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custom pc issue 109 'october 2012'

custom pc issue 109 'october 2012'

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BUILD A

ZX81 FROM SCRATCH H

THE BEST-SELLING MAG FOR PC HARDWARE, OVERCLOCKING, GAMING & MODDING

HOW TO

BUILD BUILD A TINY POWER PC
Mini cases and ini motherboards reviewed Full expert building guide

STEPBY-STEP GUIDE

310mm

HOW TO PAINT YOUR CASE 340mm TERMINATOR SCIENCE – PROGRAMMABLE MATTER
REVEALED: WHY ARM BEATS X86 ON MOBILES
ISSUE 109

PLUS

m 250m

OCT 2012

£4.50

Our best selling gaming PC evolved Better Graphics - Bigger Hard Drive - Better Deal!
AMD FX-4100 3.6GHz Quad Core Processor 8GB 1333Mhz DDR3 Memory AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB Graphics Card Gigabyte GA-M68MT-S2 Motherboard 1TB SATA-III Hard Disk Drive DVD+/- RW Writer Drive Built-in Wi-Fi 802.11n Adapter
CCL Code - CCL-EL-HWK2

www.cclonline.com

P r i c e s c o r r e c t a t t i m e o f g o i n g t o p u b l i s hi n g ( 3 t h J u l y 2 0 1 2 ) . Images are for illustrative purposes only M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l es a r e a v a i l a bl e s e p a r a t e l y. WorldMags.net

EE Y FR ER LIV DE

Welcome to Issue 109
EDITOR BenHardwidge editor@custompc.co.uk TECHNICALEDITOR HarryButler GAMESEDITOR JoeMartin ARTEDITOR BillBagnall PRODUCTIONEDITOR JulieBirrell CONTRIBUTORS AntonyLeather, CliffHarris, GarethHalfacree,JamesGorbold, JimKillock,LucySherriff, PaulGoodhead,RickLane, SimonTreadaway,TracyKing PHOTOGRAPHY AntonyLeather,DannyBird,Gareth Halfacree • GROUPADVERTISINGMANAGER BenTopp +44(0)2079076625 ben_topp@dennis.co.uk ACCOUNTMANAGER AdamMcDonnell +44(0)2079076620 adam_mcdonnell@dennis.co.uk SALESEXECUTIVE FinanTesfay +44(0)2079076898 finan_tesfay@dennis.co.uk USADVERTISINGDIRECTOR MatthewSullivan-Pond +16467179555 matthew_sullivan@dennis.co.uk

Editorial

Publishing & Marketing
GROUPPUBLISHER PaulRayner paul_rayner@dennis.co.uk MARKETINGEDITORIALEXECUTIVE PaulGoodhead paul_goodhead@dennis.co.uk LICENSINGMANAGER CarlottaSerantoni Carlotta_Serantoni@dennis.co.uk +44(0)2079076550 LICENSINGANDSYNDICATIONASSISTANT NicoleAdams Nicole_Adams@dennis.co.uk +44(0)2079076134 SYNDICATIONSENIORMANAGER AnjumDosaj +44(0)2079076132

Dennis Publishing Limited
Tel:02079076000fax02079076193 DIRECTOROFADVERTISING JulianLloydEvans MANAGINGDIRECTOR DENNISTECHNOLOGY JohnGarewal CEO IanWestwood NEWSTRADEDIRECTOR DavidBarker FINANCEDIRECTOR BrettReynolds GROUPFINANCEDIRECTOR IanLeggett CHIEFEXECUTIVE JamesTye CHAIRMAN FelixDennis • SUBSCRIPTIONS Youcanmanageyourexistingsubscription throughwww.subsinfo.co.uk–thisshouldbe yourfirstportofcallifyouhaveanyqueries aboutyoursubscription.Email:custompc@ servicehelpline.co.uk Annualsubs:UK£39.99 UKsubs:08448440032 Overseassubs:Europe£60, ROW£80Overseassubs:+44(0)1795592906 LICENSING,REPRINTS,EPRINTS Wright’sMedia 0800-051-8327(TollFree) PrintedbyBGP DistributedbySeymourDistribution Tel:02074294001

Advertising

Thepaperusedwithinthismagazine isproducedfromsustainablefibre, manufacturedbymillswithavalid chainofcustody.

Theadviceandinformationprovidedinthismagazineisgiveningoodfaith. DennisPublishingLimitedcannotacceptanyresponsibilityforanyloss,disruptionor damagetoyourdataoryourcomputersystemwhichmayoccurasaresultoffollowingor attemptingtofollowadvicegiveninthemagazineoronitswebsite.Ifthingsdogowrong, takeabreak.Theworldtendstoseembetterafteracupoftea. CustomPCispublishedmonthlybyDennisPublishingLtd,30ClevelandStreet, London W1T4JD,acompanyregisteredinEnglandnumber1138891. Entirecontents©DennisPublishingLtdlicensedbyFelden.

DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

WorldMags.net

October 2012

3

Welcome to Issue 109

BUILD A MINI POWER PC

You no longer need a big towering monolith on your desk if you want the fastest performance. In fact, a PC that’s half the size is quite capable of accommodating the fastest GPU available and an Ivy Bridge CPU overclocked to 4.8GHz. We’ve gathered several mini-ITX cases and Z77 motherboards in order to find the ideal combination for an uncompromising mini PC, and we even show you how to build the final rig, complete with a water-cooling loop.

52

36

124

102

10 14 18

PERFORMANCEENHANCING DRINKS

What’stheevidencebehindsomeofthe scientific-soundingclaimsmadebyenergy drinksmanufacturers?

GarethHalfacreeanalyseswhyARM issomuchmorepopularthanx86formobiles.

20 36

ARMVSx86

HAPPYDAYZ

SUPERHIGH-END MOTHERBOARDS

It’sasimplegamecodedbyone man,anditcostsjust£6.JoeMartinexplains howagameconstructedfromsimpleblocks andsquarescanstillbeasurprisingly emotionalexperience.

89 96

THOMASWASALONE

JoeMartintalkstoDean‘Rocket’ Hall,creatorofArmaIIzombiemodDayZ.

Whatdoyougainfroma£300motherboard? HarryButlerlooksatEVGA’sZ77FTWand Asus’MaximusFormulaVtofindout.

THEENGINEROOM–UNITY

PROGRAMMABLEMATTER

Howfarareweawayfromcreating theliquid-metalcyborgfromTerminator2?

Ithasanattractive,understated design,butcantheR4competeelsewhere?

42 FRACTALDESIGNDEFINER4

Thisamazinglyflexiblegameengine alreadyrunsonWindows,MacOS,iOS, Android,andthereareplanstosupportFlash andLinuxtoo.CouldUnityendupbeingthe oneenginetorulethemall?

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124 52 74 108 18 84 20 14 108

1ssue 109
Reviewed this month
Hardware
MOTHERBOARDS 36 EVGA Z77 FTW 36 Asus Maximus Formula V CASES 40 Aerocool Strike-X Air 42 Fractal Design Define R4 MICROCONTROLLER 44 Arduino Leonardo COOLER 46 Arctic Accelero Hybrid
PRODUCTS REVIEWED

22

20

Paintingyourcaseisn’tassimpleas justsquirtinganaerosolatit.AntonyLeather guidesyouthroughthewholeprocessof priming,painting,sandingandlacquering yourprideandjoy.

108 HOWTOPAINTYOURCASE

8 From the editor 10 Tracy King 12 Digital rights 14 Interview 16 Incoming 18 Science! 20 Mobile tech watch 24 CPC Elite products 48 How we test 82 Grumpy gamer 94 Dev perspective 96 The engine room 124 Retro tech 130 James Gorbold

Regulars

Custom kit 50 Warhammer Invasion 50 Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds 50 Stickems 51 Google Nexus 7 Motherboard and case Labs test 54 BitFenix Prodigy 56 Fractal Design Node 304 58 Lian Li PC-TU200 60 SilverStone FT03-Mini 64 ASRock Z77E-ITX 66 P8Z77-I Deluxe 68 Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi Games 84 Spec Ops: The Line 88 Quantum
89 90 93
Conundrum Thomas Was Alone Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Metro: Last Light

BUILDASINCLAIRZX81 124 FROMSCRATCH
NotonlyhasGarethHalfacreebuiltaworking ZX81fromscratch,performingallthe solderinghimself,buthe’salsomoddeditso thatithasacompositeTV-outaswell.

Community

102 Readers’ drives 108 How to paint your case 116 Letters 121 Folder of the month 122 Your folding milestones
WorldMags.net

October 2012

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THE RETURN OF THE MINI PC

from the editor

i

When you can do so much with miniITX, why would most of us need a bigger PC?
natypicalexampleofclichémanglingtomakeapunnyheadline, Issue10’smaincoverheadingwas‘SmallWonders’,withaLabs testdedicatedsolelytothebignewtrendindesktopcomputingminibarebonechassis.Somepeoplecalledthemshoeboxes,while thosewhopreferredincomprehensiblemarketingjargoncalledthem smallformfactorPCs.Likeacrossbetweenaminihi-fisystemanda standardPCcase,thesesystems,startingwithShuttle’sXPCline-up, enabledyoutobuildapintsizePCwithadecent-specCPUand graphicscard. Welovedthem,buttheyhadtheirissues too.Theyhadproprietarymotherboards andcoolingsystems,soyoucouldn’teasily swapthemoutthemotherboard,orputin anotherthird-partycoolereither.Weonce water-cooledaShuttleXPCintheHowTo section,butittookseveralofusalotof effortoverafewdaystomanageit.Wehad mini-ITXbackthen,ofcourse,butmostof thecaseslookedawful,andmostofthe motherboardswerebasedonVIA’slow-poweredEPIAplatform,and oftenonlycamewithasinglePCIslot,ratherthananAGPgraphics slot.Issue10turnedouttobeoneofourworst-sellingissuesever,and weneverputthemonthecoveragain. Sowhat’schanged?WhyareminiPCssuddenlyonthecoverofCPC again?Shuttle’sstillproducingtheXPCrange,ofcourse,butthisyear we’veseenasuddenexplosioninthemini-ITXmarket.Suddenly manufacturershaverealisedthatenthusiastssuchasourselvesdon’t reallywantproprietarymotherboards,limitedPSUsandcaptive coolingsystems.Wewanttobeabletoeasilyaddourowncooling system,putinafull-specgraphicscardandupgradethemotherboard whennecessary.Wewanttooverclock.Webasicallywanteverything

You can now not only build a full-spec mini-ITX Ivy Bridge rig, but also watercool it, overclock it to 4.8GHz and put in a GeForce GTX 680 too

thatafull-specdesktopPCdoes,anduntilsmallerPCscandothat, there’snotreallymuchpointinbuildingone. Thisistheturningpoint.AsourownPC-buildingaficionadoAntony Leathershowsonp74,youcannownotonlybuildafull-specmini-ITX IvyBridgerig,butyoucanalsowater-coolit,overclockittothesame clockfrequencyasafull-sizedATXmachine,andyoucanputina GeForceGTX680too.Basically,youraveragePCenthusiast,gamer andCustomPCreadercannowgeteverythingtheywantinasmall PC,and withoutmakingcompromises. ThebigquestionI’maskingnowiswhy mostofuswouldeverneedtobuildafullsizedATXPCagain.Unlessyou’rerunning multiplegraphicscards,orstillusea dedicatedsoundcardorTVcard,there’s basicallynopoint.Iforonewelcomeour newshoebox-sizedoverlords. Inothernews,I’dliketothankeveryone whocametotheveryfirstCustomPCand bit-techPubQuiz(seep100)lastmonth– ifwedoitagain,IpromiseI’llmakemyretrotechroundeasier!! Meanwhile,I’dalsoliketoextendabig,warmwelcometomy predecessorintheeditor’schair,themightyJamesGorbold,who’s nowreturnedtoCustomPCwithanewbackpagecolumn(seep130). JamescurrentlyhelpingScan spec-upits3XSsystems,sohe’sstill verymuch workingwithPCs,andI’mverygladtohavehimbackon boardagain. BenHardwidgeistheeditorofCustomPC.HelikesPCs,realale andWarhammer40,000.
EDITOR@CUSTOMPC.CO.UK @MANSHARK

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PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRINKS
1 2 3

REFERENCES
http://tinyurl.com/ CPCEnergyShot http://tinyurl.com/ CPCEnergyShot2

Can energy drinks really improve gamers’ concentration and memory?
amingofteninvolveslatehours.Youmayhaveacoffeeor energydrinknexttoyourightnow.Ido.Oryoumayfind caffeinemakesyoujitteryandinterfereswithyourgaming,so youavoidit.Itwasn’tgoingtobelongbeforemanufacturerscaughton toouroftennocturnallifestyleandtargeteduswithaspecificsolution. ThefolkatGungHo,makerofanew‘energyshot’,claimtohave solvedourall-nightsessionneedswithonehandysachet,illustrating theirwebsitewithapicofagamecontroller.‘Over50percentof gamersarenotsatisfiedwithcurrentenergyshotsanddrinks,’claims anarticle1 onPRWeb,whichactuallyreferstoresearchfundedby GungHoitself.ThisisfollowedbyaquotefromDrDanMowrey,who InoteattainedhisPhDinexperimental psychology(notneuroscience),andwhoin 2005,waschargedbytheFTC2 with‘falsely claimingtobeamedicaldoctor.’DrMowrey says,‘Mostenergyshotsordrinksfailatboth endsofyourexperience.Theinitial“rush” and“jitters”oftendisruptmentalfocusand physicalperformance–theresultofcritical compositionalimbalancesthatprovokethe customary“crash”.’ Asisoftenthecase,it’sbesttobeguidedby scientificconsensusratherthanadefinite‘that’sthat’,despitewhatDr Mowreysays.Somestudiesshowcaffeineimprovesmemory,others showitimpairsit.Someofthesestudiesareflawed,somearerobust. Thecurrentconsensusisthatalotofcaffeineimpairsthecapacityof short-termandworkingmemory,andthat’sagoodenoughreasonto cutdown,particularlyingamingwhereworkingmemoryisvital. Socaffeinemightscrewwithyourworkingmemory.DoesGungHo containcaffeine?Yes!ButIdon’tknowhowmuch,becausethepage withtheingredients3 doesn’tsay.WhenIemailedGungHoformore information,thecompanysaid,‘Anyonecanputadifferentlabelon

http://www.gogungho. com/supplementfacts

G

The current consensus is that a lot of caffeine impairs the capacity of short-term and working memory

caffeineandsomeB-Vitamins,addadashofTaurineandcallitanew product.Wewantedtoimproveonit.’Itthenlinkedmebacktothe sameingredientspage.However,GungHomadeitveryclearthatits ‘flagshipingredient’issomethingcalledCognizin. CognizinisthebrandnameofCitocoline.TheFDA(thebody responsibleforapprovingdrugsintheUSA)refusedtoapproveitas amedicine.Itdoesn’tappeartohaveanysolidevidencebehindit, withstudiesshowingitworksnobetterthan,toquoteProfessor Farnsworth,abigfatplacebo.However,theFDAdoesn’tregulate food,soit’smarketedasfoodinpackets,suchastheGungHoenergy shot,withoutneedingtoprovideanyproofofefficacy.Youcan’tbuy GungHointheUK,butyoucanbuyCitocolin. TheGungHowebsiteclaimstheproduct ‘canactuallyincreaseyourcapacitytofocus, storeandmemorizeovertime’,whichwould behandyforgamers.Iaskedneuroscientist DrDeanBurnettofCardiffUniversityifthat’s possible.Hesaid,‘I’mnotsurehowthey’d arguethis.Ifyouperformarepeatedtaskin laboratorysettings,thenyou’dgetbetterat recallingit(thatis,storingandmemorising), withorwithouttheproduct.Also,there’sno knowncapacityforhumanmemoryasofyet,sohowthey’dknow they’reenhancingitisanyone’sguess.Thisislargelyscientifically unchartedterritory.’ Notsuchaflagshipingredientafterall.Thebestwaytoimprove concentrationandperformanceistodrinkwaterandgetplentyof exercise.Flexingmytriggerfingerwillbeagoodstart. GamerandscienceenthusiastTracyKingdissectstheevidence andstatisticsbehindsomeofthepopularmediastories @TKINGDOLL surroundingtechandgaming

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Jim Killock

The Digital Economy Act: back from the grave
Coming soon – prosecutions with only 20 days to appeal, and you might not even be the copyright infringer
nthedyingdaysoftheLabour government,LordMandelson usheredinalawenablingInternet userstobecutoffforreceivingmere allegationsofcopyrightinfringement–the DigitalEconomyAct(DEAct).Inaforetaste ofthelaterprotestsagainstSOPA,PIPA andACTA,thisoffensivepieceoflegislation becamethefocusofwidespread protests. Theoutragewasn’tjustaboutthelawitself: itwasalsoaboutthewayitwasrammed through,withlittledemocraticscrutiny. HowcouldParliamentpushforwardsuch acrudeandill-thoughtoutproposal?Howdid commerciallobbyistsfromtheentertainment industrygainsuchastrangleholdonpolitical power?Theentertainmentindustries’key lobbygroups,especiallytheInternational FederationofPhonographicIndustries,has beenpushingfor‘threestrikes’legislation aroundtheglobeformanyyears.These pusheswerepartofabuild-uptolegislation intheUSA,whichculminatedintheSOPA andPIPAproposalsforbroadcontrolsonthe Internetandnewcensorshiptools. Similarlegislationhasbeenproposedina numberofcountriestoo,reachingthestatute booksinNewZealand,FranceandSouth Korea,aswellastheUK.However,many othercountriesrejectedtheidea,including Germany,andattemptstointroduceit throughtheEUalsofailed.Theindustry can’trealisticallyhopetointroducealaw suchasthisintheUSA,soinstead,ithas triedtopersuadeISPstointroduceitthrough contractwithendusers. TheIFPIanditslocalUKbranch,theBPI, arguethattheyneedtobeabletopunishand deterillicitdownloading(‘onlinecopyright theft’).Theysaythatusersmustbedissuaded fromsharingoracquiringfileswithout payment.Theyclaimthatinvestmentwon’t beforthcomingunlessactionistakento reduceinfringement. TheyalsostatethattheUKdigitalmarket grewbynearly25percentin2011,andthat manydigitalservicesaredeliveringnew andexcitingproductstotheircustomers. AccordingtotheIFPI,peer-to-peer(P2P) infringementisdeclininginFrance,anddigital saleshaveincreasedmorethanexpected. Othersclaimthatthemainimpacton infringementhasbeentoshiftitaround, primarilytostreamingwebsites,whichis hardertodetectrobustly. Workingthroughindustrystatisticsis notoriouslydifficult,butonefactisclear; digitalrevenuesinbothFranceandtheUK rosein2011,whileonlyoneofthesecountries wassendingletterstoallegedinfringers. ThatimpliesthattheDEActmaywellnotbe necessary,butthatdoesn’tseemtobe worryingthegovernment. Rather,thegovernment’smainconcern seemstobehonouringthecommitment madetothemusicandfilmindustriesto implementtheAct.Sofar,thathasbeenvery difficult.Internetprotestersweren’ttheonly groupthatwasunhappywiththenewAct. ISPs,especiallyBTandTalkTalk,stated thattheydidn’twanttoactastheInternet police,administeringroughjusticetotheir customers,whilebearingunwarrantedcosts. ThustheychallengedtheActthrougha JudicialReview(JR),whichhelpedtodelay

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HOW IT WORKS
DETECTING PEER-TO-PEER

01

Copyrightholdersemployprivate companiestodetectP2Pfilesharing.

thecopyrightgroupstobandtogether forbulkdiscounts. CopyrightownerssupplytheIP 02 addressandtimestampofthe allegedinfringers.ISPsmatchthese againsttheirrecordstofindoutwhose accountwasused.Thisdoesn’tidentify anactualinfringer,ofcourse–justthe accountholder.

all,‘anyothergrounds’,hasbeenremoved, limitingdiscretionoftheappealsbody. Theappealswillcostaround£400 06 eachtoadminister.Thecostisborne bythecopyrightholders. Ifthreewarningsfromthesame 07 copyrightholderhavebeenlodged, theaccountisthenplacedona‘repeat infringers’list,towhichcopyrightholders canclaimaccessinordertoprosecute accountholders.

Theprivatecompaniesdownloada copyofasharedfile.Theyverifyifit’s acopyofaworkwhosecopyrightisheldby theiremployer.

02

03 Thecopyrightowners‘lurk’onthe P2Pnetwork,andaskforpartsofthe
filefromotherusers.Theytakepartsofthe copyrightfilefromotherusers,verifythat itmatches,andrecordtheIPaddressand time.Thisshouldshowthatafileisbeing activelysharedbysomeone–whocouldbe anyone–atthatIPaddress.

03 Onceanotificationislodgedagainst anaccount,awarningletterissent
bypost.Warningsaresentatintervalsofat leastonemonth. Eachwarningletterallowsthe 04 accountownertoappealagainstthe infringementnotifications. Thereareonly20daystoseekadvice, 05 preparedocumentsandfilean appeal.Theappealcosts£20,whichis refundableifit’swon.Thegroundsof appealhavebeennarrowed,andthecatch-

08 Thereisanexemptionfor commercialWiFioperatorssuch
asTheCloud,butnotforsmallbusinesses orlibrarieswiththeirownWiFinetwork forcustomers.

THE INITIAL OBL IGATIONS CODE
Copyrightownerswillguaranteeto sendacertainnumberofletters: theyreceivebigvolumediscounts,soit willmakesensetosendalot.They’llpay 75percentofthetotalcosts,andthesum isnon-refundable.Thisalsoencourages

01

THE FUTURE – DISCONNECTIONS?
IfOfcomdoesn’treportasignificantdropin infringement,thegovernmentcanaddnew obligationstodisconnectaccountsfora periodoftime,orlimitaccessinotherways.

implementationforabouttwoyears, althoughthepoordraftingoftheActhas alsocontributedtothedelay.TheActis implementedthrough‘HenryVIII’clauses– sweepingpowerstodraftsecondary legislation(StatutoryInstruments,orSIs), whichwouldnormallyreceiveonlyminimal scrutinyinParliament. DraftingerrorsmeantthattheoriginalSIs hadtoberesubmitted,andnowthatthereal SIsaregoingtobesubmittedforwhatthe governmenthopesisafinaltime,problems arecontinuingtoemerge.Parliamentary scrutinycommitteesareaskingquestions– extremelyunusualforthistypeoflegislation, whichismeanttobeusedforunimportant administrativeactions.Unfortunately,for thehundredsofthousandsoffamiliesand businessesthatwillreceiveletters,theInitial ObligationsCode,‘Costsorders’and‘Appeals’ won’tbeunimportant.Theycouldwellbe disturbingandrequireswiftaction.

Thecopyrightlobbyistshavepushedhard tomakesurefewpeopleappeal,claimingthat peoplemaycampaigntostoptheCodefrom workingbybombardingitwithappeals.Asa result,only20daysisbeinggiventoappeal, whichwillbechallengingformanypeople, whowon’tunderstandwhatitallmeans. Thecopyrightownershaveasignificant financialinterestinlimitingthenumbersof appeals,asthey’llbepayingaround£400to administrateeachone.Thisillustratesthe inadequacyofsemi-privatisedjudicial processesinthiscase.Accesstojustice shouldn’tbelimitedbyfinances. TheprocesswillalsothreatenopenWiFi. AlthoughcommercialWiFiisexempted, hotels,barsandcafesarestillatriskifthey sharetheirnormalISPconnectionwith customers.Librariesarealsocampaigning strongly,butthey’vebeengivenlittlecomfort. Thiswillnowtakeyearstogetinto operation.Meanwhile,musicandfilm

revenueskeepincreasing,butwillthe pressuretolimitandcontroltheInternet reduce?Lobbyistandgovernmentsstillwant theInternettobemorelikecableTV,often willingtopushinappropriaterestrictionsthat damageastrongandgrowingpartofthe economy.Thesepusheshavecreated backlashesintheSOPA,PIPAandACTA debates,showingthatwecanwin.Bythetime theDigitalEconomyActisinoperation,itwill seemlikeapolicyfromanother,longgone era.TheDEActisstillamess.

isexecutivedirectorof campaignorganisation TheOpenRightsGroup (www.openrightsgroup.org) @jimkillock

JIM KILLOCK

WorldMags.net

October 2012

13

Joe Martin

HappyDayZ
CPC:HowdidtheideaforDayZ originate,andareyoucloseto completingthatinitialvision? Dean:Thebasicgenesisofthe ideacamewhileIwasinthearmy,afterI’d completedmysurvivaltrainingwiththe SingaporeArmedForcesinBrunei.I’dbeen developingmyownthoughtsforhowtomake gamesand,whilethere’sstillalargechunk missing,we’recomingclosetothat. Thebiggestinspirationwasprobablythe bookTheRoadbyCormacMcCarthy,and alsomyownexperiencesinJungleSurvival training.Ifindemotionalresponsesfrom entertainmentmediumsreallycompelling, andIthinkmoviesandbookshavemanaged thisforsometime.However,itseemedto methatmainstreamgameshadbeenstuck dealingwith‘excitement’forfartoolong– withsomenotableexceptions,ofcourse. Thestuffthat’smissingismainlyrelatedto groupplayfeatures,andwhathappens once you’vemanagedtosurvive–whenyouneed tostartthriving. CPC:Wereyouinspiredbyspecificzombie booksorfilms? Dean:I’vereadaconsiderableamountof ‘zombie’fiction,butItrytostayawaynow fromcallingthecreaturesinDayZzombies, sincemanypeoplearefrustratedtheydon’t sticktozombiecanon.Itrytocallthem

Arma II zombie mod DayZ has become a hit with survivalists. We talk to the mod’s creator Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall about Arma III and what comes next

InDayZ,everyshotfeelsdramatic

‘infected’sothatpeoplerealisethisisan attempttotakeanewlookatthegenre withouttheoldbaggageandrestrictions.I guesstimewilltellifthisisagooddecision! CPC:HasthesuddenpopularityofDayZ causedanyproblemsforyou? Dean:It’schangedalot,andithasn’tjust affected developmentofthemod,butmy personallifeaswell.Astimehasgoneon, andtheimpactofithasbecomemore significant,it’sstartedtohaveahuge impactonmylife–somepositiveand somechallenging.I’mjusttryingtomake thebestofthesituationasitis.

CPC:Wheredoyouthinkthatpopularity camefrom?Whydoplayersliketoshare theirsurvivalstoriessomuch? Dean:Thekeywasthat,associalcreatures, welovetellingstories.Sincethedaysof antiquity,I’msurepeoplehavesataround campfiresandtoldstories.Ourgeneration hassocialmedia;that’sourcampfire. CPC:You’vespokenbeforeaboutturning DayZfromamodintoaproperrelease. Howdoyouintendtodothat? Dean:Movingfrommodtogameisadifficult process,andeachopportunityneedstobe carefullyconsidered.Thekeyissettingupthe

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We’regonnaneedabiggergun

DayZisagameof survivalandteamwork

ZOMBIES ENABLE PLAYERS TO EXPLORE SOME OF SOCIETY’S KEY FEARS, AND OUR DESIRE TO GO BACK TO BASICS
CPC:YouworkforBohemia asagamedesigner.Did thatinfluenceyourdecision touseArmaIIfortheDayZmod? Dean:Iwascontractedonthedevelopment ofArmaIIIasamultiplayerdesigner,not employedoutright,butthat’sanexciting project.Isupposeyoucouldsayitinfluences metoworkwithBohemia,asmyopinion aboutitbeingafantasticstudiowasconfirmed whenIstartedworkthere.Obviously,nothing isperfect,butIidentifiedwiththepassion anddesiretodosomethingdifferentthat permeateseveryaspectofthatstudio. CPC:DidyouevertrytopitchDayZasafull gameatBohemia,ratherthanamod? Dean:I’donlybeenatBohemiaInteractive forabrieftime,andjustasacontractor,so Iwasn’treallytheretopitchideas.However, IoutlinedtheworkI’dperformedon persistency,andBohemiaInteractiveis committedtolookingforexcitingwaysto developtheseries.That’swhat’ssogreat aboutthestudio;ItrulythinkBohemiaisone oftheworld’sbestkeptsecrets,andIthink we’llbeseeingsomeseriouslyinnovativestuff fromthereinthenextfewyears. YoucanfindoutmoreaboutDayZatwww. dayzmod.com

experimentsothatitcancontinue–thenwe canreallygetagoodresult.Also,theproject mustbesustainable.Asitstands,themod hasafinitelifespanbecauseit’sgrownsobig sofast.Theadministrationandupkeepisa full-timejobforseveralpeople–withoutpay. CPC:DayZisn’ttheonlyzombiegame;the marketissaturatedwiththem.Whyare zombiessopopularatthemoment? Dean:Idon’tthinkit’sasmuchtodowith zombiesaswhattheyrepresentandenable. Theyrepresentaspectsofcommonfearsthat areveryrelevantintoday’sworld.Discussing them,andparticularlyusingthemasagame narrative,givesusthefreedomtoexplorethat ‘whatif?’scenariooftheworldending. Withoutthezombiesasantagonists, youstruggletofilltheworldwithasmuch meaningfulaction.Zombiesarethemedium thatenablesplayerstoexploresomeof society’skeyfears,andinsomeways,our desiretogobacktobasics.

ThefilmTheRoad,aswell astheoriginalbook,wasa biginspirationforDayZ

WorldMags.net

April 2012

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NEW HARDWARE

We take a look at the latest newly announced products
Yep,it’snotatypo.Crucialreallyhas launchedanewrangeofSATAIISSDs, forthesimplereasonthatevenSSDs limitedbySATAII’smaximum bandwidthof3Gb/secarestill massivelyfasterthanharddrives.BasedonaPhisonPS3105controller, and25nmMicronsynchronousMLCNAND,Crucialclaimsthenewv4 drivescanreadatupto230MB/secandwriteatupto190MB/sec.Those figuresarequotedforthe256GBversion–thewritespeeddrops dramaticallyto60MB/seconceyougetdowntothe30GBversion.The mostimpressiveaspectaboutthesedrives,however,aretheprices.The v4sareavailablenow,costing£31.99(32GB),£44.99(64GB),£63.99 (128GB)and£122.99(256GB),allincVAT.

CRUCIAL LAUNCHES NEW SATA II SSDs

ADATA REVEALS 2,400MHz RAM
MemorymakerADATAhasjustlaunchedanewtop-endlineof 2,400MHzRAM(19.2GB/secbandwidth)asapartofitsXPG Gamingv2.0series.Availableinan8GB(2x4GBdual-channel) kit,ADATAsaysthememorywillrunatlatencytimingsof10-1212-31at1.65V,andthatitalsosupportsIntel’sExtremeMemory Profile(XMP)system.Thememoryalsohasaneight-layerPCB containing2ozofcopper,inordertoremoveasmuchheatas possiblefromthechips.Thekitsareavailablenowatselected retailersfor£89.99incVAT.

Pi AND ICE CREAM SANDWICH
Ifyou’vemanagedtogetyourhandsonaRaspberryPi,orare onthewaitinglist,thenyoumaybewonderingwhattodo withit.We’vehadsomeofour ownideas(seeIssue106, p98),includinginstalling Debian,usingitasaNASbox andmakingaminimedia centre,buthere’sanother idea–installAndroidon it.RaspberryPihasjust announcedthatsupport forAndroid4.0(IceCream Sandwich)isonitsway,and demonstratedavideoofitin actiononthePi.‘Hardware-acceleratedgraphicsandvideo havebeenupandrunningsmoothlyforsometime,’saysthe company.‘AudioFlingersupportistheonlymajormissing pieceatthemoment’Couldthismeanthere’spotentialto makeyourowntablet?We’llbewatchingthisspaceintently.

Twisters,yousay?Tornados,partygames,KFCwraps,ChubbyChecker? Nope,140mmisjusttoosmall,althoughwequiteliketheideaofPocket ChubbyChecker.Inthiscase,we’retalkingaboutEnermax’sfansbasedon itspatented‘twister’bearing,whichusesamagnetandmetalballtokeep thefanbladesontheshaft.Theballistheonlypointofcontactbetweenthe shaftandtherotor,resultinginaquiet fanwithsmoothoperation.Enermax hasjustupdatedlotsofitsfanline-ups basedonthebearingwith140mm models–idealforpushingoutplenty ofairwithoutmakingtoomuchnoise. Fivenew140mmfanshavebeen introduced,fromthe£9.90fixed-speed (750rpm)T.B.Silencetothe£13.90 Everest,whichincludesathermal sensor.Thefansareavailableto purchasenow.

140MM TWISTERS

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WorldMags.net

Lucy Sherriff

Programmable matter
A
ssociateProfessorSethCopen Goldsteinistechnicallytryingto developprogrammablematter– materialthatcanbeprogrammed intodifferentshapes.Butreally,he’strying tosolvesomeofthehardestprogramming challengesfacingthishighlyconnected, highlydistributedworldinwhichwelive. ‘Originally,weweremotivatedbyhowlittle thingshavechangedwithcommunication. Couldwedobetterthanjustreproducinga voice,ortransmittinga2Dimage?Whynot builda3Dmodelofaspeakerandreproduce itattheotherendofacall?’This,hestresses, isn’tcloningorteleporting.‘We’retalkingon thephonerightnow,butitisn’tmysound wavesyou’rehearing.Theyhaven’tbeen teleportedtoyourear.Thosesoundwaves havebeenreproduced.We’retalkingabout doingthesamewithaphysicalform. Thisisn’tlike3Dprinting,whereyouprint outanobject,butitdoesn’tchange.Youcan printahammer,butitwon’tturnintoasaw.It isn’tdynamicphysicalrendering,something capableofbeingmorethanoneuseable object.’He’stalkingaboutobjectsmadefrom claytronicatoms,orcatomsforshort.These willbetinysiliconspheres,eventually,that self-organiseintoprettymuchanydesired shape.They’llalsobeabletochangecolour andformondemand. Let’sstartwiththehardware.Goldstein’s PhDstudent,MustafaEmreKaragozler,has demonstratedcatomsthatwillsticktoone another,communicatewithoneanother andtransferpowerbetweenthemselves. ‘Locomotionisthenextstep.We’reworking onhowtheylatchandunlatch,’Goldsteinsays. Currently,acatomiscomposedoftwolayers– asiliconshelloveranaluminiumchip.The shellismadewithphotolithographyonaflat thinfilm.Whenreleasedfromthewafer,the filmsspringnaturallyintotheirtubularshape.

Using materials that can be programmed into different shapes, could we actually create the liquid metal cyborg from Terminator 2?
Hey,Mrliquidmetalterminator, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? aren’tyouasightforsoreeyes?

