OCZ Agility 3 SSD review Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 07:53

OCZ's latest Vertex 3 drives might offer tasty performance, but they come at a hefty price premium.  Enter the Agility 3, which uses the same latest-generation Sandforce controller but also features some compromises to allow it to debut at a lower price point.  Is it worth considering?

OCZ has started publishing both peak and incompressible write performance data, but only on its product sheets. While peak performance isn't affected, incompressible performance is. Using AS-SSD as a benchmark, OCZ claims the Agility 3 is only able to muster about 200MB/s for peak sequential reads/writes on the 240GB drive - that's less than half the score the Vertex 3 gets in AS-SSD's read test. Our benchmarks, as you'll soon see, confirm the deficit.

If it's not the controller causing this, and it's not the firmware - then it's the NAND. The Agility 3 (and Solid 3) both use asynchronous NAND. What does that mean? Let's find out.

Anandtech has the full review of the 240GB Agility 3 drive.

DiRT 3 review Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Friday, 20 May 2011 09:28

A work colleague of mine has been chewing my ear off about DiRT 3 for a while now, and with good reason given the success of its predecessor.  So, is the latest game in Codemasters' franchise worth waiting for?

The first thing which Codemasters are keen to put across is that DiRT 3 is a huge game, their biggest ever and it features double the track content of v2 with three times the rally-specific content. The best cars from the last 5 decades are included (think Group B Audi Quattro) and we start our career as a full-fledged action sports driver with a top-flight career. The aim, to increase our global standing.

The game features various race styles including straight up rally, landrush buggies and the new Gymkhana sections. These Gymkhana sections are what really separate the game from its predecessors, those games were always fun with plenty of action, crashes and smashes but this new style ramps the fun level up even higher through the requirement to perform tricks as part of the level. This of course also adds to the multiplayer experience where we can try to out trick our friends in various different environments (online or split screen) before uploading our best attempts direct to YouTube to share with the world.

You can find the full review at Hardware Heaven.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 reviews Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 14:46
It's new graphics board launch time again, with today seeing NVIDIA launch their GeForce GTX 560 - effectively a higher clocked GeForce GTX 460.  With no reference board to show for itself, how do the numerous AIB boards with varying clock speeds released today fare?  Check out the list of reviews below.

- Anandtech
- bit-tech
- Bjorn 3D
- Guru 3D (ECS)
- Guru 3D (MSI)
- Guru 3D (Palit)
- Guru 3D (SLI testing)
- Hardware Canucks
- Hardware Heaven
- Hot Hardware
- Inside HW
- Pure Overclock (ASUS)
- Pure Overclock (MSI)
- techPowerUp (ASUS)
- techPowerUp (MSI)
- techPowerUp (Palit)
- The Tech Report
- Tom's Hardware
- Tweak Town
PCMark 7 released today Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 11:23

Today sees Futuremark lift the lid on the latest iteration of system benchmarking suite PCMark, with version 7 obviously setting Windows 7 as the main target in its sights while continuing to offer a free version for all and sundry to play with.

Here's the full press release, complete with all of the links you need:

HELSINKI, FINLAND - MAY 12, 2011 - PCMark® 7, a new Futuremark benchmark that offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7, was released today and is now available to download and purchase from http://www.pcmark.com/. PCMark 7 is available in 3 editions: the free Basic Edition that offers unlimited runs of the PCMark test suite without registration or expiry, the Advanced Edition which includes all 7 benchmark tests and the Professional Edition which unlocks all features and is licensed for commercial use. PCMark 7 is the latest benchmark from developer Futuremark and joins existing Windows PC tests PCMark05 for Windows XP and PCMark Vantage for Windows Vista.

PCMark 7 provides a set of 7 PC tests for measuring different aspects of PC performance with a high degree of accuracy. Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. The Lightweight test measures the capabilities of entry level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the full PCMark test. Common use performance is measured by the Entertainment, Creativity and Productivity tests. Component performance is measured by the Computation and Storage hardware tests. The Storage test is ideal for testing solid state drives (SSDs) and external hard drives in addition to the system drive.

PCMark 7 helps you choose the best component upgrades

With the launch of PCMark 7 today, everyone can use this powerful PC test and its online services found at www.pcmark.com to compare the PCMark scores from thousands of systems. By comparing the increases gained by upgrading either the CPU, GPU, RAM or system storage device, then comparing the cost of each component, it's easy for PC users to see which upgrades deliver the biggest performance increase per dollar spent.

