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.
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.
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.
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.