Well the turkey has not yet passed through our digestive tract and already the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. With this in mind I thought we would take some time and talk about a few of the typical gift giving ideas over the next few entries and see how to maximize our return.
Lets begin with MP3 players. While they are now old hat to the consumer they continue to be a big seller and despite having been around for a while there are still people buying their first one. The marketing likely has you ready to run out and snag the latest iPod, I encourage you to NOT. The iPod is designed to be a proprietary product that locks you into the iTune software and basically holds you and your music hostage unless you pay homage and cash to the Apple God.
A good generic MP3 player will typically easily suit your needs and at the same time offer more freedom and cost less money. Sandisk typically offers the best value but other brands produces solid devices. The urge is to buy the biggest you can get and make sure it has a screen on it, not sure why however. I have never understood who wants to watch video on a small screen like that. The image quality sucks and is to small to enjoy.
As for size take a moment and lets talk about what you are getting. Using the method Western Digital uses to figure how many songs will fit on their HDs we find that the industry tells us that the average song is 4 meg in size. Now the standard MP3 method of music ripping is at 128kbps. This fits the model we used as this makes a typical song come in at about 4 meg in size.
With this information in mind lets look at the 2 Gig, sub $50 MP3 player. 2 Gigs of storage will, using the method above, allow for close to 200 songs. Now if we assume an average of 3 minutes per song, this means we can store 600 minutes, or 10 hours of music on one of these. How many people do you know that will listen to more than 10 hours of music in a single go round? Why just a single setting? Because the MP3 player is EASY to swap out music on. Using Windows Media Player you can create custom play lists and swap them out in just a few minutes.
This however gets more impressive if you convert your music to WMA, a format BTW that generic MP3 players support. WMA allows for the same sound quality of an MP3 at tighter compression, in this case you can reduce the 128Kbps to 96Kbps. This allows you to This allows our little MP3 player to fit another 45 songs or about 2 hours of music.
The fun does not stop there, Windows Media Player will allow you to modify compression on the fly. This means we can drop the files from 96Kbps to 64 Kbps when we use the MP3 player. This allows us to use a higher sound quality format when listening with our home system and a lower on the MP3 player. This reduction means we can now fit closer to 20 hours of music on our little sub $50 MP3 player.
I can already hear the audiophiles crying, how can you reduce the sound quality by changing the bit rate, this is awful.terrible. Well it would be an issue if we did not take something into account. You see on my home system I have a set of Klipsch 2.1 speakers hooked into a high end sound card to produce amazing sound. On a typical MP3 player, including an iPod, I am hooking into a tinny little amp that produces sound like a small AM radio and then listening on ear buds, not exactly a perfect speaker for sound reproduction.
Using the method I described the sound quality you will get is the same as a near perfect FM radio single, or about what you would listen to in a car. I have tested various compression levels with unwitting souls, even mixing up the compression levels between songs on the same MP3 player and have yet to have anyone notice the difference.
Now I am not saying the iPod is a bad product, I am saying it removes freedom of choice. The software is a pain to work with as NUMEROUS of my customers will attest to. In fact I have only met one person who has an Ipod in the last two years that has not regretted buying it instead of a generic MP3 player. That person however uses the iPod Touch they have for MUCH more than music and music is what we are talking about here.
Early this year I picked up for Lisa a cheap, $20 MP3 player with 2 Gigs of music. She uses it often and without using the compression techniques I have mentioned she still puts on enough music to easily fill her needs. Oh sure she changes the music about once a month but that takes her about 4 minutes at the computer and is a ton easier than trying to navigate the tiny controls on all MP3 players.
With the low price of MP3 players and the small size they are right now great stocking stuffers for the season. While it might not be an iPod, just load it with their favorite music and tghey will not care once they start using it.
This time of year we should all take some time out and give thanks for the blessings we have received. While I could make this blog entry a post about everything in my life I am grateful for, man that would be a long post, instead I thought we would keep our technology focus and talk about what this year has brought.
