Whether you’re copying your movie discs to your hard drive for archival purposes or queuing them up in HandBrake for a batch transcode, your optical drive’s performance can make a big difference in time spent on this menial chore. The trouble is, there’s no obvious way of knowing which optical drive will do the job fastest.
The optical drive spec that gets the most attention is the DVD+/-R write speed. It’s the spec that’s prominently featured on the packaging and often even integrated into the drive’s name. But if you assume that the newest drive with the fastest-rated write speed will also kick butt at copying the contents of your movie discs to your hard drive, you’re mistaken.
For this task, read speed is what matters. But even knowing that, you can’t judge a drive’s real-world performance at copying video files simply by looking at its read specs. Not only do the specs indicate maximum capability as opposed to average speed, but a drive’s read time with video files can differ from its read time with data files. To find out which is the fastest drive for DVD copiers, we grabbed a bunch of DVD drives, a copy of Batman Begins, and got ripping.
We don't typically expect much from a $50 case, but NZXT may change how we view budget enclosures if its Beta mid-tower chassis manages to look as good in person as it does in pictures. And it doesn't look to sacrifice a whole lot in terms of features, either.
As we're starting to see more of lately (and we couldn't be happier about it), the Beta comes with an all black interior rather than unfinished steel. From a feature standpoint, the budget enclosure includes four external 5.25-inch and five internal 3.5-inch drive bays, all of which support tool-less installation. Cooling duties are served by four 120mm fans (one each on the front and rear, and two and on the side), as well as what looks to be plenty of cut-outs for cable management.
"Given the current economic conditions, we wanted to offer gamers a sleek sturdy case built for performance and maximum expandability without breaking the bank," said Johhn Hou, Chief Designer at NZXT. "Beta provides the perfect solution for a sub $1,000 PC and will give gamers multiple options when configuring a rig with phenomenal value."
NZXT says the Beta will be available this month with an MSRP of $50.
Asus this week announced new beta drivers for several of its motherboards that "enable Asus motherboard users to run Windows 7 RC." By doing so, Asus claims its mobos are the world's first to support the newly released operating system.
"Asus' industry-leading Research & Development team has kept close pace with each new beta release of Windows 7, and has developed beta drivers that enable Asus motherboard users to try Windows 7 RC immediately," Asus wrote in a press release. "The drivers can be downloaded from the Asus Motherboard Support website (http://support.asus.com/)."
Asus notes the following models are now officially supported:
P6T Deluxe V2
P5Q PRO Turbo
P5Q SE PLUS
Updated drivers for the full range of P6T, P5Q, and M4 series boards will be coming soon, Asus says.
You probably won't pull the global economy up by its bootstraps simply by upgrading your motherboard, but you will help reverse the downward sales trend mobo makers have had to contend with. According to a report by the Taiwanese Market Intelligence Institute (MIC), only 32 million motherboards were sold in the first quarter of 2009, a 16 percent drop from one year ago.
While sales in the US were down, the European market showed the most severe slowdown, according to the report. And it doesn't look to get any better in the second quarter of 2009.
"Markets in each region are entering the off-season, and channel inventory replenishment activities are slowing down," said Vincent Chang, MIC industry analyst. "market shipment momentum is thus weakening. Only several PC brands have continued to make procurements in April."
Chang went on to predict that year end sales figures, while still comparatively dismal, will fare a little better. He expects worldwide motherboard shipments to be in the 134 million range, or a 9 percent drop from 2008.
So there you have - tell your significant other you're only upgrading to Core i7 to help save mobo makers.
Our initial impression of NEC’s widescreen 26-inch EA261WM LCD monitor was overwhelmingly positive, primarily due to the thought put into its ergonomics. What puzzles us most about monitor design is why—even with obscenely expensive panels—user comfort is so often overlooked. If you’re planning on shelling out a load of cash for a monitor, something as simple as height adjustment (rather than the default homebrew solution of piles of books) seems like an obvious feature. The EA261WM includes not only height adjustment but pivot, tilt, and swivel adjustments as well, making it easy to share information on your screen with coworkers or even switch to a portrait configuration, should the need arise.
The EA261WM is also one of only 26 monitors to achieve EPEAT’s gold rating, the highest standard for environmental friendliness. To further emphasize its green attributes, the monitor includes an ECO mode, which lowers power consumption, and a carbon-footprint reader tells you just how much you’re doing to save the planet by lowering the brightness on your monitor.
In a press release issued yesterday, AMD laid out a few surprises in its server platform roadmap that the company says are "game-changing," and perhaps indicative of a new-look AMD focused on design without the burden of manufacturing. We have to admit we like what we're seeing, starting with the announcement that the new monolithic six-core Opteron, code named Istanbul, will be released this June months ahead of schedule. But that's only the beginning.
