Maximum PC - Reviews http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/40/feed en Asetek Wins Intellectual Property Lawsuit Against CMI http://www.maximumpc.com/asetek_wins_intellectual_property_lawsuit_against_cmi_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/asetek_logo.jpg" alt="Asetek Logo" title="Asetek Logo" width="200" height="188" style="float: right;" />Over $400,000 awarded to Asetek</h3> <p>Back in January 2013, <a title="Asetek website" href="http://asetek.com/" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Asetek</span></a> filed a suit against CMI USA Inc, formerly known as Cooler Master, for patent infringement on two of the patents held by the company. Asetek requested that CMI must cease and desist the production and sale of its Seidon <a title="MPC Seidon 120M Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/cooler_master_seidon_120m_review" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">120M</span></a>, 120XL, and 240M liquid cooling systems because the pumps were too similar to its own design. On Wednesday, a jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that <strong>CMI had infringed on Asetek’s patents</strong>.</p> <p>Asetek was awarded $404,841, a royalty of 14.5 percent, which was based on CMI’s infringing sales since 2012. The jury decided that CMI was infringing on US Patent No 8,240,362 and, after the trial began, CMI stipulated to infringement of Asetek’s US Patent No. 8,245,764. In addition, Asetek is seeking an injunction against CMI with a trial judge expected to set a hearing soon.</p> <p>“Although it is frustrating to have spent significant time and resources in a courtroom, it is rewarding to be vindicated in this way," said Asetek Founder and CEO André Sloth Eriksen. “We appreciate the value of competition, but it must be done on equal terms. We will not accept anyone blatantly copying the patented solutions that we have worked so hard to bring into the market.”</p> <p>Asetek is also continuing patent infringement cases against CoolIT Systems and AVC over the same two patents that CMI infringed. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asetek_wins_intellectual_property_lawsuit_against_cmi_2014#comments Asetek CMI CMI USA Cooler Master lawsuit liquid cooling liquid cooling system pump News Water Cooling Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:11:43 +0000 Sean D Knight 29119 at http://www.maximumpc.com HP Omen Review http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A good sign</h3> <p>The word “omen” generally connotes bad juju for most people. For some longtime PC enthusiasts, however, it evokes fond memories of Voodoo PC’s old beautiful and powerful desktops. While HP isn’t bringing Voodoo PC back from the grave, it hopes to pay homage to the Omen namesake by rebirthing it as a modern gaming notebook.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/hpomen.jpg" alt="HP Omen press shot" width="492" height="366" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Omen isn't the most powerful notebook, but it's one of the most polished.</strong></p> <p>Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the 15.6-inch HP Omen is one sleek-looking laptop, with its machined-aluminum chassis. The anodized black finish coupled with its thin 0.8 inch body gives the notebook some added sex appeal. It’s also really portable for its class, weighing four pounds, 11.9 ounces.</p> <p>While we were a little dismayed to hear that it uses a 1080p monitor, something we’ve seen dozens of times over, this isn’t some mediocre display. It uses an IPS panel that features a 72 percent color gamut, which provides beautiful, saturated colors. It also sports a touchscreen, which makes it the first gaming laptop we’ve reviewed that offers one.</p> <p>We were generally pleased with the keyboard, which offers seven customizable color zones that you can tweak using HP’s Omen Control Panel software. The keys themselves offer a satisfying amount of travel and feel quite tactile, as a result. You also get a column of six macro keys on the left side of the keyboard, which is rare to see in a notebook of this size. We weren’t enamored of the Omen’s trackpad, however. Measuring 5.5 inches across, it’s so wide that we often found our resting fingers interfering with our swiping gestures.</p> <p>On opposite ends of the trackpad are a pair of LED lights that pulsate with the sound of your audio. It’s a unique touch that gives the notebook added flair. The speakers themselves are quite good and offer decent volume firepower. Despite being licensed by Beats Audio, a company known for its bass-heavy emphasis, the audio here is balanced.</p> <p>Unlike the sexy chassis, the specs of the laptop aren’t super fancy. It uses a 2.5GHz i7-4710HQ processor for its CPU. For its graphics card, HP went with the GeForce GTX 860M, which is the de facto GPU for thin gaming notebooks. The base model comes with two gigs of GDDR5 VRAM, but ours included four. In regard to system RAM, configs starts out at 8GB, which is fine in most instances, but our maxed-out unit came with 16GB.</p> <p>CPU performance was pretty average, performing ever so slightly faster than our Alienware 14 zero-point’s 2.4GHz i7-4700MQ processor. In GPU perf, we saw respectable gains between 20 and 60 percent. In short, our graphics tests reminds us that the 860M is a midrange card. It will run the majority of modern games at high settings with smooth framerates, but don’t expect to max out games here.</p> <p>While the laptop’s performance didn’t blow us away, neither did its fans (pun intended). The Omen isn’t silent, but it’s very reasonable under load. We’d go so far as to say HP found the perfect balance between performance and acoustics. The laptop is able to keep its cool by using dual fans that pull in cool air from the bottom, which it expels through the back. A benefit of this design is that gamers won’t have to worry about warm wrists.</p> <p>When it came to battery life, the laptop was pretty average. The first time we ran our video-rundown test, the notebook lasted a mediocre 172 minutes. When we turned off all the fancy LED lights, we got an extra half hour. Our biggest concern with the Omen really pertained to storage. While we love the fact that it uses the faster M.2 PCIe standard, we’re a little put off that it doesn’t support traditional hard drives. This means you’re topped off at 512GBs. Luckily, the drive is really fast, and allowed the notebook to boot up in 11 seconds.</p> <p>The Omen may not be the most powerful notebook out there, but it’s extremely polished and well-designed. Everything from its looks, portability, and thermals are top notch. While our decked-out unit cost $2,100, if you’re looking for a more affordable configuration, we recommend going with the $1,800 model, which includes a 512GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and an 860M with 2GB of VRAM. It’s still a pretty good Omen.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014#comments Gaming Hardware HP Omen laptop notebook Thin voodoo pc Gaming Reviews Notebooks Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:45:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29111 at http://www.maximumpc.com Logitech K830 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/logitech_k830_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><span style="font-family: Calibri;"><span style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;"><strong>A premium HTPC keyboard with backlighting</strong></span></span></p> <p>People don’t just buy desktop keyboards, they have long-term monogamous relationships with them that last years. Hell, some editors we know just celebrated their fifth-year anniversary with their desktop keyboard (the traditional gift is wood, by the way).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/keyboard.jpg" style="text-align: center;" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The K830 is good but suffers from mushy-key syndrome.</strong></p> <p>It’s not that way with HTPC keyboards, though. No, HTPC keyboards are more like those “business” trips to Thailand. Just look at us for example: Over the last few years, we’ve not only stepped out with an assortment of no-name Bluetooth keyboards, we’ve also had flings with Logitech’s DiNovo Edge, DiNovo Mini, the K400, and even the K700 from Google and Logitech’s ill-fated Google TV product.</p> <p>The latest so-so pretty keyboard to catch our eye is Logitech’s K830. And what a beauty she is. Slightly wider than the K400 at 14.5-inches, the K830 has a feeling of heft and quality that the budget K400 lacks. The sexiest aspect of the K830 is its subtle white LED backlighting. The lighting has four steps: off, low, medium, and high, and once switched on, the volume and mute buttons also light up. Logitech also did the right thing by also illuminating all the characters of the keyboard. A lot of far more expensive gaming keyboards fail to do this, forcing you to guess which shifted keys to press for $#%^, among others.</p> <p>Also much improved is the trackpad, which has a luxuriously smooth surface and is slightly larger than the K400’s. Although we will say if Logitech had pushed the trackpad further into the corner of the keyboard, it would be easier to use the trackpad one-handed, as with the K700. In Logitech’s defense, the K830 is also a little too heavy to one-hand it for long sessions.</p> <p>With the power consumption of the LED, the possibility of running off of AAA alkalines is out—instead, Logitech uses a lithium ion, which charges through micro-USB. Logitech says that gives the K830 about ten days of runtime. That’s pretty poor when you consider that the K400 is rated to run for 12 months off of a pair of AAA’s. Realistically, though, you’re not going to be using the keyboard to type for ten days straight, so we’d expect more along the lines of a month or more, depending on the back-light levels.</p> <p>That brings us to us to the biggest ding against the K830—the actual keys. While the keyboard looks drop-dead sexy next to the K400 and K700, the keys are down-right mushy and just no fun to type on. Yes, you typically won’t be typing more than “Maximum PC No BS podcast” in the search bar of Youtube, but it’s a bit of a heart-breaker that the K830’s key action is its worst aspect. If you’re looking for hot keyboard action for typing-heavy duties, we’d recommend scrounging up an old K700, honestly. We will laude one thing Logitech did, though: The function keys have dedicated functions for such things as launching the browser and search rather than the function + F8 you’d typically find.</p> <p>One other thing to note, the K830 uses Logitech’s Unify USB dongles to connect to devices. Unify lets you run multiple devices simultaneously, which is great. What’s not great are so-called “smart” televisions that don’t support standard USB HID devices. We tried, for example, to hook the K830 up to a new Sony 65-inch Bravia 65W850A and had no joy despite the three USB ports on the set. So, if you intend to use the keyboard with your “smart” TV, we recommend you read the manual first.</p> <p>The last hang-up is the price. At $99, the K830 is far more expensive than its current siblings. But we will say one thing, it certainly looks better and feels better than them, too. It’s also not that expensive when compared to the Dinovo Edge, which sold for $200 minimum when new. Still, it’s not perfect. If Logitech could just combine the keys of the K700, move the trackpad a little farther into the corner, and shed a few grams, this could be the ultimate HTPC keyboard. As is, it’s good but not great.</p> <p>$99, <a href="http://www.logitech.com" target="_self">www.logitech.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/logitech_k830_review_2014#comments htpc keyboard Logitech K830 wireless Keyboards Reviews Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:55:39 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 28916 at http://www.maximumpc.com Blizzcon 2014: We Check Out the HP Omen Gaming Laptop at Intel's Booth [Video] http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_we_check_out_hp_omen_gaming_laptop_intels_booth_video_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/hp_omen.jpg" alt="HP Omen" title="HP Omen" width="200" height="138" style="float: right;" />Is it what PC gamers are looking for?</h3> <p>It is not all fun and games at Blizzcon 2014 for Maximum PC online managing editor Jimmy Thang. He has been busy recording video of the various vendors who are on the show floor of the convention taking place in Anaheim, California. Aside from seeing products from <a title="Gigabyte Blizzcon 2014" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_gigabyte_shows_new_brix_gaming_pc_and_top_tier_x99_motherboard_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Gigabyte</span></a>, Jimmy also visited the Intel booth where he was able to see the <strong>HP Omen gaming laptop</strong> up close and personal.</p> <p>Jimmy was able to talk to a rep about the HP Omen, which has been specifically designed for gaming and to handle triple-A games. The 15.6-inch laptop features an IPS touchscreen display with Full HD 1080p resolution and is powered by an Intel Core i7 4710HQ processor, contains 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and has a Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/FnmHos3yWlY?list=UUdLWXfNqKICJBpE8jVMm6_w" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: left;">HP’s gaming laptop was revealed <a title="HP Omen" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_sends_thin_and_light_omen_laptop_gaming_community_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">last Tuesday</span></a> and will weigh around 4.68 pounds, is 19.9mm thin, and features a solid aluminum chassis. The backlit keyboard can be programmed for millions of different colors and divided into zones, while the lights will pulsate along with any music that the user is listening or react to video games that are being played&nbsp;</p> <p>The HP Omen gaming laptop will have a starting price of $1,499.&nbsp;</p> <p>What do you think of HP’s new laptop?</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_we_check_out_hp_omen_gaming_laptop_intels_booth_video_2014#comments HP Omen HP Omen gaming laptop intel nvidia News Notebooks Sun, 09 Nov 2014 22:59:17 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 28870 at http://www.maximumpc.com Blizzcon 2014: Gigabyte Shows New Brix Gaming PC and Top-Tier X99 Motherboard [Video] http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_gigabyte_shows_new_brix_gaming_pc_and_top_tier_x99_motherboard_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/x99_ga_motherboard.jpg" alt="X99 Motherboard" title="X99 Motherboard" width="200" height="129" style="float: right;" />It’s not all about the games and cosplay</h3> <p>Blizzcon isn’t just a convention that revolves around all things Blizzard, such as the developer’s recently announced FPS game <a title="Overwatch article" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzard_announces_team-based_shooter_%E2%80%9Coverwatch%E2%80%9D" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Overwatch</span></a>.&nbsp; Vendors and manufacturers, such as <strong>Gigabyte,</strong> are also there to advertise their products. Maximum PC online managing editor Jimmy Thang took the time to visit the Gigabyte booth, where he got to see the new model of the Brix Gaming PC kit and check out the topitier x99 motherboard.</p> <p>The Brix Gaming PC kit was revealed <a title="Brix Gaming" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_adds_gaming_mini_pc_brix_family311" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">back in June</span></a>, and the i5 processor model was released back in September. Jimmy was able to speak to a Gigabyte representative who showed him the yet-to-be-released Brix Gaming kit with an i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 760 GPU. Unlike the i5 model's green color, the i7 version will come in black and is expected to be out during late November or sometime in December.