First we should be thankful that this year saw the real offering of broad ranges of computing choices to the general public. Now sure a lot of this technology has been around for a bit but this year saw the fullness of these options come to fruit. What am I referring to? A user can literally choose a device that can the computing they need from a variety of form factors and options. Cell phones and hand held devices that can keep our calendars, access our home PCs on the road and even let us play games. Netbooks that offer low cost computers for those that do nothing but the web and some word processing. Notebook PCs that offer the portability a person needs with enough horse power to let them have open computing options. All in one PC designs that are built into a monitor, even with touch screen to let the family have a PC in a space that would not normally have room and of course we have our full blow home computer.
This year could also be called the year the home network grew up. We have seen Windows Home Server come into it’s own, an increase in options for NAT drives and even routers that have the ability to hook in USB drives for network access. We have seen an increase in availability and reduction in cost of network enabled printers that are easy to hook up. Speaking of Easy to hook up Windows Vista and even more so Windows 7 have made setting up a home network easier.
You cannot look back over the last year and not acknowledge the fact that budget computing nirvana has arrived. AMDs shift of focus to the platform has begun to pay off with low cost processors such as the Athlon II line. This line of processors when ties to the new low cost higher powered video cards means the computer uses normally left to only people willing to drop a few hundred extra are now available to the masses at reasonable and even attainable prices.
Finally I am thankful to see the computer gaming industry come into it’s own again. For the last few years computer gamers have felt like step children to the console gamers, we would get ports that did not take advantage of the power and flexibility of the PC or our games would be dumbed down to attracted the twitch gamer mentality. Now we had a few good titles come out this year but two titles really stepped up to show us some of the quality we should be expecting from PC gaming, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Dragon Age: Origin. Both of these games are available on the console as well as the PC but the PC version is obviously designed specifically for the PC. Additionally neither game is dumbed down. Bother offer a great deal of depth of play and are high quality productions. Either is a worthy production for the title of game of the year.
On the whole this has been a great year for the computer and home users. Ease of use and the availability of great products has made the invasion of the PC into the home move to new levels. Our prayer then is a thank you for what we have received this year and a hope that we see even more next year.
Now go, turn off the computer, turn on some football and sit with the family. enjoy the time you have together this holiday and know that your computer will be waiting for you when you get back.
From my family to all of yours, our best wishes and prayers for a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I spend a lot of time talking about hardware but in the end hardware is not what the computing experience is about. Hardware is a tool, a mean to an end, the software is what we are really wanting our computer to do. Looking at most enthusiast web sites this fact might seem incorrect. They focus uber heavy on the hardware and the individual components for creating a computer but a computer with out software is well basically a big power sucking brick.
Now for some the computer is a tool used for business, for others it is a way to stay in touched with loved ones that are far away. Some use it for entertainment such as music and movies and some even take the entertainment farther and play games. I am one of the later. While my mother was badgering all those years ago about how playing games on computers would never take me anywhere, I was learning all I could about the PC. Computer gaming was my entry, and it is still my passion today.
Now computer gaming is not simple all in one descriptive of a group of computer users, gamers come in all shapes and sizes as well as genre. We have our basic casual gamer, usually defined as someone that plays very simplistic games and then only on rare slow moments. The casual gamer does not need the latest and greatest in hardware and can in fact often run on very light machines. One of the newest trends for the casual gamer is the social gamer. These are people that play the various small online games at the social websites. These games can be played for free, though they do offer micro transaction options to add to the game, and can be played anywhere there is internet access. With this in mind the netbook has found a solid home in the gaming world.
As we move up the gaming food chain we find it becomes less about the level of gaming and more about the genre. Computer gaming can be effectively broken down into some very specific groups based upon the interests of the gamer.
