Review: Zotac Zbox Nano AD10 Plus

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Review: Zotac Zbox Nano AD10 Plus

Zotac has been the recent master of the small-form factor motherboard. We’ve seen H67 boards rocking the mini-ITX style, with the top-end Intel Z68 and AMD A75 chipsets getting the same sort of treatment. These boards all had something in common (aside from the scale); a surprising amount of serious functionality in a frankly silly size.

Now Zotac has turned its shrink ray on full devices and has created a PC with what has to be one of the smallest footprints ever. The Zbox Nano AD10 Plus is absolutely tiny. It’s shorter than a Rubik’s cube and smaller than a CD case. Ickle.

But in there you’ve got a full PC. Well, so long as your idea of a ‘full PC’ means something sans optical drive and you have no interest in doing anything beyond multimedia playback and some light web browsing.

The Zbox AD10 is a very basic machine, essentially with all the internal organs of a netbook, but without a screen. The archetypal ‘nettop’ then. But the nettop is largely becoming anachronistic in today’s connected world. With more advanced media streamers hitting the market, capable of letting you browse the web and play online content, and TVs evolving with this functionality too, the low-powered mini PC doesn’t really have a lot of tricks up its sleeve any more.

Granted this AMD Fusion-powered version is more capable than its Intel Atom-based brethren, but still the gulf in performance between the low-end chips and the proper desktop options is huge. And that gap doesn’t shrink much with Fusion in the equation.

But if you’re just talking about a small homework machine then the Zbox isn’t a bad choice. That said a little netbook is going to give you more flexibility than something that has to be anchored to a desk and monitor full time.

Not a tiny price tag

There’s also the fact that the £255 price tag is more like £325 when you factor in a functional OS. A Microsoft Windows installation is really your only option here – we tried getting Ubuntu to play nice but it would take many long, tiring, frustrating hours and a lot of command line tapping to get anywhere near a responsive machine.

When you’re topping £300 you’re straying into proper Windows 7 laptop prices. And if you’re really interested in plugging it into your HDTV you’ll be able to find one with a HDMI port I’m sure.

In short there’s depressingly little to recommend the Zbox AD10 beyond the fact that it is a very, very small PC. It’s not even particularly easy to set up either as the lack of optical drive makes installing Windows a little problematic. Especially seeing as you can’t have anything plugged into the two USB 3.0 ports of the four ports that are available until there are Windows drivers installed.

And as we’ve mentioned, Ubuntu despite coming happily on a USB stick, doesn’t particularly like the hardware inside. So as small as the Zbox undoubtedly is, functionally it’s a little too late to the party.

Your humble media streamer, and soon your TV, is going to be doing everything you’d realistically want this box to do. And will probably do it in a more intuitive way as well.

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Review: Toshiba NB520-10U

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Review: Toshiba NB520-10U

From the lime-green rubberised lid to the integrated Harmon/Kardon speakers, the Toshiba NB520-10U is a netbook that demands attention.

Not content to be a standard black business appliance, the Toshiba NB520-10U wants to be the life and soul of the party. It’s cooler and louder than the Asus Eee PC and one of the best netbooks worth owning.

The Toshiba comes in a choice of colours; green, blue or brown. Your chosen hue extends to the lid, mouse buttons and speaker edging while the rest of the chassis is solid black. The textured rubber of the lid is pleasant to touch and won’t get covered in grubby fingerprints.

There’s no flex to be found around the chassis and the netbook is easily light enough to carry around without a problem. There’s also a little extra bulk given to the battery compartment so, when open, the netbook is slightly raised at the back giving you a nice typing angle to work with.

The only minor gripes we had with the design was a particularly thick bezel and an awkwardly placed power button that’s nestled in the hinge below the centre of the screen. These are some tiny niggles but overall the design of the Toshiba is catching and stylish with a Converse-cool kind of appeal.

Of course, most noticeable are the twin speakers built into the palm rest. They’ve been developed with Harman/Kardon technology and will reach a genuinely impressive volume for a netbook. We were also impressed with the bass we could get out of it.

