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In This Issue...

- MSI K8N Diamond Plus
- Patriot PC2-8000 XBLK
- ECS KA1-MVP Extreme
- S3 Chrome S27 GFX
- Asus EN7800GT Silent
- PCstats Weekly Tips

Low Latency Memory - The Next Big Thing?

With the impending release of the much anticipated AMD socket AM2 and Intel Core 2 Duo processors, everything is about to change... dramatically. By the time it's unveiled, Intel's Core 2 Duo CPU will make your computer obsolete if it's using anything with 'Pentium' in the name. Likewise, it will soon be time to put that trusted single-core Athlon64 CPU out to pasture. Dual cores, DDR-2 RAM, and Virtualization will be the new buzzwords this summer; but you can bet there are still a few other surprises in store... The Intel Core 2 Duo is rumored to ship as of July 10, while the next generation DDR-2 based AMD socket AM2 processor is expected to launch by the end of May. Major platform changes are always exciting events, so stay tuned!

The third installment of PCSTATS' look at AMD vs. Intel can be found just off to the left, while the Weekly Tech Tip focuses on WindowsXP this week.

On the review front, MSI's K8N Diamond Plus motherboard dishes out a full PCI Express x16 to each SLI videocard, making it a very enticing platform for gamers. You'll want to pay close attention to Patriot Memory's new low latency PDC22G8000+XBLK rev2 DDR-2 memory - DDR-2 and low CAS latency's are usually two attributes which don't go together. Not sure what memory latencies are? Read this PCSTATS article for the full explanation. After that, we test out the ECS KA1MVP Extreme motherboard, before diving right into the S3 Chrome S27 videocard which includes component output support. Lastly, PCSTATS' takes a look back at the noiseless Asus EN7800GT Top Silent PCI Express videocard.

Thanks for reading,
Max Page

MSI K8N Diamond Plus nForce4 SLI x16 Motherboard Review


When it comes to computers, bandwidth rules. Instead of waiting for the videocard bandwidth crunch to roll around, nVIDIA introduced the nForce4 SLI x16 chipset - it has 16 PCI Express lanes for each SLI videocard, as opposed to 8 lanes on the first generation chipset. The MSI K8N Diamond Plus is one of the few nForce4 SLI x16 motherboards that is readily available, and it's a very sweet little slab of PCB. The hardware goodies include dual Gigabit NICs, 400mpbs IEEE 1394 Firewire, an additional Silicon Image Serial ATA II controller for a total of six SATA2 channels, and the obligatory 7.1-channel Creative Sound Blaster Audigy soundcard! Yes, that's a Sound Blaster Audigy!Continue Here>>

Patriot Memory PDC22G8000+XBLK Rev.2 DDR2-1000 Memory Review

One of the main reasons for integrating the memory controller directly into the processor is because latency decreases between the two devices - cpu and memory controller. AMD is on the cusp of dropping DDR and adopting DDR-2 RAM, and this is why the socket AM2 Athlon64 processor is being introduced. This impending change is having a very interesting impact, causing memory manufacturers to dramatically tighten up DDR2 memory timings. This is a really wonderful change in our opinion. ThePatriot Memory PDC22G8000+XBLK Rev.2 memory is a "jack of all trades" DDR-2 module. This pair of dual channel DDR-2 RAM is capable of running with timings as tight as 3-3-3 under DDR2-667 speeds, and with timings as tight as 4-4-4 under DDR2-1000 speeds... Yes you've read that right, the PDC22G8000+XBLK memory isn't married to those all too familiar 5-5-5 CAS Latency settings.Continue Here>>

ECS KA1-MVP Extreme Xpress 1600 Motherboard Review

Gamers who want the absolute fastest systems to battle alien monsters, fly through the sky at mach 20, and save the universe need to walk right up to the isle of dual videocard motherboards. The ECS KA1-MVP Extreme is one of the new breeds of ATi CrossFire Xpress 1600 motherboards. The board supports Socket 939 Athlon64/X2/FX processors as well as up to 4GB of PC3200 system memory thanks to the four dual channel DDR-RAM slots. Other standard features include two network cards, an additional Silicon Image SiI3132 Serial ATA II/RAID controller , IEEE 1394a and 7.1 channel audio. All this for a sticker price that certainly makes you look twice.Continue Here>>

