Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

What is the Hardware Leaderboard

What is a Leaderboard?  If you have to ask you really haven't clicked on enough of the tabs at the top of PC Perspective!  The Leaderboard consists of four different systems, each with a price target and are updated monthly.   They start with the ~$500 budget system which is for general family or dorm usage but not for heavy gaming usage, though it can certainly handle many online games without issue.  The Mid Range machine can be yours for around $1000 and packs enough power under the hood to handle productivity software and can give a console a run for its money when gaming.  Things start getting more serious when you look at the High End machine, even while keeping the price around $1500 you start to see serious performance that will show you why PC Gaming is still far more popular than some would have you believe.  Finally is the Dream Machine which doesn't have a specific price cap but is limited by a certain amount of common sense; you can slap four GPUs in the system but you really will not be getting a great return on your investment as the performance scaling does not continue to increase at a linear pace.

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You may notice several components missing from the HWLB and there is a reason for that.  Enclosures are a very personal choice for system builders and no ones desires are exactly the same.  Dremel owners with a good imagination want a case that is easily moddable while pet owners want washable filters on their systems.  Some may want a giant white case while others an unobtrusive and quiet enclosure and who can tell where you prefer your front panel connectors to be but you?  Cooling solutions are again a personal choice, do you plan on getting the biggest chunk of metal you can find with three 140mm fans strapped to it or were you thinking of using watercooling, either a self contained CPU cooler or a custom built cooling loop that incorporates multiple components?  The same applies to monitors with some gamers preferring to sacrifice colour quality and viewing angle for the refresh rates of a TN display while others have a need to pick up a professional quality display at over $1000 for when they are working.  Size is always personal; just how big can you fit in your place?  (Editor's note: we did include a couple of case recommendations in the build guide summary tables, in case you are interested though.)

So continue on to see the components that make up the current four builds of the Hardware Leaderboard.  Once you have all your components you can reference Ryan's videos covering the installation of the parts into the case of your choice as well as installing your OS and Steam so you can get right to gaming and surfing.

Jump straight to the Low End System Build Guide!!

A fresh new season of system recommendations

Subject: Systems | November 25, 2013 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: DIY, system build

It is once again time for The Tech Report to refresh their recommended system builds.  This is a perfect time to do it as we have recently seen the new generation of GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA.  Gamers looking to build a machine from scratch or to complete a partial upgrade can utilize these recommendations in addition to our HWLB.  Make sure to also check out the new mobile sidekicks section to get an idea of other hardware you might want to pick up as well.

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"We've updated our four staple builds to account for all of the latest hardware releases, including the arrival of new graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Build your own Pi in the sky; Raspberry flavoured clouds

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2013 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, arkOS, cloud, DIY

Over at MAKE:Blog is an interesting little project for those looking for ideas on what to do with your Raspberry Pi.  Using arkOS, a lightweight Linux-based operating system specifically designed for hosting applications you can build your own private cloud without a huge investment of money.  Once you have the basics running, installing Jacob Cook's open-source Genesis application provides you a web based interface for running all your apps.  If you are relatively familiar with Linux and Raspberry it shouldn't take you that long to be fully functional. 

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"Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Cook is on a mission to help you create your own small piece of cloud on the internet, freeing you from other providers for services like file storage and sharing, web hosting, e-mail, calendars, music, and photos."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: MAKE:Blog

Are you still lapping your heatsinks?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 4, 2013 - 04:14 PM |
Tagged: lapping, heatsink, DIY

Back in the ancient past of aircooling, when heatsinks did not weigh a kilogram and 120mm fans were a novelty item and not the standard many enthusiasts practiced the art of lapping.  With a water tray and automotive grade sandpaper of increasingly fine grit you could not only flatten the base of the heatsink, something that was all too necessary for some models, you could also acheive a mirror finish which helped your heat paste spread evenly.  Today you do not hear much talk of lapping either heatsinks nor the integrated heatspreader on CPUs and SPCR decided to test if it remains a good practice.  Check out the difference a proper lapping job still makes, though keep in mind lapping the IHS on your CPU will void the warranty and could weaken its structure.

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Not what you want to see!

"Lapping the CPU in a heatsink test platform is probably a controversial move that's bound to provoke reactions. Funny thing is, it was done a year ago, and photos of the CPU showing the copper top exposed by the lapping have been featured in many of our reviews. Yet, not a single comment. This article goes through the problems, investigations and explorations that led us to lap our Core i7-965 Extreme test CPU, and analyzes the results and implications."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Learn about infrared communications and maybe have a bit of fun too

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2013 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: reverse engineering, IR sensor, hack, DIY, arduino

You can buy the USB Infrared Toy v2 from Dangerous Prototypes and get right to turning cheaply made IR devices off and on but you would miss out on a chance to build one yourself.  If you follow the links from Slashdot you will get a quick tutorial on how to determine the oscillation frequency of a broadcaster by looking at the components of the circuit and how to use an Arduino UNO to create your own.  If you are already familiar with this type of project consider teaching someone who needs their fear of electronic devices reduced through understanding how these magic boxes work.

