Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS
Tagged: netbook, ion, eee pc, atom, asus

Introduction and Design

1215n-1.jpg

You don’t hear much about Atom these days. It’s still there, still kicking, still being stuffed inside an endless stream of netbooks. Yet it’s also not very exciting, and hasn’t created much buzz. This isn’t a case of a journalistic blind spot; Atom just hasn't been update. The original was released in 2008, but Intel hasn’t released a major performance upgrade since. By comparison, the performance of mainstream mobile laptop processors has, in some benchmarks, doubled over the same time-span.  The processor performance of Atom, measured relative to the power of an average $600 laptop with a Core i3 dual-core, is actually becoming worse over time. 

Yet Atom has still dominated the laptop market because of one reason; there was no other alternative. For the first time, however, that’s changing. AMD has released its Fusion APUs, and we recently reviewed two different laptops with two different versions of that technology – the single-core E-240 in the Toshiba Satellite C655D and the dual-core E-350 in the Sony Vaio Y.

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Sony

Introduction and Design

sonyvaioy1.jpg.JPG

Tech journalists are finicky beasts. A few years ago we were washing netbooks in praise, declaring that they promised a new era of accessibility and portability for the PC. But now the tables have turned – tablets have usurped the throne of “cool new thing” and tech news is all too eager to declare the netbook little more than a passing trend, soon to be booted out of the market by glorious touchscreen slates.

The truth, however, is not as extreme has the headlines suggest. Netbooks are another boring reality that won’t be going anywhere soon, despite declarations of death and injury.  But I can understand why they’ve lost the limelight. The improvements made to netbooks over the last three years have been incremental at best. While battery life has gradually grown, performance has barely moved. Intel, lacking competition from AMD, has had little reason to improve its Atom processors. 

Now AMD has finally brought an Atom competitor to the market in the form of its Fusion APUs. We already reviewed one laptop powered by Fusion, the Toshiba Satellite C655. That laptop, however, was equipped with AMD’s single-core E-240. It provided performance roughly on par with a dual-core Atom system we tested in 2010, but ultimately fell a bit shot of our expectations.

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: turks, radeon, htpc, amd, 6670, 6570

Introduction and the new Turks GPU

Introduction

It seems that the graphics card wars have really heated up recently.  With the release of the Radeon HD 6990 4GB and the GeForce GTX 590 3GB card it might seem that EVERYONE was spending $600 on their next GPU purchase.  Obviously that isn't the case and the world of the sub-$100 card, while way less sexy, is just as important.

slide01.jpg

This week AMD has announced a slew of new options to address this market including the Radeon HD 6670, HD 6570 and even the HD 6450.  Topping out at $99, the Radeon HD 6670 offers good performance, strong HTPC features and low power consumption.  NVIDIA's competition is still reasonable though as we compare how the now price-dropped GeForce GTS 450 sits into the stack.

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: General
Tagged: podcast

Episode #150 is ready!

** UPDATE ** If you are looking for the most recent PC Perspective Podcast episode and information, make sure you bookmark the URL http://pcper.com/podcast as the new permanent home!!

This week we talk about the MSI 890FXA-GD65 Motherboard, ASUS N53S Notebook, IE10 running on NVIDIA Tegra, Viewer Voicemails, Questions, Hardware/Software Pics of the Week and much more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

PC Perspective Podcast #150 - 4/14/11  

This week we talk about the MSI 890FXA-GD65 Motherboard, ASUS N53S Notebook, IE10 running on NVIDIA Tegra, Viewer Voicemails, Questions, Hardware/Software Pics of the Week and much more! 

New URL for the podcast: http://pcper.com/podcast  Share with your friends!   

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through iTunes        
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS aggregator
  • MP3 - Download the MP3 file directly

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their new  Sandy Bridge motherboards! 

Program length: 1:25:30                                            

Program schedule:

Video after the break by clicking the "Read More" link!
 

 

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

PC Perspective Podcast #149 - 4/07/11  

This week we talk about the Thermaltake Level 10 GT case, AMD shipping Llano, the Intel 320 SSD, Radeon HD 6790, Hardware/Software Pics of the Week and much more! 

