We’re finally out of the woods. After nearly a year in which the Intel X-25M was virtually the only solid state drive on the market not to suffer from severe latency during sustained random writes, the past few months have brought us sweet relief in the form of new SSDs with stutter-less memory controllers from such manufacturers as Samsung and Indilinx. This month, we tested the 128GB Patriot Torqx, which uses an Indilinx “Barefoot” memory controller and 64MB DRAM write cache to end the stuttering problem once and for all.
Right out of the box, Patriot impresses with the thoughtful inclusion of a 3.5-inch tray adapter for its 2.5-inch drive. It’s just a simple sheet of pot metal with screw holes and rail mounts, but it’s appreciated. The drive enclosure itself is all brushed-metal—black on top, silver on the bottom—and screws into the adapter easily.
In our July issue, we reviewed OWC’s Mercury Pro 8x Blu-ray External and found the drive’s performance puzzling. In short, the Mercury Pro’s BD-R write speeds belied its 8x rating, with the drive taking nearly an hour to fill a 25GB disc with data, compared with the 22-plus minutes it took LG’s 6x GBW-H20L. It got us wondering whether the issues were more the fault of OWC’s external enclosure or the Pioneer 8x Blu-ray drive at its heart.
This month we were able to answer that question as we tested Pioneer’s BDR-2203, the same drive used in the Mercury Pro. We immediately cut to the chase, testing the BDR-2203’s BD-R write performance. While the Mercury Pro was incompatible with the Nero DiscSpeed app we use for our optical drive tests—forcing us to use Nero 8’s Burn Express instead—the BDR-2203 had no such problems. Using DiscSpeed along with 4x Verbatim media, the drive wrote 22.5GB of data to a BD-R disc in 14:56 (min:sec)—a Lab record!—maintaining 8x speeds through much of the job. With rewriteable media, the drive’s performance wasn’t quite as impressive. The BDR-2203 held a steady 2x speed when filling a 25GB BD-RE disc, for a time of 45:35, much like the Mercury Pro—and 15 percent slower than the LG GBW-H20L’s BD-RE write time.
When we began covering all-in-one PCs, we decided we wouldn’t benchmark them because they’re designed for quiet utility, not drag racing. But the Dell XPS One 24 we reviewed in May proved that an all-in-one could hang with the hot rods, so we decided to make that machine our all-in-one zero-point. We imagine Averatec would prefer we go back to our old ways.
On the outside, the Averatec looks very much like an iMac wrapped in shiny black plastic. Inside you’ll find a mixture of desktop and notebook components that explain why the machine is priced $600 less than Apple’s cheapest 24-inch iMac and a cool grand less than Dell’s 24-inch XPS One. Averatec reached far down Intel’s desktop CPU line to pick a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo E4600. It did the same for graphics, tapping Nvidia’s two-year-old GeForce 8400M GS mobile GPU. This GPU has just 16 shader processors, runs at a mild 400MHz, and has a narrow 64-bit interface to 256MB of memory. It drives the integrated display at its native resolution of 1680x1050, and there’s a DVI port in back if you want to connect a second monitor.
I suffered a loss recently: My trusty, first-generation iPhone’s touch screen gave up the ghost. On a sunny day in early June, it let loose this mortal coil. And, like every other piece of technology I’ve ever owned, the touch screen stopped responding at the worst possible moment—as I was in a cab on my way to the first leg of a two-week trip.
Upon landing in Los Angeles, my first stop was an Apple store, where one of the Apple-proclaimed “geniuses” explained my options. My first choice was to get a replacement phone for a mere $200 (I hadn’t bothered to buy the extended warranty). My other option was simply to pound sand. I took my busted phone and bid the Apple store and its smug “geniuses” farewell, vowing to never buy another iPhone.
Next stop was AT&T to purchase a new, non-iPhone phone. I put my name on the we’ll-help-you-when-we’re-good-and-damn-well-ready list, and started looking at phones. After an hour or so of waiting, I walked out of the building with a new Blackberry Bold and considered my mission accomplished.
When AVADirect offered to send us a Core i7 notebook, we said, hell yeah, and immediately cleared off space in the Lab—a lot of space, because the D900F not only sports a powerful desktop CPU but also the powerfully large proportions you’d expect from a desktop replacement. At 15.5x11.75x2.5 inches with a carry weight of nearly 15 pounds, the D900F is portable in only the loosest sense of the word. You certainly wouldn’t want to lug this thing around on a regular basis.
What it offers instead is the best damn applications performance we’ve ever seen from a notebook. That’s primarily due to the machine’s 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition proc, but the two 80GB Intel X25-M SSDs in RAID 0 no doubt also help. The closest-performing notebook we’ve tested—Lenovo’s W700 ThinkPad, with its 2.53GHz Core 2 Extreme Q9300—was more than 50 percent slower than the D900F in our Premiere Pro CS3 and Photoshop CS3 benchmarks, and more than 80 percent slower in ProShow Producer and MainConcept. Indeed, in all those tests, the D900F was within 10 percent of the 3.6GHz Velocity Micro desktop system that held our desktop benchmark records for months until Maingear’s 4GHz ePhex unseated it in August.
If you ask a gun enthusiast why he needs that M4 SOPMOD to hunt squirrel, you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not that the average squirrel in the Adirondacks is on PCP and likely to require two magazines to put down; it’s that the M4 SOPMOD is a fine and uniquely crafted weapon regardless of whether it ever sees action worthy of its true potential. So, please, don’t ask us why you’d want to spend $200 on a keyboard with up to 36 macros available across 12 programmable macro keys (recordable on the fly from the keyboard itself), customizable keyboard backlighting, and even a 320x240 color display. If you’re a gamer, understand that you’re buying more power than you may ever need, but absolutely should have.
The key action is cush and quiet (preferred by most gamers and characteristic of Logitech’s boards), and the plastic is smooth yet never slippery beneath sweaty digits. The keyboard itself includes a hardware switch to disable the Windows key, and both macro and function keys are slightly elevated for easier nailing. We appreciate the slightly larger than usual Mute button below the media control keys to the upper right, and love the barrel-style volume control (if only it were reprogrammable for use as a scrubber or dial).