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.ATI vs. Nvidia
.WiFi Speed and Range
.Asus 9800XT
.A Guide to RAID
.What's in a Blog?
.PCstats Weekly Tips

Asus' A9800XT Kicks up the Pixels

I've assembled a nice collection of reviews in this weeks PCstats Newsletter, starting with the Numero Uno, the Asus A9800XT video card. The benchmarks should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about of this little speed demon, but what about Asus' custom software? Read on my friend, read on... Next, we talk about how to use RAID with your hard drives in a home PC for better performance. If you're a enthusiastic gammer, a little RAID 0 action can help improve your game when loading up those data-heavy levels of Pacman.

Which processor company is your all-time favourite? Is it AMD or Intel? We're pretty brand neutral around PCstats, preferring instead to go with whichever chip company is currently producing the fastest CPU for the most reasonable price. Yes, that second point pretty much excludes all Intel Extreme Edition CPUs. Unfortunately for AMD fans, this review of OCZ's PC4000EL Dual Channel DDR isn't for you... Sorry, but OCZ's PC4000EL DDR is best suited to Intel chipsets. And hey, just so I don't get a million email's about this, best read Colin's insightful look at Memory Latency VS Bandwidth for an explanation as to why.

Mad Man MiX Master Mike, the "Guru" of Guides, tackles the tricky subject of 802.11b wireless network range, and data transfer speeds in "A Reader Asks..." this week. PCstats' Industry Insights has more ATI vs. Nvidia banter on PCI Express that you might not already know, and rounding out the list of goodies is a quickie Guide to Blogging. Colin's Weekly TechTip is a good one this week - read it!

Last week we managed to get about 200 people to vote for on Thanks to everyone who stood up and cast their vote, but this week I'm hoping the rest of you Spring-breaker's can spare a few minutes to keep PCstats in that No. 1 spot! :-)

Asus A9800XT/TVD/256 Radeon 9800XT Videocard Review
Read it Now! While 8x AGP is perfectly fine for today's videocards, it's simply too restrictive a pipeline for future videocard processors. For this reason, PCI Express was born. PCI Express scales higher and faster than the AGP slot ever could, but on the down side is completely incompatible with the old standard. They say change is good, so get ready for an interesting spring in the graphics market this year. In the mean time, 8X AGP cards aren't totally obscure yet, and as the Asus A9800XT will soon demonstrate, they are still a force to be reckoned with. With a retail price of $653 CDN ($500 US) the Asus A9800XT/TVD/256 is one of the last true high-end cards to be built on the AGP interface. While it is common knowledge that the Radeon 9800XT GPU is one fast little chip, what really sets the Asus A9800XT/TVD/256 apart from the competition is the impressive software bundle it ships with. 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. 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, 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>>

A Reader Asks...

Q: Why does wireless networking always seem to perform poorly reception-wise? The range actually obtainable is about a 10th of that specified by the manufacturers, and the transmission speed seems to always be lower too. Are there any ways to improve range or reception, and do the different standards provide increased signal strength?

A: There is a bit of doublespeak involved, it's true. The numbers specified by the manufacturer are the maximum bandwidth obtainable by products that use a certain wireless standard. For example 802.11b can transfer up to 11mbps total, while a typical 802.11b client is lucky to see more than 4Mbps actual data transfer speed. This is due to a number of factors. For one thing, the networking protocols used carry a considerable overhead, and they are not counted as 'data' for measuring transfer speeds. For another, distance, obstacles, number of wireless clients and signal interference will all take a bite out of a wireless signal in most conditions.

The range is just as susceptible to these factors. In an urban environment, the number of competing signals is likely to be a major factor in limiting range. At the moment 802.11b and 802.11g have just about identical maximum ranges. There are various ways of boosting wireless signals through antenna, which may or may not be legal in your area. Check the Internet for more information. ;)

From what I've observed, if you park a 802.11b NIC right next to an access point with no competing radio signals in the area, the most throughput you can expect using TCP/IP is about 5.5-6Mbps due to the protocol overhead. Companies do not specify 11Mbps file transfer, but rather 11Mbps maximum data transfer speed, which is a different thing altogether.