"A benchmark is a highly complex and sophisticated piece of software, yet PCMark 7 is easy to use and requires no specialist knowledge or set up," said Jani Joki, Director of PC Products and Services at Futuremark. "Better yet, PCMark 7 Basic Edition is available as a free download so all PC users can benefit from this industrial strength PC test."

PCMark 7 is designed for the full range of modern hardware

The PC landscape is changing rapidly thanks to new hardware innovations like solid state drives (SSDs), CPUs with integrated graphics and computing capabilities and new form factors such as netbooks and tablets. PCMark 7 is the only benchmark that lets PC home users and business managers make valid performance comparisons across such a wide range of hardware and usage scenarios.

The video transcoding workloads, for example, use dedicated hardware acceleration if it is available. This allows for a better comparison between newer components which enable acceleration and older parts that rely on brute force calculation alone.

The storage workloads in PCMark 7 have been extensively developed to accurately and fairly compare systems with either SSD or HDD storage drives. An SSD may be ten times faster than an HDD, but upgrading will not make your PC ten times faster. Tests that use the storage workloads take this into account, and comparing the scores between systems with an SSD and without will give you an accurate estimate of the difference in performance for your complete system, not just that one isolated component.

PCMark 7's storage workloads use recordings of how real applications, including Microsoft Word, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Windows Defender (Security Essentials) and even World of Warcraft, access and use the PC's storage device. These recordings are used in the benchmark to replicate how real applications behave without needing to install, run and measure each individual application.

PCMark 7 is available in a range of editions to suit different needs

PCMARK 7 BASIC EDITION – Free download

- Free PC test offering unlimited runs of the main PCMark test

- Browse, search and compare results online

- Store one result online



- Includes all 7 PC tests with more than 25 individual workloads

- Browse, search and compare results online

- Unlimited online results storage

- Hide results from public view

- Offline result management

- Advert-free online service



- Licensed for commercial PC system testing

- Includes all 7 PC tests with more than 25 individual workloads

- Command line automation

- Browse, search and compare results online

- Unlimited online results storage

- Hide results from public view

- Offline result management

- Advert-free online service

- Priority support

Discover the complete range of PC tests from Futuremark online or follow Futuremark on Facebook for the latest news, competitions and offers.

Google I/O 2011: Chrome OS highlights Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 07:28

Yesterday saw Google lift the lid on some of their plans as they pertain to both Chrome and their Chromium OS, the obvious highlight of which is the introduction of the "Chromebook" range of notebooks.

As if the world needed yet another name for a mobile laptop-like device, we now have Google's Chromebook to contend with. The core of a Chromebook is a standard laptop/netbook design, with the primary difference being the OS and applications. It's possible to go the DIY route and give Chromium OS a shot, but Google is partnering with Samsung and Acer initially to provided a more integrated and painless experience. We had a few moments to talk with Sundar and some of his key points were the design decisions associated with the architecture behind Chrome OS. Sundar said, "We wanted to create fundamentally the most out of the box experience with minimal user input to get started."

The initial Chromebook offerings will come in two flavors: WiFi only, or WiFi + 3G. These Chromebooks are not like a typical notebook computer, in that all of a user's photos, music, games, apps, and documents reside within Google's cloud. The default install includes Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, with other applications available via Google Apps. Chromebooks should be able to boot almost instantly, taking just eight seconds from power on to log in. They are always connected and have a battery that should last most of the day (Samsung is quoting 8 hours for their model while Acer targets a lower 6.5 hours of run-time), providing access to the web anywhere you need it. With regular updates, it has the potential to get better over time, and it's built with security in mind.

Anandtech have the full details on the Chromebook.

