Windows 7 launches - Review and system builder guide Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:03

Unless you've been kidnapped by some race of MacOS or Linux-loving aliens, you'll probably have heard by some form or another that today is a big one for Microsoft, with Windows 7 finally hitting retail shelves to much celebration all-round.  If you want to know more about what this latest iteration of the Windows Operating System has to offer, why not head over and check out bit-tech's review?

Windows 7 takes a step back from Vista’s craziness, with just three main versions – Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate – with clearly defined feature sets. Microsoft has a great breakdown of what each of the three versions includes on its website and we've simplified this in the table below.

Windows 7 Home Premium establishes a baseline feature set, with the pricier versions adding more features. Crucially, no features are removed as you move up the price scale as they were on Vista, so every version of Windows 7 includes Media Center, for example. Microsoft includes both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of each version in the full retail box, but we’d recommend skipping the 32-bit version if your CPU supports x86-64 extensions, as it enables you to address more memory and register space, which can result in better application performance.

Meanwhile, if you're worried that your current PC isn't up to scratch to get the most out of Windows 7, then you might want to check out The Tech Report's guide to building your own system with this new OS in mind, aimed at everything from PC builders on a budget through to assembling the cream of the crop in hardware terms.

Before tackling our recommended systems, we should explain some of the rules and guidelines we used to select components. The guiding philosophy behind our choices was to seek the best bang for the buck. That means we avoided recommending super-cheap parts that are barely capable of performing their jobs, just as we generally avoided breathtakingly expensive products that carry a hefty price premium for features or performance you probably don't need. Instead, we looked to that mythical "sweet spot" where price and performance meet up in a pleasant, harmonic convergence. We also sought balance within each system configuration, choosing components that make sense together, so that a fast processor won't be bottlenecked by a skimpy graphics card or too little system memory, for instance. The end result, we hope, is a series of balanced systems that offer decent performance as configured and provide ample room for future expandability.

We confined our selections to components that are currently available online. Paper launches and preorders don't count, for obvious reasons. We also tried to stick to $500, $800 and $1200 budgets for our three cheapest desktop systems. Those budgets are loose guidelines rather than hard limits, to allow us some wiggle room for deals that may stretch the budget a little but are too good to resist.

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No USB 3.0 support from Intel chipsets until 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:54

If you were hoping that next year was going to plunge you into a world of even faster data transfers and devices courtesy of the new USB 3.0 standard, then think again - Intel have announced that they won't be including USB 3.0 support on any of their motherboard chipsets until 2011, thus delaying mainstream uptake of this new technology for at least another year.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Intel Corp.'s decision to wait until 2011 to support USB 3.0 in PC chip sets will put mainstream adoption of the interconnect on hold for a year, said a senior technology manager at a top tier PC maker.

The issue is the second to dog a major USB initiative, following the virtual collapse of ultrawideband-based wireless USB which is effectively dead, said the source who asked not to be named. In its place, interest is now building for 60 GHz technology, but separate industry groups need to unite to ensure the future of it, he added.

Without chip set support from Intel for USB 3.0 aka SuperSpeed USB, adoption in 2010 will be limited to "a few high-end graphics workstations and consumer systems," said the source. That's because system makers will be forced to buy discrete host controllers for their motherboards, a relatively high cost.

EETimes has more on the story.

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Elite Bastards review: ASUS Maximus III Gene motherboard Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 22 October 2009 09:23

ASUS' "Gene" branded solutions as part of their Republic of Gamers series have breathed new life into the micro-ATX motherboard market, and today we take a look at their latest high-end offering under that umbrella, the Maximus III Gene.  Featuring Intel's P55 chipset and an impressive feature set for its diminutive size, is it worthy of consideration for anyone looking to build a compact yet powerful new system?

The rear of the motherboard also holds one part of this offering's RoG Connect functionality - In essence, this gives you the opportunity to control, monitor and tweak certain elements of your system from a remote machine via software.  To do this, you can simply hook the Maximus III Gene up to another PC via the USB port you see above next to the analogue audio jacks using the bundled USB 2.0 cable, and then press the button to the left of said port.  As long as you have the RoG Connect software installed on the PC to which that cable is connected, you can then make a number of changes on-the-fly.

ASUS Maximus III Gene motherboard review

As always, your thoughts and comments on this review are most welcome, and can be left in our forum.

 
Modern Warfare 2 multi-player for the PC explained Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 08:02

Over the last couple of days an absolutely storm of controversy has erupted over Infinity Ward's plans for the multi-player component of their forthcoming title Modern Warfare 2 on the PC, which does away with the concept of dedicated servers in favour of what I suppose you could describe as a peer-to-peer approach.  The Four Zero Two 'blog attempts to explain exactly what it is that Infinity Ward are trying to achieve here, but I very much doubt that will do anything to placate PC gamers already fuming over this system on top of inflated prices and delays to their preferred version of this title.

