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. PCI Express
.NTFS or Fat32?
.PowerWare 5125 UPS
.A Guide to RAID
.Coolermaster Case
.MSI 5700U Videocard
.Gigabyte 3DCooler-Pro
.PCstats Weekly Tips

CoolerMaster's Wavemaster Case in the Spotlight

Remember the big power blackout last summer? When the electricity cut out to 50million people, most computers went with it... except those protected by a UPS of course. I was fortunate to be typing away on a notebook at the time, but if you use a PC without an Uninterruptable Power Supply you really should check out PCstats' latest review on the Powerware 5125 1000VA UPS. Even if you already have power protection, the review is pretty informative on the different types UPS available for different power situations... like home, office, or servers. PCstats resident Guru of Guides has just put the finishing touches on a handy guide to installing RAID on your desktop PC. The guide explains the different kinds of RAID configurations, and talks about setting up a hardware and software RAID array on a WinXP PC, and what kind of performance enhancements you can anticipate.

Coolermaster sent over their sleek black aluminum Wavemaster case, and after marveling at the glossy black paint job, we sat down and ran through the case with a fine-toothed comb. See PCstats review on the Wavemaster here, then jump right ahead to our review of the MSI FX5700 Ultra videocard. In "A Reader Asks..." we touch on the subject of NTFS vs. FAT32 for WinXP, and in Industry Insights this week, Chris talks about PCI Express and bridge chips, and specifically how fast all initial PCI express cards will be paced.

C'mon and Vote for PCstats!A couple of other things I'd like to mention... First PCstats brother site, FrostyTech, has tested out the brand-squeeking new Gigabyte 3DCooler-pro Heatsink. It proved to be both a good low noise, and performance cooler (care of an adjustable fan). Next, I'd like to ask all of you to vote for on! Sure it's just a little competitive fun, but as long as we're at the very Top I can live with it. ;-)

Powerware 5125 1000VA UPS Review
Read it Now!

In August of 2003 a massive power blackout hit Canada and the US, plunging 50 million people into darkness for nearly two days. During the first few seconds of that blackout, countless computers went silent, causing untold data loss. For most people, the power failure simply resulted in a 'data integrity check' by the operating system the next time their PC booted up. For others, the blackout may have caused the loss of an unsaved document, or in the worst case, total file corruption. The Powerware 5125 is a Line-Interactive 1000VA UPS, and with additional Electronic Battery Modules (EBMs) can increase its overall power capacity to 2200VA or thereabouts should your future requirements increase. TheUPS features Powerware's own advanced battery management console, "buck and double boost" regulation to deliver constant voltage, hot swapable batteries, the ability to power up the UPS without utility power, sequential shut down and load management, network transient protector (surge protection), and the very handy X-slot communications port. Continue Here>>

Beginners Guides: Installing RAID on Desktop PCs

Read it Now!

It's an unfortunate fact that hard disk drives are rather slow at storing and retrieving data. Sure they are faster than CDs, linear backup tapes and other removable media, but compared to actual computer memory, they lag behind massively.
RAID is an acronym for "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks". This describes a configuration for multiple hard drives which provide fault tolerance and improved data access times. RAID was traditionally only found in the domain of servers, but inexpensive IDE RAID solutions now mean many desktop computers can benefit from the same data redundancy, and performance increases for applications like video editing. With the right number of identical hard drives, consumers with motherboards that support IDE RAID can choose from RAID 0, RAID 1, and sometimes even RAID 0+1.
Hard disks are also mechanical devices with moving parts, and as such will break down eventually, compromising any data stored on them that is not backed up. One technology that was developed to deal with this pair of issues is RAID. The idea is to use multiple hard disks in the same system to provide both increased performance and increased reliability by writing the same information to multiple disks at once. This technology filtered down to the enthusiast level a while ago, and has become a common feature on many motherboards, as well as an integral part of newer operating systems such as Windows 2000 and XP professional. In this guide, we will explore how the different implementations of RAID technology function, and how you can make your own RAID setup using a hardware RAID controller, or the software RAID function built into Windows XP Professional.Continue Here>>

CoolerMaster WaveMaster Black Aluminum Case Review

Read it Now! If you were to tell me a few years ago that computers would be fixed up like hot-rods; with blinking lights, cold cathode lamps, case windows, and all the rest I would have said "you're crazy." After all, who in their right mind would want to put all that chrome plated flashiness into an ugly beige case? Back then, computers were like toasters, they came in one colour and you were only concerned with how well the computer worked, how much it cost, and definitely not how it looked. The look and feel of the Wavemaster case is unique, and with the 3mm thick aluminum sheet metal used for the internal construction, should last for many years too. The WaveMaster certainly feels a lot more solid than the good old Lian Li PC-70, but this mainly has to do with material thicknesses - LianLi case panels are quite thin. Lastly, it would be very limiting to have a case which is sealed off from the outside entirely; case fans are really important contributors to keeping today's high wattage videocards and processors running cool through moderate ambient internal temperatures. Continue Here>>

MSI FX5700 Ultra-TD128 Videocard Review

If you're looking for a new videocard, you're in luck because it's a buyers market in the mainstream sector! The MSI FX5700 Ultra-TD128 is based on nVidia's reference board layout, though with a few extra additions in terms of cooling. For starters, MSI have added in a set of BGA memory heatsinks on the front and rear of the card to keep the 2.2ns Samsung DDR-II BGA memory running within thermal spec. Or, at least that's the idea. Next, instead of using the reference cooler on the NV36 core, MSI have used their own engineered cooling solution called "Top Tech." The large sun-shapped heatsink is made from copper-plated cast aluminum, and manages to cool the core without much noise. In 2D situations you'd be hard pressed to hear anything. MSI's specs put the sound output from this card at about 28dB, and they figure the heatsink keeps the core as much as eight degrees Celsius cooler than the reference heatsink would otherwise. Continue Here>>

A Reader Asks...

