cover
William R.

William R.

Joined on 09/16/06

Product Reviews
product reviews
  • 9
Most Favorable Review

Wow. Just, wow!

Thermaltake Black Widow W0319RU 850W ATX 12V v2.3, EPS 12V v2.91 CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
Thermaltake Black Widow W0319RU 850W ATX 12V v2.3, EPS 12V v2.91 CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

Pros: Massive, weighty goodness. Could double as a boat anchor if it wasn't so useful. Solid construction, thoughtful design, more power than most people need. Modular design is nice, allowing you to plug in just the cables you need and expand later. There is no comparison between this and lower end PSUs. You literally "feel" the quality as you pull it out of the box! Quality power = headache free operation.

Cons: It's physically about two inches longer (deeper?) than most standard PSUs. This may cause a problem in some smaller cases. Modular design (plug-in cables) may be slightly over rated. This is my first time using the system, and it's certainly nice, but I'm not sure it's worth the price premium. Unless you're a complete neat freak there is no reason you can't secure extra cables with zip ties. In short, don't forget that this is strictly a cosmetic feature.

Overall Review: Used to be, power supplies were the single most unexciting piece of computer hardware one could contemplate. I'm old enough to remember the era of the "big red one" when turning a computer on and off involved reaching toward the back and flipping a large integrated switch. My how things have changed. Still, modern ATX power supplies weren't a big deal until just recently and it's one of those areas of computing where you can skimp and probably get by, until you can't. Case in point: recently my own system had evolved into a moderately powerful gaming system, but I was still using my cheap-o 450w PSU. Increasingly I was seeing crashes and the like. Then the PSU died, and I scavenged a higher quality unit from my file server - magically my crash problems went away. I never even considered that my problems could be PSU related. If you're pushing your system to the limit with modern games and hardware, it pays to invest in a quality PSU.

12/17/2009
Most Critical Review

Read the reviews closely before you buy!

OCZ Obsidian 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3OB1600LV4GK
OCZ Obsidian 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3OB1600LV4GK

Pros: None. See below.

Cons: As noted elsewhere this RAM doesn't automatically work at the advertised 1600 speed. To get to that speed you have to tweak your BIOS settings. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as many 1600 speed memory requires this type of setup. The problem is that even with correct settings the ram is unstable. On my high end motherboard with a quality power supply my system would experience blue screens. My RAM also failed Memtest86 at the default speed, pointing to a manufacturing defect. OCZ should cease advertising this as 1600 speed RAM.

Overall Review: I bought this ram in a hurry without reading the reviews. I was attracted to the price and the rebate. Had I read the reviews I would not have bought it. I've returned it and bought a G.Skill kit which works at the advertised speed. I'm out the return shipping and restocking fee on this ram - in total about $20! :-( My system: ASUS Crosshair III Formula Motherboard AMD Phenom II X4 955 CPU Thermaltake Black Widow 850W PSU XFX Radeon HD 4890 GPU Dual 80gb WD Velociraptors in RAID 0

12/29/2009

Works perfect with XBMC Live (Linux)

AVS Gear GP-IR01BK Windows Vista Infrared MCE Black Remote Control
AVS Gear GP-IR01BK Windows Vista Infrared MCE Black Remote Control

Pros: - For the price, good build quality - Literally works out the box with XBMC Live! - Batteries included - Reasonably good layout and lots of specialty keys - Wide beam means you don't have to aim hard - Fast and accurate keys and scrolling! I've been experimenting with HTPC setups for a while now. I settled on XBMC sometime ago and was running it from a Windows 7 PC for a while. I finally decided to commit to a dedicated HTPC box running the XBMC Live CD Linux install. I read this worked out of the box, but I was blown away by how flawlessly it worked. I built my HTPC, connected the USB receiver, booted from the Live CD (as of this writing the Dharma Beta 3), installed to the hard drive and it just worked. No configuration required, no scripts or conf files to mess with. Fast forward, rewind, volume, and many other features which I hadn't been able to use with other remotes worked instantly!

Cons: None. Nada. Zilch. Sure there are nicer remotes out there, but for this price and this level of instant compatibility with XBMC... you can't go wrong!

Overall Review: I've messed with quite a few PC remotes over the years - All In Wonder remotes various Logitech and generic MCE remotes - none worked without hours of configuration, third party applications... this one just works. This is the remote to get if your building that XBMC box!

