So much in life is unknowable. Will the economy rebound? Hard to say. Will oil prices skyrocket? Maybe, maybe not. Will Brangelina add to their brood? Frankly, we don’t care. But one thing’s for sure: Technology is ever-changing and each year guarantees new advances for the PC user.
As we do every year around this time, we got on the horn with our industry contacts—experts in their respective fields—and pressed them for details about what new and exciting hardware power users can look forward to in 2010. Some of what we learned was expected (SATA speeds will double), some came from out of left field (six 30-inch panels on a single videocard?!), and some just plain make sense (like a Nehalem chip for the masses).
Read on to find out how your personal computing landscape stands to be altered in the year ahead.
Designing and manufacturing a modern CPU is a huge project. It requires both backward compatibility and an understanding of where PC workloads are going in the future—a delicate balancing act made more difficult by the huge engineering staffs and massive dollar outlays involved. Let’s take a look at the steps needed to build a Core i7 or AMD Phenom II processor.
Before the manufacturing plant starts churning out chips, there are a few critical preliminary steps. Prior to the first circuit being laid out or the first simulation run, the designers need to know exactly what it is they’re designing. This phase takes input from many sources. Marketing gets involved, with predictions of what users will need when the CPU actually ships, usually two to four years in the future. Engineering and performance teams feed in billions of traces of actual applications being run on current-gen CPUs, so the designers can see how existing CPUs perform under real-world conditions.
Continue reading about the CPU production process after the jump.
Your PC’s hard drive is probably packed to the platter’s edge with hundreds of ripped DVD videos, gigabytes of digital photos from your camera, and tens of thousands of songs. And that’s not even counting the high-definition digital video from your last family vacation that you’re still planning to unload. But with terabytes of media just gathering dust on your desktop PC, you risk losing years of aggregated files when your hard drive inevitably gives out (don’t even think about backing it all up to the cloud). Our solution: Keep all your data backed up on a Windows Home Sever. More than just a generic NAS box, Windows Home Server maintains backups, streams media files, and works as a file share across your home network. And the best part is that you can build one yourself—we’ll show you how!
Acer’s entry-level easyStore H340 gives you everything you need to attach a robust Windows Home Server to your network, with plenty of room to expand. Its technical specs edge out HP’s comparably-priced LX195—both are budget servers equipped with a 1.6GHz Atom processor, but the H340 includes 2GB of RAM and 1TB of included disk storage. The feature that really sets Acer’s offering apart, however, is the availability of four hot-swappable drive bays, meaning you can add three additional 3.5-inch SATA drives with ease. And if those aren’t enough, the H340 also has five powered USB ports and even an eSATA port for you to go nuts with expansions.
If you don’t need terabytes of backup space for your network, the newest member of HP’s MediaSmart family may be the right fit for you. With 640GB of storage, the LX195 makes sense if your home network consists of just two or three PCs. Like its higher-end siblings, the LX195 lets you perform Mac OS backups, though you’ll have to partition additional drive space for Time Machine. Storage capacity is the LX195’s big weakness, since there are no extra internal drive bays or eSATA ports for additional hard drives. To enable WHS’s file duplication feature or add additional storage space, you’ll have to attach external drives with USB.
The LX195’s strengths lie in its small size and low power usage. It’s no bigger than a desktop speaker, and can be hidden out of sight under your desk. Its Atom processor draws very little power (especially when idle), and we couldn’t even hear the server operate during backups.
From the first time we saw Borderlands, we were intrigued. By mixing a fast-paced first-person shooter with the procedurally generated weapon system of a loot-hoarding RPG like Diablo, and letting you play the game cooperatively with three of your pals, the kids at Gearbox have made a game we simply can’t wait to play. We went down to Plano, Texas to play the first three hours of the game and to chat with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford about what the future holds for PC gaming, why Steam is not an ideal method of distribution, and why Randy loves Wal-Mart.