Review

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Aperion Audio Zona Wireless Speaker System Review

Close enough for jazz

The performance of the Aperion Audio Zona speakers is good enough for us to grant the company poetic license in labeling these speakers “wireless.” They’d need to be battery-powered in order to be entirely free from wires, an impractical solution because those batteries would need to be humongous to power the 20-watt Class D amplifier in each cabinet.

Each 15-pound cabinet houses a 20-watt Class D amp driving a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch woven-fiberglass woofer.

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OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Review

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB

OCZ has typically reserved its Vertex label for the highest-performing SSDs in a given generation—using synchronous NAND, for example, rather than the asynchronous NAND found in its less expensive Agility series. The 256GB Vertex 4 carries on that tradition, with 16 128Gb IMFT 25nm synchronous NAND packages on a board with 512MB of DDR3 DRAM cache and OCZ’s new Indilinx Everest 2 controller.

The Everest 2 controller in the Vertex 4 is a modified Marvell controller with custom Indilinx firmware.

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SanDisk Extreme SSD 240GB Review

SanDisk Extreme SSD 240GB

SSD vendors that make one or more components of their drives tend to do better than those who just slap commodity parts on a board and call it a day. Sounds reasonable, right? SanDisk’s Extreme SSD is yet another drive based on the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller, a 6Gb/s SATA SSD controller with speedy sequential reads and an emphasis on hyper-fast queued random writes.

However, because it is a NAND manufacturer, SanDisk has the means to use its own 24nm toggle-mode NAND—eight 256Gb packages in the 240GB version—instead of commodity NAND. Like other SF-2281-powered drives, the Extreme SSD uses the extra 16GB of NAND for overprovisioning and write caching.

SanDisk’s Extreme is a plain black metal box with a sticker on it and speed inside.

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D-Link DIR-857 HD Media Router 3000 Review

802.11n’s last gasp?

In case you’re wondering why we’re reviewing an 802.11n router when the first 802.11ac routers have already reached the market, we have several reasons. First and foremost, the latter didn’t make it to the Lab in time for our print deadline. Secondly, the IEEE isn’t expected to formally ratify the 802.11ac standard until early 2013. The 802.11ac routers on the market today are based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, so there’s a remote chance they could be rendered obsolete when the standard is finalized.

Yes, there are 802.11ac routers on the market, but they’re based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, and the Wi-Fi Alliance did not have a certification program in place at press time.

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Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus Review

Small just got smaller

The biggest thing about Zotac’s new ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus may in fact be its name. This new mini PC is so small, it makes the diminutive ZBox Nano AD10 look positively fat in comparison.

Hell, the only commercial mini PC we’ve seen that’s smaller is the Apple TV, which is about the same width and depth but a quarter-inch thinner. The Apple TV is ARM-based, though, and more in the class of a typical HTPC streaming device. The AD11, with its AMD E-450 APU and 64GB SSD is a full-on PC. While streaming boxes such as WD’s Live have come a long way in capability, it’s tough to beat a PC’s ability to go anywhere you want. From streaming sites that are restricted by cable providers to not-safe-for-work content, an HTPC streaming PC trumps all others if you’re willing to live with a mouse and keyboard controls.

Zotac’s ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus is the smallest commercial PC we’ve ever tested.

 

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Samsung Series 9 Review

15 inches of Ultrabook goodness

As we learned with the Acer Timeline M3 we reviewed last month, Ultrabooks are not only growing in number, but in size. That’s the case with Samsung’s new Series 9, which comes in both 13.3- and 15-inch flavors. We took the latter for a spin to see how a larger footprint impacts the overall experience.

The Series 9 comes with support for Intel’s Wireless Display, so you can wirelessly stream 1080p content to a larger HDTV or monitor, provided you pony up $100 or so for the necessary adapter.

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XFX Radeon HD 7850 Black Edition Review

Outsized performance from a midrange card

The $250 price point is where the hardcore and the serious gamer part ways. It’s not that hardcore gamers aren’t serious—it’s that they sometimes lose perspective, willing to throw vast, silly sums of money at shiny high-end GPUs. Serious gamers know that a good $250 graphics card will buy you high frame rates on standard, 1080p displays without requiring a second mortgage.

XFX’s “Ghost” fan shrouds are easy on the eyes, but they don’t vary much from card to card

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MSI Z77A-GD65 Review

MSI Z77A-GD65

Midrange boards typically have to sacrifice features to get under $200 and MSI’s Z77A-GD65 shows evidence of this philosophy. It’s the only board here without a discrete USB 3.0 controller, instead relying on the native Intel chipset for all USB 3.0. It’s also the only board without DisplayPort.

MSI shaved costs by jettisoning extra USB 3.0 ports on the Z77A-GD65.