</p> <p>Be sure to watch the video to learn more:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5WDmVGTS_KM?list=UUdLWXfNqKICJBpE8jVMm6_w" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Jimmy Thang also got to look at the GA-X99 Gaming G1 WIFI motherboard, which was one of three new X99 chipset mobos that was announced <a title="X99 motherboards" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/take_sneak_peek_three_upcoming_gigabyte_motherboards_haswell-e_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">back in August</span></a>. This is the top-tier mobo, and features a heatsink that lights up and blinks with the beat of your music. The lights will also pulsate on and off, and can of course be turned off if you aren't into that flashing lights thing. It also sports the LGA 2011 socket-v3 socket for Haswell-E processors and is the first generation to have DDR4 memory support.&nbsp;</p> <p>The GA-X99 Gaming G1 WIFI is expected to sell for around $350 and is currently available online.</p> <p>For additional details, check out the video:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/PsE1B53H1kQ?list=UUdLWXfNqKICJBpE8jVMm6_w" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_gigabyte_shows_new_brix_gaming_pc_and_top_tier_x99_motherboard_2014#comments Brix Gaming PC gigabyte Hardware X99 Motherboard Gaming News Motherboards Sun, 09 Nov 2014 02:49:03 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 28866 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Free Hardware Monitoring Tools http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Apps that regulate your rig’s internals</h3> <p>Making sure your rig’s temperatures, hardware, and clock speeds are running correctly is a good way to monitor your PC’s health. We always recommend stress-testing your shiny-new rig, or checking your hardware if you experience any stability issues that occur out of the blue. We’ve gathered up a list of the best free utilities you can use to make sure you have a healthy PC.</p> <p>Know of any other free monitoring tools? Let us know in the comments section below!</p> <p><strong><a title="CPU-Z" href="http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html" target="_blank">CPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/cpuid_cpu_z.png" alt="CPU-Z" title="CPU-Z" /></p> <p>CPU-Z tells you what’s going on with your CPU by giving you readouts of your Core Speed, Multiplier, Bus Speed, and your different cache levels. It also tells you the make and model of your motherboard and video card, along with your RAM speed and capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>We recommend using this tool if you have a preconfigured system from an OEM like Lenovo, HP, or Dell and need to find out your motherboard’s model number (if it isn’t printed on the board). The tool can also be used to monitor your CPU’s voltage, so it's overclocker friendly.</p> <p><strong><a title="GPU-Z" href="http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/SysInfo/GPU-Z/" target="_blank">GPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/gpu_z.png" alt="GPU-Z" title="GPU-Z" width="560" height="637" /></p> <p>GPU-Z gives you detailed readouts of your GPU’s clock speeds and memory size. You can use this tool to make sure that your video card is running at PCIe 3.0, as some boards run in 2.0 instead of 3.0 by default. You’ll look at the Bus Interface box to check out your video card's PCIe configuration.</p> <p><strong><a title="Furmark" href="http://www.ozone3d.net/benchmarks/fur/" target="_blank">Furmark:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/furmark.png" alt="Furmark" title="Furmark" width="600" height="453" /></strong></p> <p>Got GPU problems? Furmark is a fantastic tool if you’re getting blue screens during games and want to find out if your video card is the culprit. The utility gives your GPU a workload to max-out your video card. You’ll also see a temperature read from it, so you can see if your card is running hot.</p> <p><strong><a title="FRAPS" href="http://www.fraps.com/download.php" target="_blank">FRAPS:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/fraps.png" alt="FRAPS" title="FRAPS" width="600" height="370" /></strong></p> <p>Getting weird frame rate issues after freshly installing BF4 or Assassins Creed Black Flag? FRAPS will give you readouts of your real-time frame rate in-game, so you can see when and where you rig is starting to stutter. We like using this utility when a game is running poorly, so we can keep an eye on our frame rate during gameplay. We also use this tool to capture average frame rates of games that don’t come with benchmarking tools like BF4, Far Cry 3, and Crysis 3.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="Core Temp" href=" http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/" target="_blank">Core Temp:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/core_temp.png" alt="Core Temp" title="Core Temp" width="351" height="388" /></strong></p> <p>Unlike other utilities in this round-up of free apps, Core Temp tells you the individual temperatures of each of your CPU’s cores. We use this tool to make sure our processor isn’t running too hot. Core Temp also tells you the TDP, voltage, and power consumption of your&nbsp; CPU.</p> <p><strong><a title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" href="http://support.amd.com/en-us/download/desktop?os=Windows+7+-+64" target="_blank">AMD Catalyst Control Center:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/amd_overdrive.png" alt="AMD Catalyst Control Center" title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" width="600" height="573" /></strong></p> <p>AMD video card users can use AMD’s Catalyst Control center to monitor their video card’s performance. You’ll be able to change your GPU’s core and memory clock speeds by using AMD’s Overdrive utility, which is found in the performance tab of AMD’s Catalyst driver. You can also adjust your video card’s fan speed here.</p> <p><strong><a title="Prime 95" href="http://files.extremeoverclocking.com/file.php?f=205" target="_blank">Prime 95:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/prime_95_running.png" alt="Prime 95" title="Prime 95" width="600" height="378" /></strong></p> <p>Prime 95 puts your CPU through its paces by giving it a workload that will max-out your processor’s cores. We suggest using this utility if you’re having blue screen errors or freezing issues to make sure that your CPU isn’t the offender behind those infuriating messages.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="3DMark" href=" http://store.steampowered.com/app/223850/" target="_blank">3DMark:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/3dmark_demo.png" alt="3DMark" title="3DMark" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>3DMark is great for benchmarking your system’s overall performance, and the free demo version also shows you where your rig stacks up with other systems that have similar hardware. The paid version lets you run the Extreme benchmarks, which run in 1080p instead of the demo’s 720p default.</p> <p><strong><a title="Rainmeter" href="http://rainmeter.net/" target="_blank">Rainmeter:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/rainmeter.png" alt="Rainmeter" title="Rainmeter" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>Rainmeter is a simple widget that displays your CPU and RAM usage and also tells you how full your hard drive and/or SSD are.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="EVGA Precision X" href=" http://www.evga.com/precision/" target="_blank">EVGA Precision X:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/evga_precision_x.png" alt="EVGA Precision X" title="EVGA Precision X" width="600" height="471" /></strong></p> <p>Precision X is made by EVGA exclusively for Nvidia video cards. The tool allows you to check out your GPU clock speed and temperatures, and adjust your fan speeds, too. You can also overclock your GPU with the sliders, seen above. This tool displays your GPU's load, which we find quite handy.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014#comments apps benchmark components cpu id free furmark gpu z Hardware Hardware monitoring tools overclock pc monitor heat Software News Features Tue, 21 Oct 2014 23:41:16 +0000 Chris Zele 27117 at http://www.maximumpc.com Computer Upgrade Guide http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_upgrade_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Avoid the pitfalls and upgrade your computer like a pro</h3> <p>Building a new PC is a relatively easy task—you pick your budget and build around it. It’s not the same with upgrading a computer. No, upgrading an older computer can be as dangerous as dancing Footloose-style through a minefield. Should you really put $500 into this machine, or just buy a new one? Will that new CPU really be faster than your old one in the real world? Are you CPU-limited or GPU-limited?</p> <p>To help give you more insight on how to best upgrade a PC that is starting to show its age, follow along as we take three real-world boxes and walk you through the steps and decisions that we make as we drag each machine back to the future through smart upgrades. While our upgrade decisions may not be the same ones you would make, we hope that we can shed some light on our thought process for each component, and help you answer the eternal question of: “What should I upgrade?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.opener_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u154082/computer_upgrade.jpg" alt="computer upgrade" title="computer upgrade" width="620" height="533" /></a></p> <h3>Practical PC upgrading advice</h3> <p>There’s really two primary reasons to upgrade. The first is because you can—and believe us, we’ve upgraded just because “we could” plenty of times. Second, because you need to. How you define “need to” is very much a personal preference—there’s no way to put a hard number on it. You can’t say, “If I get a 5.11 in BenchMarkMark, I need to upgrade.” No, you need to determine your upgrade needs using everyday metrics like, “I will literally throw this PC through a window if this encode takes any longer,” or “I have literally aged a year watching my PC boot.” And then there’s the oldie: “My K/D at Call of Battlefield 5 is horrible because my graphics card is too slow.”</p> <p>Whether or not any of these pain points apply to you, only you can decide. Also, since this article covers very specific upgrades to certain components, we thought we’d begin with some broad tips that are universally applicable when doing the upgrade dance.</p> <h4>Don’t fix what’s not broken</h4> <p>One of the easiest mistakes to make with any upgrade plan is to upgrade the wrong component. The best example is someone who decides that his or her PC is “slow,” so they need to add RAM and take it from 8GB to 16GB, or even 16GB to 32GB. While there are cases where adding more RAM or higher-clocked RAM will indeed help, the vast majority of applications and games are pretty happy with 8GB. The other classic trap is deciding that a CPU with more cores is needed because the machine is “slow” in games. The truth is, the vast majority of games are coded with no more than four cores in mind. Some newer games, such as Battlefield 4, do indeed run better with Hyper-Threading on a quad-core or a six-core or more processor (in some maps) but most games simply don’t need that many cores. The lesson here is that there’s a lot of context to every upgrade, so don’t just upgrade your CPU willy-nilly on a hunch. Sometimes, in fact, the biggest upgrade you can make is not to upgrade.</p> <h4>CPU-bound</h4> <p>You often hear the term “CPU-bound,” but not everyone understands the nuances to it. For the most part, you can think of something being CPU-bound when the CPU is causing a performance bottleneck. But what exactly is it about the CPU that is holding you back? Is it core or thread count? Clock speeds, or even microarchitecture efficiency? You’ll need to answer these questions before you make any CPU upgrade. When the term is used in association with gaming, “CPU-bound” usually indicates there is a drastic mismatch in GPU power and CPU power. This would be evident from, say, running a GeForce Titan in a system with a Pentium 4. Or say, running a Core i7-4960X with a GeForce 8800GT. These are extreme cases, but certainly, pairing a GeForce Titan or Radeon 290X with a low-end dual-core CPU will mean you would not see the most performance out of your GPU as you could with a more efficient quad-core or more CPU. That’s because the GPU depends on the CPU to send it tasks. So, in a CPU-bound scenario, the GPU is waiting around twiddling its thumbs most of the time, since the CPU can’t keep up with it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.nehalem_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.nehalem_small.jpg" alt="One of the trickier upgrades is the original LGA1366 Core i7 chips. Do you upgrade the chip, overclock it, or just dump it?" width="620" height="605" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>One of the trickier upgrades is the original LGA1366 Core i7 chips. Do you upgrade the chip, overclock it, or just dump it?</strong></p> <h4>GPU-bound</h4> <p>The situation can be reversed, too. You can indeed get GPU-bound systems by running older or entry-level graphics with a hopped-up CPU. An example could be a Haswell Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.5GHz paired with say, an entry-level GeForce GTX 750. You will certainly get the best frame rate out of the GPU possible, but you probably did not need the overclocked Haswell to do it. You could have kept that entry-level GPU well-fed with instructions using a cheaper Core i5-4670K or AMD FX part. Still, the rule of thumb with a gaming machine is to invest more in the GPU than the CPU. If we had to make up a ratio though, we’d say your CPU can cost half that of your GPU. A $500 GPU would be good with a $250 CPU and a $300 GPU would probably be OK with a $150–$170 CPU.</p> <h4>You can ignore the GPU sometimes</h4> <p>Keep in mind, this GPU/CPU relationship is in reference to gaming performance. When it comes to application performance, the careful balance between the two doesn’t need to be respected as much, or even at all. For a system that’s primarily made for encoding video, photo editing, or other CPU-intensive tasks, you’ll generally want as fast a CPU as possible on all fronts. That means a CPU with high clocks, efficient microarchitecture, and as many cores and threads possible will net you the most performance. In fact, in many cases, you can get away with integrated graphics and ignore discrete graphics completely. We don’t recommend that approach, though, since GPUs are increasingly becoming important for encoding and even photo editing, and you rarely need to spend into the stratosphere to get great performance. Oftentimes, in fact, older cards will work with applications such as Premiere Pro or Photoshop, while the latest may not, due to drivers and app support from Adobe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Core 2 Quad box</h3> <p><strong>A small Form Factor, Light-Gaming Rig before SFF was popular</strong></p> <p>This small box has outlived its glory days, but with a modest injection of capital and a few targeted upgrades, we’ll whip it back into shape in no time. It won’t be able to handle 4K gaming, but it’ll be faster than greased lightning and more than capable of 1080p frag-fests.</p> <p>This particular PC could have very easily resided on the desktop of any Maximum PC staffer or reader back in the year 2009. We say that because this is, or was, actually a pretty Kick Ass machine in the day. It was actually a bit ahead of its time, thanks to its combination of benchmark-busting horsepower and small, space-saving dimensions. This mini-rig was probably used for light gaming and content creation, with its powerful CPU and mid-tier GPU. As far as our business here goes, its diminutive size creates some interesting upgrade challenges.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone SG03/500w</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core 2 Quad QX6800</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus P5N7A- VM</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4GB DDR2/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">GeForce 9800 GT</td> <td><strong>EVGA GTX 750 Ti<br /></strong></td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>500GB 7,200rpm WD Caviar</td> <td>240GB OCZ Vertex 460</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>DVD burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Misc.