The 120GB disk space will likely preclude you from loading your entire music collection onto the hard drive, but if you subscribe to a streaming service like Spotify, the Toshiba would be a great addition to any house party.

If you want to work with this netbook then using the keyboard isn’t immediately intuitive as it’s packed pretty tightly into the chassis. Frankly, we preferred typing on the Acer Aspire One or Asus Eee PC, but anyone using this netbook regularly will adapt to the feeling of the keys quickly.

Toshiba nb520-10u

The touchpad is neither too responsive nor sluggish and is positioned well – you can use your thumb without your fingers leaving the keyboard. Although, being a netbook, it’s a little on the small side.

The standard Intel Atom processor, 1GB RAM and Windows 7 Starter OS means this won’t rival a laptop for performance. But if you want to browse the web and type out an email while streaming some music, you won’t have any problems here.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 220 minutes
Cinebench: 521
3DMark 2006: 151

On top of that, the battery life is exemplary. By far and away the most important feature for a netbook, Toshiba has ensured you won’t need to regularly charge and the NB520 lasted for 220 minutes under our barrage of tests.

Advanced features

Toshiba has thrown some nice features into the NB520 to make it an even better choice for a netbook purchase. Plug an MP3 player into the USB port and you can use the Toshiba’s speakers to play your music, even when the machine is in standby or switched off.

It also has built in sleep-and-charge facility, so you can charge up a USB device while the laptop is powered down and idle.

This is a netbook a little different from others available and Toshiba has put together a great product – highly recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy their collection of music when they are on the move.

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Review: Toshiba Qosmio X770

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Review: Toshiba Qosmio X770

Overview

Although it’s easy to dismiss 3D as a gimmick that might disappear in a couple of years, there’s no denying its current popularity. As a result, we’ve seen plenty of 3D-compatible laptops in recent times, such as Sony’s ridiculously enormous VAIO F-Series and the HP Envy 17 3D.

Some 3D laptops were heavier than a baby elephant, while some of the earlier models made us so nauseous that we almost threw up and passed out.

One of the best reasons to buy an Nvidia 3D Vision laptop is the huge variety of supported games. All of the AAA titles such as Battlefield, Portal and Fifa now come 3D-ready, and we have to admit that the extra dimension really does immerse you in the game. There’s nothing like squinting down the barrel of a shotgun as a screaming Nazi hurtles out of the screen at you.

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is clearly intended for 3D gaming, with its red-and-black rough-edge design. Thankfully it’s a lot more subtle than the likes of Alienware’s laptops, with their glowing headlights and angular spacecraft bodies, and it’s also a bit lighter than most gaming laptops.

However, the bulky 3.7kg body is still best left on a desk at home. Only Captain America would use this as an everyday travel companion.

The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s chassis is reasonably solid, although the palm rests and edges do flex under pressure.

The keyboard is thankfully a lot firmer, with its keys separated out in the popular isolation-style design. You’re less likely to bash the wrong key during frantic action games, and it’s also a great board to touch-type on.

We especially liked the subtle red backlighting, for those late-night gaming sessions.

Above the keyboard is a row of media shortcut keys. These can be used to adjust the volume, play and pause your media, and of course turn the 3D graphics on and off.

Specifications

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Setting up the 3D is a simple two-minute task using Nvidia’s software. We were watching 3D movies on the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 in no time, and simultaneously taking abuse from co-workers over the dorky glasses.

Those glasses are a major repellent, and if you wear spectacles to correct your vision, the two definitely don’t sit together comfortably. The biggest problem is the extra pressure around the bridge of the nose. We felt a migraine coming on after just a few minutes, and had to switch to contact lenses to continue.

Still, if your eyes aren’t knackered like ours, you’ll find the experience a lot more entertaining.

The 3D graphics are a good excuse to play classics such as Battlefield 2 all over again, and we were particularly impressed by driving games, where the 3D made it easier to judge corners and distances.

