Copyright 2012 by Sandhills Publishing Company. CPU Computer Power User is a registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company.

All rights reserved. Reproduction of material appearing in
Computer Power User is strictly prohibited without written permission. Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 (ISSN 1536-7568) CPU Computer Power User USPS 020-801 is published
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OCTOBER 2012 | VOL 12 ISSUE 10
60
Mainboard Mayhem
Motherboard Buyer’s Guide
70
For Your Eyes Only
Monitor Buyer’s Guide
Copyright 2012 by Sandhills Publishing Company. CPU Computer Power User is a registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction of material appearing in
Computer Power User is strictly prohibited without written permission. Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 (ISSN 1536-7568) CPU Computer Power User USPS 020-801 is published
monthly for $29 per year by Sandhills Publishing Company, 131 West Grand Drive, P.O. Box 85673, Lincoln, NE 68501. Subscriber Services: (800) 733-3809. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, NE and
additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Computer Power User, P.O. Box 82545, Lincoln, NE 68501.
Did you fnd the hidden CPU logo on our cover? Turn the page to fnd the answer.
27
GIGABYTE
Z77X-UP5 TH
28
Aerocool Touch 2100
30
Thermaltake
Tt eSPORTS
SHOCK One
32
PC Power & Cooling
Silencer Mk III
1200W
34
ZOTAC GeForce GTX
660 Ti AMP! Edition
Frontside
10 What’s Happening
16 Digital Economy
Heavy Gear
18 Mighty Midtowers
Case Options From $40 To $130
27 GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH
28 Aerocool Touch 2100
30 Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One
31 Corsair Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7.1
Gaming Headset
32 PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
34 ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition
35 Rosewill RK-9000I
36 Diablotek Abyss White
37 Zalman CNPS14X
38 Phanteks PH-TC14PE
40 Xgamerpc Kill Box
Made-To-Order WMD
Hard Hat Area
PC MODDER
42 Mad Reader Mod
ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R
46 Intel LAN Fest 2012
United We LAN
50 Advanced Q&A Corner
53 X-ray Vision: MSI Power Edition GTX 660 Ti
Twin Frozr IV Highlights Latest MSI Video Card
56 White Paper: XFX Ghost Thermal Technology
Minimalist Design Meets Maximum Performance
OCTOBER 2012 | VOL 12 ISSUE 10
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Effi ci ent power, sol i d constructi on, good
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92 92
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Here it is.
96
OCTOBER 2012 | VOL 12 ISSUE 10
Loading Zone
82 The Bleeding Edge Of Software
Inside The World Of Betas
83 Up To Speed
Upgrades That’ll Keep You Humming Along
84 Discount Digital Darkrooms
Image Editors For The 99%
88 SlimWare Utilities RecImg Manager
89 Zabkat xplorer2 Pro 2.1
90 Trend Micro DirectPass 1.2
91 Kaspersky Password Manager 5
92 Software Tips & Projects
Playing In The Cloud
94 Warm Up To Penguins
Use Linux Without Changing A Thing
Digital Living
96 At Your Leisure
PC & Console Games & Gear
101 Hunting The Next Instagram
Mobile Startups Vying For Killer-App Status
104 Under Development
A Peek At What’s Brewing In The Laboratory
Back Door
110 Q&A With Ruben Mookerjee
Corsair’s VP & General Manager Of
Components On Acquiring Raptor Gaming
Infinite Loops
Strange stats and other oddball items from
computing’s periphery 93, 95
WA T C H I N G T H E C H I P S F A L L
Here is the pricing
information for
various AMD and
Intel CPUs.
* As of August 2012
** Manufacturer’s
estimated price
per 1,000
CPU Released Original Price Last Month’s Price Online Retail Price*
AMD FX-8150 Black Edition Eight-Core 10/12/2011 $245** $199.99 $189.99
AMD FX-8120 Black Edition Eight-Core 10/12/2011 $205** $159.99 $159.99
AMD FX-6100 Black Edition Six-Core 10/12/2011 $165** $139.99 $134.99
AMD A8-3870K Black Edition Quad-Core 12/20/2011 $135** $119.99 $109.99
AMD A8-3850 Quad-Core 7/3/2011 $135** $109.99 $99.99
AMD FX-4100 Quad-core 10/12/2011 $115** $109.99 $109.99
AMD A6-3670K Black Edition Quad-Core 12/20/2011 $115** $99.99 $94.99
AMD A6-3650 Quad-Core 7/3/2011 $115** $94.99 $99.99
Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition 11/14/2011 $990** $1,029.99 $1,029.99
Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition 2/14/2011 $999** $1,029.99 $1,029.99
Intel Core i7-3930K 11/14/2011 $555** $569.99 $569.99
Intel Core i7-3770K 4/23/2011 $332** $339.99 $339.99
Intel Core i7-3770 4/23/2011 $294** $319.99 $309.99
Intel Core i7-2700K 10/24/2011 $332** $309.99 $309.99
Intel Core i7-2600K 1/9/2011 $317** $289.99 $299.99
Intel Core i5-3570K 4/23/2011 $225** $229.99 $229.99
Intel Core i5-2550K 2/8/2012 $225** $242.99 $242.99
Intel Core i5-3550 4/23/2011 $205** $209.99 $209.99
Intel Core i3-2130 9/4/2011 $138** $149.99 $149.99
Intel Core i3-2120 2/20/2011 $138** $124.99 $124.99
ZOTAC Downsizes The Home
Theater PC With ZBOX ID84
If you’re in need of a really small (1.7 x 7.4 x 7.4
[HxWxD inches]) and inexpensive HD-capable home
theater PC, add ZOTAC’s new ZBOX ID84 mini PC to
the list of prospects. You can opt for a barebones ID84-U
model ($229) that ships without memory or hard drive
or an ID84-Plus-U model ($319) that provides 2GB
DDR2 memory and a 320GB hard drive. ZOTAC points
out that both models provide “eco-friendly computing
with superior energy-efciency” abilities. Neither model
includes an OS, but both run a 1.86GHz Intel Atom
D2550 dual-core CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M
graphics (512MB). Further, both include HDMI-out,
DVI, four USB 2.0, and two USB 3.0 ports; Wi-Fi;
Bluetooth 3.0; and GbE. In a nod toward home-theater
PC usage, a media center remote is included, as is a
USB IR receiver, Wi-Fi antenna, and VESA mount for
attaching the ID84 to a monitor or TV. ■
Six times the performance. That’s the type of improvement that
CyberPower states buyers of the company’s midrange and high-end
gaming PCs now packing NVIDIA’s next-gen, Kepler-revved GeForce
GTX 660 Ti graphics card can expect as compared to previous systems
based on DirectX10 cards. CyberPower also promises richer environments
thanks to NVIDIA’s new TXAA (temporal antialiasing) technique. Te
company’s GTX 660 Ti-based systems are available complete with scads
of customization options starting at $849 via models within CyberPower’s
Fang III, Gamer Xtreme, and Ultra series. Te company is also dropping
the card into systems belonging to its recently introduced Zeus Tunder
and Zeus Lightning series. Systems from those series include CyberPower’s
Advanced Hydro liquid-cooling system, which the company states it has
optimized for the GeForce GTX 660 Ti. ■
CyberPower
PC Welcomes
The GeForce
GTX 660 Ti
Aboard
10 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Prepare To Immerse Yourself
In The Oculus Rift
Ready for the future of video games to be irreparably transformed?
Tat’s exactly the type of hype that the Oculus Rift is conjuring up
from many, including John Carmack who said of the Rift, “What I’ve
got now, is, I honestly think the best VR demo probably the world has
ever seen.” Created by Palmer Luckey, the Rift is touted as “the frst
truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.” A Rift Dev kit
that includes a copy of Doom 3 BFG Edition (the frst Rift-enabled
game) had garnered nearly $1.8 million in donations from roughly
7,330 Kickstarter backers as of late August. Technical specs for the
kit include PC and mobile platform support, six degrees of freedom
ultra-low latency head tracking, 110 degrees diagonal/90 degree
horizontal feld of view, 1,280 x 800 resolution, and DVI/HDMI and
USB inputs. Unfortunately, Oculus states a consumer version is “still a
ways down the road”. Oculus VP Nate Mitchell told Wired, however,
the consumer version will be “far and away . . . a whole other level in
terms of latency and comfort.” ■
Corsair Takes Hold Of The Raptor
In a deal designed to widen its international reach, Corsair
announced in mid-August that it has acquired certain assets
from Heinsberg, Germany-based Raptor Gaming, which Corsair
characterized as having a strong retail presence in Germany,
“the largest market for video gaming in Europe.” Raptor,
which launched in 2004, is the maker of high-end gaming
gear, including the Raptor-Gaming K3 keyboard, M4 mouse,
and H5 5.1 USB headset. Specifcally, Corsair is gobbling up
Raptor Gaming’s full portfolio of keyboards, mice, headsets, and
accessories to add with its own Vengeance PC gaming line to
form a new series of products. “Corsair and Raptor share the same
goal, bringing best-in-class PC hardware to gamers around the
world,” stated Andy Paul, Corsair president and CEO. “Raptor
Gaming’s strong retail presence will allow us to ofer a wider range
of PC hardware to gamers across Germany.” (See more about the
acquisition on page 110.) ■
The Little Printer That Could
Some products defy logic. Take Berg Cloud’s Little Printer, for
example. In an age when smartphones enable us to bring our
digital world practically anywhere, the impish Little Printer
essentially takes a step back in time. And yet, it managed to
attract all kinds of interest even before Berg Cloud began
taking pre-orders in August for shipments expected to begin in
October. In short, Berg Cloud supplies users a smartphone app
(iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone supported) to organize
subscriptions to “publications” (Foursquare, The Guardian,
Google, ARUP at launch) from which users use the Little Printer
(inkless, thermal paper) to print various bits of interest (to-do
lists, headlines, etc.). Te result is efectively a “timely, beautiful
miniature newspaper.” An included Bridge component connects
the printer to the Web. Prints, meanwhile, “take visual cues from
traditional halftone lithography and modern pixel art.” A Starter
Pack runs $259 plus shipping and includes international power
supplies, cables, and replacement paper. ■
CPU / October 2012 11
GoSmart Restpad Takes Sheepish
Approach To Wrist Relief
If your wrists are in need of a “relaxing vacation,” look no further than the
GoSmart Restpad ($24.95), a patent-pending mouse pad that integrates a
100% natural sheepskin wrist rest designed to provide “soothing comfort and
ultimate pressure relief.” GoSmart states the RestPad is validated to relieve
more than twice as much pressure as other wrist rests. In fact, GoSmart claims
the RestPad underwent “extensive testing with advanced tactile array sensors
that measured the contact pressures underneath the wrist.” Construction-wise,
the sheepskin is attached via VELCRO, making it easy to remove and wash.
Te mouse pad, meanwhile, is 38% larger than typical mouse pads, thus
“matching the widescreen aspect ratio of modern displays.” Elsewhere, the
base’s bottom features high-friction rubber for stability. Tan microfber, pink
microfber, and brown polyester models are yours for the mousing. ■
Origin PC Gets Twice As Nice
With EON17-SLX
Meet the EON17-SLX, a beast of a system that Origin PC
hails as its “most powerful EON laptop.” Te 17.3-inch (1,920
x 1080; LED backlit glossy display) powerhouse “takes mobile
gaming to the next level” in part by ofering an option to add
dual NVIDIA 4GB GeForce GTX 680 discrete graphics cards
with SLI support or dual 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M
discrete cards with CrossFire support tweaked via professional
overclocking. Customizations are available galore, but the $1,867
base model includes a 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M graphics
card, Intel Core i5 dual-core 3320M CPU (option for up to
quad-core Extreme Edition Core i7-3920XM overclocked to
4.5GHz), 4GB DDR3 memory, 320GB SATA drive, HD THX
TruStudio Pro (up to 7.1-channel support), and more. The
included chassis sports a traditional Origin PC A-Panel design,
though future options will include choices of matte black, red, or
custom paint jobs. ■
Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround
Sound Headset
If your ears were a fan of Mad Catz Interactive’s
Tritton AX Pro headset for Xbox 360 use, pay heed
to the Tritton Pro+ True 5.1 Surround Sound Headset
($199.99), the upgrade expected in September. Te
Tritton Pro+ ventures into new territory by adding PS3
compatibility, as well as several enhancements stated to
“ofer superior performance and comfort.” For starters,
the true Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound comes
via eight individual neodymium drivers (four in each
earcup) that are situated in a “repositioned speaker
placement” for superior surround sound separation and
improved bass response. Also new is a redesigned inline
remote and SVM (Selectable
Voice Monitoring) feature
that enables hearing your
own voice in the headset.
Design-wise, separate backlit
controllers are integrated
for each channel, the mic is
removable, the headband is
padded, the earcups swivel,
and the headrail extends an
additional 1.25 inches on
each side. ■
Hardware Mol e
12 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
TextMate 2 Gets A New Open-Source Beginning
Ever-so patient coders and developers have been waiting since the mid-2000s for a 2.0
release of the popular TextMate (“Te Missing Editor”), which “brings Apple’s approach to
operating systems into the world of text editors.” In December 2011, the patience appeared
to fnally be paying of when lead developer Allan Odgaard released a 2.0 alpha version for
registered users. In a somewhat controversial move for some in the TextMate community,
however, Odgaard announced he was making the 2.0 code for TextMate available as open
source at GitHub, covering it under the GPL3 license. Odgaard wrote he did as much “partly
to avoid a closed source fork and partly because the hacker in me wants all software to be free
(as in speech), so in a time where our platform vendor is taking steps to limit our freedom,
this is my small attempt of countering such trend.” Tat comment is apparently a nod
toward restrictions some developers maintain that Apple is enacting with Mountain Lion.
Odgaard told TUAW.com that he isn’t abandoning TextMate to the open-source wasteland
but believes the open-source approach is best for everyone involved. TextMate 1.5.11,
meanwhile, remains available for $50. ■
Steam
Ventures
Into
Non-Gaming
Software
Valve’s download destination Steam isn’t the first place
most people think of when buying non-gaming software
comes to mind, but that could soon change. Valve recently
announced it will bring an initial set of software titles that
“range from creativity to productivity” to Steam Sept. 5,
expanding on the PC and Mac games already offered.
Reportedly, many titles will use Steamworks features (easy
installation, automatic updating, and saving work in an
individual Steam Cloud space). Developers, meanwhile, will
be able to submit their own software via Steam Greenlight.
A Valve representative says that the 40 million-plus gamers
who frequent Steam have indicated a desire to acquire more
of their software via Steam, thus the expansion. In other
Steam-related news, in September Valve will release a beta of
its previously announced Big Picture Mode, a feature aimed
those who connect their PCs to televisions to reformat the
Steam interface for optimal viewing on a TV’s screen. Big
Picture will also support game controller input. ■
Sof t ware Short s
What’s In A Name?
Te October release of Windows 8 is not yet upon us, yet various
online sources were already speculating in August as to the naming
convention that Microsoft is planning to use for the operating system’s
next version. Stephen Chapman of Microsoft Kitchen, for example,
wrote that according to various Microsoft employees he cited as sources,
the Windows version following 8 will carry the somewhat expected
and anticlimactic codename “Windows 9.” Website Win8China,
however, reported that the frst build of Windows 9 could soon turn
up under the moniker “Windows Blue,” representing “a new base for
Windows.” Elsewhere, tech writer Mary Jo Foley wrote that according
to her contacts, the next Windows version might not even be a full
version step from Windows 8 but rather “some kind of update” arriving
mid-summer 2013. “Blue,” she wrote, likely would represent an interim
release, which could also ultimately be dubbed Windows 8.1 or 8.5. ■
14 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Omaze Offers Amazing Experiences
For $5 & Some Luck
What if for a nominal $5 donation you could support a deserving cause while
giving yourself a shot at experiencing something really awesome in return,
say, like going on the set with the cast of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,”
sipping Scotch whiskey with “Justifed’s” Timothy Olyphant, or engaging in
a paintball battle with Navy SEALs. At Omaze you can. Just select a “dream
experience,” donate $5, and you’re automatically entered in a charity-like rafe
in which winners are selected via computer-generated random drawings. To
increase your odds of winning, just get your social networking skills in gear
and invite friends to take part to gain additional entries. Win and Omaze will
fy you and a guest to your destination and flm your chosen adventure to
share with the site’s community. Further, the site tracks various campaigns over
time to detail the impact users make. ■
Internet TVs Attracting
Ever More Eyeballs
Tank smartphone and tablet adoption, along with users’ ever-
growing love afair with YouTube, Netfix, and other streaming
services, for the sizable growth that Juniper Research is predicting
for smart TVs. Whether connecting to the Internet via Blu-ray
players, games consoles, set-top boxes, or wired or wireless Ethernet
connections, the number of residential TVs that can hook into
the Internet is expected to hit nearly 650 million by 2017, Juniper
Research states in a new “Smart Home Ecosystem” report. Such
growth means smart TVs are hitting magical “mainstream” status
among consumers, Juniper Research says. One global region where
adoption isn’t fourishing is the Indian subcontinent, which Juniper
attributes to a lack of fxed broadband connections. Overall, Juniper
Research predicts revenue tied to the “smart home” will reach nearly
$60 billion by 2017, up from $25 billion this year. ■
Si t e Seei ng
Streaming Radio Services
Paying Dividends
Information available in Warner Music Group’s recently
released 3Q 2012 earnings report provides some interesting
tidbits concerning the state of streaming radio services, which
account for billions of song listens among users who in turn
share billions of song recommendations. AllTingsD.com
reports that of the digital revenue Warner Music Group
amassed for the quarter, revenue from such streaming
services as Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and satellite providers
accounted for 25%. Factored out, streaming services totaled
$54 million in revenue, about 8% of Warner Music Group’s
total 3Q 2012 revenue. As AllTingsD.com points out, the
growth is particularly impressive because it didn’t adversely
afect sales from traditional digital outlets. Further, Warner
Music Group’s totals didn’t include licensing-related revenue
from Amazon.com and Apple’s cloud-based music services.
Additionally, Warner Music Group stated that when taking
constant-currency issues into consideration, “digital revenue
more than offset the decline in physical revenue,” thus
“showing the promise of the industry’s transformation.” ■
CPU / October 2012 15
The Facebook
Impulse:
What Did I Miss?
For social media mavens, the compulsion to
check their feeds is driven by a very simple
need – not to miss out. According to a new
Harris Interactive MyLife survey, 62% of people
who are on more than one social network say
they monitor updates because they fear they
will miss something. The same survey found
that almost 40% of social media fans would
rather do their taxes, read “War and Peace,”
or wait in a DMV line than give up their social
network profles. Begging the question, who is
coming up with these survey queries, anyway?
How Smartphone
Owners Used Their
Devices To Do
Back-To-School
Shopping
Get price information 62%
Get/download discounts,
coupons, sale info 45%
View a retailer’s ad 44%
Get a store location 38%
Get product information 35%
Locate store that carries
a particular product 33%
Access a retailer’s website 29%
Shop online 25%
Receive a text message
from a retailer 18%
Read product/retailer reviews 18%
Make a purchase 14%
Source: Deloitte
Top Ten Hardest
Tech Jobs To Fill
1. Java developer
2. Mobile developer
3. NET developer
4. Software developer
5. Security
Source: Dice.com Hiring Survey of 866 technology
focused hiring managers and recruiters
6. SAP
7. SharePoint
8. Web developer
9. Active federal security clearance
10. Network engineer
91.4%
Share of U.S. college students who
will use smartphones by 2016 (eMarketer)
29.8%
Share of online users who often
use Microsoft Offce
(AYTM)
66.8%
Share of U.S. Internet searches
performed by Google
(comScore)
52%
Share of cellphone owners who use
their device while watching TV
(Pew Internet & American Life Project)
1.usa.gov/RpBi8z
Job Of The Month
The infamous Def Con hacking conference is known for its general disdain for authority. And so it
was quite the surprise to see one of the U.S. government’s top spooks, National Security Agency
Director Gen. Keith Alexander, appear on its Las Vegas stage this summer trying to recruit hackers.
“We’re the ones who built this Internet. Now we’re the ones who have to keep it secure, and I
think you folks can help do that,” said Alexander. Go to NSA.gov/careers to see an entire section
of Cyber Careers. In fact, these Def Con attendees may want to join a group at the NSA called
the Cryptanalytic Computer Network Operations Development Program, a three-year program for
advanced computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians looking to protect and defend America
in cyberspace. Put on your white hacking hat and become a cyber-counter-spy.
16 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
occasionally see a case maker introduce a
stunning fagship midtower that puts that
company’s full towers to shame. In short,
midtowers are no laughing matter.
Thi s month, we’ve assembl ed a
magnificent seven of midtowers. We
wanted to cover both ends of the budget
spectrum, so our selection ranges in price
from $39.99 to $129.99; whether your
financing comes from a trust fund or
underneath the couch cushion, there’s a
quality midtower for you if you’re willing
to look for it. Te following cases are a
great place to start.
Cooler Master HAF XM
When Cooler Master releases a new
case, there’s often a (well-deserved)
precedent that’s already been set. Case in
point: Cooler Master’s always excellent
COSMOS cases. In this instance, the
company is expanding its HAF family
with a little brother for the HAF X, the
HAF XM.
Perhaps Cooler Master itself says it
best on the HAF XM’s microsite: “Don’t
underestimate.” Te HAF XM might be
a few inches shorter than the HAF X but
is by no means second banana. Te steel
and plastic HAF XM looks quite similar
to the HAF X, thanks to a front panel that
consists primarily of mesh and a red LED
front panel fan. (Te tale of the tape puts
the HAF X’s front panel fan at 230mm,
while the HAF XM’s fan is still a mighty
impressive 200mm.) Up front, there’s very
little to distinguish the HAF XM and HAF
X, which is fne in our book.
Perform a flyover of the rest of the
HAF XM, and you’ll find one heck of
a refined case. The case’s extruded side
panels are eye-catching and practical at
the same time. It’s especially useful on
the right side panel, because it affords
T
he urge to go all out is so widespread
in enthusiast circles that it’s practically
become a prerequisite to establish oneself
among the power user elite. Of this, the
nerd arms race is born. SLI becomes
3-way SLI. Watercooling radiators bulk
up both ways, getting thicker and longer
in order to make insane overclocks
thermally viable. It’s go big or go home.
Well, what’s wrong with going home?
Chances are you know a few people who
are perfectly content with a midrange
system, so long as it gets the job done.
Maybe you’re rocking a midrange rig
yourself—no shame in that. We may
not need an expensive tower the size of a
mini fridge for our components, but that
doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifce
features in our chassis simply because a
smaller case makes more sense.
Gradual l y, mi dtower cases have
evolved from cheap buckets of bolts to
the kinds of cases an enthusiast can be
proud to bring to a LAN party. Beyond
that, in many cases, we no longer have
to bide our time for cutting-edge features
to trickle down to midtowers from
their bigger siblings. Beyond that, you
Mighty Midtowers
Case Options From $40 To $130
HAF XM
|
$129.99
|
Cooler Master
|
www.coolermaster-usa.com
18 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
extra room to route cables behind the
motherboard tray. Te left side panel has
a quick-release latch that lets you open
the case and get down to business in
record time. Tese are the types of extra
touches that we’ve come to expect from
Cooler Master.
Cooler Master starts you with a great
foundation for cooling, and there are
plenty of options for additional cooling.
In addition to the aforementioned
200mm front panel fan, the HAF XM
includes a 200mm top panel fan, with
the option to add another 200mm fan.
Otherwise, the top panel also has mounts
for two 120mm or 140mm fans, making
it a prime candidate for 240mm or
280mm radiators. Elsewhere, a 140mm
rear panel fan takes care of exhaust. Te
left side panel has mounts for another
200mm fan or two 140mm fans. (And
while we’re on the subject, you can opt
to replace the left side with one that has a
clear window instead of the fan mounts).
Finally, you can install up to two 120mm
fans on the HAF XM’s internal drive cage.
For all the thoughtful cooling options,
it’s the HAF XM’s internal smarts that
we liked the most. The real highlight
for us was the PSU cable shroud that
runs along a good portion of the bottom
panel. It conceals PSU cables where they
originate from the PSU, which gives the
appearance of an even cleaner cabling
job than many cases that have good cable
management features. If you pull out the
HAF XM’s top internal 2.5/3.5-inch drive
bay cage, you’ll have the clearance for
utterly enormous 18.2-inch long graphics
cards (should such a monster ever come
into existence). Leave the cage in, and
you’re still looking at room for graphics
cards up to 13.9 inches long.
Put it all together, and you have a
midtower that that feels and performs like
a full tower. Just don’t tell the HAF XM
we said that.
MSI Barricade
Te parade of afordable yet impressive
midtowers continues with the MSI
Interceptor Series Barricade. As of this
writing, we’re seeing post-rebate prices
online under $50, and this is a lot of
midtower for such a low price. MSI wisely
sacrifces a middle drive cage (honestly,
Barricade
|
$79.99
MSI
|
us.msi.com
Core 3000
|
$74.99
Fractal Design
|
www.fractal-design.com
Cooler Master
starts you
with a great
foundation for
cooling, and
there are
plenty of
options for
additional
cooling.
CPU / October 2012 19
who puts more than four drives in a sub-
$80 case?) in trade for clearer airfow from
the two 120mm front LED fans back to
the first few motherboard slots, giving
you an ample 16 inches for graphics
cards. In fact, with a 17-pound weight
and steel-with-plastic construction, the
construction is very solid while remaining
portably light.
Speaking of side panels, MSI builds a
generously sized tinted window into the
left panel, held in place by clips so you
can remove the panel for cleaning. Inside,
the motherboard tray, removable drive
sleds, and 5.25-inch drive bay screws are all
bright blue, as is the front panel USB 3.0
cable that snakes out the back for plugging
into your I/O ports. Cabling can rout
under the tray’s raised edge, and there are
plenty of spots for securing zip ties.
The two 120mm holes on top are
perfect for a radiator right next to the
back panel’s two rubberized tubing
holes. Te mesh shield on top snaps out
for easy cleaning, and the two bottom
flters (one under the PSU and the other
under another 120mm fan hole) also
conveniently slide out. Top to bottom,
assembly is tool-less save for mounting
either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives in the
squeeze-clip trays. We like the twin insets
on the top panel for holding your phone
or whatever, and the speed sliders for the
front and top (optional) fans is a sweet
perk. Just be careful not to lose the rubber
covers for the two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0,
and SD card reader slots. Bottom line: a
feature-rich, respectable case for a rock
bottom price.
Fractal Design Core 3000
Tis wouldn’t be a midtower roundup
if we didn’t include an offering from
Fractal Design. The company, which
is headquartered in Sweden, has an
impressive fleet of midtowers at its
disposal; all of Fractal’s cases adhere to
an unwavering design ethos: sleek and
minimalist with an emphasis on cooling
and acoustics. It’s worked so far, and so it
comes as no surprise that the Core 3000
is another winner.
Physically, the Core 3000 is a little
more compact than the Defne R4, which
we reviewed last month. (See page 19.) As
it turns out, we think the Core 3000’s size
works in its favor. It supports Mini-ITX,
microATX, and ATX motherboards.
Based on its dimensions (16.9 x 7.9 x
18.9 inches), it doesn’t look outlandishly
large for a Mini-ITX case, yet Fractal has
engineered the chassis to accommodate
some serious power hardware, if desired.
(For example, you can pull one of the
Core 3000’s internal drive bays to make
room for a graphics card up to 16.5
inches long.) It’s rare that a space-saving
case gives you this kind of fexibility.
Airflow is a high priority for Fractal
with the Core 3000. Te case’s front panel
consists of mesh ventilation and little
else. “Fractal Design” is etched into the
front panel above the case’s two 5.25-inch
external bays, but it’s so subtle that it’s
actually refreshing. At the front of the top
panel, you’ll fnd the Core 3000’s power
and reset buttons; headphone and mic
jacks and a battery of four USB 2.0 ports
keep them company.
Let’s talk a little about cooling. Fractal
equips the Core 3000 with three fans by
default. Up front, a 140mm fan included,
and there’s a slot below it to add a 120mm
fan. The rear panel has a 120mm fan,
and its white blades are striking when set
against the Core 3000’s black interior. Te
bottom panel has mounts for a 120mm
fan, but know that installing one restricts
you to a PSU 6.3 inches or shorter. Te
magic happens up top, though. A 140mm
fan is installed, and you have the option to
add another 140mm fan or two 120mm
Z9 U3
|
$74.99
|
Zalman
|
www.zalman.com
20 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
fans. Eyeballing the internal dimensions,
it certainly looks like there’s enough
clearance for a 240mm/280mm radiator.
You might have to sacrifce the top 5.25-
inch drive bay depending on the thickness
of the radiator and the attached fans, but
even the thought of this is epic in a crazy
sort of way.
The rest of the Core 3000 is aces.
Te drive trays (which support 2.5-inch
drives, by the way) and rear expansion
slot covers are white to match the rear
panel fan; the combined look pops to the
point that we just stared at it for a few
minutes, securing a good mental image
before we installed any hardware. Yes, it’s
that sharp—again, a testament to Fractal’s
pursuit of minimalism. The drive trays
themselves easily slide in and out, and
they have vibration-dampening silicone
grommets. The motherboard tray has
three holes to aid in cable management, as
well as a good-sized CPU cutout.
The Core 3000 is a lot of case for a
little scratch. If you’re a fan of understated
yet powerful, this should be at the top of
your list.
Zalman Z9 U3
Perennial frontrunner Zalman is back
with a new and improved version of its
popular Z9 case, proving that if it ain’t
broke, tweak it, polish it, and update
it so that it continues to dominate. As
such, the Z9 U3 has a solid design,
plenty of builder-friendly features, and
a few extras that we know come from
having years of experience creating cases
tailored for enthusiasts.
Te Z9 U3 is a sturdy steel chassis with
plastic accents where it looks good and
makes sense. The bottom of the front
panel has a particularly slick design—it’s
wild without being zany—and the left
side panel has a generous acrylic window
that will showcase the components of
your build. (So choose those components
carefully, because they’ll be on full
display.) Te rest of the front panel is a
fine plastic mesh that also looks high-
quality. The top panel has more of the
same mesh over the two 120mm fan
mounts. (Here, Zalman supplies one blue
LED 120mm fan; pick whatever you
like for the other mount.) Tumbscrews
secure the side panels, and the side panels
have grooved handholds that make them
easy to slide back and of.
Inside, the Z9 U3 does it right. The
case supports microATX and ATX
motherboards, and although there’s
obviously more than enough room for
the small form factor, you’ll fnd that it’s
far from crowded inside the chassis even
with an ATX board installed. Te space
below the motherboard tray is essentially
one giant channel for cable management,
which your power supply will surely
appreciate. A small square cutout in the
upper-right corner of the motherboard
Predator
|
$64.99
|
Diablotek
|
www.diablotek.com
The Z9 U3 is a sturdy steel
chassis with plastic accents
where it looks good and
makes sense.
22 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
tray is perfectly sized for the Z9 U3’s front
panel cables; below that are two good-
sized rectangular cutouts to accommodate
PCI-E, SATA, and motherboard power
cables. Just about the CPU cooler cutout
(that should easily be able to handle and
mounting backplate you throw at it) is a
tiny cutout just big enough for an 8-pin
EPS12V CPU power cable and the fan
power cables for the Z9 U3’s rear and top
panel fans. Now, those 8-pin CPU power
connectors are notoriously in the most
inconvenient spot on a motherboard, so
Zalman included a 14-inch extension cable
that will more than make up for a PSU
with short cables.
The little things make a good thing
that much better. The Z9 U3’s two
front panel USB 3.0 ports cable to
a motherboard’s rear I/O, but Zalman
included a blanking plate for one of the
case’s seven rear expansion slots, so, with
the case’s excellent cable management
channels, that pass-through cable is
almost completely unobtrusive. Te front
panel has a built-in two-channel fan
controller, which is relatively common,
and a built-in LED temperature display,
which is relatively not.
Even the plastic bag that contains
the case’s various fasteners and zip
ties is thick and resealable. Obviously
a plastic bag isn’t going to make or
break the Z9 U3, but it’s nonetheless
important. A company that doesn’t cut
corners on the little things isn’t likely
to cut corners on the big things, and in
the Z9 U3, it shows.
Diablotek Predator
Last month, we put one of Diablotek’s
relatively new cases, the Cyclops, under
the microscope. (See page 27.) Here
we have another Diablotek midtower
with an equally imposing handle. Like
an intergalactic extra-terrestrial people
poacher stalking the T-800, Apollo Creed,
and the former Governor of Minnesota
through a sweltering jungle, the Predator
is a case that really sneaks up on you. Let’s
grab our wrist blades and combi-sticks
and dig in.
Based on appearances alone, the
Predator is quite similar to the Cyclops.
The dimensions are virtually identical:
Te Predator measures 17.7 x 7.3 x 18.5
inches (HxWxD), while the Cyclops
comes in at 18.5 x 7.4 x 18.6 inches.
We’re also dealing with two steel cases
that have plastic accents in roughly the
same spots. From here, though, the cases
start to diverge.
The biggest difference, arguably, is
cooling. Although the Cyclops starts you
of with more fans out of the box (one
120mm front LED, one 120mm rear,
two 120mm top, one 140mm side LED),
the Predator gives you more options
for expanding cooling down the road.
You start with two 120mm LED fans
preinstalled behind the front panel, and
you have the option to install a 120mm
rear fan and up to four 120mm side
panel fans. Given that the Cyclops has a
$15 price premium, the extra fans you
get with it makes everything come out in
a wash. You can’t go wrong with either,
but all things considered, we tend toward
the Predator’s greater fexibility. Also, we
think trading two 5.25-inch external bays
(the Predator has three to the Cyclops’
Commander MS-I Snow Edition
|
$59.99
Thermaltake
|
www.thermaltakeusa.com
368 SOHO
|
$39.99
Logisys
|
www.elogisys.com
CPU / October 2012 23
fve) for an additional 120mm front fan
is a power move. We’ll take the extra
airfow, thanks.
But enough comparisons; let’s let the
Predator be its own case. The Predator
feels light but sturdy—always a good
combination. It support microATX and
ATX motherboards, and with seven
expansion slots, the Predator provides
room enough for a trio of dual-slot
graphics cards (up to 13 inches long, by
the way).
Working with the Predator is largely
a frustration-free afair. Each side panel
has a folding handle located by the rear
panel that stays out of the way under
most circumstances. But when you need
to get inside the case, fip out the handle
and the panel pops of easily. Tere are
four cable management holes. Te largest
is reserved for the PSU cable bundle,
and three smaller holes are for individual
PCI-E, SATA, and ot her cabl es.
Diablotek understands builders, as the
Predator is laid out in a way that makes it
easy to install components. Te 5.25-inch
and 3.5-inch drive bays are tool-less, as
we’re sure you can guess by now.
Te “shine” that’s here (two USB 3.0
ports that cable to an internal header and
the LED fans, for example) is what we
like about Diablotek’s cases. You get a
reliable, high-quality case with extra favor
at a nice price. Te Predator’s a great deal.
Thermaltake Commander MS-I
Snow Edition
Bas ed on ext er i or s al one, t he
Thermaltake Commander MS-I Snow
Edition is the wild child in this family
of midtowers. You know, the one who
parks his Z28 Camaro on the front lawn
because “Only Te Man uses driveways,
yo.” The one whose idea of a power
breakfast is Red Bull over Cheerios. Te
one who didn’t go to college because
“Awesome” wasn’t a major.
Seri ousl y, take one l ook at the
Commander MS-I Snow Edition’s front
and left side panels, then tell us the case
is satisfed with a restrained exterior. Te
white paint job is one thing, but sharp
angles everywhere define this case as a
rebel. It’s wickedly eye-catching, and if
it doesn’t turn heads at your next LAN
party, you are ofcially gaming with the
dullest people on the planet.
But we digress. The Commander
MS-I Snow Edition is carved out of
steel and plastic and will accommodate
microATX and ATX motherboards.
Plastic mesh covers the top and bottom
thirds of the front panel, allowing for
ample ventilation. The case includes
a 120mm rear panel fan, and that fan
has blue LEDs that will surely light up
your gamer cave when the lights are out.
The Commander MS-I Snow Edition
also has the following fan mounts: one
120mm front, one 120mm top, and one
120mm bottom.
Once you pop off the Commander
MS-I Snow Edi ti on’s si de panel ,
you’ll quickly see that this case is built
for discriminating enthusiasts. The
motherboard tray is positively loaded
with cutouts for cable management. Most
of the case’s drive bays have tool-less
retention mechanisms. Although the drive
cages are fixed, there’s ample room to
install a high-end graphics card or several:
It’s possible to install graphics cards up to
12.5 inches long inside the case.
Thermaltake throws in a few extras
that are welcome on a case that will
only lighten wallets by three Jacksons.
The front panel has a USB 3.0 port
that cables to an internal motherboard
header, a defnite boon for anyone who
wants fast and easy access for a USB 3.0
peripheral. Te PSU bay has a dust flter,
and there’s a Kensington security slot on
the rear panel.
And if white isn’t your thing, fear not.
Thermaltake’s new Commander is also
available with an all-black exterior. If
you really want to spice things up, the
Commander MS-I Epic Edition ($64.99)
has a bold red front panel and interior.
You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Logisys 368 SOHO
On one end of the price spectrum
for this issue, we have Cooler Master’s
$129.99 HAF XM. On the other end,
there’s Logisys’ 368 SOHO, a $39.99 case
that’s excellent for budget buyers.
The 368 SOHO makes a nice first
impression. The case itself is primarily
black steel, but the glossy plastic front is
what will turn heads. Most of the front
panel is black, but the fourishes of red
are what really make a statement. It’s
defnitely a good look. Te silver-colored
square power button sits below the
Logisys logo and looks good, too. Te top
5.25-inch external drive bay has a spring-
loaded cover for hiding your optical drive,
and that sits below the 368 SOHO’s front
panel ports (two USB 2.0 ports and audio
jacks for a headset and mic.
The rear panel has an 80mm fan
installed next to the opening for a
motherboard’s rear I/O panel. You can
install an 80mm/120mm front panel
fan and an 80mm side panel fan. Like
Fractal Design’s Core 3000, you can
install a Mini-ITX microATX, or ATX
motherboard in the 368 SOHO.
Pairs of easy to remove thumbscrews
keep the 368 SOHO’s side panels in
place, so you can open up the case and
Based on exteriors alone, the
Thermaltake Commander MS-I
Snow Edition is the wild child in
this family of midtowers.
24 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
.
be ready to work with minimal effort.
Te drive cage (four 5.25-inch external
[though the 368 SOHO’s front panel
ports occupy one bay], six 3.50-inch
internal) is fxed, so 10.25 inches is the
upper threshold for the length of graphics
cards you can install in the case. Worry
not, though—there’s more than enough
room for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660
Ti, for example, and with the case’s seven
expansion slots, you can build a plenty
powerful system inside the case if you’re
so inclined.
Te unique (to this roundup) feature
is a preinstalled 480W power supply.
Te PSU supplies 16A of current over its
12V rail and uses one of Logisys’ 120mm
Hydro Bearing fans to maintain a low
noise profle.
We really liked the 368 SOHO’s front
panel and think that this case is a smart
pick for a budget build or a family PC.
A Little Bit Of Everything
We’re pleased to report that our
menagerie of midtowers has something
for everyone. With such a wide range
of prices, you can pick a midtower that
agrees with both your budget and the
rest of the components you have picked
out for your build. All of the cases turned
out to be solidly built, which is, in truth,
the frst thing to look for when selecting
a case. From there, make an inventory
of the features and appearance you want
in your case, and get going. You can’t go
wrong with any of these. ■
BY VINCE COGLEY & WILLIAM VAN WINKLE
Specs Cooler Master MSI Barricade Fractal Design Zalman Z9 U3 Diablotek Thermaltake Logisys 368
HAF XM Core 3000 Predator Commander SOHO
MS-I Snow
Edition
Price
$129.99 $79.99 $74.99 $74.99 $64.99 $59.99 $39.99
Dimensions (HxWxD, inches)
20.9 x 9.9 x 22.8 16.2 x 7.3 x 17.7 16.9 x 7.9 x 18.9 18.3 x 8.1 x 19.8 17.7 x 7.3 x 18.5 19.1 x 8 x 16.8 16.6 x 7.1 x 17.8
Motherboard support
mATX, ATX, mATX, ATX Mini-ITX, mATX, mATX, ATX mATX, ATX mATX, ATX Mini-ITX, mATX,
E-ATX ATX ATX
Bays
r3 5.25-inch r3 5.25-inch r1 5.25-inch r3 5.25-inch r3 5.25-inch r3 5.25-inch r3 5.25-inch
external external external external external external external
r8 2.5/3.5-inch r4 3.5-inch r1 3.5/5.25-inch r5 3.5-inch r5 3.5-inch r1 3.5-inch r6 3.5-inch
internal internal external internal internal external internal
r1 2.5-inch r6 2.5/3.5-inch r1 2.5-inch r5 3.5-inch
internal internal internal internal
r1 3.5-inch
external or
2.5/3.5-inch
internal
Fans (included)
r1 200mm r2 120mm r1 140mm front r1 120mm r2 120mm r1 120mm r1 80mm rear
LED front LED front r1 120mm rear LED front LED front LED rear
r1 200mm top r1 120mm rear r1 140mm top r1 120mm rear
r1 140mm rear r1 120mm
LED top
Fans (optional)
r1 200mm or 2 r2 120mm top r1 120mm front r1 120mm top r2 120mm top r1 120mm front r1 80/120mm
120/140mm top r1 120mm r1 120/140mm r4 120mm side r1 120mm top front
r1 200mm or 2 bottom bottom r1 120mm rear r1 120mm r1 80mm side
140mm side r1 120/140mm bottom
r2 120mm top
HDD cage r1 120/140mm
side
Front panel
r2 USB 3.0 r1 USB 3.0 r4 USB 2.0 r2 USB 3.0 r2 USB 3.0 r1 USB 3.0 r2 USB 2.0
r2 USB 2.0 r2 USB 2.0 raudio I/O r2 USB 2.0 raudio I/O r1 USB 2.0 raudio I/O
raudio I/O r1 SD card rfan controller raudio I/O
rLED switch raudio I/O rtemp display
raudio I/O
26 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
interface by adding a Marvell 88SE9172 chip
that gives you an extra 6Gbps SATA port
and a 6Gbps eSATA port on the back panel.
For high-quality audio, GIGABYTE built in
support for X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX
Advanced HD 5.0.
In our testing, the GA-Z77X UP5 TH
performed well, with overall marks of X4001
in 3DMark 11 and 5247 in PCMark 7.
Board layout was smart, with good spacing
between the PCI-E x16 slots. Overclockers
will like that GIGABYTE included voltage
measurement points and onboard buttons for
power, reset, and clear CMOS in the upper
right corner, where they won’t be covered up
by graphics cards or a large CPU cooler.
If you’re looking to invest in a 3rd
Generation Intel processor, you’d be
hard-pressed to fnd a more feature-flled
motherboard than the GIGABYTE
GA-Z77X-UD5 TH. Even better, the
board’s Tunderbolt, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi
connectivity gives you plenty of options for
future I/O, as well as convenient support
for multiple monitors. ■
BY NATHAN LAKE
GA-Z77X-UP5 TH
$219.99 | GIGABYTE
www.gigabyte.us
E
arly last year, we were captivated by the
release of Thunderbolt, a high-speed
interface (twice as fast as USB 3.0) that
supports both external storage devices and
monitors. With the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH,
GIGABYTE provides a Z77 motherboard
that features two Intel-certified Thunder-
bolt ports. The Thunderbolt ports let you
to daisy chain up to 12 devices as well
as two digital displays at the same time.
GIGABYTE indicates that each port
supports bi-directional data transfer speeds
of up to 10Gbps.
In addition to the Thunderbolt ports,
the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH offers a number
of other features that make it a solid
choice for enthusiasts. One key highlight
for overclockers is the All Digital PWM
controller that monitors and manages the
power sent to the Intel processor, memory,
and VTT. The board can automatically
adjust voltages to ensure reliable power, and
you can utilize GIGABYTE’s 3D Power
Utility to obtain a stable overclock by making
changes to the voltage protection, load-line
calibration, and PWM frequency. Another
helpful tool is the board’s dual BIOS, which
provides you with a quick recovery if the frst
BIOS goes bad or a fashing error occurs.
GIGABYTE gives the GA-Z77X-UP5
TH Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity,
thanks to the included GC-WB300D
expansion card that fits into a free PCI-E
x1 slot. The expansion card supports
Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n. Power
users building for a gaming system
will like that GA-Z77X-UP5 ofers
three PCI-E x16 slots. Te slots share
bandwidth and run at x8/x4/x4 speeds
if three graphics cards are connected. With
two cards, the two slots will both run at x8
speeds. GIGABYTE enhances the storage
GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UD5 TH
GIGABYTE
Benchmark Results GA-Z77X-UP5 TH
3DMark 11 Extreme
3DMark Overall X4001
Graphics Score 3675
Physics Score 9375
Combined Score 4621
Graphics Test 1 18.91
Graphics Test 2 18.01
Graphics Test 3 17.45
Graphics Test 4 12.13
Physics Test 30.1
Combined Test 21.89
PCMark 7
Overall 5247
Productivity 5241
Creativity 5129
Entertainment 5189
Computation 5435
System Storage 5143
SiSoftware Sandra 2012 SP1 Lite
Processor Arithmetic
Dhrystone SSE4.2 (GIPS) 121.3
Whetstone iSSE3
(GFLOPS) 93.2
Processor Multi-Media
x16 Multi-Media Integer
iAVX (Mpixels per second) 224.6
x16 Multi-Media Float
iAVX (Mpixels per second) 311.56
x8 Multi-Media Double
iAVX (Mpixels per second) 173.45
Memory Bandwidth
Integer Memory Bandwidth
B/F AVX/128 (GBps) 20.12
Floating Memory Bandwidth
B/F AVX/128 (GBps) 20.1
Media Transcode
Transcode WMV (KBps) 974
Transcode H264 (KBps) 941
Cinebench 11.5
CPU* 7.53
POV-Ray 3.7 Beta** 1317.78
Games
Metro 2033 (4XAA, 16XAF) 35.5
Aliens vs. Predator
(4XAA, 16XAF) 52.3
* points
** pixels per second
Games tested at 2,560 x 1,600.
Specs: Max memory: 32GB (DDR3-1600); Slots: 3 PCI-E x16, 3 PCI-E x1, 1 PCI; Storage; 3 SATA
6Gbps, 4 SATA 3Gbps, 1 mSATA; Rear I/O: 1 VGA, 1 DVI-D, 1 HDMI, 2 Thunderbolt, 1 6Gbps eSATA, 4
USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, audio I/O
Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K; GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 (2x, SLI); RAM:
16GB Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600; Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300; OS:
Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit)
CPU / October 2012 27
Specs: Fan connectors: 5; Temperature
monitors: 5; Ports: 2 USB 3.0, audio I/O;
Screen: 5-inch color LCD; Front panel size:
2x 5.25-inch bays
for 20 seconds. You can set the alarm
temperature, as well as adjust the current
fan speed for each of the connected fans.
A single Molex connector will power the
entire unit.
For $69.99, you’ll be able to add
convenient control of most, if not all,
of the fans inside your case, and the
temperature monitors will automatically
ramp up fan speed if necessary. We also
thought the crisp LCD added some
elegance to the front panel of our test
system. If you need a capable, great-
l ooki ng command center for your
system fans, it’s tough to do better than
the Touch-2100. ■
BY NATHAN LAKE
Touch-2100
$69.99
Aerocool
www.aerocool.us
Aerocool indicates that the Touch-
2100 supports a maximum of 25 watts of
power per fan channel. Most fans require
only five to seven watts at maximum
speed, so you’d be able to daisy chain a
couple of fans together if you needed
to control more than five system fans.
Aerocool even included a couple of spare
fan cables to help you add fans to a given
channel. For temperature monitoring,
the fve sensors are strung together in a
stranded hook-up wire that you can easily
pull apart to give the flexibility neces-
sary to reach all areas of the case. For
instance, we were able to pull away one
of the cables to place a sensor on the
second ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 in
our test build.
The Touch-2100 has a smart design,
as the fan and temperature sensors
readings appear in a spreadsheet-style
grid. From left to right, you’ll see columns
for fan speed, current temperature, and
alarm temperature. If a thermal probe
registers a temperature beyond the alarm
temperature, the fan associated with
that probe will operate a full speed, and
the unit will sound a beeping alarm
K
eeping your PC cool when it’s
filled with high-end, hot-running
components can be a challenge, but
not with Aerocool’s Touch-2100. The
accessory lets you to control the RPMs
of five fans and features five temperature
sensors that you can strategically place
to monitor temps of key components.
Aerocool al so smar tl y added two
USB 3.0 ports (which connect to a
motherboard’s internal header), as well
as headset and mic jacks, to the Touch-
2100 front panel.
The Touch-2100 requires two 5.25-
inch bays in your PC’s chassis, with
the 5-inch LCD touchscreen filling
most of the space. Text and numbers
were crisp and easy to read, and you
have the ability to select from up to
seven backlight colors, which is handy
if you’d like to match the LCD to your
build’s color scheme. You also have
the option to turn off the backlight
completely for environments where the
bright LCD would bother others (or
yourself ). Color options include red,
green, yellow/gold, blue, purple, light
blue, and pink.
Aerocool Touch-2100
28 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
We liked the feel of the Termaltake
SHOCK One and the l ightweight
materials really made a difference in
our comfort level after several hours of
gaming. Audio performance was excellent,
and the highly configurable software
makes this headset ideal for gamers who
like to tweak. Te next time you upgrade
your headset, put the Shock One on your
short list. ■
BY ANDREW LEIBMAN
W
e featured a roundup of gaming
headsets in last month’s issue, but
a couple didn’t reach us until after we
went to press. Thermaltake’s Tt eSPORTS
SHOCK One is one that we wanted to
make sure you consider before making
your final decision.
Tis headset features an over-the-head
design with large trapezoidal earcups that
completely cover the ears. Te headband
is composed of glossy plastic with a large
Tt eSPORTS logo on the top side and
a soft protein leather cushion on the
underside. Te adjustable portion of the
headband is a matte black plastic, and
a combination of glossy red and black
plastic and black metal mesh adorn the
earcups. Tere’s a red LED-lit Tt logo on
either earcup; a switch on the headset’s
in-line control box controls the LEDs.
Te cabling is covered in braided fabric,
which gives it a more durable feel, and the
USB connector is gold-plated for better
connectivity.
The f l exi bl e mi c boom rotates
approximately 120 degrees so you
can fold it up when you don’t need it.
The mic itself is a bidirectional noise
cancelling unit with a -45dB (+/- 3dB)
sensitivity. The drivers in the earcups
are 40mm each, but you can also get a
virtual 5.1 surround sound experience in
your movies and games thanks to DTS
Surround Sensation technology.
The Thermal take SHOCK One
software lets you manually adjust equalizer
settings or apply one of three preset modes
optimized for FPS, RTS, and MMORPGs,
respectively. Te software lets you control
mic and master volume levels, enable and
disable DTS Surround Sensation mode,
and cycle between Movie and Music
settings. You also get access to a number
of environmental delay and reverb efects
and can also use the utility to improve
voice clarity, and make bass enhancement
adjustments.
One of the more unique features we
really appreciated is the two pairs of ear
cushions Thermaltake ships with the
SHOCK One; one pair with a breathable
felt covering and another with a protein
leather covering, the latter of which does
a better job of blocking external sounds.
The felt-covered ear cushions, however,
seem to produce a fuller, less muffled
audio experience. To swap the cushions,
just pull them outward with a gentle tug
and click the alternate cushions in place.
Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS
SHOCK One
Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One
$109.99
Thermaltake
usa.ttesports.com
Specs: Drivers: 40mm, Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz; In-line controller: Yes; Connector: USB
30 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
long periods. The large drivers handle
stereo and surround sound sources
exceptionally well. We also like the
brushed aluminum look of the headset,
which is composed entirely of plastic.
Considering the size of the drivers and
the quality of the components, we were
surprised with how light the unit is.
Tat’s a good thing because even a light
headset can get heavy over the course of
an extended gaming session. If you’re
shopping for a new headset, then Corsair’s
Vengeance 2000 is a solid buy. ■
BY ANDREW LEIBMAN
A
nother gaming headset that didn’t
make it into last month’s headset
roundup is the Corsair Vengeance 2000.
This headset, like the others, has an over-
the-head design with large earcups that
completely cover the ears. It includes a
flexible adjustable boom mic and a
unique volume wheel on the left earcup.
The headband is padded and covered
with faux leather, and the earcups too
are padded and covered with soft felt.
The cushions themselves feature memory
foam, and although the difference
between it and the foam ear cushions on
many of the headsets we’ve tested isn’t
immediately apparent, you’ll notice how
comfortable the Vengeance set remains
even after a couple hours of gaming,
listening to music, or watching video.
Under that soft padding and a thin
layer of blue fabric are two large 50mm
drivers, each with a frequency response of
20Hz to 20kHz. Tis headset performed
admirably with the stereo sources we
listened to, reproducing crisp highs, full
mids, and thick and heavy lows. But this
headset also ofers 7.1 and 5.1 surround
sound capabilities using HRTF (head-
related transfer function) to deliver
accurate positional audio for more
realistic gaming and immersive movie-
watching experiences.
Te Vengeance 2000 has an efective
wireless range of up to 40 feet and a USB
charging cable that lets you go wired if
the integrated rechargeable battery runs
out. That’s not likely to happen very
often, however; the Vengeance 2000 has a
10-hour battery life.
The unidirectional noise-cancelling
microphone rotates up and out of the
way when you aren’t using it and back
down approximately 120 degrees when
you want to communicate in games, VoIP
calls, or chat sessions. You can also adjust
the angle of the mic at the end of the
boom. Te mic has a 100Hz to 10kHz
frequency response and a -37dB (+/- 3dB)
sensitivity, so you come across loud and
clear to whomever you’re speaking with.
Overall, this headset was easily one of
the more comfortable ones to wear for
Corsair Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7.1 Gaming Headset
Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7.1
Gaming Headset
$149.99
Corsair
www.corsair.com
Specs: Drivers: 50mm, 20Hz to 20kHz; Mic:
100Hz to 10 kHz; In-line controller: On can;
Connector: wireless/USB; 10-hour battery life
CPU / October 2012 31
rear panel (right above the power cable port)
from Normal to Silent, and the unit’s fan
won’t spin up until the Mk III 1200W hits
50% load and/or certain thermal thresholds.
When we hook PSUs up to our power
tester, we simultaneously run a pair of
benchmarks designed to push the CPU and
GPUs fairly hard, and we run them each
three times to get an accurate set of results.
Just for fun, we repeated this process in
Silent Mode, and through the frst three
sets of running both benchmarks, the
Silencer Mk III 1200W’s fan never moved.
At this point, forcing the fan to kick in
became a quest, so we ran our tests three
more times, and on the fnal run-through,
the fan fnally kicked in. Even then, the Mk
III 1200W barely made any noise.
Te takeaway here is that the Silencer
lives up to its name. If you want power but
you’re also trying to avoid a PC that sounds
like a taxiing jumbo jet, this semi-modular
PC Power & Cooling unit should be on
your (very) short list. ■
BY CHRIS TRUMBLE
O
CZ and PC Power & Cooling have
taken the wraps off of the newest,
most powerful power supply in the
Silencer Mk III series, the Silencer Mk
III 1200W. There’s a lot to like about
this PSU, from its trendy white finish
to its Silent Mode capability, which we
are happy to report is more than just a
marketing slogan.
Although 1,200W power supplies are
no longer the max power kings of the
market, this is obviously a lot of power,
capable of running the vast majority of
enthusiast-class PCs with power to spare.
You want to run a dual-CPU rig, with
multiple high-end graphics cards? Te Mk
III 1200W is ready and willing.
But it’s not just strong—it’s smart, too.
PC Power & Cooling designed this PSU
with efciency in mind, and the result is an
80 Plus Platinum rating, which indicates
that the Mk III 1200W is certifed to be
at least 92% efcient at 50% load. And, as
we discovered in our tests, it’s also freakishly
quiet, thanks to its selectable Silent Mode.
Just slide the selector switch on the PSU’s
PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
PC Power
& Cooling
Silencer Mk III
Specs 1200W
Rated continuous (W) 1,200 @ 50 C
12V rails 1
+12V max (A) 99.5
+5V max (A) 20
+3.3V max (A) 20
SLI/CrossFire-ready Yes
Max wattage tested 584
Power factor tested .973
Efficiency rating (advertised) 92% typical
Fan(s) 140mm
PCI-E 6 (6+2-pin)
Main 12V 1 (20+4-pin)
8-pin EPS 12V 2 (4+4-pin)
SATA 12
4-pin Molex 4
Floppy 1
Length (incl. cable bend) 8.25 inches
Warranty 7 years
Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-
3770K; Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5
TH; GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 (2x; SLI);
Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300; OS:
Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit)
Silencer Mk III 1200W
$349 | PC Power & Cooling
www.pcpower.com
32 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
g r a phi c s c a r d of f e r s a
maxi mum r e s ol ut i on of
2, 560 x 1, 600 and works
wi t h NVI DI A’s Sur r ound
technology. For video outputs,
you’ll find one DisplayPort 1.2,
one HDMI 1.4a, one DVI-I (works
with VGA via the included adapter),
and one DVI-D. All video outputs
are HDCP-compliant.
For GPU cooling, you’ll find Dual
Silencer enhanced cooling fans that
ZOTAC indicates provides you with
temperatures that are 10 degrees Celsius
cooler than the standard GTX 660 Ti
cooler. Additionally, you should expect
a 10dB noise level reduction when the
card is under full load. We noted in
our testing that the card’s fans seemed
quieter at full load than the exhaust fan
in our system case. We also liked that
the card was only 7.53 inches long, so
it’ll comfortably inside most cases.
The GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP!
Edition produced playable frame rates
in our game tests at 1,920 x 1,200:
39.4fps in Metro 2033, 103.8fps in
Just Cause 2, and 48.9fps in Aliens
vs. Predator. At 2,560 x 1,600, Metro
2033 and Aliens vs. Predator dropped
below 30fps, but we test at the highest
settings. You could reduce some visual
effects to see playable frame rates at
this higher resolution.
Enthusiasts who don’t want to break
the bank on a graphics card will find
that the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti
AMP! Edition should capably handle
today’s games, and ZOTAC’s factory
overclocks and cooling will help to
ensure that you’re getting the most of
the GeForce GTX 660 Ti. ■
BY NATHAN LAKE
GeForce GTX 660 TI AMP! Edition
$329.99
ZOTAC
www.zotacusa.com
N
VIDIA’s GeForce GTX 680 and
670 are both powerful cards, but
with a typical price tag of around $500
and $400, respectively, the they’re not
in everyone’s price range. At around
$300, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is a
little more cost-competitive. We got
the chance to benchmark ZOTAC’s
GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition to
give you an idea of what it has to offer.
Get To Know The GTX 660 Ti
The GeForce GTX 660 Ti is built
with the same GK104 GPU, code-
named “Kepler,” you’ll find on the
GeForce GTX 680 and 670. It utilizes
NVI DI A’s ne w SMX ( St r eami ng
Multiprocessor) architecture and GPU
Boost for efficient power usage. The
stock GeForce TTX 660 Ti provides
you with 1,344 CUDA cores, a base
clock frequency of 915MHz, and a
Boost clock of 980MHz—all of which
are the same as the stock GeForce
GTX 670.
The pri mar y di fference between
t he GeForce GTX 670 and GTX
660 Ti cards i s t hat t he 660 Ti
of f er s ar ound 33% l es s memor y
bandwidth (144.2GBps) than the 670
(192.2GBps). Both cards offer 2GB of
GDDR5 memory, but the GTX 660
Ti operates with a 192-bit interface,
rather than the GTX 670’s 256-bit
interface. NVIDA also reduced the
GK104 GPU’s ROPs from 32 to 24,
which should lower its antialiasing
capabilities.
ZOTAC’s GeForce
660 Ti AMP! Edition
Wi th the GeForce GTX 660 Ti
AMP! Edition, ZOTAC bumps the
core cl ock up t o 1, 033MHz and
the Boost cl ock up to 1, 111MHz,
which are both increases of around
13%. ZOTAC al so ups the mem-
or y frequency from 1, 502MHz to
1,652MHz for a boost of 10%. The
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition
ZOTAC GeForce
GTX 660 Ti AMP!
Specs & Scores Edition
Price $329.99
Core clock 1,033MHz
(1,111MHz Boost)
Memory clock 1,652MHz
Memory interface 192-bit
Memory 2GB GDDR5
3DMark 11 Performance
Overall P8310
Graphics Score 8765
Physics Score 7383
Combined Score 6920
Graphics Test 1 40.92
Graphics Test 2 40.37
Graphics Test 3 54.26
Graphics Test 4 26.8
Physics Test 23.44
Combined Test 32.19
Unigine Heaven
FPS 45.8
Score 1094
Games 1,920 x 1,200
Metro 2033
(4X MSAA, 16XAF) 39.4
Just Cause 2
(8XAA, 16XAF) 103.8
Aliens vs. Predator
(4XAA, 16XAF) 48.9
2,560 x 1,600
Metro 2033
(4X MSAA, 16XAF) 22.42
Just Cause 2
(8XAA, 16XAF) 62.45
Aliens vs. Predator
(4XAA, 16XAF) 26.8
Driver: Forceware 305.68
Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-
3770K; Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5;
RAM: 16GB Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme
DDR3-1600; Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD
C300; PSU: FSP Group CM Gold 750W; Display:
Dell 3007WFP
34 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Specs: Interface: USB, PS/2; Cherry MX Blue
mechanical keyswitches; N-key rollover: 104
keys with PS/2 connection
The Rosewill RK-9000I is a special
limited edition in every sense of the word.
It certainly looks the part, and it has
the performance to back up the style.
Whether you need a solid keyboard for
regular usage (USB, 6-key rollover) or
one with additional features designed
specifcally for gamers (PS/2, 104-key),
the RK-9000I is a great ft. ■
BY JOSH COMPTON
RK-9000I
$99.99
Rosewill
www.rosewill.com
stand out. Te actual laser-printed numbers,
letters, and symbols are in a larger font, so
you can fnd the key you need with a quick
downward glance. Once you’ve found the
right keys, you’ll find them to be highly
responsive, with the two-part click feedback
of the Cherry MX Blue switch itself and
then the key hitting the chassis. The key
clicks are nice and loud, providing aural as
well as tactile feedback.
We al so l i ked the four non-sl i p
pads on the bottom of the keyboard.
We noticed that, unlike some other
keyboards, the pads actually held it
frmly in place. It may not seem like an
overly important addition, but it could
be helpful during particularly intense
gaming sessions where you’re moving
around the keyboard, quickly hitting
diferent shortcuts and hotkeys.
T
he RK-9000I is a special limited
edition of Rosewill’s popular mechan-
ical gaming keyboard and features black
keys on a white chassis. It’s a simple and
striking use of contrast that makes the
keyboard stand out quite a bit in the crowd
of black chassis alternatives. And if you
own, for instance, a custom PC case built
to look like a storm trooper helmet, then
this keyboard was made for you.
Te RK-9000I comes with two cables,
one with USB-to-Mini USB connectors
and the other with PS/2-to-Mini USB.
Both cables are braided and durable, with
gold-plated connectors. Using the PS/2
connection provides n-key rollover for as
many as 104 key presses at once while the
USB connection features 6-key rollover.
In addition to the keyboard’s striking
black-and-white design, the keys themselves
Rosewill RK-9000I
CPU / October 2012 35
Te Abyss wins points for its unique
style, tool-less assembly, securely attached
rubber-padded feet, and excel l ent
attention to smooth edges inside the case.
Budget buyers wanting something a bit
diferent will be pleased. ■
BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE
F
or those who like clean simplicity but
are bored with black and brushed
aluminum, white may be the next big thing.
More to the point, if glossy eggshell white
will match your computing decor and you’re
on a budget, Diablotek has you covered.
The Abyss gives you a lot of must-
have features for under $70. The front
panel has plenty of mesh for ventilation.
Most of the four 5.25-inch and six
3.5-inch (one external, fve internal) drive
bays have twist-knob tool-less locking
mounts. A clear 120mm fan with white
LEDs comes preinstalled behind the easily
removable front panel, and additional
white LEDs are wired above the fan
and above the 5.25-inch bays for more
decoration. Te air vents under the PSU
bay and the adjacent 120mm mounts
both have side-tabbed, slide-out mesh
flters. Te rear panel is stocked with an
opening for a PSU, seven expansion slots,
a white-bladed 120mm exhaust fan, and
two rubber-grommeted watercooling
holes. Te Abyss can accomodate graphics
cards up to 13 inches long.
Te Abyss has a little more fair that cash-
strapped enthusiasts will appreciate. The
tinted left side panel window is impressively
large and showcases a good portion of the
Abyss’ interior. At the front of the top panel,
the Abyss has a pair of USB 3.0 ports that
cable to an internal motherboard header.
Finally, you’ll find a decent number of
cable management holes along the edge of
the motherboard tray. Add a CPU cooler
cutout, and you have a case that’s very easy
to work with. Builders should have no
problem putting together a clean-looking
system with this midtower.
Diablotek Abyss White
Abyss White
$69.99
Diablotek
www.diablotek.com
Specs: Dimensions: 17.2 x 8.3 x 19.9 inches
(HxWxD); Weight: 12.12 lbs.; Bays: 4 5.25-
inch external, 1 3.5-inch external, 5 3.5-inch
internal; Fans: 1 120mm LED front, 1 120mm
rear, 1 120mm bottom (optional)
36 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Of course, the bi g questi on i s
whether it’s worth $55. We ran a
Core i7-2600K processor on an Intel
DZ77GA-70K motherboard with 8GB
of AMD Performance DDR3, a 240GB
Patriot Wildfire SSD, and Windows 7
Professional 64-bit. We ran the chip at
its 3.4GHz default speed (3.8GHz Turbo
Boost), testing at both idle and 100%
load, and then repeated our CPUID
Hardware Monitor and RealTemp tests
when overclocked to a Turbo Boost speed
of 4.5GHz.
At idle, the CNPS14X shows no real
beneft over the Intel XTS100H reference
cooler, that shipped with the i7-2600K.
We also see no beneft under 100% load
with CPUID HM, but RealTemp shows
a 6 to 8 degrees Celsius beneft from the
CNPS14X under RealTemp. Once we
move to 100% load at our top overclock,
we see again see that 6 to 8 C improvement
with the CNPS14X, this time under both
tests. Given that the CNPS14X is only
$10 to $15 more than the XTS100H,
we’d defnitely side with Zalman on both
aesthetics and performance if you plan on
pushing your processor. ■
BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE
W
e’ve long been huge admirers of
Zalman when it comes to CPU
