The sharp and steady decline in PC chip shipments in recent times can be likened to a tailspin. Market research firm IDC has published its appraisal of PC chip shipments in the first quarter of 2009. PC chip shipments are still in a nosedive per IDC, though the pace of their descent has decreased considerably.
Intel shipped 33 percent less Atom processors during the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline in Atom shipments isn’t entirely surprising as suppliers have amassed a huge stockpile of Atom processors.
The first quarter bought some relief for AMD as its market share improved by 4.6% to reach 22.3 percent. AMD improved its standing in both the PC and mobile markets at the expense of Intel, which had its market share trimmed down to 77.3 percent from 82 percent in the previous quarter.
Sorry, we couldn’t resist the headline. For the record: We’re not predicting the early demise of AMD’s new Live Home Cinema reference platform (code-named Maui). AMD sent us a sample build several months ago, but we wanted to live with it for a while before publishing our thoughts on the design.
We’re big fans of home-theater PCs, especially the build-it-yourself variety (be sure and check out the May issue of Maximum PC for Will Smith’s terrific how-to guide to building one of your own). If AMD can resolve one major issue, we think Maui will be the best home-theater PC platform on the market.
With a home-theater PC, you can stream all manner of Hollywood content for free (from websites such as Hulu) or for a small fee (from online stores such as iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon’s Unbox). While you can accomplish the same thing with a media center extender and any PC equipped with a version of Windows that includes Windows Media Center, a dedicated HTPC leaves that other machine available for other tasks. A home-theater PC with a Blu-ray drive can play HD movies, too, but comparing home-theater PCs to Blu-ray disc players—which are becoming increasingly PC-like—is more problematic. We’ll get to that soon enough; for now, let’s take a detailed look at AMD’s Live Home Cinema platform.
Oh snap, it's on like Donkey Kong, or at least like an intense level of Galaga. More specifically, Microsoft continues its advertising offensive against Apple with yet another commercial pointing out the cost of being hip, only this one targets iTunes and not MacBooks.
In the latest ad, financial planner (certified, of course) Wes Moss points out it would take $30,000 to fill the latest iPod using iTunes at a buck a pop.
"I don't know about you, but I don't have thirty grand laying around for music," Moss says.
His solution? A subscription service like Zune Pass, of course! "One costs a lot, and one costs a little," Moss adds, referring to the iPod with $30,000 worth of music and Zune Pass's unlimited subscription plan for $14.99/month. For those of you doing the math at home, $30,000 buys almost 167 years of Zune Pass.
There are obvious flaws in Microsoft's latest pitch, but the goal here isn't necessarily to discredit Apple's iPod/iTunes combination as a viable music platform (too late for that) as much as it is to promote Zune Pass. The question is, will it work?
Ah, spring: when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of upgrading. But, alas! Your fancy new videocard is too big for your tiny case, and you’re running out of hard drive bays for your RAID. Fear not! A classy full-tower chassis can be just the solution.
In this roundup we’ve collected five full-tower cases—big and tall enclosures with all the bells and whistles: new looks, toolless expansion slots, intake filters, drive bays aplenty, and more. Space-saving isn’t a priority here: The focus is on features, with room for as much hardware as you need to cram in. If you want a portable rig or something to nestle under your desk, these aren’t the cases for you. But if you’re looking to make the most of your computer, portability be damned, one of these beauts could be your huckleberry.
In evaluating these cases, we focused on a few key points: overall build quality, aesthetics, ease of installation, cooling options, convenience, and features like front-panel connectors. We kept price in mind, too, but only to a degree: After all, we’re Maximum PC. We don’t mind paying for excellence; we just object when gear is offensively overpriced.
The Thermaltake Spedo is big and bold, with gray plastic trim and black honeycomb mesh running up the front of the case and the top plate. It sounds awkward, but it mostly works, just like the mishmash of features inside.
The 21.1x24x9.1-inch Spedo starts strong with seven external 5.25-inch slots and two removable hard drive bays with three slots each, all completely screwless. Add in two low-rpm 23cm fans (one on top and one on the side), and six smaller, faster fans, including a red LED fan in front of one of the hard drive bays, and airflow is great.
