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Inspect a Gadget: Gaming ammo

August 17, 2012



Processor: Intel Core i7 2600K 3.40Ghz (8MB Cache)     Rs. 28,500/- Motherboard: GA-Z77-D3H                                                          Rs. 15,500/- GIGA BYTE Liquid Cooling System 3D Mercury Pro Black Aluminum ATX Full                                    Rs. 28,000/- Tower 3D Galaxy Series Blue Eyes RAM: CORSAIR 8GB RAM DDRIII Desktop with Heat Sink (Vengeance)   Rs. 6,500/- Graphics Card: HD-7970 3072MB GDDR5 384/bit DVI-I/HDMI/Mini Display Port                                                    Rs. 56,500/- DVD (RW) Sony DVD Writer AD-7260S SATA                         Rs. 2,000/- Power Supply: 900 PSU Epsilon 80 Plus                                    Rs. 9,000/- HDD: Seagate 500 GB SATA HDD 3.5"                                          Rs. 7,500/- K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard                                                    Rs. 4,800/- Mouse: G500 Gaming Grade Laser Mouse                                 Rs. 7,000/-

Total cost (without monitor and Windows)              Rs. 1,65,300/-

I was very excited to hear that I’d be getting a ‘gaming machine’ for review. At first I didn’t exactly know if I should expect a console or a computer. As it turned out, a couple of days later, there was this massive computer casing which looked like something out of a sci-fi movie sitting at my office. My initial thought was if I press the power button will it fly or take me back in time?

It didn’t really do either; but defiantly looked the part. There is a water cooling system that has a speed control knob placed on top of the front panel, with a rotary display of the speed at which the coolant is flowing. All of it lights up neon blue on startup: the power supply, the rotary display and the pipes through which the coolant flows through that are visible from the left side of the casing. Visually the only thing I do not like about it is this chrome-finished five spoke wheel made of plastic which doesn’t move or do anything on top of the machine. That being said, the machine looks great.

I had already gone through the specification list and knew that this machine was going to be a lot of fun. So, in the naivety of my over-excitement, I had bought a few new titles to play and test out. When I put the first game DVD in the drive, much to my surprise, I couldn’t access it. I figured there must be something wrong with the game so I put in another one and then another one after – but to no avail. I then called the suppliers and told them about my issue. I told them I think it must be a problem with the operating system (OS) or the combo drive and they said they would send someone and have it fixed the same day. Three days and two trips later they told me it’s a problem with the OS and they would send the machine back the next day after resolving the issue.

A week later the machine arrived and they went out of their way to install a couple of games for us which was very thoughtful I suppose. When I started playing the first game I saw (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2), it loaded up very quickly and the opening montage was very nice, but since I already play it at home on a PS3 I wanted to quickly get to the game play so I skipped it and went on to the main menu. When the game started, I felt like I was unable to communicate with the game seamlessly and I could not figure out if it was the refresh rate or latency or hardware acceleration, so I stopped the game. After going over all the hardware and software settings from the control panel, the BIOS and the in-game settings, I returned to the game – only to find out that the problem still existed. I then played another game, followed by a third, only to face the same problem several times over.

So I gave up on it and told my friends who sent the machine that it is great for using Microsoft Office and perhaps Adobe Photoshop but that’s the end of it. Games and this machine were not getting along at all. When they got back to me another week later, they told me that the graphics card which was supposed to be fantastic was actually “EOL”. Hearing that I chuckled unintentionally after which he elaborated and told me that EOL is actually an acronym for end of life.

So a couple of days ago they brought back an upgraded machine. About eight weeks later, here I am writing my review. The machine looks the same but works much better.

Processor 64-bit computing on Intel architecture requires a computer system with a processor, chipset, BIOS, operating system, device drivers and applications enabled for Intel 64-bit architecture. Processors will not operate (including 32-bit operation) without an Intel 64-bit architecture-enabled BIOS. Performance will vary depending on your hardware and software configurations.