The same situation is seen in 802.11g products. 54Mbps max bandwidth equals 19 - 24 mbps actual TCP/IP transfer rate in most conditions. Next week we take a question on system resources and the horrible things that can happen if you run low on them... To submit your question to PCstats, send us an email.

OCZ PC4000EL Gold Edition Memory Review

Read it Now! The memory market is pretty saturated right now with high speed memory modules from every corner, so many companies are attempting to differentiate themselves by tightening up their memory timings just a bit. After all if you're running PC2100 DDR and PC4000 DDR at stock speeds, it really doesn't make any difference to the computer.... but then if you overclock that is where speed, and memory timings really come into play. For an illustration of just what we're talking about, please read through PCstats look at Memory Latency VS Bandwidth. For the rest of you who know what tight memory timings can really bring to the table, read on! In this memory review, PCstats is testing out OCZ's Gold Edition PC4000EL DDR. Each of these PC4000EL modules are 512MB in size, and since they are destined for dual channel systems, OCZ sell the memory as a pair. The OCZ PC4000EL DDR is rated to run up to 250 MHz while maintaining timings of 2.5-4-4-7, at 2.8V. Continue Here>>

Beginners Guides: Creating a Weblog / Blog
In the 90's Grunge was in. Now in the 04's, 'Blogging' is the next biggest thing. Create your own Blog page, or simply find out what all the fuss is about. Nothing personifies the Internet's promise of easy and unlimited communication possibilities quite like the humble weblog. Never mind the millions of commercially driven website; what could be more creative than placing your own thoughts, feelings, art, rants, your own... whatever, in front of a potential audience of millions? A Weblog or Blog is a frequently updated online journal, organized by date and containing whatever the person that creates it wants to put down. Essentially, blogs are simple, fun, non-commercial personal web sites. Among certain sets, the blog has become almost as popular as the ever present instant messaging services as a communication tool. Whether used as an online diary, a forum for political rants, or simply for stream of consciousness commentary on day-to-day life, a blog is an easy (and now well accepted) way of communicating your thoughts and feelings to the world. Let's start with a list of various free blogging software and services. After this, we will follow up with a tutorial on creating your weblog. Continue Here>>

Colin's Weekly Tech Tips Swapping Mobo's
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One thing I really liked about the old versions of Windows (ie, non-WinXP) was that you could change motherboards during an upgrade without having to reinstall the whole system. With WindowsXP, it's a lot pickier about that, and often when you swap out the motherboard you'll have to format and reinstall everything all over again.... tedious. Luckily with a few clicks of the mouse we can fix that problem. ;-)

Before you make the hardware swap you're going to want to change the IDE drive controller's driver. Go to your device manager, right click on the My Computer icon and go to properties. From there click the Hardware tab then click on the Device Manager button, that will open up a new window. Expand the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers section, right click on the your main IDE drive controller and select Update Driver. Once the Hardware Update Wizard opens, select Install from a list or specific location (Advanced), then select the "Don't search. I will choose the right driver to install." radio box and click next. From there select Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller and click next.

Once that's done, WindowsXP will be configured to use the default IDE controller driver so that you can swap out your motherboard without having the scarry blue inaccessible boot device screen show. Of course, once you're finished swapping out parts simply install the latest drivers for the new motherboard and you should be set. Now if you haven't already done so, head on over and Vote for at!
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Industry Insights

Last week we spent some time looking at NVIDIA's approach in adding PCI Express support to its product line. It should come as no surprise that the most outspoken opponent to the debated bridge solution is NVIDIA's principle competition, ATI, who claims to feature better performance from a more elegant integrated solution. In retort to what we heard last week in a conference call from NVIDIA, ATI's representative was quick to point out that, even while using native PCI Express support costs more money for the company (every GPU has to be respun for AGP and PCI Express), it'd be able to offer cards at lower prices. Further, none of the power management features introduced by PCI Express are available in a bridged solution. It should be noted that power management is more important on mobile graphics products, though ATI thinks that PCI Express may help desktop thermals as well, especially when innovative form factors emerge. As the conversation progressed, PCstats' Industy Insights learned that there will be both AGP 8x and PCI Express versions of ATI's upcoming R420 GPU. Additionally, the ATI representative to which we spoke mentioned that PCI Express products that emerge based on existing architectures won't be identical to what is out now, which may very well suggest higher clock speeds.

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