The 2008 Pc Builders Bible

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The 2008 Pc Builders Bible

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The 2008 Pc Builders Bible

  1. 1. The 2008 PC Builders BibleFind the best parts. Learn to build a rig from scratch and overclock it to kingdom come. PC Gamer shows you how Getting your hands dirty and building your own system is what separates PC gamersfrom their console brethren, and it just so happens to be one of the most exciting parts of our hobby. Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty daunting process for anyone who hasn’t assembled his own rig from scratch. Thankfully, this guide not only gives you all youneed to know about every component that goes in your gaming PC, but also thoroughly walks you through the entire building process with detailed instructions and helpful photographs.We’ve always written the PC Builder’s Bible not only as a guide for new system builders who want more versatility from their computer, but also for hardcore enthusiasts who have to be on the cutting edge of technological innovation. And guess what, that includes us as well. Every piece of hardware you’ll find recommended in this book is something we would buy for ourselves. The specs of our custom rigs are actually thesame as the machines we’ve built for ourselves at home. That’s because we’re just likeyou; we want the most bang for our proverbial buck. And with more money saved frombuilding a lean super-rig, you’ll have more money to spend on the awesome new games to play on it! http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  2. 2. MOTHERBOARDS Wrap your head around the various motherboard chipsets that createthe backbone of your gaming PC.- Meet the latest motherboard technologies- Buy the right motherboard in six easy steps- Motherboards for Intel CPUs – LGA 775- Motherboards for AMD CPUs – Socket AM2 CPUS Dual core or quad core? Intel’s Penryn or AMD’s Phenom? We give you the answers!- Intel’s Penryn and three recommended Intel CPUs- AMD’s Phenom and three recommended AMD CPUs RAM DDR2 or DDR3? Find out how your random access memory works with answers to frequently asked questions.- Choose the RAM that’s right for you VIDEOCARDS Behind every great gaming PC is a great video card. Follow our guide when deciding your next GPU purchase.- Videocard features to look for- SLI and Crossfire analyzed- Is DirectX 10 worth it?- The best mid-range DirectX 10 cards http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  3. 3. HARD DRIVES The hard disk is a paradox – it’s both tiny and enormous at the same time. We’ll help you wrap your head around the terabytes of data.- Easy answers to common questions about your hard drive- PC Gamer’s hard drive picks OPTICAL DRIVES CDs, DVDs, dual layer, Bluray… the optical drive scene is evolving breakneck speed!- Optical drives in a nutshell- PC Gamer’s optical drive picks SOUNDCARDS AND SPEAKERS Nobody enjoys the sound of silence. Learn all there is to hear about the latest audio technologies, and you’ll soon be basking in true surroundsound earphoria.- Meet the latest technology for audiophiles- Your speakers are sick. PC Gamer has the cure CASES We guide you through the ins and outs of a PC’s metal frame and review two excellent high-class enclosures.-Give your components a happy home- PC Gamer’s recommended cases MONITORS In the case of PC gaming displays, screen size and display resolution http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  4. 4. matter. From brilliant 24-inchers to dominating 30-inch high-definition monitors, you’llnever see games the same way again. We tell you what to consider.- Pick the perfect display- Three recommended monitors PERIPHERALS If you’re using a standard mouse and keyboard, you’ll never really have a chance in the gaming world. If you’re serious about gaming, get someserious gear.- The best gaming keyboards- The best gaming mice- The best gaming accessoriesEverything you need to know to build a smoking-fast, no-compromises, gaming PC- Prices, parts, and lots of pictures to show you how it’s doneLearn how to wring every last drop of performance from your new rig http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  5. 5. The importance of a good motherboard can’t be overemphasized. Every byte of datayour computer processes must pass between several components before it reachesyou, and the motherboard is the highway. The last thing you want is a metaphoricaltraffic jam between CPU, RAM, and videocard when you’re trying to frag.Should your next motherboard be BTX and support both SLI and DDR2? Don’t beembarrassed if you don’t know the answer—our CliffsNotes primer on top-end mobotechnology will have you spouting geek-speak in less time than it takes to burn a DVD.PCI EXPRESSPCI Express has become a de-facto motherboard standard seemingly overnight,despite the fact it hasn’t demonstrated much of a performance boost over the older AGPstandard (at least not in single-card configurations). PCI-E joins the trend of movingaway from wide, slow interfaces with lots of pins to narrow, high-speed interfaces. Itincreases the available bandwidth for graphics from AGP’s 2GB/s to a whopping 8GB/s.But PCI-E’s real graphics promise lies in its upstream bandwidth throughput: 4GB/scompared with AGP’s 133MB/s. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  6. 6. For add-in cards, the standard x1 PCI-E connectors offer about 300MB/s second ofthroughput—just about double that of a standard PCI slot. Considering the amount ofintegration on today’s motherboards, however, few components really need to beadded. For this reason, we’ve not yet seen any real application for x1 cards; but that’slikely to change as soon as software developers create applications that take advantageof PCI-E.BTX FORMFACTORThe BTX motherboard formfactor moves the processor to the front of the case,relocates the chipset to deliver higher I/O speed, and provides better componentcooling. Despite these advantages, BTX has been greeted with about as muchenthusiasm as turd casserole at a pot-luck. Much of the resistance springs from chassismanufacturers, who are reluctant to spend $50K to retool their assembly lines. AMD,meanwhile, has publicly stated it won’t embrace the standard unless customers demandit. While we think BTX is a smart design improvement, it’s pretty much dead in thewater. You can safely stick with the tried and true ATX formfactor until the nextchallenger comes along.ATX 12V 2.0PCI Express graphics cards can suck up to 75 watts of power, compared with AGPs50-watt maximum. ATX 12v 2.01-compliant power supplies feature a 24-pin connectorthat jacks into new PCI Express-capable motherboards. The good news is that you dontnecessarily have to buy a new PSU to run your new 24-pin mobo. Many motherboardswith a 24-pin connector are keyed to accept an older 20-pin PSU; the extra four pins aresimply left vacant. To make up for the lack of power, some new motherboards allow youto supplement the mobos main power by plugging in a second, four-pin connector.NCQ and SATA 3GbSATA 3Gb is a pretty simple concept: Take SATA’s maximum transfer rate of 150MB/s,double it to 300MB/s, and you get SATA 3Gb. Today’s hard drives don’t need thethroughput, but there’s no reason not to have it on a new motherboard. Nativecommand queuing is probably more important. NCQ enables a hard drive and itscontroller to intelligently reorder data requests, so the combo can scoop up and write http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  7. 7. data faster. Although we’ve seen only small performance boosts from NCQ so far, it’s agood idea to have it on whatever motherboard you choose.High-Definition AudioHigh-Definition Audio bumps maximum audio resolution from AC-97’s 20 bits up to 32bits, while sampling rates are boosted from AC-97’s 48kHz max up to 192kHz. HDAudio supports up to eight analog channels, where AC-97 supported only six. PCsoutfitted with HD Audio will also support a host of Dolby technologies, including DolbyHeadphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Digital Live, and Dolby Pro Logic IIx. DolbyPro Logic IIx might be the most interesting. This technology can encode a stereo or 5.1-channel audio stream—including game audio—into 6.1 or even 7.1 channels in realtime.So what’s the catch? Most audio experts we’ve talked to contend that it will be all butimpossible for HD Audio to match the fidelity of even a three-year-old PCI soundcardbecause of all the electrical noise motherboards generate. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  8. 8. Before you buy a motherboard, you must first decide if you’re going to recycle your oldCPU or upgrade to something new. If you’re keeping your old proc, make sure it willwork with your new mobo. If you’re going new, will it be AMD’s Quad FX uber chip[s],Intel’s blazing Core 2 Extreme QX6800 with a whopping 8mb of onboard cache, orsomething in between?Choosing a core-logic chipset is as important as your CPU choice. Intel, NVIDIA, andVIA all make excellent chipsets for the mid and high end processors.Now it’s time to decide which features you want on your mobo. In the old days (well, ifyou consider 1999 the old days), motherboards were about as stripped as a ChevyImpala left parked on a Bronx side street. These days, motherboards come witheverything you need, save a videocard, CPU, and RAM. What are you looking for? DualGigabit Ethernet? HD Audio? Enough SATA ports to feed a rack of hard drives? Makeyour list.Once you find a motherboard that tickles your fancy, read the owner’smanual before you plop down your dough. Most motherboard vendors offer theirmanuals as free downloadable PDFs on their websites. The manual will reveal any ofthe board’s limitations (such as the types of memory and CPUs it supports), and it willlet you know if a PSU upgrade is necessary. If the motherboard hasbeen out for a few months, visit the forums on the manufacturer’s website and see what http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  9. 9. buyers are saying. But remember to keep everything in perspective: People don’t go tothe forums to wax poetic about their AM2 board, they go there to bitch. It’s all butimpossible to determine if the person complaining is a fried customer or one of themanufacturer’s competitors looking to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Always takeforum comments with a grain of salt, but if you see a pattern emerging, it could be awarning sign.It’s not at all uncommon for motherboard manufacturers to revise their designs withoutgoing so far as to introduce an entirely new model. Newer revisions are almost alwaysbetter than older boards, so try to purchase the latest version of the motherboard that’savailable. You’ll find the rev numbers silk-screened on the board.nForce 780i SLI 775 A1Manufacturer: EVGAChipset: NVIDIA nForce 780iCPU Support: Intel Pentium, Pentium EE, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 ExtremeMemory Support: DDR2 533/800/1066/1333 MHz http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  10. 10. PCI Slots: 3 PCIe x16, 1 PCIe x1, 2 PCINotable features: Triple SLI support, 6 SATA ports with support for RAID 0, RAID 0+1,RAID 5; integrated 7.1 channel audio, 10 USB 2.0 ports (6 external, 4 internal), 2Firewire ports (1 external, 1 internal)Price: $260www.evga.comRampage FormulaManufacturer: ASUSChipset: Intel X48CPU Support: Intel Pentium, Pentium EE, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 ExtremeMemory Support: DDR2 667/800/1066/1200 MHzPCI Slots: 2 PCIe x16, 3 PCIe x1, 2 PCINotable features: Crossfi re support, 6 SATA 3Gb/s ports, Dual Gigabit LANcontrollers, SupremeFX II Audio Card, 12 USB ports (6 external, 6 internal), 2 Firewireports (1 external, 1 internal), External LCD post devicePrice: $300www.asus.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  11. 