Ah, the humble End User License Agreement. You tear through them, you click “I agree,” but what exactly are you agreeing to? I don’t actually know, because like you, I never read them.
Claiming to read all your software licenses is the reverse of masturbation—90 percent admit they don’t do it, and the other 10 percent are liars. It’s hard to get through a whole day without agreeing to the occasional complex contract, we definitely couldn’t get through the day if we read them.
These days, companies claim to sell us their EULA in lieu of just selling us their software, to give themselves powers over their software the law doesn’t give them. How much power? No one exactly knows. This last-mile legislation by companies has met with mixed response when it goes to court.
At what capacity point are enthusiasts ready to make the crossover from magnetic storage to solid state? For some, that mark is a quarter-terabyte. If that sounds like you, Patriot’s new 256GB Torqx, featuring the hot Indilinx controller, could be the SSD you’re after. We pitted the 256GB Torqx against the 128GB Torqx and Intel’s second-gen 160GB X25-M SSD to find out which would be the new SSD king.
On our new Core i5 test bed, the 256GB Patriot Torqx significantly outperformed both its smaller sibling and Intel’s X25-M—at least in sustained reads and writes. (To restore performance on the latter two drives to like-new levels, we used Patriot’s and Intel’s SSD-optimizing utilities on their respective drives before testing.) For the first time, we found a drive with average sustained reads and writes above 200MB/s—on the same platform, the 128GB Torqx averaged 178MB/s reads and 168MB/s writes, while the X25-M achieved 185MB/s and 94MB/s, respectively. These aren’t quite the numbers we saw when we originally tested the 128GB Torqx or the X25-M, a difference we chalked up to the new test bed. Regardless, the 256GB Torqx surpassed both other drives in average sustained reads and writes, though Intel’s drive is still the champion in random-write access times, as well as in our Premiere Pro and PCMark Vantage tests, where the 256GB Torqx lagged far behind. Strangely, the smaller-capacity Torqx also outperformed the 256GB in the latter two tests.
Motorola’s Droid is full of firsts: It’s the first smartphone on Verizon powered by Google’s Android OS, it’s also the first Motorola smartphone to use Android, and it’s the first phone in the United States that ships with version 2.0 of the Android OS. Unfortunately for Motorola, all of the good news about the phone is centered on the OS, while any ill tidings regard the hardware.
There’s a lot to like about the latest version of the Android OS. The ability to leave frequently used applications running in the background is a welcome change for long-time iPhone users. Whether it’s a Twitter client, instant-messaging app, or simply your email, this is the Android OS’s main competitive advantage over Apple’s product. Of course, you shouldn’t discount the value of a powerful API that allows app developers to tightly integrate their offerings with the phone. For example, Android’s default Facebook app automatically adds information from your Facebook friends’ profiles to your Contacts list—including phone number, current email address, and even their profile picture. This type of integration makes services like Google Voice even more useful than they are on their own—if you install Google Voice on an Android phone, you can choose whether to use VoIP or cellular minutes on every call, pick which phone number your caller sees, and even manage calling groups on the phone. In that regard, Android really is a revolution.
The recipe: Take two of the fastest GPUs on the planet capable of running DirectX 11, specially chosen for their low voltage leakage. Toss in two gigabytes of high-speed GDDR5 memory. Mix all ingredients into a card with high-end Japanese solid capacitors and a souped-up thermal dissipation system. The result: the XFX Radeon HD 5970—a GPU so yummy, you may even go back for seconds.
While the product name doesn’t hint at the card’s dual-GPU nature, there’s no mistaking the presence of two graphics chips when you check out the back of the board. Then there’s the sheer size of it: At more than 12 inches, you’ll need a high-end PC case that’s deep enough to handle this monster. You’ll need a beefy power supply, too, since the HD 5970 burns 294W at full throttle—and that’s if you don’t overclock it. The good news is the card consumes just 42W at idle, less than double the idle power of a single HD 5870, thanks to an enhanced deep-sleep mode for the slave GPU.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Raven RV01 (reviewed April 2009 as part of our full-tower roundup), Silverstone’s Raven RV02 is an all-black steel and plastic chassis with a defining feature: The motherboard orientation is rotated 90 degrees from the standard layout. But the Raven RV02 is even less orthodox than the RV01, which seems positively pedestrian by comparison. Unlike its full-tower predecessor, the RV02 is deeper than it is tall—25 inches deep by 20 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide, so it sits low to the ground. The front of the case is chunky stealth-inspired plastic, but is much more restrained on the RV02 than on the RV01, with a garage door–style front bezel. The side panels and frame are steel, and the case is black inside and out.
