There are two things we think of when we hear the word “supercomputer.” The first is the failed 1970s NBC show Supercomputer (now available on DVD from Shinehart Wigs). The other is a massive room full of HAL9000-like scary boxes just two MIPS away from declaring thermal nuclear war on humanity.
So, what was Gateway thinking when it decided to call its FX6831 a Gaming Super-computer? This is, after all, just a simple desktop housing a single 2.8GHz Core i7-860. Surely, that’s not the stuff of supercomputing, is it? OK, we know that in January, Fabrice Bellard used a single Core i7 to smash a record set by, umm, a supercomputer for calculating pi. Still, Gateway’s gone way over the line, right?
First things first: This is not a revolution. Although the Acer Aspire One AO532h boasts Intel’s new Pine Trail processor, the Atom N450, it’s no game changer. Instead, think of it as a highly polished evolution of the standard netbook.
Intel’s first Atom CPU, the N270, was the processor that launched a thousand netbooks, among them the 8.9-inch Aspire One, which was our favorite first-generation netbook, as well as one of the most popular. It’s fitting, then, that an Acer Aspire One is one of the first netbooks to arrive with Intel’s much-anticipated Atom N450, which consumes roughly 20 percent less power, and moves the chipset and graphics functionality into the CPU.
Other than the CPU, not much else is new about the AO532h—it has 1GB of DDR2; a 10.1-inch, 1024x600, LED-backlit LCD; and a glossy, fingerprint-magnet chassis. The hard drive is 250GB, which is nice, and both hard drive and RAM are easily upgradeable. It’s the first netbook we’ve tested with Windows 7 preinstalled, albeit the needlessly crippled Starter edition. The track pad, which supports multitouch, is a textured area that’s flush with the chassis; the chiclet-style keyboard is nearly full-size and easy to type on, although the keys depress lower than the chassis, which can be annoying when hitting the keys on the bottom row, where the sharp edge of the frame can dig into your thumbs.
Of the three routers we’re taking second looks at, none has changed more than Buffalo’s WZR-HP-G300NH. That’s because Buffalo has thrown the firmware we tested earlier out the window and adopted the open-source DD-WRT.
Comparing our earlier benchmark numbers to the performance we recorded this time out, however, we much prefer the Kick Ass award–earning router we tested in January to the one in front of us now. That router turned in the best throughput we’ve ever seen with our client in our well-insulated media room and in our furthest outdoor location; this one took fifth-place finishes in both tests (in a field of seven). We have little doubt the reason for this performance discrepancy is due to the fact that no matter how we configured the router, we couldn’t coax Buffalo’s WLI-UC-G300HP01B USB client adapter to connect to it at a stated data rate faster than 130Mb/s.
Since we reviewed the Thermaltake Element S (August 2009), Thermaltake has unleashed a dizzying deluge of Elements, from mid-towers G and T to the small-formfactor Q. The first full-tower, the Element V, feels like a bizarre mix of budget case and deluxe enclosure.
The Element V chassis comes with support for MicroATX, ATX, EATX, and various server motherboards, and its motherboard tray includes a CPU backplate cutout. At 21x21x8.7 inches, it’s a full three inches shorter and three inches shallower than the Corsair 800D, which is one of the biggest cases we’ve tested. Still, the Element V is roomy enough inside to accommodate a Radeon HD 5970, the longest PCI-E graphics card on the market, with an inch or so to spare.
Because the Element V is made of steel, not aluminum, it’s quite cumbersome, weighing 31 pounds empty. The side panels are similarly beefy, although we like the integrated 14cm fan in the left-side panel and the small plastic window above it. It’s good that the window is so small, because the inside of the case is unpainted, unlike the Element S.
When we tested Noctua’s tower-style NH-U12P in August 2009, its performance was excellent, making it a close second to our then-champion Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. Given the success of coolers with one fan and one set of cooling fins, it’s logical to think that, hey, maybe two sets of fins and two fans would be even better! Thus (probably) was born the Noctua NH-D14, with its two pounds, 12 ounces of cooling power.
The NH-D14 consists of six heat pipes rising from a heat exchanger into two stacks of cooling fins, with a 14cm fan between the fins and a 12cm fan on the outside. It looks like the NH-U12P, doubled. And it’s enormous, albeit easy to install. The center 14cm fan removes easily—Noctua has really improved its wire retention clips—and an included long Philips-head screwdriver makes attaching the NH-D14 to its mounting bars simple, though we struggled with the sheer footprint of the device; some configurations may require moving the 12cm fan, lest it interfere with RAM cooling fins.