Graphics/Sound

Creative Labs was instrumental in evolving PC audio with notable products, like the Sound Blaster 16, AWE 32, AWE64, Live!, Audigy, X-Fi, and Extigy, and algorithms like EAX technology. Most of its competitors through the last three decades, like Yamaha, ESS, Turtle Beach, Auzentech and M-Audio, evolved their product line-ups or faded into obscurity. There were acquisitions of Aureal and Sensaura technologies that further boosted Creative's technology portfolio, too. Sound cards seem passé nowadays, as motherboard manufacturers hop up high-definition audio codecs with higher quality op-amps, capacitors,... Read more...
Samsung hopes to bring curved displays to the masses with its 27-inch CF591. The monitor has an MSRP of $349.99 and is discounted in Samsung’s online store (and others), dropping the price to just under the $300 mark. Even without the discount though, the CF591 is one of the more affordable high-end curved displays, though it’s not the cheapest one currently available. But Samsung hopes that it hit the sweet spot here by combining tempting features with a low-ish price. Curved monitors certainly look cool, but display makers have had a tough time making convincing arguments that they’re necessary.... Read more...
If our eyes are the windows to the soul, then what does that make our ears? Doorways to our internal sound stage, that's what. But listen up, it doesn't matter how gnarly the guitar riffs your favorite musician is playing or how intense the in-game effects are, if your headphones aren't up to the task, then you might as well go back to the days of MIDI files Ad Lib sound cards. Second-rate headsets rob you of delightful high notes and brain rattling bass, of the subtle sound of footsteps when an opponent tries to sneak up behind you or the blast of a grenade you just hurled behind enemy lines.... Read more...
Samsung is the largest and one of the more popular consumer electronics companies in the world. Besides its hugely successful HDTV lineup, the company also makes some equally exciting LCD monitors. Samsung's offering of flat panel displays have proven to be stylish, dependable, and competitively priced. Generally, we've come to find that Samsung PC monitors deliver a healthy balance of performance and affordability though not on the bleeding-edge of technology but more targeted to the mainstream. In addition to its own line of monitors, Samsung even manufactures a... Read more...
  When AMD launched the Radeon HD 4870 X2 a few months back, the company hinted at the impending release of another, more affordable, dual-GPU powered card aptly named the Radeon HD 4850 X2. Like the more powerful 4870 X2, the 4850 X2 would sport a pair of RV770 GPUs on a single PCB, but on the 4850 X2 they would be clocked somewhat lower and would be linked to more affordable GDDR3 memory.At the time, AMD planned to release the card at a slightly lower price point than the competing GeForce GTX 280, but it took quite a while for the Radeon HD 4850 X2 to finally materialize. When it did arrive,... Read more...
The price of LCD screens has steadily declined and in the last few years, larger monitors are starting to become relatively affordable. This is especially evident in the 19", 20" and 22" categories, where we see a significant number of products in the sub-$300 range. However 24" and larger screens still remained premium products until very recently. In the last year or so we have seen the first 24" screens to dip below the $400 mark appear on the market. The products in this new category of value oriented 24" screens almost universally combine a large and cheap TN panel with a basic monitor housing... Read more...
When we're asked by readers for hardware advice, one of the most popular topics involves the graphics card.  With a myriad of options out there covering the price and performance spectrum, it's not always a cut and dried answer.  First, we need to consider the person's budget requirements, then assess the rest of their hardware to see what best fits their situation.  It's not simply a matter of buying the most expensive card one can afford.  We wish it were that simple.  In the end, it all comes down to a balancing act between price, performance, and user's... Read more...
For each type of product and in each market, there is usually a specific price segment that will provide the best value proposition for consumers, often known as the 'sweet spot'. For quite some time, the 19" widescreen was the sweet spot of the consumer LCD monitor market. Hovering between the cheaper but aging 17" screens and the expensive but only slightly larger 20" screens, the 19" widescreen LCD provided the best value for a long time. However, in the last 8-10 months, LCD monitor production has increased and the price of LCD panels has fallen dramatically. The 20" screens which... Read more...
In late January, ATI unveiled several new entry level GPUs manufactured using the 55nm process that was first employed with the more powerful RV670 GPU.  Not only did the new process help ATI deliver more competitive graphics cards at attractive price points, it also improved on such things as power consumption, which is of growing interest to energy conscious users.  For these newer entry level cards, the RV635 and RV620 GPUs were crafted with many of the same features as the RV670 , yet condensed into a smaller, more affordable product line.Today, we're evaluating the Sapphire... Read more...
It seems like a new year always evokes the feeling of renewed hope and high expectations.  And for AMD / ATI at least, 2008 appears to have reinvigorated their graphics division, which appears to be firing on all cylinders at the moment.  After a year or so of NVIDIA dominating the high-end graphics space, ATI released the Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 cards, which have proved to be competent alternatives at their respective price points.  Based on the RV670 GPU, the HD 38xx series has been able to provide similar or better performance than the preceding... Read more...
Upon its release, it was expected that even the most ardent power users and enthusiasts were going to tread lightly at first with respect to adopting Windows Vista as their primary OS.  Though end users in this demographic are classically early adopters, in terms of new hardware technologies coming to market, an operating system change brings with it a whole myriad of pitfalls, from backwards compatibility to stability and performance issues, which are all understood to be "part of the deal" with any new OS.  In reality, many folks migrate to a new OS platform over time, opting to dip their toe... Read more...
A lot of attention is paid to framerates when discussing graphics hardware, and rightfully so.  Some argue that they are an outdated method for assessing a video card's performance, but when assessing a potential purchase, buyers need some way to determine why one card is superior to the other.  We can talk about how a card "feels" during gameplay, but framerates quantify that performance.  While framerates should not be your sole purpose for deciding on whether a particular graphics card is the right fit for your needs, they can be a useful tool for assessing the overall value of a product.... Read more...
Graphics processors are, and have always been, extremely parallel in nature. This sentiment has been expressed time and time again by various GPU architects from all of the major graphics chip designers. If you want additional performance, in the vast majority of cases, you can gain it by adding on more rendering pipelines or a second (identical) graphics processing unit. Graphics applications and games scale very well with additional rendering power under the hood, as shown by both Nvidia's SLI and ATI's Crossfire technologies, which can be traced all the way back to the 3DFX Voodoo2, which was... Read more...
There is a common occurrence in the graphics industry that happens near the launch of any major new architecture. Before a company introduces a major change in their GPU designs, they will take their existing GPU designs and offer them at a wide variety of different speeds and price points, sometimes surprisingly low priced, in order to clear out inventory before their new architecture comes into view. The most recent example of this would be Nvidia's GeForce 7900 GTO, which launched just a few weeks before their new GeForce 8 architecture, and provided amazing price/performance levels for... Read more...
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