SSD

Solid State Drives, (or SSD) are a great form of storage that excel when working in conjunction with a traditional hard drive. They’re lightning fast program drives that are a great supplement into any new system. SSDs trade off capacity for speed. Where a SSD is only 60-300gb, it is extremely fast. What most customers do is run a SSD for a boot drive and use either a larger mechanical drive for programs and storage or external storage.

The base technology for a SSD is not far removed from the USB flash drives that many of us carry around, or the memory cards in our phones. At their base level it’s just a lot of those little memory cards stacked on top of each other until it’s the size of a hard drive and has enough capacity to be functional in a computer. The result is a hard drive that doesn’t need to spin to find data, effectively making their read-time instantaneous (<1ms Latency, as compared to a standard HDD’s 7ms).

Solid State Drives are a great technology, their speed wonderful and they are reliable and efficient drives. When a SSD fails it usually becomes read only. Tragic, but you have a much better chance of having all your data still accessible. But a SSD alone can certainly choke you on storage space unless you keep your storage external or don’t have many programs installed. Windows is ~15gb and Adobe Creative Suite 6 is ~11gb, so just those two common programs could fill up half of a small SSD. The best use of them is in harmony with a traditional drive. By installing your operating system and a few of your most used programs on the SSD, and mapping your ‘my documents’ and other storage folders to a mechanical drive, you will have the best of both worlds. A fast boot drive and efficient program usage, and a storage drive to give you the elbow room to store as much data as you need.

p.s. My SSD lets my computer boot up in 20 seconds flat.

Home Theatre PC

A Home Theatre PC, or HTPC, is a versatile system that connects directly to your TV. But what can you do with a computer connected to your TV? Well, here’s just a few options:

A HTPC, or Home Theatre Personal Computer is a computer that is hooked up to your TV. HTPCs have a low profile and are designed to look like a stereo receiver rather than a traditional computer.

Straight out of the box, all HTPC have the capability to watch DVDs and play videos, both downloaded and streaming from Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, or any other source. It will hook up to an existing speaker system to play music. You can also play media that you have downloaded or have saved on another device on your network.

Many people choose to add the Blu-Ray Player option. All Performance PC HTPCs are Blu-Ray ready and 3D capable out-of-the-box. They can connect to your TV via HDMI for a quick and easy solution, or through separate DVI and audio (optical or 1/8th”) depending on your TV.

With the addition of a TV Tuner or Cable Card Reader you can manage of your television through the computer as well, letting you use its hard drive as a DVR to record up to 16 Terabytes (16,000Gb) of storage space.

A HTPC is a fully fledged computer as well. Running Windows 7, it is compatible with all PC software and peripherals, including bluetooth keyboards, webcams for video chat, and video editing programs create your own home videos.

Most HTPCs run between $700 for simple playback and internet streaming, to $1,500 for a full media center integration, all the way up to $3,000 full configurations that manage an entire home theatre at once.

Power Supplies

Green Power Supplies

Power Supplies are an essential part of your computer, and one that a lot of people don’t give due consideration when they build or design a system. In a way, it is the most important part of the system since all of the systems including the motherboard are routed through it. A Power Supply Unit (or PSU) takes AC power from your wall and converts it to a low-voltage regulated DC current that computers use. Many of the components in your system use different amounts and types of power connectors to run at all.

OK, so it’s important, but what do you need to look at when you purchase one? There are two considerations for power supplies for your computer. Wattage and Efficiency.

Wattage is the maximum amount of power that the PSU can supply to your system. A simple office computer will only need 200w-300w where a strong gaming or editing system could need 800w-1000w of power. This is the sum of all of the power requirements in your system. A video card, for example, may require 30w for a simple unit, or 300w for a top-of-the-line gaming system. That’s right, a single high-end video card alone can draw as much wattage as an entire office desktop.
One common misconception is that you can get “too big” of a power supply. This is not the case. The power supply will supply as much power as the system needs, when the system needs it. If you put a 1000w PSU into an office desktop, it will only draw a few hundred watts at most, and all it means is you overspent on that part. Many components in your computer will go dormant when not in use, saving you electricity. An idle computer may only draw 50w of power while it is at rest, and then pull additional power when needed. If your system needs more power than is available, you are probably looking at your system crashing. If your video card begins to draw too much power, and your system needs 650w out of a 600w PSU, you could see graphical errors as the card struggles to get by. Some power supply issues can go undetected because they only become apparent when the system is running at max load.

