Hey everyone, if you missed the announcement on the Facebook page, we will not be having a Computer Ed radio show this Saturday. Our home station has a scheduling conflict due to a couple of local teams doing well in the tournaments. Doug and I have discussed this with the station management and while we could do a show, it would be moved to some strange hours and we would likely have other limitations as well.
With this in mind, for us the quality of our show is always first and foremost, so rather than risk not being able to do the show right we have decided it is better to take this Saturday off. What that means for you is we will have no blog entry or show this Saturday. However we will be back full tilt June 2nd with some great material. Just a quick tease of what will for sure be on the show on the 2nd.
- Corsair M90/K90 MMORPG Keyboard and Mouse Set Review
- A look at the Game of Thrones RPG
- Announcement of our next contest
- A discussion on the new trend of having players pay to beta test games
So there you have a little teaser for the next show. Again we are sorry about having to take this week off but we want to ensure the best quality possible on the show. We appreciate all of you that tune in and are grateful for your understanding in this.
See you all soon!
I got a new phone a little over a week ago, moving up from my old HTC Hero to a Motorola Droid X. With the bigger screen and dual core processor I finally started thinking about how cool it would be if I had some of my favorite movies on the phone for when I am sitting in a waiting room bored, or stuck at a family dinner.
So the problem I faced was how to take my movies from the DVD and put them on my phone. There are a bunch of methods and programs for doing this but I wanted something simple so I could just say do it and walk away. I tried a few trials and then ran across Wondershare. This company makes a number of nice little utilities for your PC and the one that caught my eye was Video Converter Ultimate.
The program opens to a very simple screen. You either drag in the video file you want to work with or select from the options listed across the top. You can work with straight video files, a DVD, download videos from the internet including streaming such as Youtube or you can use a net came you have and record the video right then. These are pretty self explanatory and as I set for my goal, very simple to use.
For example, lets say I want to download a video, in this case from Youtube. All I do is go to Youtube, find the video I want and then copy the URL for the page I am on watching the video. Then I select the Download and a simple box pops up that asks for the URL. You paste the URL you copied into this box, hit the download button and sit back and relax. The software will download the video for you and allow you to then do minor editing to it such as trimming off the lead up or ending if you do not want it. The video you downloaded is not part of the library and ready to be converted into the format you might like to use it in.
Now if you only have one device you will be using and have already set it then you are done the files are saved as the format you chose. However you can then use that video file you have now saved and convert it to one of the numerous other file setups this software supports.
At the bottom of the screen you have two options one for save location, which of course is pretty self explanatory and the other for profile. The profile opens to show all the various devices and formats the software will prepare the video for use with. This includes Apple devices, various Android Phones, Blackberries, various game systems and other media players. You also have an option to search for a device not in the list and if they have created a profile for it you can download it right then. Wondershare seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping up with devices and creating profiles.
Picking a profile will make the video file the appropriate size for use on your device, finding a good balance between image quality and space saving. If you saved the file in one profile and need it in another, for example sharing with the family, then select the new profile and the video file you want to change and click the convert button.
Now as I said this was about getting my movies off my DVD not about getting online videos, okay not originally but this is really cool. To get the movie from your DVD to your device is just as easy. You put in the DVD you want the movie from the select the DVD button at the top. The screen that pops up gives you some choices such as just the main movie, the one we will most likely use. however you also get to select by scene, just grab the special features or in episode mode you can break up the movie to watch parts of it at a time, really useful if you have only a little space in your device of choice.
Without diving into the settings of the software it is very efficient and quick, best of all it just works. The settings you do need to adjust such as picking the device and choosing the source for the video are super easy to use and very intuitive. If you have an AMD or nVidia graphics card then you can go into the Preferences and turn on support for making use of the GPUs to help with the file conversion. This gives the software a nice speed boost, however even without turning it on this is still pretty quick.
The only downside to this program is that it is not free, the program cost $59.95 however if you really want the ability to move videos between devices this cost will soon prove to be worth it. If you want to open your options for viewing videos to the various devices you have then the Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is a package that should be the first choice on your list. It is versatile and super easy to use plus it does as advertised. In other words everything we look for in a product.
