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An Upgrade Project

When NVIDIA started talking to us about the new GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card, one of the key points they emphasized was the potential use for this first-generation Maxwell GPU to be used in the upgrade process of smaller form factor or OEM PCs. Without the need for an external power connector, the GTX 750 Ti provided a clear performance delta from integrated graphics with minimal cost and minimal power consumption, so the story went.

Eager to put this theory to the test, we decided to put together a project looking at the upgrade potential of off the shelf OEM computers purchased locally.  A quick trip down the road to Best Buy revealed a PC sales section that was dominated by laptops and all-in-ones, but with quite a few "tower" style desktop computers available as well.  We purchased three different machines, each at a different price point, and with different primary processor configurations.

The lucky winners included a Gateway DX4885, an ASUS M11BB, and a Lenovo H520.

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Continue reading An Upgrade Story: Can the GTX 750 Ti Convert OEMs PCs to Gaming PCs?

Going from Kentsfield to Haswell, can you see the difference?

Subject: Systems | August 9, 2013 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: q6600, i7-4770k, upgrade

Haswell has not been recieved with screams of joy from enthusiasts as we appreciate the power savings but are honestly more interested in MOAR POWER!  As an upgrade from Ivy Bridge there are only a few benefits but what about updating from an old Q6600 on an X38 motherboard?  That is what Legit Reviews just did, moving to a Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H and i7-4770K and as an upgrade it is more than impressive; everything from gaming to the productivity of the system skyrocketed as you can see below.  If you are still running a Q6600 on your main rig it looks like saving your pennies would be a very good idea.

cinebench_cpu.jpg

more impressive benchmarks if you follow the link

"We all love doing computer upgrades, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves if a full system upgrade is worth it or necessary. There are times that you may only gain a small percentage of a performance boost, where there are other times that you gain significant increases. Today I am going to compare my original Intel Kentsfield CPU and X38 motherboard to a shiny new Haswell CPU and Z87 motherboard."

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Pricing of Retail Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro SKUs Revealed

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2012 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: windows media center, Windows 8 Pro, windows 8, upgrade, pricing, microsoft

The official release of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system is later this month on the 26th. Previously, Microsoft had announced promotional pricing for online upgrade versions, but retail pricing was unknown. Now, we are starting to see pricing for boxed editions of the OS that are available for pre-order from various retailers.

 

Image credit: The Verge.

The boxed editions will come with install media in the form of a DVD, but the in place upgrade pack and online promo deals will not come with any media. In that case, you will need to download an .ISO file from Microsoft's Digital River website. The pack that many home theater PC enthusiasts will want is the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Pack that will upgrade a base Windows 8 install to Windows 8 Pro with Windows Media Center. Unfortunately, we do not yet know how much the base Windows 8 Upgrade SKU will cost – only that the full System Builder (OEM) edition will be $99 at retail. Depending on the price of the add-on pack with WMC, it may be better to go with the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $39.99 (promo until January 31, 2013) and buy the add-on separately. It's difficult to say either way since we don't know what the final prices for the add-on will be.

Windows 8 SKU Media Pricing Pricing after Promo
Windows 8 Pro Upgrade (with OEM PC) None $14.99 N/A
Windows 8 Pro Upgrade (Online) None $39.99 $69.99
Windows 8 Pro Upgrade DVD $69.99 $199.99
Windows 8 System Builder DVD $99.99 ?
Windows 8 Pro System Builder DVD $139.99 ?
Windows 8 Pro Pack In-Place Upgrade None $69.99 $99.99

If you already have a copy of a previous edition of Windows (XP, Vista, or 7), you will be able to get Windows 8 fairly cheap thanks to the promotional pricing. If you are wanting to get Windows 8 onto a new machine without a previous license however, it's going to cost you. Personally, I would have liked to see Microsoft offer better promo pricing on non-upgrade versions as well. Currently, Newegg has several Windows 8 SKUs up for pre-order along with a shell shocker promo code (EMCJNJH82) for $10 off a pre-order until the end of the weekend.

What do you think about the pricing? Will you be buying into Windows 8 on the 26th?

Microsoft Opens Registration for $14.99 Windows 8 Pro Upgrades

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2012 - 09:51 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7, upgrade, microsoft

If you are finding it difficult to delay the purchase of that shiny new computer until after Windows 8 comes out, Microsoft has a solution for you. Thanks to the Windows Upgrade Offer, you can buy a new PC now and be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 for $14.99.

Starting June 2nd 2012, if you purchase a new PC with Windows 7 you are eligible for a discounted upgrade to Windows 8. This ensures that you are able to run the latest Microsoft operating system even if you buy a new PC before it is released. Eligible PCs include any OEM machine pre-installed with the following operating system SKUs using a valid product key:

  • Windows 7 Home Basic
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Professions
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

This does include OEM machines with System Builder (COEM) versions of Windows 7, which means if you buy a system put together by a DIY builder, you are still eligible for the discounted pricing. One caveat is that computers with Windows 7 Starter are not eligible for the discounted Windows 8 pricing.

Further, there is a maximum of five upgrades per customer and one per machine, so at most you could get five upgrades to Windows 8 at the $14.99 price when you purchase five or more new PCs.

