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Introduction and Technical Specifications
Hydro Series™ H80i High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
Courtesy of Corsair
The Corsair Hydro Series™ H80i High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler is the middle tier cooler in Corsair's latest revision of the series. We decided to take the cooler apart to see what makes it tick and share insight on the components used in designing this award winning cooler.
The Hydro Series™ H80i cooling system consists of an aluminum-based 120mm x 120mm x 38mm radiator capable of supporting two 120mm x 120mm fans, attached to a CPU copper-based cooling assembly via 3/8 inch rubber hoses. The CPU cooler contains embedded magnets to better hold the CPU clip to the body of the cooling assembly. The CPU cooler also includes an integrated LED in the top of the assembly as well as Corsair Link™ connection ports and fan connection ports. The cooling hoses are attached to the CPU assembly by rotating nozzles, capable of an almost full 360 degrees of rotation.
CPU cooler assembly breakdown
Courtesy of CoolIT Systems
Corsair partnered with CoolIT Systems in the design and implementation of the H80i. While the CPU cooler assembly pictured is not exactly like the H80i, the CoolIT Systems designed ECO II is close enough to the H80i in design for comparison purposes. Notice how the top cap and cold plate sandwich the pump assembly in place with the pump and electronics sitting in an upper chamber and the barbs feeding into or fed from a lower chamber.
Technical Specifications (taken from the Corsair and CoolIT Systems websites)
Cold Plate Material
|Copper Micro Fin|
|120mm x 152mm x 38mm|
|120mm x 120mm x 25mm|
Maximum Fan Speed
Maximum Fan Airflow
Fan static pressure
|Large-diameter, low permeability, low evaporation rubber|
|AMD AM2, AMD AM3, AMD FM1, Intel LGA 1155, Intel LGA 1156, Intel LGA 1366, Intel LGA 2011|
|Low toxicity propylene glycol/water mixture with anti-corrosion/anti-fungal package|
Quick look at a low cost Carbide
Corsair continues its push into the case markets with yet another option, the Carbide 200R, bringing the price of entry down to sub-$50. Currently selling on Newegg.com for $45 with a coupon code, check out this quick video walkthrough of the latest case from Corsair!
After spending a bit more time with the case I can tell that for the price, the 200R is a pretty solid option. I am not a fan of the 2.5-in drive arrangement that puts the power and data cables out into the case rather than towards the back (like the 3.5-in drives have) just from a cleanliness point of view, but that's somewhat minor. Also worth noting is that even though we have a $50, and very light chassis, there aren't any sharp edges to cut you; Corsair did a good job rounding off the edges and having the metal fold back for a safe environment.
There are a TON of case options in the price range so it might be hard for the Carbide 200R to stand out with a simple Newegg/Amazon search, but I think the Corsair brand will help sift it to the top.
Introduction and Features
After a four year hiatus, SilverStone's top of the line power supply series, Zeus, has returned. The all new Zeus ZM1350 was designed for elite IT professionals, PC power users, and overclockers and retains excellent characteristics from its predecessors with a continuous output capacity of 1350W (1500W peak) rated for 24/7 operation at 50°C, ±1% voltage regulation for exceptional stability, and careful selection of premium industrial grade components. Other aspects such as efficiency, modular cabling compatible with other SilverStone PSUs, switch for multi/single +12V rail selection, pots for tweaking voltages, and fan speed control are all improved to make the new Zeus ZM1350 the most sought-after power supply that SilverStone has ever designed.
The Zeus ZM1350 PSU is fully modular and certified 80 Plus Silver (80 Plus Gold level efficiency when operating on 230VAC line power). The ZM1350 features a switch to select between single or multiple +12V rails, incorporates three small pots for adjusting the +3.3V, +5V and +12V outputs, and has a fan speed override switch on the back panel to force the fan into constant full speed operation if desired.
