Category: Review

We take a dekko at Youtube Mobile

Google has launched an updated form of its Youtube Mobile website, which it claims is faster than using a Youtube app. We decided to test that theory.

Using an Android phone, the HTC Desire, we loaded the official Youtube app which took around two and a half seconds to open. In comparison, the Youtube Mobile site took around three seconds, so it was slightly longer. That doesn’t count the time it takes to open the web browser and open bookmarks, nor to type the address in if you haven’t already saved it to your favourites before.

So, perhaps it’s not quite as fast as the app, but it’s fairly similar, which is a big improvement on previous incarnations which were usually several times slower.

The biggest difference we noticed, however, is in the appearance. The default Youtube app on an Android phone is a little garish. It’s black and just displays a list of videos. To find information and comments you need to hit the tiny information button at the side, which can be difficult to hit. Buttons are in different places, or nowhere to be found. It all feels very counter-intuitive, particularly if you’re used to using the website on a PC.

Youtube Mobile gives a more genuine experience. It looks and feels like the standard Youtube page, except things are organised in a way that makes it feel user friendly on a smartphone.

When you click a video it displays the whole page for that video rather than just the video itself, so you can see the description, comments and so forth. It also includes the like and dislike buttons, Save To, Share, and an HQ button for higher quality (or lower if you want faster loading). If you scroll down you get Related Videos or Comments on seperate tabs.

 

youtube mobile

Screenshots from Youtube mobile, here

This does not mean that you watch a video with all of that on the screen. As soon as you press the video to play it brings it up full-screen, which you can then rotate for the proper widescreen experience. This is fairly similar to the Youtube app.

The search feature ran much more smoothly on the mobile site than on the Youtube app. Results displayed quicker and retained the search bar, along with the home page button and the menu button, whereas the Youtube app only listed the videos.

One thing the website lacks over the app is an appropriate menu. If you hit the Menu button on your phone it brings up your browser menu, but of course the app has Search, Upload, Home, My account, Categories, and a Time filter. 

This can be overcome to some degree via a Menu button built into the website itself which always features on every page. It looks like nine squares and is directly opposite the Youtube logo itself.

It also gives a wider range of options, including: Home, Browse, Favorites, Playlists, Subscriptions, My videos, and Settings. There’s a Sign In button at the top or Sign Out among the options if you’re already signed in.

 

youtube mobile

Much of the speed improvement of the new version is down to HTML5, but the complete overhaul of the interface is what makes this such an appealing alternative to an app. The share button is particularly interesting, as it lets you share the video on Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, or send through email, without having to mess around with separate websites.

While the applications may be a second or two faster, YouTube Mobile is a richer and more genuine experience. We wouldn’t be surprised, if the trend toward HTML5 continues, more people flock to official HTML5 websites rather than applications.

Security troubles? The COMPRO IP55 Camera could put your mind at rest.

The UK has over 4.2 million cameras tracking our every move, and not wanting to buck the trend we’ve got our hands on the Compro IP55. Aimed squarely at the home and small business market, this little camera is an interesting entry into the low-end security market.

The IP55 is a network camera, so once attached to a router you can connect to the video stream over the network or the web. In the box there‘s the camera, mounting kit, network cable, power adapter, installation CD and instructions. You can also connect the camera to a network through the addition of a USB wireless dongle, which is not included.

The camera itself might look a bit like R2D2’s ugly younger brother but this gawky look is probably down to the amount they have crammed in. For your money you get a 1.3 Megapixel camera that can feed dual MJPEG and MPEG-4 video streams, two-way audio (so you can shout at the people stealing your stuff in real time), Micro SD card support for capture of still images, Windows software and web firmware that can be accessed by logging into the camera in your browser.

IP55 Back

Set up was straightforward; we used the included network cable instead of an additional wifi dongle – not just because we’re cheap (although mostly so). The Compro setup wizard configured the camera and the IDDNS.org account based on a few selected options. The free IDDNS service lets you connect to the camera via a web address rather than an IP with the format http://<your choice>.IDDNS.org. We did encounter one problem during setup; our router was giving the camera multiple IP addresses. We assigned the camera a static address and this sorted it out.

IP55 Desktop Software

 

The desktop software looks serious, letting you configure 32 of these cameras and monitor 16 of them at a time.  We can’t imagine this will be used much and since we only have one camera it’s wasted on us. The single camera view is still packed with features giving you the option to set up record and alert events based on movement, noise, changes in objects and scene. We only tried noise and movement, as these are probably the most useful.  They’re nice features and worked well. You can stream in multiple resolutions from 320×240 to 1280×1024, although there is a frame rate drop when you select higher resolutions. If you don’t want to use events you can record nonstop to a local drive. The software had a number of features that didn’t work with this model, although this didn’t cause any problems.

Compro IP55 web view
The web software suite included in the camera’s firmware can be connected to through the free IDDNS.org account or directly by IP. This worked first time and gives you the option to setup two different accounts, viewer and admin. Within the admin account you can mess around with most of the features available to the windows software. The clean design of the web interface was preferable to the slightly cluttered windows software. The camera also lets you set up multiple feeds, one MPEG-4 and another MJEPG.  The latter is primarily for viewing on mobile devices. We tested the second stream on an HTC hero and although the frame-rate was low, you could see what was going on as the picture was updated in real time.

In addition to the existing features of the camera and software, Compro are updating on a regular basis with two firmware releases while we were writing this review. One of these added the option to record to the optional MicroSD instead of just capturing still images, so if you are willing to keep up we would expect more to come.

The Compro I55 is a cheap solution to your security needs. It might not have all the features of more expensive cameras, but if you don’t mind a fixed viewpoint, this offers excellent value for money. The windows software is mature and was clearly developed for a more expensive model. In addition to this, the web firmware is where the Compro IP55 really comes into its own; their free IDDNS service gives you a named gateway to access your security cam wherever you are. We particularly enjoyed the mobile phone feed.  We’re not sure when it would actually be useful but it’s good entertainment, anyway. The Compro IP55 delivers everything promised, and if you are security minded or own a small business we would definitely recommend.

We take a dekko at Transcend's rugged USB 3.0 portable hard drive

Much to the disappointment of peripheral manufacturers, USB 3.0 hasn’t exploded onto the market as expected. It’s not hard to see why though, with Intel and AMD  still dragging their feet when it comes to updating chip-sets. 

However, some support is starting to creep through, as most high-end motherboards and systems now include at least a couple of ports.

