Thursday, 16 February 2012

Acer Aspire AS5750 Laptop Review!

Budget laptop for the entry user!

Up today is the Acer Aspire AS5750. This budget laptop has the potential to offer good value for money with its decent specifications and good price point. So let’s take a look at what this baby can do.

Let’s take a look at the specs.

Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel® Core™ i3-2350M (2.3GHz)
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (1333MHz)
Hard Drive(s):
500GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
Super Multi DVD R/W
Gigabit Ethernet
Intel HD3000
15.6” HD LED LCD Backlight (1366x768 Resolution)
Dolby Advanced
2x USB2.0, 1x USB3.0,  1x Microphone, SD Card Reader
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI
Acer have done relatively well with its packaging. It is neat and organized with well-placed cautionary warning cards on the unit (tells you ways to maximise battery life and performance). Once I had the unit in my hands, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit cheap and plastic-y. 

The lid is embossed with a repetitive pattern which stretches to the inside once you open the lid. The keyboard area is surrounded by the same embossed plastic. The keyboard keys are elevated with healthy sized gaps in between, so beware, if you enjoy munching on chips and cookies in front of your laptop while playing games or watching movies, you’re going to get a fair bit of it under the keys, it’s almost unavoidable (unless you stop eating, which let’s face it, isn’t going to happen). Apart from the elevated gaps, the full sized keyboard which includes the Num pad is generally quite comfortable to type on. You have your standard Fn keys laid across the keyboard including the arrow keys for brightness and volume control. 


The sound of the unit is actually pretty good comparing against some of the past ear cringers I’ve heard, but what lets it down is the display. It lacks the clarity and sharpness of other laptops in its price range; however this could be something to do with the Intel HD Graphics. Past laptops I’ve reviewed with similar problems regarding the screen are usually those with a lower end graphics processor. The screen is glossy so reflection and glare can be problematic on it. Outdoor use on a sunny day could be turned into a complete waste of time trying to actually see what you’re doing.
Performance wise the laptop does well with what it has to offer, with an i3 processor, don’t expect to do that much high performance work on the unit. The laptop is perfectly suited for those who need an easy and simple home laptop to do some financing, bills, management and even a good unit for the kids and their homework. The laptop isn’t as nimble as you’d like it to be, weighing in around the 2.4Kg mark, it isn’t as ideal to carry around and work on.

In our PCMark07 test it scored a respected 2066 PCMarks, which is higher than our previous Core i3 laptops which are definitely a positive sign for the unit. It seems like it puts what it has under the hood to full use. Our Cinebench tests also showed positive signs scoring 9.57fps for OpenGL test and 2.18pts for the CPU, which is definitely a respectable score for its hardware.

Overall the unit seems to hit a good point when it comes to getting a bang for your buck. It’s not perfect, but at its price point and simple features, it gives those low-end users a fantastic option to consider for their next laptops.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

XFX 7950 - Double Dissipation & Black Overclocked Edition Reviews!

Mid-range XFX 7950 Powerhouse Cards. 

Following the massive launch of the 7970’s, it has now come time to test out their sister chip, the 7950. On hand we have the XFX Double Dissipation and the XFX Double Dissipation Black Edition Overclocked edition. Let’s take a look at the cards major specs and differences.

Double Dissipation
Double Dissipation Black Edition Overclocked
GPU Clock
Memory Bus
Memory Clock
Power Requirement
500 watt (2x 6-pin)
500 watt (2x 6-pin)

For testing we have gathered and built our system with the following parts and components:

Unpacking the cards is like deja-vu from the 7970’s. Identical packaging’s all around will the same packaging layout across all the models. Good design consistency throughout.
Let’s take a look at the few features displayed across its packaging.

XFX claim its cards to feature Hydrocell Thermal Solution. This is a vapour chamber based on the same principles as heat-pipe technology, which uses a recirculation process and wick system for vaporization.

Duratec Professional Grade technology with basic ally represents XFX’s standard for their components and build quality, which also include XFX’s own bracket design featuring the XFX logo.
Ghost Thermal Technology allows the airflow from the fans to blow directly through the heat sink onto the PCB board itself. This allows for greater airflow on and around the card, helping keep the fans at lower speeds.

Both these fans are the Double Dissipation models which feature a custom heat sink which runs the length of the board topped off with 2 fans. They look and feel slick with the shiny aluminium encasing the heat sinks.

The cards are quite long and roughly the same dimensions as the flagship 7970’s so make sure you have adequate space in your case before eyeing out of these.

Now with our 7970 review, we did the review quite earlier than the release date, so we were stuck with the Driver software packaged with the released version. This turned out to be a slight downfall for us where in our performance tests, the cards just did not do as well as we expected and as well as it should have. So with the 7950’s we skipped over the installation CD and went straight to AMD to grab the latest available drivers for the cards, and we must say, what a massive difference!

For testing purposes we ran benchmarks including a spec-heavy selection of games, 3dMark11 and Heaven.

