’ll find the power
switch, four USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks,
and a set of four fan-control buttons.
Speaking of fans, Sentey says that
the Arvina is made for gamers, and it
packs plenty of cooling. Out of the box,
the GS-6400 comes with six LED fans—
two 8cm side intake fans, one 12cm rear
exhaust fan, two 12cm top exhaust fans,
and the aforementioned 14cm front fan.
That’s a lot of stock fans for a case, at
any price point.
The five hard drive bays, seven PCI expansion slots, and four 5.25-inch bays all
feature plastic latching mechanisms that,
while tremendously easy to use (particularly those for the hard drive bays), feel a
little cheap and fragile.
Inside, the GS-6400 is extremely
roomy for a mid-tower chassis, though at
8.4 inches wide, 20.5 inches high, 21.65
inches deep, and weighing more than 27
pounds, it’s a little big for its class. So
maybe there is something to this “high
tower” concept.
The space inside is much appreciated,
however—you can easily install a 12.2inch GPU without removing any hard drive
bays, and the extra room allows for more
airflow. The motherboard tray, which
supports ATX, microATX, and E-ATX
motherboards, also features five cutouts
for cable management inside the case,
which made our test build easy and organized. There are two grommeted cutouts
in the back for liquid-cooling tubes.
We’re not sure how we feel about the
GS-6400’s looks. From a distance, with
the side panels on and the fan LEDs active, we must admit that the Arvina looks
pretty beastly. The design of the trans-
SENTEY’S ARVINA GS-6400
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lucent side-panel window is very unique,
and latches make removing the side
panels a snap. The case still looks sleek
upon closer inspection, but the large
swaths of glossy, fingerprint-catching
plastic on the top and front panels make
the case look cheap. We’re not thrilled,
either, that the toolless drive bay and
expansion slot brackets are all made of
flimsy plastic.
We have a couple more minor problems with the Arvina. If you’re looking
for USB 3.0, you’re going to have to look
elsewhere, though we haven’t yet come
to expect USB 3.0 integration at this
price point. What we have been getting used to, however, is the inclusion
of drop-down SATA docks, which are
becoming more and more commonplace
in this price range. The Arvina doesn’t
include this, though it does have a top
eSATA port and a full SATA data and
power pass-through that requires an
included cable. The case gives you an
integrated multiformat card reader.
For an MSRP of $89, you get a solid,
well-ventilated case that is quick and
easy to build into and looks decent—
albeit a little low rent. We’ve never
been huge fans of plastic components,
but we can’t help but be impressed by
what Sentey has put together for such a
low price. If your next build is a simple
one and you’re looking to cut costs, the
Arvina is worthy of your consideration.
—ALAN FACKLER
8
VERDICT
Sentey Arvina GS-6400
LEDs Lots of cooling; tons of
space; toolless bays.
IEDs Very heavy; no USB 3.0 support;
flimsy securing mechanisms; glossy trim.
$89, www.sentey.com
The Arvina has a lot of space for a mid-tower chassis, though we’re
curious if that’s worth its 28-pound heft.
The hard drive trays are handy and
colorful, but feel flimsy.
The two 8cm side intake fans cool
the GPU area.
With the steel side panels on and the LEDs
powered, the Arvina is a pretty sleek-looking
case, although opinions about its appearance were mixed in the Lab.
maximumpc.com
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79
in the lab
Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD
One of the best 3Gb/s SATA drives we’ve tested
IN LAST MONTH’S ROUNDUP of solid-state
drives, Intel’s entrant bore Marvell’s 9174
6Gb/s SATA controller, rather than an Intel
one. While the Intel 510 SSD performed respectably among its 6Gb/s SATA peers, it’s
not the top-to-bottom Intel drive fans have
been waiting for. That drive is finally here,
and despite the Intel 320 Series nomenclature, this is the third generation in Intel’s
X25-M series of mainstream solid-state
drives. But is a drive with a 3Gb/s SATA
controller really going to cut it in 2011?
Intel’s previous consumer solid-state
drives were known for three things:
rock-solid reliability, fast randomaccess and sequential read speeds,
and relatively slow sequential write
speeds—often less than half the speed
of the competition. With the 320 Series,
Intel keeps the first two and eliminates
the third; the 320 Series SSD’s sequential write speeds are, finally, competitive
with other 3Gb/s SATA drives.
The 320 Series is Intel’s first with
25nm-process NAND flash memory—Intel’s own, of course. The drive also adds
AES encryption. What it doesn’t add is a
new controller. That’s right; the only difference between the controllers of the 320
Series and X25-M G2 is the firmware.
The 300GB version of the 320 drive gave
sequential read speeds of 272MB/s and
sequential write speeds of 221MB/s, as
tested in CrystalDiskMark. The previousgeneration X25-M G2 posted a similar
read speed but only a 103.6MB/s sequential write speed. The X25-M G2 posted
significantly higher random-write speeds
than the 320, both in single-threaded and
32-queue-depth tests. And, of course,
OCZ’s Vertex 3, even in 3Gb/s SATA mode,
far outperformed the 320 Series SSD—and
all others—in 4KB random writes.
The Intel 320 Series SSD holds its
own with top-tier 3Gb/s SATA drives like
those powered by the SandForce SF-1200
controller—or Samsung’s 470 Series,
for that matter—with sequential read
and write performance near the 3Gb/s
SATA bandwidth limit. Intel is aiming
the 320 Series drives at the 3Gb/s SATA
install base, which it calculates at over a
billion computers. For the 6Gb/s crowd,
Intel offers the previously reviewed Intel
510, based on the Marvell controller.
We’re happy to see Intel finally offering a
third-gen mainstream drive, especially
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with decent capacities—up to 600GB. The
300GB version we reviewed goes for $540,
significantly cheaper than the $600 Intel
asks for its 250GB 510 drive.
If you have native 6Gb/s
SATA and have to have the
fastest drive you can get, the
Intel 320 Series isn’t for you.
You’re better off with the OCZ
Vertex 3 or another SF-2281powered drive. But for the many,
many people still rocking 3Gb/s SATA,
the Intel 320 series offers performance
near the top of that particular heap, plus
Intel’s vaunted reliability, at a very attractive price point. –NATHAN EDWARDS
9
VERDICT
The Intel 320 is more than just a
spiritual successor to the X25-M
series—it shares the same chassis
and processor.
Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD
360 Competitive read/write
performance; good pricing;
robust.
180 Limited by 3Gb/s SATA; late to
the game; random-write IOPS lag behind
leaders.