New URL for the podcast: http://pcper.com/podcast  Share with your friends!   

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through iTunes        
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS aggregator
  • MP3 - Download the MP3 file directly

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their Big Bang XPower Motherboard 

Program length: 1:14:22                                            

Program schedule:

 

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

PC Perspective Podcast #148 - 3/31/11  

This week we answer a variety of questions from the TWiT Live chat room!

New URL for the podcast: http://pcper.com/podcast  Share with your friends!   

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through iTunes        
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS aggregator
  • MP3 - Download the MP3 file directly

Hosts:  Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom and featuring Burke McQuinn

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their Big Bang XPower Motherboard 

Program length: 1:02:12                                            

Program schedule:

      

     Due to some technical difficulties involving a certain ISP in Canada, this week's podcast turned into an impromptu Question and Answer session involving the TWiT Live chatroom. While this is different than our usual format, it turned out to be an informative, and entertaining to say the least, podcast.

 

 

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

PC Perspective Podcast #147 - 3/24/11  

This week we talk about Overclocking the HD6990, the MSI HS6950 Twin Frozr II, PCMark 7, Viewer Voicemails and Emails, Hardware/Software Pics of the Week and much more! 

New URL for the podcast: http://pcper.com/podcast  Share with your friends!   

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through iTunes        
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS aggregator
  • MP3 - Download the MP3 file directly

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their Big Bang XPower Motherboard 

Program length: 1:13:19                                            

Program schedule:

 

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

PC Perspective Podcast #146 - 3/17/11  

This week we talk about the NVIDIA GTX 550Ti, Lucid Hydra Performance testing, OCZ acquiring Indilinx, a Dual GTX 460 card, Hardware/Software Pics of the Week and much more! 

New URL for the podcast: http://pcper.com/podcast  Share with your friends!   

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through iTunes        
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS aggregator
  • MP3 - Download the MP3 file directly

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their Big Bang XPower Motherboard 

Program length: 1:14:18                                                  

Program schedule:

  • 0:00:28 Introduction        
  • 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com        
 
Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

MSI packed the P67A-GD65 with several high-end features that cater to a variety of users ranging from novice overclockers to hardcore enthusiasts looking for the best components at a competitive price. The B3 version of this board is fixed squarely under the $200 ceiling and includes highly-conductive polymerized capacitors, super ferrite chokes, and solid capacitors that should give this board a long lifespan and higher efficiency overall.

MSI brings out the big guns with military-grade P67A-GD65


Courtesy of MSI

 

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Asus
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

Brushed aluminum has become synonymous with luxury electronics, and the ASUS N53’s (N53SV-A1) exterior is clad in it like a suit of armor. The lid and palmrest are both coated the velvet-smooth metal, resulting in an instantly impressive finish. The usage of aluminum on the N53 has a dark gunmetal tint – like the ASUS U33JC Bamboo laptop we reviewed some time ago, the N53 goes for elegance rather than flash.

 

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI
Tagged:

It is not what you can add, but what you can successfully take away...

While MSI's original 890FXA-GD70 was a nice success story for the company, they were hoping to have a greater presence in the sub-$150 range of parts. To achieve this while not stepping on the toes of the 880G and 890GX stable of boards, MSI released a more focused board based on the now mature 890FX platform. The 890FXA-GD65 is aimed squarely at the budget enthusiast who asks a lot from their board without having to shell out the big bucks.Have I ever mentioned my fondness for midrange and budget enthusiast products?  I personally feel that it is one of the most interesting places in the market, where manufacturers struggle to pull off unique designs for the lowest price possible.  This is usually a point of extreme innovation where money is certainly an object to be conserved, but users demand a level of functionality and performance that can usually only be attained for much more money.  Being made of money is the problem here.  Most of us simply do not have the budget to buy an extreme motherboard at $300 to $400, a video card for $700, or a processor for $1000 for that matter.  Nope, the real world is a hard and cruel place for those of us without trust funds or a sugar mama (or daddy), or that rare individual with a high paying job who actually works for a living!  You know, guys like Jeremy Hellstrom.