AMD also announced a new integrated memory controller technology, Direct Connect Architecture 2.0, which it says will support up to 12 cores initially, offer improved memory and I/O capabilities, near native virtualization performance, and a range of full-featured power bands that place a priority on low power consumption.
But wait, there's more! In 2010, AMD says it will ship the Opteron 6000 series for 2P and 4P servers. The Magny-Cours processors will come in 8-core and 12-core flavors debuting on the G34 socket and the Maranello platform. And then in 2011, AMD will introduce the Interlagos 12- and 16-core processor based on the Bulldozer core and built on a 32nm manufacturing process.
Here's hoping AMD will show this same aggressiveness on the desktop.
AMD faithful and bargain hunters alike have a pair of new toys to play with starting today, as AMD launches two new processors for its socket AM3 platform, the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition and 945. Both parts boast compatibility with AM2+ (DDR2) and AM3 (DDR3) motherboards, while the Phenom II X4 955 BE supplants the AM2-based 940 as AMD's new flagship entry in its Phenom line.
Coinciding with the launch, AMD has also overhauled its Dragon Platform Technology, saying "every aspect of the platform has been improved and the overall value is impressive." And we'd have to agree, considering both new chips are being priced below $250.
Hit the jump to get all the nitty-gritty details on AMD's new AM3 processors and Dragon Platform refresh.
Intel this week slashed prices on several Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors by up to 20 percent. The chip maker also introduced a pair of new processors, the Core 2 Quad Q8400S and Q8400 for $245 and $183, respectively. This month's price cuts break down as follows:
Core 2 Quad Q9300: $213 down from $266
Core 2 Quad Q9550S: $320 down from $369
Core 2 Quad Q9400S: $277 down from $320
Core 2 Quad Q8200S: $213 down from $245
Core 2 Duo SP9400: $284 down from $316
Core 2 Duo SU9400: $262 down from $289
Intel's latest round of price cuts come well timed, as AMD today launched its AM3-based Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor. While the 955BE serves as AMD's new flagship part, the company is aggressively pushing the chip as the best quad-core in the market within its $245ish price range.
Back in December, we gave you the low-down on how to build a kick-ass $800 gaming PC. Well, lately the economy has been in a bit of a shamble, so we’ve lowered our price ceiling to spec out a tightly budgeted $500 rig that will deliver admirable gaming framerates and still leave you some cash to actually buy some games and pay off that credit-card debt.
The last time we conducted a $500 PC build-off (October, 2007), we matched a Allendale-based Core 2 E4300 CPU with a Nvidia 8500GT, which gave us pathetic FEAR and Quake 4 benchmark results. That build cut so many corners that we even opted out of a case and used a cardboard box instead (in retrospect, a really bad idea). Almost two years later, the tech is better and prices for some component categories have dramatically dropped. A bit wiser and gutsier, we were determined to build a PC that could actually play modern games.
In order to keep the machine under $500, we factored out the price of purchasing an operating system, and assume that you already have a copy of Windows XP, Vista, or the Windows 7 Beta lying around. And obviously, we were forced to restrain ourselves from choosing the high-end premium parts that we would normally recommend to readers. But despite the low cost, we actually didn't have to make any real compromises to get a solid gaming machine. Our (relatively) cheapo PC actually surprised us in our benchmark tests -- scoring close to our zero-point system -- and made us feel confident that a rock bottom price doesn’t automatically mean rock bottom performance.
Join us as we take on the $500 Gaming PC Challenge!
When solid state drives (SSDs) first made a push into the mainstream market last earlier this year, less than stellar benchmark results and buggy controllers did little to convince users it worth paying a premium for flash-based drives over less expensive and much larger (in capacity) hard drives. But the latest round of SSDs have picked up their game, such as OCZ's refreshed Vertex line, the Vertex EX.
"The new OCZ Vertex EX is designed to deliver unparalleled performance and reliability, featuring the latest-generation architecture and SATA interface utilizing single-level cell NAND flash memory for unmatched overall system responsiveness and stability for enterprise grade server solutions," said Alex Mei, CMO of the OCZ Technology Group.
But forget about enterprise grade server solutions - the Vertex EX looks to be a killer storage option for high end desktops, at least on paper. Available in 60GB and 120GB capacities, the new drives boast an impressive 260MB/s read, 210MB/s write (200MB/s for the 60GB), and up to 100MB/s sustained write. Like the previous Vertex drives, the new EX refresh also comes with 64MB of onboard cache and support RAID configurations.