Day in Tech: 23rd July 2012


Canon announces the EOS M, its first mirrorless camera


Blackberry 10 set to join Siri in the mobile voice control club


Reuters joins other news agencies in suggesting new iPhone will come with new dock connector


In other news…

Google adds timelapse video of Earth


Photo credit 246-You



The End of the 13″ MacBook Pro?


When Apple released the redesigned the MacBook Pro in 2008 it soon established itself as the notebook of choice for graphics designers and photographers. While it was unsurprising that the 15” variant of the Pro was an instant success what was more surprising was that the 13” also proved wildly successful. It soon became evident that the 13” Pro filled a hole in the market for people looking for a powerful, well designed and relatively lightweight computer that could be easily carried around. In fact it became the go to choice for many students. However, the market has changed since 2008 and it seems as if the 13” MacBook Pro could soon no longer have a place not just in Apple’s line up, but also the notebook industry’s as a whole.


Introducing the MacBook Air



Announced in 2008 the MacBook Air was seen as a marvel in engineering and caught the entire PC
market off guard. Apple were by no means the first technology company to try to build a super thin
and light notebook in a wedge design (see the 2004 Sony Vaio X505 for example). What it did do,
however, is create a product with decent battery life and performance whilst also being eminently
portable. Indeed Apple has been refining the MacBook Air ever since and it looks like the 2012
variant could be the final nail in the coffin for the 13” MacBook Pro.


Prior to 2012 the 13” Pro offered up much better performance compared the the Air. Yet looking at the current possible configurations of Apple’s ultra-portable shows that it actually has the edge over the 13” Pro. Possibly the most important performance factor between the two is that the Air comes with, as standard, an SSD. For those of you yet to experience the speed of an SSD it is hard to explain
how big a difference to general performance it really makes. It simply makes applications and the
OS respond almost instantaneously, as well as consuming less power than a spinning disk drive.
You may be thinking that the Air has always had the option of an SSD and you would be right but
SSD performance has seen great leaps over the last four years and Apple is using a Samsung SSD,
widely regarded as one of the fastest and most reliable available today. Secondly the Air can also be
configured with up to 8GB of RAM just like the Pro can be. Previously it could only be configured
with 4GB. Indeed the £999 MacBook Air seems much better value for money compared to the
£999 MacBook Pro especially as an SSD provides a much more noticeable performance increase
compared to the faster processor in the Pro.


The Ultrabook Competition

This may lead you to ask why Apple is letting the Air cannibalise the Pro’s market. The answer to
this can be seen in the rise of Intel’s Ultrabooks. With Intel throwing large amounts of money behind its Ultrabooks initiative the MacBook Air would not be able to compete with offerings from Windows manufacturers if it did not have its performance increased this year. Take the Asus Zenbook Prime for example. It comes with a 1080p 13” screen and very similar specs to the MacBook Air. However, it lacks the ability to be configured with 8GB of RAM. Thus by adding more RAM Apple is able to offer another reason to choose the MacBook Air.



In fact Apple has seen that Ultrabooks are likely to eat into the sales of the 13” MacBook Pro and therefore decided it is better that they canabalise their own sales rather than sell fewer laptops in general. The fact is that when the MacBook Pro first launched it was one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks of its class. Now, however, the MacBook Air and other Ultrabooks represent the new age of computing and the 13” Pro is no longer the power and weight sweet spot it once


13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display?

Could a retina display save the 13” MacBook Pro from entering into obscurity? This is an
interesting question as a retina display would certainly act as a substantial differentiator between
the Pro and Air. The problem for Apple is that if it upgraded its Pro with a retina display not only
would it probably be slightly more expensive but the Air would be left behind. Ultrabooks are
already starting to be released with higher resolution screens than both the Air and the 13” Pro.
Therefore if the Pro got a retina display there would be no reason to buy the Air unless you were desperate to have the Air form factor with OSX. If on the other hand you just wanted the best thin and light notebook you could buy you would likely be tempted by an Ultrabook with high resolution


This seemingly leaves Apple with only one option and that is to drop the 13” Pro from its product line up and instead put a retina display on the MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is already seen by consumers as the ultimate portable machine and a retina display would only go and consolidate Apple’s market dominance in this field. In fact we wouldn’t be surprised if by the time Apple updates its notebook line up again there is no 13” MacBook Pro in sight.