You have your FPS or First Person Shooter, these are games such as the Battlefield series, Farcry and Crysis. These games revolve around finding a gun and blowing someone away. Now I know this sounds simplistic but the truth is that most of these games are fairly simplistic from a game design view point. While a few have broke the mold and had deep and well done plotlines, most throw together a quick story full of generic plot elements, slap a coat of paint on it and throw it on the market. The ability to get the big gun and kill things fast is the real draw. From a hardware point of view these games are usually very graphics intense so while a decent processor is needed these games are really more about the video card.
Next we come to the Turn Based Strategy Games. These games tend to be a bit slower in play style but a ton deeper as they require long and thought out strategies. These games are basically chess on steroids. While Civilization is the classic game of this genre others have come to light over the years with some twists on the play style. The Hearts of Iron series is at it’s heart a turn based strategy game but with a real time element as well. These games spend less time worried about the graphics and more time worrying about the deep world mechanics.
Many years ago a company called Westwood decided that they could make those strategy games more fun it they moved faster and so they developed Dune 2, the father of the RTS or Real Time Strategy Game genre. Now the first thing you should know is the name is not accurate, RTS gaming is usually more tactical than strategic but that does not make it any less fun. In RTS games you must gather resources to build units and beat your opponent. Over the years every conceivable concept for RTS play has been done, from medieval to space combat, you name it there is an RTS. This genre however has evolved to include some games that break the classic RTS mold. Games like Company of Heroes and World In Conflict are played at a squad level of combat without the resource gathering. The game DemiGod breaks the classic RTS mode by adding elements of RPG play (more on that in a bit) to its style. RTS gaming is likely the most demanding on hardware of all gaming as it typically requires a good graphics card but needs CPU power for all the things going on the game at one time.
Now we come to RPGs, Role Playing Games. These are effectively interactive story telling. The game developer has a story they want to tell and the players walk through the story and become part of it. Well at least that is what we all hope for. Over the years RPGs have devolved to simpler play styles reflected more in FPS play than traditional RPGs. This in fact has led to a sub genre known as the action RPG. RPG gaming is typically the middle ware of the hardware needs of gaming. A decent gaming video card with a mid range processor will provide easily a great RPG experience.
Now we come to the white elephant in the room, the MMO. MMO stands for Massive Multi-player Online. These games where originally an extension of the RPG genre but have since grown into their own game style. MMO games are huge online worlds where players can explore and craft, basically become what they want within the confines of the fiction the MMO has set. Some such as Lord of the Rings Online try to keep players focused on a storyline like a traditional RPG while others like EVE are sandbox in design, players do what they want. MMOs are usually not super hard on hardware but not light either, typically around the same area as the RPG.
Now there are other genre but most of them have left the PC and moved to the gaming console, most notably the sports genre. Some genre have all but died over the years with the simulation genre, flight sims and such, being a nitch market product now.
With Christmas shopping season here I felt this post would be useful to the moms and dads or even wives or husbands buying for a gamer but not quite getting it. Below you will find a list of some of the games you might want to check out in each genre if your gamer does not already have them.
The key point however I want to make is at the end of the day the hardware does not matter. We can have the biggest and baddest CPU with 3 video cards and 16 gigs of RAM on a system with a RAID 0 of SSD drives and if we do not have something we want to do with the computer it is meaningless. So spend less time worrying about what is in your computer, and more time what you are doing with it.
While I am not a huge fan of this genre I really have enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game has a great storyline and is not your typical FPS game. If you have an nVidia based video card, preferably a GTS 250 or higher, this game is a MUST buy. This game is designed with PhysX in mind and show cases the features nicely.
Turn Based Strategy:
While it is not your typical turn based strategy I suggest checking out Hearts of Iron III. This is a simulation of WW2 with you at the head of any country in the world. I have played as Greece and reformed the Greek Empire. Okay maybe not an Empire but I nailed the Turks. I have taken control of Japan and never attacked the US or allied with Germany. I was able to build a pretty solid Pacific empire. This game is not for people that want a fast easy to play game. The game is slow paced and requires a lot of thought and planning. However if you are a WW2 buff or love an intellectual challenge this game is for you.