The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 will also keep your sprogs quiet, thanks to the plethora of 3D cartoons and movies.

We’ve found that 3D-compatible screens are often rather dim, but this laptop’s 17.3-inch display is a refreshing exception. Not only is it comfortably bright, it’s also pleasingly vibrant. The full HD 1080p resolution means you can enjoy HD movies and the latest games with crystal-clear visuals.

We’re often derogatory about laptop speakers, but the harman/kardon efforts built into the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 are impressively powerful. The bass is especially strong, and our dubstep samples made the entire chassis vibrate.

Of course, music buffs are going to need a dedicated external pair to hear every note as it was intended, but for the purposes of films and games, you can’t go wrong.

If you have a meaty collection of games and movies, you can carry a huge number around on the 1TB hard drive. The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 might be a bulky machine, but at least you won’t have to lug an external hard drive around too.

If you’re carrying the laptop around during use, Toshiba’s built-in HDD protection shuts the drive down so it doesn’t get damaged. You also get a built-in Blu-ray drive, while an HDMI port lets you hook up a widescreen TV at home.

Performance

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Of course, you can have all the 3D whiz-gimmickry you like, but if the laptop’s specs are rubbish, any game you play is going to be a juddering mess. Thankfully, the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 packs in some powerful components.

The brain of the operation is an Intel Core i7 2630QM processor, running at 2GHz. This quad-core beauty is one of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge efforts, and the scores we churned out of Cinebench were mightily impressive.

Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is as powerful as some top-end gaming machines, including Alienware’s M14X and M18X. Backed up by a generous 8GB of memory, you’ll have no trouble running any modern game, or the very best editing software.

You can run your games with the highest possible graphics settings too, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics card. We didn’t notice any frame rate issues, even when playing intensive titles such as Crysis 2. Few other laptops have produced such a confident graphical performance in recent times.

Despite the impressive performance, this laptop is whisper-quiet. Even during the most intensive gun battles, we heard almost no whirring and creaking from the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s innards. The chassis also stays relatively cool, apart from the vents on the left side, which gush hot air.

Unfortunately, the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s battery dies faster than a lemming in Dover. We didn’t even get an hour into a movie before it gave up. This is a poor effort even for a powerful laptop like this – especially when you consider that the Alienware M18X clung on for a little over an hour. You’ll need to pack the charger if you lug this beast outside.

Cinebench 10: 17063
3D Mark 06: 15114
Battery Eater: 44 mins

Verdict

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Whether 3D is here to stay or a mere flash in the pan, there’s no ignoring its popularity. Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is another laptop that caters to the considerable 3D public demand, but does so with style and a considerable amount of grunt.

We liked

The 17.3-inch screen is a great way to take in a movie, either in 2D or 3D, thanks to its sharp 1080p resolution and impressive vibrancy. It’s also a surprisingly bright panel, which is rare for a 3D laptop.

We have to admit, the Nvidia 3D Vision tech works well with certain games, especially driving simulators and trusty FPS games. However, even if you aren’t too bothered about the 3D effects, there’s still plenty for gamers to enjoy here.

You can play any modern title thanks to the Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge processor, backed up by 8GB of memory, and the dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics card means those frantic gun battles look amazing. You can also enjoy HD movies via the built-in Blu-ray drive.

We disliked

Not everyone will enjoy the black-and-red design, but it’s less garish than some other gaming laptops. However, like its rivals, you can’t lug the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 around on a regular basis. The bulky 3.7kg chassis is difficult to fit in a bag and a pain to drag around on public transport, while the battery life sucks.

Final verdict

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop and are sold by the 3D gimmick, the Qosmio offers everything you could possibly need.

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Review: PC Specialist Vortex M59 OC

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Review: PC Specialist Vortex M59 OC

So PC Specialist, what have we here with the Vortex M59 OC?

An overclocked Core i5 2500K? Why, a system with a CPU specification like that puts you in some pretty illustrious company: there’s Chillblast’s Fusion Rocket for starters.

