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Moving Towards BGA Only?
The sky is falling. Does this mean that Chicken Little is panicking for no reason or is Chicken Little the Cassandra of our time? It has been widely reported that Intel will not be offering the next generation Broadwell architecture as a LGA based product. Broadwell is a 14 nm product that will integrate southbridge functions into the chip, making it essentially a SOC. It will be offered only as a BGA only product, which means that it will be soldered onto a motherboard with no chance of being able to be swapped out. Broadwell is the successor to the upcoming Haswell, itself a 22 nm product that features many architectural changes to both the CPU and graphics portion as compared to the current 22 nm Ivy Bridge.
Will Broadwell be the death of the desktop industry and enthusiasts? Will LGA become as scarce as chicken teeth? Will we ever see a product with a swappable CPU after 2014?
Broadwell is aimed at TDPs ranging from 10 watts to 57 watts. Current high end Ivy Bridge parts max out at 77 watts and do not feature any southbridge type functionality. So that means that another 5 to 7 watts are added in for the chipset when discussing basic system TDPs. So we are looking at around 87 watts for a top end product when including SATA and USB functionality. 30 watts is a pretty big deal in OEM circles. We see right off the bat that Intel is aiming this architecture at a slightly different market, or at least a changing marketplace.
The unease that we are seeing is essentially this; Intel appears to be trying to take more profits from this setup and pass more costs onto the motherboard industry. This is not necessarily new for Intel, as they did this when transitioning to the LGA socket. LGA sockets are more expensive and more troublesome for the motherboard manufacturers as compared to a more traditional pin based interface. AMD continues to use pin based chips as this lowers the cost that is incurred by the motherboard manufacturers, and it also lowers overall support issues. LGAs are pretty solid, but it is very easy to bend one or more of those contacts so that they in fact do not create a solid connection with the CPU. This is something that is uncommon with pin based CPUS, but the downside of pin based is that it is more expensive to produce the CPU in the first place as compared to a LGA chip which only features the pads on the substrate of the CPU.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
OCZ has been in the SSD game for quite some time, and has previously done quite well mixing and matching hardware from other vendors into solutions of their own. It was a good way to put out a large array of products, fitting many a niche for a decent cost. Further, OCZ has always been known as somewhat of an underdog who tailored their parts more towards the power user / tweaker crowd. All of that said, they have been taking steps to become more of a major player in the SSD market, and the fruits of that labor begin their payoff today, with the release of the OCZ Vector:
A new Indilinx Controller?
The Vector comes equipped with a bunch of firsts for OCZ. The controller is OCZ's first 100% in-house part, and has been engineered from the ground up to be as high of a performing part as possible. There has been a paradigm shift within OCZ lately, and the Vector went through a large beta test phase *before* release, as to avoid the need for a series of rapid fire firmware updates just after the product ships. Vector should perform at or near its maximum potential today, not after some firmware updates seen months from now. Here's a look at the controller functional block diagram:
Introduction and Features
LEPA is a relatively new player in the PC power supply market and they continue to expand their power supply offerings with the introduction of a second generation Gold Series 650W, 750W, and 850W PSUs. LEPA also offers five other power supplies in the original G Series ranging from 500W all the way up to 1600W! We will be taking a detailed look at LEPA’s new Gold Series 750W PSU in this review.
Up until now, the LEPA name has traditionally been considered a house-brand for Enermax but the new LEPA Gold Series is manufactured by Channel Well and not Enermax – interesting. ECOMASTER is the authorized US agent for both Enermax and LEPA brand products.