For our selection of games we had:
Arma II
Crysis 2
Metro 2033

All our games were played at 1920x1080 with max settings on everything. For consistency purposes we played the same levels on all cards for equal length of time. Our results consisted of minimum and the average FPS of the games. At the same time we were recording the temperature of the card and system in general.

The cards performed very well and the clock differences showed in its results.

Our Heaven benchmarking software was set at Full HD resolution with maxed setting and extreme tessellation. After all, these cards are marketed as having very good capabilities with high tessellation models. The cards performed as below:

XFX Double D
FPS: 41.7
Scores: 1050
Min FPS: 10.3
Max FPS: 101.2

XFX Double D Clocked
FPS: 41.9
Scores: 1055
Min FPS: 18.6
Max FPS: 102.1

Looking at the results at first glance doesn’t show a massive difference; however the Min FPS has a difference of over 8 FPS.

Next we had 3DMark 11. Running at the extreme setting our cards performed following.

XFX Double D: X2261
XFX Double D Clocked: X2279

As expected the slightly higher clocked card came out on top.

Temperatures on the cards were actually impressive, idling at the 41 mark with peak of any of the two cards at 65. Having the same heat sink on both cards provided us with almost identical results. Not only were temperatures impressive but was relatively quiet, especially compared to the stock reference editions of the cards. All that mumbo jumbo XFX put on the card in relation to its thermal solutions seem not to be a gimmick but actual technology that does make a difference to the cards performance.

To finish up, these cards are fantastic. I’ve reviewed a fair few products at Centre Com and not a lot of products I’ve tested I’ve actually liked, sure I’ve enjoyed a lot of them and they have performed well, but there was something about these 7950’s that I haven’t found in other products yet. For its price tag you get yourself a magnificent card with solid performing results.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Asus G74SX-TZ358V Laptop Review!

Up today is a special treat, it’s the Asus G74SX-TZ358. We all know what a monster of a laptop these are, so today I’ll be putting them to the test to see just how well it performs in real-world use.
So as always, let’s take a look at this monster’s internals.

Model: G74SX-TZ358V
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
Intel® Core™ i7-2670QM (2.2GHz, 3.10GHz Turbo)
Memory: 16GB DDR3 (1333MHz)
Hard Drive(s): 
256GB SSD + 750GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
BluRay Writer
Gigabit Ethernet
nVidia GTX560M 3GB
17.3” Full-HD LED (1920x1080 Resolution)
EAX5.0, THX TruStudio
802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
3x USB2.0, 1x USB3.0, 1x eSATA,  1x Microphone, SD Card Reader
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI
Battery: 8 Cell
Weight: 4.28kg

Well there’s no surprise here, this definitely has the wow factor. So let’s take a look at it in detail and see what it has to offer.

Unboxing the unit I was less than impressed, comes in a standard Asus ROG box with average cardboard moulding, for a laptop of its price I would’ve liked to have seen something a little bit more flamboyant and exciting. Taking it out of its box was a fair effort, weighing in almost double the weight of your average 15” laptop. However once it’s opened up you truly see the magnitude of this machine. It is thick and huge. The casing is a slick matte black plastic with what feels like rubber around some points including the wrist rest area and the lid.

Opening up the lid reveals the full sized backlit keyboard with a dedicated number pad. The keys look fantastic with the backlights (kind of reminds me MacBook keyboards) and are extremely smooth and comfortable to use. Size and ergonomics aren’t compromised with this keyboard with nicely spaced out keys allowing even the bigger fingered gamers to take full enjoyment out of it. Along the top right of the unit you’ll see the power button and the ROG button, which allow you to select difference performance profiles for the machine. For testing purposes, I kept it on Performance (Highest setting)
On the left of the unit you’ll find 2x USB ports, Lock, BluRay drive and audio jacks. The right hand side features another 2 USB ports (one of which is USB3.0), network plug, power plug, HDMI, VGA and a card reader. The rear of the unit is where it is the thickest has two spaceship-like exhausts pushing out hardcore air.

Flipping the unit upside down we can unscrew the small clip to reveal the Memory modules and both hard drives, a fantastic and easy way to upgrade the machine in the future, allowing good future proofing. 

The display on the machine is fantastic. The large 17” LED screen boasts Full HD resolutions with crisp and clear clarity. Full HD films (MKV format) looks and play fantastic, the support of good audio decoders within the laptop produce a solid performing sound to accompany the visuals, but the speakers definitely do lack the quality and power of the rest of the machine. A good solid pair of speakers would’ve really pushed this laptop to be that little bit more exciting to play with.
Blu-ray playback was a bit tricky, the pre-installed crapware simply put, did not work. After downloading PowerDVD did I manage to get a Blu-ray movie working and it was gorgeous. The colours were very rich and vibrant showing off amazingly rich deep blacks with clarity in its colour.

