We'd like to take a moment to apologize to the nation's economists: We're sorry, fellas, for the damage we're about to do to the GDP.
That's right, it's time again for us to share our very favorite browser games—the most fun, addictive, challenging free diversions we've found online. And we're not going to waste your time with games you've played a hundred times before; these are all games from the past year, and they're the cream of the crop.
Not to disparage last year's list of HTML 5 games, or the previous year's list of 22 flash games, but we really think we've outdone ourselves this time. These are weapons-grade timewasters. So go ahead, read on—if you can afford to lose the rest of your afternoon.
When I devote time to media – whether it's a game, TV show, book, or slice of delicious chocolate cake drowned in molten frosting lava – I tend to lose myself in it. I think about it constantly. My speech becomes laden with referential jargon, and probably by pure coincidence, my friends start punching me in the throat more frequently. That's the power of a great world, though. You have to drag me away from it kicking and screaming, and even when you do, I bring a few chunks of officially licensed astro turf along for the ride.
But it's fun to be hopelessly and utterly absorbed in a place halfway across the galaxy from Real Life's day-to-day doldrums. Whether it's a million-mile-per-hour escape from reality or something that ends up hitting all too close to home, there's something downright magical about, say, wandering Fallout's wastes or selecting the “family” conversation option of every goddamn person in Mass Effect 3's entire galaxy. Things like that are, in large part, the reason I play games.
So I think I'm probably qualified to talk about why transmedia's insidious, spindly web of Facebook games, apps, iOS spin-offs, art books, and delicious chocolate cakes drowned in molten frosting lava is doing it so very, very, very wrong.
My first X79 build, back in November 2011, was pretty modest. Well, as modest as a PC with a 1,000-dollar processor can be. It performed well in CPU-intensive benchmarks, but it had only a single GTX 580, so it did about a third as well as top-tier systems in graphics tests.
Back when I built that PC, the Core i7-3960X was the only Sandy Bridge-E CPU available to us, and the GTX 580 was the fastest single-GPU card on the market. Well, this time I’m going to build a Sandy Bridge-E system with the new quad-core Core i7-3820 and the new fastest single-GPU videocard on the market: AMD’s Radeon HD 7970.
Wait, just kidding. I’m not going to use a 7970. I’m going to use three of ‘em!
For those of us who remember wasting hours with the original, green-screened GameBoy, the thought that the era of portable gaming consoles may be coming to an end is a bit sad. While their TV-tethered cousins will be around for at least another generation or two, super-powerful smartphones like the iPhone 4S are calling into question the need for dedicated portable gaming devices like the new PlayStation Vita.
After gaming extensively on both, we’ve come up with a point-by-point breakdown that we think explains why portable consoles aren’t dead yet. Read on for more!
The Mission: Way back in the recession-bound depths of 2009, we skipped our normal balls-to-the-wall Dream Machine build in favor of three more modest PCs. Rather than a $10,000 ode to excess, we built rigs actual people would build. Our $1,400 midrange system, which we called the Budget Surplus, was kitted out with an Intel Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard with 6GB DDR3, a 1.5TB boot drive, and the finest in dual-GPU technology: a Radeon HD 4870x2.
The Budget Surplus is showing its age—nearly three years old! I’ve had many people with similar systems ask if it’s time for a new rig, but I’m hesitant to recommend a major upgrade before Ivy Bridge and Ivy Bridge-E come out.
Rather than going all-out on a new machine, I’m going to bring our 2009-era box into the present day with a few upgrades that’ll make the machine feel new again, and that I’ll be able to bring with me when I do bite the bullet on a new CPU and motherboard.
How big is the Internet, to you? No, we don’t want to hear about all the billions of pages indexed by Google. We’re talking about your Internet—the set of sites that you’re aware of, that you might actually visit. If you’re like most people, it’s actually pretty small. Even if you spend a lot of time online, you’re still missing out on tons of great content.
That’s why we compile our annual list of websites. Not because we think that we’ve found the 72 best websites in the world, but because we know that the Internet is too huge for one person to explore by him- or herself, and that it is always growing. We do it because we know that everyone could use a yearly dose of fun, useful, and interesting new sites to add to their browsing repertoire. On the following pages we present 72 of our favorite new or unknown destinations on the Internet. Just don’t blame us if you find you’re spending more time than ever in front of your screen!
Sharing: It's one of the first things we're taught as children. One of the most basic social graces, sharing allows us to create new friendships, divvy up precious resources and expand our horizons. Too bad the board of directors of so many high-tech companies never figured this out. Companies like Sony, Apple and Iomega have been saddling us with proprietary memory solutions for years now. Here's our pick of 15 of the worst examples.
Johannes Kepler once wrote, “Nature uses as little as possible of anything.”
Nvidia’s latest GPU, code-named Kepler after the German mathematician, looks to be inspired by that quote, as much as by the original Kepler’s mathematical prowess. The new GPU—the GTX 680— offers superb graphics horsepower, but requires only two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. It’s a big departure from the last-generation GTX 580, which was fast, but power hungry.
For everything you need to know about Kepler, read on!
Building expensive, over-the-top machines is easy. It’s when you dip below the $1,000 mark that it gets difficult. This month, I undertook the challenge of building the best all-around PC I could for less than $850. To me, that meant a machine good at multithreaded tasks as well as gaming. We’ve said it before, and we’ll stick to our guns: Intel’s Core i5-2500K is the sweet spot for price/performance. Unfortunately, that price is too high for this configuration. That left me pondering whether to do yet another Core i3 box or another AMD box.
Readers have been ragging on us about what fantastic deals Phenom II procs currently are. I looked high and low and, surprisingly, I did find some e-tailers selling Phenom IIs way below the list price. For just $139, you can net a 3.5GHz Phenom II X4 970. That gives you four cores, a much larger cache, and a fully unlocked part for not much more than the Athlon II X4 has been going for. The Phenom II X4 isn’t always a clear-cut winner against its Intel counterpart, the 3.3GHz Core i3-2120, but it does hold its own in multithreading tasks and game-related chores, which are all about the GPU.
There are several practices that distinguish true power users from common folk.System building is one. Component benchmarking certainly applies. As does religious parts swapping. And then, of course, there’s hardware hacking. Hacking, more than anything else, exemplifies our ongoing quest for more—more performance, more functionality, more power—because we’re wringing this extra goodness from gear we already own, using crafty methods and occasionally pushing the bounds of practicality in the process; sometimes just for the heck (or should we say hack?) of it.
We know that GPUs and CPUs often have features disabled or dialed back in order to fit a price point. We’ll show you some nifty ways to access their hidden capabilities, as well as some fixes for inherent flaws. We also know that our gear can be made to do more than it was intended to with the help of third-party software, as you’ll discover in our webcam and Roku projects. And if you want to make your smartphone smarter, increase your Wi-Fi router’s range, or RAID your SSDs, we’ll turn you on to those tricks, too.