coolers. The CNPS14X is yet another
in a long line of elegant, quiet designs as
aesthetically impressive as it is thermally
effective. This is a dual tower design,
with an upright 140mm fan sandwiched
between twin stacks of aluminum fins
mounted on six copper heatpipes that are
connected to the pure copper base. The
ingenious part of the CNPS14X is that it
comes with one fan, emphasizing a balance
of airflow and quiet performance out of
the box (any noise from the CPU fan was
completely hidden under our graphics
card’s fan), but you can clip on up to two
more 140mm fans for additional airflow.
Tis cooler is compatible with AMD
AM2/2+/3/3+ and FM1 sockets as well as
Intel’s LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011
sockets. The single universal backplate
and base clip design is impressively
versatile. However, there are bolts that
mount through the base clips and
screw into nuts placed in the backplate.
Turning these nuts with the included
spanner proved to be quite tricky. Just
take your time and be thorough to ensure
the cooler is properly snugged up against
your processor.
Zalman CNPS14X
CNPS14X
$54.99
Zalman
www.zalman.com
Specs: Socket
compatibility: Intel
LGA775/1155/1156/
1366/2011, AMD
AM2/2+/3/3+,
AMD FM1; Heatsink
materials: Copper
(base, heatpipes),
aluminum (fns)
Dimensions: 6.3
x 5 x 5.5 inches
(HxWxD);Fan: 1 140mm
(950 to 1,350rpm);
Noise: 17 to 21 dBA
Benchmark Results Intel Thermal Solution XTS100H Zalman CNPS14X
(Performance Mode)
CPUID HM
CPU zone Idle Load Load (4.5GHz Turbo Boost) Idle Load Load (4.5GHz Turbo Boost)
0 27/35 52/55 66/68 26/33 52/55 58/64
1 25/40 54/58 71/74 27/40 54/58 62/66
2 24/36 51/54 68/71 24/35 51/54 59/63
3 30/41 55/57 69/72 30/38 55/57 62/66
Average 26.5/38 53/56 68.5/71.25 26.75/36.5 53/56 60.25/64.75
RealTemp GT
Core Idle Load Load (4.5GHz Turbo Boost) Idle Load Load (4.5GHz Turbo Boost)
1 24/28 52/56 66/69 29/32 46/48 58/64
2 24/31 54/58 72/75 27/31 49/51 63/68
3 23/29 51/55 69/72 26/30 45/47 59/65
4 24/33 55/59 71/73 31/39 49/50 62/67
Average 23.75/30.25 53/57 69.5/72.25 28.25/33 47.25/49 60.5/66
CPU / October 2012 37
Specs: Heatsink materials: Copper (base, heatpipes), nickel-plated aluminum (fns); Socket compatibility: Intel LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011, AMD
AM2/2+/3/3+, AMD FM1; Fans: 2 140mm (700 to 1,200rpm); Max airfow: 78.1cfm; Heatsink dimensions: 6.73 x 5.27 x 6.25 inches (HxWxD)
Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K; GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti; Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH; RAM: 16GB Patriot
Memory Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600; Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300; OS: Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit)
the motherboard from our system to
screw the heatsink to the bracket.
Te universal bracket can be installed
either horizontally or vertically, so you
can install the cooler to match the
existing airflow in your case. Phanteks
also includes an extra set of fan retention
clips, so you can install a third fan to
further enhance the cooler’s capabilities.
In our testing, we ran the CPU cooler in
a horizontal orientation that exhausted
air out the back of our case. At idle, the
PH-TC14PE ran our stock-clocked Intel
Core i7-3770K at 38 C. Under load, it
delivered temperatures of 45 C in Orthos,
52 C in POV-Ray, and 54 C in Prime 95.
Te combination of the large towers,
high-end fans, and advanced technology
make the PH-TC14PE a good choice for
overclockers who prefer an air cooler. ■
BY NATHAN LAKE
PH-TC14PE
$99.99
Phanteks
www.phanteks.com
(Col d Pl asma Sprayi ng Coati ng),
which are copper deposits placed in the
heatpipes that help to enhance thermal
conductivity by quickly displacing heat in
soldered surfaces.
To remove hot air from the heatsink,
Phanteks includes two of its PH-F140TS
fans, which feature a UFB (Updraft
Floating Balance) bearing and nine
blades. Phanteks indicates the UFB
bearing is designed to use the airflow
in the rotating blades to extend life and
reduce noise level. Te fan’s nine blades
are configured in a way that creates a
downdraft vortex that will improve
airflow. Max airflow from each fan can
reach 78.1cfm.
Phanteks provides you with a universal
installation kit that supports Intel
LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011 sockets,
as well as AMD AM2/2+/3/3+ and FM1
sockets. Te installation process consists
of attaching one of the Intel or AMD
brackets to the backplate. Then, you
install a mounting plate onto the heatsink
and screw it to the bracket on the CPU
socket. We’ll note that we had to remove
W
i th two heatsi nk towers, the
PC-TC14PE is a CPU cooler
that’s designed to handle some serious
overclocks. Phanteks also indicates that
the PH-TC14PE is built with aero-
space technology for enhanced thermal
conductivity, so the unit is more than
just a set of aluminum fins connected to
copper heatpipes.
At 6.73 inches tall, the PC-TC14PE
is one of the taller CPU coolers we’ve
seen. It’s also 6.25 inches deep, which
will extend over the memory modules on
most motherboards. We found that our
Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme modules ft
comfortably under the aluminum fns. Te
model we received (PH-TC14PE_BK) had
black fans and fns, but it’s also available
in white, blue, orange, and red. Te PC-
TC14PE has five 8mm heatpipes, with
each end running to a diferent tower of
aluminum fns.
The heatsink features with Phantek’s
P.A.T.S (Physical Antioxidant Thermal
Shield) that’s designed to defect ambient
heat from the GPU, northbridge, etc.
Another technology you’ll see is C.P.S.C
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
38 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
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º Two internal 8.5-inch/2.5-inch drive cages, ooth removaole
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us to make informed decisions before
using the parts in our systems. Then,
before a system goes out the door, we
make sure it goes through a long series
of hardware stress tests. They don’t come
back unless our customers are looking
for upgrades.
Q
How di d you choose Cool er
Master’s CM Storm Trooper as the
default case for Xgamerpc’s Kill Box?
Also, it looks like the Kill Box comes
standard with the Z77 platform; do you
offer X79 as an option, and what are
the pros and cons of both platforms for
a gaming system?
Cabico
The Kill Box began as a
custom system we built
for our showroom using the Z77 platform
and Cooler Master’s CM Storm Trooper
case. Once it was out, we had several
requests for this system, sometimes with
just a few changes. The Storm Trooper
helped make it a big hit with customers.
We also offer this system with the X79
platform, and as far as pros and cons,
they’re both great picks—it’s really up to
what the customer requests.
Q
How long have you been building
systems, and how did you decide to
start Xgamerpc?
Cabico
About 15 years ago,
I got into PC gaming
when my father, Charl es Cabi co,
introduced me to a few games like
Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Doom.
Then I began tinkering with computers
after we built my first gaming system,
and I was hooked. I started Xgamerpc
around nine years ago; I wanted to create
a place for the true gamer, a place to
come to for all your PC gaming needs.
My focus was to become one of the best
PC gaming companies. Our Xgamerpc
systems are designed to give you a
fantastic gaming experience and keep you
within your budget.
Q
What’s the connection between
Xgamerpc and the Xgamer Alliance?
Cabico
Xgamerpc is a retail
store where customers
can go to see and touch the latest PC
gaming hardware and accessories that
they have read about or seen online. The
feedback we get from customers is that
they are so glad to see a retail store that
caters to their needs and to have a place to
walk in and discuss the configuration of
their new Xgamerpc gaming rig.
Xgamer Alliance is an online gaming
site that a customer and I came up with
to give gamers a place to interact and
discuss the newest games. Gamers can ask
questions and post ideas about issues or
hardware, or just connect to play.
Q
How do you evaluate components
for inclusion in Xgamerpc systems,
and what sort of testing procedure to
Xgamerpc systems go through before
they ship?
Cabico
We do a lot of research
before recommending
products. The support from our reps
at Cool er Master, NVIDIA, Intel ,
Thermaltake, Kingston, and so on helps
This month we talked to Roger Cabico, founder and owner of Xgamerpc (www.xgamerpc.com),
about his company, the systems it sells, and Xgamerpc’s flagship rig, the Kill Box.
40 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
systems frequently carry 2- to 4-year
manufacturer’s warranties.
Q
On average, how long does it
take for a customer to receive an
Xgamerpc from the time he places the
order on your site or over the phone?
Cabico
The average build time
for a custom-built gam-
ing PC is four to five days, including stress
testing and so forth. Shipping time may vary
depending on the destination. ■
don’t have standard clock speed targets.
The result largely depends on the
individual system specs.
Q
Can you talk about Xgamerpc’s
system warranty and what it covers?
Cabico
Al l of our gami ng
systems come wi th
a one-year warranty, which includes
all parts and labor. After the one year,
we always give our customers support,
and the components we offer on our
Q
In addition to the standard system
configs your site offers, the site
gives the impression that you provide
fully custom, made-to-order builds.
How many of your clients choose a
fully custom option vs. Xgamerpc’s
standard configs?
Cabico
We c a n bui l d t o
whatever specs our
customers want. Most of our customers
go with the configurations of the
systems we offer, and a few ask for just a
few changes. The website offers several
options to ensure our customers get the
best gaming systems possible.
Q
Do you provide factory over-
clocking on request, and do you
have specific clocks that you try to
hit for particular CPUs, or do you
run individual overclocks based on
system stability?
Cabico
We do provide over-
clocking on request,
and we’ll overclock a system’s CPU, GPU,
and RAM if the customer wants. Because
we work with lots of configurations, we
“We can build to whatever
specs our customers want.”
- ROGER CABICO, FOUNDER OF XGAMERPC
CPU / October 2012 41
I
f you’ve been reading CPU for long, you’ve probably seen Bob
“BS MODS” Stewart’s handiwork before. (Remember the
amazing Wonder Woman mod with the gold-sleeved cables?)
As the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down, and
Stewart would seem to prove that old saw, as he’s back in CPU,
this time as Mad Reader Mod winner.
As before, we crossed Stewart’s path at PDXLAN. And as
usual, the competition was ferce, but you don’t have to spend
much time looking at the ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R to see why
it’s this month’s winner. Immaculate inside and out, its striking
red and white motif is bold and unique, and Stewart’s work is
impressive as always. Stewart says he drew inspiration for the
mod from Honda’s Type-R Mugen Civic, and that he spent
nearly a year working on the mod on and of.
“I don’t usually worry about the time,” Stewart says. “Te
quality is most important to me.”
Stewart disassembled the entire ENERMAX Fulmo that was the
base of the mod in order to make it easier to change the color from
the case’s standard black to white. He removed the drive cage for
improved airfow, added a mirror window, cut custom acrylic panels
to hide the optical bay area, and completely dismantled and painted
the power supply, an ENERMAX Platimax 1200W. He did the same
with the graphics cards, then added a lighter that looks like a tiny
NOS bottle to each—he found these on eBay.
He cut all the wires in the case to the specific length he
needed, then sleeved them in bright red paracord, along with
some ENERMAX cable
straps to keep everything
neatl y i n pl ace. He
added some meters and
a touchscreen to the
front panel to give it an
instrument cluster look,
and installed two RGB
LED light strips in the
case that he can control
with a remote. He also used
some perforated aluminum to
make custom heat shields for his
video cards.
Speaking of components, the ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R
runs an Intel Core i7-980X on ASUS’ Rampage III Extreme
motherboard, with 24GB of Patriot Viper memory, two
SAPPHIRE FleX HD 6870 graphics cards, a Patriot Wildfre
120GB SSD, and an ENERMAX ETD-T60-TB CPU cooler.
He dressed up the front panel with help from Aerocool’s V12XT
touchscreen fan controller.
Stewart gives a shout out to ENERMAX and Patriot, which
supplied many of the parts that made the Fulmo Type-R possible.
“ENERMAX and Patriot are some of the best people I have
worked with,” he says. “Tey are always looking to modders for
any new ideas they can use to bring us products we want.” ■
ENERMAX
Fulmo Type-R
Have a computer mod that will bring
tears to our eyes? Email photos and
a description to madreadermod@
cpumag.com. If we include your
system in our “Mad Reader Mod”
section, we’ll send you $1,500 and
a one-year subscription to CPU.
Give Us
Your Mod
42 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
CPU / October 2012 43
You know all about the advantages of using SSDs
vs. traditional hard drives. You know that PCs
equipped with SSDs boot faster, load apps faster,
and in general are more responsive. You also
know SSDs are quieter than hard drives, and
that they are more energy effcient and longer
lasting. And because they have no moving parts,
SSDs are considerably more durable than their
mechanical counterparts.
But where SSDs are concerned, one size
does not fit all. As with other important
components in your system, you have a lot
of options when it comes time to choose
a boot drive, and the choice you make will
have a profound impact on your system’s
performance and overall cost.
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Intel’s Series 330 SSDs ship with 3.5-inch drive bay adaptors
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Each 520 Series SSD is equipped with AES 256-bit encryption for
data security, End-to-End Data Protection in the form of CRC and
ECC checks to protect against data corruption, and advanced
data compression to increase the drive’s effective capacity.
CPU’s
whirlwind tour of Intel LANFest events (lanfest.intel
.com) continued through the first half of 2012, taking
us to six events in six months. A few CPU staffers even
headed out to our nearest LANFest shindig, Intel LANFest NETWAR 23.0 in Omaha,
Neb., as paying customers back in April. If you like playing PC games in general and
LAN parties in particular, and you haven’t yet been to an Intel LANFest event, take it
from us: You need to get some of your people together and go.
Tese events are an excellent way to unwind with old friends and make new ones
as you bond over your favorite PC games, gallons of highly cafeinated beverages, and
a steady diet of all the stuf your mother told you never to eat. Each LANFest event
is stafed by knowledgeable, enthusiastic admins, and benefts from a ready supply of
networking gear, as well as truckloads of swag from LANFest’s excellent sponsors, many
of whom even head out to the events themselves.
Best of all, while you’re living la vida loca at a LANFest event near you, you’re also
engaging in much-needed philanthropy, as Intel continues raising even more cash for
charity. Te running total from LANFest events is now over $440,000, so a big thanks
to those of you who attended an event this year and helped out three very worthy causes,
the United Way, Child’s Play, and Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. ■
Intel LANFest
46 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
January 6 to 8
Atlanta, GA
In January, we started off the 2012 LANFest season
in the ATL at Atlanta LANFest Winter LAN. Our winner
was Patrick Pittaluga and his modded Corsair Obsidian
Series case with custom watercooling. Black and
red are a classic combination, and as Patrick’s mod
shows, few combinations pop more when the lights
are low.
April 13 to 15
Sacramento, CA
Dustin Rodgers took top honors at LANFest Sacramento’s
spring session over the weekend of April 13 to 15. His
“Headshot” theme really resonates at a LAN event. And in
case you’re unclear as to what Mr. Rodgers’ mod name
is getting at, please allow his left panel with a trio of
headshot skulls to elucidate.
April 27 to 28
Omaha, NE
At NETWAR, we found another case mod based on a
Corsair Obsidian Series case, and another case with a
clean, orderly interior. Cody Arnold even added some
red to the black coolant tubes running to and from his
Corsair closed-loop liquid CPU cooler’s waterblock,
which we thought was a nice touch.
CPU / October 2012 47
June 8 to 10
DuPont, WA
Ah, the Pacifc Northwest. When it comes to mods,
this region is pretty hard to beat. Rafe Cadwallader’s
R3VOLT mod got high marks for both aesthetics and
technical merit; obviously a Mad Reader Mod winner
has to look good, but we are suckers for mods where
the owner does some crazy custom engineering—say,
for example, putting your SFF mod’s innards on ball-
bearing-equipped drawer slides so that you can have
compact beauty and accessibility without compromise.
June 15 to 17
Pomona, CA
What’s better than an Intel LANFest event mashed up with
a GIGABYTE-sponsored pro-gaming event? The StarCraft II
actions per minute numbers were through the roof, as was
the quality of the mods on display. In the end, the winner
was Otis Fatz and his right-panel-facing-motherboard-
having Plum Crazy Trooper. You can see plenty of this
excellent mod on pages 32 and 33 of the September
issue, so we thought we’d show some of its competition
here, too. As you can tell from shots of just three of the
other mods that were in attendance, you couldn’t swing a
bat at this event without hitting a gorgeous mod.
June 22 to 24
Atlanta, GA
Mitchell Kent Prince took top honors at the second
Atlanta event we visited in the frst half of the year.
Let’s face it, white is in right now in the high-end PC
world, and as Mitchell’s mod further proves, a clean,
well-cabled interior and effective use of ambient
lighting never go out of style.
48 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Vincent W. asked: I’m a huge fan
of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X and am
looking into building a computer capable
of playing it at the highest quality, with
the best scenery, and more planes. I’d
also like a new graphics card with the
ability to add a second monitor. What’s
your advice for components that will run
this game well?
A: Flight Simulator X? Have you tried
out the much newer (and more visually
impressive) Microsoft Flight? We’ll
make sure you can play Microsoft Flight
without a hitch in your frame rates; by
default, the components you invest in will
be more than capable of playing Flight
Simulator X, as well.
Note that Flight Simulator X is very
CPU-limited, which means it pushes on
your processor more than your graphics
card. According to Microsoft, FSX
SP1 moves quite a bit of the rendering
Each month we dig deep into the CPU
mailbag in an efort to answer your most
pressing technical questions. Want some
advice on your next purchase or upgrade?
Have a ghost in your machine? Are
BSODs making your life miserable? CPU’s
“Advanced Q&A Corner” is here for you.
Carlos N. asked: I’m in the market
for a new graphics card, but many of the
models I’ve looked at ship with HDMI
video outputs in addition to the DVI
connectors I’m accustomed to. What is
your expert opinion on which is better,
DVI or HDMI?
A: Carlos, this is one of those situations
where you don’t need to rel y on
anyone else’s opinion when it comes to
judging the output of differing cables
and standards. Both DVI and HDMI
transmit digital signals, so from an
image quality standpoint, images at the
same resolution will be identical when
transmitted over either cable. As a matter
of fact, many graphics cards used to ship
with passive DVI-to-HDMI adapters;
there is no change in visual fidelity in
either case.
But there are differences between
HDMI and DVI that could impact
your f uture purchasi ng deci si ons.
The biggest is the fact that HDMI,
as a standard, is designed to transmit
both audio and video signals over a
single cable. DVI is video only. In a
vast majority of instances, your PC’s
audio comes from an onboard chip or
a standalone sound card, with audio
outputs independent of the video card,
so getting your PC audio through your
graphics card’s HDMI port is generally
not necessary.
That said, there are some instances
where you’d want to use HDMI,
namely when watching Blu-ray. The
HDMI standard supports HDCP
(High Definition Content Protection),
which lets flagged content play at its
full 1080p resolution on your monitor.
If you’re trying to watch such content
using anything other than HDMI, the
resolution may be reduced, or the content
might be blocked altogether. Another
reason you’d want to rely on HDMI,
specifcally HDMI 1.4a, is if you’re at all
interested in 3D.
In short, although there’s no discernible
visual quality difference between the
digital signals transmitted over DVI and
HDMI, the latter specifcation gives you
more flexibility when it comes to your
entertainment.
Get informed answers to your advanced technical questions from
CPU. Send your questions along with a phone and/or fax number, so
we can call you if necessary, to q&a@cpumag.com. Please include
all pertinent system information.
Both HDMI and DVI deal with digital video, but HDMI also supports HDCP and audio.
50 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
duties to threads, which can be assigned
to multiple cores. This is why we
recommend a quad-core processor, and
make sure you have both Microsoft Flight
Simulator X service packs installed to
beneft from the improvements. A good
quad-core processor will be the frst thing
you should look into (and, of course, a
compatible motherboard).
For your reference, we found Microsoft
Flight Simulator X’s minimum sys-
tem requirements at www.tinyurl.com
/ylnbww. The recommended system
requirements for Microsoft Flight (www
.microsoft.com/games/flight) consist of
a dual-core processor with a 3GHz or
better core frequency, 30GB of spare hard
drive space, Windows 7 SP1 64-bit, and
6GB or RAM. Microsoft recommends
an AMD Radeon HD 5670 or NVIDIA
GeForce 9800GT with 1GB of RAM
or better, but both of those cards are
obsolete. We’d recommend a Radeon HD
6770 or GeForce GTX 550 Ti, which will
be able to run two monitors at once.
What you’ll quickly notice, however,
is that two monitors puts a frame in the
middle of your view. If you’re really a
fanatic, three monitors wide is the way to
go, but to do it we’ll need to upgrade our
graphics card recommendation. You can
get three-way Eyefinity from a Radeon
HD 6850 for not a lot of money. To get
three monitors from NVIDIA, you’ll be
spending quite a bit more money; as we
went to press, only the GTX 680 and
670 support 2D surround with a single
graphics card, which means you’d need a
pair of GTX 550 Ti cards in SLI. Keep in
mind that when you double or triple your
screens, your resolution also doubles and
triples, so you may need more graphics
horsepower to handle everything at the
highest settings. If you choose
these components, and bump
up the core count of your
processor to four, you should
be ready for takeof.
Pete E. asked: I’m
headed off to college this
fall and plan to major in
electrical and computer
engineering. I’d like to get
a new laptop that’ll hopefully
last me all four years (my
school doesn’t recommend
a specifc brand or model),
and I’m especially interested
in the Clevo P150EM/Sager NP9150.
However, there seem to be a ton of
vendors selling this model (including
XoticPC, AVADirect, Maingear, Digital
Storm, and GenTech). How do I determine
which vendor to buy from?
A: Pete, buying a laptop that’ll keep up
with an aspiring electrical and computer
engineer for four years is a challenge
indeed. From the options available at
the various vendors you mentioned, this
What’s good enough for Microsoft
Flight is good enough for Flight
Simulator X.
Reseller Ratings is a good place to start for unbiased reviews for PC vendors.
CPU / October 2012 51
looks like as good a recommendation as
we could make. Te reason you’re seeing
essentially the same laptop at multiple
vendors is because this is actually a
whitebook, or barebones notebook, that
Clevo manufacturers for OEMs and
boutique builders. They all generally
have access to the same Intel Core i7
processors, GeForce and Radeon HD
graphics cards, DDR3-1600 memory, and
6Gbps SATA slot.
The difference between
these vendors often comes
down to pricing; even so,
it’s frequently not much of a
diference at all. Do yourself
a favor and configure the
laptop to your liking on
each vendor’s site. (For the
most part, you can do this
without committing to the
purchase or even logging in).
See who offers your dream
laptop for the cheapest.
Cos t i s n’t t he onl y
factor to consider, though.
Some vendors may have
more limited component
s el ect i ons . You’ l l al s o
find varying degrees of
pr of e s s i ona l s of t wa r e
installation services. Another
big factor is customer service,
so we’d recommend looking
at customer feedback from
each vendor. A good place to
start is www.resellerratings
.com. Here, you can see
the vendor’s lifetime rating
distribution and determine
if they monitor reviews and
seek to resolve problems.
No vendor has ever satisfed
every customer, so read these
reviews with an open mind.
Another diferentiator closely
associated with customer
service is the warranty period.
Look too for the hours of a
vendor’s support helpline and
determine the accessibility
of their tech support email
address. You can typically fnd this email
on the web site, so feel free to send a quick
question to determine how quickly you get
a response. Call the helpline to see if you
can expect long wait times or an overly
automated system.
Some vendors also take pride in their
extensive testing and burn-in procedures,
so if they publish this, give them bonus
points for trying to make sure the system
you get is stable and performs as expected.
Certain vendors also ofer custom paint
jobs and additional LED lighting, and
unique case appliqués.
It seems daunting, but fnding the right
vendor is important, even if the barebones
laptop you ultimately buy doesn’t difer at
all from that of another vendor.
Roger asked: I am a day trader current
looking to upgrade my PC. I’m having
trouble deciding between the Intel X79
and Z77 platforms for my
motherboard and processor.
I’m leaning toward the X79
because it supports up to
eight banks of DRAM. Will
more memory improve my
system’s overall stability and
execution speed?
A: Roger informed us that his
current system consists of an
Intel P45-based motherboard
with an Intel Core 2 Quad
Q6700. Roger is also running
8GB of mixed RAM (DDR2-
333 and DDR2- 400) ,
which could account for any
instability he’s experiencing.
Generally speaking, the
quad-channel memory on
the X79 platform won’t
make an appreciable dif-
ference in the tasks you
perform unless you hit the
upper limit of the dual-
channel memory subsystem
on the Z77 platform, and
that’s highly unlikely unless
you run multiple memory-
i nt e ns i ve a ppl i c a t i ons
simultaneously. Without
any specifics on what you
currently run to do your day
trading, we’d expect 8GB
of DDR3-1600 or better to
be more than adequate for
most applications. The Z77
platform also supports up to
32GB of DDR3, so there’s
plenty of room to grow. Both
platforms are very stable. ■
Many vendors offer the same whitebook, but customer
service and warranty terms may vary.
Do you really need quad-channel memory?
52 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
M
SI ha s e s t a bl i s he d i t s e l f
a s one of t he t op vi de o
card manuf act urer s i n t he
market, thanks to several interesting
technologies and advanced features
in its products. For those taking a
first look at MSI cards, the fact that
t he company i ncl udes hi gh-grade
component s i n i t s cards , maki ng
them better able to handle advanced
power loads for overclocking, is going
to make them desirable. Then there’s
the striking blue and black look of
the MSI cards, which certainly makes
them distinctive.
For those who are already familiar
with MSI video cards, though, the
Power Edition architecture demands
t he he a dl i ne s . Powe r Edi t i o n
vi deo cards combi ne s ever al key
c ompone nt s , of f e r i ng a dva nc e d
options for high-stress operation and
cooling. With the August release of
the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video
card, MSI has further improved its
Power Edition architecture.
In this most recent version of Power
Edition, three capabilities in particular
are emphasized:
Overclocking. The Power Edition
architecture provides features aimed
a t i mpr ov i ng t he ove r c l oc ki ng
c a pa bi l i t i e s of t he vi de o c a r d,
including a feature MSI calls Triple
Overvoltage with Afterburner, which
essentially lets users adjust the voltages
of the GPU, memory, and VDDCI for
overclocking. At the same time, the
power supply for the MSI video card
MSI Power Edition
GTX 660 Ti
Twin Frozr IV Highlights Latest MSI Video Card
CPU / October 2012 53
The fan technology used with the MSI Power Edition video
card is a key to making sure the card remains cool and
removes dust, allowing the system to run well.
As the system starts up, the fans run in reverse, blowing any
accumulated dust out of the video card, such as dust that has
built up on the heatsink, Chang says. After running in reverse
for up to 30 seconds, the fans return to their normal operation,
providing cooling to the MSI Power Edition video card.
MSI also has created specific blades for its fans,
containing several parts that may seem minor at first glance,
but that work together to provide increased airflow vs.
traditional blades. The improvements to the design of the
blades include:
Arched edge. MSI has added an arch to the edge of the
blades, giving the fan greater control over the direction of
the airflow.
Gloss coating. With a smoother coating on each blade,
air resistance is reduced.
Groove. Each blade has a slight groove in its face, which
produces a larger range in the flow of the air.
Round edge. MSI has rounded the edges of the blades to
cut down on the noise the fan generates.
Small arc. By reducing the arc in the blades, MSI claims
to create a greater airflow from each blade.
“The propeller blade fans move about 20% more air at the
same RPM vs. conventional blade designs, thus achieving
the same amount of airflow at lower RPMs,” Chang says. This
results in less noise from the fan.
Source: MSI
MSI’s Fan Design
has been adjusted to allow it to carry
additional current flow.
“Our proprietary Afterburner over-
cl ocki ng sof t ware al l ows users t o
unleash the potential of the GTX 660
Ti GPU by allowing clock speeds to
be increased beyond what GPU Boost
is capabl e of providing,” says Al ex
Chang, technical marketing manager
at MSI USA.
Overvolting. An enhanced PWM
(pulse-width modulation) controller
allows for the overvoltage mentioned
above. MSI says the PWM controller
can del i ver as much as 17% more
electrical current vs. a reference design.
Cooling. With the latest edition
of its proprietary cooling technology,
Twin Frozr IV, MSI says the GTX
660 Ti Power Edition video card runs
14 degrees Celsius cooler and 17.1
decibels quieter than the reference
board. Twin Frozr IV also includes
MSI’s Propel l er Bl ade technol ogy,
which MSI tells us provides greater
airflow vs. traditional fan blades by as
much as 20%.
Military-Grade Components
To make all of these features work
wel l , i t’s i mportant to have hi gh-
qual i t y par t s i n your vi deo card.
It does no good to run a video card
at ext remel y hi gh vol t ages i f t he
components are just going to break
down when they’re under a high-stress
situation. It takes a certain quality of
component to make a video card that
can survive being pushed to the limits
over and over, Chang says.
MSI cal l s t he par t s i t’s us i ng
“Mi l i t ar y Cl ass III” component s.
Cha ng s a ys t he Mi l i t a r y Cl a s s
designation means the parts all have
passed independent testing under the
MIL-STD-810G standard, which is a
U.S. military standard that attempts
to replicate the stresses and work the
products will undergo in actual day-
to-day usage.
“Higher-quality products, such as
our Military Class components, help
improve the power delivery and signal
f or t he GPU and memor y chi ps,
increasing graphics card performance,”
Chang says. “The qual i ty of these
components i s even more cri ti cal
on graphics cards, due to the small
footprint of the PCB and the often
higher power draw vs. a CPU.”
The improvements MSI has made
to its various technologies may not
seem si gni fi cant when each one i s
considered alone, but when all of the
changes are taken together, the GTX
660 Ti Power Edition video card has
an interesting set of upgraded features
that Chang says have been appreciated
by customers.
“The GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power
Edition cards have been very well-
received in the marketplace,” Chang
says. “Users recogni ze the benefi ts
that the Twin Frozr thermal solution,
Military Class component design, and
Af terburner overcl ocki ng sof tware
provide. The Power Editions of our
GeForce GTX cards have consistently
been the top seller in the retail and
e-tail channel.” ■
BY KYLE SCHURMAN
54 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
With the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video card,
a strong cooling solution is a must, because of the
overclocking and over volting capabilities of the card. For
the past few years, MSI has made use of a set of features
it calls Twin Frozr to provide cooling for its video cards.
The latest version included with this video card, Twin Frozr
IV, provides the most extensive set of cooling components
yet, including:
Fans. Twin Frozr IV makes use of a pair of 8cm (3.15-
inch) fans (A), which provide the necessary airflow to
cool all aspects of the video card, including the GPU, the
memory modules, and the power module. Each fan has
specially designed blades, which create greater airflow.
Form-in-one heatsink. The MSI Twin Frozr IV heatsink
covers both the memory module and the power module,
providing better heat dissipation for the video card
as a whole. You can see the location of the heatsink,
superimposed in yellow in the smaller photo (B).
Heat pipes. The five 6mm heat pipes, which are visible
in silver along the bottom edge of the card (C), transfer
heat from the nickel-plated copper base to the aluminum fin
array, which can carry the heat away from key components.
Nickel-plated copper base. MSI uses the nickel-plated
copper base (D), along with the aluminum fins, to allow for
more efficient heat dissipation from the GPU.
Source: MSI
Twin Frozr IV
CPU / October 2012 55
didn’t have all those extra non-essential,
non-functional elements that other
graphics card designers have used for
so long.”
Less Is More
The interesting de-
si gn and l ook of the
XFX Bl a c k Edi t i on
Rade on i nc l ude s t wo
f ans , whi ch i s t he key
component of XFX’s Double
Di s s i pat i on Technol ogy. The
cover of the video card is attached
to the heatsink, which makes it seem
to be floating above the rest of the
card’s components. Thi s i s part of
XFX’s Ghost Thermal Technol ogy,
which gives this video card an open
composition that promotes freer air
flow. These two technologies work in
combination to give these high-end
XFX boards the cooling performance
they need.
M
ost of the time, when high-
tech companies come up with
ne w pr o duc t de s i g ns o r
technol ogi es, they have pl enty of
confidence that they have a strong
design on their hands. Rarely will you
hear a company admit uneasiness over
an upcoming product, much less one
that’s already launched.
However, when that new design is
as significantly different as some of
the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD
vi deo cards have been thi s year, a
little anxiety is understandable. The
i ncl us i on of Ghos t Ther mal and
Doubl e Di s s i pat i on t echnol ogi es
greatly affected the design of these
cards, such as the XFX Black Edition
Radeon HD R7970 and R7950.
“At frst, we were very hesitant about
the design,” says Namanh Hoang, director
of product development for XFX Global.
“We had a fear that it would not be well
accepted, because our simple design just
X F X ’ s
designers didn’t
really have Ghost
Thermal Technol ogy
in mind when they started
looking at options for their new
video board designs, though.
“The Ghost Thermal design began
much like designing a concept car,”
Hoang says. “We gave our designers
open range to design without con-
straints to see where they would go. We
didn’t want to begin with constraints
of performance, size, etc., but rather
explore something new.”
XFX Ghost
Thermal Technology
Minimalist Design Meets Maximum Performance
“The Ghost Thermal design began much
like designing a concept car. We gave our
designers open range to design without
constraints to see where they would go.”
- Namanh Hoang, Director of Product Development, XFX Global
56 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Ghost Thermal Technology makes use of what XFX calls a
floating cover design. The idea behind having a floating cover
is to maximize the airflow through the card, providing cooling
to the heatsink, PCB, and the card’s other components all at
the same time.
“We call it a floating design because the cover is mounted
to the heatsink in most cases, rather than the PCB board,”
Namanh Hoang, director of product development for XFX
Global, says. “Moving the cover up and mounting it to the
heatsink allowed us to create a larger and stronger PCB tray.
We achieved all of this without adding any thickness to the
overall card.”
Although Hoang says XFX has
heard some of the critics who wonder
whether Ghost Thermal Technology
is more of a marketing ploy than a
beneficial cooling technology, the
results XFX has seen speak for
themselves. Having an open design
naturally makes sense.
“It’s similar to having a car with
no body,” Hoang says. “Undoubtedly,
the engine would be cooler than in
a car with a fully enclosed body. The
more open the car is, the better the
airflow.”
Although Ghost Thermal Tech-
nology has quite a few advantages
in cooling, Hoang says, it won’t
work in every situation. The
effectiveness of Ghost Thermal
depends in part on the layout of the
computing system and the various components included on
the video board.
“In most situations, [Ghost Thermal Technology] has
substantial advantages over enclosed designs,” Hoang
says. “In a few cases where users have multiple GPUs and
the motherboard PCI slot spacing is very small, then the
cards could end up stacked on top of each other, which
would decrease both inflow and outflow of air. Of course,
the drawback is much higher fan speeds, which means a
substantially louder graphics card.”
Source: XFX
Hoang says that XFX’s designers took
inspiration from the minimalist principles
of Dieter Rams, a German industrial
designer. “We attempted to remove the
superfuous elements that didn’t serve any
function, which are so often found in
graphics card design.”
With the minimalistic design, the
greater airfow in the new XFX video cards
occurred naturally, and the Ghost Termal
Technology was born.
“It was only after we decided on a
design that we began exploring airflow
experiments,” Hoang says, “and, to
our surprise, it performed better than
expected. Of course, the question we all
asked ourselves was ‘Why wasn’t this more
common, and why did enclosed solutions
seem to be more dominant in the market?’”
Tis question made the XFX team fear
that some users might believe the extra
components on the competing cards were
essential to performance, causing them
to automatically downgrade the Ghost
Thermal cards on looks alone. However,
Hoang says, the market has been very
receptive to the minimalistic design of
Ghost Termal cards.
“We are very glad to see that it has been
so well accepted, not only by the merits
of its genuine performance capabilities,
but that so many people appreciate the
simple design aesthetics that we wanted to
achieve,” Hoang says.
Although Hoang could not share the
exact improvements that XFX has planned
for Ghost Termal Technology’s future, the
design has been popular enough to warrant
further enhancements down the road.
“We hope to continue pushing the
boundaries on our design by questioning
what is common and asking, ‘Can it be
done diferently?’” Hoang says. “‘Would that
actually create a better performing and better
looking product?’ The simpler and more
Ghost Thermal Technology In-Depth
CPU / October 2012 57
With Double Dissipation Technology, XFX has created a dual-fan
design that lets the overall board remain cooler without the need to
run at a faster overall fan speed. The result, of course, is a quieter
graphics card. Having two fans will spread the cooling more evenly
over the entire board vs. a single-fan design, as well.
“Obviously, two fans increase cooling by creating more airflow
over the key hot points on the thermal solution, specifically the
heatpipes and the heatsink fins,” Namanh Hoang, director of
product development for XFX Global, says.
However, not all dual-fan designs on video cards from all
manufacturers are the same, Hoang says. It’s important to
make sure that the design of the two fans gives them the right
alignment with the elements they’re trying to cool.
“The key thing to look at is where those heatsinks and fans
come together,” Hoang says.
Heat naturally rises and moves into cooler areas, whether
it’s in the enclosure of a video card or in your home. With that in
mind, the XFX designers paid special attention to making sure
the Double Dissipation fans are positioned precisely in the areas
where they can most efficiently remove the heat, even as that
heat migrates.
One area in a video card’s cooling system where the heat com-
monly is not removed as efficiently as it should be is at the end of
the heatpipe, Hoang says. If the cooling system doesn’t focus on
removing heat from the end of the heatpipe, it’s going to create a
bottleneck of heat, which has a domino effect inside the remainder
of the cooling system, allowing heat to build back toward the GPU.
“So, the cooler you can make the end of the heatpipe, the
sooner the heat can move there and take its place,” Hoang says.
“In our designs, you will see that fans are positioned to optimally
cool a majority of the heatpipes and heat sink, keeping that thermal
dynamic heat flow consistent.”
With its Double Dissipation Technology, XFX can boast quite
a few specific performance improvements, including a video card
that creates about 45 decibels of noise, which XFX claims is
13 decibels quieter than single-fan designs. Double Dissipation
also allows the video card to run 7 degrees Celsius cooler than
a single-fan design, according to XFX. With such advantages
offered by this technology, overclocking becomes easier.
“We try to find a balance between cooling and performance,”
Hoang says. “Of course, our priority is performance, and we
generally try to exceed the performance levels of our competitors
or eve n that of our single-fan cards. Then we fine-tune the
speeds to reduce the noise levels below single-fan designs
without compromising the performance.”
Source: XFX
Today’s Forecast: Lots Of Wind
honest our design becomes, the more we can
pass that savings to our customers through
improved performance and quality.”
Enclosed vs. Open Design
Te traditional enclosed design used on
most video cards tends to make it more
difficult to expel any heat building up
inside the unit, requiring a higher fan speed.
However, the faster-spinning fan will lead
to more noise. Ghost Termal Technology,
with its greater airfow, lets the fans run at a
slower speed, resulting in less noise.
With the cover being mounted to the
heatsink, Hoang says that XFX’s designers
had to wrestle with a few different
problems. For example, having a typical
cover attached to the heatsink added too
much weight to the video card, causing
a problem called PCB bend. Tis occurs
when the heatsink and thermal paste
pull away from the GPU because of the
combined weight of the cover and the
heatsink, with vibrations pulling the
components loose from the video board.
PCB bend was especially problematic
when using a traditional X-bracket design,
Hoang says.
“At frst, we did face the difcult task of
managing the weight of the cover added
to the heatsink, and how it would afect
the PCB bend,” Hoang says. “To solve
this problem, we created a PCB tray that
covers the entire length of the graphics
card, which not only held the heatsink in
place but also reinforced the entire PCB
and prevent it from bending.”
X-brackets will continue to work well for
video card designs that involve a single fan
or smaller heatsinks, even if the card includes
Ghost Termal Technology, Hoang says.
The Total Package
Having Ghost Thermal Technology
paired with XFX’s Double Dissipation
58 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
When creating the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD 7970
and 7950 video cards, XFX’s engineers included a vapor
chamber technology called HydroCell, which uses liquid
inside a sealed chamber to cool the GPU. XFX’s HydroCell
technology has a lot of similarities to heatpipe cooling tech-
nology. Namanh Hoang, director of product development for
XFX Global, says both types of cooling have their place in
the market, depending on the type of video card that’s
in use.
“Generally, we can’t say which is better,
HydroCell or heatpipe technology,” Hoang
says. “In a sense, they both work great,
depending on many factors, such as weight
and size, that come into play in our decision of
which to choose. However, one thing you can
be sure of is that we choose the best thermal
solution for each specific graphics card.”
Users can gain a clue as to the cooling
advantages the design of the HydroCell
technology simply by looking at it in relation
to other designs of video cards, Hoang
says. For example, look for heatpipes on
other cards that are in a position that simply
doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially in
relation to the position of the heatpipe to
any cooling fans on the video card.
“If you see a heatpipe positioned in the middle of the
GPU with no fans over it, then clearly it’s not being cooled
and instead is creating a super heat conductor that actually
sends heat back to the GPU,” Hoang says. “These are
improper GPU thermal designs made to give the perception
of better cooling when, in fact, it does the opposite.”
Source: XFX
HydroCell Technology
dual-fan design is important for the
success for certain types of XFX video
cards, Hoang says, as each technology
plays its own role in the overall cooling
design.
“Double Dissipation helps to get more
air in, and Ghost Termal helps to get
more air out,” Hoang says. “Thermal
dynamics and airfow is all about balance
and optimal performance. Having more
fans does not help if they cannot properly
get the overflow of air intake out. It
would just be trapped inside, waiting for
the air to exhaust. Ghost Termal is the
maximum airfow exhaust we can achieve
on a graphics card.
“Essentially we have greatly expanded
the exhaust capability of the graphics
card.”
With all of these cooling technologies
working together, XFX is able to cool
all of the components on their video
boards, ranging from the GPU to the
PCB. Although some users may scof at
the idea that the PCB needs to be cooled,
Hoang says this allows the entire board to
perform up to desired levels of efciency.
“It’s a matter of scale,” Hoang says.
“The smaller something is, the more it
is afected by heat. So even though you
can touch the PCB and it’s not hot, heat
is afecting it on a much larger scale in
relation to its size.”
If one area of the video card’s PCB
is exposed to excessive heat because the
card’s cooling system is focusing on the
GPU (rather than cooling the entire card
equally), a capacitor in another area of the
card could sufer a failure, leading to the
entire card failing.
Hoang suggests thinking of the
overall video card system in a manner
similar to the human circulatory system.
If you don’t work throughout the entire
circulatory system to prevent blood clots,
you could end up having a blood clot
develop. Perhaps you’ll be lucky, and the
blood clot will form in an arm or leg,
where a doctor can treat it with minimal
discomfort or long-term efects. But what
if one forms in an area where it can be
fatal? Hoang says that when the entire
circulatory system is treated to prevent
blood clots, you reduce the risk that a
blood clot may form in an area that will
be dangerous to your health.
“As electricity fows through every part
of the graphics card, from the copper in
the PCB to the capacitors, the effects
of heat are relatively important to every
aspect of the graphics card,” Hoang says.
“Tat is why it is essential to cool as many
parts of the graphics card as possible.” ■
CPU / October 2012 59
nd when you select a motherboard, you’re locking
yourself into a processor socket, maximum memory
speed, and the number of graphics cards you can
install (among others). You also have to consider how
the motherboard will handle your current hardware, as well as
future components, such as speedier peripherals. Budget can also
play a big role in your choice, which can add to the limitations of
your build. Our motherboard buyer’s guide is designed to help
you fnd the best motherboard based on your particular needs
and system goals.
Newest Intel Chipsets
For performance enthusiasts and workstation builders,
the X79 chipset is Intel’s premier option. Introduced in
November 2011, the X79 chipset supports the six-core,
12-thread processors in the Sandy Bridge-E family, and
allows for a quad-channel memory controller to provide
you with nearly double the memory bandwidth (51.2GBps
when using four DDR3-1600 modules) of the previous
generations’ X58 and Z68 chipsets. The X79 chipset also
debuted Intel’s LGA2011 socket and support for PCI-E 3.0
graphics cards. You’ll find 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, so there’s
support for two x16 and one x8 speed (or one x16 and three
x8) graphics cards.
Intel’s 7 Series chipsets, which include the Z77, Z75,
and H77 chipsets, are designed to cover both power users
and midrange builders. The 7 Series chipsets, like their
Z68/P67/H67 predecessors, use the LGA1155 socket. The
Z77 chipset is fairly similar to the Z68 chipset (it allows
overclocking by increasing the multiplier on unlocked
processors and supports mul ti pl e GPUs), except that
the Z77 chipset offers four native USB 3. 0 ports and
supports spanning your desktop across three displays. The
big difference between Z77 and H77 is that H77 doesn’t
support overclocking and limits you to one video card.
60 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
The Z75 chipsets lacks support for Intel’s Smart Response
technology but is otherwise similar to Z77.
Latest AMD Chipsets
High-end builders who prefer AMD will want to use the
9-Series chipset, which has been around since June of 2011.
High-end 9-Series motherboards almost exclusively feature
the 990FX chipset, which provides support for up to four
graphics cards. Te 990X chipset can handle two, and the 970
chipset only works with one. Other enthusiast highlights of
the 9-Series include support for AMD’s eight-core Bulldozer
processors, the introduction of the AM3+ socket (required
for compatibility with the Bulldozer processors), and native
support for memory up to 1,866MHz. We’ll note that the
AM3+ socket is still backward-compatible with previous-
generation AM3 processors. Other key features of the 9-Series
include 14 USB 2.0 ports, six 6Gbps SATA ports, HD audio,
and Gigabit Ethernet.
In May, AMD announced its A-Series “Trinity” lineup of
APUs, which are designed to improve
upon the A-Series “Llano” chips. AMD
has indicated that the Trinity chips will ofer AMD’s Turbo
Core technology, where the APU’s power can be shifted
between the CPU and GPU, depending on load needs. Trinity
is also expected to include AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series
graphics, which will provide a projected performance increase
of up to 56% over Llano. To give you an idea of what the
Trinity chipset may look like, consider the stock specs found
on the Llano platform. Llano APUs feature AMD’s FM1
socket, which ofers a Unifed Media Interface that runs at
2GBps. Tere’s support for four USB 3.0 ports and 10 USB
2.0 ports, as well as six 6Gbps SATA ports and an eSATA port.
Plan on support for multiple monitors through a variety of
outputs, including HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.1.
In our buyer’s guide, we’ll cover the features that allow
for extra connectivity and greater overclocking capabilities.
We’ve even included a few workstation motherboards, for
those looking to create a truly mighty graphic design or
professional workstation. Key specifications, such as chipset
and socket information, are provided for each model. Prices
marked with an asterisk (*) are current online prices at the
time of this writing. ■
CPU / October 2012 61
Supermicro X9DA7
$598.08*
www.supermicro.com
Why You’ll Dig It: This dual-socket workstation board is relatively
compact and offers support for SAS2 (6Gbps Serial Attached SCSI) via
an onboard LSI controller to provide you with improved reliability, latency,
and bandwidth over the SATA interface. Supermicro indicates that you’ll
save up to 70% with the onboard SAS2 controller compared to using an
add-in card. The X9DA7’s 16 DIMM slots support up to 512GB of DDR3-
1600 registered ECC memory or 128GB unbuffered DDR3-1600 (ECC or
non-ECC). Supermicro includes 20 PC health monitoring tools, including
voltage monitoring utilities and thermal control for the six fan connectors.
For network connectivity, Supermicro offers Intel’s i350 dual-port Gigabit
Ethernet controller that supports virtual machine device queues. Both the
6Gbps and 3Gbps SATA ports support RAID 0,1, 5, and 10 configurations.
Who Should Apply: Workstation builders looking for a powerful
2P motherboard with support for today’s newest technologies.
Socket Type: Dual Socket R (LGA2011)
Chipset: Intel C602
Memory Support: 512GB DDR3-1600, 16 DIMMs, quad channel
MOTHERBOARD
Supermicro X9DAE
$581.41*
www.supermicro.com
Why You’ll Dig It: With the X9DAE, you’ll be able to harness the power
of two Intel LGA2011 socket processors, including Intel’s Xeon E5-2600
family. This E-ATX motherboard runs Intel’s C602 chipset that offers a
system bus (QPI rate) of up to 8GTps (gigatransfers per second). Power
users building a workstation can install up to 512GB of registered DDR3-
1600 ECC memory or 128GB of unbuffered (ECC or non-ECC) memory
via the motherboard’s 16 DIMM slots. The X9DAE allows for a memory
cache of up to 20MB, and it can correct single-bit errors. Using ECC
memory, the X9DAE can detect double-bit errors.
Who Should Apply: Graphic designers and performance workstation
enthusiasts who want a motherboard that will be able to handle beefy
visual effect and computation jobs. The bounty of SATA ports is ideal for
those who need large quantities of storage.
Socket Type: Dual Socket R (LGA2011)
Chipset: Intel C602
Memory Support: 512GB DDR3-1600, 16 DIMMs, quad channel
MOTHERBOARD
62 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Intel DZ77GA-70K
$219.99*
www.intel.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Intel bundles the DZ77GA-70K with lots of extras,
including a Bluetooth receiver, Wi-Fi adapter, and USB 3.0 front-panel
module. With the DZ77GA-70K, Intel also has introduced a new version of
its Visual BIOS that is designed to let you more quickly configure speeds
for your processor, memory, and graphics. The motherboard offers two
PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, two PCI slots, and one PCI-E
2.0 x4 slot. We found that the spacing of the slots makes it convenient for
those with add-in cards that use the PCI-E x1 or PCI slots, because you
should have room to install them around the graphics cards. Intel also
offers a variety of I/O headers along the bottom of the board, including
two USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, one FireWire, and one S/PDIF header.
Who Should Apply: Power users looking for a motherboard that
offers a layout that will maximize the potential for add-in cards and
connected peripherals.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600, 4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
Intel DX79SI
$264.99*
www.intel.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The DX79SI is part of Intel’s Extreme Series, so it’s
designed to support high-performance builds. You’ll find three PCI-E
3.0 x16 slots (x16/x8/x8 with three graphics cards installed), eight
DIMM slots for quad-channel memory, and support for Intel’s six-core
processors. Intel also equips the DX79SI with BIOS Vault Technology
to provide fault tolerance and security; BIOS Vault Technology uses
advanced security checks to protect against attacks. Internet connec-
tivity is provided through the integrated Intel PRO 10/100/1000 wired
connection and onboard 802.11n. Additional connectivity is found via
built-in Bluetooth, up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, and four USB 3.0 ports.
Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts who want to push their system to the
limit and need plenty of onboard connectivity options. The DX79SI is also
a good fit for people who want to secure their BIOS from threats.
Socket Type: LGA2011
Chipset: Intel X79
Memory Support: 64GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2400 max OC), 8
DIMMs, quad channel
MOTHERBOARD
CPU / October 2012 63
GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH
$249.99
www.gigabyte.us
Why You’ll Dig It: GIGABYTE integrates a digital PWM controller that
accurately provides power to the board’s CPU, memory, VTT, and inte-
grated graphics. Two Thunderbolt ports are also provided to allow for
simultaneous connection of up to 12 devices and two monitors. Power
users will like several overclocking features, including onboard power and
reset buttons, an LED debug display, voltage read points, and a built-in
BIOS switcher. GIGABYTE also includes a Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n
dual-band expansion card. Lucid Virtu GPU technology uses the proces-
sor’s integrated GPU to remove redundant rendering from your PC’s
dedicated GPU. The three PCI-E x16 slots operate at x8/x4/x4 when three
cards are installed. There are also three PCI-E x1 slots and a PCI slot.
Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts planning on overclocking their Ivy
Bridge processor and want to take advantage of the motherboard’s dual
Thunderbolt interface.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600, 4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
MSI Z77 MPOWER
$219.99
us.msi.com
Why You’ll Dig It: We love that MSI runs a Prime95 factory burn-in
test using an Ivy Bridge processor that’s been pushed to at least 4.6GHz
on every Z77 MPOWER, so you know this board is capable of handling
excellent overclocks. For GPU stability, there’s a 6-pin PCI-E plug that
can deliver extra juice when necessary to your graphics card(s). With
the Z77 MPOWER, MSI uses high-quality heatsinks to ensure maximum
cooling, and components that meet the MIL-STD-810G standard for
electrical performance. You’ll find support for up to 32GB of DDR3-3000
memory and three PCI-E x16 slots. MSI also includes Bluetooth and
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n). The Z77 MPOWER has USB 3.0 ports (six rear, two
internal) and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port.
Who Should Apply: Power users who want a motherboard that can
ensure they’ll be able to get the most out of the rest of their components.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-3000 max OC),
4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
64 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP4 TH
$184.99
www.gigabyte.us
Why You’ll Dig It: This motherboard features two Thunderbolt ports,
so you can daisy chain up to 12 devices, as well as two monitors, via the
bi-directional 10Gbps data pipeline. GIGABYTE indicates that the 10Gbps
speed will allow you to transfer a 1080p movie in under 30 seconds. The
board offers three PCI-E x16 slots, three PCI-E x1 slots, and one PCI slot
for add-in cards. The first PCI-E x16 slot can operate at x16 speeds with
one GPU; install two graphics cards, and the top two PCI-E x16 slots will
run at x8 speeds. With three graphics cards, the top slot will run at x8
bandwidth while the other two operate at x4 speeds. The board sports
eight USB 3.0 ports, with a total of six on the rear panel.
Who Should Apply: System builders excited about adding native
Thunderbolt support to a PC, as well as those that regularly transfer large
quantities of data. The three PCI-E x16 slots also makes this board a good
option for those planning on using multiple graphics cards.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600, 4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
ZOTAC Z77-ITX WiFi
$169.99
www.zotacusa.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The Mini-ITX Z77-ITX WiFi allows for overclocking of
Intel’s 3rd Generation processors. The motherboard also includes a PCI-E
x16 slot to support a dedicated graphics card for your small form factor
build. There are two DDR3 memory slots, and ZOTAC indicates you can
install up to 16GB of memory at a maximum speed of 2,133MHz. For I/O,
you’ll find four USB 3.0 ports (two rear, two internal), eight USB 2.0 ports
(four rear, four internal), one PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, and 7.1 channel
audio. There are also a variety of video outputs, including two HDMI and
one Mini-DisplayPort, so you’ll be able to connect to both monitors and
HDTV alike. An included adapter lets you connect to a full-sized Display-
Port. Wi-Fi capabilities are built-in thanks to the 802.11b/g/n module.
Who Should Apply: HTPC and small form factor builders who want a
feature-filled motherboard for their system.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2133 max OC),
2 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
66 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
ECS Z77H2-A2X Deluxe (V1.0)
$159.99*
www.ecsusa.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The Z77H2-A2X Deluxe offers several different slots
for add-in cards. For graphics card support, there are two PCI-E 3.0 x16
slots. (Two installed cards will run at x8 bandwidth.) You’ll also find two
PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, two standard PCI slots, and a mini PCI-E x1 slot.
Lucid’s Virtu MVP allows the motherboard to utilize the power of Intel’s
integrated graphics with a discrete video card. ECS provides support for
32GB of DDR3 memory that can be clocked up to 2,800MHz. The board
offers four rear USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 3Gbps eSATA
port. You can add two USB 3.0 ports through an internal header.
Who Should Apply: Builders who have a number of add-in cards
that they plan on installing into their system. Support for up to 32GB of
DDR3-2800 also makes the Z77H2-A2X Deluxe a wise choice for those
who to install crazy-fast memory.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600MHz (DDR3-2800 max OC),
4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
MSI Z77IA-E53
$149.99
us.msi.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Available on a limited basis, the Z77IA-E53 is
a Mini-ITX motherboard that’s chock full of multimedia features.
The Z77 chipset provides support for Intel’s 3rd Generation Core
processors (and Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000); MSI includes HDMI
and VGA outputs. You’ll also find support for 7.1-channel surround
sound via the HDMI and digital optical outputs, and the sound is
enhanced via THX’s TruStudio Pro. For wireless streaming to and
from your HTPC, MSI included 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
3.0+HS. Power users will like that the Z77IA-E53’s two DIM slots
support memory clocked up to 2,800MHz. A PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot is
also available to let you amp up your build with an expansion card.
Who Should Apply: People looking to create a powerful HTPC or
mini PC.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2800 max OC),
2 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
CPU / October 2012 67
ZOTAC H77-ITX WiFi
$146.99
www.zotacusa.com
Why You’ll Dig It: With the H77-ITX WiFi, you’ll be able to install one of
Intel’s 3rd Generation Core processors, which provide you with the power
of Intel’s HD Graphics 2500/4000. For display outputs, you can choose
between HDMI, DVI-I, and DisplayPort. Those who want to enhance the
graphics capabilities of their system could opt to install a discrete graphics
card into the PCI-E x16 slot on the motherboard. The Mini-ITX board
includes four USB 3.0 ports (two rear, two internal), eight USB 2.0 ports
(four rear, four internal), a PS/2 combo keyboard/mouse port, and an
optical S/PDIF output. For system memory, you can install up to 16GB
of DDR-1600 memory. Storage support includes two 6Gbps SATA ports,
three 3Gbps SATA ports and an eSATA port that runs at 3Gbps. As its
name suggests, the H77-ITX WiFi includes an 802.11b/g/n module.
Who Should Apply: People looking to create an HTPC or SFF build
that can take advantage of all the features in the Intel 7 Series chipset.
Socket Type: LGA1155
Chipset: Intel Z77
Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600, 2 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
Giada MI-A75
$105
www.giadatech.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The Mini-ITX board works with AMD’s Fusion
APUs, as well as 8GB of DDR3-1333 memory. There are two DIMMs
and support for dual-channel memory. Giada provides support for
Hybrid CrossFireX technology to let you switch between integrated
graphics processor and a discrete GPU. There are two USB 3.0
ports and four 6Gbps SATA ports for fast connectivity with today’s
peripherals. Support for 8-channel HD audio can be delivered
through the board’s HDMI or S/PDIF ports. A DVI output is also
included for connection to traditional PC monitors.
Who Should Apply: HTPC and small form factor builders who want
a motherboard that provides lots of connectivity for their hardware.
Socket Type: AMD FM1
Chipset: AMD A75 FCH
Memory Support: 8B DDR3-1333, 2 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
68 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
SAPPHIRE PURE White E350
$99.99
www.sapphiretech.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The PURE White E350 is built with AMD’s
Zacate APU, which provides you with a dual-core processor and
Radeon HD 6310 graphics. The graphics built into the Mini-ITX
motherboard support dual displays, each with a maximum reso-
lution of 1,920 x 1,080 over the HDMI or DVI-D video outputs.
You can install up to 8GB of memory into the two slots, and the
PURE White E350 can work with either DDR3-800 or DDR3-1066
modules. A PCI-E x16 slot lets you add a discrete graphics card to
your build. This motherboard offers four 6Gbps SATA ports, and
you’ll also find four USB 2.0 ports for peripherals.
Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts creating small form factor or
embedded systems and want an affordable platform that’s capable of
handling graphics tasks out of the box.
Socket Type: AMD E350 APU
Chipset: AMD Hudson-M1
Memory Support: 8GB DDR3-1066, 2 DIMMs, single channel
MOTHERBOARD
SAPPHIRE PURE Platinum A75
$99
www.sapphiretech.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The affordable PURE Platinum A75 works with
AMD’s A-series and E-series Socket FM1 APUs. The ATX form factor
motherboard provides you with five 6Gbps SATA ports that support RAID
0, 1, and 10 configurations, so you’ll be able to surround your Fusion
processor with plenty of fast storage devices. For expansion slots, you’ll
find one PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E x4 slot, two PCI-E x1 slots, one
mini PCI-E x1 slot, and two PCI slots. Rear panel I/O connectivity is also
plentiful, with four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port,
and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port. Built-in video outputs include
one HDMI, one DisplayPort, and one DVI; the variety gives you plenty of
flexibility for connecting to a big screen or monitor.
Who Should Apply: System builders who are looking for a full-featured
A75 motherboard for their HTPC or as the base for a solid family system.
Socket Type: AMD FM1
Chipset: AMD A75 FCH
Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600, 4 DIMMs, dual channel
MOTHERBOARD
CPU / October 2012 69
orse yet, if you’re playing your HD media and
games at sub-1080p resolutions, then you’re
missing out on the big picture. Now’s a great time
to buy a new monitor, and this buyer’s guide will
help you determine the specs, panel dimensions, and technologies
your eyes can’t do without.
Do-More Displays
One of most common reasons to upgrade your monitor is
to get more screen real estate. With larger, wider screens and
higher resolutions, there are more pixels crammed in front of
your eyes, which lets you see more and do more. Go ahead,
run multiple applications side-by-side, scroll less, and browse
the web faster and more efciently.
Panels For Pros
Content creators in audio and video production and
image editing fields can never get enough screen space, so
larger monitors lets them examine waveforms in greater
detail, work with more video clips at once, and work with
more pixels in a RAW image with less zooming and panning.
HD content creators also require a monitor with a minimum
resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 to see the finished results of their
labors of love. Professionals who work in small teams will
70 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
also appreciate screens with wide viewing angles so everyone
gets an optimal view even when standing off-center.
It’s Game Time
GPU makers are always pushing the boundaries of video
reproduction, gaming graphics, and 3D modeling, but you’re
missing out when you upgrade your graphics card and connect it
to your old monitor. With a new monitor, you can increase the
resolution, improve the look of the textures, and enjoy a more vivid