$540, www.intel.com
BENCHMARKS
Intel 320 Series
SSD (3Gb/s SATA)
Intel X25-M G2
(3Gb/s SATA)
Intel 510
(6Gb/s SATA)
OCZ Vertex 3
(6Gb/s SATA)
CAPACITY
300GB
160GB
250GB
240GB
CONTROLLER
Intel
Intel
Marvell 9174
SF-2200
Sustained Read (MB/s)
272.9
264.2
480.1
485.5
Sustained Write (MB/s)
221.1
103.6
328.9
289.8
Seq. Read (MB/s)
263.9
253
483.6
506.2
Seq. Write (MB/s)
186.8
80.25
308.03
280.19
4KB Read (IOPS)
4,901
16,089
4,674
5,539
4KB Write (IOPS)
8,343
8,482
9,923
14,263
Read Access (ms)
0.073
0.062
0.207
0.157
Write Access (ms)
0.11
0.118
0.095
0.222
4KB Random Write,
32QD (IOPS)
16,595
28,888
12,123
85,144
CRYSTALDISKMARK
AS SSD
IOMETER
M ax Access Time (ms)
68
273
318
61
PREMIERE PRO ENCODE/
WRITE (SEC)
437
484
424
422
PCMARK VANTAGE X64 HDD
37,720
33,635
39,053
59,978
Best scores bolded. Our current test bed is a 3.1GHz Core i3-2100 processor on an Asus P8 P67 Pro (B3 chipset) running Windows 7
Professional 64-bit. All tests used onboard 6Gb/s SATA ports with latest Intel drivers, except 3Gb/s SATA tests, which used onboard
3Gb/s Intel SATA ports.
in the lab
The VAIO L Series is wall-mountable,
making it a perfect media viewing
station.
With a 2.8GHz Core i7-860 under
the hood and 3D Blu-ray support,
MSI’s Wind Top has some muscle.
Three Cheers for All-in-One
These systems possess surprising polish, but can
their innards meet our lofty expectations?
USB 3.0? Sandy Bridge? 3D Blu-ray movies and games? Subwoofers? It looks like the lowly
all-in-one PC is finally maturing into a class of system that we can get behind. Historically,
these rigs have been relegated to KP duty for simple web-browsing and TV viewing, but we
have higher ambitions for them. Why can’t we, for example, boot Total War: Shogun 2 and
play a few turns while dinner is being prepared? We had this in the back of our head as we
put these three new systems through the ringer. –GEORGE JONES
SONY VAIO L SERIES VPCL214FX/W
Aesthetically, Sony’s VAIO L Series allin-one pleased us the most. Its sides and
back are white plastic, the new “in” look
for PCs this year, and the matching keyboard and mouse make this system a nice
fit in any environment.
If only the hardware and performance
matched the sleek exterior. Sandy Bridge
chip or not, the mobile 2.1GHz Core i32310 part left the VAIO L Series hunched
over gasping for air throughout our tests.
Because all-in-one systems trade performance for form factor, we use our 2007
benchmark suite to test them, but that
mattered none here. Sony’s performance
was slow, taking 100 percent to 200 percent
longer than the other two systems reviewed
here to move through our ProShow Producer,
MainConcept Reference, and Photoshop
tests. And Sandy Bridge’s integrated graphics were no match for Call of Duty 4, putting
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up single-digit frame rates. If you’re looking
for a web browser or media player, that’s no
problem, but for more GPU- or CPU-intensive tasks, you’ll need more muscle.
The VAIO L ships with a Blu-ray player,
Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0
ports, a TV tuner, and a webcam on the
front. We appreciate the presence of an
HDMI-out port on the back of the unit. The
24-inch (1920x1080) LED-backlit touch
screen bears special recognition; large,
vibrant, and without much bezel, it’s everything we want in an all-in-one display.
While the hardware is underwhelming,
the $1,400 price does make this a more affordable option for modest, everyday usage.
6
VERDICT
Sony Vaio L Series
VPCL214FX/W
$1,400, www.sonystyle.com
MSI WIND TOP AE2420 3D
With built-in 3D support and some serious muscle under the hood, MSI’s Wind
Top AE2420 3D offers a tantalizing view
of the future of this form factor. A 2.8GHz
Core i7-860, 4GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon
Mobility HD 5730 graphics part, Wi-Fi,
and 1TB of SATA2 storage make this a
solidly conceived all-in-one PC, even if it
feels a wee bit unpolished.
As an example, this was the only system
we tested without an integrated Bluetooth
keyboard and mouse—we had to plug in
the included USB dongle to connect the
mouse and keyboard. That’s a little rough
around the edges. More frustrating was the
fact that the mouse wouldn’t automatically
wake up upon touch; every time we wanted
to use the system after it had gone to sleep,
we had to hit the connect button on the bottom of the mouse.
In terms of performance, the MSI
flexed some muscle, running a close
second to HP’s very fast TouchSmart.
The Core i7-860’s four cores and eight
threads powered their way through
ProShow Producer, and the presence of
ATI’s mobile Radeon HD 5730 allowed it
to post frame rates in the high 30s for our
HP’s Touch
Smart is fast,
polished, and has
a nice screen.
It’s also the only
system of the
batch that tilts
up and down.
Call of Duty 4 test, which is the fastest of
the three systems reviewed here. What’s
that, you say? You think 35 frames per
second for a 3-year-old game isn’t all
that great? Well, welcome to the world
of all-in-ones. Practically speaking, the
Wind Top feels snappy, and while the
processor speeds allowed us to play Total
War: Shogun 2 in campaign mode, when
the time came to fight it out on the game’s
3D battlefields, we were disappointed.
The Wind Top comes with two USB
3.0 ports, five USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-in,
S/PIDF-out, a coaxial-in port, and a webcam. The inclusion of a stylus surprised
us, but hey, it’s not mandatory and it’s not
hurting anyone, right? MSI’s Wind Touch
OS layer deserves special mention—it provides a fairly straightforward way to access
media solely through the touch screen.
While not as nice as Sony’s VAIO L
Series, the 23.6-inch screen puts out
pretty decent visual quality. And, as far
as we know, this is the only all-in-one
that allows you to watch 3D Blu-rays
and play 3D games. It even has a built-
in emitter and comes with a pair of
active shutter 3D glasses.
Overall, this is an above-average
showing. And if you want 3D content, this
is the only gig in town.
8
VERDICT
MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D
$1,800, www.msi.com
HP TOUCHSMART 610
It’s clear that HP sees the value in this category. The PC maker’s new TouchSmart is
sleek, polished, and is the first all-in-one
we’ve ever seen to feature a subwooferout jack. HP makes a subtle but valid point
here: The truth about these systems is
that, regardless of where we set them
up—kitchen, living room, garage—we
find ourselves frequently using them as
music stations, so why not aim for higher
audio fidelity? Conveniently, HP has also
integrated Monster’s (and Dr. Dre’s) Beats
environment, allowing the TouchSmart
610 to pump out impressive enough
SPECIFICATIONS
sound to make people do a double-take.
