Boutique system builder CyberPowerPC claims it's the first U.S. computer manufacturer to offer Intel's Performance Tuning Protection plan, which gives reckless or unlucky overclockers the opportunity to take a one-time mulligan on an overclock-gone-bad and receive a replacement processor. Intel charges a nominal fee (compared to the cost of a replacement processor) for the added protection, but CyberPowerPC's offering it for free on select setups.
Computers, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Except you've never seen people who tip the scales at 200-plus tons. Or expand so radically they essentially cover the earth. Or shrink so small they're no longer visible.
For today we're going to look at the extremes. The smallest. The fattest. The most grandiose. And all things between—including a couple of quick jaunts down memory lane that'll have you pining for the innocent days of olde.
Liquid cooling isn't nearly as complicated, expensive, or downright scary as it used to be, or at least it doesn't have to be. Self-contained liquid cooling setups are becoming fairly commonplace, and they're especially popular in pre-built systems. iBuyPower's new Gamer Paladin HS11, for example, brings liquid cooling within reach to the average user for less than $1,000.
As a digital photography and video enthusiast, I needed a system that could handily withstand the rigors of Photoshop and make my occasional work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 move more smoothly. High-end enthusiast PC parts seemed like the way to go, allowing me avoid the crushing cost of professional workstation components.
But a fast PC isn’t the only ingredient. I also needed to consider the peripherals. For instance, by going with an ultra-high-resolution display, my editing can be much more exact, saving me time in the long run, and enabling me to produce high-quality results. A high-end photo printer gives me a means for displaying my masterworks with poster-size prints.
If you’ve always wondered just where Velocity Micro likes to slot itself in a world of $8,000 wonder rigs and $2,000 budget gaming machines, the Edge Z55 seems to nail it.
At $4,300, the Edge Z55 epitomizes Velocity Micro’s strategy. There’s Ferrari, Lamborghini, and others at the very top and Chevy and Ford at the other end. In that car analogy, Velocity Micro believes it can live in the BMW layer, bringing you great performance, some customization, and still at a pretty good price.
In PC terms, the Edge Z55 occupies the space between the $2,000 quad-core Acer Predator we reviewed last month—a visually stimulating machine that was more show than go—and Digital Storm’s HailStorm—a multi-GPU, hexa-core beast that cost almost $8,000.
We’ve seen our share of miniature PCs over the years. They generally get smaller, more power-efficient, and quieter—but they never seem to get faster.
Take eMachine’s ER1402 machine, for example. This unique-looking, pedestal-mounted machine is the epitome of the original “nettop” concept: a low-power PC designed almost exclusively to browse the web. And that’s about all you can do with its single-core, low-clock chip.
How do you know when it’s time to replace your gaming rig? When you’ve turned down all of the game settings to minimum and you still have to play at 1024x768. Or you’ve just completed the Steam hardware survey and Valve rejects your score because it’ll drag down the curve. Of course, if you’re asking the question in the first place....
In spec’ing this year’s gaming build, we decided to restrict ourselves to a budget of approximately $1,400. This would provide a nice challenge, but would still give us enough cash to build a powerful and feature-filled machine. If you’ve ever tried to squeeze high-end performance into this price point, you already know that the road to our final configuration wasn’t clear, obvious, or easy.
The truth is that there are many ways to skin a Tribble, and there is no single right config for everyone. To give you some insight into how we arrived at our final destination, we’re going to walk you through our decision-making process.
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.