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Newsletter Contents

.GFFX and ATI R350D
.Folding @ Home
.Colin's Weekly Tips

GeForceFX vs. ATI Radeon
Wondering where the fantastically fabulous Newsletter was last week? Is it true that we were off enjoying the warm sun down south, or frozen in a winter snowstorm? Well no, not exactly; we've been very busy moving our servers. Our relocation to a new hosting facility is just one of the steps we've taken to improve the speed of, and the Forums. Since is on a new IP it may take a few days for some of you to be able to resolve that address. Because of that, this weeks newsletter is going to be a little different, but don't worry, next week we'll get back in the saddle.

I'm sure many of you already know that next week is going to be very exciting. AMD are releasing the new AthlonXP 3000+ processor based on the "Barton" core on Monday the 10th, and following that we should see the 64-bit Opteron April 22, the AthlonXP 3200+ by mid-2003, and the highly anticipated 64-bit Athlon64 processor by September 2003.

Moving on, this week Colin has two TechTips for you to check out. Once you get your computer running in tip top shape why not join the Folding @ Home Team? It's a fun past time, and puts your spare computer time to use for a good scientific cause. In this week's HTLD, C. Angelini has the inside scoop on some interesting industry gossip concerning the GeForce FX and the unreleased ATI R350 GPU. In a Newsletter exclusive, today's TechWatch shows you what to look for when comparing new LCD monitors.

Lastly, we have something new... Both Colin and myself receive far more questions from readers than we can answer about which hardware to choose, and which to avoid. In response to these types of "what should I get?" questions we have come up with a quick ShoppingList of parts you can use as a general guide. There are three types of systems outlined; a super inexpensive computer, one good all-round computer, and a totally insane top of the line gaming rig for the Daddy Warbucks. Folding @ Home - Does your computer sit idle during the day, or overnight? Why not use put those spare CPU cycles to good use and join the PCStats Folding @ Home Team! It's for a good scientific cause and it's also a lot of fun.

Folding @ Home is a Stanford University distributed computing project. The project uses a screen saver that makes use of idle computer time to study protein folding related diseases such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, and Parkinson's.

For more information, and to download the necessary files, please visit the Team PCStats Folding@Home forum discussion. You can make a difference, and all you have to do is support this worthwhile cause.

TechWatch What to Look for in an LCD Monitor
By: M. Page

In the past, comparing CRT monitors was easy; tube size and pixel dot pitch were the basic building blocks you could use to make a decision about relative picture quality. Nowadays, upgrading from an old monitor to a nice flat LCD display means you'll be faced with a ton of numbers, ratio's and other LCD specs which just don't make much sense to the uninitiated.

Choosing a good quality LCD for your home or office is not as hard as it may seem however. Once you have settled on a display size (17", 18.1", or 19" for example) choosing the LCD monitor with the best possible picture quality all comes down to understanding what specs mean, and how to read them. When comparing LCD displays there are mainly four specs to consider: Brightness, Viewing Angles, Contrast Ratio, and Pixel Pitch.

1) Brightness/Luminance - Expressed as 250cd/m2 or 250 nits depending on the manufacturer, but basically the higher the number the brighter the display will be. You want the brightest display you can find for the best possible picture; 250nits is good, 200nits is the bare minimum. Luminance is based on a logarithmic scale, so small differences in values are not going to be that noticeable.

2) Viewing angles - Expressed as either a series of two angles such as 160 degrees horizontal / 160 degrees vertical (160/160 for short) or broken down to an expanded form; 80 degrees up / 80 degrees down / 80 degrees left / 80 degrees right (80/80/80/80 for short). Viewing angles basically tell you the widest possible perspective you can see the screen from before the image looses contrast. Some displays have reached the 170/170 range, but anything over 120/120 is acceptable for a 15" display, and 160/160 for 17" and up.

3) Contrast Ratio - Expressed as a ratio like 300:1. The values typically range from 250:1 for value oriented displays to 500:1 for better models. Values of 350:1 or 400:1 are usually considered standard.

4) Pixel Pitch - Expressed as a metric number like 0.264mm which describes the center-to-center distance between individual pixels. There isn't much variation in pixel pitch as each size of LCD display is basically set to a certain native resolution like 0.297mm for 1024x768 resolution 17" displays, and 0.264mm or 0.281mm for 1280x1024 resolution 18.1" and 19" displays respectively. Generally speaking, the tighter the pixel pitch, the sharper the picture.

Unofficially there is a there is a fifth aspect to consider called Pixel Response Time. If you're a gamer, or like to watch DVD's on your computer this spec is one of the most important. Unfortunately, most manufacturers do not state the figure which can have a large impact on just how well an LCD monitor displays quickly moving images. Pixel response times are expressed in milliseconds (ms), and describe how long it takes to turn a pixel from off to on to off again. This value typically sits around 25ms, but the lower the value, the better. ShoppingList Assistance

We know how confusing it can be choosing the right components for a new computer system, or an upgrade to an existing one. That's we've assembled the ShoppingList as a guide to help you get good gear. Below you'll find one of the three ShoppingList's which you can print out and bring to your local retailer, or use as a general set of guidelines. We cover the basic components needed to assemble a full system, with monitor, and list the average $USD price each part retails for. Use the ShoppingList as a guide to build a better "white box" system, or follow our recommendations to the letter - it's totally up to you.

