Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Toshiba
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

The processor inside the Toshiba Satellite C655 is just one reason why this laptop is interesting. The other is the laptop’s size. Yes, laptops with 15.6” displays are the most common sold today, but Intel has made sure to keep Atom processors out of them. The company has been understandably guarded about the idea of placing such an inexpensive part into the most popular category of laptops.

Netbooks have been solid Intel territory since their rise to popularity in 2008. Intel won the category virtually by default; AMD had no alternative to offer. Even AMD’s most power efficient models have never been capable of providing battery life comparable to Atom. The debut of the Nile platform late last year finally gave AMD the ability to compete in the ultraportable market, but that was a long way from the power efficiency Atom could provide. AMD needed a new architecture, one made with power efficiency as a primary goal.

Now, after much anticipation and some delays, AMD has delivered. The new Fusion processors, which combine the CPU and GPU into a single processor architecture known as an APU, are filtering into production laptops. With them comes opportunity. AMD is rolling out low-end, power efficient components first, which means Atom finally has a competitor. Intel has done very little to update the performance and functionality of Atom since its introduction because there was no reason to make changes. With no competition from AMD, and the margins on Atom products small, Intel has had little incentive to substantially revise or improve the processor. AMD’s E-240 APU may finally spark a battle that has been absent for far too long.

The processor inside the Toshiba Satellite C655 is just one reason why this laptop is interesting. The other is the laptop’s size. Yes, laptops with 15.6” displays are the most common sold today, but Intel has made sure to keep Atom processors out of them. The company has been understandably guarded about the idea of placing such an inexpensive part into the most popular category of laptops. If consumers suddenly decided that an Atom was really all they needed (which I think is unlikely, but a possibility) Intel’s entire mobile processor business could be throw into a blender.

The Satellite 655 is simultaneously one of the least and most unique laptops on the market. Let’s see what (besides the APU) makes it tick.

Nothing here is surprising besides the processor and the price. While it is not unusual for 15.6” laptops to sell for $349, laptops that sell below $450 are usually stripped models, clearance products, or loss-leaders that stores hope can be attached to profit-fat extended warranties and peripherals. The Satellite C655 has an MSRP of $349, however – it would not be surprising to see this laptop sell for $325 or even $300 after a few months on the market.

Inexpensive pricing doesn’t excuse poor quality, however; the Toshiba Satellite C655 needs to be pleasant to use even if it is inexpensive. This is a place where many netbooks stumble, and even 15.6” bargain laptops sometimes have hidden flaws. Can the Satellite C655 cut costs without cutting into your experience?

 
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

After Apple released their new line of Macbook Pros on Feb. 24, many users thought Apple would do a basic performance bump of the system's hardware and send it out the door to consumers. They predictably included Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors, which integrates an HD Graphics 3000 processor with the CPU, but they also became the first company to adopt Intel's new Thunderbolt technology. The combination of Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt is just the tip of the iceberg for this year's Macbook Pro lineup. We ordered one of their entry level 13" models to see firsthand how these new capabilities boost system performance and usability.

Apple brings Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt technologies to MacBook Pros


Courtesy of Apple

After Apple released their new line of Macbook Pros on Feb. 24, many users thought Apple would do a basic performance bump of the system's hardware and send it out the door to consumers. They predictably included Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors, which integrates an HD Graphics 3000 processor with the CPU, but they also became the first company to adopt Intel's new Thunderbolt technology. The combination of Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt is just the tip of the iceberg for this year's Macbook Pro lineup. We ordered one of their entry level 13" models to see firsthand how these new capabilities boost system performance and usability.

 


Courtesy of Apple

The 13" model we configured for our review includes a 13.3" glossy widescreen LED display that natively runs at 1280x800. We also kept everything else standard like the 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with 3MB shared L3 cache and 4GBs of DDR3-1333 system memory, but we upgraded the hard drive to a 500GB, 5,400 RPM SATA model. We also chose to stick with the Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared memory to keep the cost down below $1,300. 

 


Courtesy of Apple

As of Mar. 5, Apple had five basic Macbook Pro configurations that consumers could purchase from their website. Their entry-level 13" model starts at $1,199 while the 15" model starts at $1,799 because of the included Intel Core i7 2GHz quad-core processor and AMD Radeon HD 6490M 256B graphics card. The high-end 17" model only comes in one configuration that starts at $2,499, but it uses an Intel Core i7 2.4GHz quad-core CPU and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB of DDR5 memory. Overall, these five configurations help users with a wide range of needs and professional backgrounds.

