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Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

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Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson

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Tim Cook
Tim Cook

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Michael Bay
Michael Bay

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Rob Enderle
Rob Enderle

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Robert Kirkman
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Three upcoming
games unleash
the undead
48 questions
that will strain
your brain, big
time! PG. 48
PG. 36
All-in-one kit makes
liquid cooling simple
PG. 86
MINIMUM BS • JANUARY 2013 • www.maximumpc.com
lets to
t o t a bo r s a n d
monit we review
11 tou cts built for2
produ w OS PG. 2
the ne
Install Windows 8
from a USB key. PG. 62
VOL 18, NO 01
where we put stuff
Three upcoming
games unleash
the undead
48 questions
that will strain
your brain, big
time! PG. 48
PG. 36
table of contents
All-in-one kit makes
liquid cooling simple
PG. 86
MINIMUM BS • JANUARY 2013 • www.maximumpc.com
From Ultra
ts to
to table and
monitors review
11 touc built for
products OS PG. 22
the new
Is Apple experiencing a postJobs leveling? AMD has fallen
on hard times, but says the
company is not for sale.
Install Windows 8
from a USB key. PG. 62
Six pieces of PC legacy hardware
you can still buy new.
Music Streaming:
Spotify vs. Xbox Music.
Take a gander at the innards of a
Microsoft Surface RT.
Install Windows 8 from a USB
drive; monitor your home network with NetWorx.
We trick out an AMD-centric rig
and put it through the paces.
THE 2013
New touch-enabled products
are the natural complement
to Microsoft's new OS.
We take you on an extended
tour of three upcoming zombie games that are changing
the undead experience.
Think you've got the stuff to
match wits with the Maximum
PC geeks? Prove it.
JAN 2013
a thing or two about a thing or two
Editor-in-Chief: Katherine Stevenson
Deputy Editor: Gordon Mah Ung
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Tim Ferrill, Tom Halfhill, Evan Lahti, Paul Lilly, Thomas McDonald,
David Murphy, Quinn Norton
Copy Editor: Mary Ricci
Intern: Chris Zele
Editor Emeritus: Andrew Sanchez
Mah Ung
Art Director: Richard Koscher
Contributing Photographer: Mark Madeo
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ONE OF THE coolest things about getting
your ugly mug plastered in a national
magazine is that you can get a message
out to lots of people—and sometimes, to
just a few, or even one, in particular. My
message this month is that it’s time to
upgrade your PC.
Specifically, I mean you, my fatherin-law who loves gadgets and electronics more than I do. Since you read the
magazine, I figured this would be good
way to give you the hint.
In early 2011, you bought a new iPad
2. About a year later, you decided it was
too damned heavy and gave it to my
mother-in-law (who, incidentally, is no
longer in the Circle of PC Tech Support
since she replaced her 8-year-old Dell
Dimension desktop with a new iMac).
You then went out and bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch. Of course, six
months later, you ditched the Galaxy Tab
2 for a new iPad Mini.
I bring all this up because while
you’ve upgraded tablets three times in
the space of two years, you are still rolling that Dell 17-inch laptop you bought, I
dunno, seven years ago?
Along the way, I’ve added RAM to that
old Inspiron 6400 and swapped the hard
drive for a larger one. A couple of years
later, I swapped the 1.66GHz Core Duo
T2300 for a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo T7600,
put in an even larger hard drive, and
moved you to 64-bit Windows 7 (the original Core Duo does not support x86-64).
Yes, I know, the screen started to go on
the fritz (which I swear it was doing before the processor upgrade), but rather
than us rushing down to the Internet to
replace it, you folded the monitor all the
way back, covered it with a piece of plywood and just plopped an LCD monitor
on top of it.
It’s not like the laptop hasn’t served
you well. You burn CDs and DVDs with
it constantly, do desktop publishing, edit
vacation pics, and create reunion slide
shows. Whenever I visit, it’s usually being used along with the tablet.
I know, I know, you asked for recommended specs on a new laptop and were
holding off to see if Win8 is worth getting with a touchscreen laptop and you
wanted me to go to the store with you,
but you do seem pretty content with the
plywood laptop.
So tell you what, during the Christmas break, let’s set a date to specifically
drive down to the big box store and pick
up a shiny new laptop for you. Not some
cheapo $500 deal, either—but a nice,
fast laptop that’ll cut your video transcoding by two-thirds, boot in 10 seconds, and launch apps without you having to drum fingers on the plywood. And
maybe next time, you won’t stretch the
upgrade cycle out quite so long. Maybe
one laptop every three tablets, perhaps?
Gordon Mah Ung is Maximum PC’s
deputy editor, senior hardware expert,
and all-around muckraker.
↘ submit your questions to: [email protected]
JAN 2013
the beginning of the magazine, where the articles are small
Has Apple Jumped
the Shark?
Falling stock prices, troubling product miscues, and a
changing of the guard raise questions about Apple’s reign
Apple looks as
delectable as ever: No tablet
has ever come close to toppling
the iPad, MacBooks outsell all
other laptop lines, the iPhone
alone makes more money than
Microsoft, and the company has
enough cash on hand to buy a
functional space station and 15
or so Instagrams. It’s nice at
the top, eh?
But beneath those jaw-dropping stats, there are hints of a
deep-seated rot starting to take
root, coaxing the company’s
stock to drop a whopping 20
percent in the month after the
iPhone 5’s release. Has Apple
jumped the shark?
Image credit: Apple.com
It’s no coincidence that Apple’s
stock plunge coincided with the
launch of the iPhone 5. The lat-
est and greatest iPhone may be
a model of modern engineering—thin and powerful and 4Gfast—but it’s also been plagued
by un-Apple-esque design
flaws. The decision to dump
Google Maps and go with an
error-plagued in-house alternative proved disastrous from
both a usability and PR standpoint, ultimately culminating
in an open letter of apology by
CEO Tim Cook. Smaller issues
abound, including Wi-Fi connection issues and the easily
scuffed aluminum chassis.
“Product mistakes that Jobs
himself would have caught are
getting through to customers,”
says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Nevertheless, Apple still sold
more than 5 million iPhone 5s
over the handset’s launch weekend. That sounds impressive,
but analysts expected as many
as 10 million units to move.
Making matters worse, Apple’s manufacturer can’t keep
up. “It’s not easy to make the
iPhones,” Foxconn head Terry
Gou told reporters in November. “We are falling short of
meeting the huge demand.”
Supply chain management is
supposed to be Tim Cook’s
strong point. What gives?
Stuffing so much firepower
into the iPhone 5’s incredibly
lightweight frame no doubt
contributes to the manufacturing woes, but analysts also
think that Cook’s Apple may
simply be biting off more than
it can chew, hardware-wise.
The company was known for its
measured, year-round product
announcements under Steve
Jobs, but this year, Apple announced the iPhone 5, a 13inch MacBook Pro with Retina
Display, an overhauled Mac
mini, a tweaked fourth-generation iPad, and the long-awaited
iPad mini in a span of a month
and a half.
“(Tim Cook) has started
doing Compaq-like big-bang
launches where the company
barfs out large numbers of
products at once and doesn’t
have the resources to drive
sustained demand on any of
them,” Enderle says.
People love the iPad mini, but could its lower gross margins and
supply chain stress actually hurt Apple?
JAN 2013
Cook also shook up the senior
management structure in recent months. Notorious fire-
brand, longtime Steve Jobs
loyalist, and iOS software chief
Scott Forstall got the boot after
allegedly refusing to sign the
Maps apology letter, while retail head John Browett left after
a series of embarrassing staffing gaffes at Apple Stores.
“Apple is becoming a very
different company,” Enderle
says. “Tim Cook is reforming
the executive team to better
assure loyalty, but it broke the
tension Jobs brilliantly maintained between design and
software engineering, creating
an imbalance.”
A peaceful workplace is
a happy workplace, but is it
an innovative and passionate
Make no mistake: Apple isn’t
disappearing any time soon, if
only because it’s sitting on a bigger cash stockpile than Smaug
ever dreamed of. Without Steve
Jobs, however, the company’s
reign at the top is starting
to look a lot more middlemanagerial than magical.
“Apple’s rise was meteoric
but the fall will be slow,” says
Patrick Moorhead, president and
principal analyst at Moor Insights
& Strategy. “It’s not a question of
‘if,’ but only ‘when.’ Apple will
continue to create very highquality products, but they lack
the decision-making process,
style, and leadership that got
them to where they are today.”
In other words, there was
only one Steve. –Brad Chacos
AMD Faces Drumbeat
of Bad News
It’s hard out there for a chip; just ask AMD. The oncedominant silicon-slinging operation has fallen on
tough times lately, and the company’s media feed
reads like it’s being run by Debbie Downer herself. To
wit, this month it was reported that the company was
cutting up to 15 percent of its staff in reaction to a 25
percent drop in income year-to-year. Its loss of income
and subsequent revenue warning ignited a sell-off of
its stock, causing the price to drop to a three-year low.
As of this writing, it’s selling for $1.87 per share. Amid all this, its CFO resigned to
“pursue other opportunities,” its “Vishera” CPU debuted to lukewarm reviews, and
the company brought in advisors from J.P. Morgan to help it explore its strategic options. Would those options include a sale, perhaps? According to an AMD spokesman,
no, it is not “actively pursuing” a sale at this time. That’s great news—we certainly
hope that it’s actively pursuing a miracle then, because it’s going to need it. –JN
Digital Game Sales Offset
Physical Media Declines
It’s always perplexing to us when research groups release game-related
sales figures that completely ignore digital downloads, especially on the PC.
For that reason, we’re thrilled that the NPD Group left no stone unturned in
tallying $2.87 billion spent on game content in the United States in the third
quarter of 2012.
Content in digital format (full game and add-on content downloads, subscriptions, mobile games, and social network games) generated $1.40 billion, surpassing the $1.07 billion U.S. consumers spent on new physical
video and PC game software. Other physical forms of content (used games
and rentals) added up to another $399 million. “Despite declines in physical
format spending of 16 percent from Q3 2011, strong growth in digital format
spending, up 22 percent, helped offset this decline and led to 1 percent decline in content spending from the same quarter last year,” said NPD analyst
Liam Callahan. –PL
Intel Takes
Victory Lap with
New Hexa-core
Don’t look now, but Intel just pulled
a Sharpie out of its sock and signed
the football it caught in the end zone.
Yeah, it’s not sporting, but that sums
up the company’s release of its new
hexa-core 3.5GHz Core i7-3970X chip.
The new chip is 200MHz faster than
the previous champion: the hexa-core
3.3GHz Core i7-3960X. The 3970X’s
max Turbo of 4GHz also bests its predecessor’s by 100MHz. Besides the
incremental clock speed differences,
the $1,000 chip is internally the same,
but does up the thermals to 150 watts
over the 130 watts of the older $1,000
Extreme chip. –GU
top of the world, nothing seems impossible. By market capitalization, Apple is indeed on top. Now it’s
rumored that Apple is designing ARMcompatible processors to replace the Macintosh’s Intel x86 processors, which would
unify Apple’s entire product line around one
CPU architecture.
This rumor follows another that Apple is
porting its mobile operating system (iOS)
to the Mac, which would unify the company’s product line on the same system software. And then Apple would merge its app
stores, vending all software from a unified
online storefront.
Although these rumors could be true,
they gloss over the technical challenges.
For instance, nobody—including ARM—has
yet designed an ARM-compatible processor
that matches the performance of Intel’s best
PC processors. Heck, ARM only introduced
a 64-bit architecture last year, and the first
64-bit ARM chips are still in development.
Although it’s possible to design a highperformance ARM processor, I am skeptical
it will be much more power efficient than an
x86. Intel still has a four-year lead in fabrication technology, which is a huge advantage. If the ARM chip isn’t significantly faster
and more power efficient, why switch?
Porting Mac software to ARM is another challenge. But Apple has successfully changed architectures twice before:
from 68000 to PowerPC in 1994, and from
PowerPC to x86 in 2005. No other company
does emulation better.
Unifying the operating systems is more
sensible than unifying the CPU architectures. However, Apple has already spent
$500 million designing a successful ARM
processor for iOS and may feel confident
that it can design an ARM-compatible
Mac processor, too. The idea is feasible
but audacious—just like something Steve
Jobs would have set in motion during his
last days. With Apple’s $121 billion cash
reserve, it’s a gamble the company can afford to make.
Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior
editor for Byte magazine and is now
an analyst for Microprocessor Report.
JAN 2013
X-COM (1994) is without question one of the
great electronic games of all time. And after
breaking from XCOM (2012) to spend a long,
sad hour with its predecessor this week, I
never want to play the original again.
Design has moved along, and what
worked in 1994—what we were willing to
tolerate in 1994—just doesn’t work any
more. I can overlook the graphics, with
some effort. But in comparison to the remake, the pacing is languid, the drama
more muted, and the controls intolerable.
The simple fact is this: Those great old
games you remember? Many of them were
only great for their time, and that time
has passed. Design has improved. We understand more about pacing and control.
XCOM leaves out the boring, clunky bits:
Things are tighter, fresher, more dramatic. And that’s a good thing.
Civilization sequels were evolutionary works created under the supervision
of the original designer. X-Com does not
have this. Julian Gollop has not nurtured a
sequence of evolving X-Coms over the past
18 years, and he was not involved in the
new project. This is a new creative team
doing a cover version of someone else’s
song, but a cover version that absolutely
obliterates the need for the original.
The 1994 X-Com is now no more than a
museum piece, which brings us to the key
problem: If a beloved creative work can be
rendered completely obsolete by a subsequent work, what becomes of the original?
No one is repainting the Mona Lisa and
no remake of The Godfather will ever render
the original obsolete. Those are immortal
works. X-Com itself—like all games—is not
immortal, even if its memory and influence
is. And in five years, maybe someone will
make something better than XCOM, rendering that obsolete. It’s a problem at the
heart of my objection to “Games as Art.”
Great art becomes more valid and important as time goes on, not less.
You can follow Thomas McDonald on
Twitter: @StateOfPlayBlog.
JAN 2013
Denies Apple
Price Hike
Microsoft to
Skip SP2 for
It seemed like the war between
Apple and Samsung was intensifying when the Wall Street Journal
reported that Samsung was jacking
up the price on the mobile processors it supplies Apple by 20 percent.
Such a move seemed in line with the
contentious back-and-forth that has
characterized the two companies’
relationship, including the lawsuit
and countersuit over patents that
resulted in a $1 billion dollar judgment against Samsung. But apparently, a revenge price hike is not in
the works, at least according to Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh. It
reported that an unnamed Samsung
executive denied the price-hike rumors. Perhaps Samsung thought
better of burning that bridge. –KS
Windows service packs have always been an IT pro’s best friend,
as they take all the individual updates and hotfixes released by Microsoft and bundle them into one
file that’s easy to download, and
more importantly, easy to deploy.
Microsoft has also tucked major updates to its OS into service
packs in the past, so we were majorly bummed to hear this month
that Microsoft is not planning on
releasing Service Pack 2 (SP2) for
Windows 7 users (SP1 came out
earlier this year). Microsoft hasn’t
given a reason why, but with the
recent launch of Windows 8 we
can read between the lines well
enough. At least we’ll still get Win7
updates for a few more years. –JN
Microsoft Shakes Up Windows
If you need a movie analogy to explain the latest turmoil at Microsoft, just think of the
constant standoffs in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, where no one can have a
conversation without pointing a gun at someone’s head. Yeah, those were the Monday
morning meetings at Microsoft, but without the cool skinny ties.
At least, that’s one of the reasons being leaked to the media for why top OS caporegime, Steven Sinofsky, was forced off the Microsoft bus and under the front wheel.
The move was surprising, as it came just shortly after Microsoft launched its new operating systems, Windows RT and Windows 8, and its own computer, the Surface RT.
Even more surprising, Sinofsky had been thought by many to be the man to take
over once Steve Ballmer resigned. Sinofsky was credited with turning the OS unit
around and delivering Windows 7 after the debacle of Vista. He was also the main
driver behind the controversial Windows 8 operating system. But Sinofsky is said to
have alienated and forced out others in the Microsoft empire, including the powerful
Office division, which brings home most of the bacon.
The lack of unity can be seen in Windows RT, which is sorely lacking a Modern UI
version of the Office suite. But divisions have existed apart from Sinofsky. Case in
point: When Windows 7 Phones first shipped, they didn’t work with Exchange because
the phones didn’t support device encryption—something Android and iOS phones
supported. We’ll see if Sinofsky’s departure heralds a changed culture. –GU
forth about you rights
online now for ages—at least 28 Internet
years, which are like dog years, but with
more porn. But rights are like muscles,
they don’t do much if you don’t exercise
them. We have a right to encrypt our
communications online, which protects
our privacy. Most of us don’t use encryption to communicate though, since using
encryption tools is slightly less fun than
playing mumbletypeg with your own eye.
The one form of encryption that’s
easy to use is common enough that we
often don’t realize we’re using it. It’s
SSL, the web encryption that shows up
as https (instead of http) in website addresses—you may also know it from the
closed lock icon. Https is what we use
for financial transactions much of the
time. But it’s also good for just keeping
your online life to yourself.
Most of us don’t know which websites
serve https, and often don’t know to use
it even when a website makes encryption available. To help with this, the EFF
has created a browser plugin for Firefox
and Chrome called HTTPS Everywhere.
HTTPS Everywhere (which you can get
from the EFF website) will automatically
encrypt your access to over 1,400 sites.
While 1,400 is far from everywhere, that
number includes some of the most popular sites, like Google and Twitter. That
1,400 doesn’t include Yahoo, because
Yahoo doesn’t offer an encrypted web
option. If you use Yahoo, this would be
a great time to tell them you’d like your
privacy, too. This is the kind of complaining we need to do more of to exercise those rights.
It’s not just governments we need to
talk back to. The websites that hold our
data owe us our rights too, but they won’t
know you care if you don’t ever tell them.
Quinn Norton writes about copyright for Wired News and other
JAN 2013
Gets a Boost
Windows 8
Hardware and software from
two companies promise “touchless gesture” tracking for the
Modern UI in Windows 8, though
neither company has brought a
product to market just yet. Elliptic Labs (www.ellipticlabs.
com) is coming to market with
a hardware solution that would
be built into a laptop, tablet, or
smartphone, and use ultrasound
sensors to create a box around the PC that you can use to control your machine. This will
be a feature that comes with a Windows 8 laptop—you can’t just add it on. If you wanted to
add something like this to your existing laptop, you’d need a solution like the Leap (www.
leapmotion.com), which is a USB dongle that creates an 8x8-foot square you can stand inside and go all Minority Report. The Leap costs $70 but smacks of vaporware to us because
it seems too good to be true. That said, we can’t wait to try one if they ever materialize. –JN
MS Office Coming to Android, iOS
Microsoft is reportedly in the process of porting its Office productivity suite
over to iOS and Android devices. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Office
Mobile, nor has Microsoft officially confirmed the news, but screenshots and
inside information have all but tipped the release as imminent. It will ship
first to iOS and then Android, starting in early 2013.
Citing “several sources close to Microsoft’s plans,” The Verge website
reports that Office Mobile will initially be offered as a free app that allows
iOS and Android users to view Microsoft Office documents (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel). Those with an Office 365 subscription will be able to edit
documents in Office Mobile, and there will be an option to purchase a subscription from within the app. –PL
Overclocker Pushes RAM to 3,900MHz
Memory maker G.Skill is laying claim to the “world’s fastest RAM” after an overclocker goosed the company’s TridentX Extreme Performance memory kit to 1,950MHz
(3,900MHz effective). Whether you want to qualify that as the world’s fastest RAM is
up to you, but it is a new memory-frequency world record.
Overclocker Christian Ney achieved the world record just a few days after another
overclocker, HiCookie, first broke the record with the same kit. HiCookie achieved
1,677MHz (3,354MHz effective) using a Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H motherboard and Intel
Core i7-3770K processor.
Ney trumped HiCookie’s frequency using an AMD system with a Gigabyte GA-A75UD4H motherboard and an AMD A8-3870K processor. In both cases, a healthy dose of
liquid nitrogen was required to keep everything cool. –PL
PCIe 4.0? Feh. You can still buy a new, boxed 4x
AGP video card today, sonny.
Photo courtesy of Niels Olson
Photo Courtesy of Abbydonkrafts
Miss pulling lint out of your ball crevices? Go buy
yourself a wheel mouse.
Nostalgic for IDE cable origami? Now you can
relive those days with a new IDE optical drive
and 80-pin conductor cable!
Photo Courtesy of Warrenski
These are getting rare as hens’ teeth, but it’s
hard to believe you can still buy a new CRT in
2013. Get ’em while they last.
The PS/2 port was considered legacy in 2000,
yet 13 years later you can still buy a freshsmelling PS/2 keyboard.
Photo Courtesy of Steve Rainwater
We don’t know if the 110 reviews on Newegg.com
for the internal floppy drive are real or if people
are trying to start a new Three Wolf Moon craze.
Photo Courtesy of Andy Melton
JAN 2013
Photo Courtesy of Carsten Lorentzen
Spotify vs.
Xbox Music
Love or hate Windows 8, you have to give Microsoft credit for its tenacity.
Most companies would’ve tucked their tail between their legs and run
home crying after the disaster that was Zune, but Microsoft doubled down
to bring a better-than-before effort rebranded as Xbox Music to its Live
Tile–equipped ecosystem. With unlimited music streaming and the ability
to buy individual tracks, Xbox Music looks like a hit on the Surface. (Get it?)
But how does the new contender stack up to Spotify?
Round 1: Music Catalog
Round 2: Pricing
Round 3: Device Support
Round 4: Audio Quality
Device support and ease-ofuse are important, but when
it comes down to brass tacks,
the real reason to subscribe
to a music service is for,
well, the music. Xbox Music
and Spotify stand neck-andneck if you plan on sticking to
streaming, with each offering
around 18 million on-demand
songs. Even the coverage
gaps are largely similar; neither service streams Pink
Floyd, The Beatles, or Led
Zeppelin, for example.
Xbox Music earns the nod
here because many of the
artists that aren’t available
for streaming can nevertheless be downloaded (after being paid for) as stand-alone
albums and tracks, in à-lacarte iTunes fashion. Spotify
doesn’t match that ability, but
Microsoft’s advantage doesn’t
matter if you’re only interested in streaming songs.
With all tunes being equal
on the selection front, let’s
take a look at pricing: Which
streaming service dishes out
dirty deeds dirt cheap? Again,
it’s a close call. Disregarding
the à-la-carte Xbox Music
Store downloads, a full subscription to either streaming
service costs $10 per month,
and each offers up free and
unlimited ad-supported listening, as well.
Spotify shines in the details, however. The old hand
offers truly unlimited adsupported listening, while
Xbox Music says its free
ride drops to a fixed number
of monthly hours after half
a year of rocking out. Spotify also offers a $5/month
plan for listeners who want
to ditch the ads on their PC
client but don’t want the full
subscription’s mobile and
home theater device support.
