Sharp-eyed Maximum PC readers who care about performance will no doubt notice that Gigabyte’s GV-N470UD-13I GTX 470 runs at stock reference speeds but achieves almost identical benchmark scores to last month’s kick-ass overclocked EVGA GTX 470. Blame it on new drivers versus old.
To be fair, the N470UD-13I isn’t exactly a stock card. While the card ships at reference clock speeds for core, shader, and memory, Gigabyte builds the board using its Ultra Durable manufacturing methods, which includes two-ounces-of-copper PCB technology, Japanese solid capacitors, high-end Samsung or Hynix GDDR5 memory, and low RDS(on) MOSFETs, which are designed to minimize switching resistance for faster capacitor charging and discharging. The PCB itself is blue, unlike many reference GTX 470 cards.
Sony’s VAIO L-series computers boast plenty of sex appeal, and this particular model boasts a 24-inch screen that’s one inch larger than the rest of the field (albeit with the same wide-screen resolution of 1920x1080). It’s not just a pretty face, either; its benchmark performance puts it a close second to the edgy-looking Lenovo. The VAIO’s $2,000 MSRP, however, renders it $600 more expensive than that machine, $320 pricier than HP’s TouchSmart 600 Quad, and more than twice as costly as MSI’s budget-friendly offering.
Sony tapped the same midrange desktop CPU that Lenovo did, Intel’s 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad 8400S, and paired it with an Intel P43 chipset and 6GB of DDR2/800 memory on a proprietary motherboard. Nvidia’s discrete mobile GeForce GT 240M GPU, with 1GB of dedicated memory, handles graphics duties. Sony’s VAIO Media Gallery makes good use of the touch-screen display, enabling you to produce slide shows and movies by dragging thumbnail images around with your fingertips. But Sony’s touch-screen software is much less comprehensive than HP’s offering.
If you don’t like highly reflective displays and don’t care about a touch-screen user interface, Lenovo’s IdeaCentre B500 is the all-in-one to buy. It’s the fastest machine in the bunch, and it’s attractively priced at just $1,400.
Lenovo and Sony both reached for midrange Intel Core 2 Quad desktop processors—namely, the 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad 8400S—but Lenovo paired the CPU with speedier memory (4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3, compared to the 6GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory Sony chose) and a more powerful discrete mobile GPU (Lenovo tapped Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 250M, which has 96 cores, while Sony uses the GeForce GT 240M, which has only 48). Lenovo uses a proprietary motherboard with an Intel G41 chipset.
When we heard HP was building its latest TouchSmart with Intel’s Core i7 processor, we figured it was game-over for the competition: Lenovo and Sony use quad-cores, too, but they both tapped Intel’s Core 2 Quad. MSI picked an even less capable Core 2 Duo (and priced its machine accordingly). But when the benchmarking dust had cleared, HP sat in third place across the board. What happened?
We should have remembered that HP likes to use mobile processors in its TouchSmart line. In this case, a 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM. That’s a capable enough proc, but the older (and cheaper) Core 2 Quad that Lenovo and Sony picked is a desktop model running at 2.66GHz. So even the larger cache, integrated memory controller, Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost technology, and other goodies tucked inside the Core i7-720QM don’t compensate for the mobile proc’s lower clock speed.
It’s been almost two years since we last looked at a security product from PC Tools—PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition—and the experience left such a bad taste in our mouths that we knew exactly how Will Ferrell felt when he was forced to lick a pile of white dog doo-doo in the movie Step Brothers. Yes, it was that bad.
This time around, the experience was measurably more palatable, which is to say it was a lot less like eating dung and more like ordering from the value menu. At $50 for a one-year license, PC Tools will protect up to three PCs and ranks as one of the more affordably priced security suites we’ve dined on this year. If your Google-fu is up to snuff, coupon codes abound, knocking the price down by as much as 30 percent. That comes out to only $35, folks, making this the poor man’s security suite. As such, PC Tools stuffs a comparatively meager feature-set into the box, consisting of an antivirus scanner, spyware module, anti-spam controls, and a firewall. Noticeably absent are some of the side entrees other security vendors embellish their AV suites with, including parental controls, file shredders, identity safeguards, cloud storage, and various other garnishes.
