Tuesday, 31 January 2012

ATI 7950 - Sapphire & Gigabyte Overview!

Released today is ATI’s latest addition to its 28nm 7900 series graphic cards, the 7950 and we’ll be looking at the Sapphire OC Edition & the Gigabyte standard card.

The Sapphire card comes in traditional Sapphire form, simple cardboard boxes with the card in anti-static bag. Beneath the cards moulding you’ll find a box with assorted cables and documentation. I was quite impressed with the amount of cables that come packaged with the Sapphire, definitely haven’t skimped out on the accessories.

Unravelling the card reveals its two fans mounted over a custom heat sink with light plastic moulding. By design it is obvious this card is good for heat dissipation and airflow. The card comes ready with a DVI, HDMI and 2x DisplayPort outputs. The card is also 3D ready using its own AMD HD3D technology.

The Gigabyte card comes in nicely shaped and moulded white foam in a white box. Accessories aren’t a great deal with this card so be prepared for any extra costs.

Opening the card we are exposed to its 3 fans and unique heat sink design. Now, I’m no expert but already I can sense the 3 fans could cause a bit of turbulence with air flow, after all you want a nice solid stream of air being flowed onto your heat sinks and I think with 3 fans, this could cause a slight disturbance. They’ve labelled the 3 fan system as WINFORCE on the packaging, which by the diagrams on the box, looks like it means ‘a whole lotta air pushing through the card’.
The Gigabyte comes with the same outputs as the Sapphire model and supports up to 4 displays.
So let’s take a look at the guts of the cards

Radeon 7950
Radeon 7950
Bus Interface
PCI-E 3.0 x16
PCI-E 3.0 x16
3072MB / 384-bit GDDR5
3072MB / 384-bit GDDR5
2 Fan Dual-X Cooling

By Sahin Selvi
The benchmark results may differ from user to user depending on what background software you are running and versions of benchmark software. These results aren’t portrayed to be seen as exact performance figures but merely as a rough estimate on the performance of the machine. These results are in no way bias to any company or person and are here to provide the end user in depth details and to provide extra assistance of potential purchases. All information on this page is subject to copyright. Please do not copy any parts of this article.

Lenovo Y570 Laptop Review!

Up today is the newest addition the successful range of the Lenovo Y Series, the Y570. A few months ago I did the review on the Y560P which turned out to be an absolute monster of a laptop exceeding all expectations. The Y570 appears to be similar in design with beefed up specs, let’s take a look at the specifications.

Model: Y570 (0862MDM)
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel® Core™ i7-2670QM (2.2GHz, 3.10GHz Turbo)
Memory: 8GB DDR3 (1333MHz)
Hard Drive(s):
750GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
Super Multi DVD R/W
Gigabit Ethernet
nVidia GT555M 2GB Switchable
15.6” HD LED Backlight (1366x768 Resolution)
JBL Speakers
802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
1x USB2.0, 2x USB3.0, 1x eSATA,  1x Microphone, SD Card Reader
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI
Battery: 6 Cell

From the Y560 we see an improvement on the Graphic Chip with switchable graphics, ensuring longer battery life for small tasks and additional USB3.0 ports.
Upon inspection of the box, one will notice the larger sized packaging. Open the box reveals cardboard goodness in a tight fit design. What I like about this particular one is the fact you don’t have to pull it up vertically to take it out. Sitting the package horizontally the lid opens to reveal the laptop sitting in its foam moulding.

Looking at the unit we see a distinctive orange line running around the edge of the screen, with the lid patterned by sparkling dots (in a cool tech kind of way, not a girly way).  Opening the lid reveals a purple brushed aluminium look with sleek touch buttons, a full sized keyboard with number pad and JBL speakers dominating the top section. Not sure who designed this and why they chose purple and orange as a colour scheme. A laptop like this could have used a sleek and glossy black casing.
Like other Lenovo units, the Y570 also features a One-Key recovery option to restore to factory settings, along with a very comfortable and ergonomic keyboard. The track pad feels very smooth and easy to use and doesn’t have that stickiness most laptops suffer from.

Similar to other Lenovo’s once again, the inputs are wisely located and do not obstruct one another. The dual USB3.0 ports and eSATA port add good connectivity to this unit. The display on this unit is fantastic. Very crisp and clear with excellent contrast and brightness. This is definitely one of the better screens on laptops on the market.  HD films look brilliant and coupled with the JBL speakers make it a good buy for movies on the go. The larger hard drive allows for a decent number of films you can carry with you at all times!