gaming experience thanks to high contrast ratios, fast response
times, etc. And with some monitors, you can do it all in 3D.
Latest Trends
The sizes and resolutions of monitors have topped out
at 30-inches and 2,560 x 1,600, but prices for high-resolution
monitors continue to fall. Additionally, there are several newer
technologies we’ve noted in the latest monitors. A vast majority
of the monitors for sale today are LED-backlit, which produces
excellent color performance while consuming approximately 40%
of the energy compared to conventional backlit monitors. A couple
displays in this guide make communication a priority by featuring
built-in webcams. Other extras we think you’ll like include USB
hubs, fully articulating stands, and a plethora of ports, including
VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Tunderbolt.
Take It From Us
If you know someone who refers to you as “the computer guy,”
then you probably put a lot of thought into the monitor you buy,
as well as the recommendations you provide to family, friends,
coworkers, and others. To make your life a little easier, we’ve
compiled 16 of the best monitors currently available, each with a
price (prices marked with an asterisk [*] are current online prices at
the time of this writing), the available ports, the native resolution,
and comments about why you should consider it and to whom it is
best suited. If you or someone you know is in the market for a new
monitor, peruse our parcel of impressive panels. ■
CPU / October 2012 71
Planar PX2491W
$2,195
www.planar.com
Why You’ll Dig It: If you work with images, video, or 3D models
on a professional level, then an off-the-shelf monitor from the
local big chain store isn’t going to hack it. Planar’s PX2491W is a
widescreen 24-inch display with a 1,920 x 1,200 native resolution.
It features a 1,000:1 contrast ratio (typical), 178-degree viewing
angles, 250 cd/m
2
brightness, and 6ms response time. This
monitor also features a built-in USB hub, and a fully articulating
stand that lets you swivel, tilt, and pivot the monitor as you see
fit. The PX2491W also excels at color reproduction, handling
1.073 billion colors. On the back, you’ll also find a 100mm VESA-
compatible mount so you can attach the monitor to a wall, desk,
or anywhere else.
Who Should Apply: This monitor is best suited to graphics
professionals and designers who need superior image quality but
may not have the desk space for a 30-inch monitor.
Ports: HDMI, 2 DVI
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200
MONITOR
NEC MultiSync PA301W
$2,299
www.necdisplay.com
Why You’ll Dig It: It’s true, most of the monitors here are tuned for
the explicit consumption of movies and games, but the NEC MultiSync
PA301W is more for graphics professionals and imaging enthusiasts.
This gargantuan 30-inch monitor features 98.2% coverage of the
AdobeRGB color space, 350 cd/m
2
brightness, and a 7ms response
time. The native resolution is an impressive 2,560 x 1,600, and it has
a 1,000:1 typical contrast ratio, 178-degree vertical and horizontal
viewing angles, and the ability to display 1.07 billion out of 4.3 trillion
colors. The stand also lets you adjust it to your ideal position with tilt,
swivel, and pivot controls. This monitor also features an ambient light
sensor to dim and brighten the backlight when necessary.
Who Should Apply: This monitor was built from the ground up
for graphic artists and anyone who uses CAD and design software.
Its large size also makes it perfect for multitaskers and those with
plenty of real-estate on their desks.
Ports: 2 DisplayPort, 2 DVI
Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600
MONITOR
72 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Samsung Series 9 S27B970D
$1,199.99
www.samsung.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Samsung’s 27-inch Series 9 monitor is built around
an LED-backlit PLS (plane line switching) panel, which is remarkable
for its accurate color reproduction and impressive viewing angles (178
degrees). This monitor features a 2,560 x 1,440 native resolution, 5ms
response time, 1,000:1 typical contrast ratio, and 285 cd/m
2
brightness.
Samsung’s monitor also features built-in stereo speakers and support
for Mobile High-Definition Link devices, which lets you connect compat-
ible mobile devices to view HD content on the Samsung monitor. Other
extras you’ll appreciate include a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a collection
of image enhancement technologies, including Samsung MagicAngle,
Samsung MagicBright3, and Samsung MagicColor.
Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for anyone who wants to
upgrade to a larger and higher-resolution monitor for intense gaming
and HD video. Its color reproduction capabilities also make it good for
graphics and imaging professionals.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort
Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
MONITOR
Apple Thunderbolt Display
$999
www.apple.com
Why You’ll Dig It: We’ve been enamored with Apple’s Cinema
displays in the past, but this 27-inch LED-backlit model packs
Thunderbolt I/O technology, which supports dual-channel 10Gbps
data transfer rates that’ll give USB 3.0 a run for its money. The
design of this aluminum-wrapped monitor is as impressive as
you’d expect, and it has several extras that you won’t find on a
typical monitor, including a built-in FaceTime HD camera and mic,
a 49W 2.1 speaker system, a FireWire 800 port, a trio of USB 2.0
ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and, of course, the Thunderbolt port.
Other specs include a 12ms response time, 375 cd/m
2
brightness
rating, 1,000:1 typical contrast ratio, and a widescreen 2,560 x
1,440 resolution.
Who Should Apply: If you have a Thunderbolt-enabled MacBook
Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, or iMac, this display will improve your
visuals considerably.
Ports: Thunderbolt
Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
MONITOR
CPU / October 2012 73
DoubleSight DS-245V
$489.99*
www.doublesight.com
Why You’ll Dig It: We’ve looked at a few DoubleSight displays in
the past, and this latest one is a 24-inch model that can breathe new
life into the video and games you love. The DoubleSight DS-245V of-
fers a high 1,920 x 1,200 resolution. It supports a 5ms response time,
1,000:1 typical contrast ratio, and a 400 cd/m
2
brightness rating. Built
around an IPS (in-plane switching) panel, this monitor helps it deliver
outstanding color performance and high 178-degree horizontal and
vertical viewing angles. The stand is highly adjustable, supporting
height, tilt, pivot, and swivel adjustments. There’s also a pair of built-in
stereo speakers (2W per channel) for your auditory enjoyment.
Who Should Apply: Superior image quality is this monitor’s best
asset, which makes it perfect for picky gamers and avid movie fans.
Ports: VGA, DVI
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200
MONITOR
ViewSonic V3D245
$599
www.viewsonic.com
Why You’ll Dig It: The ViewSonic V3D245 is a 24-inch LED-backlit
monitor that’ll take your games and HD video to the next level. This
panel features a 120Hz frame rate, which makes your games look
great whether you’re playing in 2D or 3D. This unit also includes
NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses and an emitter, so you can connect this
monitor to a Blu-ray 3D player, PlayStation 3, or set-top box. Other
features include a pair of 2W integrated stereo speakers with SRS
Premium Sound technology, a 2ms response time, 300 cd/m
2
bright-
ness, and 1,000:1 typical contrast ratio (20,000,000:1 dynamic). The
monitor also tilts down 5 degrees and up 20 degrees, so you get an
optimal view regardless of the monitor’s placement.
Who Should Apply: This monitor is built for gamers and movie
lovers. If viewing either in 3D interests you, then this monitor lets
you see it in all its immersive glory.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
74 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Dell UltraSharp U2412M
$369
www.dell.com
Why You’ll Dig It: This 24-inch 16:10 IPS (in-plane switching)
display from Dell features a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution that delivers
excellent detail in games without taking over your desk with its sheer
size. This display is also features an 8ms response time, 2,000,000:1
dynamic contrast ratio, 300 cd/m
2
brightness, and an LED backlight
for strong color performance and low power consumption. This
monitor is great for ergonomic perfectionists; it has 4.5 inches of
height adjustability, the ability to tilt, and a stand that swivels and
rotates. Other features include the cost-cutting PowerNap capability
and granular power management software, so you can closely
monitor your energy usage. The monitor also features a DC power
connector so you can add a Dell Soundbar.
Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for gamers who want to
upgrade their display and let that high-end graphics card really shine.
Ports: DVI, VGA, DisplayPort
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200
MONITOR
EIZO FORIS FS2333
$419
www.eizo.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Most of the monitors in this buyer’s guide do
well with games, but not many were built from the ground up with
gaming in mind. The LED-backlit FORIS F2333 is a 23-inch monitor
with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 3.4ms response time, 250 cd/m
2
brightness, and 1,000:1 typical contrast ratio. What makes it dif-
ferent though are technologies such as Smart Insight, which uses
tone mapping to maintain a high contrast ratio and image details
in dark areas. The Smart Resolution feature actually increases the
sharpness of images, so you can distinguish enemies from foliage
in the distance. EIZO also designed its own IC for this monitor to
reduce the input lag (time between when you perform an action and
it shows up on screen) to practically zero.
Who Should Apply: If you’re a serious gamer who is extremely
picky about your visuals, then you’ll appreciate the advantages of the
EIZO FORIS FS2333.
Ports: 2 HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
76 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
AOC e2752Vh
$299.99
us.aoc.com
Why You’ll Dig It: LED-backlit monitors are great for HD video
and gaming, and the e2752Vh from AOC is no exception. This large
27-inch monitor also includes built-in 2.5W stereo speakers for the
space-conscious enthusiast. Other specs we like include the 2ms
response time, which prevents ghosting and ensures you get crisp
clear images no matter what you’re watching or playing. It also offers
a 20,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 300 cd/m
2
brightness rating,
and a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution that’s perfect for displaying your
favorite entertainment.
Who Should Apply: This large monitor is perfect for media
enthusiasts who want a screen that fills their vision, and the LED
backlight is also attractive to energy-conscious penny pinchers. With
the built-in speakers, this monitor is also ideal for workspaces where
standalone speakers are not practical due to space limits.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x
$299.99
www.lenovo.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Lenovo’s ThinkVision monitors have retained
the no-nonsense design aesthetic that IBM launched them with way
back when. But don’t let the shell fool you—this monitor is cutting-
edge. This 22-inch monitor has a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution, which
makes it perfect for web browsing, document creation, and busi-
ness applications. The unit features a highly variable stand, which
lets you tilt, swivel, raise, and lower the screen to suit your viewing
needs. One of the best features of the Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x is
the integrated webcam. This unit also features a number of energy-
conserving technologies, including an ambient light sensor and a
proximity sensor. It features a typical power consumption of just
21W, and a peak power of 28W.
Who Should Apply: If you’re looking for a monitor with some
innovative extras that’ll help you communicate with friends, family,
and colleagues, then check out the Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x.
Ports: VGA, DisplayPort
Resolution: 1,680 x 1,050
MONITOR
CPU / October 2012 77
LG D2342P
$299.99
www.lg.com
Why You’ll Dig It: One of LG’s latest SUPER LED-backlit monitors,
the D2342P delivers impressive and immersive visuals in both games
and movies. This 23-inch monitor features a 1,920 x 1,080 native reso-
lution, 5ms response time, 250 cd/m
2
brightness, and a 5,000,000:1
dynamic contrast ratio. This monitor is also 3D-capable, but rather
than using active shutter glasses, this display takes advantage of
lightweight and comfortable passive polarized glasses (one pair is
included) to give you a 3D experience like you get at the movies. Better
yet, the D2342P supports 2D-to-3D conversion, so you can add a new
dimension to content that is not 3D by default.
Who should apply: If cinema-like 3D is what you want, then this
monitor will provide an even more immersive gaming and movie
watching experience for you.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
Hanns.G HZ281HPB
$269*
www.hannsg.com/us/
Why You’ll Dig It: The 27.5-inch HZ281HPB from Hanns.G is
perfect for gaming, HD videos, and a variety of content creation
applications. This high-resolution display (1,920 x 1,200) boasts a
400 cd/m
2
brightness, 5ms on-off response time, and 3ms grey-to-
grey response time. This HZ281HPB also features an 800:1 typical
contrast ratio. Other features that impact your day-to-day computing
comfort include an antiglare hard coating, screen tilt control,
170-degree horizontal and 160-degree vertical viewing angles, and
three color presets (warm, nature, and cool). This monitor also
includes built-in stereo speakers (2W per channel) and a VESA
mount so you can attach it to an articulating wall or desk mount
for even greater freedom of movement.
Who Should Apply: If you want to upgrade your gaming resolu-
tion without breaking the bank, then this monitor is a perfect option.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200
MONITOR
78 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421
$249.99
www.lenovo.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Having a second screen is great for produc-
tivity, but packing a full-sized monitor in your carry-on is just not
practical. The ThinkVision LT1421 is a slim profile monitor with a
photo frame-style stand that you can use to add a second screen
to your laptop. Not only will this 14-inch screen fit into your laptop
bag, it does so discretely, weighing 1.8 pounds and measuring just
0.85 inch at its thickest point. You don’t need a Lenovo laptop to
enjoy this display; connectivity comes courtesy of a USB 2.0 inter-
face. Features include a 1,366 x 768 native resolution, 16 bright-
ness levels, and a stand that’s adjustable between approximately
12 and 40 degrees.
Who Should Apply: Road warriors who would like to add a
secondary screen for productivity, presentations, demonstrations,
and more.
Ports: USB
Resolution: 1,366 x 768
MONITOR
HP x2301
$249.99*
www.hp.com
Why You’ll Dig It: For a monitor that really makes an impression,
check out the 23-inch HP x2301. Aesthetically, this monitor stands
apart from the rest of the glossy black-framed models here with its
band of brushed aluminum along the bottom edge of the screen and
the translucent blue accents on the base. This LED-backlit monitor is
very thin at just 0.39-inch thick. The x2301 is capable of producing
bright and crisp images without putting a dent in your electric bill;
it features ENERGY STAR 5.0 and EPEAT Silver certifications. It also
performs well in games and HD content, thanks to the 8,000,000:1
dynamic contrast ratio (1,000:1 typical), 250 cd/m
2
brightness, and
3ms response time.
Who Should Apply: The HP x2301 has a true 1080p resolution,
making it perfect for gamers and movie lovers alike. Its unique
appearance will also appeal to the style-conscious.
Ports: HDMI, DVI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
CPU / October 2012 79
Acer S235HL
$199.99
us.acer.com
Why You’ll Dig It: Who says you have to pay extra for style?
This affordable 23-inch monitor from Acer features an eye-catching
asymmetrical stand and a thin, half-inch profile that looks good
in your home of office. Other aesthetic touches include blue LEDs
and a silver-accented stand. But the Acer S235HL also offers some
unique functionality, namely, the power and display ports are located
on the monitor’s base, instead of on the back of the screen, which
cuts down on the cable clutter and improves the overall look of the
unit. With a widescreen (16:9) 1080p resolution and 5ms response
time, this monitor is ideal for gaming and HD video. It offers a
100,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and 250-nit brightness rating.
Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for any HD video en-
thusiast, and thanks to the HDCP-compliant HDMI ports, it’ll support
full-resolution Blu-ray Disc playback.
Ports: 2 HDMI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
V7 LED236W3R
$189
www.v7-world.com
Why You’ll Dig It: This 24-inch LED-backlit monitor from V7 has
a 1,920 x 1,080 native screen resolution, so it’ll display HD media as
it was meant to be viewed. Uniquely, the V7 LED236W3R is available
with a square or rounded base. This monitor also features a 5ms
response time for virtually no ghosting, a 1,000:1 typical contrast
ratio, 250 cd/m
2
brightness, and support for displaying up to 16.7
million colors. The monitor’s base is only 5 inches deep, making this
a good option for cluttered desks. You can also tilt the screen back
up to 20 degrees to suit your viewing needs.
Who Should Apply: The V7 LED236W3R is a good monitor for
those looking to upgrade to an HD-capable screen without spending
a fortune. Avid gamers and movie lovers will also appreciate this
monitor’s overall performance.
Ports: HDMI, VGA
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
MONITOR
80 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Inside The World Of Betas
between your PCs without counting against
your Cubby cloud allocation.
Cubby also lets you pick which folders
you want to share and sync on your hard
drive, as opposed to Dropbox’s sole “My
Dropbox” folder. Tat said, Cubby syncs all
subfolders within a selected folder, too, so
you may need to reorganize your hard drive.
While in beta, Cubby offers 5GB of
storage, with apps for Android, iOS,
Mac OS, and Windows. Pricing isn’t
yet announced, but we think Cubby is
interesting enough to follow. ■
you browse search results, so it’s
occasionally hard to pick out the
best video. We found it best to
use YouTube itself to fnd the best
match, then paste its URL into
Tubulator. A more minor problem is that
although you can download full videos
or just the audio portion, you need to
manually toggle between video and audio
with a pull-down menu.
The beta is free, but Tubulator goes
shareware at 1.0. Now is the time to
check it out. ■
Cubby lets you designate the sync
settings of folders, syncing to your 5GB
Cubby cloud account, the cloud account
and any other PCs you have, or just to your
other PCs. Te last option is neat because it
lets you share that 50GB folder of photos
A Preferences dialog box lets you tell
Tubulator the highest resolution and file
format you want, and it will try to retrieve
files that match your preference. It has
fmpeg embedded already, so it performs the
transcoding automatically in the background.
Tubulator’s biggest problem is that the
current beta doesn’t play the videos as
W
hen you Google “Dropbox alter-
native,” you’ll find more than a dozen
competitors; the market is rife with online
backup and file syncing services. Still,
the creators of Cubby are the same folks
behind LogMeIn, a popular GoToMyPC
alternative, so they know how to suc-
cessfully zig when the marketplace zags.
Cubby definitely has some zigs.
Cubby works like Dropbox in a lot of
ways. You designate local folders to sync to
the Cubby cloud, and, in the background,
Cubby automatically uploads your fles to
the service as they’re updated on your PC. If
you have more than one computer, you can
sync the contents of the same folders between
them, with the cloud acting as a conduit. Te
basics of Dropbox end there. It’s only the
beginning for Cubby.
Y
ouTube’s biggest problem, perhaps, is
that you can’t always take it with you.
If you’re without an Internet connection
or a good wireless signal, then you can’t
access anything. Firefox and Chrome
have extensions that let you download
YouTube content for later consumption,
but the standalone program Tubulator
has a few more features that make it
worth a look.
Tubulator is available for Macs and
Windows systems. In both platforms it
looks a bit like a web browser that only
works with YouTube. At the top of the
window, you can copy and paste YouTube
URLs into the “address bar,” which does
double-duty as a YouTube search field.
Results show up as tiles, with each tile
displaying a thumbnail of the video and
a download link. Tubulator can handle
multiple simultaneous downloads.
LogMeIn Cubby 1.0.0.10686 Beta
Tubulator 0.92.33 Beta
Offcial Product Name: Tubulator
0.92.33
Publisher and URL: Jan Faroe,
www.tubulatorapp.com
ETA: Q3 2012
Why You Should Care: A decent way to
download and convert YouTube videos.
Cubby 1.0.0.10686 Beta
Publisher and URL: LogMeIn, www.cubby.com
ETA: Q4 2012
Why You Should Care: A worthwhile and free
alternative to Dropbox, with extras.
82 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
PC veterans will appreciate the updates to many familiar shareware and freeware titles here:
Audacity, System Mechanic, Fraps, and Media Player Classic.
and resolves crashes that occurred because
Fraps couldn’t access a PC’s sound device.
It also addresses a minor memory leak
when recording sound in Windows 7 and
Vista. Multiple updates have followed
the big 3.5 update earlier this year that
added the much-requested recording of
AVI movie fles longer than 4GB.
www.fraps.com/news.php
LibreOffce 3.6
Tis free, full-featured ofce suite adds
color scale support in spreadsheets among
many tweaks and additions in this re-
lease. Word count has been added to the
word processor status bar. PDFs can be
exported with watermarking, and Of-
fce SmartArt can be imported. Support
added for fxed items in cells. Slide shows
now support widescreen.
www.libreofce.org/download/3-6-
new-features-and-fixes
Media Player Classic 1.6.3
Te lightweight and frills-free approach
to video playback gets a bunch of fxes to
bugs involving cursors, the toolbar, and
OggSplitter. Updates support for various
codecs. Te DirectX runtime DLL fles
are now included for easier installation
of DirectX, and now FFmpeg is used for
decoding AC3 and DTS materials.
mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/changelog
MediaInfo Lite 0.7.59
This handy utility will analyze your
media file to reveal its format, resolu-
tion, and length. Tis update fxes some
program crashes associated with Mpeg4,
AAC and FLV fles.
fileforum.betanews.com/detail/
MediaInfo-Lite/1183386892/1
Software Updates
Audacity 2.01
One of the great free audio editors fi-
nally made it to Version 2.0 this year, with
much-improved efects, better track manip-
ulation, a new device toolbar, and fast fle
imports. Tis .01 refresh fxes bugs to the
Selection Toolbar, the Normalize command,
and mouse wheels scrolling content of of
the screen. Shortcuts can be added to more
items in Keyboard Preferences.
wiki.audacityteam.org
/wiki/Release_Notes_2.0.1
Download Accelerator Plus
10.0.4.0 Beta
Te venerable download utility adds some
sizzle with the beta of this upcoming release.
Now you can download and convert a You-
Tube video to MP3. You can also download
and convert a video from any page on which
it appears, in one click.
www.speedbit.com/dap/beta
Evernote 4.5.8.7356
The hit program that lets you clip
and save content across PCs and devices
now has user switching, so you can move
across free and multiple premium ac-
counts within the program. Also new are
several keyboard shortcuts, including one
for account switching. And you now can
share individual notes to LinkedIn, as well
as Facebook and Twitter.
blog.evernote.com/2012/08/14/
evernote-for-windows-gets-user-
switching-linkedin-sharing-and-more
Fraps 3.5.8
Te beloved in-game screen shot and
video grabber fxes an intermittent crash
when recording from OpenGL games
SiSoftware Sandra 2012 SP5a
Te exhaustive diagnostics tool for your
PC gets a major feature in this mid-year up-
grade. Te tool can now tell you when new
BIOS, frmware, or drivers are available for
your confguration. Anticipating Windows
8’s arrival, Metro-style theme is added.
www.sisoftware.net
System Mechanic 11
A major update to one of the venerable all-
around system utilities includes AcceleWrite
that claims to speed up fle transfer activity.
The update is also Windows 8-ready. The
startup optimization has been streamlined,
and the idle-time optimization schemes have
been improved. Te package also includes an
SSD Accelerator for solid-state drives, and
now comes with an unlimited home license.
www.iolo.com
YTD 3.9
Te latest update to the YouTube video
download tool only fixes some minor
bugs, but it caps of a series of recent re-
leases that also add the ability to convert
videos and music for iPad use. It comes
in a wide range of languages, and recent
incremental updates have squashed some
freeze issues and downloading problems.
www.youtubedownload.altervista.org
Driver Bay
AMD Catalyst 12.7 Beta
Last month we looked at the full release
of Catalyst 12.6, but this beta delivers an
impressive array of upgrades, including
anti-aliasing for Diablo 3, a 25% leap in
performance for Skyrim, and a 20% perf
bump for Total War: Shogun 2.
sites.amd.com/us/game/downloads/
Pages/downloads.aspx
Upgrades That’ll Keep You Humming Along
CPU / October 2012 83
depth of feld efect, which uses a simple
gradient tool to let you conduct how a
foreground object (such as a face) stays in
focus while the background blurs out. Te
new ability to curve text along a path is
another welcome addition.
When it comes to organization (called
asset management in professional circles),
Elements displays large thumbnails of
both photos and videos,
letting you sort your media
i nto al bums and appl y
keyword tags. The trouble
is that hardly anyone ever
bothers to do this, so Adobe
desi gned a propri etar y
analysis engine to apply
automatic tags to images
when they’re imported.
Default smart tags include
qual i t y (l ow, medi um,
high), focus, perspective,
and so on. You can disable
these Auto-Analyzer flters,
but we’re content to leave
t hem be provi ded t he
“Run Analyzer Only When
System Is Idle” box stays
checked. You may want to
disable Auto-Analyzer if
running on battery, as the
process requires significant CPU and
memory resources.
Even with easier organization, though,
it can often be difcult to fnd a particular
image among the thousands you’ve stored.
Tis is why we can’t give enough praise
for Adobe’s new capability to search
by shape and color. Drop a photo into
Elements’ search box and adjust a slider to
T
hese days, even the cheapest digital
cameras have enough internal smarts to
help anyone take decent photos. But rarely
is this as appealing as it sounds. Just because
a shot is in focus doesn’t mean the viewer’s
eye goes where the photographer intended.
Maybe the details are distracting, the colors
too muted, the whole image too . . . dull.
Maybe you simply want to do more fun
things with your photos rather
than let them gather dust on
your hard drive.
For these reasons and
countless others, consumers
need good photo-editing
software. But how good? Are
you sure you need Photoshop
CS6 to make the most
beautiful photo collage of your
cats? Can you get all of the
functionality you need for 150
bucks or less, and are these
packages sufficiently user-
friendly without sacrificing
power? Let’s fnd out.
Adobe Photoshop
Elements 10
Adobe Photoshop has
been the top name in photo
editing for many years, but
some consumers find its feature depth
and complex interface too daunting. For
these folks, there’s Photoshop Elements,
which aims to deliver roughly 80% of the
full title’s functionality for about 15% of
the price, wrapped up in a simpler, more
template-driven UI.
Tese days, Elements aims for more than
editing. Tere are also some great tools for
organizing and managing photos, sharing
them with others, and outputting them
into creative projects. Each of these four
functions has its own tab in the top-right of
the Elements interface.
The basic editing experience in
Elements 10 remains comprehensive, but
as with any full-featured editor, expect an
initial learning curve. There are a lot of
tools and sub-tools ofered along the left-
side tools panel. For outlandish effects,
the Smart Brush ofers a fun way to apply
textures or artistic effects to defined,
automatically masked areas. However,
two of our favorite new features are crop
guides, which can preserve frame aspect
ratios and overlay markers (Rule Of Tirds
or Golden Ratio are options), and the
Discount Digital
Darkrooms
Image Editors For The 99%
Photoshop Elements 10
|
$99.99
|
Adobe
|
www.adobe.com
84 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
preference between Color
and Shape. Elements will
scan all of your indexed
images for similar shots
and include a percentage
estimate on how closely the
returns match your original.
Alternatively, Elements
ofers Object Search, which
lets you drag around an area
within an image and find
other photos with matching
elements. Imagine how
easy this will make fnding
shots of you wearing your
propeller beanie. A duplicate photo search
now lets you find and delete all of the
repeat shots clogging your archives.
Soci al types (speci fi cal l y, soci al
networki ng types) may enj oy the
tagging features of Elements 10, which
now includes the ability to import your
Facebook friends and apply their own
self-image metadata to your pictures.
Check out the many template-driven
export projects in Elements 10, including
cards, scrapbook pages, and Flash-based
online albums.
Upgrade price for Photoshop Elements
10 is $79.99. If you want the Elements
treatment for video, as well, the Photoshop
Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 full
bundle costs $149.99.
ArcSoft PhotoStudio 6
PhotoStudio 6 is one
of the older titles in this
roundup, but it remains
a per s uas i ve pr oduct
with many good things
going for it. From across
t he room, you mi ght
mistake the PhotoStudio
for Photoshop, thanks to
the familiar arrangement
of the tools palette on
the left and navigation
window, histogram, and
layers palettes on the right.
Even the tools icons look
similar. Dig a little deeper,
though, and you’ll find
some intriguing diferences, primarily in
the flters and efects.
First among these is Face Beautify,
which automatically detects a straight-on
face in a photo and then applies drag-
ready anchor points around the eyes,
brows, mouth, and facial perimeter. With
these placed, you can smooth wrinkles,
erase blemishes, brighten eyes and teeth,
enhance lip color, adjust skin tone, and
more. It’s easy to go overboard, of course,
but with a little practice, the results can
be impressive.
Being old darkroom veterans, our
favorite effect was Magic-Film, which
applied a series of flters to emulate the look
of a wide variety of old-school film. You
start by choosing the flm type, select the
specific make and model of
flm from a short options list,
adjust contrast and saturation,
then pick any special toning.
Te process smells a lot better
than darkroom work and
looks just as impressive.
Te Magic-Cut feature is
a user-friendly masking tool
for isolating foregrounds
and backgrounds. ArcSoft
promotes the feature as being
three simple steps, but it’s
the middle step—fne-tuning
the edges—that requires
time and precision. Still, it’s a better
approach than, say, the magnetic lasso
and feathering, for quick and dirty work.
On top of all the usual distortion, texture,
liquid, and similar effects, other filters
include de-noising, scratch removal, and
the Instagram-like Toy Camera.
PhotoStudio 6 supports RAW format,
48-bit RGB color, and image sizes up
to 30K x 30K. It’s a good program that
covers all the bases.
Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate
Ever since the days when it was owned
by JASC, PaintShop Pro has long been
an affordable favorite, and we’re pleased
that this is still very much true. Available
online for under $40 at the time of this
writing, PaintShop Pro X4
Ultimate divides its UI under
Manage, Adjust, and Edit
tabs. Some users may find
the separation of Adjust and
Edit unnecessary, but overall
the UI is clean and entails no
more of a learning curve than
Photoshop Elements.
If you’ve graduated
beyond point-shoot-post
photography, there are three
features within PaintShop
Pro X4 that make this
title irresistible. First, the
HDR merging tool is easy
and excellent, letting you
take different exposures of
a shot and combine them
PhotoStudio 6
|
$79.99
|
ArcSoft
|
www.arcsoft.com
PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate
|
$99.99
|
Corel
|
www.corel.com
CPU / October 2012 85
regional adjustment tools. Tere are also
plenty of preset profles that skew images
to accentuate scenes such as landscapes
or portraits. Most welcome is the ability
to use up to fve color-coded masks when
adjusting various photo regions. Mask
regions can be drawn either with a broad
selector brush or a fner, magnetic brush.
CyberLink ofers a range of adjustments
here, including hue, saturation, and
lightness, plus noise correction.
On the Edit tab, CyberLink has also
caught the beautification bug and now
provides features including Eye Blinger
(brightening whites and irises), Skin
Smoother, Wrinkle Removal, and Tooth
Brush. It’s easy to forget that as recently
as a couple of years ago professionals
typically handled such corrections. Similarly,
PhotoDirector 3 puts its own smart brush
to good use in helping to isolate unwanted
background objects—or even removing the
entire background.
The program includes a Watermark
Creator, which is fne if you don’t already
have one ready. The app handles batch
editing, RAW images, and lens correction,
and it does a phenomenal job with
exporting into video-based slideshows,
printing, and uploading into Facebook
or Flickr. All in all, PhotoDirector 3 is
a good program made better if you can
get it at a discount. (At the time of this
writing, it was available directly through
CyberLink for $99.95.)
defined objects from pictures without
overall image distortion; think content-
aware flling.
Corel also builds in vignette and
“selective focus” tools (similar to Adobe’s
new blur features), makeover tools (albeit
without ArcSoft’s nifty wizard), scripting for
repetitive tasks.
If you don’t care about the Nik Color
Efex Pro 3.0 and Picture Tubes extras, or
the 21-image credit at Fotolia, you can save
about $10 and get the otherwise identical
non-Ultimate PaintShop Pro X4. However,
the Efex set alone is easily worth the
upgrade. Bang for the buck (and ignoring
the free GIMP), this is probably the highest-
value title in our roundup.
CyberLink PhotoDirector 3
Non-photographers may be unfamiliar
with Adobe Lightroom, which has grown
to be an optimized ofshoot of Photoshop
designed specifically for the process of
refning how an image looks (as opposed
to monkeying with the image’s visual
elements). What used to be done in a
darkroom (including printing) now takes
place digitally in Lightroom. In some ways,
PhotoDirector 3 aims to be CyberLink’s
version of Lightroom.
PhotoDirector’s interface divides
into the following five tabs: Library,
Adjustment, Edit, Slideshow, and Print.
Of these, Adjustment (much like Corel’s
Adjust tab) provides a wealth of global and
into a single image. There are multiple
control sliders, a preview histogram, and
sample thumbnails of possible output
images based on preset profles. It’s the best
HDR implementation we’ve seen yet in a
consumer editor.
If you don’t have multiple exposures,
turn to the Fill Light/Clarity flter and tone
mapping functions. Light filling does a
remarkable job of reclaiming details from the
shadows without blowing out the whites, and
tone mapping provides HDR-like, hyper-
realistic detail from only one exposure. Te
results you get in seconds can be astounding.
The improved Camera RAW Lab is a
must for anyone shooting with a D-SLR.
If you’ve never shot in RAW and seen how
dramatically an image can be modifed even
before editing, you’re in for a treat.
Although not as powerful of a tool,
our favorite new PaintShop Pro feature is
Photo Blend. Imagine you’re at a family
reunion taking group shots. You have
two similar images. In the frst Grandma
has her eyes closed, and in the second
Michael Cera photobombs your shot.
Previously, copying and blending these
shots to make one “perfect” image was
tedious and time-consuming, but with
Picture Blend, you simply “Brush In” and
“Brush Out” the areas you want preserved
or tossed from each image, apply any
optional tweaking, and voila—instant
results. The Smart Carver tool does
similarly incredible work in eliminating
PhotoDirector 3
|
$149.95
|
CyberLink
|
www.cyberlink.com GNU Image Manipulation Program
|
Free
|
www.gimp.org
86 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Not surprisingly, Google does a good
job tying images to keywords, Google
Maps-driven location info, and other EXIF
metadata. You can also synchronize desktop
Picasa with your Picasa Web Albums
(account. We appreciate the ability to batch
edit changes for renaming, rotation, color,
contrast, and red eye correction. Even
better, Picasa keeps file backups, so edits
are nondestructive, and you can view two
in-progress versions of an image for side-by-
side comparison.
Picasa even supports most RAW
formats. You don’t get anything like
Adobe Camera RAW for exposure
control, but there’s always the RAW tools
your camera manufacturer provides. We
recommend going into the
Options>Web Albums tab
and checking the Preserve
Original Image Quality
option to prevent Picasa
from applying heavier
JPEG compression to your
images when uploading
to Picasa Web Albums.
Also know that images of
2,048 x 2,048 or less won’t
count toward your Google
storage limits if you’re a
Google+ user.
Something For Anyone
If Photoshop’s price
or learning curve is too
steep, any of these six options covered
here can provide an excellent alternative.
If you want quick, easy, and free, then
Picasa rules. If you want a solid blend
of powerful editing mixed with asset
organization and results-oriented pro-
cesses (such as beautification), Corel,
ArcSoft, and Adobe’s Photoshop Elements
are all strong contenders.
All of these photo editors are high on
quality. Te question is one of price, feature
depth, and usability. Wherever you fall
on the triangle graph between these three
points, one of these six applications is sure
to cover your needs. ■
BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE
you want wizards and intuitive workfow
and the latest routines for teeth whitening,
GIMP is not for you. Come prepared to
study, not to have your hand held.
Google Picasa 3.9
If you’re looking for the anti-GIMP,
welcome to Picasa. This program takes
about 30 seconds to fgure out, and it sports
a surprising amount of awesomeness if all
you want is quick, simple, attractive photo
touch-ups.
There are no tabbed areas in Picasa.
Rather, you begin in the Library view, with
albums and folders listed down the left
and mini thumbnails and sharing options
along the bottom. Double-clicking any
thumbnail will transition the UI into
editing mode and bring up the selected
image in the main area. Now the left bar
will be populated by a histogram and a
tabbed selection of adjustment tools,
efects, and flters. Tere’s a spot healing
brush (called Retouch), auto color and
contrast fixing, fill light (which works
surprisingly well), vignette, “Orton-ish”
effect, and much more. These are often
one-click afairs with one to three sliders
for fine-tuning. Forget about layers, de-
speckling, noise controls, eye brightening,
and some of the other headline features
from other editors. Picasa isn’t your tool for
editing frame-worthy art. It turns snapshots
into presentable, share-ready photographs.
GNU Image Manipulation
Program 2.8
Originally released in 1996, GIMP
has long been the open-source answer to
Photoshop. Today, the program has versions
for Linux, OS X, Windows, and other
more . . . esoteric . . . platforms. Overall,
GIMP is very powerful—so much so that
many professionals rely on it.
But open-source software is always
a mixed blessing. One of the biggest
complaints about GIMP has long been its
disjointed, complex interface more suited
to software engineers than consumers.
Essentially GIMP operated as a collection
of untied toolboxes, palettes, and windows.
This was only just remedied by the
optional single-window
mode in version 2.8, which
marks the high water point
of GIMP’s newfound focus
on usability. However,
single-window mode is less
flexible for users who like
to spread out with multiple
images concurrently.
GI MP cont ai ns a
di zzyi ng amount of
functionality, with a barrage
of brush options, gradients
and blending, layers, color
sublayers, alpha channels,
and traditional “smart”
tools, such as a customizable
clone stamp and healing
brush. The program has roughly 150
effects and filters plus a wide range of
additional options available through the
open-source community.
We had occasion recently to work with a
special 2.8 tech build with new GPU-based
acceleration capabilities added to many of the
flters. Tis builds on the GEGL (Generic
Graphics Library) that frst arrived in version
2.6. Version 2.8 continues the evolution of
OpenGL and OpenCL support, and we
witnessed conditions in which compatible
filters performed much, much faster (50
times or greater) with the GPU boost than
simply executing as CPU-based software.
It’s hard to knock free, especially when
it comes with so much functionality. But if
Picasa 3.9
|
Free
|
Google
|
picasa.google.com
CPU / October 2012 87
just as if you’d performed a Refresh
from the Control Panel. At this point,
the system reboots and implements the
backup. Sure enough, we ended up with
our new text file right where we left
it and the most recently installed app
gone, with only a mention of it left in
the new Removed Apps list dropped on
the Desktop.
RecImg Manager offers a much
superior front end for the Windows 8
RecImg process, works like a champ, and
has a price tag that can’t be beat. As you
start adding Win8 into your life, make
sure RecImg Manager is a part of it. ■
BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE
RecImg Manager
Free
SlimWare Utilities
www.slimwareutilities.com
command prompts and
Control Panel routines.
It’s an abrupt shift back
to the old, geek-minded
Windows world when
Microsoft is trying to
move everyone forward
with the simpler Metro UI.
Sl i mWare’s RecImg
Manager removes all of this
under-the-hood work and
keeps you in the look and
feel of Metro, even when
running as a conventional
Desktop app. Te manager
works equally well with
touchscreen devices or
keyboard/mouse confgs.
We tested RecImg Man-
ager on a Win8 Preview
system. We began by
preloading a few apps
prior to installing RecImg
Manager. We then installed
SlimWare’s title and ran a
RecImg Manager Backup
routine. Backup creation
entails little more than selecting Backup
from the app’s two-tile home screen,
confirming a destination drive, adding
any snapshot details, and clicking Start
Backup. Te backup process takes a while,
but it runs smoothly in the background.
After completion, we saved a text file to
the Desktop, installed a new application
from disc, and rebooted. We also confrmed
that File History was turned off in the
Control Panel.
Back at RecImg Manager’s home
screen, we selected Restore. An Edit
option will let you modify snapshots’
names and descri pti ons. You can
select the System Reset tile, which will
return Windows to its original state
and nuke all of your programs, or you
can select a backup image. Do the
latter and Windows will pop up its
own Refresh Your PC splash screen,
informing you what will happen next,
I
f you’ve used Windows 7 or Vista for
any length of time, you probably know
about System Restore. In a nutshell,
System Restore lets you to create restore
points, snapshots of your system to which
you can roll back whenever disaster strikes
your configuration. If you created a
restore point yesterday and your Windows
system files suffer a stroke today, you can
roll back to the system restore point, and
it’ll be like jumping back 24 hours in
PC time. Of course, it may also mean
that data you created during those 24
hours could be moved and be confusing
to restore. Therein lies the rub.
With Win8, Microsoft got a bit
smarter. Te new OS features a command
line tool called RecImg, which functions
much like System Restore, only it keeps
all of your new data during the process.
You can execute RecImg from PowerShell
or a command prompt with commands
such as “RecImg –CreateImage F:\
Backup\”. RecImg with then do its thing,
and, if successful, output an Install.wim
file in the target location. This is your
Win8 system image fle.
Within Win8’s Control Panel, you’ll
find two items of interest: the new
File History and a revamped Recovery
area. File History is your customizable
way to have Win8 maintain copies of
the data in your Libraries, Desktop,
Contacts, and Favorites. Recovery will
let you either refresh or reset the system.
A Win8 refresh will restore your OS
confguration while keeping your data
and preferences. You’ll keep any apps
installed from the Windows Store but
lose any software installed from disc or
non-Store locations. Reset is the more
drastic option, functioning just like
System Restore.
In short, a RecImg refresh of an Install
.wim file, working in conjunction with
File History, is a much less painful way
of remedying many of the system glitches
that plague Windows users. Te trouble is
that many users don’t want to hassle with
SlimWare Utilities RecImg Manager
88 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
under Tools, closes the main program
and launches the Settings Editor, where
you can get your hands dirty under the
hood. Determine things like whether all
copy target folders are saved in the F5
dialog history, the length of time before
a pane is auto-refreshed, and whether to
highlight the active tab in a dual pane as
Windows does.
If you’re digging some of this pro-
gram’s many options and would like tips
on how to take advantage of others, you
can turn to the 41 video tutorials that
Zabkat provides. These helpful clips
combine Wink-based animation with
pop-up balloons describing each process
step by step.
In short, we’re very impressed with
Zabkat xplorer2. Light on RAM, quick
to run, it has quickly become one of our
most frequently used utilities. ■
BY BARRY BRENESAL
Xplorer2 Pro
$29.95 (21-day free trial)
Zabkat
www.zabkat.com
own applications and saving changes to
the server.
There’s a button that lets you add
multiple tabs below the active folder
view, each tab showing the contents of
a directory you select. Click a tab, and
directory contents you’re viewing switches
accordingly. These tabs can be dragged
into any order you choose, renamed,
locked, closed, and saved, individually
or as a group to be recalled at any future
time. You can also quickly drag and drop
the contents of one tab onto another
tab for easy file moves, and move tabs
between the active folder view with its
lengthy fle displays, and the inactive one
that only lists directories.
xplorer2 can be heavily customized
to your liking. You can reposition areas
like the folder tree and the drive bar, turn
on and of others like the quick preview
pane and the details pane. Options under
the Tools menu offer further choices,
such as whether to allow single-click
activation of a fle, show administrative
shares on network folders, and calculate
subfol der size automatical l y. Need
more? Selecting Advanced Options, also
W
indows Explorer does some things
well, but many of its operations are
cumbersome, and it lacks functionality
in a number of areas. This has proven a
headache to many users, but a boon to
several third-party developers who have
created a mini-cottage industry out of
Explorer substitutes. We’ve found one of
the best of these to be Zabkat’s xplorer2,
which marries a raft of extra features to
ease of use.
Take navigation: Tere are numerous
ways on xplorer2 to jump from one
location to another—such as our new
favorite, right-clicking any portion of an
app’s title bar (it shows your location as
drive\directory\subdirectory, etc.) to get
a context menu display of all subfolders,
complete with nested subdirectories as
you hover over each.
You’re not limited to interacting
with only the files and folders on your
computer, either. You can log in remotely
to web addresses where you have the
necessary permissions, and move, delete,
or manipulate files as though they are
stored locally, even to the point of
opening files to edit them within your
Zabkat xplorer2 Pro 2.1
CPU / October 2012 89
to common password manager issues,
such as sites that bury their forums
several l ayers deep, and browsers
(such as Chrome and Firefox) that
regularly update for important features
and require updates from password
managers—there’s an understandable
lag between the two. Tese things aside,
you will fnd that the program is very
handy for use with the majority of
password-enabled sites.
Additionally, Trend Micro provides a
fve-password demo of DirectPass, so you
can kick the tires on some of your most-
used sites. ■
BY BARRY BRENESAL
At times, we wouldn’t mind having
a little more control. For example,
DirectPass mandates that you re-enter
your master password to access its features
if your screensaver activates, or if your
browser has been inactive for an hour.
This isn’t a huge deal, but it would be
nice to be able to nix this requirement for
those of us who operate our computers in
a secure environment.
We’d also like to see more form felds
in the program’s storable profile. The
six felds DirectPass stores cover most of
the common items you’re likely to need
online, but leave out mailing address and
telephone number, both of which are
fairly commonly requested in forms we
encounter online.
In the end, though, DirectPass is
pretty good at recording and managing
passwords, which of course is what it’s
primarily meant to do. It is susceptible
S
ome password managers give users
lots of options, but DirectPass takes
the path of minimal user involvement.
The main interface is simple and direct
in presenting its functions, giving you
four-tab access to password storage,
profile storage (for form entry), notes,
and settings. Of these, the Settings
tab provides the most granular control
set, and even here there are only five
items to consider: an exceptions list,
the program’s auto-sign in option,
data importing, your master password,
and proxy server connections. Help is
available online, but there’s little need
for it.
The first time you visit a password-
protected site after installing DirectPass,
the software asks if you want to add the
site to its database. You can set your
stored passwords for automatic entry or
entry pending your confrmation.
Trend Micro DirectPass 1.2
DirectPass 1.2
$14.95
Trend Micro
www.trendmicro.com
90 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
into a target circle that you drag onto a
webpage or app window. KPM handles
the rest.
Li ke ot her password managers,
KPM has some probl ems deal i ng
with forum passwords nested several
levels deep on some sites. There’s also
an understandable lag before it auto-
updates to account for browser changes
that impact password entry. But we
really like feature-rich KPM. It will
repay in spades the time you will invest
in it. ■
BY BARRY BRENESAL
Kaspersky Password Manager 5
$24.95
Kaspersky Lab
usa.kaspersky.com
devices. Would you like KPM to auto-
lock upon screensaver activation, or
60 minutes of computer inactivity, or
not at all? These and other choices are
at your fingertips, and you can change
the configuration anytime you want.
The main KPM screen offers My
Passwords, My Secure Memos, and My
Identities. While My Passwords starts
with several categories to help organize
entries—Finance, Gaming, Shopping,
and Social Networks are examples—
like so much else in the program, you
can add and delete at will. You can
also add new accounts, secure memos
and identities, edit password entries,
i mport passwords, and export the
entire database or just selected items.
Adding a password is managed through
a key-shaped pointer that appears in
your taskbar. Once clicked, it changes
K
aspersky provides security software
for users who don’t mind a really
hands-on experience, as long as they
get plenty of features in the mix. So
it proves with Kaspersky Password
Manager. Where Trend Micro’s Direct-
Pass has a category on its screen for
Settings, KPM has an entire screen for
these. Instead of a single DirectPass
profile to store six data fields of personal
i nf ormat i on, KPM of f ers you 10
templates for bank accounts, software
licenses, a passport, and so forth.
You can also use the Settings screen
for such operations as customizing
hotkeys, updating trusted and ignored
web address lists, and changing the
encr ypti on al gori thm i t uses (the
default is 128-bit RC4). KPM also
supports password database access
from a variety of USB and Bluetooth
Kaspersky Password Manager 5
CPU / October 2012 91
T
he “cloud” is the new PC in the
ether. It started for most of us a
few years ago with online storage, and
continues with some refinements in
Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive.
But the cloud is also evolving into
a more robust set of computing and
storage services that can make l ife
much easier in a world of multiple
screens and accessi ng i nformati on
everywhere. This month we turn our
eye skyward to some of the cool things
you can do in the cloud you may not
have already discovered.
Video Editing Courtesy Of YouTube
Onl i ne vi deo edi ti ng i s a tri ck
that many companies have tried over
the years. Managing an interactive
interface and the size of files involved
i n t he pr oces s pr oved daunt i ng.
YouTube quietly came into this space
a while back with a basic editor that
lets video uploaders do quick mashups
or just prune the videos they already
have uploaded to the system. Because
video editing can be very processor-
and storage-intensive on your local PC,
having this task handled in the cloud is
especially handy for laptop users with
limited resources.
Basic as the YouTube Video Editor
may be, here are a few tips that give
the cloud-based tool some chops.
Whi l e l ogged i nto your Googl e
account, go to youtube. com/edi tor.
Most of the basics of video editing on
the desktop apply here. You drag and
drop clips from your uploads into the
timeline. Slider bars on each clip let you
make cuts from either end.
The editor does not let you split a
clip in two to excise a boring middle
spot, but you can get the same efect this
way: Put two copies of the same clip in
the timeline and then just trim the frst
one to end before the boring bit and the
second one to start after the boring bit.
Now, tap the Transitions tab and insert
a gentle fade or wipe transition between
the splice. Tis denotes a passage of time
within the same scene without a jarring
rough cut between the two portions of
the clip.
YouTube Video Editor also does not
incl ude the common video-editing
ability to insert static images or title
slides, but there is an easy way around
this, as well, especially if you have
PowerPoint. In PowerPoint, make a
slide that includes the text and/or image
you want to insert in your YouTube
video. Use the File menu to fnd Save
& Send. Under File Types, click Create
A Video. This will activate another
menu that l ets you choose among
three resolutions. Also important is the
Seconds To Spend On Each Slide tool.
It is set to seven seconds by default.
Keep in mind that the YouTube Video
Editor lets you trim time of of this clip
if needed but doesn’t let you extend
it. So use a liberal setting here that
you can always change later. Click the
Create Video button to save the file
as a .WMV file. In our experience, a
simple seven-second video made from a
text slide, even at a resolution of 960 x
720, is less than 150KB in size. Simply
upload the fle to your YouTube account
Playing In The Cloud
Windows Tip Of The Month
Ah, Balloon Tips. Those pesky pop-ups from the Taskbar that urge us to check security settings
or download new updates have been with us through several versions of Windows. So, too, have
the hacks to use the Registry to remove them. Even if you have heard this one before for Windows
7, where it works for us, we are told that the simple hack to disable the balloons also applies to
Windows 8. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\
Advanced. Right-click to Create a New DWORD (32-bit). Name it EnableBalloonTips. Give the item a
value of 0. This requires a log-off or reboot to deploy.
Registry Tip
Of The Month
You may be ready for Windows 8, but is
Windows 8 ready for you? Upgraders might
be disappointed to discover in this upgrade
cycle that Microsoft does not provide a
downloadable compatibility scanner the way it
did with Windows 7. Oddly enough, you have
to wait until you install Windows 8 to have your
hardware and drivers scanned by the OS to
form a log that determines whether Windows
8 will run on your confguration. Go fgure. But
Microsoft has provided a Compatibility Center
For Windows 8 Release Preview at www.
microsoft.com/en-us/windows/compatibility/
en-US/CompatCenter/Home, where you can
check specifc hardware and software against
a massive database of items. Make sure you
use the 64-bit/32-bit toggle in the upper right
to check on the right platform. While Microsoft
forces you to make your check manually, you
can shorten the tedium by bringing up your
Device Manager (type device manager in the
Start search box) and work your way down the
list of your components and peripherals. The
database is extensive, letting you check things
such as external hard drives, scanners, and
many, many games. One interesting wrinkle
this time is that Microsoft also lets early users
of the Release Preview vote on how compatible
any given item was with Win8 on their system.
92 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
and you have a title card. Special credit
goes to the ReelSEO.com business
video site for that idea.
Flying In Microsoft Skies
We mentioned here several months
ago the new file-syncing tool from
Microsoft called Live Mesh, which lets
you synchronize a folder of files across
multiple PCs and the SkyDrive cloud
serve. Subsequentl y, Mi crosoft has
announced that SkyDrive is replacing
Mesh in the most recent (August 2012)
version of Windows Live Essentials
downloads. In fact, installing the new
essentials pack with Movie Maker or
Photo Gallery will uninstall Live Mesh
and install the downloadable SkyDrive
app. The downloadable SkyDrive tool
is even more integrated with Windows
than Live Mesh.
Go t o apps . l i ve. com/skydri ve t o
download the program. Install carefully,
as PCs with SSD boot drives may not
want the program to store files by
default on the C: drive. You can target
a different drive during installation,
or even send these fles to a folder on
another PC.
Once installed, the SkyDrive be-
comes another folder on your PC that
contains everything that is on your
SkyDrive. Any documents you save
here will be saved and updated locally
and in the cloud.
file and the top-line menu lets you
ei ther downl oad that f i l e di rectl y
to your current PC or upload it to
SkyDrive. ■
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I N F I N I T E L O O P
Beam Me Across The
Canary Islands, Scotty
OK, so maybe current quantum teleportation
tech isn’t anything like the transporters in
Star Trek, but it is making some impressive
strides thanks to a European and Canadian
research team that recently managed to
teleport information (the orientation of one
of a pair of particles joined by quantum
entanglement) across a record distance
of 143 kilometers, from one of the Canary
Islands to another. Achieving this landmark
required the use of two laser-locked
telescopes (the ones that fll entire buildings)
and various other high-tech gear. The
researchers say
their eventual
goal is to be
able to use this
technique to
beam informa-
tion from Earth
to orbiting
telescopes.
YouTube’s online Video Editor is a way to do simple video edits without
taxing your PC’s bandwidth, storage, or processor power.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive continues to integrate cloud-based storage and fle
synchronization and/or sharing ever deeper into the operating system.
There are a few easy ways to inte-
grate the SkyDrive into everyday use.
Once installed, SkyDrive appears in
the Windows Explorer navigation pane
under Favorites, so you can drag and
drop files directly to it from within
your e ve r yday f i l e manage me nt
routines. But if you also use Microsoft
Office, working from and to files in
the cloud with full desktop application
functionality is also easier. In an Office
appl i cati on, use the Save & Send
command in the File menu and choose
Save To Web. Thi s wi l l fi nd your
SkyDrive account and prompt you to
sign in. The beauty of the SkyDrive
integration is that the folder and file
structure from the SkyDrive account
shows up in the Save As dialog, letting
you save documents to it directly from
Microsoft Office applications.
But the downloaded SkyDrive app
also gives you remote access to the
rest of the files on your PC from a
web browser. Go to skydrive. com to
log into your account. Under the PCs
section of the left hand nav bar, you
will see the computer name of your
PC. The first time you click into this
item, Microsoft runs a security routine
that involves validation through an
SMS code sent to your phone. Once
val i dated, the web app gi ves you
complete access to the host system
hard drive in the cloud. Highlight a
CPU / October 2012 93
O
ne of the biggest misconceptions
people have in switching to Linux
is that they think they have to completely
jump to a new system. Not only do they
have to learn how to do things in a new
environment, but they have to get
comparable applications from their old
system. They’re expecting Linux to be like
Windows or Mac, where everything is an
all-or-nothing sort of thing. It’s natural that
people are hesitant about going to Linux
when they believe they have to dive right in.
Let’s dispel that notion once and for all:
Linux isn’t like other operating systems. You
can use it without repartitioning your hard
drive. We’ll show you how.
Hard Drive Partitions
Most basic Windows users have a single
partition set up for their entire system. Te
next step up is setting up a few partitions to
better organize things, for example, having
one partition for applications and another
one for games. People running multiple
operating systems will also typically partition
their hard drives. Whether you want to be
able to run Windows and Linux, or diferent
versions of Windows, you would have
multiple partitions.
Tere are, of course, numerous tools, both
free and commercial, that let you create,
resize, and delete partitions, but they all take
time to do their jobs. Tat’s because when
you mess around with disk partitions, you’re
necessarily moving data around the hard
drive. Although dealing with partitions is
relatively safe, it still involves some risk of
data loss if the power or drive goes out at the
wrong time.
Linux On A File
If you want to try out Linux, you’d have
to engage in a small risk by partitioning
your drive and running Linux. But it’s
possible to run a full-fledged Linux
installation without doing any disk
partitioning. Tis option is available for the
Debian and Ubuntu favors of Linux, and
it’s a great way for people to use Windows
and Linux at the same time. Tis type of
install is typically referred to as a Windows
installer for Linux. On Ubuntu, the
program is called Wubi; for Debian, you’ll
want to get win32-loader. The Ubuntu
DVD image also includes the Wubi
installer, so if you’ve already downloaded
and burned Ubuntu, just pop the disc in
your drive while running Windows.
These installers ask you few general
questions about the type of Linux system
you want to install. One of the things the
program asks is how big of a hard drive you
want to install Linux onto. It then creates
a large fle the size of the disk you want to
create, and downloads the Linux install you
selected. It installs and confgures Linux into
the large fle on your hard drive and then
modifes the Boot.ini fle. Te Boot.ini fle
is a text fle that Windows uses to show you
what partitions you can boot into.
After the install fnishes, the next time
you boot your system, you’ll see an option
to boot into Linux. If you choose that
option, you’ll boot into the Linux system
you just installed, where the big fle that
was created represents the hard drive that
“/” resides on. You can now use Linux
as you normally would if it was installed
normally to a hard drive. When you’re
done using Linux, just reboot your system
and you’ll be able to boot back into
Windows. If you want to completely
remove Linux, simply uninstall it. Te disk
image will be deleted and your Boot.ini fle
will be restored.
Run Linux “Live”
Although the large dedicated file for a
Linux installation is a good way to evaluate
Linux, sometimes people don’t even want
to do that. Either they’re not quite so sure
they want to switch to Linux or maybe
they don’t have the disk space to commit to
it. Whatever the reason, there’s a way that
people can use Linux without using any disk
space. This method is known as running
Linux in a “live” environment. Tis option
is available on numerous Linux distributions
and requires that the installation media be
burned to physical disc.
Te way live Linux works is that when
you boot the install media, you’re given an
option to just boot into Linux. When you
choose this option, you’ll fnd yourself in a
fully functioning Linux confguration. Te
physical disc media is the / flesystem, and
your computer has automatically picked
up an available IP address. Some basic
apps are available, as well. So, you can surf
Use Linux Without Changing A Thing
Wubi lets you install
Ubuntu into a fle
without having to
repartition your disk.
94 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
I N F I N I T E L O O P
Maker Makes WALL-E
Come To Life
Sure, it only took 3,000 hours spread over
a couple of years (which works out to a
part-time job and then some, if you’re
keeping score at home) but the end result
is a life-sized version of everyone’s favorite
Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class
that looks like it rolled straight off the BnL
assembly line. Not only is the little robotic
charmer a near perfect replication of its
Disney likeness, but creator Mike Senna
has spent even more hours touring
children’s hospitals and perking kids up
with his remote-controlled WALL-E. Our
geek hearts grew two sizes after discov-
ering this. Find out more at
sennaswalle.blogspot.com.
the Net and do some light work. In some
live environments, your hard drive may
also be mounted, so you might be able to
access your data. When you’re done with it,
simply boot your regular OS and then use
your system as usual.
Even though most people who use live
Linux distributions use a CD or DVD,
a third (increasingly popular) option is a
thumbdrive. As thumbdrives have grown
in capacity, the desire to have a live USB
Linux environment has also emerged. Te
basic approach to a live USB Linux setup
is essentially the same as a live Linux CD
setup, except with a thumbdrive. One of
the advantages of using a USB thumbdrive,
instead of a physical disc, is that you can
save data to the thumbdrive. If you need to
change your live environment, it’s easier to
do than having to re-create and re-burn a
live Linux disc image.
Doing More “Live”
Although the live Linux environment
was originally designed to let people run
a particular distribution without having
to install it, these setups have grown in
capability. Tere are some live Linux disc
images, for example, that let you access
and modify a Windows partition on your
drive. Tese images are for if you lose your
Administrator password or need to access
data outside the Windows environment.
Some people even create their own
custom live Linux environments for server-
related tasks. For example, some companies
will have a customized live Linux disc with
some critical server confgured to run of
the physical disc. This ensures that no
matter what happens to the system, no
critical system fle or server confguration
fle can ever possibly be altered. If a server
is hacked, simply rebooting the system
back into the live Linux environment will
guarantee a clean hacker-free environment.
(Certainly, you’d still have to clean up other
things that a hacker may have done on
other systems, but that particular server
would be safe.)
Indeed, the demand for customized live
Linux environments is so great that some
Linux publishers now provide tools to help
you create your own live Linux disc image.
Ubuntu and Debian users can use either
remastersys or Reconstructor, while SuSE
Linux users can use SuSE Studio, to easily
create custom live disc images.
By being able to run without dras-
tically altering your system, Linux
makes it easy for people want to try the
operating system out without having to
commit to changing everything. ■
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SuSE Studio lets you create your own
custom live disc.
CPU / October 2012 95
“Intelligent platformer” isn’t an oxymoron.
Tanks to a number of indie developers,
physics-based platformers with intriguing
puzzles are becoming more common. One
of the best we’ve played recently is Vessel.
You play as M. Arkwright, an inventor
who has discovered how to make labor-
saving automatons out of squirt of liquid.
A jelly-like blob with two legs and an eye,
a Fluro isn’t complex, but it will quickly
jump on all the buttons it can find. Matters
get out of hand, however, since the Fluros
aren’t smart. It’s up to you to find your way
through four elaborate environments—a
cave, factory, orchid, and mine—and use
Fluros to fix the machines (with their odd
mix of steam-driven and modern parts) that
have stopped working properly.
Dynamic Fluids – by Barry Brenesal
$14.99 (PC)

