At first glance, the Noctua NH-U12P is nearly identical to another tower-of-power CPU cooler: Thermalright’s Ultra-120 eXtreme (reviewed July). Like that cooler, the NH-U12P consists of a copper heat exchanger and four dual-heat pipes, topped with a tall stack of aluminum cooling fins with a front-mounted fan. At 6.2 inches high, 5 inches wide, and 2.8 inches deep, the NH-U12P is nearly the same height as the Thermalright, not quite as wide, but quite a bit deeper.
Noctua ships its cooler with a top-of-the-line brown-and-beige NH-P12 fan with nine slightly beveled blades, which is held onto the cooling fin stack by a set of rather flimsy wire clips. The fan itself comes with three 3-pin power options: regular, low-noise, and ultra-low noise, which set the fan to spin at 1,300rpm, 1,100rpm, and 900rpm, respectively. The fan is impressively quiet even at top speed.
Say you’re a content creator—video, graphic design, whatever. You want a computer that’s quiet, functional, and hopefully doesn’t look like it was designed by a candy raver, or worse, Apple. That’s what Thermaltake is betting on with its Element S, an understated black midtower case with restrained red accents and plenty of drive space that’s marketed toward content creators.
The Element S is built from steel, painted black inside and out, and decked with black plastic trim on the top and a red-rimmed, black-plastic front-panel door. It weighs close to 18 pounds, and measures 21.3x9.1x20 inches. The model we tested included three fans: a 12cm, 1,300rpm front intake fan, a 14cm 1,000rpm rear output fan, and a 23cm 800rpm red LED fan on top. The case also includes rear mounts for two 6cm VGA exhaust fans, which is rare, but makes sense if you’re encoding video using a high-end graphics card. The Element S also has two holes for water-cooling tubes, but doesn’t include rubber grommets in them—they’re just bare metal punchouts in the case that could puncture the tubing over time.
Netgear’s MOCA (short for Multimedia over Coax Alliance) adapter is the can solution to the can’t. If you can’t get a reliable Wi-Fi signal throughout your home and you can’t make an Ethernet cable run and you can’t tap your home’s electrical grid with a HomePlug Powerline adapter, than MOCA is the can.
Using existing standard cable coax wires, the Netgear MOCA adapter lets you turn your cable TV runs into a “home entertainment network.” What the hell is that? Since the adapter is built around passing data through your cable TV, it’s no surprise that MOCA wants to push its adoption as an easy way to get Internet connectivity to your set top box, game console, or media center PC.
Setup is Joe-six-pack friendly: Just unplug the coax cable from your TV set and plug it into the Netgear MOCA adapter. Run a second coax cable from the adapter to the TV. TV signals are passed through transparently, so your American Idol viewing won’t be disturbed. And if the signal is degraded you can actually change the frequency the adapter operates on.
We computer nerds all have our favorite applications and utilities—you know, the software we absolutely cannot live without. You’re certainly already familiar with many of my personal faves (I always install Firefox, Digsby, and Dropbox), but developers are constantly releasing new software, so my list is always evolving. And so, without further delay, I give you my favorite apps and utilities, as selected during the first half of 2009.
See Will's favorite apps of early 2009 after the jump!
The Kindle is pretty, and sleek, and invitingly Linux-based. But underneath that alluring exterior, right alongside that hackable code, is a body of laws: terms of service, DMCA, and DRM, saying “Oh no, don’t touch me!”
To keep providers like the Author’s Guild happy, Amazon has restricted features and talked about uses being prohibited, as with its famous update taking away much text-to-speech functionality. But in a world where everything gets hacked, Amazon doesn’t have to do much more than make a reasonable effort at DRM—the legal burden is on the user. The Kindle is not very well-locked-down, and often hackers take that as winking permission.
Jesse Vincent is among the Kindle customers to create a “user-generated update.” His native ebook converter for the Kindle, called Savory, lets you convert ebooks from open formats (EPUB and PDF) to the Kindle’s format. He did it because, he says, “I’m in love with my Kindle.”
What do a surveillance camera and the average home videographer have in common? Surprisingly, a hell of a lot—it’s just the subject matter that’s different.
One takes really poorly exposed, fuzzy, low-res videos of a gas station clerk getting a pistol jammed in his face, and the other takes really poorly exposed, fuzzy, low-res videos of a kid kicking a soccer ball or blowing out birthday candles.