11. Striker II ExtremeManufacturer: ASUSChipset: NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLICPU Support: Intel Pentium, Pentium EE, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 ExtremeMemory Support: DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600 MHzPCI Slots: 2 PCIe 2.0 x16, 1 PCIe x16, 2 PCIe x1, 2 PCINotable features: Triple SLI support, 6 SATA 3Gb/s ports, Dual Gigabit LAN controllers,SupremeFX II Audio Card, 10 USB ports (6 external, 4 internal), 2 Firewire ports (1external, 1 internal), External LCD post devicePrice: $300www.asus.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  12. 12. Crosshair II FormulaManufacturer: ASUSChipset: NVIDIA nForce 780a SLICPU Support: AMD Socket AM2+ Phenom FX, Phenom X4, Phenom X2, Athlon X2,Athlon 64, SempronMemory Support: DDR2 667/800/1066MHzPCI Slots: 3 PCIe 2.0 x16, 2 PCIe x1, 2 PCINotable features: Integrated graphics w/ 512mb shared memory, Hybrid SLI support, 6SATA ports, SupremeFX II Audio Card, Dual Gigabit LAN, 12 USB ports (6 external, 6internal), 2 Firewire ports (1 external, 1 internal), External LCD post devicePrice: $300www.asus.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  13. 13. M3A32-MVPManufacturer: ASUSChipset: 790FXCPU Support: AMD Socket AM2+ Phenom FX, Phenom X4, Phenom X2, Athlon X2,Athlon 64, SempronMemory Support: DDR2 533/667/800/1066 MHzPCI Slots: 4 PCIe 2.0 x16, 2 PCINotable features: Crossfi re Support, 6 SATA 3 GB/s ports, 1 eSATA, Gigabit LAN, 8channel HD audio, 10 USB ports (6 external, 4 internal), 2 Firewire ports (1 external, 1internal)Price: $210www.asus.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  14. 14. M2R32-MVPManufacturer: ASUSChipset: 580XCPU Support: Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64, SempronMemory Support: DDR2 533/667/800 MHzPCI Slots: 2 PCIe X16, 2 PCIe X1, 2 PCINotable features: Crossfi re support, 8 channel audio card, gigabit LAN, 4 SATA ports,10 USB 2.0 ports, 2 Firewire portsPrice: $110www.asus.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  15. 15. CPUs are tricky beasts. There was a time when simply looking at the number ofmegahertz on a chip was a surefire indication of how well it would perform, but sadlythat just isn’t the case any longer. With Intel and AMD at each other’s throats for thebiggest piece of the market, their approaches to the technology have taken differentpaths. Considering the new 64-bit and quad-core chips available now, does clock speedeven mean anything?The question of whether or not to upgrade to a multi-core processor has long beensettled—you definitely want the advantages a multi-core proc gives you. You get apayoff right away with extra breathing room for background applications to run withoutdragging your gaming performance down to a crawl, and then you’ll get another payoffin the future, as more and more games optimized for multi-core processors (likeCompany of Heroes: Opposing Fronts and Crysis) hit the shelves. And with quad-coreprocs from Intel hovering at around the same price as slightly higher-clocked dual-corechips, going quad core is a little bit of future-proofing that you can’t afford to miss.Of course, the Intel-versus-AMD debate rages on. AMD has rolled out its “Phenom”series of multi-core processors, along with an announcement that it’s bringing “truequad-core” to the desktop (with the intention of scaring the crap out of potential Intelshoppers). What that refers to is that quad-core Phenom processors have fourindividual cores on a single piece of silicon, whereas Intel’s quad-core procs are reallytwo dual-core procs stuck together. Does this fundamental design difference matter?We’ll give you the answers. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  16. 16. Q: What exactly is a Penryn?A: Penryn is the “family” name for Intel’s follow-up to its 65nm Core 2-lineage CPUs.For consumers, Wolfdale will be the dual-core Penryn, Yorkfield will be the quad-coreversion, and Harpertown will be the quad-core Xeon workstation CPU.The big enhancement is the process shrink from 65nm to 45nm. Intel calls its move to a45nm process the “biggest change to computer chips in 40 years.” Intel’s tendencytoward self-aggrandizement aside, the 45nm process is a significant jump forward,allowing twice as many transistors to fit in the space of a 65nm chip. The 45nm processalso uses high-k gate dialectics. Not to be confused with L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics,the high-k gate using hafnium oxide replaces the silicon dioxide gate that’s been in usesince the 1960s. The new transistor leaks less energy, produces less heat, and is ableto switch faster than a silicon dioxide transistor by 20 percent. This boils down tosmaller, faster, more power-efficient CPU cores. How much smaller? The previous Core2 Extreme quad cores packed 582 million transistors within a space of 286mm2. TheYorkfield quad core packs 820 million transistors into 214mm2.Q: So what else is new under the hood? http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  17. 17. A: Penryn is more than a simple die shrink. The new CPUs are based on the Core 2microarchitecture with a few tweaks that Intel hopes will keep it ahead of AMD. Theheadliner of these tweaks is the new SSE4 instruction set designed for media encodingand high-performance computing. Also new is a Super Shuffle Engine, which increasesthe speed of many SSE media-encoding instructions by doubling the processing unitsfrom 64-bit to 128-bit.Penryn also includes a new Fast Radix-16 Divider that pretty much doubles the divisionmath speed. Intel also reportedly boosted virtual machine performance by as much as25 to 75 percent. And Intel added a new feature called Dynamic AccelerationTechnology that essentially overclocks one of the cores when the others are sleeping.The new chip also makes use of all the physical space freed up by the die shrink.(Imagine if all the stuff in your garage shrunk by 50 percent!) That’s what accounts forthe beefed up L2 cache, which at 6MB per core is a 50 percent increase over the L2 in65nm quad cores. The larger L2 cache helps in numerous ways, but its biggestcontribution is in ameliorating the potential performance hit caused by the ancientshared front-side bus architecture Intel uses for communication between cores. To keepthe front-side bus from bogging down, the large and very efficient L2 cache ensures thatthe CPU has ample data close at hand so it won’t be data starved. While Intel hascertainly proved that the FSB strategy is still workable, the company has stated it plansto adopt an on-die memory controller in its next CPU.Q: How significant is the new SSE4 instruction set?A: Instruction sets in CPUs always garner the most attention but, sadly, are usually thelast feature to actually add performance benefits. While the Fast Radix-16 Divider andthe Super Shuffle Engine in Penryn will increase the performance on many existingapplications, the 47 new instructions in SSE4 will not give you any performance boostuntil applications directlysupport them. SSE4’s main claim to fame will be in media encoding and highperformance computing (i.e., supercomputers). In fact, Intel’s demonstrations of SSE4-enabled encoders showed incredible performance boosts. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  18. 18. However, those demonstrations have been called into question, with skepticssuggesting that while the alpha build of DivX used for the proof-of concept benchmarksis faster with SSE4, it’s not a realistic scenario. One developer we spoke with told us:“The applicability of SSE4 for our codecs seems rather limited and the expected gainseems rather small (I expect no more than a 1- to 2-percent speed gain with SSE4)compared to the speed increment we got from SSE on pre-Core 2 Duo and SSE2 onCore 2 Duo. The SSE4-instructions that are often advertised as being especiallytargeted for video encoding are useless for us, since those instructions are onlyapplicable for exhaustive search algorithm (ESA), which we don’t use because of itsinherent inefficiency.”Q: Is Penryn faster than the current Core 2 quad cores?A: We don’t want to give away the punch line but, generally, an equivalent Penryn runsup to 14 percent faster when compared clock-for-clock with the current Core 2 quads.The exact speed increase depends on the benchmark. In some, you’ll see no change inperformance; in others, a healthy increase is possible. But remember, Penryn isn’t thebig leap forward. Intel’s CPU schedule dictates a little jump one year and then a bigjump the next year. This is the little jump. Intel hopes to make a big jump when itintroduces its Nehalem CPU in late 2008.Q: Will Penryn work in my motherboard?A: Long-time Intel lovers have been vexed by this for years, as the company’s been inthe habit of invalidating perfectly good motherboards by requiring new or updatedchipsets to run its latest CPUs. Want a 1,066MHz P4 on a 925X mobo? Sorry, you needa 925XE. Pentium D on a 925XE? Nope, you need a 955X chipset. Pentium 955 EE ona 955X? Guess again: 975X.Fortunately, Intel has gotten a little better in this area, and there is a very good chancethat a QX9650 will work in many existing motherboards. Certainly motherboards thatuse Intel’s P35 and X38 chipsets will support the new CPU (although a BIOS updatemight be required). Some Intel 965 and 975X boards might also work with the new CPUand we understand that the majority of 680i boards will be compatible. To be safe,however, before you buy any board/CPUcombination, check the manufacturer’s website to see what processors it has validated http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  19. 19. with the design. Just because the Yorkfield and Wolfdale are LGA775 doesn’t meanthey’ll work in the board of your fancy.Above: Intel’s 45nm die shrink allows engineers to pack nearly twice the numberof transistors into the same space as a 65nm CPUThree recommended Intel CPUSQX9650 Core 2 ExtremeYorkfi eld 3.0GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  20. 20. Quad-Core Processor$1050Q9300 Core 2 QuadYorkfi eld 2.5GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775Quad-Core Processor$270 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  21. 21. E8400 Core 2 DuoWolfdale 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775Dual-Core Processor$200Q: How do you pronounce Phenom?A: It’s fee-nom, not fuh-nom.Q: What advances does Phenom offer?A: Phenom is AMD’s first quad-core processor and is touted as a “true quad core.”Based on a 65nm process, Phenom uses an enhanced version of the stellar K8 Athlon64 core, which features many of the same “wider and faster” techniques as Intel’s Core2 Duo. Improvements over the Athlon 64 include the ability to execute SSE instructionsin 128-bit chunks versus 64-bit. Cache speed gets a bump, as well, with L1 going from16 bytes per cycle to 32 bytes per cycle, and L2 going from 64 bits per cycle to 128 bits.AMD also spends silicon on increased floating-point performance; a few new http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  22. 