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Your Comments: "In my opinion you have the best site for technical reviews.... Tom's Hardware have some work to do. Good job." - Ron
MSI K8N Neo Platinum works magic for Athlon64

There are just a few days until PCstats is off to attend Computex 2004 and cover the latest and greatest computer hardware on the planet for you! With AMD's June 1st release of the new socket 939 Athlon64 3800+ CPU, there are sure to be a whole host of new motherboards and chipsets to check out. If VIAs new K8T800 Pro is anything like the original K8T800, this should be an exciting time for AMD users. Only one problem remains though; Microsoft Windows 64-bit. Where is it? More importantly, why isn't it out already? If you work at Microsoft, and would like to fill the rest of us at the PCstats Newsletter in on the details, contact me. :)

Okay, let's get down to business. For starters, I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who reads us each week; it's pretty amazing that we're already on our 135th issue! Now, MSI have just released an amazing Athlon64 motherboard called the K8N Neo Platinum, but before we get into that I need to direct your attention to PCstats latest Guide to Diagnosing Bad Hard Drives. Pay special attention to this guide if you think your HDD may on its last leg... Mike dishes out diagnostic tests, and easy ways to resolve the situation if it isn't actually serious. Is high speed PC3500 DDR RAM all that it's cracked up to be? Colin burns through a couple sticks that OCZ sent into the labs, and I'm you'll find the results very interesting indeed. Next up is Albatron's mainstream FX5700P Turbo - a great video card for those of you on a budget who still want good 2xAA + 5xAF frame rates in UT2003.

PCstats tests out a nifty 7.1 channel sound card from Mad Dog which features VIAs latest audio chipset, before moving right along to the MSI K8N Neo Platinum which earned an Editors Choice Award! Colin is back with his handy PCstats Weekly Tech Tip, while in "A reader Asks.." we answer your DVD-ROM upgrade questions. Don't forget to read the I.I. column to the right - some interesting info there about upcoming wireless technologies!

MSI K8N Neo-FIS2R Platinum NF3-250Gb Motherboard Review

Now, almost a year after 64-bit AMD Athlon64 processor was introduced, we're getting a taste of nVIDIA's new nForce3-250Gb chipset. It comes care of the very well equipped MSI K8N Neo Platinum motherboard which is based on this latest nVidia chipset.

In terms of goodies, the K8N Neo-FIS2R Platinum boasts onboard native Serial ATA/RAID, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 1394, an onboard 7.1 audio controller and of course, MSI's well known "CoreCell technology." You can connect your Minidisc/MP3 player to the yellow SPDIF port or perhaps via the square optical port too. There's one open IEEE 1394a jack for those of you with high speed devices like video cameras or perhaps an external HDD.... Continue Here>>

Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 DSP Sound Card Review

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A 7.1-channel surround sound audio chip seems to be the current solution, though there are few matching speaker packages on the market for consumer to even take advantage of. In this review, PCstats will test out the Mad Dog Multimedia's Entertainer 7.1 soundcard. This $60USD card looks to compete directly with Creative's Audigy line, offering many of the same features at an attractive price. It uses VIA's new Envy 24HT-S sound chip which boasts full 24-bit 192Khz capabilities. The body of the card sports a rather impressive array of capacitors and one large IC. Peeling the label of this reveals the VIA ENVY24HT-S sound processor chip. This is VIA's consumer level 7.1 capable part. Continue Here>>

Beginners Guides: Diagnosing Bad Hard Drives
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Know... before your hard drive kicks the bucket, taking all your data with it.
The hard drive is the single most important device behind the mass acceptance of personal computers in the home and workplace. The ability to save significant amounts of data within a computer itself, rather than being forced to place it on external media finally fulfilled the potential that the PC had never quite lived up to, at least as a business tool. Hard disk storage ability has increased massively since the early days of the technology, and will likely continue to increase in the future as drive's cost per megabyte of storage drops equally fast.

Unfortunately, the underlying technology of hard drives has changed little in the years since their invention, meaning that their essential weakness still exists. The simple fact is that hard disks are mechanical devices with moving parts, and as such, will fail eventually and inevitably. This document is intended as a companion piece to our Beginner's Guide to backing up data in Windows XP as keeping regular backups should be part of every computer user's life.Continue Here>>

A Reader Asks...

Q: Hi there. My computer has an A7S333 motherboard, Windows XP home edition, one DVD LG player and one HP CD writer. I'd like to purchase and install a DVD Writer on the same system. Can I do this without causing problems?

A: : Probably yes. The motherboard you mentioned has the standard complement of two IDE ports, each of which can support 2 devices. Assuming that you only have a single hard disk drive installed in your system, you will have a space free for the DVD writer. If you have more than one hard disk, you will need to remove one of your drives or buy a PCI add-on card with extra IDE ports.