Speaking of device support,
people who haven’t drunk
the Microsoft Kool-Aid need
not apply at Xbox Music. The
service’s native Windows 8
inclusion is a killer feature
that services like Spotify
and Pandora can only dream
about, but Xbox Music’s nonPC support is limited to the
Xbox 360 and the Windows
Phone 8 handsets—you know,
the phone platform that isn’t
selling any units. Microsoft
promises Android and iOS
support will pop up sometime
in the next year, but Windows
Phone 7 and Windows 7 users
will be stuck with Zune Marketplace forever.
Or, more likely, Spotify.
Spotify works with Windows
7 and Windows 8 alike, while
a $10 premium subscription opens up streaming to
all the major mobile phone
platforms and several major
home theater electronics.
Which service delivers sweeter sounding music to listeners’ ears? When it comes
to free music streaming,
the answer is neither. Xbox
Music’s 192KB/s tunes technically outgun Spotify’s 160KB/s
stream, but both sound equally
ho-hum to the indiscriminate ear: neither horrible
nor noteworthy.
Xbox Music’s pay-perdownload tracks offer a
better listening experience
at 256KB/s, but streaming
music maestros will want to
check out Spotify’s $10 premium service, which slings
out its dulcet tones at a sultry 320KB/s. Internet-based
music quality doesn’t get any
better than that. (Be sure to
keep a close eye on your data
usage on mobile devices,
Xbox Music
JAN 2013
Spotify ain’t purdy, but the janky UI hides powerful
control options, including a bevy of handy-dandy apps.
Xbox Music focuses on its oh-so-attractive design to the
occasional detriment of usability. “Too Close,” indeed.
Round 5: Interface
We really, really wanted to give
this round to Xbox Music. The
Modern-style app delivers
appealing visuals in spades,
whereas Spotify’s cluttered
black interface gives us the
heebie-jeebies every time we
gaze our tired eyes upon it.
Despite Xbox Music’s beautiful facade, however, Spotify’s
clutter makes it much more
useful in everyday practice.
A fountain of information hides
in the abundant options littering the left-hand column,
searching works great, and
there’s an array of advanced
tools you can use to become
a true Spotify power user (see
our Spotify Cheat Sheet at bitly.
Xbox Music simply sacrifices
too much navigational ease in
order to look pretty and pimp
paid downloads. On the other
hand, we like that those paid
downloads seamlessly fuse
with your favorite streaming
tracks in the My Music section.
And the Winner Is…
It may not be pretty and it may not be new, but after winning four of the five rounds here—and
tying in the fifth if you’re only interested in streaming—Spotify is definitely still the champ,
emerging unscathed in two hard-fought heavyweight bouts. (See the Rdio K.O. at bit.ly/
uLzOab.) Xbox Music is a deep and stylish option for Windows 8 users, but pretty much only
Windows 8 users; that won’t cut it against the champion.
JAN 2013
CPU Temperatures
> Dual-Booting 7 and 8
> Hybrid Drives for Gaming
Will My GPU Support
I want to build a PC based on
your Midsize Menace (Build
It, June 2012), except with
32GB of RAM, an Asus GTX
670 DirectCU TOP video card,
and Windows 8. My questions
revolve around the touchscreen user interface. Will
the Asus GTX 670 drive dual
touchscreen monitors with
the ports it has, and what
is the difference in types
of monitors?
—Clayton Lieck
touch capabilities of most
monitors are not driven by
the graphics card. Instead,
a USB connection sends
touch and location data from
the monitor to the PC. The
Asus GTX 670 supports up to
four monitors: two DVI, one
DisplayPort, and one HDMI.
It will run two touchscreen
monitors (or any other monitors) without a problem as
long as they have the correct
inputs and you have two free
USB ports. As for the type of
monitor to get, you’ll want a
projected capacitive monitor
with multitouch capability,
which won’t be cheap. Most
affordable touch monitors
today use infrared, which is
more limited in resolution
and multitouch capability
than capacitive. Microsoft
requires at least fi ve-point
multitouch in order for a
device to be certified for Windows 8, so you should look for
a monitor that is advertised
as Windows 8–compatible.
You’ll also want one with a
flush bezel, as many Windows
8 touch features rely on being
able to swipe onto and off
of the edge of the screen. A
prominent bezel will interfere
with that.
See our reviews of two
capacitive touchscreen
monitors for Windows 8 on
page 30.
CPU Temp Differences
I am running an AMD Phenom
II X6 1090T CPU overclocked
to 3.9GHz on an MSI 970A G45
board, a Zalman CNPS9900
cooler, 8GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM, and an AMD
Radeon HD 6950 video card.
I noticed the core temperatures in your review of the
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
(April 2012) and was curious as to why mine run much
lower. Running Prime95, my
burn temps never exceeded
58 degrees Celsius and my
idle temps are always running
around 28 C, both according
to CoreTemp. When I saw the
Dell’s S2340T is one of the new multitouch monitors optimized
for Windows 8.
temperatures of your test machine’s Core i7-3960X my first
thought was that it was terribly close to what I consider
the maximum safe operating
temperature of 80 C. Does this
CPU simply run that hot?
I have run my test several
times during the tweaking
process of my CPU and the
temperatures really haven’t
changed very much. During
my test all six cores of my
1090T are at 100 percent load.
Why so much difference?
—Richard Gray
are several reasons why
you’re seeing different burn
temperatures on your CPU
than we are on ours, Richard.
The first is that they are different CPUs. The Phenom II
X6 1090T is an AMD processor and has a slightly lower
thermal design profile (125W
versus 130W). Intel’s chip also
now features advanced power
control units that closely
monitor the power consumption and thermals of the
cores. The Doctor believes
this lets Intel push the chip
harder, too. Intel processors generally have a higher
safe operating threshold;
they can go to around 90 C
before they’ll start throttling
themselves down to prevent
damage. AMD CPUs should
generally be kept under 60 C
↘ submit your questions to: [email protected]
JAN 2013
or so. Also remember that
each company’s TDP ratings
and thermal specs are difficult to compare directly.
Then there’s the difference
between the function of your
PC and our test bed. Your
PC is a day-to-day machine,
while ours is designed to run
the CPU as hot as possible to
better highlight the capabilities of the CPU coolers we
test. Our CPU is overclocked
and overvolted and subjected
to an internal Intel stresstesting tool that heats up
CPUs far more than any publicly available tool that we’ve
seen. The stress-testing
tool is designed to heat up all
circuits of the chip while most
public stress tests can’t do
that. In day-to-day use, the
Core i7-3960X runs far cooler.
Dual-Boot Windows 7
and 8
I have a PC with a 1TB hard
drive. I want to buy an SSD
and install Windows 8 on it.
Will I be able to choose which
drive the PC boots into? I have
been searching for the answer
as to how to do this, with no
—Preetham Grandhi
Microsoft actually makes it
really easy this time. All you’ll
have to do is install the SSD
into your machine and boot
your PC from the Windows 8
install disk. Install Windows
8 onto the SSD. Once you’ve
gone through the setup process, Windows 8 will throw up
a screen asking you to choose
which OS to boot into by
default. From now on, if you
don’t pick the other OS at that
screen during startup, your
PC will boot into the default.
Clean Update from XP
to 8?
I have been holding the line
for quite some time with a
Windows XP system that I
have primarily used to play
WOW, but with the lowerdollar upgrade cost to Windows 8, I am looking at diving
in. If I purchase the Windows
8 upgrade, based off my
Windows XP license, am I then
able to do a full install from
scratch, or does it require
that I have XP installed first
and then pop in the Windows 8
disk? I was looking at building
a new system, and thought
this might be a cheap way
to get to a more current OS,
and retire the old girl to the
pasture. What I do not want to
happen is to actually have to
load XP on it first.
—Adam Menossi
Adam, in order to take
advantage of the Windows 8
upgrade you will need to install it on a computer that has
a genuine copy of XP, Vista, or
7 already installed. The old
workarounds won’t work now
that you can’t skip activation
on install. You can and should
do a clean install, but you will
need to leave the XP install
intact. The Windows 8 install
process checks for a valid
Windows key on the existing
hard drives during installation and won’t activate if it’s
not there.
Microsoft sells System
Builder licenses for new
systems, but those are
significantly more expensive
than upgrade copies. If you
want to build a new system
but use upgrade media, you’ll
have to install and activate
your copy of XP first, which
may involve a call to Microsoft
to reactivate the key. It’s a bit
of a pain, but so is spending
$140 for a new license.
Hybrid for Gaming?
Would using a Seagate
Momentus XT hybrid as a secondary hard drive be a good
idea? I am not able to upgrade
my 256GB primary SSD at this
time, and would like a fast
drive to use for storing my
—Chris Phenecie
with some caveats. First,
it will generally only be as
fast as a normal Seagate
Momentus of the same
capacity: Speedy, but not
SSD-speedy everywhere. This
is because it only has 8GB
of NAND cache. Seagate’s
caching algorithm copies
the most frequently used
sectors to cache, so the stuff
you use often will feel a heck
of a lot faster. If you play the
same few games regularly,
their load and startup times
will decrease. If you tend to
play one game at a time for
weeks and weeks, it will load
and start up much faster, as
well, after you’ve played it a
few times. You won’t get the
universal speed boost you’d
get from having everything
on SSD. Still, the extra NAND
can only help with frequently
accessed content, so it’s a
decent choice for a gaming
hard drive.
SLI or Single?
Doc, my rig is a 2.6GHz Core
2 Quad with 8GB of RAM and
a pair of GeForce 8800 GTX
cards in SLI, booting from a
750GB Seagate Momentus
XT hybrid. I want to upgrade
my GPUs and am wondering
if I'd be better off pairing a
couple GeForce GTX 660 cards
or buying a single 680. Both
options cost about the same. I
plan on completely rebuilding
this machine after the holidays, keeping only the video
cards and hybrid drive. Until
then, my objective is to be able
to play Skyrim on the highest
settings; currently it barely
runs on the lowest.
—Eric Long
times out of 10, our advice
is to buy the single-fastest
video card your budget can
afford, rather than two cards.
If you buy two GTX 660s, the
only way to upgrade is to add
a third GTX 660, or throw out
both cards. If you get a GTX
680, you can add another one
down the line if you want to
upgrade. That said, two GTX
660s in SLI will be faster than
a single GTX 680. But a single
GTX 680 will be more than
enough to run Skyrim on its
maximum settings. Of your
two choices, we say go for the
GTX 680.
Time for Some Spring
In my constant quest to
declutter my life, I recently
realized I have a lot of DVD
movies taking up a lot of
space. I was wondering if you
have any recommendations
on how to convert these into a
digital format that I can store
on my computer. I’m familiar
with DVD rippers, but there
are so many choices that I
don’t know which is best. Any
—Chris Hilland
doctor is a huge fan of Slysoft’s AnyDVD (www.slysoft.
com/en/anydvd.html), which
you can buy for about $64
with two years of updates,
or $90 with lifetime updates.
AnyDVD HD allows you to also
rip Blu-ray discs that you
own, but if you are only going
to rip DVDs, the standard
version is fine. AnyDVD will
let you rip the contents of
discs you own to your hard
drive, but they do take up a lot
of space. So the Doc recommends also running the free
transcoder HandBrake (www.
handbrake.fr). If you point
it to your DVD drive, it will
transcode the video files after
AnyDVD has removed the copy
protection, saving you a lot
of storage space. The video
quality is excellent and the
program is multithreaded,
so it won’t take a year to
convert a video. There are
several different presets you
can choose from but for hard
drive storage, High Profile is
fine. If you’re price averse,
you may want to try the free
DVD43 decryption tool (www.
dvd43.com). It’s not in the
same league as AnyDVD, but
it’s free.
JAN 2013
s has been reported exhaustively
by now, Windows 8 can be a very
unsettling experience for longtime
Windows users. It’s like going to visit your
parents and finding dad decked out in drag.
The person you’ve known for so long is still
there, but a new, unexpected element to his
persona has you flummoxed and fumbling
for how to behave.
The big, blocky, colorful, touch-centric
Modern UI (the official name, according to
Microsoft) seems about as natural to a desktop jockey as seeing pops in a bouffant blonde
wig and a body-hugging velour pantsuit. But
while adjusting to dad’s new way of life could
take considerable time, and possibly therapy, adapting to Windows 8 might simply be a
matter of having the right hardware.
JAN 2013
Windows 8 is a new OS for a new way of
computing. Obviously, mobile is a big part of
that. Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet as well
as a host of portables combining tablet and
notebook qualities in one have been built expressly with Windows 8 in mind. But there’s
also hardware that makes Windows 8 more
agreeable for tower users—touchscreen
monitors, touchpads, Win8-optimized mice
and keyboards. On the following pages we
take a look at several of these products to
determine which ones succeed in making
sense of Windows 8.
JAN 2013
Windows 8 Hardware
Software giant takes on tablets
MICROSOFT IS THOUGHT of only as a software company by most, but
people often forget the company’s long string of hardware victories over the years, such as the Xbox 360, as well a line of awardwinning and coveted mice, game controllers, and keyboards.
Frankly, we think you can add the Surface RT to that list of impressive hardware pieces. The Surface RT exudes luxury with its
stylized and solid-metal case, clever kickstand, magnetic power
connector (a first on a tablet that we know of), and innovative keyboard cover.
Windows RT—the pared-down Windows 8 OS in the Surface
RT—and its Modern UI (née Metro), makes for a truly unique (god
help us) “reboot” on how you interface with a touch-enabled computer. Yes, by bucking the rows of icons we’ve used for years now
to interface with touch, the learning curve is steeper, but there’s
something enjoyable and refreshing about Windows’ new tiled UI.
For hardware, the Surface RT packs an Nvidia Tegra 3 part
clocked at 1.4GHz, 2GB of LP-DDR3, 32GB (or 64GB) of storage,
front and rear cameras, and a 10.6-inch 1366x768 screen. Given
the RT’s premium price, Microsoft has taken dings for the screen’s
resolution. With the fourth-gen iPad’s resolution at 2048x1536
and the Nexus 10’s at 2560x1600, it’s no surprise that people see
the relatively low resolution of Surface RT as a minus. In practical
use, it won’t kill you, but there will be times when you wish the
Surface RT had a few more pixels to smooth things out.
Performance of the Surface RT is difficult to gauge, as there
are no standardized benchmarks that can be run outside of the
browser on the iPad, Nexus, and RT. We did run several browserbased benchmarks, but obviously, you’re not getting that close to
the metal and each platform’s browser has a significant impact on
performance. If pushed to make a call, we’d say it’s a split in the
numbers game, as each device won at least one benchmark. Using
our Mk. 1 eyeball as a benchmark, the Surface RT didn’t feel slow
in the apps we tried and the scrolling seemed creamy-smooth—
A clever kickstand lets you stand up the Surface RT for movie
viewing or typing on the optional keyboard.
JAN 2013
The Surface is sexy-thin and its hard angles are refreshing in a
world of soft-round-cornered gadgets.
certainly better than the severe stutter we experienced on preJelly Bean Androids tabs. One thing that’s apparent, though, are
the slow application launches. It takes from fi ve to six seconds to
launch the most basic apps, which is unacceptable on a premium
tablet. Once cached, it’s fine, but the initial launch is s-l-o-w.
While we’re harping on hardware, we’ll also ding the camera
used in the Surface RT. Both front and rear are 720p, which is
pretty sad in this day and age, but maybe that will dissuade people
from embarrassing themselves by using the tablet as a camera.
Another hardware issue worth mentioning: The 32GB version we
reviewed is about half spent on OS storage. That’s fortunately
mitigated by the inclusion of a MicroSD slot, so an additional 64GB
is just one Amazon click away.
The most impressive feature of the tablet is the integrated keyboard cover. Two versions are available: a 5.75mm thick Type Cover that uses mechanical keys and a 3mm Touch Cover that uses
membrane “keys” that don’t move at all. We purchased the Touch
Cover with our Surface RT and initially worried that it would remind us of the Atari 400 keyboard. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad
and we could comfortably type on it once we became accustomed
to it. The track pad, however, is too small. Both covers attach via a
clever magnetic connector that’s strong enough to hold the weight
of the Surface RT when picked up by the cover.
Some people have criticized the inclusion of a keyboard as a
sign of weakness in the Windows RT OS. We strongly disagree.
First, you don’t get the keyboard for free—you have to pony up
$120 for the Touch Cover and $130 for the Type Cover. Ouch.
There’s also no strong emphasis on the keyboard in the OS. You
can navigate perfectly fine using just touch.
What we do have problems with is the OS. We, again, think Modern, or whatever you want to call it, is a refreshing and futuristic
take on a touch interface, but Windows RT is marred by minor irritations such as nonuniform controls in the applications (some
apps feature a back button, and some don’t) and difficultly controlling some aspects of the OS. Our biggest complaint, though,
is that portions of the OS aren’t finished. For the most part, 90
percent of the OS is in the fat-finger-friendly Modern UI. But doing something as common as changing the power mode drops you
into the desktop mode. And while still surprisingly easy to manipulate with your finger, the desktop mode is jarring—why, in a
touch-centric device, would you force someone to use a non-touch
UI? It’s just surprising to us that Microsoft relegates so much of
Two keyboard options are
available: a “real” keyboard
(seen here) and a membrane
keyboard that actually isn’t
Atari 400–bad.
the control in Surface RT to the desktop mode. Want to use basic
calculator functionality? Do it desktop mode.
From what we can see, Windows RT is just a recompile of Windows 8 for ARM. Want a DOS box? Got it. Manually make regedit
changes? That’s there, too. It’s simply mind-blowing for anyone
coming from the four rubber walls of iOS, or the slightly less confining environs of Android. Don’t get us wrong, we like command
lines and tweaking the guts of an OS and we know it’s there in
iOS and Android, too—it’s just a little disconcerting to have it so
prominent in Windows RT.
We suppose there’s some strength here. If a large company
could port its custom Win32 app to Windows RT, the desktop mode
would be a seamless way to transition to a tablet. Unfortunately,
apparently only Microsoft has permission to install applications
for the desktop mode, so what’s the point of even having it? To
us, this makes the real competition for Surface RT its x86-based
brothers. With the barren shelves of the Metro app store, x86based Windows 8 tablets at least give you the fallback of millions
of Win32 apps already out. With Surface RT and a keyboard at
$600 versus a full-on x86-based tablet such as Acer’s Iconia W510
hybrid at $750 with a keyboard dock, it ain’t pretty.
Ultimately, we’re impressed by the Surface RT. Yes, it has some
rough spots, and yes, the app store looks like a grocery store after
the zombie apocalypse has hit (we expect that to change rapidly),
but this is a very good first effort with a lot of potential for those
who are willing to risk the burn of being early adopters and are
free to think different. –GU
Microsoft Surface RT
Surface RT
Nexus 7
iPad 3rd-Gen
1.4GHz Nvidia
Tegra 3
1.2GHz Nvidia
Tegra 3 T30L
Dual-core 1GHz
Apple A5X
520GHz Nvidia
ULP GeForce
416GHz Nvidia
ULP GeForce
Screen Size /
Resolution /
10.6 inches /
1366x768 / 148
7 inches /
1280x800 / 216
9.7 inches /
/ 264
Dimensions /
10.81x6.77x0.37 /
1.5 lbs.
/ .74 lbs
9.5x7.3x.37 /
1.44 lbs.
0.9.1 (ms)
Google Octane
HTML5 / 10
Fish (fps)
Best scores are bolded.
$600, www.microsoft.com
JAN 2013
Windows 8 Hardware
Bend it to your will
The Yoga 13’s rubberized
surfaces make it a
pleasure to hold.
start generating interest in the IdeaPad Yoga 13
when it demo’d the device at last year’s CES. At that time, its unique
ability to be both an Ultrabook and a tablet seemed like a far-out
concept, today its “convertible” design is the perfect justification for
Windows 8—and just one example of a whole new category of portable devices. As the name implies, the Yoga 13 is unusually flexible,
able to assume four different positions of functionality, thanks to its
special patented double-hinge. In notebook mode it’s your standard
clamshell; in stand mode the keyboard is rotated back and out of the
way, forming a base for the screen; in tent mode the hinge is at the
apex, with the screen in front and the keyboard serving as a kickstand; and in tablet mode the screen is flattened against the back
of the keyboard. In all instances where the physical keyboard isn’t
intended for use, it’s automatically disabled, with an onscreen keyboard taking its place.
The Yoga’s screen is a 13.3-inch 10-point multitouch panel
with 1600x900 resolution and the slimmest of bezels, so there’s
nothing getting in the way of your “swiping” in from the edges in
Windows 8 fashion. Regardless of your opinion on touchscreens,
you gotta love the fact that IPS panels seem to be the norm here,
as opposed to the inferior TN panels that have been typical of
standard, non-touch Ultrabooks. It makes sense—a device that’s
meant to be fl ipped and turned and viewed from a variety of orientations needs the better image fidelity of IPS. Yay for that.
The screen not only looks good but is very responsive. Even
in desktop mode, our touches to the relatively small file/folder
names, menu items, and commands were registered with pretty
consistent accuracy.
Still, we were more inclined to perform desktop chores the
old-fashioned way, and fortunately, the Yoga accommodates with
a nice, comfortable keyboard and buttery-smooth touchpad that
itself supports Windows 8 gestures. Indeed, as an Ultrabook, the
Yoga 13 is pretty nice for the price. We might have been even more
impressed if we hadn’t just reviewed CyberPower’s $850 Zeus
M2 last month, which had nearly the same specs but performed
10–20 percent faster than the Yoga in all tests, except Quake III,
where the Zeus M2 was 75 percent faster (the Yoga can thank its
single-channel RAM for that defeat). Why such disparity between
two Core i5-3317Us? The Yoga has a tendency to throttle down
under load, presumably to maintain thermal levels.
Be that as it may, you’re buying the Yoga 13 for more than just
an Ultrabook experience. While a 13.3-inch, three-and-a-halfpound notebook folded back upon itself is pushing the limits of
a tablet (as is the sensation of a keyboard on the back), the flexibility offered by the Yoga 13’s form factor and touch capabilities
has definite uses, not the least of which is giving Windows 8’s split
personality meaning. –KS
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
$1,000, www.lenovo.com
1.7GHz Core i5-3317U
4GB DDR3/1600 single-channel
13-inch 1600x900 IPS LCD
1,409 (-20.4%)
Samsung 128GB SSD
2,419 (-21.4%)
Quake III (fps)
250.1 (-30.2%)
Quake 4 (fps)
59.2 (-22.2%)
Battery Life (min)
HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 2-in-1
card reader, 802.11n, Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 4.0, headphone/
mic, 720p webcam, USB-toEthernet dongle
Lap / Carry
3 lbs, 6.5 oz / 4 lbs, 0.6 oz
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
1,140 (-26.3%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
116.3 (-14%)
ProShow Producer (sec)
MainConcept (sec)
0% 10%
Our zero-point ultraportable is an Intel reference Ultrabook with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U, 4GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, integrated
graphics, a 240GB SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.
