The recipe: Take two of the fastest GPUs on the planet capable of running DirectX 11, specially chosen for their low voltage leakage. Toss in two gigabytes of high-speed GDDR5 memory. Mix all ingredients into a card with high-end Japanese solid capacitors and a souped-up thermal dissipation system. The result: the XFX Radeon HD 5970—a GPU so yummy, you may even go back for seconds.
While the product name doesn’t hint at the card’s dual-GPU nature, there’s no mistaking the presence of two graphics chips when you check out the back of the board. Then there’s the sheer size of it: At more than 12 inches, you’ll need a high-end PC case that’s deep enough to handle this monster. You’ll need a beefy power supply, too, since the HD 5970 burns 294W at full throttle—and that’s if you don’t overclock it. The good news is the card consumes just 42W at idle, less than double the idle power of a single HD 5870, thanks to an enhanced deep-sleep mode for the slave GPU.
I want to buy a new CPU, one that will support new features like hardware virtualization. Before I move to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I wish to find out if its Windows XP Mode will work for my 32-bit programs under the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Has anyone even tested this?
Read the answer to Mitch's question after the jump.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Raven RV01 (reviewed April 2009 as part of our full-tower roundup), Silverstone’s Raven RV02 is an all-black steel and plastic chassis with a defining feature: The motherboard orientation is rotated 90 degrees from the standard layout. But the Raven RV02 is even less orthodox than the RV01, which seems positively pedestrian by comparison. Unlike its full-tower predecessor, the RV02 is deeper than it is tall—25 inches deep by 20 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide, so it sits low to the ground. The front of the case is chunky stealth-inspired plastic, but is much more restrained on the RV02 than on the RV01, with a garage door–style front bezel. The side panels and frame are steel, and the case is black inside and out.
Building a system in the RV02 is a vertiginous experience. At first glance, nothing seems to be in the right place—the right-side panel has an optional plastic window, while the left-side panel is the one behind the motherboard tray. Furthermore, not only do the PCI expansion slots and I/O shield mount to the top of the case, but so does the power supply, which sits to the right of the motherboard at the back of the case, and is held in place by four screws, a Velcro strap, and a plastic bracket. The case’s five 5.25-inch bays and 3-inch-bay hard drive cage sit at the front of the case. The hard drive cage isn’t as user-friendly as we’re used to seeing—to install a drive, you must first remove eight thumbscrews, take out the cage, and use four long screws to attach the drive to the rubber shock-absorbing mounts in the cage. Thankfully, four of the optical-drive slots use Silverstone’s familiar toolless retention mechanism.
The original Chumby—a beanbag with a touch screen, a speaker, and an always-on Internet connection using Wi-Fi—was an interesting hybrid of an always-on smartphone, a digital picture frame, and an old-fashioned alarm clock. The new Chumby One updates the original hardware with a few new features, strips away a few others, and comes in at a much cheaper price of $120 (the original was $200).
For lack of a better term, the Chumby is an information appliance. Using the web interface at Chumby.com, you can configure the device to show pretty much any info that’s available on the Internet, from the local weather to your Facebook news feed to the latest from popular gossip sites. Heck, you can even set it to simply show the current time. On top of that, the Chumby One includes a programmable alarm clock, which makes it perfect for your nightstand.
Does the orientation of a hard drive correlate to its life expectancy? With a series of lovely grinding sounds, the 750GB Seagate hard drive in my Thecus NAS failed and all data was lost. The hard drive only lasted a little more than two years. The NAS (and thus the hard drive) stands upright, but in most desktops the hard drives lie flat. So, does the orientation effect the hard drive’s life expectancy? Are they manufactured to operate lying flat, upright, or does it matter?
Read the answer to Pete's question after the jump.
Gone are the Atom processor’s days of monopolizing the low-cost mobile-computing market. This should come as welcome news to folks who want the price and portability benefits of a netbook but more robust performance.
Take Toshiba’s Satellite T115 as an example. To say that it has an 11.6-inch diagonal screen, weighs 3.6 pounds, and is coated in a high-gloss black finish inlaid with a subtle geometric pattern is to describe any number of netbooks on the market today. The fact that the T115 costs $480 only drives home the similarity.
