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.XGI Volari
.A Reader Asks...
.Cloning XP
.Belkin UPS
.FX 5700 Ultra
.Abit Athlon64
.PCstats Weekly Tips

ABIT's KV8-MAX3 and Much More...

ABIT graced the PCstats Labs this week with their mighty fine, Athlon64-toting KV8-Max3 motherboard. Drop in a sweet videocard like the Chaintech Apogee AA5700U and you know you're off to the races... The trouble is, with problems that come naturally to an aging power grid, fluctuations can cause instability in a good gaming PC. Belkin have a compact 1000VA uninterruptable power supply that evens the juice out, and gives you a few extra minutes to shut down the computer in the event of a full power outage. A UPS also comes in pretty handy if you're flashing a BIOS and the power cuts out! Yikes, that's the stuff of a techies nightmare.

PCstats Beginners Guides covers Cloning WindowsXP this week - one of the more useful skills to have when it comes to upgrading your OS hard drive without reinstalling the entire PC! Over in Industry Insights, the word on the street is XGI, and the Volari dual-GPU videocard. Down in "A Reader Asks..." we tackle questions of internet access from work, home, and the local cafe hot spot. Colin's back with a correction to last weeks tip (he made a little typo), and a new one about how to make your PC wake you up in the morning to music of your choice. Pretty cool actually, and much nicer than an alarm clock don't you think?

Here at PCStats, we pride ourselves on creating some of the best how-to articles on the 'net with our 'Beginner's Guides' series. We are constantly looking for new subject matter, and want to know what topics you'd like us to cover? Hardware or software, beginner to advanced, let us know what you'd find useful. Email in your suggestions today.

Beginners Guides: Cloning WindowsXP
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PCstats has previously covered a handful of disk cloning software programs which are useful for the purpose of backing up your data by making an identical copy of your hard disk. If you upgrade your operating system hard disk, chances are the new one will be both faster and larger than your original disk. Trouble is, WindowsXP can't just be copied over from your old drive to the new one. There are essential files which will not be created on the new disk if you try this. So what to do? Continue Here>>

Belkin Universal 1000VA UPS Review
Power surge protection and the quality of electricity supplying a computer are probably the two most overlooked factors which can seriously impact the stability of your PC. If you're spending the money for a PC, doesn't it make sense to protect your investment from power spikes, brown-outs and other common electrical fluctuations with something better than that $10 surge suppressor? The Belkin Universal 1000VA UPS is capable of delivering up to 550W of power (which should give you about three minutes of power under full load). This 1000VA UPS features automatic voltage regulation (AVR) built in, and comes with a USB A-B cable, Serial cable, telephone cable and Belkin's Bulldog monitoring software.Continue Here>>

Chaintech Apogee AA5700U Videocard Review
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Those of you who are sensitive to noise will be happy to know that the AA5700U is near silent during operation, even in 3D mode! Chaintech say that the copper GPU HSF will keep the core up to eleven degrees cooler than a card equipped with the reference HSF (when the card is running at full load). That's quite a claim, and from our tests the AA5700U did seem to run a bit cooler, not eleven degrees... but four to five degrees Celsius cooler when the card is under full load. The rear of the AA5700U videocard is covered by a large passive heat spreader designed to cool the memory.

Continue Here>>

A Reader Asks...

Q: What do I need in a notebook to connect to the Internet anywhere I take it? I see people on trains, and outside cafes using their notebooks to access the Internet (no cell phone modems...), so there must be Internet ready notebook. My son wants to buy a notebook for work and to use other places, and I'd like to know what the best way to connect to the Internet is?

A: Sadly, there is no easy way to have 100% constant Internet access on your laptop wherever you go. There is an easy way to have wireless network access in certain places, though. What you need is a wireless network adaptor that fits into your laptop's PC card slot, or a notebook that comes with this feature built in. See our review here for an example of a recent product that fits this description.

Once you have a wireless network adaptor, bringing the notebook into range of a 'hotspot' (a place where a wireless network has been installed to allow access to an Internet connection) will allow you to surf without strings. Note that the range of these hotspots is rather limited, usually only about 100ft or less from the 'access point.' Many businesses have begun installing hotspots in their stores. Most will display some sort of sign on the door to indicate this.

Wireless hotspots are becoming increasingly common, so it's a good bet the campus, major shopping mall or trendy coffee shop near you has one. This is the same technology (802.11b or g) that is used to create home wireless networks. See our wireless networking article for more details. Many new laptops come with wireless network adaptors built into the body of the computer too.

Next week we'll play 'find the utility' with the Windows XP Home CD. To submit your question to PCstats, send us an email.

Abit KV8-MAX3 Athlon64 Motherboard Review
Read it Now!

Abit is a fan favorite of many computer enthusiasts, and has been for a long time since the company began openly embracing overclocking. So what exactly makes Abit motherboards special? It is dark magic, solid engineering, or a little bit of "The Force" at allows overclockers to reach such lofty heights? No, the secret is in more practical features, like a wider variety of voltage options, the onboard diagnostics, Abit's µGuru technology, and good solid motherboard layouts. The KV8-MAX3 is an Socket 754 Athlon64 motherboard based on the venerable, and highly recommendable VIA K8T800 chipset. Continue Here>>

Colin's Weekly Tech Tips Alarm, Alarm
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I don't know about you, but I don't like waking up to a beeping alarm every morning. Since I leave my PC on 24/7, I decided to make it my "new alarm clock" by waking me up to my favorite tunes!

What you want to do is drag and drop your M3U playlist (which can be created by Winamp, WMP, etc) into the Scheduled Tasks folder found in your System Folder (Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Schedule Tasks). From there open it up, click the "Set Password..." button and enter your login password then click ok.

Now click on the "Schedule tab" and set the time which you want you PC to wake you up and then click ok and your PC will now wake you up at that time! Of course if your PCs clock doesn't tell the right time, this won't work. ;-)

*Correction from last week* If you caught the mistake in last weeks tip, you are smart Jedi... the correct tweak is to delete the entire {87D62D94-71B3-4b9a-9489-5FE650DC73E} key. Not just the InProcServer32 value.

We're looking for new people to join the PCStats Folding@Home team and help us to break into the top 50 teams! If you think you got what it takes, join up here. Feedback on how to improve the team is greatly appreciated, let us know.

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PCstats Issue
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Industry Insights

Last year's Computex show was certainly informative; established companies, such as VIA, were showing off new technology and younger firms were demonstrating products they'd developed. Graphics manufacturer XGI fell into the latter company, discussing the freshly wrapped Volari lineup. The top-end offering, sporting two Volari V8 Ultra processors, sounded promising, even against the likes of ATI's RADEON 9800 and NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5900.

I've had the Volari Duo in my lab for nearly a month now, and although the card is available overseas, it isn't ready for prime time quite yet. The two cards I've tested have both exhibited problems; the first didn't boot at all, and the second continues to crash in 3D applications, even after updating to the latest drivers. In those benchmarks it does finish, the flagships from both ATI and NVIDIA handily outperform the Volari Duo. And even then, performance is unpredictable. Applications, such as 3DMark03 and Unreal Tournament 2003 are clearly heavily optimized, whereas others, such as Unreal Tournament 2004, perform at nearly 1/3 the speed of a GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.

Keeping in mind that ATI and NVIDIA are set to announce their next-generation products right around the middle of April, avoid the Volari lineup for now. Perhaps future generations will incorporate more mature drivers and faster hardware.
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