JAN 2013
Windows 8 Hardware
The XPS 12 came loaded with
top-notch hardware, but no
Ethernet port or media reader.
A premium Ultrabook with a twist
Dell’s XPS 12 is an Ultrabook convertible, but
it moves from clamshell device to tablet in an entirely different
way. Push in on the lower back of the screen with both hands and
it rotates in its frame to face backward—then just close the lid
and you have a tablet. We like how this design hides the keyboard
from sight, and feel, but we can’t help but wonder how the rotating
screen and thin metal frame will fare over time and with regular
use. Dell says it’s been tested to 20,000 cycles.
With its 12.5-inch screen, the XPS 12 is a bit smaller than Lenovo’s Yoga 13, but it weighs the same three pounds, 6.5 ounces
(without its power brick) as its peer, which again, makes
it a more sedentary type of tablet. We’re not saying you can’t benefit from being able to fold up
this Ultrabook, rest it atop your lap, and surf
the web from your couch while you watch TV,
tablet-style. We’re just pointing out that it’s larger and more unwieldy than even a 10-inch iPad.
Size issues aside, the XPS 12’s 1920x1080 IPS screen
is crisp and bright and its edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass coating
should make it plenty durable. Capacitive sensors enable prompt
response to all the various touches and swipes in Windows 8, even
in desktop mode. Dell was kind enough to include a “Getting Started with Windows 8” app in the Modern UI, which explains how to
navigate the OS—a feature that’s sorely lacking from Windows 8
itself. Like the Yoga 13, the XPS 12’s touchpad also supports Win8
gestures, so you can, say, swipe in from the right of the pad to expose the Charms bar, or swipe in from the left of the pad to switch
programs. This worked most of the time, although not quite as
reliably as with the Yoga. The physical keyboard is suitable for
productivity, with nicely sized and spaced keys and a pleasant rubberized palm rest. It’s also backlit with blue LEDs.
The XPS 12 starts at $1,200 for a config similar to the Yoga 13.
But Dell sent us its most fully loaded model, which costs quite
a bit more at $1,700. It consists of a 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, 8GB
of DDR3/1600 RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It’s a pretty similar build
to our zero-point Ultrabook and the two machines traded modest
wins in all of our benchmarks.
While the XPS12 is handsome and has admirable parts, it strikes
us as falling shy of the mark by being too cumbersome to fully satisfy as a tablet and too pricey to fully satisfy as an Ultrabook. –KS
Dell XPS 12
$1,700, www.dell.com
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
1.9GHz Core i7-3517U
Intel HD4000 integrated
8GB dual-channel DDR3/1600
1,902 (-0.1%)
12.5-inch 1920x1080 IPS LCD
345.3 (-3.6%)
Micron 256GB SSD
2x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort,
802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
3.0, headphone/mic, 1.3MP
Lap / Carry
3 lbs, 6.5 oz / 4 lbs, 0.6 oz
900 (-6.7%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
Proshow Producer (sec)
MainConcept (sec)
Quake III (fps)
Quake 4 (fps)
72.3 (-5.0%)
Battery Life (min)
207 (-17.2%)
0% 10% 20%
Our zero-point ultraportable is an Intel reference Ultrabook with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U, 4GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, integrated
graphics, a 240GB SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.
JAN 2013
Batteries in both the
keyboard base and the
screen/tablet keep the W510
supplied with plenty of juice.
A two-fer, hybrid-style
ACER’S ICONIA W510 also aims to give users a notebook and tablet in one, but it’s what’s called a hybrid device, as opposed to a
convertible. This means there’s a discrete tablet that contains all
the brains of the operation, which can slot into a sturdy keyboard
base as needed.
The Iconia W510 differs from the two convertible reviewed here
in another significant way. It’s running an Atom processor, specifically Intel’s Z2760 system-on-chip (code-named Clover Trail).
That combined with its smaller size—10.1 inches—also makes the
W510 a lot less expensive. It can be purchased as a stand-alone
tablet for $500, or complete with its keyboard and auxiliary battery base, like the model featured here, for $750.
Of course, what you’re no doubt wondering is whether
Atom sucks. Intel’s ultra-low-power Atom chips
got a reputation of being subpar during
the rise of netbooks, which, while
low-priced, were known for weak
performance. The Z2760 is a
1.8GHz dual-core chip with HyperThreading and non-Intel PowerVR
graphics. While the base clock speed is a little
bit higher than previous Atom chips, the biggest change
is reported to be in power consumption. It also has the benefit of
running Windows 8, which was developed with mobile applications
in mind, unlike the decidedly desktop-centric Windows 7.
Unfortunately, the unit Acer sent us is pre-production, so we
can’t test Atom’s performance with benchmarks yet. What we can
tell you is that the W510 booted to the Modern UI in about 16 seconds. Once there, horizontal scrolling through the interface was
surprisingly smooth, but vertical scrolling, as on web pages, was
inconsistent, with periodic lags. Still, we have to say we were surprised that the sucktastic qualities of old Atom were not apparent. We did experience a few quirks that we’re attributing to its
pre-production state, so we’re going to give Acer the benefi t of the
doubt and assume these issues will be fixed in the final product.
It’s an intriguing concept, so we’d like to see it polished.
As a tablet, the Iconia W510 is far more convincing than either
the Yoga 13 or the XPS 12. Freed from its keyboard, the W510
weighs just one pound, four ounces. The 10.1-inch screen is easy
to hold in one or both hands, and while its 1366x768 resolution
isn’t going to win any contests, it’s got the nice image quality of an
IPS panel, under a protective layer of Gorilla Glass.
As a notebook, the experience is more compromised. For
starters, the device is top-heavy, what with all the computing
components stuffed into the screen, so it has a tendency to topple
backward when it’s sitting in your lap. Then there’s the somewhat
cramped keyboard, which isn’t great for long bouts of typing. And
its 64GB of storage is all too tablet-like for our tastes (a media
reader and USB port make expansion possible). Also, its touchpad
isn’t great. Not only does it not support Win8 gestures, but it was
noticeably less responsive than either Lenovo’s or Dell’s.
Still, we think this device has potential if the quirks we experi-
enced are worked out in the final product. It’s a believable tablet
with far more productivity chops than other tablets offer—at least
until Surface Pro arrives—at down-to-earth pricing. –KS
Acer Iconia W510
$750, www.acer.com
1.5GHz Intel Atom Z2760 SoC
PowerVR SGX540
2GB DDR2/800
10.1-inch1366x768 IPS LCD
Micro HDMI (with dongle for VGA), Micro USB 2.0 (with
dongle for full-size USB 2.0), Micro SD card reader,
802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, headphone, mic, keyboard
dock with USB 2.0
Lap / Carry
(with dock)
With dock: 2 lbs, 12.4 oz / 3 lbs, 0.2 oz; tablet only: 1 lb, 4 oz
JAN 2013
Windows 8 Hardware
Step back, Modern UI haters, this
multitouch panel won’t break the bank.
Doesn’t come with a bottle of Windex
WHAT MAKES A monitor “good” for Windows 8? First, you need a touch
panel with a flush bezel that lets you summon the various Windows 8
command ghosts. That pretty much eliminates optical-based monitors, which have the camera lenses hidden in the corners. Microsoft
also recommends no less than five-finger multitouch for the OS, but
10-finger is advisable.
That’s all good news for Acer’s new 23-inch T232HL touch panel. This 10-point-touch projected-capacitive panel lets you do all
the Windows 8 swiping and flicking your heart desires. As you can
imagine, projected capacitive carries a price premium and the Acer
streets at $500—compared to, say, the $280 that a 23-inch optical
touch panel might cost you. That’s a big price increase, but certainly
not as pricey as the InnovaTouch (reviewed next).
Running the panel through the Lagom LCD monitor obstacle
course (www.lagom.nl), the Acer was good in most of the tests but
we did see banding in the gradient tests. That issue wasn’t in just
synthetic tests, either—using a real-world product shot of a system,
we could see the banding in one particular fade in the background.
It’s not terrible, and some might accuse us of pixel-peeping but the
issue was noticeable compared with the InnovaTouch monitor. A series of digital images also looked less impressive on the Acer than
the InnovaTouch—not to a great degree, but again, worth noting. The
InnovaTouch also wins in responsiveness over the Acer, exhibiting
less lag in response to touch commands.
Where the Acer excels is in ports—you get DVI, VGA, HDMI, and
three USB 3.0 ports vs. the VGA and DVI on the InnovaTouch. The Acer
is also far sexier, though we’re not totally sold on the design. Neither
panel is height-adjustable.
Despite all this, we think the Acer is a pretty decent panel for the
price. It’s IPS and, more importantly, it’s a flush-bezel multitouch,
which will make even the Win8 Modern UI haters reconsider their
position. –GU
Acer T232HL
$500, www.acer.com
Looks aren’t everything
Despite the Kim Kardashian
bottom, this panel performs.
WHEN WE began our hunt for fl ush-bezel touch panels to review, one
of the few we could find was InnovaTouch’s IW2235P-U. This IPS,
10-point projective-capacitive panel isn’t the typical consumergrade monitor—in fact, it's marketed for commercial applications;
its price of $754 reflects that. That the panel is slightly smaller
than the Acer, at just under 22-inches viewable, might immediately make you recoil and question the difference between this
panel and consumer panels that cost about two-thirds the price.
After using the InnovaTouch side-by-side with the Acer, we can
say there's a difference. Using Lagom’s LCD test images on the
pair of 1080p panels, we found the InnovaTouch slightly better than
the Acer in image quality, particularly in areas of gradation. The
Acer isn’t horrible, but the InnovaTouch was far smoother. Grading
the panel for digital photo work, we found the InnovaTouch slightly
warmer and with a bit more contrast, too. Off axis, however, the
InnovaTouch had a ghastly yellowish tinge to it.
One key advantage to the panel is in touch response. We used a
painting app and drew our finger across the screen. When drawing
at anything other than slow speeds, the Acer’s digitizer lagged far
behind the InnovaTouch’s.
So what’s not to like? The stand, which is designed to stabilize
the panel when tilted fl at, is insanely overbuilt—as well as downright ugly. There’s also a pretty limited input selection—no media
JAN 2013
reader, camera, or USB ports; just DVI and VGA. So we suppose
your choice really depends on what you value. The edge in image
quality and touch performance goes to the InnovaTouch, but the
Acer aces in price, ports, and style. –GU
InnovaTouch IW2235P-U
$754, www.touchsystems.com
Windows 8 Hardware
Touch Windows 8 without a new monitor
WE WON’T LIE —Win8 isn’t an optimal experience for traditional
mouse and keyboard users. But what if you can’t afford a touchscreen? Consider a giant touchpad. That’s the idea behind Logitech’s Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650. It’s a giant (5-inch)
touchpad that greatly aids the use of a touch-oriented operating
system in the absence of a touchscreen.
The T650 supports up to four-finger gestures to help you navigate Metro, err, Modern. Various moves perform different commands in Win8, such as swiping four fingers to the left or right
to “snap” a Window on the desktop. Four fingers up or down on
the pad will minimize or maximize a window, while swiping three
fingers up pulls up the Start screen. We’re honestly not fans of
any of the multitouch touchpad controls, as they’re not uniform
across devices and all the swiping and gesturing makes us feel
like we’re casting a magic missile more than controlling a cursor.
Plus there’s the tendency to inadvertently open a program.
The Touchpad’s surface itself is glass and, frankly, smoother
than the two touch panels we reviewed here. It recharges via Micro USB and works with Logitech’s wonderful Unify system so
you can run six Logitech Unify devices from a single 2.4GHz RF
dongle. Using the Touchpad feels luxurious if you’re coming off a
cramped notebook touchpad but it can use some improvements.
The T650 offers
a luxuriously
smooth, 5-inch
touch surface
to navigate
Windows 8.
Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650
$80, www.logitech.com
Years later, we still have issues
with touch mice
It’s like the Start Menu never left
LOGITECH’S T620 reminds us of other touch-enabled mice and—
unfortunately—those aren’t mice we were very fond of. Most of the
surface of the T620 is touch-enabled. To left-click you can either push
the whole body down or tap the left side of it. That’s not it, though—
no fewer than 10 different Windows 8 functions can be accessed by
touching or stroking different parts of the mouse body. To pull up the
Charms bar, for example, you can stroke your finger in from the right
side. In theory, it sounds neat to be able to command the OS from the
mouse but we found the surface much too cramped. If we had to have
“touch,” we’d rather pair Logitech’s Touchpad T650 with a traditional
mouse rather than just try to tough it out with the T620 alone. –GU
The Touch mouse T620
tries to jam too many
features into its small
touch surface.
$70, www.logitech.com
JAN 2013
The Touchpad has a hard edge that we wished was beveled, as we
kept catching our finger when we swiped in from the right to pull
up the Charms bar.
While it’s great for moving through the Modern interface quickly, we had problems with the Touchpad in precision work, such as
selecting a word or one or two letters of a document for deletion or
editing. With a mouse, it’s second-nature to make such precision
moves—not so with the Touchpad, which takes too much concentration. Another issue we had was selecting things to drag around
the desktop with the Touchpad—it takes a wee bit too much finger
pressure to accomplish. –GU
Logitech T620
YOU DON’T KNOW how much something means to you until it’s gone,
and with Windows 8, we’re really pining for the Start menu. Sniff.
Logitech’s T400 helps us get over that loss. With one touch on the
glass touch area, the Modern UI Start screen is available. Like the
T620 and T650, it uses Logitech’s rather nifty Unify dongle that
can drive up to six devices at once. Beside the easy access to the
Start screen, you can also smoothly scroll on two different axes
with the T400. We appreciate the limited command set rather than
the surfeit of gestures on the T620. The only other thing we’d want
is an option to directly access the Charms bar. Our one real complaint about the T400 is that it’s way too small, which made driving
the mouse uncomfortable rather quickly. –GU
We liked the welldefined touch area of
the T400 but it’s built
for smaller hands.
Logitech T400
$50, www.logitech.com
Curved Microsoft keyboard offers hotkeys for
Windows 8
Bluetooth keyboard geared toward
mobile PC or tablet users
THE NEXT iteration in a long line of curved keyboards from Microsoft,
the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard shares familiar lines with its predecessors. As ergonomic keyboards go, this one is rather flat, and the keys
are contiguous from side to side. The palm rest is removable and
also has feet enabling you to add height to the front of the keyboard.
Designed for use with Windows 8, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard’s function keys double as hotkeys used to emulate actions
and gestures within Microsoft’s new OS. The hotkey configuration
is controlled using a switch above the number pad, making it difficult to switch back and forth between the two modes.
Microsoft’s Sculpt Comfort Keyboard uses 2.4GHz wireless
connectivity with the included USB dongle and is powered by two
AAA batteries. –TF
Microsoft’s latest
curved keyboard
features a split
spacebar and
wireless connectivity.
Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard
$60, www.microsoft.com
Mobile Keyboard provides an alternative input method for PC users on the go. A sturdy design paired with
its diminutive size make it easy to carry in a bag or backpack. The
included cover and tablet stand add significant weight to the keyboard. Bluetooth connectivity allows the Wedge Mobile Keyboard to
be used with tablets or smartphones running a variety of platforms.
Provided along the top row of the keyboard are media playback
controls and buttons to activate the Charms buttons found in Windows 8. The Wedge Mobile Keyboard’s physical keys make touch
typing much more feasible than screen-based input methods, but
the key spacing leaves something to be desired.
The build quality of the Wedge Mobile Keyboard is second to none.
We wish the same could be said about the typing experience. –TF
Mobile Keyboard
really comes into
its own when used
with Windows 8.
Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard
$80, www.microsoft.com
So you want to update to Windows 8 but have no intention
of buying new touchy-feely hardware. Some common keyboard shortcuts will make getting around Windows 8 much
easier than using just your mouse.
Windows key + start typing: Search
Windows key + C: Expose the Charms bar
Windows key + F: Open the Search charm to search files
Windows key + Q: Open the Search charm to search apps
Windows key + H: Open the Share charm
Windows key + I: Open the Settings charm (this is where
you’ll find the power button)
Windows key + K: Open the Devices charm
Windows key + Shift + period (.): Snap an app to the left
Windows key + period (.): Snap an app to the right
Windows key + J: Switch the main app and the snapped app
Windows key + Ctrl + Tab: Cycle through open apps (except
desktop apps)
Windows key + D: Switch from Modern to Desktop mode
Windows key + X: Access a slew of Windows tools like Power
Options, Device Manager, Control Panel, Run, etc.
JAN 2013
In the zombie apocalypse, your worst
enemies might actually be humans
JAN 2013
THE RULES used to be simple: Don’t get bitten; destroy the brain.
Zombie games like Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor, and Resident Evil
shared a vaguely similar approach, even as they offered terrific
takes on one of horror’s most ubiquitous subgenres.
But zombie games are maturing. They’re mutating beyond
simply being zombie-themed shooters, and redefining what we
know as the zombie FPS into more of a genuine survival game.
You still have to get headshots and avoid getting gnawed, but
there are new threats to manage. Thirst. Hunger. Darkness.
Scarce resources. Untrustworthy strangers.
A gun can’t solve ever y problem you have in DayZ, The War Z,
and No More Room In Hell, in other words. These upcoming zombie games demand different skills: communication, leadership,
a knack for navigation over open terrain, ner ves of steel, and
even a little deception will help you sur vive. In short, they’re
the zombie games we’ve dreamed of: demanding and realistic
sur vival simulations that ask a lot of you, but reward players
with unforgettable, self-authored stories of sacrifice, horror,
and sur vival. While all three titles are still works in progress,
they’re playable in their nascent state. But before you enter
these respective worlds of zombie hordes, read this stor y so
you’re fully prepared for the horror that’s in store.
JAN 2013
Zombie Games
Everything you learned about surviving
the zombiepocalypse was wrong
IN APRIL 2012,, an unfinished mod developed by a former New
Zealand military officer was quietly released. The add-on was
designed for Arma 2, a niche military simulation game from
Czech studio Bohemia Interactive, best known as the creator of
Operation Flashpoint.
Initially, DayZ arrived with little fanfare. “I developed it, essentially, in secret and that removes a lot of ego; it removes a lot
of promises,” creator Dean Hall told us in May. But DayZ would
catch PC gaming by complete surprise. In just four months,
it had drawn 1 million unique players. Hundreds of 50-player
custom servers hosting the still-incomplete, alpha version of
the mod sprung up in a matter of weeks. Almost 200,000 people
were playing every day at the peak of the mod’s popularity in
August. The zombie game that gamers had openly fantasized
about on message boards—an open-world, do-anything, goanywhere survival game—had appeared out of thin air, albeit in
a rough and half-realized form.
We now consider DayZ the progenitor of the modern swarm
of realistic zombie games. Its average daily population has
since dwindled to a still-substantial 50,000 in October, but this
lull is actually just downtime preceding a larger release: Its
spark of success has spun off a full-time, in-house development team at Bohemia led by the mod’s creator, Dean “Rocket”
Hall. This team labors away on a stand-alone version of DayZ—
a more complete, fuller-featured version of the mod.
Loot is everything in DayZ. Your carrying capacity depends on the
size of your backpack—a rare ruck can become a literal target on
your back. DayZ’s rigid and unintuitive inventory interface, unfortunately, is a well-documented shortcoming.
A particular asset is Arma 2’s ballistics modeling, which
distinguishes it from the vast majority of shooters in gaming.
Bullets travel parabolically in Arma 2 and DayZ based on their
caliber, so the behavior of a hunting rifle, revolver, and M4A1
carbine, for example, all differ significantly. Getting a knack
for your weapon is as important as just finding one—someone
who knows the nuances of a low-end gun like a Lee Enfield (a
bolt-action WWI rifle) is arguably more dangerous than someone holding an AS50 anti-material sniper rifle but doesn’t know
how to zero it in. Guns emit different amounts of noise, too—
snipers usually find it safest to operate in teams for protection, as a single shot can ring a dinner bell for zombies
two or three hundred meters away. For this reason,
silenced side arms and rifles are some of the most
prized items in the game.
To get your hands on high-end equipment, you
need to scour the game world. You don’t complete
quests or levels or experience points in DayZ, so
typically you’re just worried about gathering
useful gear—tools, food, and weapons—with-
We now consider DayZ the progenitor of the
modern swarm of realistic zombie games.
Even with placeholder animations, annoying bugs, and
incomplete features, DayZ has a death-grip on gamers’
attention. Relative to the zombie games that preceded it,
it offers unprecedented freedom and makes other facets of
the apocalypse—including fellow survivors—as much of a
threat as the undead. Its style of zombie realism arose partly
from the inspiration of its creator. Hall had originally pitched
the mod as a zombie-less training simulator, having endured
survival training himself during an exchange program with the
Singaporean military.
A lot of DayZ’s appeal is owed to Arma 2, whose Real Virtuality engine forms a foundation for its authenticity. Arma 2’s
creators went to great lengths to create high-fidelity game
technology, and DayZ benefits from sharing systems that model for vehicle fuel consumption and modular vehicle damage,
a real-time night/day cycle, a working compass and detailed
topographical map, voice chat that’s affected by proximity, and
an engine that can render objects over long distances.
JAN 2013
Chernogorsk (aka “Cherno”) is DayZ’s largest
death trap. Erm, city.
Surveillance is one of the pleasures of DayZ. It’s a game that makes
looking and listening a genuine skill. Scouting an area for dangerous players (which you’ll need binoculars or a rangefinder for) is a
good habit.
DayZ’s Chernarus map is actually one of several playable worlds
available for DayZ. Modders have ported other player-made Arma 2
maps into the mod, including the tundra of Namalsk, the jungle of
Lingor Island, and a dense urban desert called Fallujah.
in the game’s enormous sandbox. One of DayZ’s masterstrokes
is that the quest for gear always feels self-motivated; your
needs and emotions naturally drive your goals. When you enter
DayZ for the first time, you’re unarmed. You instinctively want
to find a gun, but to do it you need to put yourself in danger:
Weapons and items only spawn inside structures, and zombies
lurk where structures dwell. Other survival mechanics operate
as motivators, too. You need to eat. You need to drink,
but true to Arma’s fidelity, you can’t fill your canteen in the ocean. We’ve been in situations where
we would’ve traded grenades for a can of pasta, or
night vision goggles for a soda. If you’re injured,
depending on your ailment, you’ll need to find
morphine, painkillers, or antibiotics.
This isn’t a game where your health
regenerates automatically, in other
words. Actually, the quickest way
to restore your health in DayZ isn’t
even something that can be done by
yourself. Eating food slowly restores
any blood you’ve lost from injury, but
in order to use a blood transfusion
bag, you need another player—meaning friendship (or temporarily trusting another player, at least) is key to healing
yourself. The trouble is that interacting with
strangers in DayZ—other players that, like
you, want to find better gear—is inherently dangerous.