Yeah, you saw right... that's a big "G" in orange on the right side of the box.

Author:
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

Today we have a double-header for you: two new PSUs in Corsair's Enthusiast lineup, the TX750 V2 and TX850 V2. Check out our review to see if these new contenders are destined for the PSU hall of fame and your next build!

Introduction

Corsair Memory continues to expand their PC power supply offering with the introduction of three new units in their Enthusiast Series; the TX650 V2, TX750 V2 and TX850 V2.  All three new Version 2 power supplies have been designed to deliver clean, stable, continuous power at an affordable price for your high-end gaming rig or workstation.  Along with the TX650 V2, the TX750 V2 and TX850 V2 that we are reviewing today feature premium quality components, an energy-efficient design (80Plus Bronze certified) and quiet operation.  All of the Enthusiast Series power supplies are backed by a 5-year warranty and lifetime access to Corsair's comprehensive technical support and customer service.

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

Barts sees a lower price

The Radeon HD 6790 1GB is a new $150 graphics cards based on the same Barts architecture found in the Radeon HD 6800-series of cards. Obviously there are fewer shader processors and lower clock speeds, though the 256-bit memory bus remains for better memory throughput. The goal is obvious: unseat the GTX 550 Ti (and the GTX 460) from NVIDIA as the best option for this price segment. Does it succeed?

Introduction

The hits just keep coming.  In a time of the year that is traditionally a bit slower (after CES but before Computex) the world of the graphics card continues to evolve and iterate at a blindly pace.  Since January we have seen the release of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the Radeon HD 6950 1GB cards, the Radeon HD 6990 4GB dual-GPU behemoth, the GeForce GTX 550 Ti budget card and even NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 590 dual-GPU card.  It has been a busy time for our GPU testing labs and the result is a GPU market that is both stronger and more confusing than ever. 

Today AMD is releasing another competitor to the ~$150 graphics card market with the Radeon HD 6790 1GB based on the Barts architecture we first tested with the HD 6800-series in October 2010.  When NVIDIA released the GTX 550 Ti in this same price field, AMD was dependent on the higher priced HD 6850 and the previous generation HD 5770 to hold its ground, both of which did so quite well.  The GTX 550 Ti was over priced at launch and is only now starting to see the correction needed to make it a viable selection.

AMD had different plans though and the Radeon HD 6790 will enter into the $150 space as the performance and pricing leader if neither of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 550 Ti or GTX 460 768MB can make a stand.

Radeon HD 6790 Specs and Reference Design

The new Radeon HD 6790 will sit in the current product stack from AMD just below the HD 6850 and above the currently available HD 5770 offerings.  For those that might have already done their research, yes there is indeed a Radeon HD 6770 being sold by AMD but it is only offered to OEMs for now while end users are left without it. 

According to this roadmap from AMD the HD 6790 will be the only 6700-series selection from AMD for the retail channel until at least Q3 of 2011. 
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

Just Like Zacate Before It...

AMD let leak today that late last month the Singapore packaging facility shipped the first Llano products for revenue. This is a big event for AMD, as their Future Really is Fusion. I take a look at what all this means for the company, as well as cover how their motherboard partners are going to handle part of the transition to AM3+.Way back in early November, 2010 it was reported that AMD began their first revenue shipments of the Zacate/Ontario processors to their partners.  This was big news for AMD, as they expected these processors to make quite the impact in the market.  It took a while for the first processors to actually hit the market in final form, and it wasn’t until after CES in early 2011 that we actually saw products that were available to consumers.  Things really did not take off until as recently as February, and the demand for these chips is still at a very high level.

So today’s announcement on the AMD Blog site that the packaging arm of AMD in Singapore has shipped the first revenue Llano based parts is very important for the company.  While Llano is not based on the next generation Bulldozer CPU architecture, it does feature what could be argued as the fastest and most advanced integrated graphics processor in the world.  AMD is still aiming for solid CPU performance by including a fast four core Phenom II based processor, with some IPC improvements that should help it keep competitive in most workloads.  But the real star will be the graphics.  While we have seen some big leaps forward over the past few years in integrated performance, this should be a significant landmark in graphics technology.  AMD was one of the first to provide users with acceptable 3D performance in the original AMD 690G chipset, and improved it with the 780, 785, and 800 series of integrated graphics.  The integrated part inside the Llano should be quantum leap ahead in features and performance as compared to anything else out there.