ProfessorDanielaRus’teamatMITisalready ‘printingout’workingrobotsandtoolswithembedded electronics. PhotoByJasonDorfman,CSAIL/MIT

Thedecisiontomakethecatomsoutoftwo partsispurelyeconomical.‘Atthemoment, we’renotmakingtheelectronicsonthesame substrateastheshell,’saysGoldstein.‘It’s simplytooexpensivetomakethemallon onesurface–we’dhavetoprintentirewafers atatime,andthat’sprohibitive.Amore fundamentalissueishowwe’regoingtodeal withenvironmentalcontaminants.We’re stickingthesethingstogetherwithstatic electricity.Thatmakesthemdustmagnets. Theyneedtobeself-cleaning.’ Thegoalistomakethemsmaller.Although sub-millimetreisgoodenoughfortheforces involvedatthisstage,eventuallyProfessor Goldsteinwantscatomstobesphericaland measurearound300micronsacross.This wouldmakethemlessstableforstacking,but givesthemgreatersurfaceareas,andthus roomformoreelectronics,foragivenvolume. Soarewetalkingaboutsomethingalittle likeTerminator2’sliquid-metalmimentic polyalloy?Onethatcan’tformcomplex movingparts,butmightjustbeabletomake

knives and stabbing knivesandstabbing weapons? Well, sort of, but weapons?Well,sortof,but not quite. For a start, it’s notquite.Forastart,it’s going to be really expensive. goingtobereallyexpensive. Even some way down the Evensomewaydownthe line, Professor Goldstein line,ProfessorGoldstein says, it will cost a substantial says,itwillcostasubstantial sum.Weclearlywon’tbetalkingfull-sized humanreplicasforsometime. However,thatdoesn’tmeantherearen’t immediatelyobviousapplicationsfor smallerquantitiesofit.Forexample,space explorationmissions,wherepayloadmass isofcriticalimportance(andvastexpense) aclaytronichammer/spanner/whatever youneedwouldmakealotofsense.When spaceisthatconstrained,whysendmultiple instrumentswhenyoucansendalumpof catomsthancanbeallofthem? ProfessorGoldsteinalsosuggestsitcould havemedicalapplications.‘Itcouldpotentially formthesurgeon’stoolsinsidethebody, performtheoperationandthencomeback outthroughthehypodermicneedle.Itwould makeminoroperationsmuchsimpler,and wouldremovetheneedforsterilerooms.Ican reallyseethishappeninginthenearterm.’ Thisisstillsomewayoff.Plus,whilethe loftyresearchgoalssoundcool,Goldstein saystheresearchismostlymotivatedbya softwareproblem.‘Wehavealotofsoftware inourlives,evenwhenwedon’trealiseit.If wecansolvetheproblemofcontrollingthe catoms,wecanimpactdirectlyonagreat numberofreal-worldsoftwareproblems. ‘Wehavealotofhighlydistributedsystems. Ifsomethingbadhappensatapowerplant, forexample,youwantthesystemtoknow aboutitandautomaticallycompensate;air trafficcontrolisanothergloballydistributed

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Centimetre-scaleclaytronicscatom prototypessticktooneanother,andmove aroundeachotherviaelectromagnets. It’shopedthatfuturecatomswill measurejust300micronsacross

system;theInternet.Butthesoftwareforall isfullofwonderfulchallengesand origamirobots–self-assemblingmachines theseisbrittle–itreliesoneachnodehaving discoveries.AsRussays,it’s‘aninteresting thatbuildthemselvesfromaflatsheet. itsownaddress.’ scientificquestionthathasthepotentialto Backin2010,thisworkhadprogressedas Claytronicswon’tworklikethat.Each revealnewinsightsaboutautonomy. farasbeingabletostartflatandmakepaper catomwillhavenoconceptofitslocation ‘Theapplicationpotentialisgreat–an boatsandairplanes.Nottobesniffedat,for withinastructure.Instead,Goldstein’s objectthatcanself-assemblebyfoldingcan sure,butit’snowmovedon.ProfessorRus teamistakinganembryogenicapproachto beshippedflatinacompactwayand,on explainsthat‘insteadofdesigningonesheet controllingthesystem,modellingitswork arrivalatitsdestination,itcantakethe3D ofmaterialthatwillbeabletoachieveany onthemostmassivelydistributed,complex, shapeitneedstodeliverthedesiredfunction. shapewewant,muchlikeanorigamisheet, self-organisingsystemimaginable:DNA. Currentprintingtechnologyisunableto wewouldliketostartwiththedesired ‘Howdogenesproduceanimals?’heasks. produceobjectswithembeddedsensing, shapeandfunction.Forexample,youcould ‘Howdoesthatcellknowitneedstobea actuators,computationandcommunication, havearobotthatcancrawlthroughrubble, hair,aleaforabranch?Individualcatoms sowehavetodevelopnewprocessesthat andautomaticallydesigntheoptimalsheet needtocooperatewithoutwritten allowustodothis.’ programmesforeachone.’ Currently,thefocusisonmakingthe GOLDSTEIN’S TEAM IS TAKING robotsworktospec,althoughfuture Thechallengehefacesisthesame asthatfacinganyonewritingcodefor AN EMBRYOGENIC APPROACH robotsmightbemoreresponsive. amulti-coremachine:writinga ‘Thistechnologymaybeapplicablefor TO CONTROLLING THE SYSTEM, creatingrobotsthatcanmorphfrom programthattakesadvantageof MODELLING THE WORK ON DNA oneshapeintoanother,butourcurrent theprocessor’sabilitytoprocessin parallelwithoutendingupindeadlock, goalistooptimisethedesignand whereeachroutineiswaitingfortheother fabricationofoneshapethatmeetstheuser’s geometrythatcanself-assembleasadevice tofinish,orlivelock,whereeachroutine high-levelspecs,’Russays.‘Iftherobotis capableofthedesiredhigh-levelfunction’. performsitsaction;however,neithermakes designedtowalkthroughrubblethenit ThesheetsaremadefromPEEK(Polyether progressbecausetheybothhavetoconstantly shouldwalkthroughrubble;ifithastoplay etherketone)–arobustbiomaterialusedin changeasaresultoftheother’saction. withyourcat,itshouldplaywithyourcat.’ medicalimplants,compressorplatevalves This,forGoldstein,isthemotivating Andifit’sdesignedtotravelintothepastto andcableinsulation,amongmanyother example:beingabletowriteconcurrent,faulteliminatetheconsequencesoftimetravel applications.‘Wealsoembedtheelectronics tolerantsystemswithbillionsofcomponents. paradoxes?We’llhavetowaitandsee. inthismaterial,’Rusnotes.AlthoughPEEK ‘Beingabletoprovethatyourprogramisfree isrobust,itdoeshaveafailurepoint,andthis oftheseissuesistheholygrailofthiskindof limitsthekindsoftasksanypotentialprinted programming.ThelanguageweuseisMELD, robotmightbeabletoachieve.Beyondthat, andwecanprovethatforasystemofmillions thematerialandembeddedelectronics– isajournalistwitha ofunits,oursystemisdeadlockandlivelock computation,actuation,sensingandsoon– degreeinastrophysics free,’Goldsteinsays. dictatetherangeoffunctionsthatcanbe whoknowsallaboutthe Thereareotherkindsofprogrammable deliveredbytheself-foldedobject. latestscientifictech. matter,though,andProfessorDanielaRus LikeProfessorGoldstein,Rusiseagerto atMITisworkingatabiggerscalewithout setherworkinawidercontext.Asmuchas @lucysherriff catoms.Instead,she’sdevelopingprintable theresearchgoaliscool,thepathtothatgoal

LUCY SHERRIFF

WorldMags.net

October 2012

19

Gareth Halfacree looks at the latest mobile hardware

ARM chips account for over 95 per cent of the mobile market, but why? Let’s analyse the ARM and x86 architectures
ntelistheundisputedleader ofthedesktopandlaptop CPUmarket,withthemost recentfiguresestimating that80.2percentofallprocessor shipmentscomefromthecompany. Intheembeddedandlow-power market,however,it’sabitplayer: chipsbasedondesignsfromARM,a Britishcompanybornoutoftheashes ofAcornComputers,accountforthe overwhelmingmajorityofprocessors inthemobilemarket. Intelisn’tcomfortablewiththis situation,andthecompanyhasmade significantmovesinrecentyearsto ARM’sprocessor assaultthemobilemarketfromthe designsare becoming unfamiliarpositionoftheunderdog. increasingly ThedifferencesbetweenARMand complex,whileIntel’s Intelarefargreaterthanthose Atomgrowssimpler betweenIntelanditsnearestdesktop rival,AMD;theyalsoextendbeyonddifferent designofrivalchipsfromcompaniessuchas businesspracticestotheveryarchitectureon MotorolaandIntel.Despiteindustry-leading whichtheprocessorsarebased.Butwhat innovations,thefirstARMchipsweren’ta differencedoesitmaketotheconsumer? commercialsuccess;Acorn’sArchimedes andRiscPCproductlineswouldusethechips, THE ORIGINS OF ARM butonlyDigitalEquipmentCorporation(DEC) ARMHoldings,thecompanyresponsiblefor wouldlicensethetechnology.EvenApple,a thearchitecturethat’sprovedsosuccessful partnerintheARMproject,refusedtousethe forlow-powerdevices,wasn’talwaysknown chipinitsdesktopcomputers. asARM.Launchedasanin-houseproject tocreateacustomprocessorforBritish microcomputingpioneerAcorn,Acorn RISCMachines(laterrebadgedasAdvanced RISCMachineswhenAcornwasdelisted fromthestockexchangeafterthegreat microcomputercrashof1984)was incorporatedin1990asajointventure betweenAcorn,AppleandVLSITechnology. ARM’sprimarydesignpoint,andthefocus forleadengineerSophieWilson, wasto createlow-power,energy-efficientCPUsasa Intel’sdecisiontocreateanAtomSoCdesigngivesit majorcompetitiontopitchagainstARM’sIP responsetowhatwasseenasthewasteful ARMchips’simplifieddesignand reducedinstructionsetcomputer (RISC)architecturemeantthatthey drewsignificantlylesspowerthan rivalprocessors,however,andas companiesstartedtodeveloppersonal digitalassistants(PDAs),andother precursorstotoday’stabletsand smartphones,thechipslooked increasinglytempting.Fastforwardto today,andARMboastsamarketshare insmartphonesandtabletsofover95 percent,whilehavingalmostzero presenceelsewhere–exactlythe oppositeofIntel.

ARM vs x86

ARM’S ADVANTAGES
However,whatmakesARM’sdesigns sopopularforlow-powercomputing? Thecompanycertainlyhasadifferent approachtothemarketfromthatof Intel,wherethelatterproducesitsownchips; ARMproducesnophysicalgoodswhatsoever. Instead,itlicensesitsintellectualproperty(IP) tothirdpartieswhocaneitherstartbuilding ARM-basedprocessorsimmediatelyusing anoff-the-pegdesign,orbuildonARM’swork tocreateacustomchip.ARM’slicensees includeApple,Marvell,Nvidia,Texas Instruments,andatonepoint,evenIntelitself. Asimpledifferenceintacticscan’taccount forARM’sstellarsuccess,however.Perhaps thebiggestcontributortoARM’sdomination ofthemobilemarketcomesfromthe architectureitself.Basedonareduced instructionset,Wilsonandhiscolleague SteveFurbertriedtoreplicatetheefficiency ofMOSTechnology’s6502chip,whichhada morestreamlinedapproachthanthatof complexinstructionsetcomputer(CISC) competitorsusedbyIntel.Inshort,fewer instructionsmeansfewertransistors. WhileIntel’s80286designpacked134,000

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Intel’snewAtomSoCsareexpectedto gainasmallbutimportantfootholdinthe mobilemarket

THE CURRENT MARKET transistors,thefirstproduction Inteliscageyaboutdetailingthe ARMprocessordesign–ARM2– numberoftransistorsinitsAtom outperformeditwithjust30,000 Z2460SoC,butweknowithasa transistors. 12x12mmpackage-on-package Fewertransistorsalsomean (PoP)design.ThatprovesIntel acheaper,smallerchip,andthese canshrinkitspartsenoughto arekeyconsiderationsinmobile competewithcompaniessuchas computing.Fewertransistorsalso Samsung,whichmakesaseries meanalowerpowerdraw,with of12x12mmARMpartsinthe extendedbatterylifefarbeyond Exynosfamily;Qualcommwas whatcanbeofferedbyaCISCpowerusage–arebeingpitchedasa managing14x14mmpackageswhenitused baseddesignusingasimilar majorcompetitortoARM’sdesignsinthe a45nmprocessforitsSnapdragonS1family. manufacturingprocess. burgeoningtabletandsmartphonemarkets. Intelstillhassomewaytogo,however.The ARM,throughitsmultifariouslicensees, ItsmostrecentAtomproduct,theAtom current-generationAtomSoCmightbea wasalsoanearlyadopteroftheconceptof ‘Medfield’Z2460,isaSoCthat’salreadywon similarsizetoitsARM-basedcounterparts, system-on-chip(SoC)design.Wherea supportinsmartphonesandtabletsfrom butthiswasachievedbycuttingafewcorners. traditionalprocessorrequiresmultiple Lenovo,AsusandAcer. WhereSamsung’sExynospartsaredual-or supportingcomponents,suchasthe Intel’sattempttofightbackagainstARM quad-core,theAtomZ2640hasjustonecore. NorthbridgeandSouthbridge,anSoCpacks hasbeenhelpedbyashiftinprocessor Althoughdual-corepartsareduefromIntel, asmuchofthisaspossibleintoasinglechip. design:whereolderx86chipswerepure ithasn’tyetrevealedtheirsize,orwhateffect Byallowingmanufacturerstoconcentrateon CISCdesigns,modernchipshavemore theextracorewillhaveonpowerdraw. theuser-facingelementsofdesign,while incommonwiththeRISCmethodology WhileIntelisworkingonshrinkingitsparts simplydroppinginasinglechipthathandles preferredbyARM,withaCISCoverlayused anddevelopingcompetitiveSoCdesigns, centralprocessing,graphicsprocessing,bus ARMislookingtobreakintoIntel’s processing,communicationsand primarymarket.ThelatestARMv8 more,ARMbecamethesimplest FEWER INSTRUCTIONS MEANS instructionsetintroduces64-bit chipsetuponthemarket.Although somemanufacturersstillpreferto FEWER TRANSISTORS, AND FEWER supportforthefirsttime,alongwith producepureornear-pureARM TRANSISTORS MEANS CHEAPER hardwarevirtualisationinstructions andotherfeaturesthatmakeit CPUs,heavilyintegratedSoC AND SMALLER CHIPS suitableforuseinservers.Withthe designssuchasthosefrom growthofcloudcomputingspurring Qualcommaccountforalarge toprovidecompatibilitywithexistingx86 interestinso-calledmicroservers,Intelcould chunkofthemarket. code.Asaresult,Intelcanshrinkitsdesigns befightingoffARMinitsmostprofitable INTEL FIGHTS BACK considerably,andwhileit’sunlikelydroptothe market,evenasittriestobreakintoARM’s IntelisnostrangertotheadvantagesofARM’s priceofarivalARMchip,Intelalsohashuge mobilestronghold.Inshort,ARM’sdesigns RISC-baseddesign,ofcourse.Aspartofa cashreservesonitsside. arebecomingmorecomplex,whileIntelis lawsuitsettlementwithDEC,Intelgained ARM’slicensingmodelmeansthat,despite simplifyingitsown.ThelinesbetweenRISC anARMlicenceandusedittoproduceits itshugepopularity,ithasrazor-thinmargins. andCISChaveneverbeensoblurred. StrongARMprocessorsfortheearlyPDAand ARM’srevenueforthelastquarterwas£209.4 embeddedmarkets.Thatlicencewouldlater million,whileIntel’swas£8.3billionoverthe besoldtoMarvell,withIntelpreferringto sameperiod.ARM’slicensingmodelmeans concentrateonitsownx86architecture. significantlyloweroperatingcosts,ofcourse, isthenewsreporterat Foralongtime,IntelallowedARMto buttheresultisclearintheprofitfigures: www.bit-tech.net.He dominatethelow-powerembeddedmarket, £61.9millioncomparedtoIntel’s£1.7billion. knowsallabout the butinthepastfewyearsthecompanyhas ThatextracashgivesInteltheroomtoinvest latestnewsinPCandmobiletech. beenhittingback.Althoughoriginally inresearchanddevelopment,whichisslowly designedforthenetbookmarket,Intel’sAtom butsurelybringingthecompanycloseto @ghalfacree processors–x86CISCchipsdesignedforlowparitywithitsBritishrival.

GARETH HALFACREE

WorldMags.net

October 2012

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WorldMags.net

Our choice of the best hardware available
A
You don’t have to spend an astronomical sum to get a decent PC. Our stunning value build includes 4GB of branded memory and a quad-core AMD Llano APU with integrated graphics
MOTHERBOARD APU RAM COOLING

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PSU

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OPTICAL DRIVE

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SUPPLIER www.overclockers.co.uk www.lambda-tek.com www.aria.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.cclonline.com www.amazon.co.uk

MANUFACTURER www.antec.com www.gigabyte.com www.amd.com www.crucial.com www.gelidsolutions.com www.thermaltake.com www.seagate.com www.liteonit.eu www.microsoft.com

REVIEWED Issue 108, p36 Issue 98, p34 Issue 104, p38 Issue 100, p96 Issue 100, p86 Issue 97, p72 Issue 104, p72 Issue 99, p108 Issue 75, p46

PRICE (inc VAT) £45 £64 £88 £26 £25 £52 £50 £13 £110

A B C D E F G H I

Antec One Gigabyte GA-A75M-UD2H AMD A8-3870K Black Edition 4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport PC3-12800C9 Gelid Tranquillo Rev.2 Thermaltake SP-530PCWEU 500GB Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 Lite-On IHAS124-19 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE

£473

web, use office application Unbeatable value for money - browse the content with this amazing PC!
24 April 2012

and enjoy HD

AMD E2-3500 CPU, 4GB DDR3 Memory, 1000GB Hard Drive WorldMags.net DVD Drive, 1 Year Warranty

A
As Core i7 motherboards and high-end graphics cards command a premium price, here are some components for a Core i5 PC that offer great performance and won’t break the bank
MOTHERBOARD CPU RAM COOLING GRAPHICS CARD

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SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.aria.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.amazon.co.uk www.dabs.com www.amazon.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.dabs.com www.scan.co.uk www.cclonline.com www.amazon.co.uk

MANUFACTURER www.silverstonetek.com www.gigabyte.com www.intel.co.uk www.patriotmemory.com www.arctic.ac www.sapphiretech.com www.thermaltake.com www.seagate.com http://uk.asus.com www.samsung.com www.liteonit.eu www.microsoft.com

REVIEWED Issue 103, p70 Issue 108, p38 Issue 106, p36 Issue 106, p40 Issue104, p48 Issue 105, p40 Issue 97, p72 Issue 104, p75 Issue 99, p108 Issue 104, p68 Issue 99, p108 Issue 75, p46

PRICE (inc VAT) £104 £78 £172 £38 £28 £208 £52 £78 £24 £79 £15 £110

A B C D E F G H I J K L

SilverStone Raven RV03 Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H Intel Core i5-3570K 8GB Patriot G2 PGD38G1600ELK Arctic Freezer i30 Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB Thermaltake SP-530PCWEU Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 Asus Xonar DG Samsung SSD 830 128GB Lite-On IHAS124-19 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE

£986

WorldMags.net

M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l e s a r e a v a i l a b l e s e p a r a t e l y.

www.cclonline.com Call us on 08000 50 10 10 April 2012 25

Our choice of the best hardware available
A
This PC has the potential to be the finest gaming machine you can find – as well as an excellent all-round computer for office work, digital photography, video production and media playback
MOTHERBOARD CPU RAM COOLING GRAPHICS CARD

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SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.amazon.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.dabs.com www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.cclonline.com www.amazon.co.uk

MANUFACTURER www.silverstonetek.com http://uk.asus.com www.intel.co.uk www.patriotmemory.com www.be-quiet.net www3.pny.com www.corsair.com www.seagate.com http://uk.asus.com www.samsung.com www.liteonit.eu www.microsoft.com

REVIEWED Issue 85, p88 Issue 106, p64 Issue 106, p36 Issue 106, p40 Issue 91, p74 Issue 105, p36 Issue 97, p79 Issue 104, p75 Issue 80, p63 Issue 104, p68 Issue 99, p108 Issue 75, p46

PRICE (inc VAT) £188 £153 £172 £38 £41 £408 £90 £78 £58 £150 £13 £110

A B C D E F G H I J K L

SilverStone Fortress FT02B-W USB 3.0 Asus Maximus V Gene Intel Core i5-3570K 8GB Patriot G2 PGD38G1600ELK Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced PNY GeForce GTX 680 2GB Corsair Professional Series HX 650 Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 Asus Xonar DX Samsung SSD 830 256GB Lite-On IHAS123-19 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE

£1,499

generation Intel Core i3 Processor Great home PC powered by the second and 4GB of DDR3 memory!
26 April 2012

Intel Core i3-2100 3.1GHz CPU, 4GB DDR3 Memory, GeForce GT 520 WorldMags.net 500GB Hard Drive, DVD Drive, Built-in Wi-Fi, 1 Year On Site Warranty

A
The most awesome components around, before reaching workstation territory. We’ve included a dual 120mm liquid cooler kit as a base example, but the case has space for a variety of water-cooling setups
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NAME

SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.ebuyer.co.uk www.aria.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.amazon.co.uk

MANUFACTURER www.silverstonetek.com http://uk.asus.com www.intel.co.uk www.kingston.com www.nvidia.com www.corsair.com www.antec.com www.ocztechnology.com www.uk.europe.creative.com www.seagate.com www.microsoft.com

REVIEWED Issue 63, p87 Issue 106, p64 Issue 106, p36 Issue 106, p40 Issue 106, p46 Issue 91, p 74 Issue 97, p78 Issue 107, p44 Issue 62, p61 Issue 104, p75 Issue 75, p46

PRICE (inc VAT) £263 £153 £251 £50 £840 £83 £129 £178 £78 £78 £110

A B C D E F G H I J K

SilverStone Temjin TJ07B-W Asus Maximus V Gene Intel Core i7-3770K 8GB Kingston HyperX Genesis KHX1866C11D3P1K2/8G Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 2GB Corsair H100 Antec High Current Pro HCP-750 OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM0001 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE

£2,213

www.cclonline.com WorldMags.net Call us on 08000 50 10 1027 April 2012
M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l e s a r e a v a i l a b l e s e p a r a t e l y.

Our choice of the best hardware available

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

GRAPHICS CARD Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB www.dabs.com www.sapphiretech.com Issue 102, p61 £135

GRAPHICS CARD Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 www.amazon.co.uk www.sapphiretech.com Issue 105, p40 £208

GRAPHICS CARD PNY GeForce GTX 680 2GB www.scan.co.uk www3.pny.com Issue 105, p36 £408

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

CPU Intel Core i5-3570K www.scan.co.uk www.intel.co.uk Issue 106, p36 £172

MOTHERBOARD Asus Maximus V Gene www.scan.co.uk http://uk.asus.com Issue 106, p64 £153

COOLER Arctic Freezer i30 www.dabs.com www.arctic.ac Issue 104, p48 £28

RAM 8GB Patriot G2 PGD38G1600ELK www.amazon.co.uk www.patriotmemory.com Issue 106, p40 £38

Bigger Hard Drive - Better Deal! gaming PC evolved - Better Graphics, Our best selling
28 April 2012

AMD FX-4100 3.6GHz CPU, 8GB DDR3 Memory, AMD Radeon HD 7770 WorldMags.net 1000GB Hard Drive, DVD Drive, Built-in Wi-Fi, 2 Years Warranty

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

CPU Intel Core i7-3930K www.novatech.co.uk www.intel.co.uk Issue 101, p32 £435

MOTHERBOARD Asus Sabertooth X79 www.scan.co.uk http://uk.asus.com Issue 101, p70 £257

COOLER Corsair H80 www.dabs.com www.corsair.com Issue 101, p86 £72

RAM 16GB Corsair Vengeance CAS9 DDR3 www.dabs.com www.corsair.com Issue 101, p40 £80

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

CPU AMD A8-3870K www.aria.co.uk www.amd.com Issue 104, p38 £88

MOTHERBOARD Gigabyte GA-A75M-UD2H www.lambda-tek.com www.gigabyte.com Issue 98, p34 £64

COOLER Gelid Tranquillo Rev.2 www.scan.co.uk www.gelidsolutions.com Issue 100, p86 £25

RAM 4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport PC3-12800C9 www.overclockers.co.uk www.crucial.com Issue 100, p96 £26

www.cclonline.com WorldMags.net Call us on 08000 50 10 1029 April 2012
M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l e s a r e a v a i l a b l e s e p a r a t e l y.

Our choice of the best hardware available

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

LGA1155 CPU WATERBLOCK XSPC RayStorm CPU www.aquatuning.co.uk www.xs-pc.com Issue 107, p60 £51

GEFORCE GTX 680 WATERBLOCK XSPC Razor GTX680 www.aquatuning.co.uk www.xs-pc.com Issue 107, p65 £90

RADEON HD 7970 WATERBLOCK Aquacomputer aquagrATIx for HD 7970 www.aquatuning.co.uk www.aquacomputer.de Issue 107, p67 £76

DUAL 120MM RADIATOR Alphacool NexXxos UT60 Full Copper 240mm www.aquatuning.co.uk www.alphacool.com Issue 107, p72 £50

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

BUDGET CASE Antec One www.overclockers.co.uk www.antec.com Issue 108, p36 £45

MICRO-ATX CASE SilverStone TJ08-E www.scan.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 98, p48 £82

AIR-COOLING CASE SilverStone Raven RV03 www.scan.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 103, p70 £104

WATER-COOLING CASE SilverStone Temjin TJ07B-W www.scan.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 63, p87 £263

in Blu-Ray drive, low profile design, The ultimate media PC, with its built super quiet cooling and good looks!
30 April 2012

AMD E-450 1.65GHzCPU, 8GB DDR3 Memory, 1000GB Hard Drive WorldMags.net Blu-ray Drive, Built-in Wi-Fi, 1 Year On Site Warranty

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

530W PSU Thermaltake SP-530PCWEU www.scan.co.uk www.thermaltake.com Issue 97, p72 £52

650W PSU Corsair Professional Series HX 650 www.dabs.com www.corsair.com Issue 97, p79 £90

750W PSU Antec High Current Pro HCP-750 www.scan.co.uk www.antec.com Issue 97, p78 £129

1.2kW PSU Antec High Current Pro 1200W www.ebuyer.com www.antec.com Issue 96, p48 £228

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

HARD DISK Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 www.scan.co.uk www.seagate.com Issue 104, p75 £78

SSD Samsung SSD 830 256GB www.scan.co.uk www.samsung.com Issue 104, p68 £150

NAS BOX Synology DiskStation DS212j www.dabs.com www.synology.com Issue 104, p50 £160

www.cclonline.com WorldMags.net Call us on 08000 50 10 1031 April 2012
M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l e s a r e a v a i l a b l e s e p a r a t e l y.

Our choice of the best hardware available

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

24IN MONITOR Dell UltraSharp U2412M www.scan.co.uk www.dell.com Issue 105, p64 £227

27IN MONITOR Dell UltraSharp U2711 www.aria.co.uk www.dell.co.uk Issue 81, p56 £525

TRIPLE-MONITOR STAND XFX Triple Display Monitor Stand www.scan.co.uk www.xfxforce.com Issue 96, p58 £299

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

SOUND CARD Asus Xonar DX www.scan.co.uk http://uk.asus.com Issue 80, p63 £58

2.1 SPEAKERS Corsair SP2500 www.scan.co.uk www.corsair.com Issue 92, p79 £184

HEADSET Asus Vulcan ANC www.scan.co.uk http://uk.asus.com Issue 98, p57 £76

5.1 SPEAKERS Logitech Z906 www.ebuyer.com www.logitech.com Issue 102, p50 £250

d - Bet Our best selling Intel gaming PC evolve

ter Graphics - Bigger Hard Drive

32

April 2012

Intel Core i5-3450 3.1GHz CPU, 8GB DDR3 Memory, NVIDIA GeForce WorldMags.net GTX 560Ti, 1000GB Hard Drive, DVD Drive, 2 Years Warranty

TYPE NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

KEYBOARD Mionix Zibal 60 www.lambda-tek.com www.mionix.net Issue 108, p71 £106

MOUSE Maonix Naos 3200 www.overclockers.co.uk www.mionix.net Issue 108, p60 £35

STEERING WHEEL Logitech G27 www.scan.co.uk www.logitech.com Issue 92, p108 £200

JOYSTICK Logitech Flight System G940 www.scan.co.uk www.logitech.com Issue 92, p109 £228

TYPE NAME DEVELOPER PUBLISHER REVIEWED PRICE(incVAT)

RPG Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim www.bethsoft.com Bethesda Issue 101, p100 £30

FPS Deus Ex: Human Revolution www.square-enix.com www.square-enix.com Issue 98, p96 £30

STRATEGY Frozen Synapse www.mode7games.com www.mode7games.com Issue 96, p92 £19 for two

UNDERDOG Trine 2 http://frozenbyte.com http://frozenbyte.com Issue 102, p98 £12

www.cclonline.com WorldMags.net Call us on 08000 50 10 1033 April 2012
M o n i t o r s a n d d e s k t o p b u n d l e s a r e a v a i l a b l e s e p a r a t e l y.

Our in-depth analysis of the latest PC hardware

WepitchAsus’flagship againstEVGA’sequivalent

AEROCOOL 36 ASUS MAXIMUS V 40 STRIKE-X AIR FORMULA

It’sacase,butnotaswe knowit

A£90casethat’s attractivelyunderstated

42 FRACTAL DESIGN DEFINE R4

Amicrocontrollerthat’s perfectforadvancedmods

44 ARDUINO LEONARDO

Anall-in-oneGPUwatercoolerforjust£105

46 ARCTIC ACCELERO 50 SHARKFIN SELFHYBRID MOLDINGEARBUDS
Stopyourearphones fallingoutofyourears

mankyt-shirttocleanyour phonescreen

STICKEMS 50 Nomoreusingyour 50 WARHAMMER INVASION

Wecan’tstopplayingthis fantasycardgame

GOOGLE NEXUS 7 Jumpontothe tabletbandwagonforjust £159incVAT
36

51

34

October 2012

WorldMags.net

HOWWETEST,P48

IsEVGA’snewsuperhigh-endZ77 motherboardreallyheading ‘forthewin’? 36
WorldMags.net
October 2012 35

EVGA Z77 FTW

ASUS MAXIMUS V EXTREME AND EVGA Z77 FTW
When you absolutely have to have the fastest PC in the room, accept no substitutes
ASUS MAXIMUS V EXTREME
EXTREME Faster; easy to overclock; great EFI; lots of extras MUNDANE Pricey; little real-world speed advantage over cheaper boards
HOW MUCH? ASUS MAXIMUS V EXTREME
Price£312incVAT Supplierwww.scan.co.uk Manufacturer http://rog.asus.com

W

IN DETAIL
ChipsetIntelZ77 CPUsupportLGA1155Core i3,Corei5,Corei7,Pentium andCeleron Memorysupport4slots:max 32GBDDR3(upto3,200MHz) ExpansionslotsFive16x PCI-E3.0slot(oneat16xor fiveat8x),one1xPCI-E2 slot, one1xmini-PCI-E2slot SoundRealtekALC8987.1 NetworkingIntelGigabit Ethernet,on-boardWiFi, on-boardBluetooth OverclockingBaseclock80– 300MHz,CPUMultiplier3663;maxvoltages,CPU1.92V, RAM1.92V,PLL2.5V Ports3xSATA3Gbps(Z77),1 xmSATA3Gbps(Z77)2xSATA 6Gbps(Z77),4xSATA6Gbps (ASMedia)1xPS/2,8xUSB2 (Z77),4xUSB3(Z77),4xUSB 3(ASMedia)LAN,4x surroundaudioout,linein, mic,opticalS/PDIFout, HDMI,DisplayPort, Thunderbolt Dimensions(mm)305x272 (EATX)

hilethevastmajorityofusplumpfor sensiblehardwareatsensibleprices, thereareotherswhoseidealPC isabankbalance-destroying, electricitybill-manglinggiantofmultiGPUengineering.Thisreviewthenisthe latter,aswepittwoofthemostpremium Z77boardsagainsteachother–theAsus MaximusVExtremeandEVGAZ77FTW. TheExtremeisthelargerat305mmx272mmand, asAsus’currentflagshipboard,it’sstuffedwithextras tocomplementtheZ77chipset.Alongsidethetwo largebanksofVRMsandaccompanyingaluminium heatsinks,theExtremesportsfivePCI-Egraphics slots,runningoneat16xorfiveat8x.Theseslotsare connectedtoaPLXsplittingchipbeneaththebacklit RepublicofGamerslogo,whichenablestheboardto supportupto4-waySLIandCrossFireX.There’salso asingle1xPCI-E2slot,butthisisblockedifyouopt fora4-waySLIdual-slotGPUsetup. Elsewhere,thereareon-boardpowerand resetbuttons,aPOSTcodereader,adualBIOS arrangementwithanon-boardswitchandaraftof extrasforprofessionaloverclockers.Theserange fromAsus’SubzeroSenseports,whichenableyou toaccuratelymonitorsystemtemperatureswhen coolingwithLN2,toaVGAhotwirearrayofpin-outs forsolderingonyourownvoltageregulators.These aren’tparticularlyusefulfeaturesunlessyouhavea canofLN2 onhandthough. MorepracticalisasetofPCI-Edebugswitches, withwhichyoucanenableanddisablePCI-Eslots. Therearealsoon-boardWi-FiandBluetooth,andthe inclusionofAsus’OC-Key.TheOCkeyisparticularly handy,connectingtoyourDVIoutput

AsusMaximus VExtreme

EVGAZ77FTW

anddisplayingavisualoverlayshowingreal-time clockspeedsandtemperatures. TheExtremeisalsothefirstboardwe’veseenwith Intel’sThunderboltport.Itspeakbi-directionalspeed of10Gb/sec(1.25GB/sec)andabilitytodaisy-chain bothdisplayandstoragedevicesmakesitan intriguingproposition,notonethat’sessentialyet. There’salsotherequisitetruck-loadofUSBand SATAports.TherearI/OoffersfourUSB3portsand fourUSB2ports,withanextrafourofeachavailable viaon-boardheadersintheboard’slowerright-hand corner.AsushasexpandedontheusualfourSATA 3GbpsandtwoSATA6GbpsportsoftheZ77chipset too,withanASMediacontrollerofferinganadditional (albeitslower)fourSATA6Gbpsports.There’salsoan mSATAconnectionviaadaughterboardconnectedat thetopoftherearI/Opane,belowwhichyou’llfinda CMOSresetandBIOSflashbackswitches. AsAsus’designated‘bonkersboard’(notan officialtitle),theExtremealsocarriesextrapower connectors.The8-pinEPS12Vconnectorisjoinedby anoptional4-pinconnector,whilea6-pinPCI-E connectorsitsabovetheexpansionslots formultiplegraphicscards. Basically,it’sthemost comprehensively featuredboardwe’ve handledtodate. Incomparison,EVGA’s Z77FTWoffersfewerfeatures,butstill distinguishesitselfasasuper-high-endboard.

