Things you need to know to become a PC hardware expert
Knowledge is power, and when it comes to PCs that’s especially true, because only by knowing how your components’ specs actually affect performance can you get the maximum power you need for the type of computing you do—and avoid being seduced by features that sound impressive on the box but won’t do squat to improve your experience. Knowing your stuff has other benefits, too. An in-depth understanding of what makes all your parts tick enables you to better troubleshoot problems, upgrade in ways that make sense, and converse with other nerds in your own secret language. Turn the page to begin your crash course in PC spec-speak.
Note: This article was originally featured in the August 2013 issue of the magazine.
Official support for AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series graphics cards
It's time to retire that beta driver you've been running your AMD Radeon R9 or R7 Series graphics card on and step up to AMD's newly minted Catalyst 13.12 WHQL-certified driver. The new Catalyst software is available now and in addition to official support for the Sunnyvale chip designer's latest graphics cards, it also resolves over a dozen issues, adds new Enduro Technology profiles, and more.
Last month Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 770, and showed us the “stock” board with a GTX Titan cooler. At the time, Nvidia said its add-in board partners would be offering versions that were overclocked and custom-cooled, but we didn't know that was all that would be available. As it turns out, spotting a GTX 770 with the Titan cooler is about as rare as seeing GordonMahUng at an Apple store, so kiss your Titan-cooled GTX 770 dreams goodbye for now. The good news is that you're now forced to choose from a flurry of premium-looking cards including these two sweet overclocked and super-chilledboards from Asus and Gigabyte. Both boards feature loads of custom hardware, specialized fans, overclocking software, and totally silent operation. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a matchup to us!
Note: This article was originally featured in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.
This month, we build an affordable AMD-based gaming rig to find out just how good (or bad) a CPU/GPU combo can be
The Mission We've put together some spendy systems recently. Hey, there’s a reason this mag is called Maximum PC. However, it’s caused a few readers to wonder if we drive gold-plated Humvees to work. As if! We have chauffeurs for that kind of thing. The fact is, we like the challenge of building to a rig’s optimum potential, at any price. So this month, we turn the tables and go full-on budget build.
Note: This article was originally featured in the October 2013 issue of the magazine.
Getting wet and wild with AMD's rare Radeon R9 290X
Riddle us this: What's even harder to find than an AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card? The answer is a liquid cooled version, which doesn't yet exist in retail (to the best of our knowledge). Even if it did, it would probably be as hard to find as every other Radeon R9 290X part, as Litecoin miners have been hording these (and other Radeon) GPUs in hopes of cashing in on the virtual currency craze.
It's not as though Nvidia's reference design for its GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics card is for weenies -- after benchmarking the card, we had no choice but to dub it the real Big Kepler -- but if you're big into overclocking, EVGA's decidedly non-reference version looks to be the go-to card. Hardcore overclockers Vince "K|NGP|N" Lucido and Tsemenko "TiN" Illya supposedly helped co-design the card, which EVGA is calling the GeForce GTX 780 Ti Classified K|NGP|N Edition. So, what makes this card so special?
Where have all the the Radeon R9 290X graphics cards gone?
AMD threw down the gauntlet when it introduced its Radeon R9 290X graphics card. Its aggressive price point in relation to performance (bang-for-buck, in other words) impressed us most, and apparently it's a big selling point among Bitcoin miners. If you're not familiar, Bitcoin is a virtual currency that's surging in value and Bitcoin mining is a resource intensive task that involves adding transaction records to Bitcoin's public ledger of past transactions.
A Geforce GTX 780 Ti card with red and gold metal adhesive strips included
Asus has figured out another way to make its GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II graphics card stand out from the crowd (as if the custom cooling solution wasn't enough). The upcoming card will come bundled with red and gold stickers metal adhesive strips that you can apply to the part for a custom look. Use of the stickers strips is totally optional, of course, and you can leave the black colored heatsink alone if you want. Otherwise, the stickers strips allow you to add semi-custom accents that are a little bit like racing stripes.
Some variance in performance is to be expected, AMD says
Following the launch of AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card, a handful of sites noticed that the sample cards sent to the press were performing faster than their retail counterparts. It has been suggested by some that AMD essentially cherry picked the best cards for reviewers, though AMD says there's a valid reason for the performance gap. According to AMD, it has to do with the new PowerTune mechanism in the R9 290 Series.
Overall graphics shipments rose 1.6 percent in the third quarter of 2013, marking the second consecutive quarter of positive growth, according to the latest data by Jon Peddie Research. At the same time, shipments in Q3 were down 8.8 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago, JPR said. Q3 is typically when retailers stock up inventory for the holiday shopping season, and though the gain this quarter was smaller than in pre-2008 years, it still ended on a positive note.