For most this comes thanks to the addition of a separate USB controller chip from NEC. We’re lucky enough to have an Asus Crosshair IV motherboard with USB 3.0 support and we’re using it to take a look at a rugged external USB 3.0 external hard drive from Transcend – the 25M3.

In the package you get the hard drive, a USB 3.0 cable and some documentation. The first thing we looked at when unpacking the drive was the USB cable. This comes with a standard A connection and a micro B connection, which doesn’t look that micro to us being about twice the size of the old micro USB connector.

The included quick start guide is reasonably unnecessary as it doesn’t go far beyond “plug drive in”, however it does give a little overview of the StoreJet Elite software that’s pre-loaded.

 

 

 Transcend whats in the box

Looking at the drive itself, the majority of it is covered in a soft-touch rubber-like material, which gives it a nice matt finish. This might be part of the drive’s rugged design, meeting US military standards for dropping stuff. A bit more research shows this drop test actually involves dropping the drive from 1.2 meters, 26 times on all its faces – so no need to worry about taking it to the pub then. We didn’t, however, bash it about too much since they want it back. Cheapsters.

The box advertises this drive as a 2.5” portable hard drive, but we guess they’re talking about the actual physical hard drive, as the 25M3 is 126mm x 80.08mm or 4.96” x 3.2”. Size-wise this isn’t too bad though.  It would fit into most pockets and is a lot more portable than hard drives of the past.

 

 Transcend drive

One of the main features of the drive is the one touch backup button, which works in conjunction with the included software and doubles as the status indicator light. Once pressed, the button automatically syncs all of the data that you have set up in the StoreJet elite software. The syncing feature of the software is excellent but we’re not sure there is the need for a physical button on the drive, since you can do the same exercise with one click in the included software.

After giving the drive a little shake there was a slightly audible rattle and this was down to the loose fitting of the one-touch button.

 Transcend blue button

Moving on to the StoreJet Elite software, this gives you options to back up your emails, favorites and pretty much anything else you would like. We tried out a few of the features, selecting a couple of folders to keep synchronised, and it all seemed to work as expected. 

When we deleted a file from one it was copied to the other with the press of the button. It also has some options for the security minded with the ability to store your files on the drive within an encrypted zip. The software did the job, although it had an annoying habit of closing all open Internet browsers whenever any setting was changed.

Transcend Elite

We don’t want to focus too much on transfer rates as we’ve never had much trouble with USB 2.0, let alone 3.0, which is considerably quicker. But to give you an idea, we ran through a couple of tests and this drive, which has been certified as USB 3.0, is certainly quick enough for anything we could imagine.

Data Size Number of files/folders Time Taken
22.3GB 9141 6m 27s
2GB 1 26s

 
The StoreJet 25M3 provides a small, quick, high-capacity drive that can be used on the move without fear of accidents. The drive was well built with a nice look and feel due to the soft-touch coating, and the software was relatively unobtrusive. We found it online for £77, which is about average for a drive of this size and storage capacity. 

However, its super-fast USB 3.0 credentials lift it above the competition in our opinion, if you’ve got the hardware to take advantage of it, that is.

*EyeSee Some readers have asked us about this word “dekko” which we seem to use whenever we take a look at hardware. To look in Hindi is dekhna – dekko is an informal way of suggesting you take a gander. Or a butcher’s hook. Ha nai?

Nvidia Quadro 6000 takes ATI's high-end crown

The professional graphics market has shifted into top gear and the NVIDIA Quadro 6000 is giving it a new lease of life.

We all thought that the NVIDIA Quadro 5000 was top notch, but the 6000 has managed to top even that. We take an exclusive look at the new NVIDIA Quadro  6000, which sports 6GB of GDDR5 memory and 448 CUDA Cores

It’s a heavy weight piece of muscle with a superb pedigree. The dual slot card brings professional graphics to a high level as a stand alone. It offers support for features not the norm in the market and will run high-end CAD/CAM, 3D Design, and Digital Content Creation software applications.

In order to understand the leap that’s been made, here is the Nvidia Quadro FX5800 side by side the 6000: 

BOARD FEATURES

Nvidia Quadro FX5800

Nvidia Quadro 6000

Memory Size

4GB GDDR3

6GB GDDR5

Memory Interface

512-bit

384-bit

Memory Bandwidth

102GB/s

144GB/s

CUDA™ Parallel Processor Cores

240

448

Maximum Power Consumption

189 Watts

225 Watts

Number of slots

2

2

Display Connectors

2 X DVI-I, 1 X DP, 1 X Stereo

1 X DVI-I, 2 X DP, 1 X Stereo

Dual Link DVI

2

1

DisplayPort

1

2

OpenGL

3.3

4.0

Shader Model

4.0

5.0

Direct X

10

11

3D Vision Pro

Yes

Yes

Quadro Panoramic

Yes

Yes

NVIDIA SLI Mosaic Mode

 

Yes

NVIDIA SLI Multi OS

Yes

Yes

NVIDIA SLI Frame Rendering Support

Yes

Yes

Quadro SDI option card

Yes

Yes

Quadro G-Sync option card

Yes

Yes

ECC (Error Correcting Code)

 

Yes

Fast Double Precision

 

Yes

Triangles per Second

300 Million

1.3 Billion

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Supported Platforms
Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit and 32-bit)
Microsoft Windows Vista (64-bit and 32-bit)
Microsoft Windows XP (64-bit and 32-bit)

Linux – Full OpenGL implementation, complete with NVIDIA and ARB extensions (64-bit and 32-bit)
Solaris

 

System setup and software used:

 

Component

Test  System 1

Test  System 3

Mainboard

Supermicro X8SAX Workstation Board Rev 2

Supermicro X8DAi Rev 2

CPU

1 X 3.46GHz Intel Xeon X5677 Nehalem EP, 12MB Shared Cache, 6.4GB/s QPI

2 X 3.33GHz Intel Xeon X5680 Nehalem EP, 12MB Shared Cache, 6.4GB/s QPI

HSF Coolers

Intel’s Socket 1366 Stock Cooler

2 X Noctua NH-U9DX 1366

Memory

6 X 2GB Crucial DDR3 (12GB Total) 1333MHz
Unbuffered Non ECC DIMMS  Memory Modules

12 X 2GB Crucial DDR3 (24GB Total) 1333MHz
Unbuffered ECC DIMMS  Memory Modules

Hard Drive

256GB Crucial C300 RealSSD

256GB Crucial C300 RealSSD

PCI Ex Video Card

NVIDIA Quadro 6000

NVIDIA Quadro 6000

PCI Ex Video Card

NVIDIA Quadro FX4800

NVIDIA Quadro FX4800

 

Benchmarks and software used 64-bit mode

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
SPECapc for SolidWorks 2007™
SPECviewperf 10.0 64-bit.   Tests ran at 1600 X 1200 Resolution
SPECviewperf 11.0 64-bit.   Tests ran at 1920 X 1080 Resolution

Each set of tests has been applied on the clean system hard drives shown above to ensure that no residue drivers were left installed, with all updates and patches applied. A test/render has been completed many times over different periods of the system uptime.   The fair play rules of SPEC  HyperThreading and Turbo Boost have been enabled, with the memory being left at its default status of Auto.   Tests have been conducted in accordance with the resolutions detailed above at 59Hz / 60Hz in 32 bit colour.   All results shown are from the application and benchmark’s first run in accordance with the SPECviewperf and SPECapc™ fair play rules. 