Building a system in the RV02 is a vertiginous experience. At first glance, nothing seems to be in the right place—the right-side panel has an optional plastic window, while the left-side panel is the one behind the motherboard tray. Furthermore, not only do the PCI expansion slots and I/O shield mount to the top of the case, but so does the power supply, which sits to the right of the motherboard at the back of the case, and is held in place by four screws, a Velcro strap, and a plastic bracket. The case’s five 5.25-inch bays and 3-inch-bay hard drive cage sit at the front of the case. The hard drive cage isn’t as user-friendly as we’re used to seeing—to install a drive, you must first remove eight thumbscrews, take out the cage, and use four long screws to attach the drive to the rubber shock-absorbing mounts in the cage. Thankfully, four of the optical-drive slots use Silverstone’s familiar toolless retention mechanism.
The original Chumby—a beanbag with a touch screen, a speaker, and an always-on Internet connection using Wi-Fi—was an interesting hybrid of an always-on smartphone, a digital picture frame, and an old-fashioned alarm clock. The new Chumby One updates the original hardware with a few new features, strips away a few others, and comes in at a much cheaper price of $120 (the original was $200).
For lack of a better term, the Chumby is an information appliance. Using the web interface at Chumby.com, you can configure the device to show pretty much any info that’s available on the Internet, from the local weather to your Facebook news feed to the latest from popular gossip sites. Heck, you can even set it to simply show the current time. On top of that, the Chumby One includes a programmable alarm clock, which makes it perfect for your nightstand.
One of the PC’s weaknesses is the tendency to be generic. That’s certainly not a weakness of Alienware’s new Aurora ALX. Using a new redesigned chassis, there’s no way your Aurora ALX will be confused with a bland black box.
And how could it, given its signature Xenomorph look? Previous Alienware cases have felt like rebadged commodity cases, but this new case is clearly unique. When we plugged the PC into the wall socket, the set of ventilation vents on top slowly flapped open and closed—as though the ominous black creature were alive and just took a breath.
Getting inside of the case added to the mystery. Like a caveman hammering away on a flying saucer with a rock, we just didn’t know how to open the thing. We finally found that lifting the very last ventilation flap unlocks the side hatch. With the door off of the blowing, pulsing, and breathing Aurora ALX, was it alien technology we saw? Fortunately, it was more Earth-bound. Inside, we found a water-cooled Core i7-975 Extreme Edition on a custom Micro ATX X58 motherboard. Graphics were in the hands of the latest hotness, two CrossFired ATI Radeon HD 5870s. Along with 6GB of RAM and a Blu-ray combo drive, there wasn’t much wanting in the rig. We do take issue with the storage configuration, which comprises two 1TB drives in RAID 0, with no local backup drive. Scary. However, we like the mounting system, which gives you easy access to drives.
To say that netbooks have historically been hobbled by Intel’s integrated graphics is to unfairly ignore their slow single-core CPUs, 1GB RAM maximum, miniscule keyboards, and awkward screen resolutions. It’s an unfair assertion, of course—netbooks came into existence to be cheap, portable, low-powered machines. But the definition of netbook has been stretched, to the point where HP’s new Mini 311, while still considered a netbook, has an 11.6-inch 1366x768 screen, Nvidia integrated graphics, a large keyboard, and can support up to 3GB of DDR3 RAM, for less than $500.
At first, the Mini 311 looks a lot like any other 11.6-inch netbook on the market: Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 3 USB ports, and a somewhat squashed keyboard. But the RAM is DDR3/1333, not the typical DDR2/667, and it’s soldered to the mainboard, leaving a SODIMM slot free for an additional 2GB of RAM. The screen has a maximum resolution of 1366x768, significantly better than the standard 1024x600—for one thing, websites and programs built for 1024x768 won’t break. And thanks to the Ion platform, the Mini 311 can display 720p HD video, and output 1080p over the HDMI port—that’s right, a netbook with an HDMI port.
The performance of an LCD monitor ultimately depends on how its liquid crystals are manipulated to channel light. We’ll examine the three most common technologies: Twisted Nematic (TN), In-plane Switching (IPS), and Vertical Alignment (VA).
Each of these three technologies creates a pixel using a cell of liquid-crystal molecules controlled by a thin-film transistor. Liquid crystals are used because they’re capable of effecting light as though they’re a solid, while exhibiting the malleability of a fluid. In a color LCD, each pixel is subdivided into three cells, or subpixels, which are colored red, green, and blue, respectively, by additional filters. These cells are arranged in a matrix of rows and columns sandwiched between two panes of glass, with a polarizing film on the exterior side of each pane.
A light source, such as a cold cathode fluorescent lamp or an LED grid, is placed behind the first glass panel. Light waves from the backlight follow the alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules, but they must pass through the two polarizing filters before reaching the surface of the display. Light waves must be oriented perfectly parallel to the first filter to pass, but since the second filter is oriented perpendicular to the first, no light will pass unless it’s reoriented first.