LEPA Gold 750W Power Supply Key Features:
• 750 watt continuous power output (up to 40°C)
• 80Plus Gold certified to deliver up to 92% efficiency
• Low load, Fanless Mode (=15% load)
• DC-to-DC converter design ensures system reliability
• Double Forward circuit design provides high efficiency
• High efficiency 5VSB circuit helps meet EU ErP Lot 6 (2013) standards
• Solid state capacitors and all Japanese-made capacitors for reliability
• 140mm dual-ball bearing fan with thermal programmed speed control
• Hybrid modular cabling with flat, ribbon-style modular cables
• Powerful single +12V rail (62A) offers great compatibility
• Active PFC (up to 0.99)
• Universal AC input (100-240 VAC) full range
• OP, OV, OT, SC and Brown-out protection
• ATX12V and EPS12V version compliant
Ivy Bridge without the HD Graphics
The processor market is kind of stale these days; there aren't a lot of releases and the dominance of Intel in the high-end CPU market kind of makes things uninteresting. We still have lot of great AMD processors in the low and mid-range markets but if you want a $200+ card part you will probably find your way into the world of Intel.
Today's processor review cuts across segments with a unique twist. The Intel Core i5-3350P can be picked up at Newegg.com for $189 putting it right in the price point of the AMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) and the AMD FX-8320 (Vishera). It also undercuts the very popular Intel Core i5-3570K by $50 or so while still offering some impressive performance results.
The only catch: this Ivy Bridge based processor does not include any integrated graphics.
The Intel Core i5-3350P
Intel recently released a couple of Ivy Bridge based processors that have disabled the integrated graphics completely, the 3350P being one of them. This allows Intel to sell processor die that might have a defect on the GPU portion to increase the relative yield rate of their 22nm process and also gives them another weapon to fight off any pricing competition from AMD.
A small, custom chassis
Right before the holiday weekend we got an email from Digital Storm detailing some changes to the Bolt system based on ours, and other reviewers, feedback. Design changes include:
- "Quieter operation" after moving from a Bronze level 500 watt 1U power supply to a Gold level unit. I have put that part in quotes because I am hesitant to believe that much has changes on the sound levels of the system; we are still talking about a 1U unit here with two tiny fans. Until DS publishes some sound level metrics, we'll consider this a modest change.
- Digital Storm has also given the Bolt "a less glossy and improved external finish" to help prevent fingerprints and dust from reflecting in light.
In addition, there have been some hardware changes in the Level 3 unit that we were sent that are fairly significant:
- Upgrade from a 60GB cache SSD to a 120GB SSD dedicated to the OS installation.
- Storage drive lowered from a 1TB to a 500GB
- Upgrade from a Core i5-3570K to a Core i7-3770K CPU
That is a pretty hefty change in hardware specs, in particular the move from the Core i5-3570K to the i7-3770K. That increases the CPU performance of the Bolt pretty handily and they were able to do that without raising the price.
This definitely gives us a better opinion overall for the entire Digital Storm Bolt configuration as tested and makes it a much better option when compared to the other recent systems we have reviewed.
END UPDATE 11/22/2012
A couple of months ago Digital Storm contacted us about a new design they were working on that they claimed would easily become the highest performance, smallest custom PC on the market. The result of that talk was the new Digital Storm Bolt, a system designed in-house by DS to target PC gamers that want a powerful PC without the bulk of traditional desktop designs.
Digital Storm claims that the Bolt is the "thinnest, most powerful gaming PC ever designed" and we tend to agree. This is not chassis that you can buy off the shelf but instead was custom designed for this system and actually requires some very specific hardware for it to function completely. Items like a 1U power supply, 90 degree PCI Express riser extensions and slim-line optical drives aren't found in your standard gaming PCs.
Available in several starting "levels" of configuration, the Digital Storm Bolt can include processors from the Core i3-2100 all the way up to the Core i7-3770K and graphics cards starting at the GTX 650 Ti 2GB and increasing to the GTX 680 2GB. Our system came with the following hardware:
- Intel Core i5-3570K @ 4.2 GHz
- Low Profile CPU Heatsink
- 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz memory
- GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
- 60GB cache SSD + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
- Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WiFi motherboard
- 1U 500 watt power supply
- Windows 7 Home Premium x64
- Custom DS Bolt Chassis
Starting cost for this configuration is $1,599.
Check out our quick video review!