These intricate mechanics play
out in one of gaming’s most detailed
worlds. DayZ borrows Arma 2’s map,
Chernarus, a 225km² country that’s
actually a satellite-model slice of the
Czech Republic (see comparison photos
and maps here: bit.ly/realdayz). Basing Chernarus on real topographic data
grants it a feeling of authenticity that
isn’t present in other virtual environ-
ments. Hills roll into unexpected ponds and forest valleys.
Road signs are printed in Cyrillic. Power lines run perpendicular to ruined castles. Villages and dense cities cling to
the coast. The only downside is Chernarus’s realistic scale: To
get where you want to go, you might have to run three or four
kilometers in real time.
It’s worth noting that modders—the ever-busy carpenter
gnomes of PC gaming—have ported several Arma 2 custom
maps into the mod. A current favorite is Namalsk, an island
connected by a half-kilometer railway bridge. You can spy it
and the other four currently available landscapes at w w w.
dayzdb.com. A third-party mod manager utility and server
browser, DayZ Commander (w w w.dayzcommander.com),
is a frustration-free way to download these add-ons and get
DayZ running on either a retail or digital version of Arma 2.
Bohemia is expected to release DayZ’s stand-alone version by the end of 2012. Planned features include added bits
of fidelity like gear degradation, refined melee combat, and
improved zombie AI. Most importantly, Bohemia emphasizes,
going stand-alone will help them address the hacking that’s
plagued the mod version of DayZ.
Current issues aside, DayZ’s biggest innovation is the trust
it places in players to find their own fun. Compared to conventional shooters, it’s barren of any cinematic content. But
DayZ leverages complex systems and difficulty in a way that
produces incredible stories and interactions that don’t exist
in other games. Banal tasks like watching another survivor
through binoculars and trying to determine where they’re
going or if they’re friendly are meaningful safety measures.
YouTube is full of funny, scary, and fascinating interactions
between strangers and survivor groups, bandits and selfdescribed axe murderers, do-gooders and kidnappers. A
community-sanctioned tournament series, the Survivor Gamez (w w w.survivorgamez.com), sprung up over the summer.
For the patient player, the search for water in DayZ can be just
as heart-pumping as a shootout. It’s the first zombie game to
emphasize stories over shooting, and the first that makes human nature an implicit part of everything you do.
This isn’t a game where your health
regenerates automatically.
JAN 2013
Zombie Games
A sincere form of flattery
made easier to install
IN JULY, FASTER than you could hoard canned goods, a DayZ
imitator emerged. Within a month of DayZ’s flash of popularity, a new studio told the gaming world that it was hard at work
on its own player-versus-player and player-versus-zombie,
open-world survival sandbox. And unbelievably, Hammerpoint
Interactive said its new project would be available before the
end of 2012.
The announcement of The War Z was met with skepticism
and cynicism flecked with curiosity. Its features were uncomfortably familiar: a huge, verdant open world dotted with mundane and military loot, a first-person and third-person camera, and dedicated servers, all laid out to support unscripted,
persistent gameplay between zombies and other players. Even
Using separate real-money and in-game currencies, The War Z allows
players to purchase some basic items—like melee weapons and
food—before they spawn into the game. If you die, anything you’re
carrying is dropped.
JAN 2013
the look of its characters—baseball cap–wearing, backpacked
survivors—resembled DayZ’s. The War Z wasn’t being subtle
about its inspiration.
But if this blatant borrowing of ideas resulted in a good game,
would it matter? More details snuck out as the press got early
access. The War Z would include a player-written questing system, appearance customization, the ability to place bounties on
other players’ heads, an RPG-style skill system, and a microtransaction store for items. Perhaps most interesting was The
War Z’s promise to offer something called Strongholds—small,
private instances like a cabin in the woods, a farm, a small town
on a cliffside, or a train yard that clans or individual players
can rent for money. Even if these features don’t appeal to you
personally, they painted a picture of a game that was less of a
clone than originally thought.
“In fact, we’re fans of the mod,” The War Z executive producer Sergey Titov said to VG247.com when asked about DayZ
in October. “Ultimately, we hope gamers end up playing both
The War Z and the DayZ stand-alone. It’s difficult to compare
at the moment, but although there are similarities, we tried
creating a game that was a little bit easier to access and play,
and that would allow players to be creative and create their
own scenarios.”
There’s some consensus that this isn’t a “there’s only room
for one of us in this town” situation, but rather a sign that this
subgenre is simply in the process of losing that prefix. Competition between companies usually benefits consumers, and
The War Z will have a lot to live up to. Being built atop a military
simulator, DayZ carries a lot of inherent traits that lend itself to
survival simulation, and not all of them are easily reproducible.
But the other side of that coin is that The War Z isn’t burdened
by some of DayZ’s inherent quirks, and seems to benefit from
being coded from scratch. It’s offering a few simple antidotes to
some of DayZ’s issues, like confusing inventory management,
complicated weapon handling, and rigid animations.
It’s also favoring accessibility more than DayZ. The War
Z does have permadeath—if you die, you lose that character
and their items forever—but only if you’re playing with a Hardcore mode character. Normal mode simply temporarily locks
your ability to play that character for 24 hours and removes
any items they were carrying. Likewise, you can get a leg up on
a new character by spending in-game currency that persists
Questionable Ethics
Helm’s Deep Reborn
Fight your way through a white-walled,
underground, secret research facility filled
with traps (like a ceiling that drops cars on
you) and endless tricks. Almost Portal-like in
its devious cleverness, Questionable Ethics is
the work of a Korean modder. Play the sequel
after you’re done. bit.ly/questionpcg
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ iconic
castle siege is reproduced here with almost
1:1 authenticity, with the exception of L4D’s
menagerie of uglies swapped in for Urukhai. This multistage survival map has you
meat-grinding through hundreds of zombies,
climaxing in a defense of—and then escape
from—the throne room. Nonstop violence
and calamity. bit.ly/l4dhelms
A stamina mechanic is one of the small-but-significant differences
separating The War Z from DayZ. You can’t run forever, but the
undead can—sprinting into a town while out of breath might be all it
takes to doom you.
Nighttime in The War Z is inherently dangerous. Flares, chemlights,
and flashlights will help you find your way around, but any light
sources will inevitably draw attention from other players.
across all characters, so it’s easier to recover from a death.
The focus on accessibility extends to gameplay itself, where
weapon behavior is more akin to games like Battlefield 3. An
assault rifle or a pistol handles with the lightness and responsiveness you’d expect in an ordinary multiplayer FPS. You’ll
still have to keep noise in mind when firing—letting loose with
a sniper rifle will make you awfully popular in your part of the
map. There are also small but significant differences between
DayZ and The War Z in player movement. You can crouch and
go prone in both games, but The War Z has a jump button. More
realistically, you can’t sprint infinitely in The War Z—running
depletes a stamina meter that recharges over time, so you’ll
want to conserve your sprinting until you really need it.
The War Z also features a few imaginative zombie types.
“Sleeper” zombies deceptively lie dormant on the ground, but
rise if they notice you nearby. The developers have also promised a rare “stem cell–carrying” zombie that only appears at
night. “Visually, they’ll look very different from other infected;
they’re much more aggressive, fast, and agile. They’re rare,
they hunt only at night, so the best place to find them will be
larger cities at nighttime,” says Titov. Killing one of these superzombies will yield stem cells, which are kind of a special
currency within The War Z that can also be used to create a
vaccine. Hammerpoint hopes that the relative difficulty of bag-
ging one of these zombies will inspire some creative teamwork
and competition among players.
These corpses lurk in a world about 160km² in size—about
70 percent the size of Chernarus in DayZ. Encouragingly, Hammerpoint has said that anyone who buys The War Z (available
now for pre-order at $25) will receive additional maps that are
released. The game’s stock map is inspired by Colorado, a rocky
wilderness pocked with outposts, lakes, and small towns.
With The War Z, the worry is that the hurry to release ahead
of its competition will leave the game’s anti-cheat features, netcode, or other fundamental systems incomplete. For now, we’re
encouraged by the fact that, despite The War Z’s focus on accessibility, the initial alpha version of the game still reproduces
some of the feelings of self-preservation, carefulness, and spontaneous danger that arise in DayZ. It’s a game, in other words,
where death can come unexpectedly and at any moment. Idling in
front of a windowsill for too long while scouring an office building
for supplies can be all it takes to doom you, but (if you’re playing
on Normal mode), when the Grim Reaper strikes, it isn’t quite
as painful or permanent. Most exciting is The War Z’s system
for formalizing player interactions with a player-authored quest
system—you’ll be able to hire other players to complete tasks.
This system hasn’t been shown yet, but should be available by
the time you read this, after the game transitions into open beta.
GoldenEye 4 Dead
An amalgamation of settings drawn from
the 1995 Bond film, including a dam, runway,
and a hidden space base in Aztec ruins,
G4D is more than a pile of references: It’s
a genuinely taxing and creatively designed
campaign, and one that takes clever
liberties with its source material. Be on the
lookout for Easter eggs. bit.ly/l4dgold
Let’s Build A Rocket
Instead of a sprawling campaign that has
you racing to the safe room as a finish line,
Let’s Build A Rocket gathers the survivors
around a small launch pad and hangar.
Using a computer panel, you research new
technology to unlock L4D2’s weapons as
zombies harass, juggling these tasks as you
and teammates slowly construct a rocket to
escape Earth. bit.ly/l4drocket
Suicide Blitz 2
A great example of the indulgent set
pieces, Suicide Blitz 2 pushes the survivors
through a bowling alley, maximum security
prison, and finally to the 50-yard line of
a football stadium for a titular stand-off
against hulking zombie Tanks in football
jerseys. bit.ly/l4dblitz
JAN 2013
Zombie Games
Expect at least half of your team to die
UNLIKE THE WAR Z AND DAYZ, No More Room In Hell doesn’t
fit into the newly born “outdoor survival game” category. It’s
fairer to call it an advanced, hardcore take on conventional cooperative zombie games like Left 4 Dead. In development for a
decade before releasing last year, the Source engine mod was
recently selected through Steam Greenlight to release as a
full, free game on Steam, but you can play it now by downloading it from w w w.nomoreroominhell.com.
What NMRiH shares in common with DayZ (other than an
awkward name) is the unapologetic way it throws you into a
brutal post-apocalyptic scenario with almost no instruction.
You’re fragile. Bullets are scarce. And zombies will infinitely
Though it resembles Left 4 Dead, what No More Room In Hell shares in
common with DayZ and The War Z is that it often makes fl eeing from and
avoiding the undead preferable to fighting them.
JAN 2013
spawn until you complete the map’s tough (and partially randomized) objectives, like switching on generators or finding
the keycode that unlocks a door. NMRiH’s unforgiving approach to zombie co-op practically guarantees that a few
of your teammates will need to die as you trudge from your
spawn area to the end of the level. Your eight-person survivor
group is twice the size of Left 4 Dead’s, and a given round typically sees your team whittled down as players inevitably get
separated, surrounded, and eaten.
Most of NMRiH’s zombies are of the slow, vintage variety.
They’re easy to evade, but much more durable in combat, so
the danger arises from their numbers and players’ modest
agility. You can only sprint for a brief period of time, so wandering into a cluttered garage with a single exit, for example,
is sometimes all it takes to doom you. A handful of speedier
zombies jog after survivors (some of which—harrowingly—are
children), but NMRiH other wise lacks any undead with special
abilities like leaping, acid-spitting, or tongue-lassoing. This
gives the game a more grounded feeling; the molasses-speed
creep of the horde gives you room to react, but the absence of
a revival mechanic and the relative weakness of weapons has
a way of turning small mistakes into permanent death.
Also refreshing is NMRiH’s emphasis on immersion. Like
DayZ, the volume of voice communication is based on distance, meaning a far-off teammate’s cries for help may go
completely unnoticed. The game also doesn’t place any interface, crosshairs, or HUD on the screen by default, and all of its
maps are pocked with corners that are absolutely saturated
with opaque, impermeable darkness. A small antidote to this
is the flashlight. It mercifully doesn’t require fresh batteries,
but just as you’d expect in real life, you can’t hold it and swing
a sledgehammer or operate an M16 simultaneously. This design makes the seemingly banal role of “flashlight holder” a
vital role for guiding teams through unlit corridors—being the
guy responsible for shining the light on enemies while your
teammates whack away with shovels or chainsaws is genuinely helpful.
The melee weapons themselves take a lot of finesse to
operate. Most of them swing slowly (and with a wind-up animation much lengthier than Left 4 Dead’s), meaning they’re
nowhere near the weed wackers you wield in Valve’s co-op
zombie game. And despite their decomposing state, the un-
Zombie Zombie
Resident Evil 4
1984 (on ZX Spectrum), Spaceman Ltd.
One of the first games to feature zombies
as its subject. Zombie Zombie had a very
indirect way of dealing with the undead: You
had to lure zombies up to tall buildings and
then trick them into falling off to their doom.
Coincidentally, it was one of the first games to
use two-channel sound.
2007 (on PC), Capcom
The RE4 PC port was particularly bad, but the
game still stands as the best “actionization”
of the zombie genre. Japanese difficulty, boss
design, and pacing tempered by Western
playability and an over-the-shoulder camera
spawned hordes of imitators. Weapon
customization lent meaningful progression to
the dozens of brushes with undead creatures.
Zombies spawn endlessly in No More Room In Hell; this isn’t a game
that’s afraid to overwhelm you with enemies. Some maps stack dozens
of zombies directly outside the spawn room, only giving you a handful of
bullets and melee weapons to deal with them.
“Behind you!” The snail-speed crawl of zombies in NMRiH makes room
for communication and decision-making in a way that isn’t present in
most zombie-themed shooters.
dead are durable, taking multiple hits to bring down unless
you skillfully connect with their skull. A typical hand-to-hand
fight is a tense tango of bobbing and weaving, angling to position yourself to just the right distance where your axe or machete can clobber a zombie but the zombie can’t hit you. This
limited room for error makes individual zombie kills feel like
a heroic effort.
Firearms are also handled with a modicum more realism
than in Left 4 Dead. They’re scarce, and pistols don’t have infinite ammo—when you pick one up, it might have a meager
six or seven shots waiting for you in the magazine. Moreover,
they’re tough to aim: Shots that look like a sure thing through
ironsights won’t always produce a kill. And like DayZ, most
guns have a discrete ammunition type—you might find handgun ammo, but if it’s .45 ACP and the only pistol you have is the
9mm Beretta M9, it’s not going to help you.
Appropriately enough, a lot of NMRiH’s scares arise from
the lack of room in its levels. Structurally, they resemble
Left 4 Dead’s meandering, point-to-point sprints, but
aggressive collision detection between zombies and even other
teammates means that it only takes a few zombies to block
a door way.
Our favorite level is called Cabin and begins with a leap of
faith. You spawn in a secure attic, and begin by combing dark
corners for melee weapons, flashlights, and whatever you can
find. But to start the level, you have to drop straight through a
hole in the ceiling—a one-way trip that usually makes the first
survivor in instantly popular with zombies. Our tactic is to
have this leading player lure zombies away from the entrance
so the rest of the team can safely descend. The lead usually
gets beat up in the process, but it’s preferable to throwing
everyone into a crowded, panicked melee.
A final twist on all this layered brutality is NMRiH’s infection mechanic. Zombies will occasionally grapple you, and if
you or a teammate is unable to shake them loose, you’ll get
bitten. You know what happens next: Within minutes, you’ll
drop dead, and rise again as an AI-controlled zombie. It’s surprising that the mod is the only zombie game we know of to
model this classic horror trope.
As the mod prepares for a full release on Steam, the
development team slaves away on new features including
National Guardsmen NPCs that will help or hinder you,
additional game modes and playable characters, throwable
weapons, and a full dismemberment system. But even now,
NMRiH is a stand-out take on zombie survival, and the
scariest multiplayer game we’ve ever played. Unlike in Left 4
Dead, trying to kill every zombie you meet is the surest way to
have your human card revoked.
Left 4 Dead
2008, Valve
The reigning champ in zombie co-op, L4D’s
mildly forking level design and “zombie
director AI” combined to create movie-like
campaigns that wickedly and dynamically
threw threats at your survivor group as you
progressed through each chapter. Another
L4D innovation, asymmetrical multiplayer, has
been copied in games such as Dead Space 2.
The Walking Dead
2012, Telltale Games
Telltale’s adventure spin-off of the Robert
Kirkman comic book series has taken a novellike, “Choose Your Own Apocalypse” approach
to the genre. Though it’s modest on interaction,
choices you make—from whom to rescue to
which friend should get a candy bar—affect the
content of future episodes. The five-episode
series has already been renewed for a sequel.
Dead State
2013, DoubleBear Productions
Zombie shooters have been done to death;
Dead State is a turn-based RPG. Described as
Fallout-meets-The Walking Dead, it’s being
helmed by Vampire: The Masquerade writer/
designer Brian Mitsoda. You play as the
leader of a group of survivors that’ve holed
up in a Texas elementary school. The game
earned $332,635 on Kickstarter in July.
JAN 2013
Zombie Games
You don’t have time to squint
down iron sites when Zed
has overrun your position;
Eotech’s XPS2 holographic
weapon sight lets you easily
execute zombie headshots
up close and far away. Did we
mention it has a biohazard
reticle, too?
$560, www.eotech-inc.com
To make a zombie kill at night,
you’ll need to see the enemy.
You can easily do that with
Surefire’s compact and light
X400 weaponlight. It offers
170 lumens of visibility and an
integrated 5mW laser.
$595, www.surefire.com
JAN 2013
The Blackhawk Phoenix Patrol
Pack is a dead ringer for the
Coyote Patrol Pack you spawn
with in DayZ. It’s not so fancy
that you’ll get sniped by someone “shopping” for a new ruck,
but it’s big enough to carry all
the essentials of a bug-out bag.
$180, www.blackhawk.com
As you shiver in a cold, abandoned building while zombie
hordes shamble around
outside, nothing will remind
you of civilization more than
a few slabs of greasy bacon.
Each can of Tactical Bacon
contains 18 servings of
damned-tasty rashers.
$20, www.thinkgeek.com
This is no damned shoppingmall blade. Zombie Tool’s
Bone Machete 2012 has
enough cleaving power to
lop off all the zombie arms
and undead heads you need
to when your primary weapon
goes dry.
$290, www.zombietools.net
If you just made the zombie
kill of the week, the only
way to celebrate is to heft a
nice cold one. To do that in
style, you need the Battle
Mug. Made of solid aluminum,
the Battle Mug can even be
used to store your unused
rail accessories.
$190, www.battlemug.com
JAN 2013
ince time began, the fittest of any species have found ways
to test their mettle in the fiery cauldron of competition. First
there was the Olympics, then Jeopardy, and finally—the Maximum
PC Geek quiz. Though you are probably feeling confident reading
this and are mentally cracking your knuckles, keep in mind that
we’ve designed this quiz not to entertain you but to destroy you.
Yes, those are fighting words. And yes, we mean it. Don’t worry—
we’ve made this a fair fight by mixing softballs with knees-to-thegroin-region, so if you’re a regular reader of this magazine and
don’t go running off to your Google mommy, you should come out
JAN 2013
By the Maximum PC Staff
the other end of this a better man, woman, or child. We’ve put
together a ball-busting 45 questions on every geeky topic imaginable, and added three bonus questions relating to famous quotes,
to give your brain a breather.
Once you’re finished you can read our handy scoring companion
to see how you rank, from troglodyte to neckbeard, and to find your
place in society. Regardless of the outcome, know that you are one
of us, and your quirky brand of geek wisdom is something we celebrate. So welcome home, gentle reader, and good luck on the quiz—
you’re going to need it.
JAN 2013
Geek Quiz
1. Which feature is not a requirement for Intel’s “Ultrabook”
A. Ivy Bridge processor
B. 18–21mm height, depending on screen size
C. Five-hour battery life
D. Intel Anti-Theft technology
2. The technology whereby an SSD reserves a portion of its
capacity for file swapping is known as:
A. Trimming
B. Capacity Buffering
C. Over Provisioning
D. Zone Referencing
3. What’s the English translation of the Klingon phrase Tah
Pagh TaHbe’?
A. Let them eat cake
B. Practice makes perfect
C. To be or not to be
D. Today’s a good day to die
4. Intel’s upcoming Haswell processor will fit into which CPU
A. LGA 1155
B. LGA 1156
C. LGA 2011
D. LGA 1150
5. In the Windows command line, what command would you
10. The person in this photo is wearing which augmented-reality project on
her face?
A. Apple eyePad
B. Google Glass
C. Microsoft Vision
D. Asus Zenset
ANSWERS: 1-A, 2-C, 3-C, 4-D, 5-A, 6-A, 7-D, 8-C, 9-A, 10-B
JAN 2013
type to navigate to a subfolder called “videos”?
A. cd videos
B. goto videos
C. dir videos
D. changedir videos
6. What is the next-gen Wi-Fi standard after 802.11n?
A. 802.11ac
B. 802.11dc
C. 802.11bc
D. 802.11nxt
7. Which RAID variant combines both striping and mirroring
of data?
D. RAID 10
8. Which of the following is not an Nvidia product line?
A. GeForce
B. Tegra
C. Quattro
D. Tesla
9. Which x86 chip was the first to handle 32-bit data sets?
A. 80386DX
B. 80376
C. 80960
D. 80386SX
11. The SSD pictured here uses a controller
made by which company?
A. Marvel
B. Intel
D. SandForce
12. What manufacturing process did Intel’s Prescott
chips use?
A. 120nm
B. 80nm
C. 90nm
D. 45nm
18. In a water-cooling loop, you always want the reservoir to
13. What is the clock speed of PC10600 RAM?
A. 1,600MHz
B. 1,666MHz
C. 1,333MHz
D. 1,866MHz
19. The technology named FXAA and used by Nvidia GPUs
14. Which Android release is the oldest?
A. Jelly Bean
B. Froyo
C. Donut
D. Gingerbread
15. Which of the following is not a Unix distribution?
be located:
A. Below the highest block
B. Above the highest block
C. In line with the highest block
D. Anywhere except inside the chassis
stands for what?
A. Full SXene Antialiasing
B. Full Extension Antialiasing
C. Fast Approximate Antialiasing
D. Fast Axion Antialiasing
20. After an SSD has been in use for a while, its performance
declines and it enters a state termed:
A. Steady State
B. End of Life (EOL)
C. Synchronous State
D. Asynchronous State
A. Ubuntu
B. Red Hat
C. Debian
D. Amoeba
16. What year was Windows 7 released?
A. 2007
B. 2008
C. 2009
D. 2010
17. Which famous geek tweaked his school's program code so
he would be placed in class with mostly female students?
A. Bill Gates
B. Larry Page
C. Steve Wozniak
D. Mark Zuckerberg
ANSWERS: 11-D, 12-C, 13-C, 14-C, 15-D, 16-C, 17-A, 18-B, 19-C, 20-A
JAN 2013
Geek Quiz
21. Polishing the base of your CPU cooler to improve contact
is known as what?
