Features http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/31/ en 15 Games We Recommend for Halloween http://www.maximumpc.com/15_games_we_recommend_halloween_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u166440/zombie.jpg" alt="Zombie" title="Zombie" width="200" height="177" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Turn off the lights and get scared with these games</h3> <p>October is finally here and it's time to consume enormous amounts of confectionaries without the usual guilt, even if it is accompanied by a bit of nausea. Leading up to Halloween, it is hard not to get into the mood by watching scary movies (<em>Exorcist</em>, anyone?), listening to spooky songs (how about the Marilyn Manson version of “This Is Halloween”?), or maybe reading a story or two by Edgar Allen Poe.</p> <p>Yet, while there are plenty of great books, movies, and music that suit the ghoulish atmosphere perfectly, we feel that nothing compares to the experience of playing a scary video game. Whether it's fighting off zombies, dealing with the paranormal, beheading zombies, fighting aliens, shooting zombies, encountering all kinds of monsters, and trying to survive zombies, there's a good selection of nightmarish games to choose from.</p> <p>Naturally, there are many MMOs and multiplayer games that will sometimes have Halloween events such as World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, and Dota 2, but for our list, we decided to choose titles that don't shoehorn Halloween elements into their gameplay.</p> <p>So here are 15 games, in alphabetical order, that we recommend you check out and play during the Halloween season.&nbsp;</p> <p>What games do you like to play during the month of October?</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/15_games_we_recommend_halloween_2014#comments 15 games for Halloween Alan Wake Alice: Madness Returns Alien Isolation Amnesia Bioshock dayz dead space Don’t Starve doom 3 F.E.A.R. 3 halloween left 4 dead 2 Metro 2033 Redux natural selection 2 October outlast Project Zomboid scary Features Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:22:59 +0000 Sean D Knight 28770 at http://www.maximumpc.com Rig of the Month: Visible Contrast http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_visible_contrast_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/mosquito_nzxt_h230_primochill_lrt_liquid_dsc00693-w1600.jpg" alt="Visible Contrast" title="Visible Contrast" width="250" height="188" style="float: right;" />The slickest side panel you've ever seen</span></h3> <p>If you look closely at the thumbnail, you'll see what looks like the Windows Start Menu overlaid on some computer parts. Your eyes aren't deceiving you. This month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014#slide-0" target="_blank">Rig of the Month</a></strong> is centered around an incredibly basic, but undeniably awesome idea.&nbsp;Chris “Mosquito” Albee from <a href="http://themodzoo.com" target="_blank">TheModZoo.com</a>&nbsp;installed an LCD panel—minus the backlight—into the side of a white NZXT H230 case. The result is simply incredible.</p> <p>It's not the most practical idea, but it looks spectacular and makes us want OEM cases with embedded LCD screens. Chris says that the modded display is transparent when displaying white pixels and can act as a regular case window if needed. Lighter colors are still slightly see-through and the combination of light and dark creates a stunning effect. This contrast between opaque and transparent was the inspiration for the mod's name: Visible Contrast.</p> <p>"One fun use for the transparent LCD panel is the ability to use a utility like Rainmeter to overlay usage and temperature data directly over the various components of the case," Chris says. "It’s also a pretty cool conversation piece as well in its own right; especially when you have a black and white video looping on it."</p> <p>Inside the case, an Intel Core i7-4770K running at 4.8GHz sits alongside 16GB of G.Skill Sniper RAM, an MSI GTX 650 Ti Boost, and a terabyte of total storage. After some internal modifications, Chris also managed to stick a 240mm radiator inside to support a custom water cooling loop for the CPU.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_visible_contrast_2014#comments case mod Chris Albee lcd ModZoo Mosquito nzxt Rig of the Month rig of the month Visible Contrast Features Fri, 24 Oct 2014 22:46:43 +0000 Ben Kim 28735 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (October 2014): Gaming Staples http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_october_2014_gaming_staples <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/masseffect_1_bring_down_the_sky_dlc_shepard.jpg" alt="Mass Effect" title="Mass Effect" width="250" height="156" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>It's hard to argue with Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Fallout screenshots. Sure, we've seen hundreds of them, but they're always stellar. Even beyond their luscious graphics, they're games that gamers of all types love for a wide variety of reasons. PC gamers in particular look towards games like Skyrim and Fallout as the ultimate demonstrations of the platform's superiority. Where else can you choose from thousands of completely free <a href="http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/browse/?appid=72850&amp;browsesort=toprated" target="_blank">modifications</a> that range from quests to custom NPCs? This month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank">Graphics Porn</a> </strong>features screenshots from gaming staples as well as from more obscure titles like Overgrowth.</p> <p><em><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">Whether you've been using&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-color: transparent; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-color: transparent; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_october_2014_gaming_staples#comments beautiful Graphics Porn mass effect Overgrowth pictures screenshots Skyrim stunning Features Thu, 23 Oct 2014 21:56:10 +0000 Ben Kim 28734 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Free Hardware Monitoring Tools http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Apps that regulate your rig’s internals</h3> <p>Making sure your rig’s temperatures, hardware, and clock speeds are running correctly is a good way to monitor your PC’s health. We always recommend stress-testing your shiny-new rig, or checking your hardware if you experience any stability issues that occur out of the blue. We’ve gathered up a list of the best free utilities you can use to make sure you have a healthy PC.</p> <p>Know of any other free monitoring tools? Let us know in the comments section below!</p> <p><strong><a title="CPU-Z" href="http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html" target="_blank">CPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/cpuid_cpu_z.png" alt="CPU-Z" title="CPU-Z" /></p> <p>CPU-Z tells you what’s going on with your CPU by giving you readouts of your Core Speed, Multiplier, Bus Speed, and your different cache levels. It also tells you the make and model of your motherboard and video card, along with your RAM speed and capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>We recommend using this tool if you have a preconfigured system from an OEM like Lenovo, HP, or Dell and need to find out your motherboard’s model number (if it isn’t printed on the board). The tool can also be used to monitor your CPU’s voltage, so it's overclocker friendly.</p> <p><strong><a title="GPU-Z" href="http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/SysInfo/GPU-Z/" target="_blank">GPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/gpu_z.png" alt="GPU-Z" title="GPU-Z" width="560" height="637" /></p> <p>GPU-Z gives you detailed readouts of your GPU’s clock speeds and memory size. You can use this tool to make sure that your video card is running at PCIe 3.0, as some boards run in 2.0 instead of 3.0 by default. You’ll look at the Bus Interface box to check out your video card's PCIe configuration.</p> <p><strong><a title="Furmark" href="http://www.ozone3d.net/benchmarks/fur/" target="_blank">Furmark:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/furmark.png" alt="Furmark" title="Furmark" width="600" height="453" /></strong></p> <p>Got GPU problems? Furmark is a fantastic tool if you’re getting blue screens during games and want to find out if your video card is the culprit. The utility gives your GPU a workload to max-out your video card. You’ll also see a temperature read from it, so you can see if your card is running hot.</p> <p><strong><a title="FRAPS" href="http://www.fraps.com/download.php" target="_blank">FRAPS:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/fraps.png" alt="FRAPS" title="FRAPS" width="600" height="370" /></strong></p> <p>Getting weird frame rate issues after freshly installing BF4 or Assassins Creed Black Flag? FRAPS will give you readouts of your real-time frame rate in-game, so you can see when and where you rig is starting to stutter. We like using this utility when a game is running poorly, so we can keep an eye on our frame rate during gameplay. We also use this tool to capture average frame rates of games that don’t come with benchmarking tools like BF4, Far Cry 3, and Crysis 3.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="Core Temp" href=" http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/" target="_blank">Core Temp:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/core_temp.png" alt="Core Temp" title="Core Temp" width="351" height="388" /></strong></p> <p>Unlike other utilities in this round-up of free apps, Core Temp tells you the individual temperatures of each of your CPU’s cores. We use this tool to make sure our processor isn’t running too hot. Core Temp also tells you the TDP, voltage, and power consumption of your&nbsp; CPU.</p> <p><strong><a title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" href="http://support.amd.com/en-us/download/desktop?os=Windows+7+-+64" target="_blank">AMD Catalyst Control Center:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/amd_overdrive.png" alt="AMD Catalyst Control Center" title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" width="600" height="573" /></strong></p> <p>AMD video card users can use AMD’s Catalyst Control center to monitor their video card’s performance. You’ll be able to change your GPU’s core and memory clock speeds by using AMD’s Overdrive utility, which is found in the performance tab of AMD’s Catalyst driver. You can also adjust your video card’s fan speed here.</p> <p><strong><a title="Prime 95" href="http://files.extremeoverclocking.com/file.php?f=205" target="_blank">Prime 95:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/prime_95_running.png" alt="Prime 95" title="Prime 95" width="600" height="378" /></strong></p> <p>Prime 95 puts your CPU through its paces by giving it a workload that will max-out your processor’s cores. We suggest using this utility if you’re having blue screen errors or freezing issues to make sure that your CPU isn’t the offender behind those infuriating messages.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="3DMark" href=" http://store.steampowered.com/app/223850/" target="_blank">3DMark:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/3dmark_demo.png" alt="3DMark" title="3DMark" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>3DMark is great for benchmarking your system’s overall performance, and the free demo version also shows you where your rig stacks up with other systems that have similar hardware. The paid version lets you run the Extreme benchmarks, which run in 1080p instead of the demo’s 720p default.</p> <p><strong><a title="Rainmeter" href="http://rainmeter.net/" target="_blank">Rainmeter:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/rainmeter.png" alt="Rainmeter" title="Rainmeter" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>Rainmeter is a simple widget that displays your CPU and RAM usage and also tells you how full your hard drive and/or SSD are.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="EVGA Precision X" href=" http://www.evga.com/precision/" target="_blank">EVGA Precision X:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/evga_precision_x.png" alt="EVGA Precision X" title="EVGA Precision X" width="600" height="471" /></strong></p> <p>Precision X is made by EVGA exclusively for Nvidia video cards. The tool allows you to check out your GPU clock speed and temperatures, and adjust your fan speeds, too. You can also overclock your GPU with the sliders, seen above. This tool displays your GPU's load, which we find quite handy.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014#comments apps benchmark components cpu id free furmark gpu z Hardware Hardware monitoring tools overclock pc monitor heat Software News Features Tue, 21 Oct 2014 23:41:16 +0000 Chris Zele 27117 at http://www.maximumpc.com 40 Awesome 3D Wallpapers http://www.maximumpc.com/40_awesome_3d_wallpapers <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/avp.jpg" alt="avp" title="avp" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Deck out your desktop with some awesome 3D wallpapers</h3> <p>Bold <strong>3D wallpapers</strong> are a growing trend that we happen to think look extremely cool. They often are beautifully rendered, have interesting subject matter, and feel like you can reach out and touch them. Whether you're looking for some additions to spice up your collection or needing some new desktop adornments, we've rounded up 40 of the best 3D wallpapers we could find, with some fun geeky surprises here and there.</p> <p><strong>Warning:</strong> Before you continue willy-nilly downloading wallpapers, do understand that we can't be held accountable for any third-party links you download. Many of these websites may be plagued with adware. We suggest you read our <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/how_to_download_2013" target="_blank">how-to-download-without-installing-adware article</a>&nbsp;in case you plan on downloading from third-party sites.