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Archive for June, 2006

Crucial Ballistix PC2-5300 DDR2-667 2GB Memory Kit Review

Posted by Parth Barot on June 30, 2006

The memory that we’ll be checking out today is Crucial’s 2GB PC2-5300 Ballistix set of memory. Rated in a dual channel configuration at 667 MHz with default timings of 3-3-3-12.

DDR2 memory is bringing the AMD Athlon64 socket AM2 architecture to new levels of performance, and modules like Crucial’s 1GB Ballistix PC2-5300 RAM is spearheading that change. For enthusiasts who truly push the limits of computer technology, the juggling match between memory timings and memory speed has just gotten a bit more complex…

You see, the issue revolves around the AMD Athlon64’s memory controller and how it calculates the memory operating frequency. To get the memory frequency, you have to divide the CPU frequency with an integer – a whole number like 133, or 200. For Athlon64 processors with an even clock multiplier, there isn’t any problem running DDR-2 memory at DDR2-800 speeds. However Socket AM2 Athlon64 processors that happen to have odd number multipliers will need to do a few more steps.

Here’s a quick example with two different Socket AM2 Athlon64 processors. The socket AM2 AMD Athlon64 FX-62 processor runs memory at DDR2-800 speeds by adapting the following memory frequency formula:

14 (CPU multiplier) x 200 MHz (motherboard clock speed) = 2800 MHz / 7 (memory divider) = 400 MHz

Pretty simple right? Here’s where things start to get complicated. Now take a look at what happens with the socket AM2 AMD Athlon64 X2 5000+ processor, its multiplier is ’13’.

13 (CPU multiplier) x 200 MHz (motherboard clock speed) = 2600 MHz

A value of 2600 MHz cannot be divided by an integer to result in 400 MHz, and a quick bit of math illustrates this: 2600 / 7 = 371 MHz, and 2600 / 6 = 433 MHz. To work around this the system selects the lower of the two frequencies because it is acceptable ro run memory at speeds lower than JEDEC standards, but not higher. This memory anomaly affects all Socket AM2 Athlon64 processors that are usng an odd number multiplier as the system tries to run memory at DDR2-800 speeds. It also affects how the situation plays out with other JEDEC standards like DDR2-400, DDR2-533 and DDR2-667. Now, on with the review!

The memory that we’ll be checking out today is Crucial’s 2GB PC2-5300 Ballistix set of memory. Rated in a dual channel configuration at 667 MHz with default timings of 3-3-3-12, the memory comes with a price tag of $410 CDN ($369 US, £199 GBP) for this kit of two 1024MB modules.

Crucial rates the Ballistix PC2-5300 memory to run with voltages as high as 2.2V, at that setting the memory can get quite hot and the heat spreaders are definitely a nice feature. If you plan to do some major overclocking, it’s best to have abundant airflow inside your PC case.

Crucial has years of excellent customer support and service under its belt, and while it has only recently gotten into the enthusiast market its expertise in dealing with the public is certainly positive. Tech support is easily integrated into Crucial’s website, and the company has a database of memory related issues and solutions that comes in really handy should problems arise.

More @ Here


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Corsair Twin2X2048-8500C5 2GB PC2-8500 Memory Kit Review

Posted by Parth Barot on June 30, 2006

In the two years since DDR-2 memory was released, modules have rocketed from PC2-4200 speeds right through to PC2-8500! The industry has seen DDR-2 RAM more than double its initial operating frequency. For comparison’s sake, it took almost five years for SDRAM and DDR-RAM to double in speed from its introductory modules… PC-66 and PC-1600 respectively.

Up until recently the rapid succession of DDR-2 memory speed increases has been largely overshadowed by the AMD Athlon64 and low latency DDR-RAM. With the socket AM2 AMD Athlon64 processor now firmly relying upon DDR-2 RAM to fill its bandwidth needs, its rising star is assured.

Corsair has introduced a whole slew of memory in the last month; the releases spanned the gamut from low latency DDR2-800 parts to super high speed DIMM’s like the Twin2X2048-8500C5 that PCSTATS is evaluating now. Even though much of the memory has been targeted towards Socket AM2 users, these DDR-2 parts will work equally well with dual core Intel Pentium 4/D processors. The focus has certainly been on supplying appropriate memory for socket AM2 Athlon64 systems, but there is no reason why Intel users should feel left out of the party.