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"Cheap home alarms, door opening systems and wireless mains switches can be bypassed with low-cost and home-made devices that can replicate their infrared signals. Fixed-code radio frequency systems could be attacked using a $20 'toy', or using basic DIY componentry."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Make a DIY USB audio DAC in a day

Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2013 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: usb audio, ti, DIY, burr-brown

Perfect for a beginner electronics project or just a way for someone with experience to quickly put together a working audio DAC this project that Hack a Day linked to will give you seriously decent sound.  While the components are all labelled Texas Instruments they are in fact from Burr-Brown as TI purchased the maker of high end DACs a long time ago.  The PCM1794A is a 132dB SNR 24-bit 192kHz DAC which outperforms the DAC found in many stereos and the OPA4134 OpAmp is nothing to sneer at either.  Unless you can etch your own boards you will have to order one and wait a bit before putting this project together but it sounds like it will be work it

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"The on-board +3.3V and -5V voltages are generated by inductor-less power supplies. As [Jan-Erik] mentions in his write-up, the ‘high-end’ was put between single quotes because the PCB is single sided and uses through hole passive components. The board was designed using Kicad, etched by himself and put in a machined enclosure. All the production files can be downloaded from his website so you may produce it within a day."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Beat SAD with a new system build

Subject: Systems | February 13, 2013 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report has updated their System Guide for February and added in a new SFF build as well as instructional videos on building a PC for those just joining the enthusiast crowd.  The four price points that they aim for are $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000 and range from an EconoBox for basic usage up to the Double Stuff workstation and of course the new Mighty Mite system.  Head on over to see what they've assembled and feel free to contrast it with our own Hardware Leaderboard.

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"In the latest edition of the TR System Guide, we've tweaked our usual builds to incorporate newer components and price changes, making our recommended systems better than ever. We've also included a small-form-factor gaming build priced just under $1,000."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

If you aren't whitening your case, it is yellowing ...

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 31, 2013 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: Retr0bright, DIY, ultraviolet, crest

Back in the ancient days of computing before cases came in all colours of the rainbow, we made due with a standard creamy white colour, which over time became a shade of yellow usually associated with Bingo halls or greasy spoon diners.  While white or cream coloured cases have gone out of style, there are still systems which are housed in nasty yellow stained plastic cases and Hardware Secrets can tell you how to whiten them to the colour TV commercials would have you believe your teeth should be.  The trick is called Retr0bright and uses both a hydrogen peroxide bath and UV lighting to restore cases to a more appealing white.  The process isn't perfect, make sure you read their caveats before beginning your project.

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"Plastic parts of older computers become yellow or brown over time, so you end up with a computer that looks yellow or brown instead of white or gray. In this tutorial, we will show you how to restore old plastic parts to their original color by using a homemade peroxide-based solution called Retr0bright."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Buzz bugging you buddy? Hack your speakers and get rid of it for good

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, corsair sp2200, DIY, hack

Some people you know might refer to your favourite music as noise, but you know better; what is worse than that is when you can hear noise in your music.  The annoying intermittent buzz/crackle coming out of your speakers is something a lot of us have experienced and it has a wide variety of sources, from bad cables to electronic noise effecting the signal sent from your onboard audio to defects in your speakers ... and many more reasons.  At Hack a Day is a good solution to rid yourself of noise that is caused by the speakers, this guide is specifically aimed at the Corsair SP2200s but could be applied to a wide range of speakers.  Follow along with this step by step process to use the headset amp as a pre-amp and clean up your music.

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"[Michael Chen] liked the sound he was getting out of these Corsair SP2200 computer speakers, with one big exception. They were giving off some unpleasant crackling sounds. He figured this might be as easy as replacing a faulty potentiometer, but soon found out the fix was going to be more complicated than that. All said and done he ended up reworking the design of the speakers’ amplifier board."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Hack a Day

A little DIY hard drive unbricking

Subject: Storage | July 30, 2012 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, repair, DIY, bricked

While this trick will not work on all bricked HDDs, if you have a Seagate 7200.11 HDD that is failing because it is convinced it is always in a busy state then you should check out this story on Hack a Day.  While the initial step of detaching the circuit board and blocking some connections with piece of cardstock can be handled with easy, it will take some expertise to use an Arduino or serial-TTL converter to issue commands to the HDD controller.  It is a good thing that there is a tutorial to walk you through the steps to unbrick your HDD, besides in the worst case scenario your HDD will still be a brick so it is worth a shot.

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"Hard drive firmware is about the last place you want to find a bug. But that turned out to be the problem with the Seagate HDD which he was using in a RAID array. It stopped working completely, and he later found out the firmware has a bug that makes the drive think it’s permanently in a busy state. There’s a firmware upgrade available, but you have to apply it before the problem shows its face, otherwise you’re out of luck. Some searching led him to a hardware fix for the problem."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Hack a Day