Features http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/31/%252Ftags/a%20href%3Dhttp%3A/article/features/old_school_monday_lust_list_96 en How To Use YouTube’s Built-In Video Editor http://www.maximumpc.com/how_use_youtube%E2%80%99s_built-_video_editor_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Split clips, adjust brightness, and add filters with ease</span></h3> <p>We’ve covered some of the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_video_editor_roundup_2014" target="_blank">best free video editing software</a> available for the PC, but sometimes all you need is a quick brightness tweak or audio adjustment, and YouTube’s built-in video editor is more than capable. It’s not the most complicated software, but we’ll run you through the basics in case you wanted to use something in a pinch.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/1.png" alt="YouTube Editor" title="YouTube Editor" width="620" height="445" /></span></h3> <p>Unlike most video editing solutions, YouTube’s editor doesn’t work with local media. Every single clip, video, and still image has to be uploaded to YouTube before it can be added to the editing timeline. There’s also the fact that YouTube doesn’t accept uploaded audio files. Fortunately there’s a huge library of royalty-free music available through the editor, but if you want to use your own audio, this isn't the editor for you.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/2.png" alt="Individual Video Editor" title="Individual Video Editor" width="620" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Editing individual videos is easy and even includes a side-by-side effects preview.</strong></p> <p>There are two separate editors. One for single video manipulation—for fairly simple editing, for uses such as lightening a video that's just a bit too dark—and one with a full-on timeline view with support for multiple clips. The former offers rudimentary control over videos with “Quick fixes,” “Filters,” and “Special effects.” YouTube even includes an “Auto-fix” option that’s surprisingly good at taking care of obvious problems. There’s also some simple stabilization, clip trimming, and a “Blur All Faces” option that does its best to blur the faces of everyone in your video. Head to your YouTube Video Manager and click the edit button to get started.</p> <p>If you’re looking to actually edit separate clips together, the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/editor" target="_blank">YouTube Video Editor</a> is what you’ll want to work with. All of the videos you’ve uploaded to YouTube—unlisted, private, and public—should be visible in the videos tab. Click and drag videos to the timeline to insert them into your project. The timeline is magnetic, so videos will automatically split and snap when you drag them around. There’s no way to insert gaps (unless your source footage has some) so don’t worry about accidentally inserting flash frames. Click the camera icon to upload still images—this is useful if you're creating a slideshow or montage.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/3.png" alt="YouTube Splitting Clip" title="YouTube Splitting Clip" width="620" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Splitting clips is a cinch.</strong></p> <p>Click anywhere along the timeline or the video progress bar to move your cursor. Tapping the scissor icon will split the current clip at the indicated point. Select videos by clicking on their thumbnails in the timeline to access the individual video editing controls that we talked about before. The YouTube Video Editor actually offers fine control over stabilization, brightness, contrast, and even audio settings like pan, bass, and treble. The editor also includes rudimentary transitions that are entirely drag-and-drop. Stick a crossfade or wipe between clips if you’re not comfortable with standard cuts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/4.png" alt="YouTube Text" title="YouTube Text" width="620" height="442" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Enter Text Here! Just don’t try to do anything too complicated.</strong></p> <p>The biggest problem with the YouTube Video Editor is how it handles text. It’s easy enough to add a title. Just click the “Text” tab, drag your text animation of choice to the front of your timeline, and tweak it to fit your needs. It gets a lot more complicated when you want to add text to specific sections of videos. There’s no separate layer for text, so the only way to overlay text is to tie it directly to a clip. It’s a lot of work, but by splitting a video into multiple clips you can add text to individual sections. Of course, you can always use annotations to make things easier, but some people disable them.</p> <p>When you’re satisfied with the results, give your video a name and click the “Create Video” button to publish the finished product on YouTube. It’ll take a while for it to process, but once it’s done you’ve got a fully edited video, ready for sharing.</p> <p>There’s not really all that much else to the editor. It’s not the most beautiful piece of software, but it gets the job done and works perfectly fine on nearly any machine since none of the source material is stored locally. Use this for quick editing projects like stringing together vacation footage, but stick to dedicated software for serious projects.</p> <p>Already a YouTube Editor master? Drop some tips in the comments below!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_use_youtube%E2%80%99s_built-_video_editor_2015#comments cut edit editing insert tips TRIM YouTube Video Editor Features How-Tos Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:09:38 +0000 Ben Kim 29338 at http://www.maximumpc.com A Week with Logitech's MX Master http://www.maximumpc.com/week_logitechs_mx_master_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>This mouse is as subtly handsome as it is precise</h3> <p>Last week, Logitech stopped by the Maximum PC office to show off its new mouse, the MX Master. The device looked pretty compelling, as did the short promo video, but we looked forward to using the mouse to see how it really fared.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/mxmaster_mouse-and-receiver-620.jpg" alt="Logitech MX Master" title="Logitech MX Master" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Logtech MX Master and unifying reciever.</strong></p> <p>First off, this mouse isn’t built for gaming. The lack of glowing LEDs that you could signal an aircraft with—and the fact it’s wireless—separates it from conventional gaming gear. Instead, the mouse sports a smooth black surface that is actually really nice to rest your palm on. The black matte surface is accented by a very subtle brown-ish bronze bit of plastic that runs from left to right around the back and covers the bottom.&nbsp;</p> <p>While this mouse could be used in games that don’t require ultra-fast response times, it’s primarily made for design and engineering professionals. It feels very precise and smooth, and we imagine that working in AutoCAD would be a pleasure. While tooling around on the web and doing some basic cropping in Photoshop, we never felt that we were fighting with the mouse to get the cursor to be exactly where we wanted it to be.</p> <p>What we really love about this thing is the wheel. The MX Master’s wheel is a standard line-by-line click wheel and again, feels very precise. But give the wheel a good flick of the middle finger, and it free-spins until it slows down enough that the “clutch” catches the wheel and returns it to “line-by-line” mode.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/mxmaster_mouse-top.jpg" alt="Logitech MX Master (top)" title="Logitech MX Master (top)" width="620" height="827" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The top of the MX Master is simple and effective. Clicks feel precise and deliberate.</strong></p> <p>To give you a good idea of just how free it spins, we loaded up Twitter and gave the wheel a good spin down the page. Twitter was able to lazy-load tweets at the bottom of the browser fully six times before the wheel stopped. It’s actually really fun to use.</p> <p>Logitech calls this “Smart Shift,” and it does feel pretty intelligent. The threshold at which the wheel free-spins can be set in the Logitech software. You can also switch the mouse between “fixed” mode or “Smart Shift” with a middle button just behind the wheel.</p> <p>The other thing that we think makes this a great working mouse is the ability to pair it to three different computers. The mouse pairs with Logitech’s standard unifying receiver, but also pairs with Bluetooth-enabled computers.</p> <p>There’s a little button on the bottom that allows you to switch channels, each corresponding to a different pairing. We used the first channel to connect to our workstation and the second to connect to our Linux laptop via Bluetooth. For sysadmins or creative professionals who have more than one machine at their desk, this is great. It also means that you can use it at work, and take it home without fearing that you’ll lose the unifying receiver.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/mxmaster_mouse-bottom.jpg" alt="Logitech MX Master (bottom)" title="Logitech MX Master (bottom)" width="620" height="827" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The bottom of the mouse is what you'd expect, except for the channel selector near the rear.</strong></p> <p>The MX Master’s thumb button is also quite subtle: it’s part of the molded matte black surface, directly below the thumb. The thumb click is silent, and brings up the Windows’ window switcher (like Alt+Tab) by default. For Macbook users, the thumb button is supposed to simulate a three-finger swipe gesture on the track pad.</p> <p>There is also a scroll wheel and two side buttons for your thumb to get more of a workout, though the two buttons default to browser forward and back functions.</p> <p>Of course, all of the buttons can be customized in Logitech’s software, but the default assignments feel pretty well thought out.</p> <p>The mouse charges via a microUSB port at its nose, where you’d expect a cable to be if the mouse were wired. You can use the mouse while charging, but it’s still wireless; the USB cable isn’t sending any data. Three inconspicuous green LEDs show charge progress.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/mxmaster_charging.jpg" alt="Logitech MX Master charging" title="Logitech MX Master charging" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Three small LEDs let you know the mouse is charging. Nothing flashy here.</strong></p> <p>We haven’t played any games with the MX Master just yet, but so far we're impressed with build quality and attention to details that people who work on computers all day can really appreciate. The laser is supposed to work on glass too, but we are working with a wood laminate desk, so we'll just have to take Logitech’s word on that for now.&nbsp;</p> <p>Again, this mouse is geared for professionals, and is priced at $100. If you can get your company to pay for it or write it off on your taxes, this mouse is worth a look.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/week_logitechs_mx_master_2015#comments logitech Logitech MX Master mice News Features Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:05:07 +0000 Alex Campbell 29638 at http://www.maximumpc.com How To Set Up Software RAID 0 for Windows and Linux http://www.maximumpc.com/how_set_software_raid_0_windows_and_linux_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Up your speed by linking two or more drives in RAID 0</h3> <p>For serious PC builders, speed is the name of the game. Too often, storage becomes a bottleneck that holds back even the beefiest CPU. Even with the advent of SSDs, leveraging a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) can drastically reduce boot and loading times. RAID 0 is the easiest way to get more speed out of two or more drives, and lets you use a pretty cool acronym to boot.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_samsung-840evo.jpg" alt="Samsung 840EVOs in RAID 0" title="Samsung 840EVOs in RAID 0" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>In our test rig, we used a pair of Samsung 840EVOs with the latest firmware.</strong></p> <p>RAID has several “levels” that use drives in different ways. Level 0 (RAID 0) spreads or “stripes” data between two or more drives. The problem with striping data across drives is that when things go wrong, they go really wrong: If a single hard drive in a RAID 0 array fails and cannot be recovered, the entire RAID array is lost.&nbsp;</p> <p>On the plus side, RAID 0 combines the drives into a single larger logical drive with a capacity that is the sum of all the drives in the array. We found in our test rig that write cache stacked as well, which resulted in faster writing for large files. The data stored on the drives are read or written simultaneously, resulting in greatly reduced access times.</p> <p>There are three ways to implement RAID: hardware, software, and FakeRAID. Hardware RAID is faster, but it’s also more expensive due to the need for specialized hardware. Software and FakeRAID use the CPU in lieu of a dedicated RAID chip.</p> <p>&nbsp;Creating a software RAID array in operating system software is the easiest way to go. Windows 8 comes with everything you need to use software RAID, while the Linux package “<a href="http://www.linuxcommand.org/man_pages/mdadm8.html" target="_blank">mdadm</a>” is listed in most standard repositories.&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem with software RAID is that it only exists in the OS it was created in. Linux can’t see a RAID array created in Windows and vice versa. If you’re dual booting both Linux and Windows and need access to the array from both operating systems, use FakeRAID. Otherwise, stick to software.</p> <h3>Prepare your hardware</h3> <p>To ensure the best RAID performance, use identical drives with the same firmware. Mixing drive makes and models may work, but will result in faster drives being slowed down to match the slowest drive in the array. Don’t mix SSDs and mechanical drives in a RAID array; the SSD is faster on its own.</p> <p>RAID 0 doesn’t protect you from drive failure, so use new drives whenever possible. When connecting your drives, make sure they’re all using the same SATA version as well.</p> <p>Before a drive can be used in a RAID array, it must be clear of filesystems and partitions. If you’re using old drives, make sure you get everything of value off of them first. &nbsp;You can remove any partitions with Disk Management on Windows or “gparted” on Linux. If you’re using FakeRAID, the motherboard’s RAID utility should warn you before it wipes partition tables and the filesystems on them.</p> <p>In your operating system, you’ll need to have elevated permissions to create a RAID array. For Windows, you’ll need to be an Administrator. In Linux, you’ll need either the root password or sudo access.</p> <p>If you want to use FakeRAID, make sure your motherboard supports it. Be warned though: Installing an OS on top of a RAID 0 array can be really risky if your system data is critical.</p> <h3>Windows: storage spaces</h3> <p>Creating a software RAID 0 array on Windows is really easy, and relatively painless. The thing is, Microsoft doesn’t call it RAID in Windows 8, opting for “storage spaces” and “storage pools” instead.</p> <p>Hit Win+S and search for “storage spaces” and open the utility. Next, click <strong>Create a new pool and storage space</strong>. You’ll be prompted for administrator access. Click <strong>Yes</strong> to continue.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_storage-spaces.png" alt="Windows 8 Storage Spaces " title="Windows 8 Storage Spaces " width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Windows 8's built-in RAID software goes by the name "Storage Spaces."</strong></p> <p>You’ll be greeted by a windows showing all the unformatted disks that can be used. Select all the disks you want in the array and click&nbsp;<strong>Create pool</strong>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_create-pool.png" alt="Windows 8 storage pool" title="Windows 8 storage pool" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>To create a storage pool in Windows 8, the disks need to be unformatted.</strong></p> <p>Next, give the pool a name and drive letter. The name will appear as the drive label. Select NTFS as the filesystem. For Resiliency type, select <strong>Simple (no resiliency)</strong>. This is the equivalent to RAID0. When you’re ready, click <strong>Create storage space</strong>&nbsp;to create the array.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_create-storage-space.png" alt="Creating a storage space" title="Creating a storage space" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>While a simple storage space technically only requires one hard disk, you need at least two for it to be a true RAID setup.</strong></p> <p>If you want to remove a RAID array for any reason, simply click <strong>Delete</strong>&nbsp;next to the storage space you want to remove. To remove the pool, remove all of the storage spaces in it first.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_manage-storage-spaces.png" alt="Manage Windows 8 storage spaces" title="Manage Windows 8 storage spaces" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>When you're all done, you'll be able to manage your storage spaces, check capacity, and monitor usage.