Corsair’s latest Twin2X2048-8500 memory is almost too hot to handle right out of the package…. just look at these specs – default timings are 5-5-5-15, each PC2-8500 module is 1024MB in size, and Corsair guarantees that its memory can run at a blistering 1066 MHz! Yikes! With a retail price of $510 CDN ($455 US, £246) for this 2GB PC2-8500 kit, the Corsair Twin2X2048-8500C5 memory is definitely built for the enthusiast crowd. That said, it’s also among the fastest DDR-2 on the market right now.

The two 1GB Corsair Twin2X2048-8500C5 DDR2 DIMMs are designed to run in a dual channel configuration. Corsair uses an overclocker’s trick to reach the 1066 MHz speed – it increases the default voltage of the memory from 1.8V to 2.2V. That’s quite a jump in power, so we’d recommend you ensure your case cooling is moving a good amount of air through the chassis or these modules may get a little hot.

According to Corsair, the Twin2X2048-8500C5 DIMMs are hand tested and packaged together immediately following testing to ensure compatibility. Corsair has not publicly stated which platform this memory is designed for, but based on our experience it should function just fine on both socket AM2 AMD and Intel DDR-2 platforms.

More @ Here

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Quiet and Cheap: Sapphire’s X1600 XT Ultimate

Posted by Parth Barot on June 30, 2006

It’s easy to get excited about the latest graphics cards that cost over $500 and have the ability to effortlessly push high frame rates even at high resolutions with antialiasing and anisotropic filtering enabled. Not everyone can afford to run out and buy one of those impressive GeForce 7950 GX2 or Radeon X1900 XTX cards, though. For the majority of users, more than $200 is too much to spend for a graphics card.

And for others, performance and price isn’t the primary concern. It’s growing ever more common for enthusiasts to build nearly silent PCs, or quiet home theater PCs meant to sit in the living room, recording and serving up TV shows as quietly as a mouse. Fortunately, despite the ever-rising power chip size and power consumption of modern high-end graphics cards, you can still get good performance and quiet cooling out of the sub-$200 models. In our big 17-card graphics roundup earlier this year, we evaluated one such card in eVGA’s passively cooled GeForce 7600 GS. Passively cooled means no fans, which means totally silent operation.

We were impressed by the price, performance, and silent operation of that card, so it’s the perfect candidate to go head-to-head with Sapphire’s new silent Radeon X1600 XT Ultimate. This new mid-range card from Sapphire has the same specs and performance as all the other X1600 XT cards, only it’s got a large, nearly passive cooler that makes it totally silent, too. Let’s see how it compares—in both value and performance—with the impressive GeForce 7600 GS from eVGA.

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Microsoft’s answer to SourceForge: CodePlex

Posted by Parth Barot on June 28, 2006

Microsoft unveiled an online collaborative software development and source code sharing portal at the Open Source Business Conference in London on June 17. CodePlex, which aims to offer capabilities similar to those provided by SourceForge, already hosts more than 30 collaborative development efforts, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft says CodePlex has logged more than 100,000 visits since it entered its beta phase with 12 initial projects in May of this year.

CodePlex’s functionality is derived from Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server. The site provides source control, issue tracking, discussion forums, and RSS feeds in and out of each project.

“Visual Studio Team Foundation Server enables developers to collaboratively develop, share, discuss, and consume source code, and build software,” Microsoft said.

CodePlex currently lists the following “most popular” projects:
Ajax.NET Professional Starter Kit

Windows Forms Controls

“Atlas” Control Toolkit


MSBuild Extras — Toolkit for .NET 1.1 “MSBee”
Additionally, the following are currently listed as the “most active” CodePlex-hosted projects:
Community Advanced Starter Kit — The Community Advanced Starter Kit, CASKDotNet project version 1.0 is a collaborative development project utilizing advanced features of ASP.NET.

TFS Source Code Version Tree Browser — This project aspires to create a Version Tree Browser for Team Foundation Server allowing for the visual presentation of branches, merges and version information.

SharePoint Forums Web Part — The SharePoint Forums Web Part is a free, open source, single web part that provides a more feature rich discussion board for SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services based sites.

VFPX — A Visual FoxPro Community effort to create open source add-ons for Visual FoxPro 9.0.

“Ascend.NET” Windows Forms Controls — “Ascend.NET” Windows forms controls are a collection of .NET custom controls implemented in C# targeting Visual Studio 2005.

A directory of 48 projects that currently appear to be hosted on CodePlex is available here.

Shared source

“Shared source,” Microsoft’s response to the growing movement toward making software source code available to customers and developers, leans more toward the so-called “business friendly” BSD-style licensing model than the “copy-left” style license of the GPL, under which Linux and many of its associated components are licensed.