The box the Bolt ships in is pretty timid compared to some of the crates that have hit our office recently but that's just fine by me. Due to the small size of the case though I have actually had some laptop boxes (the Alienware M18x comes to mind) that were bigger!
There she is, the Digital Storm Bolt, a combination of custom steel case design and fingerprint-loving piano black paint. Measuring just 14-in tall and 3.6-in wide the case is going to be able to fit and blend in places other desktops simply could not.
The Dell All-in-One
Reviewers, at times, can be somewhat myopic. I speak for myself in this particular instance. My job as a writer is to test hardware on a daily basis, and as such I have a very keen understanding (or so I hope) of the intricacies of computer design. If I need to build a machine, whether for test purposes or something that my wife can play Song Pop on, I have a near infinite variety of components that I can choose from to fit the needs of the project. As such, we often forget that not everyone has that level of expertise. Most people, in fact, just want to be able to buy something that not only fits their needs, but also simply just has to work.
Dog is unimpressed with packaging. UPS complained profusely though.
This is the reason why we have the Dells, HPs, and Lenovos of the world. The vast majority of people out there are unwilling to build their own machine and support it themselves. They neither have the time nor patience to dive in and learn the ins and outs of a modern PC and the software that runs them. This is not a bad thing. Just as I do not have the patience to learn how to sew, I still like wearing clothes. At least during our podcasts. For the most part.
We must also admit that we are moving well away from the typical beige box that dominated the 90s and early 2000s. Manufacturers have a much better eye for not only functionality, but also aesthetics. No longer do we have the hulking CRTs of yesteryear, and neither do we have the large boxes that are nearly indistinguishable from one or another. Multiple form factors abound and these large manufacturers have design teams that pay very close attention to things like compatibility, power consumption, and thermal dissipation. With these things in mind, they are able to create unique devices that not just serve the needs of consumers, but also just simply work.
Apple has been at the forefront of this type of design for quite some time. This is a company that has prized fit, finish, and functionality far more than they have pursued cost cutting and homogenization. This has lead to much higher margins for the company, and a nearly rabid following by the people buying their platforms. We certainly can argue that they probably perfected the “all-in-one” machine back in the Macintosh days, and since that time they have not stood still. The iMac was a further advancement in that field, but the introduction of relatively inexpensive and large LCD panels allowed them to further shrink the all-in-one. It also allowed them to further sculpt the design into what we see today.
Everything is nicely supported in the box.
Obviously people around the industry have noticed this trend, and noticed the devoted following of the Apple consumers. It is hard to miss. The world is a big place though, and surely there are people who crave the type of design that Apple pushes, but do not necessarily want to jump on that particular bandwagon. Dell has recognized this and created their XPS One lineup of products. Not everyone wants to run OSX and pay the Apple tax. If this is the case for a reader, then this might be the product that catches their attention.
We go inside the Wii U
Last night after the midnight release of the new Nintendo Wii U gaming console, we did what any self respecting hardware fan would do: we tore it apart. That's right, while live on our PC Perspective Live! page, we opened up a pair of Wii U consoles, played a couple of games on the Deluxe while we took a tri-wing screwdriver to the second. Inside we found some interesting hardware (and a lot more screws) and at the conclusion of the 5+ hour marathon, we had a reassembled system with only a handful of leftover screws!
If you missed the show last night we have archived the entire video on our YouTube channel (embedded below) as well as the photos we took during the event in their full resolution glory. There isn't much to discuss about the teardown other than what we said in the video but I am going to leave a few comments after each set of four images.
OH! And if you missed the live event and want to be apart of another one, we are going to be holding a Hitman: Absolution Game Stream on our Live Page sponsored by AMD with giveaways like Radeon graphics cards and LOTS of game keys! Stop by again and see us on http://pcper.com/live on Tuesday the 20th at 8pm ET.
During the stream we promised photos of everything we did while taking it apart, so here you go! Click to get the full size image!
Getting inside the Wii U was surprisingly easy as the white squares over the screws were simply stickers and we didn't have to worry about any clips breaking, etc. The inside is dominated by the optical drive provided by Panasonic.
