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Introduction, Design and Ergonomics
The original ASUS Eee Pad Transformer was a bit of an upset in the tablet market. Before its launch, there was no particular reason to believe that ASUS would be able to provide a better product than any of the many other PC manufacturers entering the Android tablet fray. Sure, I like most of the ASUS products that I’ve been able to review, and I believe they have some good engineers. But they also had no experience beyond a few Windows tablets and convertible tablets.
Yet they were successful. At the time I called the Transformer "the best Android tablet on the market today” and gave it with a Gold Award. Consumers apparently agreed, as it flew off shelves with such speed that ASUS has decided to debut a follow-up only half a year after the original hit the market.
A New Chip for a New Year
When Intel launched the Sandy Bridge-E platform in November, there were three processors listed on the specification sheet. The Core i7-3960X is the flagship, 6-core processor with the ~$1000 price tag, the Core i7-3930K still had 6-cores but a much lower cost and similar clock speeds and the Core i7-3820 was the only quad-core option and was listed for a Q1 release. We reviewed the Core i7-3930K in December and found that it offered nearly the same performance as the more expensive unit at about half the price.
Today we are getting a preview of the Core i7-3820 that will be released likely in early February and will come with a much more reasonable price tag of $285 to fill out the LGA2011 socket. The question that we must ask then is can the quad-core Core i7-3820 compete against the currently available quad-core Sandy Bridge parts that fit in the widely available LGA1155 socket? We not only have to consider performance but also the features of each platform as well as the total cost.
Same Feature Set, New Die
While most of the features of the Core i7-3820 are going to be identical to those of the previous SNB-E processors we have seen, there are some important differences with this chip. Let's see what is familiar first. The Core i7-3820 is based on the Sandy Bridge-E design that works on the LGA2011 socket and the X79 chipset and motherboards currently on the market. It includes a quad-channel memory controller and 40 lanes of PCI Express that are actually capable of PCIe 3.0 speeds. HyperThreading is still enabled so you are getting the benefit of being able to run twice as many threads as you have cores.
There are some very important changes on this CPU as well though starting with a quad-core design. This directly pits this Sandy Bridge-E part against the currently existing Sandy Bridge processors running on the Z68/P67 chipset and LGA1155 socket. Also, the L3 cache on the Core i7-3820 is at 10MB, 5MB less than the Core i7-3960X and 2MB less than the Core i7-3930K. We are basically talking about a processor that bridges the gap between the original SNB and newer SNB-E parts and it creates some interesting battles and comparisons.
Corsair Carbide Series
Corsair's successful entry into the case world has taken quite a few people by surprise including consumers and many competitors in the case market. With the first Corsair Obsidian series, the 800D, Corsair standardized many features that were only seen in much more niche products like cable routing openings on the motherboard tray and fan filters. Since that release in September of 2009 we have seen the 600T in the Graphite series as well as the 700D and 650D added to the Obsidian.
When Corsair showed us the first versions of the Carbide series in Taiwan during Computex 2011, it was finally addressing the primary complaint that many had about its cases: price. The Carbide 500R can be found today for about $139 and the 400R for under $100.
The Corsair Carbide 400R (left) and 500R White (right)
Check out our video review of the pair of Carbide cases below!
You can find the Corsair Carbide cases for sale directly on the Corsair.com website or at Newegg.com:
My preference would be to get the 400R model with the noticeable price difference (relatively speaking) as it offers nearly identical performance and features, minus the larger side fan, very basic fan controller and removable drive cages. Both are top notch designs for the low-cost gamer though and earn our PC Perspective Gold Award!
Aaah memory. It has been some time since we last had a memory review, and for good reason. Memory got pretty boring. Ten years ago this was not the case. DDR was just fresh on the scene and we were starting to see memory speeds and bandwidths get to a place where it would have a significant effect on performance. Latencies were of utmost importance, and the fastest 188.8.131.52 DIMMs running at DDR 400 speeds were often quite expensive. Then things sort of mellowed out. DDR-2 did not exactly bring faster performance over DDR initially, and it was not until DDR-2 800 and 1066 speeds that we actually saw a significant boost over previous gen DDR 1. DDR-3 brought even more yawns. With the jump to integrated memory controllers from both AMD and Intel, DDR-3 speeds were nearly meaningless.