Since its introduction some five years ago, Microsoft’s shared source has evolved into a diverse set of licenses that are tailored to a wide range of products and developer constituencies. The company initially released source code on a read-only basis, whereby companies were not permitted to ship products based on modified code to their customers, but has since expanded the flexibility of the program to allow modified code to be redistributed within products, under certain shared licenses. For example, “Premium Licensees” of Windows CE shared source can now create customized versions of the OS to embed in their devices, enabling them to meet unique hardware or performance requirements, or differentiate their products in order to be more competitive.

“CodePlex provides a forum to bring together developers from around the world and gives them tools, source code and an advanced platform for designing and building software,” Jon Rosenberg, director of Community Source Programs at Microsoft, said in a statement. “CodePlex is just one of the ways in which Microsoft is fostering collaborative community innovation. Through the Shared Source Initiative, Microsoft has engaged with over 2 million developers on 120 different programs.”

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Intel takes on rival with new chip

Posted by Parth Barot on June 28, 2006

Intel has launched its opening gambit in a triple-play to win back market share from its biggest rival Advanced Micro Devices, introducing its first chip based on a new architecture in five years.

The world’s largest chipmaker on Monday released its dual-core Xeon Processor 5100 Series, formerly codenamed Woodcrest, which is targeted at the server market where AMD has made the biggest inroads into its business.

Dell, the biggest PC maker, which last month said it would begin buying AMD processors for some of its servers for the first time, announced immediate availability of the new Intel chip in its server range.

Intel is rolling out microprocessors based on its new “Core” architecture over three months. Following Woodcrest, a chip for desktop computers codenamed Conroe will appear in July and a notebook computer chip codenamed Merom is due in August. The designs differ markedly from Intel’s last generation – the Pentium 4, introduced in 2000, followed by its high-end Itanium and Xeon processors in 2001.

They were built for speed, but Intel is now emphasising efficiency, or performance per watt, as the heat generated by chips and the power consumed has made the energy costs of running them more expensive than the actual hardware.

Intel said more than 200 models of servers and workstations from more than 150 manufacturers were planned for the Woodcrest chip. It would deliver a 135 per cent performance improvement and up to a 40 per cent reduction in energy consumption over previous Intel server products, according to the company.

Intel’s server chips have underperformed those of AMD over the past two years and its market share has slipped from 95 per cent to 78 per cent, according to Mercury Research.

But, at a presentation in San Francisco, Intel showed Woodcrest outperforming AMD’s equivalent Opteron processor, completing a task in 23 seconds compared to 30 seconds and using less power.

“IT managers we have spoken to suggest Intel’s platform has ‘caught up’ to AMD’s in higher-end applications,” said Glen Yeung, Citigroup analyst, in a note.

He added he expected a turning point for Intel’s shares as an expected second-quarter earnings miss was offset by the positive news of product launches and the promised restructuring at the company.

Intel shares closed 1.6 per cent higher in New York at $18.28, while AMD shares fell nearly 2 per cent to $24.66.

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IBM offers developers free security tools

Posted by Parth Barot on June 23, 2006

By Dawn Kawamoto

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif–IBM unveiled two free security tools for software developers that are designed to enhance automatic data encryption and to increase security for Java applications.

Big Blue on Thursday said it is adding the tools to AlphaWorks, a 10-year-old online program that offers free software tools, as the company looks to beef up its security offerings.

One of the new tools, AlphaWorks’ IBM Secure Shell Library for Java, automatically encrypts data, including passwords and data in files, as it moves from one computer to another.

IBM also introduced a tool called Security Workbench Development Environment for Java, which is designed to enable developers to configure and validate Java applications that support both Java and the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGI) industry security standards.

Source:@ Here

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Which New DVD Format?

Posted by Parth Barot on June 22, 2006

What about the format war?

Yes, there are two incompatible types of high-definition DVD players: HD-DVD (backed by Toshiba, Microsoft, Sanyo, NEC and movie studios like New Line and Universal) and Blu-ray (backed by Sony, Apple, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Pioneer, Dell and movie studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate and Disney).

Most movies will be available in only one high-def format. Whichever you choose, you won’t be able to play some of your favorite movies on DVD. Isn’t competition fun?

Which format plays movies better?

The two formats offer equally spectacular picture and sensational sound. The image is much sharper than before, and the detail is incredible.

Video buffs notice the difference right away. Most people, however, would notice a difference only if an ordinary DVD and a high-def DVD were playing side-by-side on big screens.