Beats notwithstanding, HP also packs
some beef into this system, with a 2.93GHz
Core i7-870, a full-size 2GB ATI Radeon HD
5570, 8GB of DDR memory, a 1TB 7,200rpm
drive, a Blu-ray player, Wi-Fi, a TV tuner,
and two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports. As
far as CPUs go, the Core i7-870 is a little
old, but the higher clock enabled it to blaze
through our CPU-intensive tasks, beating
out MSI’s AiW by 20 percent in most tests
and almost 50 percent in our Photoshop
benchmark. It’s not Sandy Bridge, but
it’s speedy. And, given the use of discrete
graphics, Sandy Bridge is not necessary.
Game performance was another story,
however, as MSI’s 5730 Mobility Radeon
part bested the 5570 by a few frames per
second in Call of Duty 4. Again, you’re not
going to wow your friends by turning up the
detail on Shogun 2’s battle scenes, but you
will be able to play through campaign mode
without the CPU’s turns taking days.
We like the 24-inch screen on the
TouchSmart 610. It’s not as nice as
Sony’s, but is still satisfying. We absolutely love the vertical slider on the
back of the system, which allowed us to
easily recline the screen into multiple
positions. It is also wall-mountable. One
other nice touch is the new version of its
TouchSmart OS layer, which optimizes
media chores and other OS functions for
touch. As if to underscore the gaming
potential of the 610 (and possibly the entire all-in-one category?), HP includes a
free touch-enabled copy of the real-time
strategy game Ruse.
This excellent, professionally crafted
system demonstrates that while we’re
not quite in the position of being able to
play power games on all-in-one systems,
we’re getting close.
9
VERDICT
HP TouchSmart 610
$1,790, www.hp.com
BENCHMARKS
Sony VAIO L Series
VPCL214FX/W
MSI Wind Top
AE2420 3D
HP TouchSmart
610
PRICE
$1,400
$1,800
$1,790
CPU
2.1GHz Core i3-2310M
2.8GHz Core i7-860
2.93GHz Core i7-870
GPU
Integrated (Sandy
Bridge)
ATI Radeon
Mobility 5730
ATI Radeon 5570
RAM
2GB
4GB
8GB
HDD
450GB (7,200rpm)
1TB (7,200rpm)
1TB (7,200rpm)
SCREEN
24-inch
23.6-inch
24-inch
Sony VAIO L
VPCL214FX/W
MSI Wind Top
AE2420 3D
HP TouchSmart 610
PROSHOW PRODUCER
(SEC)
1,470
686
567
MAINCONCEPT (SEC)
2,542
1,389
1,109
PHOTOSHOP CS3 (SEC)
166
150
85
PREMIERE PRO CS3
(SEC)
1,380
660
600
CALL OF DUTY 4 (FPS)
6.8
38.0
35.8
Best scores are bolded.
maximumpc.com
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MAXIMUMPC
83
in the lab
Logitech Z906
5.1 Speaker
System
A few key features
shy of stellar
5.1-channel speaker
system was legendary for its beefy amp
and beastly subwoofer, its plethora of
optical and digital input options, and
its ability to decode popular surroundsound codecs. The 5.1-channel Z906
speaker system taking its place at the
top of Logitech’s audio lineup is every
bit its equal.
The Z-5500, however, hit the market
in 2004. In the intervening seven years,
HDTV, Blu-ray, high-definition surround
sound, and Class D amplifiers have
elevated our expectations. We’ve grown
accustomed to consumer electronics
that deliver price/performance ratios
that were unimaginable in 2004.
Our chief criticism of the Z906 is
that Logitech positions the system as
a suitable companion for a Blu-ray
player, and we think a PC with a Blu-ray
drive and an HDMI videocard fits that
definition. But the Z906 doesn’t provide
HDMI pass-through, and it can’t decode
the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtracks that make Blu-ray
movies sound as glorious as they look.
The Z906 is outfitted with three
1/8-inch analog stereo inputs, so you
can still get HD audio if you connect
the system to a PC or a Blu-ray player
with discrete analog outputs, but that’s
messy and not all Blu-ray players have
those outputs. The Z906 also has three
S/PDIF-outs (two optical and one coaxial), and it is capable of decoding DTS
and Dolby Digital soundtracks, adding
DVD players and videogame consoles to
its list of supported devices.
Logitech puts long speaker cables
in the box (12 feet for each of the front
channels and 24 feet for each of the
surrounds), but you can substitute your
own because the Z906’s subwoofer and
LOGITECH’S Z-5500
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The Z906’s satellite cabinets rest at an angle to direct the sound straight at your ears.
satellites are equipped with binding
clips. The Z906’s seven-channel Class-D
amp directs 67 watts to each of its five
satellites and 165 watts (bridging two
channels) to the 8-inch woofer in the
sub. As with the Z-5500, the satellites
are equipped with 3-inch, one-way
drivers that must produce both high
and midrange frequencies. Two-way
configurations with discrete tweeters
and midrange drivers, such as you’ll find
in Corsair’s 2.1-channel SP2500 system,
almost always deliver a more satisfactory sonic performance.
The Z906 delivered rock ’em, sock
’em performance with first-person
shooters and other games, and it did a
good job of filling our home theater with
Blu-ray movie soundtracks. The limitations of those one-way drivers, however,
surfaced as soon as we turned our focus
to music. Listening to “If This Is Goodbye,” from the Mark Knopfler, Emmylou
Harris collaboration All the Roadrunning,
the Z906 rendered Ms. Harris’s angelic
vocals with a slightly harsh edge. By the
same token, the delicious piano work
that figures so prominently in Julianna
Raye’s “Slowly,” from her Dominoes
album, came across as overly bright and
brittle.
So the Z906 is a worthy successor
to the vaunted Z-5500. It’s great with
games and good with Blu-ray movies,
but its weak musical performance, lack
of HD-audio support, and the absence
of HDMI pass-through deny it a Kick
Ass award. –MICHAEL BROWN
9
VERDICT
Logitech Z906 5.1 Speaker
System
HDMI Surround sound, a
beefy subwoofer, and plenty of inputs.