While it sit on pins and needles waiting for Supreme Commander II I am torn between a few games. Sins of a Solar Empire is kind of a mix between an RTS and a turn based game. It has some deep tactical options and is a blast to play but is a bit slow at times. World in Conflict is an amazing game and it you liked the movie Red Dawn you will love this game. However the action can be very fast and hard to keep up with. Supreme Commander is the largest RTS available right now, this game is HUGE! However the design is well done and the action can become pretty intense. My current favorite however is Demigod. While this game gets pegged at the RTS genre it is a bit more than that. The game play is fast and you advance your primary character throughout play sort of like an RPG. Demigod is fun solo but at it’s best when playing a friend.
Role Playing Games:
This is a genre that has suffered from a lack of development over the years. There are classics like the Baldur’s Gate series or Neverwinter Nights. Oblivion made it’s mark blending some FPS feel into a massive RPG. The Witcher held the RPG crown for a time and is still one of the best RPGs ever made. However the release by Bioware of Dragon Age: Origin has seen the return of the classic style RPG. I would say Dragon Age is not just the RPG of the year but the game of the year. It has great depth of play, a fantastic storyline and the game changes enough with each replay that it will not grow stale any time soon.
Well my preferences in MMO play are well know to my listeners. At the top of my list is EVE Online. The sandbox design and open play choices make this a great game that has no end in sight. CCP is arguably the best developer in the industry and their efforts show in this game. Not sure you want to pay a monthly fee for a game, then check out Dungeon and Dragons Online. DDO is made by Turbine, the same people that make Lord of the Rings Online. They have taken the classic pen and paper RPG and put it in online play. The game is free to play with the option of using micro transactions to open up more of the game.
No matter what your playing style there is a game out there. Do not get lost in the hardware rat race and forget that using the computer is the real goal. Gaming is just another use of that hardware, one that can stretch your imagination and taking you places you have never been.
Everyone that knows me will testify that I am an Antec fanboy. While I am not actually a fanboy I am a fan and have a preference for the clean simple look of Antec cases. However Thermaltake has sought to challenge my predisposition and has sent me the Thermaltake Element G.
The Element series is a line of cases from Thermal take that offer various design features and pricing options for the DIYer to find a case that best fits his budget and needs. The G series is the upper end case of this line with only the V series above it. The line is fleshed out with the T series for the budget oriented, the S series for quieter operation and the Q series for home theater systems. The series all carry some basic design features and a similar basic look.
The front view of the case shows the three 5 1/4” openings for optical drives as well as the large grill area that houses a 200 mm intake fan as well as the intake filter. The filter is EASY to access by an old school removable front panel. At the bottom of the panel is a pull arm that allows the entire front panel to come off with a gentle tug.
The panel removed you have access to the front 200 mm fan and on the back of the panel you can see the foam filter. The filter is NOT removable however the easy access to the entire front panel makes up for this so it is actually pretty easy to clean.
The covers for the optical drive bays are easy to remove with a convenient handle system and they are also fully open and filters to allow more air flow.
At the top of the front panel we have our typical power and reset as well as the common headset and mic jacks. Thermaltake however put a second set of USB ports at the front to make it easier to add more devices. The large knob is not just there for attention it is a dual feature controller. The knob works the speed of the three stock fans. This allows you to easily adjust the noise level vs.. the cooling level you need. All three fans are controlled at once making this a very nice feature. But wait there is more, pressing the knob down causes the fan lighting to change. This allows for 6 different lighting options. You have three colors to choose from, Blue, Red and Green. You also have two strobe effects to choose from, a chase strobe and a entire fan strobe, then of course you have the no light option.
Looking at the top you can see the 200 mm exhaust fan. This fan is controlled by the light and speed knob. The depressed area made me think of the tray area at the front of some cases. I would not suggest it for this use here. The fan intake is flush with this area meaning things could easily get into the fan.