The ShoppingList will be updated on the 1st of each month so as prices drop, and new computer hardware is released it will reflect the changes. However, just because something newer and faster may have come to market doesn't mean it's worth getting right away! Be sure to read the "Notes:" section at the base of each ShoppingList for a brief explanation of why some hardware made it onto the list, and why other gear didn't. ShoppingList Assistance

$999 Budget System Parts List

February 2003
Avg. Price* Description / Model No. Review
$175 AMD AthlonXP 2400+ Processor PIB Dealtime Here
$95 MSI NForce2 K7N2-L Socket A Motherboard Dealtime Here
$75 (x2) 256MB Corsair XMS2700 DDR Memory Modules Dealtime -
$135 MSI GeForce4 G4Ti4200-TD64 Videocard Dealtime Here
$70 40GB Maxtor D740X Hard Drive Dealtime -
$84 Samsung SM348 48X/24X/16X CDRW-DVD Drive Dealtime Here
$75 Antec SX1030B Case with 300W Power Supply - Here
$197 Sony E240 17" CRT Monitor Dealtime -
- Also Consider: Operating System, Keyboard, Mouse, 3.5" Floppy Drive, 56K Modem, Speakers. -
$981 Estimated Overall Price
* All prices are approximations and are listed in $USD for simplicity.
Notes: AMD has always been known for their bargain basement prices compared to Intel's $700-$900 chips. When it comes to a hands down competition it's hard to beat the AthlonXP 2400+ for value/performance. nVIDIA's Ti4200 GPU is easily the best value videocard of 2002, and should deliver enough frame rates to keep any budget gamer happy for most of 2003. Antec produce a very solid computer case (hey why skimp when you don't need to?) which includes a 300W power supply that ain't half bad. A 250W PSU is really too lightweight for AthlonXP systems, so don't cut corners!

Visit the ShoppingList page for our $1800 Mainstream System and $3000 High-End Performance System recommendations in addition to the $999 Budget System you see here. If you have any suggestions about how we can make this guide more useful for you, please let us know by emailing your thoughts.

Search Dealtime for Computer Hardware
Abit ASUS Gigabyte Intel iWill Shuttle Soyo Super Micro Tyan

AMD Intel

Fast Memory

Video Cards
Albatron ATI Visiontek PNY MSI

Colin's Weekly Tech Tips

C. Sun
Twice the Tips Today
Disable Double Space

With hard drive reaching 80GB and even 120GB no one in their right mind would use Double Space or Drive Space anymore. They're still loaded into memory by default with older Win9x based operating systems though. Luckily there's a very simple fix for this...

Load up Windows Explorer and go to Windows, then the Command directory (you may have to enable the "Show hidden files and folders" in the Folder Options under View). From there simply renamee dblspace.bin and drvspace.bin tod blspace.bk_ and drvspace.bk_ and they will no longer load up when your computer boots.

And now for another Colin's Weekly Tech Tip

One little quirk that I have always wondered about is why WindowsXP always defaults to PIO transfer mode on the IDE channels, and not DMA? DMA not only allows for faster data transfers between hard drives and CDROM's but it also frees up a lot of CPU cycles! Luckily you can change the PIO setting very easily to DMA.

Right click on the "My Computer" icon and go to "Properties". From there click the "Hardware" tab and go into your "Device Manager". From there, expand the "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers" and select either the primary or secondary IDE controller.

Once you've got one open, go to the "Advanced Settings" tab and under transfer mode select "DMA if available". You'll want to repeat this for the other IDE channel and you may need to reboot for these changes to come into affect. Once done, you should notice your data transfers are much quicker and you have a bit more resources available when doing disk intensive activities, or watching DVD's on a DVD-ROM.

Colin's Tips Archives | Forums

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PCstats Issue

Circulation: 180,000

The High Tech Low Down

By: Chris Angelini

In a seemingly frenzied rush, NVIDIA has distributed a limited number of GeForce FX boards and the results are…a little disappointing to say the least. Even though ATI's RADEON 9700 Pro is more than five months old, it still manages to hold its own against the flagship GeForce FX 5800 Ultra in most tests. The ATI card fares even better with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

Of course, NVIDIA does have some time to enhance performance through driver work – the GeForce FX still isn't ready for prime-time. But like any other new architecture, it will be a while before the supporting software is mature. Further, ATI won't be showing any mercy when its R350 processor is unveiled (I'd expect to hear something within the next few weeks).

The current hardware design is already very capable and I'm hearing estimates of at least 400MHz from the updated core and the possibility of 800MHz memory on the same 256-bit bus. My recommendation? If you're in the market for a high-end video card, wait and see how the RADEON 9700 Pro's successor performs. If my opinion isn't enough for you, I've got a tip that says a major system builder has already decided on R350 over GeForce FX.

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