TMI Satellites have one-way drivers; no
HDMI pass-through; can’t decode Dolby
TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
$500, www.logitech.com
SPECIFICATIONS
SATELLITE SPEAKERS
3-inch full-range
fiber composite with
synthetic rubber
surrounds
SATELLITE ENCLOSURES
ABS plastic
SUBWOOFER
8-inch side-firing fibercomposite driver with
foam surround in ported
MDF enclosure
AMPLIFIER
Class D (seven channels,
with two bridged
channels driving the
subwoofer)
STATED POWER RATING
500 watts RMS total:
67 watts to each of five
satellites, 165
watts to subwoofer
INPUTS
Six channel analog
(three 1/8-inch analog
stereo), three S/PDIF
(two optical, one
coaxial), two RCA
analog stereo, and one
1/8-inch analog stereo
OUTPUTS
1/8-inch headphone;
binding clips for
speakers
in the lab
Zalman
CNPS11X
Flying V: Great
guitar. Gimmicky
hockey maneuver.
Underwhelming
cooling configuration
JUST FIVE MONTHS AGO, we reviewed
Zalman’s superb CNPS9900Max, which
marked a return to the circle-of-fins
look that has marked the big Z’s bestperforming CPU coolers of the past
half-decade or so. The CNPS9900Max
resuscitated our faith in Zalman’s
heatsinks, which had dwindled in the
wake of skyscraper-style coolers
and Zalman’s disappointing CNPS10X
Extreme, a cooler that was larger and
more expensive than its more effective competitors. Now Zalman gives
us the CNPS11X, with yet another new
cooling-fin configuration.
The CNPS11X is a skyscraper-style
cooler, 6.3 inches high by 5.25 inches
wide by 3.75 inches deep, with five
nickel-plated heat pipes rising into
two sets of aluminum heat-dissipation
fins. The fin stacks are arranged in
a V formation, with a 12cm blue LED
fan across the top of the V, forming
a triangle with the fan as the hypotenuse. The top and bottom of the fin
stacks are covered with black plastic
covers, to keep air flowing from the fan
through the fins. The result is a cooler
that takes up a lot of room but also has
a lot of wasted space in the center that
could otherwise contain cooling fins.
Zalman continues to use the universal backplate design it’s been using
since at least the CNPS9900Max—the
one that requires four nuts (either
silver-colored or gold-colored, depending on socket), four sliding plastic
retainers, and a special angled 2.5mm
hex wrench. You can use a standard
2.5mm head, but the tool Zalman
includes can be used from an angle—
necessary, given the placement of the
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Sometimes looks matter more than performance. Not in a CPU cooler, however.
fan. The CNPS11X also ships with a
resistor cable to slow the 12cm fan and
reduce noise.
On our test bed, with an ambient
lab temperature of 22.8 C (73 F), the
CNPS11X cooled our overclocked Core
i5-750 to 65.75 C at full burn. This is
better than our baseline cooler, the
$30 Cooler Master Hyper 212+, but 5 C
hotter than the Prolimatech Armageddon, our favorite air cooler. Zalman’s
CNPS9900Max, by contrast, performs
slightly better than the Armageddon.
(We prefer the Armageddon’s installation process, which is why it’s still
our favorite.) The CNPS11X is also
noticeably louder than either the Armageddon or CNPS990Max. Using the
included resistor cable drops the noise
to tolerable levels but raises CPU temperatures a degree or two.
The CNPS11X is not a bad cooler,
but it’s not a great cooler, either. The
CNPS11X retails for $90. For $4 more,
you can get a Prolimatech Armaged-
don with two 14cm fans, which has an
easier install, a more robust mounting
bracket, and better performance. Or,
for $10 less, you can get the Zalman
CNPS9900Max, which kicks as much
ass as the Armageddon, costs less,
and has that radial-fan look that Zalman does so well. Maybe you dig the
V-shaped fin stacks and don’t mind that
this is a louder, more expensive, and
less effective cooler than the CNPS9900Max. But if the design doesn’t
speak to you, the performance won’t
hook you either. –NATHAN EDWARDS
7
VERDICT
Zalman CNPS11X
STARMAN Decent looks;
included resistor cable.
CARMAN Expensive; loud; outperformed
by cheaper coolers.
$90, www.zalmanusa.com
BENCHMARKS
Zalman CNPS11X
Prolimatech
Armageddon (2 fans)
Cooler Master
Hyper 212+ (1 fan)
IDLE (C)
35.25
33.75
34.75
100% BURN (C)
65.75
60.75
68.5
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour
running Intel’s internal Lynnfield thermal testing utility at 100 percent load. Test system consists of Intel Core i5-750 overclocked to
3.2GHz on an Asus P7P55D Premium board in a Corsair 800D case with stock fans. Temperatures taken with HWMonitor.
Harman AKG
GHS 1
A stylish headset from a
newcomer to the field
HARMAN’S AUDIO PRODUCTS , which
comprise brands like JBL, AKG, and
Harman/Kardon are known as much
for their high-tech aesthetic as for
their audio quality and have never included a gaming headset—until now.
We were excited to get the GHS 1 into
the Lab to find out whether the designconscious company’s first foray into
the gaming peripheral landscape was
a success.
Like we said, Harman’s products are
always visually creative, and the GHS 1
is no exception. It’s not as out there as,
say, the Harman/Kardon crystalline desk
speakers, but it’s slick and distinctive all
the same. There are three color schemes
available, but the model we received
sports a matte black finish with silver accents and a grey fabric band with orange
stitching. The built-in mic is on a sharplooking, stubby boom, and it folds up for
easy transport. The long, bright-orange
cable has inline volume/microphone
controls and ends in two rubberized connectors that plug in to your analog ports.
Good design is always going to be subjective, but as far as we’re concerned, this is
among the nicest-looking gaming headsets we’ve ever seen.
In terms of comfort, the GHS 1 is a
mixed bag. The two-layer fabric and plastic headphone is very comfortable, which,
combined with the overall light weight of
the set, means your head isn’t going to get
sore even after long sessions with these.
We’re less enamored with the earcups,
which are of the supra-aural variety, sitting directly on top of the ear. The cups
are quite padded, but the padding itself
isn’t squishy enough to keep the phones
from becoming slightly uncomfortable
during extended usage. Some people like
supra-aural headsets better than others,
but if you’re not a fan, the GHS 1 isn’t going to change your mind.
The AKG GHS 1’s short microphone looks great, but
isn’t quite as sensitive as a
full-length boom.
So is the GHS 1 all style and no substance? Not at all. The sound produced
by the set isn’t going to blow your mind,
but it easily matches the best offered
by its competition in the sub-$100 market, with rich, clear mids and highs.
The bass isn’t quite as strong as we’d
like it to be, but on the whole the set
delivers a balanced, detailed sound
that’s equally good for gaming, music,
and movies.
