Near misses (cont’d)
Each year the hard drive continues to get bigger and bigger, Seagate’s 7200.10 was a prime example of this. The drive sports perpendicular recording technology, as well as denser platters, allowing it to pack in data like never before. The drive also ships with Seagate’s 5-year warranty and boasts a 16MB cache, supports 300MB/sec transfer rates, and supports NCQ.
The 7200.10 is available in capacities ranging from 200GB up to 750GB, and most importantly, is priced aggressively. You can pick up a 250GB 7200.10 HDD with 16MB cache for about $80 on Newegg (and even less for the 8MB cache models, but we’d suggest a 16MB drive), and a 400GB drive for under $140.
The 7200.10 helped to usher in a new era of inexpensive, large-capacity hard drives, and it’s a speedy drive too. What’s not to like about that?
ATI Radeon X1950 XTX:
Built on TSMC’s 80-nm manufacturing process, ATI’s Radeon X1950 XTX was designed to make their high-end R580 GPU architecture cheaper for ATI to produce. Its R580+ graphics core supports the same basic specs as R580, only its memory controller has been designed to run with GDDR4 memory. In fact, the Radeon X1950 XTX ships with 512MB of GDDR4 running at 1.0GHz (2.0GHz effective) clock rate. This allows the X1950 XTX to excel at ultra high resolutions like 2560x1600.
ATI also addressed one of the chief criticisms of X1900 XTX: noise. The Radeon X1950 XTX ships with a dual-slot cooler that exhausts hot air outside your case, just like the X1900 XTX, only now it runs considerably quieter – it’s nearly silent in fact. Before the debut of NVIDIA’s G80 GPU, the Radeon X1950 XTX’s R580+ GPU was the fastest single graphics chip on the market, and it offered HDR+AA for even better visual quality. The only real downside to the Radeon X1950 XTX is that it predates built-in CrossFire.
Since the Radeon X1950 XTX debuted, ATI has released a slew of new mainstream GPUs that have CrossFire support built-in to the graphics core itself, thus removing the need for CrossFire master cards.
Radeon Xpress 3200 CrossFire:
The Xpress 3200 chipset (which has since been renamed the 580X CrossFire chipset by AMD) was a real breakthrough product for ATI, finally proving that they could truly design and build a high-end chipset for the AMD platform. Up to that point, ATI’s success in the chipset segment had been limited to integrated platforms.
The Xpress 3200 chipset delivered exceptional performance and overclocking headroom, all in a package that could run on simple passive cooling. It offered a total of 40 PCI Express lanes with most of those lanes in its North Bridge so that it could drive two 16 lane PCI Express graphics slots at full bandwidth in CrossFire mode. The chipset also supported up to 10 USB 2.0 ports and four 3Gb/sec SATA hard drives with NCQ.
Xpress 3200 was a real hit on the Socket 939 platform, but for whatever reason, it’s been slow to catch on for AM2, with only a handful of motherboards available on the market. It’s a shame too, as it’s really a solid alternative to NVIDIA’s nForce chipset family, particularly for use in HTPCs or other apps where power/heat are a concern.
Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (quad-core):
Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was the world’s first quad-core CPU, packing four Core 2 processing cores inside a single socket package. Running at 2.67GHz, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was outperformed by the Core 2 Extreme X6800 in most gaming benchmarks, but with a little bit of overclocking this could easily be made up.
In the overclocking department, like all Core 2 CPUs, the QX6700 was an overclocking marvel. In fact, Gateway and other PC manufacturers have taken the liberty of factory overclocking the QX6700 to speeds of 3.2GHz and more, complete with warranty. Even Dell, a company which has traditionally shied away from overclocking, provides OC’ing options inside the BIOS of their QX6700-powered XPS 710 desktop system.
The only real downside to the chip is it’s prohibitively expensive. It officially carries a list price of $999, but this is the price Intel charges its distributors in 1K unit pricing, street prices on the CPU are currently a little higher than that. Fortunately Intel is expected to introduce cheaper quad-core CPUs over the course of 2007.