A. Detailing
B. Buffing
C. Fringing
D. Lapping
22. At launch, the Windows 8 app store had approximately
26. Windows 95’s famous startup sound was written by:
A. Bill Gates
B. Brian Eno
C. The Rolling Stones
D. Pantera
27. The maximum addressable physical memory in Windows
how many apps worldwide?
A. 50,000
B. 5,000
C. 10,000
D. 25,000
7 Professional is 192GB. What’s the maximum in Windows 8
A. 96GB
B. 192GB
C. 256GB
D. 384GB
23. Which of the following devices is not powered by Nvidia’s
28. On which interface will two hard drives in RAID 0 have the
Tegra 3 processor?
A. Google Nexus 7
B. Microsoft Surface RT
C. LG Nexus 4
D. Tesla Model S
lowest potential throughput?
A. A USB 3.0 port
B. A Thunderbolt port
C. Two Intel SATA Revision 3.0 ports on a Z77 motherboard
D. Two SATA Revision 3.0 ports on a PCIe 2.0 x8 RAID card
24. What’s the correct height of a 2.5-inch SSD for an
29. Which of the following Nexus models is explicitly designed
A. 7mm
B. 9mm
C. 3mm
D. 9.5mm
with a four-year lifespan?
A. Nexus 4
B. Nexus 6
C. Nexus 7
D. Nexus 10
25. Which of the following digital game distribution platforms
is not available on Ubuntu?
A. Steam
B. Desura
C. Ubuntu Software Center
D. Google Play
30. An Intel Core i7-3960X CPU fits into which socket?
ANSWERS: 21-D, 22-B, 23-C, 24-A, 25-D, 26-B, 27-B, 28-A, 29-B, 30-C
JAN 2013
Geek Quiz
31. This type of NAND flash is the most common type in
consumer-level SSDs:
32. Which actor played Bill Gates in the film Pirates of the
Silicon Valley?
A. Kenneth Branagh
B. Michael Emerson
C. Anthony Michael Hall
D. Edward Norton
33. Intel’s name is derived from which two words?
A. Internal Electronics
B. Interconnected Electronics
C. Internet Telecommunications
D. Integrated Electronics
34. In HTML, what is the correct line of code for image
A. < img source="URL">
B. < image source="URL">
C. < img src="URL">
D. < image src="URL">
35. Which one of these is not a type of mechanical key
switch for keyboards?
A. Cherry MX Gray
B. Cherry MX Black
C. White Alps
D. Buckling Spring
36. Native Command Queuing (NCQ) in current SSDs
supports this many commands at once:
A. NCQ is not supported in SSDs at this time
B. 16
C. 32
D. 64
37. In computing terms, “Sequoia” refers to which
of these?
A. Microsoft’s code-name for Windows 8
B. Nokia smartphone (code-name)
C. IBM supercomputer
D. Programming language
Extra Credit Section:
Tech luminaries are known for saying
whatever comes to their minds from
time to time. Can you recall who said
the quotes listed below?
1. "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
A. Bill Gates
B. Alan Kay
C. Steve Jobs
D. Steve Wozniak
2. "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."
A. Steve Jobs
B. Mark Zuckerberg
C. Scott McNealy
D. Bill Gates
3. "As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of
you steal your software."
A. Lars Ulrich
B. Steve Jobs
C. Sean Parker
D. Bill Gates
ANSWERS: 1-B, 2-C, 3-D
ANSWERS: 31-B, 32-C, 33-D, 34-C, 35-A, 36-C, 37-C
JAN 2013
38. How many processing cores does Nvidia’s Tegra 3
42. Which video codec features lossless compression?
chip have?
A. Two
B. Three
C. Four
D. Five
A. H.263
B. JPEG 2000
D. VC-3
A. Windows Runtime
B. Windows 8
C. Windows x86
D. Windows for ARM
40. What is the official designation for displays with at least a
3840x2160 resolution, as defined by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Consumer Electronics Association?
A. Super Hi-Vision
B. 4K High Definition (4K HD)
C. Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD)
D. Quad High Definition (Quad HD)
41. This CPU family was the first to break the 4GHz barrier on
a stock-clocked part:
A. Pentium 4
B. Athlon FX
C. Athlon XP
D. Celeron
43. Which of these CPUs offers the most execution threads?
A. Atom N570
B. Core 2 E5700
C. Pentium 4 516
D. Phenom X3 8750
44. This chipset supports the most native SATA 6Gb/s ports:
A. P67
B. Z77
C. X58
D. 990FX
45. Which phone’s screen has the highest pixel-per-inch rating?
A. iPhone 5
B. HTC J Butterfly
C. Sony Xperia S
D. Lumia 920
ANSWERS: 38-D, 39-D, 40-C, 41-B, 42-B, 43-A, 44-D, 45-B
39. What was Windows RT previously known as?
All right, hotshot—it’s all over now but the crying. Once you’ve tallied
up your score, meet us below and we’ll discuss your future
There’s only one way to describe this performance: rank incompetence. For your sake, we hope you’re in
an airport waiting for a plane and found this magazine by chance in the Hudson News. If that’s the case,
welcome! We’re usually nicer than this.
Allow us to fold our arms and let out a self-satisfied sniff while slowly nodding in your direction. You’ve
almost done us proud, little one—almost. You still have much to learn, so don’t get cocky.
OK, OK. We grant you our respect, grudgingly. You’ve answered almost all of the questions correctly, and
your technical wizardry is both immense and prodigious. You should be proud.
Wow. Not only did you get all the questions correct, you knew the nerd quotes as well. We tip our antistatic leash in your direction, and will clink our tubes of thermal paste together in a hearty toast in your
honor. You’ve done us proud. Feel free to add the --FWNA-- tag to all your online avatars with our blessing.
JAN 2013
examining technology and putting it to use
Surface RT
About iFixit
iFixit is a global
community of tinkerers
dedicated to helping
people fix things through
free online repair
manuals and teardowns.
iFixit believes that
ever yone has the right to
maintain and repair their
own products. To learn
more, visit www.ifixit.com.
JAN 2013
Microsoft is setting the bar for other Windows 8 tablet makers
with its Surface RT. The device is getting mostly positive reviews for its handsome looks, nice build quality, and inventive
keyboard cover. Here we look at what’s doing under the hood.
™10.6-inch ClearType HD display (resolution of 1366x768 pixels)
™Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor
™32- or 64GB fl ash storage
™Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) + Bluetooth 4.0
™720p HD front- and rear-facing
™ We begin our expedition by removing the kickstand. Fun
fact: The kickstand is held in place by a few Torx screws.
™After removing a total of 17 T5 Torx screws, (10 under the
kickstand and 7 under the camera cover), the rear case
comes right off—almost.
™The big question of the day: Is the battery easily removed?
Answer: Yes. It's glued in, but it's way easier to remove than
on the iPad. The 7.4V, 31.5Wh battery is manufactured by
™Several components are modular and replaceable without
requiring desoldering.
™ It’s impossible to remove the keyboard connector without
first removing the display from the frame.
™LCD and glass are fused together and strongly adhered to
the case, increasing cost of replacement. You'll have to use a
heat gun and lots of patience to gain access to the glass and
™Microsoft Surface repairability: 4 out of 10.
JAN 2013
An Explorer.exe crash was one of the most annoying things that could happen in
earlier versions of Windows—frequently there wasn’t anything you could do but
restart your system. In Windows 8, you can find Explorer in the Task Manager, just
like any other program. Select it and click the Restart button to fix your problems.
Install Windows 8
from a USB Drive
Monitor Your Home
Network with
IF YOU’RE going to be updating
to Windows 8 any time soon, I
strongly recommend that you
take the oppor tunity to back
up your impor tant files and
get a clean star t with a fresh
install—and that you use
Ninite to make it easier.
I’ve written about Ninite
before, but with Windows 8
out, it’s wor th another mention. It’s a tiny, free app that
takes the grunt work out of
installing multiple applications. You just go to the Ninite
website at w w w.ninite.com,
select the free programs you
want to install, then click the
Get Installer button to download Ninite, preconfigured to
download and install all your
chosen software, without you
having to do a thing. If you’re
not convinced, just go to the
site and add up all the apps you
would end up manually installing within a few weeks—I can
count at least 20, easy.
↘ submit your How To project idea to: [email protected]
JAN 2013
Install Windows 8
from a USB Drive
You’ll need at least 4GB of
space to install Windows 8.
OVER THE YEARS, Microsoft has made the Windows installation process pretty painless. Once
you’ve set the install application running, it’s off to the races: You can sit back, enjoy a nice
beverage, and let Microsoft’s fantastically efficient OS installation routine do all the work.
By the time your Windows 8 OS needs your input, you’re practically finished—just a few short
steps, if not minutes, away from the tiled joy that is Windows 8 proper.
So, what does that leave us to talk about? Plenty. Ditch your discs, because we’re going to
show you how to install Windows 8 from a USB key. –DAVID MURPHY
You can buy one online at bit.
ly/TELHzy or burn one from a
Windows 8 install disc.
speedier installations, have a digital download of Windows 8,
or just plain don’t have an optical drive, then it’s going to be
a USB-based installation for you. And that’s just fine; it’s a great,
quick way to get an operating system onto your hard drive.
» The easiest way to accomplish this process is to already
have your hands on a copy of Windows 8’s downloadable .iso fi le—
acquirable by purchasing it from Microsoft itself. If you have a
fl ash drive of the appropriate size (at least 4GB or greater, depending on whatever file Microsoft lets you grab), you’re golden.
Insert your fl ash drive into a USB slot on your system, and then
go grab Microsoft’s ill-named Windows 7 USB/DVD Download
Tool (bit.ly/gdCUBs).
» Install the app and run it. It’ll ask you to select an .iso file to
be “burnt” onto your USB key (image A). Go ahead and select your
Windows 8 .iso file—the fact that it’s not the same OS as the tool’s
name has absolutely no bearing on what you’re doing.
» On the next screen, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to create a “Windows 7 backup”—again, ignore the name—on a USB device or DVD. Pick the obvious answer, select your USB key from the
drop-down menu (image B).
When you're ready to let ’er rip, click “Begin copying!” If the tool
needs to format your USB key first, it'll let you know. Couldn’t be
easier, right?
» Sometimes, however, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download
Tool mucks up—it might tell you that the .iso file you’re looking
to “burn” isn’t actually a recognizable .iso file. You know it is; the
Windows tool disagrees. That’s a problem.
» There are a number of ways around this problem, but the most
simple is to do what the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool is doing, by hand. We’ll show you how.
JAN 2013
freeware app like Virtual CloneDrive (bit.ly/zS4p) to
mount your downloaded Windows 8 installation .iso
to a virtual drive within your current Windows OS. Alternatively, insert a Windows 8 DVD into your optical drive.
» Next, insert your USB key and fire up a command
prompt as an Administrator. Within the command prompt,
load Windows’ built-in Disk Partition utility by typing
diskpart and hitting Enter.
» Within the Disk Partition utility, you’ll want to start
out by typing list disk and hitting Enter. From there,
write down the drive number that corresponds to your
fl ash drive—you’ll be able to tell, as the capacity of the
listed drive should match the capacity of your USB key
(image C).
» Next, type select disk #, where the pound sign
is the drive number of your USB key that you just noted.
Hit Enter—DiskPart will select the aforementioned drive.
Now, type clean and hit Enter to remove any existing
partitions that might already be on your fl ash drive. Once
the cleaning process is done, type create partition
primary and hit Enter to do just that. Type select
partition 1 and hit Enter to select your new partition, type active and hit Enter, and then type in format
FS=NTFS quick to quickly reformat your partition with
the NTFS filesystem. Type assign and hit Enter, and
you’ll have finished making your USB key bootable!
» Now, it’s time to copy your Windows 8 installation
files from their drive—virtual or real—to your USB key.
Close diskpart by typing exit and hitting Enter. From
the command prompt, type xcopy x:\*.* y:\ /e
/f /h. In our example, however, the “x:\” designation
should actually represent the drive letter of your mounted
Windows 8 installation .iso file or physical DVD. The “y:\”
should be the actual drive letter of your USB key. Once
you’ve made those alterations, hit Enter and let ‘er rip—all
of the Windows 8 files will start transferring over to your
USB key (image D).
» And now’s as good a time as any to talk about upgrading versus starting from scratch, since you’re likely to be presented with
both of these options at the very beginning of the Windows 8 installation process.
» Upgrading can be convenient, but a clean install of an operating system is generally the best way to go. Right now, your computer is likely full of crap—applications you once installed and left
behind, an old driver version or two that you’ve forgotten about,
and just general OS bloat that can hit a variety of points around
your operating system (from your Start menu to your registry).
Consider the installation of a new operating system to be kind of
like the equivalent of spring cleaning in the real world. It gives you,
and your poor PC, a chance to start anew.
Once you’re ready to install Windows 8 from your
USB key, you’ll want to restart your computer and
either boot into your motherboard’s BIOS or hit the associated hotkey that allows you to access the boot menu during POST. Regardless of which way you go about it, you’ll
want to make sure your system is set to first boot off of
your USB key instead of your existing hard drive.
» Be on the lookout to see if your motherboard requires
you to hit a key—any key on your keyboard—to confirm
that you want to boot to your USB drive. From there, the
actual Windows 8 installation process should look a lot
like what you’re already used to, if you’ve ever installed
Windows 7 or Windows Vista (image E).
JAN 2013
Monitor Your Home
Network with NetWorx
A free network
monitoring program
available at
THESE DAYS, MOST of us pay for high-speed Internet connections. If you do, you know that it can be a major
monthly expenditure.
NetWorx helps you get the most out of your investment. It lets you keep tabs on the performance of
your network and tells you just where any problems might lie. Has an Ethernet cable become trapped in
a door, kinked, and broken? Is a Wi-Fi signal being hampered by walls in the way? If you aren’t getting the
sorts of speeds you expect from your equipment, NetWorx is a great way to find out why.
NetWorx can monitor your whole network and your router too, so if all of your gear is functioning correctly, you can pin the poor-performance blame squarely on your broadband provider. There’s no sense
paying for bad service. –ALEX COX
softperfect.com/products/networx. Run the installer and click
Next on each page. We recommend you install the Desk Band
component if you want to be able to see your network traffic at a
glance. Click Finish at the end of the installation procedure and
NetWorx will launch its initial configuration wizard.
» You shouldn’t need to change much in the configuration wizard. During Step 2, you may want to define which connection you’re
watching if you use both wired and wireless networks, but “All connections” is fine for most purposes. Once you’ve clicked Finish, an
icon will appear in your taskbar. If it disappears, as it did on ours,
expand the taskbar and drag the icon onto the main area.
VIEW YOUR NETWORK TRAFFIC If you chose to install the
Desk Band, you should be aware that it’s hidden by default,
which is rather silly because it’s a tool that’s only useful
if it’s visible all the time. Right-click your taskbar, go to Toolbars
and click NetWorx Desk Bar to bring it to the front. You can drag
the slider on the left to extend or shrink the graph, which updates
whenever there’s any network traffic, or right-click it to access the
NetWorx menu.
» If you don’t want to use the Desk Band, you can see an alwayson-top graph of your network traffic by right-clicking the taskbar
icon and selecting Show Graph (image F). You can drag its corners
to make it bigger if you need to. Green spikes represent download
traffic, red spikes represent upload traffic, and yellow spikes correspond to times when traffic was moving in both directions.
JAN 2013
MANAGE YOUR USE Right-click the taskbar icon and
select Quota. You can use this interface to define the
maximum amount of network traffic you want to use
over a specific period, which is useful if you have a capped
Internet connection (image G). NetWorx won’t cut off your
network, but it will warn you when you’re approaching your
limit. Click Setup, choose your options, and input your intended limit in KB.
» The Speed Meter section gives you details of your
network speed, or the lack thereof (image H). We’d suggest running the monitor at the start of a typical day and
checking its results at the end, or running it before a heavy
download or upload to get a good handle on the speed levels
you’re achieving. Click the disc icon to save your results, so
you can compare multiple days later on.
a network issue. Although you can’t use NetWorx
to solve it, you can use its tools to find out exactly where the problem lies. Start with the Ping window,
which sends a quick, sonar-like “ping” to any IP address
you choose (image I). If the message is returned, the connection is working. If it’s not, or if it takes a long time to
bounce back, there’s a problem between the computers.
» A trace route is much like a ping, except it bounces
from your machine to a particular computer on the web,
giving you data about the route it’s taken and the number of
“hops” along the way (image J). Enter a web address on the
Trace Route screen and it will attempt to get a reply from
that site. If it doesn’t, look at the route taken and you should
be able to tell where the problem is.
» If you have a wired and a wireless network connection,
you can restrict NetWorx to one or the other in the Settings
page. In the Main tab, click the drop-down box under “Monitored interfaces” and select the appropriate option. You can
also monitor your router rather than a single computer—
useful in a family home. Click the link below and enter the
IP address of your router.
» Two other areas to note on the Settings window are the
Notifications tab (image K), in which you can ask NetWorx to
tell you if certain conditions are met, and the Synchronization section of the Advanced tab, which collects data from
all local machines on which NetWorx is installed. Once
that’s done, you’re watching your whole network for the
slightest hiccup.
JAN 2013
The Ultimate
AMD Gaming Rig
We build a machine that’s red and black to hopefully
beat our benchmarks black and blue
THE MISSION Variety is the
spice of the Lab, so this month
we decided to eschew our traditional builds and go with one
you don’t see every day—an allAMD computer, built with (most
of) the best parts we could get
our hands on. We’re sure some
of you will question the purpose
of this build, so our pre-emptive
answer is we built it because
we could, and we were curious to see how a balls-out AMD
build would benchmark, as we
haven’t seen an over-the-top
AMD rig since The Matrix: Revolutions let us down. Plus, everyone is always ragging on us for
ignoring AMD, so here you go,
AMD enthusiasts—an entire PC
built just for you.
The build was timely, since
AMD has just released its new
“Vishera” Piledriver CPU, the
4GHz FX-8350 (or “Octomom,”
as we like to call it). We paired
it with a totally jacked HD 7970
from Asus and a small army of
AMD-ish components, which
we figured would make for an
interesting build. Finally, we’ve
heard your feedback about how
you don’t need to see another
picture of RAM being inserted
into its slot, so this month we’re
going to talk about our component selection and the building
process instead of showing you
how we actually built it.
JAN 2013
The impetus for this system was the release of the new Vishera
CPU from AMD, along with an updated version of the Asus Crosshair V Formula Z motherboard running the 990FX chipset. We had
just received both of these brand-new parts, so we knew what we
had to do—take a lunch break to consider our options. While tossing back root beers, we formulated the basis of the system—an
AMD processor and motherboard were a given, but what else? We
had yet to sample the overclocked HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP from
Asus, so we added that to the equation. We then remembered
AMD-branded RAM had just been announced, so we added that to
the ticket as we ordered another round of brewskies. To finish the
system, we settled on the Thermaltake V3 AMD edition chassis,
some red-band Corsair AF120 case fans, and a red Corsair Force
GS SSD, as well, to tie the room together.
AMD’S NEW CPU is the first proc we’ve ever seen that
comes clocked from the factory at 4GHz, and it’s a surprisingly affordable eight-core processor, too. Though
4GHz is the highest stock-clock speed we’ve ever seen,
don’t get too excited. The FX-8350 is not even in the
same universe as something like a hexa-core Intel Core
i7-3960X, despite having two additional cores and a
clock-speed advantage.
The motherboard is the latest version of the Asus
Crosshair V and has every feature imaginable, including an actual digital kitchen sink. It’s running the AMD
990FX chipset and dishes up a total of eight SATA 6Gb/s
ports and two eSATA 6Gb/s ports as well as a new
SupremeFX III audio chip and three PCI Express x16
slots for three-way SLI or CrossFire. Plus, the paint job
is totally righteous.
Asus’s Crosshair V
Formula Z is the perfect
home for a fl agship CPU
like the FX-8350.
Thermaltake V3
AMD Edition
Corsair TX750M
Asus Crosshair V
Formula Z
Cooler Master
Hyper 212 Plus
Asus Radeon HD
7970 DirectCU
Edition DDR3/1600
Hard Drive
Corsair Force GS
Corsair AF120
Quiet Edition (x2)
Windows 7
OF COURSE we went with a Radeon HD 7970 for this
build—you would do the same thing if you were in our
statically shielded shoes. But instead of just going with
a Nilla Wafer card, we rang up Asus and requested its
overclocked bitch-maker, the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP.
In English, this means the card is a 7970 but it has the
company’s ludicrously huge DirectCU II triple-slot cooler, and TOP means its core clock speed is nudged up to
1GHz from its stock speed of 925MHz. This card requires
two 8-pin connectors and can power up to six displays at
once, and did we mention it’s effing massive?
This overclocked,
triple-slot pixel-pusher
runs neck-and-neck
with the GTX 680 and is
totally silent.
JAN 2013
WE CAN ALREADY HEAR the smack-talk about taking
a $50 case and stuffing two-grand worth of gear into it.
Point taken—and yes, we chose it for its color scheme.
But since our build wasn’t too ambitious, the case actually worked out OK, though we did experience a few issues. The first sign of trouble was a warning in the manual not to use a video card that exceeds 10.4 inches. We
stared at our 11-inch GPU, gritted our teeth, and wedged
it into the PCIe slot with... no problem at all. It worked
perfectly. The second issue was the rear-facing 3.5-inch
hard drive bays, which we haven’t seen in a while and
did not miss. Installing drives once the mobo and GPU
are inside is a PITA, plain and simple. The biggest issue
we had was a lack of holes to route our PSU cables, so
please cut us some slack on that (we know you won’t).
OUR PSU CHOICE WAS made interesting by the fact that
the original no-name model we chose failed during testing. The system would boot fine and run normally until
we really stressed it out, at which point we found ourselves staring at a matrix of orange squares on our LCD.
We tried updating the mobo’s BIOS, updating our video
drivers, and even swapping the power cables, but nothing worked. Finally, we grabbed the Corsair TX750M and
plugged it into the 24-pin and 8-pin connectors, leaving
the original PSU attached to the GPU, and everything
worked just fine. Eventually, we yanked the original PSU
out and went with Corsair. This just reinforces an ageold lesson: Don’t get cheap when it comes to your rig’s
power supply. It’s not worth the headache.
An inadequate
power supply
put a halt to our
Thankfully, Corsair
stepped in and
saved the day.
Thermaltake’s V3
AMD is specifically
designed for AMD
processors and RAM.
OK, we made that up.
OUR SSD SELECTION will probably be another controversial choice, but we picked it for two reasons. First,
it’s red. Second, it’s fast. The second part is crucial, because if the drive was red and slow, it would not be in this
rig, period. But since it’s fast, and red, in it went. Though
we never officially reviewed this drive, it’s the fl agship of
Corsair’s previous Force lineup, and features fast MLC
Toggle NAND and a SandForce SF-2281 controller, so
it’s got some hardware cred. In testing, it hummed right
along at 464MB/412MB read and write speeds.
