There are a few dirty secrets in the tech industry, and one of the best-guarded among them regards multichannel audio—everybody wants multichannel audio but almost no one actually runs the speakers to use it.
Sure, we all cheered when PC audio went from 4.1 to 5.1, and then from 6.1 to 7.1, but who actually runs that many satellites around his or her PC? That’s why Asus’s Xonar Essence STX is a soundcard that’s long overdue. Instead of pushing pointless multi-satellite specs, the Essence STX is aimed at folks who spend more money on a set of headphones than some people put out for an entire surround sound set.
On Tuesday, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch reiterated the company’s promise to release a beta version of its Flash 10 player for mobiles by the end of this year. He was addressing analysts at an event specially organized for them. He went on to add that the mobile version of Flash will begin making full use of APIs by the beginning of next year. This will allow the mobile variant of Flash to fully tap such hardware features as multi-touch and accelerometer, which are found on an increasing number of smartphones.
It took some time, but motherboard makers and case manufacturers have finally wised up to the concept of never having enough USB ports. It's not uncommon to see motherboards equipped with 8 USB ports, and it would take six of said motherboards to still not equal the number of ports on the 49-port Professional USB-2 Hub.
The mega-hub supports the USB 2.0 specification and includes a "separate transaction translator for every port." Each port independently comes with its own Vbus current limit, and multiple rail regulators and localized clock generators keep errant signals from mucking with data transfers.
"We engineered this professional-grade product for dependability and performance first, aimed squarely at the business user - not as a cost-driven commercial product," UK developer Cambrionix stated on the USB hub's product page.
Even still, we could see this filling a niche in the power user segment, though probably not at the £399 (about $660 USD) asking price. Can anyone else imagine stuffing the entire line of Transformers USB keys into this?
We’re constantly on the hunt for top-shelf PC performance—you’re not reading Bottom-Feeder PC, after all. When rendering our review verdicts, we do factor in price, but recommending a subpar product just because it’s cheap is sacrilege to us. Pricing can be relevant, but when it comes to videocards, we typically anchor our opinions on the toughest criteria we know of: 3D performance in the most demanding games on the market, at resolutions of 1920x1200 and higher and with all eye candy enabled.
While our editorial mantra might best be expressed as “better, faster, stronger” (hey, we should do a cover story on that!), there’s no escaping the fact that the videocard market boasts a broad spectrum of inexpensive—and intriguing—alternatives. In fact, as AMD and Nvidia have been battling for supremacy at the top of the market, we’ve watched the entry points for penultimate-performance videocards gradually but consistently come down to earth. Sure, playing Crysis on a 30-inch panel might be out of the question if you’re running one of the lower-priced cards, but we still wanted to discover the 3D tipping point—the point at which you’re better off giving up PC gaming altogether because the card you’re running is horribly, utterly lacking in horsepower.
Synaptics hopes to take mobile touchscreen technology to a whole new level with the company's recently announced ClearPad 3000 Series. Unlike two-finger capable touchscreens, the ClearPad 3000's capacitive touch pad can track up to 10 simultaneous finger touches.
"By enabling more devices to have multi-finger gesture capabilities, our premium ClearPad 3000 Series opens the door for innovative software developers to push the edges of the user interface envelope by creating exciting new classes of applications -- such as multi-user gaming -- not possible before, giving OEMs greater flexibility to differentiate their products," said Tom Tiernan, Synaptics president and COO.
Synaptics says the ClearPad 3000 is based on new, proprietary technology featuring 48 sensing channels and advanced power management. The end result is support for larger screen sizes up to 8 inches diagonally in a thin, low-profile design. Synaptics also boasts a high level of accuracy.
The company plans to ship engineering samples for general release starting in November 2009, which means you may see some snazzy new multi-finger touchscreen devices just in time for the holidays.
We'll admit it - Olive's new Opus No. 4 looks pretty swank and offers a ton of storage for your groovy tunes, but is it worth $1,800? We'll let you decide that one.
The new flagship entry to Olive's Opus Hi-Fi Digital Stereo line includes 2TB of storage, which the company claims is enough to hold almost 6,000 CDs worth of music on-board in the lossless FLAC format. Sound quality gets a further boost by a high resolution digital-to-analog converter (DAC), as well as "optimized circuit design and a precision power supply."
Other features include a color-coded touchscreen menu, drag & drop playlist creation through the Maestro browser-based software, thousands of pre-set Internet radio stations, and both wired and wireless connectivity for music streaming in up to 10 rooms simultaneously using the optional Melody Hi-Fi Multi-Room Player.
The Opus No. 4 in 2TB will be available starting August 1, 2009. If that's too rich for your blood. Olive also plans to offer 1TB and 500GB versions for a little less scratch, $1,600 and $1,500 respectively.
The Radeon HD 4830 at the heart of this card is a cut-down version of AMD’s second-best graphics processor, the RV770. The 4830 has 640 stream processors, compared to the 800 processors in a higher-end card such as the Radeon HD 4870.
The 4830 is designed to run at slower clock speeds, too, and PowerColor sets this model to operate its core at 575MHz and its 512MB of GDDR3 memory at 900MHz. These are pretty hobbled specs compared to those of the reference-design Radeon HD 4870, which boasts core and memory clock rates of 780MHz and 1GHz, respectively.
Whereas AMD’s Radeon HD 4830 resembles a Radeon 4870 after a partial lobotomy, the Radeon HD 4850 that sits between these two cards comes with a full complement of 800 stream processors. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can overclock a 4850 board to achieve the same performance as one based on the 4870: The latter uses GDDR5 memory while the former is limited to GDDR3.
Nvidia’s GeForce 9800 GT is really just a rebadged GeForce 8800 GT, which makes it the only card in our roundup based on a previous-generation GPU architecture: Nvidia’s 65nm G92. Despite its age, however, the G92 helped EVGA’s GeForce 9800 GT best PowerColor’s Radeon HD 4830—at least in terms of gaming performance.
EVGA runs the 9800 GT’s core at 600MHz, but takes full advantage of its 112 shader processors’ capacity for operating at much higher frequencies: 1,500MHz in this implementation. The card has a 256-bit memory interface to a full gigabyte of GDDR3 memory running at 900MHz.
This card is based on Nvidia's most current GPU architecture, the GT200. Priced at $200, it's the least expensive model we tested that's capable of running Crysis at 60-plus frames per second.
If you shop for a GeForce GTX 260 card, make sure you're comparing apples to apples: Core 216 models like the one you see here are manufactured using a 55nm process, and are outfitted with 216 shader processors. Conversely, cards based on the original 65nm GTX 260 GPU remain on the market but possess only 192 processors. Both versions have a 448-bit interface to 896MB of GDDR3 memory.