 

 

The MAYA-03 Viewset, part of the SPECviewperf 11 benchmark, tells a trained eye just how fast the redraws on the viewset had been.

The positioning of the new Nvidia Quadro 6000 may find itself in the more demanding studios and design centres, the sort which will require heavy duty outputs. It’s a card that will appeal to the likes of studios and architectural agencies.

With today’s ISV software packages – for example Max, Maya and Solidworks – so many commercial plugins are now readily available to enhance packages. With this comes demands for the whole system I/O along with professional cards.

In order to meet the demands of these packages the hardware, along with the supporting Application Acceleration Tools, must be precise. Nvidia has invested heavily with its packages and CUDA development software and we reckon the investment is paying off with notable uptake. A key example would be The Foundry with its award wining packages and Bunkspeed 

Nvidia is aggressively pushing itself with a line up of professional cards that will over the next few months ruffle a few feathers. The raw power of the two Quadro flavours demonstrate one of the most significant technological advancements in the graphic card space for quite some time. It goes without saying that support from Tier 1 and 2 will be colossal as well as support from VARS.

Supporting a beta driver, the Quadro 6000 has leapt up through the scales.   In some areas we see a 50 percent increase, and with an FSAA increase up to 64X – on certain OEM systems with the cards in SLI mode we will be able to see a massive 128X FSAA. Much of this performance improvement is down to the architecture of the new product while some is down to the driver team.

This card has overtaken its predecessor in many ways: it’s got faster memory and the aid of 448 CUDA Cores which will help in complex drawings and rendered outputs.

The results shown within SPECviewperf 11 have been astonishing. There’s a notable scaling in many areas and it goes once more to show how much effort has gone into the driver packages over the last few weeks. Again we took notice indeed of the Quadro 6000 driver stability and across the board performance on both system platforms.

Maya takes the biggest leap on our driver update. It is obvious even to the untrained eye on how well tuned each run has returned on the individual operating systems which are different in many ways.

For those who still rate the retired SPECviewperf 10 there are some surprises here too. After some thought we decided to give it one last run, and what a way to go. It’s clear, the Quadro 6000 is a powerful piece of kit.

The results speak clearly for themselves. What is conclusive is that the base line tests from SPECviewperf 11.0 have returned substantial amounts of indisputably powerful results.

The Nvidia Quadro 6000 should be available from the beginning of October. Its price should be in the region of $4,999 USD – about £3265 or €3866 – before shipping and local taxes. We reckon there will be high demand from what we’ve seen.

After months ahead of the pack, ATI has, for now, lost out to NVIDIA.

TechEye score: Nine out of ten (again)


Quadro 5000 pulls out all the graphics stops

It’s been a long time coming but now the time is upon us.  For many months now ATI has done well.   But the busy people over at Nvidia have now equalled and bettered ATI’s offering at the ultra high end of the market.

Today we take  an exclusive look at the  Nvidia Quadro  5000 sporting 2.5GB of GDDR5 memory and 352 CUDA Cores.   This is a heavyweight in its own right.   This ultra high-end, dual slot unit brings the power of high performance professional computing and offers support for features never previously found on any of the current ultra-high end professional graphics cards. The Nvidia Quadro 5000  comes with certified application support for the industry’s top CAD/CAM, 3D Design, and Digital Content Creation software applications.

For a substantial time Nvidia’s Quadro FX4800 has been one of the most popular professional graphics cards for the professional market. The successor to the card – the Quadro 5000 – is something very exceptional indeed.  

It’s time to look into what makes this card really work.  In order to understand just how much of a technology leap has gone into the card we place beside it the ever so faithful Nvidia Quadro FX4800 as a comparison.

Supported Platforms

  • Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit and 32-bit)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista (64-bit and 32-bit)
  • Microsoft Windows XP (64-bit and 32-bit)
  • Linux – Full OpenGL implementation, complete with Nvidia and ARB extensions (64-bit and 32-bit)
  • Solaris

3D Graphics Architecture

  • Scalable geometry architecture
  • Hardware tessellation engine
  • Nvidia GigaThread engine with dual copy engines
  • Shader Model 5.0 (OpenGL 4.0 and DirectX 11)
  • Optimized compiler for Cg and Microsoft HLSL
  • Up to 16K x16K texture and render processing
  • Transparent multisampling and super sampling
  • 16x angle independent anisotropic filtering
  • 128-bit floating point performance
  • 32-bit per-component floating point texture filtering and blending
  • 64x full scene antialiasing (FSAA)/128x FSAA in SLI Mode
  • Decode acceleration for MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile, H.264, MVC, VC1, DivX (version 3.11 and later), and Flash (10.1 and later)
  • Blu-ray dual-stream hardware acceleration (supporting HD picture-in-picture playback)

Nvidia CUDA Parallel Processing Architecture
API support includes:

  • CUDA C, CUDA C++, DirectCompute 5.0, OpenCL, Java, Python, and Fortran
  • Nvidia Parallel DataCache hierarchy (configurable L1 and unified L2 caches)
  • Error correction codes (ECC) memory
  • 64 KB of RAM (configurable partitioning of shared memory and L1 cache)
  • Full IEEE 754-2008 – 32-bit and high performance 64-bit double precision
  • Dual Warp Scheduler (schedules and dispatches simultaneously instructions from two independent warps)