Once you have verified that you have the space free, all you need to do is set the jumper on the back of the DVD-burner to either primary or secondary (master or slave), depending on the setting of the other drive that will be attached to the same cable. If it is sharing a cable with one of your optical drives, I would recommend setting it as the master and the other optical drive as the secondary. If the DVD-writer will be sharing your hard disk's cable, make the writer the secondary device. Once you have verified your jumper setting, screw the drive into place, attach the IDE and power cables and you are good to go.

There are a couple of other things you should consider. First, the DVD writer will technically make both of your current optical drives redundant, since it plays DVD and CD media, and can write to both formats. If you wish to copy straight from one CD or DVD to another, that gives you a reason to keep one of the drives (the DVD player would be more useful for this) but I can't think of a reason why you would want to have all three optical drives in the same system.

Secondly, it's probably a better idea not to place the DVD-writer on the same cable as your hard disk, since these two devices will be transferring a large amount of data between them. Since only one device can use the IDE channel at a time, placing them on separate channels will speed things up.

Next week: dual or single channel memory? To submit your questions, send PCstats an email.

-Join us - Beginners Q and A in the PCstats Forums

Albatron GeForceFX 5700P Turbo Videocard Review
Read it Now!

Albatron has taken it upon themselves to produce some of the best overclocking videocards we've ever tested. Even their mainstream graphics cards tend to have a higher level of "excitement" than most other brands on the market. I guess it's just the "Albatron" touch... In this review, PCStats is taking the Albatron GeForceFX 5700P Turbo videocard for a spin around the block. We'll be looking to see if this blue 8X AGP card lives up to expectations. Will the FX5700P Turbo blast out pixels and jaw-droping FPS, or just putter along like an old Amiga? Feel free to jump ahead to the benchmarks, or sit back and relax as we take you though the features of this $150USD FX5700-based card. Continue Here>>

OCZ PC3500EB Platinum DDR Memory Review
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Each stick in this 1GB kit is 512MB in size, and comes from the familiar family of OCZ's Enhanced Bandwidth line of memory products. The timings of these two 512MB PC3500EB Platinum DIMM's are not the tightest we've ever tested, but they're much better than the average for PC3500 DDR. Each stick is rated to run at 217 MHz with memory timings of 2.5-3-2-8 on AMD systems, and 2.5-3-2-6 on Intel rigs with a supply of 2.8V. Overclocking a work PC isn't for everybody, but with motherboard manufacturers providing software overclocking utilities, you can squeeze a little bit more out of most rigs without sacrificing much in the way of system reliability. Continue Here>>

PCstats Weekly Tech Tips Click, Click, Click
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Super Micro

Quite a few people have written me asking how to disable the clicking sound IE makes after you click on a link. It doesn't bother me very much, but apparently it drives some of our readers crazy. If you feel silence is golden and would like to stop your IE from making sounds then you're in luck.

First open control panel (Start then click control panel) and open up the "Sounds and Audio Devices" (in XP, Sounds and Multimedia in 2000). That will open a new window and from there click on the Sounds tab, under Program events scroll down to the Windows Explorer section, under that heading you'll find the Start Navigation event. The Sounds box will now display the sound that plays every time a link is selected, simply change it to none and press the Ok button.

From now on whenever a link is clicked in IE (or folder in Windows Explorer), the program will not make a peep! Hey what does your computer lab look like? Why don't you show off your PC's here in the PCstats forums?

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Industry Insights

The future of wireless networking is bright indeed. 802.11b, operating at 2.4GHz and facilitating up to 11Mbps of throughput, is the oldest, and most established standard. Though 802.11a is significantly faster (at 54Mbps), it costs more, and consequently isn't as popular. The real winner is 802.11g, which operates at the same frequency as 802.11b, but uses the same transmission scheme (OFDM) as 802.11a to achieve 54Mbps.

There are also a number of specification updates in the works, all of which are set to build on the existing wireless infrastructure. The first, 802.11e, expected to be ratified this coming summer, will bring QoS (Quality of Service) enhancements to wireless networks. In other words, real-time data such as VoIP and streaming video will be prioritized to ensure smooth transfer. Another, 802.11i, also expected to receive approval later this year, will improve upon today's WEP and WPA security schemes, adding 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). Unfortunately, older wireless hardware doesn't have the processing horsepower necessary for 802.11i, so if you purchased your router before 2003, it may not comply with the standard. 802.11n, which is still in its initial stages, promises to augment the throughput of 802.11g, targeting PHY speeds of 250Mbps. Don't expect that one to emerge until late 2005, though.

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