The first time we saw the microphone
on the GHS 1, two thoughts occurred
to us in quick succession. First was,
“Hey, that’s a hell of a lot cooler-looking
than a normal boom mic!” The second
was, “But does that even work?” Well,
it works, but it’s not magic. It’s further
away from your mouth, and accordingly,
picks up a little less sound. It wasn’t
a major deal, but there were a few instances where we found ourselves having to speak up to be heard.
So on the whole, Harman’s first attempt at gaming audio is a success.
The set’s design is absolutely topnotch, and if you want better sound
quality, you’d better be prepared to
spend more than the GHS 1’s $80 price
tag. The only thing working against this
set is the small, supra-aural earcups,
which don’t provide much noise cancellation and can get uncomfortable. If
you’ve used a supra-aural headset before and liked it, this one’s a great deal
for the money. –ALEX CASTLE
8
VERDICT
Harman AKG GHS 1
GLOSSY Excellent design;
folds up when not in use;
strong sound quality.
LOSSY Irksome ear cups; microphone
can be insensitive; bass is a little weak.
$80, harmanaudio.com
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in the lab
Razer Onza
Tournament Edition
Razer's gamepad is finally out—
was it worth the wait?
WE’RE NO FAN OF THE CONSOLE-IFICATION
of PC gaming, either, but you’ve got to
admit, Microsoft has had the gamepad
market locked since it introduced the
USB Xbox 360 controller more than fi ve
years ago. In that respect, it’s not really
surprising that the first real challenger
to Microsoft’s super-solid wired controller is, itself, an Xbox 360 controller: the
Razer Onza.
The Onza was first revealed more
than a year ago at CES 2010, so consumers have had a lot of time to ask
questions like, “Is Razer really going
to try and become a console peripheral
company? Can a third-party controller
ever really beat the first-party offering?” Well, we don’t have an inside line
on Razer’s business dealings, but we do
have the Onza in our hands, and we can
tell you that the answer to the second
question is an emphatic yes.
The Razer Onza isn’t a wide departure from the standard 360 controller in
looks—it’s the same shape, more or less,
with a nearly identical layout of face buttons and analog sticks and feels as good
in the hands as the original. A slightly
rubbery, nonslip coating makes it easy
to hold on to, and it looks nice in matte
black. It feels just the tiniest bit lighter
and less solid than Microsoft’s controller, but that still leaves it in “very sturdy”
territory. Like the Xbox 360 controller, no
additional drivers are needed in Windows
Vista or 7.
Where the Onza controller beats the
regular Xbox controller is in features.
Notably, the Onza uses Razer’s Hyperesponse actuators for the light-up face
buttons, giving them a much clickier
and more responsive feel. Additionally,
Razer’s controller packs two bumper
buttons above each trigger—the bonus
button can be bound to any of the other
standard buttons—and the physical
resistance of the two analog sticks can
be adjusted individually.
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The one questionable change to the
Xbox 360 controller formula is the switch
from a rocker-style D-pad to one with
four oversize buttons with lots of travel.
It’s not a disaster, by any means, but we
can’t say we like it better than the rocker,
and it might trip up people who use the
D-pad for complex inputs, such as fighting game commands.
At just $10 more than an Xbox 360
controller (or the exact same price for
the non-Tournament Edition, which lacks
the adjustable sticks and light-up buttons), and with a strictly superior feature
set, we’d recommend this one to anybody.
Hands down, this is the gamepad to beat.
9
VERDICT
Razer Onza Tournament
Edition
GR AVIS GAMEPAD Feels
great; cool extra features; competitive pricing.
JAGUAR CONTROLLER Slightly less rocksolid than the original; new D-Pad isn’t for
everyone.
$50, www.razerzone.com
–ALEX CASTLE
The Onza’s low-profile face
buttons are much more
responsive than the standard
Xbox 360 controller.
Portal 2
Gordon Freeman
who?
LET’S GET ONE THING straight right away:
Portal 2 is not Portal 1. Don’t get us wrong:
Portal 2 is still completely brilliant—just
in entirely different ways. If Portal 1 was
an incredibly witty one-liner, then Portal 2
is a whole night of stand-up. That is to say,
it’s still smart, subversive, and riotously
funny, but it does manage to drag in a
couple areas—if only briefly.
Portal 2 sees previous heroine Chell
awaken many, many years after her fateful game of “Ha ha, got your brain” with
hilariously nefarious AI GLaDOS. The
first character you encounter this time
around, however, is a far friendlier face
(or fast-chattering robo-eye, as it were).
His name’s Wheatley, and he’s equal
parts cowardly, incompetent, and voiced
by Stephen Merchant. Primarily for that
last reason, you will instantly fall in love
with him. He’s an amazing counter to
GLaDOS’s morose musings and exemplifies Portal 2’s more expansive tone and
breadth of material.
The other new character—who we’re
not going to mention by name for fear
of spoilers—doesn’t fare quite so well.
Put simply, his run-of-the-mill jokes
and personality don’t quite reach the
sterling standard set by GLaDOS and
Wheatley—an issue not helped by the
fact that his levels are a bit too expan-
We’re calling it now: best new videogame character of the year.
sive for their own good, which causes
Portal 2’s pacing to take a disappointing
dip during its middle chapters. Fortunately, things pick up again before too
terribly long, and the resulting wave of
momentum crashes into an absolutely
fantastic ending.
The real stars of the show, however,
are the puzzles. Once again, Valve’s masterful ability to reprogram your brain
with all manner of subtly game-changing
objects and techniques is on full display.
With the game’s substantial increase in
length and drip-feed of tools like Aerial
Faith Plates, Hard Light Bridges, and redirectable lasers, puzzles are certainly
more complicated this time around. Even
so, you probably won’t notice, as Valve’s
brilliant design could convince even the
world’s worst puzzle-solver that he/she
is a complete genius.
Co-op, meanwhile, adds yet another layer of complexity (two portal
guns!) and manages to be ridiculously
satisfying as a result. There are some
real head-scratchers in the mix, but
having two heads to scratch instead of
one speeds up the process more than
enough to make up for it. The end result?
Brain-twisting bliss. There’s really nothing quite like hitting a wall, thinking out
loud for 10 minutes, and then—just when
all hope seems lost—having simultaneous “eureka” moments. It’s cooperative
in the truest sense, and you may very
well come away feeling closer to another
human being as a result.
Consequently, Portal 2 is far more than
“Portal, but longer.” Its newfound scale affords it greater variety in locales, puzzles,
and characters, leading to an entirely
new tone and feel. By and large, Portal
2’s hugely successful in making the jump
up to the big leagues, but inevitably, a few
jokes are duds and a few crummy puzzles
made the cut. But hey, no comedian ever
has a perfect night. The best ones just give
you so many highs that you forget the lows
even happened. –NATHAN GRAYSON
9
VERDICT
Portal 2
ANIMAL KING Hilarious, incredibly well-written story;
brain-bending puzzles; excellent co-op.
