No doubt you’re familiar with the Universal Serial Bus – we ranked it as our top PC innovation of all time. But what do you know about the next version of this ubiquitous interface? USB 2.0 (otherwise known as USB Hi-Speed) boosted the original 12Mbps data rate to 480Mmb/s over eight years ago, and now USB 3.0 (dubbed USB Superspeed) is set to multiply that bandwidth tenfold. The USB Implementers Forum (led by Intel) released the USB 3.0 spec to hardware partners last week after some reported disputes with AMD and Nvidia (who, afraid Intel would have a jump start in incorporating the tech in chipsets, threatened to develop their own USB standard). But how does this affect you? We dug up some new information about USB 3.0, got our hands on the new connectors, and even took a look inside the new cables.
Click through for the five reasons why we’re excited about USB 3.0
Another Maximum PC exclusive! We got first hands-on with HP's new Elitebook 2730p notebook, which features a swiveling 12.1-inch screen (1280x800 native resolution) that turns it into a tablet PC. Additional features on this rugged business notebook: 2MP webcam, 95% full-size QWERTY keyboard with HP dura key coating (spill and smudge-resistant, expresscard slot, and HP's business card OCR reader software. In addition to a newly improved slot for the tablet pen (it won't accidentally fall out anymore), the notebook also brings back the highly requested jog dial.
The torrent of business laptop announcements continue. Earlier this week, we took a look at the new Lenono Thinkpad W700 and HP Elitebook 8730w 17” mobile workstations announcements, and now Dell is making itself heard with a completely revamped Latitude Business notebook lineup. We attended the Dell Mobility press conference event in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art to check out the new laptops, which are infused with some very interesting technologies: 19-hour battery life and an always-on Linux-based OS frontend.
Click through for more saucy details, our hands-on impressions, and of course, high res photos!
Technological trends may come and go, but every once in awhile they turn out to be more than just temporary fads. Consider that many of today's gamers weren't even born yet in the Atari 2600's heyday, yet 30 years later gaming consoles have become so popular that there exists an entire generation of FPS junkies who actually prefer lining up a headshot with a gamepad instead of using a keyboard and mouse. And speaking of videogames, let's not forget the 3D revolution sparked by the now defunct 3DFX (moment of silence).
More than just fun and games, recognizing lasting fads can prove lucrative for companies and upstarts who ride the hype, but it's not always easy predicting where PCs are headed. If we were to look back 10 years from now, what would we say were most influential technologies of the time? No need to hop into your time machine, because with the help of Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory company, we answer that question right now.
Hit the jump to see which of today's technologies are at the pinnacle of their hype cycle.
Not to be outshone by Lenovo’s recently announced W700 uber laptop, HP has launched a new Elitebook business notebook line, anchored by another 17” stunner, the 8730w mobile workstation. This seven and a half pound powerhouse, like the W700, is packed with the new Intel Quad-core mobile CPU and next-gen Nvidia Quadro FX 3700 GPU (with 1GB of video memory). And even though it doesn’t have a built-in Wacom tablet or color calibrator, it differentiates itself from the Lenovo with an incredible DreamColor display. The Elitebook line also sports several new innovations that cater to the business crowd. We might not be the target user base, but with so much technology crammed into the device, we couldn’t resist checking it out.
Click through for our hands-on impressions and a high res photo gallery!
When we first walked into our meeting with Lenovo last week, we thought it was an oversized mockup. Sure, it looked like a ThinkPad. But it was huge! We're used to small, slim, no-nonsense ThinkPads; we were unprepared for this. Who would want a 17" ThinkPad?
Once we took a closer look at the just-announced W700, though, we got our answer: We want one. Maybe it's the integrated Wacom digitizer. Or the onboard HueyPro color calibrator. Or maybe we like the idea of a 640GB RAID array in a laptop. Or the 1GB of dedicated graphics memory. This is a big, powerful system, aimed at digital content professionals: photographers, videographers, animators, CAD/CAM engineers, and the like.
