It’s been a long time since we reviewed a USB external drive—not since November 2008, to be exact—mostly because they’re essentially commodities now. With transfers capped at USB 2.0 speeds and drive sizes mostly standardized, portable hard drives have had few features by which to distinguish themselves from their peers—the usefulness of included software, eSATA support, and full-disk encryption among them. On the eve of USB 3.0 drives, the Western Digital My Book Elite 2TB seems to be the state of the USB 2.0 drive art, with a custom e-ink display. But is it more than a gimmick?
The My Book Elite shares the vaguely book-like formfactor of the My Book World and Essential lineups, but along its “spine” is the e-ink display, which shows a custom 12-character drive label, a capacity meter, and a little lock icon if you’ve enabled disk encryption. Despite its limited usefulness, we dig it—mostly because we geek out over any applications with e-ink.
It’s wonderful that even after 30-odd years as a gamer, there are still gaming moments that can surprise and delight me. Assassin’s Creed II (finally available for PC this month) absolutely knocked me cold within the first few minutes of the Florentine sequences.
It wasn’t the gameplay. Although the movement and combat are certainly strong (and a clear improvement over the original), we should expect that. It’s 2010: We’ve had so many quality exemplars of stealth and fighting systems that a developer has no excuse not to do it right.
It wasn’t the premise, which is dumber than a contestant on Conveyer Belt of Love. All the memories of all my ancestors are encoded in my DNA? Really? Right there between eye color and height is a base pair of nucleotides recording my 24th great-granduncle’s encounter with a hooker on January 24, 1472? And Veronica Mars is capable of extracting that memory and feeding it back into my brain as a simulation? That’s your premise?
Media streamers—devices that put your PC’s video files on a big-screen TV—are emerging as the next hot product category, as more people look to move downloaded and transcoded movies from the desktop into the living room. Patriot’s Box Office is a low-cost media streamer that’s configured much the same as its similarly priced competitors, but includes a few unique hardware features to help differentiate it from the crowd.
Powered by a 400MHz Realtek chip, the Box Office plays video and audio files from USB-connected portable hard drives and flash keys (PC-formatted only), funneling high-definition media to your TV with either an HDMI or composite interface. An Ethernet port lets you stream files from a NAS box, but network connectivity feels a bit wasted without the ability to tap into web services like YouTube or Pandora. The native BitTorrent client, however, is a welcome feature.
Video format compatibility is generous; the device played all of our high-bitrate 1080p test files and even worked with FLV Flash and RealVideo (though a firmware update is recommended out-of-box for improved MKV file playback). We recommend sticking to connected USB drives for videos, as network-streamed HD videos showed minor visual artifacts. Audio format compatibility is sufficiently robust, but while DTS decoding is supported, the Box Office can’t pass through DTS HDMA or TrueHD audio to receivers, which will leave some audiophiles disappointed.
In a world where you can get a pretty decent $99.99 motherboard, a lot of consumers don’t understand why you would pay one-and-a-half times more for a board using the same chipset.
That’s because those same consumers don’t seem to understand the attitude and atmosphere you get with a high-end motherboard. It’s about the flair, and the Asus Maximus III Formula offers that in spades.
While some of the flair is extraneous, such as the garish case sticker, some can be truly handy. A set of stickers lets you label your SATA cables, for example. And then there’s the flair that we’ve come to expect of Asus: the ever-useful Q-connector for front-panel connections and the no-snag I/O shield and snag-free RAM slots we first saw on the P7P55D Deluxe. Audio is upgraded over baseline boards with the SupremeFX X-Fi module. The module and drivers give you X-Fi algorithms and the codecs are moved off the noisy motherboard. Since RAM configuration can affect system reliability, the board also includes a handy BIOS-based MemPerfect utility to validate your RAM settings.
Asus takes remote-control monitoring and overclocking to the next level with the MIIIF, too. You can now connect a laptop directly to the motherboard to monitor voltages, temperature, and fans; read POST codes; and even overclock the board. It’s neat, but we wish Asus would build in logging and graphing capabilities, as well.
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a treaty on international IP enforcement being secretly negotiated between various nations and trade groups, because apparently the normally inscrutable WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) wasn’t arcane and opaque enough. Documents related to things like copyright enforcement at borders (read: taking your iPod away) have been given classified status as a national security matter by executive order. Really? National security?
