What time is it? Blueprints time! We've built three rigs at three approximate price points: Baseline, Performance, and, because you asked for it, Budget. Baseline gets you a powerful, no-compromises rig, suitable for gaming and content creation at 1080p. Performance gets you more, and Budget is for those who want to be frugal.
These rigs are lab-tested and editor-approved, and we'll update them every month. Feedback is, of course, welcome. Tell us what you think!
We get to test a lot of unusual laptops—overclocked, oversize, over-dimensional, and just altogether overdone. Digital Storm’s x17, from first impression to Lab testing to real-world evaluation, is just a normal 17-inch laptop. It has high-end components that make it an extremely fast 17-inch laptop, but we’re not sure that’s enough to justify its high price.
We’ll be the first to admit that system benchmarking has gotten downright boring in the last couple of years. It’s been a solid year and a half of Core i7-980X/990X procs followed by a year of Core i7-2600K rigs. Yawn, seen it.
We certainly can’t say that about Digital Storm’s latest Black Ops HailStorm. It’s the first machine to grace our Lab with Intel’s Core i7-3960X, so we were anxious to see if the new chip could actually walk the walk. We know from our testing of the chip in a controlled environment that it’s a bad mother, but what about when it’s in a high-end system and it’s being run against a slew of other super-fast rigs?
Reviewers – including us – got their grubby little hands on AMD’s long-awaited “Bulldozer” 8-core FX -8150 chip a week ago, and while there is plenty to like with the processor, a lot of folks were expecting, well, a bit more. Benchmark tests showed performance similar to Intel’s Core i5-2500k pretty much across the board. But wait! AMD expects more efficient multi-core CPUs to work more efficiently with Windows 8 than they do with Windows 7. But will the news OS make that much of a difference?
NVidia is famous for talking up the potential of PC gaming, but considering that the company’s profits are almost entirely dependent on the success of that genre, many have taken it with a grain of salt. For years they have claimed PC gaming is on the rise, but now they can actually put a date to it. According to analysts commissioned by the graphics chip maker, PC gaming revenue will overtake consoles by 2014. They also presented a slide which shows the progression of GPU hardware overtime compared to consoles, and it paints a pretty clear picture. While the PS3 & Xbox 360 may have given a high end GPU a run for their money back in 2005, in 2011 PC hardware is potentially 10x faster than current generation consoles.
An upcoming Linux kernel patch has Linux patriarch Linus Torvalds very excited about the huge performance boost it promises. His enthusiasm is not unfounded either. The 233 line patch by Linux kernel developer Mike Galbraith punches way above its weight by reducing maximum desktop latency by over ten times and average latency by a factor of 60, paving the way for a faster, more responsive desktop experience.
“Yeah. And I have to say that I'm (very happily) surprised by just how small that patch really ends up being, and how it's not intrusive or ugly either. It's an improvement for things like smooth scrolling around, but what I found more interesting was how it seems to really make web pages load a lot faster,” Torvalds said in an email.
“So I think this is firmly one of those "real improvement" patches. Good job. Group scheduling goes from "useful for some specific server loads" to "that's a killer feature".
According to Linux-centric site Phoronix, the wonder patch has been designed to “automatically create task groups per TTY in an effort to improve the desktop interactivity under system strain.” As the Linux 2.6.37 nearing a second release candidate milestone, users will have to wait until 2.6.38 to tap into the huge speed boost.
Meanwhile, you can watch the two demo videos Phoronix posted to elucidate the tremendous performance boost this scheduler patch provides.
Microsoft on Wednesday released the seventh platform preview of its upcoming web browser Internet Explorer 9 (download link). Comparatively less stable than beta builds, platform previews are aimed at acquainting developers with new features and gathering valuable feedback.
According to Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, who wrote a copious blog post to discuss the latest platform preview release, improving real world site performance, and not “subsystem microbenchmarks,” remains the real focus of company’s development efforts.
But he soon clarified: “We’ve been consistent in our point of view that these tests are at best not very useful, and at worst misleading. Even with the most recent results in the chart above, our motivations and our point of view remain unchanged.”
“We’ve focused on improving real world site performance. We’ve made progress on some microbenchmarks as a side effect. Focusing on another subsystem microbenchmark is not very useful.”
Intel is trying to bolster profits in the low-end CPU market, but it’s a move that will make enthusiasts understandably nervous. Customers who purchase a desktop computer featuring the Pentium G6951 processor will be given the option to buy a $50 scratch coupon allowing them to unlock additional threads and L3 cache on the chip. To be clear this is very different from “binning” where a CPU gets reclassified after testing. The G6951 is intentionally being sold with locked potential the consumer has the option to buy after the fact. Hardware.info got its hands on an early sample of the chip, and has confirmed that in addition to Hyper-Threading, users are able to unlock a full 1MB of L3 cache.
Every decent over clocker knows that most CPU’s, particularly in the midrange usually have tons of untapped potential and it will be interesting to see if Intel tries this approach on any of its other offerings. I have a feeling most enthusiasts would rather not see this approach gain any traction, but then again it could also help bridge the gap between high end CPU’s and their “unlocked” extreme counterparts. Intel has confirmed that this is simply a test to see how consumers will react, but clearly they now have the infrastructure in place to roll this out on a much larger scale based on feedback.
I’m willing to bet the Maximum PC community has a few opinions to help them with their research. Feel free to leave them after the jump.
When we last visited our six panel Eyefinity setup, we had it up and running with games at a full 5680x2160 pixel resolution.
Now it’s time to talk performance and practicality. What kind of gaming performance will you get with three or six panels? To understand what kind of performance to expect, we need to take a closer look at the card itself.
The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity edition ships with the same core clock as the standard HD 5870: 850MHz. However, it ships with 2GB of 1200MHz GDDR5 memory, as opposed to the 1GB on the standard 5870. The extra memory means the board consumes a little more power. System idle power on our Core i7 975 test system was 138W with Eyefinity and 284W at full throttle, as compared to 134W and 268W for the stock HD 5870.
According to AMD, cards will be available from add-in board partners, at a targeted price point of $479 USD. As we noted in our setup article, some adapters will be included: 2 mini-DisplayPort to DispalyPort adapters, 2 passive mini DisplayPort to single link DVI connectors and a passive mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. So if you want to go for the full six panel setup, you’ll need to buy additional adapters.
See the benchmarks and continue reading after the jump.
Nvidia has been pretty tight lipped when it comes to Fermi's performance numbers, but as the March 26th launch date approaches, a few additional details are starting to leak out. This time it's a video documenting some early benchmarks, giving us our first real peak at Fermi's performance. Of course we would be remiss if we didn't mention that the Heaven benchmark utility demonstrated in the video was administered solely by Nvidia themselves, and as such, the results should be taken with a grain of salt until we've had our own opportunity to put it through its paces.
The demo shows the GTX 480 pushing out some pretty impressive frame rates, even besting the ATI 5870 results they claim to have run earlier, but it certainly doesn't look like as big a margin as we were hoping for. The GTX 480 as you might recall is going to be the companies new high end offering, and although no pricing has yet been announced, rumors have put it somewhere in the $700 USD range. The Radeon 5870's by comparison can be found starting at around $380. If the rumored pricing ends up being true the more realistic comparison would be the Radeon 5970 vs. the GTX 480.
Only time will tell if the GTX 480 & 470 cards are as hot or as expensive as we fear, but one thing is for certain, the silence and vague details isn't helping their cause. Click the jump to check out the video for yourself. Did the demonstration win you over?