Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 17, 2012 - 03:13 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Microsoft Store, crapware
“Factory computers” have been loaded with demos and trials for several years now in an effort to subsidize part of the cost, get lower prices, and bloat your computer -- that last part is unintentional. Microsoft created their “Signature” lineup of PCs a couple of years ago to highlight products that only have software which Microsoft intended to install. Microsoft will soon offer a service to bring existing PCs to what Microsoft deems a Signature status for $99 if you can find a Microsoft store.
While our readers are affected by this story they are probably less so than just about any other blog.
If you did not acquire your computer by having it assembled -- and if you did, we hope you consulted our regularly updated Hardware Leaderboard -- you probably purchased it from an OEM. To make their product seem more appealing most OEMs load their products with product demos and other advertisements. This is particularly bad for PCs because they are not only annoying but also tend to bog the machine down.
What is it with Microsoft Stores and awkward $99 products lately?
(and yes I realize the image is inaccurate because I chose a non-consumer workstation)
Since Microsoft tends to get the brunt of the bad recognition when a Windows machine it comes to no surprise that they eventually attempted to encourage a more vanilla experience. The Microsoft “Signature” lineup of PCs were OEM-produced machines which have been removed of all software that should not come with Windows -- except maybe a few Windows Live Essentials products.
Microsoft will expand their Signature program to any PC if you can find a Microsoft Store and pay $99 to undo what their partners did.
It is unclear what specific goal Microsoft is hoping to accomplish with this program. Everyone’s first reaction would be that they are attempting to cash in at the expense of their users but that just does not make sense. They could be attempting to promote the Windows store but this certainly seems less like a carrot and more like a wet noodle. They could also be trying to pressure their OEMs by reducing the cost-per-impression they can acquire for each ad because of how easily it could be removed.
It would be most like Microsoft to honestly believe that this service will be appreciated by users. If that is true, I must disagree. ZDNet has already used this as an excuse to promote Apple computers -- which makes me headdesk because $99 is pocket change compared to that -- so I expect that if that was Microsoft’s intent it will backfire wholly.
What do you think Microsoft’s goal is: selfish vulching their consumers or something less devious?
Subject: Systems | May 14, 2012 - 06:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SFF, CoolIT Eco II 140, EVGA GTX 670 SuperClocked, i7-3770k
Legit Reviews didn't let a fear of overheating prevent them from building a very powerful Ivy Bridge based SFF PC that is a lot more than just an HTPC. While a system with an EVGA GTX 670 SuperClocked card in it can handle HTPC duties it will only really shine when you game on it. Thanks to a CoolIT Eco II 140 Liquid Cooler for the CPU and a conveniently placed intake fan to cool the GPU they fit the entire system inside a Cubitek Mini ICE ITX case. It might have ended up costing just over $2500 but this is one compact gaming beast that can hit P8649 on 3DMark11!
"Building a Small Form Factor Mini-ITX computer can be challenging, but it is worth the extra work as the end result can be amazing. We managed to stuff a ton of enthusiast grade hardware into a PC case that measures just 9.06" x 12.33" x 14.29" (WxHxD)! We still ran into a few minor issues here and there, but at the end of the day it all worked out and the system came out just how we wanted it to. Our dream mini-ITX system is ready for any task you want to throw at it!"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- iBUYPOWER Erebus GT Review: Ivy Bridge and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 in SLI @ AnandTech
- sus Essentio CM6870 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 14, 2012 - 03:34 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7
Microsoft is expected to announce their upgrade promotion for users to purchase a Windows 7 PC after early June and move up to Windows 8 when it is released. Unlike past promotions, such as Office 2010 and Windows 7, it is expected that you will have the option to be bumped to the Pro level SKU -- but not for free. While this does not rule out the potential for a free upgrade to Windows 8 Home, Mary-Jo Foley of CNET seems to have not heard that from her sources.
People constantly mock computers for having a very quick apparent turnaround time.
There tends to be a desire in consumers to put off purchasing new equipment. Users know that patience will very often yield more for the same cost. Software is no different which is why Microsoft and others offer initiatives to allow users to upgrade to impending releases with the purchase of the current version.
But wait, if you order now -- you can order later!