A look at the side reveals the third large fan, this one a 230mm fan, also controlled for light and speed by the control knob. Unlike the front intake this fan is not filtered so there is a need to keep track of dust build up in the case a bit more closely.
While most side fans are a pain to use due to the power cable when removing the side panel, Thermaltake has come up with a neat system to fix that. The side panel has a contact point with the main case that the fan uses for it’s power and control signals. This means no mess of cable when you open the side. This is a really neat idea however I am reserving final judgment for a few months so I can see how this holds up to repeated opening of the case side panel.
The back of the case is pretty standard fair with the power supply being bottom mounted and the exhaust duties being given to a 140 mm fan. So for those that have lost count, that is a 200mm and 230 mm fan for intake and a 140mm and a 200 mm for exhaust. That is some pretty serious air flow.
Which makes me wonder why Thermaltake would think you need more. The case sports two mounting points for 60mm fans at the back of the case. With the stock air flow being so high, 2x 60 mm fans does not seem like it would add enough to be worth the trouble. Especially when you realize that the stock cooling is pretty quiet and adding 2×60 mm fans it would likely pick up a lot of noise to make those fans have enough air flow to matter. There is also an options for water cooling but with this much air flow you should not need it.
Opening up the case we find a wide open case with easy to use features. The case offers behind the tray cable mounting, open back area for easy CPU cooler swapping a super easy to use HD mounting area as well as the ability to mount a 2.5” SSD without needing an adapter kit.
I am not usually a fan of the perpendicular mounting of HDs, to often the mounting system causes air flow restrictions from the intake fan. However Thermaltake did a great job of opening up the mounting system and making sure that 200 mm monster at the front was not restricted.
The actual HD mounting system is super easy to use taking it’s cues from some of the old Dell designs. You put 4 screws into the HD and then slide it is. Hold up a small plastic lever to slide it out. The SSD mount it on the separator above the PSU but is easy to access thanks to the separator being removable. The case itself is roomy for being a mid tower and I had no trouble mounting a full size motherboard or a large video card into the system.
The case is a real joy to build in. The construction is solid and it is full of neat features geared toward the DIY market. Looking at this case it is easy to see why Thermaltake is at the top of the DIY game. This case offers amazing cooling and is VERY quiet at low speeds, in fact it is only marginally louder at high speeds. As I have mentioned the behind the tray cable routing is easy to access and during my build with this case I never felt like I was cramming stuff out of the way, the feel is very open.
While this is a great case it is not without it’s flaws. I am on record in so many places as hating foam filters. They tear easy and doe break down over cleanings. The fact that the filer is not removable means it cannot be easily replaced when it breaks down. Also cleaning the filter if you use the wet clean method means the entire front panel is off while it dries. The large fans and the uber neat mounting system are great at purchase but you have to wonder about replacing the fans when they die. The case comes with optional mounts to replace the front 200 mm fan with dual 120 mm fans but what about the 230 and top 200? Not to mention the fancy cabling system used to tie them all together.
This is not a big consideration for some but many DIYers buy more expensive cases and keep them through two, three or more generations of builds. I am hoping to get a reply and comment from Thermaltake on this.
Despite these flaws I love this case. The airflow is outstanding letting it rival an Antec Twelve Hundred for pure air movement. All this air and quiet operation, what more could someone ask for, how about bling that fits your mood. I know the lighting system is a gimmick but it is a gimmick that works. The ability to customize the lighting for each person is very nice and the ability to EASILY change it on the fly is even nicer.
The Thermaltake Element G has the G distinction to mean gamer. The case is marketed for the great air flow and open design to make it easy to build a great gaming machine in the case and it does this in spades. However I think Thermaltake should remarket the case as the Element F, for FUN! While many cases on the market offer wild lighting options, none I have seen make it so easy to enjoy, add to this great build features and you have a FUN case for the DIYer.