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">See? Told you it was easy. &nbsp;Next up, we're going to cover <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/how_set_software_raid_0_windows_and_linux_2015?page=0,1">creating RAID 0 arrays in Linux and in FakeRAID</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Linux: Excuse me, mdadm</h3> <p>Creating a software RAID in Linux is faster than Windows because it only requires a couple of console commands. In our example, we booted from a live Ubuntu 14.04 LTS USB stick.</p> <p>First, you need to <a href="http://packages.ubuntu.com/trusty/admin/mdadm" target="_blank">download and install mdadm</a>&nbsp;from your package manager. In Ubuntu, use aptitude to install the program:</p> <p><span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">sudo apt-get install mdadm</span></p> <p>Once mdadm is installed, you can create your array by typing the following command as root or using sudo:</p> <p><span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">mdadm --create /dev/mdX --level=0 --raid-devices=[number of drives] [drive name] [drive name] [etc]&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The above command will vary based on the size of your array, and how you’d like to name it. RAID devices are generally named <span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">/dev/mdX</span> where <span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">X</span> is the index of the array. Drive names must be valid Linux device paths, e.g., <span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">/dev/sda</span> or <span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">/dev/disk/by-uuid/[UUID]</span>. In our example, we used the following:</p> <p><span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">mdadm --create /dev/md0 --level=0 --raid-devices=2 /dev/sda /dev/sdb</span></p> <p>To take apart the RAID array, use the following commands:</p> <p><span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">umount -l /dev/mdX<br />mdadm --stop /dev/mdX<br />sudo mdadm --zero-superblock /dev/sdX<br />sudo mdadm --zero-superblock /dev/sdY …</span></p> <h3>Using onboard FakeRAID</h3> <p>Onboard FakeRAID is harder to set up, but is your only real choice if you want your RAID array to be accessible to both Windows and Linux. It also offers the advantage of letting you install Windows 8 on top of it. Linux can the installed on a FakeRAID array as well, but requires use of the dmraid driver.</p> <p>Once your drives are physically installed, boot into your BIOS by tapping the key prompted on startup. The message will say “Press DEL to enter Setup…” or something similar.&nbsp;</p> <p>Once you’re in your BIOS, look for an option called “SATA mode.” This option is in different places for each motherboard manufacturer, so refer to your user manual if you can’t find it. Once you’ve found the setting, change the setting to <strong>RAID</strong>. This will let your onboard RAID software know that there are possible RAID devices to be started. When you’re done, save and reboot.</p> <p>On the next boot, you have to get into the RAID software to set up your arrays. If you have Intel RAID onboard, you should be prompted to hit <strong>CTRL+I</strong> to start the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) RAID software. Software varies by vendor, so consult your motherboard manual on entering the RAID utility.</p> <p>In the RST menu, you should see some options and a list of hard drives on your system. Select <strong>Create RAID Volume</strong>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_intel-rst.jpg" alt="Intel RST" title="Intel RST" width="620" height="465" /></strong></p> <p><strong>Any disks attached via SATA in RAID mode will show up in Intel RST. Disks that aren't included in an array will be shown as a "Non-Raid Disk."</strong></p> <p>On the next screen, give the RAID array a name and hit Enter. In the next field, use the up and down arrow keys to select the RAID level labeled <strong>RAID 0 (Stripe)</strong>&nbsp;and hit Enter again.</p> <p>In the next field, you can set the size of the striped data, but the default size should work just fine. Hit Enter to save the strip size and capacity to their default values and hit Enter again to create the volume. Confirm that you’re OK with wiping everything off the disks in your array by typing “<span style="font-family: 'courier new', courier;">Y</span>.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_create-fakeraid.jpg" alt="Creating a FakeRAID volume" title="Creating a FakeRAID volume" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Creating a RAID volume in Intel's RST software is pretty straightforward.</strong></p> <p>Back on the home screen, you will see a RAID volume, with the status of the disks used in the array changed from “Non-RAID disk” to “Member Disk.” Use the down arrow to select <strong>Exit</strong> to save and exit the software.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u200840/raid0_rst-member-delete.jpg" alt="Intel RST with RAID members" title="Interl RST with RAID members" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>When you return to RST's main screen, you'll see that the drives will have been added as members to the RAID array. You can also remove disks from the array or delete the array altogether.</strong></p> <p>On the next boot, your FakeRAID array will appear as a single volume to the operating system. Additionally, RST will display the status of your RAID disks during the boot process, before the operating system loads. From there, you can partition and format the RAID array as you would any other disk.</p> <p>Setting up RAID 0 is a little more work than just slapping in some hard drives and booting up, but the speed benefits are undeniable.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_set_software_raid_0_windows_and_linux_2015#comments array build it how to set up RAID 0 intel linux ssd windows 8 Features How-Tos Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:50:15 +0000 Alex Campbell 29637 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build It: A Little Devil's Canyon PC http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_little_devils_canyon_rig_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <mce:style><! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <mce:style><! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h3>We outfit the compact Corsair 250D with Intel’s new Core i7-4790K CPU and a dual-rad closed-loop cooler</h3> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Length of Time: 2–4 hours | Level of Difficulty: Intermediate</span></p> <p><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.beauty.jpg" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />The mission is simple: We wanted to take Intel’s Devil’s Canyon CPU as far as it would go in a compact chassis. For those who don’t know what Devil’s Canyon is, it’s Intel’s newest line of Haswell-K CPUs, which are specifically designed to be overclocked. Intel reengineered the thermal interface material (aka paste) and packaging used in Devil’s Canyon to dissipate heat better than last year’s Haswell-K CPUs. We should mention Devil’s Canyon CPUs are technically only supported by a limited number of 8-series mobos, but will work in all new 9-series boards.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Intel’s Haswell CPUs were introduced almost a year ago now, leaving those always on the hunt for the next big thing with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs. Let the thumb-twiddling cease, at least for the moment, as Intel’s new Core i7-4790K aka Devil’s Canyon has been hyped as the second coming of the Celeron 300A. With rumors saying the chip would easily hit 5GHz on air, enthusiasts everywhere are expecting this chip to finally get us to that sweet 5GHz overclock mark that hasn’t been seen since the days of the original Sandy Bridge CPUs. Was the wait worth it? We grabbed a freshly minted Core i7-4790K to answer the question. Could we get our Core i7-4790K to our desired overclock? Read on to find out!</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">Overclocking Goodness</h3> <p class="MsoNormal">We used Corsair's 250D case as the frame for our overclocking escapade. The cube-shaped 250D is one of the few SFF boxes compatible with dual-rad closed-loop coolers. We opted for Enermax’s Liqtech 240 to cover our cooling needs; it’s an impressive cooler and kept our Core i7-4790K at an acceptable 69C under multi-threaded workloads. We then grabbed an ASUS Z97I-PLUS Mini ITX mobo, which sports Intel’s newest Z97 chipset, and despite its diminutive size, supports a plethora of overclocking features. For RAM, we decided to go with a pair of 4GB ADATA DDR3/2400 modules. Although RAM clocks haven’t made huge differences before, using higher-clocked modules with Haswell does aid performance. The GPU duties were covered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780, which is fast, quiet, and runs on the cool side. On the storage front, we opted to use a single Seagate 600-Series 480GB MLC SSD. That’s enough space to live on, so the rig’s hard-drive population is zero. The box has plenty of room for multiple SSDs and HDDs, though. Finally, we supplied the juice through Corsair’s RM 650 PSU, which gives us 650 watts of power and modular cabling.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/benchmark.png" width="450" height="360" /></p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">1. Toss out the odd bay.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">To get the 250d ready for our build, we needed to first remove its ODD bay. To do this, we removed the top panel to expose the case’s innards. Next, we unscrewed the ODD from its perch at the top-front—just four small screws, not a problem. From there, you just have to slide the bay toward the rear a tiny bit and lift it out. We’re not using an ODD in this build, as there’s little use for one in 2014—with a speedy Internet connection and an 8GB fl ash drive, you can do almost everything that an ODD does. Plus, we needed the space to install the full-size cooler.</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">2. Install the CPU and RAM.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.2.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The installation of our CPU and memory here is pretty standard stuff. You’ll fi rst line up the pins of the processor with appropriate ones on the socket and then clamp it into place. There are two notches cut out of the CPU at the top of the die to help guide you. Line up the CPU’s notches with the ones on the socket and then fasten the CPU into place with the mobo-CPU latch. Remember to mind the pins: If you bend the pins on the mobo, you’ll kill it. To install the RAM, we unlatched the RAM slots, then lined up the DIMM’s notches to fit properly into the RAM slot and pushed down gently but firmly on the module until we heard it click into place.</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">3. Install the cooler's block.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.3.jpg" width="629" height="355" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Installing the cooler was similar to most other closed-loop liquid-cooler installations we’ve done. We first mounted our backplate onto the motherboard with screws and rubber washers. Next, we secured the water block to the CPU by fastening it with four mounting screws. Here’s a quick PSA on screw tightening: Always make sure you don’t overtighten the water block when installing it, as you could crack your motherboard if you’re overzealous about it. We generally recommend tightening the screws in an X-pattern, which should make it easier to mount the block evenly onto the CPU and motherboard. The X-pattern should be used whenever you’re installing a heatsink or a closed-loop liquid cooler.</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">4. Install the mobo and radiator.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.4.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Installing the Enermax Liqtech 240 was a bit tricky, to say the least. To get things started, remove the 120mm side case fan. The next step is to install the motherboard into the case, using four motherboard screws. Now comes the hard part, you’ll have to wedge in the Liqtech 240 cooler at a 45-degree angle. Once the radiator is safely inside the case, secure it with eight mounting screws. The cooler’s clearance above the motherboard wound up being less than 1cm, so it’s a very tight fit. We don’t recommend newbie system builders attempt an installation of the Liqtech 240 inside a SFF case, as it may be too frustrating. We actually threw around a few expletives ourselves during the cooler installation, so it was definitely a challenge.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">5. Toss in the GPU.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.5.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The GeForce GTX 780 slid into the 250D with ease. To get started on the installation, unscrew the thumbscrews that hold the video card bracket into place. Once the bracket is free, slide the video card into the PCIe lane. Once in, you’ll need to secure the card in place with its bracket. We like the design of the 250D, as it positions the GPU to exhaust its heat directly out of the chassis. Most cases trap the GPU exhaust heat inside, which can cause thermal issues or disrupt airflow. We should mention that one downside to the 250D is that it only supports two-slot video cards, so if you have a massive three-slot card, it won’t fit in this box. Another thing to be aware of is that extra-long video cards won’t fit into the 250D, either. According to Corsair’s website, the maximum GPU length for a 250D is 11.4 inches.</p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">6. Wire up the system.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.6.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">To install the PSU, we removed the PSU backplate of the case by unscrewing two thumb screws. We then slid the unit into place and screwed it in securely. Next, we wired up the motherboard for power and plugged in the case’s front-panel connectors. Lastly, we wired up the rest of the motherboard connections for front-panel USB 3.0, audio, and finished up by plugging in our fans. The downside to our 250D is that there’s little room for us to hide any of our cabling. In a standard midtower, most of the cabling can easily be routed and concealed. That said, we are impressed with the size of the 250D; we love it’s short height of 11.4 inches. And we can’t really complain about the cable-routing, but hope that some future SFF cases will offer better routing options.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rd_buildit.gutshot.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><em>1.) The Enermax Liqtech 240 cooler comes with two 120mm fans and a ton of cooling capacity. 2.) This Asus motherboard measures just 6.7x6.7 inches, and it’s packed with some high end features. 3.) Corsair’s 250d provides us with a front 140mm fan and (amazingly) will take a good sized liquid cooler. 4.) The GeForce GTX 780 still offers awesome performance while running cool and quiet, and even fits in our case, to boot.</em></p> <h3 class="MsoNormal">Devil’s Canyon Brings the OC Heat -- But Not Enough</h3> <p class="MsoNormal">Frankly, we weren't very blown away with the overclocking performance of the Core i7 4790K. After hearing tales of 5GHz on air using a busted heat sink from a Pentium III, we expected more.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">We were able to get the chip stable at 4.7GHz using 1.35 core voltage, but anything beyond that was BSOD heaven. In November 2013 we tested the Falcon Northwest Tiki, which sported an Intel Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.7GHz, so our 4.7GHz overclock isn’t a spectacular accomplishment. Since that was the limit, we backed it down just a notch at 4.6GHz to try to tame the somewhat loud noise the cooling was making.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Our Devil’s Canyon box beat out our Zero-Point in a few benchmarks, producing wins in ProShow Producer 5.0 and Stitch.EFX, which it did by an average of 18.5 percent. In multi-threaded workloads such as Premiere Pro and X264 HD 5.01, even the ancient Sandy Bridge-E part with six cores could beat out the Devil’s Canyon part.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">We also compared our rig to Digital Storm’s micro-tower Bolt II, which sports a Core i7 4770K overclocked to 4.5GHz. It was pretty much a tie in the CPU tests, but the Titan Black in the Bolt II trounced our GeForce GTX 780 big time. In 3DMark 11 and Batman: Arkham City we took a beating by 25 percent and 54 percent, respectively. We won’t even mention the Falcon Tiki Z reviewed this month, with its dual-GPU Titan Z. Of course, our entire build cost about two-thirds what just the GPU in the Tiki Z sells for, so you might want our Devil’s Canyon rig, after all!