Welcome to December

The month of gift giving…

Flaming WaferIt’s been busy in the world of hardware reviews since Thanksgiving; unfortunately yours truly has been trying to dig himself out from under the pile of UPS packages showing up at his door. Someone went a little bit overboard on the Black Friday deals…  Did anyone see the $60 HD 4870 deal on Newegg? That’s some value right there.

OCZ logoAnandtech’s Anand Lal Shimpi reviewed one of OCZ’s new Octane SSDs recently. In his testing he found that the half terabyte version offered comparable performance to Vertex 3 based drives. These Octane SSDs are based off a new storage controller from Indilinx called Everest. Due to OCZ’s recent acquisition of Indilinx the Octane series of SSDs is the first completely “in-house” design from OCZ. With the variety issues that people experienced with OCZ’s Vertex and Agility 3 drives, Anand’s main concern was the level of reliability and support that OCZ’s Octane has to offer. Time will tell if OCZ’s Octane offerings are really ready for primetime, but the initial results are promising.

AMD - logoKyle Bennett of [H]ard|OCP posed 10 questions to AMD about the newly released FX series of CPUs. While the questions did a decent job of getting at the heart of the issues with Bulldozer, AMD’s responses were less specific than many hoped. Essentially AMD is giving the same talk to enthusiasts that it gave to reviewers, and touting Zambezi’s many new features, that while nice, don’t really move the bar very far forward from Thuban. The one really interesting bit that cropped in the article was confirmation of work being done on a patch for Windows 7 to help its scheduler leverage FX chips CMT architecture more effectively. Hopefully by the time Trinity rolls around a new B3 stepping and a Windows 7 scheduler patch will allow AMD to make a truly compelling price/performance argument in a market that is quite negative about AMD’s FX.

seagateTech Report’s Geoff Gasior looked at Seagate’s refreshed Momentus XT hybrid storage drive this week. The biggest differences between the old drives and these new models are the use of the SATA III interface, a doubling of the amount of on-board flash storage, and an increase maximum capacity from a half terabyte to three fourths of a terabyte. Despite these improvements the new Momentus XT drives still end up in the same awkward performance middle ground between conventional hard drives and SSDs that their predecessors occupied. The biggest issue that Geoff had with these drives was pricing. Originally aimed in the $190 price range, Seagate now has bumped the cost of the top end drive to the same price level as AMD’s FX-8150 CPU at $245. This puts it squarely into the price range of the HD + Small SSD combo that Intel and OCZ have been pushing recently. Needless to say a setup of that kind would offer better performance and a greater total storage capacity than a Momentus XT drive. Price is the key to wide spread adoption in the mass storage market and it looks like Seagate’s Momentus XT just isn’t quite there yet.

Nvidia world iconRyan Smith of Anandtech got to play with Nvidia’s limited edition GTX 570*cough* 560 Ti with 448 cores. The chip on this card is not a GF114 as its 560 Ti branding would lead you to believe, rather a severely cut down GF110. In addition this card will only have a limited run and should disappear from the market by the end of next quarter. As far as performance goes this card is ever so slightly behind its big brother the GTX 570. One of the most interesting bits in the article is in the comments where Mr. Smith discusses the performance comparison between the GTX 560Ti and the HD 6950. When the 560Ti launched it had a bit of a performance lead on the HD 6950, but 10 months later the situation has reversed itself due to driver improvements. At the end of the day the GTX 560 Ti 448 Limited Edition is a good value proposition compared to the GTX 570, but it faces stiff competition from HD 6950 variants.

Legit Review’s Dan Stoltz picked apart Biostar’s TA990FXE. This 990FX motherboard lives at the bottom of the price stack coming in at only $129. It lacks many of the features you’d find on more expensive motherboards but solid performance and a low price tag effectively make up for it. The only area where the TA990FXE falls behind the rest of the pack is in memory bandwidth; where it’s anywhere between half a gigabyte and a full gigabyte behind its higher priced competition. One of the big advantages of the 990FX chipset over the 890FX is “legitimate” SLI support. Biostar has yet to enable SLI support on this board but has promised an update that will do so in the near future. So if you’re looking to put together an FX based Folding@Home machine the TA990FXE is not a bad place to start looking.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.