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Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

The Fuhrer reacts to Fermi – w/video

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Not meaning to take sides or anything, but these two videos are simply hilarious. Thanks to Steve for sending the links…

First the newest one: “Hitler reacts to Nvidia Fermi Benchmarks:”

And here’s the same video with an older caption from the days of the Radeon HD 5000 series launch…

Written by Julio Franco

April 1st, 2010 at 7:55 pm

On the Apple iPad and its real shortcomings

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After reading most comments on our latest Weekend Open Forum I can’t help but feel that many are taking the wrong approach comparing the iPad directly to a netbook or laptop. Apple is trying to squeeze a new category into the market and has yet to prove why we need it. What I do know is that I don’t *need* a full-fledged computer in this form factor — that’s what my laptop is for.

I’m as disappointed as many of you by its hardware shortcomings — there’s no point in listing them again here — but its locked down nature didn’t surprise me at all. Apple likes to have control over what you’re allowed to run on its devices, supposedly to ensure a relatively bug-free experience, and while the more tech-savvy may despise this strategy, to some extent it has been responsible for the success of the iPhone.

Where I really fear the iPad might falter is in having a clear purpose. We’re told it is the best way to experience the web, e-mail, photos, videos and e-books. But I’m not convinced. Laptop and desktop computers, even netbooks are still better for many of those things, while on others the iPad will have to prove itself. Take browsing, for example. It’s ridiculous to call this device the best way to experience the Web when Flash, one of the most ubiquitous and essential web technologies, is not supported.

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Written by Jose Vilches

February 1st, 2010 at 6:14 am

Posted in apple,blog,hardware

An editorial on LCD panel quality and what to look for on your next purchase

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This editorial is an open response to AnandTech’s Desperately Seeking Quality LCDs article published last June 17.

For the last 2+ years there have been two developments in the LCD market that I know I’m not alone in disliking:
(1) Glossy panels, you either love them or hate them – I’m in the latter group.
(2) So-called LCD “post processing”, used on many high-end displays.

Furthermore, the response time race also known as the “ms race” has had a very negative effect on LCD quality. This somewhat relates to the megapixel race seen in point and shoot digital cameras, where marketing went crazy for higher megapixel counts at the cost of reduced performance in low-light conditions.

Dell 2209WA monitor E-IPS panel

It is a commonly known fact that 60hz is what most people will find a LCD pleasing to look at, and this is also close to what our eyes are capable of processing. 60hz is also what 99% of LCDs sold today operate at, with very few exceptions.

One second = 1000ms, thus a refresh rate of 1000ms / 60hz = 16.7ms.

What this means is that at 60hz the screen is redrawn once every 16ms. So why do we see LCD displays continuing to push below 16ms when there is no way for it to render that fast at 60hz? The answer is simple: marketing.
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Written by Per Hansson

July 28th, 2009 at 2:56 am

Geforce 7900GT Screen Corruption in Vista or How to change your GPU clock speeds at the BIOS level

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This is a problem that has existed in Vista from the very beginning, as I found out the hard way after its release in December 2006. If you use any Nvidia Forceware drivers other than version 158.24 you will get screen corruption like in the picture below when changing resolutions.

This situation only applies to factory overclocked 7900GT cards and the solution is to either under/overclock the card slightly.

I’m posting about this today because I had forgot about it until recently when I was reinstalling my brother’s computer, upgrading him from XP to Vista after a nice virus he got on MSN. I preferred to modify the card’s BIOS directly instead of just changing the clocks in software with Rivatuner.

To change the clock speed at the BIOS level download NiBiTor, first saving your current BIOS. If you are having trouble you can use GPU-Z for this instead, which I did.

The change is very straightforward, just change the 2D & 3D clock speeds on the main page and then save the file in .rom format as modded.rom. Obviously make sure that the card is 100% stable at the new speeds and corruption free. For flashing use nvFlash, make a clean MS-DOS boot floppy and copy the nvFlash util and BIOS to it, to flash just boot from it and type “nvflash modded.rom”


Written by Per Hansson

February 8th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Why I wouldn’t buy the new MacBook… and probably you shouldn’t either

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Although I rely on my desktop PC for long work sessions and I stand by the fact no laptop will ever beat a fully equipped desktop (dual monitors, and in general, the works…), there is an obvious need for a laptop whenever I’m on the move.

When my old Thinkpad T needed to retire, I looked into the Vaio TX series, at the time the best 11″ ultra-portable money could buy with its mere 2.9 pounds. That was months before the MacBook Air and other similar ultra-portables arrived to the market. Unfortunately the small size didn’t cut it for me and had to look elsewhere to replace the Thinkpad until I finally decided to get a MacBook Pro. In spite of the fact that I’m a Windows user, I did it with the purpose of checking out the then new Leopard OS X release.