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LGA1155 MOTHERBOARDS

Insteadofusingawraparoundarrayof AsusMaximus VRMs,theZ77FTW’ssinglelargebanksitsto VExtreme theleftoftheCPUsocket,cooledviaasingle largealuminiumheatsink. Ittoosportsfivefull-sized16xPCI-E3 slots,runningwitheitheroneslotat16x,or fiveat8x.There’salsoasingle1xPCI-E2slot but,aswiththeAsus,thisisblockedifyoukit outtheboardwiththefullcomplementof fourdual-slotgraphicscards. On-boardextrasincludeatriple-BIOS switch,power,resetandCMOS-clear buttons,aPOSTcodereaderthatdoublesas aCPUtemperaturereadout,andanactively cooledchipset,courtesyofalow-profile 40mmfan.There’salsoahandyarrayof switchesforenabling/disablingthePCI-E slots–usefulfortroubleshootingmulti-GPU EVGAZ77FTW setups–andanarrayofvoltageread-out pinsabovetheDIMMslots. Lookingtotherearoftheboard,theEVGA hassixUSB2portsandfourUSB3ports (withanotherfourUSB2andtwoUSB3ports availableviano-boardheaders),alongsidea pairofeSATAportspoweredbyaMarvell controller.DualMarvell1Gb/secEthernet ports(comparedtotheExtreme’ssingleIntel 1Gb/secport)andaCMOSresetswitchare alsousefuladditions.Meanwhile,on-board displayoutputishandledbyasingleminiDisplayPortconnector. TheZ77FTWalsoboastslotsofadditional powerconnectorsforusewhenextreme overclockingorifyouusemultiplegraphics Extremeboostedto3.9GHzregardless.Thissaw cards.Nexttothe8-pinEPS12Vconnectoris theExtremereturnanoverallscoreinourMedia anoptional8-pinconnector,andthere’sapairof6-pin Benchmarksof2,399points,comparedtotheZ77 PCI-Econnectorsatthetopandbottomofthebankof FTW’s2,265.InCrysis2,therewasnosuchgap, PCI-Eslotstoo.Asanextraneattouch,the24-pinATX though,withbothboardsproducingaplayable connectorisalsoequippedwitha90-degreeadaptor, minimumframerateof26fps. helpingtomakethattop-endbuildlookevenneater. Overclockingperformanceistheimportantaspect Whilebothboardsareloadedwithextrastodeal forhigh-endboards,though,andwefirstturnedour witheventhepickiestofdemands,it’sclearthatthe attentionstotheExtreme.Asus’EFIhasnowmatured, Extremeisthebetterequippedofthetwo,with sooverclockingtheExtremewasstraightforward. Thunderbolt,WiFiandBluetoothbeingthemost Clockspeedmultiplierandvoltageadjustmentsareall practicaladvantages.Forthoseconsideringa4-way closelygrouped,andwehadlittletroublereachingour SLIsetup,theExtremeisalsotheonlyoneofthetwo testCPU’smaximumof4.8GHz.Todothis,wedisabled toincludea4-waySLIbridge,withtheZ77FTWonly IntelC-states,usedamultiplierof48xandabase bundlingdual-cardandtriple-cardbridges. blockof100MHz,setLoadLineCalibrationto‘Ultra PERFORMANCE High’andtheCPUvoltageto1.33V. FittingourtestIntelCorei7-3770Kineachboard,we OverclockingtheZ77FTWprovedalittlemore foundtheZ77FTWhadanimmediatedisadvantageat taxing.WhileitsEFIgroupssettingswell,itlooks stockfrequencies,asitsCPUonlyTurboBoostedto positivelyold-schoolandfeelsmorelikeanout-of3.7GHzwhenallfourcoreswereloaded,whilethe dateBIOSthanthecontrolsystemforasuper-high-

EVGA Z77 FTW
WINNER £40 cheaper than the Asus; dual1Gb/sec LAN RUNNER-UP Slower at stock and overclocked speeds; outdated EFI; harder to overclock; doesn’t include 4-way SLI bridge, WiFi, or Bluetooth
HOW MUCH? EVGA Z77 FTW
Price£269incVAT Supplierwww.scan.co.uk

IN DETAIL
ChipsetIntelZ77 CPUsupportLGA1155Core i3,Corei5,Corei7,Pentium andCeleron Memorysupport4slots:max 32GBDDR3(upto3,000MHz) ExpansionslotsFive16x PCI-E3slot(Oneat16x,four at8x),onePCI-E2.16x slot, onePCI-E21xslot SoundRealtekALC8897.1 Networking2xMarvell 88E8057 OverclockingBaseclock80– 130MHz,CPUMultiplier1680;maxvoltages,CPU1.99V, RAM1.99V,PLL2.6V Ports4xSATA3Gbps(Z77),2 xSATA6Gbps(Z77),2xSATA 6Gbps(Marvell9182)2x eSATA(Marvell88SE6121) 1xPS/2,10xUSB2(Z77), 4xUSB3(Z77)2xUSB3 (ASMedia),2x LAN,4x surroundaudioout,linein, mic,opticalS/PDIFout,miniDisplayPort Dimensions(mm)305x 263.5(EATX)
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37

LGA1155 MOTHERBOARDS

AsusMaximusVExtreme

EVGAZ77FTW

endboard.WedisabledC-statesandvdroop,setthe multiplierto48xandbaseblockto100MHz,and pushedtheCPUvoltageto1300mV(1.32V),onlyto findthatourCPUfrequentlyclockeddownto4.4GHz. ThecausewastheCPUpowermanagementsettings; settingthe‘IAcorecurrentmaxandpowerlimits’to 2,040,‘longandshortdurationpowerlimits’to255and ‘longdurationmaintainedpowerlimit’to120resolved theissueandresultedinastableOC. WhilebothCPUswererunningatsimilar frequencies,theExtremeprovedthefasterboardin ourMediaBenchmarks.Anoverallscoreof2,865was closeto100pointsclearoftheZ77FTW’s2,770,with theExtremeholdinga5percentadvantageinthe videoencodingtestalone.InCrysis2,bothwere inseparable,though,witheachproducingan increasedminimumframerateof32fps. Wealsobenchmarkedbothboardsina3-waySLI setup,courtesyofthreeGTX6702GBcardsconnected toa5,760x1,080NvidiaSurrounddisplay.Therewas littletodistancethetwoboards,though,withboth producingthesameresultin63fpsminimumin Battlefield3,demonstratinganimpressive91per centscalingforthethree-cardsetup.Wefoundthat theZ77FTWwasalittlemorepower-hungryhere, though,withoursystempullingapeakof640Win BF3comparedtotheExtreme’s633W.

CONCLUSION
Whilebothboardsdeliveredthecrazyframerateswe expectfromhigh-endmulti-GPUsetups,it’stoughto lookbeyondtheAsusMaximusVExtremewhen choosingbetweenthetwo.Despiteits£40premium overtheEVGAZ77FTW,theExtremeoffersmany usefulextrafeatures,fromWiFiandBluetoothtoa Thunderboltportandbundled4-waySLIconnector.It wasalsoconsistentlyfasteracrossourbenchmarks– atleastat4.8GHz,whichisthelimitofourtestCPU. Despiteitsvictory,though,there’snoawardforthe MaximusVFormula.Z77boardsareprimarilylimited byIntel’sIvyBridgeCPUswhenoverclocking,andthe Extremeperformsalmostthesameasthe£150 cheaperAsusMaximusVGene(seeIssue106,p64)in ourbenchmarks.Despiteitsepicfeatureset,most peoplewillstruggletofindauseformanyoftheextras, leaving4-waySLIandCrossFireXastheonlydraw. Whilewelovetheframeratesofmulti-GPUsetups, dealingwiththeirheat,noiseandpowerconsumption, nottomentiondriverdependency,removesmuchof theshine,andyoucanstillrunatwo-wayGPUsetup ontheGeneanyway.Ifyouabsolutelymusthavethe biggest,mostcapableZ77motherboardaroundthen theMaximusVExtremeistheone–otherwise,youcan getadecentboardforhalfthemoney.
HARRY BUTLER

GIMP IMAGE EDITING
Asus Maximus V EVGA Z77 FTW 0 Asus Maximus V EVGA Z77 FTW 0 1,000 2,000 1,000

1,941 1,829
2,000

2,322 2,298
3,000 4,000

1,920 x 1,080, High settings, no AA, no AF

CRYSIS 2

Asus Maximus V

26 fps 32 fps 26 fps 32 fps

81 fps 82 fps 81 fps 82 fps

HANDBRAKE H.264 VIDEO ENCODING
3,463 4,312 3,289
3,000

EVGA Z77 FTW

4,098
4,000

0

25

50

75

100

MULTI-TASKING
Asus Maximus V EVGA Z77 FTW 0

BATTLEFIELD 3
5,760 x 1,080, 3 x GTX 670 2GB in 3-way SLI, Ultra settings, 4x AA, 16x AF

1,792 1,676
1,000

1,952 1,914

Asus Maximus V EVGA Z77 FTW 3,000 4,000
Stock speed min

63fps 63fps
0 25 50
Overclocked min

74fps 74fps
75 100

2,000

OVERALL
Asus Maximus V EVGA Z77 FTW 0 1,000 Stock speed

Stock speed avg

Overclocked avg

2,399 2,265
2,000 Overclocked

2,865 2,770
3,000 4,000

3.2GHzIntelCorei7-3770K CPU,8GB1,600MHz CorsairDDR3memory, 128GBPatriotWildfire SSD,NvidiaGeForceGTX 6802GBgraphicscard,3x GTX6702GBfor3-waySLI, Windows764-bit
37

TEST KIT

scores: asus
SPEED 42 / 45 FEATURES 30 / 30 VALUE 10 / 25

82

scores: EVGa
SPEED 38 / 45 FEATURES 25 / 30 VALUE 11 / 25

OVERALL

74
OVERALL

38

October 2012

WorldMags.net

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BENCH TABLE

AEROCOOL Strike-X Air
An exotic-looking bench table, but is it as good as it looks?
OFFENCE Easy to use; good access to motherboard; good CPU cooling DEFENCE Large; mediocre GPU cooling; average build quality

T

HOW MUCH?
Price£90incVAT Supplierwww.quietpc.co.uk Manufacturer www.aerocool.us SKUNumberCA-030-AE

IN DETAIL
Dimensions(mm)613x525 x340(WxDxH) MaterialPlastic,steel AvailablecoloursBlack Weight 9kg Frontpanel3.5in/2.5in, power,reset,USB3,2xUSB 2,stereo,mic Drivebays3xexternal 5.25in,3xexternal3.5in or2.5in. FormfactorsATX,microATX Cooling1x200mmtopfan mount(fanincluded),1x 120mmsidefanmount (fanincluded) CPUcoolerclearance Unlimited Maximumgraphicscard length295mm ExtrasTool-less3.5inbays, 120mmand140mm radiatorsupport

hereareanumberofbenchtablesavailable However,ourmaingripewiththisotherwise atthemoment,butAerocool’sStrike-XAiris straightforwardproductisthebuildquality.The certainlythemostdramatic-looking.Itspartly plasticsectionsfeltcheapand,whileafairamount modulardrivecagesandcable-routeingholes ofitismadefrom0.7mmsteel,thechassishasa makeitmoreofacasethanabenchtable,andit’s considerabledegreeofflexinit.Thatsaid,itsits muchlargerthananaveragestack-designtabletoo. firmlyonadeskand,unlessyou’repronetotaking Themotherboardrestsinalargeopen-air thenearestbigsticktoitwhenyouroverclockfails, compartment,whileaswivellinglidwitha200mmfan itslackofrigidityisnomajorcauseforconcern. blowsairintothemainsection.Thislidcanbeclosed PERFORMANCE orheldopenatvariousanglesbyusingalatchthat Withourusualcasetestinggearinstalled,theStrike-X workslikeacar’sbonnet-stay.There’senoughroom AirmanagedaloadCPUdeltaTof48°C–agoodresult forthelargestCPUaircoolers,andthelidrotates that’sonaparwiththeCoolerMasterHAFXandAntec completelyoutofthewaytoo–usefulifyou’redealing OneHundred.Ourgraphicscard,meanwhile,topped withwater-coolingorliquidnitrogenpots. outwithadeltaTof45°C. Thisisn’tagreatresult,and Speakingofwatercooling,there’slittleelseinthe wayofsupportforpumpsorreservoirs, butvariousmountingholesattherearof THERE’S ENOUGH ROOM FOR LARGE thechassisenableyoutoinstall120mm CPU COOLERS, AND THE LID ROTATES or140mmradiators.A120mmmountis COMPLETELY OUT OF THE WAY TOO alsolocatednexttothe3.5inbaystokeep yourharddiskscool. islikelyduetothefactthatthere’snofantomimica Totheleftofthemotherboardtrayisasectionof case’sfrontintakefan–onlythetop200mmfanblows variouscubbyholesthathousethe5.25indrivebays, airinthedirectionofthemotherboard. tool-free3.5in/2.5indrivebaysandPSUmount.Most aretheusual affairsthatyou’dfindonastandardcase, CONCLUSION althoughthePSUclipsintoplaceattherear,witha Aerocool’sStrike-XAirisaverymixedbag.Itlooks largeholeinfrontofitforrouteingcablesunderneath betterthantheblandmetaltablesfromLianLiand thetabletothemotherboard.Theonlyissuewehad CoolerMaster,butthelatter’stablesarecheaper, herewasthedistance–our8-pinEPS12Vconnector stronger,lesscumbersomeanddoexactlythesame onlyjustreachedthemotherboard,andhadtodoso job(CoolerMaster’sLabTestBenchcostsaround overthetopinanunsightlyfashion. £45).UnlessyoulovetheAir’squirkyappearance,we’d Meanwhile,othernoteworthyfeaturesincludea adviseshopping aroundforasuperiordesigninstead. USB3port,fourrubbergrommetsattherear,and ANTONY LEATHER front-mountedpowerandresetbuttons.

COOLING FEATURES DESIGN VALUE

22 / 30 customPC 12 / 20 22 / 30 13 / 20 OVERALL

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FRACTAL DESIGN Define R4
Fractal Design returns with a featurestuffed, highly capable case
DEFINED Loads of features; great build quality; costs £90 INDISTINCT Mediocre stock cooling; no room for 60mm radiators
HOW MUCH?
Price£90incVAT Supplierwww.ebuyer.co.uk Manufacturer www.fractal-design.com SKUnumber FD-CA-DEF-R4-BL

W

IN DETAIL
Dimensions(mm)232x523 x464(WxDxH) MaterialSteel,plastic AvailablecoloursPearl Black(reviewed),Arctic White,TitaniumGrey Weight12.3kg FrontpanelPower,reset, 2xUSB3,2xUSB2,stereo, microphone Drivebays2xexternal 5.25indrivebays,8xinternal 3.5in/2.5in,2x2.5indrivebays Formfactor(s)ATX,microATX,mini-ITX Cooling2x120/140mm frontmounts(1xfan supplied),1x140mmrear fanmount(fansupplied), 2x120/140mmrooffan mounts,1x140mmsidefan mount,1x120/140mmfloor fanmount CPUcoolerclearance170mm Maximumgraphicscard length295mmwithHDD cage;430mmwithout ExtrasDustfilters,3-speed fancontroller,sounddeadeningfoam,ModuVent blankingplates

e’vebeenfansofFractalDesign’s minimaliststylingandflexible,low-noise coolingsincewesawtheDefineR2in 2010.TheFractalR3impressedusayear lateraswellbut,aswefoundinourlastcaseLabstest (seeIssue103,p64),theR3hasbeenslowlysurpassed bynewercaseswithmoreflexibilityandfeatures.The R4isthelatestcontinuationofthefranchise(inagood, DarkKnightway–notabadPhantomMenaceway), addingadditionalfeaturesandflexibilitywhile maintainingthesamedesignethos. WhiletheR4retainsitspredecessors’understated looks,it’sgainedsomegirthandheightovertheR3, andisnow22mmwiderand25mmtaller.Itsexterior remainsstoicallyuntaintedbyexpansesofventing, meshorplastic,though,withthealuminium-finish plasticfrontdoorfittedovertheplasticfrontfascia;this isflankedbyreassuringlysolidandsnug-fittingside panels.It’scertainlyidealforthosewhothinktheirPC shouldbeneitherseennorheard,butitwon’tmake muchofasplashifyouwanttoshowoffyourPC. Meanwhile,theroofpanelsportsapairof 120/140mmcoolingfanmountsfilledwithfoambackedblankingplates,withathirdblankingplate 140mmmountontheleftsidepanel.Openthefront doorandyou’llalsofindasinglelargepush-pin securedhatch,behindwhichsitsaremovableplastic fanmountcapableofhousingapairof120/140mm fans–it’sequippedwitha removabledustfiltertoo. RoundingofftheR4’scooling componentsareasixthfan mountinthecase’sfloor,again capableofmountingeithera 120mmor140mmcoolingfan, andaseventh140mmmountto therear.Whilethismatchesthe numberofmountsofferedby theolderR3,eachhasnowbeen upgradedtoaccommodate 140mmcoolingfans,with
Thefrontpanelhidesaremovablefan mountforapairof120/140mmfans

FractalDesignincludingapairofitsown140mmfans fittedasafrontintakeandrearexhaust. TheR4’sfrontpanelisfoundontopof theplastic frontfascia;itcomprisesapairofUSB3ports(with internalconnector),twoUSB2ports,3.5mm microphoneandheadphonejacks,andpowerand resetbuttonswithablueLEDpowerindicator.Swing thedooropenandyou’llalsofindthatmostessential ofcaseaccessories:athree-speedfancontroller.It’s agreatinclusion,withsettingsfor12V,7Vand5V,plus internalconnectorsforuptothreefans.However,as thebundledfansonlyspinupto1,000rpm,thefan controllerisbestusedtoadjustanyextrafansyouadd. Movinginside,theR4againhasasimilardesignto itspredecessors,althoughit’snowmuchmore modular.Alaterallymountedpairofharddrivecages sitacrossthefrontofthecase,witheachabletomount a3.5inor2.5indriveviaeasilyremovabledrivetrays. Theuppercageaccommodatesuptofivedrives, whilethelowertakesonlythree;botharefully removableshouldyouwishtooptimise thecaseforairflowratherthanstorage capacity.Apairof2.5indrivemountsalso sitbehindthemotherboard,makingthis aperfectlysuitablecaseforthosewho haveditched3.5instorage.There arealsojusttwo5.25indrivebays,which isafaircompromiseconsideringthe increasingirrelevanceofopticaldrives. Meanwhile,themotherboardtrayis sturdyandequippedwithnumerous well-placedcable-routeingholes.Lined withrubber,thesemakeiteasytotuck PSUcablesbehindthemotherboardtray andthereareplentyofcable-tiepointsto

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ATX CASE

01

03

securethemaswell.Theflatsidepanelsmeanthat thereisn’tasmuchroombehindthemotherboard asyou’dexpect,however,withtheextracasewidth insteadallowingforCPUcoolersupto170mmin height.There’sonlyroomfora30mmradiatorand accompanyingfanabovethemotherboardthough. Tothereararesevenexpansionslots,withaneighth slotfittedverticallyabovethem.Thisisacarry-over frompreviousDefinedesigns,wherethebundledfan controllerwasmountedinaspareexpansionslot. It’sstillusefulforaddingextraUSBportsorlighting controlsthough.Oneelementnotretainedfrom previousdesigns,however,istheuseofexternal water-coolinggrommets.Thesehavenowbeen completelyremoved,whichisafairdecisiongiventhat all-in-oneinternalcoolersarenowcommonplace.

04 02

COOL ING
Whileit’soptimisedforlow-noisecooling,theR4 stillmanagedafairresultonceourtestsystemwas installed.Withitspairof1,000rpmfansattheirvery discreetfullspeed,theR4producedaCPUdeltaT of51°CandaGPUdeltaTof49°C.CPUperformance isveryencouraging,andmatchesthatofthe competingCorsair550Dwithoutitspanelling.The GPUtemperaturewasamongthewarmestwe’ve seenfromafull-sizedchassisthough. Afterdiallingthefansdowntotheir5Vminimum, theCPUdeltaTrosetoatoasty60°C,whiletheGPU deltaTclimbedonlyslightlyto50°C.However,with theR4’sfocusonflexibility,therearemanywaysto improvecooling.RemovingthetopandsidefanmountblankingplatesdroppedtheGPUdeltaTby 2°C,asdidtheremovaloftheupperharddiskcage.

blankingplates.TheR4doesn’tofferthebestcooling blanking plates. The R4 doesn’t offer the best cooling outofthebox,butthere’splentyofflexibilitytoimprove this.Itoffersgreatbuildqualityforacompetitiveprice ofjust£90,makingitastrongcontenderforthosewho prioritisesubtletyoverlowtemperatures.
HARRY BUTLER

The R4’s front panel is TheR4’sfrontpanelis ontopoftheplasticfront fascia,andsportsapairofUSB3 portsandtwoUSB2ports

01

pairof2.5inmountsbehindthe motherboardtray

02 Bothdrivecagesare fullyremovable,witha

CPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE
Fractal Design Define R4 (full speed) Fractal Design Define R4 (low speed) Corsair Obsidian 550D (vents) Corsair Obsidian 550D (no vents) Corsair Carbide 500R

noiseandmakethecasequieter
51 °C 60 °C 56 °C 51 °C 51 °C

03 Thesidepanelsarelined withfoamtohelpdeaden

withrubber,makingiteasyto tuckPSUcablesbehindthe motherboardtray

04 Thenumerouscablerouteingholesarelined

0

15

30

45 60 Lower is better

GPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE
Fractal Design Define R4 (full speed) Fractal Design Define R4 (low speed) Corsair Obsidian 550D (vents) Corsair Obsidian 550D (no vents) Corsair Carbide 500R 0 15 30

49 °C 50 °C 49 °C 47 °C 42 °C
45 60 Lower is better

CONCLUSION
TheFractalDesignDefineR4continueswhereits predecessorsleftoff,combiningdiscreetlooksand low-noisecoolingwithalargearrayoffeatures. FractalDesignhasaddressedmanyprevious criticisms,addingafront-mountedfancontroller andmakingthedrivecagesfullyremovable,while retainingexcellentextrassuchasthefan-mount

COOLING 18 / 30 customPC FEATURES 19 / 20 DESIGN 29 / 30 VALUE 17 / 20 OVERALL

83

3.4GHzIntelCorei7-870 CPU,AMDRadeonHD5870 2GBEyefinitygraphics card,BioStarTPowerI55 motherboard,2GBOCZ 1,866MHzDDR3memory, 160GBSeagateBarracuda 7200.9harddisk,Gelid TranquilloCPUcoolerwith NoctuaNF-S12BULN 120mmfan,Seasonic M12DSS-850EMPSU

TEST KIT

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ARDUINO Lenoardo
A bargain microcontroller that’s ideal for adventurous PC modders
Cheap; keyboard and mouse emulation is handy; 12 analogue inputs

DA VINCI

M

DA VINCI CODE Some compatibility problems with Uno-based sketches

HOW MUCH?
Price£19incVAT Supplier www.oomlout.co.uk Manufacturer www.arduino.cc

IN DETAIL
MicrocontrollerAtmel ATmega32U4 RAM2.5KB Flash32KB(28KBavailable toArduinoIDE) EEPROM1KB Clockspeed16MHz Operatingvoltage5V(input 6-20V) Size(mm)68.6x53.3 PCconnectivityMicro-USB, ISPorSPIUARTSerial Pins20,including12 analogueinputs,7PWM outputs ExtrasStickers

some of the 20 digital I/O pins. As before, all pins can icrocontrollers–smallcomputingdevices someofthe20digitalI/Opins.Asbefore,allpinscan also be used as digital inputs or outputs on demand. thatcanbeprogrammedtocontrolsensors, alsobeusedasdigitalinputsoroutputsondemand. Sadly, the move to a new chip isn’t always smooth. motors,lightsandmore–providemodders Sadly,themovetoanewchipisn’talwayssmooth. Switching from an FTDI IC to the ATmega16U2 for withalmostunlimitedpossibilities,but SwitchingfromanFTDIICtotheATmega16U2for they’realsooftenapaintoprogram,requiringthe USB-to-serialconversionintheUnobroughtsome learningofnear-incomprehensibleprogramming problems,andthemovefromanATmega328PUto languages.TheArduinoproject,launchedin2005, theLeonardo’sATmega32U4continuesthattrend. changedallthat,takingthecheapATmegafamilyof TheArduino’sUSBconnection–andassociated microcontrollersandaddingalibrary–Wiring–which serialconnection–nowresetsitselfwhenthemain waseasyforbeginnerstolearn.Sincethen,Arduino processorresets,whichcancauseproblemsifa deviceshaveonlybecomemorepowerful–andthe programlisteningtotheserialportisn’tprogrammed latestrelease,theArduinoLeonardo,isnoexception. toreconnectfollowingaconnectionreset.Sketches– Designedtotakeoverfromthelast-generation Arduino-speakforprogramswrittenwiththeboards ArduinoUno,theLeonardohasaspartanboard inmind–alsonolongerrestartwhenanewserial design.WhilepreviousArduinomodels–includingthe connectionisdetected. Unoanditspredecessor,theDuemilanove–haveused Thebiggestchange,however,isinthewaythat twointegratedcircuits,theLeonardousesjustone. severalofthepinsoperate.Whiletheserialconnection TheAtmelATmega32U4,asmallsurface-mount waspreviouslyaccessibleoverboththeUSB packagelocatedinthecentreoftheboard,takeson connection,andtheRXandTXpinsontheArduino theresponsibilityofhandlingboththemicrocontroller boarditself,thisisnolongerthecase:theUSB andtheUSBconnection. connectionisnowaddressedasSerial,whilethe Theresultisasparseboardthat’s bothcheapertomanufactureandmore IT’S PERFECTLY POSSIBLE TO USE flexible.UnlikepreviousArduinomodels, THE LEONARDO TO CREATE A whichforcedthoselookingtolinkthe deviceswithacomputertowriteback-end CUSTOM-MADE MACRO KEYPAD daemonstolistenforcommunications overaserialport,theLeonardocanactasahuman physicalpinsareaddressedasSerial1.Sketchesthat interfacedevice,emulatingakeyboardormouseatthe expecttoaddressthephysicalpinswillneedtobe programmer’sdiscretion. rewritten,andthey’lllosecompatibilitywithprevious ForpeoplelookingtoaddsensingtotheirPC,it’s Arduinomodelsintheprocess.Meanwhile,the nothingshortofarevelation:suddenlytheArduino processofcreatingdesignsthatrelyonsimultaneous cansendkeycombinationstocontrolaPC’soperation USBandphysicalserialportaccesshasbecome withnoback-endprogrammingrequired.Ifyou’rea muchmorecomplicated. gamer,thismeansthatit’sperfectlypossibletouse Certainshields–add-onboardsthatpiggybackonto theLeonardotocreateacustom-mademacrokeypad; theArduinotoaddfeatures–arealsoincompatible foroverclockers,thesamefeaturecouldbeusedto withtheLeonardo,inparticularthosebasedonthe sendashutdownhotkeycombinationiftheArduino SerialPeripheralInterconnect(SPI)standard,which detectsariseintemperatures. isnowonlyavailableviathe6-pinIn-System Speakingofsensors,theLeonardo’snewchipgives Programmer(ISP)headerattheendoftheboard. itextracapabilitiesheretoo.WhiletheUnoandits AnotherbackwardsstepfortheLeonardoisthe predecessorshadsix10-bitanalogueinputs,the amountofflashmemoryavailablefortheuploading Leonardoboastsdoublethenumberbyborrowing sketchesorstoringofdata.WhiletheATmega32U4

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MICROCONTROLLER

01

02

hasthesame32KBflashregionastheUno’s ATmega328PU,thenewkeyboardandmouse emulationfeaturesandUSB-to-serialconversion takesitstollinthesizeofthebootloader–4KB comparedtojust0.5KBontheUno.Asaresult, sketchesanddataarelimitedto28KBbeforeexternal storageisrequired,althoughifyourArduinosketch compilestomorethan28KB,you’reprobablyusingthe wrongtoolforthejob.However,thenewchipboosts theRAMfrom2KBto2.5KB.Thevastmajorityof shieldsandsketchesshouldoperatejustfineonthe Leonardothough. Duringtesting,weencounteredfewproblemswith thechip’schangedfeatureset.Shieldsdesignedfor theoldDuemilanoveboardworkedfirsttime,withthe exceptionofaBurnduinoflasherboardthatrequires theabilitytoremoveasocketedmicrocontrollerfor pass-throughsketchuploading–somethingthatthe surface-mountchipusedintheLeonardocan’toffer. Someoldersketchesalsoneededsomerewriting beforebeingfullyoperationalwiththeLeonardo.In particular,sketchesthatusedserialcommunications neededafewdelayshereandtheretopreventthe moreefficientnewsystemfromfloodingthe connectionandcrashingtheArduinoIDEsoftware. Otherwise,however,usingtheLeonardowiththe latestArduinoIDEreleasewasasheerjoy.

03

Amovetothe ATmega32U4means newfeatures,butbringssome compatibilityissues

01

someSPI-basedshieldsare incompatible

02 Mostshieldswork withtheLeonardo,but 03 TheLeonardonowuses micro-USBforpowerand

data,ratherthanmini-USB

CONCLUSION
Ofcourse,themainreasontorecommendtheArduino Leonardoistheprice.Switchingtoanewchipmay haveintroducedafewcompatibilityproblems,butit’s addedplentyofexcitingnewfeaturestomakeupfor that,whileremovingoneoftheboard’smostexpensive componentshasreducedthebillofmaterials. Thisisreflectedintheprice.WhiletheArduino Unocosts£22,theLeonardosellsforjust£19. Althoughstillpricedwayabovelessbeginner-friendly microcontrollerprototypingsystemssuchasTexas Instruments’remarkable£5MSP430LaunchPadand Arduino-compatibleclonessuchasOomlout’s£11.50 BreadboardArduinoCompatibleKit,it’sagreatprice foranofficialArduinoboard.

Priceaside,theLeonardoisamodder’sdream. Thankstoitskeyboardemulationcapabilities,youcan setuptheLeonardotocontrolaPCwithoutwritingany back-endcode–thiswasonlypossiblethroughagreat dealofeffortusingtheUnoandpriormodels. Whetherit’sworthupgradingfromanexisting Arduinoorcompatibleboarddependsontheindividual project.Ifthenewhumaninterfacedeviceemulation soundstempting,it’sasmallpricetopay.However,if you’realreadystretchingthelimitsoftheArduino’s 32KBofflashmemory,theLeonardo’sbulky4KB bootloadermayruleitout. Lookoutfornextmonth’sissue,inwhichwe’llshow youhowtousethis£19boardtocreateatemperaturesensitivelightingsystemforyourPC.
GARETH HALFACREE

FEATURES 36 / 40 FLEXIBILITY 25 / 30

customPC

VALUE 29 / 30 OVERALL
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GPU COOLER

ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid
A cheaper and easier alternative for water-cooling your graphics card?
ARCTIC FOX Excellent cooling; quiet fans ARCTIC ROLL Terrible to install

M

HOW MUCH?
Price£105incVAT Supplier www.specialtech.co.uk Manufacturer www.arctic.ac SKUnumber DCACOV750001-GB

IN DETAIL
CompatibilityAMDRadeon HD:7870,7850,6970,6950, 6870,6850,6790,6770,5870, 5850,5830,4890,4870,4850 NvidiaGeForce:GeForce GTX680,670,580,570,560 Ti,560SE,560,480,470,465, 460SE,460 Weight800g Size(mm)150x53x120 (WxDxH)(radiator) Fan1x120mm,1x80mm Statednoise0.3sones

adeforArcticbyAsetek,whichalsomakes oneliquidcoolers,it’susuallybesttohavetheradiator Antec’sfantasticKühlerH20620,the exhaustinghotairfromthecase.Usingitasanintake AcceleroHybridcosts£105andreplaces willmeanlowerGPUtemperatures,butyou’llbe yourgraphicscard’sreferencecooler.Ifyou dumpingtheheatdirectlybackintoyourcase.It’s weretowater-coolyourgraphicscardinthetraditional yourchoice,though,andArcticisforthcomingin way,usingaseparatepump,radiatorandfittings, highlightingthesechoices. you’dusuallybelookingatanother£100orsoin Ontheplusside,theHybrid’scoolingwasexcellent customparts,soit’scertainlyacheaperoption. anditsGPUdeltaTof26°Cwasamassive24°Ccooler Arctichassomefancyclaimsforittoo,including thanourGeForceGTX6803GB’sreferencecooler.The a20°CdropinGPUtemperaturecomparedtoa idletemperaturewas8°Clowertoo,andunderfull standardNvidiaGeForceGTX6803GBcooler,and load,theAcceleroHybridwasnoticeablyquietertoo, muchquieteroperationtoo. althoughthepumpseemedtogurgleonoccasions. Thekitincludesavastarrayofscrews andheatsinks.Thisnearlyhadusintears THE GPU DELTA T OF 26°C WAS A atfirst,butthereasonforthisisthatthe MASSIVE 24°C COOLER THAN OUR AcceleroHybridiscompatiblewithavast GTX 680’S REFERENCE COOLER arrayofreference-designgraphicscards outofthebox,includingthoseinthe CONCLUSION GeForceGTX400,500and600-series,aswellas WhiletheAcceleroHybridofferssignificantgainsin AMD’sRadeonHD7800-series,6900-seriesand thecoolingandnoisedepartments,wehaveserious 5800-series.Meanwhile,theradiatorisahalf-height reservationsaboutitsinstallationprocess.It’swortha 120mmaffairandusesa120mmPWM-controlledfan lookifyou’reshortofcashandhappytopersevere, thatcanspinupto1,350rpm,completewithafluid butwestronglyrecommendconsideringafullwaterdynamicbearing.Theradiatorisattachedtoa coolingkitinstead.Itmightcostmore,butyou’llend combinedcoolingplateandpumpthat’ssecuredto upfeelingconsiderablylessstressed. alargeshroudthatsportsanangled80mmfan, ANTONY LEATHER enablingittodirectairflowthroughtheshroud. TofittheAcceleroHybrid,you’llneedtoremoveyour graphicscard’scooler,andthenfittheappropriate heatsinkstotheRAMandVRMs–thesewillbecooled GEFORCE GTX 680 3GB bythe80mmfanintheshroud.Thesedon’tattach Reference cooler 15˚C 50˚C usingtheusualadhesivepadsthough.Instead,you Arctic Accelero Hybrid 7˚C 26˚C needtouseatubeofthermaladhesive,sobewarned: 0 15 30 45 60 youmightnotbeabletogetthemoffafteritsets. Idle Load Lower is better ThecoolingplateissecuredtotheGPUcoreviaa backplate.Thissoundedeasytousatfirst,butit’sone ofthemostawkwardcoolerstofitwe’veseen,dueto thetinypins,threadedholesandtheneedforsomany COOLING 39 / 40 partstobelinedupatonce. Afterhalf-an-hourfilledwithexpletivesand DESIGN 10 / 30 frustration,wefinallymanagedtosecurethecontact VALUE 18 / 30 plateandinstalledtheradiatorinafree120mmfan OVERALL FITTING BAD mountattherearofourtestcase.Likeotherall-in-

results

customPC

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Thorough testing and research is the key to evaluating whether a product is worth buying, and deciding whether or not there’s a better alternative

We judge CPUs on whether they offer sufficient speed for the price. Part of a CPU’s speed score comes from how overclockable it is. Every type of CPU is tested in the same PC, so all results are directly comparable.