Advanced Display Features

  • Dual DisplayPort (up to 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz and 1920×1200 @ 120Hz)
  • Dual-link DVI-I output (up to 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz and 1920×1200 @ 120Hz)
  • Internal 400 MHz DAC DVI-I output (analog display up to 2048 x 1536 @ 85Hz)
  • DisplayPort to VGA, DisplayPort to DVI (single-link and dual-link) and DisplayPort to HDMI cables (resolution support based on dongle specifications)
  • DisplayPort 1.1a, HDMI 1.3a, and HDCP support
  • 10-bit internal display processing (hardware support for 10-bit scan out for both windowed desktop and full screen, only available on Windows and Linux with Aero disabled)
  • Nvidia 3D Vision technology, 3D DLP, Interleaved, and other 3D stereo format support
  • Full OpenGL quad buffered stereo support
  • Underscan/overscan compensation and hardware scaling
  • Nvidia nView multi-display technology
  • DisplayPort and HDMI Digital Audio

Support for the following audio modes:

  • Dolby Digital (AC3), DTS 5.1, Multi-channel (7.1) LPCM, Dolby Digital Plus (DD+), andMPEG-2/MPEG-4 AAC
  • Data rates of 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz, 88.2 KHz, 96 KHz, 176 KHz, and 192 KHz
  • Word sizes of 16-bit, 20-bit, and 24-bit

Our array of “in house” test systems has now been fully completed as over the forthcoming months,  many exciting things will be happening.  Both Supermicro and Intel certainly pulled out the stops on their part,  which in turn means we can now demonstrate performance with newer peripherals.  

These are the configurations we decided to use.

Benchmarks and Software Used 64-bit Mode

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional 64-bit SP2
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • SPECapc for SolidWorks 2007
  • SPECviewperf 10.0 64-bit.   Tests ran at 1600 X 1200 Resolution
  • SPECviewperf 11.0 64-bit.   Tests ran at 1920 X 1080 Resolution

Each set of tests has been applied on the clean system hard drives shown above to ensure that no residue drivers were left installed,  with all updates/patches applied.   A test/render has been completed many times over different periods of the system’s uptime.   Whilst maintaining the fair play rules of SPEC  HyperThreading and Turbo Boost have been enabled, with the memory being left in its default status of Auto.   Tests have been conducted in accordance with the resolutions  detailed above @ 59Hz / 60Hz in 32 bit colour.   Results that have been shown within this article are from the application/benchmarks first run in accordance with the SPECviewperf and SPECapc fair play rules.  Not an average of three runs as some think correct.

Conclusions
When we had been first advised of the cards impending arrival we were told it would be a high-quality, high performer  and actually we would have seen nothing like it in a long time.   How right Nvidia was.   This truly is a huge leap in the professional graphic’s industry.   This  offering from Nvidia  is the most significant technological advancement within the professional graphic card industry for quite some time.    Support from Tier 1 and 2  vendors will be enormous and  it will also have support from system integrators and VARS.  

Whilst supporting a beta driver, the Quadro 5000 has leapt up through the scales and we have successfully demonstrated the scalability of the card over its predecessor,  the Quadro FX4800.   In some areas we see a 50 percent increase, and with an FSAA increase up to  64X – on certain OEM systems with the cards in SLI mode we can witness a massive 128X FSAA.    The medical, oil and gas, science and even the financial houses have so much to gain from this card and other technical professionals  who demand nothing but the best out from their workstations.  

Much of this performance improvement is down to the architecture of the new product, some down to the driver team, the unsung heroes that so many forget about.   The results shown within have been extraordinary to say the least.     This card most certainly has overtaken its predecessor in many ways, faster memory, and the aid of 352 CUDA cores  – this will help many in complex drawings and rendered outputs.  Life in the professional graphics card market has just shifted directly into top gear. 

The results shown within SPECviewperf 11 have been astonishing indeed.    This new professional benchmark takes no prisoners at all, as we have witnessed.   Other powerful professional graphics cards have been ground to a halt – for now.    What is noticeable is the Quadro 5000 driver stability and across the board performance on both operating system platforms.   It is very obvious even to the untrained eye  how well tuned each run has returned on the individual operating systems that are quite different in so many aspects.   For those who still use SPECviewperf 10 there are some extreme surprises . This will be our last outing on SPECviewperf 10 as the benchmark now has been retired – but what a way to go.  The results under both Windows 7 and XP Professional will have many aghast with awe at the power from the Quadro 5000.   

The results shown above speak very clearly for themselves and so there was absolutely no need for a running commentary of the results gained from each system.   Time really was completely against us and we only had a short few days to complete all from fresh.    What is conclusive  is that the base line tests from SPECviewperf 11.0 have returned substantial amounts of indisputable results for the Nvidia Quadro 5000 which is exceptional for a low cost ultra high end professional card.  

Within the brief we had been made aware of several other cards in the offing.  The Quadro 4000 and the Quadro 6000.   The Quadro 4000 comes weighing in with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and  256 CUDA Cores. The Quadro 6000 tips the scales with 6GB of onboard memory and 448 CUDA Cores.  The Quadro 6000 is a very specialised card indeed and more to follow on that soon.   The Quadro 4000 slots into the Quadro FX3800 extremely successful remit.  When we have more details on these cards they will be presented to you as quickly as possible.

Pricing and availability
Both Quadro 4000 and Quadro 5000 cards will be shipping now, so with what’s hot off the press will be hot on the resellers’ plate.   We anticipate an exceptional high demand from what we have seen, and with this in mind get the orders in very quickly indeed to avoid disappointment.  

MSRP of the new range are
Quadro 6000 – $4,999 USD  – £3265 UKP – €3866
Quadro 5000 – $2,249 USD  – £1469 UKP – €1740
Quadro 4000 – $1,199 USD  – £785 UKP – €930

Nvidia currently no plans to stop producing the FX4800 and FX5800 cards.  The Quadro FX 3800 will be replaced by the Quadro 4000, but the Quadro FX4800 and Quadro FX5800 will continue to be sold along with the new line up.  However what has been seen today with the performance output and aggressive pricing, then there should be no hesitation at all in swiftly upgrading to the new Quadro range.  

The Quadro 5000 performance is, without a doubt, superb on all the platforms superb.  Final comments and predictions on the way ahead, what has been observed within today has been exceptional and all within Nvidia’s HQ must be quietly pleased with themselves and we are sure that the champagne corks will be firing out with delight.   

Therefore after many months maintaining the lead, ATI has now lost to Nvidia who in turn have regained the illusive Golden Laurel Crown in the Ultra High End place.  

TechEye score: Nine out of ten

We take a dekko at Blue's fancy USB microphone

These past few days we’ve had the pleasure of putting the new Snowball USB microphone from Blue Microphones through its paces. We say pleasure, because it is without doubt a high quality piece of kit, but nothing less should be expected from a company that made its name manufacturing world renowned studio mics. 