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/40_awesome_3d_wallpapers#comments 3d wallpapers background customization Desktop News Features Fri, 17 Oct 2014 22:52:10 +0000 Brittany Vincent 27296 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build a Budget Kaveri PC with Hybrid CrossFire http://www.maximumpc.com/build_budget_kaveri_PC_hybrid_crossfire_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>AMD’s “Dual Graphics” aka Hybrid CrossFire lets you pair an APU with a GPU for improved performance, so we took it for a spin with a Kaveri APU and a budget GPU</h3> <p>We’ve already written quite a bit about AMD’s third-generation APU family, known as Kaveri. It’s a CPU with an integrated GPU, just like with Intel’s Core i7 parts that contain HD Graphics. The difference is that in the past, AMD paired a relatively weak GPU with the CPU, for predictably lame results. This time around, however, AMD has stepped it up a notch, and put the GPU on equal footing with the CPU, sticking an R7-series GPU inside the package, which is a bit more powerful than anything Intel has to on tap these days (on the GPU side, that is). Also, since AMD makes both CPUs and GPUs, it can one-up Intel by letting both pieces of silicon work together in a partnership dubbed Dual Graphics, which used to be known as Hybrid CrossFire. It’s a dual-GPU setup combining integrated and discrete graphics, and it could be a good way to give your integrated graphics a healthy boost, or it could be a total waste of money. This month, we decided to build a budget-oriented gaming machine to find out for ourselves what Dual Graphics is all about, and to see whether it’s actually useful, or just marketing BS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_19.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="769" /></a></p> <h3>Preparing to Dual</h3> <p>All you need to build a machine that uses AMD Dual Graphics is the right APU and GPU, and naturally, AMD has a list of compatible and recommend pairings on its website. The selection is actually quite limited, and when we asked AMD what criteria it uses to deem a particular APU and GPU "compatible," the response was, "We test the different configurations and the best user experiences based on smoothness and performance are listed as the recommended pairing." The company noted, "similarity in outright performance but also configuration" as the main criteria, and listed the A10-7850 and R7 250 as a perfect example, since both have 8 GCN units, the same memory bus width, and similar clock speeds. Due to this recommendation, we decided to use it for this particular build. With the A10-7850 selected, we decided to plop it into a Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X motherboard, since it's a top-shelf gaming board, supports Dual Graphics, and has dual PCIe x16 slots in case we want to add a baller GPU or two some day in the future. This is a budget machine with modest power requirements, and our discrete GPU doesn't require a six-pin power connector, so we opted for a 430W Smart PSU from Thermaltake, which is the wattage we consider the minimum for a gaming box. Storage duties are handled by an Intel 335 Series SSD, which is SandForce-based. It's not the fastest SSD on the bench, but it's reliable and affordable. Since it's a budget box, we stuffed it all into Antec's newest entry-level military-themed chassis, the GX700. It's similar to the Corsair C70, but half the price.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Antec GX700</td> <td> <p><strong>$60</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Thermaltake Smart 430w</td> <td><strong>$45</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X</td> <td><strong>$120</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>AMD A10-7850K</td> <td><strong>$175</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Stock</td> <td><strong>$0</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">MSI Radeon R7 250</td> <td><strong>$90</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 4GB Corsair Vengeance</td> <td><strong>$95</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>Intel 335 Series240GB</td> <td><strong>$160</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$845</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"><em>Click the next page to see our CPU, motherboard, and video card specs</em></div> <h4> <hr /></h4> <h4>1. Case Working</h4> <p>Building in the GX700 was refreshingly painless, thanks to a roomy interior, large grommets for cable routing, and plenty of room to work. Since we weren't planning on overclocking our A10-7850 APU, we went with the simplest cooling option available to us—a stock AMD cooler. These coolers don't look so hot, but they do a great job of keeping the CPU cool, and they operate quietly. Its small size also makes connecting things around the CPU socket a walk in the park. We did splurge a bit on the RAM, though, going with 8GB of Corsair Vengeance with extra-tall heatsinks. These guys are a tiny bit more expensive than the LP sticks with the low-profile heatsinks on them, but either one would work.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_31.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_30.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="798" /></a></p> <h4>2. Hiding Wires</h4> <p>One of the building "tricks" we like to use, if you can call if that, is to stick all the power cables that come from the front of the case to the back of the chassis, and then let them poke out right where they are connected. This keeps the interior uncluttered, and theoretically improves airflow around the power supply, since the cables aren't arranged in a rat's nest at the bottom of the chassis. We like the space between the SATA ports on this motherboard, too, and the fact that they are on the bottom of the motherboard instead of along the edge like they usually are. Anyone who has installed a slightly long GPU knows what a PITA it can be to access those ports with a GPU covering that area of the motherboard. We also like the fact that there are eight SATA 6Gb/s ports on this motherboard instead of six you get with a Z87 motherboard.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/b_small_26.jpg"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/b_small_25.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="382" /></a></p> <h4>3. Give me the code</h4> <p>Probably the most glaring nod to this case's military theme is the yellow-and-black striped cover that sits on top of the case. Lifting this cover exposes a red switch, which is actually a fan controller that can handle up to four fans. Three fans are already in the case, with two 140mm units up top where a radiator could reside one day, and one 120mm rear fan exhausting heat. You can also install up to two 120mm front intake fans, and one 120mm fan on the side door to help cool the GPU. Next to the fan controller are four USB ports—two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0—and headphone and mic jacks.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_28.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. The bad news</h4> <p>Maybe we're spoiled, but we're used to just pressing down on a front filter like this one and having it pop away from the case for easy removal. On this chassis, though, the metal grill that covers the front air filter is attached via four thumbscrews. You can loosen the screws with your thumbs just like their name implies, but we found we had to use a screwdriver to get them all the way out. Once removed, the air filter is held into place by clips, reminding us of this case's rock-bottom price tag of just $60. There are no free lunches, so saving money on a PC build means you lose a few amenities, such as tool-less filter covers. To install a 120mm fan, you'll need to remove the entire front cover, which can be lifted away with a bit of effort.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_25.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_24.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <h4>5. More bad news</h4> <p>Here's another odd design choice from Antec: these weird metal clips that hold the covers on the 5.25-inch bays. When you pull the clips out of the way, the cover loosens and falls right out of the slot. Both the clips and the way the covers tumble out when free felt extremely cheap. Plus, the top drive bay is blocked internally by all the cabling that dangles down from the top-mounted USB and fan controller cables, so you can't put an optical drive in that particular slot, but you could put in a card reader or something similar. The mechanism that holds the drives in place is toolless, however, so you just need to slide it to lock the drive into place. It's not the most sturdy design, but it worked well enough for our needs. Just below the 5.25-inch drive bays there is a vertical cage made of metal that holds five drives in either 3.5- or 2.5-inch form factor. You need to install drives from the right side of the case, however, as the mechanism that releases the individual drive bays resides behind the cage.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_23.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_22.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <h4>6. Cool Under Pressure</h4> <p>We'll be honest: When we first configured this build, we slotted a 650W PSU into the bottom of the chassis because, well, this is Maximum PC and that's how we roll. Upon reflection, however, we realized that was a bit of overkill, especially since we had one SSD, no optical drive, and didn't need any power for our discrete GPU. Since we always tell people not to buy more PSU than they need, we decided to take our own advice and just go with a 430W unit from Thermaltake. We've used its PSUs in our GPU testing machine for the past two years with no issues, so it's a brand we generally trust. The area below the PSU is well-ventilated, and includes a filter that is easily removable, too. It sticks out a tiny bit behind the chassis, so you just have to pull it out as if you were sliding a card out of a deck, give it a good wash, and slide it back into place. You can also see that we could have fit a slightly larger PSU into this area.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_24.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_23.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gut_short_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gut_short_small.jpg" title="Gut short" width="620" height="471" /></a></p> <h3>A Golden Triangle</h3> <p>The purpose of this build was to find out how the addition of a second GPU to a Kaveri APU machine worked, and to see whether or not it was worth the money. Once our rig was built, we added the $90 R7 250 GPU, and then tested both the GPU by itself, and then paired with the APU. Once the system was humming along, enabling Dual Graphics was as simple as ticking a box in the Catalyst Control Center, much like you would do if you were enabling regular CrossFire with two discrete GPUs.</p> <p>To put it through its paces, we ran our tests suite at 1080p with all settings maxed out, but no AA because that’s just a bridge too far for these cards. With Dual Graphics enabled, we were surprised to see performance go up as much as it did, which was around 40 to 50 percent in most titles that were able to use both GPUs. That is damned impressive, and more than we expected. The problem, of course, is that the overall numbers were still really low despite two GPUs working together. When we tested the R7 250 in the May 2013 issue, we noted that it couldn’t quite do 1080p with all settings maxed, but we hoped the addition of the second GPU would allow us to overcome that challenge. Unfortunately, it’s not enough, so any of these low-end cards are not ready for 1080p gaming—they're better suited to 720p or 1050p.</p> <p>The bigger question here is if you were running a Kaveri box and decided you wanted to add more GPU muscle, what are you going to do? We can say definitively that if you want to really increase performance, you should just buy a discrete GPU like the R7 265 and forget about integrated graphics, or sub-$100 GPUs because they generally suck, at least if you are like us and used to gaming with all details enabled. It’s possible that over time, AMD will work to improve the scaling between the two GPUs in Dual Graphics, so instead of seeing gains around 40 percent, we’ll see it more around 75 percent, like it is with two discrete cards.</p> <p>With all that said, we were impressed by both how easy it was to set up Dual Graphics, and that we saw a very noticeable gain in almost all of our test games. We don’t think the combination of two weak GPUs is enough to provide a decent gaming experience, though, so in the final analysis, we’d rather just use a more powerful discrete GPU.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark</td> <td class="item-dark">711</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,043</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: AO (fps)</td> <td>20</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">28</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">10.6</td> <td>10.8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Unigine Valley (fps)</td> <td>13</td> <td>14</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Tomb Raider (fps)</td> <td>11.5</td> <td>16.2</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Hitman: Absolution&nbsp; (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">16</td> <td><strong>24</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_budget_kaveri_PC_hybrid_crossfire_2014#comments amd apu dual graphics gpu hybrid crossfire June issues 2014 kaveri maximum pc Features Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:34:48 +0000 Josh Norem 28511 at http://www.maximumpc.com Computer Upgrade Guide http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_upgrade_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Avoid the pitfalls and upgrade your computer like a pro</h3> <p>Building a new PC is a relatively easy task—you pick your budget and build around it. It’s not the same with upgrading a computer. No, upgrading an older computer can be as dangerous as dancing Footloose-style through a minefield. Should you really put $500 into this machine, or just buy a new one? Will that new CPU really be faster than your old one in the real world? Are you CPU-limited or GPU-limited?</p> <p>To help give you more insight on how to best upgrade a PC that is starting to show its age, follow along as we take three real-world boxes and walk you through the steps and decisions that we make as we drag each machine back to the future through smart upgrades. While our upgrade decisions may not be the same ones you would make, we hope that we can shed some light on our thought process for each component, and help you answer the eternal question of: “What should I upgrade?