On or around June 2nd, Microsoft is expected to unveil their upgrade program for users who will purchase a Windows 7 machine. According to Mary-Jo Foley of CNET and her sources, this time you will be able to upgrade your Windows 7 machine to Windows 8 Pro. This upgrade will not be free but is expected to be under a hundred dollars according to leaked promotional content. Targeting June is designed to prevent sales of Windows 7 PCs dropping off for back to school.
The upgrade to Windows 8 Pro makes sense as it allows the addition of Windows Media Center and other features that were available in the lower end versions of Windows 7. I think you could imagine what a user would feel like if they updated their operating system and lost features that they could not even add back in to their “upgraded” version.
Of course the better option would likely have been to rethink removing features if they feel as though vanilla Windows 8 is not an apples-to-apples comparison to Windows 7 Home Premium.
Subject: Systems, Storage | May 11, 2012 - 04:34 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: x79, sandy bridge-e, RevoDrive 3 X2, ramrod, just delivered, dv nation
Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.
When you are a little fish in the great big pond of PC builders, you need to do something to stand out from the rest. The people behind DV Nation apparently were well aware of that when entering the system vendor business and offering up SSDs to every single system configuration. Through a new system they are offering, provocatively named the "RAMRod PC", DV Nation provides a pre-built system that has some very unique components and configuration settings.
Built around the Antec Three Hundred Two chassis, the first glance at the RAMRod doesn't really indicate anything special is going on under the hood. But let's take a quick look at the specs:
- Intel Core i7-3820 @ 4.4 GHz
- 64GB DDR3-1600 Memory from G.Skill
- Radeon HD 6990 4GB
- 2x Seagate Momentus XT 750GB Hybrid HDD in RAID-0
- OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 480GB PCIE SSD
- RAMCache: SuperSpeed Supercache 8GB on PCIE SSD, 8GB on Momentus
- RAMDisk: 42GB ROMEX Primo rated at 8000 MB/s
- Cost: $5,400
Obviously there is a LOT of storage work going on in the RAMRod and the purpose of the rig is to be the fastest pre-configured storage available anywhere. If you are looking for a cheaper version of this system you can get a base model with 16GB of memory, 10GB RAMDisk, 2GB RAMCache, 240GB PCIe SSD, single standard hard drive and even at GTX 680 for $2999.
Let's take a quick walk around the rest of the system.
If the netbook was a shooting star, the nettop was an asteroid that never quite entered our atmosphere. Instead it flew silently by, noted by NASA, written about in a handful of articles, and now forgotten.
That doesn’t mean it has ceased to exist, however. It’s still out there, floating in space - and it occasionally swings back around for an encore. So we have the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180.
Of course, simply advertising a small computer as - well, a small computer - isn’t particularly sexy. The Q180 is instead being sold not just as general-purpose laptop but also as a media center (with optional Blu-Ray, not found on our review unit). There’s no doubting the demand for this, but so far, attempts to make PC-based media center computers have not done well - even Boxee, with its custom Linux-based operating system, was fussy. Can the Q180 succeed where others have stumbled? Let’s start with the specs.
It’s been awhile since we tested anything Atom. Since our last look at this line of processors, Intel has updated to the code-name Cedertrail processors, allowing for higher clock speeds. The 2.13 GHz dual-core Atom D2700 looks quite robust in print. But this still the same old architecture, so per-clock performance doesn’t come close to Intel’s Pentium and Core processors.
Also included in AMD’s Radeon HD 6450A, a version of the HD 6450 built for small systems that don’t have room for a typical PCIe graphics card. This makes up for the fact that all Atom processors are still using hopelessly outdated Intel Media Accelerator graphics, which is entirely unsuitable for HD video.
Subject: Systems | May 9, 2012 - 06:34 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, zbox nano-xs, SFF, htpc
Zotac's new ZBox Nano-XS is smaller than your average case fan, measuring only 4.17" x 4.17" x 1.46" (106mm x 106mm x 37mm) but is powerful enough you can stream video and even get some light game playing in on it. The name is a bit misleading as it is powered by a dual core AMD E-450 with a HD 6320 giving it impressive graphics for its size and the 64GB Kingston mSATA SSD making the general performance of the system quite snappy. Funky Kit does want you to be aware that this tiny PC ships without an OS so make sure that you are familiar with making a bootable USB drive with which to install your OS but apart from that they highly recommend the Nano-XS to anyone who needs a tiny PC.
