The first thing someone needs to know before they buy a PC or look to build one is what they plan to do with their PC. We have covered this to some extent in the past so I am not going to go there today. However in a discussion about parts last week we mentioned a few different kinds of user categories and I thought a clearer definition was in order for people to understand what I mean when I reference certain user groups. What I am going to do here is give what I think is a good title for each category and then a quick definition. I will being doing the categories in percentage of users and start with lowest to highest. Remember these are my personal definitions.
Power User: To me the Power User is the person that truly needs the most computing power they can get. These could be people that are making amateur movies, doing 3D rendering or other projects that push the envelope of a computers power. Now when I am talking about this I am not referring to the people that do this every now and then but people that make a living at this. This represents the smallest group of users out there. This group however needs powerful PCs because of the time it takes to do the work they do. The more powerful PCs actually benefit them a lot despite the cost as it increases their productivity.
Luxury User: The Luxury User is the same mentality that buys Tesla Roadsters or Lamborghinis, they use them to say look at me. In many cases they will present themselves as Power Users but are typically want to be’s so they can justify the the money they spent. They will throw out benchmark scores at the drop of a hat, spend a lot of time in threads describing their rig on forums and never pass up a chance to post a picture of their computer. They are the mid life crisis of the computing world. They are a marginally larger group than the true power users but still a minor percentage point of the overall computing world.
Enthusiast: This term gets abused a lot and in fairness is hard to fit in a true user category. The Enthusiast is someone that is passionate about computing. They like to tinker and tweak, be it light overclocking to modding their computer case. The “true” enthusiast does not typically buy luxury computer items but instead more middle of the road to low end. The reason is he is always trying to find a way to push the envelope of the parts performance and knows at any moment it may die so he would rather not lose a butt load of money for his efforts. While the Enthusiast likes to talk about his rig as much as the Luxury User he tends to do so less about bragging and more like a child that just discovered something new and wants to share. Enthusiasts will talk about benchmarks but usually in reference to the changes within the system they built and never as a why to say mine is better than yours.
Gamer: The computing Gamer actually crosses a lot of categories and can to some extent be found in all of them. The gamer makes use of their PC for a lot of entertainment and needs some decent computing power. While there are gamers that exist within the Luxury community the majority tend to be more value for their buck oriented. They are less concerned with benchmarks than they are with real world game play performance. Most gamers judge the parts they have not by any number generated from an application but by the way the rig they are using plays the games they want to play. While great performance is important to this group so is great value, after all you need to save some of that money to buy more games and snack foods.
Basic User: You would think this would be the largest category and you would be wrong. While larger than the others it is actually a group in decline. These are the users that want to get on the internet and do one or two other basic tasks like word processing or banking. Every year this group falls farther into decline as they discover there is so much more they can do with their PC than they ever imagined.
Family User: This is arguably the biggest group and also the fastest growing. This group has members of the other groups in it to some level. This type of user is looking for the total computing experience for the family but also for a great value as they do it. The usage can range from dealing with light video editing of home movies to just browsing the internet. Gaming at various levels plays a part as does dealing with the family music collections or pictures. This group is versatile and wide spread hitting a little bit of everything and trying to do everything with as little outlay of cash as possible.
Now these quick categorizations are not definitive by any stretch of the imagination. They could be redefined and reworked in more ways than you can imagine. The reason I did this list is because it seems every time I do a build a PC series we have people not understand a reference I make to a part of a group during a review or recommendation. My goal is to give people a frame of reference to what I am saying when I say it.
Before closing this blog entry I am going to address a question I got in email the other day. The question was concerning our Build a PC series this year and asked about why Doug and my own build selections are so close to the same. The reason is not about how we use or PC but rather the versatility of the PC to do a lot of different jobs. It is also testament to the current trend in components to give more performance at lower price points. This means you can build a great PC with a lot less money than you used to have to spend.
Truth is I spend a lot of time laughing at the current trends in the industry. I remember in Tahoe when they introduced the original Phenom and 3000 series video cards. The AMD reps where all excited about the new direction of focusing on the mainstream over the luxury end. I recall smiling at them and telling them welcome to the church of the mainstream, I have been at this pulpit for years and it is nice to see new faces.