</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/benchmarks_2.png" width="550" height="260" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Our goal for this build it was to get a Devil’s Canyon part up to 5GHz, but didn’t achieve this overclocking feat with our rig. Not that anyone with a Core i7-4770K would likely be considering an upgrade, but news fl ash: Don’t bother. If you’ve held onto an Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge part for the past few years, and you’re looking for good time, Devil’s Canyon is a good fit for you. The Core i7-4790K currently has the highest base and turbo boost clock speeds of any i7 desktop part, and it costs the same as a Core i7-4770K, so new builders should rejoice.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><em>This article was taken from the December issue of the mag.&nbsp;</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_little_devils_canyon_rig_2014#comments 4790K Build computer corsair i7 intel pc Rig Features How-Tos Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:05:27 +0000 Chris Zele 29377 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Laptop Backpack http://www.maximumpc.com/we%E2%80%99ve_got_your_back_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We hunt for the best laptop backpack</h3> <p>Let’s face it, laptops can be really expensive, especially the high-end gaming notebooks we recommend. They can also be heavy and a chore to carry around. And yet, to get your money’s worth out of these portable PCs, you’ll have to lug them around with you all the time.</p> <p>But finding the right bag—one that protects your computer while being comfortable to wear—is no easy feat. And it’s not too much to ask that it be somewhat visually appealing, if not downright attractive. You’ve spent your hard-earned money buying a kick-ass laptop and you deserve an equally kick-ass backpack to put it in. So, to help you with your baggage, we searched for the best laptop backpacks that we could find and rounded up seven worthy contenders.</p> <h4>Everki Beacon</h4> <p><strong>Large but in charge</strong></p> <p>Trying to find an AAA-quality backpack that can also fit a large 17-inch gaming notebook can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but Everki’s Beacon is up for the challenge. Its laptop compartment had no problem fitting our monstrous 17-inch Asus ROG G750.</p> <p>This backpack is quite roomy, measuring 20.8x16.9x6.3 inches, and it’s a little on the heavy side at 3.5 pounds, making it more of a travel pack than something you would carry around every day. But because of this bulk, the Beacon offers a lot of protection with its mesh padding, while providing plenty of compartment space, too.</p> <p>In addition to the laptop slot, there’s an even roomier main compartment, which has a zipper for folders, four 3x5-inch pockets, and even a soft-shell bag inside designed to house consoles. In short, there’s plenty of space for whatever you need. Outside of the main compartment is a 3x11-inch easy-access pouch, which is optimal for sunglasses. It also has two small hip compartments on either side of the bag; the left one has a little hole for ear buds, and you can loop the cord through the left strap to get a tangle-free listening experience.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small.jpg" alt="The dashes of orange give the black bag a nice “pop.”" title="Everki Beacon" width="620" height="812" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The dashes of orange give the black bag a nice “pop.”</strong></p> <p>The build quality is impressive, including plenty of rubber padding at the bottom of the bag in case you accidentally drop the pack. The Beacon also comes with a water-resistant tarp that you can use to wrap the bag in case of rain.</p> <p>While the Beacon isn’t light, its pillow-soft straps are extremely comfortable, and it features a stretchy chest strap that takes the pressure off your shoulders. In addition, it has two sturdy handles: one on top of the backpack and another on the back. Considering you can get all of this for $100, it’s one hell of a deal.</p> <p><strong>Everki Beacon</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9ka.jpg" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a href="http://www.everki.com/ " target="_blank">www.everki.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Ful Dean</h4> <p><strong>The budget backpack</strong></p> <p>While expensive backpacks are often nice, we realize that not everyone can afford them, especially if you’ve spent all your dough on a sweet gaming laptop. However, this doesn’t mean you have to resort to tossing your super-nice notebook in your kid’s old cheapo Jansport, which offers little-to-no protection for your gear.</p> <p>If you don’t have a large notebook, don’t need a ton of bells and whistles, and if you’re on a budget, Ful’s $70 Dean backpack may be what you’re looking for. If you don’t have a large notebook, don’t need a ton of bells and whistles, and if you’re on a budget, Ful’s $70 Dean backpack may be what you’re looking for.</p> <p>While Ful says the Dean can fit some 17-inch notebooks, it’s really geared more toward 15-inch and smaller machines. The laptop compartment comfortably fit our fat 14-inch Alienware 14 notebook, but while there’s plenty of padding on the back, we would have liked a little more at the base of the pack, in case you set it down too abruptly. Its main compartment is quite basic, simply offering a 6x8-inch mesh zipper to stow pens and small notepads. On the face of the pack are three smaller, triangular-shaped pockets that zigzag across each other. These diagonal lines and zippers were meant to create an interesting aesthetic, but they look odd and aren’t terribly practical—how many items do you know have (or want) that are triangularly shaped? The pack also has hip compartments on both sides, with one designed for a water bottle. The only other pocket is the 2x4-inch zipper on the right shoulder strap that is ideal for something small, like car keys.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small2.jpg" alt="The Dean gets the job done, but is mostly no-frills. " title="Ful Dean" width="620" height="793" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Dean gets the job done, but is mostly no-frills. </strong></p> <p>Speaking of straps, there’s a chest harness attached, which is greatly appreciated, but the straps in general tended to be a little wider than we would have preferred, and tended to flare out at the sides. We did like the handle atop the pack, however, which feels quite sturdy.</p> <p>Overall, the pack isn’t bad, but for a few dollars more, we recommend going with the SwissGear bag in this roundup.</p> <p><strong>Ful Dean</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$70, <a href="http://www.ful.com/ " target="_blank">www.ful.com </a></strong></p> <h4>SwissGear SA1908 Scansmart</h4> <p><strong>The simple pack</strong></p> <p>Long known for its Swiss army knives, SwissGear has recently been making waves in the backpack scene. But unlike the tool that seems to have everything, the SwissGear SA1908 ScanSmart backpack opts for simplicity. There are no fancy hip harnesses, nor are there a million pockets.</p> <p>One interesting quirk it does have, as its clunky name might suggest, is a “ScanSmart” pocket. This means its laptop compartment has a see-through mesh window, which is supposed to expedite TSA bag checks. From our experience, however, the TSA always wants laptops removed from their bags anyway, so your airport mileage may vary. If that feature doesn’t quite cut it, however, there is another zipper above the ScanSmart pocket that splits completely open like a flat clamshell. This clamshell compartment should be able to fit most 17-inch laptops; unfortunately, it was not able to swallow our beefy Asus ROG G750.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small3_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small3.jpg" alt="There are bottle pockets on either side of the pack." title="SwissGear SA1908 Scansmart" width="620" height="760" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There are bottle pockets on either side of the pack.</strong></p> <p>The main compartment has a dangling pouch for your phone, and it also has a convenient small hole for your ear buds to slip through. This pouch fit our relatively large 5-inch Nexus 5, so it should be able to fit the majority of phones out there. Rounding out the compartments is a small, plain 7.5x10-inch zip. Another neat, if minor, feature is the little loop on the left strap that you can use to carry your sunglasses.</p> <p>In terms of padding, there’s not an exorbitant amount, but it should protect your laptop in most cases. There is a fair amount on the back, however, and it is quite comfortable to wear. There’s even some space between the back padding along the spine, which gives your back a little room to breathe.</p> <p><strong>SwissGear SA1908 ScanSmart</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$73, <a href="http://www.wengerna.com/ " target="_blank">www.wengerna.com</a></strong></p> <h4> <hr /></h4> <h4>Asus ROG Nomad</h4> <p><strong>Built for gamers</strong></p> <p>In conjunction with its massive 17-inch ROG gaming notebooks, Asus has designed the ROG Nomad backpack to be “built for gamers,” or so they claim. While that might sound like marketing hyperbole, the pack lives up to the claim.</p> <p>Everything about the Nomad has been meticulously designed for portable-PC enthusiasts. Its large 20x13.7x7.2-inch size will fit pretty much any 17-inch gaming notebook you throw at it, but what really gears it toward laptop enthusiasts is the dizzying array of specialized compartments. There’s the large main compartment that has designated spots for headphones, camera, keyboard, and power brick. The slightly smaller pocket above the main compartment contains a slit for 3x5-inch index cards, slots for pens to slip into, and there’s even a little HDD carrying case can be taken out. It really has all the trappings that a nerd would need from a backpack. Hell, there’s even a smartphone zipper built into the right shoulder strap, though it won’t fit any phone larger than 4 inches.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small4_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small4.jpg" alt="There’s no Asus branding on the pack itself. " title="Asus ROG Nomad" width="620" height="816" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There’s no Asus branding on the pack itself. </strong></p> <p>The shoulder straps are also quite comfortable. And they’re aided by not only a chest strap, but a waist strap to distribute weight across your entire torso, adding stability to the comfort. In addition, it offers plenty of protection for your gear as well, with plenty of rubber padding at the base of the backpack in case you drop it. And the entire thing is made out of ballistic nylon, chosen for its water-resistant protection.</p> <p>Aesthetically, the pack definitely tries to entice gamers. There’s a “gladiator helmet” design on the pack, which is supposed to look cool, but it’s a little too garish for us. Another gripe we had is that one of the buttons fell off, although it’s merely an aesthetic blemish. Regardless, this is still one hell of a pack.</p> <p><strong>Asus ROG Nomad</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9ka.jpg" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170, <a href="http://www.asus.com" target="_blank">www.asus.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Timbuk2 Uptown</h4> <p><strong>The hipster bag</strong></p> <p>Let’s face it, most gaming laptop backpacks are nerdy-looking. But while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you want to lug your laptop in something more trendy, the Timbuk2’s Uptown Laptop bag’s contrasting grey meshes will make sure you fit in with the hipster crowd (skinny jeans not included).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small5_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small5.jpg" alt="The Uptown’s biggest drawback is that it lacks padding." title="Timbuk2 Uptown" width="620" height="801" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Uptown’s biggest drawback is that it lacks padding.</strong></p> <p>In terms of features, it has the bare essentials. While the pack looks fairly small compared to the others featured here, it actually measures 19.7x11.8x8.7 inches. And while its clamshell laptop compartment, which splits completely open for situations like TSA bag checks, doesn’t fit giant notebooks, its large main compartment fit our massive 17-inch Asus ROG gaming laptop—much to our surprise.</p> <p>Timbuk2’s simple design inluces a smaller secondary compartment with two 3x5-inch index card mesh zips and a relatively small 5x10-inch velcro pocket. Above the main compartment is a smaller 13x8-inch zipper, which has pockets for pens and other small items. Above that is a vertical quick-access slit where you can store small notepads. Other than the bottle holder on the left hip, there really isn’t too much else to this bag, aside from a bottle opener on the right strap, which you and your friends will appreciate when it’s called for.</p> <p>In terms of comfort, there isn’t an exorbitant amount of padding, but it still feels good, partially thanks to a chest strap, which we liked. We would have preferred more padding for the laptop compartment, however, as the Uptown is one of the least protective packs here. Another gripe that we had is that its top handle is not comfortable or easy to use; it’s just flat nylon webbing.</p> <p><strong>Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop TSA-Friendly Backpack</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$119, <a href="http://www.timbuk2.com/ " target="_blank">www.timbuk2.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Urban Xplorer</h4> <p><strong>The European</strong></p> <p>Even though Urban Xplorer’s HalfPack RT was actually designed in California, we still call it the “European backpack” around the office. There’s just something about the odd belt loops, bright burnt-orange (it also comes in black) day-pack-like body, and weird, detachable U-shaped shoulder straps that screams “This is what you carry to go yodeling in the Alps.” It’s clearly trying to cater to the “sophisticated businessman who also has an adventurous side,” but there’s just something awkward about it.</p> <p>While the pack certainly isn’t for everyone, it does have its nice qualities. There’s plenty of cotton/polyester padding everywhere, and bag is covered with a nylon ballistic fabric that is designed to be weatherproof and stain resistant. Another perk is that it has a sweet, sexy brown leather handle.</p> <p>Even though the pack features two belt-style bands to keep it closed, they’re more a novelty, as the flap of the pack can also be opened via two quick-release buckles. When you lift the flap, you’ll find two index card–sized velcro pockets, and a larger 9x12-inch zipper compartment designed to hold pens, glasses, and other stationery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small6_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small6.jpg" alt="You can take off the shoulder straps to turn it into a messenger bag." title="Urban Xplorer" width="620" height="635" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can take off the shoulder straps to turn it into a messenger bag.</strong></p> <p>Arguably, the HalfPack RT’s biggest problem is that despite it being the heaviest pack in the roundup at whopping 4.5 pounds, it’s not very spacious—its main compartment was barely able to house our 14-inch alienware notebook. The pack’s actual laptop compartment could barely fit our svelte 13.3-inch Acer S7 Ultra-book. Also, accessing the main compartment is cumbersome, even with the quick-release buckles, because you have to lift its flap vertically to reach your arm into the bag. When you add in the fact that it’s $200, the Urban Xplorer is simply a tough sell.</p> <p><strong> Urban Xplorer HalfPack RT</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_6.jpg" alt="score:6" title="score:6" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$200, <a href="http://www.xplorerbrand.com/ " target="_blank">www.xplorerbrand.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Ogio Renegade</h4> <p><strong>The macho bag</strong></p> <p>If we had to crown the manliest bag in this roundup, it would have to go to Ogio’s Renegade RSS 17. Hell, even the name “Renegade” implies that it’s pretty badass, and thankfully, it lives up to its moniker.</p> <p>The Renegade isn’t the biggest pack in the roundup but it’s still pretty large, measuring 19.5x14x8 inches. It’s quite rugged and offers plenty of protection with its rigid frame and copious amount of padding. There’s also a nice padded soft-touch neoprene grab handle at the top, and its 600D polyester material feels high quality across the board. It’s very comfy, to boot, and has a chest strap in case you need to lug around heavy gear.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this backpack won’t be able to carry the heaviest of laptops—even though it’s advertised to fit 17-inch notebooks, it couldn’t fit our thin 17-inch iBuypower Battalion, let alone our beefy 17-inch Asus ROG G750. Regardless, you’ll find that the bag has a ton of pockets to play around with, which include a hard-shell sunglass cubby, a spacious main compartment, a tablet compartment, and another smaller pocket with designated slots for mouse, wallet, and pens. In addition, there are two pairs of pockets on the side of the pack and a phone-sized zip behind the Ogio logo. There’s also a small zipper on the left shoulder strap, though measuring 1.5x4.5 inches, it’s much too small for even keys.