The primary reason for this rather vanilla time in the memory market was that of individual bandwidth needs for CPU cores. Most research into this issue points to an individual CPU core needing only 3 to 4 GB/sec of bandwidth to support its data needs. AMD and Intel have gone to great lengths to increase the efficiency of not only their memory controllers and prefetchers, but also the internal caches so fewer main memory accesses are needed. So essentially a quad core processor would really only need upwards of 12 to 13 GB/sec of bandwidth in real world scenarios. DDR-3 1333 memory modules in a dual channel configuration would be able to support that kind of bandwidth quite easily. So what exactly was the point of having faster memory? Also, CPUs using DDR-3 memory are not as sensitive to latencies as we have seen in previous generations of parts.
Introduction and Features
Seasonic has a well earned reputation for producing some of the best PC power supplies on the planet. Over the years, Seasonic has been the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of choice for companies like Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, and XFX to name just a few. But Seasonic also markets power supplies under their own brand name. The new Platinum-860 and Platinum-1000 are Seasonic's newest and most advanced PSUs to date and the Platinum-1000 is their first 1kW unit. Both power supplies are based on Seasonic's X Series line, which has brought several major advancements to the standard PC power supply platform since its introduction two years ago.
• Proprietary circuit design delivers High efficiency (80Plus Gold or Platinum certified)
• Full modular DC Connector Module features integrated VRMs (3.3V and 5V)
• Hybrid Silent Fan Control (3 modes of operation: Fanless, Silent and Cooling)
• High-quality Sanyo Denki San Ace dual ball bearing fan with PWM
• High-reliability 105°C grade A capacitors and solid polymer capacitors
Introduction and Design
Back in June of 2011, we reviewed AMD’s new Llano mobile processor line by taking a look at a testbed system. The overall review was favorable, but it was also based on the best AMD had to offer, a quad-core A8-3500M processor running alongside a separate Radeon discrete GPU.
If you take a tour through your local electronics retailer, you’ll find that this is not the most common combination of parts on store shelves. The less expensive and less powerful A4 and A6 processors are more common. In our original Llano laptop review, I theorized that these would remain competitive at their respective price points, but we didn’t have the opportunity to test a laptop equipped with the less expensive hard.
Now, via the ASUS K53T, we finally have a chance to thoroughly examine a mid-range Llano laptop.
Introduction and Features
Corsair Memory continues to expand their PC power supply offering with the introduction of four new modular power supplies in their Enthusiast Series; the TX550M, TX650M, TX750M and TX850M. Corsair designed all of the new modular power supplies to deliver clean, stable, continuous power at an affordable price for PC gamers and performance enthusiasts. All of the Enthusiast Series TX Modular power supplies feature an energy-efficient design (80Plus Bronze certified), quiet operation and are backed by a 5-year warranty with lifetime access to Corsair's comprehensive technical support and customer service.
Here is what Corsair has to say about their new Enthusiast Series TX Modular PSUs:
"Corsair Enthusiast Series power supply units are designed for hardcore PC gamers, performance enthusiasts, and anybody who appreciates a combination of high performance standards and affordability. Enthusiast Series PSUs are 80 Plus Bronze certified, and are available in both modular and non-modular configurations.
Based on the award-winning Enthusiast Series TX V2 line, Enthusiast Series Modular PSUs add a modular cabling system for improved installation flexibility. It provides a great combination of exacting performance standards and affordability. "
The First 28nm GPU Architecture
It is going to be an exciting 2012. Both AMD and NVIDIA are going to be bringing gamers entirely new GPU architectures, Intel has Ivy Bridge up its sleeve and the CPU side of AMD is looking forward to the introduction of the Piledriver lineup. Today though we end 2011 with the official introduction of the AMD Southern Islands GPU design, a completely new architecture from the ground up that engineers have been working on for more than three years.
This GPU will be the first on several fronts: the first 28nm part, the first cards with support for PCI Express 3.0 and the first to officially support DirectX 11.1 coming with Windows 8. Southern Islands is broken up into three different families starting with Tahiti at the high-end, Pitcairn for sweet spot gaming and Cape Verde for budget discrete options. The Radeon HD 7970 card that is launching today with availability in early January is going to be the top-end single GPU option, based on Tahiti.