Chillblast’s overclocked 2500K runs at 4.5 GHz, which is 300MHz slower than this rig, but then it’s also £150 cheaper. There’s also our new favourite Core i5 system, the AT-FX Polaris. Inside that rig lies a 2500K overclocked to 4.8 GHz, matching PC Specialist’s rig. It costs nearly £300 more, but there are several luxurious higher specified components inside to justify that.

The Vortex M59 OC fits neatly in between the two at £899. It’s certainly a smart price point, but how does it compare to these two 2500K-equipped rivals? Would you be better off going for the cheaper or higher specified option, or does this rig offer a happy middle ground?

Well, let’s look at the specs beyond that CPU. First, it’s air cooled by a Titan Fenrir Evo. Approaching the £1,000 point, you might expect to see a water cooling unit, but PC Specialist has managed a big CPU overclock on air cooling, and that’s fine by us; it is a good cooling unit after all. We’ve no grumbles so far.

Next, let’s look at the memory. The Vortex has 4GB of Kingston HyperX 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM occupies this rig, and it performed very well in our memory bandwidth test, posting 20.76 GB/s, which is as quick as we’ve seen from a 4GB kit. That’ll help any CPU-intensive tasks, such as video encoding, as well as loading times.

Chillblast’s Fusion Rocket’s 4GB kit doesn’t have the throughput that these HyperX modules have, whereas up there in the Polaris’s lofty heights, there’s 8GB on offer. It still doesn’t beat the Vortex’s RAM in sheer GB/s, but having double the capacity is useful too. The RAM, like the CPU and cooler, do demonstrate a happy middle ground – so far so good.

This is a gaming rig, and gaming performance is all about graphics cards. Choosing the right card in a densely populated market is important to a system’s overall value, and those crucial frames per second in your favourite games.

PC Specialist’s solution: Nvidia’s GTX 570. In a world of rigs powered by HD 6950s and GTX 580s, the GTX 570 is a rarity. They were quite expensive on launch, just shy of £300 for a Fermi card with largely the same layout as the GTX 480 but without that insatiable thirst for electricity. Just one stream processor away from the GTX 580, the 480 CUDA cores are still capable of high resolution, high frame rates, but a reduced 1.2GB of memory leaves it trailing way behind the GTX 580’s impressive pace.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

DX11 tessellation performance
Heaven 2.5 Frames per second: Higher is better
Vortex M59 OC: 28
Fusion Rocket: 21.7

DX10 gaming performance
Just Cause 2 Frames per second: Higher is better
Vortex M59 OC: 60
Fusion Rocket: 40

CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5 Index: Higher is better
Vortex M59 OC: 7.33
Fusion Rocket: 7.80

The price has been slashed since the GTX 570’s release, making it a very appealing – you guessed it – middle ground between the 560 Ti and the full-blown 580. Sitting in this rig, it provides enough grunt to keep frame rates over 40fps at 1080p.

Our only reservation with the Vortex is the lack of an extra that the very best systems have. There’s no SSD, the mobo is mid-range… not big problems, nor a rip-off at all, but the market is that tight.

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Review: Alienware M18X

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Review: Alienware M18X

The latest release from Dell-owned Alienware, the M18X, is a behemoth with enough power to run any game under the sun without so much as a flicker. But you’ll have to have deep pockets to get your hands on one.

Even getting the M18X out of the box is a challenge, thanks to its 438 x 311 x 52mm dimensions and a back-breaking weight of 5.7kg. This machine was designed to dominate your desk. As expected, it sticks to the Alienware design, which we love, but probably won’t be to everyone’s taste.

The entire machine is a slab of moulded rubber and brushed metal, and that ever-present Tron-style neon backlight.

Unsurprisingly, the focus of the Alienware is gaming. Our review sample came with an AMD Radeon HD 6900M and scored a mind-blowing 19,056 during our intensive gaming benchmark test.