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small7_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_bags_small7.jpg" alt="The Renegade is rugged and has tons of pockets." title="Ogio Renegade" width="620" height="727" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Renegade is rugged and has tons of pockets.</strong></p> <p>In terms of aesthetics, it’s predominantly black with some silver and red accents, giving it a tough appearance. At $135 street, Ogio is pricing the Renegade in the premium tier, but this bag well deserves inclusion in that class.</p> <p><strong>Ogio Renegade RSS 17</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$135, <a href="http://www.ogio.com/ " target="_blank">www.ogio.com</a></strong></p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>If you’ve combed through all the reviews here, you might have noticed that there is a positive correlation between the largeness of a pack and its score. It’s not that we think that bigger is necessarily better, but the larger packs here just happened to get a little more TLC from their manufacturers. This isn’t to say that the smaller bags in this roundup are worthless. Really, there’s something here for every kind of laptop user: from small to large, from cheap to luxurious, they all have their strengths.</p> <p>Still, if you asked us to design the ultimate laptop backpack for enthusiasts, we would definitely love to be able to combine different elements from all the packs reviewed here. The super pack would have the hip stylings of the Timbuk2 Uptown with all the specialized compartments of the Asus Rog Nomad. We would definitely want to toss in the durability of the Ogio Renegade, with, of course, the same amazing value that the Everki Beacon boasts. That would definitely be the quintessential laptop backpack. Until then, however, we’re still confident that you’ll find something in this roundup that packs the punch you’ve been looking for.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Specifications</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>Everki Beacon</td> <td>Ful Dean</td> <td>SwissGear SA1908 ScanSmart</td> <td>Asus ROG Nomad</td> <td>Timbuk2 Uptown</td> <td>Urban Xplorer HalfPack RT</td> <td>Ogio Renegade RSS 17</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Size H x W x D (inches)</td> <td class="item-dark">20.8 x 16.9 x 6.3</td> <td>18 x 11 x 5</td> <td>18 x 13 x 9</td> <td>20 x 13.7 x 7.2</td> <td>19.7 x 11.8 x 8.7</td> <td>17 x 13.4 x 7</td> <td>19.5 x 14 x 8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight (pounds)</td> <td>3.5</td> <td>2.5</td> <td>2.6</td> <td>3.6</td> <td>2</td> <td>4.5</td> <td>4</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Fits 17-inch notebook</td> <td class="item-dark">Yes</td> <td>Some</td> <td>Some</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>No</td> <td>Some</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Chest strap</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>No</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>Yes</td> <td>No</td> <td>Yes</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Street price</td> <td>$100</td> <td>$70</td> <td>$73</td> <td>$170</td> <td>$119</td> <td>$200</td> <td>$135</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em><br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/we%E2%80%99ve_got_your_back_2015#comments asus rog Bag Best Laptop Backpack everki beacon Gaming notebook pack portable timbuk2 Features Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:36:42 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28755 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Antivirus Software http://www.maximumpc.com/best_antivirus_software_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small1.jpg" alt="Turning on Autopilot mode allows Bitdefender to man the controls without ever having to ask for your input. " title="Bitdefender Internet Security" width="280" height="188" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Which of these 10 AV Contenders deserves a spot on your PC?</h3> <p>It’s entirely possible to run rampant through a minefield without blowing yourself up, but do you really want to risk it? One wrong move or accidental step will have you forever regretting that decision. There are strategies you can employ that will lessen the chance of setting off an explosive, but unless you have a blueprint of the entire landscape, your luck is bound to run out at some point.</p> <p>Surfing the web without antivirus protection is similarly risky. You may think you’re playing it safe by avoiding shady websites and staying away from illegal downloads, but you can’t avoid danger entirely. Even if you do everything right, the security practices of other users and websites are out of your control; should a legitimate website become compromised, it could serve up malware to unsuspecting visitors. Likewise, a family member could unwittingly send you an infected file. While you’re sipping your morning latte singing “Everything is Awesome,” some black-hat teen in Russia is busy selling your stolen info on the underground market. Good luck explaining your situation to all three credit bureaus. In less dramatic fashion, you could simply end up with an infected PC that putters around like a beat-up truck with sugar in the gas tank.</p> <p>The alternative is to supplement your safe computing habits with security software. There are many suites available, so we rounded up 10 of the most popular AV applications—seven that cost money, three that are free—and ran rampant on the web to separate the contenders from the pretenders.</p> <h3>Making the Grade</h3> <h4>Performance Impact and Scan Times</h4> <p>Maybe 100 years from now, installing security software will actually speed up performance. We’re not there yet, so evaluating the performance hit of each AV program still factors into our verdict. To gauge this, we record startup times and how long it takes to transfer large and small files. We also collect scores from PCMark 8 (system) and Peacekeeper (browser). All results are compared to a clean installation with no AV software, which we revert back to in between installing AV programs using Acronis True Image ($50, www.acronis.com). Full system scan times also affect scores.</p> <h4>Annoyance Level</h4> <p>Imagine hiring a bodyguard to follow you around, but instead of warding off muggers, he screams “Danger!” each time you walk past a dark alley. And when real danger does present itself, rather than jump into action, he freezes up until you tell him what to do. We’ve seen some AV programs act like that. AV software should take action on its own when there’s a real threat, and false positives should be kept to a minimum. We also don’t want to be badgered into purchasing additional protection.</p> <h4>Features and Implementation</h4> <p>Seven of the 10 AV programs in this roundup are fleshed-out security suites, which give them an immediate advantage over the three free programs in this category. However, it’s not that cut-and-dried. We’re not adding up bullet points and giving higher scores to the programs with the most features. Instead, we’re on the lookout for features that we’ll actually use, along with how well they’re implemented. For example, a virtual keyboard that dodges potential keyloggers is great for signing into banking sites, but if we have to spend 10 minutes searching for the option in a convoluted menu layout, then we’d rather risk using our hardware keyboard.</p> <h4>Pricing and Value</h4> <p>While full-fledged security suites have an inherent advantage in terms of features, the free security programs own this category. The onus is on the seven other security suites to convince us the additional layers of protection and added amenities are worth paying for when free protection is a mouse click away.</p> <h4>Malware Detection</h4> <p>To ensure we do this category justice, we not only run our collection of tests—visiting infected websites and attempting to load malware samples—we also take into consideration the results of three independent testing labs: Virus Bulletin (<a href="https://www.virusbtn.com/index">www.virusbtn.com</a>), AV-Test (www.av-test.org), and AV-Comparatives (<a href="http://www.av-comparatives.org/">www.av-comparatives.org</a>). Going this route paints a broader picture of protection than we’re able to test on our own.</p> <hr /> <h3>Bitdefender</h3> <h4>Internet Security</h4> <p>Let’s get straight to the point—Bitdefender lays the smackdown on malware like it has a personal score to settle, but like any good hitman, it goes about it without drawing attention to itself. The high level of effectiveness is what makes Bitdefender’s Autopilot mode a feasible option. When engaged—you have the option of turning it on during installation—Bitdefender mans the controls and silently takes out threats as you stumble across the web. There are no pop-ups asking for your permission to take out a target, just lethal protection against menacing malware.</p> <p>Even with Autopilot mode turned off, Bitdefender isn’t bothersome. We actually prefer to leave Autopilot disengaged so that we know when we just stepped on a mine, but either way, Bitdefender offers the same high level of protection. It blocked nearly all of our attempts to sneak malware onto our system, and even when we did manage to download and install a malicious program, Bitdefender detected something was amiss and scrubbed our testbed clean.</p> <p>Our results aren’t unusual. Bitdefender has passed every single VB100 comparative test by Virus Bulletin since August 2010, and in AV-Test.org’s latest report, it scored perfect marks across the board (Protection, Performance, and Usability). Out of nearly more than 19,600 malware samples deemed widespread and prevalent by AV-Test, Bitdefender nabbed them all.</p> <p>Bitdefender’s interface is easy to navigate and somewhat friendly for touch operation, for those who care. We also like that it includes a built-in file shredder, allowing you to permanently delete files. All of this security goodness weighs on the package—it takes up a bit more space than most AV programs, and we sometimes noted longer boots and file-transfer performance. We’re not too harsh on this simply because you’re not likely to notice the impact without a stopwatch.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small.jpg" alt="Turning on Autopilot mode allows Bitdefender to man the controls without ever having to ask for your input. " title="Bitdefender" width="620" height="416" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Turning on Autopilot mode allows Bitdefender to man the controls without ever having to ask for your input. </strong></p> <p><strong>Bitdefender Internet Security</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9ka.jpg" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$70 (1 Year, 3PCs), <a href="http://www.bitdefender.com/ " target="_blank">www.bitdefender.com</a></strong></p> <h3>Kaspersky</h3> <h4>Internet Security 2014&nbsp;</h4> <p><strong>More of the same from a familiar face</strong></p> <p>Having consistency in the AV space can be a double-edged sword. What do we mean by that? Whereas some security programs look and act drastically different each year, Kaspersky seems to have found a formula it’s comfortable with and is sticking with it. That’s great for the things that work well, but it also means the same blemishes go unattended.</p> <p>The user interface looks the same as it did last year and the year before that. If you’re rocking a fancy hybrid laptop with a touchscreen display, you’ll appreciate being able to tap dance your way through the menu system, which features large controls. Getting where you want to go isn’t always intuitive, though the most common actions you’re likely to perform are easily accessible.</p> <p>Kaspersky’s scan engine continues to run down malware like a demolition car, though it sometimes takes a moment to kick into gear. Rather than create a roadblock for dirty files, Kaspersky will often let an infected file reach the desktop before running it over and sending the infected code to the digital graveyard.</p> <p>We found Kaspersky’s detection rate to be nearly on par with what independent third-party testing labs report, though it did let a potentially unwanted program (PUP) lock our mouse cursor into a small box on the desktop. It took a bit of persistence (and Safe Mode) to undo the damage, but we eventually got rid of the offending program. We’d also like Kaspersky to rely less on our input when it finds a threat and take decisive action on its own.</p> <p>Gripes aside, Kaspersky offers effective protection. It also bundles welcome extras like a virtual keyboard to evade keyloggers, a rescue media builder in case things go really wrong, and a vulnerability scanner to see if any programs present a security risk.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small232_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small232.jpg" alt="Kaspersky’s interface is equally suited for mouse and touch controls." title="Norton" width="620" height="470" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Kaspersky’s interface is equally suited for mouse and touch controls.</strong></p> <p><strong>Kaspersky Internet Security 2014</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$80 (1 Year, 3PCs), <a href="http://usa.kaspersky.com/ " target="_blank">usa.kaspersky.com </a></strong></p> <h3>Norton</h3> <h4>Internet Security</h4> <p><strong>Lightweight protection that beats up malware like a heavyweight boxer</strong></p> <p>Symantec dropped the yearly designation for its Norton product line, so instead of Norton Internet Security 2014, it’s now simply Norton Internet Security (NIS). This change doesn’t affect current or future subscriptions—you’re always eligible to download the latest version of NIS as long as your subscription is current.</p> <p>This born-again AV continues to atone for its sinful past. Power users still find this hard to fathom, but ever since Symantec rebuilt NIS from the ground up in 2009, it’s been one of the better security products on the market. It installs in under a minute, is lean on system resources, and pounces on malware like a hungry cat chasing a three legged mouse.</p> <p>We didn’t have as many third-party reports to lean on for NIS this year as we normally do, so we threw some additional infected files of our own into the mix. Anytime we managed to evade the scan engine, NIS’s SONAR technology would spring to action and zap our malware based on whatever suspicious activity it detected (precisely as SONAR is designed to do).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-smalll_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-smalll.jpg" alt="There are a lot of settings for power users to play with, though less-savvy users are better off leaving things alone." title="Norton Internet Security" width="620" height="414" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There are a lot of settings for power users to play with, though less-savvy users are better off leaving things alone.</strong></p> <p>NIS leaves very little room to nitpick. If we were in charge of the program’s development, we’d add a virtual keyboard for logging into sites like banking institutions, and we’d clean up the basement levels of the menu interface. The sleek UI is only skin deep—as you crawl through the options, the menu takes on a different look. It’s also tailored more towards savvy users, which could be a turn-off for some people.</p> <p>In addition to a two-way firewall and intelligent spam controls, Symantec bundles in a deep-scanning utility called Power Eraser for stubborn infections, and a Safe Web scanning app that combs your Facebook feed for malicious links. It’s nice to have these baked in, though they’re both freely available to everyone.</p> <p><strong>Norton Internet Security </strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9ka.jpg" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a href="http://us.norton.com/ " target="_blank">us.norton.com</a></strong></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>Panda</h3> <h4>Internet Security 2014</h4> <p><strong>Trying a little too hard to fit in</strong></p> <p>When you start hanging around a new group of people, you might change your style to blend in with your peers. So it goes with Panda Internet Security 2014 and Windows 8/8.1. Panda didn’t just take a page from Windows 8’s design scheme, it swiped the entire playbook and then gave itself a dramatic makeover. The result is that Panda’s interface is a natural extension of the Modern UI in Windows 8, which bodes well if you’re a fan of the design.</p> <p>Unfortunately, it appears the developers spent more time dressing up Panda and not enough time teaching it tricks. For example, Panda includes a set of parental controls, but they lack even basic scheduling options. What’s even worse is they don’t support Internet Explorer 11, the latest version of IE introduced with Windows 8.1 earlier this year. To be fair, Panda is working on fixing this and it might even be compatible as you’re reading this, but for now, it’s a glaring omission for a security suite that’s trying so hard to fit in.