SENTIENT CLOUD Middle section drags a
bit; some not-so-memorable jokes.
$45, www.thinkwithportals.com, ESRB: E10+
A bridge—or, as someone with a portal gun would call it, “peasant travel.”
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in the lab
DCS A-10C and Thrustmaster
HOTAS Warthog
Finally, something for flight-sim junkies to
get excited about!
IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME since flightsim fans were treated to something new
and exciting that celebrates their passion.
Hell, most virtual flight jockeys are still
piloting relics such as Falcon 4.0 (first
released in 1998), Lock On, and FSX 10. So,
for us to simultaneously get our hands on
a seriously crafted “study” simulation (it’s
not a game) and perfectly matching highend control hardware at the same time is
a Very Big Deal. We take Eagle Dynamics'
DCS A-10C and Thrustmaster's HOTAS
(hands-on throttle and stick) Warthog for
a survey flight, followed by some serious
mud-moving action. –STEVE KLETT
DCS A-10C
For most gamers, a 669-page manual
would be a serious turn-off and relegate
the game that accompanied such a treatise
to the bargain bin. In this case, however,
a manual of biblical proportions is, well,
heavenly—particularly when the manual is
so well-written. DCS A-10C’s Flight Manual
PDF includes background history on the
A-10 “Warthog” airframe, and exceedingly detailed information on just about
every dial, switch, component, and weapon
system therein.
Oh, and this is just one of three manuals, the other two being a 226-page tome
walking you through the game’s GUI and
features and a “quick start” 21-page pamphlet that attempts to get you up in the air
and into the thick of things in short order.
You could spend at least a week read-
ing and just familiarizing yourself with
the A-10’s cockpit, in which every switch,
button, and dial you see is interactive and
works, supposedly, just like the real deal.
Sweet.
DCS A-10C is made by the folks that
brought us DCS Black Shark, which is
probably the most hardcore sim we’ve
ever attempted to fly (emphasis on attempted—we had trouble just getting that
“game’s” Russian Ka-50 attack helicopter
into a proper hover). For those folks that
persisted, however, Black Shark rewarded
them with a deeply rich and über-realistic
experience. A-10C is much the same, but
the modeled airframe is a bit, dare we say
it, simpler, and the developer has made
some efforts to help less-experienced
pilots get up in the air.
Put in the practice time and the sim will
reward you, handsomely. There’s no feeling quite like evading enemy ground fire
and dropping a 500-pound Mark 82 smackdab on target—or successfully hosing
down an armored column with the A-10’s
murderous 30mm Gatling gun and making
it back to base to fly and fight another day.
This is a good thing—after all, it takes
years of training to fly the real A-10, and
it will likely take a year or more for all but
the most gifted of simmers to master the
virtual counterpart DCS has so lovingly,
and painstakingly, created here. DCS A-10C
has some serious long-term “legs.” It’s
just too bad Eagle Dynamics didn’t do more
to dumb it down a bit so that more casual
players could enjoy it. This is hardcore/
moderate pilots–only territory.
And that’s a shame because A-10C is a
sumptuous feast for the eyes. Just about
any gamer would appreciate the amount
of detail that’s been put into modeling not
only the A-10C, but all the other vehicles
and aircraft you’ll encounter throughout
the sim. You can literally count the rivets
on the machines, if you wish, and just about
everything that should animate, does.
This is just one of the many reasons
why DCS A-10C is a virtual pilot’s dream
come true—particularly if you pair it
with Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Warthog,
reviewed below.
THRUSTMASTER HOTAS WARTHOG
To many, the A-10 airframe is something
only its conceiving engineering team can
love—and this is why it’s affectionately
known as the “Warthog.” Given that most
of the Warthog’s duties are at relatively
low levels where situational awareness is
tantamount to survival and proper delivery
of ordinance, its cockpit was designed
with simplicity in mind—and the hands-on
throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls inside
enable the pilot to fly and fight without ever
taking his or her eyes off the target to hunt
for dials, buttons, and switches.
Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Warthog replicates the actual A-10’s stick and throttle
controls down to the last dial, button, and
switch—at least that’s what the company
says. We’ll take its word for it because
Every button, dial, and
switch you see here
works. You can use
the mouse or the slew
control on the HOTAS
to interact with them,
or the mapped keys on
your keyboard—but
what fun is that?
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everything about this HOTAS looks, feels,
and behaves in an authentic manner and
helps push DCS A-10C to the edge of the
envelope, where game, simulation, and
reality blur together.
The HOTAS consists of separate throttle
and flight stick modules that connect to
your PC via USB: Just plug them in, along
with your rudder pedals of choice, and you
are good to go—the controls are preconfigured to work with the DCS A-10C out of the
box (and a control map for the HOTAS is included in the A-10C manual). So, there’s no
need to load profiles and tweak settings—a
process that can take weeks to get “just
right.” The dual throttles have a magnetic
sensor system to precisely register movement in the sim, and since the magnets are
frictionless, there’s zero mechanical wear
to worry about.
Both the stick and throttle are constructed from metal and feel heavy and
realistic. Each button, dial, and switch is
calibrated to work as closely to the real
thing as possible, meaning you need to
employ the same amount of pressure to
activate them as you would in the real cockpit. The stick uses the same magnet sensor
system as the throttle, and we found it to be
the most precise flight stick we’ve ever had
the pleasure to fly with. Very little pressure
is needed to make the stick do what you
want it to, which is not something we can
say about previous Thrustmaster efforts.
Everything is, of course, programmable,
and doing so is not as painful as it has been
in years past. So you can make your own
custom profiles for any other flight sim you
have with relative ease.
The HOTAS may be
pricey, but this hefty
controller is an exact
replica of the controls
used to drive an A-10C.
The only real thing to perhaps grouse
about here is the $500 price tag, but
honestly, the HOTAS Warthog feels like it’s
worth every penny. There’s nothing that’s
been skimped on here, and it truly is a work
of engineering beauty that any serious flight
simmer will appreciate for years.
8
VERDICT
9
VERDICT
Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog
NATO Gorgeous, functional,
precise, and authentic.
WARSAW PACT Expensive—
and eats up desktop real estate.
$500, www.digitalcombatsimulations.com
DCS A-10C
MAVERICK Everything about
this sim screams realism.
GOOSE Not for the casual crowd.
$60, www.digitalcombatsimulations.com
The A-10C can dish out and take
considerable punishment. But
due to the nature of its job, when
things go wrong, they often go
very wrong.
The 3D model of the A-10C comprises more than 100,000 polygons and is highly detailed, with
complete animation of control
surfaces, multiple-texture maps,
and normal and specular maps.