10/16/2010

Outstanding HTPC solution

MSI GeForce 210 512MB DDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Low Profile Ready Video Card N210-MD512H
MSI GeForce 210 512MB DDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Low Profile Ready Video Card N210-MD512H

Pros: - Passive cooling = quite - Perfect for 1080p video - Good for compact cases - Price

Cons: - None - Not for games

Overall Review: There are a lot of folks out there running HTPCs with Nvidia on-board chipsets. This card allows for hybrid SLI which may be beneficial for some solutions. 1080 playback is flawless on my 40" LCD TV. I'm running XBMC on Windows, but this card is supposed to work well with the Linux version as well - ultimately my HTPC will run Linux so this is a good solution - works great under Windows 7 and Nvidia's Linux support is constantly expanding. The HDMI works flawlessly for video and audio in Windows and support for Audio is coming soon to Linux. Yeah, you can nickle and dime yourself down $10 or so for a passive card which might work ok.... but the price of this card is already so low you might as well go with the MSI brand for piece of mind. Great card.

A great display full of pleasent surprises!

TOSHIBA REGZA 40" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV 40XV645U
TOSHIBA REGZA 40" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV 40XV645U

Pros: - Cost. The price has been up and down a bit lately, so watch before you buy. This is one of the best deals out there but it seems to go up and down by several hundred dollars. - Quality. Straight forward setup. Serviceable connections. Well thought out. - Great over the air tuner. It pulls in channels which were very flaky on my PC tuner flawlessly and I haven't even repositioned my indoor antenna. 1080p OTA looks amazing.

Cons: - VGA connector only does lower resolution (not a big deal, just use HDMI) - but plan ahead if you're using a HTPC - you'll need a DVI to HDMI connector or HDMI output from your PC. - Internal speakers won't rattle your windows, but are very fine for casual TV viewing. - Glossy cabinet attracts fingerprints, but looks good when clean.

Overall Review: I was looking at 46" and 47" models before some careful measuring revealed that these would be far too large for my living room. Once I started looking at 40" and 42" televisions it was natural to move toward this Toshiba. The LCD has the features you want for the right price. I have this TV connected via HDMI to my HTPC (which runs XBMC) and the optical output goes from the TV to my Harmon Kardon amp... it's a proper audio pass through and the TV absolutely does not interfere with the audio quality. It's a fine setup and switching between the receiver and the internal speakers is easy. The TV works great for casual over-the-air viewing and when I want I can flip on the receiver and select a movie for a full home theater experience. If you're thinking about a larger TV make sure you measure carefully. This TV fits perfectly in my living room where the larger TV I initially wanted would have been far too large. At 45lbs it's easy to install and move for a single person.

The sweet spot for price vs. performance

XFX Radeon HD 4890 1GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 CrossFireX Support Video Card HD-489X-ZSFC
XFX Radeon HD 4890 1GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 CrossFireX Support Video Card HD-489X-ZSFC

Pros: This card runs everything at max or close to max settings at 1920x1200. I was really torn between buying this card or the newer 5770. I was running dual 8800 GT OC cards in SLI and didn't want to step down in performance just to get DX11 support. I also wanted to consolidate into a single GPU as SLI and Crossfire can sometimes cause headaches. This will continue to be a great card, particularly as the price falls, though buyers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of buying newer technology. In a year or so, when DX11 is more common, you'll probably want to steer toward a card that supports that technology. For now though, this is hands down the sweet spot for price vs. performance in GPUs. You have to buy into the 58XX cards or be willing to run 5770s in Crossfire to beat this thing. If you're like me and always buying hardware that is six months out, check out the Ars Technica Hot Rod build from April 2009. They recommend the 4890.

Cons: - Size. It's physically a large card, occupying two slots. Many higher end motherboards take into account the size of large GPUs, but some boards may have the ram or other items in the wrong place. Double check your application. - Power. It's a thirsty card. - No DX11 support. The 4890 will be a top performer for a long time to come, but as games transition to DX11 it will cease to be the bargain that it is today.

Overall Review: I'm a long time NVidia customer, but I wanted to stay with AMD CPUs. This really limited my motherboard selection when it came time to upgrade. So I took a chance and retired my 8800 GT OC SLI setup for the single 4890. So far it's been a very nice bump up in performance! In a year I'll retire this card and step up to 58XX for DX11. My specs: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition CPU ASUS Crosshair III Formula Motherboard Thermaltake Black Widow 850W PSU XFX Radeon HD 4890 GPU G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 RAM Dual 80GB WD Velociraptors in RAID 0

12/29/2009