The Snowball itself looks like something out of Spaceballs with a touch of vintage chic thrown in for good measure. The bold company logo in gleaming chrome mounted on the grille is clearly a seal of quality and a statement of pride from Blue – and rightfully so – the Snowball sounds fantastic. 

Admittedly, we didn’t have high hopes for a USB microphone at first: “It can’t be that great, it’s not going though a preamp or a mixer, it’ll probably sound dull and lifeless” we reasoned, but we were wrong.

The Snowball captured some fantastic midrange detail both with vocals and acoustic guitar. The sound was rich and full and vibrant and we never once struggled for more headroom or volume.

Being geeky knob-twiddlers here at TechEye, we thought we’d try out some compression and EQ on the recorded audio but there was very little room for improvement. The Snowball seems to naturally add a slight compression to the sound it captures anyway, but this is certainly to its advantage as a good multi-purpose microphone.

Speaking of which, what IS the Snowball for? Or, more specifically: who? The uncertainty arises because we can’t imagine many serious amateur musicians or producers turning to a USB mic, less so one with a fixed sample rate (44.1kHz/16 bit). Despite the quality of the Snowball, a recording interface with XLR sockets will always offer greater flexibility and room for expansion. We imagine the vast majority of music tech people that are in the market for a new microphone already own a mixer or a sound card and are looking exclusively at XLR mics anyway – of which Blue makes many excellent examples. 

So who else might the Snowball be pitched at? Well, Blue suggests using the Snowball for podcasting, video voiceover, instant messaging, interviews and conferences. These seem more likely applications for a quick, simple plug’n’play device like the Snowball, although Blue also suggests live music and environmental recordings as possible applications. 

If it’s a more practical purchase for budding podcasters and Skypers, then it’s a rather large investment at £89.95 (RRP) and $99.95 at The Apple Store, considering some of the other products aimed at that market. It would make a fantastic portable recording device – BUT being a sphere slightly larger than an average man’s fist means it won’t easily fit into most laptop bags.

Perhaps the Snowball doesn’t fit squarely into any established market because it’s aimed at people whose needs fall somewhere between the pc desktop mic and the home studio market. Video bloggers, hobbyist musicians, or animators perhaps?

As far as high quality recording goes, using the Snowball is about as easy as it gets. It comes with a simple desktop tripod stand (although it can be mounted on any standard-thread mic stand) and there are no settings to adjust, no complicated inputs and outputs, or dials to turn. 

It just has a simple USB cable and a switch on the back to flick between cardioid, cardioid with -10db pad, and omnidirectional pickup patterns. Unfortunately the omnidirectional setting on our review model captures sound sources directly in front of the mic noticeably louder than it captures sources the same distance behind it, so we’re afraid Blue’s claim in the Snowball press-release that, “Omnidirectional hears everything at equal volume from all angles” was simply untrue in this case. Nevertheless, the omnidirectional setting does provide a wide, open, natural sounding recording which is well suited to capturing a whole room and would certainly come in handy for recording meetings or jam sessions.

We rather suspect people are going to buy the Snowball on the basis of its looks and its heritage, but that’s no bad thing – it lives up to both name and image. If you’re looking to make great recordings without any hassle and fancy treating yourself, the Snowball could be exactly what you’re looking for.

We take Office 2011 Beta 4 for Mac for a spin

Office 2008 for Mac was unpopular because it removed support for VBA (Visual Basic for Applications); thus macros in Office 2004 documents were no longer useable. For this reason, many companies and individuals refused to upgrade and are still using Office 2004, a striking parallel to Windows users’ unwillingness to upgrade to the MS Vista platform.

The fourth (closed) beta of the upcoming Office 2010 for Mac package, a whopping 1.4 GB download, includes the usual MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, but also MS Outlook for Mac ((finally), MS Communicator (which seems to be a rebranded MS Messenger for Mac 8) and Remote Desktop Connection for Mac.

Office 2011 finally marks the return of platform parity for Mac users and also brings a host of new features outlined below.

The installation package, which is only available in a 32-bit version, runs smoothly and seems well-designed, appealing to the Mac user community. The beta can be used for free for 30 days without a license key once a valid email-address is entered.

On the surface, as in previous betas, the apps include a new icon set that employs more legible typography. There is also a well-designed and graphically souped-up wizard explaining new features and asking what you would like to do. The new installer and wizard graphics remind one heavily of the Adobe product line.

For Word, new features touted include the Ribbon which is migrated from the Windows version of Office, co-authoring features, a new publishing layout, full screen view, visual style guides and dynamic reordering. There is also a link to video tutorials.

The new publishing layout turns Word into a desktop publishing tool and can be used to create brochures and pamphlets, but presumably also for designing simple webpages. A long list of useable templates are included with Word 2011. The insert menu has been optimised, allowing you to easily insert multimedia or HTML objects into Word documents. The formatting toolbar seems increasingly useable and basic formatting is noticeably more efficient than on Word 2008 after only a small adjustment period of 5-10 minutes. Overall the new Word is impressive indeed.

Only few changes were visible to Powerpoint 2011 at this time, except for expanded media options, which include the option to broadcast a slideshow and to record audio. But don’t expect much from this — the recording features are as basic as it gets. The most interesting new feature is “rehearse” which allows you to practice the timing of slides ahead of time.

MS Excel now also features a wizard, more easy-to-use templates (i.e. for financial planning or invoicing), pivot tables, sparklines, conditional formatting, and the return of VBA. Here also the menu has been given a great deal of thought. A sample MS Excel 2004 file with macros opened without any problems which could lead many of us to express a giant sigh of relief.

Go Microsoft, for getting it right — Redmond, it’s about time.

Concluding Remarks

All in all, Office for Mac 2011 won’t disappoint. In fact all the signs point to MS getting back on track — Windows 7, Office 2010 for Windows, the upcoming IE9 and Office 2011 for Mac are all, or will soon be noteworthy products.

Unfortunately these improved software packages do not seem to be a result of long-term strategic thinking, but rather should be interpreted as responses to consumer and corporate upgrade refusal combined with fierce competition by Apple, Google, Mozilla and Adobe.

In the computer software industry there are three key success factors: access to consumers, quality and innovation. Given the oligopolistic competition in this sector, MS does not have to worry about access to customers, but the other two factors are unavoidable: for a healthy future, Microsoft should adopt kaizen,the Japanese management culture of continuous improvement, in all of its product lines and focus on continuous quality and innovation.

