It’s easy to be seduced by the sheer size of a 24-inch LCD screen—any display that big just looks like it means business. And there was a time when large LCD panels were almost exclusively high-performance parts. That’s no longer the case. As the 24-inch LCDs reviewed here demonstrate, large screens are just as varied and prone to flaws as their smaller counterparts.
In yet another example of a design that likely looked way better on
paper than in practice, we find ourselves struggling to come to terms
with the Cooler Master 690’s more unique features. We can’t fault the
company for trying; in some ways, we applaud Cooler Master’s attempts
at distinguishing the 690 from the rest of its cadre in the crowded
So your DVD burner is getting a little long in the tooth and you’re
ready for an upgrade, but you’re not all that keen on adopting next-gen
tech. And who can blame you? Even the falling price of hardware doesn’t
make up for the relatively slow burn times, costly media, and
compatibility issues that plague Blu-ray burners (and the same would be
true of HD DVD burners if you could even find them!). Trouble is,
you’ve got a brand-new 27-inch LCD that’s just begging to display
high-def movies. What’s a consumer to do? Well, you could buy a combo
drive—one that lets you read next-gen discs and write data to fast,
friendly CD and DVD, like the two models we review this month.
We’ll be the first to admit that we were unimpressed by DDR3 when we first tested it last year, but there’s finally a glimmer of hope.
What changed our minds? Asus’s spanking-fast P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP@n mobo, which uses the enthusiast-oriented X38 chipset. The X38’s main highlights are apparently useful DDR3 support and PCI Express 2.0 support. We say “apparently” in reference to DDR3 because we didn’t have a DDR2 version of the board for a direct comparison, but from our tests, the X38 with DDR3 is a winning combination. Also good to have but not a proven performance boost yet is PCI-E 2.0, which doubles the bandwidth of PCI-E 1.0 from 8GB/s to 16GB/s. But does PCI-E 2.0 matter?
If we were dating the Western Digital My Book Home Edition, the sordid, brief affair would quickly end with one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” conversations. This 1TB enclosure is like the girl (or guy) who keeps calling and texting and e-mailing and IMing and calling and texting again—every time you connect the device to your PC, you get the same annoying application installation window over and over and over.
As devoted PC gamers, we’re usually not very prone to console envy, but there are a few reasons to be jealous of our closed-platform counterparts. Chief among them are the exclusives games that Microsoft and Sony hook up with their fanboys. Gears of War made its debut a year ago to widespread acclaim, and we finally have the PC version of Epic’s gritty masterpiece. Five exclusive new single-player levels, new multiplayer maps, and high resolution visuals help the game stand the test of time and make the PC port the definitive version.
Just call it the anti-Crysis. If Crytek’s immersive next-gen messiah is suppose to usher in a revolutionary era of open-ended shooters, Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4
shows us why linear missions and wholly scripted gameplay aren’t ready
to be replaced yet. The shift in this series’ setting to modern day
brings more high-tension gunplay and explosive ambiance than any game
in recent memory. From furious firefights in Arab towns to nail-biting
infiltration missions under the dark of Russian night, we were absorbed
in more grandiose military heroics than any Michael Bay blockbuster.
And since the game’s goal is to take you along for an unabashed joy
ride, that’s actually a good thing.
Consider this month’s batch of case reviews to be a second chance of sorts, as both companies highlighted this month have previously built total clunkers. Cooler Master threw down the iTower 930 in February, which was the functional equivalent of bringing a wiffle bat to a gunfight. And NZXT troubled us with the Adamas—which sported a relatively mediocre design when stacked up against its competitors.
Gigabyte cranks up the specsmanship for its GA-N680SLI-DQ6, which offers no fewer than 10 SATA ports and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Yep. Four. What you’d ever need four Ethernet ports for, we don’t know.
ATI and Nvidia have long entertained us with their game of GPU one-upmanship. Each time ATI thought it had a part that could beat Nvidia, Nvidia moved the goalposts. But now that ATI has been reduced to an AMD brand, it seems its engineers no longer want to play.