Go big or go home. That’s a lesson Corsair apparently took to heart for its first chassis, a 24x24x9-inch full-size enclosure that rivals Cooler Master’s ATCS 840 in size. Corsair’s Obsidian 800D is all black, from its matte steel frame and side panels to its brushed-aluminum front bezel, from motherboard tray to front-panel cables, from screws to standoffs. And the goodness is more than skin deep—the 800D has everything you’d expect from a premium case: quick-swap SATA bays, thermally isolated compartments, plenty of cable-routing cutouts, and more. In fact, it’s one of the best cases we’ve tested in years.
The 800D is divided into several “cooling zones”: the top compartment with the motherboard and optical bays; the bottom compartment, where the power supply sits; and a front compartment with four hot-swap 3.5-inch SATA bays. Each compartment is cooled by a separate 14cm fan, and the top compartment has room for three additional 12cm exhaust fans, as well as support for liquid-cooling radiators. Fresh air is drawn in through dust-filtered intakes at the bottom of the case, which is lifted one inch off the ground by three supporting feet.
Evaluating successive generations of HP’s TouchSmart series reminds us of shopping for a new car. If you fall in love and buy this year’s model, you must never, ever visit the showroom to look at next year’s model or you’ll be hit with a bout of buyer’s remorse faster than you can say “planned obsolescence.”
We’re not suggesting that HP is intentionally designing these machines to have a shorter-than-normal useful life or that it’s been adding frivolous features to new models; it’s just that the company’s engineers keep making design improvements that are significant enough for us to wonder why we heaped such praise on the previous iteration. The changes this year are a wee bit more incremental, but HP gets a major assist from Microsoft in the form of Windows 7, which is not only vastly superior to Vista but also offers far better native support for HP’s touch applications. Fortunately, owners of previous-generation TouchSmarts have the option of upgrading to Windows 7 and downloading the latest version of HP’s software.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand: Just what makes the TouchSmart 600-1055 so damned sweet? There’s the display, for starters. Last year’s model had a 22-inch display with a native resolution of 1680x1050; this one has a 23-inch screen with a native resolution of 1920x1080, making it the perfect partner for both the slot-feed Blu-ray drive and the integrated HDTV tuner.
If you’ve been eying Flip Video’s popular MinoHD (reviewed March 2009) but have been put off by the simple-enough-for-simpletons approach, Kodak’s Zi-8 is the pocket cam you’ve been waiting for.
Think of Kodak’s feature-rich Zi-8 as the anti-Flip camera. While you can’t change the battery on the MinoHD, you can on the Zi-8. Can’t change the mic-input levels on your MinoHD? On the Zi-8 you can. Can’t play back footage in slow-motion on your MinoHD? Or run an external microphone? Or use your own SD cards? Or take still images? You get the point.
Kodak seems to have taken every geek’s wish-list for a pocket video cam and implemented it in the Zi-8. Slightly paunchier than Flip’s Mino series but comparable to Flip’s Ultra, the Zi-8 has modes for WVGA, 720p, 1080p, and even a 60fps 720p mode for sporting events. But wait, there’s more: Kodak also includes a macro mode, face-detection focusing, and an image stabilizer—hell, those guys even include a charger and HDMI cables, too!
Thermaltake’s first SpinQ cooler (reviewed February 2009) had style for sure—it looked like a blue-lit stack of bike gears with a fan in the middle, mounted sideways. The SpinQ VT adopts the same basic formfactor—the stack of circular aluminum fins mounted around an 8cm fan—but stands the stack upright, and uses red LEDs instead of blue. Other than that, it’s more of the same—from the variable fan speed to the so-so performance.
The SpinQ VT (we still want to pronounce it “spink”) stands 6.2 inches from base to top, and the fin stack is 4.7 inches in diameter. Six heat pipes lead up from the base into the 50 aluminum fins, and the 8cm fan blows cool air down over the fins. The fan uses a 3-pin connector and includes a variable-speed knob to take it between 1,000 and 1,600rpm, but since adjusting it requires you to reach into the case, we imagine most people will set it once and never adjust it again.