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.opener_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u154082/computer_upgrade.jpg" alt="computer upgrade" title="computer upgrade" width="620" height="533" /></a></p> <h3>Practical PC upgrading advice</h3> <p>There’s really two primary reasons to upgrade. The first is because you can—and believe us, we’ve upgraded just because “we could” plenty of times. Second, because you need to. How you define “need to” is very much a personal preference—there’s no way to put a hard number on it. You can’t say, “If I get a 5.11 in BenchMarkMark, I need to upgrade.” No, you need to determine your upgrade needs using everyday metrics like, “I will literally throw this PC through a window if this encode takes any longer,” or “I have literally aged a year watching my PC boot.” And then there’s the oldie: “My K/D at Call of Battlefield 5 is horrible because my graphics card is too slow.”</p> <p>Whether or not any of these pain points apply to you, only you can decide. Also, since this article covers very specific upgrades to certain components, we thought we’d begin with some broad tips that are universally applicable when doing the upgrade dance.</p> <h4>Don’t fix what’s not broken</h4> <p>One of the easiest mistakes to make with any upgrade plan is to upgrade the wrong component. The best example is someone who decides that his or her PC is “slow,” so they need to add RAM and take it from 8GB to 16GB, or even 16GB to 32GB. While there are cases where adding more RAM or higher-clocked RAM will indeed help, the vast majority of applications and games are pretty happy with 8GB. The other classic trap is deciding that a CPU with more cores is needed because the machine is “slow” in games. The truth is, the vast majority of games are coded with no more than four cores in mind. Some newer games, such as Battlefield 4, do indeed run better with Hyper-Threading on a quad-core or a six-core or more processor (in some maps) but most games simply don’t need that many cores. The lesson here is that there’s a lot of context to every upgrade, so don’t just upgrade your CPU willy-nilly on a hunch. Sometimes, in fact, the biggest upgrade you can make is not to upgrade.</p> <h4>CPU-bound</h4> <p>You often hear the term “CPU-bound,” but not everyone understands the nuances to it. For the most part, you can think of something being CPU-bound when the CPU is causing a performance bottleneck. But what exactly is it about the CPU that is holding you back? Is it core or thread count? Clock speeds, or even microarchitecture efficiency? You’ll need to answer these questions before you make any CPU upgrade. When the term is used in association with gaming, “CPU-bound” usually indicates there is a drastic mismatch in GPU power and CPU power. This would be evident from, say, running a GeForce Titan in a system with a Pentium 4. Or say, running a Core i7-4960X with a GeForce 8800GT. These are extreme cases, but certainly, pairing a GeForce Titan or Radeon 290X with a low-end dual-core CPU will mean you would not see the most performance out of your GPU as you could with a more efficient quad-core or more CPU. That’s because the GPU depends on the CPU to send it tasks. So, in a CPU-bound scenario, the GPU is waiting around twiddling its thumbs most of the time, since the CPU can’t keep up with it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.nehalem_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.nehalem_small.jpg" alt="One of the trickier upgrades is the original LGA1366 Core i7 chips. Do you upgrade the chip, overclock it, or just dump it?" width="620" height="605" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>One of the trickier upgrades is the original LGA1366 Core i7 chips. Do you upgrade the chip, overclock it, or just dump it?</strong></p> <h4>GPU-bound</h4> <p>The situation can be reversed, too. You can indeed get GPU-bound systems by running older or entry-level graphics with a hopped-up CPU. An example could be a Haswell Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.5GHz paired with say, an entry-level GeForce GTX 750. You will certainly get the best frame rate out of the GPU possible, but you probably did not need the overclocked Haswell to do it. You could have kept that entry-level GPU well-fed with instructions using a cheaper Core i5-4670K or AMD FX part. Still, the rule of thumb with a gaming machine is to invest more in the GPU than the CPU. If we had to make up a ratio though, we’d say your CPU can cost half that of your GPU. A $500 GPU would be good with a $250 CPU and a $300 GPU would probably be OK with a $150–$170 CPU.</p> <h4>You can ignore the GPU sometimes</h4> <p>Keep in mind, this GPU/CPU relationship is in reference to gaming performance. When it comes to application performance, the careful balance between the two doesn’t need to be respected as much, or even at all. For a system that’s primarily made for encoding video, photo editing, or other CPU-intensive tasks, you’ll generally want as fast a CPU as possible on all fronts. That means a CPU with high clocks, efficient microarchitecture, and as many cores and threads possible will net you the most performance. In fact, in many cases, you can get away with integrated graphics and ignore discrete graphics completely. We don’t recommend that approach, though, since GPUs are increasingly becoming important for encoding and even photo editing, and you rarely need to spend into the stratosphere to get great performance. Oftentimes, in fact, older cards will work with applications such as Premiere Pro or Photoshop, while the latest may not, due to drivers and app support from Adobe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Core 2 Quad box</h3> <p><strong>A small Form Factor, Light-Gaming Rig before SFF was popular</strong></p> <p>This small box has outlived its glory days, but with a modest injection of capital and a few targeted upgrades, we’ll whip it back into shape in no time. It won’t be able to handle 4K gaming, but it’ll be faster than greased lightning and more than capable of 1080p frag-fests.</p> <p>This particular PC could have very easily resided on the desktop of any Maximum PC staffer or reader back in the year 2009. We say that because this is, or was, actually a pretty Kick Ass machine in the day. It was actually a bit ahead of its time, thanks to its combination of benchmark-busting horsepower and small, space-saving dimensions. This mini-rig was probably used for light gaming and content creation, with its powerful CPU and mid-tier GPU. As far as our business here goes, its diminutive size creates some interesting upgrade challenges.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone SG03/500w</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core 2 Quad QX6800</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus P5N7A- VM</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4GB DDR2/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">GeForce 9800 GT</td> <td><strong>EVGA GTX 750 Ti<br /></strong></td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>500GB 7,200rpm WD Caviar</td> <td>240GB OCZ Vertex 460</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>DVD burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Misc.</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>USB 3.0 add-in card</td> <td>$12</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$330</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p>It’s built around a Silverstone SG03 mini-tower, which is much shorter and more compact than the SFF boxes we use nowadays. For example, it can only hold about nine inches of GPU, and puts the PSU directly above the CPU region, mandating either a stock cooler or a low-profile job. So, either way, overclocking is very much out of the question. Water-cooling is also a non-starter, due to the lack of space for a radiator either behind the CPU area or on the floor of the chassis. In terms of specs, this system isn’t too shabby, as it’s rocking an LGA 775 motherboard with a top-shelf Core 2 Quad “Extreme” CPU and an upper-midrange GPU. We’d say it’s the almost exact equivalent of a $2,000 SFF gaming rig today. The CPU is a 65nm Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Extreme QX6800, which at the time of its launch was ludicrously expensive and the highest-clocked quad-core CPU available for the Core 2 platform at 2.93GHz. The CPU is plugged into an Asus P5N7A-VM motherboard, which is a microATX model that sports an nForce 730i chipset, supports up to 16GB of RAM, and has one PCIe x1 slot in addition to two PCI slots, and one x16 PCI Express slot. GPU duties are handled by the venerable GeForce 9800 GT, and it’s also packing 4GB of DDR2 memory, as well as a 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive. Its OS is Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit.</p> <h4>Lets dig in</h4> <p>The first question that crossed our minds when considering this particular machine’s fate was, “Upgrade certain parts, or go whole-hog with a new motherboard/CPU/RAM?” Sure, this is Maximum PC, and it would be easy to just start over. But that’s not really an upgrade; that’s more like open-heart surgery. Besides, where’s the challenge in that? Anyone can put together a new system, so we decided to buckle down, cinch up our wallets, and go part-by-part.</p> <p>Starting with the motherboard, CPU, and RAM, we decided to leave those as they were. For Intel at the time, this CPU was as good as it gets, and the only way to upgrade using the same motherboard and chipset is to move to a Yorkfield quad-core CPU. That’s a risky upgrade, though, for two reasons. First, not all of those 45nm chips worked in Nvidia’s nForce chipset, and second, benchmarks show mostly single-digit percent performance increases over Kentsfield. So, you’d have to be crazy to attempt this upgrade. We also deemed its 4GB of DDR2 to be satisfactory, since we’re running a 32-bit OS and anything over 4GB can’t be seen by it. If we were running a 64-bit OS, we’d upgrade to 8GB as a baseline amount of memory, though. We’re not happy about the motherboard’s SATA 3Gb/s ports, and the lack of a x2 PCIe slot is a problem, but SATA 3Gb/s is fast enough to handle any late-model hard drive, or an SSD upgrade. Another problem area is its bounty of 12 USB 2.0 ports. We appreciate the high number of ports, but USB 2.0 just plain sucks, so we added a PCIe USB 3.0 adapter, which gave us four SuperSpeed ports on the back of the chassis.</p> <p>One area ripe for upgrade is the GPU, because a GeForce 9800 GT is simply weak sauce these days. It was actually a rebadge of the 8800 GT when it arrived in 2009. This GPU was actually considered to be the low-end of the GeForce family when it arrived, as there were two models above it in the product stack—the 9800 GTX and the dual-GPU 9800 GX2. This single-slot GPU was only moderately powered at the time and features 112 shader processors clocked at 1,500MHz, and 512MB of GDDR3 clocked at 1.5GHz on a 256-bit memory bus. Since this system has limited space and only a single six-pin PCIe connector, we decided to upgrade the GPU to the Sapphire Radeon R7 265, which is our choice for the best $150 GPU. Unfortunately, the AMD card did not get along at all with our Nvidia chipset, so we ditched it in favor of the highly clocked and whisper-quiet EVGA GTX 750 Ti, which costs $159. This will not only deliver DX11 gaming at the highest settings at 1080p, but will also significantly lower the sound profile of the system, since this card is as quiet as a mouse breaking wind.</p> <p>Another must-upgrade part was the 500GB WD hard drive. As we wrote elsewhere, an SSD is a must-have in any modern PC, and we always figured it could make an aging system feel like new again, so this was our chance to try it in the real world. Though we wanted to upgrade to a 120GB Samsung 840 EVO, we couldn’t get our hands on one, so we settled for a larger and admittedly extravagant OCZ Vertex 460 240GB for $160. We decided to leave the OS as-is. Despite all the smack talk it received, Windows Vista SP2 was just fine.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_3_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_3_small.jpg" width="620" height="404" /></a></p> <h4>Real-World Results</h4> <p>Since we upgraded the GPU and storage subsystem, we’ll start with those results first. With the SSD humming along, our boot time was sliced from 1:27 to 1:00 flat, which is still a bit sluggish but doesn’t tell the whole story. Windows Vista felt instantly “snappy,” thanks to the SSD’s lightning-fast seek times. Everything felt fast and responsive, so though we didn’t get a sub-20-second boot time like we thought we would, we still gained a very noticeable increase in day-to-day use of the machine. For the record, we blame the slow boot time on the motherboard or something with this install of Vista, but this is still an upgrade we’d recommend to anyone in a similar situation. Interestingly, we also saw a boost in one of our encoding benchmarks, which could be due to the disk I/O, as well. For example, Sticth.Efx 2.0 dropped from 41 minutes to 36 minutes, which is phenomenal. Stitch.Efx creates in excess of 20,000 files, which will put a drag on a 500GB hard drive.</p> <p>Our gaming performance exploded, though, going from 11fps in Heaven 4.0 to 42fps. In Batman: Arkham Origins, we went from a non-playable 22 fps to a smooth 56fps, so anyone who thinks you need a modern CPU for good gaming performance is mistaken (at least for some games); the GPU does most of the heavy lifting in gaming. We also got a major reduction in case temps and noise by going from the hot-and-loud 9800 GT to the silent-and-cool GTX 750 Ti. The old card ran at 83 C under load, while the new one only hit 53 C, and made no noise whatsoever.</p> <h4>No regrets</h4> <p>Since we couldn’t do much with the motherboard/CPU/RAM on this board without starting fresh, we upgraded what we could and achieved Kick Ass real-world results from it, so this operation upgrade was very successful. Not only does it boot faster and feel ultra-responsive, it’s also ready for at least another year of gaming, thanks to its new GPU. Plus, with USB 3.0 added for storage duties, we can attach our external drives and USB keys and expect modern performance. All-in-all, this rig has been given a new lease on life for just a couple hundies—not bad for a five-year-old machine.