Looking closely at the specs, we can see that Lenovo’s not pulling any punches. The W700 will be the first notebook to ship with Intel’s not-so-secret Core 2 Extreme mobile quad-core CPU (officially launching at next week’s Intel Developer’s Conference), and the first with Nvidia’s just-announced Quadro FX3700M GPU, which has 1GB of video memory (Lenovo claims internal testing yielded over 10,000 in 3DMark06). Oh, and they’ll also put in up to 8GB of DDR3 memory.
Click though for more spec details, our impressions, and a ton of photos
When Windows Vista launched back in January 2007, the 64-bit edition was clearly not ready for primetime. The driver and compatibility issues that mired the early days of the OS were even worse on the 64-bit side, and for most users Vista x64 was completely crippled or in some cases, wouldn’t install at all. Hardware manufacturers struggled to release stable device drivers but because 32-bit and 64-bit editions both required radically different drivers, Vista x64 just wasn’t a priority. Coming up on two years later, 32-bit Vista’s issues seem to have calmed down, but what about Vista x64? Well according to Microsoft, usage of the niche OS is on the rise, but is it finally ready for prime time?
Click the jump to learn all about Vista 64 and what you need to know before you consider switching.
Here’s the second part of our exclusive QuakeCon interview with John Carmack. In the first part of our conversation, Carmack discussed his hopes for Quake Live and the id Software’s new gaming direction in Rage. This time around, he gets more into the heady technical stuff with his thoughts on Nvidia’s CUDA, physics accelerators, general purpose computing, and ATI’s rumored Fusion technology. Here’s a snippet:
John Carmack – I was well known as not being a supporter of the PhysX accelerators. It’s always felt like a gimmicky plan with people setting up a company to be acquired. For years, the tack has been what do you do with any time Intel delivers something more with processors and more cores? It’s never really proven out right and there’re a lot of reasons for it.
For one thing you can’t scale AI and physics in general with your gameplay, while with graphics, you could scale. Without scaling, you can’t design a game that requires fancy AI and then turn off the fancy AI for the low end systems because practically that’s not possible. Similarly for physics, if it’s anything other than eye candy, you also can’t scale. If the building is going to fall down you need to know whether you’re going to be able to get past it on the high end or the low end.
John Carmack may be the face of id Software, but he’s definitely not the only person working on Rage or the next Doom. We spoke with Robert Duffy, id’s Programming Director, and Matt Hooper, Rage’s Lead Designer, about their upcoming shooter. The conversation delves into topics ranging from art design to multiplayer modes, and touches on the challenges of developing on both console and PC hardware. Here’s a snippet:
MaxPC: With the combination of driving and fps gameplay, what’s fun and exciting that we should look forward to that we haven’t seen before in games? Matt Hooper: The thing you haven’t seen is really the mix. We’re still id software and we’re still making this intense, action shooter game. Those moment to moment, finely crafted action sequences – running around with the coolest weapons and shooting guys – that’s still there. We invented that and we’re still going to do that really well. Just around the office everyone likes a lot of cool games. What we did was pull in these different elements that don’t detract from the action but add this little bit of flavor, and the vehicles are a part of that. The vehicles are almost an extension of your FPS avatar – you’re “running” around with a vehicle. It has armor on it, it carries a cool weapon, you fire that weapon, and the other car blows up in a cool satisfying explosion. It’s not as far removed as you would probably initially think. It all feels really good together.
It’s the worst kept secret in the industry: Intel’s next-generation Penryn killer, codenamed Nehalem is just around the corner. We’ve been seeing leaked benchmarks based on early silicon for months, and Nehalem’s Wikipedia page is already packed with unconfirmed specifications. All indications – and this is with more optimizations to come, mind you – is that Nehalem may be a bad mother worthy of having Isaac Hayes pound out a theme song for it.
OK, we get it. It’s going to be fast, but just how difficult is it to build a Nehalem rig? What are the catches? Will the new motherboard and socket require some silly new BTX form factor? To find out, we convinced one of our hardware contacts (who’ll remain unnamed) to let us into its lab so we could finally get our hands on the new chip. There, we were provided with the desktop version of Nehalem – called Bloomfield – and an Intel D58XSO “Smackover” board.
Read on to see how we built the Nehalem rig, and what surprises we encountered along the way!