Amped Wireless R20000G and UA2000 Introduction
Continuing with our networking adapter and router reviews, today we have a pair of devices on tap from a relative newcomer to the home and office networking field, Amped Wireless. Founded in 2007, they began selling Wi-Fi products in 2010. In those 2 years they’ve already pushed out a wide array of Routers, Range Extenders, Access Points, USB Adapters and Antennas/Boosters. While they don’t have the history of Cisco, Netgear or D-Link, it’s great to see new companies entering the fray as more competition can only benefit the consumer.
Today we’re looking at their flagship High Power Router, the Wireless-N 600mw Gigabit Dual Band R20000G as well as one of their leading USB adapters, the High Power Wireless-N Directional Dual Band UA2000. List price for the router and adapter is $169 and $99 respectively, but the router and adapter can be found online for about $10 less each at Newegg.
Introduction and Specs
Courtesy of ECS
As part of their Black Extreme line of motherboards, the ECS Z77H2-AX pairs the promise of performance and a mile-long feature list with looks that could kill. We decided to put this board through the paces, throwing our normal suite of benchmark and functionality tests to see how well it lived up to its reputation. The ECS Z77H2-AX seems to be well priced at its $309.99 base price with all the higher-end features and bling built into the board.
Courtesy of ECS
From the initial unboxing of the board, I was dumbstruck. ECS literally gold-plated every heat-producing surface on this board, giving it a very unique look and feel. The board itself has no shortage of features with SATA 2, SATA 3, mSATA, and eSATA ports, support for 3 different networking types, and enough USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for anyone.
Introduction and Features
SilverStone has a long-standing reputation among PC enthusiasts for providing a full line of high quality enclosures, power supplies, cooling components, and accessories. SilverStone recently updated their original ST45SF small form factor power supply to 80Plus Gold status. The new ST45SF-G is rated for up to 450W and comes with fully modular cables. The SFX form factor is frequently found in Micro ATX Media Center PCs and Home Theater PCs.
SilverStone ST45SF-G 450W PSU
Here is what SilverStone has to say about the ST45SF-G: "After successfully expanding and leading SFF (Small Form Factor) cases and SFX PSU into the DIY market, SilverStone engineers have continued their push for advancement in these categories by releasing a true upgrade-worthy small form factor power supply, the ST45SF-G. Despite being half the size of regular ATX power supply, the ST45SF-G can still produce continuous power output of 450W. Its 80 Plus Gold level efficiency is a great leap from the previous SFX best of 80 Plus Bronze and the full modular cables are also the first of its kind for this form factor. To enable users to easily take advantage of this excellent SFX power supply, an adapter is included to convert the ST45SF-G to mount in any ATX case in addition to ones designed for only SFX. For SFF users and for SilverStone, the ST45SF-G is more than just an upgrade, it is an important milestone for DIY desktop computer users."
SilverStone ST45SF-G Main Features:
• Supports standard SFX form factor and ATX (via included bracket)
• 450W continuous power output at 40°C and rated for 24/7 operation
• 80 PLUS Gold level efficiency (87%~90% efficiency at 20%-100% load)
• 100% Modular cables
• Class-leading single +12V rail with 37A capacity
• Strict ±3% voltage regulation with low ripple & noise
• Silent running 80mm fan (18dBA minimum)
• Single PCI-E 8-pin and dual PCI-E 6-pin connectors
• Universal AC input (90-260 VAC) and Active PFC
Specifications and Outside Features
In recent weeks we have been getting a lot of requests for system reviews, but when ORIGIN PC approached us about testing a super-high-end system with dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690s, we were definitely interested. When we were told to expect a 4.9 GHz Sandy Bridge-E platform to base those Quad SLI GPUs on, we were sold.
ORIGIN PC has been around since 2009 when several people started the company after leaving Alienware. While boutique computer builders are still fairly common in today's market, ORIGIN tries to differentiate with ideas like lifetime (yes, lifetime) phone and forum support for your system, lifetime labor for upgrades and services and 72 hours of burn in testing on each machine.