</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>USB 3.0 add-in card</td> <td>$12</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$330</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p>It’s built around a Silverstone SG03 mini-tower, which is much shorter and more compact than the SFF boxes we use nowadays. For example, it can only hold about nine inches of GPU, and puts the PSU directly above the CPU region, mandating either a stock cooler or a low-profile job. So, either way, overclocking is very much out of the question. Water-cooling is also a non-starter, due to the lack of space for a radiator either behind the CPU area or on the floor of the chassis. In terms of specs, this system isn’t too shabby, as it’s rocking an LGA 775 motherboard with a top-shelf Core 2 Quad “Extreme” CPU and an upper-midrange GPU. We’d say it’s the almost exact equivalent of a $2,000 SFF gaming rig today. The CPU is a 65nm Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Extreme QX6800, which at the time of its launch was ludicrously expensive and the highest-clocked quad-core CPU available for the Core 2 platform at 2.93GHz. The CPU is plugged into an Asus P5N7A-VM motherboard, which is a microATX model that sports an nForce 730i chipset, supports up to 16GB of RAM, and has one PCIe x1 slot in addition to two PCI slots, and one x16 PCI Express slot. GPU duties are handled by the venerable GeForce 9800 GT, and it’s also packing 4GB of DDR2 memory, as well as a 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive. Its OS is Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit.</p> <h4>Lets dig in</h4> <p>The first question that crossed our minds when considering this particular machine’s fate was, “Upgrade certain parts, or go whole-hog with a new motherboard/CPU/RAM?” Sure, this is Maximum PC, and it would be easy to just start over. But that’s not really an upgrade; that’s more like open-heart surgery. Besides, where’s the challenge in that? Anyone can put together a new system, so we decided to buckle down, cinch up our wallets, and go part-by-part.</p> <p>Starting with the motherboard, CPU, and RAM, we decided to leave those as they were. For Intel at the time, this CPU was as good as it gets, and the only way to upgrade using the same motherboard and chipset is to move to a Yorkfield quad-core CPU. That’s a risky upgrade, though, for two reasons. First, not all of those 45nm chips worked in Nvidia’s nForce chipset, and second, benchmarks show mostly single-digit percent performance increases over Kentsfield. So, you’d have to be crazy to attempt this upgrade. We also deemed its 4GB of DDR2 to be satisfactory, since we’re running a 32-bit OS and anything over 4GB can’t be seen by it. If we were running a 64-bit OS, we’d upgrade to 8GB as a baseline amount of memory, though. We’re not happy about the motherboard’s SATA 3Gb/s ports, and the lack of a x2 PCIe slot is a problem, but SATA 3Gb/s is fast enough to handle any late-model hard drive, or an SSD upgrade. Another problem area is its bounty of 12 USB 2.0 ports. We appreciate the high number of ports, but USB 2.0 just plain sucks, so we added a PCIe USB 3.0 adapter, which gave us four SuperSpeed ports on the back of the chassis.</p> <p>One area ripe for upgrade is the GPU, because a GeForce 9800 GT is simply weak sauce these days. It was actually a rebadge of the 8800 GT when it arrived in 2009. This GPU was actually considered to be the low-end of the GeForce family when it arrived, as there were two models above it in the product stack—the 9800 GTX and the dual-GPU 9800 GX2. This single-slot GPU was only moderately powered at the time and features 112 shader processors clocked at 1,500MHz, and 512MB of GDDR3 clocked at 1.5GHz on a 256-bit memory bus. Since this system has limited space and only a single six-pin PCIe connector, we decided to upgrade the GPU to the Sapphire Radeon R7 265, which is our choice for the best $150 GPU. Unfortunately, the AMD card did not get along at all with our Nvidia chipset, so we ditched it in favor of the highly clocked and whisper-quiet EVGA GTX 750 Ti, which costs $159. This will not only deliver DX11 gaming at the highest settings at 1080p, but will also significantly lower the sound profile of the system, since this card is as quiet as a mouse breaking wind.</p> <p>Another must-upgrade part was the 500GB WD hard drive. As we wrote elsewhere, an SSD is a must-have in any modern PC, and we always figured it could make an aging system feel like new again, so this was our chance to try it in the real world. Though we wanted to upgrade to a 120GB Samsung 840 EVO, we couldn’t get our hands on one, so we settled for a larger and admittedly extravagant OCZ Vertex 460 240GB for $160. We decided to leave the OS as-is. Despite all the smack talk it received, Windows Vista SP2 was just fine.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_3_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_3_small.jpg" width="620" height="404" /></a></p> <h4>Real-World Results</h4> <p>Since we upgraded the GPU and storage subsystem, we’ll start with those results first. With the SSD humming along, our boot time was sliced from 1:27 to 1:00 flat, which is still a bit sluggish but doesn’t tell the whole story. Windows Vista felt instantly “snappy,” thanks to the SSD’s lightning-fast seek times. Everything felt fast and responsive, so though we didn’t get a sub-20-second boot time like we thought we would, we still gained a very noticeable increase in day-to-day use of the machine. For the record, we blame the slow boot time on the motherboard or something with this install of Vista, but this is still an upgrade we’d recommend to anyone in a similar situation. Interestingly, we also saw a boost in one of our encoding benchmarks, which could be due to the disk I/O, as well. For example, Sticth.Efx 2.0 dropped from 41 minutes to 36 minutes, which is phenomenal. Stitch.Efx creates in excess of 20,000 files, which will put a drag on a 500GB hard drive.</p> <p>Our gaming performance exploded, though, going from 11fps in Heaven 4.0 to 42fps. In Batman: Arkham Origins, we went from a non-playable 22 fps to a smooth 56fps, so anyone who thinks you need a modern CPU for good gaming performance is mistaken (at least for some games); the GPU does most of the heavy lifting in gaming. We also got a major reduction in case temps and noise by going from the hot-and-loud 9800 GT to the silent-and-cool GTX 750 Ti. The old card ran at 83 C under load, while the new one only hit 53 C, and made no noise whatsoever.</p> <h4>No regrets</h4> <p>Since we couldn’t do much with the motherboard/CPU/RAM on this board without starting fresh, we upgraded what we could and achieved Kick Ass real-world results from it, so this operation upgrade was very successful. Not only does it boot faster and feel ultra-responsive, it’s also ready for at least another year of gaming, thanks to its new GPU. Plus, with USB 3.0 added for storage duties, we can attach our external drives and USB keys and expect modern performance. All-in-all, this rig has been given a new lease on life for just a couple hundies—not bad for a five-year-old machine.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15 64-bit</td> <td class="item-dark">WNR</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">WNR</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,060</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">3,334 <strong>(-8%)</strong></span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,481</td> <td>2,166</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>90</td> <td>60</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>22</td> <td>56 <strong>(+155%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">11</td> <td>42<strong> (+282%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <hr /></div> <h3>Skeleton Rises</h3> <p><strong>Flying the AMD flag</strong></p> <p>Our second rig flies the AMD “Don’t Underclock Me” flag. You know the type. No matter how wide a gap Intel opens up with its latest CPU techno-wonder, this AMD CPU fanboy won’t switch until you pry that AM3 CPU from his cold, dead motherboard. In fact, the bigger the performance gap with Intel, the deeper this fanboy will dig in his heels.</p> <p>The box itself is built around the eye-catching and now discontinued Antec Skeleton open-air chassis. It draws a lot of whistles from case aficionados when they walk by, but truth be told, it’s really not great to work in and not exactly friendly to upgrading. The base machine parts are pretty respectable, though. The mainboard is an Asus Crosshair IV (CHIV) Formula using the AMD 890FX chipset, with a quad-core 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955 and GeForce GTX 570 graphics. For the record, this machine was not built by us, nor do we know who built it, but the original builder made the typical error of inserting the pair of 2GB DDR3/1066 DIMMs into the same channel memory slots, causing the sticks to run in single-channel mode instead of dual-channel. As any salty builder knows, there’s a reason the phrase “RTFM” exists. For storage, the machine packs a single 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive and a DVD burner. Power is handled by an AntecTruePower 750, which is plenty for a rig like this. Cooling is a stock AMD affair with dual heat pipes.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Antec Skeleton / TruePower 750</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">4GHz FX-8350 Black Edition</span></td> <td>$199</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Crosshair IV Formula</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4GB DDR3/1066 in single-channel mode</td> <td>8GB DDR3/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>$40</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">EVGA GeForce GTX 570 HD</td> <td>Asus GTX760-DC2OC-2GD5<strong><br /></strong></td> <td>$259</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>1TB 7,200 Hitachi</td> <td>256GB Sandisk Ultra</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>DVD burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$657</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h4>The easy upgrade path</h4> <p>All in all, it’s not a bad PC, but the most obvious upgrade was storage. It’s been a long time since we used a machine with a hard drive as the primary boot device, and having to experience it once again was simply torture. We’re not saying we don’t love hard drives—it’s great to have 5TB of space so you never have to think about whether you have room to save that ISO or not—just not as the primary boot device. Our first choice for an upgrade was a 256GB Sandisk Ultra Plus SSD for $159. We thought about skimping for the 128GB version, but then figured it’s worth the extra $60 to double the capacity—living on 128GB is difficult in this day and age. The SSD could easily be moved to a new machine, too, as it’s not tied to the platform.</p> <p>The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Pro, so there’s no need to “upgrade” to Windows 8.1. No, we’d rather put that $119 into the two other areas that need to be touched up. The GPU, again, is the GeForce GTX 570. Not a bad card in its day, but since the Skeleton’s current owner does fair bit of gaming, we decided it was worth it to invest in a GPU upgrade. We considered various options, from the GeForce GTX 770 to a midrange Radeon R9 card, but felt a GeForce GTX 760 was the right fit, considering the system’s specs. It simply felt exorbitant to put a $500 GPU into this rig. Even the GTX 770 at $340 didn’t feel right, but the Asus GTX760-DC2OC-2GD5 gives us all the latest Nvidia technologies, such as ShadowPlay. The card is also dead silent under heavy loads.</p> <p>Our next choice was riskier. We definitely wanted more performance out of the 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955 using the old “Deneb” cores. The options included adding more cores by going to a 3.3GHz Phenom II X6 1100T Thuban, but all we’d get is two more cores and a marginal increase in clock speed. Since the Thuban and Deneb are so closely related, there would be very little to be gained in microarchitecture upgrades. X6 parts can’t be found new, and they fetch $250 or more on eBay. As any old upgrading salt knows, you need to check the motherboard’s list of supported chips before you plug in. The board has an AM3 socket, but just because it fits doesn’t mean it works, right? Asus’ website indicates it supports the 3.6GHz FX-8150 “Zambezi” using the newer Bulldozer core, but the Bulldozer didn’t exactly blow us away when launched and they’re also out of circulation. (Interestingly, the FX-8150 sells for less than the Phenom II X6 chips.) Upgrading the motherboard was simply out of the question, too. Our last option was the most controversial. As we said, you should always check the motherboard maker first to find out what chips are supported.</p> <p>After that, you should then check to see if some other adventurous user has tried to do it anyway: “Damn the CPU qual list, full upgrade ahead!” To our surprise, yes, several anonymous Internet forums have indeed dropped the 4GHz FX-8350 “Vishera” into their CHIV boards with no reported of issues. That FX-8350 is also only $199—cheaper than a used X6 part. We considered overclocking the part, but the Skeleton’s confines make it pretty difficult. It’s so tight that we had issues putting the GeForce GTX 760 in it, so using anything larger than the stock cooler didn’t make sense to us. We’re sure you can find a cooler that fit, but nothing that small would let us overclock by any good measure, so it didn’t seem prudent.</p> <h4 style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_2_small.jpg" width="620" height="401" /></a></h4> <h4>Was it worth it?</h4> <p>Let’s just say this again if it’s not clear to you: If you are running a hard drive as your boot device, put this magazine down and run to the nearest store to buy an SSD. Yes, hard drives are that slow compared to SSDs. In fact, if we had money for only one upgrade, it would be the SSD, which will make an old, slow machine feel young again. This machine, for example, would boot to the desktop in about 38 seconds. With the SSD, that was cut down to 15 seconds and general usability was increased by maybe 10 million percent.</p> <p>Our CPU upgrade paid off well, too. AMD’s Vishera FX-8350 offers higher clock speeds and significant improvements in video encoding and transcoding. We saw an 83 percent improvement in encoding performance. The eight cores offer a huge advantage in thread-heavy 3D modelling, as well. We didn’t get the greatest improvement with Stitch.Efx 2.0, but the app is very single-threaded initially. Still, we saw a 30 percent increase, which is nothing to sneeze at.</p> <p>In gaming, we were actually a bit disappointed with our results, but perhaps we expected too much. We tested using Batman: Arkham Origins at 1080P with every setting maxed out and saw about a 40 percent boost in frame rates. Running Heaven 4.0 at 1080P on max we also saw about a 42 percent increase in frame rate. Again, good. But for some reason, we expected more.</p> <h4>Regrets, I’ve had a few</h4> <p>PC upgrades can turn into a remorsefest or an inability to face the fact that you made the wrong choice. With our upgrades, we were generally pleased. While some might question the CPU upgrade (why not just overclock that X4?), we can tell you that no overclock would get you close to the FX-8350 upgrade in overall performance. The SSD upgrade can’t be questioned. Period. End of story. The difference in responsiveness with the SSD over the 1TB HDD is that drastic.</p> <p>When it comes to the GPU upgrade, though, we kind of wonder if we didn’t go far enough. Sure, a 40 percent performance difference is the difference between playable and non-playable frame rates, but we really wanted to hit the solid 50 percent to 60 percent mark. That may simply be asking too much of a two-generation GPU change, not going all the way to the GeForce GTX 570’s spiritual replacement: the GeForce GTX 770. That would actually put us closer to our rule of thumb on a gaming rig of spending about half on your CPU as your GPU, but the machine’s primary purpose isn’t just gaming, it’s also content creation.