Etc.


— 11:54 AM on April 28, 2010

I hope you guys enjoy the Phenom II X6 review. I was in Austin and Houston last week getting briefed on several interesting things, including AMD's cunning plans for asymmetric warfare against Intel in the server space. Got home on Friday night and started work on the X6 review Saturday morning. Cyril and I worked pretty solidly for three-plus days to get that together. Was a little late, but we were fortunately able to include some good stuff like overclocking and the value analysis.

I really got a kick out of total control over AMD's Turbo Core via the Overdrive utility, in part because it let us simulate the X6 1055T for testing—something we can't do with Lynnfield to make, say, a Core i7-870 act like a Core i7-860. That is a point of frustration around here, since we want to test that grade of CPU but just can't buy everything. Beyond that, I like the idea of overclocking in a way that adds to the dynamic range of the CPU and doesn't necessarily have to send the power consumption into the stratosphere. With the kind of control they give you, you've got... options. Lots of 'em.

Anyhow, after ruining his weekend, I've given Cyril the day off. I may try to post something in the event that Intel buys Nvidia, but otherwise, news may be a little thin today.

I do have one happy outcome to report. My struggles with a pair of devastatingly, completely stripped screw heads in the underbelly of my Samsung NC20 have come to an end. After my last post on the subject, I tried to use JB Weld to attach a screwdriver tip to each screw head, but that didn't cut it. I was contemplating my last few options when I went to visit the local computer store, One Stop Computer Shop, last Saturday to buy a PCIe SATA card. While I was there, I asked the guys about the possibility of getting a reverse drill bit and drilling out the screw head. That's what a lot of folks tend to do as a last resort, but I wasn't sure it was a good idea on such a small screw situated above the motherboard of my laptop. To my surprise, one of the guys told me that drilling out the screw with a normal, non-reverse drill bit would work fine and said he'd done it a number of times in the same sort of situation.

I took his advice, came home, grabbed the smallest drill bit I could, and gave it a shot. Using not much more force than the weight of the drill itself, I very gingerly and incrementally drilled into the center of the screw heads. Once I got to the right point on the first one, it released, and my drill bit plunged into the belly of the laptop. I was sure I'd ruined the thing, but I carefully drilled out the other screw head and surveyed the damage. Lo and behold, nothing was ruined but the stuck screws, not even the plastic surrounding the screw heads. Success!

I popped off the laptop's underside cover, used some small needle-nose pliers to turn the screw posts out of their holes, and I was in business. In short order, I replaced the wonky Wi-Fi card on the NC20 and put it back together, down two screws that I left out of non-critical spots. (I'll replace them eventually.) The thing works beautifully now, with no more network disconnects, and I'm typing this post on its sweet, clickety keyboard.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament where no other option will work, drilling out a screw head, even a ridiculously small one, is possible with a small enough drill bit and a steady hand. Just don't come crying to me if you drill into the LCD!

I'd also like to point out that I now have what may be the world's most expensive 12" netbook. Since ordering the NC20 for $489, I've upgraded it to 2GB of RAM and installed Windows 7. While on vacation a few weeks back, I added a 128GB Kingston SSDNow! of the variety we recently reviewed using their slick, all-in-one upgrade kit. Yes, I am that guy with who adds an SSD that costs as much as a netbook to said netbook, I guess. Somehow it has come to that. And then I replaced the Wi-Fi NIC. Next up: the addition of a third, internal antenna that's totally unnecessary but will probably buy me a little more range with my new Intel 5300 NIC. I'm hoping it'll make the utterly unused 5GHz band on our network have as much range as the 2.4GHz one does now.

All of this effort has gone into redeeming a purchase that I initially really liked, since the NC20 is sweet in many ways, but that went south on me in a hurry. My initial fascination with the NC20's near-ideal size, awesome keyboard, large-for-what-it-is display, solid build quality, strong battery life, and bargain price was offset by the reality that it feels slower than I expected, slower than I thought it did when I reviewed it, in daily use. I'm not sure I'll ever be quite satisfied with the thing, since my subsequent acquistion of an Acer Aspire 1810TZ has raised my expectations permanently. But the SSD was a nice improvement over the dog-slow performance of the original HDD, and I could swear the new NIC has markedly lower CPU utilization. I didn't expect this, but SD YouTube clips are suddenly playable, even in full-screen mode, where they were not before the NIC swap. With that and judicious use of Google Chrome, the NC20 feels fairly competent.

These extreme measures will have been a success if I can use the NC20 for writing on the go and avoid the temptation to purchase a new, touchpad-equipped and Core i5-fortified ThinkPad X201s for at least six months. Better start the timer immediately.

   
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