Mini mobo fight: Sapphire IPC-AM3DD785G Vs ECS H55H-I Mini-ITX

Bigger is better, right? You only have to look at the barrage of SmartPhones, Netbooks, NetTops and most recently tablet PCs, to see that this might not be the case – in computing anyway. System builders haven’t been forgotten in this move to the minute, either.  Way back in 2001, Via announced its 17 x 17cm Mini ITX reference design. This form factor has slowly been gaining momentum ever since, with the range of options and features today better than it has ever been.

But are these diminutive boards fully featured or have their wings been clipped to make them fit? Today we will be looking at two of the current generation: the Sapphires AM3DD785G, an AMD AM3 motherboard, and the ECS H55H-I, an Intel LGA1156 board. Both are from established manufactures, support the latest tech and take the latest chips from Intel and AMD.

Product Sapphire AM3DD785G

Street Price £95

 

Sapphire AM3

Starting with Sapphire’s AM3 board, the packaging was a little more utilitarian than your standard enthusiast boards, so we’re guessing Sapphire is punting these to the corporate market as well. The board itself has the CPU situated in the centre, with 2 ram slots that can accept up to 8GB of DDR3 1333MHz and one PCI-E X16 slot around them. The chipsets on board are the AMD 785G and AMD SB710 South Bridge, and although these are not AMD’s latest, you still get Radeon HD 4200 IGP and enough ports for most mini-ITX systems. These include 10 USB (6 on the back panel), 4 SATA 300 and one PATA-133. The back connectors provide 6 of the USB, 3 analogue jacks, RJ45 Ethernet and video through d-sub, HDMI, or DVI through an included adapter.

Product ECS H55H-I mini-itx

Street Price £78

ECS H55H-I

Next up is the ECS H55H-I board, based on the Intel H55 PCH, which supports the latest range of processors. There are some limitations to this, though, with the recommended TDP below 75w. Like the Sapphire board, the CPU takes centre stage. There aren’t that many configurations you can fit into this space, so expect a lot of similarities.

Feature-wise, they aren’t miles apart either, since there is space for two sticks of ram that take DDR3 1,333MHz up to 8GB and a PCI-E X16 slot. They’ve also managed to fit on 10 USB (6 on the back panel), 4 SATA 3Gbps and one eSATA 3Gbps. The back panel has 6 USB, 6 analogue jacks, S/PDIF out, RJ45 Ethernet, d-sub, DVI and HDMI. With Intel’s latest line of chips, some of the features that would have traditionally been on the Northbridge are now integrated into the processor, and this includes the IGP.

Now to look at the test setup.  Both systems have 4Gb DDR3 1600MHz Kingston HyperX memory (clocked to 1333MHz), a Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive, a LiteOn iHOS104 BD-ROM, and will be running Microsoft Windows 7. The processor for AMD is the Athlon II 610e, a 2.4GHz four-core energy-efficient offering at just above the £115 mark.  For the Intel board, we will be using the I3 530, which runs at 2.93GHz, has two cores and four threads. This retails for around £95.

Installation of the boards was relatively pain free but can take a little planning, considering how close many of these components are to each other. We found the front panel connectors on the Sapphire particularly hard to connect, as they are positioned halfway up the side, next to the ram slots. After installing, it was time to have a poke around the bios.

The Sapphire bios is a little desolate, having no options for changing the voltages, frequencies or timings; ruling out over-clocking, although given the TDP restrictions on these boards, that might not be a bad thing!  In contrast, ECS bios had a full complement of features, including the option to change frequencies and voltages throughout – although with no over-clock failure detection this might not be advisable. For the testing, we’ve gone for the base setup with no over-clocking, and we’re going to look at PC Mark Vantage, 3D Mark Vantage, X264 video encoding and the Mandel and Zlib tests in Everest ultimate edition.

PC Mark

 

Our first benchmark is PC mark vantage, which aims to replicate real-world application usage and is a good general workout of the system. Looking at the results, it would seem that the ECS Intel board is edging it in all categories. This seems to point to the Intel HD graphics that are integrated into the processor beating the 785’s Radeon HD 4200 – something that is a definite improvement over Intel’s last generation of IGP.

 

3Dmark

Next is 3Dmark vantage, which focuses on the graphical performance of the CPU and GPU running a number of gaming simulations. We normally run this on performance settings but because we’re testing integrated graphics, we’ve had to use the entry-level setup. The CPU scores of both systems are reasonably close, with the AMD coming out in front. But the ECS board cleans up on the GPU performance. We were expecting the integrated Radeon 4200 and Intel’s on-chip to be more evenly matched.

x264 benchmark

The x264 benchmark looks at how quickly a machine can convert a video from MPEG-2 to x264. The quicker it can do this the better. This benchmark is a pretty good test of CPU and GPU combined and, as such, it’s a bit closer, with the ECS board just ahead.

Mandel Score

Zlib

Everest Ultimate contains a number of interesting benchmarks, including one called Mandel, which measures 64-Bit Floating point calculations and is based on the “Mandlebrot” fractal: the higher the score the better. The second test we ran in Everest was Zlib. This tests a combination of the CPU and Memory using the Zlib compression library. In both tests the Sapphire AMD combo came up tops, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering its four-core architecture.

In real-world testing, we tried some Blu-ray and HD video playback, without issue on both boards. Either would be a good base for an HTPC. Gaming is a bit of a stretch for these chips, so unless you’re going to add in an extra graphics card, or you are only interested in casual 2d games, we’d rule this out.  

Power Consumption

When putting together a mini-ITX system power consumption is one of the key decision makers, our setup isn’t exactly optimised, but we’ve got a good idea of peak and idle Watts. The peak reading was taken during the x264 test. The ECS board seems to do marginally better when idle, while Sapphire wins under load. Both are reasonably close, though, and depending on your usage, either may come out top over time.

Having spent some time with these tiny boards, you can’t help but start to like them. Both have shown that they can handle web browsing and video playback without the need for any extra hardware. The integrated graphics are adequate for HD content, but gaming is out the window. The Intel ECS combination came out on top in terms of graphical performance and used less power while idle, but the Sapphire setup did well on the CPU and memory tests. Depending on your intended use, either of these setups might work out better.

Looking at the boards outside of the test setups we would say the ECS is slightly more polished while also marginally cheaper. The bios, although basic, did at have a reasonable range of features, and once paired up with a new Intel processor, this would make a great base for an HTPC. The Sapphire isn’t without its plus points either, and both boards are quite similarly matched in features and power consumption. 