22. instructions; HyperTransport 3, which nearly quadruples the bandwidth over previousimplementations; and more L3 cache.Q: What’s meant by “true quad core”?A: Each Phenom features four execution cores on one single, contiguous die.Architecturally, it’s far more elegant than Intel’s quad core, which fuses two dual-corechips in a CPU and forces the dual-core islands to talk to each other over the front-sidebus. Phenom was designed from the get-go as a quad chip, and each corecommunicates at HyperTransport 3 speeds—several orders of magnitude faster thanIntel’s front-side bus. All the cores can also share data stored in the L3 cache, so a corewould have to reach out only to the L3 instead of the much slower system RAM incertain applications. This adds up to a chip that, on paper, seems to at least equal—ifnot exceed—Intel’s Core microarchitecture.Q: Will Phenom work in my existing motherboard?A: Phenom is designed as a Socket AM2/Socket AM2+ chip and should, therefore, dropright into the majority of existing motherboards, provided the motherboard makerupdates the BIOS—and didn’t screw up on the board design.Q: Does Phenom have the same RAM issues that DDR2 Athlon 64s did?A: No. AMD corrected the issue that limited the DDR2 Athlon 64s to whole numberRAM divisors. This, in essence, would force DDR2/800 RAM to run at DDR2/766.Phenom CPUs use a separate clock for the memory controller, so memory will run at itsintended speed. Consequently, however, the memory controller no longer runs at thecore’s speed. The memory controller on the 2.6GHz Athlon 64 FX-60 runs at 2.6GHz.On the 2.6GHz Phenom 9900, the memory controller runs at 2GHz and notches downto 1.8GHz for the 2.3GHz Phenom 9600. It’s not clear if or how this impacts memoryperformance; it’s still a good clip faster than what the memory controller runs at incompeting Intel machines, where that part is located in the north bridge.Q: How well does Phenom overclock?A: It will vary from chip to chip, of course, but Phenom is not shaping up to be a greatoverclocker today. We didn’t get very far with our engineering sample chip and fewother reviewers have either. And when you look at how the thermals ramp up forrelatively minor speed increases, it’s no wonder. Going from 2.3GHz to 2.4GHz takes http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  23. 23. the thermals from 95 watts to 125 watts. Going from 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz jumps it up to140 watts. Older AMD and many Intel enthusiast parts have high thermal ratings butonly because they’re anticipating users to overclock the hell out of them. We suspectthat the increased thermals for the two faster Phenom parts are more related to AMD’sissue at the fab.Above: AMD’s “true quad core” jams all four cores onto a single 65nm, 285mm2dieQ: What’s the deal with AMD’s tri core?A: The tri core is being sold on the concept that if two is good and four is great, three isa perfectly attractive middle option. AMD’s tri core is primarily aimed at people whodon’t want to pay for quad core but want some additional performance at a moreaffordable price. The CPUs are, as you might suspect, dies that won’t pass muster asquad cores but work fine with one core turned off. While some view this as sellingdefective chips, AMD says it’s business as usual. In the past, if a portion of a CPU’s1MB L2 was bad, it could be sold as a chip with 512KB or 128KB L2, with the offending http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  24. 24. portion turned off. Like the higher-clocked Phenoms, the tri cores won’t be out until laterin the year—they will carry model designators of 7 instead of 9. Since they’re the samechip as a quad core but with one core turned off, you can expect performance to fall inbetween their quad- and dual-core brethren.Q: Where does AMD go from here?A: AMD’s next stop is 45nm, which it says will be online at the end of this year. There’slikely to be a shrink of the Phenom core with some enhancements to get theperformance up, but AMD’s CPU code-named Bulldozer will be the next chip to trulytake on Intel. Bulldozer, which is due in 2009, will be a multicore design, but AMD hasn’trevealed very many specifics. The problem for AMD is that Intel is expected to makeanother jump forward with its chip code-named Nehalem, which will adopt AMD’s on-diememory controller and chip-to-chip communication techniques and feature four coresper die and an improved version of HyperThreading. With two quad-cores gluedtogether under the heat spreader, a Nehalem would have up to 16 cores (eight real,eight virtual) available to the OS.Above: AMD’s AM2 SocketThree recommended AMD CPUs http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  25. 25. Phenom X4 9850 Black EditionPhenom 2.5GHz 4x 512KB L2 Cache 2MBL3 Cache Socket AM2+$240 Phenom X4 9550 Phenom 2.2GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 2MB L3 Cache Socket AM2+ $195 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  26. 26. Phenom X3 8450Phenom 2.1 GHz 3x 512KB L2 Cache 2MBL3 Cache Socket AM2+$145 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  27. 27. RAM stands for “random access memory.” Your computer uses RAM as a temporaryworkspace. The CPU transfers data and applications from long-term storage devices(your hard drive and optical drive) into RAM, then runs the programs and accesses datafrom memory. New data is created within your system memory before it’s ever saved toa storage device. Every byte of information used by a PC during its operation flowsthrough RAM on its way to or from an I/O device, the CPU, or a storage device. Accessto data in RAM is immediate: The CPU can read or write to any location in memorywithout having to muddle through the adjoining data.Most RAM used in PCs today is dynamic RAM, or DRAM. It’s called “dynamic” becausethe memory chips must receive new electrical charges (a process known as memoryrefreshing) thousands of times a second, or the data stored in the chips is lost. This iswhy information saved only in RAM is lost as soon as your PC is restarted or turned off. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  28. 28. RAM and Paging FilesIf a program or data file is too large to completely reside in RAM, PCs use dedicatedareas of the hard disk to store the overflow. This dedicated disk space is known as“virtual memory.” The paging file (swapfile) in Windows is an example of virtual memory.Windows uses the paging file as a holding tank for information being transferred in andout of your system RAM. The less RAM you have, the more frequently your paging fileis used. Although a paging file enables a system with a relatively small amount ofmemory to work with files that exceed the amount of available physical memory, usingthe paging file instead of physical memory has a huge negative impact on performance.Hard drives move data an order of magnitude slower than even the slowest RAM. Thismeans that the more memory you add to your system, the greater the number ofprograms you can run, and your system can work with larger files before resorting to thepaging file. In an ideal situation, the paging file would never be used. In practical terms,you want to install enough memory to handle the largest amount of work (or play) yourPC performs on a routine basis. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  29. 29. Q: What about DDR3?A: DDR2 (double data-rate 2) is the standard memory for all Intel and AMD desktopcomputer systems today. However, we should see an expanded push for DDR3 RAMthis year. The new memory spec promises higher bandwidth but at the cost of higherlatencies. In late 2007, this compromise along with its higher prices made DDR3 seempretty irrelevant. But we have seen one promise from DDR3 – really high clock speeds.DDR3 modules are already pushing 1,800MHz whereas DDR2 topped out at 1,066MHz.As clock speeds increase, the latency becomes less of an issue. Combined with thehigher front-side bus speeds of Intel’s 45nm Penryn CPU, we think DDR3 is starting toshow some promise. With that said, you can’t lose with DDR2 and it’s pretty darnedcheap, too!Q: What is the significance of the numbers listed after the model number for amodule, such as 3-4-4-8?A: The first number is the CAS latency (CL), which is the number of clock cyclesbetween the time a read command is sent and the data is available. The secondnumber is the tRCD (row address to column address delay), which is the number ofclock cycles between the active command and the read or write command. The thirdnumber is the tRP (row precharge time), which is the number of clock cycles between aprecharge command and the active command. The fourth number is the tRAS (rowactive time), the number of clock cycles between a bank active command and a bank http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  30. 30. recharge command. The standard values for a memory module are stored in its SPD(serial presence detect) chip, and are used by the BIOS when you select “By SPD” or“Auto” for memory timings.Q: Can I change these values?A: Most systems permit you to manipulate memory timings. Reducing the tRCD andtRP values can improve memory performance, although you might need to increase theCL value a bit to maintain stability.Q: When I add memory to my system, what are the most important specs to lookfor?A: SPEED - (PC or PC2 rating). This should be the same or faster than your existingmemory.SIZE - For a single-channel system, buy the largest (in MB) module you can afford. Fora dual-channel system, buy a matched set of modules providing the total size you need.For example, two GB modules will run faster than a 2GB module on a dual-channelsystem. If you’re upgrading a laptop, you usually only have one memory slot, so fill itwith the biggest module available.TIMINGS - If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ll probably want to overclock your memory.Look for low-latency memory, and remember to consider all the numbers, not just theCAS latency. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  31. 31. Warning: If you’re serious about building a game machine, do not skimp on your videocard! All the latest graphically-intense games — like Supreme Commander, UnrealTournament III, and Crysis, just to name a few — look absolutely incredible will theresolution, anti-aliasing, and detail settings cranked up to the max. This is truly the wayit was meant to be played.But you won’t even get close to realizing this gaming dream without investing a seriousslice of your budget in a monster video card. There is no sight on Earth sadder to agamer’s eye than seeing a potentially beautiful game reduced to minimal graphicssettings and resolution, and still chugging along with a low frame rate. Don’t let thishappen to you.The graphics card is the single biggest factor (though not the only factor) in determininghow fast your computer will be able to run the latest frag fest or grand strategy game.Choosing last year’s card will earn you some pretty chunky frame rates, and that simplywon’t do.Although there used to be two separate types of videocards — 2D cards for desktopwork and 3D cards for games — today’s videocards do everything in one sexy siliconpackage. And over the years, as games have become increasingly complex and morelifelike, videocard development has accelerated, rapidly bringing Finding Nemo-qualitygraphics on your desktop closer and closer to reality. While that day is still a ways out,modern videocards are technological wonders that are just as complex (and just asexpensive, unfortunately) as some high-end CPUs. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  32. 32. Above: NVIDIA’s 8800GTThe consumer videocard market is currently dominated by just two companies: ATI andNVIDIA. Today, DirectX 10 cards like NVIDIA’s 9800 line pretty much trounces thecompetition in performance, with tough competition from ATI’s brand-new cards basedon their RV670 chip. And with NVIDIA’s SLI or ATI’s Crossfire technology, which allowsyou to run two high-powered cards in tandem for a huge bump in performance, gamegraphics are experiencing an unprecedented boost in hardware power.With that in mind, this may be the most important section of this article. We’ll help youfind the right card, starting by answering some frequently asked questions.Q: Are onboard graphics really that bad? Are integrated graphics any good? Canthey run a game like Assassin’s Creed?A: Integrated graphics—that is, graphics that are built directly into a motherboard—aredesigned to provide minimal 3D performance in exchange for reduced cost. They’re notdesigned for gaming, but rather simple 2D desktop work. As such, anyone seriousabout gaming should never consider using integrated graphics.Q: If I buy a top-of-the-line videocard today, how long will it be a viable solutionfor good gaming?A: In general, a high-end videocard should be extremely capable for at least a year, andprobably longer depending on what kind of frame rates you demand and the kind of http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  33. 