 

Apple Macbook Pro 13" Features

Up to 2x Faster Processors
With all-new quad-core and dual-core processors, the new MacBook Pro isn’t just faster. It’s phenomenal.

Up to 3x Faster Graphics
The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro feature discrete AMD Radeon graphics for stunning visuals.

Ultrafast Thunderbolt I/O
New input/output technology lets you connect high-speed peripherals and high-resolution displays.

FaceTime HD Camera
Now when you make video calls with FaceTime, your friends will see you three times more clearly than before.

Multi-Touch Trackpad
The spacious Multi-Touch trackpad lets you use gestures to control and interact with what’s on your screen.

Long-Lasting Battery
Even with faster processors and graphics, the new MacBook Pro lasts an amazing 7 hours on a single charge.

 

 

 

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

Antilles Architecture and Design

The AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB card has been known by the media and even gamers since the first announcements from the Cayman launch last year but finally today we are able to discuss the technology behind it and the gaming performance it will provide users willing to shell out the $700 it will take to acquire. Stop in and see if your mortgage is worth this graphics card!

"Look at the size of that thing!"
-Wedge Antilles, in reference to the first Death Star

Graphics card that are this well endowed don't come along very often; the last was the Radeon HD 5970 from AMD back in November of 2009.  In a world where power efficiency is touted as a key feature it has become almost a stigma to have an add-in card in your system that might pull 350-400 watts of power.  Considering we were just writing about a complete AMD Fusion platform that used 34 watts IN TOTAL under load, it is an easy task to put killer gaming products like the HD 6990 in an unfair and unreasonable light. 

But we aren't those people.  Do most people need a $700, 400 watt graphics card?  Nope.  Do they want it though?  Yup.  And we are here to show it to you.

A new take on the dual-GPU design

Both AMD and NVIDIA have written this story before: take one of your top level GPUs and double them up on a single PCB or card design to plug into a single PCI Express slot and get maximum performance.  CrossFire (or SLI) in a single slot - lots to like about that. 

The current GPU lineup paints an interesting picture with the Fermi-based GTX 500 series from NVIDIA and the oddly segregated AMD HD 6800 and HD 6900 series of cards.  Cayman, the redesigned architecture AMD released as the HD 6970 and HD 6950, brings a lot of changes to the Evergreen design used in previous cards.  It has done fairly well in the market though it didn't improve the landscape for AMD discrete graphics as much as many had thought it would and NVIDIA's graphics chips have remained very relevant. 

With the rumors swirling about a new dual-GPU option from AMD there was some discussion on whether it would be an HD 6800 / Evergreen based design or an HD 6900 / Cayman contraption.  Let's just get that mystery out of the way:

With the VLIW4 microarchitecture we absolutely are seeing a dual Cayman card and with a surprisingly high clock speed of 830 MHz out of the gate with lots of headroom for the overclocker in all of us.  There are 1536 stream processors per GPU for a total of 3072 and a raw computing power of more than 5 TeraFLOPs.   This is analogous to the HD 6970 GPU that shares the 1536 shader count but runs at a clock rate of 880 MHz.

The memory architecture runs a bit slower as well at 5.0 Gbps (versus the 5.5 Gbps on the HD 6970) but we are still getting a full 2GB per GPU for a grand-spanking-total of 4GB on this single card.  Load power on the board is rated at "<375 watts" and just barely makes the budget for PCI Express based solutions with the provided dual 8-pin power connectors. 

You might remember that AMD introduced a dual-BIOS switch with the HD 6900 cards as well that would allow users to easily revert back to the original BIOS and settings should their overclocking attempts take a turn for the worse.  For this card though, they are taking a slightly different approach by having the switch pull duties as an overclocking option directly, pushing up the clock frequency from 830 MHz to 880 MHz.  That might not seem like that dramatic of a change (and it isn't) but more noticeable is the change in voltage on the GPUs (going from 1.12v to 1.175v) and what that does to the power consumption and PowerTune options on the card for further tweaking.  More on that below.
 
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Motorola
Tagged:

Introduction and Honeycomb Overview

Early this year Google teased the next version of their mobile device operating system, Android 3.0 (codenamed Honeycomb). Now we finally have our hands on the first Honeycomb device, the Motorola Xoom. Read on to see how much the face of Android has changed.