Let's see what 4.31 billion transistors buys you in today's market. I have embedded a very short video review here as well for your perusal but of course, you should continue down a bit further for the entire, in-depth review of the Radeon HD 7970 GPU.
Southern Islands - Starting with Tahiti
Before we get into benchmark results we need to get a better understanding of this completely new GPU design that was first divulged in June at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit. At that time, our own
lovely and talented Josh Walrath wrote up a great preview of the architecture that remains accurate and pertinent for today's release. We will include some of Josh's analysis here and interject with anything new that we have learned from AMD about the Southern Islands architecture.
When NVIDIA introduced the G80, they took a pretty radical approach to GPU design. Instead of going with previous VLIW architectures which would support operations such as Vec4+Scalar, they went with a completely scalar architecture. This allowed a combination of flexibility of operation types, ease of scheduling, and a high utilization of compute units. AMD has taken a somewhat similar, but still unique approach to their new architecture.
Galaxy Continues the MDT Push
One of the key selling points for the AMD Radeon series of graphics cards the last few generations has been Eyefinity - the ability to run more than two displays off of a single card while also allowing for 3+ display gaming configurations. NVIDIA-based solutions required a pair of GPUs running in SLI for this functionality, either standard SLI or the "SLI-on-a-card" solutions like the GTX 590.
However, another solution has appeared from Galaxy, an NVIDIA partner that has created a series of boards with the MDT moniker - Multi-Display Technology. Using a separate on-board chip the company has created GTX 560 Ti, GTX 570 and GTX 580 cards that can output to 4 or 5 monitors using only a single NVIDIA GPU, cutting down on costs while offering a feature that no other single-GPU solution could.
Today we are going to be reviewing the Galaxy GeForce GTX 570 MDT X4 card that promises 4 display outputs and a triple-panel seamless gaming surface option for users that want to explore gaming on more than a single monitor inside the NVIDIA ecosystem.
Speed Bumps and Unlocked Processors
AMD has announced the latest members of their fairly successful APU series for both the desktop and the mobile markets. The original release in June of this year saw the first fully integrated 32 nm APUs from AMD. These proved to be quite popular with their decent CPU performance and outstanding integrated graphics speed and quality. The launch was not entirely smooth for AMD though, even though the company had been shipping products to partners and OEMs for some months.
The desktop saw limited SKUs, and the availability of the top end parts was disappointing to say the least. AMD and their partners at GLOBALFOUNDRIES were not able to produce enough usable chips to supply demand. Quantities were tight throughout the summer, and the mobile market did not see as big of a boost for AMD as was hoped. AMD did get a lot of new business though, as the thermal and power envelopes of these A-series chips were able to match that of Intel.
As the neighborhoods are adorned with lights and reindeer decorations, and the airwaves are ringing with Christmas carols, one realizes that it is that time of year again! Although December arrived much faster than any of us at PC Perspective expected, there is no doubt that time to purchase gifts is running short and this year is almost over.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, the PC Perspective team got into a discussion about items and services that we would want for Christmas and that we felt would make really great gifts for our loved ones. And thus the PC Perspective Holiday Gift Guide 2011 was born!
The Low Cost Sandy Bridge-E
In the conclusion to my original story looking at the performance characteristics of the Sandy Bridge-E platform, I wrote this:
I am most interested in the Core i7-3930K (as I think most of you will be), but we are going to have to wait a bit to see if we can get performance and power results for that part.
Well good readers, I am here with that information! After getting my hands on the Core i7-3930K processor that makes up the other 50% of the available options for the X79 chipset motherboards, I can definitively say that THIS is the processor you want. Unless you are crazy-go-nuts rich.
With a clock speed only about 2.5% lower than its bigger brother yet a price that is 44% lower, the LGA2011 socket definitely has its enthusiast favorite.
The Sandy Bridge-E Summary
I am not going to bother reprinting everything that we discussed about the new Sandy Bridge-E processor architecture, the X79 chipset and platform changes here though if you haven't read about them before today, you should definitely take a look at my earlier article.