</p> <p>Panda’s lumbering scan engine is also a mixed bag. There’s no sense of urgency in performing a full-system sweep, and not much time is shaved off when running subsequent scans. This is in stark contrast to most other AV programs that skip over files that haven’t changed since the last scan. To Panda’s credit, it caught most of our malware, and it scores well with the labs we check in with. However, we did manage to trip up Panda a few times, though in almost every case, it eventually picked itself up and figured out that something was wrong. One thing that likely helped in these cases is that we enabled Panda’s TruPrevent option. This gives Panda the green light to analyze the behavior of programs and is essential in catching unknown threats that haven’t yet been added to its virus database. Ideally, Panda would enable this option by default.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-smalll_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small1762.jpg" alt="Panda’s resemblance to Windows 8 is uncanny (and intentional)." title="Panda" width="620" height="479" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Panda’s resemblance to Windows 8 is uncanny (and intentional).</strong></p> <p>We like that Panda includes a virtual keyboard, which makes it more difficult (not impossible) for hackers to steal your login information with a keylogger. Panda also includes built-in backup software to automatically back up files to the cloud or local storage on a set schedule—nothing earth-shattering, but a welcome add-on.</p> <p>Overall, Panda does a decent job of standing guard against malware, but there are other suites that do it better.</p> <p><strong>Panda Internet Security 2014</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$70 (3 PCs, 1 Year), <a href="http://www.pandasecurity.com/ " target="_blank">www.pandasecurity.com/ </a></strong></p> <h3>McAfee</h3> <h4>Internet Security 2014</h4> <p><strong>Turning over a new leaf</strong></p> <p>Minus a few missteps here and there, McAfee’s been on the verge of breaking into the ranks of one of the top AV solutions. That may sound like malarkey to old-school PC users who have spent hours uninstalling bundled McAfee software on systems belonging to family and friends, but one of the advantages to running these roundups is we get to see how a program evolves over time. What we’ve witnessed is a transformation from a lumbering and lethargic AV into light-footed security. However, the level of protection hasn’t been up to our standards, until now.</p> <p>We threw potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), Trojans, drive-by downloads, and an assortment of other malware at McAfee. Unlike in years past, we couldn’t sneak anything by McAfee’s on-demand scanner. We checked with a few AV testing labs and are confident that our experience is the norm, not the exception.</p> <p>That isn’t to say that McAfee’s perfect. Pop-ups alert you when something foul is detected, but McAfee does a poor job providing details on the threat. We’d be willing to overlook this, except McAfee makes it a little too easy to bypass its recommended course of action. In our opinion, security software should either be decisive and neutralize a rogue file, or give us enough information to make the proper choice ourselves.</p> <p>McAfee’s interface isn’t sexy, though it is functional and tuned for touch. It’s also a little slow to react at times, such as trying to cancel a scan. It doesn’t affect the entire menu, but there are definitely instances of lag.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-small82_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-small82.jpg" alt="McAfee’s interface won’t win any beauty pageants, but it’s mostly easy to navigate and friendly for touch." title="McAfee " width="620" height="452" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>McAfee’s interface won’t win any beauty pageants, but it’s mostly easy to navigate and friendly for touch.</strong></p> <p>There’s quite a bit included in McAfee’s security suite—a file shredder, network traffic monitor, vulnerability scanner, and miscellaneous tools to help justify the price tag. To the point, this is the best version of McAfee yet, though there’s still room for improvement.</p> <p><strong>McAfee Internet Security 2014</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$80 (3 PCs, 1 Year), <a href="http://home.mcafee.com/ " target="_blank">home.mcafee.com</a></strong></p> <h3>ESET</h3> <h4>Smart Security</h4> <p><strong>An effective antivirus for nerds and newbs alike</strong></p> <p>Sheldon is often seen playing on an Alienware laptop in The Big Bang Theory, and if he has antivirus software on that thing, it’s probably ESET Smart Security. It’s a nerd’s paradise. You could spend an afternoon frolicking through the advanced settings and fine tuning ESET to your liking. On the flipside, there’s nothing forcing you into the deep end—the main window offers access to the most commonly used functions.</p> <p>Underneath it all is a scan engine that takes out malware with extreme prejudice. Our modest collection of foul files never stood a chance, and it didn’t matter how many intentionally wrong turns we took on the web, ESET never stopped watching our six. Our experience jibes with the major testing labs—ESET collects VB100 award from Virus Bulletin like it has an addiction.</p> <p>Like most other modern security software, there was only a negligible performance impact. File transfers took ever-so-slightly longer on our Windows 8 testbed; if you’re rocking an older system, the performance hit might be exacerbated, but overall it’s a fairly lean and efficient AV.</p> <p>ESET includes anti-theft protection. With so many users going mobile these days, this could prove an invaluable tool. Once you report your device stolen, you can track its whereabouts, receive webcam pictures, and send a message to the screen.</p> <p>Another feature that good-hearted geeks will appreciate is being able to send files to ESET. These can be malware samples that the scan engine missed, or false positives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100-small178_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100-small178.jpg" alt="Savvy users will appreciate the wealth of submenus and options at their disposal." title="ESET Smart Security" width="620" height="483" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Savvy users will appreciate the wealth of submenus and options at their disposal.</strong></p> <p>We don’t have a ton to complain about. The interface is due for an overhaul, there’s no time-management option in the parental controls, and the anti-spam feature hasn’t worked with Thunderbird since version 5—boo! These gripes don’t detract from the overall package, though they do stand in the way of a Kick Ass award.</p> <p><strong>ESET Smart Security</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$80 (3 PCs, 1 Year), <a href="http://www.eset.com/ " target="_blank">www.eset.com</a></strong></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>Webroot</h3> <h4>SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus</h4> <p><strong>Reigns light and effective from the cloud</strong></p> <p>Take everything you know about antivirus protection and security suites, roll it into a ball, and flush it down the toilet. Done? Now, let us introduce you to Webroot, which very well might represent the future of security. Webroot works on the assumption that today’s threats come from the Internet, so rather than install a bulky suite and maintain it with product updates and security patches, Webroot works most of its malware fighting mojo from the cloud.</p> <p>There is a small program to install, which takes all of a few seconds. If you choose the custom option, you can have Webroot generate a random name for itself to thwart malware that might try to block known security programs—that’s smart thinking.</p> <p>Once installed, Webroot scans your system, both to look for obvious signs of malware and also to take inventory of what’s installed. From then on, Webroot sits idly by, waiting for malware to make the first move. When it detects a file doing something nefarious, Webroot blocks it from making changes, or rolls back any changes that might have been made when you weren’t connected to the Internet.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-small909_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-small909.jpg" alt="Don’t let the local interface fool you, Webroot works its magic almost entirely from the cloud." title="Webroot" width="620" height="434" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Don’t let the local interface fool you, Webroot works its magic almost entirely from the cloud.</strong></p> <p>What sets Webroot apart from other cloud solutions is that its online infrastructure was purpose-built to be its backbone rather than exist to supplement local definition scans. This allows Webroot to take up very little space, use fewer resources, and still remain effective—it’s essentially a bigger, more robust cloud.</p> <p>Webroot took pole position in full system scan times, though it missed some dirty files that were later detected when we directed it to focus solely on those files. This is the trade-off—Webroot won’t necessarily clean your system of infected files during an initial sweep, but there’s a good chance it will catch them when activated.</p> <p>As a security suite, Webroot lacks parental controls or spam protection, and its outbound firewall serves as a supplement to the built-in firewall in Windows. However, you do get a password manager based on Lastpass, a built-in system optimizer, and a file shredder via right-click context menu. By default, the shredder only bypasses the recycle bin. To truly obliterate a file, you’ll need to change the Secure Erase level to medium (overwrites with three passes) or maximum (seven passes).</p> <p>Webroot is a bit feature-poor for a security suite, but it’s also the cheapest of the paid packages. With a 70-day money back guarantee, what’s to lose?</p> <p><strong>Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$60 (3 PCs, 1 Year), <a href="http://www.webroot.com/ " target="_blank">www.webroot.com</a></strong></p> <h3>AVG</h3> <h4>Antivirus Free 2014</h4> <p><strong>Pro bono protection for the cost of a sales pitch</strong></p> <p>You don’t buy bottled water, you think extended warranties are a waste of money, and you sure as hell aren’t going to pay for security software. Fair enough, we won’t begrudge you any of those choices, but if you opt to install AVG Free for antivirus protection, get ready for a series of sales pitches.</p> <p>Whenever you have cause to fire up AVG’s dashboard, you’ll see a banner ad imploring you to give the full Internet security suite a 30 day test drive. There’s an option to hide the banner, but it’s only temporary—the next time you load the dashboard, it’s there again. AVG also teases freeloaders with locked options that are only available to paid users, such as anti-spam controls and identity alerts. Hey, AVG’s developers have to eat, right?</p> <p>What you do get is above-average malware protection with a surprising amount of configuration options. If you opt for AVG, we recommend spending some time going through the settings to make sure everything aligns with your expectations. For instance, AVG will scan for potentially unwanted programs, but there’s an additional option for enhanced scanning that isn’t checked by default. When enabled, AVG goes a step further by analyzing legitimate apps that might be misused or contain unwanted add-ons like toolbars. And if you’re using an older PC—say, from the XP era—you should enable the “thorough scanning” option to look for older exploits and software flaws that don’t apply to modern systems.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-snll11_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av-snll11.jpg" alt="AVG’s dashboard is littered with options that you can only use when you upgrade to the full-fledged (paid) security suite." title="AVG Antivirus Free 2014" width="620" height="481" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>AVG’s dashboard is littered with options that you can only use when you upgrade to the full-fledged (paid) security suite.</strong></p> <p>AVG caught the majority of our malware samples, though not all of them. This is in line with what AV-Test.org experienced, which rated AVG’s performance a 4.0 out of 6.0. Assuming you’re not spending the majority of your time in the web’s dark alleys, AVG should keep you safe, but there are better options.</p> <p><strong>AVG Antivirus Free 2014</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_6.jpg" alt="score:6" title="score:6" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>free, <a href="http://free.avg.com/ " target="_blank">free.avg.com</a></strong></p> <h3>Avira</h3> <h4>Free Antivirus</h4> <p><strong>A blueprint for free security</strong></p> <p>To say that Avira is popular in the antivirus space is a gross understatement. According to Avira, over 200 million users around the world put their trust in its software. So should you, if you’re looking for free security.</p> <p>Of course, this isn’t a popularity contest, though there are advantages to serving a large number of users. In this case, Avira has a large pool of users to draw information from regarding new and emerging threats, which are then stored in a database in the cloud. Unless you have the unlucky distinction of being the very first out of over 200 million users to stumble onto a brand-new strain of malware, there’s a good chance that whatever evil lurks in the shadows will have already been cataloged.</p> <p>This isn’t just a theory of ours—Avira consistently scores high marks from third-party testing labs. In our own tests, Avira knocked nearly every harmful file unconscious, and in many cases it would follow up detection with a supplementary scan just to make sure no traces were left behind.</p> <p>One thing Avira doesn’t seem to do is skip over unchanged files during subsequent scans. Other AV programs use this technique to reduce scan times, and we’re not sure why Avira doesn’t.</p> <p>Traversing Avira’s menus feels a bit convoluted at first. If you spend enough time poking around, you’ll feel better about your ability to drill down to an advanced option without any missteps, but who wants to spend time studying an AV software’s layout? At least there’s a fair amount to play with.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_smlla911111.jpg" alt="Don’t be fooled by the firewall option in Avira—it’s actually just hooking into the Windows firewall. " title="Avira Free Antivirus" width="620" height="479" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Don’t be fooled by the firewall option in Avira—it’s actually just hooking into the Windows firewall. </strong></p> <p>As with most freebie options, Avira lacks extra features like a two-way firewall, spam controls, and a game mode, which hushes the software when it detects you’re playing a game. Still, this is our top pick for no-cost security.</p> <p><strong>Avira Free Antivirus</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>free, <a href="http://www.avira.com/ " target="_blank">www.avira.com</a></strong></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>Avast</h3> <h4>Free Antivirus</h4> <p><strong>Slightly new look, same reliable protection</strong></p> <p>Like Avira, Avast boasts over 200 million installations on planet Earth—that seems to be the magic number in free AV. That’s to say Avast is no Johnny-come-lately to the PC-protection party, though it does sport a slightly freshened-up interface that’s a bit more streamlined compared to last year’s release. Weaving in and out of advanced settings is mostly straightforward and logical, though it’s a bit odd that Avast buries the update option in the Settings menu.</p> <p>Avast doesn’t scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) by default. Even worse, the option to turn it on lies several menus deep (Settings &gt; Active Protection &gt; File System Shield &gt; Sensitivity). Given that malware often piggybacks on top of seemingly legitimate programs, Avast should at least give users the option of enabling PUP protection during installation.</p> <p>Only one of our malware samples went undetected during a system sweep. Avast also did a good job blocking access to harmful websites, though we were successful in downloading an infected file. This doesn’t concern us too much, considering how many sites and downloads we put these programs through, and for the most part, Avast does well in third-party testing, save for AV-Test.org, which notes a below-average score in detecting zero-day malware attacks.</p> <p>While the free version of Avast doesn’t include amenities like a firewall, spam protection, and parental controls, you do get a rescue media option (USB or CD) along with a software updater that alerts you to outdated programs. This is a thoughtful inclusion, as black-hat hackers are always on the hunt for security holes to sneak malware through.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small1209_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.feat_av_small1209.jpg" alt="Avast recognizes the importance of keeping third-party programs up to date and will let you know which ones have an upgrade available. " title="Avast" width="620" height="442" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Avast recognizes the importance of keeping third-party programs up to date and will let you know which ones have an upgrade available. </strong></p> <p>Most of Avast’s attempts to upsell security are confined to the Store menu, which is where you’ll find add-ons and upgrades available for purchase. We like this tactful approach, as well as Avast in general.