Asus' A9800XT Kicks up the Pixels
I've assembled a nice collection of reviews in this
weeks PCstats Newsletter, starting with the Numero Uno, the Asus A9800XT
video card. The benchmarks should
tell you pretty much everything you need to know about of this little speed demon, but what about Asus'
custom software? Read on my friend, read on... Next, we
talk about how to
use RAID with your hard drives in a home
PC for better performance. If you're a enthusiastic gammer, a little RAID
0 action can help improve your game when loading up those data-heavy
levels of Pacman.
Which processor company is your all-time favourite?
Is it AMD or Intel? We're pretty brand neutral around PCstats, preferring
instead to go with whichever chip company is currently producing the
fastest CPU for the most reasonable price. Yes, that second
point pretty much excludes all Intel Extreme Edition
CPUs. Unfortunately for AMD fans, this review of OCZ's
PC4000EL Dual Channel DDR isn't for you... Sorry, but OCZ's PC4000EL
DDR is best suited to Intel chipsets. And hey, just so I don't get a million email's
about this, best read Colin's insightful look at Memory Latency VS Bandwidth for an
Man MiX Master Mike, the "Guru" of Guides, tackles the
tricky subject of 802.11b wireless network range, and data transfer speeds
in "A Reader Asks..." this week. PCstats' Industry Insights has more ATI
vs. Nvidia banter on PCI Express that you might not already know,
and rounding out the list of goodies is a quickie Guide to
Blogging. Colin's Weekly TechTip is
a good one this week - read it!
Last week we managed to get about 200
people to vote
for PCstats.com on TechLinks100.com.
Thanks to everyone who stood up and cast their vote, but this
week I'm hoping the rest of you Spring-breaker's can spare a few
minutes to keep PCstats in that No. 1 spot! :-)
While 8x AGP is perfectly fine for today's videocards, it's simply
too restrictive a pipeline for future videocard processors. For this
reason, PCI Express was born. PCI Express scales higher and
faster than the AGP slot ever could, but on the down side is completely
incompatible with the old standard. They say change is good, so get ready
for an interesting spring in the graphics market this year. In the mean
time, 8X AGP cards aren't totally obscure yet, and as the Asus A9800XT
will soon demonstrate, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
With a retail
price of $653 CDN ($500 US) the Asus A9800XT/TVD/256 is one of the last
true high-end cards to be built on the AGP interface. While it is common
knowledge that the Radeon 9800XT GPU is one fast little chip, what really
sets the Asus A9800XT/TVD/256 apart from the competition is the impressive
software bundle it ships with. Continue
It's an unfortunate fact that hard disk drives
are rather slow at storing and retrieving data. Sure they are faster than
CDs, linear backup tapes and other removable media, but compared to actual
computer memory, they lag behind massively. Hard disks
are also mechanical devices with moving parts, and as such will break down
eventually, compromising any data stored on them that is not backed up.
One technology that was developed to deal with
this pair of issues is RAID.
The idea is to use multiple hard disks in the same
system to provide both
increased performance and
increased reliability by
writing the same information to multiple disks at once. This technology
filtered down to the enthusiast level a while ago, and has become a common
feature on many motherboards, as well as an integral part of newer
operating systems such as Windows 2000 and XP, it would be very limiting
to have a case which is sealed off from the outside entirely; case fans
are really important contributors to keeping today's high wattage
videocards and processors running cool through moderate ambient internal
A Reader Asks...
Q: Why does wireless networking always seem to perform poorly reception-wise? The range actually obtainable is about a 10th of that specified by the manufacturers, and the transmission speed seems to always be lower too. Are there any ways to improve range or reception, and do the different standards provide increased signal strength?
A: There is a bit of doublespeak involved, it's true. The numbers specified by the manufacturer are the maximum bandwidth obtainable by products that use a certain wireless standard. For example 802.11b can transfer up to 11mbps total, while a typical 802.11b client is lucky to see more than 4Mbps actual data transfer speed. This is due to a number of factors. For one thing, the networking protocols used carry a considerable overhead, and they are not counted as 'data' for measuring transfer speeds. For another, distance, obstacles, number of wireless clients and signal interference will all take a bite out of a wireless signal in most conditions.
The range is just as susceptible to these factors. In an urban environment, the number of competing signals is likely to be a major factor in limiting range. At the moment 802.11b and 802.11g have just about identical maximum ranges. There are various ways of boosting wireless signals through antenna, which may or may not be legal in your area. Check the Internet for more information. ;)
From what I've observed, if you park a 802.11b NIC right next to an access point with no competing radio signals in the area, the most throughput you can expect using TCP/IP is about 5.5-6Mbps due to the protocol overhead. Companies do not specify 11Mbps file transfer, but rather 11Mbps maximum data transfer speed, which is a different thing altogether.