Top Photo credit Ian d

Middle Photo credit Intel


Day in Tech: 20th July 2012


Google acquire Apple focused email app developer Sparrow


Samsung announces “major” Galaxy announcement for August 15th


Pictures of Canon’s first mirrorless camera outed


In other news…

Quantas unveils that all its Boeing 767 aircarft will get iPads for entertainment purposes


Photo credit Robert Scoble


PC Builder’s Guide: Part 5-Graphics Cards


When building a gaming PC the graphics card is the component that has the greatest effect on gaming performance. However it is also one of the most expensive components you will buy for your computer. Thus if you aren’t intent on gaming at all it is probably worth just using the integrated graphics that are on the CPU. If you intend on gaming occasionally it is probably worth sticking to the budget option as it will still be able to play games just not at the highest settings.


Before discussing our GPU suggestions it is first important to discuss a few aspects that may confuse first time buyers. Firstly there are two main GPU manufacturers, AMD and Nvidia. AMD typically offers slightly “cheaper” cards with slightly less performance, especially at the high end. Nvidia on the other hand typically offers excellent performance at a higher price than AMD. AMD also has better multiple monitor support while Nvidia supports 3D gaming. Most important to note, however, is that you can’t really go wrong with either manufacturer and there should always be a graphics card in your price range.


Secondly and probably the most confusing aspect of GPU buying is deciphering what all the different numbers and terms mean. Starting with numbers and terms that actually affect card performance. The clockspeed of the GPU determines how fast the GPU runs. The faster the clockspeed the better performance you will get. However, to confuse matters further, not all GPUs are the same. The GPU in the Nvidia GTX 680 is different to the GPU in the GTX 580. Thus if they both have the same clockspeed, due to the 680’s inherent advantages it will always be faster than the 580. Another term that you will see when looking at graphics cards is the amount of RAM that each card comes with. Nowadays most high end cards come with 2GB and mid range cards with 1GB. RAM typically effects gaming performance at high resolutions. Thus if you are playing games on multiple monitors it is best to have a card with two or three gigabytes of RAM.


Arguably the numbers most confusing of all are those that AMD and Nvidia use to label their graphics card ranges. AMD uses a four number naming scheme whereas Nvidia uses three.
For example AMD’s most recent graphics cards are the 7000 series which were preceded by the 6000 series. Furthermore AMD’s high end cards are the 7900 series with the 7800 series below that and so on. On the Nvidia side their most current generation is the GTX 600 series which was preceded by the 500 series. More specifically the GTX 680 is the top range card with the 620 being the bottom of the range.


Finally while in these suggestions we will suggest the graphics cards to buy we wont suggest which manufacturer to buy them from. In general, however, ASUS, Gigabyte, XFX and MSI are all very reliable. Buying a cheaper card usually means that it either comes with a lesser warranty, is not factory overclocked (made to run faster out of the box) or doesn’t come with an aftermarket cooler.


Budget: AMD 6850

The AMD 6850 is the mid range card from AMD’s previous generation of graphics cards. This means that it has come down in price greatly to only £95 and at this price is an absolutely excellent budget card that will comfortably play current games at mid to high settings. Our only concern in recommending this card is that due to it being a previous generation card it is likely to start selling out fairly soon. But if its stock and you’re looking for quality gaming on a tight budget you cant go wrong with the 6850.