If you are building a new computer add the Thermaltake Element G to the top of your short list of cases. Now excuse my while I change the light to strobe effect and crank up some classic rock!
The Christmas Give-Away being done in partnership with Hitechlegion is in full swing. Last week we gave away a Thermaltake BlackX Duet, Element G Case and a Noctua NH-D14 Premium Cooler to three lucky winners. This Saturday 6 more lucky winners will be receiving prizes from Antec and Otterbox, and there is more to come until December 20th when we will have our grand prize drawing.
To play is easy, sign up for the Hitechlegion forums and listen to the Computer Ed show live, link is here at the blog or the Hitechlegion site, on WJPF at 1:00 PM CST on Sunday. In the interview we will reveal what the prizes for the week are. Send in an email entry as outlined in the contest rules with your username and what the prize is. That’s it you are entered to win that week.
Want to increase the odds of winning? For every 5 forums posts each contestant will get an additional entry into the drawing. Posts do have to reach a content minimum level. The post must be more than a simple look I am here or a goof off answer. The idea here is to get participation in the forum and our web community.
If you are at a lose of what to post we have a number of fun threads running that would be easy for anyone to reply to. Have a question of thought about computers, start your own thread. Or maybe you have seen an entry here at my blog, go to the Hitechlegion forum and start a discussion.
This Sunday we will be bringing you AMD and Ultra as our guests on Computer Ed. Be sure to tune in live or check out the download of the interviews at Hitechlegion to find out what prizes will be offered.
I had a listener ask me a few weeks ago why it seems I am always writing about AMD and never about Intel. The reason quite simply is from a news stand point Intel is boring. They have not done anything new since the i5. AMD on the other hand told me once they where about choices and with each new release they keep that promise.
Most recently AMD released Athlon II processors based on the X2 design with more energy efficiency and the new X3 design. For me the exicitng part here was the X3 release. The X3 processor sits squarely between the Athlon II X2 and X4 in price point and delivers a solid platform from which to build a budget system.
The Athlon II X3 offers better raw speed than an X4 due to higher clock speeds, 2.9 Ghz in the model I tested, the Athlon II X3 435 when compared to the closests priced Athlon II X4, the 620 at 2.6 Ghz. The X4 comes in at $99 while the X3 comes in at $89.
The X3 offers advantages over the X2 processors in heavy multitasking and a higher raw clock than the X4 all while staying at a nice middle of the road low end price point. Like other Athlon II designs this is an AM3 capable chip, lacks L3 cache and is not a Black Edition. What does this mean for consumers?
Well I took the Athlon II X3 for a spin and compared the numbers to a Phenom II X3 720. The 720 is a Black Edition and has L3 cache so I pushed the speed of the 720 from 2.8 to 2.9 to see how much difference the L3 was going to make. I mated the system with a Gigabyte 770 based AM3 board and a Radeon 4850 for video. This is a solid budget gaming build with these three major components coming in at around $275. Add in RAM, HD and Optical drive and you have a great DIY budget gaming system for under $500 that will perform well on a 22” monitor.
In subjective comparisons the Athlon II and the Phenom II where a dead heat. The two systems both delivered a great computing experience with games running at high detail when put at 1440 and a good detail levels at 1680. Benchmarking came back with the Phenom taking the lead in processor intensive applications by about 10%, this was due to the L3 cache. Less intense applications saw the number closer to 5%. This speed boost comes at a $30 premium however, which equates to 33% when comparing the price.
With the release of the Athlon II X3 AMD has consolidated the Athlon II line and put a strangle hold on it dominance of the CPU market in the $150 and down price point. If you are a DIYer and looking to keep your system price under control, in this economy who isn’t, then the Althon II line fits the bill.