</p> <p><strong>Avast Free Antivirus</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>free, <a href="http://www.avast.com/ " target="_blank">www.avast.com</a></strong></p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <h3>What’s the Deal with Adware?</h3> <p>If you’ve ever been called upon by a family member or friend to clean up their PC, then you’ve undoubtedly seen what a horrific mess bundled adware can have on a system. Toolbars and hijacked searches are common aftereffects of what happens when a person doesn’t pay attention to the fine print, and so are random pop-ups and other types of cruft. They’re not only annoying, but they can impact performance, too. With that being the case, have you ever wondered why many antivirus programs leave adware alone?</p> <p>Unfortunately, the onus here falls on the end user. In many cases, they agreed to be bombarded with advertising when they installed a particular program. One way a developer can offer his or her program for free is by bundling in adware, and usually there’s an option to not install the supplementary software. However, it’s not always obvious—we’ve trained ourselves to skip over fine print and boring legalese. Still, it would be unscrupulous for AV programs to remove adware that a user agreed to install in exchange for a free application. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is.</p> <p>Not all types of adware play by the rules, and perhaps you never agreed to install a toolbar, yet there it is. While your AV software might not detect it, there are other security programs that will. It’s a good idea to scan your system every so often with a program like Malwarebytes (Free, <a href="http://clearchannel.com/">www.malwarebytes.org</a>), which won’t interfere with your AV.</p> <h3>Avoid Drive-By Downloads</h3> <p>Careful where you click on the web or you could get run over by a drive-by download. These are the web’s equivalent of a hit-and-run, only they’re entirely intentional and always intended to do you harm. The scary thing about drive-by downloads is that they come at you when you least expect it. You might have a favorite website that you visit every morning, but if that site is compromised by a hacker, that innocent looking ad banner or link to an article could serve up malware and you’d never know it.</p> <p>It’s best to err on the side of caution. Installing antivirus software goes along with smart computing habits as your top two lines of defense, but there are other steps you can take. One of the biggest is to make sure your browser plug-ins are all up to date. An easy way to do this is to use the BrowserCheck tool by Qualys (Free, <a href="https://browsercheck.qualys.com/">http://bit.ly/MPC_Qualys</a>). This handy tool will analyze your browsers and plugins, and then offer to fix any out-of-date software it finds.</p> <p>We also recommend uninstalling or disabling Java if you don’t have a specific need for it. There are still many applications that require Java, so this isn’t an option for everyone, but unless you’re one of those folks, this is just another potential path for malware to enter your system. The same goes for Flash. Firefox users can also install the NoScript add-on, which blocks JavaScript, Java, Flash, Silverlight, and other active content by default.</p> </div> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">AV FEATURES</span></strong></div> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module-content"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 450px; height: 265px;" border="0" cellpadding="0px"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>Bitdefender</td> <td>Kaspersky</td> <td>Norton</td> <td>Panda</td> <td>McAfee</td> <td>Webroot</td> <td>ESET</td> <td>AVG</td> <td>Avira</td> <td>Avast</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Email&nbsp; scanning</td> <td class="item-dark">Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> </tr> <tr> <td>IM scanning</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Virtual Keyboard</td> <td class="item-dark">N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Facebook scanning</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Heuristics</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Firewall</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Spam controls</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Parental Controls</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> <tr> <td>File Shredder</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>Y</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> <td>N</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">AV PERFORMANCE</span></strong></div> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 450px; height: 265px;" border="0" cellpadding="0px"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>Bitdefender</td> <td>Kaspersky</td> <td>Norton</td> <td>Panda</td> <td>McAfee</td> <td>Webroot</td> <td>ESET</td> <td>AVG</td> <td>Avira</td> <td>Avast</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Scan 1 (min:sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">3:42</td> <td>9:00</td> <td>6:40</td> <td>13:55</td> <td>9:45</td> <td>0:42</td> <td>3:48</td> <td>4:33</td> <td>7:53</td> <td>6:20</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Scan 2 (min:sec)</td> <td>0:46</td> <td>1:01</td> <td>2:15</td> <td>12:30</td> <td>6:40</td> <td>0:15</td> <td>0:26</td> <td>0:38</td> <td>7:48</td> <td>5:09</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">PCMark 8</td> <td class="item-dark">3,444</td> <td>3,427</td> <td>3,446</td> <td>3,442</td> <td>3,422</td> <td>3,439</td> <td>3,447</td> <td>3,437</td> <td>3,426</td> <td>3443</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Peacekeeper</td> <td>2,199</td> <td>2,199</td> <td>2,206</td> <td>2,171</td> <td>2,218</td> <td>2,162</td> <td>2,214</td> <td>2,209</td> <td>2,210</td> <td>2,210</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Boot (seconds added)</td> <td>+3</td> <td>+2</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+3</td> <td>+2</td> <td>+3</td> <td>+1.5</td> <td>+2</td> <td>+1</td> <td>+2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3GB File Transfer (seconds added)</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+3</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+0</td> <td>+1</td> <td>+1</td> <td>+1</td> <td>+1</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Our test machine has an Intel 2.8GHz Core i7-930, Asus P6X58D Premium, 4GB Corsair DDR3/1333, Radeon HD 5850, 120GB Kingston SSDNow V300 (OS), Western Digital Red 3TB 7,200rpm (storage), and Windows 8.1 Enterprise</em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/best_antivirus_software_2015#comments av roundup avast AVG avira best antivirus software bitdefender eset kaspersky Mcafee norton Panta webroot Features Fri, 13 Mar 2015 18:57:50 +0000 Paul Lily 28775 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (March 2015): Skyrim by ProtologolusX http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_march_2015_skyrim_protologolusx <!--paging_filter--><h3 style="margin: 0px 0px 5px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 21px; vertical-align: baseline; letter-spacing: -0.05em; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-weight: normal; color: #990000; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><img src="/files/u162579/16376927565_8c3f067c48_o.jpg" alt="Skyrim Graphics Porn Featured Image" title="Skyrim Graphics Porn Featured Image" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">We've got something a bit different planned for the March edition of <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank">Graphics Porn</a></strong>. We've showcased <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_january_2015_other_places" target="_blank">other places</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_august_2014_cheat_technical_officer_jim2point0" target="_blank">individual </a><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_july_2014_showcasing_screenshot_artist_k-putt" target="_blank">artists</a>, but we haven't yet featured an individual game. This month, we're doubling down on Skyrim and bringing you 15 different spectacular shots of the HD </span><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">texture–filled </span> world of what's now a four-year-old game. Most of the screens are of places or environments, but we've also included a few particularly stunning pictures of characters. Props to <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/protologolusx/" target="_blank">ProtologolusX</a> for providing all of the screens!</span></p> <p><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><em><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">Whether you've been following our&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" title="screenshots" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/how_take_great_video_game_screenshots_2014" target="_blank">handy-dandy guide on how to capture beautiful-looking game screens</a>&nbsp;</span>or&nbsp;<span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">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></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_march_2015_skyrim_protologolusx#comments Graphics Porn maximum pc ProtologolusX screenshots Skyrim Features Thu, 12 Mar 2015 23:54:27 +0000 Ben Kim 29496 at http://www.maximumpc.com Pictures and Impressions: Steam Controller and Steam Machine http://www.maximumpc.com/steam_controller_impressions_and_steam_machine_pictures_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A steaming pile of awesome</h3> <p>With all of the talk about VR, and with the <a title="valve vr" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/valve%E2%80%99s_vr_experience_closest_thing_holodeck_we_have_2015" target="_blank">Valve/HTC Vive system</a> in particular taking the spotlight at GDC, it was easy to miss the several big Steam Machine reveals that Valve made at the show.&nbsp;</p> <p>The company invited us into its booth to take a look at the Steam Machines that would be available at launch. In addition, we got up close and personal with its final controller. We also got to see Steam Link, which is a $50 box that will allow you to stream games from your desktop PC to the living room over Wi-Fi.</p> <p>All of this is coming in November. In the meantime, check out our pictures, notes, and impressions from our GDC appointment below!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/steam_controller_impressions_and_steam_machine_pictures_2015#comments alienware ibuypower origin pc pictures steam controller steam machines syber Valve News Features Tue, 10 Mar 2015 20:59:54 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29569 at http://www.maximumpc.com First Look: Logitech G303 Daedalus Apex Performance Edition http://www.maximumpc.com/first_look_logitech_g303_daedalus_apex_performance_edition_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Same compact G302 chassis, but with new and improved sensor</h3> <p>Logitech recently came by the Lab to show off its new premium gaming mouse, the G303 Daedalus Apex. If you’re thinking it looks just like the G302 Daedalus Prime, that’s because it uses the same lightweight and portable body, which weighs 87 grams and measures 11.5x6.5x3.7 cm. Logitech says this is the enthusiast version of the G302, thus the “Performance Edition” moniker.</p> <p>The main feature that allowed the G302 to stand out was that it was originally designed as a MOBA mouse and had a new metal spring tensioning system. This system is guaranteed for at least 20 million clicks, which Logitech says is equivalent to a pro gamer practicing 10 hours a day, every day, for two years. More importantly, however, the spring mechanic eliminates air travel time between the two buttons and activating commands. This ensures a speedy, consistent clicking experience. The G303 maintains that system along with the G302’s five DPI settings, but the Apex also has a few new tricks up its sleeve.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/g303_ctg_orange_72_dpi.jpg" alt="g302" title="g302" width="620" height="620" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Apex features 16.8 million colors.</strong></p> <p>The biggest addition to this Daedalus is the PMW3366 sensor, which Logitech uses in the bigger G502. While it isn’t as fast as its G402 sensor, which uses an optical/gyroscope hybrid solution, which allows it to travel up to 12.5 meters a second, Logitech considers the PMW3366 to be its most accurate sensor. Logitech says this makes it about 2-3 pixels more accurate than the G302, and while the company admits that this isn’t a monumental improvement, says that it should amount to a slightly more responsive and accurate feel for the end user. Logitech also asserts that the sensor mitigates unwanted mouse acceleration and adds zero smoothing. The Apex offers a DPI range between 200-1200. In addition, the sensor is much faster than the G302 before it, going from a cap of 120 inches per second to 300 inches per second. Logitech says this is fast enough for any real-world use and it’s able to achieve this speed via the sensor’s clock tuning ability which also helps prevent degradation of speed over time. This essentially extends the life of the mouse. To top it off, the sensor also features sensor surface tuning, which tunes the mouse’s parameters to match your desk surface for a consistent scrolling experience. All of this on top of a 32-bit ARM processor.</p> <p>Beyond the sensor improvements, Logitech is also jumping on the RGB train (RGB… it’s so hot right now). Some of you have clamored for more color options out of Logitech rather than the company’s default blue hue, and your voices were heard loud and clear. The G302 will feature 16.8 million colors (you can count them all to be sure) and you’ll be able to adjust the brightness or even have the LEDs pulsate, or you could just turn off the fancy lights if they don’t tickle your fancy. Wireless mouse fans may be disappointed to hear that it uses a cable, and a braided one at that, but Logitech says it went out of its way to make the cable more flexible than the average braided solution, so that that you get the freedom of a plastic wire with the durability of a braided solution.</p> <p>You’ll be able to get your hands on the G302 today for $70. Expect a full review of it sometime in the near future.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/first_look_logitech_g303_daedalus_apex_performance_edition_2015#comments Daedalus Apex gaming mouse Logitech G303 maximum pc mice Performance Edition News Features Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:15:57 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29471 at http://www.maximumpc.com Valve’s VR Experience Is the Closest Thing to the HoloDeck We Have http://www.maximumpc.com/valve%E2%80%99s_vr_experience_closest_thing_holodeck_we_have_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>The best VR experience yet</h3> <p>I just walked out of Valve’s SteamVR demo and can say that it is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, &nbsp;including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment.</p> <p>Built in partnership with HTC, and named the "Vive," the head-mounted display (HMD) here uses two 1080x1200-resolution displays, one for each eye. The display uses a low-persistence, global display solution that turns the display on and off at the same time.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/steamvr_vive.jpg" width="620" height="388" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We couldn't take any pictures of our VR experience but here's what the headset looks like.</strong></p> <p>One Valve rep tells me the FOV is around 100 degrees, while another tells me its 110, I'm more inclined to believe the former. While I could still see pixels and there is, of course, room for improvement, it’s hardly distracting and is definitely sharp enough for consumer release and, dare I say, slightly sharper or roughly on par with Oculus’s Crescent Bay prototype.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the Oculus Rift HMD, the Vive will be a wired experience, and like Crescent Bay, it supports a 90Hz refresh rate. Beyond that however, there are are some key differences that set the two HMDs apart. Instead of relying on a single external camera for head tracking, Valve set up two “lighthouses” on two pillars and placed them on opposite ends of the room I was in (the room measured roughly 25x25 feet). The lighthouses simply need to be powered (they don’t need to be plugged into your PC) and they emit red lasers that assist the Vive in mapping out your room so you can get 360-degree room scale tracking, which allows you to map out your walkable space when you're in VR. The lighthouses also help to identify where Valve’s new VR controllers are.