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15 64-bit</td> <td class="item-dark">WNR</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">WNR</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,060</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">3,334 <strong>(-8%)</strong></span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,481</td> <td>2,166</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>90</td> <td>60</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>22</td> <td>56 <strong>(+155%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">11</td> <td>42<strong> (+282%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <hr /></div> <h3>Skeleton Rises</h3> <p><strong>Flying the AMD flag</strong></p> <p>Our second rig flies the AMD “Don’t Underclock Me” flag. You know the type. No matter how wide a gap Intel opens up with its latest CPU techno-wonder, this AMD CPU fanboy won’t switch until you pry that AM3 CPU from his cold, dead motherboard. In fact, the bigger the performance gap with Intel, the deeper this fanboy will dig in his heels.</p> <p>The box itself is built around the eye-catching and now discontinued Antec Skeleton open-air chassis. It draws a lot of whistles from case aficionados when they walk by, but truth be told, it’s really not great to work in and not exactly friendly to upgrading. The base machine parts are pretty respectable, though. The mainboard is an Asus Crosshair IV (CHIV) Formula using the AMD 890FX chipset, with a quad-core 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955 and GeForce GTX 570 graphics. For the record, this machine was not built by us, nor do we know who built it, but the original builder made the typical error of inserting the pair of 2GB DDR3/1066 DIMMs into the same channel memory slots, causing the sticks to run in single-channel mode instead of dual-channel. As any salty builder knows, there’s a reason the phrase “RTFM” exists. For storage, the machine packs a single 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive and a DVD burner. Power is handled by an AntecTruePower 750, which is plenty for a rig like this. Cooling is a stock AMD affair with dual heat pipes.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Antec Skeleton / TruePower 750</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">4GHz FX-8350 Black Edition</span></td> <td>$199</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Crosshair IV Formula</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4GB DDR3/1066 in single-channel mode</td> <td>8GB DDR3/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>$40</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">EVGA GeForce GTX 570 HD</td> <td>Asus GTX760-DC2OC-2GD5<strong><br /></strong></td> <td>$259</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>1TB 7,200 Hitachi</td> <td>256GB Sandisk Ultra</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>DVD burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$657</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h4>The easy upgrade path</h4> <p>All in all, it’s not a bad PC, but the most obvious upgrade was storage. It’s been a long time since we used a machine with a hard drive as the primary boot device, and having to experience it once again was simply torture. We’re not saying we don’t love hard drives—it’s great to have 5TB of space so you never have to think about whether you have room to save that ISO or not—just not as the primary boot device. Our first choice for an upgrade was a 256GB Sandisk Ultra Plus SSD for $159. We thought about skimping for the 128GB version, but then figured it’s worth the extra $60 to double the capacity—living on 128GB is difficult in this day and age. The SSD could easily be moved to a new machine, too, as it’s not tied to the platform.</p> <p>The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Pro, so there’s no need to “upgrade” to Windows 8.1. No, we’d rather put that $119 into the two other areas that need to be touched up. The GPU, again, is the GeForce GTX 570. Not a bad card in its day, but since the Skeleton’s current owner does fair bit of gaming, we decided it was worth it to invest in a GPU upgrade. We considered various options, from the GeForce GTX 770 to a midrange Radeon R9 card, but felt a GeForce GTX 760 was the right fit, considering the system’s specs. It simply felt exorbitant to put a $500 GPU into this rig. Even the GTX 770 at $340 didn’t feel right, but the Asus GTX760-DC2OC-2GD5 gives us all the latest Nvidia technologies, such as ShadowPlay. The card is also dead silent under heavy loads.</p> <p>Our next choice was riskier. We definitely wanted more performance out of the 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955 using the old “Deneb” cores. The options included adding more cores by going to a 3.3GHz Phenom II X6 1100T Thuban, but all we’d get is two more cores and a marginal increase in clock speed. Since the Thuban and Deneb are so closely related, there would be very little to be gained in microarchitecture upgrades. X6 parts can’t be found new, and they fetch $250 or more on eBay. As any old upgrading salt knows, you need to check the motherboard’s list of supported chips before you plug in. The board has an AM3 socket, but just because it fits doesn’t mean it works, right? Asus’ website indicates it supports the 3.6GHz FX-8150 “Zambezi” using the newer Bulldozer core, but the Bulldozer didn’t exactly blow us away when launched and they’re also out of circulation. (Interestingly, the FX-8150 sells for less than the Phenom II X6 chips.) Upgrading the motherboard was simply out of the question, too. Our last option was the most controversial. As we said, you should always check the motherboard maker first to find out what chips are supported.</p> <p>After that, you should then check to see if some other adventurous user has tried to do it anyway: “Damn the CPU qual list, full upgrade ahead!” To our surprise, yes, several anonymous Internet forums have indeed dropped the 4GHz FX-8350 “Vishera” into their CHIV boards with no reported of issues. That FX-8350 is also only $199—cheaper than a used X6 part. We considered overclocking the part, but the Skeleton’s confines make it pretty difficult. It’s so tight that we had issues putting the GeForce GTX 760 in it, so using anything larger than the stock cooler didn’t make sense to us. We’re sure you can find a cooler that fit, but nothing that small would let us overclock by any good measure, so it didn’t seem prudent.</p> <h4 style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_2_small.jpg" width="620" height="401" /></a></h4> <h4>Was it worth it?</h4> <p>Let’s just say this again if it’s not clear to you: If you are running a hard drive as your boot device, put this magazine down and run to the nearest store to buy an SSD. Yes, hard drives are that slow compared to SSDs. In fact, if we had money for only one upgrade, it would be the SSD, which will make an old, slow machine feel young again. This machine, for example, would boot to the desktop in about 38 seconds. With the SSD, that was cut down to 15 seconds and general usability was increased by maybe 10 million percent.</p> <p>Our CPU upgrade paid off well, too. AMD’s Vishera FX-8350 offers higher clock speeds and significant improvements in video encoding and transcoding. We saw an 83 percent improvement in encoding performance. The eight cores offer a huge advantage in thread-heavy 3D modelling, as well. We didn’t get the greatest improvement with Stitch.Efx 2.0, but the app is very single-threaded initially. Still, we saw a 30 percent increase, which is nothing to sneeze at.</p> <p>In gaming, we were actually a bit disappointed with our results, but perhaps we expected too much. We tested using Batman: Arkham Origins at 1080P with every setting maxed out and saw about a 40 percent boost in frame rates. Running Heaven 4.0 at 1080P on max we also saw about a 42 percent increase in frame rate. Again, good. But for some reason, we expected more.</p> <h4>Regrets, I’ve had a few</h4> <p>PC upgrades can turn into a remorsefest or an inability to face the fact that you made the wrong choice. With our upgrades, we were generally pleased. While some might question the CPU upgrade (why not just overclock that X4?), we can tell you that no overclock would get you close to the FX-8350 upgrade in overall performance. The SSD upgrade can’t be questioned. Period. End of story. The difference in responsiveness with the SSD over the 1TB HDD is that drastic.</p> <p>When it comes to the GPU upgrade, though, we kind of wonder if we didn’t go far enough. Sure, a 40 percent performance difference is the difference between playable and non-playable frame rates, but we really wanted to hit the solid 50 percent to 60 percent mark. That may simply be asking too much of a two-generation GPU change, not going all the way to the GeForce GTX 570’s spiritual replacement: the GeForce GTX 770. That would actually put us closer to our rule of thumb on a gaming rig of spending about half on your CPU as your GPU, but the machine’s primary purpose isn’t just gaming, it’s also content creation.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15</td> <td class="item-dark">326</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">641</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,276</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,794</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,950</td> <td>1,500</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>37.9</td> <td>15 <strong>(+153%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>58</td> <td>81</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">29.5</td> <td>41.9<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <hr /></div> <h3>One Dusty Nehalem</h3> <p><strong>The original Core i7 still has some juice</strong></p> <p>It’s easy to make upgrade choices on an old dog with AGP graphics and Pentium 4, or even a Core 2 Duo on an obsolete VIA P4M890 motherboard (yes, it exists, look it up.) When you get to hardware that’s still reasonably fast and relatively “powerful,” the upgrade choices you have to make can get quite torturous.</p> <p>That’s certainly the case with this PC, which has an interesting assortment of old but not obsolete parts inside the Cooler Master HAF 922 case. We’ve always been fans of the HAF series, and despite being just plain-old steel, the case has some striking lines. It does, however, suffer from a serious case of dust suckage. Between the giant fan in front and various other fans, this system was chock-full of the stuff.</p> <p>The CPU is the first-generation Core i7-965 with a base clock of 3.2GHz and a Turbo Boost of 3.46GHz. That may seem like a pretty mild Turbo, but that’s the way it was way back in 2008, when this chip was first released. It’s plugged into an Asus Rampage II Extreme motherboard using the X58 chipset, and running 6GB of DDR3/1600 in triple-channel mode.</p> <p>In graphics, it’s also packing some heat with the three-year-old GeForce GTX 590 card. For those who don’t remember it, the card has two GPU cores that basically equal a pair of GeForce GTX 570 cards in SLI. There was a secondary 1TB drive in the machine, but in the state we got it, it was still using it’s primary boot device—a 300GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm hard drive that was 95 percent stuffed with data. Oh, and the OS is also quite vintage, with 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Specifications</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Original part</th> <th>Upgrade Part</th> <th>Upgrade Part Cost</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case/PSU</td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master HAF 922 / PC Power and Cooling 910</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No Change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">No change</span></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Rampage II Extreme</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooling</td> <td>Stock</td> <td>Corsair Hydro Cooler H75</td> <td>$69</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>6GB DDR3/1600 in dual-channel mode</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">GPU</td> <td class="item-dark">GeForce GTX 590</td> <td>No Change</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD/SSD</td> <td>300GB 10,000rpm WD Raptor, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi </td> <td>256GB Sandisk Ultra</td> <td>$159</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>Lite-On Blu-Ray burner</td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate </td> <td>No Change</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total upgrade cost</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$277</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h4>Always Be Upgrading The SSD</h4> <p>Our first upgrade decision was easy—SSD. In its day, the 300GB Raptor was the drive to have for its performance, but with the drive running at 90 percent of its capacity, this sucker was beyond slow. Boot time on the well lived-in Vista install was just over two minutes. Yes, a two-minute boot time. By moving to an SSD and demoting the Raptor to secondary storage, the machine would see an immediate benefit in responsiveness. For most people who don’t actually stress the CPU or GPU, an SSD upgrade is actually a better upgrade than buying a completely new machine. And yes, we fully realize the X58 doesn’t have support for SATA 6Gb/s, but the access time of the SSD and pretty much constant read and writes at full bus speed will still make a huge difference in responsiveness.</p> <p>The real conundrum was the CPU. As we said, this is the original Core i7, a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading and support for triple-channel RAM. The CPU’s base clock is 3.2GHz. It is an unlocked part, but the chip is sporting a stock 130W TDP Intel cooler. Believe it or not, this is actually how some people build their rigs—they buy the overclocked part but don’t overclock until later on, when they need more performance. Well, we’re at that point now, but we knew we weren’t going very far with a stock Intel cooler, so we decided that this was the time to introduce a closed-loop liquid cooler in the form of a Corsair H75. Our intention was to simply overclock and call it a day, but when we saw some of the performance coming out of the AMD Skeleton, we got a little jealous. In two of our tests for this upgrade story, the AMD FX-8350 was eating the once-mighty Nehalem’s lunch. Would overclocking be enough? That got us wondering if maybe we should take the LGA1366 to its next-logical conclusion: the Core i7-970. The Core i7-970 boasted six cores with Hyper-Threading for a total of 12 threads. It has the same base clock of 3.2GHz and same Turbo Boost of 3.46GH, but it uses the newer and faster 32nm “Westmere” cores. Long since discontinued, it’s easy to find the chips used for about $300, which is about half its original price. This is that conundrum we spoke of—while the Westmere would indeed be faster, especially on thread-heavy tasks such as video encoding and 3D modeling, do we really want to spend $300 on a used CPU? That much money would almost get us a Core i7-4770K, which would offer far more performance in more apps. Of course, we’d have to buy a new board for that, too. In the end, we got cold feet and decided to stick with just an overclock.