The same situation is seen in 802.11g products. 54Mbps max bandwidth equals 19 - 24 mbps actual
TCP/IP transfer rate in most conditions. Next week we take a question on system resources and the horrible things that can happen if you run low on them...
To submit your question to PCstats, send us an email.
memory market is pretty saturated right now with high speed memory modules
from every corner, so many companies are attempting to differentiate themselves by tightening up their
memory timings just a bit. After all if you're running PC2100 DDR and
PC4000 DDR at stock speeds, it really doesn't make any difference to the
computer.... but then if you overclock that is where speed, and memory
timings really come into play. For an illustration of just what we're
talking about, please read through PCstats look at Memory Latency VS Bandwidth. For the rest of you who
know what tight memory timings can really bring to the table, read on!
In this memory review, PCstats is testing
out OCZ's Gold
Edition PC4000EL DDR. Each of these PC4000EL modules are 512MB in size,
and since they are destined for dual channel systems, OCZ sell the memory
as a pair. The OCZ PC4000EL DDR is rated to run up to 250 MHz while
maintaining timings of 2.5-4-4-7, at 2.8V. Continue
In the 90's Grunge was in. Now in the
04's, 'Blogging' is the next biggest thing. Create your own Blog page, or
simply find out what all the fuss is about. Nothing personifies the Internet's promise of
easy and unlimited communication possibilities quite like the humble
weblog. Never mind the millions of commercially driven website; what could
be more creative than placing your own thoughts, feelings, art, rants,
your own... whatever, in front of a potential audience of millions? A Weblog or Blog is a
frequently updated online journal, organized by date and containing
whatever the person that creates it wants to put down. Essentially, blogs
are simple, fun, non-commercial personal web sites. Among certain sets, the blog
has become almost as popular as the ever present instant messaging
services as a communication tool. Whether used as an online diary, a forum
for political rants, or simply for stream of consciousness commentary on
day-to-day life, a blog is an easy (and now well accepted) way of
communicating your thoughts and feelings to the world. Let's start with a list of various free blogging
software and services. After this, we will follow up with a tutorial on
creating your weblog. Continue
Weekly Tech Tips
One thing I really liked about the old versions of Windows (ie, non-WinXP) was that you could change motherboards during an upgrade without having to reinstall the whole system. With WindowsXP, it's a lot pickier about that, and often when you swap out the motherboard you'll have to format and reinstall everything all over again.... tedious. Luckily with a few clicks of the mouse we can fix that problem. ;-)
Before you make the hardware swap you're going to want to change the IDE drive controller's driver. Go to your device manager, right click on the My Computer icon and go to properties. From there click the Hardware tab then click on the Device Manager button, that will open up a new window. Expand the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers section, right click on the your main IDE drive controller and select Update Driver. Once the Hardware Update Wizard opens, select Install from a list or specific location (Advanced), then select the "Don't search. I will choose the right driver to install." radio box and click next. From there select Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller and click next. Once that's done, WindowsXP will be configured to
use the default IDE controller driver so that you can swap out
your motherboard without having the scarry blue inaccessible
boot device screen show. Of course, once you're finished
swapping out parts simply install the latest drivers for the
new motherboard and you should be set.
Now if you haven't already done so, head on over and Vote for PCstats.com at Techlinks100.com!
Last week we spent some time looking at
NVIDIA's approach in adding PCI Express support to its product line.
It should come as no surprise that the most outspoken opponent to
the debated bridge solution is NVIDIA's principle competition, ATI,
who claims to feature better performance from a more elegant
integrated solution. In retort to what we heard last week in a
conference call from NVIDIA, ATI's representative was quick to point
out that, even while using native PCI Express support costs more
money for the company (every GPU has to be respun for AGP and PCI
Express), it'd be able to offer cards at lower prices. Further, none
of the power management features introduced by PCI Express are
available in a bridged solution. It should be noted that power
management is more important on mobile graphics products, though ATI
thinks that PCI Express may help desktop thermals as well,
especially when innovative form factors emerge. As the conversation
progressed, PCstats' Industy Insights
learned that there will be both AGP 8x and PCI Express versions of ATI's upcoming R420 GPU. Additionally, the ATI representative to which we spoke mentioned that PCI Express products that emerge based on existing architectures won't be identical to what is out now, which may very well suggest higher clock speeds.
. M. Page
. C. Sun
. C. Angelini
A Reader Asks...
. M. Dowler