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Star Wars: The Old Republic Review

A fabulous single-player experience in a massively multiplayer online game

STAR WARS: The Old Republic (TOR) comes with a buffet of a story for an MMO, but you only get to fill your plate once. From decisions as significant as choosing your character’s class specialization to events as trivial as responding to key dialog options, everything you do has a lasting and permanent effect on your gameplay. We like the feast: BioWare’s masterful use of instanced environments creates more captivating gameplay for the solo quester than most any other MMO.

But this is BioWare’s first foray into the massively multiplayer world, and it shows. TOR is more a role-playing game you play alongside 999,999 friends than a true MMO. BioWare either poorly integrates or completely misses the mark on many of the elements that define an MMO. On the upside, the beautiful blend of voice acting and dialogue options in each of TOR’s many quests should earn the game a celebratory parade through the Yavin 4 throne room. And while the scripted quests (occasionally punctuated by John Williams’s familiar score) are immersive, they make the rest of the game’s environments seem stale by comparison. TOR’s non-instanced “generic” areas just aren’t very player-interactive. The Nar Shadda casino, a cold and lifeless location that cries out for mini-games and interactivity, is just one example. And don’t get us started on TOR’s cantina music.

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Acer H9500BD Review

Acer’s H9500BD 3D video projector is the most expensive of the three models here, but it has a couple of features the other two lack. Its overall image quality, however, is only on par with projectors in this price range. We’ll leave it up to you to match those considerations to your needs/wants list.

The H9500BD, like Optoma’s HD33, is based on Texas Instrument’s DLP technology. When connected to a PC or Blu-ray 3D player via HDMI, the projector is capable of producing frame-packed 3D video at 1920x1080 resolution at a refresh rate of 24Hz (the same frame rate movies are filmed at). If you want to play games, you’ll need to drop the resolution down to 1280x720, so you can use a 60Hz refresh rate (markedly better for games).

Unless you’ll be the only person watching the projector in 3D mode, though, you should keep in mind that Acer provides only one pair of 3D glasses with the projector; additional pairs of DLP Link 3D glasses cost about $100 each. (Flip over to Lab Notes on page 92 for a longer discussion of what you’ll need to drive any of these projectors with an AMD or Nvidia GPU.)

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Toshiba DX735-D3201 Review

Toshiba offers three SKUs in the DX735 line, two with Core i5 CPUs and one with a Core i7. All three models use mobile CPUs, and all three rely on integrated graphics. Whereas HP’s TouchSmart 520-1070 is somewhat capable of playing games, Toshiba’s DX735 series is not at all capable. If you really want to play games on this machine, we suggest plugging an Xbox 360 into its HDMI input.

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HP TouchSmart 520-1070 Review

HP once built its TouchSmart line using notebook components because they required much less active cooling. Limiting the number of fans inside the machine made it quieter. This TouchSmart not only uses a desktop CPU—Intel’s low-power Core i7-2600S, running at a stock 2.8GHz—but HP has also packed a discrete GPU inside this TouchSmart’s chassis. AMD’s Radeon HD 6550A might not be a barn-burner of a videocard, but it is vastly superior to the GPU core integrated into the Core i7. The Radon HD 6550A is DirectX compatible, but that doesn’t mean it will deliver a satisfying performance with highly demanding games. Playing Metro 2033 at 18 frames per second—in DirectX 10 mode—is not very satisfying. But no one will buy this type of a machine for gaming.