Today the MB Pro remains as my primary laptop. Although I have my gripes about OS X, I have remained more or less content about the hardware which has proved to be of top quality construction, all while running Windows Vista. You have probably heard the stories of how the MB Pro makes for a great Windows laptop anyway, and in my case that has hold true – in fact, I haven’t touched Leopard in months.

And now with the well publicized release of the new MacBooks, I started looking into the possibility of getting a new laptop, but instead of the Pro I was checking the upgraded MacBook which is cheaper, has got many of the Pro’s biggest selling points like the aluminum body, powerful specs, but sports a smaller 13.3-inch screen that is also LED illuminated. Sounds good so far? Until I saw this…

Those images were taken by Gizmodo in their first look at both the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. As you can see, the colors on the standard MacBook get all washed out depending on the viewing angle. Then my disappointment has been further reinforced by the fact that many, many of the outgoing reviews for the MacBook barely touch on this point, just mentioning the use of the glossy display which would be less of an issue if the laptop shipped with a quality LCD panel like its more expensive sibling.

In my experience those screen issues are characteristic of older laptops or current entry level models (any brand). Then again my Thinkpad T42, which admittedly wasn’t entry-level four years ago doesn’t suffer from that issue, and at $1300-1600 for a new MacBook, you can’t call them budget either.

With a strong pro-Apple movement going on around the web and growing Apple laptop sales, the word is that the new MacBook is like a smaller Pro without the discrete graphics. I have to dissent, and now you know why.

Update: I’m glad to see Anandtech’s review of both new Mac laptops give light on my assertions above unlike a majority of reviews I have read so far from so-called experts.

As it turns out, the new MacBook screen is an improvement over the older generation which had an even more lacking viewing angle. Really bad for a laptop at that price point IMO. But if you want a superb quality screen, the MacBook Pro will have to be your choice. As I understand it, the MacBook’s Air screen is not too bad either though I have used them on a very limited basis.

Written by Julio Franco

October 24th, 2008 at 12:16 am

Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP deal, at $699

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I was checking out today’s hottest deals in our deals section and noticed that my current monitor, the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP is selling direct from Dell at a hefty discount. I paid about $1,000 at the beginning of the year and IMHO it’s worth every penny with its large size but not too extreme resolution, so things are not as tiny as in other 24 or 30-inch models.

Here’s the info straight from our deals section:

Dell LCD Display Price Check: UltraSharp 27" falls to $699, more (updated)

In the market for a Dell LCD? Dell Home dropped the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP 27" Widescreen LCD Monitor by $200. It’s down to $699 with free shipping, the lowest total price we’ve ever seen for this display by far. Sales tax is added where applicable.

As for other models, Dell decreased and increased a few prices compared to our roundup a week ago. The other latest prices on Dell’s top LCDs, all with free shipping:

Written by Julio Franco

September 26th, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Video: Lenovo’s parody on the MacBook Air, promotes X300

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Having had my friendly and not so friendly encounters with my MacBook Pro and the bundled OS X operating system, at the end of the day I believe that for a powerful laptop I couldn’t have done much better other than buying another ThinkPad. The last one I got was a T42 and still runs like a charm even after a very embarrassing “wrong-screw-in-the-wrong-hole” moment :).

In the world of expensive ultra-portables though, the MacBook Air and the new ThinkPad X300 are two jewels to be had… check this out before buying though…

Written by Julio Franco

April 30th, 2008 at 12:17 am

The reason I will never buy a Mac desktop

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While browsing around this morning I stumbled upon this bit of news: “Apple released a new graphics upgrade kit today.” For those Mac Pro users out there (that is, the tower desktop system, not the laptop) can now upgrade to a GeForce 8800GT for about x1.5 the actual price of the card, ain’t those wonderful news?

GeForce 8800GT


When Apple released the Early 2008 Mac Pro, they offered the NVIDIA 8800GT as an upgrade option, however due to firmware issues, the 8800GT was not compatible with previous generation Mac Pros — until today.

And here’s a reaction by a Mac Pro owner, taken from Apple’s website:

YES! We all know how good this card is and 1st Gen Mac Pro owners can now use it…

Perhaps you may want to grab an overpriced memory upgrade kit from the manufacturer as well?