Review Segment Aired Live 19 May 2012
nVidia for some time has championed the cause of the GPU compute direction for PCs. They have pushed out their CUDA programming system and shown how it can make the GPU in a computer do way more than put pictures on the screen. Now they have also discussed gaming with their cards and put some neat features on the cards but when you speak to them the push was always CUDA and GPU Computing, that is until now.
With the first release for the Kepler GPU there was a difference in the attitude of the people at nVidia. In the various briefings I have attended and even the keynote I listened to live by their CEO, I have not heard the same drive at Cuda or GPU computing. In fact I barely heard it mentioned at all. However what I have heard talked about is computer gaming and nVidia renewing their commitment to it.
As an avid computer gamer. this push and the vigor I hear in their words excites me, so when we got the chance to take our first hands on look at a Kepler based video card to say I was excited was an understatement. However I was cautious as well, history has shown us hardware companies love to hype a product, so it is not until I get my hands on it that I actually believe anything they say.
Lets begin by taking a look at the card itself, the particular card we are looking at is a reference design card provided by nVidia. The card came in a rather simple black box, however as I began to open the box it became apparent that nVidia was serious about this being a gaming card. Inside the outer box cover and on the back of the box was printed what you see in the picture to the left.
Since this is a reference designed card there was nothing in the box except for the card itself. The card we have in front of us is not a fancy design, in fact it looks from the front to be very similar to the already release GTX 680. It has the same looking cooler, a design that has over the years become the stock look for most basic higher end video cards.
In this case the appearances are correct, the cooler we are seeing is the same one used on the GTX 680. The fan and shroud are designed to push the air through the shroud to the back of the case and out vents on the back of the card next to the various display ports. The shroud is actually very tightly enclosed so that air does not escape from the top or the inside thus forcing the air out of the case and removing the GPUs heat from the system.
The design looks vary plain jane but again remember this is a reference design. This same design in fact is used in a lot of the cards that are on the market and basically just snazzed up with some artwork stuck to the shroud. The cooling solution works well, in our testing we found that the temp when gaming seldom went about about 65C, even with overclocking it did not rise about 70C. The testing was done in a Thermaltake Level 10 GT with the fans all set to low and only using the stock fans.
Not only is the stock design doing a good job of cooling the card it is also quiet. It was impossible to pick the fan for this card out of the normal sounds coming from the computer unless the GPU was pushed hard with stress testing. Under normal game play the card is very quiet and cool, exactly what we expect and want from a cooling solution.
The Kepler design is super efficient in the way the card handles power and even performance. Using a dynamic clock system that monitors the game you are playing for performance, the card kicks up or lowers the cards GPU speed as needed to ensure smooth game play. Now the kicking of the speed up makes sense to a lot of people but you might be confused by the kicking down. The simple truth is not all games need a card to run full tilt to ensure great game play. This design allows the card to pull back on the power of the GPU to still give a great game play experience and at the same time cut the heat and power usage. The design aspect of this was easy for us to test, we played games and watched the power levels. The 670 delivered on it’s promise and sipped juice, actually coming close in many cases to much lower powered cards when it came to power draw.
The card comes stock with a good set of connection options, 2 DVI ports, an HDMI and a Display Port. Where previous models of nVidia cards required two cards to game on multiple monitors, this card out of the box directly supports three monitors for gaming. Plus you can hook up a fourth monitor for other uses such as watching your voice comms software or searching the internet for gaming hints while you play. The mutli-monitor versatility built into this card is very impressive if that is the type of setup you enjoy using.
Flipping the card over I had a bit of a surprise, this card is much smaller than it seems. The fan area of the shroud is not actually over the card’s board but in a separate area. The board itself is tiny, in the picture on the right I wanted to give some perspective. The card of the 670 ends where the fan area starts as the picture shows. The card below it for perspective is a Sapphire HD 7850.
nVidia claims the reason for the smaller board is that the chip’s efficiency allows them to use smaller power components and this allowed them to move the power from the tail end of the card to the business end. This simple move meant that less space for the cards components were needed and has the added benefit of putting the heat producing power components near the exhaust and thus making them easier to cool.