Intel Z68 chipset reviews Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 08:04
Today sees Intel launch their Z68 motherboard chipset at last, bringing a more enthusiast-oriented focus to their Sandy Bridge CPU architecture and adding a couple of notable features in terms of being able to use aspects of the processor's on-board graphics capabilities in conjunction with a discrete graphics board as well as Smart Response Technology, aka SSD caching.  Check out the comprehensive list of reviews below:

- Intel Z68 chipset and SRT review at Anandtech
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard review at Benchmark Reviews
- Gigabyte Z68X UD5 B3 motherboard review at eTeknix
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard review at [H]ard|OCP
- Intel Smart Response Technology review at [H]ard|OCP
- Intel Z68 chipset review at Hardware Canucks
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard review at Hardware Canucks
- Gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3 and ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard reviews at Hardware Heaven
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard review at HEXUS
- Intel Z68 chipset and SRT review at Hot Hardware
- Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 motherboard preview at Ninja Lane
- Intel Z68 chipset review at PC Perspective
- Intel Smart Response Technology review at PC Perspective
- ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard review at Pure Overclock
- ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI Z68 Express motherboard reviews at The Tech Report
- ASRock Z68 Extreme4 motherboard review at Tweak Town

Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5B in cash Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 13:34

So, Microsoft have just splashed out a huge amount of money on VoIP firm Skype.  Now what do they do with it?

Well, the news is now official. Microsoft just announced that it is acquiring Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. Microsoft says that Skype will bolster its "existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services."

As expected, Skype will be tightly integrated into the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 platform. Microsoft is also creating a new business division called the Microsoft Skype Division, which will be headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates (he will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer).

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype's plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate.”

DailyTech has the news, while the full press release can be found here.

AMD Catalyst 11.5 and AMD Catalyst 11.5a hotfix available for download Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 07:17

It's new AMD driver time rather early this month, with the company releasing not only their main May driver set but also a Catalyst 11.5a hotfix mostly targeted at Radeon HD 6600 series users.

Here's what's new in the main driver release:

Feature highlights

HydraVision enhancements for Eyefinity configurations

· The HydraGrid feature found in HydraVision is now aware of user created Bezels

· The HydraGrid feature found in HydraVision now also includes as “Automatic Grid” option that aligns to the user defined Eyefinity display layout.

Meanwhile, that hotfix driver provides the following:

  • Includes performance optimizations and resolves various quality issues for the upcoming release of Brink™
  • Resolves various transcoding video lagging issues seem when converting multiple H.264 clips to MPEG2 Blu-ray video
  • Resolves the intermittent mouse cursor lag issue seen by some users
  • Resolves intermittent flickering issues seen in the following applications in a system using an AMD Radeon™ HD 6600 series graphics card with DDR3 memory and running in DirectX® 9 mode:
    • Civilization 5
    • Dead Rising 2
    • Fallout 3
    • Mafia 2
    • NBA 2010
    • ShenGuiChuanQi
    • Starcraft 2
    • Warcraft III
    • World of Warcraft

You can download Catalyst 11.5 for your Operating System of choice right here, while the Catalyst 11.5a hotfix is available here.

NVIDIA's graphics share slipped 8% over the past year Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 07:48

It's a tough time for NVIDIA's place in the GPU market when you look at the big picture, with Intel pushing on-core GPUs with their latest parts on one side while AMD squeezes them with their own range of offerings and platforms on the other.  Little wonder then that NVIDIA's market share has slipped a hefty 8% over the past twelve months...

The folks at Jon Peddie Research have crunched numbers for last quarter's graphics hardware shipments, producing some fresh market share data and revealing that, once again, Nvidia has lost ground to both AMD and Intel.

The biggest winner was obviously Intel, but AMD didn't do too badly. In fact, JPR says AMD saw a greater increase in raw shipments than Intel (15.4% vs. 9.7%) between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011. Nvidia wasn't so lucky, purportedly suffering a 28.4% decline over the same time period. Good thing Nvidia's Tegra 2 chips are showing up in so many new tablets, because apparently, folks are giving GeForces the cold shoulder.

The Tech Report has all the numbers.

Seagate unveils 1TB hard drive platters Print E-mail
Written by Hanners   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 07:42

Much as we love our SSDs here, more storage is never a bad thing, and Seagate appear to have unlocked the ability to ramp up mechanical drive capacities significantly by unveiling 1TB drive platters.

We've seen plenty of increases in the capacity of hard disk platters in the last few years, with 750GB platters previously topping the chart.

However, these new 1TB platters have an areal density of 625Gb/in2, which is currently the highest areal density in the world, potentially paving the way for cheaper and faster high-capacity hard drives.

Using the new platters, 1TB drives now only need to be shipped with a single platter rather than multiple-platters, while 3TB drives can easily be produced using three platters. It seems amazing that it was only just over two years ago that Seagate announced its first 500GB platters, with just half the capacity.

bit-tech has the good news.

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