Zeus Power Supply Key Features:
• 1350 watt continuous power output at 50°C (1500W peak)
• 60°C operation with up to 1080W continuous power output
• Strict ±1% voltage regulation with low AC ripple and noise
• Patented six/single +12V rails selector switch
• User accessible +3.3V, +5v, and +12V rail voltage adjustment pots
• 80Plus Silver certified with 80 Plus Gold level efficiency at 230VAC
• Class leading +12V rails with combined loading up to 105A (1260W)
• Industrial grade components
• Active PFC (up to 0.99)
• Universal AC input (90-264 VAC) full range
• Advanced 100% modular cables
• Long-life dual ball bearing 80mm fan with speed control switch
• Protections: OCP, OVP, OPP, OTP, UVP, SCP, NLO
• Supports latest ATX12V 2.3 & EPS12V 2.93 standards
In our previous article and video, I introduced you to our upcoming testing methodology for evaluating graphics cards based not only frame rates but on frame smoothness and the efficiency of those frame rates. I showed off some of the new hardware we are using for this process and detailed how direct capture of graphics card output allows us to find interesting frame and animation anomalies using some Photoshop still frames.
Today we are taking that a step further and looking at a couple of captured videos that demonstrate a "stutter" and walking you through, frame by frame, how we can detect, visualize and even start to measure them.
This video takes a couple of examples of stutter in games, DiRT 3 and Dishonored to be exact, and shows what they look like in real time, at 25% speed and then finally in a much more detailed frame-by-frame analysis.
Obviously this is just a couple instances of what a stutter is and there are often times less apparent in-game stutters that are even harder to see in video playback. Not to worry - this capture method is capable of seeing those issues as well and we plan on diving into the "micro" level as well shortly.
We aren't going to start talking about whose card and what driver is being used yet and I know that there are still a lot of questions to be answered on this topic. You will be hearing more quite soon from us and I thank you all for your comments, critiques and support.
Let me know below what you thought of this video and any questions that you might have.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Hydro Series™ H100i Extreme Performance CPU Cooler
Courtesy of Corsair
Hydro Series™ H80i High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
Courtesy of Corsair
Hydro Series™ H60 High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
Courtesy of Corsair
The Corsair Hydro Series™ CPU water coolers come in a variety of sizes and configurations to fit the needs of all classes of computer enthusiasts. We decided to look at their latest revisions of these coolers, embodied in the H60, H80i, and H100i cooling units. We put these units up against the Swiftech Apogee HD custom cooling system on our test bench to see just how well these coolers performed. Starting at a base price of $79.99 for the Corsair H60 cooler, you really can't go wrong with the any of these standalone units.
Hardware is still key
The show is over, but CES 2013 is still taking its affect on our feet and our minds. While the feet are healing I asked our team to give me a few stories that would summarize this year's show. What stood out and surprised us and really made an impact? Below are a handful of quick selections with links to the full stories, but if you really want the full CES 2013 experience, you should check out our stream of CES news at http://pcper.com/ces.
NVIDIA Tegra 4 / Shield
CES really kicked off with the announcement of Tegra 4 and Shield, an Android-powered mobile gaming system built off the company's newest SoC. Shield combines a 5-in touch screen, Tegra 4 processor, console-quality game controller, speakers, display output support and more in a small, battery powered package. They are promising the best Android gaming experience as well as the ability to stream PC games on your home network to Shield.
Check out our hands-on video with the device as well as some other information on the Tegra 4.
AMD APU Relevance
To be honest, not much was expected from AMD at the show this year but they surprised many of us by talking about new APUs that looked to be much more relevant in the market than we thought they would be. Kaveri will be shipping before the end of the year and will be the first full HSA ready part, Kabini will be a high performance quad-core SoC for ultrathin notebooks and Temash could be a beast in the tablet and hybrid space.
We are Still Among the Living
The day after the official AMD presentation we were able to sit down with Leslie Sobon for a good hour and really dig into the products we are expecting throughout this next year. AMD did not officially announce any products, but they revealed more details about products on their roadmaps.
To say that AMD is in a somewhat precarious situation is an understatement. This does not necessarily mean that they won’t survive for some years. This was never mentioned to us by AMD, but we can assume that it is not in ATIC’s best interest to let AMD flounder too much. AMD is still GLOBALFOUNDRIES largest customer, and ATIC believes that they can become a fabrication giant in the next few years. So, while AMD is hitting some hard times, they will be around for some time to come in spite of their issues.