Packed into this unit is a Core i7-2670QM CPU running at 2.2GHz and a solid 8GB of memory to accompany it. An improvement over the Y560P, the Y570 adds a slightly higher clocked CPU with the same memory. Booting the unit came in at 51s for its first boot. It even displays this in a little popup when you first start the machine and even gives you options to try and improve that.
The sound being produced from the JBL speakers is fantastic. You really get a good punch of a sound for something so small and on a laptop. Usually with laptops tinny and ear cringing sound is inevitable but the JBL’s on the Y570 are fantastic. Let’s not forget you won’t be hearing audiophile quality sound, but it offers great sound for a laptop. 

Our Cinebench software gave us the following test results:

CPU: 5.20pts
OpenGL: 44.51pts

Our PCMark07 benchmark gave a result of 2479 PCMarks.
Our 3DMark11 Vantage benchmark produced a result of P1821 3DMarks.

These results prove the extra grunt in the Y570 outperforms that of the Y560P. Comforting to know as it’s not always the case with new products. The CPU was the biggest surprise with a good 300marks improvement over its predecessor.

Multimedia applications ran like a breeze as expected, the Y560P performed will with Photoshop and After Effects and the Y570 is no less. This really is a solid performing laptop. The slower hard drive can occasionally slow down opening and saving files, but with USB3.0 ports at the helm, small issues like this can be avoided. 

Temperatures were interesting with the unit. The hard drive and nVidia G555M chip were at 40 and 45 respectively while the Core i7 was mildly blazing in the low 50’s during idle. While on load you definitely hear the fan working its magic and pumping air out of the exhaust on the left hand side. I really would not recommend using this on a soft surface like a bed, as it can heat and pretty quickly. On load the GPU would hit about the 60 degree mark with the CPU reaching 70 which is a fantastic result overall, however I’m obliged to tell you the fan is definitely working its head off. It pushes good heat from the side of the unit.

Gaming was fantastic on the unit, quite surprising as well. By default it sets your graphics to relatively high settings with 2x AA enabled. With these settings gameplay was smooth and free of any hiccups. The Y560P was brilliant with games and it looks like with the beefed up 2GB Graphics chip on the Y570, gaming on laptops has gone even better.

The Y560P was by far the best laptop I’d tried last year. It provided amazing performance for sub-$1000 mark. The Y570 continues that tradition pumping out even better performance for the same price range. This laptop seems to do what a lot of users will ask out of a laptop. Though it doesn’t stand out as much as its predecessor and lacks some simple colour mixing errors in its design, it offers the end users quite a good deal.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cooler Master Cosmos II Ultra Tower Overview!

2nd Generation Cosmos! An Ultra Tower

Bit of a change for today’s post, instead of the normal reviews about design and performance, I’ll be doing an overview of the latest beast of a tower to come out of the Cooler Master production line, the Cosmos II.
This is self-described as an Ultra Tower and you should take its word. This is a gigantic case. It took two of us to bring it upstairs to the office to unpack and present. The box itself is just ridiculous large for a case, so be warned if you’re planning to pick one up, come prepared with a buddy and a decent sized car to put it in. before we get into the ins and outs of the tower, let’s take a look at its specifications.
  • Material: Exterior: Aluminium, Mesh, Synthetics; Interior: Steel-Alloy, Synthetics, Rubber
  • Dimension (W / H / D): 344 x 704 x 664 mm / 13.5 x 27.7 x 26.1 inch
  • Weight: 22 kg / 48.5 lb
  • 5.25" Drive Bay: 3
  • 3.5" Drive Bay: 13 (2 from X-docking with key locks, 5 HDDs in the Middle cage, 6 HDDs in the bottom cage)
  • I/O Panel: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 4, e-SATA x 1, Audio In and Out
  • Expansion Slots: 10+1
  • Cooling System:
    • Front: 200mm LED fan x 1, 700 RPM, 19 dBA(converted from 120/140mm x 1)
    • Top: 120mm black fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA
    • 200mm fan x 1 / 140mm fan x 2 / 120mm fan x 3
    • Rear: 140mm fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 19 dBA
    • Side: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)
    • HDD: Mid.HDD: 120x25mm fan x 1 (optional);
    • HDD: 120mm fan x 2, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA
  • Power Supply: ATX PS2 / EPS 12V (optional)
  • 2.5"/3.5"- SATA HDD Drive Bay: 11 (converted from 3.5" cages)
  • Maximum Compatibility: CPU cooler height: 190mm / 7.48 inch, VGA card length: 385mm / 15.15 inch 
So there you have it, a 22kg (without parts) case standing at 700mm off the floor. Once you start putting in a power supply, a CPU heat sink and a few hard drives, expect this to hit the 30kg mark. So if you’re planning on using this as a LAN computer, I’d strongly suggest buying a trolley or some sort of transportation device, however if you’re looking for a solid piece of case for your home system setup, this is definitely a solid runner.
Unpacking the box was quite simple, even though it is quite big; once you slice open the taped seals you see a big piece of foam stretching the length of the box. Removal of the foam reveals a few paper manuals and the case itself wrapped in plastic. Taking it out is as easy lifting the case by the handles, or if you’re a bit of a shorty or don’t have the power to lift it up, tip it to its side and slide it out with ease. The plastic wrapped simply slips off the top revealing your tank of a case.