</p> <p>The controllers are very similar to the Razer Hydra controllers, except will be wireless (the prototype unit we tested used a wired solution, but we hear there are working wireless ones out there in the wild). The controllers have sensors that work in conjunction with the lighthouses to allow the HMD to detect where they are in your virtual reality experience. Assuming you're holding these sticks, this essentially means you can see your hands in the game. The controllers have a circular touchpad on the front that is roughly one inch in diameter, &nbsp;a trigger button on the back that essentially allows you to grab things (a la crab hands), and long buttons on the side of the stick that you can squeeze (think stress ball). The controls were nearly 1:1 and are definitely the best VR controllers out there, even better than Sixense’s similar Stem VR system. There are also a bunch of little cameras on the front of the headset that leverage the position of the lighthouses to provide positional tracking, which not only lets you lean into objects but to walk around as well. One big problem with VR pertains to response time; I tried shaking my head as fast as I could to see if I could experience any judder and am glad to report that I experienced no such lag. It felt completely smooth and natural.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/dsc03154.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This is more or less how our VR room was set up.</strong></p> <p>While the headset that I used didn't have integrated audio, Valve told me that the consumer version will come with an integrated solution that users will be able to detach, in case they want to user their own high-end audio headset.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, on to the really fun part: the demos! I tried roughly half a dozen demos during my session with Valve. The first placed me into a white room with a bunch of virtual posters of the demos I was about to experience. What was immediately pretty weird was that I saw the controllers in VR floating my way. It was the Valve rep handing the controllers to me. As soon as I held both controllers in my hand, I immediately felt at home. I quickly came to the realization that the pinpoint precision and accuracy of being able to move my hands on a 1:1 basis was the big piece of the VR puzzle that I had been missing this whole time. I began the demo by using my left hand to press down on the "play" button in front of me. After I did that, I started to see a bunch of little white pillars appearing all around me. These pillars would shift up and down, and there were hundreds of them surrounding me. While it’s a very simple demo, it felt extremely polished and certainly gave me a sense of presence.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next demo was called Blue and it took me to the bottom of the ocean atop an old sunken ship. The point of this demo is to show off three-dimensional depth. I should mention that I'm nearsighted and wear glasses, and prior to starting this demo was prepared to take them off, but was advised that the HMD “renders to infinity” (I assume this means it renders as far as the human eye can see) and that I could and should leave them on. With my prescription glasses on underneath the HMD, I looked straight up and it seemed like I was half a mile away from the surface. Faintly in the distance above, I could see the sun’s rays piercing the top of the ocean. I really felt submerged (and this is coming from a licensed scuba diver). Another interesting element of this demo is that barriers of my real physical space were taken into account within the game. Essentially, the walkable area on the deck of the ship represented the walkable area of space within the room. Valve says these experiences will dynamically shift depending on one’s real space constraints, though our rep didn’t elaborate on how. Considering that all the VR experiences I’ve tried so far have been designed for the seated experience, I still couldn't help but not trust these markers. Valve says some games will draw boundary lines on the ground or even render virtual walls once you get close to the bounds of the walkable area. Even with these walls in place, however, I just felt safer taking a small step here and there. In this demo, I saw a bunch of fish and manta rays swim around me and it felt extremely polished and immersive. This felt much more real than the Ocean Rift demo on the DK2. But the real kicker came when a giant blue whale swam by the ship and looked at me. I felt like I was on an alien planet, and basically just kept on smiling and nodding my head as if to suggest to myself, “Yep, you guys have done it.”</p> <p>The next demo took me to a virtual kitchen and presented me with some ingredients on a virtual counter top and placed recipe instructions on a wall. It asked me to pick up tomatoes from the table in front of me and then walk over to the right to place them in a pot. I then had to find a mushroom, but didn’t see it on the table, so I walked over to the fridge on my left and opened it. The missing mushroom was in there, so I picked it up and walked across the kitchen to place it in the pot. From there, I dinged the bell sitting atop a table to signal that dinner was ready. It was a cartoony demo in the style of Surgeon Simulator and the graphics weren’t very intensive, but it just felt like a complete joy. Ringing the bell, picking up the various objects, opening the fridge... it all felt incredibly natural and instinctive. It didn't feel like I was experiencing a demo, but instead accomplishing real work.</p> <p>The next experience was called Tilt Brush. It leveraged the full range of motion that Valve’s VR controller provided and allowed me to use my hands to paint floating 3D art in the air. The way it works is that your right hand presents options for you to change your brush type and brush color. You can then use your left hand to point and select what sort of brush you want. You’re not relegated to just paint, but can paint with fire, stars, ice particles, and more. So there I was, painting fiery three-dimensional Christmas trees. From here, I could walk around my floating artwork and admire it from all angles. I suggested that Valve should allow users to 3D print their works of art, similar to what Microsoft is doing with its HoloLens and HoloStudio software suite.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FOjgjP9tgsE" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>I interview CloudHead Games and discuss their upcoming VR game The Gallery: Six Elements</strong></p> <p>The next demo I tried was called The Gallery: Six Elements, which is a full-fledged game being designed by Canadian developer CloudHead Games (check out my in-depth interview with the developers in the video above). This demo started me off in an ancient fantasy-style elevator in dark mines, think the Mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings. I could walk around this elevator and pick up Skyrim-like helmets and nuts and bolts. Off in the distance was a giant rock monster, like something you’d see in God of War. The rock monster talked and seemed friendly enough. Me? I was mainly focused on pulling levers, using my hands to swat at dangling cables, and picking up little bolts throughout the room and inspecting them with a childlike wonderment. The rock monster continued rambling on, so I decided to see if I could chuck a bolt at him, and it worked! Throwing objects felt extremely natural. Eventually, the elevator started falling apart, and walls started falling down all around me. The elevator eventually took me to the top, where I could see an expansive fantasy-like vista with a bridge just in front of me. The rock monster asked me to follow him, and that’s where the demo ended. I wanted more of it, and suffice it to say, I'm eagerly awaiting the game's release.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZKK74Wh-J10" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here's a short video snippet of Valve's Portal VR demo.</strong></p> <p>The last demo was a pleasant surprise and was developed by Valve itself. It took me to a laboratory within Aperture Labs where I was greeted with narration provided by the opening narrator from the original Portal. The narrator asked me to perform various tasks in the lab, which included opening drawers along a wall. I encountered a bug, however, where I couldn’t pull out one of the drawers and the demo had to be reset (a downside to showing off pre-release hardware and software, I’m afraid.) Once the demo booted up again, I was able to pull the drawers out. One of the drawers contained a piece of rotted cake (the cake is real and I have seen it!). Another drawer contained a bunch of little cartoon stick figures working inside a tiny office. The narrator said that because I had looked at them, I was now their god. The drawer then closed and the narrator jokingly suggested that the tiny little community inside would be incinerated. It wouldn’t be Portal without a little Valve humor. Eventually the narrator asked me to walk to the other end of the lab and hold down a latch. Doing so opened up a garage-like door and out came Atlas, one of the robots from Portal 2. He came stumbling out and looked really sick. The narrator asked me to pull Atlas's face off, and out popped his robotic guts right in front of me. The narrator then said I needed to fix the robot and quickly jabbered a bunch of nonsensical technical instructions and gave me a quick destruction timer. Eventually, Atlas pulled himself together and the walls started collapsing, revealing more of the underbelly of Aperture Labs. Atlas then falls out of the room and after he falls, none other than a giant Glados comes rolling around. She started spouting off about me as she looked at me, and the demo ended.&nbsp;</p> <p>Compared to other VR solutions, Valve is at the top of the heap. Its headset is sharp, offers a great sense of depth, has excellent tracking, allows you to walk around, didn't make me motion sick, and comes with an excellent VR controller that works well. In addition, all of the demos looked excellent and polished. Valve says a dev kit should be released by the fall, and the consumer release should be coming at the end of the year. If I do have one concern about the Valve/HTC solution, however, it pertains to price. All of this sounds expensive, but I might just sell my own legs for this if it meant I could get virtual ones.&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/valve%E2%80%99s_vr_experience_closest_thing_holodeck_we_have_2015#comments GDC 2015 htc Review steamvr Valve virtual reality vive vr News Features Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:43:41 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29542 at http://www.maximumpc.com AMD Announces LiquidVR SDK (GDC 2015) http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_announces_liquidvr_sdk_gdc_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/dsc03051.jpg" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />We interview AMD Graphics CTO&nbsp;Raja Koudari about the company's VR initiative</h3> <p>Providing presence inside a virtual reality headset, or trying to make you feel like you are somewhere you aren’t, is a difficult challenge for developers. AMD is trying to help VR headset maker like Oculus VR and other head-mounted display (HMD) manufacturers better solve that issue with its newly announced LiquidVR SDK.&nbsp;</p> <p>A big VR obstacle in the way of achieving presence pertains to latency. Minimizing motion-to-photon latency, i.e., having the image properly update as you move your head around, is critical to achieving presence. It also helps you keep your lunch down. Another challenge is that VR can be extremely taxing on hardware. Because VR has to render two separate images for both eyes, this essentially cuts your framerate in half, as your system has to render the scene twice. In addition, VR experiences demand a high resolution to avoid screen-door effects and a high framerate/refresh rate for user comfort. All of this amounts to a ton of challenges. With LiquidVR, AMD aims to help developers solve latency, comfort, and compatibility issues.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vjn-df18suI" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Check out our interview with AMD CTO of Graphics&nbsp;Raja Koudari above.</strong></p> <p>AMD is pushing four pillars to topple these challenges. The first of these is what the company refers to as “latest data latch.” Essentially, what this does is use the GPU to provide the HMD the latest possible image data when rendering to the display. When old data is sent to the headset, users get the feeling of judder when the image is outdated.</p> <p>AMD calls its next pillar “Async shaders for VR.” This allows for asynchronous time warp and essentially predicts the next pixels to be rendered based on head movement/trajectory. AMD says this will also help minimize latency, stuttering, and judder.</p> <p>The third pillar pertains to CrossFire. With dual-GPU setups (this includes Nvidia cards at the time of this writing), users should expect optimizations for throughput (that is raw power), but dual-GPU setups are not currently optimized for latency, which is vital for good VR experiences. As a matter of fact, according to Oculus VR, dual-GPU setups currently hurt VR experiences in this regard. With LiquidVR, not only will AMD cards be optimized for VR, but in a dual-card setup, each GPU can be used to render the feed for each eye.&nbsp;</p> <p>AMD calls its fourth pillar, “Direct to Display” rendering. This is a rendering technique that enables direct front buffer rendering to the headset, without having to go through Windows first. It will also be platform-agnostic and able to work with a variety of HMDs, not just the Oculus Rift.</p> <p>AMD acknowledges VR has a tough road ahead, but thinks VR is the next frontier of computing and wants to accelerate the process. The company outlined several uses for VR headsets that include: education, medical, big data visualization, training/simulation, entertainment, gaming, virtual-social world, and remote presence.</p> <p>The company is currently in talks with several HMD manufacturers, and time will tell if AMD’s tools will help and be adopted or will just be another cog in this ever-fragmenting world of VR.</p> <p>What do you think of AMD’s VR initiative? Let us know in the comments below.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_announces_liquidvr_sdk_gdc_2015#comments amd GDC 2015 liquidvr nvidia oculus rift virtual reality News Features Wed, 04 Mar 2015 01:25:59 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29530 at http://www.maximumpc.com GDC 2015: What to Expect http://www.maximumpc.com/gdc_2015_what_expect <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/tf2_oculus_trio-970-80.jpg" alt="GDC 2015" title="GDC 2015" width="250" height="140" style="float: right;" />VR is going to be big</h3> <p>The <a title="GDC" href="http://www.gdconf.com/" target="_blank">Game Developers Conference</a> is taking place just around the corner between March 2-6 and we’ll be in San Francisco covering it. There will, of course, be a bunch of game discussions and demos as usual, but we wanted to approach it from a hardware/PC perspective. Having said that, this year is going to be an interesting show for hardware with <a title="valve gdc" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/valve_demo_steamvr_and_new_living_room_devices_gdc_2015" target="_blank">Valve</a> finally pushing the Steam Machines again along with its VR system. On that notion, expect Valve and VR to be the talks of the show. Seriously, guys, this is going to be the year of VR.</p> <p>Below are our predictions for what you’ll see at GDC 2015. Let us know what games or hardware you’re most excited to see in the comments below!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/gdc_2015_what_expect#comments controller game developers conference GDC 2015 microsoft Steam Valve virtual reality vr windows 10 News Features Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:58:46 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29487 at http://www.maximumpc.com It's OK to Buy Pre-built (Column) http://www.maximumpc.com/its_ok_buy_pre-built_column_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/genesis-white-angle-left.jpg" width="250" height="250" style="float: right;" />Stop the PC shaming</h3> <p>I built my first PC when I was 12 and believe that if you have any love for the platform, you should learn how to build one yourself. Having said that, however, I realize that not everyone has the time or patience to learn how to build a rig (even though it’s really not hard to do). I’ve been doing a lot of research lately, as I’ve picked up the system reviews beat for <a title="maximum pc" href="maximumpc.com" target="_blank">Maximum PC</a>, and notice that there’s a negative stigma against people who buy pre-built machines. “Just build it yourself,” these judgmental commenters say. As much as I want everyone to know how to put together their PCs, I’d rather them buy pre-built PCs if it might be their only entrance into our awesome clubhouse. In essence, I think it’s OK to buy pre-built.