The rig we are looking at today falls under the Genesis brand and is the highest end starting point for a custom PC from ORIGIN. Options for this series include Sandy Bridge-E, Ivy Bridge and even AMD FX processors all with water cooling, multi-GPU configurations and of course, fancy lighting.
Here is a quick overview of the most prominent specs:
- Corsair 800D chassis
- Intel Core i7-3930K 6-core Sandy Bridge-E @ 4.9 GHz
- Intel DX79SR Motherboard
- Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 4GB cards (Quad SLI)
- 16GB DDR3-1866 quad-channel memory
- 1200 watt Corsair AX1200i Power Supply
- Dual 120GB Corsair Force GT SSDs in RAID 0
- 1TB Seagate 7200 RPM SATA 6G HDD
- Custom ORIGIN Cryogenic liquid cooling setup on CPU
Our estimated cost is...$5,750.
Intro and Tech Specs
Courtesy of ASUS
Today we will be evaluating the ASUS P8Z77 WS motherboard on the test bench, evaluating its performance and functionality in various ways to ensure that the board works up to the standards we’ve come to expect from ASUS. At $339 a base price, this Intel Z77 chipset based board is part of the ASUS Workstation series, designed to meet the needs of the harsh corporate and server environments requiring optimal component functioning over a 24/7 timeframe.
Courtesy of ASUS
The P8Z77 WS is a feature-rich solution with dual Intel-based GigE NICs, an ASUS customized UEFI BIOS, and multi-GPU PCI 3.0 support offered innately through the Intel Z77 chipset as well as the integrated LicidLogix Virtu MVP chipset.
Courtesy of ASUS
Introduction and Features
Earlier this year Corsair added the Vengeance series to their enclosure lineup and in this review we will be taking a detailed look at the Vengeance C70 mid-tower gaming case. Corsair continues to bring a full line of high quality cases, memory components, power supplies, cooling components, SSDs and accessories to market for the PC enthusiast and professional alike. The new Vengeance cases come in three different colors: Gunmetal Black, Military Green, and Arctic White. Corsair designed the Vengeance cases for travelling gamers. They feature rugged steel construction with numerous case cooling options for going on the road to the next LAN party.
Here is what Corsair has to say about the Vengeance C70 Cases:
When it’s time to take your competitive gaming on the road, the Vengeance C70 mid-tower PC case is a great choice. It’s crafted out of solid steel and made to survive trips with less wear and tear, and the ergonomic carry handles help you move your gear with confidence.
High-performance gaming hardware requires high-performance cooling. Vengeance C70 is equipped with three 120mm fans out of the box, with mounting points for seven more to meet your exact air cooling demands.
…and Water Cover, too
Vengeance C70 is also outfitted for liquid cooling upgradability. You get 240mm radiator compatibility on top of the case, and if that’s not enough, you can remove the lower hard drive cage to fit a second 240mm radiator for a dual-loop setup.
A case is as much a part of your armory as any other component. With internal USB 3.0 connectors for modern motherboards, native SSD compatibility, eight expansion slots and room for long graphics cards, the C70 stands ready to take on any challenger.
Lock and Load
Easy access side panels come off with quick-release latches. The optical drive bays and 3.5” hard drive bays are tool-free. Thumbscrews secure your graphics cards, and the hard drive cages can be easily removed for better airflow or additional expansion room. Cable routing tie-downs and built-in clamps keep your system tidy.
With so many features, the Vengeance C70 does what it’s supposed to do – stay out of your way while you build or upgrade.
Today we are taking a look at MSI’s flagship Z77 motherboard, the Z77A-GD80. Beyond being the GD80 SKU, which for several generations now has been given MSI’s premiere options, this GD80 in particular is an innovative board. This is due to the Z77A-GD80 being the first Windows motherboard that was certified for Intel’s Thunderbolt technology.
As many of you may know, Thunderbolt has 10 Gbps of bandwidth, as well as integrates Mini DisplayPort for video. With all of this bandwidth, Thunderbolt is an exciting standard, which we will focus on in depth later in this review.