</p> <h4>Windows Vista Works</h4> <p>Even our OS choice had us tied up. There’s a reason Windows Vista was a hated OS when it was released. It was buggy, slow, and drivers for it stunk. For the most part, though, Windows Vista turned into a usable OS once Service Pack 1 was released, and Service Pack 2 made it even better. While we’d never buy Vista over Windows 7 today, it’s actually functional, and the performance difference isn’t as big as many believe it to be, when it’s on a faster system. The only real shortcoming of Windows Vista is the lack of trim support for the SSD. That means the build would have to have the SSD manually optimized using the drive’s utility, or we’d have to count on its garbage collection routines. For now, we’d rather put the $119 in the bank toward the next system build with, perhaps, Windows 9.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image1_small.jpg" width="620" height="403" /></a></p> <p>Even more difficult was our choice on the GPU. The GeForce GTX 590 was a top-of-the-line card and sold for $700 in 2011. Obviously, this card was put into the system after the box was initially built, so it has had one previous upgrade. In looking at our upgrade options, our first thought was to go for something crazy—such as a second GTX 590 card. They can be found used for about $300. That would give the machine Quad SLI performance at far less the cost of a newer top-tier GPU. That fantasy went up in smoke when we realized the PC Power and Cooling Silencer 910 had but two 8-pin GPU power connectors and we’d need a total of four to run Quad SLI. Buying another expensive PSU just to run Quad SLI just didn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things, since the PSU is perfectly functional and even still under warranty. Once the second GTX 590 was ruled out, we considered a GeForce GTX 780 Ti as an option. While the 780 Ti is a beast, we came to the realization that the GTX 590 honestly still has plenty of legs left, especially for gaming at 1080p. The 780 Ti is indeed faster by 20 to 50 percent, but we decided not to go that route, as the machine still produces very passable frame rates.&nbsp; In the end, we spent far less upgrading this machine than the other two. But perhaps that makes sense, as its components are much newer and faster than the other two boxes.</p> <h4>Post-upgrade performance</h4> <p>With our only upgrades on this box being an overclock and an SSD, we didn’t expect too much—but we were pleasantly surprised. Our mild overclock took the part to 4GHz full-time. That’s 800MHz over the base clock speed. In Cinebench R15, the clock speed increase mapped pretty closely to the performance difference. In both ProShow Producer and Stitch.Efx, though, we actually saw greater performance than the simple overclock can explain. We actually attribute the better performance to the SSD. While encoding tasks are typically CPU-bound, disk I/O can make a difference. Stitch.Efx also spits out something on the order 20,000 files while it creates the gigapixel image. The SSD, of course, made a huge difference in boot times and system responsiveness, even if it wasn’t on a SATA 6Gb/s port.</p> <h4>Regrets</h4> <p>Overall, we were happy with our upgrade choices, with the only gnawing concern being not upgrading the GPU. It just ate us up knowing we could have seen even better frame rates by going to the GTX 780 Ti. But then, we also have $750 in our pocket that can go toward the next big thing.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">Pre-upgrade</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Cinebench R15 64-bit</td> <td class="item-dark">515</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">617</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>2,119</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,641<strong>&nbsp;</strong></span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>983</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bootracer (sec)</td> <td>126</td> <td>18&nbsp; <strong>(+600%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)</td> <td>86</td> <td>87</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Heaven 4.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">68.2</td> <td>68.7</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>How to upgrade from Windows XP</h3> <p><strong>It’s game over, man!</strong></p> <p>Stick a fork in it. It’s done. Finito. Windows XP is a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace… on a considerable number of desktops worldwide, much to Microsoft’s chagrin.</p> <p>You’ve read Microsoft’s early-2012 announcement. You’ve seen all the news since then: the warnings, the pleas, the tomes of comments from frustrated users who wish they could just have a fully supported Windows XP until the launch of Windows 20. If you were a holdout, you even got a few pop-ups directly in your operating system from Microsoft itself, imploring you to switch on up to a more powerful (re: supported) version of Windows. So says Microsoft:</p> <p>“If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer should still work, but it will become five times more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. And as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, a greater number of programs and devices like cameras and printers won’t work with Windows XP.”</p> <p>There you have it: Keep on keepin’ on with Windows XP and you’ll slowly enter the wild, wild west of computing. We can’t say that your computer is going to be immediately infected once you reach a set time period past what’s been chiseled on the operating system’s tombstone. However, the odds of you suffering an attack that Microsoft has no actual fix for certainly increase. You wouldn’t run a modern operating system without the latest security patches; why Windows XP?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_4_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_4_small.jpg" width="620" height="397" /></a></p> <p>So, what’s a person to do? Upgrade, obviously. We do warn in advance that if your current Windows XP machine is chock-full of legacy apps (or you’re using more antiquated hardware like, dare we say it, a printer attached to a parallel port), then you might find that upgrading to a newer version of the OS ruins the experience you previously had. For that, we can only suggest taking advantage of the ability of newer versions of Windows to support virtualized Windows XP environments—Windows 7 supports the Virtual PC–based “Windows XP Mode” natively, whereas those on Windows 8 can benefit from freeware like Virtualbox to run a free, Microsoft-hosted download of a virtualized Windows XP.</p> <p>As for what you should upgrade to, and how, we’re recommending that you go with Windows 8—unless you can find Windows 7 for extremely cheap. Microsoft has greatly improved resource use in its flagship OS, in addition to streamlining startup times, adding more personalization, and beefing up security. Windows 8 has far more time before its end-of-life than Windows 7, even though, yes, you’ll have to deal with the Modern UI a bit when you make your upgrade.</p> <h3>Step-by-Step Upgrade Guide</h3> <p><strong>Anyone can upgrade, but there is a right way and wrong way</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_3_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_3_small.jpg" alt="The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a bit more useful than the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant in terms of actionable items that you’ll want to know about. Doesn’t hurt to run both!" width="620" height="457" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a bit more useful than the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant in terms of actionable items that you’ll want to know about. Doesn’t hurt to run both!<br /></strong></p> <p>Will your legacy system even run a modern version of Windows? That’s the first thing you’re going to want to check before you start walking down the XP-to-8 upgrade path. Microsoft has released two different tools to help you out—only one of them works for Windows XP, however. Hit up Microsoft’s site and do a search for “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.” Download that, install it on your Windows XP machine, and run the application.</p> <p>After a (hopefully) quick scan of your system, the program will report back the number of apps and devices you’re using that are compatible with Windows 8. In a perfect world, that would be all of them. However, the tool will also report back fatal flaws that might prevent you from running Windows 8 on your Windows XP machine to begin with—like, for example, if your older motherboard and CPU don’t support the Windows 8–required Data Execution Prevention.</p> <p>Since Windows 8 is quite a bit removed, generation-wise, from Windows XP, there’s no means by which you can simply run an in-place upgrade that preserves your settings and installed applications. Personal files, yes, but now’s as good a time as any to get your data organized prior to the big jump—no need to have Windows 8 muck things up for you, as it will just create a “windows.old” folder that’s a dump of the “Documents and Settings” folders on your XP system.</p> <p>If you have a spare hard drive lying around, you could always clone your current disk using a freeware app like Clonezilla, install Windows 8 on your old drive, and sort through everything later. If not, then you’re going to want to grab some kind of portable storage—or, barring that, sign up for a cloud-based storage service—and begin the semi-arduous task of poring over your hard drive for all of your important information.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_7_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_7_small.jpg" alt="The Windows Easy Transfer app, downloadable from Microsoft, helps automate the otherwise manual process of copying your files from your XP machine to portable storage." width="620" height="491" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows Easy Transfer app, downloadable from Microsoft, helps automate the otherwise manual process of copying your files from your XP machine to portable storage.</strong></p> <p>There really isn’t a great tool that can help you out in this regard, except perhaps WinDirStat—and that’s only assuming that you’ve stored chunks of your important data in key areas around your hard drive. If worse comes to worse, you could always back up the entire contents of your “Documents and Settings” folder, just to be safe. It’s unlikely that you’ll have much critical data in Program Files or Windows but, again, it all depends on what you’ve been doing on your PC. Gamers eager to make sure that their precious save files have been preserved can check out the freeware GameSave Manager to back up their progress.</p> <p>As for your apps, you’re going to have to reinstall those. You can, however, simplify this process by using a tool like Ninite to quickly and easily install common apps. CCleaner, when installed on your old XP system, can generate a list of all the apps that you’ve previously installed within the operating system—handy for making a checklist for things you’ll want to reinstall later, we suppose. And finally, an app like Magical Jelly Bean’s Product Key Finder can help you recover old installation keys for apps that you might want to reinstall within Windows 8.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_8_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_pcupgrade.xp_8_small.jpg" width="620" height="452" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Need to know what you’ll need to reinstall in Windows 8? Use CCleaner to make a simple text file of every app you installed on Windows XP, and check off as you go! </strong></p> <p>As for installing Windows 8, we recommend that you purchase and download the ISO version of the operating system and then use Microsoft’s handy Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to dump the contents of that ISO onto a portable flash drive. Your installation process will go much faster, trust us. From there, installing the OS is as easy as inserting your USB storage, resetting your computer, and booting from the flash drive—which might be accessible via some “boot manager” option during your system’s POST, or might be a boot order–related setting that you have to set up within the BIOS itself.</p> <p>Other than that, the installation process is fairly straightforward once Windows 8 gets going. You’ll enter your product key, select a Custom installation, delete or format your drive partitions, install Windows 8 on the new chunk of blank, empty storage, and sit back and relax while the fairly simple installation process chugs away.</p> <p>You might not have the speediest of operating systems once Windows 8 loads, depending on just how long your Windows XP machine has been sitting around, but at least you’ll be a bit more secure! And, hey, now that you have a license key, you can always upgrade your ancient system (or build a new one!) and reinstall.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_upgrade_2014#comments computer upgrade Hardware Hardware how to June issue 2014 maximum pc Memory News Features Mon, 13 Oct 2014 22:11:21 +0000 Maximum PC staff 28535 at http://www.maximumpc.com Acer 4K G-Sync Monitor Tested with a GTX 980 (Video) http://www.maximumpc.com/acer_4k_g-sync_monitor_tested_gtx_980_video <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u160416/xb280hk.png" alt="Acer XB280HK 4K Monitor" title="Acer XB280HK 4K Monitor" width="250" height="250" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Acer joins the G-Sync party</h3> <p>We got Acer's XB280HK monitor in, which is the company's 28-inch 4K G-Sync unit. For now, it's the only 4K G-Sync unit that you can buy. G-Sync is a technology from Nvidia that sycronizes your monitor's refresh rate with your video card's refresh rate, which eliminates screen tearing (but it's not compatible with all GeForce cards. Here's a <a title="g sync gpus" href="http://www.geforce.com/hardware/technology/g-sync/supported-gpus" target="_blank">list of supported G-Sync GPUs</a>). 