33. high-end features you’d like to be able to enable. There are games out today, forexample, that run just fine on 3-year-old cards, but that’s typically because the 3Dengine used in those games came out at roughly the same time as the card. Play abrand-new game with a modern engine on the same card, however, and it’ll probablyrun like a slide show, if at all.Above: Assassin’s Creed in DirectX 10While the videocard industry generally relies on a six-month refresh cycle for all of itscards (meaning that you’ll usually see new cards from both ATI and NVIDIA twice eachyear), the game industry moves at a much slower pace. All 3D games run on their own“engine” — a massive pile of code that, among other things, determines the visualquality of the game you eventually see on your screen. These engines take years todevelop, and are as forward-looking as possible, meaning they are designed to run onhardware that won’t even exist until several years down the road! As a result, manybrand-new engines/games are brutal on PC hardware when they’re first released. Butover time, hardware catches up and eventually surpasses the 3D engine’s capabilities.A classic example of that is id software’s Quake III. When it was first released severalyears ago, nothing but the most high-end card could run the game at a constant 30frames per second. Today, the latest hardware runs that same engine at severalhundred frames per second. And a few years from today, new, yet-imagined videocards should churn through Quake 4 and Oblivion in the same way! http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  34. 34. The boxes videocards come in are filled with mumbo-jumbo touting often obscurefeatures and wildly out-of-context performance numbers. Here are the key features thatreally matter.DirectX 10: The most important thing to know about DX10 is that both AMD andNVIDIA GPUs that support it feature a unified architecture. This means that any or all ofthe processor’s computational units (aka stream processors) can be dedicated toexecuting any type of shader instruction, be it vertex, pixel, or geometry. This meansDX10 compatibility is a desirable feature even if you don’t plan on running Vista.Memory Interface: In theory, a GPU with a 512-bit interface to memory will performfaster than one with a 256-bit memory interface. But don’t be confused by AMD’s 512-bit “ring bus” memory. That architecture is 512-bits wide internally, but only its high-endGPUs have a true 512-bit memory interface; the company’s lesser components haveonly 128- and 256-bit paths to memory. Inside the GPU, AMD’s “ring bus” architecture is http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  35. 35. 512 bits wide across the board. But don’t judge a card based solely on its memoryinterface. NVIDIA’s 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra are considerably faster than AMD’s ATIRadeon HD 2900 XT despite those GPUs having a much narrower 384-bit memoryinterface.Stream Processors: Unlike CPUs, which have one to four processing cores on a singledie, modern GPUs consist of dozens of computational units known as streamprocessors. As with the GPU’s memory interface, however, simply counting the numberof stream processors doesn’t necessarily indicate that one videocard is more powerfulthan another. AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, for example, is much slower thanNVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 GTX despite the fact that the latter part has only 128 streamprocessors to the former’s 320.HDMI: If you purchased a new big-screen TV, it’s probably outfitted with an HDMI port,either instead of or in addition to a DVI port. The big difference is that HDMI is capableof receiving both digital video and digital audio over the same cable. Videocards basedon AMD’s new GPUs are capable of taking audio from the motherboard and sending itout through an HDMI adapter that connects to the card’s DVI port. With an NVIDIA card,audio must be routed to your display or A/V receiver over a separate cable.HDCP: This acronym refers to the copy-protection scheme deployed in commercial Blu-ray and HD DVD movies. In order to transmit the audio and video material on thesediscs to your display in the digital domain, both the videocard and the display must beoutfitted with an HDCP decryption ROM. This copy protection is not currently enforced ifthe signal is transmitted in the analog domain. (See also Dual-Link DVI)DUAL-LINK DVI: Driving a 30-inch LCD at its native resolution of 2560x1600 requires avideocard with Dual-Link DVI, which is relatively common in mid-range and high-endproducts. What’s not so common is a videocard that supports HDCP on Dual-Link DVI;without that feature, the maximum resolution at which you can watch Blu-ray and HDDVD movies is 1280x800. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  36. 36. Above: Note the proprietary VIVO port next to the DVI ports on this NVIDIA9800GX2 videocardVIVO: The acronym stands for video in/video out—analog video, that is. Mostvideocards are capable of producing, in order of quality, composite, S-, or component-video that renders them friendly to analog TVs. Support for these types of video input—which useful primarily for capturing analog video from VCRs and older camcorders—ismuch less common.BLU-RAY And HD DVD Support: As backward as it sounds, high-end videocards areless capable than mid-range videocards when it comes to decoding the high-resolutionvideo streams (H.264, VC1, and MPEG-2) recorded on commercial Blu-ray and HDDVD movies. AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT and the upcoming RV670 fully offloadthe decode chores from the host CPU; the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT do not. On theNVIDIA side, the GeForce 8600 GTS and the 8800 GT do, but the 8800 GTS, 8800GTX, and 8800 Ultra do not.If one videocard can churn out 30 frames per second, two in the same machine shouldbe able to pump 60fps, right? Well, not exactly. Assuming your PC is even capable ofrunning more than one GPU at the same time, the best performance bump you can lookforward to is about 80 percent in a dual-GPU configuration. Very high-end GPUs scalemuch less effectively. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  37. 37. The point is moot, of course, if your motherboard doesn’t support running two or morevideocards simultaneously—and that means more than simply having a mobo with twoor more PCI Express slots. Running multiple AMD ATI Radeon videocards, for instance,requires a CrossFire compatible motherboard. Doing the same with two GeForce cardsrequires an SLI-compatible motherboard (the acronym stands for scalable linkinterface).Right: NVIDIA’s 9800GX2 in SLI mode is technically 4 GPUS on oneboardIt’s understandable that you can’t chain AMD and NVIDIA videocards together—thearchitectures are radically different—but there’s no good reason why you can’t mix andmatch videocards and motherboards. HP, in fact, recently figured out how to do just thatwith its Blackbird 002 gaming PC (which can be outfitted with two Radeon HD X2900XT videocards in CrossFire on a motherboard with an NVIDIA SLI chipset).Unfortunately, HP isn’t sharing this firmware/driver trick with the rest of us.Looking on the bright side, both companies support both AMD and Intel CPUs; gainingaccess to SLI, however, requires a motherboard with an NVIDIA chipset. CrossFiresupport is available with both AMD and Intel chipsets. Both companies’ technologiesalso require that the GPUs on each videocard be identical, although they don’tnecessarily need to have the same clock speeds or even the same-size frame buffers.You can couple an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS with a 640MB frame buffer to aGeForce 8800 GTS with a 320MB frame buffer, for instance, but you can’t pair either ofthose cards with a GeForce 8800 GTX.TRIPLE AND QUAD GPUSNVIDIA launched quad-SLI technology some time ago, but the solution failed to gainmuch traction in the market: It didn’t scale particularly well, it was wickedly expensive,and it was available only in pre-built systems from OEMs. The solution featured fourGeForce 7900 GPUs mounted on four PCBs that fit into two PCI Express slots on the http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  38. 38. motherboard. NVIDIA never announced a similar solution for its 8-series products; andas we went to press, there were still no Vista drivers available for those rigs.In the wake of Ageia shipping its PhysX physics accelerator last year, both AMD andNVIDIA made a great deal of noise about doing physics acceleration on the GPU.Despite several technology demos, in which a third videocard was used to acceleratephysics, this initiative also failed to get off the ground. Now that NVIDIA has acquiredAgeia and its technology, its next-generation cards may feature a built-in PhysXprocessor so you won’t have to buy a separate add-in card.AMD recently announced CrossFireX technology, which will enable three and fourvideocards to operate in a single motherboard (one with three PCI Express slots,obviously), and NVIDIA was making noises about the same thing with SLI. As withNVIDIA’s quad SLI, all three (or four) GPUs will be used to produce graphics. NVIDIA’snew 780 and 790 nForce motherboards all support triple-SLI. With very large monitorsbecoming increasingly less expensive, gamers need all the graphics horsepower theycan lay their hands on.We thought DirectX 10 would be the one reason to consider holding our noses andupgrading to Vista. While there’s no reason why Microsoft could not release DirectX 10for Windows XP, the company has so far insisted on keeping DX10 and Shader Model4.0 exclusive to their new OS.The new API gives game developers the tools to dramatically increase the visualcomplexity of their games. However, from what we’ve seen of DX10 games so far thereare too few compelling reasons to justify abandoning XP right now for anyone that doesnot fall into the “must early adopt” category. Vista’s slow adoption rate is one reasonwhy developers have been reluctant to move to it. Valve recently released statistics http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  39. 39. culled from its Steam gaming service that revealed only three percent of its one millionanonymous users had machines equipped with both a DX10- compatible videocard andVista.“[Microsoft’s] decision to couple DX10 with Vista was a mistake,” said Valve’s director ofmarketing, Doug Lombardi. “There is no difference between running Orange Box games[Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal] on Vista versus XP, but there aresome benefits to having a DX10 GPU.”But this is more than just a chicken-or-the-egg problem. DX10 and Shader Model 4.0are also more complex to program that DX9 and SM 3.0, and most of the games thatshipped last year were far along in their development cycles when Microsoft madethese new tools available.Lombardi, for example, told us that Valve’s developers do make use of the unifiedarchitecture that’s unique to DX10-class GPUs in order to deliver more sophisticatedfacial animation in Team Fortress 2, but you don’t need Vista for this because theydidn’t tap DX10 or SM 4.0.UNREASONABLE TRADE-OFFThe few games we’ve seen that do make use of DX10 (both new games and previouslyreleased games with DX10 patches) don’t look significantly better running under Vistathan they do with Windows XP. But what’s worse is that they run slower on Vista. Whenwe patched the RTS game Company of Heroes and ran it at 1920x1200 resolution inWindows XP (using an EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS with 640MB of memory), weachieved a playable 42.3 frames per second. When we played the same game on thesame machine using Vista, frame rate plummeted to a creaky 20.2 frames per second.It would be one thing if the trade-off resulted in supremely better graphics, but wecouldn’t see any significant differences. We had a similar experience with World inConflict. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  40. 40. Microsoft’s recent announcement of DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 have renderedthe situation even more complex. These new versions were released along with VistaService Pack 1, but they’re supported only by AMD’s and NVIDIA’s very newest GPUs(we’re talking about the G92 and the RV670). So if you thought buying any Radeon2000-series or any GeForce 8000-series card rendered you future-proof, you’re in for arude awakening.Microsoft, of course, insists these updates don’t render these cards obsolete. “Theupdated API,” said Microsoft’s Sam Glassenberg, lead DX10.1 programmer, “providesfull support for all existing Direct3D 10 hardware and upcoming hardware that supportsthe extended feature set.The API is a strict superset. No hardware support has been removed in DirectX 10.1”The new API renders mandatory several features that were previously optional.Compliant GPUs must now support at least 4x AA and 32-bit floating-point filtering, forinstance.Considering how slowly both consumers and developers are moving to Vista, we don’tanticipate the point releases of these new tools to have much of an impact on themarket. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  41. 41. Now that they’ve cashed in on the early adopters, ATI and NVIDIA are going after therest of us, with fast and inexpensive cards that do DirectX 10 – and beyond!GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB $240, www.NVIDIA.comYet another variation on NVIDIA’s winning GeForce 8 series, the GTS 512MB is anexcellent card whose terrific performance is simply overshadowed by theprice/performance ratio of the 8800 GT. It’s a hefty card in the dual-slot form-factor ofthe 9800GX2 and 9800 GTX, but with a modest bump up in the core clock and only512MB of texture memory, instead of 768MB (as well as a slightly narrower 256-bit pipeto squeeze frames through, compared to the 384-bit pipe of its two older brothers).The extra forty bucks it costs over the cheaper 8800 GT doesn’t go to waste. Althoughthe gains seem modest in the benchmark chart below—a few extra frames per secondhere, an extra 20 frames per second there—the differences become more prominent athigher resolutions and with higher levels of postprocessing (including filtering andantialiasing). http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  42. 42. GeForce 8800 GT 512MB $200, www.NVIDIA.comIf you’ve got the bucks, then by all means, get yourself a GeForce 9800 GTX or a9800GX2. But most of us are forced to cut corners every now and then on our PCupgrading budget. That’s what makes NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 GT such a winner of acard: though it costs a lot less than the high end, and a hundred bucks less than the8800 GTS 512MB version, its performance hardly plays like a second-tier card.You can argue on and on about whether memory size, number of stream processors, orclock speed are more important in a videocard, but in the end, it’s the balance of allthree that matters, and right now, you won’t find a more finely tuned card than the 8800GT. It’s the one card we can recommend without reservation to gamers of all levels andbudgets. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  43. 43. Radeon HD 3870 $170, www.ati.comATI now has a very serious competitor to the cards NVIDIA’s been dealing out to mid-range gamers in the HD 3870, a dual-slot card with a high 775MHz core clock speedand the 512MB of memory that a mid-range videocard deserves. It clocks in virtuallyneck-and-neck in Crysis and faster in Half-Life 2: Episode One compared to theGeForce 8800 GT, but gets winded and lags behind in RTS games like World in Conflictand Company of Heroes. Even then, we’re talking about differences of 10 to 15 framesper second, which looks less harsh when you consider that the MSRP on the HD 3870is merely $170.It doesn’t seem as finely tuned as the 8800 GT, and won’t appeal to as many differentlevels of gamers as that card does, but it’s fast, inexpensive, DirectX 10.1–compatiblelike the 3850—and well worth the extra $40 over that card. Plus, you can pair two ofthem up for some awesome Crossfire action!WINDOWS XP / WINDOWS VISTA3DMark06 run at default resolution of 1280x1024; all other benchmarks run at1600x1200 with 4x full-screen antialiasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled.Name: GeForce 8800 GT3DMark06: 11870/11641Crysis: 17/13 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  44. 44. Half-Life 2: Episode One: 129/131World in Conflict: 33/28Company of Heroes: 58/54Name: GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB3DMark06: 11976/11787Crysis: 21/15Half-Life 2: Episode One: 151/162World in Conflict: 37/27Company of Heroes: 59/55Name: Radeon 38503DMark06: 10078/9280Crysis: 13/8Half-Life 2: Episode One: 124/129World in Conflict: 16/35Company of Heroes: 50/47Name: Radeon 38703DMark06: 11462/10378Crysis: 17/15Half-Life 2: Episode One: 148/158World in Conflict: 26/15Company of Heroes: 58/42 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  45. 45. The hard drive is truly the unsung hero of PC components. You know the type; the kindof component that labors away in the background while all the fl ashy components likethe CPU and videocard get all the credit. Yet the hard drive is the one single componentthat is used in almost every single task you’ll ever perform on your PC.Whether you are trying to access folders on your hard drive, surfing the web or copyingcontent from one location to another, your hard drive is constantly in use. Even whenyou are just sitting in front of your computer, staring at the screen, the hard drive’splatters are spinning furiously as the drive’s read/writer heads eagerly await your nextcommand. The millisecond you click on a folder, these heads leap into action to deliverthe data you’ve requested, and as soon as they complete your request, they return backto their “ready and waiting” status. You could say the hard drive is the Labrador retrieverof the PC, waiting patiently with its tongue hanging out and tail wagging as you decidewhat trick you’d like it to perform next. As soon as you toss the bone and say “fetch!” it’soff and running. And the good news is hard drives today are faster than ever beforethanks to the successful proliferation of the Serial ATA spec.This new interface doesn’t offer any major benefits over the old interface, which wascalled “parallel ATA,” other than that it offers more bandwidth for future drives to takeadvantage of, and is easier to add to a system due to its smaller cables and lack ofjumpers. Parallel ATA drives have to be correctly configured via jumper pins as Masteror Slave prior to use, but the newer drives have no such limitation—just plug them inand they work. Nonetheless, eventually all hard drives will use the Serial ATA interface,so if you are in the market for a hard drive today, you’d be wise to consider a SATAdrive in order to make your system as future-proof as possible. Plus, drivemanufacturers are only releasing their top-of-the-line drives in SATA form these days,so if you buy one, you can be sure it’s the cream of the crop (for now). http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  46. 46. What is SATA?The parallel ATA connection standard for hard drives and optical drives has enjoyed anunusually long tour of duty by PC standards, but it’s clear that the old spec is ready forretirement.PATA is called a “parallel” interface because multiple bits of data travel along the 40-pincable simultaneously on separate channels. But the parallel ATA interface tops out at amaximum transfer rate of 133MB per second, due to crosstalk. Crosstalk occurs whenelectrical signals on adjoining wires interfere with one another. It’s like trying to have aconversation with a friend on a crowded bus while the dumbass sitting next to you isyelling into his cellphone. Because you’re sitting so close to Mr. Cellphone, you can onlyhear his conversation, so you have to talk louder to make your conversation heard. Butthen he starts talking louder on the phone, and pretty soon neither of you can hearanything and everyone else on the bus is pissed off. That’s crosstalk, and trying to pushdata through IDE cables faster just generates too much of it. And because the lasagna-size parallel cable is already too large and unwieldy to accommodate good airflow intoday’s PCs, an even wider cable just isn’t an acceptable solution. Fortunately, there’sanother way to push data at extremely high rates while eliminating the crosstalkproblem: Serial ATA.Instead of adding more parallel wires and channels, Serial ATA eliminates the problemof crosstalk by using an interface that pumps data through a single channel one bit at atime. Without the worry of electrical crosstalk, these bits can be pushed along the serialcable much faster than across parallel ATA.The Serial ATA cable uses seven wires, three of which are ground wires, with the otherfour carrying data. Two of the data wires are dedicated to moving data from thecomputer to the hard drive (downstream), and two are dedicated to carrying data fromthe hard drive to the computer (upstream). http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  47. 47. Q: What makes a hard drive “fast”?A: Many factors define a hard drive’s raw speed potential, but the most important is therotational speed of its platters. All drives store their data on internal platters, and thedata is retrieved when the platters spin under read/write heads. The faster these littleplatters spin, the faster the data can be accessed. Today’s standard desktop drivesrotate at 7200rpm, and these drives are very fast. There are also a handful of10,000rpm drives, which are insanely fast due to their rotational-speed advantage. Onthe server side of things, where performance is king and money is no object, 15,000rpmdrives reign supreme. These drives are the absolute pinnacle of performance, but notpractical for desktop tasks due to their high cost and relatively small capacity.The size of a drive’s onboard memory plays a distinct role in its overall performance aswell, with the rule of thumb being “the bigger the better.” Onboard memory buffers rangein size from 2MB to 16MB, and drives with these large buffers deliver up to 30 percentfaster performance, on average, than drives with smaller buffers. Typically, data isdelivered from the buffer as fast as the interface allows, so the more data a drive canwedge into its buffer, the faster it can perform typical desktop tasks.Q: What is Serial ATA?A: Take a look at a machine equipped with Serial ATA, and the most striking feature willbe the skinny data cables. While skinny cables have a positive impact on a case’sinternal airflow, this isn’t the main reason why the PC industry is dropping parallel ATA(and its flat, wide cables) for SATA. The main reason is that the current parallelinterface is facing a performance wall.Parallel ATA cables send data along multiple wires within the same wide ribbon. Eachpiece of data must travel along the length of the familiar ribbon cable, and arrive at thesame time in order to maintain data integrity. In order to get more speed from thisscheme, the only option is to push the data to higher frequencies or make the data pathwider. That’s where the problems lie. Making the data path wider is impractical, as there http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  48. 