Believe it or not, AMD is still a CPU company with some relevant producxts. While Intel has the advantage in x86 performance and process technology, AMD has a distinct advantage in the integrated graphics portion. While Trinity was a big step in the right direction in terms of performance and power consumption, it was not enough to boost their flagging marketshare. Throughout the 2013 they are working on several products that will help to change their fortunes.
The first product that we will likely see is the Jaguar core based Kabini APUs. These are the next generation, low power APUs which will replace the Brazos 2.0 products that we currently are seeing. These quad core and dual core parts are manufactured by TSMC on their 28 nm process. Kabini will be the first APU to include the new GCN architecture that we currently see in the HD 7700 series and above. AMD will be breaking new ground in offering a true quad core part at price points unseen so far.
Intel is a yearly presence at CES and typically have a few interesting things to talk about. Last year we got to see Will.I.Am on stage telling us all about how the Ultrabook has changed his artistic life. Oddly enough, things have not changed dramatically for the company. Ultrabooks have inherited the latest Ivy Bridge processors which were released last Spring. Medfield is still the primary cell phone processor for Intel.
The first area they covered is the cellphone market. Medfield is still the go-to processor and Intel claims that it has better performance and battery life than even the latest Qualcomm products. Intel is introducing a new reference phone for emerging markets around the world codenamed Lexington. Based on the Z2420 and the XMM6265 modem, this budget smartphone will be Android based with certain optimizations instituted by Intel in collaboration with Google.
Intel has achieved more wins throughout the next few months. Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will all be announcing new smart phones based on Intel silicon. Details of these products will be released later in the quarter.
Medfield will be replaced by Clover Tail+ and then further on with their next gen 22 nm product.
A change is coming in 2013
If the new year will bring us anything, it looks like it might be the end of using "FPS" as the primary measuring tool for graphics performance on PCs. A long, long time ago we started with simple "time demos" that recorded rendered frames in a game like Quake and then played them back as quickly as possible on a test system. The lone result was given as time, in seconds, and was then converted to an average frame rate having known the total number of frames recorded to start with.
More recently we saw a transition to frame rates over time and the advent frame time graphs like the ones we have been using in our graphics reviews on PC Perspective. This expanded the amount of data required to get an accurate picture of graphics and gaming performance but it was indeed more accurate, giving us a more clear image of how GPUs (and CPUs and systems for that matter) performed in games.
And even though the idea of frame times have been around just a long, not many people were interested in getting into that detail level until this past year. A frame time is the amount of time each frame takes to render, usually listed in milliseconds, and could range from 5ms to 50ms depending on performance. For a reference, 120 FPS equates to an average of 8.3ms, 60 FPS is 16.6ms and 30 FPS is 33.3ms. But rather than average those out by each second of time, what if you looked at each frame individually?
Scott over at Tech Report started doing that this past year and found some interesting results. I encourage all of our readers to follow up on what he has been doing as I think you'll find it incredibly educational and interesting.
Through emails and tweets many PC Perspective readers have been asking for our take on it, why we weren't testing graphics cards in the same fashion yet, etc. I've stayed quiet about it simply because we were working on quite a few different angles on our side and I wasn't ready to share results. I am still not ready to share the glut of our information yet but I am ready to start the discussion and I hope our community find its compelling and offers some feedback.
At the heart of our unique GPU testing method is this card, a high-end dual-link DVI capture card capable of handling 2560x1600 resolutions at 60 Hz. Essentially this card will act as a monitor to our GPU test bed and allow us to capture the actual display output that reaches the gamer's eyes. This method is the best possible way to measure frame rates, frame times, stutter, runts, smoothness, and any other graphics-related metrics.