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15</td> <td class="item-dark">326</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">641</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,276</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,794</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,950</td> <td>1,500</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>37.9</td> <td>15 <strong>(+153%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>58</td> <td>81</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">29.5</td> <td>41.9<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <hr /></div> <h3>One Dusty Nehalem</h3> <p><strong>The original Core i7 still has some juice</strong></p> <p>It’s easy to make upgrade choices on an old dog with AGP graphics and Pentium 4, or even a Core 2 Duo on an obsolete VIA P4M890 motherboard (yes, it exists, look it up.) When you get to hardware that’s still reasonably fast and relatively “powerful,” the upgrade choices you have to make can get quite torturous.</p> <p>That’s certainly the case with this PC, which has an interesting assortment of old but not obsolete parts inside the Cooler Master HAF 922 case. We’ve always been fans of the HAF series, and despite being just plain-old steel, the case has some striking lines. It does, however, suffer from a serious case of dust suckage. Between the giant fan in front and various other fans, this system was chock-full of the stuff.</p> <p>The CPU is the first-generation Core i7-965 with a base clock of 3.2GHz and a Turbo Boost of 3.46GHz. That may seem like a pretty mild Turbo, but that’s the way it was way back in 2008, when this chip was first released. It’s plugged into an Asus Rampage II Extreme motherboard using the X58 chipset, and running 6GB of DDR3/1600 in triple-channel mode.</p> <p>In graphics, it’s also packing some heat with the three-year-old GeForce GTX 590 card. For those who don’t remember it, the card has two GPU cores that basically equal a pair of GeForce GTX 570 cards in SLI. There was a secondary 1TB drive in the machine, but in the state we got it, it was still using it’s primary boot device—a 300GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm hard drive that was 95 percent stuffed with data. Oh, and the OS is also quite vintage, with 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master HAF 922 / PC Power and Cooling 910</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Rampage II Extreme</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>Corsair Hydro Cooler H75</td> <td>$69</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>6GB DDR3/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">GeForce GTX 590</td> <td>No Change</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>300GB 10,000rpm WD Raptor, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi </td> <td>256GB Sandisk Ultra</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>Lite-On Blu-Ray burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate </td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$277</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h4>Always Be Upgrading The SSD</h4> <p>Our first upgrade decision was easy—SSD. In its day, the 300GB Raptor was the drive to have for its performance, but with the drive running at 90 percent of its capacity, this sucker was beyond slow. Boot time on the well lived-in Vista install was just over two minutes. Yes, a two-minute boot time. By moving to an SSD and demoting the Raptor to secondary storage, the machine would see an immediate benefit in responsiveness. For most people who don’t actually stress the CPU or GPU, an SSD upgrade is actually a better upgrade than buying a completely new machine. And yes, we fully realize the X58 doesn’t have support for SATA 6Gb/s, but the access time of the SSD and pretty much constant read and writes at full bus speed will still make a huge difference in responsiveness.</p> <p>The real conundrum was the CPU. As we said, this is the original Core i7, a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading and support for triple-channel RAM. The CPU’s base clock is 3.2GHz. It is an unlocked part, but the chip is sporting a stock 130W TDP Intel cooler. Believe it or not, this is actually how some people build their rigs—they buy the overclocked part but don’t overclock until later on, when they need more performance. Well, we’re at that point now, but we knew we weren’t going very far with a stock Intel cooler, so we decided that this was the time to introduce a closed-loop liquid cooler in the form of a Corsair H75. Our intention was to simply overclock and call it a day, but when we saw some of the performance coming out of the AMD Skeleton, we got a little jealous. In two of our tests for this upgrade story, the AMD FX-8350 was eating the once-mighty Nehalem’s lunch. Would overclocking be enough? That got us wondering if maybe we should take the LGA1366 to its next-logical conclusion: the Core i7-970. The Core i7-970 boasted six cores with Hyper-Threading for a total of 12 threads. It has the same base clock of 3.2GHz and same Turbo Boost of 3.46GH, but it uses the newer and faster 32nm “Westmere” cores. Long since discontinued, it’s easy to find the chips used for about $300, which is about half its original price. This is that conundrum we spoke of—while the Westmere would indeed be faster, especially on thread-heavy tasks such as video encoding and 3D modeling, do we really want to spend $300 on a used CPU? That much money would almost get us a Core i7-4770K, which would offer far more performance in more apps. Of course, we’d have to buy a new board for that, too. In the end, we got cold feet and decided to stick with just an overclock.</p> <h4>Windows Vista Works</h4> <p>Even our OS choice had us tied up. There’s a reason Windows Vista was a hated OS when it was released. It was buggy, slow, and drivers for it stunk. For the most part, though, Windows Vista turned into a usable OS once Service Pack 1 was released, and Service Pack 2 made it even better. While we’d never buy Vista over Windows 7 today, it’s actually functional, and the performance difference isn’t as big as many believe it to be, when it’s on a faster system. The only real shortcoming of Windows Vista is the lack of trim support for the SSD. That means the build would have to have the SSD manually optimized using the drive’s utility, or we’d have to count on its garbage collection routines. For now, we’d rather put the $119 in the bank toward the next system build with, perhaps, Windows 9.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image1_small.jpg" width="620" height="403" /></a></p> <p>Even more difficult was our choice on the GPU. The GeForce GTX 590 was a top-of-the-line card and sold for $700 in 2011. Obviously, this card was put into the system after the box was initially built, so it has had one previous upgrade. In looking at our upgrade options, our first thought was to go for something crazy—such as a second GTX 590 card. They can be found used for about $300. That would give the machine Quad SLI performance at far less the cost of a newer top-tier GPU. That fantasy went up in smoke when we realized the PC Power and Cooling Silencer 910 had but two 8-pin GPU power connectors and we’d need a total of four to run Quad SLI. Buying another expensive PSU just to run Quad SLI just didn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things, since the PSU is perfectly functional and even still under warranty. Once the second GTX 590 was ruled out, we considered a GeForce GTX 780 Ti as an option. While the 780 Ti is a beast, we came to the realization that the GTX 590 honestly still has plenty of legs left, especially for gaming at 1080p. The 780 Ti is indeed faster by 20 to 50 percent, but we decided not to go that route, as the machine still produces very passable frame rates.&nbsp; In the end, we spent far less upgrading this machine than the other two. But perhaps that makes sense, as its components are much newer and faster than the other two boxes.</p> <h4>Post-upgrade performance</h4> <p>With our only upgrades on this box being an overclock and an SSD, we didn’t expect too much—but we were pleasantly surprised. Our mild overclock took the part to 4GHz full-time. That’s 800MHz over the base clock speed. In Cinebench R15, the clock speed increase mapped pretty closely to the performance difference. In both ProShow Producer and Stitch.Efx, though, we actually saw greater performance than the simple overclock can explain. We actually attribute the better performance to the SSD. While encoding tasks are typically CPU-bound, disk I/O can make a difference. Stitch.Efx also spits out something on the order 20,000 files while it creates the gigapixel image. The SSD, of course, made a huge difference in boot times and system responsiveness, even if it wasn’t on a SATA 6Gb/s port.</p> <h4>Regrets</h4> <p>Overall, we were happy with our upgrade choices, with the only gnawing concern being not upgrading the GPU. It just ate us up knowing we could have seen even better frame rates by going to the GTX 780 Ti. But then, we also have $750 in our pocket that can go toward the next big thing.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15 64-bit</td> <td class="item-dark">515</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">617</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>2,119</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,641<strong>&nbsp;</strong></span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>983</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>126</td> <td>18&nbsp; <strong>(+600%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>86</td> <td>87</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">68.2</td> <td>68.7</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>How to upgrade from Windows XP</h3> <p><strong>It’s game over, man!</strong></p> <p>Stick a fork in it. It’s done. Finito. Windows XP is a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace… on a considerable number of desktops worldwide, much to Microsoft’s chagrin.</p> <p>You’ve read Microsoft’s early-2012 announcement. You’ve seen all the news since then: the warnings, the pleas, the tomes of comments from frustrated users who wish they could just have a fully supported Windows XP until the launch of Windows 20. If you were a holdout, you even got a few pop-ups directly in your operating system from Microsoft itself, imploring you to switch on up to a more powerful (re: supported) version of Windows. So says Microsoft:</p> <p>“If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer should still work, but it will become five times more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. And as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, a greater number of programs and devices like cameras and printers won’t work with Windows XP.”</p> <p>There you have it: Keep on keepin’ on with Windows XP and you’ll slowly enter the wild, wild west of computing. We can’t say that your computer is going to be immediately infected once you reach a set time period past what’s been chiseled on the operating system’s tombstone. However, the odds of you suffering an attack that Microsoft has no actual fix for certainly increase. You wouldn’t run a modern operating system without the latest security patches; why Windows XP?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_4_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_4_small.jpg" width="620" height="397" /></a></p> <p>So, what’s a person to do? Upgrade, obviously. We do warn in advance that if your current Windows XP machine is chock-full of legacy apps (or you’re using more antiquated hardware like, dare we say it, a printer attached to a parallel port), then you might find that upgrading to a newer version of the OS ruins the experience you previously had. For that, we can only suggest taking advantage of the ability of newer versions of Windows to support virtualized Windows XP environments—Windows 7 supports the Virtual PC–based “Windows XP Mode” natively, whereas those on Windows 8 can benefit from freeware like Virtualbox to run a free, Microsoft-hosted download of a virtualized Windows XP.</p> <p>As for what you should upgrade to, and how, we’re recommending that you go with Windows 8—unless you can find Windows 7 for extremely cheap. Microsoft has greatly improved resource use in its flagship OS, in addition to streamlining startup times, adding more personalization, and beefing up security. Windows 8 has far more time before its end-of-life than Windows 7, even though, yes, you’ll have to deal with the Modern UI a bit when you make your upgrade.</p> <h3>Step-by-Step Upgrade Guide</h3> <p><strong>Anyone can upgrade, but there is a right way and wrong way</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_3_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_3_small.jpg" alt="The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a bit more useful than the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant in terms of actionable items that you’ll want to know about. Doesn’t hurt to run both!" width="620" height="457" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a bit more useful than the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant in terms of actionable items that you’ll want to know about. Doesn’t hurt to run both!<br /></strong></p> <p>Will your legacy system even run a modern version of Windows? That’s the first thing you’re going to want to check before you start walking down the XP-to-8 upgrade path. Microsoft has released two different tools to help you out—only one of them works for Windows XP, however. Hit up Microsoft’s site and do a search for “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.” Download that, install it on your Windows XP machine, and run the application.</p> <p>After a (hopefully) quick scan of your system, the program will report back the number of apps and devices you’re using that are compatible with Windows 8. In a perfect world, that would be all of them. However, the tool will also report back fatal flaws that might prevent you from running Windows 8 on your Windows XP machine to begin with—like, for example, if your older motherboard and CPU don’t support the Windows 8–required Data Execution Prevention.</p> <p>Since Windows 8 is quite a bit removed, generation-wise, from Windows XP, there’s no means by which you can simply run an in-place upgrade that preserves your settings and installed applications. Personal files, yes, but now’s as good a time as any to get your data organized prior to the big jump—no need to have Windows 8 muck things up for you, as it will just create a “windows.old” folder that’s a dump of the “Documents and Settings” folders on your XP system.</p> <p>If you have a spare hard drive lying around, you could always clone your current disk using a freeware app like Clonezilla, install Windows 8 on your old drive, and sort through everything later. If not, then you’re going to want to grab some kind of portable storage—or, barring that, sign up for a cloud-based storage service—and begin the semi-arduous task of poring over your hard drive for all of your important information.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_7_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_7_small.jpg" alt="The Windows Easy Transfer app, downloadable from Microsoft, helps automate the otherwise manual process of copying your files from your XP machine to portable storage." width="620" height="491" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows Easy Transfer app, downloadable from Microsoft, helps automate the otherwise manual process of copying your files from your XP machine to portable storage.</strong></p> <p>There really isn’t a great tool that can help you out in this regard, except perhaps WinDirStat—and that’s only assuming that you’ve stored chunks of your important data in key areas around your hard drive. If worse comes to worse, you could always back up the entire contents of your “Documents and Settings” folder, just to be safe. It’s unlikely that you’ll have much critical data in Program Files or Windows but, again, it all depends on what you’ve been doing on your PC. Gamers eager to make sure that their precious save files have been preserved can check out the freeware GameSave Manager to back up their progress.