Since no man can survive on an SSD alone, we paired
it with WD’s cavernous 4TB RE enterprise drive, which
spins at 7,200rpm and is big enough to hold our multimedia stash, barely. Since the Thermaltake case only
has 4 3.5-inch drive bays, we figured we had better go
big on this one.
A SandForce
SSD from Corsair and 4TB of
rotating storage
should serve our
needs nicely.
JAN 2013
AMD HAS BEGUN selling branded memory, so we figured we’d plop some sticks into the machine to see
if anything bad would happen. The RAM is made by
Patriot and VisionTek but is validated by AMD for use
with its CPUs and chipsets, so take that for what it’s
worth. The company is offering branded sticks in 2GB,
4GB, and 8GB modules in four fl avors: Value, Entertainment, Performance, and Radeon. We used 8GB of Performance RAM, which was clocked at 1,600MHz at 1.5V
out of the box. Even though AMD warns users against
overclocking, it also indicates on its website that it can
be safely run at 1.65V in order to achieve more aggressive timings.
We tried some AMD
Performance Edition
RAM and are happy to
report it was rock solid
and stable.
1. The V3 case only comes with
one 12cm exhaust fan, but we
replaced it with two Corsair
AF120 Quiet case fans because
they look snazzy and are
2. We originally wanted a Phanteks cooler in red, but a time
crunch forced us to go with our
favorite cooler of the past year,
the Cooler Master Hyper 212
Plus. It’s still the best bangfor-the-buck cooler in the land
and is amazingly quiet.
3. Thermaltake says this case
isn’t made for extra-long GPUs
and extra-tall CPU coolers, but
both of ours fit with zero clearance problems.
4. The Thermaltake V3 AMD
edition lacks holes for cable
routing, so we ended up with a
traffic jam in the lower quadrant of the chassis.
its least punishing defeat, which was likely the result of the
AMD par t’s higher clock speed. In ever y other test the extra
cores and clocks that AMD brings to the table didn't make a
difference against Intel’s more efficient microarchitecture,
even if it’s an older generation. We witnessed a beatdown in
all the CPU-based tests, including Adobe Premiere Pro 6,
where the Vishera system took almost
1.5 hours to complete a test that took
our SNB-E machine just 33 minutes. We
saw the same disparity in ever y other
test, but it’s not a surprise since Vishera
Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)
5,160 (-61%)
was not designed to go head-to-head
with a $1,000 Intel Core i7 CPU. Sadly,
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
1,489 (-44%)
our HD 7970 also got smacked around in
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec) 1,446
2,902 (-50%)
both 3DMark and Batman, where it was
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
14.8 (-30%)
picked on by the zero-point’s GT X 690
Batman: Arkam City (fps)
GPU. You can interpret this two ways:
51 (-33%)
the first is, hey, it’s no so bad, consider3DMark 11
3,122 (-47%)
ing that the ZP’s CPU and GPU cost twice
0% 10% 20% 30%
50% 60%
70% 80% 90% 100%
as much as the AMD’s parts. The other
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K @ 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth
way is, damn, those Sandy Bridge-E
X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.
CPUs are fast.
AS YOU LOOK at the benchmark char t below, you should hear
the sad trombone sound from The Price is Right playing in your
head because this system got smoked by our zero-point rig,
which has a hexa-core Sandy Bridge-E and GeForce GT X 690
video card. Its best result was in the x264 HD 5.0 encoding
test, where our AMD rig lost by 30 percent to Core i7-3930K,
JAN 2013
reviews of the latest hardware and software
in the lab
74 Digital Storm Bolt
Gaming PC
76 SSD Shakedown:
Corsair Neutron GTX,
Intel 335 Series SSD
78 EVGA GTX 690 Video Card
80 Zalman Z9-U3 Mid-Tower Case
81 Asus ET2300 All-in-One PC
82 iBuyPower CZ-17 Gaming Laptop
85 Patriot Gauntlet Node
86 Thermaltake Water2.0
CPU Cooler
87 Apricorn Velocity Solo W2
PCIe SSD Adapter
88 Dishonored
90 Lab Notes
84 Samsung Chromebook
JAN 2013
in the lab
The Bolt offers top-end performance
in the slimmest gaming PC available.
JAN 2013
Digital Storm Bolt
It’s confirmed: The PC is going
ONE IS AN OUTLIER. Two a coincidence. But
three, as we know from News Media Statistics 101, is a crystal-clear trend.
And that’s just what we have with
Digital Storm’s Bolt, which follows on
the heels of Alienware’s X51 (reviewed
May 2012) and Falcon Northwest’s Tiki
(reviewed September 2012): proof that
the PC is making an assault on the living
room. Of course, the “assault on the living
room” is our own private fantasy about
the PC pushing the traditional game console overboard—Digital Storm just presents the box as a small PC (although we
will note that the machine came with a
wireless keyboard and game controller).
This isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory. Think about it: The timing is perfect
for the PC to muscle out game consoles.
Consoles are crawling along in the equivalent of a Model T while the PC speeds by
in a 2013 Corvette 427.
For example: The Xbox 360 is rolling
basically an ATI X1900 XT and a 3.2GHz
tri-core Power PC using an in-order execution engine, and 512MB of 700MHz
GDDR3 is shared between the CPU and
GPU. Compare that to the Bolt’s Core
i7-3770K chip, 16GB of DDR3/1600, and
GeForce GTX 680 card.
Digital Storm doesn’t just settle for the
3770K’s stock 3.5GHz, either. The com-
pany pushed the Ivy Bridge processor
to a stable 4.4GHz. That’s about 200MHz
faster than Falcon Northwest’s similarly
spec’d Tiki.
There’s a cost with the performance,
though. The prototype Bolt we reviewed
would get too loud for our tastes under heavy gaming and CPU loads. Digital Storm said it has licked most of the
noise issue with an additional PSU fan
and proved it by showing us a second
prototype unit with the modification. Indeed, the sound was quieter—but still not
as quiet as the liquid-cooled Tiki or the
X51. It’s not horrible, but you will need to
crank up the volume while gaming.
At 4.4GHz, the IVB in the Bolt can’t outmuscle our zero-point’s hexa-core Core
i7-3960K overclocked to 3.8GHz in the
multithreaded tasks, but it does offer 8
percent and 9 percent benefits in the tests
that aren’t reliant on mega cores to run.
Against its contemporaries, however, the
Bolt does far better. Given its 200MHz
advantage over the Falcon Northwest
Tiki, the Bolt had a small advantage in
computing tasks. In gaming though, the
Bolt bested the Tiki by an impressive 13
percent in 3DMark11 and 7 percent in
Batman: Arkham City. Since both boxes
use similarly clocked GeForce GTX 680s,
we’re attributing the difference to the
higher CPU clocks of the Bolt as well as
updated driver optimizations Nvidia has
done since we reviewed the Tiki.
The Bolt’s build is unique. Rather than
contracting with a large vendor to put a
new façade on its existing case, DStorm
had the chassis built to its design specs
by a local shop. The custom case is but
3.6 inches wide, which Digital Storm says
is the thinnest chassis out today. And like
the FNW Tiki, the Bolt relies on an internal PSU rather than an external power
brick like Alienware’s X51. The company
says the chassis can fit a GeForce GTX
690 and run it on the 500-watt PSU, but
the acoustics would simply be too much.
Our biggest complaint with the Bolt is the
same complaint we had about the Tiki:
We want a horizontal mode. The upright
formfactor is not a deal breaker, but most
people who run a PC near their TV will
want to lay it flat.
Overall, we like the Bolt. It’s small,
fast, and a relatively good deal compared
to the FNW Tiki, which tips the scales at
$4K. The Bolt comes in under $2K (sans
the nifty liquid cooler, RAID, and granite base of the Tiki). The Bolt, however,
does support a RAID configuration and its
case is locally sourced—and organic. OK,
maybe not organic, but it is made in the
Digital Storm Bolt
USAIN BOLT Relatively lowpriced for a custom rig.
Paint job could be better; no
horizontal mode.
$1,950, Digital Storm Bolt
Intel Core [email protected]
Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)
2,580 (-22%)
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
16GB DDR3/1600
Video Card
GeForce GTX 680
Sound Card
120GB Corsair SSD, 1TB 7,200
DVD combo drive
Custom / Lite-On 500 Watt
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
17.1 (-19%)
Batman: Arkam City (fps)
44.0 (-42%)
3DMark 11
3,571 (-39%)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K @ 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth
X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.
JAN 2013
in the lab
Intel's new 335 Series looks
the same as other Intel drives
on the outside but has new
20nm NAND flash innards.
Corsair’s Neutron GTX is serious
business with 2 million hours MTBF
and a five-year warranty.
SSD Shakedown
Corsair goes big, and Intel
revamps its NAND
This month, we've got two very different SSDs for you to consider—a massive (and fast)
Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB and a brand-new SandForce-powered SSD from Intel. These
two drives don't compete per se, but they both bring something new to the table. The
Corsair GTX combines blinding speed, huge capacity, and industrial-strength endurance,
while the Intel is the first SSD to strut its stuff with super-small 20nm NAND fl ash. We
strapped them both to an updated Z77 chipset test bench and let the fur fly. –JOSH NOREM
When we last paid a visit to the Corsair
Neutron GTX in the December 2012 issue,
we declared it one wicked-fast SSD, but it
was unfortunately nicked at the finish line
by the Samsung 840 Pro. Corsair isn't too
worried about that, though, and seems to
have adopted an "onward and upward"
mentality, which we see manifested in the
capacious 480GB variant of the GTX that
landed on our test bed this month. Like
its smaller-capacity brethren, it's sporting a brand-spankin'-new Link A Media
controller (LAMD)—exclusive to Corsair
at this time—and it's wedded to Toshiba
24nm toggle-NAND. Running the show is
an ARM microcontroller that pumps data
through a SATA 6Gb/s connection. The
Neutron GTX is also a slim 7mm jobbie,
so it'll fit in even the most anorexic Ultrabooks. Desktop jockeys are also given
JAN 2013
consideration via the included 3.5-inch
bay adapter.
Though it’s natural to focus on the
specs of a drive like this, it's worth pointing out that this thing is built to last with
a mean time between failure rating of 2
million hours, the longest rating you'll
ever see for an SSD. Corsair also backs it
up with a fi ve-year warranty, which is an
In testing, the GTX tore up our benchmark charts in heavily queued workloads,
dominating even its old foe the Samsung
840 Pro. This dominance was seen in the
Iometer test, where we queue up 32 4KB
write requests and hammer the drive
mercilessly, as well as in the AS SSD 4KB
incompressible data test where the GTX
even outpaced the Samsung 840 Pro by a
hair in write speeds.
The Neutron GTX also performed ex-
tremely well in compressible 64KB sequential read and write tests, throwing
down a sequential read speed of 491MB/s
and write speed of 391MB/s, placing it
just slightly behind the Samsung drive
in read speeds but a bit further behind
in write speeds. In CrystalDiskMark the
Neutron GTX also fell slightly below its
500MB claimed speeds, at 436MB/s and
473MB/s, making this the drive’s worst
showing in our benchmark suite. Admittedly, nobody would argue that 400MB/s
speeds are slow, but when compared to
its competition, the drive is slightly off the
mark here.
Finally, we come to our PCMark Vantage "real-world" test, where the Neutron
took our number one spot by a decisive
margin, its score almost double that of
some older drives like the Crucial M4 and
OCZ Vertex 4.
When we previously reviewed the
240GB version of this drive, we awarded
it a 9 verdict, and that ruling stands. The
drive is amazingly fast in a lot of tests,
but not all. It’s certainly the fastest drive
we’ve ever tested at this capacity, though,
so as we begin to transition to 512GB, the
Neutron GTX will no doubt be a serious
Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB
$560, www.corsair.com
The last time we heard from Intel's SDD
department, it was throwing around its
performance-oriented 520 Series SSD
that rocked a SandForce controller and
custom Intel firmware with 25nm NAND
flash. That drive earned a 9 verdict from
us (April 2012) but no Kick Ass award,
as its performance was about equal to
its peers’ but not better. The crux of that
drive was SandForce performance with
Intel reliability, and though that's a potent
combo, it's one that came in the form of a
higher price tag. With Intel’s new budgetoriented 335 Series SSD, that tax is gone,
as this drive is priced right below $200,
the current sweet spot for 240/256GB
SSDs. It still has the same SandForce
SF-2281 controller and the same Intel
reliability, but includes new smaller-die
20nm MLC NAND flash. The smaller flash
marks the industry's foray into the 20nm
era, and Intel is the first manufacturer to
take us there.
We know it's hard to get excited about a
smaller manufacturing process for NAND
flash; the benefits are reduced power
consumption, higher capacities, and lower prices at some point in the future, but
it doesn’t bring an automatic performance
gain, so keep your hopes in check. Smaller flash aside, the SSD uses a familiar
metallic 2.5-inch chassis, and it stands at
9.5mm, making it too tall for Ultrabooks.
It's running on a SATA 6Gb/s interface and
comes with a three-year warranty, which
is typical for drives in this price range.
In testing, we found the 335 Series
drive to be an above-average performer,
but sadly, there's no improvement whatsoever from the previous generation of
drives. If anything, we saw a decrease in
performance in certain tests compared to
the Intel 520 drive, which isn’t an applesto-apples comparison, as that drive is
more tuned for performance than the 335
series. Sadly, we never received an older
330 drive (which this drive is based upon)
for comparison’s sake.
Starting with sustained read and write
speeds, we saw the Intel 335 hitting
462MB/s and 324MB/s, respectively, giving
it mid-pack status. In our compressibledata test it rocked the hizzy, though,
racking up impressive 507MB/s read and
413MB/s write speeds that were only outpaced by the mighty Samsung 840 Pro—
an impressive feat indeed. When dealing
with incompressible data such as JPEGs
and video, the 335 drive equaled the performance of the Intel 520 Series drive in
read speeds, and placed shoulder-toshoulder with the Corsair GTX and Samsung 840 Pro.
In our 4K random-write test with 32
commands queued up, the Intel 335 again
placed well among other drives in its
class, with 57,412 IOPS, but that score is
no match for its older sibling Intel 520,
which hit 81,624 IOPS in the same test. In
our real-world PCMark Vantage test, the
335 again scored about mid-pack, but below the Intel 520 Series drive by a consid-
erable margin. We also noted an anomaly where the drive’s lifespan decreased
faster than expected, dropping down to
93 percent after just a few terabytes had
been written to it. Intel claims this is a bug
in the reporting software, and a firmware
update will resolve the issue.
Overall, the Intel 335 series is a reasonably fast drive that matched the Intel
520 in some tests but was slower in others, making it a mixed bag. It’s priced
much lower than what we’re used to seeing from Intel, however, which is a step
in the right direction but ultimately not
enough to move the needle too much on
our verdict chart. We’re not hating on this
drive, but suffice to say we’re more excited about Intel’s next drive, which will
hopefully use a new iteration of its SandForce controller.
Intel 335 Series SSD 240GB
$185, www.intel.com
Neutron GTX
Intel 335
840 Pro
Crucial M4
Series 520
Vertex 4
Avg. Sustained
Read (MB/s)
Avg. Sustained
Write (MB/s)
4KB Read (IOPS)
4KB Write (IOPS)
64KB File Read
64KB File Write
4KB Random Write
PCMark Vantage
Best scores are bolded. Our current test bed is a 3.4GHz Core i5-3570K processor on an Asus P8Z77-V Premium motherboard running
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All tests used onboard 6Gb/s SATA ports with the latest Intel drivers.
JAN 2013
in the lab
One look and you know this is an
expensive card.
JAN 2013
Hail to the king
WHEN NVIDIA launched the GTX 680 back
in May, it handily cleaned the AMD HD
7970’s clock, but that wasn’t enough for
Nvidia (or us, to be honest). So Nvidia did
what any rational power-hungry company would do, and married two GK104
GPUs to a single PCB, connected them
with a 48-lane PLX PCIe 3.0 bridge chip,
and dubbed it the GTX 690. It now reigns
as the only current-gen dual-GPU card
available, since AMD’s dual HD 7970 card
never officially materialized. Though
we’ve reviewed the GTX 690 before, and
also chose it for our lust-inspiring Dream
Machine 2012, we had previously sampled the Asus board, so this month we’re
checking out the other GeForce GTX 690,
from EVGA. The two cards are clocked
the same—slightly lower than a stockclocked GTX 680 on each GPU—but the
EVGA card is $50 less expensive.
Like the other GTX 690 cards we’ve
seen, the EVGA card looks precisely how
a $1,000 video card should look, because
if you’re dropping a grand on a GPU you
don’t want a chintzy plastic shroud or an
aluminum heatsink. Oh, no—you want
some cheese on that burger. The GTX
690 is practically dripping, starting with
the illuminated GeForce GTX logo on the
side of the card that glows lime green
when the card has power; it’s enough to
make us want to bust out the Dremel tool
and install a case window. The second
tricked-out bit is the cooling mechanism
itself, which is crafted from chromium-
Asus GTX 690
Nvidia GTX
680 SLI
AMD Radeon
HD 7970
3DMark 2011
3DMark 2011
3DMark Vantage
Unigine Heaven
2.5 (fps)
Shogun 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long
Dirt 3 (fps)
Metro 2033 (fps)
DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2
Batman: Arkham
City (fps)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P9X79 motherboard with 16GB of
DDR3/1600 and a Corsair AX1200 PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4x AA and all
settings maxed out, except for the 3DMark tests, and Shogun 2, which is run at 1080pHigh settings.
plated cast aluminum and feels as solid
as a section of rebar.
The business end of the GTX 690 features two full-blown GK104 GPUs with
nothing changed from their configuration in the GTX 680 (aside from the previously mentioned underclocking). This
11-inch card is hoarding a total of 3,072
CUDA cores, 64 ROPs, 256 texture units,
and 4GB of RAM. Given its specs, it’s not
surprising to see how well it performs,
but in comparison to the Asus card and
two GTX 680s in SLI, it gets interesting.
The EVGA card was mostly faster than the
Asus card, but we chalk up some of that
to improved drivers since our last review.
The Shogun 2 differential is from a game
patch, however, as that game suddenly
jumped 15fps in our tests a few weeks
ago regardless of driver. As you can see,
though, the EVGA is not quite as fast as
a true SLI setup, but it will produce less
heat and only requires two 8-pin PSU
connectors instead of four 6-pin connectors, so you don’t need to upgrade your
PSU to run the GTX 690. We’ve even run it
on a 650W PSU with zero problems. All in
all, it’s pretty damn impressive.
If you need one more reason to consider a GTX 690, bank account willing, it’s
the fastest single card in existence by a
long shot. And if your bank account is in
the Cayman Islands, you can always run
two in SLI just like Dream Machine 2012.
KITTY PURRY Smokin’-fast;
looks badass; almost as fast as
two cards in SLI.
K ATY PERRY Expensive;
exhausted air is non-directional.
$1,000, www.evga.com
JAN 2013
in the lab
You can only connect a total
of two fans to the case’s
built-in controller unless
you pick up some additional
adapters on your own.
Zalman Z9-U3
Don’t forget to include
$5 for a screwdriver, too
ZALMAN’S Z9-U3 ISN’T a great case but,
at a cost of $70, it would be difficult to
expect this mid-tower chassis to move
many mountains.
The case’s design isn’t all that different
from the company’s previously released
Z9 chassis. Changes include the removal
of the case’s grilled side in favor of an
acrylic window and the happy inclusion
of USB 3.0 connectivity on the chassis’s
front—two ports, with internal headers.
Although the switch from a grilled side to
acrylic means that you’re down two potential fan slots, the case supports five
fans in total (ranging from 12cm to 14cm)
and comes with three preinstalled for you.
Fans seem as if they would be a big
deal on the Z9-U3, mainly due to Zalman’s new inclusion of a “controller” dial
on the case’s front. Presumably, this allows you to adjust the speed of connected
fans from low to high. However, you can
only actually connect a total of two fans to
the dial’s available 3-pin connectors. As
it just so happens, only two of the three
preinstalled fans on the Z9-U3 case have
3-pin connections of their own; one’s the
case’s top blue LED fan, whose light will
vary in intensity when you spin up or slow
down the fan itself.
JAN 2013
Below this controller dial—and to the
left of the front panel’s two USB 3.0 and
two USB 2.0 ports—is a simple display
that lists the temperature (in Celsius) of
wherever you happen to stick an accompanying thermal probe inside the case.
It’s a cute feature, but we would have preferred more USB 3.0 ports.
The case’s three 5.25-inch bays are
easy enough to work with, but they
require you to bust out a screwdriver in
order to mount additional components
within your chassis. The case’s five hard
drive bays, while described by Zalman
as “tool-free,” are anything but. Instead
of using drive rails or trays, Zalman requires you to screw four large screws
into each of your hard drives, and these
screws click into locking mechanisms on
the bays themselves. Don’t forget to use
the included rubber vibration dampeners, too; without them, the drives won’t
really fit in the bays correctly.
The case does fit video cards up to 29
centimeters in length, but, as you might
expect, it can start to feel a bit cramped
on the inside. The inclusion of cutout holes
on the motherboard tray for cable routing
helps alleviate the problem a bit, and the
large, empty hole behind the CPU section
of a typical ATX or microATX motherboard
makes modifying a CPU cooler a breeze.
While you can even go liquid cooling if you
want in this chassis—using the case’s two
top 12–14cm fan mounts for a two-fan
radiator and the rubberized holes in the
case’s rear for tube routing—it’s still going to feel a little tight.
The Z9-U3 both looks and feels like an
inexpensive chassis—one could also use
the word “cheap.” The case’s bonus features of a fan controller and a temperature display are fun, but we’d gladly trade
these for an easier installation process,
a little bit more space, or better looks.
Zalman Z9-U3
SR-2 Built-in fan controller
and temperature display;
cable-routing holes in motherboard tray.
P90X Demands tools for awkward component installation; so-so aesthetic; can
feel cramped.
$70, www.zalman.com
Asus’s ET2300 isn’t
as sleek as Lenovo’s
A720, but it delivers
plenty of features.
Asus ET2300
All-in-One PC
Mostly evolutionary
THE CONCEPT of the desktop PC that folds
flat like a tabletop is catching on. HP was
first, with its Z1 workstation, but Lenovo
brought the technology to consumer allin-ones with its very sexy IdeaCentre A720.
Now Asus has adopted the idea for its new
ET2300 series.
Like the A720, the E2300 tucks all its
components inside the base of its display;
but for whatever reason, Asus needed more
room than Lenovo. The E2300’s base is thin
enough at the front, but it slopes up to about
1.5 inches high in the back. Lenovo’s A720 is
less than an inch thick all around.
Asus makes very big claims for the
ET2300’s audio performance, as in “the best
audio experience ever in an AiO.” Uh, no.
Asus did go farther on this score than most
manufacturers have—the ET2300 has a
four-speaker array augmented by an internal subwoofer, and you can buy an optional
(and proprietary) outboard subwoofer—but
this all-in-one sounds only slightly better
than the nails-on-a-chalkboard A720. Plan
on using headphones for a personal audio
experience, or external powered speakers
to fill a room.