If you are in the market for a sleek low-power HTPC, or aiming to shrink the footprint of your desktop, both these boards are worth consideration.

With the addition of the PCI-E X16 slot – something relatively uncommon in the mini-ITX world – you could make a pint-sized gaming rig or extend their features in a number of other ways. In the end, when performance and features are this close, it probably comes down to personal preference – AMD or Intel.

For us though, the ECS just edges out the competition, offering a few more features, while also being lower in price. As such, it gets our recommendation. Thanks to ECS and Sapphire for providing the hardware.

We take a dekko at AMD's latest e series processors

Don’t want your PC melting the ice caps while the electricity bill burns a hole in your pocket? Energy efficiency might well be the way to go and AMD has slotted in a couple of new additions to its processor line up that could help you out.

These chips are worth examining, and we’re examining them in some detail. As usual, AMD pitches itself directly against Intel.

AMD is introducing the 415e and 610e, which have three and four cores respectively, while coming in with a TDP below 45w; making these some of the most energy-efficient mainstream chips on the market today.

We’re going to put these processors through their paces and see where they stand, both in terms of performance and power consumption.

AMD Athlon II X4 610e
Core Speed (MHz) 2400
Voltages 0.775-1.25
Max Temps (C) 72
Wattage 45 W
L1 X4 Cache Size (KB) 128
L2 X4 Cache Size (KB) 512
CMOS 45nm SOI
Socket AM3

AMD Athlon II X3 415e
Core Speed (MHz) 2500
Voltages 0.775-1.25
Max Temps (C) 72
Wattage 45 W
L1 X3 Cache Size (KB) 128
L2 X3 Cache Size (KB) 512
CMOS 45nm SOI
Socket AM3

These two sets of specs may look surprisingly similar to each other and there are very good reasons for that. The X3 415e is based on the Rana core, which is derived from the Propus core in the 610e with one of the cores disabled. Apparently, AMD targets defective cores to be disabled, however many new motherboards come with options to unlock the disabled core at the user’s own risk. The other big difference between these processors and their Phenom II counterparts is the absence of an L3 cache. With that in mind, we’re going to be looking at performance against some of AMD’s existing line up.

The test set-up contains an Asus CROSSHAIR IV FORMULA 890FX motherboard, 8Gb DDR3 1600mhz Kingston HyperX memory, a Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive and a HIS AMD 5870 iCooler Turbo graphics card. The processors will be cooled by a Tuniq 120 extreme tower and we’re using Microsoft Windows 7. OK, so none of that is particularly energy efficient but it is necessary for comparison to existing offerings.

We’re putting these chips up against some of AMD’s existing energy-efficient range: the Phenom II X4 905e, the Athlon II X2 240e and for reference the Phenom II 1090T. The Asus Crosshair IV motherboard also comes with core unlocking capability, and with a simple press of 4 at start up, the 415e was running all four of its original cores. These processors aren’t aimed at the over-clocking market, but in the pursuit of thoroughness we’ve tried to get all we can out of each – with the 610e reaching 3GHz and the core unlocked 415e X4 reaching 3.2GHz whilst remaining stable.

For the benchmarks themselves, we’ll be looking at PCMark Vantage, 3DMark Vantage, x264 encoding, FPU Mandel benchmark and Dawn of War II.

Although a synthetic benchmark, PCMark Vantage does try and simulate real-world usage, running a suite of tests from image manipulation to web browsing. The program then scores each separately and combines to make one overall score; the higher the score the better. Looking at the results above, both new processors come out quite favourably against the competition, with the 415e X4 unlocked finishing above 610e and both challenging the 910e once over-clocked.

3Dmark Vantage is another synthetic test focusing on gaming and 3D performance. Testing both the GPU and CPU, we’re specifically looking at the CPU score, where higher is better. This test split the bunch more than the last, with the top-end Phenom II showing its caliber. The Unlocked 415e did well. Again, that “defective” core doesn’t look to be slowing it down much.

The H264 benchmark takes a 720p file and converts it to the x264 format. The conversion uses multiple passes and gives the average frame rate. The more frames per seconds it’s processing, the sooner the conversion will finish – so higher is better. The numbers are pretty much as expected, although the 610e was more deserving of its price tag this time round, getting near the performance of the Phenom II 910e.

Everest Ultimate contains a number of interesting benchmarks, including one called Mandel, which measures 64-Bit Floating point calculations and is based on the “Mandlebrot” fractal; the higher the score the better. This is another area where the unlocked 415e did very well, ending up closer to its Phenom II 905e than the 610e.

Last on the list of benchmarks is Dawn of War II. This RTS game can provide a bit of a challenge for CPU/GPU combinations. It doesn’t look to be particularly multithreaded, though, as all the Athlon II are quite equal no matter how many cores, with the dual core 240e doing particularly well.

We also ran the Alien Vs Predator DirectX 11 benchmark but this seems to only really test the graphics card, with all the CPU scoring in the 60-65FPS range.

Although they have shown to be no slouch when it comes to performance the main selling point of these CPUs is the 45w TDP; as such, we also had a look at the power usage, while both idle and under load. We took the load readings while running the Everest Ultimate Mandel benchmark, as this had all cores at 100%.

The results of the power comparison came back pretty much as expected, with the 610e drawing a little more power than the 415e until you start over-clocking, in which case it was reasonably even. Both chips were consistently using less power than the 905e.

We didn’t feel that our test set-up really represented actual usage, so to see how low we could see power consumption we exchanged the 5870 graphics card for a 5450, which uses around 20w under load, and removed a couple of sticks of the ram to leave 4Gb. We then re-ran the same test without any overclocking or tweaking.

The power consumption with the modifications to the test rig was nothing short of fantastic, with the 415e drawing slightly under 100W, even while under load. The 610e was only slightly higher than that, coming just above the 100W mark. Looking at the performance these processors have delivered, and the extremely efficient way they are doing it, we find it difficult to see a downside to them. AMD has a really great line-up in this part of the market and the 415e and 610e slot in perfectly.

The 415e was of particular interest given its sub £100 price tag, particularly if you have a motherboard that can reactivate that fourth core for you, although some of those cores would have to be deactivated for good reasons, so you might have very different results to us.

If you’re considering buying an energy-efficient processor but don’t want to compromise on performance, AMD’s latest three- and four-core offerings, the 415e and 610e, don’t disappoint. Given their price and low power credentials, we don’t hesitate to recommend.