</p> <p>As for your apps, you’re going to have to reinstall those. You can, however, simplify this process by using a tool like Ninite to quickly and easily install common apps. CCleaner, when installed on your old XP system, can generate a list of all the apps that you’ve previously installed within the operating system—handy for making a checklist for things you’ll want to reinstall later, we suppose. And finally, an app like Magical Jelly Bean’s Product Key Finder can help you recover old installation keys for apps that you might want to reinstall within Windows 8.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_8_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_8_small.jpg" width="620" height="452" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Need to know what you’ll need to reinstall in Windows 8? Use CCleaner to make a simple text file of every app you installed on Windows XP, and check off as you go! </strong></p> <p>As for installing Windows 8, we recommend that you purchase and download the ISO version of the operating system and then use Microsoft’s handy Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to dump the contents of that ISO onto a portable flash drive. Your installation process will go much faster, trust us. From there, installing the OS is as easy as inserting your USB storage, resetting your computer, and booting from the flash drive—which might be accessible via some “boot manager” option during your system’s POST, or might be a boot order–related setting that you have to set up within the BIOS itself.</p> <p>Other than that, the installation process is fairly straightforward once Windows 8 gets going. You’ll enter your product key, select a Custom installation, delete or format your drive partitions, install Windows 8 on the new chunk of blank, empty storage, and sit back and relax while the fairly simple installation process chugs away.</p> <p>You might not have the speediest of operating systems once Windows 8 loads, depending on just how long your Windows XP machine has been sitting around, but at least you’ll be a bit more secure! And, hey, now that you have a license key, you can always upgrade your ancient system (or build a new one!) and reinstall.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_upgrade_2014#comments computer upgrade Hardware Hardware how to June issue 2014 maximum pc Memory News Features Mon, 13 Oct 2014 22:11:21 +0000 Maximum PC staff 28535 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asus ROG G750 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_g750_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Real desktop gaming... from a notebook</h3> <p>Looking at the outside of the 2014 model of Asus’ 17-inch ROG G750 gaming notebook, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything new. But, like mama used to say, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.</p> <p>The real heart of the G750 is the GTX 880M, and it’s a beast. It has 4GB of GDDR5, a GPU running at 954MHz, and the memory clocks in at 1,250MHz. According to our graphics benchmarks, it will run anywhere from 50 percent to 120 percent as fast as our Alienware 14 zero-point’s GTX 765M. While you most likely won’t be able to run the most graphically demanding games maxed-out with the card (that’s what SLI and desktop GPUs are for), we were able to play Metro: Last Light on “very high” settings with frame rates around 40 FPS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.rev_asusg750.1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.rev_asusg750.1_small.jpg" alt="The ROG G750 is eerily quiet under load. " title="Asus ROG G750" width="620" height="515" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The ROG G750 is eerily quiet under load. </strong></p> <p>Even though the new GPU is really the star here, the other components are anything but shabby. The laptop’s armed with Intel’s high-end Core i7-4700HQ mobile CPU clocked at 2.4GHz, two 256GB SSDs in RAID 0, and 32 friggin’ gigabytes of RAM.&nbsp; That much RAM is really overkill for gaming, so its inclusion is puzzling.</p> <p>In our CPU tests, it performed nearly identically to our AW14, which has a very similarly clocked i7-4700MQ CPU, only slipping by 4 percent in our single/multi-threaded Stitch test. We did a quick-and-dirty storage test using CrystalDiskMark, with the G750 coming in 46 percent faster in reads and 54 percent in writes.</p> <p>The laptop is also armed with a big 8-cell lithium-ion battery. In our video run-down test, it lasted an impressive 283 minutes, trumping our Alienware’s already long-lasting offering by 20 percent. In conjunction with its big battery is “Nvidia Battery Boost,” which is an exclusive feature to 800M-series GPUs. The idea behind the new GeForce Experience technology is that it puts a hard limit on frame rate to optimize for battery life. Nvidia is claiming up to 2x battery life when gaming with this feature. To test it out, we continuously looped our Metro: Last Light benchmark until the G750 keeled over. We realize that this stress test will have the GPU sweating bullets at all times, but it should at the very least represent a worst-case gaming scenario. With Battery Boost disabled, our laptop lasted 1 hour and 12 minutes. With it enabled, it lasted a whopping 4 minutes longer. That’s not exactly a great showcase for Nvidia’s new technology, but Asus tells us that the laptop was already designed to throttle the GPU to optimize for battery life, similarly to how Nvidia Battery Boost handles it. So for now, the jury is still out on Battery Boost.</p> <p>In terms of appearances, the chassis reminded us a lot of the tumbler Batmobile from the Dark Knight movies, with its matte-black finish and sharp triangular edges. It’s also quite tankish in size and weight, measuring 16.3x12.7x2.2 inches and weighing 11 pounds, 8.4oz. One happy feature of the unit is that its dual-exhaust design emits heat out of the back of the chassis, as opposed to venting through the sides and cooking your wrists as with most laptops. But more impressive is that the laptop never got loud, even under our heavy-duty benchmarks. It was frighteningly quiet. This is partly due to the large chassis and partly because the CPU and GPU each have independent dedicated cooling. Our one complaint about the chassis is that it’s not very serviceable, as Asus has opted to block off the screw holes with rubber standoffs.</p> <p>As great as the G570’s internal specs are, the laptop unfortunately sports a TN panel. Thankfully, it’s one of the best TN panels we’ve seen and offers respectable viewing angles. On the audio front, the notebook’s 2.1 speakers are loud and crisp. The laptop’s keyboard gets the job done and features subtle white LED backlighting. Its large 5-inch trackpad is also competent, has two dedicated buttons, and supports multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling. We were disappointed that there’s no option to reverse the trackpad’s scrolling direction, as some of us prefer to invert the controls.</p> <p>These relatively minor caveats aside, Asus has constructed a mighty fine laptop: It’s incredibly powerful, has relatively good battery life, and is equipped with awesome components all around.&nbsp; It isn’t perfect, however, as we personally think Asus went overboard with 32GB of RAM and would have rather seen that investment spent on an IPS panel. If you don’t mind downgrading from two 256GB SSDs to two 128GB SSDs and opting for a DVD drive instead of a Blu-ray player, we actually recommend going with the 24GB RAM model to save $500. That configuration is especially Kick Ass.</p> <p><strong>$3,000, </strong><a href="http://www.asus.com/pk/">www.asus.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_g750_review#comments 880m asus rog g750 Business Notebooks gaming laptop Hardware Hardware June issues 2014 laptops Reviews Notebooks Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:57:38 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28599 at http://www.maximumpc.com Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">4K and SLI tested on Nvidia's high-end Maxwell card</span></h3> <p>Sometimes things don't go according to plan. Both AMD and Nvidia were supposed to have shifted to 20-nanometer parts by now. In theory, that's supposed to get you lower temperatures, higher clock speeds and quieter operation. Due to circumstances largely out of its control, Nvidia has had to go ahead with a 28nm high-end Maxwell part instead, dubbed GM204. This is not a direct successor to the GTX 780, which has more transistors, texture mapping units, and things like that. The 980 is actually the next step beyond the GTX 680, aka GK104, which was launched in March 2012.</p> <p>Despite that, our testing indicates that the GTX 980 can still be meaningfully faster than the GTX 780 and 780 Ti (and AMD’s Radeon R9 290 and 290X, for that matter, though there are a of couple games better optimized for Radeon hardware). When 20nm processes become available sometime next year, we’ll probably see the actual successor to the GTX 780. But right now, the GTX 980 is here, and comes in at $500. That seems high at first, but recall that the GTX 680, 580, and 480 all launched at this price. And keep in mind that it’s a faster card than the 780 and 780 Ti, which currently cost more. (As we wrote this, AMD announced that it was dropping the base price of the R9 290X from $500 to $450, so that war rages on.) The GTX 970 at $329 may be a better deal, but we have not yet obtained one of those for testing.</p> <p>In other news, Nvidia told us that they were dropping the price of the GTX 760 to $219, and the GTX 780 Ti, 780 and 770 are being officially discontinued. So if you need a second one of those for SLI, now is a good time.</p> <p>Let's take a look at the specs:</p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 970</td> <td>GTX 680</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>R9 290X</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Generation</td> <td>GM204</td> <td>GM204&nbsp;</td> <td>GK104&nbsp;</td> <td>GK104&nbsp;</td> <td class="item-dark">GK110</td> <td>&nbsp;Hawaii</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Core Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;1126</td> <td>&nbsp;1050</td> <td>&nbsp;1006</td> <td>&nbsp;863</td> <td>876</td> <td>&nbsp;"up to" 1GHz</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Boost Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;1216</td> <td>&nbsp;1178</td> <td>&nbsp;1058</td> <td>&nbsp;900</td> <td class="item-dark">928</td> <td>&nbsp;N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>VRAM Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;7000</td> <td>&nbsp;7000</td> <td>&nbsp;6000</td> <td>&nbsp;6000</td> <td>7000</td> <td>&nbsp;5000</td> </tr> <tr> <td>VRAM Amount</td> <td>&nbsp;4GB</td> <td>&nbsp;4GB</td> <td>&nbsp;2GB/4GB</td> <td>&nbsp;3GB/6GB</td> <td>3GB</td> <td>&nbsp;4GB</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bus</td> <td>&nbsp;256-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;256-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;256-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;512-bit</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ROPs</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;32</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> <td>48</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> </tr> <tr> <td>TMUs</td> <td>&nbsp;128</td> <td>&nbsp;104</td> <td>&nbsp;128</td> <td>&nbsp;192</td> <td>240</td> <td>&nbsp;176</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Shaders</td> <td>&nbsp;2048</td> <td>&nbsp;1664</td> <td>&nbsp;1536</td> <td>&nbsp;2304</td> <td>2880</td> <td>&nbsp;2816</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SMs</td> <td>&nbsp;16</td> <td>&nbsp;13</td> <td>&nbsp;8</td> <td>&nbsp;12</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> <td>&nbsp;N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>TDP (watts)</td> <td>&nbsp;165</td> <td>&nbsp;145</td> <td>&nbsp;195</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>&nbsp;290</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Launch Price</td> <td>&nbsp;$549</td> <td>&nbsp;$329</td> <td>&nbsp;$499</td> <td>&nbsp;$649</td> <td>&nbsp;$699</td> <td>&nbsp;$549</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>On paper, the 980 and 970 don't look like much of a jump from the 680. In fact, the 980 has only 128 shaders (aka "CUDA cores") per streaming multi-processor (SM). Performance tends to increase with a higher number of shaders per SM, so how did the 980 GTX perform so well in our benches, despite having a worse ratio than all the other cards? Well, Nvidia claims that they've improved the performance of each CUDA core by 40%. Provided that this calculation is accurate, the GTX 980 effectively has about as many CUDA cores as a 780 Ti. Add the GTX 980's bigger clock speeds, and performance should be higher.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/7g0a0209_620.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>You probably also noticed the unusually low price for the GTX 970. The GTX 670 launched at $400 in May 2012, and the GTX 570 launched at $350 in December 2010. These earlier two cards were also had more similar specs compared to their bigger brothers. For example, the GTX 570 had 480 CUDA cores, while the 580 had 512 cores. This is a difference of just 6.25%, although the memory bus was reduced from 384-bits to 320-bits. In contrast, the 970 gets nearly 20% fewer CUDA cores than the 980, though its memory bus remains unchanged. As we said, we haven't gotten a 970 in yet, but, based on its specs, we doubt that we can compensate with overclocking, as we've been able to do in the past with the GTX 670 and 760, and the Radeon R9 290.</p> <p>Nvidia also says that the official boost clock on these new Maxwell cards is not set in stone. We witnessed our cards boosting up to 1,253MHz for extended periods of time (i.e., 20 seconds here, 30 seconds there). When the cards hit their thermal limit of 80 degrees Celsius, they would fall down as low as 1,165Mhz, but we never saw them throttle below the official base clock of 1,126MHz. In SLI, we also noted that the upper card would go up to 84 C. According to Nvidia, these cards have an upper boundary of 95 C, at which point they will throttle below the base clock to avoid going up in smoke. We were not inclined to test that theory, for now.</p> <h4 style="text-align: right;"><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014?page=0,1" target="_blank">Next Page: Voxels, new anti-aliasing, and VR</a></h4> <hr /> <p>The company also says that its delta color compression algorithms have improved bandwidth requirements by about 25 percent on average (it varies from game to game). This extra headroom provides more space for increased frame rates. Since DCC directly affects pixels, this effect should scale with your resolution, becoming increasingly helpful as you crank your res higher.</p> <p>You can also combine these gains with Nvidia’s new Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA). This technique rotates a pixel’s sampling points from one frame to the next, so that two of these points can simulate the visual results of four sampling points whose locations remain static. The effect starts to shimmer at about 20FPS, whereupon it’s automatically disabled. But when running well, Nvidia claims that it can be 30 percent faster, on average, than the visually equivalent level of Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA). Like TXAA (Temporal Anti-Aliasing), this technique won’t be available on AMD cards (or if it is, it will be built by AMD from the ground up and called something else).</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/7g0a0238_resize.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Unfortunately, MFAA was not available in the version 344.07 beta drivers given to us for testing, but Nvidia said it would be in the driver after this one. This means that the package will not be complete on launch day. Support will trickle down to the older Kepler cards later on. Nvidia hasn’t been specific about timelines of specific cards, but it sounded like the 750 and 750 Ti (also technically Maxwell cards), will not be invited to this party.</p> <p>Another major upgrade is Voxel Global Illumination, or VXGI. Nvidia positions this as the next step beyond ambient occlusion. With VXGI, light bounces off of surfaces to illuminate nooks and crannies that would otherwise not be lit realistically, in real time. Ordinarily, light does not bounce around in a 3D game engine like it does in meatspace. It simply hits a surface, illuminates it, and that’s the end. Sometimes the lighting effect is just painted onto the texture. So there’s a lot more calculation going on with VXGI.