RAM, like water, is a commodity. And just as there’s a clear difference between putrid L.A. County tap water and water choppered in from the peaks of Mt. Everest, the quality of RAM can vary wildly. But quality is not the sole factor to consider when you’re trying to achieve optimum memory performance from your system.
These days, a user is faced with a plethora of options spanning different technologies, speeds, and capacities. We’re here to help you make heads and tails of all that so you’re prepared when you configure your next rig. Armed with a slew of RAM-based benchmarks, we set out to answer three of the hottest questions in memory today: Is DDR3 for AMD’s new AM3 Phenom II CPUs worth the expense? Should you pay for high-speed RAM or stick with the standard stuff? Finally, just how much memory is enough? We test three common amounts of RAM for Intel’s Core i7 to identify the sweet spot.
So you’ve installed that shiny Ubuntu distro onto your PlayStation 3 and finagled a couple of cool applications to boot. And yet, there’s still a lot of empty real estate on that newly formatted hard drive, and you’re no doubt pondering what else you can load up on your now living room-friendly PC. Turns out, there are literally thousands of options available; but the task of sorting through the seemingly endless lists and testing each and every app to see if it suits your tastes and jives with the PS3 can be a daunting task. But luckily for you, we’ve done exactly that; we rolled up our sleeves, burned the midnight oil, and muscled the necessary digital elbow grease to whittle down the Ubuntu archives to the top nine absolute keepers. So what are you waiting for? Plug in your PS3’s keyboard and mouse, fire up Jaunty Jackalope, and read onward to get cracking.
Sorry, we couldn’t resist the headline. For the record: We’re not predicting the early demise of AMD’s new Live Home Cinema reference platform (code-named Maui). AMD sent us a sample build several months ago, but we wanted to live with it for a while before publishing our thoughts on the design.
We’re big fans of home-theater PCs, especially the build-it-yourself variety (be sure and check out the May issue of Maximum PC for Will Smith’s terrific how-to guide to building one of your own). If AMD can resolve one major issue, we think Maui will be the best home-theater PC platform on the market.
With a home-theater PC, you can stream all manner of Hollywood content for free (from websites such as Hulu) or for a small fee (from online stores such as iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon’s Unbox). While you can accomplish the same thing with a media center extender and any PC equipped with a version of Windows that includes Windows Media Center, a dedicated HTPC leaves that other machine available for other tasks. A home-theater PC with a Blu-ray drive can play HD movies, too, but comparing home-theater PCs to Blu-ray disc players—which are becoming increasingly PC-like—is more problematic. We’ll get to that soon enough; for now, let’s take a detailed look at AMD’s Live Home Cinema platform.
Ah, spring: when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of upgrading. But, alas! Your fancy new videocard is too big for your tiny case, and you’re running out of hard drive bays for your RAID. Fear not! A classy full-tower chassis can be just the solution.
In this roundup we’ve collected five full-tower cases—big and tall enclosures with all the bells and whistles: new looks, toolless expansion slots, intake filters, drive bays aplenty, and more. Space-saving isn’t a priority here: The focus is on features, with room for as much hardware as you need to cram in. If you want a portable rig or something to nestle under your desk, these aren’t the cases for you. But if you’re looking to make the most of your computer, portability be damned, one of these beauts could be your huckleberry.
In evaluating these cases, we focused on a few key points: overall build quality, aesthetics, ease of installation, cooling options, convenience, and features like front-panel connectors. We kept price in mind, too, but only to a degree: After all, we’re Maximum PC. We don’t mind paying for excellence; we just object when gear is offensively overpriced.
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.
The personal computer has a storied history, stretching all the way back to the days of the Commodore 64 and IBM PC. But for us, the most interesting PC hardware developments really started about 15 years ago. Along with the eminent arrival of Windows 95, this was when Moore's law would really kick into high gear and bring us amazingly fast PC components like Intel's front side bus-multiplying Pentium, AMD's gigahertz-breaking Athlon, and yes, the wonderful world of 3D graphics accelerators.
We take an in-depth look back at the 50 most important pieces of PC hardware in the modern computing area. From CPUs to videocards and even monitors, these components were the envy of every PC enthusiast, whether you could afford them or not. They might not have been the fastest parts at the time, but they sure were the most notable. And before you ask, many of these entries were used of our Dream Machines. Join us as we journey with the ghost of PC past, and share your own favorite PC parts in the comments section!
Bonus question: can you name the card in the image above, and the issue of Maximum PC where the image was used?
The web browser is probably the most essential application on your PC; there is no better practical way of staying connected to news, your friends, and most importantly, the lulz. But whether you’re using Internet Explorer or newly minted Chrome, each of today's popular web browsers has different strengths and weaknesses. Mozilla Firefox is feature-heavy and relatively fast, but can get terribly unwieldy when crammed with juicy add-ons. The newest version of the once dominant Internet Explorer is a quantum leap above previous buggy versions, but remains slow. And while both Opera and Google Chrome are blazingly fast, they currently lack customization.
No matter which browser you use, you want it to fit your personal needs and tastes. With this guide, we will show you the essential initial tweaks everyone should make to “awesomize” their browser. Whether it’s accelerating browser page-load performance, boosting security, or just improving the look of the interface, we teach you the tweaks that we think should be implemented the first time you start up a browser after installation.
We cover comprehensive step-by-step instructions for Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3, Opera 9, and Google Chrome, starting off with general web optimization tips. So jump into the guide and start tweaking your web browser!
Earth Day is the one hippie-holiday of the year everyone can partake in—it’s a celebration of this giant rock we call home! This annual event strives to bring awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. Some people throw festivals or plant trees, but what about those of us who wish to celebrate Earth Day in a technology-friendly way?
Dust off your Google Earth application (or download it, if you don’t already have it) as we’re going to show you five amazing things Google Earth can do to celebrate Earth Day.
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!
We are certain that many of you want to try Linux to see what it is like, but have no idea where to start or how to get into it. This is our complete guide to introduce you to the Linux environment and teach you how to adjust to it if you are a new user. From picking the perfect distro for your needs to partitioning and installing the OS, this guide will show you the step-by-step process of getting Linux up and running on your machine. We break down the fundamental differences between the Linux and Windows graphical interfaces, and show you how to utilize Linux's terminal like a pro. Whether this is your first time running Linux or you've been an open-source accolyte for years, you'll find lots of useful tips and reference information in this comprehensive overview.