This ET2300 model that Asus sent us
costs $400 less than Lenovo’s A720, but
its 23-inch IPS panel is much smaller than
the 27-inch VA panel that Lenovo delivers
(both models deliver the typical resolution
of 1920x1080, and both provide 10 touch
points to support Windows 8.) Although
the Asus has a lesser CPU (the ET2300
ships with a 3GHz Intel Core i5-3330 desktop processor that doesn’t support HyperThreading, compared to the A720’s 2.3GHz
Intel Core i7-3610QM mobile that does), the
two machines traded benchmark wins. The
Asus proved slightly faster on the gamingoriented tests (3DMark 11 and Metro 2033),
despite the fact that both machines are
equipped with 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory
and discrete graphics in the form of Nvidia’s
GeForce GT 630M. We surmise it’s because
the Asus’s base clock is far higher. The
Lenovo, on the other hand, delivered better performances with our Adobe Premiere
and MainConcept benchmarks, thanks to its
Aside from the size of its display and
with the exception of its optical drive (Lenovo packs a slot-feed Blu-ray player/DVD
burner in the A720, where Asus provides
only a slot-feed DVD burner), the balance of
the Asus’s spec sheet is far superior. Both
machines come with 1TB of storage, but
the drive in the ET6300 spins its platters at
7,200rpm compared to the 5,400rpm model
in the A720. And where the A720 is outfitted with two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0
ports, the ET2300 ships with four USB 3.0
ports plus an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port
and two Thunderbolt ports.
Thunderbolt technology delivers bidirectional data transfer speeds up to
10Gb/s, and you can daisy-chain up to six
Thunderbolt devices, including a DisplayPort monitor. While there are just a handful
of storage devices currently on the market,
we expect to see them proliferate over time.
Ditto for Thunderbolt displays.
Like any all-in-one worthy of the name,
the ET2300 has an HDMI input (to support a
gaming console or set-top box); but in addition to providing HDMI out (to support a second display or a video projector), the ET2300
also supports WiDi, so that it can wirelessly
mirror its audio/video output to a TV or a
streaming box (such as Netgear’s new NeoTV Max) that supports that Intel technology.
The ET2300 certainly isn’t a barn burner,
but it is a solid all-around family PC.
While we expected to see a Blu-ray drive
at this price point, the presence of Thunderbolt and WiDi are welcome features.
THUNDER Lots of I/O ports,
including two Thunderbolt
ports; supports WiDi.
LIGHTNING Lousy speakers; no Blu-ray
drive—not even as an option.
$1,300, www.asus.com
3DMark 11
Metro 2033
Asus ET2300
Lenovo ThinkCentre A720
3.0GHz Intel Core i5-3330
2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM
Nvidia GeForce GT 630M
Nvidia GeForce GT 630M
8GB DDR3/1600
8GB DDR3/1600
1TB (7,200rpm)
1TB (5,400rpm)
DVD burner
Blu-ray player/DVD burner
23-inch LED backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (10-
27-inch LED backlit VA LCD
point touchscreen)
1920x1080 (10-pont touchscreen)
Asus ET2300 INTI-B022K
Best scores are bolded.
JAN 2013
in the lab
The CZ-17 is big and
powerful and will also
require an equally strong
person to lug it around.
JAN 2013
iBuyPower CZ-17
The Incredible Hulk of laptops
is supposed to be a light
and portable PC? Think again. iBuyPower’s
CZ-17 is neither of those things. With a carry weight of almost 11 pounds and dimensions measuring 16.9x11.3x2.2 inches, this
thing is huge and friggin’ heavy. Imagine
lugging around a dumbbell in your pack all
day and you’ll catch our drift.
Aesthetically, the CZ-17 looks eerily
similar to our MSI GT60 zero-point laptop (reviewed December 2012) except
super-sized with a 17.3-inch display. The
1920x1080, LED-backlit monitor features a nice matte finish, which nicely
diminishes glare. The TN panel exhibits
a slight shimmer when viewed more than
45 degrees off-axis, but a crowd of three
people won’t have issues watching a movie together on it. While the CZ-17’s chassis looks an awful lot like the GT60 with
its edgy contours and cut-off corners, it
doesn’t feature the zero-point’s gaudycolored LEDs. Instead, blue is the color of
choice here. Everything from the speakers and trackpad to the keyboard and
various lines are laced in blue luminance.
Only iBuyPower’s beast logo on the top
cover differs, with its red hue.
Under the bright lights and within the
belly of the beast lies a 2.4GHz Intel Core
i7-3630QM CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX
680M GPU, and 16GB of RAM. In terms of
storage, the CZ-17 features a 120GB SSD
and a 7,200rpm 750GB hard drive. This
duo allows the laptop to boot Windows 8
in 26 seconds, which is fair.
The CZ-17 traded minor blows with our
GT60’s slightly lower-clocked 2.3GHz Core
i7-3610QM in our three CPU-intensive
tests, but where it really stood out was in
the graphics department. In our 3DMark
11 performance benchmark, iBuyPower’s
laptop performed an astonishing 95 percent better than MSI’s counterpart. The
gap only increased in our STALKER: CoP
benchmark, where the CZ-17 simply decimated the GT60 by more than 112 percent.
At first we thought we had made a testing error, thinking that a 680M couldn’t
be that much beefier than a 670M, but
when we ran the benchmarks again, the
same results came up. Playing CounterStrike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, performance on the CZ-17 was silky-smooth,
consistently staying above 60fps with everything maxed out. It just goes to show
you how Nvidia’s higher-end 680 GPU and
refined 28nm Kepler architecture really
do make a substantial difference in the
graphics department.
In terms of battery life, the CZ-17 fell
short of MSI’s 15.6-inch laptop by almost
30 minutes, but considering the laptop
has a larger screen, you can’t expect
the same power consumption. Regardless, in our battery rundown test, the
CZ-17 lasted two hours and 40 minutes,
which should be enough for most movies,
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
ProShow Producer 5 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0
12.4 (-4.8%)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
70 (112.8%)
3DMark 11 Perf
Battery Life (min)
provided you don’t watch only Peter Jackson films.
One feature we didn’t care for was the
trackpad. On paper, it sounds great: multitouch with touch-to-zoom. The problem
is that the touch-to-zoom is super choppy
and unresponsive and if you accidentally
have a second finger touching the pad, it
becomes confused. Luckily, we were able
to disable multitouch with a driver update
given to us directly from iBuyPower. The
bigger annoyance actually pertains to
the buttons below the trackpad, which
require a ridiculous amount of pressure
to click. People with weak fingers should
not apply.
Of course, this criticism may not matter because this extremely heavy laptop
is clearly best used as a portable gaming
desktop (i.e., with a mouse). If you were
hoping to buy a light and portable gaming laptop for on-the-go play, you should
definitely look elsewhere; however, if all
you’re looking for is something to lug in
your car when you drive to the nearest LAN
party, the CZ-17 is certainly a solid solution.
Powerful GPU; large screen.
ERIC BANA HULK Super heavy; trackpad
buttons hard to press; HDD size could be
$1,800, www.ibuypower.com
2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM
16GB DDR3/1600
Intel HM77
Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M 4GB
17.3-inch, 1920x1080 LCD
120GB Intel 330 Series SSD;
750GB hard drive (7,200rpm)
Optical Drive
8x DVD+/-RW
Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, eSATA,
4-in-1 card reader, 3x
USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, audio
in, audio out, headphone,
mic, 3MP webcam, built-in
Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n
Lap / Carry
8 lbs, 12.8 oz/ 10 lbs 15.6 oz
160 (-14.4%)
Our zero-point notebook is an MSI GT60 with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM, 12GB DDR3/1600, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a
GeForce GTX 670M, and Windows 8 64-bit. STALKER: CoP tested at 1920x1080 with Ultra settings, Tessellation, and contact hardening.
iBuyPower CZ-17
JAN 2013
in the lab
This could be the best
Chromebook yet.
ARM isn’t always
slower than x86
IT’S HARD TO believe that the Chromebook
is still with us. If you recall, Chromebooks
were birthed in a tumultuous time for
the world. The country was in the midst
of economic collapse and craptastic netbooks were the cheap hotness.
Today, netbooks are so worthless that
some companies have resorted to giving
them away with the purchase of an Ultrabook. Yet Google's Chromebook science experiment is still kicking along.
As they were at inception, Chromebooks
remain low-end hardware coupled with
an OS built almost entirely around the
Chrome browser and are really best suited for those who live the Google lifestyle.
The latest iteration is the Samsung
Chromebook Model No. XE303C12. It’s actually the third Samsung Chromebook. We
reviewed the company’s first effort, the
Chromebook Series 5 (September 2011),
which sported a dual-core 1.66GHz Atom
N5770, and found it wanting. Though not
entirely the fault of the weak Atom chip,
the Chrome OS was simply too limited in
offline functionality, and even many online
functions didn’t quite work right when it
was connected.
Samsung’s latest Chromebook is
markedly different from the Series 5.
The most noticeable change is the use
of Samsung’s own 1.7GHz Exynos 5 CPU.
This SoC CPU is based on the Cortex A15
and is an out-of-order design rather than
the typical ARM design, which uses the
slower-but-power-sipping in-order execution. To see how this ARM chip stacks
up, we compared it to the Series 5 using
the Atom N570 as well as the original
Google CR-48 concept Chromebook running an Atom N455. The winner? Surprise,
x86! The Samsung ARM chip slaps around
both Atom CPUs like the Hulk smashing
bad guys. Before ARM aficionados declare
complete victory, we will note that we suspect the pricier Celeron-based Chrome-
Samsung Series 5
Google CR-48
Dual-core 1.7GHz
Samsung Exynos 5
Dual-core 1.66GHz
Intel Atom N570
Single-core 1.66GHz
Intel Atom N455
Samsung Mali-T604
Intel GMA3150
Intel GMA3150
SunSpider JavaScript 0.9.1 (sec)
Google Octane V1
Futuremark Peacekeeper
WebGL Solar System Planets (fps)
Microsoft Fishbowl HTML5 10
Fish (fps)
JAN 2013
Samsung Chromebook
CHROME Thin; light; cheap.
TIN Offline support still
fairly limited.
$250, www.samsung.com
Best scores are bolded.
book would eat the Exynos in one bite.
Celeron-based Chromebooks are hardly
cheap, though. Of course, the real problem is that discussing performance on a
Chromebook is mostly academic—you
don’t need much power to run a browser.
Even the ancient single-core CR-48 is still
quite usable.
It’s more about the presentation and
the pricing. In presentation, Samsung
does a relatively good job, though the
easily scratched plastic shell doesn’t
exude quality. The new Chromebook is
Ultrabook-thin, weighs 2.5 pounds, and
its 11.6-inch screen sports 1366x768
resolution—which is slightly higher than
the Series 5 Chromebook. The big breakthrough for the Chromebook is its price.
At $250, the Chromebook is almost a
compelling mobile device.
We say almost because no matter what,
Chromebooks will always be limited compared to a PC or even a tablet. While the
much lower price of the new Chromebook
makes it pretty attractive, tablets and
even convertible PC’s have been moving in
price, too. Now that a quad-core tablet or a
full-blown Windows 8 tablet can be had for
$200–$500, the Chromebook is still only
suited for those who can work around its
limitation of requiring the Internet for full
productivity. –GORDON MAH UNG
The Node lets you carry all the
video and photos you need—if
you have the drive for it.
Patriot Gauntlet Node
BYO media streamer
worked at Maximum
PC reviewing overpriced gadgets, we’re
pretty sure he’d be saying: “And what’s
the deal with getting charged so much for
so little RAM? You know, the 16GB version
of the HTC Galaxy 5 costs $199 but the
32GB costs $299? And, what? No expansion slot for additional RAM?”
Well, Jerry, consider Patriot’s Gauntlet Node, a Wi-Fi media streamer–cum–
hard drive. Patriot’s Node doesn’t break
new ground. Plenty of mass-storagebased Wi-Fi products have been on the
market. One we were particular smitten
with was Kingston’s 64GB Wi-Drive that
offers similar functionality. But while we
liked the Wi-Drive’s svelte size, a $115ish street price is a lot cash for just 64GB
of storage.
Patriot’s approach is to decouple storage from the device. So what you get is
the equivalent of your typical 2.5-inch
hard drive enclosure with integrated WiFi and NAS support. More on this later.
Inside the Node you can install most any
laptop hard drive. We installed a 9.5mm
500GB drive easily; it’s possible a bigger
drive could fit but we didn’t have one to try
out. Patriot says a 2TB drive will fit, but
considering that notebook drives that big
are 15mm in height, it would be tight. You
can easily find 1TB drives online for under
$90, though, and those are 9.5mm.
The device has two ports: a USB 3.0
Micro USB port and a power port. The
device ships with a typical 2-amp USB
charger but it connects to a standard
round plug rather than charging through
the device’s USB port. Why? Kramer!
Copying your files to the drive is a snap.
Just plug it into an available USB 2.0 or
USB 3.0 port and copy your movies, images, music, and documents to it at will.
What’s really nice is the speed. Our main
complaint about Kingston’s Wi-Drive was
write speed—it was pretty damned slow.
With the Patriot Node, you’re writing at
the limit of the HDD you have in it.
To access the files, you install a free
app from your portable device’s app market and browse the contents of the drive.
We used an Android phone with 2.3 “Gingerbread” loaded on it and had no issues
playing numerous video files. Android lets
you pick your video player of choice, so you
may have to install an additional player if
the vid you’re trying to watch is in a funky
format. Perhaps even niftier, the Patriot
Node not only lets you read files over WiFi, but write them as well, so if you want to
back up your docs file, it’s a snap. It would
be nice if Patriot had a specific backup app
that would let you automate the process.
What we’re not fans of, however, is the
lack of default encryption on the Wi-Fi. You
can select from WEP to WPA and WPA2.
Anyone with the app on their phone, or a
laptop connecting to the default IP ad-
dress of the device, could start slurping
content from your drive—or uploading
files to it without you knowing, or hijack
the device, since the user account of admin has a password of “admin.” Not good.
Our other complaint is the build quality.
The device is made of plastic and feels like
it wouldn’t survive a fall to the floor. The
battery life on the device is so-so, as well.
With its 3,350mAh Li-Ion battery, we saw
just under four hours of video playback
before it went dry. That’s not bad, but not
great. Considering that the battery has
to keep the drive spun up while serving
video, it’s probably acceptable.
Basically, there’s a lot right with the
Patriot Node and a few things wrong.
Given the Node’s ability to provide a
never-ending supply of digital content
for your mobile devices, and the speed at
which you can load it on there, we think
the good wins out. –GORDON MAH UNG
Patriot Gauntlet Node
PIE À LA MODE Refreshingly
fast write speeds; can write
to device from your phone.
COMMODE Needs security on by default;
plastic construction.
$99, www.patriotmemory.com
JAN 2013
in the lab
The Water2.0 Pro comes
with two 12cm fans for a
push-pull configuration.
Water2.0 Pro
The LL Cool J of water
coolers: cool, but loud
WATER COOLING is the way to go if you're
serious about keeping your CPU thermals in check, and the easiest way to
dip your toe in the water-cooling pool is
an all-in-one unit that bolts onto your
case. You don’t have to mess with pumps,
tubing, or fans, and the kits will work
with any modern CPU and most chassis, so their appeal is maximum cooling
with minimum effort. Thermaltake is on
board with this concept, and offers three
tasty all-in-one entrées in its Water2.0
series: a low-end “Performance” model,
a double-rad “Extreme” model, and the
midrange “Pro” version we examined
this month.
The cooler is an Asetek design that’s
prefilled with coolant and features a fat
48mm radiator sandwiched between
dual 12cm fans. Thick rubber tubes shuttle the coolant back and forth between
the radiator and the cooling block, which
features a copper contact plate to maximize heat transfer.
Putting it all together wasn’t too difficult, but the installation process included one semi-major annoyance, which
we’ll get to later. For our thermal test,
we didn’t need to install a backplate on
our LGA2011 test machine—of course,
owners of AMD or other Intel sockets will
need to do so. With our retention plate already in place, we only had to secure four
screws to the cooler’s retention ring. The
problem is, the LGA2011 uses special
screws that look nearly identical to the
other screws in the kit (LGA1155, etc.),
which was confusing—they should be
more clearly labeled, both in real life and
in the manual. Color coding, perhaps?
With the retention ring in place, the next
step was to drop the water block down
onto our CPU and snap the two together
with a retention clip. From there, finishing the install was as easy as tightening
four screws. Installing the radiator was
also easy, and involved using the four
pairs of provided screws to sandwich
the radiator between the fans and attach
them to the case. Both fans connect to
a Y-shaped PWM power cable, allowing
them to run synchronously from a single
4-pin connector.
In testing, the cooler performed surprisingly well when we let it run at fullspeed (fan control disabled), outperforming our Hyper 212 Evo zero-point
air-cooler by an impressive 5 C, but it
was about 3 C warmer than the similarly
constructed Corsair H80 kit. In quiet
mode, using PWM fan control, its performance was also impressive, but again it
was not as capable as Corsair’s offering.
While the Water2.0’s performance is
cool, its acoustics aren't. In quiet mode
it emitted a high-pitched humming noise,
even at idle, and under load the hum
became more pronounced. The humming
sound went away when we ran the fans at
full speed, but then the fan noise was so
loud as to resemble a small wind tunnel
inside our chassis.
Overall, the Water2.0 Pro definitely
runs cool, but at the cost of excessive
noise in either of its modes. Considering
the similarly priced H80 runs a bit cooler,
we'd give the nod to Corsair's solution for
a 12cm-based all-in-one water cooler.
Thermaltake Water2.0 Pro
Great cooling performance.
JOSEPH PESCI Loud; a bit pricey.
$100, www.thermaltake.com
Water2.0 Pro
(Performance mode)
Water2.0 Pro
(Quiet mode)
CM Hyper
212 EVO
Corsair H80
(H x D x W)
5.9 x 4.7 x 1.9 inches
Ambient Air
Idle Temperature
2.3 lbs
Stock Fans
2x 12cm PWM
Fan Support
Burn Temperature
Burn - Ambient
All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed using an Intel Core i7-3960 at 4.2GHz, on an Asus P9X79
Deluxe motherboard with 16GB DDR3/1600, in a Thermaltake Level 10 GT with stock fans set to High.
JAN 2013
The Velocity Solo gives you
SATA 6Gb/s care of the PCIExpress slots on your mobo;
SSD not included.
Apricorn Velocity Solo
X2 PCIe SSD Adapter
The poor nerd’s RevoDrive
THE APRICORN Velocity Solo X2 is designed
to do one thing and one thing only: let you
upgrade your boot drive to a SATA 6Gb/s
SSD on a system that doesn’t have any of
them newfangled ports. Living in a world
filled with PCs that could be used in the
space program, it’s not a problem we encounter very often, but we can certainly
understand its utility where an older
motherboard is involved.
You will need an empty x2 (or larger)
PCIe slot to use it, however, but if you have
one available and you’re not ready to upgrade you’re motherboard, the Velocity X2
is a great solution that offers impressive
performance and an easy setup.
To use the Velocity Solo X2, simply attach the SSD to the card itself using the
provided screws. There’s a second SATA
6Gb/s port on the card that can also be
plumbed to another drive—and no, you
can’t run the device in RAID. With the card
in your PCIe slot, you can boot the system and the drive appears; it’s as simple
as that. The board uses Marvell’s newer
88SE9182 controller, an improvement
over the Marvell 88SE9128 controller
found in many older motherboards.
Once we had the drive connected, we
decided to see how much performance—if
any—we’d lose by ditching our native Intel
SATA 6Gb/s ports for the Velocity Solo X2.
As a x2 PCIe 2.0-compliant device, you’re
looking at a maximum theoretical bandwidth of about 1,000MB/s. For our testing,
we reached for the fastest SSD we had on
hand—the Samsung 840 Pro. Not surprisingly, the drive was able to completely
saturate the SATA 6Gb/s interface’s limit.
In CrystalDiskMark’s sequential read
and write tests, we saw speeds of 488MB/s
and 474MB, respectively. That's only about
20MB/s slower than what we achieved with
the native Intel ports, which is excellent.
In our compressible data test in ATTO,
with a 64KB write and a four-request
queue, the drive ran right up to the maximum throughput, pegging the needle with
500MB/s write speeds and 484MB/s read
speeds. In our “real-world” PCMark Vantage test, we saw almost zero change from
what we experienced with the Samsung
drive running naked on a SATA 6Gb/s port:
On the Velocity board the Samsung scored
55,272, while it racked up a score of 56,608
on an Intel port.
The one area where we saw a small
loss of performance was in heavily
queued workloads. In our Iometer test,
which hits the drive with a queue of 32
4K write requests at once until the drive
cries uncle, we saw performance drop by
about 20,000 IOPS. This is a test we run
for people considering a certain drive for
use in a web or file server, as home users
will rarely develop a 32-request queue on
their desktop, but the performance drop
is notable.
The final piece of the puzzle is the included EZ Gig IV drive-cloning software,
which let us easily clone our boot drive to
the Samsung SSD in just a few minutes
and boot from it. It didn’t like our USB key
for some reason, but worked splendidly
from a CD-R.
All in all, we give the Velocity two
thumbs up for being easy to use and offering impressive speed. We also like
the second SATA port and drive-cloning
software, but we’re taking off a few points
because $100 is a bit pricey. –JOSH NOREM
Apricorn Velocity Solo X2
PCIe SSD Adapter
LIGER Easy to install;
smokin’ speeds; dual SATA ports.
SLOTHEPHANT Performance loss in
32QD workloads; a little pricey.
$100, www.apricorn.com
JAN 2013
in the lab
Defensive moves are just as important
to master as offensive skills, and are
critical to staying alive.
It was an honor
DISHONORED IS A refreshingly stealthy
change of pace in a first-person-shooter
market crowded with Call of Battlefield–
type games that seem like they were
produced by Michael Bay. Don’t get us
wrong—we love blowing stuff up, and we
love killing terrorists, but sometimes we
like to take a break from the frantic action
and unwind with a night of stealthy throat
slitting and neck snapping. After all, a
man’s got to relax. This is what Dishonored delivers; a game based on stealth,
tactics, and the delightful task of mastering a broad range of mystical abilities,
providing us with a much-needed change
of scenery in an FPS landscape dominated by desert warfare shooters, Borderlands 2 notwithstanding.
In Dishonored, you play as securityguard-turned-assassin Corvo Attano.
You’ve been framed for murdering the
JAN 2013
Queen, causing you to set out to recapture
your good name and rid the city of the corrupt people conspiring against you. The
game’s structure is similar to Deus Ex:
Human Revolution in that you hang out in
a hub city where you can buy gear, have
weapons made, and receive missions
from locals. When you’re ready to embark
on a mission, you simply head to the waterfront to be transported to the next mission area. We like that the game gives you
the freedom to either chill or kill at your
leisure, and it’s fun to return from a mission and prepare your loadout for the next
one, as well.