Intel LGA1155

AsusMaximus IVGene-Z

4GB of Corsair 4GBofCorsair 1,600MHzDDR3

AMD FM1 AMDFM1

MSI A75MA-G55

4GB of Corsair 4GBofCorsair 1,600MHzDDR3

AMDSocket AM3+

AsusCrosshairIV Formula

4GBofCorsair 1,600MHzDDR3

NvidiaGeForce GTX5903GB

120GBPatriot Wildfire

Windows7 64-bit

TESTS: WeusetheCustomPCMediaBenchmarks,CinebenchR11.5,WPrimeandCrysis.Wealsotesttheresultantpowerdrawofthetest
PCwiththeCPUinstalled.ThesetestsrevealabroadrangeofperformancecharacteristicsfortheCPU,fromimageeditingtogamingand videoencodingto3Drendering.WerunallthetestswiththeCPUatstockspeedandagainwhenoverclockedtoitshighestfrequency.

Graphics cards are mainly evaluated on how fast they are for their price. However, we also consider the efficacy and quietness of the cooler. Every graphics card is tested in the same PC, so all results are directly comparable.

3.3GHzIntelCore i5-2500K

4GBCorsair1,600MHz DDR3

Asus P8P67 Rev 3 AsusP8P67Rev3

Windows 7 64-bit Windows764-bit SP1

The graphics card Thegraphicscard we’rereviewing

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HOW WE TEST

2.66GHzIntelCore2 DuoE6750

2GBofCorsair 1,066MHzDDR2

250GBSamsung SpinPointP120S

AsusP5KDeluxe WiFi-AP

Ourbenchmarksuite simulateshowpeople reallyusePCs,anda higherscoreisbetter. Youcandownload thesuitefrom www.tinyurl.com/ benchies

Motherboards are evaluated on everything from layout and features to overclockability and value for money. Every motherboard is tested with the same components, so all results are directly comparable.

Someproductsare gloriouslyoverthe top.Theseitemsof excellentoverkill earnourExtreme Ultraaward. PremiumGrade productsare utterlydesirable– we’deatnothing butbeansuntilwe couldaffordthem. Productsworthy oftheProfessional awardmake you andyourbusiness appeareven moreawesome. Approvedproducts arethosethatdoa greatjobforthe money;they’rethe cannypurchasefor agreatPC.

Intel Core IntelCore i7-3770K

Motherboard ontest

8GBofCorsair 8GB of Corsair 1,600MHzDDR3

AMD A8-3850 AMDA8-3850

Motherboard 4GBofCorsair ontest 1,600MHzDDR3

AMDPhenom Motherboard IIX61100TBE ontest

4GBofCorsair 1,600MHzDDR3

NvidiaGeForce GTX5903GB*

2TB Western Digital 2TBWesternDigital CaviarBlack

Windows 7 Windows7 64-bit

TESTS: WeusetheCustomPCMediaBenchmarksandseveralgames,andalsotest thespeedsoftheboard’sSATAports.Wetrytooverclockeverymotherboardwereview bytestingforamaximumQPI,baseclockorHTTaswellasoverclockingtheCPUtoits maximumair-cooledlevel.WerunourtestsatstockspeedandwiththeCPUoverclocked.
*Pleasenote:WetestedAMDFM1motherboardsusingtheon-boardgraphics,nottheNvidiaGeForceGTX5903GB

TESTS: ByusingthefastPCdetailedonthe left,wecanbesurethatanylimitationswesee areduetothegraphicscardontest.Wetestthe fourgames(right)attheirmaximumdetail settings,intheirhighestDirectXmode,andat threeresolutions.High-endcardsshouldbeable tosustainplayableframeratesat2,560x1,600, while1,920x1,080ismoreimportantformidrangecards; wenolongertestat1,680x1,050 because1,920x1,080issocheap.Wealsotryto overclockeverygraphicscardwetesttoseewhat differencethismakestothecard’sperformance.
WorldMags.net

Forthosegadgets andgizmosthat reallyimpressus, orthatwecan’tlive without,there’sthe CustomKitaward.

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Custom Kit
CARD GAME
Themostrevealingstorywecantellyouabout WarhammerInvasionisthat,inthefewweekswe’ve hadit,we’veplayedatleast25or30gamesofit.It’sabeautifully balanced(andimportantly,quick)game,witheachofthefour factiondecksintheboxofferingplentyofcharacter,whilealso beingbothbalancedandcompetitive.However,therulebook canbealittlevagueinplaces(we’rerunningwitharoundeight houserulingsalready),andalotcandependonwhatyou’re giveninyourfirsthand,butit’sagamethatregularlyservesup memorablemomentsandtensefinishes.Atonly£22,andwith loadsofexpansionsavailabletoo,it’sasteal.Wehaven’tplayed agamethisgoodsinceAnkh-MorporkbackinIssue100. PG CULTISTS BLOODTHIRSTER
Price £22 inc VAT Supplier www.gameslore.com Manufacturer www.fantasyflightgames.com

Written by Paul Goodhead Seen something worthy of appearing in Custom Kit? Send suggestions to paul_goodhead@dennis.co.uk

We check out the latest gadgets, gizmos and geek toys
WARHAMMER INVASION

01

EAR BUDS

SHARKFIN SELF-MOLDING EARBUDS
ears.Inanidealworld,we’dallhave custommouldedmodels,butuntilthat time,theSharkfinbudsdothejobvery well.Essentiallyamouldableputtythat youwraparoundyourearphonesand thenshoveinyoureartoset,thebuds didagreatjobofcuttingoutexternal noisefromourearphones–noteven strenuousexercisecouldshiftthem, thankstothecustomfit.Obviouslyyou can’tusethemonotherearphones oncethey’reset,andyou’llneed anothersetifyoudon’tgetthemright firsttime,butthat’shardlyamajor crimewhentheycostjust£5. PG GENERIC CUSTOM
Price £5 inc VAT Supplier www.advancedmp3players.co.uk Manufacturer www.vdera.com

03 Thequalityofyourearphonesdoesn’tmatterajotiftheyhave poorlyshapedorsizedearbudsthatcontinuallyfalloutofyour

SCREEN CLEANER

STICKEMS

somanypeoplespendhundredsofpoundsonaphoneortablet, andthencleanthescreenbysteamingitupwiththeirbreath,and wipingitwithat-shirt.For£5,Stickemsareacleveralternative. Theirtackybacksticksthemfirmlytothebackofaphone,tabletor laptoplid,andtheirmicrofibreuppermeanstheycanbepeeledoff, usedtobuffthescreen,thenstuckbackinplace.Thedesignswe weresentfortestingarealittlecutesy,butotherlesscartoonish designsareavailable. PG FILTHY CLEAN
Price £45 inc VAT Supplier www.theacessoriescrowd.com Manufacturer www.stickems.co.uk

Findingabetterwaytokeepscreenscleanisn’tgoingto 02 changetheworld,butweadmitwefinditalittlestrangethat

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CUSTOM KIT

TABLET

GOOGLE NEXUS 7

ACTUAL SIZE

allknowitsidentity.However,timesare changing,asGoogle’sNexus7hashit theheadlines.ManufacturedforGoogle byAsus,theNexus7isarguablyavery differentbeasttotheiPad(as demonstratedbyitspriceandsize),but readontofindoutwhyitstillhasthetools toupsettheApplecart. PG 8GB 16GB
Price £159/£199 inc VAT Supplier http://play. google.com Manufacturer www.google.com

Onlyonecompanyhaspreviously 04 generatedtablethysteria,andyou

TheNexus’7inIPSscreenisa majorboonforatabletatthisprice, immediatelymakingtheNexus7 standoutagainsttheopposition.Its resolutionof1,280x800meansthat it’sabletodisplay720pHDcontent and,whileitspixeldensityof216ppi isn’tashighasthatofthenewiPad, it’sstillverydifficulttomakeout individualpixelsineverydayusage. ThescreenisfedbyanNvidiaTegra3 chipset,whichhasaquad-coreARM CPUrunningat1.3GHz,plusan integratedGPUwith12stream processorsfor3Dgaming.

SCREEN

A4,325mAhbatteryisnestledunder thedimpled,rubberisedrearofthe tablet,andthisisagainanunusually high-specinclusionfortheprice. This,coupledwiththefactthatthe Tegra3chipsethasafifthlow-power CPUcoreforuseduringlow-intensity tasks,meantthatwecouldrunH.264 video(whichishardware-decoded) ontheNexus7forasolid10.5hours onjustasinglecharge.Onefeature thatwon’tbeadrainonthebatteryis mobiledata,however.TheNexus7 lacksany3Gcapabilities,soyou’ll havetopre-loadanymapsormedia you’llneedwhentravelling,unless youfindahotspotorarehappyto tetherittoaphone.

BATTERY

TheNexus7usesAndroid4.1,andinteractingwiththenewOSisabeautifullysmooth experiencethatjustoozesclass;thisiscertainlythemostpolishedversionofAndroidwe’ve seenyet.It’salsothemostmedia-focusedbuild–thehomescreenhasshortcutstoyourmedia asstandard,withrecommendationsonwhatyoumightliketobuyfromtheswishPlayStore. Withthisfocusinmind,the8GBcapacityofthismodelhastobeseenasadrawback,especially whentabletgameinstallsarebecominglargerallthetime.Asaresult,we’drecommend stumpinguptheextra£50forthe16GBversion,whichiscurrentlytheAndroidtablettobeat.

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MARVELS
izeisn’teverything,asthesayinggoes.Infact,moreandmoremini-ITX productsarebeingreleased,enablingustobuildsmallPCswithout compromisingonhardwarechoices,overclockingabilityorcooling. However,sincemini-ITXwaspreviouslythepreserveoflow-power boardsbasedonVIAEPIA,IntelAtomorlow-powerAMDCPUs,there’sconfusion overwhethermini-ITXisagenuinehigh-endcontender,orasmallfeatherweight. Forthisreason,we’vegatheredthreeofthemosthighlyspeccedmini-ITXZ77 motherboards,aswellasfourcompatiblecases,tofindtheidealcombinationfor buildingacompact,powerfulPC.We’llproveyoudon’tneedafull-sizedboardto achievehigh-endoverclocks,oracolossalcasetoaccommodateanambitious coolingsetup,andwe’llevenshowyouhowtobuildamini-ITXPCtoo.
HARRY BUTLER AND ANTONY LEATHER

Miniature
S

Why build a full-height monolith when you can build a high-end PC in a pint-sized chassis? We rounded up a load of decent-spec mini-ITX cases and motherboards to find the best kit

54 BitFenixProdigy 56 FractalDesignNode304 58 LianLiPC-TU200 60 SilverStoneFT03-Mini 64 ASRockZ77E-ITX 66 P8Z77-IDeluxe 68 ZotacZ77-ITXWiFi 71 Graphs 73 Featuretables 74 Buildawater-cooledmini-ITXmonster

reviewed this month

54

Totestthemotherboards,weusedanIntelCorei7-3770KCPU,a GeForceGTX6802GBand4GBofPatriot1,600MHzDDR3memory. Totestperformance,werantheCPCMediaBenchmarkssuite, alongsideourownArmaIIbenchmark,beforeoverclockingthe boardsandtestingagain. Totestthecases,wefittedthemwithanAsusP8Z77-IDeluxe (seep66),alongwithanIntelCorei5-2500Koverclockedto4.4GHz,

how we test

usingavcoreof1.3V. Alongsidethis,weuseda140mmEnermax Eco82+620WPSU,aGeForceGTX5701.3GBand2GBofKingston 1,600MHzDDR3memory.TocooltheCPU,weusedaZalmanlowprofileCNPS8900CPUcooler.Meanwhile,theGTX5701.3GB’s coolingfanwaslockedat70percentspeed,andthesystemwas placedunderthermalloadusingacombinationofPrime95and Unigine’sHeavengraphicsbenchmark.

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BITFENIX Prodigy
PHOENIX Brilliant cooling; flexible fan mounts; room for dual-120mm radiator; just £65 ASHES Comparatively large; wobbly FyberFlex base; side panels rattle slightly

Not without faults, but beats the competition for just £65

B

HOW MUCH?
Price£65incVAT Supplier www.overclockers.co.uk Manufacturer www.bitfenix.com

itFenixhasclearlyapproacheditsnew mini-ITXcase,theProdigy,withafocuson flexibilityandcapability,asopposedtogetting everythingintothesmallestpossiblebox.This meansthatit’sthelargestandheaviestcaseontest(it isn’tfaroffSilverStone’scompactMicro-ATXTJ08-Ein thevolumestakesat26litres).Italsoboastscooling capabilitiesofcasestwiceitssize,whilestillbeing undeniablysmallandcompact. TheProdigy’sexteriorisdominatedbyitscurved FyberFlexhandles,fittedtoboththetopandbottomof thecorechassis.Doublingashandlesandcasefeet, theFyberFlexmaterialisincrediblyhard-wearingand, truetoitsname,veryflexible,whileremainingstiff enoughtodoubleaseitheracasefootorcarryhandle. However,theuseofFyberFlexinthepermanentcase feetmeansthattheProdigywobblesalarminglywith thelightesttouch.Thankfully,theFyberFlexpanelsare removable,allowingyoutosubstitutethemforcase feetofyourown,albeitataddedexpense. RemovethehandlesandtheProdigyisn’tthatmuch largerthancompetingchassis,yetitoffersagreatdeal ofcoolingpotential.Themeshfrontfascia,secured withpush-pins,hidesagrilled frontthatcanmountahostof coolingfans,from120mmto 230mm,withoutcompromising anyoftheinteriorfittings.The dustfilter-equippedroofalsohas mountsforapairof120mmfans, whiletherearfanmountcan accommodateeithera120mm or140mmfan. Theresultisacasecapable ofmountingthekindofcooling equipmentyou’dexpectinafullsizedtowerchassis,butinabox littlebiggerthanadesktopsubwoofer.Evenbetter,thepairof roof-mounted120mmfan mountscanaccommodatea full-depth,dual120mmwatercoolingradiator,something thatevennewfull-sizedcases suchastheFractalDesignDefine R4(seep42),areunabletooffer. Asstandard,BitFenixpairsthe

casewithtwo120mmfins,oneofwhichactsasafront intakewhiletheotherisarearexhaust. Alongsideitsarrayofcoolingfanmounts,the Prodigyisalsoextensivelyventilated.Theleftside panelisperforated,asisthefloorofthecase,although onlythelattersportsaremovabledustfilterforthe floor’sPSUmount.Oddly,thecase’sfrontpanel connectorsarefoundontheright-handsidepanel, withapairofUSB3ports,headphoneandmicrophone jacks,andbothpowerandresetbuttonsmatchingthe connectorarraysofthecompetition. However,thecase’sexteriorisn’twithoutfault,and weweresurprisedtofindthesidepanelswerealittle loosearoundtheirfrontfittingpoints,andtherefore hadatendencytorattle.SimilarlytotheFyberFlexfeet, it’sanannoyingfaultthat’seasilyremediedwithsome sparerubberspacersortape,butitstilldetractedfrom whatisotherwiseasolidandwellput-togethercase. Removingtheaforementionedsidepanels,the Prodigy’sinteriorisincrediblyroomyforamini-ITX chassis,placingthemotherboardtraydirectlyabove thePSUmount.Despitetheopeninterior,theProdigy canmountfive3.5indrivesinapairoffullyremovable

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WITH OUR TEST KIT FITTED AND UNDER THERMAL LOAD, THE PRODIGY MADE THE OTHER CASES ON TEST LOOK PEDESTRIAN

drivescages(althoughyou’llneedtoremovethe upperthreemountsifyouhaveagraphicscardthat’s longerthan180mm).Therearealsofourmore2.5in drivemountsdottedaroundtheinteriorofthecase, aswellasaremovable5.25indrivemountinthecase’s roof,theremovalofwhichisrequiredformountinga roofradiator. Thedecisiontoplacethemotherboardflatinthe caseontopofthePSUcagemeansthere’s175mm ofCPUcoolerheadroomtoo,soinstallingourtest systemwasasnap.ThePSUcagedoublesasaplace totuckyourunusedcaptivePSUcablingtooand,asit’s equippedwithcable-routeingholes,cabletidyingis straightforward,helpingtokeepairflow-interrupting cablesoutoftheway. Withourtestkitfittedandunderthermalload,the Prodigymadetheothercasesontestlookpedestrian, withaCPUdeltaTof43°CandaGPUdeltaTof48°C– bothresultswerethebestontestbysomedistance. Infact,theGPUtemperaturewas10°Ccooler thanthenextbestcase,givingtheProdigyahuge advantage.Notonlythat,butthenoisefromthestock pairoffanswaspleasantlyunobtrusive,evenatfull

speed.WiththeProdigy’shighlyexpandablecooling, there’splentyofroomtoimproveittoo.

CONCLUSION
TheBitFenixProdigyisn’twithoutitsflaws,namelyits wobblyFyberFlexfeetandslightlyloosesidepanels, buttheseissuescanberemediedeasilyandcheaply. Italsocompensatesfortheseproblems withitsgreat coolingcapabilities,andtheflexibilitytomounthighendwater-coolingequipmentshouldyouwish(see p74).What’smore,buildingasysteminsidethe Prodigyisstraightforward,andit’savailablefora bargainpriceof£65.Whileitisn’tthesmallestminiITXcaseontest,it’sundoubtedlythebest. HB

COOLING FEATURES DESIGN VALUE

28 / 30 19 / 20 24 / 30 19 / 20 OVERALL
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FRACTAL DESIGN Node 304
Well priced; compact; good CPU cooling; room for all-inone liquid coolers

Well-made, compact and affordable, but GPU cooling is lacking
NODAL

W

NOODLE PSU cables conflict with graphics card; poor GPU cooling

hileFractalDesign’sDefine(seep42) andArcseriesofcaseshaveconsistently impressedoverthelastfewyears,the Node304isthecompany’sfirstmini-ITX chassistosupportfullATXpowersuppliesandlarge graphicscards.Lookingtostrikeabalancebetween thesuper-teenySilverStoneFT03-Mini(seep60)and theheftierBitFenixProdigy(seep54),theNode304 displaysFractalDesign’strademarkunderstated design,withitsbrushed-aluminiumfrontfascia. Thecurvedfrontplateenablesventedsectionsin thetopandbottomofthefasciatoallowdust-filtered airflowtopassthroughapairof90mmintakefans locatedbehindit.Meanwhile,there’sabluepower LEDsitsatthebottomright,withapairofUSB3ports, apowerbutton,andtherequisite3.5mmmicrophone andheadphonejackstuckedaroundtherightsideof thefascia. Theexteriorisalsodottedwithventedsectionsto improveairflow;alongdust-filter-equippedventruns alongtheleftsidepanel,servicingtheGPUfitted behindit,whileasmallunfilteredventontherightside panel,andafilteredventonthecase’sfloor,servethe laterallymountedPSU.Meanwhile,a140mmcooling fansitsattherear,aswellasanintakefantoprovide airflowoverthemotherboard.Thismeansthatthe Node304reliesentirelyonitsthreeintakefansand thepositivepressuretheycreatetoexpelhotair.

Theexternalpanellingismadefromasinglesheet ofmetal,whichslidesoffinonepiecetorevealthe internalframe.Themotherboardisfittedtothefloor ofthecaseattherear,withthePSUplacedlaterally acrossthefrontofthechassisinsideasmallinternal bracket.Tokeepthe3-pinpowersockettotherear, FractalDesignhasincludedaninternal90-degree extensioncable,withtheventedsectionsinthecase’s exteriorprovidingplentyofairflowforthePSU. Meanwhile,harddrivestorageisprovidedbyatrio ofwhitedrivehangerssuspendedabovethePSU. Drivesarefittedusingrubbervibration-dampening grommets,andeachcaddyalsosupports2.5indrives shouldyouwishtofitasextetofSSDs.However,the leftharddrivecagemustberemovedinorderto accommodatefull-sizedgraphicscards;thismeans that,withafull-specificationsystem,you’llonlytobe abletofitfourdrives.Bravely,FractalDesignhasalso chosentoditchthe5.25inmount,notevenofferinga slimlineopticaldrivefitting;however,consideringthe decreasingrelevanceofphysicalmedia,wecan’t disagreewiththatdecision. WiththePSUandstorageallatthefront,Fractal Designhasleft165mmofheadroomforCPUcoolers. Withtherearfanmountrightnexttothemotherboard, it’salsoideallyplacedforsingle-radiatorall-in-one liquidcoolerkits.However,therearefewerpositives regardingthePSUandgraphicscardarrangement,

HOW MUCH?
Price£72incVAT Supplierwww.ebuyer.co.uk (availableearlySeptember) Manufacturer www.fractal-design.com

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EACH CADDY SUPPORTS 2.5IN DRIVES, SHOULD YOU WISH TO FIT A SEXTET OF SSDs

aslongerGPUswillstrayintothecablesofevenshort PSUs.Officially,Fractalstatesthatcardslongerthan 170mmwillconflictwithPSUslongerthan160mm,as thePSUthenextendsintothegraphicscard’sspace, butyoucanfitamuchlargergraphicscardinsideifyou useashorterPSU.However,our140mmtestPSU’s cablingsoonfounditselfcoileduprightnexttoour 267mm-longGeForceGTX5701.3GB.Thisblocked airflowtotheendofthecard,andit’sevendifficultto avoidthiswithafullymodularPSU,asthetwo componentsareinsuchcloseproximity. Otherthantheconflictbetweenthegraphicscard andPSU,buildingaPCinsidetheNode304provedto beverysimple.Withnothingmountedintheexterior shell,youcanperformalltherequiredcable-tidying androuteingwithease,andthefront-panel connectorsarelongenoughtosnakerightaroundthe motherboard.Withnosidepanelsorroofinplace,it’s easytoreachinsideandtuckcablesandconnectors intoplacetoo,somethingthatcertainlywasn’tthe casewithconfinedchassissuchastheLianLi PC-TU200(seep58). Despiteitstrioofintakefans,however,theNode 304’scoolingleftusalittledeflated.CPUcoolingwas decent,withadeltaTof46°Cbeing3°Ccoolerthan eithertheSilverStoneFT03-MiniorLianLiPC-200,but 3°CwarmerthanthatoftheBitFenixProdigy.Itwas

GPUcoolingthatsouredthesituation,though,witha deltaTof63°Cbeing15°ChotterthantheProdigy–it wasalsothehighestresultontest.Allthreefanswere reasonablyquiet,buttheproximityofthePSUand GPU,andtheresultingcablebuild-up,clearly impactedthegraphicscard’scooling,despitethe largeside-panelvent.Basically,thisisreallyonlya caseforsmallgraphicscards,whicheverPSUyou’re using,andthisgivesitadistinctdisadvantage.

CONCLUSION
WithFractalDesign’stypicalminimalistlooksand sensiblelayout,wehadhighhopesfortheNode304. Sadly,itspoorGPUcoolingletitdown,althoughit rallieswellwithsolidCPUcoolingthankstoitstrioof coolingfans.WhiletheNode304’soverallbuildquality issuperior,theBitFenixProdigyischeaper,coolerand moreflexible,leavingtheNode304insecondplace. HB

COOLING 20 / 30 FEATURES 15 / 20 DESIGN 27 / 30 VALUE 16 / 20 OVERALL
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LIAN LI PC-TU200
FORD Great build quality; very light; pre-fitted handle LABEOUF Poor all-round cooling; no extra fan mounts; expensive; hotswap bays don’t fit 2.5in drives

Gorgeous and well-built, but hot and expensive as well

L

ianLiwasoneofthefirstmanufacturersto producemini-ITXcasesaspartofitscore productline,matchingitslegendary aluminiumconstructionandbuildqualitywith theemergingminiformfactor.Oneofitslatestcases, theAdventurer-brandedPC-TU200,hasabasic appearancethatmatchesLianLi’slong-serving PC-Q08,withasleekflight-caselookandimproved rigiditytomatch. Madealmostentirelyfromaluminium,theTU200 isextremelylightatjust3.49kg.LianLihasalso reinforcedeachcornerwithmachinedaluminium guards,whicharerivetedintoplacearoundthecore chassistoreinforceandprotectthecaseduring transit.AddingcredotoitsAdventurertagistheplastic carryhandleonthecase’sroof,enablingyoutoeasily grabthecasereadytocartofftoaLANparty. Meanwhile,side-panelandroofventingis conspicuousbyitsabsence,withalargeventedareaat thefrontcaseallowingairflowintothesingle140mm intakefan.There’salsoaventilatedsectioninthebase toprovideairflowtothefloor-mountedgraphicscard, butonlythefrontventisfittedwithadustfilter,andifit requirescleaning,you’llneedtoremovethefan. Elsewhereonthecase’sfrontfasciaisaprestealthed5.25indrivebay,acommoninclusionwith

HOW MUCH?
Price£141incVAT Supplier www.specialtech.co.uk Manufacturer www.lian-li.com

LianLi’scases,andatouchthatmakesacaselook muchmorecompleteandstylishthanabaredriveface plate.Meanwhile,afrontpanelwithapairofUSB3 ports,aneSATAport,and3.5mmmicrophoneand headphonejacks islocatedatthebottomofthe case’sfront,whilecombinationpower/powerLED andreset/harddriveLEDbuttonssitinthemiddleof thefrontfascia. Withthereinforcedaluminiumplatesaroundthe case’scornersandalongitslength,there’sno immediatelyobviouswaytoremovetherecessedside panels.Thisisachievedviaapairofleversattherearof thecase,securedwiththumbscrewsthatprytheleft andrightpanelsoutoftool-freeclipsinsidethecase. It’saslickprocess,enablingthecase’ssidestoappear smoothandfreeofanyfittings,althoughyou’llneedto pullthepanelsfreeoncetheleverspopacornerout. Insidethecase,themotherboardisfittedtoa motherboardtray,ratherthandirectlytothesidepanel aswiththePC-Q08,withafour-drive3.5inhot-swap drivecageonstorageduty.Thedrivecageisfully removable,butit’scleverlyplacedsothatagraphics card,mountedalongthecase’sfloor,canfitbeneathit withouthavingtocompromiseonstoragespace.Lian Lievenincludesarubber-cappedgraphicscard holdertonegateboard-bendonlongercards. However,thehot-swap bays,whilekittedout withexcellentvibrationdampeningmountsfor 3.5indrives,don’tquite fit2.5indrives.Asthey don’treachthehot-swap connectors,you’llneed toconnectthesetotheir cablesyourself;an annoyingtaskthat requiressomeserious fingerdexteritytowork aroundtheexistinghotswapfittings. Meanwhile,there’s spaceforaPSUwitha maximumdepthof 140mm,whichyoumount byslidingitintothebackof thecaseandfittingitover

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LIAN LI EVEN INCLUDES A RUBBER-CAPPED GRAPHICS CARD HOLDER TO NEGATE BOARDBEND ON LONGER CARDS

thetopofthemotherboard,althoughLianLiseems ambiguousaboutwhichwayaroundthePSUshould bemounted. Itsownwebsiteshowsimagesofthe PSUwithitsfanmountedtowardsthesidepanel, whilethemanualindicatesitshouldbefittedwiththe fantowardsthemotherboard.Regardless,there’s justenoughroomforairflowoneitherside.Fittingthe PSUcanbetricky,though,asthemountmeansthe majorityofcableswillonlybeintroducedatthefinalfit, makingitdifficulttoroutecablesoutofthewayinside. WithaPSUmounteddirectlyabovethe motherboard,CPUcoolerheadroomislimitedtojust 80mmtoo,butthisisstillenoughforstockcoolersor low-profileaftermarketcoolers,suchasourtest system’sZalmanCNPS8900. DuetothecablingconstraintsofaddingthePSU last,however,buildingaPCinsidetheTU200wasa littletroublesomeandwhenwe’dfinished,cooling abilitywasn’tstellar.Withitssingle140mmintake fan,theTU200managedaCPUdeltaTof49°C–the hottestofanycaseontest,whileitsGPUdeltaTof 58°Cwasalsoonthewarmside,althoughperfectly

stable.Thefrontcoolingfan’snoiseprovedslightly intrusivetooand,withnoadditionalfanmounts, there’snowaytoimprovethesituationeither.

CONCLUSION
WhiletheLianLiPC-TU200certainlylooksthepart, deckedoutingorgeousbrushedaluminium,it’stricky tobuildinside,anditofferspoorcoolingthankstoits lackoffanmountsandventing.What’smore,at£140, itcostsmorethandoublethepriceoftheBitFenix Prodigy(seep54);despiteitsaluminiumcharms,the TU200isapoorchoiceforthoselookingtobuildafullspecriginamini-ITXcase. HB

COOLING FEATURES DESIGN VALUE

21 / 30 11 / 20 25 / 30 11 / 20 OVERALL
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Stunning design, but limited to SFX PSUs and expensive
MINI COOPER Incredibly small; great aluminium construction; innovative design MINI DISC Only supports SFX PSUs; expensive; unimpressive GPU cooling; no extra fan mounts

SILVERSTONE FT03-Mini

S

ilverStone’sstandardFT03isoneofthebest micro-ATXchassisoutthere,combininga 90-degree-rotatedlayoutwithaningenious layoutthatfitstogetherlikeagameof componentTetris.TheFT03-Minilookstogoone better,usingamini-ITXdesigntosqueezeafullpowersystemintoassmallacontaineraspossible. Withatotalvolumeofjust17.6litres,theFT03-Mini isthesmallestcaseontestandhasclosetohalfthe volumeofitsbiggersibling.Itsverticaldesignalso givesitatinydesktopfootprintofjust189x235mm.As usualforacaseunderSilverStone’sFortressbrand, stylingisrestrainedandminimalist,withallfoursides ofthecasefinishedingorgeousaluminiumthat’sbeen anodisedandsandblasted. Lookunderneath,andyou’llfindaclip-ondustfilter protectingthecase’sonlyfanmount–a140mmfloor mountequippedwithoneofSilverStone’sown140mm

HOW MUCH?
Price£103incVAT Supplierwww.scan.co.uk Manufacturer www.silverstonetek.com

AirPenetratorfans.Thesefansuseaspecialframeto channelairintoatightcone,allowingeffectiveairflow topenetratedeepinsidethechassis. Ontop,themotherboardrearI/OandPSUexhaust arerecessedslightly.Thisistoallowcablingtobe tuckedbeneaththecase’sdetachableplasticroof grille,keepingcablemesstoaminimum.Meanwhile, theplasticfasciaclipsfirmlyintoplace,withafront panelsittinginaraisedcentralsection,andfeaturing twoUSB3ports,powerandresetbuttons,and microphoneandheadphonejacks. TakingtheFT03-Miniapartisabizarreexperience fortheuninitiated,however,asallthreedetachable panels(thefront,rearandside)canberemoved withouttheuseofascreworclip.Allaresecuredby push-pins,andthearrangementofthesemakesit impossibletofitthewrongpanelinthewrongplace. Eachpanelclickssatisfyinglyintoplace,resultingin thecase’ssmooth,sleekandtool-freeexterior.It alsomakestakingtheFT03-Miniapartadoddle; pullingthepanelsfreetakesseconds,revealing thecorechassis’frameworkbeneath. AswithSilverStone’sRV03(seeIssue103,p70), themotherboardmounthasbeenrotatedby90 degrees,withtherearI/Opointingupwards.The boardissecuredtothemotherboardtrayabovethe case’sonenon-removableexteriorpanel,witha drivebaycagefittedintotheframeworkalongthe oppositesideofthecase.Fittingthemotherboard issimpleinanemptycase,withtheotherhardware subsequentlyaddedaroundtheboard.Thefrontpanelcablesarealsoperfectlycuttolooparound theboardbeforeconnecting,andthefloormounted140mmcoolingfanblowsairdirectly throughtheheartofthechassis. However,therehavebeencompromisesmade inordertofitadecent-specPCintosuchasmall box.Mostimportantly,theFT03-Miniisonlyableto accommodateanSFX-sizedPSU;thisisn’tan issueifyou’rebuyinganewsystem,butitisa problemifyouplantouseoldATXparts.SFX PSUsaremuchsmaller,butalsoofferlowerpeak wattageasaresult.However,evenanoverclocked mini-ITXsystemequippedwithaGeForceGTX680 2GBwon’tpullmorethan400Wunderpeakload, andSilverStoneprovideduswithits450WStrider SFXPSUforourtesting.

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EACH PANEL CLICKS SATISFYINGLY INTO PLACE, RESULTING IN THE CASE’S SMOOTH, SLEEK AND TOOL-FREE EXTERIOR

AsthePSUisfittedabovethemotherboard,CPU coolerheadroomislimitedtojust78mm,butthisis stillsufficientforstockcoolersorlow-profilecoolers suchasourtestsystem’sZalmanCNPS8900.Asthe PSUispositioneddirectlyoverthemotherboard, connectingcablesissimple;thePSUissmallerthan theboard,andaccesstotheedge-mountedpower connectorsisunhindered.Connectingpowertodrives isalittlemoredifficult,though,andyou’llneedtowire upyourstoragedevicesbeforefittingtheremovable drivecage.However,there’sonlyroomforaslotloadingslimlineopticaldrive,asingle3.5indriveand apairof2.5indrives. Meanwhile,agraphicscardupto254mmlong cansitbehindthefrontofthecase,separatingitfrom therestoftheFT03-Mini’sinternalmachinations. However,asit’salmostflushwiththesidepanel,it benefitslittlefromthe140mmfanbelow,whichis mountedcentrally. Sadly,withourtestsystemfitted,theFT03trailed whenitcametocooling.ACPUdeltaTof48°Cwas stableifunspectacular,whileaGPUdeltaTof58°C matchedthecoolingofthesimilarlyequippedLian

PC-TU200(seep58).BothtrailedtheBitFenixProdigy (seep54)significantly,especiallywithGPUcooling– theProdigywas10°Ccooler.