Apparently, that’s the logic MotionDSP used when it decided that its $10,000-per-license, super-fancy video algorithms could not only be used to help the police catch carjackers, but also clean up the video of little Timmy’s birthday, too.
We’re not kidding. MotionDSP’s algorithms were developed to help resolve license plate numbers from video by analyzing multiple frames before and after a frame. By using the additional data to reassemble one sharp frame, MotionDSP’s algorithms are able to pull out far more detail than you would think possible.
The fact that Gefen’s wireless HDMI extender works at all is remarkable enough; the fact that it works better than the manufacturer claims borders on the miraculous. So why aren’t we giving it a higher score? First, it would be cheaper to hire an electrician to install a hardwired HDMI connection; second, the extender is limited to HDMI 1.2a.
You can use HDMI 1.3 sources and cables, but the Ultra Wideband technology Gefen relies on just doesn’t have the bandwidth to accommodate losslessly compressed multitrack audio (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio); it falls back instead to either Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound or simple stereo, depending on the source. The system can’t accommodate Deep Color (video with 30-, 36-, or 48-bit color depth) either, but it does support HDMI 1.3’s lip-sync feature.
If your home has masonry walls and ceilings, on the other hand, it might not be possible to create a new cable run. And if your A/V receiver and home-theater PC or Blu-ray player are on the same side of the room, and what you need is a means of getting video to your projector on the opposite side of the room, the audio issue won’t matter (neither will Deep Color, for that matter, if your projector or display doesn’t support it). In short, Gefen’s product is amazing, but its appeal is limited to a small circle of consumers, which is why the company has to charge so much for each unit.
Plants vs. Zombies takes the familiar desktop tower-defense formula—defensive towers line a path and shoot at endless waves of mindless automatons—and turns it on its side... in your backyard. In typical tower-defense games, you manage one path (and one set of baddies at a time). In Plants vs. Zombies, you have to manage five or six lanes and you have to plant your botanical towers in the same lanes the undead baddies walk.
The game starts simply; you have a few lanes to manage and one or two types of zombies. The number of lanes you have to manage and the number of plants you have at your disposal increases quickly, although the difficulty ramps up slowly over the first several hours of play. You’ll eventually unlock about 50 different plants, each with a different function. Some will form the backbone of your sun economy (sun is the currency you exchange for each plant you place), some are purely offensive, some are purely defensive, and some fill various support roles.
To keep you in check, new zombies are continually introduced. Each different zombie type has new (frequently hilarious) powers, ranging from simple helmets and screen-door shields that let the undead absorb more damage, to Pogo-Stick and bungee zombies that can leap over your defense. Each type of zombie has multiple plant counters; for example, the balloon zombie, who floats happily over your defenses, can be countered by balloon-popping cacti as well as by the Blover, which generates a mighty wind that blows away flying zombies.
Many people still think of Apple as a relatively small computer company, even though it’s a large consumer-electronics company. Those folks were surprised by recent reports that Apple is hiring more chip designers. They question the wisdom of plunging deeper into the risky and costly venture of designing custom chips.
But Apple’s moves are a logical response to current events. We are witnessing a fundamental shift in computing, as important as the debut of personal computers in the 1970s.
Desktop PCs—and to a lesser extent, notebook PCs—are the old wave. The new wave integrates mobile computing and communications with ubiquitous Internet access. Although notebook PCs can ride this wave, they are the largest species of new personal computers. Netbooks are better examples. Best of the new breed are the Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry, and Palm Pre. More are coming.
Microsoft’s latest Sidewinder mouse, the X8, combines a wireless design with the latest in optical sensor technology. Sporting a proprietary BlueTrack sensor, the X8 will work on most any surface, including granite and marble, which are problems for mice with more traditional optical and laser sensors. This is also Microsoft’s first wireless Sidewinder mouse—it utilizes the traditional 2.4GHz band, but updates more times per second than most wireless Microsoft mice.
We love the button placement and scroll wheel on this mouse. All of the buttons are easy to find and quick to press and the scroll wheel is quick and responsive. The top and bottom thumb buttons are especially praiseworthy. Unlike other mice equipped with a pair of thumb buttons aligned in a fore and aft configuration, the Sidewinder’s thumb buttons are aligned vertically, with Mouse5 placed above Mouse4.
Like the Razer Mamba, which we reviewed last month, the X8 features a play and charge cable. Using a magnetic power adapter that quickly and easily snaps into place, you can convert the X8 from battery power in mere seconds, should your battery die. The X8’s connection system is a marked improvement over the Mamba.