The happy group of workers with the plain, brown colored box holding the first revenue shipment of Llano based processors.

It took approximately three months before we saw initial penetration of Zacate based parts in the retail market, and we can expect about the same amount of time for Llano.  This will be the first 32 nm part that AMD has released, which is around 18 months after Intel launched their first 32 nm parts.  AMD and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have wanted to cut that gap, but nobody else in the world has the fabrication resources that Intel does.  I would imagine that many of these first Llano parts are actually aimed at the notebook market, where they could make the biggest financial impact as well as provide some TDP/clockspeed leeway which allows GLOBALFOUNDRIES time to work on higher clocked versions to improve yields and bins.

We will see desktop parts shortly after, and can expect a fair supply by early July.  This should be hitting OEMs as they are preparing for the “Back to School” launches in early August.  AMD is truly offering what looks to be standalone graphics card performance on a CPU, all at around 95 watts TDP for the average desktop part.  Combined with a true quad core processor and an ample amount of L2 cache per core, we should see performance that rivals that of a high end Athlon II X4 combined with a HD 6550 graphics card.  All combined in one nice little package, and for a slightly lower cost (and a lower cost of goods for the manufacturer).

Earlier last week we were informed that quite a few motherboards from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI will be compatible with the upcoming AM3+ based Bulldozer products.  Because none of these current boards are built to utilize CPU graphics, they likely will not be compatible with Llano.  This really wouldn’t make any sense anyway, since current AM3 processors would work just as well as the first generation of Llano processors.  But the current AM3 motherboards should not have a problem with the first generation of Bulldozer processors.

Gigabyte is shipping boards with the block socket denoting AM3+ compatibility.

Asus and MSI are providing BIOS updates to their 800 series of motherboards.  Asus looks to provide BIOS updates for 890FX, 890GX, and some 880G based boards.  MSI is concentrating on the 890FX and 890GX series, but leaving out the 880 and 870 parts.  Gigabyte is actually shipping “Black Socket” AM3+ compatible boards, and these comprise nearly their entire current lineup of 800 series of boards.  Users have spotted the black socket 870 boards for sale around North America, but so far they have been a handful of boards.  From all indications these are not actually AM3+ sockets, but are in fact AM3 but in a black plastic to convey Bulldozer/AM3+ compatibility.  The AM3 socket actually has 941 pin holes, but AM3 CPUs feature 938 pins.  AM3+ will features 942 pin holds, but the assumption is that the actual chips themselves will have a few pins less than 942.  Hence the ability to fit into current AM3 boards even though AM3+ processors will have more pins.  There will likely be certain tradeoffs with using an AM3 board with AM3+ processors, and these look to be related to power efficiency and maximum turbo clockspeed targets.  Current AM3 boards do not look to have the vast VCore switching that AM3+ boards will have, and we could see some limitations provided the HT 3.0 bus of current AM3 boards as compared to the updated HT 3.1 revision in AM3+.

Rumor has it that the Bulldozer release will be around June 20, while Llano will be officially unveiled in the first week of July.  That may or may not hold true, depending on how well AMD is able to ship these products.  Computex will likely see a lot more information slip out, as well as the ubiquitous motherboard support and floor samples being freely viewed by the public.  The official release of AM3+ motherboards should occur by the end of this month, and perhaps in early May.  AMD has a great need to seed the market with these motherboards, and they are also backwards compatible with AM3 processors.  We also may see the first integrated support of USB 3.0 in these motherboards, as AMD has received USB 3.0 certification for the Hudson FCH core logic chips.  There is still confusion as to how these are going to be placed in the market, or if they are even compatible in conjunction with the AMD 900 series of northbridge chips.

