ATI and Nvidia have long entertained us with their game of GPU one-upmanship. Each time ATI thought it had a part that could beat Nvidia, Nvidia moved the goalposts. But now that ATI has been reduced to an AMD brand, it seems its engineers no longer want to play.
Having designed the graphics architecture for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, ATI’s management had boasted for months ahead of its acquisition by AMD that its engineers were experts at designing the type of unified shader architecture envisioned by DirectX 10. Imagine our surprise when the R600 not only hit the market several months after Nvidia’s take on unified architecture but that the company’s best offering can’t compete with Nvidia’s top two GPUs.
Initially we thought Samsung’s 226BW might rise above the pack in the 22-inch category. This LCD boasts 16.7 million colors, suggesting superior 8-bit technology. But when we did side-by-side testing next to the Hanns.G model, we were mightily surprised by the similarities. Sure enough, further inquiry revealed the 226BW to be a 6-bit panel just like all the others. But Samsung says its special Hi-FRC tech surpasses conventional FRC in color reproduction.
An LCD’s spec sheet isn’t likely to mention the use of 6-bit color with frame-rate control; it’s up to you to deduce it. In some cases, you’ll find that the color spec isn’t even mentioned. This in itself can be a clue, but it’s not proof––dig further. If a spec is mentioned, bear in mind this distinction: An 8-bit panel is capable of producing 16.7 million colors; a 6-bit panel produces just 262,144 colors but uses FRC to create approximations of more, up to 16.2 million shades.
For the price of one set of Shure’s SE530PTH earphones, you could buy two 30GB iPods, 17 sets of Apple earbuds, or 500 encrypted songs from iTunes. A worthy investment or Marie Antoinette–style consumption? With that question in mind, we couldn’t resist auditioning these pricey phones to the sound of Cake’s Fashion Nugget, ripped and FLAC-encoded, on Cowon’s D2 digital media player. We don’t know if Shure’s BOM (bill of materials) justifies a $500 price tag, but we did have awfully big smiles on our faces after using these earphones.
Maximum PC’s mandate has always been that performance rules all else.
But recently we’ve been harping about nothing but stability. It’s not
that we previously ignored this area, but lately we’ve been inundated
with rigs that have been overclocked so aggressively they make our
standard benchmarks blow up within minutes. Because of this, our new
message has been stability, stability, stability.
Your current video projector has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but you’re planning to move up to a high-def model with a 16:9 aspect ratio next year. In the meantime, you need to replace your projection screen, which your two-year-old recently mistook for an artist’s canvas. Quite the pickle, eh?
The Genius HS-04U plugs into your PC’s USB port, instead of your soundcard’s analog speaker output and mic input, so it bypasses any EAX or OpenAL audio effects that game developers might have painstakingly programmed into the software. What you get instead—after installing a driver—is what Genius calls “Virtual Dolby.”
Tritton’s headset delivers true surround sound, just like the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA2 we recommended in June. It also offers a feature that the HPA2 doesn’t: a powered Dolby Digital decoder module with optical and coaxial digital inputs, plus a port for plugging in a second set of Tritton headphones. Cool!