The Dell Streak is born into a hardware environment that desperately needs an Android-based tablet—or any kick-ass tablet that doesn’t run Apple’s “stop it now before it borgs the free world” iOS. Our current tally shows no fewer than 30 touch-operated tablets that could be launching in the next six months, and the majority of this freshman class of iPad killers will probably be running Google’s mobile operating system.
Indeed, hardware manufacturers from here to the back aisle ways of Computex want a piece of the tablet action that the iPad has so successfully proven out. As of July 21, Apple was reporting 3.27 million iPads sold, and, hey, we like the iPad as well. We also think we might like the open, unfettered platform of an Android-based tablet even better.
But is the Dell Streak even a tablet? See, it might actually be a smartphone. And as a smartphone, it’s got a lot going for it. But as a tablet, though? Um, no. Not so much.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this. We first heard about Nvidia’s next-generation Ion chip way back in the first months of 2010. They were supposed to ship with Nvidia’s Optimus graphics-switching technology back in April. Okay, June. July at the latest. It didn’t quite happen—those few next-gen Ion netbooks that did launch earlier this year did so without Optimus. At long last, however, Asus’ next-gen Ion netbook—with Optimus and a dual-core netbook Atom chip—has hit American shores, just one day before September.
The Eee 1215N, one of Asus’ innumerable Eee PC Seashell netbooks, is the first netbook we’ve seen with Intel’s new mobile dual-core Atom chips—it ships with the 1.8GHz Atom D525, 2GB of DDR3/800 RAM, and most importantly, Nvidia’s next-generation Ion graphics chipset and Optimus technology, which enables Ion when required and switches to Intel’s integrated UMA graphics when Ion isn’t necessary.
You might recall seeing three of HP’s ZR30w 30-inch displays gracing the cover of our September “Dream Machine” issue. Considering our theme for that build was raw, wanton power, picking the ZR30w was an easy decision.
We haven’t been this wowed by a display since we laid eyes on NEC’s LCD3090 WQXi, which we reviewed in our March 2010 issue. But that 30-incher costs nearly twice as much as this one. Both monitors are based on S-IPS panels, as all the best LCD monitors are, and both deliver native resolution of 2560x1600 (a 16:10 aspect ratio). But the ZR30w’s real claim to fame is color resolution of 10 bits per color per pixel (HP defines this as 30 bits per pixel), which enables it to produce 1.07 billion displayable colors. That’s 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut and 99 percent of the Adobe RGB color gamut.
It’s been interesting watching the evolution of Nvidia’s Fermi graphics. We’ve seen a range of cards, all built using variations of the original chip—a 3 billion transistor monster that runs hot and consumes power like a vampire sucking blood from a hapless victim.
Now Nvidia is shipping a new Fermi, previously code-named GF104. Aimed at the hearts and minds of mainstream PC gamers, the GTX 460 is a new chip, ringing in at just under 2 billion transistors and substantially more power-efficient. Two versions of the chip are available, a low-end and a high-end version.
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.