Midrange: AMD 7870

The AMD 7850 is the current mid-range card from the AMD line up and due to a recent price drop should cost around £190. Nvidia is yet to release its mid-range card, the GTX 660, but when it does so AMD will probably drop its prices slightly further. The 7850 comes with 2GB of RAM and a clockspeed of 860MHz. The reference version of the card is fairly quiet and doesn’t consume much power at all. Nowadays though most 7850s on the market will be fitted with aftermarket coolers which should mean that they run even quieter and are more overclockable. Something that the 7850 is very capable of doing. Due to the widespread stagnation of graphics due to the age of current generation of consoles the 7850 should be able to run most games at high to maximum settings on any resolution of 1920×1200 or less. In fact for under £200 the 7850 is an excellent purchase for those of you wanting good performance without breaking the bank and with prices set fall even further throughout the year it will only get cheaper.


Enthusiast: Nvidia GTX 680

The Nvidia GTX 680 is the fastest single graphics card ever made and represents the very top of Nvidia’s range. Due to the incredible performance of the card it costs £400 but bear in mind if you do decide to go all out and purchase this card you are getting a card that will easily be able to run nearly all games at max setting even on multi-monitor settings. In fact if you aren’t using multiple monitors or a high resolution 27 or 30 inch screen we’d suggest going for the less expensive GTX 670. The 680 comes with 2GB of RAM although there are more expensive versions that come with 4GB. There isn’t much else to say about the GTX 680 apart from the fact it has a clockspeed of just over 1GHz and is easily the fastest graphics card you can buy before getting into dual GPU territory. As an enthusiast you owe it to yourself to go and buy this card.



Top Photo Credit to Tambako the Jaguar

Second Photo Credit to Peter Van Lancker

Day in Tech: 19th July 2012


Nokia report operating losses of $1billion dollars


HTC One XL and One S to get Jelly Bean update


Google announces $12.21 billion dollars in revenue in Q2


In other news…

Turtle Beach tries to sell you £300 gaming headset


Day in Tech: 18th July 2012


Windows 8 set for October 26th release


UK judge tells Apple it must post apology to Samsung over iPad claims on website and in newspapers


Qualcomm reports extremely strong Q3 profits


In other news…

Google aims to fight drugs cartels with technology


PC Builder’s Guide: Part 4-Motherboards


The next component to discuss when building a computer is the motherboard. While the case is where the computer is housed the motherboard is like the skeleton of the PC as it is where all the other components connect to. The motherboard plays an important role in building a PC because it determines what sort of features your computer will have and the amount of expansion possible in the future, amongst other things.



Before discussing our budget, mid-range and enthusiast suggestions it is important to outline a few details about motherboards. Firstly your motherboard plays a key role in what components you can put in your system. There are two main sizes of motherboards, m-ATX and ATX. M-ATX is a smaller motherboard form factor that can therefore fit into smaller cases but trades this size off for features, such as the number of PCI slots available. ATX on the other hand is the standard motherboard size and while larger, often comes with more features. Both of these motherboard sizes will fit into mid-tower and full tower cases, such as those discussed in part 2. All motherboards suggested in this article are of the ATX variety.


Another important feature of motherboards is chipsets. Chipsets are Intel and AMD’s means of controlling what sort of features each motherboard has. For example Intel’s newest chipset is the Z77 chipset and features Intel’s Smart Response technology (SRT)- an SSD caching solution- which is something that motherboards running the cheaper Z75 chipset don’t have.


Finally when giving advice on motherboards this article will give motherboard suggestions for both Intel and AMD for the budget build. If you are paying as much money as our recommended mid-range and enthusiast CPUs cost you really should be looking at an Intel CPU and thus Intel compatible motherboard to put in your system. Each motherboard can only fit in it certain CPUs. For example an Intel CPU will never be able to fit into an AMD motherboard, and will only be able to fit into an Intel motherboard with the right CPU socket and vice-versa. Although as noted in part 3-on CPUs- you should choose your motherboard based on your CPU choice as at the end of the day the CPU has a much greater effect on your computer’s performance.