While the sheer power of the machine keeps games running perfectly, it is the 18.4-inch screen that made playing on the M18X a truly immersive experience. The Super-TFT screen is like a window into your games. It’s extremely bright and the 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution keeps the most complex graphics razor sharp.

But it’s the sheer size that is the winner here and you really notice the difference between this and a standard 15.6-inch machine.

Mixed keyboard

Alienware m18x

Although we like the keyboard on the M18x, there is a degree of flexing towards the centre and some might not appreciate the tightly packed keys, but the customisable backlight looks great.

As any gamer knows, you’re going to want a mouse, game controller, joystick, or any number of other peripherals to get the best from your laptop. So Alienware has gone big on connectivity. There are five USB ports, upgradable to USB 3.0 if you want, along with an Ethernet port, eSata port, VGA Out and audio jacks for your headset and microphone. On top of that, you get two HDMI ports for connecting extra monitors or an HDTV.

Despite our praise, the M18x is not without its faults. At 87 minutes, the battery life is woeful. The charger, like the laptop itself, is huge, and you certainly won’t be leaving the house without it.

The other problem with the M18x is that to play big, you have to spend big and, being custom-built, it costs a small fortune to get the best spec. Every model runs on a Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor, but there are different variants available.

Alienware

Our review sample was powerful, but other laptop components such as RAM and storage space were poor. This was disappointing and, although you can customise the amount of storage, we would expect more than 250GB and 4GB of RAM for £1699.

TechRadar Labs

Benchmarks

Battery Eater ’05: 87 minutes
Cinebench: 16967
3DMark 2006: 19056

Essentially, if you’re not a hardcore gamer, there is no reason to spend this kind of money. But if you want the best mobile gaming experience around, this is what you should be looking at.

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Review: Smart Witness Smart-i

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Review: Smart Witness Smart-i

The tiny Smart Witness Smart-i is certainly the smallest network camera we’ve tested. While its tiny size means it offers some fun features and possibilities, it causes a few problems as well.

There are two ways to connect to the Smart-i. The first is to link it directly to your PC, smartphone or tablet. The Smart-i broadcasts its own wireless network, and once we’d connected to it via our test laptop, we simply opened a browser and accessed the IP address 192.168.2.1 to access the video stream.

Despite the camera’s diminutive size, the image quality is pretty good. The ‘Stream images’ option didn’t work in Internet Explorer 9, but it did in Chrome. You can change the resolution and compression of the footage, though the higher compression makes the video stream look awful.

Watching the video on a smartphone is also easy – simply access the IP address 192.168.2.1 using a browser. There are also Android and iPhone apps available to record footage to your phone.

The direct method of connecting the Smart-i suffers from a major shortcoming: you’re limited to the Smart-i’s wireless range, which is around 20 metres. This means that the only footage you’ll be able to record with he Smart-i will be of things you can see with your own eyes anyway.

To get around this limitation, you can connect the Smart-i to your wireless network by switching it to ‘Setup’ mode. With a bit more tinkering, you can then to access the video stream via another computer on the network, or over the internet.

This is easily solved, but a more troubling shortcoming then presented itself. We noticed that the Smart-i became very hot when running, and the battery life was just under two hours. This severely limits the usefulness of the device, though a USB power adapter is available for an extra cost.

As a fun novelty it’s not a bad device, but the Smart-i isn’t going to replace a full-size network camera.

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

The Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is a good looking laptop, with a subtly lined black and grey chassis. While it’s certainly not the thinnest laptop we’ve seen – the new MacBook Air can sleep easy in that department – it’s not bulky either, and it’s perfectly easy to carry around.

The laptop’s chassis does feel slightly cheap and brittle, lacking the sturdiness of the Sony VAIO S Series VPCSB1V9E’s build quality.

As we’ve seen with other laptops, the inclusion of Intel’s second-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors gives them a big power advantage. The Zoostorm is no exception, and the model we tested comes with an Intel Core i3-2310 2.10GHz processor.

Backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, this makes the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A a fast and responsive laptop that’s excellent at multitasking. Boosting performance even further is the inclusion of a solid state drive that drastically cuts down the time it takes for the laptop to boot into Windows 7.