Max Turbo Frequency refers to the maximum single-core frequency that can be achieved with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, which requires a PC with Intel Turbo Boost Technology capability. The performance varies depending on hardware, software, and overall system configuration.

Graphics card The Radeon™ HD 7970 is the first graphics cards using a 28nm GPU and supporting Direct3D 11.1 that will initially ship with Windows 8. With 2,048 stream processors, coupled with a 384-bit GDDR5, memory bus provides 3.79TFLOPs of computing performance, requiring no compromise from the active gamer. The graphics card comes standard at 925 MHz GPU clock speed with over-clocking headroom at 1GHz and beyond.

Traditionally video cards have been able to output audio through the HDMI port and audio has been restricted to a single device, be it a monitor, HDTV or a receiver. With DDMA, you can send audio to multiple devices via the display port combined with the HDMI. Just imagine a video conference where each attendee is mapped to a monitor and with a DDMA set on each monitor speaker set!

My personal gaming experience with the HD 7970 was flawless. The gameplay was very fluid; no hiccups within any game or application that I used. My test bed included various first-person shooters, role playing games and racing games, each of which were a pleasure to play. I also watched movie trailers and briefly used creative multimedia production software. The experience was fast, uninterrupted, and had great playback.

However, I could not test out the multiple HDMI and DDMA outputs. This machine was tested on a 24-inch Samsung LCD monitor via the DVI output. Therefore, I cannot narrate my experience with the DDMA and HDMI outputs.

Mouse A Logitech G500 gaming mouse was used to test out the games. As gamers would know, the smallest details in gaming equipment can make a difference between winning and losing.

The Logitech mouse provided precision, control, and comfort. A gaming-grade laser, and 10 programmable buttons provide smooth precision at any hand speed. Onboard memory lets you take your settings for your favourite titles wherever you go – with no added software. Personalised weight tuning of up to 27 grams, gave me the feel that I wanted and consequently more control. The dual-mode scroll wheel provides click-to-click scrolling that's perfect for selecting weapon in games and the hyper-fast scrolling is ideal for flying through long web pages. On-the-fly adjustable dpi allows for precision targeting (200 dpi) to lightning-fast manoeuvres (up to 5700 dpi).

Keyboard The Logitech K400 has a built-in multi-touchpad. The touchpad is the same size as on most laptops (3.5-inch) with multi-touch navigation for web browsing. The long range wireless feature allows you to control your TV-connected laptop from the couch with a 33 feet  wireless range. You could easily increase the font size in your browser and be in bed checking your e-mail, Facebook or watching TV shows online with some snacks on the side! The K400 removes the need to find a hard surface to place your mouse on.

It has low-profile, easy-to-read keys for comfortable typing on quiet keys. I felt it to be somewhere in between what a laptop and a desktop keyboard feels like.

Overall The start-up is very quick and games do not crash. After quite a few upgrades (not to mention less-then-ideal customer service), the system finally works and does all that I had initially expected it to do; in some ways it does it better. My only reservation, however, is why should I pay 165,300 rupees for an unbranded PC that comes with a pirated operating system and has so many issues?

I decided to find out how much its branded competition would be worth. Dell makes Alienware laptops and desktops which, as most would agree, are top-end gaming machines. Here are the specs:

Processor             2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-3820 (10M Cache, Overclocked up to 4.1 GHz) Operating system  Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64Bit, English Memory                8GB Quad Channel DDR3 at 1600MHz Video card           3GB DDR5 AMD Radeon™ HD 7950 Hard drive           1TB Serial ATA 3 Media reader      19-in-1 Media Card Reader Sound card          Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio Optical drive      Single Drive: 24X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability

Total cost = $1,831 ~ Rs. 1,68,452/-

Apart from great specs, this alternate Alienware machine also comes with licensed Windows, a warranty and installation DVDs. As it turns out, a faster desktop with more memory, a data card reader, and all the perks of a branded PC would cost you a mere 3,000 rupees more than its unbranded counterpart. It’s almost a no-brainer!