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Archive for July, 2006

Intel Pentium D 940 3.2GHz Dual Core Processor Review

Posted by Parth Barot on July 26, 2006

Built on Intel’s 65 nanometer manufacturing process and with two physical processing cores running at 3.2 GHz each, backed up by 2MB of L2 cache, the socket 775 chip certainly makes quite a splash.

It might have taken two years to do it, but Intel has firmly laid the Prescott fiasco behind itself. For those who are not familiar, Intel experienced huge manufacturing problems moving its Pentium 4 Netburst architecture from 130nm to the 90nm manufacturing process the ‘Prescott’ core was built on. An abnormally high voltage leak caused the Prescott core to draw a significant amount of power, and consequently it generated a lot of heat. The prompted Intel to look for a different architecture, and resulted in the cancellation of the ‘Tejas’ core which reportedly output more than 150W.

Fast forward to 2006 and the seas are much calmer for Intel and its 65 nanometer manufacturing process. It’s 65nm fab is up and running smoothly by all accounts and 40nm is even on the horizon. Multiprocessing remains entrenched, and four, eight or even 32 course on a single CPU seem to be projected for the future.

These changes to the way computer processors are used makes a lot of sense if we acknowledge that performance increases via stepped up megahertz clock speeds is no longer a viable option. In the absence of 4GHz to 4.2GHz speed increases, the industry has sought to mitigate CPU improvements by doubling up on processor cores, on one slab of silicon. Multiprocessing in and of itself is not a new idea, high end workstations and servers have long benefited from SMP (Symmetrical Multi Processing) going back to the days of the Cray computer. In recent times Intel first introduced Pentium 4 processors with a technology called Hyperthreading that created two logical cores from one. Then came the first generation of true dual physical core Intel Pentium D processors; a band aid fix by most accounts but none the less a good improvement to the P4. Intel’s latest generation of Pentium D processors are built on the 65 nanometer manufacturing process and include an increased amount L2 Cache which makes them even more competitive.

The Intel Pentium D 940 processor is the latest victim, errr…. component to pass through the PCSTATS test labs. Built on Intel’s 65 nanometer manufacturing process and with two physical processing cores running at 3.2 GHz each, backed up by 2MB of L2 cache, the socket 775 chip certainly makes quite a splash. The Pentium D 840 is more than ever a worthy competitor to AMD’s dual core Athlon64 processors. The Pentium D 940 processor runs on an 800 MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) and uses Intel’s pinless Socket 775 form factor. The retail processor is sold with a Pulse Width Modulation fan based heatsink that runs quietly and very effectively. If you’re an overclocker, there are plenty of after market thermal solutions to consider, like the ECT Prometeia Mach II GT phase change cooler that PCSTATS tested previously that will make reaching stratospheric clock speeds much simpler

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Posted in Hardware Reviews | 4 Comments »

‘Free’ Broadband by Sky

Posted by Parth Barot on July 19, 2006

First there was Sky TV, then Sky Digital, and later the mighty Sky+. Today, Sky is to join the growing ranks of “free” broadband suppliers with the launch of its Sky Broadband service Tuesday.

Three broadband products are being made available when the service launches in August: Sky Broadband Base, Mid and Max. All three products are available to any Sky digital customer covered by Sky’s expanding broadband network. All three ship with wireless routers.

Sky Broadband Base is free to Sky digital customers covered by the Sky Broadband network. It offers download speeds of up to 2Mb and a 2GB monthly usage allowance.

Sky Broadband Mid costs 5 pounds (US$9.14) per month, and offers download speeds of to up 8Mb and 40GB of usage. Sky Broadband Max costs a competitive 10 pounds a month and offers download speeds of up to 16Mb, unlimited downloads and free installation.

Carphone Warehouse started the free-broadband bandwagon rolling earlier in the year with its all-in-one 20.99-pound TalkTalk service. This was followed by others, including mobile-phone operator Orange’s service for 18-month pay-monthly mobile plans of 30 pounds and above. ISP PlusNet also has a range of broadband and free-calls services available from 20.99 pounds, with a one-month tie-in period. This is available to more U.K. customers than the TalkTalk or Orange deals.