And yet, the T115 is different from netbooks in one very significant way. It houses a traditional notebook processor. It’s just a single-core, single-threaded, 45mn, 1.3GHz Pentium M, but that proved plenty sufficient for making mincemeat of our zero-point netbook’s benchmark scores. That machine’s Atom N270 is clocked 23 percent higher at 1.6GHz, but the Pentium beat it by massive margins—from 27.4 percent in MainConcept all the way up to 128.7 percent in 3DMark 03.
Can we use Windows 7's new fast-boot capability and BIOS optimizations to get to the desktop in less than 30 seconds?
If you’re the kind of person who fumes at the microwave because it takes so long to nuke popcorn, you probably can’t stand the plodding boot of your PC, either.
And who can blame you? Time spent waiting for first the BIOS and then Windows to come to life is time that could have been spent working, gaming, or surfing the web.
Microsoft’s claim that Windows 7 could boot (from the BIOS) in 11 seconds first gave us the hope that such idle time might be lessened dramatically, but being Maximum PC we wanted to take the idea even further. We sought to not only replicate Microsoft’s claim, but to see how much time we could shave prior to the OS loading, with a combination of hardware and BIOS tweaks. Our ultimate goal: to have a machine up and running within 30 seconds of hitting the power switch.
So if your attention deficit disorder hasn’t already caused you to click to the next story, find out how we were able to achieve the shortest boot possible.
We saw how splendid an IPS monitor can be when we reviewed Dell’s 24-inch UltraSharp U2410 in January. “Sometimes you have to pay to play,” we concluded. Moments after reaching that summit, we observed NEC’s 30-inch LCD3090 WQXi IPS panel looming before us. Fully aware that we could buy three U2410s and a Radeon HD 5870 to drive them for about the same amount of cash ($2,200, to be exact), we began our ascent.
The LCD3090 has a native resolution of 2560x1600 (a 16:10 aspect ratio), which is typical of 30-inch displays. This one is an eight-bit panel with programmable 12-bit lookup tables. It delivers 102 percent of the NTSC color space and 97.8 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. Inputs are limited to dual-link DVI-D with an odd HDCP on/off feature, and DVI-I. Why would you need to turn off HDCP? We’re not really sure.
There’s no media card reader or integrated USB hub; more importantly, there’s no DisplayPort support, either. But the stand tilts, swivels, and pivots; and if you still can’t find a comfortable position, you can mount it on an optional articulated arm using its standard VESA mount.
One of the PC’s weaknesses is the tendency to be generic. That’s certainly not a weakness of Alienware’s new Aurora ALX. Using a new redesigned chassis, there’s no way your Aurora ALX will be confused with a bland black box.
And how could it, given its signature Xenomorph look? Previous Alienware cases have felt like rebadged commodity cases, but this new case is clearly unique. When we plugged the PC into the wall socket, the set of ventilation vents on top slowly flapped open and closed—as though the ominous black creature were alive and just took a breath.
Getting inside of the case added to the mystery. Like a caveman hammering away on a flying saucer with a rock, we just didn’t know how to open the thing. We finally found that lifting the very last ventilation flap unlocks the side hatch. With the door off of the blowing, pulsing, and breathing Aurora ALX, was it alien technology we saw? Fortunately, it was more Earth-bound. Inside, we found a water-cooled Core i7-975 Extreme Edition on a custom Micro ATX X58 motherboard. Graphics were in the hands of the latest hotness, two CrossFired ATI Radeon HD 5870s. Along with 6GB of RAM and a Blu-ray combo drive, there wasn’t much wanting in the rig. We do take issue with the storage configuration, which comprises two 1TB drives in RAID 0, with no local backup drive. Scary. However, we like the mounting system, which gives you easy access to drives.
I’m going to say something I don’t get to say enough: Copyright can be great. It can provide a living wage, spread knowledge, and even sometimes enhance art. It gives us Open Source, viral art, and countless creative works that would have died in the desk job. Many of the worst uses of copyright are actually misuses, deceptions, and hustles. They often trade on how confusing copyright is, giving too much power to legally worded nonsense meant to squeeze money or restrict use that’s all bark and no legal standing.
There are so many bogus claims out there, high and low. Even the notice on the White House’s Flickr stream says pictures are posted “only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s).... The photograph may not be manipulated in any way....” It’s nice they tell you why they posted it, but they’re not telling you what you’re allowed to do with it. The license link on the same page explains that all intellectual work of the U.S. government is “not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no U.S. copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work.” You’re allowed to put horns on Obama’s picture and march down the street with your derivative work claiming he turns into a lizard at night and eats janitorial staff. You’d only be violating the laws of common sense.