When did national security get this lame? ACTA is making me miss the Cold War. Back then, when governments and corporations did back-room dealing, covering up their sinister moves with callous disregard for their citizens’ rights and well being, they were covering up doomsday nuclear stuff on sexy ’60s microfiche. They also had the decency to protect their secrets from James Bond with sexy spies and ninjas.
Every portable computer, from the brawniest desktop replacement to the tiniest netbook, has one thing in common: terrible speakers. There’s no shortage of powered speaker systems on the market—some of which are very good—but what’s the point of using a laptop if you have to tether it to a box to get good sound?
Klipsch has a better solution: The ProMedia 2.1 Wireless uses a USB transmitter to send audio from the host PC to the speakers over the airwaves. The speakers themselves are all hardwired, with the amplifier tucked inside the subwoofer. And lordy, what a subwoofer it is. There’s a 6.5-inch long-throw, side-firing driver housed inside a bass-reflex enclosure with a front port. The sub cabinet also houses the wireless receiver and the 200-watt amplifier that powers all three channels. Klipsch claims line-of-sight range of 30 feet and our experience backs that up. If you’re looking for a wireless audio system that will send audio from a computer in one room to speakers in another, this isn’t the right solution.
My motherboard will not read dual-channel memory. It’s a Biostar TForce 4; the CPU is an AMD 64 X2 dual-core at 3.2GHz with 4GB of DDR/400 RAM. On boot it only reads single-channel RAM. Is my motherboard going bad?
Read the Doctor's answer for Richard after the jump.
I’m really hoping you can help me with a Windows Home Server build. I’m using an Asus A8N-SLI Premium motherboard with an AMD Athlon x2 4400+ CPU at 2.2GHz, 1GB Corsair RAM, a 500W Apevia PSU, and an EVGA 8800 GTS videocard, with a 500GB SATA drive.
I downloaded the Home Server Evaluation copy from Microsoft three different times and installed it three times, wiping the drive each time and starting from scratch. Each time it took more than 12 hours to install the OS, and when it finally did, the CPU was running maxed out and extremely laggy. Installing Nvidia’s chipset drivers made no difference, either. Please help! I’m about to purchase a new mobo and CPU but I’m not sure if that’s the problem.
I have a Gigabyte 8KNXP Rev 1 motherboards that gave up the ghost. It had a RAID 0 array of two Maxtor DiamondMax 10 drives on the Gigabyte board’s onboard IT8212F RAID controller.
I replaced the dead motherboard with an EVGA nForce680i SLI board. Not wanting to risk the loss of 150GB of data from the last four years, I bought an IDE RAID controller card with the same IT8212F chipset and reinstalled XP SP2.
When I access the RAID drive, I can read the directories and even open the folders within. Yet, Windows XP will give me a balloon in the lower right-hand corner saying: “Windows – Delayed Write failed. Windows was unable to save all the data for the file G:\xxx. The data has been lost. This error may be caused by a failure of your computer hardware or network connection. Please try to save this file elsewhere.”
How might I ensure that I can save my data from this drive without risking permanent data loss?
At what capacity point are enthusiasts ready to make the crossover from magnetic storage to solid state? For some, that mark is a quarter-terabyte. If that sounds like you, Patriot’s new 256GB Torqx, featuring the hot Indilinx controller, could be the SSD you’re after. We pitted the 256GB Torqx against the 128GB Torqx and Intel’s second-gen 160GB X25-M SSD to find out which would be the new SSD king.
On our new Core i5 test bed, the 256GB Patriot Torqx significantly outperformed both its smaller sibling and Intel’s X25-M—at least in sustained reads and writes. (To restore performance on the latter two drives to like-new levels, we used Patriot’s and Intel’s SSD-optimizing utilities on their respective drives before testing.) For the first time, we found a drive with average sustained reads and writes above 200MB/s—on the same platform, the 128GB Torqx averaged 178MB/s reads and 168MB/s writes, while the X25-M achieved 185MB/s and 94MB/s, respectively. These aren’t quite the numbers we saw when we originally tested the 128GB Torqx or the X25-M, a difference we chalked up to the new test bed. Regardless, the 256GB Torqx surpassed both other drives in average sustained reads and writes, though Intel’s drive is still the champion in random-write access times, as well as in our Premiere Pro and PCMark Vantage tests, where the 256GB Torqx lagged far behind. Strangely, the smaller-capacity Torqx also outperformed the 256GB in the latter two tests.