ESRB: (E)veryone

Strange Loop Games

www.strangeloopgames.com
Te seemingly endless variety of visual
puzzles is much to the credit of Strange Loop
Games. No two are alike, and especially in
the final few environments, the size and
complexity of the challenge recalls to mind
the celebrated machines of Rube Goldberg.
As the difculty ramps up, you’ll find yourself
dealing with Fluros that develop unexpected
new behaviors, such as an attraction (or,
conversely, an aversion) to lighter areas.
Other Fluros form from lava. You’ll grow new
Fluros, then destroy them to gather their
seeds, which you can be reuse elsewhere.
Te graphics are quite stunning. Envi-
ronments are beautifully and individually
detailed, but it’s the accurate, in-depth
rendering of each movement of Arkwright,
the Fluros, the machine parts, and every
single drop of fluid that’s a true delight.
Controls are simple: Movement and
standard actions are integrated into
the game design with the usual ease of
platformers. Te few additional commands
you learn are taught as they’re revealed
during gameplay, and entries in your journal
help you keep track as you progress.
Vessel’s engine isn’t perfect. It occasionally
incorrectly interprets the precision of actions.
For example, sometimes Arkwright will
miss a jump that visual evidence suggests
he should have made, or the spray from his
liquid gun will miss its target despite being
accurately aimed from a distance.
Still, with everything else going for it,
Vessel is an obsessive little gem of a game,
and well worth your time. ■
96 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
Te Vampire Adventure – by Dr. Malaprop
Once purchased, the new Dawnguard DLC content becomes available upon speaking to the
appropriate persons after reaching Level 10 in Te Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Te Dawnguard are a
faction that hunt and kill vampires. You can play as a member of the Dawnguard, which feels like
a more traditional Skyrim quest. Te more entertaining portion of the game entails playing as a
vampire and battling the Dawnguard. Either way, you’ll be journeying to objectives in Skyrim to
complete the quest line.
We expected DLC to be more akin to Oblivion’s Shivering Isles, which brought its own personality
and freshness to the game; Dawnguard feels like more Skyrim. But if you’re a hardcore player in this
world scouring for more content, Dawnguard will appeal to you, with large new locations, vampire and
werewolf perk trees, and the ability to turn into a Vampire Lord (fraught with clumsy controls).
At press time, the Dawnguard DLC add-on was only available on the PC and Xbox 360, with an
eventual release on the PlayStation 3. Tis is for hardcore Skyrim fans only. ■
White House Or Bust
– by Barry Brenesal
What could be more fun than watching political campaign promises, hearing campaign music, and
receiving political robocalls this year? How about subjecting others to them? In Te Political Machine
2012, you get to play either of the two presidential frontrunners, a host of potentials, or a contender
of your own creation, rated across eight categories such as charisma and fundraising ability.
Te Political Machine presents a lot of data, but like similar games, your choices are simplified
because it isn’t a simulation; it’s a strategy title. Issues support/rejection is clear cut.
However, there’s still a lot of leeway for how you conduct your campaign. In each state,
you can build only one of three ofce types, each with a distinct function: raise
funds, recruit political operatives, or win endorsements from special interest
groups. You can place ads in three diferent media,
give interviews, make speeches to raise funds, and
recruit activists. As in any game of this type, it’s all
about balancing resources while maximizing your
character’s attributes. ■
$29.99 (PC)

ESRB: (E)veryone 10+

2K Games
civilization5.com/godsandkings
$19.99 (PC); 1600 points (360)
ESRB: (M)ature
Bethesda Softworks
elderscrolls.com/skyrim
$9.95 (PC)

ESRB: n/a

Stardock Entertainment
www.politicalmachine.com
What’s Old Is New Again – by Dr. Malaprop
Te Gods & Kings expansion pack provides significant new gameplay mechanics based
on religion and espionage along with three new scenarios, new unit types, nine additional
civilizations, broadened tech trees, and more.
Religions bear no similarity to existing religions and can be renamed as players see fit. Religion
requires its own resources (Faith), which can be grown from new structures (shrines, temples,
pagodas, etc.) to eventually spawn religious leaders who can spread your influence.
Te reintroduction of espionage brings back the ability to reconnoiter enemies and steal
technology from other civilizations. Using them efectively can yield high impact, so having them
is a benefit.
Tis is Civ V’s first must-have add-on, even for players new to the series, so don’t pass it up. ■
98 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
People Problems – by Chris Trumble
In Episode Two, subtitled “Starved For Help,” we find protagonist Lee
Everett and his ragtag band of zombie apocalypse survivors struggling
with life in the motor court where they took refuge at the end of
Episode One. Physical safety is somewhat less of an issue, but depleted
food supplies and constant infighting over what the next move should
be are rapidly turning their walled refuge into a prison.
Eventually, the need to find food and an ofer from strangers leads the group
outside the motor court barricades, and you’ll have to help Lee navigate the
tricky waters of post-apocalyptic relationships. Although we liked the first episode
a great deal, Starved For Help is considerably better, despite containing less zombie
danger. Telltale Games takes us deeper into the motivations of
several characters, and as before some of the decisions you make
will have lasting implications as the game progresses.
Telltale strikes a pleasing balance between gameplay and
story in this game, thanks to its laser focus on a well-thought-
out group of characters and situations that will make you think
even when you’re done playing. ■
Much More Tan A GTA Clone
– by Josh Compton
Although there’s no doubt that Sleeping Dogs, from United Front Games, clearly
walks in the large footsteps of the GTA franchise, it adds enough new features to
warrant its own acclaim.
In Sleeping Dogs, you play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to make his way up
the Triad ladder in Hong Kong. You’ll fight, drive, and shoot your way through the city in a
series of missions that lead Shen down a dark road that is both physically and emotionally
challenging. It’s an engaging story that delivers thrills and laughs at a steady pace.
Te fighting mechanics are a bit like the Arkham Batman games, albeit with a
less reliable counter system. Shooting controls are exactly what you’ll expect from a
third-person open-world game. Where Sleeping Dogs really shines is in the driving.
It feels almost like a Burnout game when you have to take out other vehicles and
race through the narrow streets.
Altogether, the combined elements of an immersive world and story, solid fighting and
shooting controls, and intense driving sequences make Sleeping Dogs a sleeper hit. ■
Well, It Was Worth A Shot – by Josh Compton
Te futuristic world of Hybrid is simple. You choose to be a member of the
Variant or the Paladin, the two warring factions fighting each other for an
energy source called Dark Matter. Other than that, there isn’t much of a
story to speak of. Mostly you’ll flow in and out of online 3v3 multiplayer
matches as you attempt to upgrade your character. Tis sounds like pretty
standard fare for a third-person shooter, but there’s a twist.
Hybrid doesn’t allow fully free movement. Instead, you can fly back
and forth between diferent pieces of cover while shooting, or evading,
the enemy. Although some people may like the restriction and the
challenge it adds, we couldn’t quite get invested in it. It’s chaotic, messy,
and inconsistent for the most part. Kill streaks provide drones that
will follow you for added protection or seek out enemies to destroy; if
the enemy team is able to rack up enough of these, you’ll find yourself
hiding in your base for most of the match.
Hybrid is sure to have many fans who find the restriction refreshing,
but for others, we recommend trying the free trial. ■
$5 (PC, Mac, PS3); 400 points (360)
ESRB: (M)ature

Telltale Games
www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead
$59.99 (360, PS3); $49.99 (PC)

ESRB: (M)ature
Square Enix

www.sleepingdogs.net
1200 points (360)

ESRB: (T)een
5th Cell

www.whatishybrid.com
CPU / October 2012 99
Space Combat Adventure – by Dr. Malaprop
Originally available on the iPad 2, Galaxy On Fire 2 (without the HD
designation) plays with the heart of Elite, Wing Commander, and other
space combat sims. Te story here introduces us to protagonist Keith
T. Maxwell, who is accidentally thrown 35 years into the future, and his
journey home.
You’re a mercenary trying to stay alive, but there’s also a rich
universe of ore, mining, trading, combat, and pirates. You’ll enjoy the
campaign story, but you can explore to your own whim. Frame rates are
important and best enjoyed on a fast processor, which is why only A5
processors are suggested (so iPhone 4S or iPad 2+).
Available now on iOS, Android and Windows PC versions
are expected by the time you read this. ■
Shake It All Night Long – by Dr. Malaprop
Tis is yesteryear’s hardware classic given a great software
treatment with updated Retina graphics. Players can tap on the
left or right side of the screen to control the flippers, respectively.
You get to shake the iPad to nudge the table without tilting.
Additionally, the ball physics and 3D engine look fantastic. You
can even play with 3D glasses if you’re so inclined.
Te game is free and, in addition to the table that comes with
the game, you can purchase nine additional tables, including
Platoon Pinball, AC/DC Pinball, Slayer Pinball, and so forth.
(Additional tables cost $0.99 or $2.99.) Te combination of
sound, interaction, and table shenanigans makes this a game
you’ll keep on the iPad for years. ■
Killer App – by Dr. Malaprop
Chair Entertainment’s original release of the first Infinity Blade featured impressive
graphics but was repetitious and in both action and cutscenes. Regardless, the eye candy
was impressive on the iPad 2. Core gameplay was based on a violent cinematic melee combat system
wherein you could attack, parry, and block by swiping the touchscreen.
With the sequel, Chair has broadened the storyline and made the game nearly four times bigger.
Seeing the real-time shadows and particle efects in action is impressive. Infinity Blade II will have
no problems wowing friends and dazzling passersby. Additional improvements include a smoother
interface, more environmental variety, two additional weapon types (for a total of three), tougher AI,
and new enemy types. It makes for a killer iOS app. ■
$2.99 (iOS)

Rated: 9+
Chair Entertainment

infinitybladegame.com
$9.99 (iOS)

Rated: 12+
FishLabs Entertainment
www.galaxyonfire.com
Free (iOS)

Rated: 4+
OOO Gameprom
gameprom.com
Be Te Contagion – by Dr. Malaprop
A minor wheeze, insomnia, nausea, coughing, sneezing, and much more lead you to
spread yourself across the globe with one purpose: eradicate the human populace by
spreading a contagion (that’s you) most efectively while fending of the cure.
Tis is not a game about terrorism or enacting violence. No, it’s about how, as a disease,
you can most efciently spread yourself to people. Most of your time will be spent looking
at a world map watching the disease spread by land, sea, and air as your disease evolves.
Te remaining time gets spent on the type and severity of Symptoms, Abilities, and
Transmissions. You’ll also review charts with morbid fascination. Plague Inc. is not action-
packed, but it’s interesting and looks great on the Retina display. ■
$0.99 (iOS)

Rated: 9+
Ndemic Creations
www.ndemiccreations.com
100 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
among these companies is staggering.
Among the companies the digerati are
watching is Uber, which helps people
looking for a ride fnd a driver. Pinwheel
is a location-based app where users pin
notes virtually at physical locations. And
it goes on. But since most mobile startups
are not yet making appreciable revenue,
investors and digital watchers have to
S
ilicon Valley has a new parlor game:
guess which tiny, young, and unprof-
itable mobile app startup will be the
next to sell out for an ungodly sum to a
major player. That is what happens in the
digital economy when one of its biggest
presences drops $1 billion on an eight-
person company that is barely two years
old with no revenue plan. Facebook’s
purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram
this spring was a Valley fantasy come true.
Eight people and a single app on one
smartphone (the iPhone) had leveraged
meteoric mobile growth into an audience
of 30 million. There was no revenue but
they had a lot of eyeballs and mobile
credibility that Facebook needed. Sum
total: $1 billion. And the scramble to find
(or be attached to) the “next Instagram”
became the new digital media trope.
At tech conferences and in the tech
press a usual round of suspects emerged,
mainly firms that, like Instagram, were
built for mobile and took advantage of
the unique attributes of smartphones
and mobility. Path, a more intimate kind
of social network founded by a former
Facebook executive, was among the
companies to attract big VC investment
($30 million) shortly after the Instagram
news broke. Square, the credit card
swiping tool for phones, attracted a
strategic investment from no less a
powerhouse than Visa. And then the
celebrities started focking in. Hollywood
talent agency CAA is incubating Moon-
shark, which is developing celebrity-based
mobile apps. Famous Twitterer Ashton
Kutcher has invested in foursquare and
many other startups. And Shakira, Jay-Z,
and Biz Stone, among other A-listers, are
invested in video sharing app Viddy.
The next big mobile startup hit can
be anywhere because mobile platforms
are threatening to disrupt just about
every channel of the economy, from
smartphones as research tools in the aisles
of Target to phones being used in place
of credit cards. Te diversity of thinking
Hunting The Next
Instagram
Mobile Startups Vying For Killer-App Status
SeeMail is hoping to
bring a new twist to the
Instagram model by adding
voice to image sharing and
keeping one’s social circle
a bit narrower.
CPU / October 2012 101
follow the crowds and track where usage
is going. Mobile analytics company
Flurry recently tracked where the greatest
growth is among apps. Time spent with
productivity software on mobile phones
was up 66% in the frst quarter of 2012,
for instance, and so content-saving apps
like Instapaper and Evernote are seen
as hot. Mobile music use was up 72%,
and so music subscription service Spot-
ify’s mobile extensions get scrutinized.
Any company, profitable or not, that
can show momentum in usage and
adoption in mobile is being touted as the
next Instagram.
But if the users themselves are pointing
to one category they are embracing as that
next big thing, it is in the segment that
fueled Instagram’s rise, media sharing. In
terms of minutes used, photo and video
apps on smartphones have skyrocketed
89% in just the frst few months of 2012,
according to Flurry. Look back a year and
the momentum is even more impressive.
In July 2011, the average user of a photo
or video app spent 87 minutes with it. By
March 2012, that monthly use had grown
to 231 minutes, up 166%.
For another small photo-sharing
startup like SeeMail and its co-founders
Ward Chandler and Kent Speakman, the
Instagram deal was a net gain. “Overall
I would say it was good,” says Chandler.
“There was no question that photo-
sharing was huge, but when someone
takes out an independent like that,
then the lights shines on mobile photo-
sharing and everyone asks, ‘who’s next?’”
Often described as Instagram-with-voice,
SeeMail lets users attach a short voice
message to an image and send to friends
or post on social networks.
They developed the concept, as do
many startups, by looking for that gap
in the market and then seeing how the
users make use of the platform. Unlike
many social sharing apps, this is person-
to-person, so it is more intimate than
Instagram. And using voice eliminates
the SMS character barrier or the need to
type and lets users more clearly convey
emotion. Soft-launched in March 2011,
SeeMail exposed use cases and possible
business models that the duo had never
anticipated. Real estate agents became
a big segment of users and started
sending pictures of properties to their
clients with comments. A physical
trainer broadcasts inspirational images
and voice messages to clients to keep
them motivated. “It is exciting to see,
for people who need to explain complex
things along with a photo like auto
mechanics explaining what is wrong with
the radiator hose,” Speakman says.
Small Screen, Small Teams
The outsized valuation of the eight-
person crew at Instagram raised many
eyebrows in the investment and devel-
opment community. Could any com-
panies so young and small really be
worth $1 billion? And while Facebook
did not lay down that kind of cash
agai n, t he s oci al net wor k s pent
much of early 2012 buying up small
app companies and their handful of
i nnovat or s . In qui ck s ucces s i on,
Facebook acquired Pieceabl e (web-
based app demos), Karma (soci al
gifting), Glancee (location-based friend
finder) and Lightbox (Android-based
mobile photo-blogging). Many of these
firms were very young and very small.
It is not surprising that small companies
with just handfuls of people are drawing
so much attention in the Post-PC world.
“In the mobile space I think small teams
are better,” says Michael Seibel, CEO of
SocialCam. Unlike large websites and major
software development projects, the mobile
platform brings with it intrinsically limiting
factors, he says. Foremost, successful mobile
apps cannot be overburdened with features,
anyway; singularity of vision is key. A
common thread among the startups often
cited as “next Instagrams” is that they follow
that photo app’s clean functionality and
use. Instagram demonstrated that having
a limited number of image flters, a simple
commenting and posting mechanism, and a
wonderfully browsable gallery were enough.
From a technical and developmental
perspective, mobile is entirely different
from the web, argues Seibel. “Bugs are
a lot more important.” App building is
closer to software development than it
is to website construction. “The more
people you have touching a common
code base the more potential for bugs and
the harder it becomes to identify them. I
actually think for the early days of mobile
small teams are much more efcient.”
And efficiency is what Seibel has.
Socialcam and its main rival Viddy are
the two companies most often tracked
and tagged the next big things after the
Instagram buyout. Socialcam claims over
14 million downloads of its mobile video
sharing app and has only four full-time
staf. Rather than look to the next photo-
editing software, many digerati believe
that mobile video is the next big thing for
users and the startup market.
Instagram In Motion
As mentioned earlier, Viddy has
attracted high-profile and celebrity
investors. Socialcam has an invaluable tech
pedigree. Seibel was one of the founders
and CEO of Justin.tv where he oversaw
strategy and investor relations. SocialCam
started as a project within Justin.tv
originally to do live video broadcasting
from cell phones. But as is so often the
case in mobile media, the users showed
“In the mobile space I think
small teams are better.”
MICHAEL SEIBEL, CEO OF SOCIALCAM
102 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
the developers where they wanted it to go.
Instead of broadcasting, people used the
app to share short clips with one another.
Just as Speakman and Chandler were
looking for that gap in photo sharing
that SeeMail could fill, Seibel and his
small team were trying to identify what
was missing in the market. “The three
core apps people needed to serve them
were failing,” he says. YouTube apps were
not allowing uploads, Facebook allowed
uploads but didn’t make wider sharing
or video embedding easy, and the phone
cameras themselves generally left people
to email clips from person to person. Te
team began building SocialCam in the fall
of 2010 and had it launched in March
2011. In six months the app had reached
a million downloads, which motivated
them to spin of from Justin.tv to their
own small startup.
And then the tsunami hit. “In two
months we have gone from 15 servers
to 150 servers,” Seibel says. SocialCam
discovered that one of the secrets to mobile
growth was a complementary website to
drive app downloads. The company now
has 90 million monthly users, but 80
million of them come to the desktop site
that was launched concurrently with the
app. “We started as web and app. The
website growth drove the mobile growth.”
Along with Viddy, Cinemagram (which
turns video into animated GIFs), and Tout
(15-second video shares), and a stealth
startup from Napster co-founders Sean
Parker and Shawn Fanning called Airtime,
SocialCam is in a video-sharing category
that is hotly contested and attracting
celebrity use and investment.
Chandler says that the spotlight turned
onto mobile startups by Facebook’s
Instagram acquisition does create a lot
of competition but in the end is a plus.
“From an investment standpoint and
communications, you are able to say ‘it’s
like Instagram with video,’” which helps
partners grasp the model more quickly.
For Seibel, however, all of the press
and investor attention is “distracting,” he
says. While many looked at the photo-
sharing app as an out-of-nowhere and
fresh sensation, he contends, “it was two
years old, and for a mobile app that is
mature.” Moreover, he argues that it
is mistake to see that massively valued
buyout as the frst of many. Facebook’s
interest in Instagram was very strategic.
Even if a billion dollars sounds like a lot,
for Facebook it was fairly cheap.”
For “next Instagrams” like SocialCam
and SeeMail, looking for that big buyout
is less realistic for now than ensuring
they have a rock-solid product that
differentiates itself in the market that
is getting cluttered. Speakman and
Chandler emphasize that the voice
feature and peer-to-peer nature of their
sharing app help to achieve an intimacy
unavailable on social networks. “As you
start to share SeeMails, you can start to
have discussions and comment threads
beneath them,” says Chandler. “You
create discussions around these social
objects and have that deeper level of
emotion and engagement.”
For Seibel, whose experience running
Justin.tv schooled him in monetizing video,
SocialCam is already attracting major
brands who occupy the leaderboards of
followers. Oprah, Pepsi, and multiple
sports teams have hundreds of thousands
of followers. Unlike Instagram, Social-
Cam has some very clear revenue models
in mind. A VIP program works with
brand marketers to impart best practices
for social video posting and open custom
URLs for their content. And the company
is developing custom video filters with
several entertainment brands so users can
replicate the look and feel of an upcoming
flm release in their own video clips.
Call it the next big Silicon Valley trend:
Instagram Goes Hollywood. ■
SocialCam is attracting
celebrity users such as
Madonna, who posts
backstage videos on this
media sharing app.
CPU / October 2012 103
ZUIs Present Information’s Zoomable Future
B
eyond their intrinsic beauty and
value, wild birds are particularly
sensitive to environmental changes, and
thus an important early-warning signal
for scientists studying those changes. Of
particular challenge, however, is listening
to, identifying, and tracking multiple
species out in their natural habitat.
Researchers at Oregon State Uni-
versi ty have now programmed a
machine-learning system to rise to the
challenge. Taking existing hardware
(Wildlife Acoustics’ Songmeters), as
well as software crafted for this specifc
purpose, Dr. Matthew G. Betts and
doctoral student Forrest Briggs created
a system that automatically records birds
every 20 minutes at 16 feld stations.
“Once we have downloaded the
recordings, our system turns them into
two-dimensional ‘pictures’ of the songs,”
explains Betts. “The software then
identifes these songs based on ‘visual’
characteristics (length, size, frequency of
the song, etc.).”
Te recordings help the researchers
identify how many species are in a
chosen area, and how these populations
ebb and flow over long periods of
time. The system can also be used to
study other creatures that emit distinct
sounds, such as grasshoppers, frogs,
crickets and marine mammals.
Betts says that he experienced an “aha!”
moment when Briggs “sent an Excel
spreadsheet with the predicted vs. observed
birds in our recordings, and I noticed that
accuracy was extremely high. Tis is very
rare in noisy systems with species singing
at the same time.” Along with this good
news came a “good” problem: processing
8 terabytes of data on an ongoing basis. ■
A High-Tech Canary In A Coal Mine
A Peek At What’s Brewing In The Laboratory
F
or the droves of us who have sat through endless and poorly
organized PowerPoint presentations, take heart: ZUIs have
come to save the day! ZUIs, or zoomable user interfaces, have
been inspired by the zoomable UI that has become popular on
smartphones and tablets.
Old-school presentations use the slide method—page after
page of graphics and text etc. With ZUIs, the “canvas” is
unlimited, so a presenter is free to hide or highlight any point
of interest with a click of a mouse, making each ofering of
information more compelling and receiver-oriented.
One particular ZUI presentation software, Prezi, a cloud-
based tool developed by the Hungarian company of the same
name, has become the darling of TED presenters. Prezi co-
founder Adam Somlai-Fischer designed Prezi’s software for
use in his former career as an architect and visual artist. His
interface let him show a client a foor plan of a building and
zoom into each room as needed. Te software has been put
to use in a wide variety of presentations, using video, images,
YouTube, PDFs and other media. In addition, multiple users
can collaborate in real-time, either locally or online, with Prezi,
and presentations can be downloaded for later viewing.
Proof that no good idea goes unnoticed, others have begun
work on their own ZUIs. ChronoZoom, ZUI software being
collaboratively developed by Microsoft Research, Moscow State
University, and the University of California, Berkeley, will allow
users to work along a timeline, with video, images, and text. Te
software will best serve cosmologists, historians, and geologists.
Also on the map is VisIt, developed by the Department
of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Labs. VisIt is
a deep-zooming software that will enable scientists to delve
into microscopic animations, particularly atoms’ behavior in
nuclear explosions. ■
Researchers at Oregon State University have created a system to automatically record and identify
multiple birds in a forest habitat, thus monumentally increasing their ability to track the ebb and
fow of populations, as well as the effects environmental changes can have on those populations.
(PHOTO CREDIT: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY)
104 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
F
or graphic artists who slave away over
a tablet, laptop, or other device, news
of Sandde (stereoscopic animation drawing
device) may spark dreams of a sweet, new
freedom for their creativity. The software
is designed specifically to get artists up and
moving, crafting their designs with their
bodies in the space around them.
Sandde uses a high-performance, stereo-
scopic motion-tracking interface to record
the freehand drawings of user as they draw
in the air. Janro Imagining Laboratory
collaborated with researchers and grad
students at Concordia University (www
.concordia.ca) on the software and hardware
solutions that bring Sandde to life.
Beyond expanding artists’ creativity,
the team envisions the use of their tools in
videogame design, performance art, and
improving the 3D animation in movies.
Te Sandde system was recently utilized
in several pieces on display in “Te Distance
Between” a 3D art exhibit consisting of works
from female artists, at the Studio XX gallery
in Montreal. ■
New Software
Makes Life A Canvas
A
lthough there are plenty of challenging concepts one can run up against in
college, some evolutionary concepts, such as phylogeny (tree-diagramming
used by biologists to study how a species or group of organisms develops and
diversifies), can be particularly taxing for new students.
Harvard’s Dr. Chia Shen, along with researchers at Northwestern University,
University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, Stanford, Wellesley College,
and Tufts were passionate about bringing a way to learn these concepts to the
table in a way that was not only fun and collaborative but also allowed for deep
learning to happen. Using Microsoft version 1 multitouch tables and C#/WPF, the
team created two multiuser games, Phylo-Genie and Build-a-Tree, to be used in
classrooms and museums, respectively.
After testing the more sophisticated Phylo-Genie with undergrads, and the more
youth-oriented Build-a-Tree at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Shen and
her collaborators learned that users obtained the knowledge they needed to pass
their tests in class, and they also found that the users were very motivated in their
learning because the games were so fun. Both games were very successful in what is
called “active prolonged engagement.”
Te team is currently working on a huge multiuniversity project called “Life on
Earth.” Explains Shen, “We hope to help people to learn about both macro and
micro patterns of history of biological life on Earth in this exhibit. In this project,
for the frst time, we will be bringing an interactive, multitouch visualization of the
phylogenetic tree of life to museums across the United States. Te Life on Earth
exhibit will include three game-like multitouch activities: DeepTree (all life on
earth in a phylogenetic tree structure), FloTree (population genetics simulated and
adapted for museum visitors), and Build-A-Tree.” ■
Diverse Teaching Methods Tackle
Biological Diversity Concepts
Researchers Michael Horn (Northwestern), Judy Diamond (University of
Nebraska), Margaret Evans (University of Michigan), Brenda Phillips, Florian
Blocks and Chia Shen (Harvard) created an engaging touch table game
called Build-a-Tree, that invites young users to learn collaboratively about
complicated evolutionary concepts.
(PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL HORN)
This 3D interactive piece, called “A Chorus
of Lungs,” was created by Dr. Leila Sujir and
Dr. Maria Lantin (Concordia University and
Emily Carr University, respectively) using
Sandde, 3D animation software they created
with Janro Imaging Laboratory. The software
lets animators draw images in thin air using
their bodies.
(PHOTO CREDIT: EMILY PELSTRING, JANRO IMAGING LABORATORY)
CPU / October 2012 105
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LAN OC V11.0 - Ohio City, OH
lanoc.org
SWVAGAMING5 -
Lebanon, VA
www.swvagaming.com
09.7-9.12
Geek.Kon LAN -
Middleton, WI
www.geekkon.net
09.8-9.12
Intel LANFest Colorado Fall
2012 - Loveland, CO
lanfest.intel.com
09.14.12
Maryland LAN Gamers
Maryland
www.marylandlangamers.net
09.14-16.12
Aoi Uma Con - Louisville, KY
NostalgiaConventions.com
09.15.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON -
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
Oklahoma Gamers Group -
Oklahoma City, OK
www.okgg.org
09.15-16.12
Exile XII - Troy, NY
www.exilecomputergaming.com
09.22.12
WV Gamers -
Eugene, OR
www.wvgamers.com
09.29.12
Naois Gaming - York, PA
www.naoisgaming.com
10.12-14.12
Banzaicon -
Columbia, SC
nostalgiaconventions.com
10.20.12
BHN LAN - Largo, FL
lan2011bhn.eventbrite.com
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON -
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
Oklahoma Gamers Group -
Oklahoma City, OK
www.okgg.org
WV Gamers - Eugene, OR
www.wvgamers.com
11.02-04.12
PDXLAN November -
Portland, OR
www.pdxlan.net
11.17.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON -
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
Oklahoma Gamers Group -
Oklahoma City, OK
www.okgg.org
WV Gamers -
Eugene , OR
www.wvgamers.com
11.30.12
Maryland LAN Gamers
Maryland
www.marylandlangamers.net
12.15.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON -
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
Oklahoma Gamers Group -
Oklahoma City, OK
www.okgg.org
01.19.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
02.16.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
03.16.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON
Greenville, TX
www.networkgamingclub.com
03.23.13
LAN OC V12.0
Ohio City, OH
lanoc.org
106 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com
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line in time. I don’t know
exactly which yet!
Q
Will Corsair’s
de s i gn t e a m
c o l l a b o r a t e
with Raptor
Gami ng on
new products
in the future,
or will the two teams
remain distinct?
RM
We will continue
to work cl osel y
with Dirk and Heinz-
Dieter, who founded
Raptor Gaming back
in 2004, on evolving
their current product
l i ne to meet the needs of
gamers in the rest of the world. As far
as their insights and passion for gaming,
we are always looking to include any
good ideas in either product series.
However, the personalities of the two
product series are likely to remain dis-
tinctly separate.
Q
Is there anything else you’d like to
tell CPU readers about Corsair’s
Raptor Gaming products, or any fur-
ther announcements you can share?
RM
Well, my Corsair team from
California was very excited to get
to know our new Raptor Gaming friends
at gamescom in Cologne last week, and
I’m sure we’ll have some news to share
about some new products that will come
out of this collaboration very soon. ■
programs, like event sponsor-
ships and team support.
Q
In t he f ut ure, wi l l
Raptor Gaming prod-
ucts be sold in the United
States bearing the Raptor
Gaming brand, or will
t hey f al l under
the Corsair Vengeance
brand family?
RM
We will abso-
lutely keep the
Raptor name! I think that
over the coming months, you will see
the distinct personality and legacy of the
Raptor Gaming brand being maintained
in the Corsair Raptor series products,
while the Corsair Vengeance series will
also maintain its own personality through
its unique industrial design and construc-
tion materials.
Q
Raptor Gaming appears to have
one or two items in its lineup
that Corsair doesn’t currently make,
including mouse mats and gaming
control pads. Will such products
continue to be part of the Raptor (and
now Corsair) lineup?
RM
We are still evaluating which
products work best in which
gaming cultures; there will certainly be
additions and deletions to the product
Q
Corsair recently acquired German
peripherals company Raptor Gaming.
What prompted the move, and why
Raptor Gaming?
RM
Wi th the Vengeance seri es
gaming mice, keyboards, and
headsets that we launched last year,
we found that our appeal as a trusted
brand has extended beyond our core fan
base of PC enthusiast builders,
modders, and gamers, to a new
audience of PC gamers who
don’t necessarily build their own
PCs. When we met the guys at Raptor
in Germany, we found that we were all
speaking the same language (PC gaming),
and we share a common philosophy
towards our user communities. Geograph-
ically, we also ft together well: Raptor has
strong enthusiast base in Germany, and
Corsair can widen that enthusiasm into
the rest of Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
Q
Corsair already has a solid rep-
utation for gaming gear, thanks
to its Vengeance headsets, keyboards,
mice, and cases. How will Raptor
Gaming’s products fit in with what
you’re currently doing?
RM
By adding their successful line
of thoughtfully designed gaming
peripherals to our Vengeance series, we
realized we would have a broad range of
complementary products that span a wide
price range and cover a number of game
genres. Many of the Raptor products ft
into our roadmap for future products,
and their connection with their gaming
community mirrors Corsair’s community
Q&A With Ruben Mookerjee
Corsair’s VP & General Manager Of Components
On Acquiring Raptor Gaming
110 October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com

