You could toss a small fortune into Apple's trash bin-shaped workstation
For those of you who like to keep abreast of what's happening on the other side of the pond, Apple's cylindrical Mac Pro systems are now available to order, though don't bother shopping for one unless you're ready to drop some serious cash. Window shopping won't cost you a dime -- hopefully we didn't just give Apple any ideas -- but to bring one of these workstations home, you'll need to wave around at least three large.
The Nvidia Shield falls short of being a game changer
With the Shield, Nvidia aims to deliver a powerful gaming handheld centered around the Android ecosystem and the ability to stream PC games locally onto a mobile device. It’s an ambitious endeavor, but is the Shield able to achieve those lofty goals?
This small gaming PC isn't as wee as our Wee Ass-Kicking Machine, but it kicks more ass
Way back in December 2010, we built an awesome Mini-ITX gaming rig dubbed the Wee Ass-Kicking Machine. It featured a Core i7-870 CPU, a GeForce GTX 460 GPU, 4GB of DDR3, a 1TB hard drive, and a 120GB SSD—all crammed into a Silverstone SG07 chassis not much larger than a shoebox. The total cost? Around $1,600 (at the time).
It’s, uh, been a while since then, though, and I thought it was high time we built another Mini-ITX gaming rig. This one’s not quite as small, but it’s got a lot more oomph. We’re using the BitFenix Prodigy, which has room for a full-size ATX PSU, scads of hard drives, and even a 240mm radiator (if you swing that way), while still being small enough to be lugged around by its convenient carrying handles.
We used to say that iBuypower should really be named iStealpower, because we’ve never understood how the company can sell such well-configured systems for such low prices. With its new Erebus line, iBuypower is maintaining its low-price strategy while stepping upmarket to compete with boutique vendors. Is the Erebus priced low enough to purchase on a whim? No, but considering what iBuypower packs into the rig, it’s a pretty good deal.
First up: The Erebus uses a custom NZXT-built case that takes its cues from Corsair’s groundbreaking 800D. Not to be upstaged, the Erebus case is almost an inch or two bigger in all dimensions, and it’s designed to be jam-packed with rads. The Erebus we reviewed had a massive quad radiator plus two dual radiators—with room for more. The Erebus case is designed for water cooling, and that quad radiator is integrated into the top of the unit with a plug you can use to top off its reservoir. It’s an impressive case, with the only major ding against it being its pass-through USB 3.0 cables—that’s so 2011. You’ll be hard pressed to find a new motherboard that doesn’t use internal USB 3.0 headers.
THE DISPLAYS IN HP’s TouchSmart series top out at 23 inches. To get anything bigger, you must move over to HP’s Omni all-in-one lineup. The upper limit here is a ginormous 27 inches, but you won’t get that slick touch user interface, and you’ll need to sacrifice performance to keep the price tag in the same $1,250 neighborhood occupied by the TouchSmart 520-1070 we reviewed in March. We’re not convinced those are good trade-offs.
Both models feature an HDMI input that allows you to use the display independent of the computer, and that’s easily one of their best features. Plug in a set-top box or a gaming console, and the machines can serve double duty as a computer and a 1080p display for watching TV or playing games. There’s just one problem: You can’t use the wireless keyboard to control or mute the volume when the computer is being used solely as a display. Instead, you must push the PC/Game mode button to bring up an onscreen control panel, press the minus button three times to select the volume control function, and then repeatedly press the plus or minus buttons to adjust the volume. To mute the volume, you must turn it to zero—which takes 14 button presses from full volume—or switch the display back into PC mode. That will drive you nuts at every commercial break and every time the phone rings.
Toshiba offers three SKUs in the DX735 line, two with Core i5 CPUs and one with a Core i7. All three models use mobile CPUs, and all three rely on integrated graphics. Whereas HP’s TouchSmart 520-1070 is somewhat capable of playing games, Toshiba’s DX735 series is not at all capable. If you really want to play games on this machine, we suggest plugging an Xbox 360 into its HDMI input.
Last year, the editors of MaximumPC magazine tossed a challenge my way. “David, design your own dream machine.” So I wrote a column, specifying what kind of hardware I felt should be inside the box. The result was the Star Trek themed PC, designed by Mike Okuda and built by Bill Owen and the other fine folks at MNPCTECH.
But despite the lustworthy appeal of this machine, there’s another more important point to make. As much fun as it is to build an impressive dream machine and show it off at Comic-Con, the ultimate goal of any computer has to be functionality, because MaximumPC isn’t just about maximum specs or even maximum performance. It’s about maximum usability.
We're tired of arcane web interfaces and sluggish CPUs on our network storage. It's time to build a Windows Home Server with enough capacity for all our data and enough power to flawlessly stream HD video.
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?
Intel has just released its new Sandy Bridge-E platform. With six- and eight-core processors, eight DIMM slots, and multiple PCIe 3.0 slots, it’s Nehalem’s true heir and the answer to complaints that Sandy Bridge, while awesome, just isn’t enthusiast enough. (Check out our official benchmarks here).
I’ve gotten my hands on the Sandy Bridge-E flagship CPU: the Core i7-3960X, a $1,000, six-core beast at 3.3GHz. Oh, and a motherboard and cooler to go with it. I’ve rustled up a passel of RAM, a titanic GPU, a quiet case, and a speedy SSD. I’m going to see whether X79 has what it takes to wrest the enthusiast crown from X58, and whether it can do so quietly.