Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Maximum PC Load Letter #33: Wacky Game Controllers, Chrome OS, Win a Core i7 PC!

Issue 033

ednoteReady for the Holiday season to begin? We sure are! There's a ton of new hardware that we've just reviewed in case you're thinking about building a new PC for 2010. ATI has announced their epic 5970 dual-GPU videocard, which we've benchmarked here. But not everyone can afford a $600 videocard, so we've also reviewed 8 hot new videocards from ATI's RV870 GPU line.

Continuing our series of essential tips features, we've posted guides for making the most out of BitTorrent and Ubuntu . And we've also written up a really nostalgic retrospective of our 50 most memorable PC mice, keyboards, and game controllers. Definitely check that out!

Finally, we've also just announced a big contest, partnering up with Ballistic Gaming PC to give away a sweet Core i7 gaming rig. Just click the image on the right to find out how to enter to win.

As always, shoot me an email if you have any comments! Please Digg our stories, and be sure to become a fan of our Facebook group to quality for the Ballistic Gaming PC contest and other giveaways! We've also just launched a TechMart , where you can buy special issues of Maximum PC.
Norman Chan
Online Editor, Maximum PC

Trackballs to Brainwaves: The 50 Most Notable PC Peripherals feature1_newsletter -- In many PC publications, it's the CPUs, video cards and other internal hardware that gets all the attention, with input devices relegated to a few pages here or there in the reviews section. But why should that be the case? Input devices are, after all, your point of connection to your machine. As keyboards, mice and game controllers have evolved over the years, so has the way we control and interact with our computers. That's why we've chosen to give them the respect they deserve-by compiling a list of 50 of the most important, memorable, or just downright wacky input devices from the past, present and future of computing.

If you like this story, please help us by Digging it!

8 Things You Need to Know about Chrome OS -- Google pulled the wraps off of Chrome OS today, and while there isn't a general availability announcement today, they spoke briefly about the Chrome browser (Linux and Mac versions due this year, along with support for extensions) before diving into the nascent OS. You can expect to see Chrome ship in about a year, and showed the first glimpses of the new OS, details about the architecture, the hardware it will run on, and gave us the first hints about what the Google Cloud OS will really look like.
Here's why Chrome OS won't be replacing Windows anytime soon. 
ATI Radeon HD 5970: The Undisputed Performance Champ -- You can forgive AMD for stealing a line from Nvidia's playbook. From the name and marketing materials, it's not obvious that this card is a dual GPU card. One AMD chart even refers to the card as the "ATI Radeon HD 5970 GPU," much like Nvidia's 295 GTX is a dual GPU card that's sold as if it were a normal graphics card.
We first take a quick look at the speeds and feeds of the new card, and then discuss additional features. We'll compare them to the Radeon HD 5870 single GPU card; there are differences in core and memory clock speeds. Then, we jump into the benchmarks, comparing the Radeon HD 5970 to four other videocards in high-resolution gaming. And if those numbers don't impress you, wait until you see how this beast performs in Crossfire for a total of four GPUs
20 Essential Tricks and Skills Every BitTorrent User Should Know -- BitTorrent, as you're probably already aware, is a decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing protocol ideal for transferring large files (and if you didn't know that, don't worry, we also include some lightweight tips to get you started). In a nutshell, the way it works is when you're downloading a massive file -- like a Linux distribution, for example --bits and pieces of the file will be uploaded at the same time. Typically BitTorrent allows for a more efficient and faster transfer method than traditional, Direct Connect P2P software.
On the following pages, we'll not only show you how to get the most out of uTorrent, but out of BitTorrent in general. We'll cover both basic and advanced tips, and then toss in some of our favorite third-party add-ons for good measure. Whether you're new to BitTorrent or a seasoned vet, there's something in this guide for you.
$1500 Gaming PC Buyer's Guide -- November 2009 -- It's that time again! This month, we've priced out an amazing $1500 gaming PC. If you recall from our Dream Machine feature, the $1500 "Budget Surplus" of mid-2009 was powered by a Core i7-920 and Radeon 4870 X2. Today -- a few months later -- we're able to make a few adjustments to upgrade to a Radeon 5870-based machine. The introduction of Intel's Lynnfield processor, increasing RAM prices, and the final retail release of Windows 7 also forced us to reevaluate our spending priorities, but we're very pleased with the outcome. As gamers, this is a system we'd be proud to build ourselves, and will play any game released in the foreseeable future. 