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OCTOBER 2012 Frontside 10 16 What’s Happening Digital Economy | VOL 12 ISSUE 10 27 GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH Heavy Gear 18 Mighty Midtowers Case Options From $40 To $130 27 GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH 28 Aerocool Touch 2100 30 Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One 31 Corsair Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7.1 Gaming Headset 32 PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W 34 ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition 35 Rosewill RK-9000I 36 Diablotek Abyss White 37 Zalman CNPS14X 38 Phanteks PH-TC14PE 40 Xgamerpc Kill Box Made-To-Order WMD 28 30 Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One Aerocool Touch 2100 Hard Hat Area PC MODDER 42 Mad Reader Mod ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R 46 Intel LAN Fest 2012 United We LAN 50 Advanced Q&A Corner 53 X-ray Vision: MSI Power Edition GTX 660 Ti Twin Frozr IV Highlights Latest MSI Video Card 56 White Paper: XFX Ghost Thermal Technology Minimalist Design Meets Maximum Performance 32 34 PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition .

you can rest assured that you will have all the 12V power you need. because ProSeries XXX Edition power supplies use XFX’s proprietary SolidLink technology. giving you the flexibility to add only the cables that you need. The result is better airflow inside your case.WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A POWER SUPPLY? You want a unit that is powerful and efficient. which hardwires only essential cables to the unit. Oh. ProSeries XXX Edition PSUs also help keep the rest of your system cooler through their semi-modular design. thanks to the application of cutting-edge power management technology and a decade of experience and passion. too.xfxforce. solid construction. one that protects the investment you’ve made in your PC and that looks good inside your case. and you’d like it to be affordable. You’ll also spend less getting the power you need. Available in 850W.com Advertisement . 750W. and 650W models. ProSeries XXX Edition 80 Plus Bronze power supplies are certified to be up to 85% efficient at normal loads. and thanks to XFX’s EasyRail Plus construction. all for a price so low it’ll make you look twice. good looks. Efficient power. and the peace of mind of a 5-year limited warranty. which provides direct pin-to-port connections for your cables. dramatically reducing the watts that other power supplies lose to heat. not to mention less clutter for a more attractive interior. right when you need it. XFX’s new ProSeries XXX Edition 80 Plus Bronze PSUs are all of that and more. ■ www.

cpumag.: 8 a. .cpumag. (CST) Online Customer Service & Subscription Center www. NE 68521 Subscription Renewals Toll Free: (800) 733-3809 Fax: (402) 479-2193 www.O.2 91 Kaspersky Password Manager 5 92 Software Tips & Projects Playing In The Cloud 94 Warm Up To Penguins Use Linux Without Changing A Thing | VOL 12 ISSUE 10 Digital Living 96 At Your Leisure PC & Console Games & Gear 101 Hunting The Next Instagram Mobile Startups Vying For Killer-App Status 104 Under Development A Peek At What’s Brewing In The Laboratory 92 96 Gotcha. NE 68521 .Fri.OCTOBER 2012 Loading Zone 82 The Bleeding Edge Of Software Inside The World Of Betas 83 Up To Speed Upgrades That’ll Keep You Humming Along 84 Discount Digital Darkrooms Image Editors For The 99% 88 SlimWare Utilities RecImg Manager 89 Zabkat xplorer2 Pro 2.O. Box 85673 Lincoln.com Fax: (402) 479-2104 131 W.) customer-service@cpumag.) webhelp@cpumag. Box 82545 Lincoln.com Advertising Staff Toll Free: (800) 247-4880 Fax: (402) 479-2104 131 W. to 6 p. NE 68501-2545 Hours Mon.m.com Web Services (For questions about our Web site. Here it is. Grand Drive Lincoln. NE 68501-5673 General inquiries Computer Power User P. Grand Drive Lincoln.com (800) 733-3809 Authorization For Reprints Toll Free: (800) 247-4880 Fax: (402) 479-2104 Editorial Staff editor@cpumag.1 90 Trend Micro DirectPass 1. Back Door 110 Q&A With Ruben Mookerjee Corsair’s VP & General Manager Of Components On Acquiring Raptor Gaming Infinite Loops Strange stats and other oddball items from computing’s periphery 93.com Toll Free: (800) 733-3809 Fax: (402) 479-2193 To make a payment Computer Power User P. 95 Customer Service (For questions about your subscription or to place an order or change an address.m.

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CyberPower PC Welcomes The GeForce GTX 660 Ti Aboard ZOTAC Downsizes The Home Theater PC With ZBOX ID84 If you’re in need of a really small (1.99 $209. both include HDMI-out. add ZOTAC’s new ZBOX ID84 mini PC to the list of prospects. The company’s GTX 660 Ti-based systems are available complete with scads of customization options starting at $849 via models within CyberPower’s Fang III. and VESA mount for attaching the ID84 to a monitor or TV.99 $159.99 $1. Kepler-revved GeForce GTX 660 Ti graphics card can expect as compared to previous systems based on DirectX10 cards.99 $109.029.99 $134.99 $339. four USB 2. Neither model includes an OS.99 $229.4 x 7.029.99 $109. Further. and two USB 3. Gamer Xtreme.0.029.99 $109.99 $1.99 $1. which the company states it has optimized for the GeForce GTX 660 Ti. Wi-Fi. and Ultra series.000 CPU AMD FX-8150 Black Edition Eight-Core AMD FX-8120 Black Edition Eight-Core AMD FX-6100 Black Edition Six-Core AMD A8-3870K Black Edition Quad-Core AMD A8-3850 Quad-Core AMD FX-4100 Quad-core AMD A6-3670K Black Edition Quad-Core AMD A6-3650 Quad-Core Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition Intel Core i7-3930K Intel Core i7-3770K Intel Core i7-3770 Intel Core i7-2700K Intel Core i7-2600K Intel Core i5-3570K Intel Core i5-2550K Intel Core i5-3550 Intel Core i3-2130 Intel Core i3-2120 Released 10/12/2011 10/12/2011 10/12/2011 12/20/2011 7/3/2011 10/12/2011 12/20/2011 7/3/2011 11/14/2011 2/14/2011 11/14/2011 4/23/2011 4/23/2011 10/24/2011 1/9/2011 4/23/2011 2/8/2012 4/23/2011 9/4/2011 2/20/2011 Original Price $245** $205** $165** $135** $135** $115** $115** $115** $990** $999** $555** $332** $294** $332** $317** $225** $225** $205** $138** $138** Last Month’s Price $199.0 ports. CyberPower also promises richer environments thanks to NVIDIA’s new TXAA (temporal antialiasing) technique.99 $289.99 $569. ZOTAC points out that both models provide “eco-friendly computing with superior energy-efficiency” abilities.86GHz Intel Atom D2550 dual-core CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics (512MB).029.99 $124.99 $119. DVI. ■ WATCHING THE CHIPS FALL Here is the pricing information for various AMD and Intel CPUs.7 x 7.99 $139. * As of August 2012 ** Manufacturer’s estimated price per 1.0.computerpoweruser.99 $309. In a nod toward home-theater PC usage. That’s the type of improvement that CyberPower states buyers of the company’s midrange and high-end gaming PCs now packing NVIDIA’s next-gen.99 $319. Systems from those series include CyberPower’s Advanced Hydro liquid-cooling system.99 $209.99 $94.4 [HxWxD inches]) and inexpensive HD-capable home theater PC. but both run a 1.99 $94.99 $299.99 $1. and GbE. The company is also dropping the card into systems belonging to its recently introduced Zeus Thunder and Zeus Lightning series.99 $242.99 $99.99 $149.99 $149.99 10 October 2012 / www. a media center remote is included.99 $229.com .99 $569.99 $99. Wi-Fi antenna.99 $242. as is a USB IR receiver.99 $109.99 $309.99 Online Retail Price* $189.99 $309. Bluetooth 3. You can opt for a barebones ID84-U model ($229) that ships without memory or hard drive or an ID84-Plus-U model ($319) that provides 2GB DDR2 memory and a 320GB hard drive. ■ Six times the performance.99 $99.99 $124.99 $339.99 $159.

Corsair announced in mid-August that it has acquired certain assets from Heinsberg. however. the impish Little Printer essentially takes a step back in time.” (See more about the acquisition on page 110. The result is effectively a “timely. the Rift is touted as “the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games. ■ CPU / October 2012 11 . .” A Starter Pack runs $259 plus shipping and includes international power supplies. headlines. Oculus VP Nate Mitchell told Wired. including John Carmack who said of the Rift.1 USB headset. “take visual cues from traditional halftone lithography and modern pixel art. and H5 5. In short. for example. and accessories to add with its own Vengeance PC gaming line to form a new series of products. Prints. a whole other level in terms of latency and comfort. is.” An included Bridge component connects the printer to the Web. “the largest market for video gaming in Europe. I honestly think the best VR demo probably the world has ever seen.8 million in donations from roughly 7. Berg Cloud supplies users a smartphone app (iPhone. six degrees of freedom ultra-low latency head tracking.) ■ The Little Printer That Could Some products defy logic. it managed to attract all kinds of interest even before Berg Cloud began taking pre-orders in August for shipments expected to begin in October. In an age when smartphones enable us to bring our digital world practically anywhere. headsets. and replacement paper. Unfortunately. Technical specs for the kit include PC and mobile platform support. thermal paper) to print various bits of interest (to-do lists. . ARUP at launch) from which users use the Little Printer (inkless. Corsair president and CEO. M4 mouse. 110 degrees diagonal/90 degree horizontal field of view. is the maker of high-end gaming gear. the consumer version will be “far and away . and DVI/HDMI and USB inputs. The Guardian. meanwhile.” Created by Palmer Luckey.” Raptor. And yet. mice. Android. Specifically. Germany-based Raptor Gaming.Prepare To Immerse Yourself In The Oculus Rift Ready for the future of video games to be irreparably transformed? That’s exactly the type of hype that the Oculus Rift is conjuring up from many.330 Kickstarter backers as of late August. and Windows Phone supported) to organize subscriptions to “publications” (Foursquare. which launched in 2004. “Corsair and Raptor share the same goal. beautiful miniature newspaper. including the Raptor-Gaming K3 keyboard.280 x 800 resolution. etc. Oculus states a consumer version is “still a ways down the road”. Take Berg Cloud’s Little Printer. bringing best-in-class PC hardware to gamers around the world. Corsair is gobbling up Raptor Gaming’s full portfolio of keyboards. Google. “Raptor Gaming’s strong retail presence will allow us to offer a wider range of PC hardware to gamers across Germany. 1. which Corsair characterized as having a strong retail presence in Germany.” stated Andy Paul. “What I’ve got now.). cables.” ■ Corsair Takes Hold Of The Raptor In a deal designed to widen its international reach.” A Rift Dev kit that includes a copy of Doom 3 BFG Edition (the first Rift-enabled game) had garnered nearly $1.

25 inches on each side.1 Surround Sound Headset ($199.3-inch (1.1 Surround Sound Headset If your ears were a fan of Mad Catz Interactive’s Tritton AX Pro headset for Xbox 360 use. ■ 12 October 2012 / www. as well as several enhancements stated to “offer superior performance and comfort. though future options will include choices of matte black. Intel Core i5 dual-core 3320M CPU (option for up to quad-core Extreme Edition Core i7-3920XM overclocked to 4. pay heed to the Tritton Pro+ True 5. Also new is a redesigned inline remote and SVM (Selectable Voice Monitoring) feature that enables hearing your own voice in the headset. the earcups swivel. The included chassis sports a traditional Origin PC A-Panel design. thus “matching the widescreen aspect ratio of modern displays. The Tritton Pro+ ventures into new territory by adding PS3 compatibility.95).867 base model includes a 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M graphics card.99). but the $1. Design-wise. ■ Origin PC Gets Twice As Nice With EON17-SLX Meet the EON17-SLX. 4GB DDR3 memory. The mouse pad.” Elsewhere.” The 17.” For starters. the mic is removable. and the headrail extends an additional 1. and brown polyester models are yours for the mousing. a patent-pending mouse pad that integrates a 100% natural sheepskin wrist rest designed to provide “soothing comfort and ultimate pressure relief. separate backlit controllers are integrated for each channel.com .1-channel support). the sheepskin is attached via VELCRO. GoSmart claims the RestPad underwent “extensive testing with advanced tactile array sensors that measured the contact pressures underneath the wrist.” GoSmart states the RestPad is validated to relieve more than twice as much pressure as other wrist rests.920 x 1080. the headband is padded.5GHz). and more.” Construction-wise. is 38% larger than typical mouse pads. pink microfiber. or custom paint jobs.” look no further than the GoSmart Restpad ($24. Tan microfiber. making it easy to remove and wash.GoSmart Restpad Takes Sheepish Approach To Wrist Relief If your wrists are in need of a “relaxing vacation. the upgrade expected in September. the base’s bottom features high-friction rubber for stability. red.computerpoweruser. the true Dolby Digital 5. In fact. LED backlit glossy display) powerhouse “takes mobile gaming to the next level” in part by offering an option to add dual NVIDIA 4GB GeForce GTX 680 discrete graphics cards with SLI support or dual 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M discrete cards with CrossFire support tweaked via professional overclocking. Customizations are available galore.1 surround sound comes via eight individual neodymium drivers (four in each earcup) that are situated in a “repositioned speaker placement” for superior surround sound separation and improved bass response. ■ Ha rdware M ol e Tritton Pro+ 5. 320GB SATA drive. a beast of a system that Origin PC hails as its “most powerful EON laptop. meanwhile. HD THX TruStudio Pro (up to 7.

.

” In December 2011. will be able to submit their own software via Steam Greenlight.com that he isn’t abandoning TextMate to the open-source wasteland but believes the open-source approach is best for everyone involved. a feature aimed those who connect their PCs to televisions to reformat the Steam interface for optimal viewing on a TV’s screen. “Blue.” Elsewhere. In other Steam-related news.0 code for TextMate available as open source at GitHub. remains available for $50. Odgaard announced he was making the 2. 5.computerpoweruser. Valve recently announced it will bring an initial set of software titles that “range from creativity to productivity” to Steam Sept. ■ Steam Ventures Into Non-Gaming Software Valve’s download destination Steam isn’t the first place most people think of when buying non-gaming software comes to mind.0 alpha version for registered users. Odgaard told TUAW. however.” Website Win8China. expanding on the PC and Mac games already offered. meanwhile. this is my small attempt of countering such trend.” she wrote. yet various online sources were already speculating in August as to the naming convention that Microsoft is planning to use for the operating system’s next version. however. tech writer Mary Jo Foley wrote that according to her contacts. the patience appeared to finally be paying off when lead developer Allan Odgaard released a 2. reported that the first build of Windows 9 could soon turn up under the moniker “Windows Blue. which could also ultimately be dubbed Windows 8. so in a time where our platform vendor is taking steps to limit our freedom. in September Valve will release a beta of its previously announced Big Picture Mode.11. Developers.What’s In A Name? The October release of Windows 8 is not yet upon us.” representing “a new base for Windows. TextMate 1. wrote that according to various Microsoft employees he cited as sources. for example. A Valve representative says that the 40 million-plus gamers who frequent Steam have indicated a desire to acquire more of their software via Steam. but that could soon change. Reportedly.1 or 8. the Windows version following 8 will carry the somewhat expected and anticlimactic codename “Windows 9.5. In a somewhat controversial move for some in the TextMate community.” That comment is apparently a nod toward restrictions some developers maintain that Apple is enacting with Mountain Lion. covering it under the GPL3 license. likely would represent an interim release. thus the expansion. and saving work in an individual Steam Cloud space). Big Picture will also support game controller input. Stephen Chapman of Microsoft Kitchen. which “brings Apple’s approach to operating systems into the world of text editors. Odgaard wrote he did as much “partly to avoid a closed source fork and partly because the hacker in me wants all software to be free (as in speech). the next Windows version might not even be a full version step from Windows 8 but rather “some kind of update” arriving mid-summer 2013. ■ Software S h o rt s TextMate 2 Gets A New Open-Source Beginning Ever-so patient coders and developers have been waiting since the mid-2000s for a 2. many titles will use Steamworks features (easy installation.com .0 release of the popular TextMate (“The Missing Editor”). automatic updating. meanwhile. ■ 14 October 2012 / www.5.

streaming services totaled $54 million in revenue. ■ Streaming Radio Services Paying Dividends Information available in Warner Music Group’s recently released 3Q 2012 earnings report provides some interesting tidbits concerning the state of streaming radio services. Pandora. Win and Omaze will fly you and a guest to your destination and film your chosen adventure to share with the site’s community. the growth is particularly impressive because it didn’t adversely affect sales from traditional digital outlets. the site tracks various campaigns over time to detail the impact users make. Netflix. AllThingsD. and you’re automatically entered in a charity-like raffle in which winners are selected via computer-generated random drawings.” donate $5. Whether connecting to the Internet via Blu-ray players. Warner Music Group’s totals didn’t include licensing-related revenue from Amazon. or engaging in a paintball battle with Navy SEALs. Juniper Research predicts revenue tied to the “smart home” will reach nearly $60 billion by 2017. Just select a “dream experience. along with users’ evergrowing love affair with YouTube. “digital revenue more than offset the decline in physical revenue. say. Factored out. Such growth means smart TVs are hitting magical “mainstream” status among consumers. As AllThingsD. revenue from such streaming services as Spotify.com and Apple’s cloud-based music services. Juniper Research states in a new “Smart Home Ecosystem” report. Further. Further.com points out. set-top boxes. the number of residential TVs that can hook into the Internet is expected to hit nearly 650 million by 2017. and satellite providers accounted for 25%. up from $25 billion this year.Internet TVs Attracting Ever More Eyeballs Thank smartphone and tablet adoption. games consoles.” thus “showing the promise of the industry’s transformation. Additionally.” sipping Scotch whiskey with “Justified’s” Timothy Olyphant. Juniper Research says.” ■ Site S e e i n g Omaze Offers Amazing Experiences For $5 & Some Luck What if for a nominal $5 donation you could support a deserving cause while giving yourself a shot at experiencing something really awesome in return. ■ CPU / October 2012 15 . At Omaze you can. To increase your odds of winning. for the sizable growth that Juniper Research is predicting for smart TVs. or wired or wireless Ethernet connections. which Juniper attributes to a lack of fixed broadband connections. like going on the set with the cast of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. One global region where adoption isn’t flourishing is the Indian subcontinent. which account for billions of song listens among users who in turn share billions of song recommendations. Warner Music Group stated that when taking constant-currency issues into consideration.com reports that of the digital revenue Warner Music Group amassed for the quarter. about 8% of Warner Music Group’s total 3Q 2012 revenue. just get your social networking skills in gear and invite friends to take part to gain additional entries. and other streaming services. Overall. YouTube.

Network engineer Source: Dice.Job Of The Month The infamous Def Con hacking conference is known for its general disdain for authority.com Hiring Survey of 866 technology focused hiring managers and recruiters 16 October 2012 / www.com . Go to NSA. Mobile developer 3. Security 6. Now we’re the ones who have to keep it secure. National Security Agency Director Gen. Web developer 9. NET developer 4. anyway? 66. In fact.gov/RpBi8z 91. engineers.S. government’s top spooks. SharePoint 8. and mathematicians looking to protect and defend America in cyberspace. sale info View a retailer’s ad Get a store location Get product information Locate store that carries a particular product Access a retailer’s website Shop online Receive a text message from a retailer Read product/retailer reviews Make a purchase 62% 45% 44% 38% 35% 33% 29% 25% 18% 18% 14% Source: Deloitte 52% Share of cellphone owners who use their device while watching TV (Pew Internet & American Life Project) Top Ten Hardest Tech Jobs To Fill 1. read “War and Peace. 62% of people who are on more than one social network say they monitor updates because they fear they will miss something. Internet searches performed by Google (comScore) Get price information Get/download discounts. Put on your white hacking hat and become a cyber-counter-spy. Begging the question. these Def Con attendees may want to join a group at the NSA called the Cryptanalytic Computer Network Operations Development Program. college students who will use smartphones by 2016 (eMarketer) How Smartphone Owners Used Their Devices To Do Back-To-School Shopping 29.4% Share of U. According to a new Harris Interactive MyLife survey.S.computerpoweruser. 1. coupons.” said Alexander.usa. “We’re the ones who built this Internet.8% Share of online users who often use Microsoft Office (AYTM) The Facebook Impulse: What Did I Miss? For social media mavens. SAP 7. The same survey found that almost 40% of social media fans would rather do their taxes.” or wait in a DMV line than give up their social network profiles. Active federal security clearance 10. Java developer 2. Software developer 5. And so it was quite the surprise to see one of the U. appear on its Las Vegas stage this summer trying to recruit hackers. a three-year program for advanced computer scientists.S. who is coming up with these survey queries.8% Share of U. Keith Alexander.gov/careers to see an entire section of Cyber Careers. the compulsion to check their feeds is driven by a very simple need – not to miss out. and I think you folks can help do that.

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midtower cases have evolved from cheap buckets of bolts to the kinds of cases an enthusiast can be proud to bring to a LAN party. In this instance. getting thicker and longer in order to make insane overclocks thermally viable. you occasionally see a case maker introduce a stunning flagship midtower that puts that company’s full towers to shame.com Cooler Master HAF XM When Cooler Master releases a new case. the company is expanding its HAF family with a little brother for the HAF X. which is fine in our book. We may not need an expensive tower the size of a mini fridge for our components. The following cases are a great place to start. in many cases. we’ve assembled a magnificent seven of midtowers. and you’ll find one heck of a refined case. there’s very little to distinguish the HAF XM and HAF X. This month. the HAF XM. we no longer have to bide our time for cutting-edge features to trickle down to midtowers from their bigger siblings. because it affords 18 October 2012 / www.Mighty Midtowers Case Options From $40 To $130 T he urge to go all out is so widespread in enthusiast circles that it’s practically become a prerequisite to establish oneself among the power user elite. what’s wrong with going home? Chances are you know a few people who are perfectly content with a midrange system.) Up front. SLI becomes 3-way SLI. HAF XM | $129.com . there’s often a (well-deserved) precedent that’s already been set. Case in point: Cooler Master’s always excellent COSMOS cases. In short. It’s especially useful on the right side panel. The case’s extruded side panels are eye-catching and practical at the same time.computerpoweruser. so long as it gets the job done. Beyond that. Maybe you’re rocking a midrange rig yourself—no shame in that. whether your financing comes from a trust fund or underneath the couch cushion. there’s a quality midtower for you if you’re willing to look for it.99 | Cooler Master | www. (The tale of the tape puts the HAF X’s front panel fan at 230mm.coolermaster-usa. It’s go big or go home. so our selection ranges in price from $39. the nerd arms race is born. The steel and plastic HAF XM looks quite similar to the HAF X. Beyond that. Watercooling radiators bulk up both ways. Perform a flyover of the rest of the HAF XM. while the HAF XM’s fan is still a mighty impressive 200mm. but that doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifice features in our chassis simply because a smaller case makes more sense. thanks to a front panel that consists primarily of mesh and a red LED front panel fan.99 to $129. midtowers are no laughing matter. Of this. Perhaps Cooler Master itself says it best on the HAF XM’s microsite: “Don’t underestimate. Gradually.99. Well.” The HAF XM might be a few inches shorter than the HAF X but is by no means second banana. We wanted to cover both ends of the budget spectrum.

it’s the HAF XM’s internal smarts that Cooler Master starts you with a great foundation for cooling. (And while we’re on the subject. a 140mm rear panel fan takes care of exhaust. Elsewhere. The left side panel has a quick-release latch that lets you open the case and get down to business in record time. the top panel also has mounts for two 120mm or 140mm fans.9 inches long.com extra room to route cables behind the motherboard tray. The real highlight for us was the PSU cable shroud that runs along a good portion of the bottom panel.Barricade | $79.2-inch long graphics cards (should such a monster ever come into existence). you’ll have the clearance for utterly enormous 18. you can install up to two 120mm fans on the HAF XM’s internal drive cage. we’re seeing post-rebate prices online under $50.msi.5/3.99 Fractal Design | www. and you’re still looking at room for graphics cards up to 13. MSI Barricade The parade of affordable yet impressive midtowers continues with the MSI Interceptor Series Barricade. For all the thoughtful cooling options. Cooler Master starts you with a great foundation for cooling. If you pull out the HAF XM’s top internal 2. we liked the most.com Core 3000 | $74.5-inch drive bay cage. MSI wisely sacrifices a middle drive cage (honestly. Just don’t tell the HAF XM we said that. Otherwise.fractal-design. which gives the appearance of an even cleaner cabling job than many cases that have good cable management features. making it a prime candidate for 240mm or 280mm radiators. It conceals PSU cables where they originate from the PSU. and this is a lot of midtower for such a low price. These are the types of extra touches that we’ve come to expect from Cooler Master.99 MSI | us. In addition to the aforementioned 200mm front panel fan. The left side panel has mounts for another 200mm fan or two 140mm fans. with the option to add another 200mm fan. the HAF XM includes a 200mm top panel fan. and there are plenty of options for additional cooling. Finally. Put it all together. As of this writing. Leave the cage in. and there are plenty of options for additional cooling. CPU / October 2012 19 . you can opt to replace the left side with one that has a clear window instead of the fan mounts). and you have a midtower that that feels and performs like a full tower.

it doesn’t look outlandishly large for a Mini-ITX case.0 ports keep them company.0.5-inch or 3. which we reviewed last month. has an impressive fleet of midtowers at its disposal. We like the twin insets on the top panel for holding your phone or whatever. Fractal equips the Core 3000 with three fans by default. Up front. respectable case for a rock bottom price. as is the front panel USB 3.) As it turns out. Cabling can rout under the tray’s raised edge.3 inches or shorter. Just be careful not to lose the rubber covers for the two USB 2.computerpoweruser. It’s worked so far. but know that installing one restricts you to a PSU 6. A 140mm fan is installed. Top to bottom. giving you an ample 16 inches for graphics cards. the Core 3000 is a little more compact than the Define R4. and 5. and the speed sliders for the front and top (optional) fans is a sweet perk.5 inches long. which is headquartered in Sweden.99 | Zalman | www. the construction is very solid while remaining portably light. “Fractal Design” is etched into the front panel above the case’s two 5. if desired. (For example. a 140mm fan included. The mesh shield on top snaps out for easy cleaning.9 x 7. It supports Mini-ITX. Based on its dimensions (16. yet Fractal has engineered the chassis to accommodate some serious power hardware. In fact.who puts more than four drives in a sub$80 case?) in trade for clearer airflow from the two 120mm front LED fans back to the first few motherboard slots. you can pull one of the Core 3000’s internal drive bays to make room for a graphics card up to 16. headphone and mic jacks and a battery of four USB 2. one USB 3. you’ll find the Core 3000’s power and reset buttons. The two 120mm holes on top are perfect for a radiator right next to the back panel’s two rubberized tubing holes. and the two bottom filters (one under the PSU and the other under another 120mm fan hole) also conveniently slide out. assembly is tool-less save for mounting either 2.zalman. but it’s so subtle that it’s actually refreshing.25-inch external bays. we think the Core 3000’s size works in its favor. The company. the motherboard tray. The bottom panel has mounts for a 120mm fan. Physically.9 x 18.9 inches).0 cable that snakes out the back for plugging into your I/O ports. microATX. (See page 19. MSI builds a generously sized tinted window into the left panel.com 20 October 2012 / www. and you have the option to add another 140mm fan or two 120mm Fractal Design Core 3000 This wouldn’t be a midtower roundup if we didn’t include an offering from Fractal Design. Let’s talk a little about cooling.com . and its white blades are striking when set against the Core 3000’s black interior.5-inch drives in the squeeze-clip trays. with a 17-pound weight and steel-with-plastic construction. though. all of Fractal’s cases adhere to an unwavering design ethos: sleek and minimalist with an emphasis on cooling and acoustics. and SD card reader slots. and there’s a slot below it to add a 120mm fan. The case’s front panel consists of mesh ventilation and little else.) It’s rare that a space-saving case gives you this kind of flexibility. removable drive sleds. and ATX motherboards. The rear panel has a 120mm fan. and there are plenty of spots for securing zip ties. held in place by clips so you can remove the panel for cleaning. Inside. The magic happens up top. Bottom line: a feature-rich.0. Speaking of side panels. and so it comes as no surprise that the Core 3000 is another winner. Z9 U3 | $74.25-inch drive bay screws are all bright blue. At the front of the top panel. Airflow is a high priority for Fractal with the Core 3000.

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Inside.) The rest of the front panel is a fine plastic mesh that also looks highquality. As such. Predator | $64. this should be at the top of your list. it certainly looks like there’s enough clearance for a 240mm/280mm radiator. (Here. the combined look pops to the point that we just stared at it for a few minutes. The rest of the Core 3000 is aces. The bottom of the front panel has a particularly slick design—it’s wild without being zany—and the left side panel has a generous acrylic window that will showcase the components of your build.fans. pick whatever you like for the other mount. You might have to sacrifice the top 5. and although there’s obviously more than enough room for the small form factor. The motherboard tray has three holes to aid in cable management.computerpoweruser. as well as a good-sized CPU cutout.com Zalman Z9 U3 Perennial frontrunner Zalman is back with a new and improved version of its popular Z9 case. (So choose those components carefully.diablotek. The Core 3000 is a lot of case for a little scratch. because they’ll be on full The Z9 U3 is a sturdy steel chassis with plastic accents where it looks good and makes sense. polish it. 22 October 2012 / www. Eyeballing the internal dimensions. Zalman supplies one blue LED 120mm fan. which your power supply will surely appreciate. a testament to Fractal’s pursuit of minimalism. the Z9 U3 does it right. it’s that sharp—again. and they have vibration-dampening silicone grommets. Yes. and the side panels have grooved handholds that make them easy to slide back and off. but even the thought of this is epic in a crazy sort of way. The case supports microATX and ATX motherboards.) Thumbscrews secure the side panels. The drive trays themselves easily slide in and out. proving that if it ain’t broke. by the way) and rear expansion slot covers are white to match the rear panel fan. If you’re a fan of understated yet powerful.99 | Diablotek | www. The top panel has more of the same mesh over the two 120mm fan mounts.25inch drive bay depending on the thickness of the radiator and the attached fans. The Z9 U3 is a sturdy steel chassis with plastic accents where it looks good and makes sense. A small square cutout in the upper-right corner of the motherboard . plenty of builder-friendly features. the Z9 U3 has a solid design. and update it so that it continues to dominate. securing a good mental image before we installed any hardware.com display. tweak it. The drive trays (which support 2. you’ll find that it’s far from crowded inside the chassis even with an ATX board installed. The space below the motherboard tray is essentially one giant channel for cable management. and a few extras that we know come from having years of experience creating cases tailored for enthusiasts.5-inch drives.

the Predator is a case that really sneaks up on you. the Cyclops.7 x 7.thermaltakeusa. the extra fans you get with it makes everything come out in a wash. Now. The dimensions are virtually identical: The Predator measures 17. You start with two 120mm LED fans preinstalled behind the front panel. Also. is cooling. From here. so Zalman included a 14-inch extension cable that will more than make up for a PSU with short cables. we think trading two 5.elogisys. two 120mm top. Given that the Cyclops has a $15 price premium. one 140mm side LED). Although the Cyclops starts you off with more fans out of the box (one 120mm front LED. though. and motherboard power cables.99 Thermaltake | www. Diablotek Predator Last month. We’re also dealing with two steel cases that have plastic accents in roughly the same spots.com CPU / October 2012 23 . The front panel has a built-in two-channel fan controller. and you have the option to install a 120mm rear fan and up to four 120mm side panel fans. and a built-in LED temperature display.) Here we have another Diablotek midtower with an equally imposing handle. Based on appearances alone. Apollo Creed. and the former Governor of Minnesota through a sweltering jungle. we tend toward the Predator’s greater flexibility. which is relatively common. while the Cyclops comes in at 18. Obviously a plastic bag isn’t going to make or break the Z9 U3. the cases start to diverge. with the case’s excellent cable management channels. Just about the CPU cooler cutout (that should easily be able to handle and mounting backplate you throw at it) is a tiny cutout just big enough for an 8-pin EPS12V CPU power cable and the fan power cables for the Z9 U3’s rear and top panel fans. and in the Z9 U3. which is relatively not.5 x 7.tray is perfectly sized for the Z9 U3’s front panel cables. Let’s grab our wrist blades and combi-sticks and dig in. those 8-pin CPU power connectors are notoriously in the most inconvenient spot on a motherboard.4 x 18.0 ports cable to a motherboard’s rear I/O. the Predator gives you more options for expanding cooling down the road.25-inch external bays (the Predator has three to the Cyclops’ Commander MS-I Snow Edition | $59.6 inches. SATA. one 120mm rear. A company that doesn’t cut corners on the little things isn’t likely to cut corners on the big things. Like an intergalactic extra-terrestrial people poacher stalking the T-800. but it’s nonetheless important. under the microscope. but Zalman included a blanking plate for one of the case’s seven rear expansion slots. arguably.5 inches (HxWxD).3 x 18. (See page 27. that pass-through cable is almost completely unobtrusive.com 368 SOHO | $39. Even the plastic bag that contains the case’s various fasteners and zip ties is thick and resealable. the Predator is quite similar to the Cyclops. You can’t go wrong with either. The Z9 U3’s two front panel USB 3. The biggest difference. The little things make a good thing that much better. so.99 Logisys | www. but all things considered. below that are two goodsized rectangular cutouts to accommodate PCI-E. we put one of Diablotek’s relatively new cases. it shows.

It’s wickedly eye-catching. we have Cooler Master’s $129. by the way). and one 120mm bottom. You get a reliable. The Commander MS-I Snow Edition also has the following fan mounts: one 120mm front. the Predator provides room enough for a trio of dual-slot graphics cards (up to 13 inches long.0 ports and audio jacks for a headset and mic. The white paint job is one thing. but the glossy plastic front is what will turn heads.25-inch and 3. the one who parks his Z28 Camaro on the front lawn because “Only The Man uses driveways. But we digress.0 ports that cable to an internal header and the LED fans. a $39.99 case that’s excellent for budget buyers. the Thermaltake Commander MS-I Snow Edition is the wild child in this family of midtowers. you’ll quickly see that this case is built for discriminating enthusiasts.5-inch drive bays are tool-less.0 peripheral. Thermaltake’s new Commander is also available with an all-black exterior. but sharp angles everywhere define this case as a rebel.” The one whose idea of a power breakfast is Red Bull over Cheerios. Pairs of easy to remove thumbscrews keep the 368 SOHO’s side panels in place. If you really want to spice things up. You can install an 80mm/120mm front panel fan and an 80mm side panel fan.99) has a bold red front panel and interior. for example) is what we like about Diablotek’s cases. It’s definitely a good look. and that sits below the 368 SOHO’s front panel ports (two USB 2. SATA. and if it doesn’t turn heads at your next LAN party. The case itself is primarily black steel. The “shine” that’s here (two USB 3. Thermaltake throws in a few extras that are welcome on a case that will only lighten wallets by three Jacksons. and there’s a Kensington security slot on the rear panel. the Commander MS-I Epic Edition ($64. Plastic mesh covers the top and bottom thirds of the front panel. there’s Logisys’ 368 SOHO. one 120mm top. or ATX motherboard in the 368 SOHO.0 port that cables to an internal motherboard header. We’ll take the extra airflow. five) for an additional 120mm front fan is a power move. The case includes a 120mm rear panel fan. a definite boon for anyone who wants fast and easy access for a USB 3.com . Working with the Predator is largely a frustration-free affair. The Predator feels light but sturdy—always a good combination. Thermaltake Commander MS-I Snow Edition Based on exteriors alone. Once you pop off the Commander MS-I Snow Edition’s side panel. The Commander MS-I Snow Edition is carved out of steel and plastic and will accommodate microATX and ATX motherboards.25-inch external drive bay has a springloaded cover for hiding your optical drive. thanks. Most of the case’s drive bays have tool-less retention mechanisms. On the other end. the Thermaltake Commander MS-I Snow Edition is the wild child in this family Logisys 368 SOHO On one end of the price spectrum for this issue. of midtowers. you are officially gaming with the dullest people on the planet. The motherboard tray is positively loaded with cutouts for cable management. Like Fractal Design’s Core 3000. The one who didn’t go to college because “Awesome” wasn’t a major. There are four cable management holes. and three smaller holes are for individual PCI-E. The Predator’s a great deal. and that fan has blue LEDs that will surely light up your gamer cave when the lights are out. You can’t go wrong with any of them. The 368 SOHO makes a nice first impression. The PSU bay has a dust filter. as the Predator is laid out in a way that makes it easy to install components.Based on exteriors alone. high-quality case with extra flavor at a nice price. fear not. Seriously. And if white isn’t your thing. then tell us the case is satisfied with a restrained exterior. you can install a Mini-ITX microATX.5 inches long inside the case. The largest is reserved for the PSU cable bundle. The rear panel has an 80mm fan installed next to the opening for a motherboard’s rear I/O panel. as we’re sure you can guess by now. so you can open up the case and 24 October 2012 / www. there’s ample room to install a high-end graphics card or several: It’s possible to install graphics cards up to 12. The front panel has a USB 3. yo. let’s let the Predator be its own case. The silver-colored square power button sits below the Logisys logo and looks good. allowing for ample ventilation. It support microATX and ATX motherboards.99 HAF XM. too. Diablotek understands builders. and other cables.computerpoweruser. You know. But enough comparisons. take one look at the Commander MS-I Snow Edition’s front and left side panels. but the flourishes of red are what really make a statement. The top 5. Although the drive cages are fixed. flip out the handle and the panel pops off easily. The 5. and with seven expansion slots. But when you need to get inside the case. Each side panel has a folding handle located by the rear panel that stays out of the way under most circumstances. Most of the front panel is black.

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99 19.0 audio I/O 2 120mm top 1 120mm front 1 120mm bottom 1 120/140mm top 1 120/140mm side 2 120mm top 4 120mm side 1 120mm rear 1 120mm front 1 120mm top 1 120mm bottom 1 80/120mm front 1 80mm side 2 120mm LED front 1 120mm rear 1 140mm front 1 120mm rear 1 140mm top 2 120mm LED front 1 120mm LED rear 1 80mm rear 26 October 2012 / www.0 audio I/O 1 USB 3.0 audio I/O 2 USB 3.7 x 7. inches) 20. The PSU supplies 16A of current over its 12V rail and uses one of Logisys’ 120mm Hydro Bearing fans to maintain a low noise profile. in truth. We really liked the 368 SOHO’s front panel and think that this case is a smart pick for a budget build or a family PC.5-inch internal mATX.5-inch internal 3 5. All of the cases turned out to be solidly built.1 x 8 x 16.5/3.5-inch internal 3 5. ■ BY VINCE COGLEY & WILLIAM VAN WINKLE Logisys 368 SOHO MSI Barricade Diablotek Predator Thermaltake Commander MS-I Snow Edition $59. mATX.2 x 7. so 10. ATX mATX.5-inch internal 1 5. From there.be ready to work with minimal effort. make an inventory of the features and appearance you want in your case.25-inch external 1 3.3 x 17. and get going. With such a wide range of prices.0 2 USB 2.5-inch internal 1 2. ATX Mini-ITX.5/3.9 18. ATX mATX.99 $39.25-inch external [though the 368 SOHO’s front panel ports occupy one bay].1 x 19. ATX Price $129. which is.9 x 18.25-inch external 4 3. ATX Mini-ITX. for example.9 x 9.25-inch external 8 2. E-ATX Bays 3 5.computerpoweruser.5-inch internal 3 5.99 $64.50-inch internal) is fixed.9 x 22.8 17.1 x 17.25-inch external 1 3.5-inch internal 1 3.0 2 USB 2.8 Motherboard support mATX.3 x 18. ATX. the first thing to look for when selecting a case.0 audio I/O 2 USB 2.5/3.99 Fans (included) 1 200mm LED front 1 200mm top 1 140mm rear Fans (optional) 1 200mm or 2 120/140mm top 1 200mm or 2 140mm side 2 120mm HDD cage Front panel 2 USB 3. six 3. Worry not. mATX.8 mATX.6 x 7.com .8 $79.0 1 USB 2.7 16. and with the case’s seven expansion slots.5-inch external or 2.25-inch external 5 3.25-inch external 6 3. you can build a plenty powerful system inside the case if you’re so inclined.5 16.25-inch external 5 3.25 inches is the upper threshold for the length of graphics cards you can install in the case.0 fan controller temp display audio I/O 2 USB 3.9 x 7.5-inch internal 1 120mm LED front 1 120mm rear 1 120mm LED top 1 120mm top 1 120/140mm bottom 3 5.99 Dimensions (HxWxD. ATX 16.0 2 USB 2. though—there’s more than enough room for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti. A Little Bit Of Everything We’re pleased to report that our menagerie of midtowers has something Fractal Design Core 3000 Zalman Z9 U3 for everyone.3 x 8.0 1 SD card audio I/O 4 USB 2. Specs Cooler Master HAF XM The unique (to this roundup) feature is a preinstalled 480W power supply.0 audio I/O LED switch 1 USB 3. you can pick a midtower that agrees with both your budget and the rest of the components you have picked out for your build.5-inch external 5 3.99 $74.99 $74.5-inch internal 1 2.5-inch internal 3 5.25-inch external 6 2.5/5. The drive cage (four 5. You can’t go wrong with any of these.

4 SATA 3Gbps.0. and VTT.11a/b/g/n. One key highlight for overclockers is the All Digital PWM controller that monitors and manages the power sent to the Intel processor. ■ BY Benchmark Results 3DMark 11 Extreme 3DMark Overall Graphics Score Physics Score Combined Score Graphics Test 1 Graphics Test 2 Graphics Test 3 Graphics Test 4 Physics Test Combined Test PCMark 7 Overall Productivity Creativity Entertainment Computation System Storage Processor Arithmetic Dhrystone SSE4.gigabyte. audio I/O Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K. the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH offers a number of other features that make it a solid choice for enthusiasts. 1 PCI. 2 Thunderbolt. CPU / October 2012 27 .01 17. and you can utilize GIGABYTE’s 3D Power Utility to obtain a stable overclock by making changes to the voltage protection. 3 PCI-E x1. GIGABYTE enhances the storage interface by adding a Marvell 88SE9172 chip that gives you an extra 6Gbps SATA port and a 6Gbps eSATA port on the back panel. If you’re looking to invest in a 3rd Generation Intel processor. load-line calibration. For high-quality audio.99 | GIGABYTE www. Even better.GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UD5 TH E arly last year. 1 DVI-D. Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300.12 20. where they won’t be covered up by graphics cards or a large CPU cooler.5 52. and PWM frequency. 16XAF) * points ** pixels per second GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH X4001 3675 9375 4621 18. 1 HDMI.13 30.7 Beta** Games Metro 2033 (4XAA.53 1317. memory. reset. RAM: 16GB Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600. a high-speed interface (twice as fast as USB 3.6 311. you’d be hard-pressed to find a more feature-filled motherboard than the GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UD5 TH. In addition to the Thunderbolt ports. The slots share bandwidth and run at x8/x4/x4 speeds if three graphics cards are connected. 1 6Gbps eSATA.2 (GIPS) Whetstone iSSE3 (GFLOPS) Processor Multi-Media x16 Multi-Media Integer iAVX (Mpixels per second) x16 Multi-Media Float iAVX (Mpixels per second) x8 Multi-Media Double iAVX (Mpixels per second) Memory Bandwidth Integer Memory Bandwidth B/F AVX/128 (GBps) Floating Memory Bandwidth B/F AVX/128 (GBps) Media Transcode Transcode WMV (KBps) Transcode H264 (KBps) Cinebench 11. The board can automatically adjust voltages to ensure reliable power. we were captivated by the release of Thunderbolt.5 CPU* POV-Ray 3. 1 Gigabit Ethernet. 1 mSATA. GIGABYTE gives the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. and Wi-Fi connectivity gives you plenty of options for future I/O. the two slots will both run at x8 speeds. 3 SATA 6Gbps. Power users building for a gaming system will like that GA-Z77X-UP5 offers three PCI-E x16 slots.91 18.1 21.us 20. With two cards. the board’s Thunderbolt. and clear CMOS in the upper right corner. Slots: 3 PCI-E x16.78 35.89 5247 5241 5129 5189 5435 5143 SiSoftware Sandra 2012 SP1 Lite 121. as well as convenient support for multiple monitors. In our testing. GIGABYTE provides a Z77 motherboard that features two Intel-certified Thunderbolt ports. OS: Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit) Games tested at 2.56 173. with overall marks of X4001 in 3DMark 11 and 5247 in PCMark 7. with good spacing between the PCI-E x16 slots. With the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH. Rear I/O: 1 VGA. GIGABYTE built in support for X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX Advanced HD 5.0 ports. thanks to the included GC-WB300D expansion card that fits into a free PCI-E x1 slot. Board layout was smart. Another helpful tool is the board’s dual BIOS.3 93. Overclockers will like that GIGABYTE included voltage measurement points and onboard buttons for power.560 x 1. Predator (4XAA. Storage. The Thunderbolt ports let you to daisy chain up to 12 devices as well as two digital displays at the same time. which provides you with a quick recovery if the first BIOS goes bad or a flashing error occurs.0) that supports both external storage devices and monitors.45 12. The expansion card supports Bluetooth 4.2 NATHAN LAKE 224.0 and 802. GIGABYTE indicates that each port supports bi-directional data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps.3 Specs: Max memory: 32GB (DDR3-1600). 2 USB 2.600. Bluetooth. 16XAF) Aliens vs. GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 (2x.0.45 GA-Z77X-UP5 TH $219. 4 USB 3. SLI). the GA-Z77X UP5 TH performed well.1 974 941 7.

you’ll see columns for fan speed. A single Molex connector will power the entire unit. green.25inch bays in your PC’s chassis. but power per fan channel. The accessory lets you to control the RPMs of five fans and features five temperature sensors that you can strategically place to monitor temps of key components.computerpoweruser. as well as adjust the current fan speed for each of the connected fans.99. and the unit will sound a beeping alarm for 20 seconds. ■ BY NATHAN LAKE Touch-2100 $69. You also have the option to turn off the backlight completely for environments where the bright LCD would bother others (or yourself ). fans require not with Aerocool’s Touch-2100.Aerocool Touch-2100 your PC when it’s Aerocool that TouchK eepingwithcan be a coolhot-running 2100 supportsindicates Mostofthe watts of filled high-end. light blue. a maximum 25 components challenge. current temperature. For $69. We also thought the crisp LCD added some elegance to the front panel of our test system. blue. and pink. For instance. If a thermal probe registers a temperature beyond the alarm temperature. and the temperature monitors will automatically ramp up fan speed if necessary. as the fan and temperature sensors readings appear in a spreadsheet-style grid. to the Touch2100 front panel. as well as headset and mic jacks. Aerocool even included a couple of spare fan cables to help you add fans to a given channel.us Specs: Fan connectors: 5. Screen: 5-inch color LCD. you’ll be able to add convenient control of most. You can set the alarm temperature. From left to right. For temperature monitoring. Front panel size: 2x 5. Aerocool also smartly added two USB 3. which is handy if you’d like to match the LCD to your build’s color scheme. if not all. with the 5-inch LCD touchscreen filling most of the space. of the fans inside your case.0. we were able to pull away one of the cables to place a sensor on the second ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 in our test build. Ports: 2 USB 3. If you need a capable.com .25-inch bays 28 October 2012 / www. the fan associated with that probe will operate a full speed.aerocool. the five sensors are strung together in a stranded hook-up wire that you can easily pull apart to give the flexibility necessary to reach all areas of the case. it’s tough to do better than the Touch-2100.99 Aerocool www.0 ports (which connect to a motherboard’s internal header). audio I/O. and alarm temperature. and you have the ability to select from up to seven backlight colors. Temperature monitors: 5. so you’d be able to daisy chain a couple of fans together if you needed to control more than five system fans. only five to seven watts at maximum speed. yellow/gold. Text and numbers were crisp and easy to read. greatlooking command center for your system fans. purple. The Touch-2100 has a smart design. The Touch-2100 requires two 5. Color options include red.