Windows8UpgradeProgram.jpg

The $14.99 price gets you a downloadable upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro. This version can be used on any computer with a previous version of Windows installed to upgrade from. In that respect, it is just like any other upgrade version of Windows 8 and could be given to someone else if you wanted to stick with Windows 7 on your new PC. Microsoft is further willing to provide a physical copy of the upgrade, but it will cost you an additional fee (exact fee not stated).

The other limitation is that this upgrade version comes without the add-on pack that includes Windows Media Center. If you want that feature, you will have to pay for it at an undiscounted price.

The promotional period ends January 31, 2013 which is the same day that the $39.99 promotional upgrade price for everyone else ends. (No word yet on whether there will also be student promos like Windows 7 had, however.)

Microsoft’s registration page recently went live. If you are interested in getting the discounted pricing, you will need to register for the deal and provide purchase information and the product key for version of Windows that came pre-installed on your computer. Once Windows 8 is officially released on October 26, 2012 Microsoft will email you a download link and product key.

Windows 8 is somewhat controversial release but at least Microsoft is pricing it attractively.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Reveals Windows 8 Upgrade Options

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 01:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, upgrade, operating system, microsoft

ZDNet has managed to get its hands on some details regarding Microsoft’s Windows 8 upgrade paths. The company will support upgrade installations from XP SP3 to Windows 7 in various forms, and with some caveats. Users will not be able to do cross-language upgrade installs or upgrades from x86 (32-bit) to x64 (64-bit) Windows 8 (or vice versa).

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (check out our guide) is set to be available to consumers this fall, and the company has started prepping its partners on how the upgrade process will work for users running previous versions of Windows. The short answer is that users running at least XP with Service Pack 3 will be able to perform an upgrade install to a version of Windows 8 with the same language and architecture as the current version. The longer answer is that – while you may be able to upgrade – you may not be able to keep all of your applications, system settings, and/or data when moving to Windows 8 depending on your particular configuration.

Let’s run down some example upgrade situations.

For users running Windows XP SP3 or higher, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 and keep all of you personal files. You will lose all system settings and installed applications, however.

If you are currently running Windows Vista pre-Service Pack 1 (SP1), you will be able to perform an upgrade installation to Windows 8. You will be able to keep your personal files, but will lose any installed applications and system settings.

If you have Windows Vista SP1 (or newer), you will be able to keep your personal files and system settings. On the other hand, you will lose any installed applications as a result of the upgrade to Windows 8.

Windows-8-Start-Screen.png

Further, as general rules of thumb, you can upgrade to Windows 8 (non-Pro version) from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Home Premium installs. You will be able to keep all of your settings, files, and applications. Also, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate and keep the same system configuration, installed applications, and personal files. If you are a volume licensee currently running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterpirse, you will be able to perform and upgrade installation to Windows 8 Enterprise without losing any data, settings, or applications.

Just as with previous releases of Windows, if you want to move to the new version of Windows that has either a different language or different architecture (32-bit/64-bit), you will be required to perform a clean installation (not a bad idea in any event, actually). One detail that has not been released (or leaked) yet is pricing and whether or not we will see steep discounts for student versions, those that tested any of the Windows 8 preview builds, or family packs. If you eschew the DIY route and buy a new OEM computer between now and January 31, 2013, you will qualify for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade copy for $14.99, however.  It will be interesting to see just how Microsoft prices its upcoming operating system, especially before any applicable discounts. Microsoft has streamlined the number of SKUs but also made Pro the version to get for even some home users; and because it’s the equivalent of Windows 7 Ultimate where they price it will be interesting (or rather disheartening should I let the cynical side of me win out).

Have you tried Windows 8 yet, and if so, will you be upgrading to it once it’s officially released? Any guesses on the final prices?

Source: ZDNet

Windows Media Center To Be A Pro Only Feature In Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2012 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: windows media center, Windows 8 Pro, windows 8, upgrade, htpc

News is circulating around the Internet that Microsoft is taking Windows Media Center out of Windows 8 and offering it as a separate paid add-on for Windows 8 Pro users. Many are not happy about the decision.

Windows Media Center is an application developed by Microsoft that provides a TV friendly interface for all the media on your computers including photos, videos, music, and television. That last function is quite possibly the biggest feature of WMC as it allows users to ditch their cable set top box (STB) and turn their computer into a TV tuner and DVR with the proper hardware.

Windows8MediaCenter.jpg

Windows 8 Metro With Media Center Icon

The program debuted as a special edition of Windows called Windows XP Media Center Edition. It was then rolled into the general release of Windows Vista and then into many editions of Windows 7. Windows Media Center has a relatively small user base relative to the number of general Windows users, but they are a vocal and enthusiastic minority. About a month ago, I got a CableCard from Comcast (after a week of... well, let’s just say it’s not a pleasant experience) and after pairing it with the HDHomeRun Prime and my Windows 7 machines, i was able to watch and record TV on any of the computers in my house as well as on the living room TV via an Xbox 360 acting as a Windows Media Center extender. I have to say that the setup is really solid, I have all the expandable DVR space I could want, and the WMC interface is so much snappier than any cable or satellite set top box I’ve ever used. Windows 7 became that much more valuable once I was able to utilize Windows Media Center.