While the Motorola Xoom may not be the first tablet that has been released with Android, it marks a major shift in the paradigm of mobile computing. Tracing back the history of Android, Google seems to release new software platforms with a specific hardware partner. While the original G1 phone was developed by HTC, Google decided to launch Android 2.0 (Eclair, known as 2.1 on other phones) with Motorola and their original Droid product. The success of the Motorola Droid is a hallmark moment for Motorola, who had been slowly dying after the massive success of their RAZR phone years ago.

With 2.2 and 2.3, Google decided to partner with hardware partners to develop what they considered the ideal platform. From this we got the HTC built Nexus One, and Samsung built Nexus S. Both of which have been heralded as phenomenal devices.

This brings us to Google’s newest and most ambitious mobile operating system yet, Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). Once again, Google has partnered here with great hardware companies, giving us a Motorola built device, powered by the NVIDIA Tegra 2 ARM SoC.

One of the things that veteran Android users will notice right away when looking at a Xoom in action is the lack of the standard Home, Menu, Back, and Search buttons of Android devices of the past. This is actually due to a Google decision, and not one on Motorola’s part. In Honeycomb, the way you navigate through the operating system has been reworked, and these buttons integrated into the UI, instead of the device itself. This allows Google greater flexibility in displaying these navigational items when needed, and flexibility to change their appearance or function down the road in later revisions of Android.

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: General
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

Luxury. Premium. Exclusive. These are words rarely associated with laptops, particularly PC laptops. While Apple happily reaps in profits from the MacBook Pro, most other laptop manufacturers have a difficult time selling high-end laptops. The U260 is Lenovo’s attempt at a stylish flagship that will stick in the minds of buyers. Indeed, if you visit the IdeaPad main page, you’ll find that the U series is the only line of IdeaPad laptops described as “stylish” in the bite-sized popup descriptions.

 

Luxury. Premium. Exclusive. These are words rarely associated with laptops, particularly PC laptops. While Apple happily reaps in profits from the MacBook Pro, most other laptop manufacturers have a difficult time selling high-end laptops. Some companies, such as HP, have simply resorted to emulating Apple’s successful formula (with the Envy line) while others, such as Sony, seem to have made peace with their small portion of the laptop market. ASUS’s recent Bamboo line, which we recently reviewed in the form of the U33JC, proved to be the best recent attempt at a luxury laptop by any PC laptop vendor. But it was essentially a diamond in the rough, and it has few peers.

The U260 is Lenovo’s attempt at a stylish flagship that will stick in the minds of buyers. Indeed, if you visit the IdeaPad main page, you’ll find that the U series is the only line of IdeaPad laptops described as “stylish” in the bite-sized popup descriptions.

Before we go into the design details, however, let’s take a look at the guts of this slim machine.

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI
Tagged:

The AMD Fusion Processors Arrive

The MSI E350IA-E45 mini-ITX motherboard is the first system to hit our test bench that integrates the AMD E-350 Fusion APU into a desktop-ready configuration. By combining great performance per watt with features like SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0, the MSI motherboard would make a great contender for a new low cost home theater build. Does it stand out at all from the reference platform we saw last year though?Introduction

I have been looking forward to retail availability of the AMD Fusion APU based platforms since I first got hands on time with them back at GDC in 2010.  Since then I have gone to AMD's offices once or twice to sit down with marketing, engineers, designers and the hardware itself to really put it to the test and to get AMD's take on the platform, it's stance in the market and the company's goals against Intel.

Last November I was able to actually benchmark and test a reference system at AMD's Austin campus to get a preview of how the performance of Fusion-enabled notebooks and desktops panned out and the initial results were intriguing. 

 Unfortunately, our testing was done on the device you see above - hardly indicative of what end users will see in the market in either desktop or notebook form.  While the performance results were great to see as we were still a ways off from the official product release, I knew that getting retail motherboards like the MSI option we are testing today, were critical to put a final stamp on the both this series of APUs and the Fusion philosophy at AMD completely.

Also, we did have a short preview of a Toshiba C655D 15.6-in notebook last month with a full review pending using a single-core iteration of the platform.  Check that out if you are interested before continuing on with this review below.
 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged:

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Today we take a look at the newly released Intel 510 Series SSD. This is Intel's first SATA 6Gb/sec offering. They chose to go with a non-Intel branded controller, which took us by surprise to say the least. Can Intel's SSD gurus transform a previously competing controller into something that can compete with their previous 10-channel monsters?

