Try to imagine where 3D gaming would be today if not for the graphics processing unit, or GPU. Without it, you wouldn't be tredging through the jungles of Crysis in all its visual splendor, nor would you be fending off endless hordes of fast-moving zombies at high resolutions. For that to happen, it takes a highly specialized chip designed for parallel processing to pull off the kinds of games you see today, the same ones that wouldn't be possible on a CPU alone. Going forward, GPU makers will try to extend the reliance on videocards to also include physics processing, video encoding/decoding, and other tasks that where once handled by the CPU.
It's pretty amazing when you think about how far graphics technology has come. To help you do that, we're going to take a look back at every major GPU release since the infancy of 3D graphics. Join us as we travel back in time and relive releases like 3dfx's Voodoo3 and S3's ViRGE lineup. This is one nostalgiac ride you don't want to miss!
Just like the Spy pulling a fast one over on the Sniper for this week's Team Fortress 2 update, I'm not going to be profiling a list of freeware applications this time around. Nope. Not a single program. I'm going meta with this update. Instead of tossing a list of superior apps your way, I'm going to give you a list of the top five Firefox extensions that will take your power downloading to untold heights of awesomeness.
Now what does that entail?
Are you sick of having to sort through your expanding download directory just to find and organize the new files you've picked up? Boom. There's an add-on for that. Does it frustrate you every time you have to wait for a countdown on one of the free file hosts before you can grab the file you want? Oh-ho-ho: There's an add-on for that as well! Do you hate the very act of clicking on multiple links on a page to download files?You might be a little lazy on that one, but no hate here. Yes, there's an application to make even this most-mundane of tasks easier.
If you aren't using Firefox, well, I can't say much to that. But check out this list anyway -- I bet you'll be tempted to switch over once you realize all the additional functionality you can pack into this foxy browser. Click the jump (no, an add-on won't do that for you) and let's get started!
Windows 7 has the potential to be the most imaging-friendly version of Windows yet developed. Windows 7 makes viewing JPEG and other common file formats easy, displays exposure metadata, and supports more viewing options than Windows XP, while offering better performance than Windows Vista. However, to get the maximum benefit from Windows 7, digital photographers will want to make two additions:
Installing RAW image support for their DSLR
Installing a photo organizer and editor
Wondering how to get RAW support for 64-bit versions of Windows 7? Not sure which free program (Windows Live Photo Gallery or Picasa) is better at fixing common digital photo problems? Looking for the best solution for organizing your rapidly growing digital photo collection? Join us after the jump for the answers.
RAM, like water, is a commodity. And just as there’s a clear difference between putrid L.A. County tap water and water choppered in from the peaks of Mt. Everest, the quality of RAM can vary wildly. But quality is not the sole factor to consider when you’re trying to achieve optimum memory performance from your system.
These days, a user is faced with a plethora of options spanning different technologies, speeds, and capacities. We’re here to help you make heads and tails of all that so you’re prepared when you configure your next rig. Armed with a slew of RAM-based benchmarks, we set out to answer three of the hottest questions in memory today: Is DDR3 for AMD’s new AM3 Phenom II CPUs worth the expense? Should you pay for high-speed RAM or stick with the standard stuff? Finally, just how much memory is enough? We test three common amounts of RAM for Intel’s Core i7 to identify the sweet spot.
So you’ve installed that shiny Ubuntu distro onto your PlayStation 3 and finagled a couple of cool applications to boot. And yet, there’s still a lot of empty real estate on that newly formatted hard drive, and you’re no doubt pondering what else you can load up on your now living room-friendly PC. Turns out, there are literally thousands of options available; but the task of sorting through the seemingly endless lists and testing each and every app to see if it suits your tastes and jives with the PS3 can be a daunting task. But luckily for you, we’ve done exactly that; we rolled up our sleeves, burned the midnight oil, and muscled the necessary digital elbow grease to whittle down the Ubuntu archives to the top nine absolute keepers. So what are you waiting for? Plug in your PS3’s keyboard and mouse, fire up Jaunty Jackalope, and read onward to get cracking.
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.
One of the most rewarding parts of doing these weekly freeware roundups for Maximum PC is the sheer wealth of software that I get to play with each month -- applications that I not only use myself, but ones that I feel compelled to tell you about as well. But coming in a close second are the responses that you, the readers, leave in these posts. For as much as I scour the Internet to find awesome new programs for you to check out, you too have become my eyes and ears for the latest in amazing free software.
You might guess where this one's going. I'm looking toward the pool of Maximum PC users this week and highlighting programs that you, yourselves, have recommended in the various comments you've posted to these articles. For a number of you have left links and comments featuring compelling alternatives or hidden gems that relate to the programs I've posted. Although I'm featuring your best answers this week, don't let that stop you from joining the discussion! If a certain freeware application has really caught your eye, jump in the thread and say something! Or hit me up on Twitter and let me know when you've found something great!
After the jump: The Maximum PC commenters get their day in Freeware Court!
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.
Yes, there is more to Linux than Ubuntu. As you are probably aware, there are many different types of Linux to choose from, even though not all get the attention they deserve. These are organized into separate distributions, (distros) and each one is different. If you've read our previous Beginner's Guide to Linux, you are already familiar with the advice we gave about choosing the right distro for your needs. This guide will shed more light on some of the more common distributions in use today and will cover the distinct advantages or disadvantages of each.
For the purpose of comparison, we personally tested each distro and critiqued it based on several distinct areas: appearance, ease of use, system administration, software/package management, security, and the level of support available for the distro. We graded each factor on a scale of zero to five: 0 – Abysmal or non-existent; 1– Very bad; 2 – Needs improvement; 3 – Average; 4 – Good; and 5 – Excellent. We hope that this guide will give you a better understanding of the current state of Linux, so you can make an informed decision about choosing the right Distro without just defaulting to Ubuntu (which we've included in this roundup)
Whether you’re copying your movie discs to your hard drive for archival purposes or queuing them up in HandBrake for a batch transcode, your optical drive’s performance can make a big difference in time spent on this menial chore. The trouble is, there’s no obvious way of knowing which optical drive will do the job fastest.
The optical drive spec that gets the most attention is the DVD+/-R write speed. It’s the spec that’s prominently featured on the packaging and often even integrated into the drive’s name. But if you assume that the newest drive with the fastest-rated write speed will also kick butt at copying the contents of your movie discs to your hard drive, you’re mistaken.
For this task, read speed is what matters. But even knowing that, you can’t judge a drive’s real-world performance at copying video files simply by looking at its read specs. Not only do the specs indicate maximum capability as opposed to average speed, but a drive’s read time with video files can differ from its read time with data files. To find out which is the fastest drive for DVD copiers, we grabbed a bunch of DVD drives, a copy of Batman Begins, and got ripping.