CONCLUSION
TheSilverStoneFT03-Mini’sabilitytoaccommodate full-sizedhardware(withsomeconcessionsinthe formoftheSFXPSU)intosuchasmallspaceisa remarkablefeat.However,atover£100,italsohasa highpricetag,andunspectacularcoolingtoboot.If you’relookingforthesmallestpossiblegamingPC thentheFT03-Miniistheeasychoice.Ifyou’relooking forflexibility,featuresandcooling,however,the Prodigywins. HB

COOLING FEATURES DESIGN VALUE

22 / 30 12 / 20 25 / 30 13 / 20 OVERALL
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AVAILABLE FROM:
WorldMags.net

Great-looking and very overclockable
Great overclocker; good looks; decent EFI

ASROCK Z77E-ITX
POWER TOOL

W

HAND TOOL Slightly cramped PCB; Asus still has superior EFI

HOW MUCH?
Price£123incVAT Manufacturer www.asrock.com Supplier www.overclockers.co.uk

ithitsgun-metalgreycolourscheme, golddetailsanddark-brownPCB, ASRock’sZ77E-ITXlooksstunning. ASRockhasoptedfora6+2powerphase design,whilethePCBissurprisinglydevoidoflarge heatsinks,withjustasinglechipsetheatsink,anda smallstackontheVRMsbehindtheI/Oports. Layoutisgenerallyproblem-freetoo,althoughthe 12-pinEPS12VconnectoriswedgedbetweentheVRM heatsink,batteryandI/Oports,alongwiththecables fortheWiFimodulenearby,whichisatightsqueeze. Otherthanthis,therearen’tanymajorissues.Thetwo SATA3GbpsandtwoSATA6Gbpsportsarelocatedat theedgeofthePCB,alongwiththeUSB3headerand 24-pinATXconnector.ThePCI-Egraphicsslotisfree fromobstructions,withtheaudioheadersituatedwell outoftheway,unliketheAsusP8Z77-IDeluxe’sslot (seep66).TheCPUsocketisrelativelycleartoo, althoughtheEPS12Vconnectormayinterferewith largeheatsinkorwaterblockmounts,asitlaysright ontheedgeofthemarkedexclusionzone. AnmSATAconnectorsitsunderneaththePCBfor connectingsupportedSSDs,whileaminiPCI-Eslotis occupiedbytheon-boardWiFimodule(anantennais includedinthebox),sothere’snospare slotasthereisontheZotacZ77-ITX WiFi(seep68). However,theZ77E-ITXhastwo moreUSB3portsthantheZotac, alongwithaneSATA3Gbps connector,DVIandDisplayPort outputs,andasingleHDMIport. Therearenopowerorreset switches,noraPOSTerrorcode readout,though,whichisashame, althoughyoucanatleastresetthe CMOSusinganI/Opanelswitch. Youmightfindithardtoconnect allyourcasefanstotheZ77E-ITX, however,asitonlyhastwo4-pin fanheaders. Thisisthesamewithallthe boardsontest,though,andlooking atthePCB,it’sdifficulttoseewhere ASRockcouldfitanother.Sadly,the boxdidn’tincludeanymeansof usingthemotherboard’sUSB3

headereither,soyou’llhavetoinvestinabreakout adaptorifyouneedmorethanthefourUSB3ports ontheI/Opanel.

PERFORMANCE
LiketheZotac,theZ77E-ITXfailedtoTurboBoost allthewayto3.9GHz,onlyreaching3.7GHz,soits performanceresultswere,notsurprisingly,alittle slowerthantheAsusboardatstockspeeds.Itsimage editingscoreof1,775was49pointsoffthepace,while itwas135pointsbehindtheAsusboardinourCPUintensivevideoencodingtest.Overall,itmanaged 2,140–70pointsshortoftheAsusboard,butthisistiny inpercentageterms.Meanwhile,itsminimumframe rateinArmaIIwas123fps–roughlyequaltotheZotac, whileitsSATA6Gbpsspeedswereslightlyfaster. TheZ77E-ITXisequippedwithfarmore overclockingandmonitoringfeaturesthanthe Zotac,though,whileitsEFIismucheasiertouseand navigate,althoughAsusstillhasaclearedgehere.Its AXTUtuningsoftwareprovidesbasiccontroloffans andoverclocking,whiletheEFIhasalmosteverything barafullymanualCPUPLLvoltageoption,whichthe Zotacalsolacked.

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ITS MAXIMUM CPU VOLTAGE OF 1.7V IS MORE THAN ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH ENTHUSIASTIC BENCHMARKING
However,itsmaximumCPUvoltageof1.7Vismore thanenoughtodealwithenthusiasticbenchmarking. Weneededafarlesscrazy1.28VtogetourCPUtoits usual4.8GHz–abrilliantachievementforthistiny motherboard,anditneededfarlesstweakingthanthe Zotactoo.OurCPUtoppedoutat98°CusingaCorsair H100all-in-oneliquidcooleratthesesettings,soheat wasthelimitingfactor.TheEFIalsoincludessome auto-overclockingfeatures,althoughourmanual settingsworkedbetter.WesettheCPUfrequencyto 4.8GHzandtheEFIchangedafewoptions,although thesedidn’tprovetobestable,withtheCPUvoltageof 1.24Vnotprovidingadequatepower. Eitherway,theoverclocksawexcellentgainsinour benchmarks.Theimageeditingscoreroseby555 pointsto2,330,whileamassive1,171pointswere addedtothevideoencodingtestscore–anincrease of38percent.ArmaIIalsosawsomesizeablegains, withtheminimumframeraterising12fpsto135fps. performanceofmuchlarger,moreexpensive motherboards.Italsohasnearlyeverythingyouneed forapowerfulPC,withtheaddedbonusofWiFi, mSATAandminiPCI-Eports. At£123,it’sthesamepriceasZotac’sZ77offering; however,withitssuperiorEFIandmorebalanced featureset,theZ77E-ITXjustedgestheZotacinto secondplace.Thetrickydecisioniswhencomparing ittotheAsusP8Z77-IDeluxe.Thishasanevenbetter EFI,andsuperiortweakingandmonitoringtools,plus afewadditionalfeatures.Forthisreason,despite costing£20more,theAsusisourmini-ITXboardof choice,butifyou’dratherputthatmoneytowardsa betterCPUcoolerorhigher-capacitySSD,you’llbefar fromdisappointedwiththeASRockZ77E-ITX. AL

CONCLUSION
ASRockhascomeuptrumpswiththeZ77E-ITX.It hasaneasy-to-useEFI,ittookourchiptoitslimit whenoverclockingand,indoingso,matchedthe

SPEED 39 / 45 FEATURES 24 / 30 VALUE 23 / 25

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65

The best mini-ITX motherboard we’ve seen
P8 Excellent EFI; loaded with features; great overclocker P45 Same price as good micro-ATX boards; lacks expansion; on-board sound header fouls graphics card

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

C

onsideringitshugeinfluenceinthe motherboardmarket,Asushasbeen strangelyreservedinthemini-ITXarena.Its offeringshavesofarusuallyfocusedonIntel Atom,NvidiaIonorAMDembeddedmodels,rather thanopen-socket,enthusiast-orientatedboards. AllthatchangeswiththeP8Z77-IDeluxe,though. Ifevertherewasamini-ITXfanboy’sdream motherboard,theAsusP8Z77-IDeluxeistheclosest we’veseentoitbecomingareality.Theboardhas 10-phasedigitalpowerdelivery–considerablymore thaneithertheASRock(seep64)orZotac(seep68). ThiscomescourtesyofthelargeVRMdaughterboard thatsticksoutatarightangleatthetopofthe motherboard.It’sarareandinherentlyexpensive featuretohaveonamotherboard,butdespitethis extravagance,theP8Z77-IDeluxeonlycosts£20 morethanitstwocompetitorsinthisLabstest. ThedaughterboardalsohousestheVRMs,sothey aren’tpepperedacrossthePCB,furtherreducingits alreadylimitedreal-estate.Asaresult,itemssuchas the8-pinEPS12VconnectorandUSB3headerhave beenlocatedattheedgeofthePCB,ratherthanthe middle.There’salsoalotofroomaroundtheCPU

socket,sowaterblocksandlargeaircoolersshouldn’t havecompatibilityissues. However,thereisonesizeableissue,andthat’s theon-boardaudioheader.It’slocatedbelowthe backofthePCI-Egraphicsslotand,withacaseaudio connectorpluggedin,itfoulsmostgraphicscards. Ourtestsetuponlyjustworkedwiththeheader connectedbutweneededtouseafairamountofforce onthegraphicscardtomakeitfit,whichcausedthe motherboardtobendintheprocess. Thankfully,theP8Z77-IDeluxedoesn’tdisappoint intermsoffeatures.IthasmoreUSBportsthanany otherboardontest–atotalofeightUSB2andsix USB3,andistheonlyboardtoofferBluetoothas wellasWiFi.LiketheASRock,italsofeaturessingle DisplayPort,HDMIandDVIoutputs,alongwithtwo SATA3GbpsandtwoSATA6Gbpsports,plusan additionalpairofeSATA6Gbpsports. Whileithasnoon-boardpowerorresetbuttons,or POSTerrorcodereadout,there’saCMOSclearswitch ontheI/Opanel,aswellasabuttonforAsus’USB BIOSFlashback,aniftyfeaturethatenablesyouto flashtheBIOSwithoutpoweringontheboard–you don’tevenneedaCPUinthesocket. Theboardalsoincludes Asus’AISuiteIIsoftware,which includesavastarrayofuseful tweakingandmonitoringutilities. Forexample,FanXpertprovides hands-oncontroloverfans connectedtothemotherboard, andyoucanevensetfanprofile curvesandautomatic temperatureresponses. Meanwhile,theWiFiGo! softwareusestheincluded WiFimoduleandantennasto essentiallyturntheP8Z77-I Deluxeintoawirelessaccess point,enablingyouuseitasa DLNAstreaminghub,andcontrol yourPCusingyourmobilephone.

HOW MUCH?
Price£144incVAT Manufacturer http://uk.asus.com Supplierwww.dabs.com

PERFORMANCE
Unliketheothertwoboards testedinthislabstest,theP8Z77-I DeluxemanagedtoTurboBoost

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THE 10-PHASE DIGITAL POWER DELIVERY COMES COURTESY OF A LARGE VRM DAUGHTERBOARD AT THE TOP OF THE MOTHERBOARD
to3.9GHz,givingitaclearleadinourbenchmarksat stockspeeds–a127-pointleadinourvideoencoding test,anda70-pointleadoverall. InArmaII,itwas6fps fasterthanthenextbestresulttoo,withaminimum framerateof129fps.ItalsohadthefastestSATA 6Gbpsspeedsontest,althoughonlybyawhisker overtheASRock. OverclockingtheP8Z77-IDeluxewasalso incrediblyeasy.Wesimplyneededtograduallywork ourwayuptoourmaximumCPUfrequency,buteven whenwewerealittleover-zealous,theP8Z77-IDeluxe recoveredinstantly,sowecouldcarryon. There’sawealthofoverclockingoptionstoo,though notquiteasmanyasyou’dseeonacurrentAsus RoGmotherboard. Evenso,therewasenoughflexibilitytopushour IntelCorei7-3770Ktoits4.8GHzlimitusinga1.28V vcore.Here,theCPUhadatoastytemperatureof97°C atload,butitwasstillperfectlystable.Thisyielded hugegainsinourbenchmarks,withtheoverallscore risingfrom2,210to2,868,whiletheArmaIIminimum framerateroseto135fps.

CONCLUSION
TheAsusP8Z77-IDeluxeisexpensiveforamini-ITX board.Infact,Asus’largermicro-ATXMaximusV Genecostsonlyalittlemoreandhasfarmore features.However,ifyou’reconsideringamini-ITX system,you’reprobablyalreadycomfortablewiththe ideaofshunningexpansionslotsandexoticon-board audiosystemsinfavourofreducedsize,andthe P8Z77-IDeluxeisamarvelforitssize. It’sfast,loadedwithfeaturesandveryeasytouse; theonlyslightissuewithitisthePCBlayout.Asus hasn’tonlyjoinedtheenthusiastmini-ITXparty,but alsothrowninacaseofchampagne. AL

SPEED 41 / 45 FEATURES 28 / 30 VALUE 21 / 25

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Zotac returns to the mini-ITX scene but it has fierce competition
T-1000 Excellent overclocker; power and reset switches; dual LAN ports ED 209 Lacks software and features; poor EFI

ZOTAC Z77-ITX WiFi

Z

HOW MUCH?
Price£123incVAT Manufacturer www.zotac.com Supplierwww.ebuyer.com

otachasbeenastalwartmini-ITXsupporter foryears,producingmanyinterestingand overclockablemotherboards.Infact,itsZ68ITXWiFipracticallyhadtheoverclockable Z68mini-ITXmotherboardmarkettoitself,withjust ASRockofferinganycompetition. However,nowthatAsushasjumpedonthe bandwagon,andZotac’sZ77-ITXWiFilookspractically identicaltoitsZ68predecessor,itwillbeinterestingto seewhetherZotachasinvestedenoughefforttocope withthecompetition. TheZ77-ITXWiFi’sboxistheusualZotacminiITXaffair,includingaUSB3breakoutadaptorand twoWiFiantennas.There’slittletofaultwiththe Z77-ITXWiFi’slayouteither;thelonePCI-Egraphics slotisplacedclearofallothercomponentsonthe motherboard,unlikeAsus’P8Z77-IDeluxe(seep66), wheretheon-boardsoundheaderinterfereswith yourgraphicscard. Thisisalsotheonlymotherboardontestthat featuresbothaPOSTerrorcodereadout,andpower andresetswitches–whicharealwayshandyadditions fortestingyourPCbeforeyouputittogether–while theI/OpanelsportsaCMOS clearbutton. Meanwhile,thetwoSATA 3GbpsandtwoSATA6Gbps portsarelocatedattheedgeof thePCB,asisthe24-pinATX powerconnector.However,the 8-pinEPS12Vconnectoris locatedontheothersideofthe PCB,inanawkwardposition betweentherearaudioports andVRMheatsink. Theboard’sotherfeaturesare ratheramixedbag.TheZ77-ITX WiFidoesn’thaveanon-board DVIport–insteaditfeatures twoHDMIportsandaminiDisplayPortconnector(aminiDisplayPorttoDisplayPort adaptorisincludedinthebox). ItalsohastwofewerUSB3 portsthantheASRockandAsus boards.However,itclawsback somepointswithitsdualLAN

portsandspareminiPCI-Eslot(inadditiontothe slotusedfortheWiFimodule),whichcanbeusedto connectminiPCI-ESSDs,aswellasthird-partyUSB3 andSATAexpansioncards.Thisisdefinitelyabonus overtheothertwoboardsontest,andonethatmay wellcomeinhandyifyouplantouseadiscrete graphicscard,butalsoneedadditionalUSB3or SATAports.

PERFORMANCE
Sadly,whenbenchmarkingtheZ77-ITXWiFi,we sawthatitwasn’talwaysTurboBoostingtothelofty 3.9GHzachievedbytheAsusboardwithourIntelCore i7-3770K.Asaresult,the100-200MHzdifference, dependingonwhichbenchmarkweran,sawitfall behindtheAsusinmostofourtestsatstockspeed, thoughnotbymassiveamounts. Itwas70pointsadriftinourMediaBenchmarks overall,and7fpsslowerinArmaII,althoughthis equatestoadifferenceoflessthan6percent.Its SATA6Gbpsspeedswerealittleslowertoo,dropping behindby4MB/sinthereadtestand14MB/sinthe writetest.

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WE MANAGED TO GET THE CPU TO TOP OUT AT 4.8GHz, USING A 48x MULTIPLIER AND 1.28V VCORE
TheotherareawheretheZotacfellbehindwas whenitcametousingitsEFIsystem.TheZ77-ITXWiFi notonlyhasthepoorestEFIontest,butithasaslightly outlandishcolourschemetoo.Itwasfareasiertofind overclockingsettingsontheAsusboardthanthe Zotac,andtheZ77-ITXWiFialsolacksaUSBBIOS flashingutility.There’snoexcuseforthelatternow,but thankfully,wedidn’thavereachforourbootdisk,as Zotachasn’treleasedanewBIOSyeteither. Theboardalsodoesn’tincludeanythingintheway offancontroloroverclockingsoftware.Thisisinstark contrasttotheAsusboard,whichprovidesthefull suiteoftweakingandtuningfacilitiesyou’dexpectto seeonitsfull-sizedmotherboards. Afterspendingsometimetweaking,anddealing withtheoddfailedoverclockandnon-recovery,we managedtogettheCPUtotopoutat4.8GHz,using a48xmultiplierand1.28Vvcore,wheretheCPU reachedatoasty98°CusingPrime95.Thisisour CPU’sclocklimit,though,evenonfull-sized motherboards,sothisisstilladecentresult.The overclocksawtheoverallscoreinourMedia Benchmarksriseby700points,whiletheminimum framerateinArmaIIjumpedupby12fps.

CONCLUSION
TheZotacZ77-ITXWiFioverclockswellandcosts£20 lessthantheAsusP8Z77-IDeluxetoo.However,the Asushasloadsofusefulfeatures,whiletheZotacis devoidofusefulsoftware.TheAsusalsohasavastly superiorEFIandisfareasiertooverclockasaresult. Itneverfailedtorecoverfromafailedoverclockeither, althoughtheZotacdidthisonlytwice.SadlyforZotac, theASRockZ77E-ITXisalsoeasiertouseand,asithas thesameprice,it’sthebetterbuyforthemoney. AL

SPEED 39 / 45 FEATURES 21 / 30 VALUE 22 / 25

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MOTHERBOARD RESULTS
Handbrake H.264 video encoding Multi-tasking
(high quality, 1,920 x 1080, high AF, AA disabled)

Gimp image editing

Arma II: Operation Arrowhead

Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

1,824 3,241 4,249 1,566 1,921 129fps
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

2,379 135fps

ASRock Z77E-ITX

135
162fps

ASRock Z77E-ITX Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi

1,775 2,330 4,243 1,564 1,977 146fps

3,114

Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi ASRock Z77E-ITX

1,772 1,530 1,923

2,351

3,079 4,250

Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi 0 500 ASRock Z77E-ITX 1,000 1,500 2,000

123fps
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000

135fps

0

600

1,200

1,800

2,400

Overall

Intel SATA 6Gbps read (MB/sec)

Intel SATA 6Gbps write (MB/sec)

137fps
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

161fps

MINI-ITX CASES AND MOTHERBOARDS

Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

2,210 556 528

2,868

Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

ASRock Z77E-ITX ASRock Z77E-ITX

2,140 555

2,834

122fps 526
Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi

ASRock Z77E-ITX

134fps

Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi

2,139 552

2,839

131 514
150 300 450 600 0 50
Stock speed min Overclocked min

Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi 600 0

136fps

0

750

1,500

2,250

3,000

0

150

300

450

100

150
Stock speed avg Overclocked avg

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CASE RESULTS
43
BitFenix Prodigy

Stock speed

Overclocked

CPU delta T (°C)

GPU delta T (°C)
48

BitFenix Prodigy

Fractal Design Node 304

46

Fractal Design Node 304

58

SilverStone FT03-Mini

48

SilverStone FT03-Mini

58

Lian Li PC-TU200 30 45

49
60 Lower is better

Lian Li PC-TU200 0 20 40

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0

15

60

80 Lower is better

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CASES
Price (inc VAT) Supplier Manufacturer Dimensions (W x D x H, mm) Case volume (litres) Materials Available colours Empty weight (kg) Features Front panel ports Supported motherboards External 5.25in bays External/internal 2.5in bays External/internal 3.5in bays Number of expansion slots Max CPU cooler height (mm) Max graphics card length (mm) Max PSU length (mm) Extras Cooling Fan mounts Fans supplied Dust filters Fan controller

BitFenixProdigy £65 www.overclockers.co.uk BitFenix 250 x 340 x 310 26.35 Steel, plastic Black, white 6.69 2 x USB 3, microphone, headphone Mini-ITX 1 4 5 2 160 330 160 Fyberflex handles

LianLiPC-TU200 £141 www.specialtech.co.uk Lian Li 220 x 360 x 320 25 Aluminium Black, silver 3.49 2 x USB 3, eSATA, microphone, headphone Mini-ITX 1 0 4 2 80 300 140 4 x hot-swap 3.5in bays, topmounted handle

FractalDesignNode304 £72 www.ebuyer.co.uk Fractal Design 250 x 374 x 210 19.5 Steel, plastic Black 4.83 2 x USB 3, microphone, headphone Mini-ITX 0 0 6 2 165 310 160 None

SilverStoneFT03-Mini £103 www.scan.co.uk Silverstone 189 x 235 x 397 17.6 Aluminium, plastic Black, silver 4.41 2 x USB 3, microphone, headphone Mini-ITX 0 2 1 2 78 254 SFX PSU only None

2x 120 or 1 x 140/180/200/230mm front, 1 1 x 140mm front x 120/140mm rear, 2 x 120mm roof 1 x 120mm front, 1 x 120mm rear 1 x 140mm front Yes (removable) Yes (removable)

2 x 92mm front, 1 x 120mm/140mm rear 2 x 92mm front, 1 x 140mm rear Yes (removable)

1 x 140mm floor 1 x 140mm floor Yes (removable)

MOTHERBOARDS
Price (inc VAT) Supplier Manufacturer Dimensions (mm) Features Chipset RAID Audio Fan headers Ports Storage Audio LAN WiFi / Bluetooth USB 2 / USB 3 HDMI / DVI / DP / mini-DP Overclocking control Base clock (max) CPU multiplier CPU voltage (max) RAM voltage (max) CPU PLL voltage (max) VCSSA (max) Cooling Chipset VRMs Extras

ASRockZ77E-ITX £123 www.overclockers.co.uk www.asrock.com 170 x 170

AsusP8Z77-IDeluxe £144 www.dabs.com http://uk.asus.com 170 x 170 Intel Z77 0, 1, 5 and 10 via Intel Z77 8-channel HD audio via Realtek ALC898 2

ZotacZ77-ITXWiFi £123 www.ebuyer.com www.zotac.com 170 x 170 Intel Z77 0, 1, 0+1, 5 via Intel Z77 8-channel HD audio via Realtek ALC898 2

Intel Z77 0, 1, 5 and 10 via Intel Z77 8-channel HD audio via Realtek ALC898 2

2 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x SATA 3Gbps, 1 x eSATA 3Gbps 2 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x SATA 3Gbps, 2 x eSATA 3Gbps 2 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x SATA 3Gbps 4 x surround audio, optical S/PDIF out 3 x surround audio, optical S/PDIF out 4 x surround audio, optical S/PDIF out 1 x 10/100/1000 1 x 10/100/1000 2 x 10/100/1000 / 6/6 1/1/1/0 150MHz 16x-63x 1.7V 1.8V N/A 1.208V Heatsink Heatsink / 8/6 1/1/1/0 300MHz 36x-63x 1.99V 2.135 1.9V 1.56V Heatsink Heatsink WiFi GO!, AI Suite, USB BIOS Flashback / 8/4 2/0/0/1 300Mhz 0-255x +0.3V 1.8V N/A N/A Heatsink Heatsink USB 3 breakout adaptor

Fan control and monitoring software * Prices correct at time of going to press

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>>
samotherboardandcaseformfactor, mini-ITXhasbeenaroundforyears, butitspasthasmainlybeenspentin thelow-poweredmarket,oftenwithembedded CPUs,andeventhosewithCPUsocketslacking theoverclockingoptionsoftheirfull-sizedATX siblings.However,mini-ITXmotherboards havespentthepastyearorsobecoming increasinglycapable,bothintermsoffeatures andoverclockingpotential.Infact,thismonth’s Labstestprovesthat,forthefirsttime,they’re nowabletocompeteonalmostequaltermswith largermotherboards. Thisisfantasticnews;ifyou’repreparedtolive withlimitedexpansionduetothelimitednumber

MONSTER
Antony Leather shows you how to use the greatest hardware from this month’s mini-ITX Labs test to build a water-cooled pocket rocket

Build a water-cooled mini-ITX
A
ofSATAandPCI-Eports,there’snolongerany needtousealargetowercasetohousean overclockedpowerhouse.Thishasalreadyhad significantramificationsinthemotherboard andcasemarkets,asmoremanufacturersare climbingonthemini-ITXbandwagon.We’veseen plentymoreZ77-basedmini-ITXmotherboards waitinginthewings,andloadsofnewcasestoo. However,asourmini-ITXcaseLabstest shows,therearesignificanthurdleswhen dealingwithanoverclockedCPUinaconfined space–itisn’tlikebuildingastandarddesktop PC.Inthisfeature,weshowyouhowtobuildyour ownminimonstersystemusingsomeofthebest hardwarefromthismonth’sLabstest.

>>>> 1
74 October 2012

OurcaseofchoiceisBitFenix’sProdigy(seep54).It’sbeendesignedto houseenoughcoolingequipmenttocopewithtoastyhardware,and hasroomforamid-rangewater-coolingsystemstoo,includingall-inonedual120mmliquidcoolerssuchasCorsair’sH100.It’sbyfarthe bestchoiceifyou’relookingtobuildthefastestandcoolestmini-ITX systempossible. We’veoptedforasinglewater-coolingloop,withafull-heightdual 120mm-fanradiatorintheroofcoolingourgraphicscardandCPU.It wouldbepossibletofitanotherradiatorinthefrontofthecaseifyou needmorecooling,oruseathinnerradiatorintheroof.However,it’s unlikelythatyou’llbeabletousethe5.25inbay,asthisissituatedinthe roofwhereyourradiatorwillsit.

>>TheHARDWARE

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CUSTOMISATION

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>>> 2
Dismantlingacasecanbequite anarduousprocessinvolving drillingoutrivetsanddealing withplasticflanges.However, somecasesusescrewstohold everythingtogether.Whilethe Prodigyisn’tentirelybound usingscrews,youcanstripit backtoitsbareshellusinglittle morethanascrewdriver.Your firstjobistoremovethetopfan coverbyopeningthelatchon thetopandleveringitout.
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>>Making ROOM

>>WaterCOOLING

>>

We’llonlybeusinganSSDinourbuild,securedwithVelcroordoublesidedtape,sowe’reremovingalltheharddrivecages.A256GBSSD nowcostsaround£150,whichisenoughspaceforalltheessentials, bargargantuanamountsofvideosandphotos.However,ifyouoptfora differentpump,radiatorandreservoircombinationfromtheonewe’re usingthenyoumightbeabletokeepthelower3.5indrivecageifyouwant toaddaharddrive.Therearetwoscrewsoneithersideofthetopofthe casethatenableyoutoreleasethetop3.5indrivecage.

4

Yourchoiceofradiatorwilldependonthehardwareyouneedtocool.A full-heightdual120mm-fanradiator(weusedaPhobyaG-Changer240, (£45fromwww.aquatuning.co.uk)istheminimumwe’drecommendto coolaquad-coreIvyBridgeCPU,andagraphicscardsuchasaGeForceGTX 6803GBorAMDRadeonHD79703GB.However,ifyou’rethinkingabout applyingsomeextremeoverclocksthenit’sworthconsideringusinghighspeedfans,orinstallinganadditionalradiatorinthefrontofthecase.

Younowneedtoremovethefrontfasciaofthecase.Insidethecase’s front,thefasciasecurestotheframeofthecasewithfourplasticflanges. Bendingtheseoutwardsallowsyoutopushthemforwards,releasingthe entirefasciafromthecase.Meanwhile,screwsonthefrontfasciaand sideofthecaseenableyoutoremovethesingle5.25indrivecage.With thisremoved,leavethefasciaoffforthetimebeing,asthiswillmakelife easierwheninstallingthewater-coolinghardware.

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Removethelower3.5indrivecageand you’llbeleftwithabarechassisjust beggingforsomewater-coolinggear. Werecommendwaitinguntilthisstage beforeorderingyourwater-cooling hardware.Unlessyou’remimickinga setupsomeoneelsehasbuiltwithan identicalcase,youwon’thaveagood enoughideaabouttheexactamountof spacethatwillbeavailableuntilyou’ve strippedeverythingout.TheProdigy hasroomforafull-heightdouble 120mm-fanradiatorintheroof– we’vealsoseenacoupleofexamples of200mmradiatorsbeingusedinthe frontfanmount.

>> >> >>
WorldMags.net

Usethescrewsthatwereincludedwithyourradiatortomountthefans. Makesuretheybothpointinthesamedirection,andthatthey’relocated onthecorrectside,dependingonwhetheryouwanttohavethem drawinginairorexhaustingitthroughtheradiator.We’veoptedfora pushingsetup,withthefanspushingairthroughtheradiatorandout ofthecase.TheProdigyhasmountingholesforfansorradiatorsinthe roof,soonceyou’veinstalledyourchoiceoftubefittings,lineupthe radiatorandsecureitinplace.

Thetubingsizedoesn’taffectcooling,soit’sworthusing 3/8ininternal-diametertubingasopposedtothe1/2in tubingthat’spopularinlargerPCs(weused3/8inID Masterkleertubingfromwww.aquatuning.co.uk, £7for10ft).Thisisbecausethe3/8intubinghas amuchtighterbendradius,enablingyouto squeezeitaroundcornerswithout kinking.Thisisessentialinthe tightconfinesofamini-ITX case.Tothisend,weoptedfor Alphacool3/8incompression fittingsforusewith3/8inID tubing (£4eachfromwww. aquatuning.co.uk).

>> 8

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CUSTOMISATION

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We’reusingthismonth’sLabs-winning mini-ITXmotherboard, theAsusP8Z77-I Deluxe(seep66).ThankstoaVRM daughterboard,ithaslotsofroom aroundtheCPUsocket;ourXSPC RaystormCPUwaterblock(£51from www.aquatuning.co.uk)fittedwith plentyofroomtospare.It’salsoworth securingthefittingstotheblockpriorto mounting–doingthisafterwardscan placeunduepressureonthemounting mechanismandmotherboard.

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>>Fill the LOOP

Priortocabletidying,youneedtoleak-testyourwater-coolingloop,just toensurethatyouwon’tdamageanyofyourhardware.Startbyfillingit withcoolant–weoptedforsomeMayhem’sAuroraNebulaBlue(£15 fromwww.specialtech.co.uk),whichlooksfantasticnexttothecopperplatedfittings.Fillyourchosenreservoirwiththecoolant,followingthe instructions provided–ourEKreservoirhasascrew-caplid,makingit easytofillthesystem. Afterthat,connectthepumptoyourPSUanddisconnectthepower toyourmotherboardandgraphicscard.YounowneedtouseanATX bridgingplug(85pfromwww.aquatuning.co.uk)tojump-startthePSU withoutpluggingitintothemotherboard.Disconnectingthepower ensuresyourhardwarewillbesafeifanyleaksshouldoccurinthistest.

TheMayhem’scoolantisfairlygoodatbleedingthesystemofairbubbles itself,butit’salwaysworthtiltingthecasetoallowairtobleedfromthe radiatorandCPUblocks–thankfully,thisisamucheasiertaskwiththe dinkyProdigythanitiswithafull-towercase.Don’tbefooledintothinking thatthepearlescenteffectofthecoolantistrappedair–it’saactuallyan ingeniousfeaturethatmakesthereservoirlookparticularlyspectacular. Don’tbetemptedtofillthereservoirtothebrim,though.Instead,once you’vefullybledtheairfromtheloop,andit’spoweredon,allowagood centimetreorsobetweenthecoolantlevelandthetopofthereservoir.The pressureofthepumpwilllowerthecoolantlevel,meaningthattherewillbe alotofpressureinthereservoirwhenit’sswitchedoff.Leavingasmallgap 78 willallowthecoolanttoexpandwhenthesystemisswitchedoff.

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Withthemotherboardmounted,younowneedto decideonalocationforthepump.Inourcase,thisis theonlyvariable;ourradiatorneedstobelocatedin theroof,andwe’reusingacombinedpumpand reservoir.Youcanalsoseeourtubingbendseasily undertheradiator–thiswouldn’thavebeenthecase withthickertubing. Pumpscomeinmanyshapesandsizes,butas we’rejustcoolingtheCPUandGPU,andusingjust sixbarbs,weoptedforaPhobyaDC12-220& EK-ReservoirComboDCP2.2Bundle(£49from www.aquatuning.co.uk).Thisisn’taspowerfulasa LaingDDCorD5pump,butthecombinedpumpand reservoircanfitintotinyspaces.Italsocostslessthan £50,whileaLaingpumpcostsover£60onitsown.

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TocoolourGeForceGTX6803GB,weoptedfor ourLabs-winningGPUfull-coverwaterblock, theXSPCRazorGTX680(seeIssue107,p65). WeroutedthetubingtoitfromtheCPU,and theloopthenheadsbackdowntothepump, withtheradiatorbeingfeddirectlyfromthe pump’soutlet.Weleftenoughslackinthe tubingsothatwecouldeasilyremovethe graphicscard,withouthavingtodraintheloop first.Dependingonwhichwayyouroutethe tubing,youcouldalsooptfor90-degree angledfittingstokeeptubingoutoftheway, particularlyontheGPUwaterblock’soutlet.

CUSTOMISATION

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>> Cable TIDYING
CabletidyingisusuallythebaneofallPCbuilds,butit’sa comparativelyeasyjobintheProdigy.BitFenixhashadthe foresighttoleavelargegapsoneithersideofthePSUcage, whichprovideexcellentlocationstotieyourstraypower cablesandtuckthemaway.Asthere’snomotherboardtray, youneedtoperformallyourcabletidyingontherearsideof thecase–accesswillbeeasywiththesidepanelremoved. Dependingonwhichmotherboardyouchoose,youmay nothaveenough3-pinfanheaderstopowerallyourfans (theAsusP8Z77-IDeluxeonlyhastwofanheaders,butour caseandcoolingsystemhasfourfans). Tosolvethisminorissue,weusedsomeMolexto3-pin fanadaptorstopowertheadditionalfans;youcouldalsouse aninternalfancontroller(sincethe5.25inbayisunusable) orafansplittercable.

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That’sit!Sitbackandadmireyourminimonster.Ifyou’reusinganyofthe Z77 motherboardsinthismonth’sLabstest, youcanuseoursettingstooverclock yourCPU.Alotwilldependonyour particularsetup–especiallyifyouwatercoolboththeCPUandgraphicscard– andthenumberandsizeofradiatorsyou use.Checkyourtemperaturesoncethe use. Check your temperatures once the PCisupandrunning. PC is up and running.

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ThefinalcomponenttoinstallistheSSD.Weleftthisuntillastbecause youcansecureit practicallyanywhereintheProdigywithsome double-sidedtapeorVelcro.Withthelocationofthepumpfinalised, andtherestofourcablestidiedaway,wesettledonthesideofthePSU cageforthelocationofourSSD.Thismeantthatwecouldroutethe SATApoweranddatacablesdirectlytoitthroughoneofthecablerouteingholes,ratherthantrailing themaroundtheinsideofthe case.ItalsomeansthattheSSDcanbeeasilyaccessedfromtheside.

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GRUMPYGAMER 82 Myauthority SPECOPS:THELINE 84 Justsand inour eyes?

One-dimensional

88 QUANTUM CONUNDRUM
THOMASWAS 89 ALONE MAGIC:THE 90 GATHERING

Hip tobesquare

DuelsofthePlaneswalkers 2013 METRO:LASTLIGHT 93 How’sitglowing? DEVPERSPECTIVE 94 Wherehasall my THEENGINEROOM 96 Unity

graphicsmemorygone?