4K resolution, at 3840x2160, is four times as many pixels as 1920x1080, so it needs a lot of horsepower to play a game. We tested the monitor <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014" target="_blank">on one of our GeForce GTX 980 </a>video cards running <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/batman_arkham_origins_review_2014" target="_blank">Batman: Arkham Origins</a>, a game that's optimized for Nvidia graphics. Your guide in the Youtube video is Tom McNamara, our Technical Editor.</p> <p>This monitor retails for about $800, which is the same price as <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_readies_swift_pg278q_monitor_nvidia_g-sync_august_release" target="_blank">the Asus ROG Swift, a 2560x1440 G-Sync panel</a>. However, the Swift can go up to a 144Hz refresh rate, while the XB280HK maxes out at 60Hz. Both monitors use a TN panel instead of IPS. IPS tends to have better image quality, but TN can have much lower latency. If you're thinking of picking one of these up, also be aware that they are DisplayPort-only. HDMI and DVI can't provide enough bandwidth. (HDMI 2.0 does, but the monitor has to have support for that built in.) These monitors come with the correct cable, and the compatible cards all have DisplayPort -- but some cards may only have "mini" DisplayPort, so you'll need an adapter in those scenarios.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rXHliHqUPA0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/acer_4k_g-sync_monitor_tested_gtx_980_video#comments 4K monitor g-sync GTX 980 hands-on maxwell MPCTV nvidia video XB280HK News Features Tue, 07 Oct 2014 20:38:42 +0000 Tom McNamara 28680 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maximum PC's Geek Quiz 2014 http://www.maximumpc.com/maximum_pcs_geek_quiz_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/maximum_pc_geek_quiz.jpg" alt="Maxmum PC geek quiz 2014" title="Maxmum PC geek quiz 2014" width="250" height="123" style="float: right;" />Try your hand at Maximum PC's brutal 13th annual Geek Quiz</h3> <p>Our world is full of competitions and tournaments that favor impressive athletic feats and rippling abs. The winners get to wear fancy rings and get paid silly amounts of money to wear a shoe with a swooping logo on it. So where do geeks like us go if they prefer to flex the muscle of the mind? Where are the trophies for the legions of sons and daughters who tirelessly fix their parents’ computers and educate countless laypeople about the dangers and wonders of technology? Er, sorry, we don’t have any tangible rewards for you, either. But we do have a fun computer quiz!</p> <p>Of course, “fun” might not be an accurate word for it. Our annual <a title="maximum pc geek quiz" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/geekquiz" target="_blank"><strong>Maximum PC Geek Quiz</strong></a> is actually a crucible of pain and confusion that separates the wannabes from the war heroes; a baptism by fire, from which only the pitiless juggernaut will emerge unscathed. Basically, the Maximum PC Geek Quiz is like being thrown into the Thunderdome with your mother-in-law. (On the bright side, you can set the Geek Quiz on fire if it upsets you.) So, start the quiz and begin your journey to prove what caliber geek you are!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/maximum_pcs_geek_quiz_2014#comments 13th annual 2014 Hardware maximum pc geek quiz nerd test trivia Features Mon, 06 Oct 2014 22:04:05 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 28672 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maximum Debate: Is Microsoft’s $2.5 Billion Minecraft Acquisition Worth It? http://www.maximumpc.com/maximum_debate_microsoft%E2%80%99s_25_billion_minecraft_acquisition_worth_it_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/dr_evil_billions.jpg" alt="Dr Evil meme" title="Dr Evil meme" width="250" height="186" style="float: right;" />Jimmy and Sean disagree on whether or not it was wise of Microsoft to purchase Mojang for $2.5 billion</h3> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">Welcome to Maximum’s inaugural Maximum Debate article, a new opinion column where two Maximum PC editors duke it out over a specific topic. This time around, Online Managing Editor Jimmy Thang and Contributing Editor Sean Knight debate the merits of whether or not it was a good idea for Microsoft to purchase <a title="Minecraft" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/minecraft_beginners_guide_2014" target="_blank">Minecraft</a> developer Mojang for <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/its_official_microsoft_agrees_acquire_minecraft_maker_mojang_25_billion_2014" target="_blank">$2.5 billion dollars</a>.<br /></span><span style="font-weight: normal;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">Read through the debate below and let us know where you stand by voting in our poll at the end of the article or by leaving a comment.&nbsp;</span></p> <h4>Sean's opening statement:&nbsp;</h4> <p>Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Minecraft developer Mojang has been the subject of many discussions lately. While the acquisition of Mojang is a good move on Microsoft’s part, the company paying <span style="color: #000000;">$2.5 billion</span> for the developer has surprised everyone. It’s a lot of money for a small developer with one successful game, so far, under its belt. But is Microsoft’s acquisition of Mojang worth it?</p> <p>I personally think that this deal is definitely worth it for the company. Not only is Minecraft a very popular title, but it has been downloaded 100 million times on the PC and, last we were told, had sold around 54 million units total over the various platforms it is on. It is a juggernaut that has captured the attention of not only older gamers, but the next generation of gamers, &nbsp;and there is no sign of its popularity waning anytime soon.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/minecraft_004.jpg" alt="Minecraft Chickens" title="Minecraft Chickens" width="600" height="353" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Should we be counting our chickens yet?</strong></p> <h4><strong>Jimmy's opening statement:&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>To put how much money 2.5 BILLION dollars into perspective, that’s roughly 2.5x the amount <a title="Amazon buys Twitch" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amazon_acquires_twitch_rumors_say_acquisition_was_11_billion_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Amazon</span></a> bought the world’s most popular game streaming website Twitch for (which some suggest is also too much). In general, if you were to ask me about all these massive tech buyouts, I’d say it’s unsustainable and is a bubble just waiting to burst, but that’s a different matter.</p> <p>Off the top of my head, I’d say there’s really only three current gaming franchises that are perhaps worth that pretty penny moving forward: League of Legends, Dota 2, and the World of Warcraft. Like Minecraft, all those aforementioned games have a large player base, but unlike the Mojang-developed title, they are cash cows that consistently bring in revenue via either a monthly subscription or micro-transactions. They are, for the most part, rock solid revenue generators. As Minecraft stands right now, you spend $20-something bucks and you’re all set. I would imagine Microsoft will try to monetize the game further with micro-transactions, but considering that most of the Minecraft audience isn’t used to that business model, an abrupt shift could be off putting and hurt the existing community. Furthermore, how do we know that Minecraft hasn’t hit critical mass and reached saturation? While you could also say that of the other aforementioned games I've mentioned, I’d argue that they’re still safer bets considering they bring in a constant barrage of money via micro-transactions each month from huge user bases. &nbsp;</p> <p>That’s not to say that Minecraft isn’t a cash cow in its own right. Considering the game has sold 54 million copies to date across all platforms, it’s certainly also in a league of its own. But when you crunch the numbers, there's still a steep hill to climb in making $2.5 billion moving forward.</p> <p>Considering the game sells for $27 (with the mobile and console versions being significantly cheaper, but we’ll disregard that), total revenue equates to around $1.4 billion in a best-case scenario. This is no small chunk of change, mind you, but that’s still more than $1 billion shy of what Microsoft paid for the developer, and roughly the amount Microsoft had to lay down to resolve that nasty <a title="Red Ring of Death" href="http://news.cnet.com/Microsoft-to-extend-Xbox-360-warranty,-take-1-billion-hit/2100-1014_3-6195058.html" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">red ring catastrophe</span></a> with the Xbox 360. And again, who’s to say that Minecraft hasn’t already reached critical mass?</p> <p>I can understand why Microsoft would want Mojang and Minecraft, but in my humble opinion, they should take a lesson on learning how to buy low to sell high.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/minecraft_055.jpg" alt="Minecraft Storm" title="Minecraft Storm" width="600" height="361" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A storm is brewing over this debate</strong></p> <h4><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">Sean's rebuttal:</span></h4> <p>Minecraft is far from reaching critical mass. There is still a huge market for it on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. It’s safe to say that Minecraft has been a cash cow for Mojang as well. In addition to selling the game, there are <a title="LEGO Minecraft sets" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/lego_minecraft_micro_world_available_preorder" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">LEGO Minecraft sets</span></a> and a variety of merchandise such as plushies, hoodies, foam pickaxes, keychains, stickers, cups, caps, and more. On consoles, there are texture packs that are being sold to gamers and even themed-texture packs for games such as Halo. As for mobile devices, the pocket edition is in the Top 10 apps for both Android and iOS devices on a consistent basis. So imagine if Microsoft were to start offering mobile users texture packs for sale?</p> <p>But Microsoft could take things even further. Just look at its Halo franchise. That franchise has had a webseries, will have a live TV series debuting later this year, and a Halo channel that will be launching soon. A Halo channel dedicated solely to Halo! So I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw something similar with Minecraft from cartoons to, as crazy as it sounds, a movie.&nbsp;</p> <p>Minecraft may not have a story, but this game is appealing to a ton of kids. Kids who tend to go on YouTube to watch Let’s Play and Minecraft-related videos. That is the target audience Microsoft will, presumedly, focus on. An audience that will continue to grow unless Microsoft screws things up.&nbsp;</p> <p>We also have to look at China, now that Microsoft’s Xbox One has just launched there since the country’s <a title="Console ban lifted in China" href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/video-game-news/10555370/China-lifts-14-year-ban-on-foreign-games-consoles.html" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">14-year ban</span></a> on consoles has been lifted. So far, there are only 10 games available for the Xbox One in China and titles such as Halo are not among them due to Chinese regulators being wary of violent games. This means that Minecraft could easily be brought over to the Chinese market.</p> <p>I also believe that Minecraft is the equivalent of Nintendo’s Mario and LEGOs rolled into one. For many, Mario was the gaming icon for a generation of gamers while LEGO continues to be relevant and profitable because it appeals to the imagination of children. Minecraft is this generation’s Mario and could have the endurance similar of that to the LEGO brand. Microsoft just needs to be smart and continue to cultivate the audience that has grown around Mojang and Minecraft.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/minecraft_002.jpg" alt="Minecraft lake" title="Minecraft lake" width="600" height="352" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Does the deal provide endless possibilities?</strong></p> <h4>Jimmy's rebuttal:&nbsp;</h4> <p>While it is debateable whether or not Minecraft has reached critical mass, Mojang did lose its prominent founder <a title="Notch leaves Mojang" href="http://notch.net/2014/09/im-leaving-mojang/" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Markus “Notch” Persson</span></a>, which would be akin to the Mario franchise losing Shigeru Miyamoto (game designer behind Mario and Zelda). In other words, it’s a big blow to the franchise. And without Notch’s presence, who’s to say Microsoft won’t screw the franchise up? After all, they turned Rare from the beloved developer of Goldeneye to an average developer making <a title="rare xbox" href="http://www.metacritic.com/search/all/kinect%20sports/results" target="_blank">mediocre Kinect games</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/goldeneye_box.jpg" alt="GoldenEye Box" title="GoldenEye Box" width="333" height="233" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>&nbsp;Before Microsoft bought Rare</strong></p> <p>In regards to your comments about them being able to push Xbox Ones in China, I highly doubt it will have much of an impact unfortunately due to the high amount of piracy that happens there.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/kinect_sports.jpg" alt="Kinect Sports" title="Kinect Sports" width="500" height="500" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>After Microsoft bought Rare</strong></p> <p>Moreover, if Minecraft falters, they have no other established IPs to rely on considering Mojang has ever only made one game. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. When Activision acquired Blizzard, at least they got WoW, StarCraft, and Diablo.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/minecraft_foam_sword.jpg" alt="Minecraft foam sword" title="Minecraft foam sword" width="500" height="500" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Do these swords look like they are worth $2.5 billion to you?</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">And sure, they can try to make a Minecraft TV show (though I find that a little challenging considering, as you mentioned, there is no story to Minecraft) and they’ll continue to sell Minecraft foam axes and whatnot, but call me skeptical, but I don’t think they’ll be able to sell $2.5 billion worth of it.