Microsoft has designed its OS to take advantage of SSD technology, and this is evident in its sheer speed. The technology comes at a premium though, and the model we reviewed – which costs £479 – comes with only 64GB of storage. With Windows 7 Home Premium and the default programs installed there’s only 34GB of hard drive space left. If you need more then you’ll need to either use an external hard drive or opt for the 128GB model, which costs £549.

The only area where the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is let down by its hardware is in the graphics department. Whilst the onboard graphics that come with second Intel Core processors is perfectly capable, it can’t compete with laptops that have dedicated GPUs. The Zoostorm’s 3DMark score was 7,564, compared with the Sony VAIO S Series’ 12,230.

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Review: Patriot Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition

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Review: Patriot Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition

Overview

Memory maestro Patriot has launched the Patriot Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition DDR3 4GB RAM kit specifically aimed at the AMD crowd. With the launch of AMD’s new Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), Llano, RAM is a vital performance component again.

Since the launch of Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture, there has been a whole raft of memory modules launched claiming to be the ideal support for the new chipset. Indeed, Kingston’s HyperX Plug n Play claimed the same thing, but with, it has to said, a lot more justification than most.

Well now it’s the turn of the thorn in Intel’s side, AMD, to get some memory attention. It’s been a long time coming.

OK, compared to some of the blazingly fast modules that have been launched to support the Sandy Bridge platform, Patriot’s Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) PC3-12800 kit may seem, well, a bit conservative to say the least. At just 1600MHz, it’s a little slow.

But even so, it does make a nice change to see a company giving some component love to AMD. Even if – marketing spiel aside – the memory will work in any modern motherboard, be it made by AMD or Intel.

Benchmarks

Patriot gamer 2 amd black edition

We tested all the Patriot Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition memory in an Asus F1A75-V Pro motherboard using an AMD A6-3650 APU.

Once we finished testing at stock speeds, we gave it a tweak but just using its stock 1.65V voltage setting. A quick adjustment to the bus speed got us to the next step up – 1866MHz. While the system booted up Windows perfectly and ran SiSoft Sandra’s memory bandwidth benchmark without a problem, when we tried to run World in Conflict there were all sorts of issues with the game freezing.

Eventually we got it to boot and run both benchmarks without any problems at 1840MHz, which is still a pretty impressive boost over the stock speeds, especially without having to tinker with any voltages.

Patriot g2 amd black ed benches

Verdict

Patriot gamer 2 amd black edition

It’s been a long time coming but the Patriot Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition and others suggest we should now see AMD platforms getting some dedicated love from memory manufacturers.

That’s mainly thanks to the new Llano platform, with its strong memory performance, and AMD’s 990FX chipset and Bulldozer combo. It’s been a very long time since AMD had a strong enough offering to entice manufacturers into putting its badge on their products.

Hopefully these new platforms will see the end of one of AMD’s annoying platform traits when it comes to overclocking – they used to be quite fussy when it came to memory running at high speeds. So the prospect of getting ultra-fast memory kits designed for AMD platforms is an interesting one.

We liked


You wouldn’t class Patriot’s Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition RAM as a world-beater, especially at its stock 1600MHz speed. That said, it has bags of potential – as we found out during testing.

Thanks to its fairly relaxed 9-9-9-24 latency settings it does overclock very nicely, even at the 1.65V stock voltage. Even though it will reach the next step up from 1600MHz – 1866MHz – we couldn’t get it to run stably while playing the game World in Conflict.

We also liked the fact that the modules are low profile. You may be wondering why that’s of any importance. Well, wait until you get a large third-party CPU cooler, which usually make the first memory slot redundant. Normally it’s impossible to get a stick of memory into the slot because of these coolers, but with the Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition module you stand a fighting chance of actually using the slot.

We disliked


There’s not much to dislike about the Patriot’s Gamer 2 AMD Black Edition. It does what it says on the tin and shows some good overclocking potential. Its stock speed out of the box is a little conservative, however.