When you want to player a multiplayer game on PC, in the past. You’d have to scroll through a Server Browser which listed every available server which was hosted by individual server admins. Each had their own private rules, mods, or ways of playing the game. Most players would also use the server browser to find just the best quality game (based on PING). With IWNET matchmaking, it takes all that into account for you. All you have to do is select the playlist (pre-set gametypes with custom rules) that fits the style of play you are in the mood for. When you do, it will automatically find you a game with the best performance, ping, and preferences based on your location and individual connection as well as matching you with players of your same SKILL. So you’re always guaranteed the best game performance for where you are and what connection you’re playing on as well as an equal game with other players of your same skill level, not rank, but skill level. It doesn’t mean you’ll just be thrown into a random game! It will put you in the game that will give you the smoothest gameplay possible without you having to manually find a server with the best ping.

You can read this explanation in full here.

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Next generation 3D rendering technology: Voxel Ray Casting Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 07:50

With GPUs becoming ever more powerful, and ever more suitable for general purpose tasks, we're starting to see people thinking outside of the box in terms of 3D graphics and beginning to look away from traditional rasterisation.  Typically, this has meant that eyes have been cast towards the use of ray tracing - However, a certain Mr. John Carmack has a rather different idea of how the future of 3D graphics could evolve.

“I think that ray tracing in the classical sense, of analytically intersecting rays with conventionally defined geometry, whether they be triangle meshes or higher order primitives, I’m not really bullish on that taking over for primary rendering tasks, which is essentially what Intel is pushing. There are large advantages to rasterization from a performance standpoint and many of the things that they argue as far as using efficient culling technologies to be able to avoid referencing a lot of geometry, those are really bogus arguments because you could do similar things with occlusion queries and conditional renders with rasterization. Head to head rasterization is just a vastly more efficient use of whatever transistors you have available.”

If John Carmack doesn’t seem all that excited about ray tracing, it’s not because he’s unusually conservative and wants to see triangle rasterization remain the unchallenged rendering technique. As reported here a year ago, John Carmack has his own idea of the future of real-time rendering, and it involves voxel ray casting. Since then, we’ve seen Jon Olick’s presentation at SIGGRAPH, and many details have been leaked. So it’s time to take a closer look at what id Software has in store for us.

Tom's Hardware has more on this fascinating train of thought.

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AMD vows to improve availability of ATI Radeon HD 5000 series graphics boards Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 07:45

If you're in the market for one of AMD's shiny new DirectX 11 graphics boards, then chances are you've suffered at least some level of pain and frustration actually finding the board you want available in stock.  Well, the good news is that AMD have at last admitted that availability is good enough, and have sworn to improve the situation in the coming weeks.  Let's hope they can deliver on that promise.

The chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices said that the company would be able to ship more ATI Radeon HD 5000-series graphics cards in the coming weeks. AMD admits that at present the situation with availability of the latest DirectX 11 graphics cards is improper. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is partly guilty of insufficient shipments of ATI Radeon HD 5000-series graphics cards.

“TSMC has made good progress with the 40nm technology. At this point our new ATI Radeon HD 5000 family is pulling on 40nm and as is always the case with the hot new product early in the launch: we are hand and mouth on supply. I expect that situation to improve over the coming weeks and months,” said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of AMD.

X-Bit Labs have the full story.

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Tuesday news round up Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 20:00

Yesterday, we examined HIS' Radeon HD 5770 1GB and CrossFire performance, so be sure to check out our results! Otherwise, here's the rest of the latest news and reviews from around the Internet.

CPUs, motherboards and video cards
- ASUS P7P55D Deluxe Motherboard video review at Motherboards
- MSI P55-GD80 LGA1156 Motherboard review at Hardware Canucks
- GIGABYTE P55-UD6 Motherboard review at Motherboards
- DFI LANParty Jr. GF9400 T2RS mATX Motherboard review at Tweak Town
- Gigabyte P55-UD6 Motherboard review at Digit Life
- ASUS P7P55D Deluxe LGA 1156 Motherboard review at Bjorn 3D
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 On Linux at Phoronix
- ASUS P7P55D EVO P55 LGA1156 Motherboard review at Benchmark Reviews
- ECS A785GM-M review at Pure Overclock
- Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H review at Bjorn 3D
- NVIDIA Developer Talks Openly About Linux Support at Phoronix

Cases, cooling and power supplies
- CoolAge Frozen Orb X120 Transform X120TF CPU Cooler review at Verdis Reviews
- NZXT Panzerbox Aluminum Mid-Tower Chassis review at Overclockers Online
- Ultra X4 1200W review at Pure Overclock
- Antec TruePower 750w review at XS Reviews
- Corsair TX950 950W PSU review at Jonny Guru
- Ultra X4 850W Power Supply review at Overclockers Online
- Ultra X4 1200W PSU review at Driver Heaven
- Evercool Buffalo CPU Cooler review at Hardware Secrets
- Ultra X4 600w and 1050w Power Supplies review at OCIA
- Ultra X4 850 W Power Supply review at Hardware Secrets
- Seasonic S12D 850W Power Supply review at Think Computers
- Nexus RX-6300 630 Watt Power Supply review at TechWare Labs
- Ultra X4 600 and 850 Watt Modular Power Supplies review at Pro-Clockers
- Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro CPU Cooler and MX-3 Thermal Paste review at Tweak Town