Q: Is it true that when running Win XP Pro that you should format your hard drives under the NTFS designation? A technician at a local computer store told me this; even going as far as saying that Win XP would automatically switch my drive to NTFS, and that I would have "problems if I formatted under FAT 32". Can you shed any light on this? Thanks PCstats!

A: Windows XP Professional will be perfectly happy with either FAT32 or NTFS. The average user is unlikely to notice the difference between the two. However, NTFS has several advantages over FAT32.

For starters, NTFS is required to use the majority of the security, compression and encryption tools that XP professional can apply to your data. NTFS makes per-file security permissions possible, which cannot be done with FAT32. You cannot use XP's built in encryption or file compression utilities on FAT32 drives. XP Professional is capable of several nifty hard drive tricks, including the creation of software RAID 0 setups, mounting new empty drives as directories in old, full drives, using disk quotas, etc. All of these require NTFS.

NTFS is considerably less susceptible to disk errors than FAT32 is, and is also easier to recover data from in the event of drive damage or accidental erasing or partitioning. NTFS partitions can also adjust themselves to bad sectors on the hard disk, preventing data loss. NTFS uses drive space slightly more efficiently than FAT32 does. The larger the drive, the more noticeable the space saving will be.

Windows XP is incapable of formatting a FAT32 drive of more than 32GB. Strangely enough, XP will happily use a FAT32 drive larger than 32GB, it just will not format it first. If you wish to use a large FAT32 drive with XP, you will have to pre-format it with another program, such as FDISK (from Windows 98/ME). There is no significant speed difference between the two files systems. FAT32 drives can be easily converted into NTFS drives by XP, but this cannot be reversed . To sum up, while we would recommend using NTFS because of the additional features listed above, there is no reason not to use FAT32 if you like the idea. Next week we'll tackle a question on wifi range and data transfer speed. To submit your question to PCstats, send us an email.

And for something a little different this week, our brother site - - has this review of the Gigabyte 3Dcooler-Pro heatsink ready and waiting. For other cooling related reviews, browse through Frosty's 300+ cooling and low-noise heatsink reviews.

Gigabyte 3DCooler-Pro PCU21-VG P4/K7/K8 Heatsink
Read it Now!

It's one thing for a motherboard manufacturer to enter networking or optical drive markets, but it has been rare for one to release cooling products... Take for example that up until now, the only motherboard company we are aware of to make such a transition has been Aopen. Now Gigabyte, and even Asus have created, or are creating cooling divisions, albeit if in limited quantities compared to the Zalman's and Thermaltake's of the world. The Gigabyte 3DCooler-Pro is an an all-in-one aluminum and copper heatsink designed to support all processors currently available. In other words it is a K7/K8/P4 heatsink - supporting the AMD AthlonXP, Athlon64 and Intel Pentium 4 processors. Versatility means some sacrifices are made to accommodate the different thermal requirements, and surface area of each CPU core, but in general Gigabyte pull it together quite well. The draw for consumers is that one heatsink can be used on any platform, and that means the 3DCooler-pro potentially pays for itself in the future by not needing to be upgraded along with other processor specific components. Additionally, the Gigabyte 3Dcooler-Pro heatsink comes with a fan speed adaptor which mounts to a 3.5" aluminum floppy drive bay cover or PCI bracket for quick access. Continue Here>>
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When the world needed an "i" they put it on the keyboard, when North Americans needed a "$" they put it on the keyboard. Now that the world needs a "www." and ".com" why hasn't it shown up on the keyboard?

There is easily space for those two necessities, after all when was the last time you used "^" or "|" in a sentence? Luckly, with IE6 and WinXP, there is a shortcut we can all use when typing in dot com urls.

When you are typing in the URL in the address bar of your browser, just type in the word, like; "pcstats" Then hold down the CTRL key and press enter. This will automatically drop in the "www." and ".com" before and after whatever word you typed in, and send the browser instantly on its way.

In Win2000, this doesn't work however, the browser just drops "http://" in front of the name of the url you typed in...

Now if you haven't already done so, head on over and Vote for at!
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Industry Insights

As we move closer to the second half of 2004, Intel prepares its Grantsdale and Alderwood chipsets - the next generation of core logic that promises to augment bandwidth in several key points of congestion. PCI Express is one of the most widely discussed technologies due out within the next couple of months, and its lack of backwards compatibility with AGP will certainly be a point of contention for gamers looking to upgrade.

Last week, we discussed NVIDIA's plans for its transition to PCI Express, which is significantly different from ATI's plan of attack. Rather than incorporate a bridge chip for adding PCI Express compatibility, ATI's first round of PCI Express cards will feature integrated support for the interface. That is, support will be built into the VPU, yielding full bandwidth. ATI claims that it doesn't suffer the same potential latencies potentially introduced by a bridge chip.

However, after reading both firms' white papers and discussing the upcoming implementations, I was left with the impression that, for the upcoming generation of graphics processors, it won't really matter if NVIDIA uses a bridge chip and ATI doesn't. When you consider how long it takes to develop software to fully utilize high-bandwidth interconnects, we can't expect to see the benefit of PCI Express for another year or two. It looks like we're facing another battle of marketing jargon.
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