Since then every time a company makes a move on the mainstream they try to reinvent it as they are the first to think this is a good idea. It is even funnier when you see an “enthusiast” website try to reinvent part of itself as mainstream and present this as an original position that on one else has done. I sit quietly and keep preaching mainstream as I have done for all these years and laugh at them.
This move to mainstream means that a lot of the parts we see today have more options at power at a lower price. You would think this would mean more choices and it does but the choices are in truth more of the same with minor changes. The reason mine and Doug’s choices have been so close is a testament to the power of the movement to the mainstream and the fact that low cost components can fill so many needs today.
This week, following a few years of effort the governing body for internet domains has approved the creation of a XXX domain. The hope would be that adult material web sites would move to the new domain. By doing so it would be easier to find them but at the same time easier for adults to block the material for their kids.
That is what the hope WOULD be! The truth is that this governing body has proved it is as inept at properly governing anything as our own Federal government.
The new domain carries with it not restrictions of adult material it’s use. In fact anyone could use it for a new site. The general consensus is that adult sites will move quickly to gain these new domain names to protect their “intellectual” property. For example imagine how Playboy would feel if they lost Playboy.xxx to some group. So the adult sites will snap up the XXX domains pretty quickly.
However they have a lot of time and money invested now in making use of the existing .com domains so I would not expect them to give those up. The result is a system that could have helped protect kids from adult material and does nothing, sounds like a government project to me.
What is even worse is the fact the news and the corporations involved are going to hide from what they truly fear and lay the blame of governments. A quote from one of the reports on this makes it clear the tactic they will use.
“Another fear was that governments might create Internet versions of red light districts by forcing porn websites into a .xxx neighborhood that could then be monitored or blocked.”
I call horse crap on this, they do not fear the government blocking them. What they fear is a real filtering system that could block accidental access to their sites. You see if all these sites where forced to move their primary domains to XXX then they would have an issue since a good block utility would be easy to create. Now by move I do not mean even forcing them to give up their .com sites, what I mean is make those a pointer.
Lets use Playboy again as an example. If we move Playboy to .xxx when someone types in Playboy with the .com what will happen is the browser will be directed by the DSN server to actually open the .xxx site. Doing it this way protects the investment that Playboy has in their existing web structure but still gives adults an easy way to filter. All the filter has to do is block XXX from ever appearing the the sites are effectively blocked.
So why not do this? The same reason as why ICANNS will not acknowledge the idea of a .kid domain, the money. You see I and others have advocated the creation of a .kid domain for material specifically made for and verified safe for kids. The idea would be instead of trying to filter out adult web sites, we create a safe kid zone on the internet and parents could keep them in the zone.
However adult sites and some others do not want this, the reason is cash.
In the world we live in today oil right now is the real money backing the world. Oh sure we claim it is gold but anyone with a lick of sense knows oil is what makes the world go round financially. On the internet the the real kicker is web traffic. You see sites make money from advertising and the more traffic they have the more they can sell ads for, think of it as a radio station or TV station, the bigger the audience the more the ads generate.
In the case of adult websites ads count for as much as 50% or more of their generate revenue, because lets face it most people want their porn for free. If you block the way people can accidently hit the adult sites, guess what their revenue stream could fall, how much?
Well about 6 years ago I had a chance to speak with a young lady that used to work for a major adult website. She explained to me that in the course of last year she worked there they had in excess of 2 MILLION quick hits a week. Now she went on to explain these quick hits where what they used to describe people that hit the site and immediately left, in all likelihood accidental hit.
Think about it that is a view base they can list with numbers to support of 8 million per month of accidental hits not counting people trying to get there. Take those away and a site would lose a lot of ability to charge for ad space. Remember they likely do not tell the ad companies which hits are accidental and which are not.
Now take and put these sites into a system that makes it EASY for adults to block out and the numbers would plummet. Between stopping accidental hits and deliberate hits by young teenagers when mom and dad are not around you could see how those web numbers would drastically drop and cut into the bottom line of these companies.