Final verdict

It may not be the fastest memory out of the box but it does show plenty of potential for the current Llano platform and the upcoming Bulldozer technology.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520

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Lenovo’s ThinkPad range is traditionally aimed at business users, but has recently taken a more consumer-friendly turn, with less imposing builds and price tags. The ThinkPad Edge E520 is one of the more powerful laptops in the range and can keep you entertained on the move as well as at home.

The excellent performance is down to the latest Intel Sandy Bridge technology. This means you can do almost anything on this laptop, with incredibly fast response rates. Even complex editing software opens in seconds and happily runs alongside web browsers, media players and other applications. You won’t need to replace this laptop for a long time.

This laptop also scored high in our graphical tests, beaten only narrowly by the Acer Aspire 5750G. We tested out some recent games and found they ran smoothly, although we occasionally had to turn down detail levels.

You can also check out and play around with your photos or home movies. Of course, if you’d rather relax with a film, the Lenovo won’t let you down. High-definition (HD) films play perfectly and look good on the 15.6-inch widescreen display.

However, while many other laptops use Super-TFT screens, which use a glossy surface layer to produce richer colours, the Lenovo has a matt TFT display. Images aren’t quite as vibrant as a result but, on the flipside, the screen isn’t reflective, so you can use the laptop outside.

If you do want a portable to keep you entertained out of the home, this laptop has a lot going for it. Firstly, while the Toshiba Satellite L730-10G is a fair bit lighter, the Lenovo’s solid frame weighs just 2.5kg. We comfortably carried it around all day in a backpack.

Even better, we were able to watch an entire three-hour movie before the battery died, and lighter use will prolong the battery life by almost two hours.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 183 minutes
Cinebench: 9431
3DMark 2006: 7167

An isolation-style keyboard is in place. It’s one of our favourites with firmly set keys that are very comfortable to type on. A separate numeric keypad is included, along with various shortcuts – you can lock the laptop, search your files or bring up the calculator with a press of a button.

Our only complaint is that the Left Ctrl and the Function keys have been swapped around. This won’t bother most people, but anyone who uses Windows shortcuts will be constantly frustrated when they hit the Function key by mistake.

Love or hate?

Lenovo thinkpad edge e520 review

The touchpad covers a wide area and you get the trademark nipple in the centre of the keyboard, which can also be used to move the on-screen cursor. We can’t stand the thing, but we’re sure that some people out there might prefer it.

Features are comprehensive, from the 500GB of storage to the eSATA port which can be used to transfer data at high speeds with external hard drives. There’s also an ExpressCard slot for expanding the laptop’s potential, but most people will never use it.

The ThinkPad Edge E520 is a mobile machine that’s as good for work as it is for entertainment. If you need something to keep you busy on the move, this is one of the best laptops here.

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Review: Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360

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The Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 is a pretty standard wireless PC keyboard, but it has a few nice features and design choices that make it worth considering if you’re on the lookout for a new keyboard.

To begin with, the K360 is pretty small – around three quarters of the size of a usual keyboard. This reduction frees up a lot of space on the desk, and makes it easier to carry around.

We’ve often found that typing for long periods on a laptop – or even worse, a netbook – can be quite uncomfortable. So having a larger keyboard to use on them, that is still small and light enough to fit into a laptop bag is a real bonus.

Smaller keyboards can often lead to more discomfort and, unlike a lot of recent Logitech keyboards, the K360 is not ergonomically designed. However, we found that when using it, the Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 felt very comfortable – a lot of this being down to the ample spacing between the keys.

The small size also allows for an excellent battery life of around three years.

As well as six media-centric keys (back, forward, play/pause, mute, volume down and volume up) there are 12 programmable F keys for linking to much-used applications such as internet browsers and email. These can be easily programmed via Logitech’s user-friendly software.

Another nice bonus is that if you have a number of other wireless Logitech devices, such as the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX, then you can connect them all up to a single USB dongle, freeing up your computer’s USB ports.

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