When you finally make the decision to start fresh with a new OS on a new hard drive, it can be nerve-wracking. If you’ve been following proper hard disk etiquette, most of your programs and data should be stored on different drives or partitions than your operating system, but somehow important data has a way of making its way onto your C: drive. And although you can do your best to make sure you back up all the data you want to keep (your My Documents folder, for instance), it’s hard not to feel like you’re forgetting something.
You don’t have to worry. Thanks to new tools from Microsoft in Windows 7, you can preserve your entire hard disk on another drive as a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD). So don’t worry that you’ll forget important data on your old drive—just freeze it solid, like Han Solo in a block of carbonite, and rest easy knowing that if you suddenly recall that you left something important on your drive, you can simply run it as a virtual PC, or mount it to your new system.
Hey, we get it. We understand that the way you watch movies and TV is different than the way we do, and that this probably differs significantly from the way your neighbors enjoy their living room and/or den. But we also understand that some fairly basic carnal desires rule our decision-making. Humongous HD screens. 3D movies. High-fidelity lossless sound. More HD recording options. Playback anywhere in the house.
At its core, the home-theater dream can be distilled as follows: We want our movies to feel as cinematic as possible. And we want to be able to record and watch as many shows as possible on the biggest-possible TV screen.
When we set about constructing this year’s home theater, we used the phrase “cutting-edge” as our guiding light. A funny thing happened on the way to cutting-edge, however. As we started identifying the components and parts and controllers and cards—many of which are being released just as you read these words—we began to realize that we were on the bleeding-edge. We’ll take that.
Factory overclocked graphics cards seem too good to be true. You get increased performance plus the manufacturer’s warranty. XFX’s Radeon HD 5870 XXX was the first factory-OC’d version of that GPU we reviewed (May 2010); that card pushed core clocks to 875MHz and memory to 1,300MHz (5,200MHz effective.) Now MSI is jumping into the game, and unlike XFX, builds a custom cooler onto its 1GB R5870 Lightning.
If you have any doubts about the amount of customization MSI put into the R5870, one look at it tells you it’s not your typical reference card. The custom cooler uses two fans instead of one, and the heatsink is a massive chunk of metal that runs the length of the card and features numerous heat pipes. The PCB is also anything but stock, and extends about 3/4 of an inch taller than other Radeon HD 5870 cards. Stock Radeon HD 5870 cards run off an 8-pin and 6-pin power connector. The R5870 features support for two 8-pin connectors for “extreme overclocking.”
It seems like just yesterday that we said farewell to our June 2010 issue and with it our second-ever solid state drive roundup. But no sooner had we shipped that issue to the printers than a new pile of tasty solid state drives landed on our doorstep. This month, the OCZ Vertex 2 (the sequel to that “limited edition” drive from June) bumps heads with another SandForce drive—Corsair’s Force F100—as well as the Patriot Zephyr, which uses JMicron’s new JMF612 controller. The SandForce SF-1200 controller seems to be replacing Barefoot’s Indilinx as the go-to performance chipset, but what about JMicron? Its JM602 controller was largely responsible for the poor write performance of first-gen SSDs, so can the JMF612 wash that bitter taste out of our mouths? You can bet your second-favorite platypus that we’ll find out. Don’t bet your favorite platypus; that’s just irresponsible.
Man, we are all about SandForce these days. The controller company burst out of stealth mode early this year, and proceeded to rock our socks with every drive that uses its SF-1200 firmware. The Corsair Force F100, like all drives of its ilk, relies on commodity NAND and the rock-solid SandForce SF-1200 controller, which eschews DRAM cache entirely in favor of not sucking. And though it doesn’t reach the unprecedented reads and writes offered by the OCZ Vertex 2 and its custom firmware, the Force F100 performs on par with the next best drives out there, which all happen to be SandForce-powered.
The JMicron JM602 controller, paired with insufficient cache, hobbled the first generation of consumer SSDs—once the cache filled, write speeds slowed to a crawl. Random-write latencies could get as bad as a fifth of a second (compared to .1ms for most modern SSDs), pulling average sustained writes down as low as 20MB/s in some cases. Manufacturers responded by adding more cache or by building future generations of drives on different controllers, such as the Barefoot Indilinx part. Since then, JMicron has been pretty quiet, but now Patriot’s Zephyr line has arrived, powered by JMicron’s new JMF612 SATA controller. Is this new effort enough to the put JMicron into our good graces?
In June, we tested OCZ’s Vertex Limited Edition, one of two drives we had that used the SandForce SF-1200 controller. At the time, we wondered why OCZ would artificially limit supplies of an SSD with such great performance. And now we know: It was a trial run to help SandForce, a recent startup, gain capital to scale up production. It’s since done that, and in gratitude to OCZ has granted the company exclusive random-write-IOPS-boosting firmware for its Vertex 2 drives. The new firmware will be available to other SF-1200 drives (probably by the time this issue hits stands)—but as of press time, it’s an OCZ Vertex 2 exclusive deal. Ethics of “exclusive firmware” aside, is the Vertex 2 any better than its Limited Edition stable mate?
I’ve been contemplating purchasing a 120Hz monitor for some time. After reading the May 2010 review of the Acer GD235HZ, this now looks like more of a possibility. I currently have a GeForce 275 GTX, and my understanding is that in order to take advantage of the 120Hz, I need to connect to the monitor with dual-link DVI. However, will this 120Hz monitor do for games what 120Hz has done for movies and TVs? Does it deliver that same crisp image that makes it feel like you are right there with the cast? Also, would a streaming service, such as Slingbox, have that same feeling if I’m steaming at HD speeds (2Mb/s+)?
I have two 1GB DIMMs of DDR/400 installed on an Intel D875PBZ mobo. The board has four slots, and I have the DIMMs arranged in dual-channel mode. I have double-checked it and I have one DIMM in channel A, slot 0 and one DIMM in channel B, slot 0. About once a week, every few restarts, the machine reboots with the error saying that the RAM amounts have changed. When I check, it shows each DIMM as 512MB instead of 1GB. On occasion, it will show the correct amount, but it will be in single-channel mode only! Keep in mind, I swapped in these 1GB DIMMs recently from a pair of 512MB DIMMs. I tried updating the BIOS but have had no success at all.