These are certainly exciting times for AMD.  The HD 6000 series of graphics chips are doing well in the market.  They are now truly competitive at the high end again.  Their CPUs have been holding their own, especially due to the help that Intel gave them with the Sandy Bridge issue.  They are about to release what looks to be a very power CPU architecture in Bulldozer, and they will be rewriting the books when it comes to integrated graphics performance and capabilities.  Certainly AMD will not overtake Intel, but we as consumers do need a strong and competitive AMD for the sake of our own wallets.

Author:
Manufacturer: Thermaltake
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

Thermaltake set a new standard for creativity and design when they introduced the original Level 10 case at Computex in 2009, but many PC builders couldn't afford the $800 price tag. In 2011, Thermaltake recognized the need for a consumer-level gaming case that featured many of the modern design elements and features that made the original Level 10 case so popular. The release of the Level 10 GT shows Thermaltake's commitment to the enthusiast community and does it at a more competitive price of $280 at most retailers.

Thermaltake finally creates Level 10 case for semi-budget users


New Level 10 GT (left) and original Level 10 (right)
Courtesy of Thermaltake

 

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

A Headset for All Seasons

After being impressed by the Corsair SP2500 2.1 speaker system, I geared up to give their headphone audio a try. The technology that Corsair has implemented into their headphones certainly looks impressive, but only when we hear the sound will we know how well they accomplished this feat. Read on to see if Corsair can be the next Grado Labs in portable audio.A few weeks back I was able to listen to, and review, the SP2500 speakers from Corsair.  These impressed me a great deal with their clarity, depth of sound, and overall representation in all three major aspects of computer audio (music, movies, and gaming).  These were the first Corsair audio products that I had a chance to listen to, but they were not the first that Corsair had released at that time.  Some months before the release of those speakers, Corsair had introduced the Gaming Audio HS1 USB headphones.

Pardon the quality of the picture, my camera is dying.  The boys is well constructed and protects the headphones nicely.

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Power & Cooling
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

PC Power & Cooling's Silencer 760W delivers clean, stable power with excellent efficiency at an affordable price. However, don't let the name mislead you; this PSU isn't what many users would consider silent

.Introduction
                   
The Silencer 760W sits in the middle of PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer series of high performance power supplies.  It can deliver up to 760W of clean, reliable power with excellent efficiency for mission critical workstations and high-end gaming systems.  The Silencer 760W incorporates all hard-wired cables and comes with four PCI-E connectors, NVIDIA SLI certification, is backed by a 7-year warranty, and typically sells for $129 USD.


(Courtesy the OCZ Technology Group)
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged:

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Less than a month after the introduction of the 510 Series SSD, Intel has released the 320 Series. This is essentially a 'G3' X25-M, running at the usual SATA 3Gb/sec speeds. While it won't be as fast in a straight line as the 510 series, the 320 has the extremely nimble 10-channel controller under its belt. Check out our review to see how it fared against the competition, as well as against the other Intel models.

Introduction:   
 
Today we take a look at the third generation of Intel's native SSD controller solution. What started life as the X25-M series has now been dubbed the 320 Series. This falls in line with Intel's new naming scheme, where all SSD lines get some form of a 3-digit number. 3xx Series are SATA 3Gb/sec, while 5xx Series are 6Gb/sec.
 
The X25-M series got off to a shaky start in life, as the initial shipping version was plagued by some long-term fragmentation issues discovered by yours truly. The plague was short lived, thankfully, as Intel stepped up to the plate and corrected these problems in firmware. The second generation model was released without a hiccup, but the addition of TRIM support via firmware saw some problems as well. Those were eventually ironed out and all was good once again.
 
Last month we saw Intel launch the 510 Series. The unit did not live up to our expectations from an Intel controller - mostly because an Intel controller it was not. Just as they were blind sighted and rushed a 6Gb/sec motherboard solution to the market, Intel did the same with the 510, opting for a Marvell controller. Sure they worked some of their own firmware magic into it, but there is only so much you can squeeze out of a given piece of hardware. Their Sandy Bridge launch did not go so great either, as some of our readers are still getting their motherboards replaced with correctly functioning B3 versions.
 