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/maxwell_die_620.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>But Nvidia has not made specific performance claims because the effect is highly scalable. A developer can choose how many cones of light they want to use, and the degree of bounced light resolution (you can go for diffused/blurry spots of light, or a reflection that’s nearly a mirror image of the bounced surface), and they balance this result against a performance target. Since this is something that has to be coded into the game engine, we won’t see that effect right away by forcing it in the drivers, like Nvidia users can with ambient occlusion.</p> <p>Next is Dynamic Super Resolution (in the 344.11 drivers released today, so we'll be giving this one a peek soon). This tech combines super-sampling with a custom filter. Super sampling takes a higher resolution that your monitor can display and squishes it down. This is a popular form of anti-aliasing, but the performance hit is pretty steep. The 13-tap Gaussian filter that the card lays on top can further smooth out jaggies. It's a post-process effect that's thankfully very light, and you can also scale DSR down from 3840x2160 to 2560x1440. It's our understanding that this effect is only available to owners of the 980 and 970, at least for now, but we'll be checking on that ASAP.</p> <p>Nvidia is also investing more deeply into VR headsets with an initiative called VR Direct. Their main bullet point is a reduction in average latency from 50ms to 25ms, using a combination of code optimization, MFAA, and another new feature called Auto Asynchronous Warp (AAW). This displays frames at 60fps even when performance drops below that. Since each eye is getting an independently rendered scene, your PC effectively needs to maintain 120FPS otherwise, which isn’t going to be common with more demanding games. AAW takes care of the difference. However, we haven’t had the opportunity to test the GTX 980 with VR-enabled games yet.</p> <p>Speaking of which, Nvidia is also introducing another new feature called Auto Stereo. As its name implies, it forces stereoscopic rendering in games that were not built with VR headsets in mind. We look forward to testing VR Direct at a later date.</p> <p>Lastly, we also noticed that GeForce Experience can now record at this resolution. It was previously limited to 2560x1600.</p> <p>Until we get our hands on MFAA and DSR, we have some general benchmarks to tide you over. We tested the GTX 980 in two-way SLI and by itself, at 2560x1600 and 3820x2160. We compared it to roughly equivalent cards that we've also run in solo and two-way configs.</p> <h4 style="text-align: right;"><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014?page=0,2" target="_blank">Next Page: SLI Benchmarks!</a></h4> <hr /> <p>Here's the system that we've been using for all of our recent GPU benchmarks:</p> <div class="spec-table orange" style="text-align: center;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark">Intel Core i7-3960X (at stock clock speeds; 3.3GHz base, 3.9GHz turbo)</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU Cooler</td> <td>Corsair Hydro Series H100</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Rampage IV Extreme</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4x 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws X, 2133MHz CL9</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Supply</td> <td>Thermaltake Toughpower Grand (1,050 watts)</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>1TB Crucial M550</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8.1 Update 1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case</td> <td>NZXT Phantom 530&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: center;">Now, let’s take a look at our results at 2560x1600 with 4xMSAA. For reference, this is twice as many pixels as 1920x1080. So gamers playing at 1080p on a similar PC can expect roughly twice the framerate, if they use the same graphical settings. We customarily use the highest preset provided by the game itself; for example, <em>Hitman: Absolution</em> is benchmarked with the “Ultra” setting. 3DMark runs the Firestrike test at 1080p, however. We also enable TressFX in Tomb Raider, and PhysX in Metro: Last Light.</span></p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 680</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>R9 290X</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Tomb Raider</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>33</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> <td>25</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;27</td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Metro: Last Light</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>46</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;21</td> <td>&nbsp;22</td> <td>&nbsp;32</td> <td>&nbsp;30</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins</td> <td>&nbsp;75</td> <td>&nbsp;51</td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>78</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution</td> <td>&nbsp;42</td> <td>&nbsp;27</td> <td>&nbsp;40</td> <td>&nbsp;45</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Valley</td> <td>&nbsp;45</td> <td>&nbsp;30</td> <td>&nbsp;43</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>48</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;41</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Heaven</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>39</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;35</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>39</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;34</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Firestrike</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>11,490</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;6,719</td> <td>&nbsp;8,482</td> <td>&nbsp;9,976</td> <td>9,837</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>(best scores <strong>bolded</strong><strong>)</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">To synthesize the results into a few sentences, we would say that the 980 is doing very well for its price. It’s not leapfrogging over the 780 and 780 Ti, but Nvidia indicates that it’s not supposed to anyway. It dominates the GTX 680, but that card is also two years old and discontinued, so the difference is not unexpected or likely to change buying habits. The R9 290X, meanwhile, is hitting $430, while the not-much-slower 290 can be had for as little as $340. And you can pick up a 780 Ti for $560. So the GTX 980's price at launch is going to be a bit of a hurdle for Nvidia.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">Performance in Metro: Last Light has also vastly improved. (We run that benchmark with “Advanced PhysX” enabled, indicating that Nvidia has made some optimizations there. Further testing is needed.) Loyal Radeon fans will probably not be swayed to switch camps, at least on the basis of pure performance. Hitman in particular does not appear to favor the Green Team.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">We were fortunate enough to obtain a second GTX 980, so we decided to set them up in SLI, at the same resolution of 2560x1600. Here, the differences are more distinct. We’ve honed the comparison down to the most competitive cards that we have SLI/CF benchmarks for. (Unfortunately, we do not have a second GTX 680 in hand at this time. But judging by its single-card performance, it's very unlikely to suddenly pull ahead.) For this special occasion, we brought in the Radeon R9 295X2, which has two 290X GPUs on one card and has been retailing lately for about a thousand bucks.</p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>R9 295X2</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Tomb Raider</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>66</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;45</td> <td>&nbsp;56</td> <td>&nbsp;50</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Metro: Last Light</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>70</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;52</td> <td>&nbsp;53</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins</td> <td>&nbsp;131</td> <td>&nbsp;122</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>143</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;90</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution</td> <td>&nbsp;77</td> <td>&nbsp;74</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>79</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;79</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Valley</td> <td>&nbsp;80</td> <td>&nbsp;72</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>87</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;41</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Heaven</td> <td>&nbsp;73</td> <td>&nbsp;60</td> <td><strong>&nbsp;77</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Firestrike</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>17,490</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;14,336</td> <td>&nbsp;16,830</td> <td>&nbsp;15,656</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>(best scores <strong>bolded</strong>)</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">While a solo 980 GTX is already a respectable competitor for the price, its success is more pronounced when we add a second card—as is the gap between it and the 780 Ti. It still continues to best the GTX 780, getting us over 60 FPS in each game with all visual effects cranked up. That's an ideal threshold. It also looks like Nvidia's claim of 40 percent improved CUDA core performance may not be happening consistently. Future driver releases should reveal if this is a matter of software optimization, or if it's a limitation in hardware. Or just a random cosmic anomaly.</p> <h4 style="text-align: right;"><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014?page=0,3" target="_blank">Next Page: 4K benchmarks and conclusion</a></h4> <hr /> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">So, what happens when we scale up to 3840x2160, also known as “4K”? Here we have almost twice as many pixels as 2560x1600, and four times as many as 1080p. Can the GTX 980’s 256-bit bus really handle this much bandwidth?</p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 680</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>R9 290X</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Tomb Raider</td> <td>&nbsp;16</td> <td>&nbsp;8.7*</td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;<strong>28</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;28</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Metro: Last Light</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>36</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;12</td> <td>&nbsp;18</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> <td>&nbsp;18</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins</td> <td>&nbsp;35</td> <td>&nbsp;25</td> <td>&nbsp;33</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>38</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;38</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution</td> <td>&nbsp;20</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> <td>&nbsp;20</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td><strong>&nbsp;28</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Valley</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>30</strong></td> <td><strong>&nbsp;30</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Heaven</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> <td>&nbsp;11</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>23</strong></td> <td><strong>&nbsp;23</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;18</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>(best scores <strong>bolded</strong>)</p> <p>*TressFX disabled</p> <p>The 980 is still scaling well, but the 384-bit 780 and 780 Ti are clearly scaling better, as is the 512-bit 290X. (<strong>Update:</strong>&nbsp;We've re-checked our test results for Hitman: Absolution, and the AMD cards weren't doing nearly as well as we originally thought, though they're still the best option for that particular game. The Batman tests have been re-done as well.) We had to disable TressFX when benchmarking the 680, because the test would crash otherwise, and it was operating at less than 1FPS anyway. At 4K, that card basically meets its match, and almost its maker.</p> <p>Here's 4K SLI/Crossfire. All tests are still conducted at 4xMSAA, which is total overkill at 4K, but we want to see just how hard we can push these cards. (Ironically, we have most of the SLI results for the 290X here, but not for 2560x1600. That's a paddlin'.)</p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>R9 290X</td> <td>R9 295X2</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Tomb Raider</td> <td>&nbsp;33</td> <td>&nbsp;41</td> <td>&nbsp;44</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;52</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>53</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Metro: Last Light</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>43</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;21</td> <td>&nbsp;27</td> <td>&nbsp;29</td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>68</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;60</td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> <td>&nbsp;67</td> <td>&nbsp;66</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution</td> <td>&nbsp;42</td> <td>&nbsp;40</td> <td>&nbsp;44</td> <td><strong>&nbsp;53</strong></td> <td><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Valley</td> <td>&nbsp;39</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>43</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;40</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Heaven</td> <td>&nbsp;34</td> <td>&nbsp;33</td> <td>&nbsp;<strong>44</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;17</td> <td>&nbsp;34</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>(best scores <strong>bolded</strong>)</p> <p>It does appear that the raw memory bandwidth of the 780, 780 Ti, and 290X come in handy at this resolution, despite the optimizations of Maxwell CUDA cores. That Metro: Last Light score remains pretty interesting. It's the only one we run with PhysX enabled (to balance out using TressFX in Tomb Raider). It really does look like Maxwell is much better at PhysX than any other GPU before it. That tech isn't quite common enough to change the game. But if the difference is as good as our testing indicates, more developers may pick it up.</p> <p>Even a blisteringly fast card can be brought down by high noise levels or prodigious heat. Thankfully, this reference cooler is up to the task. Keep in mind that this card draws up to 165 watts, and its cooler is designed to handle cards that go up to 250W. But even with the fan spinning up to nearly 3,000rpm, it’s not unpleasant. With the case side panels on, you can still hear the fan going like crazy, but we didn’t find it distracting. These acoustics only happened in SLI, by the way. Without the primary card sucking in hot air from the card right below it, its fan behaved much more quietly. The GTX 980’s cooling is nothing like the reference design of the Radeon R9 290 or 290X.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/key_visual_620.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>With a TDP of just 165W, a respectable 650-watt power supply should have no trouble powering two 980 GTXs. Meanwhile, the 290-watt R9 290X really needs a nice 850-watt unit to have some breathing room, and even more power would not be unwelcome.</p> <p>Since MFAA and DSR were not available in the driver that was supplied for testing, there’s more story for us to tell over the coming weeks. (<strong>Update</strong>: DSR settings are actually in this driver, just not in the location that we were expecting.) And we still need to do some testing with VR. But as it stands right now, the GTX 980 is another impressive showing for Nvidia. Its 4K scaling isn't as good as we'd like, especially since Maxwell is currently the only tech that will have Dynamic Super Resolution. If you want to play at that level, it looks like the 290 and 290X are better choices, price-wise, while the overall performance crown at 4K still belongs to the 780 and 780 Ti. But considering the price difference between the 980 and the 780, its similar performance is commendable.