From this perspective it is easy to see that ICANN is no different from any other governing body on the planet. If the money talks it listens.
What this means from the consumer point of view is that nothing changes except one more way for kids to find porn. Any hope this move could have generate about being able to better protect kids from adult material is whisked away like a puff of smoke on the wind when the reality is shown.
If you want to block adult material on your home or work systems the best way still seem to be to use OpenDNS. The free solution does a good job of blocking the material and I am confident it will block the XXX domain outright.
Joe is our winner in the drawing for the Antec Lanboy Air with a High Current Gamer Power Supply. Thanks Joe and everyone that is listening.
Almost a year ago we took a look at two different self contained liquid cooling systems. Corsair was the first to catch my attention with their H50 and then CoolIt caught my eye with their ECO. At the end of the day I chose the ECO because of the ease of install, as far as performance was concerned they where a dead heat. When Antec announced they where entering this market I was not all that excited. Don’t get me wrong I have come over the years to expect a quality product from Antec but I was firmly convinced this would be just like the other two as far as performance.
When I got the box, it was the same colorful style we have come to expect from Antec. I did notice from the box that the actually water block looked smaller than the H50 or ECO and on the side of the box was a chart that said this system was more effective than “1st Generation” liquid coolers.
As stated on the front of the box the Khuler has mounting systems for every current system you can imagine. A look at the mounting system reminded me of the H50 system from Corsair, well it should. Just like Corsair, Antec teamed up with Asetek to create this unit. The water block is substantially smaller than the H50 or ECO, in fact it is less than a 3rd the height of the block on the H50. It is obvious this is a new design from Asetek.
After noticing the more diminutive size, the next thing I noticed was the way the tubing was constructed. Both the ECO and the H50 have a plastic shroud covering the tubing. The H2O has a think rubber tube with no shroud, this make the tubes more flexible and easier to position.
Finally, unlike the other two models, this unit has two wires leaving the water block area, one to hook to the motherboard and one to allow the connection of the exhaust fan. The pump actually has control of the fan based on the temperature of the cooling solution. Coolit introduced a similar system in it’s Vantage cooler that was controlled by software, the H2) does not allow user control using this system.
I am in the process of doing some work on a system in the Antec Six Hundred v2 we saw last week and so decided to do my testing their. The the sake of this testing I used an AMD Phenom II 1100T. I then setup the system with stock cooling, the H50, ECO and H2O as well as a Thermaltake Frio, with the fans that came with them as well as in the orientation suggested by each manufacturer. Since cooling numbers will vary from many factors from user to user I will post variances here instead of hard numbers. The numbers where achieved by running SMP Folding on the system for 8 hours and then measuring the temp.
|Cooler||Difference from base|
|Stock Cooling (baseline)||0|
While I expected the H2O to be near the numbers of the ECO and H50 it surprised me completely by dipping much lower in temperatures. So much lower in fact that it was head to head with a much larger dual fan cooling system that was sounding like 747 on final approach to achieve it’s temperatures. Without a doubt the H2O lives up to it’s boast of out cooling the first generation runs of this type of cooler. I considered toying with setting up a push pull system to see how it works but with these temperatures why?
The system installation was simple to do and as with all of these self contained units, the real joy is the fact that you have room to work in your case. As you can see there is nothing restricting the RAM and the mounting system can be easily gotten to inside the case, no need to remove the motherboard to make a processor change.
I have to admit that I still prefer the ECO mounting system over this one. To mount the unit you first put in the mounting bracket and loosely connect 4 screws. Then you put the water block in and rotate it to match the locking mechanism and then tighten down the screws. This is a bit more cumbersome than the ECO/Vantage thumbscrew system, but if you are not often swapping CPUs this should not be a big deal.
With better cooling power, quite operation and a smaller size than it’s competition the Khuler H20 620 enters the market strong and hard. With a suggested retail price of around $70 this places the H20 at the same price point as it’s direct competition and in the same ball park as higher end air coolers.