Sky Broadband also offers PC users a year’s free subscription to the McAfee Internet Security Suite, worth 49.98 pounds. Mac users receive 12 months of free McAfee Virex protection.

Advance registration for Sky Broadband begins today. Sky will invest around 400 million pounds at the operating profit level over the next three years to develop its broadband business.

Full Story @

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AMD Athlon64 x2-3800+

Posted by Parth Barot on July 18, 2006

nVidia’s releases of the nForce 590 SLI chipset and reference designs have been implemented one way or the other by a number of manufacturers – each of which has added a little bit of his or her own secret sauce to make things more comfoming to the rest of the product line-up, shave off a few pennies here and there or simply “because”. There is, however, Foxconn, who manufactured the original , nVidia-internal reference boards. Reference boards have in the past always stomped the final production versions – in terms of performance and reliability and, often enough, also in terms of overall compatibility. Reason enough to greet reference boards with a bit of skepticism. However, in this case, we have a one-to-one conversion of a reference design into a GTO production – with an unspeakable name, produced by Foxconn and sold at a perfectly acceptable price.

Enter the C51 (as we call it), the way nVidia was meant to be built!

Probably the hottest newcomer in the motherboard scene is Foxconn. Rising up from a pure OEM supplier into the retail business, Foxconn has taken quantum leaps in terms of technology and also in terms of establishing their brand recognition as a first tier manufacturer. Only a few months ago, the logical choices for anybody looking for quality enthusiast boards were pretty much limited to ASUS, DFI and maybe ABIT, pretty much everybody else had found their own niches somewhere else.

The first steps taken by Foxconn were still a bit homey, quality boards, yet lacking most of the features that the overclocker community is interested in like BIOS tweaks of voltages and performance parameters such as timing and frequency settings. A lot of this changed with the first foray into a real high-end domain with the Winfast NFPIK8AA, a true enthusiast board with about any feature that one could possibly hope for.

Nothing comes from nothing but it also goes the other way around, meaning that persistence usually pays off. The track record of deliverance of quality, along with the engineering capabilities at Foxconn were certainly among the decisive features that led to the choice of Foxconn by nVidia for the launch of the nForce5 chipset and the AM2 platform. In short, what Foxconn did was taking the nVidia reference design and running it as a true production board. The twist here is that whenever we reviewed reference designs, they were faster than most of the production boards that followed, courtesy of better components and lower tolerances that allowed more aggressive settings. Essentially what it comes down to in a case like this is that there is a pure-bred board in mass production, something that does not happen every day.

And finally, there is the name: C51XEM2AA is probably the sexiest acronym we have seen in a long while – despite the fact that it is impossible to pronounce it without twisting the tongue.

In most cases we have looked, there is little difference between boards on the same platform, as long as the same chipset is used and even in cases where the same CPU is plugged into different chipsets, the performance differences are often just marginal. In the case of the C51XEM2AA, however, it appears as if we were in for a surprise…

Full Story @

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Powerware 5125 1000VA UPS Review

Posted by Parth Barot on July 18, 2006

While an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) is an often overlooked computer accessory, having one at that moment would have protected a PC from loss of power, and potentially given a user 20-40 minutes to save their work and shut down the programs and desktop computer safely.

While power failures are a rare occurrence in the city, it is not the only thing that can go wrong with the electricity supply from the utility. Utility power travels great distances and goes through many transformers before finally arriving at the socket in your wall; solar flares, sun spots, fallen trees, lightening and equipment failures can all contribute in one way or another to every thing from brownouts, spikes in voltage, unstable frequencies and just generally ‘bad’ power quality.

In the PCstats labs we tend to see the utility power fluctuate during the course of the working day, from 120V through to 127V at the end of the day. In the past we’ve even experienced the building’s transformer blow up… Suffice to say, there was plenty of acrid black smoke after the lights went out that time.