The 320 Series boasts 25nm flash memory. PC Perspective got a first hand look at 25nm production early last year. We had been waiting for this memory to make an appearance in an Intel part, and our wait is finally over. To revisit what 25nm flash does for us, check out this pic:
 
 
 
From left: 130nm (128MB) in 2003, 90nm (512MB) in 2005, 50nm (1GB) in 2007,
34nm (4GB) in 2009, and finally 25nm (8GB) flash now being produced at IMFT.
To the far right is the now standard flash memory TSOP packaging.
 
A single die of 25nm flash holds a whopping 8GB. While multiple dies can be stacked inside each chip package, the more you stack, the greater chance a failed part will cause a TSOP to be considered bad during the production process. For this reason, larger die capacities and fewer dies per chip make things cheaper to produce all around. This should make for some competitive pricing as well.

 
 
Specifications:





An important note: the 320 series, while packaged and sold to consumers, is also rated for enterprise use. This is the first MLC based Intel SSD to make such a claim. The ratings above were for consumer applications. Here are the ratings for enterprise usage where the drive will see heavy random writes spread across 100% of the available drive capacity:
 
 
Intel is failing *way* conservative, assuming no use of TRIM and 100% of the drive full of 4k random writes. This would make many other SSD's choke completely, so I'm shocked to see Intel be brave enough to even provide such a rating. I hit our sample really hard for half a day and was not able to get IOPS to fall as far as their rating.

Packaging:
 
  
 
Our 320 series sample came in the standard OEM packaging with the new style of sticker. The retail packaging comes with a CD and 3.5" adapter bracket in the box.
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Asus
Tagged:

Enter Sandy Bridge

In desktops, concerns such as power efficiency are important, but usually aren’t potential deal-breakers. In laptops, the processor has a significant impact on the design of the laptop. There is a broad spectrum of performance, power efficiency and thermal efficiency, and these variables make the difference between a 1” thick ultraportable and a bulky 1.5” thick desktop replacement.

Desktop processors tend to catch the majority of the glory when new processor architectures debut. AMD’s recent decision to release Bobcat as its first APU was quite unusual; in most cases, laptops have to wait for new processor technology to filter down.  As a result, the performance story of laptop parts is often second-fiddle to that of its desktop cousins.

That’s a shame, really, because laptop processors are in many ways more interesting to examine. The variety of product on the laptop market is staggering. The performance gap between an Intel Atom and an Intel Core i7-QM quad-core is staggering – it’s hard to believe that they’re both the same type of product and are capable of running the same basic programs. 

The laptop space is also more rigorous than that of desktops. In desktops, concerns such as power efficiency are important, but usually aren’t potential deal-breakers. In laptops, the processor has a significant impact on the design of the laptop. There is a broad spectrum of performance, power efficiency and thermal efficiency, and these variables make the difference between a 1” thick ultraportable and a bulky 1.5” thick desktop replacement.

We already know from the desktop parts that Sandy Bridge is kind of a big deal. The new Intel processors absolutely destroyed their former cohorts and all competition from AMD in our earlier Sandy Bridge review.

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Tagged:

1024 CUDA cores on a card

The "Top Secret" GTX 590 turns out to be both better and worse than the Radeon HD 6990 4GB depending on some vary particular use cases. In realm of $700 graphics cards, this is definitely something you want to pay attention to. But I am getting ahead of myself; let's first dive into the design on the GTX 590 and see what's under the hood.The High-End Battle Commences

Just a couple of weeks ago AMD released the Radeon HD 6990 4GB card, the first high-end dual-GPU graphics card we have seen released in quite a while it seems.  Before that, the Radeon HD 5970 had been sitting on the throne as the fastest single card for even longer - the GeForce GTX 295 was NVIDIA's last attempt at the crown.  Even before we got our hands on the HD 6990 though, we were told by various NVIDIA personnel to "wait what we have in store."  Well, we have done so and today we are here to review and discuss NVIDIA's entry into the dual-GPU realm for 2011, the GeForce GTX 590 3GB.