A simple device for a complex problem
Sometimes an odd product finds its way into our office and this week we have one of those very items. The xPrintServer Home from Lantronix is a networking device that easily configures existing printers on your home or office network to work with the AirPrint capability on your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It does this without the need for special applications on your phone, without having to buy new printers and without complex software based work arounds.
The unit itself is a small white plastic case that has an Ethernet connection, USB port and power connection. The Ethernet port needs to be connected to your router / switch and the USB port is for connecting one of more USB printers (via a USB hub). After attaching the power, the device goes through an incredibly simple, automatic configuration process.
After the orange light goes solid, you can simply go to an AirPlay enabled application like Safari, Photos, Notes, Mail and more and hit the print option; your network or USB printer should already be configured. The process is impressively easy!
Inside the device is a basic Atmel designed ARM926 core SoC running at 400 MHz - more than enough power for the print spooling that it does on the Lantronix device.
By far the most impressive part about the xPrintServer is the ease of setup; we were literally up and printing on an iPhone 5 within 2 minutes of opening the box. If you are the kind of person that would like the capability to print from your iPad or iPhone but without having to buy a new printer with AirPrint built in, definitely check out this product.
You can currently find the Lantronix xPrintServer Home for $95 at Newegg.com.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
It's been a short while since we've seen a consumer SSD release from Intel, and with pressure coming from Samsung in the form of lower cost/GB 20nm flash, it was high time Intel followed suit. The Intel 335 Series launches today, and is essentially the same SandForce-driven product as their SSD 520 Series released earlier this year. The key change is this time around that controller will be driving Intel 20nm flash. This should bring a much needed price reduction to the SSD arena, as the 335 is not being marketed as a 'Pro' unit (like the Samsung's 840 Pro). So long as this new model performs similarly to the 520 Series, we should be in for a good, low cost SSD just in time for the Christmass shopping season.
Windows RT: Runtime? Or Get Up and Run Time?
Update #1, 10/26/2012: Apparently it does not take long to see the first tremors of certification woes. A Windows developer by the name of Jeffrey Harmon allegedly wrestled with Microsoft certification support 6 times over 2 months because his app did not meet minimum standards. He was not given clear and specific reasons why -- apparently little more than copy/paste of the regulations he failed to achieve. Kind-of what to expect from a closed platform... right? Imagine if some nonsensical terms become mandated or other problems crop up?
Also, Microsoft has just said they will allow PEGI 18 games which would have received an ESRB M rating. Of course their regulations can and will change further over time... the point is the difference between a store refusing to carry versus banishing from the whole platform even for limited sharing. The necessity of uproars, especially so early on and so frequently, should be red flags for censorship to come. Could be for artistically-intentioned nudity or sexual themes. Could even be not about sex, language, and violence at all.
Last month, I suggested that the transition to Windows RT bares the same hurdles as transitioning to Linux. Many obstacles blocking our path, like Adobe and PC gaming, are considering Linux; the rest have good reason to follow.
This month we receive Windows RT and Microsoft’s attempt to shackle us to it: Windows 8.
To be clear: Microsoft has large incentives to banish the legacy of Windows. The way Windows 8 is structured reduces it to a benign tumorous growth atop Windows RT. The applications we love and the openness we adore are contained to an app.
I will explain how you should hate this -- after I explain why and support it with evidence.
Microsoft is currently in the rare state of sharp and aggressive focus to a vision. Do not misrepresent this as greed: it is not. Microsoft must face countless jokes about security and stability. Microsoft designed Windows with strong slants towards convenience over security.
That ideology faded early into the life of Windows XP. How Windows operates is fundamentally different. Windows machines are quite secure, architecturally. Con-artists are getting desperate. Recent attacks are almost exclusively based on fear and deception of the user. Common examples are fake anti-virus software or fraudulent call center phone calls. We all win when attackers get innovative: survival of the fittest implies death of the weakest.