Now I’m sure you can imagine that after a power failure thoughts instantly turn to the topic of UPS backups for more than just key systems. While this used to be an expensive proposition, UPS’ have dropped down in price, and are now very affordable.

This is where the Powerware 5125 1000VA UPS kicks in, running for about $280USD ($370CDN) through online retailers. Powerware are a Raleigh North Carolina based company that specializes in consumer to professional level uninterruptable power supplies, and they support the 5125 UPS with a two-year Limited Warranty and $25,000 computer load protection guarantee. While there are many vendors selling UPS solutions, Powerware tend to differentiate themselves by offering features like network management consoles, replaceable batteries, and scalable power storage options that should payout in the longrun.

The Powerware 5125 is a Line-Interactive 1000VA UPS, and with additional Electronic Battery Modules (EBMs) can increase its overall power capacity to 2200VA or thereabouts should your future requirements increase. The UPS features Powerware’s own advanced battery management console, “buck and double boost” regulation to deliver constant voltage, hot swapable batteries, the ability to power up the UPS without utility power, sequential shut down and load management, network transient protector (surge protection), and the very handy X-slot communications port.

The X-slot is essentially a communications bay that comes standard with a serial cable port to allow you to manage the UPS. That serial cable port can be swapped out for a variety of other devices, including an SNMP/WEB adaptor which we’ll get to momentarily.

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Intel Core 2 Extreme

Posted by Parth Barot on July 18, 2006

Over the past year, the hype machine has been beating the drum for Intel’s new processor architecture. Dubbed Core, the new architecture is a radical shift for a company that was once the chief proponent of ramping up CPU frequency. Core 2, the first desktop product, promises to be faster than the Pentium D series and even faster than the Athlon 64 FX-62. However, those last tests weren’t completely kosher, as the “FX-62” was really an overclocked FX-60 running on DDR400, rather than the DDR2-based FX-62, and they were done under Intel’s supervision.

Even so, it’s been clear from all the leaks, sanctioned testing, and industry scuttlebutt that Core 2 is fast. But does it really perform in a wider array of applications than has been previously leaked or revealed? We’ll answer that question shortly.

Today, Intel finally reveals the details of their Core 2 CPUs, allowing us to present our full independent analysis. We obtained a pair of Core 2 CPUs from Intel: the Core 2 Duo E6700, which runs at 2.66GHz and will cost approximately $530, and the Core 2 Extreme X6800, which clocks at 2.93GHz and is priced at $999. (These are prices for quantities of 1,000.)

Core 2 owes much of its heritage to the Intel’s mobile Pentium M processor line. The first iteration of that architecture, known as Banias, was the creation of Intel’s Israeli design team. But Core 2 isn’t just another iteration of the Pentium M. Instead, it steals a little from the old NetBurst architecture and adds enhancements of its own.

The net result is a processor with a substantially shorter instruction pipeline than NetBurst (Intel’s name for the architecture of the Pentium 4 and Pentium D processors.) In Core 2, substantially more instructions are executed per clock cycle, so even though Core 2 processors run at a lower clock frequency than previous Intel desktop lines, they run applications faster. Core 2 is also more power efficient: Intel’s goals for the mainstream CPU is to maintain 65W, versus the 90W to 95W of the mainstream Pentium Ds or the 130W of the high-end Pentium D 940 or Extreme Edition CPUs.

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Indian-born scientist developing coated DVD’s for 50 terabytes (50000GB)

Posted by Parth Barot on July 13, 2006

Sydney, Jul 8 (ANI): An Indian born scientist in the US is working on developing DVD’s which can be coated with a light -sensitive protein and can store up to 50 terabytes (about 50,000 gigabytes) of data.

Professor V Renugopalakrishnan of the Harvard Medical School in Boston has claimed to have developed a layer of protein made from tiny genetically altered microbe proteins which could store enough data to make computer hard disks almost obsolete.

