On the surface, OWC’s Mercury Pro Blu-ray external drive could seem appealing. The cabinet is attractive and sturdy; it offers FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and eSATA interfaces—including all the requisite cables; and it holds a Pioneer BDR-203 drive, which is rated at 8x for BD-R writes—the highest rating available—and 16x for DVD+/-R. Yet, after using the device, we’re unimpressed.
We first tried to test the drive with the eSATA interface but it failed to work with any of our test beds, which use the nForce 680i SLI chipset. It was recognized by motherboards using Intel’s P45 and X58 chipsets as well as those boards’ auxiliary Marvell controllers. However, we benchmarked using USB 2.0 on our standard test bed for continuity.
Let's face it, most webcams leave a lot to be desired, including some of the higher end models boasting fancy lenses and advanced features not found on entry-level models. But the picture still ends up being grainy, which almost makes that live striptease performance not worth watching. Almost.
Enter the LifeCam Cinema, a high definition webcam Microsoft hopes will shake things up. The LifeCam is the first consumer webcam to support 720p video at 30fps, boasting 1,280x720 compared to most 2MP webcams topping out at 960x720.
But high resolution isn't the only thing the LifeCam has going for it. Other goodies include a glass lens, auto focus, 4x digital zoom, and a digital noise canceling microphone. It sports Windows 7 compatibility out of the box, though only those with a comparatively hefty system need apply - nothing less than a dual-core 1.6GHz, and Microsoft recommends a 3GHz dual-core chip and 2GB of RAM.
The first word that comes to mind when you pick up HP’s 2530p is “solid.” From its heft, to its construction, to its scratch-resistant anodized aluminum display enclosure and palm rest, this notebook seems eminently rugged. HP claims that the 2530p has passed a battery of Mil-Spec tests including 26 drops from different angles at a distance of 30 inches, but we didn’t have the stomach to verify that. We will say the notebook seems up to the rigors of heavy use and regular transport. The price of this sturdiness is added weight—at three pounds, 12.7 ounces, the 2530p weighs about a pound more than the other notebooks in this roundup, although it doesn’t feel cumbersome. We’re more bothered that the battery protrudes from the notebook’s 11.1x8.5x1.5-inch body by almost an inch.
The 2530p’s keyboard feels as solid as the body, with a conventional key layout, full-size keys, and both TrackPoint and touchpad options. Small nubbins just above the palm rest ostensibly prevent the keys from abrading the screen when the notebook is shut. Like the X200s, the 2530p sports a keyboard light. An LED-lit touch-sensitive volume slider above the keypad would be handy if it weren’t so twitchy. Teleconferencers will like that the 2530p features a 2MP webcam (vs. the typical 1.3MP) and a dual-array mic. Most everyone will like the notebook’s full complement of ports and slots—our only complaint is that there are just two USB ports.
Lenovo’s X200s has qualities we’ve come to expect from a ThinkPad—and that’s a good thing. Its magnesium alloy chassis is wrapped in the line’s signature matte black finish, making for a notebook that feels sturdy and looks serious. And at 11.2x8.25x1.25 inches and weighing less than three pounds, the X200s is also lightweight and compact. Yet not so compact that the keyboard suffers—it’s full-size and quite comfortable for typing. A handy light positioned above the screen will illuminate the keyboard and there are dedicated buttons for controlling audio volume.
As with all ThinkPads, the X200s also features the TrackPoint navigation system, whereby you control the cursor using an isometric joystick in the middle of the keyboard, with the left- and right-click buttons in close proximity just below the spacebar. For the uninitiated, TrackPoint can be easily mastered and it’s nice that you can perform navigation functions without moving your hands off the keyboard. But unlike larger ThinkPad models, the X200s doesn’t feature a conventional touchpad as well, which will disappoint folks who like that option.
Three years from now, two-thirds of all new desktop systems will be mutli-GPU capable and of those, 30 percent will be rocking multiple graphics chips. Or at least that's the not-too-distant future Jon Peddie Research Group (JPR) laid out last week in a report on the history, technology, and future of multi-GPU computing. But are we really on the verge of widespread multi-GPU computing?
Not so fast, says Arstechnica. The JPR report points to the desire for high performance computing as the driving force for multi-GPU setups, noting high performance workloads are highly parallel and unsuited for CPU applications. But according to Arstechnica, JPR hasn't thought through the manufacturing angle.
"GPUs are composed of many parallel processing units, so any multi-GPU system involves simply ganging together still more of such small, simple processor cores," Arstechnica writes. "Because the cores are small and the workload is parallel, there is no limit on core count analogous to the limit on the number of processors that can profitably be used in a single x86 CPU. The limits on single-die GPU horsepower are manufacturing limits."