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om A c cuLstIVE IMpGE EXC US
SequeltotheoldNaturalSelectionmod forHalf-Life,NaturalSelection2fuses real-timestrategyandfirst-person shooterelements,givingyouthechoice toplayasstrategiccommandersor frontlineforcesinamultiplayer environment.Thedistinctionbetween structure-buildingcommandersand weapon-totingsoldiersisn’ttheonly differencebetweenteams,though,as thisimagesuggests–findoutmoreat www.naturalselection2.com

Natural Selection 2

Readers’ Night Wed, 29 August, 9 till late
Theplace OurCounter-Strike:Sourceserver Whatyouneed Anup-to-dateCounter-Strike: Sourceinstallation GAMESERVERIPADDRESSES 32-playerBC2 85.236.101.22:16667 32-playerCS:Source 85.236.101.24:37015 FINDUSONSTEAM Publicgroup http://steamcommunity.com/groups/ CustomPC ModernWarfare2 http://steamcommunity.com/ groups/CustomWarfare2

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GAMING

WHY GAMES SHOULD RESPECT YOU

D

Joe Martin may not know how to swim, drive or cycle, but he still demands your respect
I think I’ve actually reached breaking point now. I don’t want to play games that keep having to unsubtly remind me how to play them because they don’t respect my intelligence. I don’t want to play games where a rude, fictional soldier is interrupting me every ten seconds to tell me exactly where to stand. I don’t want to play games that are padded out with boring cutscenes that show me actions I could be doing myself. Importantly, I’m also going to make these expectations an explicit part of my reviewing process. If a game doesn’t seem to respect your time, I’ll tell you as brazenly as possible. I saw Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 demonstrated recently, for example. That game didn’t respect player time and, despite all the hyperbole thrown around by Treyarch, what I saw of the game was little more than a tedious procession from one time-wasting tactic to another. It was so boring that I decided I wasn’t even going to preview it properly in this issue; your time is far too valuable for you to be expected to read about foregone conclusions. It bears mentioning that a lot of this realisation comes from an excellent lecture by Jonathan Blow called Video Games and the Human Condition, by the way. You can and should watch it online at http://tinyurl.com/JonathanBlow if have the time.
FIND ME ON TWITTER: @JOETHREEPWOOD

oes anyone in the games industry really respect me? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately, though not in the fishing-for-compliments way you might expect. I’m far more concerned about whether games respect me as a player in terms of my time, intelligence and patience. I don’t think they do respect me. Instead, as the games industry has ‘matured’ over the past decade, I think games have been increasingly losing respect for their audiences. It used to be that shooters, for example, would let players wander freely and experiment, but now I can’t take three steps in Call of Duty without being shoved into a breach mini-game or a truck-mounted turret. And, sure, those types of game elements are exciting and interesting the first or second time you see them – and they arguably even help to fulfil the purpose of the game then too. These sequences and ideas don’t show up just once or twice, though; they’re starting to form the bulk of the experience and, because we’re overexposed, they become dull, purposeless and disrespectful. The worst part, though, is that this isn’t something you see in just a couple of games. It’s everywhere, across every genre, and the games that seem to be the most popular are the worst offenders. Take Diablo III, for example, which uses in-game stores to repeatedly dip into the wallets of players, while the game itself has been designed around known psychological ploys to keep you playing. That isn’t respectful; it’s practically treating players like constantly processed cattle.

I’m going to make these expectations an explicit part of my reviews. If a game doesn’t respect your time, I’ll tell you

WHAT I’M PLAYING No,Ihaven’tbeenplayingHalf-Life3–I’ve beenplayingthelittle-knownMissingInformationmod,which piecestogethercontentcutfromtheoriginalplanforHalf-Life2.

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SPEC OPS: THE LINE
Apocalypse nowish
HEART Storyline choices; occasionally poignant DARKNESS Hypocritical ambitions; repetitive

W

THE KNOWLEDGE
Price£29.99incVAT Publisher2KGames DeveloperYager Developments Website www.specopstheline.com

emayaswellsay itupfront:Spec Ops:TheLine isn’tthatgreat. Itisn’taterriblegame,but asfarasthird-person shootersareconcerned,it’s asmechanicallyrun-of-themillasyouraverageconsole port.There’sacoversystem,a two-weaponlimitandaregular dribbleofturretsequencesthroughoutthe campaign–nothingthat wehaven’tseen100times before.However,there’soneaspectofitthatstands outasbeingworthyofdiscussion,andthat’sthe introductionofchoicesintothestory. Tounderstandwhatmakesthechoicesso important,youfirstneedtoknowthatSpecOpsisan adaptationofJosephConrad’sHeartofDarkness, althoughit’ssetinstorm-besetDubairatherthan onanAfricanriver.Theideaisthataperpetual sandstormhascutoffDubaifromtherestofthe worldandeveryoneinsideispresumedtobedead,

includingaUSarmyregiment thatstayedbehindtoaid survivors.Sixmonthslater, it’syourjobtoinvestigate andfindoutwhathappened tothecolonelincharge. Ofcourse,thestorylineis alreadyfullofholesatthis point.Ifitwassoeasytosendin yourunit,whywasDubaisealed off?Whysendonlythreemento rescueeveryone?Theseissuesandothers hovernonsensicallyoverthestoryline;they’renever openlyaddressedandtheybecomeevenmore noticeableasthegamecontinues. Regardless,afterafewhoursofmindless violence,SpecOpsstartstodrawclosertothesource materialbyrevealingtheatrocitiescommittedinthe city.Atfirst,you’rejustwalkingpastmassgraves, butsoonafterthat, you’reinvitedintotheheartof darknessyourself.WillyousavetheCIAoperative withvaluableinformation,orwillyousavethe citizenshe’sprotecting?Willyouuseprohibited

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REVIEW

AFTER A FEW HOURS OF MINDLESS VIOLENCE, SPEC OPS DRAWS CLOSER TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL BY REVEALING THE ATROCITIES COMMITTED IN THE CITY

weaponstoachieveyourgoals?These choicessteptotheforeandthe consequencesarerevealedviathe commentsofyourAIteammates. Whiletheintroductionofthesechoicesis admirablefordisplayingSpecOps’ambition

ArrivingonthePCin1998,theSpecOps serieshashadatroubledhistory.The firstthreegamesweredevelopedby ZombieStudios,whichreleasedthe disappointingBlacklight:Retribution forfreeonSteamrecently.Afterthat, thefranchisefocusedmoreonconsoles andsawseveralnewteamsbecome involved.Thelastgame,Airborne Commando,cameoutin2002andthe franchisehasbeenhibernatingever since,withevenRockstarcancellinga plannedrebootforthePlayStation2.

SERIES PROFILE – SPEC OPS

tobemorethanjustacorridorshooter, SpecOps:TheLine mayreceivean however,theyaren’tenoughtoimmediately approving nodforitsambition,butthat elevatethegameasawholeforavarietyof doesn’tpreventitfromchokingwhenit reasons.Someofthechoicesareincredibly bitesoffmorethanitcanchew.Theproblem poorlypresented–thealternativetousing withtryingtobuildcomplexemotional whitephosphorusagainstyourenemies, responsesintogamesisthattomakethem forexample,isthatthey’llspawninfinitely work,youhavetocommittothemwhollyand untilyourunoutofammoanddie.Many consistently.SpecOps,intryingtobebothan otherchoicesarealsosimilarlyartificially actionblockbusterandameaningfulreport constructedtothepointwheretheyshatter onthehumancondition,failstoexcelon yoursuspensionofdisbelief. eitherfront.Theendingsmaystarttoveer ItalsoappearshypocriticalforSpecOpsto towardsthemarvellous(especiallyintheir conveyamessageaboutthehorrificnature ambition),butthatdoesn’timmediately ofwarinagamethatfeaturesslow-motion redeemalltheotheraspects. explodingheadshots. We’dlovetoseemoregameshandling Thisisagamethatglorifies topicssuchasthis,butcoupling massviolenceandforcesyou thissortofdramawithrepetitive, tokillthousandsofpeopleto predictablecombatisn’ta finishit–butthentriesto convincing waytodoit.Strip makeyoufeelguiltyforit.It’s awaytheliteraryambitionsand masochisticandultimately you’rebackwhereyoustarted– unfairwhenconsideredinthe SpecOps:TheLineisn’tgreat, OVERALL widercontext. butitisn’tterribleeither.

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TECHNICAL ANALYSIS
SpecOps:TheLineisanobviousconsole-to-PCport,withlittle optimisationforthegraphicallysuperiorPCplatform.This doesn’tmeanthatthegamelooksbad–onthecontrary,itlooks quitegood–butthere’slittleopportunitytocustomisethegamein ameaningfulway.Thefieldofviewisfixed,forexample,andmouse accelerationisbafflinglyturnedonatalltimes. Theoptionsformalisedinthegame’smenuaren’texactly thrillingeither.BesidesswitchingShadowsandTextureDetail levelsbetweenfiveimperceptiblydifferentsettings,thereisn’talot todo.We’veincludedsomescreenshotsoftheseonVeryLowand VeryHightogiveyouanideaoftheverybestandworstthatthe gamecanlook,butotherthanthelossofthedynamicshadowson thelowend,there’slittleimpact.Theonlyareawecouldspota changeintexturequalitywasonthebeltofthemaincharacter, whichlookscrisperonVeryHigh. TheoneupsideofSpecOps’consoleoriginsarethatitwillrun onoldersystemswithoutputtingupmuchofafight–3GBofRAM, a2.4GHzquad-coreCPUandaDirectX9graphicscardwith512MB ofRAMareallthat’srecommendedtorunthegame.Despitethis, thegraphicsstilllookgood,though,mainlybecauseofthegame’s linearstructure–there’slittlechancetowanderoffthepathor performtheunexpected. Eventhecontrollayoutpointstoaconsole-focuseddesign,with nooptiontosetsecondaryinputsandastreamlinedsetofcontextsensitivecontrols.Themiddlemousebutton,forexample,isused toissuesnipe,healandgrenadeorders,allbasedonwhat’sunder thereticulewhenyouclickit.Thisisn’tanissueatfirst,butatthe harderdifficultylevels,it’sfrustratingthatyoucan’tgivemore nuanceddirectivestoyoursupportingAIdrones. Worstofall,theINIfilesareencrypted,soyoucan’tmanuallyfix hiddenoptionsthatwayeither.Afan-madedecrypterhassince beencreated,butreportsindicatethatit’sfarfromreliableand oftencreatesmoreproblemsthanitsolves.However,ifyouwant totryit,youcandownloaditfromhttp://tinyurl.com/CPC-specops

TEXTURES
HI GH LO W

SHADOWS
HI GH LO W

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Like a boson
PHYSICS Funny and smart PSYCHICS Often fiddly

QUANTUM CONUNDRUM

V

THE KNOWLEDGE
Price£9.99incVAT PublisherSquareEnix DeveloperAirtightGames Websitehttp:// quantumconundrum.com

alve’s atmospheric alve’satmospheric puzzler Portal has puzzlerPortalhas loomed large over the loomedlargeoverthe games industry for years, gamesindustryforyears, but there is none that sits so firmly in its butthereisnonethatsitssofirmlyinits shadow as Quantum Conundrum. Not only shadowasQuantumConundrum.Notonly arebothgamessingle-player,science-orientated comedypuzzlersaboutdistortingthelawsofphysics, butbothweredesignedbyKimSwift–formerlyof Valve,andnowofAirtightGames. What’smore,bothgameshaveasimilarstructure whenitcomestostorytelling,withConundrum onplatformingpuzzles;youoftenhavetomakevery castingyouasalittleboywhomusttraverseaseries precisejumpswhileswappingdimensions.Thereare ofillogicalpuzzlesinordertorescuehismadscientist manypuzzleswhereyouhavetotraversegapsinthe uncle,ProfessorQuadwrangle.VoicedbyJohnD SlowMotiondimensionbyhoppingfromonethrown Lancie,Quadwrangleismorekindlyandtalkative objecttoanother,forexample,andthisisoften thanPortal’sGlaDOS–butit’snotablethatbothexist frustratinglydifficultfromafirst-personperspective. primarilyasavoicethaturgesyouthroughthegame. Thatsaid,Conundrum’scomplextoolsetmeans Ratherthanbasingitselfaroundtheuseofportals thatthedifficultyisconsistentthroughoutthegame, andspacemanipulation,however,Conundrumlets asopposedtoPortal’sdifficultycurve.Thereareplenty youchangethelawsofphysicsasawholebyswitching ofplaceswherepuzzlescanhavemultiplesolutions, throughfourdifferentdimensions.Eachhasunique nottomentioncollectiblestofind,aswell. propertiesyoucanharness,suchastheFluffy Theresultofcombiningthistoughlevelofdifficulty Dimensionwhereeverythingistentimeslighter withamorechildish,cartoonysettingthanPortal’s andsofterthanusual,soyoucanwieldlargeritems. isn’tgoingtobetoeveryone’staste,however.Infact,it’s Thefourdimensionsdon’tconfinetheireffects sometimesdifficulttodiscernthetargetaudiencefor tothepuzzle-criticalitemseither,buttheentire QuantumConundrum.UnlikePortal,thisisn’tagame level.Paintingsanddecorativeitemswill thatyoucanexpecttoeasilyplaywithnonalsoshifttomatchthenewreality–the gamers,despiteitscartoonishstyling. usualpictureofaboywithaballoonwill Thisdoesn’tmeanthatitcan’tbe becomeapictureofaboycrushedunder enjoyedonitsown,though,especially aleadweightintheHeavydimension, ifyou’reabletotakeitatfacevalueand forexample. don’tmindperseveringwithrepetitive WhereConundrumdiffersfromPortal environmentsandfiddlyplatformjumps. OVERALL JOE MARTIN fortheworse,however,iswithitsfocus

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REVIEWS

It’s hip to be square
RIGHT ANGLE Witty; moving; original WRONG ANGLE A little too easy

THOMAS WAS ALONE

V

THE KNOWLEDGE
Price£5.99incVAT PublisherMikeBithell DeveloperMikeBithell Websitewww. thomaswasalone.com

ideogamescantellallsortsof stories,buttoooften,thegames industrytrendstowardsthe knownsafetyofblockbusterseries. Hugeexplosions,endlessturretsequencesanda constantparadeofsoldierswhocan’tquitegrowfull beardsbutwon’teverstoptrying.ThomasWasAlone doesn’thaveanyofthat,however–noteventhe beards,andit’sallthebetterforit. Instead,ThomasWasAlonehasasenseof Eventheword‘polished’isinadequatewhenit warmthandwhimsythatmakesitimmediately comestosummingupthispuzzle-platformer; invitingtoeveryconceivabletypeofaudience.Ithas Thomashasbeensoexpertlybuffedthatitsfinishis acastofsmall,multi-colouredquadrilaterals,each practicallymirror-like.Thisimpressionismadeall ofwhichrepresentsanAIunitinsideasystemthat’s themorestrikingbythesimplicityofthedesign.All suddenlybecomesentient,andeachofwhichsets youhavetodoineachlevelisnavigatetheavailable outtouseitsuniqueskillstoaccomplishgoals.For charactersthroughit,switchingthecharacter example,Clairefloatsandisconvincedthatshe’sa currentlycontrollingtoharnessthepowersofeach superhero,whileSarahcandouble-jumpandis oneforthegoodofthegroup. brilliantlymegalomaniacal. Theoneunfortunateconsequenceofallthis Andthenthere’slovable,affableThomas.Hecan’t streamlining,however,isthatThomashas doanythinginparticular,butyoucan’thelpwanting essentiallysacrificedcomplexityforaccessibility, topluckhimfromthescreensoyoucangivehima andthegameisunlikelytochallengeevenirregular bighug.We’recomfortableadmittingthat. gamersasaresult.There’senoughcontentinitto ThefactthatThomasWasAlonemanagesto keepyoupluggingawayforafewdays,sovaluefor exudethissenseofmagicalcharismacanbe moneyisn’tmuchofanissue;however,it’sashame attributedtomanyindividualelementsofthedesign. there’snoeurekamomentstobehadfromsolving There’sthehilariouslymelodramaticnarrationby eventhehardestpuzzlesposedbythegame. DannyWallace,forexample,andthe Thatlackofsignificantlyharder waythewritingmakesthegamefeellike challengesmakesThomasWasAlone ahigh-techbedtimestory.Thegame’s uniquelysuitableforplayingwithother biggeststrength,however,istheway peopleofallagesandabilities,however. designerMikeBithellallowsthese Infact,we’vetriedthisalready,andit’s underlyingelementstoshinethrough anexperiencethatwe’dinstantly bytrimmingoutanythingthatdoesn’t recommendtoeveryone. OVERALL JOE MARTIN absolutelyneedtobeinthegame.

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REVIEW

MAGIC: THE GATHERING – DUELS OF THE PLANESWALKERS 2013
We’d tap that
PLANE Deep and complex PLAIN Occasionally sedentary

M

THE KNOWLEDGE
Price£6.99incVAT PublisherWizardsofthe CoastLLC DeveloperStainless Games Websitewww.wizards. com/magic/digital/ duelsoftheplaneswalkers. aspx

agic:TheGatheringhasbeen whatcanbeplayedandwhen,whileaction lampoonedasfarbackasFallout movesforwardsataregularrateandcan 2,whereyourcharactercould beimmediatelypausedatanypoint. becomeaddictedtoasuspiciously Meanwhile,tooltips,hintsandflavourtext similarcardgamecalledTragic.Stepaway groundyouintheworldandconveyallthe fromanypreconceptionsyouhaveabout essentialinformationwithoutoverwhelming Magic’seye-blurringdepthandwallet-draining theprocess.It’saremarkableaccomplishment. design,however,andyou’llfindanincredibly Theonlythorninitsside,infact,isthatthe interestinggamethat’srewardingandstrategic. presentationissostreamlinedthat,onceyou’ve Thebasicrulesaresimple;traditionally,twoplayers learnedhowtoplay,youoftenwanttorushahead arecastintherolesofwizardswhobattlethrough fasterthanthegameactuallyallows.Thiswillprobably accumulatedcardsthatrepresentvariousforces, beespeciallyfrustratingforthosealreadyfamiliarwith spellsandresources.Inthisdigitaladaptationofthe thegamefrompreviousversionsorthetraditional game,youmainlyaccruenewcardsbybestingthe cardformat,butthereareplentyofimprovements single-playercampaignmode,thensortyour overpreviousdigitalversionstolessenthesting.The reservesintodecksthatyoucarrytotheonlineportion. multiplayeroptionhasbeenbroadenedtoinclude Thedetailofhowyourcardsareusedaretoo worldwideleaderboards,forexample,aswellastwoinvolvedtosumuphere,withacomplicatedsystem vs-twocooperativematchesandmore. ofroundsmadeyetmorebafflingbythesheervariety Thealreadyimpressiveproductionandreplay ofcardsonoffer.Therearesomanyvariationsand valueshavejumpedforwardstoo.Thenew3Dplaying criticaleffectstoremember,fromTrample(excess deckandbackgroundsgiveMagicamorestylised damagespillsontoopposingforces)toShroud(can’t gloss,whilethecampaignhasbeenbolsteredwith betargetedbyspells)–andthat’sallwithoutgetting challengesthatwillkeepyoucomingbackformore. intothenitty-gritty.Whendoyousearchyour Planeswalkers2013istheperfectantidoteto graveyard?What’sthedifference Magic:TheGathering’simageproblem, betweenanenchantmentandartefact? peelingbacktheunsightlystereotypes Whilethesenuanceshavemadethe thatplaguedthecommonperception conventionalcardgameanintimidating andremovingthebarriersofentryfor prospectfornewplayers,however, newcomers.It’squitesimplythemost Planeswalkers2013ispresentedsimply gracefulandrefinedtakeonthefranchise enoughtomeanthatthisisn’tamajor yet,andonethat’swellworthalook. OVERALL JOE MARTIN issue.Subtlegloweffectsletyouknow

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www.scan.co.uk 0871 472 4747

www.overclockers.co.uk www.dabs.com 0871 200 5052 WorldMags.net

www.ebuyer.com

PREVIEW

METRO: LAST LIGHT
Tunnel vision
tisn’toftenthattheapocalypseispresented asbeinggenuinelyterrifyingincomputer games.Exciting,sure,butnotscary.Instead, gameseriessuchasFalloutandLeft4Dead preferoffsettingthefictionaldeathsofeveryone you’veeverknownwithsomeslyMontyPython referencesorfreneticcombat.LastLight,onthe otherhand,specificallysetsouttogiveyouthechills. Themechanicsbywhich4AGamesachievesthis arealmosttoonumeroustomention,rangingfrom thecontinueduseofghostlyvoicesandapparitions toasubtlechangeinaestheticsthat’sslightly differenttootherpost-apocalypticgames.THQcalls it‘nuclearspring’andit’sintendedtobleedalittle morevariationintothepost-apocalypsepalette, whilealsomakingyoufeeluncomfortablewiththe realisationthattheworldischangingaroundyou. Themosteffectivefear-makingtacticofall, though,isalsooneofthesmallest–anewfeature called‘maskwipe’,whichseesyourvisionsteadily obscuredbytheenvironment.Becomecaught inarainstormorclosecombat,forexample, andthevisorofyourgasmaskwillget spattered,meaningthatyouhaveto manuallycleanit. Itsoundslikeasmallchange,butit hasadramaticeffectwhenit’spiledon topofalltheexistingimmersionsystems carriedoverfromMetro2033,suchasthe torchthathastoberegularlyrecharged, aswellasthelimitedamountofair.When you’redashingacrossthesurfaceof Moscowandagroupofmutantssuddenly descendsonyou,tryingtofendthemoffwhile effectivelyhalf-blind,chokingandsurroundedby darknessisnothingshortofnerve-shredding. Bestofall,THQhastakenonboardalotofwhatit sayswas‘validcriticism’ofthecombatandAIinthe firstgame.Ithasrespondedbynotonlyimproving thosesystems,butalsoadjustingtheoverallpaceof thesequel.LastLightwillplayatamuchslowerpace than2033,withmoreroomforexplorationsothat playerscandealwithenemiesontheirownterms. However,thegamewillalsostillthrowinplentyof furiousfirefights. What’simportanttotakeawayfromMetro:Last Light,however,isthatTHQseemstobepushingback againstthetrendssetbymostotherbig-nameFPS games.ChattingwithTHQ’sHuwBeynon,there’s nospielabout‘accessibility’or‘deliveringamore cinematicexperience’.Instead,theconversationis about4AGames’creativevision,andhowthat’s communicatedintinydesigntouches. Theresult,wethink,isexactlywhatalotof single-playerfansarecallingoutfor–ablend offirst-personshooterandRPGelements that’sgrowingstrongeranddeeperasit progresses,ratherthanbecomingmore diluted.Itstillremainstobeseenhow wellthestorycanbetoldonalargerlevel, andif4AGameswillmanagetostrikea goodbalancewhenitcomestodifficulty, butwe’llfindoutinduecourse.Atthe moment,we’rejusthappytofinda technicallydemandingPCgamethat’s scalinginapositivedirection.Therest oftheindustryshouldtakenote.
JOE MARTIN

THE KNOWLEDGE
PublisherTHQ Developer4AGames Website www.enterthemetro.com ReleasedateEarly2013

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Cliff Harris

Where has my graphics memory gone?
G
iventhatevenbasicgraphics Graphicscardscanonlycopewithtextures thatarea‘poweroftwo’intermsof cardsoftenhave1GBofRAM dimensions,sothescreensizeisroundedup asstandardnow,many to2,048x2,048,orroughly4millionpixels gamersmustoccasionally findthemselvesscratchingtheir twocopiesofthescreen–theonein headsandwonderingwhattheir frontofyou,andtheonethatthegame gamesaredoingwithallthatRAM. isrenderinginthebackgroundready Atleastpartoftheansweristhat forthenextframe. itrequiresalotmoreworkandpixels Foreachframe(ideally60timesa andtexturememorythanyoumight second),thecardwill‘swap’those imaginetorenderamoderngame, images,soyouinstantlygetafully andI’lltrytoillustratethatbyusing renderedframe,withoutseeingthe theonlyexampleIhavetohandfor framebeingrenderedbehind-thecollectingsuchdata,whichismy scenes.Ifyouturnoffv-sync,youcan gameGratuitousTankBattles.GTB sometimessee‘tearing’whichisthe isatop-down2Dstrategytowervisualartefactthissystemisdesigned onlycopewithtexturesthatarea‘powerof defence/RTSgame.Youcanzoominand toavoid.Asyoucansee,thegamealreadyhas two’intermsofdimensions,sotragically,the outquiteheavily(whichisimportantforthe afrontandback-buffer(possiblyseveral screensizeisroundedupto2,048x2,048,or purposeofthisdiscussion),andpeopleare more),soourgraphicsRAMusagehas roughly4millionpixels. generallycomplimentaryaboutitsgraphics. alreadydoubledto44MB. Soyoucouldassumethatweneedjust4MB Ontheoppositepageisascreenshotof Likemostgraphicallyshinygames,GTB ofRAM,pluswhatevertexturesalltheinfantry thegameinactionatnight-time(also alsohasabunchofcleverstuffthatbumpsit &tanksuse,right?Notevenclose.Firstly, important)withsomelaserbeamsshooting upfurther.Rememberthatthisisanight-time unlikehighlycompressedJPEGimages,the atstuff.Asit’sa2Dgame,youmight shot,whichmeansthatIneedanothersneaky graphicscardwillrepresenteachpixelusing automaticallyassumethatlittlehorsepower copyofthewholescreentowhichIcandraw threeorfourbytes(dependingonwhether isrequiredonthegraphicsfronttorenderit. lightmaps.Thisisthen‘composited’withthe Ohboy,wouldyoubewrong. renderedworldatthelastminute,so AgraboftheDirectXoutputforthat yougetsearchlightsandsooninthe YOU’D NOTICE IF MIP-MAPS WERE game.That’s66MB.Ialsousesome exactframe(thankstoniftysoftware calledPix)tellsmethatatthepointof cunningdistortioneffectsinthegame TURNED OFF, AS EVERYTHING thatrender,thegamehad570textures BECOMES A LITTLE OVER-SHARP forshockwavesandsoon,which loaded.Yep,570.Andwhat’sscaryis requiresanothercopyofthescreento AND SHIMMERY thatIactuallymakequiteheavyuseof composite,sothat’s88MB.Ialsohave texture‘atlasing’(packingseveral anifty‘selection’effectforhighlighted thatpixelneedstransparencydata).These imagesintooneinordertoavoidconstant units,whichworksthesameway,and you representred,greenandblue. textureswapping,whichmostcardsfindtobe guessedit–we’renowat110MBofgraphics Theupshotisthatafull-screenimageuses slow).Whatonearthareallthosetextures, RAM,withoutevendrawinganytextures. either16MBor22MBofvideocardmemory, andhowcantheyevenmakeadentinyour AsIneededverysmoothanimation,even whichwouldbefineifweonlyneededthe 1GBofgraphicsmemory? ataslowed-downspeedwithamaximum roomforoneimage.However,moderngames Theanswerisabittechnical,butalso zoom,itturnsoutthatthe128framesof alsomakeuseoftheverticalrefreshrateto interesting.Forstarters,thescreenshot mechs-walkinganimationmeansthatI synchronisedrawingthegame,andcopying wastakenataresolutionof1,920x1,200.For requireawhopping22MBtextureforeach theimagetothemonitor.Basically,thereare reasonsofbinarymaths,graphicscardscan mechtype.Thosearethebiggestconventional

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Anight-time screenshotof GratuitousTank Battles–itlooks simple,butit’s alreadyusing110MB ofgraphicsRAM beforeit’seven starteddrawing thetextures

texturesinthegame.Intheory,theyshouldn’t bethatsize,butthey’rebulkedoutbymipmaps.Mip-mapsprovideawayforimages tolookgoodwhetherthey’renearorfar away.You’dnoticeifmip-mapswereturned off,aseverythingbecomesalittleover-sharp andshimmery. Meanwhile,somethingthataddseven moretoGTB’stexturebudgetistheabilityto customisetanks.Peoplewhoaredisparaging about2Dgamesoftenthrowoutcomments suchas‘it’sjustsprites’,whichislaughable giventheactualcomplexity.Someofthetanks haveninedifferentlayersblendedtogether, andofcourse,allthoselayershavemipmaps,whicharetakinguptexturememory. Addintheterrain,relativelyhigh-resolution shadow-mapstofaketheground’s3Dlook, themenugraphics,loadingscreensandso on,andyoucanprobablyseewherethe570 textures(mostaremip-maps)andallthat videomemoryisgoing. That’saroughexplanationofwhereallyour texture-memorymightbegoing,butwhat aboutthesheerpolygon-pumpingpower?It’s firstlyimportanttopointoutthat,foranontrivialpartofeachframe,yourfancypolygon renderinghardwareisdoingabsolutely nothing.There’sanidealsituationdiscussed bythegraphics-pipelinegods,wherethere’s perfectconcurrencybetweentheCPUandthe GPU.Inotherwords,theGPUisbusydrawing

afewthousandpolygonswhiletheCPU preparesthenextthousand,andneitherunit iseveridle.Inpractice,thisneverhappens. Asyouchargedownacorridorinafirstpersonshooter,orswipethecameraoverthe battlefieldinanRTS,thegraphicsrendering pipelineisinconstant,wildchange.Fromone frametoanother,themodelsbeingrendered, theactiveeffects,andthespritesandtextures requiredareinconstantflux.Inoneframe,the bottleneckistextures,asyoulookoutover rollingterrain.Inanother,thebottleneckis polygons,asavastarmyofhigh-polygon soldiersmarchpast.Thenashockwaveblast thatdistortsthescreenpushestheshader pipelineintobottlenecklandwiththenext frame,andsoon. Codersdowhattheycan(usingtools suchasperfHUDandPIX,togetherwith in-game‘live’displays’),toachieveasmuch concurrencyaspossible,andmakethemost ofboththeCPUandGPU,buttheynever manageitperfectly.Nocodepathworksin everycircumstanceinaspecificgame(and genericengineshavetoappealtoallkinds ofgames,makingthisevenharder),andno codepathcanpossiblyhandlethemyriadof differentcardsavailableeither.Someare relativelybetteratpolygons,othersattextures andsomeatshaderprocessing.Addtothis theproblemswithdifferentresolutions,SLI/ CrossFireXandmulti-monitorsupport,andit

becomesinevitablethatyourgraphicscard willoftenendupwaitingfortheCPUtocatch up,andviceversa. Inshort,spareathoughtforthepoorsod developingagraphicsengine.Balancingall thesesystemsishellonearth,evenfora singlegame,andasinglegraphicscardand drivercombination–developinganefficient genericrenderingpipelineisextremely challenging.Secondly,beawareofhow muchdifferenceitmakestotheamountof graphicsRAMandprocessing(don’tforget thatshaderswillbeusedforallthosepixels too)whenyoubuyabiggermonitorandrun atahigherresolution.Also,beawarethat droppingyourverticalresolutionbelow1,024, oryourhorizontalresolutionto2,048orbelow, canmakeamajordifferencetothedemands madeonyourvideocard.Andyouthought binarymathswasnevergoingtobeof practicaluse,didn’tyou?

istheone-mancoding wizardbehindPositech Games(www.positech. co.uk),thedeveloperofGratuitous SpaceBattles @cliffski

CLIFF HARRIS

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theengineroom
Rick Lane

Unity
A

It runs on Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and there are plans to support Flash and Linux too. Could Unity end up being the one engine to rule them all?
fewclichésspringtomindwhen consideringUnity.Blacksheep, darkhorse,risingstar.Theyall seemaccurate,andatthesame time,inappropriate.There’sasimplereason forthis,anditisn’tjustbecausethey’relazy metaphors.Unityhasdefineditselfbydoing itsjobdifferently.Itaspirestobeeverything toalldevelopers.Thatithascomeanywhere closetoachievingthisisremarkable. Unitybeganlifein2002,atatimewhen licensinganenginewasalmostasdifficult asmakinganactual game.‘Backthenthere weren’tanyreadily availableengines that asmallstudioorstartupcouldreadilyaccess –wewerethreeguysin abasement,’says DavidHelgason,CEO andco-founderofUnity Technologies.‘They wereallexpensive,and youcouldn’tevenreachthoseguysifyou didn’thaveanameorsomekindoffunding.’ TheobvioussolutionforHelgasonand histwoco-founders,NicholasFrancisand JoachimAnte,wastomakeonethemselves. Likemostotherengines,Unitywasintended tobeaspecifictooltosuitaspecific requirement.However,thetrioquicklyran intotroublewhenitcametothatspecificity. ‘Wecouldneveragreeonwhichgames tomake,sotheenginehadtobemore genericbecauseithadtoaccommodate alltheideaswehad,’saysHelgason. ‘In2004,werealisedthatweweren’tthat greatatmakinggames.Welovedgames; that’swhywestarted,butwerealisedthat wemaybedidn’tlovemakingthem.What wedidlovewascreatingthisengine.We becamereallyexcitedandrealisedthatthe
Rochard’sphysicsbasedgameplay wasn’tplannedfrom thebeginning

Unitynowsupports DirectX11too

approachwehadtakenwasdifferentfrom thatusedbyanybodyelse.’ Whatbeganasanimpassableobstacle evolvedintoadeliberatedesignphilosophy that’sbeenthedrivingforcebehindUnity eversince.TheteambegantomouldUnity withtheintentofmakingitaccessible, affordableand,aboveall,flexible.The ideawastotargetsmallteamssimilarto themselves,tocreateanenginewithfastyet easilyunderstandableworkflows,andthe capabilitytocreateanytypeofgame.In short,thespecificaimwastomakeitas unspecificaspossible. ‘Thetraditionalwayofgamebuilding ishighlyinflexible,’explainsHelgason, ‘whereyoubuiltarigidhierarchyofthetype ofobjectsinthegame.Soyoucanhavea character,andthatcanbeanNPCoraplayer

character.Itcouldbeaweapon,anditcould beabaseweaponoraweaponyoucanpick up,orashieldandsoon.Butthemoment youwantasingingswordthat’sbotha characterandaweapon,oranycreative expression,yougetintotrouble,sowewent withthismuchmoreflexiblemodel.’ ThefirstversionofUnitylaunchedin 2005,andimmediatelydifferentiateditself fromotherenginesbyfindingitsinitialhome onApple’srevitalisedMacplatform.Unity hassustainedastrongandsuccessful relationshipwithAppleeversince,becoming theengineofchoicefordevelopersonthe iPhoneandiPad.‘WemadeUnitysupportthe iPhoneacoupleofmonthsaftertheApp Storeopened,’saysHelgason,‘anditjust tookoff.Wewerealreadygrowing,butthe growthdoubledandeverythingspedup.’ SinceitsmovetomobileandPCplatforms, Unityhasgainedareputationforbeingthe indiedarlingofgameengines,whichis understandablegivenitsdevelopment historyandtargetmarket.However,ifUnity wastobeuseduniversally,italsohadtobe powerfulenoughforthemainstreamgames market.ThefirsttwoversionsofUnitywere

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ANALYSIS

Unity3’sdeferredrendering systemenablesanunlimited numberoflightstobeset upwithinagame–notethe variationin thevisibilityof theskullsinthemiddlehole

significantlybehindthecurrentgeneration inthisarea.Thethirditeration,however, markedthebeginningofapushtowards equallingthepowerofcurrent-gentech. Unity3mademajorstrideswithits deferredrenderingsystem;thisenabled anunlimitednumberoflightstobeplaced inagame,allofwhichcouldinteract appropriatelywiththerelevantmappingon materialsandtextures,accuratelylighting bumpsanddipsonsurfaces.Combinedwith thenewlyintroducedocclusionculling,this allowedforincreaseddetailwithoutany impactonperformance,asanythingnot viewableon-screenwouldimmediatelybe removedfromtherenderingprocess.The latestversion,Unity3.5,addedsupportfor HDRlighting,abrandnewdedicatedparticle systemnamed‘Shuriken’,andNavigational MeshestomakeiteasierforAIcharacters tofindtheirwayaroundenvironments– essentialforcharacter-basedgames. Onegamethat’stakenadvantageofthis morepowerfulversionofUnityisRochard– aphysics-basedplatformersetinadeepspaceasteroidminingstation.Rochard proclaimsitselftobethemostadvanced Unitygametodate.SampsaLehtonen– leadprogrammerandco-ownerofRecoil Games–explainedhowitwasthesemore advancedtechniquescombinewiththe engine’scoredesignideasthatmade Rochardpossible.‘Themostimportant featureinUnityforuswasthespeedof iteration,’saysLehtonen.‘Youcouldtryout newgameplayideasquickly.Infact,the wholephysics-basedgameplaywasn’t plannedatthestartoftheproject,butwas prototypedasitprogressed.’

systemisoneexample.A morebizarreexampleisthe TreeCreator,whichisexactly whatitsnamesuggests–a tooldedicatedtobuilding detailedflora.Itsticksoutas acuriouslyspecifictoolinan enginewheretheobjectiveis tobegeneric. ‘It’sbecauseeverybody buysSpeedTreeandplugsit intotheirengine,’Helgason explains.‘Wewanttobethe enginethatdoeseverything youneed.Thatisn’tpossible, UNITY 3 MADE MAJOR STRIDES butwe’llgoasfaraswecan. WITH ITS DEFERRED RENDERING Sooneoftheprojectswedid wastheTreeCreator;ithas SYSTEM, ENABLING AN someprettyawesometools UNLIMITED NUMBER OF LIGHTS tobuildreallyrealistictrees, TO BE PLACED IN A GAME orweirdorcartoonytrees, butit’sjustasmuchan Rocharddemonstratesthegrowingpower enablerforpeopletocreatetrees ofUnity,andalsohighlightswhyUnityhas themselvesandsellthemtoothers.’ onlyrecentlybegunthepursuitforvisual SpeedTree,thebasisfortheTreeCreator, punch.Poweroftencomesatthecostof iswhat’sknownasaUnityAsset,available complexity,andwhenanengineisdesigned forpurchaseinoneoftheengine’smost tobepowerful,universallyaccessibleand intriguingfeatures–theAssetStore.Here, completelyflexible,gettingthebalance developerscancreateandselltheirown rightisnightmarish.‘Itisn’tdesignedjust assetstootherusersofUnity,whetherit’s forfirst-personshootersorplatformers,’ apackofcharactermodelsorcodefora Lehtonenpointsout.‘Soyou’llinevitably particularvisualeffect.Thisisusefulin needtodosomeextraworktogetthe avastnumberofways.ItmakesUnitymore frameworkforthekindofgameyou’re accessiblefornewcomers,astheydon’t developing,includingbothgameplayandthe havetomakeeverythingfromscratch,andit tools.AnemptyUnityprojectisacleanslate.’ meansthatexperienceddeveloperscanget Thesolution,ofcourse,istocreatenew holdoftoolsandtricksthatUnitydoesn’t toolstodealwithnewgraphicalfeaturesthat currentlysupportinitscorepackage.What’s complicatematters.TheShurikenparticle more,aswasthecasewiththeTreeCreator,
Unity’sintegrated characteranimation system,Mecanim, providesarangeofprepackagedanimations 98

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theengineroom
Codemastersisusing UnityforitsbrowserbasedF1Onlinegame

ANALYSIS

Rochard–availablefor PC,PS3andMacOSX

RochardshowsoffthepotentialtouseUnityforgoodlookingvisualsandcomplex,physics-basedgameplay

ithelpsthecreatorstounderstandwhat developerswantfromUnityandwhereto focustheireffortsnext. Absorptionandintegrationhasbeena keyfacetofUnity’ssuccessoutsideofthe AssetStoretoo.Unitysupportsnumerous subsidiaryprogramssuchasNvidiaPhysX formorebelievablein-gamephysics,and AllegorithmicSubstances,athird-partytool forcreatinghighlyrealistic,differentiated andeasilyadaptablesurfacematerials.This adoptionofnewtechnologyissettocontinue intheupcomingUnity4engine,whichwas announcedacoupleofmonthsago. AlongsidesupportforDirectX11–which isavitalinclusionifUnitywantstocompete withthemainstream–Unityisalsopushing itsintegrationofMecanim;apowerful characteranimationsystemthathands developersawholerangeofpre-packaged animations.Thesecanthenbetweaked andblendedtosuitparticularneeds,andare abletoimporttheirownmotion-capture. ‘It’salittlelikeShurikenortheTree Creator.It’saperfectUnitysystem,’says Helgason.‘It’sveryhigh-powered.We’vehad around50charactersrunningonaniPad, fullyanimated,and200-300characters runningonabeefyPC.’ Itseemsasthoughtheseeffortsoverthe pastcoupleofyearsarebeginningtopayoff.