Storage and memory
- Vantec NexStar Universal Storage Adapter review at OCIA
- Kingston SSDNow V+ 64GB SSD review at HEXUS
- OCZ Z-Drive m84 PCI-Express SSD review at Hot Hardware
- Xigmatek Secure USD01 SATA HDD docking station review at Test Seek

Audio, video and input devices
- BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth Handsfree Kit review at Benchmark Reviews
- Razer Naga MMO Mouse review at Driver Heaven
- Steelseries Siberia V2 Headset review at Driver Heaven
- 23" Hannspree HF237HPB Widescreen 1080p HDMI LCD Monitor review at Test Freaks

Software and gaming
- Left4Dead Crash Course (PC) review at Driver Heaven
- How Far Has PC Gaming Come? at bit-tech
- Windows 7 - Part 1: Introducing Vista's Successor at HEXUS
- Windows 7 - Part 2: Deploying 7 at HEXUS
- Windows 7 - Part 3: User Interface at HEXUS
- Upgrading to Windows 7 at Test Freaks
- Seven Video Games that Shaped Mainstream Society at Future Looks
- The 50 Best (and Worst) Moments in Windows History at Maximum PC
- Xpenser review at Business Computing World

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AMD Athlon II X2 240e and X3 435 CPU reviews Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 19:18

ith the launch of Windows 7 now just days away, AMD's CPU division have been expending a lot of effort trying to release affordable mainstream processors to capture the expected flood of users looking to buy new, cheap systems.  Today sees another part of that strategy realised, with the launch of the AMD Athlon II X2 240e and X3 435.  Are they worthy of consideration if you're shopping for a new CPU on a tight budget?  Check out our list of reviews to below and decide for yourselves.

- Anandtech
- Bjorn 3D
- Extreme Overclocking
- Firing Squad
- Guru 3D
- Hi-Tech Legion
- Hot Hardware
- Overclockers Club
- PC Stats
- RB Mods
- Tom's Hardware
- X-Bit Labs

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CoolIT liquid cools the Radeon 5800 series Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 07:55

Back in June of this year, we had plenty of good things to say about CoolIT's Domino water cooling system for CPUs (which we'll soon be revisiting when coupled with an Intel LGA 1156 CPU incidentally), so what next for the company to try and continue this success?  It appears that next on the roadmap is water cooling for AMD's latest Radeon HD 5800 series graphics boards.

Taipei, Taiwan – October 20, 2009 - CoolIT Systems announces the latest development in graphics card cooling to maximize the performance capability of the latest AMD GPU technology, the ATI Radeon HD 5870. Unique to this new design is the creation of the universal liquid plate that will allow customers to use the advanced liquid cooling system to cool not only current graphics cards but also future cards. While the benefits of liquid cooling GPUs include lowering acoustics and maintaining lower core temperatures for increased reliability there is also the potential to enable higher performance clock settings. This factory sealed, maintenance free system will be demonstrated for the first time on AMD’s new Evergreen GPU architecture at the AMD TFE event in Taiwan on Oct 20.

“I think the implementation of the universal design has addressed the need for performance cooling in the GPU space with the added benefit of upgradeability.” said Dr. Gamal Refai-Ahmed, AMD Fellow and lead thermal architect, AMD Graphics Product Group. “Using the liquid system has a tremendous cooling advantage over traditional air cooling allowing our enthusiast community to push the limits of our latest architecture.”

Firing Squad has the full press release, together with a couple of images of the unit in question.

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Six-core AMD Istanbul in a desktop platform Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 07:46

With both AMD and Intel looking to move towards six-core CPUs at the high-end as we move forward, just what benefits could such a change hold for desktop PC users?  X-Bit Labs aims to find out, by using a server-centric six-core "Istanbul" CPU from AMD as part of a more traditional desktop system.

However, Istanbul core stands out of this rule: so far it has no desktop analogue. Although we can’t deny that Istanbul, just like Shanghai, is close to Deneb in microarchitecture. However, in this case the differences go beyond the memory controller and the number of HyperTransport busses. Istanbul has six computational cores on a single processor die, which makes these processors the most expensive solutions in the Opteron lineup: they are priced starting at $450. There is nothing surprising about it: Istanbul die size is 346 mm2, which is about 1/3 larger than Shanghai die. The six-core processor has 904 million transistors. All this fits onto a monolithic semiconductor die, which holds not only six computational cores each with 512 KB L2 cache, but also a shared 6 MB L3 cache.

Istanbul processors have three HyperTransport busses, which allow using them in dual-, quad- and eight-processor systems. As for the memory controller, Istanbul works with Registered dual-channel DDR2-800/667/533 SDRAM with or without ECC support in order to maintain compatibility with existing Socket F platforms. By the way, compatibility is another specifically stressed advantage of AMD server processors: Socket F platform was first introduced three years ago, but even the latest Istanbul CPUs work perfectly fine with any Socket F mainboards after reflashing the BIOS.

Read the article in full here.

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