Using that recorded footage, sometimes reaching 400 MB/s of consistent writes at high resolutions, we can then analyze the frames one by one, though with the help of some additional software. There are a lot of details that I am glossing over including the need for perfectly synced frame rates, having absolutely zero dropped frames in the recording, analyzing, etc, but trust me when I say we have been spending a lot of time on this.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of MSI
The MSI Z77 MPower board pairs sleek looks with the promise of stellar performance, as expected from MSI's Big Bang board series. We decided to validate these claims, putting the board through our normal suite of benchmark and functionality tests to see how well it lived up to its reputation. The MSI Z77 MPower is a bargain at its $209.99 base price with the performance potential packed into the board.
Courtesy of MSI
WAY back in August we sat down with MSI's Alex Chang to talk about the Z77 MPower motherboard - take a look at that video below!
The AMD Closed Loop System
Closed loop water cooling is not new, but it certainly is a pretty hot topic now. Some of the first units out there had some interesting issues (like internal corrosion clogging everything up), but once those teething problems were solved the closed loop systems turned out to be pretty effective and easy to install. Initially these units had the performance of a top end air cooler, but with a lot lower noise. The latest generation of liquid cooling systems (LCS) is now further improved and provides performance approaching that of larger, more complex cooling systems. These products will not replace exotic systems like phase change, but they provide a lot of cooling in a fairly decent sized package.
Clean lines and graphics give this box a striking look without being tacky.
Last year with the introduction of the AMD FX-8150, AMD decided to create a SKU which not only included the CPU, but also a fairly robust LCS. This unit is based on an Asetek design which features a double wide cooler/reservoir with the push-me/pull-ya fan combination. Other manufacturers offer this particular product under a variety of names, but this is simply an AMD FX branded unit with some small cosmetic changes to differentiate it from other units.
AMD will eventually offer this cooler with the new Vishera based FX-8350 CPU (or at least we assume they will), and we wanted to take this combination out for a spin. In our FX-8350 review we did not hit the overclocking targets that AMD had set. In most literature that we were provided AMD stated that most FX-8350 parts would be able to hit around 5 GHz with some aggressive cooling. In our review I was able to get to around 4.6 GHz max and around 4.5 GHz stable with better than average cooling. The results were not as impressive as we had hoped, but we again did not have a top end cooling solution such as what AMD provides with this particular LCS.
With a brand new LCS in hand, I retested the FX-8350 to see how hard it could be pushed. I also wanted to see how this particular unit performance in terms of thermal properties. The results were quite surprising for me, as this is my first real experience with a LCS.
CPU, Motherboard, GPU
If you want to take yourself seriously in the business, you HAVE to have an award show. PC Perspective is no different and this week we held the first annual "Best Hardware of the Year" edition of the PC Perspective Podcast in which we discussed, debated and selected the best hardware components and trends of the past 12 months. Sometimes we even went into 2011 and sometimes we were talking about the future...don't worry it will all make sense.
If you want to get the full experience of HOW we selected these products you should definitely check out episode #232 of the PC Perspective Podcast or just watch the video embedded right below. Watch as our editors throw each other under the bus as we collectively declare winners and runners up. We did not have nearly enough Christmas cheer to come to solid conclusions in every category, but we did our best. Next year, next year...
The categories we will award "Best Of" accolades on include CPU, Motherboard, GPU, Storage, Case, Price Drop and Upcoming Technology. We left some things out like power supplies, coolers, etc simply due to time but perhaps if there is demand we can address it for 2013. Each of the winners will be given our "Editor's Choice" award regardless of what award it may or may not have received from us before hand, or even if it was reviewed officially at all.
It is also important to note that these are awards are not simply for the best performing or the best price/performance products in the category. As ambiguous as it sounds, we wanted to try to find the "best" in whatever way that means. Cost, performance, marketability, effect on the ecosystem, etc. For a full break down of what our thought process was the best place to start is that video link above.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of Lenovo
As one of the newest members of Lenovo's Thinkpad line, the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist attempts to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets in a convertible Ultrabook format. We decided to put the Twist through the normal suite of benchmark and functional tests, along with some tests specifically geared towards laptops, to gage how well it performs. At a starting MSRP of $829.00 for the base model, the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist offers an intriguing price to feature proposition with its ability to convert from a fully functional laptop into a tablet almost seamlessly.
