Brrzap! Not all hardware failures start that way, but there's a good chance they'll end up sounding like that as a result of you chucking an unruly piece of hardware through the nearest exit of your dwelling. Before you hulk up next time, know that there are ways to get a little bit more information about the status of your components. Applications that assess the health of your system's various parts serve a twofold purpose. You can deduce that equipment on your system might be going kaput or is otherwise screwed up in some fashion. Armed with that knowledge, you can then attempt to make an effective repair. If there is no way to repair your parts, you'll at least get an advanced notice that disaster is about to strike and that a trip to the electronics store might be in your soon-to-immediate future.
In this week's freeware roundup, I'm going to give you a list of applications that will help you assess your system's CPU, hard drives, optical drives, network connections, and memory. Don't delay in installing these applications--every second wasted puts you but one step closer to a catastrophic meltdown--or, at the very least, an unexpected failure in a critical piece of your PC. And nobody wants to be left hanging on the one day you really, really, really need to access the Internet, for example.
Click the jump, put on your medic's coat, and let's run some diagnostics!
Just in case you missed our review of the new GTX 295 reference board last month, we’ll revisit the high points. To make a GeForce GTX 295, Nvidia sandwiched a fairly large heatsink between a pair of boards—that’s one kick-ass sandwich!
The GTX 295’s GPUs are basically modified GTX 280 GPUs. They’ve got the same shader core configuration as the GTX 280, but Nvidia shrunk the chip’s die from 65nm to 55nm, and lowered the core clock speed to 576MHz (the same as the GTX 260). These two adjustments help keep power requirements and heat generation under control, while the full complement of 240 shader cores keeps the frame rate up in shader-limited benchmarks, such as Crysis and Far Cry 2.
"All PCs, and most PC peripherals have transitioned from full-speed to high-speed. Most of these devices will eventually transition to SuperSpeed, the only issue is the speed of the transition," said Brian O’Rouke, an analyst with In-Stat. As per In-Stat’s prognosis, Superspeed USB 3.0 devices will capture 25% of the USB market by 2013, with USB-enabled computer mice persisting as the most populous USB-enabled device category.
If you read our disc-ripping challenge on page 62, then you already know that LG’s GH22LS30 22x SATA drive is a slowpoke at copying video discs. But if that’s not an activity that interests you, this drive offsets the shortcoming with other talents. For example, the GH22LS30 turned in the fastest time we’ve ever clocked at writing data to a single-layer DVD+R disc. Like Samsung’s SH-S223 (reviewed February), LG’s 22x burner isn’t daunted by 16x media; the drive peaked at a 20.1x speed when filling the disc and achieved an impressive write-speed average of 16.31x. Thus the GH22LS30 was able to write 4.38GB of data in 4:29 (min:sec) compared with the SH-S223’s time of 4:46. The GH22LS30 read the single-layer data disc in 4:58 to the SH-S223’s 4:55.
At long last, Nvidia may finally adding DirectX 10.1 support to its videocards, assuming Fudzilla is right on the money. According to the news and rumor site, Nvidia's GT200 will be refreshed to a 40nm manufacturing process and the new chips will sport DX10.1.
To date, ATI has been the only one to offer DX10.1 support on some of its videocards (yes, we're completely ignoring S3's Chrome series), a minor extension to DX10 that thus far hasn't meant much for gamers. To to fuel the conspiracy flames, that could change with Nvidia jumping on board. Remember that DX10.1 instructions did at one point show a performance boost on ATI cards in Assassin's Creed, but after a patch removed support for the instruction set, some accused Ubisoft of bowing to pressure from Nvidia after the GPU maker sponsored the title with its The Way It's Meant To Be Played program.
In any event, it looks like refresh will come on the tail end of summer or early fall.
it wasn't that long ago that just a handful of SSDs littered the storage landscape, but not only have several manufacturers now jumped on board, but we're seeing companies expand their lineups. Such is the case with Corsair, who this week announced two new models -- P128 and P64 -- as part of its Performance Series.
The P128 boast the same 220MB/s read and 200MB/s write speeds as found on the P256, putting it at the higher end of the SSD performance spectrum but below the fastest drives on the market. Meanwhile, the P64 offers the same 220MB/s read speed but a slower 120MB/s writes. Both new models are built around the Samsung controller IC with 128MB of cache and NCQ support, meaning neither one should suffer the same stuttering problems reported on some JMicron-based SSDs.
The P128 is available now at about $339 street ($299 if you fancy mail-in-rebates), and the P64 will start shipping in July with no word yet on price.
The Cooler Master V10 is a monster. It weighs two pounds, 10 ounces, stands 6.3x9.3x5.1 inches, and contains one thermoelectric cooler, two fans, and two heatsinks: one on the CPU and one on the TEC. The TEC, which needs to be powered by a 4-pin Molex on a dedicated power lead, activates only when needed.
The V10’s installation is the worst we’ve ever experienced. Two retention clips attach to the cooler, which you then attach to a bracket you mount on the back side of the motherboard. This means removing your motherboard and balancing the cooler on your lap while you screw it in. Unfortunately, the V10 is so huge that it blocks the motherboard’s top three ATX screws, making it difficult to mount the motherboard in even the roomiest cases. And the V10’s bulk made it difficult to connect both the 8-pin and the 24-pin motherboard power cables on our test system’s motherboard—impressive, since they’re on opposite sides of the motherboard.
Much to the chagrin of memory makers (and delight of consumers), DRAM contract prices have remained static in the second half of June, but that's getting ready to change. Memory makers expect supply to tighten up in July as more orders continue to come in following stronger demand from PC makers.
Looking longer term, industry sources indicate contract prices for DRAM chips have started showing signs of a rebound and should continue to improve for the rest of the year. Furthermore, the price gap between branded finished memory chips and eTT (effective tested) chips is expected to widen significantly in the second half of 2009, DigiTimes reports.
If you've been putting off that memory upgrade, now might be a good time to pull the trigger.
DRAM contract prices have refused to budge during the second half of June, according to DRAMeXchange. The first half had witnessed an increase in contract prices and chip suppliers, encouraged by the token recovery, were planning to increase prices.
Although analysts expected DDR3 contract prices to rise on the back of increased demand resulting from the launch of ultra-thin notebooks, DDR3 prices have remained stagnant. DDR2 contract prices have remained static just as anticipated.
The contact prices for 2GB DDR3 and 2GB DDR2 chips have averaged $23 and $21.50, respectively, in the second half of June. On the other hand, the contract prices for 1GB DDR3 and 1GB DDR2 chips are $1.25 and $1.16, respectively.
AMD will replace its Better by Design strategy with a new open platform strategy called AMD Vision Technology in September – to accompany the launch of its next-gen Tigris notebook platform, according to a Digitimes report, which cites unnamed sources at notebook makers. Under the new open platform strategy, Notebooks will be classified into three levels based on their processor and GPU, with each receiving a label signifying its level. The three levels that will be used to classify notebooks will be AMD Vision Ultimate, AMD Vision Premium and AMD Vision.