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enable and disable DTS Surround Sensation mode. Audio performance was excellent. This headset features an over-the-head design with large trapezoidal earcups that completely cover the ears. To swap the cushions. and make bass enhancement adjustments. and the highly configurable software makes this headset ideal for gamers who like to tweak. and a combination of glossy red and black plastic and black metal mesh adorn the earcups. but you can also get a virtual 5. put the Shock One on your short list. The software lets you control mic and master volume levels. seem to produce a fuller.3dB) sensitivity. and cycle between Movie and Music Specs: Drivers: 40mm.Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One W e featured a roundup of gaming headsets in last month’s issue. RTS. You also get access to a number of environmental delay and reverb effects and can also use the utility to improve voice clarity. The Thermaltake SHOCK One software lets you manually adjust equalizer settings or apply one of three preset modes optimized for FPS.1 surround sound experience in your movies and games thanks to DTS Surround Sensation technology. but a couple didn’t reach us until after we went to press. just pull them outward with a gentle tug and click the alternate cushions in place. ■ BY ANDREW LEIBMAN Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One $109. a switch on the headset’s in-line control box controls the LEDs. The mic itself is a bidirectional noise cancelling unit with a -45dB (+/.com 30 October 2012 / www. Connector: USB settings.computerpoweruser.99 Thermaltake usa. The felt-covered ear cushions. One of the more unique features we really appreciated is the two pairs of ear cushions Thermaltake ships with the SHOCK One. less muffled audio experience. The drivers in the earcups are 40mm each. one pair with a breathable felt covering and another with a protein leather covering. which gives it a more durable feel. Thermaltake’s Tt eSPORTS SHOCK One is one that we wanted to make sure you consider before making your final decision. however. and the USB connector is gold-plated for better connectivity. the latter of which does a better job of blocking external sounds. The adjustable portion of the headband is a matte black plastic. The next time you upgrade your headset. The headband is composed of glossy plastic with a large Tt eSPORTS logo on the top side and a soft protein leather cushion on the underside. In-line controller: Yes.ttesports. The flexible mic boom rotates approximately 120 degrees so you can fold it up when you don’t need it. and MMORPGs. Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz. We liked the feel of the Thermaltake SHOCK One and the lightweight materials really made a difference in our comfort level after several hours of gaming. There’s a red LED-lit Tt logo on either earcup.com . respectively. The cabling is covered in braided fabric.

full mids. That’s a good thing because even a light headset can get heavy over the course of an extended gaming session. ■ BY ANDREW LEIBMAN Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7. VoIP calls. The cushions themselves feature memory foam.1 surround sound capabilities using HRTF (headrelated transfer function) to deliver accurate positional audio for more realistic gaming and immersive moviewatching experiences. listening to music.1 Gaming Headset $149. has an overthe-head design with large earcups that completely cover the ears. and thick and heavy lows. 20Hz to 20kHz. We also like the brushed aluminum look of the headset. so you come across loud and clear to whomever you’re speaking with. The headband is padded and covered with faux leather. Considering the size of the drivers and the quality of the components. Overall. then Corsair’s Vengeance 2000 is a solid buy. 10-hour battery life CPU / October 2012 31 .1 and 5. or chat sessions. we were surprised with how light the unit is. and although the difference between it and the foam ear cushions on many of the headsets we’ve tested isn’t immediately apparent. which is composed entirely of plastic. or watching video. reproducing crisp highs.3dB) sensitivity. But this A headset also offers 7. The mic has a 100Hz to 10kHz frequency response and a -37dB (+/.com Specs: Drivers: 50mm.99 Corsair www. Connector: wireless/USB. This headset. In-line controller: On can.Corsair Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7. The large drivers handle stereo and surround sound sources exceptionally well. this headset was easily one of the more comfortable ones to wear for long periods. each with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. you’ll notice how comfortable the Vengeance set remains even after a couple hours of gaming. The Vengeance 2000 has an effective wireless range of up to 40 feet and a USB charging cable that lets you go wired if the integrated rechargeable battery runs out. Under that soft padding and a thin layer of blue fabric are two large 50mm drivers. You can also adjust the angle of the mic at the end of the boom. and the earcups too are padded and covered with soft felt.1 Gaming Headset nother gaming headset that didn’t make it into last month’s headset roundup is the Corsair Vengeance 2000. It includes a flexible adjustable boom mic and a unique volume wheel on the left earcup. This headset performed admirably with the stereo sources we listened to. Mic: 100Hz to 10 kHz. however. If you’re shopping for a new headset. That’s not likely to happen very often. The unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone rotates up and out of the way when you aren’t using it and back down approximately 120 degrees when you want to communicate in games. the Vengeance 2000 has a 10-hour battery life. like the others.corsair.

973 92% typical 140mm 6 (6+2-pin) 1 (20+4-pin) 2 (4+4-pin) 12 4 1 8. ■ BY CHRIS TRUMBLE Specs PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W 1. PC Power & Cooling designed this PSU with efficiency in mind. capable of running the vast majority of enthusiast-class PCs with power to spare. There’s a lot to like about this PSU. thanks to its selectable Silent Mode. the Mk III 1200W barely made any noise. OS: Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit) 32 October 2012 / www. with multiple high-end graphics cards? The Mk III 1200W is ready and willing. If you want power but you’re also trying to avoid a PC that sounds like a taxiing jumbo jet.25 inches 7 years Rated continuous (W) 12V rails +12V max (A) +5V max (A) +3.200W power supplies are no longer the max power kings of the market. it’s also freakishly quiet. and on the final run-through. so we ran our tests three more times. Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300. this is obviously a lot of power. You want to run a dual-CPU rig. and we run them each three times to get an accurate set of results. which indicates that the Mk III 1200W is certified to be at least 92% efficient at 50% load. cable bend) Warranty Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i73770K. The takeaway here is that the Silencer lives up to its name. Although 1. SLI). But it’s not just strong—it’s smart.3V max (A) SLI/CrossFire-ready Max wattage tested Power factor tested Efficiency rating (advertised) Fan(s) PCI-E Main 12V 8-pin EPS 12V SATA 4-pin Molex Floppy Length (incl.Silencer Mk III 1200W $349 | PC Power & Cooling www. When we hook PSUs up to our power tester.com PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W and PC Cooling have above the cable O CZpowerful Poweroff&supply newest.200 @ 50 C 1 99. we repeated this process in Silent Mode.5 20 20 Yes 584 . Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH. which we are happy to report is more than just a marketing slogan. from its trendy white finish to its Silent Mode capability. the fan finally kicked in.Mkpower1200Wport) taken the wraps of the from Normal to and the unit’s fan most power in the won’t spin up the III hits Silencer Mk III series. rear panel (rightuntilSilent.com . forcing the fan to kick in became a quest. and through the first three sets of running both benchmarks. At this point. as we discovered in our tests. the Silencer Mk III 1200W’s fan never moved.computerpoweruser. too. GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 580 (2x. Even then. the Silencer Mk III 1200W. we simultaneously run a pair of benchmarks designed to push the CPU and GPUs fairly hard. this semi-modular PC Power & Cooling unit should be on your (very) short list.pcpower. and the result is an 80 Plus Platinum rating. And. Just slide the selector switch on the PSU’s 50% load and/or certain thermal thresholds. Just for fun.

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8fps in Just Cause 2.4a. you should expect a 10dB noise level reduction when the card is under full load. one HDMI 1.com . a base clock frequency of 915MHz. Additionally.033MHz (1.ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition N VIDIA’s GeForce GTX 680 and 670 are both powerful cards. the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is a little more cost-competitive. Both cards offer 2GB of GDDR5 memory. which are both increases of around 13%.8 1094 1. you’ll find one DisplayPort 1.033MHz and the Boost clock up to 1.4 103. respectively.26 26. 16XAF) Driver: Forceware ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition $329.652MHz for a boost of 10%. PSU: FSP Group CM Gold 750W.2GBps) than the 670 (192. Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300.45 26.2. and a Boost clock of 980MHz—all of which are the same as the stock GeForce GTX 670. 16XAF) Aliens vs.37 54. and 48. At around $300.9fps in Aliens vs. ZOTAC bumps the core clock up to 1. NVIDA also reduced the GK104 GPU’s ROPs from 32 to 24.19 45. rather than the GTX 670’s 256-bit interface. but with a typical price tag of around $500 and $400. ZOTAC also ups the memory frequency from 1. We noted in our testing that the card’s fans seemed quieter at full load than the exhaust fan in our system case. but we test at the highest settings.111MHz Boost) 1. Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5.4fps in Metro 2033. Metro 2033 and Aliens vs.42 62.560 x 1. Display: Dell 3007WFP 34 October 2012 / www.200 39. so it’ll comfortably inside most cases.502MHz to 1.8 48. 16XAF) Just Cause 2 (8XAA.200: 39.92 40. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition produced playable frame rates in our game tests at 1.44 32. ZOTAC’s GeForce 660 Ti AMP! Edition With the GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition.99 ZOTAC www.111MHz. you’ll find Dual Silencer enhanced cooling fans that ZOTAC indicates provides you with temperatures that are 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the standard GTX 660 Ti cooler.99 1.920 x 1.2GBps).600 22. RAM: 16GB Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600.652MHz 192-bit 2GB GDDR5 P8310 8765 7383 6920 40.600.8 305.344 CUDA cores. 103. Predator.” you’ll find on the GeForce GTX 680 and 670. ■ BY Specs & Scores Price Core clock Memory clock Memory interface Memory 3DMark 11 Performance Overall Graphics Score Physics Score Combined Score Graphics Test 1 Graphics Test 2 Graphics Test 3 Graphics Test 4 Physics Test Combined Test Unigine Heaven FPS Score Games Metro 2033 (4X MSAA.68 NATHAN LAKE GeForce GTX 660 TI AMP! Edition $329. and one DVI-D. 16XAF) Just Cause 2 (8XAA.8 23. Get To Know The GTX 660 Ti The GeForce GTX 660 Ti is built with the same GK104 GPU. We also liked that the card was only 7. which should lower its antialiasing capabilities. and ZOTAC’s factory overclocks and cooling will help to ensure that you’re getting the most of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti. codenamed “Kepler. Predator (4XAA. You could reduce some visual effects to see playable frame rates at this higher resolution. It utilizes N V I D I A’s n e w S M X ( St re a m i n g Multiprocessor) architecture and GPU Boost for efficient power usage. 16XAF) Aliens vs. Predator (4XAA.560 x 1. The primary difference between the GeForce GT X 670 and GT X 660 Ti cards is that the 660 Ti o f f e r s a ro u n d 3 3 % l e s s m e m o r y bandwidth (144. For GPU cooling. one DVI-I (works with VGA via the included adapter). We got the chance to benchmark ZOTAC’s GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition to give you an idea of what it has to offer.com Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i73770K. but the GTX 660 Ti operates with a 192-bit interface. the they’re not in everyone’s price range. For video outputs.600 and works w i t h N V I D I A’s Su r ro u n d technology. Predator dropped below 30fps. Enthusiasts who don’t want to break the bank on a graphics card will find that the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition should capably handle today’s games. All video outputs are HDCP-compliant.560 x 1.zotacusa. At 2.920 x 1.9 2.computerpoweruser. 16XAF) Metro 2033 (4X MSAA. The stock GeForce TTX 660 Ti provides you with 1.53 inches long. The graphics card offers a maximum resolution of 2.

and it has the performance to back up the style. but it could be helpful during particularly intense gaming sessions where you’re moving around the keyboard. It’s a simple and striking use of contrast that makes the keyboard stand out quite a bit in the crowd of black chassis alternatives. 6-key rollover) or one with additional features designed specifically for gamers (PS/2. for instance. We also liked the four non-slip pads on the bottom of the keyboard. N-key rollover: 104 keys with PS/2 connection CPU / October 2012 35 .rosewill. the keys themselves stand out. one with USB-to-Mini USB connectors and the other with PS/2-to-Mini USB. the pads actually held it firmly in place.com Specs: Interface: USB. The key clicks are nice and loud. providing aural as well as tactile feedback. Using the PS/2 connection provides n-key rollover for as many as 104 key presses at once while the USB connection features 6-key rollover. unlike some other keyboards. Whether you need a solid keyboard for regular usage (USB.99 Rosewill www. with gold-plated connectors. It may not seem like an overly important addition. The RK-9000I comes with two cables. and symbols are in a larger font. It certainly looks the part. so you can find the key you need with a quick downward glance. the RK-9000I is a great fit. Both cables are braided and durable. with the two-part click feedback of the Cherry MX Blue switch itself and then the key hitting the chassis. letters. a custom PC case built to look like a storm trooper helmet. In addition to the keyboard’s striking black-and-white design. Once you’ve found the right keys.Rosewill RK-9000I special limited T he RK-9000I is aand features black edition of Rosewill’s popular mechanical gaming keyboard keys on a white chassis. then this keyboard was made for you. quickly hitting different shortcuts and hotkeys. The Rosewill RK-9000I is a special limited edition in every sense of the word. And if you own. PS/2. The actual laser-printed numbers. We noticed that. Cherry MX Blue mechanical keyswitches. you’ll find them to be highly responsive. 104-key). ■ BY JOSH COMPTON RK-9000I $99.

9 inches (HxWxD). The Abyss wins points for its unique style.3 x 19. Budget buyers wanting something a bit different will be pleased. The air vents under the PSU bay and the adjacent 120mm mounts both have side-tabbed.Diablotek Abyss White F or those who like clean simplicity but are bored with black and brushed aluminum.5-inch external. and two rubber-grommeted watercooling holes. Builders should have no problem putting together a clean-looking system with this midtower.5-inch internal. 1 3. tool-less assembly.computerpoweruser. and additional white LEDs are wired above the fan and above the 5. The Abyss can accomodate graphics cards up to 13 inches long. Bays: 4 5.25-inch bays for more decoration.2 x 8. five internal) drive bays have twist-knob tool-less locking mounts.25inch external. Finally. securely attached rubber-padded feet. The Abyss has a little more flair that cashstrapped enthusiasts will appreciate.com . seven expansion slots.com Specs: Dimensions: 17. and excellent attention to smooth edges inside the case. Add a CPU cooler cutout. the Abyss has a pair of USB 3. The front panel has plenty of mesh for ventilation. 5 3. The rear panel is stocked with an opening for a PSU.0 ports that cable to an internal motherboard header. The Abyss gives you a lot of musthave features for under $70. and you have a case that’s very easy to work with. slide-out mesh filters.12 lbs. you’ll find a decent number of cable management holes along the edge of the motherboard tray. Weight: 12. 1 120mm bottom (optional) 36 October 2012 / www. Fans: 1 120mm LED front. Diablotek has you covered.diablotek. if glossy eggshell white will match your computing decor and you’re on a budget.99 Diablotek www. A clear 120mm fan with white LEDs comes preinstalled behind the easily removable front panel. More to the point. The tinted left side panel window is impressively large and showcases a good portion of the Abyss’ interior. Most of the four 5. At the front of the top panel.5-inch (one external.25-inch and six 3. white may be the next big thing. 1 120mm rear. ■ BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE Abyss White $69. a white-bladed 120mm exhaust fan..

The single universal backplate and base clip design is impressively versatile. AMD FM1.5GHz Turbo Boost) 66/68 71/74 68/71 69/72 68. there are bolts that mount through the base clips and screw into nuts placed in the backplate. this time under both tests. the big question is whether it’s worth $55.5/72.25/33 Load 52/55 54/58 51/54 55/57 53/56 Load 46/48 49/51 45/47 49/50 47. aluminum (fins) Dimensions: 6.Specs: Socket compatibility: Intel LGA775/1155/1156/ 1366/2011. Heatsink materials: Copper (base. The ingenious part of the CNPS14X is that it comes with one fan.5GHz Turbo Boost) 66/69 72/75 69/72 71/73 69. We ran a Core i7-2600K processor on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard with 8GB of AMD Performance DDR3.25/64.25 Idle 26/33 27/40 24/35 30/38 26.75/36.4GHz default speed (3.5 inches (HxWxD).350rpm). a 240GB Patriot Wildfire SSD.com Zalman CNPS14X Intel Thermal Solution XTS100H (Performance Mode) Load 52/55 54/58 51/54 55/57 53/56 Load 52/56 54/58 51/55 55/59 53/57 Load (4.5/38 card’s fan). Noise: 17 to 21 dBA Zalman CNPS14X W e’ve long been huge admirers of Zalman when it comes to CPU coolers.5GHz Turbo Boost) 58/64 62/66 59/63 62/66 60. the CNPS14X shows no real benefit over the Intel XTS100H reference cooler. AMD AM2/2+/3/3+.5GHz Turbo Boost) 58/64 63/68 59/65 62/67 60.5 Idle 29/32 27/31 26/30 31/39 28.3 x 5 x 5. Of course. but you can clip on up to two more 140mm fans for additional airflow. We also see no benefit under 100% load with CPUID HM. We ran the chip at its 3. Just take your time and be thorough to ensure the cooler is properly snugged up against your processor.25 Load (4. Once we move to 100% load at our top overclock.5/66 CPU / October 2012 37 . we’d definitely side with Zalman on both aesthetics and performance if you plan on pushing your processor.75 Load (4. Given that the CNPS14X is only $10 to $15 more than the XTS100H.Fan: 1 140mm (950 to 1. quiet designs as aesthetically impressive as it is thermally effective. that shipped with the i7-2600K. ■ BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE CNPS14X $54. with an upright 140mm fan sandwiched between twin stacks of aluminum fins mounted on six copper heatpipes that are connected to the pure copper base.25 Idle 27/35 25/40 24/36 30/41 26. This is a dual tower design. and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.25/49 Load (4. emphasizing a balance of airflow and quiet performance out of the box (any noise from the CPU fan was completely hidden under our graphics Benchmark Results CPUID HM CPU zone 0 1 2 3 Average RealTemp GT Core 1 2 3 4 Average Idle 24/28 24/31 23/29 24/33 23. Turning these nuts with the included spanner proved to be quite tricky. However. testing at both idle and 100% load.75/30. but RealTemp shows a 6 to 8 degrees Celsius benefit from the CNPS14X under RealTemp. At idle.5/71.zalman. and then repeated our CPUID Hardware Monitor and RealTemp tests when overclocked to a Turbo Boost speed of 4.99 Zalman www.8GHz Turbo Boost).5GHz. heatpipes). we see again see that 6 to 8 C improvement with the CNPS14X. The CNPS14X is yet another in a long line of elegant. This cooler is compatible with AMD AM2/2+/3/3+ and FM1 sockets as well as Intel’s LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011 sockets.

computerpoweruser. and 54 C in Prime 95. The PCTC14PE has five 8mm heatpipes.S (Physical Antioxidant Thermal Shield) that’s designed to deflect ambient heat from the GPU. Heatsink dimensions: 6. Then. so the unit is more than just a set of aluminum fins connected to copper heatpipes. Storage: 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300.com Specs: Heatsink materials: Copper (base. At idle. Socket compatibility: Intel LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011.73 inches tall. Under load.25 inches (HxWxD) Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K. AMD AM2/2+/3/3+. GPU: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 660 Ti. We’ll note that we had to remove the motherboard from our system to screw the heatsink to the bracket. as well as AMD AM2/2+/3/3+ and FM1 sockets.25 inches deep.T. To remove hot air from the heatsink. so you can install a third fan to further enhance the cooler’s capabilities.Phanteks PH-TC14PE towers. The installation process consists of attaching one of the Intel or AMD brackets to the backplate. high-end fans. so you can install the cooler to match the existing airflow in your case. which feature a UFB (Updraft Floating Balance) bearing and nine blades. In our testing.1cfm. OS: Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit) 38 October 2012 / www. Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH. it delivered temperatures of 45 C in Orthos.200rpm). Phanteks also includes an extra set of fan retention clips. It’s also 6. At 6. and advanced technology make the PH-TC14PE a good choice for overclockers who prefer an air cooler.S. nickel-plated aluminum (fins). 52 C in POV-Ray. We found that our Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme modules fit comfortably under the aluminum fins. northbridge. the PC-TC14PE is one of the taller CPU coolers we’ve seen. Phanteks includes two of its PH-F140TS fans. The fan’s nine blades are configured in a way that creates a downdraft vortex that will improve airflow. Phanteks indicates the UFB bearing is designed to use the airflow in the rotating blades to extend life and reduce noise level. blue. ■ BY NATHAN LAKE PH-TC14PE $99. The universal bracket can be installed either horizontally or vertically. The combination of the large towers.27 x 6. we ran the CPU cooler in a horizontal orientation that exhausted air out the back of our case. and red. Phanteks also indicates that the PH-TC14PE is built with aerospace technology for enhanced thermal conductivity. which will extend over the memory modules on most motherboards. The heatsink features with Phantek’s P.1cfm. AMD FM1. The model we received (PH-TC14PE_BK) had black fans and fins. Max airflow: 78. with each end running to a different tower of aluminum fins.P. you install a mounting plate onto the heatsink and screw it to the bracket on the CPU socket. RAM: 16GB Patriot Memory Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600. Fans: 2 140mm (700 to 1.99 Phanteks www.73 x 5. the PH-TC14PE ran our stock-clocked Intel Core i7-3770K at 38 C. orange.phanteks. Another technology you’ll see is C. the Plasma Spraying Coating). heatpipes).C conductivity by quickly displacing heat in soldered surfaces. etc. Max airflow from each fan can reach 78. W ith two heatsinka CPU serious (Cold are that helpdeposits placedthermal PC-TC14PE is cooler which copper in the that’s designed to handle some heatpipes to enhance overclocks.com . but it’s also available in white. Phanteks provides you with a universal installation kit that supports Intel LGA775/1155/1156/1366/2011 sockets.A.

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and what are the pros and cons of both platforms for a gaming system? The Kill Box began as a custom system we built for our showroom using the Z77 platform and Cooler Master’s CM Storm Trooper case. The Storm Trooper helped make it a big hit with customers. Xgamer Alliance is an online gaming site that a customer and I came up with to give gamers a place to interact and discuss the newest games. the systems it sells. and as far as pros and cons. and how did you decide to start Xgamerpc? About 15 years ago. they’re both great picks—it’s really up to what the customer requests. Thermaltake. a place to come to for all your PC gaming needs.xgamerpc. I started Xgamerpc around nine years ago. Then I began tinkering with computers after we built my first gaming system.com . Then. We also offer this system with the X79 platform. the Kill Box. about his company. Gamers can ask questions and post ideas about issues or hardware. sometimes with just a few changes. before a system goes out the door. we had several requests for this system. What’s the connection between Xgamerpc and the Xgamer Alliance? feedback we get from customers is that they are so glad to see a retail store that caters to their needs and to have a place to Cabico us to make informed decisions before using the parts in our systems.This month we talked to Roger Cabico.computerpoweruser. we make sure it goes through a long series of hardware stress tests. introduced me to a few games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Doom. it looks like the Kill Box comes standard with the Z77 platform. Charles Cabico. founder and owner of Xgamerpc (www. Kingston. The Cabico October 2012 / www. I got into PC gaming when my father. and what sort of testing procedure to Xgamerpc systems go through before they ship? We do a lot of research before recommending products. I wanted to create a place for the true gamer. and Xgamerpc’s flagship rig. Q How long have you been building systems. Our Xgamerpc systems are designed to give you a fantastic gaming experience and keep you within your budget. do you offer X79 as an option. Intel. They don’t come back unless our customers are looking for upgrades. The support from our reps at Cooler Master.com). NVIDIA. Q How did you choose Cooler Master’s CM Storm Trooper as the default case for Xgamerpc’s Kill Box? Also. and so on helps Cabico Xgamerpc is a retail store where customers can go to see and touch the latest PC gaming hardware and accessories that they have read about or seen online. Once it was out. Q Q Cabico 40 How do you evaluate components for inclusion in Xgamerpc systems. and I was hooked. walk in and discuss the configuration of their new Xgamerpc gaming rig. My focus was to become one of the best PC gaming companies. or just connect to play.

ROGER CABICO. including stress testing and so forth. After the one year. GPU. the site gives the impression that you provide fully custom. The website offers several options to ensure our customers get the best gaming systems possible. Cabico Q Cabico Can you talk about Xgamerpc’s system warranty and what it covers? Q All of our gaming systems come with a one-year warranty.to 4-year manufacturer’s warranties. Shipping time may vary depending on the destination. how long does it take for a customer to receive an Xgamerpc from the time he places the order on your site or over the phone? The average build time for a custom-built gaming PC is four to five days. we “We can build to whatever specs our customers want. don’t have standard clock speed targets. Most of our customers go with the configurations of the systems we offer. How many of your clients choose a fully custom option vs. FOUNDER OF XGAMERPC Cabico CPU / October 2012 41 . we always give our customers support. Because we work with lots of configurations. and we’ll overclock a system’s CPU. systems frequently carry 2. which includes all parts and labor. made-to-order builds. ■ Cabico Q Do you provide factory overclocking on request. and RAM if the customer wants.Q In addition to the standard system configs your site offers. The result largely depends on the individual system specs.” . Xgamerpc’s standard configs? We c a n b u i l d t o whatever specs our customers want. or do you run individual overclocks based on system stability? We do provide overclocking on request. and the components we offer on our On average. and a few ask for just a few changes. and do you have specific clocks that you try to hit for particular CPUs.

He dressed up the front panel with help from Aerocool’s V12XT touchscreen fan controller. but you don’t have to spend much time looking at the ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R to see why it’s this month’s winner.500 and a one-year subscription to CPU. “They are always looking to modders for any new ideas they can use to bring us products we want.” Stewart disassembled the entire ENERMAX Fulmo that was the base of the mod in order to make it easier to change the color from the case’s standard black to white. and installed two RGB LED light strips in the case that he can control with a remote. two SAPPHIRE FleX HD 6870 graphics cards. 42 October 2012 / www. we’ll send you $1. As before. which supplied many of the parts that made the Fulmo Type-R possible. with 24GB of Patriot Viper memory. He cut all the wires in the case to the specific length he needed. along with some ENERMAX cable straps to keep everything neatly in place. you’ve probably seen Bob “BS MODS” Stewart’s handiwork before. (Remember the amazing Wonder Woman mod with the gold-sleeved cables?) As the saying goes. and completely dismantled and painted the power supply. its striking red and white motif is bold and unique. a Patriot Wildfire 120GB SSD. Immaculate inside and out. and an ENERMAX ETD-T60-TB CPU cooler.com .” he says. “The quality is most important to me.com. an ENERMAX Platimax 1200W. cut custom acrylic panels to hide the optical bay area. Speaking of components.” ■ Give Us Your Mod Have a computer mod that will bring tears to our eyes? Email photos and a description to madreadermod@ cpumag. He also used some perforated aluminum to make custom heat shields for his video cards. and Stewart’s work is impressive as always.computerpoweruser.” Stewart says. then sleeved them in bright red paracord. the ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R runs an Intel Core i7-980X on ASUS’ Rampage III Extreme motherboard. then added a lighter that looks like a tiny NOS bottle to each—he found these on eBay. And as usual. we crossed Stewart’s path at PDXLAN. the competition was fierce. “ENERMAX and Patriot are some of the best people I have worked with. If we include your system in our “Mad Reader Mod” section. Stewart says he drew inspiration for the mod from Honda’s Type-R Mugen Civic. He did the same with the graphics cards. and Stewart would seem to prove that old saw. “I don’t usually worry about the time. He added some meters and a touchscreen to the front panel to give it an instrument cluster look. as he’s back in CPU. and that he spent nearly a year working on the mod on and off.ENERMAX Fulmo Type-R I f you’ve been reading CPU for long. Stewart gives a shout out to ENERMAX and Patriot. He removed the drive cage for improved airflow. this time as Mad Reader Mod winner. added a mirror window. you can’t keep a good man down.

CPU / October 2012 43 .

and that they are more energy efficient and longer lasting. SSDs are considerably more durable than their mechanical counterparts. random reads reach 35K IOPS and random writes reach 2. you have a lot of options when it comes time to choose a boot drive. respectively. The 40GB Series 310 drive provides sequential read and write speeds of up to 170MBps and 35MBps. producing sequential read speeds of up to 200MBps and sequential write speeds up to 70MBps. load apps faster. and in general are more responsive. a free set of software tools that let you optimize the capacity and operation of your SSD. Intel’s 310 Series SSDs are the perfect solution. these tiny SSDs fully support Intel’s SSD Toolbox. These mSATA drives are about 1/8th the size of a standard 2. You also know SSDs are quieter than hard drives. one size does not fit all.5K IOPS.You know all about the advantages of using SSDs vs. And because they have no moving parts. You know that PCs equipped with SSDs boot faster. with random 4KB reads and writes clocking in at 25K IOPS and 2. But their small size doesn’t mean you have to compromise on functionality. Built with 34nm Intel NAND flash.6K IOPS.5-inch drive and are available in 40GB and 80GB capacities. Series 310 drives provide extremely low-power operation. traditional hard drives. Notebook PCs & Tablets When you want SSD performance but space is at a premium. But where SSDs are concerned. The 80GB drive is even faster. Advertisement . As with other important components in your system. as with Intel’s 520 and 330 Series drives. and the choice you make will have a profound impact on your system’s performance and overall cost. making them perfect for portable and handheld devices. Intel SSD 310 Series: All-In-One Systems. where extending battery life is crucial.

and other key technologies. Intel’s Series 330 SSDs ship with 3. 180GB. with random writes of up to 33K IOPS. They produce random reads at up to 22. 120GB. They have full support for RAID. garbage collection. and provide sustained sequential read speeds of up to 500MBps and sequential write speeds of up to 450MBps. TRIM.Intel SSD 330 Series: Enthusiast Systems & Office PCs High-performance and value come together in Intel’s 330 Series SSDs. with random writes up to 80K IOPS. 120GB. 180GB. and advanced data compression to increase the drive’s effective capacity.5-inch drive bay adaptors and SATA cables. resulting in sequential read speeds of up to 550MBps and sequential write speeds of up to 520MBps.5-inch drives are available in capacities of 60GB. . combining industry-leading performance with legendary reliability and intelligent tools to help you manage the security of your personal data. making them ideal for home theater PCs. and 480GB capacities. End-to-End Data Protection in the form of CRC and ECC checks to protect against data corruption.5K IOPS. These 2. Intel SSD 520 Series: High-End Gaming Systems & Content Creation Workstations Intel’s 520 Series SSDs represent the pinnacle of solid-state drive evolution. Random read performance clocks in at up to 50K IOPS. high-end consumer notebooks. Each 520 Series SSD is equipped with AES 256-bit encryption for data security. Series 330 drives contain Intel 25nm MLC NAND flash and SATA 6Gbps controllers. ensuring that they will find a place in any system. and 240GB. and office PCs—anywhere multitasking and reliability are important. 520 Series drives are constructed with Intel 25nm MLC NAND flash memory and a SATA 6Gbps controller. Available in 60GB. 240GB.

and benefits from a ready supply of networking gear. Intel LANFest NETWAR 23. Best of all.computerpoweruser. as Intel continues raising even more cash for charity. A few CPU staffers even headed out to our nearest LANFest shindig. Each LANFest event is staffed by knowledgeable. ■ 46 October 2012 / www. as paying customers back in April.com . Child’s Play.000. The running total from LANFest events is now over $440. taking us to six events in six months. the United Way. If you like playing PC games in general and LAN parties in particular. Neb. and Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. you’re also engaging in much-needed philanthropy. and a steady diet of all the stuff your mother told you never to eat. while you’re living la vida loca at a LANFest event near you. enthusiastic admins. as well as truckloads of swag from LANFest’s excellent sponsors. These events are an excellent way to unwind with old friends and make new ones as you bond over your favorite PC games. so a big thanks to those of you who attended an event this year and helped out three very worthy causes.intel . take it from us: You need to get some of your people together and go. gallons of highly caffeinated beverages.. many of whom even head out to the events themselves.com) continued through the first half of 2012. and you haven’t yet been to an Intel LANFest event.Intel LANFest CPU’s whirlwind tour of Intel LANFest events (lanfest.0 in Omaha.

January 6 to 8 Atlanta, GA In January, we started off the 2012 LANFest season in the ATL at Atlanta LANFest Winter LAN. Our winner was Patrick Pittaluga and his modded Corsair Obsidian Series case with custom watercooling. Black and red are a classic combination, and as Patrick’s mod shows, few combinations pop more when the lights are low.

April 13 to 15 Sacramento, CA Dustin Rodgers took top honors at LANFest Sacramento’s spring session over the weekend of April 13 to 15. His “Headshot” theme really resonates at a LAN event. And in case you’re unclear as to what Mr. Rodgers’ mod name is getting at, please allow his left panel with a trio of headshot skulls to elucidate.

April 27 to 28 Omaha, NE At NETWAR, we found another case mod based on a Corsair Obsidian Series case, and another case with a clean, orderly interior. Cody Arnold even added some red to the black coolant tubes running to and from his Corsair closed-loop liquid CPU cooler’s waterblock, which we thought was a nice touch.

CPU / October 2012

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June 8 to 10 DuPont, WA Ah, the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to mods, this region is pretty hard to beat. Rafe Cadwallader’s R3VOLT mod got high marks for both aesthetics and technical merit; obviously a Mad Reader Mod winner has to look good, but we are suckers for mods where the owner does some crazy custom engineering—say, for example, putting your SFF mod’s innards on ballbearing-equipped drawer slides so that you can have compact beauty and accessibility without compromise.

June 15 to 17 Pomona, CA What’s better than an Intel LANFest event mashed up with a GIGABYTE-sponsored pro-gaming event? The StarCraft II actions per minute numbers were through the roof, as was the quality of the mods on display. In the end, the winner was Otis Fatz and his right-panel-facing-motherboardhaving Plum Crazy Trooper. You can see plenty of this excellent mod on pages 32 and 33 of the September issue, so we thought we’d show some of its competition here, too. As you can tell from shots of just three of the other mods that were in attendance, you couldn’t swing a bat at this event without hitting a gorgeous mod.

June 22 to 24 Atlanta, GA Mitchell Kent Prince took top honors at the second Atlanta event we visited in the first half of the year. Let’s face it, white is in right now in the high-end PC world, and as Mitchell’s mod further proves, a clean, well-cabled interior and effective use of ambient lighting never go out of style.

48

October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com

and more planes.Get informed answers to your advanced technical questions from CPU. Another reason you’d want to rely on HDMI. as well. make sure you can play Microsoft Flight without a hitch in your frame rates. The biggest is the fact that HDMI. As a matter of fact. Please include all pertinent system information. According to Microsoft. Note that Flight Simulator X is very CPU-limited. If you’re trying to watch such content using anything other than HDMI. by default. Both HDMI and DVI deal with digital video. What is your expert opinion on which is better. but many of the models I’ve looked at ship with HDMI video outputs in addition to the DVI connectors I’m accustomed to. DVI is video only. What’s your advice for components that will run this game well? A: Flight Simulator X? Have you tried out the much newer (and more visually impressive) Microsoft Flight? We’ll A: Carlos. In short. your PC’s audio comes from an onboard chip or a standalone sound card.com. The HDMI standard supports HDCP (High Definition Content Protection). to q&a@cpumag. there is no change in visual fidelity in either case.4a. as a standard. or the content Carlos N. with audio outputs independent of the video card. but HDMI also supports HDCP and audio. so from an image quality standpoint. Each month we dig deep into the CPU mailbag in an effort to answer your most pressing technical questions. specifically HDMI 1. asked: I’m in the market for a new graphics card. DVI or HDMI? Vincent W. many graphics cards used to ship with passive DVI-to-HDMI adapters. But there are differences between HDMI and DVI that could impact your future purchasing decisions. might be blocked altogether. images at the same resolution will be identical when transmitted over either cable. In a vast majority of instances. which means it pushes on your processor more than your graphics card. with the best scenery. FSX SP1 moves quite a bit of the rendering 50 October 2012 / www.com . although there’s no discernible visual quality difference between the digital signals transmitted over DVI and HDMI. I’d also like a new graphics card with the ability to add a second monitor. this is one of those situations where you don’t need to rely on anyone else’s opinion when it comes to judging the output of differing cables and standards. is if you’re at all interested in 3D. Both DVI and HDMI transmit digital signals. Send your questions along with a phone and/or fax number. so getting your PC audio through your graphics card’s HDMI port is generally not necessary. the latter specification gives you more flexibility when it comes to your entertainment. namely when watching Blu-ray. which lets flagged content play at its full 1080p resolution on your monitor. the components you invest in will be more than capable of playing Flight Simulator X. asked: I’m a huge fan of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X and am looking into building a computer capable of playing it at the highest quality. the resolution may be reduced. Want some advice on your next purchase or upgrade? Have a ghost in your machine? Are BSODs making your life miserable? CPU’s “Advanced Q&A Corner” is here for you.computerpoweruser. That said. is designed to transmit both audio and video signals over a single cable. there are some instances where you’d want to use HDMI. so we can call you if necessary.

The recommended system requirements for Microsoft Flight (www . three monitors wide is the way to go. and 6GB or RAM. so you may need more graphics horsepower to handle everything at the Pete E. and GenTech). highest settings. which will be able to run two monitors at once.What’s good enough for Microsoft Flight is good enough for Flight Simulator X. buying a laptop that’ll keep up with an aspiring electrical and computer engineer for four years is a challenge indeed. A good quad-core processor will be the first thing you should look into (and. which means you’d need a pair of GTX 550 Ti cards in SLI. and make sure you have both Microsoft Flight Simulator X service packs installed to benefit from the improvements.tinyurl. we found Microsoft Flight Simulator X’s minimum system requirements at www. and bump up the core count of your processor to four. Microsoft recommends an AMD Radeon HD 5670 or NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT with 1GB of RAM or better. a compatible motherboard). but to do it we’ll need to upgrade our graphics card recommendation. as we went to press. CPU / October 2012 51 . What you’ll quickly notice. How do I determine which vendor to buy from? A: Pete. I’d like to get a new laptop that’ll hopefully last me all four years (my school doesn’t recommend a specific brand or model). You can get three-way Eyefinity from a Radeon HD 6850 for not a lot of money. From the options available at the various vendors you mentioned. asked: I’m headed off to college this fall and plan to major in electrical and computer engineering. 30GB of spare hard drive space. this Reseller Ratings is a good place to start for unbiased reviews for PC vendors. is that two monitors puts a frame in the middle of your view. Windows 7 SP1 64-bit. We’d recommend a Radeon HD 6770 or GeForce GTX 550 Ti. your resolution also doubles and triples.com/games/flight) consist of a dual-core processor with a 3GHz or better core frequency. To get three monitors from NVIDIA. however. only the GTX 680 and 670 support 2D surround with a single graphics card. but both of those cards are obsolete. you should be ready for takeoff. there seem to be a ton of vendors selling this model (including XoticPC. Maingear. However.com /ylnbww. of course. Digital Storm. which can be assigned to multiple cores. If you’re really a fanatic. For your reference.microsoft. you’ll be spending quite a bit more money. duties to threads. AVADirect. If you choose these components. Keep in mind that when you double or triple your screens. and I’m especially interested in the Clevo P150EM/Sager NP9150. This is why we recommend a quad-core processor.

even if the barebones laptop you ultimately buy doesn’t differ at all from that of another vendor. so there’s plenty of room to grow. you can do this without committing to the purchase or even logging in). so we’d recommend looking at customer feedback from each vendor. and that’s highly unlikely unless you run multiple memoryintensive applications simultaneously. Look too for the hours of a vendor’s support helpline and determine the accessibility of their tech support email Do you really need quad-channel memory? Certain vendors also offer custom paint jobs and additional LED lighting. and unique case appliqués. Roger asked: I am a day trader current looking to upgrade my PC. The Z77 platform also supports up to 32GB of DDR3. or barebones notebook. Without any specifics on what you currently run to do your day trading. GeForce and Radeon HD so if they publish this. Yo u’l l a l s o Many vendors offer the same whitebook. we’d expect 8GB of DDR3-1600 or better to be more than adequate for most applications. even so. Here. it’s frequently not much of a difference at all. No vendor has ever satisfied every customer. Some vendors may have more limited component s e l e c t i o n s . the quad-channel memory on the X79 platform won’t make an appreciable difference in the tasks you perform unless you hit the upper limit of the dualchannel memory subsystem on the Z77 platform.com. A good place to start is www. See who offers your dream laptop for the cheapest. Another big factor is customer service. processors. you can see the vendor’s lifetime rating distribution and determine if they monitor reviews and seek to resolve problems. Another differentiator closely associated with customer service is the warranty period. The difference between these vendors often comes down to pricing. ■ 52 October 2012 / www. You can typically find this email we could make. but customer find varying degrees of service and warranty terms may vary. Will more memory improve my system’s overall stability and execution speed? A: Roger informed us that his current system consists of an Intel P45-based motherboard with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700. C o s t i s n’t t h e o n l y factor to consider. boutique builders. so feel free to send a quick essentially the same laptop at multiple question to determine how quickly you get vendors is because this is actually a a response. which could account for any instability he’s experiencing. Roger is also running 8GB of mixed RAM (DDR2333 and DDR2-400). It seems daunting. I’m leaning toward the X79 because it supports up to eight banks of DRAM. Generally speaking. and points for trying to make sure the system 6Gbps SATA slot. professional software installation services. but finding the right vendor is important. you get is stable and performs as expected. Do yourself a favor and configure the laptop to your liking on each vendor’s site. that can expect long wait times or an overly Clevo manufacturers for OEMs and automated system. give them bonus graphics cards.com . They all generally Some vendors also take pride in their have access to the same Intel Core i7 extensive testing and burn-in procedures. Both platforms are very stable.computerpoweruser.resellerratings . I’m having trouble deciding between the Intel X79 and Z77 platforms for my motherboard and processor. Call the helpline to see if you whitebook.looks like as good a recommendation as address. The reason you’re seeing on the web site. DDR3-1600 memory. (For the most part. though. so read these reviews with an open mind.

MSI has further improved its Power Edition architecture. For those taking a first look at MSI cards. and VDDCI for overclocking. Then there’s the striking blue and black look of the MSI cards. Po w e r E d i t i o n video cards combine several key components. the Power Edition architecture demands t h e h e a d l i n e s . the fact that the company includes high-grade components in its cards. With the August release of the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video card.MSI Power Edition GTX 660 Ti Twin Frozr IV Highlights Latest MSI Video Card M SI has established itself as one of the top video card manufacturers in the market. though. which certainly makes them distinctive. the power supply for the MSI video card CPU / October 2012 53 . three capabilities in particular are emphasized: Overclocking. In this most recent version of Power Edition. At the same time. thanks to several interesting technologies and advanced features in its products. The Power Edition architecture provides features aimed at improving the overclocking capabilities of the video card. offering advanced options for high-stress operation and cooling. memory. including a feature MSI calls Triple Overvoltage with Afterburner. making them better able to handle advanced power loads for overclocking. is going to make them desirable. which essentially lets users adjust the voltages of the GPU. For those who are already familiar with MSI video cards.

” Chang says. Cooling. MSI says the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video card runs 14 degrees Celsius cooler and 17. a CPU. but when all of the changes are taken together. military standard that attempts to replicate the stresses and work the products will undergo in actual dayto-day usage. Small arc. MSI says the PWM controller can deliver as much as 17% more electrical current vs. conventional blade designs.” ■ BY KYLE SCHURMAN 54 October 2012 / www. blowing any accumulated dust out of the video card. “The propeller blade fans move about 20% more air at the same RPM vs. An enhanced PWM (pulse-width modulation) controller allows for the overvoltage mentioned above. MSI has rounded the edges of the blades to cut down on the noise the fan generates.S. “The quality of these components is even more critical on graphics cards. It takes a certain quality of component to make a video card that can survive being pushed to the limits over and over. it’s important to have highquality parts in your video card. After running in reverse for up to 30 seconds.” says Alex Chang. As the system starts up. providing cooling to the MSI Power Edition video card. the fans return to their normal operation.com . air resistance is reduced. Groove. With a smoother coating on each blade.computerpoweruser.1 decibels quieter than the reference board. giving the fan greater control over the direction of the airflow. Overvolting. Round edge. This results in less noise from the fan. “The GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power Edition cards have been very wellreceived in the marketplace. By reducing the arc in the blades. such as dust that has built up on the heatsink. It does no good to run a video card at extremely high voltages if the components are just going to break down when they’re under a high-stress situation. allowing the system to run well.MSI’s Fan Design The fan technology used with the MSI Power Edition video card is a key to making sure the card remains cool and removes dust. Chang says the Military Class designation means the parts all have passed independent testing under the MIL-STD-810G standard. such as our Military Class components. “Our proprietary Afterburner overclocking software allows users to unleash the potential of the GTX 660 Ti GPU by allowing clock speeds to be increased beyond what GPU Boost is capable of providing. which MSI tells us provides greater airflow vs. Gloss coating. traditional fan blades by as much as 20%. increasing graphics card performance. and Afterburner overclocking software provide. Source: MSI has been adjusted to allow it to carry additional current flow. “Users recognize the benefits that the Twin Frozr thermal solution. containing several parts that may seem minor at first glance. Chang says. Military-Grade Components To make all of these features work well. The improvements to the design of the blades include: Arched edge. due to the small footprint of the PCB and the often higher power draw vs. traditional blades. “Higher-quality products. the fans run in reverse. the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video card has an interesting set of upgraded features that Chang says have been appreciated by customers. Chang says. Twin Frozr IV. MSI claims to create a greater airflow from each blade. M S I c a l l s t h e p a r t s i t’s u s i n g “Militar y Class III” components. which is a U. which produces a larger range in the flow of the air. MSI also has created specific blades for its fans. Military Class component design. thus achieving the same amount of airflow at lower RPMs.” Chang says.” Chang says. Twin Frozr IV also includes MSI’s Propeller Blade technology. Each blade has a slight groove in its face. but that work together to provide increased airflow vs. MSI has added an arch to the edge of the blades. technical marketing manager at MSI USA. a reference design.” The improvements MSI has made to its various technologies may not seem significant when each one is considered alone. With the latest edition of its proprietary cooling technology. help improve the power delivery and signal for the GPU and memor y chips. The Power Editions of our GeForce GTX cards have consistently been the top seller in the retail and e-tail channel.

Heat pipes. transfer heat from the nickel-plated copper base to the aluminum fin array. You can see the location of the heatsink. providing better heat dissipation for the video card as a whole. which create greater airflow. to allow for more efficient heat dissipation from the GPU. the memory modules. Twin Frozr IV makes use of a pair of 8cm (3. Each fan has specially designed blades. and the power module. superimposed in yellow in the smaller photo (B). Source: MSI CPU / October 2012 55 . MSI uses the nickel-plated copper base (D). which provide the necessary airflow to cool all aspects of the video card. including: Fans. Twin Frozr IV. The five 6mm heat pipes. because of the overclocking and over volting capabilities of the card. which are visible in silver along the bottom edge of the card (C). For the past few years. The latest version included with this video card. provides the most extensive set of cooling components yet. a strong cooling solution is a must. Nickel-plated copper base. Form-in-one heatsink. MSI has made use of a set of features it calls Twin Frozr to provide cooling for its video cards. which can carry the heat away from key components.15inch) fans (A). along with the aluminum fins. including the GPU. The MSI Twin Frozr IV heatsink covers both the memory module and the power module.Twin Frozr IV With the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition video card.

but rather explore something new. “We had a fear that it would not be well accepted. “We gave our designers open range to design without constraints to see where they would go. We gave our designers open range to design without constraints to see where they would go. Director of Product Development. director of product development for XFX Global. such as the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD R7970 and R7950. This is part of XFX ’s Ghost Thermal Technology. size.com .. when hightech companies come up with new product designs or technologies. Rarely will you hear a company admit uneasiness over an upcoming product.” .Namanh Hoang. These two technologies work in combination to give these high-end XFX boards the cooling performance they need. The inclusion of Ghost Thermal and Do u b l e Di s s i p a t i o n t e c h n o l o g i e s greatly affected the design of these cards. which gives this video card an open composition that promotes freer air flow. XFX Global 56 October 2012 / www. The cover of the video card is attached to the heatsink.XFX Ghost Thermal Technology Minimalist Design Meets Maximum Performance M ost of the time. XFX ’s designers didn’t really have Ghost Thermal Technology in mind when they started looking at options for their new video board designs. they have plenty of confidence that they have a strong design on their hands.” Less Is More The interesting design and look of the XFX Black Edition Radeon includes two fans. etc. though. which is the key component of XFX’s Double Dissipation Technology.computerpoweruser. non-functional elements that other graphics card designers have used for so long. However. We didn’t want to begin with constraints of performance. a little anxiety is understandable. much less one that’s already launched.” “The Ghost Thermal design began much like designing a concept car. when that new design is as significantly different as some of the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD video cards have been this year.” says Namanh Hoang. “At first. which makes it seem to be floating above the rest of the card’s components. “The Ghost Thermal design began much like designing a concept car.” Hoang says. we were very hesitant about the design. because our simple design just didn’t have all those extra non-essential.

“In a few cases where users have multiple GPUs and the motherboard PCI slot spacing is very small. “It was only after we decided on a design that we began exploring airflow experiments. not only by the merits of its genuine performance capabilities.” Although Ghost Thermal Technology has quite a few advantages in cooling. causing them to automatically downgrade the Ghost Thermal cards on looks alone. We achieved all of this without adding any thickness to the overall card. director of product development for XFX Global.Hoang says that XFX’s designers took inspiration from the minimalist principles of Dieter Rams. [Ghost Thermal Technology] has substantial advantages over enclosed designs. and why did enclosed solutions seem to be more dominant in the market?’” This question made the XFX team fear that some users might believe the extra components on the competing cards were essential to performance. which would decrease both inflow and outflow of air. the engine would be cooler than in a car with a fully enclosed body. “We hope to continue pushing the boundaries on our design by questioning what is common and asking. a German industrial designer. rather than the PCB board. the market has been very receptive to the minimalistic design of Ghost Thermal cards.” Hoang says. and the Ghost Thermal Technology was born. it performed better than expected. ‘Can it be done differently?’” Hoang says. “We are very glad to see that it has been so well accepted. “Moving the cover up and mounting it to the heatsink allowed us to create a larger and stronger PCB tray. “In most situations. The effectiveness of Ghost Thermal depends in part on the layout of the computing system and the various components included on the video board. and the card’s other components all at the same time. The more open the car is. However. which are so often found in graphics card design. Of course. but that so many people appreciate the simple design aesthetics that we wanted to achieve.” Source: XFX CPU / October 2012 57 .” Hoang says. “and. the results XFX has seen speak for themselves. Of course. which means a substantially louder graphics card. “We attempted to remove the superfluous elements that didn’t serve any function. the greater airflow in the new XFX video cards occurred naturally. “‘Would that actually create a better performing and better looking product?’ The simpler and more Ghost Thermal Technology In-Depth Ghost Thermal Technology makes use of what XFX calls a floating cover design. Having an open design naturally makes sense. “We call it a floating design because the cover is mounted to the heatsink in most cases.” Although Hoang says XFX has heard some of the critics who wonder whether Ghost Thermal Technology is more of a marketing ploy than a beneficial cooling technology. the drawback is much higher fan speeds.” Hoang says.” Hoang says.” With the minimalistic design. providing cooling to the heatsink. it won’t work in every situation. the question we all asked ourselves was ‘Why wasn’t this more common. “Undoubtedly. the better the airflow. then the cards could end up stacked on top of each other. “It’s similar to having a car with no body. Hoang says. Although Hoang could not share the exact improvements that XFX has planned for Ghost Thermal Technology’s future.” Namanh Hoang. PCB. says. to our surprise. the design has been popular enough to warrant further enhancements down the road. Hoang says. The idea behind having a floating cover is to maximize the airflow through the card.

resulting in less noise. of course. a single-fan design. having a typical cover attached to the heatsink added too much weight to the video card. XFX can boast quite a few specific performance improvements. With such advantages offered by this technology. two fans increase cooling by creating more airflow over the key hot points on the thermal solution. “Of course. even as that heat migrates. the XFX designers paid special attention to making sure the Double Dissipation fans are positioned precisely in the areas where they can most efficiently remove the heat. Hoang says that XFX’s designers had to wrestle with a few different problems. This occurs when the heatsink and thermal paste pull away from the GPU because of the combined weight of the cover and the heatsink.” Hoang says. and we generally try to exceed the performance levels of our competitors or eve n that of our single-fan cards. is a quieter graphics card. overclocking becomes easier. according to XFX. With the cover being mounted to the heatsink. we did face the difficult task of managing the weight of the cover added to the heatsink. causing a problem called PCB bend. For example. which XFX claims is 13 decibels quieter than single-fan designs. says. the cooler you can make the end of the heatpipe. the faster-spinning fan will lead to more noise. With that in mind. you will see that fans are positioned to optimally cool a majority of the heatpipes and heat sink.” Hoang says. Open Design The traditional enclosed design used on most video cards tends to make it more difficult to expel any heat building up inside the unit. If the cooling system doesn’t focus on removing heat from the end of the heatpipe. it’s going to create a bottleneck of heat. the sooner the heat can move there and take its place. It’s important to make sure that the design of the two fans gives them the right alignment with the elements they’re trying to cool. “We try to find a balance between cooling and performance. keeping that thermal dynamic heat flow consistent. which has a domino effect inside the remainder of the cooling system. “So. which not only held the heatsink in place but also reinforced the entire PCB and prevent it from bending. PCB bend was especially problematic when using a traditional X-bracket design.honest our design becomes. One area in a video card’s cooling system where the heat commonly is not removed as efficiently as it should be is at the end of the heatpipe. whether it’s in the enclosure of a video card or in your home. However. Hoang says. Ghost Thermal Technology.” Hoang says. The result. specifically the heatpipes and the heatsink fins. director of product development for XFX Global. “At first. “The key thing to look at is where those heatsinks and fans come together. Double Dissipation also allows the video card to run 7 degrees Celsius cooler than a single-fan design. Hoang says.” Enclosed vs. the more we can pass that savings to our customers through improved performance and quality. with its greater airflow.com .” Namanh Hoang. our priority is performance.” Source: XFX 58 October 2012 / www. and how it would affect the PCB bend. Heat naturally rises and moves into cooler areas.” Hoang says. “To solve this problem. with vibrations pulling the components loose from the video board. “Obviously. allowing heat to build back toward the GPU. “In our designs. as well. Then we fine-tune the speeds to reduce the noise levels below single-fan designs without compromising the performance.” With its Double Dissipation Technology. we created a PCB tray that covers the entire length of the graphics card. even if the card includes Ghost Thermal Technology. Hoang says. Having two fans will spread the cooling more evenly over the entire board vs.” X-brackets will continue to work well for video card designs that involve a single fan or smaller heatsinks. including a video card that creates about 45 decibels of noise. The Total Package Having Ghost Thermal Technology paired with XFX’s Double Dissipation Today’s Forecast: Lots Of Wind With Double Dissipation Technology. lets the fans run at a slower speed. However.computerpoweruser. Hoang says. requiring a higher fan speed. not all dual-fan designs on video cards from all manufacturers are the same. XFX has created a dual-fan design that lets the overall board remain cooler without the need to run at a faster overall fan speed.