Every time I talk about these self contained liquid coolers I have said the same thing, the cost for me is offset by the fact they are easier to work with when in the PC. This is still a big concern for me as even the worst of these coolers is more than enough to easily keep a PC cool. Add to this the fact that they achieve these cooling levels with less fans and less noise and they are a pure win in my book.
With the better cooling and same price point the Khuler H2O 620 has passed the ECO as my choice for use. While the ECO still has the easier mounting system the cooling potential of the Khuler is enough to make up for a little more work. If you are a DIYer then the Khuler H2O 620 is a must buy!
Segment Aired 13 March 2011
The Antec Gaming Enclosure lineup has become quite full over the years. It began back in the day with the introduction of the Antec Nine Hundred. The case was a bit ahead of it’s time in the raw cooling power it offered and it’s design went on to inspire many other cases from many companies. Over the years Antec has taken that design and adjusted it for some styling and cost factors providing an entire lineup across the price range to give just about anyone a case from this group. There has also been a slow movement to evolve this design and progress it.
The original Antec Six Hundred was a gap filler in the lineup. Antec already had it’s revision of the Nine Hundred doing well at around the $125 price point and the Three Hundred which was their budget entry was claiming awards at that $60. This left a pretty big gap and Antec saw a marketing opportunity to fill it. The design work for this was pretty straight forward, take the interior of the Three Hundred design and beef up the chimney fan to the Big Boy 200 that the Nine Hundred Design uses. The design from the Three Hundred interior makes it easy to add dual 120mm to the front then wrap all of this in a case with a different cosmetic style and you have a new case design that is marketed at around $95, the Antec Six Hundred.
As with all the Antec designs, and this BTW is a great reason to like Antec, they are not content to let a design sit and then start from scratch every new case year. Instead they go back, look at consumer and reviewer feedback and tweak a design to make it better, enter the Six Hundred Version 2.
The box is typical Antec sporting a nice picture of the case as well as talking about features they want you to see. The case claims it is SSD ready as well as sports a 2.5” hot swap bay and goes on to state that this is the Ultimate Gaming Case, we shall see. The box design for the Six Hundred v2 is nicer than the old brown box design that the original Six Hundred was put in.
Opening the box we found the typical foam end pieces and clear plastic cover that is standard fair, the case made it to my shop with no scratches or dings on it on.
On first appearance you can see Antec wanted to separate the looks of this case from it’s others in the Gaming lineup. Borrowing a bit from the Skeleton design the case is accented in a dark gray with arms holding aloft the 200MM chimney fan. The paint on the case is actually pretty good, there are no obvious blemishes or drips and it took us using a flashlight and a minute level inspection to find any real flaws in the paint. The color choice of the grey accent is perfect, blending in well and creating enough of a color standoff to be noticeable but not enough to draw attention to it in a cheap manner.
The side panels are actually pretty standard fair with the left panel having a large window in it and the right panel being a blank piece. The left panels windows is single piece meaning it should be easily modded if you choose and has an area on the window for mounting a 120mm side fan. In a quick check the two side panels are interchangeable by simply bending in the lock piece on the left. This means that for around $25 you can order the right side panel from Antec and get rid of the window or get a true blank piece to cut out your own custom design, giving this case some nice modding potential.
Looking at the top of the case we see the arms that accent back to the 200mm fan as well as a moon roof. The concept of the moon roof escapes me to be honest. If an optical drive is mounted in the top bay then this window is blocked. In fact unless you pretty much put specific lighting in place for it there is no purpose and even then that light would likely be lost from the glow off the 200 mm fan or the lit front fans if they are used. However we started looking at the way it is mounted and found a different use for it. The moon roof is held in with six screws and is easily removed, this means it can be replaced easily with something else, a modders open door as it where.
