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.Integrated Video
.A Reader Asks...
.173P - 17" LCD
.Dell Dimension PC
.MSI X48 Combo
.128MB Jetflash
.PCstats Weekly Tips

Your Comments: "I just wanted to say how grateful I am for your site. It's all there, and more." - Geoff
Dell Dimension Desktop Reviewed

I receive questions from readers all the time about what PC, or components they should get. If the hardware has passed through the PCstats labs the answer is an easy one, but if not, it's hard for us to make an objective recommendation. This is why the PCstats Forums are so handy; there is good chance someone has used whatever it is you are looking for, and can give you some solid advice on how well, or how poorly, it worked for them.

As many of our readers are involved in deciding what PCs their businesses should be considering, PCstats has bunkered down with a Dell Dimension 2400 desktop and run it through a gauntlet of benchmarks. The results may be surprising for anyone who instinctively equates a brandname with high performance. Though, if you are on a budget, it's hard not to be swayed by a PC this affordable. However, is the Dell Dimension 2400 simply a case of "you get what you pay for?" Or, is it the right PC for the right application?

With Doom3 being released the first week of August, there has never been a better time to upgrade from that old 15" monochrome monitor ;-) The 17" 173P LCD display from Samsung earned high marks from us, so it's a review worth reading. Also on the agenda, PCstats tests the MSI X48 combo drive and Transcend's 128MB Jetflash thumb drive. The tiny little Jetflash packs in storage, and 802.11b networking in one package. Over in Industry Insights, the discussion turns to integrated video motherboards, and down in "A Reader Asks...." the topic du jour is FTP sites and DSL routers. Last but not least, the Weekly Tech Tip is a good one!

Dell Dimension 2400 System Review
Read it Now! PCstats recently took some time to take a look at one of Dell's latest PC offerings, the home/small business targeted Dell Dimension 2400 PC system. As this computer package is one of the cheapest full systems (including monitor and operating system) available right now, we were curious to see what kind of value and performance Dell offers its customers for the Dimension 2400's minimal price. We examined this budget system inside and out, and ran it through a full spectrum of benchmarks and subjective tests before we were satisfied. But were we satisfied? Read on for the full details... Continue Here>>

Samsung Syncmaster 173P 17-inch LCD Display Review

The compact little 17" screen of the Samsung Syncmaster 173P boasts a resolution of 1280x1024 pixels, and an industry standard dot pitch of 0.264mm that makes for a crisper image than current 19" LCDs can muster. While the 173P does retail a bit higher than the average 17" LCD, it does offer up a contrast ratio of 700:1 and brightness value of 270 cd/m2. Its pixel refresh time is pretty standard at 25ms, but its viewing angles break the barrier at 178 degrees (horizontal/vertical). I'm not sure what person would expect to work on a screen from an angle of 2 degrees, but at least you have the option open to you. Continue Here>>

MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo Drive
Read it Now!

The MSI X48 is capable of burning CD-R media at 48x, CD-RW media at 24x, reading CD's at 48x, and reading DVD-ROM's at 16x. Users of smaller/SFF PC's will be happy to hear that the MSI X48 is only 17CM in length, making for a nice and compact package. Along with what could already be considered a compelling feature set, the MSI X48 includes two interchangeable face plates which allow you to match the colour of the drive with your case. Whether you have a regular white case or a fancy black one, the MSI X48 drive can suite your style. Continue Here>>

A Reader Asks...

Q: I have a small home network set up using a Linksys wireless router to connect my computers to the Cable modem and provide security. I recently created an FTP site (thanks for the excellent guide by the way), but I cannot seem to access it from outside my network. I'd wanted to access files at work, but I cannot. I'm assuming the firewall is causing the problem. How can I set it up so that my FTP site can be accessed? I am still using the default router settings (except for the password) because they worked fine until now.

A: : Most routers use a NAT (Network Address Translation) firewall. A NAT firewall drops all incoming data by default, stopping it from entering the network. When a computer inside the network requests information from the Internet, the firewall records the IP address of the computer and that of the Internet location it is sending data to in a table. When data comes back from the Internet, the IP address of the source is compared to the table and if data had been requested from that address it is allowed into the network and sent to the requesting computer.

Obviously, with this type of firewall, no one is going to be able to get at your FTP site from outside. They can type in your IP address with an FTP client, but as soon as the request hits the firewall it will be dropped. What you need to do is create a virtual server. A virtual server is a set of specific instructions for your firewall, telling it that if x kind of data is received from outside the network on y port, it should be allowed into the network and forwarded to z machine, in your case, the FTP server.

Any home router that contains a firewall should have a screen for setting up virtual servers. Consult the documentation if you have trouble finding it. You will need to set up a virtual server for TCP port 21 pointing to the IP address of your FTP server. This should resolve your problem.

Next week PCstats answers your questions about Integrated audio vs. sound cards. To submit your questions, send PCstats an email.

-Join us - Beginners Q and A in the PCstats Forums

Transcend Wireless 128MB JetFlash Review
Read it Now!

Solid state storage devices are putting the final chapters onto the life of the 1.44MB floppy disk, as they offer higher storage capacity, better resiliency, and lower cost per GB of storage. One of the most popular forms of solid state memory for everyday computer use comes in the form of flash media. In this article, PCstats is testing out an interesting little device from Transcend, the 128MB JetFlash USB 1.1 drive. What makes the Jetflash drive really stand out is that it also contains a 802.11b Wireless LAN adapter. Continue Here>>

PCstats Weekly Tech Tips Send To...
Search Dealtime
Super Micro
The "Send To" feature found in Windows is extremely useful, but in its default state is quite limited. For those of you who primarily work with a few files and applications, it may be easier to open them via "Send To", than the old fashion way of loading up programs then opening up the file.

To edit your "Send To" options load up Windows Explorer then go to your Documents and Settings folder. Select your identity then click the SendTo folder, to see it though you might have to choose the "Show hidden files and folders" option radio box in your folder options. Once you're in the SendTo folder, simply place a shortcut of your favorite or most access application and you're done. From now on when right click on a file and go to the send to option, you'll see the new application name right there.

Do you have the ultimate 3DMark tweak? If so why not share it with us in the PCstats Forums!

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PCstats Issue
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Industry Insights

For as much as integrated graphics chipsets are touted as ideal value alternatives to discrete video cards, they sure aren't held to the same standards for performance and stability. This past weekend, I tested three current integrated Pentium 4 platforms; ATI's Radeon 9100 IGP, Intel's 865G, and its new 915G chipset. Despite the significant difference in specifications between the 865G with its single pixel pipeline and the 915G with purported DirectX 9 support and four pixel pipelines, performance remains dismally low.

Consider Far Cry, one of the most popular first person shooters currently available, according to NPD Techworld. The Graphics Media Accelerator 900, a component of Intel's 915G, doesn't render the water using true reflections and refractions per the Pixel Shader 2.0 specification. Instead, it uses a fake reflection, what Cevat Yerli, Crytek's president, told me is characteristic of DirectX 8 hardware. On top of that, even at 800x600 with the lowest quality settings enabled, the GMA 900 peaked at a meager 19 frames per second. Interestingly, it scored similarly as the older Extreme Graphics 2 core.

Unless you're a business customer with no need for 3D rendering, don't even bother with the new 915G chipset. Its DirectX 9 support is lackluster and performance is an afterthought. Instead, spring at the very least for a sub-$100 video card.
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