Written by Julio Franco

April 17th, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Turn a small home UPS into a giant UPS (video)

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Having a UPS is fairly common these days. However, one gripe I’ve always had and that you might too is the limited capacity you get on them. Even nicer $200+ ones might only give you a few minutes on a powerful PC, and for large capacity you could easily spend $1000 or more. Neither option was good for me. So I decided to make a better one myself.

To start with, I purchased 3 “Ultra” brand UPSs about a year ago. They are completely silent, small, and functional. Cheap, yes, but functional. However, with my machine on one of them, it only lasts around 3 minutes before powering off. This might be enough to shut it down, but if the power is out for only 15 minutes I’d rather just ride it through. Inside the UPS were 2 small sealed lead acid batteries, like you find in most UPS units, 12V each, in series. They are the same type of battery you find in cars, trucks and boats – just smaller. Using that logic, I took some common hardware and rebuilt this UPS. I did a small bit of research to determine the proper wire size given the load. The UPS used is an Ultra 1000VA. (warning, a small bit of profanity is in the video)

The tools involved were simple. I had 20 feet of 10 Gauge wire, two ring terminals and several Male/Female disconnects. I needed wire strippers and wire crimpers for that. The UPS itself only required a screwdriver to take apart. I used a nice Dremel to bore a hole in the plastic, though realistically you could do that with a knife. For the batteries, I purchased battery boxes. It was a simple matter to remove the stock batteries, run and terminate the wire, then put the new batteries in place.

There are downsides to doing it with these batteries. Space, of course, and safety. These are standard lead-acid deep cycle batteries, meaning that they can and do release gas when discharging. For that reason, I have these batteries situated outside. To do this safely indoors, you need a well-ventilated room OR you need to use sealed batteries.

I am going to do this with the other two UPS units, too. Next time, however, several things will change. I am going to use sealed batteries, slightly more expensive but completely safe to use indoors. I will also use shorter cable lengths. I will remove the buzzer inside that makes that awful beep, and I will install a slow 80MM or perhaps 120MM fan inside, quiet but enough to bring some air over the unit in case sustained operation heats it up too much.

All in all, I spent about $300, including the tools, to make a UPS with an ~80AH capacity.

Written by Julio Franco

March 2nd, 2008 at 2:06 am

Incoming: Dell 2707WFP 27″ LCD monitor

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There is no better advice to give than one you follow yourself… That’s what I was thinking when I finally bought a Dell UltraSharp 2707WFP monitor last week to use as my primary monitor and replace my older but still trusty Dell 24″ screen. Back in November I was the one who recommended to include this 27 incher in the holiday gift guide. This is what I wrote:

You can upgrade every single component in your PC but at the end of the day if you are still living with a crappy 19″ monitor or generic input devices, you are simply wasting your money and effort. Now, you may be asking yourselves why a 27-inch monitor and not 30″?

Well, bigger is not always better, and leaving all technicalities aside, many of today’s 27″ monitors are using a 1920×1200 pixels native resolution which is comparable to that of a typical 24″ monitor. The idea is that by upgrading to a 27″ screen you will get bigger text and icons, in the other hand 30″ monitors usually use a higher resolution of 2560×1600 which gives plenty of extra desktop space but makes stuff even tinier, so it’s up to you to decide what you prefer.

I know there is people that don’t have any problems at all with small fonts in large displays (24″ and up), so you may attribute my advice to premature eye problems on my part, though I don’t wear any glasses and last time I checked (a year ago or so?) I had near flawless vision. The thing is, I spend countless hours in front of a computer screen and I definitely think going up in dot pitch (what this 27″ monitor essentially does to keep the same resolution in a larger space) could have a very positive impact to my eye strain in the short and long run.

Add to that the fact that the monitor is currently on sale with $200 off, the $999 price tag is not a bargain but every bit helps. I actually ended up buying it from eBay (new) for $959 which is only slightly less money but it includes shipping and taxes, so that saves around $200 extra.

While on the topic, the latest 30″ monitors like the Gateway XHD3000 and Dell’s own 3008WFP, partially solve this problem by offering a built-in scaler chip. The panels’ native screen resolution is still set at 2560×1600, however these don’t rely anymore on videocard processing which reportedly reduces image noise considerably when not using the native resolution, as well as offers other benefits like no longer requiring dual link DVI. The feature obviously adds up to the price (think $1700+), making it a less attractive option today but a good hint of better things to come nevertheless. In the meantime, I can’t wait to receive my new 27″ monitor later this week and pair it up with my current 24″ for total desktop space that will measure 3840×1200 pixels.

Written by Julio Franco

February 4th, 2008 at 3:50 am

Posted in blog,deals,hardware