The Spedo ships with an array of flimsy plastic panels billed as the “Advanced Thermal Chamber 3,” which separate the PSU area from the PCI cards from the CPU cooler. In our experience, removing and installing the panels is more trouble than it’s worth; after our initial install we just left them outside the case.
Installing a system in the NZXT Zero II is like taking a trip back to the first half of this decade. Although the front panel cover is nice—all smooth, curved lines and blue lighting, with a handy magnetic clasp—the interior of this 21x21.1x8.2-inch case seems downright primitive and unfinished compared to the other cases in this roundup. The five 5.25-inch drive bays as well as the two external and six internal 3.5-inch HDD bays are toolless, albeit utilizing old-fashioned clip-in rails rather than an in-case mechanism or fancier bracket.
The case comes with three fans and slots for six more—four on the door, one on the bottom, and one on the top—but the net effect is that it looks incomplete. The Zero II is built of flimsier metal than the rest of the cases covered here, although the Zero is roughly a third of the price of Cooler Master’s offering, and less than a sixth the price of the ABS Canyon.
While most Silverstone cases tend toward polished metal and (if you’re lucky) a side window, the Raven’s hard plastic exterior takes its stylistic cues from a stealth bomber. Appropriately, everything on this 24.3x26x11-inch beaut is hidden behind panels: the front connectors (two USB, audio, FireWire) behind a flip-up, and the five 5.25-inch drives behind a garage door–like sliding panel.
The most striking thing about the Raven, besides its appearance, is that its motherboard mount is rotated 90 degrees clockwise—the I/O ports and PCI expansion slots, normally situated on the back of a case, are on the top and covered by a shroud that allows cables to be routed neatly to the back. This improves airflow (allowing air drawn in by two 18cm fans to rise from the bottom of the case to the top) and takes the stress of weighty PCI-E cards (like, say, dual-GPU offerings from Nvidia and ATI) off of the motherboard.
At 26x17x9 inches, the ABS Canyon 695 is a tall and svelte aluminum “supertower,” and its design is certainly striking. Remove the smooth front-panel cover and you’ll find the entire front of the case taken up by three 14cm intake fans, with a sliding lint-trap-like dust filter in front of them. This means the optical drive bays are rotated 90 degrees to accommodate the fans; they actually open into holes in the case’s side panels, giving the exterior an unusual look.
Inside, the case is separated into three “thermal zones”—the PSU, two 5.25-inch bays, and one external 3.5-inch bay reside at the top; the middle section holds the motherboard, PCI cards, etc.; the bottom can accommodate six SATA drives and even includes a hot-swappable backplate. Airflow is great, thanks to a generous array of fans—six in all.
We loved the features of Cooler Master’s HAF case but weren’t thrilled with its looks. Now comes the ATCS 840, billed as a “classic” model by Cooler Master. It combines the useful amenities we’ve come to expect from Cooler Master with a sexy brushed-metal, no-window, no-nonsense exterior, and nary an LED to be seen.
The roomy (22.8x24.8x9.8 inches) ATCS 840 is packed: removable dust filters on its intake ports, the sturdy slide-out motherboard tray with CPU-backplate cutout (so you don’t have to remove the motherboard to switch CPU coolers, even those that require a backplate). The tray even includes the full rear I/O area, so your PCI cards can come too! There’s even space for a second PSU or water-cooling reservoir up top. Three 23cm, 700rpm fans—one in front, two on the top—provide big airflow with little noise. There’s a 12cm output fan in the back, too.
Samsung today announces three new LCD displays as part of its 70 Series family, the P2070, P3270, and P2370HD. The first two rock a 30mm (1.18-inch) slim form factor, while the HD model checks in a little thicker at 65.5mm (2.58 inches.).
"The 70 Series offers our customers a sophisticated-looking LCD monitor with the performance capability of our televisions," said J.H. Kim, President of Samsung Electronics America's Information Technology Division. "The 70 Series is the new standard as more people upgrade their monitors for additional uses, like watching television programs and playing video games."
Power users will be most interested in the P2370HD, which boasts full 1080p HD (1920x1080) and comes with a built-in HDTV tuner, integrated speakers with SRS TruSurround, and a remote control. Other specs include a 5ms GTG response time, 50,000:1 contrast ration, and HDMI and component inputs.