48. are already 80 conductors in the ribbon. And increasing speed adds to the likelihood ofdata corruption.Because serial interfaces don’t have to deal with coordinating multiple lanes of data,we’re able to push them to much higher speeds. SATA launched with speeds of 150MB/s, slightly higher than the 133MB/s offered by the fastest parallel ATA spec. 3G SATAdrives have already doubled speeds to 300MB/s, and will again to 600MB/s by nextyear.Although current hard drive transfer rates fall far short of the maximum throughput ofeven parallel ATA specs, companies are laying the foundation for the future. You don’t,after all, wait for the traffic jam before you try to build the roads (unless you run the stateof California).ATAAdvanced Technology Attachment. This is the parallel interface used to attach harddrives, CD ROMs, and DVD drives to the majority of PCs on the market. The term“ATA” is used interchangeably with the term “IDE.” Officially, there are the ATA-1through ATA-6 specifications, which usually are written as ‘ATA’, and then theinterface’s maximum throughput. For example, the final spec of parallel ATA isATA/133, which allows for data transfers of up to 133MB per second.Q: What are the different rotational velocities offered in today’s hard drives, andwhat are the benefits of each?A: Today’s desktop hard drives are offered in three rotational speeds. The slowest is5,400 rpm, with these drives primarily being used for rudimentary storage duties wherespeed is of little importance. They are affordable since they represent last-gentechnology and are not in high demand. The next fastest speed is 7200rpm, which is thenorm for today’s desktop drives.These drives are very fast, and are more than adequate for all but the most demandingdesktop users. Finally, for those “demanding” types, there are the 10,000rpm Raptordrives from Western Digital. These puppies are wicked-fast, and are zippier than http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  49. 49. 7200rpm drives by a wide margin. The only drawback to 10,000rpm drives is that theyare currently only offered in 150GB or 300GB capacities, while 7200rpm drives areoffered in capacities ranging from under 10GB, all the way up to 1TB!RAIDRedundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. An arrangement whereby more than one harddrive is combined to form a single storage volume. Depending on the configuration,better performance, better security, or both can be attained. The only way to practicallydouble a hard drive’s speed is to add a second drive and divide up the work betweenthem. It’s a process called “R.A.I.D.,” and here we see a four-drive array (the fifth driveis the primary volume). http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  50. 50. Internal Drives Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB Capacity: 500GB Interface: SATA 3.0Gb/s RPM: 7200 Cache: 16MB Avg Seek Time: 8.9ms Avg Write Time: 10.9ms Price: $90 www.westerndigital.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  51. 51. Seagate Barracuda7200.11 1TBCapacity: 1TBInterface: SATA 3.0Gb/sRPM: 7200Cache: 32MBAvg Latency: 4.16ms http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  52. 52. Price: $220www.seagate.comWestern DigitalRaptor X 150GBCapacity: 150GBInterface: SATA 1.5Gb/sRPM: 10000 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  53. 53. Cache: 16MBAvg Seek Time: 4.6msAvg Write Time: 5.2msAvg Latency: 2.99msPrice: $174www.westerndigital.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  54. 54. External DrivesSeagate FreeAgentGo 250GBCapacity: 250GBInterface: USB 2.0RPM: 5400Transfer speed: 480Mb/sDimensions: .7”x4.8”x3.9”Weight: 6.4ozPrice: $100www.seagate.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  55. 55. Western Digital MyPassport Elite 320GBCapacity: 320GBInterface: USB 2.0RPM: 5400Transfer speed: 480Mb/sDimensions: .6”x5.0”x3.1”Weight: 0.23lbPrice: $160www.westerndigital.comMaxtor OneTouch4 Plus 1TBCapacity: 1TBInterface: USB 2.0 /IEEE1394aRPM: 7200Transfer speed: 480Mb/sDimensions: 2.5”x6.0”x6.8”Weight: 2.5lbsPrice: $250www.maxtor.com http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  56. 56. When the compact disc was introduced by Philips and Sony in 1979, vinyl records hadthe misfortune to be standing directly in its path. Those black, circular monstrosities—with their fragile surfaces and analog data—couldn’t compete with the CD’s deadlycombination of digital clarity and rugged portability. A few years later, engineers figuredout how to adapt audio CD technology for use with computer data by adding strongerror detection and correction schemes, which led to the downfall of the floppy disk.This storage medium then evolved to DVD, which has taken over as the standard todistribute audio, data, and video to consumers. Today, it continues to evolve at anastounding pace.Both CD and DVD drives fall under the banner of “optical storage.” These drives containa laser, and when a disc is inserted, the laser “looks” at the surface of a disc, whereinformation is encoded in a single spiral track that begins in the center of the disk andmoves outward toward the edges. The laser is looking for variations in the surface of thedisc, from which it derives digital data (ones and zeroes, in other words). The spiraltrack in a commercial CD-ROM contains a series of bumps and fl at surfaces called“pits” and “lands” embedded in a clear layer just below the disc’s outer surface. These“pits” and “lands” represent ones and zeroes and are the building blocks of data.Recordable CDs, or “burned” CDs, work in a similar way. Commercial, write-once andrecordable DVDs use these same principles to store information.Next-gen or not?Optical technology is currently making another giant leap forward with the introductionof the next generation of storage discs: Blu-ray, which increases capacity from 4.5 and8GB all the way up to more than 30GB using a blue laser instead of the traditional redone. But should this new format figure into your gaming system at this time? http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  57. 57. For starters, a next-gen burner is a big investment. Prices have certainly dropped in thelast year, starting at $1,000 or more a year ago and now resting at half that amounttoday. And that trend is sure to continue, so it may be worthwhile to wait for a whilelonger.Yes, these drives are uniquely capable of burning huge amounts of data to a single disc(25GB per layer for Blu-ray), but the media is also quite pricey, running $12 to $15dollars per single-layer disc and twice that for double-layer media. If data backup is yourprimary concern, an external drive might be more cost-effective purchase. And transfertimes will certainly be more speedy, as even the fastest next-gen drive we’ve testedtook more than 21 minutes to fill a 25GB disc—that’s not speedy, folks.Indeed, the majority of your disc-burning needs might best be handled by a good, old-fashioned standard DVD drive. High-performance models, capable of speedy 18xburns, can be had for less than 100 bucks. And DVD media is itself very affordable. Thiscan be a compelling stop-gap measure while you wait for “next-gen” optical to come intoits own.Q: Does it make any difference what color or brand of media I use?A: Which one should you use? That’s easy. Check the documentation that came withyour optical drive, or the manufacturer’s website for media recommendations. Theserecommendations didn’t come about as a result of back-alley deals or bribes of exoticwhiskey. You’ll find some media brands recommended over others because these discshave been specifically tested with the manufacturers’ drives. The proper laser strengthfor each type of media has been evaluated and programmed into the drive’s firmware.In general, we do not recommend buying cheap spindles of off-brand media, no matterhow inexpensive they are. El Cheapo vendors aren’t worried about brand loyalty, sothey skimp on quality control and you pay the price in discs that are error-prone or thatwon’t retain their data for very long.Q: Are non-combo, non-dual-format drives even relevant anymore? Why wouldanyone ever buy a dedicated DVD-ROM drive, CD-ROM drive, or CD-RW burner inthis day and age? http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  58. 58. A: Today’s optical storage market is divided among drives that record to CD-R, DVD-R,or both. Drives that do both are known as “combo” drives, while drives dedicated torecording in one format are called “dedicated” drives. A general rule of thumb is thatdedicated drives tend to offer higher speeds than combo drives, but the speeddifferential is often negligible. But there are still good reasons to look at dedicated orsingle-format drives. For example, Plextor’s ultra-foxy PlexWriter Premium CD-RW drivedoesn’t burn DVDs, but it offers a staggering amount of one-of-a-kind features, like theability to tweak laser strength for higher compatibility with your audio equipment, and to“overburn” discs so that ordinary CDs can contain as much as 1GB of data.Another reason to covet a dedicated drive is price. For example, if you know your set-top DVD player can read DVD-R discs, don’t waste your money on a dual-format burnerwhen you can buy a less expensive single-format burner.Dual-LayerSome factory-pressed DVDs contain data on two layers for a total capacity of around8.5 GB. While all DVD players, including DVD-ROMs, can fully access dual-layer discs,all current recordable DVD formats are based in single-layer technology and are limitedto 4.7GB. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  59. 59. Lite-On 20X DVDR Burner with LightScribeFormats: DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R, CD-RWRead speed: 16X for DVDs, 48X for CDsInterface: SATAAccess time: 160msCache: 2MBPrice: $30 Sony BDU-X10S Formats: Blu-Ray, DVD, CD Read Speed: 2X for Blu-ray, 8X for DVDs, 24X for CDs Interface: SATA 150Mb/s Access time: 210ms for BRD, 170ms for DVDs, 150ms for CDs Cache: 4MB Price: $199 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  60. 60. Sony BWU-200S 4X Blu-ray Disc BurnerFormats: Blu-ray, DVD, CDRead Speed: 4X for Blu-ray, 16X for DVDs, 40X for CDsInterface: SATA 150Mb/sAccess time: 210ms for BRD, 170ms for DVDs, 150ms for CDsCache: 8MBPrice: $699 For years, the soundcard looked as though it was headed to join the scrapheap along with the Ethernet card, USB 2.0 card, and Firewire card. Oddly, a recent renewed interest in soundcards indicates that this dog may still have a little hunt left in it. Creative Lab’s X-Fi has been the premier soundcard but entries from Asus, Auzentech, Razor, and others have recently been introduced for PC enthusiasts. Why run a soundcard instead of the “free” onboard stuff on your motherboard? The main reason is because it simply sound better. Onboard audio’s biggest weakness is sharing the same space as the other electrically noisy components on a motherboard. This leads to the snap, crackle, and humming that most people associate with bad audio. Onboard audio also http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  61. 