The "Top Secret" GTX 590 turns out to be both better and worse than the Radeon HD 6990 4GB depending on some vary particular use cases.  In realm of $700 graphics cards, this is definitely something you want to pay attention to.  But I am getting ahead of myself; let's first dive into the design on the GTX 590 and see what's under the hood.

Note: If you would like to check out our video comparison between the GeForce GTX 590 and the Radeon HD 6990 before moving on, please do!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI
Tagged:

From the HD 5770 HAWK to Now

MSI hits the scene with their own version of the AMD HD 6950. This features the Twin Frozr II cooling solution and has a price point slightly above where most reference HD 6950s sit. When combined with MSI's Afterburner software, this card becomes an interesting tool in a gamer's arsenal. We find out how it runs when combined with the Catalyst 11.4 Preview Driver, which delivers some significant improvements in performance for the Cayman family of chips.Last year I reviewed the MSI HD 5770 HAWK video card, and I came away impressed by the engineering that MSI brought to the table.  The card was quiet, it was efficient, it didn’t build up any significant levels of heat, and it was pretty affordable as compared to a bone stock HD 5770 based on the reference design.  The board could also overclock.  It was a budget enthusiast board that wouldn’t empty the pocket, but still give a lot of DX11 bang for the buck.

Then on the other hand we had the MSI HD 5870 Lightning.  This was a card that had a lot of promise.  This particular card had a custom PCB design with high end power circuitry, quality components, and the TwinFrozr fan design.  All of this came to naught.  The board would not overclock any further than the reference HD 5870 that we had seen for some months before, and in fact the board appeared to pull a little bit more power at the same speeds as a reference board.  This was almost the exact polar opposite of the HD 5770 HAWK.

The product I am looking at today is an interesting hybrid from MSI.  MSI has taken the stock HD 6950 reference PCB, populated it with slightly higher rated components (though not up to their “Military Class” standards), and put on the Twin Frozr II cooling solution.  This is more in line with the reference version of the HD 6950, but the addition of better cooling and advanced fan profiles gives it a boost above the reference, without going into the stratified air of producing another “Lightning” type of product.  This has allowed MSI to get a differentiated product out in fairly short order, and still give consumers something extra to potentially make their buying decision on.

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Manufacturer: Silverstone
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Introduction and Features

If you are in the market for a solid SFX form factor power supply for a Micro ATX Media Center or Home Theater PC that will support a high-end graphic card, the SilverStone ST45SF deserves a very close look!

Introduction
                   
SilverStone has a well earned reputation among PC enthusiasts for providing a full line of high quality enclosures, power supplies, cooling components, and accessories.  SilverStone recently added a new 450W power supply in the SFX form factor to their PSU line up.  The SFX form factor is frequently found in Micro ATX Media Center PCs and Home Theater PCs.

SilverStone SFX ST45SF PSU

Here is what SilverStone has to say about the ST45SF: "After successfully revolutionizing both HTPC and SFF market segments with innovative chassis designs, SilverStone engineers continue their push for advancement in these categories by releasing a true upgrade-worthy small form factor power supply, the ST45SF. This SFX unit is compatible not only with chassis that use SFX power supplies but also in smaller ATX chassis with the included adapter bracket. Despite its small size, the ST45SF has features that one would expect from an elite ATX power supply such as 80 PLUS Bronze level of efficiency, temperature controlled fan, 50°C temperature rating, and reliability for 24/7 operation. Enthusiasts oriented features are also present with single +12V rail and 8pin/6pin PCI-E connectors to fully support multi-GPU systems. For SFF users and SilverStone, the ST45SF is more than just an upgrade, it is an important milestone for the DIY desktop computer."