Here is a quicker summary:
The answer might surprise you, but truthfully not a whole lot has changed. In fact, from a purely architectural stand point (when looking at the x86 processor cores), Sandy Bridge-E looks essentially identical to the cores found in currently available Sandy Bridge CPUs. You will see the same benefits of the additional AVX instruction set in applications that take advantage of it, a shared L3 cache that exists between all of the cores for data coherency and the ring bus introduced with Sandy Bridge is still there to move data between the cores, cache and uncore sections of the die.
Turbo Boost technology makes a return here as well with the updated 2.0 version in full effect - there are more steppings in scalability on this part than on the Nehalem or Westmere CPUs.
The Eleven Hundred Case from Antec
Antec has been making a fairly strong push back into the enthusiast market as of late by sponsoring specific gaming events like Blizzcon and by preparing and releasing new products in the company's very popular lines of chassis. We have already taken a look at the Antec P280 case and in truth the Eleven Hundred we are looking at today is VERY similar to it. It is constructed on the same base chassis but has some interesting changes on the doors, the front panel and cooling options.
Even more than just new products, Antec as a company is moving in the right direction internally, addressing customer complaints and re-focusing the company to its core demographics. Company representative Jessie Lawrence actually sat down with me for an interview (our first edition of The Inside Perspective) last month where talked about new products and how Antec could improve its product line to gain the attention of the enthusiast crowd again. Based on that discussion it would seem that Antec is aiming to be one of the leaders in cases again.
Today we are looking the beginnings of this promise, the Antec Eleven Hundred. While the P280 was built towards a user that wants a particularly quiet computing experience, the Eleven Hundred finds itself targeted at performance users; those of us that want more fans, more cooling. With a retail price of about $120, the Eleven Hundred should find its way into quite a few gaming PCs.
Look below for our video review of the new case and keep reading for a collection of photos and more input on the design!!
I think the new Antec Eleven Hundred will be exactly the case that a lot of our readers want to see. While not officially a full tower case, with support for 13-in graphics cards and XL-ATX motherboards, there won't be many people that don't find enough room in this design. The inclusion of the grommetted routing openings and the HUGE CPU back plane hole are definitely great features to find their way to the Antec lineup. Things like USB 3.0 front panel connections, dedicated 2.5-in drive bays and the eight (8!!) available 120mm fan location really round out the Eleven Hundred.
Personally, I still find the mix of performance and quiet design features on the P280 more appealing, though that will depend on your system goals and individual preferences.
Introduction and Specifications
AMD's Fusion technology has worked out well for the company in 2011 and many vendors have reaped the benefits by including this platform in their mini ITX motherboards and netbook offerings. Gigabyte found room in their product line to feature this chipset in its GA-E350N-USB3. We received one of these boards for review to see how it stacks up against other E-350 mini ITX boards available today.
The GA-E350N-USB3 can be purchased for around $89.99 (after mail-in rebate from Newegg) and includes an AMD dual-core E-350 1.6GHz processor with an integrated Radeon HD 6310 GPU and support for USB 3.0, SATA3, and a PCI-E x16 slot for add-on video cards or other PCI-E devices. AMD developed the Brazos platform to directly compete with Intel's Atom and NVIDIA's ION technologies for the top slot this year's netbooks, notebooks, and some entry-level desktop solutions.
Introduction and Features
OCZ recently introduced the ZS Series power supplies, which are targeted towards value-oriented gaming systems. The ZS Series complements OCZ's High Performance and Max Performance power supplies and provides an affordable entry point for PC enthusiasts on a budget who still want good efficiency along with NVIDIA SLI or ATI CrossFire support.
The new ZS-Series currently includes three different power supplies ranging in output capacity from 550W up to 750W. The ZS-750 we have up for review today features 750W of continuous output power, is 80 Plus Bronze certified and incorporates all hard-wired cables with four PCI-E connectors. The OCZ ZS Series 750W PSU is currently selling for $84.99 USD (October 2011).
Introduction and Design
When I think of inexpensive workhorse laptops, Inspiron is one of the first names that comes to mind. This may partially be because HP remains oddly committed to a strange number-based naming scheme that’s as easy to remember as my second cousin’s birthday, but it’s also because the Inspiron is as common as rice. In college, they seemed to be the most popular Windows PC by far, and they’re still sold by most brick-and-mortar electronics stores despite Dell’s significant online presence.