Freeware Files: Widescreen Mania! Make the Most of your Monitor's Real Estate!

Widescreen monitors are, in a word, awesome, and not just because they offer some kind of enhanced quality over their four-by-three ratio brethren. Depending on what you're using them for, like movie-watching, you'll simply see more of a given scene than you otherwise would on a standard display. The increased screen real estate (on the horizontal plane) also allows you to make more effective use of your desktop... provided you have the right software tools to create this enhanced productivity.

In fact, one of the biggest complaints surrounding the use of widescreen monitors is just that--the elongated desktop space is just too hard to navigate, and applications frequently don't make the best use of this additional room. I can't promise that everything out-of-the-box (or out-of-the-browser window) will look great on your widescreen display. However, what I can do is offer you a suite of tools designed to make your 16-by-9 or 16-by-10 experience as great as it can be.

No BS Podcast #125: Did You Hear About the Apple Tablet, Made by Apple?

Google's Chrome OS press conference gave us plenty to discuss on this week's No BS Podcast. We give you a recap of what juicy nuggets were revealed, and explain why Windows won't be replaced by Chrome any time soon. We also talk about benchmarking a dual-Radeon 5970 system, comparing it to a tri-SLI GTX 285 machine that we reviewed a few months ago. Finally, we answer some listener questions and Gordon breaks not one, but four NDAs to tell us about a super secret product.

IBM's Next Cell Processor is Dead in the Water

Talk of the technology behind the PlayStation 3 console always turns to the Cell processor, an innovative chip architecture which, in the PS3, contains essentially 9 processors on single chip (one PowerPC chip and eight Synergistic Processing Elements, or SPEs). And up until now, there was no reason to believe Sony wouldn't once again go with a Cell processor in its PlayStation 4 console, but there now lingers some doubt if the chip truly is "dead in the water, as David Turek, IBM's VP of Deep Computing, supposedly said.

New Drobos Add Drive Bay, Higher Price

Data Robotics is refreshing its excellent line of Drobo automated external hard drive enclosures. The Silicon Valley startup is launching the Drobo S and DroboElite. The Drobo S is similar to the standard Drobo but offers a fifth drive bay, allowing up to two drives to fail with no data loss. The new 'S' version also packs a faster ARM chip and an eSATA port to go along with the FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 ports. Users can enable dual drive redundancy via the software control panel.

Google Says It Doesn't Want to Be Utility

Google has made it clear recently that it does not intend to compete with utilities. The Mountain View tech company felt the need to do so after its recent push to get the PowerMeter service up and running. Some have worried that Google might intend to take over the relationship with customers from the electric companies.

PowerMeter is a service that pulls data from special "smart" home electricity meters and feeds it into a web interface where users can track their use. Google's Program Manager for Advanced Products, Ed Lu, explained that Google only wants to help consumers understand their energy usage better. He went on saying, "This is where we think we can help utilities with this particular problem."

Another Day, Another Promising New Battery Technology
It seems like we're constantly hearing about promising battery technologies that could ultimately lead to longer battery life, more power, and smaller units, but as of yet, that big breakthrough hasn't occurred. Maybe nanotechnology, which is the current hot topic in the battery innovations field, will prove to be different.
Right at this moment, a ton of research is being put into carbon nanotubes (CNTs) for a bunch of uses, including electronics and batteries. Researchers are drawn to CNTs because, according to them, carbon nanotubes are near perfect. That has paved the way for a professor and a UC San Diego graduate student to discover a breakthrough that involves introducing purposeful defects into CNT structures. By doing so, the 'defective' CNTs actually work better for the development of super capacitors, DailyTech reports.
"While batteries have large storage capacity, they take a long time to charge; while electrostatic capacitors can charge quickly but typically have limited capacity. However, super capacitors electrochemical capacitors incorporate the advantages of both," Professor Prabhakar Bandaru said.

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