Hardware Guides

Must-Have PC Building Tools

By Published May 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Proper preventative maintenance can extend the life of your computer by many years, as we've written about previously, but getting to a point of maintaining requires, of course, the completion of an actual build. Between beginners, intermediate builders, and enthusiasts, there's an abundance of cool hardware utilities for system building, testing, and benchmarking. With anything from a screwdriver to 'anklet' ESD straps to open-air test benches, there are many applications of the ever-increasing selection of hardware assembly tools out there.

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In this guide, we'll look at the Must-Have PC building tool kits, testers, and benches that aim to make your life as a system builder easier.

PC Hardware Warranty Comparison Guide

By Published May 08, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Making the best quality hardware is pointless without the best hardware warranty – no company is immune to acute device collapse and catastrophic failures, whether initiated by other devices or a result of prolonged decay and eventual death. We know – it’s tough to talk about your dead components, but it’s an important part of moving forward; the process is tough, but well-defined: Acceptance, grieving, thermalpaste, gaming.

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Device failure sucks. Troubleshooting is a painful process and may point to a zapped motherboard, bent pins, faulty memory, or a collapsed video card. Warranties serve as a backup and tend to be of 1, 3, or 5 year durations (which are absolutely planned to be within ‘average’ parameters), and as Google’s HDD test showed, failure rates in hardware tend to be highest at the 3-month and 3-year marks.

Custom PC builds are fairly straight forward: Screw together the eight core components (including the case), install some software, and start gaming on your new budget build (if you don’t have a build yet, our guides are an excellent starting point). That said, even master builders can trip up on occasion and miss a cable or connector, and new builders can feel overwhelmed by the potential to inflict damage to expensive components.

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This Common Build Mistakes guide explains how to assemble a computer and avoid shocking or damaging components; we’ll also explore some of the easy-to-overlook crevices of a high-end rig (like surge protection!).

How to Read and Understand a CPU Die

By Published May 01, 2012 at 3:39 pm

CPU dies have some of the most beautiful color highlights in computing -- and after showing you the process through which a synthetic crystal (silicon) becomes a CPU, we thought it was time to explain CPU diagrams and how to understand CPU dies.

intel-cpu-die-photoPhoto credit: Sonic840 of Deviantart.

Why learn how to interpret CPU dies? Because it's fun and you'll never need words on the diagram again; CPU die images are normally leaked before full specs, also, so this information can help you to identify what will be contained on upcoming CPUs.

Also, it's great party talk: "So, uhh, can you identify the vitals of a silicon chip that uses 22nm microarchitecture?"

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for your loss of friends should you attempt to use this knowledge at a party.

The release of Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPU line (we gave an overview of the spec differences here) brings the question of ‘where’s the best place to buy an Ivy Bridge CPU?’ We’ve scoured the Interwebz all morning and, luckily, have found a handful of retailers that are offering extremely competitive prices. Here’s a listing of all the major retailers (online and physical) and their corresponding Intel Ivy Bridge prices:

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The much-awaited Ivy Bridge tick (or ‘3rd Generation CPUs’) of Intel’s CPUs are now available from retailers all over, so we’ve compiled a chart to analyze and compare all the different specs of these Ivy Bridge CPUs in one place. We look into the Ivy Bridge CPU differences below, but before making any decisions, be sure to reference our Ivy Bridge pricing guide.

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Keep in mind that these are compatible with the new Z77 chipset, which enables Visual BIOS (the newest iteration of UEFI), cool overclocking options, and plenty of other features. If you're interested in learning about Intel's motherboards, try this article.

Intel: “We Make More than Just CPUs”

By Published April 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

With a market cap of $136B at its disposal (compared against AMD’s $5.3B), Intel has the financial stability to push the limits of microprocessor architecture with each massive tock in their constant tick-tock cadence. We discussed Visual BIOS and Intel’s third generation of computing with engineers at PAX East this year, where Senior Marketing Engineer Fred Birang of Intel wanted to make one thing very clear to the enthusiast and system building communities: “We make more than just CPUs.”

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He seemed passionate, so I pushed the point: “What is it that you want builders and gamers to know about motherboards?” Birang’s answer didn’t disappoint.

If I were your financial adviser, I'd tell you that a little bit of planning and maintenance can save you tons of headaches in the future. I'm not your financial adviser. I am a computer engineering instructor, so what I'll tell you is that a little bit of planning and maintenance can save you a ton of headaches in the future.

pm-really-gross-dustFun tip: Scrape this off with your finger, compress it into a ball, and tell your coworkers it's cookie dough.

This guide will explain preventative maintenance for computers and protecting an expensive investment (we're assuming you're running some sort of gaming build, here, so that makes it even more important to protect).

Let's look at some of the most commonly-spotted scenarios that we've seen on our hardware support forums:

Kingston HyperX 3K SSD Review & Benchmarks

By Published April 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

With one of the most fun-filled, chaotic, work-focused weekends of the year out of the way (that is, until the next convention), our team came home with an abundance of hardware to review and an enthusiastic approach to new technology analysis methodologies.

This review of Kingston's 240GB HyperX 3K SSD will look at its real-world gaming performance and synthetic benchmark results.

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PAX East 2012 saw us meeting with ASUS, who explained their key to success, Intel, where we saw their fancy Visual BIOS, and tons of other hardware companies -- Kingston is included in that list. David Leong, Kingston's resident expert, met with hardware editor Patrick Stone about some of 2012's newest storage, SSD, and memory technology, eventually exploring the company's newest volley into the market: The HyperX 3K SSD, released as an indicator of HyperX's 10th anniversary.

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Intel's motherboard engineering team wants to change your mind about their boards -- at PAX East this weekend, Senior Product Marketing Engineer Fred Birang told us: "When most people think of Intel, they think of CPUs. We want the gamer mindshare to know that we don't just make a great reference motherboard, we have a board that is as good -- if not better -- than anything out on the market."

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