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, I’m not talking about your grandfather’s old Dell or HP towers here. Yuck, am I right? But boutique system builders have come a long way. One argument you hear against buying pre-builts is that it’s cheaper to build your own PC, and in many cases this is definitely true. It might cost you a little bit of time, but financially, it can add up. This isn’t always the case, however. I recently reviewed <a title="syber vapor" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_pc_syber_vapor_review_2015" target="_blank">CyberPower PC’s Syber Vapor</a>; the little Mini-ITX box is equipped with a <a title="980 review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 980</a> and an i7-4790K CPU and retails for $1,638. While that doesn’t sound cheap, when we tried to replicate the build ourselves using prices from Newegg, the tab came out to $1,807. That means you’re saving nearly $170 buying pre-built. In addition, you’re getting CyberPower PC’s one-year warranty. A lot of these vendors can get away with this via buying power. Consider it the Costco method of computer shopping.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/cyberpower_pc-2_0.jpg" alt="syber vapor" title="syber vapor" width="620" height="367" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>CyberPower PC's high-end Vapor SKU is cheaper than its individual components.</strong></p> <p>Speaking of which, warranty and customer service can be a big factor, especially for the newbie PC buyer. I’ve built several gaming rigs for friends by cobbling together spare parts and whatnot, but I’ve also been approached by friends who depend on computers to make a living, like full-time jobs editing video. My gut reaction is to direct them to vendors like iBuyPower and CyberPower because these companies put together machines for pretty cheap and have solid one-year warranties. As much as I like building PCs for friends, dealing with their support calls (especially if it pertains to their livelihoods) is not something that I want to have to contend with.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moving on, there are certain awesome form factors that you can’t build into even if you want to. Take, for instance, <a title="alienware alpha" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/alienware_alpha_review2015" target="_blank">Alienware’s Alpha</a>. While the PC has its issues, at 4.5 pounds, the computer is little larger than an Xbox 360 controller and works great as a living room PC that’s easy to take over to a friend’s house. Seriously, the Alienware Alpha and its 10-foot UI can do wonders for PC gaming in the living room, and that’s not something you can duplicate exactly.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u154082/alienware_steam.jpg" width="620" height="413" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Alienware Alpha is a super portable living room/gaming PC.</strong></p> <p>And if you want to build into beautiful chassis like <a title="aventum 3" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/ces_2015_spying_digital_storms_stunning_aventum_3_pc_video" target="_blank">Digital Storm’s Aventum III</a> or Origin PC’s <a title="millenium genesis" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/origin_pc_genesis_overview_video_2014" target="_blank">Millenium Genesis</a>, you can’t, as those system vendors design their cases just for their PCs. And let me tell you, if you haven’t seen them up close with their awesome lights and custom loop coolers, I’ll tell ya, they are things of beauty. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I certainly couldn’t machine and build PCs that beautiful myself. In addition, these system vendors take the time to overclock the internal components and spend hundreds of hours running vigorous tests to make sure they run stable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dI7sc32DEbs" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Aventum 3 is a beautiful pre-built PC that most people can't build.</strong></p> <p>Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should all buy pre-built PCs. I know I’ll be building PCs until the day I die, but in my humble opinion, if someone wants to buy a pre-built PC, they have their reasons, and in this day and age, there are plenty of good reasons to buy pre-built. Hopefully, they’ll spend the time to upgrade their pre-built PC over time, and take it upon themselves to build their next one. After all, didn’t most of us DIYers start off with a pre-built?</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/its_ok_buy_pre-built_column_2015#comments alienware Build a PC buy computer cyberpower Digital Storm DIY ibuypower maximum pc origin pc prebuilt Features Wed, 25 Feb 2015 20:20:11 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29463 at http://www.maximumpc.com In-Game Graphics Settings Explained http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_dictionary_game_graphics_settings_explained_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/arma3_textures_ultra.jpg" alt="Arma3" title="Arma3" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />A guide to interpreting game settings</span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">PC gamers have been fiddling with graphics settings since the dawn of time, but it takes a special kind of know-how to understand what each of those settings actually does. It doesn’t help that there aren’t any standard naming conventions, which means that options like "model" and "object" quality are usually one and the same. To help clarify, we’ve rooted out what all of the most common graphics settings actually do.</span></p> <p>Keep in mind that the names of settings can vary between games, so use your best judgment before making too many changes. For those who aren’t interested in fiddling around with sliders, you should stick to utilities like Nvidia’s <a href="Nvidia’s GeForce Experience" target="_blank">GeForce Experience</a>, which optimize the gameplay experience for you.</p> <h3>Anti-Aliasing&nbsp;</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/untitled.jpg" alt="Anti-aliasing" title="Anti-aliasing" width="432" height="249" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a href="http://www.geforce.com/whats-new/guides/aa-af-guide#2" target="_blank">Nvidia</a>’s demonstration of anti-aliasing.</strong></p> <p>Anti-aliasing, or "AA," is a setting that most gamers are probably familiar with. Although there are different forms of anti-aliasing, they all attempt to smooth over the jagged edges of objects—or "jaggies" as they’re affectionately called. These visual artifacts are a consequence of the very nature of presenting an image on a screen. Individual pixels are assigned colors, and these combinations of colors—rendered as individual objects—have jagged edges. Anti-aliasing creates what our eyes perceive as a smooth line in their place.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://i.imgur.com/qDB4ynL.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u162579/output_i0egut.gif" alt="Gif" title="Gif" width="600" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>It's hard to see in this smaller resolution, but the edges of the car and the gun have noticeably jagged edges if you use CTRL + middle mouse scroll up to zoom in after clicking the image to enlargen.</strong></p> <p>The concept itself is easy to understand, but appreciating the different forms of anti-aliasing is a bit more complicated. <a href="http://www.geforce.com/whats-new/guides/aa-af-guide#2" target="_blank">Nvidia</a> breaks it down into two major types: supersampling and multisampling. The simplest method, supersampling (FSAA), involves rendering the scene at oversized dimensions. With a native resolution of 1920x1080, four samples would mean that the GPU renders the scene at 3840x2160 before bringing it back down to its original size. Multisampling (MSAA) is a bit different in that it samples groups of adjacent pixels together instead of individually. This saves precious processing power, but sacrifices minor details in exchange for better performance.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a resource-intensive setting that is most important at lower resolutions. As the number of pixels—and with it, the resolution—increases, the jagged edges of objects become less obvious. In fact, applying excessive anti-aliasing to higher resolutions can have a catastrophic effect on performance because of the multiplicative nature of anti-aliasing—rendering a 3840x2160 scene is hard enough without supersampling it to 7680x4320 or higher.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Anisotropic Filtering</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://i.imgur.com/IPzOz4B.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u162579/output_pmzqt4.gif" alt="Gif" title="Gif" width="600" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Notice the lack of track marks on the ground to the right in the image with bilinear anistropic filtering.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Anisotropic filtering is anti-aliasing’s little brother. While AA smooths out jagged edges, anisotropic filtering adds detail to what would otherwise be blurry, faraway objects. To save resources, distant objects are rendered with lower-resolution textures; these less-detailed surfaces can eventually become blurry when viewed at an angle.&nbsp;</p> <p>Texture filtering solves this problem by raising the level of detail in faraway textures to an adequate level. Basic, isotropic filtering uses a square pattern that isn’t appropriate for fixed perspectives. Anisotropic filtering steps in to use rectangular or trapezoidal patterns to improve textures.</p> <p>Just like anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering can be resource-intensive, so this is a setting you’ll want to pay particular attention to. Raising the setting from values like 1x or 2x increases the detail in distant textures and thus uses more processing power.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Texture Quality</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><a href="http://i.imgur.com/jdEAvpo.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u162579/output_10364c_0.gif" alt="Arma3 Textures" title="Arma3 Textures" width="600" /></a></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><strong>The change in this picture is pretty drastic with thicker grass and a vastly improved facade on the building.</strong></span></p> <p>Texture quality is a hugely important setting because almost all of the objects and models visible in game are textured. Think of it as a sort of virtual wallpaper that gives otherwise featureless objects a more familiar face—grass, snow, walls, etc. Lower-resolution textures look blurry and lack detail. Increasing the texture quality will drastically improve the look of any game. Unlike model quality, raising texture quality relies more on VRAM than it does on your GPU's processing power. &nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Lighting Quality</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><a href="http://i.imgur.com/YHW0hb5.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u162579/output_smztko.gif" alt="Battlefield 4" title="Battlefield 4" width="600" /></a></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The difference between the ultra and low lighting is pretty drastic, with ultra effects being smoother and more realistic.</strong></p> <p>Adjusting the lighting quality setting affects the number of light sources and their effects on the environment. It’s an incredibly complicated topic. Fortunately, raising or lowering lighting quality usually has a fairly obvious effect on the game. Low settings usually reduce light to basic points and can cause weird reflections (see the Battlefield 4 screenshot above). Unfortunately, raising lighting quality has a drastic effect on performance because of the complex calculations that take place behind the scene to realistically light the scene.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Shadow Quality</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><a href="http://i.imgur.com/goA4v2D.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u162579/output_blqwvy.gif" alt="Watch Dogs " title="Watch Dogs Graphical Analysis: Stock vs Worse Mod Take 2" width="600" /></a></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><strong>The shadows in this scene aren't particularly complex, but the shift from low to ultra adds more detailed shadows to objects in the distance.</strong></span></p> <p>This setting is fairly self-explanatory. Adjust it to control the quality of rendered shadows. Going from on to off has an obvious effect although not all games support completely disabling shadows. Moving between levels of shadow has a more subtle effect, with shadows disappearing from smaller objects in the distance. The edges of shadows become smoother and less pronounced as you approach "High" or "Ultra" levels. Increased shadow quality also means that the shadows will better resemble the detailed shape of the object casting the shadow. These effects are fairly expensive (taxing) because of the inherent relationship between light and shadows—the placement and size of each shadow has to be calculated.</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Vertical Synchronization (VSync)</span></h3> <p>Vsync is a holdover from the era of CRT monitors, but it’s still sometimes necessary for LCD monitors. To put it simply, vsync synchronizes your monitor and your graphics card to eliminate tearing effects. Without it, your video card is free to render frames as soon as it’s able, which means that it might very well be presenting a scene that hasn’t yet been fully updated on your screen. This tearing—imagine a photo literally torn in half and reattached slightly askew—usually happens when your frame rate far exceeds the refresh rate of your monitor. Unless you’ve got a particularly capable monitor, your refresh rate is probably capped at 60Hz, which means that you'd ideally want a constant 60 frames per second.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, vsync isn’t without its downsides. Particularly astute gamers might notice a bit of added latency while moving the mouse cursor or entering keyboard commands. There’s also the performance cost associated with synchronization, which means that if you’re barely averaging 60 frames a second, you’ll probably be just fine keeping vsync off.</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Learn More</span></h3> <p>We'll be adding more explanations to this guide over time. In the meantime, there are a wealth of resources available for people interested in diving deeper into the world of computer graphics. Head on over to <a href="http://www.tweakguides.com" target="_blank">Tweakguides.com</a>&nbsp;(especially their <a href="http://www.tweakguides.com/Graphics_1.html" target="_blank">Gamer's Graphics &amp; Display Settings Guide</a>) or check out the folks over at <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc" target="_blank">r/buildapc</a>&nbsp;who&nbsp;have created a pretty comprehensive <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/wiki/gamesettingsguide" target="_blank">game settings guide</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Which settings do you usually turn on and off? Tell us in the comments!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_dictionary_game_graphics_settings_explained_2014#comments anti-aliasing Graphics dictionary graphics setting in-game graphics settings Features Mon, 23 Feb 2015 21:53:39 +0000 Ben Kim 28264 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (February 2015): Space Engine, Skyrim, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and More http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_february_2015_space_engine_skyrim_dragon_age_inquisition_and_more_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3 style="margin: 0px 0px 5px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 21px; vertical-align: baseline; letter-spacing: -0.05em; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-weight: normal; color: #990000; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><img src="/files/u162579/16299201755_f5f489d8a4_k.jpg" alt="Need for Speed" title="Need for Speed" width="250" height="105" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>We're celebrating February with a gallery full of amazing screenshots. As always we've got a few obligatory Minecraft and Skyrim screens, but we've also got shots from newer games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Ultraworld. Some supremely helpful folks over at <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/gamerporn" target="_blank">/r/GamerPorn</a> have again volunteered their work for this month's edition of <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank"><strong>Graphics Porn</strong></a>.</p> <p><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><em><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">Whether you've been following our&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" title="screenshots" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/how_take_great_video_game_screenshots_2014" target="_blank">handy-dandy guide on how to capture beautiful-looking game screens</a>&nbsp;</span>or&nbsp;<span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">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></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_february_2015_space_engine_skyrim_dragon_age_inquisition_and_more_2015#comments Dragon Age: Inquisition features Gaming Graphics Porn screenshots Skyrim Space Engine Features Fri, 20 Feb 2015 20:34:15 +0000 Ben Kim 29323 at http://www.maximumpc.com