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>That's what we think anyways, what do you think? Vote in the poll below!</strong></p> <form action="http://poll.pollcode.com/65138185" method="post"> <div style="background-color: #eeeeee; padding: 2px; width: 175px; font-family: Arial; font-size: small; color: #000000; box-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #888;"> <div style="padding:2px 0px 4px 2px;"><strong>Do you think Microsoft purchasing Mojang for $2.5 billion was a good deal?</strong></div> <p><input id="answer651381851" style="float:left;" name="answer" type="radio" value="1" /><label style="float: left; width: 150px;" for="answer651381851">A) Yes, I think it was a good deal</label><input id="answer651381852" style="float:left;" name="answer" type="radio" value="2" /><label style="float: left; width: 150px;" for="answer651381852">B) No, I don't think it's a good deal</label><br /> <div style="padding:3px;"><input type="submit" value=" Vote " />&nbsp;<input name="view" type="submit" value=" View " /></div> <div style="font-size:10px">pollcode.com <a href="http://pollcode.com/">free polls</a></div> </p></div> </form> http://www.maximumpc.com/maximum_debate_microsoft%E2%80%99s_25_billion_minecraft_acquisition_worth_it_2014#comments debate Markus Persson maximum pc. $2.5 billion microsoft Microsoft acquires Mojang minecraft Mojang Notch Gaming Features Fri, 03 Oct 2014 19:25:33 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 28655 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build a DIY Micro-Tower PC with Liquid Cooling http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_diy_micro-tower_liquid_cooling_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Most people would never build their own small form factor PC, fill it with high-end hardware, liquid-cool it, then overclock it. Luckily, we’re not most people</h3> <p>The Mission The interest in small form factor (SFF) computing seems to have reached a fever pitch over the past few months, but boutique system builders tell us they’ve been selling an S-load of them for some time now. The reason for their popularity is not hard to understand—they pack all the firepower of a full-sized ATX machine but take up half the space due to clever engineering. It takes equally clever building to fit a full-sized video card, an internal power supply, storage devices, and even liquid cooling into such a tiny box. That's no small feat, and to be honest, it sounded like just the kind of challenge that we wanted to take on for Build It. The problem is, the micro-tower form factor hasn't been around very long, so it still has some kinks to work out. We've worked with several of these systems over the past few months, and the degree of usability varies quite a bit. However, Silverstone recently announced the Raven RVZ01, a case that seems to have the ease-of-use that we like; plus, the company has demo'd the chassis using a liquid-cooling system, which we found downright nifty. All we had to do was get our hands on one and go to work.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_25.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_24.jpg" width="620" height="742" /></a></p> <h4>Birds of a Feather</h4> <p>To construct a PC inside a mini-tower like the Raven, you really have to be prepared to build in a completely different way than you have before, and using some atypical parts, too. For example, in this case (which is a preproduction model, so retail units might differ slightly) the optical drive bay only holds a "slim" design, as its front bezel is less than half the size of a standard 5.25-inch drive. The power supply is also not standard ATX: a Silverstone ST45SF-G from the company’s SFF SFX line of PSUs designed for tiny rigs like this. It can't supply as much juice as a full-size ATX power supply because it's so small, but it’s still able to throw down 450 watts. Surprisingly, this is actually enough wattage for a system with a single video card and a relatively efficient Intel Haswell CPU.</p> <p>When we say “single card,” we mean any single-GPU card you can find, as there’s more than enough room for even super-long boards. We stuffed an <a title="780 ti" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_780_ti_benchmarks" target="_blank">Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti</a> into our box and had plenty of room left over (We know at the time of online publish, the 780 Ti is being phased out by the newer <a title="980" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014" target="_blank">GTX 980</a>, but if you act now, you should be able to find them <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&amp;DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=780+ti&amp;N=-1&amp;isNodeId=1" target="_blank">pretty cheap</a>). (We could have fit a dual-GPU card, but the power supply wouldn't be able to handle that.) There’s also enough room for a 3.5-inch hard drive in the RVZ01, in addition to two 2.5-inch drives, but we ended up sacrificing our 3.5-inch drive to the liquid-cooling gods. Since we were using an expensive CPU cooler, we figured we might as well go top-shelf all around, so we went with Intel's Core i7-4770K CPU and the Maximum VI Impact motherboard from Asus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone Raven RVZ01</td> <td> <p><strong>$100</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Silverstone ST45SF-G 450W</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Maximus VI Impact</td> <td><strong>$230</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i7-4770K</td> <td><strong>$325<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Corsair Hydro H75</td> <td><strong>$85</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti</td> <td><strong>$700<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$160<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB</td> <td><strong>$400<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Silverstone SOD02 8x DVD Burner</td> <td><strong>$70</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cables</strong></td> <td>Silverstone PP05-E Flat Power Cable Kit</td> <td><strong>$25</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$1,983</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. Prey Drive</h4> <p>Since this Build It is more of an experiment than a full-fledged gaming or productivity system, we felt comfortable sticking to just one solid-state drive (SSD) for our storage needs. One of the main benefits of using just an SSD in a small system like this is that it cuts down on the cabling we'd need to wrestle with later, which can take up a surprising amount of space. An SSD is also much smaller than a desktop mechanical drive and makes no noise since it has no moving parts. In the RVZ01, SSDs are mounted on a detachable section that also holds the video card and the optical drive. This design makes the SSD quite easy to access, and adding a second drive is easy, too.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_27.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_26.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Mother-birds</h4> <p>The RVZ01 features an “inverted” design, so we had to flip the Asus Maximus VI Impact motherboard upside down and rotate it 180 degrees, which is why the connectors in the photo look backward. The case’s side panel that's behind the motherboard tray is permanently attached, so we had to install the liquid cooler's backplate before we installed the motherboard. This motherboard also has a riser card that needs to be installed if you want to take advantage of the mobo’s integrated sound. There's another optional add-in card that offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which contains yet another connector, this time for M.2—the successor to mSATA, which is designed for ultrabooks and other systems too small to fit an SSD. And there's a third pre-installed riser at the bottom of the board containing extra capacitors for overclocking. We removed the riser's two screws, because those holes double as motherboard mounting points. Then we put the I/O shield in the case, followed by the board.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_22.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_21.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Bird on a Wire</h4> <p>Inside this black cage is the junior-sized Silverstone power supply. The cage is attached to the case with four standard screws. Take those out, slide the PSU in with its connectors facing up and its intake fan facing toward the fan grill on the side panel, secure it to the bottom of the cage with the four provided screws, and put the whole thing back in. We routed most of the front-panel wiring underneath the cage, to leave more room up top for other wires. The short flat cables come from Silverstone's PP05-E flat power cable kit, which is sold separately from the PSU. They are highly flexible and a godsend in tight quarters like these.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_25.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_24.jpg" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Eagle Eyes</h4> <p>This removable ledge contains the optical drive and a platform for the GPU. As you can see, only a "slim" style of optical drive will fit, and luckily, Silverstone has one named the SOD02, which is an 8x DVD burner. Sure, it’s not a BD-R drive and it's not cheap, but if you need an optical drive in this case, you don't have a ton of options. To install it you have to remove the top half of the case's interior by removing six Phillips screws around the rim, and the drive slides into the front. The mounting holes for the optical drive were too small for the heads of the screws that come with the drive, so we couldn't put them in. You need to use the screws that come with the case, instead. The drive was surprisingly snug without the screws anyway, so we just left it "loose" in the slot.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_20.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="553" /></a></p> <h4>5. Spreading Our Wings</h4> <p>The detachable section is also where we installed the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti. We could shave about $450 off this build and go with a more moderately tuned GPU like a GTX 760, but we wanted to see if both the case and PSU could handle a full-powered and full-sized GPU. We chose&nbsp; the GTX 780 Ti because it's currently the fastest single-GPU available, and produces a decent amount of heat, too. To install it, we had to first plug the GPU into a PCI Express riser card, then attach the PCIe power cables to the card before putting this entire section back into the case; the connectors on the card become inaccessible once it’s installed. To make the cabling nice and neat (again, we used those flexible flat cables) we strung them behind the card and curled the cable over the top and into the connectors. Once everything was connected, we plugged the whole contraption back into the case, with the riser pictured below going right into the motherboard's x16 PCIe slot.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_19.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_18.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="447" /></a></p> <h4>6. Survival of the Fittest</h4> <p>CPU cooling duties were handled by a Corsair H75 unit, but to get it to fit we had to swap out the standard 120mm fan, which was too chunky. Instead, we used the slim fan that was pre-installed on the side panel. Although this fan allows us to install the radiator on this super-slim case and still get the door to close, the size of the fan blades mean it won’t be able to move as much air as a larger fan. Also, since the fan is thinner we had to use shorter #6-32 3/4-inch machine screws that we bought at a local hardware store to attach it to the radiator. The H75 is a good choice for a small form factor case like this one because of its flexible and relatively narrow tubes. We looped the tubes toward the front of the case, then back, to keep them out of the way of the radiator. We experimented with intake vs. exhaust and push vs. pull; in the end , we went with push exhaust (though pull exhaust is shown in the photos).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_19.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_15.jpg" width="620" height="461" /></a></p> <h3>Something to Crow About</h3> <p>For a micro-tower, the RVZ01 has particularly accessible areas for the video card, storage devices, and power supply. We've had buzz-killing frustrations installing those components into smaller enclosures before, so the design of this chassis was definitely to our liking. Unfortunately, the case’s smaller dimensions meant that cooling was a challenge. The GTX 780 Ti was getting plenty of air, but we struggled to push the CPU beyond its stock specifications. We first ran it up to 4.2GHz, but in extended testing under load, temps were hovering at 90 C when running the x264 encoding benchmark. That's not good, and too hot for our tastes. We've overclocked with the H75 in a tight space before (February 2014 issue), so we knew the cooler could handle the task. Upon investigation, we realized the case's stock "slim" fan that we attached to the Corsair H75's radiator doesn't have a lot of focused air pressure, so it's not great for cooling a rad. (Silverstone makes some excellent high-pressure fans, but they won't fit here.) There's also no intake fan in this part of the case, and no exhaust fans at all. Because of these issues, we ended up running the CPU at stock clocks, but with the motherboard's "Multi-Core Enhancement" pushing all CPU cores to the same speed when under load. Without MCE or manual tweaking, several cores will run below the chip's "turbo boost" rating of 3.9GHz.</p> <p>We had much better luck with the video card. Despite the GTX 780 Ti having a stock cooler, we were able to overclock the core by 100MHz and the memory by 400MHz (effective), thanks in part to the 120mm intake fan right next to the card. At 4K/UHD, we sustained over 80 FPS in Batman Arkham City, with just PhysX and anti-aliasing disabled. A more demanding game like Hitman Absolution was in the mid-40s, and Tomb Raider (2013) was in the low 30s. That’s still very respectable for a single GPU with a stock cooler. Our seemingly “underpowered” 450-watt power supply chugged right along and was totally stable. We plugged in a power meter and discovered that the system didn't draw over 350 watts during the gaming benchmarks, which would be the heaviest real-world usage.