SilverStone ST45SF Main Features:
•    Supports standard SFX form factor and ATX (via included bracket)
•    450W continuous power output at 50°C and rated for 24/7 operation
•    80 PLUS Bronze level efficiency (82%~85% efficiency at 20%-100% load)
•    Class-leading single +12V rail with 36A capacity
•    Silent running 80mm fan (18dBA minimum)
•    Single PCI-E 8-pin and dual PCI-E 6-pin connectors
•    Active PFC

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Manufacturer: AMD
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What all that extra power gets you

Just a couple of weeks back AMD released the new Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card to world and it was easily crowned the king of the GPU world. With performance that beat out AMD's own Radeon HD 5970 and walked past the single GPU based GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB from NVIDIA, the HD 6990 offered the most performance in the smallest space you could buy - and for a hefty $699 MSRP.The Leftovers

Just a couple of weeks back AMD released the new Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card to world and it was easily crowned the king of the GPU world.  With performance that beat out AMD's own Radeon HD 5970 and walked past the single GPU based GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB from NVIDIA, the HD 6990 offered the most performance in the smallest space you could buy - and for a hefty $699 MSRP.  (Note that they are selling for more than that as of today...)

One of the interesting features of the card was a unique hardware switch on the top of the card that is used to switch between standard clock rates of 830 MHz and a 375 watt power rating and a higher voltage, higher clock rate along with the ability to breach the 375 watt limit set by the PCI Express standard. 

Along with the move from 830 MHz core clock to a 880 MHz core clock (which by itself wouldn't really be notable), the HD 6990 cards move from a voltage of 1.175v stock to a slightly improved 1.2v for additional overclocking headroom.  In conjunction with this, the PowerTune implementation (which uses hardware to limit maximum power consumption levels) gets tweaked to allow for more power consumption.  This is good news for overclockers again.

Here is my quote from the original HD 6990 story:

When you move that BIOS switch on the HD 6990 from the standard setting to the overclocked setting, you aren't just changing the clock speed of the GPU but you are also changing the default settings for PowerTune.  Instead of a target load power consumption of about 375 watts, the overclocked card will be able to target as high as 450 watts using some updated and improved circuitry on the board.  It is worth nothing though that AMD is forced to make this 450 watt option an "overclocked" setting because it does exceeded the power draw of the PCI Express slot and associated connectors and would cause a fit for vendors attempt to selling systems using the HD 6990 to consumers.  Enthusiasts that buy this card themselves though will have that option and we are glad that AMD continues to support readers like ours by enabling this type of thing.

Unfortunately, because of some time constraints, we didn't get to play around with this overclocked setting originally but today, we rectify that situation. 

In our story today you will see a collection of benchmarks, all run at the 2560x1600 resolution that actually stresses the HD 6990, comparing the default 830/1200 speeds to the automatically overclocked settings of 880/1250 that result from flipping that overclocking switch.  Though I realize that not many users have 30-in displays with 2560x1600 screens, the higher pixel count should also represent performance scaling and changes on multi-display Eyefinity configurations. 

After those tests, you will see our experiences with additional overclocking attempts through AMD's Overdrive software in the Catalyst Control Center.

Our testing configuration was the same as all of our recent GPU articles:

  • Testing Configuration
  • ASUS P6X58D Premium Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7-965 @ 3.33 GHz Processor
  • 3 x 2GB Corsair DDR3-1333 MHz Memory
  • Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB HDD
  • Corsair Professional Series 1200w PSU

 

 
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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Asus
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The Relative Lack of SLI on AMD

Several years back we were introduced to the Lucid Hydra technology, and it seemed like an impressive multi-GPU implementation which could leverage the power of different video card combinations to improve performance over that of one card. Quite a few years have passed, and we have a handful of motherboards now supporting this technology. We take a look at the technology now implemented on the AMD side, and how it performs when using both AMD and NVIDIA based video cards.The first we heard of Lucid was a few years back when they showcased working silicon running multiple video cards together.  Whether these were NVIDIA or ATI/AMD cards, Lucid had a way of allowing them to render a scene in a unique way, then composite the results to create a near seamless experience.  It took some time before the first products hit the streets, and there is also quite a bit of controversy behind the actual implementation.

The primary rendering mode for both SLI and CrossFire is alternate frame rendering.  Basically this allows each video card to process alternating frames, which theoretically can double performance.  We have never seen true linear scaling in such situations, but it is not unheard of to reach 85% scaling or slightly more with the latest video cards on fast systems.  Lucid does things a bit differently.

Block diagram of the Lucid Hydra chip and how it connects to the system.