One feature at the top that I love is the angle to the front access panel. I do not see many other companies do this and Antec even slipped back from this with it’s Dark Fleet series. This little bit of angle on the front panel makes it among the easiest I have seen for putting in USB devices. Think about it, the typical flat front mount when sitting at your desk is a crap shoot for a first try and require people that use the port less often to bend over and see where the port is. The straight up mount works okay provide it is not fully under the desk where it can be hard to reach. This little thoughtful angle that helps with REAL LIFE issues is a great feature that everyone should offer.
The front panel offers three USB ports. Making a break for the standard fair of using a ESATA or Firewire for the thrid port of a front panel. The majority of people no longer use these connections and there is little to no need especially in a case at this price point. You have your standard fare of power and reset buttons as well as power and HD activity lights, plus the headphone and mic plugs. However here is where this perfect front panel falls, the headphone and mic jack are not marked in any way.
Opening the case you can see the heritage of the Three Hundred in this case design.. The back area has no room for cable management and so it must all be done in the cubby hole created by the HD bay. There is a fair size cutout for the CPU back panel for easy access to heatsink changes. At this price point I would have really liked to have seen the interior painted and also the back area opened up for cable management but at the end of the day neither of these things really detract from the good solid functionality this case offers.
This case makes use of a bottom mount for the PSU but forces the fan to pull air from the inside of the case. I have often wondered if this design causes the PSU and GPU fans to fight for cool air and so with this design I would personally look to use a PSU that has a rear mounted 80 MM fan. That however is a purely personal observation and has no testing to back it up as a better option.
The bottom of the drive bay area has four mounting holes to mount an SSD drive. While having the SSD mount is nice I HATE this simple approach of just drilling holes and saying the case is SSD ready. If you want to make a case SSD ready then just put in a conversion kit, the quick fix hole drilling to me feels cheap.
The front panel of the case opens easily from three tabs on the inside, I mean really easily, no real pressue was needed to open the front. The filter is a simple wire mesh that is easy to take out for cleaning. Inside the front panel is a plastic mounting system for inserting 2x120mm fans for intake. With these inserted the case can come very close to the raw cooling power of the Nine Hundred series thanks to the 200mm fan on the top. In fact I would go so far as to say I like this design a little better as the filter is easier to access than those on the Nine Hundred Two.
At the front of the case is a 3.5” bay area which is filled stock with a 2.5” hotswap bay. I said this with the Dark Fleet and I will say it here, what are these people thinking? I mean seriously how many people swap out 2.5” drives enough to need this as standard fair? I use SSDs almost exclusively in my own PCs and I have NEVER had the need for a hotswap. Now I am sure there are people out there that like this feature but they are a huge minority in actually using it. The money for getting the swap bay would have been better used in the base construction with making the Moon Roof a nice little tray for holding USB keys or even painting the cases interior.
Now all this said the Antec Six Hundred is actually a good case. The style has a nice SciFi look to it that I enjoy. Doug and I actually talked about this. Cases today, those not of the pure plain box design tend to come in two flavors of styling, Military, Industrial and Scifi, I lean toward the Scifi look. I know people that hate this design and others that love it, for me it is more of a love thing.
While the case comes with a distinctive look already I get the impression Antec was thinking case mod at the same time. The easy to interchange side panels allows for a nice blank slate if desired. The entire arm set at the top is fairly easy tio take off to allow anything as simple as painting it a different color to completely tooling a replacement top.
All however is not good with this case. For it’s price point it is missing some pretty standard features. For example the lack of behind the back cable management is pretty glaring considering the size of the side window they put in. This also makes the fact the interior is unfinished seem a bigger deal.
For the price point the Antec Six Hundred is the wallflower of the DIY market. It has a distinctive look to it that can be appealing but dresses it base features that fell well below it’s price point. It then uses cheap cosmetic jewelry like the moon roof and 2.5” swap to make it look like the bell of the ball and just comes off looking mediocre.
The Six Hundred V2 is a GOOD case, it does it’s job well and it’s style can be an appealing factor but when put up against the rest of the market it just sits in the middle of the pack, unnoticed. For the price point I think a simple addition of two front fans as standard would make this case a better value. If you like the cases looks or see some great mods in it, then the case is a solid buy. Otherwise I would suggest exploring your choices.