Courtesy of Lenovo
The Thinkpad Twist offers an innovative take for the user that wants the best of both worlds - the portability and usability of a laptop with the ease of use of a tablet. Featuring the Windows 8 OS, the Twist comes with a 5-point touchscreen usable in all modes of operation. Lenovo designed in support for the following features: USB 2.0 and 3.0 type devices; three networking types including a Realtek-based GigE NIC, a Broadcom-based 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter, and a Broadcom-based Bluetooth adapter; 4-in-1 media card reader port; mini-HDMI and mini-Display Port video output ports; a dual-purpose audio port; and a 720p HD-capable integrated webcam.
Courtesy of Lenovo
In designing the Twist, Lenovo decided to use a center hinge on which the screen pivots to support its four modes of operation: laptop mode, presentation mode where the screen can be rotated to face the audience, tent mode which allows the system to stand upright for movie or other media viewing, and tablet mode where the screen folds down to cover the keyboard entirely.
Introduction and Features
The latest addition to Thermaltake's Soprano Series of enclosures is the New Soprano VO900. It’s a full-featured mid-tower case that is specifically designed for quiet operation. The New Soprano uses sound-dampening foam on both side panels, a brushed aluminum door to close off all the exposed front drive bays, and comes with two quiet fans to keep the noise down and still provide good case cooling.
The New Soprano VO900is finished in classic black inside and out and comes with a front I/O panel that incorporates USB 3.0 ports and a top mounted HDD hot-swap Docking Station that supports both 2.5" and 3.5" HDDs.
Thermaltake Soprano VO900 Mid-Tower Case Key Features:
• Elegant streamlined design with black finish inside and out
• Brushed aluminum front door panel
• Sound-dampening foam on both side panels for quiet operation
• (1) 200mm Blue LED fan on front intake (600~800 rpm)
• (1) 120mm rear exhaust fan (1000 rpm)
• Removable front and bottom mounted dust filters
• Supports both ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards
• Two USB 3.0 ports on front I/O panel
• (4) 5.25" and (1) 3.5" exposed drive bays (behind front door)
• (5) 3.5"/2.5" internal HDD bays (with four removable trays)
• Top-mounted HDD hot-swap Docking Station (2.5" & 3.5")
• Innovative tool-free 5.25" and 3.5" drive bay mounting
• Cable-Clear cable management
• Support for liquid cooling systems
• Audiophile-style foot pads
Since the Apple transition to Intel processors and mostly off-the-shelf PC hardware in 2006, people have been attempting to run OS X on home built computers originally destined for Windows. While running a different operating system on similar hardware may seem like a trivial thing, my historical experience with building a so called “Hackintosh” has been arduous at times. However, since it has been a few years since my last attempt, I decided to give installing OS X on modern PC hardware another try.
Otellini will never live that one down...
One of the big stepping stones for OS X on PC based motherboards was the widespread adoption of EFI instead of the standard BIOS environment. Official Intel Macs have always used EFI, which meant until a few years ago, emulating the EFI environment on third party motherboards to build a Hackintosh. That has changed recently and with the release of Sandy Bridge, we have seen full EFI support across all motherboard vendors.
The premiere source for information about Hackintosh builds is the tonymacx86 site and forums. The forums on tonymac is an extremely useful resource for learning about the current state of the Hackintosh scene and the experiences of people with similar hardware to what we will be using.
Tony publishes a yearly Buyer’s Guide article with components of all price ranges that will work with OS X with minimal hassle. He provides many different options in different price ranges in the 2012 guide, including H77, Z77, and even X79 based parts.
While it is technically possible to use AMD processors and graphics cards in a Hackintosh build, Apple officially supports Intel CPUs and NVIDIA Kepler GPUs, so they require much less work to ensure the operating system can fully utilize these components.
A Workstation All-in-One
While consumers know HP for its substantial market share in the world of desktops and notebooks, perhaps more important to HP's bottom line is the company's server and workstation business. While we all know what servers do there might be some confusion about what a workstation is and what it does.