Efficiency is an important deciding factor in which power supply you get. Many older power supplies were poorly made and sometimes only 60% efficient. At 60% efficiency, a 600w power supply would draw 1000w of power from the outlet to produce 600w for the computer, and the rest would be wasted as heat. The 80Plus initiative was started in 2007 as a way to standardize and promote power efficiency.
An 80 Plus (or 80+) Power supply is at least 80% efficient, which means cheaper energy bills and better, greener computing. Additional tiers have been added since the initiative started, adding 80+ Bronze (85%), 80+ Silver (88%), 80+ Gold(90%), and recently 80+ Platinum(92%). ALL of our power supplies are at least 80 Plus certified, and we offer higher tiers on all of our computers. Performance PC is devoted to energy efficiency and Eco-friendly computing. In fact, our vice president LOVES to talk about it. Call him at 1-888-574-6342 ext.4 if you’d like to learn how Performance PC is working to help the environment.

Corsair H60 and Liquid Cooling

The Corsair H60 is a turnkey liquid cooling solution for your processor. To explain how it works and how useful it is, we’ll go into liquid cooling in general.

The concept of liquid cooling computers has been around since the early 80s, when the first supercomputers were cooled using specially treated substances. For a while it was limited to mainframe systems. In the 90s it became a popular trend among computer enthusiasts as a way to mitigate overclocking heat*.¬† Early water or liquid cooled systems were cobbled together from various parts, could leak, and needed to be refilled occasionally. Until recently, the majority of them were home-made. They were a risk-to-reward scenario where people would try to push their system’s limit and raise the limit by adjusting their cooling.

Modern liquid cooling has overgone many chances since then; parts are pre-made and fitted, solutions are more readily available. Now liquid cooling is quieter and more efficient than air cooling, and not significantly more expensive. One other benfit is that you can cool multiple parts of your computer at once, such as liquid cooling your CPU, video card, and northbridge chip on the motherboard. These solutions are still bulky and require running hoses all through your system and keeping a resivour of coolant or water that will need to be refilled on occasion, and a pump-head that may require maintenance.

The Corsair H60 is a replacement for an air-cooled CPU fan, and it’s a zero-maintenance turnkey system. The fluid and pump and radiator are all self-contained and never need to be adjusted or monitored. This brings water cooling to the average user. Now anybody can add liquid cooling to their system. The heat is drawn from the processor into the liquid. The pump pulls it to the back of the computer where the heat is vented out of the system through a radiator. Corsair refinined the old concept into a modern configuration that is a good fit for any new system.

That’s it for this week’s PerformancePC.net Product Showcase; If you’re interested in computer games be sure out to check out our Gaming Center for news and reviews We’ll also be posting some tabletop games of Pathfinder and 13th Age.

We’re also just cut our prices by between $50 and $200 on all of our computers. We’re also offering free shipping within the continental US.

*Overclocking itself is not harmful to your computer if done correctly, but the excess heat it generates can be if not mitigated. We’ll go into overclocking in a future spotlight

Performance PC Spotlight: Ivy Bridge

“Intel Ivy Bridge” is the name for Intel’s new 22nm die shrink of the Sandy Bridge architecture. Having come out at the beginning of May, these new chips have proven to be very powerful and a great deal for that power.

The Ivy Bridge is a die-shrink of the Sandy Bridge, which means that it uses the same technology, it just uses the technology more efficiently and in a smaller form factor. For approximately the same price, the Ivy Bridge is between 5 and 15% more efficient than its Sandy Bridge predecessor, but where it really shines in it’s GPU performance, which is almost 70% better than the Sandy Bridge.

The Ivy Bridge chips make great use of the Intel HD 4000 Graphics controller, with full support for 3D Playback, DirectX 11, OpenCL, and Updated OpenGL and Shader models, something the older Sandy bridge couldn’t boast. With the Ivy Bridge’s power, Intel’s onboard graphics outperforms some dedicated video cards. We can expect this to spur Nvidia and ATI to put more effort into their low-end graphics cards, since an Ivy Bridge system with no graphics card can currently outperform them. With the Intel HD 4000 Graphics, many business computers don’t need a video card at all, even extending to low-end gaming computers or 2D graphic design machines.

The Ivy Bridge is a hotter chip, however. Because of the thermal interface material that Intel used, head may trap itself on the die and diffuse in a much less efficient manner.As a result the Ivy Bridge will run hotter than it’s sandy bridge counterpart. This¬† is solved by improving your cooling solutions and applying moderate over-clocks rather than extreme ones. We here at Performance PC highly recommend using a liquid cooling solution if you plan on over-clocking. It’ll resolve the heating issue, and give you a quieter, cooler, and more efficient solution.

That’s it for this week’s PerformancePC.net Spotlight, If you’re interested in computer games be sure out to check out our Gaming Center for news and reviews.