The biggest thing about Zotac’s new ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus may in fact be its name. This new mini PC is so small, it makes the diminutive ZBox Nano AD10 look positively fat in comparison.
Hell, the only commercial mini PC we’ve seen that’s smaller is the Apple TV, which is about the same width and depth but a quarter-inch thinner. The Apple TV is ARM-based, though, and more in the class of a typical HTPC streaming device. The AD11, with its AMD E-450 APU and 64GB SSD is a full-on PC. While streaming boxes such as WD’s Live have come a long way in capability, it’s tough to beat a PC’s ability to go anywhere you want. From streaming sites that are restricted by cable providers to not-safe-for-work content, an HTPC streaming PC trumps all others if you’re willing to live with a mouse and keyboard controls.
Zotac’s ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus is the smallest commercial PC we’ve ever tested.
As we learned with the Acer Timeline M3 we reviewed last month, Ultrabooks are not only growing in number, but in size. That’s the case with Samsung’s new Series 9, which comes in both 13.3- and 15-inch flavors. We took the latter for a spin to see how a larger footprint impacts the overall experience.
The Series 9 comes with support for Intel’s Wireless Display, so you can wirelessly stream 1080p content to a larger HDTV or monitor, provided you pony up $100 or so for the necessary adapter.
So a SandForce and an Indilinx controller walk into a testbed…
Are SSDs approaching commodity status? There are dozens of different consumer SSDs on the market, but with each successive generation it seems there are fewer controllers driving them. This time around the big players are LSI’s SandForce SF-2281 controller (found in OCZ’s Vertex 3 and Agility 3 drives, Patriot’s Pyro SE, Corsair’s Force 3 and Force GT, OWC’s Mercury Extreme Pro, Intel’s 520 Series, and so many more) and Marvell’s 9174, found in pretty much everything else. Samsung’s 830 Series drives have their own controller, but most of the rest of the market has one of two controllers, differentiated only by firmware and NAND choice. Here we examine two new SSDs: one with an off-the-shelf controller and one with a heavily modified one.
The $250 price point is where the hardcore and the serious gamer part ways. It’s not that hardcore gamers aren’t serious—it’s that they sometimes lose perspective, willing to throw vast, silly sums of money at shiny high-end GPUs. Serious gamers know that a good $250 graphics card will buy you high frame rates on standard, 1080p displays without requiring a second mortgage.
XFX’s “Ghost” fan shrouds are easy on the eyes, but they don’t vary much from card to card
Every GPU generation has its flagship videocards: the ones with the top-of-the-line GPU with all cores enabled, loaded for bear. In this generation, those cards are Nvidia’s GTX 680 (with a full GK104 GPU inside) and AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 (with a full Tahiti GPU). These cards are monstrously fast, but they’re also expensive and tricky to manufacture. Not all parts come off the line fully functional. So a few months after each flagship GPU launch, the vendors come out with a slightly stripped-down version that uses binned top-end GPUs with a few parts disabled, or lower clock speeds. AMD’s Radeon HD 7950, for example, uses the same GPU as the 7970, but with 28 GCN units instead of 32, and with an 800MHz reference clock instead of 925MHz. The cheaper, lower-powered video cards appeal both to gamers with shallower pockets and also to vendors, who clock those stripped-down, less expensive GPUs right back up to within spitting distance of their full-powered peers. Thus we arrive at the Asus GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP, a factory-overclocked GTX 670 with a custom cooling solution.
The DirectCU II cooler’s three direct-contact heat pipes keep the GPU cool.
Midrange boards typically have to sacrifice features to get under $200 and MSI’s Z77A-GD65 shows evidence of this philosophy. It’s the only board here without a discrete USB 3.0 controller, instead relying on the native Intel chipset for all USB 3.0. It’s also the only board without DisplayPort.
MSI shaved costs by jettisoning extra USB 3.0 ports on the Z77A-GD65.
Apparently budget board means legacy support. That’s what we inferred from Asus’s P8Z77-V board, which has a quaint PS/2 port and not one, but two PCI slots. Don’t think that means Asus cheaped out on more modern amenities, though. Although there’s no eSATA or FireWire, Asus includes some truly compelling features such as onboard Wi-Fi, an Intel LAN controller, incredibly fast USB 3.0, and a revamped Fan Xpert 2.
Of all the boards here, we’re most intimately familiar with Gigabyte’s GA-Z77X-UD5H. It’s the board we used for the bulk of our Core i7-3770K testing, and one thing we can say, it’s stable. We’ve literally run more than 50 hours of benchmarks on this board without any issue.
We hit our highest auto-overclock with the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H.
WE HAVE BEEN anxious to test Cooler Master’s TPC 812 since we saw a prototype at this year’s CES—or was it last year’s? Regardless, the company piqued our interest with its talk of “vertical vapor chamber cooling,” and we finally have our hands on the TPC 812, a massive air cooler with six heat pipes and two vertical vapor chambers.