</p> <p>For 2560x1600 or lower resolutions, the 980 GTX emerges as a compelling option, but we're not convinced that it's over $100 better than a 290X. Then again, you have MFAA, DSR, and VR Direct, (and the overall GeForce Experience package that's a bit slicker than AMD's Gaming Evolved) which might work some people, or for Nvidia loyalists who've been waiting for an upgrade from their 680 that's not quite as expensive as the 780 or 780 Ti.</p> <p><a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/09/19/nvidia-gtx-980-tested-sli-4k-and-single-gpu-benchmarks-and-impressions/" target="_blank">Our amigo Wes Fenlon over at PC Gamer has a write-up of his own</a>, so go check it out.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014#comments 4k 980 GTX benchmarks comparison geforce gpu nvidia performance Review sli Video Card Videocards Fri, 19 Sep 2014 03:04:15 +0000 Tom McNamara 28564 at http://www.maximumpc.com Restore Your Computer to its Glory Days http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Give your PC a clean start</h3> <p>If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your PC is a fine-tuned piece of 64-bit technology, customized to the hilt and purring like a kitten with a belly full of formula. Yup, she’s a beaut, and attacks your daily tasks like a Belgian Police Dog going after a fleeing perp. All is well in the world, until one day when you sit down, fire it up, and realize something is different. That extra bit of snap when programs open is missing, and encoding video seems to take longer than it used to. Even downloading files seems to require more patience than you’re accustomed to exhibiting. It’s at this very moment that you silently say to yourself, “What the FRACK???”</p> <p>First things first—calm down, power user. Before you smash your rig with a hammer, pound on the keyboard, and decide to just nuke it from orbit, realize it’s just a temporary slowdown and it happens to everyone, even Maximum PC editors. Over time, PCs get slower; it’s just the nature of the beast. Don’t fret, we’re here to help by showing you how to give your PC a clean start. We'll show you how to restore you computer to its glory days, if you will. We’ll walk you step-by-step through the cleaning process, showing you what you need to get ’er done, and if you find you can’t resolve the problem, how to properly nuke it from orbit. We’ll also detail—pun intended—physically cleaning your rig. Once you’re finished, your PC will be noticeably perkier and everything will be right as rain. Now, drop the hammer, and let’s get started.</p> <h3>Back it up and kick the tires</h3> <p><strong>The only person to blame for not having a backup is you</strong></p> <p>There’s only two kinds of storage devices in this world: those that have already died and those that are going to die. If you’ve already identified that your PC is acting wonky, it’s time to back that mother up. It may seem counterintuitive that you would run a backup before you do a PC cleanup, but we highly recommend it: If you break something or something finally gives up the ghost, you’ll kiss your USB ports that you made a backup before it all went sideways. There are numerous aftermarket tools, but Microsoft has been kind enough to give you a fairly powerful backup and imaging tool in the OS itself. If you’re using Windows 7, just search for Backup, or dig into the Control Panel and look under System and Security. If you’re using Windows 8.x, the backup system is the same, although it’s hidden. To find it, go to the Control Panel and search for Windows 7 File Recovery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_0.jpg" alt="The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly." width="620" height="547" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly.</strong></p> <p>If you have multiple drives, you can choose how you want the backup to run, and manually select the other drives in the system for the backup set. You should set an automatic backup as well, and create a system restore disc. Ensure that you created a system image, also, should you need to restore the backup to a completely new hard drive.</p> <p>With your backup complete, it’s time to do a basic visual inspection of the internals of the PC for obvious problems, such as fans clogged with so much cat hair and dust that they’re causing the CPU or GPU to overheat and throttle, or data or power cables that have wiggled loose. Typically, loose or unplugged cables result in immediate show-stopping errors and crashes rather than a system slowdown. You’re more likely to find your fans clogged with dust running at low RPMs or fans that have died.</p> <h3>Mash Malware</h3> <p><strong>Don’t always blame malware, except when it’s to blame</strong></p> <p>If there’s a bogeyman of mysterious system slowdowns, it’s malware. In fact, if we had a nickel for every time a relative told us a “virus” was the cause of their slowdown, we’d have 0.08-34 of a Bitcoin. With that said, before you get too hip-deep in trying to speedupify a PC, a sweep for malware should be run. We’d also do a cursory examination of the OS for extraneous toolbars or tray items that have been installed. These aren’t truly malware, but still worthy of eradication.</p> <p>We’d also recommend a full system scan by the system’s real-time AV software (after updating the virus definitions). A secondary sweep using various on-demand tools is also on the to-do list. This would include browser-based file scanners available from all of the popular AV vendors, as well local tools such as Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.org) or SuperAntiSpyware (<a href="http://www.superantispyware.com/">www.superantispyware.com</a>). Running specific rootkit removal tools available from companies such as Malwarebytes and Sophos, among others, can’t hurt. Rootkits are a class of malware designed to thwart normal detection means. Before you get crazy about removing any detections, you should research it to make sure it isn’t just a false positive. And be advised that many types of malware can’t be removed with a single-click tool. You’ll typically have to dig deep in a multi-page guide to remove many of today’s specialty infections. Obviously, Binging will lead you to most guides, but a great place to start is Bleepingcomputer.com. The site has loads of removal guides and links to useful tools. But again, a word of warning: don’t just start ripping things out of the OS without knowing what you’re removing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small.jpg" alt="A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup." title="Mash Malware" width="620" height="516" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup.</strong></p> <h3> <hr />Cruft clearing</h3> <p><strong>Declutter the system files</strong></p> <p>Any PC that you use daily will build up hundreds of gigabytes of file clutter over the months and years that you use it. As most people are rolling large mechanical drives, the clutter has an impact on performance and your ability to pack away even more cute kitten videos downloaded from the Internet.</p> <p>For this step, we’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. Simply open My Computer, right-click your primary drive, and select properties. Click Disk Cleanup and check off the things that are clutter (just about everything is in this panel) and click OK. We did this on a work box and shaved off 5GB in Windows Update files that had been sitting around. While 5GB isn’t much in the day of 4TB drives, many people still run 1TB and smaller drives with every nook, cranny, and sector filled (you know who you are.)</p> <p>The next easy cruft targets are the system restore points automatically created by Windows. Windows typically creates these snapshots of the OS when you install a new driver, OS update, or application. Windows sets a default for these based on the size of the drive it’s installed on, but they typically occupy gigabytes on the drive. To free up space, you can delete all but the latest restore points by clicking the More Options panel from Disk Cleanup, and selecting Clean Up under System Restore and Shadow Copies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cruft1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cruft1_small.jpg" alt="The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter." title="Cruft clearing" width="500" height="612" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter.</strong></p> <p>Before you do this, though, think about how the recent stability&nbsp; of your system. If it’s been reliable but slow for the last few months, wiping the previous restore points should be fine. But if the system is being wonky, you may just need to rely on those restore points to get the box back to a point where it’s stable, so we’d recommend keeping the old restore points until you’re sure the box is working. You should also be aware that Windows 7 and Windows Vista used System Protection and Restore Points to occasionally make backup copies of your personal data files through the Volume Shadow Copies service. These older versions may be purged when you do this, but it won’t touch your most recent versions.</p> <p>Yeah, we know, many power users will thumb their nose at System Restore and some will outright switch it off because malware can use it as a place to hide, but the feature can truly be a bacon-saver sometimes.</p> <p>Another easy target to clean out is the default downloads folder. Other than documents, the vast majority of downloaded files can usually be dumped overboard.</p> <h3>Clean the Crap</h3> <p><strong>CCleaner is an easy-to-use, one-stop declogger</strong></p> <p>Originally named Crap Cleaner, this handy application has since been renamed to the more palatable CCleaner, but it still works amazingly well at clearing out the junk from the corners of your OS. Available for free from http://bit.ly/MPC_CCleaner, it’s an easy one-stop shop for freeing up space that you might normally miss with the built-in cleaner. As much as we like CCleaner, you shouldn’t expect miracles. We ran it on a three-year-old scungy build of Windows 7 after running the Window’s cleaning routine and CCleaner came up with 18.3GB to clean out—16GB had accumulated in the trash bin. One word of warning: By default, CCleaner will wipe out your browser cookies, which might throw you for a loop when you’re forced to sign into web sites that you may have forgotten the passwords for. It’s probably best to exclude browser history and also Windows Explorer Recent Documents from the CCleaner clean-out, too, because they don’t net you much space but make your system more livable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_1.jpg" alt="CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files." width="620" height="546" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files.</strong></p> <h3>Stop Startups</h3> <p><strong>Giddyap quicker</strong></p> <p>Oddly, many people still define their computing experience by how long it takes to cold-boot their PC. First, we just have to ask, have you tried standby or even hibernate? You know, those handy modes that can have you at the desktop five or 10 seconds after touching the mouse button or keyboard? No? You still prefer to boot from cold, anyway?</p> <p>If your OS install is a year or two old, you will have accumulated enough startup programs to significantly impact hard-drive boot times. The easiest way to remove these programs is click on the Start button, and type msconfig. Click on the Startup tab and scroll through the list, looking for things that don’t need to be started at launch. Uncheck them, click apply, then OK, and reboot.</p> <p>One thing to remember, Windows 7 will optimize the boot times automatically. If you reboot, and wait five minutes and reboot four or five times, the boot times should actually get better automatically as Windows 7 decides what it can prioritize.</p> <p>Windows 8.x (yes, haters, step back) actually improves upon boot times, as well. Anyone who has used the new OS can attest to its fast boot times. Win8 moves startup optimization to the Task Manager (ctrl-shift-esc). Click on the Startup tab, and Windows 8 will even tell you what’s slowing things down, and give you an estimate of how long it took to boot after the process was handed over to the OS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/msconfig_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/msconfig_small.jpg" alt="You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots." width="620" height="414" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots.</strong></p> <p>Those of us who have moved on to the SSD-based western shores of Valinor live lives fairly well untroubled by slow startups. But those poor souls of middle earth still using mechanical-based drives are the ones who need to concern themselves with startup optimization.&nbsp;</p> <h3> <hr />Consider an upgrade</h3> <p><strong>Hardware isn’t always the answer, but it usually is</strong></p> <p>The vast majority of our tips to clean up a slow-running PC can be solved in software, but sometimes software isn’t the answer. How will you know the difference? One of the clearest indicators is age. Old PC components do not age like wine. If you’re at your buddy’s house to “take a look at his computer” and that computer is a Pentium 4 or Athlon XP, it’s a lost cause.</p> <p>So, while most newbs you’re trying to help can still benefit from the cleaning tips in this story, the P4/Athlon XP machines aren’t going to sing no matter how much you tune them. Putting money into a hardware upgrade for these old dogs should be carefully weighed: new parts can be difficult to locate and everything in the box is suspect.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small.jpg" alt="Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box." title="P4" width="620" height="496" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box.</strong></p> <p>It’s not so bad for a Phenom II or Core 2 box. In fact, these machines can be quite workable if the user has realistic expectations. Dropping an SSD into a Phenom II or Core 2 rig would be a game-changer for these old platforms, even if the motherboard doesn’t support the full SATA 6Gb/s speeds. Sometimes, a little RAM will even help, if the box was already memory-starved to begin with. With a 64-bit OS, 8GB is standard and 4GB is borderline.</p> <p>If gaming needs a boost, dropping in a newer GPU can certainly help. Even those rigs that are constrained by low-wattage PSUs now have a modern option with Nvidia’s new Maxwell series, which can run on even 300W PSUs.</p> <p>If the machine is also running that now-abandoned OS, Windows XP, an OS upgrade to Windows 7 or even Windows 8 is advised.</p> <p>Obviously, we don’t recommend $400 in upgrades on a $200 PC, but a $100 upgrade on a box that buys the person another 24 months of use can be a godsend for those on tight budgets. As we said, though, everything at or below the P4/Athlon XP line should be abandoned.</p> <h3>Visualize your drive</h3> <p><strong>Think of WinDirStat as Google Maps for your HDDs</strong></p> <p>You’ve cleaned up the extraneous system files on your machine, but the real junk is the gigabytes of nothingness you’ve collected from repeatedly dumping that 32GB memory card onto the hard drive because you were afraid to delete something you might need later. Six months later, those same unkempt files are bogging down your system and freeloading on your dime. When space gets tight, we turn to WinDirStat (<a href="http://www.windirstat.info">www.windirstat.info</a>).