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: General
Tagged:

One of our Sandy Bridge complaints

Lucid first showed up its Virtu software virtualization for GPUs at CES in January but they are now finally ready to give us some hands on testing time. Virtu promises to marry the integrated graphics features of the Sandy Bridge Intel processor graphics to the performance of discrete solutions from NVIDIA and AMD.

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged:

Out is Light, in is Copper

Yup, you read that right: Intel Light Peak is no more and it has been replaced by the official branding of Intel Thunderbolt Technology. Love it or hate it, that is what we are going to be using for the future and now it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty about what it does and what it can do.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

Another week, and another Vertex 3 release from OCZ! This time we take a look at the consumer oriented model, with more usable space and a promise of comparable performance. How will this new model really stack up against the enterprise-grade workhorse?

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

AMD at the ISSCC 2011

AMD has provided further details on the Bulldozer architecture at the ISSCC 2011 conference. These include an overall view of each module and some of the physical characteristics, a redesign of the schedulers and integer execution units, and a comprehensive look at power saving features that allow the Bulldozer core to exist in moderate power and TDP ranges. We cover the highlights of the submitted papers and make some guesses at what the final product will look like.

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Elitegroup
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

ECS has put together an extremely unique LGA 1155 motherboard that hardcore gamers need to pay attention to in the P67H2-A. While it has all the high-end features available in other P67 offerings, the P67H2-A went a step further and incorporated Lucid Hydra technology that allows gamers to use different GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD in one system. Now gamers can use their legacy cards in tandem with newer graphics cards to boost gaming performance!

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Manufacturer: Zalman
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

Zalman’s latest high-end power supply uses two heat pipes to help quietly and efficiently deliver up to a 1,000 watts of clean, stable power with support for dual and 3-way graphics adapters. Check it out!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

Intel Missteps

AMD is unleashing a... marketing campaign. Ok, we were hoping that with the Sandy Bridge bug and its delay, AMD would step up and release at least some new CPUs and perhaps the new AM3+ platform. But alas, we take a look at the only official response to Intel's stumble. While this is a new trick from AMD, will it be enough to gobble up some business that Intel left on the table by pulling Sandy Bridge parts from the market?

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

Today we take a look at the first OCZ drive to hit the SATA 6Gb/sec mark - the Vertex 3 Pro. We break in our SandyBridge testbed to try and unlock the full potential of this new SandForce controlled SSD. Come on in for the full scoop on this exciting new drive!

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Gigabyte
Tagged:

Introduction and Features

Gigabyte joins the fray of vendors sporting the new LGA 1155 socket and now defunct P67 chipset on their latest P67A-UD4 motherboard. The P67A-UD4 brings Gigabyte's redesigned heatsinks, black PCB, and a ton of features including a 12-phase power design, USB 3.0, SATA 6GB/s, and support for dual PCIe x16 graphics cards in either SLI or CrossfireX configurations.

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech
Tagged:

Introduction

A well-known peripheral company, Logitech makes everything from keyboards to webcams to racing wheels, and is generally well regarded. The G series of gaming peripherals has many successful products in its portfolio, and among them is the G13, which Logitech calls an “Advanced Gameboard.” That’s a fancy way of saying “keyboard replacement.”

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Manufacturer: General
Tagged:

The eternal debate

Without a doubt, one of the most frequent questions we get here at PC Perspective, on the PC Perspective Podcast or even This Week in Computer Hardware, is "do I need to upgrade my graphics card yet?" The problem is this question has very different answers based on your use cases, what games you like to play or are planning on playing in the future, what other hardware is in your system, etc and thus can be a very complicated situation.

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Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Zalman
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

One new product Zalman added to their lineup in late in 2010 was the ZM-MH200 dual hard drive docking station. This docking station supports 3.5" and 2.5" SATA drives as well as other storage components like micro SD cards, regular SD cards, and USB 2.0 devices.

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

Corsair 2.1 Audio: Hold the DRAM!

Corsair is a name well known in the industry for making high quality memory aimed at enthusiasts and high end applications. For the past few years they have expanded into other areas including cases, power supplies, and CPU coolers. The latest push is for computer audio, and the SP2500 is a hefty shot across the bow for the current competition.