Despite these not being Black Edition processors they do support some levels of overclocking however I would ask why. The processors at stock speed deliver outstanding performance for the money and even a demanding gaming will be hard pressed to notice a real difference in his gaming experience over processors cost $200 and up. There are exceptions but as a general rule we just do not need the extra power brought by the more expensive processors to get a great experience with our PC. Software is not even close to keeping up with hardware at this time. The Athlon II X3 is a great option for the budget builder. Better raw speed in most games than the X4 and better multitasking than the X2 with a solid price point right in between.
The Athlon II X2 however is not dead, the new energy efficient designs show the line is getting tweaked as production moves forward. The new chips boats a 45 watt TDP, this means they sip juice and generate a lot less heat. How much less? Well for grins I wanted to find out so I took the fan off my Xigmatek 1283 heatsink and fired up the computer. The system was in an Antec Three Hundred case so I did have a more passive air flow over the heatsink thanks to the chimney fan and good intake from two 120mm fans in the front. The result was 10 minute run of OCCT and the processor stayed around 60c with the full load. While this is a lot hotter than I like it does show that with a good heatsink the X2e designs can run passive.
The Athlon II line was not the only processors from AMD to get a refresh. The Phenom II X4 965 got a nice refresh with it’s TDP lowered to 125 watts and some hardware tweaking. The C1E implementation is now in hardware resulting in faster power mode shifting, also the memory controller was beefed up allowing for easier use of 4 RAM sticks at 1333 speeds. The lowering of the TDP means less juice but also less heat. The new model compared to the 140 watt model ran a full 5c cooler under load on my main system. The lower TDP also has the nice benefit of allowing better overclocking. A full 200+ MHz gain at the top end has been seen across the board at the various sites that promote overclocking.
With all of this came a price cut, dropping the cost down from $230 to around $195. This price cut was needed to stay competitive but it still not deep enough. While this puts the 965 into a direct fight from price point with an i5 it still does not win. The cost for the platform on the 965 is a bit lower than on the i5 but not drastically. The i5 wins on raw power compared to the 965. The good news is from a subjective point of view there is no difference. Both deliver an outstanding computing experience. The changes to the 965 does make it an attractive option again but still not a clear win.
During all of this the AMD marketing department started a new campaign, Vision. The idea is to take the hardware of the PC, in the current program laptops, and take it out of the equation by instead telling the user what the PC can do. This means the user walks into a store knowing what he wants to do with his PC and then picks the level of vision that suites his needs.
Now on the surface this sounds like a great idea but as I have found in my investigation it is again another example of the “Laurel and Hardy” tactics that has become known as AMD marketing. The key to Visions success is to make sure the sales people understand the program so they can direct buyers to it. To this end I was told by AMD marketing people that a pocket cheat card was being given to sales people across the country. This sounded like a great idea so I asked for one. Well we are 2 weeks plus past the launch of Vision and over a month since my first briefing on it and yet still no card for me.
That’s okay though, I am not in retail sales anymore so it will not have much impact for me to have this card. Well it seems the retail chains have not gotten the card either. In fact secret shopping a number of laptop outlets in the Southern Illinois area I discovered none of the stores had any staff with a clue about what Vision was. In fact there had been no offers of any kind of training, no training materials, not even online briefings.
It gets worse, calls to Paducah, St. Louis and even Chicago area stores for Best Buy and Staples revealed no knowledge or training of the Vision platform. When I asked AMD about this there was no real answer. Some people where surprised to hear this others not, that was truly the sad part.
Vision it seems will bet yet another example in the pretty long line of wasted AMD marketing money that could have been used effectively to raise brand recognition. With the ATI side of AMD on a solid roll with the 5000 series GPUs and the processor side delivering greater value for your dollar with each new refresh, it is a shame that the marketing department cannot wake up.
Instead of selling off their fabrication business AMD should have sold off it’s marketing department, however based on the way it performs I personally would not have given you $100 for the lot of them. While the Vision platform marketing sounds impressive it is obvious the marketing people lacking any vision in implementing it.