“If you see a heatpipe positioned in the middle of the GPU with no fans over it. one thing you can be sure of is that we choose the best thermal solution for each specific graphics card. Having more fans does not help if they cannot properly get the overflow of air intake out. Hoang says. a capacitor in another area of the card could suffer a failure. which uses liquid inside a sealed chamber to cool the GPU. leading to the entire card failing. For example. says both types of cooling have their place in the market.” Hoang says. It would just be trapped inside. they both work great. the effects of heat are relatively important to every aspect of the graphics card. XFX’s engineers included a vapor chamber technology called HydroCell. and Ghost Thermal helps to get more air out. where a doctor can treat it with minimal discomfort or long-term effects.” With all of these cooling technologies working together. “It’s a matter of scale. “That is why it is essential to cool as many parts of the graphics card as possible. you reduce the risk that a blood clot may form in an area that will be dangerous to your health. especially in relation to the position of the heatpipe to any cooling fans on the video card. Hoang says.” ■ HydroCell Technology When creating the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD 7970 and 7950 video cards.” If one area of the video card’s PCB is exposed to excessive heat because the card’s cooling system is focusing on the GPU (rather than cooling the entire card equally). Perhaps you’ll be lucky. that come into play in our decision of which to choose. However. “In a sense. “Generally. depending on many factors.” Hoang says. depending on the type of video card that’s in use. look for heatpipes on other cards that are in a position that simply doesn’t make a lot of sense. XFX’s HydroCell technology has a lot of similarities to heatpipe cooling technology.” Hoang says. Hoang suggests thinking of the overall video card system in a manner similar to the human circulatory system. you could end up having a blood clot develop.” Users can gain a clue as to the cooling advantages the design of the HydroCell technology simply by looking at it in relation to other designs of video cards. “Double Dissipation helps to get more air in. “These are improper GPU thermal designs made to give the perception of better cooling when.” Source: XFX CPU / October 2012 59 . Hoang says this allows the entire board to perform up to desired levels of efficiency. and the blood clot will form in an arm or leg. the more it is affected by heat. from the copper in the PCB to the capacitors. If you don’t work throughout the entire circulatory system to prevent blood clots. it does the opposite. But what if one forms in an area where it can be fatal? Hoang says that when the entire circulatory system is treated to prevent blood clots. HydroCell or heatpipe technology. “Essentially we have greatly expanded the exhaust capability of the graphics card. in fact. “As electricity flows through every part of the graphics card. heat is affecting it on a much larger scale in relation to its size.” Hoang says. Although some users may scoff at the idea that the PCB needs to be cooled. then clearly it’s not being cooled and instead is creating a super heat conductor that actually sends heat back to the GPU. we can’t say which is better. Ghost Thermal is the maximum airflow exhaust we can achieve on a graphics card. XFX is able to cool all of the components on their video boards. “The smaller something is. as each technology plays its own role in the overall cooling design. waiting for the air to exhaust. “Thermal dynamics and airflow is all about balance and optimal performance. So even though you can touch the PCB and it’s not hot. Namanh Hoang.dual-fan design is important for the success for certain types of XFX video cards. director of product development for XFX Global.” Hoang says. such as weight and size. ranging from the GPU to the PCB.

the X79 chipset is Intel’s premier option. Introduced in November 2011. Intel’s 7 Series chipsets. use the LGA1155 socket.2GBps 60 October 2012 / www. such as speedier peripherals. The 7 Series chipsets. you’re locking yourself into a processor socket. maximum memory speed. like their Z68/P67/H67 predecessors. are designed to cover both power users and midrange builders. Budget can also play a big role in your choice. except that the Z77 chipset offers four native USB 3.0 lanes. The big difference between Z77 and H77 is that H77 doesn’t support overclocking and limits you to one video card. Z75. and the number of graphics cards you can install (among others).0 graphics cards. Newest Intel Chipsets For performance enthusiasts and workstation builders.computerpoweruser.nd when you select a motherboard. Our motherboard buyer’s guide is designed to help you find the best motherboard based on your particular needs and system goals. The X79 chipset also debuted Intel’s LGA2011 socket and support for PCI-E 3. so there’s support for two x16 and one x8 speed (or one x16 and three x8) graphics cards. The Z77 chipset is fairly similar to the Z68 chipset (it allows overclocking by increasing the multiplier on unlocked processors and supports multiple GPUs). which can add to the limitations of your build. You also have to consider how the motherboard will handle your current hardware. the X79 chipset supports the six-core. which include the Z77. and H77 chipsets.0 ports and supports spanning your desktop across three displays. 12-thread processors in the Sandy Bridge-E family. and allows for a quad-channel memory controller to provide you with nearly double the memory bandwidth (51.com . when using four DDR3-1600 modules) of the previous generations’ X58 and Z68 chipsets. as well as future components. You’ll find 40 PCI-E 3.

are provided for each model. where the APU’s power can be shifted between the CPU and GPU. depending on load needs. We’ve even included a few workstation motherboards. Other key features of the 9-Series include 14 USB 2. AMD announced its A-Series “Trinity” lineup of APUs. which will provide a projected performance increase of up to 56% over Llano. as well as six 6Gbps SATA ports and an eSATA port. and Gigabit Ethernet. and native support for memory up to 1. Key specifications. which has been around since June of 2011. Latest AMD Chipsets High-end builders who prefer AMD will want to use the 9-Series chipset. which are designed to improve upon the A-Series “Llano” chips. In our buyer’s guide. In May. six 6Gbps SATA ports. the introduction of the AM3+ socket (required for compatibility with the Bulldozer processors). AMD has indicated that the Trinity chips will offer AMD’s Turbo Core technology. HD audio. for those looking to create a truly mighty graphic design or professional workstation. Plan on support for multiple monitors through a variety of outputs. Trinity is also expected to include AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series graphics. which provides support for up to four graphics cards.4a and DisplayPort 1. Llano APUs feature AMD’s FM1 socket. Prices marked with an asterisk (*) are current online prices at the time of this writing. The 990X chipset can handle two. and the 970 chipset only works with one. ■ CPU / October 2012 61 . There’s support for four USB 3. such as chipset and socket information. Other enthusiast highlights of the 9-Series include support for AMD’s eight-core Bulldozer processors. To give you an idea of what the Trinity chipset may look like. High-end 9-Series motherboards almost exclusively feature the 990FX chipset. which offers a Unified Media Interface that runs at 2GBps.The Z75 chipsets lacks support for Intel’s Smart Response technology but is otherwise similar to Z77.0 ports.0 ports. We’ll note that the AM3+ socket is still backward-compatible with previousgeneration AM3 processors.866MHz. including HDMI 1. consider the stock specs found on the Llano platform. we’ll cover the features that allow for extra connectivity and greater overclocking capabilities.1.0 ports and 10 USB 2.

Both the 6Gbps and 3Gbps SATA ports support RAID 0. Who Should Apply: Graphic designers and performance workstation enthusiasts who want a motherboard that will be able to handle beefy visual effect and computation jobs.MOTHERBOARD Supermicro X9DA7 $598. Power users building a workstation can install up to 512GB of registered DDR31600 ECC memory or 128GB of unbuffered (ECC or non-ECC) memory via the motherboard’s 16 DIMM slots.com Why You’ll Dig It: With the X9DAE. including voltage monitoring utilities and thermal control for the six fan connectors.supermicro. and bandwidth over the SATA interface. 16 DIMMs. quad channel BUYER’S GUIDE 62 October 2012 / www. Supermicro offers Intel’s i350 dual-port Gigabit Ethernet controller that supports virtual machine device queues. Socket Type: Dual Socket R (LGA2011) Chipset: Intel C602 Memory Support: 512GB DDR3-1600. Who Should Apply: Workstation builders looking for a powerful 2P motherboard with support for today’s newest technologies. latency. 5. This E-ATX motherboard runs Intel’s C602 chipset that offers a system bus (QPI rate) of up to 8GTps (gigatransfers per second). The bounty of SATA ports is ideal for those who need large quantities of storage. and it can correct single-bit errors.41* www. including Intel’s Xeon E5-2600 family. Supermicro indicates that you’ll save up to 70% with the onboard SAS2 controller compared to using an add-in card. 16 DIMMs. the X9DAE can detect double-bit errors.computerpoweruser. and 10 configurations. For network connectivity.com . Using ECC memory.1.08* www.com Why You’ll Dig It: This dual-socket workstation board is relatively compact and offers support for SAS2 (6Gbps Serial Attached SCSI) via an onboard LSI controller to provide you with improved reliability. you’ll be able to harness the power of two Intel LGA2011 socket processors. Supermicro includes 20 PC health monitoring tools. The X9DAE allows for a memory cache of up to 20MB. quad channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD Supermicro X9DAE $581. The X9DA7’s 16 DIMM slots support up to 512GB of DDR31600 registered ECC memory or 128GB unbuffered DDR3-1600 (ECC or non-ECC).supermicro. Socket Type: Dual Socket R (LGA2011) Chipset: Intel C602 Memory Support: 512GB DDR3-1600.

0 x4 slot. eight DIMM slots for quad-channel memory.11n.99* www. up to 14 USB 2. memory. Intel also offers a variety of I/O headers along the bottom of the board. The motherboard offers two PCI-E 3. Who Should Apply: Power users looking for a motherboard that offers a layout that will maximize the potential for add-in cards and connected peripherals. and four USB 3. BIOS Vault Technology uses advanced security checks to protect against attacks. two PCI-E 2. one FireWire. We found that the spacing of the slots makes it convenient for those with add-in cards that use the PCI-E x1 or PCI slots. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600.MOTHERBOARD Intel DX79SI $264.intel. and graphics. including two USB 3.0 ports.0 x1 slots. including a Bluetooth receiver. Internet connectivity is provided through the integrated Intel PRO 10/100/1000 wired connection and onboard 802.0 x16 slots (x16/x8/x8 with three graphics cards installed). so it’s designed to support high-performance builds. and support for Intel’s six-core processors. Socket Type: LGA2011 Chipset: Intel X79 Memory Support: 64GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2400 max OC). You’ll find three PCI-E 3.0 ports. Intel also equips the DX79SI with BIOS Vault Technology to provide fault tolerance and security. Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts who want to push their system to the limit and need plenty of onboard connectivity options.0 x16 slots. Additional connectivity is found via built-in Bluetooth. three USB 2.0.com Why You’ll Dig It: Intel bundles the DZ77GA-70K with lots of extras. 4 DIMMs.intel.com Why You’ll Dig It: The DX79SI is part of Intel’s Extreme Series. quad channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD Intel DZ77GA-70K $219. 8 DIMMs. because you should have room to install them around the graphics cards. Wi-Fi adapter. and USB 3. and one PCI-E 2.0. The DX79SI is also a good fit for people who want to secure their BIOS from threats. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 63 .0 front-panel module.99* www. and one S/PDIF header. With the DZ77GA-70K. two PCI slots. Intel also has introduced a new version of its Visual BIOS that is designed to let you more quickly configure speeds for your processor.

Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600. there’s a 6-pin PCI-E plug that can deliver extra juice when necessary to your graphics card(s). including onboard power and reset buttons. Who Should Apply: Power users who want a motherboard that can ensure they’ll be able to get the most out of the rest of their components. You’ll find support for up to 32GB of DDR3-3000 memory and three PCI-E x16 slots. so you know this board is capable of handling excellent overclocks. and integrated graphics. VTT.us Why You’ll Dig It: GIGABYTE integrates a digital PWM controller that accurately provides power to the board’s CPU. Two Thunderbolt ports are also provided to allow for simultaneous connection of up to 12 devices and two monitors. Lucid Virtu GPU technology uses the processor’s integrated GPU to remove redundant rendering from your PC’s dedicated GPU.gigabyte. voltage read points.99 www. memory. Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts planning on overclocking their Ivy Bridge processor and want to take advantage of the motherboard’s dual Thunderbolt interface. The three PCI-E x16 slots operate at x8/x4/x4 when three cards are installed. MSI uses high-quality heatsinks to ensure maximum cooling. an LED debug display. and a built-in BIOS switcher.com Why You’ll Dig It: We love that MSI runs a Prime95 factory burn-in test using an Ivy Bridge processor that’s been pushed to at least 4. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-3000 max OC).0 ports (six rear. two internal) and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port.11a/b/g/n dual-band expansion card. MSI also includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (802.computerpoweruser.0 and 802.com . For GPU stability.MOTHERBOARD GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP5 TH $249. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE 64 October 2012 / www. There are also three PCI-E x1 slots and a PCI slot. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD MSI Z77 MPOWER $219.11b/g/n). The Z77 MPOWER has USB 3. Power users will like several overclocking features. With the Z77 MPOWER. 4 DIMMs.msi. GIGABYTE also includes a Bluetooth 4. 4 DIMMs.99 us. and components that meet the MIL-STD-810G standard for electrical performance.6GHz on every Z77 MPOWER.

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Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2133 max OC). Wi-Fi capabilities are built-in thanks to the 802.com Why You’ll Dig It: The Mini-ITX Z77-ITX WiFi allows for overclocking of Intel’s 3rd Generation processors. as well as those that regularly transfer large quantities of data.99 www.us Why You’ll Dig It: This motherboard features two Thunderbolt ports.0 ports (four rear. and one PCI slot for add-in cards. with a total of six on the rear panel. For I/O. including two HDMI and one Mini-DisplayPort. and ZOTAC indicates you can install up to 16GB of memory at a maximum speed of 2. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600. With three graphics cards.11b/g/n module. GIGABYTE indicates that the 10Gbps speed will allow you to transfer a 1080p movie in under 30 seconds. The motherboard also includes a PCI-E x16 slot to support a dedicated graphics card for your small form factor build. Who Should Apply: System builders excited about adding native Thunderbolt support to a PC. so you can daisy chain up to 12 devices. There are two DDR3 memory slots.0 ports (two rear. 4 DIMMs. as well as two monitors. install two graphics cards. An included adapter lets you connect to a full-sized DisplayPort. eight USB 2.1 channel audio.com .0 ports. 2 DIMMs.MOTHERBOARD GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP4 TH $184. Who Should Apply: HTPC and small form factor builders who want a feature-filled motherboard for their system.zotacusa.computerpoweruser. the top slot will run at x8 bandwidth while the other two operate at x4 speeds. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD ZOTAC Z77-ITX WiFi $169. The board offers three PCI-E x16 slots. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE 66 October 2012 / www. one PS/2 keyboard/mouse port.gigabyte. The board sports eight USB 3. The first PCI-E x16 slot can operate at x16 speeds with one GPU. four internal). two internal). and the top two PCI-E x16 slots will run at x8 speeds. you’ll find four USB 3.99 www. so you’ll be able to connect to both monitors and HDTV alike. three PCI-E x1 slots. There are also a variety of video outputs. The three PCI-E x16 slots also makes this board a good option for those planning on using multiple graphics cards.133MHz. and 7. via the bi-directional 10Gbps data pipeline.

0 x1 slots. You can add two USB 3. ECS provides support for 32GB of DDR3 memory that can be clocked up to 2. Who Should Apply: People looking to create a powerful HTPC or mini PC. For graphics card support.ecsusa.com Why You’ll Dig It: Available on a limited basis.msi. and the sound is enhanced via THX’s TruStudio Pro. The Z77 chipset provides support for Intel’s 3rd Generation Core processors (and Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000).0) $159. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD MSI Z77IA-E53 $149. two USB 2. 4 DIMMs. You’ll also find support for 7.com Why You’ll Dig It: The Z77H2-A2X Deluxe offers several different slots for add-in cards.0 x16 slot is also available to let you amp up your build with an expansion card.0 x16 slots. The board offers four rear USB 3. Support for up to 32GB of DDR3-2800 also makes the Z77H2-A2X Deluxe a wise choice for those who to install crazy-fast memory. (Two installed cards will run at x8 bandwidth.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 ports. two standard PCI slots. MSI includes HDMI and VGA outputs. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 32GB DDR3-1600MHz (DDR3-2800 max OC).0 ports. For wireless streaming to and from your HTPC. and a 3Gbps eSATA port. there are two PCI-E 3.1-channel surround sound via the HDMI and digital optical outputs.0+HS. Who Should Apply: Builders who have a number of add-in cards that they plan on installing into their system.800MHz. MSI included 802. the Z77IA-E53 is a Mini-ITX motherboard that’s chock full of multimedia features.99* www. Lucid’s Virtu MVP allows the motherboard to utilize the power of Intel’s integrated graphics with a discrete video card. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600 (DDR3-2800 max OC). dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 67 .0 ports through an internal header. Power users will like that the Z77IA-E53’s two DIM slots support memory clocked up to 2.) You’ll also find two PCI-E 2.MOTHERBOARD ECS Z77H2-A2X Deluxe (V1.99 us.800MHz. 2 DIMMs. and a mini PCI-E x1 slot. A PCI-E 3.

Those who want to enhance the graphics capabilities of their system could opt to install a discrete graphics card into the PCI-E x16 slot on the motherboard. Socket Type: AMD FM1 Chipset: AMD A75 FCH Memory Support: 8B DDR3-1333. as well as 8GB of DDR3-1333 memory. Who Should Apply: People looking to create an HTPC or SFF build that can take advantage of all the features in the Intel 7 Series chipset. There are two USB 3.0 ports (four rear.com Why You’ll Dig It: The Mini-ITX board works with AMD’s Fusion APUs. the H77-ITX WiFi includes an 802.MOTHERBOARD ZOTAC H77-ITX WiFi $146. you can install up to 16GB of DDR-1600 memory.giadatech. Support for 8-channel HD audio can be delivered through the board’s HDMI or S/PDIF ports.com Why You’ll Dig It: With the H77-ITX WiFi. A DVI output is also included for connection to traditional PC monitors. you’ll be able to install one of Intel’s 3rd Generation Core processors. 2 DIMMs. The Mini-ITX board includes four USB 3. 2 DIMMs. four internal). dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD Giada MI-A75 $105 www. For system memory. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE 68 October 2012 / www. For display outputs.computerpoweruser.zotacusa. Giada provides support for Hybrid CrossFireX technology to let you switch between integrated graphics processor and a discrete GPU. Socket Type: LGA1155 Chipset: Intel Z77 Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600. three 3Gbps SATA ports and an eSATA port that runs at 3Gbps. and DisplayPort.11b/g/n module. you can choose between HDMI.com . There are two DIMMs and support for dual-channel memory.0 ports (two rear. eight USB 2. Who Should Apply: HTPC and small form factor builders who want a motherboard that provides lots of connectivity for their hardware. which provide you with the power of Intel’s HD Graphics 2500/4000. DVI-I. As its name suggests. a PS/2 combo keyboard/mouse port.99 www. Storage support includes two 6Gbps SATA ports.0 ports and four 6Gbps SATA ports for fast connectivity with today’s peripherals. two internal). and an optical S/PDIF output.

and one DVI.920 x 1. and you’ll also find four USB 2. The graphics built into the Mini-ITX motherboard support dual displays. Socket Type: AMD FM1 Chipset: AMD A75 FCH Memory Support: 16GB DDR3-1600.0 x16 slot.0 ports for peripherals. an eSATA port. This motherboard offers four 6Gbps SATA ports. and the PURE White E350 can work with either DDR3-800 or DDR3-1066 modules. two USB 3. each with a maximum resolution of 1. Who Should Apply: System builders who are looking for a full-featured A75 motherboard for their HTPC or as the base for a solid family system. and 10 configurations. you’ll find one PCI-E 2. with four USB 2. Built-in video outputs include one HDMI.0 ports. The ATX form factor motherboard provides you with five 6Gbps SATA ports that support RAID 0. Socket Type: AMD E350 APU Chipset: AMD Hudson-M1 Memory Support: 8GB DDR3-1066. You can install up to 8GB of memory into the two slots. 1. 4 DIMMs.MOTHERBOARD SAPPHIRE PURE White E350 $99.99 www.com Why You’ll Dig It: The affordable PURE Platinum A75 works with AMD’s A-series and E-series Socket FM1 APUs. A PCI-E x16 slot lets you add a discrete graphics card to your build. 2 DIMMs. one PCI-E x4 slot. which provides you with a dual-core processor and Radeon HD 6310 graphics.com Why You’ll Dig It: The PURE White E350 is built with AMD’s Zacate APU.0 ports. single channel BUYER’S GUIDE MOTHERBOARD SAPPHIRE PURE Platinum A75 $99 www. one DisplayPort. dual channel BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 69 . the variety gives you plenty of flexibility for connecting to a big screen or monitor. Rear panel I/O connectivity is also plentiful. so you’ll be able to surround your Fusion processor with plenty of fast storage devices. and two PCI slots.080 over the HDMI or DVI-D video outputs. Who Should Apply: Enthusiasts creating small form factor or embedded systems and want an affordable platform that’s capable of handling graphics tasks out of the box.sapphiretech. one mini PCI-E x1 slot. and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port. two PCI-E x1 slots. For expansion slots.sapphiretech.

panel dimensions.920 x 1. which lets you see more and do more. work with more video clips at once. and technologies your eyes can’t do without.computerpoweruser. With larger. and this buyer’s guide will help you determine the specs. and work with more pixels in a RAW image with less zooming and panning. Panels For Pros Content creators in audio and video production and image editing fields can never get enough screen space. Go ahead.orse yet. wider screens and higher resolutions.080 to see the finished results of their labors of love. run multiple applications side-by-side. there are more pixels crammed in front of your eyes. and browse the web faster and more efficiently. so larger monitors lets them examine waveforms in greater detail. HD content creators also require a monitor with a minimum resolution of 1. 70 October 2012 / www.com . if you’re playing your HD media and games at sub-1080p resolutions. then you’re missing out on the big picture. scroll less. Professionals who work in small teams will Do-More Displays One of most common reasons to upgrade your monitor is to get more screen real estate. Now’s a great time to buy a new monitor.

” then you probably put a lot of thought into the monitor you buy. and a plethora of ports. To make your life a little easier. which produces CPU / October 2012 71 . ■ Latest Trends The sizes and resolutions of monitors have topped out at 30-inches and 2. improve the look of the textures. as well as the recommendations you provide to family. coworkers. DVI. each with a price (prices marked with an asterisk [*] are current online prices at the time of this writing). It’s Game Time GPU makers are always pushing the boundaries of video reproduction.also appreciate screens with wide viewing angles so everyone gets an optimal view even when standing off-center. friends. and Thunderbolt. and others. A couple displays in this guide make communication a priority by featuring built-in webcams. but you’re missing out when you upgrade your graphics card and connect it to your old monitor. If you or someone you know is in the market for a new monitor. we’ve compiled 16 of the best monitors currently available. DisplayPort. Take It From Us If you know someone who refers to you as “the computer guy.600. Other extras we think you’ll like include USB hubs. Additionally. but prices for high-resolution monitors continue to fall. you can do it all in 3D. the available ports. And with some monitors. you can increase the resolution. fast response times. and 3D modeling. etc. peruse our parcel of impressive panels. the native resolution.560 x 1. A vast majority of the monitors for sale today are LED-backlit. gaming graphics. fully articulating stands. and comments about why you should consider it and to whom it is best suited. there are several newer technologies we’ve noted in the latest monitors. HDMI. and enjoy a more vivid gaming experience thanks to high contrast ratios. With a new monitor. including VGA. excellent color performance while consuming approximately 40% of the energy compared to conventional backlit monitors.

then an off-the-shelf monitor from the local big chain store isn’t going to hack it. This gargantuan 30-inch monitor features 98.computerpoweruser. Its large size also makes it perfect for multitaskers and those with plenty of real-estate on their desks. 2 DVI Resolution: 1. most of the monitors here are tuned for the explicit consumption of movies and games. but the NEC MultiSync PA301W is more for graphics professionals and imaging enthusiasts.com Why You’ll Dig It: If you work with images. 250 cd/m2 brightness. and 6ms response time. On the back.920 x 1.200 BUYER’S GUIDE 72 October 2012 / www.560 x 1.MONITOR NEC MultiSync PA301W $2. tilt.000:1 contrast ratio (typical). This monitor also features a built-in USB hub. or 3D models on a professional level. Who Should Apply: This monitor was built from the ground up for graphic artists and anyone who uses CAD and design software. video. and a fully articulating stand that lets you swivel.planar.necdisplay. and pivot controls. desk.195 www. Ports: 2 DisplayPort. you’ll also find a 100mm VESAcompatible mount so you can attach the monitor to a wall. and the ability to display 1.com .200 native resolution. Planar’s PX2491W is a widescreen 24-inch display with a 1. Ports: HDMI. swivel. or anywhere else. 350 cd/m2 brightness. The native resolution is an impressive 2.920 x 1.600. 178-degree viewing angles. Who Should Apply: This monitor is best suited to graphics professionals and designers who need superior image quality but may not have the desk space for a 30-inch monitor.299 www. The stand also lets you adjust it to your ideal position with tilt.3 trillion colors. handling 1. 178-degree vertical and horizontal viewing angles. This monitor also features an ambient light sensor to dim and brighten the backlight when necessary.com Why You’ll Dig It: It’s true. It features a 1.000:1 typical contrast ratio.07 billion out of 4.600 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Planar PX2491W $2.560 x 1.073 billion colors. 2 DVI Resolution: 2. and it has a 1.2% coverage of the AdobeRGB color space. and pivot the monitor as you see fit. and a 7ms response time. The PX2491W also excels at color reproduction.

This monitor features a 2. and it has several extras that you won’t find on a typical monitor. a 49W 2.com Why You’ll Dig It: We’ve been enamored with Apple’s Cinema displays in the past. Other extras you’ll appreciate include a pair of USB 2. Its color reproduction capabilities also make it good for graphics and imaging professionals. a FireWire 800 port.1 speaker system. which supports dual-channel 10Gbps data transfer rates that’ll give USB 3. The design of this aluminum-wrapped monitor is as impressive as you’d expect.000:1 typical contrast ratio.560 x 1. Mac mini. which lets you connect compatible mobile devices to view HD content on the Samsung monitor. and a widescreen 2. 1. 5ms response time.440 BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 73 .0 ports. Other specs include a 12ms response time.99 www. DisplayPort Resolution: 2.0 ports and a collection of image enhancement technologies.560 x 1. and Samsung MagicColor. Ports: Thunderbolt Resolution: 2. 375 cd/m2 brightness rating. which is remarkable for its accurate color reproduction and impressive viewing angles (178 degrees). a trio of USB 2.440 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Apple Thunderbolt Display $999 www.samsung.440 native resolution. 1. Samsung’s monitor also features built-in stereo speakers and support for Mobile High-Definition Link devices. or iMac. including Samsung MagicAngle.199. and. but this 27-inch LED-backlit model packs Thunderbolt I/O technology.560 x 1. Samsung MagicBright3.com Why You’ll Dig It: Samsung’s 27-inch Series 9 monitor is built around an LED-backlit PLS (plane line switching) panel.000:1 typical contrast ratio.MONITOR Samsung Series 9 S27B970D $1. a Gigabit Ethernet port. Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for anyone who wants to upgrade to a larger and higher-resolution monitor for intense gaming and HD video. and 285 cd/m2 brightness. this display will improve your visuals considerably. MacBook Pro.560 x 1. of course.apple. DVI. Ports: HDMI.0 a run for its money.440 resolution. including a built-in FaceTime HD camera and mic. the Thunderbolt port. Who Should Apply: If you have a Thunderbolt-enabled MacBook Air.

which makes it perfect for picky gamers and avid movie fans.200 BUYER’S GUIDE 74 October 2012 / www. It supports a 5ms response time. DVI Resolution: 1.000:1 typical contrast ratio.080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR DoubleSight DS-245V $489. The monitor also tilts down 5 degrees and up 20 degrees.doublesight. and this latest one is a 24-inch model that can breathe new life into the video and games you love. so you can connect this monitor to a Blu-ray 3D player.920 x 1. Who Should Apply: This monitor is built for gamers and movie lovers. 1. a 2ms response time. PlayStation 3. and a 400 cd/m2 brightness rating. This unit also includes NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses and an emitter.com . Built around an IPS (in-plane switching) panel. The DoubleSight DS-245V offers a high 1. DVI. The stand is highly adjustable.computerpoweruser. and swivel adjustments. Ports: VGA. then this monitor lets you see it in all its immersive glory. which makes your games look great whether you’re playing in 2D or 3D. supporting height. this monitor helps it deliver outstanding color performance and high 178-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles.200 resolution.viewsonic.000:1 typical contrast ratio (20. pivot.920 x 1.MONITOR ViewSonic V3D245 $599 www. Ports: HDMI. and 1. Other features include a pair of 2W integrated stereo speakers with SRS Premium Sound technology.920 x 1. tilt.com Why You’ll Dig It: The ViewSonic V3D245 is a 24-inch LED-backlit monitor that’ll take your games and HD video to the next level. or set-top box. so you get an optimal view regardless of the monitor’s placement.99* www. VGA Resolution: 1.000.000:1 dynamic). If viewing either in 3D interests you. There’s also a pair of built-in stereo speakers (2W per channel) for your auditory enjoyment. 300 cd/m2 brightness. Who Should Apply: Superior image quality is this monitor’s best asset. This panel features a 120Hz frame rate.com Why You’ll Dig It: We’ve looked at a few DoubleSight displays in the past.

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but not many were built from the ground up with gaming in mind. 250 cd/m2 brightness.920 x 1.com Why You’ll Dig It: Most of the monitors in this buyer’s guide do well with games. so you can closely monitor your energy usage.080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Dell UltraSharp U2412M $369 www. DisplayPort Resolution: 1. The LED-backlit FORIS F2333 is a 23-inch monitor with a 1.com .MONITOR EIZO FORIS FS2333 $419 www.200 BUYER’S GUIDE 76 October 2012 / www. EIZO also designed its own IC for this monitor to reduce the input lag (time between when you perform an action and it shows up on screen) to practically zero. VGA. What makes it different though are technologies such as Smart Insight. Ports: 2 HDMI. and an LED backlight for strong color performance and low power consumption. so you can distinguish enemies from foliage in the distance.dell. Ports: DVI. 300 cd/m2 brightness. the ability to tilt.eizo. Who Should Apply: If you’re a serious gamer who is extremely picky about your visuals. VGA Resolution: 1. which uses tone mapping to maintain a high contrast ratio and image details in dark areas.920 x 1. and 1. Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for gamers who want to upgrade their display and let that high-end graphics card really shine. Other features include the cost-cutting PowerNap capability and granular power management software.000. DVI.5 inches of height adjustability.200 resolution that delivers excellent detail in games without taking over your desk with its sheer size.920 x 1. This monitor is great for ergonomic perfectionists. and a stand that swivels and rotates. The monitor also features a DC power connector so you can add a Dell Soundbar. The Smart Resolution feature actually increases the sharpness of images. 2. then you’ll appreciate the advantages of the EIZO FORIS FS2333. This display is also features an 8ms response time.080 resolution.000:1 typical contrast ratio. it has 4.com Why You’ll Dig It: This 24-inch 16:10 IPS (in-plane switching) display from Dell features a 1.computerpoweruser.920 x 1.000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.4ms response time. 3.

This 22-inch monitor has a 1. swivel. It also offers a 20. which lets you tilt. and a peak power of 28W. which makes it perfect for web browsing. family.920 x 1. Other specs we like include the 2ms response time. The unit features a highly variable stand.MONITOR AOC e2752Vh $299.000. Who Should Apply: This large monitor is perfect for media enthusiasts who want a screen that fills their vision. raise. and a 1.050 resolution. and the LED backlight is also attractive to energy-conscious penny pinchers. DisplayPort Resolution: 1. VGA Resolution: 1. Ports: HDMI.com Why You’ll Dig It: LED-backlit monitors are great for HD video and gaming. including an ambient light sensor and a proximity sensor.99 www.080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x $299. then check out the Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x. One of the best features of the Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x is the integrated webcam. 300 cd/m2 brightness rating.050 BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 77 . and the e2752Vh from AOC is no exception. DVI.680 x 1.000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.920 x 1. This large 27-inch monitor also includes built-in 2. and colleagues. But don’t let the shell fool you—this monitor is cuttingedge. With the built-in speakers.680 x 1.com Why You’ll Dig It: Lenovo’s ThinkVision monitors have retained the no-nonsense design aesthetic that IBM launched them with way back when. This unit also features a number of energyconserving technologies.99 us. which prevents ghosting and ensures you get crisp clear images no matter what you’re watching or playing. and lower the screen to suit your viewing needs.5W stereo speakers for the space-conscious enthusiast.080 resolution that’s perfect for displaying your favorite entertainment.lenovo. Ports: VGA. this monitor is also ideal for workspaces where standalone speakers are not practical due to space limits.aoc. document creation. Who Should Apply: If you’re looking for a monitor with some innovative extras that’ll help you communicate with friends. It features a typical power consumption of just 21W. and business applications.

G is perfect for gaming. This HZ281HPB also features an 800:1 typical contrast ratio. and a 5.920 x 1.99 www. This monitor is also 3D-capable. Who Should Apply: If you want to upgrade your gaming resolution without breaking the bank. 250 cd/m2 brightness.080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Hanns.com/us/ Why You’ll Dig It: The 27.000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.000.com Why You’ll Dig It: One of LG’s latest SUPER LED-backlit monitors.com .MONITOR LG D2342P $299. DVI. this display takes advantage of lightweight and comfortable passive polarized glasses (one pair is included) to give you a 3D experience like you get at the movies. and three color presets (warm. screen tilt control.hannsg. then this monitor will provide an even more immersive gaming and movie watching experience for you. This 23-inch monitor features a 1.5-inch HZ281HPB from Hanns. VGA Resolution: 1. and a variety of content creation applications. nature. 170-degree horizontal and 160-degree vertical viewing angles. Who should apply: If cinema-like 3D is what you want. Ports: HDMI. Better yet. Ports: HDMI.lg. VGA Resolution: 1. DVI. but rather than using active shutter glasses.920 x 1.080 native resolution. This high-resolution display (1. the D2342P supports 2D-to-3D conversion.920 x 1. the D2342P delivers impressive and immersive visuals in both games and movies. HD videos.200) boasts a 400 cd/m2 brightness. 5ms response time.200 BUYER’S GUIDE 78 October 2012 / www.G HZ281HPB $269* www.computerpoweruser. then this monitor is a perfect option. and 3ms grey-togrey response time. so you can add a new dimension to content that is not 3D by default. 5ms on-off response time. This monitor also includes built-in stereo speakers (2W per channel) and a VESA mount so you can attach it to an articulating wall or desk mount for even greater freedom of movement.920 x 1. and cool). Other features that impact your day-to-day computing comfort include an antiglare hard coating.

connectivity comes courtesy of a USB 2. Who Should Apply: Road warriors who would like to add a secondary screen for productivity. This LED-backlit monitor is very thin at just 0. DVI.lenovo. You don’t need a Lenovo laptop to enjoy this display. demonstrations. check out the 23-inch HP x2301. The x2301 is capable of producing bright and crisp images without putting a dent in your electric bill. this monitor stands apart from the rest of the glossy black-framed models here with its band of brushed aluminum along the bottom edge of the screen and the translucent blue accents on the base. Features include a 1.366 x 768 BUYER’S GUIDE CPU / October 2012 79 .080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 $249. Ports: HDMI. weighing 1. VGA Resolution: 1.com Why You’ll Dig It: Having a second screen is great for productivity.920 x 1.85 inch at its thickest point.000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (1. thanks to the 8. presentations. making it perfect for gamers and movie lovers alike. Who Should Apply: The HP x2301 has a true 1080p resolution. It also performs well in games and HD content. but packing a full-sized monitor in your carry-on is just not practical.39-inch thick. and a stand that’s adjustable between approximately 12 and 40 degrees. The ThinkVision LT1421 is a slim profile monitor with a photo frame-style stand that you can use to add a second screen to your laptop. Ports: USB Resolution: 1. 16 brightness levels. and 3ms response time. Not only will this 14-inch screen fit into your laptop bag.000.0 and EPEAT Silver certifications.hp.366 x 768 native resolution. 250 cd/m2 brightness. it features ENERGY STAR 5.000:1 typical).com Why You’ll Dig It: For a monitor that really makes an impression. Its unique appearance will also appeal to the style-conscious. it does so discretely.MONITOR HP x2301 $249.99* www.8 pounds and measuring just 0.99 www.0 interface. and more. Aesthetically.

But the Acer S235HL also offers some unique functionality. Who Should Apply: The V7 LED236W3R is a good monitor for those looking to upgrade to an HD-capable screen without spending a fortune. and support for displaying up to 16. It offers a 100. Ports: 2 HDMI.080 native screen resolution.com Why You’ll Dig It: This 24-inch LED-backlit monitor from V7 has a 1.com Why You’ll Dig It: Who says you have to pay extra for style? This affordable 23-inch monitor from Acer features an eye-catching asymmetrical stand and a thin. the V7 LED236W3R is available with a square or rounded base.MONITOR Acer S235HL $199.920 x 1.acer. a 1. the power and display ports are located on the monitor’s base.000:1 typical contrast ratio. Who Should Apply: This monitor is ideal for any HD video enthusiast. making this a good option for cluttered desks. Other aesthetic touches include blue LEDs and a silver-accented stand.com . so it’ll display HD media as it was meant to be viewed. Avid gamers and movie lovers will also appreciate this monitor’s overall performance. namely.v7-world. 250 cd/m2 brightness. You can also tilt the screen back up to 20 degrees to suit your viewing needs. it’ll support full-resolution Blu-ray Disc playback. instead of on the back of the screen. and thanks to the HDCP-compliant HDMI ports.080 BUYER’S GUIDE 80 October 2012 / www. With a widescreen (16:9) 1080p resolution and 5ms response time. The monitor’s base is only 5 inches deep.000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and 250-nit brightness rating. this monitor is ideal for gaming and HD video.7 million colors. VGA Resolution: 1.000.080 BUYER’S GUIDE MONITOR V7 LED236W3R $189 www.920 x 1. Ports: HDMI.99 us.computerpoweruser. VGA Resolution: 1.920 x 1. which cuts down on the cable clutter and improves the overall look of the unit. half-inch profile that looks good in your home of office. Uniquely. This monitor also features a 5ms response time for virtually no ghosting.

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in the background. so it’s occasionally hard to pick out the best video. the creators of Cubby are the same folks behind LogMeIn. is that you can’t always take it with you. A Preferences dialog box lets you tell Tubulator the highest resolution and file format you want.computerpoweruser. The basics of Dropbox end there.” which does double-duty as a YouTube search field.0. While in beta. Still.92.10686 Beta Publisher and URL: LogMeIn. ■ Tubulator 0. then you can’t access anything. Tubulator is available for Macs and Windows systems. but the standalone program Tubulator has a few more features that make it worth a look.0. Tubulator’s biggest problem is that the current beta doesn’t play the videos as you browse search results. then paste its URL into Tubulator. www. the cloud account and any other PCs you have.10686 Beta W hen you Google “Dropbox alternative. It’s only the beginning for Cubby. the market is rife with online backup and file syncing services. Tubulator can handle multiple simultaneous downloads. The beta is free.0. Cubby 1. That said. You designate local folders to sync to the Cubby cloud. Cubby lets you designate the sync settings of folders. At the top of the window. but Tubulator goes shareware at 1.Inside The World Of Betas LogMeIn Cubby 1. as opposed to Dropbox’s sole “My Dropbox” folder. Y Official Product Name: Tubulator 0. Cubby works like Dropbox in a lot of ways. A more minor problem is that although you can download full videos or just the audio portion. Now is the time to check it out.com . It has ffmpeg embedded already. perhaps. Results show up as tiles. Cubby also lets you pick which folders you want to share and sync on your hard drive. ■ 82 October 2012 / www.33 Beta ouTube’s biggest problem. but we think Cubby is interesting enough to follow. and it will try to retrieve files that match your preference. so they know how to successfully zig when the marketplace zags.com ETA: Q3 2012 Why You Should Care: A decent way to download and convert YouTube videos. Firefox and Chrome have extensions that let you download YouTube content for later consumption.com ETA: Q4 2012 Why You Should Care: A worthwhile and free alternative to Dropbox.0. In both platforms it looks a bit like a web browser that only works with YouTube. Mac OS. and.” you’ll find more than a dozen competitors. and Windows. We found it best to use YouTube itself to find the best match. www. a popular GoToMyPC alternative. so you may need to reorganize your hard drive.0. with the cloud acting as a conduit. If you have more than one computer.tubulatorapp. Cubby offers 5GB of storage.92. with apps for Android. Pricing isn’t yet announced. or just to your other PCs. too. Cubby definitely has some zigs. with each tile displaying a thumbnail of the video and a download link. The last option is neat because it lets you share that 50GB folder of photos between your PCs without counting against your Cubby cloud allocation. you can copy and paste YouTube URLs into the “address bar. iOS. so it performs the transcoding automatically in the background.cubby.33 Publisher and URL: Jan Faroe. If you’re without an Internet connection or a good wireless signal. you can sync the contents of the same folders between them. Cubby syncs all subfolders within a selected folder. with extras. Cubby automatically uploads your files to the service as they’re updated on your PC. syncing to your 5GB Cubby cloud account. you need to manually toggle between video and audio with a pull-down menu.

and the idle-time optimization schemes have been improved.org /wiki/Release_Notes_2. wiki.sisoftware. You can also download and convert a video from any page on which it appears. The startup optimization has been streamlined.7356 The hit program that lets you clip and save content across PCs and devices now has user switching.net/changelog MediaInfo Lite 0. www. Fraps.1 Download Accelerator Plus 10. The tool can now tell you when new BIOS. the Normalize command.com/news.aspx LibreOffice 3. Updates support for various codecs. including one for account switching.org Driver Bay AMD Catalyst 12. Metro-style theme is added. a 25% leap in performance for Skyrim.8 The beloved in-game screen shot and video grabber fixes an intermittent crash when recording from OpenGL games and resolves crashes that occurred because Fraps couldn’t access a PC’s sound device. www.5. The DirectX runtime DLL files are now included for easier installation of DirectX.9 The latest update to the YouTube video download tool only fixes some minor bugs. fileforum. and Office SmartArt can be imported.fraps. www. better track manipulation. and fast file imports.0.php SiSoftware Sandra 2012 SP5a The exhaustive diagnostics tool for your PC gets a major feature in this mid-year upgrade.com/detail/ MediaInfo-Lite/1183386892/1 CPU / October 2012 83 .0. full-featured office suite adds color scale support in spreadsheets among many tweaks and additions in this release. Also new are several keyboard shortcuts.sourceforge. Slide shows now support widescreen. It comes in a wide range of languages. It also addresses a minor memory leak when recording sound in Windows 7 and Vista.8. including anti-aliasing for Diablo 3. the toolbar. but it caps off a series of recent releases that also add the ability to convert videos and music for iPad use. and mouse wheels scrolling content off of the screen.amd. www.5 update earlier this year that added the much-requested recording of AVI movie files longer than 4GB. and OggSplitter. mpc-hc. Software Updates Audacity 2. and now FFmpeg is used for decoding AC3 and DTS materials. Anticipating Windows 8’s arrival.com YTD 3.betanews. firmware. and now comes with an unlimited home license. And you now can share individual notes to LinkedIn.org/download/3-6new-features-and-fixes Media Player Classic 1.01 One of the great free audio editors finally made it to Version 2. The update is also Windows 8-ready.altervista.0 Beta The venerable download utility adds some sizzle with the beta of this upcoming release.3 The lightweight and frills-free approach to video playback gets a bunch of fixes to bugs involving cursors.0 this year.59 This handy utility will analyze your media file to reveal its format. and recent incremental updates have squashed some freeze issues and downloading problems. with much-improved effects. Multiple updates have followed the big 3.5. www. Support added for fixed items in cells.evernote. in one click. Now you can download and convert a YouTube video to MP3. or drivers are available for your configuration.net System Mechanic 11 A major update to one of the venerable allaround system utilities includes AcceleWrite that claims to speed up file transfer activity.7. This update fixes some program crashes associated with Mpeg4.6.audacityteam.com/us/game/downloads/ Pages/downloads. so you can move across free and multiple premium accounts within the program.com/2012/08/14/ evernote-for-windows-gets-userswitching-linkedin-sharing-and-more Fraps 3.com/dap/beta Evernote 4. and Media Player Classic. and a 20% perf bump for Total War: Shogun 2.Upgrades That’ll Keep You Humming Along PC veterans will appreciate the updates to many familiar shareware and freeware titles here: Audacity.7 Beta Last month we looked at the full release of Catalyst 12. System Mechanic. www.6.youtubedownload. a new device toolbar.4.01 refresh fixes bugs to the Selection Toolbar. blog. This . and length.6 This free. resolution.iolo. sites. AAC and FLV files. The package also includes an SSD Accelerator for solid-state drives. Shortcuts can be added to more items in Keyboard Preferences. PDFs can be exported with watermarking.libreoffice. Word count has been added to the word processor status bar.speedbit. as well as Facebook and Twitter. but this beta delivers an impressive array of upgrades.

For the Smart Brush offers a fun way to apply these folks. Drop a photo into Elements’ search box and adjust a slider to 84 October 2012 / www. wrapped up in a simpler. organizing and managing photos. textures or artistic effects to defined. . There are also some great tools for depth of field effect. Default smart tags include quality (low. For these reasons and countless others. high). However. You can disable these Auto-Analyzer filters. which uses a simple gradient tool to let you conduct how a foreground object (such as a face) stays in focus while the background blurs out. ratios and overlay markers (Rule Of Thirds These days. as the process requires significant CPU and memory resources. Just because a shot is in focus doesn’t mean the viewer’s eye goes where the photographer intended. Each of these four functions has its own tab in the top-right of the Elements interface. but tools and sub-tools offered along the leftsome consumers find its feature depth side tools panel. This is why we can’t give enough praise for Adobe’s new capability to search by shape and color. Maybe the details are distracting. so Adobe designed a proprietar y analysis engine to apply automatic tags to images when they’re imported. the colors too muted. . dull. focus. The new ability to curve text along a path is another welcome addition. but as with any full-featured editor. which aims to deliver roughly 80% of the automatically masked areas. medium. and outputting them into creative projects.computerpoweruser.adobe.com . and are these packages sufficiently userfriendly without sacrificing power? Let’s find out. Even with easier organization.com been the top name in photo editing for many years. the whole image too . The trouble is that hardly anyone ever bothers to do this. expect an initial learning curve. sharing them with others.Discount Digital Darkrooms Image Editors For The 99% T hese days. But how good? Are you sure you need Photoshop CS6 to make the most beautiful photo collage of your cats? Can you get all of the functionality you need for 150 bucks or less. letting you sort your media into albums and apply keyword tags. there’s Photoshop Elements. Maybe you simply want to do more fun things with your photos rather than let them gather dust on your hard drive. But rarely is this as appealing as it sounds. You may want to disable Auto-Analyzer if running on battery. The basic editing experience in Elements 10 remains comprehensive. more guides. and the editing. For outlandish effects. Elements displays large thumbnails of both photos and videos. perspective. When it comes to organization (called asset management in professional circles). it can often be difficult to find a particular image among the thousands you’ve stored. Elements aims for more than or Golden Ratio are options). and so on. full title’s functionality for about 15% of two of our favorite new features are crop the price. consumers need good photo-editing software. and complex interface too daunting.99 | Adobe | www. which can preserve frame aspect template-driven UI. There are a lot of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Adobe Photoshop has Photoshop Elements 10 | $99. but we’re content to leave them be provided the “Run Analyzer Only When System Is Idle” box stays checked. though. even the cheapest digital cameras have enough internal smarts to help anyone take decent photos.

scratch removal. select the specific make and model of film from a short options list. but it’s the middle step—fine-tuning the edges—that requires time and precision. including cards. liquid. From across the room. Available online for under $40 at the time of this writing. the Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 full bundle costs $149. With these placed. primarily in the filters and effects. 48-bit RGB color. and layers palettes on the right. scrapbook pages. the HDR merging tool is easy and excellent. The process smells a lot better than darkroom work and looks just as impressive. as well. Even the tools icons look similar. ArcSoft promotes the feature as being three simple steps. Elements will scan all of your indexed images for similar shots and include a percentage estimate on how closely the returns match your original. and image sizes up to 30K x 30K. brighten eyes and teeth. The Magic-Cut feature is a user-friendly masking tool for isolating foregrounds and backgrounds. A duplicate photo search now lets you find and delete all of the repeat shots clogging your archives. the results can be impressive. You start by choosing the film type. which applied a series of filters to emulate the look of a wide variety of old-school film. If you’ve graduated beyond point-shoot-post photography. Upgrade price for Photoshop Elements 10 is $79.99.preference between Color and Shape.99 | ArcSoft | www. First among these is Face Beautify. you might mistake the PhotoStudio for Photoshop. which automatically detects a straight-on face in a photo and then applies dragready anchor points around the eyes. letting you take different exposures of a shot and combine them CPU / October 2012 85 . and facial perimeter. texture. Still. and similar effects. Social types (specifically. and we’re pleased that this is still very much true. thanks to the familiar arrangement of the tools palette on the left and navigation window. On top of all the usual distortion. ArcSoft PhotoStudio 6 PhotoStudio 6 is one of the older titles in this roundup. If you want the Elements treatment for video. Adjust. adjust skin tone. our favorite effect was Magic-Film. and Edit tabs. Alternatively. enhance lip color. PaintShop Pro has long been an affordable favorite. mouth. Elements offers Object Search. It’s easy to go overboard. erase blemishes. but with a little practice. of course. First. say. | $79. It’s a good program that covers all the bases. but it remains a persuasive product with many good things going for it. histogram. Check out the many template-driven export projects in Elements 10. Imagine how PhotoStudio 6 easy this will make finding shots of you wearing your propeller beanie. social networking types) may enjoy the tagging features of Elements 10. and you’ll find PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate | $99. there are three features within PaintShop Pro X4 that make this title irresistible.com some intriguing differences. though.corel. Being old darkroom veterans. you can smooth wrinkles.com Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate Ever since the days when it was owned by JASC. but overall the UI is clean and entails no more of a learning curve than Photoshop Elements. Some users may find the separation of Adjust and Edit unnecessary. then pick any special toning. for quick and dirty work.99 | Corel | www. Dig a little deeper.99. and the Instagram-like Toy Camera. other filters include de-noising. and more. PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate divides its UI under Manage. the magnetic lasso and feathering. which now includes the ability to import your Facebook friends and apply their own self-image metadata to your pictures.arcsoft. adjust contrast and saturation. which lets you drag around an area within an image and find other photos with matching elements. PhotoStudio 6 supports RAW format. and Flash-based online albums. it’s a better approach than. brows.

The program includes a Watermark Creator. our favorite new PaintShop Pro feature is Photo Blend. saturation.org into a single image. In the first Grandma has her eyes closed. and sample thumbnails of possible output images based on preset profiles. including hue. PhotoDirector 3 is a good program made better if you can get it at a discount. magnetic brush. Light filling does a remarkable job of reclaiming details from the shadows without blowing out the whites. plus noise correction.cyberlink. and it does a phenomenal job with exporting into video-based slideshows. apply any optional tweaking. and tone mapping provides HDR-like. you can save about $10 and get the otherwise identical non-Ultimate PaintShop Pro X4. this is probably the highestvalue title in our roundup. hyperrealistic detail from only one exposure. On the Edit tab. and voila—instant results. Skin Smoother. The app handles batch editing. copying and blending these shots to make one “perfect” image was tedious and time-consuming. The improved Camera RAW Lab is a must for anyone shooting with a D-SLR. Bang for the buck (and ignoring the free GIMP). Wrinkle Removal. If you don’t care about the Nik Color Efex Pro 3. CyberLink offers a range of adjustments here. and lens correction.95. which is fine if you don’t already have one ready. Previously. If you’ve never shot in RAW and seen how dramatically an image can be modified even before editing. Imagine you’re at a family reunion taking group shots. (At the time of this writing. All in all. Most welcome is the ability to use up to five color-coded masks when adjusting various photo regions. The results you get in seconds can be astounding. turn to the Fill Light/Clarity filter and tone mapping functions. There are also plenty of preset profiles that skew images to accentuate scenes such as landscapes or portraits. but with Picture Blend. RAW images. you simply “Brush In” and “Brush Out” the areas you want preserved or tossed from each image. think contentaware filling. In some ways.95 | CyberLink | www. and uploading into Facebook or Flickr. Mask regions can be drawn either with a broad selector brush or a finer. If you don’t have multiple exposures.PhotoDirector 3 | $149. and Print.) 86 October 2012 / www. the Efex set alone is easily worth the upgrade. PhotoDirector 3 aims to be CyberLink’s version of Lightroom. Of these. Adjustment. The Smart Carver tool does similarly incredible work in eliminating defined objects from pictures without overall image distortion. PhotoDirector 3 puts its own smart brush to good use in helping to isolate unwanted background objects—or even removing the entire background. a preview histogram. printing. PhotoDirector’s interface divides into the following five tabs: Library. and lightness. Similarly. It’s the best HDR implementation we’ve seen yet in a consumer editor.computerpoweruser. and Tooth Brush. However. which has grown to be an optimized offshoot of Photoshop designed specifically for the process of refining how an image looks (as opposed to monkeying with the image’s visual elements).com . you’re in for a treat. Adjustment (much like Corel’s Adjust tab) provides a wealth of global and regional adjustment tools. Corel also builds in vignette and “selective focus” tools (similar to Adobe’s new blur features).com GNU Image Manipulation Program | Free | www. It’s easy to forget that as recently as a couple of years ago professionals typically handled such corrections. CyberLink PhotoDirector 3 Non-photographers may be unfamiliar with Adobe Lightroom. and in the second Michael Cera photobombs your shot. Edit. scripting for repetitive tasks.gimp. it was available directly through CyberLink for $99. CyberLink has also caught the beautification bug and now provides features including Eye Blinger (brightening whites and irises). makeover tools (albeit without ArcSoft’s nifty wizard). You have two similar images.0 and Picture Tubes extras. What used to be done in a darkroom (including printing) now takes place digitally in Lightroom. or the 21-image credit at Fotolia. There are multiple control sliders. Slideshow. Although not as powerful of a tool.

which marks the high water point of GIMP’s newfound focus on usability. welcome to Picasa. and it sports many professionals rely on it. filters performed much. Google does a good job tying images to keywords. with to software engineers than consumers. tabbed selection of adjustment tools. and we for fine-tuning. dewitnessed conditions in which compatible speckling. vignette. Program 2. . and usability. layers. but there’s always the RAW tools your camera manufacturer provides. auto color and acceleration capabilities added to many of the contrast fixing. disjointed. You can also synchronize desktop Picasa with your Picasa Web Albums (account. share-ready photographs. so edits are nondestructive. We recommend going into the Options>Web Albums tab and checking the Preserve Original Image Quality option to prevent Picasa from applying heavier JPEG compression to your images when uploading to Picasa Web Albums. If you want quick.6. such as a customizable clone stamp and healing thumbnail will transition the UI into brush. attractive photo a mixed blessing. editing frame-worthy art. and you can view two in-progress versions of an image for side-byside comparison.com tools. has long been the open-source answer to Photoshop. We appreciate the ability to batch edit changes for renaming.8. palettes. Windows. Today. complex interface more suited Rather. ■ BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE CPU / October 2012 87 . One of the biggest touch-ups. Google Maps-driven location info.8 GIMP is not for you. The question is one of price. OS X. If you want a solid blend of powerful editing mixed with asset organization and results-oriented processes (such as beautification). Picasa even supports most RAW formats. alpha channels. fill light (which works filters. These are often 2. However. . “Orton-ish” Graphics Library) that first arrived in version effect. with a barrage of brush options. eye brightening. Overall. Picasa isn’t your tool for simply executing as CPU-based software. The program has roughly 150 editing mode and bring up the selected effects and filters plus a wide range of image in the main area. and filters. Now the left bar additional options available through the will be populated by a histogram and a open-source community. It turns snapshots It’s hard to knock free. especially when into presentable. All of these photo editors are high on quality. This program takes GIMP is very powerful—so much so that about 30 seconds to figure out. then Picasa rules. much faster (50 and some of the other headline features times or greater) with the GPU boost than from other editors.9 for Linux. This builds on the GEGL (Generic surprisingly well). Wherever you fall on the triangle graph between these three points. Come prepared to Originally released in 1996.8 tech build with new GPU-based brush (called Retouch). and traditional “smart” Picasa 3. Forget about layers.9 | Free | Google | picasa. not to have your hand held. ArcSoft.google. it comes with so much functionality.048 or less won’t count toward your Google storage limits if you’re a Google+ user. contrast. and other If you’re looking for the anti-GIMP. noise controls. and red eye correction. gradients and blending. color. esoteric . you begin in the Library view. Corel. feature depth. any of these six options covered here can provide an excellent alternative. Picasa keeps file backups. one of these six applications is sure to cover your needs. and Adobe’s Photoshop Elements are all strong contenders. Something For Anyone If Photoshop’s price or learning curve is too steep. a surprising amount of awesomeness if all But open-source software is always you want is quick. rotation. albums and folders listed down the left Essentially GIMP operated as a collection and mini thumbnails and sharing options of untied toolboxes. more . simple. and much more. But if Not surprisingly. There’s a spot healing special 2. We had occasion recently to work with a effects.you want wizards and intuitive workflow GNU Image Manipulation and the latest routines for teeth whitening. easy. the program has versions Google Picasa 3. and windows. and free.8 continues the evolution of one-click affairs with one to three sliders OpenGL and OpenCL support. platforms. Version 2. single-window mode is less flexible for users who like to spread out with multiple images concurrently. . You don’t get anything like Adobe Camera RAW for exposure control.048 x 2. Also know that images of 2. GIMP contains a dizzying amount of functionality. color sublayers. Double-clicking any This was only just remedied by the optional single-window mode in version 2. . GIMP study. Even better. complaints about GIMP has long been its There are no tabbed areas in Picasa. and other EXIF metadata. along the bottom.