Once out the box and freestanding you see what the fuss is about its size. It stands out like the ugly duckling, except this ugly duckling looks brilliant and makes other duckies look like dog food.
Looking at it closer, we see the front panel featuring 2 USB3.0 ports, 4 USB2.0 ports an eSATA port and audio jacks. More extensions than anybody would really need for the front. Beneath the inputs and out puts you have 3x 5.25” slots which are very easily opened by pulling back on the left side of the panels then sliding in your devices. Beneath them there are 2 3.5” slots which are your quick removable slots which give you hot-swappable option. The rear of these 2 panels can be wired up ready to go, so basically you have yourself two hard drive docks. This area can be covered by the vertically sliding lid which feels like it is controlled by hydraulics, very smooth yet sturdy. The lower section has a mesh, which by pulling from beneath it removes to reveal one of the intake fans. There is also a fan slot beneath it to install a 2nd 200mm fan.
An amazing feature is the top of the panel where the section of the top where the name is branded on slides back with a very slick feel to reveal the power panel. The buttons on this panel feel and look like a mobile phone, except the power button feels a bit cheap than the rest. If you roll your finger gently on it, it basically will click with every bit of pressure applied to it.

Opening up the side panel via the push down clicker on the back of the case reveals its guts and why it’s labelled as an Ultra Tower. The side panel opens like a door via pretty strong hinges attached to the case. This panel is removable via simply lifting it up. The panel does have two handles towards the top which is a bit over the top. The side panel is very thick compared to other cases. It has a good 5-6mm in thickness at its thickest point. The side panels also feature an aesthetically pleasing mesh grill
Looking inside we see the motherboard area with the 5.25” bays and 5 3.5” bays. The lower section of the case houses the power supple, and a simple opening of the fan brackets in a door manner reveals an additional 6 drive bays, more than enough for most users out there. The fans attached to this bracket have very short and simple 3-pin plugs with both coming out of the same spot suggesting good wiring job within the fans. One of the first things you’re faced with when opening the case is the amount of cabling. This is quite a fair bit, so ensure to read up on the manual to take full advantage of it all. (Nothing wrong with reading manuals no matter how much of an expert you think you are). You’ll also find a tall thin box which has addition power adapters and brackets.
A good thing about this case is with its size it allows for good cable management. You’ll see a fair amount of rubber enforced cable holes to thread through you cables from wherever to wherever. There is enough on both the back plate of the motherboard and bottom plate to thread all your thick power cables. There is plenty of room between the back plate and side panel to store all your extra cabling at. The hard drive bays have sufficient space to use normal straight plugged SATA cables and you won’t find your cables bending when closing the panel. This is a big plus for this case; the extra room just makes it much easier to handle cable management. 

The hard drive holders though lack the strong build of the rest of the case. In my hand they feel quite bendy and flexible. Cooler Master has stuck with the pellet like clips to lock in the drives, which I really am not a fan of. I’ve seen much better options for the drive mounts and would’ve liked to have seen some improvement on these made.

The top of the case is where this really excels. It features a single 120mm fan with support up to 3, however above the fans you find yourself with an enormous amount of space. This area is perfect for your water blocks and radiators. The rear of the case has rubbery holes ready for your water cooling hosing. 

The back plate of the case supports up to 10 PCI slots, enough to support the hungriest of users. It even features a vertical PCI slot. The power supply area is more than sufficient enough to support the larger PSU’s up to the 1500w size range.

To sum this case up, it provides the high-end user with mammoth amount of space to put in all the best and biggest parts you can buy while keeping a slick yet elegant look to it. It would have been nice of Cooler Master to include additional extra fans to fill up those empty spaces if wanted considering the price tag of the case. For the price you get yourself a case that will last a lifetime. The case is also perfect for those looking to build a NAS-like build, with plenty of bays to fill up with drives.