Okay so at this point I imagine you are all chomping at the bit, tell us Ed, how does it perform! Well let me put it this way, the card performs from a raw horsepower point of view so well that it steals the thunder from nVidia’s higher end GTX 680. In all of our subjective testing the GTX 670 was able to deliver maxed out detail, some of the games we ran were Skyrim, Champions Online, Star Trek Online, Civilization, Batman; Arham Asylum and Mafia II. We did run other games as well but I think you get the idea. The system we used for performance testing was an i5 2500K on a Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3 with 8 Gigs of Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 and using a Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD. Our testing was done at a resolution of 1920×1080 and the system we ran was a typical usage system. What I mean by that was it was not purely for benchmarks, we had Comodo AV, Steam, Skydrive and Skype running in the backgrounds. Our goal is to test the card as you are likely to use it.
Now everyone knows we do not put much stock in benchmarks and with a tons of sites on the web doing extensive benchmark testing I do not see the need to rehash the material they found here. If you need specific benchmark scores to look at I suggest heading over to the review of this card done by our friends at Overclockers Club, the numbers they got were in line with our findings. I can say however that the performance is impressive, in Skyrim with the HD pack from Bethesda and maxed out in game settings I was able to pin the frame rate counter at 60 FPS. Now that is with vSync enabled and by pinned I mean it was never under 55 FPS and was mostly right at 60 FPS. I did the same in Champions and Star Trek Online with maxed out settings in each. No card that we have ever had in the labs was able to deliver such a consistent frame rate in a game.
However even with the impressive horse power, this is not what has impressed me the most. The card is fast no doubt, in fact it is safe to say that it is the fastest card in it’s price point and is even close in performance to the top end cards from both nVidia and AMD. That is so strange nVidia building their own competition. What impresses me more however is the effort made by nVidia to have a real impact on the gaming experience other than pure frame rates.
Lets begin with efforts to refine anti-aliasing, nVidia introduced FXA a while back but with the Kepler they have placed to ability to force FXAA to be enabled, even in older games that did not directly support it. FXAA allows for better image quality with less of a performance hit. In Kepler this is being further enhanced to TXAA, a new method that is available only on Kepler based cards. This new method allows for even higher levels of anti-aliasing with less performance hit. What this means for all of you is your games look better and you do not lose your smooth game play by using it.
Next we come to the GPU Boost, this system basically monitors the work load on the hardware and makes changes dynamically to the GPU clock speed to ensure it stays within it’s power/heat envelope yet gives maximum GPU speed. We have seen this feature before in CPUs and it only makes sense to see it move into the GPU. While tweakers can still overclock the card even more if they desire, there is little need as the card at stock speeds does a lot of auto-overclocking. In fact I do not recall ever seeing my GPU running at stock speeds, it seems like when it was under load it was always running jacked up. This increases the gamers experience by offer extra power when it needed and reduced power when it not thus saving electricity.
We also see Adaptive VSync, basically this feature allows VSync to work more effectively than the stock on and off options. VSync is the setting that ensures your game does not produce frames faster than the monitor can show them. A lot of games turn this off but doing so risks something call tearing. That is were the monitor could not keep up and you get some textures that tear on the screen. By keeping VSync enabled the gamer does not get this but does suffer through some performance issues. Adaptive VSync takes out those potential performance issues by capping the frame rate but also leaving it more open at lower speeds. This has the effect of removing the downside of VSync and thus means you have no reason to see tearing.
A similar tool that we now have is Frame Rate Targeting. The reasoning behind this is that some older games would take the GPU to max power and have incredible frame rates but lets face it, at around 75 it is hard to see performance boost in real game play so 300 FPS is just crazy. Rather than force you to waste the power and potential of your card the Frame Rate Target lets you set a max frame rate your system will strive for and actually slow down the GPU if it can once that target is met. This tied in with the GPU Boost means you only use as much of the GPU as you need to use. This however can in my opinion replace the Adaptive VSync, it can be used to create the same effect after all. Set your Frame Rate Target at 60 FPS and you do not need any form of VSync since the GPU will hold down the frame rates to 60 and with this you have none of the down side of VSync.