Oh by the way it is not just a lack of marketing that makes Vision fail. Looking at three models of Vision laptops I saw something interesting. The ONLY difference between a basic Vision and the Premium model was 100 Mhz on the processor speed. Both models offered web cams, HD video output and standard DVD players. The Ultimate model bumped the processor another 100 Mhz but at least offered an upgrade to the graphics power. Enough that gaming was feasible however there was no video input system for TV recording and still only a standard DVD player.
Using the above guide, direct from AMD it is obvious this is more hype than substance. Even the basic Vision can easily handle Advanced Photo Editing and yet that is only listed on Ultimate? Basic can easily convert CD to MP3 and yet Vision claims you need Premium to do this? A web cam, come on ANY PC can do that…
Not only is Vision a poorly implemented marketing campaign, it is a scam meant to take advantage of the ignorance of the average consumer on computer hardware and software needs.
So what do we learn from this, well the Vision of the AMD marketing department is becoming clear. It is blind to the fact that the sales channels know nothing about their efforts and could really care less about another sticker on the PC. It is deaf to myself and others trying to point out flaws in the campaign and trying to offer ideas to more effectively get the word out and it is dumb in fact that it thinks it can try to pull a scam campaign like this and people like me not cry out.
AMD has a great product line, a real chance to up it’s market share and is being held back, not by Intel and questionable business practices but by an inept marketing team that seems clueless.
Well the flu a memory, not so distant yet but getting there, I return to the grind and am back at work. With Halloween just behind us we see the world gear toward Christmas and it seems this year I will be no different. I am teaming up with Hitechlegion to do a series of interviews and give-aways over the next few weeks for Christmas. With that in mind we turn toward the sales that are up coming and if you should be buying, upgrading or let it all slide.
This week lets focus on the big picture first, the PC as a whole. The decision to buy or upgrade is a hard one for us all as we want to save the money we can and yet we want a certain level of computing experience. With this in mind I am going to give some rules I would work by to making this decision.
- Is the PC over 4 years old? If the answer is yea then I would say the time has come to get a new PC. Now let me be clear I know a lot of people that have older systems and are happy but if you are looking at making this decision you are obviously not one of them. In some way your system is no longer enough and you want more from it.
At 4 years the PC is getting near the point when it will begin to see hardware issues. Failures do eventually occur and the older a system is the more likely the failure. This means even attempts to upgrade the system will likely just stall failures and in many cases not effect them at all one way or another.
With this old of a PC you have skipped a few generations of technology and so a new PC will have a pretty dramatic effect. Upgrading might give a performance boost but nothing in the order of magnitude that a new system will provide.
- Does the PC have a dual core processor? Even if you have a slightly newer system it is possible you could have a single core processor. A dual core processor is two micro processors built onto a single chip. This allows for much better multitasking and is now used effectively in almost any program or game you will buy.
I am amazed at how some of the even sol called newer systems are still using single core processors, even the Celeron has returned, to cut cost. These systems do not offer the real potential that a dual or even triple or quad core processor offers.
Once you use a multi-core processor and start multitasking you will never look back, if you are still using single core it is time to buy a new PC.
- Is the computer slow on the internet but does great with anything else? If this is the case you do not need to look for a new PC or even really need to upgrade it, the issue is your internet.
I get calls all the time telling me that their computer has become really slow the last few days and they are wondering why. When I look at the PC the programs open quick and it performs well but when it hits certain web sites it slows down. The Internet can take the fastest PC and make it seem slow. With more media, ie movies and sound, being added to websites every day the demands on your internet connection will just go up.
If you computer is slow on the internet but okay with everything else upgrade your internet.
Now if you fall outside these criteria then an upgrade may just be what the doctor ordered to get more out of the PC you currently have. Over the next few weeks we will be covering the various upgrades that can be done and how to get the most out of the upgrade and your money. We will also be taking a look at what to do if you are looking to buy a new PC for this holiday season.