RacingheavyweightCodemasterschose Unityforitsbrowser-basedFormula1game F1Online.AssociateProducerMikeRowland elucidatesonwhyUnitywasaptforcreating thisgame. ‘TheideaforF1Online:TheGamewasto makeafree-to-play,easilyaccessiblegame forabroadrangeofracingandFormulaOne fans,’saysRowland.‘WhatUnityprovided wasastrongandimpressiveinstallbasefor itsbrowserplug-in,plusafullsuiteoftools toallowustoputthegameintoabrowser. TheUnitysupportteamhasbeenalongside usallthewayandhaveprovidedincredible helpthroughthosenigglytimesyou inevitablygetwithaprojectofthisscale.’ Thewords‘browser’and‘free’aren’t usuallyassociatedwithcoregaming,but Codemastersisamainstreamdeveloper, soF1Onlineindicatesthemainstream industry’sgradualacceptanceofUnityas aviableoptionforcreatinggames. Codemasters’experienceofcreatingF1 OnlinealsorevealsareaswhereUnitymight

improveinordertoconquercoregaming. Codemasters’wishlistincludes‘afully integratedUIsystem’,whichisimportant ifUnityistobeusedtocreatemore complicatedgames.Alsomentionedis ‘morecontroloverbuildprocesses’tomake iteasiertomouldagamearoundaparticular developer’sapproach. Unitystillneedstoputonafewpounds ifitwantstocompetewithUnrealand CryEngine,butthere’snodoubtthatit’s becomingacontender.Andwhenwesay ‘contender’,it’sactuallyestimatedthatover halfamilliondeveloperscurrentlyuseUnity worldwide–vastlymorethananyofthe majorcommercialengines.What’smore, alongsideitsfocusoncurrent-gentechare planstosupportFlash,LinuxandAsian languages,meaningthatitsuserbasewill likelygrowexponentiallyinthenearfuture. Unitymaynotyetbetheengineforeveryone, butit’sgivenvoicetoapreviouslysilent majority,andinthecomingyears,thatnoise couldbeheardaboveallothers.

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fyou’rearegularreaderofCustom identifyingwhetherastatementwasfromafilm,gameor Elpida, the struggling PCmagazine,orourTwitterfeed(@ hardwarereview.Wethoughtthiswouldbeprettytricky, ducer, was DRAM pro CustomPCMag),you’llknowthatthis butanumberofteams(UnderQualified,8-bitHeroesand rchased by which recently pu monthsawushostthefirstCustomPC TeamPFSspecifically)proveduswrongwithhighscoresof petitors? of its com seven and eight. andbit-techPubQuiz,inwhich17teams sevenandeight. Even these scores were eclipsed by the perfect ten out of ten battledovertenfiendishlydifficulttechEventhesescoreswereeclipsedbytheperfecttenoutoften themedrounds. achievedbyForeverAloneinthefirstpictureround,however.Thisleftus Alsoinattendancewasateamfromoursponsorandprizeprovider atthehalfwaystage,withEpic.LANatthe Corsair–naturally,abigthankyougoesouttothecompany,aswithout What was Nvidi top,closelyfollowedbyOCBATGTTYand a’s main graphics br itssponsorshipandsupport,theeventsimplywouldn’thavebeen 192.168.X.X.Meanwhile,bringingupthe and before it introdu possible.AlsodeservingofanhonourablementionisParadox rearwasaverydemocraticthree-waytie ced GeForce? Interactive,whichkindlydonatedacopyofMagickaforeveryattendee. betweenUnderQualified,TeamCorsair ThefirstroundwasIntheNews,andtosayitprovedtoughwouldbe andTeamAriaForums. anunderstatement.Noteveryonefoundithard,however,withR.A.G. Thehalf-timebreakthenplayedhometo jumpingstraightintotheleadwithascoreofseven,followedcloselyby oursurprisinglypopular‘make-a-meme’competition,whereweasked thesmashinglytitledOurCheesecakeBringsalltheGeekstotheYard teamstocaptionthefourmemetemplateswe’dmade.Therewere some cracking entries, which you can see (OCBATGTTY)andthree-manteam192.168.X.X. somecrackingentries,whichyoucansee Thankfully,thenextround,TechTVandFilm,provedmore infullonourFacebookpage. date, how many To accessible,withallbutoneteamabletonamethefilmin Movingon,roundfivewasGeneralTech episodes of The IT Crowd which Hugh Jackman plays an elite computer hacker. One whichHughJackmanplaysanelitecomputerhacker.One Knowledge,whichcoveredabroadrange have aired on British TV? questiondidoutfox oftopicsincludingconsoles,moddingand everyone,however–can overclocking.Itcausedratheranupsetat In November 2000, younametwoofthefourstatincreases thetopofthetabletoo,asEpic.LANonlynotchedupthreepoints,letting Intel released the first ScottPilgrimgainsforfindingthe OCBATGTTYsneakintofirstplace. Pentium 4 processor. What powerofselfrespect? Roundsix,TechAcronyms,thenturnedouttobethehighest-scoring was the codename of the Roundthreewasourtakeonthe round,inwhichteamshadtodecipheracronymssuchasNTFS,RAID original Pentium 4 core classicmusicround(gamethemes, andHTTP.Wethenhadthesecondpictureround,whereteamshadto architecture? naturally), and round four saw teams naturally),androundfoursawteams identifymultiplayerFPSmaps,whichprovedtrickyforeveryoneapart

Q

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A. 24

Q

A. Riva

A. Micron

i

Ten rounds, a meme board and a whole load of cheesecake

Q

Q

A. Wilamette

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Say

“No”

to

Slow

Q

fromEpic.LANandSteve In which film does a Ballmer’sNeckSweat,bothof young girl utilise a UNIX whichclearlyspendalotoftime 3D file system browser by onlinefraggingn00bs. the name of FSV, to bring However,whatcamenext security functionality back canonlybedescribedasmessy online? –theRetroTechround. WrittenbyCustomPC’sown editorBenHardwidge,thiswaswidelyregardedasthetoughestround inthequiz,asillustratedbytheaveragescoreoftwo.Oneteam,R.A.G., roseaboveitalltopostan(honestlyamazing)scoreofsix,though, helpedbythefactthatteamcaptainWayneYoungmanhasbeen readingCustomPCsinceIssue1! Theall-importantfinalroundwasFamousGameQuotes,andwith OCBATGTTYonlytwopointsbehindEpic.LAN,itcouldhavegoneeither way.Intheend,bothteamsscoredfive,leavingEpic.LANourwinners, OCBATGTTYsecondand192.168.X.Xinthird.Eachteamwonabunch ofCorsairgoodies,andEpic.LANalsowalkedawaywiththeGolden Graphics Card trophy. Mentions also GraphicsCardtrophy.Mentionsalso gotoAllOurBeersAreBelongToUs, ny go to All Our Beers Are Belong To Us, Toshiba, IBM and So 8-BitHeroesandSteveBallmer’s the collaborated on NeckSweat,whowonprizesfor re that’s processor architectu postingupthethreefunniest ation 3. used in the PlaySt memesinthehalf-timebreak. What is it called? Thankstoeveryonewhoattended theCustomPCandbit-techquiz night,andmadeitagreatnight.We hopetoholdanotherone,probablyinthewinter,sokeepaneyeoutfor informationinthemag.

Q

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WorldMags.net

A. Jurassic Park

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October 2012

101

CPC:Whatinspiredyoutobuild D33pThought? Andy:Itendtobuildanewgamingrig whenaBattlefieldtitleisreleased– it’stheonlygameIplay.Whenthishappens,I alwaysbuythefastesthardwareIcanafford (orinmostcases,can’tafford).Ialreadyhad thishardwarebeforeIstartedD33pThought, andtheadditionofathirdgraphics cardcreatedtheneedforchange– itwouldhavemeantrunningfive waterblocksfromonepump.The pumpwasalreadystruggling,and Icouldhearthenoiselevelsrising witheachblockthatwasaddedto thesystem.Asasidepoint,this makesmewonderaboutthe practicalitiesofotherbuildsI've seenthathavesixorsevenblocks connectedtooneloop.

Anyway,Ineededabiggercase,and couldn’tfindonethatIreallyliked.Ididn’tlike theideaofmoddinganothercase;Iwanted somethingunique.Iendeduptrawling throughtheNetlookingforideas,andthat’s whenIstumbleduponwww.bit-tech.net.This iswhereIsawMikeKrysztofiak'sPhinixCube, andIthought,yeah,Icoulddothat.However,I

alsowantedtosomethingdifferenttoPhinix Cube.Alotofthought(andscrewed-upscraps ofpaper!)wentintothedesign. CPC:Weassumethenameisareferenceto thebigcomputerinHitchhiker's? Andy:Ididn'toriginallygivemuchthoughtto theproject'sname;Ididn’tevenrealisethe buildneededone.Itwasonlywhen IstartedtheprojectlogthatIhad thatsinkingfeeling,andthought, ohno,thebuildneedsaname.The sketchhadaresemblancetoDeep ThoughtfromTheHitchhiker's GuidetotheGalaxy.Igrewupwith thatkindofstuff–Ireadthebooks, watchedthe1980sTVshowand sawtheokay(ish)film.Theproject nameeventuallytookoverthe wholebuild,andthethemealso

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ENTER YOUR OWN PC AT HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET ENTERYOUROWNPCATHTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET

YoucanseemoreofAndy's gorgeousacrylicPCinthe fullprojectlogathttp:// tinyurl.com/ D33pThought42

DON'T PANIC!

gavemeplentyofmaterialforthesmall featuresthataddextrapointsofinterest. CPC:Whatothermodshaveyoubuilt? Andy:I'vebuiltseveralsystems–Iadded windowstothelastfour,aswellaspaintjobs andwatercooling. Alltheexistinghardware forD33pThoughtcamefromanold ThermaltakeKandalfcase.Theinsidewas painted,andhalfofthedrivebayrackchopped outtomakeroomforareservoirandpump. CPC:Whatdifficultiesdidyoucomeacross whenbuildingD33pThought? Andy:Thefirstwasamajordesignflaw.IfI'd builtD33pThoughtexactlyliketheoriginal sketch,Iwouldn’thavebeenabletogetmy handsinsidetoinstallanyhardware.Plus, anymaintenanceorsmalljobswouldhave beenamajorpainasI’dhavetodismantleall

thelayers.Luckily,thatwaspickedupduring theplanningstages,andsolvedbymaking thefrontstripsandtoppanelremovable.This enablesthetworadiatortowerstoswing open,withthelongthreadedbarsthathold thelayerstogetheractingasahinge. CPC:Whatmaterialsdidyouuse,andwhy? Andy:Thecasewasalwaysgoingtobe constructedfromacrylic,asit’seasytowork

SYSTEM SPECS
CPU Intel Core-i7 960 GPU 3 x Asus Radeon HD 6970 2GB Storage OCZ Agility 3 128GB SSD Memory 12GB Crucial Ballistix Tracer Motherboard Asus Rampage III Extreme PSU Corsair 1,200W Cooling 2 x D5 Laing pumps, 2 x 240 Magicool Radiators, Aqua Computer CPU block, 3 x EK GPU blocks, EK motherboard block, 2 x Phobya 250 Balance reservoirs, 4 x Phobya 120mm Nano fans, Lamptron fan controller

withandisavailableinavarietyofcolours.The hardestpartwasfiguringoutthethicknessof thelayers;ImeasuredmyDVDdrive(asthis wouldbeclampedbetweenthelayers)and playedaroundwithdifferentwidths.I eventuallysettledon8mmsheets,which hadthebenefitofbeingfairlyrigid,whilealso enablingmetominimisethenumberoflayers andkeepthecostdown. Also,InoticedwhileIwasworkingouthow manylayerswereneededthatthefigurewas verycloseto42(theoriginalDeepThought's answertotheultimatequestion),soI incorporatedthisintothedesign.Theonly othermaterialsusedwerestainlesssteel threadedrodstoholdthebuildtogetherand 8mmnylonspacersbetweenthelayers. CPC:Whattoolsandmachinerydidyouuse tobuildD33pThought?
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Andy:ThefirsttoolIboughtwasaDremel;it’s oneofthosetoolsthat'salwayshandy,andthe widerangeofaccessorieswouldprettymuch doeveryjobthatIhadinmindforit.Oneof thesewastheDremeltheroutertable–Ihad tomakealotofinternalcuts,andfoundbeing abletolocktheguideintoafixedposition usefulforcuttingmultiplepartsexactlythe same.Ineededabettersurfacefinishthan theendresultofthis,though,sotherewasa lotoffilingandsandingtoo. Ieventuallyusedafine-toothedsawforthe longercuts,whichgavemeabetterfinish, althoughitstillneededsomefiling.Ialso usedtheDremelpillardrillaccessory,which generallyworkedokay,althoughthere'sa limitedrangeofdrillbitsavailableforit.You alsohavetodrillverycarefully,asitcan wanderifyoudrilltooquickly.Myoverall impressionsoftheDremelaregood,butI wishthatIcouldchangethecollarusedto attachtheaccessories.I’dpreferonemade fromamuchtoughermaterial,asit’svery easytostripthethread. CPC:Howlongdidittakeyoutocomplete D33pThought?

Andy:Istartedworkonitaroundtheendof January,andeventuallyfinisheditinMay.It wasthecutting,filingandsandingthattook upmostofthetime–over100hours,infact.I wasveryrelievedtogetthroughitallandmove ontothemorefunstuff.Ialsomovedhomein themiddleofit,whichdisruptedprogress. CPC:Whathaveyoulearnedfrombuilding thisproject? Andy:Ilearnedplenty.I'dneverusedacrylic before,soIspentafairamountoftimeonthe Internet,lookingthroughmanytutorialsand YouTubevideossothatIwas100percentsure aboutwhatIwasdoing.Evenafterthat,Istill practisedonascrappieceofacrylicbefore workingonthefinalpieces.Atonepoint,I alsoblewupmygirlfriend'shairdryerwhile tryingtobendtheacrylicwithit,sothat'swhy

Isuddenlyhadtogetabrandspankingnew heatgun.Puttingawaythedryeranddenying allknowledgeaboutitdoesn’tworkeither. CPC:Areyouhappywiththeendresult,and isthereanythingyou'ddodifferently now? Andy:Thefilingandsandingnearlybrokeme. Ihugelyunderestimatedhowlongthatpart ofthebuildwouldtake,sobythetimeitwas complete,Ifeltmorereliefthanexcitement. Lookingback,Icouldhavehadeverything laser-cut,whichwouldhavecostmorebut wouldhavebeenfarmoreaccurate.However, nowthatafewweekshavepassed,Ilookat thebuildwithgreatsatisfaction–Isometimes gobackthroughthebuildlogreadingevery postagain,whichmakesmesmile.WouldI doitagain?SureIwould,andthereareplans foranother!

BE A WINNER!

ToenteryourmachineforpossibleinclusioninReaders’ Drives,yourmodneedstobefullyworkingand,ideally, finishedbasedintheUK.Simplylogontowww.bit-tech.netandheadovertotheforums.Once you’rethere,postawrite-upofyourmod,alongwithsomepics,intheProjectLogsforum.Make sureyoureadtherelevantrulesandadvicestickythreadsbeforeyoupost.Thebestentranteach monthwillbefeaturedhere,wherewe’llprintyourphotosofyourprojectandalsointerviewyou aboutthebuildprocess.Fameisn’ttheonlyprize; you’llalso getyourhandsonafabulous selectionofprizes–seetheoppositepagefordetails.

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We’ve teamed up with some of the world’s leading PC component manufacturers and retailers to offer this great range of prizes to each lucky Readers’ Drives winner. If your creation is featured in the magazine then you’ll walk away all three of the prizes listed on this page, so get in your entries!

Totalvalue£142incVAT Manufacturerwww.corsair.com CorsairbelievesthatagreatPCstartswithagreat case.TheCorsairCarbideSeries300Ris acompactexpressionofthiscore philosophy.Itpacksina remarkablenumberoffeatures givenitscompactdimensions, providesbuilderswithtonnesof roomforexpansion,andhas amazingcoolingpotential.And, likeallCorsaircases,it’sbuilt usingthefinestmaterialsand finishedtothehigheststandards, soitwillwithstandseveralyears ofupgrades. Justasaqualitycaseis essentialtobuildingaquality PC,ahigh-performance,highqualitypowersupplyisalsoavital ingredient.BasedontheawardwinningTXV2Series,thenew EnthusiastSeriesModularPSUsadda modularcablingsystemforimprovedinstallation

CORSAIR CARBIDE SERIES 300R CASE AND 550W TX MODULAR POWER SUPPLY

flexibility.TXModularpowersuppliesarebuilt usingqualitycomponents,andarerigorously testedandqualifiedat100percentloadatan ambienttemperatureof50°Cforunmatched reliability.They’redesignedtoasuperior standard,sothattheynotonlymeettheATX specification,butalsoexceedit.Inadditionto unmatchedquality,TXModularPSUsarealso power-efficient,offering85percentenergy efficiencyorhigherat50percentload. WithaCorsairCarbideSeries300Rcaseand 550WTXModularpowersupplyattheheartof yourbuild,you’llhavethefoundationsforatruly awesomegamingmachine.

PHOBYA MODDING KIT

Value£50incVAT Manufacturerwww.phobya.com,www.aqua-tuning.co.uk pre-braidedextensioncablegivesyouextra routeingoptionsinyourcase,anditalsoenables youtorunuptofourfansfromonecompatible motherboardheader.Meanwhile,the PhobyaSATA3cablesincludedinthekit offerthesamegreatqualitybraidingas therestofthePhobyarange,whilealso securingyourconnectionwith latchedconnectors.Aswellas this,thekitincludesthePhobya SlimGuideController,whichgives youtheoptiontovarythespeed ofotherfansinyourcase,while thePhobyaTwinLEDsletyou shinealightonyourmods.

ThePhobyamoddingkitisdesignedwiththemodderinmind,offering greatvalueformoneyandqualityproducts.ThekitincludesNano-G 12SilentWaterproof1,500rpmmulti-optionfans,whichuse aninnovativefan-bladedesign.As standard,thefansincludebraided blackcablestokeepyourcaselooking asneataspossible.Thefansarealso suppliedwithaspecialcablethat letsyourunthefanat5Vratherthan 12V,reducingthenoiseemitted inordertohelpyoutobuilda silentsystem. Thekitalsoincludesthe 60cmPhobya3-pinMolexto 4x3-pinMolexY-cable.This

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Paint your case
venifyou’veneverusedaspray canbefore,paintingyourcaseisn’t asdauntingasitseems.Witha littlepracticeandplanning,you’ll beabletopaintyourcaseanycolouryoulike. Theendresultcanbespectacular,butit’salso veryeasytoendupwithacasethatlooksfar worsethanwhenyoustarted.Ifyouwantto avoidthis,thenourstart-to-finishguidelooks atallthestepsyoushouldbetaking. Whateveryourcase’ssize,youcanachieve agreatpaintjobaslongasyouhaveenough space.We’llalsodiscussthebestwaysto sprayspecificcaseparts,andwhattodoif youprefertohavesomeoneelsedothisjob. Whetheryou’relookingtoaddsomepizzazz, orwantyourcasetohaveaspecificcolour scheme,thisguidewillshowyouhowtodoit.

Painting your case is a fantastic way to make it stand out. Antony Leather shows how to achieve the perfect finish, and even add custom details

E

CHOOSE YOUR COLOURS

It’s worth experimenting with your chosen colour first using small spray cans before investing in full-sized cans. You’ll also need some spare test material to see how the colour will look when it dries. Alternatively, you can use Google SketchUp (http://sketchup.google. com) to render your case and apply different colours – check http://scc.jezmckean.com to see if your case has already been rendered.

PREPARE YOUR WORK AREA

You won’t be popular if overspray ends up on someone’s plant pots, so if you’re spraying outside, use a dust sheet with room on either side to catch stray paint – it also helps to tape the sheet against a wall and secure it to the ground. Your spraying area’s location is key to obtaining a good finish too; avoid grassy areas, as these harbour insects and loose particles that can become trapped in the paintwork. Good ventilation is also important, as is a face mask.

Wet and dry sandpaper – 1,000 to 1,600- grit
Frommosthardwarestores

Dust sheet, sponge and microfibre towel

Frommosthardwarestores

Primer, colour and lacquer acrylic spray paint
Frommosthardwarestores

Masking tape

Frommosthardwarestores

Vinyl line tape T-Cut

MAKE A SPRAY BOOTH

Fromwww.tapes-direct.co.uk Halfords

If you’re limited for space, you could buy or even make your own spray booth. Cardboard makes an excellent booth material, and a booth can be constructed using old boxes and duct tape. This could even be equipped with an extractor fan to remove fumes and excess paint if you have no option but to spray indoors. A booth is a great way of dealing with overspray, while also protecting your items from dust and insects.

SELECT YOUR PAINTS

You’ll need three types of spray paint. Primer acts as an undercoat – using a white primer will make lighter colours such as red or yellow appear punchier, while a darker primer is better for dark blues and blacks. Use gloss paint for a shiny finish, or satin or matt paint for a muted shine. Finally, the lacquer adds a layer of protection to your paint and enhances the shine. You should apply all the coloured coats before the lacquer.

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DISMANTLE YOUR CASE

If you don’t want to paint some parts, such as grilles and buttons, remove these prior to painting. You could mask them, but it’s far easier to remove them, as you’ll end up with much easier surfaces to spray. Power and reset buttons, as well as ports and switches, can be tricky to mask properly, but they’re usually removable. You may need to detach your case’s front fascia first, however.

If you plan to spray your case’s insides then dismantle it completely, as it’s otherwise tricky to avoid the paint running in the corners. You’ll need to drill out the rivets that hold the various sections together, enabling you to lay them out for easy spraying. You’ll then need to purchase a rivet gun and new rivets to put the case back together. Look out for a full guide on how to do this next month.

REMOVE THE RIVETS

You’ll need to wash your case before you start, especially if it isn’t new. Anything that’s stuck to it – tea or coffee stains, dust or unseen grime – can have a negative effect on your paintwork, and even sanding it might not get rid of all the dirt. First, remove any electronic equipment, such as PCBs, and then use a sponge and washing-up liquid with plenty of water to clean every part of the case that needs to be painted.

WASH THE CASE

SAND THE CASE

Sanding your case before painting provides a smooth base for the paint, and removes grease or silicon left behind from the manufacturing process or cleaning products. These can cause horrible finishes, as the paint won’t settle properly. You’ll need finegrit wet and dry sand paper, and lots of water. The higher the grit number, the less coarse the paper; you’ll need between 1,000 and 1,600-grit for a smooth finish.

MIX THE PAINT AND TEST

Shake the can up and down vigorously for five minutes – a ball inside will mix the paint. If it’s cold outside, leave the can indoors overnight; the paint will dry faster and you’ll end up with a better finish. Don’t leave it near a radiator or naked flame though. Once it’s mixed, test-spray it on some newspaper or a spare case. Get used to the flow of paint and practise moving from left to right in sweeping movements.

MASK UP

You’ll need to mask certain areas to prevent paint from getting into them. Masking is also great for adding details, such as go-faster stripes. Masking tape edged with fine-line vinyl tape is good for sharp edges, while polythene dust sheets are great for larger areas, such as side panels – a 3m x 3m sheet costs around £1. Don’t use newspaper; this can leave residue on surfaces and your fingers.

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11

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CLEAN THE AREAS TO BE PAINTED

Before each coat, and after sanding, use a damp cloth or sanding dust cloth to clean the areas you’ll be spraying. This will remove any surface dust that’s settled in between coats. Be sure to use a lint-free cloth or something that won’t leave hairs behind, such as a tissue. A microfibre cloth is ideal, but you can also buy sanding dust cloths for around £1 that are specifically made for the purpose.

Find a platform on which to place your case when spraying it. The ideal option is to hang the parts from a jig, booth or ceiling. This means that you can cover all the surfaces at the same time, so there won’t be any joins in the paintwork as you move it. Another option is to use a pasting table, which will raise the case off the ground, but you’ll still be able to obtain good results if you have a clean and clutter-free work area.

POSITION YOUR CASE

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Primer is key to obtaining a blemish-free finish. Thankfully, it dries quickly, so you won’t be left hanging around for long. Apply a single, thin coat of primer, taking care not to cover the same area too many times, as this can make the paint run. Use long sweeping strokes as you spray, and spray in one direction, rather than in circles. In warm conditions, the primer will dry in 10-15 minutes.

APPLY PRIMER

SAND THE PRIMER

Sand the layer of primer until it’s smooth using wet and dry sandpaper. It might sound strange to use sandpaper on your fresh coat of paint, but by adding more coats, then sanding them, you’ll build up a super-smooth surface and fill in any imperfections in the case’s surface, ready for the final coat. You shouldn’t need more than four or five coats of primer – just enough so that you can’t see the original paintwork.

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As the process of sanding the panel will leave dust and paint particles behind, you’ll need to wash the case again with a clean sponge or damp cloth. You’ll need to do this after each coat of primer – it’s a laborious process, but it will result in a wonderfully smooth primer coat when you’ve finished.

WASH OFF THE DEBRIS

APPLY THE COLOUR COAT

The main coat rests on top of the primer, and is key to the final look of your new paint job. Applying primer will be good practice here, as the main coat will be very prone to running. Apply at least four or five coats, one coat at a time, allowing an hour or so between each coat for it to dry – don’t be tempted to get it all done in one go. If any of the coats end up with a rough or rippled surface, then go to step 21.

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17

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APPLY MASK ING TAPE AND L INE TAPE

Don’t be tempted to use masking tape for painting straight edges. Spray paint can seep into its sides, creating what’s called ‘paint creep’, ruining any straight lines. For straight edges, you’ll need vinyl line tape – not only is this waterproof, but it can also be bent into curves as well as straight lines. This flexibility makes it perfect for creating go-faster stripes, plus elaborate details such as curved flames or logos.

With a coat of gloss white paint applied to our case on top of the primer, we opted to create some go-faster stripes on our case. By masking sections of the white paint, all you then have to do is paint the whole case the final colour – a glossy red in our case. We used masking tape to fill the centre of the lines, and then applied vinyl line tape to mask the edges.

MARK UP DETAILS

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REMOVE MASK ING

Let the paint dry completely before removing the masking tape; not doing so can result in paint running into areas that were masked. Allow enough time for drying then gently remove the masking. If any paint has strayed, this can be touched up with a fine brush after spraying some paint into a pot. If the straying is extensive, consider masking small areas off and then respraying.

As well as issues with masking, check the case for paint creep and imperfections in the paintwork, such as hairs, dust or insects. These will be difficult to remove once the lacquer has been applied, so now is the time to sort them out, even if it means sanding and respraying sections.

INSPECT FOR IMPERFECTIONS

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If you end up with a rough or rippled surface, don’t fret. All you have to do is sand down the area, as you did with the primer, so that it’s smooth, and you can then start again. You can do this if dust or insects become trapped in the paint while it’s drying too, but you’ll need to make sure the paint is dry before attempting it.

SAND THE PAINT, IF NECESSARY

WASH THE CASE

Allow the colour coats to dry thoroughly overnight. Not doing so will mean that they’re soft enough to pick up fingerprints with even small amounts of pressure. Once the paint is dry, give the case a final wash to prepare the surface for the final coat – 112 lacquer, which will add shine to your work and protect it.

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APPLY L ACQUER TO L ARGE AREAS

Start by lacquering a large area, such as a side panel, to see how the lacquer settles, and how much to use on smaller sections. Use a slower, more generous movement than with the other coats, allowing the lacquer to gel and create a shiny layer. If possible, practise first using some spare material. You’ll need at least three or four layers of lacquer – the thickness will determine your case’s resistance to scratches.

Smaller sections will need more attention to prevent the lacquer from running, or building up in corners or troughs. It will dry hard, so you’ll want to apply it thinly in these areas. Once you’re finished, leave the lacquer to harden overnight. It’s best to leave it in a garage or somewhere outside of your house – the fumes emitted while drying are pungent.

L ACQUER SMALLER PARTS

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As with respraying cars, your newly painted case will respond well to some T-Cut, which will help to buff the layer of lacquer and smooth out any imperfections as you rub it. Use the same method as you would when polishing a car – circular movements with plenty of pressure. After that, remove the residue with a clean cloth. If you opted for a gloss paint, you can achieve an impressive shine.

POL ISH WITH T-CUT

If you needed to dismantle your case then now is the time to assemble it. Don’t be tempted to do this before the lacquer has hardened – it’s all too easy to knock a side panel or scratch the case as you put everything back together. After that, you’re finished – you can now sit back and admire your painting skills.

PUT EVERYTHING BACK TOGETHER

If you don’t fancy spraying your case yourself, or you’re after a more elaborate job, such as powder coating or anodising, there are professionals who can do it for you. For around £100, you can send off your case and have a professional apply your dream colour scheme; for a little more they’ll spray the inside and outside of your case with your desired designs too. Check out www.chilledpc.co.uk for more information. Meanwhile, there are plenty of companies that offer custom decals and logos too. Etches and stickers are also a great way of adding a unique touch to your case, and adding the icing to the cake. Check out www.kustompcs.co.uk, which stocks a variety of custom decals.

PROFESSIONAL PAINT JOBS, CUSTOM LOGOS AND DECALS

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for the win!

WIN! A Fractal Design Define R4 case
I
WORTH £90 EACH
fyoulikeyourPCtolooksmartandstylish thenyoumayhavefoundyourselftakinga fancytoFractalDesign’sDefineR4(seep42), andwedon’tblameyou–it’salovely-looking case.Italsoboastssuperbbuildquality,with asolidcombinationofsteelandplastic,anda lustworthybrushed-aluminiumfrontfascia. It’squiettoo,withthefoam-linedside panelshelpingtodeadenfannoise,anditcan accommodateboth120mmand140mmfans, soyoucanpushplentyofairthroughthecase withouthavingtorunyourfansatsillyspeeds. Thecaseincludesanintegratedthree-speed (5V,7Vand12V)fancontrollerhiddenbehind thefront,andthere’sapairofUSB3portson thetop-mountedfrontpanelaswell. Meanwhile,there’splentyofroomfor decenthardwareinside,includingclearance

UP FOR GRABS

2

foraCPUcoolerwithaheightofupto170mm, androomforeight3.5indrivesinthestandard cages;there’salsoafurtherpairof2.5in mountsbehindthemotherboardforSSDs. FormoreinformationabouttheDefineR4, visitwww.fractal-design.com Tobeinwithachanceofwinningoneof thesefantastic,stylishcases,answerthe questionbelow.

