No doubt you’re familiar with the Universal Serial Bus – we ranked it as our top PC innovation of all time. But what do you know about the next version of this ubiquitous interface? USB 2.0 (otherwise known as USB Hi-Speed) boosted the original 12Mbps data rate to 480Mmb/s over eight years ago, and now USB 3.0 (dubbed USB Superspeed) is set to multiply that bandwidth tenfold. The USB Implementers Forum (led by Intel) released the USB 3.0 spec to hardware partners last week after some reported disputes with AMD and Nvidia (who, afraid Intel would have a jump start in incorporating the tech in chipsets, threatened to develop their own USB standard). But how does this affect you? We dug up some new information about USB 3.0, got our hands on the new connectors, and even took a look inside the new cables.
Click through for the five reasons why we’re excited about USB 3.0
Toshiba’s 320GB portable drive is so plain it doesn’t even have a real name. It’s just the Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as Western Digital’s My Passport Elite, the Toshiba 320’s primary competition in terms of size, speed, and software (see our review of the Elite here).
The USB-only Toshiba 320 posted the slowest real-world read speeds of any drive we’ve tested. However, these lapses represent only a four percent difference in real-world performance when compared to the fastest non-proprietary drive we’ve tested, Western Digital’s My Passport Elite. Four percent is four percent, but it’s not enough to make a significant difference.
Indilinx has completed the development of their Barefoot (IDX22) high-performing solid state drive controller with 90nm process technology which shows an impressive fastest read speed of 230MB/s and supports a capacity of up to 512GB with multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash. Indilinx claims “phenomenal performance at a competitive price”.
Barefoot supports native SATA 2.0 interface and provides maximum read and write speed of 230MB/s, 170MB/s with SLC NAND flash, and 200MB/s, 160MB/s with MLC NAND, respectively. It uses Indilinx’s unique architecture and technology, including independently operating 4 channels and external DRAM buffer and it enhances stability and reliability by using two types of hardware error-correcting code (ECC).
Those improvements are coming by leaps and bounds in SSDs. It's not clear if this will be competing with Intel’s controller directly. No mention if this is targeted at portable or stationary (or both) PC market.
Electronista says that Intel is planning a super fast 160GB Solid State Drive. They report that Intel's flash memory marketing head Troy Winslow says the Z-P140 was just a prelude to a series of bigger announcements to come before the end of the year. Winslow goes on to say that there will be a series of 1.8- and 2.5-inch drives for ultraportables that will hold between 80GB and 160GB. They should also outperform the 100 megabytes per second reading speed of the Samsung Flash SSD.
Solid State is really making inroads this year and as may predicted, they have invaded laptops first. Perhaps by 2010 they will be the default choice for enthusiast builds in desktops. Their read speeds are faster than traditional hard drives and their capacities have reached a useful level. Winslow points out that Intel’s experience with building quick interconnects between processors and chipsets helps them make improved memory controllers for the SSD drives.
When they hit the same price point and capacity as Western Digital’s Velociraptor drives and they do something about the pokey write speeds, count me in. They aren’t quite ready for mainstream, but they certainly do look like the future.
Maximum PC readers know not to expect much from a notebook equipped with Intel Integrated graphics, but where do we draw the line? This is the answer Intel attempted to provide on its blog in response to concerns over poor performance of the Centrino 2, G45 based graphics chipset. Intel spokesmen Aaron Brezenski attempted to down play the results of the AMD demonstration pitting a Turion X2 vs. a Centrino 2 in a head to head blue ray and gaming playback competition.The AMD Pavilion dv5z features a RadeonHD 3200 and clearly outperformed the Intel Pavillion dv5t. The Intel based system locked the processor utilization at a steady 100% during video playback while the AMD based system hummed along normally with Windows Defender actively running background scans.
Sony Pictures Image Works organized an event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to pay homage to the recently deceased visual effects virtuoso Stan Winston. Several big names from the film fraternity including film director James Cameroon, Shane Mahan, John Nelson, and actor Matt Winston (Stan Winston’s son) were in attendance and took a stroll down memory lane to remember the legend.
Winston was ahead of his time and etched his indelible footprints on visual effects. The event witnessed an outpouring of amusing anecdotes and veneration from the speakers who had known him. His protégé Shane Mahan, who worked with him during Terminator 2, announced that he and partners from Winston Studios are forming a new studio, Legacy Studio, as a mark of respect for Winston.
Winston worked on movies like Terminator and Jurassic Park that are remembered for their groundbreaking special effects as they set the bar higher for future movies. Cutting-edge is an adjective generally used to describe special effects but perhaps it was this avant-garde vfx legend who best justified its use.
Nvidia’s secret war with Intel has evolved into a full scale arms race for the atomic bomb of graphics technology, ray tracing. Using its forum at SIGGRAPH, Nvidia was able to demonstrate an interactive ray tracing simulation using four of the company's next-generation Quadro GPUs. They were set in a Quadro Plex 2100 D4 Visual Computing System with an estimated street price of around $11,000. Not exactly your standard gaming rig, but it gets the point across. Either way, it appears as though Nvidia is finally taking a cue from Intel and is focusing at least some of its effort on developing hardware capable of making this technique a reality for everyday users. The demonstration featured linear scaling of an anti aliased Bugatti Veyron with over two-million polygons. It was run at a resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p) and chugged along at an impressive 30 FPS. The demonstration also featured image-based lighting paint shaders, reflections / refractions, and ray traced shadows. Industry insiders noted that the demo was an impressive undertaking since it was one of the first interactive demonstrations done using a GPU. Intel has demonstrated ray tracing using Quake 3 but was done using CPU power.Larrabee will be Intel’s counter in the consumer market, but it remains to be seen if the CPU style design will be as capable of pushing out polygons as Nvidia’s offerings.Gamers are no doubt hoping the new race to master ray tracing will accelerate its development, but I have a feeling we will be playing Duke Nukem Forever long before we see consumer based ray tracing solutions from either company. Though the important first steps are now well underway.
The whole world went gaga over the PS3’s Cell processor at the advent of the 7th generation of consoles. That hype slowly subsided as the PS3 failed to set the cash registers ringing. However, an imminent deluge of Cell-based products - Toshiba's latest Qosmio notebooks bear a Cell-derived chip - has turned the spotlight back on to the Cell Broadband Engine.
IBuypower’s Gamer Paladin 990 is a strange beast. After we completed our testing, we were left wondering just what iBuypower was trying to accomplish with its half exotic, half midrange rig.
Take, for example, the videocard situation. The machine sports a pair of Nvidia’s newest GPUs, but not the company’s top-end offering, the GeForce GTX 280. Instead, iBuypower uses a pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 260s. If these GeForce cards weren’t midrange when they were first released, they certainly are now, as Nvidia has taken a blowtorch to prices to keep the GTX 260 competitive with ATI’s Radeon HD 4870.
If you don’t just like Gigabit ports—you love them— Gigabyte’s GA-EP45-DQ6 is the motherboard for you. This mobo has four Gigabit ports that can be teamed together for one seriously fat-ass network connection.
Elsewhere, the board is typical Gigabyte; it includes surface-mounted buttons and the most clearly marked USB and FireWire ports we’ve ever seen. So if you nuke your USB drive because you plugged the USB connector into a FireWire header, it’s your own fault, brother.