AMD’s new Thuban hexa-core CPUs come out swinging with prices that belie their size
If we’ve learned anything from years of watching action movies: You never, ever count out the underdog. Such is the case with perennial underdog AMD.
Bloodied, beaten, and bruised by months and months of Intel chips that outpaced its parts, AMD isn’t giving up. Instead, it’s hitting back with its own hexa-core CPUs and doing everything just short of yelling yippie ki-yay!
And now for the shocker: These hexa-core CPUs are affordable. Hell, one of the parts is practically budget-priced. Intel’s high-flying hexa-core Core i7-980X is $1,000. Contrast that with AMD’s new 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 1090T at $295. Want more? The 2.8GHz Phenom II X6 1055T costs $200. Yes, $200 for a hexa-core processor. So yippie kay-yay mother frakker, ineed!
Want even more good news? AMD’s new chip will be backward compatible with the vast sea of AM3, and even older AM2+, motherboards out there. We’re quite glad to hear this, because at one point the company told us it planned to jettison DDR2 support, which would have cut off the AM2+ folks. Fortunately, the company changed its mind and both new chips include DDR3 and DDR2 support.
Just like with those Hollywood action movies, this story wouldn’t be complete without an element of suspense: Are AMD’s Phenom II X6 processors capable of whopping Intel’s similarly priced quad-cores, or even its $1,000 wonder, the Core i7-980X? To find out, you’re going to have to read on.
Some of my favorite kinds of freeware apps to find (and install) are the ones that build new functionality into the Windows operating system. I'm running Windows 7 right now, but even this latest version of Microsoft's OS has substantial room for third-party improvements.
It's not difficult to find free or open-source apps to boost the common interactions one has with one's operating system. The tough part is in the classification: I'm really not sure how to best lump this week's applications together, save for the fact that they're all awesome ways to enhance Windows with new and useful features. And I'm not talking about super-complex, command-line scripts or what-have-you. No, these apps are all super-easy to use-if you even see them at all, given that most will modify some form of your Windows OS without needing any further interaction past the installation screen.
Anyway, if you can think of a better way to classify this week's Freeware Files other than, "Apps that Make Windows Rock," I'm all ears. Otherwise, click the jump and get ready to take your operating system to new places!
After installing a new OS, most people just jump right in and start driving it through all their favorite applications and games. Makes sense, right? The operating system, after all, should be a background player in the computing experience—a means to an end, with the end being web surfing, content editing, and wanton destruction in the first-person shooter of one’s choice.
The problem, however, is that most people, even a lot of self-described power users, never take the time to really tune the new OS, exploring its menus and setting up the interface for the fastest, most convenient operation based on personal preferences. And as operating systems offer more and more user controls, it’s the curious, performance-minded enthusiast who has the most to gain from tuning an OS to his or her liking.
It’s been about six months since Windows 7 hit the market, so we figure most of our readers have made their upgrades. For those who’ve made that jump, we present a bottle of our favorite Windows 7 tips, each designed to help you extract the very last bits of convenience and GUI-navigating performance from your own personal dream machine. And if you haven’t yet upgraded to Win7, we trust you will after reading this article, as its core features—let alone its actual Lab-benchmarked performance—kicks Vista and XP ass.
We close out our tuning session with a tip designed to supercharge the process of installing the OS. By loading Windows 7 onto a USB key, and making that key a bootable drive, you can do an end-run around slow optical-drive technology and install your OS in (pardon the pun) a flash.
It’s time to get started. Park your computer, but don’t shut down. This is one PC tune-up that can only be done with your engine running.
It's hard to deny the power of Google Docs, especially if you don't have the cash (or the wherewithal) to shell out for Microsoft Office. Sure, you could grab OpenOffice.org, but you would trade away the ability to edit your documents from any Internet-equipped location-one of Google Doc's important, Cloud-based features... as well as its ability to allow multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. You just can't get this kind of stuff in an offline word processor!
Of course, that's not to say that you can't use Google Docs offline. Nor are applications like Microsoft Word completely removed from the Internet-there's Microsoft Office Live for that, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, the point of this Freeware Files is not to confuse you in feature-lists or semantics. I'm here to show you just how easy it is to set up your system to use both offline and online word processing tools. Provided you're ready to jump into the wide world of Google Docs, all of the freeware and open-source applications listed below will do much to help integrate online editing and storage into your traditional offline type-type-typing.
Once upon a time, the typical computer virus was annoying, and even a little destructive, but nowhere near as dangerous as what computer users face today. The stakes are much higher now, and if you’re not careful or haven’t taken the proper precautions, you’re a sitting duck for hackers to steal your identity and sell your private information to the highest underground bidder. Imagine waking up to find your bank account drained or your credit destroyed. And lest you think we’re exaggerating, consider that most U.S. military personnel aren’t even allowed to tote USB thumb drives and other removable storage devices anymore because of the potential harm of a virus outbreak.
The solution to all this is to not be caught with your virtual pants around your ankles, and lucky for us, antivirus vendors have stepped up their game with increasingly robust all-in-one security suites. In fact, unlike other technology categories, the field of AV continues to expand rather than consolidate, with an overwhelming number of apps promising protection and unique features. That’s where we come in.