Bulldozer to Vishera
Bulldozer is the word. Ok, perhaps it is not “the” word, but it is “a” word. When AMD let that little codename slip some years back, AMD enthusiasts and tech journalists started to salivate about the possibilities. Here was a unique and very new architecture that promised excellent single thread performance and outstanding multi-threaded performance all in a package that was easy to swallow and digest. Probiotics for the PC. Some could argue that the end product for Bulldozer and probiotics are the same, but I am not overly fond of writing articles containing four letter colorful metaphors.
The long and short of Bulldozer is that it was a product that was pushed out too fast, it had specifications that were too aggressive for the time, and it never delivered on the promise of the architecture. Logically there are some very good reasons behind the architecture, but implementing these ideas into a successful product is another story altogether. The chip was never able to reach the GHz range it was supposed to and stay within reasonable TDP limits. To get the chip out in a timely manner, timings had to be loosened internally so the chip could even run. Performance per clock was pretty dismal, and the top end FX-8150 was only marginally faster than the previous top end Phenom II X6 1100T. In some cases, the X6 was still faster and a more competent “all around” processor.
There really was not a whole lot for AMD to do about the situation. It had to have a new product, and it just did not turn out as nicely as they had hoped. The reasons for this are legion, but simply put AMD is competing with a company that is over ten times the size, with the resulting R&D budgets that such a size (and margins) can afford. Engineers looking for work are a dime a dozen, and Intel can hire as many as they need. So, instead of respinning Bulldozer ad nauseum and releasing new speed grades throughout the year by tweaking the process and metal layer design, AMD let the product line sit and stagnate at the top end for a year (though they did release higher TDP models based on the dual module FX-4000 and triple module FX-6000 series). Engineers were pushed into more forward looking projects. One of these is Vishera.
A curious new driver from AMD
In case you missed the news, AMD is going to be making a big push with their Radeon brand from now until the end of the year starting with an incredibly strong game bundle that includes as many as three full games and 20% off the new Medal of Honor. The second part of this campaign is a new driver specifically the 12.11 beta that will be posted to the public later this week.
AMD is claiming to have made some substantial improvements on quite a few games including the very popular Battlefield 3 and the upcoming Medal of Honor (both of which use the same base engine). But keep in mind that 15% is a LOT and this is the best case scenario in specific maps and you may not see benefits on others.
There are going to be some debates about the validity of these performance boosts from AMD until we can get some more specific details on WHAT has changed. Essentially the company line is that they have finally "caught up" to the GCN GPU architecture introduced with the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012. We traditionally see this happen with new GPU architectures from both vendors but for it to have taken this long is troublesome and will surely cause some raised eyebrows from gamers and the competition.
We decided to run through the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition with this new 12.11 beta driver to compare it to the 12.9 beta driver we had just completed testing on a few weeks ago. AMD claims performance advantages for all the GCN cards including the 7700/7800/7900 cards though we only had time to test a single card for our initial article. The results are on the following pages...
Some computer components get all the glory. Your normal lineup of FPS crushing GPU’s, Handbrake dominating CPU’s, and super-fast Memory end up with most of the headlines. Yet behind the scenes, there are some computer components we use that are pivotal in our use and enjoyment of computers and receive very little fanfare. Without networking we wouldn’t have file sharing, LAN parties or even the Internet itself. Without routers and network adapters, we wouldn’t have networking.
ASUS recently sent a whole slew of networking components our way and we’ve decided to take them for a spin and see if they’re worth your hard earned dollars. Our box of ASUS goodies included:
- ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
- ASUS PCE-N10 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
- ASUS PCE-N15 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
- ASUS USB-N53 - Dual Band Wireless N Adapter
- ASUS USB-N66 - Dual Band Wireless-N900 Adapter
Without further ado, let’s jump in and tackle each one.
ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
Routers are one of those components that most of us don’t really think about unless something goes horribly wrong. Most people will buy one they find on a big box store shelf (or even worse, just use their ISP’s router), pull it out of the box, plug a few cables into it and then forget about it in a closet for a few years.
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