</p> <p>This build was an experiment from the start, so a lack of CPU overclocking was more a learning experience than a shortfall. There's only so much space in a micro-tower to get fancy with CPU cooling. You're probably better off with a "cube" micro-tower for that.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">2,544<strong> (-21.2%)<br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">829</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>1415<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>17 <strong>(-19.5%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batmans Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>78<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3 DMark 11</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847&nbsp;</td> <td>5,393 <strong>(-7.7%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_diy_micro-tower_liquid_cooling_2014#comments april issues 2014 Build DIY feature liquid cooling maximum pc micro tower water cooled Features Wed, 01 Oct 2014 23:20:33 +0000 Tom McNamara 28104 at http://www.maximumpc.com Rig of the Month: Toaster PC http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/9gkc19u.jpg" alt="Toaster PC" title="Toaster PC" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />This is no joke; toasters are PCs too</span></h3> <p>This month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">Rig of the Month</a></strong> is a bit of an oddball. It's no <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/bit.ly/1mVCGQ4" target="_blank">DotaBox</a>&nbsp;or <a href="http://bit.ly/1h3LcHG" target="_blank">Weighted Companion Cube</a>, but we still think it's pretty awesome. Anthony Febre was inspired when someone asked if he was running a toaster. It's not the most original insult, but it makes for an amazingly original case mod.&nbsp;</p> <p>There's honestly not that much to it. Anthony says that the whole setup cost a measly $20 (minus all of the actual components) since all it required was a toaster. Inside the Proctor Silex toaster sits an Intel Core i3-530 on top of an Intel DH55TC mATX motherboard. It's not exactly a powerhouse, but it'll do the job with 4GB of Crucial DDR3-1333 and an XFX Radeon HD 7750.&nbsp;</p> <p>All we know is that he's got an amazing comeback to potential toaster jokes. Anothony apologizes for the less-than-stellar photos and blames his phone's camera.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014#comments Anthony Febre case mod computer maximum pc Rig of the Month rig of the month toaster Toaster PC Features Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:34:54 +0000 Ben Kim 28573 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (September 2014): Remember Me, Mass Effect 2, and More http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/3ydcjll.jpg" alt="Mass Effect 2" title="Mass Effect 2" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>We're short on submissions for this month's Graphics Porn so we've reached out to some more of the folks from <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/gamescreens" target="_blank">r/GameScreens</a>&nbsp;to supplement the gallery. We've got some amazing screens from Remember Me, Skyrim, Metro Last Light, Euro Truck Simulator, and more!</p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">Whether you've been using&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more#comments beautiful Euro Truck Simulator Graphics Porn maximum pc Metro Last Light pictures Remember Me screenshots Skyrim Features Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:21:20 +0000 Ben Kim 28574 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Analysis: Metro Games Stock vs Metro Redux Versions http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u166440/4a_games_logo.jpg" alt="4A Games" title="4A Games" width="200" height="174" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>We compare the Metro game series to its visually updated counterparts</h3> <p>If you are a fan of single-player FPS games, then you should check out the Metro series. Metro 2033, based on the novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, was developed by 4A Games and released in 2010 while its sequel, Metro: Last Light, came out last year. Both survival-horror games are set in post-apocalyptic Moscow where survivors of the nuclear fallout live within the underground metro system.</p> <p>It's a bleak setting where ammunition is your currency, which makes for some interesting dilemmas at times.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Ow-EOZbP3Rc" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Check out our video comparison comparing the stock version of the Metro series with its Redux counterparts above.</strong></p> <p>But is it worth purchasing the Redux Bundle if you already have the original games? We took the time to compare the original with its Redux counterparts to help you find out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_004.jpg" alt="Metro LL 004" title="Metro LL 004" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Sit back, grab a drink, and please don't shoot us</strong></p> <p>We gave both games good scores with <a title="MPC Metro 2033 Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/metro_2033_review" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro 2033</span></a> earning seven out of 10 and <a title="MPC Metro: Last Light Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/metro_last_light_review_2013" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro: Last Light</span></a> receiving an eight. But even so, on August 26, 4A Games released re-mastered editions of both games for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC platforms. Metro 2033 Redux is a rebuilt and upgraded version of the original game that takes advantage of the latest 4A Engine. For Metro: Last Light Redux, 4A Games said that it made some tweaks and included all of the DLC released for the game, along with new features and gameplay modes.</p> <p>Curious as to how much of a visual upgrade both Redux versions have received, we compared the original games to its Redux counterparts. To do that, we used our personal PC which was equipped with an AMD Phenom II X4 965 processer, 8GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780. Our overall goal was to evaluate the look of both versions and discuss how they performed relative to each other. We also made sure to run each game at the same settings, where possible, so that we would get consistent results. See our settings in the image below.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_settings_002.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Settings" title="Metro 2033 Settings" width="600" height="233" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro 2033 settings - Right: Metro 2033 Redux settings</strong></p> <p>All four games were run in 1080p and quality set to "Very High," which is the highest setting for the Metro games. Mindful of those who may not have the best GPU out there, we kept SSAA to ensure good performance. However, Metro 2033 was a little tricky since we had to make sure that it was running DirectX 11 to keep it on par with the Redux version (recommended settings for the Redux edition requires a DX11-compliant GPU). Gamma settings were also kept the same at the default level.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_settings_001.jpg" alt="Metro LL Settings" title="Metro LL Settings" width="600" height="232" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro: Last Light - Right: Metro: Last Light Redux</strong></p> <p>With Metro: Last Light and Redux, it was much simpler to keep the settings as similar as possible since there has only been about a one year gap between both titles. That, and there were not a lot of options to tweak.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_002b.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" title="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" width="600" height="408" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>4A Games changed character models and even sequences for Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>It should come as little surprise to anyone that we saw a huge improvement when we played both versions of Metro 2033. The Redux version was not only a vast improvement with sharper graphics, but also featured enhanced visuals, tweaked gameplay, reworked environments, better lighting, re-worked character models, new animations, and better enemy AI. Suffice it to say, the differences really showed in the visuals.</p> <p>We also saw a noticeable difference when it came to performance, but in a suprisingly pleasant way. We discovered that the Redux version averages a higher framerate than the original. For example, in our experiential test, traveling through the market in Metro 2033 averaged 83FPS while the Redux version of the same location averaged a higher 95FPS. Given that the recommended specs for the remastered edition requires 4GB RAM and DirectX 11 or higher compared to the original’s requirement of 2GB RAM and DirectX 10 or higher, it seems that 4A Games has done a great job of not only upgrading the game, but optimizing it to use higher-end hardware as well. This was something that was needed since some of the complaints about Metro 2033 involved it being a poorly-optimized resource hog.</p> <p>As you can see in the next image, Metro 2033 Redux features different character models, sharper textures, and brighter lighting compared to the original 2010 game. In Redux, there is also a bit of lens flare and the goggles, which your character must wear when he ventures outside, has distinct drops of water on the edges rather than this weird blurry liquid effect in the original game.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro 2033 comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092401e3EmUCBkS67tKlhUawZyk7&amp;file=output_vMH7dQ.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_003a.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 comparison" title="Metro 2033 comparison" width="600" height="335" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click Image for an animated GIF comparing Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>But while we are impressed at the large improvements that were made for Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light is another matter. Rather than Metro: Last Light Redux being an all-out remastered edition, think of it as more of a Game of the Year edition. It’s great that all the DLC is bundled with the game, as well as additional content, but there are hardly any visual differences between the original and Redux version’s graphics that we are able to discern except that the Redux version looks a little brighter.</p> <p>Even the average FPS count isn’t that different between each version. Both Metro: Last Light and Redux averaged around 80FPS when we compared the first 25 minutes of the game with each other. The original ended up averaging 82FPS and the Redux edition 86FPS which, given we ran a purely experiential test, is within the margin of error.&nbsp;</p> <p>Take a look at the following image and you tell us if there is any visual differences between the two versions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro LL Comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092402uyTcULxKzA9KB0kWAUgR5f&amp;file=output_YJ9NlT.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_001a.jpg" alt="Metro LL Comparison" title="Metro LL Comparison" width="600" height="326" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click image for an animated GIF comparing Metro: Last Light</strong></p> <h3>Benchmarks:</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_chart_002.jpg" alt="Metro Chart" title="Metro Chart" width="600" height="371" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here is the chart showing you the average FPS recorded of all four games side-by-side</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As stated earlier, the biggest difference was seen between Metro 2033 and its Redux counterparts thanks to the latest 4A Engine, graphics upgrade, and optimization. Meanwhile, the difference between Metro: Last Light and the Redux version was nominal considering not much had been changed between either version.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">So to those of you who don’t own any of the Metro games, we would recommend that you pick up the Metro bundle simply for the story, atmosphere, and the graphics. If you own Metro 2033 and appreciate high-quality graphics, then you should seriously consider picking up the Redux version. But if you own Metro: Last Light, then we would suggest refraining from purchasing its Redux counterpart unless you really want the DLC and extra content.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014#comments 4A Games Metro 2033 Metro 2033 Redux Metro Last Light Metro Last Light Redux Redux Bundle Redux editions Gaming News Features Fri, 26 Sep 2014 22:47:08 +0000 Sean D Knight 28612 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Personal Computers of the 1980s http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u99720/apple_macintosh.jpg" alt="80s Mac" title="80s Mac" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />Travel back in time to the decade that kick-started the home personal computer boom: the 1980s.</h3> <p>Hands up if you owned a computer in the 80s! After making some tentative steps in the late 70s, the 1980s saw home computing really take off. Back then, no young adult’s bedroom was complete without a computer, tape deck, and trusty joystick on display.</p> <p>Home computing proved to be so popular it seemed like every company wanted a slice of the digital pie, with model after model released on an annual basis, all vying for dominance in the ultra-competitive marketplace. </p> <p>Some efforts, such as the Commodore 64 and Spectrum, were hugely successful and went on to sell millions. But for every success story there were many more that failed to make the grade, with some models even being released and then going out of business the same year.</p> <p>Here, Maximum PC presents 25 of the most memorable and noteworthy computers of the 1980s. Join us as we relive the golden age of home computing.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s#comments 1980s 80s Computers Amiga atari Commodore maximum pc Old School pcs retro Features Wed, 24 Sep 2014 23:16:38 +0000 Mark Pilkington 28395 at http://www.maximumpc.com