S3 Chrome S27 PCI Express Videocard Review

With Microsoft's Windows Vista due out at the end of this year, or perhaps early 2007, there is a feature called Aero Glass that is set to break plenty of legacy videocards. If you want to take advantage of Microsoft Vista's fancy Aeroglass visual interface (and by all accounts you really do) the computer must have videocard hardware capable of at least DirectX 9 with a minimum of 64MB on board memory. And wouldn't you know it, the new S3 Chrome S27 videocard fits the bill perfectly. The card boasts a 90nm manufactured silicon core, eight pixel rendering pipeline, 128MB GDDR3 memory, dual monitor outputs, and one other device.... Continue Here>>

Asus EN7800GT TOP Silent 2DHTV/256M Videocard Review

Just yesterday I was speaking with a colleague about some graphics cards on the test bench in the PCSTATS labs, and specifically about how loud videocard fan was. ASUS has caught on to all of this, care of an innovative heatsink called the 'SilentCool', this graphics card is dead silent. Behind the mass of metal is an nVidia GeForce 7800GT GPU and 256MB of 1.6ns GDDR3 memory - the Asus EN7800GT TOP Silent/2DHTV/256M is guaranteed to be fast with a package like that...Continue Here>>

PCstats Weekly Tech Tips: Assigning Special Account Controls in WinXP

WindowsXP Pro has a limited variety of user privileges available to choose from, and at times the default choice of 'Administrator' or 'Limited' user privileges falls far short of the situation. But whether you know this or not, there are a few more privilege levels hidden away from view; such as 'Power Users,' 'Backup Operators' and 'Network Configuration Operators' to name just a few. To enable these privileges types is a bit trickier, but here's the low down on how to access all the different accounts available to WindowsXP.

First right click on the "My Computer" icon and go to "Manage". The "Computer Management" window will open and follow this path Local Users and Groups -> Users. In the right hand window, right click and select "New User..." Enter the user name and description to remind you of this account's powers then press the "Create" button, then "Close". Right click on the new account and go to "Properties" then click the "Member Of" tab and the "Add..." button. From here click "Advanced..." and then the "Find Now" button and a list of all different user levels will appear. Select the one you want this account to have, then press the "Ok" button three times. Now that newly created account will have intermediate powers between a full Administrator and the base limited option.

This tip is useful for those times when you want to give someone more capabilities without requiring the administrator to baby-sit everything. For instance 'Network Configuration Operators' can adjust the networking properties like assigning IP addresses, configuring the DNS, etc., yet they do not have the ability to install programs (think Spyware). Power Users can install and run non-essential OS affecting programs, but cannot delete or modify someone else’s account or data without permission. Assigning Privileges are also a great way stopping kids from messing up the family computer too.

Be sure to stop by PCSTATS Forums and post your comments or questions to this tip.

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AMD vs. Intel Part 3
Navigating Between DDR and DDR-2

Here's a little secret, on the whole DDR-2 RAM has been a bit of bust. Touted as the memory of the future, able to leap small buildings in a single bound for everything from videocards to motherboards. It promised a lot and delivered little in the real world. Yet since the entire computer industry is shifting towards DDR-2 RAM, we're all resigned to the fact that it's here to stay until perhaps FB-DIMM and DDR-3 RAM break out in 2008.

Of course DDR-2 memory isn't all bad, it offers a greater level of bandwidth between memory and processor, and that's a good thing. It's just that single-core Intel systems (the current largest segment consuming DDR-2 RAM) aren't very inspiring, and the wonderfully low timings associated with DDR memory have been cast aside for a pointless frequency game. There's a difference between PC2-6400 with high lanencies, and PC2-6400 with low latencies when it comes the benchmarks, and so far the latter has been sadly overlooked for far too long.

By the middle of this year AMD's Socket AM2 Athlon64 processor will be running along on DDR-2. The socket AM2 Athlon64 isn't expected to demand a ton of bandwidth from the get-go, but rather benefit more from DDR-2 memory with tighter CAS latency timings. Unfortunately at the moment these types of parts are lagrely absent from the DDR2 memory equation, so it's hard to offer commentary on where this will all be headed...

It's very likely that initial Socket AM2 Athlon64's will perform no better, or no worse than equivalently paced Socket 939 counterparts. Between now and then, perhaps AMD will have tweaked the memory controller to utilize more memory bandwidth, or DDR-2 memory latencies will have dropped somewhat. Like you, I'm still waiting to see.

The saga isn't yet written, and pre-release glimpses of Socket AM2 performance by way of Engineering Sample CPUs are only telling half the story. It will be interesting to see what happens, but certainly the prevalence of DDR-2 RAM is unrelenting.

...the story continues next issue.
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This Issue By
. Max P.
Weekly Tips
. Colin S.

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