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in the lab
AMBER BOUMAN ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR
Big Screens,
Big Trouble
Testing is easy compared to all the hassles of setting up a
bunch of big screens
THIS MONTH’S MAXIMUM PC CHALLENGE proved to be quite a timeconsuming endeavor. For once, getting product in was the easy part.
It was in the setup and software where things got difficult. While the
physical build of each setup took a little bit of time—with the MD230X6
taking the longest, as it had to be bolted together—everything also had
to get hauled upstairs to our photography studio, then back down to
the Lab/conference room/wherever we could find space, then plugged
into our test bed and configured. Between downloading drivers; finding DisplayPort, HDMI, or DVI cables/adapters; fighting with power
supplies; adjusting software; and configuring aspect ratios, field of
view, bezel correction, etc. , each build took at least a few hours to get
up and running—all for a few sweet hours of intense gameplay. In the
end, it was well worth the effort, but a great deal more time intensive
than we had anticipated.
Gordon Mah Ung
Senior Editor
Nathan Edwards
Senior Associate Editor
Alex Castle
Online Managing Editor
Alan Fackler
Online Associate Editor
George Jones
Editor in Chief
Can’t see all your RAM
in your new LGA1366
board? Normally, reseating the RAM modules fixes the problem, but on a recent
board I ran into something more insidious:
a bent pin leading to
the memory controller. The board would
only report the correct
amount of RAM one out
of four POSTs. So mind
the pins, people.
Intel’s 320 series SSD
is a great 3Gb/s SATA
SSD, but being the
fastest SATA II SSD
in 2011 is like being
the [ERROR: SPORTSRELATED ANALOGY
NOT FOUND]. In any
case, it’s good news
for the vast majority
of humans that lack
decent native 6Gb/s
SATA. Like, for example, anyone on an X58
chipset.
Man, what a month! I
went to look at the release list to figure out
which game would be
next month’s review,
and I found no fewer
than six releases that
would normally be
contenders for the
spot. I’m most excited
for Brink, but with so
many options it’s going to be a hard month
for my bank account.
Mere minutes before
this writing, I was in the
Lab with Editorial Director Jon Phillips taking a
first look at the Asus Eee
Transformer, a small
laptop that doubles as
a tablet—simply pull the
screen off the keyboard
dock and you’ve got a
Froyo-enabled, 11-inch
tablet. This is an exciting
step in the right direction, and could very well
be a tiny window into the
future of our day-to-day
tech.
This month, we added
a benchmark to the allin-one PC test suite in
order to gauge gaming
and GPU performance.
We chose Call of Duty
4: Modern Warfare—
it’s an older game, and
it’s something we use
to test notebook performance. Right now,
there’s no comparison. The notebooks we
test crush these AIO
systems.
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comments
you write, we respond
WE TACKLE TOUGH READER QUESTIONS ON...
> DDR 1333 vs. 1600
> High-Speed Greed
> The Dual PC
What’s the Sweet Spot
for RAM?
What’s the difference between
DDR3/1333 and DDR3/1600
in terms of performance?
In what way is the latter
superior? Will DDR3/1600 at
CL8 beat DDR2/800 CL5? And
DDR3/1333 CL7? Also, what
about overclocked DDR3—say,
DDR3/2000?
–Robert Bayly
SENIOR EDITOR GORDON MAH
UNG RESPONDS: Synthetic
benchmarks that stress the
memory bandwidth of the
RAM will show fairly significant differences between
DDR3/1333 and DDR3/1600 or
DDR3/2000. However, most
applications will not exhibit
significant increases due to
increased memory bandwidth or low latency. This is
likely the result of the way
CUT, COPY, PASTE
In the review of the HP
Dm1z in our June issue,
we mentioned that the
notebook didn’t easily accommodate hardware upgrades. We were wrong.
If you remove the battery,
the underside of the notebook easily lifts off, exposing both RAM and hard
drive bays.
applications are designed and
also the massive caches that
modern CPUs include. The
sweet spot, frankly, seems to
be DDR3/1333.
What about Incoming
VoIP?
All VoIP phones are good
for outgoing calls. What no
one addresses are incoming
calls. My cable provider has
been trying to sell me phone
service for a year. I live in a
suburb of a large metroplex.
In order to have local service,
I have to subscribe to AT&T’s
“extended metro service.”
This makes both incoming
and outgoing calls free. After
several conversations with my
cable provider, they acknowledged incoming calls under
their service would in fact be
long distance. I have emailed
Ooma’s tech support asking
this same question, but so far
have gotten no response. Can
you tell me if any providers of
VoIP can in fact give you free
incoming service? If I choose
a local area code using Ooma,
would incoming calls be local?
–David Rain
SENIOR EDITOR GORDON MAH
UNG RESPONDS: VoIP phones
are no different than cellular phones. Local and long
distance coverage are tied to
the area code and prefix. If
you lived in Los Angeles, but
your cell phone still has your
New York area code, anyone
dialing that number from Los
Angles would pay long distance. If you changed your cell
phone or VoIP to a Los Angeles area code, there would
be no long distance charges
for people dialing it from the
same area. So, this very much
depends on what number you
select for your VoIP account
at setup. And, yes, long distance and toll calling billing
models are antiquated.
Dual-PC Build It?
I’ve had this idea for years.
Imagine taking two PCs and
sliding them side by side and
removing the middle side panels. You’d have a double-wide
PC case holding two separate
units on which you could run
two different operating systems. On the front, you control
which one is turned on (one
or both), and the front audio,
USB, and FireWire jacks could
be shared. The case opens
in the middle on a hinge to
access the inside, and both
back panels could come off.
Can the “Build It” crew handle
something like this?
–Cassandra Murray
SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR
NATHAN EDWARDS RESPONDS:
Cassandra, we know of at
least one company that does
just that. Mountain Mods,
the company who made the
chassis for our 2010 Dream
Machine, offers several case
configurations that can hold
two full PCs with standard
ATX motherboards. The
Ascension Duality and U2UFO Duality are the cases to
look for.
High-Speed Greed
I found myself in a very similar situation to what George
Jones described in his editorial in MaximumPC’s June
issue (Ed Word, “High-Speed
Greed”). When I wanted to
upgrade to the Motorola
Atrix, I made two separate
phone calls to make sure
I could keep my unlimited
data plan before I made the
switch. The first rep I spoke
with wasn’t 100 percent sure,
but thought I could keep it.
So I waited a couple days and
called AT&T a second time.