The main missions are mostly assassination jobs where you’re given details
about a human target and allowed to decide how to handle it once you arrive at
the kill zone. You can either go in guns- or
knives-blazing, or if you’re in a forgiving
mood, you can go nonlethal by knocking
the enemies unconscious through various means. On our first play-through we
opted for killing everyone in sight (we
were having a bad day), and the result
was both gory and gratifying. We particularly enjoyed slashing enemies’ jugular
veins, which would unleash a torrent of
blood from their necks. Even though the
killing was almost nonstop, it never got
old, as the game features several-dozen
death animations and each one is interesting and unique. When we were fighting
a barrage of enemies, we had to combine
abilities, such as summoning rats to nibble at our foes while slowing time so that
we could kill our enemies while they were
preoccupied with the varmints.
On our second play-through we tried
to not kill anyone, and the game changed
dramatically. The stealth approach
forced us to be much more creative in
how we approached situations, relying
more on magic skills and other abilities instead of blunt-force trauma. The
Dark Vision ability is useful for sneaking around, since it lets you see through
walls. It’s especially handy for mapping
out paths that evade guards.
The game’s primary ability is called
Blink and we used it generously when being stealthy, as it let us run with super-
in the lab
Defensive moves are just as important
to master as offensive skills, and are
critical to staying alive.
It was an honor
DISHONORED IS A refreshingly stealthy
change of pace in a first-person-shooter
market crowded with Call of Battlefield–
type games that seem like they were
produced by Michael Bay. Don’t get us
wrong—we love blowing stuff up, and we
love killing terrorists, but sometimes we
like to take a break from the frantic action
and unwind with a night of stealthy throat
slitting and neck snapping. After all, a
man’s got to relax. This is what Dishonored delivers; a game based on stealth,
tactics, and the delightful task of mastering a broad range of mystical abilities,
providing us with a much-needed change
of scenery in an FPS landscape dominated by desert warfare shooters, Borderlands 2 notwithstanding.
In Dishonored, you play as securityguard-turned-assassin Corvo Attano.
You’ve been framed for murdering the
Queen, causing you to set out to recapture
your good name and rid the city of the corrupt people conspiring against you. The
JAN 2013
game’s structure is similar to Deus Ex:
Human Revolution in that you hang out in
a hub city where you can buy gear, have
weapons made, and receive missions
from locals. When you’re ready to embark
on a mission, you simply head to the waterfront to be transported to the next mission area. We like that the game gives you
the freedom to either chill or kill at your
leisure, and it’s fun to return from a mission and prepare your loadout for the next
one, as well.
The main missions are mostly assassination jobs where you’re given details
about a human target and allowed to decide how to handle it once you arrive at
the kill zone. You can either go in guns- or
knives-blazing, or if you’re in a forgiving
mood, you can go nonlethal by knocking
the enemies unconscious through various means. On our first play-through we
opted for killing everyone in sight (we
were having a bad day), and the result
was both gory and gratifying. We particu-
larly enjoyed slashing enemies’ jugular
veins, which would unleash a torrent of
blood from their necks. Even though the
killing was almost nonstop, it never got
old, as the game features several-dozen
death animations and each one is interesting and unique. When we were fighting
a barrage of enemies, we had to combine
abilities, such as summoning rats to nibble at our foes while slowing time so that
we could kill our enemies while they were
preoccupied with the varmints.
On our second play-through we tried
to not kill anyone, and the game changed
dramatically. The stealth approach
forced us to be much more creative in
how we approached situations, relying
more on magic skills and other abilities instead of blunt-force trauma. The
Dark Vision ability is useful for sneaking around, since it lets you see through
walls. It’s especially handy for mapping
out paths that evade guards.
The game’s primary ability is called
Though you can play as a
pacifist and sneak around
enemies, we chose to show
them the business end of
our broadsword.
The Blink ability lets you rush
enemies then disappear in a
blink of an eye.
speed in and out of cover undetected, and
scale rooftops effortlessly, too.
Dispatching foes is accomplished via a
variety of interesting weapons designed
to work either at close or long range; you
can hold two weapons at once and use
each according to how you’d like to play
the game. The default melee weapon is a
sword, but you can choose between two
different ranged weapons, including a
wooden flintlock pistol or a crossbow that
supports several different arrows. We
weren’t fans of the pistol; it would wake
up the neighborhood and using it always
brought a flood of angry guards directly
to our location. We much preferred the
crossbow, as it’s quieter and can handle
three different types of darts: regular,
sleeping, and incendiary. This helped us
kill people quickly and quietly at range
while remaining hidden in the shadows.
Over time, you can upgrade skills by
finding hidden runes and applying them
to specific skill trees like in an RPG. The
runes are located all over the city; to find
them you use a beating heart that you
hold in your hand, which is always a cool
thing to hold. Foraging around the city
looking for runes helped to mix up the
gameplay and we enjoyed the change of
pace it provided.
The game took us roughly 12 hours to
complete the first time, and that was with
all of the five side missions completed.
The optional quests enhance the main
story and also pay off pretty well in loot.
The campaign is short, but Dishonored
includes two different endings that correspond to how many people you killed
or didn’t kill during the game, so most
people will want to play through the game
twice. As you progress through the game,
you are given an overall chaos score that
lets you know if you’re on track for a lowchaos ending or the high-chaos ending,
allowing you to adjust your tactics along
the way to fulfill your goals.
Dishonored’s Unreal-based graphics
look superb, with running waterways and
dark, moody environments. We played
it on an Intel Core i7-2700K processor
overclocked to 4.43GHz with an Nvidia
GTX 660 Ti video card and all settings
maxed out at 1080p, and the game played
flawlessly. One of the drawbacks to its
silky-smooth frame rate is the presence
of somewhat low-res textures, but it’s a
trade-off we’re OK with.
We had been looking forward to Dishonored for a while since it promised a
mixture of gameplay elements pulled
from several games we’ve loved: Thief,
BioShock, and Deus Ex. Now that we’ve
slashed our way through it a few times,
we’re happy to report that it more than
met our lofty expectations, and was enjoyable both times we played it through.
Whether we were pulling the old smashand-grab or skulking around and snapping necks, it was a blast, and the variety
of the gameplay was a welcome addition
to our gaming stable. We’ve gotten so
used to games where the sole objective
is to kill everyone in sight that having our
objective be to not kill was refreshing.
And of course, if we snapped, we liked
having the option to go on a bloody rampage mid-mission, as well. Variety truly is
the spice of life. –CHRIS ZELE
DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION Open-world gameplay;
wide array of awesome abilities; two different endings.
DUKE NUKEM: FOREVER Main campaign is
a little short; low-res textures.
$60, www.dishonored.com, ESRB: M
JAN 2013
Though you can play as a
pacifist and sneak around
enemies, we chose to show
them the business end of
our broadsword.
The Blink ability lets you rush
enemies then disappear in a
blink of an eye.
Blink and we used it generously when being stealthy, as it let us run with superspeed in and out of cover undetected, and
scale rooftops effortlessly, too.
Dispatching foes is accomplished via a
variety of interesting weapons designed
to work either at close or long range; you
can hold two weapons at once and use
each according to how you’d like to play
the game. The default melee weapon is a
sword, but you can choose between two
different ranged weapons, including a
wooden flintlock pistol or a crossbow that
supports several different arrows. We
weren’t fans of the pistol; it would wake
up the neighborhood and using it always
brought a flood of angry guards directly
to our location. We much preferred the
crossbow, as it’s quieter and can handle
three different types of darts: regular,
sleeping, and incendiary. This helped us
kill people quickly and quietly at range
while remaining hidden in the shadows.
Over time, you can upgrade skills by
finding hidden runes and applying them
to specific skill trees like in an RPG. The
runes are located all over the city; to find
them you use a beating heart that you
hold in your hand, which is always a cool
thing to hold. Foraging around the city
looking for runes helped to mix up the
gameplay and we enjoyed the change of
pace it provided.
The game took us roughly 12 hours to
complete the first time, and that was with
all of the five side missions completed.
The optional quests enhance the main
story and also pay off pretty well in loot.
The campaign is short, but Dishonored
includes two different endings that correspond to how many people you killed
or didn’t kill during the game, so most
people will want to play through the game
twice. As you progress through the game,
you are given an overall chaos score that
lets you know if you’re on track for a lowchaos ending or the high-chaos ending,
allowing you to adjust your tactics along
the way to fulfill your goals.
Dishonored’s Unreal-based graphics
look superb, with running waterways and
dark, moody environments. We played
it on an Intel Core i7-2700K processor
overclocked to 4.43GHz with an Nvidia
GTX 660 Ti video card and all settings
maxed out at 1080p, and the game played
flawlessly. One of the drawbacks to its
silky-smooth frame rate is the presence
of somewhat low-res textures, but it’s a
trade-off we’re OK with.
We had been looking forward to Dishonored for a while since it promised a
mixture of gameplay elements pulled
from several games we’ve loved: Thief,
BioShock, and Deus Ex. Now that we’ve
slashed our way through it a few times,
we’re happy to report that it more than
met our lofty expectations, and was enjoyable both times we played it through.
Whether we were pulling the old smashand-grab or skulking around and snapping necks, it was a blast, and the variety
of the gameplay was a welcome addition
to our gaming stable. We’ve gotten so
used to games where the sole objective
is to kill everyone in sight that having our
objective be to not kill was refreshing.
And of course, if we snapped, we liked
having the option to go on a bloody rampage mid-mission, as well. Variety truly is
the spice of life. –CHRIS ZELE
DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION Open-world gameplay;
wide array of awesome abilities; two different endings.
DUKE NUKEM: FOREVER Main campaign is
a little short; low-res textures.
$60, www.dishonored.com, ESRB: M
JAN 2013
in the lab
Getting in Touch
with Windows
ws 8
Although, Microsoft hasn’t made it easy
LAST MONTH in this section I said I would report back on whether a touch-enabled laptop is a good idea. Having spent the last
few weeks using three different laptops with touchscreens, I
can say that it makes a lot of sense with Windows 8. I found
myself naturally using touch gestures to get around the Modern UI and a mouse and keyboard in the desktop mode. And it
didn’t seem weird at all to be using alternate behaviors. What
did seem weird to me was how little effort Microsoft put into
orienting people to the new UI. There’s the briefest of examples
when you first install Windows 8, showing you how to access
the Charms bar. Why wouldn’t MS provide a thorough tour of
the OS? It would greatly improve the initial user experience.
Luckily, others have answered that obvious need with YouTube
videos, such as “Learn Windows 8 in 3 Minutes” (bit.ly/TOGujQ).
Jimmy Thang
Online Managing Editor
Josh Norem
Senior Editor
Gordon Mah Ung
Deputy Editor
Chris Zele
I recently cracked and got
a smartphone. That might
sound crazy coming from
a Maximum PC editor, but I
always figured I'm in front
of the computer all day, I
don't need to bring a computer with me when I'm out
on a beautiful hike. Plus,
I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that smartphones can
make people dumb. And I
are not dumb!
This month I switched my
SSD test bed over from
a P67-based rig to a Z77
machine running an Asus
P8Z77-V Premium mobo
just because performance
was much more consistent. I also discovered that
performing a secure erase
on an SSD is not something
one should undertake if
they are trying to keep their
blood pressure down.
I’d be more inclined to upgrade my PC a lot sooner
if I could just virtually “box
up” my primary system at
home with its six drives and
store the image on a single
3TB drive and “boot it.”
This would let me recycle
the old box without the fear
of losing access to data or
a program I had installed.
Another COD has been released and I hope it’s not just
another reskinning of COD 4.
Activision has been on a mission to release a COD game
every year, and has destroyed
the brand with its nonstop
yearly releases. The last few
games didn’t do anything special for me and the multiplayer always seems rehashed.
I hope this one's finally the
breath of fresh air that I want.
JAN 2013
you write, we respond
> Death of Ethernet
> Azza Genesis 9000
> Apple Complimen
The Death of Ethernet
Has the writer of The List
in the December 2012 issue [“Nine Dead and Dying
Technologies”], lost their
mind? Ethernet dead or even
dying? Ethernet transfer
speeds are much higher
than even dual-channel
802.11n, which is the fastest
standard at this time. Has
the writer tried streaming
1080p video or playing a
first-person shooter over
Wi-Fi? How about both at
the same time? What if you
want to watch a movie and
someone else wants to play
Halo or Counter-Strike at
the same time? Can you do
that with Wi-Fi? No, you
cannot (well you could, but
both would suck... hard!).
How about your entire family
(say, three PCs, a PS3, and
a streaming box) all doing
different things at the same
time? Not a problem with
Ethernet, but it’s not gonna
happen with Wi-Fi. Current
Wi-Fi is woefully slow,
with tons of lag unless you
are in a perfect-line-ofsight world with zero radio
frequency interference and
only one user at a time. I
think the death of Ethernet
is still a long, long time in
the future.
I'd also like to add that
the optical drive and the
keyboard/mouse combo are
going nowhere until something that actually works
and is practical comes along
to replace them.
—Daivd H.
I haven’t lost what little
mind I have left (I have two
kids, so gimme a break)
but I am saddened, very
saddened that Ethernet
speeds have been stuck in
the mud for years. How long
have we had GigE? Maybe
13 years? In that time it
hasn’t moved a megabit
forward. Wireless, however, has gone from 2Mb/s
to 11Mb/s to 54Mb/s to
100Mb/s. With 802.11ac,
they’re promising Gigabit
speeds. I usually take the
speeds a wireless tech
promises and divide by four
to get the actual speeds I’ll
see, but my point is that in
all that time Wi-Fi has continued to innovate and push
the speed envelope.
I predicted that 10GigE
would be standard on the
desktop two years ago, but
instead I was left waving my
Cat6 cable in the wind.
I want 10GigE hardwired
but it seems the PC industry
is only intent on giving us
faster wireless speeds.
Meanwhile, the tech civvies
pull out their new laptops
or all-in-ones, set up the
Wi-Fi connection, and never
pull the Ethernet cable out
of the box. Where do you
think this all ends up?
Azza Genesis 9000
I received the December
issue of Maximum PC
yesterday, and the first
thing I noticed on the
contents page was the
Azza Genesis 9000. Since
the black version of this
case is on my wish list, it
obviously caught my attention immediately.
Your review was nearly
spot-on, echoing pretty
much everything I've already seen or read (which is
everything that put this case
in such esteem in my eyes),
but I did notice that you left
out one essential feature:
The motherboard tray can
be removed and flipped 180
degrees, allowing builders
to orient their system in
"standard" (non-inverted)
ATX position. Personally,
the fact that this case is
capable of inverted-ATX is
one of the deciding factors
for me, but there are many
reasons a person may
want or need to build in
standard orientation,
including placement (if
the right panel can't be
displayed, there's not much
sense building to that side),
design limitations (cable
routing, liquid cooling,
etc.), or simply the inability to recognize a superior
heat-management design,
and I'd hate to see potential
buyers deterred because
they mistakenly believe
that they're locked into the
inverted-ATX orientation
with this case.
—Michael Schwobe
completely correct: You
can spin the case's motherboard tray around to give
your CPU or GPU cooling a
bit of a boost, thanks to the
proximity of the case's delicious 23cm exhaust fans up
top. The process of doing so
is a wee pain in the butt, and
I'm honestly not convinced
that most builders are going
to need to go topsy-turvy
anyway. Azzatek's default
upside-down installation
gives your videocard(s) the
↘ submit your questions to: [email protected]
JAN 2013
cooling boost, and that's
where I'd probably want
to keep the air flowing.
Just think about the
heat at which your poor
card(s) will run while
you shoot knees in Skyrim, for example, versus
your CPU.
In other words, the
feature wasn't overlooked accidentally;
it's just not a make-orbreak feature, I feel.
Take Your Own
Damned Medicine
Gordon's editorial in the
November 2012 issue
makes complete sense.
We shouldn't be bashing a product/company
just because you want to
bash it. Gordon should
take his own advice
when it comes to Apple.
Whether we like it or not,
it’s been the biggest tech
headline for almost a decade. Yet getting Gordon
to even say one compliment about Apple (espe-
cially in your podcasts) is
like pulling teeth!
have said plenty of complimentary things about
Apple and its products. I
reviewed three notebooks several years ago
and the winner was…
the Mac Book Pro. In an
interview with
Mac|Life magazine about
the newly announced
iPad, which some people
were pooh-poohing as
nothing but a big iPhone,
I said the iPad was a very
smart move by leveraging the iPhone’s huge
app support and would
be a success. I have also
heartily defended Apple
when it’s been wronged,
and in one podcast, I
defended Steve Jobs
who was taking criticism
because he responded
gruffly to a college
student’s email asking
him to essentially do
her homework. Mr. Jobs
basically said that’s not
my job. The mainstream
tech media decided to
lambaste him for not being nicer, whereas I think
he should have used far
saltier language in his
email to her. Finally, in
one example even closer
to home, an editor at
our sister publication
Mac|Life collapsed and
stopped breathing. I
administered mouth-tomouth resuscitation and
she survived. That just
goes to show you we ain’t
all anti-Mac over here.
My issue is with
biased reports and clear
fanboyism on display in
favor of one company,
and these days, Apple
receives more than its
fair share of it. Also, I
appreciate your feedback and am working
hard to make your
customer experience
even better.
Facebook Polls
What Do You Name
Your PC in Windows?
Given the, uh, creative nature of our
Facebook fans, we asked them what
they name their Windows install. The
answers didn’t disappoint.
John Orleans: Dat Ass (so he can back
Dat Ass up)
Kevin Matreci: FBI Surveillance (to freak
out the neighbors)
Luis Solano: Soundwave and Laserbeak
Nathan Vanderburg: Headache III
Miguel Lopes: Saturn, Cassini, Gemini,
John Pope: The Beast
Ryan Stephenson: Hentai Haven
James Ortega: Enterprise, Yamoto,
Defiant, Valiant
Rick Holman: Titan, Zeus, Poseidon
David Bogle: Wolverine, DarkKnight,
Alex Burns: Colossus (desktop), Guardian (laptop)
Jared MacKenzie: Mana, Gaia, Chaos
Blaine Andersen: Grendel and Beowulf
Timothy Twitty: Icarus, Kilowatt, Decibel
Derek Hoffman: Macbook
Will You Purchase
a Touchscreen LCD
When/If You Upgrade
to Windows 8?
Yes, I certainly will!
The video card wars just got
more cutthroat, as AMD's
new 12.11 catalyst driver adds
some serious performance
gains. See the red team's
revitalized Radeon HD 7970
trade blows with Nvidia's
fl agship GeForce GTX 680 in
round two of our performance
benchmarks. bit.ly/VAqTdo
I will upgrade
but don't
want a
I will upgrade
first then
consider a
I will never
upgrade to
Windows 8!
Like our page at
JAN 2013
a part-by-part guide to building a better pc
Sponsored by
Fractal Design Define R4
Corsair HX650
Asus P8Z77-V
NZXT Phantom 410
Corsair HX750
Asus Sabertooth X79
Intel i7-3820 @4.7GHz
NZXT Havik 140
Intel Core i5-3570K
Cooler Master Hyper
212 Evo
Asus GTX 660 DirectCU II
MSI GeForce GTX 670
8GB Patriot Gamer
16GB Corsair Vengeance
Optical Drive
256GB Samsung 840
Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 3TB
Windows 7 Professional
Optical Drive
Samsung SH-222BB
128GB Samsung 830
Hard Drive
1TB Seagate Barracuda
Windows 7 Home
Premium 64-bit
Approximate Price: $1,148
surprisingly, went up this month, so we had to downgrade
some components to make ends meet, and the result was a net
drop of about $200 for this build. We started with the Gigabyte
ZX77X-UP5TH mobo, which had gone up $50, so it was traded
for an Asus P8Z77-V, which is the best Z77 board for $190, hands
down. We also downgraded slightly from a GTX 660 Ti to a standard GTX 660 DirectCU II from Asus since it’s totally decent for
1080p gaming and saves us $70. Finally, we went from 3TB of secondary storage to 1TB, as that saved us another $100.
Approximate Price: $1,831
THIS MONTH, we stared long and hard at the parts in our Performance build, and after much price-checking and internal discussion, we couldn’t bring ourselves to swap any of the components,
as they are the best parts available if you have a realistic budget. Since there haven’t been any big changes in the CPU/mobo/
RAM world lately, we examined storage and cooling and found our
choices solid. We still love the Havik 140 for air cooling, and the
Samsung 840 Series SSD is hella fast, and less expensive than its
830 Series predecessor. The 3TB Barracuda hard drive is still the
absolute best-bang-for-the-buck deal, as well. Finally, the longer
legs of LGA2011 gives the quad 3820 part our nod over the 3770K.
JAN 2013
we’re surrounded by gnarly PCs on a
daily basis, we still get a bit tingly thinking about
building a PC like Big Daddy Ultra here. The specs
are awesome, for sure, but it’s the towering Cosmos
II chassis that lets everyone in its vicinity know they
are in the presence of greatness. This system kicks
so much ass, and there’s so little competition in the
rarefied air in which it exists, that it’s likely we won’t
see any major changes to this build for a while. One
likely change is the CPU cooler, which is currently
the Corsair H100. The company just released the
H100i model, which includes software control over
the fans and pump, but until we review it we can’t
make an official swap. We could swap the PSU for a
Corsair A X1200i, but why? The Thermaltake Toughpower is behaving perfectly for the time being. We’ll
probably be rocking the GeForce GTX 690 for quite a
while, too, as AMD has yet to officially drop a dualGPU board. We did make one change this month,
though; we swapped the Samsung 840 Pro 256GB
SSD for the Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB, as that SSD
is the pinnacle of speed and capacity at the moment.
Plus we felt that an Ultra rig’s boot drive should
be bigger than 256GB. We are currently testing the
500GB Samsung 840 SSD, though, so we’ll see if it
becomes our new OS drive soon.
For our complete Best of the Best list of recommended
components, visit www.maximumpc.com/best-of-the-best.
Cooler Master Cosmos II
Thermaltake Toughpower
Grand 1050W
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
Intel Core i7-3930K
Corsair H100
Asus GTX 690
16GB Corsair Vengeance
Optical Drive
Lite-On BD-R burner
Corsair Neutron GTX
Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 3TB
Windows 7 Professional
Approximate Price: $3,440
MAXIMUM PC (ISSN 1522-4279) is published 13 times a year, monthly
plus Holiday issue following December issue, by Future US, Inc., 4000
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Kick-ass peripherals for
your new rig
JAN 2013
Asus PA238Q
$275, www.asus.com
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
$35, www.coolermaster.com
Asus RT-N66U Dark Knight
$160, www.asus.com
Corsair K90 Mechanical
Gaming Keyboard
$110, www.corsair.com
price includes postage and GST (GST #R128220688). PMA #40612608.
Subscriptions do not include newsstand specials. POSTMASTER:
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