Lightroom is tailored for photographers who often don’t need or want the robust image-manipulation tools offered by the pricier Photoshop. From its outset, Lightroom presented photographers with a logical, clean workflow that facilitated photo improvements rather than alterations.
Lightroom 2 added 64-bit support and some refinements—welcome, certainly, but the second version didn’t seem like much more than an incremental update. Lightroom 3, on the other hand, adds a couple of killer features—lens correction and improved noise reduction, namely—that really boost its worth.
Back in September 2009, we reviewed Corsair’s H50 all-in-one liquid cooler and awarded it a 9 verdict and a Kick Ass award for its cooling prowess, which put it roughly on par with our then-champion air cooler, the Thermalright U-120 Extreme. But times change and the competition eventually caught up. Corsair apparently hasn’t been asleep, though. The company’s new H70 ups the ante in all-in-one liquid coolers.
The Corsair H70, like the H50 before it, was designed in conjunction with Asetek, the all-in-one liquid-cooling OEM. For the H70, the team nearly doubled the thickness of the 12cm radiator, added a second 12cm fan for the coveted push/pull airflow, and slimmed down the pump/heat-exchange unit that rests on the CPU. The H70 also shipped with a pair of voltage-regulator cables, one for each fan, in an effort to reduce noise. Like others of its ilk, the H70’s fans and radiator mount in place of your case’s 12cm rear exhaust fan, although Corsair recommends you mount the H70’s fans as exhaust rather than intake (as with the H50).
We’ve seen a few USB 3.0 external drives here at Maximum PC, and we do appreciate the long-overdue speed boost. It’s nice to have file transfers limited by drive speed again, rather than the interface—the 33MB/s maximum was killing us. And while we appreciated the boost we got from USB 3.0 in WD’s My Book 3.0 and the Vantec NexStar 3 SuperSpeed enclosure, the former was only as fast as the mechanical drive within it and the latter couldn’t even match the speeds of the drives it enclosed.
It’s great to have a USB 3.0 interface on a mechanical drive, but wouldn’t it be nice to combine USB 3.0 with SSD? With a theoretical bandwidth limit exceeding 5Gb/s, why wouldn’t you? Thankfully, OCZ did. The Enyo is a compact anodized aluminum brick stuffed with MLC NAND and a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port.
It’s about damn time. 6Gb/s SATA is old news now. It’s been half a year since we saw the first 6Gb/s SATA–enabled hard drive, and it was a frickin’ mechanical drive. Talk about unnecessary. Solid state drives, on the other hand, have been bumping at the ceiling of 3Gb/s SATA’s available bandwidth for a while now. So why not slap a 6Gb/s SATA controller on a solid state drive? Duh. Crucial, apparently alone among flash memory vendors, heard the call. Thus, the Crucial C300, a 6Gb/s SATA–enabled SSD that comes in 128GB and 256GB flavors.
But does the C300 actually benefit from a 6Gb/s SATA connection? Yes and no. In sequential read tests, it blows every other drive out of the water, with a maximum sequential read speed of 317MB/s and an average read of over 300MB/s! That’s more than 50 percent faster than the SandForce-based drives, like OCZ’s Vertex 2, that comprise our favorite SSDs and typically top out at around 200MB/s read speeds. On a standard 3Gb/s connection, the C300’s read speeds were a still-impressive 222MB/s—about the same as a Barefoot Indilinx-based drive, like the Patriot Torqx or Corsair Nova.
In an ebook reader market that’s rapidly approaching the saturation point, a device needs to have a certain set of features to stand out from the crowd. The Alex eReader, a new ebook reader from Spring Design, has enough of them to make it an intriguing new product, and a fun one to try out, but not enough of them to warrant a buy recommendation.
First, the design of the Alex eReader is second to none. While it shares a general architecture with the Nook (an e-ink screen up top and a smaller, Android-powered, full-color touch screen below), the Alex is both better looking and more functional. At approximately 4.5x9 inches, it’s longer than the Nook, but feels surprisingly sturdy, and is easy to balance while you read. The longer design leaves room for a larger color display down below, although the e-ink display is somewhat smaller than the Kindle’s. Beauty is subjective, of course, but it’s hard to argue that the Alex eReader isn’t a fine-looking piece of hardware.