Product: AMD Athlon II X4 610e

Website: http://www.amd.com/

Street Price: £120

 

Product: AMD Athlon II X3 415e

Website: http://www.amd.com/

Street Price: £85 

 

We try out the BitDefender 2011 Beta

Product: BitDefender 2011 Beta

Price: TBC

TechEye was invited to take part in the beta program for BitDefender 2011. We decided to test it out on a laptop with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and running Windows 7 64-bit.

The 64-bit version of the software was 258MB in size, while the 32-bit version was 220.3MB. Once downloaded we began the installation process.

Before it installs it runs a scan for malware, which took us just over two minutes to complete. This is pretty handy, as there have been numerous problems reported over the years of infections that occured before antivirus programs were installed not being detected in virus scans or even hindering the installation of the program in the first place. Thankfully enough it did not find any security threats on our test laptop, which we hope is because there are none and not that it failed to detect them.

It then asked us to uninstall our current antivirus software, Avast, and turn off the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender. The “Uninstall” button was blocked by the bottom frame of the installation wizard, however, making it difficult to do what BitDefender recommended. It took several minutes for it to remove the current antivirus software and disable the firewalls.

We were then given a choice between entering a product key, obviously not available in the beta, or using the 30 day trial. We selected the latter, which required us to log into the BitDefender website. From here we could also set up an online backup service of 2GB.

The next step is to choose a view for the product. Only two are currently available in the beta, Basic and Intermediate. Basic hides a lot of the technical stuff and is more suited for people who want the program to do most of the work. Intermediate is customizable and provides a lot more info for those who want to fiddle about with the settings. The name suggests there should be an Advanced view, but none was available in the beta.

You can then choose further configurations, including parental control, game mode, and laptop mode. Because our test computer is a laptop it automatically selected the latter.

A help and support feature is available on the next panel that allows users to display tooltips and get customer support via e-mail.

The final part of the installation process gave a run-down of our chosen settings and allowed us to set up a regular security check-up. We decided to tick the full system scan after installation box to see what it came up with and how long it took. We also set up a regular scan for every Sunday at 2:00am, the default date and time selected.

Finally it began to actually install the product. This is a pretty long installation process that may irritate the casual customer, and all of this is happening while our previous antivirus software is being removed and our firewalls are taken down, leaving a window of exposure that is much longer than necessary. The actual installation itself took only a few seconds and the program immediately started the full system scan.

BitDefender displayed a rather distressing estimated time of 174 hours to go at first, dropping to 61 hours after four minutes and then only 18 minutes left after six minutes. How it calculates these things and comes up with such varying figures is beyond us, but customers may feel inclined to cancel the scan when first faced with such long estimated scan times. Initially it was scanning 15 files a second, but this jumped to between 32 and 230 files a second when it finally realised it should be doing a little better.

While the scan was completing we got a message from the BitDefender Firewall about “Bonjour Service”. We ignored this for several minutes, but BitDefender decided to  flash the Firewall popup every minute or so as a reminder, which was really annoying, as we were busy trying to figure out what the heck Bonjour Service actually is. After a quick search we realised it is an Apple service for recognising IP networks. We were tempted to say “bon voyage” and click Block, but BitDefender assured us that the service was both clean and legitimate.

After we sorted out the Apple invasion we checked the scan again and were dismayed to find the scanned files per second had dropped from its previous number in the 200s to a paltry one file. It did not stay long here, jumping to 7 and then 18 after about half a minute, but we were left puzzled as to why some more consistency cannot be maintained in the scan process. Hey, that’s software.

Our supposedly uninstalled Avast antivirus software forced BitDefender Firewall to give us a popup about an update procedure. Perhaps that was Avast trying to lure us back, but we decided to block that update process for now.

The full scan took just over 42 minutes, which is not bad and certainly much better than its initial estimates. It found no threats. What was annoying, however, was that it did not keep the total scan time on the screen. As soon as the scan was finished everything reset to 00:00:00, which is not good if you went out for a bit and left it at work and wanted to find out later just how long it had been slaving away. It also only had Pause, Stop, and Cancel buttons, even though the scan was complete. Surely that Pause button should have changed to Finish or Close. We decided to click Stop and it warned us about interrupting the scan process, a process that BitDefender couldn’t seem to realise was finished. We clicked Yes on the warning screen, but it failed to do anything, so we ended up just clicking the X in the top right-hander corner to get out of that window.
BitDefender 2011 Beta
We loaded up the general client from our taskbar to mess about with the new user interface. Since we opted for the Intermediate view we had tabs for Dashboard, Security, Tune-up, and File Storage. 

The Dashboard showed Status Details on the left-hand panel which mostly repeated the buttons of the tabs across the top. In the main screen there were several empty boxes under the heading of My Tools. We clicked this and it brought up a menu to add tasks like a full or quick scan. These effectively became shortcut buttons to our most used features. We added Full System Scan, Quick Scan, Registry Cleaner, Backup Online, and Update now, but it can be customised for the individual. Beneath these boxes was a Smart Tips tab since we enabled it in the configuration earlier.

The Security tab gave a run-down of the active protections in BitDefender, including Antivirus, Update status, Firewall status, Antispam status, and Antiphishing status. We could choose a standard virus scan from here, but there is also an option for a vulnerability scan, which is basically a quick search to see how up to date your operating system is. It found seven critical updates and told us to click Next, but unfortunately there was no Next button, no matter how hard we tried to find it. Clearly the normal Windows Update service is a bit more efficient at this process.

The Tune-up tab gave several options for optimising system performance, including a Registry Cleaner, PC Clean-up, Duplicate Finder, and Disk Defragmenter. There was also a Registry Recovery and File Shredder feature available from the left-hand panel. We gave the Registry Cleaner a go. This was much faster than the scan, taking arund two minutes to complete. It found a few dozen registry keys that it believed should be deleted.

The Back-up tab allowed us to backup our files locally as well as to the 2GB of storage space online that we set up in the installation. There were also several options for adding, removing, and locking files in the BitDefender Vault.

As a final test we decided to give the Quick Scan a whirl. The tooltip said this “in-the-cloud scanning” often takes less than 60 seconds, but our scan took two and half minutes. 

BitDefender 2011 has a slew of interesting features and lots of potential, but it definitely needs to iron outa lot of creases in this beta. The program itself loads quickly and has no visible lag moving between the interface screens, but it really needs to tune-up its virus scan speeds.

 

BitDefender 2011 Beta