This time, the rep I talked to
was familiar with the issue
and told me, without a doubt,
I could keep it. So I purchased
the Atrix as soon as it became
available. What did AT&T do
with my data contract? They
canceled it completely, and
started charging me by the
MB! I called AT&T and they
admitted to messing up. But
the system wouldn’t let them
put my unlimited data plan
back. I asked to speak to a
↘ submit your questions to: comments@maximumpc.com
94
MAXIMUMPC
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[NEXT MONTH]
supervisor, but was told one
wasn’t available. So, I went
down to my neighborhood
AT&T store and explained my
situation. The AT&T rep in the
store called AT&T and got my
unlimited data plan restored.
The current situation with
wireless carriers is in a sad
sate with regard to the consumers. Oh, and by the way,
the Atrix is by far the best
phone I’ve ever had.
–Tom Prossima
High-Speed Greed II
I enjoyed and related to
your editorial on AT&T. If
you have not come across a
recent U.S. Supreme Court
decision on a class action
filed against AT&T Mobility regarding arbitration in
connection with agreements
for the sale and servicing of
cell phones, you might be
interested in AT&T Mobility v.
Concepcion, et al., Supreme
Court No. 09-893, decided
on April 27, 2011. A copy is
available at bit.ly/m7HDt7.
–Charles Lennahan
EDITOR IN CHIEF GEORGE
JONES RESPONDS: I think I hit
a nerve with last month’s
[NOW ONLINE]
editorial. I got more responses about AT&T than I
have to any previous editorial, and almost all of them
were negative. Interestingly, it’s clear that AT&T,
like a lot of companies, has
a customer service problem. Based on the email,
it appears that at the time
of the Atrix launch, many
representatives were not
even aware of the logistics
and ramifications involved
in switching to a 4G plan.
One thing is clear: AT&T has
a few lags that need to be
addressed. Another example
of this is the fact that four
weeks after Blackberry
Playbook’s release, AT&T
still hadn’t enabled the
Blackberry Bridge functionality that allows RIM’s tablet
to connect with AT&T Blackberry smartphones. This can
only last for so long before
customers start leaving in
droves.
Why No AVG?
I’m currently forward deployed in Afghanistan and
every time the exchange gets
a new issue of Maximum PC,
I look like a kid in a candy
GORDON MEETS THE iPAD
A tense situation developed in the Lab this week
when Gordon, filming a
preview of the new features in Photoshop CS
5.5, had to lay hands on
his arch nemesis—the
iPad. The result? A look
of the very purest disgust, immortalized on
film. It was so good we
had to share it, and open
up the floor for an impromptu caption contest. Check out the photo, and all of the entries at
bit.ly/lOjQC7.
store snatching it off the shelf
and glaring at all the other
people like they want to take
it from me. When I got back
to my tent and opened up the
May issue to the antivirus
roundup, I was heartbroken
that AVG didn’t even get an
honorable mention. I’m not
trying to say that the other
virus-protection software
suites you mentioned are
bad, but I know that most
technically inclined people
I talk to swear by AVG. Not
to mention, the free version
is just straight hardcore for
being free.
–CPL Kirk Bater, USMC,
Helmand Province,
Afghanistan
DEPUTY EDITOR KATHERINE STEVENSON RESPONDS:
We’re sorry your favorite
app wasn’t represented. We
had to make hard choices in
selecting the AV products to
include in our roundup. But
as we noted in the intro to
the article, we plan to individually review all the major
players that we missed, AVG
included, throughout the
year in future issues of the
magazine.
,
MAXIMUMPC s
COMING IN
100 PERCENT
PUREBRED
AUGUST
ISSUE
The $690 PC*
Back by popular demand!
Last year’s super-affordable
$647 PC build was received
so enthusiastically that
we’re going to do it again.
As always, the goal is to
build the fastest possible
system with the fewest
Benjamins.
Massive Case
Roundup
If you want to find out what
happens when two men are
stuck in the Maximum PC
Lab for days with nothing
but cases around them,
tune in next month. We can’t
promise it will be pretty, but
the results will be useful. And
interesting.
From Office…
to Home Office
Theater
We’re going to show you
how to quickly and easily
transform a basic home office
setup into an awe-inspiring
dual-purpose room suitable
for productive tasks and bigscreen gaming and movies.
*Actual price of $690 PC may vary.
Do not taunt $690 PC or its creator,
Gordon Mah Ung.
maximumpc.com
JUL 2011
MAXIMUMPC
95
best of the best
a part-by-part guide to building a better pc
Sponsored by
HARDWARE
Get the latest prices at
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THE REST OF THE BEST
High-End Processor
Intel 3.46GHz Core i7-990X
www.intel.com
Budget Processor
Intel 3.3GHz Core i5-2500K
www.intel.com
LGA1155 Motherboard
Asus P8P67 Deluxe
www.asus.com
LGA1366 Motherboard
Asus Rampage III Extreme
www.asus.com
AM3 Motherboard
MSI 890FXA-GD70
www.msi.com
Price-No-Object GPU
Asus GeForce GTX 590
www.asus.com
Performance GPU
Asus ENGTX570
www.asus.com
Midrange GPU
MSI NGTX560 Ti Twin Frozr
OC
www.msi.com
Budget GPU
XFX Radeon HD 6850
www.xfxforce.com
Performance Hard Drive
OCZ Vertex 3 100GB
www.oczc.com
Air Cooling
Cooler Master Hyper 212+
www.coolermaster.com
CAPACITY
HARD DRIVE
High-End Cooler
Prolimatech Armageddon
www.prolimatech.com
Hitachi
DeskStar
7K3000
3TB
Blu-ray Drive
Plextor B940SA
www.plextor.com
Full-Tower Case
Corsair 800D
www.corsair.com
Mid-Tower Case
NZXT Phantom
www.nzxt.com
The age of the 3TB hard drive is finally here. With 7,200rpm 3TB
hard drives popping up all over the place, both capacity and performance can be yours. Hitachi's 3TB 7K3000 packs 64MB of
cache and rocks read and write speeds close to 120MB/s, all for
around $250. You'll need UEFI, GPT partitions, and a 64-bit OS to
boot from it, but even if you don't have those things, it makes for a
speedy and capacious storage drive. www.hitachigst.com
MAXIMUM PC (ISSN 1522-4279) is published 13 times a year, monthly plus
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96
MAXIMUMPC
JUL 2011
maximumpc.com
Speakers
Corsair SP2500
www.corsair.com
GAMES WE ARE PLAYING
Portal 2
www.thinkwithportals.com
Dead Space 2
www.deadspace.ea.com
Shogun 2: Total War
www.totalwar.com
Super Meat Boy
www.supermeatboy.com
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For even more Best of the Best entries, such as more speakers and budget components, go to www.maximumpc.com/best-of-the-best.
Midrange Processor
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K
www.intel.com
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