"The performance of the ZBox impressed me. It can't touch my high end desktop of course, but given the size and the price it is quite impressive. You can do some low end gaming, watch any videos you might want to regardless of their resolution and it snaps windows around and loads programs quite quickly, thanks to the SSD."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Noontec MovieHome V8 NAS Media Player @ Kitguru
- Australian Blu-ray Importing: May 2012 Buying Guide @ Tweaktown
- ASRock's High-End Vision 3D 252B HTPC @ AnandTech
- Egreat S-Series R300 Network HD Media Player Review @ NikKTech
- SilverStone Grandia GD07 Review: Centering and Serving Your Media @ AnandTech
- Thermaltake Element Q Small Form Factor Chassis @ TechwareLabs
- ZOTAC A75-ITX WiFi A-E @ techPowerUp
ASUS, a company popular for its line of enthusiast motherboards and gaming notebooks, recently unveiled three new Ivy Bridge powered desktop systems. Although specific pricing is still up in the air, the three systems span the range from low powered desktop systems to the high end enthusiast computer.
The ASUS CM6870 desktop is a low end desktop that is powered by Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors (Core i3/i5/i7 Pentiums), up to 16GB of dual channel DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a choice from a variety of low end (mainly HTPC class) discrete graphics cards including the NVIDIA GT640 on the top end and the AMD HD5450 on the low end. The system also has Gigabit LAN, up to 4TB of hard drive space, a 300W or 350W PSU, four USB 3.0 ports, 6 USB 2.0 ports, headphone/microphone jacks, and a 16-in-one card reader. The system runs Windows 7 Home Premium x64 or Windows 7 Home Basic x64.
The ASUS CG8270 features higher end CPU and GPU choices, making it suitable for entry level gaming. It uses either a Core i5 or Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor, up to 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory, up to 4TB of hard drive space, and up to a NVIDIA GTX560 Ti 1GB graphics card. The system comes with a 400W or 500W power supply, depending on what GPU the user chooses. It also features Gigabit LAN, headphone and microphone jacks, a 16-in-1 card reader, four USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, and 8 channel analog audio output. This desktop has an angled brushed aluminum front panel and dark chassis. It also runs Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
Occupying the high end is the ASUS CG8580 desktop. At first glance, the desktop has a large black case with an angled design that sports the ROG (Republic of Gamers) branding. It has a front panel that opens up to reveal the drive bays and an LED light that illuminates the ASUS logo. The case further has five open vents to improve airflow. On the inside is a liquid cooled Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor, a NVIDIA GTX 680 (or GTX560 Ti SLI) graphics card, up to 16GB DDR3 1600MHz memory, up to 10TB of hard drive storage, dual 128GB SATA III SSDs in Raid 0, and a Xonar DX sound card (optional). IO includes headphone and microphone jacks, four USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 port, Gigabit LAN, 8 channel audio, S/PDIF out, and a 16-in-1 card reader. The desktop also comes with a 700W power supply. It comes equipped with Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
The back of the CG8580 Gaming Rig
The three Ivy Bridge powered desktops are coming soon, but there is no word yet on pricing. In the meantime, please check out our Intel Ivy Bridge and NVIDIA GTX 680 GPU reviews to brush up on the new architectures.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 29, 2012 - 07:25 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Multiple Sclerosis, corsair, charity
Corsair and TigerDirect have joined forces to help fund research for a cure for Multiple Sclerosis by putting a powerful gaming rig up for bid on eBay. You have until May 5th to place a bid on the brand new Corsair C13-150 MS Custom Gaming PC and not only get a great PC but also help fight this baffling disease which attacks the myelin in the brain and nervous system of suffers; the fatty substance that insulates and protects the nerve fibres and causes short circuits which in a human mean pain and the inability to control movements. Whether you know someone with this disease or not, it is a worthy cause to support.
- Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz
- EVGA GTX 680 SC
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro
- 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3
- Corsair Force GT SSD
- Corsair Hydro H80 Liquid Cooler
- Corsair AX 750W Modular PSU
- Corsair Graphite Series 600T Mid-Tower Case
- Windows 7 Home Premium
It is extremely rewarding when we can put our resources to work for a good cause. That is exactly what our team has done here at TigerDirect.com, working in partnership with the National MS Society and our good friends at Corsair Memory, with support from EVGA to build this Killer Gaming PC. 100 % of the proceeds from this auction will be donated to the MS Society to continue driving the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.
This new Corsair C13-150 MS Custom Gaming PC is built using a plethora of Corsair components and some other exceptionally cool parts. It features the latest EVGA 02G-P4-2682-KR GeForce GTX 680 SC Video Card to allow you to run the latest games at the highest resolutions! The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard and Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz Processor combo will provide an outstanding gaming experience. Keeping the CPU cool is the Corsair Hydro H80 Liquid Cooler. The Corsair C13-150 MS Custom Gaming PC is complemented with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory, A Corsair AX 750W Modular PSU for rock solid power and a Corsair Force GT Solid State Drive for blazing fast game loads. We gave all of this awesome equipment a home inside a white Corsair Graphite Series 600T Mid-Tower Case and threw in Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit operating system. So If you are searching for a high-performance gaming system, look no further and place your bid now!
A few guys from the Tiger family and Corsair just finished riding a 150 mile bike ride to benefit the MS Society's South Florida Chapter this past weekend April 21st. And now someone will have the chance to walk away with a great gaming PC. But best of all, when you bid on this auction you are also contributing to help find a cure for MS.
Subject: Systems | April 27, 2012 - 07:54 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: corsair, tiger direct, evga, charity, asus
What is better than a custom gaming PC? A gaming PC where all proceeds from the sale will go towards a charity of course! Tiger Direct, Corsiar, and EVGA have all teamed up to assemble a custom gaming PC that is currently being auctioned off on ebay to help raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The charity raises money to support research towards a cure for MS which is a debilitating disorder that affects the central nervous system. In other words, it is for a really good cause.
The gaming PC in question is pretty impressive. A white Corsair Graphite 600T makes the computer shine. On the inside, the gaming PC features an ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard, Intel Core i5-2500K, and 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM. In addition, EVGA has thrown in a GTX 680 SC graphics card (EVGA 02G-P4-2682-KR for that that get a chuckle out of their product names). Other hardware includes a Corsair Force GT SSD and Corsair AX 750W modular power supply (PSU). Tiger Direct also included a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
Currently the ebay auction has received 32 bids and is sitting at $2,850 USD. Please share the auction information and help spread awareness about MS if you find it relevant and useful. It’s always nice to see charity and shiny computer hardware come together, and I hope that it helps MS research!
Subject: Systems | April 27, 2012 - 01:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, apple tv
Missing Remote, masters of all things HTPC, had a chance to try a product similar to many they have reviewed in the past, only this one bears a silver fruit symbol on it. Right from the start there were obvious deficiencies as well as good features, the power wiring was designed not to block more than one power outlet but there was no HDMI cabling. On the software side there were exhaustive controls for colour space, but no support for the wireless WPS standard and apparently the box forgot their WPA key on occasion. They ended by recommending this $100 device for anyone looking for a better NetFlix experience but caution that iTunes is no replacement for BluRay.
"In our first look at the new 2012 Apple TV it was clear that the form factor and basic function was consistent with many of the other over the top (OTT) media streamers on the market, but it was the visual appealing user interface (UI) that really shines compared to similar devices which became apparent in the video walkthrough. What was not clear, given the brief time with the Apple TV, was how it performs after the first-impression sheen has worn off or how the recently upgraded 1080p iTunes content stacks up against established OTT services like Netflix and VUDU, or the current top-end option, Blu-ray. Having spent the focused energy to really get to know the device it is time to come back with answers to those questions, as well as provide a fuller picture of what is provided by Apple’s OTT streamer refresh."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- HIS Multi-View & Sound Adapter Review @ NikKTech
- Eminent HD Media Player EM7280 @ Kitguru
- Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Logitech Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote Review @ NikKTech