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Next-gen optical supremacy without any sacrifices
There are two big reasons LG’s GGW-H10NI Super Multi Blue (reviewed on page 75, $1,200, www.lge.com) is an obvious choice for this year’s Dream Machine. The first is versatility. The Super Multi Blue reads Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, so we’re free to watch any damn movie we want. Obviously, we’d love it if the drive could also write to both formats, but since consumer-priced HD DVD burners don’t exist, we’ll gladly settle for the Super Multi Blue’s superior Blu-ray burn speeds—reason number two. Spec’d at 4x, this burner can fill a single-layer BD-R disc in less than half an hour, versus the competition’s typical 45-minute run.
The LG drive’s 8x DVD+R burn speeds aren’t stellar, which is why we’re using our mobo’s sixth SATA port to run Asus’s DRW-1814BLT (reviewed August 2007, $50, www.asus.com). The 18x DVD drive affords us single-layer burns in less than six minutes.
Bring some boom into your room.
The GigaWorks S750 speakers ($500, www.creative.com) bear the Creative badge, but their Cambridge SoundWorks heritage is evident the moment you crank up the volume. That’s not to say Creative doesn’t make good audio products, just that its SoundWorks division knows how to design and build awesome speakers that are as easy on your ears as they are on your wallet.
The two additional two-way surrounds in this 7.1-channel system make a huge difference in positioning audio events around your head, and the thundering subwoofer, with its beefy 210-watt BASH amp, serves up scrumptious bass that punches you in the chest. These attributes render this speaker system absolutely perfect for gaming, listening to music, and watching movies on your PC.
Two screens, one heck of a panorama.
It’s true that Dell’s 2707 (reviewed May 2007, $1,400 each, www.dell.com) sports the same 1920x1200 resolution as its 24-inch sibling, but it’s a big step up as far as we’re concerned. Perhaps it’s our advancing age, but we like how everything from text, to icons, to thumbnail views gets a size boost on the 27-inch screen. That greater visibility comes in handy when your dual-display desktop spans nearly four feet from side to side!
Other niceties include the 2707’s stylish aesthetics, its accommodating ergo options, a plethora of inputs, a built-in four-port USB hub, and a 9-in-2 media reader. Shoot, one of these screens is decadent. Two are indeed the stuff of dreams.
Say boo to crappy onboard audio.
As long as we have breath in our nerd lungs, as long as there is sound in our ears, and as long as we have a slot to fill, we won’t accept noisy, host-based onboard sound—which in this case, is about as bad as can be thanks to the EVGA board’s damned EAX-cheating RealTek chipset. For DM ’07, discrete audio is essential. Don’t believe us? Plug a pair of earphones into your mobo’s audio, then try the X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Professional Series (reviewed April 2007, $120, www.soundblaster.com) — you’ll never want to go back. The subtle sound changes of a vehicle’s acoustic signature as it moves through different environments will give you reason enough to ditch onboard.
Without kick-ass input devices, our Dream Machine would be a wrist-crippling nightmare.
We could have picked a newfangled wireless keyboard for the ’07 Dream Machine and some sort of crazy three-dimensional mouse, but instead we went back to basics. With variable sensitivity, four easy-access buttons, and a tilting scroll wheel, Logitech’s second-generation G5 ($70, www.logitech.com) is the ultimate take-no-prisoners gaming mouse.
And our keyboard—the Keytronic Classic-U2, in black ($45, www.keytronic.com)—is just that, a classic. With superb key action and an incredible lifetime warranty, it’s hard to pass up. If we were weak-wristed and in need of ergonomic support, we’d pick up Microsoft’s Natural Keyboard 4000 instead, which remains our favorite orthopedic model.
Vista's not ready for full-time use, but a dual boot means it's ready when the time calls for it.
We’ve included Windows XP on every Dream Machine since 2001 because it’s fast and reliable, and we’re extremely comfortable with it. This year, we’re including Vista on the second partition of our Dream Machine in the hope that it will grow to fill Windows XP’s mighty shoes during the course of this rig’s life.
Gaming is, of course, our main reason for dual-booting this year. While the meager selection of Vista-only titles out now doesn’t inspire us—Shadowrun and Halo 2, pshaw—the future holds much promise. We can hardly wait for the DirectX 10 goodness coming down the pike in games like Crysis and Hellgate: London.
Simplicity meets sexy in Cooler Master's case.
Cooler Master’s Cosmos ($200, www.coolermaster-usa.com) is one of the nicest chassis we’ve ever tested, and that’s saying a lot, considering the bounty of enclosures we get in the Lab every month. CM certainly covered the bases with this one, as nearly everything is customized or customizable.
The front panel’s smooth, black door gives way to five grilled bay covers, which pop out with ease. You don’t need a screwdriver to install any 5.25-inch peripherals into the slots; the case’s proprietary mechanisms—simple push-button locking devices—make the process exceedingly simple.
Since we like our Dream Machine to look clean, we applaud Cooler Master’s foresight when it comes to cable management. From the pull-out hard drive bays to the design of the motherboard backboard, this case is built to be neat and tidy. Heck, the Cosmos even comes with handles on both the top and bottom that give the case a fresh style, assist in transportation, and improve airflow (by lifting the case’s inlets off your sweet shag carpet).