With that said, it is still a niche feature and I understand that not everyone needs or wants to use it. It is even a feature that I would pay for should Microsoft unbundle it. Yet, when I read a bit of news concerning Windows 8 and WMC over the weekend, I was not happy at all. According to an article at Tested.com, Microsoft is going to unbundle Windows Media Center for Windows 8 into a separate downloadable Media Center pack with a currently unknown price (so far, I’m disappointed but still willing to accept it). The Media Center pack will be made available for purchase and download using the “Add Features To Windows 8” control panel option–what was known as Windows Anytime Upgrade in previous versions of Windows.

WMC_Windows7.png

Windows Media Center in Windows 7 - TV Guide

What is confusing (and what I find infuriating) is that users will only be able to purchase the Media Center pack if they are using the Pro version of Windows 8, leaving home users out of luck. Due to Windows 8 Pro essentially being the Ultimate Edition of previous Windows versions, it is definitely going to cost more than the base version, and that is rather disconcerting. I have no problem paying for the Media Center pack, but I do have a problem with Microsoft artificially limiting who has the right to purchase it to begin with. It just seems downright greedy of them and is a big disservice to Media Center’s faithful users. Microsoft should go with one method or the other, not both. For example, they should unbundle Media Center, and allow users of any desktop (not RT, in other words) Windows 8 version to purchase it. Alternatively, if they are going to limit Media Center to be a Pro version only feature, it should be a free download. Users should not have to pay for the privilege to pay for the software, especially when Microsoft has said that Windows 8 Media Center will not be very different from the one in Windows 7 and will only contain minor improvements.

Rick Broida of PC World has been a bit more straightforward in stating his opinion of Microsoft’s decision in saying “I’m hopping mad.” And I tend to agree with his sentiments, except for WMC needing to be free. I’d be happy to pay for it if it means Microsoft continues to support it. I just have an issue with the pricing situation that the news of the decision is suggesting. To be fair, Microsoft has not yet released final pricing information, so it may not be as bad as I’m thinking. Even so, the news that they are making WMC a paid add on and are limiting it to Windows 8 Pro only leaves a rather bad aftertaste. Mr. Broida encourages HTPC users to not upgrade, and to stick with Windows 7. I don’t think I’m at that point yet (though I get where he’s coming from), but I will say that Windows 8 was a tough sell before I heard this news, and the WMC news isn’t helping. I can only hope that Microsoft will reconsider and, dare I say it, do the right thing for their users here.

Source: Tested

Intel returns to upgrade cards for more of their crippled parts

Subject: General Tech, Processors | August 20, 2011 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: upgrade, Intel

It has almost been a complete year since Intel decided to sell $50 upgrade cards for their processors. Ryan noted that the cost of upgrade between the two processors was just $15 (at the time) which made the $35 premium over just outright purchasing the higher-end CPU seem quite ludicrous. Whether or not you agree with Intel’s methodology is somewhat irrelevant to Intel however as they have relaunched and expanded their initiative to include three SKUs.

intelupgrade.jpg

DLCpu: Cash for cache!

Ryan was deliberately trying to pose the issue in question-form because it really is business as usual when it comes to hardware companies to artificially lock down higher SKUs for a lower price-point. The one thing he did not mention was that this upgrade seems to be designed primarily for processors included in the purchase of a retail PC where the user might not have had the choice of which processor to include.

As for this upgrade cycle there are three processors that qualify for the upgrade: the Pentium G622 can be upgraded to the Pentium G693, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2102 can be upgraded to the Core i3-2153, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2312M can be upgraded to the Core i3-2393M, receiving both a clock-rate boost as well as extra unlocked cache. There is no word on if each SKU would have its own upgrade card or even the cost of upgrading apart from the nebulous “affordable”. Performance is expected to increase approximately 10-25% depending on which part you upgrade and what task is being pushed upon it, the Pentium seeing the largest boost due to this unlock.

Do you agree with this initiative?

Source: Intel

Isn't it grand when you get to buy yourself a system

Subject: Systems | June 8, 2011 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: upgrade, system build

As is mentioned in the beginning of this system build log at The Tech Report, the die hard geek tends to take better care of the systems of those around them than their own.  A problem on a system that is deemed as completely unusable by a friend or loved one would be completely ignored on our own systems if we can find at least a semi-usable workaround.  We might even go so far as to write down what should be fixed ... once we can find the time. 

It seems like the time had finally come for one particular geek, so you can read through the entire process they went through, specifying parts and assembling them. There were of course some kinks, physical mostly, from oversized graphics cards to strange memory compatibility issues.  It is more fun to read about it than to troubleshoot, so take a look over The Tech Report's shoulder as they build a system.

TTR_FabricTIM.jpg

Wait ... that's not right!

"I'll admit to being like the proverbial plumber with a leaky sink. When it comes to my own, primary personal computer, I've been borderline neglectful for a little while now. Happily, I decided to end all that recently by building myself an excellent new computer."

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