Finally we will be looking at socket LGA 1155 motherboards on the Intel side of things and socket AM3+ on the AMD side of things, so even if you don’t feel the motherboards chosen here suit you needs just look for these types of motherboard as they will work with the Intel and AMD CPUs, previously recommended


Budget (Intel): Asus p8Z77-V LX

The Asus p8Z77-V LX is an Z77 motherboard which for £95 is excellent value and perfect for a budget build. Many budget motherboards often come with a reduced feature set in order to keep the price down. The P8Z77-V, however, comes with four USB 3.0 ports as well as a PCI Express 3.0 slot which when combined with an Ivy Bridge CPU doubles the PCI slot bandwidth compared to PCI Express 2.0. Indeed this motherboard is perfect for anyone looking at using an Intel CPU on a budget.


Budget (AMD): GIGABYTE GA-970A-DS3 AMD 970A

As with AMD CPUs, AMD motherboards are also significantly cheaper than there Intel counterparts. Fortunately for those of you building your computer around an AMD CPU these motherboards, even the budget ones, still pack a useful array of ports and slots. The GIGABYTE GA-970A-DS3 AMD 970A is a £66 motherboard that includes two USB 3.0 ports, twelve USB 2.0 ports as well as two PCI Express slots although they are of the 2.0 variety. It also has dual CrossfireX support and overall is an excellent proposition for those building a cheap computer.


Mid-range: ASUS P8Z77-V PRO

The ASUS P8Z77 PRO is another excellent motherboard from ASUS that contains all of the ports you could want whilst also featuring the best features that the Z77 chipset has to offer, such as Intel’s SSD caching solution. Costing £150 and including a staggering eight USB 3.0 slots as well as three PCI Express 16x slots including two PCI-E 3.0 slots the ASUS P8Z77-Pro is a perfect mid-range motherboard. Unlike the budget boards in this article the Pro is also able to offer good stability when overclocking your CPU. As overclocking has become simpler and more people have started to do it, it is important to have a motherboard that is able to provide stability for your CPU. Finally being an ATX motherboard is has plenty of expansion slots that allow for room to upgrade your system in the future, such as the addition of extra graphics cards. All in all then the ASUS P8Z77-Pro is the best choice for any PC builder looking for a solid mid-range motherboard that contains top of the range features as well as the ability to successfully overclock your their CPU.


Enthusiast: ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe or GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 3 Z77

As always in the Enthusiast space there are many different components at the high end, all of which do the job you want them to . However, our recommendation for an enthusiast motherboard would be either the ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe or the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 3 Z77. Both motherboards bring with them excellent performance and port selection.

The ASUS comes with built in Wi-fi, quad SLI support, space for four sticks of RAM up to 32GB of DDR3 as well as 6 USB 3.0 slots, an HDMI port and a Display port. It also has excellent overclocking support with a BIOS flashback button on the board along with a total of six 6Gb/s SATA ports and bluetooth 4.0. In fact its pretty difficult to cover all that this motherboard has going for it and is an excellent selection for anyone willing to spend £187 on a motherboard.

Costing almost £100 more than the ASUS Deluxe the Gigabyte Sniper is certainly a large leap on the money front although it makes up for this with some excellent features that the ASUS doesn’t have. For example as well as having all the features mentioned that the ASUS has the Sniper also comes with 10 USB 3.0 ports and four PCI express 3.0 ports (compared to the Deluxe’s two). Importantly for some the Sniper comes with much improved on board sound and features a front audio headphone amplifier. A addition is also the fact that the all the USB ports on the Sniper come with the power boost technology that allows devices plugged into the ports to charge much faster. Whether these features are enough to persuade you to pay more than the ASUS deluxe are another matter but they certainly produce a compelling choice for those of you looking for maximum performance.


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