To help you sift through the cruft, we’re going to revisit the latest versions of the antivirus apps that showed the most promise (or have been granted a mulligan) from last year’s roundup (January 2009), and we’ll pit them against five of the most reader-requested antivirus suites we haven’t yet reviewed. You’ll notice we’ve narrowed our focus to only two freebie apps this time around (Avira, last year’s champ, and Microsoft Security Essentials, Redmond’s highly anticipated replacement to Windows Live OneCare), so if you do decide to shell out for paid software, you’ll have a wider variety of suites to compare. If the app you’re interested in isn’t included here, let us know and be on the lookout for individual reviews in future issues.
Adobes Photoshop has been a staple for graphic designers and photographers for over 20 years. Its newest incarnation, CS5, is loaded with over 250 new features that set it apart and beyond its previous counterparts. We were lucky enough to snag a copy of Adobe's beta product before release, and we’re happy to report that CS5 is a huge leap forward. Before our official review (which will be ready when Adobe finally announces an official release date in May), we’ve decided to go over some of our favorite new implementations, and how these advancements may change the way you look at graphic design and photography going forward.
Alright, Adobe Creative Suite 5, here's the deal: I really, really want to put my hands on all the neat features and general awesomeness you offer. That's not an admission of a fanboy, it's a gentle acknowledgment that this is the industry-leading suite of software for those that dabble with multimedia across a variety of formats.
That said, not all of us have a stock portfolio to dump off in an effort to raise the funds to purchase said Creative Suite. And this is the weekly Freeware Files column after all. Which leads us to a grand proposition: Can one recreate the best of Adobe's CS5 with freeware and open-source applications?
PDFs. Why do we use PDFs? It's a question I've asked myself time and time again during the following scenarios: my default PDF reader crashing my browser whenever I erroneously click on a link to the blasted extension, an image- or page-packed PDF consuming all of the system resources on my work machine, and while I'm spending extra time to convert a perfectly likable file (.doc) into a new format that's compatible with even more people. At least, I think that's the reason.
But really, though, why do we use PDFs? Perhaps it's the wrong question I should be asking, however. Sad to say, PDFs are here to stay. And I must confess, filling out a PDF form has a certain elegance to it (and built-in digital signature support) that you just can't find in a standard text file or Word document (or OpenOffice.org document).
So instead of asking ourselves how we can rid the world of PDFs, we should really be thinking about the various ways we can improve our interactions with PDF files. That's where this week's Freeware Files comes into play. I'm going to show you five freeware or open-source apps that'll hopefully ease the burden you face when you're trying to manipulate this quirky file format. As well, I'll show you a few more features and tricks you can use to turn your own PDF routines into nothing short of a master class.
It’s all about control—and when you set your DSLR to capture images in the JPEG format, you’re giving up a whole mess of control. Sure, those images may look pretty good, but your final JPEG output never accurately reflects what your camera sensor actually sees, regardless of how well it converts data into the final picture.
A digital camera captures data on an electronic sensor. At its lowest level, this data is known as the raw file. It’s sensor data at its purist, virtually free of modifications and any digital conversions. All the sensor does is catch photons on millions of receptors and write the data to files. That data is literally raw—and DSLRs and some high-end point-and-shoot cameras give you access to this data in order to manipulate your photos with tremendous control.
Don’t like the ISO setting? Tweak it! White balance doesn’t seem right? Correct it! Editing raw files lets you work directly with pure sensor data, making decisions about exposure, shutter speed, fill light, and more, all after the image has been actually shot.
It seems obvious, right? The more stuff you have, the bigger the box you need to put it in. And in computer-land, you have options ranging from tiny micro-ATX cases the size of a hardback book to enormous full-tower cases into which you could cram every computer part you’ve ever owned. But not everybody needs or wants a full-tower case. Medium-size cases, or mid-towers, take up less space, weigh less, are more portable, and (hopefully) cost less than their full-tower brethren. What’s more, features that were once exclusive to full-tower cases, like dust filters, toolless construction, and CPU cutouts, are now finding their way into mid-size chassis—and not always accompanied by price increases. Indeed, just because you have two 5970 videocards and want to water-cool your CPU, it doesn’t mean you have to go with a full-tower anymore; some mid-towers have radiator mount points and room for your beefiest cards.
We have certain criteria for testing any computer chassis, and no case is exempt. Cases gain points for build quality, ease of installation, toolless mounting—but only if it’s sturdy!—stock-cooling ability, cable-routing options, and extra features like support for water-cooling installs, space for extra-long videocards, filtered intakes, and SSD brackets. Bonus points are earned for style and going above-and-beyond the expected. Points are deducted for thoughtless design flaws, poor build quality, bad cooling performance, lack of room for essential parts, and general suckitude. We don’t automatically add or subtract points for LEDs or other aesthetic flourishes, though tasteful use is appreciated.
This month, Maximum PC tests five of the newest and hottest mid-tower cases out there, from budget to luxe, steel to aluminum, tiny to nearly full-tower-size. These enclosures have their differences, but some of the similarities are surprising. All the cases in this roundup, for example, have CPU backplate cutouts in the motherboard tray (a first), and all have very similar front-panel connections. From the small and sub-$100 Zalman Z7 Plus to the big, beautiful, expensive Silverstone Fortress FT02, Maximum PC is, shall we say, on the case.