“What this will do eventually is eliminate the need for hard drive memory completely,” ABC quoted Prof. Renugopalakrishnan, a BSc in Chemistry from Madras University and PhD in biophysics from Columbia/State University of New York, Buffalo, New York as saying.

The light-activated protein is found in the membrane of a salt marsh microbe Halobacterium salinarum and is also known as bacteriorhodopsin (bR). It captures and stores sunlight to convert it to chemical energy. When light shines on bR, it is converted to a series of intermediate molecules each with a unique shape and colour before returning to its ‘ground state’.

Since the intermediates generally only last for hours or days, Prof Renugopalakrishnan and his colleagues modified the DNA that produces bR protein to produce an intermediate that lasts for more than several years. They also engineered the bR protein to make its intermediates more stable at the high temperatures generated by storing terabytes of data.

This, they said, ultimately paved the way for a binary system to store data.

Full story @

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MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E Geforce 7600GT Videocard Review

Posted by Parth Barot on July 12, 2006

The GeForce 7600GT GPU holds a lot of promise but it also has a lot to prove considering how successful its predecessor was.

ATi and nVIDIA videocards of the same generation are pretty much evenly matched, but when it comes to extra features…. nVIDIA gets top honours. The high performance and popularity of the nForce chipsets and the ability to run dual videocards in SLI have given nVidia a big leg up over ATi and its offerings like Crossfire (which has yet to show its face in the PCSTATS labs).

Advances in videocard technology come like there’s no tomorrow, and any GPU that lasts more than eight months is almost unheard of. The GeForce 6600GT has, and was able to reach this feat due to attractive value and performance qualities. In fact from the time the GeForce 6600GT was first introduced, no less than three generations of high end nVIDIA GPUs have passed by.

The GeForce 6600GT is a great GPU, but its age is starting to show. Hence, the new nVidia GeForce 7600GT is hitting the streets. The GeForce 7600GT GPU holds a lot of promise but it also has a lot to prove considering how successful its predecessor was. Will nVIDIA have another blockbuster here, or will the GeForce 7600GT fizzle and burn out? These are the questions we’re wondering, and it will take more than one review to fully answer either of them.

At first glance the MSI Computer NX7600GT-VT2D256E PCI Express videocard is pretty impressive compared to GeForce 6600GT class models. The frame buffer has been increased to 256MB over the original GeForce 6600GT spec of 128MB. While nVIDIA did also release a 256MB version of the 6600GT, this time around the videocard can take advantage of the memory. The MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E videocard also supports two dual link DVI output connectors as well as a whole host of TV output options; everything from component output to traditional S-Video is rolled in.

The Geforce 7600GT series is SLI compatible (note the SLI bridge connector on the top of the videocard), so if you have two and a compatible motherboard you can double up your graphics processing for a little extra speed in the games.

Full Story @ PCStats

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Copy protection hole in Blu-ray and HD DVD movies

Posted by Parth Barot on July 12, 2006

The Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD are new data carriers for high-resolution motion pictures. For fear of piracy, Hollywood had the developers install a cornucopia of copy prevention mechanisms on them. For instance, the film data on the disks are protected by means of the Advanced Access Content System (AACS). Digital output only reaches the monitor via connections encrypted by means of High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). This copy protection chain is designed to ensure that no unencrypted data can be grabbed.

But this security chain has a giant hole. Computer magazine c’t has discovered that the first software players running on Windows XP allow screenshots of the movies to be created in full resolution. To do so, you only need to press the Print key on your keyboard while the movie is running. Such a screenshot function could then be automated to produce copies of HD movies both from Blu-ray Discs and from HD DVDs picture by picture. As c’t calculated, the performance of current PC systems is sufficient for a clean recording using this procedure. Once a pirate has all of the individual pictures, they can be put together to create a complete movie and mixed with the audio track that is grabbed separately.

This copy protection hole affects both Sony’s first Blu-ray PC Vaio VGC-RC 204 and Toshiba’s first HD DVD notebook Qosmio G30. Both of them use special OEM versions of Intervideo’s WinDVD player software.