Q
114 October 2012

WhatdoesATXstandfor? a)AcceleratedThreadedXeon b)AdvancedTechnologyeXtended c)ArmouredTankXylophone

with ‘Fractal Design Competition 109’ in the Subject line.
Closing date: 12 October, 2012

competition@custompc.co.uk

Email your answer to

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Letters
CASES FOR SEVEN GRAPHICS CARDS
I’ve been aware of ‘Folding@home’ for some time, but I’ve never been overly interested in the GPU processing side of it. Recently this changed and I’ve been cobbling together a dedicated GPU-processing PC from some second-hand bits and pieces. The massive computational power of modern cards makes forays into Folding@home an interesting hobby. Plus, there are other ‘greyer’ sides to GPUprocessing machines, such as hash cracking and bitcoin mining, that are also made possible with a dedicated GPU machine. Currently, I have an Asus Supercomputer P6T7 WS motherboard, an LGA1366 Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a generic hard drive, but my question relates to PSUs and cases. The P6T7 motherboard has a whopping total of seven PCI-E slots, and I fully intend to fill each one of them throughout the course of the PC’s lifetime. Of course, I’m aware that fitting multiple PCI-E cards in a motherboard reduces the speed of each slot, but I don’t see this being a problem, as it’s a calculation machine rather than a gaming machine. However, I would like some advice on which cases would be appropriate for all those PCI-E cards. I know that PCI-E risers are available to give you more flexibility when fitting cards in a machine. However, you then end up with a load of cards that are still flapping about in the breeze. What are you supposed to do with all those cards? You can’t screw them all into the

Send us your feedback and correspondence to editor@custompc.co.uk, with ‘Letter’ in the Subject line
SilverStone’sTJ12prototype–sixdualslotgraphicscardsinthesamecase

case, and I’m not aware of any external housing you could use. Plus another issue is that the flexible riser cards you can buy provide flexibility in one plane, but no more flexibility in any other plane. That’s the quandary. I’m hoping you guys have some insight on this issue. James Wilmington Ben replies: Seven graphics cards? That’s a serious folding rig you’re putting together, and I really admire your determination. Of course, pretty much any ATX case will have backplates for seven single-slot graphics cards – you’ll just have to put up with a lot of noise, and make sure there’s plenty of airflow going through the case to prevent them from overheating. However, I suspect this isn’t

what you’re asking, and that you’re actually looking at installing seven dual-slot graphics cards in the same case. In truth, we haven’t seen a case that can do this yet, but we have seen something close. At Computex last year, we saw a prototype of SilverStone’s TJ12 case, which could accommodate six dual-slot graphics cards in the same case, using an ingenious system of PCI-E extender daughterboards connected to the motherboard via flexible PCI-E data cables. It’s an odd arrangement to look at, with the graphics cards seemingly floating above the motherboard, but they all screw firmly into place. The other bonus of this is that not only can you get six graphics cards in the same case, but there’s also plenty of airflow space between them. We haven’t heard anything from SilverStone about this since then, but maybe you should write to the company and encourage it to put the case into production.

CORE AND ORDER
I was reading your magazine, and on p108 of Issue 107, I saw the ‘How to overclock an Intel Core i5-3570K’ guide. All the settings are fine, but there’s one issue. At the bottom of the page with the results, you say the CPU is a Core

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FEEDBACK

i5-3770K, but that’s the model number for a Core i7. Is this right? I’m using a 3770K, which is overclocked to 4.7GHz. I wish I could get it to 5GHz with a better cooler but, as you know, Ivy Bridge CPUs get really high temps. Dariusz Stachowski Ben replies: Nope, that’s most definitely not right, Dariusz – well spotted. The CPU we used was indeed a Core i5-3570K, not a Core i7 chip. Congratulations on your 3770K’s 4.7GHz overclock though. I’m not sure a better cooler would get you much further than that – the problem with the heat from that CPU is that it’s all concentrated into a very small space under the heatspreader – even our test chip won’t go any higher than 4.8GHz, and that’s with a dual 120mm liquid-cooling system on full blast.

Follow us on Twitter at @custompcmag
@BiggKennyIstheRadeon HD7870reallyworththeextra cashovera7850?Assumebothare overclocked. Ben:Yes,the7870hasmorestream processorsandtextureunits–it’s noticeablyquicker–notjustaclock speedbump. @JaffoAfterreading@ CustomPCMag,I’mnow downloadingtheHRTPforSkyrim. WishI’dknownaboutit113hoursago! @Sean_W19IhaveanAsus D2X.Whichwouldbebetterfor gaming?AnAsusVulcan,Corsair Vengeance1500orapairof Sennheisers? Ben:Ifyouwanttogetthesoundfrom yourD2X,thenyou’llwantananalogue connection,ratherthanUSB,which automaticallydisqualifiestheCorsair Vengeance1500.GofortheAsus VulcanANC–itnotonlyhasanalogue audioconnectors,butit’salsoour gamingheadsetofchoice(seep32). @TobyJKingIlovethatCustom PCmugthat’sgiventonew subscribers.Canitbepurchased? @craigthebeard84Idea:what aboutgivingsomethingbackto alltheloyalsubscribers?Themugsfor signingupnowaregreat! #herefromthestart Ben:Wow,loadsofpeoplehavebeen askingaboutthemugthismonth–it seemstobequiteamazinglypopular. I’llaskthepowersthatbe. @JoshJeffheadBeena subscriberforafewyears,but thismonth’sissuehashelpedmethe most.Using‘an’correctly. #BlewMyMind @thebiganzI’vesubscribed sinceIssue1.Lookingbackat ‘beattheoffice’PCnowseemslike yesterday.Actuallyitwas2004. Ben:You’llbepleasedtoknowthat the2.6GHzPentium4Engineering SampleusedinIssue1’sBeatThe OfficePCisnowenjoyingahappy retirementinmymediacentrePC! @Ghobson1985Howwouldone goaboutorderingabackissue?I wanttheliquidcoolingone:) Ben:Ah,that’smyfavouriteone.My bestadviceistopickupthedigital versionfromhttp://gb.zinio.com, whereyoucanbuydigitalversionsof mostofourrecentbackissues–Issue 107costs£3.50.Failingthat,yourbest betiseBay.

UpgradingtoanSSD willmakeamuchbigger differencethananew motherboardandCPU

GIVE OLDER K IT A CHANCE
I read with interest your editorial concerning upgrading to an SSD. In the editorial, you mention people ‘still using a Core 2 Quad or first-generation Core i7 system’ wanting to ‘gut’ their system and install a new Ivy Bridge setup. The brand-new PC I built at Christmas is new Core i7 930 on an Asus Sabertooth LGA1366 motherboard, with 12GB of Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory, an H100 cooler and an MSI GTX 580. It’s by far the fastest computer I’ve owned, and it breezes through Battlefield 3, The Witcher 2, Crysis et al with everything at the highest settings, and with truly mindboggling frame rates. I also decided to try my hand at this overclocking lark, and was pleasantly surprised to see my humble CPU reach around 4.5GHz with little change in the temperatures (though no really appreciable change in the gameplay). As such, I don’t

really feel inclined to upgrade my new computer to a newer Ivy Bridge system. In fact, to pile on the agony, I’m in the process of upgrading to a Core 2 Quad Q6600 system from my wife’s current AMD Athlon X2 7750 Black Edition setup. In everything I’ve read about it, the Core 2 Quad is a good upgrade from the present AMD CPU, which is showing its age and getting a little slow. My point is that you might have quite a few readers who aren’t early adopters, don’t

have unlimited budgets and are really interested in getting the best they can from what they have. I know the Core 2 Quad is old now, but is the Core i7 930 a museum piece already? Is it now to be shunned because it’s too old to be considered? My next upgrades for both machines will be SSDs, probably for my new computer first, followed by the Core 2 Quad. This isn’t intended to be a lot of criticism. I really enjoy the magazine and keeping up
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FEEDBACK

Intel’sSandyBridgeE–amazingfor multi-threadedworkstationsoftware, butitneedsseriouscoolingifyouwant tooverclockit

WHERE’S THIS SANDY BRIDGE E SYSTEM?
I’m loving the new magazine layout, guys, it’s looking really good. However, in Issue 101, you reviewed a load of new LGA2011 motherboards and Intel’s new Core i7 CPUs. Throughout the reviews you kept mentioning that they need a decent watercooling system to overclock them efficiently. Then, in the back of the same issue, in the ‘Coming next month’ section, one of the articles was going to be on Scan’s epic building skills. Scan was going to put together a water-cooled system to tame Intel’s Sandy Bridge E. I assumed this wasn’t the fake article, because one of the other articles was on hacking banks and that’s just illegal! I waited eagerly for the next issue to find out the potential of combining a fully overclocked Intel Core i7-3930K CPU with decent water-cooling. To my disappointment, there was no mention of it in Issue 102, or any issue since to my recollection. Have I overlooked the article? Could you tell me if it’s coming soon or if it’s already been published? I’m interested in the full potential of the Core i7-3930K CPU, as I’m currently using Autodesk Maya 2011 for my university course and I could do with a super-fast PC. I have around £2,000 as a budget, as well as £300 reserved for water cooling. I don’t even know if these amounts will suffice, or what I would have to buy in order to cool a fully overclocked i7-3930K. Please help! Nikki Beestin

Get a kick out of pointing out the shortcomings of others? It’s okay – so do we
ANOTHER LEVELW
Onp56ofIsssue108itsays:‘depending onthetypeofswitch,havedifferent levelwsofresistance.’LasttimeI checkedtherewasno‘w’in‘levels’:P AntonyBragg,viaFacebook

with developments in technology, but I feel it’s important not to write off older tech just because of its age. I also feel that, outside the world of benchmarking and speed competitions, a lot of people’s real-world experiences don’t always reflect the outcome of the testing process. Dale Latimer Ben replies: I agree with you completely, and I think you may have misunderstood the point of that part of my column. My point wasn’t to encourage people to gut their older systems to install new Ivy Bridge kit, but to say that people with components such as yours would be much better off replacing their system hard drive with an SSD, rather than swapping out the CPU, motherboard, memory and so on for what’s basically not much of a speed increase in real-world terms. The difference made by an SSD, in terms of general computer usage, will be much greater than the difference from going to a Core i7 930 to an Ivy Bridge setup. As a side point, I’m also a big fan of getting the most out of your older kit, rather than just chucking out everything every couple of years. As you’ll see in the Twitter Highlights (see previous page), I’ve even found a home for my ancient Socket 478 Pentium 4 system.

Ben replies: Thanks for your positive comments about the magazine’s new formula, Nikki, I’m glad you’re enjoying what we’re doing. As you probably noticed, there were a lot of changes to the magazine between Issue 101 and when I took over on Issue 103. The ‘Coming next month’ section in Issue 101 was basically written by a different editorial team – the Scan Sandy Bridge E system to which we referred definitely wasn’t a joke. If I’m honest, my first priority when I took over wasn’t to go through previous ‘Coming next month’ sections before the one in Issue 102 – I honestly just forgot about it. Interestingly, though, while discussing the Ivy Bridge gaming rig in Issue 106, we chatted to Scan about the potential for getting in an all-singing, all-dancing Sandy Bridge E system, and now that former Custom PC editor James Gorbold (see p130) is helping Scan to spec up its top-end 3XS systems, this could be a really interesting idea to follow up. Watch this space.

Harryhasjustrealisedthathe’sbeenaberk,and calledtheAlphacoolNexXxosUT60theAlphacool NexXxosXT60throughoutourwatercoolingLabsin Issue107.Simplyput,it’ssoldastheUT60,NOTthe XT60.Weapologisefortheconfusion.

COR R E C T I O N

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Join our folding team and help medical research

WHAT IS FOLDING?

Folding@homeusesthespareprocessingcyclesfromyourPC’sCPUandgraphicscardsformedicalresearch.Youcandownload theclientfromhttp://folding.stanford.edu/download.htmlandourteam’sIDis35947.Onceyoupassasignificantmilestone, you’llgetyournameinthemag.Youcanalsodiscussfoldingwithusandotherreadersonthewww.bit-tech.netforums.

We catch up with folder of the month: : Votick
CPC:Sowhoareyouandwhatdoyoudo? Votick: My name is Chris, and I’m an IT support engineer for BrightVisions in Cambridgeshire. CPC:Whatpromptedyoutostartfolding? Votick:It was probably the first issue of CustomPC I purchased way back in 2008. I made an account and started to fold, but had to pack it in shortly afterwards. My 1GHz Athlon K8 didn’t manage very well, sadly, as it took days to complete a unit. I then returned in 2010, and I’ve been active ever since, mainly via GPU folding. CPC:Whataspectexcitesyouthemost aboutfolding? Votick: The fact that my PCs are a part of the world’s largest distributed supercomputer, joining with others from around the world to help with the study of protein folding in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and many cancers. CPC:Howmanymachinesdoyoucurrently havefolding? Votick: I have around four machines that fold, although only two run 24/7; both of these are servers. My main gaming PC (an overclocked Phenom 1055T running at 3.5GHz with a GTX 680) turfs out the most points (around 25,000 ppd), but it’s turned off when not in use. Meanwhile, the two servers run SMP clients on an AMD FX-4 4100 X4 Bulldozer and an Intel Xeon i7 W3520, both of which fold using around 50 per cent of the CPU resources, to allow room for general use. Most of the PCs are at home, although various servers are in data centres, which is handy for folding, as they stay very cool. CPC:Doyouintendtokeepupyourcurrent productionlevel? Votick: Sadly not. My main spike in points recently was made possible while I was beta-testing some cloud computing products. However, this has inspired me to build a dedicated folding rig to keep up my production. CPC:Anytipsforfellowteammembers? Votick: I see this in every issue, and I have to repeat it, as it’s a very important tip: sign up to the forums and get to know the others in the team! Some great tips can be found on the forum, which can enable you to squeeze more units out of your hardware. CPC:What’syourworstfoldingexperience? Votick: Probably burning out a GeForce 8800 GTX because it overheated. R.I.P. CPC:Andthebest? Votick: I’ve really enjoyed participating in the Chimps Challenge event for the past three years. Sadly, I missed this year’s challenge, but I’ll be in on the next one – hopefully with more power! CPC:Whatwouldyouchangeaboutyour setup,ifanything? Votick: I’d like to swap out my overclocked AMD Phenom 1055T for an Intel Core-i7, which I would then use as an occasional folding machine. Once I’d done that, the AMD CPU and motherboard could then be turned into a dedicated folding rig. However, I need to save up some pennies first. Teamrank186 Worldrank7,167 Score4,189,623 Workunits5,547 Dailypointsaverage7,021 TOPFOLDERS Thismonth’sshout-outsgotoScorpuk, johnim,PaulChapman,fatchef,kirk_hobson anddebs3759.Ifyoufoldunderanyofthese names,emaileditor@custompc.co.uk
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MILESTONES THIS MONTH
Username Points milestone Username Points milestone Username Points milestone Username Points milestone

DJcarrot Jamie matthewed wardcornish Pickles96 Youtube BelgiumPress a5pin Aesir Anselm Eltresino MalecAndBrinn

20000 20000 20000 20000 20000 30000 30000 30000 30000 30000

tompdb david_thomas 1903 jpostlethwaite ThreeFN Borden GrammarSchool Detsawm KINGOF THESWING baggins Daysdivinity dixy999 natwilford03 ReDeamer Rosyglo darthvanman Evil_Pillsbury

60000 70000 70000 80000 100000 100000 100000 200000 200000 200000 200000 200000 200000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 400000 400000 400000 400000

Archaon88 CCHS Fartlek maxrealism YbrFinX kornvdd Munky toothytech Antec-G Osiris_Blue zit_z_pps ForGrace yes beads Dobbs2010 Humwawa Number14 geonectixs Igniseus kirk_hobson Laguna2012

500000 500000 500000 500000 500000 600000 600000 600000 700000 700000 700000 800000 800000 900000 900000 900000 900000 1000000 1000000 1000000 1000000

Pete ShortMunky chelseascum firth72 PRJKITCH Slowlemon Daniel_Selley gordon_wardlaw JazzNazz Leevor SicoAnimal Abomin81on Votick debs3759 KevinWright Mark_Skeldon TheAbyssDragon cave_diver davidj2010 JediMasterJonny Scorpuk

1000000 1000000 2000000 2000000 2000000 2000000 3000000 3000000 3000000 3000000 3000000 4000000 4000000 5000000 5000000 5000000 5000000 7000000 7000000 7000000 7000000

Rykard_Maximus 30000 EricK humphrey K.I.T.T. Raoul589 Eldorado-Bittech_ gfos2 RandomDecoy TheManicGibbon {HSP}Dazzler KyralTim SirBenjamin Nunn 40000 40000 40000 40000 50000 50000 50000 50000 60000 60000 60000

Filce Taffers toxic43 Filce Fuseunder ground SourDipRaita TokerRizla

THE NEXT OVERTAKE
World Team name rank Points Daily points average Time until overtake

7

CustomPC& bit-tech

5,413,845,616

3,721,133

0

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TOP 20 OVERALL
Rank Username Points milestone
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

TOP 20 PRODUCERS
Work units
107,186 140,363 93,954 15,794 141,158 59,963 71,877 46,589 5,663 32,148 3,107 45,372 8,714 33,572 27,465 6,865 86,274 162,571 36,689 51,047

Username
Dave_Goodchild DocJonz phoenicis zz9pzza coolamasta Lizard StreetSam CustomBitChimps Wallace Christopher_N._Lewis BennieboyUK saspro fir3x Standin_wave Nelio One_Box PS3/LanDi greenfrog.biz The_M2B Lordsoth

Points
381,086,302 234,674,005 223,349,417 211,014,628 193,221,222 130,940,425 105,983,638 94,376,547 87,165,477 83,773,042 61,286,969 57,534,603 56,658,911 50,874,887 49,880,646 48,855,411 48,279,418 47,697,607 47,214,549 43,275,895

Rank
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Username
DocJonz Christopher_N._ Lewis Nelio coolamasta One_Box Wallace LordBadger Scorpuk The_M2B fir3x Lordsoth PC_Rich fatchef kirk_hobson Slowlemon Leroyingo PaulChapman Mark_Rowe johnim debs3759

Dailypointsaverage
415,343 338,525 294,821 231,719 161,757 159,446 79,483 78,772 75,720 73,575 71,168 65,496 56,875 55,354 51,477 42,878 42,864 41,673 40,551 30,814

Overallscore
234,674,005 83,773,042 49,880,646 193,221,222 48,855,411 87,165,477 30,285,135 7,390,494 47,214,549 56,658,911 43,275,895 41,187,277 13,257,012 1,321,428 2,754,866 17,342,197 12,966,304 31,321,512 38,291,456 5,174,578

Serpentine TheFlipside julianvt _Fanatic Angy LordBadger PC_Rich PeteBee Christopher_N._ Lewis

7000000 7000000 8000000 9000000 20000000 30000000 40000000 40000000 80000000

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Coming next month in
Power supplies Make a temperaturesensitive light system

Harry’sbeenstockpilingaveritable mountainof500-850Wpower suppliesinourlab,whichhe’sgoing topushtotheirlimits,readyfora massiveLabstestnextmonth.

IfyouwerebaffledbytheArduino Leonardoreview(seep44)thenpay attentiontothiscrackingguidefrom Gareth’sHalfacreenextissue.

PC building masterclass

Whetheryou’renewtothisPC-building lark,orjustwantsometipsoncablerouteing,we’llshowyouhowtoput togetheragreatcomputer.

Wedon’tjustmeanremovingtheside panels–AntonyLeathershowsyouhow tocompletelydismantleyourcaseand drilloutalltherivets,forpropermodding.
*Pleasenotethatthesestoriesaresubjecttoproductdelays,kit notturningupandseveraldaysspentimpalingcouriersonspikes, whileweconsumeburritosandrumamidtheirdesperatecries.

How to dismantle your case

On sale 20 September, 2012

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Gareth Halfacree managed to get hold of a brand new, unopened Sinclair ZX81 kit from 1981. Now he readies his soldering iron to see how the computer building process has changed over the last three decades...

T

hefactthatyou’rereadingthis magazinemeansthatyou’remore thanlikelyfamiliarwiththeconcept ofbuildingyourownPC.Putting togetheryourowncomputerwasn’talways aseasyasthestandardisedjigsawpuzzlewe havenowthough.Togiveyouanideaofjust whatitmeanttobeasystembuilderbackin thebadolddays,we’regoingtotakeyouona tripdownmemorylanetothegoldeneraof microcomputing:the1980s. Forthebenefitofyoungerreaders,the 1980swasamagicaltime.Despitealittle warandsomeunpopulardecisionsbythe firstfemaleprimeminister,Margaret Thatcher,the1980sisrememberedby mostgeeksasbeingthebirthofwhat youmayrecogniseasthecomputing era.Microcomputers–simple, 8-bitmachineswithverylittle memory–weretakingthe worldbystorm,andBritain wasattheforefront.At thestartofthedecade, SinclairComputers– foundedfromthe ashesofClive Sinclair’sSinclair Radionics–wouldoffer theworld’sfirsthome computerforunder£100:theZX80.

FollowingthesuccessoftheZX80,andthe launchoftheAcornAtomfromSinclair’s bitterrival(andformeremployee)Chris Curry,Sinclairdemandedmore:abug-fixed systemthatcouldbesoldforevenless money.TheresultwastheZX81. Launched,asthenamesuggests,in1981, theZX81cost £69.95bymailorderdirectly fromSinclair.Ifyouwereacheapskate,orof acuriousmindset,however,youcouldalso opttobuythemachineinkitformforjust £49.95–theequivalentofaround£170now; andthiswasatatimewhenrivalmachines costclosertothe£300mark. Foryourcash,youacquiredamachine basedaroundtheZilogZ80processor–or

acompatiblechipfromNEC–runningat 3.5MHz,withawhopping1KBofRAManda copyofSinclairBASICheldinan8KBROM (read-onlymemory). It’seasytoscoffatthenow-meagre specifications,buttogetarealsenseofhow timeshavechangedthere’sonlyonething forit:togettheDeLoreanupto88mphand getourhandsonakit-formZX81forsome microcomputerbuildingaction. Afterwaitingtherequired28daysfor delivery–thepostalservicewasdifferent backthen,andSinclairwasn’tabovetaking peoples’moneyfordevicesthatdidn’tquite exist–wereturnedto2012withourveryown ZX81kit.Intheboxwefoundaplasticcasing finishedinfuturisticblack, alongwithasurprisingly compact,printed circuitboard,apower supply–towhichwe’llhave toattachourownpluglater –someleadsforatape recorder,anRFmodulator, akeyboard,andseveral bagsofcomponents. Lookinginthebags, somecomponentsare moreobviously recognisablethanothers. AbagofblackICs,for

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Thediagramontheback oftheboxshowshowto hookupthecomputer, butsaysnothingabout theamountofsoldering involvedinbuildingit

example,areroughlythesameparts Othercomponentsareless THE ROM CHIP IS THE ONLY ONasamoderncomputerhastoday:an obvious:thetransparentbags, BOARD STORAGE. PERMANENTLY packeddutifullybySinclair NECD780C-1istheCPU,apincompatibleZilogZ80clone,whilea assembly-lineworkersanxiousnot BURNED INTO THE CHIP IS THE pairof512-byte2114RAMchipstake tobecomeanotherunemployment BOOTLOADER – EQUIVALENT TO statistic,containanassortmentof theplaceofDIMMs. A BIOS IN A MODERN PC LessrecognisablearetheFerranti resistors,diodes,capacitorsand UncommittedLogicArray(ULA)and transistors–andnotasurfaceasystem-on-chip(SoC)aboutitifyouignore theROM,marked‘SinclairResearch’. mountcomponentinsight.Eachone thelackofon-boardCPU. TheformeristhesecretofSinclair’slowneedstobeattachedtothePCBbyhandand TheROMchipistheZX81’sonlyon-board costsuccess:theULAisasemi-custom intherightlocation–meaningthatwe’re storage.Permanentlyburnedintothechipis chipwhichtakesontherolesof12ofthe goingtohavetoaddasolderingirontoour thebootloaderforthedevice–theequivalent chipsfoundintheoriginalZX80,reducingthe PC-buildingtoolkitforthefirsttimeinyears. toaBIOSorEFIinamodernPC–alongwith complexityandcostdramatically.It’salmost Afteridentifyingallofthecomponentsand acopyoftheZX81’soperatingsystem: liketheNorthbridgeandSouthbridgeofa matchingthemtotheprovidedassembly SinclairBASIC. modernPC,althoughitalsohasshadesof guide,it’stimetostartthebuild.

TheblackICsareroughlythesamepartsasthoseofa moderncomputer,withaCPUandapairofRAMchips

TheZX81includesanRF(aerialsocket)modulator(left)asstandard.However,we’regoingtodoalittlemodding,and replaceitwithaunitthat’scapableofoutputtingacompositesignalforcurrentTVs(right) 126

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The first step is to insert all the resistors that lay flat on the board. There are other resistors to fit, but we’ll add these later, as they need to stand upright. Each resistor location on the board requires a specific value, which you read from the resistor by decoding the colour stripes on its body. The wrong resistor in the wrong place means a dead ZX81. Just to make matters even more complicated, some positions on the board are left empty. There are no handy PCI slots or ZIF sockets for these components, either; once inserted, you need to flip over the board and solder each resistor into place – a total of 26 solder joints are needed to complete this first step.

Just when we thought we’d seen the last resistor, Sinclair throws in a curveball: a set of resistor packs. These contain several resistors in a single long package with a common pin at the end, saving even more space.Whilethesehavetheirvaluesprinted on the side – meaning that we don’t have to squint at coloured bands – they need to be soldered to the board with the common pin pointing towards the ‘C’ marking on the PCB. Another 15 solder points for these brings us to 81 in total. The iron is starting to feel remarkably heavy now.

Next, we need to solder the diodes to the keyboard port. Diodes act as electronic gates, so that electricity can flow in one direction but not the other. In some ways, the diodes are easy to fit; unlike the resistors, they all have the same value and only fit in one location. However, the diodes are polarised, meaning that they need to be fitted with the thick band pointing upwards, or the keyboard won’t work. Another 16 solder points in this step brings us to 42 so far – the sweat is starting to build and the fumes are getting troublesome.

More resistors! To save board space – and therefore money – Sinclair’s engineers opted to fit some resistors standing upright. This means that each of these resistors needs to be carefully bent into shape, inserted into the holes and then held in place while the board is flipped. After soldering – another 24 joints for a running total of 66 – each resistor is inspected to make sure that it isn’t touching any of its neighbours and causing a short circuit.

Finally, we’re able to have a little break from resistors, as it’s now time to solder the capacitors to the board. These store small amounts of electricity – like a very small battery – and provide smoothing for various important signals. Some are ceramic discs, which are no more difficult to fit than resistors. However, the blue drum-shaped electrolytic capacitors have a specific polarity, like diodes, which means that you have to carefully investigate the markings on the PCB. Another 24 more solder points and we’ve broken the century at 105 in total – and we’re barely halfway through the build process.

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CUSTOMISATION

As with a modern PC, the ZX81 needs a heatsink – but it isn’t the CPU we’ll be protecting. A 5V regulator takes the incoming 9V feed from the power supply and turns it into power the logic circuits can use, but in doing so, it becomes very warm indeed. A sharp-edged slab of metal bolted to the regulator provides some cooling – and more so when we deviated from the instructions a little by adding some silicone thermal paste. Just three solder joints required this time, meaning that we’ve now had 256 so far.

Next comes a trio of miscellaneous components: three-legged transistors, which are significantly smaller than the tip of your finger, and a ceramic filter. The filter can go on the board any way around, but the transistors need to be aligned with the outline on the PCB. This is a short step, and adds nine solder points to the total, bringing us to a sweat-inducing sum of 114.

Sockets and slots make matters a lot easier when you’re building a modern-day PC system, but not when you have to solder them on yourself. The IC sockets protect the chips from the heat of soldering. We’ll add the sockets now, then put the chips in them towards the end of the build. This part is seriously time-consuming; the ULA (uncommitted logic array) and CPU sockets both have 40 pins, while the ROM has 24 and the RAM has 18, plus a further 17 for the two keyboard connectors – that’s a whopping 139 solder joints, more than doubling our total at 253. At this point, we had to open a window for some fresh air.

A trio of 3.5mm jacks provide connections for a tape recorder – as an input device for loading software and a storage device for saving software – and the 9V power supply. While we’d question the logic of having a power supply that uses the same plug as a set of headphones, we’re trusting Clive on this one. At the same time, we’re swapping out the Sinclair-supplied RF modulator, which provides an analogue video signal for older TV sets, for a ZXVid. Designed by Andy Rea , and built by Ian Gledhill, the ZXVid provides a highquality, stable composite video output, providing a much cleaner picture and support for modern LCD TVs. Another 13 solder joints in this step brings the total to 269 – and we can finally shut down the iron and mop our fevered brows.

It’s finally time to put in the chips. The ‘workhorse’ ULA is placed next to the modulator, followed by the ROM towards the bottom of the board. Meanwhile, the Z80 CPU is situated in the middle, and the two RAM chips sit towards the righthand side of the PCB. Each needs to have its legs carefully bent inwards by pushing against a flat surface – they’re manufactured with slightly splayed legs, a trait continued by ICs today – before being pushed firmly into the socket. Bend a pin, and it’s game over. At least there’s no more soldering.
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CUSTOMISATION

Officially, it’s now time to install the ZX81 in its case: but this is Custom PC, so we can’t resist a little mod. Ferranti designed the ULA to run at around 50 per cent utilisation, but the ZX81 runs it closer to 75 per cent – meaning that it gets extremely hot. This leads to premature failure, and we don’t fancy forking out for the plutonium needed to make another trip to 1981 to pick up a replacement. Some thermal tape and a low-profile heatsink should head trouble off at the pass.

It’s now time to connect the keyboard. Sinclair had what we’re going to generously call an ‘original’ approach to keyboard design, and the ZX81 is no exception. The sealed membrane keyboard means that it was cheap to manufacture and reasonably resistant to spills, but it creates a typing experience described by the BBC’s Micro Men as ‘like trying to read Braille through a pair of gardening gloves’. Third-party replacements were popular, but we’ll stick with the original, which slides through the case and connects to the PCB through a pair of very fiddly – and fragile – cables.

Finally, it’s time to assemble the case. Unlike a modern PC case, the ZX81’s housing is made entirely from lovely cheap plastic. The PCB is placed onto the lid – not the base – of the case face-down and secured with two screws. The bottom half of the case is then attached with a further five screws, and the system can be flipped over into its correct orientation. At this point, it’s easy to see why the ZX81 earned the nickname ‘doorstop’.

With power connected, and a composite video cable running to a classic CRT TV, the ZX81 flickers into life some 31 years after the kit was placed in its box. There’s no whirr of fans or hard drives, or even the reassurance of a glowing LED to let you know it’s functioning, but the machine is working hard nevertheless. Our efforts are rewarded with a blank white screen, and a cursor awaiting our instructions. What better way to christen the device than a short program designed to duplicate – albeit rather clumsily – the CustomPC logo, we thought? Well, aside from Crysis – and if you can figure out a way to make that work, be sure to let us know at the usual address. CPC

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Everything you need to know about Windows Phone, in one place.
The Ultimate Guide To

Top Windows Phone handsets tested and rated Find out all the tips, tricks and shortcuts The best apps and games to download

Order your print or digital copy direct from magbooks.com or call 0844 844 0053
MagBooks cover a range of topics, from IT to Motoring, and Fitness to Lifestyle WorldMags.net

MOVING PAINS

james gorbold

W

James Gorbold discovers that moving home has become all the more complicated for PC enthusiasts in 2012
hadtoaddathirdquestiontomylistofprioritieswhenhouse-hunting –‘isfastbroadbandaccessavailable?’ Infact,I’vealreadyhadtoturndownseveralotherwiseattractive houses.Takethedetachedhouseoverlookingalakewithsome mountainsinthedistanceasanexample.Despitebeingpartofa housingestatebuiltinthelastfewyears,andbeinglocatedlessthan fivemilesawayfromseverallargeindustrialestates,noneoftheISPs Iapproachedcouldguaranteeaconnectionfasterthan1Mb/sec. IknowI’mnotaloneeither;afriendrecentlyfinishedbuildinghis dreamhomeinsouthWalesonlytofindthat thefastestbroadbandonofferis1.5Mb/sec. Iwasgoingtodescribethisasironic,given thatthevastmajorityofunderseacablesthat connecttheUKtotherestoftheInternetarein southWalesorjustacrosstheBristolChannel, butI’vecometotheconclusionthatit’smore tragicthanironic. Whatthisnowmeansisthatinadditionto keepingtheusualhouse-huntingwebsitessuchasRightmoveopen inFirefox,IalsohavetokeepaneyeonallthemajorISPsandtheir paltryselectionofservices.GiventhattheUKapparentlygenerates moremoneyonlinethananyotherG20country[source:http://tinyurl. com/slowuk],whatarePCenthusiastssupposedtodo?Iforonedon’t fancytheideaofclusteringtogetherintherun-down,boarded-up urbanmetropolisesofthiscountryinthehopeofgettingfast broadbandaccess,likehobosgatheringroundaburningoilcan. JamesGorboldfellinlovewiththeoriginalIBMPCintheearly 1980sandhasbeenbuilding,tweakingandoverlockingPCsever since.HehaswrittenanarticleinalmosteveryissueofCustom PCandnowhelpsScanComputerstodevelopnewsystems.

hileIwasintendingtowritemyfirstnewCustomPC columnabouthardware,overthepastfewweeks,a farmorepressingandworrisomeissuethanmynext memoryupgradehascometolight.Despitethisbeing2012,theyear oftheLondonOlympics,whichissurelyallabouttheneedforspeed, broadbandaccessisstillwoefullypooracrossmuchoftheUK. Ofcourse,Irealisethisishardlygoingtobestartlingnewstoany ofyou;numerousreportshaveconsistentlyshownthattheUKhas amongtheslowestbroadbandconnectionsinEurope.Whatthe headlinefigureslistedinthesestoriesdon’t oftenshow,however,isthevariationin broadbandspeedsacrosstheUK.Thisis somethingthat’srecentlybeenbroughthome tome,asI’mcurrentlyrelocatingtoadifferent partofthecountryforthefirsttimeintenyears. Backthen,almosttheonlychoiceifyou wantedbroadbandwasa512Kb/secor1Mb/ secInternetconnection.Theprioritised questionswhenhouse-huntingwere‘howeasyisittocommuteto andfromwork?’and‘isthereenoughroomforallmyPCs?’ Tenyearson,thewayweusetheInternethaschangedsignificantly. Now,ratherthansimplyreadingwebsitesanddownloadingsmall gamedemos,wedownloadmulti-gigabytegamesfromSteamand Origin,streamHDvideosfromYouTube,NetflixandLovefilmand uploadvastquantitiesofdatatoonlinebackuparchivesandmedia sharingsitessuchasFlickr. Basically,amere1Mb/secconnectionisn’tgoodenoughany more.Infact,evena20Mb/secconnectionfeelsprettyslowattimes. Theproblemisthat,evenin2012,manypartsoftheUKstillonlyoffer amaximumconnectionspeedof1Mb/sec. AsallthesemodernInternetservicesplaysuchakeyroleinmylife (andIimagineahugenumberofCustomPCreaders’livestoo),I’ve

None of the ISPs I approached could guarantee a connection faster than 1Mb/sec

130

October 2012

WorldMags.net

www.novatech.co.uk

www.ebuyer.com

WorldMags.net www.aria.co.uk www.eclipsecomputers.com

Chillblast.com
www.chillblast.com

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