Part of the reason for this popularity is price, and that means Inspirons are often competent, but can also be a bit dull. There’s always exceptions to the rules, however, and Dell has decided to spice up the brand with the new Inspiron 14z. Starting at $599, this “thin and powerful” laptop could be appealing consumers who want to get on the slim-and-sexy train for cheap, but trying to cram a lot of hardware in a small chassis with an inexpensive price can sometimes result in compromises. Did Dell have to cut corners to make this possible?
Introduction: Griefing the grieving
PC Gaming has been on its death bed for years -- if you believe the countless debates that have occurred most commonly over the last decade. The drum beat roared from the masses: “Why game on the PC anymore when you could just buy a console?” The focus of conversation was set upon the attack and defense of the PC as a viable platform at all, let alone the platform of choice. The question that swarms naggingly through my brain is quite the opposite: “In the long run, why game on a console?” The concept that consoles are better than PCs, given a fraction of the support that consoles receive, is about to die; console supporters are in various levels of grief.
U mad Mario Bros.?
I am an avid, though this editorial may suggest livid, video game supporter. My first exposure to video gaming was mixed between the Nintendo Entertainment System and the family 80286. I have equally fond memories with the keyboard as with the gamepad. The balance between console and PC was level throughout my life until just a few years ago when I carefully thought the situation over. The PC is now my platform of choice.
Back in 2006, storage tech talk was intermittently buzzy with a few different innovations. One was wrapped around the pending release of Windows Vista, particularly two bullets on its feature list: ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. In parallel with all of the Ready_____ talk, many tech pundits asked why it would be necessary to have the flash talk to Windows through special drivers. Why couldn't the flash memory just act like a larger RAM cache already present on?
A prototype ReadyBoost-enabled HDD by Samsung.
The answer, which nobody was aware of at that time, was that management of flash memory was a tricky thing to do successfully. It would not be until several years later that SSD's would (mostly) beat the issues of Long Term Performance and other issues that crop up when attempting to store randomly written data onto a device that can only be erased in relatively large blocks.
ReadyDrive required a special 'Hybrid' disk drive to be connected to and recognized by Windows Vista, containing both spinning platters and flash memory. Vista would then place frequently used small files on the flash. Since flash memory has negligible access times when compared to seek times of a HDD, the drive overall would boot significantly faster. Other tasks using those cached system files also saw a benefit. While ReadyDrive looked great on paper, there were very few devices ever released that could take advantage of it. Seagate was the earliest to release such a drive, and their Momentus 5400 PSD laptop drive did not see the light of day until Vista was nearly a full year old.
Introduction and Design
Ultrabooks are now on store shelves, but that doesn’t mean the more traditional ultraportables are dead - not by a long shot. Thin may be cool, but the high price premium attached to ultrabooks means that they will, at least for now, be a niche product. Meanwhile, the workhorse 13.3” ultraportable will remain popular.
One of the most accomplished manufacturers of this type of laptop is ASUS, which has been building U-Series ultraportables for several years now. We’ve generally given them high marks here, but now there is a new model to check out, the updated U36. Unlike the stylish U33 Bamboo, this model is a tough, simple laptop that seems to take ques from Lenovo’s ThinkPads. Has this compromised the series? Let’s find out.
Introduction and Features
Our test bench has seen a flood of Z68-based enthusiast motherboards this fall and ASRock added their flagship Z68 Extreme 7 Gen 3 board to the top of the pile for testing. The Extreme 7 Gen 3 pulls out all the stops for extreme enthusiasts and ultra overclockers by arming this board with next-gen PCI-E 3.0 support and an NVIDIA NF200 chip to allow users to run dual graphics cards at PCI-E x16/x16 mode and three graphics cards at x16/x8/x8 respectively.
This $275 board brings with it a lot of features that users have been begging for like a graphical Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), Intel's Smart Response techology, dual gigabit LAN capabilities, and support for six USB 3.0 and six SATA 3 devices. They also didn't skimp on the power components by adding premium gold caps that are made in Japan and considered by many to be luxury capacitors.