When asked to comment, Toshiba confirmed the security hole found by c’t, which affects the computers already sold, and announced updates for the player software and graphics card driver. These new software versions should disable the screenshot function.

According to Toshiba, however, the original WinDVD version does not violate the security stipulations in the AACS LA. Toshiba therefore does not expect the first WinDVD version to be blocked by an update of the AACS key. By switching the keys, which would be necessary for new HD DVD movies, the AACS LA could force users to update their software, thus closing the copy protection hole.

Full Story @ Heise Security

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Radeon X1600 Pro Single & Crossfire

Posted by Parth Barot on July 7, 2006

ATI has been working really hard to to stray away from the criticism on Crossfire when they first launched it, and with success. For the X800 series we where some severe limitation in resolution which now are gone, but the most dreadful item of Crossfire all boiled down to a silly y-cable that interconnects the two cards. With a new mainboard generation (RD580) of ATI chipset based solutions, ATI had a trump in their hands, the mainboard can transport huge amounts of data in-between the PCI-Express (PCIe) graphics slots .. and they figured .. instead of using that cable .. why not transfer the compositing data over the PCIe bus and utilize that available bandwidth so we can leave out that Y-cable. So for their low and mid range line of products, you can now easily do Crossfire without that dreaded cable and even better, without a need to buy an expensive “master” card.

And that is good news, today we are turning things around, normally SLI and crossfire solutions are for enthusiast users, but never for the low-budget segment. We will have a look at the HiS X1600 Pro with 128MB memory. Half a year ago this could be called a mid-range product, yet things have changed quickly and these cards offer low-end performance. Dirt cheap is what they are as they are selling for under 100 USD, and that’s including ICEQ cooling. That’s right with ICEQ cooler so we are again looking at a solution from HIS technology today.

It wouldn’t be a HIS product if there’s hasn’t been done something unusual with it, so this Pro version is pre-clocked towards 590/1380 MHz. So basically .. this is the speed of the X1600 XT. Why did HIS do that ? Well .. they always do .. but in this case it’s rather important that they boost some extra performance as the amount of memory on this card is really low at 128 MB.

Why pass a faster product off as a weaker one? The fact is that both X1600 PRO and X1600 XT cards are equipped with 256 MB of memory by default. But HIS manufactures this card with 128 MB of on-board memory. It is fair to call the card X1600 PRO Turbo, an overclocked X1600 PRO. The product took an intermediate position between the X1600 XT and the X1600 PRO 256MB versions. To allow these high clocks the card has been equipped well known IceQ cooler which is manufactured by Arctic Cooling.

Full story @ Guru3D

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Mushkin XP2-6400 2GB Dual Channel Kit

Posted by Parth Barot on July 7, 2006

AM2 has now hit our shores, effectively making DDR-2 the primary memory type for all PC enthusiasts, be they fans of either Intel or AMD. Top of the range X2 and FX chips are able to make full use of DDR2-800, also known as PC2-6400. We recently looked at Mushkin’s XP2-5400 and found it to be the best DDR2 tested here at BSR so far, but today in the labs we have their latest XP2 product, the 6400 variant. Whilst AM2 is fully compatible with PC2-5400, for the highest possible performance users should be looking for 800MHz DDR2 alone.

Most DDR2-800 has to run at quite relaxed timings to remain stable at such a high speed, and is therefore qualified only at 5-5-5 timings. As usual for its low latency XP series, Mushkin has greatly reduced this latency, and the XP2-6400 is qualified for use at timings normally only available on much slower memory; 4-4-3-10. This has been done before on 1GB dual channel kits, but it is a much more impressive feat for a 2 x 1024MB 2GB dual channel kit. As we have already established in a number of reviews, the benefits of 2GB of ram over 1GB is as much as 30% in the most demanding titles like Battlefield 2, FEAR and Oblivion, so this is the new memory capacity of choice for those running ultra-high-end gaming rigs.

Full Story @ ByteSizedReviews

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