Somehow, blowing things up never gets old—especially blowing up Nazis. Sixty-five years after the fall of the Third Reich, it’s still a gaming favorite.
As the titular Saboteur, Irish mechanic turned French freedom-fighter Sean Devlin, you throw a wrench into the gears of the Nazi occupation in 1940... except this wrench is actually a wad of TNT that detonates in a spectacular fireball. The game equips you with an ample pile of explosives and turns you loose in a target-rich open-world version of Nazi-occupied Paris (complete with Eiffel Tower and Louvre) and its surrounding rural areas. Much of the joy of playing comes from planting bombs on poorly guarded Nazi equipment and casually strolling out of the blast radius before it blows, then watching it crumble down, jackbooted thugs and all.
Sure, the story, which follows Sean’s quest for revenge against a sadistic S.S. officer/race car driver is a little hammy and more than a little absurd, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, it works well with the roguish Indiana Jones–style attitude of the character. The voice actors play along, delivering entertaining performances with caricature Irish, French, and German accents.
Dragon Age: Origins is the first in a new franchise from role-playing powerhouse BioWare, and while its swords ‘n’ sorcery setting may, at first glance, appear to be the result of an especially fruitful attempt at robbing J.R.R. Tolkien’s grave, don’t let that fool you. Dragon Age may very well contain one of the finest, most compelling videogame worlds ever created.
But that on its own isn’t what makes Dragon Age great. Rather, the game’s heart lies smack-dab at the intersection between setting and character development. It’s a fine line that many sprawling RPGs attempt to walk, yet BioWare has managed to cross the proverbial tightrope with startling ease. Chalk it up to years of experience with similar games, but with Dragon Age, BioWare has truly perfected its craft.
The story initially appears to be something of a straight line but quickly spins out into a complex web, with you at the center. It’s a surprisingly personal experience—especially when contrasted with other story-based RPGs—that begins with your choice of an origin story. Depending on your race/class combination, you’ll encounter any one of multiple, wildly different opening scenarios. Your origin, then, follows you through the rest of the game. Human, elf, or dwarf, male or female, rich or poor—the whole game changes in ways both big and small to reflect your humble (or not-so-humble) beginnings.
I followed Maximum PC’s “Clean Start” article (February 2009) and used Acronis True Image to set up a weekly full disk image. My XP Pro system is installed on C:, which is a 1.5 TB hard drive. I have another 1.5TB hard drive of the exact same make and model, to which I write the weekly image. I have 120GB of free space on the C: drive, but the backup drive is already full!
The destination drive contains no files except the image; is it possible for an exact image of a C: drive to be bigger than the original (by more than 10 percent)? Yes, I selected “incremental” as backup method.
One evening my house’s master breaker box was shut off while my computer was still on. I went into the BIOS and ensured that all my settings were set as before, but since then, every time I start up my computer cold it starts to spool up, then stops for about two seconds, and then boots. If I restart after my machine has been running for a while, it boots with no delay. I went into the BIOS to see if there was any problem in the APM settings, but I still got delays during cold boots. My last resort would be to cut the power again. Except for the annoying delay, it runs rock-solid in every game I throw at it—from Crysis to Modern Warfare 2. Hope you can puzzle out what caused it and the fix.
Last month, I talked about the growing need for radio-frequency (RF) spectrum to support Internet services on smartphones and other mobile computing devices. Some experts say we’ll need 700–800MHz of additional spectrum—none of which is available now.
We can’t manufacture RF spectrum. It’s a finite resource, and only some of it has the range and penetration required to blanket a region. Data compression conserves spectrum, but there’s a mathematical limit (Shannon’s law) that prevents further compression without losing data integrity. Today’s communications standards already approach the limit.
The telecommunications industry wants to grab more spectrum from TV broadcasters, who surrendered a big chunk of airspace in the recent transition from analog to digital TV. The telecoms want UHF channels 40 to 51, or even 20 to 51. Some people want to end terrestrial TV broadcasting altogether—which would still free less than half the spectrum we supposedly need.