But it's not just about manufacturing. As Ars points out, only two percent of all desktop PCs sold last year came with multiple GPUs, and in Q4 of last year, only 15.2 million out of 38.5 million PCs sold came with even a single discrete graphics card. It's hard to imagine such a dramatic shift towards multiple GPUs in just three short years from now.
There's more to Ars' argument, which you can read here.
You can finally find Nvidia's dual-GPU GTX 295 videocards in stock at pretty much any e-tailer who carries the part, but if you've waited this long, you might want to consider holding out a few more months. According to the latest rumblings, Nvidia plans to replace the flagship part with a dual GT300 card.
News and rumor site Fudzilla claims to have confirmed the rumor, but other details, including exactly when it will ship, remain sparse. If all goes to plan, Nvidia might have a demo ready in late Q4 2009 and start shipping in January 2010, but that remains to be seen.
The new card will apparently be DirectX 11 compatible and built to run parallel processing CUDA, DirectX compute, or OpenCL. It will also go toe-to-toe with AMD's upcoming dual RV870 card.
While you sit around and wait about another month for Intel's launch of Core i5 and new socket 1156-based Core i7 processors, PC builders living in China and Taiwan can already purchase the new parts, says news and rumor site DigiTimes. Citing un-named market sources, DigiTimes says Core i5 750, Core i7 860, and Core i7 870 processors along with P55-based motherboards are already available in small volumes in some retail channels in Taiwan and China, while the rest of us will have to wait until September 6.
Take these prices with a grain of salt, but at the current exchange rate, Core i5 750 (2.6GHz, *MB L3 cache) is selling for about $206. The Core i7 860 (2.8Ghz, 8MB L3 cache) comes to about $303, and the Core i7 860 (2.93GHz, 3MB L3 cache) is selling for around $575, the sources said.
On the motherboard front, P55-based boards from Gigabyte range anywhere from $165 to $280, with MSI is selling P55 boards for anywhere from $150 to $245 depending on features.
Whether you lost your license for racking up too many points for speeding and reckless driving or just can't stand to be anywhere else other than behind the wheel, Logitech has you covered. The gaming peripheral company today announced the G27 Racing Wheel, which it says is "designed to deliver the definitive sim racing experience."
For three Benjamins, the G27 will have you gripping tight corners and feeling the road courtesy of a dual-motor force feedback mechanism. A hand-stitched leather wheel helps justify the cost of admission, as does a six-speed gated shifter complimented by a new LED RPM/shift indicator. Other features include steel-constructed gas, brake, and clutch pedals, and more programmable buttons than the G25.
Logitech says the G27 will be available in the U.S. and Europe sometime in September and will work with both PCs and the Playstation 3.
Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney is on record as being stanchly against GPGPU computing in the past, but in a recent keynote delivered at the High Performance Graphics conference he further downplayed its future. From a developer standpoint he claims that GPGPU based applications can cost nearly 10x as much as a single threaded versions, with multi-core based software being the current sweet spot.
This isn’t the first time Sweeney has predicted the demise of GPGPU based computing technologies, but he has now further expanded his list of endangered technologies to include DirectX and OpenGL. In his speech last year Sweeny claimed that “In the next generation we’ll write 100-percent of our rendering code in a real programming language--not DirectX, not OpenGL, but a language like C++ or CUDA. Whether that runs on Nvidia hardware, Intel hardware or ATI hardware is really an independent question. You could potentially run it on any hardware that's capable of running general-purpose code efficiently."
Some might consider Sweeny’s comments a bit misguided considering that both Apple and Microsoft are strongly backing OpenCL, and ultimately if it turns out to be a more efficient way of doing certain tasks, couldn’t the development costs be justified? Clearly the GPU has future potential in the transcoding market, but do you think Sweeney has a point here?
DirectX 11 which will debut with the release of Windows 7 is arguably a pretty big deal. The new APIs will enjoy a much larger installed base than its predecessor thanks to backwards compatibility with Vista, and graphical improvements that were teased in DirectX 10 should see a pretty significant performance boost. With the release of Windows 7 nearly upon us, many have been holding off on GPU upgrades until the DX11 parts to start rolling off the line, and this time it appears AMD will beat Nvidia out of the gate with its “Evergreen” series.
This hunch was further re-enforced by a live hands on demonstration provided to PC Perspective at QuakeCon showing a working DX11 graphics card in action. The GPU code named “Future Card” was running several live DirectX 11 SDK simulations, but even more impressive was its ability to launch and run existing DirectX 9 titles. Its one thing to show a tech demo, but it’s even more impressive to prove you have a fully functional card.
It looks like the Radeon HD 5000 series will among the first DX11 cards on the market, and AMD could well be on track for a late 2009 release. Is the race to DirectX 11 a battle Nvidia can afford to lose?