Add to these features the old standards from nVidia of PhysX and their 3D Vision and you have a card lineup that is geared to give the gamers the best experience possible with their games.
Priced at $399 the GTX 670 is at the upper end of the gaming cards in cost. The card sits squarely in the second tier of the nVidia lineup for single GPU cards and is direct competition to AMD’s 7950 and 7970.
The GTX 670 really does change the gaming experience when put to full effect. The horsepower of the card lets you run your games at maxed out detail and the features make sure the game looks great and the card is efficient in it’s use. In June nVidia is going to up their game for the user experience with GeForce Experience, which we will review. Right now however they offer great support for games on GeForce.com which has a great section of optimized settings for various game and card combinations.
If you are a PC Gamer then nVidia has you squarely in it’s sites. They are looking to become the defacto gaming card for the PC. With the Kepler releases to date and the features they offer that are aimed at improving the gaming experience I would say so far they are hitting the target dead center.
nVidia GTX 670 Review as aired 12 May 2012
When Kingston first put the HyperX name on an SSD we were there to see it’s release. The goal was simple, they wanted to produce a super fast SSD with high reliability and ton of little extras to make it stand out in the crowd. They met that mark and we were thrilled. So when I heard the HyperX 3K was going to be a reduced cost version of the Hyper X I was concern, I mean we paid the extra cost for the entire packages, what would be slashed to reduce the price? The answer is not as much as you would think.
The box on the Hyper X 3K looks very similar to the original HyperX and while it is well made it does not have the nice slide off top. So they obviously cut some of the cost by reducing the packaging. Once inside the box however we see an identical feature pack to what we saw in our original HyperX review.
We have the drive, screw driver, 2.5” external enclosure with USB cable, SSD mounting bracket and cloning software. The exact same feature pack we had in the original Hyper X. This time however instead of a blue coloring on the SSD we have a dark gun metal. Also just like the original Hyper X the 3K carries a 3 year warranty. Okay that’s great the packaging is nice and the extras are the same but what about were it counts, under the hood.
From a pure performance point of view the drives are identical, what that means is FAST. The Hyper3K was within 2% of the HyperX in the every benchmark, usually bettering it. This BTW is normal since it is a bigger drive and bigger SSDs of the same model tend to be faster.
The difference internal is found in the drives name. The 3K is an indication of how many write cycles the memory can perform within it’s expected life time. The original HyperX uses 5K cycle memory.
Now this may sound like a bad thing but it is not really that big of a deal. On last weeks show we talked about how SSDs had more life to them than people expected and worked out the math with you. Well this week I sat down with some folks from Kingston and went over my calculation method from last week and confirmed that I was doing it correctly. What this means is even with the 3K memory, if we assume a full drive and do 3gig of writes EVERY day with the over provisioning on the drive it should be good for around 20 years of use.
Think about it 20 years! You are very likely to have moved on to a new drive before this one fails. Now in fairness it will likely not last 20 years. This is not a fault of Kingston or the drive but just a fact when it comes to electronics. The everyday wear of small surges and low voltages causes electronics to wear faster than the expected cycle but these factors effect all electronics equally. What you need to know is the write cycle of 3K is not likely to ever be an issue.
Now I am sure you were expecting a longer write up on this drive. Sorry to disappoint you but there is no need. If you want more data on the performance and features of the upgrade kit then I refer you to our original Kingston HyperX review. With the exception of the outer box the package is identical, even down to the foam being cutout in the HyperX symbol. I know this may seem a bit lazy and maybe it is but when you have a drive that is REALLY fast, has a great and fully packed feature set AND costs 15% to 20% less than is equally fast and feature packed big brother, what more is there say?
Okay maybe one more thing, can I have 2 please!?
Okay seriously, at $289 the HyperX 3k 240 Gig SSD is about middle of the road pricing but has extras that make it way ahead of other drives in it’s category.
Now if they would make a red one to make it a little faster. By the way, be sure to tune into this weeks show as we announce the winner of one of these great SSDs.
Segment as aired live 5 May 2012