What about features?

Both DVD formats let you summon pop-up, on-screen menus without stopping the movie, so you can switch languages or change scenes without a detour to a main menu. Nice.

Both formats make possible new kinds of DVD extras, like picture-in-picture director commentaries (rather than just audio commentaries). And Blu-ray discs can offer a Scene Search function: a clickable menu of the actors and the scenes in which they appear.

All of this is so far theoretical, however. We here at have sampled 10 early HD-DVD movies and 7 Blu-ray discs — and not one of them offers any of these features. In fact, for the most part, the DVD extras aren’t even in high definition. Clearly, the first order of business for the movie studios was just converting the actual movies to high-def DVD; filling in the blanks can come later.

Which is the best high-definition player?

You mean, of the two available so far?

The new Samsung Blu-ray player costs a cool $1,000 — twice as much as the Toshiba HD-DVD player that arrived last month. (Both players also play standard DVD’s, even “up-converting” them to improve the picture on high-def screens.)

Samsung concedes that $1,000 isn’t exactly pricing for the masses, and stresses that its new machine is intended for well-off early adopters. Which is sort of self-evident, isn’t it? “The target audience for this player is whoever will buy it. … ”

Then again, that $1,000 buys you a number of advantages over the Toshiba; for example, the Samsung is substantially smaller (17 by 12.1 by 3.1 inches). Lighter, too. And absolutely great-looking: the piano-black, pseudo-lacquered finish of the front panel wraps around to form the entire top surface. The front panel glows with cool blue accents.

The Samsung also has memory card slots, so that you can watch your digital camera’s pictures in high definition. They look really amazing that way.

In fact, Samsung must think they look really, really amazing; even in its fastest slide-show mode, each photo lingers on the screen for at least 15 seconds. We love our kids and all, but that’s about 12 seconds longer than necessary.

I heard that the Toshiba takes more than a minute to start playing a DVD. How about the Samsung Blu-ray deck?

Only 30 seconds.

That’s still not as fast as a traditional DVD player, though. And the Samsung introduces several-second pauses here and there — between the studio logo and the menu screen, between the menu and the start of the movie, and so on.

Samsung’s engineers fill these intervals with what may be the world’s worst “please wait” symbol: an hourglass icon, as in Microsoft Windows. It’s our guess that most people would rather be spared the constant reminder that they’ve stuck a glorified PC under their TV sets. What’s next — the Blu-ray Screen of Death?

The hourglass appears almost constantly during those excruciatingly slow photo slide shows. Worse, it appears right smack in the middle of each photo, often on a loved one’s forehead.

Source: @ Here

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Posted by Parth Barot on June 22, 2006


Every year for the past five, I have made an annual pilgrimmage of sorts over the Pacific Ocean to Taipei, Taiwan. For those of you that don’t know, the majority of the products we cover and write about are designed, manufacturered and supported by companies based in Taiwan. Computex is a large expo for these companies and more spread between four main halls and several satellite buildings held every June.

Wandering these halls we meet up with representatives from nearly every company you’ve heard of, and then some, to get the latest news on their upcoming products and anything else that happens to fall in our lap. So far, I have already extensively looked at the notebook market seen at Computex as well as the changes in cases, cooling and power supplies that are due up for this year and next. In this article, I’ll go over what was on display from the motherboard vendors and ask the question “is there anything worth getting excited about?”

Universal Abit

Abit has been struggling in recent years, mainly due to some financial issues that have cropped up. Abit was at Computex this year to tell everyone the troubles were behind them since the buyout and that the Abit name is alive and well, with some great products to back it up.

First on display is the AN9 32X motherboard for the AM2 platform sporting the nForce 590 SLI chipset. The board has an eSATA connection and seven other SATA connections for a lot of connectivity as well as Dolby Digial Live! certification (as does most of the new Abit line of boards).

The Abit AW9D motherboard uses the 975X chipset to support the upcoming Core 2 Duo processors and will be Abit’s high end motherboards for Intel’s new platform. It supports CrossFire with two x8 PCIe connections and 7.1 channel audio as well.

Source: @ Here

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How Motherboards Are Made: A Gigabyte Factory Tour

Posted by Parth Barot on June 22, 2006

Without a doubt, motherboards are the most complex and essential part of the modern PC. Not only do they hold the chipsets that pass data from peripherals, drives and memory to the processor, they also provide slots and ports for all your other system components and the circuits through which all data must pass. Perhaps surprisingly then, motherboards get very little respect in the computing press as compared to other components. They are perpetually the team player and not the star of the show, and are generally priced as such.