</p> <p>In the past, when drives were smaller and your file-hoarding was limited to a mere 500GB or so, you could rely on the good old-fashioned search-and-destroy technique: browsing through Windows Explorer for old photos, games, and files that you simply don’t use anymore. With 3TB and even 4TB drives packed with god knows what, that technique isn’t effective anymore. Instead, use Windows Directory Statistics, or WinDirStat, to help visualize and locate files on our drives that can be slated for termination. WinDirStat is an extremely lightweight (less than a megabyte) open-source program that scans your hard drive to provide you with three sets of information: directory list, tree map, and file extensions list. The tree map—easily the most attractive feature in the program—represents every file on your hard drive as a colored rectangle. Also handy is the extension list, which gives you total percentages calculated by file extensions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_1.jpg" alt="We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat." width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat.</strong></p> <p>The tree map is the handiest and helps you easily see where you have bloat on your drives—the bigger the file, the bigger the rectangle. Scrolling over files displays the file name and its location, and you can delete files from within the program by selecting a file and pressing the delete key.</p> <h3>Dedupe it</h3> <p><strong>Duplicate often </strong></p> <p>Most people treat hard drives like the attic or garage. Rather than immediately culling extra files, you simply put it in storage to deal with at a later date (the road to hell, good intentions, etc). No matter that you already put those files in storage just last week—you’ll get around to dumping the duplicate files eventually. While there are many, many deduplication tools available, one good starting place is Auslogic’s free Duplicate File Finder app (<a href="http://www.auslogics.com/en/">www.auslogics.com</a>) It doesn’t have the bells or whistles of apps that analyze audio, photo, and video for duplicates, but it works fairly fast and is a good way to eliminate the obvious duplicate files. On one old Windows 7 box, Duplicate File Finder turned up a good 39GB of dupes that could be tossed. Simply fire up Duplicate File Finder, have it search your drive, and it will give you a list of duplicate files. Under Action, select All Duplicates In Each Group, and it will mark the duplicate files for dumping into a trash can, or moving into the Rescue Center, where you can recover the file if you realize later on you made a mistake.</p> <p>The program works well enough, but we wouldn’t wipe out files willy-nilly without first making a separate backup and making sure that the irreplaceable files going away are actually duplicates. DFF will show you the file name, file size, and creation date, which gives most people enough confidence to delete, but the paranoia in us would want to visually confirm it, too. This same philosophy is probably what brought us to this space issue in the first place. After all, am I sure I really did copy all of the images from the memory card to the computer? Even the ones I took last weekend? I’ll just make another copy... I have plenty of space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small.jpg" alt="Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files." title="Duplicate File Finder " width="620" height="484" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files.</strong></p> <h3>Optimize your storage</h3> <p><strong>Storage is usually the prime suspect in system slowdowns</strong></p> <p>Before we get started discussing problems with your storage system and how to optimize it, make sure you have done two things: First, that you’ve connected your SSD to a SATA 6Gb/s port on your motherboard (consult your manual), and second, that you’ve enabled AHCI on your SATA controller via the motherboard BIOS. If you’ve already installed Windows and your SATA controller is set to IDE instead of AHCI, hit Google to find the registry hack to fix it. And yes, running in IDE mode rather than AHCI on a modern SSD can indeed rob you of performance.</p> <p>With that out of the way, the first thing to do when you sense your system is slowing down and you see your hard-drive activity LED churning constantly, is enlist the trusty three-finger salute. For the uninitiated, that means pressing ctrl-alt-delete to bring up the Task Manager in Windows. Select the Performance tab to see if anything is spiking or is nearing 100 percent utilization. From there, you can go to the Processes tab to see which process is taking up all those resources. In the screenshot below, we see a staff member’s work PC that suffered daily paralyzation at the hands of a virus scan and several associated processes. The resolution was to kill the processes, then make sure to schedule the virus scans during non-work hours.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small.jpg" alt="Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. " width="620" height="467" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. </strong></p> <p>If everything looks fine in the Task Manager but the system still feels slow, run a few benchmarks to see if the numbers are up to spec. For sequential read and write tests, we recommend Crystal-DiskMark for SSDs and HDTune for Hard drives. Admittedly, none of us use HDDs for our OS anymore—there’s no reason to with SSD prices falling faster than the value of Bitcoin.</p> <p>If you run the benchmarks and find the performance is lacking on your SSD, you have a few options. Your first is to optimize the drive via the Trim command. What this does is send a command to the drive that tells it to run its garbage-collection routine, which means it will erase all the blocks that have been deleted, clearing the way for them to receive fresh writes. If the drive has not been trimmed in a while, data can become fragmented all over the drive, and since blocks of an SSD have to be erased before they are written to (as opposed to a hard drive, where they can just be overwritten at any time), a simple write command can require the controller to delete blocks, move data around, and then perform the write, which can seriously degrade performance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small.jpg" alt="If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. " width="620" height="564" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. </strong></p> <p>In general, if you’re running Windows 7 or newer, you should be fine. However, you can Trim a drive manually on Windows 8: right-click the drive in My Computer, and click Properties, Tools, and then Optimize. If you own a Samsung or Intel SSD, you can download the free Samsung Magician or SSD Toolbox software, respectively, which also let you Trim your drive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>HDD “Optimization”</h3> <p><strong>Fast hard drives aren’t</strong></p> <p>If you are running a hard drive and want to optimize it, there’s not a whole lot you can do beyond keeping it defragmented. To make sure it’s “defragged,” right-click the drive, select Properties, Tools, and then Defragmentation. Ideally, you should do this after you’ve done your cleaning of unused junk from the machine. If it’s your boot device, some people like to disable hibernation before a defrag to get a little extra “boost” out of the defrag by eliminating the multi-gigabyte hiberfil.sys file. Frankly, we don’t think it matters much anymore. In our opinion, the concept of a “fast hard drive” is antiquated now, due to SSDs, as is the concept of “optimizing” them. Any gains you make toward keeping a hard drive optimized will be largely unnoticeable in the real world, beyond dumping the useless cruft and running a basic defrag, which the OS will do on its own.</p> <h3>Let’s Get Physical</h3> <p><strong>Knock, knock, house cleaning</strong></p> <p>Unless you live in a HEPA-filtered cleanroom, a desktop PC will eventually need a physical cleanup as well as a digital one. That means opening up the case, which means turning off your rig and unplugging it from the wall. Don’t want to lose a finger in those fan blades. Most case panels are secured with six-sided Phillips screws, sometimes call a “hex” screw. Or they have thumbscrews, which can usually be removed by hand. Once taken out, keep these together in a small container. An empty coffee mug will do in a pinch.</p> <p>If you’ve had this PC for several months, you should see a coating of dust inside. That has to be removed, because it insulates surfaces and clogs up fans, which can lead to overheating. With a can of compressed air, spray short bursts at the dust. Long sprays can freeze the inner workings of the can. And tilting the can may also cause its liquid to spray, which contains a solvent that can damage the contact surface. Ideally, do this dusting outside, because you don’t want all that dust floating around indoors.</p> <p>Case fan filters can also get gnarly. These days, most of them slide out. Spray them with air, or remove them, run them under the tap, and air dry. Fans themselves also get grody. You may need to temporarily remove the CPU fan from the heatsink to clean both items sufficiently. When spraying fans, hold their blades down to prevent them from spinning, otherwise you may damage the motor.</p> <p>A periodic disinfecting wipe or baby wipe can take care of your mouse, but keyboards usually need you to pull their keycaps to really get at the crustiness underneath. A puller tool is best for this. You can order one online from Newegg or Amazon, and regional computer stores like Fry’s and Microcenter usually sell them. Some people run their boards through the dishwasher. Don’t use detergent or hot water for that, and give them at least a day to fully dry out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/babywipes_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/babywipes_small.jpg" alt="Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop." width="620" height="381" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop.</strong></p> <p>Last but not least, don’t forget to wipe the dust off your monitor’s screen. But don’t use conventional glass cleaner, because it can permanently damage the panel. You can buy screen-cleaning kits from most office supply stores, or you can use a spare microfiber cloth, like the kind made for camera lenses. Pharmacies also stock these. Just gently wipe the screen with it. If you need some liquid to clean the screen, spray your cloth with plain water from a mister. Never spray the screen itself, because the liquid can drip into the panel housing and corrode the components within.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small.jpg" alt="Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot Josh missed while cleaning." width="620" height="521" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot we missed while cleaning.</strong></p> <h4>An Ounce of Prevention</h4> <p>If you’ve just cleaned out a rig that’s never seen a proper cleaning, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid such horrors in the future. Fan filters are obviously one option. If they’re not built into your case, you can get them from sites like Newegg, Amazon, and Frozen CPU. Some have magnets, and you just slap them on; others need to be screwed in. To get the correct sizing, measure your fan diagonally with a ruler. The most common size is 120mm. A filter’s dense mesh will reduce airflow and increase temps in the case, so there’s a trade-off. Even the best filter will not completely eliminate dust, it will only reduce the number of times per year that you need to clean the insides. Smokers and owners of furry pets will also need to clean more often than usual. Periodically brushing those critters will help reduce buildup.</p> <p>And we don’t know if we have to mention this, but washing your hands a few times over the course of the day will also help prevent unsightly crud from building up on your input devices. This is especially important after a meal or after spending time outdoors. And speaking of food, try to keep it away from your keyboard, which is a crumb magnet and said to be dirtier than a toilet. If your mouse pad has an old-style fabric surface, you may want to consider eliminating it altogether (unless your desk is made of glass), or switching to one made of plastic or metal—materials that can be cleaned quickly and easily.</p> <h3>Nuke it from orbit</h3> <p><strong>Nothing can save LV426, so when it’s too mangled or infested, just nuke it</strong></p> <p>We won’t bother telling you to back up your data before you send your OS to meet its maker, because that is too obvious. But before you nuke the OS, make sure you have everything you need.</p> <p>What might not be obvious is that because of piracy, a lot of the more expensive software packages require activation, which also requires you to deactivate any serial numbers before you begin your bombing run. Most professional Adobe packages work this way, so if you’re running Photoshop, Illustrator, or any locally stored creative suite, be sure to open the app, click Help, and then Deactivate. Make sure you’ve done it correctly by firing up the program again to see if it asks you to activate. If it does, you’re good to go; keep in mind you’ll need Internet access to successfully do this. Also keep in mind that if you deactivate a piece of software, then upgrade your system, the software might think it’s a different computer, which can complicate re-activation.</p> <p>The activation process varies on a program-to-program basis, so use Google if you run into any issues. Microsoft’s Office suites react the same as the operating system, and any significant change in hardware will trigger a reactivation. The bottom line: If you have a mission critical application that you absolutely have to have up and running as soon as possible, be sure to know what the re-activation process is before you pull the trigger so there are no surprises. Some apps require you to contact the vendor for a new code before they will run, which is a wonderful thing to learn at midnight Friday before a three-day weekend when you need the app that night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/adobe_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/adobe_small.jpg" alt="In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key." width="620" height="444" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key.</strong></p> <p>There are other apps you should also pay attention to. First up, browser bookmarks. Chrome will let you sync your bookmarks on other machines, but you need to set it up to do so. If you’re into the old-school method, you can also export your bookmarks file as HTML and then re-import it. You’ll want to make sure you have a copy of your iTunes library handy, too, which is located in C:\Users\Username\My Music. Be sure to deauthorize iTunes while you’re at it. You’ll also want to back up your Steam library so that you don’t have to re-download all your games. To do this in Steam, click Steam in the upper left-hand corner, select Backup and Restore Games, then follow the prompts. Alternatively, you can do it manually by copying the entire Steam directory over. You no longer have to worry about save-game files, since they are now all automatically saved to the “Steam Cloud.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small.jpg" alt="Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it." width="620" height="362" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it.</strong></p> <p>Your final stop on this trail of tears is to make sure you have all the drivers you need for anything connected to your PC. At the very minimum, be sure to have your chipset and LAN drivers, as those always go first, and with an Internet connection you can always download anything else you need care of the helpful SlimDrivers utility. Don’t forget your printer drivers, though, and it doesn’t hurt to download Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 either, though Windows Update could also do it for you.</p> <p>Once you’ve deactivated your software, collected all the serial keys you need, made sure your Steam and iTunes libraries are backed up, saved your browser bookmarks, and have all your drivers, you are ready to proceed. Before you reboot your PC to reinstall, be sure to take a moment to consider all the amazing times it’s given you. Once that’s complete, shut her down, and we’ll see you on the other side.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014#comments Adobe application malware May issues 2014 restore computer Software Office Applications Software Features Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:49:00 +0000 Maximum PC staff 28340 at http://www.maximumpc.com