61. has a weakness in that most motherboard companies’ strengths aren’t in making goodaudio; they just need to have it fulfill a checkbox on the packaging.Today, gamers are faced with two choices: hardware audio-processing or host-based.There’s only one soundcard series with hardware support: Creative’s X-Fi (andAuzentech’s authorized copy). X-Fi cards will actually process the complex math foraudio on the digital signal processor (DSP) on the card. Newcomers, such as Asus’Xonar or Razor’s Barracuda AC-1 actually process the math on the CPU and use thesoundcard as little more than a glorified I/O card to pass the audio signal out of thesystem to your speakers. The argument for the X-Fi cards is that they will put less of aload on the CPU and thus, theoretically, increase frame rates. For the most part, we’vefound this to be true. However, with quad-core computers becoming the norm, is thesoundcard even really working that hard?Host-based soundcards are actually quite good and offer features that DSP-equippedcards cannot, such as real-time encoding of content to Dolby Digital. For those lookingto use the PC with a home entertainment system, a card like the Asus Xonar is a betterfit than the X-Fi.There’s also been a push to include ever more satellite speakers in soundcards with 5.1going to 6.1 and now 7.1 audio. While additional speakers do help, we don’t find itpractical to run seven speakers around our PC. Plus, support for 7.1 and 6.1 audio inspeakers tends to be mismatched with not all systems working quite right. The sweetspot for someone looking for a good surround-sound experience is still a 5.1 speakersetup. The good news is that cards that tout 7.1 support also work fine with most 5.1speaker sets.If games are the main application you consider when it comes to sound, your choiceremains simple: Creative’s X-Fi.Q: What’s the difference between 24-bit/192KHz audio and 16-bit/44.1KHz audio?A: 16-bit/44.1KHz audio is the specification for CD-quality audio, whereas 24-bit/192KHz sound is recorded at a higher bit rate, meaning it includes more information http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  62. 62. (or bits of data) about the sound than 16-bit/44.1KHz audio. With a higher bit rate,sound is produced with increased resolution and is able to convey more subtle nuancesthan with a lower bitrate. Unfortunately, it will be a while before 24-bit/192KHz mediabecomes commonplace, simply because 16-bit/44KHz is excellent sound quality bymost people’s standards. Another roadblock to the adoption of 24-bit/192KHz audio isthat if you play a CD that was engineered at 16 bits, it won’t sound better with asoundcard that’s capable of 24-bit resolution. Most 24-bit soundcards do let you recordat that resolution, though, which is a nice feature if you do a lot of music recording.Q: In specific terms, how badly might my 3D gaming frame rates suffer if I use a“host-based” card that relies on my CPU for audio processing chores?A: Most onboard sound chips (and even some add-in soundcards) offload audionumber crunching to the system’s CPU, which is generally bad. This is because, duringa 3D game, the CPU has its hands full feeding instructions to the videocard, so the lastthing it needs is more work. We know how it feels! However, by most benchmarks, thedifference in frame rates for a system using a host-based card and an add-in card isusually less than 10 frames per second. If you have a monster gaming rig that hasframes to spare, you can afford to send some more work to the CPU. However, if you’rerunning a “budget” system, an add-in card with its own audio processor is the way to gofor maximum gaming performance.Q: Does it matter where I place the subwoofer?A: A subwoofer produces tones that are so deep the human ear is unable to pinpointtheir location, which is why the conventional wisdom is to put the sub anywhere you like.Your ears can’t tell the difference if it’s three feet behind you or five feet to your right.However, there will always be a “sweet spot” in your listening area where the subwoofersounds best, so werecommend playing a bass-heavy DVD (Saving Private Ryan’s opening sequence is agood choice) or some thumping music and then moving the subwoofer around the roomwhile returning to your listening area to see how it sounds. Once you’ve pinpointed the http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  63. 63. “sweet spot,” invite your friends over to show your home theater off a bit! For tips onspeaker placement, you also can read the article on the next page of this very issue.2.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1Abbreviations used to denote the number of sound channels in a speaker system. Thenumber before the decimal point indicates the number of regular audio channels andthe number after the decimal point denotes the subwoofer (low-frequency) channel. Forexample, 5.1 means five regular channels and one subwoofer channel.Q: What do I need to play movies in Dolby Digital surround sound?A: In order to listen to true “discrete” Dolby Digital multi-channel audio on your PC,which is sound that is sent to separate channels from the sound source, all you need isa piece of hardware to decode the sound into its separate channels and a 5.1 speakersystem. It’s really that simple. A Dolby Digital audio stream is a digital signal thatincludes six audio channels, but these signals have to be sorted by a decoder and sentto their respective channels in order to get that movie-theater sound separation whereyou hear bullets whizzing from the front channel to the rear channel. This decoder caneither be built into the soundcard or the speakers, or it can be a separate add-on unit.Q: How much power do I need?A: A realistic assessment is that speaker systems that crank out 100 watts aresufficiently loud for home use, or 200 watts for a surround sound system. However,ultra-highwattage speakers that are capable of 500 watts or more sound better atmoderate volumes since there is absolutely no stress to the speaker’s components atlower levels, whereas lesser speakers can become considerably stressed at lowervolumes. The real reason for speakers to have high wattage ratings isn’t to actually usethose high levels of output, but to ensure distortion-free playback at lower volumes. As ayardstick, the 2.1 Logitech Z-2300 speakers are capable of pumping 200 continuouswatts and are pure sonic fury. We almost went deaf testing them.Q: I have a 5.1 speaker system, but am seeing advertisements for 6.1 and even 7.1speaker systems now. Is it worth it to upgrade?A: Although the addition of one little speaker behind you or two on the sides may notseem like it would make a big difference, it does. The traditional 5.1 surround soundspeaker system sounds fantastic but leaves huge gaps in the sound field behind you http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  64. 64. and on the sides as well. The only catch to upgrading to 6.1 or 7.1 is that Creative Labsis the only manufacturer selling decent systems, but it offers both a budget 7.1 speakersystem called the Inspire T7700 as well as high-end 6.1 and 7.1 systems as well. Youcan also buy Creative Labs’ S700 5.1 system, which is upgradeable to 7.1 for an extra$100. Also note that you’ll need a soundcard that supports 7.1 sound, but there areseveral models on the market currently that offer this feature.SPEAKERS FROM SPACEQ: I bought the Klipsch GMX speakers and have a Soundblaster Live. How can Iget 5.1 sound out of them?A: The Klipsch GMX-D5.1s were designed primarily for console gamers and includeonly digital 5.1 support. For PC gamers, this setup sucks, because most soundcardscan send only a two-channel PCM signal digitally. If you want to get 5.1 sound out ofyour GMX-D5.1s, you’ll need an nForce motherboard or a soundcard that can output aDolby Digital 5.1 stream. Unfortunately, only the Sound Blaster Audigy and Audigy 2products can do that now. Your GMX-D5.1s are essentially 2.0 speakers, unless youhave a properly outfitted soundcard.WORRYING ABOUT WIRESQ: What is the best way to lengthen speaker wires that are hard-wired into theback of the satellite?A: The only way to deal with this tricky situation is to don your electrician cap and splicean extra length of wire into the main speaker wire. Grab a set of wire clippers/ strippersand clip the wire at any point.Next, strip the cabling off the leading edge of the wires to expose the internal wires andconnect the two sections of cable. Twist the new wires together and wrap the exposedportions of wire (the parts that used to be covered in cable sheath but are nowentwined) with electrical tape and you’re done.GOING COMMANDO http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  65. 65. Q: Is it OK to remove the dust covers from my speakers? I like the look of thedrivers and want to show them off!A: It’s totally fine to remove the dust covers from your speakers. After all, that’s all theyare- covers to keep dust off the drivers. In fact, some people like the look of the speakerdrivers as opposed to the speaker grills, but to each his own. Be warned, though, thatremoving the safety covers exposes your speakers to errant flying objects, mischievouskitty cats and all sorts of desktop dangers. Personally, we like to protect our PChardware, so we’d leave ‘em on.Though most people upgrade videocards and hard drives on an annual basis, theyrarely upgrade their PC case, unless tragedy strikes. The reason is simple: The ATXspecification for cases has been around a long time, and it’s still getting the job done.Simply put, there’s usually little reason to upgrade unless you’re looking for more room,more cooling or a more pleasing aesthetic. Indeed, these are the most importantcharacteristics of a case: it must be able to hold all your hardware, and have enoughfans to keep everything cool and relatively quiet.Case fans: All cases include some sort of cooling system, though whether or not theactual fans are inside the case at the time of purchase varies. Regardless, every casehas fan mounts, and it’s important to see what size they are prior to purchase. Wetypically favor large 12cm fans because they spin slowly, and therefore are relativelynice and quiet—and move a lot of air. You’ll want to make sure there’s a fan in the lowerfront of the case to suck air into the PC, and a nice, big fan in the back to blow it out.Some fans include exhaust fans on the top or side of the case, too, but these aren’talways necessary and can add a lot of unwanted noise.Form factor: The lion’s share of consumer-level motherboards conform to the ATXspecification, so make sure the case in question supports this standard (most do). Onceyou know it supports ATX, the only big question left is, How big do you want to go?There’s mid-tower cases, which are the size of what most consider to be a “regular” http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  66. 66. desktop, and there’s full-tower cases, which are much larger and longer than a mid-tower. Though their size makes them unsuitable for frequent transport to LAN parties,full-size towers are a breeze to work in given their cavernous interiors. They can alsohold a lot of hardware, which is nice if you have several hard drives, are running SLI, orare thinking about investing in water cooling. For most users, however, a mid-tower willbe more than sufficient.Construction: The materials that make up your prospective case don’t really matterthat much. What does impact the equation—and your arms—is the case’s weight. If acase is cumbersome before you put anything into it, imagine its heft once it’s stuffedwith optical drives, hard drives, videocards, water-cooling reservoirs, etc. With that said,you’ll only infrequently tote your case, so don’t skimp on quality just to get a lightercase. It’s also important that the outside of your case is durable. If it gets all marked upthe second you run your fingernail across it or if it feels flimsy to the touch, move on.What good is a sweet enclosure that turns ugly - or worse, broken - within a few weeks?Features: Your case’s features can range from the truly useful to the simply cool. Aslide-out motherboard tray, for example, is a feature we’re always keen on. Toollessdrive bays are also welcome. Then, of course, there’s all the whiz-bangery (or lackthereof) to consider: We’re talking LED fans, built-in gauges, locking systems, etc. Caseinnovation can be a slippery slope, though, as sometimes these features are actuallymore irritating than useful (we can’t count the number of poorly implemented screwlessPCI holders we’ve broken). A feature doesn’t have to be new to be unique—the simpleaddition of changeable side panels to a case kicks ass, and there’s nothing overly fancyabout replacing a window.Front-mounted connectors: This feature used to be resigned to USB ports mountedon the front of the case, but with Firewire and eSATA making headway in the market,you’re going to want a case that gives you at least two of these connectors to play with.And one should be eSATA – its speed benefits destroy anything Firewire or USB-based,making it a perfect connection for that external backup drive of yours. Be sure to payattention to the location of these connectors, as sometimes they’re on the bottom-frontof the case, and other cases put them right at the top, which is nice if your PC is restingon the floor. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  67. 67. AestheticsSimply put, you don’t want an ugly case. But far be it from us to decide what’s atrociousversus what’s attractive, as everyone has his own personal sense of style. While wepersonally hate cases that look like they were pulled straight out of the X-Files propshop, some people are into that sort of thing. Of course, these same people might verywell hate a case that’s covered in branding for a particular professional gamer. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  68. 68. Antec 900www.antec.com$120Antec’s Nine Hundred is solidly constructed and surrounded by enough air cooling tobring Dorothy back home to Kansas. Shoot, we were effectively “blown away” by theNine Hundred, hereafter dubbed “the 900,” which is a fi ne example of casecraftsmanship, despite a few minor flaws.The case’s internals are pleasantly predictable. Three 5.25-inch bays and six 3.5-inchbays reside behind the case’s stylish front panel, and the full grill not only looks sharp http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  69. 69. but also improves the 900’s ability to generate ample airflow. Two 12cm blue LED fanssuck air across your hard drives and into the eye of the storm, and a 20cm fan churnson the 900’s ceiling.And that’s not all! Another fan at the rear of the case helps make the 900 an idealsolution for those who prefer air cooling to water cooling. Heck, you can even install anadditional fan on the case’s side window grill—a pleasant bit of overkill.“Hurricane” is an apt term to describe the force produced by the 900’s fans at full tilt, butif going deaf isn’t your thing, Antec has wisely given users the ability to customizespeeds via a little switch on each fan.The 900’s few flaws—a hard-to-remove side panel, a ton of drive-bay thumbscrews, andno eSATA port—are hardly enough to dump rain on this case’s parade. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  70. 70. Coolermaster Cosmoswww.coolermaster.com$200We tipped our reviewing hand when we chose this case to house this year’s build itmachine. But that’s just how sweet the Cosmos is. This case looks as good as itfunctions, and there’s nary a blemish in either area. More important, the case retains http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  71. 71. enough of a unique look and feel to distance itself from the bevy of generic models wefrequently see.You don’t need to grab a screwdriver to make major changes to any parts in theCosmos case (aside from the motherboard). The fi ve front 5.25-inch bays use anawesome push-button locking mechanism that, to date is the best we’ve come across.Tiny thumbscrews hold the six hard-drive trays in place - an elegant improvement overstandard drive bays.The Cosmos caters to the water-cooling crowd with its ready-for-a-radiator ceiling grills,but lovers of the air won’t be left out. A detachable 12cm fan bunker pulls in air from thebottom of the case, and a plastic bar running horizontally across the case draws cool airright into the videocard area. Strangely, there’s no airflow across the hard drives in thiscase, one of the very few oversights we were able to find with the Cosmos. A lack offunctioning drive-activity lights on the case’s front panel is another stinger, but it’s notenough to destroy the taste of this sweet, sweet chassis.Q: Let’s start with the basics. What is a CRT?A: Cathode Ray Tube. CRT monitors are just fancy implementations of the sametechnology used in TVs: An electron beam originating from the base ofa vacuum-sealed tube scans across the tube’s screen, which is covered with a layer ofphosphor material. A metal grating or wire mesh limits how much of the electron beamcan hit individual phosphor clusters, thus leading to an acceptably sharp image. Whenthe phosphor material becomes excited, it glows either red, green or blue. Mix upseveral differently colored phosphor clusters and suddenly you have millions of colors.Although it is possible to make flat or nearly flat cathode ray tubes, most older modelsexhibit some curvature, at least around the corners.Q: But I have no desk space! What is an LCD?A: Liquid-Crystal Displays are modern alternatives to CRTs. LCD manufacturing startswith a flat pane of glass, which is then layered with a grid of small transistors; thetransistors are arranged in groups of three, and each triad describes a screen pixel. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  72. 72. When excited by electricity, these transistors can be made to open and shut. Put abacklight behind the transistor grid and, behold, you have an image. There’s more to itthan that, but that’s the basic idea.Q: What type of display is the best for gaming?A: The knee-jerk recommendation has long been “a primo 19-inch CRT.” Why?Because CRTs were better suited for gaming than LCDs, and because 19-inchers havealways been great values, price-wise. However, in today’s modern age of affordableLCDs with blazing-fast refresh rates that eliminate the ghosting and bluring effects thatplagued earlier generations of monitors, we at PC Gamer are all on 20” widescreenLCDs, and we’re loving them. Not only do they save desk space (and your back, if youever want to move them), but the image is as sharp and clear as you could want. Theone drawback is that they don’t look as good if they’re not at their native resolution, butthat’s a small price to pay.Q: What is an optimal refresh rate?A: On an LCD, this is a no-brainer—use whatever refresh rate the manufacturer tellsyou to use for the native resolution of the panel (this is the resolution the display has torun at in order for everything to look normal, i.e., not stretched out, squished, or jaggy).This is almost always 60Hz, even if the monitor may be able to handle higher. Don’tworry - LCD pixels don’t fade and strobe the way CRT pixels do, so 60Hz won’t causeeyestrain. CRTs are a little trickier. While some would answer “as high as a resolutionas the CRT will allow,” we recommend taking a more cautious approach. First, makesure you’ve loaded the Windows drivers for your particular display before you mess withthe refresh rate settings. With the driver loaded, Windows won’t let you choose a ratehigher than the monitor can display without damage to its circuitry. Our advice is to stayaway from 60Hz, but 75Hz or higher will be just dandy.Screen sizeThis figure is the size of the LCD panel measured diagonally from corner to corner.Desktop screens range in size from 15 to 24 inches and beyond. We consider 19 inches http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  73. 73. the minimum for all-purpose computing. You need at least that much screen real estateto work in multiple windows comfortably, and to thoroughly enjoy high-definition videoand PC games.Aspect ratioA display’s aspect ratio is its screen width divided by its height. The majority of desktopmonitors have an aspect ratio of 4:3, regardless of their screen size; and the majority ofsoftware applications and computer games are designed accordingly. This is somethingto bear in mind if you’re considering a widescreen model, which typically has an aspectratio of 16:10. If content, such as a game, insists on a 4:3 ratio, the display will stretchthe content to fill the entire screen, making everything look fatter than it should. Thissituation is becoming less of a problem, as most games support at least one widescreenmode that won’t look distorted.Native ResolutionEvery LCD sports a fixed number of pixels arrayed in a grid that is a certain number ofpixels high and a certain number of pixels wide. The native resolution is the width of thedisplay (in pixels) by the height (in pixels). The native resolution will deliver an optimumpicture. While it’s possible to run an LCD at a lower, non-native resolution, the imagewill be rescaled and the display will use interpolation to fill in the missing pixels, whichcan degrade image quality. Native res and interpolation quality are of particular concernto gamers, who often run games at low resolutions to get the best frame rate. An LCD’snative resolution is typically determined by its screen size. For example, many 19-inchmonitors have a native resolution of 1280x1024, while many 20-inch models have anative resolution of 1600x1200. A higher resolution makes everything look smalleronscreen, but also gives you more desktop space.InterfaceToday’s LCDs connect to the graphics board via either an analog VGA connector or adigital DVI connector. If your graphics board is equipped with DVI outputs—mostmodern boards are - we recommend you use DVI to connect to your LCD. Unlike CRTs,which must refresh every pixel on the screen 60-plus times a second, LCDs modifypixels only when they change. The analog connection is less precise because the digitalinformation must be converted to an analog stream in order to travel to the LCD, where http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  74. 74. it is then analyzed and converted back to a digital format. This is a recipe for data lossor corruption in the image that is ultimately displayed on-screen.Pixel response timeThis spec has been getting a lot of play lately, so it deserves mention. A pixel’sresponse time, measured in milliseconds, describes the time it takes for a pixel tochange from its on state to its off state and then back on again. If the response time istoo slow, you’ll see ghosting and other artifacts because the display’s pixels can’t keeppace with the information sent from the graphics card. This problem is particularlynoticeable in games, which tend to have fast action sequences. A response time of 25milliseconds was once the norm, but it’s not uncommon these days to see responsetimes listed in the single digits. As impressive as this spec sounds, it should be takenwith a grain of salt. Different manufacturers report response times differently, so thisspec isn’t a reliable means of comparing different brands. Some vendors report only thepixels’ rising (turning on) or falling (turning off) time; others report how long it takes for apixel to turn on, turn off, and then turn on again; and still others report the time it takesfor a pixel to go from peak white to full black. (Pixels change from white to black muchfaster than they change from gray to gray, but the latter is a more common occurrencein real-world use.) Because of this inconsistency, we don’t normally report on a display’spixel response time, but we mention it here to illustrate a point: Response-time specsoften do not jibe with qualitatively measured performance. The best way to determinean LCD’s abilities with fastpaced content, in our opinion, is to eyeball it first-hand.ErgonomicsObviously, the more ability you have to adjust your screen’s height, tilt, and orientationto fit your body, the better. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
  75. 75. Three recommended monitorsGateway FHD2400 24” LCDNative Resolution: 1900x1200Contrast Ratio: 1000:1Brightness: 400 cd/mInputs: HDMI, VGA, DVI,Component, Composite, S-VideoPrice: $499Dell Ultrasharp 2707WFP 27” LCDNative Resolution: 1900x1200Contrast Ratio: 1000:1Brightness: 400 cd/mInputs: DVI, VGA, Component,Composite, S-VideoPrice: $850 http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/

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