■ BY WILLIAM VAN WINKLE RecImg Manager Free SlimWare Utilities www. The manager works equally well with touchscreen devices or keyboard/mouse configs. with only a mention of it left in the new Removed Apps list dropped on the Desktop. Within Win8’s Control Panel. We began by preloading a few apps prior to installing RecImg Manager. functioning just like System Restore. An Edit option will let you modify snapshots’ names and descriptions. In short.computerpoweruser. As you start adding Win8 into your life. The trouble is that many users don’t want to hassle with command prompts and Control Panel routines. RecImg Manager offers a much superior front end for the Windows 8 RecImg process. you can roll back to the system restore point. Backup creation entails little more than selecting Backup from the app’s two-tile home screen.wim file in the target location. we selected Restore.com . it may also mean that data you created during those 24 hours could be moved and be confusing to restore. With Win8. The new OS features a command line tool called RecImg. works like a champ. Sure enough. we ended up with our new text file right where we left it and the most recently installed app gone. A Win8 refresh will restore your OS configuration while keeping your data and preferences. you’ll find two items of interest: the new File History and a revamped Recovery area. File History is your customizable way to have Win8 maintain copies of the data in your Libraries. If you created a restore point yesterday and your Windows system files suffer a stroke today. We tested RecImg Manager on a Win8 Preview system. geek-minded Windows world when Microsoft is trying to move everyone forward with the simpler Metro UI. informing you what will happen next. confirming a destination drive. Reset is the more drastic option. is a much less painful way of remedying many of the system glitches that plague Windows users. we saved a text file to the Desktop. System Restore lets you to create restore points. and has a price tag that can’t be beat. We then installed SlimWare’s title and ran a RecImg Manager Backup routine. or you can select a backup image. You’ll keep any apps installed from the Windows Store but lose any software installed from disc or non-Store locations. It’s an abrupt shift back to the old. In a nutshell. RecImg with then do its thing.com 88 October 2012 / www. You can execute RecImg from PowerShell or a command prompt with commands such as “RecImg –CreateImage F:\ Backup\”.slimwareutilities. You can select the System Reset tile. SlimWare’s RecImg Manager removes all of this under-the-hood work and keeps you in the look and feel of Metro. just as if you’d performed a Refresh from the Control Panel. The backup process takes a while. Of course. and clicking Start Backup. only it keeps all of your new data during the process. which will return Windows to its original state and nuke all of your programs. but it runs smoothly in the background. Do the latter and Windows will pop up its own Refresh Your PC splash screen. Contacts. Microsoft got a bit smarter. We also confirmed that File History was turned off in the Control Panel. which functions much like System Restore. and it’ll be like jumping back 24 hours in PC time. output an Install.wim file. even when running as a conventional Desktop app. working in conjunction with File History. snapshots of your system to which you can roll back whenever disaster strikes your configuration. adding any snapshot details. if successful. the system reboots and implements the backup. make sure RecImg Manager is a part of it. installed a new application from disc.SlimWare Utilities RecImg Manager I f you’ve used Windows 7 or Vista for any length of time. At this point. Therein lies the rub. you probably know about System Restore. and Favorites. This is your Win8 system image file. and. Recovery will let you either refresh or reset the system. Back at RecImg Manager’s home screen. a RecImg refresh of an Install . After completion. and rebooted. Desktop.

zabkat. and it lacks functionality in a number of areas. also under Tools. and whether to highlight the active tab in a dual pane as Windows does. We’ve found one of the best of these to be Zabkat’s xplorer2. complete with nested subdirectories as you hover over each. the length of time before a pane is auto-refreshed. individually or as a group to be recalled at any future time. In short. closed. You can reposition areas like the folder tree and the drive bar. Take navigation: There are numerous ways on xplorer2 to jump from one location to another—such as our new favorite. even to the point of opening files to edit them within your own applications and saving changes to the server. Determine things like whether all copy target folders are saved in the F5 dialog history. and saved. Need more? Selecting Advanced Options. Light on RAM. or manipulate files as though they are stored locally. and move tabs between the active folder view with its lengthy file displays.Zabkat xplorer2 Pro 2. This has proven a headache to many users.1 W indows Explorer does some things well. xplorer2 can be heavily customized to your liking. but many of its operations are cumbersome. There’s a button that lets you add multiple tabs below the active folder view. it has quickly become one of our most frequently used utilities.95 (21-day free trial) Zabkat www. and move.com CPU / October 2012 89 . and the inactive one that only lists directories. Options under the Tools menu offer further choices. closes the main program and launches the Settings Editor. If you’re digging some of this program’s many options and would like tips on how to take advantage of others. show administrative shares on network folders. but a boon to several third-party developers who have created a mini-cottage industry out of Explorer substitutes. either. which marries a raft of extra features to ease of use. delete. we’re very impressed with Zabkat xplorer2. renamed. where you can get your hands dirty under the hood. right-clicking any portion of an app’s title bar (it shows your location as drive\directory\subdirectory. such as whether to allow single-click activation of a file. These tabs can be dragged into any order you choose. ■ BY BARRY BRENESAL Xplorer2 Pro $29. Click a tab. each tab showing the contents of a directory you select. and directory contents you’re viewing switches accordingly. locked. You can also quickly drag and drop the contents of one tab onto another tab for easy file moves. turn on and off others like the quick preview pane and the details pane. quick to run. These helpful clips combine Wink-based animation with pop-up balloons describing each process step by step. etc. and calculate subfolder size automatically. You can log in remotely to web addresses where you have the necessary permissions.) to get a context menu display of all subfolders. you can turn to the 41 video tutorials that Zabkat provides. You’re not limited to interacting with only the files and folders on your computer.

the Settings tab provides the most granular control set. notes.com 90 October 2012 / www. Additionally. giving you four-tab access to password storage. and proxy server connections. and settings. you will find that the program is very handy for use with the majority of password-enabled sites. Of these. but DirectPass takes the path of minimal user involvement. data importing. but there’s little need for it.computerpoweruser. For example. At times. Help is available online. The first time you visit a passwordprotected site after installing DirectPass. Trend Micro provides a five-password demo of DirectPass. ■ BY BARRY BRENESAL DirectPass 1. The six fields DirectPass stores cover most of the common items you’re likely to need online.2 S ome password managers give users lots of options.trendmicro. so you can kick the tires on some of your mostused sites. both of which are fairly commonly requested in forms we encounter online. but leave out mailing address and telephone number. You can set your stored passwords for automatic entry or entry pending your confirmation.com . This isn’t a huge deal. In the end.Trend Micro DirectPass 1. and browsers (such as Chrome and Firefox) that regularly update for important features and require updates from password managers—there’s an understandable lag between the two. DirectPass is pretty good at recording and managing passwords. your master password. we wouldn’t mind having a little more control. These things aside. or if your browser has been inactive for an hour. profile storage (for form entry). The main interface is simple and direct in presenting its functions.2 $14. such as sites that bury their forums several layers deep. the program’s auto-sign in option. though. which of course is what it’s primarily meant to do.95 Trend Micro www. We’d also like to see more form fields in the program’s storable profile. but it would be nice to be able to nix this requirement for those of us who operate our computers in a secure environment. and even here there are only five items to consider: an exceptions list. the software asks if you want to add the site to its database. DirectPass mandates that you re-enter your master password to access its features if your screensaver activates. It is susceptible to common password manager issues.

KPM has some problems dealing with forum passwords nested several levels deep on some sites. Adding a password is managed through a key-shaped pointer that appears in your taskbar. edit password entries.com CPU / October 2012 91 . and so forth. But we really like feature-rich KPM. You can also use the Settings screen for such operations as customizing hotkeys. KPM also supports password database access from a variety of USB and Bluetooth devices. you can add and delete at will. There’s also an understandable lag before it autoupdates to account for browser changes that impact password entry. Once clicked. updating trusted and ignored web address lists. ■ BY BARRY BRENESAL Kaspersky Password Manager 5 $24. The main KPM screen offers My Passwords. KPM handles the rest. import passwords. My Secure Memos. Gaming. You can also add new accounts. Would you like KPM to autolock upon screensaver activation. Like other password managers. as long as they get plenty of features in the mix. It will repay in spades the time you will invest in it.95 Kaspersky Lab usa.Kaspersky Password Manager 5 K aspersky provides security software for users who don’t mind a really hands-on experience. or not at all? These and other choices are at your fingertips. and changing the encr yption algorithm it uses (the default is 128-bit RC4). or 60 minutes of computer inactivity.kaspersky. Where Trend Micro’s DirectPass has a category on its screen for Settings. KPM offers you 10 templates for bank accounts. and export the entire database or just selected items. Shopping. it changes into a target circle that you drag onto a webpage or app window. and you can change the configuration anytime you want. KPM has an entire screen for these. So it proves with Kaspersky Password Manager. and Social Networks are examples— like so much else in the program. a passport. software licenses. and My Identities. Instead of a single DirectPass profile to store six data fields of personal information. While My Passwords starts with several categories to help organize entries—Finance. secure memos and identities.

com/en-us/windows/compatibility/ en-US/CompatCenter/Home. Those pesky pop-ups from the Taskbar that urge us to check security settings or download new updates have been with us through several versions of Windows. You drag and drop clips from your uploads into the timeline. But Microsoft has provided a Compatibility Center For Windows 8 Release Preview at www. many games.com . Registry Tip Of The Month You may be ready for Windows 8. but you can get the same effect this way: Put two copies of the same clip in the timeline and then just trim the first one to end before the boring bit and the second one to start after the boring bit. Managing an interactive interface and the size of files involved i n t h e p ro c e s s p rove d d a u n t i n g . Balloon Tips. having this task handled in the cloud is especially handy for laptop users with limited resources. Oddly enough. Under File Types. Simply upload the file to your YouTube account 92 October 2012 / www. make a slide that includes the text and/or image you want to insert in your YouTube video. It is set to seven seconds by default. Even if you have heard this one before for Windows 7. This month we turn our eye skyward to some of the cool things you can do in the cloud you may not have already discovered. especially if you have PowerPoint. and Google Drive. Most of the basics of video editing on the desktop apply here. letting you check things such as external hard drives.com/editor . Basic as the YouTube Video Editor may be. as well. So use a liberal setting here that you can always change later. a simple seven-second video made from a text slide. Keep in mind that the YouTube Video Editor lets you trim time off of this clip if needed but doesn’t let you extend it. have the hacks to use the Registry to remove them. but is Windows 8 ready for you? Upgraders might be disappointed to discover in this upgrade cycle that Microsoft does not provide a downloadable compatibility scanner the way it did with Windows 7. where you can check specific hardware and software against a massive database of items. Windows Tip Of The Month Ah. click Create A Video. This denotes a passage of time within the same scene without a jarring rough cut between the two portions of the clip. where it works for us. In our experience. go to youtube. here are a few tips that give the cloud-based tool some chops. Also important is the Seconds To Spend On Each Slide tool. Right-click to Create a New DWORD (32-bit).Playing In The Cloud he “cloud” is the new PC in the ether. The database is extensive. Click the Create Video button to save the file as a . scanners. T Video Editing Courtesy Of YouTube Online video editing is a trick that many companies have tried over the years. is less than 150KB in size. you can shorten the tedium by bringing up your Device Manager (type device manager in the Start search box) and work your way down the list of your components and peripherals. Go figure. Now. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\ Advanced. But the cloud is also evolving into a more robust set of computing and storage services that can make life much easier in a world of multiple screens and accessing information everywhere. and continues with some refinements in Dropbox. iCloud. and many.WMV file. microsoft. The editor does not let you split a clip in two to excise a boring middle spot. In PowerPoint. Make sure you use the 64-bit/32-bit toggle in the upper right to check on the right platform. Because video editing can be very processorand storage-intensive on your local PC. So. YouTube Video Editor also does not include the common video-editing ability to insert static images or title slides. Name it EnableBalloonTips. Slider bars on each clip let you make cuts from either end. tap the Transitions tab and insert a gentle fade or wipe transition between the splice. Use the File menu to find Save & Send. While Microsoft forces you to make your check manually. Give the item a value of 0. One interesting wrinkle this time is that Microsoft also lets early users of the Release Preview vote on how compatible any given item was with Win8 on their system. YouTube quietly came into this space a while back with a basic editor that lets video uploaders do quick mashups or just prune the videos they already have uploaded to the system. too.computerpoweruser. While logged into your Google account. It started for most of us a few years ago with online storage. even at a resolution of 960 x 720. This will activate another menu that lets you choose among three resolutions. but there is an easy way around this. you have to wait until you install Windows 8 to have your hardware and drivers scanned by the OS to form a log that determines whether Windows 8 will run on your configuration. This requires a log-off or reboot to deploy. we are told that the simple hack to disable the balloons also applies to Windows 8.

Install carefully. Once validated. from one of the Canary Islands to another. The researchers say their eventual goal is to be able to use this technique to beam information from Earth to orbiting telescopes. The beauty of the SkyDrive integration is that the folder and file structure from the SkyDrive account shows up in the Save As dialog. you will see the computer name of your PC. letting you save documents to it directly from Microsoft Office applications.com/observations/2012/08/09/quantum-teleportation-achieved-over-record-distances Flying In Microsoft Skies We mentioned here several months ago the new file-syncing tool from Microsoft called Live Mesh. which lets you synchronize a folder of files across multiple PCs and the SkyDrive cloud serve. Once installed. or even send these files to a folder on another PC. This will find your SkyDrive account and prompt you to sign in. There are a few easy ways to integrate the SkyDrive into everyday use. Highlight a file and the top-line menu lets you either download that file directly to your current PC or upload it to SkyDrive. the SkyDrive becomes another folder on your PC that contains everything that is on your SkyDrive. storage. Once installed. ■ INFINITE LOOP Beam Me Across The Canary Islands. The downloadable SkyDrive tool is even more integrated with Windows than Live Mesh. In an Office application. Subsequently. But if you also use Microsoft Office. the web app gives you complete access to the host system hard drive in the cloud. or processor power.com business video site for that idea. Achieving this landmark required the use of two laser-locked telescopes (the ones that fill entire buildings) and various other high-tech gear. use the Save & Send command in the File menu and choose Save To Web. and you have a title card. working from and to files in the cloud with full desktop application functionality is also easier. as PCs with SSD boot drives may not want the program to store files by default on the C: drive. so you can drag and drop files directly to it from within your everyday file management routines. .com/skydrive to download the program. SkyDrive appears in the Windows Explorer navigation pane under Favorites. CPU / October 2012 93 blogs. Microsoft runs a security routine that involves validation through an SMS code sent to your phone. Any documents you save here will be saved and updated locally and in the cloud. Scotty OK. Under the PCs section of the left hand nav bar. In fact. installing the new essentials pack with Movie Maker or Photo Gallery will uninstall Live Mesh and install the downloadable SkyDrive app.YouTube’s online Video Editor is a way to do simple video edits without taxing your PC’s bandwidth. Go to skydrive. but it is making some impressive strides thanks to a European and Canadian research team that recently managed to teleport information (the orientation of one of a pair of particles joined by quantum entanglement) across a record distance of 143 kilometers. But the downloaded SkyDrive app also gives you remote access to the rest of the files on your PC from a web browser. Go to apps . so maybe current quantum teleportation tech isn’t anything like the transporters in Star Trek. Special credit goes to the ReelSEO.scientificamerican.live. Microsoft’s SkyDrive continues to integrate cloud-based storage and file synchronization and/or sharing ever deeper into the operating system. You can target a different drive during installation. The first time you click into this item. Microsoft has announced that SkyDrive is replacing Mesh in the most recent (August 2012) version of Windows Live Essentials downloads.com to log into your account.

you’re given an option to just boot into Linux. There are. They’re expecting Linux to be like Windows or Mac. having one partition for applications and another one for games. That’s because when you mess around with disk partitions. Whatever the reason. numerous tools.Use Linux Without Changing A Thing O ne of the biggest misconceptions people have in switching to Linux is that they think they have to completely jump to a new system. there’s a way that people can use Linux without using any disk space. where the big file that was created represents the hard drive that “/” resides on.computerpoweruser. But it’s possible to run a full-fledged Linux installation without doing any disk partitioning. you would have multiple partitions. you’ll want to get win32-loader. Hard Drive Partitions Most basic Windows users have a single partition set up for their entire system. This option is available on numerous Linux distributions and requires that the installation media be burned to physical disc. If you want to completely remove Linux. Let’s dispel that notion once and for all: Linux isn’t like other operating systems. Debian and Ubuntu flavors of Linux. When you’re done using Linux. you’d have to engage in a small risk by partitioning your drive and running Linux. Whether you want to be able to run Windows and Linux. So. It installs and configures Linux into the large file on your hard drive and then modifies the Boot.ini file is a text file that Windows uses to show you what partitions you can boot into. and downloads the Linux install you selected.com . so if you’ve already downloaded and burned Ubuntu. Linux On A File If you want to try out Linux. This type of install is typically referred to as a Windows installer for Linux. the next time you boot your system. One of the things the program asks is how big of a hard drive you want to install Linux onto. This option is available for the normally to a hard drive. The next step up is setting up a few partitions to better organize things. or different versions of Windows. You can use it without repartitioning your hard drive. The disk image will be deleted and your Boot. you’ll boot into the Linux system you just installed.ini file will be restored. you’ll see an option to boot into Linux. It then creates a large file the size of the disk you want to create. resize. and delete partitions. and your computer has automatically picked up an available IP address.ini file. The way live Linux works is that when you boot the install media. If you choose that option. you’ll find yourself in a fully functioning Linux configuration. where everything is an all-or-nothing sort of thing. it still involves some risk of data loss if the power or drive goes out at the wrong time. you can surf 94 October 2012 / www. After the install finishes. We’ll show you how. Although dealing with partitions is relatively safe. but they all take time to do their jobs. you’re necessarily moving data around the hard drive. for example. for Debian. Some basic apps are available. that let you create. just reboot your system and you’ll be able to boot back into Windows. People running multiple operating systems will also typically partition their hard drives. Not only do they have to learn how to do things in a new environment. On Ubuntu. Either they’re not quite so sure they want to switch to Linux or maybe they don’t have the disk space to commit to it. The Ubuntu DVD image also includes the Wubi installer. of course. The physical disc media is the / filesystem. both free and commercial. It’s natural that people are hesitant about going to Linux when they believe they have to dive right in. When you choose this option. You can now use Linux as you normally would if it was installed Wubi lets you install Ubuntu into a file without having to repartition your disk. This method is known as running Linux in a “live” environment. the program is called Wubi. as well. but they have to get comparable applications from their old system. just pop the disc in your drive while running Windows. These installers ask you few general questions about the type of Linux system you want to install. simply uninstall it. The Boot. sometimes people don’t even want to do that. Run Linux “Live” Although the large dedicated file for a Linux installation is a good way to evaluate Linux. and it’s a great way for people to use Windows and Linux at the same time.

so you might be able to access your data. is that you can save data to the thumbdrive. for example. but that particular server would be safe. some companies will have a customized live Linux disc with some critical server configured to run off the physical disc. you’d still have to clean up other things that a hacker may have done on other systems. Ubuntu and Debian users can use either remastersys or Reconstructor. a third (increasingly popular) option is a thumbdrive. to easily create custom live disc images. Even though most people who use live Linux distributions use a CD or DVD. There are some live Linux disc images. while SuSE Linux users can use SuSE Studio. simply rebooting the system back into the live Linux environment will guarantee a clean hacker-free environment.) Indeed. If you need to change your live environment. (Certainly. these setups have grown in capability. but creator Mike Senna has spent even more hours touring children’s hospitals and perking kids up with his remote-controlled WALL-E. . Some people even create their own custom live Linux environments for serverrelated tasks.com/5931737/robot-enthusiast-spends-two-years-bringing-pixars-wall+e-to-life the Net and do some light work. Find out more at sennaswalle. instead of a physical disc. it only took 3. the demand for customized live Linux environments is so great that some Linux publishers now provide tools to help you create your own live Linux disc image. ■ INFINITE LOOP Maker Makes WALL-E Come To Life Sure. For example. that let you access and modify a Windows partition on your drive.com.000 hours spread over a couple of years (which works out to a part-time job and then some. These images are for if you lose your CPU / October 2012 95 gawker. Our geek hearts grew two sizes after discovering this. Administrator password or need to access data outside the Windows environment. except with a thumbdrive. it’s easier to do than having to re-create and re-burn a live Linux disc image. If a server is hacked. The basic approach to a live USB Linux setup is essentially the same as a live Linux CD setup. the desire to have a live USB Linux environment has also emerged. One of the advantages of using a USB thumbdrive. if you’re keeping score at home) but the end result is a life-sized version of everyone’s favorite Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class that looks like it rolled straight off the BnL assembly line. simply boot your regular OS and then use your system as usual. your hard drive may also be mounted. Doing More “Live” Although the live Linux environment was originally designed to let people run a particular distribution without having to install it. When you’re done with it.SuSE Studio lets you create your own custom live disc. As thumbdrives have grown in capacity. Not only is the little robotic charmer a near perfect replication of its Disney likeness. no critical system file or server configuration file can ever possibly be altered. By being able to run without drastically altering your system. This ensures that no matter what happens to the system.blogspot. In some live environments. Linux makes it easy for people want to try the operating system out without having to commit to changing everything.

which you can be reuse elsewhere.com . orchid. or the spray from his liquid gun will miss its target despite being accurately aimed from a distance. Environments are beautifully and individually detailed. A jelly-like blob with two legs and an eye. Vessel’s engine isn’t perfect. One of the best we’ve played recently is Vessel. an aversion) to lighter areas. since the Fluros aren’t smart. physics-based platformers with intriguing puzzles are becoming more common. and mine—and use Fluros to fix the machines (with their odd mix of steam-driven and modern parts) that have stopped working properly. Controls are simple: Movement and standard actions are integrated into the game design with the usual ease of platformers. No two are alike.com ● ● ● “Intelligent platformer” isn’t an oxymoron. For example.Dynamic Fluids – by Barry Brenesal $14. the machine parts. It occasionally incorrectly interprets the precision of actions. but it’s the accurate.strangeloopgames. with everything else going for it. an inventor who has discovered how to make laborsaving automatons out of squirt of liquid. Thanks to a number of indie developers. conversely. Still.99 (PC) ESRB: (E)veryone Strange Loop Games www. the Fluros. and entries in your journal help you keep track as you progress. Matters get out of hand. the size and complexity of the challenge recalls to mind the celebrated machines of Rube Goldberg. such as an attraction (or. in-depth rendering of each movement of Arkwright. and every single drop of fluid that’s a true delight. The few additional commands you learn are taught as they’re revealed during gameplay. Arkwright. It’s up to you to find your way through four elaborate environments—a cave. sometimes Arkwright will miss a jump that visual evidence suggests he should have made. You play as M. Vessel is an obsessive little gem of a game. The graphics are quite stunning. a Fluro isn’t complex. but it will quickly jump on all the buttons it can find.computerpoweruser. however. You’ll grow new Fluros. and especially in the final few environments. The seemingly endless variety of visual puzzles is much to the credit of Strange Loop Games. factory. Other Fluros form from lava. then destroy them to gather their seeds. As the difficulty ramps up. you’ll find yourself dealing with Fluros that develop unexpected new behaviors. and well worth your time. ■ 96 October 2012 / www.

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The reintroduction of espionage brings back the ability to reconnoiter enemies and steal technology from other civilizations. 1600 points (360) ESRB: (M)ature Bethesda Softworks elderscrolls. and recruit activists. or win endorsements from special interest groups. the new Dawnguard DLC content becomes available upon speaking to the appropriate persons after reaching Level 10 in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. ■ 98 October 2012 / www. etc. which feels like a more traditional Skyrim quest. Religion requires its own resources (Faith). with an eventual release on the PlayStation 3. Either way. Dawnguard feels like more Skyrim. so don’t pass it up. Malaprop The Gods & Kings expansion pack provides significant new gameplay mechanics based on religion and espionage along with three new scenarios. each with a distinct function: raise funds. which brought its own personality and freshness to the game. new unit types. pagodas. a host of potentials. the Dawnguard DLC add-on was only available on the PC and Xbox 360. Dawnguard will appeal to you.com ● ● What could be more fun than watching political campaign promises. which can be grown from new structures (shrines. hearing campaign music. But if you’re a hardcore player in this world scouring for more content. and the ability to turn into a Vampire Lord (fraught with clumsy controls).com/skyrim The Vampire Adventure – by Dr. temples. make speeches to raise funds.95 (PC) ESRB: n/a Stardock Entertainment www. recruit political operatives. Malaprop Once purchased. This is for hardcore Skyrim fans only.politicalmachine.com/godsandkings ● ● $19. ■ $29. and receiving political robocalls this year? How about subjecting others to them? In The Political Machine 2012. This is Civ V’s first must-have add-on. You can play as a member of the Dawnguard. ■ White House Or Bust – by Barry Brenesal $9. The more entertaining portion of the game entails playing as a vampire and battling the Dawnguard. You can place ads in three different media. give interviews. At press time. As in any game of this type.99 (PC) ESRB: (E)veryone 10+ 2K Games civilization5. there’s still a lot of leeway for how you conduct your campaign. your choices are simplified because it isn’t a simulation. you’ll be journeying to objectives in Skyrim to complete the quest line.99 (PC). broadened tech trees.What’s Old Is New Again – by Dr. even for players new to the series. you get to play either of the two presidential frontrunners. it’s a strategy title. Religions bear no similarity to existing religions and can be renamed as players see fit. nine additional civilizations. but like similar games. so having them is a benefit. Using them effectively can yield high impact. and more. In each state. Issues support/rejection is clear cut. vampire and werewolf perk trees.computerpoweruser. or a contender of your own creation. We expected DLC to be more akin to Oblivion’s Shivering Isles. you can build only one of three office types. However. rated across eight categories such as charisma and fundraising ability. it’s all about balancing resources while maximizing your character’s attributes.com . The Dawnguard are a faction that hunt and kill vampires. The Political Machine presents a lot of data.) to eventually spawn religious leaders who can spread your influence. with large new locations.

This sounds like pretty standard fare for a third-person shooter.com ● ● People Problems – by Chris Trumble In Episode Two. the combined elements of an immersive world and story. 400 points (360) ESRB: (M)ature Telltale Games www. and as before some of the decisions you make will have lasting implications as the game progresses. there isn’t much of a story to speak of. You’ll fight. the two warring factions fighting each other for an energy source called Dark Matter. or evading. subtitled “Starved For Help. you’ll find yourself hiding in your base for most of the match. ■ 1200 points (360) ESRB: (T)een 5th Cell www. from United Front Games. it adds enough new features to warrant its own acclaim. and intense driving sequences make Sleeping Dogs a sleeper hit. PS3). Telltale strikes a pleasing balance between gameplay and story in this game.com/walkingdead ● Much More Than A GTA Clone – by Josh Compton Although there’s no doubt that Sleeping Dogs. Eventually. albeit with a less reliable counter system. Hybrid is sure to have many fans who find the restriction refreshing. you can fly back and forth between different pieces of cover while shooting. Mac. Telltale Games takes us deeper into the motivations of several characters.99 (360. you play as Wei Shen.” we find protagonist Lee Everett and his ragtag band of zombie apocalypse survivors struggling with life in the motor court where they took refuge at the end of Episode One. we recommend trying the free trial.whatishybrid. Mostly you’ll flow in and out of online 3v3 multiplayer matches as you attempt to upgrade your character.net ● ● 99 . and shoot your way through the city in a series of missions that lead Shen down a dark road that is both physically and emotionally challenging. drive. You choose to be a member of the Variant or the Paladin. Physical safety is somewhat less of an issue. despite containing less zombie danger. Although some people may like the restriction and the challenge it adds. the enemy. It Was Worth A Shot – by Josh Compton The futuristic world of Hybrid is simple. but depleted food supplies and constant infighting over what the next move should be are rapidly turning their walled refuge into a prison. The fighting mechanics are a bit like the Arkham Batman games. It feels almost like a Burnout game when you have to take out other vehicles and race through the narrow streets. In Sleeping Dogs. Instead. and inconsistent for the most part. Shooting controls are exactly what you’ll expect from a third-person open-world game. and you’ll have to help Lee navigate the tricky waters of post-apocalyptic relationships.Well. an undercover cop trying to make his way up the Triad ladder in Hong Kong. we couldn’t quite get invested in it. It’s chaotic. Where Sleeping Dogs really shines is in the driving. $49.telltalegames. messy. It’s an engaging story that delivers thrills and laughs at a steady pace. clearly walks in the large footsteps of the GTA franchise. ■ CPU / October 2012 $59. solid fighting and shooting controls. Altogether. if the enemy team is able to rack up enough of these. Kill streaks provide drones that will follow you for added protection or seek out enemies to destroy. Hybrid doesn’t allow fully free movement.sleepingdogs. but there’s a twist. Although we liked the first episode a great deal. ■ $5 (PC. PS3). but for others. the need to find food and an offer from strangers leads the group outside the motor court barricades. thanks to its laser focus on a well-thoughtout group of characters and situations that will make you think even when you’re done playing. Other than that.99 (PC) ESRB: (M)ature Square Enix www. Starved For Help is considerably better.

Core gameplay was based on a violent cinematic melee combat system wherein you could attack. and block by swiping the touchscreen. ■ $0.com ● Be The Contagion – by Dr.Killer App – by Dr. coughing.ndemiccreations. which is why only A5 processors are suggested (so iPhone 4S or iPad 2+). Most of your time will be spent looking at a world map watching the disease spread by land.) The combination of sound. is not actionpacked. Additional improvements include a smoother interface. Abilities. You can even play with 3D glasses if you’re so inclined. and air as your disease evolves. Android and Windows PC versions are expected by the time you read this. and so forth.99 (iOS) Rated: 9+ Chair Entertainment infinitybladegame. ■ $9. two additional weapon types (for a total of three). This is not a game about terrorism or enacting violence. as a disease.com ● Shake It All Night Long – by Dr.99 (iOS) Rated: 12+ FishLabs Entertainment www. mining. insomnia. Available now on iOS.com ● ● Chair Entertainment’s original release of the first Infinity Blade featured impressive graphics but was repetitious and in both action and cutscenes. Additionally.com ● 100 October 2012 / www. ■ Space Combat Adventure – by Dr. (Additional tables cost $0. but there’s also a rich universe of ore. respectively. nausea. Malaprop $2.99. Malaprop Originally available on the iPad 2. but you can explore to your own whim. sea. Chair has broadened the storyline and made the game nearly four times bigger. Galaxy On Fire 2 (without the HD designation) plays with the heart of Elite. and Transmissions. You’re a mercenary trying to stay alive. you can purchase nine additional tables. Frame rates are important and best enjoyed on a fast processor.99 (iOS) Rated: 9+ Ndemic Creations www. trading. you can most efficiently spread yourself to people. Wing Commander. it’s about how. Slayer Pinball. and much more lead you to spread yourself across the globe with one purpose: eradicate the human populace by spreading a contagion (that’s you) most effectively while fending off the cure. The game is free and. Plague Inc. and other space combat sims. AC/DC Pinball. and pirates. The remaining time gets spent on the type and severity of Symptoms. including Platoon Pinball. Seeing the real-time shadows and particle effects in action is impressive. and his journey home. You get to shake the iPad to nudge the table without tilting.computerpoweruser. You’ll also review charts with morbid fascination. No. more environmental variety. ■ Free (iOS) Rated: 4+ OOO Gameprom gameprom. interaction. It makes for a killer iOS app. Malaprop This is yesteryear’s hardware classic given a great software treatment with updated Retina graphics.99 or $2. the eye candy was impressive on the iPad 2. but it’s interesting and looks great on the Retina display. Regardless. The story here introduces us to protagonist Keith T. Infinity Blade II will have no problems wowing friends and dazzling passersby. tougher AI. combat. Malaprop A minor wheeze. Maxwell. You’ll enjoy the campaign story. sneezing. in addition to the table that comes with the game.galaxyonfire. Players can tap on the left or right side of the screen to control the flippers. parry. who is accidentally thrown 35 years into the future. and table shenanigans makes this a game you’ll keep on the iPad for years. the ball physics and 3D engine look fantastic. With the sequel. and new enemy types.com .

young. Jay-Z. The diversity of thinking among these companies is staggering. And it goes on. and Biz Stone. like Instagram. But since most mobile startups are not yet making appreciable revenue. investors and digital watchers have to CPU / October 2012 101 . which helps people looking for a ride find a driver. Path. And Shakira. and unprofitable mobile app startup will be the next to sell out for an ungodly sum to a major player. Square. At tech conferences and in the tech press a usual round of suspects emerged. Facebook’s purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram this spring was a Valley fantasy come true. Pinwheel is a location-based app where users pin notes virtually at physical locations. Among the companies the digerati are watching is Uber. attracted a strategic investment from no less a powerhouse than Visa. are invested in video sharing app Viddy. The next big mobile startup hit can be anywhere because mobile platforms are threatening to disrupt just about every channel of the economy. Sum total: $1 billion. which is developing celebrity-based mobile apps. SeeMail is hoping to bring a new twist to the Instagram model by adding voice to image sharing and keeping one’s social circle a bit narrower. That is what happens in the digital economy when one of its biggest presences drops $1 billion on an eightperson company that is barely two years old with no revenue plan. And the scramble to find (or be attached to) the “next Instagram” became the new digital media trope. Eight people and a single app on one smartphone (the iPhone) had leveraged meteoric mobile growth into an audience of 30 million. Famous Twitterer Ashton Kutcher has invested in foursquare and many other startups. a more intimate kind of social network founded by a former Facebook executive. Hollywood talent agency CAA is incubating Moonshark. And then the celebrities started flocking in. the credit card swiping tool for phones.Hunting The Next Instagram Mobile Startups Vying For Killer-App Status S ilicon Valley has a new parlor game: guess which tiny. There was no revenue but they had a lot of eyeballs and mobile credibility that Facebook needed. from smartphones as research tools in the aisles of Target to phones being used in place of credit cards. mainly firms that. was among the companies to attract big VC investment ($30 million) shortly after the Instagram news broke. were built for mobile and took advantage of the unique attributes of smartphones and mobility. among other A-listers.

then the lights shines on mobile photosharing and everyone asks. By March 2012. Any company. Could any companies so young and small really be worth $1 billion? And while Facebook did not lay down that kind of cash a g a i n . but when someone takes out an independent like that. “In the mobile space I think small teams are better. profitable or not. Real estate agents became a big segment of users and started sending pictures of properties to their clients with comments. In July 2011. Small Screen. “In the mobile space I think small teams are better. many digerati believe that mobile video is the next big thing for users and the startup market. Viddy has attracted high-profile and celebrity investors. that monthly use had grown to 231 minutes. this is personto-person. Many of these firms were very young and very small. singularity of vision is key. SocialCam started as a project within Justin.” MICHAEL SEIBEL. Facebook acquired Pieceable (webbased app demos). Mobile analytics company Flurry recently tracked where the greatest growth is among apps.” And efficiency is what Seibel has. the users showed 102 October 2012 / www. successful mobile apps cannot be overburdened with features. Mobile music use was up 72%. Unlike many social sharing apps. Instagram demonstrated that having a limited number of image filters. it is in the segment that fueled Instagram’s rise. Foremost.com . argues Seibel. Time spent with productivity software on mobile phones was up 66% in the first quarter of 2012. media sharing. And using voice eliminates the SMS character barrier or the need to type and lets users more clearly convey emotion. up 166%. It is not surprising that small companies with just handfuls of people are drawing so much attention in the Post-PC world. In quick succession. Look back a year and the momentum is even more impressive. a simple commenting and posting mechanism.tv originally to do live video broadcasting from cell phones.” App building is closer to software development than it is to website construction. and so content-saving apps like Instapaper and Evernote are seen as hot. A physical trainer broadcasts inspirational images and voice messages to clients to keep them motivated. “There was no question that photosharing was huge.” Speakman says. and a wonderfully browsable gallery were enough. But as is so often the case in mobile media. Seibel was one of the founders and CEO of Justin. Unlike large websites and major software development projects.computerpoweruser. the Instagram deal was a net gain. Small Teams The outsized valuation of the eightperson crew at Instagram raised many eyebrows in the investment and development community.” says Chandler. I actually think for the early days of mobile small teams are much more efficient. Soft-launched in March 2011. Rather than look to the next photoediting software. and so music subscription service Spotify’s mobile extensions get scrutinized. CEO of SocialCam. as do many startups.tv where he oversaw strategy and investor relations. anyway. “Overall I would say it was good. Socialcam and its main rival Viddy are the two companies most often tracked and tagged the next big things after the Instagram buyout. according to Flurry. They developed the concept. “The more people you have touching a common code base the more potential for bugs and the harder it becomes to identify them. In terms of minutes used. he says. by looking for that gap in the market and then seeing how the users make use of the platform. the mobile platform brings with it intrinsically limiting factors. for instance. “It is exciting to see. A common thread among the startups often cited as “next Instagrams” is that they follow that photo app’s clean functionality and use. mobile is entirely different from the web. Socialcam claims over 14 million downloads of its mobile video sharing app and has only four full-time staff. From a technical and developmental perspective. photo and video apps on smartphones have skyrocketed 89% in just the first few months of 2012. for people who need to explain complex things along with a photo like auto mechanics explaining what is wrong with the radiator hose. the average user of a photo or video app spent 87 minutes with it. For another small photo-sharing startup like SeeMail and its co-founders Ward Chandler and Kent Speakman. But if the users themselves are pointing to one category they are embracing as that next big thing.” says Michael Seibel. Glancee (location-based friend finder) and Lightbox (Android-based mobile photo-blogging). ‘who’s next?’” Often described as Instagram-with-voice. t h e s o c i a l n e t w o rk s p e n t much of early 2012 buying up small app companies and their handful of innovators. that can show momentum in usage and adoption in mobile is being touted as the next Instagram. so it is more intimate than Instagram. Socialcam has an invaluable tech pedigree.follow the crowds and track where usage is going. SeeMail exposed use cases and possible business models that the duo had never anticipated. SeeMail lets users attach a short voice message to an image and send to friends or post on social networks. Karma (social gifting). CEO OF SOCIALCAM Instagram In Motion As mentioned earlier. “Bugs are a lot more important.

and a stealth startup from Napster co-founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning called Airtime. Just as Speakman and Chandler were looking for that gap in photo sharing that SeeMail could fill. for Facebook it was fairly cheap. SocialCam has some very clear revenue models in mind. the developers where they wanted it to go.tv to their own small startup. The website growth drove the mobile growth. who posts backstage videos on this media sharing app. In six months the app had reached a million downloads. Facebook allowed uploads but didn’t make wider sharing or video embedding easy. “The three core apps people needed to serve them were failing. whose experience running Justin. For Seibel. Even if a billion dollars sounds like a lot. Chandler says that the spotlight turned onto mobile startups by Facebook’s Instagram acquisition does create a lot of competition but in the end is a plus. Speakman and Chandler emphasize that the voice feature and peer-to-peer nature of their sharing app help to achieve an intimacy unavailable on social networks. Oprah. Cinemagram (which turns video into animated GIFs). and Tout (15-second video shares). and for a mobile app that is mature. “As you start to share SeeMails. Pepsi.” says Chandler. Seibel and his small team were trying to identify what was missing in the market.” he says. people used the app to share short clips with one another. “it was two years old. While many looked at the photosharing app as an out-of-nowhere and fresh sensation. And the company is developing custom video filters with several entertainment brands so users can replicate the look and feel of an upcoming film release in their own video clips. which motivated them to spin off from Justin. you can start to have discussions and comment threads beneath them.” Seibel says. Call it the next big Silicon Valley trend: Instagram Goes Hollywood. SocialCam discovered that one of the secrets to mobile growth was a complementary website to drive app downloads. SocialCam is in a video-sharing category that is hotly contested and attracting celebrity use and investment. “You create discussions around these social objects and have that deeper level of emotion and engagement. however. The company now has 90 million monthly users. And then the tsunami hit. and multiple sports teams have hundreds of thousands of followers. but 80 million of them come to the desktop site that was launched concurrently with the app. SocialCam is already attracting major brands who occupy the leaderboards of followers.” Along with Viddy.” For Seibel.” Moreover. “In two months we have gone from 15 servers to 150 servers.’” which helps partners grasp the model more quickly. “From an investment standpoint and communications. and the phone cameras themselves generally left people to email clips from person to person. YouTube apps were not allowing uploads. A VIP program works with brand marketers to impart best practices for social video posting and open custom URLs for their content. looking for that big buyout is less realistic for now than ensuring they have a rock-solid product that differentiates itself in the market that is getting cluttered. Unlike Instagram.SocialCam is attracting celebrity users such as Madonna. Facebook’s interest in Instagram was very strategic.” he says.tv schooled him in monetizing video. he contends. “We started as web and app. ■ CPU / October 2012 103 . you are able to say ‘it’s like Instagram with video. he argues that it is mistake to see that massively valued buyout as the first of many. The team began building SocialCam in the fall of 2010 and had it launched in March 2011. Instead of broadcasting.” For “next Instagrams” like SocialCam and SeeMail. all of the press and investor attention is “distracting.

A Peek At What’s Brewing In The Laboratory
A High-Tech Canary In A Coal Mine
Researchers at Oregon State University have created a system to automatically record and identify multiple birds in a forest habitat, thus monumentally increasing their ability to track the ebb and flow of populations, as well as the effects environmental changes can have on those populations.
(PHOTO CREDIT: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY)

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eyond their intrinsic beauty and value, wild birds are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, and thus an important early-warning signal for scientists studying those changes. Of particular challenge, however, is listening to, identifying, and tracking multiple species out in their natural habitat.

Researchers at Oregon State University have now programmed a machine-learning system to rise to the challenge. Taking existing hardware (Wildlife Acoustics’ Songmeters), as well as software crafted for this specific purpose, Dr. Matthew G. Betts and doctoral student Forrest Briggs created a system that automatically records birds every 20 minutes at 16 field stations. “Once we have downloaded the recordings, our system turns them into two-dimensional ‘pictures’ of the songs,” explains Betts. “The software then identifies these songs based on ‘visual’ characteristics (length, size, frequency of the song, etc.).”

The recordings help the researchers identify how many species are in a chosen area, and how these populations ebb and flow over long periods of time. The system can also be used to study other creatures that emit distinct sounds, such as grasshoppers, frogs, crickets and marine mammals. Betts says that he experienced an “aha!” moment when Briggs “sent an Excel spreadsheet with the predicted vs. observed birds in our recordings, and I noticed that accuracy was extremely high. This is very rare in noisy systems with species singing at the same time.” Along with this good news came a “good” problem: processing 8 terabytes of data on an ongoing basis. ■

ZUIs Present Information’s Zoomable Future

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or the droves of us who have sat through endless and poorly organized PowerPoint presentations, take heart: ZUIs have come to save the day! ZUIs, or zoomable user interfaces, have been inspired by the zoomable UI that has become popular on smartphones and tablets. Old-school presentations use the slide method—page after page of graphics and text etc. With ZUIs, the “canvas” is unlimited, so a presenter is free to hide or highlight any point of interest with a click of a mouse, making each offering of information more compelling and receiver-oriented. One particular ZUI presentation software, Prezi, a cloudbased tool developed by the Hungarian company of the same name, has become the darling of TED presenters. Prezi cofounder Adam Somlai-Fischer designed Prezi’s software for use in his former career as an architect and visual artist. His interface let him show a client a floor plan of a building and

zoom into each room as needed. The software has been put to use in a wide variety of presentations, using video, images, YouTube, PDFs and other media. In addition, multiple users can collaborate in real-time, either locally or online, with Prezi, and presentations can be downloaded for later viewing. Proof that no good idea goes unnoticed, others have begun work on their own ZUIs. ChronoZoom, ZUI software being collaboratively developed by Microsoft Research, Moscow State University, and the University of California, Berkeley, will allow users to work along a timeline, with video, images, and text. The software will best serve cosmologists, historians, and geologists. Also on the map is VisIt, developed by the Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Labs. VisIt is a deep-zooming software that will enable scientists to delve into microscopic animations, particularly atoms’ behavior in nuclear explosions. ■

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October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com

Diverse Teaching Methods Tackle Biological Diversity Concepts
lthough there are plenty of challenging concepts one can run up against in college, some evolutionary concepts, such as phylogeny (tree-diagramming used by biologists to study how a species or group of organisms develops and diversifies), can be particularly taxing for new students. Harvard’s Dr. Chia Shen, along with researchers at Northwestern University, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, Stanford, Wellesley College, and Tufts were passionate about bringing a way to learn these concepts to the table in a way that was not only fun and collaborative but also allowed for deep learning to happen. Using Microsoft version 1 multitouch tables and C#/WPF, the team created two multiuser games, Phylo-Genie and Build-a-Tree, to be used in classrooms and museums, respectively. After testing the more sophisticated Phylo-Genie with undergrads, and the more youth-oriented Build-a-Tree at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Shen and her collaborators learned that users obtained the knowledge they needed to pass their tests in class, and they also found that the users were very motivated in their learning because the games were so fun. Both games were very successful in what is called “active prolonged engagement.” The team is currently working on a huge multiuniversity project called “Life on Earth.” Explains Shen, “We hope to help people to learn about both macro and micro patterns of history of biological life on Earth in this exhibit. In this project, for the first time, we will be bringing an interactive, multitouch visualization of the phylogenetic tree of life to museums across the United States. The Life on Earth exhibit will include three game-like multitouch activities: DeepTree (all life on earth in a phylogenetic tree structure), FloTree (population genetics simulated and adapted for museum visitors), and Build-A-Tree.” ■

New Software Makes Life A Canvas

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or graphic artists who slave away over a tablet, laptop, or other device, news of Sandde (stereoscopic animation drawing device) may spark dreams of a sweet, new freedom for their creativity. The software is designed specifically to get artists up and moving, crafting their designs with their bodies in the space around them.

This 3D interactive piece, called “A Chorus of Lungs,” was created by Dr. Leila Sujir and Dr. Maria Lantin (Concordia University and Emily Carr University, respectively) using Sandde, 3D animation software they created with Janro Imaging Laboratory. The software lets animators draw images in thin air using their bodies.
(PHOTO CREDIT: EMILY PELSTRING, JANRO IMAGING LABORATORY)

Researchers Michael Horn (Northwestern), Judy Diamond (University of Nebraska), Margaret Evans (University of Michigan), Brenda Phillips, Florian Blocks and Chia Shen (Harvard) created an engaging touch table game called Build-a-Tree, that invites young users to learn collaboratively about complicated evolutionary concepts.
(PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL HORN)

Sandde uses a high-performance, stereoscopic motion-tracking interface to record the freehand drawings of user as they draw in the air. Janro Imagining Laboratory collaborated with researchers and grad students at Concordia University ( www .concordia.ca) on the software and hardware solutions that bring Sandde to life. Beyond expanding artists’ creativity, the team envisions the use of their tools in videogame design, performance art, and improving the 3D animation in movies. The Sandde system was recently utilized in several pieces on display in “The Distance Between” a 3D art exhibit consisting of works from female artists, at the Studio XX gallery in Montreal. ■

CPU / October 2012

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Look For CPU At These LAN Parties

Across The Nation—& Beyond!
08.31-09.1.12
Keizer LAN Keizer, OR www.keizerlan.com

09.15-16.12
Exile XII - Troy, NY www.exilecomputergaming.com

09.01.12
LAN OC V11.0 - Ohio City, OH lanoc.org SWVAGAMING5 Lebanon, VA www.swvagaming.com

09.22.12
WV Gamers Eugene, OR www.wvgamers.com

Oklahoma Gamers Group Oklahoma City, OK www.okgg.org WV Gamers Eugene , OR www.wvgamers.com

11.30.12
Maryland LAN Gamers Maryland www.marylandlangamers.net

09.29.12
Naois Gaming - York, PA www.naoisgaming.com

09.7-9.12
Geek.Kon LAN Middleton, WI www.geekkon.net

10.12-14.12
Banzaicon Columbia, SC nostalgiaconventions.com

12.15.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com Oklahoma Gamers Group Oklahoma City, OK www.okgg.org

09.8-9.12
Intel LANFest Colorado Fall 2012 - Loveland, CO lanfest.intel.com

10.20.12
BHN LAN - Largo, FL lan2011bhn.eventbrite.com NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com Oklahoma Gamers Group Oklahoma City, OK www.okgg.org WV Gamers - Eugene, OR www.wvgamers.com

01.19.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com

09.14.12
Maryland LAN Gamers Maryland www.marylandlangamers.net

02.16.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com

09.14-16.12
Aoi Uma Con - Louisville, KY NostalgiaConventions.com

09.15.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com Oklahoma Gamers Group Oklahoma City, OK www.okgg.org

11.02-04.12
PDXLAN November Portland, OR www.pdxlan.net

03.16.13
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com

11.17.12
NGC’s LAN-A-GEDDON Greenville, TX www.networkgamingclub.com

03.23.13
LAN OC V12.0 Ohio City, OH lanoc.org

Would you like us to help promote your next LAN? Give us a call at 1.800.733.3809 We’ll be glad to consider your event 106
October 2012 / www.computerpoweruser.com

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or any further announcements you can share? RM RM Well. we found that we were all speaking the same language (PC gaming). or will Q they fall under the Corsair Vengeance brand family? RM RM Q Corsair already has a solid reputation for gaming gear. while the Corsair Vengeance series will also maintain its own personality through its unique industrial design and construction materials. including mouse mats and gaming control pads.Q&A With Ruben Mookerjee Corsair’s VP & General Manager Of Components On Acquiring Raptor Gaming Q Corsair recently acquired German peripherals company Raptor Gaming. When we met the guys at Raptor in Germany. and Corsair can widen that enthusiasm into the rest of Europe. RM Q In t h e f u t u re . my Corsair team from California was very excited to get to know our new Raptor Gaming friends at gamescom in Cologne last week. the Americas. we also fit together well: Raptor has strong enthusiast base in Germany. we found that our appeal as a trusted brand has extended beyond our core fan base of PC enthusiast builders. keyboards. and Asia. Will such products continue to be part of the Raptor (and now Corsair) lineup? We are still evaluating which products work best in which gaming cultures. and I’m sure we’ll have some news to share about some new products that will come out of this collaboration very soon. However. programs. Geographically. you will see the distinct personality and legacy of the Raptor Gaming brand being maintained in the Corsair Raptor series products. we realized we would have a broad range of complementary products that span a wide price range and cover a number of game genres. there will certainly be additions and deletions to the product Q Is there anything else you’d like to tell CPU readers about Corsair’s Raptor Gaming products. on evolving their current product line to meet the needs of gamers in the rest of the world. line in time.com . who founded Raptor Gaming back in 2004. like event sponsorships and team support.computerpoweruser. mice. Many of the Raptor products fit into our roadmap for future products. What prompted the move. and we share a common philosophy towards our user communities. How will Raptor Gaming’s products fit in with what you’re currently doing? By adding their successful line of thoughtfully designed gaming peripherals to our Vengeance series. and cases. I don’t know exactly which yet! Will Corsair’s design team collaborate with Raptor Gaming on new products in the future. modders. ■ 110 October 2012 / www. w i l l Raptor Gaming products be sold in the United States bearing the Raptor Gaming brand. and gamers. and headsets that we launched last year. thanks to its Vengeance headsets. we are always looking to include any good ideas in either product series. RM Q Raptor Gaming appears to have one or two items in its lineup that Corsair doesn’t currently make. As far as their insights and passion for gaming. and why Raptor Gaming? With the Vengeance series gaming mice. or will the two teams remain distinct? We will continue to work closely with Dirk and HeinzDieter. keyboards. to a new audience of PC gamers who don’t necessarily build their own PCs. and their connection with their gaming community mirrors Corsair’s community We will absolutely keep the Raptor name! I think that over the coming months. the personalities of the two product series are likely to remain distinctly separate.

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