Most power users would be perfectly willing to upgrade to Windows 8 if it weren’t for two things—the tile-based “Metro” interface and the missing Start button. While Metro is like a rash in that you eventually get used to it, we can’t imagine getting used to the lack of a Start button. It’s too bad Microsoft didn’t give us the option of using both features, but fortunately, two third-party utilities do. If you want the speed of Windows 8 and your old buddy the Start menu, one of these utilities belongs on your system. Let’s find out which one.
Note: This head-to-head feature appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
From telling Iran they shouldn’t torture quite so many bloggers to complaining about China hacking Google, America is big on pushing Internet freedom around the world these days. Even before the Arab Revolutions, ensuring Internet freedom was an official foreign policy objective. But you know what would make us more plausible advocates for a free Internet? If we had one.
Note: This column was originally featured in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Player death is not a gameplay element. It’s a design failure. I know this is heresy among gamers with fond memories of Rogue and similar games, and for modern gamers who soiled themselves with glee over Dark Souls, but it’s the truth.
This mechanic may work in some puzzle games, such as Limbo, which incorporated character death into a puzzle format and narrative structure that made sense. But that’s an exception. The problem is this: With an adventure, role-playing, or action game, the gamer becomes the character. He identifies with it. He’s developed it. And that’s the point of the game: Take one person, see him through various trials, gather what needs to be gathered (experience, weapons, objects), and then use that accumulated knowledge to win.
Note: This column was featured in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Every girl crazy about a sharp dressed...computer chip
Long ago, all men’s suits were handmade by tailors. Then mass production made off-the-rack garments more affordable, and now only the wealthy or fastidious buy fully tailored suits. A similar trend has transformed the semiconductor industry, making custom microprocessors a luxury only for well-heeled companies.
In between my chores as a hardware tester, I’m an IIBT board-certified troller and can successfully argue with anyone about anything, anywhere, at any time.
These days, one of the many issues I get to spar with people over is, “What is a PC?” That might seem about as basic as opining on the color blue, but the distinctions are extremely important. Just this morning, I was reading a headline stating that Apple’s new mini tablet could very well “hurt the PC market.” Of course, on the very same news site, six months ago, was a story about how analysts had deemed Apple the world’s largest “PC maker.” That’s not because Apple sold more PCs than HP, Dell, or Lenovo, but because it sold more iPads, which as we know, should be counted as PC sales, right?
Note: This column appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Build your own small Steam Box PC using Valve's Big Picture Mode
As PC gamers, we’re big fans of Valve Software’s Steam service and can’t imagine life without it. We’ve got a huge library of installed games, all of our friends are on it, and almost every AAA title is released on Steam, making it indispensable. The only “problem” with Steam has been that its interface was designed for sitting 24 inches away, at a monitor, making it incompatible with couch-bound gaming. Valve has rectified this dilemma with its recently launched Big Picture Mode, which slaps a 10-foot interface on top of Steam and makes it easy to control with a gamepad. Since distance and connection issues can get in the way of running your desktop PC on your HDTV screen, we’re going to walk you through a more workable solution. First, we will advise you on selecting a small-but-powerful PC that’s suitable for a living room, then we’ll walk you through selecting appropriate peripherals, and finally we’ll show you how to get it all up and running, ready for Big Picture Mode deployment.
Note: This article appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
This month the doctor tackles XP vs. Windows 7, Upgrading from LGA1366 and PhysX on AMD
Question: My laptop is an Asus G74SX-TH71. It has a GeForce GTX 560M with 4GB of RAM, a 2GHz Core i7 CPU, and 12GB of RAM. It has two 500GB hard drives in it, one for OS and games and the other for videos. I was wondering if I should upgrade my laptop to a desktop. I have about 500 dollars and I’m looking for a good budget gaming computer with a monitor. Can you suggest a computer or a way to upgrade my laptop, maybe an SSD?
Note: This article first appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Good looks, solid installation, a few eyebrow-raising quirks
If you’re big on case lighting—you Cylon fan, you—you’re going to absolutely love NZXT’s latest Phantom chassis. It’s rare to see such attention to detail paid to simple illumination, as with the three separate strands of lighting found on the exterior, interior, and rear of NZXT’s Phantom 820. Cooler still, you can manually cycle through a variety of colors for the lights, so as to find the one that matches whatever mood you’re in at any given moment.
Two 4TB drives with 7,200rpm spindles go platter-to-platter
Hardcore PC performance fanatics are rarely satisfied. For example, when we were first given 1TB hard drives, we were excited, but wanted 2TB. Then we got 2TB and wanted 3TB, and so on, until we had a 4TB drive in the Lab. When that drive finally arrived, rather than rejoicing, we continued griping because the drive in question was a Hitachi 5K4000, which spins at a lowly 5,400rpm. The capacity was appreciated, but we wanted a drive with 4TB of capacity and a 7,200rpm spindle speed (we actually want a 4TB SSD, but that’s beside the point). Now the griping shall cease (for the most part), as we finally have 4TB 7,200rpm drives from Hitachi and WD. These fine specimens are the fastest and largest drives of their kind, so if you’re a data hoarder with a need for speed, one of these drives belongs in your rig.
Western Digital’s first 4TB SATA hard drive is the one to get if you have a lot of data (and money).