Workstations are usually defined as computers used by content creators and despite that fact that you burned that DVD of your family vacation, that's not quite the same. Brands like Xeon, Quadro, FirePro and Opteron are what you will find different in a workstation class computer versus a standard computer or laptop. And while technology enthusiasts will debate the actual differences between these components, the fact is that the market demands them.
Today we are taking a quick look at the HP Z1 Workstation, a unique workstation in that it resides in the shell of an all-in-one computer. But not just your normal AIO - this is a 27-in 2560x1400 display with a chassis that opens up for easy access to components inside.
Once we show you how the processor, SSD, Quadro graphics and everything else works inside I think you will see the appeal of this kind of system even for professionals that require the stability and software support of a workstation class device. Check out our Video Perspective below and then continue on for some more photos and benchmark results from the HP Z1 Workstation!
The side profile shows the HP Z1 is slim enough but still holds a lot of hardware.
You'll find two USB 3.0 ports, Firewire, audio connections and a card reader near the bottom.
The power button, activity lights and eject button live up top.
Introduction and Features
As promised, Corsair recently added four new power supplies to their AX Series including two new digital models, the AX860i and AX760i. The AX860i and AX760i PSUs bring most of the great features of Corsair's flagship AX1200i Digital ATX PSU (DSP control, Platinum efficiency, all-modular cables, and 7-year warranty) to PC gamers and enthusiasts who don't need a 1200W PSU and are looking in the range of 760 and 860 watts. Both the AX860i and AX760i incorporate Digital Signal Processing to deliver extremely tight voltage regulation, clean and efficient power with the ability to make real-time adjustments to various internal parameters. The included Corsair Link software can be used to monitor and adjust performance, noise (fan speed), and Over Current Protection (OCP) settings. The Corsair AX860i and AX760i Digital ATX power supplies have been certified 80Plus Platinum for efficiency and come with all modular cables.
In addition to the two new digital power supplies, Corsair is also revamping the traditional analog AX Series line with the addition of the AX860 and AX760 models, which include 80 PLUS Platinum certification, all-modular cables, and significantly lower noise levels than previous models.
Corsair AX860i Digital ATX PSU Key Features:
• Digital Signal Processor (DSP) for extremely clean and efficient power
• Corsair Link Integration for monitoring and adjusting performance
• 860 watts continuous power output (50°C)
• Dedicated single +12V rail with user-configurable virtual rails
• 80Plus Platinum certified, delivering up to 92% efficiency
• ZVS / ZCS technology for high efficiency
• Independent DC-to-DC converters
• Ultra quiet 120mm double ball bearing fan
• Silent, Fanless mode up to ~30% load
• Self-test switch to verify power supply functionality before installation
• High quality capacitors for uncompromised performance and reliability
• Fully modular cable system
• Conforms to ATX12V v2.31 and EPS 2.92 standards
• Universal AC input (90-264V) with Active PFC
• Over-current, over-voltage, under-voltage and short circuit protection
• Dimensions: 150mm (W) x 86mm (H) x 160mm (L)
• 7-Year warranty and legendary Corsair customer service
Intel Board Team Creates New Form Factor
In many ways the desktop computer needs to evolve. Yes, I know that PC gaming is not only thriving and growing but for the majority of consumers the need to have a box in their office that measures 2' x 3' x 1', taking up leg room under the desk is...exaggerated. Intel thinks they have a solution for this, a new form factor for a PC they are calling the NUC - Next Unit of Computing.
By utilizing low power versions of the Intel Ivy Bridge mobile processors Intel has shrunk the desktop PC to a size even smaller than mini-ITX and hopes they can address various market segments with this new design.
Check out our video right here and continue on for the full written review!
While the consumer that simply needs a basic computing box is definitely a target for Intel and its board division, they are hoping to hit the mainstream markets with interactive displays, digital signage, marketing, analytics and more. And though the design we are looking at today has a very specific form factor, the low power boards themselves could easily be placed into nearly any industrial design.