With this in mind, it’s surprising to learn the amount of work and machinery involved in manufacturing a single motherboard. We’d vaguely imagined some sort of stamping process where all components are slapped onto the bare board in one step and soldered, before being boxed in a big room full of bored workers. Sure there’d have to be some testing, but how intense could it be?

As PCSTATS recent trip to Gigabyte’s Nan-Ping factory in Taiwan showed us last summer during Computex 2004, there’s a lot more to it. In fact, producing and testing a single motherboard involves a mind-boggling host of automated machines, people and processes; so we’d like to detail the whole assembly line to give you a feel for how things are really made.

Source: @ Here

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eVGA GeForce 7950 GX2: One Card, Double the Fun

Posted by Parth Barot on June 21, 2006

By Jason Cross

It’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since Nvidia first introduced SLI—or should we say, re-introduced it. The idea that you can use two consumer graphics cards in parallel to nearly double graphics performance goes back to the days of 3dfx, where two PCI graphics cards would draw alternate lines in “scan line interleave” mode. The proliferation of AGP graphics pretty much killed that concept, but the flexibility of PCI Express brought it back. As PCIe graphics started to take hold, Nvidia introduced its own SLI—Scalable Link Interface—together with an nForce 4 motherboard chipset that sported two graphics card slots.

And the graphics world would never be the same. SLI was a curiosity in the 3dfx days, but dual graphics configurations now look like a serious point of contention in a market that has narrowed to two industry giants while growing all the more competitive. Systems using two graphics cards in parallel are still not all that common, but the capability is there in millions of PCs across a broad price spectrum. nForce motherboards to support SLI are available at very affordable prices, and you don’t have to pay through the nose to get a board compatible with Crossfire—ATI’s dual-graphics answer to SLI—either.

While ATI has made some good strides with Crossfire, coming late to the dual-graphics game and trying to play catch up, Nvidia has remained one step ahead. It seems like Nvidia always has a new dual-graphics trick up its sleeve, whether it’s cheaper SLI motherboards, cheaper SLI-capable graphics cards, or drivers that enable new features in SLI mode. Their latest trick is maybe their best one yet—SLI on a single graphics card (sort of). The GeForce 7950 GX2 marries two 7900 GT-class GPUs, with two circuit boards, into a single double-wide card. Let’s take a look at the new two-headed monster.

Single Slot SLI

SLI is nifty, but the big problem with it is, well, it’s SLI. It requires an SLI motherboard with an nForce chipset. We tend to like Nvidia’s motherboard chipsets, but it’s still a limiting factor. It requires two graphics cards stuffed into two slots, which doesn’t fit well in every case (particularly small-form-factor cases). Let’s not forget that most medium to high-end graphics cards require a power connector, so you’ll need two of those, and sometimes one heck of a beefy power supply. These problems aren’t unique to SLI, of course. ATI shares these dual-graphics challenges.

What if you could basically sandwich two single-slot graphics cards together into one double-wide card that uses just one slot? Essentially, that is what Nvidia has done with the GeForce 7950 GX2. It’s one graphics card, but has two printed circuit boards (PCBs), each with a G71 graphics processor. That’s the same one in the GeForce 7900 GTX and GT cards, with 24 pixel-shader units and texture-address units, 8 vertex-shader units, and 16 raster operators. You can find out more about the GeForce 7900 architecture in our initial review of those products.

You can think of the 7950 GX2 as two 7900 GT cards banded together, though the comparison isn’t exact. The core clock speed of the eVGA card we’re reviewing here is 500MHz—up from 450MHz in the 7900 GT. The memory is 600MHz (1200MHz effective), down from 660MHz in the standard GT model. That’s about 10% more core clock speed at 10% less memory bandwidth, which means that in some situations it’ll be a little bit slower and in others a little bit faster, than two 7900 GT cards in SLI mode, depending on the application and it’s demands. The two chips talk to each other through a custom 48-lane PCIe “switch” Nvidia has developed, which provides a 16-lane PCIe interface to the graphics slot and 16-lane PCIe to each of the two GPUs

GeForce 7900 GT cards come with 256MB of graphics RAM, while each of the GPUs on the 7950 GX2 are loaded up with 512MB, for a total of 1GB. While the entire card has 1GB of RAM, all the textures would be repeated on each card, so it’s functionally like having a 512MB graphics card, just with twice the memory bandwidth.

Source: Here

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