A power laptop like this would be expected to excel in performance, and as expected it didn’t disappoint. Booting came in at 25 seconds and with a few tweaks and changes  I got it down to around the 20sec mark, which really is unbelievable for a laptop computer. The SSD in the G74 is a LiteOn LAT-256M3S, with Seq. Read and Write coming in at 500MB/s & 360MB/s respectively, something which we will put to test with the same software used as LiteOn. It should be noted though, like other Asus units, the G74 is piled on with pre-installed crapware which if the PC is left idle for 5-10min all popup one after the other, covering your screen.
Starting up 3DMark11 I tested the machine under Performance and Extreme settings with results as follows:
X665 3DMarks
P2040 3DMarks
I wasn’t that pleased with the results, it did perform well above any other laptop I have tested, but I was expecting a bit more out of it. So I jumped on the net and updated to the latest drivers and followed up with these results:
X698 3DMarks
P2216 3DMarks

So a fair bit of an improvement, but I feel like it’s being slightly bottlenecked by the CPU. The 3DMark scores excelled at graphic tests but when it came to Physics test it’s where it slight underperformed. None the less, very good results for a laptop computer.

In our Unigine V2.5 benchmark, the G74 came in with the following result:
FPS: 18.1
Score: 457
Min FPS: 6.5
Max FPS: 43.1

Testing the SSD’s performance with HD Tune Pro came up with the following results:
Max Read: 308.3MB/s

Fairly short of the 500MB/s listed in the spec sheet of the drive. When it came to writing, the software failed. This was because the SSD drive is actually partitioned. Your C drive is given 100GB of the SSD and the remaining is partitioned separately, along with the 750GB drive which is also split into two partitions, both which are completely stupid ideas. Asus, what are you doing? However, going on the performance result of the read, I’d say the write is fairly lower than the stated amount.
Gaming however, put to rest all the controversial benchmark scores. Crysis 2 ran like a breeze with Full HD Resolution pushing out an incredible 39 FPS average while keeping less than 65 degrees. Brilliant score for a laptop! If you think about it a 6970 averages around the 50fps mark for certain models, so for a complete laptop system to push out 39 as an average, that’s pretty good.
Modern Warfare 3 had no issues at all running it at 1920x1080 with full settings maxed out. Over the span of gameplay it average a solid 40fps.

Temperatures were amazing. Even under full load the GPU didn’t pass 70 degrees with the CPU coming in even lower. The exhausts at the back however were pushing out a good amount of heat so full credit goes to this design by Asus, the dual fan design they have in the machine definitely gets the heat out. Having said that I would not recommend using this on your lap, this will burn the hair of your legs! A desk and even if you have one, an elevated cooler would be the wisest option.



Asus have built something special here; this is definitely a laptop you could use as a desktop replacement… even for the gamer. I would however recommend any user who buys this to do a complete format and partition back the drives together to create a true 256Gb SSD + 750GB Hard Drive combo. Partitioning 2 drives into 4 on a laptop just does not seem wise or logical. The machine has plenty of grunt, it’s a shame you need to spend so much time to take full advantage of it. For a price tag of around $2200, you definitely do get equally performing machine. Its upgradability makes it future proof and open for improvements (How about an Intel or Crucial SSD??). If your into your LAN events and are sick and tired of lugging around complete system around, this is definitely a worthy option to consider.

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.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Samsung 350U2b-A07 Overview!

A Pink Laptop with Style & Performance

Today I’ll be opening up a Samsung 350U2B-A07. This is the newest product from the 350 range and boasts some decent specs all cased in a portable and pink shell.

Let’s take a look at the specs.
Operating System: Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel® Core i5 Processor 2430M (2.4GHz), 3MB L3 Cache
Memory: 4GB DDR3 RAM
Display: 12.5" LED HD (200nit, non-gloss)
Graphics: Intel HD 3000
Storage: 500GB HDD
Communication: 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN, Wireless-N 130, 802.11 bg/n (up to 150Mbps), Bluetooth® 3.0 High Speed
I/O Port: VGA(Dongle), HDMI, Headphone-out/Mic Combo, Internal Mic, 2 x USB 2.0 (Sleep-and-Charge), 4-in-1(SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) multi card slot reader, RJ45(LAN), DC-In(Power Port)
Input: Touch Pad(Scroll Scope, Flat Type)
Physical Specifications: Dimension(W x D x H): 298.9 x 197.8 x 26mm, Weight: 1.4kg
Warranty: 1-Year International Warranty
Power: 6-Cell Standard battery

So, all in all, it looks like quite a good machine packed into a 12.5” screen sized laptop. The unit comes wrapped snuggly in a foam moulded box with the accessories in its own box adjacent to the unit. You’ll find your basic power cord and manuals as the accessories.

Looking at the unit it does look striking. It is slick, smooth and a big winner for this is the matte screen, so minimal glare for those who like to work out under the sun.
Overall the unit looks quite appealing and for the price, it is suited for a lot of people. The pink shelling makes it ideal gift for a girlfriend or a wife.