For a size reference, the Intel NUC is a 4-in x 4-in design that is noticeably smaller than even the mini-ITX form factor that is quickly becoming popular in the DIY markets. The NUC does not have a removable processor though so what you buy is what you get with only a few components that are upgradeable.
Windows Media Center Add-ons and Plugins – Page 1
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options
Now that we have our Windows Media Center up and running, we can investigate a few additional add-ons and plugins that can further improve upon the experience you can get from your Media Center. In addition to discussing some great add-ons, I’m going to discuss how well our HTPC build has done with our power efficiency goals, so without further ado let’s jump right into it!
My Experience: The add-ons and plug-ins that I’m going to walk through are by no means all that’s out there. There are tons of add-ons that will add anything from Local Weather to full overlays for your movie collection. One thing to keep in mind is that any add-on or plugin can completely bork up your Media Center. Always test the add-on on another box first, or even better, do a full image/backup of your Media Center before you try any new add-on or plugin. You do have a full image of your brand new Media Center build on another machine that you can re-image yourHTPC with right? (Check out Clonezilla or Acronis True Image if not…)
Windows Media Center Add-ons and Plugins
Windows Media Center is excellent right out of the box, but there are a few add-ons and plugins I like to add to our Media Center to give us some additional functionality and increased usability. By a wide margin, the one we use the most is Netflix.
Back when Netflix was a scrappy newcomer, trying to get subscribers, they were putting their client on every device and platform that would talk to them. They worked out a deal with Microsoft to have the Netflix client pre-installed right into Windows Media Center menu.
My Experience: The built in application was apparently a joint project between Microsoft and Netflix, which may seem great, but has actually turned out to be a quagmire of finger pointing. Since it was originally released, the application has not been updated since and both companies have washed their hands of it and point to the other as being responsible for the application. The UI badly needs a facelift, in particular with the way you navigate through titles that have multiple seasons. While all seasons of the title will show up as a single entry in your Instant Queue, there is no way to easily jump from season to season and the only way to navigate episodes is to pull up episode lists that starts at Season 1, Episode 1, every time you open up the episode list. While this may not seem like a big deal, if you watch a show with a lot of episodes (like Cheers with 11 Seasons and 275 episodes) you have to scroll past every single prior episode to get to the next one you want to watch. Clicking the down arrow on your remote over 200 times to get to the next episode you want to watch not only gets old real fast, but eats batteries like mad.
Episode list problems aside, we still use Netflix on a daily basis and it’s relatively easy to setup. First, scroll up to the “Movies” line and select the Netflix tile.
You’ll be greeted with a full Netflix splash screen. Put a check in the “I have read and understand the Terms of Service and Privacy Statement” checkbox which will then activate the “Install” button. Click on Install and off we go.
Ryan Shrouts Picks
December is upon us, and that means the holidays are just around the corner! In the following pages, the PC Perspective editors have outlined their top picks for gifts that they would like to receive or that would make great gifts for others.
Once you have read through the guide, feel free to share your picks in the comments below. Everyone at PC Perspective would like to wish you a safe and joyous holiday! Thank you for continuing to support the site.
Ryan Shrout's Picks
There comes a time in every tech nerds life when you just don't have the tool for the job and you sit and stare at your trusted Philips screwdriver and curse. That happened to me while I was taking apart the Nintendo Wii U recently, and I don't want it to happen YOU. So picking up this kit ahead of time will save you a lot of frustration for not a lot of money.
Inside the packages you'll find a 54-bit driver kit with unique pieces like tri-wing and triangles and...stuff. Several shapes of tweezers, suction cups, spudgers (prying tools) and even an anti-static wrist strap are included! For the low, low price of just $59.95.
Yes, there are faster processors out there, but that's not the point here. AMD's Trinity APUs make great for starting your own HTPC, as detailed over the past couple of weeks by our own Chris Barbere's HTPC guide. For just about $115 you get a quad-core processor that runs as high as 4.2 GHz with an integrated GPU that can handle some 720p and 1080p game at modest quality settings, all for under 100 watts of TDP.