It's that time again! This month, we've priced out an amazing $1500 gaming PC. If you recall from our Dream Machine feature, the $1500 "Budget Surplus" of mid-2009 was powered by a Core i7-920 and Radeon 4870 X2. Today -- a few months later -- we're able to make a few adjustments to upgrade to a Radeon 5870-based machine. The introduction of Intel's Lynnfield processor, increasing RAM prices, and the final retail release of Windows 7 also forced us to reevaluate our spending priorities, but we're very pleased with the outcome. As gamers, this is a system we'd be proud to build ourselves, and will play any game released in the foreseeable future.
Read on for our parts picks, and let us know what you think!
IBM's Roadrunner system at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is no longer the planet's most powerful supercomputer. That distinction now belongs to a Cray supercomputer named "Jaguar" at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which regained the performance crown over the weekend, ComputerWorld reports.
Jaguar, which benefited from a few recent upgrades, is now capable of 1,759 petaflops per second courtesy of 224,162 processor cores. That's enough to jump ahead of IBM's Roadrunner, which dropped to 1,042 petaflops per second after it was repartitioned.
Number three on the list of supercomputers is Kraken at the National Institute for Computational Sciences at the University of Tennessee. Kraken is capable of churning out 832 teraflops per second and was ranked No. 6 in June.
One of the more interesting supercomputers belongs to China. The hybrid Intel-AMD Tianhe-1 in the city of Tianjin pushes out 563 teraflops per second, putting it in fifth place. China's supercomputer combines Intel's Xeon processors with AMD-brand GPUs as accelerators. Each node contains two Xeon chips attached to two AMD GPUs.
The tech talk for much of the year has centered around upcoming tablets from Apple, Microsoft, and TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington, but to date, not one of them has come through. Will we ever see a next-gen tablet from one of these three? We certainly will, says Arrington, who insists that his CrunchPad tablet is "streamrolling along."
Arrington added that the upcoming CrunchPad will sell for between $300 and $400. It will sport a 12-inch touchscreen and come equipped with an Intel Atom processor (what else?).
Even though Arrington is adamant about an imminent release, some journalists wonder if the expected price tag won't render the CrunchPad irrelevant from day 1.
"While the project apparently isn't dead, I do still think there's a chance it will be DOA. For $300 to $400 I don't really see why anyone would buy a dedicated Web device instead of a fully functional computer," wrote Brad of Liliputing. "By the time the CrunchPad is available, you might even be able to pick up a touchscreen tablet style netbook in the $00 range. You can already get the Eee PC T91/T91MT for around $500 to $550."
Arrington did say he's exploring ways to cut back production costs, some of which include negotiating soft revenue and sponsorship opportunities.
AMD has wasted no time bringing its DirectX 11 GPU architecture to a more affordable, mainstream-class GPU in the HD 5770. HIS is one of the first manufacturers to bring the HD 5770 to market.
At around $160, the card is priced similarly to existing Radeon HD 4870 cards. It’s the lowest-cost card in the roundup, and given the 180mm2 die size (that’s incredibly tiny for a GPU), prices are likely to eventually come down even further.
It’s easy to be seduced by the latest and greatest graphics cards, but you can sometimes find excellent deals in older-generation cards that can still keep up with today’s shader-heavy PC games. Gigabyte’s 260 GTX SuperOC is a good example.
To make the cards, Gigabyte starts with cherry-picked 260 GTX chips from the factory. Then it clocks the GPUs at 680MHz, more than 100MHz faster than the standard 576MHz. Similarly, the SuperOC pushes the shader clock to 1,466MHz, instead of the stock 1,350MHz. Rounding off the performance push is 896MB of GDDR3 running at 1.25GHz instead of 1GHz. Gigabyte delivers these rarefied clock rates at slightly less than $200.
As with Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5870, the company’s HD 5850 card ships with coupons for two games: Dirt 2 and Battlestations: Pacific. Sapphire’s HD 5850 delivers a stock Radeon HD 5850, with its 1,440 stream processors, 72 texture units, and DirectX 11 support.
In our power-usage testing, Sapphire’s power draw was about average for an HD 5850. Our system power averaged 140W at idle, while pushing 260W at full throttle. Fan noise was fairly loud at full bore, but that was generally true of all the cards. At idle, overall noise levels were low enough to blend into the background of CPU, power supply, and case cooling.
We admit to mixed feelings about Diamond’s Radeon HD 5850. On one hand, it offers the same strong performance as other Radeon HD 5850 cards—second only to their big-brother HD 5870 cards. But unlike other manufacturers, you don’t get a coupon for Dirt 2 in the box. Instead, you need to register the card at Diamond’s website to get the perk. You also won’t get the two-year warranty unless you register the card.
All of the Radeon cards tested in our review round-up are based on AMD’s reference design, including this Asus card. However, Asus includes Smart Doctor software, which allows you to easily overclock its card.
You can use the app to auto-tune the clock speeds, though this typically gives you a conservative up-clock that results in a relatively modest performance gain. When we used the auto-overclock feature, we saw gains of 8 percent in 3DMark Vantage, and a couple of frames per second in STALKER and Far Cry 2. If you have the patience, you can tweak voltage settings, core clocks, and memory clocks manually, which could boost performance more substantially.
As with all Radeon HD 5870s, Sapphire’s version offers superlative performance, making it one of the fastest single-GPU cards available today. At its core is AMD’s 2.15 billion transistor Cypress chip, coupled with 1GB of 1,200MHz GDDR5 memory. Two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connection allow for flexible monitor attachment.
Sapphire is bundling two games with this card: Dirt 2 and Battlestations: Pacific. Dirt 2 is one of the first titles to support Microsoft’s DirectX 11 graphics API, so it should show off the visual chops of the new GPU. As with all HD 5870 cards, the Sapphire HD 5870 is just over 10.5 inches long, so be sure the card will fit in your case before buying.
HIS is based in Hong Kong, but its cards are readily available in U.S. outlets. They often cost slightly less than the competition, but that’s not the case with the company’s Radeon HD 5870, which is priced the same as its competitors. When we first unpacked the card, we thought it was the lesser HD 5850 model, due to its relatively compact packaging.
In our benchmarks, the HIS HD 5870 turned out excellent scores across the board, easily beating the fastest previous single-GPU champ, the EVGA 285 GTX SSC. It also pumped out the highest score in the 3DMark Vantage Performance test, although, again, margins were small.